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Thread: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

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    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

    A thread in the ULF forum got off topic in a discussion about rules in Federal Wilderness Areas that prohibit anything with wheels. The thread was about wheeled load carriers for the largeand heavy cameras and accessories.

    We got off topic a bit discussing the prohibition of any wheeled device in a Wilderness Area. My question is; Is there no allowance for say, a hand powered wheelchair? The Americans With Disabilities Act is pretty universal. I am not saying that a Wilderness Area should have ramps and boardwalks, far from it. But a wheelbarrow or dolly for photographic gear should not seem too jariong to anyone but a obsessive purist in my view.

    Anyone actually KNOW if there are any exemptions for persons with disabilities?
    Drew Bedo
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    There are only three types of mounting flanges; too big, too small and wrong thread!

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    Re: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?


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    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Re: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

    Well I did look at that report first off. The report doesn't seem to be a policy statement or regulatory guide, but rather a summery of the accessability of Federal lands under different agencies. Pretty good for most.

    For wilderness areas, apparently, one can use a non powered wheelchair, which seems reasonable.

    Yet the question central to these forums is really how to transpoert unwieldy photographic equipment. I am assuming that pack anamals are ok, but not really the optimal solution.

    Anyone have more definite information? Why can't we use a wheel barrow-like device or a golf-bag pull cart based system? How does the medre rotation of revolving parts mar the wilderness experience?
    Drew Bedo
    http://www.artsyhome.com/author/drew-bedo




    There are only three types of mounting flanges; too big, too small and wrong thread!

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    David Lobato David Lobato's Avatar
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    Re: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

    Have you thought of horses or mules for yourself and your gear? That is perfectly legal where permitted. Hire a guide and he/she can handle the extra items necessary for wilderness travel; extra clothing, food, shelter, cooking gear, and more. Then you can travel the several miles on uphill grades to outstanding scenery, and return in one piece.

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    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

    I was a wilderness ranger in California for ten seasons. So I suppose some might lump me in with the obsessive purists, LOL!

    As far as I can find out, wheelchairs can be used in the wilderness, but it is clearly stated that only devises for moving a person are allowed -- and they must be of a type normally found in use indoors:

    "...any wheelchair or mobility device, including one that is battery-powered, that is designed solely for use by a mobility-impaired person for locomotion, and that is suitable for use in an indoor pedestrian area."
    Also the gov't is not required to maintain trails or other facilities to accomindate wheelchairs/handicapped people in a wilderness.

    They are pretty specific in banning hand carts, bikes, wheel borrows, and the like. And I totally agree. I managed a wilderness area for ten years...but of course one does not manage the wild. One manages the human impact on the wild. No one seems to like a line drawn in the sand and folks will stretch rules as far as they can. So no wheels in the wilderness. Just the way it is. To work on the trails, we packed mules, hand tools and used cross-cut saws ('misery whips') instead of chain saws -- cutting trees off the trails up to 3 foot diameter.

    Thousands of miles of non-wilderness trails if you need a cart.
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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    Re: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

    I feel the wilderness rules are good to disallow any wheels, power tools like chain saws, etc. I wish they'd also disallow overflights at low altitude too. There are too few areas that are primeval, and as they were 1,000 years ago. The Leopold and Abbey ethic is to keep a few areas very primitive, and you have to work to enter them. The alternative is the roads with little pulloffs so you can stop your car, take a picture, and "pretend" you are in wilderness. Or Forest Service areas where you try to have solitude, but high speed quad riders have turned it into an extreme motocross track for thrills. Or zip lines, or the glass walkway over the edge of the Grand Canyon, or bikers wizzing by you on every trail. See what I mean? If you want a challenge, without nice clean restrooms and crowds of people that would get lost 1/2 mile off the trail, we need Wilderness. I'm glad for my time spent in it, often seeing no one. Making it "easier" for photographers or hunters or recreation is precisely against the whole idea.

    When my family was too small to keep up with me backpacking into Wilderness, I bought mules. We took many trips packing in, just like our forefathers did 150 years ago.

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    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Re: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

    Quote Originally Posted by David Lobato View Post
    Have you thought of horses or mules for yourself and your gear? That is perfectly legal where permitted. Hire a guide and he/she can handle the extra items necessary for wilderness travel; extra clothing, food, shelter, cooking gear, and more. Then you can travel the several miles on uphill grades to outstanding scenery, and return in one piece.
    I am sure that pack anamals are effective. You left out llamas btw.

    But they don't travel well via air or car.
    Drew Bedo
    http://www.artsyhome.com/author/drew-bedo




    There are only three types of mounting flanges; too big, too small and wrong thread!

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    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Re: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

    "I was a wilderness ranger in California for ten seasons. So I suppose some might lump me in with the obsessive purists, LOL!"

    Vaughn: Thank you for your years of service managing wilderness areas.

    "As far as I can find out, wheelchairs can be used in the wilderness, but it is clearly stated that only devises for moving a person are allowed -- and they must be of a type normally found in use indoors:"
    "...any wheelchair or mobility device, including one that is battery-powered, that is designed solely for use by a mobility-impaired person for locomotion, and that is suitable for use in an indoor pedestrian area."


    Well that is wonderful. Having worked at the Houston VA Hospital for twelve years, I have seen about every type of manual and powered wheelchair designed for pedestrian areas. Many of them will carry LF and ULF sized loads of gear for short distances over Golf Course type terrain.
    [I]

    "Also the gov't is not required to maintain trails or other facilities to accommodate wheelchairs/handicapped people in a wilderness."


    Terrain has never been an issue for me. Wilderness is wild. However maintained structures do have to be accessible.

    "They are pretty specific in banning hand carts, bikes, wheel borrows, and the like. And I totally agree. I managed a wilderness area for ten years...but of course one does not manage the wild. One manages the human impact on the wild. "

    Thousands of miles of non-wilderness trails if you need a cart."


    No need for a hand cart if a photographer can bring in a powered wheel chair.

    Vaughn: Again, thanks for the work you did and for this solid informqation. So often we get stories and guesses without support.

    Cheers to all
    Drew Bedo
    http://www.artsyhome.com/author/drew-bedo




    There are only three types of mounting flanges; too big, too small and wrong thread!

  9. #9
    Drew Bedo's Avatar
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    Re: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

    My College roommate was a volunteer Ranger in a small Wilderness Area in Origon for several summers. He told me a hilarious story about a visit from a political celebrity. To keep it short,the part I liked best involved my friend holding off a fleet of news helicopters with threats of writing big federal tickets for the pilots if they landed ( CFR-blah-blah, federal court, FAA and so on).

    The celebrity politico was delighted to find that the one place he could ditch his entourage in the wilderness was at the top of the watch tower with my old roommate. They talked about trout fishing.
    Drew Bedo
    http://www.artsyhome.com/author/drew-bedo




    There are only three types of mounting flanges; too big, too small and wrong thread!

  10. #10
    Vaughn's Avatar
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    Re: Restrictions on wheels in Wilderness Areas?

    Very little of the 150 miles of trail I maintained in the wilderness would allow for a wheelchair! And after the 25 years since I left that job, the trails have deteriated to a point when people on foot have enough trouble! I would say on the average, one might get a 1/4 mile in with enough work in a wheelchair. Trails too steep, no more crews out there to remove fallen trees and brush, repair erosion on the trails, maintain creek crossings...actually, it is more of a wilderness now than when I worked there!

    Maintained structures in a wilderness do not have to be ADA approved/handicapped accessible. (trails, outhouses, hitching racks, bridges, etc).
    "Landscapes exist in the material world yet soar in the realms of the spirit..." Tsung Ping, 5th Century China

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