As the Late Joan Rivers Said, “Can we talk?”
Dec Jan 7
I was eaten alive by either sand fleas or no-see-ums last night. The small red welts that multiplied over my arms and legs kept me up with insane itching. Unable to sleep and too tired to read I ruminated over my morning ritual of garbage clean-up.
I had decided that for every free day of camping I should pick up a garbage bag full of trash and considering the state of this beach I’ll be staying for a while.
When doing this sort of thing day in and day out you become intimate with certain aspects of the beach goer’s culinary preferences. For instance I know that a favorite dish is cooked clams and corn-on-the-cob anointed with hot sauce out of little plastic bags. They use Styrofoam plates and prefer to sip their beverages from plastic cups rather than straight from the bottle. I guess I’ve become the connaisseur of consumption.
Nickel doing her best to help the cause
Nickel knows that the mess isn’t just created by ‘litter bugs.’ The trash barrels are scavenged by turkey vultures, seagulls and dogs and the wind plays a roll in scattering it further. But it’s not so much the general trash build-up on the beach that frustrates me it’s the thoughtless despot of human waste and toilet paper.
It’s not surprising that after consuming copious amounts of food and drink sooner or later one has to ‘go’ and the locals have established pit toilets for that use. While not the most ecological or sanitary of solutions it does seem to keep things contained and tidy. Evidenced by the flora cascading out of the buckets, the mixture of desiccated waste and the occasional desert rains render the technique effective.
I find it interesting that many of the plastic and styrofoam items are in the process of decay in one form or another but the paper products (mostly toilet paper but the occasional paper towel) were unaffected by decomposition. I’m guessing that the plastics fall apart due to intense UV light. They’d break into millions of pieces when I tried to extract them from the sand unlike the TP that remains in its entirety.
If you anticipated that the paper products wouldn’t fall apart due to the desert environment, you’re probably right but it’s not just in dry climates that toilet paper hangs around. During this trip I’ve found plenty of toilet paper litter in the wet areas like northern US and Canada. Yes, this is a global problem. I even found undigested toilet paper in one of the burned out forests of the Northwest Territories, a place where the forest fire exploded trees and melted rock. It’s disgraceful.
It wasn’t the pit toilets that offended me, it was the plethora of wads of TP poking their heads out of the sand across the beach that wouldn’t let me rest.
It particularly surprises me that anyone wouldn’t think about the ramifications of burying a wad o-paper in the sand on a windy desert beach where it can be easily unburied by the shifting sand and where it obviously just doesn’t go away. Seeing the evidence all around them why do these people go ahead and poop and then bury the paper like cats in a dirty litter box. With the number of people making visits to this sandy powder room how much *$%(^$¡♠& can a beach support?
So let me say, dear people…
Please Dispose Of Your Toilet Paper in an Appropriate Manner. It’s not that hard.
There are two simple ways to handle TP in the great outdoors:
- You bring a lighter and after wiping your bum you burn (the paper).
- You bring a zip-lock bag and neatly pack it out with you. If you think this sounds gross let me tell you that finding your used paper everywhere isn’t pleasant either. Line your zip-lock with paper towels and you don’t even have to look at the icky contents (your contents).
When I climbed McKinley we pooped in zip-lock bags and brought the entire contents back down the mountain with us (20,000 feet) for proper disposal. I’m not asking you to bring everything…. Just bury your waste at a proper depth and bring the paper part out with you.
I’ll reiterate here that this isn’t just a local-person’s-issue it’s also the campers who are coming through and using the beach.
If you’re sick of my pictures of toilet paper, good. That was my goal.