The Rise of the Litter Bug & Blue Ridge Trash Project

I've trekked hundreds of miles of Appalachian wilderness over the better part of a decade. The forest is my therapist. I go into the woods for more than recreation. I go for solitude, inspiration, peace, and the same thirst that drives all of us to search out untouched and unadulterated wilderness. I search for places void of man, not as a recluse (mostly), but because I need to know that there is something timeless out there, something larger and more significant than myself and the hustle and bustle of modern life. I need, as many others do, to seek out places without cell phone signals and WiFi. I need the wild. I need the wildlife. So do you.

This is a small offshoot of Glen Burney Falls in Blowing Rock, NC. Local businesses came together to sponsor this trail and keep it clean and safe for visitors. Nonetheless, it is one of the most litter strewn trails in the area. Can you spot the plastic water bottle wedged into the rocks?

This is a small offshoot of Glen Burney Falls in Blowing Rock, NC. Local businesses came together to sponsor this trail and keep it clean and safe for visitors. Nonetheless, it is one of the most litter strewn trails in the area. Can you spot the plastic water bottle wedged into the rocks?

I began painting with light around 8 years ago as a student at Appalachian State University. It was a rare thing back then to see garbage strewn about public trails. Occasionally you might find a half-filled water bottle propped up against a rock which was obviously left there unintentionally by an absent minded hiker. It was no big deal, you'd just pop it in your bag and throw it away at the nearest waste basket. Over the last few years, I've noticed an increase in the amount of trash on trails and in mountain streams, especially along the Blue Ridge Parkway. I started gathering and packing the waste out myself, but on a recent hike to the summit of Rough Ridge there was so much garbage a team of at least five or more would have had to spend a day picking it all up. It is becoming quite a regular thing that I have to remove trash from a scene before I can photograph it. I'm getting pretty tired of it.

Sometimes picking up garbage along Blue Ridge trails pays off. I found $3 underneath some napkins while hiking up Rough Ridge last week.

Sometimes picking up garbage along Blue Ridge trails pays off. I found $3 underneath some napkins while hiking up Rough Ridge last week.

That brings me to the purpose of a new blog and personal project I'm calling Blue Ridge Trash (http://blueridgetrash.blogspot.com/2016/02/the-rise-of-litter-bug.html). I've been showing people the beauty of these ancient and often untouched lands for a while. Now it's time for something a little different. Instead of removing garbage (plastic bottles, ketchup packets, beach towels, soft drink cups, dog poop baggies, etc.) from a scene before photographing it, I'm going to include it as part of the composition. I will then pack out as much trash as I can. I hope that this will show people not only how aesthetically damaging human trash is, but also how it damages the environment and ecosystems that our tax dollars are supposed to protect. I also hope that we may see an increase in the number of recycling containers near public lands. Until then please PACK IT OUT!

Images (c) Jon Reaves Photography. All rights reserved.