Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country


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Don Wilson
(don) - MLife

Locale: Koyukuk River, Alaska
Re: Re: did you really leave no trace? on 01/21/2010 09:43:18 MST Print View

Madeleine -

A couple of more comments re the LNT topic. This is something both Alan and I are very careful with. And I for one have become more and more careful over the years.

As Alan said, the fire we showed was at an exisitng campsite and an existing fire pit below 10,000 feet. It was a small cooking fire, and was about as small an impact as one could have with a fire.

The campsite along the lake was off trail at about 11500 feet. Alan's tarp (the one on the right) is actually pitched on partial sand, the least impact we could hope for, though it is not apparent in the picture. He used the only flat spot that had a high percentage of sand. We spent some time trying to find another spot for my tarp that was also pitched on that terrain, but it didn't work. So I elected to pitch on the grass. There was no other spot along the lakeshore that was reasonable, and there was no evidence of any use at this locale.

I think we made responsible choices - and I'm glad the issue came up here.

Don

Edited by don on 01/21/2010 09:48:09 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
a reply to Roger on 01/21/2010 10:01:30 MST Print View

Roger, there are some areas in some of the national parks in California where the rangers are watching very closely about LNT, or not. I've watched while a ranger carrying a sidearm walks up to a tent backpacker and announces that he has 30 seconds to move his tent off the grassy area and back to some sandy area. The tent backpacker wanted to debate the subject, and he received a citation. If the violation is worse, he might be banned from the park.
--B.G.--

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Re: Re: did you really leave no trace? on 01/21/2010 11:10:58 MST Print View

>Alan's tarp (the one on the right) is actually pitched on partial sand, the least impact we could hope for, though it is not apparent in the picture.

Actually my bivy rested entirely on sand, or more accurately granite rubble.

Frank Deland
(rambler) - M

Locale: On the AT in VA
great report! on 01/21/2010 18:04:00 MST Print View

Here is a helpful site to browse maps:

offroute.com

For example: At the homepage goto the lefthand column; under "Shops, Maps Books", click Maps USGS Topo. Quads; Then California and Subcategory;
For the Sierras the counties are Mono ( north of Tuolumne), Fresno, and Inyo

Under Fresno and then North Palisades you will find Le Conte Valley and Mt. Sill, by clicking on areas outside the blue lines you will be connected to the next quads. The quads for The HSR are found in Roper's book p. 37. The book HigH Sierra, as mentioned, covers the passes and has a picture of Mt. Sill. Wow, amazing to visit that summit!

http://www.offroute.com/mod2/mod_step4.asp?maptool=zoom-in&zoom=21&centerx=-118.56344&centery=37.06244&lastzoom=7.5&controls=zoom-in&zoommap=1


PS I found some of the JMT Sierra Lakes warmer than water off the coast of Maine. "Swims" ,however, were of the 30 second variety, but greatly refreshing!

Edited by rambler on 01/24/2010 17:54:26 MST.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: a reply to Roger on 01/21/2010 18:42:39 MST Print View

"I've watched while a ranger carrying a sidearm walks up to a tent backpacker and announces that he has 30 seconds to move his tent off the grassy area and back to some sandy area."

My rant assumes you are not exaggerating. This kind of arrogance has no place in an initial encounter with a backpacker and probably provoked the gut level "debate the subject" response. An initial polite suggestion to relocate combined with some education on LNT principles would probably have accomplished the objective without alienating the guy and worsening already tenuous relations between rangers and backpackers. If it didn't, he could then have read the guy the riot act. Just because someone has authority and a gun doesn't excuse that kind of behavior. Whatever happened to the Randy Morgenson approach in the last15-20 years? It's really telling that these same rangers ignore far more egregious violations by horse packers.

One more reason to take the route less travelled, IMO.

Richard Gillis
(rgillis) - F
Trip report on 01/21/2010 23:47:47 MST Print View

Great trip report. Although I enjoy reading about equipment, etc. I'd really like to see more narratives like this. Especially since this is my favorite (and closest) major range. Glad I signed up again.

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Trip report on 01/22/2010 17:01:30 MST Print View

"I'd really like to see more narratives like this. Especially since this is my favorite (and closest) major range."

Richard,

Dave T posted an excellent report in October about an epic September trip that basically followed the entire Great Western Divide, south to north on its return leg, mostly off trail. It's well worth reading. If you're not already familiar with it, the Great Western Divide is some of the very finest Sierra high country. The report is easily found in Trip Reports forum.

Patricia Combee
(Trailfrog) - F

Locale: Northeast/Southeast your call
RE sierra Prime on 01/22/2010 18:24:35 MST Print View

Very nice. Loved the video clips and nice pics. Good to see your planning details. I am from the east, so this is a good primer for Sierra hikes. BPL-- Please keep these kinds of articles coming!! This alone was worth my subscription.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: a reply to Roger on 01/22/2010 18:37:13 MST Print View

Tom, I was not exaggerating at all. That's just what I saw.

What you didn't understand was that the offender was blatantly violating the specific rules that he had agreed to (and signed) when he picked up his wilderness permit. Further, he was blatantly violating the rules warned on the metal sign 200 yards away as he approached that backpacking area. So, ignorance of the law is a pretty flimsy excuse.

What's more is that the ranger mentioned had been working his way around that specific lake, in plain view of the offender. He spoke to each tent group around the lake, checked permits, offered advice, etc. If the offender had any intelligence at all, he would have moved his tent to a legal spot before the ranger got to him. But, nooooo... The offender was flaunting it, so the ranger came up to make the necessary correction. I thought that it was nice that the ranger gave the offender 30 seconds, and if the offender had actually jumped up and started ripping up tent stakes, he could have avoided further confrontation. Instead, he argued with the ranger, so he got a citation.

The rest of us were camped legally around the lake, so we agreed with the action.
--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Re: Re: a reply to Bob from Tom on 01/22/2010 19:33:46 MST Print View

"Tom, I was not exaggerating at all. That's just what I saw."

Bob,

I didn't think you were. That's why I prefaced my comments with "I assume you're not....". I guess any incredulousness I expressed was due to the fact that my few interactions with backcountry rangers have been very pleasant, with one exception-a newly minted marionette full of himself in his spotless new uniform(long story). The rest all fit the Randy Morgenson description. I definitely wasn't trying to defend the moron you describe in my post. God knows I've seen enough of that kind of idiocy down through the years to know exactly what you're talking about, and it always makes my blood boil. Rather, I took exception to the "you've got 30 seconds...." approach, even if the guy did screw up. That kind of approach sets the tone for the transaction and immediately turns things confrontational, something law enforcement types are trained to avoid in the front country. Why not just tell the guy he was in egregious violation of the law, write him up on the spot and let that be the end of it, or, maybe preferable, tell him something like "I'm going over to the bushes to take a leak and, when I return, I'll expect to see you've made considerable progress toward moving your camp to a legal location or you'll be looking at a $124 citation" and give the guy a little space to digest his predicament and act accordingly? At that point, if he's feeling feisty, write him up and maybe escort him to the nearest TH to drive the point home. My 2 cents. Again, if you felt I was impugning your credibility, I apologize. It was not my intention.

Edited by ouzel on 01/22/2010 19:35:35 MST.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Tom, a bit more on 01/22/2010 19:50:07 MST Print View

Tom, I don't know this for a fact, but it is possible that the ranger knew the offender from some past incident. It's possible that the ranger gave him a break on the first pass the day before and remembered him. I don't know.

It's always kind of interesting to watch some offender start to argue loudly with a ranger. Then the ranger quietly puts his hand on the butt of the pistol, still holstered. Real quickly, the tone changes.

--B.G.--

Tom Kirchner
(ouzel) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest/Sierra
Re: Bob, yet a bit more on 01/22/2010 20:28:12 MST Print View

"but it is possible that the ranger knew the offender from some past incident."

Hard to say, Bob. Maybe so. Still...

"It's always kind of interesting to watch some offender start to argue loudly with a ranger. Then the ranger quietly puts his hand on the butt of the pistol, still holstered. Real quickly, the tone changes."

Yeah, I'm sure it does. I guess that's the part that disturbs me, Bob. Has it come to that in our beloved SEKI?
Where a ranger's immediate response to a loudmouth is to put his hand on his gun? I mean, was the guy armed or behaving in a physically threatening way? Or was he just being an obnoxious jerk? Using a gun, or implying readiness to use a gun, is serious business and should, IMO, be a last resort, when a situation is starting to get out of control.
Speaking as one who has found himself staring into the barrel of a gun on two occasions, I can tell you it's a terrifying, pants wetting experience, and I would like to think that someone would have to do a little bit more than be a verbally obnoxious moron to experience it, or even the threat of it, especially in the backcountry.

I wonder how it impacted the wilderness experiences of the onlookers?

All in all, this incident just reinforces my long standing policy of spending as little time as possible on well travelled trails.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
another incident on 01/22/2010 22:17:46 MST Print View

A friend of mine is a Yosemite park ranger. He had worked a shift at Tuolumne and was driving his car toward the Valley. He stopped off at the Lukens Lake TH and decided to walk in for a fast look, since he was off-duty. He still had his uniform on. At Lukens Lake, there is no camping allowed, yet he saw a large tent there, about 15 feet from the lake shore. As he approached, two big dogs came running out of the woods to him, and then two guys. First, he engaged them. "How is it going?" "How cold did it get here last night?" (He was establishing that they had actually camped there.) "Are these your dogs?" etc. Once those were answered, he asked to see their wilderness permit, of which they didn't have one. So, he began to inform them that they were in violations of X, Y, and Z. There was no camping at all allowed there. There certainly wasn't any camping that close to the shore. They weren't allowed to have off-leash dogs there. They had been camping without a permit.
The two guys were big, and one grabbed the ranger by the shirt lapels and began to pick him up, saying, "Don't mess with us and we won't mess you up." Of course, the ranger backed off and left. He got out to the road to his car, drove to a telephone, called his ranger buddies with the squad cars, and they staked out the trailhead. Three hours later, the two offenders came walking out with their packs and dogs. As they unlocked their car, the squad cars converged there with lights flashing. "Up against the car and spread 'em!" They were also getting dinged for interfering with a ranger, which is a felony. They were handcuffed and hauled into the jail, and their car was impounded and towed off. The next day, a federal justice had a session in their honor, and they were found guilty on all counts. The fine was a large amount of money.
My point is... never ever talk back to a park ranger. Not even if you think he is wrong. Never put "hands on" a ranger.
--B.G.--

Dave T
(DaveT) - F
drift. on 01/22/2010 22:35:18 MST Print View

out of respect for the authors of the article, it might be time to make a new thread called "Ranger Interactions" elsewhere?

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: drift. on 01/23/2010 08:12:08 MST Print View

+1

Tom Clark
(TomClark) - MLife

Locale: East Coast
Re: Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/24/2010 20:28:33 MST Print View

Great trip report, photos, & video. Nice to see Alan back on BPL.

Alan Dixon
(alandixon) - MLife

Locale: Mid-Atlantic
Re: Re: Sierra Prime: Off Trail in California's High Country on 01/24/2010 20:44:32 MST Print View

Nice to be back as well. Thanks!

Madeleine Landis
(yurtie) - MLife

Locale: Central Oregon
Re: Re: did you really leave no trace? on 01/24/2010 22:14:46 MST Print View

Hi, Thanks for your response. To clarify why I wrote what I did: you did not say you were in a heavy use area in those exact words but you did say this:

Day 1: Alan left Washington, D.C. at 7:00 a.m., and before dark the same day we were camped at 11,000 feet below Kearsarge Pass.

I took that to mean you were camping at 11,000' and anywhere along Kearsarge Pass IS heavily used. So, I guess you didn't mean that literally if you were below 10K.

As for the tarp issue, it was hard to tell exactly where you were so I assumed from the text it was near the JMT. I agree that way off trail is 'better' if you absolutely have no other place, and no one sees you there for a night... BUT.. that said, I think it is imperative to uphold the 200' from water distance as one of the most sacred of LNT tenants. (I really fret when I see ads for tents and things right on a body of water!)

If I may go off on a wee tangent... I do pride myself on leaving no trace... of campsite, artfully disguised cat hole on the ground's surface (thanks to my Helix potty trowel) , and underground (always carry every bit of TP out) and pick up what light litter I can carry towards the end of trips. I also dismantle illegal fire rings when time allows...(holdover from Sierra Club clean up trip days) It is very discouraging to still see them everywhere at high altitudes. One selfish person makes a fire ring once, or cuts a branch off and its there forever! I'm not looking for a halo here, just doing what needs to be done to keep it as pristine as possible :)

Madeleine Landis
(yurtie) - MLife

Locale: Central Oregon
Re: did you really leave no trace? on 01/24/2010 22:22:12 MST Print View

Hi Don,
Thanks for your thoughtful commentary too. I explained after the first post from Alan how I came to think what I did, and ask what I did, so I won't repeat it here, just say I'm glad you're glad it came up! If we all do our part and really hold the wilderness as the sacred ground that it is.... it will remain clean and as pristine as possible in this world that needs it more than ever!

Oh, I thought these would go right under the original post. Still learning...

Edited by yurtie on 01/24/2010 22:26:02 MST.

Joseph Reeves
(Umnak)

Locale: Southeast Alaska
Why should I Leave no trace in national forests? on 01/24/2010 22:40:43 MST Print View

I live in one of the largest national forests -- Tongass -- and am amused by the concept of leave no trace given the destruction authorized by the forest service through logging and mining. While I tread as lightly as possible, I refuse to camp 200 feet from a stream when loggers can cut closer than that to salmon habitat. The same holds for finding a place to put a tarp or where to start a fire -- though most of ours are below sea level. This is a great conversation to have with the rangers. I know the world is different Outside, but I expect there are similar contradictions in the national parks -- aren't those the places that have sold out to the corporate "hospitality" industry for lodges? I would imagine that the impact the authors of the Sierra Prime article had on the wilderness pales in comparison to that found at the nearest concession stand.

Edited by Umnak on 01/24/2010 22:59:03 MST.