Author Topic: Campgrounds and bear boxes  (Read 2150 times)

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Offline Susan

Campgrounds and bear boxes
« on: March 15, 2012, 02:59:06 am »
Hi all,
This summer I'm planning to ride solo from Jasper to Phoenix along ACA's Great Parks Route, Western Express, GC Connector. 
Can anyone tell me if all of the campgrounds in bear areas have bear boxes/lockers?

I'm asking because I own a lightweight bear canister (Bearikade Weekender, 2 lbs.) and am debating whether to pack it or not.  Two pounds it too much, if you don't use it.  In the past I have found it pretty difficult to find decent branches for hanging the food.

Thanks in advance for any input here.
Susan 

Offline tsteven4

Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2012, 08:39:01 am »
Certainly not.  There are fairly common, but not ubiquitous, in the Canadian and U.S. National parks.  One of the campgrounds on the icefields parkway we stayed at didn't have boxes, but they did have cables rigged to a high crossbar that worked just as well.  Also be aware that not all the campgrounds on the icefields parkway have drinking water, we had to filter ours at some.  The icefields parkway is fantastic, we tried to ride extra slow to make it last longer.  Outside the national parks, even in Montana, boxes are rare and you will need to fend for yourself.  We got by fine with a rope that weighed a lot less than two pounds.

WE is a great route, but be prepared for serious heat and lack of support and water.  115 degrees when we did it one summer.  I remember hearing weather reports that Phoenix was even hotter.

Offline John Nelson

Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2012, 12:38:30 pm »
It seems to me that campgrounds in areas of high bear activity tend to have bear boxes, and otherwise not. I'm typically not a fan of campgrounds, preferring to just camp out in random places in the woods, but I am willing to pay for a campground with bear boxes on the theory that they are there for a good reason. Always ask around about recent bear activity in the area to understand what precautions are warranted.

Offline indyfabz

Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2012, 02:39:36 pm »
You will definitely find them in Glacier N.P., will likely be reminded by campground hosts and/or rangers to use them and catch hell if you don't. There were none at the Town Campsite in Waterton Village when we were there in '09, and I cannot imagine them being needed. You have to be more worried about the deer. We saw one harassing a woman. However, they do have indoor "camp kitchens" (It's usually so windy that cooking outside would be difficult) where you can stash food. Cannot imagine having to worry about bears between Fernie and Waterton unless, perhaps, you "stealth" camp on the west side of the pass. Once you cross Crowsnest Pass, you are in developed and/or rach land, which isn't really bear country. When I went south on the Great Parks and TransAm from Columbia Falls to Cortez, CO I never felt the need for bear boxes except in Yellowstone, Teetons (young, orphan bear came into camp) and at the hiker-biker site on the west slope of Togwotee Pass. All those places had them, as did a U.S.F.S. campground just outside of W. Yellosstone. The proviso is that I never pulled off into the woods. I always stayed at developed campsites, whether private, city parks or U.S.F.S.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2012, 08:05:52 pm »
You will definitely find them in Glacier N.P., will likely be reminded by campground hosts and/or rangers to use them and catch hell if you don't.

Yep, use those bear boxes in Glacier! I actually dealt with a bear who casually walked through my camp at Two Medicine Campground in Glacier last year. They are around!
http://urbanadventureleague.blogspot.com/2011/07/my-first-and-hopefully-only-bear.html

There were none at the Town Campsite in Waterton Village when we were there in '09, and I cannot imagine them being needed. You have to be more worried about the deer.

The main campsite in Waterton Village now has bear boxes. They seem to be used more for people's garbage, though. The deer wander anywhere in the town and will wander through the campsite. The "biggest" thing to worry about is all the Columbian Ground Squirrels. They will run over your table and enter your tent if you leave it unzipped.

Offline Pat Lamb

Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2012, 08:15:39 pm »
Always ask around about recent bear activity in the area to understand what precautions are warranted.

... but don't always believe what you hear.

When we went through North Cascades at Newhalem, the signs said it was bear habitat, etc.  I asked the campground host if they had a way to store our food, since we didn't have the bear barrel.  He told me they hadn't seen bears in years.  Couple days later, when we found cell coverage, my wife had a fit.  She'd found a journal of a guy who'd actually seen a bear in the campground we were staying within 10 days of our arrival.

At least we were almost out of food, so nothing bothered our gear.

Offline irc

Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #6 on: March 15, 2012, 09:39:06 pm »
Always ask around about recent bear activity in the area to understand what precautions are warranted.

... but don't always believe what you hear.

When we went through North Cascades at Newhalem, the signs said it was bear habitat, etc.  I asked the campground host if they had a way to store our food, since we didn't have the bear barrel.  He told me they hadn't seen bears in years.  Couple days later, when we found cell coverage, my wife had a fit.  She'd found a journal of a guy who'd actually seen a bear in the campground we were staying within 10 days of our arrival.

At least we were almost out of food, so nothing bothered our gear.

I was in that site in 2009. I overheard a ranger saying there were no bears in the area.  At that point a tourist showed us a photo he had taken of a bear 500 yards away 30 minutes earlier.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2012, 12:41:23 am »
When we went through North Cascades at Newhalem, the signs said it was bear habitat, etc.  I asked the campground host if they had a way to store our food, since we didn't have the bear barrel.  He told me they hadn't seen bears in years.  Couple days later, when we found cell coverage, my wife had a fit.  She'd found a journal of a guy who'd actually seen a bear in the campground we were staying within 10 days of our arrival.

I was in that site in 2009. I overheard a ranger saying there were no bears in the area.  At that point a tourist showed us a photo he had taken of a bear 500 yards away 30 minutes earlier.

pdlamb and irc, was this campsite Colonial Creek Campground in North Cascades N.P. (the last campsite on the west side before Washington/Rainy Passes?) We got that same line last year as well!

The good news is they finally got some bear boxes. I believe they were brand new for the 2011 season. The bad news (and we learn this after we already set up camp) is the bear boxes are all the way on the far side of the other loop. They were so new that they're not marked on the map, so there was no way to figure this out beforehand. We only learned about their whereabouts after questioning the camp host. (We assumed that they would be evenly scattered through the entire campground as they are in Olympic and Glacier National Parks. Not so, obviously.)

But not to worry! They haven't seen a bear in a camp in a while, says the host, who is safely ensconced in their metal RV.

Since we didn't feel like taking down camp nor hauling our odorous items 1/2 mile from where we're camping, what we ended up doing instead was store our needed items in the "utility sink room" in the bathroom building. The door opens outward, so a bear couldn't push the door in to get in. And the campground was pretty sparse so we weren't worried about other people going through our stuff.

My favorite "Don't worry about bears" story was at a commercial campground/RV park in the Swan Valley in Montana (Great Parks North Route, between Missoula and Glacier). When we asked the owner if we should be concerned about bears, he said "Oh, I wouldn't worry! I have seen one in camp since, oh, Tuesday." We locked up our stuff in the laundry room this time.

Offline valygrl

Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2012, 01:15:10 am »
So, yeah, another data point here, and I've ridden most of that route.

yes there are bears.  no there are not always boxes.  but you will always find something to do with your food pannier(s).  Bathroom, dumpster, another camper's car, etc.  Don't bother with the canister if you will be in camp grounds.

If you are going to wild camp and don't plan to be around people/facilities, though, it might be worth bringing.

Offline Susan

Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #9 on: March 16, 2012, 02:57:22 am »
Hey everybody,
 - thanks for all the useful input.  I now have a much better idea as to what to expect.

Frankly, I'm not that worried about losing my food when travelling on a bike, as opposed to when backpacking in the wilderness.  My worst horror scenario is waking up and not having any coffee! 
In bear country I normally store my stove, pot, body care and first aid articles together with my food, and I'd hate to lose that stuff.  I guess the solution would be to hang them separately, provided no other overnight storage option is available. 

Thanks again and happy trails,
Susan

Edit:  Of course I want to feel safe and sleep well, but my main concern is that I don't want a bear to get my food, become a nuisance and have to be put down due to my carelessness.
« Last Edit: March 16, 2012, 03:55:56 pm by Susan »

Offline indyfabz

Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #10 on: March 21, 2012, 10:19:39 am »
The "biggest" thing to worry about is all the Columbian Ground Squirrels. They will run over your table and enter your tent if you leave it unzipped.[/quote]

It was very cold and windy when we were there last. At the suggestion of the woman who checked us in, we pitched our tent in one of the camp kitchens. There was a couple inside who had a fire going. They told us they had to chase a squirrel out and clog up a small hole in one of the walls with a tree limb to keep the squirrel from coming back in. I was afraid I would step in one of their holes and twist my ankle while walking around at night.

The deer harrassment was amazing. The woman was walking her dog and the deer kept following her. She was yelling at it as if it understood commands like her dog and trying to shoo it away by waving her arm. This seemed to only entice the deer more. The best we could figure is that the deer thought the woman had food in her hand that she was going fling. This went on for at least 5 minutes. She finally made it back to her RV.

Offline adventurepdx

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Re: Campgrounds and bear boxes
« Reply #11 on: March 21, 2012, 05:57:47 pm »
They told us they had to chase a squirrel out and clog up a small hole in one of the walls with a tree limb to keep the squirrel from coming back in. I was afraid I would step in one of their holes and twist my ankle while walking around at night.

Yeah, that's why I never walked around at night in that campground without my headlight trained to the ground. The squirrel holes are everywhere!

The deer harrassment was amazing. The woman was walking her dog and the deer kept following her. She was yelling at it as if it understood commands like her dog and trying to shoo it away by waving her arm. This seemed to only entice the deer more. The best we could figure is that the deer thought the woman had food in her hand that she was going fling. This went on for at least 5 minutes. She finally made it back to her RV.

The deer are everywhere in the town! If you've never seen several deer nonchalantly wander down the main street of a town, unconcerned with anything, go to Waterton townsite. It's one reason why few people in town don't have gardens. And it's also why they have signs like this: