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What's the Deal with the Backpacker's Campground?

When we hiked into the backpacker's campground in Yosemite Valley we had an amusing chat with the campground hosts in the kiosk there. The system they described was simple: pick out a site, fill out the payment envelop and put your cash into it, put the envelope in the slot and the stub on the post marking your site. It could not have been clearer, and we've done it a hundred times this way in USFS campgrounds around the Sierra.

Ha ha ha. Some people can make anything complicated. Ha ha.

(In the Tuolumne Meadows backpackers' campground they ask you to display the stub on your tent, which is why you should never go backpacking without a clothespin...)

So while M parked the car, I picked out a campsite and tried to pay for it. The payment slot was clogged with envelopes, but I finally got mine in, and the site was ours.

The other sites nearby were occupied, but it was only when I opened the bear box for this site that I realized it, too, was occupied. Drat. Oh well. We picked another site, wrote a note of explanation on our stub, and stuck it on the post of the new site. We set up our tent and headed off to enjoy a few hours in Yosemite Valley.

Imagine our surprised when we found a warning citation from a ranger when we returned. And it cited us for not displaying the stub on our tent. Huh?

So, being us, we tracked down a ranger who was walking the campground. She told us there was no problem. You can leave the stub on the post, or the tent. But now that the system was in full operation, they were beginning to worry that the backpacker's campground was getting full. And they didn't want early arrivals to think that they owned a whole campsite if they paid their $6 per person.

Well, that's fine. We did finally track down the volunteer who actually left the citation, and she apologized for not seeing the stub on the post--but she was also obviously not looking for the stub on the post. And the campground hosts were telling people to put the stub on the post. Hmmm. or Ha ha.

Maybe those campgrounds hosts had a finer sense of humor than we gave them credit for...

At any rate, the system works, and the rangers were friendly, and they were checking things like payment stubs--although they were not checking wilderness permits--and everyone was happy. And why not?

Still, camping in the backcountry is simpler...

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