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The numbers are in! The Groundskeepers team picked up over 6,348 pounds of trash from our public trails and waterways around the country this year!

That’s a total 16,729 pounds of trash since 2017!

Whoa.

Last year, I was interviewed by the Minneapolis Star Tribune about being part of the 2019 Granite Gear Groundskeeper Crew. We talked about the simple act of cleaning up as you walk and how every single person can make a difference. I was asked to join the team again in 2020 as a legacy groundskeeper and was up for the challenge!

Leaving it Better in 2020

The thaw came…and with it, the annual “bloom” of dormant trash from our long winters. But also, a global pandemic and mandatory stay at home order to help limit exposure to the COVID-19 virus. Luckily, most outdoor activities like hiking were still allowed as long as social distancing rules were followed. Toilet paper was flying off of the grocery store shelves…all travel, group hikes and Scout activities were cancelled until further notice. Campgrounds were closing, and all of my backpacking trips came to a screeching halt. When I did venture out to enjoy my favorite local trails, I found them crowded with families and other people just trying to cure their cabin fever.

Although I was happy that people were getting outside, I also found it hard to relax in this ‘new normal’. This inspired me to spend each day even closer to home; shifting focus from prepping for big trips, to cleaning up my community, daydreaming about micro adventures and noticing the beauty around me.

Most of the trash I picked up this year was in my neighborhood and local green spaces. Fast food packaging was the most common culprit. Later I noticed masks, gloves, disinfectant wipes, and other evidence of the virus. I wore rubber gloves, used my trash grabber and switched from reusable trash bags to packaging that I would have already thrown away.

On The Water

In 2019, my primary focus was cleaning up the Superior Hiking Trail, local parks and trails. Along with coordinating group events, one of my goals as a 2020 groundskeeper was to focus on water clean up. Minnesota is the land of 10,000 lakes after all! As the temperatures got warmer, the foot trails became even more popular. It was a great opportunity to hit the water and get to work! Paddling and cleaning up our lakes and rivers offered a serenity that I did not find on the trail and also allowed me to hang out with friends at a safe distance.

On the water – most trash consisted of food packaging in shoreline fishing spots, floating micro trash, bait packaging and tackle. Unfortunately, sometimes people can’t get their fishing gear unstuck and just have to ditch it (I’ve been there!). But those hooks and fishing line are harmful to both humans and wildlife, so they need to come out. I started carrying a pocket knife in my pfd to cut the bobbers and lures out of branches and tight spaces; throwing away the tangled lines and giving the usable tackle to anyone who was fishing on the lake that day. It felt good to get those hard to reach items cleaned up and I got to help a few fishermen save their hooks.

The Groundskeepers North Shore Crew

The Groundskeeper Community

Once of the highlights of my second year as a Groundskeeper was getting to hang out with some of the North Shore crew. I met these gals last year during my first term, and we always pick right up where we left off. They inspire me, and its great to know that I always have a hiking buddy when I’m up near Lake Superior!

Its also been cool to follow other friends and Groundskeepers from around the country on social media and see the impact they are making. These committed folks cleaned up everything from from tiny bits of micro trash to hauling out HUGE garbage bags! Special shout out to legacy groundskeeper @al_hikes for meeting her goal of picking up 2020 lbs of trash in 2020…yes, you read that right… TWO THOUSAND AND TWENTY POUNDS! Thats both horribly sad and impressive at the same time! Way to go Alex! My good friend Paul aka Hiking Dude, hauled out over 500 lbs and wrote about it here. And my buddy Ruth cleaned up over 100 lbs! Whew! Nice work everybody!

BIG SHOUT OUT to Granite Gear for creating this program and to all of the awesome sponsors that supported the team this year! Astral , Big AgnesFood for the SoleKlean KanteenKula ClothPublic Lands CoffeeRecover Brand and UCO Take a closer peek at what’s in a Groundskeepers kit here!

Get yourself a grabber and re-use those poly bags!

And Now it’s Your Turn!

Will you take the challenge in 2021? The 2021 Groundskeeper’s application is OPEN! Head over to the Groundskeepers to apply before the 11/25/20 deadline! You don’t have to be part of an official program to make a difference and leave it better…but if you love our trails, and are up to a challenge, this year has a new twist that is going to be really fun!

It has been an honor to work towards a common goal with this great team of people! They have inspired me to not just clean up after others, but look long and hard at my own consumption and find ways that I can reduce waste on the front end so there is less to toss or recycle.

Fortunately, after scratching all of my 2020 trip plans, I was able to squeeze in a few short trips to State Parks, The Superior Hiking Trail and Sioux Hustler Trail in the BWCA. Im happy to say that I found very little to no trash on the remote trails I visited. But, these trips got me thinking of some ‘less-waste’ backpacking tweaks that will probably end up in an upcoming post. Check back or hit subscribe if you want to hear more, and feel free to share any of your earth friendly ideas in the comments below!

ICYMI – the Wandering Pine 2020 outdoor gift guide has been updated with even more deals and includes a few re-purposed gear gift resources! If you can score some used gear and give it a new life, ALL THE BETTER!

Every little bit helps, small changes lead to big changes, and together we can make a difference!

~WP

Standing at Cold Water Spring. Heading out on my first long clean up hike of the year!

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