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How do you protect the Sierra?

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How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby freestone » Sun Mar 15, 2009 6:42 am

There has been much discussion on how we safeguard ourselves in the Sierra. To filter, or not to filter and bear cans to save our food (or is it, to protect the bears?) is often discussed. I think if we protect the fragile Sierra ecosystem, we will ultimately protect ourselves. For example, if we all used Wag bags, E coli would become much less of a threat to our health. We all agree we need to wash our hands, but where do you wash your hands, hair and other body parts? Politics would also qualify. The Sierra Club is hated by many conservatives, yet with out them, we would not have a Sierra that we know of today. For starters, my opinion is this, if you believe in the water filter, also believe in the Wag bag. A Wag bag is a commercially marketed system to safely remove human fecal waste from the environment. They are free on the Whitney trail, and available through REI.



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Re: How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby hikerduane » Sun Mar 15, 2009 8:19 am

I think some of the issues we see in the backcountry are from folks who are ignorant of proper behavior while out. I often see evidence mostly in areas frequented by weekend warriors, of toliet paper not buried and/or too close to water, fires too close to water, cleaning pots/dishes in water sources. It hasn't come down to having to pack our poop out in most places, but it may come down to that. Last weekend, off the Carson Pass on 88, a volunteer Ranger was asking our group to pack out our crap where we were camped above Lake Winnemucca, as when the snow melted, "it" would run down into the lake. Even the city folk I was with thought that was going too far and I am the redneck of the group. I managed to make it to the head at the trailhead the next day. If they wanted us to pack out our crap, why didn't they say something on the permit or when calling in for it? I wash my hair and use soap, well away from water and have for years. I slowly evolve on some of my methods, I want to use my water bladder now to wash my hands in the morning after my morning ritual, just need to take it far enough from camp and water to do that.

The Sierra Club may have protected the Sierra, but are going too far to get restrictions imposed on private property owners. I wanted to cut one tree down on my property six years ago, to make room for a garage, in my checking around, asking different people thru my contacts at my job at a convenience store, I found out I had to hire a Registered Forester and a Licensed Timber Operator to take down that one tree legally, due to legislation pushed by the Sierra Club, this was told to me by my Registered Forester, who has done Whitney, backpacks and is a Sierra Club member. I ended up taking three trees instead of the one due to let's take them now while we are at it. This ended up costing me an additional $300. I think they are turning off some of their supporters, other groups out there that do a much better job of getting things done and getting money.
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Re: How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby dave54 » Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:35 am

50 years ago many backcountry sites had so little use burying waste was no problem. The natural buffering easily handled it before accumulation became a problem. No so today. Many backcountry sites get so much use increasing level or restrictions are necessary.

But I do not support uniform one-size-fits-all regulations applied statewide. There are still plenty of locations where burying waste is environmentally acceptable and will not cause any problems.

as to the sierra club -- they lost me when they clandestinely supported the creation of earth first and supplied the initial funding "to create an organization so radical it makes the sierra club look moderate in comparison" (quote from Dave Foreman). I now consider the sierra club to be a domestic terrorist organization more interested in left wing politics than helping the environment.
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Re: How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby freestone » Sun Mar 15, 2009 1:21 pm

I am also a strong believer in property rights. I believe the local government should be able to zone and enforce building and density issues for the benefit of the local community. I also believe abortion is wrong and marriage is sacred, but when it comes to the environment I swing far to the left of center. The Sierra Club is not the same organization is was when John Muir founded it in 1892, nor should we expect it to be. As with religion, the founding message has not changed, but the playing field is vastly different. Often Religion gets a bad rap, but life would be meaningless for many people in this world without it. The Sierra Club is no different, they often step outside the bounds of reason, but the founding message is the same, proactive protection of the ecosystem. Its all a system of checks and balances, there must be nastiness on both sides to maintain the balance.
As for washing, I hang my hydration bag in a tree after it has sat in the sun for awhile to warm the water, away from water sources and clamp the line with my fishing hemostats so that just a trickle comes through. First the hands, then the face, after that I feel like a new man. I never do my hair, I keep it buzzed. I have been using Dr. Bohners soap, and store it in a tiny squirt bottle. One time I over filled it at sea level and it leaked out all over my pack at 10,000ft. What a mess. I do not swim or bathe in the lakes and streams. Only fish and frogs please. I believe in the Wag bag. I think its actually easier to use than digging a hole. One time on Bear creek I visited a good spot to go, but I guess everyone else did to also, because everywhere I dug, someone else already had! :\
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Re: How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby hikerduane » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:21 pm

Another thing I try to do on most trips, is to clean up the spot I am camped at. For something to do, I'll patrol my campsite, picking up glass, paper, melted aluminum and foil bits, dig in ash thrown off to the side. Many of these spots are where runoff can carry them into a lake. I didn't pack up a small pot and grill at Paradise Lake, I'm hoping a horse packer will get that.

I have been lucky, I have only discovered one cathole that had been used earlier in the season.

Washing my short hair makes me feel new again, I usually wet my hair in the lake, fill my cut down jug and carry the water some distance from the lake to wash my hair. I'll go for a dip, even in Oct. on most trips, to at least wash some of the sweat off. Can we say, burrrrr? The air drying is almost as bad.
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Re: How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby rlown » Sun Mar 15, 2009 4:38 pm

freestone, thanks for posting this.

In Yose, you are (supposed) to pack out your TP already. You've no real choice above 9600' as there are no fires allowed 7 miles from a road/trailhead there. One could see the day when the Garcia bear canister could be used as proper shared "toilet", if you will, with a liner.

I'm sure there would be lots of discussion about who carries that out, but it's gotta be better than everyone hauling out a Wagbag or a few, and where you pack it on your pack.

Sidenote: when car camping remotely, my friend and i bring post-hole diggers and dig a "latrine" if you will for shared use. Our wives come with so it's wrapped in a privacy tarp. Not sure i can carry a post-hole digger to the high country, but it was a though on bigger trips.
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Re: How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby giantbrookie » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:16 pm

rlown wrote:Sidenote: when car camping remotely, my friend and i bring post-hole diggers and dig a "latrine" if you will for shared use. Our wives come with so it's wrapped in a privacy tarp. Not sure i can carry a post-hole digger to the high country, but it was a though on bigger trips.


Neat idea for primitive car camping. I have two little kids, one of whom is potty trained, and the first thing I do is to build a latrine (for the older one; we simply collect dirty diapers with the young one). A posthole digger is a mighty fine idea. I may in fact employ it this summer. By the way, not to diverge too far off the topic, but I find primitive car camping with small kids easier than car camping in a campground, in part because a pit toilet is nasty for them little ones.
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Re: How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby Rosabella » Sun Mar 15, 2009 5:30 pm

I've got a solo solar shower that works really well and weighs just a few ozs. Worth the weight for the refreshment it provides, but I only bring it on trips longer than a couple days. I don't wash my hair - it's really long and there's no way I could get a comb thru it without conditioner (wayyyy too much hastle) so I just keep it tied back.

I've packed out TP, along with my own (and others) trash for years... but are you saying that you use wag-bags on extended trips? :eek: I'm planning a JMT this summer - that would mean carrying arround "stuff" for a week or two between resupply points? You honestly do this?

Mt. Whitney requires wag-bags for good reason... it's CRAWLING with people. I don't understand why the powers-that-be don't increase the permit fee in order to provide a better system than the solar toilet at trail camp (that area being the most popular stopping point before going on to the summit). It would be interesting to know the REAL percentage of people that really do use their wag-bags. Hopefully people do.

But I don't know if I'm ready to haul it 200+ miles.
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Re: How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby AldeFarte » Sun Mar 15, 2009 11:04 pm

Rosebella has a good point about placing strategic portables in severely people infected areas. The nps does not seem to have a problem with airlifting when it suites their needs , or for an emergency. If the nps would run the concessions associated with the venue for a profit instead of "who knows what motive" then we would all have a happier experience when we decide to visit said venue. I will give one example. I visited Wolverton with the fam for a slide in the snow this winter. Having not been there since I was a kid, I was shocked at the difference in the volume of people at the site. In the day, there were 2 rope tows and a lot of money was spent back then. All I can say is " It was nice having the drive through the redwoods in the winter to ourselves". At 20 bucks a pop for the cars and any Wolverton concession that might be had, it would be a sizable contribuition to the needs of the park! What a jewel in the winter.I have avoided it for 30 years for fear of people volume. Long ago I discovered many good fishing sights within a days hike of the park road system. I think the nutjobs in charge of the show need a course in marketing. This includes the wankers in congress. jls
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Re: How do you protect the Sierra?

Postby Bad Man From Bodie » Mon Mar 16, 2009 9:27 am

WOW.....what an interesting topic. My mother-in-law did most of the JMT last summer and she mentioned that there were sections where they had to pack out their own feces. Whatever happened to finding a nice rock pile overlooking the breathtaking views of a Sierra sunrise? This seems like a much better place to do your morning busyness rather than bagging it behind a bush. When you are done you, just pile some rocks overtop and call it good.

I wish I could go back in time and tell the Native Americans who hung out in the Sierra that they had to crap into a bag and pack it out. I am so perplexed by this reg...I can’t stop laughing. Just something wrong about that one. Aren’t we supposed to be trying to get a wilderness/wild experience when we go up into these places? If I wanted to do my busyness in a bag, I would stay at home and use my toilet. I just figure I will stay out of these "wild and natural" places. Furthermore, if they are worried about waterborne pathogens from human waste....they call it beaver fever for a reason!!!!!!!Plussssss contrary to popular belief, there were a heck of a lot more folks that came over the Sierra during the late 1800s (huge pack trains - 1000s of people) and trust me they didn’t bag their crap out....and they brought wagons and live stock.....did sooooo much damage to the landscape that you cant even see it today unless you know exactly what you are looking for!

As for the Sierra Club....They have done a lot of good and A LOT of bad. I do not fully support them, and yes....I would agree some of their agendas are borderline eco terrorism!

It’s like it has always been....The ones that make the biggest footprint on the landscape (even with camping) are the Greenhorns. Think about it....how was it that hundreds if not thousands of Native Americans could make a camp and leave NO evidence that the camp was there except maybe a place where they were chipping arrowheads or something. It is possible to leave no trace if you are a savvy camper!
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