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  1. #1
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    Default GSMNP to allow tenting at backcountry shelters

    I just saw on the local Knoxville news that GSMNP is temporarily changing their policy for backcountry shelters to allow visitors to set up a tent around the shelter. Due to the Carona Virus, they are recommending that people NOT stay in the shelters.

    They also said that all visitor centers, meeting areas, and campground kiosks are closed, but restrooms will be open. The park is open for camping and hiking, just don't expect to talk to any employees other than rangers.

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    Yeah, I posted the following in another thread yesterday, I got it in email.

    "While backpackers are ordinarily required to stay in the shelter, at this time users are authorized to use a tent outside the shelter to provide for social distancing. It is important that you stay in the area around the shelter, both for your safety and the protection of the resources.

    If you exit the backcountry due to a high fever, dry cough and/or respiratory difficulty, please report that to Park Dispatch at 865-436-1230. For the latest CDC information visit: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus. If you have questions about the shelter information, please contact the Backcountry Office at 865-436-1297."

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    I would hope they would consider changing their policy and allowing this from now on. Yes I know their reasons, but really the close quarters has been a potential tinderbox of disease and some have blamed the spread of the Nora over the years. It is simply too small a structure to hold that many backpackers at once without increased risk.

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    Hopefully this policy will remain after they finally realize the tent sites around the shelters are already used daily with or without the shelters being full.
    - Trail name: Thumper

  5. #5

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    Amen, tear 'em down and build tent pad campuses. It's time for this to change.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PatmanTN View Post
    Amen, tear 'em down and build tent pad campuses. It's time for this to change.

    one of my favorite campsites in the Park is #113......

    they tore that shelter down 20 ish years ago and built tent pads and what not..

    the foundation of the shelter still exists so it makes for a communal spot then go back to the tent pads to sleep or what not..

    the time i stayed there, in winter, there was nobody else there but i can imagine the foundation being a shared spot..

    much better than when they tore the shelters down at CS #5 and #16....

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    The shelters are a great respite in a storm (the Tricorner Knob shelter saved our butts last year in a surprise snow storm). But normally I would just show up to a shelter late enough so that I would have to tent.

    I wonder if laxing the rules moving forward would increase traffic through the park though?

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    one of my favorite campsites in the Park is #113......

    they tore that shelter down 20 ish years ago and built tent pads and what not..

    the foundation of the shelter still exists so it makes for a communal spot then go back to the tent pads to sleep or what not..

    the time i stayed there, in winter, there was nobody else there but i can imagine the foundation being a shared spot..

    much better than when they tore the shelters down at CS #5 and #16....
    Yeah I was thinking about that. It works perfectly well. Not all of the exiting shelter spots would be conducive to a tent pad campus, but 113 was constructed after all. I would absolutely be willing to provide volunteer labor to make this happen to whatever extent that it could.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Crushed Grapes View Post
    The shelters are a great respite in a storm (the Tricorner Knob shelter saved our butts last year in a surprise snow storm). But normally I would just show up to a shelter late enough so that I would have to tent.

    I wonder if laxing the rules moving forward would increase traffic through the park though?
    True enough that some of those wind-swept ridges are tough to tent on when the weather is bad. I'm a local and long time Smokies hiker; I'm really over the shelters and would love to see them go away. If I were in charge, I think I'd do the experiment at least and see how it went.
    I personally doubt this would have any impact at all on traffic. From my own unscientific observations, a significant portion of those hiking across the crest don't even know the rules.

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    Yeah I was thinking about that. It works perfectly well. Not all of the exiting shelter spots would be conducive to a tent pad campus, but 113 was constructed after all.


    yeah......not every shelter spot would have the space to spread it out like #113......

    like siler's and double spring sit on the ridge and doubt there would be space......but who nose?

    for #113.......they really did a nice job and some of the tent pads have some decent views (at least in winter) of gregory's bald..

    when i stayed there---i was the only one and spent some time seeing which pad i would like to set tent up........

    do i go on the path to the right? or go past the foundation and path to the left?

    i took the left and then set up my tent so door would look out at gregory's....

    and then i used the foundation spot as a place to cook and have a rip roaring fire (you know i dig the fires, patman)...

  11. #11
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    Just to throw in my 2

    I too want to see the shelters remain in place, because yeah, they are a great spot when it's pouring down rain or just plain wet everywhere.

    But given that the shelters are surviving the annual AT bubble, along with the people who don't know/follow the rules and tent around the shelters anyway...

    Keep the reservation limits in place, and allow people the option of sleep in the shelter or tent near by.


    I also think it's about time to begin putting limits on thru-hiker permits.
    To toss out a suggestion:
    Limit AT Thru permits to 20 "per entry date".
    Work it similar to today's system such that a permit issued with an entry date of March 1st means you can enter the park on March 1st or any day up to 30 days after.
    For time periods outside "the bubble" (say before March and after July) use the online system to allow hikers select from remaining available spots on a first come first serve basis.
    For time periods inside "the bubble", use a lottery system. Have everyone apply by January 1st, and by January 15th, a computer system can apply for permits in a lottery fashion.
    After January 15th, open remaining spots on a first come first serve basis.

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    I also think it's about time to begin putting limits on thru-hiker permits.
    To toss out a suggestion:
    Limit AT Thru permits to 20 "per entry date".
    Work it similar to today's system such that a permit issued with an entry date of March 1st means you can enter the park on March 1st or any day up to 30 days after.
    For time periods outside "the bubble" (say before March and after July) use the online system to allow hikers select from remaining available spots on a first come first serve basis.
    For time periods inside "the bubble", use a lottery system. Have everyone apply by January 1st, and by January 15th, a computer system can apply for permits in a lottery fashion.
    After January 15th, open remaining spots on a first come first serve basis.



    these ideas sound great on paper.....

    but, it's really going to create a ***** storm within the hiking world....

    look at how much of a storm the change in the reservation system and the $4 fee stirred up....

    i lost (on my own accord-----no regrets) a bunch of "friends" over this storm..........people i no longer talk to or acknowledge.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by HooKooDooKu View Post
    I also think it's about time to begin putting limits on thru-hiker permits.
    To toss out a suggestion:
    Limit AT Thru permits to 20 "per entry date".
    Totally agree. But to take it a step further, not just for GSMNP, but for the entirety of the trail. I know this is a highly unpopular opinion. But the trail is in really, really rough shape. I doubt it would happen in my lifetime, but I would like to see it happen with the way things are trending.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by TNhiker View Post
    these ideas sound great on paper.....

    but, it's really going to create a ***** storm within the hiking world....

    look at how much of a storm the change in the reservation system and the $4 fee stirred up....

    i lost (on my own accord-----no regrets) a bunch of "friends" over this storm..........people i no longer talk to or acknowledge.....
    I still don't like that $4 fee (my complaint has always been that it can cost me more to take my family into the back country where the only amenities is a set of bear cables and maybe a privy compared to what is available at front country sites), but I must say I love the online reservation system compared to the old call-in system.
    But I never got into bad arguments over it.

    But yes, ANY restriction or change is going to have the naysayers. Just look at the opposition to closing Cades Cove, even though traffic has become ridiculous.

  15. #15
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    I would certainly vote to leave the shelters in place (they do come in handy and a lot of people love 'em), but just let the already used tenting areas around them be an option and not regulated to stay in shelters until full. As long as people stay in that area and not somewhere stealthing in between shelters, I'd have to vote yes. As for permits, I'd say a limit is a good idea to a point. I see the Hilton going NOBO will be extremely overused while people wait. And you'll always have those few...
    - Trail name: Thumper

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    Quote Originally Posted by Christoph View Post
    Hopefully this policy will remain after they finally realize the tent sites around the shelters are already used daily with or without the shelters being full.
    Perhaps if hikers behave and prove themselves responsible over the next few months, a permanent change might be considered.

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Christoph View Post
    ... As for permits, I'd say a limit is a good idea to a point. I see the Hilton going NOBO will be extremely overused while people wait. And you'll always have those few...
    I don't see the Hilton getting overused by people waiting.
    Under the permit limit I proposed, you would know months ahead of time what your earliest entry date into GSMNP would be. You would also know that waiting at the Hilton for days waiting would be boring. So you would alter your speed the closer you get to GSMNP so that you don't windup stuck in the Hilton.

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    I still don't like that $4 fee (my complaint has always been that it can cost me more to take my family into the back country where the only amenities is a set of bear cables and maybe a privy compared to what is available at front country sites), but I must say I love the online reservation system compared to the old call-in system.
    But I never got into bad arguments over it.




    the one group who was opposed to the new system did alot of childish acts to try to get their point across----going up to leconte lodge and going in the office and harassing the customers up there about their viewpoints..........harassing some of the concessionaires about their viewpoints.......the list went on and on....

    i'm glad its over with......

    and yeah, they ended up suing the Park and essentially got their asses handed to them..........

    it was very entertaining to read the final decision by the court and how the group didnt prove any of their points....

  19. #19
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    Over the last few years I've worked on 6 trail crews in GSMNP, 4 Sweat Crews and 2 Rocky Top Crews. These crews spend a week or so doing work on the AT. Sometimes the group is in a stealth location but often tents near a shelter. If the crew stayed at the shelter it could easily fill the shelter for the duration of the session. There are also professional crews that sometimes do special projects and tent camp also.

    Last fall the crew I worked with set up at the horse corral at TriCorner Shelter for eight days. The shelter was completely empty a couple of of nights but was close to full on the weekend. I noticed once or twice someone tented near the shelter even though the shelter had only a few people staying that night. Not judging, just observing.

    Personally I think it might be a good idea to have some designated tent pads near the shelters. I understand that the park service wants to maintain a low impact environment but in an overflow situation people will sometimes try to stick a tent in anywhere.

    It is not practical to have composting privies at all shelters. So at those shelters that do not have privies it would especially useful to have designated tent pads to keep people from setting up tents in the "poop fields".

  20. #20
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    Simple fact is that some people do not like to stay in the shelters and will tent around the shelter when they are not supposed to. It will continue until such time we have enough rangers to police this sort of illegal activity.

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