Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really? | High Sierra Topix  

Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby WarrenFork » Thu Jul 02, 2015 2:39 pm

I have seen a big decline in overall human impact on the Sierra backcountry since I started going out in the early 1970s, for all the reasons giantbrookie mentions. The best way to improve things at Whitney and other overused areas is also the most consonant with the intent of the Wilderness Act. Stop maintaining trails. Reintroduce grizzlies and wolves into their former habitats. Close roads that lead to trailheads such as Onion Valley. Fear and laziness are more effective regulators of human behavior than regulations and rangers with citation books.

As it happens I was backpacking last week in the high country of eastern Arizona where populations of Mexican gray wolves have been released into the wild. When I stopped at a ranger station on my way out I picked up a booklet with capsule descriptions of wilderness and primitive areas in southwestern national forests. It is prefaced with a quotation from Aldo Leopold that is worth repeating in full:

No servant brought them meals...No traffic cop whistled them off the hidden rock in the next rapids. No friendly roof kept them dry when they misguessed whether or not to pitch the tent. No guide showed them which camping spots offered a nightlong breeze and which nightlong misery of mosquitoes; which firewood made clear coals and which would only smoke. The elemental simplicities of wilderness travels were thrills...because they represented complete freedom to make mistakes. The wilderness gave...those rewards and penalties for wise and foolish acts...against which civilization has built a thousand buffers.

If you want to blame a politician for the sad state of affairs at Whitney and along the JMT, self-proclaimed inventor of the Internet Al Gore is a likelier culprit than Ronald Reagan. Access to detailed and reassuring "beta" about every aspect of a backcountry route and destination encourages the herd instinct that leads to wilderness blight. Reliance on electronic devices in the backcountry itself serves further to buffer away the perception that danger and risk are part and parcel of the freedom of the hills.

I think it's wildly optimistic to assume that the OP is preaching to the choir on HST. A quick glance at the user stats shows that the ten most prolific contributors account for fully 28% of all posts. The top 50 probably account for two-thirds or more. Thousands of people visit the site. The information available to them here is the only known quantity. What they do with it, and with what sensitivity and in what spirit, is anyone's guess.



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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby Tom_H » Thu Jul 02, 2015 2:46 pm

Kelbaker wrote:yep, I always carry a bag of trash in my pack and add to it as the trip goes along, as the weight of food goes down the trash goes up, it alway makes me feel good to leave it cleaner then when I found it.


Same here. As an instructor, we used to teach our students the same thing. We'd pick up and carry out every piece of stray trash we saw.

And BTW, welcome to the forum. Hope you'll post more.
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby schmalz » Thu Jul 02, 2015 4:47 pm

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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby oleander » Fri Jul 03, 2015 10:13 pm

WarrenFork wrote:I have seen a big decline in overall human impact on the Sierra backcountry since I started going out in the early 1970s


That's an unexpected and interesting perspective. I wasn't out backpacking in the early 1970s, so I didn't realize, nor would I have guessed, that the impact was actually worse back then.

Do you mean that there were more people going off-trail back then (and therefore damaging off-trail areas that are now more pristine)? Or that all areas (including trailed areas) were more trashed then? And if so, what do you attribute that to? (Or, conversely - to what do you attribute the somewhat less messy habits people have today vs. back then?)

Interesting.

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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Jul 04, 2015 8:32 pm

oleander wrote:
WarrenFork wrote:I have seen a big decline in overall human impact on the Sierra backcountry since I started going out in the early 1970s


That's an unexpected and interesting perspective. I wasn't out backpacking in the early 1970s, so I didn't realize, nor would I have guessed, that the impact was actually worse back then.

Do you mean that there were more people going off-trail back then (and therefore damaging off-trail areas that are now more pristine)? Or that all areas (including trailed areas) were more trashed then? And if so, what do you attribute that to? (Or, conversely - to what do you attribute the somewhat less messy habits people have today vs. back then?)

Interesting.

- Elizabeth

What he means is that there was actually a greater number of people going into the wilderness back in the 70's versus today (I myself have been backpacking since the late 60's so I have witnessed this qualitatively, too). The decline in usage is borne out by the statistics that have been kept by various agencies. Over the past two decades or so, whereas the overall number of people going into the wilderness (ie hiking instead of simply driving their cars into the mountains) has declined (and hence the overall impact), they have tended to concentrate more than in the past years around the "famous" locations and routes, such as the JMT, PCT, Mt Whitney, Half Dome, etc. Thus, the popular destinations are more severely impacted whereas the usage in other areas has correspondingly fallen. The other rationale for decreased overall impact in the wilderness has been partly institutional and educational: In the 1970's there were virtually no campfire restrictions. Folks would routinely saw limbs off of living trees to get firewood in some popular areas--one could see sawn off limbs in many areas--it was pretty bad. Campfire rings were abundant around every lake. Beginning, I believe, in the 1970's, or perhaps earlier, wilderness permit quotas starting being implemented. I remember these because I found them rather onerous at first--especially since even then I was aiming at some remote destination but had to deal with getting under the quota at a popular entry point. Needless to say these quotas have helped minimize overall backcountry impact. There were no group size limits in the old days whereras these quickly became implemented in the wilderness permit era. When the Sierra Club (yes the Sierra Club) would do these big group trips (not the smaller peak bagging trips that I went on with my dad) they had a tradition of these rather large groups and giant bonfires. This is not something that is permitted nowadays. I believe the regulations regarding use of stock and the like have also become much more restrictive since the 1970's but I could be wrong.

Accordingly the overall number of people going into the backcountry has decreased since the 70's, and the general behavior, in theory, is better, because there are many things that were allowed back in the 1970's that are not allowed today. However, because increase in herd mentality since the 70's in society in general and in the backcountry, specifically, there are more people concentrating on the most popular trails and destinations. In addition to the number of people, this also tends to concentrate more folks that may not be as environmentally sensitive as veteran mountain folk at the popular destinations, although I think much of the problem at the popular destinations is a product of population density alone rather than an increase in bad behavior (ie the more people you have the higher the odds that a few individuals will behave badly). I liken this to mountain roads and Yosemite. You find far more technically deficient and ill mannered drivers on Yosemite roads than you do on Highway 168 because first timers in the Sierra are far more apt to be in Yosemite than they are somewhere up 168. Hence I find many more ill mannered drivers (ie those that don't use pull outs when there are 20 cars behind them) and/or those deficient in skill (take corners at 15 mph that I routinely do at 3x that) in Yosemite than I do elsewhere in the Sierra.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby oldranger » Sat Jul 04, 2015 10:24 pm

While fishing at George lake, one of the mammoth lakes Marskor and I went to put our packs in one of several bear boxes scattered thru the picnic area. It was filled with trash!

Yes, stock use is greatly reduced. Trend probably started in 60's. I remember when there were 4 pack stations along the road between Beasore Meadow and clover Meadow. Now there is one. The fist restrictions were pretty limited. Then numbers per party were restricted but large pack trains of 20 or more still occurred. In national parks stock use is pretty muc limited to trails wit a few exceptions. Now commercial use is significantly limited and packers are limited as to how many groups can be taken in to specific destinations. But the big reduction in stock use is due to the development of lightweight gear that opened up the backcountry to backpacking.

Personally I think there is more use in off trail areas than in the past. In the 60's I can't remember ever meeting anyone off trail. In the 70's I began to encounter people off trail. During the 80's I saw user trails develop from year to year in the great western divide. In recent years it has not been uncommon to encounter people off trail during late July or August but earlier and later in the season I seldom encounter people. Of course I also tend to avoid popular, easily accessible areas like humphreys basin.

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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby giantbrookie » Sat Jul 04, 2015 11:32 pm

oldranger wrote:Personally I think there is more use in off trail areas than in the past. In the 60's I can't remember ever meeting anyone off trail. In the 70's I began to encounter people off trail. During the 80's I saw user trails develop from year to year in the great western divide. In recent years it has not been uncommon to encounter people off trail during late July or August but earlier and later in the season I seldom encounter people. Of course I also tend to avoid popular, easily accessible areas like humphreys basin.
Mike

Hi Mike, do you really think there are more folks going off trail than in the 70's? There are a lot of use trails that were well traveled in the 70's that have faded to nothing and are now overgrown. One of the many examples is the Cup Lake route from Hwy 50 in Desolation described in Robert Wood's now out-of-print Deso book. It was totally overgrown by the late 80's and could only be followed for short segments. The residents of the cabin called "Tall Timber" (mentioned as a landmark in the Deso book) had been staying there for generations and they recalled when folks would regularly (70's) take that route to Cup and the trail was well worn, but they had seen the use fall off. In the Kaiser and Dinkey Lakes Wilderness area are several routes shown as "unmaintained trails" on the USFS maps that don't exist at all anymore. I suspect these were pretty clear routes back in the 70s. My observation today is that a tiny fraction of Sierra hikers know how to read a topo map which is an essential skill for hiking off trail hiking. In contrast I can recall even the most casual of Sierran hikers among my high school friends (in the 70s) bringing topo maps to school to compare proposed routes with me (ie it was clear from their questions that they knew very well how to read a topo). And these friends did in fact go on off trail backpacking trips. My impression is that a larger proportion of off trail hikers today want to follow "canned" off trail routes such as the SHR leaving more improvisational off trail route development to a scant few.

Other than the degradation of unofficial and use trails in many areas, I don't seem to have observed much of a change in the number of off trail hikers I've met from the late 60's to the present because I so rarely run into people off trail. I didn't run into many folks off trail back in the 70's but I wasn't going on as many trips as I did in the 80's and 90's. Over the years I have run into so few people off trail I can remember the few times I did, which are (more proximal peaks such as Mt Conness are excluded): Whitney Mountaineers route 1970, Lake Catherine 1973, Big Blue Lake (Russian Wilderness) 1987; Fisher Lake (I80 country) 1989, Upper Horton L 1991 (just before I almost got squashed by boulder), Knapsack Pass 1993, Dumbbell Lakes 1993 (never quite met this group--we saw them heading over the pass from Lakes Basin), Sky Blue L 1996, Crabtree 3 1996 (not a soul did we encounter at Wallace L., Wright Lakes Basin, Upper Kern, Williamson bowl, during the rest of that trip), Lamarck Col (many people, multiple years), same for Darwin Cyn, L 11106 in 1996 but had lake to self in 1997, encountered plenty of folks in Humphreys Basin and French Cyn (Puppet et al.) in 1997 including several camped at what is now fishless Knob L. and a Sierra Peaks section peak bagging group headed for Pilot Knob. In 1998 we heard several voices well ahead of us while ascending to the Sphinx Lakes but we never saw anyone there. On a 1994 trip Judy and I heard (but did not see) a party somewhere below L 10212, met a solitary backpacker at Martha L., and two at Davis Lake. The most folks I ever saw at an off trail backpacking destination was at Maneaten Lake (Marble Mtns Wilderness) in 1982. There must have been a half dozen small groups there, all of whom were serious backcountry fisherfolks. It was the most interesting convergence of this sort I've ever experienced. There were some really good fish stories traded (and a lot of info, of course).

In any case, on the vast majority of my off trail trips (1967-2015) I didn't encounter a soul off trail. This includes ALL of my recent trips, such as Mordor I 2002 (Tablelands-Deadman-Glacier Ridge-Josephine L-CloudCyn-Triple Divide-Lion L), Mordor II 2003 (Kaweah Basin-Red Spur), West Desolation 2005 (Huth-to-Highland-to-Top), Blackchuck 2007, Tunechuck 2008, all family trips to easy-to-reach off trail spots in 168 country (2007-2015), Yosemite-Inside-Out (Lost Lakes et al.) 2014. I note that I did in fact see a car parked at Hoffman Mtn (ie other than mine) for the first time (3rd time hiking out of there) when I returned from the Woodchuck trip this year. We did not encounter the hiker or hikers, however.
Since my fishing (etc.) website is still down, you can be distracted by geology stuff at: http://www.fresnostate.edu/csm/ees/facu ... ayshi.html
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby justm » Sun Jul 05, 2015 12:09 pm

Yes the trash is so depressing, I've certainly come across a lot of it, and packed out as much as I can. I just got back from a trip out of Mineral King trailhead and am happy to say, I saw very little , almost no trash on my hike. My friend and I saw only a handful of people, and had a clean campsite every night. So there's hope !
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby DavePloessel » Sun Jul 05, 2015 8:39 pm

iHartMK wrote:It's all of those LA & Orange County people. Last weekend I came across 4 tents about 3 feet from waters edge while walking around Jennie Lake. When I asked them where they were from, they said the Los Angeles area... of course. Is there no mountains down south?? Then Sunday after they left I walked through their camp, fire was still smoking and their trash was still there. SMH


the funny thing about people from la and orange county is 99.9% of them are from somewhere else. Stupidity knows no geography.

as far as the OP, preaching to the choir, and why i like off trail/less visited areas and avoid high traffic places like whitney like the plague.

sometimes we all are part of the problem though, even if we don't intend to be. (More on that later)
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby caddis » Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:57 am

Store-bought backpackers. You can't buy class, common sense, and ethics on the internet or at REI
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby bluefintu » Mon Jul 06, 2015 9:49 pm

I'm a Scoutmaster here in L.A. and we find things that's ours. I hooped and hollered that I found two empty wine bottles and now they were all mine! The Scouts were kind of dumbfounded, (that I found trash) but, now it's okay to pick something up to keep the place clean. Wait till I find a wag bag, that will be very funny in front of the Scouts. Thank God for Purrell.

My Scouts also found some nice things, last year a Scout found a nice camera and we found the owner on the trail, my son found a watch and found the owner on the trail. Sunglasses that were dropped from hikers that past us, were given back, with double time hiking up-hill, that always kicks my butt. But, all the things found were retuned to the owners, they all said "Thank You" witch it made it worth it.

I try to teach my Scouts, don't ruin "MY HOME" or else, you may not go backpacking with me again. Wherever we camp, it has to have that natural look where no one has been there before we leave. (I'm sorry if you have to move the pine needles or extra little rocks that we sprinkle around at a campsite) So, if anyone here drops some trash, it's all MINE! (Except for the good stuff. I'll do my best to return it)

Also, if I'm camping by you, I'm sorry if we are noisy. My Scouts are out by 9:00pm. I have awesome Boy Scouts!!! :)
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Re: Trash, trash, more trash, and wag bags - really?

Postby oldranger » Mon Jul 06, 2015 10:28 pm

bluefintu

Thanks for taking the time to be a leader and teaching the right way to backpack.

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