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Camping and Bicycles at National Parks?

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Camping and Bicycles at National Parks?

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Old 09-20-16, 12:35 PM
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CliffordK
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Camping and Bicycles at National Parks?

I was up at Crater Lake last weekend.

Pumice_Desert.jpg

Ok, so that is the Pumice Desert below the mountain.

Anyway, what I found most frustrating was that everything was very car oriented (or snowmobiles in the winter). Even at the entry booth, one booth only had CAR tickets and not bicycle tickets (on a technically car-free bicycling day with a line of cars as far as the eye could see). And camping passes had to be acquired at the southern entrance rather than the northern entrance or online (20 or 30 miles into the park).

They allowed "dispersed camping" with a permit, which would seem to me to be any flat spot in the 286 square mile park. But, the rangers seemed to confuse dispersed camping with developed camp sites along major hiking trails.

I guess I found the approach to bicycle touring as weird. I was told to "Just leave my bicycle in my car?????"

"You can have an outback camping permit, but you have to chain your bike to a tree near the road, then head off a MILE from the road to camp." "Nope, you can't even carry your bike. It has to stay at the road."

I suppose I need to start thinking about hikable gear. I'm not an off-road rider, so that is fine, and the bike as I had it was a bit unwieldy to walk down steep trails anyway.

So far I've hiked and camped, and biked and camped, but not both.

Anyway, what I would have liked would be in true "dispersed camping", find a flat spot. Head 100 yards or 1/4 mile off the road (even carry the bike if necessary) out of sight and camp using ultra-low impact camping (pack it in, pack it out, no cutting wood, no burning wood, etc).

High mountain country, the forests were quite open (I don't know if they were also heavily managed in non-wilderness fashion). The bikes would seem to have a unique advantage over other park users in that they wouldn't need roadside parking or a major trailhead. Just find a promising spot and head off the road. I don't know how many bicycle campers, but for a few hundred a year, one could disperse them throughout a significant part of the park for almost no impact, and getting people to using more of the park than just the roads and waysides.

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Old 09-20-16, 01:07 PM
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I'm not sure what your question is here or what you're looking for but I've heard Crater Lake is difficult for touring cyclist. I haven't been myself on a bicycle. The NP's I've camped in have all been bike friendly. Mt. Rainier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Badlands, and Wind Cave. The only issue I ever ran into was at Wind Cave. Apparently they don't see too many cyclist there. The rangers were all pretty clueless.
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Old 09-20-16, 01:13 PM
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Can't carry your bike or walk it? Seems crazy. Some updating to the logistics there might be good.
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Old 09-20-16, 01:41 PM
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At Big Bend NP they have dispersed-camping-with-rules. You get a permit (free or nominal, I forget which) for a zone area in which you can camp as long as you're 2-miles from roads and out of site of any other campers. I did that as part of my coast-to-coast tour.

I took a dirt road out and cached my bicycle. I hiked the two miles carrying two panniers. Not optimal but it was a super-great experience.



Big Bend National Park (March 2010) camped under the stars.

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Old 09-20-16, 02:06 PM
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In Glacier N.P. they have hiker/biker spots. Last time I was there ('09) the cost was $5/person. Nice pads an Sprague Creek and St. Mary. Camping is not allowed outside of established campgrounds in the park, including in the backcountry, where bikes are not allowed.
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Old 09-20-16, 02:11 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
....Anyway, what I would have liked would be in true "dispersed camping", find a flat spot. Head 100 yards or 1/4 mile off the road (even carry the bike if necessary) out of sight and camp using ultra-low impact camping (pack it in, pack it out, no cutting wood, no burning wood, etc)...

I did exactly that just last week in a NP... Except good cover is much easier to find in variable terrain, and then you look for a flat spot to pitch tent. Stealth camping really pairs well with bicycle touring, especially if you can stay lightweight and minimalist.

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Old 09-20-16, 02:44 PM
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Originally Posted by Leebo View Post
Can't carry your bike or walk it? Seems crazy. Some updating to the logistics there might be good.
They consider it like a wilderness (with motorboats, snowmobiles, and cars), and I presume forest management.

A bicycle, of course, is a machine (worse than track hoes and heavy equipment).

Originally Posted by reppans View Post
I did exactly that just last week in a NP... Except good cover is much easier to find in variable terrain, and then you look for a flat spot to pitch tent. Stealth camping really pairs well with bicycle touring, especially if you can stay lightweight and minimalist.
That is exactly what I was expecting. The bike path looks nice. We've got shoulderless roads with gouges all over the place from equipment being used on them (or holes punched in the roads and not repaired from falling rocks). It makes 40 MPH descents hair raising, especially with oncoming traffic that decide it is ok to pass in front of oncoming downhill bikes.

Part of my load was a bear barrel (which I never got to use). But, I'll be working on lightening and organizing my load next time. Maybe I'll practice hanging my panniers in the back yard, 10+ feet off the ground. One of the things I didn't like was the idea of using a bear barrel at the top of a tall mountain. Too much risk the bears might just abscond with my barrel. There are some places where I wouldn't want to fetch it from 1000 feet below.

The hills were pretty wicked for my trip. Not to bad once one got to the rim road (but still very hilly). But, at least not as constant as climbing the mountain.
9000+ feet climbing Friday.
7000+ feet climbing on Saturday.
7900 feet climbing Sunday
WHEW!!!

At least part of my Sunday ride did make up for all that climbing.
Strava - What goes up must come DOWN, Metric Century
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Old 09-20-16, 02:45 PM
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That is what the phone at your congressman's office or senator's office is for, for you to offer constructive criticism about their anti-green attitude and procedures that favor motorized traffic.

Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
In Glacier N.P. they have hiker/biker spots. Last time I was there ('09) the cost was $5/person. Nice pads an Sprague Creek and St. Mary. Camping is not allowed outside of established campgrounds in the park, including in the backcountry, where bikes are not allowed.
Also had hiker biker site at Apgar, as of 2012. But I liked Sprague better than Apgar.
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Old 09-20-16, 02:55 PM
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My wife and I spent 25 years as a backcountry ski patrollers at Crater Lake, and it is my Favorite Place.

It has been awhile, and the camping regulations have probably changed, but you can find up up to Please follow the camping rules at Crater Lake - Pacific Crest Trail Associationdate info at:

The park is designated into what is termed "front country", and "back country". Camping is pretty much restricted to established campgrounds in the front country. When we ride around the lake, we camp at one of the designated campgrounds. The rules are pretty self explanatory, and are pretty reasonable.

I know this is heresy, but I believe is is better at CLNP in the winter on skis than it is in the summer on a bike.


However, it is still pretty awesome in the biking months

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Old 09-20-16, 02:56 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
That is what the phone at your congressman's office or senator's office is for, for you to offer constructive criticism about their anti-green attitude and procedures that favor motorized traffic.
I'm going to work on a "snail mail" letter to both the local park rangers, as well as the local congressmen.

I tried an e-mail to the park earlier, but just got a useless informational reply back.
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Old 09-20-16, 02:58 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
T... Maybe I'll practice hanging my panniers in the back yard, 10+ feet off the ground. ...
You obviously need tall trees in the right spots, but with practice you can get the food pretty high. I use two carabiners, two lines and two climbing rescue pulleys, but on my 10 day canoe trips on the Canadian border we start out carrying food for 20 person-days, no grocery stores in the middle of nowhere so the food bag starts out pretty large and heavy compared to most cycling trips. You also have to get it far enough from the tree trunk so that a bear that climbs the tree can't simply reach to the side to get your food.
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Old 09-20-16, 02:58 PM
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I think the rule to leave your bike along the road makes sense. People walking or riding through the forest or trails (and yes, some cyclists would ride their bikes through the open forest and trails) would have an adverse impact on the forest, as well as adversely impact any hikers present.

I've toured and camped in numerous US national parks, and biked to/within a bunch of other national parks without camping in them (including Crater Lake NP). I believe that the forests at Crater Lake NP are wilderness, and forests at that elevation and latitude are somewhat fragile. Much of the national forest land around Crater Lake NP are not designated as wilderness and have logging, but there are proposals to change that.
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Old 09-20-16, 03:07 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
I'm going to work on a "snail mail" letter to both the local park rangers, as well as the local congressmen.

I tried an e-mail to the park earlier, but just got a useless informational reply back.
Writing to the rangers, it is hit and miss if that will do any good.

My niece used to be an aide to a Congressman, she told me that mail is delayed while they look for white powder. And she told me that they are flooded with e-mails from interest groups asking their members to contact congressmen, so that is less likely to get noticed. So, a phone call might be a good first step. Then if while on the phone you think that they might want documentation, ask them whom to send it to and where to send it. If your letter references the phone conversation, that may help get noticed too. If your senator or congressman has a local office, hand delivering it can avoid the delay for the white powder search.
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Old 09-20-16, 03:55 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
I think the rule to leave your bike along the road makes sense. People walking or riding through the forest or trails (and yes, some cyclists would ride their bikes through the open forest and trails) would have an adverse impact on the forest, as well as adversely impact any hikers present.

I've toured and camped in numerous US national parks, and biked to/within a bunch of other national parks without camping in them (including Crater Lake NP). I believe that the forests at Crater Lake NP are wilderness, and forests at that elevation and latitude are somewhat fragile. Much of the national forest land around Crater Lake NP are not designated as wilderness and have logging, but there are proposals to change that.
+1

I'm not sure why bike tourers think the camping rules that apply to every other visitor to the Park, should not apply to them . Why is it OK to stealth camp wherever they can get away with it, and think that is perfectly OK just because you on are on a bicycle?.
Here it talks about no bicycles on the Park's trails:
https://www.nps.gov/crla/planyourvis...10-bike-sb.pdf

That is what the phone at your congressman's office or senator's office is for, for you to offer constructive criticism about their anti-green attitude and procedures that favor motorized traffic.
There is nothing in the rules that favor motorized traffic over bicycles or pedestrians. The camping regulations reach across the board. The Management Plan for the Park was developed soliciting input from the public. The plan was not developed in the back of some office by a group of bureaucrats; there was a lot of public involvement.

Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN
That is what the phone at your congressman's office or senator's office is for, for you to offer constructive criticism about their anti-green attitude and procedures that favor motorized traffic.
Originally posted by the OP
I'm going to work on a "snail mail" letter to both the local park rangers, as well as the local congressmen.

I tried an e-mail to the park earlier, but just got a useless informational reply back.
At least do your homework before you spend your time and that of your congressional delegate trying to figure out what is the real issue.

https://www.nps.gov/crla/learn/management/index.htm

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Old 09-20-16, 05:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
+1

I'm not sure why bike tourers think the camping rules that apply to every other visitor to the Park, should not apply to them . Why is it OK to stealth camp wherever they can get away with it, and think that is perfectly OK just because you on are on a bicycle?.
Here it talks about no bicycles on the Park's trails:
https://www.nps.gov/crla/planyourvis...10-bike-sb.pdf



There is nothing in the rules that favor motorized traffic over bicycles or pedestrians. The camping regulations reach across the board. The Management Plan for the Park was developed soliciting input from the public. The plan was not developed in the back of some office by a group of bureaucrats; there was a lot of public involvement.
I am not suggesting illegal camping.

I'd like to see rules that would favor increased utilization of the park, and opening it to all users, not just those burning fossil fuels. I can imagine the mess created if one allowed camping 100 yards from any wide spot in the road or wayside. Bike tourists with perhaps a couple of riders a day in the park would have an entirely different overall impact from the thousands of car drivers. Walking a bike? Tracks disappear in a few days depending on the area and other uses. Carrying the bike? Yes, of course one could carry a bike for a few hundred yards if necessary. Perhaps even a mile. But, is carrying it even necessary? WHY?

I had a lock with me (usually locked my bike to a tent pole). I suppose I could have locked it to a tree, but I just don't like leaving it anywhere unattended at night. And everything was saying 1 mile... which is apparently not true for a few designated campsites.

Favoring cars?

There is not a single camp site at Lost Creek that doesn't also have automobile parking. In fact, my space utilization was so low that a couple of guys returning from Cycle Oregon suggested that I camp behind their tents, which opened up another of the very limited number of sites for another car. 100 feet from a water source? A stream flows through the Lost Creek campground with camp sites a few feet away.

Oh... and I finally found a camping map of Crater Lake.
http://www.pcta.org/wp-content/uploa...ns_for_PCT.pdf



So...
According to what is apparently the official National Park Service Dispersed Camping Map (distributed on the PCT site not Crater Lake site). Grayback Drive is LEGAL for bicycles, and either borders on legal dispersed camping, or crosses into legal dispersed camping areas.

So, what the park rangers told me of no legal outback bike camping is pure BS (or the US Government Official drawing the map was on drugs).

Oh, and according to that map, the Lightning Springs and Grouse Hill (designated) campsites are much less than a half mile off the main road (does a hillside count?). And, again, walking or carrying a bike on a trail would have zero impact.

There is also a huge demand for paved MUPS. Of course, paved paths always bring more people into any area which could conflict with camping, but go a few miles, and the hiker/camping interactions would be minimized.

And, if the park actually wanted to cater specifically to bikes, there would be no reason not to design a bicycle accessible site or two along Grayback Road as mentioned above complete with fire rings and bear boxes.

"No Bikes" may be some perverted wilderness rule, but the National Parks aren't wildernesses.

When are they going to replace the motorboat on the lake with a sculling shell?

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Old 09-20-16, 05:49 PM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
"No Bikes" may be some perverted wilderness rule, but the National Parks aren't wildernesses.
That's not correct. Note this paragraph in: National Park Service - NPSWilderness

Congress has now designated more than 106 million acres of federal public lands as wilderness: 44 million of these acres are in 47 parks and total 53 percent of National Park System lands. Additional national park areas are managed as “recommended” or "proposed" wilderness until Congress acts on their status.

I would welcome the creation of one or two hiker/biker camping areas at Crater Lake NP, but I agree with Doug64 that just because someone is on a bike, cyclists don't have the right to stealth camp in a national park.
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Old 09-20-16, 05:52 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
That is what the phone at your congressman's office or senator's office is for, for you to offer constructive criticism about their anti-green attitude and procedures that favor motorized traffic.
Sadly supply & demand and other economic realities are at play so most politicians will have deaf ears.

Primitive campsites are most times vacant even though they cost little or nothing. Most people want roads, flush toilets, and running hot water.

In developed campsites, charging an RV'er $35 a night for a little electricity and water VS a tent camper $15 who uses a similar patch of ground. Plus the tenter uses the bath house and other infrastructure a lot more.

There's also a bureaucratic infrastructure that needs to be fed.

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Old 09-20-16, 07:33 PM
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Originally Posted by axolotl View Post
That's not correct. Note this paragraph in: National Park Service - NPSWilderness

Congress has now designated more than 106 million acres of federal public lands as wilderness: 44 million of these acres are in 47 parks and total 53 percent of National Park System lands. Additional national park areas are managed as “recommended” or "proposed" wilderness until Congress acts on their status.

I would welcome the creation of one or two hiker/biker camping areas at Crater Lake NP, but I agree with Doug64 that just because someone is on a bike, cyclists don't have the right to stealth camp in a national park.
I'm seeing notes of proposals of making a Crater Lake Wilderness dating back to 1974, 1978, and 2015, but apparently it hasn't been approved.

Apparently there isn't any actual wilderness area in Yellowstone either.

Crater Lake is very much oriented to getting the half million or so visitors a year to rim road by car. So, any proposed wilderness would include keeping the vehicular traffic open, as well as keeping the Crater Lake lodge and rim village.

While a true wilderness designation may help protect the parks in some senses, I'm not sure they would be exactly as desired to get the half million tourists up there (all paying admission fees). Plus, there is very little forest management within wilderness areas to the extent there is some debate on "let it burn" with forest fires, with much of wilderness forest fire fighting limited to protecting land outside of the wilderness boundaries.

I know at least in Yellowstone, there have been prescribed burns, as well as "managing" naturally occurring fires.

Actually, it looks like it has been done around Crater Lake too, at least in the late 70's to mid 80's, as well as 2002.
Managers to create fire-safe forests at Crater Lake Park

So, with the bikes, one is picking and choosing what is "allowable" in a National Park (not a wilderness) without any real guidelines of what to do.

There certainly are a number of MTB organizations trying to get a foothold into Wilderness areas. And, really the trail biking has sprung up since about 1980, both with new rewards as well as new problems, and one really needs to evaluate their needs and desires as well as the needs and desires of other wilderness users and requirements.

I haven't done a lot of wilderness hiking lately, but my past experience is that 10 or 20 miles in, there is just NOBODY. Perhaps some designated biking areas would actually help improve access to all.

If one can just get all wilderness users to pack-it-in, pack-it-out, and "tread lightly".

Fire building? Perhaps not necessary, but I've built camp fires with minimal impact that would be 100% safe, even in the worst of the peak fire seasons. It is possible if done right, although I'm also happy enough to camp with cold meals and no stove or camp fires.
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Old 09-20-16, 07:47 PM
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Originally Posted by BigAura View Post
Primitive campsites are most times vacant even though they cost little or nothing. Most people want roads, flush toilets, and running hot water.
At Crater Lake, the Lost Creek campsite is considered "primitive", but has running water close to most campsites, as well as flush toilets and a sink (no shower or hot water). The campsite is often full to capacity.

It would be interesting to see the statistics on the main hiker campsites that are less than 1 mile from the road. I suspect those would be full every night if the park staff worked to fill them rather than discouraging their use. Is there a financial incentive to actively discourage free camping and give out false information?

I realize that other "primitive" campgrounds outside of the National Park do get more sporadic use, but they are often full during peak summer months. I had to choose a logging road over a primitive campsite last Sunday night because it was CLOSED. I probably could have snuck in and stealth camped, but restroom facilities were locked, and it wasn't secluded enough.

Many roadside parking areas near a stream had vehicles parked in them with camp fires. No shortage of desire or needs for FREE primitive car camping.
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Old 09-20-16, 07:52 PM
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Keep in mind that many of the parks are staffed with volunteers & seasonal employees.

In my short time of touring, I've found people clueless on the county, state and national level concerning bicycles, touring and camping.
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Old 09-20-16, 10:34 PM
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Originally Posted by jonc123 View Post
Keep in mind that many of the parks are staffed with volunteers & seasonal employees.

In my short time of touring, I've found people clueless on the county, state and national level concerning bicycles, touring and camping.
I think the "rangers" were paid, but certainly could be seasonal. And it was all odd. Come to the ranger station. Then sit down and read the book about backcountry camping. Much of the information in their book could be uploaded to the WWW, but they chose not to do so.

There was a big cycling event, but no real concept that someone could simply ride a bike over a hill (1150 ft climbing), but at the same time directing them to ride 3 miles down and 800 feet into a valley on a dead-end street. Ok, so I have a love/hate relation with hills.

No doubt the bike days are busy at the Ranger Station, but maybe they need to encourage the rangers to cycle and participate in park activities more (cycling, hiking, camping, riding horses, etc).

I asked specifically about the 1 mile rule. But, two of the designated back country sites apparently are much closer to the rim road than 1 mile (horizontal or trail distance?), at least by the PCT map. And the ranger didn't seem to understand the concept of dispersed camping even though the park was apparently encouraging it.

I suppose I'm a little better prepared. Now time to think about hikable panniers (bike?)
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Old 09-20-16, 11:18 PM
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Originally Posted by jonc123 View Post
Keep in mind that many of the parks are staffed with volunteers & seasonal employees.

In my short time of touring, I've found people clueless on the county, state and national level concerning bicycles, touring and camping.
+1 - Sadly the case in many places across the country.
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Old 09-21-16, 05:16 AM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
Also had hiker biker site at Apgar, as of 2012. But I liked Sprague better than Apgar.
Yeah. Forgot that I stayed at Apgar a few nights back in '00. Sprague Creek is nicer and within easy walking distance of the lodge.
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Old 09-21-16, 05:21 AM
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Originally Posted by CliffordK View Post
Now time to think about hikable panniers (bike?)
From what I've seen convertible backpack-panniers are a kludgey hybrid really good at neither.

EDIT: Saw your new thread I'll post there.

Last edited by BigAura; 09-21-16 at 05:40 AM. Reason: saw OPs new thread
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Old 09-21-16, 06:55 AM
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I am concerned by those posting about stealth camping in national parks and strongly opposed.

The National Park Service and individual park superintendents contend with multiple claims on park resources. Yellowstone and Yosemite both have reached the 4 million annual visitor level. Park managers have a dual responsibility laid out in the enabling legislation -

The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purpose of the said parks and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.

Providing for the public enjoyment AND preserving the park unimpaired is often a contradictory mission. The NPS does the best it can. Every year people die in the national parks - falls and drowning are the most common, grizzly attacks are extremely rare. Nearly all are preventable and can be attributed to visitors who were unprepared and/or ignorant of conditions.

Sorry to inform you, but cyclists do not have any inherent right to stealth camp in national parks. In fact, if a park has to deal with a growing number of illegal camping incidents by cyclists, it is likely to ban bicycle touring altogether in the park. And don't toss out, "It's just me" as a rationale. Multiplied by hundreds, there is a clear and damaging impact. Not to mention that most cyclists know little about zero-impact camping. The number of journals over at Crazyguy that show people eating in their tents in Yellowstone and Glacier is proof.

I have backcountry camped in nearly every national park in the American West, the Canadian West, and Alaska/Yukon. Sometimes I get a little grumpy at having to go through the time-consuming permit procedure, but I understand the purpose. Rescues consume funds that parks desperately need for basic operations and recovering bodies is a brutal job. A friend took a two-year leave from rangering in Grand Canyon because of the emotional strain.

I am not happy when I see the degree to which national parks have accommodated RV and auto tourism - 40-foot pull-thru parking spaces and RV-friendly campgrounds. Meanwhile, there are no hiker/biker campsites ot bike lanes at numerous parks. But the vast majority of park visitors arrive by car or RV. And - like it or not - the RV industry has a lot of pull. People who drop $1/4 million want to take their new toys to the national parks. Meanwhile, Americans get bigger and bigger.

But in the meantime, we touring cyclists represent only a tiny fraction of visitors. I would love to see more park roads entirely closed to private vehicles. (I have biked Yellowstone's empty roads in the spring after plowing.) I would love to see hiker/biker campsites in every national park campground. (Yellowstone is tops in this respect.) But until such time, it would behoove us to follow park regulations. Only then will we have the opportunity to expand access rather than have it restricted.

Photo - CrackerLake, Backcountry Campsite, Glacier N.P.
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Last edited by jamawani; 09-21-16 at 06:59 AM.
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