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Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 6:33 am
by mrphil
rightstar76 wrote:
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.
I can't imagine anyone not being in awe. But how does that get conveyed and then translate into proper respect and reverence? Think of it as something like a new television or car: you can be enamored with it and want to do the right thing to care for it (the best of intentions), but you still need an instruction manual to understand how to do it right. Certainly some will make mistakes or just operate disrespectfully in some way or another because of either naivete or their nature, but other than regulating, how do you contend with the problem at hand; negative impacts by virtue of just shear numbers of users? I happen to think that there's a certain broad wisdom and necessary inevitability in the Wilderness Act and the quota system in that regard. Two people walk somewhere and you have a way that fades quickly. A thousand people do it and you have a worn trail that lasts. It's not that anyone did anything wrong, per se, just that they were there.

Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 7:21 am
by Wandering Daisy
I agree that over-use in itself can cause damage even when each individual is doing everything right. The quota system is supposed to spread out the use. For the quota system to work ALL trailheads need quotas and permits. The lesser used trailheads could have a more generous amount of permits given. I suspect that a number of people sneak in without permits; a parking permit sticker (given out when you pick up your permit) would reduce this. If your car does not display a permit, you get a ticket.

But all laws depend on buy-in by the public. There never is enough enforcement if everyone disobeys the law. So buy-in by the public should be the #1 goal of regulatory agencies. Unfortunately, solitude is no longer something many people have experienced, so do not value. In fact they abhor it!! I just read a PCT journal entry. A gal's "trail family" had gotten ahead of her (she was the slowest) and she ranted and raved about how could they do that? They would just HAVE TO slow down or she would, OMG, have to hike alone! Independence and self-sufficiency is also no longer taught or valued. When I turned 18 I could not wait to leave home and make it on my own, for better or worse. Now, some do not leave the nest until mid-30's. Social media and technology feed on this. Kids brains are now being re-wired by technology so that they have to be constantly stimulated and entertained. I think this has a lot to do with why the wilderness is now seen simply as a venue for sports oriented activities. So it is going to be a big job getting this generation to buy-in to wilderness ethics.

In fact, if you have never seen a pristine environment, you probably do not even realize what constitutes an over-impacted environment. I think almost everyone is in awe of the "big scenery" which is not much impacted by use. Less so with the small; the wildflower, the untrampled ground, the trickling streamlet, the bugs, the fish, clean air, and the little seen wildlife. But it is the "small" that is most impacted.

I see the big debate as: A. do we nudge people towards the classic Wilderness Act ethics; or B. do we tweak the Wilderness Act ethics to accommodate the new social realities? Put me in the "A" camp!

Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 8:43 am
by mrphil
Maybe it's time to rethink quota systems. Instead of daily quotas, maybe the approach should be absolute seasonal or annual limitations based on carrying capacity before environment is too adversely impacted. A farmer that wants to sustain his land will rotate crops and fields out of necessity. Come back to it when it's had time to heal and rejuvenate. Spread out the impacts by offering alternating quotas in different areas...just enough to offer solitude for users, but with an eye toward the land's needs as well. Each area/experience could be considered as a unique opportunity/experience within itself, but limit the numbers of people. If they're truly interested, great, if not, they wait until what they want becomes available again or move on to some other pastime that provides them with whatever their needs are in what they're looking for. We tend to take "easy" for granted, but if it's hard-won, it becomes either appreciated more or we end up with less people and possibly solve the overall problem revolving around too much in too camping vs backpacking? It doesn't have to be onerous, just mindful and realistic. But yes, that'll take people cooperating and understanding the rationale.

Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Posted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:54 pm
by SSSdave

Indeed as I've related numbers of times, peer pressure can potentially have much more impact on wilderness visitor behaviors if enough of us that can are out there doing so. There are far more of us in the backcountry than will ever be wilderness rangers. As it is, visitors have little to fear when ignoring policies outside of limited areas and because of that those whose ethic is weak and marginal tend to be easily swayed to the dark side if they see others are doing such or sees signs of what others have done. If those people are aware other backpackers might come up and speak to them about policy issues, far fewer would choose to do so because in my considerable experience doing so most are quite embarrassed to the extent I doubt many would repeat whatever.

This last Wednesday at 4pm, I picked up a permit for 20 Lakes Basin in Hoover Wilderness at the Tuolumne Meadows permit station. The permit person took the time to thoroughly explain policy. However I noticed their printout map of the area she attached to the text page of the permit was rather inaccurate as regards to the Monroe Hall Research Natural Area northern boundary thus showed it was so on the printout. Another person dug into a file and pulled out an accurate printout the Inyo NF Mono Visitor center actually uses. I related how in the past I'd seen people tented within the research area and at times such was in view of a particularly aesthetic landscape.

Later near sunset I arrived at Greenstone Lake and indeed a couple older gals were tented in the research area. I stopped a few dozen feet from their position to take a brief rest before approaching a gal eating her dinner. She asks if I had experienced the hail storm and I replied it had hailed so hard on my drive in that a couple areas road side were solid white. Smiling, I then asked if they had a wilderness permit and she replied yes. That is typically how I start such, friendly small talk then ask about a permit as not a few won't have any. I calmly explained they were in the research area which is a large zone on the west side of the Saddlebag Lake road up to the crest Yosemite boundary that extends north to the Hoover W boundary all of which overnight camping is not permitted. She blurted out they would not want to move then I responded that is fine because it was late in the day with much wet everywhere but if they were staying further nights should move. We then got into a conversation of where to site a camp south of Shamrock lake where they would be well off the loop trail and would have solitude.

A few years ago on a trip into Darwin Canyon after siting a camp a few hours earlier, I was out mid afternoon with my 4x5 view camera exploring the zone. A tall obvious climber with ropes and hardware tented on the turf at body length from the lake edge. As someone also on climber boards over the decades, I was familiar of the aggressive anti-rules macho attitudes of some of those people. The same kind of person AT commented on possibly being shooting one for confronting so haha. In my most calm manner that I vaguely recall now, related he was too close to the lake edge, an obvious experienced climber so knew what he was doing, and that others seeing his disregard for policy may cause them to do so likewise that has environmental issues. Thus he should move away and not have what was probably a habit of doing so as that also tends to reflect negatively on all climbers. His negative reaction was expected but I immediately turned around and continued working the area. A couple hours later I passed near his camp again without staring his way which he no doubt noticed. Near sunset I was out again and he was gone. I suspect he spent quite some time stewing over how some wimpy 5'6" old guy had the gall to approach him and relate what I did. And it eventually bothered him enough that he decided to move on for the sake of his own mental peace. My expectation is his behavior might slowly change as he considered being embarrassed again by puny others and the nature of that behavior.

Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Posted: Wed Sep 12, 2018 3:18 am
by rightstar76
Great story, Dave. It takes a special type of person to approach people who are breaking the rules (unknowingly like the first person and knowingly like the climber) and calmly explain to them why they should reconsider. This is an excellent example of positive peer pressure and outdoor advocacy. Thanks for setting a good example and your courage!

Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Posted: Thu Sep 20, 2018 11:57 am
by Lumbergh21
I spoke to a ranger in Mammoth after exiting the wilderness a couple of days ago about how to approach people who are not practicing LNT or beaking other rules. She provided me with advice on how to not be confrontational. Don't recite the rules to the other hiker in a condescending or authoritative manner. Discuss how the environment could be better and ask them to help you correct the problem, e.g. pick up the trash. I have seen some very interesting bear pinattas in the short time that I've been backpacking. I consider this a safety issue for me as well, since habituated bears aren't just a problem for those who don't properly store their food. In my experience, though, if you ask the person if they would like to see how to do a "PCT hang", they are usually interested. Then after seeing how a PCT hang works, I've only had one person who was not enthusiastic about how cool that way of hanging the food is (I certainly thought it was cool after seeing how to do it). I don't think we need or should be enforcing the rules; we need to educate. That is quite a different mindset and a much better approach in my opinion.

Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Posted: Tue Oct 02, 2018 3:09 am
by rightstar76

Re: Time to regulate the JMT more carefully?

Posted: Mon Nov 12, 2018 6:12 pm
by longri
rightstar76 wrote:
Tue Oct 02, 2018 3:09 am
Organizations like the USFS, PCTA, JMTF, etc. could promote campaigns to influence JMT culture in a positive way.

I just came across an article about JMT overuse that mentioned the JMTF, the John Muir Trail Foundation. I'd never heard of them before.

Their home page mentions beer which of course caught my attention. Then I looked at their page of projects and it confused me a bit. I don't understand the focus on mapping the JMT or adding a "finial" (I had to look that up) to the stone hut on Muir Pass. Seems like those aren't hot topics at a time when overuse and access are issues.

But there is a project where they suggest the possibility of dry toilets in the wilderness. Now that's something to take note of. A positive step or the thin edge of the wedge? I don't know, you decide.