Avoiding Trailhead Theft
Hiking is an escape from civilization, a chance to relax and break free from the pressures from our crazy everyday world.
Nothing ruins that experience like returning to the trailhead to find your car broken into.
Car break-ins at trailheads are relatively rare, but they do happen, and they tend to cycle from area to area.
We've been receiving recent reports of frequent car break-ins off the Mountain Loop Highway at trailheads to hikes such as Lake 22 and Mount Dickerman. Elsewhere, a perennial problem area is the Rachel Lake trailhead in the Cle Elum Ranger District.
How can you avoid the disappointment and hassle of a broken window and stolen stuff after a hike?
The number one rule is: Don't leave anything valuable in your car. That means wallets, cameras, iPods, and other electronic equipment. Rule number two is: the glove compartment and trunk aren't safe. A thief can and will break a window and pop open your trunk from inside the car. To help demonstrate to thieves that your car doesn't have any valuables in it, empty and leave your glove compartment open. With my Subaru station wagon, I leave the trunk area cover open so that thieves can see all we've left in there are dirty socks and directions to the trailhead.Some hikers go so far as to leave their cars unlocked to demonstrate there's nothing worth taking and to prevent an exploratory window break.
Remember, trailhead thieves aren't looking to steal cars, they're looking for credit cards and electronic equipment they can quickly sell for cash. If you do experience a break-in, be sure to report it to the nearest ranger station. This helps rangers determine where the problem areas are and better patrol the area.
If you absolutely must bring your iPod and stuff with you, but don't want to carry it on your hike, put it in a ziplock and stash it somewhere off the trail. I've done this on a long overnight in the Olympics and it worked fine. Just remember where you stashed it!