October 7, 2016

When visiting a National Parks like Yosemite, one would expect to find beauty, nature, some wildlife, and amazing views.  Cluttered amongst the striking scenery is an enormous amount of human acrimony.   In early September, I spent a few days hiking in Tuolumne Meadows.  As I finished the short Tenaya Lake Loop, I passed some bathrooms and quite a few trash cans.  Along the shoulder of the main road many cars parallel parked, and as I walked next to them, out of nowhere, a banana peel came flying out of a parked car’s window.  As I approached the car I debated to myself if I should say anything.  Before I knew it words were falling out of my mouth.  Annoyed, I informed the adult woman and two men that there were trash cans available throughout the park and there is no need to throw their banana peels out of a window.  Two were very quiet and looked at me as if I were insane, the man organizing the trunk politely told me he would pick it up and apologized.  I realize the situation could have gone horribly, and I should be more informative than accusing when talking to strangers.  But here is a short list of some of the trash I had seen in just a few hours exploring the park:

  • Candy wrappers
  • A bag of Subway trash
  • Empty chip bags
  • Feminine napkin wrappers
  • A used condom
  • Endless cigarette butts
  • Empty water bottles
  • Used toilet paper

None of these items are indigenous to Yosemite National Park, and it is more likely that an animal will come across it well before it could decompose. This is why clean up efforts are so important to these delicate ecosystems.

yosemite facelift

Annually, Yosemite Climbing Association partners with park rangers, thousands of volunteers, and some major sponsors like The North Face to clean Yosemite’s trails.  The event seems small in the vastness of the massive National Park, but volunteers were still able to collect over 12,000 lbs. of garbage over the course of 7 days.

yosemite facelift

The event is more than handing out trash bags, it provides education for every person whether they be a seasoned outdoorsman, a future nomad, or a casual vacationer.  Yosemite Facelift teaches the importance of leaving only footprints to preserve the beauty of our National Parks.  Leave No Trace shares the seven principles of outdoor ethics:

  • Plan Ahead and Prepare
  • Travel and Camp on Durable Surface
  • Dispose of Waste Properly
  • Leave What You Find
  • Minimize Campfire Impacts
  • Respect Wildlife
  • Be Considerate of Other Visitors


yosemite facelift

Now, if you were previously unaware of the major impacts that humans and their litter have on our National Parks, consider this your get out of jail free card, but now it’s really up to you to make a difference.  To read more on Leave No Trace click here.