Recent comments

  • Star Party Set for June 27 at Great Basin National Park   5 years 19 weeks ago

    National Parks are ideal places to enjoy a pristine view of a dark and starry night. All of the parks listed above offer virtually pristine views the night, but elsewhere, it becomes increasingly difficult to escape the distant effects of artifical light pollution.

    Light pollution is a major problem for urban parks. However, distant domes of light pollution from growing urban and suburban development has become more than evident along the western horizon from the top of Glacier Point in Yosemite, from Horse Pasture Plateau in Zion, from Panorama Point in Arches, and looking to the north from Clingman's Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains. Digital cameras used at night in Death Valley can pick up domes of light pollution from Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

    A view of a pristine night sky has been an experience that extended across all human cultures prior to the past century. Fortunately, through intelligent light planning and effective community lighting ordinances, light pollution can be substantially reduced and the pristine beauty of the night sky restored.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Should the Jackson Hole Airport Lease Extension Wait for Safety Audit?   5 years 19 weeks ago

    While not intending to take a stance pro or con on the question of the appropriateness of the airport's location, if somehow the NPS decided it should go, where might a new airport be based in the Jackson area? There's not an awful lot of flat ground around, and that which is flat is likely privately owned.

    While there might be some space on the Driggs, Idaho, side of the range, the need to traverse Teton Pass makes that location untenable. And down near Alpine, Wyoming, doesn't make sense due to the need to negotiate the Snake River Canyon to reach Jackson.

    Any suggestions?

  • Philatelists Rejoice: New Stamps Honoring Zion and Grand Teton National Parks On The Way   5 years 19 weeks ago

    Information on Zion First Day of Sale and cachets can be found on the Zion Natural History Association (park non-profit) website, http://www.zionpark.org.

    Thanks!

  • Should the Jackson Hole Airport Lease Extension Wait for Safety Audit?   5 years 19 weeks ago

    The Nature Conservancy has proposed that the airport start the long overdue process of "repaying" Grand Teton NP for the land it has "taken". Since 533 acres has been taken out of service, those acres should be replaced by purchasing private land. Among other things, they propose a $5 per ticket fee to go to these private land purchases to expand the real park. Sounds good to me !

  • National Park Quiz 59: Only   5 years 19 weeks ago

    Craters of the Moon National Preserve is indeed a National Park System unit, MRC, even though it is jointly administered with the Bureau of Land Management. To state this in another way, Craters of the Moon National Preserve is included in the 391-count of National Park System units, even though managerial responsibility for the unit is shared with another federal agency. BTW, the Park Service uses the same four-letter code (CROM) for the monument and the preserve, and both units have the same Superintendent (Douglas Neighbor).

  • National Park Quiz 59: Only   5 years 19 weeks ago

    On No 6: The preserve land is owned and administrated by the BLM.

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    All I can say is I guess most people don't have a clue what they are in for on this hike. I plan to go this upcoming Friday and will DEFINITELY be taking a harness with me......It seams like there will be a lot of other people there without harnesses and I don't want any of them falling onto me and taking me out!...I got babies to attend to. Respect the elements!

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    We've had quite a bit of comment traffic about this on my blog too.

    One thing about the harness/carabiner setup that worries me: if you fall and tug hard on the cable, wouldn't the cable bounce equally hard and perhaps cause others to lose their grip?

    As for taking others out -- it could happen but you'd never go farther than the next vertical pole with its T connector. I too have wondered about the domino effect, but it could be that the people are spaced far enough apart that the risk is not as great as it seems.

  • The National Park to Park Highway   5 years 19 weeks ago

    I watched this documentary recently on PBS and it was very interesting to learn about how few roads existed especially in National Parks. It was also interesting how the idea for this "highway" took shape and the people who made it a reality. If you are interested in the western National Parks at all this is a must see!

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    Hi Rick,
    I just returned from Yosemite today, I climbed Half Dome for the first time Monday 6/15/09. I purchase your book about a year ago, and I've been training for this hike very seriously. I knew starting out on this hike I would be turning back if the weather didn't cooperate. Thanks for writing this most helpful guide. Hiking is my passion, thanks for getting me started. Julie
    P.S. Five years ago I was in a car accident and broke my wrist,hip and a compound break to my left femor.
    Hiking is great rehab. THANKS AGAIN .....Oh by the way the hike took me 12 hours, an hour and a half longer than your book says. Did you take into consideration age???? I'm 55 .

  • Fall Into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Kills California Woman   5 years 19 weeks ago

    [Climbing is allowed in only a few areas of Yellowstone National Park, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is not one of them. It's too dangerous to climb in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone because the volcanic rock is too brittle.]

  • 8-Mile-Long Multi-use Path Opens in Grand Teton National Park On Saturday   5 years 19 weeks ago

    As an avid bicyclist and long time visitor to the park, I heartily welcome this addition. The park and environs offers plenty of additional options for hard core road and mountain bike fans. To me, a 16 mile round trip through the most beautiful spot on the planet sounds divine. I plan to be there as soon as possible.

    To those that planned and built this: Thank You!!!

  • Another Marina Fire At Glen Canyon National Recreation Area   5 years 19 weeks ago

    The ruined economy claims another victim through an insurance fraud fire sale...

    just saying.

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    This latest death on Half Dome is a tragedy, as they all have been. However, it makes me crazy when folks blame the Park Service when something like this happens. If it was hailing and raining, why the HELL were people up there to begin with, despite MANY signs warning you not to get on the cables if there's a possibility of inclement weather? I understand that sometimes you get caught out, despite doing everything right, but from what I can tell from the first-hand accounts, it sounds like people were on their way UP when the rock was already wet -- that's just plain foolish. But this doesn't surprise me. I have been up Half Dome twice, and both times I saw what I can only characterize as completely inappropriate attire and behaviour out there. I saw people doing the hike in flip flops and Birkenstocks and even leather loafers. I saw a woman who was 6 months pregnant attempting the climb, with her friend who had just had major knee surgery 3 weeks prior. They had 1 sixteen oz. bottle of water between the two of them for the whole hike, and no food at all -- we shared ours with them because we were worried they wouldn't make it back down, otherwise. We saw kids as young as 7 up there. And yet, if you are paying any attention at all, it's perfectly clear from signs everywhere, as well as what any ranger will tell you if you talk to them, that this hike is VERY strenuous and that you need to be properly prepared and not be up there if the conditions are poor. The Park Service has a responsibility to make people aware of the dangers of such a hike, and instruct them on how to prepare, but they can't legislate stupidity with quotas or anything else. People who don't properly prepare are making a very stupid decision, but it is one for which we can't hold anyone else responsible.

    Also, to the people who are clipping onto the cables with ropes and harnesses, that's all well and good for YOU, but what about the other people who are on the cables at the same time? Seems to me that you're making your own life more secure while potentially endangering them, if your gear inhibits their ability to grab onto the cables where they need to, etc.

  • Pruning the Parks: It Took the Park Service Over 20 Years to Get Out from Under the Kennedy Center (1972-1994)   5 years 19 weeks ago

    I certainly did not mean to imply that Cuyahoga's Blossom Music Center, the theater and amphitheater at Chamizal National Memorial, and other performing arts venues in the National Park System are not worthy of discussion. But on this, the 37th anniversary of the Kennedy Center's addition to the NPS, the spotlight is on the Kennedy Center. The references to Wolf Trap and Ford's Theatre belong in the story because they are contemporaneous (Hartzog era) NPS forays directly into the performing arts (and, in the case of Wolf Trap, a precedent setting foray into that realm).

  • Pruning the Parks: It Took the Park Service Over 20 Years to Get Out from Under the Kennedy Center (1972-1994)   5 years 19 weeks ago

    Don't forget the Blossom Music Center within Cuyahoga Valley National Park between Akron and Cleveland. It's another major venue of performing arts in the national park system.

  • Tourist Traffic At Hawaiian National Parks Way Down This Year   5 years 19 weeks ago

    Airfares are up? Really? It seems to me like flights have been very affordable & lower than in recent years. Admittedly, I haven't researched costs to fly to Hawaii. That's not to say people aren't going...but I'd imagine it's due to cutting back rather than increased airfares.

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    Someone asked about the difference between the Half Dome cables and what's there at Angels Landing. I've done both and I think I can comment a bit.

    Angels Landing is different. It's more exposed climbing with the possibility of falling off a sheer face. The hand-holds are actually heavy linked-chains, which provide pretty good grip on the basis of the links. If you slip on one link, you'll regain grip on the next link. They're left in there permanently and are located in places all the way up from Scout Lookout all the way to the top. There are points where holding onto the chains is helpful but not necessarily critical. There is decent grip for the feet since the sandstone is inherently like sandpaper, although it does sometimes slip a bit.

    Half Dome is very different. The cables are left permanently in place. The stanchions are placed in there around late May where they're inserted into previously drilled holes and the cables are secured at the top of each with some sort of screw-in device. I don't know how to describe it other than the top is threaded and there's some sort of screw-top cap; there must be a technical term for this kind of device. It would be possible to replace the stanchions, but the cable is pretty much permanent now. At each stanchion pair there's a wooden board which can serve as a resting point or a stopping point in case of a slip. These things aren't glued in, so you can often sense the stanchions coming out a bit (gravity keeps them in the holes), and some of the boards have loose fixtures to the stanchions.

    The cables have been made somewhat smooth over the years. In order to get good grip, you need gloves; I recommend the rubber-dipped palm ones like those made by Atlas Glove. There is a pile left in a drilled hole near the base of the cables, but often the NPS will remove them. Many are rotting because they're natural materials left out too long. The granite surface between the cables is noticeably worn, and reportedly it had decent grip as late as 20 years ago. You generally climb up with your hands/arms, and your feet follow. Most people climb down backwards. It's easier to stay upright w/ respect to gravity, and you don't have to look down. I would say it was much better when I was climbing up early morning before the day hiker rush (early afternoon) arrived. I could use both cables most of the way up. When going down, it's usually hand over hand on one cable.

    I didn't do it as a day trip (I was backcountry camping nearby and the round trip was maybe 5 miles) but most people do this as a grueling 16-18 mile round trip with an over 5000 ft one-way cumulative elevation gains (it dips sometimes). Angels Landing is maybe 6 miles round-trip and relatively easy until you get to Scout Lookout.

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    I have written the only guide book on the Half Dome hike, "One Best Hike: Yosemite's Half Dome." I also give over 40 talks on it, teach Adult Ed on it and maintain a website and daily blog on it. http://hikehalfdome.com I've done the hike 24 times and did it Saturday. Here is my June 15 blog on the fall.

    >>

    Where do I start? By now you’ve heard about the death of Manoj Kumar, 40, from San Ramon, CA. He slipped off the Half Dome cables Saturday afternoon. I did the hike that day. I have a lot of info to share about change at the park, but will defer them.

    My party left the trailhead at Happy Isles at 5:30 am. We were in shorts and light shirts. The hike up to Little Yosemite Valley was beautiful – blue sky with just a few clouds. It was cool, so I drank way less than usual. I didn’t even need to pump-filter water at the Merced. We arrived at the cables about 10:15 and still it was very pleasant. Low clouds but no indication of bad weather. We knew that the recent weather was unpredictable in the afternoons, so we wanted to be heading back well before anything arrived. On the top it was still good, but a small cloud was moving in towards the northeast side of the rock. At 11:15, (checking time tags on the JPEGS) we took a photo of the flag of Wales that my 3 British companions brought. While we were on the Visor, a cloud danced in and back. We even had 15 minutes of clear sky overhead then it would move back in - just touching the visor and stopping. It was as if the sheer size of Half Dome was a barrier to the cloud’s progress. There was even a line of white “cloud” to the north of Tenaya Canyon clear towards the south of it. We descended about 12:15 and watched the cloud continue its in/out dance. The cables were always in the clear and people continued up the cables. Going down Sub Dome, it got pretty chilly so I put on my zip-off legs and a jacket. I felt very light drops of moisture. Continuing down into the forest, at 1:15, it started to hail. Only 5 minutes or so, but real small hail. I thought “Oh boy, those folks on the cables are in trouble.” People were still going up the trail towards the dome. About 2:30 it starting raining in earnest. I put on my poncho and continued down. It rained real heavy as we continued down the John Muir Trail. About 3:45 I could hear the helicopter heading up towards the dome with no indication of what was going on. I knew this was not a training mission. I did not heard about the accident until Sunday am. Turns out the park chopper dropped off 2 rangers who assessed Mr. Kumar and determined he was dead, but apparently in such a place that he could not be retrieved. His body remained overnight. Meanwhile 5 more rangers were dispatched to assist the estimated 41 hikers unable to get off the top or down the cables. This took until 8:30 Sat night and it was not until 1:45 am Sunday that everyone was back at the Happy Isles Trailhead!! I saw many that day with shorts and T-Shirts going up. (More typical of July.) I also saw a multitude wearing smooth soled sneakers on the cables and took a photo of a couple with TEVA sandals on. (I can only post 1 shot, so will delay that one.) As we have preached, the cable route is very smooth when bone dry and like motor oil when wet. Smooth soles shoes are pretty dumb. Clouds are full of moisture, folks. You do not “conquer” Half Dome, it lets you pass. Do not get cocky – it will be here another day to hike. Do it safely – get educated and prepare. R.I.P. Manoj.

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    I have not been to Yosemite (Its the one major Western park I haven't done) so I don't know anything about the trail. How does it compare to the cables on Angels Landing at Zion? My wife and I did that hike one weekend when we wren't originally planning to. We figured we could got to Scout Lookout and back, but when we got up there she wanted to push on. The trail was fine for us but it sounds like Half Dome is significantly harder than that was. As it was there were people on the cables at Angels Landing that I thought had no business out there, including one parent who was carrying their infant on their back in a carrier!

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    All that said about safety and precautions before climbing Half Dome...be superbly physical fit as possible! Clumsy hiking without sure fit health comes potential trouble. Know your endurance levels!

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    Let's compare Half Dome with a day trip down to the river in Grand Canyon National Park and Angels Landing in Zion NP. Having done all I think I can evaluate the dangers. All three parks are locations for mass tourism, the trips are inherently dangerous and on all of those trips every few years someone dies, while for hundreds of thousands it is an adventure of a lifetime.

    The problem with Half Dome is, that there is no suitable option to turn back, once you see the cables.

    At Scout Lookout in Zion you see the ridge to Angels Landing and can decide that this is not for you, but the view from Scout Lookout is enough of an reward in itself and neither time nor effort is "wasted" if you stay there, enjoy it and turn back from there.

    In GRCA at least on Bright Angel Trail you do lots of strenuous switchbacks to Indian Garden and can decide there if you want to go down to the river or just to Plateau Point. Both are great trips. On South Kaibab Trail there is no such break off point, but the people I talk about here don't go there anyway because of the lack of water.

    In YOSE and on the way to Half Dome the last suitable point to turn back before the summit is on top of Nevada Fall. That spot is spectacular, going there and turning back would not feel like waste of time and energy. But unfortunately you can't see the cables from there. Not by a long way. And once you circled the backside of Half Dome and finally see the sheer rock and the cables and the masses of people and maybe darkening clouds, human nature does not like to turn back and "lose" the effort of those miles and almost 2000 feet.

    Maybe better signage could help. If I remember and read my map correctly you can't see the southern flank of Half Dome from the top of Nevada Fall because Liberty Cap obstructs the view. But if you go on a a few hundred yards further along Merced River, the massive wall comes into view. This seems like a good place for large signs that point to the sheer granite rock and tell people that they can only get to the summit of Half Dome if they climb this with the help of only two cables while being pushed by everyone else. The ranger station is exactly at that point of the trail. It should be possible for the NPS to inform visitors there about the difficulty of the last leg and advise everyone who does not feel comfortable to admire the look from the Fall and turn back from there.

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    I don't believe the cables should come down, the quota system is a better idea, at least during "peak" periods in the park. All of the trails in the high country have quotas, it's not that hard to add this hike to the list. Climbing shoes are also an excellent idea, safety harness too.
    But here is the thing I don't hear anyone talking about, personal responsibility and accountability. I for one would not consider taking risks on Half-Dome. Not just because I could injure or kill myself, but also because my actions could injure or kill someone else. I don't know that I could live with that.
    Our society has for years tried to legislate responsibility, it does not work out very well too often. Everyone has a responsibility to themselves and to each other, especially in a crowded cable ascent or descent.
    If we all standby and say nothing and do nothing when we see people taking undue risks that could impact other people, we are all partly to blame. I know the weather was really bad that day, as it has been in the park most of June, but everyone knows the weather forecasts, they are posted everywhere, Think, then act, don't react! Ignorance and unpreparedness in the backcountry are not excuses, the information is there and it's everyone's responsibility to understand the risks and be prepared, and as the gentleman stated earlier, "Discretion is sometimes the better part of valor."

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 19 weeks ago

    I was on Half Dome in 2007 when Nohara fell to his death. It was a similar case with chaos on the cables - an absolute log jam of people, with several panicked tourists frozen in fear and plugging up the route. I am shamed that I did not take a stronger position then.

    It was and continues to be absolutely negligent on the Park Service's part to not implement a quota system on the trail. There were over 400 people on the trail that day, with one group of over 150 people - many who had never hiked a difficult trail.

    I understand and am completely in agreement with the policy of "Climb at your own Risk" for climbers in Yosemite - but the Half Dome Trail is not this type of a climb. The sheer numbers lead to the false assumption that if there are so many people here and the Park allows it - "it must be safe".

    The Mt. Whitney trail is tightly controlled, the quotas strictly enforced, and the fine is large. No one really likes it - but everyone accepts it. Shasta, Rainier, and other large peaks have experienced and capable climbing rangers. Half Dome has Nothing! It is a ridiculous copout to say that the numbers cannot be controlled.

    The National Park Service needs to take responsibility for what happens on Half Dome. When a climber falls and dies on one of the Yosemite walls - it is truly his or her responsibility. When a tourist slips and falls off the cables - it is the negligence and responsibility of the Park Service.

    If the Cables were not available, climbers would not do this route without ropes and protection. Both the granite and the cables are slick and polished, the route is at the limit of friction for climbing shoes. This is not a novice route. Thanks to the poster for the note about climbing shoes, I head up on Thursday and will be using a harness and slings - may even take the chalk bag.

    Park Service, either take responsibility for this route, implement some controls, add a climbing ranger for the peak periods - or Take down the Cables.

  • Suicide? Murder? What Secrets Lie in that Grave on the Natchez Trace?   5 years 19 weeks ago

    I agree with the family of Meriwether Lewis, he deserves a Christian burial and the Park should allow his remains to be exhumed to be examined. The decision should be left to the descendants of Meriwether Lewis.
    I have been praying fervently for one year that the family would continue pushing for a Christian burial. I was excited to see the website asking for people to write letters to allow him to be exhumed. It would also settle the dispute of whether he was murdered or commited suicide. I , for one , think that he was murdered.
    I will continue praying that the family gets their wish . He deserves to be treated better than this , people !
    IT's up to the family and what they say , goes !