Feb 28, 2006 at 7:19 am #1217903
OK, so I am planning on hiking the JMT this July, and my question is about the bear situation on the trail.
I do most of my backpacking in the Gila Wilderness, NM and we dont have a bear problem here. They see you and run. The bears here are scared of humans and they dont mess with you. So I rarely even hang food, or cook away from camp, or follow any bear saftey protocols.
I know I need to bring a bear cannister from what others have told me, but do I need to follow the rules about cooking 100 yards from camp(Down wind), and storing food far from camp? And what about toothpaste and lotions?
Can someone who has done this trail or is very knowlegable on bears in california please help me. I feel my current habbits wont cut it.
thanksFeb 28, 2006 at 8:02 am #1351510
@scottalanpLocale: Northern California
My experience with bears “near” the JMT is basically…the closer you are to popular spots in Yosemite, the more conditioned to humans the bears are. On a loop a couple of years ago, we went pretty deep into the Yosemite outback and saw lots of signs of bears…but only actually encountered them at night at locations where humans stayed on a regular basis. Whenever we camped at spots that were not popular or more out of the way…we did not see them.
Inside Yosemite, a bear canister is required. If you get caught without it, it might cost $150. Interestingly, I have seen bears not touch canisters sitting right under a bear bag they managed to swipe. And once they got in the bag…they tried everything…including coffee and toothpaste.
Regarding the 100 foot triangle and so fourth. It is probably a good idea to be reasonable about keeping smells out of your camp….more for the nuisance of being woken by a bear in the middle of the night. But these are not Grizzlies…so if you make a mistake, there is a strong liklihood you will live to see another day.Feb 28, 2006 at 8:08 am #1351512
We ran into our worst bear ever there & have heard LOTS of problem bears in the Ray Lakes area over the years. Once over Forrester Pass heading north, need to be pretty careful for a while.
Our bear chewed off a 6 inch thick branch while hanging from a tree to get our bear-bag to drop (this was before mandatory canisters there). He was a pretty big bear and was not afraid of any 1 person – always took 2 or more people to run him off. With 1 person, he’d hold his ground and huff, maintaining eye contact.Feb 28, 2006 at 9:28 am #1351529
@be_here_nowearthlink-netLocale: Upstate New York
Now that there are lighter weight cannisters and the Ursack bag is approved, taking precautions for youreself and the bears is never easier.
Several things help immensely. One, get the smell proof bags from Ursack site. They markedly reduce bears knowing you are even there. Do place all odor materials in them.
Cook with boil only foods that have no cook time. Never camp the same place you cook. Camp away from lakes and popular places and streams. Camp higher up, less bears there.
Be especially careful around the crowded areas and areas where horses come and go.
In twenty years of using this method I have been fortunate to never see a bear, knock on wood.
EvanFeb 28, 2006 at 10:16 am #1351536
I did the JMT last year. Allways cooked away from camp and never had a problem. Even when camping in established camp sites we didn’t have any problems. It’s not a big deal to cook away from camp and is a nice break in the late afternoon. Give it a try.Feb 28, 2006 at 7:54 pm #1351576
Let me introduce myself. I am the only person in the world who has never seen a bear on the JMT. I thru hiked it in 2003 and in twelve days I never saw a bear. What a disappointment! My father soloed 6 days on the JMT in 2004 and had a similar result. Seperately I too spent 6 days on it in ’04 and saw none.
Bear incidents in Yosemite, and most likely the entire Sierra, peaked in 1998 and I believe most of the horror stories are from those boom years. Fortunately the Forest Circus has instituted policies that have cut bear incidents by 75 percent.
I camp in out of the way locations and cook in camp if you consider boiling water and pouring it in bag cooking. All my trash from the day goes inside the empty dinner bag and zipped shut. I’ve never had a bear come around at night. I guess I’m lucky.
RobertMar 24, 2006 at 5:55 am #1353327
The Rae lakes area can be very bad as well as Yosemite. As many others have stated a few simple steps will greatly reduce encounters – cook somewhere on the trail in the afternoon and then hike further to make camp. Don’t camp where everyone else does (this assumes you are doing zero impact camping). Even if you do all of these things have your bear canister (or this year Ursack with the aluminum insert). I haven’t tried them yet, but the smell proof (reducing?) bags sound like a good thing.
Finally, as far as canister selection goes the Bear Vault is not allowed in Rae Lakes at the moment, it is still approved everywhere else while they investigate what happened last summer with a fair number getting popped in Rae Lakes.
KenMar 24, 2006 at 8:02 am #1353338
Richard NisleyBPL Member
@richard295Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
I corresponded with the Forest Service regarding the Rae Lakes situation.
One or more bears discovered that if they sat on the side of a Bear Vault they could distort the lid so they could pull it off. The manufacturer informed the Forest Service that they are planning on coming out with a solution prior to this summer’s hiking season.Mar 24, 2006 at 9:26 am #1353345
Hey, hey, hey, smarter than the average bear.Mar 24, 2006 at 10:09 am #1353350
You aren’t alone. I just hiked the JMT last summer and didn’t see a single bear. I followed all the general precautions.
BobMar 24, 2006 at 10:23 am #1353352
We were up in Dusy Basin one year. The week before we were there, a bear went on a marauding binge & hit EVERY SINGLE CAMP on either side of Bishop Pass before heading back down to South Lake area for a break. We ran into a climber who had to hike out and drive into Bishop for more food for his entire party, who were camped at Dusy.Mar 24, 2006 at 10:31 am #1353353
What year?Mar 24, 2006 at 11:02 am #1353357
or maybe 1998Mar 28, 2006 at 8:54 pm #1353700
@be_here_nowearthlink-netLocale: Upstate New York
Bears are like burglars, if you leave your house locked with an alarm and lights one and neighbors watching, they just go to the next house until find one easy.
Bears in Dusy/Bishop are like in a spa, everything is provided they don’t have to even search for it much.
Lazy backpackers, horse groups, etc. have taught the bears there to simply reach out and touch someone.
All I ever had to do was simply cook one place and camp far away from everyone. Common sense wins the day.Apr 12, 2006 at 9:45 pm #1354732
Like many, I also did not see any bears on the JMT. I was hiking the PCT so I think I was there kind of early and maybe they were still hibernating (as I climbed Whitney on June 26, 2005). I was somewhat lax with my camping and cooking but I always used a bear box or canister (and boy did I get made fun of since many thru-hikers don’t seem to carry canisters). I did see a bear at the bus stop at Happy Isles, it was chasing a deer down the street and was followed by a pack of tourists trying to get his picture.
I did have a friend who had a bear experience while camping at Thousand Island Lake. You can check it out here
Enjoy, I might be out on the JMT this summer myself, hope to see you.
NITROJul 5, 2006 at 8:20 pm #1359000
I have fastpacked the JMT 5 times in the last 4 years. One year(2004) I did a Yo Yo. I saw a bear cub a couple mile from Reds Meadow.
I train in Yosemite May- Oct. I run Ultramarathons. I have seen many bears on training runs Half Dome area. Snow creek trail. Glacier point area.
CatraJul 6, 2006 at 7:15 am #1359010
@tarbubbleLocale: dirtville, CA
i have an acquaintance who works as a naturalist for one of the Sierra Nevada-area National Forests. she tells me that bears in the Sierra do not truly hibernate and are still active at lower elevations, even in the winter. just FYI.
we met a few bold bears in teh Yosemite backcountry, but teh only time we had a real problem was teh time we (stupidly) cooked diner in camp. yup. after an hour of snuffling and snorting outside our tent, i finally got up to run the bear off. he/she bluff charged me and then veered off and stole my husband’s (empty) pack. i still thank God he/she only dragged it about 20 feet away. ohhh, if we’d lost that pack…Jul 6, 2006 at 11:34 am #1359013
How do you handle fish stink when fishing in bear country? When you pick up the fish to get the hook out you get the stink on your hand and then on your tackle. Any thoughts?
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