Pickup Games

Optional take-it-out policies are cropping up in our parks—but will anyone volunteer?

Sitting pretty: the Teton John     Photo: Greg Von Doersten

Sitting pretty: the Teton John

Elimination Bout

A Wyoming mountain guide sounds off on a famous Teton toilet and the politics of packing it all out. CLICK HERE

THE TETON PROJECT is just one example of a growing grassroots movement of rangers trying to free the wilderness from toilet paper blossoms and off-trail land mines. Voluntary pack-out-your-own programs exist in several national parks, including Glacier, Olympic, North Cascades, and Grand Canyon, and successful mandatory programs are in place in parts of Mount Rainier and Mount Shasta. Parks officials and guiding companies remain hopeful that the voluntary approach will be enough to clean out the backcountry. "Peer pressure is going to help make this idea work," says Al Read, president of Exum Mountain Guides. "It will get real old when your next handhold on El Cap has feces on it."

There's plenty of reason to doubt such optimism, especially when there's no overarching federal policy on waste removal, and when it's impossible to re-potty-train millions of backcountry users accustomed to the old dig-drop-and-run routine. Yellowstone, for instance, has a voluntary program in the works but is already rumored to be butting heads with old-school cowboys who aren't too excited about bagging their own dung, voluntarily or not.
"It's a quantum leap to go from digging cat holes to packing out," says Ben Lawhon, education and projects manager for Colorado-based nonprofit Leave No Trace, which still recommends cat holes as the best way of dealing with number two. "Packing out," says Lawhon, "takes someone on the higher end of the ethical scale."

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