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rossb
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PostTue Dec 17, 2019 5:31 pm 
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Going in the caves is basically Russian Roulette. Except unlike one out of six, you probably have one out of 100,000. The odds of you getting hurt or killed are fairly low. But with high visitation (much higher than the number that climb mountains) someone is bound to get killed. Oh, and of course, we are talking about children here (not many children climb mountains).

A couple weeks ago, I was in Maui. Not my favorite thing, actually (I prefer a temperate climate, unlike much of the world's population) but still amusing. We drove to Hana, which has the famous "Seven Sacred Pools", which look they are right out of a shampoo commercial. It is quite lovely (my wife and I had been there before). If you get there early enough, you can wade or swim in freshwater pools, with waterfalls flowing over your head (and not freeze your butt off, like you would in the Northwest).

The problem was, it was raining that day. Normally, that doesn't matter (since it is so warm). But it meant that the pools (which are part of a creek) became a raging river. My son in law (the one who really wanted to be there) was very disappointed and reacted in a normal fashion ("Oh man, why did they close it?"). Of course, once we saw it, he admitted that he wanted nothing to do with it (and he is a very strong swimmer). The gate was obvious, and the hazard was obvious. It is quite likely that most visitors would be fine without the gate. They would walk to the area, dip their feet in, realize immediately that swimming would be suicide and move on. But someone would probably go too far, and hurt themselves. It is possible that someone could skirt the gate, but the signs aren't vague. They don't just talk about the risk -- they make it clear that if you go past the sign, you are subject to really big fines. That, and the obvious risk, likely keep 99.99% of the people away from that area when conditions are like that.

The folks managing the ice caves have a tougher job. You don't have an obvious end of the trail -- it is a wide open, barren area (because, obviously, it was covered in ice not that long ago). You could put up a barrier, but the risk isn't obvious. If they really don't want people risking their lives, then they have to do it though. They have to do what the folks in Maui did. Cordon off an area and put up big signs. The signs should be morbid -- mentioning the folks that have died there (it is always a good idea to mention children dying to hammer home the message). But also mention the fine -- no one wants to pay a fine. Of course there are going to be people who risk their lives for a little thrill (especially when the risk isn't that obvious) but my guess is the number of people who put themselves at risk would go way down.

What I find interesting about the ice caves area is that it really is a lovely hike, whether you go into the ice caves or not. Of course it is more fun to go into the ice caves, but if you want a little hike, and a pleasant drive (unlike getting to Hana) then it is a great. You don't need to go into the ice caves. They aren't necessarily the highlight, especially if you are an adult (holy smoke, man, just look around at all the gigantic peaks). If more people could just appreciate the area in general instead of focusing on the caves themselves, perhaps fewer people would risk their lives trying to get into them.
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MtnGoat
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PostTue Dec 17, 2019 6:48 pm 
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I don't know how much of that will stop the determined. the sources referring to it as a fun hike are numerous, the visitor count high, and the lure of caves high also. Wiki is claiming 50,000 visitors per year.

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Ski
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PostTue Dec 17, 2019 7:41 pm 
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Kim wrote:
"..."do something"..."

^ THIS is the reason why the USFS instituted the "total suppression" policy on wildfires over a hundred years ago.

Because a woman strayed too close to the edge of the cliff on the west side of Pt. Defiance Park and fell while taking photographs, MetroParksTacoma had to "do something", so now several of the bluff trails on the west side of the Park have been blocked off, and more ugly 6-foot-high cyclone fencing has been erected and more garish signs posted at the very end of the Peninsula at the Gig Harbor overlook point.

Were we not such a litigious society, perhaps it wouldn't be necessary to "do something", but when faced with the real possibility of expensive lawsuits, land managers are compelled to "do something", its efficacy notwithstanding.

Perhaps Dick the Butcher was right when he said "Let's kill all the lawyers."

=========================================================

I am reminded of:

Dave Workman, in another thread somewhere wrote:
Some people are world class stupid, and you can't fix that.

the late Harry Cody, District Ranger, Randle Ranger District, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, in a phone conversation over 25 years ago wrote:
Sometimes the best course of action is no action at all.


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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Bedivere
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 12:34 am 
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Razor wire is pretty effective against the general population.  Copious amounts of razor wire should be sufficient delineation at the end of the trail.  I'd like to hear the excuse from the person bleeding copiously from multiple lacerations as to why they went beyond the end of the trail.

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Kim Brown
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 9:39 am 
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Bedivere wrote:
Razor wire is pretty effective against the general population.  Copious amounts of razor wire should be sufficient delineation at the end of the trail.  I'd like to hear the excuse from the person bleeding copiously from multiple lacerations as to why they went beyond the end of the trail.

Razor wire? What razor wire?  Bleedin' copiously? Nonsense! It's just a flesh wound.

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rossb
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 9:47 am 
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My understanding is that it is very difficult to sue the federal government for negligence. Lawyers may want to chime in. It is very common, in this day and age, to think that everyone is doing this and that to avoid being sued. But I doubt very seriously that the forest service is concerned about that, especially since they have warning signs everywhere.

Sometimes cops will pull people over because they aren't wearing a seat belt. Or they will hassle a guy on a bike (or motorcycle) for not having a helmet. Are they worried about being sued? Of course not. They are just trying to avoid a really bad day. The worst possible day for a USFS worker at Verlot is when there is an accident at the ice caves. Everything about the day is horrible. You have to go into emergency mode, contacting all the various people. At some point, you might have to talk to family members. Do you want to talk to some grandparent about why their child and grandchild died on a nice little hike? Of course not.

It is impossible to completely prevent people from exploring the caves, just as it is impossible to prevent people from exploring the Pools of 'Ohe'o (aka Seven Sacred Pools) when the water is high. It would have been pretty easy for me to just go around the gate, scramble down, and have at it. But the message was clear. Not only was I risking my life, but I was risking a big fine as well. This didn't stop everyone, but it stopped almost everyone. Something similar at the ice caves would do the same thing.
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Malachai Constant
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 9:48 am 
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Motion activated robot machine guns to keep people safe hockeygrin.gif

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Kim Brown
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 1:06 pm 
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rossb wrote:
My understanding is that it is very difficult to sue the federal government for negligence. Lawyers may want to chime in. It is very common, in this day and age, to think that everyone is doing this and that to avoid being sued. But I doubt very seriously that the forest service is concerned about that, especially since they have warning signs everywhere.

They are always asked to provide FOIA requests and other types of documents. Requests for documents and other records can cripple a USFS office; the Suiattle Road and Green Mtn Lookout issues pretty much ate up a lot of staff time for years, in the local office as well as the Supervisor's office in Everett.

I understand the Grace Tam claims took their toll, not only in manpower, but the USFS staff really do care about people. Injuries and death isn't easy for them either.

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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treeswarper
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 1:24 pm 
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What I was told, in a class, was that it is cheaper for the govt. to settle out of court than go to trial.  If a case goes to trial, there is a lot of traveling, hotel bills, maybe flying back and forth, and maybe expert witnesses to be brought in etc.

Not sure about injury lawsuits, but in the world of contracts and NEPA lawsuits, it can be expensive for the gubmint to go to court.

My favorite misguided effort at protecting us from ourselves was when the Siuslaw NF made new forest maps for public use.  They did not put all the roads on the map.  These were system roads that were left off and the reason given was that they didn't want people driving on the roads.  That didn't work too well and made it easier to get lost in the Coast Range.  The old maps were worth their weight in gold.

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Foist
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 4:54 pm 
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I think the way they have handled it so far is not really helping.  They put signs saying something like "EXTREME RISK OF DEATH BEYOND THIS SIGN!!!" when in summer time (which is when the vast majority of visits are), the signs are hundreds of feet away from any conceivable danger.  It seems like they put the sign at the farthest point of avalanche impact in mid-winter -- which is understandable in a sense because the signs and rock wall can't easily be moved.  But the result is that people rationally do not take the signs and rock wall seriously, because their location is ludicrously far from the ice caves and any possible ice-fall danger when most people are there.  To the people going all Helen Lovejoy and crying about children going a little bit beyond the rock wall... give me a break.

Now, why would this lead anyone to believe that actually going close to or IN the ice caves is safe?  That, I don't know.  But I do think that when the USFS goes into hyper-nanny-state mode and overreacts, people don't take them seriously and go to the other extreme.
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Kim Brown
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 4:58 pm 
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Truth told, the USFS would very much rather let people recreate at their own risk. And generally, the USFS does. As mentioned about this trail ad nauseum, the public is pressuring the USFS to nanny them, not the other way around.

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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Foist
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 5:11 pm 
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That's true.
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Ski
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 5:26 pm 
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Kim wrote:
"...the public is pressuring the USFS to nanny them, not the other way around..."

^ this is the crux of it right here.

It's the "we have to DO something" mindset from those who truly believe that it's possible to imbue the public with some modicum of common sense through governmental action.

If that were even remotely possible, they should try that tactic with unwanted teen pregnancies.

Let me know how that works out for you.

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I have heard the mermaids singing, each to each."
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Randito
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 9:58 pm 
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Its sad that folks get killed or injured at Big Four.   The existing warning signs the USFS have erected are as much as is practical for the USFS to erect -- any more substantial barrier is going to get destroyed in short order by the same avalanches that form the Big Four glacier and ice caves anyway -- look at this satellite image of the viewing area and the snow finger that almost reaches it.

BigFour
BigFour

The area around that and for a 1/4 mile down slope lack trees -- a good indicator of how frequently destructive avalanches sweep the area.

Suing the USFS over these unfortunate incidents is a bit like suing the Federal Highway Administration when there is a fatal/injury crash on an interstate -- sometimes there is a legitimate reason to do so when the interstate has a design defect or hasn't been maintained -- but this is the rare exception.

Big Four gets big media attention -- I think because the people getting hurt tend to not be what the media calls "an experienced hiker".

People that fit that profile are getting injured and killed at a respectable clip (roughly 5 per year in Mt Rainier and Olympic parks alone) -- but this doesn't seem to generate the same level of need for the federal government to "do something"

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16366199
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Kim Brown
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PostWed Dec 18, 2019 11:07 pm 
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RandyHiker wrote:
but this doesn't seem to generate the same level of need for the federal government to "do something"

Yet it has.

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" I'm really happy about this! … I have very strong good and horrible memories up there."  – oldgranola, NWH’s outdoors advocate.
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