Recent comments

  • National Park Quiz 51: Administrivia   5 years 18 weeks ago

    I _wish_ #9 was almost true!
    and 2 others I keep forgetting and get tripped up by.
    The Alaskan parks that are also preserves each have 2 codes for some purposes: the park & the preserve.
    And don't get me started on the multiple codes for different hierarchical levels of National Capital Region Parks.
    Also, Gettysburg and many battlefields have a second code for the national cemetery.

    Note that there is not a single "official" set of park codes, even though the lands office uses codes, I&M uses codes, the park-specific websites use codes, etc. I think that the only true statement is that all NPS units, including training centers and administrative facilities, have at least 1 code (not necessarily unique).

    #8 has many more examples: Grand Staircase Escalante NM, Santa Rosa Mountains NM, Parashant NM, Canyhon of the Ancients NM, etc.

    Plus, there are several National Monuments where NPS administers but owns none of the land: Canyon de Chelly and Navaho NM.

  • Fall Into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Kills California Woman   5 years 18 weeks ago

    These tragic overlook "accidents" always make people wonder about them for years to come, especially when you cannot find any follow-up to the story anywhere. Surely someone has more information available on this. Surely an investigation must have taken place. Or maybe there is only suspicions and therefore no one will respond. Same goes for the Michigan woman. No one there but her husband and the kids stayed back in the car, seems like. Strange. The reason I am saying this is we were at Canyon de Chelley when the same thing happend. Woman went over the edge of one of the overlooks while trying to find her dropped contact lense, supposedly. Husband was wanting his picture taken with the Superintendent while the Rangers were out in the canyon trying to find her body, talked about his time in Vietnam, had his plans already made for the funeral, just having a jolly old time while the body hunt was going on. Made us all wonder, but there wasn't anything anyone could do about it.

  • Fall Into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Kills California Woman   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Anything new on this? Was she buried in Illinois? How come no obituary?

  • National Park Quiz 51: Administrivia   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Thanks Dan, Bob, and Rick. The "inside scoops" are especially appreciated.

    Executive Director,
    Crater Lake Institute
    Robert Mutch Photography,

  • Interior Officials Want to Allow Concealed Carry in the National Parks   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Jewelee, there is no way I could possibly understand the trauma of rape. I have known rape victims, but that certainly does not make me an expert on the issue. I have had verbal threats to my life, had a plane that I flew sabotaged with the intent of causing loss of control after takeoff and have been attacked and injured by an individual high on meth. Prior to retirement I held a law enforcement commission and am trained in the use of firearms for self protection. I support the right to own legal firearms. However, I feel no need to carry a concealed firearm for personal protection, and I cannot support the carrying of concealed sidearms in national park settings.

  • What Not to Do with an Old Cannonball   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Anonymous -

    Excellent comments. It's easy to become complacent on matters of safety and security, especially in the kind of situation you described in Washington.

  • Alexander Hamilton's "Country Home" on the Move in New York City   5 years 18 weeks ago

    I was happy to find this page. I am visiting New York for the first time in ten years, and the other day I decided to drive through the neighbourhood where I grew up. I was very disturbed when I drove past where Hamilton Grange had always stood since my boyhood. I did a search and was gratified to find out that the house still exisited and would be renovated. When I was very young I went through the house on a class trip and over the years until I left New York I watched it slowly deteriorate, closed to visitors. I will follow the pprogress of this project and hope to visit a building in much better shape when I return to the city.

  • What Not to Do with an Old Cannonball   5 years 18 weeks ago

    I worked in visitor services, for a while, at a museum that topped the list for Washington D.C. terrorism targets. Our security protocols required us to treat every unattended package, camera-size or larger, as a potential threat. We would call out, and if nobody in earshot claimed the item, we immediately evacuated a discrete portion of the building, and called up the bomb dog. (We had our own, full-time.) This has been the practice since the museum opened, and each and every one of the thousands of times it's happened, the item was inspected and remanded to the lost & found. No camera has yet exploded.

    It is an act of will and courage to actually follow a policy like that, especially after the third or fourth package in the same area in the same day. I am sure that the ranger's common-sense instinct was to stash the thing behind the VC and quietly call the bomb squad; that probably would have been fine. But let's honor Ranger Lynch for taking the appropriate precautions, and following procedures even when the danger was minimal.

  • What Not to Do with an Old Cannonball   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Sounds like a good time to do an article on Fort Smith NHS ;-)

    Semper Fi

  • National Park Quiz 51: Administrivia   5 years 18 weeks ago


    Chalk me up as resting on my laurels for the first time in a long time. Rob, the superintendent's compendium contains those restrictions that apply only to that park. For instance, many parks have areas designated in their compendiums where 1st amendment activities may take place. We had such a place designated in Everglades. When the Sierra Club was conducting their "Dump Watt" petition drive, they were restricted to operating in one place in the park. These compendiums are normally reviewed in house once a year.

    The Director of the NPS receives his/her direct supervision from the Asst. Secy for Fish, Wildlife and Parks on a day-to-day basis.

    Rick Smith

  • National Park Quiz 51: Administrivia   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Don't beat yourself up, Robert. I suspect that five is about par for this one (though Rick Smith did get them all correct). Dan's got it right for the Superintendent's Compendium. As for the NPS Director's immediate supervisor, well, "day-to-day basis" is a rather ambiguous concept. Few federal administrators in the upper echelons have the time, talent, or inclination to be micro-managers. The concept "answers to" is useful. In practical terms, this means that the supervisor is saying "You will not be hearing from me until you screw up in a way that makes me look bad."

  • What Not to Do with an Old Cannonball   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Telling people that these old cannonballs aren't dangerous just because you can't make them explode by jarring them is a questionable tactic. It's true that nearly everyone who has been injured or killed by the detonation of Civil War era ordnance was doing overtly dangerous things like trying to deactivate them. That said, no one should be needlessly careless with live ordnance of any kind. The explosive inside an old cannonball that hasn't been invaded by moisture is still extremely powerful and remains very sensitive to heat and friction. The smart thing to do is to be belt-rope-and suspenders careful.

  • What Not to Do with an Old Cannonball   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Thanks for the comments.

    Even though the risk of an explosion was small, this was good protocol for such situations. There was no reason to take any unnecessary risks, and given the park's location right in town, the response time for local authorities - and resulting inconvenience for people in the area - would have been short.

    As Dan Hilton indicated, very few people have his level of expertise with explosives, so for everyone else, the best advice is to err on the side of caution.

    This situation brings to mind a photo showing the following words in a large font on the back of a t-shirt: "I'm with the bomb squad. If you see me running, try to keep up!"

  • National Park Quiz 51: Administrivia   5 years 18 weeks ago

    The Superintendent's Compendium should be issued periodically, though I don't know that they absolutely have to be annual. No doubt they should be reviewed annually, at least. It's a very important part of giving park policies legal force. But they are often neglected in parks with a low law-enforcement presence.

    If you're interested, it looks like Crater Lake is accepting comments on their 2009 Compendium right now:

  • What Not to Do with an Old Cannonball   5 years 18 weeks ago


    "But in February, White's hobby cost him his life: A cannonball he was restoring exploded, killing him in his driveway.

    More than 140 years after Lee surrendered to Grant, the cannonball was still powerful enough to send a chunk of shrapnel through the front porch of a house a quarter-mile from White's home in this leafy Richmond suburb."

  • What Not to Do with an Old Cannonball   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Yes over reacted, I am a manufacture of explosives, and can tell you that a 150 + year old frag projectile would be loaded with black powder. Black powder is not very sensitive to shock friction or impact. Not much you are going to do to make it explode without a large input of energy. That is why you can shoot it out of a cannon without it exploding. Some black powder from that period was made with NaNO3 if this was the case it was long ago rendered useless sludge. If it was made with KNO3 it may well still be capable of deflagration(very rapid burning and expansion of gases) but not detonation (reaction rate faster than the speed of sound, this is required to be considered a high explosive) and then only with a very large input of energy. Then again better safe than sorry. You wouldn't expect a park ranger to be an explosives expert

  • National Park Quiz 51: Administrivia   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Well, I had 5 correct. This was a good one Bob.

    For number 1, I found a description of the Department of the Interior, Assistant Secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, for those who may be interested.

    Bob, is this Assistant Secretary the direct boss of the NPS director on a day-to-day basis?

    Bob, number 6 refers to the Superintendent's Compendium. Is this document put out annually? Is it more of a "traditional" thing put out by the superintendent of a new park? Could you explain a little further? Thanks a lot.

    Executive Director,
    Crater Lake Institute
    Robert Mutch Photography,

  • National Park Service Helps Expand Bison Range North of Yellowstone National Park   5 years 18 weeks ago

    i think it is a great idea!!

  • Traveler Checklist: Arches National Park In May   5 years 18 weeks ago

    I agree. I can't wait to go back someday.

    Don't forget to bring your mountain bike - Moab has some of the best riding in the world.

  • Yellowstone National Park: No Cellphone Towers in Campgrounds or Recommended Wilderness, Limits on Wi-Fi   5 years 18 weeks ago

    As Kurt points out, they wouldn't be able to wire the entire park for wireless even if they wanted to; the geography makes that not likely to happen.

    In the various "villages," it seems kind of silly to me in areas that are already urbanized to restrict usage in some of the buildings. You're saying they can have vending machines, electricity, running water, restaurants, gift stores, etc. in the Old Faithful Inn (and telephones, too), but not Wi-Fi? That's not a middle ground; that's just a bizarro sense of aesthetics.

    As for cell phone service, I was in Big Sky a couple years ago and was near the top of Lone Mountain, and I had five bars on my cell phone; it seemed disgusting to me that I could have such great service near the top of an 11,000 foot mountain. I think what it was for me is that in one sense we are more connected than ever; in a larger sense, we are less connected. We have no connection to the place we are, to the land itself. We connect with each other on national parks on a freaking web-zine, but so often when we are out in the parks, we can only think about the pictures we will take to share, the videos, or the stories we will write (I'm guilty as charged!). We lose the moment with the place.

    So, I get very much our desire to scale back the technology; we just have to be honest about what we are doing and why we are doing it. If we are going to make things more difficult (I remember the good old days living in Yellowstone dorms without television - then, satellite tv came ... ugh) from a technology standpoint, don't do it half-assed and in ways that don't make sense. But, that's part of the contradiction of Yellowstone. The Old Faithful Inn, for instance, is truly a marvel of architecture and human construction, especially in the front foyer, and yet it was built so that people could stay very close to the thermal features, especially Old Faithful itself. It was a technological comfort, not a "historic" shrine. You want people to really connect with Old Faithful? Close down the Inn! In ages past, there used to be a campground - that was shut down - turn the Inn instead into a "historic" museum. But, if you are going to use it, have all these very modern amenities, make everything comfortable, and have cell phone service anyhow, then let people have Wi-Fi so they can also write about it. It's a faux denial, a faux middle ground.

    Don't take this post as pro Wi-Fi; I supported residents in Gardiner who successfully fought a cell phone tower that would have been an aesthetic blight on the town. I'm pro-consistency and pro-having a serious and meaningful dialogue on what Yellowstone should be and working to implement the consequences, no matter how drastic they are, to make that happen. If anything, people should take my point as being that strange things happen when you decide to play God in Yellowstone, and this is one example of it. People do their laundry in the thermals at the Black Sand Basin one day, and they blog about what it used to be like (but not in the Inn) the next. But, we love this place; doesn't it deserve better than our farcical policy whims and processes?

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • What Not to Do with an Old Cannonball   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Over-reacted? I don't think so. This stuff is far too dangerous to treat it casually. I know of one serious, big-time collector of Civil War stuff who got a little too careless with unexploded ordnance and is now singing with the angels.

  • Interior Officials Want to Allow Concealed Carry in the National Parks   5 years 18 weeks ago

    If you were a woman who had been gang raped you would understand the need for concealed carry. No one is safe anywhere on this planet, and as long as I know there are people out there willing to hurt me for there own gain, or pleasure I will always push for the right to bare arms and the right to carry them concealed for my personal protection. It is a right I want to see extended to all National Parks.

  • What Not to Do with an Old Cannonball   5 years 18 weeks ago

    The homeowner told park employees that he had taken his five kids to school that morning with the old cannonball rolling around in his van.
    just shows how much the park staff had probably over-reacted... Did they bring in the bomb sniffing robot while everyone huddled in the distance? Meanwhile the homeowner went back home to play with the rest of his "unexploded ordinance" collection. Too funny.

  • Are National Parks That Recommend Bear Spray Encouraging You To Break the Law?   5 years 18 weeks ago

    Mike--I want to preface my remarks by frankly admitting I could be wrong, but I think that under the CFR "weapons" includes both bear spray and firearms. So if a park superintendent can use the superintendents "compodium" to allow bear spray, I assume the superintendent could also allow firearms. Again, I might be wrong.

    The parks that legally allow bear spray do so because the superintendent made an exception to the law/CFR. It seems like a superintendent could just as easily make an exception for guns. But I could be wrong.

  • National Park Service Concerned Over Solar Power Plans on BLM Lands in West   5 years 18 weeks ago

    There are a variety of ways to prevent freeze damage. Some solar power systems employ a working fluid that includes antifreeze (there are non-toxic choices), while others eliminate the need for antifreeze by using a drain-back system or other adaptations. In some applications, stored heat can be used to warm circulating fluids during unusually cold weather.