Issues of Concern
Camping has been a big activity in the Alabama Hills ever since they were discovered. Camping can be a very enjoyable activity but it can also be destructive. Just moving around your campsite, and widening your circle around the camp, tramples down the brush unless you’re very careful.
PACK YOUR PAPER
There is an incredible amount of toilet paper and waste products being left in bushes and under rocks, with high concentrations near popular campsites and climbing areas. In a desert environment, we urge you to pack out your toilet paper and waste products. Natural toilet paper has been used by many campers for years. When done correctly, this method is as sanitary as regular toilet paper, but without the impact problems. Popular types of natural toilet paper include stones, vegetation and snow.
Proper disposal of tampons requires placing them in plastic bags and packing them out. Do not bury them because they don’t decompose readily and animals may dig them up. It will take a very hot, intense fire to burn them completely—campfires are not an adequate solution. There are several EPA-approved, commercially produced pack-out systems available that are easy to use and sanitary for outdoor use.
Cat holes are the most widely accepted method of waste disposal. Locate cat holes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult paces) from water, trails and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp. With a small garden trowel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. The cat hole should be covered and disguised with natural materials when finished. If camping in the area for more than one night, or if camping with a large group, cat hole sites should be widely dispersed.
Urine has little direct effect on vegetation or soil. In some instances, urine may draw wildlife which are attracted to the salts. They can defoliate plants and dig up soil. Urinating on rocks, pine needles, and gravel is less likely to attract wildlife. Diluting urine with water from a water bottle can help minimize negative effects.
As more and more people enjoy parks and protected areas every year, packing out human waste is likely to become a more common practice to ensure long-term sustainability of our shared lands.
Many areas in the Alabama Hills are being degraded by the overuse of fires. A California Campfire Permit is required for campfires, stoves, and lanterns use in the Alabama Hills. The best place to build a fire is within an existing fire ring in a well-placed campsite. Keep the fire small and burning only for the time you are using it. Allow wood to burn completely to ash. Put out fires with water, not dirt. Dirt may not completely extinguish the fire. Avoid building fires next to rock outcrops where the black scars will remain for many years. Carry your wood in and out. Do not use surrounding vegetation to fuel your fire. Desert plants keep the soil healthy and provide homes and food for wildlife. What may appear to be dead brush, is most often alive and part of a thriving eco-system. The BLM and local stewardship groups take the responsibility to break apart fire rings, and carryout the remains of wood and ash. If a fire is important to your camping experience, consider renting a local campground with maintained fire rings.
DON’T CRUSH THE BRUSH
The Don’t Crush the Brush campaign was created by the Bishop Area Bureau of Land Management and the Community of Lone Pine California in an effort to educate and encourage the visitors to the Alabama Hills to help protect the fragile desert environment.
Desert plants keep the soil healthy and provide homes and food for wildlife. While these plants are specially adapted for their environment, they can be destroyed easily if walked on or run over by a vehicle. During the late summer and early winter it’s easy to mistake the plants as being dead but they’re just dormant, conserving their moisture and energy to burst into green in the spring. Stick to trails and driving routes to keep your public lands healthy. The plants grow very slowly in the desert environment and you could be driving on, or walking on, a plant that has been around for decades.
The Bureau of Land Management and the Alabama Hills Stewardship Group care for this area with the goal of preserving the hills in as close as natural state as possible for the enjoyment of future generations. One way we accomplish this is to “plant” a field dead brush often wrapped in fencing to help preserve it. Does the dead plant start growing again? Unfortunately no but it does help hold the sandy soil. They also capture blowing seeds and give them a place to anchor.
The rock climbing stake holders do a great job of educating and policing the members of their community. Permanent anchors are painted so that they don’t stand out from the boulder texture. Still, trash is left behind as they end the day.