Recent comments

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Holly, that's good to hear about Lora, though USFWS's gain is certainly Acadia's loss. I hope all the rookie rangers out there took notes!

    Owen, I didn't mean to imply I was disappointed in interpretive talks because they were lacking in any way. I just happen to be consumed with the collection of knowledge to the point that I've spent years, literally, reading everything I can get my hands on about the ecology and biogeography of a place before going there. My wife always says our trips are like the final exam for the six-credit course I've made out of studying where we're going to go. So while the talks are usually quite well done, I usually end up wishing I'd spent the time actually on the trail learning the real story you just can't find in a book. That's just me. I'd highly recommend that anyone that wanders past a ranger/naturalist/historian giving a talk, have a seat and lend an ear. That's your tax money well-spent.

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Kirby, the ranger from Acadia that you mentioned, Lora, finally got a permanent position with the Fish and Wildlife Service in Sacramento. If you want more of her knowledge you'll have to travel out there!

    Ranger Holly

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    1) Wildlife, whatever kind, as undisturbed as possible, just doing their thing.

    2) Scenery, the wilder the better.

    3) Learning stuff, whether from a prepared Ranger talk or just schmoozing with them (when they aren't busy keeping people from getting to close to the moose ;>)

  • National Park Service Sued Over Termination of Indian Trader at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I hope that NPS Dirctor Jon Jarvis' affirmation of high standards of ethical conduct in NPS operations will eliminate administrative disasters such as the one described in the article above. However, if there's even a hint of truth to the allegations made by Mr. Mallone's attorney, some form of NPS remedial action will be warranted, above and beyond the demands of the Malone law suit itself. Not only is the competency and integrity of NPS law enforcement drawn into question but also the relationship between the NPS and its partnering cooperating associations.

    I wonder to what extent this situation has affected the quality of services provided by Hubbell Trading Post to the Navajo Nation and the visiting public?

    My own recent visit to Hubbell was unfortunately less than optimum. Staff were relatively non-attentive, questions were not followed up, and the quality of merchandise on display did not distinguish itself from that on display at other regional non-NPS trading establishments.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Wayward Hikers Demonstrate How Easy It Is To Get Lost In Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Good points all, Carol.

    Here at the Traveler we do try to encourage folks to pack appropriately for their national park sojourns -- just last month we ran a story about what basic gear to carry, and in seasons past we've also touched on boating safety.

    We can never have enough reminders or be vigilant enough.

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    What makes or breaks a trip for us is how knowledgeable and passionate the park staff is.
    Every staff member, from volunteers to maintenance to interp to fee collectors, need to exhibit some level of personal passion for the place they care for. If they don't it's very noticeable, leaving this tax payer wondering why they are soaking up my hard earned taxes in a job they don't seem to care about.

  • Only Snow Drought Likely To Block Your Access To Yellowstone National Park This Winter   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Dave,

    I can't explain why the park decided to consider individual passage into the park in winter in its now-under way fourth environmental impact statement but not for the temporary rules, other than to guess that since the rules for this winter and next are just temporary, they didn't want to investigate every possible angle. As you surely know, EISes take quite a while to prepare and finalize, and if folks didn't want the park closed to winter use this year and next the NPS had to come up with something interim.

    I do think that if you accept the National Park Service Organic Act, which gives the NPS a preservation mandate foremost, one that specifies that the agency "conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations," and hew to the 2006 Management Policies, which further add that "NPS managers must always seek ways to avoid, or to minimize to the greatest degree practicable, adverse impacts on park resources and values (my emphasis)," that Yellowstone's managers should be particularly vigilant when it comes to managing not just the public's use of the park but also that of NPS employees and concessionaires, and even delivery trucks and garbage trucks.

    All the changing conditions you cite -- the less severe winters, the lower snowpacks, bison movements -- as well as hotter and drier summers should certainly be taken into consideration when the park decides how to manage both winter and summer use. But whatever the circumstances, I think you have to go back to the Organic Act and Management Policies in deciding appropriate uses and how to manage impacts.

  • Wayward Hikers Demonstrate How Easy It Is To Get Lost In Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Kurt,

    This is a good time to remind visitors to review hiking safety rules with each other and their families, starting with "always tell someone where you are going and when you will be back". (You can leave a note in your tent, trailer or car, but actually telling someone is best. That someone can be a local ranger.)

    I surveyed rangers and S&R folks to get their best advice, including what to bring with you. People can keep a backpack or fanny back ready with these items, and just grab when leaving for their hikes, and parents should toss these things into their kids backpacks. Or at least keep the list handy (wallet, glove compartment) and go over before every outing, so it's drilled into your family's head:

    12 Steps to a Better Hike
    1. Know terrain & weather
    2. Dress BRIGHTLY & for conditions
    3. Bring the 12 Essentials (see below)
    4. Tell someone where you’re going, when you’ll be back
    5. Have a Positive Attitude
    6. Stay on the trail!!!
    7. Don’t push yourself/others
    8. Avoid bears (be noisy; don’t run) & other dangers
    9. Take cover in storms; make fire/lean-to before too cold/dark
    10. Avoid: hypothermia (uncontrolled shivering), heat
    exhaustion (cold clammy skin, sweating), heat
    stroke (hot dry skin)
    11. If Lost: DON’T PANIC!!! STAY PUT!
    THINK: 1. Safety 2. Shelter 3. Signal (in that order)
    12. Have Fun!

    12 Essentials (Things to bring)
    1. Map
    2. Water (enough for all)
    3. High energy snacks
    4. First Aid kit, booklet, meds
    5. Rain ponchos/garbage bags
    6. Hat and/or bright bandana
    7. Matches (water proof)
    8. Flashlight (fresh batteries)
    9. Communication device--whistle is a MUST; radio; cell phone (don’t rely on)
    10. Pocket Knife
    11. Other People (3 total if possible)
    12. Common Sense & Positive Attitude (80% of success)
    Other stuff that was suggested: sun protection (a must in desert locations); watch; extra shirt; gloves; socks; water purifier; lighter; compass; gps unit; mirror; duct tape; space blanket; extra batteries, toilet paper

    As this recent story shows, if hikers remember just some of these things, they greatly increase their chances of finding their way out or being rescuied, and of surviving.

    All parents, teachers, church groups should get the Association of National Park Rangers's dvd, "Lost but Found, Safe and Sound" and watch with even their youngest children. It's available through the association's website, www.anpr.org.

    Carol Love
    North Carolinians for National Parks

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Rick, and here I thought just collecting *one* postmark from with a park was sufficient. Sounds like I've got quite a bit of backtracking to do...

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Our best experience of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is just being there. After thirty years we are still in awe of the mountains, the trees, the wildlife, (Lots of bears this year, wild turkeys, Moose and deer and a coyote this year) and the folks like us that we exchange stories with. To take a half hour walk in the woods or a two or three hour hike to Grotto Falls or to stand at Newfound Gap and watch the fog lift on the Tenn. mountains and the bright Sun on the North Carolina mountains or to watch a yearling bear in a tree getting the last nuts or berries off of a small branch or to stand quietly as a bear walks through an historic cabin site, any of these would be enough by themselves but to experience them all and more in a week is breath taking and spirit enriching. That's our experience of the National Parks.

  • Only Snow Drought Likely To Block Your Access To Yellowstone National Park This Winter   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Your quoted passage illustrates my point (about this not being addressed in the report) nicely, at least by my standards. The official, signed FONSI report ends on page 26 which contains the signatures of Superintendent Lewis and Regional Director Snyder. Anything following their signatures is not a part of the report. This includes the comments section from which you quoted part of response 1.1 on page 28, *following* the report, and that response is one of many fine examples of bureaucratic sophistry to be found in the reponses there.

    I am well aware of winter conditions in Yellowstone having lived and worked there in the early eighty's. Given the current later closing dated of park roads to wheeled vehicles and the expansion of conifer forest area blighted by pine beetles fueled in part by an insufficient number of days below -30 degrees weather, one could surmise that winter conditions are less severe now than 25 or 30 years ago. One can also refer to the recent series of studies on wildlife/OSV interactions showing that, in the vast majority of cases, wildlife showed little or no response to OSV traffic. One can also look at the current issues of bison migrating outside of the park in winter in search of sufficient winter forage, driven in part by growing populations; the hazing and/or culling efforts conducted by various agencies suggest that the bison are not unnecessarily affected by OSV traffic and are not in danger of disappearing. A recent study on declining elk population (not necessarily a bad thing to a point given the previous elk overpopulation issues) focuses on changed browsing behaviour due to wolf reintroduction as the primary contributing factor (see http://www.montana.edu/cpa/news/nwview.php?article=7324) and neither the article nor the study abstract mention human impact of any kind as a contributing factor. All in all, the animals appear to be ok; "Where there is no struggle, there is no strength"
    (Oprah Winfrey). If park personnel, contractors, researchers, other partners working in the park and NPS employees (including their families and visitors) are permitted to travel in the park without a hired escort, why are park visitors not granted the same access if they are willing to take the same training?

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Nature. Wilderness. Natural Beauty. Quiet. Peacefulness.

  • Reader Participation Day: What's the Most Important Part of Your National Park Trip?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    We're big fans of 'world's biggest ball of string attractions. And I always love to see wildlife, and feast on the natural beauty of the scenery, but lately I've gotten to be quite the junkie of getting as many different stamps on my NPS Passport. For example, getting both the Hoh Rainforest and the Hurricane Ridge stamps when visiting the Olympics. It's a cute little childlike gimmick, but I guess I'm just a cute little child.

  • Programming Note: National Geographic Channel Explores the Appalachian Trail Tonight   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Man that show last was awesome. I do wish it would have been more than a hour though. I wanted more from thru hikers. It was pretty good. Next time make it make it longer.

  • Programming Note: National Geographic Channel Explores the Appalachian Trail Tonight   5 years 28 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 28 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 28 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 28 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 28 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 28 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 28 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 28 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 28 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 28 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 28 weeks ago

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