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[pct-l] bad habits

The follwoing posts have made it to the list and again I am pretty
frustrated that long distance hikers, those who are supposed to be the cream
of the crop, can treat the trail with disrespect.  I have yet to see an
article in the Communicator or as a seminar at any gatherings, so maybe most
people don't think its a big deal, but my wife and I, along with a number of
other hikers, were disgusted at the practices of disposal of human waste and
products we encountered on the trail in '96.  Please educate yourselves as
the number of people to continue to enjoy the PCT increases so will the
amount of crap lying around.  My thoughts follow the paragraphs.

">Maybe we need to change the way we dispose of our tp?  Maybe a mention
>in the guidebooks about fire danger?  Maybe I'm trying to save the trail
>from people the guides don't reach?
It ishard to know what to recommend. For a  hike or overnight, sure, you
can carry out your TP, but in most places that aren't hypercrowded, the
notion still strikes me as ridiculous-- TP biodegrades very rapidly if you
get it wet, and although it is visual pollution, the turd is the real
potential health hazard. On big walls, poop tubes make great sense. But on
a multi-week go-light... I don't think so...

i think there are 2 kinds of wilderness users: the 98% who camp, shit and
wash away from lakes, streams and trails, and the 2% who treat the
wildeness like they treat their homes, towns and highways.
The latter don't read, don't know, don't obey laws and don't care."

A)  It is NOT hard to know what to recommend.  Nothing we take into the
woods should be left there.  This leaves only two viable options and many
that are bad.  
        First, TP degrades rapidly in your lifetime, but will be there next
year for you. Even if it did degrade, the trail we encounter a number of
animals there to dig it up.  And, more than once, we came to a nice camp
only to find wadded  TP jammed under a rock.  Nice technique. Sure, some of
what you bury will never see light again, but some will and for the one
person that finds it you spoiled a bit of their trail expereince.
        Second, burning is irresponsible. I think the examples of the small
fires started attest to that.  Again, we don't need to add our pollutants to
the air; we escape to the wild to get away from that.
        Third, packing it out.  I didn't know the weight of packing out a
few sheets of TP would be ridiculous.  You carried it in, right?  A ziploc
bag, or even two if you are paranoid, kept on the outside of your pack if
you are paranoid still, is fine to pack it out.  Not putting in this minimal
effort shows how little you care.
        Fourth, don't use it.  Funny how everyone is so stoked on Jardine's
book but seems to miss this chapter.  In '96 I'd say about 5% of hikers did
this.  Try it!  Most professional organizations (NOLS, Outward Bound)
practice this on at least some of their trips.  Through 2 summers in British
Columbia and a thru hike in '96 neither my wife (yes, women can do it to)
nor I ever used a sheet of TP on the trail.  Much of the natural stuff out
there is better.  This is the only way to truly keep the trail intact.  If
you think it is rough, let me know and we'll be happy to provide
suggestions.  Also, if you have met us you know that we are not burly,
rugged mountainpeople who go to extremes, we just know it works.

B)I agree with the statement that most don't care and crap in streams, but
many long distance hikers think they are doing right but do not.  Again, we
found human waste everywhere.  One funny story was while we were stealth
camped hikers getting up early to hike the desert in the dark actually
crapped right next to our tent without even knowing!  Again, a couple of
        First, pack it out. This is the best method and on all kayak trips
and canoe trips I implore this, but have yet to backpacking.  I salute
anyone who does!
        Second, burying it.  Most know this, but most don't do it right.
Sticking it under a rock does not take care of it.  For it to decompose and
have no animals dig it up, it should be 6-8 inches down.  Since most hikers
refuse to carry a 3 ounce trowell, the attempt to get this by using a boot
toe.  Sorry, that doesn't work.  Some use ice axes, but I never plan on
carrying an axe the whole way.  We got lots of funny looks for our orange
trowell, but at least we feel confident our crap is now fertilizer and not
trail decorations.
        Third, the smear technique.  When soil is too hard or only snow is
around this is a great method.  It needs practice and lots of thinking, but
the concept is to crap on a large, sunfacing, smoothe rock then, with
anohter rock, smoothe it as flat as possible.  Very quickly sun will bake
it, causing all living bad things to die, then wind and water erosion will
scatter the tiny flakes away.  Perfect.  Though you obviously need to do it
away from the trail, on sunny days, and use caution when "painting", but
again, give it a shot.

I hope others use this opportunity to get away from gear talk and post notes
that will educate others about acting responsibly in caring for the
environment of this pristine trail.

Dan and Sara Rufner

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