Hut Use and Abuse
Let No One Say This, and Say It To Your Shame, That All Was Beauty Here Before You Came.
The admonition from my circa-1965 Boy Scout Handbook rings as true today to me as it did when I was a Boy Scout in the days before Leave No Trace was a program.
It sees that, for now, we are experiencing some problems regarding the overnight use of Appalachian Trail huts in Shenandoah National Park. Recently, for example, the ATC/PATC Ridge Runner reported that 31 people camped at one of those huts. Despite the availability of the hut—and it had been maintained very recently by the overseers—only three backpackers stayed in the hut. All others tented around the structure.
There are no set limits to the number of people who can stay overnight, but there are only so many sleeping platforms in the huts and the built-up tent sites are designed to accommodate up to three tents per site.
It’s reasonable to recognize that space available is filled. In that case, backpackers should move on and find and use another site that complies with SNP backcountry camping regulations. This may be considered inconvenient. However, 30 or more camping overnight at any location soon overwhelms the ability of that site to support people.
Leaving trash behind is, of course, inexcusable.
It Happened Before…
In 1978, the SNP closed all huts to all use because of overuse and abuse. Much of the blame for this was attributed to people who parked their vehicles nearby and walked to huts to camp and party over an entire weekend of for longer periods. It took several years and the physical removal of several huts before the Park allowed the remaining huts to be used by backpackers only.
No one wants this experience to be repeated.