Recent comments

  • Forest Service Drawing Line On Mountain Bikers in Potential Wilderness, National Park Service Agrees   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Hi, Kurt,

    I know I sometimes engage in strong rhetoric. But yes, alas, these very threads, and others on, e.g., New West, show that there exists a cadre of wildland worshipers (nothing wrong with that in principle) who are fervently convinced that their preferred travel method is the one true and righteous path and that a wheel in a national park or a federal Wilderness is a profanation of an outdoor cathedral (and that is bad). With exceedingly rare exceptions, none of these people ever offers to exclude himself/herself from wildlands; it's always the apostates and heretics who must be banned regardless of logic, science, and fairness.

    The exclusionary and intolerant rhetoric of a number of antibike types does smack of other intolerant movements. In 1963 George Wallace proclaimed to the audience at his gubernatorial inauguration, "I say . . . segregation today . . . segregation tomorrow . . . segregation forever." (http://www.archives.state.al.us/govs_list/InauguralSpeech.html.) Figuratively, the antibike detractors stand at trailheads today and proclaim the same thing.

    I assume that you and Rick B. would find such comparisons overblown. Certainly there's no comparison between a system of discrimination that at its worst reduced people to slavery and peonage and one whose effects are milder, i.e., one that keeps mountain bikers off trails where we have a right to be and would do no harm. But if the effects are unequal, it is worth considering whether there are similarities in the attitudes of those who are of a mind to discriminate.

    As for "what you'd say to Native Americans, John Muir, David Brower, Ed Abbey, or even Jon Krakauer," I would thank John Muir for supporting mountain biking in national forest Wilderness and national parks. I would apologize to native Americans for the supreme conceit held by some today that such areas were always Arcadian idylls, when in fact many of them were acquired in blood and deportations. I'd ask Edward Abbey some questions about whether he endorses all of the tenets of the "deep ecology" movement, some of which I find misanthropic.

    And, in keeping with the amusing nature of the captchas, this one contains "bullhorn." Seriously, Kurt, I thank you for writing these columns and allowing free debate of them. It's a worthwhile public service.

  • Forest Service Drawing Line On Mountain Bikers in Potential Wilderness, National Park Service Agrees   5 years 31 weeks ago

    The real tragedy is hikers and mountain bikers are both conversations and when they work together to preserve or protect a natural area they are an unstoppable force. Legislation and designations that prohibit hikers or mountain bikers from accessing our natural areas often split these users making conserving our natural areas more difficult.

    Additionally, at least in my area, hiker only trails are falling into disrepair and are being reclaimed by the forest due to lack of maintenance and near non-use. This is largely a result of the inability of hikers, due to age (the average hiker volunteer is in their sixties), to continue to get out and maintain hiker only designated trails. While only a few miles away the shared-used trails constructed and maintained by mountain bikers are kept in top-notch condition because the volunteer base is larger and in better condition (average volunteer is in their early thirties) to preform trail maintenance. As a result, more hikers are ignoring the hiker only trails and using the much better maintained shared-use trails constructed and maintained by mountain bikers. It would seem the best way to preserve the current neglected hiker only trails would be to allow mountain bike access with the understanding that the local mountain bike club preform a set number of hours of trail maintenance each year to guarantee continued access.

  • Forest Service Drawing Line On Mountain Bikers in Potential Wilderness, National Park Service Agrees   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I think the prohibition of mountain biking on areas that "may" be future wilderness areas is discriminatory. Especially given the lack of certainty that anyone has on it. It sounds like a way for park and forestry service admins to make de facto wilderness areas, when that legal determination may never come.

    That said, I've both hiked and mountain biked for a long time, and have my own short observations to add. From my experience:

    - erosion issues with both types of trails are largely governed by trail management. Bike trails in areas that are monitored and closed when weather situations merit it (i.e., no riding on wet trails in areas where that degrades the trail) are as sustainable as hiking trails over most terrain. Both types of trail suffer from irresponsible users, and some users will be irresponsible - hence the need for proper management.

    - Bike trails in general need a little more maintenance to prevent those erosion issues, all other things being equal. This is only true given relatively equal levels of traffic. Heavily traveled foot paths suffer more than less popular bike trails and vice versa. It is worth noting that biking trails here in the Nashville area are heavily used, but several still must be trimmed back annually. As another reviewer commented, wilderness will and does come back.

    - Hiking trails in general suffer more from littering, particularly around camp sites - "primitive" or otherwise.

    - Lastly, the one that is irrefutable: Horses destroy trail, create erosion, pollute with feces (that may harbor invasive plants), etc. etc. One might argue (and I might agree) that designated Wilderness areas should be closed to all users, period. Or open only under guided supervision, etc. Barring that though, if you allow horses, the arguments against bikers are null and void.

    thanks.

  • Forest Service Drawing Line On Mountain Bikers in Potential Wilderness, National Park Service Agrees   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Imtnbke,

    That's quite a leap to make -- "that much modern "environmentalism" has less to do with conservation than with the quasireligious quest for a spiritual experience in the woods—a quest with strong exclusionary overtones and accompanied by no little self-righteousness. At its worst this strain of "environmentalism" brings to mind South African apartheid in its mythological underpinnings, zealous fervor to preserve the land for one's favored group, and demands for the exclusion of other groups based on ideological considerations. (Apartheid, some may know, is Afrikaans for "separateness.")" -- and it's one that can't go unchallenged.

    I'd be curious to hear what you'd say to Native Americans, John Muir, David Brower, Ed Abbey, or even Jon Krakauer. There are many who do indeed find a spiritual experience in a wilderness setting, and to belittle them for finding that, is it so far removed from belittling a Catholic, or Jew, or Protestant, or Baptist for how they find their spiritualism?

    And, really, I strongly question your contention that some sort of spiritual elitism is driving the divergent views in this and other discussions about wilderness. What is at stake is preservation of the landscape, a measured approach to using it, not a rabid mass consumption of it.

  • By the Numbers: Crater Lake National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Enjoyed my visit last year. However - that was during that wildfire season in Northern California, which affect the air quality. We could clearly see across the lake, but it had this sort of purplish tinge similar to the typical day at the Grand Canyon.

    I understand that the lake was once stocked with fish but hasn't been in years. The fish in the lake are supposedly reproducing and have a stable population. The last fish stocking in the lake was in 1941.

    http://www.nps.gov/archive/crla/brochures/fish.htm

    While they might not have a good estimate of the bear population, they did have bear boxes at every campsite. That was a nice touch.

  • Wolf Biologist Killed In Plane Crash in Denali National Park, Pilot Survived   5 years 31 weeks ago

    A possible cause for this crash could be an indicated design flaw well known to both the FAA and NTSB for decades.
    After a three year debacle with the FAA the NTSB closed their safety recommendation and walked away. Pilots and passengers continue to die or become injured possibly due to undetectable water in the fuel tanks the pilot cannot positively detect during the pre-flight of the aircraft.

    Data Source: NTSB Recommendations to FAA and FAA Responses
    Report No: A-83-6
    Subject:
    Letter Date:01/13/1986
    Status: CLOSED UNACCEPTABLE ACTION
    Engine stoppage because of water in the fuel occurred most often
    during the takeoff and initial climb phase of flight, and frequently bladder-type fuel cells such as Cessna Models C-180, C-182, C-185, C-206, and C-207.

  • Wolf Biologist Killed In Plane Crash in Denali National Park, Pilot Survived   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I never met Gordon, but always respected his commitment to the Alaskan wolf population. May his memory be a blessing.

  • Cades Cove Loop Road at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Set for a Major Redo Next Spring   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I had the occasion to drive the Cades Cove loop road last fall. It was peak color season, and the road was jammed. I had to wait several minutes at the Abrams Falls side road for what seemed like a never ending line of bumper to bumper traffic around the road. To me, that volume of traffic is too great for anyone to enjoy the experience as it should be enjoyed.

    While I am delighted that the Park Service has chosen to maintain the character of the road and to recycle in place, I hope they are also looking at the big picture of managing the volume.

  • By the Numbers: Crater Lake National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Crater Lake is basically in my backyard since I live only about 1.5 hrs away. I spend a lot of time in the park each year hiking, photographing and driving around the rim. Most folks forget to extend that drive an extra 14 miles round trip to see the Pinnacles. What a sight to see. And if you have the time, it should be seen twice in the day, especially if you are a photographer. The sun keeps one view in the shadow in the morning and then the morning view retreats into the shadow in the afternoon. A must see for all those that visit the park. A lot of folks don't realize that if you take the Cleetwood Cove trail (strenuous back to the top) you can swim and SCUBA dive in the lake, but as you indicated, it is very cold. I highly recommend several hikes in the park, Mount Scott being one of them. The other one is much more strenuous but well worth the effort, is Garfield Peak and then an easy and short hike at the end of the day is Watchman Peak for some awesome photo opportunities at sunset. You can also see Mount Shasta which is approximately 120 miles south from all these hikes and you can also see the Three Sisters which are located north towards Bend and Sisters, from Mount Scott. Thank you for posting these stats. It is always nice to refresh my memory.

  • Cades Cove Loop Road at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Set for a Major Redo Next Spring   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Yep, it was time for this road to get redone. Past time, really. As much as I will miss taking my family around Cades Cove for spring break and hiking some of the great trails that leave from the road... I look forward to seeing the improvements.

  • Is It "Elitist" To Try to Visit All 58 National Parks?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Planning on taking a four day trip in November in which I will be flying to Vegas. In those four days I plan on taking day trips visiting Hoover Dam, Kings Canyon and Death Valley. Guess I won't be having that "wilderness experience" but I know it will be well worth the trip.

  • By the Numbers: Crater Lake National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    What a beautiful place! The view from Mt. Scott is the view on the state quarter, and is well worth the hike. We had a little haze from a forest fire partially obstructing the view from the top, but it was still outstanding. We were part of that 415,000, but it seemed like most of them were in the gift shop. Both Cleetwood Cove and Mt. Scott were uncrowded. Wizard Island is an unreal place. It looks like a small island, but it is 800 feet to the top. Thanks for writing about one of my favorite places in the world.

  • Plane Missing at Denali National Park and Preserve With Noted Wolf Biologist Aboard   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Gordon Haber knows wolves the way Murie knew wolves - as individuals, as family groups. If we've lost him, which it now appears we have, then the wolves have lost a tireless and dedicated advocate. I hope the Park Service will reevaluate the way they manage wolves and start to look at families rather than overall population numbers. Toklat, Mt. Margaret...all the packs that have been decimated by a few trappers and hunters lurking just outside the park boundaries. Gordon's message must live on.

  • Forest Service Drawing Line On Mountain Bikers in Potential Wilderness, National Park Service Agrees   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I would suggest that by the time a discussion comes down to quoting from reactionary pundits and comparing the other side to apartheid, most of the salient points have already been made. Much of this has degenerated to "hooray for my side". That is not the usual timbre of talks in the Traveler.

    I'm not a biker and not much of a hiker anymore either. I thought a Pugsley was an ugly dog. I just like the parks. We need more figuring out common solutions, rather than trying to be right or to 'win'.

  • Forest Service Drawing Line On Mountain Bikers in Potential Wilderness, National Park Service Agrees   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I've stated before in these threads that much modern "environmentalism" has less to do with conservation than with the quasireligious quest for a spiritual experience in the woods—a quest with strong exclusionary overtones and accompanied by no little self-righteousness. At its worst this strain of "environmentalism" brings to mind South African apartheid in its mythological underpinnings, zealous fervor to preserve the land for one's favored group, and demands for the exclusion of other groups based on ideological considerations. (Apartheid, some may know, is Afrikaans for "separateness.")

    I thought of the messianic nature of some environmentalist thought when I read the following quotation in Kurt's article:

    “There is a wilderness experience, a truly backcountry experience, that is part of the idea and the concept behind wilderness," says Michael Carroll, associate director of The Wilderness Society's Wilderness Support Center. "It's preserving a landscape that is similar to the landscape that our fathers and their fathers before them were able to experience. It’s hard to argue that that experience has been preserved when you have heavy traffic zipping by on mountain bikes after you’ve spent two days hiking in.”

    Forget about the facts that mountain bikers have no more effect on landscape preservation than hikers, are extremely unlikely to be "zipping by" in profusion in any wildland that isn't already impacted by swarms of people on foot and riding large dust-raising mammals, and that " 'the landscape that our fathers and their fathers before them were able to experience' " was quite often riddled with mines, sluices, stripped hillsides, mercury poisoning, deforestation, and the graves of the native peoples whom those " 'fathers and . . . fathers before them' " slaughtered.

    Forget about all that and just consider the reverential tone of the statement that implies there is one correct and enlightened "wilderness experience" and "truly backcountry experience." This is where the temperance movement that sustains itself under the guise of environmentalism shows through. It's like the Buddhist Noble Eightfold Path, whose tenets include "right view" and "right action." "The practitioner must make the right effort to abandon the wrong view and to enter into the right view. Right mindfulness is used to constantly remain in the right view." (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noble_Eightfold_Path.)

    Reid Buckley, in an article in the November 2009 issue of The American Conservative magazine, put it well: "lurking in the American character is an unfortunate universalist reformism deriving from Calvinist intolerance. It's a handsome paradox: the more secular we become as a nation, the more Americans desire to establish the city of God on earth"—or at least on national park and national forest trails. Entire "environmental" organizations are built on this ethos. (Incidentally, The American Conservative magazine is not some purely reactionary rag but a mixed bag of stuff I don't agree with and articles and commentary that are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Its website is worth a look.)

    I would like public policy regarding our national parks and national forests to be based on science, empiricism, and reason, and not on soothsaying, millennialism, eschatology, and gauzy and implausible views of an Arcadian past that never existed—a view as historically dubious as young-earth creationism.

  • Updated: Searchers Spot Missing Backpackers On Ledge In Kings Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Let's not forget that when they set out on their trip, the weather reports were of nothing but mild weather. It is not their fault they got caught in rain and snow and had to figure out a way to stay alive. I am so grateful for the rescuers and for their safe return!

  • On the Run: Racers See Four National Parks on Two Feet in One Day   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Donna, you seemed to enjoy the run as much as me. This local resident would like you to know the name of the town along the route was Sharpsburg and the Antietam Creek passes through the battlefield to join the Potomac River at the village of Antietam. Thank you for posting your pleasant article.

  • Updated: Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Parks Release Winter-Use Plan That Reduces Snowmobile Numbers   5 years 31 weeks ago

    do they really think 318 snowmoblies impact the air quality more than the 3,000,000 people that visit in the summer

  • Updated: Searchers Spot Missing Backpackers On Ledge In Kings Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    i just want to take a min and say that theas 3 guys are close friends of mine. im glad they have been found his mother and a lot of friends and i where extremly worried about this. and thank you to everyone that help and cared for my friends.

  • Plane Missing at Denali National Park and Preserve With Noted Wolf Biologist Aboard   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Gordon Haber has long been a strong advocate for greater protection of the wolves in the Denali area. He never hesitated to call the Park Service to task when he felt it was giving the wolves adequate protection. I certainly hope the search is successful and both the pilot and Gordon are safe. The plane likely has an emergency locator transmitter that should have activated if the plane came down hard. It is a big country, and visually locating something as small as a single engine aircraft can be frustratingly difficult.

  • Updated: Searchers Spot Missing Backpackers On Ledge In Kings Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Just so you'll know....my son, KCNP employee, former KCNP Ranger, spotted the smoke from their fire and called it in to the searchers. He had been out of the Park the day before on work duties and didn't even know about the missing hikers. He made verbal contact with the group in the steep terrain, advised them to remain in place and that rescue help was on the way. It is the third rescue he has been involved with on Roaring River..all while being paid to do other work. Not every hero gets their deserved applause. Glad these guys are safe.

  • Forest Service Drawing Line On Mountain Bikers in Potential Wilderness, National Park Service Agrees   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Thanks for the forum and important dialog here.

    A few observations:

    "There's no comparison between bikes made 20 years ago and those made today," Dave Bull, the Forest Service's director for recreation, minerals, lands, heritage and wilderness in Montana told the Times. "People are better able to get to places they couldn't reach before without hiking. They're pushing further and further."

    And

    "Not only are the latest generation of bikes capable of taking their riders farther and farther into the backcountry, but their arrival, some believe, is out of sync with the wilderness concept."

    This is a motorized argument and is ridiculous to apply it to bicycles. I don't know about you all - but I still generate roughly the same (slightly less with age) amount of horsepower I did 25 years ago and still get to the same middle-of-nowhere locations under my own power regardless of what bicycle I am riding. While what we ride into the woods has changed considerably over the years, the motor of heart, lungs and passion has not. Definitely alot of Bull Speak!

    ###

    “There is a wilderness experience, a truly backcountry experience, that is part of the idea and the concept behind wilderness," says Michael Carroll, associate director of The Wilderness Society's Wilderness Support Center. "It's preserving a landscape that is similar to the landscape that our fathers and their fathers before them were able to experience. It’s hard to argue that that experience has been preserved when you have heavy traffic zipping by on mountain bikes after you’ve spent two days hiking in.”

    What is the goal of a Wilderness designation if not to preserve a LANDSCAPE? So bicyclists ride a 30 mile loop in a day that it takes hikers 3 days to complete - please explain how 30 miles of trail based bicycle travel is more impactful to the LANDSCAPE than hikers who set up camp off trail - usually near a pretty but sensitive meadow, affect wildlife and the ecosystem with cooking and shit in the woods for three days? Does the presence of bicycles really bust your backcountry spiritual chops? What exactly are you protecting? Wilderness designation is not a religion or exclusive holier-than-thou club, it is a land protection tool in a box of Congressional tools that can permanently protect our roadless public lands from mining, logging, new roads, structures and expanded motorized use. A companion designation to Wilderness such as a National Protection Area is a viable and commonsense way to preserve our spectacular public lands as we go forward with the dialog about protecting pristine areas where we have ridden our bicycles for decades without adverse affects to its wilderness (little 'w') character.

    The cycling community is a huge conservation base and want to see our lands permanently protected but the Wilderness or nothing choice leaves us either supporting a bicycle banning protection tool or be opposed to new Wilderness designation. There is a better way. New, socially responsible Wilderness can be supported by the cycling community when it is part of a conservation package that can incorporate boundary adjustments, corridors and companion designations to preserve riding opportunities we've enjoyed for decades without issues. We don't need access to all trails but do want to preserve access to the historically and economically important ones. Bicyclists need to be at the table as responsible partners when the future of these lands are being negotiated.

    ###

    As far as offroad bicycle access in National Parks - not in my wildest singletrack dreams would I want to ride my bike on the sensitive backcountry trails in Yellowstone, for example, but I'd sure support some bicycle access to pedal around the park on old road beds or power line cuts rather than a death defying road rides with Hawaiian shirt wearing, RV driving tourists. People do travel with their bikes and making some bicycle concessions can do nothing but better connect people to their surroundings - is this not the purpose of our National Parks? The modern National Parks were designed with automobile access as a priority but not bicycles?

    Do not forget our cycling roots in National Parks! It's not a new concept or precedent!

    http://www.nrhc.org/history/25thInfantry.html

  • Plane Missing at Denali National Park and Preserve With Noted Wolf Biologist Aboard   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I know Gordon and respect his work as one who looks at things differently than many other biologists. I hope this has a good ending for a man so dedicated to the wolves in Alaska.

  • Forest Service Drawing Line On Mountain Bikers in Potential Wilderness, National Park Service Agrees   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I got your point Zeb. There is room for a variety of activities and we should support agency leaders who manage outdoor recreational use accordingly.

    Kurt your anecdote is right on. Some areas draw more people and thus agencies need to aggressively manage the use in those places, but there are plenty just as beautiful spots that practically no one visits. Places where one hiker can run into one mtn biker and neither has had their outdoor experience ruined. In the USFS portions of the Sierra I routinely encounter mtn bikers, hikers, fishermen, and stock users on my favorite trails. Everyone is cheerful. Everyone is apparently enjoying themselves. Everyone is courteously sharing the outdoors. To me the conflicts on the ground appear to be few and far between, if they exist at all.

    imtnbike brings up good points about generational differences. I suspect that some folks are clinging to a mythology about the fight to stop the "loss" of "wilderness." This mythology was instrumental in calling people into action during the environmental struggles leading up to the new millennium. Today, such a black and white, evil vs good vision is probably obsolete. For the future, an updated perspective may be in order.

  • Forest Service Drawing Line On Mountain Bikers in Potential Wilderness, National Park Service Agrees   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Thanks for the forum and important dialog here.

    A few observations:

    "There's no comparison between bikes made 20 years ago and those made today," Dave Bull, the Forest Service's director for recreation, minerals, lands, heritage and wilderness in Montana told the Times. "People are better able to get to places they couldn't reach before without hiking. They're pushing further and further."

    And

    "Not only are the latest generation of bikes capable of taking their riders farther and farther into the backcountry, but their arrival, some believe, is out of sync with the wilderness concept."

    This is a motorized argument and is ridiculous to apply it to bicycles. I don't know about you all - but I still generate roughly the same (slightly less with age) amount of horsepower I did 25 years ago and still get to the same middle-of-nowhere locations under my own power regardless of what bicycle I am riding. While what we ride into the woods has changed considerably over the years, the motor of heart, lungs and passion has not. Definitely alot of BULL SPEAK!

    ###

    “There is a wilderness experience, a truly backcountry experience, that is part of the idea and the concept behind wilderness," says Michael Carroll, associate director of The Wilderness Society's Wilderness Support Center. "It's preserving a landscape that is similar to the landscape that our fathers and their fathers before them were able to experience. It’s hard to argue that that experience has been preserved when you have heavy traffic zipping by on mountain bikes after you’ve spent two days hiking in.”

    What is the goal of a Wilderness designation if not to preserve a LANDSCAPE? So bicyclists ride a 30 mile loop in a day that it takes hikers 3 days to complete - please explain how 30 miles of trail based bicycle travel is more impactful to the LANDSCAPE than hikers who set up camp off trail - usually near a pretty but sensitive meadow, affect wildlife and the ecosystem with cooking and shit in the woods for three days? Does the presence of bicycles really bust your backcountry spiritual chops? What exactly are you protecting? Wilderness designation is not a religion or exclusive holier-than-thou club, it is a land protection tool in a box of Congressional tools that can permanently protect our roadless public lands from mining, logging, new roads, structures and expanded motorized use. A companion designation to Wilderness such as a National Protection Area is a viable and commonsense way to preserve our spectacular public lands as we go forward with the dialog about protecting pristine areas where we have ridden our bicycles for decades without adverse affects to its wilderness (little 'w') character.

    The cycling community is a huge conservation base and want to see our lands permanently protected but the Wilderness or nothing choice leaves us either supporting a bicycle banning protection tool or be opposed to new Wilderness designation. There is a better way. New, socially responsible Wilderness can be supported by the cycling community when it is part of a conservation package that can incorporate boundary adjustments, corridors and companion designations to preserve riding opportunities we've enjoyed for decades without issues. We don't need access to all trails but do want to preserve access to the historically and economically important ones. Bicyclists need to be at the table as responsible partners when the future of these lands are being negotiated.

    ###

    As far as offroad bicycle access in National Parks - not in my wildest singletrack dreams would I want to ride my bike on the sensitive backcountry trails in Yellowstone, for example, but I'd sure support some bicycle access to pedal around the park on old road beds or power line cuts rather than a death defying road rides with Hawaiian shirt wearing, RV driving tourists. People do travel with their bikes and making some bicycle concessions can do nothing but better connect people to their surroundings - is this not the purpose of our National Parks? The modern National Parks were designed with automobile access as a priority but not bicycles?

    Do not forget our cycling roots in National Parks! It's not a new concept or precedent!

    http://www.nrhc.org/history/25thInfantry.html