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#168631 - 08/21/12 11:28 AM Backpacking without a permit?
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2087
Loc: Napa, CA
Have you ever gone backpacking without the required permit? Would you? We got to thinking about this after a recent trip to the Ansel Adams Wilderness. We had arranged for our permit to be left for after-hours pickup at the Mono Lake station. But when we got there, the permit box was empty. We looked and looked. Poor Mother Hubbard!

It wasn't a big deal. We were camping at Silver Lake, about fifteen minutes away, and so we simply got up the next morning and drove back to the ranger station and picked up our permit from a live and slightly apologetic ranger. The phones had been down the night before, and they never got the word from the main office. End result? We hit the trail about an hour later than planned. As we said, no big deal.



But what if the situation had been different? We once called the El Dorado National Forest to make sure that we could pick up a permit at the trailhead for a trip we were going to make out of Carson Pass. We were assured that it was not a problem--the Carson Pass station was open 9-5 or so. We left home early the next morning, and drove to Carson Pass...only to find that the USFS station up there was not open during the week (This was in the fall. Summer hours may well be different.) The station was boarded up, there was no phone (or cell phone coverage) and not even another car in the parking lot.

Our only option was to drive another hour or more back down to Placerville, pick up a permit, and then drive back up to Carson Pass and start hiking. We'd already been in the car for more than three hours, and it was now 11:30 in the morning. If we drove to Placerville, we would not get on the trail until 2 p.m. or so. We read the warning signs carefully, all of which stressed that we could not make a campfire (or cook on a stove) without a permit. But we did have our CDF campfire permit. We get one of those every year.



So we decided to hit the trail. We spent three lovely days in the not yet established Meiss Meadow Wilderness Area, and hiked back out on Saturday afternoon. We'd seen very few people, and by the time we got to the car, we'd forgotten that we didn't have a permit.

No, we didn't get stopped at the trailhead and arrested. In fact, we weren't noticed at all.



Clearly, this is not something we would consider in Yosemite National Park or other high traffic and highly regulated areas. And some of the other areas allow you to simply self-registed for a permit at the trailhead. We did that at Leavitt Meadows. But now you know our secret confession. We once backpacked without a permit.

We expect to appear on the next season of America's Most Wanted. Photos are of the fugitives during their escapade.
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check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#168635 - 08/21/12 01:29 PM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: balzaccom]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2124
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Have not been in that situation yet at least. Tough call. Our group was talked to by a volunteer a winter ago on the Carson Pass about packing out our tp on our visit to Winnemucca. No mention on the permit I believe, we did our normal thing.

Although a week ago on my 6 days in the Mono Creek drainage and the laterals going off of it, I remembered about the third day out that I may need to fish barbless. Whoops! Forgot to check regs before my trip.
Duane

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#168643 - 08/21/12 11:07 PM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: balzaccom]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I've skirted the rules on that a few times. I've camped and hiked in Yellowstone without a permit, and Sequoia NP too I suppose. I was far away from any trails or popular spots, and not doing anything stupid, so I didn't worry about it. I figured the worst that would happen is I'd be asked to move along, but I never was. I was never bothered about it all. I talked to a few rangers while car camping like that, but they never seemed too worried about me.
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#168644 - 08/21/12 11:10 PM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: hikerduane]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
I think you can bend a barb down and be legal. I'd check of course, but I'm pretty sure that will pass muster.
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#168646 - 08/21/12 11:35 PM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: billstephenson]
hikerduane Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/03
Posts: 2124
Loc: Meadow Valley, CA
Bill, that's what I was gonna do, but then even forgot to do that. I've only been checked for a Fishing license once in a wilderness and that has been over 30 years ago in Desolation Wilderness.
Duane

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#168807 - 08/28/12 03:28 AM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: hikerduane]
TomD Offline
Moderator

Registered: 10/30/03
Posts: 4963
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
Yosemite, they will ask, even in Winter. You need the permit (free) for the Badger Pass area. You put a copy in the window of your car and leave it in the long term parking at the ski field parking lot. They check every few days and if you don't come back on time, they supposedly will come looking for you.
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#168808 - 08/28/12 08:59 AM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: TomD]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By TomD
Yosemite, they will ask, even in Winter. You need the permit (free) for the Badger Pass area. You put a copy in the window of your car and leave it in the long term parking at the ski field parking lot. They check every few days and if you don't come back on time, they supposedly will come looking for you.


Given the number of mutual aid searches prompted by finding a car in a lot belonging to overdue people, I'd say they WILL come looking for you.
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"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

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#168877 - 08/30/12 11:19 AM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: balzaccom]
ndwoods Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/02
Posts: 572
Loc: Santa Cruz CA, Sierra Hiker
The one time in Yosemite I accidentally left my permit in my car I was stopped by a ranger! I did have some stub thing to show him and he let me off.....sheesh!
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#168883 - 08/30/12 09:28 PM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: ndwoods]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3917
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
The one time in Yosemite I accidentally left my permit in my car I was stopped by a ranger!


That's the way it always goes isn't it? frown

I don't know, but I suspect that they get a lot of people that think they're going to go disappear "Into the Wild" there and live off the fat of the land for a while, or forever.

Anyone have any idea of how many un-permitted hikers they shoo away out of Yosemite in an average year?

There must be some pretty good stories about that. It'd be fun to listen to the Rangers when they got on that subject laugh
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#168898 - 08/31/12 10:55 AM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: billstephenson]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2087
Loc: Napa, CA
I agree Bill. There's probabaly a book in that idea!
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#168909 - 08/31/12 08:46 PM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: billstephenson]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Some topics are never discussed publicly. Another great book would be the "odd and unusual" questions asked by the public, but that won't see print any time soon.....



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#168977 - 09/04/12 09:48 AM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: oldranger]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
Originally Posted By oldranger
Some topics are never discussed publicly. Another great book would be the "odd and unusual" questions asked by the public, but that won't see print any time soon.....




I saw a book like this in the shelves in the visitor center in Tuolumne Meadows.

I also talk to rangers about stuff like that. A ranger in Pinnacles who used to be in Yosemite dished all kinds of stuff about bear incidents to us.

And then there is http://rinkworks.com/said/ranger.shtml
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"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#168990 - 09/04/12 02:26 PM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: lori]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 2087
Loc: Napa, CA
Good stuff. I particularly like the idea that at some elevation, the elk turn into moose.
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#169012 - 09/04/12 09:26 PM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: lori]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
Interesting website. I was intrigued by the questions attributed to Mesa Verde. The summer I worked there, we kept a list of the woppers we encountered. Questions 1 and 3 on rinkworks were actually "routine" - asked about once a week by someone.....

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#177108 - 05/16/13 01:02 AM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: balzaccom]
aircooled Offline
newbie

Registered: 05/16/13
Posts: 1
A few years back we had permits to hike the Seven Lakes Basin in the Olympics over a 4-day Labor Day weekend but a nasty weather system made that impossible. The only good weather within driving distance was in the Three Sisters Wilderness to the south of us. The Obsidian Falls loop requires permits - it's a limited use area. We tried to snag some at the local ranger station but of course it was fall up.

I asked the ranger what they did if someday didn't show to claim their permit. They didn't do anything. The spot went unused! They kept track of the permits on a sheet of paper. Pretty sophisticated.

Anyway, we did the loop anyway, saw virtually no people at all (it would appear that there were no-shows), never saw a ranger either. We wnt back last year with permits and in fact did run into a ranger and chatted for a while. She was very friendly but, yeah, she did want to see those permits.

The Sisters is very open and there are many places to camp well off trail, and even hike well off trail. It wouldn't be too difficult to avoid the enforcers, but there are other spots where the trail is really the best way of getting from A to B. And the rangers know where those are.

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#177121 - 05/16/13 02:08 PM Re: Backpacking without a permit? [Re: aircooled]
OregonMouse Online   content
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6760
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
My understanding is that if you don't enter or exit the Three Sisters Wllderness via the Obsidian Trail and stay on the PCT when in the special permit area, you don't need a special permit, just the one you fill out at the trailhead. Only the Willamette National Forest (on the west side of the Three Sisters) requires those permits, and only for that specific. If you enter/exit the wilderness from the Deschutes National Forest (east side, including the trailhead at McKenzie Pass), you're fine to do the loop--at least that's what the Deschutes NF rangers will tell you. I would presume they'd get plenty of feedback from ticketed hikers and Willamette NF rangers if that weren't true! Just stay on the PCT, not the Obsidian Trail, when going through that area.

The permits for the special use areas of the Willamette National Forest are now available only online (check their website for details). You can no longer get them at the ranger station. You also now have to pay a fee to the private concessionaire that now handles those permits, with no refund if you cancel. This particular ripoff just started this year. My understanding is that this change has been mandated by the USFS bureaucracy at the national level, so if you California folks haven't seen it yet, you will soon.

Up here in the PNW, the only places requiring special permits in national forests (as opposed to national parks, different federal agency, lots more bureaucracy) are a couple of high impact areas in Oregon's Willamette National Forest (Obsidian in Three Sisters Wilderness and Pamelia Lake in Mt. Jefferson) and Washington's Enchantment Lakes area in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness of Washington. Those all have limited permits in hopes of keeping those places from being loved to death. For all other USFS wilderness areas, you just fill out a free permit at the wilderness boundary or (sometimes) at the trailhead. Yes, rangers do want to see those, and you can get a ticket if you don't have one. The primary purpose of those free permits is to track usage, an important part of trying to justify the local USFS budget. That's therefore good reason for you to fill them out!

You do, of course, have to pay to park at most USFS trailheads up here in the PNW or have a Northwest Forest Pass or America the Beautiful Pass or Senior Pass (the last is a marvelous bargain for those of us age 62 and over). Due to vandalism of the fee boxes, at most trailheads you now need to purchase the permit ahead of time because there is often no way to pay at the trailhead. The USFS is ignoring last year's 9th Circuit Court decision, evidently hoping it will go away. In other words, you could probably fight a trailhead parking ticket successfully, if you can afford the hassle and the legal fees. Since I have the Senior (formerly Golden Age) pass and do generally use the trailhead facilities (the privy), I just go ahead and hang my Senior Pass as required.


Edited by OregonMouse (05/16/13 02:13 PM)
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