Recent comments

  • Heat Claims the Life of Boy Stranded for Five Days in Isolated Area of Death Valley National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I think one of the symptoms of dehydration/heat stroke includes delirium, so it's possible that there was a loss of sensible thought. She also could have panicked, especially seeing her child in distress. I don't think eating the dog would really have helped, since they probably needed more water than they had and a cooked dog doesn't yield that much water. I might have not given the dog water over giving my son the water, but that's neither here nor there.

    Plus she was hispanic, and if English was her second language, there may have been some difficulties there, since I've noticed that a lot of warnings are English only.

    Staying with the vehicle has generally been the better strategy when lost. It's a bigger target to find, and it's always easier to find a still target than a moving target.

    I agree that proper planning could have prevented the tragedy. People are too reliant on technology, and assume that nature is tamer than it really is. We see people walk up to alligators all the time, and warn them that those critters certainly could outrun them at that close distance. GPSs are a tool, but are not infalliable. It's like relying on outdated maps. We've had enough troubles with bad routings in urban areas, no way would I trust my GPS in a rural area.

  • Is an International U.S.-Mexico Park At Big Bend Moving Closer to Reality?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    The elevation of Casa Grande in Beg Bend National Park is much more than 5400 ft. The Chisos Basin Campgroung is at least 5200ft.

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Vehicle GPS has gotten people in trouble when they failed to put their BS meter in gear. My GPS unit always gives a particular route from my house which I know isn't the ideal way to get to the freeway. Sometimes it takes forever for it to get a GPS lock - maybe up to 5 minutes.

    Apparently the mother whose kid died at the edge of Death Valley was solely relying on a GPS for navigation.

  • Fatal Fall from Angels Landing in Zion National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    My wife and our two friends arrived at Scout's Landing about 45 minutes after her fall. We passed the family going back down on Walter's Wiggles but did not learn of the fall until we reached Scout's Landing. Needless to say, we did not continue up to Angel's Landing. Our heartfelt condolences goes out to Nancy and her family. This was truly a tragic accident. It made our group and many other hikers that morning keenly aware of how precious and fleeting life is.

  • Volunteers Needed to Help Monitor Sea Turtle Nests at Cape Hatteras National Seashore   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Renardo, Call the number in the last graf, 252-216-6892.

  • Volunteers Needed to Help Monitor Sea Turtle Nests at Cape Hatteras National Seashore   5 years 23 weeks ago

    how do you become a volunteer.i am very interested,love sea turtles and have some working knownledge and free time.

  • Is an International U.S.-Mexico Park At Big Bend Moving Closer to Reality?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I for one would love to see wilderness areas, parks, conservation areas...whatever you want to call them established without regard for the international border. R. Stefancik excellent story of the trinkets sold out of a basket on the honor system shows what is possible with the vast majority of us humans regardless of location of birth.

    However, another factor sometimes dominates our reality perpetrated by a very small human faction. While visiting Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument along the US/Mexico border we came across the Kris Eggle Visitors Center. We were curious about who Kris Eggle was and how the visitor center came to be named for him and was enlightened by a sign and tribute outside the center. The story is a sad one as well as maddening...Kris was killed in the line of duty, performing as a NPS law enforcement ranger by thugs of a drug cartel.

    I only add this to the discussion as a concern to be considered...as a reality that must be faced in that region of the country at this point in time. A sad reality for us all...on both sides of the border.

  • Web Page Provides Keys To Finding Olympic National Park's Waterfalls   5 years 23 weeks ago

    That's a cool offering. Marymere is pretty easy, since there's a well-trodden trail right to it. Some of the others can be a bit dicey. I notice they don't point out Service Falls up at the head of the Queets Valley. Gorgeous, big waterfall, but supposedly only a couple people have ever managed to see it from the ground. Olympic certainly has some remote attractions.

  • Is an International U.S.-Mexico Park At Big Bend Moving Closer to Reality?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    “Building upon our shared history of ecosystem and species conservation, the plan will develop a model of bi-national cooperation for the conservation and enjoyment of shared ecosystems for current and future generations,” said Secretary Salazar.

    A key word to me in that sentence is "enjoyment". Currently, it is impossible for the people of Mexico and the US to easily enjoy the other country's portion of the region because there is no longer a border crossing within Big Bend NP. The nearest crossing is at Presidio, TX., some distance of about 40 miles from the park, as I recall. The residents of Mexico across the Rio Grande from Big Bend would greatly benefit from tourists stopping over to "enjoy" their part of this incredible wilderness. One of my lasting memories of my most recent visit to Big Bend was a spot on a hiking trail near a canyon (I won't identify the canyon in order to protect the Mexican "criminal") where someone from Mexico was crossing the river and leaving home made trinkets on the side of the trail with a basket for tourists to leave money on an honor system. I was pleased to purchase a few wire scorpions and leave some money behind. I was more pleased to see about $30 that had accumulated without someone from our side pocketing the money for themselves.

  • Glacier National Park Officials Decide to Remove Grizzly Bear Family From Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    @ R. Stefancik:
    With your excellent background you should be able to deduce yourself why it would be harmful to move a Rocky Mountains Grizzly to Alaska, where she could reproduce. Small hint: We are talking about a protected specie in protected areas.

  • Fatal Fall from Angels Landing in Zion National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I was hiking the morning this happened, you are warned about the skill level it takes to do this hike. There were many children on the hike ..It was a simple slip and fall, so you must be careful..all we need is MORE government telling us what we can and cannot do....

  • National Park Mystery Photo 12 Revealed: It's Voyageurs National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    As long as we are talking about Voyagers NP and the Boundary Waters Canoe Wilderness, I would at least like to give praise to the Canadian Quetico Canoe Wilderness just over the border from the Boundary Waters. The Canadians issue fewer backcountry permits and the 3 times I visited there, I found a much more serous wilderness experience. I honestly saw more moose than I saw groups of humans, as opposed to the Boundary Waters where I saw an average of 5 groups/day and very little wildlife. In my three 1 week treks in the Quetico, I never saw more than 3 other groups the entire trek. Access to the Quetico can be made through border crossings from the Boundary Waters. I believe the outfitters serving the Boundary Waters in Ely, MN can provide the necessary forms to send in to the Canadians to reserve a permit in advance. I would forwarn you though that to get into the Quetico requires a couple of serious portages of more than 200 rods. But is is well worth the effort because those portages scare away a lot of casual groups.

  • Glacier National Park Officials Decide to Remove Grizzly Bear Family From Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    MRC,

    Thanks for your reply. As a pathologist who has studied biology, genetics, and zoology while an undergrad, I was most of the time led to believe that genetic diversity was a good thing. Do you know of specific instances where the introduction of genetic "strangers" has harmed a wild population? It would seem that inbreeding would lead to more dire consequences as harmful recessive traits would be more likely to manifest themselves in a given population. I know this has been an issue with the wolf populations at Isle Royale NP, but I also realize that is a much smaller population. Just wondering.

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I've experienced first-hand the shortcomings of GPS at Chaco Canyon. My Garmin Unit pointed me to a site that was one hour and half away from the real place. If it was not for a road sign, I would not have found it. As a result, I arrived too late and missed the light.

    Tuan.

    National Parks images

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Thanks for the very interesting and well-written piece, Jim. I'm enough of a Luddite that I probably wouldn't use a GPS, even if I could afford one. I'm guessing spare batteries might be worth carrying. I'm also ancient enough to have made topographic maps the old-fashioned way with a surveyor's plane-table. The suggestions to also carry map & compass are very sensible, but one must be on guard with these as well. Metal objects and occasionally local geology can deflect compass needles. The generally excellent USGS topos produced from air photos can have errors ranging from misnamed and mislocated cultural features to incorrect drainage patterns due to floods, glacial advance/retreat, and very deep snowpacks present when the photos were taken. I've also seen pranks & vandalism regarding signs, even a few incorrectly placed by the Park Service.

    I think it was Mark Twain who wrote that ignorance is not as dangerous as what you think you know that just
    ain't so.

  • Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Are Costly To National Park Service, But Seem to Be Boosting Visitation   5 years 23 weeks ago

    As the price of something goes up, demand goes down.
    As the price goes down, demand goes up.
    Is the National Park Service stating something else?
    Seems rather suspect.

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I'd like to know which base map they were using: 24K or 100K. I have a Garmin with Topo USA maps but they're 100K so not too useful in canyon country. In fact friendsand I were lost for a couple of hours (missed a side canyon) in the Maze district of Canyonlands and we were using 24K topo maps (pre-GPS). Even that map scale is lacking in canyon country and Zion is definitely a challenging place for navigation.

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Some good comments!

    Bob Mishak is right on target with his comment for GPS use "off the road" or even on roads in remote areas.

    The moral of the story is, never depend on just a GPS, map or compass. Use all three and make sure you know how to use them.

    There's no question GPS can be a great tool. Earlier this summer I was on a couple of all-day boat trips in Alaska. The captain had a laptop computer running GPS superimposed on a detailed nautical chart, which made a great combination, and the screen on the computer was large enough to give quite a bit of detail. However... he also had radar, a depth finder, a compass, and a paper copy of that same chart.

    The small, hand-held devices many people carry can also be a useful tool, even in the backcountry, as long as we don't follow the advice blindly, or rely on it as the sole source of information for navigation – especially in remote areas that are unfamiliar terrain.

    Several earlier stories and comments in the Traveler are linked in the story above, and point out the reason for caution with GPS in such areas:

    A comment by Bogator on the recent Death Valley incident was an excellent one:

    One of the ways this can be fixed is for the GPS manufacturers and programmers to stop letting their programs use primitive roads as a viable option. As an example, in order to go from Escalante to Big Water, both my GPS and Microsoft's Streets and Trips wanted to send us down the Missing Canyon Road (Smoky Mountain Rd), BLM road 300.

    On the BLM map, this road is marked as a ATV road. I did research the road, as well as look at it on Google Maps, and saw that it was not a road we wanted to go down. And this was just one of serveral examples.

    The routing programmers need to classify these kinds of roads as primitive/4wd roads and not use them in routing unless the user has specifically requested primitve roads as an option.

    I did contact Garmin, my GPS company, about the problem, but so far, nothing has happened. GPS's are wonderful devices; My wife and I have traveled all over the US with one, but I never follow it blindly, especially in rugged areas.

    One other example: the website for Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico includes the following caution:


    Warning: Numerous visitors have reported that GPS devices are not accurate in the Chaco area. Please use our written directions below to avoid getting lost.

    So... no intention to dismiss the use of GPS away from the big city, but good judgment by the user is necessary. Sometimes, you need to take the information given with a block--not a grain--of salt.

  • Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Are Costly To National Park Service, But Seem to Be Boosting Visitation   5 years 23 weeks ago

    "The bottom line, according to the Park Service analysis, is that there was no obvious trend."

    A stunning statement. I'm no statistician, but my takeaway from their numbers is that 87% of the units had higher visitation on the fee-free weekends than on either one or both of the weekends before and after. Seems like a pretty clear trend to me.

    When Salazar announced the free weekends NPS estimated that they would lose $500,000 per day in entrance fee revenue. Now only two months later that estimate has morphed to $750,000 to $1 million. Something fishy going on there.

    The bottom line is that NPS has a vested interest in proving the inherently illogical proposition that entrance fees have no effect on visitation. They've been "marketing" and commodifying the Parks for years, claiming to take a more "business-like" approach, but they deny the most fundamental reality that real businesses have to face every day: the effect of pricing on supply and demand.

    For decades the highest entrance fee to any Park was $10 and most were $5 or less. Many more than today had no entrance fee at all. The Parks were managed as a public good, not as a profit-making enterprise. Then came Fee Demo and each Park got to keep all the money it could collect, with predictable results: entrance fees went up, and visitation went down. Econ 101. Some would view that as a good thing, after all the years of saying that overuse was damaging the Parks. Others would view it as a bad thing because of the social effects (those with the lowest incomes are impacted the most) and the likelihood that reduced visitation will be followed by reduced appropriations from Congress.

    Regardless of your point of view, the question of whether entrance fees deter visitation has been settled.

  • National Parks Will Waive Entrance Fees on September 27, National Public Lands Day   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Cecile,

    They've renamed the Golden Age Passport. It's now called "America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Senior Pass," and costs $10.

    This is a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. The pass provides access to, and use of, Federal recreation sites that charge an Entrance or Standard Amenity. The pass admits the pass holder and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per vehicle fee areas and pass holder + 3 adults, not to exceed 4 adults, at per person fee areas (children under 16 are admitted free). The pass can only be obtained in person at the park. The Senior Pass provides a 50 percent discount on some Expanded Amenity Fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services. In some cases where Expanded Amenity Fees are charged, only the pass holder will be given the 50 percent price reduction. The pass is non-transferable and generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessionaires.

  • Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Are Costly To National Park Service, But Seem to Be Boosting Visitation   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Anon: Anecdotal evidence from the free weekend in June showed that some sales were up, some were down in the bookstores, restaurants, etc. Beyond that, those fees go to concessionaires and not to the NPS, so any increases wouldn't offset the loss in entrance fee dollars to the NPS.

    As to your second question, the Park Service did not question folks as to why they visited on the fee-free weekends, but it'd be a great answer to know!

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I think the key phrase here is,

    "That "level of detail" issue came into play on a May morning several years ago in Utah's Zion National Park."

    Note, several years ago. The GPS of today is a far cry from the GPS of even a few years ago.
    Kurt and I both found the even todays GPS may not be 100% accurate. We camped on an island in Muscungus Bay, Maine, that the GPS said didn't exist. We also paddled across dry land on Yellowstone Lake, according to our GPS that is.
    The moral of the story is, never depend on just a GPS, map or compass. Use all three and make sure you know how to use them. 'Nuff said...

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Great story ----- I have had 2 GPS one from Garmin and one from DeLorme ----- both are much less than accurate in the back country. From my narrow point of view DeLorme has no plauseable excuse because they put out nearly accurate maps in thier gazeteer book maps. I complained and they say "it is two different formats" maybe so but it is the same world. How ever they did give me a full refund . I now have a Garmin nuvi and a garmin map 76csx - both are great units but their maps still stink in the back country -- it is difficult to tell the roads from the elevation lines , in some places they just perpetuate errors from US Geological surveys done in the 1930's and 40's.
    Even the city maps that are a lot more accurate are about 2years behind on road changes and resturaunts that have moved or gone out of business. I guess that is somewhat undrstandable.
    To sum it up ---- GPS is a great step forward with many steps left to go --- Hope they get with it soon

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 23 weeks ago

    My GPS has saved me on many trips in the woods. I started using a GPS before they even have mapping GPSs for road use. Just a screen with the trail I've come from, waypoints that I've added, and lat/lon coordinates. I don't see how this is in any way the fault of the GPS unit. You should learn to use any tools you rely on. I would bet they were not better at reading a map. Of course when traveling anywhere dangerous, I take 2 GPSs and a map.

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Maybe I missed something but I don't know why you blamed this on the GPS. If the group had plotted an accurate waypoint on their unit before they left, the would have been led to within feet of the exact spot they were seeking.

    Like many of the other problems of this trip, the fault lies with bad judgment. Misusing a GPS unit is no more the GPS's fault than is misreading a map is the map's.

    But I do agree to you belt and suspenders approach. When using a GPS its always wise to carry a map and compass as a back-up. And most important, know how to use all three.