Thursday, May 24, 2012

American Hiking Society and New Rangers

This month from the 7th-11th Justin Robbins (Outdoor Recreation Planner here in the King Range) and I had the pleasure of working with 8 great volunteers from the American Hiking Society. They worked hard on the Lost Coast Trail and I hope you’ll appreciate the time and energy they put into our public lands. 

One of many things we did was clean/dismantle fire rings. As you can see in the pictures below, fire rings have a tendency to get out of hand. 

If you have a campfire, please help maintain “good rings” and fire safety:

1. Use existing fire rings and keep your campfire small. There is no need to build a gargantuan fire ring. If you need more warmth then simply get closer to your fire. Building large fire rings encourages the burning of larger pieces of wood and this tends to spread ash outside of the ring and breaks down its perimeter. This leads to an eye sore for other visitors and encourages them to build another fire ring - multiplying the impacts.

2. If it’s too windy and there are dry grasses or piles of driftwood nearby you may want to reassess your need for a campfire that night. Please don’t try to make the area “safe” by destroying vegetation or digging into the ground. This will most likely make the camp unsightly for other visitors. If the scene is safe, be sure to always have someone present to watch over/tend the fire and have plenty of water nearby to extinguish any rogue flames.

3. Please pack out your trash and do not burn it in your campfire unless it can be completely burned in one sitting and you plan to do so. Examples of things that often do not burn completely in one sitting: Anything lined in foil (e.g. Mountain House packaging), metal cans, plastics, and food scraps (e.g. orange peels, egg shells).

4. Use dead and downed wood. Collect wood that can be broken by hand to help keep the campfire small and reduce your impacts.

5. To extinguish your campfire soak it with plenty of water and stir. Smothering with sand doesn’t put the fire out completely and when the wind picks up it blows the sand off leaving a potentially hazardous situation. Also, this fills the ring with sand which in time makes the ring undesirable/unusable and encourages others to build new campfire rings – spreading the impact.

In addition to campfire ring maintenance we also:

Collected A LOT of beach garbage. The picture below is just a sample of what we collected.

These guys were some true beachcombers.

We pulled non-native species, such as European Beach Grass. 

We brushed and lopped several sections of the trail

We dismantled user created structures/shelters

We’ve been taking down the driftwood structures along the LCT the past few years and it’s looking good. In past years you would see huge elaborate structures at nearly every creek – but no longer. You may ask, “what’s the problem with these anyhow,” and I’ll tell you:

  • Wood structures are great habitat for small rodents, especially structures that bring in a new supply of food every night. The one time I stayed in an established structure I had rodents scurrying all over my gear and sometimes me! Also, keep in mind that rodents attract snakes.
  • Large structures made out of dry wood are a fire hazard. We have had numerous incidents of driftwood structures catching on fire. This poses a threat to the forest, adjacent land owners, other visitors and YOU. Heavy winds (forecasted for this weekend), dry/dense fuels and fire are a recipe for disaster. It’s pretty easy for an ember to blow into the cracks of one of a driftwood structure and turn the whole thing into a ball of flames within minutes.
  • Driftwood structures don’t fit with wilderness characteristics that we manage for or Leave No Trace ethics. Section 2(c) of the 1964 Wilderness Act states that:                                                             
" A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions and which
(1) generally appears to have been affected primarily by the forces of nature, with the imprint
of man's work substantially unnoticeable…”

I understand that it can get very windy out on the Lost Coast. If you find that you need to build a small structure to escape the wind, ok. But, I ask you to please keep it small, don’t build onto existing structures, and PLEASE restore the site to its original condition by taking the drift wood back to where you found it. It is very easy for a small wind break to turn into a scene from Gilligan’s Island or Lord of the Flies as each visitor that camps at it builds a little more in an attempt to make some kind of “improvement.”

SO, in addition to all the great work the volunteers from the American Hiking Society did, I’m excited to introduce the newest member of our Wilderness Ranger staff, Jamie (photo coming soon). I'll toss the keyboard over to her:

"Hello folks! My name is Jamie and I am your seasonal Wilderness Ranger for the summer. I was born and raised in northern California and am currently finishing up my Environmental Management and Protection degree at Humboldt State University.  When I’m not chatting with lovely visitors like yourself, it’s not uncommon to find me “nerding out” while I hike – attempting to identify different tree species, animal tracks and ocean critters.

I am very excited to spend the next few months in the King Range and to share this natural treasure with all of you. See you out there!”

                               View from Cooskie Spur Trail - by Hilton Cass

Ok, to wrap up this post I would like to remind you that when you need to dispose of solid human waste on the LCT dig a hole 6-8 inches deep in the wet sand below the high tide line (or as close to the wet sand as safely possible), make your deposit, and then cover the hole with sand. The steep and rocky cliffs along the trail and at the major drainages/camping areas make finding a place to go 200 feet away from campsites, trails, and drinking water sources (standard Leave No Trace practice) nearly impossible – therefore, we have found that the ocean is the most ideal place to dispose of human waste.

You may feel a bit bashful about this since it’s out in the open but if you don’t wait until the last minute you can almost always walk down the beach a bit and find some solitude. If for some reason you absolutely can’t go down on the beach, PLEASE at least bury your waste with 6-8 inches of soil  (not just a rock) as far away from campsites, streams and trails as you can possibly get.

It’s going to be a busy weekend out there. Be safe and remember there were people here before you and there will be people here after you. Do the right thing and help keep the Lost Coast clean and enjoyable for everyone.

Your Wilderness Ranger,
Paul Sever