Recently I encountered a dad, mom, and their three children, younger than 7 years old, hiking the Lake Alma Trail. It was a warm afternoon and we were close to mile 2 on the 3.6-mile trail. The dad asked how much farther it was around the loop. Seeing no evidence that they were carrying water I offered an extra bottle I carry just for such occasions along with a banana I had in my pack.
I later saw them wearily crossing the dam and was relieved that they would make it back to their car. As we passed I thought it strange that I didn’t see the water bottle but figured it was in the dad’s pocket. After they passed I wished I’d asked for it so I could use it again.
Most of my walks around the lake are early mornings with a flashlight but later during that same week I was hiking during the daylight hours while picking up trash. Most of the trash had obviously been there for years. No “new” trash was to be found along the trail, showing that our hikers are being considerate of this area.
Then I saw it. The same water bottle I’d given that dad earlier in the week. I was sure it was the same bottle because of the unusual shape and the location being just a little farther down the trail from where I’d met them the week before. I wondered what my reaction might have been if I’d asked for the bottle and he’d told me he dropped it on the trail. As it was I had the luxury of making a few comments to myself as I picked up the bottle.
This experience reminded me of “Leave No Trace” principles, one of which is that preparation is an essential part of protecting nature. Hikers who are unprepared end up in bad situations (like having a thirsty family). They make mistakes and demonstrate poor judgment. Still, I wonder what the thought process is when a person takes a bottle of water given by a fellow hiker and then tosses it on the trail after using the much-needed water.