Trash talking: Strangest Things?

No. 1? In numbers (not volume), that would be cigarette butts. Two? Probably plastic (mostly water) bottles. Then it’s beer cans and coffee cups. About a year ago, it was probably face masks, but that’s leveled off.

The most, baffling thing has to be doggie poo bags. Hardly a hike goes by where I don’t find a least 3 or 4. Often hidden behind a tree! I mean, if you are using these bags then… (Sigh) Never mind.

But I’d like to talk about the weird finds.

See, about a year ago I was let out of the ICU after a serious pulmonary edema episode. A big part of my quick recovery was anticipating a return to my very local hiking trail (a 5 min walk from the grocery store!). It follows a stream up to the base of the Niagara Escarpment where you climb the steps up to a loop trail with lookouts and a great bird observation platform.

Anyhow, my usual trek is about an hour or so, and I always bring a big fibreglass shoulder bag to gather litter as I go. When I started my hikes again, my hauls were quite substantial, but after a few months, I had mostly cleaned things up quite nicely.

I started taking pictures of my ‘haul’ when I dumped what I collected in the big can at the trail entrance and I would always include the most unusual find at the front of the shot. It kinda help make the task a little less depressing.

I’m guessing a lot of you are trail cleaners too, and so I thought I would ask, what’s your most unusual trail trash find?

Pics, if you got 'em, please. I’d also like to hear what your trash items top 10 are too.

Hmm… forgot to mention glass. Almost exclusively of the beer bottle family. I know where all the drinking parties were by now and I’m always on the lookup for that telltale glint. Some sites are so full of pieces that I just say to myself, 20 pieces today, and every time. It’s actually working well that way. I’m going to dig up some of my pics to post here tomorrow. Cheers


An entire stovetop and oven in the middle of the remote Australian desert


On a fairly remote beach (other people around are usually one or two fishermen and it’s the kind of place where you can look around and not see a single other person -17 kms to the nearest “shop”) I found a shopping bag that is specially made to fit inside a standard supermarket trolley. Handles fit over the sides, then close with velcro. A very useful item (yes I washed it up and now keep it in the car) and I’ve never seen another one.


Sewing machine and cabinet thrown into a blackberry patch. Why?


I once worked on a forestry crew who had a knack for finding items we had lost in the woods, such as water bottles and notebooks. We were joking about it to someone in the office and he said that he’d lost a calculator out there somewhere a couple of years prior. Less than a week later, we found it sitting on a stump, completely waterlogged. We left it on his desk with a note asking if there was anything else he would like us to find.


Probably the strangest trail find was in the San Rafael Wilderness in the Los Padres National Forest in California.

Pretty far into the wilderness, and not on the way to or from any inholdings, fire camps, mining claims, or anything like that, a full 5 gallon (about 20 liter) plastic jar of mayonnaise.

There’s been usual other stuff in various places, old bulletproof jackets, vehicles in improbable places, appliances out in places it would be extremely difficult to get them to, etc, but the giant jar of mayonnaise was the strangest.


I pick up some trash from the forest from time to time, and some of the weirdest were:
-Old, moldy gas mask - I’ve been looking for the picture of it a lot, but I cannot find it now.


A MtDew plastic bottle with a Apple lightning USB cable wrapped around it. Who needs a charge?


Prepacked seafood washed up direct from the sea. Unopened.


Once found nearly 20 packages of salty snacks (Fritos etc) washed up along about half a mile of beach. Must have been a carton of them that fell off a boat. All fresh, and I ate them for weeks.


Once found a blue rain jacket (this kind fishermen use, but then often in yellow) over and over covered in mud along a riverside. I took it home, washed it and used it since on my walks as it was still fully functional.


Someone dumped a metal filing cabinet along with some other trash next to one of the trails through Gwangneung Forest (South Korea), which has signs advertising it as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.


Botanizing in the Buffington Pockets, an area of the Mojave Desert in the Muddy Mountains, north of Lake Mead, one doesn’t expect to see a computer CPU out and about by itself. Somebody doing a field upgrade? They grow here naturally, and this one was ready to harvest? Expensive variation on skeet shooting? So many questions…


I walk along the Red River daily. The trail part if usually clean, but I like to get off the beaten path along the river. I’ve seen almost everything down there. A tv. Beer cans. Lysol/hairspray cans. Makeshift shelters and all the assorted crap that goes along with them. When it’s flooding (and it is now) all kinds of stuff wash up from further south. White plastic barrels. Wooden structures. Plastic bottles. When the river goes down in the summer the ubiquitous shopping carts and bikes emerge, covered in mud. Fishing lures. Vomit (had to chase my dog away from that). I haven’t found a body yet, but it would not surprise me. I once saw a guy swimming - swimming! - in the middle of the river against the current in a suit and goggles. He must have stunk for weeks.


That IS strange, a real head scratcher! Makes you wonder how, why?

A missile stuck in a hillside that had been there for probably decades. But not so strange as I was doing a field survey on a military test range and the common trash was old missile parts and related debris. We were briefed ahead of the survey on what we’d likely encounter and what not to touch.


Something looking too much like a WW2 bomb that I almost stepped on (slightly touched) when was checking the river side near my dacha, nobody walks there as there’s no path and nothing to do if you’re not a naturalist, but it was something cilindrical with height little bit lower than my knee, I was in motion when I noticed that thing, but backed up actually never saw it again even though I’m going around that place quite often, maybe it was one of the really dry years or a spot I never went back to, but in the end I don’t have a pic and I was really scared even though it likely lacked the crucial part to blow up, I didn’t wanna check it with my life.


Probably the strangest find for me was not trash at all but was of human origin. A colleague and I were surveying along a small stream in the Southwest US when we saw a bleached partial bone half buried in a sandbar. He picked it up and we tried to ID what it came from. It wasn’t until he oriented the item in a certain way that we realized we were looking at the partial face of a human skull. It looked to be quite old and we speculated it had washed out of a Native American burial site.



In the (paraphrased) words of the late Kurt Vonnegut Jr., “Sew it goes.”


Wow. A relic from the lost Mayo(n) Empire.