A weekday morning spent away from the office hubbub is always a good and healthy reprieve. A morning spent away from the office collecting over 500 pounds of trash on nearby forest lands is, well, a #milesfromordinary morning.
We at Sierra Designs and Exxel Outdoors, with the dynamic, energetic and badass, transcontinental biking, trash collecting duo of “Packing it Out” Seth Orme and Abby Taylor (check out their story here http://www.packingitout.org), partnered with the US Forest Service and the Boulder Ranger District to locate an area in our community in need of some serious love. The Forest Service decided upon the Gordon Gulch dispersed campground just outside of Nederland, Colorado. Nearly all of the 15+ volunteers on hand live and play a stone’s throw away from this National Forest. As active and passionate connoisseurs of public lands, we assume and hope that all who visit, abide by the rules of Leave No Trace. We would soon learn that this was not the case.
Goals of the day’s cleanup event were outlined as all in attendance munched on donated bagels, ironically supplied in a garbage bag. Task number one was to dismantle and remove illegal fire rings that were scattered amongst the forest roads. Task number two was to tackle abandoned campsite #15, which was the derelict result of a migration away from a late season snowstorm, the likes of which dumped a couple feet in the Rocky Mountains. Ranger staff noted that this area was prone to transient campers and rule breakers who often turned a cold shoulder to the fire bans so seriously enacted in this neck of the Front Range, where blazes often cause serious risk to the ways of life of our mountain communities.
Just short of wearing Hazmat suits, with shovels, leather gloves, a plethora of garbage bags and go go gadget trash picker-upper-thingers on hand, we set off to clean the hell out of that nemesis of a campsite. Amongst the rubble we discovered a near complete anthology of romance novels, enough articles of clothing to fill a rack at the Goodwill and soggy, mildewy blankets buried under what was clearly a capsized tent. We made quick work turning the caution-taped, last campsite picked in gym class, into a reputable site even your grandmother would be proud of. The sanctioned, once moderately-sized fire pit at this site had been expanded to the size appropriate for a high school bonfire at a pep rally and this too was attacked with vigor and enthusiasm as we brought it back down to size.
A pickup truck brigade carried the other half of the group to scour the roadside for illegal fire rings that had popped up a few yards into the woods outside of designated sites. Everyone took on tossing stones and boulders as if it were an Olympic sport and we swept in pine needles and sticks to make things look “natural” in order to discourage repeat offenders. The Rangers noted that their jurisdiction is so large and their staff relatively limited, that the work we were able to put in in just a few hours would have taken them days or weeks. But we weren’t done yet! We then discovered a previously unknown man-sized, garbage strewn pit, nearly 15 foot in circumference. The pit contained layers upon layers of refuse and you name it home goods; a Kuerig coffee machine, a flat screen TV, a lamp, a bumper and heaps of other garbage including mattresses, actual garbage cans and a DVD boxset of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”. Unfortunately, we did have to evict a family of really cute little mice who had made the pit their home. But we’d like to think that they too approved of our environmental stewardship.
As we wrapped up and all wiped sweat from their brows, we felt a genuine sense of accomplishment; campsites left FAR cleaner than when we found them and 30+ illegal fire rings dismantled. Dealer Representative, Chris Couch, a “Ned” resident noted that, “Living in Nederland is something I consider a privilege. I have access to pristine wilderness at my backdoor. It’s devastating to think some individuals disregard the beauty of the land by trashing public lands. I only hope that leading by example (we) can influence folks and help preserve our lands for future generations.” Touché, Chris!
And the next time you, yes you, recreate, no matter where you are, think about scooping up some trash as you pass through a campsite or along a trail by foot or by bike. It doesn’t have to be a production, don’t look at it and pretend you didn’t see it; think small and take heed from Seth Orme,“One piece a day, just start by picking up one piece a day.”
I think we can all cheers to that.
– As told by Exxel Outdoors employee Ben Wronkoski. Follow him on Instagram @BIGBENBENBENBENBEN.