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  1. #1
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    Default Abolish Shelters?

    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.

  2. #2
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    Smile

    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.

  3. #3

    Default Real backpackers

    Here Here,

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

  4. #4

    Default

    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.

  5. #5
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    Thumbs up

    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!

  6. #6
    Addicted Hiker and Donating Member Hammock Hanger's Avatar
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    Default Problem is...

    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
    Hammock Hanger -- Life is my journey and I'm surely not rushing to the "summit"...:D

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  7. #7
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    Default No Win Situation

    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?

  8. #8
    Section Hiker 350 miles DebW's Avatar
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    Default

    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.

  9. #9
    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Default

    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.

  10. #10
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    Default

    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.

  11. #11
    LT '79; AT '73-'14 in sections; Donating Member Kerosene's Avatar
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    Default

    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.
    GA←↕→ME: 1973 to 2014

  12. #12

    Default

    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.

  13. #13
    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Default

    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.

  14. #14
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    Default

    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

  15. #15
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    Smile To dismantle or not to dismantle, that is the question...

    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...

  16. #16
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    Default mid state trail

    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

  17. #17
    Section Hiker 500 miles smokymtnsteve's Avatar
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    Default

    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.

  18. #18
    Registered User 2Questions's Avatar
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    Thumbs up Training grounds

    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.

  19. #19
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    Default Shelters are like Web Sites

    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!
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  20. #20
    Registered User Peaks's Avatar
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    Default Any shelter in a storm

    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.

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