Visits into the wilderness areas of the Inyo National Forest hit a 10-year spike this past summer, according to Nancy Upham, the information officer of the forest.
“There were more days full on more trails than in the past 10 years, even some of the more obscure trails,” she said.
Upham said wilderness permits at the Wilderness Reservation offices in both Bishop and Mammoth were off the charts. Though the Forest Service does not do an actual count at campgrounds, anecdotal evidence suggests that the campgrounds were jammed all summer, too.
“Everybody said it was a good, solid summer,” Upham reported.
She said in August, the Mammoth campgrounds were so jammed that rangers suggested to travelers to try the more out-of-the-way spots up and down the Sierra Escarpment.
But it was in the wilderness that the summer’s story was told.
Upham speculated that the economy was the key factor. She suggested that individuals and families, instead of taking expensive vacations, disappeared into wilderness areas as a means of cutting expenses.
She said the range of people was consistent with past years – a mix of local, Bay Area and Southern California visitors.
“In a way,” she said, “it was kind of nice.”
Upham’s report was in line with other economic news around town.
For example, the Town of Mammoth Lakes reported a record rake in transient occupancy taxes in both July and August, meaning that many people were here.
However, business people in and around Mammoth reported a moderately good summer, at best.
The people were here, they just weren’t buying.
Then again, there’s not much to buy on a backpacking trip into, say, the Ansel Adams Wilderness.