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Big Bend Conservancy

Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

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Solo Hiker Form

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Offline Mark D

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Solo Hiker Form
« on: January 21, 2007, 05:00:35 PM »
I’m planning a trip to BB in late March, plan to do a few overnight backpacks—Chisos and desert—and will be going solo. I read the Solo Hiker Form on the Park’s website. At the bottom it says something like, “…I have left notice of my planned hike with my next of kin and they will contact the NPS if I don’t call them when my trip is over.”

God forbid I would need a rescue, but doesn’t filling out this form constitute the same notification, with the ranger who you are filing the form with, being the person who is waiting for you to return?  One of the reasons for taking the trip is to get away from family and friends for a week. I don’t want to have to be calling the wife every couple of days and letting her know I’m still alive. I find it hard to believe that the Park Rangers would wait around for a phone call if I didn’t return my permit “within 12 hours of leaving the backcountry” before sending out the dogs.

Has anyone ever been turned down for a backcountry permit for any reason?

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Offline Desertwalker

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Solo Hiker Form
« Reply #1 on: January 21, 2007, 05:12:35 PM »
I was in BIBE last weekend spending time in the backcountry and had no problems. I had downloaded the Solo Hiker Form in advance and was prepared to give them the filled out form, but when I got my permit the form never came up. The ranger did ask if I was by myself but never said anything about the Solo Hiker Form. The whole process  took less than 5 minutes.
When you came into this world, you cried and the world rejoiced. You should live your life, so when you die the world cries and you rejoice - Old Indian Saying

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Offline okiehiker

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You are on your own
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2007, 05:20:43 PM »
It is not the NPS' responsibility to track backcountry users.  They like to have permits returned, but many people don't.  If your vehicle is left at a trailhead or in a parking area beyond the length of your permit they may notice soon, or it may be after you are already dead.

You do not need to call your family every day.  However, it is a good idea for them to know when you are coming out.  Plan to call one person when you get out whose responsibility it would be to contact the park service if you did not report at the appropriate time.  It is not much of a burden on you or anyone else.

Serious backcountry hiking/climbing etc. provides an experience that is truly life-changing.  However, there is a great responsibility to yourself, family, the environment, park staff and others.  This small step provides accountability, help to park staff, comfort for your family (and yourself) and saves everybody money.

Advice for everybody:  do leave your itinerary with someone responsible.  Do contact them when your trip is over.  Do let the park service know where you are parking vehicles.  Search and rescue operations are expensive and endanger every person involved in the rescue effort.  We will all take risks to save someone else's life that we would never take normally.  We all can make the system work better for everyone.

As far as being turned down for a permit, I never have (except when a zone was full) but I have had rangers who thought my itineraries were too hard and tried to make me believe that they wouldn't issue the permit.  In one case at GUMO a ranger actually took a vacation to come look for us mid-trip because he thought it was impossible for us to do what we said we were going to do.  When he found us on the trail we had a great visit with him.  

ShaneA's advice... know your limitations and plan accordingly works well with park staff.  Convince them that you are prepared and experienced enough for your plan, and you probably are.
Funny... I have a story about that...

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Offline presidio

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Re: You are on your own
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2007, 09:43:22 PM »
Quote from: "okiehiker"
I have had rangers who thought my itineraries were too hard and tried to make me believe that they wouldn't issue the permit.  In one case at GUMO a ranger actually took a vacation to come look for us mid-trip because he thought it was impossible for us to do what we said we were going to do.

Convince them that you are prepared and experienced enough for your plan, and you probably are.


Why should you have to convince anybody of anything to go hike on public land? The rangers noted above are way out of line about this, probably afraid if you don't come back and their name is on the permit approval line they will be held responsible somehow. Some probably will think this is just the NPS taking care of customers, but this kind of behavior is way over the top. You may have to get a permit, but you do not need their approval or assessment of your abilities in order to go.
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Wendell (Garret Dillahunt): It's a mess, ain't it, sheriff?
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--No Country for Old Men (2007)

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Offline okiehiker

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Other federal land...
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2007, 11:02:34 PM »
Right or wrong, there is a different mission for the different federal agencies.  For the NPS their primary mission is visitor interpretation and resource protection.  Their management practices will reflect this mission.

For the USDA (Forest Service) the mission is quite different, as it is with the BLM.  If you get lost in a park service unit it is their problem.  That is both a plus and a minus of land becoming part of a national park.

I for one do not feel that it is NPS responsibility to take care of me.  Obviously other disagree.  At some point the NPS should probably implement a system like Colorado has where a portion of fees (in their case for hunting and fishing licenses) is dedicated to underwriting the costs of search and rescue.  $0.50 of an entry at BIBE would probably cover the cost and a visitor friendly system could be created.
Funny... I have a story about that...

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Offline Undertaker

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Solo Hiker Form
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2007, 02:07:26 PM »
I agree with Okiehiker, I don't want the Gov taking care of me, I am in favor of a small portion of the entry fee going to S&R, when involved with same in Arizona, most of guys in S&R wanted no part of Gov caring for them. Also since reviewing via stories Okie has posted in this chat room, he has lived both the lows involved in S&R and the high point of fun in the park, and can speak with knowledge on both.  8)
Visiting BB since 1966, nothing like being lost and finding heaven.

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Offline tjavery

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Re: You are on your own
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2007, 08:06:31 AM »
Quote from: "okiehiker"
...As far as being turned down for a permit, I never have (except when a zone was full)...


Geessh... how often does that happen? You mean they actually have a limit to the number of people staying in a zone?

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Offline Mark D

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Solo Hiker Form
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2007, 12:30:30 PM »
Go to http://www.nps.gov/bibe/parkmgmt/compendium.htm and click on Appendix B. It will tell you the limits on all the zones, etc. For example, the Marufa Vega zone has a limit of 40.

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Offline bdann

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Re: You are on your own
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2007, 02:14:31 PM »
Quote from: "tjavery"
Quote from: "okiehiker"
...As far as being turned down for a permit, I never have (except when a zone was full)...


Geessh... how often does that happen? You mean they actually have a limit to the number of people staying in a zone?


Here's a map of the zones and the capacity for each:
http://www.nps.gov/bibe/parknews/upload/BC_Zones.pdf
WATER, It does a body good.

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Offline okiehiker

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Quite often...
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2007, 02:47:25 PM »
The zones and capacities by and large are reasonable.  The lowest capacity for a zone is Ward Spring at 10 people.  This is lower than the overall backcountry permit group size limit of 15.  The next smallest zone is Mule Ears at 18.  The largest is Slickrock (N01) at 60.  

In the lower Chisos (Dodson Trail, Mule Ears, Elephant Tusk, etc.) the zones fill fairly often (Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, Spring Break) not unlike the high Chisos designated sites.  

Since I go with my kids at peak times it is impossible for me to plan a trip to Elephant Tusk or Mule Ears without breaking park rules.  That is why I still think (we don't have to beat that dead horse in 3,000 more monotonous posts...) you should be able to submit an itinerary and permit request in advance, pick it up at the appointed place and time and go.  If you don't pick it up then, first come first-served.  People can plan a trip in advance and actually take it.  If you don't show, the first person in line who wants the zone gets it.
Funny... I have a story about that...

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Offline RichardM

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Re: Quite often...
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2007, 04:48:49 PM »
Quote from: "okiehiker"
I still think (we don't have to beat that dead horse in 3,000 more monotonous posts...) you should be able to submit an itinerary and permit request in advance, pick it up at the appointed place and time and go.  If you don't pick it up then, first come first-served.  People can plan a trip in advance and actually take it.  If you don't show, the first person in line who wants the zone gets it.

Maybe you should talk to the new superintendent?  I'd vote for that idea if they'd only let me.

 


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