Toilet paper diatribe

Pack it in, pack it out. Leave no trace. Is it really so hard?

What you do in the privacy of your own bathroom is your business and I’ll leave you to it.

On the contrary, how you dispose of your waste in the woods is everyone’s business if you don’t do it right. On a recent backpacking trip on the Avalon Peninsula over the two-four weekend, I happened on lots of evidence that many of you are either misinformed or too lazy to do the right thing when it comes to leaving little trace of your visit to the woods.

What did I find? Toilet paper. Lots of it. Out in the open. Beside the trail. In clumps. Barely hidden. Not well buried. Not carried out. Sticking out from under rocks. Unsightly. Yes. Smelly. Yes. Disgusting. Yes. Am I angry? Yes.

Am I asking for change? Yes.

What else did I find? Trash. Lots of it. Out in the open. Beside the trail. In fire pits. Piled high. Not well taken care of. Not carried out. Plastic bags and frying pans sticking out from under trees. Ugly. Yes. Smelly. Yes. Disappointing. Yes. Am I sad? Yes.

What else did I find? Fire pits. Lots of them. Beside the trail. In the middle of the trail. In camp. Out of camp. Small. Big. Everyone seems to need their own. Huge logs left half-burnt and charred. Unfortunate. Yes. Smelly. Not really. Disturbing. Yes. Am I asking for change? Yes.

I want to … leave as little impact of my passing through as I can.

I head to the woods for some solitude, to recharge my spirit’s batteries, to challenge myself, and to enjoy the company of friends. I want to be out there in such a way as to leave as little impact of my passing through as I can. I aim to educate my students to do the same because as the number of people who go into the backcountry increases, so does the impact we have. I don’t know about you, but I go out into nature to enjoy the views, hear the birds sing, and marvel at the amazing natural beauty that surrounds us. I don’t go to see what you’ve left behind.

How lazy are you?

Seeing others’ toilet paper, trash, and other impacts takes me instantly out of the experience of being there and rapidly into my favourite diatribe that goes something like this: “If someone has it together enough to have toilet paper along on a hike, why can’t they have a Ziploc along to drop their used tissue into? How much effort does that take?”

Or: “If they carried that frying pan and six-pack of beer into here, why can’t they carry it back out? Why do they think it is acceptable to leave it here?”

I don’t like having the diatribe and hope we can work together to put it in the “no longer needed” pile.

I beg of you, I plead with you … please no more toilet paper beside our trails.

Leave No Trace Canada offers principles and guidelines on the best ethical practices for traversing our wild lands. Different geographies require different methods and primitive areas require even more care than heavily impacted areas (to keep them from becoming heavily impacted).

Over my next several columns, I plan to introduce you to the seven Leave No Trace Principles but in the meantime, I beg of you, I plead with you … please no more toilet paper beside our trails. No.1 Best Choice: pack it out with you.  If you can’t manage that, please bury it in a six-inch cathole so the rest of us don’t have to experience it.

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