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  • Writer's pictureHeather Tanguay

7/23 - Dropped Stuff

Updated: Aug 17, 2019

At, thepage Dropped Stuff is nested under the EXCITING! tab above. However, the page at this moment is blank. Not exciting.

As I planned the trip, I had the idea I would pick up trash in each place I stopped, take a picture of the items I'd found, and do some kind of comparison and analysis. I have been picking up trash but not taking pictures or recording anything about it.

However, I did have some trash experiences hiking the Grand Canyon.

Going down the South Kaibab, I was impressed by the almost complete absence of trash on the trail. Because the trail was so clean, the few items I saw struck me as an affront, a personal insult, in the pristine beauty of the canyon. I picked up the few little bits I saw - one cigarette filter (people who smoke cigarettes while hiking amaze me in a dope-slap kind of way), a couple of pieces of orange colored plastic twine, the triangular edge of a snack bar wrapper, the bit you tear off to open it. That was it.

Midway down, I was hot. The sun was relentless. Heat radiated from the sandy trail and the rock walls. I was worried. I had sunscreen on but I was hatless and my sleeveless top was letting too much sun my shoulders. Why hatless? I could not find it in my pack when I started down and I did not want to delay the descent by going back to the car to look for it. Now I regretted that decision.

Towel - slight tan color is red Gand Canyon dirt that won't wash out.

Up ahead in the sand, I saw a white something, a human item, not part of the trail. It was a small white towel. I dropped it over my hear and it was long enough to cover the tops of my shoulders. I poured water from one of my bottles onto it, making a slooshy, drippy cap (to quote Rudyard Kipling's Elephant's Child), cooling and protective. At the time, I felt the towel was given to me by the trail because it knew I was earnest in my attempt but in over my head. (The very fact that I had this thought tells you something about how the heat was effecting me.)

Later, I redid my ponytail and the elastic broke and could not be retied. However, I had the orange twine. I wrapped that around my hair and it worked as well as the elastic.

Clasp Knife identical to Chip's tossed knife.

My husband Chip, who hiked the whole Appalachian trail the past few years, had set me up with great camping gear, including his favorite little clasp knife, perfect for slicing apples or cutting twine or whatever you might need. Sadly, I had to throw it away at the airport because I did not check my bags. (I planned to check them but the line was too long.) I had been thinking I needed to replace the knife with an identical item. When I set my tent up in spot 5 of the Bright Angel campground that evening, I found a clasp knife, of exactly the same design, in the sand onto which I was setting the tent. It was sharp and not rusty. The trail provide, I thought.

The next morning, hiking out up the Bright Angel trial, I fell into conversation with a group of people and their guide who had started out a few minutes after me. The oldest member of the group, Victor (72) seemed in the best shape and had pushed ahead and passed me but ultimately did not pull more than a few feet beyond me. We chatted. He told me his hiking secret is he does hot yoga 4 times a week. "I don't get into the spiritual side of it and I am not a yoga fanatic but I like the exercise," he told me.

Blue Thirsty towel found on trail

Just then, I saw a blue plastic bag dropped on the trail and bent to pick up. Not a bag, but one of those "thirsty" towels swimmers and divers use, that absorb water quickly and can be wrung dry with a few sharp squeezes. This one was as dry as when you buy it new at the swim shop, stiff as wood, and rough. I was wearing my white towel hat again, on top of my real hat which had turned up inside my backpack, so I offered the thirsty towel to Victor with some water from my bottle to drop over his shoulders. He said no thank you. Instead, I draped it over my shoulders, another layer against the sun.

I said, "I try to pick up trash but this morning, I did not pick up the plastic clamshell container, like a sandwich might come from the 7-11 in, because it was under the bridge where we first started and I could not reach it. I am still feeling bad about."

Victor said, "I usually pick up trash but today, I feel I do not have the energy to carry even one small thing more up this trail. You said clamshell, I thought you meant one of those covers for cell phones. I saw one of those. Purple.But I didn't pick it up."

"When was that?" I asked."Recently?"

"A ways back. A long way. Why? Is it yours!?

"Yes,"I said. "I took it off the phone last night because the phone was overheating in 120 degree heat. I put in one the side pockets on pack but it must have fallen out. I have to go back for it. It was my credit card and my ID in it."

"Now I feel really guilty," he said. "Maybe one of my group picked it up."

They had. It was a woman and her two adult children. They were my trail angels.


FYI I picked the name Dropped Stuff because of the first two letters: DS. As in David Sedaris, the essayist and humorist, who was invited by the Qeen of England to tea to honor him for picking up trash along the motorways near his home in England.

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Jul 31, 2019

Dumb luck? Serendipity? Heather being Heather? Who can say.


Masey Kaplan
Masey Kaplan
Jul 29, 2019

The trail giveth, then taketh away, then findeth again, then giveth back.


Masey Kaplan
Masey Kaplan
Jul 29, 2019

"The trail provides." :))))

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