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That's one problem when dealing with government bureaucrats - so few people actually understand the big picture.  They may sometimes give you technically accurate - but wholly useless - information, and other times they are just plain uninformed and wrong. 

That, and you don't want to get shot. 

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Well this has turned interesting as my last visit in April dealt with BLM in Eastern Washington.  Decided to give the new knees a work out and did some hiking to get a good view on a couple of photos.  Needless to say, no signs posted, but i got investigated within minutes!  I had little problem explaining the situation when they saw a camera hanging around the neck, instead of a gun hanging from the shoulder! But I'm also in the vote, I'd love to go to the County Sheriff's office, but I'm not convinced I would be treated fairly with the information I'd be seeking....what IS private, and what IS BLM....  In the meantime, the visit was great...however, I never do get all the items crossed off the list!  Both shots are taken east of Sprague Washington; you can BARELY make out Steptoe Butte in the distance....Ma Nature wasn't exactly stellar...what else is new...

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What *is* private and what *is* public/BLM is a matter of public record, available at the relevant county recorder's office.  I mean, it's not like there's a conspiracy to secretly alter parcel/APN information in the various county offices.  Finding the information might be a challenge, since the PLSS is such an arcane and difficult system to work with at times, but the information is there.  It's more a question of how much time you want to put into the research. 

 

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I never updated what I found about the place I was asking about and I have since found three other locked public cabins. 

The first time up it was locked with a chain and an old standard master lock. There was also bolt cutters accessible somewhere in the area of buildings. My plan was to cut one of the chain links and add another combo lock. That way the old lock would still be there, the door would be closed secure for the snow, and I could give the combo to others to use as well, forest service, etc. 

I went up there again in the beginning of summer with my daughter. Well it was already cut, bolt cutters moved, and the entire chain was replaced with a keyed cable lock.

Several days later when we were exiting to go back home we stopped in the ranger station. We were looking around at the maps and the taxidermied animals when the ranger asked if I was Steve and wanted to talk to us. How did she know my name? Then I realized she must of read it off the wilderness permit I dropped of before and they probably wasn't too many other people backpacking with a 9 year old girl up there. She wanted to ask us about another place even farther back that we had planned to go to, if we even found it, was it even still there etc. I asked her about the lock being cut on the other place and she had said that the guy who did it came in and told her that he did it and that he had some stuff up there he wanted to keep secure. 

I'm sorry but WTF? The historical cabin on public land is not your personal place to keep all to yourself. First off what on earth is somebody storing in a cabin miles into an extremely lightly traveled area accessible only by foot or pack animal that your concerned would be taken? Food or some fuel? I could see being a problem if you had it up there, counting on it being there, and then was used or eaten and your very far away. Rig up something secure in the cabin not the entire cabin itself. Rig up an ammo box to be locked or something. Reality check nobody is hauling away your salvation army level items out of there and anything worth the extra weight of carting out shouldn't be left there in the first place. 

The other public land locked cabins I've encountered since. 

One that was vehicle accessible. Rock construction. The outside of the door had messages of people who had enjoyed the cabin over the years, people visiting from germany, etc. Two big locks on the door and some recent messages inquiring why it's locked or they would love to see the inside someday etc. There is a chance that this one could be part of a mine claim or it could just be somebody claiming something public for themselves. The one legitimate concern since it is accessible by vehicle the chance of vandalism is higher. There was a historic building close by in the area that BLM had fixed up by putting windows and doors stabilizing etc and some scumbags broke all three doors and broke every single window except one.

I found two more yesterday, both are 5+ miles into the wilderness, hike or pack access only. The whole area was gorgeous but looked to be infrequently visited by people. There were plenty of cows though, so much so that the cattle trails were often more defined then the actual trail. Kind of made for keeping track of normal trail a bit difficult at times but I was also bird hunting so I don't really follow trails all the time then anyways, I go where I think birds may be. 

The first one looked to be not used in decent amount of time as I could see it was dirty inside and was in need of clean up and repairs. This one I'm going to say is only sort of locked and that not being able to get into it may only be the result of rust. It had a chain locked to another chain that was simply attached with a bolt and washers... that had rusted over time. 

The other was quite difficult to find. It was not near any of the trails in the area. It was in excellent condition. Near water, excellent view, about as perfect as they can come, except it was locked. This one was most likely part of a legitimate cattle lease. Even so I still find it sort of off that a difficult to find cabin deep in a lightly visited area of the sierras really needs to be locked. Seems like others should be able to enjoy it more complete as well. 

How many places are there out there on public land are locked by either the forest service, BLM, or a private person? Do you think these places should be locked to bar access and prevent "theft" and vandalism or should they be public use cabins. I feel that they should be open. Particularly the ones that are so hard to get to. The harder they are to get to and find I think the less likely you get the type of people that would vandalize or steal. 

Seems the cabins that are vehicle accessible are more often the ones that end up being the unlocked and cared for and the ones that you have to hike to too often have a lock on them and are in different stages of neglect.  

 

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That's really interesting (saw your recent vid last night as well).  If the cabin is part of a lease and the leaseholder wants to keep it secure, that's fine.  I'm not even sure how you are finding these cabins, and I did give it some thought, so I suspect that not many other people are finding them, or likely to find them.  If you have to hike 5+ miles in, the types of people that will find them are not the types of people that would likely vandalize them.  However, there is always an exception to the rule.  The cabin at Meiss Meadow is locked, yet the ones in Bear Trap and Jelmini are not.  I can't understand what significant difference there is between them, but that's the reality. 

There's actually one off Highway 4 (you may have been to it, I've only seen it from the aerial images) that seems odd.  But looking at historical imagery going back a few years, the roof has changed a little, suggesting some sort of use or maintenance.  There are probably more out there no one knows about, long forgotten, rotting away.  Look at it this way - you know where these places are, you've documented the environment and the conditions, and there is now at least some sort of record of the place.  Otherwise, they all eventually disappear from our collective knowledge, forever. 

 

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The one at Meiss Meadow is on the PCT. Im sure it's kept locked to insure that a thru hiker doesn't leave granola crumbs inside. On a serious note I think that is a good example of one that should be open because it would be used publicly because it is on higher traffic trails.  Some of these places I do think should be opened up and their locations semi known. That is how they get taken care of and not forgotten to where they rot away. And there is always going to be an exception to the rule and at times it ends up being the forest service or BLM. Locking something up in some situations is a form of vandalism at times IMO. 

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So Meiss Meadows is on the upper Truckee River and holds some sort of rare, native cutthroat trout (Lahontan, maybe).  So anyone who goes near the river (a creek at that point, really) might injure the fish!  Still surprised that area is open to fishing.  I did catch-n-release a few, but I'm sure I committed some Federal offense in the process.  We know the USFS doesn't want us using the land for anything, except a random hike.  On trail.  But that's it.

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^^^ Please tell me that is a real reason somebody gave for cabins being locked. That is so lame and stupid, but at the same time sadly believable, that I want it to be true as it'll help illustrate their real intentions. That would make sense to cut down or stop a cattle allotment from being in the area. But people in a building... nothing to do with what little dribble of a creek I'm sure it is up there.  

I did talk to somebody about two of the cabins I mentioned above. One is part of a cattle allotment which I thought. He told me the name of who it is but I forgot the name like a dummy or to ask what they thought about being able to use/help upkeep, etc. The other they said the allotment either got cut so much by quantity and time that they don't bother getting it all or they just don't bother going up that far. Not an official statement by any means but seems to coincide with the conditions I observed.  The agricultural allotments map on mylandmatters says there is nothing in the area at all which also seems like that cannot be correct.  

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No, that's not the real reason.  If it was, the water would be closed to fishing more likely than not.  Especially since it holds a species of trout originally native to California, vs an imported/hatchery species (or hybrid).

If nothing else, it's good to live in a state like Montana or Idaho where the locals will protest the USFS or BLM at every turn.  Compare that to California, where the vast majority of sheep see the Feds as their great 'Mommy in Washington' and cheer their completely asinine actions at every turn. 

 

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