An Open Letter to the People who Camped by the River

This weekend, I drove down to my favorite wildflower site by the Cowpasture River. The Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) were in full bloom, spreading a sky blue carpet along the river. The blue of the flowers reflects back my favorite sky color – as above so below.

I would have been content to amble around these flowers, taking pictures to my heart’s content and thoroughly enjoying the impossibly perfect spring day – if it wasn’t for the campsite.

blue tent

blue tent

Oh, this looks so idyllic. What’s wrong with people pitching a tent surrounded by thousands of lovely blue wildflowers?! But wait, they also had a generator set up with a canister of fuel right next to it – prepared for everything.

generator in paradise

generator in paradise

Can I ask what you need a generator for, out here by the fast-flowing river, far away from civilization, just you and wildflowers and the stars in the sky? Well, silly me, you really didn’t care that much about seeing the stars at night because you had the foresight to bring a string of electric lights strung across the entire campsite. So, that’s what the generator was for! And maybe you had a few other electricity needs; after all, you want to spend your weekend as close to the comforts of home as you can.

camp site

camp site

So let me try to understand: you wanted to get away for the weekend (there were quite a few of you judging from the four large trucks and SUVs parked near the tent site), enjoy each other’s company and sleep under the stars listening to the river and the night sounds. But if you keep that noisy generator running to see in the dark night, in addition to the bright campfire that lights up the place, it probably doesn’t matter that you can’t hear nature sounds around you. You have so much to catch up on and so many stories to tell while you are finishing the rest of your beer supply and the junk food spread out there under the picnic tent. You must have had a fun and boisterous time last night already, judging from all the trash I saw in the fire pit and elsewhere in the camp.

fire pit with empty bottles

fire pit with empty bottles

Well, at least the bottles were in the fire pit and not thrown all over the place. Were you thinking about collecting these empty bottles and all your trash before you’d leave? Or did you think that there would be some kind of automatic trash pick-up paid for by your tax dollars?

You weren’t around and I only saw two guys floating in a boat on the river… I guess you were trying to catch some fish for dinner to go with those bags of chips.

Gone fishing

Gone fishing

I want to believe that you care about nature. I want to believe that you were responsible enough to pack up everything you brought with you, your tents, your folding chairs, your generator, your lights, and – especially – all that trash.
Because you, just like me, probably don’t want to see bottles bobbing down the river or littering the underbrush or, God forbid, that exquisite flood plain plastered with those pretty wildflowers. You, like me, probably know about the dangers of plastics getting into the river or elsewhere in our eco-system where animals might swallow it or get tangled up in it.
You, like the rest of us nature lovers, probably have a strong gut reaction when you see trash left behind that sullies such a beautiful place.
So, I am counting on you guys to do the right thing. But who knows what can happen when alcohol flows freely – those kinds of concerns aren’t exactly on the top of your list when you are trying to have some weekend fun with your buddies. And when you are hung over a bit when you leave here, it’s easy to miss a thing or two, or it’s just too much effort to pick it all up.

And you know why I am wondering about these things? There was a smaller campsite close to where you pitched your tents. The people had left already and this is what they left behind:

trash left behind

trash left behind

Did they think they were doing the next person a favor by leaving behind all that cardboard to burn? And what about the soda cans and the plastic wrap? Oh, and there was a large plastic bag with trash in it hanging from a tree branch. Tidy enough, until an animal gets into it, or the wind picks up and scatters it across the short distance into the river.

I must admit I had tears in my eyes and an angry fire in my gut when I saw this. And maybe you can understand why I was concerned about how you would leave your own campsite. So I am urging you to take it all with you, including the memories of the beauty of the woods and the aliveness you felt being here…only leave behind footprints and cold ashes.

Is that too much to ask?

This post was created in response to The Daily Post’s Weekly Photochallenge: Letters.

About Beauty Along the Road

My name is Annette. I am passionate about nature, health, simplicity, self-reliance, truth, and life-long learning. Originally from Germany, I now live in Virginia, USA. I am a therapist, health coach, writer, photographer, and organic gardener.
This entry was posted in Appalachia, Flora, Healing Ourselves and the Planet, Weekly Photo Challenge and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to An Open Letter to the People who Camped by the River

  1. Dina says:

    Exactly, that’s how it should be; take nothing but pictures and leave nothing but footprints behind you. How annoying Annette! I’m with you on this one.
    Love, Dina

    Like

  2. Good for you, taking the time to write this…

    Like

  3. glendanp says:

    I have a friend, Mike, who once said when we came upon similar leavings at a campsite, “Humans are the nastiest people in the World.” It isn’t the camping that is the problem. It is the total disregard for the well-being of our Mother Earth.

    Like

  4. glendanp says:

    Reblogged this on Yarn Around My World and commented:
    Have some respect for our Mother Earth. She deserves your best.

    Like

  5. My husband and I are campers. We stick to the wonderful state parks here in Virginia. And we leave our site pristine, of course. But there is a subset of campers who behave like this — sort of sullying all of our reputations. I don’t blame you for being outraged – I am too. But then again, I live in the country and my road is so loaded with trash it would make you sick. Who does that? Who throws their entire bag of McDonald’s trash OUT THE WINDOW? Probably the same guys you saw camping. Thirty lashes!!!!

    Like

  6. It makes no sense to me at all. If I were you, I’d leave a note wrapped around their frosty beers or on the generator telling them to please take their trash with them when they leave. Sigh! It’s a process of educating them. Here in Nicaragua, the trash is horrendous. In fact, we call the green and pink plastic bags that float in the lake and dangle in the trees, “Nicaraguan flowers.”

    Like

  7. Pit says:

    Hi Annette,
    Like you, I’m sickened when I see how inconsiderate my fellow human beings can be. As it’s shown in your article and the pictures. It fits in with – I’m sad to say – other examples, such as leaving a trail of litter up and down the Mount Everest or “Eco”-tourists spoiling Antarctica. As a biologist I once met said, it’s our heritage. Littering our environment proves us humans having descended from “tree inhabitants”: they just drop their litter and it’s out of sight.
    Thanks for the article, and have a good day,
    Pit

    Like

  8. Barneysday says:

    We’ve become such a self-centered, “its all about me” generation, no, society as a whole. We’ve lost all caring about those who might follow into these campsites. And why anyone would go out to nature only to bring along a generator is beyond me. Thanks for a great post.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Haralee says:

    Were they living there? Some people don’t understand, tread lightly or pack it in and pack it out!

    Like

  10. Well, first of all, my compliments to you for a well-written and well-documented post. Sadly, this kind of experience is not surprising even if this is a pretty extreme example. When I’m out there, I always make it a rule to pick up one piece of litter along the way. But I know it’s more symbolic than helpful.

    Like

    • Robin – thank you for stopping by and checking out my blog. I am honored that you are following me now.
      In terms of picking up trash – yes, it seems like a bandaid because someone else will come along and leave their trash, again and again. I just heard that this weekend, the Cowpasture River Association is organizing one of their semi-yearly trash clean-ups along the river. I am seriously thinking about joining them – after all, my self-righteous indignation doesn’t do the river any good unless I actually follow up with actions to make things better.
      Since you are in the DC area – do you know the Virginia Highlands? Highland and Bath Counties are absolutely beautiful and a photographer’s dream.

      Like

  11. doreenb8 says:

    People leaving trash anywhere really erks me but when they leave it in nature I get so angry.
    All of that earth day teaching does not seem to be resinating with our young adults.

    Like

  12. I am not a nature-lover – my idea of camping is to go to the Hilton🙂 . But I agree that this is so disrespectful of the outdoors and others who want to enjoy it. I appreciate you taking the time to write about it.

    Like

    • Sharon – I appreciate that we have different degrees of comfort and appreciation for being in nature. Yet, even you as a self-identified Hilton lover understand the disrespect involved in leaving our trash behind. It’s like you allowing some house guests to stay in your house and when they leave, they’ve not only eaten all of your food but left their take-out containers on the nice comforter in the guest room, spilled drinks on the clean carpet…you get the idea. That’s sort of how some people behave out in nature. And worse, this is just the microcosm of what we are doing to our larger home, Planet Earth.

      Like

  13. I am seething too. Well said. MM 🍀

    Like

  14. suej says:

    Well written….makes me seethe that some people have no thought for the environment or their fellow human beings, as someone pointed out, it’s all ‘me’ now. Aargh…

    Like

  15. pix & kardz says:

    i always appreciate a clean, unlittered setting when i come to a beautiful spot. it helps to make it seem as if i was the first one there – but that is partially in thanks to all those who were there before me but kept it the way they had found it, and i try to leave it that way for those who will come after me. it has been said before – leave only footprints, take only photos. thanks for the poignant reminder🙂

    Like

  16. I live in the desert, or close enough to the desert to be able to take a day trip when I want. Your campers have visited out here, too. I often find myself picking up trash that doesn’t belong to me just so other visitors can enjoy the beauty all around us. But you can’t call me a tree hugger. Not too many trees in these parts. A cactus hugger? Maybe!

    Like

    • A cactus hugger, that’s a first🙂
      I too will be picking up trash along that river this weekend, along with a group of other tree-huggers (no cacti around here, except in my rock garden). Those campers sure like to travel a lot and insistently leave their calling cards…

      Like

  17. mpejovic says:

    Those are the same people who litter in the towns too, very sad. And like you, I don’t understand why you have to bring the whole city comfort when you go camping. If you decide to stay in the middle of nature, you should leave everything that has to do with the city behind, especially the noise and trash. At least I’m honest with myself and I like my comfort so when I go in the country, I stay in a place with running water, electricity and a real bed. Simply because I don’t want to have to set up a complete “city” camping site.

    Like

  18. Oh dear isn’t that terrible, what a spoiler for your idyllic woodland walk. Why on earth didn’t they just book into a hotel if they wanted bright electric lights……or even a campsite….it seems strange to go to all the trouble of being away in nature only to block it all out!

    Like

  19. Litterers are the absolute pits, aren’t they? Hopefully no-one who reads your blog would dream of doing such a thing, but you never know, so good for you for writing this.🙂

    Like

  20. dadirri7 says:

    Oh. It happens here too ….. but amongst those wildflowers? I hope they did pick it all up, but those people usually don’t. I wonder what they think, I really can’t imagine, but maybe they are too stressed and noisy inside to be able to think ….???

    Like

  21. wilsonrhet says:

    wow – maybe a letter to the editor?

    Like

  22. Sad. Sad. “My” woods/river walk I like to enjoy draws occasional campers and it seems they always leave things behind. I’ve seen people leave behind whole tents & sleeping bags on more than one occasion not to mention trash, damage to trees. It really is maddening. Then there are the ATV/pick-up truck/jeep riders that go around the fences put up in the state forest and drive their vehicles up the mountain causing deep ruts and massive erosion. People’s disrespect toward our earth is so hard to understand and makes me beyond angry.

    Like

  23. Jeff Sinon says:

    You have no idea how much I feel your pain. Nothing angers me more. Obviously the concept of “Leave no trace” is completely foreign to these inconsiderate slobs.

    What I will never understand is that it took more effort carry all that stuff in when it was full. Why then is it so damn hard to bring the empties and the trash back out with you?

    Like

    • Jeff, I have no answers….

      Like

      • Jeff Sinon says:

        Nor I. And don’t even get me started on the fisherman who leave those god-forsaken little blue and white worm containers littering the stream bank. Leaving them lying right where they were when they used the last worm.

        Like

        • I guess I’ll have more stories to tell after this clean-up weekend… I have no idea why people seek to escape into nature, expecting a nice, clean space and then soil it by leaving their trash behind. Their cars are right next to the camp site – they just have to put things in a trashbag and drive away, they don’t even have to carry it out on their backs like a backpacker would… When I see this and then think about the much larger issues of polluted oceans, radioactive trash, drug remnants in drinking water, factories polluting groundwater (and don’t get me started on fracking or tar sands), I can see how many small and not so small acts of non-accountability and irresponsibility can really add up to a very sick planet.

          Like

          • Jeff Sinon says:

            They expect it because there are people like you who end up cleaning up after them so the next time they show up the campsite is perfectly clean. The sad part is, if the site was messy when they showed up the next time it probably wouldn’t sink in and get them to change their behavior. They would just go find another campsite where the “clean-up fairies” are still doing their thing.

            Like

  24. Tish Farrell says:

    This is so dismal, Annette. I fully share your outrage. But then in the UK we have another angle. Our beautiful places are kept beautiful by large landowners, who by and large exclude the public from their land. Perhaps they have a point if people are going to behave like this. But the litterers and disrespectful certainly give them the excuse to be exclusive. Hmph.

    Like

  25. ailsapm says:

    Aagh, this is one of my greatest peeves, I’m with you all the way, Annette. They should make people pass a basic respect for the planet test before allowing them to camp.

    Like

  26. Pingback: Cleaning up the River | The Beauty Along the Road

  27. jpeggytaylor says:

    Beautiful bluebells🙂 … they’re my favourite Spring flower here in the UK. I too am another phantom litter picker whenever we are out walking😉 It really is sad that these people just cannot seem to ‘see’ the mess they leave behind. I often wonder if they live in houses knee-deep in rubbish, or do they somehow perceive that differently!

    Like

Let me know what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s