Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Gifford-Pinchot National Forest Wilderness permit system

“distance is not for the fearful, it's for the bold. It's for those who are willing to spend a lot of time alone in exchange for a little time with the one they love. It's for those who know a good thing when they see it, even if they don't see it nearly enough”― Meghan Daum

I got my seasonal lay off for my job at the end of September. Al's district isn't laying him off until the end of October (he started later than I did, we both end up having about a 5 month season) so I came up to the Columbia river gorge where he works until his season ends. While he's at work during the week, I have been volunteering with the local ranger district, doing many of the same things I did down in California but it's neat to see how things vary forest to forest and district to district.

The biggest difference here is the permit system. In the Hoover Wilderness where I worked, you need a permit only for overnight travel, here in Gifford-Pinchot National Forest you need it even for day use in their Wilderness areas. They track their Wilderness use very closely and use the permit system to apply for grant money. Also, instead of going to the ranger station to get a permit (what we have people do for the Hoover Wilderness), here you just self issue at the trailhead. That's very user-friendly which I like. Since my district has seasonal quotas on trailheads, we can't do this. We regulate how many people enter our more popular trailheads during the busy season to ensure a degree of solitude...Wilderness areas that are less visited don't need to do this.

Here's the box at the trailhead in Indian Heaven Wilderness, you open it and there are blank permits inside. (Love that routed lettering inside the box!) 

The permits are carbon paper, the top white copy gets left in the box and the bottom manila paper portion is the user's. The idea is to use the little elastic strap to put it on your pack. It's a bit wet up here right now for this to work but I have come across a couple people who did in fact strap it to their pack.

I come in and unlock this bar and slide it out, lift up the little board, and collect the filled out permits! I love these little boxes, such a lovely simple design...perfectly in line with the Wilderness state of mind.