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Meeting people in the backcountry

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Re: Meeting people in the backcountry

Postby kpeter » Wed Jun 16, 2010 1:43 pm

My most memorable backcountry encounter was not a happy one. It was in the mid 1990s. My friends and I had gone in from Sabrina and were camped at Dingleberry for a week of dayhiking the Sabrina Basin. One day my friend and I had hiked up past Baboon Lakes and had followed the stream up to Sunset Lake. It was a delightful little scramble and we enjoyed the flowers, the waterfalls, and the ice that was still bobbing in Sunset Lake. It clouded up and began raining, so we put on the Goretex and headed back down to Baboon.

As we came into Baboon we saw smoke, which was odd since no campfires were allowed above 10,000 feet, and Baboon is at 11,000. We followed the smoke and walked into adolescent city. A number of shocked faces turned to us--they were shocked that anyone else would be so far off the trail. They were all teenage boys, mostly wearing t-shirts and cut-offs in the rain, and they were stoking a huge fire. Tents were everywhere, down to the water's edge. Fresh wood chips and hatchet marks on trees...you name it. It felt a little like we had walked into "Lord of the Flies." We gently mentioned that fires were not allowed and that a ranger had better not catch them. Then we hurried back to our base camp to get out of the rain.

When our trip was over we stopped in Bishop to let the Forest Service know what we had seen. They took our names and said they would dispatch someone to investigate. And that, I thought, was that.

Many months later I got a phone call from the Forest Service and was deposed over the phone, basically repeating what I had seen. The case was going to some sort of administrative trial. It was then I learned that it was a high school football team from the Fresno area. The ranger had gotten to their camp before they left, and issued more than 70 citations. He said they camped on pristine plots next to the water's edge, disposed of fish waste and human waste improperly, chopped down living and dead wood to fuel their 8' fire ring, and had way too many people. I never found out how the case ended.....

Until I was hiking a few years later--again out of Bishop, and met a ranger. We got to talking and I asked if he knew anything about the case of the Fresno football team. Indeed he did. As he described it the judge threw the book at them. The team was forced to forfeit a bunch of games and the school was humiliated. Or so he said. I always wondered what the outcome really was...maybe one of you from Fresno will have heard of this case and know.

I have often thought of that encounter at Baboon Lakes. I am glad that a group that was trashing the wilderness was caught and punished. However, I also have always regretted the very poor leadership that took dozens of young men and probably taught them to hate the wilderness and people like me. In retrospect, I probably should have stayed with them longer, asked to talk to their leader, attempted to correct their behavior and educate them. As it turned out, it was a tragedy all around--for Baboon Lakes, for their school, and for all of us who need more allies, not more enemies, in order to preserve the wilderness.

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Re: Meeting people in the backcountry

Postby Shawn » Wed Jun 16, 2010 3:08 pm

Hey kpeter -

Just a word of thanks for stepping up and taking action; most people would just keep going without doing anything. It seems the end result will serve to keep the bad behavior from destroying other areas thanks to your assertiveness. :thumbsup:
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Re: Meeting people in the backcountry

Postby Vaca Russ » Sat Aug 26, 2017 1:59 pm

markskor wrote:The Mickster: 4/12/2008

Another solo hiking adventure…by markskor

Wow! I was just looking through the archives and stumbled across this little gem of a story.

Thanks, Mark!

"...Or have you only comfort, and the lust for comfort, that stealthy thing that enters the house a guest, and then becomes a host and then a master?"

Kahil Gibran.
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