Tent Stakes and Underwear

It continues to amaze me how much trash we humans seem to create on a daily basis and the fact that it ends up everywhere. From the middle of oceans to the top of the world’s tallest mountains, bits of plastic, Styrofoam, rubber, clothing and just about anything else you can imagine end up as litter in places that should be pristine and devoid of trash. Goldmyer is no exception.

In the 1960s and 70s, Goldmyer became overrun with people and trash. When Northwest Wilderness Program (NWWP) acquired the land from the previous owners, the Morrow family, NWWP closed the property to visitors while board members and volunteers spent countless hours cleaning the place up. However, only the flow of time would allow the land to completely heal. Today, resident caretakers manage the 20-acre wilderness preserve, watching over Goldmyer to ensure that the forest and all of its inhabitants thrive.

In 2007, the Forest Service closed the road to Goldmyer Hot Springs to motorized vehicles thus making it a five-mile hike or bike to the springs. The results have been wonderful! By making access more challenging, the amount of trash has decreased around Goldmyer. However, picking up after grown men and women is a never-ending battle for caretakers.

In a typical day, we may find cigarette butts1, pieces of string or rope, plastic water bottles, broken glass2 and the occasional food wrapper. Our most commonly found items are tent stakes and wet underwear. Constantly, finding wet underwear still baffles me, as it seems like they would be missed. The wet underwear is more often than not found up at the cabana and is usually left behind by day users, so it is not as if someone forgot to grab their skivvies off a tree branch as they were packing up camp, like tent stakes, which are easy to miss. Interesting enough, the majority of the undies belong to males. To be even more specific, they are usually cheap boxer shorts. Do people, more specifically males, just not want to pack out their wet underwear? Is there some sort of correlation between males that wear boxer shorts and their personalities that would cause them to leave behind their underwear? Or, is there some sort of guy code that I’m unaware of and that the leaving behind wet underwear is a message? If they are boxers, this means X and briefs mean Y.  Regardless of the reason, we do not want them! So people, please try not to leave your wet underwear behind.

On occasion, both Lissa and I have come across some interesting finds such as the mysterious plastic bag collection. Someone had stuffed a large pile of plastic grocery bags into a hollow section of a tree in campsite number eight. One day, our pair of resident ravens thought it would be fun to drag out all of those bags and scattered them throughout the campsite. While picking them up we discovered a big stash of them in a tree. It still bewilders me why someone would have that many bags with them to begin with, not to mention why they didn’t pack them out. Or why stuffing them in a tree seemed like a good thing to do with them?

2 Acme cans 48 50

One day while Lissa was out exploring behind our cabin, she discovered some rusty tin cans working their way back up through the soil. Looking at them closer, she discovered they were old “punch top” Acme beer cans. Upon further research Lissa found out that the cans dated pre 1950s. Acme quit making these traditional “black” cans in 1950 and replaced them with a gold can, “Acme Gold Label,” designed to have the appearance of a full beer glass. Unfortunately, the cans were in too bad of a shape to save.

A group of regular visitors found the weirdest object. While soaking in the lowest pool they discovered an adult molar! It sure is curious to know how a person lost a tooth in the springs.  I guess they were too embarrassed to mention it to a caretaker. Other than the cigarette butts we find, food3 in the hot spring pools is about the grossest thing we have had to clean up. Seriously, folks, nobody wants to soak with bits of salami or lettuce floating around. Yuck!

Our worst offenders of the year showed up on a hot mid-August day pulling two large plastic carts behind them. These carts were the kind typically used for light yard work and were not meant to haul heavy loads down a bumpy road for five miles. Somewhere along the way the axle on one of the carts broke. However, they were able to temporarily jerry-rig it enough to make it to the footbridge that crosses the Middle-fork River. These people were obviously not familiar with backpacking. To make a long story short, they were not able to haul out the cart with the broken axle, so they abandoned it with a bunch of trash on the far side of the footbridge.

It seems like wherever humans visit they are bound to leave behind trash. Maybe it is part our evolutionary deposition to discard our things wherever when we no longer have a use for them. However, unlike the natural materials we used to carry around hundreds of years ago, today’s items do not biodegrade as easily, if at all. The problem is that there are too many people creating too much unnecessary trash.

To ensure that our magical little nature preserve does not become abused again Goldmyer Hot Springs has a pack it in, pack it out policy. When you visit, please remember that there is no trash service in the middle of the woods. Caretakers generate enough trash of our own over the course of six months that we have to pack out. Caretakers cope with the lack of regular trash service by minimizing waste in the cabin at every opportunity. Even then, over a six-month stay we will generate plenty of our own trash to “pack out,” so we appreciate not having to pack out visitor litter as well, which can add up pretty quickly. On a bad day, we collect enough litter from the property to equal a whole week’s worth of our own trash!


 1. At Goldmyer Hot Springs we try to create a safe, relaxing and healthy atmosphere for visitors and caretakers. Therefore, smoking of any substance is prohibited on Goldmyer property. If you are a smoker and think you may need a smoke while visiting please inquire with the caretaker or office about the nearest place to do so (on Forest Service land). Please be aware that during the drier season, smoking anywhere in the forest is a fire danger and may be banned during extreme weather conditions. 

Also, please pack out your cigarette butts. Animals may think they are food and try to eat them which may cause them to become ill or choke to death.

 2. Due to safety concerns, glass bottles and containers are strictly prohibited on Goldmyer property. 

3. For cleanliness and atmospheric reasons, food is not allowed in the hot springs pools or immediately around the water (within a three-foot buffer.) Non-alcoholic

 beverages in non-glass containers are allowed near the pools.

 For a complete list of our preservation and use policies, please call our office at (206) 789-5631, or visit our website. Failure to comply with our preservation and use policies may result in termination of your privileges to use the hot springs and/or property. 

give a hoot don't pollute


4 thoughts on “Tent Stakes and Underwear

    • Hi John, That would be great! If visitors just packed out a small bag of trash here and there it would make a big difference to the amount of trash we have to keep in the back room. Next time you are in just mention it to one of the caretakers!

  1. It’s good to hear we are not alone……here at Valley Camp we too battle with the problem of tent stakes being left behind, which in our case become missiles when hit by our mower.
    It’s also funny to know underware being left in trees is Middle Fork Valley phenomenom. Besides tree branches in the campground we often find underware and dirty socks on the roofs of our buildings. Now to be honest, it happens when we have summer camp programs or youth groups in camp. Never adults, except when the warrior dash is in town and we are full of folks trying to get rid of mud in places mud should not be, then we find all kinds of wild underware, boxers, briefs, bikini bottoms, thongs, and t-shirts.
    Ends up being a funny cleanup season after they all leave.
    Keep up the fine work at your end of the valley!

  2. Hey James! I’m glad I came across this blog. I visited Goldmyer late July 2012 with some friends and remember you and Lissa. My friend and I have been talking about pursuing the caretaker position and wonder if you have any reflections or insights now that it’s over? I’m sure it takes a certain kind of person. My friend and I are both introverts (in the sense that quiet and solitude rejuvenate us) and creative and happy to have so much time to spend in a beautiful place, meeting new people, soaking, and writing and playing music when time allowed. Any words you share would be much appreciated!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s