The ‘Packing It Out’ crew is hiking the Pacific Crest Trail and picking up trash along the way. They expected to find less trash than they did last year while cleaning up the Appalachian Trail. Turns out the PCT was in more need of a clean-up than they thought.
They cleaned a whopping 530 pounds of trash from the first third of the trail.
Article written by Paul Twedt, a ‘Packing It Out’ founder. Sent from the trail.
The last few weeks have been incredibly eventful. From leaving the desert for new climates to helicopter evacuations and 126 pounds of trash collected within a half-mile of trail. We have now removed over 530 pounds of trash and have currently hiked to PCT mile 720, nearly a pound of litter per mile. Now let’s get to the details.
The Mojave Desert
We’re off to see the Lizard,
the wonderful Lizard of Mojav, EH!
We’ve been singing this little song for weeks as we approached Mojave, Calif., our final desert resupply. We just wrapped up our final stretch of the desert, a 42-mile section with zero reliable water sources, which happens to be the driest section of the entire PCT. We were excited for the challenge, but also happy to be past it so that we could continue our journey into the snowy Sierra.
Before I fly away into dreams and excitement for the next hitch, let’s focus one last time on the memories from the desert. It was as beautiful as it was challenging.
Packing ‘Him’ Out
While hiking over Mt. Baden-Powell near Los Angeles we came upon an injured hiker sprawled across the trail, unable to walk. He kindly waved us on as he informed us that he injured his foot and had called 911 and was awaiting a call back regarding how they would take him off the mountain. Unwilling to hike on and leave an injured person in the forest alone, we sat and chatted with him.
Upon hearing the roar of two helicopters approaching, he realized that he was getting a fast ride off the mountain. An EMT rappelled down while we covered our patient from the rocks being thrown by the chopper’s rotorwash. After helping splint the injured extremity and harnessing our friend to a winch on the helicopter we ran back to avoid the dangerously swaying trees and flying debris while they winched him up and away.
We gave our friend the trail name ‘Heli’, although he won’t get to use it this year due to the torn ligaments in his foot. We usually stick to packing out trash, but it is ethical and imperative in the outdoor community to stop and help one another when in need, so we took Packing It Out to a whole new level: packing out injured people too, ha!
Trash, Trash, And More Trash
On the topic of packing out strange and new things, other than injured hikers, whose weight does not go into our trash totals, we have had an opportunity to make a huge impact on some really trashy areas of the trail. Some of the more memorable bits of litter were a 14.4-pound old-school steel television frame, two mattresses, over 20 pounds of glass, and a tricycle.
Mile 444.3 is so bad that it has even earned a reputation as the filthiest section of the PCT in a guidebook. Upon getting to that spot, we knew it would take us a while, so we dropped our packs and got to work. We found the trike and an abandoned queen-sized mattress that weighed in at 69 pounds along with an extraordinary amount of the standard litter like cigarette butts, plastic and glass bottles, cans, and a few strange items like some plywood, large plant pots, and a balloon.
By far the most notable item that we packed out is mylar birthday balloons. So far we’ve packed out 24 mylar birthday balloons from the PCT. On the entire Appalachian Trail, we only found 11. It makes me wonder, if we already found that many just along the narrow trail corridor, how many are really out there, spread across the forested mountainsides and desert landscapes?
–Follow the crew on our ‘Packing It Out’ page. To date, the group has hiked 720+ miles from the U.S./Mexico border to Kennedy Meadows, Calif. Connect with Paul, Seth, and Chris on Instagram, Twitter, and their blog.