Rebecca Wilks

Rebecca Wilks; Photographer, Teacher, Yarnellian, Do-Gooder

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Tragic Demise of Camping Etiquette

Mogollon Rim Arizona

I’m still irritated.  It’s been a week, and I thought I’d wait until the anger had passed to write about this, but I may not live that long.


Here’s the thing.  Camping etiquette is eroding.  So many people are bored and feeling like the only way they can have a reasonably safe change of venue is to camp.  I’ll admit I feel the same way, though (as my readers will know) I’ve been “dispersed” camping (away from campgrounds) for many years.  The closure of many developed campgrounds has put more pressure on the forests as well.

Mogollon Rim Arizona

Last Wednesday I made camp at a favorite site in the Coconino National Forest.  I was all situated and in my hammock by 11:00 AM.  At about 3:30 PM a guy showed up at my site with his 25 foot trailer.  I figured he would see me and leave, but then I saw him awkwardly maneuvering (he actually backed into a tree trunk) to set himself up. 


For the sake of non-camping readers, an irrefutable rule of dispersed campsite selection is first-come, first-served. If someone is already there, you move on.  I’ve never had an issue like this before, because we all know this rule.  So much so, in fact, that people will go park their RV on Wednesday to keep anyone else from using the spot, though they themselves won’t return until Friday night.  That’s also an egregious violation.


Back to my guy.  He came over to talk to me eventually, explaining that he’d been camping at this site for 30 years and that “all the other sites were taken.”  I’m very cautious about my vulnerability when I’m alone and generally try not to stir people up, but I did look him in the eye and tell him that this one was taken too.  No luck.  I’d scouted my evening and morning shooting locations by then, so I decided after much deliberation to stay.  Incidentally, I learned later that there were lots of empty spots nearby.

Lichen and Sandstone Detail

So that’s one.  The other, more widespread issue that’s eating me is the disregard of the seven leave no trace principles.  There’s more trash, loud music, and graffiti, but the most widespread and distressing issue is poop.  There’s poop and toilet paper all over the forest.  Piles of human poop do not enhance the wilderness experience.


Tree Silhouette, Mogollon Rim Arizona

I’ll leave you with some pretty pictures of that favorite place and a decidedly ugly mental image.   I'm sorry.  Please tell all your friends.


Want more pretty pictures? There’s an unusually eclectic mix of images (unusual even for me) in the Mogollon Rim Country Gallery on the website.


  1. I think "poop and toilet paper all over the forest" is a perfect analogy of 2020.

    1. Eloquently put as usual, Jody. We each have particular things which induce our individual heads to explode.

  2. Beautiful photos as usual, Rebecca. Unfortunately, my son has run into the same damnable behavior backpacking in the Sierras:
    "The first day we passed 6 camps (late start) and 5 were within 50 feet of trail or water or had an illegal fire. Slept in the first morning until ~8:30 so was able to visit the camp below us - half burned foil packets and clif bar wrappers in the fire ring, unburnt muffin wrappers and aeropress filters, an uburned used dog poop bag (!!), a cairn two feet from the fire that I assume has dog poop under it, and dog food scattered around nearby along with more typical micro trash. Also undoused so we did so with water from summit creek.

    Pointed out a small fire we saw near the jeep trail on silver mine creek to a packer exiting, it was gone when we exited so it either put itself out or was put out...

    "A XC site near Ridge Lake had ~20-30 pieces of toilet paper and wipes scattered around nearby, shared the coordinates of that with the forest service.

    Destroyed a few illegal fires rings and packed out the usual micro-trash scattered around."

  3. :(
    I was up kayaking at Watson Lake this morning; saw two places where people had jammed their trash in cracks between rocks. I mean, they had to maneuver their boats carefully in order to litter. I’m baffled.

  4. There seems to be a great disregard for the world around those trapped in the lazy, selfish ‘me’ philosophy of life. Heartbreaking really. Wish your dog could have peed on his fire or barked all night, just sayyn😳🤗 Next time take crime scene tape......