We have always knows that anyone can pitch a tent on USFS lands even right next door to your cabin but when it actually happens it can be a little discerning. On Friday May 8th my husband and I happened upon a rather large camp site along Rd 31 on the “cabin” side of the road. There were tents, tarps made into a lean to, fire pits, coolers, clothes lines, skis, snowboards and empty beer cans and bottles. The good news – they were out of town snow boarders who promised to leave the grounds in a ‘leave no trace’ condition.
Traveling further down Rd 31 we happened on a much larger “campsite” which looked like a small community, that has been known to many on the mountain for years as you can see them enter from Hwy 26 just a short distance from the Rd 31 entrance. This camp had approximately 8-10 vehicles and close to 25-30 campers and whole lot of trash, old mattresses and loads and loads of empties. We were disturbed so we returned to our cabin and called the Zigzag law enforcement officer and reported the suspicious activity and also reported it to the Clackamas County Sheriff’s non emergency number.
On Sunday afternoon as we left our cabin to head home we were pleasantly surprised at the cleanliness of the campsite along Rd 31 – all garbage was removed and they even covered their fire pit with moss.
On Monday I spoke with Officer Chris Johnson, the Zigzag Law Enforcement Officer. He responded to our message left on Friday and drove up to the campsites Saturday morning, took down license plate numbers and asked the small group – who were camping legally to just make sure they clean up when they leave and told the large group that it was time to pack up and move on. He said some of these campers have been at this same spot on and off for 2 years. We were both impressed that within 36 hours the entire place was mostly cleaned up (remnants of their outdoor toilet facility was in clear view and that was disturbing).
Officer Johnson clarified that camping in the open on USFS land is legal for 14 days. Then they must leave for at least 30 days and then they have up to 14 more days but that’s it. Camping out for 2 years is not ok. Officer Johnson said he knows of several areas on Mt Hood where campers “over stay” the 14 day limit and works to enforce them to pack out and take their garbage with them. it’s an ongoing work in progress. He encouraged cabin owners to understand that campers are allowed but with limits. Call Officer Johnson to report any suspicious activity and he will check it out. He also encouraged to call Dumpstoppers when you find large amounts of trash.