Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
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Chip Down
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Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by Chip Down » July 7th, 2018, 5:08 pm

Yikes!
Considering some of the rants I've seen on this board regarding the strained relationship between hikers and the USFS, I bet some of you will have smoke coming out of your ears if you look at this page describing the Enchantment Permit Area (Alpine Lakes Wilderness, Washington Cascades):

https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/okawen/p ... ev3_053607

You probably didn't read all that, but I recommend you scroll through it just to get a sense of the complexity. Most years, I bet I could complete my 1040 in less time than it would take to wade through the byzantine process of getting a permit (and even then, no guarantee). Interesting that violations can result in a fine up to $5000 and a mandatory court appearance. Not only is that fine way out of proportion to what I've ever heard of, but the mandatory court appearance just seems weird. I mean, why? Just so they can chastise you further? For comparison, the fines for illegal access to the Eagle Creek burn zone was, what, $1500 I think. I don't know what the penalty is for flouting permit rules in other places (for example, climbing Mt Adams or St Helens w/o a permit, or entering the Obsidian zone in the Three Sisters area).

While reading that USDA webpage, even though I was sitting here at home in the city, and even though I have no inclination to visit the enchantments, I feel like the wilderness experience is altered by the permit process. After landing a permit (by literally winning a lottery?), and then having to study and follow all the rules about how to carry out a trip with permit in hand, do visitors feel that the trip just isn't as much fun as they imagined? I think I'd feel like my adventure had a veil of bureaucracy draped over it.

I realize there have been similar discussions on this board, but I found this to be uniquely illuminating, so I wonder if this topic will garner some comments slightly different from what we've seen in discussions of, say, the South Sister situation.

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texasbb
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Re: Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by texasbb » July 7th, 2018, 6:48 pm

I landed a permit in '09 and considered the place worth the hassle. I know it's many times worse now, but my wilderness experience was less damaged by the permit system than it would have been by big crowds and the inevitable increase in damage. Maybe if I'd never won the lottery I'd be wishing for the opportunity to go in elbow-to-elbow.

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retired jerry
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Re: Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by retired jerry » July 8th, 2018, 6:13 am

I went there several years ago and several times in 1970s. I think it's worth the hassle. I suspect there are similar locations in Alpine Lakes Wilderness. Or Wallowas. Or Sierras.

The area would be over-run without restrictions. In the Three Sisters I think they should just make parking area bigger and add designated sites, but maybe that wouldn't work in the Enchantments, the area is too constrained and with all the granite it's wide open so you can see other people too good.

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RobinB
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Re: Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by RobinB » July 8th, 2018, 3:30 pm

I'll have to look for them, but, having seen pictures of how totally trashed the area was prior to the permit system, I'm more than happy to go through the trouble to prevent overuse and destruction. And really, the process isn't too big of a deal: apply to the lottery; either get picked or don't; confirm your permits if you get picked. Certainly easier than (say) permits for Yosemite.

olderthanIusedtobe
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Re: Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by olderthanIusedtobe » July 8th, 2018, 9:22 pm

Granted overnight users have more impact than day hikers, but there are a crap ton of day hikers up there, especially during larch season. No limits on day use (yet...knock on wood). I've never tried winning the lottery. Dated a girl that won the lottery two different years. That was a while ago. Sounds like number of applicants has increased exponentially in recent years so chances of winning have plummeted. Day hiking has worked just fine for me a bunch of times. At some point it might become too strenuous for me, when that happens I can be contented with the numerous trips I've already had there.

I think the FS had a huge knee jerk reaction to one low snow year when they extended the dates of the quota system by more than a month. It used to be June 15 through October 15. Now it's May 15 to October 31. There is no shoulder season when you can get in their before the quota now. Used to be a few weeks maybe. I mean you can still go up there in early May when it's completely buried under snow. Past the end of October it's usually full winter conditions up there.

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jalepeno
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Re: Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by jalepeno » July 9th, 2018, 10:51 am

I've been to the Enchantments three times.
It's well worth it.
I agree that the permit process is becoming increasingly difficult, but I am glad that the USFS is restricting access.
The Enchantments are a special place.

Twice I scored permits for camping outside the core Enchantments area and day hiked in.
Once I went midweek and got in the daily lottery for permits that weren't picked up.
That was a totally frustrating experience.
The lottery was at 8 AM.
I got there at 7:30 and one party was already waiting.
At 8, the ranger came out and said that she had two permits that hadn't been picked up, so both groups could go.
But she wanted to wait a while before she gave us the permits.

At 8:15, she came out with the permits for us.
As she was preparing to give them to us, a car roared into the parking lot, honking wildly.
They wanted to be in the lottery.
So she went back inside, got her ranger hat, the two permits and a blank one.
Of course, the latecomers got a permit and I didn't.
We had to go to Lake Stuart, which is beautiful too and has access to some great off trail hiking where you won't see anybody

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jeffstatt
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Re: Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by jeffstatt » July 9th, 2018, 11:03 am

jalepeno wrote:
July 9th, 2018, 10:51 am
Twice I scored permits for camping outside the core Enchantments area and day hiked in.....

...We had to go to Lake Stuart, which is beautiful too and has access to some great off trail hiking where you won't see anybody
I did this twice myself. Basically had the place to myself both times (and this was in Fall). I day-hiked up to Little Annaurna from there. In the Enchantments, Stuart Lake is a red-headed step child, but if it were anywhere else in Oregwashington it'd be the feature attraction I think.

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sprengers4jc
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Re: Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by sprengers4jc » July 9th, 2018, 3:35 pm

This was the first year we applied and we landed a Stuart Permit. It wasn't a hassle at all. I am looking forward to having that side of the Enchantments to ourselves in mid-September :)
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Water
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Re: Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by Water » July 9th, 2018, 5:00 pm

i haven't followed the minutiae of enchantments except to know I am not down with paying just for the chance of paying more to do something outside. But a number of years back a stranger on nwhikers was looking for another 2 to join their permit as two ppl in their group bowed out last minute. So there we met 2 strangers, as it got into dusk, on the side of colchuck lake. We hiked up to the core for a day and absolutely loved it. All that said for the distance and everything else, I don't want to deal with the hassle really. But it is a gorgeous and unique area for sure.

A few positive parts about the enchantments

1) they have dug out pit toilets with wooden boxes on top. Acknowledging the area gets overnight/usage enough to want to proactively manage the feces problem in popular areas where people camp. Does this solve it all? no. Is there any excuse not to do this at jeff park, green lakes, or any other wilderness area being 'loved to death'? Personally I say no, it seems like an obvious solution to a big component of the usage problem.

2) enforcement seems to be a legit function, not a fig leaf. I've heard a lot of stories of being checked by rangers in the enchantments. There's been an obvious effort to focus on this area and resources have been put into ensuring that people are respecting the rules and following appropriate behaviors. At the end of the day it's plausible they don't need a permit, or as severe of a permit process, if they have good enforcement. I have read of climbers being escorted out when caught skirting the rules..

I'd like to see both of these things applied to areas that get over-scrutinized as being 'over-used' (imo a designation made in large part in the eye of the beholder... and if that is the view, the onus on the viewer to be the change they want to see). Jeff Park, S. Sister, Green Lakes, seem that they'd benefit from ranger presence during peak usage. Seems like that presence along with an enforcement (not education) attitude would lend people to respect the rules more.

As far as ranting about this permit.. too far afield, there is lower hanging fruit in our own backyard.
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Re: Enchantment permits: Gov run amok? Consistent w/ wilderness ethos?

Post by drm » July 9th, 2018, 7:00 pm

While I would agree with the general idea that limitations are justified in the Enchantments, I also would agree with Chip that sometimes there are regs that are just too onerous. Might be the permitting process, might be the regs when visiting. Of course could be crowds too, though that is different. But my point is that there are beautiful places I don't visit for these reasons and I just find somewhere else to go. There is a vast amount of wilderness in western North America, really within a days drive of home. I could not run out of it in a lifetime. A highly regulated visit is not consistent with wilderness for me, but neither are big crowds, and I think the latter is a more common risk than the former - but then these days at my age I hike on maintained trails. I can see how somebody who mostly hikes off trail would be more encumbered by the regs and permits since the crowds rarely go where you do, but the regs for the crowds still apply.

Ever tried Alaska? That's where I used to go in the days when I did more off trail stuff. Just look at the caribou in my avatar for a hint. That's from a place called the Skolai Valley, and you can only get there in a bush plane.

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