Anyone here accidentally stumble upon illegal grow operations?

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May 3, 2018
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Was having a talk with my wife's dad and he brought up an interesting topic I haven't thought of in a LOOONG time. He told me I should carry a gun when I do my off trail hikes because I can come across an illegal grow operation and the people could be super sketch. I did some research and the washington media craze of illegal grow op articles seem to have peaked in 2010. Pot got legalized in 2012 in this state but as of 2018 they stopped giving out growing licenses. The list of locations of weed busts are usually in the bowels of pretty unremarkable and dense drainage's. Though one I pin pointed from the articles info in eastern WA was in surprisingly a somewhat scenic spot, obviously not a good one because lack of vegetation they got ousted by a helicopter... Anyways...

Have any of you guys and gals come upon an illegal grow op? How freaky was it?

What also led to this talk is the amount of people that just go "missing" in the north cascades. Whether the wilderness and harsh terrain eats them up in unfortunate falls into deep gullies or they get murdered and buried.

As for me I carry bear spray usually not for bears or cats but weird people and unleashed dogs that come running violently at me with no owner anywhere in site (lucky I haven't had to use it).
 

regehr

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I do quite a bit of off-trail hiking outside of Salt Lake City and have never run across a pot farm (most places around here water would be a problem). Have run across plenty of other stuff: homeless camps, coyote traps, hunter's caches, a weird teepee filled with empty booze bottles, that sort of thing.
 
Joined
May 3, 2018
Messages
269
I do quite a bit of off-trail hiking outside of Salt Lake City and have never run across a pot farm (most places around here water would be a problem). Have run across plenty of other stuff: homeless camps, coyote traps, hunter's caches, a weird teepee filled with empty booze bottles, that sort of thing.

BEER TEEPEE!

I haven't ever ran into much human sign off-trailing in the North Cascades (found a starburst wrapper once) but I did have a weird feeling one day when I started hiking. Something just didn't feel "right". I can't describe it like something was off in the air and I somehow was subconsciously picking up on it (or my brain was just trying to tell me it didn't want to hike today). So I went back to my car and just went for a drive instead.
 

Miya

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So funny you bring this up!
I have never encountered this. I hadn't even heard or thought of it until a couple days ago. They have a warning on the Death Valley website that you could run across it and to basically get the hell out of there.
 

Outdoor_Fool

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When I was fighting fires in northern CA about 30 years ago, the higher ups gave the crews a talk about coming across grow operations. The word was to get the hell out ASAP due to the potential for booby traps. We never saw any but a girlfriend was out there on fires the year before and they found several grow ops. In spite of warnings to leave them ASAP, the crew harvested several pounds of pot that week.
 

Rockskipper

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I used to live on the edge of the Uncompahgre Plateau in Colorado and often saw choppers fly over looking for and finding grow ops in the forest. It frequently made the local news. Haven’t read anything about it in that area for a number of years. I used to hike 100% off trail and never ran into anything.
 
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JulieKT

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Sep 7, 2014
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145
We had quite a few scattered around southern Utah. There started to be reports about them about 9 or so years ago.

So I once was out guiding clients and came across a group of hunters camped right by the road. Kind of weird spot for hunters to be, and they were all super fit (not my experience with most hunters lol), but whatever, I thought. As we rode past them back to the trailer, they got very chatty with us. Where were we from, was that our camp just about a mile or so away, oh, were we the ones who’d had a bear come through and tear up our camp (bear made not one but two new entrances into our kitchen tent, put teeth marks in our folding tables, left impressively large paw marks on the side of the guide tent—which it also unzipped, yes, actually unzipped, to steal my sleeping bag and drag it about fifty feet away from the tent—and hauled a cardboard box of books to the river which were left disdainfully strewn about when the bear apparently realized they weren’t food), how long had we been in the area, did we come up here often, oh, we had a pack trip with clients planned to start in a few days, interesting, etc etc. It was a little odd but in my head I though, eh, whatever. He’s just bored and talkative.

We finally said our goodbyes and headed on our way. Not two minutes later I heard the roar of a four-wheeler behind us. I thought, Okay, more questions. Yeah, lol. The main guy who’d been asking all the questions pulled up and apologized. Then he admitted he was special agent so-and-so of the FBI and there was a major grow not even a mile above our camp. They’d been watching it for a long time and tracking the activities of certain area residents who were bringing food and supplies to the guards. He told us the bear visit, which was something that had never before happened in all the years the camp had been set up in that same spot, was likely because the growers used real fish and fish oil to fertilize, or whatever they do, the precious plants. The bear with its super-sensitive nose had smelled it and come to investigate, then just kept wandering down the mountain to our nearby camp. He also said the grow was most certainly orchestrated by whichever Mexican cartel, because they’d been moving out of California grows in recent years due to the public becoming both much more actively recreating in previously low-traffic areas where they had grows, not to mention being much more savvy to grows due to a lot of media coverage and land management warnings. The mountains of southern Utah were ideal since they tended to be far less visited by the general public. He mentioned the local grow guards, while certainly armed, were not frontline cartel members, just unfortunate folks working for the cartels who probably had family members back home whose lives certainly would be threatened if the guards here didn’t do their job. But of course they were still considered armed and dangerous.

He and the other “hunters” were concerned that I’d be taking half a dozen clients into the area in a few days, because they had a bust planned. So they decided to tell us. He of course asked that I not say anything to anyone in town. He also mentioned the bust would involve a lot of people and a lot of guns and be very skeery and all that.

As I later discovered, they decided to do the bust the very next day, before I’d be back up there with more clients. The street value of the grow was reported to be $20 million dollars. I think there were more busts after that one down near Zion, but I haven’t heard of any more grows in recent years. Local people were pretty mad (“not on our mountains!” sort of attitude), and I think there was a concentrated law enforcement effort to stop such activities in the state. But I don’t know for sure if all cartel-related grows in Utah have stopped.

Anyway. That’s definitely one memory I will never forget!
 
Last edited:

Miya

Because I am able.
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OooOooOOOOooo @JulieKT, that sounds very exciting!
FBI and a bear!
I wonder if them doing the bust early had to do with his interaction with you. Neat!!
 

Titans

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Aug 18, 2018
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1,190
We had quite a few scattered around southern Utah. There started to be reports about them about 9 or so years ago.

So I once was out guiding clients and came across a group of hunters camped right by the road. Kind of weird spot for hunters to be, and they were all super fit (not my experience with most hunters lol), but whatever, I thought. As we rode past them back to the trailer, they got very chatty with us. Where were we from, was that our camp just about a mile or so away, oh, were we the ones who’d had a bear come through and tear up our camp (bear made not one but two new entrances into our kitchen tent, put teeth marks in our folding tables, left impressively large paw marks on the side of the guide tent—which it also unzipped, yes, actually unzipped, to steal my sleeping bag and drag it about fifty feet away from the tent—and hauled a cardboard box of books to the river which were left disdainfully strewn about when the bear apparently realized they weren’t food), how long had we been in the area, did we come up here often, oh, we had a pack trip with clients planned to start in a few days, interesting, etc etc. It was a little odd but in my head I though, eh, whatever. He’s just bored and talkative.

We finally said our goodbyes and headed on our way. Not two minutes later I heard the roar of a four-wheeler behind us. I thought, Okay, more questions. Yeah, lol. The main guy who’d been asking all the questions pulled up and apologized. Then he admitted he was special agent so-and-so of the FBI and there was a major grow not even a mile above our camp. They’d been watching it for a long time and tracking the activities of certain area residents who were bringing food and supplies to the guards. He told us the bear visit, which was something that had never before happened in all the years the camp had been set up in that same spot, was likely because the growers used real fish and fish oil to fertilize, or whatever they do, the precious plants. The bear with its super-sensitive nose had smelled it and come to investigate, then just kept wandering down the mountain to our nearby camp. He also said the grow was most certainly orchestrated by whichever Mexican cartel, because they’d been moving out of California grows in recent years due to the public becoming both much more actively recreating in previously low-traffic areas where they had grows, not to mention being much more savvy to grows due to a lot of media coverage and land management warnings. The mountains of southern Utah were ideal since they tended to be far less visited by the general public. He mentioned the local grow guards, while certainly armed, were not frontline cartel members, just unfortunate folks working for the cartels who probably had family members back home whose lives certainly would be threatened if the guards here didn’t do their job. But of course they were still considered armed and dangerous.

He and the other “hunters” were concerned that I’d be taking half a dozen clients into the area in a few days, because they had a bust planned. So they decided to tell us. He of course asked that I not say anything to anyone in town. He also mentioned the bust would involve a lot of people and a lot of guns and be very skeery and all that.

As I later discovered, they decided to do the bust the very next day, before I’d be back up there with more clients. The street value of the grow was reported to be $20 million dollars. I think there were more busts after that one down near Zion, but I haven’t heard of any more grows in recent years. Local people were pretty mad (“not on our mountains!” sort of attitude), and I think there was a concentrated law enforcement effort to stop such activities in the state. But I don’t know for sure if all cartel-related grows in Utah have stopped.

Anyway. That’s definitely one memory I will never forget!


Wow! Thanks for sharing @JulieKT - scary story, both about the bear and the bust. That would be a great story around a BCP camp fire!

Fish emulsion is a great organic fertilizer- high in phosphate, I use it early season to push flower production in peppers & big sized tomatoes and I get better yields. Once the flowers are set and the fruit is formed, then the plants benefit from more nitrogen. Fish emulsion stinks bad- I'm always worried the raccoons will start digging around the plants. I never thought about it attracting a bear (which would destroy the fencing around the yard, so the deer can get inside and destroy the rest).
Fish emulsion : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0012Q2TFA/?tag=backcountrypo-20
 

JulieKT

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Joined
Sep 7, 2014
Messages
145
Wow! Thanks for sharing @JulieKT - scary story, both about the bear and the bust. That would be a great story around a BCP camp fire!

Fish emulsion is a great organic fertilizer- high in phosphate, I use it early season to push flower production in peppers & big sized tomatoes and I get better yields. Once the flowers are set and the fruit is formed, then the plants benefit from more nitrogen. Fish emulsion stinks bad- I'm always worried the raccoons will start digging around the plants. I never thought about it attracting a bear (which would destroy the fencing around the yard, so the deer can get inside and destroy the rest).
Fish emulsion : https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0012Q2TFA/?tag=backcountrypo-20
A couple gardener friends I'd told this story to mentioned that stuff. I'm guessing you wouldn't attract bears unless you were using enormous quantities.

Did a quick article search. My stats were wrong. They found 20,000 plants, with a DEA-estimated street value of $60 million. I may or may not have photos of the site post-bust. ;) My clients were very curious, and intrepid, after I told them about the bear and the bust. We went on a little field trip. If I can dig out the pics, I'll post a couple. I think they're on an external drive somewhere.
 

Boognish

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Joined
Jan 4, 2018
Messages
27
A couple gardener friends I'd told this story to mentioned that stuff. I'm guessing you wouldn't attract bears unless you were using enormous quantities.

Did a quick article search. My stats were wrong. They found 20,000 plants, with a DEA-estimated street value of $60 million. I may or may not have photos of the site post-bust. ;) My clients were very curious, and intrepid, after I told them about the bear and the bust. We went on a little field trip. If I can dig out the pics, I'll post a couple. I think they're on an external drive somewhere.

That's a massive grow for being clandestine/black market. Sounds inflated to me.
 

Boognish

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Joined
Jan 4, 2018
Messages
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Yeah, how much space does 20,000 4-6 foot plants take up?!

You could probably squeeze it into 3 acres. To do it right you would want at least 5. For reference, the greenhouse I work at has a perpetual harvest of 300 plants every 8 days. It's about 30k square ft. We run a large yearly crop of 10k plants outside in an area of almost 2 acres.
 
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