This Land Is Your Land, This Land Is Mine!
On May 17, while hiking the AT in New York near Mombasha Lake, we crested a hill to meet three young folks. They were high school seniors and they had a promposal poster. We chatted briefly and joked with them. They seemed liked good kids and I love to see people of all ages enjoying the trail! It was a picture perfect beautiful day. A half mile downhill, the trail turned ugly!
I was hiking with my Buddy Farmer at the time, our other hiker buddies were in the lead and tailing us respectively. The ugly was we started to see trees, rocks, and the ground tagged with spray paint. Red and white, quickly we deduced those young folks were the likely culprits. I was hoping the paint was chalk-based since that disappears over time. Then we found the high gloss enamel cap, now we are miles apart and our hike is getting ugly.
We were shocked by the blatant destruction. We took pictures to document the damage. A group of young ladies were heading south on the trail and we inquired if they were following their friends. When they confirmed, we had a serious talk on defacing the woods and nature as well as government property and demanded them to call their friends right then to stop the vandalism. They complied and realized the severity of what was going on. We honestly believe they had no idea—they were just meeting up with their friends!
As we neared the road, they pinned pictures to the trees too. We removed a few and wrote a note on them informing them we were going to contact the authorities. I felt the car hoods to determine which one was theirs and took pictures of licenses, VINs, and registration numbers.
I emailed everything to the ATC office; my other hiking partner Swede did the same as well. When we all caught up we were very upset but glad that we had the right idea to report the damage. The next day I ran into two trail volunteers and shared the pictures and info. The ranger in charge called us and we provided pictures and details. We felt we did everything we could do.
Literally minutes before heading into the 100-Mile Wilderness in Monson, ME, I received a call from the ranger. She not only caught them—she held them accountable! They had to speak in assembly to their peers at school and attend a workshop. Then they participated in cleanup, they had to carry up over 20 gallons of water to the hill top where they stopped!
We were thrilled to see justice prevail. My hope came true. They still are kids, I didn’t feel they should be arrested, but I felt they needed to right a wrong! My hats off to the volunteers and rangers for diligently following through by pursuing justice and trail remediation. I pray a lesson was learned that won’t be repeated.
In closing, as I titled this story and told the group of ladies, this is everyone’s land to enjoy, we are all stewards, and it is the responsibility of each of us to safeguard for future enjoyment.
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