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Letter From A Hiker

The following is a letter a visiting hiker wrote to the Forest Service (and kindly shared with HUPC) about the sad manner in which users are treating the High Uintas Wilderness and the lack of management that is permitting such abuses to persist . The writer's comments on livestock in fragile wild country are a sobering message the F.S. must heed! See the accompanying article for the context in which HUPC is trying to remedy this atrocity.

"On Thursday, August 15, 2002, at about 3pm, my husband Joel, our friend Mickey and I set out on the Highline Trailhead for a 10-day backpack into the High Uintas. It was our first trip into this area. The first night we stayed near Pigeon Milk Spring. We were already noticing and lamenting how the meadows we passed were so trampled and full of cow droppings, but we figured we were still pretty close to civilization.

The next morning, we were met by a cow and calf as we started up the Rocky Sea Pass. That night we stayed at Ledge Lake. The next morning, Saturday, August 17, we crossed Dead Horse Pass then crossed Red Knob Pass just after lunch. Joel had reached Red Knob Pass about an hour before and was watching a sight we just could not believe. Below the pass, in a large meadow that seemed to be part of a cirque that curved west to Mount Lovenia, at about 11,400', were hundreds of sheep grazing ... where the Lake Fork River starts. Joel and Mickey thought there were maybe 300 or more....

We hiked down the trail, past the meadow toward Lambert Meadow. The meadow area we passed was as trampled as the others we had seen, but this was particularly heartbreaking because we know how fragile these high meadows can be. We just kept saying, "What on earth are they thinking?"

We continued our backpack and found the area truly fascinating, just beautiful and certainly geologically unique. But, again, it was also heartbreaking. We have backpacked all over the country for the past 30 years, and the area we passed through in the High Uintas must be a candidate for the most trashed trails, the most littered campsites, and the most trampled meadows. We did not go through or by even one meadow that had not been trampled and devastated to some degree. We found broken leather horse tack, horseshoes, large and small tin cans, ropes and line, in almost every site we camped. We try to stay in established sites to minimize our impact on the environment but also strongly believe such campsites should be at least 200 feet from the water. Most of the campsites are right on the water and had horse droppings right in the campsite and trailing into the lake or stream. We are not at all opposed to horses, and have used horses on the trail before ourselves... Allowing horses and horse packs is a good way for people to see this beautiful area when they might not otherwise be able to do so. Hopefully... they will also be encouraged to care for it and seek its preservation...

When we backpack, Joel always carries an extra sack with him to pack out some of the trash we find. When fires are allowed... we burn much of the toilet paper and other paper litter we find. But it would have taken a couple of pack trains to carry out the litter we found. Hopefully, all backpackers and your horse people can be encouraged to police themselves or their clients a little more carefully...

Thank you for this opportunity to speak about these matters.

Signed: Sue H. Sorum (California)


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