Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

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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Hobbes
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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by Hobbes » Tue Aug 28, 2018 11:36 am

Since it appears it's time for yet another thread about crowds, I guess it's time once again for my bi-monthly observation about population growth.

I just got back from another road trip travelling from SoCal to the Bay area. It's surprising - at least to me - to realize I've been doing this trip for around 40 years. Yikes.

When I moved from Saratoga to UCSB, I traveled down the 101. This was long before SR 85 was completed between 280/101, so rather than take the long way down Blossom hill, I jumped over to Santa Cruz on 17, and then took a short-cut to hit the 101 right before Salinas. I distinctly recall how empty the Salinas valley was, and how small Paso, SLO & Santa Maria were back then. Most of the 101 was still just two lanes, and all sections allowed some traffic to enter/leave - in addition to overpasses - from side roads controlled by only stop signs.

I don't need to go into details of how different it all is now. It long ceased to be a fun getaway mini-roadtrip; now, it's all traffic the entire way, with only the shortest of sections through Ardo that resemble traffic levels from long ago.

Faced with this reality, one essentially has two choices: adapt/accept, or complain. Complaining doesn't do anyone any good, because it bores your family & friends, and simply causes unhappiness all around.

So, in true zen fashion, one must adapt & accept. The first step is to recognize some basic principles involving growth rates and population doubling. I've posted many times, but here it is again: Calif has been growing @ an average 2% annual growth rate since 1850. This produces a doubling within 35 years, which corresponds with California's population doubling from 20m to 40m during that same time period.

Unsaid, of course, is that the next doubling will take place yet again in an other 35 years, only this time it will grow from 40m to 80m. Sobering, yes; cause you to swear you're moving out of state? Maybe. But facts are facts, and that's just the way the ball bounces (or cookie crumbles).

It's easy to extrapolate both global and national population growth rate levels using the same basic exponential functions. Add advanced technology in communications and transportation, and if resident Californians didn't represent usage pressures on the JMT, then everyone else will happily oblige.

Faced with these prospects, one really has merely another decision tree to consider: stop going, deal with the crowds, or develop alternative plans/techniques visiting less popular venues.

It's all pretty simple, and if you're willing to figure out how to continue to make it work, then there are plenty of strategies that can be employed to carve out what remaining places of solitude exist. But it's up to you to assume the personal responsibility for taking these actions - complaining, advocating ceding add'l oversight/control, group commiseration or employing any host of negative methods are both short-sighted and ultimately ineffective.








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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by MountainMinstrel » Fri Sep 07, 2018 1:20 pm

I guess I'm the odd duck here. I'm an older guy (62) and have been backpacking now for 14 years. Over the last four years I have begun to find hiking trails boring and so tend to spend much more time off trail that on. However, next year I will be taking a sabbatical and plan to hike the JMT as it will probably be the one and only chance I will ever get. I will be going solo so will most likely spend half of my nights camped far away from others and yet I actually enjoy the comradery of being around other people doing the same thing I am doing so the nights I spend in crowded camps will be as pleasant as those spent alone.

I am not hiking the JMT because everyone else is or even because it is a check mark on my bucket list. I am hiking it because one other person did (my Grandmother) and I have always wanted to follow her footsteps on that trail.

The way I see it is that the Sierra Nevada is really big so if you don't like crowds, stay away from them. But, don't go putting others down because they enjoy other people as much as they enjoy the mountains.
Just an old musician who loves the Mountains.

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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by SSSdave » Sat Sep 08, 2018 8:43 am

For any enthusiast community, it serves purpose for the more experienced to discuss, and yes even be critical of behavior of others. And the many new thru hikers are a worthy target. Especially when such impacts the wilderness environments. And as noted some of what we are seeing comes off as hilarious. For example those that seem to think it is getting crowded but rarely get more than shouting distance from trails or lake edges and then camp all over the top of each other and wonder why there is TP behind every tree and boulder. (:

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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:05 am

At a certain level of impact (crowding) there are various opinions on which regulatory option better preserves wilderness; keeping the impact concentrated on a few trails and established campsites or dispersing the use. Current regulations fail to address this. We cannot even agree on what constitutes "crowds". For me, camping near another tent or two is expected on such a popular trail, but if I have to plow through 30 hikers in an hour, who are blocking the trail, that is too much. Personally I would rather see the use concentrated, than have everyone disperse off-trail. By the way, in much of Canada and other international "wild" areas, you have to camp at established sites and cannot just go anywhere.

It seems to me that many of the current thru-hikers have forgotten that they are hiking in a wilderness area, not the "Camino" route through the countryside of France and Spain. Preserving wilderness the top priority; accommodating human use a secondary objective. At some point the two clash. I remember when the wilderness was just being established and there was a lot of discussion about what constitutes a wilderness and wilderness ethics. Lately it seems to me we have strayed from the wilderness ethic, to an "extreme sporting event" and social ethic. Or at least there is less discussed and written about wilderness ethics. Wilderness education and self regulation would go a long ways in mitigating the current problems.

Do you have the "right" to define your own experience on the JMT? Somewhat, but within the constraints of a wilderness area. There are outright illegal acts (motorized vehicles, limits on group size), but also unspecified actions that simply are rude to others and actions that are environmentally detrimental. Wilderness depends on self-regulation; there will never be resources for tons of wilderness "cops" to enforce regulations. One example of self-regulation, is when you simply move on if your planned campsite occupied. I resent if I am camped and someone comes along and asks "can I camp here too". What am I going to say? No seems rude. Seriously, just move on unless I actually invite you!

Bottom line: I am more in favor of more wilderness education and self-regulation than more "rules". Cracking down with written regulations should be a last resort if other means do not work.

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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by rlown » Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:22 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:05 am
Bottom line: I am more in favor of more wilderness education and self-regulation than more "rules". Cracking down with written regulations should be a last resort if other means do not work.
I think most don't want to learn about wilderness. They want the experience because they heard about it from a friend or on fakebook. Check-in talks to a lot of the issues, but only the leader needs to attend, so it is up to the leader to reinforce how to treat the wilderness in a gentle way.

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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by rightstar76 » Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:44 pm

Russ, the lines would be hours long if everyone had to be present when the leader picked up the permits. There would be so much frustration that it would be counterproductive and some would rebel just to get even.

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Bottom line: I am more in favor of more wilderness education and self-regulation than more "rules". Cracking down with written regulations should be a last resort if other means do not work.
I agree with Wandering Daisy. It's up to the people to decide how they're going to treat the wilderness. If they care, they will treat it with respect and kindness. If to them it's nothing more than a gym to throw trash around and they think there's paid staff and volunteers to clean up their mess, they will have lost something precious. Wilderness can be legislated, there can be some legal enforcement, but reverence and wisdom can not be forced. It has to be cultivated, lauded, and reinforced. The more wilderness users can self-regulate and regulate others i.e. peer education and peer pressure, the better off they and the wilderness will be.

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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by creekfeet » Sun Sep 09, 2018 11:53 am

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 10:05 am
One example of self-regulation, is when you simply move on if your planned campsite occupied. I resent if I am camped and someone comes along and asks "can I camp here too". What am I going to say? No seems rude. Seriously, just move on unless I actually invite you!
Yes! If I'm camping somewhere you can get to via trail, I always try to find the most obscure site possible so I don't have to deal with this. Or on the flip-side, if I'm hiking in some off the beaten map location and I see someone else in the distance, I go full Vietcong and try to stay completely out of their line of sight as I press on and look for somewhere else to camp. I realize I'm kind of on the extreme end of things regarding how I feel about the importance of solitude, so it's hard for me to put myself in the shoes of a social backpacker. Regarding the JMT, I think a fair amount of the people that hike this trail come with more of a car camping philosophy. I know for me personally when I'm car camping I enjoy meeting others, sharing fires, and the like. I guess some people come to the backcountry of the Sierra looking for that kind of experience.

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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by rlown » Sun Sep 09, 2018 12:00 pm

rightstar76 wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:44 pm
Russ, the lines would be hours long if everyone had to be present when the leader picked up the permits. There would be so much frustration that it would be counterproductive and some would rebel just to get even.

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Bottom line: I am more in favor of more wilderness education and self-regulation than more "rules". Cracking down with written regulations should be a last resort if other means do not work.
I agree with Wandering Daisy. It's up to the people to decide how they're going to treat the wilderness. If they care, they will treat it with respect and kindness. If to them it's nothing more than a gym to throw trash around and they think there's paid staff and volunteers to clean up their mess, they will have lost something precious. Wilderness can be legislated, there can be some legal enforcement, but reverence and wisdom can not be forced. It has to be cultivated, lauded, and reinforced. The more wilderness users can self-regulate and regulate others i.e. peer education and peer pressure, the better off they and the wilderness will be.
Well, last year I was in line to pick up my permit for the Vogelsang area, and 6 were behind me and one guy in front who was taking a group of 10 down to the valley. His posse' was sitting out in the parking lot in their cars. With 6 people behind, I just said do a group review of the rules, so you can get it all done more quickly. That worked out well for all involved.
The peer pressure you allude to isn't their because most just seem to see what is on their phone.
At the end of the day, It is about how good the leader is with this peer pressure you talk of.

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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by AlmostThere » Sun Sep 09, 2018 2:52 pm

rightstar76 wrote:
Sat Sep 08, 2018 1:44 pm
Russ, the lines would be hours long if everyone had to be present when the leader picked up the permits. There would be so much frustration that it would be counterproductive and some would rebel just to get even.

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Bottom line: I am more in favor of more wilderness education and self-regulation than more "rules". Cracking down with written regulations should be a last resort if other means do not work.
I agree with Wandering Daisy. It's up to the people to decide how they're going to treat the wilderness. If they care, they will treat it with respect and kindness. If to them it's nothing more than a gym to throw trash around and they think there's paid staff and volunteers to clean up their mess, they will have lost something precious. Wilderness can be legislated, there can be some legal enforcement, but reverence and wisdom can not be forced. It has to be cultivated, lauded, and reinforced. The more wilderness users can self-regulate and regulate others i.e. peer education and peer pressure, the better off they and the wilderness will be.
I'm pretty sure that in some cases, even polite confrontation would get you shot.

I've been known to take pictures and slink away to report such people. Target shooting at a very impacted, somewhat crowded backcountry lake is definitely wrong. But I ain't showing off my forest service radio when it happens. The law enforcement officers can handle that.

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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Post by rightstar76 » Sun Sep 09, 2018 10:33 pm

Russ, I'm looking at the big picture. Both the leader and the smart phone are important. The leader sets an example and people follow. Social media also influences behavior. So just as a leader can make foolish decisions and lead people in the wrong direction, so can social media. But what if social media helped people see the wilderness in a more caring way? A leader can do that as well. If the hikers in front and behind you that day in Tuolumne Meadows were looking at their smart phones, and saw the Yosemite backcountry as more than just a fun gym, but a place to revere and treasure, they would probably be more likely to care. Especially if the messages were coming from other hikers who also care i.e. trail advocates. That's an example of positive peer pressure.

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