Saturday, October 8, 2016

Does Not Share Well With Others

 It was an unsettled fall day, with a light rain falling, but the forecast promised better. I decided to strike out for Ice Lake, a place I have been often, but one that never fails. Unfortunately, this lake has been discovered. A steady, but relatively easy climb, if you bust a move you can make it in less than three hours. It used to be that in October, I had it all to myself, but we have all been noticing that there's been an explosion in people, not just in summer but in spring and fall.

I saw mountain goats on this mountain.
I tagged the lake but couldn't stay long. A brutal wind swept off the mountains. Across the outlet three backpackers huddled in down jackets, looking miserable. Without taking a break, I headed down. 

Backpackers loomed into view. Not just a few of them but...36, in several groups. They all looked to be in their twenties. I wasn't sure how I felt about all these people. On one hand, wilderness needs younger supporters. It's a fairly even statistic across the country that the largest age group to visit wilderness is the 50-59 year olds. So it's good to see younger people away from their phones and in the woods.

But couldn't they spread out a little?

Perhaps I have an unhealthy obsession with pooping, but I cringe to think of all these people wandering this high elevation lake with toilet paper in hand. Most of the lakeshore where you can camp has become one big campsite. You aren't supposed to have campfires here, but people invariably do. The chipmunks know they will find food, and every time I've been here I've found microtrash, the small droppings people always forget. A tent stake here, duct tape there. 

I've spent most of my career picking up after campers. It's a discouraging and unfun task. I like to think things have improved since the 90s, when I would routinely carry out discarded boots, cans, and grills. Lots and lots of grills. It does sometimes seem like people are bringing less stuff with them, which means less stuff left behind. I can hope, anyway.

This has always been a sort of secret corner of the world and it's been nice to think of it this way, never changing. The quality of life is why I put up with a sub par grocery store, the long drive to the airport, and paying way too much for everything. I really hope these mountains stay wild.

17 comments:

  1. Yeah, I'm noticing a lot more 20-something hikers. And I agree, it's good young people are getting out in nature, but these youngsters don't seem to have the same level of respect for the outdoors that we were taught. I see them cutting switchbacks, leaving tp, and hiking with speakers blasting music -ugh!

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    1. What is up with the speakers?! I have noticed this too. And I agree about lack of respect as a whole, though definitely not everyone.

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  2. There's a mountain range nearby that I always think of when you talk about your mountains. It too has been discovered because one of the writers from Backpacker Magazine grew up nearby and and writes nearly monthly articles about these amazing, rugged mountains. Keep your mouth shut, dude. Mountains like this are so rare in California, stop giving away our secret spots!

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    1. We have locals doing the same because they "have to make a living". I just shake my head. Yes I blog about them but these blogs maybe reach 100 people? A lot different than a national mag.

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    2. Same here, and even fewer read mine because it's not indexed by search engines. :)

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  3. I get the feeling that, for the majority of folks, getting out there is more about bragging rights than the actual experience. And yeah, the speakers are annoying as hell. I noticed that on Lake Powell recently. I remember the days of wakeboarding before music was necessary to tell the entire lake population to "Look at me, aren't I just the coolest." It is all so tiresome.

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    1. I am surprised at all the speakers on the trail. I don't really like earbuds either but at least those people aren't sharing their music with me. I once came to a lake in the Sierra with at least six other parties camped there. It was late, and there was nowhere else to hike on to, and a guy by himself playing music on speakers said we could camp by him. Um...no thanks.

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  4. More people in our beautiful mountains makes me sad also Mary!
    I tend to think of them as mine and no one else shall dare tread there.
    I know this is wrong of me to think that way and I guess if I have not seen so much lack of respect I would feel different. Crowds are the reason S and I have not been to the north side in years and it's sad cause I miss it. But even in our beautiful once quiet south side we saw double the amount of cars at the trail heads this summer then we have ever seen. It seems like the days of backpacking into the wilderness and seeing no one else for days at a time are gone...... Our little slice of heaven on earth has been found. :(

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    1. That is surprising to me for the south side..such a long arduous drive to get there. There are still a few quiet north side places but I don't tell people about them anymore.

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  5. This is how I feel about ski mountaineering. This spring I went up a peak that I hadn't done for 6 years. It was the same time of year, same beautiful weather. Six years ago... literally only me and my Dad. This year there were 3 other groups at our campsite and a busload (!) of people showed up in the morning. I don't like sharing snow!

    Guess you just have to enjoy those moments you do get alone in the mountains!

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    1. Very true--and while I love people being out there I just have a hard time with crowds. I feel like there are a lot of other places to go but the magazines focus on a select few, so everyone goes there.

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  6. I'm very fortunate to be able to hike mid week, so the numbers are always down. My beef is also with the music and loud conversations on their mobiles.

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    1. I'm sure it is better here mid week also. Though I've seen a shift in this as well. I think ironically people are trying to avoid weekend crowds. Oh well..it will be snowing here soon.

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  7. But then again... "Completely Alone on Mt. Rainier's Northern Loop": https://thebigoutside.com/completely-alone-on-mt-rainiers-northern-loop/

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  8. I couldn't agree more. I am torn between wanting more people to get outside, but knowing people do not use the outdoors responsibly. I guess I tell myself that by teaching K-5 about LNT principles, I am hoping there will be at least 10 people better educated than before?

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