I remember the fiasco when they implemented an ill-devised plan for thru-hikers to make advanced reservations for shelter space during the Knoxville World Fair because someone thought the backcountry would be overrun with World Fair visitors. It didn't happen of course. The only result was a bunch of needlessly frustrated thru-hikers.

Such ill-conceived policies didn't work then and certainly won't work today. And to think we are paying these 'outdoor recreation specialists' a salary to come up with these ideas. It goes to prove that I'd rather be a professional amateur than an amateur professional.

And, wouldn't it be bold and principled if the ATC/NPS in Harpers Ferry, threatened to pull the AT out of the Smokies and put it on the Mountains-to-the-Sea Trail  (connecting it from Mt. Mitchell to the Roan Highlands) to have one less National Park to deal with? At least the PATC has had a 'common sense' influence on the Shenandoah National Park bureaucrats.

In the meantime, here is how I will flow, as a migratory animal and as a pilgrim, through the GSNP on the sacred footpath (regardless of rules, regulations and fees):

1) sleep in bathroom at Fontana Dam (inclement weather); atop the visitor center roof (nice weather)

2) anywhere I want to sleep between Fontana Dam and Clingmans Dome

3) Clingman Dome tower (good weather); Clingman Dome bathrooms (inclement weather)

4) Newfound Gap - near parking lot;  Newfound Gap bathrooms (inclement weather/heated in the winter)

5) Gatlinburg - miniature golf courses (good weather)  hotel lounges behind sofas (inclement weather)

6) anywhere I want to sleep between Newfound Gap and Davenport Gap

As Whitman sort of said, "Afoot and lighthearted, I travel the open trail. Healthy, free, the world before me. The long brown path leading wherever I choose."

Happy free trails!

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Comment by Martin Hunley on February 6, 2012 at 11:44pm

Waren, Glad to see this post..... Happy Free Trails to you and that follow which will be many..... I see a little uprising here. Hike on my friends, hike on.

Comment by frank w on February 3, 2012 at 9:22pm
It would be a bold statement Warren. I still go back to Ditz telling me if the fee is implemented everyone will pay including thru hikers. So, if thru's have to pay how does the ATC respond? If they don't have to pay and the rest of us do, how do we respond?
Comment by John Quillen on February 3, 2012 at 4:43pm

I was thinking about your idea of pulling the A.T. out of the Smokies.  I like the notion of the ATC telling the NPS that they would take their ball and go home.  However, that won't happen because Ditmanson was smart enough to wait until they re did the shelters for him, nice and new.  I don't see the ATC just handing them over like that.  He's a slick one, that Ditz,. 

Comment by Joey Bridges on February 3, 2012 at 4:31pm

there is no place within the park boundaries where we are not supposed to be.

we can offtrail anywhere we like,

we can hike each and every manway we can find.

though they would like you to believe otherwise.

the best waterfalls, the best old homesites and artifacts, the best views, are nowhere near any marked trail.

Comment by Rob Cameron on February 3, 2012 at 4:24pm

I'll stay where I need to stay. In the highly unlikely case of a ranger finding me my response would be " it got dark and it was just too dangerous to try to make the campsite". I think I have a better chance of winning the powerball than of a ranger wandering up. I've been a lot of places in GSMNP that we the peons are not supposed to go. Too old to change now.

Comment by Joey Bridges on February 3, 2012 at 4:19pm

like i've said here, and elsewhere, is it really going to come to the point where a ranger will handcuff you, throw you in either the sevier co. or swain co. jail for unpaid backpacking fines ???

having only once ever having come upon a ranger in the backcountry, it was actually a good meeting and discussion we had about numerous things, including the proposed fee.

if ditmanson's absurd fee comes to pass, rangers will be viewed with the same disdain as semi hidden traffic cops as they hide behind bushes, and over the crest of a hill looking to entrap.

if i ever see a ranger in the backcountry in the future, i'll let them go through their predetermined routine, then simply ask, "am i free to go ???"
i won't sign my name to anything, i won't be confrontational, i'll simply ask that simple question.

because if i'm not under arrest, i have the right to freely walk away.

Comment by John Quillen on February 3, 2012 at 10:46am

Amen, Warren.

And as sharp witted your post appears, it is not just pure satire.  Everywhere I hear backcountry folks speak of the same logic.  We will civilly disobey.  Park Management will create the biggest monster in history should they invoke these restrictions upon citizenry.  You can mark the day when the Smokies uprising began in earnest and we will be saying, "I remember when they proceeded with the fee in spite of all logic."

I know where my head will lay should Ditmanson's Folly pass and HIS rationed sites, well.............!

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