When people break the rules

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dave54
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Re: When people break the rules

Post by dave54 » Tue Aug 04, 2020 6:13 pm



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John Doe
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Re: When people break the rules

Post by John Doe » Wed Aug 05, 2020 7:36 am

Not trying to post-jack but I have a question. On my recent trip we were warned for camping too close to the trail. I know, I'm sorry, should have paid more attention.

After that we meticulously paced off 50 steps at every campsite we came across for the next 5 days. I found that about half of all the campsites, within established camping areas, were too close to the trail. Some were clearly within 20 feet, others were on the border but definitely inside the 100 foot rule. Why is this?

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Re: When people break the rules

Post by dougieb » Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:39 am

Good question! I often find myself in the same situation where you're trying to find a site that has durable surfaces, you find one that looks well used but then you find it isn't far enough away from water. Ideally it needs to meet both requirements. Sometimes you'll see heavily impacted spots right next to water that have a sign that says "recovery area" or "no camping." Ultimately just because a site looks established doesn't mean it is a legal site and we have to use our discretion and do our best. We all slip up, the fact that you're trying to do your best is what matters.

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neil d
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Re: When people break the rules

Post by neil d » Wed Aug 05, 2020 4:35 pm

The 100- or 200-foot-from-water rule is a curious one. The reasons have always seemed somewhat obvious to me, mostly focused around human impact to the water source. I'm embarrassed to say the wildlife water resource has never occurred to me, but that, to me, is the more compelling reason to be in compliance.

It is curious though, that in Desolation (my main haunt), it is quite common to see established campsites near lakes and really nothing else established in the vicinity of the lake. My overarching goal is to NOT make a new campsite, so I frequently inhabit (technically illegal) campsites that are too close to water, according to the rules. And I know the powers that be could make those campsites uninhabitable, because you see that quite a bit along Lake Aloha on the PCT...trail crews leverage large boulders and rocks onto the tent pads to make them unusable. I assume this is due to the infinitely higher use ratio along the PCT, but it shows that they do have the capability to take this approach, and they seem to tolerate 'too close' camping in the quieter corners of the wilderness.

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Re: When people break the rules

Post by thegib » Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:12 pm

There are many established campsites within 50' of both trail and water all along the JMT. I think the LNT rule intends to prohibit the establishment of new spots, but disregards the existing ones.

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Re: When people break the rules

Post by dave54 » Wed Aug 05, 2020 9:45 pm

The 'camping near a waterhole' problem is actually a California Game regulation. As you can see, it prohibits even taking a rest break longer than 30 minutes. Some of the more isolated desert waterholes have a 1/4 mile buffer. I am familiar with a few of those, and they are the ONLY water within miles during late summer and fall.

The regulation is not important in the montane forests where water is common. It is very critical in the desert areas.

§730. Camping Near or Occupying Wildlife Watering Places.
(a) Camping/Occupying Defined. For purposes of this Section, camping/occupying is defined as establishing or inhabiting a camp; resting; picnicking; sleeping; parking or inhabiting any motor vehicle or trailer; hunting; or engaging in any other recreational activity for a period of more than thirty (30) minutes at a given location.
(b) Wildlife Watering Places Defined. For purposes of this Section, wildlife watering places are defined as waterholes, springs, seeps and man-made watering devices for wildlife such as guzzlers (self-filling, in-the-ground water storage tanks), horizontal wells and small impoundments of less than one surface acre in size.
(c) Prohibitions.
(1) Camping/Occupying is prohibited within 200 yards of the following:
(A) Any guzzler or horizontal well for wildlife on public land within the State of California.
(B) Any of the wildlife watering places on public land within the boundary of the California Desert Conservation Area as depicted on the Bureau of Land Management maps of "Calif. Federal Public Lands Responsibility," "Calif. Desert Conservation Area” and the new “Desert District, B.L.M."
(2) Camping/Occupying is prohibited within one-quarter mile of the following wildlife watering places:
(A) Butte Well--T31N, R14E, Section 28, NE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.
(B) Schaffer Well--T31N R14E, Section 25, Center, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.
(C) Tableland Well--T31N, R14E, Section 17, SE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.
(D) Table Mountain Well--T31N, R14E, Section 32, SE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.
(E) Timber Mountain Well--T44N, R6E, Section 33, M.D.B.M., Modoc National Forest, Modoc County.
(F) Belfast Well--T31N, R14E, Section 31, NE1/4, M.D.B.M., Lassen County.
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Re: When people break the rules

Post by GGC23 » Thu Aug 06, 2020 10:35 am

When I see a really egregious violation of the rules, my favorite tactic is to walk up to the offending person / group and "warn" them that I just passed a ranger about a mile back on the trail and he/she will probably be here soon, so they better stop [insert illegal activity here] because the ranger will give them a hefty ticket. I then hike away (swiftly). I save this for situations that make my blood boil, like idiots who have pitched their tent feet from a "no camping" sign, but it's super effective. Half the time, the people I'm talking to are so hopeless that they just shrug and keep doing whatever they're doing, but I take some solace knowing that for the next 30 minutes or so, they have a nagging worry at the back of their mind that every rustling bush they hear is a ranger walking up to ticket them.

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Re: When people break the rules

Post by SSSdave » Sat Aug 08, 2020 12:06 pm

From dave54 link page 78:

https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs/rmrs_p015 ... 77_085.pdf

Less likelihood of water pollution and soil and vegetation impact can potentially justify camping away from lake shores...Social justifications for camping farther from lakeshores are that if you camp away from a lake (1) fewer people would walk through your camp,(2) you would see fewer people, and (3) you would see fewer lakeshore camps...

We expect that groups reporting they could be persuaded by social reasons to camp farther than preferred from lakeshores would tend to be more experienced in wilderness travel. We expect them to be more frequently motivated to be alone and more sensitive to social impacts. They also should be more accepting of rules and regulations. We would expect groups persuaded by ecological reasons to be more experienced in wilderness travel. We expect them to be more sensitive to ecological impacts and to be more accepting of rules and regulations. In general, we expect experienced visitors to be more easily persuaded (by either social or ecological reasons) than less experienced visitors.


I read the discussions and conclusions. Although generally thorough, the report missed some key issues influencing behaviors. The 200 foot distance from lake shores was a impossible joke in 2000 and is a reason they have since retreated to 100 feet policies.
  • When visitors see others doing things against policies they have a desire to do, monkey see, monkey do kicks in with many and rationalizations follow.
    When visitors see many obviously recently well used camp sites near lake shore, they are likely to conclude it apparently doesn't matter.
    When visitors have no fear of personal consequence in behaviors against policy, either legally or from peers, many will do whatever they desire that is increasingly the status quo in this era.
    When only one person within wilderness groups receives a permit with a ranger sermon or paper work, the rest within groups are likely to remain ignorant. In fact many that don't receive sermons, also never read their permit, much less bother to go over policies or explain whatever to others in their group.
    When dumb policies ask people to camp 100 feet from trails while 90% of obviously well used sites are right next to trails, it is no wonder such is ignored.
    When authorities continue to ask for behaviors many visitors are ignoring without acknowledging such is obviously not working, or doing any new things to curtail, it sends a message that even the authorities don't really seem to care much.


Arguments relying fully solely on education and reason, will always miss a significant number of visitors that need to have something to fear. There are not enough, and never will be enough backcountry rangers to enforce policy, thus there is value for we visitors ourselves, at least for those with social skills to do so, to provide some level of pressure on those we see not behaving correctly. In this Internet era there is much more that can be easily done to educate all adult visitors, just not that one person receiving a permit. For example, simple online multiple choice testing is a proven effective way for receiving our annual California fire permits.

It is non-sense to close to camp siting within 100 feet of lake shores, some well used sites that have been used for decades. Such sites can simply be marked with small discrete signs indicating such is an allowable exception. Any other unmarked usable spots near shores would remain illegal. Note Yosemite actually used to do this some with metal signs on wire around nearby trees. NO CAMPING HERE works.

I just returned from my second backpack this summer that was in the JMW in Little Lakes Valley. I always see considerable signs of abuse and mis-behaviors. Talked to one at Gem Lake with a tent 10 feet from the lake that was quite agreeable to move away. But then the next morning from Morgan Pass, saw 2 new tents within 20 feet of that largest Gem Lake. Saw dozens of illegal camp fire pits. The one below was in a remote area well away from the trail. Have noticed over decades there are some pyros that seek out such remote places as they obviously expect others won't observe their secret. There they must spend much of their day creating some elaborate stone fireplace and collecting wood for their evening bonfires. And some like the below then return to these sites multiple times over years. Other miscreants will create small stone circular fire rings on grassy meadow spots within 10 feet of shores where people then see how they have left their calling card of black coals. While waiting for the early morning sun to rise enough for my target photography, I destroyed the below fireplace with a deep layer of years of coals on a high view point and its wood supply and the next t-storm will take care of the rest.

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Last edited by SSSdave on Sat Aug 08, 2020 1:08 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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bobby49
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Re: When people break the rules

Post by bobby49 » Sat Aug 08, 2020 12:24 pm

On August 6, I was southbound on the PCT at the Lower Rock Creek Crossing of Sequoia. I stepped gingerly on the well-placed rocks, and I was across. I set my backpack down on the food storage box in order to speak with a woman camped there. Her tent was literally 15 feet from the creek on heavily used dirt.

I spoke to her and mentioned that sometimes park rangers will discourage or else cite backpackers to violate the rules that way. She said that the ranger had already been there and did not say a word.

Now where do we go with this?

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Re: When people break the rules

Post by thegib » Sat Aug 08, 2020 6:45 pm

To further fuzz the issue, how do you understand it when the language says "camp x far from water" in the early season, or high snow year, when there's water everywhere?

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