An Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker On The Need To Protect Our Wild Spaces

This year on her birthday, Carolyn Burman decided to do a solo hike in one of her favorite state parks in Connecticut. She has magical memories of that trek. She grew up hiking it — her mother even went into labor with her while walking the path. She looked forward to a peaceful, reflective experience in nature. Instead, she found something else.

“There was so much garbage in the park,” 26-year-old Burman says. “Plastic seltzer bottles in the stream that floats by the trail, a Dunkin’ Donuts cup…. I go out on this joyful hike on my birthday, and all I see is trash.”

“I thought, ‘Oh, this is a sign. This is a reminder,’” she says. “I think we all can get really careless with waste. I felt like it was a sign from whatever power, ‘Hey. Remember? You gotta pick this up. You have to care more.’”

Now that Burman herself is a day-hiker again, she’s grown even more fierce about caring for trails. Hiking, she believes, is a spiritual practice, and part of that practice is keeping nature pure, doing her part to make things better. She works with trail upkeep groups like Keep Nature Wild to support this mission.

“Anyone can be an ambassador for them if you just go out into your local community and you clean up,” she says. “What you learn after the trail is that success is much less about the claim to fame and more about the slow and steady process.”

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