When does trash become more than someone’s refuse and turn into something more? Or is it always trash that just becomes “cool trash”? Someone’s arrowhead find was somebody else’s broken tool. It is funny what we have ascribed value to. You never know, someday people might be excited about finding Gatorade bottles under juniper trees. While I don’t necessarily leave the house to find these old pieces, I do have some hobbies which take me into the type of places they are still common. Luckily I live in a place with a lot of the old trash and even more unloved country to find it in.
Western landscapes are massive. Seemingly endless sky and places you can still wander all day and not find another person. What always blows my mind though is that no matter how remote the spot, inhospitable the climate or brutal the hike, there is a sign someone was there first. Whether it is an old Coors can with a pop top or a flint arrowhead, it makes me wonder what that person was up to while they wandered this dry western landscape.
Living on the Colorado Plateau, I am very lucky to be surrounded by relatively dense historical sites. These cliff dwellings, pit houses and old cowboy camps and mining claims are a constant source or fascination for me. It is incredible to come around a bend in a canyon and see an Anasazi granary perched up on a ledge in the cliff wall or find an old horseshoe waiting on a rock.
Not all the finds are old, some are transient and will only be around a few years before they fade back into the dry ground. Antlers and bones tell a whole other story of what’s around, the animal variety of what we humans leave on the landscape. While mushrooms, berries and other tasty edibles may only be around for a day or two.
I always try to leave the old trash where I found it and pick up that new plastic trash to haul out. Maybe someday they will also be important to leave them where they are found but the plastic isn’t there yet. So try not to contribute to our era’s archaeological record, it seems like plenty of people are doing their best to cover the ground all on their own.