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Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

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Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby cgundersen » Wed Sep 24, 2008 4:55 pm

This question has been bugging me ever since we noticed the white, rectangular building and antenna on a remote ridge on the south side of Glacier Divide (between Evolution Valley & Piute canyon) in July. The structure sits between Lake 11,236 (west) and Lake 11,092 (east), and is pretty much at the high point of the south trending ridge labeled 12,265. Sadly, my wife did not take a photo of it, in part because the haze from the fires at the time made it somewhat dubious that it would be visible anyway. Then, when we traversed below that area, we got pre-occupied with the traverse and forgot the shot. Anyway, since Peninsula went through that area a while back, and others may remember the area (Moosetracks & company might have been able to see it from astride the Hermit), maybe you know what it is. I confess to being a bit taken aback by such a resolute (and, presumably recent, because it looked sparkly new even through the smoke) structure in the backcountry; it was a good-sized unit and it certainly required considerable effort to erect it out there (hard to imagine that wilderness regulations were not trampled upon a bit). Anyway, maybe I need to ask my US Representative, but I thought I'd try here first?
CG



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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby Wild Bill » Thu Sep 25, 2008 7:18 am

My best guess is that is a radio repeater. When you see stuff like that in wilderness areas, it will belong to the U.S. Government.
U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service use them to communicate with the backcountry rangers; or if needed during any fire fighting or SAR operations.

Always Remember: Your Government does not need permission to do anything! :eek:
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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby gdurkee » Tue Oct 07, 2008 4:59 pm

Ahoy:

That's the National Park Service Evolution repeater. There's about 6 of them located within the wilderness of Sequoia Kings NP (though they pre-date the Wilderness Act). As Wild Bill points out, they're used for radio communication by rangers, trail crew etc. in the park. You're also right that it really stands out. I've suggested it be painted so it doesn't reflect so badly, but with no luck.

George
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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby dave54 » Tue Oct 07, 2008 7:47 pm

gdurkee wrote:Ahoy:

That's the National Park Service Evolution repeater ...


Are there other agencies that use the site also? CHP, FS, EMS, state or county government? It makes more sense to fully utilize an existing electronic site than create a new one.


The Wilderness Act does allow for permanent structures inside Wilderness when needed for administrative purposes. There are numerous electronic sites, stream gauge stations, Remote Automatic Weather Stations, etc inside Wilderness around the country.

Lookout towers, backcountry cabins, trail bridges, retaining walls, etc. Pre-existing ones were allowed to remain. There is a process to follow when seeking approval to install a new permanent structure.
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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby gdurkee » Tue Oct 07, 2008 8:14 pm

Dave:

No. No other agency uses the existing (Wilderness or not) towers in Sequoia Kings. I think Yosemite allows a couple of Cell towers where there are existing NPS repeater sites (one in Wilderness). Although I agree with you that they could potentially be fully utilized, In the case of Sequoia Kings, the geography is such that no other agency really needs the sites we use.

I'm uncomfortable with having them there at all. At the moment, there's no technological alternative. Arguably, the repeaters allow rangers, trail crew & etc. to communicate and help preserve wilderness values (boy, that's a sentence that shows I may have written one EA too many....). But it's actually true. We're really more efficient with these things. So far, alternatives such as Satellite phones are not satisfactory -- the max from a Sat phone is about a 3 minute length signal before it fades, and not always a sure thing you'll get a connection... .

As a further side note, eveyone has a good gizmo they really need to have located in Wilderness -- the ones you mentioned as well as (California State) snow survey & stream runoff stuff; our own ranger stations;stock fences; bridges; geology monitoring (for earthquakes); etc. etc. The key is keeping a consistent policy to triage and keep most of it out -- and especially getting rid of it when it's no longer needed. You're right, of course, that the Wilderness Act allows some of this stuff as long as it furthers the philosophy and intent of Wilderness, but it's a darned fine line.

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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby dave54 » Tue Oct 07, 2008 8:38 pm

Most of the permanent structures I have seen in Wilderness areas are camo'd or otherwise made less visually intrusive. I have seen other repeater sites (Bob Marshall, Great Bear) that hundreds of hikers every year walk within 50 feet and not notice unless someone points it out to them. I am surprised this one was not modified.

I am less bothered by the notion of such structures. Trails are built in Wilderness, and what is a trail but a long skinny permanent structure? 8 miles of trail is one full acre of bare compacted soil. So a wilderness purist would also call for removal of all trails. I am not ready to go that far.
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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby cgundersen » Thu Oct 09, 2008 2:32 pm

Hi Bill, George & Dave,
Thanks for the feedback on this! Although Dave has a good point about trails, the area we were in was a reasonably long way from any trail (at least, vertically) and that's why this repeater unit stuck out like a sore thumb. I'm certainly accustomed to seeing structures/remnants of civilization near trails in wilderness areas (whether it is old cabins, rangers' habitats, the remnants of dams across lakes in the MK area, mines & mining roads, or snow/water monitoring equipment), but this was the first time I'd seen such an intrusive object in a trailess area. Since I've otherwise managed to avoid these structures, is there a published list of their locations? Or, could you clue me in here?
Thanks!
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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby Wild Bill » Fri Oct 10, 2008 6:37 am

I don't know about how to find a list of locations. But the US Government is not very cooperative about sharing their radio repeater sites with anyone. I remember trying to get the USFS' permission to use their repeater site on the Glass Mountains for the fire dept.
The Long Valley Area is a dead zone and their repeater is in the best location. We thought, since it is already there, why not utilize it? But no permission for anyone! ](*,)

The repeaters really come in handy for us first responders when we go out on a rescue. The Sierra does a pretty good job of blocking radio communications.
The Glacier Divide site is a strategic location for communications due to the topography. Maybe someday satellite technology will replace all repeaters. Until then, enjoy the view!
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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby Shawn » Fri Oct 10, 2008 12:27 pm

These locations in the SNF have USFS radio repeaters installed; any chance it could be the Piute Peak repeater?

Sequoia National Forest (SQF)
Delilah Look Out
Buck Rock Look Out
Mule Peak Look Out
Baker Point Look Out
Oak Flat Look Out
Piute Peak
Chimney Peak
Jordan Peak
Sherman Peak
Tobias Peak
Breckenridge Peak
Parkridge Peak
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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby dave54 » Sat Oct 11, 2008 9:20 pm

Wild Bill wrote:I don't know about how to find a list of locations. But the US Government is not very cooperative about sharing their radio repeater sites with anyone. ...


Locally, the FS has been pretty good about sharing. Repeater sites are shared with Sheriff Dept, CDF, NPS, Local fire, County government, etc. But no commercial or private sector.

There are many reasons why other agencies are denied use. For technical reasons, antennas have to be a certain distance apart else interference occurs. The distance depends on many factors -- frequency wavelengths, transmit power, antenna type. It could be there was not enough room on the tower for another antenna. Additional equipment also requires a power source. Many remote repeaters are powered by a combination of solar cells and propane feeding a bank of batteries. Perhaps there was not enough power source to accommodate another repeater? Adding more solar panels, propane fuel cells, and batteries may have required expansion of the entire structure.

Are you sure it was the FS that denied use? An application would have to made to the FCC or NTIA for permission, and they could have said no.
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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby Wild Bill » Sun Oct 12, 2008 6:56 am

The USFS cooperative? That's a laugh!
Trust me; I have personal involvement in this one. They not only won't let any other agency put any equipment in the repeater site, but no permission for any additional sites. (non-wilderness location on public land)
This was for Mono County Fire, Paramedics, and Sheriff.
I'm sorry I got a little off topic, guys! Please forgive me!

No one ever plans on getting hurt; but anyone who has gotten hurt in the backcountry, was thankful help came. The repeaters are a valuable part of rescue operations.
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Re: Whose Antenna Sits on the Glacier Divide?

Postby cgundersen » Sun Oct 12, 2008 2:41 pm

Hi Gentlemen,
First, thanks to Shawn for the list; I confess that besides the antenna I noted, I've not run across any of the others (but then most of them are not deep in the backcountry). As for naming, George referred to the Glacier Divide location as the Evolution Valley repeater, but it's close enough to Piute (and I have not seen an antenna closer to Piute) that it may also be referred to as Piute. Maybe someone can clarify?

Otherwise, it seems like I may have touched on a raw nerve for some other folks. My 5 cents on this issue is that one of the fantasies that I carry into the backcountry is that I'm slightly less prone to the prying eyes of Big Brother. The emphasis is on slightly. But, if I ever do more than a standard face plant, I think I may appreciate the attention.
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