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Ticketed on the trail
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Adam Klagsbrun
(klags) - MLife

Locale: Northeast US
Ticketed on the trail on 05/20/2012 22:02:43 MDT Print View

I had a rare unpleasant run in with a ranger this weekend and wanted to get some feedback. How would you have dealt with the situation? My friend and I came into a shelter area in the catskills late at night after a long day of hiking up and down on devil's path. The particular lean to we were at is in the middle of a boulder field in between two mountains. After finding the lean to filled beyond capacity we spent some time in the dark scouring for any flat space to camp. Due to the boulder field, there was literally nowhere big enough to set up a tent or a tarp around the rocks other than sites that were less than the designated 150 feet from a trail. There were many other people who had found themselves in a similar situation and had set up tents. Being that we wanted to do the least damage, we set up next to the lean to where there was already impacted ground. Next morning we are woken by a stern yelling to get out of our tents. Confronted by a female ranger with an attitude at 6:00 Am and we were immediately asked for ID. We gave her the ID and she said "no camping, you are less than 150 feet of the trail." I sleepily gestured towards the full lean to and all the other people around us. I said, "we figured the best move was to camp next to the lean to after spending a good amount of time looking around for a legal site." She said nothing and walked away. 15 minutes later she comes back and just handed us tickets. No education, no discussion, just an angry look and a gruff attitude. When I asked her what we should have done instead, she said "find another site like that guy over there." Then she wrote a ticket to a guy in a hammock, and finally proceeded over to the guy who she had gestured towards before when talking to us... and decided to write him a ticket too because he in fact also was too close to the lean to! I was so mad because it felt like one of those situations where we had no options, where the state just sent her in to make a quick buck. She also didn't ask us to move our tents, she didn't take any opportunity to educate the group of people she ticketed, and she treated us all like crap. We were all upset and tried not to let it bother us, but my friend and I couldn't let it go all day. I've had so many pleasant ranger run ins before, but this was just one nasty woman. And I never camp too close to the trail, its such a stab at my ego to get a ticket the first time I ever broke that darn rule. But here was a situation where we were just totally done and couldn't scale any more peaks to find shelter, in a place where the mountains are just straight up and down with very little flat below legal camping altitude. Anyway what would you guys do in this situation? I was half asleep and felt like I did nothing and should have defended myself on condition of the full lean to and giant boulder field. Thoughts?

Stephan Doyle
Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/20/2012 22:44:48 MDT Print View

Get ahold of her supervisor and complain.

It might not help your situation, but if you can explain yourself and what happened, maybe you can at least prevent events like this from happening in the future.

Justin Brennan
(jgbrennan) - MLife

Locale: Here and there.
Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/20/2012 23:11:55 MDT Print View

I agree. Blatant disregard for rules is one thing, your situation is another. I would email her supervisor and let them know exactly what happened and how you think she could have handled the situation better. At the same time though, it is unfortunately a risk we take sometimes.

Susan Papuga
(veganaloha) - M

Locale: USA
Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/20/2012 23:41:05 MDT Print View

"its such a stab at my ego to get a ticket the first time I ever broke that darn rule"

Thoughts on how to handle this. First, better planning in advance for where to stop, knowing how crowded popular areas can be in season. Plan accordingly with reasonable back-up sites in mind, even if it means not making as many miles per day as you'd like. Know the trail, know the camp areas in advance and don't over extend yourself such that you arrive at night in a constrained area like this where the risk of not getting a site is so high. Stuff happens. I find that being flexible with my itiniary helps avoid problems like this.

Other than that, if the situation happened as you say, then either 1) calmly try to speak with the ranger and ask their advice on how to handle such issues in the future or 2) quietly and HUMBLELY accept the ticket and then attach a COURTEOUS, NON-COMBATIVE note with your payment explaining the situation regarding the lack of sites, etc. It never helps to get in a shouting match. Be the bigger person. Defuse the situation and you'll have a higher probablity of success at appealing to someone's ie the ranger's sense of fairness, understanding, or whatever.

I wasn't there so i can't really judge what happened wiht the ranger. They have a tough job and i have rarely come accross anybody as you described - not saying it can't happen or didn't happen to you - but most of them want hikers to error on the side of caution when in the wilderness. OTOH, this could be an area where they deal with a lot of scoff-laws.

In any event, as maddening as some situations can be, after you kick a stump, it may help to focus on what you can do in the future - ie what's in your control - to avoid placing yourself in such a predicament again.

Lastly, if none of the above works for you, just have a nice cold beer and congratulate yourself for making a badly needed financial donation to the maintenance of our vauable national parks!

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/21/2012 06:31:53 MDT Print View

hummm....let's see.....

I was late for the concert...we'd been stuck in traffic for hours...there was no place to all I could do was park in a yellow zone...

...first time ever...and, do you believe it!?...I got a ticket...and the officer didn't even try to explain things...

Ahh, yep.

Edited by greg23 on 05/21/2012 06:50:34 MDT.

Cody Lebow

Locale: Orange County
Re: Re: Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/21/2012 07:47:19 MDT Print View

Greg, argument from authority is a logical fallacy.

Edited by CLebow on 05/21/2012 07:49:09 MDT.

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/21/2012 09:45:43 MDT Print View


The ranger has heard that story a million times probably. When people get caught they frequently give that story (nowhere else to go) to get out of the situation.

Solution: figure out ways to stealth camp and get better at it. You have to hide or accept the fine. Arguing with a federal officer (not sure if all rangers are) will never be the right decision.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: Re: Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/21/2012 10:12:54 MDT Print View

Nice analogy, Greg!

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
STEALTH! on 05/21/2012 12:17:17 MDT Print View

I have stealth camped off-trail on the AT in the Shenandoah National Foprest, where one MUST stay in the shelters.

In my case I just didn't want to cook in the dark. My buddy went on to the shelter because he LIKES those mouse infested social gatherings.

Next morning I cought up with him as he was still p[acking up. (He's a s l o w one to pack.)

So stealth camping is your only "ticketless option" in a situation like yours. I do understand the end-of-day-exhaustion though and sympathize.

OTOH... I think you got unlucky to get such jerk as that very unprofessional ranger. She needs to work in a correctional facuility, not a park.

BTW, as for turning the other cheek, well I'd have torn up the d@mn ticket in front of her. Let the chips fall - sometimes it's worth it. What are they going to do? Put you in the slammer for a truly tiny camping vioation?

Edited by Danepacker on 05/21/2012 12:19:28 MDT.

paul ron
(camper10469) - F

Locale: North East
what rule? on 05/21/2012 12:43:03 MDT Print View

I was up there this weekend n know waht a problem you must have had finding a spot with all the people we saw camping this weekend.. it was unulsually busy.

Keep an eye on this thread over on ADKHP forums. I really want to know if this rule actually exists.

I'm usre that ticket is for $100.. it would bother me to no end.


Edited by camper10469 on 05/21/2012 12:48:12 MDT.

Mike Hensel
(mike220) - M

Locale: Northwest
Ticketed on the trail" on 05/21/2012 15:49:27 MDT Print View

Why give the ID, just pack up and leave?

Edited by mike220 on 05/21/2012 15:50:53 MDT.

Walter Carrington
(Snowleopard) - M

Locale: Mass.
Ticketed on the trail on 05/21/2012 16:08:03 MDT Print View

"BTW, as for turning the other cheek, well I'd have torn up the d@mn ticket in front of her. Let the chips fall - sometimes it's worth it. What are they going to do? Put you in the slammer for a truly tiny camping violation?"
Yes. I'm pretty sure that the NY rangers have police powers and will be very annoyed if you give them a hard time.

Hk Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Tickets on the trail on 05/21/2012 16:31:11 MDT Print View

Rough spot to be in but, from my own groups experience with Grand Canyon rangers, they tend to get formal in crowded conditions (if even a peg is outside the designated campsite, it's a ticket as an unfortunate buddy found out). If they let one person off with a warning, news spreads. Of course they have walkie-talkies and no one is getting out of the canyon easily.

You could not give her the ID or just rip the ticket up, but you'd probably get rousted at midnight when her backup showed up (more rangers, sheriffs, and/or state troopers). Same thing happened to a family I know who violated a fire ban while carcamping; law enforcement waited for them to go asleep and then woke them up.

Still better than having a civilian caretaker brandish a shotgun while waiting for a sheriff, as happened with yet another buddy of mine straying onto private land of a major corporation.

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/21/2012 18:38:00 MDT Print View

Nothing to do with your expereince but I just ust moved to the US from Europe so no experience before with Rangers.

I hiked the Pictured Rocks Trail in Michigans Upper Peninsula in late March with fellow BPL member Rog Wilmers, we had left the car and bike trailer at the start of Trail and left a motorbike at the end of the trail.

While Rog went off on the bike to collect the car I was waiting outside a closed Ranger station for him to come back.

After an hour or so an Armed Ranger turned up and asked what I was up too, she was very pleasand and asked was I warm enough and hung around for 10 minutes for a chat.

For me it was a weird experience to see a Ranger with a gun but Rog explained to me why armed Rangers are needed.

Mike M
(mtwarden) - MLife

Locale: Montana
thoughts on 05/21/2012 20:30:24 MDT Print View

you always have an option of pleading not guilty, of course that can involve time and travel, but always an option- if there are truly mitigating circumstances then there is a chance that the citation could be dismissed or the fine waived or lowered

if you felt that the Ranger's people skills were lacking, certainly calling/writing/emailing her supervisor is an option

things definitely not to- refuse to hand over your ID, tear ticket up or any other such nonsense

Trace Richardson
(tracedef) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/21/2012 21:21:25 MDT Print View

If I was in that position I would consider the only option to be to suck it up and own it. There's a reason they're out there and there's a reason the rules are what they are. Maybe the ranger could have been more cordial, but who knows what Aholes they have to deal with day in and day out that blatantly break rules, harm the environment, litter, poach, etc. They're also usually outmanned, which means they sometimes they're on the defensive when there are large numbers of you and one of them.

A ranger with a crappy attitude and lack of preparation can happen to anyone and if I knowingly break the rules, as much as it sucks when there might be very few alternatives, I'm going to own it if I get caught. My two cents. Lesson learned and we move on.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: ticketed on the trail on 05/21/2012 21:32:03 MDT Print View

"If you felt that the Ranger's people skills were lacking, certainly calling/writing/emailing her supervisor is an option. Things definitely not to (do) - refuse to hand over your ID, tear ticket up or any other such nonsense."


With the dismal condition of federal & state funding for those who work at protecting OUR public lands, we need to hold ourselves above that behavior, even if it feels like civil disobedience at the time. Who knows what the ranger had to do that day/in the days preceding before she got to the point of writing a ticket.

That said, I would also be mad and that would ruin my day. $100.00 seems very steep for that kind of offense, given the mitigating factors.

Edit: Trace beat me to it.

Edited by saparisor on 05/21/2012 21:32:47 MDT.

paul ron
(camper10469) - F

Locale: North East
da ha on 05/22/2012 07:29:35 MDT Print View

I agree about owning it if the rule was clearly posted somewhere. No signs at the lean-to, DEC site has no mention of it, and so far, no one another site can seem to provide the rule either.

So own up to what.. $100 harrassment?

I haven't seen a single Ranger on the trails in the Cats for the past 2-3 years and not a single one ever in winter. As for illegal sites n fire rings... they have been popping up everywhere directly on the trails.. go bust those folks! Camping in a lean-to site seems to be the right thng to do since it is a designated camping area n should be legal by any reasonable thought process.

I still want to see the rule!


John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: Ticketed on the trail on 05/22/2012 08:09:28 MDT Print View

This may give insight but may not be your location. It's from a 1999 publication

High levels of use concentrated in the Lake Colden basin caused significant resource and social problems in the 1970's. Commencing in 1979, DEC began a designated campsite program there to disperse use. Visitors were required to camp at designated sites only. No impromptu camping was permitted unless it was 150 feet or more away from a trail, water, or designated site. This technique was used to increase the distance between parties and to avoid concentrated use around Lean-to locations.:

"The maximum capacity of any lean-to site (including associated tent camping) shall not exceed 8 persons in the eastern and western High Peaks zone and shall not exceed 12 persons along the Adirondack Canoe Route."

"It is a well established management axiom that lean-tos also attract substantial peripheral tent camping in their vicinity. In this case, the lean-tos serve as destination points acting as magnets to tent campers who utilize the same site. This creates an over use situation at the site exacerbating environmental and social impacts. The normal capacity of a lean-to is six persons and combined with tent campers, many of these sites exceed 30 persons from more than one group."

Edited by jshann on 05/22/2012 08:20:51 MDT.

paul ron
(camper10469) - F

Locale: North East
rules on 05/22/2012 09:52:40 MDT Print View

That is quoted from a huge manaul, a proposal to implement a program.. not the rules posted on the DEC site for the Catskills or even posted at trail heads in the park. To find that you would have to do so much digging.. doesn't that say something baout this rule? Also most people won't go n read every proposal n land use manual of thousands of pages to find out the rules of a park, we use the DEC site's rules.. we aren't lawyers, just campers.

Generally parks post signs, issue hand outs, put up "no camping" disks post rules on their web page fro all to see. If it is not posted, perhaps the ranger should have issued a warning instead of escalating to a ticket regardless of the PO attitude?

I've been roaming the Catskills for 40 years, this is a first. Well so far no one has come up with anything n we are beating a dead horse. I'm out exclusively in winter n never see rangers let alone people so I really don't give a hoot, jsut trying to clear this up for others. All I can say is watch out, big daddy is gunna getcha.

OH in NYC smoking at public beaches n parks is not allowed anymore. Does this apply in the state parks as well? Watch your butts!


Edited by camper10469 on 05/22/2012 09:54:35 MDT.