Recent comments

  • Programming Note: National Geographic Channel Explores the Appalachian Trail Tonight   5 years 25 weeks ago

    And they kinda skirted around what actually hiking the trail is like, I thought. Nothing about long slogs through mud, rain, or mosquitoes, the blisters, the lost toenails, the poison ivy, the supply drops. And unless my hearing is worse than I thought, nothing at all on Benton McKaye, the father of the AT!

    The segments on acid rain, photographing critters, Lyme disease, and peregrine falcons were interesting, but perhaps could have been better placed in a separate show about environmental concerns.

    While I was dang impressed with the 70-year-old thru-hiker, do you think he had that bounce in his stride the entire 2,175 miles?

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    I would rate a winter visit to Carlsbad Caverns as among my most memorable experiences. Upon arrival at a make-shift trailer/visitor center (the real VC was being renovated) we were greeted personally by a female ranger who made a special effort to come out from behind her information desk to engage us in conversation and give us an introduction to the park and it's array of underground adventures. Because we arrived in the off-season (the week after New Year 2008), we had much of the underground gallery of hydrogeochemical art to ourselves. There were plenty of roving rangers knowledgable about cave formation available to answer our questions. They all spoke in whispering tones to preserve the cathedral-like quiet of the interior of the dimly lit passageways and vaulted rooms.

    I agree with Kirby Adams. The chance to interact personally with uniformed members of the NPS is often more rewarding and memorable than a formal presentation or guided walk. On the other hand, having worked many decades ago as a park ranger-naturalist, I would hope that even experienced park visitors would never be disappointed by attending an NPS interpretive program.

    In answer to the question posed by the above article, "Is the scenery in a national park more important to your visit than the comfort of your lodging?" I often find lodging to be a distraction to the enjoyment of the scenery. I often postpone breakfast in order to absorb the onset of a beautiful dawn. I plan evening meals to enable me to be out once again to enjoy the changing colors of sunset and dusk. My most memorable nights in the parks have been out under the stars without a tent.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Programming Note: National Geographic Channel Explores the Appalachian Trail Tonight   5 years 25 weeks ago

    A little disappointing, 1 hour isn't enough.

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    For us the most important thing is, by far, avoiding crowds. We plan trips for times of year when crowds will be minimized, and during the trip we plan any front country sight-seeing, programs, and visitor center browsing to happen on weekdays - preferably rainy ones.

    Don't care about rooms, because we bring our own room. Ditto for meals. Well-marked trails are nice, but with the aid of a guidebook and map, I've never had much trouble on a trail (except that one day in Acadia on the side of Pemetic Mountain....and the time in the Queets Valley in Olympic when a wash-out had obscured the trail....)

    Interpretive programs are nice, but I've always done so much research about places before we visit them I usually end up disappointed. I've found one of the most rewarding things involving NPS staff is getting them alone and chatting them up. Three incidents come to mind: On a rainy day in the Hoh Rainforest (Olympic) when the tourists were bitterly complaining that it had the audacity to rain in the rainforest, I got to talking to the ranger sitting at one of the info desks. She told me some of her experiences with exploration along the beach section, and I told her about our adventures kayaking in the San Juan Islands. We spent about 20 minutes just chatting about exploring nature and both ended up learning a lot.

    The year before that my wife and I were the lone visitors in the Congaree visitor center. After talking about our canoe plans for Cedar Creek, another ranger came up and somehow I mentioned we were going to Carolina Sandhills NWR next. Turns out this guy used to work there and we spent a long time talking about red-cockaded woodpeckers and management of longleaf pine ecosystems.

    Just this past summer we had a great talk about birds with a ranger in Acadia. Her name has been mentioned here in another thread I know. I was in awe of her ability to talk to me about egg-shell density and things like that, then turn around and explain to someone else the difference between a seagull and a bald eagle without a hint of condescension. The parks need a hundred clones of this ranger!

    As I think about it, there are other experiences involving the human element: Randomly meeting a couple personal friends of Traveler's Bob Janiskee about 4 miles deep in the wilds of Gros Morne NP in Newfoundland. A lone hiker in the Queets Valley pointing me to some Sitka Spruce research I'd never read. The retired couple in Theodore Roosevelt NP recounting their RV trek from Alberta to Arizona.

    Ironic that a borderline misanthrope, such as myself, that tends toward preservationism would pick human interactions as among the most memorable good times in national parks. I think the thing I found uplifting in these events is the reaffirmation that there are good people out there that share my thoughts on nature and science.

    It's also no secret that if I listed my ten most disappointing events in national parks, they would all involve interactions with other people. Nature has never let me down.

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    For years I have joked that the best trip to Yellowstone NP involves seeing a moose. Although I never come home from Yellowstone NP disappointed, the more wildlife I see on a trip, the more special that trip become. I do appreciate the trails, the campsites, the Ranger programs, the other provided amenities, but what makes a good trip for me is the wildlife.

  • How Many Wolves Are Enough In Washington State?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    As Jasime noted, Kurt's repeated use of the term "cap" is highly misleading. The WDFW preferred alternative sets a minimum of 15 successful breeding pairs for 3 consecutive years for delisting, corresponding to a minimum population of 75 to 150 wolves. It specifies no "cap", but WDFW verbally floated a "target" of 300 to 500 wolves in a recent public meeting.

    This proposal is now open for public comment, and is also being submitted through Univ. of Washington for blind scientific review (just as a peer-reviewed science journal article would be). It appears there is no scientific consensus on the minimum sustainable wolf population, nor on the ecological effects of elk in Olympic NP, nor on desired target elk population. The plan may have to be deferred until scientific consensus develops on these key questions. (Without solid science, its doubtful the plan could survive the inevitable legal challenges... from both sides.)

    WDFW developed this EIS under SEPA (State Environ. Prot. Act). State wildlife laws do not apply within National Parks. Wolves cannot be reintroduced to Olympic NP without the concurrance of the NPS, and that will require a completely separate NEPA EIS. USFWS is still developing science and policy regarding Northwest wolf population, declines to even comment on this WDFW wolf EIS, so is not ready to participate in such an NPS EIS. Eight sovereign tribes must also concur (Quinault Indian Nation and Makah are major landowners and wildlife managers; 6 other tribes also hold traditional elk hunting rights within Olympic NP and, based on past examples, each may separately demand years of funding to "study the issue" before approving).

    So it appears to this observer that any action to reintroduce wolves into Olympic remains at least a decade away, likely longer.

  • Only Snow Drought Likely To Block Your Access To Yellowstone National Park This Winter   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Blocking access is a matter of opinion. I feel blocked out in the winter because I can't afford to plop down a couple of hundred buck for a coach tour or four or five hundred to rent a machine and guide. The interior of Yellowstone is a rich man's playground in the winter. We common folk have Lamar Valley at least.

  • Only Snow Drought Likely To Block Your Access To Yellowstone National Park This Winter   5 years 25 weeks ago

    "Piffle." Now that's a word you don't hear every day.

    I guess I'm not exactly sure which question of yours wasn't answered, Dave.

    Regarding training to certify private citizens to go into the park without guides, the FONSI says:

    The concept of non-commercial guiding or unguided access (both with training programs) has been analyzed in previous winter plans and will be evaluated in alternatives in a long-term winter plan.

    Subsequent questions focus on private snowmobiles being BAT under this arrangement, to which the NPS again said such an arrangement would be evaluated in a long-term plan.

    That said, winter use in Yellowstone is a cumbersome issue, perhaps more than it should be. I'm sure we'll both be much, much older before they come up with an amicable solution. Comparing winter use to summer use is a bit like apples and oranges, though, because of the different wildlife patterns and biology; in winter wildlife tends to cluster in many of the same areas that humans visit, and they're struggling to hang on until spring, thus one of the needs to be more circumspect when it comes to managing winter access to the park.

  • Is This the Most Unique Job in the National Park Service?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    According to a story in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sandy Kogl held the job from 1974 until 1989, Gary Koy ran the kennels 1989-1999, and Karen Fortier has held the position for the past 10 years. That news story says she is leaving the job after the birth of her second child to devote time to her family.

    As the story noted, although this is a very rewarding job for the right person, it's also extremely demanding, even by NPS standards.

    Karen Fortier was quoted in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner story: "“What an incredible job for someone,” she said. “To be one of the only paid people in the world to mush dogs for the federal government. And what an incredible group of dogs. They don’t get any better than those guys as far as personalities go. I admire the person going in there,” she said. “They are going to have an incredible time.”

  • Only Snow Drought Likely To Block Your Access To Yellowstone National Park This Winter   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Piffle. I used the word 'blocked' in the same sense you did in your article title. Therefore, one could likewise say "lack of snow is blocking your mode of access, but not your ability to enter the park in winter". In your use and mine, we both are obviously using the word 'block' to mean 'restrict' as in: "1 c : to hinder the passage, progress, or accomplishment of by or as if by interposing an obstruction d : to shut off from view (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/block (verb))".

    This issue I am addressing here is motorized access to the park by independent visitors who have no need for and no desire to pay for nannies or sheepherders and whose park experience is greatly restricted and diminished when force to travel in noisy packs or while crammed in a can with a dozen others, all on a timetable and agenda not of our choosing. Independent visitors are free to access the park with their motorized vehicle on approved roadways in the summer, why not in the winter?

    Yes, I read the winter planning document you posted the link to. If you have read it, you know that it does *not* address this question. This is made*very* clear in the attached comments, especially group 1. On page 11, when discussing the Preferred-vs-No Action alternative impacts on visitor access, it states "...the No Action Alternative ... would not provide as
    well for the enjoyment of the park and its attractions, because much of the park would be
    effectively closed to all but a few people on skis or snowshoes who are capable of travelling
    many miles." I found no comparable statement on how coercing independent visitors into paying extra to be herded provides for their "enjoyment of the park"; rather, it seems to be a detriment to their enjoyment, whether by yielding to bullying of commercial employees with a timetable ("You'll see the park on MY schedule, not yours") or by restricting their motorized mobility and thereby making the park "effectively closed to all but a few people on skis or snowshoes who are capable of travelling
    many miles."

    Indeed, if one closely reads the report, one finds this statement (page 16): "All winter visitors to Yellowstone will be required to travel in a guided group, whether with a commercial snowmobile guide or in a guided snowcoach." While one hopes that this is an ambigously worded sentence that is refering to winter visitors travelling by over-the-snow vehicles, the context of the paragraph and section do not clarify that this is the case. As stated, it can be read as a restriction on all winter visitors whether travelling on over snow vehicles or on their own feet; a very unwelcome one in my view.

  • Is This the Most Unique Job in the National Park Service?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Why did Sandy leave the job? It is my dream job and I was just wondering why anyone would leave it.

  • Glacier National Park Officials Developing Battle Plan For Lake Trout in Quartz Lake   5 years 25 weeks ago

    There are problems with introductions of any non-native fish species. The biggest question being, how are they going to affect the native fauna of the system? Until you know for sure that the introduction is not going to have a negative affect, then you have to assume that the introduction would not be the right choice. We have made numerous mistakes with introducing biota in the past and many of them we are now trying to reverse the negative affects of. Thats how lake trout got to the western states to begin with. Unfortunately, bio controls are not the best option for reducing lake trout from any system. Gill netting alone with never totally remove lake trout from a large body of water, but if keeping the lake trout population suppressed gives the native cutthroat a fighting chance till better techniques are developed, thats what should continue.

  • Only Snow Drought Likely To Block Your Access To Yellowstone National Park This Winter   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Dave, I think the NPS is blocking your mode of access, but not your ability to enter the park in winter.

    As for your other questions, you can find answers to them in the park's winter planning documents: http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/upload/final_yell_fonsi-10-15-09.pdf

  • Programming Note: National Geographic Channel Explores the Appalachian Trail Tonight   5 years 25 weeks ago

    I hope they're not planning on interviewing Mark Sanford.

  • Only Snow Drought Likely To Block Your Access To Yellowstone National Park This Winter   5 years 25 weeks ago

    No, actually the NPS blocks my access to Yellowstone, at least if I want to motor into the park on my own as I can in the main season.

    As things currently stand, one needs to be herded as snowmobile sheep or crammed into a tin-can "snow coach". Since these "snow coaches" are the same vans and truck-based small buses - now equipped for the winter season with tracks - used in the park in the summertime, can I take my own wheeled vehicle into the park if I equip it similarly with tracks? Are the NPS training courses required of the commercial snow coach drivers and snowmobile sheep herders available to the general public? If not, why not? If I was still a regional resident or if I was on a week-long visit to the park, I would willingly take the class if I then was then granted unescorted motorized access to the park in winter similar to what ANY park visitor has in the main season. Why not institute such a program?

  • Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies   5 years 25 weeks ago

    I would note that a 2.5 oz (maximum legal self-defense) personal protection pepper spray is not the same as a 8-13 oz can of 2% OC bear spray. Theoretically the bear spray is considered a pesticide (California law calls it an "economic poison") and in many states carries legal consequences for its use against humans.

    The big problems seen with stopping drunks or drugged out users is that they might not feel the pain. A bear (not likely to be high on PCP) receiving a fog of 2% OC spray will feel the burn and more than likely won't be able to see well enough to attack anyone.

    Not sure about an AR-15. I thought that one would weight about 9 lbs loaded. I'm trying to figure out who might carry one ready to use like a scene from a Vietnam War movie. In any case, I've heard the recommendations in Alaska for bear country are for 12 gauge shotguns with slugs or high-powered hunting rifles. I'm not sure a .223 (which is really designed as a combat weapon against humans) will stop a charging bear unless it's a direct hit to the head or major organ. It might be able to punch a hole in an engine block, but things are far different when it's a bear with soft tissue that might not stop with only a minor flesh wound.

    I remember the 1988 movie "Shoot to Kill" with Sidney Poitier. His character was an FBI agent trying to track someone in the woods when he and his guide came across a grizzly bear. He asked his guide if he should shoot it with his revolver, and the guide said, "Nah - you'll probably just piss him off."

  • Only Snow Drought Likely To Block Your Access To Yellowstone National Park This Winter   5 years 25 weeks ago

    On other Yellowstone news, a number of organizations and individuals have just sued the NPS and the USFS over their role in the bison slaughter.

    See http://www.buffalofieldcampaign.org/media/press0910/pressreleases0910/110909.html and http://www.jhnewsandguide.com/article.php?art_id=5273.

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

  • Is This the Most Unique Job in the National Park Service?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Ray, your definitely a man of all seasons...weather beaten and enjoying every minute of it. A life worth writing about.

  • Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Just a few points, sir..I don't expect to convince you of anything.

    First off, the pepper spray shot at drunks is far weaker than what you get for bears, as I understand it.

    Second, there's no debate by anyone with a brain that a gun doesn't have the capability of killing a bear. The problem is aim...the bear is charging, you're tense because, as you seem to continue pointing out, the bear is charging your child, and you have to hit what, something the size of a basketball? If you hit the stomach, or the shoulder, or a leg...

    Now, this article isn't here to debate anything. Kurt was simply pointing out what studies show. Studies are studies, sir, and there is now evidence, by actually events, that bear spray is more effective than a gun. Take it as you will.

  • Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies   5 years 25 weeks ago

    all you have to do is watch a few episodes from cops to see that pepper spray shot directly in the face of drunk suspects tends to only work at times. Although a bad odor sounds like something I would leave my life to as a deterrent (sarcasm) what I do know as fact is that a .223 remington round fired out of an ar-15 will puncture an engine block and bring a semi truck to a stop. For those of you that are unfimiliar with firearms this is basically the smallest hunting round possible.(not some super huge cannon round) Anything able to stop an automoblie has to give you more protection than a can of spray, and you can't tell me that it will have no effect on a bear. As far as cases of bears being put down when "Bluff charging" your right some innocent bears might get injured or killed. In my oppinion however my life, my childrens lives, and that of any humans for that matter comes before that of a bears. The other things to consider is other predatory animals. I saw a "when animals attack" type of show once that spotlighted a young child that was attacked by a rapid mountain lion that had the childs head in its mouth, and luckly for him his uncle had a glock 17 9mm pistol that he was able to use to force the lion to release. and as was pointed out the likley hood of an attack is slim to say the least so instances of firearms being discharge are not going to be running rampant. So if you prefer spray or a high powered metal projectile travling at 3500 feet per second either way you should have the right to choose.

  • Ensconced on a Desert Isle....   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Now that's what I call a happy camper!

  • Is This the Most Unique Job in the National Park Service?   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Many older NPS employees look back on the early days of their careers as some of their best years in the Park Service when they were field rangers, interpreters, maintenance helpers, naturalists, etc.. In my case, the most unique job I had was when I first went to work for the Park Service as an Environmental Planner assisting a park planner named John Kauffmann in the planning for the then proposed Gates of the Arctic National Park. My job, in part, was to travel through the proposed area by light aircraft, boat, hiking and dog team while evaluating natural and cultural resources. The summer months were spent backpacking and doing float trips through areas rarely visited by non-Natives. Once winter set in I would explore via dog team, sometimes flying my dogs and equipment to distant sites to begin a trip. Occasionally, John or another Park Service person would accompany me. Sometimes my wife went along to assist. Actually, I wrote my own job description.

  • Visiting National Parks by Train – Eastern U.S.   5 years 25 weeks ago

    Thanks for the comment Daniel.

    Yes, an article about train travel to some western NPS areas is in the works. Look for it in the next few days.

  • Visiting National Parks by Train – Eastern U.S.   5 years 25 weeks ago

    My wife and I recently took the Northeast Regional from Boston to NYC and thoroughly enjoyed it. Very peaceful (if you sit in the 'quiet' car) and pretty scenic in some spots along the coast. In Boston we did the Freedom Trail and in NYC the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. In Boston we stayed at Hotel 140 which is withing a block of the AMTRAK station, very convenient. Is there an article about train travel in the western NPS area?

  • Ensconced on a Desert Isle....   5 years 25 weeks ago

    I few years ago I was all ready to make the trip, although I wasn't planning on overnighting on Fort Jefferson. I had my reservation with Sunny Days all set.

    The Tropical Storm Ernesto sort of shut down all tourist businesses in Key West for a couple of days, including my reserved date. I got a call that my reservation was automatically canceled as a result of the storm. I actually got to Key West after the storm was over, and was told that they had plenty of space the next day, although I already had plans.

    I'm thinking if I ever try to make this trip again, I'll avoid hurricane season.