A certain number of our fellow countrymen/women don’t like rules and they don’t hesitate to demonstrate their viewpoint. The AT is far from pristine throughout the 700 miles I’ve hiked so far.
The A.T. Journey’s magazine recently chronicled the growing graffiti problem. The story is spot on. Most every shelter is covered in it. Of interest, almost all of the graffiti dates no earlier than 2010. Since then, every year is amply represented. It makes one wonder what change caused such an explosion of orgasmic ego expression. Did fracking fluid enter the water supply?
Hint to the young folks who do this – and you can tell. It’s not flattering to you or your generation.
Trash is another problem. The Carter Gap shelter and the grounds around it in North Carolina where my most excellent bear experience occurred was full of empty food containers. My theory is that the bear hangs out there because he can score tasty treats the campers leave behind.
To be fair, not all the trash is left by long distance hikers. Hunters and weekenders probably account for most of it. How do I think I know that? Well, it’s the cans and other detritus one finds which have included frying pans and coffee pots – not the stuff 2,000 miler wanna bees routinely hump, especially after a couple of hundred miles. I’ve also found spent ammunition in and around the shelters as well as on the trail. This, in spite of the hunting ban on and in proximity to the AT.
Property damage also is prevalent in some areas. This is from that part of Tennessee where the AT right of way was taken by eminent domain. Every night I was in the area, hunters passed through in their ATVs using the trail itself as their primary right of way.
There’s a lot of trash in this photo taken on the night the temp dipped to zero at Ice Water Springs in the Smokies in early November. Too much of it stayed put in the shelter. I tried to gently shame the young Southbounders who left it into carrying it out when they decided to backtrack into Gatlinburg to duck the weather. They politely let me know where they wanted me to stick it.
Three things – erosion, trash and overgrowth – are serious threats to the AT. Any one of them could destroy the experience. Clearly Leave No Trace could use a few more evangelists.
For those who are following, my hike should resume in about 10 days. I’m almost done with the aftermath of my mother’s passing, my taxes are filed and I now have a Medicare card. The National Weather Service reports about 18 inches of snow with deeper drifts at altitude. Here’s hoping that it’s warming enough to melt a bunch of that snow by the time I can get back out.
The next stretch will be a treat. There’s Woods Hole hostel, the Dragon’s Tooth, McAfee Knob, and the Priest, plus a few other chunks of trail candy. Best of all, several friends who live along the way plan to meet me. Baring another nor’easter, t should take about a month to reach Waynesboro where one of my high school classmates lives. Can’t wait to see him.
Sisu – Makin’ tracks.