Welcome to the Humboldt Squatter Evac Network! Be sure to click on the thumbnails for the larger images.
squatter garbage behind HSU
blankets & sleeping bags in a pond
youd have to wade out to it
nice place when its not flooded
then theres this enormous iron thing
in summer it might not be a pond
beautiful grassy open area
deep behind the Redwood Curtain
Ill start cleaning it up in a day or two
Personally Im a hiker first, & a traceless, fireless, lightless, dogless, tentless camper second. Im experienced although not accomplished, & I can carry in & back out everything I need in one trip including a huge sheet of plastic in case I get caught in the rain. I dont leave clothing & paperbacks & bottles lying around everywhere, but I also dont just ignore them when I find them. Thus Im not antisquatter & I wouldnt tell others how to camp. But Ive now cleaned so much squatter wreckage in Alameda & Humboldt counties that I dont mind sharing the experience.
Winter is the best time to begin cleaning a new area. Its easiest to see clearly that a site has been abandoned not just for hours but for months or perhaps years. The soil is soft enough to pull things free & the rains every few days help rinse the piles of freshly exposed materiel. The temperature is also ideal for heavy work including walking the filled bags out of the woods. Squatter cleanup is immensely useful to learn what the fashions currently are in hightech homelessness, but it is also a way to restore beautiful areas crippled by artificiality to a pristine & healthy state merely with the honest work arising from a sense of compassion.
1st turn: all the sleeping bags pulled from the pool
rotting textiles consolidated
pulled completely free of the water
loose litter gets its own place
they left bags of garbage now rotted & torn
dont ask why they have a flourescent light fixture & a desklamp
the far end is nearly knee deep
such a lovely place
from the lowest filth issues the most miraculous regeneration
A new site is discovered, examined, & its strategic perimeter defined. Normally theres 1 or 2 bigticket processes necessary right away: eg some huge ugly heavy broken thing or a spray of high albedo litter everywhere. Squatter sites are often dumps & not only were never inhabited but can be cramped & uncomfortable to work in.
Space should be cleared for the main categories of items: metal (tools, appliances, portable tentpoles &c.), tents / tarps, durable plastic weathergear, bedding (sleepingbags & blankets), glass, general litter (including plastic bottles), biohazards (sharps, batteries, rotted paperbacks &c.), & of course clothing / textiles. Some sites have large numbers of odd items such as shoes or pillows which are best piled separately. Finally a spot should be selected to collect & arrange artfully the most interesting of the discovered relics; creating something between a trophy & a shrine.
2nd turn: bags & blankets still drying
the pack, the coffee, & the bags next to the rotted pillow pile
not a heavy glass site; all this litter pulled from the pond goes today
far side litter pile; this goes today too
the garbage in the black bag they left includes decomposing paperbacks & accumulated silt
soaked textiles infested with toxic black slime mold; they wont be dry enough to bag until early summer
its easy to be green in Arcata
the stuff in the channel itself still has to wait a few weeks
todays 4 full bags to hike down to the HSU upper playing field
At this writing I have 14 separate sites under cleanup in the McDowell gulch. Once its clear where everything belongs it becomes an iterative process; each time you come by you notice something which needs to be put in its proper pile. The consolidation alone does wonders for any site. Its good not to start bagging immediately but to "turn" everything by pulling it free & perhaps emptying it of water &/or debris. This gives the (often slow moving) critters living inside & below the chance to realise somethings up & relocate, allows the scars in the landscape to begin to heal, & lets damp & filthy stuff get rinsed & dried in the elements.
Doing a complete first turn can also permit examination of almost everything in the site, illustrating particular trends or idiosyncracies in the process of debris accumulation. This knowledge can substantially speed a successful cleanup.
the "McDowell gulch" showing the pond in the centre
I guess I can manage to find my way around
pond is on a road I call the Via Frisbeea
now heres a squat; high in the Jolly Giant gully deep in the Arcata Community Forest
that eternal dream
not that much junk; might just clean & sort this one & turn it into a museum
back at par infinity theres a cozy hollow from an enormous treefall; garbage was buried in the pit in the centre
Ive pulled it & sorted it into litter, textiles, bags & blankets, metal & glass
the view from the other side; all the litter gets bagged & hiked out today
A properly organised site becomes comfortable to be in & often all the loose collected litter can be bagged & removed in a single day, vastly improving its appearance. This is plastic bottles, candy wrappers, styrofoam containers, rusted cans, anything that gets moved about by the wind & rain. Most of my sites rapidly become completely litter free with nothing but large consolidated piles of heavy or waterlogged equipage remaining to be hiked out over the days. Abandoned stuff decomposes so rapidly that I never encounter actual food except sometimes sealed in glass; this means critters arent digging into the bags & they can be accumulated undisturbed for a week or so, making it possible to hike them out all at once.
At the other end of the spectrum glass bottles are often the last thing I take if at all. Somewhere in the middle are the sleepingbags & blankets. Some bags are engineered so they dry almost completely even between winter rains, & even with plants growing out of their muddy guts theyre light enough to take out in a garbage bag. The blankets & the rest of the bags need to be laid out where theyll get the spring sunshine; as soon as theyre light enough to carry they can go. The process with the rotting clothing requires a slightly longer timeframe however.
my other spot at goal #14
it was nothing but litter & bottles
litters all gone
back at the pond Ive finished clearing that trashed space down to the metal & bottles
they had stereo
see? all better
over at the treefall Ive hiked out all the sleeping bags & blankets except the cool ones
heres the trophies
all cleared except for the drying fabrics
"But," he was asked, "why would you put in all this effort to remove all traces of these messes in the woods? Noone will know you did the work."
"I," he replied, "will know how to put the whole thing on the internet, & will not only have a permanent record of what it looked like, but will be able to brandish about my URL & show people the work I do. Nyaah nyaah."
this part of the project is in excellent shape
heres a semiactive squat in the lower McDowell gulch
my first Humboldt blacktailed doe: shes standing in the sunlight
next: a tent city high at the far end of the McDowell gulch
a dozen tarps & tents soaked in the mud
huge mud pit next to an enormous redwood stump
at least one prebagged & partially buried trash collection
heres a fulllength view
this shows it pretty clearly
If the McDowell gulch tent city is related to the homeless encampments in the ACF in 2008 then it could either be an abandoned alternate squat or merely a dump created at that time or later. Despite its size I performed the complete first pull in a single morning including an hour to collect the litter.
When I came back after 2 days of rain someone had gone in there & taken it all out. It has to have been a team & they were probably able to take it to a vehicle on ACF trail #9. Thats still an enormous job & on my own it would have taken me weeks hiking perhaps one tent a day all the way down to HSU. Thank you Humboldt Squatter Evac Network!
first turn: litter collected, clothes piled
the bear, the shoes, & the trash
all the tents & tarps piled for a good rinse
two days later theres no trace of any of it (& it wasnt me)
miraculously all those tents vanished
all clear: Im already collecting whats now the residual trash
back at the pond Ive cleaned the far side
this must be a watercourse management thing; good for sitting your coffee on
just beyond the water has receded
Early May means theres a week of sunshine sometimes. The sleepingbags & blankets can be baked in the sun until theyre light enough to bag, & the rest of the hightech tents can be shaken clean & bagged as well. The edge of the pond begins to recede around a foot a day; time to take the telescoping pole & fish the rotted clothing from the water before it dries into the mud for the summer. By graduation 2010 Ive taken out my 50th bag of bundled trash since I started in March. Go Lumberjacks!
everythings been cleared out
no litter, pillows, clothing, books
so awesome in the sunshine
clothing fished out with a pole & piled up
the first 6 bedding bags sitting at the watertank
14 bags of tents & bedding for commencement; thanx HSU for taking it