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Schroder
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PostMon Nov 23, 2020 12:49 pm 
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I guess the trails in the Cascades are not the only places seeing huge crowds this year

Pandemic crowds bring ‘Rivergeddon’ to Montana’s famed fishing streams

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Yellowstone Park did not fully open until June 1 because of the coronavirus, and much of the park’s lodging was closed, but this August was the second busiest on record. September and October also saw record crowds for those months.

Meanwhile, many residents complain of crowds swarming at trailhead parking lots, camping along roads in national forests, overloading rivers and fly fishing spots. “This is the No. 1 topic of discussion,” said Dennis Glick, the director of a Bozeman nonprofit called Future West, which helps communities with sustainable planning. “Everybody is complaining about how crowded campgrounds and trails are.”
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backpacker92out
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PostMon Nov 23, 2020 1:10 pm 
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Yeah its pretty much everywhere. No concerts, no dining, no movies, no international vacations, no amusement parks. So the only thing left is the outdoors. Record level of new backpackers.

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Sculpin
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PostTue Nov 24, 2020 7:42 am 
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It is a vexing question to answer, but all the evidence to date suggests that transmission of the virus in open air is extremely rare:

https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-a-summer-of-covid-19-taught-scientists-about-indoor-vs-outdoor-transmission/

"And if there is one thing we can definitively state, it’s that this virus is much, much less likely to spread outdoors than in. For example, in a study of 7,324 Chinese case reports, only two — part of the same transmission event — could be linked to outdoor settings. A database of more than 20,000 cases (including the 7,324 Chinese cases) found 461 that were associated with transmission in completely outdoor environments — predominantly crowded events like markets and rallies. Overall, only 6 percent of all the cases in that database were linked to events that were either totally or partially outdoors. The rest were tied to indoor events. That fact is actually why experts are concerned that fall and winter could lead to an increase in transmission — not because it’s colder, but because people are spending more time inside."

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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kiliki
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PostTue Nov 24, 2020 9:03 am 
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Yup. Everywhere except Vermont, maybe, as it has had a quarantine for out of state people the whole time, and my friends there says it hasn't been crazy. But yeah--what else is there to do?

Oh, except ride motorcycles and drive around in loud cars, which seems to be pretty popular too, at least on nicer days.
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timberghost
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 5:57 am 
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Hopefully for some its a fad and blows over and they move along
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HitTheTrail
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 6:56 am 
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There could even be a silver lining lurking in all this somewhere. With a much larger population exposed to the great outdoors it will certainly contribute to more awareness of the lack of maintenance on access roads and trails. Maybe there will be more public pressure to run a grader over the Phelps Creek road or open some of the decommissioned trails in the Pasayten, etc.
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timberghost
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 7:49 am 
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Wonder if the number of people purchasing TH passes is up or down even though they are required but not enforced?
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Cyclopath
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 8:54 am 
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HitTheTrail wrote:
Maybe there will be more public pressure to run a grader over the Phelps Creek road

up.gif  up.gif  up.gif
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Sculpin
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 9:05 am 
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HitTheTrail wrote:
Maybe there will be more public pressure to run a grader over the Phelps Creek road

hijacked.gif

I'm confused about the Phelps Creek Road!  The middle stretch is one long mudhole, no doubt silting the nearby creeks.  Even if the Forest Service couldn't care less about hikers, I would have thought that they would fix it for the fish.   shakehead.gif

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Between every two pines is a doorway to the new world. - John Muir
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markweth
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 10:47 am 
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Interesting article, Montana's real estate market has definitely been insane this year. I live south of Missoula and have watched friends get priced out of the market in the last two years, with this year seeing price rise even more.

As far as outdoor recreation, popular trailheads have been getting swamped in Montana (and all over the country) this summer and use has been steadily increasing the last few years. But this year was a whole new level for the well-known spots.

That said, all it takes to find some solitude in Montana/Idaho/most places is flipping through a guidebook for information about areas with few crowds usually, going on a weekday, or hiking cross-country for a mile or so. Here are some of my experiences this summer. All these trips/hikes were covered in guidebooks or had information, although sometimes scant, available online. None of the trailheads required 4WD but some of there are pretty far from major population centers.

- Beautiful meadow to myself on a Saturday night, 4 miles from a trailhead, with 1 mile of cross-country hiking. The lake on the way to the meadow had at least 5 groups camping there and was crowded. A guidebook clued me in to the meadow and its solitude. Also went up a peak above the lake and had it to myself.

- 4th of July weekend had a subalpine lake 4 miles from a trailhead all to myself. Great fishing! Guidebook clued me in to this under-the-radar lake. USFS had no idea what lake I was talking about when I called to ask them for details.

- Two separate Friday nights had an abandoned lookout tower to myself.

- Friday night had a subalpine lake to myself, 3.5 miles from a trailhead.

- Multiple weeknight trips with a lake all to myself and great fishing.

- Saturday overnight trip at peak larch time, had a beautiful basin to myself 4.5 miles from a trailhead. Could've camped at a nearby lake as well with no one else there.

- I did a trip in the southwest corner of Yellowstone this year and it didn't feel crowded at all and we saw hot springs, waterfalls, and beautiful scenery. Permits were required, which kept the crowds down. Drove back through Idaho on a Saturday and had a roadside warm spring all to ourselves for an hour.

- Went climbing in the Lost River Range in Idaho at the end of September on a weekend and had a quiet 5-site campground all to ourselves, with a half dozen single-pitch sport climbs from 5.6-5.11 a few hundred feet from our campsite. No one else climbing. Hiked to a beautiful alpine lake the next day and saw two other people on the trail. Had a roadside hot spring to ourselves on the drive home while the one that is "Instagram famous" and a two-mile hike in had 50+ cars at the trailhead.

A little bit of effort planning/researching can result in a lot of solitude!

HitTheTrail wrote:
There could even be a silver lining lurking in all this somewhere. With a much larger population exposed to the great outdoors it will certainly contribute to more awareness of the lack of maintenance on access roads and trails. Maybe there will be more public pressure to run a grader over the Phelps Creek road or open some of the decommissioned trails in the Pasayten, etc.

I wish I could share this optimism, but I'm just not sure I can. If the growth of hiking corresponded with a proportional growth in WTA membership, donations to wilderness stewardship groups, or similar indicators of involvement and contribution then I would be ecstatic . . . guess we will just have to wait and see.

I think, unfortunately, that many people who are contributing to the overuse and impacts aren't interested in hiking quiet trails in wilderness areas, but are more interested in just doing the trendy outdoorsy thing and don't really mind if there are 100 other people at a lake with them and toilet paper behind every shrub. That's normal to them, they still get some satisfaction/exercise/a cool photo out of it, then they move on. They aren't flipping through guidebooks or looking online for less crowded areas, because the crowds don't bother them. And that's fine, but it means they probably couldn't care less about opening decommissioned trails or trail maintenance, road access, etc. The popular areas are going to continue to get hammered, and some of the use will drift to less popular areas (which will become popular through social media and other sources) and those areas will see impacts and then possibly permits/restricted access.

It's a sad state of affairs. I like seeing more people enjoying their public lands, but I worry deeply about the impacts to the ecosystems, wildlife, and the experiences of other visitors.
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asdf
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 3:39 pm 
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I choose to remain optimistic about what the current outdoor crowds will mean for land usage and access.  Although federally owned lands aren't growing in size or access, it is definitely possible that increased money and advocacy would convert more private lands to conservancies or enable public access across them.  Which would be good for everyone.

I've long stopped trying to go to popular places to find solitude.  I just treat many I-90 TH's like I would an amusement park, I stay far away, or if I must go, I go on off hours/seasons.

Not everyone will get beyond the conga line up Mt. Si and admire the beauty of a lesser view with a quieter trail, but some will, and that's important.
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markweth
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 4:08 pm 
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asdf wrote:
I choose to remain optimistic about what the current outdoor crowds will mean for land usage and access.  Although federally owned lands aren't growing in size or access, it is definitely possible that increased money and advocacy would convert more private lands to conservancies or enable public access across them.  Which would be good for everyone.

Good point, I hadn't exactly considered that as I tend to focus on "Big W" wilderness areas. But more city parks or easements on private land for walking and running would be a great thing. Thanks for tempering my pessimism a bit.
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Slugman
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 4:39 pm 
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I think this is a temporary situation. Next year, and hopefully even more in 2022, things will start to re-normalize.

My hope is that right now millions of people are discovering a love of the outdoors, and that some of the sure-to-be-enacted economic stimulus packages will include major work on roads and trails.

First project: regrade the Phelps creek road!

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“The jerking motion of a knee does not reflect the operation of a mind”  Slugman, January 24th 2020
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Joseph
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 7:34 pm 
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We fully expected to to be sharing the Wonderland Trail with all sorts of other hikers when we hiked in Sept.  Instead, we went for long stretches where we didn't see anyone.  This was due to the virus but also the wild fires and limited access to the park.  I was expecting the stretch from Skyscraper Pass to Summerland to be swamped as we hit that on Saturday-Sunday.  But very few people it turned out.
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zimmertr
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PostWed Nov 25, 2020 8:28 pm 
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I didn't really notice an uptick in traffic this year myself. I avoid I-90 & Mountain Loop though, so that's probably why.

I guess maybe my loop through the Goat Rocks in July was pretty busy. But not much else.
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