Public High Lakes Forum › High lakes discussion › wilderness trail flagging
- This topic has 25 replies, 10 voices, and was last updated 10 years, 8 months ago by Sandy McKean.
May 15, 2011 at 11:50 pm #82805Feenix23Participant
I’m just curious to know from others what is the feeling toward back country trail flagging. I have come across it in the wilderness, usually heading to alpine lakes, and generally think its litter and doesn’t belong. In the future I plan to remove it. I am also a mountain climber and in the climbing community this type of thing is highly frowned upon. Is there any etiquette amongst hi-lakers? Not that I’m saying anyone here does this. If you can’t navigate without the use of bright plastic ribbons you have no business in the back country I think.
May 15, 2011 at 11:54 pm #94009
Oh man, you hit one of my hot buttons. Flags are litter, nothing more. If I see flags on a x-country trip and they aren’t marked they are going in my pocket just like any other litter I find. I have seen flags set for future trail re-routing and marked for fire or other boundaries, but the vast majority of flags should never have been hung.
May 16, 2011 at 12:28 am #94010Joshua CowartParticipant
No flagging please. Eat all of it up you want. I remove it all the time.
May 16, 2011 at 1:24 am #94011
I remove every flag I can get my hands on (except when they are placed by a survey crew — very rare).
To those (and there are some) who claim the placing of flags can be justified, I say fine if you must, but just be sure you personally remove every flag you place (of course, their retort is that they can’t be expected to do that).
May 29, 2011 at 9:25 pm #94012Mark HarrisParticipant
I would extend the question to rock cairns. I don’t really care for the idea of flagging. I have, however, come to appreciate a few rock cairns at times. Sometimes when going over very rocky terrain you have the option of going three different ways. None of which you can tell the end-game and for which a map won’t help with contour lines on 40′ intervals. In places, I would have spend a lot of time doubling back without cairns.
What’s the difference in my opinion? SMALL rock cairns will disappear after a few years. They tend to be used in rocky terrain. Flagging is man-made and attached to trees where orienteering isn’t quite as hard.
May 29, 2011 at 10:10 pm #94013allisonParticipant
I’m with MH, they are handy and natural and oh so convenient at times.
May 31, 2011 at 7:33 pm #94014Joshua CowartParticipant
Cairns are good sometimes. I don’t really mind them. I just don’t want to see them every 20 ft.
May 31, 2011 at 9:10 pm #94015
Cairns are little better then flags. They still promote development of tread by sending people on a single path. I have no problem with them on established trails where the trail might disappear in rocks or grass, but don’t like them at all where there is no trail. If there is no trail then a route shouldn’t be marked.
May 31, 2011 at 11:50 pm #94016
I’ve been known to kick over many a rock cairn…..not all of them mind you, but most. Like Josh, it’s the “every 20 ft” ones that really bug me. If there is a single cairn, strategically placed to avoid an obvious confusion point, I usually leave it (even if there is no trail……old climber’s habit I guess).
June 22, 2011 at 1:25 pm #94018
It depends on what the flagging was used for. The flagging might have been used for a person making their trail into a lake where they had to hit a certain spot otherwise they may hit a cliff or vine maple patch. Or the flagging could have been used by a hunter to find his kill site. Either way the person probably should have retrieved their ribbon on the trip out, but then again maybe they plan to return. There is also surveys done in wilderness areas to survey tree population, pest infestation, etc. and sometimes flags are left to allow the person to come back to the same spot to re survey.
June 22, 2011 at 2:06 pm #94019
My daughter did research on trees in MRNP last summer. They used GPSrs to find their plots, not flags. If flags are placed for any official purpose they will be marked.
Leaving litter behind because it will make your next trip to a lake quicker is inexcusable.
I was chatting with a back-country ranger once in Montana when she started complaining about people flagging routes. I said “You mean like this?” and I pulled a big handful of flags I’d pulled down earlier that day out of my pocket. She was quite grateful.
June 22, 2011 at 5:09 pm #94017
Ok I will respond to this but not make this as excuses.
GPS’s don’t always get signals they are very limited when it comes to Canyons, Draws, tree cover especially.
Having worked for the DNR we would routinely mark trails, roads,borders, do surveys and not always mark on the ribbon. Often color of ribbons dictates the usage i.e. blue- timber sale boundry, or sale location, white-culvert location or tree surveys. Having said that it was never done in Wilderness areas or areas like Wild Sky Wilderness that doesn’t fit the traditional Wilderness designation.
For me I have noticed that baloons. or helium filled foil baloons are much more of a problem as they seem to be everywhere.
June 22, 2011 at 5:18 pm #94020
Yeah, there are lots of reasons outside wilderness that flags might be placed. When they are leading to a lake it is pretty obvious they aren’t there for any official reason. I found some a few years ago marking a site of a fire and I’ve seen them marking future trail re-routes. I left those in place. Flags marking off trail routes are the problematic ones.
And don’t get me started on the scourge of balloons!
June 22, 2011 at 6:56 pm #94021
Yea Brian I had to throw that little balloon thing in there after remembering you GPS wavepoint was at a balloon on a planting trip 😆
June 22, 2011 at 7:40 pm #94022allisonParticipant
Surveyor tape being used for administrative purposes is never at issue.
June 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm #94023
June 25, 2011 at 12:39 am #94024Mark HarrisParticipant
I once got the crap scared out of me by one of those balloons. Going cross country I cam across a cool looking cave in a rockfield. Curiousity got the best out of me and I took a quick look inside the shallow cave. I saw what looked liked a space blanket with a human figure underneath. I thought, “oh great, I get to be the guy who finds some person missing for a couple weeks.” I flipped it over to find it was a HUGE helium balloon laying on a quite convincing arrangment of rocks.
June 27, 2011 at 4:07 am #94025
April 17, 2012 at 10:27 pm #94026John CoralloParticipant
Interesting topic. I have been saved by them quite a few times under horrendous conditions.
I also have appreciated them in areas where super delicate alpine plants and lichen are located which would otherwise be trampled by the boots of those who follow any path that they choose.
On the other side it is a bit sad when an obvious trail/path to a location is flagged beyond belief.
So that said, if one goes in to Azure Lake please feel free to not follow the mile or so of the occasional flag that someone placed years ago. Rich Brown and I were thankful to stumble into them!
April 17, 2012 at 11:16 pm #94027
The latest thinking seems to be that it is best to spread out in delicate plants. Is is even recommended that a party spread out through meadows and not walk single file. A single set of boots doesn’t do lasting damage, but multiple sets of boots do.
I’ve never known anyone who placed flags to avoid delicate plants or lichens. That sure would be a good use for them, though!
I’ve made the mistake of following flags and gotten into a bad situation. Just because someone hung flags doesn’t mean they knew where they were going.
April 18, 2012 at 4:28 am #94028
My statement below makes me feel like a “principles first, and principles only….and the hell with reality” right winger sort of guy (not my normal comfort zone)……… 😉 😀 😀
When I’m out there, I will continue to remove every damn flag I ever see (except official ones), and the hell with arguments to the contrary 🙄 .
April 27, 2012 at 7:36 am #94029Rich BrownParticipant
That’s how we roll Johnny Boy!
April 27, 2012 at 5:49 pm #94030
Here’s a photo from a 2004 trip where we went maybe 5 miles into a lake. This the pile of trash we found hanging in the trees. I doubt we even got all of them!
I guess someone was really, really worried about getting lost.
April 27, 2012 at 8:10 pm #94031Tyler GoodmanParticipant
Wow! Either that, or they were throwing a birthday party!
June 26, 2012 at 9:09 pm #94032John CoralloParticipant
Your comfort zone is the response that you gave. Don’t apologize.
June 26, 2012 at 10:09 pm #94033
I am most comfortable with a philosophical outlook that all truth is relative, and that there is no such thing as The Truth to the exclusion of what others see as a different truth. Funny that tho, since I am basically a scientist kind of guy…..but apparently a scientist who doesn’t accept that Truth exists 😉 (except in the eye of the beholder). I’m probably best labeled as an existentialist (my literary hero is Samuel Beckett).
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