Nov 12, 2010 at 4:45 am #1265389Nov 12, 2010 at 10:18 am #1663531
Great report, as usual. When did waste bags become mandatory? Is it just for certain areas? I went up to Pear Lake in October and it wasn't even mentioned. I can see doing it there where you're limited to designated campsites. I got my permit from Lyle as well. Nice guy. But the permit process sure is a hassle for a short trip.Nov 12, 2010 at 10:30 am #1663534
@jdw01776Locale: Southeast Texas
Great trip report Dondo. I noticed that waste bags were being distributed from a self-service kiosk just above Maroon Lake this summer, right on the Maroon Bells Wilderness boundary. I think we'll be seeing more of this in heavily used areas…Nov 12, 2010 at 10:39 am #1663537
Excreted base weight will have to be added to our gearlist.Nov 12, 2010 at 10:41 am #1663539
Great trip report, Dondo, and super photos. I just got off the phone with Barry, a backcountry ranger in RMNP. I asked him what was up with the privy at Glacier Gorge, and he said they had to shut that one down, as well as the one at nearby Andrews Creek. The water table got too high, he said, and the privies were filling up with ground water (making for a sanitation issue). I asked him if this would last all winter, and he said that it "It's probably for good." No other privies in the park are affected. Did you by chance check that privy out, Dondo? If so, do you concur that there's a problem? If there really isn't, it kinda makes me wonder if this is simply a crowd-control maneuver, to turn those two beautiful valleys into day-use only. The way they micro-manage the place, it wouldn't surprise me. Anyway, thanks for sharing your trip report. I enjoy each and every one.Nov 12, 2010 at 11:04 am #1663550
"I noticed that waste bags were being distributed from a self-service kiosk just above Maroon Lake this summer, right on the Maroon Bells Wilderness boundary."
I saw that when I was doing the 4 Pass Loop in September. I stopped and looked at it. It said it was voluntary. I thought about it for a few minutes and then decided not to. For the few times I go to crowded places like that and RMNP, I guess it wouldn't be that bad.Nov 12, 2010 at 6:49 pm #1663761
Thanks for all the positive comments, guys. It's good to know you're all reading.
Randy, I'm not sure when they started the policy; I was a bit shocked when I heard about it. The ranger I spoke to over the phone said it was only for Glacier Gorge and Andrews Creek. Interestingly, Pear Lake was my backup plan if I decided to chicken out with the waste bag. Wild Basin still is one of my favorite parts of the park.
John, that must be a relatively new thing at Maroon Lake. Last time I was out there, I didn't notice it. I can understand the necessity for the policy but may pass on doing the Four Pass Loop again if it becomes mandatory.
Excreted base weight will have to be added to our gearlist.
Grub for thought there, John. Of course, the weight of the scale you carry into the backcountry to weigh your waste would also have to be added to your base weight. Or else you could tote your waste bag home and weigh it there.
Gary, that's a valuable piece of information you got from Barry. I didn't notice a privy at the Glacier Gorge campsite; perhaps they pulled it out and replaced it with the wooden frame and toilet seat. Your suspicions about the park service wanting to turn that whole area into day-use only also crossed my mind. I guess we'll find out.Nov 13, 2010 at 7:25 am #1663848
@drewsmithLocale: Colorado Rockies
Another nice report Dondo. I camped there 7 or 8 years ago and the "privy" was just an open-air seat, so I don't think they tore down any structures.
Your report highlights a management philosophy issue, however. If we grant that there is a waste problem (and it's not just overactive bureaucracy at work), there are two sorts of approaches to deal with it: we can pretend the Gorge is still wilderness and force people to carry out their own waste. Or we can realize that it is not wilderness, that we want to still allow access, and build an infrastructure to support it. This is the approach taken in many other parts of the world, where you hike on a trail and then find a nice restaurant or hostel at the end of the day.
I can't say I really like either idea – I boycotted Indian Peaks for several years after they started requiring permits – but the "look but don't touch" approach to management seems wrong-headed to me.Nov 13, 2010 at 10:25 am #1663888
Jonathan, nice Landseer you have there. I've always liked Newfies.
The waste bag station at MB is new this year. Definitely wasn't there in 9/2009. I'm planning on doing it again next September and I'll use one if required. There are a lot of people on that loop.
Pear Lake is really beautiful but going to RMNP is just a huge hassle. Had to drive all the way to Estes to get the permit, paid $20 for it, they didn't open until 8, then I had to rent a bear canister, didn't get on the trail until close to 10. Like Dondo, I only went because it was hunting season. A lot of hoops to jump through to for an overnight to do a little fishing. And, of course, the wind kicked up 5 minutes after I started fishing and didn't let up. Oh well.
Here's a pic of Pear:Nov 13, 2010 at 1:27 pm #1663914
@drewsmithLocale: Colorado Rockies
Thanks, Baloo is a great hiking companion, and another reason why I won't be backpacking in RMNP any time soon, as dogs are yet another taboo there. There is definitely a bureaucratic ratchet at work here – the more rules there are, the more people stay away, and the less work for the rangers and management. I'm sure they don't plan it that way, but there is no incentive for them to accommodate users to the rules, rather than the other way around.
Too bad about the wind at Pear – the rangers did a great job of reintroducing Greenback Cutthroats throughout Wild Basin in the 90's. I caught a lot of nice fish there on a beautiful calm morning about 10 years ago, but haven't been back.Nov 14, 2010 at 7:03 am #1664088
Thanks, Jonathan. You bring up some important points. Despite my wise-ass comments, I can see that the park service had to make a tough decision between two not-very-appealing choices. Coliform levels were rising in Andrews and Glacier Creeks, and something had to be done. Personally, I'm glad they haven't closed the areas to overnight camping. Bagging and carrying my waste is a small price to pay. Based on the heavily ice-encrusted toilet set, though, it would appear that at least some campers are ignoring the rules. Hopefully, the areas will not have to be closed to camping.
Randy, based on your photo, Pear Lake is definitely on my hit list now. Some of the red tape in Wild Basin can be dodged by waiting until November. The fees and bear canister requirement are waived, and you can self-register right at the Sandbeach Lake or Wild Basin winter trailheads. That's what I did last year for my Sandbeach Lake trip.Nov 14, 2010 at 10:11 am #1664128
Dondo, I called the RMNP backcountry office again this morning, hoping to get a different ranger (I did). I asked him the same questions, about why they have shut down the privies. He said it was because they were filling up, from too much use, and that they were hard to clean/empty. I then asked him if there was any contamination danger to the nearby streams, and he said he didn't know anything about that (guess he's not in the loop). I asked him if this was a temporary situation, and he said it's probably permanent. I then asked what he thought might happen to the rest of the park's privies, and he said that they all were being stressed, and that it could turn out that they'll later choose to shut them all down (he had no firm evidence that it will happen though, so it likely is casual conjecture on his part).
Now I'm pretty confused by all this. I stayed at Ouzel Lake in July '09, and they had just completed a brand-new walled privy for the 2 campsites. Lots of RMNP privies are used by 2-4 campsites, so I guess they don't fill up all that fast. I'm wondering just what the problem really is with the Glacier Gorge and Andrews Creek privies, which service just one campsite each (but which are occupied almost every night June-Aug)). It might be time to start talking with our Fed. legislators (fortunately, we have Sen. Mark Udall, who seems to listen). Certainly, we need to contact the park's superintendant and voice our concerns. I'd hate to see RMNP evolve into a completely research-oriented day use NP. It's OUR park, after all…Nov 14, 2010 at 4:29 pm #1664223
Yeah, Gary. We're lucky to have Mark Udall as our senator. As a mountaineer and outdoorsman, he does have an instinctive grasp of the issues we're dealing with.
I sure hope the park administration isn't planning too many more limits on our use of the park. Here's a short piece from Westword on RMNP's "P00P bag program." It looks like Jim Dougan is the man we need to contact for clarification.Nov 14, 2010 at 5:03 pm #1664236
The American Alpine Club met recently in Golden to discuss this weighty issue. Here's a link to what the best minds in the field are saying.Nov 15, 2010 at 7:25 am #1664388
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
I suppose I shouldn't be taken aback by the voficeration of folks objections to this. Sure carrying poo brings about a sort of cognitive dissonance with our modern sense of hyper-cleanliness, but we're talking about a site at 10000', 3.8 miles from the road in the National park closest to the most hiking-centric urban centers in the country. I imagine the toilet got a lot of day hiker traffic as well. In short, we might be surprised that comparable regulations haven't been put into place sooner.
Other areas have had alternative poo-management regs for years. Packing it out is de jure standard practice in the Zion Narrows, and ought to be in places like Coyote Gulch. In other desert or alpine environs, frosting a rock is accepted as the best practice.
Etc.Nov 15, 2010 at 5:00 pm #1664554
@shireeLocale: Southeastern US
Just my 2 cents:
I like the idea of a carry-out waste but I don't think I could do it. It makes sense in crowded areas like that, but in my mind it ruins a little bit of the majestic tone one feels while backpacking when you feel and remember the bag of crap on your back. This would also hurt the "ultralight" goal a little bit.
great report DondoNov 15, 2010 at 6:51 pm #1664589
OK, what is "frosting a rock"? Haven't heard that expression before.
Next year, I'll give the waste bag a trial on the 4 Pass. If you are on a short trip it doesn't seem like a big deal. I'm not sure I'd want to do it on a week+ trip.
Dondo, Pear did have awesome views and a nice campsite. One nice thing about the permit process, I knew I no one else would be there. And it hadn't snowed in a week and mine were the only human prints from Finch Lake to Pear. Plenty of solitude. I had actually wanted to go to Hutcheson Lake but didn't understand the rules/layout. You go through a "cross country zone" to get there but you can't camp there. You have to return to the cross country zone. Once I heard all that I just decided to stay at Pear. So many rules …Nov 16, 2010 at 7:35 am #1664721
Randy, thanks for the info on Pear Lake. That may well be my next trip in RMNP.
Sid, thanks. Your response to carrying poo was the most common one I got when telling friends and family about the trip. Most could see the reason for it, but wouldn't want to do it themselves.
Dave, I would suspect that something deep in our reptilian brain recoils from the idea of carrying our own poo. Not that twenty-first century man can't be trained to override this. After trying it, I discovered it was indeed no big deal, but at the same time wouldn't want to make a habit of it. Luckily, in the vast majority of backpacking destinations along the Front Range, it isn't necessary.Nov 16, 2010 at 7:48 am #1664725
Dog owners in most urban areas seem to be able to tolerate bagging and carrying their pooch's poo. Albeit for shorter distances than most of us backpack.Nov 16, 2010 at 8:06 am #1664730
It's funny, Jim. The night before leaving for my trip, I was taking my dog for a walk and noticed a woman across the street cleaning up after her Saint Bernard. That made me think that maybe it's not so bad. ;-)Nov 16, 2010 at 9:09 am #1664753
Dondo, did the bag smell? It's double bagged so maybe not. That would definitely be an huge issue. I normally bury my dog's waste but coming off Bierstadt one time I had to bag it. I put it in her pack but smelled it all the way back. We were flying on the way down. Not sure if I was more motivated by the black clouds rolling in or getting to a trash can to get rid of that bag!Nov 16, 2010 at 9:29 am #1664758
@davecLocale: Crown of the Continent
"Frosting a rock" is a poo-disposal technique used in situations where there isn't enough biomass in the soil to make burying it sustainable. Alpine tundra and desert slickrock, for example. You find a flat rock with maximum sun exposure, poo on the rock, then use another rock to smear the poo into a thin film, which will then quickly dry up and flake away.
A fine technique, but not necessarily for the weak of stomach.Nov 16, 2010 at 9:56 am #1664769
@cameronLocale: The WOODS
I've heard another technique for carrying stuff out, haven't had to try it yet. You get a section of PVC pipe and cap one end. Than you install a strew on cap at the other end. All waste bags go in the pipe which is carried outside the pack. I've even heard of putting kitty liter in it. Not as light maybe but it might be worth it for less fuss.Nov 17, 2010 at 9:09 am #1665235
@brooklynkayakLocale: Atlantic North East
I've know paddlers to use the PVC pipe method, but I'd think it too heavy for backpacking.
Could you imaging if the frosting the rock method was used in popular campsites:-)Nov 17, 2010 at 5:20 pm #1665439
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