Campfire memories

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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mort
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Campfire memories

Post by mort » Sat Oct 17, 2020 3:21 pm

A couple of recent posts started me reminiscing...
The thread after the Cottonwood Pass trip report by wsp_scott went a little astray. A link to a list of Sierra Club outings and family camps sent me back.
And the thread "Who was Sam Mack?" by RSC with the memory from oldranger staying at Knoblocks Cabin ... in the 50s.
Wow.
I've always had a kind of love/hate feeling about the Sierra Club. They have always been a great source of information and help for my backpacking, and I consider them political allies. But I was loathe to seeing a Sierra Club outing in the backcountry.
The list of outings reminded me of meeting a Sierra Club family trip in Matterhorn Canyon in July 1968. We had started the day at Rock Island Lake, and gone over 3 10,000' passes, and were wearily plodding into the campsites at the trail junction at the southern end of Matterhorn Canyon. To our horror we found the whole area crawling with the Sierra Club. Maybe 30 or so. And pack animals, and children. A few of the club people greeted us and directed us to a somewhat secluded spot. We set up camp and started our dinner, which was an experimental bean stew. Back then you cooked over a campfire, and hung your food in a tree. The stew never cooked and I suppose the Club could hear our conversation. The Club cook came over and gave us the remains of their dinner's scalloped potatoes, which were excellent. When we got up the next morning, the Club was already gone. It seemed almost like a dream.
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gary c.
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Re: Campfire memories

Post by gary c. » Sun Oct 18, 2020 6:38 pm

I had a similar experience with the Sierra Club. It's part of a trip report that I posted on here about 10yrs ago. Not quite so far in, Kearsarge Lakes. We had set up camp and were just starting to look around and fish a little when they started to arrive. One of them told us that they had to get two permits because of the 15 person max. In any case they were everywhere. I wasn't really too concerned until they kept us up late partying and just being loud. But the worst part was when morning came and after breakfast it was time to take my shovel for a walk. no matter where I went there was someone already there, coming back through, or walking ahead of me. By the time I finally worked my way high enough on the mountain to get at least a little privacy I could still see a half dozen fellow hikers below me walking around looking for a bush or making use of the one that they had thought was granting them some privacy.
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Re: Campfire memories

Post by Wandering Daisy » Sun Oct 18, 2020 7:44 pm

Large groups should pre-dig one or two latrines. 30 people making their own "cat holes" is not OK. Also, two 15-permit groups camping together is not the intent of the permit system. I am surprised the Sierra Club would let that happen.

On one of my first long trips in the Sierra, in Dusy Basin I ran into a SPS group who were going out. I was looking for a campsite and while going upstream a bit to check that out, the entire group settled down on my original campsite. I found another site and at first was irritated and pretty nasty to them. I had just come from Ionian Basin, not seeing a person in 5 days. Then I went back to apologize for being so angry. Turns out they were going out early and had heavy packs so asked if I needed anything. Yes I did! A win-win for everyone! I had been out over a week and behind schedule so needed supplies. I used the extra fuel to wash my hair in hot water-what a luxury.

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Re: Campfire memories

Post by balzaccom » Mon Oct 19, 2020 7:05 am

Thankfully, we've never really run into a large group like that on a hike. We did meet a boy scout troop one night at Peeler Lake---they hooted and hollered when they arrived, ecstatic that their day's work was over. But they did that within fifty feet of our tent. I quickly told them to pipe down. No other issues, other than my wife finding it awkward to head to the bushes with so many (about ten0 young scouts around.

The next day we arrived at Benson Lake and set up camp. Sure enough, not twenty minutes later the scouts arrived, This time the leader came over to us, apologized, and set up camp much farther away. And he promised that we wouldn't see them again.

he was right. And a good guy for taking all those kids backpacking.
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Re: Campfire memories

Post by wsp_scott » Mon Oct 19, 2020 8:46 am

I just posted in my trip report thread about Crabtree Lakes and crowds. Looking at some of the itineraries and imagining 50 people (or more) camped in Milestone or Miter or Crabtree or ... is just mind boggling. And then when I think of the size of the campfire I just cringe.
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Re: Campfire memories

Post by Jimr » Mon Oct 19, 2020 9:31 am

I always used to refer to Sierra Club hikes as gang hikes.
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Re: Campfire memories

Post by giantbrookie » Wed Oct 28, 2020 8:10 pm

I grew up as a Sierra Club Loma Prieta Chapter peak bagging kid going on various trips from 1967 to 1972, after which my dad and I planned our trips, except when he led one in 1975(?) on our version of the E Ridge of Conness from Saddlebag (my dad was the official leader, but he made sure to mop up stragglers, while I led the climb). I never went on any of those BIG Sierra Club trips and those were pretty much terminated with the advent of wilderness permits and quotas. All the trips I went on were pretty small (largest no of people on backpacking trip may have been 10) and would not have disrupted the wilderness experience for others in he area. The collective behavior was in the LNT standards of the time, which meant pretty much the same as now except there were small campfires on some of them in places were changes in regulations since prohibit them. The stories around those campfires...ah, I will never forget them. Classic climber stories My most memorable experience was on a trip to Matterhorn when I had just turned 13. I've never forgotten some of those stories folks told that night. I think after wilderness permit rules were locked into place, the old school monster Sierra Club trips became a thing of the past. Nowadays when you see an overly large group in the backcountry, it won't be a Sierra Club trip, but it will be a group of people who have banded together and gotten multiple wilderness permits (recall there is a limit on group size) or those who are flat out skirting the rules.
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Re: Campfire memories

Post by robertseeburger » Thu Oct 29, 2020 8:40 am

I used to see big groups in the Sierra in the 70's, but not in the last 10 years. That has been good. I did see a 30 person group in the Winds last year.
It was in the Lake Heebeecheeche area, which gets some people, but not like the most popular areas. (Titcomb,cirque of towers). It turns out the group was not a Sierra club group, but a church group. They left fish guts all over the place and some litter too. ( Most fisherman I find are good wilderness people, but there are some that aren't..giving the others a bad name unfortunately.) I thought of saying something to them, but I chose not to. I think there was a separate post on that subject as well..whether to say anything. I think about it but usually dont say anything.

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Re: Campfire memories

Post by Wandering Daisy » Thu Oct 29, 2020 10:29 am

The Sierra Club nowadays have many trips that are supported by horse packers and their participants are largely older people. I have run across these but the group size is not excessive. It is nice that they do these trips so older people cans still enjoy the wilderness. I have run into more Boy Scout groups and so far, have been very impressed with them. The leaders seem to encourage them to be very polite and aware environmentally.

Organized group trips were very popular in the 1960's-1970's; not so much after that. My observation may be wrong, but I feel the legal liability risks increased after the 1970's and lead to decrease in organized groups. I remember the days of college "outing clubs" and do not know if they are that popular anymore. I am not clear on the regulations in the Sierra, but some groups have to get commercial permits. I believe that if you go on a pack trip, you fall under the outfitter's permit.

robert- the reason you see large church groups on the Wind River Indian Reservation is that they do not require a commercial permit for groups or size limits and have a very low cost access-fishing permit for youth. Wind River routes on FS land require a permit for organized groups and has a size limit. Boy Scout groups are much better because they do actively teach LNT; I wish all church groups did the same.

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Re: Campfire memories

Post by bobby49 » Thu Oct 29, 2020 1:32 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Thu Oct 29, 2020 10:29 am
Organized group trips were very popular in the 1960's-1970's; not so much after that. My observation may be wrong, but I feel the legal liability risks increased after the 1970's and lead to decrease in organized groups.
I believe that is correct. I was a Sierra Club group leader starting in 1978. Then in the early 1980s, everything blew up. There were some crippling or lethal injury accident settlements, so immediately the Sierra Club shut things down from the national level. After a few years, it had negotiated a new deal with its liability insurance carrier, so things got restarted, but in a different way. When things were getting restarted, a new committee (Mountaineering Oversight Committee) added a new level of red tape, and that discouraged a lot of leaders from continuing. They don't even send me Christmas cards anymore!

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