Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

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Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by arthurspiderman »

When I head out into the backcountry, 99.5% of people I meet are pleasant and polite. Occasionally you meet a 0.5 percenter. Today was one of those days.

With an after work start on Friday, my buddy Geckser and I reached Crystal at around 9:30pm. Our goal was to hike Hagerman via Lead King Basin, however, we knew through past experience on the road and various reports that our Suburu would only be able to make it about 1/4 of a mile further. There is a perfect pullout at this location with room for about 4 vehicles. This pullout is a very common trailhead for cars that cannot make the true LKB trailhead. When we were here two years, there were three other then cars parked besides us when we got back to our car.

Upon reaching this pullout, we found a 4Runner parked with a couple tents nearby. We immediately turned off the engine and lights as to not bother these campers. Just seconds after opening the trunk to access our tent, we were confronted by an angry and belligerent man.

He asked us what we were doing. We calmly responded that we were going to quickly set up camp and would be off hiking early in the morning as quietly as possible. The man began to scream at us claiming that the pullout was his and his alone. We pointed at a spot in the grass that was separated from his tent by about 45 feet and two vehicles. No shot. This spot was apparently way too close to camp.

At this point, we asked him if there was any solution to this issue? He responded that this is the backcountry and we could park anywhere else to camp. That was simply not possible. Our vehicle could not make it further up the road and there doesn’t appear to be any legal spots to park until about an hour down the road.

We explained this to him to no avail. He said that if we dared camp in this public spot, he would make our night “living hell” and would slash our tires with his knife. Not only was I scared for my tires, but I was also scared for my life if I dared spend the night. Things got a little heated, but we were soon on the road going back to Crystal after realizing there was not possibility of us safely camping at this public trailhead.

This is especially disheartening as he had mentioned doing this S ridge on Snowmass a few years ago. He is likely a member of this great community and is sad to see someone with a love of the mountains exhibiting this behavior.

We parked in Crystal to regroup and plan for the next day. This road had taking us about 1.5 hours to drive from the start at Marble. It would add on tons of driving time to find a camping spot down lower. Additionally, if we then parked next to the man in the morning, I was incredibly worried for the safety of my car as well as myself in case he pulled a gun on us upon our return. At this point, we were leaning towards heading back to Denver and canceling the hike altogether.

We were incredibly lucky to meet Haley and Anna. They were residents of the town and helped run the ship. They walked up to our parked car, but upon hearing the story, offered us a free spot in their campground as well as a parking pass in Crystal for the next day. These two ladies saved our trip to Lead King Basin and made one of the kindest gestures I have ever received. Our sincerest thanks go out to you.

To the man without a name or a shred of good nature: You are disgrace to the kind and welcoming expectations in the backcountry. I hope your trip has gone well, but I am incredibly grateful to have the wisdom to walk away with my dignity and life intact.

Who else has experience with someone of this ill intent out in the backcountry?
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by Mtnman200 »

I’ve run into jerks on occasion but never felt like my life or property were in danger. Usually, the greater the distance from the road or trailhead, the better people tend to be.

I’m glad Haley and Anna were able to save your trip.
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by cougar »

This seems to be a recurring problem at Crystal. It sounds almost identical to another scary report someone posted a few years back, where they reported to the sheriff.

I had a less belligerent encounter at Iowa Gulch. A couple guys were camping in the obvious grassy area below the trailhead, one in a gypsy wagon, and kicked us out, saying it was a private spot for their club. Which is possible with all the claims in the area, but it wasn't posted, and id heard of others camping there before. Usually when I see people camping I'd think it's a legit spot. Ended up going to half-moon creek which was much nicer anyway.

Another time I got a nasty note on my car parked at a big pullout where a road split, before it became rough 4wd, and getting in my partners 4wd to the trailhead. No signage around there, but the note claimed I was trespassing. Could have driven farther as it was good for a couple miles, campground and lots of public land off that road. No damage to car, note appeared left by a rancher and it was hunting season.

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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by justiner »

I remember I rode my bike from Silverton (Silverton!) up to the top of Marshall Pass. At the trailhead for Mt. Ouray (FSR 200B essentially), fairly late at night (100 miles into my ride!), there was what looked like several related people there, having taken over the entire place (nice pit toilet there). Not to be in their way, I continued on foot, pushing the bicycle away from this trailhead, and into the woods.

Some guy started following me, asking me just what exactly I thought I was doing. I told him that I was getting away from him and his party, needing to sleep. Apparently, that wasn't enough for him, so I repeated my intentions a little more sternly. I wasn't into him laying claim to a complete trailhead let alone the surrounding forest, and let him know. One of the most bizarre experiences I've ever had. I was about to call the Ranger District HQ on these jokers.

Another time, I was with a friend, having just sumitted Longs Peak. We were just about to rappel down Cables, when we spotted a party consisting of two kids and their parents. They were on the wrong line, trying to climb just south of the Cables route (closer to the Diamond). We yelled down that the route was just over a bit and they thanked us. But - then while we were rapping, they wouldn't get out of the way to finish the rappel!

So there I am, halfway down, having a yelling match with the Father who had anchored himself at the base, and wouldn't move out of the way from my kicking feet. I reminded them that they wouldn't even have been able to start climbing without us telling them where the actual route was, but that wasn't important to them. I couldn't believe anyone would stop someone from rappeling down a route - I've been on 12 pitch routes where rapping down while people are climbing is nbd. Kids are crying, the whole deal. He finally relented and I could get down without hitting his head. I just don't understand people's lack of gratitude.
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by Tim A »

Had an experience in Texas that I documented in my TR for Mount Livermore. Similar jist: the outdoors don’t necessarily make everybody more chill and easygoing. Pulled into a campsite that I thought had a dumped or forgotten camp chair. Turned out it was like a traffic cone reserving the spot. ... m=tripmine

You did the right thing trying to reason with the unreasonable and then bailing once you realized it was pointless. Dude was probably packing since his reaction to your presence was to see it as a threat and that kind of person typically consumes media telling him everyone is out to get him and he must defend himself and his ‘rights.’
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by Sbenfield »

Wow. Glad you guys could salvage the trip! I’ve never encountered anything as bad as that before.
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by aholle88 »

We had an experience at a dispersed camping site up the road to Taos Resort while planning to do wheeler the next day. I forget the exact details, but similar situation where there was multiple campsites in this one area. We parked and started setting up camp a few sites down from this van. He started playing music loud (in what I imagine was an attempt to annoy us to leave) just staring at us the whole time. Eventually he got out of the back of his van, started packing his stuff up very angrily, slamming all the doors and throwing his things. He proceeded to leave and flipped us the bird when he was pulling out. Needless to say we were a bit paranoid for a while about him coming back, but all’s well that ends well thankfully.
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by nyker »

To the OP: Sounds like the guy you ran into had some substance in him and wasn't acting very rationally. You did the best you could and got out of a situation that could have turned south. It happens. Unfortunately it happens in wilderness areas we think should be immune from this element. Any logic you might have tried to use in reasoning with him would have likely been falling on deaf ears and could have ended badly especially if his drunk friends joined in. Sometimes rather than try and rationalize a situation even when you know you're in the right, it's better off to just walk away or run (or drive away), especially if the aggressor is being influenced by drugs, alcohol or mental illness.

Years ago, I was followed on a trail by someone for about 30min who later turned out to be newly homeless and off their required medication and completely unstable, yelling, screaming. I moved in a different direction quietly and backtracked and never saw him again but read about the person in the paper a couple days later as he wandered into someone's yard causing some issues and was then arrested.

Both Colorado and the Outdoors in general have attracted more people and more people are out of work (by choice in many cases) and have more free time. Funding for Psychiatric Institutions is down so a lot of folks who should be somewhere else, are roaming free (they are seemingly all in New York, but maybe some slipped out to CO!) and law enforcement in many cases is less likely to intervene in many cases. As inflation continues unabated, sentiment and the economy softens in the direction it seems to be headed (Thank our friends in DC for this), interest rates move higher, rents continue skyward, wages lagging and people are less flush, people will be more stressed, less employed, and angrier...expect this to get worse.

Having had lived in NYC for 25+yrs, this sort of thing and worse was all too common. Over the 18 months has gotten as bad again as the 1970s and 1980s were, though worse now as the NYPD aren't really as motivated/incentivized to police the city given the political climate and most smaller infractions go unpunished, with bail reform, crowded jails and being soft on crime paving the way for wider spread violent crime just like has been happening (ever read Tipping Point?). Am sure anyone living in Chicago can relate to this.
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by Trotter »

The guy who hassled you was clearly an ass, but there is a grey area on how close is too close for strangers to camp next to you. I've been camping in a dispersed area in a nice spot, when more strangers showed up and they start setting up too close. I talked to them about it, and their response is "well, everything is full and we aren't going back home, soooooo....."
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by Wentzl »

Make, Model and license plate of the guy?
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by Kiefer »

arthurspiderman wrote: Sat Jun 25, 2022 4:42 pm When I head out into the backcountry...
Who else has experience with someone of this ill intent out in the backcountry?
That seriously sucks. I'm sorry you had to deal with those pieholes. Kudos for keeping a level head. Knowing myself, I would have escalated it.
I've fortunately never had an encounter like this or really, any bad experience in 30 years (knock on wood).

The only experience I've had was up on Gemini Peak. I was coming back from Dyer and taking a break at the saddle near the cliffs. A solo guy was heading up Dyer with his unleashed dog. For
whatever reason, his dog took issue with me and started barking its fool head off, running at me. I yelled at him to call his dog back, he didn't. So I took off my pack, got my axe
out & crouched down. Then yelled again, 'if you don't call your dog back, he's going off the cliff with my axe.' Needless to say, he called his dog back. But that's really about it.

That sucks that people have had bad/negative experiences with others in the backcountry. I feel bad when that happens, it's not the place.
Anyone remember that 'Brain Surgeon' over in the Sangre's a few years ago that was threatening
others on the trail with his gun when they didn't move off the trail for him? Was he ever identified? :-k
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Re: Bad Experiences in the Backcountry

Post by Dakota »

arthurspiderman wrote: Sat Jun 25, 2022 4:42 pm
Upon reaching this pullout, we found a 4Runner parked with a couple tents nearby.... we were confronted by an angry and belligerent man.

Sounds like your average 4Runner driver.

All kidding aside, sorry that happened to you. That's really strange.
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