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#156241 - 10/23/11 06:00 PM Permit Ethics
ETSU Pride Offline
member

Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 931
Loc: Knoxville, TN
I want get some opinions and inputs from those of you who have been backpacking for years in regard to permit ethics. I'm going to use the GSMNP as an example.

The GSMNP have lot of campsites all over the park as well as shelters along the AT and some of them not far from the AT. All of the shelters and a few campsites are reservation only. Meaning, we have to call ahead of time to reserve. (shelters need 4 weeks in advance)On the day of your hike you go to the ranger station and fill out your permit. I've only had experience backpacking out of Big Creek ranger station where there is a kiosk stand in front of the ranger station and you just grab the permit and fill it out.

With all of that said. What do you guys/gals think of people who do not "reserve" campsites in advance but fill out a permit paper at kiosk stands in the park and camp there? Some of these reserve campsites can fit from 5-20 people. Do rangers give out tickets for people who filled out a permit paper at the station without a ranger helping them, and camp at sites that they didn't reserve even though there is either no one camping there and/or still plenty of space available for another camper? During my AT thru-hike in the Smokies, the group leader said he reserved the shelter 4 weeks in advanced. Some other people were at the shelter too, but I have no idea if they reserved it too or not. I didn't ask. Later that night two hikers showed up in exhaustion and pitch their tent in front of the shelter (which is technically against the park's rule) and proceed to sleep for the night. The next morning everyone at the shelter and the two hikers in the tent all talked about where they're going and where they came from and moved on. It seems like there is a "don't ask, don't tell" mentality in this area in regard to campsites that suppose to be reserved in advance. I'm sure the park rangers can look at copies of the permits they collect from kiosk stand and noticed people camping in areas they didn't reserve, but I have no clue if they actually enforce these rules or they just let it slide if no harms or fouls were done.

It seems like the rules are posted, but everyone seems to disregard reservation rules but still obey everything else. What are your thoughts on this situation?
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It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart

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#156245 - 10/23/11 07:55 PM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: ETSU Pride]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I checked the park website and it states that campsite reservations can be made "up to a month in advance," which is a little different from what you seem to be saying. You do need a permit to backpack; if you aren't using any campsites that need reservations, you just fill it out, drop it in the box, and go. If you are planning to use a shelter or a campsite needing a reservation, you need to check with the backcountry office - obviously, there might or might not be space available.

The purpose of most reservation systems, especially in National Parks, is to space out use and avoid overcrowding and undue environmental impacts. If I were patrolling and came upon a shelter that was not overloaded, and everything seemed mellow, I would probably not unduly concern myself with permits...

That doesn't mean that others might not... "Your papers are not in order. Ve haf vays of dealing vith yu." Rangers can be just as unpredictable as grizzlies, sharks, or other top rank predators, but as long as everyone is getting along nicely, and no damage is being done, you should only experience their benign side.

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#156253 - 10/23/11 10:56 PM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: ETSU Pride]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3915
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
Later that night two hikers showed up in exhaustion and pitch their tent in front of the shelter (which is technically against the park's rule) and proceed to sleep for the night.


This is off topic, but, I don't understand why anyone would do that anyway. Why would you hike through miles of forest with a tent strapped to your back and set it up in front of an occupied shelter?

Is it against the rules to camp anywhere you want along the AT (aside from the common rules about streams or private land)?

If I was close by, and knew a big storm was coming, then I might go to a shelter. Of if I knew it was not going to be occupied and was in a really cool spot, but otherwise that'd be about the last place I'd want to camp for the night.

Of course, I don't understand lot's of things smile
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#156254 - 10/23/11 11:23 PM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: billstephenson]
ETSU Pride Offline
member

Registered: 10/25/10
Posts: 931
Loc: Knoxville, TN
Originally Posted By billstephenson


This is off topic, but, I don't understand why anyone would do that anyway. Why would you hike through miles of forest with a tent strapped to your back and set it up in front of an occupied shelter?

Is it against the rules to camp anywhere you want along the AT (aside from the common rules about streams or private land)?



I think it was unplanned. In this case, the Smoky Mountains says you cannot camp on the AT within the park. AT club has a couple campsites on the AT and some people have err camp there instead going to shelter..I talked to a guy that set up his tent in front of a shelter he said he was too tired to keep walking and the shelter was occupied, so he pitch up there. Same case happened that night I was at one, two guys were tired and too far from established campsites and set up camp. Of course the shelter was full because of us...As for why there is a rule against pitching a tent in front of a shelter and camping along AT in the Smokies is beyond me.. I have no idea. lol.
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It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.-- Horace Kephart

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#156255 - 10/23/11 11:46 PM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: ETSU Pride]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Guys, check the website for Great Smokey NP. Within the park, camping is allowed (officially) only at designated campsites. Some of these campsites, and all shelters, require reservations. The guys pitching their tents near the shelters were doing their best to comply. There probably is no general rule about campsites that applies to all of the AP, since it covers many jurisdictions.

Personally, I like areas with more flexibility than this fairly rigid system. I can remember backpacking when there was no quota or reservation systems in any National Park.

As to why this system is in place, I do not know for sure, but considering the very high visitation to this park, I would guess that without these restrictions, most of the trails would be a continuous line of old fire rings. The way to know would be to inquire of the park. Go ahead, they won't bite.


Edited by oldranger (10/23/11 11:52 PM)

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#156264 - 10/24/11 10:03 AM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: oldranger]
Wolfman Offline
member

Registered: 08/28/11
Posts: 20

I am not familiar with the east coast at all, but out here in the PNW there are two areas that have a required reservation system.

1) Cape Alava and Sand Point, this is a VERY popular area on the Olympic coast and reservations are required between April and November. Some times you may be able to get a reservation the same day but it is highly suggested that you call first. From what I understand you will be ticketed if you are caught with out one.

2) The second area is Mt. Rainer, this is also a VERY popular area and all the camp sites are by reservation only, I am planning a trip next summer around the mountain, it's a 93 mile trek and you must stay at your reserved camp site, so planing is the up-most important. Again you will be fined and told to leave if you don't have reservations. If you just did not make it to your designated spot, I understand they will try to help you reschedule, but you are expected to keep to your schedule.

Both of these parks implemented these systems to deal with over crowding and to keep the parks in pristine condition. I only see this becoming more common as more and more people use the back-countries of our parks and forest.

Wolfman

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#156278 - 10/24/11 09:42 PM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: Wolfman]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6521
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
That's one reason I don't backpack in national parks (the other reason being my dog). Even the less crowded parks (such as North Cascades NP) require you to get permits for backcountry camping, which means you need to set up a rigid schedule in advance. IMHO, if the place isn't crowded, this bureaucracy is overdone. I far prefer to do my backpacking in National Forest wilderness: far less crowded, I can camp where I want (subject to LNT, obviously) and I do not have to adhere to a schedule!
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#156284 - 10/25/11 01:31 AM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: OregonMouse]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
OM, I tend to agree with you. I spent my career in the NPS, but a good many of my recreational trips were taken in various Forest Service wilderness areas that had not received the blinding glare of publicity. Almost always there was tranquility and solitude, not crowds of people.

A few years ago, some of us climbed Whitney by the East Face route, a certified classic and truly a marvelous route. By far the most difficult part of the trip was securing the permits for an appropriate time. If i remember, we were working six months in advance. Merely climbing was straightforward.

I really don't have a solution. I wish I did. I can only suggest that one get off the beaten paths and search out some of the hidden gems. They are definitely out there.

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#156295 - 10/25/11 03:22 PM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: oldranger]
ppine Offline
member

Registered: 01/10/10
Posts: 184
Loc: Minden, Nevada
Oldranger,

Good thoughts. The east coast is quite different.

The fastest way to popularize a randow roadless area of USFS land is to make it into a wilderness area and build trailheads, kiosks, and interpretive signs. It can go from quiet to full of out of state plates in about 3 years.

Some of my best trips have been at low elevations in the off season in places most people would never think to backpack.

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#156332 - 10/26/11 09:04 AM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: ETSU Pride]
Ewker Offline
member

Registered: 09/17/09
Posts: 222
Loc: Tennessee
when I go to the Smokies I just stay at the campsites that don't require any reservations. The most popular sites are the ones that get overrun with people camping there legal or illegally

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#156376 - 10/27/11 01:00 AM Re: Permit Ethics [Re: Ewker]
phat Offline
Moderator

Registered: 06/24/07
Posts: 4107
Loc: Alberta, Canada

Up here I do generally try to "pay my way" by buying a pass or whatnot to support the upkeep. However I typically avoid anything like a campsite I have to reserve at unless I have to. My personal ethics are I won't try to dodge a permit to be cheap, but I will to avoid bureacracy or herds, as long as I can do so without adversely impacting the area.
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