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Wilderness Trailhead Signs

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Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby baywolf » Wed Nov 25, 2009 11:09 am

The Eldorado NF is in the design stages for new Desolation Wilderness Trailhead signs. The signs will be in place for atleast 10 years, so we need to get it right. I am asking those around the campfire to share their thoughts, ideas on what information is relevant and how that information might be presented. I am pushing hard for graphical representation of regulations/ethics instead of the standard list of use restrictions/regulations, pretty pictures, quotes from John Muir, LNT, etc. I don't believe people give the current generation of signs more than a passing glance. Is the information on the INYO, SIERRA or NPS boards relevant? How can we (the federal land managers) have people stop and consider, adopt and practice ethics that are basically foreign to them. Or is it just one big joke and why bother!

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you guys responded to my post on Wilderness Character, what do you think?

What is the most important theme that should be presented on these boards?

Campsite Selection ?

Thanks, baywolf



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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby Haiwee » Wed Nov 25, 2009 1:21 pm

Two of the most common ethical lapses I see in the back country are camping right next to the water and camping in pristine areas instead of using established campsites, so I would like to see some emphasis in these areas. I'm not sure if graphical representations of the rules will work any better than written words -- seems to me a knucklehead is a knucklehead regardless.
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby rlown » Wed Nov 25, 2009 3:46 pm

If people have to check in for a permit, and all the pertinent info is either posted on the form, or asked for in person, why do you need elaborate, costly signs? I personally like the Yose welded, rusted, metal signs, but they're only trail markers. Even the kiosks have a sign and info, but i wouldn't want those at the trailhead. If you didn't check in, you shouldn't be there anyway.
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby giantbrookie » Wed Nov 25, 2009 4:34 pm

I personally prefer a more minimalist approach, especially since regulations are clearly stated on wilderness permits. My guess is that those who are unclear about rules, ethics, and such and have a willingness to learn them (as opposed to those that do not care at all) will be more likely to read their wilderness permit information than a trailhead sign. My experience with those trailhead signs is that the majority of hikers at a trailhead are chomping at the bit and want to get moving, so they won't be likely to spend much time reading information posted on a trailhead sign. I also think that the more minimalist approach emphasizes the wilder "wilderness" aspect rather than a feeling over overengineering.
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby hikerduane » Wed Nov 25, 2009 8:42 pm

Enforcement. We may need to start paying for a permit to use wilderness or public lands. Pay our own way like vehicles on the highways or off roaders do to be policed. Or.................us experienced folks get the LNT speil everytime we get a wilderness permit, maybe the issuing agency needs to be trained to pick out folks with low to no knowledge of LNT measures and explain to them what exactly needs to be done when out and what they are doing to others experience by not following accepted practices. Personally, I feel like yeah, yeah yeah, I know what to do. I get the feeling that issuing agencies are just going thru the motions of explaining LNT and not knowing if it is sinking in to the person they are telling it to. One thing I did come away with a year ago, was the agency asked me what should go into my bear cansiter and expected me to respond. I was mostly right, just didn't give a simple answer which was, if you eat it or it goes on your skin, it goes in the canister. Quite simple example. I'll know the short and simple answer next time and I will understand it all. As for day hikers say in Desolation Wilderness, where you can get a self issue day permit, I don't know, more enforecement to patrol and educate hikers? I liked my experience at Lake of the Woods a year ago, I was checked for my permit in the late afternoon by two Wilderness Rangers who were working together, business like, no attitude, if I was in the wrong, make me correct it before they leave.
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby gary c. » Thu Nov 26, 2009 1:30 pm

It kind of seems to me that everyone is looking at this as an informed hiker reading the signs and we already know what we need to. Not all noobies ignore and disregard the signs at treailheads. I like the way that all the signs in Yosemite post the distance to trail intersections and final destinations. I'd also like it if there was a way to put an emhpasis on trash and especially burrying TP. Many of the things that experienced hikers already know or make a point to find out before we go someplace never even cross the minds of some inexperienced hikers. How far it is between places to water or camp for example. We all know that if you don't know such things you shouldn't be there but the fact is that unprepared hikers are too common.
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby cmon4day » Fri Nov 27, 2009 9:16 am

Trailhead signs should contain the wilderness regulations, any restrictions, a map, and any other pertinent information. The Hoover wilderness trailhead sign even had a little local history info for our reading pleasure. I thought that was pretty cool.

Here is the Florence Lake Trailhead sign.

Florence L. Trailhead.JPG
Florence L. Trailhead
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby rlown » Fri Nov 27, 2009 4:25 pm

baywolf,

any reason there's just not a standard signage at the trailheads? seems like a waste of taxpayers dollars if one go-forward signage isn't chosen. New signage sounds expensive.

Honestly, i don't mind if a sign is posted at a trailhead. It should be simple, assuming you already read the wilderness regs and got the permit. Beyond that, I agree with the enforcement statement hikerduane made.

A sign at a trailhead isn't going to make you change your mind on bad habits. I think that's a check-in/permit sort of thing (unless you're already aware.)

Simple sign, standard everywhere would be my vote. Follow the reg's as either read or given to you verbally, or at the Kiosk.
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby mokelumnekid » Fri Nov 27, 2009 9:48 pm

I'm with cmon4day. I only read these things while waiting for my partner to get done putting on bug/sun screen or taking a trip to the outhouse. But for others it may indeed spark some reflection or needful last minute input.

But I have to say that I am not in the least woried about "wasting" taxpayers money on this...given the extaordinary scope of activities of government (like the black hole called NASA), and the ginormous costs, a few 4x4's and a sheet of plexiglass isn't a worry. I mean that wasn't serious right?
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby markskor » Fri Nov 27, 2009 11:53 pm

Expensive trailhead signage - plexiglass and maps...wilderness bon mots -argh!
I too advocate the minimalist approach, much like YNP now handles it -
Simply a few names/miles to the notable trail highlights ahead, maybe an arrow (hopefully) pointing in the right direction; that's about it.
I can still vividly recall all the signs that were once posted along the start of the JMT at Happy Isles. Every 200 yards, they had one-after-another wood-framed plaque:
"Can you see the waterfall? Spot a pine tree? Something about stones and tones..."
Even back then I thought it was all crap!
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby SSSdave » Sat Nov 28, 2009 4:16 pm

Most of the responders seem to be offering backpacker's perspectives and not considering the fact dayhikers at many trailheads are far more numerous. Often such visitors have little knowledge of national forest service policies much less wilderness policies and rules nor have they visited any ranger stations. So having thorough information is obviously very beneficial for the public and health of the backcountry at all such more widely used trailheads especially those that have improved parking areas. Then there are some trailheads at the end of rough roads or along highways where a trail quietly crosses without any obvious improved parking that are pretty much just in the domain of backpackers or locals. Obviously trailheads in such places can be more minimalist as some have suggested.

For improved trailheads, I'm strongly in favor of what cmon4day presented showing the example of the Florence Lake Trailhead. I've seen these same type behind plexiglass kiosks at a number of trailheads and personally almost always scrutinize them. Often their topo maps have special information added onto them like new or missing trails and no fire zones by the resident wilderness rangers that can be useful. In fact I often use my pocket digital cameras to capture such map info.

I am one that has long been rather vocal about ways of improving visitor knowledge of and adherence to backcountry policies and rules. Improved trail signage both at trailheads and along trails are both needed although such is just part of what is needed. There are some visitors that are simply ignorant and a bit of intelligent signage can go a long ways. For instance, instead of a sign a half mile up a trail simply stating "WILDERNESS PERMITS REQUIRED for overnight visitors", a kiosk at the parking lot trailhead indicating that and where the nearby ranger station for acquiring such a permit was, and the $$$ fine for not doing so, would obviously have a positive impact.

Five miles up a trail beside a lake, the trailhead kiosk info that stated campsites need to be 100 feet from the lake are likely to have little impact on those that can't resist using old sites that were right beside the lake edge. Such people are are quick to rationalize that since the old site has been used it maybe is ok...duh! Just like all the clueless urban people going to a festival event while looking for a parking spot that see one car start to park in a signed NO PARKING zone and within their twisted logic rationalize "Heh! such must be ok?" Likewise the backpacker that finds the above timberline campsite with obvious firepits and then rationalizes fires are ok despite being told that was not so just hours before at the ranger station. For such simple minds, simple signage like "NO CAMPING within 100 feet of the LAKE" along a trail just before it reaches a lake will likely have far more impact. Or where a trail passed the 10,000 elevation of no fires a simple sign stating "NO FIRES above this ELEVATION 10,000 feet" . Of course only a really moron with such a sign posting task would place them at scenic spots like where a trail meets the lake or at an overlook. Instead such info signs ought to placed in inconspicous spots along a trail back in the forest.

In any case signage alone won't make significant difference with many cheaters and abusers. There have always been some of the later who know full well what they are doing is wrong but could care less and in fact some revel in doing such as a badge of badness like snot nosed adolescents or redneck enviro haters. For these latter only a dose of pain in the way of public embarassment or fines is likely to alter their behaviors.
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Re: Wilderness Trailhead Signs

Postby markskor » Sat Nov 28, 2009 6:12 pm

In addition, (just drawing from experience here), and realizing that now guns are legal carry in the NPs, these "shrines to the trail", as you suggest building at drive-up trailheads, often make for fine targets...(Practice?)
How often have you seen the older ones riddled with holes?
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