Recent comments

  • Managing Elk at Theodore Roosevelt National Park – The NPS has Released Its Plan   5 years 23 weeks ago

    We have already messed with nature and are trying to restore some balance. Although my frst choice would be to introduce predators such as wolves, I realize that they, themselves, would probably be annihilated again by man. I do not hunt and hate the thought of Bambi being shot, but it seems a far less cruel fate than starving to death. The long, painful process of starvation is what faces the overpopulated elk herd. I have seen this problem where I live in northern Michigan. I applaud the National Park Service and Senator Dorgan for the solution they have come up with to this sad problem.

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

    GlenW -

    A good question, and I don't yet have a definitive answer. I'll see what I can find out; perhaps one of our readers already knows.

    My best guess, based on the life span of apple trees in general, is that the current trees were not among those planted when the orchards were first established. In that context, the orchards in Yosemite Valley are historic, but not the individual trees.

    Although there are exceptions reported around the world, it would be unusual for apple trees well over 100 years old to still be bearing fruit

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

    Nice pictures, Kurt.

    I do wish fewer people were as cynical as some of those who left these posts. Even you, Kurt, have a hip tone of cynicism about how genuine the President's trip is.

    Perhaps there is someone out there who understands that for ANY President of the United States, every thing is about symbolism. He did not need to come to a National Park, and surely there was little in his campaign that dealt with the core issues critical to the life support needed by our national parklands.

    I am heartened because I understood from an earlier newspaper account of a meeting in June with 6 historians how impressed the President was with what Douglas Brinkley said about Theodore Roosevelt's conservation record. I think the President is now thinking about parks in ways he was not before. As a result, I think Sec. Salazar is now finally interested in parks as something special; up to recently, it appeared the Secretary thought he would extend the 2016 NPS Centennial to celebrate ALL Salazar's Department of Interior Agencies.

    Also, by bringing the Pew Charitable Trust with him the President is also sending an important message, at least to anyone savvy enough to know how influential and effective Pew is, both with other Foundations and with political agenda setting.

    It should also impress people that the President is taking on Mining Law reform. If there was one politically thankless task, reforming the mining law is it, when you think of how many times over the last 40 years some of America's most respected Members of Congress have tried and failed.

    On George Bush II, when motivated by First Lady Laura Bush, some good things were done for the parks, and some positive attention happened. Mr. Bush generally did not oppose a congressional initiative to support parks, but he usually allowed his henchmen in his Adminstration to do whatever was in their radical agenda. Laura Bush seemed to be smarter than the President about parks, except for her selection of Mary Bomar as Director. But even then, you can see how Mrs. Bush was trying to help by getting Fran Mainella out of there, when the President tended to leave incompetent appointees in place. But Mr. Bush, like Mr. Obama and all Presidents, always and only act symbolically, and it is astonishing so few of these comments seem to have a clue about how things MUST work with all Chief Executives of major countries, especially the USA.

    Me, I thank God Mr. Obama choose to give this spotlight to the National Parks, and took the opportunity while he was at it to appear in some pretty conservative parts of America to discuss other issues on the agenda.

    Americans were not always as rude and small minded as these comments indicate some Americans may be today.

    If America can heal itself, it won't be through all the venom and cynicism.

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

    There is more to this visit than meets the eye. A note about an off the record dinner with the President from the Washington Post:

    Another Presidential Walk in the Park

    Douglas Brinkley (David G. Spielman)

    The Obama family heads to Yellowstone National Park on Saturday -- thanks, in part, to Douglas Brinkley.

    The author was among nine historians -- including Garry Wills, Doris Kearns Goodwin and Michael Beschloss -- invited to a private White House dinner with the president June 30. Each talked about the legacy of a past president; Brinkley discussed Theodore Roosevelt and his role in preserving America's natural resources -- the subject of Brinkley's new book, "The Wilderness Warrior."

    The off-the-record dinner, reported Thursday by Vanity Fair, must have made an impression on the president. A few days later, Brinkley got a call from Interior Secretary Ken Salazar inviting him to drop by. The men spent two hours talking about conservation history, wildlife protection and where Obama should visit if he went to a national park.

    "He was keenly interested in everything Roosevelt did," Brinkley told us. Salazar was especially intrigued by the 26th president's expansion of the national park system: In 1903, Roosevelt famously made a trip to Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Yosemite that resulted in sweeping protection of the land from commercial interests. Brinkley recommended Obama create a caribou reserve in Alaska, something like the one
    Roosevelt mandated in Oklahoma to save bison.

    Brinkley walked away impressed: "I think Salazar is going to be one of the great secretaries of the interior, in the tradition of Harold Ickes and Stewart Udall."

    Brinkley didn't discuss specific details of Obama's trip, but hoped the president would visit Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. "Yellowstone and Grand Canyon are national parks, but ANWR is not protected." He also lobbied for park status for Maine's North Woods, "where T.R. first fell in love with the raw wilderness of America."

    But Brinkley said he's thrilled the first family is setting an example. "It sends the right message, that we need to treasure America's heirlooms. Yellowstone is our Louvre, the Grand Canyon our Westminster Abbey.

  • Nature Can At Times Be An Equalizer For Predator and Prey, As Evidenced By An Incident in Glacier National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago


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

    Obama spent less than three hours in Yellowstone. He and his family spent it at the Black Sand Geyser Basin, watching an eruption of Old Faithful (Obama said it was "cool"), eating at the Snow Lodge, and getting ice cream at one of the general stores. He was accompanied by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, as well as Yellowstone superintendent Suzanne Lewis.

    On my newspaper site, there is a blog from a chef who works at the Old Faithful Inn, a blog from an employee of Xanterra who works on environmental sustainability issues (talking about the menu - including of all things, Montana beef, which is a travesty if you know anything about their role in bison mismanagement), and some accounts from people on the road (either stuck in traffic because roads were closed) or who happened to see the motorcade go by.

    I generally agree with Kurt; this cost a lot of money for almost no time or introduction to the park or its issues. For something that was supposed to be a photo op, there are a lot of pictures floating around (Obama did in fact allow a small pool of reporters access). Given that policy is more or less the same as it was at the end of the Bush Administration (there was an attempt to cut snowmobile numbers by the park even at the end of the Bush Administration; bison policy hasn't changed - there's just more money for road and sewage projects, but not real policy shifts), given that Yellowstone in particular is impossible to appreciate at all in under 3 hours, I'm not sure the trip was worth it. The spotlight on the press on parks issues as a result of the trip hasn't been terribly informative, generally couching stories in terms of economics and the parks (visitation being a common story; a couple others scattered - it did draw an editorial from The New York Times, which is a fierce critic of Superintendent Lewis - calling for her dismissal in the past - and Yellowstone policy).

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

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

    Are these the original fruit trees? Apple trees 150 years old? Is that right? Did I miss something?

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

    Well Kathy, will see how the national parks fair in four years under President Obama's administrations. Lot of economic patch-up work to do after the Bush & Cheney administration debacle. Wouldn't you agree!? However, I believe that President Obama's heart is in the right place with the national parks...much, much more so then Bush or Cheney. See all the national parks well Mr. President!

  • Are Our National Parks No Longer for the People?   5 years 23 weeks ago

    I agree with Dennis Gray's characterization of the NPS as a very "top-down" organization, but think it's too simplistic to attribute the visitation decline of the past two decades to environmental groups or the much needed increased emphasis on resource management. Congress has become the most powerful "special interest group", changing the agency into the National 'Pork' Service by reducing operational funding, while adding too many new units and emphasizing expensive, attention-getting projects over true maintenance of existing facilities.

    This has too often evolved a selfish type of manager more concerned with pleasing the pecking order above them than truly serving the public or the parks, Here's a simplified little parable to summarize how the Park Service management really operated during my career. Say you're the Buildings & Utilities Foreman, responsible for fifty outhouses. The surest path to promotion to Facility Manager or Chief of 'Maintenance' in this top-heavy outfit has been to only clean and restock toilet paper in half of them, while diverting money toward building more outhouses. Remember the half million dollar marble & slate outrage that got so much publicity some years back? This sort of thing is a much greater factor behind Gray's "deteriorating facilities" and the so-called maintenance backlog than environmentalism.

    I'm pretty familiar with many of the western parks and worked in four of them. As a visitor, I encountered a few grumpy employees having bad days, but the vast majority did a good job at public contact. Considering that one is likely to encounter a hastily trained seasonal or volunteer, most are cheerful and helpful, if not always well-informed. I did notice a strong tendency in the parks I worked in for permanent employees to avoid the public as much as possible, unlike Parks Canada, where even supervisors regularly spent time at the visitor center front desks.

    Despite this superficial appearance of serving people well, there is often a kind of institutionalized contempt for the public and a discounting of their input. A common opinion I heard repeatedly is that the Park Service has to manage for the "lowest common denominator" because the average visitor is an idiot. For example, I recently tried to report a forest fire near the Mount Rainier boundary and was told "Oh, we know about that, it's actually twenty miles south of the park." I knew the exact location and elevation of the new fire and persevered until I thought I had finally gotten through. Waking up the next day with a bad feeling, I called the adjoining USFS office and was told it was the first they'd heard of it. I had a similar experience trying to report a grizzly sighting a decade earlier. (Yes, they're here!) It was necessary to go through the FOIA office in "the lesser Washington" just to get copies of Rainier's annual budget and organization chart. They appear to think they're the CIA and that is none of the public's business. It seems to me this information should be on every park's website.

    I don't think this arrogance and paternalism is being taught in schools; it is more often learned internally from old hands in BS sessions. This attitude is not just limited to the public. In many parks, the usually better educated 'rangers' resent and look down on the maintenance staff, often rural locals who are sometimes more highly paid because their wages are tied to the regional union scale. Often these locals are more knowledgeable about their parks than managers who transfer every few years in order to get promoted.

    Most rank & file NPS employees and some supervisors I worked alongside in the field were incredibly concientious and dedicated. Unfortunately, petty corruption and irregular hiring and promotion practices by managers were quite common as well. I had roommates in NPS housing who were the sons of high-ranking Interior Department nabobs. For years at Olympic, seasonal laborers were hired from a student hiring authority list that only the children and friends of maintenance supervisors seemed to know about. A fellow seasonal at Rainier was promoted to upper management over a few years after pulling our drunken superintendent out of the ditch a couple times. That super later suddenly retired because of sexual harrassment charges by an employee. Management fubars were always covered up as much as possible, or blamed on the public and external causes, while critics and whistleblowers were routinely punished and purged. Favoritism regarding contracts and concessions were apparent, even from the ranks. Such experiences convinced me that more serious corruption probably existed and still exists behind closed management doors.

    I wouldn't go so far as Frank C and Beamis, but my experience was that the National Park Service is a much more deeply flawed agency than the true believers think. Jon Jarvis had an excellent reputation here in the Northwest and I remain hopeful he can begin to restore integrity to NPS management after being confirmed as Director.

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

    aaaahhhh! It all makes sense now. Thanks a bunch for the clarification.

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


    They're both BLM units, not NPS.

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

    I can't find mention of the Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument (almost 1.9 million acres in Utah that I enjoy visiting every year), or the Carrizo Plain National Monument. Did I miss some details in the lengthy beginning of the book that may have described limitations that explain this?

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

    That's a nice photo. I grew up at Kabetogama Lake which is the gateway to Voyageurs National Park (VNP). It is the only national park in Minnesota. It was named after the French Canadian Voyageurs who used the interconnected lakes to travel, fur trade, and whatever else they did. VNP is a water park with 55 miles on the US and Canadian borders. The Kabetogama Peninsula takes about a week to voyage by canoe or kayak, and there are several free camp sites enroute on a first come first serve basis. There are no fees to enter and use the park. It is called God's Country by those who have ever been there.

    The Bald Eagle population has increased nicely and people can view the eagles at VNP more than any other national park. What beautiful birds!

    I could go on and on...I love it at Voyageurs, its my favorite place in the world.

  • Fall From Tokopah Falls Kills Visitor to Sequoia National Park   5 years 23 weeks ago

    Diana. I am so sorry for your loss. My name is Matt Bretz. I was the first person to arrive with Stouffer at the bottom of the cliff and together we did everything we could to keep Kevin alive. I will be at the funeral regardless. But I am hopeful that I might also get in touch with family and/or Stouffer before hand. Please feel free to contact me directly at . also, javier, you and i spoke immediately after kevin fell. i am very grateful to you for running and getting help. please drop me a line if you are inclined. I would like to hear more of what happened with you.

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

    I hate to disabuse all us national park lovers, but this visit has nothing to do with the national parks. So don't get your hopes up.

    In the middle of a recession, Obama is vacationing in a multi-million dollar mansion on a island of millionaires. He knew he'd take a lot of flak for that so he's getting some photo-ops in the national parks to try and blunt the criticism. He's not going to the national parks to help the national parks. He's going to try and help Obama.

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

    Glad to see President Obama and the family hitting the national parks. A very nice introduction to the national parks as a family unit. Hopefully, the American public will give President Obama the same grace as they gave the Bush & Cheney administration (after eight years of ruinous and bitter rancor) to succeed in running the government. Welcome to the national parks Mr. President!

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Not sure what you're talking about when you mention "hate," Gary. But while President Bush might be retired, the impacts he's had on public lands policy, and on public lands themselves, didn't go away with the change in administrations. That's not a partisan comment, it's simply a fact of life. Just as many of those policies and decisions implemented by the Clinton administration didn't vanish overnight, either, nor those of the previous administrations. They're all part of history with ramifications that continue today.

    As for President Obama and his administration, they're fair game, too. Their decision not to block the rule change for concealed weapons in the parks was disappointing, as was their decision to remove wolves in the Rocky Mountains from the endangered species list protection. And their most certainly will be decisions in the future that we disagree with. And we'll point them out.

  • Where in the World is Paul Fugate?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    There are a number of mines, caves in the park. Has the NPS ever carried out a thorough search of these places for human remains?

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    I thought this was a forum about National Parks? I thought it was non-partisan? I guess you are showing your true colors; why so much hate? Bush has been gone for months now, give it a rest.

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    C'mon Country Girl, the Traveler can't be everywhere.

    For those wondering what she's griping about, there was a rally in Salt Lake City last week in which some 3000 off-road vehicle enthusiasts rallied to complain about limits on where on the public landscape they can ride. The roots of the protest date to the Sagebrush Rebellion movement of the 1970s and 1980s during which local governments protested against how the federal government was managing public lands. In an extreme case, San Juan County (Utah) officials used a bulldozer to gouge roads into Wilderness Study Areas.

    For the curious, an excellent book on the Sagebrush Rebellion is Federal Land, Western Anger, the Sagebrush Rebellion and Environmental Politics by R. McGreggor Cawley. Though first published 16 years ago, the book provides an exceptional history on the sagebrush rebels. But one of the book's conclusions likely won't sit well with Country Girl or those who attended the Salt Lake rally:

    The Sagebrush Rebellion marked the beginning of a period in which virtually every assumption about federal land policy underwent challenge and reconsideration. To be sure, the major assumptions -- that public lands should remain in federal ownership and that they should be managed under the mandates enacted in the 1960s and 1970s -- were reaffirmed by this process. But other assumptions did not fair so well. It is no longer possible, for example, to talk about conservation as if it possessed a widely accepted meaning. In a similar fashion, references to environmentalism must take into account both the moderate/radical distinction, and the differentiation among radical environmental postures. And since these shifts in the dialogue represent arguments that will not be resolved in the near future, there is reason to suspect that the controversy surrounding the Sagebrush Rebellion transformed the structure of the policy dialogue.

    Indeed, the debate over federal land management and ownership can be volatile, and those who wade in should be passingly familiar with the Tragedy of the Commons. A deeper discussion would be intriguing. However, the Traveler focuses on national park issues, and the parks were not a focal point of the rebellion nor of the rally in Salt Lake City.

    And as for Anonymous, abuse political power and taxpayers' money? At least President Obama didn't land on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier and announce "mission accomplished";-)

  • Should Anything Be Done With Angel's Landing?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    We hiked Angels Landing on August 10th 2009 the day after a woman fell - our condolences to the family, they must be devastated. (We didn't know about this until after we came down.) This is an absolutely beautiful and exciting hike, but you have to be aware that you are risking death in choosing to do it. We went on this hike as a family, my husband and I (both age 41), a son (age 15) and a daughter (age 13). We have all done other "non-technical climbs". What was scary was that a man in front of us tripped, while trying to take a photo and caught himself 6 inches from the edge. Later we found out about the woman who had died the day before. I would not recommend this unless you also have experience with non-technical climbs, are wearing good shoes, and I think my daughter (age 13) was a bit young for it. Certainly don't take small children with you.

    I don't think Zion National Park accurately explains the risk in describing the hike. One ranger in the visitors center described it to me as "very safe". I think perhaps some more photos and/or a more explicit warning might be useful. However, the trail should not be closed. It is a beautiful trail.

    Let me compare it to some other hikes in the "rock scramble", "non-technincal climb" category that we've done prior to this one. We live in the Northeast, so the prior hikes we have done in this category are: Breakneck Ridge (NY), Kaaterskill Falls - upper falls (NY), Precipice (Acadia, Maine), Beehive (Acadia, Maine), Caps Ridge Trail (Jefferson Mountain, NH). Only Precipice comes close and is not as dangerous.

    Why is this hike more dangerous than the above hikes:
    1. Unlike the above hikes, where drops range from 60 to 300 ft and sometimes there is a lower ledge, these drops are 800-1200 ft and therefore there is no chance of surviving a fall.
    2. For this hike the "dangerous section" is .4 miles and then you have to return on the same path, so for .8 miles you are always within 1-3 steps from the edge. On most of the above hikes the part in which you are close to the the edge is only a short section.
    3. Since there is no "loop", you are passing people going both ways on the same trail. In general people wait in a part without chains and then go forward when the other group passes, but not always. At one point I was decending with my 13 yr old daughter and some people came up a section and we had to pass around them - scary.
    4. Cliffs are on both sides, not sure this is more dangerous - just tends to freak a person out more than having a cliff on one side.
    5. There is sand present. In the hollow areas, there is a lot of sand. I recommend before going across one of the rock areas, that you "stomp your feet" and make sure to lose the sand so you don't slip.
    6. Again, of the above climbs only Precipice (Acadia) is similar to this one. However, if I remember correctly, in Precipice you are usually walking on flat rock (1-2 ft wide) along a sheer face or climbing up iron rungs. On Angels Landing, the rock you are on has a slant down in the direction of the cliff (you need shoes with good traction) or you are scrambling up a section of rock and if you were to fall off of that section the sheer drop would be right behind you. You definitely don't have room for error.

    What is nice about this hike:
    1. Absolutely beautiful.
    2. Exhilerating.
    3. Bragging rights.

    Not sure if we would do this hike again, or perhaps next time without the kids.

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Very well said. I would like to read your opinion on last weeks " Take Back Utah" But 3000 outdoor enthusiast riding down state street of Salt Lake City, to the capital on four wheelers, horses, and jeeps to listen to Hatch and others speak about Washington closing Utah wasn't deemed by you of interest to the rest of your readers.
    Perhaps everyone should take your advise to the Obamas and not just drive through the parks, but explore what will soon be closed to them.

  • Picking a Lot of Apples This Day Helps Keep the Bears Away in Yosemite National Park   5 years 24 weeks ago

    i thought and always hear that the idea was to keep everything in its natural state. the apple trees are not natural and though they might be nice, they are causing a problem with an animal that is natural. for instance, the wolves in yellowstone, the lake trout in glacier park. is it one or the other?

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 24 weeks ago

    Just another example how the Obama family abuse their political power and the taxpayers money.
    Is he ever going to stop campaigning??????

  • Heat Claims the Life of Boy Stranded for Five Days in Isolated Area of Death Valley National Park   5 years 24 weeks ago

    I live in Telluride, Co, and my Garmin wants me to go over high backcountry 4x4 mountain passes all the time when I put in a destination. I am sure other people who don't live here get sent down these all the time. It seems like Garmin will be sued over these one day before they make the corrections.