Re: disturbing trend
- On Tue, Sep 6, 2011 at 11:37 AM, Joe MacLeish <jmacleish@...> wrote:
>Don't really have a clue on hard data. It is my impression that there were a LOT fewer people on the JMT this year. Trip reports seem to frequently mention the lack of the usual summer hoard. I suspect lots of people got permits but were intimidated by the snowpack.> John Ladd/Roleigh:>
> ... I understood that in the last 3-5 years there were fewer people on the Muir Trail or in the backcountry of the Sierras than previously. We have had the discussion that the water is getting better in the Sierras because people have been trained where and how to do their business. That would lead one to think that this problem is localized to just the Whitney area or we are just more sensitized to it. I personally saw no more evidence this year of malappropriate pooping than any other year. Actually when I did the JMT in July there was about 25% of the normal traffic in people and one assumes pooping as well. Or this could be a case of 1-2 bad poopers who irritated a lot of people. What’s the data?>
If I have anything useful to say about this thread, it's this:
I think that a very small percentage -- of those hiking more than 2 miles from a trailhead -- are irresponsible. I think folks who at least try to be responsible vastly out-number the problem folks (once you get past that 2 miles). I've seen the occasionally disgusting display, but more from slightly bad practices (e.g., inadequatley buried TP which is dug up by and animal) that the rather extreme cases mentioned in the thread. I'm not saying they didn't happen, just that they are a lot less common that mild negligence.
While I have no solution to the problem of few people who are grossly irresponsible, I think that we can all improve our mutual experience by modest modifications to our usual practices. Without being an ecology nutcase, it find it kind of satisfying to move myself and (where possible) my friends in the direction of improved wilderness "ethics" - packing out TP (actually Handi-Wipes are a lot more pleasant to pack out), being really good about digging a proper cathole, minimizing the times you build a campfire, occasionally sticking a piece of someone else's trash in your pack, getting all my stuff in a legal bearcan even on night one, etc. These relatively small steps can gradually make a good deal of difference and may make you feel like you have played a role in fighting back against the deterioraton of the wilderness.
In the long run, thinking about the last 40 years or so in the Sierra, I think that in general our collective wilderness ethics are on a gradual curve for the better on average, while the exceptions do stand out. I don't see people trenching their tents, more people cook with stoves rather than campfires, some people pack out TP, I see less discarded food packaging, etc. So there are reasons for optimism. I think.