Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

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astrogerly
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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by astrogerly » Sun May 17, 2020 11:02 am

Ugh. :( The only two times we've ever reserved permits was when we did the JMT in 2012 and when we got married at Muriel Lake in 2016. I'm a fan of walk-up permits for sure... use them every nearly every weekend. I foresee a lot of long day hikes in our future if it comes to reservation only.








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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by jmherrell » Sun May 17, 2020 4:13 pm

The totally unreasonable part of the SEKI policy is the "2 weeks" prior requirement. Recreation.gov (inyo) allows as few as 2 days prior. This will result in a great many permit denials when there is still plenty of quota left because of cancellations.

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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by GGC23 » Sun May 17, 2020 4:14 pm

Sadly, I predict that the primary effect of this policy is going to be a huge increase in unpermitted backpacking. If someone drives from LA to SEKI and then learns that they can no longer get a walk-up permit, I'd bet a lot of money that they're not going to shrug and drive home. They're going to go hiking, but without a permit. And given that the wilderness permit system is incredibly difficult to enforce even in normal times, its best (only?) hope for success lies in making permits readily available within the limits imposed by quotas. Without the walk-up option, permits will be so onerous to obtain that I foresee many people saying "screw it" and rolling the dice on whether they're going to encounter a backcountry ranger. Anyone who has spent any amount of time in the Sierra knows that outside of the Whitney area and Yosemite Valley, chances are about 99.99% they won't run into a ranger.

Even as someone who has always been a huge supporter of the permit system, I think that Inyo NF, SEKI, Yosemite, etc. would be better off simply waiving permits this season, except in super crowded areas like Whitney or the Desolation Wilderness. Visitation is going to be way down this year, so the quotas will probably naturally enforce themselves. Even worse, creating a situation where people are more motivated to ignore permitting rules is going to reduce compliance with the permit system even when the COVID crisis is over.

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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by astrogerly » Sun May 17, 2020 4:29 pm

@GGC23 I'd say it's more like 90% of the time. ;) During "normal" years (aka not this year), we are in the Sierra every weekend. We see a ranger probably 1 time a month or so (and avoid those areas you mention like the plague). I guess we are just lucky... to have fun conversations with them about their fav areas, etc. :)

There is already a bunch of unpermitted backpacking happening it seems. Just spoke to two friends that live in the Mammoth area and they encountered several of them already. I fear for the Sierra this season - more bad camping practices, trash, etc. I've never had an issue with the permit system - yeah, might not be thrilled I can't get my first choice walk-up at times, but always places to explore. Wondering how this is all going to play out...

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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by schmalz » Sun May 17, 2020 5:45 pm

i think it really depends on where you go. I don't think I've ever run into a ranger patrolling the backcountry in the national forest, and that is where I do almost all of my backpacking as I prefer to go with my dog. On almost every trip I've gone into SEKI, I've run into a ranger.

I also think we'll see a huge increase in un-permitted backpackers. In the end they'll probably end up adding up to a similar amount that would have been getting walk ins, so it's possible there will be a similar amount of people out there compared to a normal year.

Yosemite is not open though, even for hiking as far as I can tell, so if that maintains through the summer I think the JMT will be a lot less crowded than normal.
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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by Obsidianpumice » Sun May 17, 2020 6:01 pm

I reserved an Inyo wilderness permit for early July six months ago. My predicament is that I rely on the nightbox pick-up service the night before the trip, I wonder if this service will be impacted? I assume it depends on staffing at permit offices - are people even working there right now (or, I guess, as far as I'm concerned, early July)?

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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by Bishop_Bob » Mon May 18, 2020 6:11 am

Obsidianpumice wrote:
Sun May 17, 2020 6:01 pm
I reserved an Inyo wilderness permit for early July six months ago. My predicament is that I rely on the nightbox pick-up service the night before the trip, I wonder if this service will be impacted? I assume it depends on staffing at permit offices - are people even working there right now (or, I guess, as far as I'm concerned, early July)?
I thought the scuttlebutt was that we'd get permits online after having a conversation with the ranger, but I confess I cannot recall the details or where I saw this tidbit of info. If true, it would negate your predicament.

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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by Obsidianpumice » Mon May 18, 2020 9:44 am

Bishop_Bob wrote:
Mon May 18, 2020 6:11 am
Obsidianpumice wrote:
Sun May 17, 2020 6:01 pm
I reserved an Inyo wilderness permit for early July six months ago. My predicament is that I rely on the nightbox pick-up service the night before the trip, I wonder if this service will be impacted? I assume it depends on staffing at permit offices - are people even working there right now (or, I guess, as far as I'm concerned, early July)?
I thought the scuttlebutt was that we'd get permits online after having a conversation with the ranger, but I confess I cannot recall the details or where I saw this tidbit of info. If true, it would negate your predicament.
I will be overjoyed if I can simply have a phone conversation with someone then get the permit online. I'll do my homework and share what I find out when I do. Thanks

Edit: Ok just spoke with a very friendly and helpful person at the permit office. What they said is consistent with your statement, though they indicated they are still working out some specifics.

In all likelihood the "bear canister talk" will be by phone and then permits available online. The open question is if permit cancellations will really be until June 30th, or if that date will be moved. I also asked how likely it could be extended beyond June 30th, but of course no one knows. I won't go into "what if?" territory...

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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by SSSdave » Mon May 18, 2020 12:22 pm

National Forest areas skipping the in person interview will probably adopt the process used for Desolation the last 3 years that allows submitting and then printing out a permit from a then sent email link in a day or two. That also provides the same information online as is presented by an in person interview.

That in person paper permit process is in any case somewhat ineffective because of one serious flaw. With groups, only one person goes in for the sermon but then the majority of those leaders never go over what was presented to the rest of a group. In fact among acquaintances that backpack together, there is a tendency for the same people to always get a permit so many people end up over years being seriously detached from reading policies. Thus a key reason why there is a lack of adherence to policies that IMO is increasing given our current culture.

Could easily be fixed by using the same online simple testing as is done for California annual fire permits where a short video is shown then a simple few general questions of a varying multiple choice test, and if failing a person has to view the video again and repeat taking the test, as long as that takes. If they pass, a permit is issued that needs to be printed out, signed, and brought with them on the trip. Such paper permits have policies on them so all adult backpackers have something to rely on versus the one buried down somewhere in Bob's pack. Another advantage is this would reduce the need for the in person sermon that might be replaced with a PC station in ranger stations that walk-ups would need to use. For the frequent backpacker, they might just need to take such a test once or twice a summer season as their name would in the system while trail specific information would just be within a hand out.

The other key part of improving permitting would be to have NF personnel randomly visit trailheads where at appropriate choke points a short distance up from trailheads, they actually check people for having the permits. Since people would know they might have to pull the permit out, they would have it ready at hand after leaving trailheads and those numbers that never bother with permits would be faced with the same reality we had decades ago when that was common.

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Re: Some Eastern Sierra Closures through June

Post by schmalz » Mon May 18, 2020 12:42 pm

What bothered me about being forced to get the permit in person was that it created unnecessary restrictions on timing. You have to pick it up by 10am for the day of I believe.

I'd like to be able to leave work at 3, get to the trailhead at 6:30, and hike in 3-4 miles for my first day, at least as an option.
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