Recent comments

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    MM> I wonder how many of the "visits" to Great Smoky Mountains NP consist solely of driving US 441 from Gatlinburg to the casino in Cherokee - and back?

    http://www.nature.nps.gov/stats/park.cfm?parkid=316

    The casino opened in 1997. I don't see any huge trends.

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    My approach to camping includes a variety of battery powered devices. Vinyl air mattresses have been around since forever, but I found the inflation was aided with a battery powered inflator from Coleman. It's essentially just a blower which reached a maximum inflation point that wasn't quite enough - but that's 80-90% of what I needed. I could finish off with a hand pump which was quieter and useful for topping off each night after the inevitable loss of air.

    As for other creature comforts - I had to find a place in Yosemite that had internet access. The public access at Yosemite Lodge is a very low $5.95 for up to 7 days and 7 "logins". They don't have it at the campgrounds, but I did find it useful for checking on finances and email. The employees didn't seem to mind, and I think they recognized us on our return visits. I think the location for internet access was intentional. At the Ahwahnee the access was for guests only, as I don't think they really want too many people hanging out there who aren't guests.

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I wonder how many of the "visits" to Great Smoky Mountains NP consist solely of driving US 441 from Gatlinburg to the casino in Cherokee - and back?

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    For those who haven't clicked the link, it's to a story that tells about the arrival of most creature comforts for family campers:

    The Coleman outdoors company sells air mattresses with built-in alarm clocks and night lights, and tents outfitted with "integrated lighting systems" and auto-roll windows. For those who can't bear to be unplugged for any length of time, DirecTV has a portable satellite and Kampgrounds of America offers wireless Internet at most of its camp sites.

    And for a small fee, employees at Montgomery County's Little Bennett Regional Park will set up a fully furnished campsite, complete with tent that sleeps four, chairs, propane stove and lantern. Marshmallows are optional.

    And...

    "There's an expectation of a certain level of comfort or people won't go outside,'' said Jeff Willard, senior vice president of global marketing and new product development for Coleman. "It needs to be comfortable. Otherwise, people are going to stay inside and do Facebook."

    I'd be curious to what other Traveler readers think of this approach to camping. While this might bring folks into the parks and forests, is it really accomplishing the end goal of introducing them to nature? Can you hear the crickets chirping or the wolves howling or the owls hooting if you're inside your battery-powered tent (yep, there are tents out there that come complete with battery packs that you can plug your electronics into) playing video games or watching videos?

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Speaking of drawing people to the parks, this is a great piece for a story here:

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/08/17/AR2009081701621.html?hpid=artslot

  • Traveler's Checklist: Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Great recommendations, Kurt! This park definitely takes two or more days to cover everything. I would recommend visiting each section in chronological order: Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness, and Spotsylvania. You didn't mention the Spotsylvania section--I would encourage folks to visit the Bloody Angle where some of the fiercest hand to hand fighting of the war occurred over several hours. You can see the site of a 22-inch tree that was felled by small arms fire. Some of the original earthworks remain.

    You can also check out where they want to build a Walmart by the Wilderness battlefield and judge for yourself what an impact this will have on the park.

  • Picking a Lot of Apples This Day Helps Keep the Bears Away in Yosemite National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I guess "historic" is a matter of interpretation.

    I consider the Ahwahnee Hotel, or the LeConte Memorial Building to be historic. They may pale in an age comparison to a giant sequoia or granite monoliths, but that doesn't mean that they're still not historic.

    I'd sooner they just raze the fruit trees and replant them with more suitable trees like oaks. There are a lot of things that were allowed in the past. The Firefall is a thing of the past which went the way of the daily bear feedings. Perhaps set up an interpretive plaque with photos and an explanation of why they were removed.

  • Picking a Lot of Apples This Day Helps Keep the Bears Away in Yosemite National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Returning to my car in the orchard parking lot on the edge of Curry Village, after wandering in wonderment lost among the tall sequoias, ancient stone walls and waterfalls of Yosemite valley, to call these apple trees historic is meaningless to me.
    Anyway...

    "FORTY THOUSAND SUNSETS : THE APPLE ORCHARDS OF
    YOSEMITE VALLEY — Forty-thousand days . That's about how long
    they've been here . Not long, considering the Sequoias or the
    Bristlecone Pines . But for apple trees, no mean achievement,
    especially in the western United States . Certainly in Europe there
    must be apple trees much older . I wonder how old an apple tree
    can become."

    Continue reading (.pdf file)

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Tomp, I do believe you're right. I was just cutting to the chase;-)

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I believe that free entrance to GRSM is more than an act of congress. Wasn't free entrance part of the deed when North Carolina & Tennessee transferred state land for the park?

    NPS is willing to enforce the terms about open to the public in perpetuity on the federal deed of lands to California for State Parks; I suspect Tennessee & North Carolina would be at least as willing to enforce terms on NPS.

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Thousands of people go jogging/biking/hiking in Rock Creek NP every week. No entrance fees are charged; collecting them would be difficult considering how many access points there are to the paths (it's smack dab in the middle of D.C.). So how would you gauge higher visitation in an urban park like this? It seems this park has to rely on whatever monies Congress sees fit to allocate. I suppose it would get more funding if it counted as a "jewel". As an aside, it's too bad I have to do a personal risk assessment every time I visit - it's also a great place to get murdered.

  • Picking a Lot of Apples This Day Helps Keep the Bears Away in Yosemite National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    The orchard is definitely historic. I don't think they'd be 150 years old. Trees might have been replanted as the older ones died out. Remember there used to be a lot of stuff that doesn't sit well with ideas of what a national park should be. The Ahwahnee Hotel used to have a 9 hole par 3 golf course. It used to be legal to feed the bears. The NPS used to have an open garbage dump and conducted regular spectator-attended bear feedings.

    I'd think that they would have been replanted some time in the last 100 years.

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Regular motorcycles don't particularly bother me. A Gold Wing, BMW touring bike, or even your typical "crotch rocket" has a fairly innocuous sound that doesn't bother me any more than the average car. Now Harleys and bikes set up for a similar rumble just ruin any outdoor experience for me. The riders themselves can be nice enough people, and the prices often mean that most of the people who can afford them are upper middle class business types. I met some fairly ordinary Harley riders, including someone who offered to take a photo of my wife and myself at Lassen Volcanic NP, or a "Christian motorcycle club" where I was asked to help take a group photo at Crater Lake.

    I did hear that Badlands NP does beef up security (they bring in LE rangers from all over) before each Sturgis Motorcycle Rally as throngs of harder core bikers ride through the park en masse before going to the rally. Again - most are probably honest law abiding citizens, but there can be some of the "outlaw" types.

    Bad behavior happens everywhere. I've seen signs everywhere that say "no swimming" in rivers near waterfalls, and "stay on trail" in areas with geothermal activity or risk of falling - and people just flat out ignore them.

    As for fees, I would think that it does make somewhat of a difference. Great Smoky Mountain NP was supposedly fee free as a condition of its establishment. I believe it has the highest visitation (by far) of any of the full-fledged "National Parks". Olympic NP also has some rather high visitation numbers. I'd think that their fee-free areas (Lake Crescent and the entire coastal section) might have something to do with it. There might also be a disconnect with the methods of counting visits. I've read stuff about the methods, and it can get complicated with average vistors per car assigned and estimates where fees aren't collected.

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    We don't want to turn the parks into the Peter Pan Ride at Disney World (i.e., sit in your car and look out the window and drive out).

    Too late.

    That's what most parks, including my beloved Crater Lake, have become. On my recent visit, this became clearer than ever. People don't get more than a few feet away from their cars, and when they leave the parking lot, they trample ancient tree roots and kill them. I saw at least a dozen people go over the wall to the caldera's edge. Someone asked how many people fell to their death from the spot he was so precariously standing. "Several" was my reply. One group who went out of bounds left a large empty cracker box, a water bottle, and various other trash in front of their car. As they were backing out, I gathered the trash, tapped on their window and asked if they forgot something. "This was once the cleanest lake in the world," I said handing them their trash.

    At this overlook, where I spent significant time, dozens and dozens of motorcycles assailed my ears. There was not one single moment of quiet at this overlook. No exaggeration. Same is true for the overlook NPS employees affectionately call "The Corrals".

    On my way out of the park, I had to smell oil for 15 miles, which was being dumped by the thousands of gallons on chipseal, which generates more roadway noise at any operating speed than typical asphalt or concrete surfaces. The smell of the oil overpowered the usual scent of pines and firs. This trip left such a bad taste in my mouth that I have vowed never to drive into the park again.

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Again, how much the fees have an impact probably has a lot to do with how many people live around a park. I'd love to know how many people who visited fee-free to RMNP live within 100 miles of the park. I bet it's a lot. As for Mammoth Cave, nothing like Denver that close by, but Bowling Green and Nashville are both not too far.

    I still think waiving a $20 fee that lets you in for 7 days (but not else) can't be responsible for much increased visitation except by locals.

    In any case, there is some evidence of increased visitation. Is that a good thing? Very complicated question. We don't want to turn the parks into the Peter Pan Ride at Disney World (i.e., sit in your car and look out the window and drive out). I'd like to see more to encourage quality visitation over quantity of visitors. Maybe an argument out there for higher fees?

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Even more angry posts from people blogging posted today ... apparently, the entire trip cost over $400,000 ... which ticked off one blogger. I wonder how far Obama could have gone to appease it by at leastt acknowledging the problems he caused and perhaps thinking of ways in the future to deal with it ... you don't have to close down the road to Old Faithful; you don't even have to close off the area ... there are certainly other ways something like this can be handled. When Obama goes to Ben's Chili Bowl in the U Street area of DC, they don't shut the city down. So, it's a little silly. It would have helped if NPS had been honest about the disruption - I saw one article where Al Nash, the park spokesman, hoped to minimize the impact, but that said nothing to the traveler.

    These things can be better handled by everyone involved.

    I think people rightfully resent the undemocratic reality that we have a kind of aristocracy in this country, like every other. However, at the very least, these things can be mitigated tremendously.

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

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Would permanently waiving entrance fees not be in keeping with the spirit and intent of what our forefathers wanted?

    Deja vu, Kurt.

    Don't you remember this discussion?

    It's worth repeating:

    In 1914, William Steele, "father" and superintendent of Crater Lake National Park, wrote:

    "The frequent changes of administration in this Government, together with the unsatisfactory condition in which the national park service is left by Congress, are so pronounced that capitalists are unwilling to advance funds on park concessions in amounts adequate to their needs. . . . Under such conditions it seems to me imperative that the General government acquire possession of all hotels and other permanent improvements of a private nature within the parks. . . . This would be an important step toward making the parks self-sustaining, which they should be. With the road system completed, this revenue, together with that received from automobiles, would make the Crater Lake Park self-sustaining from the start . . ."

    But my larger point is that at the early 20th century, the overall goal seemed to emphasize a self-sustaining nature of national parks:

    "Roosevelt's Bureau of the Budget in 1935 instructed the Service to develop a fee structure for all the national parks and the national monuments as well, the object being to make the National Park System more nearly self-sustaining."

    I've seen historical evidence in the other parks I've worked that parks were originally intended to be self-sustaining, although I do not have access to those resources. So, I don't think that the claim that parks should be dependent on federal funding holds much historical weight.

    If our forefathers saw what a political quagmire parks have become, they'd probably champion self-sustaining, non-profit, non-governmental conservation trusts instead.

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Michael--

    All or nearly all of the National Monuments proclaimed by Clinton are administered by BLM, and 1 is administered by Forest Service.

    Note that the 2 big marine National Monuments proclaimed by G.W. Bush are administered by NMFS/NOAA, which makes sense, but I'm curious if the precedence has been set for National Monuments created by presidential proclamation (as opposed to by acts of congress) to be administered by other than NPS.

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Kathy, I'm sure President Obama would love to do it alone with his family and visit ALL the national parks. But, with all the hate climate in this country...I dare not!

  • Just Down the Hallway: Saving Money at a National Park Lodge by Choosing a Room without a Private Bathroom   5 years 23 weeks ago

    The experience of using a shared bathroom is very much dependent on the quality of maintenance. Anyone who has lived in a college dorm probably understands.

    I've had different experiences with shared bathrooms. Some of the cabins w/o bath weren't to bad when the bathrooms were well maintained and fairly new. In many cases it seemed like the bathrooms were remodeled often, while cabins with baths generally had old fixtures and looked to be there for a long time.

    The worst part of any kind of shared bathroom (this goes for campgrounds too) is when they're wet and people have been walking through dirt paths. There's dirt tracked through and often the faucets and floor have signs of dirt.

  • Melding the Past with the Present   5 years 23 weeks ago

    What about hurricanes? I was planning on visiting Fort Jefferson when a tropical storm scuttled my plans. My reservations in Key West were automatically cancelled and there was a mandatory non-resident evacuation anyways.

    The house was obviously built with storms in mind, but how will the solar panels survive if a storm hits?

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Kurt
    Great article. Although I could never imagine seeing Yellowstone in such a brief visit and would wish anyone could experience all the wonders I have enjoyed there. I must respect Obama for bringing notoriety to the parks and only messing up someones vacation for a short time. It must suck being president and knowing the effect you have on other peoples trips. The congestion, the presidents safety, logistics, etc... Imagine if the president spent a day or two touring the park. I do not think there are enough secret service men to place all over the park. This would ruin a lot of vacations. It is sad to say he may not be able to enjoy it like we do and we need to hope the funding follows.
    Dave Crowl

  • Our National Parks: "For the Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People" (If You Don't Mind the Entrance Fee)   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Does every Target store keep its profits or does it share them with the whole company?

    Target is a self-interested, for profit company that is organized to survive and prosper by satisfying their customers who voluntarily make purchases of the goods that they offer for sale.

    The federal guvmint, on the other hand, is a whole nuther beast. Don't expect logic and efficiency to dictate the structural integrity of an outfit that mainly extracts its funds through coercion (the tax code) and creates policy primarily to win re-election and stay in power. What you get instead is stuff like No Child Left Behind, Cash For Clunkers, un-winnable and costly war in faraway Muslim deserts, Goldman Sachs & AIG bailouts and the much vaunted NPS Centennial Initiative. Not exactly the fruitful and productive stuff of greatness.

    Still your question resonates with logic, unfortunately that is not what is on display in this debate.

  • Reader Participation Day: What's Your Favorite National Park Trail?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I'll go with the Garden Wall in Glacier National Park.

  • Delaware Can Relax; The New National Parks Quarter Dollar Coin Series Will Celebrate “National Sites” Too   5 years 23 weeks ago

    With the centennnial pf the National Park Service coming up, this is appropriate. I agree with Pixie that some of the "profit" from the quarters - perhaps the sale of mint and uncirculated sets? - should be allocated to caring for our chronically underfunded national parks.