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The end of 'free-range' camping in the Central HPWA.

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  • The end of 'free-range' camping in the Central HPWA.

    The new High Peaks Wilderness Areas (HPWA) Unit Management Plan (UMP) calls for many interesting changes. For one, the new HPWA is bigger and now includes the Dix Mountain Wilderness Area. As a result, the Eastern HPWA will be renamed to the Central HPWA.

    On page 128 of the UMP there's this one line with big implications for campers:

    Camping at designated sites only
    - The Adirondack Canoe Route and Central High Peaks Zone
    That's an idea found in the 1999 HPWA UMP as a possible plan of action that is now in the UMP under the "Actions" header. In plain language, campers will only be allowed to camp at designated campsites. Free-range, primitive-camping will no longer be allowed in the Central HPWA.


    Anyone know when this goes into effect? My impression is that it's not implemented yet. If it is, there hasn't been much buzz about it.

    Looking for Views!

  • #2
    From NRDU's recent post it sounded like the Ranger was trying to get everyone onto the tent sites. No mention of the Ranger encouraging people to find stealth sites.

    Maybe someone can clarify - I don't know if Ranger's (in the past) encouraged people to find stealth spots 150' off trail.

    I'd have to think this rule change could be difficult to enforce. I'm by no means encouraging this: but if people walked a few hundred feet off trail & stealth camped out of site from the trail - it's unlikely that some Ranger would be out there bushwhacking around to find illegal campers. Additionally, If one happens to see a person entering or leaving the trail a person could just say "I went to the bathroom."

    Comment


    • ndru
      ndru commented
      Editing a comment
      I don't think there are many suitable places to put a tent close to the Colden Dam that aren't already either:

      a.) Designated Sites

      b.) Former Designates Sites undergoing "Revegitation".

      Everything else either breaks the 150' rule, is on sloped surfaces, or in heavy brush.

      That said, there are some spots heading uphill towards Uphill, that may be suitable.

    • ndru
      ndru commented
      Editing a comment
      And no, I don't think you'll see a lot of Rangers canvassing the area looking for people, but if they *do* happen to come across someone camped out illegally, this gives them leverage to do something about it.

      Also, if you come out of the woods after "going to the bathroom" and there just happens to be a tent and a pack back there, well, there goes that line.

    • Learning The Trails
      Editing a comment
      Thanks for clarifying the camping there for me.

      And, yeah of course the bathroom excuse only would work is if one has their pack.

  • #3
    and here I just bought my first camping hammock so I could camp anywhere. :(

    Comment


    • Trail Boss
      Trail Boss commented
      Editing a comment
      I'd check with the DEC to determine when the regulation goes into effect (if at all). If it's already in force, you continue to have more options outside the Central area.

      FWIW, I hammock-camped back in the 80's and it was a great way to reduce weight (one-man tents back then were rare and not lightweight), minimize impact, and provide more opportunities (didn't need the forest floor to be clear and level like a pool table). Only problem was the nylon mesh hammock I had was nowhere as comfortable as the ones used today! Good luck and let us know how it works out for you.

    • gebby
      gebby commented
      Editing a comment
      Trail Boss Thanks! Bought it in anticipation of some hiking in New Hampshire for the precise reasons you cite(lighter for one person than most one person tents). Looking forward to breaking it in!

    • WhiteMountainHiker
      WhiteMountainHiker commented
      Editing a comment
      I just did my first ever hammock camp a few weekends ago.
      Have done many backcountry tent camps in the past but recently tried the hammock to increase room in my pack for my camera.
      I think they’re a great option as they do not need an open flat area on the ground. They also do not pack the forest floor either.

  • #4
    Like most of the material in the new amendment, I would not expect to see this happen.

    Comment


    • #5
      It just seems like such a dumb idea, to join so many others. Is "stealth camping" really the major problem in the High Peaks? I think not.

      Comment


      • #6
        As pointed out above, preventing off-trail (stealth) camping is all but unenforceable. A few pages before "Camping at designated sites only" that Trail Boss posted is this...

        "A designated primitive campsite is one identified by a DEC permissive sign or disk and campers may not camp in excess of 15 feet from such signs or disks. To define proper camp locations, disperse use and limit adverse impacts to resources and other campers, a regulation will be adopted to prohibit camping further than 15 feet from a camping disk throughout the HPWC."

        I read this to mean that they will more strictly enforce camping in and around designated sites so they don't become larger. Camp within 15 feet of the disk. Period. Not 25. Not 30. Not 50. That, in theory, is something they can enforce if they have the manpower and will to do so. Running around the woods at night trying to find some guy in a hammock 500 feet off trail is pure folly and would never happen unless a campfire was seen or smelled. But enforcing the 15 foot rule in areas where the most campers congregate is doable.

        Comment


        • Trail Boss
          Trail Boss commented
          Editing a comment
          I agree with you. In my post below I conclude the primary benefit of the new regulation is its simplicity. There's no room to argue about distance and elevation; if you're not camping at a designated site, you're violating the new regulation. I doubt Rangers are overly concerned about invisible campers deep in the woods. Undoubtedly they wish to curtail the use of known illegal sites (if the average camper can find it, the authorities know it also) or those in close proximity to designated sites.

      • #7
        Originally posted by gebby View Post
        It just seems like such a dumb idea, to join so many others. Is "stealth camping" really the major problem in the High Peaks? I think not.
        I think if you primitive-camp correctly, leaving little to no evidence or your stay, then it's not a problem. Dispersing campsites over a large area can be a good thing (when LNT is employed). However, if you do leave evidence then others may choose the same spot and it evolves into an unofficial campsite. I believe Hear the Footsteps recently mentioned seeing paths leading to this kind of 'organic' illegal campsite. We've all seen the illegal sites along Calkins Brook, Skylight Brook, etc (all highly visible and within spitting distance of the brook). The Skylight Brook site even has a Do Not Camp Here marker (there are recent examples of it being ignored).

        Frankly the problem I have seen is what I facetiously call 'suburban sprawl'. You arrive at a designated campsite and the marked spot is filled to capacity, or a muddy mess, so you pick a spot close to it. This 'satellite site' evolves into an unofficial campsite. Let's face it, many campers equate a flat, bare spot to be a legal campsite. Eventually you get an area with two designated sites developing several more 'satellite sites'.

        Concentrating impact to one place can be a good thing but not in this kind of ad hoc 'organic' way. Lean-tos are a magnet for attracting 'satellite sites'. I often use the Slide Brook Lean-to as an example of this phenomenon. Feldspar Lean-to is another good one. There are very few designated sites near these lean-tos but many unofficial ones (that don't comply with the 150-foot rule).


        The 3500-foot ceiling regulation plus the 150-foot regulation plus the 15-feet within a "Camp Here" regulation seem to be puh-lenty for constraining camping. Yet anyone who has spent time in the High Peaks has their own anecdote of witnessing furtive campers emerging from the woods at Indian Falls to eat breakfast or backpackers heading towards Hough very late in the afternoon or <insert your illegal-camping story here>. Enforcing the existing regulations requires lots of patrolling and that requires more people.

        I feel adding another regulation, a more restrictive one at that, is not likely to change much given the current staffing level. The only thing I believe it will do is provide a very simple and straightforward regulation to enforce. You can't quibble about your campsite's distance or elevation; if you're not at a marked site, it's not a legal site.

        EDIT

        It's important to note that this new regulation is only for the highly popular Central area (a.k.a. the old Eastern area) and Adirondack Canoe Route. Basically, for the areas subjected to the most 'newbie-camper mistakes'. It'll undoubtedly not go over well with law-abiding LNT campers but such is the price to pay for the sins of others.
        Last edited by Trail Boss; 09-07-2018, 11:24 AM.
        Looking for Views!

        Comment


        • #8
          The only real problem with this is what will happen once all the designated sites in an area are full and 20 more parties arrive late in the evening?

          If a ranger is around (see my recent posts) they may choose to double/triple/quadruple parties on a site, but absent a ranger, I can foresee some conflicts erupting.

          Again, I really think there needs to be some way for people to know if designated sites are full before they leave the trailhead, or preferably, before they leave their homes. That way alternate plans can be made *before* you drive a couple hundred miles and hike in 5-10 more with full packs.

          Comment


          • #9
            I just recently moved to the area from NH.
            havent done much hiking in the ADKs and have never done an overnight in them. Is backcountry camping that much of an issue to where they need to make a new rule? Or is this just another way to increase revenue.
            Also, like others have stated, how the heck are they going to enforce this? Hire 500 rangers to comb the area every night?

            Comment


            • Trail Boss
              Trail Boss commented
              Editing a comment
              So, everyone is *positive* the campers without a canister did NOT receive a citation?

              The caretaker might've volunteered to store their food (for obvious good reasons) AND they received a citation.


              To me it seems like a misguided plan to head directly to the caretaker, admit having no canister, and requesting 'food storage services'. If the ranger is in, you run a high risk of having your 'food storage' cost you $250.

            • ndru
              ndru commented
              Editing a comment
              Please note: I personally do not know if citations were or were not issued. I did not see any issued myself, but others said they had. So from my perspective that much is just hearsay.

              That said, it was my understanding that parties without canisters were asked to leave the following morning. That caretakers would NOT be holding food indefinitely.

              It was my assumption that the ranger (or assistant ranger) felt it would be more dangerous to send unprepared parties back to the trailhead (5-6 miles away) in the dark, than to allow them to spend the night. Sending unprepared campers/hikers back into the woods with sunset imminent seems like a recipe for an unnecessary SAR operation when staffing was already stretched thin.

            • Trail Boss
              Trail Boss commented
              Editing a comment
              @ndru

              I agree with your assumption (a temporary reprieve for one evening). Undoubtedly the caretaker has experience with *many* situations and knows when to lend a hand and when to throw the book.

          • #10
            Originally posted by ndru View Post
            The only real problem with this is what will happen once all the designated sites in an area are full and 20 more parties arrive late in the evening?

            If a ranger is around (see my recent posts) they may choose to double/triple/quadruple parties on a site,
            Progress to sextuple, septuple, octuple the groups? Gonna get really chummy. Walk miles to sleep like sardines.

            I don't think there's any practical way of informing people about campsite vacancy. The only way it becomes feasible is if it becomes reservation-based, like a managed campground. No reservation? No site for you. Camping in Baxter State Park works like that.

            It's my understanding even the fee-based campsites in the Whites don't have a reservation system. Nor a means of determining vacancy status.
            https://www.outdoors.org/lodging-cam...psites-profile

            While traversing the Bonds, I took a short side-trip to explore the Guyot shelter and campsites. It's $10 per day and you pay the caretaker on site. What happens when demand outstrips capacity? That's up to the caretaker. You might be shoehorned somewhere or, I guess, told to move along. The only way you can determine vacancy status in advance is to check the weather and calendar. Nice weather on a summer weekend? Vacancy is probably very low.


            Looking for Views!

            Comment


            • ndru
              ndru commented
              Editing a comment
              I never said it would be easy! Just ideal.

              After all, we're talking about all sorts of things that will never be fully funded here anyway.

              In my ideal world, a reservation system is in order, at least in the "Inner High Peaks". There has been such a system in place for Algonquin Provincial Park for decades now, and despite gripes and grumblings (and system upgrades) it seems to serve its purpose. Things got that way because of the increased usage the place was seeing. I believe the High Peaks are now reaching that tipping point as well.

            • Trail Boss
              Trail Boss commented
              Editing a comment
              As opposed to many ambitious proposals in the new UMP, this regulation is one of the few things that can be implemented with little to no funding (namely the cost of the legal process of putting it on the books).


              You can reach back decades and find articles stating a "tipping point" has been reached and something must to be done. With each passing year, it is claimed that this year is the real tipping point. If it reminds you of predictions of the apocalypse, it should. I won't disagree that it's a mounting problem but I don't feel we're near a reservation system. We may be on the road to it (restricting camping to designated sites) but it's a long road.


              Consider this new regulation to be the DEC dabbling in a social-engineering experiment. If someone wishes to avoid the disappointment of discovering no available campsites they can just skip camping altogether and exclusively day-hike the High Peaks.

          • #11
            Last summer I was perplexed by a new sign located at the junction of the Van Hoevenberg and Phelps Mountain trails. It stated:
            "NO CAMPING BEYOND THIS POINT"

            What puzzled me is it's located at an elevation of 2820' and substantially below the 3500' ceiling for camping.


            That sign is now making more sense to me in light of the "no free-range camping" rule. There are no designated campsites beyond that junction.
            Looking for Views!

            Comment


            • IronMan
              IronMan commented
              Editing a comment
              There is this as part of the NY state regulations:
              (5) In the South Meadows-Flowed Lands Corridor, no person shall camp except at a primitive tent site, provided that this section shall not be effective until such time as the department completes its designation of such campsites within such corridor, and provided further that until such time as the department completes such designation no person shall fail to comply with the camping instructions contained on any sign posted by the department.

              That sign doesn't make any sense to me either, why there?

              Of course in this same set of regulations is talk about permits, etc that are no longer anywhere to be found. (2) In addition to the requirements of paragraph (1) of this subdivision, no overnight camper in the Eastern High Peaks Zone shall fail to possess a self-issuing permit.

              https://govt.westlaw.com/nycrr/Docum...ta=(sc.Default)

            • Trail Boss
              Trail Boss commented
              Editing a comment
              That regulation (a result of the 1999 UMP) never went into effect because this part never happened: "until such time as the department completes its designation of such campsites within such corridor".

              Now it appears they are close to completing the designation of all sites and so the regulation will come into force.

              As for this part: "no person shall fail to comply with the camping instructions contained on any sign posted by the department", there haven't been any special signs posted until last year. The signs I saw were well below the 3500' limit. One sign was especially puzzling because it faces what I would say is the wrong direction (downhill from an elevation already lower than 3500').


              Anyway, those signs now seem a little less odd if *all* camping, even below 3500', is restricted to designated sites. The sign I saw at the VanHoe/PhelpsMtn junction is less puzzling given that there are no designated sites above it.

          • #12
            Originally posted by Trail Boss View Post

            I don't think there's any practical way of informing people about campsite vacancy. The only way it becomes feasible is if it becomes reservation-based, like a managed campground. No reservation? No site for you. Camping in Baxter State Park works like that.

            It's my understanding even the fee-based campsites in the Whites don't have a reservation system. Nor a means of determining vacancy status.
            https://www.outdoors.org/lodging-cam...psites-profile

            While traversing the Bonds, I took a short side-trip to explore the Guyot shelter and campsites. It's $10 per day and you pay the caretaker on site. What happens when demand outstrips capacity? That's up to the caretaker. You might be shoehorned somewhere or, I guess, told to move along. The only way you can determine vacancy status in advance is to check the weather and calendar. Nice weather on a summer weekend? Vacancy is probably very low.

            Actually, there is a Group Notification System in both the Whites and the Green Mountains. It's not a reservation system but it does help inform people in advance of when larger groups (up to 6 people) plan to camp at a certain designated area.

            See https://www.outdoors.org/lodging-cam...s-notification for the Whites and https://greenmountainclubgro.checkfront.com/reserve/ for the Greens.
            We don't stop playing because we get old; we get old because we stop playing ~ Satchel Paige

            Comment


            • Trail Boss
              Trail Boss commented
              Editing a comment
              Thanks! I wasn't aware of it. I like their use of the term 'uncivilized forest'.

              " so that all hikers continue to experience an uncivilized forest "

              If I understand it correctly, that's a request (not a regulation) for large groups (>6) to submit their camping plan in advance. I see the schedule indicates when there's no 'group space' available.


              What's puzzling is when the schedule indicates there's *no space* available. Given that there's no reservation system, how do they know there will be no space available in the future? I guess large groups have filled it all up?


              I see no consequences for staking a claim and then not showing up or for not reporting one's pans in advance. I'd like to know how well this system works (i.e. how many campers still show up when the place is full and how that's handled).

          • #13
            Originally posted by gebby View Post
            Is "stealth camping" really the major problem in the High Peaks? I think not.
            In places, yes. I remember running into Pete Fish on a winter climb of Marcy from the Loj many years ago. We traveled the same path for a few minutes, chatted, and then as we got near Plateau, he went off trail in several places to check on illegal campers.

            I ran into some guys in the Catskills who camped on Marcy last year. They woke up to a white-out and high winds. I told them that was why it was illegal to do that. They said they didn't know. I told them the rule is listed EVERYWHERE!

            IDK how much of this will go thru. Many people are objecting to the canister law being extended into the WHP.

            Comment


            • FlyFishingandBeer
              FlyFishingandBeer commented
              Editing a comment
              I think that depends on how you define "stealth camping." I think of it as camping legally but not at designated sites, typically a pretty good distance away from trails or other POIs, that way you have some solitude. Hence the term "stealth." IMO if one stealth camps illegally, that's just plain illegal camping.

              By those standards stealth camping shouldn't be any issue unless people are repeatedly using the same spots and turning them into known sites.

            • Trail Boss
              Trail Boss commented
              Editing a comment
              +1

              Met a group of campers crawling out of the woods to have their breakfast at the head of Indian Falls. Chatted with one and got all kinds of bafflegab about where they spent the night. After returning from MSG-M, I investigated where they had emerged from the woods and found a tent-sized, freshly-pressed bed of moss. I ambled around the woods and found another illegal site. I contacted the DEC and spoke to Ranger Giglinto who was well aware of the problem (and the sites) at Indian Falls.

              It's far from being a new problem. Back in the 80's one of my friends recounted Ranger Fish collapsing an illegally pitched tent near Indian Falls and sticking one of its tent poles into the ground to serve as a post for the paper he attached to it. The paper listed the regulations.

          • #14
            I started hammock camping around 15 years ago because I tend to spend far more time off trail than on any trail. More likely I'll be bushwhacking and canoeing remote ponds, mainly in the western lowland half of the Adirondacks. With a hammock, no more did i have to search a long time to find a tiny flat spot for a tiny solo tent to trample. I have hammocked in spruce swamps, on steep slopes, over rocks, within blowdown and over thick brush, always obeying the 150 foot rule, and following LNT. Rare is it for me to camp at any designated sites or in leatos. Actually I can't ever remember spending a night in a leanto on my own (even though I am on the leanto rescue team) I am not a peak bagger, so overnight travel in any of the high peaks regions is rare for me.

            However, there is an often overlooked caution when using a hammock in a designated camping area. in many designated sites meant for tenting, suitably sized and right spaced hammock trees may be nonexistent, so there is temptation to hang at or beyond the designated perimeter of the site, well beyond 15 feet from the "camp here" disk. Not only is that asking for a reprimand (or worse) from a ranger, it is certainly not LNT.

            There is a lot more of the Adirondacks to explore and enjoy than having everyone congregate in the HP areas.
            "Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do you will be certain to find something you have never seen before." - Alexander Graham Bell

            Comment


            • #15
              The other thing is this. My last trip I stayed at the Marcy Dam area. I stayed at a disk, because I brought my son and wanted to be within range of an outhouse. I noticed that my site had a widowmaker tree, you know a completely dead tree, big enough that if it falls on your tent, it's not going to end well. So I decided to pick another spot, I looked at 3 other sites, every one of them had the same problem, a widowmaker well within range. Actually 4, but it was already occupied, but it also had a heavy dead tree.

              Now, it hasn't fallen yet, the odds are low that it's going to fall, but someday, it is going to fall. To me that's just one of my basic tent site picking rules, no widowmakers.

              Comment

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