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Re: GMSNP & Rangers

I don't know if this is "official" or not, but last
spring we were backpacking in the Smokeys, one of
our favorite places, and we had reservations for
Spence field shelter and then Mollies ridge shelter,
when we arrived at Spence there was no one there
so we marked out a spot in the shelter and went
about normal stuff. Later in the afternoon a scout
troop pulled in and then later more people, including
through hikers to the point the shelter was overflowing.
After checking with other hikers and the scouts we
discovered the number of people having reservations
and the number there, including three spots for thru
hikers far exceeded shelter capacity. What gives we
thought, as if to answer our question up walked two
rangers, who had stopped to check permits. So of course
we made them aware of the situation, and their answer
was that the NPS routinely overbooks these shelters,
kinda like the airlines in that they don't expect
everyone to showup. So what do you do if they all show,
plus thru hikers, their answer was that someone has to 
tent, next question Who? They said it didn't matter to
them since the shelter was overbooked, so Alison and I
set up our tent, since we like tenting better anyway. The
same scenerio was repeated the next night at Mollies with
two different rangers, so we repeated the question to them
and got the same answer. So once again we tented. I have
no idea if this is "official" policy or not but the rangers
were very friendly and helpful, even pointing out a dead
branch overhead to a couple setting up their tent, and did
not seem in anyway ready or wanting to fine anyone for tenting
near the shelter. I thought maybe we had just ran into a couple
of laid back ranger teams but Alison reminded me this was not
the first time we had ever tented by a shelter and been
checked by a ranger. We had done it the previous year at
Birch Spring and Russell field, and neither ranger had even
commented about the tent. I don't know if we were just lucky
or what, but we have never had any trouble with rangers for
tenting at a shelter.

Sandy and Alison
"The Smiths"
GA to ME '97