[leadin]Thru-hiking with a cause… a group of guys this past summer backpacked the AT with a goal to pick up bag after bag of trash along the way.[/leadin]
The trio of do-gooders — Seth Orme, Joe Dehnert, and Paul Twedt — named their effort the Packing It Out initiative. Their goal was the removal of more than 1,000 pounds of litter as they hiked from Georgia to Maine.
They hit the trail in March, and by August 15th had met the goal. To remove this much debris they relied on the help and generosity of good samaritans who packed litter out to trailhead garbage cans and recycling bins near the route.
Orme said people were more than willing to help once they found out the cause. The men were even offered food and housing along the way.
To weigh the trash the three used a cheap (and light!) luggage scale. They estimated that at certain parts of the trail you could collect 1 pound of garbage per mile.
The trip was mostly self-funded by the trio, although they have a donate button on their website to the “Packing It Out” initiative. (The site has collected about $3,000 to date.)
Granite Gear and Luna Sandals provided gear for the three men as they logged the 2,190 miles to complete the Appalachian Trail in full.
Trash On The Trail
The idea to pick up garbage while hiking was born out of Orme’s desire to hike the Appalachian Trail as a young boy. But over the years he noticed his local hiking trails were getting gummed up with trash.
Seth’s premise is simple — if people start to clean up trails from years of discarded waste the cleaner environment may deter the next person from littering.
Some of the most interesting finds on the trip were an eyelash curler and a moldy mattress. Getting the mattress down for disposal involved a 2-mile hike and haul for which they concocted a stretcher-like apparatus.
Organizations like Leave No Trace lead the conversation with best practices and ways to get involved. Many companies in the outdoors industry, from KEEN to REI, run trail cleanup projects. United By Blue pledges to clean up garbage for every piece of clothing purchased.
What’s next for the trio? The three plan to continue their “Packing It Out” initiative and hike the Pacific Crest Trail next year.
Their advice to hikers? Pick something up if you see it. They don’t expect everyone to bring an empty garbage bag, but every little bit helps.
If you like what the crew is up to, drop them a couple bucks on their GoFundMe page, or simply help out and collect a little trash on your next hike.