Written by Ambika Rajyagor who takes part in Parks Project as our Volunteer Alliance Coordinator.
*With respect to the Lands we were recreating on, we made a donation to the Bishop Eastern Sierra Youth Outdoors Program. We also made a donation to Friends of the Inyo National Forest for their work in maintaining our public lands.
The ongoing summer heatwaves felt like they were melting us here in Southern California, so my friends and I planned a weekend escape to the Eastern Sierras where we could cool down at the lakes and hike around Mammoth Mountain! Photos of these Paiute lands are awe inspiring, and, since it was our first time visiting, we wanted to explore as much as we could while being respectful of the places we visited. We loved our time in Mammoth, and one of our biggest impressions from the trip was about the importance of taking care of the lands we recreate on.
Protecting waterways is about more than just preventing trash from polluting our oceans—it’s also about preserving the ecosystems and natural habitats of the animals in each area that we’re visiting. These parks are home to so many different plants and animal species, and it’s our responsibility to be respectful visitors while we’re there.
When planning our outdoor trips, we try to be mindful of what we pack with us. Often, what we choose to pack in must also be packed out if we can’t find an accessible trash can nearby. Given that this weekend would be spent in California’s bear country, we especially didn’t want to take the chance of attracting bears and possibly harming them with human interaction. We made sure to store any scented food and items in our campsite bear box and bring air-tight bags for our picnic trash (until we were done swimming and could head back to public trash cans.) Part of our packing also includes at least one clean-up kit in the car, just in case we’re in a heavily populated area that requires a little more TLC from its visitors.
On our last day in town, we drove around to visit Lake George, Twin Lakes, and Lake Mary - and we even participated in a few impromptu lakeside clean ups!
Most of the trash we found included leftover food wrappers or forgotten camping supplies, but we found some rusty fishing supplies too! We suspected the rusty pliers must’ve accidentally been dropped overboard someone’s boat, but we didn’t want to leave it to the elements to decide where they’d go next—our extra clean-up kit definitely came in handy! We put on the gloves, tossed the litter into the bags, and carried them back to a designated dumpster in the parking lot before heading home.
Overall, our trip to Mammoth was exactly what we needed— it was time well spent exploring lakes and trails, and it was also a lesson on how we could better preserve these places. Trash in our waterways is more than just an aesthetic issue; it affects public health, ecosystems, and the wildlife in those areas. This summer—while we’re out escaping the heat and enjoying our public lands via lakes, rivers, streams, and beaches—let’s all do our part to “Leave No Trace.” True stewardship of our natural lands means leaving things better than we found them.
Location: Mammoth Lakes, CA