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PCT thru-hikers and bear canisters

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PCT thru-hikers and bear canisters

Postby norcalhiker » Sun Feb 05, 2006 12:00 am

Every year there is a debate amongst PCT thru hikers as to whether or not to carry bear canisters. Most of these hikers pass through going north and get to Yosemite before the begining of July and going light and fast. Many feel that bear canisters are unneccessary because of their stealth camping, the bear boxes and the weight of the canisters. Some hikers have base pack weights under 12 pounds so a bear canister would be a big addition. The trend however is that more hikers are starting to carry canisters. Still some do not (they often sleep with their food) even though legally they are required to carry one.

While thru-hikers are generally very experienced backpackers, many of them are not from California and do not know our local situation. Having done plenty of hiking in the Sierra I'm going to bring a canister on my PCT hike this year. I bring one on all of my other hikes so why should this be an exception?

I'm interested in hearing what the sierra hiker community has to say about PCT hiking practices. Are PCT hikers a special case or should they all carry cans?



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Postby Rosabella » Sun Feb 05, 2006 7:34 am

If bear-resistant canisters are required in certain areas, then they are required. Period.

We all know that there are bear boxes located along the JMT, but there are long stretches where they are not in place, and if they are, they may be full. I've always viewed bear boxes as a convenience but nothing to be counted on for my only means of food protection.

It seems to me a rather "elitist" attitude if one feels that they shouldn't have to follow the requirement that everyone else is subject to just because they want to go "fast and light".

The bear cannister requirements are in place for the protection of the bears, and just as everyone is required to get permits, everyone should carry a cannister in areas where they are required. It's a small price to pay for the priveledge of sharing the mountains.
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Postby copeg » Sun Feb 05, 2006 10:01 am

First off let me say, congrats on deciding to do the PCT, I envy you. I've wanted to do the trail for several years now, but it doesn't look like I can even attempt it until retirement :D

Second, I think the PCT hikers should abide by the laws of the parks. I understand the situation, and perhaps many do not know the regulations, but I know there are many out there that simply disregard the rules. This year, the ursack is conditionally approved so perhaps that may help - but I doubt it. Honestly IMO, my pack is about 12lbs now - I've hiked with and without a canister and the canister really does not weight me down. I don't know how many PCT hikers intereract with the PCTA, but perhaps they should try to do more to educate and enforce.
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Postby hikerduane » Sun Feb 05, 2006 5:43 pm

Rabble rouser! Man, this subject is like discussing global warming. Did you see all the posts last summer on Backpacker.com?

I guess bears are getting into bear boxes also. Seems bpers should try to be self sufficient and not rely on them. Should be interesting to see what comes down in the next few years. Will bears able to access the Garcia Machine canister increase, will the conditional approval of the Ursack insert stay, will someone come up with something else?

Maybe Wilderness Rangers should patrol more of the PCT to see if canisters are being used. Look at that guy who lost his food at Thousand Island last year.

Since the loss of my dog Pooch, I have been bringing my Ursack more even where not required and difinitely bring my Garcia on trips where a canister is required, since I don't want to have to go home or cut my trip short with a fine. It will be nice this summer to bring my upgraded TKO where it wasn't approved in the past.

What is the chance of getting caught? I have heard of thru hikers taking their dog thru Yosemite without seeing a ranger. Just lucky I guess. Last year in August, when a bunch of us saw Paige and her small group off, on Sunday we met a couple rangers on the trail who checked out permits.
Piece of cake.
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Bears, bears, bears

Postby gdurkee » Sun Feb 05, 2006 10:36 pm

Well, as I've said elsewhere, bring the canister. I appreciate you're doing so norcalhiker. I'm getting increasingly annoyed with the PCT folks. A number seem to think themselves a special class and don't carry canisters; leave garbage or "free equipment"; build fires; camp on vegetation etc. They create damage disproportionate to their relatively small numbers. Of course, it's a new & younger generation who need education (and a few citations...) but discouraging nonetheless.

I'm pretty sure that Yosemite PCT hiker did get at least one citation. We were following him from Charlotte. He got cited at LeConte and told to leave. He was seen again at McClure and another citation with a mandatory court appearance was sent to him. If he fails to appear on the Mandatory and shows up again, his buns are mine. Heh, heh, heh.

Because of budgets, we can't often get rangers out early enough so, as last year, when I show up, I find new fire rings all over the place. Two were in meadow vegetation and will take 30 or more years to recover! Talk about depressing. And the bozos who did don't give a s%^t. They just go merrily on their way ticking off the miles and missing the point.

Whew. I'm finished and feel ever so much better, thank you.

g.
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A fed Bear is a Dead bear

Postby Bearlover » Fri Feb 10, 2006 1:20 am

A fed bear is a dead Bear In case you do not understand.. your choice to bring human food into their enviroment means death to them. Just because you decide to "shoot the moon" does not excuse you from "normal" trail etticut. For the bears sake use a bear can. Is 5 extra pounds worth the life of an American black bear? Do you hold your 5 month quest above the life of an animal for which you supposedly hold in reverence? Just take the dam can.. I know you can hike 2654 miles without it and without incident.. But who are you to put their lives at risk? How can you enjoy a backcountry sunset and at the same time gamble with the life of a natural bear? You folks that flaunt the can are foolishly sacrificing the lives of bears as well as the safety of other humans that follow in your footsteps... use the can goddamit! Besides it is goddam more convienent than a stupid ass bear hang, and much quicker to get you on the trail in the AM to boot. Carry the 4 extra pounds and you will not be sorry.
As an aside(I respected Ray Jardine's book on the PCT until I read his method of "sleeping upon his food sack" approach.. shame on you Ray! You actually had my respect until you suggested "swatting at porkie" You must really must be delusional to think that is a rational approach bud.. and you used your world wide forum to suggest such an assenine idea to everyone.)

PS. I have let those scofflaws that fool the rangers with the decoy can and then ditch it at trailhead get by so far... from now on you'all better watch out ..not only will I turn you in to the rangers.. It just might be me stealing your goddam snickers from you bear hang in the middle of the night! USE THE CAN OR ELSE! Those bears are my friends and believe me you do not want a crazy ass person like myself on your ass in anger!
You know which areas the can is required.. do the right thing.. No ******** excuses! Bearlover
There is a Bear.. Where? Over there!
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Postby markskor » Fri Feb 10, 2006 7:00 am

Bear,
Have to agree with all except the very last: No BS excuses part. Once again, on the first day out, not all things fit. No matter how I try, not every piece that is supposed to be in there - in my Bearikade, can be in there. For a day or two, in trail segments that are long, (for example -VVR to the Portal), I still either hang some food, sleep with it, or make a cairn. I wish this was not the case but...I am not gonna carry 2 bear cans.

So, my adamant and wise friend...if hanging is illegal ($5000 fine), what am I supposed to do?
Mountainman who swims with trout
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Postby AldeFarte » Fri Feb 10, 2006 10:45 pm

Right on, George! There is something we agree on. It is so rude of PCT types to do what you describe. I do a lot of things that purest weirdo's would not dig, bit my backcountry motto is "Leave little or no sign of your passing." Indeed, if I see you first, you might not see me. The people I share my trips with are very passive on the country we visit. Of course this is relative. Such as my belief that zip stoves have zero negative impact on the environment. That equates to a positive. Back to the bear thing. They do taste good. Just make sure it is thoroughly cooked, or in deep freeze for at least 6 months before jerking it up. jls
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Postby Bearlover » Sat Feb 11, 2006 1:34 am

markskor wrote:Bear,
Have to agree with all except the very last: No BS excuses part. Once again, on the first day out, not all things fit.

So, my adamant and wise friend...if hanging is illegal ($5000 fine), what am I supposed to do?


Brother.. (In my opinion) carry less or squish that food into the can. Have you tried pushing with your foot?.. I am dead serious, If I can squish 9 days of food into a "Garcia Machine Base camp" model Bear can so can you. Likewise I am sure you repackage your food to save space.. ie. all of my soups mixes of the same flavor go into communal ziplocks.. Incidentally since I have sourced my foods from whole food market I find Ican get away with less quantity because of increased quality.. no BS! I also have overage at trail head.. I pigout the first night at Hetch Hetchy Backpackers camp.. what is left I stow in the metal lockers with a note.. "free food people take it in the spirit it is given and enjoy!" There is never anything left after 9 days. Eigther the rangers trash it or some hungry packer eats it I have no way of knowing which! One thing is certain the bears do not get it!
My beloved uncle Wayne still puts his flask of Brandy in the crook of a tree.. and to date he has not lost it to Bears. My enthusiastic post left little room for argument I guess.. I am kind of polarized(nuts?!) in some ways I suppose. As long as the bears are not rewarded with food by humans.. intentionally or no.. justice has been served.
I am sure an experienced soul such as yourself has the judgement to know when it is okay to bend the rules. I was railing on the overt scofflaws in particular.
I have seen people bend over backwards to prove to the ranger that they were using a bear resistant cannister only to happen upon their (messy) camp later an find they are bear hanging instead.,, in the most pitiful fashion.
If you must Bear hang choose the Three Tree Approach. Two of the trees support your rope and bearhang.. the third tree is closest to the foodsack yet does not support the rope in any way. Bears always go for the tree closest to the hang first. This approach will give you at least a 20 minute edge before the bear figures out the ruse.. as with all bear hangs it is only a delaying action and thus inferior to the bear cannister. For the bear's sake carry a bear resistant cannister instead.. you will find breakast is much more enjoyable and convenient anyways!

Our ancestors lived in caves yet we live in houses.. because houses are drier and warmer than caves are they not? There is a steady progression of advances in thought and behavior in our Human species.. why buck it?

My intention with the previous "adamant" post was to scare the living daylights out of the scofflaws and not intimidate the seasoned veterans such as yourself. I am sorry if my ardor offended those that have the critical judgement neccesary to divine right human behavior from wrong.. afterall this entire subject is not about bad bear behaviour but rather bad Human behaviour.. as always.

Separate subject.. I have removed over 10 D-cel batteries discarded in a makeshift fire-ring upon virgin glacier polished granite... There truly are clueless folks among us.. we pass them on the trail assuming that they are competent.. sometimes the are not... I really want to make them pay..
This is the source of my anger in the previous post. My thrill is to happen upon just one of those clueless groups in the middle of the night and play havoc amongst them.. no physical harm, mind you, just a dam good mental thrashing. I say again; Beware if you travel in Northern Yosemite without a bear can... lest the wrath of Bearlover come down upon ye. I am Protector from Waterwheel falls to Emmigrant wilderness... Carry a bear can in these parts lest ye fall victim to my wrath.
There is a Bear.. Where? Over there!
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Postby ERIC » Sat Feb 11, 2006 11:05 am

:eek: WOW, Bearlover! Blow out the candle, buddy! :p
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Postby ndwoods » Sun Feb 12, 2006 1:35 pm

I'm a milder version of bearlover. I call bear canisters "bear savers."
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Postby PhilB » Mon Feb 13, 2006 4:20 am

The argument I have heard on several ocassions from non-can-carrying thru hikers is that they can camp at sites with bear boxes in SEKI, then in Yosemite they only stay at TM or Glen Aulin. After that they are more than 7 miles from the road in northern yosemite.

I find it hard to believe they stick to such a rigid schedule but the hikers using this argument have certainly convinced themselves they are in the right. Unless carrying a can was mandatory in all wilderness areas I suspect there will always be a minority who insist on finding some excuse to not carry a can.

It is dissappointing to hear Ranger George complaining about damage caused by people who should know better. I hate seeing the problems he mentions but thought they were mostly limited to near popular trailheads where novices decided to stop. Obviously it only takes a small number to cause highly visible damage.

And Bearlover, only 9 days food in a Garcia? Try a 17 day JMT trip, although I did top up the can with power bars at VVR. Probably not the most appetising selection of food and I will not eat couscous again but I got it all in the can.
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