Leave No Trace


Most runners love to run in cool, dry weather.  Unfortunately for me, I love sleeping more than I love cool dry weather.  Heck I’ll run in the rain if I can sleep in.   So what does this mean?

It means that no matter how hard I try to get up at daybreak to run, I never get out as early as I would like.

Yesterday I did it to myself again.  I declared publicly on Facebook that I was going to run.  Yes that is why I post my intent to run on Facebook.  Not to brag or to get someone to go with me, but to hold myself accountable to my own word.  Kinda like having to log my food intake; to keep me honest.

So once I posted my intent for my friends to see, I in fact felt obligated to run even though the heat increased as the sun rose higher into the sky.  I made it into my running shoes and out the door by noon, yes, noon.

Needless to say, I exhibited a bit of grumpiness.  Usually I rely on running to “snap me out of it” but this run made me grumpier as I went along.

I run on the levee of one of our local rivers.  It is paved, quiet, runs along the back yards of beautiful homes, and has access to a boat ramp, park and numerous beaches and fishing spots. The levee is well used and sometimes crowded by bicyclists, runners, parents with small children, couples strolling on dates, successful fishermen carrying their catch.

I dragged myself along, lamenting my fluorescent shoes. I told the store manager that I would rather have them in black, but alas, they don’t come in black. Then I wondered why my shoes’ colors are not welcome but my bright florescent shirt was ok.  Yes, these are the things I think about when I run.

As the clicked off each mile, I started to forget I was running and started to look around and stream other thoughts together.

That couple should have chosen to meet later in the day.

Those two dogs should be on a leash.

Those Hmong women are so tiny. I actually feel tall around them.

Then I reached the green belt between the buildings of an apartment complex I run past.  I remembered thinking as I ran by the evening before, “It is so sweet that these kids are having a picnic.”  Now, in the noon sun, they were out there again, only this time under the shade of a tree.  I moved my gaze upward to where they sat the night prior and was shocked to see their trash strewn about the grass.

Here they were enjoying the outdoors, just as they had the night prior, only now they were surrounded by ugly trash.

I was astonished that they could just ignore the mess, move over and continue without a care in the world.

I shook my head and kept running. As I thought about what I had just witnessed, I noticed a large pile of trash on the river side of the levee.  Clearly, someone had cleaned up a few fishing posts and moved the trash to a central location.

I saw two cases of empty beer bottles, piles of paper plates, KFC buckets, napkins, plastic bags and other junk left behind.

Who does that?!

I believe that I can finally call myself a backpacker after numerous trips into various state and NPS parks.  The first thing I learned, on my very first trip was “leave no trace.” It made perfect sense, as it fits into the structure of my life and everything I believe.

Why did I learn this?

I learned this because we were given a group talk by the rangers issuing wilderness permits.

I learned this because my sister lectured me about “packing out our garbage.”

I learned this because I saw people picking up trash others left behind, despite it would weigh them down to do so.

I learned this because a priest at church talked about cleaning up as we walk along the world.

I learned to that we are commanded to respect the earth as its stewards. “Man’s dominion over inanimate and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is limited by concern for the quality of life of his neighbor, including generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity of creation.” ~Catechism of the Catholic Church

The point is my friends, that I learned to take care of the environment.

I hope that seeing the trash along our beautiful river will prompt the users of the path we all love to teach others how to demonstrate respect for our environment. I hope that I can find the strength to teach children, even those not my own, to clean up after themselves.

Yes, maybe I was just a little too hot and maybe a little grumpier than usual, but I am glad that I was moved to think about the world as it is and again as it could be. Running truly is cheaper than therapy.

Now don’t get me started on dog owners without poop bags.

Thanks for being my friends.


About Caro

I am a social worker by training and a peace officer by profession having worked with California’s delinquent youth and young adults for 28 years. I firmly believe that our development as humans depends on our environment and that sometimes we get stuck. As such, I write about those things we sometimes ignore or fail to see until we are forced to pay attention.
This entry was posted in Environment, Friendship, Parenting, Running and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.