Thursday, September 6, 2018

when your town gets discovered

Granted, it was Labor Day weekend. But we shook our heads in disbelief as we were forced to park a quarter mile away from the trailhead. I am not considered a local after only nine years here, but I feel safe in saying I have never seen so many cars at the trailheads as this summer.

It's a balance I struggle to find. On one hand, I love that people are enjoying the wilderness. But. There are areas I have to avoid now if I want to be alone, trails I have to give up on for a lot of the summer. And the people who are coming from urban areas, while mostly nice, occasionally expect things we are not used to doing. A group snarled at us for not having our dogs on leashes, even though our dogs were sitting calmly next to us. Trail runners expect us to leap out of the way for them, even if we are the ones going uphill and they are coming down. My favorite campsites are often taken. It's hard to adapt to all of this. Plus, where is everyone pooping? (I admit to a certain obsession about this).

Clear water of the Lostine River
"Maybe we should pick a different weekend for our camping trip," L said as we hiked toward Blue Hole. This camp-out had been happening for thirty years. But the campground, once our sole property, was crowded with others. We couldn't even stop at the Blue Hole, a deep swimming hole, because it was packed with people, llamas, and goats.

On a day hike to another lake, it was the first time I had been glad to be leaving rather than staying. An endless tide of backpackers rolled by. Two guys flagged us down looking for fuel, and were visibly upset when we said they would have plenty of company.  There were more people than campsites.

The calm before the storm

We aren't at the level of a Sawtooths, or Bend, or Rocky Mountains National Park. And having lived in a place where massive cruise ships disgorged thousands each day, I admit I may be a bit spoiled by insisting it's busy here. The week after Labor Day, I climbed to a lake devoid of any people. For the most part my 19 mile loop was empty. But for me and others in town, there's a growing uneasiness about all the publicity we have had lately. As it is, you can't find a house with a few acres for less than half a million dollars now. A house I looked at in 2009 that was listed for $289,000 is now listed for almost 500. If you want to rent, you need to haunt the real estate offices for months, ending up paying over a thousand a month for an apartment. Things are definitely changing.

On the plus side, it's a long, long drive to an airport. The winters chase people out. We don't have a movie theater or a pool, and if you want night life, you'd better be prepared to end it by nine at night, when the streets roll up. It's still quiet, even in town. Maybe the thrill will be gone soon, people off to discover new spots.

In the end, I guess I'd rather live in a place people want to come to, not one they can't wait to leave (been there). I just wish it wasn't so concentrated in about a two month span. So if you come here, please don't snarl at the locals. And dig a good cathole.

The only person at Blue Lake!

20 comments:

  1. I'm so selfish, it's tough sharing. Social media may be responsible for exposing our secrets but I have to say I'm grateful in some ways as I've also discovered and visited many as a result. In some ways we are just as guilty given our blogs . . . but I sure enjoy documenting and sharing so I'm not willing to go dark yet.

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    1. I've thought about this too. My blog doesn't have the same impact as the recent articles in Backpacker, for example, which direct people to the most crowed place in the ECW. I doubt 100 people read my blog. That's how I justify it anyway. I've thought about going dark but not because of that, more because I feel like fewer people are reading blogs in general and when I don't get responses I feel like there's not a lot of point. Except perhaps as a record to look back on when I'm old I guess? Writing for free is something I definitely struggle with when I'm hoping to make a living at it someday. Now I have stayed far from the topic.

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    2. *crowded*. Though there are crows there also.

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  2. Nice PSA! We move around so much, so I can't ever have the local perspective, but it is crazy to see the vast differences of crowds across the different areas we roam.

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    1. I wasn't aware of it much when I moved a lot also. I always kind of rolled my eyes at locals who said such things. Now I get it.

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  3. I fully understand your dilemma. Being in a position to hike midweek makes such a difference.
    Re blogging - the number of readers may be falling but the diehards like me would be bereft, if we couldn't get our regular fix of amazing hiking around the world.

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    1. I can't wait until I can hike midweek all the time. Though I do have to say, after Labor Day we get it back.

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  4. We were surprised at the amount of people at the same trailhead the week before. I'm all for people getting out and enjoying nature, but spread out. I'm of the mindset if you choose to visit a small town, and hang with the locals, then you better be respecting the locals. This includes their trail systems. Up here I've had a biker flying down a trail that is marked "no bikes" yell at me to "get out of THEIR way". Yes, there were 3 more bikes behind him. I was so mad...did they not read the trailhead sign that clearly marked "no bikes"? I'm not against bikes on trails, I'm against people who can't follow simple trail rules, and common courtesy.
    I beg and plead, please don't cross to the Dark side! I look forward to reading your blog weekly. Accomplishments and/or struggles it doesn't matter what you're writing, it's real and honest. Which means it beats 95% of social media these days.

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    1. Thanks! I'm not going to the dark side yet. And I also wish people would just be courteous. And last week we saw people with a campfire. Really? There's a huge no campfire sign at the trailhead and half the state is on fire.

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  5. Can you set your Blogger account so the content is indexed by Google? That would drive more traffic your way and show up when people Google your name, book title, etc.

    As a long-time reader, I sure don't mind you trying to monetize it a bit! And I'd be happy for you to promote your writing to us more, too.

    Are a lot of out-of-towners buying up real estate for summer houses or investments?

    I looked at Zillow listings there, in Enterprise and across the rivers at Grangeville and Grangeville still has some houses for $100,000 or less. There is a $1.2 million listing, but it includes 120 acres of forested land.

    Grangeville is out on the prairie, so more like Enterprise but a bit bigger and an excellent road to the airport in Lewiston--although Alaska/Horizon has pulled out.

    It is close to the mountains and rivers, but not as close as Joseph to the more spectacular settings. My sister still lives 4 miles from town, 1,000 feet higher in the woods.

    I suspect the ECW is one of your "problems." I've always thought it might be a mistake to make the nicest country National Parks--and encourage them to be overrun. Maybe the second nicest would be better.

    ECW is so close to Joseph it probably is a bigger draw than many wilderness areas.

    Who has the right of way hiking? I know I posted that when driving, the person going uphill does, but when hiking, maybe the person going downhill should? The guys going up might not mind a short rest....

    Tom
    Fairbanks

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    1. Hi Tom,
      I don't know how to do the indexing thing. And monetizing...I feel like it annoys people. I think I would need a higher readership to do that anyway.

      ECW isn't a national park, but it has gotten so much publicity in recent articles. I don't mind people coming here, but I do mind the national publications sending people to the same overcrowded, fragile places (Lakes Basin in particular). It can't handle the use, really.

      The common trail etiquette is to let the person going uphill have the ROW but I do also encounter some nice people who want a rest and will let me by. The issue is, you get a momentum going uphill and it's hard to stop.

      Grangeville...Nope.

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    2. Instead of advertising, I was thinking more of your blog making you and your writings more visible. If people Google you or things you write about and end up here, many may be motivated to buy!

      You could have book links more visible, and not be shy about using key words--like their titles! But just the stuff you already write about would show up in a lot of searches, I bet.

      Here's a help page on how to set your blog so Google will index it. Default is off, which is kind of surprising since Google owns it.

      https://support.google.com/blogger/answer/41373?hl=en

      My National Park comment was generic about the parks perhaps ruining the nicest places. ECW seems to attract more people than some of the other small ones, like Gospel-Hump. I wonder why? Ease of access? Media attention?

      Grangeville certainly isn't comparable to Joseph as a place to live, but probably is somewhat comparable to Enterprise. Grangeville is misleading if you just drive through on the highway. It isn't clear that it's on the edge of 2 1/2 million acres of contiguous roadless and wilderness areas.

      The Montana side probably has more inviting towns and close-in mountains in the Bitterroot Valley, but I think that's gotten expensive since I worked there years ago.

      Tom
      Fairbanks

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    3. Thanks, I will check it out. And I probably should write more about my books here..I will do that.

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    4. Ooops. I was wrong about the wilderness and roadless area acreage outside Grangeville. In case someone stumbles across this, it's actually about 4 million acres, with the Selway-Bitterroot and Frank Church River of No Return wildernesses the biggest chunks, with just a dirt road running between them along the Magruder Corridor. Then the smaller Gospel-Hump wilderness and the surrounding areas.

      I looked up Legore Lake on Google Earth and was surprised it's only about 7 miles as the crow flies from downtown Joseph!

      Tom
      Fairbanks

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  6. So familiar...but more eloquent than I could do ...with our town and a smaller town near the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, in the last few years. It is frustrating to have to plan our trips to some spots on Lake Superior that were "all our own" a few years ago, and now overrun (at least by our perspective). Along with the crowds come some really outlaw behavior...at least in the National Lakeshore...graffiti on rocks, carving on trees and toilet paper flowers in the woods. A lot of the increase in visitation is coming from the "Best Place to..." articles in outdoor journals and a big Pure Michigan campaign to get folks here. There, I have vented enough, and still glad to live in such a beautiful place that others want to come.

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    1. That's where I feel conflicted. I do like that people get to come here. After all, I am a tourist in other places. It's just the inconsiderate behavior and the crowding to the same place that is annoying.

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  7. The south side of the range has seen a lot more use also Mary. Not the mass amounts that the north side has ( the reason I quit hiking the north side till after Labor Day) but a lot more use none the less. And cars at the trail heads from all over, like New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California. I day hiked to Hidden Lake last Sunday and in the 17 miles saw about 20 other people and that’s a lot more then I’m used to seeing. I think maybe out of state cars should have to pay a larger fee to park at the trail heads but maybe I’m just being mean.

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    1. People already avoid the fee by parking just outside the sign and walking in. I'm looking at you, locals. That's a whole other topic I'm not sure I should touch. I still want to get over to the south side. It does seem a little more peaceful.

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  8. I enjoy your blog and several other outdoor blogs. I can't travel much, but I have "been to" a lot of wonderful places by reading them. And I find as I get to know the writer over time,that it is much more interesting and personal than reading magazine articles which seem to be mostly pretty pictures.
    And, look at it this way - being an armchair traveler means one less person overloading the trails! So please keep writing.

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    1. Thanks! I don't necessarily feel trails are overloaded here..yet. It is more the impacts of the campers I worry about. The pooping! And having campfires where they aren't allowed. I have seen that over and over. It is hard to combat human behavior sometimes. A losing battle. But at the same time, I like seeing people out in the outdoors without devices. So...it's a tossup.

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