Lottery could enchant certain hikers
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With piles of snow around town it may be hard to imagine that hiking season is just around the corner, but camping permits for the Enchantments are due today (March 2). Camping has become so popular in the area that the U.S Forest Service has had to resort to the lottery system.
“That hike is so amazing. There’s mountain goats that will walk right with you. I mean everyone would want to do that hike,” said avid hiker and University of Washington Student, Brandon Reeves.
The Enchantments are a part of the vast, 400,000 acre Alpine Lakes Wilderness, located in the Central Cascade region and accessed through Leavenworth. Hiking through the Enchantments will bring spectacular views of the Stuart Mountain Range and the polished granite feeding into the many Alpine lakes.
But with great hiking comes even greater crowds which is why the U.S Forest Service started the lottery system for the area in 1981 which limits the use and overnight camping. There are far more applications than capacity which means some people will not get the opportunity to camp in the highly desired destination.
“If there were no permits I would be there 3 or 4 times per year, you know and that’s just my idea. There’s people out there with that same notion,” said Reeves. “It’s for the die-hards. There’s less footprints, less trash; It’s a good thing,” Reeves said.
The Enchantments are divided into 5 zones including Colchuck, Snow, Caroline, Stuart and the Core Enchantment Zone and they all require an overnight permit for any camping from May 15 through October 31 for the 2017 season. The lottery has been open since February 15 and will end at 11:59 p.m. today, March 2.
“We did Snow Lake and Upper Snow Lake. We camped up there and it was an amazing hike in. We had to take a bridge with water over it and I had to take my shoes off to get through it, something I’ve never had to do before. That was one of the first major hikes that I ever did,” said Reeves.
The trails are seeing more and more people get out and explore the trails around the Pacific Northwest. Hiking is growing in popularity due to Outdoor Outfitters encouraging people to go outside, the health and psychological benefits attributed to hiking and the ease of sharing hiking destinations through social media.
Although the lottery limits the impact that we have on the environment that we desire to see, it may seem unfair to some. Everyone wants to see the beauty of what the Central Cascades has to offer but no one wants to be on an overcrowded trial and nobody wants to over-stress the environment. The lottery is drawn at random for the dates that an individual selected, there are no favorites to win, it’s all about luck.
“I’ve heard of some people getting it four years in a row and I’ve heard some people say they have never gotten it,” said aspiring mountain guide Katie Wright.
The permit system is gaining popularity in wilderness areas, which is a good way to limit the use, but at the same time it is limiting outdoor groups. Wright is in a Wilderness Leadership Experiential Education Program at Mt. Hood and her program is feeling the negative effects of having to apply for permits months in advance.
“We definitely get limited, big time in our program and we don’t get to enjoy these really awesome adventures for this experiential-learning.” said Wright about the applying for permits in other areas around the Pacific Northwest “I think if they had better availability for educational programs it’d probably be a lot better.
The lottery is not perfect, but the U.S Forest Service prides itself on keeping the wilderness areas pristine by determining a healthy amount of foot traffic through sensitive areas. In order to find more information regarding the lottery process or to apply for overnight permits visit www.fs.fed.us.
If I can get the permits, I will go back there every year if I had a chance,” said Reeves.