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Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

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Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby GH-Dave » Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:06 pm

and don't want anyone to think that I'm complaining, because the trip was superlative in almost every way. But I encountered something that surprised me, and I'm wondering why it is allowed.

My trip started at the Ten Lakes trailhead: First night at Grant Lakes, second at the easternmost of the Ten Lakes, third on the eastern shoulder of Tuolumne Peak, the last at Polly Dome Lakes, and then out Murphy Creek trail.

Weather was perfect ... actually warmer than it is at home where we live in the mountains. No bugs at all. No bears. Lots of other wildlife. Meeting wonderful people on the trail. And it turns out I really, really enjoy going solo.

But, here's the thing. During the trip I, and most everyone else up there that I talked to during those five days, encountered three large groups of teenage girls all from a San Francisco private high school. These weren't just your typical 2 to 5 people going backpacking together. These were 15-20 girls in each group headed by one adult male and female.

The first group I met was on the trail to Grant Lakes, my first destination. They were coming out. The same thing happened at Polly Dome Lakes. Another group was just leaving as I was arriving there ... literally. I came upon their campsite as they were shouldering packs to leave.

Unfortunately, I didn't get so lucky on my third night up on the shoulder of Tuolumne Peak. I don't know if you know the spot, but there's a little clearing on a nose of the shoulder (bad anatomy, I know :) ) that overlooks the whole world just before the trail begins to switchback east down into the forest to head south and connect up with the May Lake, Glen Aulin or Murphy Creek trails.

This was one gorgeous camp site. It was waterless, but I planned for it and loaded up before I got there. I swear that I could see virtually every important peak in Yosemite from there. And, besides, I was all alone. It was dead silent, private, beautiful.

Then, later than evening a gaggle of girls came stomping down the trail heading in my direction. They were whooping and hollering, all shouting at the top of their lungs. They stopped about 50 yards above me, around a bend and began to set up camp ... which was one noisy undertaking.

I was thinking that things would quiet down as night came on, but the noise ramped up. I was treated to a chorus of badly sung rap songs (which they had all memorized the words perfectly ... makes me wonder about today's youth), shouting back and forth, screams. Everything that you would think of whenever 15-20 teenage girls get together, mostly apparently unsupervised. In other words, noisy.

This went on until maybe 9 pm. I'm not sure, at that point my brain was cauterized by bad rap. And they finally settled down for sleep.

I was on the trail at 7:15 the next morning, so they never knew I was there. I had talked to other hikers during my five days, and the common theme was that wherever they encountered these three groups in camp they were treated to the same raucous behavior.

All of this is to introduce a topic concerning the appropriateness of groups like that visiting the high country. When things are so strict these days with so many other rules, why do the authorities allow an invasion like this to happen? I understand that Sierra Group trips can get a little crowded. But, I'd have to assume that they observe proper decorum the whole time in order to preserve the wilderness experience for everybody ... in their group, and with people who they encounter.

But, this was something different.

Does anybody have any thoughts on this? Ever had it happen to you? What can, or should be, done about it?

Dave



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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby balzaccom » Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:17 pm

In almost every wilderness area, there are size limits to the groups they allow. These seem too big, but if I were you, I would check with the rangers. Sometimes people get a permit for eight, and then take fifteen people. If they get caught, they get in trouble. And Yosemite has a database of all permits issued, so they should be able to track this...and also to put on a note on the file for future reference.

Sorry about your trip. We had a somewhat similar adventure on the Matterhorn Canyon loop, where we ran into two different groups of scouts doing their 50mile hike. But they were within the limits of ten people per group. And when we asked them to be quiet, they tried really hard.

Then again, they were boy scouts. Having raised two daughters, I can only imagine trying to get them to quiet down!
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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby balzaccom » Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:19 pm

Just checked the Yosemite National Park site. Max group size for an on-trail wilderness permit is....

you guessed it. 15.
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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby rlown » Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:36 pm

Group-size is kind of irrelevant. It's more about daily trail quota. A "group" can redefine themselves into two seperate permits to gain entry.

I encountered a group of 15 college girls coming up Rafferty as I was heading out in mid Sept 2008. Interesting in itself to happen this late into the season and during school session.

Congrats on the first-ever solo
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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby maverick » Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:48 pm

You have 3 choices, one ignore them, two confront them, and three, move.
I would have gone with option 2.
All of us are out there to enjoy ourselves, and others should be respectful of that!
It could be that they just needed to be made aware of this fact, kids, but even adults
are sometime not conscious of the fact that they are not alone back there, and you
cannot do anything you like even if you are miles from civilization.

Hey Rlown, when you posting your TR? Hopefully it will not be months like OR.
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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby GH-Dave » Sat Sep 18, 2010 5:58 pm

Thanks for the quick replies.

It looks like these groups took the 15 limit and smudged it a bit. :)

I did talk to a couple of the leaders (the ones who were leaving as I was arriving at various destinations) and this trip is actually part of their school curriculum. I don't want to mention the school, but it appears from their website that they are a progressive private school.

Interestingly, a lot of the girls were miserable during the whole trip and didn't want to be there and didn't ever want to do anything like that again. I was talking to some of the other hikers about this, and we agreed that if they pared the groups down to only those who were serious about backpacking and enjoyed it, it would have been a more enjoyable experience for everyone involved.

I just find a bit of a double-standard here is all. During my stay at the easternmost of the Ten Lakes, a patrol ranger came up to examine my camp and to card me. He was really thinking that my site (established, with a fire ring which I didn't use) was illegally within 100 feet of the lake. Personally, I didn't think it was too close. And he said since I was already there he wouldn't kick me out. Then he went around the lake a couple hundred yards and destroyed a campsite there.

And then I think of the environmental stress that is brought on by 45-60 city teenage girls all camping in the same place, and I wonder ...

I planned this trip for after Labor Day on a trail rated "Difficult" just so I wouldn't encounter this sort of thing. So, I'm wondering if it is possible to find out ahead of time if any large groups are scheduled for the same destination on a particular trip.

Dave
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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby GH-Dave » Sat Sep 18, 2010 6:05 pm

Maverick,

I did think about walking up to their camp and getting around to the topic with their leader of the quiet wilderness experience, but I figured from what other hikers had told me about these groups that it would probably have been futile.

Besides, I'm in the process (for the last few decades) of working on my sense of tactfulness, and that might have been one of the times when my resolve might have slipped a bit. :( And I just didn't feel like getting into an ugly confrontation during an otherwise absolutely wonderful trip.

Dave
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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby Cross Country » Sat Sep 18, 2010 7:17 pm

Having been a public school teacher I can truly sympathize with you. In 600+ days of BP I never (thank god) encountered anything like this. Part of my experience is because the vast majority of my destinations were off trail. Part of it was luck. I'm sure I would have confronted them and my efforts would probably have had minimal effect.
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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby rightstar76 » Sat Sep 18, 2010 7:22 pm

Hi GH-Dave.

Sorry your trip was ruined by these girls. My experience is that whenever a bunch of teens are dragged into the wilderness you get lots of noise. On the other hand, I've never had a problem with scouts since they want to be there and are usually well behaved.

On more than one occasion I recall going up to a group and asking them to be quiet. I felt uncomfortable doing that but I figured the worst that could happen was they would say no. However, they were never more than several people and in both cases they did shut up so I was able to sleep.

As for the ranger telling you the campsite was too close to the water, well that's typical ranger behavior. He was nice enough to let you stay so I don't think he was being unfair. I speculate that had the site been occupied by the girls, he would have asked them to leave.
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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby maverick » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:11 pm

I wish Rangers would in force the regulations more often, I see so many people right on
the shores of lakes and streams.
I saw campsites with fire rings on the JMT(Bear Creek Section) within 20 feet of the creek.
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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby Mike M. » Sat Sep 18, 2010 8:39 pm

Maximun group size is 15 people; affiliated groups may not travel or camp within 1/2 mile of each other if the total group size exceeds that number. These regulations apply to all groups -- schools, Sierra Club outings, etc.

I don't think I would have held my tongue . . .

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Re: Just returned from my first-ever solo ...

Postby mokelumnekid » Sat Sep 18, 2010 9:03 pm

Mike- in my experience you hit the rub- 'affiliated groups.' That's the rule that I've seen broken. People max out their permit and then get another, but travel as a pack (per my comment on a previous post re: Lamarck Col where I saw a group of 25 Boy Scouts coming over).

Like Maverick- maybe I'm getting crotchety- but I will, firmly but respectfully, tell them that they are breaking the rules. The hard part is that when they only break the spirit of the thing. I'm torn on that point. If someone or a group is acting boorish, but within the rules, who am I to say anything? It is a free country in that sense, and my choices are to kindly and respectfully ask them to reduce the volume, but other than that- move out. In the end those rowdy teenagers have as much right to raise heck- as is their preference- as someone else is to expect quiet. Right up there is people who go into the back country with dogs that bark all night- even across a basin you can hear that.

Luckily in the wilderness setting one has the option of moving. What makes camping in designated campgrounds hellish is that they become exhibits of bad behavior. The summers I lived in the campground at Tuolumne Meadows lordy- was that place a freaking zoo! Etc., etc.

But it was all more-or-less legal.....
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