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RE: [pct-l] law - Thru-hikers & Bears

A number of months ago when I was putting the PCTA Bear page together - with
the help of Tom. I spent a great deal of time specifically trying to find
the regulations concerning bears at the different parks along the PCT. After
an extensive search of the different websites of the controlling agencies,
the only consistent phrase that came up was "Proper food storage". 

With that, the examples given always included hanging, canisters and bear
boxes. I was never able to get definitive information that canisters were
required. That's not to mean that there isn't some other literature
available from the NPS that describes the regulations in more detail. It's
just not published on their website. If your not sure, you can visit the
PCTA's Bear page www.pcta.org/plan/bears.shtml. At the bottom of it you will
find links to all the pages on the different National Parks & Forest and
their regulations on bears.

Which begs the question, if after spending three full days investigating the
issue and I still don't know the definitive answer, who will? 

Thru-hikers & Regulations

This isn't the first time that thru-hikers have been blamed for lack of
respect for local regulations. Nor will it be the last. It's also been
debated on the AT-L list in the past. Generally in other context and not
relating to bears. 

I don't believe that thru-hikers are any less respectful of regulations than
any other backpackers. After all most of us who've thru-hiked are normal
backpackers for most of our lives. For most a thru-hike is a once or twice
in a lifetime occurrence.

That said, I do agree that during a thru-hike, thru-hikers view the trail
differently from the normal backpackers. That comes primarily from the fact
that thru-hikers have a different focus of the trail. 

In general as backpackers we  concentrate on areas we'll be hiking in. Since
we're generally driving to the trailhead, it's easy to drop in visit the
ranger offices and gain better insights about the area. We'll often backpack
in  areas near our homes and return again and again over time. As a result,
we're more likely to become aware of all the subtle nuances. On this list a
number of members concentrate their hiking efforts in the Sierras and are
intimately familiar with their bears. 

For the thru-hiker, the focus is on the trail in total and not in any
specific area. In most cases they will know little or nothing about an area
until they enter it for the first time on foot in the middle of nowhere.
That may seem strange considering that thru-hikers often spend 6 months or
more planning their hike. Well most of the effort spent during this time is
on logistics, reading about other's experiences to get a general feel about
the trail and a few hundred other things. It's not spent learning the
detailed regulations about each area to be traveled through. 

Since most backcountry regulations are conceived of for the 99.9% of the
visitors that visit in normal means, it's easy to come up with regulations
that are difficult for those entering the forest via non-conventional means.
The PCTA has done a good job with the Thru-hiker Permit where one permit
covers all forest. This greatly eases the problem with permits. 

However, there is often a wide variety of other regulations that differ
between National and State forest and between Parks. There are often
different regulations or interpretations of them, between different National
Parks or even between different districts of the same National Forest. 

Enter the thru-hiker who in all likelihood has never been to the area or is
likely to return. And unless the regulations are clearly printed in the
guidebook or on the maps (which they aren't), they are not likely to know
what the specific regulations are at any given point. So with lack of
specific knowledge, for the sake of consistency, thru-hikers generally treat
the entire trail the same. Sort of averaging out the differences in
regulations between the different areas. 

While "Ignorance of the Law is no excuse" maybe legally true. The vast
majority of us spend our entire lives breaking someone's rule or regulation
on a daily basis in total blissful ignorance. 

Ron "Fallingwater" Moak
Fallingwater Journals - www.fallingwater.com
Pacific Crest Trail Assoc. - www.pcta.org
American Long Distance Hikers Association - West -

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