Recent comments

  • Picking a Lot of Apples This Day Helps Keep the Bears Away in Yosemite National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Are Our National Parks No Longer for the People?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 28 weeks ago


    They're both BLM units, not NPS.

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • National Park Mystery Photo 12 Revealed: It's Voyageurs National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

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

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

  • Fall From Tokopah Falls Kills Visitor to Sequoia National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

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

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

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

  • Where in the World is Paul Fugate?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Should Anything Be Done With Angel's Landing?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Picking a Lot of Apples This Day Helps Keep the Bears Away in Yosemite National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Did You Hear the One About President Obama's Trip To Yellowstone National Park?   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Heat Claims the Life of Boy Stranded for Five Days in Isolated Area of Death Valley National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

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

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I did Half Dome about 6 years ago at the age of 47. I would only comment that from the bottom of the cables, you do not realize that what you can see at the bottom is only half of the ascent and that it gets much steeper as you go along. I think this misleads some people. The only warning sign is about the weather. I think a sign stating how many have fallen to their deaths since a certain date in time might at least jolt a few parents that this is no place for young children. A warning that better than average arm strength will be required might help as well. By all means, do NOT take down the cables. I consider that hike one of the top thrills of my life and I'm sure I'm not the only one. People should be allowed to assess the risk and proceed at their own risk.

  • Heat Claims the Life of Boy Stranded for Five Days in Isolated Area of Death Valley National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    When I visited DV a few years ago, there was a survival story from a few years back from the local paper posted prominently at the Furnace Creek Visitors Center. Family of 5, car broke down in the back country. They waited 1 day and when no one came by, they knew they would soon run out of water. They waited until dusk, dad put his youngest on his shoulders, and they took off walking back the way they came. They eventually made it out to a road where someone came by and found them. If this mother and son could have managed 3 mi/hr, they could have covered 30 miles in 10 hours. I know you're tought to stay put when lost, and that's sage advice over 95% of the time. But when you're looking at blistering heat and a dwindling water supply, that rule does not always apply. Compound that with the fact that you told no one specifically where you were going and when you would be back. As for the dog, it was a dachsund. A small dog with little fur could likely survive on minimal water resting under the vehicle.

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 28 weeks ago

    You're right, Nick. Death Valley is certainly not the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere. That distinction is held by San Julian's Great Depression in Argentina (which is also the lowest point in the Southern Hemisphere). At 105 meters below sea level, San Julian's beats Death Valley's Badwater site by a whopping 19 meters.

  • The New National Parks Index: 2009-2011 is Now Available Online   5 years 28 weeks ago

    And, it's got a mistake... (well, at least one mistake)...

    Death Valley is not the lowest point in the Western Hemisphere! That was *so* 1995.

  • Half Dome Hiker Falls to His Death in Yosemite   5 years 28 weeks ago

    The NPS folks do a GREAT JOB! The problem is that there has been an increase in individual stupidity, lack of hike preparation, and inability to recognize personal safety concerns.

  • Heat Claims the Life of Boy Stranded for Five Days in Isolated Area of Death Valley National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Most unfortunate and tragic incident to say the least. Perhaps a little education by watching some of these outdoor survival shows could possibly enhance ones knowledge on the practicality and basic application of outdoor survival skills. I keep thinking too many Americans are watching silly sitcom shows and getting fat like a couch potato, instead should be watching something more worthwhile like a good documentary film on outdoor camping skills and etiquette. A good book or two on such matters could possibly save ones life. Being outdoors is a total learning experience but don't the learn the hard way and be foolish enough not to know where your water resources are and basic needs.