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Signs Missing on the High Passes?

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Signs Missing on the High Passes?

Postby BSquared » Wed Nov 30, 2005 12:12 pm

Something bothering me left over from our 2004 JTM trek: didn't there used to be a lot more signs in the passes, giving the name of the pass and its elevation? We saw a sign on Forester and one on Trail Crest. Period. Well... there were also two signs on Donahue, but they only talked about the change in jurisdiction between Yosemite NP and Ansel Adams Wilderness. But nothing whatsoever on Silver, Seldon, Muir (well, there is the hut ;) ) Mather, Pinchot, or Glenn. I know there used to be signs on Donahue and Glenn ... how about the rest?



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Postby Buck Forester » Wed Nov 30, 2005 12:30 pm

Sign, sign, everhwhere a sign. I have also noticed plenty of passes with no signs, but I don't mind so much. I guess they do make good trophy shots but in some ways it's nice to get to the top of a pass and see no sign, just the wilderness on the other side.
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Postby quentinc » Wed Nov 30, 2005 9:57 pm

I've noticed the sign at Glenn missing, but like Buck, I don't miss it very much. ;)
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Postby Snow Nymph » Wed Nov 30, 2005 10:13 pm

When we did the JMT in 2001, I think we only saw the few you mentioned.
Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, and the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free . . . . Jim Morrison


http://snownymph.smugmug.com/
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signs in the backcountry

Postby gdurkee » Sat Dec 03, 2005 8:28 pm

Part of the minimalist philosophy that's developed over the last 30 years. Before about 1975 there were signs absolutely everywhere -- creek crossings, meadows, passes. That plus trail registers created a lot of extraneous clutter. So as they've been deteriorating, they just haven't been replaced. In a few cases, they've been yanked. There's a "Whitney Creek" sign not too far from this computer... .

The Forester sign is there because it's, technically, a park boundary between Sequoia and Kings. Same with Trail Crest. I do vaguely remember one on Glen. It's only disappeared in the last 10 years, but don't know why.

With photoshop, you can always put one into your hero shots, and even raise the elevation.

George
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Postby SSSdave » Sun Dec 04, 2005 1:45 pm

I find it hard to believe people are relating that signs out on trails whether just along trails, at lakes, at passes, or at junctions is somehow negative. Like having a sign at a pass diminishes the wilderness experience or such? How stupid a thought! How can one make such a complaint when it is right on a trail that in itself is far more obvious than a sign? Just walk a few feet to the side and you are not going to see the sign or the trail. Any of these signs are fine with me. In fact I'd like to see more signs in the backcountry and have suggested that to rangers many times. Especially those that instruct visitors on proper behavior like not camping at illegal locations, making fires above elevation limits, etc. If someone wishes to develop a minimalist philosophy fine but please lets leave the petty aspects of our trail systems out of it and instead put that energy into something more worthwhile like removing the myriad illegal fire pits.

...David
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Signs, signs, everywhere a sign

Postby gdurkee » Sun Dec 04, 2005 2:16 pm

Well, I don't know that I'd put it in the "stupid" category. It's one of those "honest disagreements by reasonable people" things.

At the moment (and for quite sometime) that philosophy has been dominant. (This, incidentally, puts you way behind the curve since it's been maybe 30 years we've been at this..). Wilderness and backcountry are hugely psychologically dependent. Sure there's a trail there. In addition, a zillion people and sheep and cattle have been over the area in the last 100+ years. The idea, though, is to make the individual feel, as much as possible, that they're the only ones out there. A weird balancing act but that's what it's really all about. So to give that tenuous feeling of wilderness, the NPS and USFS have been getting rid of intrusive distractions -- extraneous signs, cabins, fences etc. They're not even close to consistent and often hypocritical about it, but there you go. The USFS thinks that even the signs should be minimalist and for a long time wouldn't (may not still??) put mileages on them. The happy campers should check their map is their philosophy.

So, at risk of being in the "stupid" category myself, I agree with it. In addition to reducing what to me and my buddies is clutter, it also gets people to pull their maps out more often -- keeping them oriented and, one hopes, improves their map skills.

I also wrestle with the need for instructional signs. How necessary vs. more clutter? I'm never sure how much good they do. If a particular area has a recurrent problem I usually put up a strongly worded sign, though have to admit it's hard to tell if it has much effect. Most people know the rules and the ones who ignore them know exactly what they're doing -- they just figure no one is watching or "it doesn't matter ... it's just for one night."

But, good news!, we're always hard at work getting rid of fire rings. Dealing with signs does not in any way diminish the energy that goes into that endless and joyful task.

Regards,

George
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Postby BSquared » Sun Dec 04, 2005 2:39 pm

Thanks for the meaty replies, especially to you, George. I guess I must be dating myself when I talk about the signs I used to see ;) yes, it was certainly before 1975 that I saw the signs on Glenn Pass and Donahue... For whatever it's worth, I still think the high-pass signs, at least, were worth it -- I guess I like the implicit message of congratulations they convey. I'm also relieved that people aren't swiping them as quickly as the PS and FS can put them up; I was a little afraid that a souvenir mentality had siezed the backcountry!
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signs

Postby gdurkee » Sun Dec 04, 2005 2:57 pm

You know, maybe we could put in a little black box that delivers sustained applause for anyone over 50 who stumbles across a 12,000+ pass or peak. It evaluates each hiker based on a algorithm of grey hair and knee pain... .

Might work.

g.
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Postby Shawn » Sun Dec 04, 2005 3:02 pm

Guess I figured people were just stealing the signs? Why would the park service remove the sign and leave the post, like this one on top of Sawtooth Pass? The post has not been there thirty years, yet it is drilled into granite?

Image
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Re: signs

Postby BSquared » Sun Dec 04, 2005 3:24 pm

gdurkee wrote:You know, maybe we could put in a little black box that delivers sustained applause for anyone over 50 who stumbles across a 12,000+ pass or peak. It evaluates each hiker based on a algorithm of grey hair and knee pain... .


I'll settle for the occasional smile, and the, "You're how old? Why, you don't look a day over 50!"
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Postby Buck Forester » Sun Dec 04, 2005 4:12 pm

As for me, I'm not really "anti-sign", but I don't really care much for them. To me, part of the wilderness experience is planning, studying topo maps, navigation (both on and off trail), and getting away from the man-made stuff I'm used to on a daily basis in society. To be honest, I'd rather see the occasional old illegal fire ring than to see a clearly obtrusive sign near a beautiful meadow saying, "NO CAMPFIRES ALLOWED". I'm also not fond of seeing signage on a tree signifying which lake I'm at... it sort of detracts from the experience. Even though I know it's not the case, I still like to dream that I'm a crazy adventurer and no one has been to this place in a long time. When I see a sign, it's like, ooOOOokay, I'm not alone. I do realize it's different for different people, and people seek different experiences in the wilderness, so I'm not anti-sign nor do I petition to have them removed, but I don't mind if there are none to be found. I like signs at wilderness borders though, especially the wooden ones, like the ones I see so often entering the John Muir Wilderness. I just figure if you don't know what pass you're on, or what lake you're at, and you need a sign to tell you, then you need to hone your wilderness skills (and I've been in this position, ha ha!), but part of the adventure is then to find out where you are on your own. But I also admit that there is some kind of satisfaction seeing a sign on top of a major pass, such as Forester Pass, signifying you've made it! YAAA! It's sorta like a high-five. And I have more than my fair share of backcountry sign photos. In fact it's sort of like a challenge to me to create a list of really cool backcountry signs, especially ones in more remote areas like the ones to Tehipite Valley or something, and I will probably include them on my website, whenever I get it finished. See, I have mixed feelings about these signs, ha ha! On another matter, I find the trail signs around the junction of the JMT and the Devil's Postpile to be more confusing than helpful though. As long as I don't see a sign banning long-haired freaky people, I think I'm okay.
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