Park Restrictions?

6:50 p.m. on September 12, 2012 (EDT)
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Hi all,

            I’m from Southern California and I am as new to backpacking as you can be – in fact, I’ve never been.  I’ve recently been struck by an urge to embark on a ~3-5day backpacking trip.  Of course, I knew I would need to do tons of research and planning before I would be ready to head out; however, I’ve noticed there are some things I didn’t realize I would need to learn.  There seems to be so much more to backpacking than learning to be safe/survive and how to have a minimal impact on the environment.  I was hoping that somebody here could help me out with some of my frustrations.  If there is somewhere else I should ask these questions, please redirect me because I just recently realized that this website is an “outdoor *gear* community,” but it seems like these forums are used for this kind of thing as well....

            First off, I’d like to ask about rules and regulations for different types of parks/wilderness.  I had planned on window-shopping google images to find a place that looked interesting to explore, but I didn’t realize there were so many regulations and restrictions and that these rules differed from place to place.  At first I was annoyed by this, but thanks to a post by Bill S. in this thread,, I now realize and respect their necessity.  I am, however, struggling to pick a place to go to because of these regulations.  For example, after searching for a few days, I decided to go to San Jacinto… only to find (as I was printing the wilderness pass) that I would be restricted to camping in campsites (which is not what I am looking for).  I am currently on the search again and was wondering if somebody could let me know if there is an easy way to find out whether a park/wilderness will let you camp in the wild.  For example, do all wildernesses require a wilderness permit (adventure pass?) and not allow you to camp outside of camp grounds? or does it differ from park to park and I’ll just have to find out on my own? Also, does this sometimes differ depending on the trail (within the same park)?

            There are a lot of “where should I go to” threads, so I don’t really need a recommendation (feel free to give me one if you’d like… I’m looking into Mt. San Gorgonio right now).  I guess what I’m trying to find is a way to identify what restrictions there will be that's more easier/more efficient than reading the restrictions on the permit so that I can screen through places a bit faster…

             Also, I’d like to hear whether people think starting out with a 5 day trip is too ambitious for somebody with zero experience… I am in very good physical condition and have read a lot (and will continue to read) about food/water/bears (and other hazards including sun, plants, etc.).  I wouldn’t plan on going alone for 5 days, but would it be unwise to go at it alone for a single night?

             I was going to ask more questions, and might do so later.  Thank you for the help.

9:26 p.m. on September 12, 2012 (EDT)
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An over nighter or two nights at the same campsite would be a good starter, solo or with somebody.  I'd suggest a shorter hike so you can check out what you shouldn't have brought or should definitely have included next time.  We all do shake downs with new gear.
San Gorgonio is an excellent choice. It will get you a goodly ways in, and if anything goes badly wrong it is a relatively short escape. 

This gives you a one stop place for most of your information for the Wilderness including permits and restrictions.

I like the trail to Dollar Lake (for the night) the up to the Saddle for some exploration if you want, and the summit.  Then back down and you can make the decision to just hang out reading a book or listen to some music.

You could also take the longer trail up Fish Creek to Mineshaft Saddle and the summit.

Generally in a Wilderness Area there are no wheeled vehicles and it requires at least a wilderness permit and if on a popular trail (especially weekends) a reservation.  Dogs must be on 6' leash.

National Parks have similar rules but some trails will have different restrictions and you will not be allowed campfires at the higher elevations.  In bear areas (special restriction) you will need to have a personal bear canister to keep your food away from unexpected guests.

In most places in California, you will need to have a permit for ANY stove you will be taking with you.  This is a self permitting easy thing. Mainly it makes sure you are aware of the fire dangers.

If you go to the Sierra National Parks, best to just browse through the regulations.  They are similar in all NP..with some quirks based on a specific region.

11:12 a.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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If you find someone in a hiking club for instance, it will help. Go with someone that has experience.  Start with an overnight of a 2 nighter and work your way up the ladder.

I would recommend not going to places with websites and lots of rules.  Read some guide books and find a quiet out of the way place for your trip.

11:30 a.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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The Sierra Club (as does REI) has many weekend excursions.  Hook up with them for an overnight or two.  You will get sheep dipped in the regulations.

So let's plan San Gorgonio's summit.

You need two permits. 

One for your car to park it - $30 a year and usable anywhere you can legally park in the Southern California Wildernesses. Without it they give you a 'ticket' which is equivalent to the $5 day pass.  You can get this at REI or ranger stations and other places that are close to civilization near trail heads.  Just think of it as a parking fee.  Hitchhiking becomes an enticing alternative.

The other permit is for you to be where you want to go. This you get from the controlling ranger station in the area you are interested in.  In this case the Mill Creek Ranger Station.  Sometimes they charge a handling/admin fee.

The National Forest Districts at times restrict the number of people to some areas to make it a bit more enjoyable for everybody.  Weekends are, of course the most popular. They would like (sometimes enforce) day hike permits as well.  They are interested in getting an idea of how popular any wilderness access trail is.

Jenks Lake area is your trail head car parking.

Adequate parking, somewhat patrolled and the start of the South Forks Trail, which leads up toward Dollar Lake - where you might plan to camp.  You probably will find somebody else already there and it gives you a chance to get some information about what they are doing and how they are going about it: packs, footwear, food, sleeping bags.. etc.  It can be a show and tell with amenable strangers.,-116.84320&z=15&t=T

The Dollar Lake Trail leaves the meadow and skirts Dollar Lake on a low ridge.

They have restricted the camping to corral any extended damage to the area.  This is just a fact of life at most campsites with water within 10 miles of a trail head.  There are local restrictions on how close you can camp to lakes.  In this case they want you 1/4 mile away. 

Usually its 200' away from water and meadows throughout the nation.  Some times they will post lakes or areas that are under repair (takes decades) and no longer available for camping or hiking. Again those would be explained to you when you apply for or pick up any permit in California.

OK, one more permit - which almost nobody knows about and it has probably yet been enforced.  They just want to make sure you are aware of fire hazards.

Generally in National Forrest lands (that are not wildernesses or National Parks) there would be few permits and only restrictions on where and how to build fires.

Almost all places above 10,000' are not allowed open fires because the fuel for a fire just doesn't grow quickly and you would remove future 'compost' from a very fragile ecosystem.  It is easier, more convenient and a LOT cleaner to just plan on having a stove of your choice, be it propane, alcohol or gasoline or other on all of your trips.

Almost all camping areas in the US follow the general rules outlined in a wilderness area.  Once you figure out one, you have the others covered.

If you get into mountaineering in some risky and more vertical and ice covered slopes, you may have another set of permitting and restrictions. Wait for it.

3:26 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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Thanks so much.  The 'walkthrough' especially cleared up a lot of questions I had.

6:55 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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All of san jacinto is campsite camping, unfortunately. its to minimize impact on the wilderness.

8:18 p.m. on September 13, 2012 (EDT)
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ppine sort of hit it on the head.  Stop in at REI and look at the trail guides and suggested trips of all kinds in the near by mountains.  Most of the trails or suggested trips give a run down on permits, how to get there and any restrictions.  The clerks there are fairly knowledgeable about the trails or opportunities and the books/guides.

Summit Post (.com) does the same on their trip reports.  It is still fairly warm in the southland. Most have gone up north a bit to the Sierra.  Eastern Sierra is easiest to access from the southland.

In the Sierra you don't need an Adventure Pass to park. But it is a 4 hour drive to get there. You do need a wilderness permit on the trail or area you want to go into. There is a reason why they ask for your alternate possible days or other trails you would want to go in.  Ask how many permits they hold back for walk up at the controlling ranger station. Generally, you can camp where you wish in the Sierra.  If you cross into a National Park boundary you can't have a dog.  You can carry a weapon but it is illegal to discharge it.  I think they are hinting at something there.

Have a great time out there.

2:17 p.m. on September 14, 2012 (EDT)
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you have not said what you're taking for gear. the gear forum can help with that, you can get some good suggestions and advice on what works and what doesn't. as for destinations, I can only comment on san jacinto, but since you have already ruled that out, theres no point. have a good time.

2:21 p.m. on October 8, 2012 (EDT)
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doing the right thing here on the blogs! research the experience of others!

go with a experienced well established group! get a couple of overnighters under your belt!

every area will have different seasonal regulations....

try in your area! there should be many different groups of different areas of interest. anything from knitting to mountaineering....

in short earn your stripes....with a group of {semi?} experienced individuals!

this group {IMHO} rocks! 

the meetups can be very informative! wilderness first responder!, CPR!, how to pack your bag, what to carry, what to expect, pre trip discussions, permitting, seasonal considerations, etc....

every outing will be different as far as jurisdictional regulations go...


newb,  but eyes and ears wide!

6:19 a.m. on November 7, 2012 (EST)
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Wow, I am so disheartened. I had no idea some places had so many ridiculous controlling restrictions. Back up and look at the big picture....Man has been travelling through forests since, well... the dawn of mankind. But now, you need permission basically to walk in the woods.  Its just too much. Are there any regulations on where I shit in the woods too?  Can anyone direct me to where I can aquire a permit that allows me to buy government regulated toilet paper? 

But seriously, is there ANYWHERE a person can just go into the wild and be alone? Is there even such a thing as wild anymore?  Do we need to go into the dangers of the Alaska wilderness just to get in touch with our basic human roots?  I'd bet if I went to the middle of the Alaska wilderness and setup camp for 2 weeks (if I had such skill) I would get a visit from a ranger or some "authority".

4:49 p.m. on November 7, 2012 (EST)
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Supernoob said:

..I had no idea some places had so many ridiculous controlling restrictions... ..Are there any regulations on where I shit in the woods too?..  

Actually there are regulations regarding where (and how) you go about pooping in the woods.   Perhaps you can list a few of the so-called rediculous restrictions so we can explain thier merrits. 

Some of us have been camping for decades, and remember popular destinations that were allowed to degrade, due to too many campers and unsustainable practices, such as popping wherever we felt like, setting up camp wherever we felt like, indiscriminate collection and burning of wood, washing in water sources, etc.  Since the advent of additional regulations and quotas, these locations have significantly recovered.  Having been around long enough to have witness these changes, I have no problem with the majority of these "rediculous" regulations.


6:46 p.m. on November 7, 2012 (EST)
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Rather than try to debate a subject I'm a noob with, I'll just talk about my overall gut feeling of it.  I'm not a backpacker, nor camper, nor hiker yet.  Just someone who has gotten interested in bushcrafting and wild camping while learning about survival techniques and gear.  The idea for me is to learn how to sustain myself during any possible emergencies. My plan is to go out often on short trips to learn and not be overwhelmed.  Luckily this all sounds like great fun and I am very motivated and excited. But now that I'm researching places, all I hear about is the rules, and permits, and fees and no fire rules, etc. It just feels like a huge modern roadblock for something so simple, natural, old fashioned, and innocent.  Just a man, who wants to pack up and bushcraft around in the woods. 

Even the thought of trail abuse, or maintenance for that matter, was never in my mind.  Someone else blazed those trails. Hardy men with straighfoward ideas and big ambitions. I wonder what they would think of the state of rules for a man to go into the woods.

In every area of life every little thing is regulated. Is it so wrong for me to feel disgusted over this?  People go overboard with things.  Same with cutting down trees.  Is a bushcrafter cutting down a tree every now and then gonna ruin a forest?  Its almost absurd when I see video after video of people talking like this.  Its not the same as starting a logging company and its not damaging to the forest in the slightest.  And on this subject I am not ignorant. If I decide to dig a fire hole, is some fellow woodsman gonna come along and tell me I just damaged the earth?  If I take a few twigs from a live tree for some green sticks to makeshift a cooking rack will I be chastised for ruining the forest? Where does it end?  How much rules are necessary?  We can't have perfect everything through rules and regulations.  

9:59 p.m. on November 7, 2012 (EST)
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There has been one major change since the first member of homo sapiens (or even the predecessor homo erectus) wandered into the woods. There are now over 320,000,000 people within the boundaries of the United States alone, with over 7.1 billion humans on the planet (and 3 or 4 in orbit above the planet). This biped has worked major alterations on the surfaces of the continents, throughout the oceans (all the way to the bottoms of the oceans, even), and increasingly to the atmosphere.

As Ed (whomeworry) above says, there were many places in the 48 contiguous states that used to be moderately far from "civilization" and could be considered "wilderness" when I was young (and before Ed was born {8=>D ). At present (Nov 2012), recent calculations from the USGS indicate that there is no place in the lower 48 that is more than 20 miles from the nearest road. In addition to the estimated hundreds of thousands of those bipeds who go into the woods and hills every year, there are additional thousands who operate motorized vehicles, not only on paved roads, but on unpaved roads and in "roadless" regions (the governor of a certain western state has been making an effort to get several thousand acres of those "roadless" areas declared to NOT be roadless anymore, hence open to 4WD and ATVs to freely roam).

There are areas I went just a few decades ago to stay for a couple weeks at a time and see no one besides myself (plus the companions I went with on those occasions I went with others). A couple years ago, I went back to the one in the following photo - and this is what I discovered:


No, this is not one of the major hiking trails, but is actually an area that is supposedly rarely entered by humans (still no permit required, I believe). The area is a former pond that filled over the years with sediment from the runoff in a formerly glaciated area to become a meadow that gets a bit soggy at certain times of year. This makes it very sensitive to usage. One or two people a year, and it can grow back. But if it gets to an average of 1 or two a day, maybe 350 to 400 a year walking the same trace through the meadow, and the trail becomes deeper and wider. This particular area still only gets about a half dozen people on weekends, maybe 2 a day during the week, and only during the late spring to mid-fall season - typically under 4-6 feet of snow from November through April.

So let's say you go into the woods to do some bushcraft. You decide to build a small leanto, say 10x10 ft, and 5 ft high at the open side. How many trees are you going to cut down? It won't be just one. Suppose you make the leanto of 4-inch saplings. The roof of your shelter will require 34 poles, each 10 ft long (having the poles run horizontally across the roof makes for easier chinking or thatching), or 340 feet of 4 inch saplings. Maybe that's 17 saplings. Then you need the verticals to support the two sides of the open side, plus the 12-foot saplings for the leaned side supports. And we aren't done with the leanto yet. That's not "a tree now and then".

When you dig your firehole, are you going to make sure the fire is out completely and fill it back in (make sure you don't create a root fire, which can smolder for weeks before erupting above the surface to create a major wildfire - I have had to deal with these). Back in the 19th Century, Mark Twain and some of his buddies accidentally managed to set the forests along the North Shore of Lake Tahoe on fire, ultimately burning several thousand acres (you can still see the scars in some places, 150 years later)

How many bushcrafters will be in your favorite area? Or would you propose that "your" area be restricted to one bushcrafter per square mile, so that you can be undisturbed by fellow woodcrafters? Oh, wait! I forgot! You do not want any permits or restrictions on how many people can enter the area!

Maybe you can begin to see the problem. The lower 48 contiguous states measure just about 3.2 million square miles. That is for the 300 million people in the US, or 100 people per square mile. Yeah, ok, something like 95% of the people are crowded into urban areas, with 5% scattered across the rest of the US. The woods and hills are more like 4 or 5 people per square mile. Still, those 4 or 5 people can have a tremendous cumulative effect over time, walking the same path, "pooping" in the woods and building trees to cook their food and keep themselves warm.

As the saying goes, "as an exercise for the reader" (or student), how much land is necessary to feed yourself? Suppose you are hunting deer or other large meat source. How many pounds of dressed animal do you need during a year? How many pounds of berries? How much grain (wheat, or wild oats, or corn) do you need?

The point here is that it is not a case of just one person with a whole continent to roam, or even a few hundred personal acres. It is the cumulative effect of the huge number of people who are wanting to get into the woods and hills to find some untrammeled quiet and solitude.

It is all  a lot of fun and games to play Daniel Boone and Davie Crockett. But the woods and hills are a very limited resource these days, and we homo not-so-sapiens are having a huge impact. I (and a few other folks here, like Ed) go to grow up when the US population was less than half its present size. We did not have to have the regulations that are necessary today to protect what little of the wilderness experience remains. Nature does not have as much of a chance to recover from the impact of the hordes (even where there are entry limits) rushing into the Rockies, Sierra, NH Whites, and the plains and deserts (the Plains are pretty much all under cultivation anyway). One of my volunteer activities these days is overseeing timber management on some 600 acres of coastal redwood forest (one of the regulations we have to comply with is maintaining a healthy forest, while still keeping the potential fuel load fairly low). I have seen what happens when (a few miles down the road) some "bushcrafters" got a little careless with a campfire, which spread into a major wildfire and into an urban area, burning several dozen million-dollar homes to the ground.

7:46 a.m. on November 8, 2012 (EST)
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Thank you for the detailed post.  

Firstly, I don't buy into overpopulation. That is not to say I don't believe the world is increasing in population. I just don't think that when the majority of all people are crammed into cities, and huge problems arise from it, that rules need put in place to handle overpopulation of the whole land.  Rules put into place by people that come from the overpopulated cities are always the ones making rules for all. All of the people that have ever existed since the dawn of mankind would fit into Rhoade Island. Of course they would need more space, but thats just to illustrate a point.  Your perspective (and much of mine too) comes from a HIGHLY predjudice point of view.  It is not my intention to have a political debate here, just explaining where I'm coming from.  I can have that debate if you want, but lets start a new thread and keep it respectful.  I'm open to changing my mind, it wouldn't just be providing a way to spout my views.

Secondly,  my interest in bushcrafting has nothing to do with trying to be Daniel Boone, and I don't think too many people serious about the subject would appreciate that comment.  I'm not trying to fulfil some childhood fort building fantasy. I'm just trying to stay excited about a subject while learning real survival skills. Fire holes will be filled, shelters will be taken down, etc.  

You created this wildly unrealistic scenario where 1. Every bushcrafter is an earth hating moron who knows nothing about the wild. 2. Every bushcrafter will cut down 47 trees to make a shelter from living trees every time they go out. No you didn't say that exactly but the implication is clear. Bushcrafting is more than building shelters.  And even if it were, here in the northeast there is no shortage of healthy forests with PLENTY of deadfall anytime of year. I don't envision having to cut down much live stuff if any at all.  Most tasks I want to learn are simple things that don't involve much wood at all but require practice to do well so I can work quickly and efficiently in an emergency situation. I want to practice them to become proficient. Notches, stools, beds, cooking setups, setting up tarps, learning knots, different types of fires with different qualities of wood, learning about natural edibles, etc, etc, but all you can do is envision a moron in the woods chopping down 47 trees?  

Honestly I'm a tad offended.  Not everyone who wants to learn these basic life skills is a city slicker with a dream. I may come from a big city but that doesn't mean I don't know some basics about the environment and how to stay safe. I may be new but it won't be the first time climbed a mountain, or hiked, or swung an axe proficiently.  

The problems with the trails are/were real I'm sure. I respect that, but the real problem is that we are all crammed into small areas.  It just seems that the same people that benefit from creating policy to keep cities so tight are the same people that do NOT want you to be self suffient.  The rule makers.  If the average person would put as much effort into fighting corruption as they do slavishly worshiping the rules and rulemakers maybe new cities would spring up and we wouldn't be so "overpopulated".  When an "official" says the word overpopulation, what he really means is "people are too hard to control and manipulate when spread out".

Whether you agree with me or not, at least you now know, hopefully, where my opinions come from.

7:53 a.m. on November 8, 2012 (EST)
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To some extent these regulations are a result of a careless few ruining it for the rest. It is possible to stay in some places for a few days and leave it in pretty close to the same state you found it, but some (maybe most) people will make some kind of impact to a greater or lesser degree. I think anyone who practices old fashioned lean-to-and-campfire "bushcraft" will be among the ones with larger impacts. We know better now, and can choose lightweight gear that and LNT methods that help us minimize our impacts. If everyone could be counted on to disperse and practice LNT, then the regulations wouldn't need to be so stringent (but I still think, given Bill's numbers, that some regulation would be necessary at least in hot spots like national parks). As it is, we can best do our part by going along with the regulations, even if we aren't completely happy about it.

8:37 a.m. on November 8, 2012 (EST)
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Wow, I can see now that there is some prejudice against wild camping. That was wicked bro.  What exactly does ultralight gear have to do with whether you practice bushcrafting skills? Nothing.  I can't believe the level of brainwash in the mentality of modern hikers. Dude, lighting a fire is not an impact on the environment.  If a few morons go into the woods with a case of beer 50 yards from your favorite manicured trail, and fail to clean up, does that mean rules need to be placed on everyone who wants to go into the wild?

I'm with you on leaving no trace, but to what level? If I chop down a tree, is that leaving a trace?  If I hang a hammock will the tree die?  (Sure I guess it could if you use the same tree 20 times and tie it improperly.)  If I create a fire pit should I not only disassemble it, but put the rocks back where I found them? Maybe I could also plant some grass and a few trees so no one ever knows an evil human being was there. And if I use hiking poles I guess I'm destroying the earth by using metal tips too?  "Marking the rocks"  Lmao.  That one concept alone was probably the tipping point for me to even get into this.  That phrase was not from here, btw, just a good example of how the philosophy of leaving no trace is been taken to the extreme.

Bottom line, I love the Earth, but I don't allow my respect for it to get in the way of reasonable logical thought. I guess man is just bad, earth is good, and there is no gray? Nice and simple, just right for the bumper sticker mentality of today's masses.  

I plan on leaving as little trace as possible, but I'm not crying for the Earth if someone comes along and knows I was there.  Not sure about you, but I was born here, on Earth. I come from it and will go back into it eventually. While I'm here I'm going to use it, respectfully, but use it nontheless. If someone can see that I used it, I will not feel like a criminal for doing so. 

I'm not going to clear land and build a mall.  The last time your local government did that, did you protest?  Did you even THINK of the impact of that?  Probably not, you probably went directly to the new REI and bought a $400 made in China tent that was made by oppressed people by a giant poluting corporation that couldn't possibly match my respect for the Earth.

Obviously this isn't the right place for me. Honestly I'm starting to feel that the modern hiking crowd is more into gear and slavishly following the fake green movement than even being in the wild. I think I'll go in my backyard and burn a tree to make breakfast now. Dear god forgive me! Have a nice day.

Edit: I forgot to mention that I will also be fishing, and eventually learning to trap. I certainly hope the Earth will survive without that poor little fish I named Lunch.  Or OMG! I had to put a hole in the earth and dig up a few worms to catch lunch! Man I'm evil!  I'd bet your only thoughts right now is that some noob might leave a hook or a line in the wild, or that I shouldn't fish, I should just bring dehydrated chicken and boil up some Poland Spring water in an alcohol burning superlight stove.  And btw, where was that stove made, what resources used to build it? How were the workers treated who made the metal, what resources where used for that?  Or the alcohol, how much resources does that take to produce? But I'm sure I'm evil for lighting a few sticks to burn a fish.

10:22 a.m. on November 8, 2012 (EST)
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I've done my share of wild camping, and have nothing against it. In 1981 I did the JMT in 17 days without a stove or tent. I cooked over small three-rock fires used an old tin can as my teapot, mostly slept in the open, but used a tarp one one or two cold nights. I can assure you no one would have been able to detect my cooking and sleeping sites 5 minutes after I left them. I like a good campfire as much as the next guy.

But as Bill S indicates, I have also seen and sometimes used a lot of overused/abused camp sites in various places all over the world (sometimes it's better to use, and maybe clean up, an existing mess rather than start a new one). I'm thinking about places where all the small trees have been hacked down to stumps and there's not a scrap of deadwood left in a half mile radius. No one needs that. I totally encourage you to get out there and enjoy the woods and mountains. I sure do. But you should try understand the need for regulation. That's what this thread is about.

2:52 p.m. on November 8, 2012 (EST)
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As Big Red indicates, I believe you greatly misread my admittedly lengthy post. The term "HIGHLY predjudice point of view" (sic) is, to say the least, a very loaded one. Most of what I posted was factual information - the number of people within the lower 48 and Earth, land area within the lower 48, max distance from the nearest road in the lower 48, the campaign by the governor of a certain western state (I will let the Trailspace members who are residents of that state name him, though you can easily find it on the web), the photo (which is only reduced in number of pixels, with no enhancements), the required amount of wood to make a leanto of the specified size, and so on.

One of the basic points was that just by your existence on this planet you are making an impact, as is every other one of the 7 billion bipeds on the Earth. The goal is to minimize your personal impact, which first requires being conscious of all the various impacts. It is to some degree your choice the level of impact you make (as long as you are alive, you expel carbon dioxide and methane, two of the most powerful greenhouse gases, into the atmosphere - that's just a byproduct of every species of animal, so you have no choice there).

I did not condemn your wanting to learn and practice some of the primitive skills. In fact, that's a laudable thing. As Big Red noted, many of us who visit Trailspace have been doing that sort of thing for years (or even for some of us decades). It may well lead to your having a deeper understanding of the connectedness of everything on our planet (and it is indeed "our planet", all 7 billion of us hominids).

You said: there ANYWHERE a person can just go into the wild and be alone? Is there even such a thing as wild anymore?  Do we need to go into the dangers of the Alaska wilderness just to get in touch with our basic human roots?

Yes, there are plenty of places. I would take issue with your rather inflammatory "dangers of the Alaska wilderness", though. "Danger" is what you perceive and make it. Where I currently live, in the SFBay Area, you can get die in a "wilderness" setting within 5 miles of my house (and people have), attacked by a wild animal (though getting shot by the people doing "agricultural experiments" in the hills is more likely). We have mountain lion, coyote, bobcat, bear, and, on the edible side, salmon and steelhead in the streams, as well as rabbits and deer. There are berries to be gathered as well. The photo below was taken about 15 miles in a straight line from my house.


I do know a bit about the art of "bushcraft", though where I grew up on a reservation in the middle of the Sonora Desert, it was just the normal way of life. And I lived in the northeastern US, and have spent a fair amount of time in the hills and woods there. So I am quite familiar with your "neck of the woods." I am sure you realize that New England was clearcut of virtually all of the trees that were there in 1491 (just before Europeans sailed across to the so-called "New World").

Here is a fairly recent photo of me in the woods (again, about 10 or 12 miles from my house).


To deal with some of your questions - first I suggest you go to the Leave No Trace organization website.

I'm with you on leaving no trace, but to what level?

As I said above, just by living, you are leaving a trace. The idea is to be a good steward of this planet we live on. It's the only one we have right now. Try to set a good example for others and help them understand that everything on the planet is connected to every other thing on the planet.

If I chop down a tree, is that leaving a trace?  

Yes. It may re-grow, and other trees may grow in the same location. But it will not be the natural succession that would have occurred had you let Nature take her course.

If I hang a hammock will the tree die?  (Sure I guess it could if you use the same tree 20 times and tie it improperly.)  

That depends on how you attach the hammock to the tree. The tree will probably live through it, though if you hang the hammock in the wrong way, the tree may have scars. If you hang the hammock wrong, you will choke off the tree's circulation system, causing a premature death and providing a breeding ground for one of several beetle and fungus infestations.

lighting a fire is not an impact on the environment.

Actually, it is. The wood you gathered, especially down wood, will decay back into the ground and provide nutrients for other plants, as well as the insect part of the food chain, which nourishes the next level and on up the line to the fish you want to catch, the rabbits you snare, and the deer you harvest with your bow.

If I create a fire pit should I not only disassemble it, but put the rocks back where I found them?

That is the recommended way. As nearly as possible, leave the area with as little evidence of your passage as possible. You may not realize it, but the people you say you are trying to emulate in fact did bury their fires after making sure they were "dead out" (you do know how to do that, don't you?) and did return the rocks to their original locations with the charred side down. This was because not all the other peoples living and hunting in the area were friendly or amenable to having others in their hunting grounds. "Leaving no trace" was part of survival.

You refer to these things as going to extremes. Actually, they take very little effort. Again, remember that everything on this planet is connected to everything else. You will have an impact simply by being there, no way you can avoid that. The idea, again, is to reduce that unavoidable impact as much as possible.

Returning to the OP's topic - as several have already posted, as much as I would like to have full freedom to go where I want when I want, or alternatively if you have to have limits, then make them so that it keeps the riffraff off of MY land and MY mountains and MY woods (allowing only MY special friends to come with me [8=>D), I recognize that this is being more than a little selfish. As has been pointed out before, requiring someone who wants to go into a more or less pristine wilderness area to get a permit and a briefing provides an opportunity for education in keeping an area more or less pristine and more or less untrammeled. It helps to open people's eyes and minds to the values of untrammeled areas and why we should all practice LNT principles. Perhaps it can result in future generations being able to enjoy a little of what BigRed, Ed whome, and I grew up with (should the "Naked Ape", to quote the title of a certain book, manage to avoid wiping his/her species from the face of the planet). Yes, we do have a worry as the 3rd world countries demand (rightfully) to share in the comforts of "civilization", including plenty of healthy food, medical care, and the means to acquire it. We do not have the right to deny the 3rd worlders their chance for health and enjoyment of life. But maybe by our example, we can help them to realize as well what a limited resource we have, so that they, too, will become good stewards of the planet. Maybe homo sapiens can learn to stop "fouling her/his own nest."

7:27 p.m. on November 8, 2012 (EST)
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Bill, that was beautiful. You have my gratitude, and my respect.

8:01 p.m. on November 8, 2012 (EST)
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well said, bill. although I think its falling on deaf ears.

1:54 a.m. on November 9, 2012 (EST)
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Supernoob, First of all you admit that you have no experience. Second, your idealized version of how things should be and your obvious anti-government rants don't seem to me to be based in reality.

There are reasons that hiking and camping are regulated in many areas and the dangers that misuse or what I would call selfish use pose for the rest of us should not be underestimated. Your statement that lighting a fire has no impact on the environment shows me how clueless you are.

I don't know where you live, but in 2003, someone starting a signal fire who should not have done so started started this-

Driven by Santa Ana Winds, the Cedar Fire burned 280,278 acres (1,134.2 km2) 2,820 buildings (including 2,232 homes) and killed 15 people including one firefighter before being contained on November 3, making it the largest fire in recorded California history, and the deadliest single wildfire event in the U.S. since the 1991 Oakland firestorm.

If you think killing 15 people, burning down thousands of homes and scorching almost 300,000 acres wasn't an impact on the environment, there is no point in discussing this any further.

You seem offended that some here question your reasoning, but what I find offensive is that you think you have the right to do whatever you wish regardless of the consequences. There are countries you could move to where rules and restrictions are limited, perhaps you should consider one of them. Somalia comes to mind.

Fyi, my photo was taken in Yosemite, one of those places you hate because of the rules. I had a great time without the need or the desire to start fires, cut down trees or do any other damage to the park. A few days after I left, no one would have known I was there and yes, I packed out my waste. Rule or no rule, that was the right thing to do.

6:14 p.m. on November 10, 2012 (EST)
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elvis has left the building...

11:08 a.m. on November 11, 2012 (EST)
1,379 reviewer rep
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I wasn't following this thread - from the title I thought it was about some new regulation in the US Parks - but I wondered why it was getting so many responses. I've just read through it this morning.

What a wealth of experience and knowledge, and what thoughtful, educated and well-informed responses! Thanks, speacock, Bill S, Tom D, whomeworry and Big Red.

And nice to see such a complete review of the need for a greener world, or at least the small part of it that we use as hikers and backpackers.

I'm impressed.

2:46 p.m. on November 11, 2012 (EST)
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For those who insist on camping without lots of regulations, there are places you can go. Some areas of the boreal forest of Northern Ontario in winter is one. The tradeoff is that you will be out in -30F weather. I belong to a website for winter camping, where you can learn all about it. There are also videos on YouTube about winter camping in Canada.

4:46 p.m. on November 11, 2012 (EST)
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Tom D said:

For those who insist on camping without lots of regulations, there are places you can go. Some areas of the boreal forest of Northern Ontario in winter is one.

There are many areas of Northern Canada where you can camp just about anywhere, even in summer. The catch is that some locations can be difficult to get to.

Remember, Canada is larger than the US but has a 10th of the population, most of it concentrated near the US border. The rest is pretty much empty, so while there are lots of places to camp, there might also be few roads within hiking distance, or even none.

June 25, 2018
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