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Permit Season

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Permit Season

Postby balzaccom » Sat Apr 24, 2010 9:20 am

From our blog:

It's springtime, and that means it's time to start filing for your wilderness permits with the various national parks, forests, etc. And of course, each authority and region has its own system, which makes it all that much more challenging...which is to say: frustrating. We sent in three applications: one to Yosemite, one to Desolation Wilderness, and one to the Hoover Wilderness.

At one end of the spectrum is Yosemite National Park, which posts its trail quotas and constantly updates them to let you know when their reservations are full for each day and every trailhead. That's nice. I understand that they have to manage these resources, and I appreciate the fact that when I go out into the wilderness areas of Yosemite, I am not going to meet 750 other people who are all doing the same thing.

I am not enthusiastic about the lecture they give when you pick up your permit--after four or five repetitions, this gets a little silly--but still, it's a good system, and it still allows some permits to be available on a first-come first serve basis. It's the best system for a highly visited park, and it appropriate for Yosemite. My only complaint is that they really ought to be able to put the whole system on-line, rather than have you work through their wilderness center. What the heck, if the airlines can do it, so can the national parks.

At another end of the spectrum is the Emigrant Wilderness. All permits are provided as requested--all you have to do is ask. Arrive at the Summit Ranger Station, tell them where you want to go, and they'll write up your permit for you. Simple, easy, and very convenient. Yeah, you may run into a few people at a single campsite...but Emigrant has enough areas nearby that you can always find another place to camp if you are willing to walk another mile, or less. Perfect.

In the ugly middle is Desolation Wilderness. I know that this place gets a lot of traffic, but there is really no reason for them to run the system the way they do. Permits are only available after April 22, so on that day their phone is busy, their fax machine is overworked, and there is no way to find out whether or not you are getting through or getting your permit. And there is nothing on-line to help you. That's just bad organization, and an almost criminal ignorance of modern technology. grump hmph.

Of course, if you don't want to deal with any of this, you can just backpack in a national forest. You can get your campfire permit from any CDF fire station, and you are good to go. We know, because we got one for our hike to Hite Cove, and it is good for all year.

Which may come in handy if we never hear back from Desolation wilderness.
Balzaccom

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Re: Permit Season

Postby dave54 » Sat Apr 24, 2010 1:06 pm

I try to avoid places that require permits, pre-approved itineraries, etc. Locations like that are no longer wilderness.

You are right about just hiking in the general national forest land. Some of my best trips have been to areas that are designated multiple use (but have never seen a cow, bulldozer, or chain saw and most likely never will).

You do not need to visit a ranger station to get a fire permit. You can get one on line.

http://www.fs.fed.us/r5/sequoia/passesp ... index.html
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Re: Permit Season

Postby hikerduane » Sat Apr 24, 2010 8:33 pm

The nice folks mailed me a Emigrant permit on my first visit there as I was coming from the east side and was going in by Sonora Pass, so it saved me a trip to the office then back, which would not have enabled me a early morning start. Desolation, you have to go where others aren't, still a very nice place.
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Re: Permit Season

Postby balzaccom » Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:02 pm

I did get my Desolation permit today in the mail. I hope others did as well.

And Dave--no Yosemite? That seems painful.
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Re: Permit Season

Postby tuolumneranger » Sun Apr 25, 2010 8:52 am

Permit season, it is!

Here in Yosemite, we try so hard every season to find a balance among the vast array of wilderness users we encounter. We, as permit and backcountry rangers, do understand that the "lecture" can get frustrating and repetitive for frequent users. For that reason, we are always more than willing to do the 10 question quiz, and try to pick up on the fact that you've "been here, done that". This is generally far less insulating to your, the seasoned Yosemite wilderness user, intelligence. It's also quicker for the issuer and the issue-e. If you are picking up your permit in the morning, though, it's almost impossible to avoid the lecture that we give in order to quicken the process for everyone. I'm sure you've all been crammed into the Tuolumne Wilderness Center or stood on the porch at 7:30 in the morning as one of us spent 10 minutes or so going over rules and regs. When I am on patrol in the backcountry, I am constantly reminded of how important it is that we try as hard as we can in the permit office to get the REASONS for our rules and regs out there. In the grand scheme of things, it isn't that big of a time commitment for the (hopeful) outcome of protecting and preserving Yosemite's Wilderness.

Because we have to communicate with such a wide variety of backpackers, I don't think the day will ever come when you can simply print out your permit online like you can print your boarding pass at the airport. Aside from discussing basic LNT principles and insuring that hikers have at least "heard" the rules and regs of backcountry use in Yosemite, we almost always have "area-specific" information to disclose. Last season, for example - a large section of the Grand Canyon of the Tuolumne was closed to due to fire; we were experiencing bigger-than-usual bear problems in Lyell Canyon due to severe failures in food storage; numerous Search and Rescue Operations that backpackers can assist us with by keeping an eye open.

Again, we're not trying to insult your intelligence. Our permit system here in Yosemite is the result of years and years of practice and, as evidenced by the new half dome permit program, always changing in order to follow the Wilderness Act and the National Wilderness Preservation System.

At the end of the day (I think you'll all agree), it all comes down to protecting and preserving the wonderful thing that is Yosemite's Wilderness.
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Re: Permit Season

Postby balzaccom » Sun Apr 25, 2010 9:38 am

Tuolumne Ranger: I appreciate your position. I've seen some crazy things in the backcountry of Yosemite! This year we'll be hiking that northern half of the park ( Twin Lakes to Benson Lake and back through Matterhorn Canyon) if we can get our permits from the Hoover Wilderness. If not, we'll probably try that trip somehow through Emigrant...

And I know that fire all too well. We were set (and had permits) for the GCT at that time, and had to switch gears once we got to the Wilderness Center to pick them up at Big Oak Flat. We ended up doing hike out Kibbie Ridge to Boundary Lake et al....lovely hike, but we still want to do the GCT

I'm interested in what the canyon looks like now---and how bad the fire damage was. We'd still like to do that trail some time.

And welcome--it's nice to see you here!
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Re: Permit Season

Postby markskor » Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:11 am

Hi Ranger,

Nice to have a resident Yosemite Ranger, especially one from Tuolumne, adding (regularly we hope) to our board's eclectic mix. Surely will be nice to have someone in the know, stationed, who can give us the straight, up-to-date, Yosemite scoop - fires, rescues, permit changes, etc...
You having your finger on the park's pulse and all...welcome!

I must say though, it is about time that someone with computer savvy from YNP joined our convoluted family; I believe YNP went to a computer network years ago…I always see you guys and ladies on the computers in the Wilderness offices…didn’t know when you got on-line capabilities in Tuolumne though…hope not dial up…

FYI, in the past, all we attracted here were the SEKI variety of Ranger, and you know how those West-siders are.

Anyway, with apologies to George…(Mike, not so much), I do have a question about the “permit lecture” philosophy.
Whenever I am picking a “Next Day” wilderness permit, you first enter my name and then on the screen, something pops up about my past… and I assume you have a brief history of my last 15 – 25 Yosemite hikes/permits… you always ask if the address is the same. I know that you must hate to give the speech again, and recently usually you don’t…but is it something from the screen – is it the record of my past history that “triggers” your feeling comfortable enough in not giving me the 10-minute version? Or is it my presence and demeanor (striking good looks?) that says to you that this guy knows enough so you cut it short? Whatever it is – Thanks!

If there is such a trigger that enables you (correctly, I might add) to separate those with enough credibility…Why don’t they have a central Sierra data base on all wilderness permits?
Maybe we could have a secret handshake?

Mark
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Re: Permit Season

Postby oldranger » Sun Apr 25, 2010 10:47 am

mark

you are too good of a straight man! I can think of several reasons why the good rangers of yosemite might want you out of the office as soon as possible, none of them flattering! :D

Mike
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Re: Permit Season

Postby markskor » Sun Apr 25, 2010 11:52 am

See what I mean about those old SEKI Rangers?
You have to make allowances for their advanced age...Take Mike here...His real tag line:
"Who can do anything he used to be able to do...(but he forgets in the middle and has to start over again, so) it just takes a little longer!."

Good thing he can fish...if he still remembers how.
Baffling why I plan to hike with him...again. :dontknow
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Re: Permit Season

Postby dave54 » Sun Apr 25, 2010 1:57 pm

markskor wrote:...but he forgets in the middle and has to do it again."...


That's one of the advantages to growing old and forgetting stuff.

No matter how many times I have hiked the same trail, each time is a new adventure exploring virgin terrain. :lol:
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Re: Permit Season

Postby cahiker » Sun Apr 25, 2010 4:46 pm

Last year, 9:30 Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend we showed up at the permit office on the east side of Desolation Wilderness, prepared for the worst with a long list of possibilities -- And got our first choice. We saw a ton of day hikers and dogs on the trail, but only two other groups camped within a half mile of us at Lower Velma Lake. We got the five minute lecture with the permit, then a ranger stopped by and checked our permit and gave us a bonus "pack it out" lecture before we even set up camp. I have to admit the heavy, opaque ziploc bags they give away for packing out tp are quite nice.

All in all a very pleasant last minute weekend.
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