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Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

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Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby js hill » Fri May 14, 2010 2:56 pm

We are planning a trip on the JMT in early Sept. 2010. I was thinking about going in a couple of weeks early to store some food & fuel in a bear box along the JMT. I wanted to take the boat shuttle on lake Thomas Edison and then hike to the nearest bear boxes on the JMT. First of all, are there any bear boxes in this vicinity and secondly, has anyone done this before? Is it legal? I'm worried that someone may help themselves to our stash and then we would be stuck without adequate supplies. I guess an alternative choice would be to hide our food somewhere but I'm concerned that a hungry animal would find it. Your feedback and suggestions are welcome. Thanks JS Hill



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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby rlown » Fri May 14, 2010 3:20 pm

completely legal, but don't count on it being there after two weeks. You're not allowed to lock the locker, and yes, my party has been robbed before.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby SkagetMuir » Fri May 14, 2010 5:02 pm

I probabley wouldnt trust food in a locker for 2 weeks. I like to think of people being honest and more often then not other hikers are but I wouldnt want to start a trip out low on food.

If you do I would make sure your food is in another sealed container with in the bear box. Somthing that mice and small rodents cant chew through. Also try leaving a note to explain the food is not abandoned.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby snusmumriken » Fri May 14, 2010 6:36 pm

I believe Vermillion Valley Resort aka VVR is on Lake Thomas Edison. So no need to stash a resupply in a back country bear box, just mail it to VVR instead. Or hike 20 miles south down the trail to Muir Trail Ranch aka MTR they will accept resupply packages as well. Or hike north 30 or so miles to Reds Meadow, where there is a store and a restaurant. In fact this is the part of the trail where you don't have to carry more than a weekend load of food as there are these resupply opportunities.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby dave54 » Fri May 14, 2010 8:03 pm

This thread reminds me of an interesting incident during the Yellowstone fires of 1988. We were in the Absorkas in a spike camp. Because of the bears in the area all food was to be stored in the bear boxes brought in by helicopter. After one of the camps was unstaffed some food inadvertantly got left in one of the grizzly proof bear boxes. It was about a week later when we went to retrieve the box. Even though these boxes were designed to be 'grizzly proof' and made with 1/4" steel, the box was peeled open like a banana.

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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby copeg » Sat May 15, 2010 8:11 am

As snusmumriken noted you've got VVR and the Muir Trail Ranch along the way - both allow for relatively easy food storage for JMT hikers. I personally wouldn't trust food cached in a locker for that long, if you must definitely leave a clear note describing it being a cache for hikers relying on it. Even then there is no guarantee it won't be left open by accident (aka eaten by bears), stolen, or just removed by the forest/park service.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby gdurkee » Sat May 15, 2010 12:46 pm

As far as I know, there are no bear boxes on the JMT between Woods Creek crossing (Kings Canyon) and, probably, Tuolumne Meadows.

More importantly, it is absolutely illegal (and bad karma) to leave anything in a bear box, whether "free" to the next hiker or as a cache to be picked up. No matter how well intentioned everyone is, over 60% of caches are never (!) picked up. Guess who hauls them out or back to the ranger station? Your kindly backcountry ranger. Every year, I probably haul over 300 lbs. of abandoned caches and junk food back to the station to be packed out. Many times I have no packers coming by and it accumulates taking up my really limited storage space.

So all the rangers in Sequoia Kings confiscate any food caches found in bear boxes and take it back to the ranger station. The same is true of bear canisters stashed off trail and meant as a cache -- I find and confiscate about half a dozen of those per season. You can pick up your cache (if the ranger's there) along with a citation. Don't want to be snarly about this, but it's a huge problem. Onion Valley allows long-term storage of food in the boxes there (the intent is also to have boxes available for campers to leave their extra food from their vehicles while hiking).

George
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby rlown » Sat May 15, 2010 1:01 pm

It's kind of a bummer that, in trying to be a good samaritan and unload all that stinks or is left over from my vehicle, that my only choice is an unlockable bear locker. My theft happened at the bear lockers at the stables out towards Glen Aulin. sneakers.. not mine at least :D

I'd like it if they put in more lockers, and like bear canisters, rented locks, so you could lock up your stuff legally.

Sooo, George, How many bear canisters do you have? I'd never leave one of my bear canisters in a bear locker unless i was nearby. I hate theft.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby markskor » Sat May 15, 2010 5:23 pm

Just to add my 2¢…

I had always thought that leaving anything in a backcountry bear box, (before or past one’s own stay) was considered a major hiking taboo. Thanks George for again pointing out/ validating this basic tenet of wilderness philosophy. (FYI, Trailhead bear boxes are another story entirely.)

Having heard all the arguments/discussions (as in this thread) about being pro-active, hiking in and leaving something beforehand in a remote bear box, bla, bla, bla…well, I always thought this was just plain selfish of that particular hiker. The bear box should always belong to the party that is camping there at the time, not someone who might be there in two weeks. Taking up what little space is available while not being there…sorry…doesn’t fly…selfish.

To Clarify - if standing in front of a backcountry Bear box, and realistically needing to use the bear box for my own food safety, I have the right ( * taken from the unwritten rules of backpacking) to take another’s (pre-stashed) food out of a crowded bearbox and put mine in instead.

Yea right! Realistically though, I never have done this but always considered it justified behavior…most of the food waiting was ripe anyway…I can see where George must detest this part of the job…ARGH!

* Do not stash food in backcountry bear boxes.

I also question why you would want to miss the interesting interactions of either VVR or Muir Ranch while passing thru. These are major highlights of the JMT…part of the rich trail flavor…anticipated, major, food extravaganzas…sweets and greens…culinary mileposts...a place to strut.

A free beer here, a milkshake, a Portal Burger, fresh coffee, another cold beer there…thinking of all possible foods available soon becomes the trail drug of choice.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat May 15, 2010 7:18 pm

Why would you put a bear cannister in a bear box? I thought the point of a bear cannister was NOT to have to use a bear box. I have seen people put their packs in the bear boxes - that is ultimate selfish if others need the space.

Although I rarely use them, I would like to see the existing bear boxes reamin - there is talk of taking them out. So, I urge everyone to use good bear-box ettiquete in hopes that the authorities leave them in.

The other side of the issue - a friend of mine lost her food on the Roper's High Route- Pants Pass - cannister fell out and never was found! She was able to continue by using old food in the bear boxes until she resupplied.

I had my coffee maker stolen from the bear box at Whitney Portel. Now I only put food in the bear boxes, not any cooking utensils.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby hikerchick395 » Sun May 16, 2010 9:26 am

On my last trip on the JMT, my neighbors packed in our food to Charlotte Lake. They camped near the bear box and had to tell the ranger, who wanted to confiscate the bucket, that we would be there soon to pick up our resupply ( plus they were staying until after we arrived.) Ha...not only did we have friends good enough to pack in our food, but to guard it, too.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby markskor » Sun May 16, 2010 9:44 am

George writes:
"So all the rangers in Sequoia Kings confiscate any food caches found in bear boxes and take it back to the ranger station."

Makes sense - understandable...probably mostly trash but maybe some good eats too.

" The same is true of bear canisters stashed off trail and meant as a cache -- I find and confiscate about half a dozen of those per season. You can pick up your cache (if the ranger's there) along with a citation."

I have some trouble with this.
Does this mean that we are officially not allowed to stash/cache any food, even in a legal bearcan...(with an attached posted/date to pick up note) somewhere backcountry SEKI?...assume hidden off trail and not in a bear box.
I know the "Did-not-return-and-pick-up" rate must be high, but are you saying that if you found a fully loaded bear can, under some rocks/cairn on July 28th, and a note said JMT pickup...~Aug 5th with a name...you would still take it and fine the individual too?
Seems harsh.
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