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Campground 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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Campground etiquette

Postby markskor » Thu Aug 11, 2011 11:07 am

Just a few words on “proper” (whatever the hell that means) etiquette in crowded, walk-in campsites…Discussion invited.

This summer, had occasion to stay over a few nights in two Yosemite BP sites – Tuolumne and the Valley, (but absolutely sure that there are countless other areas that fit the bill too.)

3 Observations:
One night TM backpacker…maybe 7:00 – 8:00 PM, almost full but not yet packed and still steadily trickling in. This one individual had a shiny, new hatchet and proud of it or so it seems. You know those big sitting logs, maybe 10 feet long and 1 ½ feet thick? (Need I go on?) This clown went to work on one – womp, womp, womp – this went on for a good hour...rang throughout the entire campground. A few of us, mostly PCT hikers – (always good company albeit somewhat sarcastic), started wondering as to what was going on, and decided to go over/ pay a visit. Without saying a word we sat down at his picnic table and watched a spell. “Just here for the show; mind if we watch…Taking that thing backpacking with you? Ever think about sharpening it? Have you paused to think that you are the only one in the entire campground beating a log to death? Think you may stop soon?”
He asked us to leave, continuing even faster for another 5 minutes or so, before calling it a night.

Valley BP another night, this group of rookie backpackers, there for a “pay $600 for a week and have someone show you the ropes” trip. They obviously had all new gear, some still in the box…carton creases still evident on some clothes… (Got the picture?). Most had paid some big bucks for their brand-spanking-new equipment, new headlamps too; they wore them proudly – high beams. A few seemed somewhat offended when asked to turn down the blinders. Come on people, when it gets dark, either turn down the high-beams or wear them around your neck. On the trail is one thing, but…

Many enter into the crowded campground late and ask: How does finding a place to camp here work? Best answer heard: “Welcome…Always room for another; find a hole, and smile.” This does not mean that you can set up your tent 1 foot from mine, or keep your headlamps on stun, or play music devices and/or have a loud discussion late while you eat dinner (after 10:00 PM). Nobody minds you getting in late – understand completely – but please be somewhat quiet and be aware that most here are getting up early with the sun. Moreover, (repeating above message again), everybody else’s eyes are adjusted to the dark…headlamps actually hurt other's eyes while you casually look around.

Just my 2¢
Mark
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Aug 11, 2011 11:25 am

I think the park service could do a better job with information on how to use "walk-in" per-person type campsites. The etiquette here is a bit different than a car-camping site. One is sharing. When you use the backpacker's campgrounds, you implicitly agree to share campsites when all sites fill up. Another is quiet. You also implicilty agree to earlier "quite times" and minimal use of electronic noise making gagets. The purpose of these sites is backpacking, and backpackers need to get up early. You do not use these sites to socialize all night. Do not slam the bear box! Bear boxes are SO noisy. Learn how to open and close them with minimal clanking.

A gripe of mine -- if you do not know how to build a low-smoke fire, do not build a fire! Fires are nice, but smoke is not!

I certainly am with you on headlamps and lights. It annoys me no end when nowadays, seems like everyone is scared of the dark. Lots of people leave a lantern on the table, on ALL night!

Another thing- bear boxes are also shared, and are for food. Do not fill them up putting your totally loaded pack inside.

Be able to judge people's response to your chatting. If they just say hi, and do not continue, it usually means they do not want to chat with you. Be friendly, but do not assume everyone wants to talk to strangers.

Do not get drunk and puke all over. Very rude.
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby quentinc » Thu Aug 11, 2011 1:51 pm

I hate campgrounds and this reminds me of some of the reasons why! I'd rather sleep in my car (which can be moved in the event of annoyances).
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby rlown » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:57 pm

never stayed in a backpacker's CG in my life. I avoid it like the plague. If heading to Yose from either direction I stay outside the park, sometimes on small spur roads or in a paid campsite like Ellery or Tioga lk spots. i'm not really a people watcher so I don't really care to be with the herds.
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby maverick » Thu Aug 11, 2011 2:59 pm

Some of the very reasons that you won't find me in one, though like Mark said
there are some cool folks to hang out with too.
People can be totally inconsiderate, loud, extremely obnoxious, and these are
some of the very things I am happy to get away from back at home, and are
the very last things I would like to put up with, even in the front country.
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby Hobbes » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:17 pm

IMHO, it's not the campground that's the problem, it's the location(s).

A quick perusal of any map will clearly identify the two major points of entry on the east side: state highways 168 (Bishop Cyn = Piute/Evo/Bishop) and 203 (Mammoth = Reds/Devil PP). Not coincidentally, the two largest towns also sit at the intersections of these primary arteries & US 395.

Now, the same exact analysis can be performed for the west side. While there are more state highways that worm their way into the Sierra, the two majors are 180 (Kings Cyn = Rae Lakes), and of course 140/41 (Yosemite = Valley).

[Now, in the Valley's defense, the entire scene there has actually become part of the experience; sort of like going to Time's Square in NYC.]

But, the real problem with these particular roads is not just the volume of traffic, but the fact that they *dead end*. That is, there is limited dispersal & maximum compaction, which is why you get the complete zoo situation at the THs and trails (including enforcement of 'legal' campsites, etc.)

In many ways, 120 (Tioga pass), while carrying the most traffic, actually has the least impact. Other than TM, traffic on the 120 tends to disperse everyone in various directions, including many who are simply passing through from one side to the other.

So the trick is to go to places where others don't - especially beginners. That means finding more obscure spots frequented by those possessing at least an intermediate level of experience.

Same thing is true in all activities. My oldest is learning how to surf, so I periodically take him to a beginner spot when a swell is running. What happens? Other beginners drop in, let go of their boards, fall off, you name it, the whole gamut.

But that's the price of going to that spot. Same is true of going to one of the Sierra 'majors'. You're gonna get the yelling, the vandalism, the improperly disposed waste, the whole 9 yards. It's a waste of time trying to teach anyone, other than your own direct charges (and that's a whole other set of challenges LOL), proper camping etiquette, so it's best to just ferret out other locations and avoid the situation altogether.
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Aug 11, 2011 5:50 pm

The Yosemite Valley BP campground is extremely handy and I use it a lot, even though I do not like campgrounds. You can walk right out of the campground onto the trail and be on your way at dawn. If I camp outside the park it is nearly an hour to get to the Valley and park the car. I mostly hike out of Yosemite Valley off-season and it gets little use then. I usually do not like my opinion of these campgrounds get in the way of the fact that using them makes getting an early start very efficient. Always take ear plugs! I pull my hat down over my eyes to block the light.
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby markskor » Thu Aug 11, 2011 6:53 pm

“So the trick is to go to places where others don't - especially beginners. That means finding more obscure spots frequented by those possessing at least an intermediate level of experience…It's a waste of time trying to teach anyone.”

What?

Your explanation seems a bit convoluted; what it seems to say (at least to me,) is that we hard-core backpackers should avoid a World Class arena – Yosemite – just because rookies also/often frequent the park too and you cannot teach a rookie how properly to conduct themselves?

Agreed that Yosemite sometimes looks the other way at the backpacker camps… Many staying over (especially the two-story tent/ lawn chair crowd) are obviously not backpackers…still they do somehow (rangers check) possess a valid wilderness permit, entitling them to stay over the one night legally. However, the majority staying over at these camps are truly backpackers, needing that one Valley night somewhere. Where else can we go without prior reservations or standing in line?

Also agree with WD that these campgrounds conveniently enable us that early trail start and/or a last late-night sanctuary; their location and lack of cars/generators providing the only “safe” and temporary Valley haven now available to Yosemite backpackers.

What bothers me most is your last line – “It's a waste of time trying to teach anyone.” Isn’t that what this forum is all about – education?
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby Shawn » Thu Aug 11, 2011 8:50 pm

new headlamps too; they wore them proudly – high beams.

LOL, thanks Mark, now that I've cleaned the Pepsi of my computer monitor.... :lol:

Some years back a me and a buddy stopped to camp for the night at Junction Meadow/Bubbs Creek. Sometime after sunset, three guys show up with similarly new headlamps and began making a bunch of noise setting up camp. Literally everything they had with them, including their clothes, were brand spanking new. We even witnessed owners manuals being read in order to pitch tents, lights stoves and filter water. It was actually our entertainment for the night.
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby Hobbes » Sat Aug 13, 2011 9:49 am

markskor wrote:what it seems to say (at least to me,) is that we hard-core backpackers should avoid a World Class arena – Yosemite – just because rookies also/often frequent the park too and you cannot teach a rookie how properly to conduct themselves?

That's exactly what I'm saying. I gather I'm a bit older than you, so perhaps one day you'll come to share a similar opinion. As we age, many tend to look back on certain experiences and realize that as times change, they can never be re-captured. So, it's best just to keep the memory and move on.

For example, when I was a kid, the state's pop was under 15m - now it's on its way to 35m. (In fact, I remember when the Santa Clara valley still had orchards and wasn't yet Silicon valley.) While we can't turn back the clock, we also don't need to subject ourselves to conditions that we remember as once pristine. When you're my age, maybe the state's pop will be 70m and you'll echo the same sentiment - image what Yosemite will look like in that scenario.

markskor wrote:What bothers me most is your last line – “It's a waste of time trying to teach anyone.” Isn’t that what this forum is all about – education?

I also gather than you're a school teacher. Again, one day you might reflect on your experiences and question whether or not you ever really 'taught'. That is, those who were going to succeed anyway only needed direction & guidance, while those destined for less stellar lives could not/would not be taught.

Ultimately, it gets down to one's opinion regarding family vs societal conditioning. I believe one should stick to what one can directly control; that is, their own personal family. Since that's my belief, I focus teaching my own kids proper rules/behavior/etiquette, and no one else.
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby markskor » Sat Aug 13, 2011 11:40 am

Hobbes,
Bit off-put by your recent postings.
You write: "When you're my age... image what Yosemite will look like."
Imagine that it will most probably look the same, once you get past that "more than one-day-in" barrier. Sure, things in the Valley, at trailheads, and all those close, day-hiking distances are far from pristine...never were in my lifetime either. This condition also exists in most other Sierra areas too, not just Yosemite. 20 miles in though, things still look pretty good. All we are asking for is one "civilized" place in Yosemite Valley from where we backpackers can start out from - conveniently. Interesting to note (talking with a Tuolumne Ranger recently) that they find the Tuolumne BP site the cleanest venue of all overnight sites there. The fact that you choose to go elsewhere has little bearing on whether others here still find Yosemite backcountry intriguing.

You then write: "One day you might reflect on your experiences and question whether or not you ever really 'taught'." Counter here with a resounding YES, and wonder if you really know what you are talking about. IMHO, In a typical high school classroom environment, there are 3 classes of kids: The A/B students (~1/3); these will always succeed. All they need is guidance and structure. The clowns, (the 1/3 of those who proudly cannot read, and possessing attitude); sadly agree most of these will probably never make it. (FYI, Statistics show here in Sacramento, that out of 40 of my classroom kids, 5 will be dead or in jail within 3 years.) What we teachers strive for, what we work hardest at, is reaching that middle third, those who could easily go either way. This is where the education process takes place today.

"Ultimately, it gets down to one's opinion regarding family vs societal conditioning. I believe one should stick to what one can directly control; that is, their own personal family." Kudos to you, but what about those kids who do not have a family/ no live-at-home father/ or anyone at home that they can learn from?
Unfortunately, with no parental guidance at home, this "learn from" stipulation mentioned, sadly falls today to the schools, and thus into my hands. I can and do make a difference - daily.
Mark
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Re: Campground etiquette

Postby rightstar76 » Sun Aug 14, 2011 1:12 am

As a public school teacher in another life, I agree with Markskor. You can't save every student, but you sure can change the direction the middle group is headed. I always felt good about my impact as a teacher in that respect. Teachers are heroes for that reason.

I agree with Hobbes on one point which is that Yosemite is so popular, it attracts large numbers of campers who care little about the needs of others. I stay clear of places like that just for that reason, and I always bring ear plugs just in case.

Years ago when I worked for a camping store, I remember holiday weekends where people would come in on Friday afternoon to buy boots and get upset when I told them we were out of their size. "We're on our way to Yosemite so it has to fit" was a common response. Someone in their group would be busy buying the tent, stove, etc. I can only imagine how noisy it was when they showed up at the campground late that night trying to put everything together. As much as we deserve good behavior in Yosemite, good luck if we can actually find it.
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