[pct-l] After Action Report: Wilderness Ranger Rendevous

Ned Tibbits ned at mountaineducation.com
Mon Sep 18 03:36:46 CDT 2006

On Friday, Sept. 15, under dark and hailing skies and within the historic compound of the Tallac Historic Site, Mountain Education gave a one-hour presentation on the importance of the Pacific Crest Trail to 50 or 60 USFS and NPS Wilderness Rangers and Administers from California and Utah followed by a showing of "Still Walking," Squatch's 2005 trail documentary (provided by and thanks to trail angel, Rev. Gizmo).

It was the desire of the Rangers to find out more about the trail (beyond its physical location within their areas), specifically, its history, who hikes it, what it takes to complete it in one season, and how lives are changed in the process.  With great animation and passion, Ned Tibbits (pct-74) opened with a verbal description of typical daily trail life for the individual hiker from Mexico Northbound, the initial joys of the start, blisters in the journey, obstacles, injuries, and massive "trail family" camaraderie experienced.  What it takes to complete the trail, physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual integrity, stamina, and perseverance, were emphasized in order to describe the commitment, dedication, and  desire of the Thru Hiker.  The Rangers, led by Rob Mason of Sierra National Forest and Suzy Lancaster of Lake Tahoe Basin, were especially interested in the number who start, the percent that finish, and the reasons hikers quit. 

They wanted to understand, better, what kind of person is going to be coming up the trail beyond their previous happen-chance meetings:  
 - do they practice Leave No Trace trail ethics?
 - do they camp within 100 feet of lakes and streams?
 - do they pack out their own trash and place rocks over their own feces?
 - do they cook where they camp or before?
 - what is cowboy-camping?
 - is stealth-camping popular?
 - do they travel alone or in groups (and how big)?
 - do they consider how their actions and behavior effect the Wilderness appreciation of others?
 - do they all seek (and get) trail permits before departure?
 - do they stick to the trail only or carry maps to get to town?
 - do they understand the importance of carrying bear canisters?
 - are they thoroughly informed regarding wilderness health and safety?

With much surprise, excitement, and pleasure many of the Rangers recognized hikers featured in "Still Walking."  They typically exclaimed, "I remember him/her!  I checked his/her Permit.  He/she was really nice.  I never have to worry about PCT hikers!"  They appreciated watching the video for its expose of the thru hiker experience and culture.

Regarding:  more bear boxes in Kings/Sequoia - highly unlikely.
              :  going out and back via Whitney Portal - your thru-hike permit does not cover the Whitney Trail in Inyo. Go out at Cottonwood or Kearsarge.
              :  bear canisters:  - you must carry where required. An ursack may not satisfy all jurisdictions.
                                        -  rent programs from Kennedy Meadows north are an excellent resource.
                                        -  consider keeping your canisters through the Tahoe Basin due to increasing bear activity.
              :  Signage:  Brands on wood only in Wilderness.
                                Polycarbonate PCT signs otherwise.
              :  Mileage complaints on trail signs evoked laughter and grins from everyone.  A work in progress....
              :  More Rangers and less new trucks - not in the budget.  >From an administrative point of view, they can never have enough volunteers to help out. Many thanks to Pete Fish!
              :  Permits - follow PCTA recommendations.  Carry one.  Don't b.s. the ranger if you don't.  These rangers are just like you, personally; they just have an authoritative job to do.

All in all, the entire contingent of rangers and staff wished to know how they could better help the trail experience of thru hikers within the abilities of their budgets and were very thankful that they, now, understood better what it takes to accomplish such a feat as backpacking a 2,650-mile trail like the Pacific Crest.  Congratulations were given to all who have completed the trail and encouragement to those who wish to do so.

See you all at ALDHA-West!


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