Hiking along the Monocacy River in Frederick, Maryland, I was reminded of how much of these natural places we take for granted. It seems to happen even more when they’re a 10 minute drive from our homes.
It was 65 degrees and sunny, the perfect hiking weather in my opinion. But it was also mid-February. I was filled with a mix of joy and worry. This was the first year I had no snow on my birthday (February 15), and although it was nice being able to enjoy one of my favorite activities at a time I rarely get to, I was filled with a strong sense of foreboding. I love snow, especially when it means I can snowboard and enjoy all the stereotypical winter activities people should be able to enjoy in the winter. And no snow means no snowboarding or skiing, snowmen, snow angels, hot cocoa, snowball fights, or sweet snow day deals at the five star restaurant downtown.
Those who say global warming (more accurately known as “climate change”) is a hoax, do not understand what it actually is. It doesn’t mean that it’s summer weather 24/7, it means that our overall climate is subject to more and more extremes, both in temperature and quantity and intensity of weather events. This means temperatures way over average in the winter, seasons varying widely in their duration, and more hurricanes, tornados, earthquakes, and anything else that scars not only the planet but harms human life. In other words, our climate is changing, and whether or not you believe it’s anthropogenic (human-caused), we have to agree that polluting our planet isn’t helping the situation. The trail is no exception. It’s hard to walk along enjoying the natural wonders our planet has to offer when it’s littered with beer cans and plastic water bottles.
Along the short 2 mile hike around parts of Monocacy National Battlefield, it was impossible not to marvel at the open fields, flowing river, and trees, some scarred by lightning strikes and twisted into psychedelic shapes and curves. The trail head was a bit hard to find, but after parking in the small gravel lot off of Urbana pike and going around a fence or two, there was an obvious path parallel to the Monocacy river that led into the woods. The trail led about a half mile along the river, over 2 bridges (one natural and one manmade), and up a hill into a huge open field. There were a couple of options for paths to take, and one of them goes past an old farm. We chose to do a loop around and back through the woods a different way. It was pretty awesome to see a huge open field in a time of such complete overdevelopment.
On the way back, we found an awesome hang out spot. However, it seemed like we weren’t the first ones to find it. Five year old water bottles and 3 year old beer bottles littered the area, along with an old rusting can of silly string. As much fun as I’m sure they had, it’s sad to see trash sinking into the ground, especially plastic since it literally never goes away. Granted, since a lot of the trash was a few years old, it’s completely possible that it could have come down in the river and washed up on shore. But that still means it was litter somewhere else before it was at this exact spot it ended up. Some of the beers were much newer which made me think this was a pretty recent hang out spot for small groups of locals. My friend and I picked up what we could and moved on. From that spot it was only about another 5-10 minute hike back to the car.
Once we got back to the car I threw the bottles and silly string can into one of the trash bags I usually keep in my car and we drove back up Urbana pike. It was a beautiful day for a hike, and apparently even a better one for a cleanup. The simplest actions can go a long way – whether it’s putting your trash away properly, recycling, or picking up after those who choose not to. Our planet and its trails are worth it, because, as with everything else in our lives, we never know what we have until it’s gone.