Big Trouble In Little Grotto (On-Topic)


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Topic Author's Original Post - Aug 20, 2013 - 11:10pm PT
Skip hiked into Echo Cliffs

early this last Saturday morning to do some rope-soloing. As she reached the creek-bed, she came upon an encampment on the big flat rock that is at the base of the Grotto. There were several tents and camping gear set up on the slab, and they had dragged a huge pile of branches directly onto the trail – she probably woke them up thrashing around and moving the stuff out of the way so she could actually get to Left Flank and every other area.

A Hispanic couple emerged from one of the tents. Skip greeted them in a friendly way (all the while thinking: WTF is going on here?). She continued on and started to set up at Left Flank for a while but could hear more people waking up and they were getting a bit loud and disruptive, and obviously NOT CLIMBERS. She got a bit wigged out since she was alone, so she headed down to Easy Street to do some soloing there.

About an hour later a couple of climbers showed up at Easy Street and finding Skip there, said “Did you see the campers and the CAMPFIRE that that camping group started?”
She was aghast – that is what the pile of brush was for?? It’s 100 degrees out and it hasn’t rained here in a year.
They couldn't believe it - the whole friggin’ canyon is a tinderbox death-trap.

The climbers said they had given a polite heads-up - “it isn’t a great idea to have a fire, and there are big fines involved” – that is all. Not confrontational or negative.
That’s when one of the big guys at the camp got belligerent and told her she couldn’t “tell them what they could do”, and after they left and went climbing at Java Wall (within visual proximity of the camp) The aggro-big guy continued yelling and screaming repeatedly at them as they were trying to climb. At this point they had a large dog roaming around as well.
They decided, like Skip it was time to move further away.

The fire was really the most serious issue.

Upon meeting and talking to the couple, Skip decided to hike out and call the local ranger James as soon as soon as she could get to his phone # (which was on her phone in the car). She had seen one car in the parking lot when she showed up way early, so she was going to call in the license - knowing it was the campers.

Skip was just as polite to them on the way out - told the group to "have a nice day" (fully intending to rat them out). It seemed that they had actually put most of the fire out as she left – so maybe some gravity of the situation had sunk in? At this point, she saw a number of extra people and a big pit bull running around off-leash. They weren’t packing up. It looked like the group was there to party for the weekend.

The climbers must have figured out how to get a hold of the park service, because Skip ran into James and two back-up big-guys hiking on the trail back to the parking lot, all geared up to break up the party at Camp Homeboy. She filled them in on the details. A segment of the trail conversation:

“Hi, James..uh you guys heading down to the Grotto?”

"Hi, Skip. Is there something going on I need to investigate?”

“Yup… There are some campers. They started a campfire and were belligerent and confrontational when someone said something."

“That is why I am late – I needed to wait for some back-up after I got the call - (indicates two large rangers flanking him) – is there a Boxer?”

“It’s a large Pit Bull.”

“Are you SURE it is a Pit Bull?”

“Yes”, (says the woman who grew up working at pet stores), “it is a Pit Bull.”

“Was it at least on a leash?”

“Of course not!”

Evidently things got exciting after this. James and his crew were able to sneak down, hide and watch the group for a while, observing them chopping branches to feed some future fire apparently for after those bothersome climbers left, and etching stuff on the rocks while the dog ran around unsupervised. The ranger-posse finally confronted them, and made them pack up. It was a big group of out-of shape people, so it took them over 2 hours to get them up the gully and back to the cars...during the hottest part of the day. Helicopters were buzzing the site, and the fire department was called in to make sure the fire was completely out.

Keep in mind, all of these people (including the campers) had to hike out the Backbone Trail, then some steep 4th class descending to get to the site, then do the return trip - all this in 100-degree temperatures, fully geared, with little reprieve from the sun.

I am just guessing here, but there were some unhappy people coming upon this crew besides the climbers.

The climbing-couple unfortunately overtook them on the trail when they were leaving (because they were so slow, and it was so hot) and had to deal with some angry confrontation with the campers since they knew they were the ones that called the rangers.

I can count at least five violations:

1. Illegal camping
2. Unpermitted fire
3. Off-leash dog
4. Defacing Forest Service Land
5. Illegal vegetation cutting

Additionally, I am sure a good lawyer could make a case for:

6. Reckless Endangerment (In that if the fire had spread, everyone in that canyon would be at risk of death by fire – being the only way out is past the flash-point.)

What a crazy day – how do these inner-city people find these places?
The alternate title for the thread was “Echo and the Burly Men”
Spider Savage

Mountain climber
The shaggy fringe of Los Angeles
Aug 20, 2013 - 11:47pm PT
Wild story. I've seen weird stuff like this but not quite this bad.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 21, 2013 - 01:10am PT
I'll bet you they got off basically scot-free.

Trad climber
dancin on the tip of god's middle finger
Aug 21, 2013 - 01:19am PT
the end already happened.
so stop fretting.
there is no hope for progress or enlightenment.

just enjoy the inexhaustible slide unto genetic maturity.

Ice climber
canyon country,CA
Aug 21, 2013 - 01:23am PT
Why do you hate inner city people so much ? Do they rat you out when you go to the ghetto ? At least they were trying to enjoy the great outdoors. Facist...Eco-facist

A long way from where I started
Aug 21, 2013 - 01:33am PT
There's a huge divide, and seemingly no way to bridge it. We lost one of the best climbing areas in Washington because a group of people couldn't accept that the world wasn't theirs to do whatever they pleased with.

In our case, what they pleased was to tear up roads, trails, and forests with their off-road vehicles.

What was weird was that they were completely unreachable. That their pleasure resulted in the destruction of watersheds and logging roads was irrelevant to them. Meetings, DNR involvement, logging company involvement... all for naught.

I suspect the people Skip met had the same mentality. From their perspective, they were just out enjoying their god-given right as Americans to do whatever the f*#k they wanted to do, and they probably can't understand why she (and the other climbers, and the Law) was upset.

How do you deal with that?

Santa Monica, CA
Aug 21, 2013 - 01:34am PT

Rwedge do you even know what you're talking about? This area is so f&$$( dry they could have set the whole sm mountain range on fire. Had no business being in there let alone camping or starting a fire. This enrages me as well - regardless of where these ass$$@& came from it's infuriating. If I were skip or t,his other couple I would have bolted immediately but good on you guys for calling the authorities. Problem is these morons will probably go right back in there. Is the outcome of this (fines, legal action, etc.) public info? I'm curious as to how it's dealt with.

Edit- this has to do with more than just climbing access....

Trad climber
SoCal Hodad, surfing the galactic plane
Aug 21, 2013 - 09:51am PT
It's a large Pit Bull.

Are you SURE it is a Pit Bull?

Yes (...) it is a Pit Bull.

Ya sure it wasn't a Mexican Pit Bull (Chihuahua)...

Those lil' suckah's can get really Midievil on ya!
mouse from merced

Trad climber
The finger of fate, my friends, is fickle.
Aug 21, 2013 - 10:07am PT
That was a frightening thing for a young maid to have experienced, let alone Just the Maid.

Hispanicism has everything to do with it, typically, at least in SoCal. Nobody was playing the race card till you mentioned it--jeesoos reestos, meester.

Jim Henson's Basement
Aug 21, 2013 - 10:17am PT
It was just a surreal situation. I wasn't really frightened.. just concerned.

I actually never would have ratted them out just for doing a little guerilla camping to hang out and party. The issue was the fire, their attitude about it and the threatening behavior and destructive tendencies that followed. (This is Federally protected wilderness).

If these guys had just stayed low key everything would have been fine and they would have had a fun weekend. I used the description "hispanic" in my story to Erik because that's what they were. They weren't "climbers" like you would expect and given the makeup of the group it just seemed odd they even found the place somehow. I'm hispanic myself BTW... There's no hate for the inner city... people have a right to be outside and have a good time....I'm just not proud of how some of my peeps feed the stereotypes.

Ghost.. it is a cultural divide. There are simply different mindsets out there and you can't do much about it. You can, however keep people from torching a mountain.

RWedgee.. you have absolutely no concept of how insanely stupid it was to start a fire in that canyon. I grew up just a few miles from there. VERY steep old-growth sagebrush, lots of hillside homes. Last time a fire burned through there 20 years ago it was totally devastating to the wildlife for years. All of those campers would have been dead if a fire got out of control.. there's just no escape on foot.

Edit to add.. I heard later the campers were un-cooperative about providing ID's. I suspect the rangers will have trouble actually prosecuting or fining any of them in the long run.

Mountain climber
The Other Monrovia- CA
Aug 21, 2013 - 11:14am PT
I saw this campfire high in the San Gabriels last week. Gee, what could
possibly go wrong here? And there were any number of similar ones within
a 100 yard radius.

Credit: Reilly

Anybody who goes up any of the San Gabriel drainages on a holiday weekend
can only be sickened by what they see in terms of trash, campfires, diapers
floating down the creeks, etc. And when confronted the perps either get aggro
and self-righteous or are incredulous that they are doing anything wrong.
Just talk to a ranger up there.

Aug 21, 2013 - 11:16am PT
But the best is not to confront at all, if you're not in a group

What if you're a group of one?

Credit: BJ

Aug 21, 2013 - 11:17am PT
Would the world end in this case?
Credit: BJ
Credit: BJ

Aug 21, 2013 - 11:27am PT
We lost one of the best climbing areas in Washington because a group of people couldn't accept that the world wasn't theirs to do whatever they pleased with.

Just to clarify.

The entire Reiter area was declared a non motoorized area, and the existing roads were closed. The approach now entails about an extra 800 vertical feet of road hiking. But access is open to everyone in the USA, legal or not, who is not incarcerated. These rules apply to everyone, hikers, hunters, fishermen and climbers. The Reiter climbing areas were never lost or ever in danger of being lost.

There are much larger parcels of private land and land locked public lands which are newly off limits to the general public. The owners, Hancock, Weyerhauser and some other have instituted a pay to play program. There may be some legal push-back because the timber industry receives favorable property tax rates, which some feel included free public access on the huge(hundreds of thousands of acres) lands.

Aug 21, 2013 - 11:38am PT
Lacking a sense of humor today? I've seen documentaries where Steven Seagal has saved Battleships, trains and even entire towns from terrorists or ruthless developers. Chongo and ilk would not be a concern

Aug 21, 2013 - 11:51am PT
Tweakers and pot growers do exist, and should be considered a danger. But in reality how many people are killed or disappeared because of these folks? I bet not many, but it sure makes good fodder for the media, and for Rush, the mom's at soccer, O'Reilly and anyone else who wants to be afraid.

I'm sorry my joke about movie action heroes like Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal bothered you so, and distracted you from worrying about stuff.
Wade Icey

Trad climber
Aug 21, 2013 - 12:02pm PT
Credit: Global Warning III

Jim Henson's Basement
Aug 21, 2013 - 12:18pm PT

I don't believe we can rely on Stephen to karate-chop any terrorists for us at present.

Aug 21, 2013 - 12:47pm PT
Do dogs have to be on a leash, or do they need to be "under control"?

But it sounds like neither was the case here.

Jim Henson's Basement
Aug 21, 2013 - 01:52pm PT
Dogs are supposed to be on a leash at all times in this particular park. Once you get a ways from the road it's difficult to enforce and a lot of people let them run loose.

The dog being off the leash conversation with the ranger was sort of funny at the time... just a week before we were chatting and he was rolling his eyes about the kazillion "OMG!!!someones dog is off the leash" phone calls he gets every weekend.

This dog owner was having to bear-hug his pit with full body weight to keep it away from me... all the while telling me how "friendly" it was.

Edit to add: in defense of a couple of the campers.. the first two I ran into were actually very polite. It was their buddies that woke up later that started rabble-rousing.
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