Backpackers Etiquette......... | High Sierra Topix  

Backpackers Etiquette.........

Backpacking and camping basics and other general trip planning discussion for the uninitiated. Use this forum to learn where to look for the information you need, and to ask questions, related to the beginner basics of backpacking and camping, including technique and best practices.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby Hobbes » Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:04 am

Well, not to get all zen and everything, but disappointment comes from (unfounded) expectations.

With regard to the Sierra, one of the biggest misconceptions - which leads to unrealistic expectations - is that it represents some kind of remote, pristine wilderness. Not even close; unlike the Himalayas or Andes, the Sierra are a highly developed, easily accessed range that is available to millions of people.

Consider Dusy basin for example. I would posit that even the worst, out-of-shape hikers fresh from their local REI could make it up & over Bishop pass to that lake within 2 days. In this context, it's not really any different than Yosemite valley, with the exception that trails do eliminate the morbidly obese in their electro-carts.

So the general solution is to move on to more remote, x-c lakes & basins in an attempt to ensure more solitude. But there's a big however - and that's that this 'solution' ignores the growth in thru-hiking (which is destined to only accelerate with the movie version of Wild coming out), and the development of uber-hikers who are so strong that they can whip off 25-30 mile (trail) days without a sweat.

And what do a lot of these PCTers remark upon after their hike is completed? You guessed, how beautiful the Sierra were, with many agreeing it was the highlight of their trip. So guess where they want to go again to explore in further detail?

I approach the Sierra like I approach a good surf day in SoCal - expect a crowd, and be pleasantly surprised if you catch a window of (relative) solitude.

Consider how long the Sierra have been occupied/developed: the Tioga road was purchased by Mather on behalf of the park from a defunct mining operation near Saddlebag (Bennetville). Muir himself thought he was achieving solitude, only to find shepherds had already claimed every good alpine meadow, which their flocks were busily destroying, and this was 150 years ago.



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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby AlmostThere » Fri Jul 11, 2014 7:22 am

If I don't go on the popular trails, I don't see people. There are still places I can be with a friend by ourselves for days on end. People know where Half Dome (ugh) is, they have no idea where Colt Lake is, and that's pretty much ok by me.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby maiathebee » Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:05 am

SSSdave wrote:
maiathebee wrote:...With this whole basin empty, with literally dozens of perfect, secluded campsites to be had at this very lake, why on earth would they choose this one? ...


That is the only upper basin lake the trail passes by so always has the majority of groups hiking the trail camping by it. When one looks at images of Dusy Basin on Google or Yahoo images, you will see the majority are taken from that lake.


Oh yeah, I was definitely not expecting to be alone at that lake! (I planned two nights with the first one there and the second one farther over by Knapsack Pass, where I expected and found more solitude.) My objection was not them setting up at the same lake as me, but for their disregard as to how they chose their campsite. They plopped down right next to me, between me and the lake out in the open marring my view, directly on the shore of the lake despite backcountry camping regulations.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby bbayley80 » Fri Jul 11, 2014 10:10 am

[quote="Hobbes"]
I approach the Sierra like I approach a good surf day in SoCal - expect a crowd, and be pleasantly surprised if you catch a window of (relative) solitude.

well said Hobbes. thats a great analogy.
as both a SoCal surfer(aren't we all :\ ) and backpacker i too get frustrated with the crowds and clueless folks in both the Sierra and Pacific but those moments of solitude and utter beauty of the locale sure do make up for it.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby DavePloessel » Sat Jul 12, 2014 7:28 am

Slight tangent on the original post/different thoughts:

If you are at a lake that is only 200 yards long and camped in the middle of the shoreline, of course you will have people camping within 100 yards of you.

Different people have different comfort zones (Now that I'm older and grumpier, I often give people the "circles" talk {"everyone has a circle around them, you're in mine." being the short version}), and to some, camping within 100 yards isn't a big deal, and may even provide that false sense of security some people need, after all there are bears in them thar hills...

At popular lakes, if there are ten groups and 100 yards of usable ground, you are going to have to share at close proximity. It is insanely selfish to expect others to march on after it gets dark just because you got there first. Not everyone is capable of safe travel after dark, and to expect others to put their party at risk over you wanting solitude is...

At many backcountry destinitations, there are already well established areas where people camp. Usually close together. It might be a little annoying to share, but if you are in a high traffic area, my personal thought is that it's better (LNT wise) to use these already established areas, even if you sacrifice a little solitude, than it is to go create a new site.

And finally, if you want uninturrupted solitude: go off trail! I think I can safely assume that most of the regulars here have seen the weird hyptonizing effect trails have on 99% of the people out there.. It's like they are stuck on a train track and just can't get the concept of travel perpendicular to the trail, and I for one love it!!! The op did the exact right thing by going off trail to get the solitude he wanted.

I'm saying this all completely respectfully, just hoping to offer a different viewpoint.
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Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby themappist » Sat Jul 12, 2014 7:43 am

@Markstor you've expressed a great approach and attitude.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby sparky » Sun Jul 13, 2014 9:00 am

There are many places to go in yosemite valley where you can spend a day without seeing a soul....except maybe when you see the crowds far below you.

I have had good and bad experiences with others plopping down next to me. Sometimes I am good with it, other times I am not in the mood. Like what others have said, just take things as they come. Like with all things, try not to have a blanket preconcieved notion about it. You just never know what you are going to get.

I remember once years ago I was really annoyed by a group of boy scouts that literally plopped down 20 ft. from me. I was completely spent, and was really annoyed by their presence. I didn't want to use the energy to move my camp. One of the leaders came over and apologized saying that a couple of the boys were having issues and they really needed to set up camp there (there wasn't much flat spots to be had) I wasn't very nice, unfortunately as they caught me at a bad time, and they ended up being good neighbors. I apologized the next day, and we all hung out together sharing stories, swimming, eating and whatnot. I took a couple boys on a fun scramble, and it ended up being a great memory.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby SweetSierra » Sun Jul 13, 2014 10:51 am

I too have found that if I don't have expectations of complete privacy I'm a lot happier. People are usually polite and don't camp right on top of you or even close by unless they have to due to limited sites. I agree, if there are already established sites, they should be used rather than building a new one. But, even with a fair number of people around at a lake, they are usually out of sight and not within ear shot in the backcountry (with the exception perhaps of a boy scout group). Even with all the people that camp at Thousand Island Lake, in the many times I've been there, I don't remember noticing other campers.
I agree that there are many places in the Sierra where you can find solitude, even on trails. Some trails are so lightly traveled, you likely won't see anyone else.
I completely understand the OP saying something to the other hikers. That's much too close. They may not have been aware that it wasn't cool.

I was on a backpack in Colorado with a group of about 10 people when we encountered the rudest situation I've ever experienced. Our group had found a site along a trail (not at a lake) that had just enough room for all of us. There are many places to camp along this trail, which is popular. A woman suddenly appeared right in our camp, plopped down her backpack literally a few feet (!) from our co-leader's tent, didn't make eye contact with our group or even acknowledge we were there. We were all in disbelief. She then shouted to someone in her group to camp at a spot that was again right inside our camp area, next to one our tents! She again pointed over our heads as if we didn't exist. One of our party politely told her that we occupied the site and that there were other spots. The woman angrily replied that we didn't own this spot.

I just couldn't keep quiet, and told her privately that she could have asked us, that it would have been polite, that there were many other spots further down the trail. She had an angry reply (we were rude), and there was no apology or explanation. I told her that her actions were the rudest I had ever seen. In a very magnanimous gesture, one of our party generously offered that they could stay. But, she and her party packed up and left. Thank goodness. What an uncomfortable evening that would have been. We later learned (through someone else in her party, before they left) that she had been terrified of a thunderstorm high on a ridge earlier that day (we had hiked several miles and dropped at least 2,000 feet off that ridge, and weren't in danger of lightning in the valley where we were now camped), and that she was in a panic mode.
Had she simply acknowledged us, apologized for the intrusion, and explained that she was fearful, the whole situation could have been avoided. But to barge into someone's camp and set up camp! It was bizarre.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby Hobbes » Sun Jul 13, 2014 4:07 pm

sparky wrote:I took a couple boys on a fun scramble, and it ended up being a great memory.


When I did my (sort of) annual back entry speed burn to Whitney in June, I passed a SOBO JMTer going up Forrester in the snow. We did the usual eat-a-snack-at-the-top-of-the-pass routine while talking to some PCTers. Turns out the JMTer was an experienced hiker from CO, and was sampling the "best" of the JMT ie south of Wanda & north of Langley. He didn't know how far south he was heading, and really hadn't thought about Whitney. He was just out for the week cruising around.

I took off shortly to get to my next stop @ Crabtree meadow. Also per usual, I sat on the x-c bluff by Diamond Mesa on the way to LSA to get organized and clean out my shoes. Once back on the PCT, I saw the same guy sitting down taking a break before the Tyndall crossing. He must have taken off shortly after me and passed me down below while I was on the bluff.

The first week of June is when a large number of PCTers are coming through the area. If they look interesting, I don't mind stopping for a few minutes to discuss conditions, etc. I was talking to one solo lady from England when the same fellow caught up and passed me. Great, now I have a hiking buddy - neither one of us is going to sit & wait to create some space, especially with clouds coming in.

So, as we're heading up the grade to Bighorn Plateau, I put on the afterburners and never looked back. I just needed to get to Crabtree pronto, because is was looking like a good rain storm. When I got to Crabtree, there wasn't anyone around; about a mile up, I found a very small, but good campsite off trail on a small cliff overlooking Whitney creek.

There were a few small sprinkles starting to hit as I put the finishing touches on my site. Then, climbing over a large fallen tree that was acting as a blind, comes my "hiking buddy". I couldn't believe it - it was actually sort of funny, because since he was also experienced, he had seen the same location qualities from behind. However, when he was coming over the tree, he saw me the same moment I saw him. LOL

He immediately apologized, but I interjected and said go ahead and stay. It was a good spot, sort of sheltered, and we could scramble down to the creek to get water. Besides, the storm was ready to let loose. So, he set up around 5' from me - all the room he had to squeeze in - and finished setting up his tent as it began to rain.

I was bushed and crawled in under my tarp. He was also worked, and hit the sack as well. Within 10 minutes, we were both in the middle of a major summer squall with all the fixins'. I fell asleep, woke around 9pm to see that it had cleared, and went back to sleep.

The next morning I was up around 5:30am, staying pretty quiet, but packing to get to Whitney and out. He said have fun through his tent, and I asked him whether or not he was going to summit. He said he didn't know, but to have a good hike.

Well, after I had been hanging out @ Whitney for around 45 minutes and was getting ready to head down, here comes "my shadow"! I greeted him and we hung out for few minutes to talk, and he laughed that since he was awake in his tent, he figured what else was he going to do? So, he decided to go up as well.

Another storm was heading in, and in fact was beginning to snow. I was ready to book it out of there, and ended up running the trail the entire way back to the junction where I had left my main pack. To make a short story long, I talked to Doug at the WPS for a little bit, caught a ride down to LP, got cleaned up @ the hostel, and was enjoying a beer outside on the patio of a restaurant across from Elevation, when who do I see entering the store?

I'm sitting at my table and I'm yelling across the 395, "compadre", "hermano" - since we had never exchanged names - but he doesn't hear me. So, I get up, tell the waitress to keep my tab going, and run across the street. You can imagine his surprise seeing me all fresh & tidy, but I invited him back for a beer. So, amongst the clean patrons, Ken plops down looking like a typical hiker that's been out for a week, and we share a couple of beers.

Turns out he was from CO, and was quite an outdoorsman. Anyway, he had left his car @ Onion valley, and needed to hitch a ride. He was in Elevation hand printing a sign when I walked in. I told him not to worry and asked our waitress if she knew anyone willing to drive him up the road. 10 minutes later, her friend is there, Ken is on his way, and she only charged $20.

Pretty cool, huh? Solo is great, because you can choose to interact, or not, and have all kinds of interesting experiences if you keep an open attitude.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby markskor » Sun Jul 13, 2014 4:41 pm

SweetSierra wrote: I was on a backpack in Colorado with a group of about 10 people when...I just couldn't keep quiet, and told her privately.

Being old, set in my ways, and sometimes even a wee bit cranky, I have no problems just coming out and telling it like it is...face to face...the hell with being private.

Solo backpacking means freedom, and when someone infringes on my space, I have no problem speaking up - like right now, diplomatic at first but not for long. Occasionally they have a good excuse...(not often though) and being able to tell off some rube - outright and plain - (well, it suits me just fine), and clears the air immediately.

I also occasionally pack up and move if they don't figure it out... but being a big guy, not too often.
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Re: Backpackers Etiquette.........

Postby Eiprahs » Mon Jul 14, 2014 11:29 am

I have been the transgressor walking thru someone’s camp. In my case I was on Mt Hood’s popular north side following a well-established use trail connecting the Vista Ridge Trail with Barrett Spur, a XC destination (and route) described in most area guidebooks.

Passers-by come with the territory when camp is established on a use trail. These folks had gone a long ways off official trail, and perhaps they were ignorant of the area’s history of use, but the unofficial trail was a clear sign of frequent traffic. On my return I took the alternate ridge top route to avoid their camp.

While not intending to intrude on the campers, I did have an expectation of free passage along the established use trail. I was as surprised to see them as they me. So we have a conflict of expectations—theirs for solitude, mine for right of passage. Whose expectation trumps the other’s?

For me proximity to use trails—human or animal—is a camp selection consideration. Whatever walks that trail is coming by sooner or later and I’d just as soon not have an elk or a human tripping over my tent guy lines in the middle of the night.

Mt Hood from North end of Barrett Spur

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