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New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby Hobbes » Thu Jan 15, 2015 8:36 am

Those are crazy numbers; looks like Wild did have an impact. I betcha the age groups comprising the increases are 20-somethings. Very reminiscent of what happened to Malibu after Gidget created a surf craze. However, with Malibu being over-run, it launched surf explorations - which is the lead-in rationale expressed in Endless Summer.

You have to feel for Bay area peeps - they are getting the brunt due to Yosemite. Not to be too flippant, but if you mentally write-off Yos and commit to another 2-3 hours of driving, you can gain access to east side passes. Heck, roll into the Mammoth office, grab a Pine Crk permit, and you're off & away with nary a soul. Ditto for Mono & Green crk/Parker/Bloody cyn, or Bishop & Taboose. No fuss, no muss.



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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby cahiker » Thu Jan 15, 2015 1:07 pm

some current numbers from the reservations office for 2015 reservations.

For JMT permits, we are 242% of last year, 608% of 2013 and 1216% of 2012. (523 people in 2015, 233 in 2014, 86 in 2013 and 43 in 2012 - See more at: viewtopic.php?f=1&t=12174&start=36#sthash.0kD32xV6.dpuf


Are we reading too much into these numbers? It's only January, and permits can only be requested 24 weeks in advance. That means these statistics are primarily for permits issued for May and June. In a typical year this is fairly early for a full JMT hike. I can see that back in 2012 people had 2011 fresh in their minds when there was still a ton of snow at the end of June, so they would be more likely to request a permit for later in the summer. Now that we've had 3 years of drought in California, maybe people are forgetting that lingering snow is still likely in May and June and requesting more early permits. Maybe once we know the total number of permits for the year the increase won't be nearly as dramatic.

Or maybe the Wild-influenced people who know little of Sierra seasons and haven't done much research are requesting all the May and June permits... Who knows... This was just a thought.
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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby markskor » Thu Jan 15, 2015 1:28 pm

Talking with Ranger Jen - Head Ranger Tuolumne Wilderness last October...
She said 3,000+ JMT spots were filled last summer SOBO from Yosemite,
Additionally, she figured about the same NOBO from Whitney/Horsehoe Meadows -
Add in those doing just part of the Muir from other THs,
Figure about a 100 day season -
That means you will see 70+ hikers each day while on the MUIR.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby SSSdave » Thu Jan 15, 2015 1:56 pm

There will certainly be some increases due to the Wild book published in 2012 and another bump next year due to this fall's movie. Amazon shows 7248 book reviews which is a lot. However another media source of increased thru trail visitors has to be the Internet forums, blogs, and Facebook groups.

Much the same thing happened with Eastern Sierra fall foliage and California spring wildflowers enthusiasts. Before the web there were minor numbers of enthusiasts visiting the Eastern Sierra in the fall because for decades any publicity had been magazine based as occasional feature stories. And many of those were photography workshop visitors. With the rise of digital cameras last decade, suddenly new armies of DSLR toting photographers were searching the web for sites featuring photography and before long increasing numbers noticed what earlier pros had been taking out of those locations. Became the buzz on photography forums thus started a growing migration.

Same thing with spring wildflowers in Southern California desert areas. At the turn of the century places like Shell Creek were nearly empty any April weekend except for a few CNPS type groups and an old guys like this person. A few years later after sites like calphoto became well known by Internet searches, it became a stampede. Part of that was also fueled by old media newspapers and magazines because the big rains of 2003 and 2005 in our deserts, became popular feature stories that also often included links to sites of enthusiasts. Suddenly there were all manner crowds jamming roadside parking spaces for miles going into the Antelope Valley Poppy Reserve on March and April weekends.

So likewise with thru trail hiking since it is a more popular social outdoor happening with younger generations. We humans live in a strange new world of global communications.
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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby DriveFly44 » Thu Jan 15, 2015 6:41 pm

I agree with Dave. When I began my research about eleven years ago for my 2013 jmt hike, there were a handful of websites, YouTube videos, etc. for resources . Now with the younger generation dynamics and modes of communication, everyone and their mother has a blog, video, website, and a voice through FB and other social networking mediums. A different time.....some things I like, some not so much. I'm doing the jmt again this summer with my lady (just got permit today!!!) and we were just talking about info overload and the abundance of opinions and perspectives out there.....and that's just facebook.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby HikeSierraNevada » Fri Jan 16, 2015 8:10 am

I spoke with YNP Wilderness Manager Ed Dunlavey again Thursday afternoon, so I thought I'd echo what I learned back to the groups. He vetted this text, so it should be correct.

The problem: big surge in demand for permits feeding onto the JMT, as discussed above. The biggest concern is the Sunrise drainage reach of the trail. The field survey data seems to be out of date, but this area was at or above carrying capacity in 2010 and has only gotten worse. Lyell Canyon was near capacity in 2010, so its assumed to be over capacity now with the additional demand. Apparently the usual overuse impacts are manifesting with more fire rings and bear incidents. It may not be directly from JMT hikers, but too many hikers lead to new camp spots, and some percentage of hikers will screw up with food storage.

The options: they have historically made changes to entry quotas through administrative action without formal review. They don't seem to be considering any new limits on total entry permits, which means the total number of permits may not change. They are considering changes to the current pass-through quotas out of the valley and/or Glacier Pt, and adding a new exit permit SOBO out of Lyell Canyon.

The proposed solutions: I believe there are 20 total pass-through permits (past LYV to Sunrise/Merced) shared between the two trailheads (HI and GP). One idea is to allocate those 20 permits amongst all the trailheads that feed into the Sunrise reach of trail (HI, GP, Sunrise Lakes, Cathedral, etc) and let them get assigned by lottery. So a regular Sunrise Lakes permit from Tenaya Lake might not allow you to circle back up to TM and beyond on the JMT, only the pass-through permit would allow that. This change would reduce access to the JMT from feeder trails, but allow the same total number of in-park hikers. Presumably, they would camp away from the JMT and reduce concentrated impacts. I recommended they separate the pass-through permits beyond LYV into either Merced or Sunrise destination trails instead of lumping them together as they are now. I don't think there's a problem with the Merced reach, so why affect those hikers? On the other hand, more people might start going from Happy Isles through Vogelsang to get to Donohue, but they would be limited by the exit quota for continuing on SOBO.

The solution for Lyell Canyon is focused on a new exit quota. This option has never been used before in YNP, so they are struggling to visualize the ramifications. Ultimately, this will also affect all thru-hikers no matter where you start in the park if you want to continue SOBO over Donahue Pass. They were considering Red's Meadow as the exit point, but I pointed out that was beyond their jurisdiction, and they've already backed off of that. So it will probably be Donohue Pass if they implement an exit quota. The proposed quota number is under debate. A major consideration is if they coordinate with Inyo and Toiyabe NF to include hikers starting from the Bridgeport Twin Lakes area or other surrounding areas. If they do that, it would reduce the available exit permits starting from within YNP since some of the quota would be taken from hikers starting elsewhere. Or they could increase the quota to accommodate the additional traffic. They are consulting with the NF managers, but I think that level of permit coordination would be more complex than they can handle on short notice. It may come later. Bottom line, an exit quota might push more starting traffic into the surrounding Nat Forests, which might affect permit options for hikes in those areas.

Lastly, the Yosemite Wilderness Plan Update is scheduled to kickoff this spring/summer, which will give them a chance to perform more comprehensive planning with better information, public review, interagency coordination, and more options on the table. So keep your powder dry on the big solutions, and feel free to comment on what I've described here. I will relay it back to Ed.

This is moving quickly, by government standards, so if this topic interests you, please don't delay getting your ideas posted. Please don't shoot the messenger, I'm just trying to help.
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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby balzaccom » Fri Jan 16, 2015 8:57 am

Thanks for this info. It is very helpful---and makes me think that they are approaching this with the right attitude.

Of course, the real problem is so many people focusing on an "iconic, epic" hike. Those of us who know the SIerra more deeply know that great hikes and great routes exist in all areas of the Sierra. M and I have had many wonderful hikes that have been planned almost completely to avoid these high traffic trails.
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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby Mike M. » Fri Jan 16, 2015 3:20 pm

I don't think I understand the concept of "exit permits." Have they ever existed in any of the jurisdictions along the JMT? How could they be policed? It's one thing to limit the number of entry permits for specific trailheads, quite another to require that hikers complete their hikes at the designated exit trailhead. Not realistic in my book.

Another point: the JMT has always been "crowded" in my 45 years hiking it. We call it the JMT freeway. I use it to connect to various sections of Sierra paradise that are much less crowded. It is scenic unto itself but importantly to me, incredibly useful for getting from one area to another. I can go in at Lamarck Col, hook up with the JMT just above Evolution Meadow, cruise the trail for a short while and then dip into Ionian Basin. Or I can start at Kearsarge, hop on the JMT at the Vidette switchbacks and a short while later head up into Center Basin or down Bubbs Creek and then up to Lake Reflection. And so on.

Much of Yosemite National Park is grossly overcrowded during high season. So I don't go there anymore. Want to see the valley? Go in early spring, late autumn, or in winter.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby Hobbes » Fri Jan 16, 2015 4:35 pm

How would they be able to police anyone starting north of the park - say Twin Lakes (Bridgeport) - who is hiking anywhere south of the park? Are they going to have a ranger parked at the bottom of Donohue checking NF issued permits to allow you to leave? This is the reverse of Whitney - to my knowledge, anyone coming down from Whitney who entered from points outside the zone (from the west) are allowed a pass.

The problem with an exit check is that people may have physical conditions that wouldn't allow them to turn back. I've run into people going over Whitney in that condition - they are debilitated to the point where they cannot return to their designated exit. The natural choke-point is right at the entry TH - no tickie, no washie, not some cockamamie notion of blocking exits.

How many people would tell the ranger FU? Is he going to pull a gun to stop them? What jurisdiction do they have if a person continues on and exits at a NF trail head?
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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby HikeSierraNevada » Fri Jan 16, 2015 4:50 pm

Whitney has an exit permit for those starting from any TH within Inyo. So there is precedent for that. Its not a great tool, everyone understands that. Enforcement of backcountry regs is a whole nuther matter.

Planners need to consider "noncompliance" but they have to start with a baseline assumption where everyone follows the rules, and there are still lots of permutations based on that simple assumption. Then you can start guesstimating other scenarios.

Please go ahead and poke holes in this proposal, critical thinking is key here, but take your post to the next level, follow up by answering, "what would you do, given the recent surge in demand, if you were responsible for protecting Yosemite wilderness?"
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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby Mike M. » Fri Jan 16, 2015 7:32 pm

I would assign entry quotas to each trailhead and leave it at that. If the idea is to limit the number of people who hike through or camp near Sunrise HSC, for instance, and a hiker is crazy enough to want to hike there from White Wolf because an entry permit was available, so be it. The only enforceable way to limit traffic on the JMT is to establish entry quotas on the adjacent trailheads, which we have already done.

My view is that we should not be telling hikers where they can go once they have legally entered the backcountry. I bridle at the idea that a front country ranger can tell me I can't camp in the Kaweah Basin in early August because a bunch of people from a Sierra Club outing are going to be there and the basin has reached its quota limit. This will sort itself out and the surge of interest in the PCT caused by Wild will run its course. Most of us don't want to go where there are a lot of people; then there are newbies who don't know any better.

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Re: New Yosemite JMT Permit Rules?

Postby snusmumriken » Fri Jan 16, 2015 9:50 pm

I like what I am hearing from the park service. Sounds like they are analyzing the trail usage and only making changes where it is needed, which is apparently the Sunrise Creek drainage and Lyell Canyon.
Big thanks to HikeSierraNevada for conveying information back and forth. Much appreciate being able to be a part of this conversation.
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