The Bells - yet another place getting overwhelmed

Rockskipper

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"Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." - Yogi Berra

http://www.postindependent.com/news...pts-leaf-peeping-change-transportation-study/

Anyone who needs evidence of the increasing popularity of the Maroon Bells should look no further than July 3 when RFTA transported 2,000 people to the picturesque peaks.

"And we were probably close to that on July 2, too," said Kent Blackmer, co-director of operations for the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority.

That popularity is prompting U.S. Forest Service officials to both study the impacts of all those people for the long term and provide another parking option this fall for the short term when the massive leaf-peeping crowds descend.

"During peak weekends in September when the leaves start changing," Blackmer said, "the demand for service to the Maroon Bells is just tremendous."

The issues of the heavy use were discussed this week during a Pitkin County commissioners' work session with Forest Service officials.

...

Schroyer also said the 1.5-mile trail from Maroon Lake to Crater Lake "is being mangled" by thousands of people a day.
 

Wanderlust073

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I'll leave my usual comment (my unsolicited opinion has been sprinkled all over the Internet as these articles appear) - why is the Forest Service incapable of performing basic enforcement of their own regulations? 99% of these visitors aren't headed for the backcountry, they crowd in to an area no more than 1-2 miles from the trailhead.

Yet the FS shrugs and scratches their head and promises more studies and cries about lack of funding when

- they forgo handing out $50 tickets to probably 100+ off-leash dog owners every single day
- they do not observe the crowds and prevent littering/ticket offenders
- they do not have rangers actively telling people to stay on trail and educating them as to why, again ticketing offenders
- they will send in a shovel wielding army of poor souls to locate and bury the 'mountains of human waste' collecting behind every boulder rather than simply patrol and educate/ticket people for improper disposal to prevent and/or minimize it

At the Bells they could put 1-2 rangers in this area, rake in violation fees and greatly reduce the environmental impact on the area simply by enforcing the regulations already in place. But they don't. They call for more studies, they kick around ideas of how to restrict visitation or enact fees, etc. It makes no sense to me. It's like a bunch of cops who refuse to enforce the law claiming that crime is out of control and there needs to be more laws.

Same applies to Bierstadt, Hanging Lake, all the other hot spots. No proactive enforcement, endless amounts of posturing and proclamations after the damage is already done.

Another example - Teton rangers posted on FB how they discovered "more than two dozen" smoldering campfires not put out properly by campers during the most recent fire ban up there. How can you possibly miss 24 campfires when they are actually burning at night, in an area where you know where people are camping? Clearly if you can walk up to their smoldering remains in daylight they aren't hard to locate - but again, no proactive enforcement just a weak after-the-fact reaction griping about it on social media.
 

Rockskipper

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They closed Hanging Lake recently for awhile to repair damage to the trail, but it's open again. You have to drive in circles for an hour to find a parking place, so I've been told. I live in Glenwood Springs and nobody I know (locals) will go out there because of the situation. I'm sure you heard about the clothing company that got ticketed recently for a photo shoot in the water there (it's illegal to get into the lake), and a young boy died recently from a fall.

I think the FS walks a tightrope between enforcement and being accused of trying to take everyone's rights away. It's all turning into a circus, and the real culprit (IMO) are the travel/chamber of commerce agencies and population growth (worldwide), along with how popular travel is these days. It's beginning to seem that people want to travel to iconic places mostly so they can take selfies, then it's on to the next. I read recently that the average length of a stay at the Grand Canyon was just a few hours. I no longer drive through Yellowstone when I go to Montana. I think the FS and Parkies are overwhelmed at this point by the sheer numbers.

I might add that social media is also a big part of all this. Places that were once carefully guarded secrets (like Moon House) and that you could learn of only from people who pretty much vetted you to see if you were respectful, are now all over FB, Instagram, etc. The age-old argument about who should be in the know about these places is now moot, as everyone knows about them. And since it's public lands, who's to say that's wrong? The problem is much deeper, IMO. It has to do with respect and love for the land. As we see more international visitors and as people get more urban, the problem will get worse.
 
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gnwatts

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As we are hiking over West Maroon in a couple of days to Crested Butte, and then hike back the next day, I will try to confirm the "mountains of human waste", although my several times a year hike up to Crater Lake has seen little evidence of this. I have seen some toilet paper on the trail to Crater Lake, but very little given the crowds.
I am happy that the masses like to go there. The crowds for me do not diminish the experience, as I expect it to be crowded. The tourists are generally just blown away by the place. They stay mostly within a mile of the parking lots.
Hanging Lake is a zoo also, no surprise there, given it is right off I70.

As far as Moon House, it is not social media that is the issue. As I have said before on BCP, It is the BLM. Moon House has not been a closely guarded secret, at least in my adult life. The overcrowding happened after the BLM opened the closed road to the canyon edge, eliminating the beautiful, easy 3 mile hike to visit it. The feds needed to limit over visitation, that they created in the first place.
 

Shirt357

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I do believe one major issue is as Rockskipper said... there is much less respect and love for the land. So many people just out there for themselves that they do not think of anyone else. To me that is very selfish. By the time of our kids/grandkids some of these places will either be ruined or off-limits. I seriously do not see why it is so difficult for people to obey simple rules to be able to enjoy nature. I mean is it that tough to keep a leash on your pet (and also to pick up their "presents")? Instead of being a maverick and camping within an area off limits (such as within the basin of mountain lakes), how about realizing WHY you are being asked not to camp there? How hard is it to dig a hole to crap in or if the area calls for it to pack it out?

I get ticked off when I go on some trails and find myself packing out more trash that I took with me. Of when you get to the more popular places and find people have not dug a hole or even better yet... just strewn their toilet paper wherever and not batted an eyelash over it. One reason I think I have started trying to go to less known locations or to hit the trails that require more work or a longer hiking day is because I hope that I will leave behind the disrespectful "tourist" hikers.

Hopefully I did not hijack a thread or soapbox too much, but disrespecting nature to the point it will be trashed before future generations get to see it ticks me off.
 

IntrepidXJ

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The overcrowding happened after the BLM opened the closed road to the canyon edge, eliminating the beautiful, easy 3 mile hike to visit it. The feds needed to limit over visitation, that they created in the first place.

That's because that spur road is almost entirely on State Trust Land and the BLM has no authority over it.
 

Rockskipper

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That's because that spur road is almost entirely on State Trust Land and the BLM has no authority over it.

Same for Willow Springs near Moab and a host of other places that are now trashed, including Dalton Wells, which they finally shut down after it started to look like an RV park. The Moab area does have a state ranger, but he's stretched thin. The Sand Flats was also this way - the land around SLickrock Bike Trail and clear up to D Cluster was all state owned until last year's BLM trade, and the BLM rangers really had little jurisdiction there (none, really, though they did patrol it in conjunction with the local sheriff's office).
 

gnwatts

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That's because that spur road is almost entirely on State Trust Land and the BLM has no authority over it.

I did not know that. Operative word I guess in your statement is "almost entirely". I thought parts of the road were owned by the federal government. I may be wrong, but the road would not have been opened without the BLM's help, as they used to have authority over it?
This is all beside the point really. Whoever opened the road, they are responsible for the increased visitation, and the associated crowds, and then the need for the permit system.
 

Rockskipper

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I did not know that. Operative word I guess in your statement is "almost entirely". I thought parts of the road were owned by the federal government. I may be wrong, but the road would not have been opened without the BLM's help, as they used to have authority over it?
A couple of BLM rangers told me once that the state typically doesn't coordinate anything with the BLM unless they have no choice. Their take on the whole thing is basically that the feds have no right to perform any kind of enforcement on state lands or any say as to what happens there. People are catching on and will often camp on state lands way over the 14-day limits, even squat for long periods. A lot of the people at Willow Springs are Moab workers who live there basically year-round (not that I blame them, as Moab has no affordable housing).
 
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Wanderlust073

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As we are hiking over West Maroon in a couple of days to Crested Butte, and then hike back the next day, I will try to confirm the "mountains of human waste", although my several times a year hike up to Crater Lake has seen little evidence of this. I have seen some toilet paper on the trail to Crater Lake, but very little given the crowds.

http://unofficialnetworks.com/2017/...d-piles-of-poop-from-maroon-bells-wilderness/

Some article poetically referred to the piles as mountains, but check out the link. What you see and what the FS is reporting are very different.
 

Jackson

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Another thing with "secret" places is that people can add them to Google Maps, and after they're on there, anyone can do a simple search and know where things are.
 

WasatchWill

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I think it really comes down to respect and self-awareness, knowledge, and a commitment to practice LNT ethics and minimize your impact on an area as much as reasonably possible. The wilderness purist in me treasures the tranquility that can result from solitude in places where few to no others are around and I've found that the further up longer trails you go, when possible, and the further away you get from roads and what not, the easier it can be to obtain some measure of solitude in such places. Of course, that part of me regrets how many places have exploded with visitors since the wider adoption of various forms of social media among much of the population out there now. But then I must also keep in mind that there are many places I've had the privilege of visiting that I likely would not have come to discover or get familiar with had it not been from someone else's picture(s), video, trip report, etc that was shared online.

Then there is the other part of me that applauds others for getting outdoors too and I have to concede that it can be nice to share, learn of, and discover new places alike with friends and extended social media circles, especially here on BCP with other like-minded members. So with that all said, I really don't mind sharing a trail, a peak, a lake, or other parts of a wilderness so long as all those people in that same space are kind, courteous, respectful, aren't too loud, and most importantly, strive to practice LNT and treasure the natural beauty of the land. Unfortunately, not all who wander into these beautiful places have proactively sought out to understand LNT principles or care to leave it as they found it. Others just plain don't care, even if they do know better, and will go about doing things however they want, even leaving their TP and other trash behind. These are the people I don't understand and wish would stay in the cities and keep their trash to their own places of residence, etc. Seriously...what is so hard about packing out what you pack in. What is so hard about taking up a couple extra ziplock bags to place used TP into and dispose of back at home or wherever the next trash receptor lies? What is so hard about packing out an empty water bottle or beer can or granola bar wrapper or whatever else it may be? What is so hard about packing out a little doggie doo-doo bag? People who leave those bags on the trail for others to pick up are among the worst. Why even go through the effort to bag it up in the first place if you're just going to leave the bag? It'd be better for the environment to just kick the dog's mess off the side of the trail where it can decompose rather than bagging it and just leaving the bag there...

When it comes to human :poop:, I've seen in some high use areas where many people have made the attempt of hiding their excrement and tp by just placing a large stone on it rather than properly burying it or packing it out...ultimately just smashing it all out to the edges and creating both a health hazard and a foul smelling area for others that will inevitably wander through. :facepalm:

I see so many other fellow hikers on some facebook groups I'm in that are always posting pics of all the trash they're collecting and bagging up on trails they hike and I whole heartedly applaud that. And I can only hope that by them posting pictures of all the trash they're finding, that it creates more awareness and get people to think twice about how they're managing their trash when out on the trails and so on. But another part of me questions if those of us who clean up others trash from the trails are just enabling those who don't bother to pack out their trash. I wonder how many out there willingly leave trash behind with the thought along the lines of, "Oh...somebody else will pick this up and pack it out anyway so I won't bother to do it myself..." Maybe others, especially more urban folk, are ignorant enough to assume that the FS and other such agencies have staff hired to routinely pick up the trash along the trails...kind of like events staff and volunteers hired to pick up trash in stadiums, arenas, theaters and other such venues after sporting events, movies, and other gatherings. Still, even if there were...even in those places, I carry out my own trash to the nearest trash can I pass on the way out. It's just common sense and common decency to pack and carry out your own trash and leave a place as pristine as you can for the sake of the environment and for those that seek to visit after you. I think there's a lot of people who probably take the attitude of, "oh..they're public lands, so that makes it partly my land, so I can do whatever I want on it..." rather than the more appropriate attiude of, "oh...these are public lands, so that means they are there to be shared and enjoyed by the public and so I should practice good ethics and not seek to leave my mark on it, vandalize it, or leave any trash behind."

Anyways...I've added more than I thought I would to this rant. Of course, I think we're all just preaching to the choir here. I've yet to actually spot someone actively leaving trash behind on a trail, but when I ever do, I hope I have the nerve to go up, pick it up, hand it out to them, and tell them, "Excuse me, but you forgot this." They'll either be embarrassed and look dumb and go along with packing it out, or they'll give a dirty look at which point, it'll take everything in me to remain polite and try to express how much I would appreciate it if they'd pack out all that they packed in.
 
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WasatchWill

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Another thing with "secret" places is that people can add them to Google Maps, and after they're on there, anyone can do a simple search and know where things are.

Yep...a good example is the "Cosmic Ash Tray" near Escalante which is now a searchable location on google maps. Pity for sure. Also "False Kiva" in Canyonlands...though a search of that one will reveal it to be a somewhat significant distance away from where it really is, which is actually kind of funny. I won't be filing a correction report on that one...:)
 

Rockskipper

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Another thing with "secret" places is that people can add them to Google Maps, and after they're on there, anyone can do a simple search and know where things are.
I use Google Earth and Maps a lot just to look around when I can't get out, or even to pre-explore an area I want to visit. I love seeing photos of places, though it seems a lot of them tend to be pinned somewhat out of place. Interestingly enough, it seems that those who want a quick selfie or to say they've been somewhere cool don't seem to go to the places that take any effort to get to, thankfully.

It's too bad that one can't share a place w/o worrying about it being abused. I like sharing places, but I learned the hard way to be careful who you tell about a place. Someone might be totally cool, but the friends they tell might not, and information sharing becomes an exponential thing.

Another example of a place being discovered and abused is the Racetrack in Death Valley, and it's not all that easy to get to (but that's another story about unethical photographers moving rocks or even stealing them so no one else has that particular shot). I like the bumper sticker I saw a number of years ago that read, "Jackson Sucks, Tell Your Friends," but apparently it didn't work.
 

WasatchWill

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I use Google Earth and Maps a lot just to look around when I can't get out, or even to pre-explore an area I want to visit. I love seeing photos of places, though it seems a lot of them tend to be pinned somewhat out of place. Interestingly enough, it seems that those who want a quick selfie or to say they've been somewhere cool don't seem to go to the places that take any effort to get to, thankfully.

...

I like the bumper sticker I saw a number of years ago that read, "Jackson Sucks, Tell Your Friends," but apparently it didn't work.

I used to use Google Earth and its integrated Panoramio for discovering new places that looked like they were worth a visit. That's how I discovered Coyote Gulch among some other places years and years ago as I was scanning and combing the Escalante area and others with Google Earth way back then. Within a year, I planned a trip down there with my wife and we went on a perfect October weekend and saw very few others down in the gulch there and was even shocked when we pulled into the huge alcove at the tip of Jacob Hamblin Arch late in the evening and found nobody else to be around...so of course we afforded ourselves the luxury of camping in that now famous spot. Me thinks that spot and others nearby it won't ever be vacant again late in the evenings of blissful October weekends nor will there ever be so few crowds down in there now.

I think there are a few places out there that are pretty strenuous and take a lot of effort to get to that for whatever reason, are now starting to draw bigger and bigger crowds out to them too. Lake Powell's Reflection Canyon comes to mind. A good number of miles with virtually no reliable water through most of the year, meaning you have to pack in all your water, but despite all that...more and more people are making the trek out there.

And as for that bumper sticker...I'm pretty sure @Jackson would resent that. Actually, I think we need to find and get him one now. :roflmao::giggle:
 

Rockskipper

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