Friday, August 31, 2007

Permanent Forest Access Closures and Restrictions - coming soon to a National forest near you.

This is the biggest policy event to happen in the national forests that I can remember.

There is a huge proposal on the table in the Coconino National Forest that will very likely set a precedent for other national forests. All national forest are required to submit a travel management rule (TMR).

I went to one of the meetings regarding the Coconino proposal and had a pretty lengthy conversation with Jim Beards, the principle force behind this proposal.

Here are the major points of the Coconino National forest plan:

1. No off road vehicular travel except by permit.
2. Most (as defined by FR road numbers) of the roads in this forest will be closed to vehicular traffic of any kind.
3. The mechanism for closure is simply a map. No rocks, barricades and maybe not even any signs. It will be your responsibility to know which roads are closed and stay off them, else you could get a ticket.
4. You can park no farther than 1 car length from the road, except in a limited number of predesignated areas where it could be up to 100 feet. These are existing "dispersed campsites" as determined by the forest service.

My thoughts on the proposed TMR plan:

1. It's hard to find anyone who objects to banning the indiscriminate vehicle travel off roads. Most of us thought that was illegal now. I guess not. Interestingly this is the only real requirement presented to the various national forests by the forces in Washington.
2. I know it looks like there are a lot of roads out there when you just look at a map. However, on their maps, 1" equals two miles. Thus, what looks like a lot on a piece of paper wouldn't seem that way at all to someone out walking it. Also the number presented to the public was 29% closure ( as defined by linear miles). The first question I asked Jim Beards was, "how did you get that number?" to which he responded, "oh that's not correct, it's more like 40%". I would guess 60% just by looking at the maps. And in some areas it has to be 90%. It's a lot of closures.
3. Here is my son's comment on the lack of mechanism for closure. "If this goes in and there aren't any barricades, then I think you'll get a whole bunch of people not obeying/knowing about the new laws, using roads/campsites as they used to while the rest of us law-abiding citizens are bound by our morals to obey the new proposal. So we don't get to travel as we used to, nor will we truly get the benefit of the new 'road closures' because there will always be someone driving down that road that we are expecting to be closed."
4. The worst part of the whole proposal is the one car length limitation. I don't think I have ever camped as close as one car length from a road. Why? Vehicles drive on roads. They are noisy, they kick up dust and sometimes they go real fast and are thus unsafe. This one has lawsuit written all over it, the first time a little kid gets hit by a car or ATV because people are basically forced to camp by the road. Now Jim Beard said, "you can camp anywhere in the forest" you just can't park anywhere. But let's face it, if you have kids, especially little ones, you are not going to be practically able to get real far from your car.

There are two proposals now:

1-do nothing but implement restrictions on off road travel
2-this proposed plan

Given only those choices I would have to go for choice 1.

Here is What I think we should do:

1. Restrict travel to roads. (That's a 'no brainer' with perhaps some permitted exceptions.)
2. Take the roads currently designated for closure and specify them all as primitive but leave them open for 4x4, ATV, dirt bike, mountain bike use. Do not maintain them, thus they will present no strain on the budget yet will still be perfectly suited for the people who want use them.
3. Change the one car length limitation to 100 feet. Logical campsite areas will evolve out over time.
4. Establish an 800 number hot line to forest service enforcement so violators could be reported. Like the Game and Fish anti-poaching system a reward could be offered and actually paid for by the offenders fines. Judges could invoke additional community service 'clean up' sentences to those convicted of illegal off road travel, littering etc..

A mentality that restricts more and more people with more and more recreational vehicles to less and less space is counter intuitive to me. I'm all for using this TMR plan to improve the outdoor experience for all of us and protect our treasured forests. However these massive road closures and, perhaps more importantly, campsite restrictions are not the answer. We need a plan that allows for reasonable access and use and provides a effective method of dealing with those who abuse that access and use. ( I think that's the piece that is currently deficient. The 800 number could help that problem a lot.)

You have only until Sept 10th 2007 to comment on the plan. Here is the link to the full proposal with maps.

I urge you to read through this information and send your comments to :

The pure backpackers and hikers might like the idea of this plan but be careful. You may find you can no longer get to your trailhead and water cashing points.

If you are a hunter, many of your favorite source roads to get you to those favorite spots will be closed.

If you are a mountain biker or ATVer this is disaster! These closed roads take on the same status as the forest around them thus will be closed to vehicular travel of any kind.

If you are a roadside tent camper, I hope you like the idea of camping virtually 'on' the road.

It effects everybody. Speak now or forever camp on the road (if you can find one).

"Take all the trees and put 'em in a tree museum
then charge the people a dollar and a half just to see 'em
don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you got till it's gone......" - Joni Mitchell

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

So this is camping???

I have been wrestling with this whole notion of what the term 'camping' has come to mean and why.

To me, camping is a spirit or maybe even a state of mind that results from the shedding of modern conveniences and distractions and reducing things down to simpler essentials. (The purest form of camping would be backpacking where the object of the game is to have exactly what you need and nothing else.)

Strangely, this process facilitates more of an awareness of ones own existence. The senses become more amplified. The thoughts become less cluttered. It just feels good.

One of the weaknesses of our capitalistic society though, is that marketing tactics tend to pick at our wants and desires and paint magnificent images of the virtues of what we don't have. This in turn drives us to wanting more, more, more which is completely contrary to the aforementioned simplification process. So we go from a tent, to a camper shell, to a tent trailer, to an RV, to a summer cabin etc. and that spirit of camping just gets lost in the clutter. Unfortunately, I'm not sure we realize what's going on or what we are missing.

I talk with folks who tell me things like, "I took my son/daughter camping but they hated it". But then you ask and find out that their son or daughter spent the whole trip with either their IPOD or their cell phone in their ear or they just had to have their best friends along for someone to talk to or they spent the whole trip watching videos or even satellite TV with the generator running outside the RV.

( A very valuable lesson that backpacking has taught me is that things own you as much as you own them. Maybe more, as we may not ever know how much 'things' distract us from who we are . )

I suspect some of you might be thinking I'm being a socialistic hypocrite here. After all I do sell camping products. Actually my point is to maybe, get some discussion going about what camping really is.

Who knows maybe you're missing the whole point......or maybe I'm missing it?

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Welcome to the videocamper blog.

The purpose of this blog is to generate camping relevant information in order to promote tent camping, backpacking and other outdoor/wilderness enjoyment activities. It is my intent to have this blog work in conjunction with my two camping related websites: - where you can find answers to camp kitchen and chuck box concerns and additional general tent camping information. - the place for tent camping ideas, tips and tricks.

and my video newsletter: - demonstrations of camping techniques and outdoor video.

Basically, I envision content changes on those websites and in the newsletter that would reflect the interest and needs of those of us who tent camp. For example, if folks were looking for a good solution to some particular problem when camping, then the experienced among us could share our ideas on the subject and I would develop a web page to address that particular issue or cover it in the newsletter.

Such issues could also be addressed through posts of other websites they may have already adequately covered the information in question.

That way when the subject comes up again we simple refer people to the appropriate web page instead of having to go through the whole discussion all over again. ( In my opinion, the down side of blogging is the redundancy of topics.)

Please keep your posts relevant to tent camping, backpacking and activities commonly associated with same. Feel free to include your URL in your signature but do not mention your products or services unless they are relevant and specific to the given thread you are posting to. In other words, let's keep it camping relevant! However, feel free to tell us about the bear that raided your last camp or the pack rat that stole your wedding ring or 'the one that got away'. Camping stories are more than welcome!

Hopefully, we will attract some of the scouting communities so lets keep the language and discussion appropriate to all ages and groups.

Thanks for participating!

Ken Ralston

so many little time