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Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby dave54 » Sun May 16, 2010 10:35 am

So the moral of the story is to cache your can far enough off trail so a passing ranger or stray hiker will not spot it. Take a digital picture of the area and load the picture into your mp3 player so you can find the can again 3 weeks later. :D
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby gdurkee » Sun May 16, 2010 11:11 am

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.


Well, from the hiker's perspective, it does seem harsh, I guess. But you acknowledge the abandoned cache rate "must be high" but that's one of the main reasons. That's not a teensy objection by NPS, it's hundreds of pounds of junk each ranger (X 14) hauls out per season. To me, there's no difference between a cache/bear canister/plastic bucket to maybe be picked up at some future date and garbage left forever.

Also, in all these years, I've never found a cache (in a bear box or off-trail) with a name and contact number/address. That in itself is a clue to me that the person realizes there's a chance they'll not come back. Everyone has great intentions, but it's a huge pain and an intrusion on trying to keep some semblance of undisturbed wilderness feel to the backcountry.

For whatever it's worth, the federal violation is "abandoned property" unless it's improperly stored food, then it would be a food violation.

For hikerchick395, the key phrase was:
( plus they were staying until after we arrived.)
If you stay with it, it's not abandoned AND if you're carrying out the hiker's bucket or whatever. (I was the ranger there, on the job as always...).

And, sure, you can try to hide it "way off trail" but most of us wander all over the place. It might work, but there's an equally high chance it won't.

Everyone's right about putting a canister in a bear box. Canisters work and putting it in a box is both overkill and takes up space needed by others.

All that said, theft is incredibly rare in the backcountry.

g.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby rlown » Sun May 16, 2010 12:00 pm

I'm thinking there's a difference between trail-head bear box etiquette and backcountry bear box etiquette. We're told to remove anything from our vehicles that might be bear-worthy at the trailhead, and we might be gone for a week or more. Unfortunately, one has no idea how unsafe that is based on all the visitors. So, we're kinda screwed that we don't have trusted storage at the trailhead. I happen to like my truck windows, and based on conditions, some stuff has to be stored in the bear box.

Backcountry, obviously is different. When you're in a camp, the bear boxes are great, and pretty secure, if you stay close. Can't really imagine someone would stick a $250 bear canister in a bear box and expect it to be there 2 weeks later. :paranoid:

George, so you confiscate errant caches. What about the researchers in the parks? I find their caches all the time, and yes, with no tags, other than "do not disturb." Are they treated special?
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby gdurkee » Mon May 17, 2010 7:40 am

What about the researchers in the parks? I find their caches all the time, and yes, with no tags, other than "do not disturb." Are they treated special?


Hmmm. That doesn't seem right, but who knows?? There's established research & trail crew camps scattered in a bunch of places. I think pretty much all of them use some form of Knaack box for food storage (60 Lakes, Upper LeConte, the Kern etc). Those, anyway, are allowed because they're temporary and "further wilderness values" because of the research or trail maintenance being done.

I guess it's possible a researcher on some sort of trip would cache food or gear. They sometimes carry huge loads so if they're doubling back, it probably happens. But they are required to have wilderness permits and get the permit-issuer pep talk... . So I guess the short answer is they're treated differently in that, with permission, they can have a long-term base camp. In all other matters, they do have to obey the rules.

g.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby ndwoods » Fri May 21, 2010 10:29 pm

Why not just use the traditional food resupply places? They are incredibly easy to get to, the folks bend over backwards to help you...and that soda or whatever sure slides down nice!:)
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby Snow Nymph » Mon May 24, 2010 12:09 pm

About 10 years ago we hauled 2 cannisters up below Taboose Pass with 8 days of food each and buried under rocks, then marked a waypoint on GPS. 8 days later we picked up the food and left our trash in it. 8 days later we went up to get the cannisters with trash. 3 trips up Taboose Pass for one trip. We also had to hike down a ways to get the cache and hike back up. Never again up that trail! But it was a great trip!
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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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby kkman » Sat Jun 12, 2010 2:44 pm

For some trips where there are bear boxes it is very handy to drop off a couple days of food and then pick it up for use on the return part of the trip. Same thing with water caches on desert trips. If you take something that isn't yours that is stealing, it's as simple as that. Add to it that you may be endangering someone's life. These are moral rules that supersede any rules the NPS or FS dream up in some office. To cover any gray areas that may exist in your mind, it's reasonable to temporarily remove bear canisters from full bear boxes to make needed room. And it's reasonable for the NPS or FS to empty bear boxes at the end of the season when it is clear that they are abandoned.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby gdurkee » Sat Jun 12, 2010 3:50 pm

kkman:

These are moral rules that supersede any rules the NPS or FS dream up in some office. To cover any gray areas that may exist in your mind, it's reasonable to temporarily remove bear canisters from full bear boxes to make needed room. And it's reasonable for the NPS or FS to empty bear boxes at the end of the season when it is clear that they are abandoned.


Not to be grouchy, but have you read this thread and the reasons NPS removes food caches from bear boxes?? This rule wasn't "dreamed up" in an office. I'm in the backcountry 24/7 for the next 4 months and, not incidentally, I'm the one carrying this abandoned junk out. What do you imagine "empty bear boxes" means at a practical level. Do you think we just drive a truck up to the box and take it away?

Go back and read the thread.

George
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby kkman » Thu Jun 17, 2010 9:37 pm

Hey, don't be grouchy. I pick up trash whenever I see it in the back country and haul it out. And I'm not paid to do it, I just do it because it's good karma. You should feel good about removing trash, and better still that the commercial packers are doing something beneficial.

But, it seems we do have 2 problems. First - some back country bear boxes get full and "over 60% of bear box caches are never picked up". Second - I, several of my friends, and on rereading this forum, several posters leave food caches in bear boxes. And although everyone I know picks up their caches, the rules make us chronic law breakers, and worse yet we may come back to a bear box with our food confiscated and nothing to eat for several days.

So maybe the rule that would fix both problems is that all cached food must be dated and can only be left for a week (or 10 or 14 days, whatever works). And as far as having to haul too much out and having it take up cabin space, why not let passing backpackers have it if it is left over the legal time limit and really abandoned? And at the end of the season I'll invite my buffet-closing friends and we'll take care of any remaining excess food. It will be like one of those videos of piranhas feeding.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby gdurkee » Thu Jun 17, 2010 10:19 pm

So maybe the rule that would fix both problems is that all cached food must be dated and can only be left for a week (or 10 or 14 days, whatever works). And as far as having to haul too much out and having it take up cabin space, why not let passing backpackers have it if it is left over the legal time limit and really abandoned? And at the end of the season I'll invite my buffet-closing friends and we'll take care of any remaining excess food. It will be like one of those videos of piranhas feeding.


I suppose that's a good rule, but it's unenforceable. I just don't see it as a practical way to fix the problem. People know they shouldn't leave food now, but they do. Requiring people to date their caches doesn't solve that problem because they don't do it now. How do I enforce that? What do I do with the food that people don't date properly? Who's going to haul it the 3 to five miles back to the ranger station? Where do I put it once I get it there? What passing backpackers? They've got all the food they need. I do give away what I can, but I'm still left with (wait for it again) HUNDREDS of pounds of food. Are you and your buddies going to visit all the stations with junked food and haul or eat all that out? What about the buckets and bags? I'll bet not.

I know you're well intentioned, but this is a real problem and one I'm pretty tired of. After a bunch of years of dealing with this, the only solution I've found is to just not allow any caching of food. Pack it in, pack it out. Pretty simple.

You should feel good about removing trash, and better still that the commercial packers are doing something beneficial.


Huh? How about not leaving the trash in the first place. That's really the problem. I'm happy to hear that you take trash out. You're right, everyone should. Alas, as far as I'm concerned, anything left in a bear box with no one around to be responsible for it, is trash. I'll also mention that there's rumblings that because of this problem (among other concerns), bear boxes may be removed entirely from Wilderness locations. I suspect that's some time off, if ever, but this trash thing is a serious and contributing cause to that view.

Sorry, but you and your buddies need another approach to resupply.

George
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby rlown » Thu Jun 17, 2010 10:38 pm

I'm all for taking out the bear boxes. After all, we're not up there for a disneyland experience. Pack it in and pack it out. Adjust your trip to what you can carry in and carry out, in an approved container, or with a resupply trip to the nearest town.
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Re: Caching food in bear boxes on the JMT

Postby kkman » Tue Aug 31, 2010 1:33 pm

The bear boxes evidently serve a purpose, reducing human - bear incidents, or they wouldn't be there. The pack it in pack it out rule is easy for people like me and probably most people on HST to follow, but evidently its importance is not comprehended or remembered by many others. This is the first time I have heard of the end of season leftover food bear box problem and I'm sure many people don't know how big a problem it is. My suggestion would be to put a clear simple reminder at the site of the error, i.e., to put a plastic sealed, 8 1/2 x 11 note stating: EACH YEAR OVER 200 POUNDS OF UNCLAIMED FOOD HAS TO REMOVED FROM THESE BOXES AT SIGNIFICANT TIME AND EXPENSE. IF YOU USE THIS BOX, REMOVE EVERYTHING YOU PUT IN IT. DO NOT LEAVE IT FOR OTHERS.
If you put it inside the door it would last, and if in large letters people couldn't miss reading it. Give it a try, see how much it reduces the problem.
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