Union Leader: For Earth Day, volunteers removed trash from a treasured peak

A volunteer at the summit of Mt Major with a black lab.

(Photo: Sophie Oehler)

To celebrate Earth Day 2023 on Saturday, Caitlyn Murphy of Laconia and her 3-year-old daughter Violet hiked Mount Major, a 1,786-foot summit that draws 80,000 visitors each year, including from Rhode Island, New Jersey and Maine.

The full parking lot at the base contained a smorgasbord of license plates. Parked cars lined Route 11 for a quarter-mile. It was Violet’s first climb under her own power, and Murphy wore a child-carrying backpack in case she got tired.

“I love to hike,” said Violet, waving their trail map.

“I feel like putting kids in nature is so important,” said Murphy. “In a time of technology, you have to unplug. It’s so important to do this, too.” She lifted the bag they brought to collect litter and left-behinds. “Pack in, pack out. It’s stressful on me to see trash on the trail. If we don’t take care of it, the things we love about nature will stop existing.”

That was a no-nonsense way to sum up the Earth Day mission on the Lakes Region’s best-loved peak — second only in number of hikers and day trippers to Mt. Monadnock in Cheshire County.

With sweeping views of Lake Winnipesaukee and the White Mountains, including Mount Washington and trails for most skill and energy levels, Mt. Major is one of the most sought-after outdoor attractions in southern New Hampshire, according to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, which owns the 200-acre reservation.

With its appeal comes litter. Tossed when no one is looking. Stuffed behind rocks where some think no one will see it. Accidentally falling from pockets. Scattered like confetti in the woods. Sliding into cracks at the top.

“A lot of people hike Mt. Major. Just because of that, there ends up being a lot of trash and debris,” said Carrie Deegan, head of reservation stewardship and engagement for the Forest Society, which purchased the area in 2013.