I took Extra-Large Toby for a walk in the woods. It’s more than just the woods – it’s the wilderness. As we passed the sign announcing we were entering the National Forest System, I was enveloped by a feeling of peace. The tall pine trees and enormous boulders are spectacular! Some sections remind me of the baths at Virgin Gorda minus the warm turquoise water.
I focused on my footing as the loose dirt under my sneakers made for lots of slipping and sliding. I developed a technique for traversing the terrain carefully picking my path several steps ahead. There was little margin for error and fortunately it was an off-leash zone for dogs. I have trouble holding Toby on the flat so there would be no holding him here – especially with all the critters that tempt him in the bushes, trees, and ground holes.
Like many of us in today’s world, I no longer wear a watch but rely on my cell phone to tell me the time. Due to the remoteness of the area and the mountains blocking signals, I do not have cell service at the cabin. As I meandered on the trail, I looked at the phone to check the time. FIVE bars! Are you kidding me? Who do I call? Who do I call? With all those bars, I had to call somebody!
I sat on a log and started dialing a friend when something sparkly caught me eye. My heart leapt as it occurred to me that it might be that two carat diamond I lost fifteen years ago. I hung up the phone and reached down to pick up the sparkly; it was a jagged piece of glass! My eyes combed the area where I sat. The sun was dancing off a plethora of sparklies – all broken pieces of glass. As I started gathering them into a pile, I saw there were green ones, brown ones, and clear ones; Heineken, Pacifico, and Corona. There were large, jagged pieces and smaller smooth ones – all potential hazards to the paws of our precious pups.
My horror turned to sadness as I started picking up the pieces. It’s bad enough that nature occasionally ravishes the forest, such as happened a few years ago when a fire devastated the landscape. The good news here is that it will grow back. It may not happen overnight, but it will happen.
With broken glass from beer bottles, well… there could be cut paws, cut fingers, or a cut butt if you happen to sit on a rock with a barely noticeable shard sticking up. I happened to have a plastic bag in my pocket (all dog people carry these nowadays) and started picking up the debris. Pretty soon the sack was full of glass, cigarette butts, colored bits of plastic from tail-lights, pens, toy cars, and … more.
I had been on beach clean-ups where odd bits had washed up to shore from any number of sources, including trash from cruise ships that had drifted hundreds or even thousands of miles, and eventually washed up on shore. But this? People carried this stuff in, deliberately broke bottles against rocks, and went on their merry way.
A lady with two Golden Retrievers passed me, greeted me pleasantly, and thanked me for the clean-up effort. She has spent many summers here at Green Valley Lake and explained, “Yeah, the kids come up here on New Year’s Eve, drink beer, and smash their bottles on the rocks. Nice, huh? I’m not sure which is worse – that or the locals that cheat on the fire prevention rules. See that pile of pine needles? Somebody dumped them there because they don’t want to pay for yard pick-up. It’s a big problem up here.”
I filled my bag to capacity while Toby rattled every bush in the area looking for lizards. When we were both exhausted, I trekked my way out of the forest with my trash, and Toby found the mud-hole that was left from the previous day’s rain. The sight of him cooling off in the puddle brought a smile to my face.
Knowing I did a small part to clean up nature’s paradise felt good. Yes, it’s a drop in the bucket, but with enough drops, the bucket will fill up. A new friend, Bill, and his beautiful Rottweiler, Heidi, went on that same hike with me a few days later. I was shocked when Bill picked up a large pile of broken glass from the area I had already been over a few days prior. They weren’t new pieces of glass, just visible from another angle, where I had missed them. My hat’s off to Bill for a job well done! Let’s hope our next trek is less trashy.