Recent comments

  • Accessibility in the National Park System   5 years 14 weeks ago

    If you're interested in wheelchair accessible portions of the Appalachian Trail, be sure to read the Traveler posting on that topic. You'll find it at http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2008/09/section-appalachian-trail-designed-wheelchair-accessibility-opens-vermont. If you're interested in the National Accessibility Achievement Awards for access-related projects and programs in the parks, see our Traveler posting on that topic at http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2008/09/national-accessibility-achievement-awards-recognize-accomplishment-area-vital-concern-nation.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 14 weeks ago

    Ted-

    Some serious thread drift here, so I'll try to be brief. I could go on for pages. It's true Olympic is one of
    the finest NPS wildernesses south of Canada, but that is more in spite of NPS management than because of it.
    Olympic is far less wild than it was before it became a National Park in 1938. If you've not read Carston Lien's Olympic Battleground, you need to.

    Consider the following facts. Park management has pushed for a new visitor center at Kalaloch for decades.
    Ten thousand gallons of human waste was drained from the Hurricane holding tanks into Lillian River to avoid
    the cost of trucking it away; the employee who blew the whistle lost his job. The mandated Wilderness
    Management Plan has been ready for over a decade, but yet to be approved because Park management wanted to continue it's non-conforming practices and keep backcountry development options open. I believe the Wilderness Society sued over the delay. The employee in charge of writing that plan has been largely shifted to non-wilderness duties and denied promotion.

    You wrote "Backcountry trails are often semi-abandoned...Close-in trails often show very long blow-down
    clearance-cycles." Here are the real reasons for that and they are not because of preservationists. A disproportionate share of the trail budget has historically gone into constant replacement of the unsustainable six-miles of boardwalk at Ozette and hundreds of trail bridges elsewhere in the Park. At least five in-house under-engineered major trail bridges quickly collapsed. New expensive high-standard frontcountry trails were constructed almost yearly at Quinault, Kalaloch, Mora, Soleduc, Lake Crescent, Elwha and Port Angeles HQ. Management has basically caved in to equestrian demands that more trails be opened to stock. They could even carry firearms and chainsaws.

    I'll close with an example from here at Rainier. Management was so obsessed with the recently completed 25 million dollar VC, that simple maintenance of existing facilites was ignored. The worst consequence of this was a series of disgraceful heating oil spills totaling many thousands of gallons from uninspected & unmaintained storage tanks.

    Fire back at this one all you want, but it's gonna be hard for me to see how anyone could seriously believe the 'pure preservationists' are in charge at these two Parks. BTW, I enjoy fat-tire biking immensely, but feel no need to do it inside any National Park, except perhaps on roads closed to vehicles.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 14 weeks ago

    Fascinating discussion; thanks.

    I hear that some trails in the more remote Wilderness areas also are abandoned or semiabandoned. Mountain biking access likely would keep them in better shape for all users intrepid enough to visit them. And the semiabandonment problem exists on parts of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail. I tried riding north on the CDNST from Cumbres Pass in southern Colorado in 2007. There was blowdown everywhere and scant evidence of any human visitation on the trail. At one point I had hiked the bike over several hundred yards of blowdown dense enough that the trail was barely discernible. After four hours' arduous labor had gotten me only eight miles from the trailhead, I gave up and rode back down.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 14 weeks ago

    tahoma,

    "Cornucopian development faction" in charge, at Olympic National Park?

    Because it represented most of a relatively complete, relatively unmodified ecosystem it was in the early decades of the 20th C. one of the fondest dreams of the Preservationist camp, that the entire Olympic Peninsula be set aside as a National Park. The purist-faction has over the years reiterate that the Olympic Peninsula, though damaged, nonetheless represents the finest opportunity in the conterminous United States for a relatively-intact habitat-preserve, and that we should hold as one of our more-worthy goals to progressively & incrementally secure the whole Peninsula.

    The Olympic Park idea first attracted high-quality & famous activists during the 1890s, and other purist-luminaries carried the torch for over 40 years before they got a cut-down version of what they wanted. However, though the implementation was imperfect & partial, a cadre of 'the whole Olympics' faction has quietly but expertly worked to expand the Olympic Park, and they have been and continue to succeed in acquiring ever-more land for the unit.

    Olympic National Park remains one of the least-penetrated, least-developed and least-modified assets of the Park System, in the lower-48 States. There is a single-locale penetration & modest development at Hurricane Ridge which bears the overwhelming share of human impact for the entire Park. This facility has remained virtually unchanged, since shortly after World War II. (The Park did offer to accede to further development-requests from resort booster-elements, but did so with the stipulation that increased user-demand for the expanded facilities be demonstrated in advance ... a demand which the Administration knew did not exist.)

    A secondary mainstream tourist-draw is the Hoh River rainforest facility. This 19 mile penetration is all on lowland river-bottom terrain, most of it formerly logged, and serves mainly to provide a short paved nature-loop, and a small sheltered interpretive structure. All the other penetrations & developments within Olympic are minor, little-known, and used mainly by modest numbers of locals and a few unusually well-informed visitors.

    Meanwhile, most of the small business operations have gradually withered under Park 'management', finally bought out by the Park, and usually razed. Private homeowners withstand steady pressure against them. We have watched this policy at work without letup, for more than 50 years.

    Backcountry trails are often semi-abandoned. Volunteers come in to reclaim some of them. Backcountry camping is progressively more restrictive, and restricted. Close-in trails often show very long blow-down clearance-cycles.

    I think it is rather clear, and indeed very much a matter of pride with the staff, that Olympic National is one of the most intensely-Preservationist and anti-Conservation Parks in the system.

  • Accessibility in the National Park System   5 years 14 weeks ago

    I require the full time use of a wheelchair. My family and I love the National Parks. From Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Denali and many more.... we've found the park system to be as wheelchair friendly as possible. They are always improving trails, lookouts, restrooms, ect. The park maps and websites make it easy to determine just what is accessible. They really do a great job balancing the need for accessibility while not hurting the natural beauty.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 14 weeks ago

    This doesn't have much to do with mountain biking and sorry to have to disagree Ted, but in the 28 years I worked at Mt. Rainier & Olympic, the cornucopian development faction was fully in charge and it was the 'pure environmentalists' who were pariahs. I doubt much has changed at Olympic, I know it hasn't at Rainier.

  • Accessibility in the National Park System   5 years 14 weeks ago

    I am really happy with just how accessible the parks are. My dad is elderly, with double knee replacements, permanent back injury, hip replacement, shoulder replacement, the list goes on and on. Bottom line, he and his scooter still use the National Parks year round. My parents travel the country and camp in their RV, and he hasn't complained about any of the campground facilities. He still is able to enjoy the parks, from Yellowstone (his personal favorite) to the Everglades (my mom's favorite) and all of those inbetween. Sure, he isn't off hiking up mountains anymore but he still really enjoys the parks. I am really impressed with how much has been done so that people like my Dad can still actively enjoy our National Parks.

  • Glen Canyon Marina Fire Damage Estimate: $3-$5 Million   5 years 14 weeks ago

    The reason this story has one of the highest viewed-rates on National Parks Traveler, is that we are all wondering how the fire got started.

    Specifically, we are wondering whether an environmentalist-terrorist set this fire.

    That's why so many people come to this page - trying to find out.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 14 weeks ago

    imtnbke,

    You can read & save the entire National Parks Organic Act, on the NPS' own website.

    The Wilderness Act can be viewed as a way to circumvent the permissiveness of the Act that authorizes National Parks in the first place. That is, the Organic Act and the Wilderness Act are in conflict with each other, and the Organic Act is the more-foundational Act.

    As a Constitutional scholar, Obama realizes that, a.) historic management practices of the NPS are 'extra-Constitutional', as it is delicately phrased, and b.) that the preservationist-position only digs itself in deeper, by carving Preservation-directed Wilderness Areas out of Conservation-directed National Parks lands (established under the Organic Act).

    Yet, Obama has shown himself to be highly pragmatic. If he can't succeed at something, he won't go after it even if 'principle' says he should. He needs 'practical' ways to weaken bad situations that he knows can't be directly attacked.

    That is why I suspect the bikes-in-Parks idea is either Obama's, or that Bush crafted it as a gift to the President-elect. It is a made-to-order vehicle for Obama's intentions ... and limitations.

    To test this suggestion, watch to see if Obama does not firstly forward the bike-plan, and then promote further ideas that also irritate the same constituencies that are offended by the bike-plan, and please the same constituencies that are encouraged by the bike-plan. I predict he will.

    The aim of this gambit is to restore parity between the Conservation and Preservation elements of society. By 'installing' Preservationists as career figures in the National Parks System, it has gradually come to act as a de facto Preservationist lobby bought & paid by the U.S. Federal Government ... and that is a Constitutional 'off-sides'.

    'Pure' environmentalists ought not 'own' the NPS, but they very strongly do. Being a Conservationist in the NPS means you are a pariah, and have no future. In view of the reality that the National Parks Organic Act is entirely a strong Conservation-directing document, the NPS should actually be 'stacked' with Conservationists - not Preservationists

    Mountain bikers are the pawn, and they appear to have the ability to play their role skillfully & effectively.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 14 weeks ago

    Well, I have to admit the earliest I spent more than only a few hours on the ground in the bush in Gates of the Arctic was early March. The biggest difference being the abundant light in March, compared to nearly complete darkness in early January !

    However, I did spend several days in the Native village within the park boundary in January, and it was sort of wonderful. As Ray Bane was quoted in Joe McGinniss' book "Going to Extremes:" "WINTER IS THE TRUTH ABOUT ALASKA" ! But I must tell the truth, I've done nothing cross-country in January.

    Go, Bob: you'll love it. Bring skiis and a Cessna (also on skiis).

    And, don't believe those visitor statistics. The park service has no way of knowing how many people are actually in the park. They just know who reports in with the rangers. In a park 100 miles by 140 miles, you might find as many as 30, and start feeling real crowded.

  • Glen Canyon Marina Fire Damage Estimate: $3-$5 Million   5 years 14 weeks ago

    1) it was the middle of the night, the responders had to stop at the fire house at Bullfrog to get their gear, make their way to the fire boat, then navigate through the pitch black night to Hall's. I'm thinking 45 minutes ain't too shabby.

    2) one of the first responders was an NPS maintenance person.

    it's really easy to play armchair quarterback, and complain about things you obviously know nothing about.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 14 weeks ago

    ClaireWalter,

    The figure of 5,000 you saw must have been intended for something else, not the annual visitation figure for Hurricane Ridge. The annual figure is right around 3 million. Like elsewhere, visitation at Olympic has fallen lately, but maybe not as much.

    Essentially, everyone who goes to Olympic, goes to Hurricane Ridge. That is why I said earlier, that this destination is Olympic. Some visitors also go to, e.g, the Hoh River (rainforest), but the overwhelming visitation to Olympic is to Hurricane Ridge.

    Winter usage is much lighter than summer season, but overall a good rough approximation is that Hurricane Ridge resort-complex (it has several venues going on) might earn $200-400 million per year.

    Yes, Claire, the Park website does mention Hurricane Ridge, prominently. Good winter-pictures there.

    If a person is a cross-country skier, Hurricane Ridge is seriously nice. If they are a Sun Valley, Whistler-type 'commercial downhill' maven, then Hurricane is a pathetic, not-funny joke. However, if a skier is a beyond-the-tow type, then Hurricane again rises into the fairly spectacular ranks. I note cross-country people heading out with downhill skis on their back.

    The reason the Park administration continues to allow Hurricane to operate as it does, and maintains a fancy road for it & it alone, is that the Hurricane Ridge resort-complex is by far and away the largest revenue-generator in Olympic. It is likely that all other earning-venues combined are small compared to Hurricane Ridge.

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 14 weeks ago

    Actually, if you create a profile in the Traveler's system you have the option of being notified when a comment has been attached to a post that you've commented on. One more reason to join the club!

  • Bush Administration Publishes Proposed Rule For Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 14 weeks ago

    To Fred Swanson: Fred, thanks for articulating your criticisms of mountain biking candidly. Let me respond . . . .

    (1) I think many mountain bikers would be happy to exchange fair access to trails for a divided-use plan under which we'd be allowed on trails only on certain days, even in remote areas. My hope is to see the rescinding of agency prohibitions against mountain biking in federal Wilderness and on national park trails and in exchange I will not object if individual forest managers and park superintendents can separate uses by day of the week or some other form of temporal division. This system is in effect on part of the Tahoe Rim Trail, which is not urban, and I've heard no complaints about it. Under such a system, I would limit horse and packstock use of trails to a few weeks a year, those likely to be driest, after which operators of commercial packstock trains escorting loads of sedentary sightseers have to repair the damage at the end of the permitted period for the benefit of backpackers, hikers, and cyclists.

    (2) I'm sorry that you feel you have to yield to approaching mountain bikers when you're hiking. I am always ready to yield by stopping when I see hikers. But 95% of the time, the hikers step off the trail before I can utter a single propitiating word. The other 5% of the time, I do manage to say something and if the hikers want me to stop I do (sometimes they'd rather let me get by). I do manage to get equestrians to tell me what they would like. Half the time it's to stop and let them by, and I do. I don't know any mountain bikers who don't, although undoubtedly a few bad apples could be found.

    (3) Every use has problems. As you allude to, an inconsiderate mountain biker traveling too fast on a downhill trail can annoy or jar those seeking contemplative solitude. But hikers’ campsites, campfires, and loud audio devices, and horses’ and packstock’s dung, trail damage, and trampling of vegetation also negatively impact the environment and other park visitors.

    Every nonmotorized use also confers benefits, albeit of different types. You mentioned the quiet, contemplative, serene aspect of hiking. I agree—and let me mention that I have backpacked half of the part of the Pacific Crest Trail located in Oregon and many miles elsewhere, primarily in Wilderness areas. Mountain biking confers great benefits as well. It supports a unique constellation of important values: appreciation for wildlands, self-reliance, quiet recreation, solitude, and greatly increased physical fitness. A few other activities, like rock-climbing, provide all of these, but I would respectfully submit that neither hiking nor riding horses or packstock does. Hiking, though virtuous for the reasons you mention and others besides, normally places less intense physical demands on its participants and so does not confer the same high degree of fitness that mountain biking does. (You'll see overweight hikers, but overweight mountain bikers are as rarely seen as silver quarters in the change you get these days.) Horseback and packstock riding may provide worthwhile exposure to remote areas, particularly for people unable to hike or ride a bicycle, but do little for personal fitness and often damage trails, campsites, and riparian areas, all to the detriment of the environment and the experience of other park visitors.

    Kurt, I appreciate the thoughtful comments you, Ted Clayton, Zebulon, and others have made here. Ted's discussion of the Organic Act is particularly interesting and insightful. Is anyone still reading this thread? Could you do what Bill Schneider's New West threads do and permit contributors to check a box so that they can see when someone has replied to their post? Otherwise I fear that Fred Swanson won't see my reply. Just curious.

  • Rules! Rules! Rules!   5 years 14 weeks ago

    Haven't been to all of the parks, but still fun & informative. Thanks!

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 14 weeks ago

    Uh...... I hope you're not suggesting that I visit Gates of the Arctic this month, JimFrom NewYork. January visitation for years 2003 through 2007 COMBINED was 25, and in three of those years there were no January visits at all.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 14 weeks ago


    Gates of the Arctic National Park, with the adjoining Gates of the Arctic National Preserve, is THE park to see if you have not yet.

    It is the most extensive Wilderness national park in America. It has the headwaters with watersheds of any number of arctic and subarctic rivers. It has beautiful arctic valleys and gorgeous scenery. You can hike or kayak for weeks, sometimes without seeing any other party of visitors. Brown and black bear, caribou, wolves and more.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 14 weeks ago

    Thanks for the suggestions, SaltSage. I'm afraid that Colorado National Monument will be out of reach on this particular trip. My host and driver, who lives in Nederland (home of the annual Frozen Dead Guy Days festival), wants to head straight to the southwestern reaches of Colorado so we can be sure to have time for our primary park destinations as well as the Silverton-Durango steam train (for which we've already made reservations). Hovenweep may be doable, and I've always wanted to see Square Tower. I'll definitely look into that.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 14 weeks ago

    Hurricane Ridge! In Olympic Natl Park! And I thought my brain had a lock on ski area trivia, and I never heard ot this one. Of course, I looked it up (http://www.hurricaneridge.net), and while it might indeed be a cash cow for whatever entity (concessionaire or not-for-profit), but it is hardly "an alpine resort," as someone suggested. Eight hundred feet of vertical, 2 rope tows and a Pomalift, a day lodge open only for six hours on weekends and "some holidays" and annual visitation of 5,000 hardly qualifies it as a resort.

    FWIW, the Hurricane Ridge website also reports, "Hurricane Ridge is the furthest west ski area in the contiguous United States and one of only three remaining ski areas in the U.S. located in a National park, the others being Badger Pass at Yosemite, and Boston Mills/Brandywine at Cuyahoga Valley, OH." The park's website does not mention the ski area, and the ski area's website does not mention the natl park, so who knows. I'm mildly interested, but not enough to make a phone call.

    FWIW #2, US and Canadian parks are operated different. Ski Lake Louise (or whatever it's called this year), I believe Sunshine and maybe even Norquay are within Banff National Park boundaries, and Marmot Basin is in Jasper National Park. Probably others too. Diff'rent strokes for diff'rent countries.

  • Get Me to the Park on Time……..   5 years 14 weeks ago

    Well, since I was hired on to do that for (two) cross-country bus trips, the job specifications can't be very strict. I'll look into it. Meanwhile, I do know that, for western bus tours, it helps to look the part. Get a cowboy hat, boots, and jeans. Make sure they are dirty and all beat to hell. Grow a mustache -- the kind that droops at the corners. Roll your own cigarettes. Get yourself a colorful nickname. Be careful, though. Don't pick anything that's derivative or passe (Dusty, Lefty, Tex, and Slim are all no-no's). By all means, develop some colorful phrases. It helps to know something about the history and landscapes. If you don't know anything, just fake it. What the hell do tourists know, anyway?

  • Get Me to the Park on Time……..   5 years 14 weeks ago

    How do you get a job like that, sounds like a lot of fun. (step-on" guy I mean)

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 15 weeks ago

    Yup, I had to laugh at the thought of our little visitors center as a Lodge / Resort (ala for profit Badger Pass Ski Lodge) which is only open on the weekends (weather permitting) during the winter for the hordes, of which I have been a member going on quite a few decades now :-)
    I also find it very easy to escape the horde of folks to spend a night or more camping in the winter wonderland of Our Olympic National Park.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 15 weeks ago

    See Hurricane Ridge.

    Basically, this is Olympic National Park. Socially; as far as the cumulative human experience is concerned. Yes, the puny remaining downhill ski facilities are to-snicker-at, largely because they are overshadowed by the miles of groomed & 'wild' cross-country runs, and by all the hordes who have previously been humiliated by impulsively jumping on rented cross-country skis - now wisely supporting the booming snowshoe venue.

    I don't have the stats handy, but Olympic (bravely) puts them out - and I think Hurricane is hands-down the main event.

    Yeah, it's an alpine resort, with a podunk downhill. Several acres of asphalt parking, a big two-lane road gouged 17 miles up the jutting face of the outlying Olympic ridges. Nice ol' lodge that's now mostly an oversized hangout-hut, classic outside viewing decks (and great view), incredibly overused bathrooms, and assorted concessionaires. Feverish snow-gear rentals all winter.

    ... Ok, I checked: Hurricane by itself pulls 3 million annually. It may be a LOL resort, but they all pay to get through the gate at the bottom of the hill, and it's called "The Hurricane Ridge Road" because that's what statistically everybody goes up it for. And then they pull out the serious cash at the top. A nice piece of a billion dollar bill annually, no doubt.

    (Bigger truth is, you can - and many locals do - play around in the nice pull-outs going up the road, and from the top, after the snow melts, from the aforementioned expanse of paved parking, drive 12 miles out along the skyline of Hurricane Ridge on the (only slightly hair-raising) gravel/bedrock/melt-muck of Obstruction Peak Road to Obstruction Peak, its half-acre of pot-holed trailhead parking, and thus motorized access to what the surging hordes (3 million, eh?) back at Hurricane really wanted, but didn't quite have the nerve to go for.)

    In winter, Obstruction Peak Rd is the more-serious cross-country track, I believe not-groomed. 24 mile run all the way out & back, all on terrific exposure.
    =====

    Deer Park - Blue Mtn

    Now, just a few miles short of Port Angeles, which you drive through to get to Park Headquarters and the foot of Hurricane Ridge Road (They bought extra land and built extra road, just to tie HQ and the Visitor Center to the big Hurricane draw. No accident.) you drive past Deer Park Road. There's a big cinema complex at the intersection. When you see the cluster of big movie-theaters in pretty-much a countryside setting, that's where the foot of Deer Park Rd is.

    Deer Park, on Blue Mountain, is where the olden-days ski-resort was. 19 mile road (more than slightly hair-raising & crude), cleared higher up only in summer. I've seen old pictures, and Deer Park was one serious swingin' winter shindig. Later it shifted over to Hurricane, where the scene has hung on uninterrupted.

    But if you'd like a ski-resort-like setting without the 3 million companions, that you can drive up to, get out your map and find Deer Park Road. Just a few mile east of Hurricane. Campground, trailheads, tiny Ranger Station. Trail goes back to Obstruction Peak, so with 2 vehicles a mayor high-country traverse is possible, one-way.

    Call HQ about road-conditions first - it gets graded/plowed/cleared only once it's finally 'practical' (snow nearly all gone).

    Yep, Hurricane Ridge is a ski-resort. And ol-time lodge.

  • Brady Campaign Sues Interior Department over Concealed Carry in National Parks   5 years 15 weeks ago

    The Brady Bunch..an appropiate name. mindless sitcom mentality.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 15 weeks ago

    If you're gonna trek from South Carolina to western Colorado, there are two other NPS gems you can't miss: Colorado National Monument near Grand Junction, where the six-mile roundtrip hike of Monument Canyon is one of the best on the Colorado Plateau. Rim Rock Drive is easily the best and most scenic drive (and especially bike ride) anywhere in western Colorado. While you're there, and if you've got a sturdy high-clearance vehicle, check out the BLM's McInnis Canyons National Conservation Area, where a hike of Mee Canyon will yield the most amazing sight in canyon country - the Mee Canyon Alcove, where the wash at the bottom of the canyon inserts itself 300 feet into the canyon wall. The alcove is so big -- said to be the biggest anywhere on the Colorado Plateau -- you could park a 747 inside.

    Also, if you're going to Mesa Verde, Hovenweep National Monument can't be missed.