"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Litter Notes and Other Nonsense

First some nonsense, then a big announcement.

If you think litter-picking is dull days of trudging along a highway picking up flotsam and jetsam, think again. There's real drama out there, people.

To wit:


See below. This paragraph wants to be underlined, so I'm fooling it.

I was driving home at 10 o'clock last evening, traveling about 55 to 60 mph, less than the speed limit. There were cars ahead of me, a tanker pulling doubles IMMEDIATELY behind me, and an idiot trying to pass him. The sun was down behind the mountains and the colorful clouds were gray again.

I could see the vegetation on the sides of the highway, but I couldn't distinguish individual trees and bushes because of my rate of speed. Suddenly I knew there was a moose up ahead on the right side of the road. I slowed.

Sure enough, a couple seconds later I saw a cow moose in my headlights as I passed her. I pulled over a quarter mile up the road and came back. In the deep twilight I could see TWO grown moose cross the road.

Alas, all I got was a brief glimpse of an enormous brown moose behind slipping into the alders and a picture of wet tracks on the asphalt.

Here's the weird thing--I didn't see the moose. I just knew it was there. This happens fairly often. Often enough to remember, and I'm right about a moose being "there" more often than I'm wrong.

So, that leaves me with two possibilities:

1. My brain registers what my eyes see, but doesn't tell "me" about it. Or,

2. (I'm playing the theme song from "The Twilight Zone.")


You know how when you go to the tire store and buy new tires and the guy mounts them on your rims and then puts them on that machine that spins them around? No? Take my word for it. That's what he does.

Then, he puts these little lead weights on them. They help balance the tire so your vehicle doesn't wibble-wobble down the road and shake your fillings loose.

They're really crimped on there by that little flange.

You'd think your tires would stay balanced forever, wouldn't you?

Think again.

I've been saving them since last summer when I learned a friend melts them down and makes fishing sinkers.


So ironic I found this bouquet where I did. Across the highway and up a bit, I found a draft of a love letter a month or so ago. I knew it was a draft because the back side of the printed pages had hand-written notes and better phrases. He was wishing his ex-girl a good life, though they were no longer a couple.

Wonder if there's a connection, or if this section of highway is romantically jinxed?


I stopped by Tern Lake one night to clean up a bit of litter. I was the only one there, other than this muskrat that swam circles in front of me, trying to figure out what I was. My camera was in my vest pocket, but I didn't dare reach for it for fear I'd scare him off. I got it out during one of his panic dives. It made almost as much noise when diving as a beaver slapping its tail.


A contractor re-did the highway a little ways north of me a couple years ago. Some person who wasn't thinking approved the use of a stick-on lane striping product. A very expensive product.

At first thought, it seemed like a good idea. As soon as the pavement is compacted, a crew comes along and lays on the yellow and white lane stripes. Viola! Finished highway.

It's supposed to last years, which means no annual painting. Sounds good.

Darn stuff started coming up right away--and it was August.

When winter arrived and the snowplows started plowing, great huge chucks and little tiny pieces came up. Next spring when I went out to pick up litter, I almost cried.

No matter what I did, no matter how many beer cans, candy wrappers, or soiled diapers I picked up, that section of road always looked littered. Still does. There are far too many pieces for one person to clean up in a lifetime--and more just waiting for a snowplow.


I never, ever tire of this view. This is descending from Turnagain Pass toward salt water--Turnagain Arm itself. You can just make out a slice of the water. The valley across the Arm is called Twenty Mile.


For some reason, this paragraph wants to be in bold face type, so after four tries, I will submit to a higher power. Sometimes you find the right flower in the right place and magic happens, as it did with these monkey flowers in a tiny creek.


I've been finding an unusual number of Q-tips along forty plus miles of highway--in rest areas, along the highway, behind guard rails.

I think I finally found the mothership.


The State gets federal highway funds to chew holes in the pavement. They're called rumble strips. A big ol' machine rolls along and gouges these deep ruts in the center and on both fog lines. They wake you up when you drift out of your lane.

So, I wondered what this was all about a couple weeks ago. The ruts were gone and what was left was a recess in the asphalt.

Ah. They're filling it in. Naughty, naughty. Not supposed to put rumble strips along here. Looks like they filled in three or four miles.

We hate them. They're terribly noisy when your tires hit them and you can't see them in the winter because they're covered with snow. Doesn't stop them from making noise, though. The highway guys hate them because they hold water, which causes all sorts of problems.


The following two pix are of Jerome Lake. It's a long, skinny lake in a narrow mountain pass. Because of this, the water often looks black, which is a very dramatic effect.

Except when you want it to look black. This sleeping loon got washed out in the reflection of vegetation. Shot this with a 200mm lens, then cropped it. That's why it looks so grainy.


Beats me. I heard someone say "Beam me up, Scotty," and when I turned around all I saw were these shoes.


See the guy leaning against his truck? I rescued him. Kind of.

While I was cleaning up this pull out, he asked me what to do if you got bear spray in your eyes. I just happened to have a can with me, so I read the directions. "Flush with cool water." His eyes were very red and weepy.

Gave the guy a couple bottles of water. He told me he'd been in Whittier earlier and a black bear had tried to climb in the back of his truck where all his gear was, so he gave it a spray. He thought he must have gotten some of the pepper on his hands and then it got in his eyes. I think he might have gotten some wind drift.

He'd been sitting there for three hours, unable to see well enough to drive. He couldn't read the label on his can to see what to do.

A half hour and lots of eye washing later, he could see and off he went.

And now...


See that road sign on the other side of the road? I've been looking for it.

Here it is in close-up.

Now, watch for it....

Keep watching....


And the creek itself.

What this means is that I have now picked up litter from Mile 23.5 all the way--every step, every foot, every inch of the way--to Mile 75.2. Four hundred and eighty-three bags of litter. I did, however, do a few sections twice. But, this is seven miles beyond my usual stopping place. Just wanted to see some new territory.

I do both sides of the road, meaning I walked 52 miles and back for a total of 104. Plus 8 more for the four miles of Sterling Highway.

That's like walking from home to the far side of Anchorage. Except, someone would have to give me a ride home....

Aren't I just a glutton for punishment?


I leave you with this picture of what I think are Northern Black Currents against a guard rail post. The leaves are beautiful, but the berries are bristly and I don't know if they're edible. I just really liked the subtle colors.

1 comment:

  1. I thoroughly enjoyed ALL of your litter notes and nonsense.

    Congratulations on your litter picking achievements. I admire your determination and persistence. If I lived near you, I'd join you if you'd have me.

    You should feel good about helping the fellow with the bear spray in his eyes. Ouch! Sitting there for three hours must have been awful for him.

    You're my hero.