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      Should campsites be cleared a bit more?     
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treehorn
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01/14/2021 03:36PM  
Alright, I'm almost sure this won't be a very popular opinion among this crowd, but hear me out.

I've stayed at (or scouted) quite a few campsites in the BW that would have been greatly improved by removing sometimes as little as one more tree when the Forest Service establishes it or maintains it.

I'm pretty sure we've all been there. One or two trees, or a small stand of trees, that really just hamper your view and you sit there and think, "if that weren't there, I'd have a much better view and this would be a nicer site."

Likewise, there are tons of sites that are simply not an option for groups of 5-6 or more, because they are just too closed in. This can be a problem when sites on some lakes at some times of year are hard to come by as it is, much less ones suitable for larger groups.

I know this wilderness it used by a wide variety of people who enjoy a wide variety of different types of camping/campsites. But I think there are a thousand sites out there where you'd be hard pressed to find anybody who would sit there and say "yeah, this is awesome." Small sites set back in the woods with little or no view to the lake...you can't convince me that you'd really ever prefer that over a nice big site with more options for tent pads and hanging out, cooking, etc. We all love a good view of the lake.

I'm not talking about clear-cutting the wilderness here. I'm just talking about fairly obvious trees or areas that could be removed that would greatly enhance a site's star rating (on a website such as this) and the enjoyment people get staying there.

I know I probably sound like a soft car camper who wants a pasture for a campsite, but I'm really just talking about simple, fairly obvious campsite maintenance that doesn't happen. Nothing that would probably even be much of a burden to the forest service, but there are times I'm sitting at a site and think to myself...whoever is in charge of making decisions about how to create a campsite in this space, did not have the same goals as me in mind when they did it.

I also understand we need trees around for stringing up tarps, hanging bear bags and shelter from wind/rain. And that's all fine, like I said I'm not talking about razing the wilderness, I guess just ruminating that more often than not as I sit around a site, I can picture ways to make it much nicer by removing a couple trees.

This also might possibly cut down on unethical people cutting down live trees around camp as well (pun intended).

BTW, I think they do a GREAT job with the firegrate locations, by and large.

Anyway, thanks for hearing me out!
 
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01/14/2021 05:07PM  
Removing a couple of trees will not successfully alter most camp sites to where you seem to think a camp should go. Possibly would alter the lake view, but not much to enlarge the campsite. I am not in favor of starting down this slippery slope as who should approve of any changes? The system as now exists is in place and decisions were made on what they thought was best for the sites. Better to look beyond the border lakes and set up camp earlier for sites acceptable for you.
 
01/14/2021 05:55PM  
I can agree with the premise "wouldn't it be nice if..." More than once a great place to hang my hammock is blocked by a tree/shrub, something. I resist and when the urge just will not leave me alone I tweak a line on the tarp or mess with my gear.
 
01/14/2021 06:01PM  
I sort of get your point on the view of the lake but oh well....the view is the view. Not all campsites are going to have a nice open front to them. And not everyone wants a nice open front especially when it's cold and the wind is blowing in.

As for a tree in the way of a likely tent pad...are you also going to dig out the stump? Just cutting the tree still doesn't mean anyone is putting a tent there until the stump is gone and hole is filled in. A lot more work than just cutting one tree.
 
01/14/2021 06:11PM  
I just couldn't agree less with your suggestions.

One of the things I loved most about the BWCA during our 40+ years of canoe-tripping was the great variety of campsites. All sizes, all kinds. All sorts of views, and all sorts of situations. We never looked at any campsite recommendations or evaluations ahead of time, choosing instead to just check out a place when we needed to camp, and hope that something would be to our liking. To me, that was the fun of it. Sometimes we had to make do with a site we really didn't like, and some sites were a wonderful surprise. Some sites that, at first glance, seemed marginal ended up being memorable favorites. A particular site on Alder Lake comes to mind in that regard.

We only had one canoe most of the time, and in a couple other cases, two canoes. Never more than 5 people, and I would say that 80% of our canoe-tripping was just the two of us. So the number of tent pads wasn't a factor, but again, that variety is part of what makes the BWCA special. If all campsites had clear lake views, multiple tent pads, trees trimmed to make more open space, etc. it seems to me that it would feel much more like a "park" and less like a "wilderness." That would have spoiled it for me.

By the way, I agree with your assessment of the placing of the fire grates. :-)
 
mschi772
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01/14/2021 06:51PM  
Nope. We are visitors. We are guests. The forest is the host, and we go there to experience it, not curate it. You write as if you believe there are humans in charge of campsite design; there are not. Nature is in charge. We, like the rest of the local fauna, merely utilize the terrain and features provided as best we can. A decent clearing with a relatively flat spot nearby? Good place for a campsite landing and firegrate. A game trail or relatively clear path through the woods away from the lake? Suppose the latrine will go there. The sites evolve through repeated use, but no one is going out there with a vision and sculpting sites.

Any and all human installations such as fire grates and latrines, and even portages, exist for the benefit of the wilderness by keeping our activities focused/contained and repeated on a single designated location--without them, our activity, in the numbers that we visit the BWCA in every year, would likely sprawl and impact increasingly large areas. Cutting down "inconvenient" trees does not benefit the wilderness, thus I do not condone it. In fact, it most directly leads to harm in increased erosion which, as all campsites are near shorelines, is particularly problematic.

When you venture into the subjective realm of "I think just this one little change would be an improvement," you enter the realm of the slippery slope where everyone has a different opinion. If we were to allow the removal of an inconvenient tree, who's to say someone else might not remove another tree for being inconvenient as they see it? When someone cuts away all of the vegetation from the shoreline for being an inconvenient obstacle for landing or view, how could we say they're wrong after allowing someone else for removing a tree for another reason? What about someone digging-up whole areas to create primitive foundations for tents? How could we say they're in the wrong when someone else was allowed to clear a tree or two from a site they thought was cramped? You would clear smaller sites to make them fit your idea of what a nice site is, but we don't all have the same ideas of what makes a site ideal. In a group of 1-3, I enjoy the small sites, and if weather is particularly bad, those closed-in sites offer much appreciated shelter. The diversity of sites also adds to many people's sense of adventure and exploration as I've seen a tremendous number of people remark that campsite exploration/comparision/selection is one of their favorite parts of the experience, but if we were to homogenize sites, much of that appeal would be lost.

I say all this from the perspective of someone with knowledge and experience in ecology in addition to a recreational love of visiting the wilderness. If you ask me, I'd happily go without the log benches around so many firegrates myself, but that's probably an unpopular opinion.
 
Minnesotian
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01/14/2021 07:36PM  
treehorn: "...whoever is in charge of making decisions about how to create a campsite in this space, did not have the same goals as me in mind when they did it.

"


You answered your own question.

 
schweady
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01/14/2021 08:09PM  
NO.

 
tumblehome
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01/14/2021 08:23PM  
This is a very disturbing thread.

To even consider that opening up a campsite is in the best interest of all parties is preposterous. If you are one of the people that come into camp and start clearing out small trees and opening up spaces, I hope you know what a terrible disservice you are doing.

Would you believe that I prefer a campsite that is small and closed in? Yes, that is true.

I have seen more great campsites become over-run by humans and clearing out a site to suite your selfish desires makes me want to puke.

Please go to a State Park.

Tom
 
straighthairedcurly
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01/14/2021 08:28PM  
My short answer is NO.

My long answer is: Different folks have different ideas of what makes a great site. I enjoy a lake view, but I also really enjoy smaller, more intimate sites and provide a lot of privacy. I often seek out that kind of site and often avoid more open, well used sites. I say keep the variety. There is no such thing as an ideal campsite or ideal view.
 
JWilder
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01/14/2021 08:44PM  
As you stated in your opening post Treehorn. The responses have not been surprising. I am thankful for that. The whole concept I really struggle with.
I can say this with confidence; that thought process has never crossed my mind while tripping. This really ties in with my thoughts on campsite ratings: "its all relative." I laugh when someone rates a "canoe landing". It is what it is, I am in the wilderness! That can be said for the whole "campsite". Whether that is kitchen area, tent pad or whatever.
Now, my front yard or the city urban forest? Yes, trim up and manicure for sight, intersection visibility and safety...

Just my rambling thoughts.

J
 
01/14/2021 09:21PM  
Really? The campsite is not a homestead. Enjoy it as is. We are the intruders. That’s my perspective.
 
tarnkt
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01/14/2021 11:11PM  
I couldn’t agree more.

The natural beauty of untouched wilderness is all around you. Not in an 8 foot tall bush in between your fire grate and the water or two dinky trees in the middle of a flat spot where a tent could be set up.
 
Stumpy
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01/15/2021 01:53AM  
schweady: "NO.

"


Agree
 
Boppasteveg
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01/15/2021 05:20AM  
Let's enjoy what we have before it's destroyed by poisoned water.
 
mjmkjun
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01/15/2021 05:52AM  
Stumpy: "schweady: "NO.

"



Agree"

Good capture of audacity.
 
Arcola
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01/15/2021 07:15AM  
My intent when I camp has always been to have no one even know I was there. What I'd really like to see is a rotation of heavily used sites. The best compliment payed to the indigenous people here was the report that "an untouched wilderness" had been discovered.
 
01/15/2021 07:22AM  
There are plenty of burn areas you could visit.
 
01/15/2021 07:27AM  
I disagree with altering sites but I get why you brought it up.

T
 
01/15/2021 07:53AM  
timatkn: "I disagree with altering sites but I get why you brought it up.


T"

+1. And I also think more tact could be used if you disagree with the OP. After all, he hasn’t gone out and cut down the trees or bushes. He has an enlightening question that stimulated conversation. No need to be rude with your opinions.

And no, I would not be for removing anything in any of the sites.
 
Inmyelement
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01/15/2021 07:54AM  
Good point about the stumps. Felling a tree in the bush is one thing, removing the stump is a whole different challenge.

I like the shade that a lake side tree can offer. The trees can also offer some protection from a light rain.
 
plexmidwest
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01/15/2021 08:10AM  
No
 
CityFisher74
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01/15/2021 08:19AM  
I get where you're coming from, but to me the view that could be gained by removing a tree is negated by having to look at a saw line on the stump that is left over. No matter how hard I tried to look past the stump to the lake, I think my eye would always go to the hideous stump, thus back to square 1.
 
Savage Voyageur
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01/15/2021 09:44AM  
Should campsites be cleared more? Absolutely NOT!

I have hard enough of a time finding good hammock trees. I need trees in camp to hang gear from, erect tarps, hang water filters, hang clothes lines. Trees in camp are functional to me too and serve many purposes. These are some examples are how I need trees in camp.

Trees come and go especially around a well used campsite. See picture above. We are just there for a night or two, but that tree that you think needs to get cut down might be there for a hundred years, long after you are gone.

The forest service needs to clear three things in a campsite. 1) Clear a spot or two or three for tents, 2) clear a spot for a safe fire ring, 3) clear a spot for the latrine and keep a trail maintained to the latrine.

Tree clearing at a campsite is to create “just enough” space for us to be there temporarily.
 
treehorn
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01/15/2021 10:15AM  
Ok, a lot to respond to, and I appreciate all the discussion.

Truly, I don't take offense to anyone who thinks I'm a horse's rear end for even bringing this up. It's all good.

I'll start by saying I am absolutely NOT advocating for campers to try to modify campsites to suit their own preferences. That is clearly up to mother nature and the Forest Service. If you need to put up a tent in some space for a night that doesn't seem like it's ever used for that - that's one thing. But definitely not advocating for campers to make their own executive decisions about what trees or shrubbery are allowed at a campsite.

But the reality is, that I think some of you kind of miss, is that someone IS actually making those decisions. Maybe not on a monthly or even yearly basis, but these sites we stay at are not some magical area bestowed upon us by mother nature. I mean the wilderness itself is, but PEOPLE, that are just as human as you and I, are deciding where to establish sites, and how to construct them, given the limits of the plot selected and wilderness guidelines/ethics.

Some of the comments have made it seem like all the decisions about where & how to establish campsites were PERFECT, and everything should always STAY AS IT IS. Well, no one is perfect, and there's no reason we can't discuss how things might be improved with different decision making. It's safe to say that trees/shrubbery were removed by the forest service at *nearly* every single site established in the BW. Maybe some just had a perfect set up that didn't need to be touched, but most required some "construction." Within that "construction" decisions need be made.

I mean, you read campsite reviews here and every so often you see one that says the latrine was clearly visible from camp. Is that a perfect set up that should never be reviewed or adjusted, if possible? The same goes for a tree, in my opinion. After all, moving a latrine requires moving a path, which requires some forest clearing.

People have made great points about the fact that users have different opinions about what makes a good campsite, which I totally get. Savage Voyager probably summed it up best when he said: "The forest service needs to clear three things in a campsite. 1) Clear a spot or two or three for tents, 2) clear a spot for a safe fire ring, 3) clear a spot for the latrine and keep a trail maintained to the latrine."

That certainly is the nuts and bolts of it, and maybe that's all they should ever do. I said it myself in the opening post..."whoever is in charge of making decisions about how to create a campsite in this space, did not have the same goals as me in mind when they did it."

Trust me when I say my visits to the BW are my favorite and most cherished days of my year, every year...crappy campsite or not. And don't pretend none of them are crappy because I read your reviews on them....

I would actually LOVE to hear from a Forest Service employee who maintains campsites, just to hear what might be in their head as they do their work. I've often imagined myself in that position...not just going to dig out a new latrine, but back in the 70's, just paddling the shore of a lake and scouting for campsite locations and then imagining what needs to be done to make it usable....seems pretty fun.
 
01/15/2021 10:54AM  
Quote, Savage voyageur "The forest service needs to clear three things in a campsite. 1) Clear a spot or two or three for tents, 2) clear a spot for a safe fire ring, 3) clear a spot for the latrine and keep a trail maintained to the latrine."

Correct, they also cut some hazard trees around campsites once in a while.

As a retired ranger/firefighter I understand where Treehorn is coming from, however everyone is different, variety is the spice of life. It was often a tough decision for me on which tree to leave or cut down, within and outside of any Wilderness area.
 
nofish
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01/15/2021 11:11AM  
Work with what nature gives you. A lot of work has already been done to establish fire grates, latrines, and camp pads. I don't see the need to further alter nature to be more aesthetically pleasing to a few.
 
JWilder
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01/15/2021 11:24AM  
treehorn: "Ok, a lot to respond to, and I appreciate all the discussion.


Truly, I don't take offense to anyone who thinks I'm a horse's rear end for even bringing this up. It's all good.


I'll start by saying I am absolutely NOT advocating for campers to try to modify campsites to suit their own preferences. That is clearly up to mother nature and the Forest Service. If you need to put up a tent in some space for a night that doesn't seem like it's ever used for that - that's one thing. But definitely not advocating for campers to make their own executive decisions about what trees or shrubbery are allowed at a campsite.


But the reality is, that I think some of you kind of miss, is that someone IS actually making those decisions. Maybe not on a monthly or even yearly basis, but these sites we stay at are not some magical area bestowed upon us by mother nature. I mean the wilderness itself is, but PEOPLE, that are just as human as you and I, are deciding where to establish sites, and how to construct them, given the limits of the plot selected and wilderness guidelines/ethics.


Some of the comments have made it seem like all the decisions about where & how to establish campsites were PERFECT, and everything should always STAY AS IT IS. Well, no one is perfect, and there's no reason we can't discuss how things might be improved with different decision making. It's safe to say that trees/shrubbery were removed by the forest service at *nearly* every single site established in the BW. Maybe some just had a perfect set up that didn't need to be touched, but most required some "construction." Within that "construction" decisions need be made.


I mean, you read campsite reviews here and every so often you see one that says the latrine was clearly visible from camp. Is that a perfect set up that should never be reviewed or adjusted, if possible? The same goes for a tree, in my opinion. After all, moving a latrine requires moving a path, which requires some forest clearing.


People have made great points about the fact that users have different opinions about what makes a good campsite, which I totally get. Savage Voyager probably summed it up best when he said: "The forest service needs to clear three things in a campsite. 1) Clear a spot or two or three for tents, 2) clear a spot for a safe fire ring, 3) clear a spot for the latrine and keep a trail maintained to the latrine."


That certainly is the nuts and bolts of it, and maybe that's all they should ever do. I said it myself in the opening post..."whoever is in charge of making decisions about how to create a campsite in this space, did not have the same goals as me in mind when they did it."


Trust me when I say my visits to the BW are my favorite and most cherished days of my year, every year...crappy campsite or not. And don't pretend none of them are crappy because I read your reviews on them....


I would actually LOVE to hear from a Forest Service employee who maintains campsites, just to hear what might be in their head as they do their work. I've often imagined myself in that position...not just going to dig out a new latrine, but back in the 70's, just paddling the shore of a lake and scouting for campsite locations and then imagining what needs to be done to make it usable....seems pretty fun."


Treehorn. I for one do not think you are a "horse's rear" :)

I appreciate the discussion and different viewpoints on such topics. I think the strong opinions (here and in other threads) come from the passion we all have for the BWCA/Quetico and other similar wilderness areas.

One of the reasons for my joining this community was to partake in such dialogue and I hope I never truly offend anyone by my participation. That would never be my intention.

If we all thought and acted the same. Well, that would be just downright boring, and there would be no discussion needed:)

And now on my next trip, I will be scouting out what might make a new campsite. Just for fun.

J
 
tumblehome
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01/15/2021 12:14PM  
SNIPS from Treehorns original post

I'm pretty sure we've all been there. One or two trees, or a small stand of trees, that really just hamper your view and you sit there and think, "if that weren't there, I'd have a much better view and this would be a nicer site."

Likewise, there are tons of sites that are simply not an option for groups of 5-6 or more, because they are just too closed in.

I'm not talking about clear-cutting the wilderness here. I'm just talking about fairly obvious trees or areas that could be removed that would greatly enhance a site's star rating (on a website such as this) and the enjoyment people get staying there.
_____________________

I’ll tell you Treehhorn, the group is really letting you off the hook. You are directly talking about clearing sites to improve the star rating, and to clear sites for large groups. I also have a very strong feeling you are one of those campers that is already doing this but looking for people to advocate for what you do.
Somewhere the story changed into clearing dangerous trees or stumps.

I’m generally a pretty swell guy but when post like this come up I really lose it. You need to camp with someone experienced enough and with enough respect for the wilderness to teach you wilderness values. Something you are clearly missing.

Tom the meanie.
 
treehorn
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01/15/2021 12:20PM  
tumblehome: "SNIPS from Treehorns original post


I'm pretty sure we've all been there. One or two trees, or a small stand of trees, that really just hamper your view and you sit there and think, "if that weren't there, I'd have a much better view and this would be a nicer site."


Likewise, there are tons of sites that are simply not an option for groups of 5-6 or more, because they are just too closed in.


I'm not talking about clear-cutting the wilderness here. I'm just talking about fairly obvious trees or areas that could be removed that would greatly enhance a site's star rating (on a website such as this) and the enjoyment people get staying there.
_____________________


I’ll tell you Treehhorn, the group is really letting you off the hook. You are directly talking about clearing sites to improve the star rating, and to clear sites for large groups. I also have a very strong feeling you are one of those campers that is already doing this but looking for people to advocate for what you do.
Somewhere the story changed into clearing dangerous trees or stumps.


I’m generally a pretty swell guy but when post like this come up I really lose it. You need to camp with someone experienced enough and with enough respect for the wilderness to teach you wilderness values. Something you are clearly missing.


Tom the meanie."


Relax, meanie.

Nothing you're saying about me is true.

Take care.
 
Canoearoo
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01/15/2021 12:54PM  
In all my years at the BWCA I have only seen one campsite that might need a little work. It was almost never used. It had a small tree growing up though the fire-grate. It had bushes all around the toilet. It was completely over grown but had everything it needed to be still considered an open site. It felt special to be in a place that was almost never used.
 
thistlekicker
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01/15/2021 12:56PM  
I actually agree with the OPs suggestion that SNF could do a better job of providing campsites with space and features that promote low-impact use, particularly for larger groups. And maybe that would involve some vegetation management.

I suspect many of the complaints associated with inability to find campsites are due to large groups breaking the "camp together at one site" rule because there just aren't many camps that can accommodate a group of 8 or 9. I'm not saying every site needs to have 3 giant tent pads, and I truly do appreciate a good "bush camp" where I can find just enough room to hang my hammock and not much else, but the current campsite situation just isn't matching the usage patterns, particularly on frontcountry lakes. The sites that can accommodate large groups get hammered, and the moderate-sized sites are in short supply because of large groups splitting up.

I get that many people go in the shoulder seasons and/or go solo, or with a small group, but for people like me, tripping with moderate- and sometimes large groups including young kids, the campsite issues are a real deterrent.
 
missmolly
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01/15/2021 01:36PM  
I like this treehorn. He's brave enough to pose a provocative question, wise enough to know it would provoke, and sturdy enough to be pelted with cyber-tomatoes and smile through the goo.

As most know, I paddle on Crown Land, where anything goes. If you wanted to drop a tree, you could because no one is there to protest. I once encountered a site that was cleared by a chainsaw, perhaps a couple score of trees of every size. It looked like a lot of work and they did some woodcrafty construction with some of the downed timber. It looked ugly as Hell and I still can't determine why anyone would work so hard to make their campsite ugly and deprive themselves of shade. At least they weren't pigs, as I found no trash other than their fire ring, benches, and tables.
 
01/15/2021 03:26PM  
Tree horn, good thoughts. I don’t advocate cutting trees. But sometimes like on little Sag you’ll get under brush stuff that grows in due to lack of use. I like how people are under the presumption this is all pristine wilderness. Many campsites are the results of old fish camps, remote cabins and resorts removed when the area was declared a wilderness a few short years ago. Many crazy things were drug out in the middle of the lakes on the ice and let go through vs haul things out as they did with Dorothys cabins.
Old car batteries and such are at the bottom of many lakes. But back to the OP question. I’ll bet a little imput could go a long ways. My thinking though is instead of adapting the campsites to fit larger groups... maybe adapt your group size for what would work best for you as the way sites are. I took bigger groups in when I started years ago. Even sort of questioned the thought when they went from ten to nine. But not only did I realize how much more a group of nine impacts an area vs a smaller group... but I found people had a much higher quality trip with smaller groups. So boo to the nixers of this discussion, and yay to those with good insight to explain away the pros of the way it is... This discussion is good for newer people to understand the reasoning and such for the restrictions and such. Tree horn isn’t the first to ask, and I would think many answers and insights will be found here.
 
Chieflonewatie
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01/15/2021 03:26PM  
Yah he took a beating.
 
Chieflonewatie
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01/15/2021 03:26PM  
Yah he took a beating.
 
01/15/2021 04:57PM  
nctry: "Tree horn, good thoughts. I don’t advocate cutting trees. But sometimes like on little Sag you’ll get under brush stuff that grows in due to lack of use. I like how people are under the presumption this is all pristine wilderness. Many campsites are the results of old fish camps, remote cabins and resorts removed when the area was declared a wilderness a few short years ago. Many crazy things were drug out in the middle of the lakes on the ice and let go through vs haul things out as they did with Dorothys cabins.
Old car batteries and such are at the bottom of many lakes. But back to the OP question. I’ll bet a little imput could go a long ways. My thinking though is instead of adapting the campsites to fit larger groups... maybe adapt your group size for what would work best for you as the way sites are. I took bigger groups in when I started years ago. Even sort of questioned the thought when they went from ten to nine. But not only did I realize how much more a group of nine impacts an area vs a smaller group... but I found people had a much higher quality trip with smaller groups. So boo to the nixers of this discussion, and yay to those with good insight to explain away the pros of the way it is... This discussion is good for newer people to understand the reasoning and such for the restrictions and such. Tree horn isn’t the first to ask, and I would think many answers and insights will be found here."


Agree, cutting trees or removing brush may create a site that will be over used for that area causing erosion etc. Also it may take away the character of that site.
A have no problem with removal of like Ben said a new growth hazel brush over hanging part of the site or hanging over the toilet. Discretion is the word,
 
Papa09
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01/15/2021 04:58PM  
Nope!
 
missmolly
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01/15/2021 05:00PM  
nctry: "Tree horn, good thoughts. I don’t advocate cutting trees. But sometimes like on little Sag you’ll get under brush stuff that grows in due to lack of use. I like how people are under the presumption this is all pristine wilderness. Many campsites are the results of old fish camps, remote cabins and resorts removed when the area was declared a wilderness a few short years ago. Many crazy things were drug out in the middle of the lakes on the ice and let go through vs haul things out as they did with Dorothys cabins.
Old car batteries and such are at the bottom of many lakes. But back to the OP question. I’ll bet a little imput could go a long ways. My thinking though is instead of adapting the campsites to fit larger groups... maybe adapt your group size for what would work best for you as the way sites are. I took bigger groups in when I started years ago. Even sort of questioned the thought when they went from ten to nine. But not only did I realize how much more a group of nine impacts an area vs a smaller group... but I found people had a much higher quality trip with smaller groups. So boo to the nixers of this discussion, and yay to those with good insight to explain away the pros of the way it is... This discussion is good for newer people to understand the reasoning and such for the restrictions and such. Tree horn isn’t the first to ask, and I would think many answers and insights will be found here."


^Best post of the year...so far^
 
01/15/2021 05:11PM  
missmolly: "nctry: "Tree horn, good thoughts. I don’t advocate cutting trees. But sometimes like on little Sag you’ll get under brush stuff that grows in due to lack of use. I like how people are under the presumption this is all pristine wilderness. Many campsites are the results of old fish camps, remote cabins and resorts removed when the area was declared a wilderness a few short years ago. Many crazy things were drug out in the middle of the lakes on the ice and let go through vs haul things out as they did with Dorothys cabins.
Old car batteries and such are at the bottom of many lakes. But back to the OP question. I’ll bet a little imput could go a long ways. My thinking though is instead of adapting the campsites to fit larger groups... maybe adapt your group size for what would work best for you as the way sites are. I took bigger groups in when I started years ago. Even sort of questioned the thought when they went from ten to nine. But not only did I realize how much more a group of nine impacts an area vs a smaller group... but I found people had a much higher quality trip with smaller groups. So boo to the nixers of this discussion, and yay to those with good insight to explain away the pros of the way it is... This discussion is good for newer people to understand the reasoning and such for the restrictions and such. Tree horn isn’t the first to ask, and I would think many answers and insights will be found here."


^Best post of the year...so far^"


Here, here! Ben has shown once again the wisdom of an experienced statesman. In my reading of this, it is not to show agreement with the OP necessarily, but to question the logic of those so quick to condemn. My first reaction to the title of this post was also negative, but it also made me stop to think.

So what do you look for in a campsite? A great many of us do indeed look for and value the sites with open space and great views - many of which will be listed on this site as 5 star sites. And I'd ask how often some of us have camped at those seldom used sites with just 1 star? Several things go into a site rating - which is certainly not perfect - but I'd argue that large level tent pads, general site openness, and great view are primary drivers beyond good landing and swimming beaches. I can't help but wonder if some of us, quick to react negatively to the OP, are also quick to go to the heavily used open sites? In a way, by heavy, constant usage, are we not creating the same effect as someone who would cut down a tree? Perhaps the sites that best preserve true wilderness all carry just one star.
 
tumblehome
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01/15/2021 06:00PM  
And this...... Is why I advocate for smaller group maximums. Nine people on a campsite?

And I’m the guy that steps over moss to keep the place in good shape. It makes me wonder why I bother.

Once again, I urge wilderness wreckers to go to State parks where there is room for your RV

Tom the meanie.
 
01/15/2021 06:08PM  
I could get behind small group maximums...but with a few year's notice. There are many larger groups, including kids from summer camps, who planned their trips out a year or more in advance.
 
Speckled
distinguished member (146)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/15/2021 06:13PM  
Ok...so when a new campsite is established, I always assumed there is a certain amount of clearing, brushing out, and possibly felling of trees and stump removal that happens. I think the question the OP is asking is to what degree is enough...I Imagine this varies by the crew on - hand that day establishing the site.

I also imagine that over time, the sites grow back up. In fact I know it happens. I know of two sites that we've been to in multiple times over a 20 year period and they're alot more brushy and shrubby today than they were when we first visited them. To the point of - they're not really that nice of site anymore.

I don't think this is a task that should be undertaken by the camper though. My guess is the brushing out of a site happens with regular maintence by the FS, mush the same as portage maintance...but I have no idea, just a guess.
 
Abbey
distinguished member (267)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/15/2021 07:36PM  
sns: "I could get behind small group maximums...but with a few year's notice. There are many larger groups, including kids from summer camps, who planned their trips out a year or more in advance."

Despite some added complexity, I would be in favor of different group size limits on different entry points and even different size group permits for each day for each entry (I.e. an entry point has three daily permits: one 9-person, two 5-person). Some entry points can handle of bunch of 9-person groups like Moose where it’s a lot of Boy Scout trips launching. USFS tracks the data, so they may have decided the group sizes are okay without extra complexity. Overall, I want smaller groups, but I do have a soft spot for accommodating scouting / youth groups, even though I never had that experience as a youth. Wish I had even known about the BWCA back then.
 
Abbey
distinguished member (267)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/15/2021 07:55PM  
Arcola: "My intent when I camp has always been to have no one even know I was there. What I'd really like to see is a rotation of heavily used sites. The best compliment payed to the indigenous people here was the report that "an untouched wilderness" had been discovered. "

Sure, what is now BWCAW/Q wasn’t as touched pre-European as it would be leading up to 1964 and 1978 protections, but let’s not be overly romantic that the area was “untouched”.

People, Fire, and Pine: Linking Human Agency and Landscape in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and Beyond&
 
01/15/2021 08:07PM  
Abbey: "sns: "I could get behind small group maximums...but with a few year's notice. There are many larger groups, including kids from summer camps, who planned their trips out a year or more in advance."


Despite some added complexity, I would be in favor of different group size limits on different entry points and even different size group permits for each day for each entry (I.e. an entry point has three daily permits: one 9-person, two 5-person). Some entry points can handle of bunch of 9-person groups like Moose where it’s a lot of Boy Scout trips launching. USFS tracks the data, so they may have decided the group sizes are okay without extra complexity. Overall, I want smaller groups, but I do have a soft spot for accommodating scouting / youth groups, even though I never had that experience as a youth. Wish I had even known about the BWCA back then. "



Yellowstone back country has campsites rated for maximum people on some sites.
 
tumblehome
distinguished member(1905)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/16/2021 07:23AM  
Abbey: "sns: "I could get behind small group maximums


Despite some added complexity, I would be in favor of different group size limits on different entry points and even different size group permits for each day for each entry (I.e. an entry point has three daily permits: one 9-person, two 5-person). "


That idea has merit!

Very doable too.

Tom

 
01/16/2021 07:37AM  
Typically human thinking. Always looking for ways to "improve " on what nature does.

My thoughts are that if you don't like the view or "feel" of a campsite then look for one that fits your criteria.

The BW is a designated wilderness area.
 
Arcola
distinguished member (283)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/16/2021 08:58AM  
Abbey: "Arcola: "My intent when I camp has always been to have no one even know I was there. What I'd really like to see is a rotation of heavily used sites. The best compliment payed to the indigenous people here was the report that "an untouched wilderness" had been discovered. "


Sure, what is now BWCAW/Q wasn’t as touched pre-European as it would be leading up to 1964 and 1978 protections, but let’s not be overly romantic that the area was “untouched”.

I'm fully aware of the history, altering site is a No for me.


 
bottomtothetap
distinguished member(802)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/16/2021 11:57AM  
What is happening here (for the most part) is a spirited exchange of ideas and philosophies with impassioned presentations of a number of points of view.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what's known as a discussion or civil debate--a skill that many of us are bemoaning as lost in today's society. Yet, here we are with no personal threats, name calling (even when the OP wanted to self-assign a nasty name, it was discouraged) or attempts to "block" or "un-friend". Hooray!

Those who are quick to denounce an OP for asking these questions or assuming from an OP doing such that they are a bad actor in the BWCA and should feel some kind of shame or just go away, need to remember that this is a "forum"--the purpose of which is exactly for this type of exchange. We should be welcoming of this OP and proud of ourselves that the OP felt comfortable enough with this community to post it, even while acknowledging from the very start that exploration of the topic would include some controversy.

Even though I am sometimes accused of "poking the bear" I value this opportunity to get input and have also posted questions here that I knew would get some strong feedback. You can search and read my posts asking what constitutes camping or how is entry/exit/re-entry of the BWCA defined, as examples. I felt educated by the many responses, enjoyed the discussion and think this community benefitted as a whole.

That all being said, there is NO WAY I would be in favor of cutting down trees simply to improve a campsite view or to make the site more "convenient" to use. Find a way to enjoy it as is. If such needs to be done for safety purposes, that is a different matter. Even then, there are always risks and one knows about and accepts them when obtaining a permit. That's part of the adventure!

Thank you, treehorn, for starting the thread!

 
Speckled
distinguished member (146)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/16/2021 05:36PM  
airmorse: "Typically human thinking. Always looking for ways to "improve " on what nature does.


My thoughts are that if you don't like the view or "feel" of a campsite then look for one that fits your criteria.


The BW is a designated wilderness area. "



But they are improved? Clearing does happen when a campsite is originally established, a fire grate is installed, log benches around the fire are laid in place, a latrine is dug.
 
Podunk
distinguished member (156)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/16/2021 05:40PM  
bottomtothetap: "What is happening here (for the most part) is a spirited exchange of ideas and philosophies with impassioned presentations of a number of points of view.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is what's known as a discussion or civil debate--a skill that many of are bemoaning as lost in today's society. Yet, here we are with no personal threats, name calling (even when the OP wanted to self-assign a nasty name, it was discouraged) or attempts to "block" or "un-friend". Hooray!


Those who are quick to denounce an OP for asking these questions or assuming from an OP doing such that they are a bad actor in the BWCA and should feel some kind of shame or just go away, need to remember that this is a "forum"--the purpose of which is exactly for this type of exchange. We should be welcoming of this OP and proud of ourselves that the OP felt comfortable enough with this community to post it, even while acknowledging from the very start that exploration of the topic would include some controversy.


Even though I am sometimes accused of "poking the bear" I value this opportunity to get input and have also posted questions here that I knew would get some strong feedback. You can search and read my posts asking what constitutes camping or how is entry/exit/re-entry of the BWCA defined, as examples. I felt educated by the many responses, enjoyed the discussion and think this community benefitted as a whole.


That all being said, there is NO WAY I would be in favor of cutting down trees simply to improve a campsite view or to make the site more "convenient" to use. Find a way to enjoy it as is. If such needs to be done for safety purposes, that is a different matter. Even then, there are always risks and one knows about and accepts them when obtaining a permit. That's part of the adventure!


Thank you, treehorn, for starting the thread!
+1 one of the best posts I've read anywhere. Wish civil discussions would spread throughout the world.

"
 
Speckled
distinguished member (146)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/16/2021 05:41PM  
tumblehome: "SNIPS from Treehorns original post


I'm pretty sure we've all been there. One or two trees, or a small stand of trees, that really just hamper your view and you sit there and think, "if that weren't there, I'd have a much better view and this would be a nicer site."


Likewise, there are tons of sites that are simply not an option for groups of 5-6 or more, because they are just too closed in.


I'm not talking about clear-cutting the wilderness here. I'm just talking about fairly obvious trees or areas that could be removed that would greatly enhance a site's star rating (on a website such as this) and the enjoyment people get staying there.
_____________________


I’ll tell you Treehhorn, the group is really letting you off the hook. You are directly talking about clearing sites to improve the star rating, and to clear sites for large groups. I also have a very strong feeling you are one of those campers that is already doing this but looking for people to advocate for what you do.
Somewhere the story changed into clearing dangerous trees or stumps.


I’m generally a pretty swell guy but when post like this come up I really lose it. You need to camp with someone experienced enough and with enough respect for the wilderness to teach you wilderness values. Something you are clearly missing.


Tom the meanie."


Dude - whoa...no one hear said they don't respect the wilderness, nor did they advocate for clearing the trees on their own. The OP was simply asking the question if the group thought the FS did enough clearing when they establish the site. (see his second clarification post). Right - the FS already does clearing these sites didn't just magically appear with a big open fire pit area. They clear when the establish the site and they clear during site maintenance. The question was a decision by either the FS or the individual ranger was made as to what level of clearing. The OP is asking our opinion on that decision, on that level...at least that's how I read it.
 
Podunk
distinguished member (156)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/16/2021 05:45PM  
By the way I'm in the don't touch it camp.
 
Speckled
distinguished member (146)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/16/2021 05:45PM  
tumblehome: "This is a very disturbing thread.


To even consider that opening up a campsite is in the best interest of all parties is preposterous. If you are one of the people that come into camp and start clearing out small trees and opening up spaces, I hope you know what a terrible disservice you are doing.


Would you believe that I prefer a campsite that is small and closed in? Yes, that is true.


I have seen more great campsites become over-run by humans and clearing out a site to suite your selfish desires makes me want to puke.

Please go to a State Park.

Tom"


A guy can't go the BW, just because he prefers a little more open site? So if the sites are to open for you, should you be staying out as well and maybe just walking straight into the SNF some place and setting up in an alder swamp? I'm not trying to be an instigator, there's just two sides to it.
 
01/16/2021 05:48PM  
Great discussion and makes us all think what is right and what is not. Great refresher coarse.
 
Speckled
distinguished member (146)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/16/2021 05:50PM  
tumblehome: "And this...... Is why I advocate for smaller group maximums. Nine people on a campsite?


And I’m the guy that steps over moss to keep the place in good shape. It makes me wonder why I bother.


Once again, I urge wilderness wreckers to go to State parks where there is room for your RV


Tom the meanie."


Seriously - ever think that maybe you're the one not happy with the place? Who cares if there are nine people. So what happens if the moss is wore off a rock. The BW is not a pristine wilderness. It's more like a big park. A manicured and maintained park. There are cut and cleared trails, rock and log bridges, FS cabins, firegrates, plastic latrines, water irrigation, benches aroudn the fire, cleared campsites.

It gets people outdoors. Go there, don't litter, don't cut down live trees, follow the rules and enjoy yourself.
 
mgraber
distinguished member(1159)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/17/2021 01:25AM  
Good grief, I 'm so glad for Quetico. Now if Canada would just open back up. I guess the real debate here, is if you want the BWCA to be as close to wilderness as possible, or if you want it to be just a "park". Even if you wanted to "improve" it, it would be a lot of work with no power tools allowed, using only hand tools, and the FS being pretty stretched as is.

They are removing all the furniture and "improvements" in Quetico that they can, it is a lot of work, but they are making progress. It is definitely improving the Park IMO, and I'll bet the lack of use this year is helping more, as it will be far less "clear" and trampled. For those seeking more wilderness modification, If I were you, I wouldn't go to Quetico or (Woodland Caribou, or Wabakimi, etc.) you'd hate it. No hard feelings, I understand why you asked. I do feel, though, that you should read more about the history, regulations, maintenance plan, and goals of the park, etc. to maybe get a better understanding of where the anger is coming from. Unable to go to Quetico or any other Canadian destination this year, we were forced to go to BWCAW (actually a delightful place most years, we just desire less human impact and interaction)and I was shocked at all of the "improvements "and campsite mods). It was hard to see.
 
mgraber
distinguished member(1159)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/17/2021 01:25AM  
 
01/17/2021 04:53PM  
I feel like I'm both sides of the fence here. I see the need to keep things as natural as possible but also appreciate a more open campsite more for bugs and the view than anything else.

The bottom line is, I doubt it will ever change. I thought it way over the top when they decided to remove canoe rests because they weren't "natural". The same people complain about logs at the fire grate and rocks around it. I guess I don't have a dog in this fight on either side.
 
merlyn
distinguished member (136)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/17/2021 06:40PM  
I like this thread, it makes me think about the Bwca from another angle. Let me say up front I'm not in favor of "improving" any sites. Now let me stir up the pot a little. I almost always solo and almost always feel guilty when taking a camp site that would hold a larger group. I have read all the posts on that subject so we don't need to go over that again.
WHAT IF the F.S made some designated 2 person max camp sites?
On several occasions I have stopped for lunch or gone away from camp to clean fish and found a spot that would (with some work) be possible to spend the night on. They could, for example, be "primitive" sites , no crapper maybe only a rock fire ring ala Q. They could have a special designation on the maps and on the forums EP map site or something like that ( This is an idea not a fleshed out plan)
I'm not talking chain saws and back hoes but a forest service crew spending a few hours moving a rock or dead tree out of the way to create a 2 man tent opening.
Most of the established camp sites are the only possible sites on the lake already so there would not be more than a hand full of primitive sites spread out over multiple routes.
Last summer was just a start of a new era in the BWCA. We can expect more people this year as well (how can you not fall in love after seeing it the first time?) These sites would do very little to lessen overcrowding but maybe a baby step start

PS: That part about stopping for lunch was a lie, I had to pee, I'm old and only bad things happen when you try to go in a canoe.
 
MikeinMpls
distinguished member(772)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/17/2021 07:58PM  
Treehorn- though I do not think sites should be cleared more than they are, I fully appreciate your post and the thoughts it provoked. I believe you're not one of "those" people... and your post got lively discussion going. Good for you.

Mike
 
Stumpy
distinguished member(1585)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/17/2021 09:46PM  
I've been to over 500 lakes.
While I've done minimal clearing (branches around tent pads, on rarely used "camps"), I have yet to see a campsite that needs trees removed, in my opinion.
 
dentondoc
distinguished member(1096)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/17/2021 10:04PM  
Let me see if I have this right.

You want go places like BWCAW to enjoy nature and you want to “rearrange” it?

Oh, PLEASE!

dd
 
bottomtothetap
distinguished member(802)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/17/2021 10:28PM  
merlyn: "I like this thread, it makes me think about the Bwca from another angle. Let me say up front I'm not in favor of "improving" any sites. Now let me stir up the pot a little. I almost always solo and almost always feel guilty when taking a camp site that would hold a larger group. I have read all the posts on that subject so we don't need to go over that again.
WHAT IF the F.S made some designated 2 person max camp sites?
On several occasions I have stopped for lunch or gone away from camp to clean fish and found a spot that would (with some work) be possible to spend the night on. They could, for example, be "primitive" sites , no crapper maybe only a rock fire ring ala Q. They could have a special designation on the maps and on the forums EP map site or something like that ( This is an idea not a fleshed out plan)
I'm not talking chain saws and back hoes but a forest service crew spending a few hours moving a rock or dead tree out of the way to create a 2 man tent opening.
Most of the established camp sites are the only possible sites on the lake already so there would not be more than a hand full of primitive sites spread out over multiple routes.
Last summer was just a start of a new era in the BWCA. We can expect more people this year as well (how can you not fall in love after seeing it the first time?) These sites would do very little to lessen overcrowding but maybe a baby step start


PS: That part about stopping for lunch was a lie, I had to pee, I'm old and only bad things happen when you try to go in a canoe."


What you are describing sounds a lot like the PMA's already set aside.
 
deepdave
member (20)member
 
01/18/2021 03:24AM  
. I visited Englishman's island on saganaga six or seven years ago and all of the little birch trees that were right on the edge of the campsite above the beach were gone. Could be that some yahoo wanted to improve the view, but I think it is more likely they were just too lazy to go across to the other shore to get firewood. It had been our favorite campsite, but we found another one because there was no way to string up the tarps for a wind barrier for the fire grate. Don't give these idiots another justification for cutting trees next to the campsite in addition to the 'we thought it was dead' defense.
 
Stumpy
distinguished member(1585)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/18/2021 04:55AM  
dentondoc: "Let me see if I have this right.


You want go places like BWCAW to enjoy nature and you want to “rearrange” it?


Oh, PLEASE!


dd"


Like that DD
 
tumblehome
distinguished member(1905)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/18/2021 07:31AM  
deepdave: ". I visited Englishman's island on saganaga six or seven years ago and all of the little birch trees that were right on the edge of the campsite above the beach were gone. Could be that some yahoo wanted to improve the view, but I think it is more likely they were just too lazy to go across to the other shore to get firewood. It had been our favorite campsite."

Hey Deepdave. I’m in your camp.

However, all those little cut trees might have been beavers. Could have been a guy with tree loppers too but probably beavers.
Tom
 
01/18/2021 08:47AM  
I've hacked out, built, and improved countless campsites over the decades--all in Canada--and most on canoe routes that rarely see any canoe traffic. That kind of activity is a traditional use of the land, going back to the first humans in North America.

The BWCA is not one of those places, and has to be managed to accommodate a HUGE number of people. The problem on many BWCA sites is too little vegetation, excessive soil compaction, and erosion.

Keeping vegetation in place limits where people walk, set up tents, and otherwise impact the sites.

You actually find campsites built in the BWCA on sites where they would not traditionally occur, because those sites can take more of a beating than, say, a small island or point.
 
Chieflonewatie
senior member (53)senior membersenior member
 
01/18/2021 09:25AM  
We should kill all the beavers.
 
01/18/2021 09:26AM  
Stated my thoughts often on camp "improvement" just want to link 2 more threads current on this page alone, Leave No Trace Video-next year Required
Article on "Fake Bushcrafters Trashing Wilderness

butthead
 
Wallyworld
member (14)member
 
01/18/2021 10:34AM  

NO, Keep Nature, Do not alter. IMO.
 
merlyn
distinguished member (136)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
 
01/19/2021 10:49AM  
I posted earlier about the idea of the forest service making "primitive" two person max campsites in addition to the established campsites ( please read all the post somewhere on this thread) The more I think about it the more I like it. The only down side I see is enforcing the occupancy limits. Yes, it is similar to the PMA camping but on more established routes, no bush whacking. Some of us can't do that anymore and need portage trails.
 
cmanimal
member (27)member
 
01/20/2021 06:08PM  
Its an interesting topic. I can only think of one site where I said I wish it had a view of the lake, but after being there for awhile it really didn't matter.
But with the additional conversations it makes me wonder what dose the FS have for a guideline for those doing maintenance?

If I would be preforming the maintenance I think I would preform it in this order, and manner.
1) A clear path from the landing to the fire ring area, I've certainly paddled by several places where there were supposed to be sites, and bush wacked to find others that didn't have a clear path.
2) A clear path to the latrine. I've seen sites where someone gave up the search.
3) enough space for three tents, ideally these would be dispersed, and not included in the fire ring space, minimizing the cleared space in that part of the site.
4) enough space around the fire ring for a full crew of 9 and some gear, but not much more, this should enable enough trees to get a tarp hung and not put a hole in the forest.

If this cerates nice views fine, if not fine. I usually target sites based on the weather, and take what I find when I'm looking to be done for the day.
 
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