The trail at Thornton Beach State Park, Daly City, California - well worn by horseback riders with plenty of horsey evidence!

The trail at Thornton Beach State Park, Daly City, California – well worn by horseback riders.

After I spent some time in the printmaking classroom, I just could not bring myself to go back home. A lot has been weighing on me and whenever I feel like that, I am drawn to the ocean like a magnet. Not to mention, there is not a 9/11 that goes by where I don’t think of that tragic day. I honored my need for nature time, and knew it would be a good opportunity to pick up some trash while there, but I wasn’t prepared. My gloves were in the trunk but I had no bag. So, I dropped by the store for some snacks and paper bags and off down John Daly Boulevard in Daly City, California I went, landing at the entrance to Thornton Beach State Park.

“C’mon, why are you taking photos of garbage?”, says G. “I’m demonstrating how close the garbage is to the recycling bins!”

As I got out of my car I noticed garbage strewn all over the parking lot within yards of the recycle bins. I just do not understand why it is that people throw garbage out of their cars when there are recycling bins that are so easily accessible. Littering Is Wrong Too states, “. . . people often litter because they have no sense of ownership, even though parks and waterfronts are really owned by us all.” I think this statement is being too nice; too many people are careless and lazy when it comes to trash and recycling.

Nothing stops people including me from stepping over the short wire fence from the lookout point and on to the well-worn trails in this area – hikers, dog walkers, fishermen and horseback riders. I do not know why the fence is there when it is easy to see the whole area is webbed with trails with no signs posted that you can’t hike them. But anyway, over the fence I go with one simple step and a paper bag in hand and on down the trail I hiked toward the ocean. It was an absolutely stunning afternoon… sunny, blue skies and a gentle breeze. There were only three people on the trails and a couple of horseback riders on the beach.

What I noticed on this dual “clear the mind” and beach/trail cleanup excursion, was that the majority of the garbage stays in the parking lot. The trails were relatively garbage-free! I wonder if there are volunteers who do regular cleanups or maybe most people are too lazy to go hiking and just hang out in the parking lot! However, I did of course, find debris. Today’s catch was a (packaged and unused) condom (phew!), a lonely loafer, tissues, broken glass and cigarette butts.

The most peculiar debris was a large pile of broken glass at the top of the trail near the parking lot. It was such a distinct and thick pile of varying types of broken glass – including porcelain and two beer bottles thrown on top, that it makes me think it was something more than just random litter. Why would there be broken porcelain plates in this odd location? My friend G, who joined me on the hike, labeled it as a, “ritual”. If someone conducted some type of spiritual ritual, ceremony or purging of some sort – the person/s sure “crapped” on the beauty of the land and in my opinion, negated their ritual.

I do not know if this was in fact a ritual, but if it was, I feel strongly that if one does this type of stuff, to clean up their mess, and show respect to the land and to others who enjoy the trails. With my gloves on, I filled up the paper bag as much as I could and headed back to the parking lot with the convenient recycle bins.

Anyway, I am so glad I reconnected with the ocean after being away for a week. It is my favorite activity that does a superb job of bringing my Self back to me. Perhaps my beach cleanup hikes are now my new ritual and are a symbolic “cleaning up” of thoughts no longer needed. I feel better and ready to get back to work tomorrow, and the Thornton trails are now a little cleaner.

Volunteerism is of course good for others and/or the planet, but the profound gift that reveals itself when you do it, makes you want to do more.

Thoughts? Please feel free to comment; I’d love to hear your feedback! 🙂


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