Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Clash of Cultures

I suspect we all feel a touch of disquietude from time-to-time.  Something doesn't feel quite right.  Even before any specific issue is identified, an unease is felt.  For us, as we travel, it happens sometimes when we pull into a littered campground or stop for lunch at a park with dirty restrooms.  Other times it is just driving through a town with an unpleasant smell or vacant rundown buildings.  Perhaps it is being thrust unwittingly into a city's homelessness issues.  The question that we must always ask ourself is this:  is it snobbery or legitimate concern or something else?  

Naturally, hunches like this need to be treated with great care because they can be caused by racial or class biases that we have carefully tucked away out of sight, but that can raise their ugly heads if we’re not alert.  Other times we must pay attention because our senses are warning us of a real danger.  Often we will never know if we were right in our retreat, other times we’re delighted we overcame a nervous hunch.  

Last night we camped along the beautiful Carbon River, just outside the NW entrance of Rainier National Park, in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, and the dead-end of Highway 165.  It is both beautiful and a tragedy of human bad behavior.  Each camp is littered with beer and pop cans, bottles and lids, flip tabs and cigarette butts.  Pieces of flotsam hiding in the fire pits and on the ground are everywhere, castoff by campers who do not understand the "Pack It In; Pack It Out" rule of mountaineering.  Yessi and I begin to pick up trash as Brad and Ed set up the vehicles for the night’s camp.  Tomorrow we will explore further up the road for the Green Trails  Maps hiking route Brad and Yessi will map in two weeks.

Thistle always provides a safe, clean, dry home

It is just beginning to rain.  The dog is nuts with happiness and keeps trying to get one or the other of us to throw sticks into the river.

He‘s also interested in a little corner of shrubs near our camp.  When we investigate we’re sickened.    PWFs (puffy white flowers) are everywhere — the tell-tale signs of an area being used as a restroom.

A disgusting collection of PWFs

Lots of people are camping and recreating along this road.  We would prefer a less crowded situation, but with rain settling in along with night, this is where we must stay.  With some disgust and much disappointment in my fellow human beings I am filled with sadness and a bit of trepidation    When I turn away from the mess, without taking a step, here is my view in the opposite direction — an open pit toilet and a river side-by-side.

The river and flood plain

Earlier in the day we investigated a forest service road for a camp site, but gave up.  The entire area was being used for ATV’s and target practice.  I’m not, in a broad sense, opposed to either, done with sensitivity, but sensitivity was no where in sight, although piles of litter were.   Each of the shooting range areas was totally trashed with the accumulation of years and years of empty shells, cans, car parts, old targets, bits of plastic and PWFs.  Each of the parking areas for the ATVs was the same.  Without much comment, we drove on, and then out of this sullied area.   

This morning we continue across the river and up into subalpine forest.  It is beautiful.  More shooting ranges, equally trashed, but we pass by quickly as the semi-automatics blast away, putting miles between them and us as fast as we can on this washboard road.  Toward the top we find the trailhead for Summit Lake and the beginning of a 30 mile loop Brad and Yessi will hike and record in two weeks.  We also found a beautiful campsite, and with a little litter removal we left it pristine.  Our conclusion for this site being in better condition is the location of a National Forest Toilet and garbage cans nearby.   The price we pay for not paying the price for maintaining our public lands is huge.  

Coplay Lake

Benton loving stick chasing in Coplay Lake

Brad and Benton exploring the lake's edge

Fran, Benton, Ed & Brad
Somehow Yessi was always our photographer

Sometimes, finding ourselves ill at ease with those around us is the push needed to regroup, reeducate, and readjust our thinking.  Clearly, all of us working harder to bridge economic and cultural chasms is worth striving for.  


"Snobbery management is as difficult and necessary as anger management."

~  Michael Foley
 Embracing the Ordinary:  Lessons from the Champions of Everyday Life

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