First off, we just found this great site that lets you see the current conditions at Shelter Cove:
Numbers! As of today, over 5,100 people have backpacked the trails in the King Range NCA since October 1, 2010. That’s quite a bit of people! Of that 5,100, most people use the Lost Coast Trail at some point in their travels. While you are out in the King Range enjoying yourselves remember that there were people here before you and there will be people here after you. Almost every night, especially during the summer months, there are people camped at each of the major drainages along the LCT. Every action you take will impact the experiences of the next people to visit. This can be either positive or negative. If you practice Leave-No-Trace principles and you leave the minimal impact possible your actions will have a positive and lasting impression.
One of the more surprising things I came across this summer was a boat load of trash at Gitchell Creek that had accumulated in a large barrel. The barrel had come ashore from the ocean, as a lot of things do, and I suppose people thought it was deliberately put there by the BLM for trash disposal. The BLM does not provide a trash/sanitation department to haul out trash (besides myself and the seasonal rangers). Please keep YOUR Wilderness clean for yourself and for the next visitors. But anyhow, we packed out the trash and the barrel. Besides this incident, I didn’t notice an unusually large amount of trash on the trails or in the campsites throughout the summer – which I’m very happy about. I did, however, find a lot of toilet paper, which brings me to my next point.
Please, Please, Please, bury your waste properly! As mentioned above, over 5,100 people hike here annually – this equates to a lot of turds and a lot of toilet paper!
If you are on any of the upland trails in the King Range, standard Leave-No-Trace practice says to go 200 feet (which is about 70 paces) away from campsites, water sources and trails. 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), make your deposit, and cover it back up with sand. You can put your toilet paper in but really the best thing to do is to pack it out. I know it sounds a little “exposed” to go out on the beach. 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).
After Labor Day I found and picked up/reburied a ridiculous number of tp wads and several turds – most of which were right next to campsites!
There are 4 goals with human waste disposal in the backcountry (if you are a regular reader of this blog you may notice I reiterate myself from time to time):
1. Minimize contact with water sources
2. Minimize contact with insects and wildlife (have you ever wondered why there are so many flies at your camp? Chances are there is unburied fecal matter next to you).
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 (and only) way to meet the 4 goals above it to go intertidal.
Lastly, we had more than one out of control fire at Spanish Flat this summer. One was caused by a campfire and another was from a camp stove. We are still currently in full campfire restrictions because the fuels (vegetation) are extremely dry. During the start of fire restrictions we try to dismantle as many fire rings as we can and rehab the site – especially at campsites that pose a real threat by out of control campfires, such as Randall Creek below.