I’ve been spending lots of time outdoors, this summer. It has been lovely. I’ve been exploring places I’ve always wanted to see in colorful Colorado.
While it’s impossible not find myself awe-stricken by the state’s natural beauty here and there, it also seems impossible for some people to respect it.
I went camping in the Cottonwood Reservoir area on the Grand Mesa earlier this month. It was probably the most isolated camp I’ve ever done, which certainly says a bit about my inexperience with the outdoors compared to some Coloradans – I won’t pretend to be Miss Wilderness.
As my boyfriend Eric, my pup Maggie and I drove into the Reservoir area, hiding my smile was unmanageable. We ditched the pavement for a dirt road and found ourselves in the forest. I’m from a little town in northern Michigan. My childhood home was nestled in a forest where I spent many mornings running barefoot along trails we created ourselves, so any day I find myself surrounded by trees is a good one.
We drove into the Cottonwood Reservoir Number 4 parking area and started hiking around a bit, looking for a place to set up camp while Maggie tried to take in every overwhelming smell that she can’t find in Grand Junction.
Eric spotted our home for the weekend – at 6’1”, he has a bit of a height advantage over me, pun intended – and it was perfect. There was plenty of space, beautiful views and it was relatively secluded.
The only problem with our picturesque site was the fact that someone had come along and trashed it, literally.
The place was riddled with cigarette butts, broken glass from beer bottles and other trash. Luckily, we packed a rake so we could clear a space for the tent. While Eric hauled our camp gear up the small hill to our site, I set to work raking up trash and picking up glass. All in all, we spent a good half an hour cleaning up the site before we could even start setting up and we kept finding bits of glass throughout the site during our weekend in the woods. I think we hauled a bag of trash and some large pieces of plastic out that weekend.
I wish I could say this was an isolated incident, but it’s not.
I’ve spent my summer shaking my head at cigarette butts left behind on trails and near lakes; turning up my nose to dog’s leavings along the trail, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
We have to stop disrespecting the places we love to visit. I don’t understand the logic in throwing your trash wherever you like and/or not cleaning up after yourself. It’s the truest form of arrogance and laziness. When you leave your mess behind, you also leave a message – you had the time to visit and enjoy this space, but your time is too valuable to treat it with the dignity and consideration it deserves.
If you pack it in, you have got to pack it out. Most of us live here for those weekends in the woods, evenings on the trails, mornings fishing along the lakes, and if we want to keep enjoying that, we have to work together to preserve some of the most beautiful places on the planet.