Recent comments

  • Do People Who Get Lost Really Walk in Circles? New Research Offers an Answer   5 years 26 weeks ago

    My own adventure is rather recent. I decided to try my luck at night hiking along the River Bluff Trail near Norris State Park, downstream of Norris Dam along the Clinch River in East TN. My goal was to start the hike at dusk and, if it became too dark to see, to use a flashlight.

    Once I entered the forest, however, the canopy quickened the onset of darkness. I needed the flashlight sooner than anticipated. After about a mile of hiking, the white beam turned to dim orange, but I proceeded on. The beam of light then went from dim red-orange to nothing at all. That was it. Total darkness. I had no spare batteries (not a smart thing to do when night hiking).

    Night hiking without a flashlight under a fully enclosed canopy of Eastern Diciduous Biome forests can be a near cave-like experience. I had two choices, spend the night and wait for first light, or put my dog (an Aussie Shepherd mix-breed) on a short leash and trust him to find the route.

    I decided to use my dog, who I knew was very familiar with the trail from many previous hikes. He led me very slowly along the trail, step by step. The slow pace was sufficient to negotiate uneven rocky sections of the trail, and we managed to get past a few locations where trees had fallen across the beaten path.

    This canine seeing-eye technique worked remarkably well, except for one memorable incident when the dog suddenly veered off trail to chase after some unidentified noctural creature. Fortunately, I was able to convince him to change his priorities.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • "Wilderness Wal-Mart" Near Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Gets Go-Head From Virginia Officials   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Walmart doesn't care about anything except money. This country has become so focused on greed and how they can line their pockets with the "old mightly dollar" that nothing else matters. I have never had the opportunity to visit any of our national parks on the eastern seaboard, but with corporations like Walmart coming in and taking over, they won't be there for me to visit in the future. I am sorry to say that many of the corporations in this country speak out of both sides of their mouth, including Walmart. They doesn't care about the environment and preserving this nation anymore than the current adminsitration of this country.

  • Do People Who Get Lost Really Walk in Circles? New Research Offers an Answer   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Jim, your right on horses finding there way back from point A to point B and back. Many a drunken cowboy on a horse will tell you the same. Back at the bunkhouse nursing a mean hangover the next day.

  • Do People Who Get Lost Really Walk in Circles? New Research Offers an Answer   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Ray -

    Thanks for the excellent example of how humans can become disoriented when visual reference points are missing. I suspect others can relate similar experiences in dense fog or other limited visibility situations.

    The other interesting aspect of your story is the accuracy of the dogs "navigation." I've read similar tales about horses finding their way "home" in a whiteout.

  • Updated: 7-Year-old Dies At Acadia National Park As Hurricane Bill's Waves Wash Three Into Atlantic, Injure 13   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I was there at the park the day of the drowing and was one of the hundreds who stood along Ocean Drive and watched the Coast Guard pull two of the individuals from the water. Even as the rescue efforts were ongoing, park rangers were still yelling at people to get off the rocks; people who were trying to get a closer look at the rescue! It is amazing how irresponsible some people can be. It is a shame that that young girl died, but her father never should have allowed her to be in that position. As for those who want to blame park officials, you are typical of the ignorant and ill-formed who skirt personal responsibility and want to blame others for [your] stupidity. I live in RI and we have a cliif walk along the ocean in Newport. Recently an individual by-passed fencing and posted signs to "get a better look" at the ocean and he fell and is now a quadriplegic. He is suing the city of Newport. If this lawsuit is successful, the city will close the cliff walk and millions of would-be tourists will have to pay the price for one man's stupidity and ignorance.

  • Do People Who Get Lost Really Walk in Circles? New Research Offers an Answer   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Ray, I do hope you have recorded all your outdoor experiences in some kind of journal. Enough experiences to write book? Especially the sled dog episode.

  • Do People Who Get Lost Really Walk in Circles? New Research Offers an Answer   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Interesting. I was once lost in a whiteout while traveling by dog team over open tundra. My destination was a winter trapping camp perhaps twenty miles inland from the village of Wainwright on the North Slope. We had traveled the route several times over the previous month. I was certain that the dogs were going in the wrong direction and kept giving the lead dog the "gee" (go right) command. There was no visible trail. The leader kept looking back and was probably thinking that I was and idiot. Finally, I decided to let the dogs find the way. Sure enough they pulled me right up to the camp and stopped. I didn't know we were there until I walked to the front of the team to find the entrance to a snowblock shelter. Over the years there were several occasions when my dog team was able to find their way home or to a camp when I would have otherwise been lost.

  • Building with Notorious History in Death Valley National Park Burns in Mysterious Fire   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Well you will find this hard to believe. But here goes- I am the one who built the cabinet he was found in which is now gone, and I am the one who supplied all lof the cyls. that we built the house out of when The Barkers went to Indian Ranch

  • Pruning the Parks: Mar-a-Lago National Historic Site (1972-1980) Was a Gift the National Park Service Couldn’t Afford to Keep   5 years 26 weeks ago

    California State Parks managed to make a go out of it with Hearst Castle - William Randolph Hearst's estate near San Simeon. The Hearst family donated it to the state with the stipulation that they could have limited use of the grounds for family retreats. They charge admission and this was one of the parks that was supposed to have been kept operating during the current budget mess because it does turn a profit.

  • Pruning the Parks: Mar-a-Lago National Historic Site (1972-1980) Was a Gift the National Park Service Couldn’t Afford to Keep   5 years 26 weeks ago

    There is an A&E show called, "Americas Castles" that has video and narration of Mar-a-Lago. It is wonderful and worth the dvd if you missed the show.

  • Updated: 7-Year-old Dies At Acadia National Park As Hurricane Bill's Waves Wash Three Into Atlantic, Injure 13   5 years 26 weeks ago

    usually the hurricane weather comes later after all the tourists have left, so we haven't seen this happen before. the problem is with people who aren't familiar with mother nature (people from away or the city,etc.) not knowing to respect her. Those of us brought up living off the land and sea are taught from the moment we could crawl a very healthy respect for mother nature. so many people only see such things on TV and have no concept of how dangerous they can be. It's too bad this tragedy will now cause the Park to put more severe restrictions on all of us now because some people couldn't at least respect the advice of the rangers trying to protect them. why do so many people feel laws are made for everybody else but them?

  • Updated: 7-Year-old Dies At Acadia National Park As Hurricane Bill's Waves Wash Three Into Atlantic, Injure 13   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Mick:

    I feel your pain and my thoughts and prayers go out to the families who lost loved ones on Sunday as I was at Acadia with my eight year old son and wife from Tuesday through Saturday walking on the same cliffs near Thunder Hole and the ocean. But you are not thinking of the consequencees of Park users being able to sue the Park Service. If this were to be the case, as soon as the Park Service lost their first suit, which would be inevitable in our legal system in the US, the cliffs at Acadia would be permanently closed to the public. Additionally, a trail like the Precipice Trail at Acadia would be permanently closed to the public. Next in line might be rock climbing at Yosemite or hiking in the Grand Canyon.

    The National Parks are one of the last places left in the United States in which we as visitors have the freedom to explore nature and get as close to nature as we prefer. With this freedom comes repsonsibility. And unfortunately, if you take away our responsibility as users, you also take a way our freedom as users. That is just the way the tort law system works in this country.

  • Updated: 7-Year-old Dies At Acadia National Park As Hurricane Bill's Waves Wash Three Into Atlantic, Injure 13   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Steve:
    Thank you for articulating this point of view so well. Absolutely I agree with you and hope others can see the logic and the larger picture that you put out there for our consideration. I would encourage you to send your thoughts to area newspapers and get a wider audience's reaction.
    best
    Scott

  • What Lurks Beneath the Surface of National Park System Waters, A Diving Guide   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Thank you Rick for an outstanding article. It was a very interesting and informative read.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Black Bears Racking Up Property Damage In Yosemite National Park   5 years 26 weeks ago

    In 1993, while backpacking and camping above Vogelsang Lake in the Yosemite backcountry, a bear had its way with the contents of our food cache, which we made sure to tie up high above ground, beyond reach of anything on two or four legs. We had no trouble with this technique at any of our other backcountry campsites, including several at lower elevations where bears were abundant.

    Evidently this bear at Vogelsang learned to untie knots. We searched for our food the next morning, only to find the remains of our plastic garbage bag several hundred feet away from our campsite, with all contents neatly opened and consumed, including several days worth of freeze-dried breakfasts, lunches and dinners, along with a few packets of expensive gormet beef jerkey and powdered tang. We restocked at the Vogelsang High Sierra Camp. The storekeepers at Vogelsang were very willing and able to help us out. We never saw the bear again.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Do People Who Get Lost Really Walk in Circles? New Research Offers an Answer   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I've never been lost in the Wilderness, I've always known where I was - I just couldn't remember where I parked my car :-/

  • Updated: 7-Year-old Dies At Acadia National Park As Hurricane Bill's Waves Wash Three Into Atlantic, Injure 13   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Thank God there are people in this world that realize that we are adults. We make our own decisions. If we make stupid or bad decisions the consequences are bad. Yes, I feel incredibly sad for the family that lost their daughter. It is a tragedy, an accident, a mistake. The loss of a family member is always difficult. Let the family mourn and hopefully as they heal they will see it as it is and not place "blame" where it doesn't belong.

  • Updated: 7-Year-old Dies At Acadia National Park As Hurricane Bill's Waves Wash Three Into Atlantic, Injure 13   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Steve, exactly.

    The biggest concept that needs to be grappled with here is that nature is dangerous and unpredictable. We live by this idea that it is not our job to keep us safe in situations we don't fully comprehend. It is indeed dreadful that a small child was lost and her lose should not be trivialized in this debate. What her lose shows us evermore, is that individuals are responsible for the dangers they expose themselves to. No, the park rangers should not simply ignore the dangers represented by the waters and I've seen their efforts in countless places to inform of those dangers. It is not their job to line up in right gear with clubs, tears gas and rubber bullets marching along clearing the rocks of oblivious wave-watchers. Nature is truly powerful. That power draws most of us out of our little dark boxes called apartments to see it, feel it, and learn from it. That doesn't mean that most of us ignore the dangers of even an innocent day hike in the woods. My 3 year old niece isn't old enough to know that just because the water is way down there right NOW...it might not stay that way. The knowing part is my job. The rangers do their job, I do mine and hopefully no one gets hurts. Blaming the park rangers for that little girls death or any of the other injuries from this weekend is like blaming the rangers for the twisting of my ankle on a tree root while I was hiking. They should have know better than to leave tree roots in the forest.

  • Black Bears Racking Up Property Damage In Yosemite National Park   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I've made a few food storage mistakes in my day in Yosemite. Fortunately nothing bad has happened to me yet, but I still try my best to avoid those mistakes. I remember once seeing a car parked overnight at Yosemite Lodge with a warning ticket that there were "cleaning supplies" stored in the passenger compartment that **might** attract a bear.

    There probably are a huge host of reasons why Yosemite bears break into cars. A strong smell of food may be the first reason. I've said before - if there's 20 lbs of BBQ ribs in a cooler stored in the trunk - that bound to say "jackpot" to a bear. Maybe a sealed energy bar doesn't present as strong a smell to a bear, but then again the NPS doesn't want the bear to get a "reward" for the effort if there's a random breakin. I doubt there's a single car parked in Yosemite that doesn't have some sort of faint smell of food or toiletries (remember that some bears have been seen eating soap thinking it was food). I've been told that leaving bottled water inside the passenger compartment wasn't OK since it's a visual cue to a bear, but in the trunk was OK since it didn't smell like food. I remember talking to a lodge employee in the Sierra where there were bears breaking into cars, and she said that you have to do what you can, but in the end bears aren't going to put in the effort just because of a faint smell of something food-like which all cars have.

    If anything, bears are creatures of habit. Once a bear scores food at a certain campground, it's probably going to come back. The stories I've heard of are "specialist" bears that form their own niche. There was "Snaggletooth" which was named for its teeth after developing a skill at biting through canned foods. At least until it tried doing that with a can of pressurized whip cream and the resulting embedded shrapnel it its mouth. Or "Camaro Bear" - one particular bear that found a good stash in a Camaro and proceeded to break into about 20 more of them over the course of that summer.

    I found it far different in Mr Rainier. The rangers told me that it was acceptable to store food in plain sight in the passenger compartment. Apparently the bears aren't big on raiding campgrounds and haven't been known to break into cars.

  • Updated: 7-Year-old Dies At Acadia National Park As Hurricane Bill's Waves Wash Three Into Atlantic, Injure 13   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Steve - You are so correct in everything you said. Your post should be nailed to the entrance of every Park.

  • What Lurks Beneath the Surface of National Park System Waters, A Diving Guide   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Having received my basic diving certification through PADI, in a drysuit up in Alaska, and then some subsequent diving in the Navy, I feel your ice-diving pain Rick. The Channel Islands are a particularly beautiful place to dive (especially off Anacapa Island) and is relatively peaceful and quite, especially when you consider the size of the nearby metropolitan areas. I would be curious to hear from other divers who might have dived in National Park waters.

    Thanks Rick,

    rob
    ---
    Executive Director,
    Crater Lake Institute
    www.craterlakeinstitute.com
    Robert Mutch Photography

  • Updated: Hiker Killed In Fall at Glacier National Park   5 years 26 weeks ago

    I knew Bill and his son Chris, and they are both seasoned mountaineers. The route was definitely not a simple hike. These guys were traversing between 9-10k peaks where I suspect only a few people have been.

  • Updated: 7-Year-old Dies At Acadia National Park As Hurricane Bill's Waves Wash Three Into Atlantic, Injure 13   5 years 26 weeks ago

    You are completely incorrect with your account of what happened. I was there when it did happen and the tourist were acting ... ignorant..... The park rangers were attempting to tell the idiotic tourist to get the hell off the rocks and some people were blatantly ignoring them to "get a picture". One ranger had to chase a person through the woods to get them back on the road and the guy was laughing....but he "got his picture".
    It is the responsibility of an ADULT parent to get their kids off the rocks when they were told SEVERAL times to get away from the storm surge. Who the hell would put their kids in harms way like that? What were they thinking? Anyone .... could see this was a very dangerous situation and to get the heck out of the way... SO MANY PEOPLE were not listening and the thousands of people on the park loop rd well out numbered the rangers. They were adults and they were told....so don't blame this ... on the rangers....it was bedlam and the rangers did everything they could short of physically removing people or arresting them.

    This comment was edited.--Ed.

  • Updated: 7-Year-old Dies At Acadia National Park As Hurricane Bill's Waves Wash Three Into Atlantic, Injure 13   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Mick, I'm sure that you are definitely feeling the sting of being so close to something so tragic, and I understand your assertion that the rangers should have done something more in clearing the area of tourists. But one thing that you must realize is that we, as individuals, have a responsibility to ourselves and to those around us to make our own judgments as to levels of imminent danger and approaching doom. Sometimes accidents just happen. At the very moment that this tragedy happened, we were in another Federally-run place - the Plum Island Refuge in Newburyport, Massachusetts, where the waves were tremendous. We were wading and occasionally body-surfing, and we had 2 kids there with us, and we let them do a little bit of wading and surfing as well. But here's the key, we only let them do a LITTLE bit of that, and only let them go out a very short way, because the surf was huge and the undertow was powerful. There were signs as we entered the park telling us about the undertow and that we were only to swim AT OUR OWN RISK.

    When will we stop laying blame on others instead of accepting the fact that individuals are responsible for their own decisions and actions? If my nephew had gotten swept out to sea and drowned, heaven forbid, I wouldn't be blaming Fish and Wildlife for allowing us to be there. I would be blaming myself for being the one for letting "stupidity and bad judgment" rule my decision to let him go too far out. And if not everyone understands the dangers of nature as much as frequent Park-goers, then where does that leave us? Who knows the most about rogue waves? A marine biologist? An oceanographer? I'd lay money down that even they couldn't predict that a single giant wave that's bigger than all others around it would approach the shore and take out that family.

    But the inherent risk was there - even when you were standing there on the shore yourself Mick, and it's a risk that we all take in going to a place like that. You said yourself that the waves were unpredictable and that some of them were reaching the tops of the cliffs where the people were. At what point does common sense enter into the picture? We can't take the risk and then after something bad happens say that it's someone else's fault. It's a horrible accident! It's a rogue wave that came in and swept people away and this poor little girl was horribly taken from her family. It's terrible, and it's very sad, but it's NOT the fault of any individuals at the Park. They closed the area off when they felt the wave action was getting worse but they can't be held accountable for an individual wave's size that came in just after that.

    The moment this incident happened, the Plum Island Refuge where we were, was closed and I think that sets a bad knee-jerk reaction precedent. No one could go into the Wildlife Refuge (even to bird-watch, let alone go onto the beach) because there was a tragic death on the coast of Maine 4 hours north of there. The Feds, in effect, took common sense and free decision-making and responsibility out of our hands and simply closed everything. Hey, it's what they felt was the right thing to do at the time, and I respect that. But again, it eliminates a certain amount of freedom for those of us who are willing to make our own choices about our own personal safety and the safety of those around us, especially our little ones.

    Everybody sues everybody these days, and it's killing us. A drunk driver isn't responsible for the 2 people he runs over - nope - it's the guy who sold him the alcohol. A person isn't at fault when they slip on the ice in front of City Hall and break there leg during a snowstorm - nope - it's the City's fault for not throwing salt down soon enough.

    Park Service employees are stewards of the Parks they work at. They are not baby-sitters and they are not the parents of all who enter! We are our own keepers, and we need to step up to the plate and take responsibility for ourselves and our loved ones. I do not for one minute blame the poor father of that child, but there was a risk present on that walkway where he was standing and sadly nature prevailed and was too powerful for everyone who was there. It is not the Park's fault! I'm proud to sing that song of "people need to be held accountable for their own stupidity and bad judgment." I would go one step further and say that sometimes even judgment doesn't enter it, and accidents simply happen!

  • On Politics, Bureaucracy, and "Glamping" In the National Park System   5 years 26 weeks ago

    Several years ago Joseph Sax gave the Horace Albright Lecture at UCBerkeley. In it he addressed management of recreation on the public lands. His last paragraph addresses the issue of introducing non-campers to the wild:

    The challenge is to resist seeing the public lands as a static resource in which various visitors simply find a comfortable niche, and instead to manage the lands as part of a progressive experience over time. Nearly forty years ago, the Forest Service published a book entitled Forest Outings, in which the task of mediation that faces public management officials was captured precisely, spelling out policy objectives that steer the middle course between making the lands familiar and unchallenging to the novice, and ignoring his needs altogether. The goal, it said, was "to provide graded steps through which the individual may progressively educate himself from enjoyment of mass forms of forest recreation toward the capacity to enjoy those demanding greater skill, more self-reliance, and a true love of the wild. Most men or women previously unacquainted with the forest in its natural state would experience discomfort and fear.... But if progressively they may experience the urbanized forest park, the large forest campground, the small camping group, the overnight or week-end hike, and so gain a sense of confidence in their own resourcefulness and lose the fear of wild country, then the final step is simple and natural,"

    For the whole lecture visit: http://calforestry.cnr.berkeley.edu/lectures/albright/1978sax.html