Trailhead Vandalism

General discussions on hiking in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest
cdnred
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Trailhead Vandalism

Post by cdnred » August 24th, 2020, 6:58 am

I'm a newbie to hiking, just joined this group and currently living in Ontario, Canada but I did work/live in the Tri-Cities, Washington for 5 years from 2007 thru 2012. I truly enjoyed my time while I was living there. I'm about to be 70 in a couple months, retired for the second time now and just looking to get into fly fishing and hiking. Both of which I'm a newbie at and I'd like to spend a couple months camping in the NorthWest during the spring/summer or fall. I've joined the Washington Fly Fishing group as well as this Oregon Hikers group.

The common thread here between these 2 groups is parking at trailheads and pullouts. From what I've been reading on the WFF website is that they've had major issues with vehicle vandalism when parking at these sites. I don't really see any solution for avoiding vehicles from getting broken into other then not leaving valuables exposed in the vehicle. Still doesn't guarantee there won't be any car theft or vandalism. Only other surefire solution would be a shuttle service which I think is highly unlikely. I don't want to sound intolerant or petty but my biggest drawback for looking forward to enjoying these activities is the vandalism aspect that's involved with both.

I'm sure that I'm not the only one ever that's faced this issue. How are others dealing with this or do we just have to accept the fact that this as part of life..?

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jdemott
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Re: Trailhead Vandalism

Post by jdemott » August 24th, 2020, 7:31 am

I've been hiking here in the Pacific Northwest for over 40 years. I've seen a fair amount of broken glass at trailheads, but fortunately I've never been hit myself (knock on wood). I always remove valuables from the car, including the vehicle registration papers. Once or twice I have changed my plans when I arrived at a trailhead and found lots of evidence of recent break-ins, but mostly I just accept the risk and enjoy the hike.

I'm no expert, but I would guess that the greatest risk would be at popular trailheads with fairly easy highway access, since I doubt the crooks are going to drive miles over bad roads on the chance they will find a car with something worth stealing.

justpeachy
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Re: Trailhead Vandalism

Post by justpeachy » August 24th, 2020, 11:45 am

jdemott wrote:
August 24th, 2020, 7:31 am
I'm no expert, but I would guess that the greatest risk would be at popular trailheads with fairly easy highway access, since I doubt the crooks are going to drive miles over bad roads on the chance they will find a car with something worth stealing.
This has been my experience based on posts I've seen from others and my observations at trailheads. Trailheads that can easily and quickly accessed seem to be the most-frequented targets.

Before heading to a spot, you can always ask in a hiking group/forum about other people's experience there, if they have had a break-in, seen broken glass, etc. That can help you decide if it's worth the risk.

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retired jerry
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Re: Trailhead Vandalism

Post by retired jerry » August 24th, 2020, 12:54 pm

yeah, same here, I mostly just ignore it

I definitely make sure nothing valuable is visible

I parked at Herman Creek trailhead once and someone took all my gas. Either that or the hose cracked from old age and the gas leaked all over the ground, except I probably would have smelled that.

Otherwise, I've never had a problem. Even where there was broken glass on the parking lot.

You can't let a low probability bad event dictate that you don't park at trailheads and go hiking

squidvicious
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Re: Trailhead Vandalism

Post by squidvicious » August 24th, 2020, 1:50 pm

I'm not so sure about the easy highway access theory. Definitely true for places with high tourist traffic like within the gorge waterfall corridor--people traveling with a lot of crap who aren't paying attention--but for regular trailheads it seems like ones that are a bit harder to get to often are trouble spots. Probably less people around to see you, higher chance they're out on a long or overnight hike, chance even for the thieves to camp nearby.

Like others have said, I go out regularly, and pretty much always see broken glass, but have never had a problem myself (knock wood). Even parking regularly at some of the highest risk spots, like Multnomah Falls. Come to think of it, the only place I've ever had my car broken into was a brightly lit, heavily trafficked, professionally patrolled lot right outside the student center back in my college days. It's just one of those things that probably won't ever happen to any given individual, but with whatever precautions you take and restrictions you put on yourself, you still can't guarantee definitely won't happen to you. When I total up the cost of replacing a window vs the benefits I've gotten from living with the risk and just going out hiking, I'll still be ahead (albeit very, very pissed) even if I do eventually have a problem.

But there are things you can do. Don't leave anything in your car, not just valuables. More than once I've heard people had just empty grocery bags stolen. Presumably because the thieves needed them to carry the loot from the other cars, but also it's quicker to just smash first and figure out later if that thing you can kind of see through the window is empty or valuable or whatever. Even a jacket left behind looks worth checking for a wallet in the pocket, and a hat on the seat may be covering up something you wanted to hide.

Always good if you can leave the glove box and console empty and open. That's a pretty clear sign to thieves that you were expecting them and took appropriate steps. Some people even leave the windows down and/or doors unlocked, though that's a bit much for me.

Just assume someone's watching you at the trailhead. So if you have to hide something in the trunk that you couldn't just leave behind, do it well before you get there. And if you're going to need something from the trunk (poles, pack), ideally move that stuff to the passenger compartment before you go so you aren't digging around in the trunk at all at the trailhead.

Pick your parking spot, as much as you can. If there's a camp host, try to park close to them, or in a high-traffic area like close to a portapotty. Lots of space and visibility around you is good. You don't really want to be next to a big panel van, or off in a lonely corner if you can help it.

It sucks to have to think about this stuff, and I admit that when I get back to my car and find it all in once piece I have a conscious sense of relief every single time. People suck. All the more reason to go into the woods.

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bobcat
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Re: Trailhead Vandalism

Post by bobcat » August 25th, 2020, 10:11 am

Over a period of 30-odd years, I've had cars broken into three times, all in Portland at Forest Park. Two were at the same trailhead (Germantown Road) and one was at the archery range. In all three cases, the door locks were jammed open, an easy thing for people to do without others noticing. These are busy parking areas with plenty of people coming and going. I really don't have any fears about remote trailheads, although I'm sure some of them are not immune, and have often had to park with a lot of gear stashed visible in the car if I'm on a road trip.

Basically, take all normal precautions (take any valuables with you). Do not lock valuables in your glove compartment when you arrive (this was my wife's mistake once). Someone may be watching and will break in as soon as you leave. Thieves need to play the odds as well and focus on the busy places.

As for broken glass at a remote trailhead, there could be other reasons. I once came back from a hike and a couple were there, standing forlornly by their vehicle. We were miles and miles up a narrow gravel road, far from cell phone service, and they had locked their keys in the car! I gallantly smashed a back passenger window for them with my ax, we cleared up as much glass as we could, and they were able to be on their way.

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Chip Down
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Re: Trailhead Vandalism

Post by Chip Down » August 25th, 2020, 11:39 am

squidvicious wrote:
August 24th, 2020, 1:50 pm
Always good if you can leave the glove box and console empty and open. That's a pretty clear sign to thieves that you were expecting them and took appropriate steps. Some people even leave the windows down and/or doors unlocked, though that's a bit much for me.
I endorse the open glovebox trick. Sends a message: yeah, I know what you're up to, and there's nothing here.

In high-risk areas, I prefer to leave doors unlocked, with signs on both sides indicating the doors are open. Sure, that invites vandals, but there's absolutely nothing that can be done to stop mindless punks from destroying things just out of black-hearted hatred and spite.

Anyway, I've only suffered three breakins in all my years of hiking. Not a bad track record, considering how many people in our society are hell-bent on savagery and mayhem.

squidvicious
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Re: Trailhead Vandalism

Post by squidvicious » August 25th, 2020, 12:50 pm

I can think of at least two times when I totally "should have" been broken in to but wasn't. One was at Barlow Pass trailhead, which is a double whammy of couldn't-be-easier highway access and pretty well hidden. I was a couple miles down the trail when I realized I'd left my wallet sitting on the front seat. I ran back to my car (or anyway what passes for running with me, which is pretty much the same as my walking but with more swearing). Cars had pulled in on either side, but there was my wallet, still out there for all to see, wondering where I'd wandered off to.

The other was at Multnomah Falls. I'd picked up my niece and nephew from the airport and headed straight there for breakfast. When their flight got in I'd just tossed the tablet I'd been reading on in the cell phone waiting area into the backseat and promptly forgot about it. Though I'd warned them they should bring their backpacks in to the restaurant because break-ins were common, they didn't think to say, "Hey, wouldn't that also apply to this expensive piece of electronic equipment right beside us here on the seat?" Thanks, guys. Lengthy lunch, busy tourist season, but all survived intact.

All that to say, it's definitely not like you just have to accept that it's a given you'll get broken into. Don't do stupid stuff, say thank you when you forget and do stupid stuff but get away with it, sacrifice a goat or a chicken now and again, and you'll probably be fine.

Webfoot
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Re: Trailhead Vandalism

Post by Webfoot » September 2nd, 2020, 1:42 pm

squidvicious wrote:
August 25th, 2020, 12:50 pm
(or anyway what passes for running with me, which is pretty much the same as my walking but with more swearing)
:lol:

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jalepeno
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Re: Trailhead Vandalism

Post by jalepeno » September 10th, 2020, 10:10 am

I came down from Bird Creek Meadows on Mt. Adams to a car clout in progress. The driver of the car being vandalized was ahead of me coming down to the parking lot. She started screaming, "He's got my purse." The car clouter jumped in an old pick up and sped off. My buddy and I dropped our packs, jumped in his car and took off after him. We figured we'd catch him easily. Didn't know what we'd do when we caught him, though. That road is terrible with rocks and huge potholes. He must have been driving like a maniac because we never caught him. On the way back to the parking lot, my buddy and I joked about how his body wouldn't be found until somebody noticed the truck over a cliff.

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