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Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

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Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby balzaccom » Tue Oct 14, 2014 12:07 pm

I am sure this will make some folks uncomfortable, but when do you speak up?

Since many of the contributors on these forums are very experienced backpackers, I thought I’d share this survey that came out of an on-going correspondence with a couple of rangers in our wilderness areas. So here is the scene: You are a backpacker two days in from a trailhead. You find someone in the wilderness doing the following activity. Do you

A. Ignore the activity and hike away?
B. Notify them that the activity violates USFS policy?
C. Notify them that the activity violates USFS policy and ask them to stop?
D. Take a photo to document the activity?
E. Step in and stop/fix the problem?
F. Report the activity to the authorities when you hike out?
G. Other?

And the activities we identified;

1.Building a new fire ring
2.Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood
3.Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden
4.Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream
5.Feeding wildlife
6.Leaving a fire or coals unattended
7.Littering
8.Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed
9.Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite
10.Mining with a pick and shovel

This is not intended to start a firestorm---it is a serious attempt to ask folks here what they would do. And since I am posing the question, it’s only fair that I provide the first set of answers:

1.Building a new fire ring—never seen someone actually doing this. Probably B
2.Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood. B, C, D, F
3.Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden. B and/or C, D and F.
4.Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream. B
5.Feeding wildlife. B, C….maybe more. I haven’t seen this
6.Leaving a fire or coals unattended. E, certainly. Maybe B, C and F
7.Littering. E, usually. We always pack out trash. If I see someone doing it, then B.
8.Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed. B?
9.Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite. B or C? D and maybe F.
10.Mining with a pick and shovel. B, C, D, F

Those aren’t perfect answers, I know. But it’s what I have done over the past ten years or so. And of course it all depends on the situation—if there are more of them than us, I am less likely to try to take a more active role, for obvious reasons.
Balzaccom

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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby markskor » Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:15 pm

1.Building a new fire ring... A
2.Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood ... A, C
3.Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden...A, B
4.Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream... A
5.Feeding wildlife... A
6.Leaving a fire or coals unattended... E
7.Littering... C, E
8.Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed... A
9.Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite...A, maybe B
10.Mining with a pick and shovel...A, F

Not really too confrontational unless absolutely necessary or provoked...rather just walk away...solo.
You cannot fix stupid.
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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby SSSdave » Tue Oct 14, 2014 1:53 pm

I have been talking for decades to other visitors about such issues. There are always going to be people that ignore public policies of all manner unless there is someone there to enforce such or embarrass them. Because of lack of backcountry enforcement there are modest numbers of inconsiderate selfish people and groups that do whatever they want as though they are special. Accordingly the only way to curb some of these abusers is for we enthusiasts that are able of doing so, to say something to them. In any case many people are too emotional in their communications to be able to say something to strangers or a group of strangers without receiving an angry reaction. That requires some tact and calmness. There are some loud aggressive young male groups I have chosen to leave alone. And I don't always have the time to bother. And as for the picture taking that would only be on the sly from a distance before walking up to a group.

To the list below would add these two am surprised you left out. On both I have talked to many and never demand they do anything but rather walk away and let them decide to do so on their own. I often first while smiling calmly, ask if they have a wilderness permit since a modest number of backcountry users don't even bother much less know policy.

D B 11. Camping/tenting much closer than 100 feet to lake edges.
Although could be a subset of your item 9.
D B 12. Having a fire where it is forbidden
Of course this is different than making a firering and the more likely scenario one will encounter.
D B 1.Building a new fire ring
Meaning they haven't yet started to burn anything.

D B 2.Chopping up or down a tree for fire wood
Never seen anyone do that but seen lots of scars. More common is breaking branches off living trees instead of using down wood.
B 3.Hiking with a dog where it is forbidden
Never while backpacking but have done so many times dayhiking.
A B 4.Fishing with bait in a fly-fishing only stream
Never experienced this.
A 5.Feeding wildlife
Not any issue with small creatures like ants, only biguns.
E 6.Leaving a fire or coals unattended
Never experienced this.

D 7.Littering
Never experienced catching anyone in the act in the backcountry doing so. But if did so would likely just give someone a mean glare as that would be enough to embarrass them since they know what they are doing is wrong without needing to listen to a speech. Urban parks are overrun with pigs and blame local authorities and society for letting it be so.
A 8.Hiking in a group that is larger than allowed
Don't care.
D B 9.Camping in an illegal area or illegal/closed campsite
Yeah sure have, like within 1/4 mile of Thousand Island Lake outlet.
A 10.Mining with a pick and shovel
Don't care.

A. Ignore the activity and hike away?
B. Notify them that the activity violates USFS policy?
C. Notify them that the activity violates USFS policy and ask them to stop?
D. Take a photo to document the activity?
E. Step in and stop/fix the problem?
F. Report the activity to the authorities when you hike out?
G. Other?
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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Tue Oct 14, 2014 7:39 pm

First, I do not meet many people since I do mostly off-trail travel. I mostly mind my own business and walk away, except for a fire that needs to be put out and litter than can easily be picked up. It is quite effective if the offender can actually see you pick up his garbage. Pick it up and give him a big smile. If the behavior impacts me, I do speak up - I have asked people to be quiet when it gets late. I rather not be the backcountry police. A few times I have taken photos of obvious permanent stashes left by commercial packers and given the photo and location to the FS. If I see someone who is about to do something that is very dangerous, I will speak up - for example getting ready to cross a stream that is obviously not safely crossable. In general, I would really rather not even speak to anyone I meet. I smile but do not say anything.
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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby richlong8 » Tue Oct 14, 2014 9:54 pm

All the issues you mention are good points and good practices. Since you asked, I would say, that I tend to mind my own business. In 40 years of hiking, I cannot think of any situation where anyone ever come up and confronted me about any issue, and I might not appreciate it if they did! :D
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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Oct 15, 2014 7:56 am

I say something. Usually as a casual aside, "hey, you know, dogs aren't allowed on this trail and there's like a huge fine - saw a ranger at the top too." I get "he's a service dog" sometimes and then I respond "good, so you have papers to show the ranger to prove that." And walk off. Like I'm doing them a favor. And if I see a ranger I'll tell them about it.

I reported a group of rude guys who would not restrain their German Shepherd that harassed our campsite in Dinkey. They also built a bonfire that reached the low branches of pine trees (there was a complete ban at the time). The Dinkey ranger station volunteer radioed it immediately to someone, so I'd guess someone went to check it out.

It kind of depends. One time at a lake someone across the water built a huge fire, I shouted "so much for a fire ban - hope the wilderness doesn't burn up with us in it!" Which was somewhat anonymous given it was one of those first night out lakes where people congregate, and there were other groups around.

There's a fine line between reminding people to stop being selfish or careless, and instigating something you don't care to deal with. I really dislike confrontation, but I also really thought the Rim Fire guy got off way too easy. He should be out there picking up after himself on trail crew.
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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby richlong8 » Wed Oct 15, 2014 8:28 am

AlmostThere wrote:It kind of depends. One time at a lake someone across the water built a huge fire, I shouted "so much for a fire ban - hope the wilderness doesn't burn up with us in it!" Which was somewhat anonymous given it was one of those first night out lakes where people congregate, and there were other groups around.

In my quest this year for easy backpacks after back surgery, I went into Dinkey Lakes Wilderness twice this year, once from the Dinkey trailhead, and the other time from the Cliff Lake trailhead to Nelson Lake. I would have to say that many of the "abuses" you brought up are seem to be very prevalent in the Dinkey Lakes Wilderness. I don't want to offend anyone, just my opinion, but it is probably the least favorite of any wilderness area that I have ever traveled. I think that with the amount of people that go into that area, and many of them are probably returnees, trying to aggressively correct long standing patterns of behavior might be quite difficult for people like you and me. I don't consider it worth the risk to my personal safety if those that get paid to "police" the area and enforce the rules are obviously not that actively involved. More people are willing to be agressive these days when confronted(see road rage), and more people are armed than many people realize. I would just as soon go to other areas, and leave that area for others.
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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Oct 15, 2014 9:49 am

Since I have met the lead ranger in charge of Dinkey, I know that changes are being made. While we were out for a week on trail crew she had interns who took turns hiking around the loop talking to people and issuing fines. They have a huge problem with people who just go without a permit.
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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby SSSdave » Wed Oct 15, 2014 1:10 pm

AlmostThere wrote:Since I have met the lead ranger in charge of Dinkey, I know that changes are being made. While we were out for a week on trail crew she had interns who took turns hiking around the loop talking to people and issuing fines. They have a huge problem with people who just go without a permit.


That confirms what I have been suspecting all along especially among peakbaggers and climbers. So as for those backpacking without wilderness permits, some NFS persons have been saying for years that is not the case and that there are just small numbers that don't get permits. But have suspected that is just so it does not encourage those that would not bother with permits either if they thought lots of others were not bothering. And I'd bet it is particularly the case on Saturday mornings because with quota trails, as it is difficult for m-f 8-5 working weekend enthusiasts to get permits when permits can be picked up the day before on Friday after 11am. Something I want national forests to change for just that one day of the week. Also for a weekender, having to wait to start an activity because it requires waiting around at some ranger station till it opens at 8am or whatever and then driving to a trailhead to start hiking maybe an hour or so later, is going to significantly cut into the little time that is available. Why the night box system ought be universal.

Lack of rangers in the backcountry is growing a group of people that do whatever they want to because they don't have to worry about being cited. For a long time it has been obvious to this person from occasional web threads like this that the majority of we enthusiasts won't speak up either and in fact not a few have been hostile to the fact there are a few like this person that do and are speaking out promoting others consider doing so also.
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Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Oct 15, 2014 2:20 pm

there are now signs at the turnoffs at Tamarack and Rock Creek Road instructing people that they need permits to spend the night in the wilderness. Probably to counter those people who have the excuse I drove all the way to the trailhead and I don't want to drive an hour out and then an hour back just to have a piece of paper. also, to get round the excuse that they didn't know they needed a permit in the first place.

One time I accidentally went with one of these people who intentionally ignores such rules. We were out there and I realized as we returned to the parking lot that he did not have a permit. there was a Ranger truck, obviously a ranger was on the loop trail checking permits. He commented on being relieved that we had not run into him. Last time I went on a backpacking trip where I did not get the permit.


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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby rlown » Wed Oct 15, 2014 7:11 pm

not gonna do the ABCDEF thing. It's pretty simple. You size up who you're dealing with and decide the next step. i like to speak up, unless they are better armed at the time than I am. So, I guess I like G.

I make it up as I go.

Agree completely that Dinkey is out of control. If you're starting a fire at Paris out in French, I will talk to you!
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Re: Do you speak up...or walk on by...?

Postby oldranger » Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:50 pm

Having been a ranger I now have a problem with dealing with these kind of issues in the backcountry. Like Daisy most of my time is either early in the season with no one else out or I'm off trail. So I generally never have an opportunity to confront transgressors and if I did meet up with one it is unlikely that I would do anything unless their action directly impacted me. I will speak up if I think someone may be endangering themselves or someone in their party. A couple of weeks ago as Kathy and I were finishing a day hike the day before the start of hunting season. We met a young woman with a little girl obviously hiking in for an overnighter. I passed then turned around and asked if they had any blaze orange gear. She said no and I informed her that the next day was the start of hunting season. She had no idea but continued on despite my warning. Last year Mark and I ran into a pair of hikers just a half mile up the Pine Creek Trail. One was obviously in distress and way behind the first. We suggested to the first hiker that he consider waiting until the following morning when it would be much cooler. But he said his friend would tough it out. Ah well, so much for trying to be helpful.

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