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stranger
12-04-2002, 19:18
This is a touchy issue...as expected and I can understand why. Being a former "shelter rat" I do see the ease and importance of shelters at the end of a 20 mile rainy day, but since my last section hike now take a different stance. Shelters are becoming severly overcrowded and turning into cluster spots for long distance hikers. Maybe it's time we start to dismantle shelters, this would encourage stealth camping and lessen the impact in any one area. This would also make the trail more wild and challenging, and would provide a more unique experience for the long distance hiker. I disagree with building huge (Peters Mtn) shelters to accomodate everyone...if we got rid of some shelters maybe people would spread out a little more along the trail. Just a suggestion.

Lone Wolf
12-04-2002, 19:37
Abolish shelters? Hell yeah! I never use the damn things. REAL backpackers don't need em. Of course there ain't many BACKPACKERS anymore. Mostly GO-LITE HIKERS.

mntman777
12-04-2002, 19:49
Here Here,

Real backpackers don't use shelters. Lets take em down.:D

Jack Tarlin
12-04-2002, 19:58
There are a couple of sides to this. While I personally shun them myself, the fact is, a lot of folks gravitate to them, and also gravitate to the spots where they are sited, as there is almost always good camping and good water at shelter sites.
Tearing down the shelters would force a lot of folks to carve out new campsites all over the trail, and not only at shelter sites. The new campsites would spring up all over the place, including many places where people simply shouldn't camp. For example, the main reason that there are so many campsites between Catawba and Troutville, Virginia is partly cuz this is a such a high-use area, but it's also to discourage folks from camping at such places as McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliff.
Another consideration is that not everyone in the woods is as savvy, or theoretically savvy as thru-hikers when it comes to responsible behavior, Leave No Trace Principles, etc. If the shelters were removed, it doesn't mean folks would stop using the Trail for hiking/camping trips. It merely means they'd be tenting or tarping all over the place, and not always responsibly---instead of, for example, all of them crapping in one place, they'd be poohing indiscrimately all over creation; instead of having one fire pit, hundreds of new campsites would result in hundreds of new fires, with resultant damage and risk. Also, as it's safe to assume that there will always be a certain percentage of folks who DON'T behave responsibly, and leave garbage behind, it's better that they do so at shelters which tend to be closer to roads, and are subject to periodic inspection, cleaning, and maintenance, whether by ridgerunners or volunteer trail crews. In short, centralizing end-of-day locations, and having established campsites and shelters probably results in damage being centralized and easier to police, and it prevents people doing all sorts of other damage in newly established campsites.

To sum up: I absolutely feel folks are better off avoiding shelters for lots of reasons, but I think it'd be a mistake to get rid of them.

Lone Wolf
12-04-2002, 20:01
Right on mntman777! I'm tired of those 18.4lb. pack wearin, non stove carryin, hot water moochin, tennis shoe wearin, non tent carryin, ounce coutin, hydration system usin, 23.2 mile a day HIKIN, cell phone carryin, skinny-ass, umbrella usin, needin to get to a shelter, whinin wannabe BACKPACKER, HIKERS!

Hammock Hanger
12-04-2002, 20:03
Large groups will still want to camp near each other and then they will MAKE their own site, the next group or so will make their own site, etc... Instead of one overused trashed spot, you will have hundreds. Leave the shelters. That leaves some real beauty spots for those of us willing to seek them out. Remember if you do not stay at shelters or established sites, LNT. Though I have used shelters on occasions, I prefer two solitary trees. I slept on the side of a cliff (almost) once. Was FANTASTIC!!! Hammock Hanger

stranger
12-04-2002, 23:25
Good point Jack...I guess that's why the PCT, CDT, and CT are such ugly and bland trails. Human fecies and fire rings everywhere, villages of tarps and tents for hundreds of miles. Just kidding, I see your point...It's probably the location of the trail that makes over-use a problem, who know?

DebW
12-05-2002, 09:20
Don't forget that in many places the trail corridor is only a few 100 feet wide, and thus stealth camping may result in hikers camping on private land. This would quickly erode local support for the trail. Please pay attention to local regulations and camp at designated areas where required to do so. And of course, LNT at shelters or backcountry sites.

Peaks
12-05-2002, 09:30
As always a good post by Jack.

Just to supplement what he said:

First, the whole idea of Leave No Trace is how to minimize the impact. So, will there be less impact if people are concentrated at and around shelters and tent sites, or disbursed along the entire trail? Back in the 1970's, Shenandoah National Park tried to do away with staying in and around shelters. Now they have reversed these regulations. So, I suspect that shelters minimize the overall impact by concentrating the impact at and around shelters.

Second, as Dave Field correctly points out, thru-hikers are a critical minority. Most people who use the trail are weekenders. So, the trail needs to accomodate them much more than us thru-hikers.

Finally, if you have strong opinions on this, get involved with the ATC and the maintaining clubs. That's where you can make a difference.

chris
12-05-2002, 09:52
I personally like the shelters and stay in them whenever I can. I like not having to throw up a tent or a tarp at the end of the day. I like being able to hike (mostly) alone during the day and roll into a shelter with some friendly people in it. Conversation is usually good and provides a change from my day, which is spent in contemplation and thought. For me, the shelters make life convenient and pleasant, but are rustic enough not to detract from the experience. Perhaps the AMC huts are a bit overdone. From a practical point of view, I think shelters make sense, for all the reasons Jack spelled out in his post. In short, I think the shelters add a lot to the experience. But, this is a personal opinion and, as it seems from this thread, is in the minority.

Kerosene
12-05-2002, 14:46
I have tended to rely on lean-tos for shelter on my section hikes. I expect that I will still use them as destination points for cooking meals, getting water, using the latrine and reading the register, but now I'm just as likely to move on after dinner to hang my comfy hammock down the trail if it's not too wet or cold. If you're going to bring a portable shelter anyway, then you might as well use it. Plus, even with a Therma-Rest pad those shelter floors get pretty hard.

Jack Tarlin
12-05-2002, 16:12
Peaks raised an excellent point, and I'm sorry I failed to include it in my post. Thru-hikers and other long-distance trekkers frequently forget that they represent a miniscule fraction of the 3 to 4 million folks that use the A.T. each year, and most of these folks may not be as comfortable with creating, or even prepared to create their own campsite; in short, many folks depend on the shelters, and rely on them until they get to the point where they feel secure and happy about camping elsewhere.

Something else to consider---every person who crashes in a shelter or stays adjacent to one is NOT going to be pitched ten feet from you when you discover that beautiful overlook, waterfall, secluded pond, or wherever you elect to make camp for the night. Instead of wishing the shelters away, we should be happy that they're there---every hiker who stays in or near one is one fewer hiker you'll have to share a spot with when you want some time to enjoy a beautiful spot with nobody's company but your own.

Peaks
12-05-2002, 17:36
Probably both Jack and myself have been hiking long enough to see a trend in shelter locations.

Shelters used to be right on the trail, such that you walked right between the front of the trail and the fire pit. However, during the last decade or longer, the trail has been relocated away from most shelters. Most shelters now are on a side trail off the main trail. And shelters that were right on ponds have been removed and replaced with shelters that are further away from ponds and lakes. Two that come to mind real quick is at Stratton Pond in Vermont, where the shelter used to be right on the shoreline, and Little Rock Pond, where the shelter was on a small island. Very senic.

prozac
12-07-2002, 10:35
I have to go along with Chris on this one. I spend about 80% of my nights either in or camped by a shelter. While I enjoy The solitude of hiking alone all day, I usually enjoy the people I meeet at shelters each night. Two years ago I shared dinner at a NY shelter with a Royal Marine from England, a young woman from Austalia, a 60 yo man from Ga, nice guy from Maine, and a Romanian exchange student if memory serves correct. In what other circumstances would I have had the oppurtunity to enjoy the company of such a varied group. Some of my best memories of the trail have come from the people I have met and the friendships I have made over the years. Prozac

Bandana Man
12-14-2002, 15:24
The question was whether dismantling shelters would spread out people along the trail and reduce overcrowding at shelter areas. I agree with Jack, Peaks, HH and others who (guys, I hope I'm accurately summarizing your views) believe that removing shelters probably would have a much different effect -- trail damage now concentrated in shelter areas would just spread out to areas that need to be protected. So, to protect the AT, shelters are a necessary evil.
However, I wonder if shelters still should be dismantled and designated "camping zones" established instead. Small signs along the trail would designate the beginning and ending of a zone. Camping anywhere in a zone would be permissable, but camping outside the zone would not be. This would still concentrate hikers together at night for the companionship some seek and areas that need protection would still be off limits.
I also wonder if the AT is becoming a victim of it's own success. So many people use it that they are causing damage. The only way to prevent the damage is place limits on the hikers, but that cuts the amount of support the AT receives from hikers now denied its use. A vicious circle...Would removing shelters help preserve the AT from overuse by casual hikers while still satisfying enough hard-core hikers to maintain their support?
I'm not sure which is in the best long-term interests of preserving the AT for future generations, and that point would be critical for me when making up my mind. Just my ramblings...

psuruns10
12-24-2002, 14:08
last spring i spent 100 plus miles continueous on the Mid state trail in central PA. it runs from Maryland to the Pennsylvania Grand Canyon. it was a beautiful experiance being on teh trail with only going through one real town. there were no other hikers on the trail. saw more bears than other hikers. I will take that over my beloved AT in PA any day. Looking by the trail registries we did the longest hike on it in over 2 plus years.

randy

smokymtnsteve
01-01-2003, 16:17
one example of a shelter being dismantled is Birch Spring Gap in the smokies..the old shelter has been taken down and the surrouding area is the designated camping area...according to park reg you have to camp in this area or move on to the next shelter (mollies ridge)..IMO the area is in worse shape now(not that the ole bitch springs shelter was great)...the area is a maze of trails and tent pads..looks like a bomb hit it..of course park regs. disallow dispersed camping along the trail..which causes even more concentration in this area..

I guess that most spring time NB thru hikers don't stay at Birch spring anyway as it is so close to fontana..but heading southbound off the top of the ridge in the fall there is a great sunset coming off Doe Knob and then Night hike into the "HOLE" as we used to call it for the night....and then an early moring at shuckstack tower and the light and view of the fontana basin in glorious fall color ...WALKING INTO AUTUMN as great as walking with the spring.

2Questions
01-19-2003, 14:06
I've been hiking since the mid 70's and have enjoyed leading various groups on week long excursions...some trails, some by compass, some just camping only with limited backpacking. Shelters provide a opportunity for some to "get out" and see what outdoors living is all about. Some will never be "backpackers" as I like to be, but some have over the years gained experience and are now into adventures I never imagined. The Trail life is always expanding and changing to fit the desires of those who use it...let's not not be so short-sighted to only see our own concept of backpacking....we all started at a level below where we are now. "Hike your own hike" can be defined and I might add, worthily judged, only by the participant. Let's help everyone to get out more often, help them gain knowledge, and watch them enjoy the experiences we enjoy. Shelters provide that for some.

SGT Rock
01-19-2003, 14:14
If you don't like shleters, then stay away from them it is a free country.

I figure a shelter is like an adult movie or a porn site. A lot of people don't want to see it, so they exercise their freedom not to. But there are those that do. Well let them. As nasty as a trail shelter can get, you guys might be amazed how fast nature can reclaim the site after hikers stop using it. Sure you can see the impact on some of the overused sies, but is transitory in the big scheme of things. Ever see what happans to an abandoned house in the woods after about 10 years? You can hardley tell it was even there most times.

But just like an adult movie, people say they hate them but still keep going. As many hikers say they don't go near shelters, most still use them as a place to duck out of the rain at lunch, or to catch up on trail gossip at the register.

Leave them up, ignor them if you don't like them. Overuse is relative if you have ever been to a European forest.

Now as for roads - lets start blocking some of them into the back country!

Peaks
01-19-2003, 17:12
Like someone once said, shelters look real good on a damp, cold, rainy day. So, until you have been in that situation, don't even suggest that shelters be abandoned.

smokymtnsteve
01-19-2003, 17:49
wilderness has "always" had cabins and habitations ...or you built your own,,cut down some trees and built a cabin...READ Jack London

Indian camps,,,,, never in the history of the USA and not for thousands of years before the USA has thier ever been pristine wilderness...why you can find artifacts of these past inhabitants...a lot of the time it is thier garbage that we find..pottery shards and other broken discarded items they just threw all thier garbage in a heap ...moving from cabin to cabin is a time honored way of "wilderness"travel ...

lumber camps ..trapping camps..herders camps..hunting camps lodges...read Horace Kephart..

shelters are here to stay.....they always been there and always will anything else is artifically unnatural...aberrant behavior

chris
01-20-2003, 14:15
I've been in pristine wilderness in North America. That means that no other humans, ever. Not hard to find, just hard to get to.

Mountain climber
11-06-2003, 16:01
While I have never stayed in a shelter myself, I have found this thread interesting reading.

MOWGLI
11-06-2003, 16:26
Another twist on this subject. Do the exploits of long distance backpackers, and more specifically, AT thru-hikers, lead to overcrowding and overuse of the AT? There are so many trails out there. Why is the AT so darn popular? Is it the romantic notion of heading off into the woods for a 2170+ mile walk? As I'm sure many of you are aware, that idea is VERY appealing to a large segment of society, wiith most folks saying "well, I could never do that...".

So, I ask you, why this fascination with the AT? It's just another trail, isn't it?

Little Bear
GA-ME 2000

Lone Wolf
11-06-2003, 17:14
Marketing. Books, magazines, videos, television.

Mountain climber
11-06-2003, 17:49
When I was in my teens my mother read something about Granny Gatewood in the paper and after reading about it she thought I would be a good one to consider hiking the trail. That was 35 years ago and I have always had the trail in the back of my mind. I hope that when I retire I will still be healthy enough to do a NOBO thru-hike. :)
To answer your question. This was the first long distance trail in the USA and now it is also the most famous. Because of being the original long distance trail it makes the trip that much more rewarding.
There are always those that after completing the AT they go on and try for the Triple Crown. But the AT will always be the trail that most long distance trail hikers strive to do.

Peaks
11-06-2003, 17:51
To quote Dave Field, thru-hikers are a "critical minority" on the AT.

If there is overuse, it's the weekenders, and in some cases, the day trippers. Stand on top of Washington over Columbus Day Weekend and figure out the ratio of thru-hikers to others.

Lone Wolf
11-06-2003, 17:55
Vermont's Long Trail is the oldest continuous hiking trail in U.S., not the AT.

Alligator
11-06-2003, 18:08
The AT is older than the other long distance trails and complete. It's also easier. Both translate into many more people finishing and spreading the word. Population density is high around the trail, so there are many users.

Weeknd
11-07-2003, 11:58
Originally posted by TNJED
So, I ask you, why this fascination with the AT? It's just another trail, isn't it?
Little Bear
GA-ME 2000 [/B]

Well, I have to weigh in on this one. The AT is not just another trail to some of us. I believe that is what you were implying anyway, but I feel compelled to answer your question.

The AT for me is the ultimate trail. Its the first trail I ever took a multiday trip on. Its a trail that I have returned to over decades and the excitement, thrill and wonder haven't faded. It never feels old even though I've been to the same parts several times over many years. I have a dream of one day hiking the whole thing. It's been in my mind from when I was a young scout hiking up Standing Indian for the first time....It is hard to explain, but the AT is a marvelous "place"...an adventure every step and a wonder on every hilltop. (And I've only hiked it in the south, I'm saving the north and K for the big hike one day :D )

As for shelters, there are some wonderful comments. I say keep 'em. I've never personally stayed in one either because of crowding or I wanted to camp somewhere else. But I do like stopping at them and have enjoyed the company of some interesting folks around them. I think that they concentrate the impact. One group of people camped in a location can do a lot of damage if they don't practice LNT.:(

Spirit Walker
11-07-2003, 12:40
One thought - the overuse on the AT is in part because of the shelters. A lot of folks who are not comfortable with camping or living outdorrs or who may be not equipped to camp go to the AT because the shelters make it seem more civilized and less threatening to those who have little experience. You aren't sleeping in the woods, you are goign to a nice protected little house with lots of other people where you won't get wet and you won't have to worry about wild animals (except mice and skunks), etc. I like the idea of developed campsites, where there is an outhouse and tent pads, but you have to be prepared to sleep out and deal with nature directly. It would cut down on numbers a lot. And it would prepare people better for hiking other trails that aren't as civilized. But at the same time it would concentrate use and reduce impact. But chances are it would lead to requiring people to camp in designated areas, which would not be good for those of us who like to have some flexibility as to where we camp.

Oh well, there are a lot of other trails, thanks be.

Doctari
11-08-2003, 09:07
I am so torn on this. Tearing down some (like the hole in the smokies) seem a good Idea at the time, but the reports I have heard about the area now suggest that may have not been such a great thing to do.
I use the shelters, but on a limited basis for several reasons: I snore, others snore, I get up very early some times, etc. But there are many times when the sight of a sturdy shelter to spend the night in makes my day.
My usual MO is to have dinner at the shelter, then hike another mile or so & set up the tent. So I get the best of both worlds: companionship, a nice place to cook din din that is (usually) near water, a chance to use the privy, then I get to camp at my own private camp site. I am not a Ultra lighter, so my tent is good to sleep in anytime. I don't NEED the shelters, I just like them. On my second secton hike, had the brown fork shelter not been there I would have been in serious trouble due to Hypothermia, but There was a place with other hikers, and I didn't have to set up my tent which would have been nearly impossible in my condition, I barely maneged to get out my sleeping bag & into it, with help.
Also: I agree with most of the other comments, both pro and con. But when it comes down to it, I guess my vote is: Leave the shelters, they do serve a purpose and to remove them may cause more harm than good.

Doctari.

Peaks
11-08-2003, 16:51
In the event you have not noticed, many shelters today are no longer right on the AT. In some cases, the trail has been relocated around the shelters. In other cases, the shelters have been built down a short side trail. I assume all to discourage day use of shelters.

In addition, the shelters that used to be very close to roads have been removed and replaced with shelters that are further away from the roads.

TedB
11-08-2003, 19:04
I say keep the shelters for what they contribute to the trail experience.

Shelters can make for strange bed fellows. One cold rainy night I arrived at a shelter with a group of "hood's in the woods" (anyone know the PC term?). I got to hear all about life in juvenile detention centers. Sound like a rough night? Not at all. They were an outstanding group. I could really tell the leaders were making a difference in these kids' lives. They were amazed to hear I had walked there from Georgia, and one girl declared she too was going to hike the AT some day.

Quite, restful nights in secluded campsites are great, but I'll remember that crowded night in a shelter as one of the more memorable experiences I take home from my hike.

Kerosene
11-08-2003, 19:39
I ended up staying with two such groups (educational rehabilitation?) from the same institution on my trip last month. The first group was younger, SOBO, rolled in well after dark and were so exhausted that they just set up their tents and went to sleep. I left before most of them awoke, but their counselors were nice.

The very next night I stayed with the older, NOBO kids from this "academy" who were extremely well behaved. I got on fine with their counselors who even told me how to get into their unlocked van at a later road crossing so I could raid their extra food that was on ice (Mmmm...bagels and cream cheese!).

I tend to make use of shelters during my fall section hikes since they're usually not too crowded. My biggest frustration is with heavy snorers that are able to punch through my earplugs.

Skyline
11-09-2003, 11:14
Tear 'em down? Bad idea IMO. It's far better to CONCENTRATE use and leave the majority of the Trail undisturbed than to encourage scores of campsites/fire rings/piles of crap. Didn't mean to step on Jack's thoughts, only reinforce them.

I approach this from a unique perspective, as an overseer of a shelter in SNP. They are a good thing for many hikers, tho I don't stay in them--not even my own. I prefer to tent.

IMO shelters should have not only a modest shelter structure but also:

•at least one privy
•a place to cook/eat separate from the sleeping area
•a method to keep food separate from the shelter (bear pole, pulley system, bear box, etc.) and NO mouse hangers in the shelter itself
•a firepit near the shelter
•a second firepit away from the shelter
•enough hardened/identifiable tentsites to accommodate most peak crowds

If someone dislikes shelters, at MOST places along the A.T. they don't HAVE to stay in them. But having the ability to "primitive-camp" while at the same time having access to privies, firepits, cooking areas, etc. not TOO far away is desirable from a trail management point of view, and as a convenience for hikers.

Of the amenities listed above, I am mostly a proponent of developing more and ample tentsites within a couple hundred yards of shelters--enough to accommodate peak crowds. I don't think the answer is in building bigger mega-shelters, but in developing more and better tentsites nearby but not right next door. And if these shelters/tentsite groupings were not RIGHT on the Trail, and definitely not that close to road crossings, it would be ideal.

By "developing" tentsites, I mean making each desirable and easy to use, while being easy to find even in high summer. Sloped ever so slightly so your head is a little higher than your feet. Level left to right. As free as possible of rocks that impede tent stakes. Void of dead or leaning trees or loose branches that could come crashing down on campers. Water/erosion control systems appropriate to each site. A mix of small and large sites to accommodate different types and sizes of tents or tarps. A couple additional sites that might be best suited for hammocks.

(BTW I am not promoting the idea that any authority should LIMIT tenting to such improved, designated tentsites. Camping in true primitive settings far away from shelters, if done with LNT in mind, is very cool. I'm only saying that in lieu of mega-shelters or more shelters, tentsites nearby are a better idea.)

As we are finding at Pass Mt. Hut in Shenandoah, bringing the tentsites established by the Park in 2000 up to the aforementioned standards is a LOT of hard work--especially getting them level left to right and removing all those rocks just below the soil (start digging and they seem to multiply like rabbits!). But well worth it IMO. Of the eight we have sited, two are now up to par and we're working on a third. Over time, they all should be very user-friendly.

cabalot
11-09-2003, 22:48
i wish the rangers or local authorities would stop in at these shelters that are close to roads and have become party spots for the local teenagers that leave the shelters trashed and urinated on.
i have fishing liscences in 4 states and have never been checked. every day i see A-holes keeping every undersized 4" fish they catch. we need some enforsement to deter this crap.

Kozmic Zian
02-08-2004, 12:06
Right on mntman777! I'm tired of those 18.4lb. pack wearin, non stove carryin, hot water moochin, tennis shoe wearin, non tent carryin, ounce coutin, hydration system usin, 23.2 mile a day HIKIN, cell phone carryin, skinny-ass, umbrella usin, needin to get to a shelter, whinin wannabe BACKPACKER, HIKERS!

Choices.............

Lone Wolf
02-08-2004, 12:23
Yes choices....... and a sense of humor :jump

MOWGLI
02-08-2004, 12:35
The AT for me is the ultimate trail. Its the first trail I ever took a multiday trip on. Its a trail that I have returned to over decades and the excitement, thrill and wonder haven't faded. It never feels old even though I've been to the same parts several times over many years.

I would highly recommend that some of you who have hiked the AT, or who intend to hike the AT, hike a long distance trail that does not have any shelters. What do I mean by long distance trail? Any trail that takes 5 or more days to complete. After all, an AT thru-hike is just a series of 3-5 day section hikes, all strung together.

Yesterday while helping to build the Benton Mackaye Trail extension in Eastern Tennessee, the VP of the Benton MacKaye Trail Assoc told me that they have no intention of building any more shelters on their trail. In 2005 when the trail extension is complete, this 180+ mile trail will have only one shelter. That shelter is located in a residential community, and is about 200 yards from a road.

Hiking a trail with no shelters forces you to hone your camping/backpacking skills, and increases the need for Leave-No-Trace practices. It also changes the backpacking experience radically.

I encouraged the BMTA to consider designating some camping areas. There are few designated camping areas today. That will need to change when the trail is contiguous between Springer Mountain and Davenport Gap in Great Smoky Mountain NP, as the trail will undoubtedly become more attractive to long distance hikers.

Kozmic Zian
02-08-2004, 12:47
Tear 'em down? Bad idea IMO. It's far better to CONCENTRATE use and leave the majority of the Trail undisturbed than to encourage scores of campsites/fire rings/piles of crap. Didn't mean to step on Jack's thoughts, only reinforce them.

I approach this from a unique perspective, as an overseer of a shelter in SNP. They are a good thing for many hikers, tho I don't stay in them--not even my own. I prefer to tent.

IMO shelters should have not only a modest shelter structure but also:

病t least one privy
病 place to cook/eat separate from the sleeping area
病 method to keep food separate from the shelter (bear pole, pulley system, bear box, etc.) and NO mouse hangers in the shelter itself
病 firepit near the shelter
病 second firepit away from the shelter
鋲nough hardened/identifiable tentsites to accommodate most peak crowds

If someone dislikes shelters, at MOST places along the A.T. they don't HAVE to stay in them. But having the ability to "primitive-camp" while at the same time having access to privies, firepits, cooking areas, etc. not TOO far away is desirable from a trail management point of view, and as a convenience for hikers.

Of the amenities listed above, I am mostly a proponent of developing more and ample tentsites within a couple hundred yards of shelters--enough to accommodate peak crowds. I don't think the answer is in building bigger mega-shelters, but in developing more and better tentsites nearby but not right next door. And if these shelters/tentsite groupings were not RIGHT on the Trail, and definitely not that close to road crossings, it would be ideal.

By "developing" tentsites, I mean making each desirable and easy to use, while being easy to find even in high summer. Sloped ever so slightly so your head is a little higher than your feet. Level left to right. As free as possible of rocks that impede tent stakes. Void of dead or leaning trees or loose branches that could come crashing down on campers. Water/erosion control systems appropriate to each site. A mix of small and large sites to accommodate different types and sizes of tents or tarps. A couple additional sites that might be best suited for hammocks.

(BTW I am not promoting the idea that any authority should LIMIT tenting to such improved, designated tentsites. Camping in true primitive settings far away from shelters, if done with LNT in mind, is very cool. I'm only saying that in lieu of mega-shelters or more shelters, tentsites nearby are a better idea.)

As we are finding at Pass Mt. Hut in Shenandoah, bringing the tentsites established by the Park in 2000 up to the aforementioned standards is a LOT of hard work--especially getting them level left to right and removing all those rocks just below the soil (start digging and they seem to multiply like rabbits!). But well worth it IMO. Of the eight we have sited, two are now up to par and we're working on a third. Over time, they all should be very user-friendly.


Thank you Mr. Maintainer for the vision on Shelter Necessities and tenting sites. It's easy to see, if one goes buy this maintainers shelter, he know's what he's talkin' about.

Kozmic Zian
02-08-2004, 12:49
There are a couple of sides to this. While I personally shun them myself, the fact is, a lot of folks gravitate to them, and also gravitate to the spots where they are sited, as there is almost always good camping and good water at shelter sites.
Tearing down the shelters would force a lot of folks to carve out new campsites all over the trail, and not only at shelter sites. The new campsites would spring up all over the place, including many places where people simply shouldn't camp. For example, the main reason that there are so many campsites between Catawba and Troutville, Virginia is partly cuz this is a such a high-use area, but it's also to discourage folks from camping at such places as McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliff.
Another consideration is that not everyone in the woods is as savvy, or theoretically savvy as thru-hikers when it comes to responsible behavior, Leave No Trace Principles, etc. If the shelters were removed, it doesn't mean folks would stop using the Trail for hiking/camping trips. It merely means they'd be tenting or tarping all over the place, and not always responsibly---instead of, for example, all of them crapping in one place, they'd be poohing indiscrimately all over creation; instead of having one fire pit, hundreds of new campsites would result in hundreds of new fires, with resultant damage and risk. Also, as it's safe to assume that there will always be a certain percentage of folks who DON'T behave responsibly, and leave garbage behind, it's better that they do so at shelters which tend to be closer to roads, and are subject to periodic inspection, cleaning, and maintenance, whether by ridgerunners or volunteer trail crews. In short, centralizing end-of-day locations, and having established campsites and shelters probably results in damage being centralized and easier to police, and it prevents people doing all sorts of other damage in newly established campsites.

To sum up: I absolutely feel folks are better off avoiding shelters for lots of reasons, but I think it'd be a mistake to get rid of them.



Hear, hear! Well stated indeed, Jack Tarlin.

Kozmic Zian
02-08-2004, 13:00
Tear 'em down? Bad idea IMO. It's far better to CONCENTRATE use and leave the majority of the Trail undisturbed than to encourage scores of campsites/fire rings/piles of crap. Didn't mean to step on Jack's thoughts, only reinforce them.

I approach this from a unique perspective, as an overseer of a shelter in SNP. They are a good thing for many hikers, tho I don't stay in them--not even my own. I prefer to tent.

IMO shelters should have not only a modest shelter structure but also:

病t least one privy
病 place to cook/eat separate from the sleeping area
病 method to keep food separate from the shelter (bear pole, pulley system, bear box, etc.) and NO mouse hangers in the shelter itself
病 firepit near the shelter
病 second firepit away from the shelter
鋲nough hardened/identifiable tentsites to accommodate most peak crowds

If someone dislikes shelters, at MOST places along the A.T. they don't HAVE to stay in them. But having the ability to "primitive-camp" while at the same time having access to privies, firepits, cooking areas, etc. not TOO far away is desirable from a trail management point of view, and as a convenience for hikers.

Of the amenities listed above, I am mostly a proponent of developing more and ample tentsites within a couple hundred yards of shelters--enough to accommodate peak crowds. I don't think the answer is in building bigger mega-shelters, but in developing more and better tentsites nearby but not right next door. And if these shelters/tentsite groupings were not RIGHT on the Trail, and definitely not that close to road crossings, it would be ideal.

By "developing" tentsites, I mean making each desirable and easy to use, while being easy to find even in high summer. Sloped ever so slightly so your head is a little higher than your feet. Level left to right. As free as possible of rocks that impede tent stakes. Void of dead or leaning trees or loose branches that could come crashing down on campers. Water/erosion control systems appropriate to each site. A mix of small and large sites to accommodate different types and sizes of tents or tarps. A couple additional sites that might be best suited for hammocks.

(BTW I am not promoting the idea that any authority should LIMIT tenting to such improved, designated tentsites. Camping in true primitive settings far away from shelters, if done with LNT in mind, is very cool. I'm only saying that in lieu of mega-shelters or more shelters, tentsites nearby are a better idea.)

As we are finding at Pass Mt. Hut in Shenandoah, bringing the tentsites established by the Park in 2000 up to the aforementioned standards is a LOT of hard work--especially getting them level left to right and removing all those rocks just below the soil (start digging and they seem to multiply like rabbits!). But well worth it IMO. Of the eight we have sited, two are now up to par and we're working on a third. Over time, they all should be very user-friendly.


Thank you Mr. Maintainer for the vision on Shelter Necessities and tenting sites. It's easy to see, if one goes buy this maintainers shelter, he know's what he's talkin' about.

weary
02-08-2004, 14:33
the VP of the Benton MacKaye Trail Assoc told me that they have no intention of building any more shelters on their trail. In 2005 when the trail extension is complete, this 180+ mile trail will have only one shelter. That shelter is located in a residential community, and is about 200 yards from a road. I encouraged the BMTA to consider designating some camping areas. There are few designated camping areas today. That will need to change when the trail is contiguous between Springer Mountain and Davenport Gap in Great Smoky Mountain NP, as the trail will undoubtedly become more attractive to long distance hikers.

I suspect in 20 years most maintaining clubs will have stopped replacing shelters as they deterriorate. Since space can't be guaranteed, everyone has to carry their own shelter, making their construction somewhat silly. Far more useful for most hikers would be picnic shelters to provide protection from heavy rains while setting up tents or tarps.

Organized camping areas, with latrines will always be needed, to reduce health and environmental problems and sprawl. Raised earthen tent platforms are useful to minimize the impact on the surrounding landscape. Wood tent platforms are useful, where soils make earthen tent sites unfeasible, but poses maintenance problems, and many hikers dislike sleeping on them.

Weary

Kozmic Zian
02-10-2004, 00:23
You know, I had sugested to me that one thing they could do would be to take the signs down. The signs that indicate which way and where the shelters are and just put that info in the Guide Book, a new book, maybe produced by the NPS or ATC....WF would'nt like it much, that would show where the huts and shelters are. Then the hiker trash comin' in from the trail heads could'nt find them....Sure would cut down on the traffic and ditirius around the shelters. Not too bad an [email protected]

Skeemer
02-10-2004, 10:35
Some really excellent thoughtful resposes so far...in my opinion.

My first reaction to taking the signs down was "no way." Maybe because during my shakedown hike a few years ago I needed every sign (even while carrying the guide) to keep me from getting lost... and I still hiked out the wrong way once when leaving a shelter. But then, one could argue it would make you a "better hiker" in that you would have to pay more attention to where you are on the Trail. How many times have you hiked along thinking the shelter must be right around the corner when it turned out to be another hour down the Trail? Also, we have to remember that the Trail is there for everyone...not just the long distance hiker.

What would be next...take off every other white blaze? In the Adirondacks they took the cansiters off the 46 High Peaks...I guess to "return it to the "natural state" as much as possible. With the canisters I knew I had reached the peaks. I enjoyed reading the registers/logs just as I did on the AT. Most on the forum over there believe it was a mistake to remove them.

In this wet year I appreciated the shelters so much (when I wasn't in a hostel or motel). Having an overhang to cook under, places to hang your food and privies were much appreciated by this hiker. And I agree, it does help save the wilderness by concentrating the the overnight camping to as few places as possible.

I suppose the "real purists" who want to "live in the woods" would like to see nothing but a 6 inch wide path from GA>ME and nothing else.

After we remove the shelters we'd have to go after the Trail towns.

Kozmic Zian
02-10-2004, 11:15
Naw....I agree with you Skeemer! What I'm saying is when there's a shelter that get abused by locals near a trailhead or what....maybe they could take a few signs down and produce a guide that would show where these mystery huts are. They already make the ageis from roads as inconspicuous as possible...sometimes you can't find the trail from a road it's so subtle where it enters. You know, hikers don't abuse....it's the few who ruin it for the many.
Maybe its best to just leave it like it is....just something to contemplate. [email protected]

jojo0425
02-10-2004, 12:20
Right on mntman777! I'm tired of those 18.4lb. pack wearin, non stove carryin, hot water moochin, tennis shoe wearin, non tent carryin, ounce coutin, hydration system usin, 23.2 mile a day HIKIN, cell phone carryin, skinny-ass, umbrella usin, needin to get to a shelter, whinin wannabe BACKPACKER, HIKERS!

Gosh, I hope others have more tolerance for you. I'm sure you're just kidding and you welcome any and all to the trail, regardless of race, gender, creed or pack weight.

If you don't want to share your hot water with a lite-hiker, then don't. You're not obligated to do so and perhaps that hiker won't go so lite next time.

As far as shelters...they do provide a central location for everyone to camp, trample on, poop near and what not. I gotta say, I'd rather have one location beaten down every 10 miles or so than an entire forest! If there weren't shelters and just designated campsites, you'd still have the same problem of congregation of the masses in one location. So either way...

Shelters are not the evil...people are.

The best way to solve the problem of over use and crowding is to stop hiking, all together, have a quota system. After so many hikers annually, the trail closes down, no more visitors allowed! How does that sound? Of course that's not feasible...so why can't we all just get along?!

Lone Wolf
02-10-2004, 12:26
Too many folks take too much stuff on this forum too seriously. Just havin a little fun JoJo. I was only being half serious. :D

jojo0425
02-10-2004, 12:50
Well, I did say, "I'm sure you're just kidding", and if you read my response, you would have seen, so was I.
Written words never convey the entire message as you cannot hear tonal changes in my voice, see me smile or laugh or judge my body language.

So, I understand your joke and like I said...I'm sure you don't judge people by their pack size...does size really matter anyway? :-?

waldo
02-10-2004, 13:39
Shelters ..... the love-hate relationship in what us thru hikers call home .... anyway shelters along the AT are an endangared structure, in the sense of comparing to other long distance trails. I, myself, find much comfort in the shelters, and would be incredibly disappointed if they were diminished. Being a SOBO thru hiker, I spent many, many nights alone, however, I would have spent twice as many nights alone if I didnt have the wonderful company that the shelters provide. The comfort of walking 20-25 miles to a shelter with the hope of having someone to share dinner with, or converse in a bit of small talk as the sun sets was a much needed satisfaction, and had a huge impact on me being successful in completing my thru hike. Also, by staying at the shelters, instead of stealthing, I was usually guaranteed a water source, and I wouldnt have to lug an extra 3 liters of water for miles before I wanted to stop for the night ..... to sum up - shelters along the AT are one reason the AT brings about such a heart whelming experience to those who adventure the ardeous trail ... think about the trail journals! Everyone loves to write their two sense in them .... where would these cherised works of art be without shelters??? I say keep the shelters, dont build new ones, but maintain the ones already built ... and if you don't like the snorring or company .... there are plenty of trees, rivers, lakes, and mountains to set up camp ..... and as always happy trails

Waldo ME-GA'03