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  • A Conversation With Ken Burns on The National Parks: America's Best Idea   5 years 29 weeks ago


    Actually, we'll have the podcast loaded Sunday!

  • A Conversation With Ken Burns on The National Parks: America's Best Idea   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Did you audio record it? Would be cool to listen to as sort of a National Parks Traveler podcast.


  • The National Parks: America's Best Idea   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I love this piece. It makes one think about some very important things.

    Los Angeles Times
    Big Picture blog
    Thursday, September 24, 2009 10:18 AM PDT

    Is Ken Burns a secret propagandist for socialism?
    Patrick Goldstein on the collision of entertainment, media and pop culture

    I wasn't planning on DVR-ing Ken Burns' new six-part PBS series "The
    National Parks: America's Best Idea," which debuts Sunday night because: 1)
    I don't have 18 hours of room left on my TiVo; 2) judging from the title, I
    kinda already know where Burns comes down on the idea of national parks;
    and 3) I didn't give for KCET's last pledge drive and watching all that
    beautiful scenery will just make me feel more guilty.

    But Time magazine's James Poniewozik, a columnist full of iconoclastic
    ideas about TV and pop culture, has come up with a brilliant take
    on "National Parks" that has suddenly aroused my interest in the series. In
    his mind, the "National Parks" project isn't just another Burns snoozefest
    that, as Poniewozik slyly puts it, finds the filmmaker "passionately
    arguing positions almost everyone agrees with." The series is actually an
    ingenious refutation of the popular conservative belief that big government
    is evil, outmoded and unnecessarily involved in ruling our lives.

    Noting that the original impetus for establishing national parks came
    from naturalists like John Muir who were horrified to see how Niagara Falls
    was nearly destroyed by the greed and hucksterism of free market-
    loving charlatans, Poniewozik writes: "With America frothing over the role
    of government -- Should it save banks? Should it expand health coverage? --
    'The National Parks' makes a simple case for an idea that is wildly
    controversial in the year of the tea party: That we need government to do
    things the private sector can't or won't."

    In other words, the entire origin of the national park system, whose most
    passionate backer was a Republican, Teddy Roosevelt, is based on a firm
    belief in -- Glenn Beck, cover your ears, please -- government intervention
    to regulate an out-of-control free-enterprise system. In fact, one of the
    more dramatic moments in Burns' documentary involves the battle to create a
    park in the Great Smoky Mountains, while logging companies bankrolled
    anti-park ads and were "frantically cutting the old-growth forests to
    extract everything they could before the land was closed to them."

    In some ways, Burns' new series sounds like almost as radical a critique
    of free market excess as Michael Moore's new "Capitalism: A Love Story." Of
    course, it's unlikely to cause as much of an uproar as "Capitalism" because
    Moore is a natural magnet for controversy while Burns' films, with their
    lilting music and cozy slo-mo zooms, can make the most incendiary
    historical events appear almost as soothing as a glass of warm milk.

    However, Poniewozik has uncovered the razor blade inside Burns' cinematic
    pillow. To hear him tell it, Burns' portrait of the creation of
    our national parks should give conservatives pause in their rush to pillory
    government at every turn. As Poniewozik writes: "The national parks -- and
    'The National Parks' -- are based on ideas that are classically, if not
    radically, communitarian: That the free market doesn't always act in the
    public interest. That it's good that every American shares ownership of and
    responsibility for the most exclusive properties in the country. And that
    it's right for people -- through government -- to protect them from
    business interests and even the people themselves." For this, I'd say bravo
    for Ken Burns, whose portrait of American ideals couldn't have come at a
    better time than right now.

    Rick Smith

  • Dog Owner Cited After Pit Bull Attacks a Deer at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Living in the area, I used to be visit Cades Cove early on Sunday mornings. The last 5 times I had done this, I left mad and frustrated. People are regularly letting their dogs run loose and chase the deer, turkeys, etc. I never see a ranger !

    I am not mad at the rangers, I am made that America has saved some of the last great native/natural places in our lands but does not support them with the funding required to maintain and protect them !

    IF you have to take your dogs into a National Park, PLEASE observe the LEASH LAW !!!

  • Natchez Trace Parkway – Colorful Choice for a Southern Fall Trip   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Last fall, November 3rd and 4th, I drove on the Natchez Trace Parkway from Nashville to the Tennessee River in Alabama and back. The fall foliage colors were awesome. Everywhere along this 124 mile stretch was absolutely breathtaking. You can view pictures from this trip at

  • Dog Owner Cited After Pit Bull Attacks a Deer at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I have 2 Great Danes. I always keep them on leashes while hiking. Dogs can be unpredictable under the best of circumstances. Merlin (my 1 year old Blue Merle) is allowed off his leash ONLY while in my front yard or a camping spot after he knows the boundaries. He has been trained to stay within a perimeter (Good Citizen). Bella (my 9 mo. old Chocolate Merle) is NEVER allowed off a leash. Not even in my own front lawn. She will never be. She is incapable of being taught perimeter boundaries.

    Having said that, I will acknowledge that the problem is not with the dogs themselves, but with the owner. As a responsible owner, we must know our dogs limitations and constantly supervise them whether or not they are on a leash. Dogs will be dogs. It is imperative to keep our dogs under control at all times.

  • Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies   5 years 29 weeks ago

    The thing is that with pepper spray, you get a fog pattern and it can be fired from the hip or the chest. Aim is not that critical. I am a former corrections officer and spent many hours on the range. I can only imagine having a couple of seconds to draw a weapon (assuming I don't get it stuck in my jacket or shirt tail), aim at a fast moving bear (perhaps moving erratically and with little or no advance notice), and hit the vital spots (with ammo sufficient to penetrate a bear's tough exterior) and while probably stumbling backwards from the surprise. I can say that under the circumstances, I'd be hard-pressed to stop the bear or mountain lion, or coyote, etc. Saying that, I have a CCW permit that is reciprocal on both sides of my favorite national park in my end of the country--the Smokies--TN/NC, plus my own state as well as most others. I do admit that up to this point I've never carried a weapon in park areas, other than a knife and hiking pole. But, having kids makes me reconsider that "one time" that might unexpectedly happen. Last year, a boy was attacked twice by a bear with menningitis on the TN side of the Smokies. His dad wrestled the bear off of him and it chased him down the trail and attacked him again. Then it attacked two rangers who responded to investigate. You never know... Another issue is the issue of caliber. Big calibers = heavy guns. I would prefer to not carry a heavy gun. Interestingly, a few years back, I saw an old guy in Wal Mart with a Ruger hogleg strapped to his side. It was somewhat disconcerting, even though it was legal. I think I would have preferred it concealed...out of sight, out of mind. He was also one of those wierd looking old guys...spooky enough by itself. If I'm just hiking the local Mammoth Cave NP, I might not carry anything...or some pepper spray in case any dogs on the north side trails decide they don't like me. A former NPS ranger buddy once knocked a dog out with a hiking pole as it attacked him on a trail. If I'm in a more remote area, I just might decide to carry a weapon if I feel the need to. I do think I'll start carrying pepper spray...just in case. But, I do feel that people should be competent and have a sufficient caliber; not overwhelming. I wouldn't want to make a bear mad with a .22 pistol. I joked with a ranger a couple of years ago at the Smokies as we were watching a mother bear and her 3 cubs (long time residents of Cades Cove) casually walk past us, if her taser would have any effect on the bear. She said it would definitely serve to piss her off royally. Given my druthers, I don't want to hurt any animal. LIke some of the other posts, the issue of humans might be of more concern. There are lots of nuts out there. I dealt with many of them. Opportunistic predators may not be as prevalent as camera snatchers, but if I'm camping in the backcountry and somebody comes up, who knows if they are nuts? Campers have been killed by nutjobs and escaped felons. Would I shoot one? Well...threaten me or my kids and let's find out. As far as an "innocent" animal that is just being what it is...I would try to avoid it. But, better me than them if it comes down to it. So now we have a dichotomy of the percentage of risk vs. the advantage of pepper spray vs. firearms. But, if you have a CCW, why not be allowed to carry if you want to...

  • Fatal Fall from Angels Landing in Zion National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Having grown up in Glendora and hiked up Angel's Landing numerous times, I was especially moved by this tragic event. Although I never met the family while we lived in Glendora, I extend my condolences to them for their loss. I can only imaging the shock and horror they must have felt to have so suddenly lost their wife and mother.

    My wife was quite apprehensive the next time I hiked Angel's Landing and asked me to be extra cautious. While hiking, I did note that I'd probably been somewhat cavalier on prior trips, and paid closer attention to areas that were especially exposed. I even held on to the chain a few times, which I usually ignore.

    I also question the park statistic of 5 deaths on this trail, having heard of at least 2 in the past 5 years since moving to the area. But can we put things in perspective? Even if the park service has only recorded half the deaths, say 10 accidental deaths over a period of 75 years on an very exposed trail used by thousands of people every month has got to be one of the most amazing safety records in the history of the National Park system. In comparison, I'll bet any BLM ATV playground with similar usage racks up the same number of fatalities in a single season, often involving stupidity (alcohol, unsupervised children, lack of proper safety equipment) I don't hear demands that the BLM shut down all the off road vehicle areas or continuously police these areas to enforce safety regulations.

    We blithely continue to drive our vehicles despite the tens of thousands of highway related deaths every year, mostly because we've put it in proper perspective and accept the relatively small risk as worth the benefits of driving. Should we close all the beaches forever because of the miniscule risk of shark attacks? Should we close all golf courses because of the increased chance of getting struck by lightening?

    A fatal fall usually occurs due to a series of unlikely events, such as lack of attention followed by slipping and completely losing one's balance while in an unrecoverable position. Even the folks that run the trail for exercise are at a heightened level of awareness when surrounded by 1,500 sheer cliffs. I know a death under these circumstances connects with us at a gut level, and I'm not opposed to the reasonable precautions that are already being made to warn people what they're getting into. I think even without the signs the risks are clear enough. I tried taking my wife along once, and she could tell it was too much for her acrophobia before we got to the first switchback. Anyone who proceeds in the face of inclement weather or disregards even basic safety precautions is just oblivious. The risk of falling is right before your eyes! So please, no more requests to close this spectacular trail.

  • Reader Participation Day: What Aspect(s) of the National Park System Do You Want to Read More About?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Are there any forums y'all currently use that I could join up with?

    Yosemite National Park
    Glacier National Park
    Rocky Mountain National Park

    "...adventure without regard to prudence, profit, self-improvement,
    learning or any other serious thing" -Aldo Leopold-

  • Next Time You're In D.C., Check Out Teddy's Island   5 years 29 weeks ago

    It is a cool place - and I am thankful to have so far missed any close encounters with the big snakes. I hope everyone who does get to go enjoys it!

  • National Parks Second Century Commission Releases Its Final Report   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I agree with the conclusions of the panel. From an economic standpoint, there is a great multiplier effect with the National Parks. The parks are certainly one of America's great treasures.

  • Reader Participation Day: What Aspect(s) of the National Park System Do You Want to Read More About?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I definitely understand that. I can see that there's really probably only a good dozen people here that would regularly post. And yes, wonderful spam. Are there any forums y'all currently use that I could join up with?

  • Reader Participation Day: What Aspect(s) of the National Park System Do You Want to Read More About?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Marshall and Dave,

    We did offer forums not too long ago, and ran into two problems:

    1. Few people interested in parks visited them.

    2. Spammers visited them often and created havoc.

    We are redoubling our efforts to see if there's a way to block these spammers, but as it was, it became too much effort for little if any return.

  • Dog Owner Cited After Pit Bull Attacks a Deer at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Use that can of Counter Assault in most NPS areas (save areas where bear spray is specifically allowed), and you could be cited for illegal possession/use of a restricted weapon. Perhaps the dog owner gets charged with a violation of leash laws.

  • Art in the Park: The Return of the Condor   5 years 29 weeks ago


    Yikes, you're exactly right! Not sure where that came from, but I've made the correction. Thanks for the catch :-)

  • Art in the Park: The Return of the Condor   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I realize that a local Congressman is trying to get a National Park designation, but as far as I can tell, it's still Pinnacles National Monument.

  • Dog Owner Cited After Pit Bull Attacks a Deer at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Any dog running at me will promptly be sprayed with Counter Assault! Not being a dog person the idea of taking my pet on vacation with me and the restrictions and limitations it would put on me wouldn't be worth it. I am sensitive however that others don't feel the same way. Regardless, be courteous and keep your dog on a leash!

    I recall many years ago, a dog jumping into one of the hot pools in Yellowstone and the owner jumped in after him to save him. Needless to say, they both died.

  • Backcountry Hiker Falls 300 Feet To His Death in Grand Teton National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    It should be known that Eliot was a very experienced hiker and climber, it seemed to me as if he was trying to hike every great natural wonders of this country and even the world. He was a true rugged outdoorsman, and had plenty of experience from his geosciences background. Unfortunately this was not enough to prevent whatever happened up there, it may have been a careless fall. I hope it is a lesson to everyone reading, planning trips, and adventuring out there that no matter how far you've gone, however much experience you have, you can never be too careful. Eliot was a joy and a true lover of the amazing wonders of this world. His energy, passions, and laughter will not be forgotten. Hopefully it can be a warning to everyone to always double check themselves. While many people have said to me "he died doing what he loved" that is simply not a fair way to go.

  • Going to Denali National Park? Check Ahead – the First Serious Snow of the Winter Has Fallen   5 years 29 weeks ago

    My wife and I recently returned from a cruise to southeastern Alaska. There was a distinct hint of winter in the air. It comes early and fast around Denali. Pretty soon they will be able to shift from the wheeled cart to a real sled for exercising the park dog team.

  • A Tough Week for Hikers and Mule Riders at Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Cindy H--

    Glad you are recovering!

  • The Hunt for Red (and Yellow) October. It's Officially Fall - Let the Quest for Color Begin!   5 years 29 weeks ago

    This is one area where the midwest really puts the Pacific Northwest to shame. I haven't seen it in fall but Effigy Mounds is supposed to be cool for fall colors.

    Devil's Lake (WI State Park and an NPS Affiliated area) is also supposed to be good

  • Reader Participation Day: What Aspect(s) of the National Park System Do You Want to Read More About?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I reckon Marshall Dillon has the best suggestion of a forum.

  • A Tough Week for Hikers and Mule Riders at Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 29 weeks ago

    regarding the mule accident on may 5, 2009: i am the woman who went over the cliff with the mule. he tripped and fell. i did not pull him over. there are witnesses to that fact.
    i broke several bones. e.g, ankle, leg, ribs, wrist, shoulder and fractured c1 and c2.
    i am blessed that there was a retired emt person and a wilderness first responder on the trail. they stabelize my neck and other various injuries. i practically fell at thier feet!
    i was at flagstaff medical center for 9 days, then flew to a rehab facility in california.
    the short haul rescue and subsequent medical care at both facilities was amazing. following a lot of physical and occupational therapy i am blessed to be up and around again. are things back to normal? no. will they ever be? i hope so.
    i too would like to know what has happened to the mule. in my opinion it was not the mules fault that he went down.

  • Reader Participation Day: What Aspect(s) of the National Park System Do You Want to Read More About?   5 years 29 weeks ago

    I'd love a forum. Is there a forum for all concerned about the NPS that many of you visit? I'd love to have even more info, and have a place to ask off-topic questions. A forum being added to this site would be phenomenal, but I know that would perhaps take away from what you're trying to do here, Kurt. Do you have a public one that you visit? I have spent days and days browsing the forums, and love it, but I'd love to get that passion and excitement from all over the country, not just Y-net.

  • The Hunt for Red (and Yellow) October. It's Officially Fall - Let the Quest for Color Begin!   5 years 29 weeks ago

    Heh. We've been looking at fall colors here in Denali for almost six weeks now. They were beautiful this year, especially from the air, pic's really don't do it justice. For me it is the tundra colors that set us apart from anywhere in the lower 48. It is mostly over now with some stubborn aspen and birch leaves hanging on underneath the snow that fell Monday night. My wife and I will be in Anchorage this weekend which is in a completely different weather zone and hope to catch them all over again!