Monongahela National Forest Tread Lightly! Cleanup

The first time I visited Monongahela National Forest was as a teenager riding in the back of a Chevy Caprice station wagon. I was down in the Spruce Knob & Seneca Rocks National Recreation Area as part of a summer camp adventure trip that would include two days of rock climbing at Seneca Rocks and two days of spelunking in local caves. A few years later I would return to the area as a guide for that very adventure trip. Ever since then I have had a special love for the northern part of West Virginia. So much so that on my first No Highways Tour book trip I would revisit Seneca Rocks as well as hit Spruce Knob and travel some very cool backroads and byways in the area.

Fast forward a lifetime and a half to 2023 and I once again returned to Monongahela National Forest. This time I was attending the 4th Annual Adventure X Fest with Mountain State Overland and participated in a pre-event cleanup project with Tread Lightly!. Given my longstanding love for the area it was a no brainer to take some time to give back to the forest by helping to clean up some dispersed camping sites.

Setting up camp with a trailer is pretty easy.
Back up; open doors; done.
Sadly this was one of the “renegade” sites that was deconstructed.

After arriving onsite, and nearly dying due to my brakes giving out (more on that later), I got camp set up and then proceeded to relax for the evening. We socialized around the campfire reacquainting with old friends and making new ones. This is one of the added benefits of the Tread Lightly! cleanups because it brings out the best of the best in people.

First night vibes at one of the other (non-renegade) campsites.
Reacquainting with old friends; making new ones
Scott from Tread Lightly! gives a pre-briefing around the campfire.
Do you even overland if you aren’t sharp cootie tree’ing?
Gotta love slicing up some venison summer sausage on a Tembo Tusk board with an LT Wright knife.
The bourbon didn’t hurt either.

The cleanup itself had two components. First was picking up trash which is probably the most obvious. The second was evaluating the dispersed campsites. There were some established “official” campsites that needed a little sprucing up and some new signage. There were also some “unofficial” campsites that needed evaluation. A few of them got deconstructed, but not all of them. Three new campsites were “adopted” by the USFS. This normally doesn’t happen, so please don’t go creating a bunch of new renegade campsites, but it was great to see the Forest Service taking an open minded approach to everything that was going on.

Safety Briefing: Don’t add to the population, don’t subtract from the population… watch out for sharks
A lot of walking along the road picking up trash.
Bricks, tires, metal siding, and micro trash… so much micro trash
Oh, and beer bottles and cans… so many bottles and cans

In total we pulled about 15 cubic yards of trash out of the forest. We also pulled a few dozen screws, nails, and tent stakes out of trees. STOP PUTTING STAKES IN TREES! The prize for the biggest piece of trash went to a hide-a-bed frame and mattress that some $%@#&=+ had dumped over the hillside. Beyond that it was mostly just micro-trash and of course cheap beer cans and bottles. Sadly not everyone operates by the “pack it in; pack it out” mantra. Another thing that was done was cleaning out all the first pits. Sadly people love to burn trash and this of course creates all kinds of problems. The final thing that was done was new signage at each campsite helping to encourage people remember to leave it better than they found it.

Probably pulled three dozen stakes, nails, and screws out of the trees.
Jason from MSO helping pick up some roadside backs before moving onto the next location
A hide-a-bed frame and mattress… seriously?!?
End of the day impact briefing by the USFS staff thanking us for all the hard work!

Once everything was cleaned up we kicked back and relaxed for the evening. I whipped up a nice dinner of marinated pork loin medallions, seasoned potatoes, sweetcorn and carrots, topped off with a fresh corn muffin. Others went for a bike ride, beat the heat by relaxing in the stream, or just chilled in their campsite. The following morning it was time to pack up and head to the venue for Adventure X Fest… more on that in the next article.

Signs, sign, everywhere a sign… some more interesting than others
A future project will be upgrading this sign to a full kiosk.
Vintage signs… so cool!
New signs put up at every dispersed campsite reflecting the Tread Lightly! values.

For more information please visit these links and considering supporting these great organizations and programs.

Tread Lightly! <~ Best way to find out about future cleanups
Quadratec 50-for-50 <~ Another great project series