Recent comments

  • To Work, To Work, Off We Go To Work   5 years 41 weeks ago

    @Frank: You really believe that, do you? And your economic theories aren't shattered by the recent developments, right?

    Fact is: The CCC created values. Values that we still use because they still enhance our National Parks, National Monuments, National Recreation Areas and about 800 State Parks that were created in the first place by the CCC. They build roads and installed tens of thousands miles of telephone lines in rural areas. They preserved soils in the Dust Bowl by planting trees (OK, I admit that some of them were tamarisks that are giving us trouble now). They put up around 8 million man-days fighting fires in National Forests, preserving primary forests and the wealth in timber.

    The CCC kept up the work ethics of the participants, who came from families where no one in the whole family did any work, had any reason to get up in the morning. In Chicago the crime rate dropped by 55% with the introduction of the program and a judge attributed that exclusively to the CCC. The participants got healthy and enough food, health care, trained their skills and furthered their education. Some 40.000 illiterates learned to read and write while in the CCC. After 1937 all camps had courses in a variety of topics, some up to College level.

    The direct economic stimulus was distributed between the rural areas where the camps were located and the urban centers where the participants came from, because from their salary the participants kept only a nominal part and at least $25 per month had to be send to the families at home. Imagine what those $300 per family and year did to the local businesses.

    Frankly: I doubt there was any better way to spend the costs of around $1000 per Person.

  • This Park Combines Scenery and History on a Desert Island   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Precipitation isn't the issue. They're the Dry Tortugas because there aren't any fresh water sources on the islands. You have to capture and store rainwater artificially (in cisterns, traditionally) or ship fresh water in from the mainland.

  • To Work, To Work, Off We Go To Work   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I worked atop a CCC lookout built in the late 1930s. The CCC craftsmanship was durable, and the character or work ethic of the men employed are not at issue.

    The fundamental issue is that the CCC was an expensive decade-long program that failed to "create jobs", failed to improve the economy, and failed to "get us out of the Depression".

    Government does not have the ability to "create" jobs; they can merely transfer resources. During the Great Depression, government artificially kept wage rates high, which caused under- and unemployment. Unemployment rates were high throughout the 1930s, so we can not attribute the "creation of jobs" to public works.

    While some benefited from public works (those workers and public lands), the government allocated resources to a non-productive sector. Before arguing "creation of jobs" as being productive, remember that government paid those workers either through taxes, which is simply redistribution--not creation--of wealth, or inflation--the debasement of the currency; the first steals from the rich, the second robs the poor and middle class.

    Lookouts, trails, and benches are all nice, but their creation did not increase the industrial productivity of Depression-era society. In fact, these programs likely decreased productivity, increased unemployment, and prolonged the Depression.

  • This Park Combines Scenery and History on a Desert Island   5 years 41 weeks ago

    What makes this a "desert" island? Is there a lack of rain? Do you mean "deserted"?

  • Earthquakes Continuing to Rattle Yellowstone National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    The earthquakes have subsided - at least that's the latest news. The commentary on it in the blogosphere has not.

    The whole reaction to this thing has been very funny to me, though I'm starting to get bored with it (record visits to my Web site newspaper aside).

    Even so, I didn't notice any less winter traffic in the park yesterday (except less buffalo traffic).

    We had a delightful time cross country skiing in the park, and the only earthquake I felt was the one caused by me falling!

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World

  • Weekly Snowshoe Treks Coming to Glacier National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Some of my best days during the time I worked at Glacier were in the winter, and snowshoes are a great way to get out and about in that park during this season of the year.
    This is a wonderful idea for a program, and I hope visitors will take advantage of the opportunity.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Thanks for the tips, treehugger99; I like the TR pics, too. This kind of feedback is very helpful to me!

    I wish I had lots of time to spend on Wetherill Mesa during our scheduled visit to Mesa Verde. Alas, I won't, and there's another problem too. Long House and Step House, two of the Wetherill Mesa attractions you mentioned, are open to the public only on a seasonal basis. And dammit, they'll both be closed during my visit in early May.

    Forgive me, but I have a very tough time deciding when it's OK to use Anasazi and when I should use Ancestral Puebloans. Though I'm inclined to use the former in Traveler context, I use the latter in my teaching. Here's what I tell my students (quoted from my assigned reading module for Mesa Verde NP):

    The early residents of the 30,000 square-mile Four Corners Area of the Colorado Plateau (which includes Mesa Verde) are commonly referred to as Anasazi, a Navajo word that is commonly translated as “ancient ones.” However, contemporary indigenous descendants of the Mesa Verde inhabitants, the modern day Pueblo Indians (mostly Hopi and Zuni), dislike the term Anasazi and consider it foreign (being of Navajo derivation) and pejorative. They prefer the term “Ancestral Puebloan.” Since there are inconsistencies in the published literature – and in some Park Service publications, for that matter – there appears to be room for legitimate differences of opinion. Out of respect for the viewpoint of the contemporary indigenous descendants, and at the risk of some confusion, Ancestral Puebloans (or Ancestral Puebloan People) will be used herein to refer to the Pre-Columbian inhabitants of Mesa Verde.

    Incidentally, the first documented use of the term Anasazi in reference to the Mesa Verde ruins/culture was by Richard Wetherill ca. 1888.

  • To Work, To Work, Off We Go To Work   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Actually, the CCC did some beautiful work in the Parks that has mostly endured and seldom been equalled since by the National Park Service. I'll bet they could lay a water line that would not need replacing several times a decade as has the one at Paradise, Mt. Rainier. Judging by the photo, the vegetative impacts look to be about the same though. The proposed new program might do alright if the Army ran it again instead of the NPS. And what could be more socialist than the idea of National Parks?

  • To Work, To Work, Off We Go To Work   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I just can't wait to revisit American socialism at its finest. No one can allocate scarce resources like a centralized bureaucracy. It'll be just like the 1930's all over again. Sounds like a party to me. Everyone grab a shovel and let's dig right in!

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Hi Bob. I'll chime in with some suggestions.

    Climbing the dunes at Great Sand Dunes is hard work, but it's great fun. It just about killed my Chicago lungs. If you get high enough, you can feel the dunes vibrate when the wind hits the resonant frequency.

    Mea Verde is a true natural treasure. I learned a lot about the Anasazi (now called Ancestral Pueblos in these pc times). You'll definitely want to tour the major dwellings and spend some time in the museum. But my best memory is the time I spent hiking around on Wetherill Mesa. That's the road less taken, as most people follow the other fork in the road. Wetherill has a couple of big dwellings (Long House and Step House). After touring those, I just hiked the trails. There are some digs that illustrate the dwellings during the period when they lived on top of the mesa. It's an easy hike - very flat and never too far from a tram stop. On a Friday afternoon last summer, I had the mesa to myself. It was easy for the mind to wander - and to realize that it must have been a pretty good place to live back in the day.

    I'll give another thumbs up to TR Natl. Park. Make sure to give yourself enough time to visit both units. One thing that was a bit disconcerting as a camper was that the bison have full access to all areas - even the campground. I was used to other parks (like Wind Cave) that keep them out of the campground. In the northern unit of TR, they were in the campground constantly. The rangers told us that they were perfectly safe, and they wouldn't trample through our tents. Then there were a few times when a full herd showed up to graze, and a complement of park rangers showed up to monitor the situation (in case it became perfectly unsafe suddenly). During the night as I tried to sleep, I'd hear the bison snorting as they moved around my tent. Oh well, it's better than bears, I guess. Don't miss the sunset at Wind Canyon. And you can check out my photos of the wild horses here:

    http://homepage.mac.com/russr/PhotoAlbum42.html

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   5 years 41 weeks ago

    I thought this was an interesting observation on the matter from libertarian columnist Lew Rockwell:

    Now a bunch of academic and media propagandists for federal power want to stop Wal-Mart from bringing low prices and great products to the working people of Orange County, Virginia. What is their excuse? The store is to be in a strip shopping mall one mile from a Civil War killing place. The deathfield, where 50,000 defenders defeated 100,000 invaders, is said to be "hallowed ground." But Wal-Mart is not (and cannot) build there. However, the shopping area is also "hallowed" because it was an assembly zone for the aggressors. Can't have it turned to commerce, a life-building activity disdained by left-wing intellectuals.

  • Glen Canyon Marina Fire Damage Estimate: $3-$5 Million   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Where was Hall's Crossing Security Team providing 24 hour security which is offset by our mooring fees? Why was it that the call happened to come from a couple who happened to be staying on their boat? Why did it take 45 minutes for NPS @ Bullfrog to respond? - Shouldn't Hall's also have the same fire prevention/security messures - ARAMARK needs to address these concerns. Luckily - there was an owner on the premise or all of the boats and marina facilities (on the water) would have been destroyed. One last thing - I know that times are quiet this time of year - with the nice housing facilities NPS has at Hall's - you would think at least a skeleton crew would be at the property.

  • Earthquakes Continuing to Rattle Yellowstone National Park   5 years 41 weeks ago

    Besides the 3 supereruptions that have occurred at Yellowstone in the last couple million years, there have also been far-larger numbers of 'lesser' but still important and sometimes major eruptions. For example, in the last 14,000 years of the current Holocene Era, there have been 20 large explosive events.

    It for sure would not take a supereruption, to put Yellowstone at the center of national attention. A 'normal' eruption could really shake things up, over a goodly chunk of the middle of the United States. No TV-drama necessary.

    Early on the morning of May 18, 1980, I was headed up the Little River Trail. This is on the north side of the Olympic National Park, in about the middle. A branch of the Little River divides Klahane Ridge from lesser-known Elwah Range (yes, where the dams are being removed). Both are northern spurs off Hurricane Ridge, site of the most famous & heavily-used destination-facility in Olympic.

    Along the lower part of the trail, Little River is just a creek, and is only there because of the precipitous chasm between the 2 ridges. Further up, there is no real stream.

    Warmed up & striding along, I was suddenly locked in position by a BOOM beyond my experience. The first sound was followed others, and while standing still I felt a puff of overpressure as a shock-front moved over me. "What the Hell?!", I thought to myself.

    The immediate possible cause that I had to deal with, is that a massive land-fall may have occurred, further up the Little River chasm. Total annihilation could be coming down the canyon toward me at a 100 miles an hour. I sprinted up the trail until it climbed several hundred feet above the bottom.

    As I recovered from the run, there was more stupendous noise. Could it be the Soviets, nuking the west coast to a cinder? I fixed my gaze in the direction of our local military targets and urban centers, and watched the sky ... knowing I should already have noted the flashes, had it been nuclear explosions.

    The hair-raising racket went on & on. Could it be the Mountain - St. Helens? From here!?? That's awful close to preposterous...

    But it was the mountain, of course. And my cousin and his brother had gone down there to 'have a look'. They had gone out the ridge-trail that is now the favored view-site (Dave is a DNR forester, and knew this short hike had the best view).

    Much of the blast deflected off the ridge they were on, and passed overhead (this site is well-within the zone of total destruction, but avoided the worst). Like me, at first they were confused by what was happening. It was not what they expected. But then it started to get dark. They started running. Then stuff started to fall on them, and it was getting really dark. They stopped, got under some trees and huddled beneath their gear.

    Dave does some fairly gnarly things as a forester, and is an advanced fire-fighter as well. With a glint in his eye he confides, "You know how we wonder sometimes, 'What if this tree jumps off the stump and squishes my guts out?' - can I handle it?" If I'm gonna die - can I deal with it ok? Well, now I know the answer." Big smile.

    By now, they realized it was the mountain, ash (and rock) was starting to get deep, and they were going to be buried. They found their flashlights, improvised their gear as overhead shields, hustled to the trailhead and abused their vehicle severely escaping the mountain.

    Remember, St. Helens was a fair small, if nicely-spectacular eruption ... and unbeknownst to me, my mother had headed from Olympia toward Spokane, and was overtaken by the main ashfall path, like me & Dave, at first having no idea what was happening.

  • Violent Deaths in the National Parks   5 years 42 weeks ago

    The people who will be allowed to carry firearms for self defense in the National Parks are the law abiding majority of responsible citizens. These are not people who act in a careless manner. Rational and reasonable citizens can be in possession of a firearm, a knife, an axe, a saw, explosives, or even a motor vehicle without endangering others. News articles and statistics are unnecessary to see that persons who take responsibility for their defense are not inclined to be negligent or incompetent. There is no possible way for the NPS rangers to provide protection to all the citizens who visit the parks, just as there is no way for law enforcement in other areas to be able to keep people from harm. This nation was founded on self reliance, and our national character is defined by individual liberty. If you think the "government" can protect you, then you are fooling yourself. If you want to be so foolish as to not defend yourself, so be it. Just don't try to deny the smart people their right to a proactive defense. All the worst crimes occur where citizens are denied the right to be armed. When the crazies and the criminals know an area is a "gun free" zone it means, to them, a safe target rich environment where they can do their dirty deeds without adequate opposition.

  • Glen Canyon Marina Fire Damage Estimate: $3-$5 Million   5 years 42 weeks ago

    well said, and nice profile, too! ;^)

  • Upon Further Review - Let Sleeping Snakes Lie   5 years 42 weeks ago

    Paul -

    Thanks for sharing your own story. Glad you saw the tail and not the head!

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 42 weeks ago

    There were tour packages which included free admission for children. 16 pounds was 32 bucks back then, but my anger for the exchange rate was directed not at Britons, but at the Federal Reserve and our government for continued currency devaluation; our $600 "stimulus" (read: inflation) check went to offset the exchange. But entrance fees need not be any higher than they currently are in US national parks. With increased revenue from retail and lodging, entrance fees would not need to be increased; they might actually decrease.

    Glad to see some of the Diamond Trading Company's ill-gotten profits go toward a good cause.

    What's so bad about saving or investing your money?

    What's so bad about private dinners or weddings held in historic buildings? An unused building is not a productive building.

    Better to drag one's feet on paying bills than to forcibly take money from others or to print money to pay the bills.

    Trusts have to deal with the hard reality of economics. National parks have to deal with the harsh reality of politics. I prefer the first option.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 42 weeks ago

    Frank,

    Interesting concept, but.....

    ...You paid 16 pounds per ticket, which works out (today) to about $46 and change for the two of you to tour the Tower. So a family of four could be expected to pay between $75-$100 just to gain entrance for one day? So you're OK with denying access to Americans, whose taxes go a good ways to supporting the National Park System (in theory), who balk at such pricing?

    ...The non-profit partners with the Diamond Trading Company, aka De Beers, and a private investing firm to achieve its financial goals, so the business isn't entirely self-supporting.

    ...The report is a bit cryptic, but it seems to indicate they stage private events in the Tower (and other properties) to defray costs. Now, I realize some park units lease out their facilities for events, but I don't think for a profit.

    ...They are dragging their feet on paying bills:

    During 2007/08 55% of supplier invoices were paid within 30 days of date of invoice (60% in 2006/07) and 71% within 40 days (76% in 2006/07).

    ...Four of their staff were paid between $159,000 and $174,000 annually, 12 made nearly $87,000. The CEO made $202,000+ this past year, an increase of $10,000+ from the year before (an increase of roughly 5% in salary, plus another 3.6% in pension benefits). It's unclear what the salary ranges of the rest of the staff of 564 were, so it's hard without further sleuthing to compare this salary structure to that of an American concessionaire.

    All that said, I'm in favor of searching for a better business model. I just don't think it's easily attainable due to the scale involved with the National Park System.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 42 weeks ago

    Kurt, to answer your question let me tell you a story.

    I visited the Tower of London in June. I paid about 16 pounds for an adult ticket, and all of that money went to the Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity that receives no government support. My wife and I toured the castle all day long, and at lunch, we were famished from exploring the castle's well-preserved nooks and crannies. We ate a modest but high-quality lunch at a cafe integrated into a historical building. It was nice knowing that 100% of our food purchase went to maintain the castle. During our roving, we encountered countless interpreters, some dressed in period costume, who were very knowledgeable and helpful. On our way out, we stopped at the gift shop and picked up some affordable high-quality, full-color, gloss tour books. I felt good about the purchase because I knew that my money was my vote for maintaining the castle and all of my money would stay with the castle.

    Skim the Historical Royal Palaces' Trustees' Report if you would like to see how national parks could be operated in America.

  • Upon Further Review - Let Sleeping Snakes Lie   5 years 42 weeks ago

    Paul? You mean your name is really not Barky?

  • Upon Further Review - Let Sleeping Snakes Lie   5 years 42 weeks ago

    Clever! Yep, they're pretty lucky folks. I didn't realize reptilian suspended animation existed either!

    Here's my own NPS snake story: http://americaincontext.wordpress.com/2008/08/16/chiricahua-national-monument/. Obviously I survived ;-).

    ========================================================================

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 42 weeks ago

    Geez, Alexander, Happy New Year to you, too!

    I don't see where I was telling a "sob story" at all. All I was merely pointing out (after noting that I was not taking a stand one way or another on the business practices of concessionaires) was that the Jacobs family had very American roots but because they succeeded at their business (under the rules of the game, by the way) they were being ridiculed. You might say they succeeded because of "Our Great Country" and the opportunities it offers.

    And really, it's not federal dollars that are keeping DNC in business. It's the dollars out of the pockets of Yosemite visitors. True, the federal government technically owns the structures that DNC runs its operations out of, and is responsible for most of the upkeep beyond the 17-20 percent (if that's the correct percentage) that DNC must send back to the government. But if the rooms weren't full, if the restaurants weren't busy, if the gift shops weren't crowded, DNC wouldn't be there.

    And if you've been following the state of the National Park System, you know the government's not doing the best job in maintaining those facilities. Indeed, as I understand it one of the reasons the DNCs, Xanterras and ARAMARKS of the world have little competition for park concession contracts is because 1) the rate of return is so low and/or 2) smaller companies just don't have the financial wherewithal to survive in a highly seasonal market with rundown facilities.

    If it weren't for government oversight, would it be too hard to assume that concessionaires likely would invest more heavily to upgrade these facilities and pass the cost on to the taxpayers in the form of higher rates (and possibly pay their employees more, but that's just speculation). And then taxpayers would be howling that the government isn't doing enough to make national parks affordable. So which model would you prefer?

    Suffice to say that the intricacies of the national park concessions market are too many to distill in a few short graphs.

    And finally, Alexander, before you measure me for a coffin, know that sometimes, just sometimes, I take an approach to spur dialog, not to hold it out as my strongly held personal view.

    Frank, I follow your point re the transfer of wealth but, sadly, it too is the American way, is it not?. Standard Oil might have been the model. Wall Street firms are only the latest iteration. And what did public outrage in light of those bloated salaries and insane bonuses produce? Some of the fat cats are going to forgo their year-end 2008 bonuses. Gosh. It might be said that we (America) are victims of our own success, no?

    As for DNC's pay practices, are they not the industry standard? Wal-Mart might have perfected the use of retirees as door greeters, but if you look around many park concession operations you'll see retirees working the tills, as well as young (low-paid) college students interested in an adventure before they get serious with life and, of late, Eastern Europeans or Asians looking to solidify a foot in the U.S. (To be fair, I understand some operations offer benefit packages and 401Ks, but I don't know the extent of those or how widespread (up and down the pay scale or throughout the operation) that practice is.)

    I'm not endorsing that model in the least. In a way it's not too far removed from the Park Service's move to use volunteers, seasonals and outsourcing to replace full-time rangers, a practice I've long criticized. Unfortunately, it seems to be what society is tolerating.

    And really, isn't what's transpiring with the concessions companies simply free-market economics? If the market balked at their rates and their employment practices, wouldn't that lead to change or failure?

    Beyond all that, though, what model would you suggest replace the concessions companies? Should the federal government buy out the DNCs and Xanterras of the world and hand the businesses over to non-profits? And if so, where would the government find the hundreds of millions (small billions?) and the non-profits fully capable of running such businesses to do so?

    And let's not overlook that non-profits have been known to overpay their top executives (I believe the head of the Boy Scouts gets nearly $1 million annually) while the minions far below are volunteers. Some university trusts pay their managers exorbitant salaries and bonuses. I would suggest the situation in the parks you decry is not that far removed from what's going on in the rest of America's business sectors.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 42 weeks ago

    I was the ranger at Badger for a couple winters. There is a lot of park history tied up in downhill skiing at the park. I am inclined to vote for keeping it as a low-key, family-oriented place. It's also a great jumping off point for day ski tours to Dewey Pt. and longer overnight tours to Glacier Point and the Ostrander ski hut.

    I'll leave the argument about concessions, capitalism, corporate-bashing and what constitutes success to other posters.

    Rick Smith

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 42 weeks ago

    Thanks for the reminder to include the smaller, less visited national parks in our travel plans, dlmatz. We try to remind Traveler readers about these opportunities, even though we do focus more of our attention on the larger, more popular parks. BTW, our regular readers may recall that I wrote a rather lengthy article about http://www.nationalparkstraveler.com/2008/08/allegheny-portage-railroad-national-historical-site-commemorates-great-achievement-early-tra]Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS last August. We'll try to work in an article about Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site at some early opportunity, too.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 42 weeks ago

    My sincere thanks to readers who've offered encouragement and suggestions for my 2009 parks-visiting itinerary. Since I managed to go through 2008 without adding a single new national park to my "been there, done that" list, I have very high hopes for a breakthrough year.

    Barky, I've only seen a few wild horses, but the memories really stand out. The idea that I'll see some more at TR makes me even more convinced that a visit is long overdue.

    I'll keep my camera handy when I'm there, too. I can see from Kirby's photos (which I heartily encourage everyone to peruse) that the TR viewscape is really special.

    Kurt's invitation to do some park-trekking in Utah is mighty hard to pass up, and not just because I intend to do some serious freeloading at his house. I've visited Bryce Canyon and Zion, but I've yet to set foot in Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef, and several other Utah parks that I've longed to see.

    Good luck to you and your wife, Arlan. Having 17 more National Parks to look forward to is a blessing. You'll feel a bit on the melancholy side when you've visited that last one.

    Thanks for the Navajo National Monument suggestion, Tahoma. Alas; even though my personal quest for the Ancestral Puebloans can't be complete without a visit there, a side trip to Arizona can't be fitted into my Colorado itinerary this May.

    I've already visited Great Basin, dWalker. Well, sort of; it just wasn't a national park yet when I was there. Guess I'd better go back to make it a legitimate visit.

    Brett, your mention of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison puts me in mind of an amusing thing that happened when sandy and I visited there about 25 years ago (that's long before the redesignation). After spending the night in Montrose, we breakfasted and hit the road. Imagine our shock when we realized that we were being followed by several dozen police cars. They proceeded to pass us, one after the other, at breakneck speed -- zoom! zoom! zoom! Our rental car was practically rocking back and forth in the wake of those speeding vehicles. After about the 15th or so, I stopped counting. Later, we realized what was going on. The previous day there had been a funeral for a Montrose policeman who had been shot and killed in the line of duty. The cops in those speeding vehicles were on their way home after attending the funeral and spending the night in Montrose. As you may know, representatives from near and far are sent to funerals held for cops killed in the line of duty.