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#24989 - 06/12/12 10:43 AM What is a wilderness experience?
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
I'm sure he did not know it, but our Webmaster Steve was the subject of some discussion last week, at a conference of about 100 wilderness rangers who convened for a yearly gathering in Ca.

It had to do with Steve's complaint of going in to the permit office, and getting a limited permit for a trail, only to go out onto that trail and see virtually no people.

The rangers, to a person, responded that Steve had experienced exactly what was in mind when the legal concept of Wilderness was created in 1964, but that he doesn't "get" it.

Unlike other areas of forest, "the land of many uses", where the goal seems to be to maximize possible utilization of resources, wilderness is about minimizing impact and notice of humankind.

Some of the words of that act:

In order to assure that an increasing population, accompanied by expanding settlement and growing mechanization, does not occupy and modify all areas within the United States and its possessions, leaving no lands designated for preservation and protection in their natural condition,

A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which (1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint of man's work substantially unnoticeable; (2) has outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation;

I'm sure many people have misunderstandings about wilderness.

why do we have trails if there is to be no sign of humans?
-well, animals do make trails.
-trails concentrate impacts, and preserve the off-trail impacts to a minimum.
-HUGE effort goes into minimizing the ability to see that any work has been done. ie, when cutting overhanging branches, they are cut flush with the trunk, and the cut branches are thrown far from the trail, with the cut ends deposited AWAY from the trail, so you can't tell they were cut. ie, when a tree is cut on a trail, dirt is rubbed onto the cut surface, to make it look old, not fresh.

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#24990 - 06/12/12 11:34 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Ken]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7875
Loc: Fresno, CA
Ken, I am glad you opened this discussion. I have a significant point to make here and to the rangers. But to think it through, it will take some time.... more coming later.

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#25004 - 06/12/12 05:14 PM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Steve C]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1024
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Sign says no pets, no firearms. I like that. I think I remember seeing another one that said no wheels. Good.



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#25006 - 06/12/12 05:51 PM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
That is a striking picture, Harvey.

Steve, I'd hope you would. And although you are the butt of my little joke, you understand that you are simply the convenient example that allows the point to be made.


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#25014 - 06/12/12 10:12 PM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Ken]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1148
Loc: NorCal
All of this is a compromise of some sort. Animals don't cut branches and saw through downed trees to make trails. Human influence is all over the wilderness and it's not all bad. Some of these Rangers are living in cabins in that forbidden wilderness with Oh My God, toilets of some sort. Do they not "get it?"

The stone masonry structure on top of Whitney, let's take that down. Bridges and logs over rivers and creeks, bye bye. Where do you draw the line? It's all a compromise of some sort and that's the intent of the Wilderness Act, not to lock people out.

I think we have a fair mix of different levels of "wild" out there. Whitney and Half Dome are at one extreme of heavy use. At the other end, there are thousands of acres off trail for the hearty adventurer that doesn't want to see another soul or sole print. Plenty of typical trails in between where you might see someone or maybe not depending on day of the week.

I think Steve's point is that it's important get as many people as possible to experience wilderness. Make it easier, not harder. No need to make someone a butt of a joke over that opinion.

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#25015 - 06/12/12 10:41 PM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Harvey Lankford]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1148
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford

Sign says no pets, no firearms. I like that. I think I remember seeing another one that said no wheels. Good.



Must be an old sign. I believe firearms are now allowed in the National Parks, subject to state and local regs. I assume that includes wilderness areas, but I'm not positive about that.

By the way, what's a human sign doing in the wilderness anyway? I guess it's right on the border so that one is okay.

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#25016 - 06/12/12 10:47 PM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: SierraNevada]
Ken Offline


Registered: 10/29/09
Posts: 742
Loc: Los Angeles
People who experience the hordes of Whitney and Half-Dome, have not experienced Wilderness, no matter what label is slapped on the map.

Things that predate the Wilderness Act of 1964 were generally exempted from the requirements, such as the Smithsonian Hut, but that does not mean that another could be built.

People often quote the Wilderness Act, without having actually read it, and what it includes, exempts, and covers....and why.

Generally, people just want what they want what they want, and to hell with everybody else, and couldn't care less what the actual law and regulations are.

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#25017 - 06/12/12 11:12 PM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Ken]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1148
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: Ken
People who experience the hordes of Whitney and Half-Dome, have not experienced Wilderness, no matter what label is slapped on the map.

Things that predate the Wilderness Act of 1964 were generally exempted from the requirements, such as the Smithsonian Hut, but that does not mean that another could be built.

People often quote the Wilderness Act, without having actually read it, and what it includes, exempts, and covers....and why.

Generally, people just want what they want what they want, and to hell with everybody else, and couldn't care less what the actual law and regulations are.

I wouldn't assume everyone is ignorant of the Wilderness Act. Let's not pretend it's something that it's not. It's a compromise in progress, always will be, and it's working pretty good overall, in my humble opinion.

The more people experience wilderness, the more it will be appreciated and protected for future generations. There are plenty of barriers as it is - cost, time off work, energy, expensive gear, planning, knowledge, etc. We need some type of quota system and people need to be educated, but getting the actual permit to hike on a trail should not be harder than getting a fishing or hunting license.

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#25018 - 06/12/12 11:15 PM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Ken]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: Ken

Generally, people just want what they want what they want, and to hell with everybody else, and couldn't care less what the actual law and regulations are.

This reads like a definition of Entitlement


"What is a wilderness experience?" Brings to mind an excellent 1960's jazz gem by Les McCann named Compared to What


To the poor, 'maligned' flip-flop crowd on Half Dome (that some feel a peculiar protective bend towards) the cable experience IS the closest that one has been to the wilderness (count me in that crowd at one time; the Half Dome day hike was my first ever hike)

To the seasoned back-country curmudgeon, encountering one person in seven days may deem the whole experience ruined by a 'population explosion' in north quad of Yosemite.

And.....to a person who has done more navigating in the desert and underwater, two trees together seems like wilderness -- which brings to mind yet another song: Horse With No Name

"The ocean is a desert, with it's life underground,
And a perfect disguise above..."


It's all subjective if you take a survey


_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#25019 - 06/12/12 11:38 PM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Bee]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1148
Loc: NorCal
So how does one go about getting one quarter of Yosemite all to oneself? The quota would have to be 1 for one trail into the area and 0 for all the other trails into that area. That policy will guarantee a true "wilderness experience" to one lucky person with their spot device and smart phone to email home, track progress on a forum, text from a peak, and post the whole adventure on Facebook before getting back to the car.

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#25020 - 06/12/12 11:50 PM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: SierraNevada]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1148
Loc: NorCal
Just being facetious, Bee. Who's to say one quad is enough?

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#25021 - 06/13/12 12:16 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: SierraNevada]
GandC Offline


Registered: 03/21/11
Posts: 252
Loc: SoCal
This subject can get wildly political very quickly. My opinion is that I should be allowed to go wherever I damn well please when I please to do it, and no government agency or worker should be able to tell me no. Seriously.

But it also shouldn't be on those same agencies and people to save my butt when I have clearly gotten myself in over my head.

I'm wondering which came first: the governments desire to limit these things, or the responsibility for the government to save (and pay for) the people who are trying to get themselves killed. One is definitely the result of the other, there is no doubt in my mind of that.
_________________________
One day I'd like to hike the entire John Muir Trail and not leave a single footprint. -Randy Morgenson

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#25022 - 06/13/12 12:40 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Ken]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7875
Loc: Fresno, CA
first: BTW, I am enjoying this discussion...

Originally Posted By: Ken
People who experience the hordes of Whitney and Half-Dome, have not experienced Wilderness, no matter what label is slapped on the map

Ken, what part of the Wilderness Act are you reading that brings you to conclude that those people "have not experienced Wilderness"?

Is the fact that these people are sharing their experience with others (your loosely used term "hordes") make it not wilderness? Looking up some definitions for wilderness, few mention the absence of people. One phrase, "uninhabited or inhabited only by wild animals" means that humans don't live there. But what about camping overnight in tents, or not in tents? I suppose we could debate that, too.

Regardless of what others think, I can say that I don't mind camping a night or two with lots of people in a place as beautiful and stark and expansive as Trail Camp. It is STILL wilderness, even though others are camping around me. I am still out there without anything except what I can carry in on my back, at the mercy of the elements, far from any amenities, far from the safety and security of a roof over my head, impossible to stay there for more than a few days.

I would be curious what the result might be if one were to canvass campers at Trail Camp regarding their views of being there with so many others, as it relates to the place also being wilderness.

I really don't think sharing Mt Whitney, or Half Dome, with "hordes" results in such an outing being called a non-wilderness experience. ...In fact, for Bee's "poor, 'maligned' flip-flop crowd" it IS the closest thing to a wilderness experience they will ever try, while for her "seasoned back-country curmudgeon", it ain't. Statistically, that's something like 100 x wilderness experience, minus 1 for "it ain't". Doing the math, that's a +99.


- - - - -
I haven't even touched the phrase from the Wilderness Act, "outstanding opportunities for solitude", but I sure plan to. I think that is the main place where I really and truly disagree with tight trail quotas and the gatekeepers who make them.

And by the way, I don't mind being called the butt of a little joke. I hope to explain how I think it is your 100 wilderness rangers who "don't get it."

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#25023 - 06/13/12 12:46 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: SierraNevada]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: SierraNevada
Just being facetious, Bee. Who's to say one quad is enough?


It's kind of funny, but with more than a drop of truth that one quad may not be enough for some. I have really known a few folks who got downright angry if they ran into someone in the back country.

I have seen pix of areas that were nearly destroyed by over-use (some of the Yosemite Valley Meadows come to mind -- especially El Cap area) and I like the fact that restrictions have been put in place to allow the areas to flourish once again.

I spend most of my time in the Tahoe National Forest -- where there are no restrictions, no permits et al, and some of the areas are worse than the city dump.....welcome to the wilderness.
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#25024 - 06/13/12 01:04 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Bee]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7875
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: Bee
I spend most of my time in the Tahoe National Forest -- where there are no restrictions, no permits et al, and some of the areas are worse than the city dump.....welcome to the wilderness.
Are those areas ones accessible by day hikers and day-use fishermen, or spots where backpackers have actually ruined the area?

I think it is important to make this distinction, because this discussion is supposed to be about the need for, or absence of permits to access an area. Keep in mind that even at Mt Whitney, anyone can access the area up to Lone Pine Lake, and the MR up to Lower Boy Scout Lake. I find it ironic that Inyo N.F. cited damage of the area below LBSL when they set day hike limits on the Mountaineers Route.

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#25025 - 06/13/12 01:16 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Harvey Lankford]
Steve C Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 7875
Loc: Fresno, CA
Originally Posted By: Harvey Lankford
Sign says no pets, no firearms. I like that. I think I remember seeing another one that said no wheels. Good.

Harvey, did you post that because that sign is at 13,000' and miles from any trail? crazy

Here's a map: Lamarck Col

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#25026 - 06/13/12 01:23 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Steve C]
Bee Offline


Registered: 09/22/09
Posts: 1261
Loc: Northern California
Originally Posted By: Steve C
I think it is important to make this distinction, because this discussion is supposed to be about the need for, or absence of permits to access an area. Keep in mind that even at Mt Whitney, anyone can access the area up to Lone Pine Lake, and the MR up to Lower Boy Scout Lake. I find it ironic that Inyo N.F. cited damage of the area below LBSL when they set day hike limits on the Mountaineers Route.


I must admit that I latched onto the general query of: what is a wilderness experience? Any further refining of the question/discussion will be lost on me, because I am not invested in the topic enough to go beyond a few general observations. I will probably extract myself from the conversation at this point and let the policy wonks take over.

Answer to your question: The worst area I saw for pollution was at the end of a brutal 8mi hike that included a few thousand lost/gained feet in order to finally access a %^&^$#!! polluted lake shore that is a one thousand foot descent (bye-bye hard work..)One could hike in or horseback ride in. The pollution was caused by squatters who had been there who knows how long (squatting is a by-product of zero supervision of the area)

Okay, outta here -- have at it!
_________________________
The body betrays and the weather conspires, hopefully, not on the same day.

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#25027 - 06/13/12 03:41 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Steve C]
Harvey Lankford Offline


Registered: 11/10/09
Posts: 1024
Loc: Richmond, Virginia
Originally Posted By: Steve C

did you post that because that sign is at 13,000' and miles from any trail?

Just had good memories of that place-it popped into my head related to this wilderness discussion. The sign at the border notified us of restriction on what we could do there, plus we had a permit, a form of restricting the number of people. Considering the route and/or lack of popularity, none of the hordes of Half Domers or Whitney day hikers will be there. I do not have a solution for "the problem".

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#25031 - 06/13/12 06:31 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Bee]
SierraNevada Offline


Registered: 09/05/11
Posts: 1148
Loc: NorCal
Originally Posted By: Bee
Answer to your question: The worst area I saw for pollution was at the end of a brutal 8mi hike that included a few thousand lost/gained feet in order to finally access a %^&^$#!! polluted lake shore that is a one thousand foot descent (bye-bye hard work..)One could hike in or horseback ride in. The pollution was caused by squatters who had been there who knows how long (squatting is a by-product of zero supervision of the area)

Okay, outta here -- have at it!
That's a really tough one, Bee. I see no way to fix that problem with permits or supervision. Luckily it's very rare, I think, or maybe I've just been lucky not to see it.

There is one way to almost guarantee a remote wilderness experience - get off the trail with the quota. Break out the map and compass and pick a bearing to a destination of your choice. I've had several lakes all to myself even on a July 4th week including northern Yosemite not far from a very popular backpacking lake destination. Not one fire ring. Not even fish, but then again I'm really bad at fishing so maybe they were there.

People seem to like to hoard up in groups and go to the same place every year. If you think about it, you can take advantage of that part of human nature and either participate with them if you want company, or be glad they're all there and not where you are in the back country. It's not that hard to get away from the masses and 99% of them don't want to be alone in the wilderness.

But can anyone guarantee you not to see another person? I think that is asking too much of our government.

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#25032 - 06/13/12 06:52 AM Re: What is a wilderness experience? [Re: Ken]
Bob R Offline


Registered: 10/27/09
Posts: 129
Loc: Ridgecrest, California
Last year I attended the annual USDA Region 5 Ranger Camp at Mono Lake. Region 5 is the Pacific Southwest Region, one of 9 in the country, encompassing California and Hawaii. So it is a big deal. This is a week of lectures, seminars, working groups, and field exercises, and was attended by forest rangers from all over.

One of the seminars described the goals of the Wilderness Act, and told how things were going. A goal touched upon was the issue of solitude, and a local forest supervisor told of efforts to relieve congestion in popular wilderness camping areas. He mentioned Iceberg Lake in particular.

In an area where camping spots (smooth ground with rock walls, improved by campers over the years) were close together, they returned several to their natural state and constructed new ones farther away. Same number of spots but dispersed over a wider area, so neighbors experience more of a solitude effect.

After a while, campers reestablished spots in the original locations, while the newly constructed ones went empty. He showed a couple of before- and after- aerial pictures. He guessed that some people just like to be near other people, or that some people just don't want to walk a longer distance from the trail to set up camp.

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