Recently, I was taking a walk up to Whitney Pond (easily accessible from Cream Pot Road in Durham, or from the “old Cream Pot Road” at the end of Dead Hill Road) with my loyal hiking pal, my dog Mora. I love this short and lovely hike up to the scenic pond when I’m in a mood for a less strenuous walk. It is about a 40- to 50-minute round trip, depending on which trail or old road you take. Unfortunately, the pond is also a favorite site for party-goers who don’t seem to understand two important rules: ”Take out what you bring in” and “No fires allowed”
Since I began hiking here almost two years ago, I’ve frequently cleaned up this area, which is often used for camp fires. I was feeling pretty good about my efforts since I had picked up garbage at least twice this spring, and the small clearing was staying pretty clean.
Much to my dismay, when I arrived there around 3:30 I was met with tons of debris in the “campfire” area, and worse than that, smoldering logs which must have been there since the night before. I did some pick-up around the area and found a quart liquor bottle – perfect for filling up at the edge of the pond and pouring over the still hot ashes and logs. Feeling pretty proud of myself and my stewardship, I carried several bottles full of pond water to prevent any chance of a fire starting in the dry woods. There was a log overlooking a section of the pond that was a bit deeper, so I decided to lean over it and fill up the bottle once more. Quickly, I found myself under water! I don’t swim, but didn’t panic since I knew it was pretty shallow where I fell in. I was able to finally pull myself out of the silt, grab my cap that was floating nearby, and was relieved to find out that my cell phone and my car keys were still in my pockets! My sweet dog didn’t even know I was “swimming,” since she was so enthralled with the food scents around the party area!
We hiked the 20 minutes back to my car, and I drove the four minutes to my house literally soaked from head to foot.
A week later I now have a new phone, and my hiking boots are cleaner than they’ve been since I purchased them a year ago.
I returned there a few days ago, with two garbage bags to clean up the mess. I separated the cans, bottles, and glass in one bag (as per landfill rules), and the garbage in a second one. I’d like to think it will remain clean, but reality tells me that this site will continue to need surveillance and protection! How sad that a few people can mar such a peaceful and lovely site – even worse that they threaten its existence with the constant fires built there and the obvious amounts of alcohol being consumed at those fires.
Let’s hope it doesn’t take a tragedy for this senseless pollution to stop.
Marilyn Horn is a retired Spanish teacher for Region 13 schools.