Recent comments

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

    It's not exactly an NPS property, but rather seems to be a quasi-NPS/FS entity with a board of directors.

    A nine-member board of trustees is responsible for the protection and development of the Valles Caldera National Preserve. Seven of its members are appointed by the President of the United States. In addition, the current Superintendent of nearby Bandelier National Monument and the Forest Supervisor of the Santa Fe National Forest also serve on the board

  • U.S. Senator Mike Enzi Slams National Park's Winter-use Plan for Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks   5 years 31 weeks ago

    The key phrase in the Senator's quote is "Yellowstone area businesses deserve more..." That's all he and his fellow congressional delegates care about. Certainly not about the care of the park itself, only its usefulness to business.

    It's laughable, though, when he says "More people should be allowed in the park, not less." If Senator Enzi was presented with a bill that closed the park to all except his 1,000 snowmobilers, AND IT WAS DEMONSTRATED THAT MORE BUSINESS PROFITS COULD BE MADE THIS WAY, no doubt the Senator would be in favor of it. THEN he would be talking about preserving the park's pristine nature (except, of course, for where snowmobiles run over wildlife and how they pollute the atmosphere).

    People like Senator Enzi love to cloak their agendas in more "personal freedom" and other supposedly democratic ideas when their sole motivation is the enhancement of profits for businesses owned by their family, friends, and supporters. To figure out what they will favor and what they will do, just follow the money.

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

    it appalls me that people who know nothing about something offer speculation and infere that the faa is negligent in regards to aircraft safety. i have flown the 64juliet, the aircfaft that crashed, many times over 25years and can attest that there was no fuel problem. the faa has done a fantastic job of correcting any known or proveable problems with aircraft. there are many many many, airworthiness directives for all aircraft that are required to be complied with by aircraft owners. these directives are to fix any problems which have manifested themselves in an aircraft. these problems are found by pilots, the faa, the manufacturers and the ntsb through accident investigation. all these parties work together for one common goal. aircraft safety. dan was a very good pilot and very experienced in alaska flying. alaska is a dangerous flying environment and even the best pilots can get in trouble. the pilots of alaska know the dangers and risks and gladly assume them for the privelege of flying the bush in one of the most beutiful and rugged environments. flying the bush is a lifestyle and is inherently dangerous. if we made all pusuits perfectly safe, we would lose the most important parts of life.

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

    Looking at places to see in New Mexico, I came across Valles Caldera National Preserve ( http://www.vallescaldera.gov/index.aspx ). This doesn't seem to be listed on either the NPS site or the Wikipedia site.

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

    Denali's wolves have lost the person who understood them most, their best and strongest advocate. I implore the Park Service to learn from what Gordon showed us, and manage Denali's wolves as the packs/family structures that they are, and not just as a population. The Park should immediately work with the state to create the buffers especially in the Stampede trail areas to protect these packs that hundreds of thousands of tourists come to the park to see.

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

    Also, be sure to check back Sunday for more data on age groups and participation. I think you'll be surprised by the numbers and the trends.

    Again, as for trail maintenance, I think the Student Conservation Association and American Hiking Society would beg to differ that only the retired seem to participate in this vital work.

    And this from the AHS:

    Created in 1998, American Hiking Society's National Trails Fund is the only privately supported national grants program providing funding to grassroots organizations working toward establishing, protecting and maintaining foot trails in America.

    Many of our favorite trails need major repairs due to an enormous backlog of badly needed maintenance. National Trails Fund grants help give local organizations the resources they need to secure access, volunteers, tools, and materials to protect America's cherished hiking trails.

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

    Imtnbke,

    >>who are fervently convinced that their preferred travel method is the one true and righteous path<<

    Ah, my friend, as the saying goes, that blade cuts two ways;-)

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

    Graham G. and Jeffrey, thank you for making those points. Jeffrey, you mentioned that "the average hiker volunteer is in their sixties." I have to agree about the age-related issue. I'm a veteran in our local park district's volunteer organization, which consists of a trail safety patrol and docents. Judging from the last organizational assembly I attended, the average age in this perhaps 150-member group has got to be mid-60s, and many are in their 70s and 80s. I saw only a handful of people who might be younger than 50. Therein lies the problem. If we're going to preserve wildlands for healthy recreation, that's too narrow a base on which to do it.

    Rick B., I agree with you that "We need more figuring out common solutions, rather than trying to be right or to 'win.' " But if we're going to do that, we have to be candid with one another about our differences and try to work them out. I am as open-minded as anyone I know and am always interested in hearing opposing viewpoints. I disagree with some of the set ideas of mountain bike activists as well as some of those put forth by conservation purists and traditionalists and am always reevaluating my own views as well, testing them against others' assertions.

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

    Jeffrey, what areas are you referring to were you bike? It appears to me the younger generation has lost it's vigor, stamina and endurance to achieve the physical merits of a good days hike. And, we're not talking about a piddling affair of a small hike either, but something like a good twenty or thirty mile hike in a day. I love the quest and the challenge of a good days hike, or even a three day backpack trip with a fifty pound pack. I love biking but in the wilderness...where's your sense of closeness and keen eye for nature? Especially when you're biking and watching the crazy switchbacks on the trail. I think you're losing something in response to the real wilderness experience when it comes to trail biking...and it's called the inability to absorb mother nature and all it's holistic gifts that it has to offer. I don't see how mountain biking offers this kind of quality wilderness experience but only a temporary adrenalin rush.

  • 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!