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Leaving a Mark

Grab your bear can or camp chair, kick your feet up and chew the fat about anything Sierra Nevada related that doesn't quite fit in any of the other forums. Within reason, (and the HST rules and guidelines) this is also an anything goes forum. Tell stories, discuss wilderness issues, music, or whatever else the High Sierra stirs up in your mind.

Leaving a Mark

Postby balzaccom » Tue Jul 10, 2018 6:35 pm

We've become incensed at some of the recent news stories of idiots in our national parks and other natural places painting their names, carving their initials, stacking up piles of stones, flying their drones, or in some other way making sure that the rest of us won't experience the place in its pristine beauty. We're happy to read that a few of them have been caught and punished severely--although not severely enough for our tastes.

We were mollified a bit by reading Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad, a story about his travels through Europe and the Middle East with a group of American tourists soon after the Civil War. And he noted the same problem then. In fact, many in his party were prone to not only carve their initials in the ruins, but also break off a bit of stone to take home...

"One might swear that all the John Smiths and George Wilkinsons, and all the other pitiful nobodies between Kingdom Come and Baalbec would inscribe their poor little names upon the walls of Baalbec’s magnificent ruins, and would add the town, the county and the State they came from—and swearing thus, be infallibly correct. It is a pity some great ruin does not fall in and flatten out some of these reptiles, and scare their kind out of ever giving their names to fame upon any walls or monuments again, forever."

Reptiles. We're going to borrow that...
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Re: Leaving a Mark

Postby Jimr » Tue Jul 10, 2018 9:39 pm

Last Sunday, we were hiking out of Big Pine Creek. When we were within a mile of the TH, the trees suddenly had initials carved all over them. I told Lisa you could tell when you were nearing the TH. Everyone you pass smells like soap and the results of jackwads with jack knives is abundant.
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Re: Leaving a Mark

Postby Tom_H » Tue Jul 10, 2018 10:31 pm

I remember being at Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone. As we approached the formation, a ranger instructed everyone to stay on the boardwalk, not touch any of the natural formations, and not to take anything.

After we got a bit farther down the walkway I heard a woman tell her husband, I want a piece of that. Go over there, break off that piece, and bring it back to me. I watched in astonishment as he got off the walkway and began walking toward the formation. I began speaking in a loud voice to him, reminding him of what the ranger said and stating that what he was about to do was not only a crime, but destruction of a national treasure. The wife then yelled angrily at him, Go on, I want that. Get it and bring it to me. I continued, louder now, that it was illegal and destruction of a national treasure. We were surrounded my many other people who, although they had remained on the walkway, simply ignored what the man was doing and said nothing at all. When the man got back to the walkway the woman snatched the piece out of his hand, placed it in her purse and said, Come on.

I also remember once driving west through Tuolumne Meadows and seeing a car with a trunk open right by a tree. A guy pulled out a full sized ax and began chopping down a 15"-16" diameter tree. I stopped a half mile later when I saw a ranger and told him he needed to hustle down the road and make an arrest.

The world is full of people who are not running on all cylinders.
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Re: Leaving a Mark

Postby rightstar76 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 4:27 am

The sad fact, Tom_H, is that these people are running on all cylinders. It's perfectly normal for a good chunk of people in this world to be self-centered and care only for the moment and what's convenient for them.

All my life I have seen people in the backcounty do things that were detrimental to the environment. I do not make it a practice to tell people what they're doing is wrong because they don't listen and it's potentially dangerous if they're prone to violence. I remember when I was a teenager and the leader of our backpacking group told off a person who was cutting switchbacks. This person just laughed at him and went his merry way. When someone makes a decision like that, nothing is going to change their mind. Even if they get a big fine that won't matter especially if they are well to do.

Lots of people in this world don't give a shait when they're in the national parks and forests and will do whatever their little hearts desire. The way I see it is if that's the worst they do in this life, then we're pretty fortunate.
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Re: Leaving a Mark

Postby balzaccom » Wed Jul 11, 2018 6:19 am

During our visit to Arches NP in June, we noted someone who had left the trail and was walking out across the sensitive desert crust. I told him, loudly (he was far away) that he should be on the trail. Later, we ran into him at the end of one of the trails, and I explained to him why it mattered--that it took tens of years for the desert to recover from the damage he had done. He looked vaguely unconvinced, but he stayed on the trail. sigh
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Re: Leaving a Mark

Postby oldranger » Wed Jul 11, 2018 7:47 am

Ah! Just think of all the explorers that left their marks that are now historically important. We love finding carvings by lonely shepards in remote aspen groves. Yesterdays trash dumps become archeologic sites after 50 years. In the name of science we remove remnants of native american habitation to be placed in drawers out of sight. Some people revere small monuments placed in the wilderness in memory of loved ones. Why do we have to get so close to thermal features in Yellowstone that boardwalks are created that mar the landscape? Cables up half dome? Stairs up Moro Rock? Trails? Who decides what marks, what removals are appropriate?
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Re: Leaving a Mark

Postby AlmostThere » Wed Jul 11, 2018 8:02 am

oldranger wrote:Ah! Just think of all the explorers that left their marks that are now historically important. We love finding carvings by lonely shepards in remote aspen groves. Yesterdays trash dumps become archeologic sites after 50 years. In the name of science we remove remnants of native american habitation to be placed in drawers out of sight. Some people revere small monuments placed in the wilderness in memory of loved ones. Why do we have to get so close to thermal features in Yellowstone that boardwalks are created that mar the landscape? Cables up half dome? Stairs up Moro Rock? Trails? Who decides what marks, what removals are appropriate?


There is an appreciable difference between finding a shepherd's name and a date carved in an aspen tree, and a large stylized command to DIE slashed in one with an ugly series of hatchet marks below it.

I suspect that the plastic that people leave behind will be there for 50,000 years to come....
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Re: Leaving a Mark

Postby bobby49 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 9:01 am

A mark that I find valuable...
Near Tioga Pass there are some Basque woodcarvings on a tree, and they were done more than a century ago. The Basque shepherds were probably lonely, so the carvings show a female form.
This was first pointed out to me by a Yosemite ranger forty years ago.
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Re: Leaving a Mark

Postby dave54 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:36 am

Years ago, I had a coworker working on her Master's in archaeology. She was re-creating the daily life in the logging camps of the early 20th century. So she convinced the Timber Sales Administrators to write in the sale contracts to protect all the camp dumps, which now look like just old piles of trash. At the first, the loggers were loudly grumbling. "Protecting that old trash dump!? We have to route the skidders and cats around it!?"
When she calmly explained why she wanted the old middens and dumps protected, how careful excavation will reveal how the early loggers spent their off time in the camps, what they ate, etc, the loggers were all enthusiastic and went to great lengths to protect and reroute equipment around every piece of trash they spotted in the woods. They felt they were now partners in preserving their own legacy. She often sighed, thanked them, and said, no, that pile you flagged off for me is just someone's household trash from only two years ago.

She eventually completed her research, and the thesis is now probably gathering dust in the university library basement.
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Re: Leaving a Mark

Postby dave54 » Wed Jul 11, 2018 10:50 am

bobby49 wrote:A mark that I find valuable...
Near Tioga Pass there are some Basque woodcarvings on a tree, and they were done more than a century ago. The Basque shepherds were probably lonely, so the carvings show a female form.
This was first pointed out to me by a Yosemite ranger forty years ago.


A Passport in Time project a few years back on Lassen NF was to record a particularly large concentration of the Basque carvings before time erased them. Volunteer photographers and artists took and drew pictures, dimensions were measured, locations were carefully noted. Just in time. Not long after, a fire destroyed the groves.

Sad when you see petroglyphs 'enhanced' by a felt pen so some amateur photographer can get his souvenir. I guess they never learned how to use the camera settings for faded images.
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