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Cancelling a permit

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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby LMBSGV » Wed May 25, 2016 1:39 pm

I checked the credit card statement and discovered that they never charged me a cancellation fee for last October, just the fee for the new permit.

I have mixed views on Yosemite going to Recreation.gov. It is easy and convenient and so if you are able to plan far enough in advance on your date(s) it works fine. However, the number of people who make reservations and never show up seems to be pretty high from our observation of the campgrounds at Point Reyes. There seems to be at least 25% no-show rate every time we've gone (over the last three years this is a dozen times) and sometimes it's more like 50%. And we only go when the weather is decent so that cannot be the reason for not showing up. My worry for Yosemite would be the popular trailheads will be booked far in advance even sooner than it is now. The one good thing is I suspect a morning day-of walk-up permit will become easier to get if you are one or two people.



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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed May 25, 2016 2:34 pm

SSS Dave- you can get an annual pass for Desolation for $20. Then all you have to do is get a permit at one of the offices. I imagine you could also reserve on the internet and give your pass number. The annual pass is for one complete year. I have June left on my last year's, so will probably use it soon. If you go more than twice, it is a good deal.
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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby sambieni » Wed May 25, 2016 3:09 pm

LMBSGV wrote:I checked the credit card statement and discovered that they never charged me a cancellation fee for last October, just the fee for the new permit.


Rec.gov, etc - they don't charge for cancellation. They just deduct the reservation fee and a portion off of your refunded reservation amount. It usually is $15/reservation that is not refunded. If this did not happen to you, well, consider yourself lucky.
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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby brandy » Wed May 25, 2016 3:14 pm

I cancelled permits for North Fork Big Pine a couple of weeks ago when another obligation kept me from my plans. I know weekend permits for that TH are hard to come by, so I wanted to make sure that they were back in the pool. The process was easy on recreation.gov.
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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed May 25, 2016 5:47 pm

I think the whole trailhead quota system needs a revision. If I go in a trailhead, walk on the trail for 2 miles, then basically go off trail the rest of the trip, that is a different impact than someone staying on the trails. Just managing the number going in each day seems a pretty crude system. I would also like to see some of the less used trailheads returned to no-quota trails. More information on less used trails would also be helpful. When the forest or park web sites give information on only the few most used trails, that just adds to the crowding.

I preferred it when first-come permits were at least 50% of the permits. When you have 60% or more as reserved spots, and there are 25-50% no-shows, this indicates that the reservation system is not working properly.

I wonder what would happen if they simply did a test year or two with no quotas and no permits.
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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby longri » Wed May 25, 2016 6:02 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:I think the whole trailhead quota system needs a revision.

Be careful what you wish for. The future for us may be a system where you have to reserve a specific camping zone for each night. That seems to be the standard in other national parks.

Wandering Daisy wrote:I wonder what would happen if they simply did a test year or two with no quotas and no permits.

My guess is that many less visited places would remain about the same but the super popular, over impacted areas would be even more crowded.
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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby maverick » Wed May 25, 2016 6:31 pm

I think the whole trailhead quota system needs a revision.


Agreed, but ain't gonna happen in the near future.

After a recent conversation with the Wilderness Managers from Yosemite NP, Stanislaus NF, and Inyo NF about this issue, there seems to be a sense of frustration and no real agreement on how things should or will proceed. A major sticking point is that most of the agencies have their own issuing guide lines for wilderness permits, and getting them up to date, or on the same page seems like an insurmountable task, or at least one that will take a long time.

Do not believe that any agency will want to give up the control of the land that falls under their jurisdiction willingly, whether it makes sense or not, quotas give them some sense of control. Inyo is considering quotas on Donohue Pass for north bound hikers, which may make things even more difficult on folks using this section of the JMT/PCT.
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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby htrout » Wed May 25, 2016 9:27 pm

Be careful what you wish for. The future for us may be a system where you have to reserve a specific camping zone for each night. That seems to be the standard in other national parks.


I just experienced this in Zion. Did a walk up permit when the office opened (I was 8th in line) and had to reserve a specific camp site for each night (there were 8 total sites in the area we were going). There was only 1 choice left for each night we were going in (the rest had been reserved). We headed in on a Tuesday for site #4 and came across three other sites that were vacant. We could see site #5 from site #4 and nobody ever showed up at site #5. Actually, during all our hiking around and coming across 4 other sites we didn't see a single soul all week (except the day hiker as we were on our way out). So, 7 out of 8 sites had been booked and tied up all week and not a single person turned up for any of them during any of the 5 nights we were out there. It was just us out there by our lonesome. We had the wilderness to ourselves. It was pretty awesome for us, but probably a bummer for anybody else who tried to do a walk up permit.

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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby wildhiker » Wed May 25, 2016 11:17 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
I wonder what would happen if they simply did a test year or two with no quotas and no permits.


They did that. It was called the 70s. It wasn't pretty, at least not in Yosemite. I spent 6 weeks in the Yosemite backcountry in 1974 working on a UC Berkeley sociological research project that was part of the effort to decide how to handle this flood of backpackers. We were observing how folks picked campsites and then asking them after dinner to fill out a one-page questionnaire mostly about their experience of solitude, pristineness, trail conditions, etc. The popular spots really suffered under laissez-faire. Of course, since we needed lots of data, we spent a lot of time at those popular sites like the High Sierra Camp loop and the JMT. When I have revisited those places in the past couple of decades, they look and feel so much better! Not as trampled. Less crowded. It's all a direct result of the quota system, plus NPS restoration work like removing fire rings and re-routing trails out of meadows.

One interesting result from our research: people have a "natural spacing" that they like to maintain at campsites, even in crowded areas that attract newcomers. We would get up at the crack of dawn and hurry to the next spot on our sampling loop to be there by noon so we could watch folks come in and pick campsites (from high vantage points where we were not obvious). One good example is Fletcher Lake by the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. Most backpackers came in from the west end. They would walk on the little trail along the north shore until they found a suitable spot and then stop. I was also surprised to see that very few would actually scout around the lake for the "best spot", as I always do. They stopped at the first one that met their minimum standards. Then the next group would come and space themselves at least 50 yards or so (more or less depending on natural screening) from the other groups. Eventually, by mid-afternoon, you had a string of campsites occupied along the north shore of the lake about 50 yards apart. Then more folks would come (this is pre-quota days, remember), and start filling in between the existing campers. When we interviewed campers, they felt more crowded and less solitude because their natural spacing had been violated. Now, with quotas, we rarely get those big crowds at any one spot anymore and both the physical and sociological impacts are greatly reduced.

The distribution of permits between reservable and walk-up and the reservation method are all questions that should be periodically re-evaluated, but one thing I really love about our Sierra trails is that you are only required to go in a specific direction the first day, and can then camp and travel wherever you please. Other crowded parks (like Grand Teton) have a strict system of designated campsites and rigid itineraries, which I find really annoying and the antithesis of the feeling of freedom I seek in the wilderness. At least in Yosemite in the mid-70s, a fairly sophisticated (for its time) optimization program was used to model how people would disperse in the backcountry given trail lengths, elevation gain, and conditions; historical patterns of use as a measure of site desireability; camping sites available; various combinations of trailhead quotas; and probably other data. Monte-carlo simulations were run to get some ideas of the "peak" possibilities. Then trailhead quotas were adjusted to prevent what the managers thought would be unacceptable crowding and physical impacts at specific sites. The goal was to preserve wilderness conditions but also keep this freedom of movement in the wilderness, at least according to Yosemite Park chief scientist Jan Van Wangendonk who was the architect of much of this quota system back in the 70s. We can quibble with their judgements, but I think they did a good job.

That said, I agree with Wandering Daisy that only about 50% of the quota should be reservable.

-Phil
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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby balzaccom » Thu May 26, 2016 8:28 am

Great info Phil. And a wise perspective.

We love the fact that we can reserve in advance for areas that we REALLY want to see. And we're happy finding a way to get into the wilderness at the drop of a hat when we show up for a walk-up permit.

That said, we've only failed to get where we want to go once in the last ten years, and that was because there was a fire, not because of permit issues.
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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby brandy » Thu May 26, 2016 8:29 am

Phil...thank you for posting about your research. What an interesting summer that must have been! Human behavior is fascinating. :)
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Re: Cancelling a permit

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu May 26, 2016 9:42 am

Similar research should be done now to update to current modes of backpacking. Big changes are the light-and-fast movement, GPS and PLB technology and if and how that changes backpackers plans, extreme sports use of trails (trail running) that means vastly expanded reach of day-use, social media and internet which puts so much more information on areas out there to the general public (vs. guidebooks as the main source of information in the 70's), and from what I have seen, much more use by large international groups on organized tours. I am not sure how or if these things have changed wilderness usage patterns and if the current system is achieving the permit/quota goals.

It is interesting to note that when we went to Peru this fall, the very popular mountain areas are highly managed and with significantly higher fees for vistors, vs native Peruvians. Tourisim is a big economic business. The fact that we have no extra fees or quota on foreign tourists in our wilderness is not common worldwide. For example, as a tourist you cannot even do the Inca Trail without a local guide. As international use increases, I hope that the averge local isn't shut out of the wilderness; saving 50% for first-come seems to be a good preventative measure. I have also encountered some foreign groups exceeding their 15 person limit by getting two different entry dates, then on the way, join into one very large group. I would like to see the maximum group size reduced to about 8. I think any one group should not be able to take all the reserved permits for a a given day. The JMT is a prime example. I think a lot of trail managing this is a matter of public education- cultural differences, and a bit more encouragement for any wilderness user to by into the classic view of "wilderness". That goes for Americans too. The wilderness is limited and special. It is a shame when quota spots are taken by those who really care less about a wilderness experience, and would fit better in other venues.

Just a note on reservation costs. $15 may not be much for some, but it is not negligible when on a tight budget. $15 buys half my gas to the trailhead!
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