Saturday, July 23, 2011

Latest News in the King Range

Hello again fellow backpackers and outdoor enthusiasts; It’s been a busy summer. So, what’s new in the King Range?

1. Very active bears

2. Fire at Spanish Flat

3. What’s with human waste?

I’m going to switch it up a bit and post this blog in a Q&A style – I hope you enjoy it!

Q: Are there really bears in the King Range and do they really come all the way down to the beach?

A: Yes and Yes (see the note above I received from a backpacker). As a matter of fact, the bears are very active this summer and every time I have been to Big/Miller Flat in the last 2 months people have told me that a bear has investigated their campsite. ALL overnight visitors on the Lost Coast Trail and in all of the King Range National Conservation Area are required to have a bear canister and to use it properly (car camping sites are exempt). All food and scented items such as toothpaste and sunscreen and their associated trash need to be stored in the canister. Although you may not be able to smell through a sealed can of food or a dehydrated food bag the bear can! The American Black Bear Association says that their sense of smell is 7 times greater than that of a blood hound and, “Bears rely on their sense of smell to locate mates, detect and avoid danger in the form of other bears and humans, identify cubs, and FIND FOOD.” So, please, get a can before you come and make sure ALL of your food and scented items fit into it. This is as much as protecting your food as it is to protect the bear. You will notice on top of the Garcia Backpackers’ Cache it says, “Save the bears." When a bear starts to eat human food and learns that humans can be associated with an easy meal they will lose their fear of humans, come around campsites more often, and become increasingly aggressive. This is what you would call a “habituated” or “food conditioned” bear and they could eventually need to be put down if the aggression gets out of hand. Please do your part by recreating responsibly in the King Range and help protect the wildlife. We rent out bear cans at the Project Office in Whitethorn (see my previous post for details).

Q: I was hiking through the Spanish Flat area and noticed a large section of burnt grass, how did this happen?

A: On the evening of July 1st (coincidentally the day we went into campfire restrictions) there was some kind of a mishap with a campers stove and it quickly caught the dry grass on fire - burning a few hundred acres. Any source of flame needs to be treated like a campfire – make sure you are using it in a safe place with plenty of distance from dry fuel sources. Because of the abundance of dry and flashy fuels we are still in full campfire restrictions and will be until further notice (usually sometime in the fall). Myself and the seasonal rangers have been taking down campfire rings where necessary and/or filling them with rocks. If you see one that has been reconstructed by unknowing campers feel free to help out and fill it back in with rocks to make it unusable.

Q: Where do I go to the bathroom out here?

A: Standard Leave No Trace practice says 200 feet (which is about 70 paces) away from campsites, water sources and trails. This practice hold true if you are on any of the upland trails in the King Range, however, if you are on the Lost Coast Trail you must go in the wet sand near the ocean (intertidal). Simply dig a hole 6-8 inches deep in the wet sand (or as close as you can safely get to it), make your deposit, and cover it back up with sand. Personally, if I’m at camp when the situation arises I just go for a little walk to where I feel comfortable (usually a few minutes down the beach or crouching behind a rock). This past week I picked up 7 separate piles of toilet paper and their associated counterparts between Buck Creek and Big Flat; Most of which were within a few feet of where you would be setting up your tents! This is disgusting, unsanitary and simply drives me crazy. There are 4 goals with human waste disposal in the backcountry:

1. Minimize contact with water sources

2. Minimize contact with insects and wildlife

3. Minimize social impacts (the disgusting factor when you see a pile of waste right next to where you are camping)

4. Maximize decomposition (when we bury it 6-8 inches it maximizes decomposition by mixing with the soil and microbiological organisms. Putting a 6-8 inch rock on top of it is not burying it).

Because of the narrow beaches and steep slopes within the major drainages along the trail it is nearly impossible to find a place 200 feet away from camp, drinking water, and trails and the best way to meet the 4 goals above it to go intertidal. If you think there is absolutely no way you will be able to bring yourself to do this, by all means pack it out. There are several products available for desert, alpine and climbing situations that require waste to be packed out which can be used on the Lost Coast.

Remember, there were people here before you and there will be people here after you. Help keep the Lost Coast clean and do the right thing. Already over 3,000 people have hiked the trails here this year.

Give me a call or an e-mail if you have any questions:, 707-986-5405

If I’m not in you can call Pam, our Contact Representative at 707-986-5400.

Your Wilderness Ranger,


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