What's with all the campfires at Silver Lakes in the Buckhorn Wilderness? We hiked up the Silver Creek Way trail to the lake for some fishing on Friday. ALL the campsites had recently used fire rings. There's no sign or other indication that campfires aren't legal here. We passed a large family as we left and everyone was carrying a bundle of wood back to camp. I felt like a really kill-joy when I told them fires weren't legal above 3500 feet (the lake is at 5,300) and believed them when they said they didn't know. Is this ignorance combined with a lack of enforcement? This is Wilderness! There should at least be a sign when you arrive at the lake.
-------------- "back at camp the mountain peak still in my legs" - Yu Chang
Hi PT LateHiker,
I share your concerns for that area.
As you probably know, there are two trail-ways to get there: over the ridge from Mt Townsend (~ with the 3 THs that all lead to the summit (4 if you count lower TH)) and can then be followed over to the Silver Lakes trail, or up the way-trail from the FS road. I know that there are signs on the trails up from the east side and north side of Mt Townsend that state "stoves only", but I don't remember if there are any signs on the way trail (that many people use). If they were unfamiliar with the area I can understand the ignorance (maybe not understanding what elevation they are at there at the Lakes), but I could also see it as people not caring or understanding why fires are prohibited.
I've found fire rings at pretty much every single campsite I've been past anywhere in the Oly ONF wildernesses at any elevation (and I've hiked almost every single ONF trail section now). The "stove only" signs appear to be entirely ignored by at least some portion of the visitors. As you've probably experienced too, holiday weekends especially, places like Silver Lakes, Marmot Pass (and above), Camp Handy/Windy/Mystery/Boulder Shelter, Tubal Cain Mine, Upper Lena Lake, LoA (and other not-to-be-mentioned offtrail spots) etc. get visits from people unfamiliar with the area and looking for the "backpacking experience". I've tried to talk to people about the reason why fires are banned above 3500' in the past (especially during the fire bans the last couple of summers) but it can be a tricky topic to explain the dangers of fires, and how it destroys the limited organic material needed for the soil when they just want to enjoy their one-trip-a-year experience (and "who the heck am I" to mildly suggest they don't have a small fire).
And if you think the fire rings are bad, don't even think about "waste management". With the number of visits that occur to Marmot Pass and Silver Lakes this time of year, I'm pretty sure "no stone has been left unturned" in seeking a place to deposit waste...
If someone were handy with the wood and could make a sign, I'd think that after coordination with the ONF they might be amenable to installing one at the trail entrance to the lake (similar to the ONP Lakes).
-------------- *Just say NO to Rent-Seeking, don't give up the concept of "ownership"*
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