BWCA 2011 Wilderness Challenges #3 (Reservations Please) Boundary Waters Group Forum: Wilderness Challenges
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      2011 Wilderness Challenges #3 (Reservations Please)     



distinguished member(3141)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/31/2011 06:31PM  
This is 3 of 10 Wilderness Challenges I will be posting. The purpose of these is to get feedback on what you would do under these circumstances. I'm not looking for a "Right Answer" I'm looking to see how the many very knowledgeable people here on would react in a time of decision in Canoe Country

Wilderness Challenge #3 “Reservations Please”

Situation: You are traveling in a party of 4 (Combined crew weight of 800 lbs) in two rental Old Town Penobscot 17 foot Royalex Canoes (max load weight of 1100-1150 Lbs). You are carrying 4 large packs, 4 smaller personal packs and misc. fishing gear with a total gear weight of approximately 350 lbs split evenly between the two canoes. You do not have a cell/SAT phone or PLB/SPOT

Additional Situation Information:

•This is Day 2 of a planned 8 Day Trip to the BWCA Park.
•This Trip has been in the planning stage for over 2 years.
•The Crew:
~ Curly: Average Outdoorsman/Canoeist. Trips: 3.
~ Mo: Average Outdoorsman/Canoeist. Trips 3.
~ Larry: Expert Outdoorsman/Canoeist. Trips 40+ many of which were solo.
~ Harry: Rookie Outdoorsman/Canoeist. Trips: First Timer


The Challenge:

You started yesterday at the Mudro Lake Entry Point and camped last night on Horse Lake.

Today you have traveled up the Horse River and are planning on Camping at one of the sites near Lower Basswood Falls.

As you arrive in the area you see most of the sites on the U.S. and Canadian sides are full. You spot one site that appears open. (See Map)

As you land at the site you see a PFD hanging on a tree. Since there is no other gear on the site. It “appears” that someone has forgotten it.

As it’s getting late in the day you immediately proceed to set up your tents and gather fire wood for cooking dinner.

After getting the tents up and the fire going you see two canoes with 4 trippers approaching from the direction of the falls. As the canoe gets closer, one of the guys screams out “Hey You Guys are on our Site!!”

You explain that no one was here and it’s your site!

They state that they left a PFD there to reserve the site while they went fishing and you guys need to “Pack Up and Move On!”

What now?

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01/31/2011 06:55PM  
After they yell "Hey you guys are on our site" I'd warn my group that walleye fisherman are coming and to be prepared for anything;)

This scenario has taught me that if I ever see a PFD in a tree when arriving at an unoccupied campsite to quickly toss it in the water and let it float away before people like this try to explain there idiocy. With out the pdf there story holds no water and if someone simply forgot their pdf when they packed up and left camp that day they wouldn't be coming back at sundown to retrieve it.

distinguished member (136)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/31/2011 07:23PM  
If it was late in the day, I would offer to share the site since the total would be 8 campers. I would not make a whole camp move out over an honest mistake. However, their attitude might change things. I wouldn't want to start a war over a camp site, am not much for tolerating rude behavior
distinguished member(2020)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
01/31/2011 07:31PM  
I've been fortunate in my travels to have never encountered this situation. Am interested in hearing the experience others may have had.

Seems too late in the day to find another campsite. The other party is clearly in the wrong here, but may not be worth going to war over. Invite them in for a nice fire and offer up some food and drink. Maybe their not the a-holes their first impression holds. Might work out.

Then again, if the other party turns belligerent, and if my paddling partners were truly Larry, Curly and Moe, I'd let than have at it...could be fun to watch! They are indestructible, right? :-)
01/31/2011 07:49PM  
Yeah, life jacket in tree doesn't establish possession. Did they have a extra jacket or was someone paddling without a jacket? So they went fishing with all their tents and gear. If they had time to fish they had time to setup some gear, thats a very short paddle froomthe site to falls. Offer them a spot for the night or tell them to move on. Wouldn't take a bunch of crap that is for sure.

Now and then some sites get "reserved" by people leaving a empty tent for the next party in the busy areas.
Savage Voyageur
distinguished member(14421)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished membermaster membermaster member
01/31/2011 07:51PM  
Tent and gear left at the site and it is a taken campsite.

A PFD does not save anything. They come in with their mouths a blazing, Hey you guys are in our site, pack up and move on. I would not invite them in after this. Tell them to move on.
01/31/2011 08:59PM  
Me: "What?"

Them: "That's our site. We left a PFD here earlier."

Me: "What PFD?"

Them: "uh.... ummmmm...... the one we left RIGHT THERE WHERE YOU'RE STANDING!"

Me: "I don't see a PFD here. Did any of you guys see a PFD here?"

Curly: "Nope." Larry: "Uh-uh" Moe: "What's a PFD?"

Them: "oh, crap..."

Me: "Have a nice night!"
01/31/2011 09:54PM  
Have to agree with the masses so far on this one, although I'd go the honest route and not lie about a "non-existent PFD". If there was other gear in camp, a tent set up, something, a bear bag hanging in a tree with all thier food, I'd be more likely to oblige. As others have stated though, the best option may be to offer to share the camp for the night. I am assuming we were only planning to spend one night on the site anyway, so a night of sharing wouldn't hurt. I'd suggest to them that next time they may want to set up camp first, then go fishing. If nothing else you'd want shelter already setup in the event of bad weather moving in fast.
02/01/2011 12:03AM  
With it being late in the day, the tent up, and the fire going there is no way my group will be leaving the site that night. A PFD does not give them possession. If they had any other gear there I would not have taken the site. A PFD hanging in a tree looks like a forgotten item. They have two choices; 1 they can share the site and I would be leery of that because of the tone on their arrival, or 2 they can take their PFD and go on their way in which case I would be leery of them coming back in the middle of the night. The choice would be theirs either way I would be uneasy for the rest of the night.

02/01/2011 06:58AM  
I'm definitely not moving on. How the rest of the confrontation goes, depends on their demeanor. I would not offer to share right away, but if they handle the situation right, we might be willing to spend a night with them. If they are real pushy, angry or rude about it, they'd be moving on.
distinguished member(992)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/01/2011 08:19AM  

Interesting one! First of all, if I saw a PFD hanging in a tree in plain site, my first thought wouldn't necessarily be that someone forgot it. If it was back in the site out of view of others in the water, then I might think it was forgotten. If I felt it was forgotten, I would do what most everyone else would do. I would invite them in or send them on depending upon their attitude. If I felt that it left by someone who was coming back to occupy the site, I would move on.
distinguished member (343)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/01/2011 12:15PM  

Based on the description in the setup, these guys are rude and obnoxious and expect us to move, not share the spot, so my reaction depends on them.

Some of the factors now are: Do they have guns? Are they drunk and crazy? Are they a lot bigger than Larry, Moe and Me?

If it's 4 scrawny teenagers, I tell them to keep going. If it's the Ely 6 on parole with their guns out, I tell them to enjoy the fire we made for them. It's just not worth it to me.

02/01/2011 01:16PM  
quote solotrek: "
Interesting one! First of all, if I saw a PFD hanging in a tree in plain site, my first thought wouldn't necessarily be that someone forgot it. "

Often when someone forgets something (dropped on trail, etc.) someone places it in a conspicuous spot, assuming the owner will be looking for it and making it easier to find.

I "might" think that was the case here - and someone would be coming back looking for the pfd rather than paddle on unprotected.

Guess I agree that I would not leave the site initially. I'd first try to see if they'd back off and take the jacket and move on. I'd explain the "misunderstanding" and hope they paddled off whining.

If they didn't back off, and I really was with three other adults (a first for me), then sharing might be an option and I'd hope they weren't jerks.
02/01/2011 01:21PM  
quote Amok: "Me: "What?"
Them: "That's our site. We left a PFD here earlier."
Me: "What PFD?"
Them: "uh.... ummmmm...... the one we left RIGHT THERE WHERE YOU'RE STANDING!"
Me: "I don't see a PFD here. Did any of you guys see a PFD here?"
Curly: "Nope." Larry: "Uh-uh" Moe: "What's a PFD?"
Them: "oh, crap..."
Me: "Have a nice night!""

PFD's on first!!
02/01/2011 05:34PM  
Politely inform them that they are more then welcome to join us for the night. Also, see as though my groups are now 100% hammock tents, they can take any of the tent pads they would like.

If they become nasty or belligerent, then I would calmly leave the site, and paddle on down the shore (US Side) and pull the canoes deep into the woods and set up camp there, provided we could not find another open site before it becomes too dark. If the ranger ever did find us, I'd just explain he situation and hope they would understand.

Just as a side point, I've been in a situation where the distance between sites in the BWCA was a full day haul, and the was made longer by low water, difficult to find portages (low water and little used area) and dozens of beaver days. Needless to say we did not make the next site before dark and spent the night sleeping (sort of) in the canoe in the middle of a boggy river. Not a fun night, but it's what needed to be done. Then next day we just grabbed the first site we found and took the rest of the day off.

With the hammock tent arrangement, there are very few places I can't get a place to sleep and virtually leave zero trace of my stay. With the above exception, we have always stayed at a site, but not necessarily on the tent pads.
member (30)member
02/01/2011 06:12PM  

This is a tough one. The first thing is to try to keep calm. I would try to politely explain to these guys that leaving a single PFD on the site does not reserve it, at least not by anyone I've talked to. Get your cameras clicking, get pictures of their faces, and their canoes. Try to get them talking. Offer to share the site for one night. If they threaten violence, I guess I would leave. It's just not worth it. In that case, their pictures get turned in first chance.

I realize that nothing is likely to happen to these guys as a result of reporting them to the rangers, but it's all you can do.

02/01/2011 08:43PM  
I say that there is no way that a solitary pfd holds a site. Since there is 4 of them and 4 of us, we can share the site for tonight. Especially if we were planning to move out the next day anyway. If they won't share then they can move on.

I'd be happy to give them the pfd.

This could get ugly. Personally, I trip with 7 others (8 total). All adult males. I would suspect it is unlikely that anyone would want to mess with us.
02/02/2011 09:55AM  
A PFD ornament does not establish ownership. Period.

I did encounter something similar to this once up on Knife - I saw the flag, assumed it was an attempt to reserve the site and I moved on, not wanting such a discussion. This is the dismay of my friends who were utterly gassed at this point and would have camped anywhere.

In this particular case I'd offer to share the site, I would not break down my camp to accomodate them.
senior member (61)senior membersenior member
02/02/2011 05:32PM  
I guess it really depends on my mood and my partners. If I was feeling generous, I might just pack up, push hard and take the next day off. It is not worth the confrontation. I would simply just tell them that in the future to set up camp BEFORE going fishing. Besides the best time to fish is at dusk anyways.

On the other hand, if I refused to give up the site I would unlikely offer to share the site if they were rude.
distinguished member(1382)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/02/2011 10:26PM  
Wow...I did the exact same route and camped at the same campsite last year! There was no pfd in campsite upon arrival! My first inclination is some one forgot it. If you want to reserve , set your tent up. (duh)But I am going to try and diffuse situation and have them camp with us. It's gonna be tight with 8 people though, that site is good for it if all are compatible...if not, well, its going to be an interesting night. I will assume that all other sites are filled cuz this one is okay while all the others are much better. I would hope they calm down a bit and come to senses. There is another campsite that you can easily walk to in a minutes time if things start to get ugly .. I would hate to drag other people into this mess.... but... a third opinion might help if it got to that point. I am just thinking where exactly do you expect them to camp around there if all sites are filled? Are they passing through or are they planning to stay for another day?? It is late in the day...if the shoe where on the other foot.... I guess it would be my fault for not leaving more. Besides, who wants to fish around the falls with loaded canoes??
distinguished member(7231)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberpower member
02/02/2011 11:56PM  
A pfd in a tree doesn't establish ownership of a site. If there would have been a couple packs laying around or a hung food pack it would be different. I'm with chilly on this one. Toss the pfd in the lake.
02/03/2011 10:30AM  
Tell them there's a ranger cabin in the bay, they could go ask for an official opinion.

02/03/2011 10:33AM  
ask how the fishing was and offer to share the site

BTW you are not in a BWCA park; you are in the BWCA wilderness area.

On a side note; we were once on a campsite with a wonderful jumping cliff. In mid day a group of teens came over, didn't say anything to us; walked right through our campsite and started jumping off the cliff right in front of us. If it was just me I would have done nothing as I HATE confrontation. But our friend found there group leader, explained we had small kids around camp and nicely asked them to leave; to which they did.
02/03/2011 04:39PM  
I think I would quickly assess the situation: are they drunk? Are they carrying holsters or sheaths? Do they appear violent or unruly? What is their tone of voice like? Are all of them visibly upset or just one of them? And are they going to land their canoes at our site?

I would try to be clear and calm with them. Explain that we found the pfd and assumed that someone had lost it at the site. I would explain that hanging pfd at a site doesn't express ownership of that site in any sort of way. An acceptable way would to claim one would be to set up a tent or leave some packs there or something more than a single item that looks left behind. Hell, a note left with the pfd would have sufficed.

Depending on their attitude at this point, I feel I have three options: watch them paddle away with their pfd and wish them luck finding a site, allow them to share the site with us, or ask them to wait in their canoes until our group could pack up and go. Packing up and leaving is my last option but if they are drunk, violent, armed or continue to insist that this is their site and 'we' can't share it with them, I will move. This would suck but I definitely don't need a violent confrontation in the middle of the wilderness. I will find our group an open enough area where we can spend the night if no other sites are available, and I will pack up at first light the next day.

If things are getting violent, and there is no way to calm the situation I wouldn't hesitate a second to pull my sheath knife out and use it. Better them than me or my friends.
02/05/2011 10:28AM  
OK, I'm attempting to respond without being influenced by the previous posts.

I arrive at camp and see the PFD. Like others, I would figure it was forgotten and I would check to see if it was labeled, and then put it with my gear waiting for someone to claim it. If not claimed, I would plan to leave it when I left. When confronted by the fishermen, I'd ask if they could identify said PFD which was now out of sight. If they positively ID the PFD, I return it to them and explain that leaving such does not "reserve" a campsite, but we would be willing to accommodate them for the night. If they can't ID the PFD, I'd say we never saw any such PFD and tell them to either share the site or move on. If they become belligerent and insist we leave, I'd refuse and calmly challenge them to make us leave while picking up a good sized chunk rock. I'd also tell my fellow stooges that these boys want to rumble so grab a weapon. If they pull guns, I still wouldn't back down. I'd rather get my ass whipped than cave to a bunch of bullies.
senior member (95)senior membersenior member
02/07/2011 12:26PM  
Slight wave of the hand... "This is not the campsite you're looking for..." Next question please...

No, seriously. I take 2 minutes to size up the situation and the individuals. If they really want to be jerks about it I pack up and move on. I don't take a week of hard earned vacation, drive 14 hours, and paddle away from civilization just to spend an uncomfortable evening with a crew of people like them.
02/07/2011 04:48PM  
Haven't read any other replies....
(We deal with this issue every winter in Chicago where people think that an old chair or sawhorse placed in a parking spot on the street gives them title to that spot.)

We are not going to pack up and move anywhere. There is no “dibs” in the BWCA. If you take a campsite, you set up your gear, and establish yourself there, i.e. you CAMP at the site. Leaving a PFD is simply insufficient to occupy a campsite. I would give them the PFD and say Sorry, but this is our campsite. One would expect that the late arrivers have all their gear in their canoes since you found no other gear at the site. That is just further indication that the site was not claimed. It also makes it easier for them to keep moving and find another campsite.

The scenario does not indicate the size of the site, but a few sites can accommodate two parties of 4. You might offer to share the site, since you know there are no other sites available. If everyone is OK with that then the problem is solved. Hopefully, they will consider their options and leave to find another site.
02/08/2011 12:21PM  
So it seems pretty much unanimous that a PFD does not claim a campsite.
I did begin to write in my original post that we might offer to share "If the folks seem like OK people, then we might offer to share." It seems many of you share that opinion. I also assumed the party would be spending only 1 night, so sharing wouldn't be that big a problem.
A visit to the ranger cabin is a good alternative in this case. Surely the ranger could resolve the issue, if needed. I really would not look for a fight and would try to resolve the issue without conflict.
02/08/2011 09:32PM  
Curious if anyone would change their answer if it was a pack (or 2) sitting there, unopened.
02/09/2011 07:15AM  
I would not have stopped if a pack or 2 were in plain sight.
02/09/2011 08:22AM  
quote BWPaddler: "Curious if anyone would change their answer if it was a pack (or 2) sitting there, unopened."

I would have kept moving, but I'm certain SOMEone passing by would have perused the packs and possibly taken a few things ...
distinguished member(992)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/09/2011 08:31AM  
quote canoe212: "I would not have stopped if a pack or 2 were in plain sight."

02/09/2011 10:45AM  
Agree with above, a PFD does not hold or reserve, as it could so easily be forgotten.

However, two packs, I would keep on paddling as that is to much to forget, IMO. Someone should be back.
02/09/2011 11:17AM  
I agree. Two packs demonstrates an intent to claim the site. That establishes quasi seisin, as we lawyer types might say.
02/09/2011 02:08PM  
For the record, I wouldn't stop either if the packs were there.
02/09/2011 02:15PM  
Seem the lesson is if you arrive at a campsite and wish to stay there - set up camp before you head out fishing.

Anyhow fishing out of a canoe packed with gear can be a hassle anyhow. :-)

distinguished member (247)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
02/11/2011 06:14PM  
I would offer to share if they were not too rude, but most likely i would tell them to move on and find there own campsite this one is taken.
02/14/2011 09:10PM  
I have seen groups reserve sites before and I would have to say that when you are spent and in need of rest, blood can boil. I have and will continue to pass up the argument with these types of people. "BUT" this situation I would first see what their attitudes are like. If they can not learn a lesson from their mistake and swallow their pride I would ask them to move on. If they understand how we came to this situation and that we had no ill intent, I would ask them to stay.

I can respect those that would not risk the confrontation with these "Bullies", but I can assure you my "Larry" and I have the "High Ground" and We Will Not Be Leaving. There is "Right" and "Wrong" and far be it for Larry and I to pass up the chance to educate someone on these. I look at this way....Maybe if we educate them, it will be less problems for others in the future. May just add to the adventure........
distinguished member(1722)distinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished memberdistinguished member
03/08/2012 11:01AM  
I haven't read the other responses. Here are my thoughts...

First, I usually trip with my family. But this time ,we're just 4 guys. That makes things a bit different.

I'd try to be calm and make friends. I'd state that we assumed the PFD was left by the the last group. We're already set up and it is getting late. I'd offer to have them join us (I don't really care about the max-group size regulation. This was not intentional.)

If they're really a$4s and insist that we leave. I'd probably turn into a similar a$$ and insist they move on. I hope the other 3 guys in group a really big...
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