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Post by Hobbes » Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:05 pm

Wandering Daisy wrote:You also make the PCT entry trailheads subject to quotas, just like are most of the Sierra trailheads. Hobbes, I just do not buy your "throw up the hands" and let it all fall apart attitude; stick your head in the sand and hope it will all pass.
As Brian said, hikers can freely enter @ Trail pass, which doesn't have any quotas. Impose a quota there, and hikers will just move further south. Pretty soon, you'll have quotas for entering the trail down near Tehachapi. At what point would this kind of policy directive begin to lose any bearing with public interest, but rather be perceived as retaliatory?

I'm not hoping current demand will pass; rather, I recognize the symptoms of what is actually in store. Many posters here can remember when the Valley had some semblance, some shred remaining of delivering a peaceful outdoor experience. I cannot specifically recall when the Rubicon was crossed, but suffice it to say, there's no going back. You can add the over-use phenomenon to the entire California coastline, pasture/farming areas turned into housing surrounding city centers, and traffic conjestion/air pollution in every major metro region.

Here's the problem someone like you is going to encounter if you decide to become a more vocal advocate for limiting access:

One, practically the entire length of the PCT runs through Congressional districts that have Republican house members. These counties/districts are in general fairly conservative, and do not philosophically agree that government has the right to control public access. (Much less manage large swaths of land, BLM, forest or even some parks.)

Two, the PCT has become a major seasonal business. The managers/rangers who are posted/live in the Owens valley and would be charged with conducting studies, holding public hearings, etc, either have friends, family members or they themselves are engaged in businesses that benefit from this foot traffic.

Three, you're not a CA native, so you'll be perceived as a newcomer, an outsider trying to impose your ideals on those who are from here. Even worse, you're a commuter from a relatively comfortable suburban region that has the time, ability and means to be able to enjoy the wilderness on the restrictive basis you're advocating.

From a political perspective, this is a recipe for getting mauled and raked through the coals. Any push for restrictions will have to come from locals. Good luck on that, because the nature lovers are well outnumbered by long time residents who support (free market) economic land use policies.

Here's the bottom-line: population growth is the great unspoken driver. Not just in Calif, but globally. If you have a chance to travel to Europe, you many notice there's never a down time nor so-called shoulder seasons any more. Rather, it's literally packed like Mardi Gras everywhere all the time.

Harlen could probably add some dimension to what's happening in the Himalaya. The locals are no longer satisfied with being 'quaint & rustic'. Rather, they like the tourism, they can now afford generators to enable their cell phone & wi-fi connections, and they really love their scooters and motorcycles.

If you get what's goin' down, then you'll avoid wasting any time fighting the wave, but rather try and grab as much inaccessible space as possible while there's still time. For those interested in understanding the underlying dynamics of population growth - including the doubling factor- you would be well served by watching this video. Hint: @ 2% annual growth, global population will double from 7B to 14B in just 35 years. Them's the facts Jack:


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Post by Hobbes » Mon Feb 12, 2018 5:30 pm

I should also add that it's the changing land use characteristics of hiking itself that is responsible for the altered dynamics. When permits and quotas were first imposed, people were still regularly backpacking with packs that weighed in excess of 50lbs. Mileage was (much) shorter, and the general objective was to hike a bit, camp, fish and hang-out.

Under this kind of use, permits/quotas helped spread everyone around, so that unless one traveled outside their general region, you would only encounter the (limited) number of people who were entering/exiting the same THs. This of course began to change with the JMT, whereas people were traversing across many different entry/exit points, and so would come in contact with hikers using those respective THs.

Thru-hiking, however, has completely upset this dynamic. It doesn't matter which TH one utilizes, PCT hikers are going to cross through every single region/TH subject to permits/quotas. In effect, it defeats the entire premise of local permits/quotas, because the land use isn't being 'spread around'.

So, approaching the issue of managing thru-hiking volume with what is basically an obsolete construct intended to spread people around is on its face a non-starter. It will only add more regulations, more oversight, more police presence (in the form of rangers), more aggravation, and more resistance that in the end won't do anything to control volume.

There's also the flip side of the argument: who has the greater footprint? The heavy truckers with tents, pots/pans, campfires, etc who are actually spending time staying in dispersed camping spots in limited areas? (And, let's not even bring up horse packers.) Or, the thru-hikers who are averaging 20 miles/day, and are passing through the high Sierra in 10 days? Besides, thru-hikers don't spend very much time at all camping, so their primary impact is simply putting miles on the trail itself.

Secondly, their primary impact is limited to 4-5 weeks in the summer. Most of the time, the Sierra is either under snow or used very infrequently. In the great scheme of things, which has a greater environmental impact? US 395 with year-round emission producing auto traffic, the various water capture & management systems in place over every square inch of the Sierra Nevada, or some foot traffic during June/July?

Really, what is being argued is the visual/audio impact. Some just don't want to see that many people in the back-country ruining "their experience" of solitude, peace & tranquility. Please note that I agree with WD in principle, it's just that once you begin running into opposition, these are the kinds of objections and accusations of elitism that are going to be leveled at anyone advocating restrictions on public access & use.

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Post by Hobbes » Mon Feb 12, 2018 7:50 pm

One other thing, if you want to see what the potential volume could become, here's some statistics on the Camino de Santiago:

https://www.csj.org.uk/the-present-day- ... m-numbers/
The number of pilgrims receiving the Compostela each year:

1986 2,491
1987 2,905
1988 3,501
1989 (Pope’s visit) 5,760
1990 4,918
1991 7,274
1992 9,764
1993 (Holy Year) 99,439
1994 15,863
1995 19,821
1996 23,218
1997 25,179
1998 30,126
1999(Holy Year) 154,613
2000 (Jubilee Year) 55,004
2001 61,418
2002 68,952
2003 74,614
2004 (Holy Year) 179,944
2005 93,924
2006 100,377
2007 114,026
2008 125,141
2009 145,877
2010 (Holy Year) 272,135
2011 183,366
2012 192,499
2013 215,880
2014 237,886
2015 262,459
2016 277,915
2017 301,036

That's right, 300 THOUSAND completed, not just started nor section hiked. Now consider this: the PCTA has hired two individuals to ostensibly check "permits" @ the border @ Campo. (They are actually potentially in danger of impersonating a government sanctioned peace office under color of authority.) So, this is how it goes down in normal, civilian society when a stranger accosts you: "Are you threatening me?" No, I'd just like to see your papers. "Either get out of my way, or I'm going to kick your ass from here to TJ in 5 seconds". Oh, ok.

See, the problem is, permits are NOT required for at least the first 200 miles: in forest service land, it's not wilderness, and in state land, permits aren't required until San Jacinto. That means there is no (currently existing) legal remedy to throttle daily volume to 50, much less 100, 500 or 5,000 hikers per day. Rather, what the PCTA is trying to do is confuse and intimidate hikers. There's no way the PCTA will come clean as to the true legal status, because then it could open up the flood gates.

We all know what this means: the cover-up is worse than the crime. You can tell all the respective parties are staying sort of mum, because there's nothing in place to get in front of this issue if it really starts to gain some momentum.

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Post by Harlen » Mon Feb 12, 2018 9:20 pm

Lastly, to bring up the classic Valley argument against access control...

It's why the Valley is a parking lot in summer - the park cannot do anything about it.

I'm sure there are a lot of angles and nuances to "the classic Valley argument," but I think it's pertinent here to note that the original Yosemite National Park plan* was very intentionally designed to consolidate development, and channel human presence into the lower Yosemite Valley. [Gdurkee, please step in, and elaborate on this park planning history if you feel like it.] One of the principals of ecological land use planning is this consolidation of human development and activities.
In the Yosemite NP example, concentrating human land uses in the valley allows for the largest possible area dedicated to wildlife habitat. That's the consolidation ideal in a nutshell. The point you've made Hobbes, about the relatively narrow, and therefore concentrated path that the PCT'ers take thorough the land, makes for an interesting comparison to the consolidation of human land use ideal. Any area where the human activities are concentrated become "sacrifice zones" in terms of wildlife habitat quality; the PCT can be seen as analogous to the lower Yosemite Valley, except as a long, thin zone of high use. I would definitely assume that were all of the PCTers spread widely throughout the range, that it would be cause much more disturbance to wildlife, however, the concentration of human pollutants, such as, excrement, chemicals, trash, ... and the concomitant resource damage- firewood gathering, soil compaction, and erosion for example, complicate this question of overall environmental impact. My overall sense is that we have to take on the challenge of human over-population on many fronts. Sorry for sounding like a report; I'll cut this thing short. I'm glad we're are willing to consider these things, and even to broach awkward subjects like politics and over-population.

And salty old Hobbes, we can take heart that just as the over-crowded waves led to, among other effects, the creation of the Surfrider Foundation, and all the good work they do, the over-crowding in the Sierra will continue to spawn a cadre of folks dead set on preserving the integrity of the land.

*when I say "original" I don't mean from the days of John Muir, but much later, more like in the mid 20th Century.
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Post by yosehiker » Mon Feb 12, 2018 10:59 pm


You missed one problem: People like you that gave up the fight before it even starts. Will it be easy? No, for many of the points that you mention, but it certainly is not impossible. But if you don't try, you are sure to lose.

I think your analogy to surfing misses the mark. Fundamentally the impacts are different. If you had 100 surfer's in the water, you wouldn't really see the impacts in the water the next day, whereas you certainly would if they all camped at Granite Park. I am aware that there are some coastal impacts, but for the larger part the coastal access is developed and relatively easily managed. The issue is mostly crowding rather than impacts.

I think there are two things you are missing:

One, there are laws currently in place that both protect the experience of hikers and limits their physical impacts. Managers have to abide by those laws and they open themselves up to lawsuits if they don't follow them. These protections are relatively unique to the Sierra and not comparable to some of the examples you provided.

Two, the agencies don't have to accept each other's permits. There is no legal reason that they have accept use from the other agencies. Sure they have agreements in place, that's why you can do it now, but if they wanted to they can void them. If you don't believe it is possible, just look at Half Dome. Yosemite used to accept forest permits to go up half dome, but because of abuse they stopped that. They don't necessarily have to ban all permits but only accept a limited use from outside.

A couple of other thoughts regarding your impact arguments. I think it's a very slippery slope trying to imply that they are better hikers. From what I have seen, they may be fit hiking machines but they are not all low impact hikers. Just going by numbers, they are the most impactful hikers. Overall, the average hiker is only out ~2 days, they are out 10 days by your math. That is 5 times the impact right there. If you count JMT hikers, which I think is a big part of the problem, they are out even longer, and even more impact. Now concentrate that all on one trail instead of spread out over all the sierra, the impact is even greater.

Also, you want the use spread out. Thats why the PCTA put a daily 50 limit per day instead of a yearly cap. Once a campsite is created, most of the impact has occurred. You want to prevent the creation of new campsites which happens really fast and recovers very slowly. The number of campsites at any one location is the maximum number of people staying there at one time, not the average. They all have to stay somewhere. You want to spread out the use so that a particular area has say 5 campsites that are well used instead 20 campsites that are used for a few weeks and the rest of they year only 1 or 2 campsites are used.

Lastly, and not trying to be dismissive, but all this is just your opinion. Sure it is reasoned and has some good arguments, but it is just your opinion, or really rather prediction of the future. You may end up being right, but also very well end up being wrong. Nothing is a foregone conclusion.

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Post by dave54 » Tue Feb 13, 2018 11:34 am

Day use is not limited at all, and every place the trail crosses a road is a ' trailhead'. The PCT crosses a state highway a few miles from my home, and quite common to see a few vehicles parked at the crossing for day hikers and mountain bikers (...another issue...) and overnighters. I have done so myself. No quotas, permits, or limits. If a group of 75 want to hike and camp together it is perfectly legal. A local Meetup group day hikes a local section of the PCT every summer, with 20-25 in the group. The PCTA can go pound sand.
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Post by Wandering Daisy » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:03 pm

Camino de Santiago, primarily on long ago developed rural trails and roads, is NOT the PCT. Europe does not have much of a wilderness system- talk to some Europeans and you will appreciate our unique wilderness even more! You are comparing apples and oranges. And I am only talking about the part of the PCT that goes through the High Sierra.

The PCT that goes through the high sierra has large sections not anywhere near roads. In fact the Sierra is one of the few parts of the PCT that requires longer trail time between resupply points. Much IS designated wilderness. All I want is the PCT hikers required to follow the same rules and the rest of us in the designated wilderness of the Sierra. As Sekihiker mentioned there already is a legal framework to better manage the deluge. Add exponential growth to the PCT masses the JMT masses and without regulation, real damage can be done.

Yosemite Valley is also not a good comparison. The valley development was there long before it became a NP. The actual valley floor never was a wilderness area. Yosemite Valley and the backcountry are two entirely different beasts. Another case of apples and oranges.

I do agree that the PCT is not the biggest threat to the Sierra. I feel a bigger threat is the attempt to starve the FS and NPS of funds and privatize the land. I am not sure how the deluge of PCT hikers exactly fits into this larger threat.

At any rate, it sure would be great if the popularity of the PCT were to fade a bit. With all the "crutches" available nowadays, the challange of the PCT itself certainly has been degraded. Same goes for the JMT.

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Post by Hobbes » Tue Feb 13, 2018 4:31 pm

If PCT/JMT traffic continues to grow to the point where 10-20,000 people are attempting it each year, then it is going to be ultimately resolved through volume management, not suppression. Critical to this approach will include two essential developments that will eventually occur in response to various over-use pressures: designated camping areas and restroom facilities.

In effect, with respect to dispersed camping, this is already how both the Whitney zone and Tuolumne meadows are currently managed. That is, for the WZ, no camping is allowed between Guitar and the Crabtree RS. Likewise for TM, no camping north of the bridge past Donohue pass in Lyell canyon is permitted. Rather, hikers are required to use the walk-in backpacking group site @ the TM campground.

Restroom facilities, in the form of porta-potties and/or solar composting units, were previously used on the main Mt Whitney trail from the Portal, but were subsequently removed in favor of wag bags. There is rigorous debate over this policy in the WZ where compliance issues wax/wane, but of course, it would be a non-starter to expect PCT/JMT hikers to carry their waster for more than 1 day while on the trail.

The way costs & expenses associated with waste management and increased ranger patrols - to enforce non-dispersed camping policies - would be recouped will be in the form of permit fees. For NOBOs, it will be as easy as: decide to enter @ Trail pass, but want to cross Forester? $50. Want to try & be clever by skipping Forester, but wish to continue north past TM? $50. It's works for SOBO as well: want to cross Donohue south? $50. In effect, it would be no different than how any toll road system is constructed and managed throughout the country.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle will be resistance to these very ideas in the first place. Not those paying the bills - they will be more than happy for such a nominal fee. No, I'm referring to the old guard who may think suppression should be the chosen method. Now, I understand it's conceptually difficult to imagine 200 hikers camped within a hard perimeter line @ the Kearsarge/Charlotte PCT/JMT intersection, along with a row of privies located behind some blinds.

But, like the 5 stages of grief, eventually acceptance will come to most. Philosophically, this kind of management system also helps answer the eternal question with respect to the role of government. That is, does it respond to the will of the people and serve the public trust, or is it some kind of self-imposed authority free of oversight? After all, one of the essential roles is public safety. Responding in a sensible, adult manner to increased trail volume is the proper role with those charged with such duties. Ignoring and/or inflaming passions recalls the famous JFK quote of evolution vs revolution.

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Post by gdurkee » Wed Feb 14, 2018 2:38 pm

Holy heck, batman. What a long and winding road of a thread.

Like a couple of others of you, I just couldn't get past the original writer's toxic opening. Our digital lives are full of miserable, unhappy people already, no point in adding more. But, on PCT hikers in general, I find them to be a distinct sub-group with emphasis on "sub". They don't in any way represent most hikers. I've never found them to be especially sexist, misogynist etc., but I'm not sure I would have noticed that (though hard to imagine I wouldn't have heard occasional stories, and I never have). No doubt the MA types are out there (and I had to look up MA) but, in my experience, they're a pretty tiny percentage of hikers.

While I'm here, It's hard to imagine carrying that much mental baggage mile after mile. If, after 20 miles or so, you're still looping on everything wrong with the people you're meeting or how you're interacting with others and, as Muir pointed out, cares don't drop like autumn leaves, you're doing it wrong.

My main problem with them is how unaware, uninterested, and clueless they are about the magical places they're travelling through. It's all mileage all the time. Story time! An extreme example -- but I don't think it's too extreme -- is standing at the edge of McClure Meadow watching a double rainbow over Darwin & The Hermit. PCT hiker powering down the trail and I tell him the rain will have raised the Evolution crossing such that he won't be able to cross until the next morning. "Damn" says he "a zero day at McClure."

No question that hiking that far requires a focused discipline but these folks just drive me buggy. There's also a not very well hidden sense of entitlement -- sort of like rock climbers. That is, they don't seem to care about minimum impact camping, local regulations on the trail, bear canisters etc. Once again: mileage. Oh, and also where they are in relation to the other PCT hikers. Anyway, arrogant and clueless is how I usually think of them. Gross generalization, but there ya' go... . I can't remember a significant question or conversation touching on their surroundings from any of them (streams, critters, peaks etc.). Most of them might as well be on a hamster wheel, clicking off mileage.

I've not noticed attitudes like that with many JMT hikers or more localized hiking trips. Most of them seem like, you know, regular people and darned excited to be where they are. For all the sturm und drang about PCT hikers, there's really not a huge glut of them such that they overwhelm Sierra wilderness qualities any more than other groups of hikers. Of those reaching the Sierra, the numbers are up but also limited in time. The true PCT hikers get to, say, Charlotte between mid-June and tail off in late July. The ones that cause impact problems are usually going through before rangers get there, mid-June or so. Which is just to say I'm not overly worried about their impact. Arguably, having a permit for the whole trail is a scam, but it's not a major impact and, for non-PCT people, isn't really abused that much. Also, the PCT association used to do an awful job about educating them on minimum impact. Not sure if that's improved. By behavior alone, I'd say not.

While I'm ranting, I agree with WD and others about Strayed & Bryson. There was some other PCT book I read where, when the guy is thrashing around Forester Pass, my thought was "never has anyone hiked so far and learned so little." That applies to too many of them, alas.

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Post by robow8 » Wed Feb 14, 2018 4:35 pm

I didn't read the article, and I read about half of the posts. But it reminds me of a story I heard long ago.

There was an old man traveling down a path. A young man coming from the other way asked him, "how is the next town?"
"How was the town you came from?" asked the old man.
"It was the worst town I've ever been in" Replied the young man. "People were rude, and selfish, and not friendly at all. I couldn't wait to leave"
The old man listened, shaking his head. "I think that you'll find the next town is much the same."
Continuing his travels, the old man soon came upon another young man.
"How is the next town?" the young man asked.
"How was the town you came from?" asked the old man.
"Oh, it was the nicest town I've ever been in. The people were so friendly, and kind, and helpful, that I was sad to leave."
The old man listened, nodding his head. "I think that you'll find the next town is much the same."

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