Recent comments

  • Ill-Advised Leap from a Bluff Leads to a Challenging Rescue at Buffalo National River   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I just found this good article and felt impelled to comment. Please forgive the introductory dialogue, but it helps explain a 180 degree perspective on this terrible accident. I happened to be in those woods that night and provided 911 the location information they were seeking. I have copied here a message I sent to a close friend:

    We had fun sort of. The trip was full of “challenges”. We got a late start Friday, but got to the trail head in time to be on schedule by Sunday. This means we still had plenty of time to hike 10.8 miles by Sunday, camping anywhere each night that looked good to us.

    The plan was to drop off both mules and all packs (people backpacks and mule packs) at the starting point, then 3 out of 7 of us took the two vehicles to the end point to drop off one truck and horse trailer at the end, returning in the other truck to the starting point. By road, the end point was only 5.3 miles from the starting point. But that 5.3 mile road had a horribly wet, muddy, steep hairpin turn going downhill toward the end point. We got the vehicles to the endpoint, but had to drive an hour on other roads back to the starting point because the 5.3 mile road was not passable going uphill, even with 4 wheel drive.

    So, we hit the trail much later than expected. We camped about 1 mile down the trail and finished dinner about 11pm. Right after that someone started yelling at us from out in the woods. After some very hesitant yelling dialogue, we found that it was a young man (early 20’s) alone with a prosthetic leg, totally lost. He didn’t have a map and didn’t even know what river and park he was in or near. He was very fear stricken. He had been with 8 other people way down the mountain from where we were at some water falls when one of his friends fell 70 feet out of a tree. The other 7 people were still with the victim, with no cell service down there. After some discussion, we figured out they were at the Hemmed-In Hollow Falls. There was cell service at our location and he called 911 and I gave him all the information on his current location and the location of his friends. Then, Doyle and I walked him up to a trail junction and showed him which way to go to get back to the trail head where he and friends had parked and where the emergency services were going. Soon after, a large helicopter made two passes over Hemmed-In Hollow with a bright slight shining down into the woods, below us down the mountain. We saw no more activity. I don’t know what time it was by then.

    At about 4am, I woke up and for some reason realized I didn’t remember locking my truck at the trail head. I checked and couldn’t find my keys. I woke up my 16 year old son who was in a one-man tent and asked him to go back to the trail head with me to check on the truck. So, we hiked the mile back up to the truck and the parking lot was full of emergency vehicles – police cars, park ranger vehicles, EMT’s, volunteers. Someone met us as we came out of the woods. There were 21 men down at Hemmed-In Hollow and they had the victim “packaged” and ready for evacuation. They were taking him to Henderson House down by the river for pickup by helicopter after day break. Bringing the victim back up hill, total of 3.7 miles of trail would have been nearly impossible because some parts are difficult when carrying nothing.

    Oh, we did find my truck unlocked with the keys in the ignition!

    We slept until 9am Saturday, a breakfast of pancakes and sausage, packed up, and headed out a little after noon. We had already made plans to shorten the overall hike from 10.8 miles to about 8 miles by using a different trail toward the end. The mules did great! We had an older one that is very calm and a young one off the farm for the first time, but she is typically very sweet and calm and well rehearsed with the packs. She did great until we got on a half mile dirt road to connect from one trail to another. 8-10 loud trail bikes came along. When they saw us, they stopped long enough for Doyle to lead the young mule off the road and tie her to a tree. All but one of the bikes passed slowly, but one guy couldn’t get his bike restarted at first. When he finally got it started, it revved WAY up. Foxy, the older mule I had, jumped a little, but relaxed. The young mule Doyle had tied to the tree jumped about a foot into the air when the engine revved, but was OK and very scared. After the traffic was gone, Doyle untied her and as he started to return to the road, they both got tangled in a vine and Doyle tripped. The mule panicked and took off in a dead run down the road toward myself and Foxy. I lead Foxy right in front of her and she came to a screeching halt and let me take her lead rope. She was fine after that, but nervous.

    We had plans to camp that night on the last trail leading to our end point. When we got to that trail, it was marked with a “no camping” sign. So, since it was almost dark, we got on the road and hiked straight to the endpoint. By the time we did the hour drive back to the starting point to get my truck, then back to the endpoint to pick up the rest of the guys and packs, then drove home, we got to my house at 1am and Doyle got home with the mules about 2am. We ended up hiking 7 miles (two of us had 9 miles in).

    Sunday morning, we were all glad we weren’t picking up a wet camp in that freezing wind!

    Most of us had a good time. A few had very sore feet or wet feet because the trails were holding a lot of water from recent rains and were very muddy. Doyle and I were very proud of the mules performance.

    We will plan things differently and more thoroughly next time!

  • National Park Quiz 53: Castles   5 years 32 weeks ago

    As a National Park Service buff, I enjoyed your Castle quiz. I just wanted to say that the Governors Island Preservation and Education Corporation (GIPEC) owns 150 acres of the 172 acre Governors Island. The remaining acerage is administered by the National Park Service, this includes Fort Jay and Castle Williams. Castle Williams and Fort Jay are not managed by GIPEC at all, yet the National Park Service and GIPEC are both land owners on Governors Island and work together for the island's future.

    For more information please visit www.nps.gov/gois and www.govisland.com

    Thank you.

  • Mammoth Cave National Park Tours Not Affected By White-Nose Syndrome   5 years 32 weeks ago

    The U. S. Forest Service has recently taken action as well.

    On April 24, 2009, the U.S. Forest Service, Eastern Region Deputy Regional Forester signed an emergency closure order for all caves and mines on NFS lands in the Eastern Region in response to white nose syndrome.

    The USFS Eastern Region covers: Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

    Forest Service officials are very concerned about the spread of White-nose Syndrome, a malady of unknown origin that has led to the death of nearly 500,000 bats in the New England and Mid-Atlantic States. There is evidence to suggest that human visitors to infected caves can inadvertently transfer White-nose Syndrome to clean caves and mines. To help slow the spread of White-nose Syndrome to other areas of the United States, the Forest Service has joined with other agencies and caving organizations to temporarily close caves and mines on National Forests in the Eastern and Southern Regions.

    The USFS Southern Region website is currently being overhauled and is not current, so I couldn't verify the above information that the emergency closure order also applies to caves on USFS land in that area. The USFS Southern Region encompasses 13 States—from Virginia to Florida and Oklahoma – as well as Puerto Rico.

    A key question is how effective these closures will be, since enforcement relies to a large extent on voluntary compliance, but all officials can do is try.

  • Fire in the Hole! Explosives Help Uncover Fossils At Dinosaur National Monument   5 years 32 weeks ago

    An amazing process - but one that works if you have the right people involved.

    Last summer at Mount Rushmore, I was a bit surprised to learn how much of the "carving" of those famous faces, including some fairly detailed work, was accomplished with explosives.

  • Mammoth Cave National Park Tours Not Affected By White-Nose Syndrome   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Yes, the Smokies' caves were closed about a month ago.

    You can find that story by clicking here.

  • National Park Quiz 53: Castles   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Thanks for the additional info, Former. I understand that putting in an additional pipe would have cost far too much.

  • Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Scaling Back Search For Two Missing in Colorado River   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Saif Savaya, i hope everything turns out for the best. I love you man.

  • Ken Burns' National Parks Documentary: Where Does it Stand?   5 years 32 weeks ago
  • Mammoth Cave National Park Tours Not Affected By White-Nose Syndrome   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Weren't all the caves in the Smokies already closed to the public and cavers.

  • Rooms Available for The Summer At Zion National Park -- At Least Right Now   5 years 32 weeks ago

    If you go, be sure to stay in one of the historic "Western Cabins" designed by Underwood. They are fully restored, with modern touches. Very nice combination of historic charm and modern convenience. Hopefully the restaurant and service level have improved since my visit! For my photos see
    http://www.historic-hotels-lodges.com/utah/zion-lodge/zion-lodge.htm

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Jim.hiker great observation on who is really getting rescued. Before we launch into Human Error, Gross or Reckless Negligence or Intentional Rule Violator decisions the National Park Service needs to start treating our visitors like adults. When we accept responsibility for creating the nuisance in the first place and mitigate it, post appropriate warnings and honestly relay what the ramifications are if you choose to disregard the warnings we might see some folks make the right decision in the first place. Our visiting public is smarter than we give them credit for. When you are drawn like a moth to the flame towards the lava spewing into the ocean to get a glimpse of Pele you pass signs that tell you in no uncertain terms what your fate will be if you play with lava. I think most adults can figure that out. Nowhere on that hike do we accurately post the ramifications for walking on unstable terrain for 2 miles in flip flops, sandals, motorcycle boots and high heels. These unsuspecting visitors embark on the journey only to meet their fate of a serious knee or ankle injury that keeps them from their original destination. Human Error, Gross or Reckless Negligence or Intentional Rule Violator? If we spent the time and energy at this level we would decrease our SAR work load significantly. I'm all for holding people accountable for their actions, it's a tool we have and use. Clearly it's not the answer to this significant fiscal dilemma. I’m not ready to charge the public (honest error) for a rescue if we’ve not done our due diligence and as you’ve pointed out this is where we spend the majority of our time and energy.

  • National Park Quiz 53: Castles   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Re: #4 - The water for the Pelton water wheel was more than sufficient when the system was new in the late 20's, but because of aging infrastructure there is no longer sufficient water through the original water main to leave it running now like it did then ... the actual generator still works like new, the spring puts out more than enough water, it's just that the pipe just can't get enough water from the spring to the generator anymore.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I see the damage that can be done by idiots that drag their rear tire down the hills. This is what causes most of the damage. I’ve biked and hiked the same trails every weekend for years, I also carry a 357 GP100. I’ve never had a problem.

    I wish Bush would have left it alone, now it’s an issue……

    Please forgive my writing skills, I went to public school before the no child left behind initiative started….

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I climbed AL last week. The entire park was amazingly beautiful. The views from AL were spectacular but they were from many other places as well. Without a doubt, there is adrenalin climbing AL. There are a few narrow places where extra caution is required but caution is recommended on pretty much the entire trail - an accidental loss of balance or trip, even by the most experienced and prepared people, can result in an undesirable fate.

    I disagree with any suggestion that people who fall are necessarily acting foolishly - when coming down AL in several sections, I was mentally focussed, had proper hiking boots, not carrying too much, and all that was needed was for me to accidentally trip or lose my balance and I could have had an undesirable ending. Accidents happen to the most experienced and prepared.

    Although all 5 non-suspicious deaths off AL are tragic, I'm surprised there haven't been more since the park was established - that's over many decades. I think the warnings were clear. Leave these places open. Every time we hop in a vehicle or cross a street, we're put in danger but I don't see anyone saying we should ban automobiles. I think the place should be closed in icy/snowy conditions and perhaps at night. I'm not sure about kids - in groups, it's not a good idea - too much peer pressure. Although kids tend to have more physical stamina than adults, they are also less conscious of danger and generally less responsible....and often act more foolishly when in groups. I wouldn't bring my young kid up there, but that's me. Carrying a young child in a pack up there is plain stupid.

    I'd be more hesitant going up there in heavy tourist season. There are some sections where I'd want to be the only person going through them. I'm sure in summer there are far more people going up and down on many sections at the same time - I wouldn't want that. It wasn't bad when I was there.

    Enjoy the place. It's amazing. Oh, if you notice any loose post or a problem with the chain, please report it to the park officials.

  • Stranded Boaters Rescued from the "Narrows" at Zion National Park   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Lynn, what's so stupid? To kayak the narrows, to go on an adventure that involves risk? My be to risky for you and it may be to difficult for many but certainly not stupid. Stay in your car with your cocker.

  • Floods Sweeping Gateways to Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Damn, what a mess. Ice jam flooding is miserable. Sounds like Eagle and Eagle Village will need some serious help when the waters recede. Good to hear that the Park Service was able to help. I remember traveling by dog team down the frozen Yukon from Eagle. It was some of the roughest ice conditions I had ever encountered.

  • Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Scaling Back Search For Two Missing in Colorado River   5 years 32 weeks ago

    we love and miss you saif. we're all praying for you at SHHS. all there is now is hope....stay strong. <3

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I think that each SAR callout should be reviewed and if it is deemed that "recklessness" is the over riding contributing factor then there should be repercussions to the parties involved. This could be in the form of fines, community service, teaching others or some other form of "pay back" other then a total reimbursement for the SAR expense. Recklessness is determined by what a knowledgeable prudent person would be doing and equipped for given the circumstances. In an example above someone mentions the diabetic not drinking for 24 hours prior to the race and bonking out 5-6 miles into it. This is reckless behavior. People hike into the Grand Canyon NP every year with "a bottle" of water, the rangers do their best to discourage this, but there is nothing they can do to stop this kind of behavior. This is reckless behavior. Going back country skiing without the proper avalanche equipment or when the danger is High is reckless behavior. If people knew they could suffer repercussions for recklessness then maybe many would think twice before engaging in activities they are not trained for or prepared for.

    The NPS, BLM, NFS can easily come up with a cost analysis spreadsheet that can determine the cost of a SAR operation. Accountants are very good at this and make it uniform throughout the fed and state governments so that services can factor in these operations into their budgets.

    Personally, I think more SAR operations are not for the crazies or the extreme high adventure people that get the press, but for the hiker who takes the wrong turn and gets lost, the backpacker who falls and can not hike out, the kayaker who gets rolled and entangled in river debris; but I think MOST SAR operations are for people who don't think about where they are going and are not prepared properly for their outing. Some would fall into the category of recklessness, but I think most would just make it to the "stupid" category. In my opinion.

  • Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Scaling Back Search For Two Missing in Colorado River   5 years 32 weeks ago

    My condolences to the familys of these young men. It's a hard club to belong to. Anyone planning to enter the Grand Canyon on foot or by river needs to read " Over tne Edge, Death in the Grand Canyon". This book is written by Ghiglieri and Myers. National Parks are spectacualar but dangerous places. Enjoy but be prepared and educate yourself to what can go wrong.

  • Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Scaling Back Search For Two Missing in Colorado River   5 years 32 weeks ago

    I truly hope the families of these young men do not read the Comments Section of this report. Dottie

  • Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Scaling Back Search For Two Missing in Colorado River   5 years 32 weeks ago

    You shouldn't say things like that LynnBerk. You don't know what all went on. Were you there? NO. One boy may have gotten too close and fell in and the other two bravely tried to save him! Regardless of what happened must you be so insensitive? I think not. Maybe you should have listened to your mama when she told you "if you have nothing nice to say, then don't say anything at all."

  • Grand Canyon National Park Rangers Scaling Back Search For Two Missing in Colorado River   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Death by stupid. Relatives will try and find other reasons, but basically, it's death by stupid. Doesn't anyone remember when your mama warned you that if you hold your hand over an open flame, it's gonna hurt? We're not e-volving. We're de-volving.Don't run with scissors. Don't pat the bears and go, "Nice bearsie, nice bearsie.' Don't step over the rail for that one last spectacular shot (because it wll BE your last spectacular shot). Don't eat buffet eggs if they're a little green. Don't give rides to strangers unless you have an AK-47 on speed trigger. Don't believe ANYTHING Dick Cheney says. Don't open the door to strangers or anyone who says they're from the government. Don't eat pretty flowers if that's all you know about them. Don't use the thermal pools as hot tubs. Don't wear that cute two two-piece short set into the wildnerness, particularly with high heels. Don't keep the Cheetoz close in case you want a midnight snac. Jeez, do I have to go on?

  • Stranded Boaters Rescued from the "Narrows" at Zion National Park   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Nice to know stupidity is still alive and well in our national parks. We don't need to arm ourselves. We're dumb enough to kill ourselves off. But reading the story makes me remember our one trip into the Narrows--what a spectacular place. I used to think God lived in Zion. Now (nothing personal) I know She lives in Glacier. Whenever anyone's faith flags, all they need is a trip to pretty much anywhere outdoors. If you don't believe in something higher than yourself after a trip to Weeping Rock, or Glacier, or Yellowstone where my stupid 12 pounnd cocker spaniel tried to get "et" by a buffalo by barkin at it through the closed car widow, then there is no hope for you. God bless Teddy Roosevelt for his recognition of these treasures.

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    Interesting discussion on this topic. And it's surely one that will continue to pop up from time to time.

    A key problem with un-billed SARs, however, is that the NPS seemingly has no dedicated national SAR fund from which to reimburse parks for SARs. As a result, funds are redirected from elsewhere, to the detriment of those programs. And then, as Chief Ranger points out, different parks track SAR expenses differently.

    Anyone out there know why the Park Service hasn't created a dedicated SAR fund, or why parks don't follow the same paper trail in tracking their SAR expenses?

  • Billing For Search and Rescue Missions -- Yes, or No?   5 years 32 weeks ago

    A topic we can all get our teeth into. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion. Much better than guns in parks. Search and Rescue is a huge operational cost to the National Park Service. The question to bill cannot be asked nor explored until the service can accurately identify the true cost of doing this business. Of the 391 units in the National Park Service I'd 3 of them report the same. Absent a pay code for this type of work too many of our employees and volunteers provide this service without any of us knowing what the true cost is. We do not look at what we paid out the previous year and factor it into our budgets as a line item. Each unit is left up to reaching that magic goal of $500 dollars to get a major SAR account and reimbursement from the regional and national level. It's not a mystery where that funding comes from, it is however a mystery of who's smart enough to use it.

    A second issue is certification/qualification. If we look at the staff that predominantly provide search and rescue many of them spend an incredible amount of time maintaining structural fire, ems, instructor certifications and law enforcement. It's not a bad idea of professionalizing SAR, however if we do let's increase the base budget and factor that time and cost associated with it so we don't have the same 5 people taking on the work load of 15. It all comes down to supply and demand. Before those of you who provide rescue to the general public say "no" too quickly, think about where the money is coming from. If the National Park Service could provide equal reimbursement, staffing and training to all of the units that respond day in and day out to SAR missions I'd think you'd hear a resounding "No". When they don't and parks are left footing the bill it leads to one thing.....shortfalls for field staff.....and at the end of the day once again we see our front line heroes pay the price. So who really should be paying for Search and Rescue?