Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

General Palm Springs area.

Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby Sally » Thu Jun 22, 2017 8:24 am

I feel that the most dangerous part of hiking is driving in my car to and from the trailhead. Just yesterday coming home from San Gorgonio I had not one, but TWO cars coming at me crossing well over the center line in the road. I doubt that the subject of closing roads due to clueless drivers has come up. Danger is everywhere! Be careful out there!
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Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby Ed » Thu Jun 22, 2017 8:39 am

guest wrote:I helped put the metal sign up at 1,700 ft., (some referred to it as the death sign), some 20 yrs. ago with help from the Mounted police & BLM, put it's been gone, (as is the old Bighorn sign).


Thanks, Guest. I thought the sign had some value, though some seasonal references in the warnings might have improved it. I thought of it as the 'Turn back or die' sign.
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Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby Wildhorse » Thu Jun 22, 2017 12:07 pm

Based on the discussion so far, it seems like closing Skyline would face significant logistical problems such as those noted by Cynthia and Ed and would face public resistance. It also sounds like SAR faces unsurmountable obstacles in some cases and that means that we can not expect life saving rescues in every case. In addition, rescues are inherently dangerous for SAR.

I looked El Cajon's closure after Ed mentioned it. San Diego County has jurisdiction and closes it for August each year. That is usually the hottest month, but the hike is dangerous on many days that the trail is open. I imagine that it may also be closed when fires are burning nearby.

To me, Claremont Wilderness Park is an interesting case. It is closed for winter storms and for fire danger too. I think it is closed whenever fire risk is really high, just like the USFS closes the San Jacinto wilderness when the land is dry and fire risk is high as it is autumn of some years. Claremont has jurisdiction. Trail access is blocked by high fences and gates. The parking lot is also gated. On top of that, police block the street to the most popular trailhead, on top of closing all the gates. The police are present with heavy rifles on top of that. The trail is easy - fire roads with a gentle grades. The most common route is a five mile loop with 1000 feet of gain. In the winter the risk may be flashflood, but those are so well controlled now, I am not sure about that.
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Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby guest » Thu Jun 22, 2017 2:38 pm

Hi Ed,
Re. the old death sign, we lugged a pole driver, bag of quick-dry, the sign & post, shovels etc. up there. I picked that spot, as it was tough to spot from the bottom, (attractive nuisance I didn't want), and figured people would get an initial sense at that point what they may be up against. At first when I, (through the old Trails Council), contacted the state park, they didn't want any involvement with the sign. I did remind them that they may be the ones plucking folks off the mt. when they get in trouble higher up, on state land. So they suggested the 10 essentials, (or is it 12?!), and that fact that people have died on the trail.

Still not sure what happened to it & the Bighorn sign, my hunch as something to do with jurisdictions, liability, not sure if there any tribal land around there, yet, (not sure where the blm / tribal proposed land exchange stands, anybody know?) etc.

Sally, I have to agree, texting seems as rampant as the pain-killer addiction! Glad we can all escape to the trails, hot or not!

Grand Cyn has strongly worded signs & warnings, which may be all we can do, as Wildhorse & others have mentioned. Some folks are just going to hike it now, some needing rescue, maybe a death, it's wilderness, just tell your relations not to sue, if you don't make it back!

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Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby cynthia23 » Thu Jun 22, 2017 11:37 pm

Excellent and nuanced responses, Guest. You said it all. re the 'death ' sign, my understanding is that the BLM took it down, along with the Bighorn sign, a couple of years ago when they were first trying to dump Skyline in the exchange and any responsibility for it. Wildhorse, have you heard anything new about the exchange EIR?
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Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby wb » Fri Jun 23, 2017 12:05 am

Might as well face a few unpleasant facts here on the subject of rescues and closures:

1. SAR rescues encourage excessive risk-taking. These people take ridiculous risks knowing that if they get into trouble, they simple need to call 911 and get a helicopter ride down the mountain. For free. Heck, they might even get their picture in the paper.

2. Closing the trail down will not prevent unlawful incursions, especially for the excessive risk-taker, who will only find the hike all that more exciting now that it is illegal. And - a helicopter ride is still available to him/her IF they get into trouble. For free.

3. There is no such thing as limited closures. As was mentioned earlier regarding closures on other trails, first it's excessive heat, then it is winter storms, then it's hot days, then it's something else. It is the proverbial camel's nose in the tent.

Some on this thread apparently believe that regulating access to the trail will eliminate the problem of excessive risk-taking - that closures will somehow solve the problem. This could not be more wrong. Excessive risk-taking can only be restrained by discontinuing the practice of giving free helicopter rides to the bozos who get themselves into trouble. $5,000 per occurrence would be an excellent deterrent for risk-takers, and it would reduce the financial impact of these rescues.

Maybe we could just pass a law making it illegal to do stupid things! Yeah - hiking in 115 degree heat up an 8,000 trail with 12oz of water is a misdemeanor and punishable by a fine of no less than $1,000. That would do it!

Restricting access to the trail punishes EVERYBODY for the stupid acts of the few. We all know that we're not going to charge for helicopter rides, and we're not going to be able to enforce a Don't Do Stupid Things law, so we have the system that we have now. And it works. Let's not punish everybody because a few people are stupid. Let's make the stupid pay for their stupid acts. (Spoken as one who has committed one or two stupid acts myself).
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Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby Ed » Fri Jun 23, 2017 8:44 am

Seems like we've been over this before, but the issues are interesting, with considerable grayness.

I wish rescue reports were more detailed, with names of the rescued and an analysis of causes. Sheriff's reports seem to be absolutely minimal. SAR volunteer team reports are more detailed, but focus on the activity of the SAR team, and they come some time after the accident. Media reports are limited as well, what can they do, they have to rely on the rescuers for information. The rescued rarely fess up. The big exception is Ellen, who posted very detailed and candid reports on her two rescues, and took a storm of unfair flak when the second one made it to another discussion board where people did not know her.
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Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby Wildhorse » Fri Jun 23, 2017 12:53 pm

I think that trail closures show much variability in the reasons trails are closed and how they are closed. Public safety, including SAR safety, does appear to be important to the decisions made in some cases and jurisdictions, and not as much in others. It may be a big consideration, for example, at El Cajon, in Claremont and sometimes at Cowles Mountain. Ecological concerns seem to be the big factor in other cases and jurisdictions. For example, ecological concerns are probably the main reasons for the long closure of Tahquitz Valley in the San Jacinto Wilderness since the fire several years ago. Under the Wilderness Act, preservation is the appropriate primary concern.

On Skyline are there ecological concerns?

More than a decade ago, the Desert Trails Coalition (Trails Council) was reinvigorated mostly to fight trail closures for ecological concerns, includingly protection of bighorn sheep. Ecological concerns lost that round to hikers and other users who wanted unfettered access. The coalition waged that battle in part by denying the validity of the scientific basis for the ecological concerns. (Note the similarity to some battles related to climate change.

Much of the resistance to the proposed land exchange came from public concerns about trail access, even while potentially much more is at risk ecologically. The public has at least delayed these losses, although they could be realized any time.
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Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby zippetydude » Fri Jun 23, 2017 9:08 pm

Ed: Yes, this is an annual topic of discussion among like minded individuals. hiker and I (and in the past a couple of others) generally root for being left alone by the government but all are true veterans of wilderness trails and understand both sides. I propose we all pitch in and buy a cell phone jammer. We put up a sign that says, "If you run into trouble, then you are DEAD. There is no reception from this point...go ahead and check your phone...see?...nothing...and there will be nothing...until you get to Long Valley. Everyone is entitled to one last mistake...are you about to make yours? "

If nothing else it would be a ton of fun. Jammers only work for a hundred feet or so, but the would be rescuees wouldn't know that. And we could make some great hidden video of people trying to make decisions! Just a thought. :twisted:

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Re: Summer Closure of Skyline Trail

Postby cynthia23 » Fri Jun 23, 2017 9:16 pm

LOL Zip, jamming cell phones is cruel and unusual punishment. Some might die purely from twitter withdrawal symptoms.

I tend to think charging people for their rescues (and, of course, a large sign advising that's the case) would be the best solution to this ongoing problem. It's a controversial idea but has been effective in some arenas.
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