Sep 27, 2016

Hiking, Smoking, and Southern California.

Assumptions about smokers...

It is a nasty habit; I shouldn't do it; and I wrestle with quitting, believe me. The fact that I smoke also places me in a unique category in terms of the generally ecologically-minded hiking community.

Crazy haired half naked hiker on a bridge
I smoke.  So what. 

Essentially I am a misfit
There is a natural assumption among Hikers that I am disgusting, have no regard for nature, don't care about other hikers, and put out my cigarette butts wherever I'm done smoking - most likely right on trail. 

That is the assumption of most hikers, quite honestly.  And of course it's completely wrong. I have as high a regard for Nature as anyone I know. and while I do smoke on trail, (most of those cigarettes are rolled- I like Buglers) I hike my cigarette butts and out with me. Leave no Trace and all, you know. 

Most day hikers would never even know that I smoke cigarettes because when I do partake, I do so as far from the trail, as possible. I understand how ruinous to the hiking experience it may be to trek right into a wall of menthol smoke. I wouldn't appreciate it either, quite frankly. So when I do smoke I generally set up a little respite area removed from the trail. In this manner I've watched hundreds of hikers on dozens of trails cruise right on by without even noticing I was there.

I've also picked up more trail trash and garbage than I care to mention. Oh, and when nature calls, I dig and bury far off trail,  because no one should have to walk into a wall of that either.

But hey, everyone is free to their assumptions and if you want to go on hating me for being hikertrash, go right ahead. Good luck with all that hatred, pal. But just remember you won't ever stop me from doing as I please. 

Smoking Realities

However,  there is indeed something that can be said for and to cigarette smokers.  And that something is: watch where hell you are smoking!!   This is Southern California. It's dry as hell and you probably don't truly realize how quickly fires can get out of control.

To wit -

This was my work today

Fire in a small restaurant  parking lot.
Literally 50 feet from where I work. 

This little bad boy lit up the parking lot of the Mexican Restaurant and Cantina I work at today.  It took down no less than 5 trees, threatened the gas station at the bottom of the hill, and, most disturbingly, it kept a few hapless patrons from sampling my literally galactically-famous margaritas. The crime of that alone is truly immeasurable I can assure you,  but the trees too?!

The cause of this little blaze?
You guessed it... A smoker -according to Diego our dishwasher - carelessly threw their still lit cigarette on the ground after finishing it. In fact Diego, using hand motions - because although my Spanish is good, it's not THAT good - reported that the culprit 'flicked" the cigarette a few feet away deliberately.

This is the reason smokers get a bad name.  Because it is warranted!  Yes, I'm sure the individual feels bad and may even be scared that the police are heading their way to issue them a huge fine. They may be reflecting upon what might have happened if structures had caught fire, homes were evacuated, and lives were truly threatened.
And perhaps this will be the impetus that causes a change their careless ways.

But that change will not save the half dozen trees that burned down this morning. Just as the hundreds of thousands of acres of forests torched by the carelessness of others will not be brought back by their reformation.

The Truth is, we can't all learn this one the 'hard way.'  There just isn't enough Nature for that.

Hikers dislike smokers because they know the damage that can be done. We have all hiked through what are essentially the ashtrays of Southern California. Black sticks coming out of the ground, no higher than seven feet as far as the eye can see; preserves where you can still smell the 'burning' years afterwards.  We have seen the utter waste laid unto forests and we understand that most of these forests will not return within our lifetimes.

I can't stop you, my fellow smokers I know that. But I can ask you.

Please be careful, please be conscientious, and please put your cigarettes out safely.
From one smoker to another.

Thank you
- j

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