LNT Confessional: I Dropped a Case of Beer Cans Into a Creek

An accidental litterer receives their penance in this edition of Leave No Trace Confessional.
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squirrel and beer can

Beer cans take hundreds of years to decompose.

Some friends and I polished off a 12-pack of beer while camping near a creek in a national park. We left the empties on the bank and went to bed. Torrential rain fell during the night, causing the creek to rise. I woke up to find all of the cans had been swept away. We hiked downstream to look for them, but no luck. I feel terrible about it. –Backcountry Bender

Dear Bender,

Well, unless some park employee or volunteer picked up those empties, they’re definitely still out there (aluminum cans take hundreds of years to decompose). We hear the remorse in your letter, but still have to point out that you should secure all of your trash before going to sleep, no matter how trashed you might be. In addition to littering, you could have attracted some local wildlife to your campsite. Bears and other animals like beer (maybe as much as you do), and can sniff out your empties. Also, reading between the lines, it doesn’t seem like your campsite was 200 feet from the creek. Unless it’s a designated site, you’ll need to choose a better spot next time. Booze and the backcountry can mix, but do so responsibly. Happy hour shouldn’t become a sad day for wildlife and other hikers.

Your Penance

Remember those park volunteers who (hopefully) cleaned up your mess? Welcome to their ranks. Join a river cleanup; if you pick up six cans for every one you left, you’ll feel better.

Got an LNT confession? Email confessions@backpacker.comFor more information about reducing your impact, visit LNT.org.