Camping, National Parks, Rangers, Drake’s Bay Oyster Co.

It may have occurred to readers of my post on backpacking that I was on federal parkland, and I didn’t say anything about getting camping permits. Here’s my attitude and policy about the National Park Service, its regulations, its stewardship, and its rangers:

  I have never got a permit for camping in the national park and I have never camped in one of the designated park camping sites, which are scorched-earth and military looking. I and my natural-world-loving friends camp in places that are not visible to hikers or rangers, and we are immaculate about camp sites, leaving everything as originally found.

   A couple of years ago, scoping out the territory for this hike, I was talking to a ranger in the North Beach parking lot; he was in his SUV, I was in my Tacoma, and we were parked driver side-to-driver side, windows rolled down. He was the best type ranger—one who has the job because of a love of plants and animals and seashore and mountains. We were on the same page, so I told him about my forthcoming trip circumambulating the park, and then I said, “And I’m not getting any stinking permits.” He looked at me for a minute, then put his hand over the park service badge on his sleeve, and said, “You didn’t hear this from me, but you’ll be fine as long as you stay far from where a ranger can drive a vehicle.”

    I feel like I can camp wherever I want to in my own turf, so long as I respect the land, other hikers, and the animals. And if I get there on foot from my home.

    There are rangers and there are rangers. I met three on this trip, all women. Two were great; the third (younger) stopped me when I was walking on the highway. “You can’t camp in the park, blah blah…” “I’m not camping, I’m just walking down the road…” She asked for my ID, I gave her my driver’s license, and she ran it through her computer. Kinda shitty thing to do, but she wasn’t aggressive.

   The park does a lot of great things, like the displays at the lighthouse and knowledgeable rangers, and the ones that love the land, but they’re wrong-headed at times, as in their persecution of the Drakes Bay Oyster Company, a wonderful win-win local fresh-food producing operation. Click here for my post from last December on this subject. Scroll down to “Local Oyster Farm Controversy.”

About Lloyd Kahn

Lloyd Kahn started building his own home in the early '60s and went on to publish books showing homeowners how they could build their own homes with their own hands. He got his start in publishing by working as the shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog with Stewart Brand in the late '60s. He has since authored six highly-graphic books on homemade building, all of which are interrelated. The books, "The Shelter Library Of Building Books," include Shelter, Shelter II (1978), Home Work (2004), Builders of the Pacific Coast (2008), Tiny Homes (2012), and Tiny Homes on the Move (2014). Lloyd operates from Northern California studio built of recycled lumber, set in the midst of a vegetable garden, and hooked into the world via five Mac computers. You can check out videos (one with over 450,000 views) on Lloyd by doing a search on YouTube:

8 Responses to Camping, National Parks, Rangers, Drake’s Bay Oyster Co.

  1. The problem is not you but others who follow in the vein of 'no stickin' permits' and trash the place for all of the well meaning folks. When that happens, the edicts have to be followed for all, and get it..! 'how come that guy didn't get cited and I did?'..nice to be able to tread lightly and all but unfortunately not all give a damn..Rangers, unfortunately have to deal with the sh**heads alot of the know your'e not a prob…but they don't..drop the 'don't need no stinkin' permits' line next time..and maybe sail through, under the badge..hearing what you said, some rangers will take that as a challenge and will find you..sign here would have no defense.. I know there are some super cops out there but most took the job for the ideals and ethics involved with the mission of the park service..
    also, what would you do if you came across a bunch of 'don't give a damn/campers/party-ers/whatever, causing damage of one sort or another to 'your' park? call the ranger or turn the other direction or..? just askin'..If you love your park, you need to help a few campfire programs..not like you don't have any subject matter to contribute..

    Mike W

  2. additional.. the stop and (figuratively ) frisk portion of your day bothers me a little..Wonder what the probable cause is/was for that action..? Fed law vs State law differences..? anyone..? interested in the legal aspects not 'rage against the machine' or Freemen-type comments..


  3. Mike,
    The stinking badges is a joke, based on the famous line in Treasure of the Sierra Madre. It was said in jest, and accepted as such by that ranger. He thought it was funny, as did one of the rangers I met last week when I told her what I'd said. These rangers were cool with my park M.O. The rangers with cop mentality are unfortunate, and they aren't gonna find me, or know I was there.

  4. glad to hear it Lloyd, too subtle for me I guess.. we all need to watch our parks and open spaces these days..always someone lurking w/ $ signs in their eyes ( or worse).. Thanks for the follow-up..

    Mike W


  5. I was startled the first time I visited a "nat'l" park on my own a decade ago – paying $15 to stay overnight in the woods was odd. Odder still was being directed to a "campsite" – scorched earth was right (especially in "BLM-managed" land. Hadn't realized everyone else's version of "camping" was to pull into an ASPHALT parking space fifteen feet from someone's RV with the TV blaring, and then start a campfire right next to their car?! really weird. (Though it did get me used to the notion of car as nomadic shelter, after sitting in a leaky tent next to the car on its asphalt pad one rainy night, I was hit by the obvious solution).
    I'm with you – hike in, camp wild – but I have to admit a lot of people live very far from nature nowadays. And a lot of people can't afford the car-camp fees. But a lot of people can't afford to live anywhere else, so they live in the park, but accumulate Modern American trash… then again so do the people on the asphalt pads, they just have an RV full of trash.
    Guess what I'm saying is I've talked to park rangers, it is UNBELIEVABLE what they have to deal with nowadays, it can be like being a big-city cop. Apparently drug-growing, lost day-hikers, homeless families, and tired people who want to know where the elevator is (not a joke).

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