Mark D. Roberts

Recently my family and I went on a short camping trip to Big Sur, California. This is one of the prettiest spots in the whole state, and, in my opinion, in the whole country. Big Sur combines rugged coastline with redwood forests, soaring mountains with lush meadows. Summertime highs are right around 70 degrees, and it’s usually sunny after the morning fog burns off.
We took a hike, more of a scramble, actually up the Big Sur River. This river flows through a narrow gorge in the mountains. Eventually you can’t go further upstream without some serious climbing equipment, so we turned around.
About a half mile up the river I saw something that made my insides burn with anger. There, on a rock in the middle of the river, somebody had left three bottles, a perfectly placed collection of litter. The perpetrator, nowhere to be seen, cared enough about the beauty of the place to hike and climb in. And then, for reasons that completely escape me, he or she left a bunch of litter to soil the scene for the next visitor. Why? What in the world was this person thinking?
I’m not surprised to see litter at places easily reached by car. I’m used to highway viewpoints strewn with empty beer bottles. I mean, you can expect a bunch of drunks to clean up after themselves, now can you? But I’m always amazed to find litter in exceedingly beautiful and hard to reach spots. I just can’t figure out how somebody can love nature enough to make a major effort to get to some pristine place, only to ruin that place by leaving behind a Coke can. What’s up with that?
On my way out of the Big Sur gorge, I noticed that state park officials had recently added some trash cans and a new sign. But the sign struck me as oddly confusing. It reads, “PACK IT IN – PACK IT OUT. NO GARBAGE COLLECTION IN THIS AREA.” Then there are two brand, spanking new trash cans. Is the sign telling you not to use these cans because nobody will ever collect the garbage? That’s the most literal rendering, but I can’t believe that’s the meaning. I think the sign means: “No garbage collection beyond this point. Please bring your garbage back here and put it in these cans because there will be garbage collection in this exact area.” At least I hope that’s what it means. Sadly enough, however, this sign didn’t appear to make a whit of difference to the person who left the bottles on the rock.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I did collect those bottles. And, yes, I did put them in the shiny new trash cans, in the hope that, indeed, garbage collection does happen in that area.

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