Recent comments

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    True indeed, the railroads exerted enormous pressure in the formative years of the National Park System to see that roads linked railheads to parks, that lodges be built so those passengers would have somewhere to sleep and eat once they reached the parks.

    But I think the "original intent" as laid out by Frank can be questioned. Indeed, there was clear intent early on that vehicles be accommodated in the parks. Interior Secretary Franklin Lane saw to that when he outlined, on May 13, 1918, essentially how the National Park Service should operate. Along with stressing that the parks "must be maintained in absolutely unimpaired form for the use of future generations," Secretary Lane noted that roads, trails and other infrastructure should be installed with attention to complementing, not detracting from, the landscape.

    Beyond that, he wrote that, "All outdoor sports which may be maintained consistently with the observation of the safeguards thrown around the national parks by law will be heartily indorsed (sic) and aided whenever possible. Mountain climbing, horseback riding, walking, motoring, swimming, boating, and fishing will ever be the favorite sports."

    Even with that understood, though, it'd be hard to disagree that industrial tourism is a constant threat to the parks' landscape and, I think it can be argued in some quarters, to the national park experience. But what is the perfect national park experience? What should it be?

    What would be a moderate approach to road construction/maintenance in the parks? Some would argue that already there's a bear minimum of roads and, at the same time, thousands and thousands and thousands of acres of wilderness or de facto wilderness in which one can escape asphalt and fumes. (Of course, there also are some roads, such as the existing Carbon River Road in Mount Rainier's northwestern corner, that nature has been trying to remove ever since it was built.)

    Without roads such as the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the Mount Carmel Road, and Yellowstone's Grand Loop Road, how many visitors would be deprived incredible vistas?

    For those who would remove roads, would they support mass transit in the form, for instance, of light rail, or should all signs of these corridors be removed?

    These are not simple questions, and I would guess -- in light of all the economic, access, and environmental issues -- there are no simple answers.

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   5 years 44 weeks ago

    This refers to use of BLM land, not National Parks land. In my area (Nevada) BLM land is being taken constantly for housing, retail and manufacturing. Is drilling more obtrusive (noisy, smelly, brightly lit) than that?

    I am a lover and user of our National Parks. So many people with opinions about the use of it NEVER use it! In my travels I have seen we have saved these beautiful areas mostly for foreign travelers. And ME!

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway was built for the expressed purpose of linking Zion, from the east, to both Bryce Canyon N.P. and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This massive project was undertaken with a lot of pressure from the Union Pacific Railroad which had built lodges and other facilities at these parks and was anxious to have better roads on which to operate their fleet of tour buses out of their Cedar City railhead. It was all about maximizing corporate profits and the federal government sold it to the Utah locals as a way of bringing much needed "development" into their backward corner of Mormondom.

    Just like all other corporatist government interventions, be it the TVA, NPS or the Bureau of Reclamation, it is was an unnatural injection of imperial capital into a far-flung section of the empire that would never have had the means, intention or desire to undertake it with local resources. Just like the Roman aqueducts you see dotting remote sections of Spain and France, these massive public works are examples of what Wilhelm Röpke aptly termed the "cult of the colossal."

    These gigantic projects were far more than measures to bring electricity, agriculture or tourist development into rural areas but symbolized the mighty power of central government planning and the war on private initiative. In this way the 20th-century American federal government and European fascism were little different in their outlook and tone when it came to constructing these outsized monuments to their vision of a grand and glorious empire stamping its mighty and indomitable will upon the landscape. Look upon my works and tremble.

    Today millions of visitors use this road annually to access the parks and monuments of this region and it would extremely unpopular to close it down and let the Clear Creek/Pine Creek drainage revert back to its natural state. The genie is clearly out of the bottle and the industrial tourism that was spawned by it must continue unabated.

    I agree with Frank C. though. This is one of Zion's most spectacular sections and deserves better than a road clogged with RV's carved through its magnificence.

    Just one dude's opinion.

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Rick, your comments suggest that you don't consider that initial ascent a cut and dried example of unethical climbing. If that's your opinion, I agree with you. Harding and Caldwell put that route up in 1970 (spending 27 straight days on the wall) at a time when clean ("leave no trace") climbing was just starting to gain traction as an ethical requirement and the necessary gear lacked the variety and dependability that climbers take for granted today. Anyway, Harding was a crusty character who frankly didn't give a damn what other people thought of his methods, his gear, or just about anything else you care to name.

  • Election 2008: Fearless Forecasts, Foregone Conclusions, and Prescient Prognostications   5 years 44 weeks ago

    When it comes to Steamtown, I'd endorse another left-leaning policy.... "Mend It, Don't End It..."

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Jim:

    Thank you for your level response; it is very much appreciated.

    Over the last few years, I have forced myself to become more moderate on my outlook on roads and vehicles in parks. (I think it moderate, for instance, to close East Rim Drive at Crater Lake to auto traffic. Or Zion's east side for that matter. There are still plenty of opportunities for motoring remaining. These measures would not create a situation where someone would have to undertake "50 mile hike into the wilderness", as some have absurdly proposed.) However, I think it is important to point out the double standard among environmentalists and park enthusiasts when it comes to CO2 production, mining, and other activities that impact parks and the environment.

    The political realities of the current situation are clear to me, but with a paradigm shift, parks can be insulated from politics. Our treasures deserve better than the self-serving politicians and parasitic lobbyists currently in control.

    I'm glad you quoted Crater Lake's administrative history; I read it as a seasonal, and the admin history lists Joaquin Miller's article "Sea of Silence" in its bibliography. (Although the administrative history seems not to include Miller's original 1904 article from "Sunset". Maybe because it shows an early opposition to government "progress" at Crater Lake?)

    Miller pleaded, "No hotel or house or road of any sort should ever be built near this Sea of Silence. All our other parks have been surrendered to hotels and railroads. Let us keep this last and best sacred to silence and nature."

    Miller--and successive generations--lost out to the growing federal leviathan, "progress", and interest groups of the time.

    But we've come a long way. We know better now. We can pry loose the corporatist stranglehold on our parks. Sacrificing silence and solitude to the industrial machine so that people will support parks is an unnecessary compromise forced upon us by corporatist America. NPT has taken a stance against snowmobiles and OHVs, claiming there is plenty of other space in the country for those activities; the same is true for cars in parks.

    Whether or not parks would have been established without industrial access is a moot point. We have these parks NOW and we have the choice NOW to begin restoring them--and the Organic Act--to their original intent: unimpaired preserves and refuges from the modern world.

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Frank –

    Although I certainly respect the high regard you hold for areas such as parks, Vince has a good grasp of the political realities involved in setting those areas aside in the first place – along with the even more pressing realities confronting those areas today. A broad constituency will become more critical than ever if our parks are to survive.

    I'd suggest that we'd have few parks today without the roads and development that made it possible for people to get to—and into—those areas. That public awareness of the wonders contained in previously inaccessible areas helped build the support needed for many of the parks we have today.

    As an example, consider the political battle over the establishment of Crater Lake National Park in 1902. There were people in positions of power who opposed the concept of any additional national parks. Here’s what happened when supporters of the Crater Lake bill tried to move it along in Congress, taken from Crater Lake's Administrative History:

    Despite the favorable report by the committee, the bill encountered opposition from House Speaker David B. Henderson of Iowa. Because there were a number of national parks and battlefield bills before the House at the time Henderson refused to recognize any of them. Thus, when Representative John F. Lacey of Iowa attempted to call up the bill for consideration by the Committee of the Whole on March 14, Henderson refused to permit the bill to be debated.

    The bill was finally allowed to come up for a vote only after the personal intervention of President Teddy Roosevelt. Would that, and other parks, have been established if they had been designated as roadless areas? Good question, but I suspect not.

    Do we need wilderness areas where human impacts are minimized to the greatest extent possible? Absolutely. Has development gotten out of hand in some parks? There's a topic that can fuel some lively debate, but I'd say "yes." I'd suggest that a balance of wilderness and carefully designed access and facilities for visitors is a reasonable goal for the system as a whole. We haven't always succeeded, but we're a lot better off with what we have vs. few parks at all.

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Warren Harding and his partner, Dean Caldwell, completed another epic climb on El Cap's Wall of the Early Morning Light. This multi-day climb required the placement of many bolts for protection, something that other climbers felt was not "pure climbing". The second ascent of the route was completed by Royal Robbins and his partner, Don Lauria. On the first several pitches, they chopped the bolts, figuring that Harding and Caldwell had exceeded the boundaries of clean climbing. After the first several pitches, however, Laruia claimed that they stopped chopping the bolts because the quality of aid climbing was so high. This is still a classic route on El Cap.

    Rick Smith

  • New River Gorge Bridge Hosted 1,062 BASE Jumps on Bridge Day, and Jumpers Say that is Not Nearly Enough   5 years 44 weeks ago

    This was one of the better Bridge Day stories I read this year. Great job and excellent research. I'm the Bridge Day BASE Jumping Coordinator since 2002 and it appears that we're finally making some progress in obtain additional jumping days from this bridge (despite NPS being against it). Hopefully, BASE jumpers and the NPS can work together in the future. Thanks.
    -BASE #428

  • Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historical Site Commemorates a Great Achievement in Early Transportation   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Wow, Mike; that's some interesting genealogy! Having a connection like that will make your visit very special -- something to really look forward to.

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    The presence of roads in our national parks is the primary - if not the only - way that most people visit them. Without visitors, the parks would have little constituency. Without a constituency, the parks would be overrun by those would would destroy them. Do you really think that so many parks would have been created if people had not been able to visit them, appreciate them, and support their creation? Or perhaps you believe that only those who are hearty enough to be able to hike into your roadless parks should be able to enjoy them. Sorry about that young kids, older people, handicapped people, and anyone who can't undertake a 50 mile hike into the wilderness... you're not welcome to visit our roadless parks.

    When I was a kid, my parents took me to the parks - on roads! We didn't hike (although I always wanted to). As an adult, I've spent virtually every vacation with my family in the parks. We always hike and my son has become far more attuned to nature and the importance of protecting it and of protecting these cathedrals than I was at his age. He will be a vocal park supporter for the rest of his life.

    If you believe that the parks would enjoy even a fraction of the public support that they receive now without people having the ability to drive to and through them, you are living in a fantasy world.

  • Arches National Park Finds Its Birthday Overshadowed By Drilling Concerns   5 years 44 weeks ago

    This is all the more tragic because you can already see oil wells from famous vistas within Arches. Spend some time at the Windows at night, look west toward Canyonlands, and lo and behold, it's very easy to spot flames from two or three flaring oil wells that sit just off the highway to Canyonlands' Island in the Sky District. The blight of energy development began ever so slightly to mar Arches' grand vistas a few years ago, and now oil wells stand to dot the landscape all around the park. For an irreplacable landscape as intricate and remote as that of the BLM land around Arches to be industrialized and destroyed by the ever-greedy industry and Bush's contempt for public lands is not only tragic, but a sobering reminder that we must ever be vigilant in our fight to ensure the future of our national parks and wildlands.

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    We have agreed not to drive our automobiles into cathedrals, concert halls, art museums, legislative assemblies, private bedrooms and the other sanctums of our culture; we should treat our national parks with the same deference, for they, too, are holy places. An increasingly pagan and hedonistic people (thank God!), we are learning finally that the forests and mountains and desert canyons are holier than our churches. Therefore let us behave accordingly.

  • Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historical Site Commemorates a Great Achievement in Early Transportation   5 years 44 weeks ago

    My great-great-uncle died in the boiler explosion at incline plane #6 in 1852. He would have been 22 yoa. I would very much like to visit the area and see the park.

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    So Frank, is it not also hypocritical to call for the Mount Carmel Road to revert to its "former road-less condition" and yet use a computer, drive to work, and take advantage of all the latest technologies and conveniences of today's world?

    On one hand you seem to detest all infrastructure in parks, and yet have no qualms about using that infrastructure outside the parks.

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Yes, of course I have to speak against this boondoggle project. The best "rehabilitation" of this area would be to rehabilitate it to its former road-less condition.

    As for the red color of the road, that comes from volcanic cinders. Those are mined from cinder cones and leave horrible scars in nature; those who in one breath condemn our government for selling petroleum leases, and in the next advocate mining of cinders for government use, are hypocritical.

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Hey Buzzman, not to worry, no plans to change the gradients or switchbacks. And I'd bet the red asphalt will remain as well. I don't think it costs significantly more. More pullouts would be nice, though not sure where to squeeze them in....

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Having just visited beautiful Zion and having driven on this road in Oct 2008, it was easy to see that the road has been repaired and patched a lot and needs to be re-surfaced. But I think the switch backs and steep grades should remain. I drove a small RV, a pick-up truck camper, and didn't have any problems. The switch backs and steep grades add to the character of the place. Maybe the road needs more "turn outs". The large and long RVs have no business being on this road anyway because of the tunnel. The red road surface does add to the character of the park, but if it costs significantly more to resurface the road "red", then it may not be worth keeping the "red". The money may be better spent making the road surface more durable. I suspect that the federal government budgets for national parks is going to get very tight so every dollar needs to be spent carefully.

  • A Bison Roundup and a Birthday Celebration Make for Busy Times at Theodore Roosevelt National Park   5 years 44 weeks ago

    My wife and I had the pleasure of visiting the south unit of this park on 9/15-16 and it is indeed a beautiful park. I find it to be much more colorful than Badlands NP with a lot more wildlife. We are from Florida and we were on a month-long trip with our main destination being Mt Rushmore and Yellowstone NP. Our main purpose of visiting Roosevelt was to see wild (feral) horses. I understand that this is the only unit of the NPS that has wild horses. We came upon a herd of 12-15 horses with 2 stallions along the north side of the park. They were on a ridge just off the park road. I climbed up the enbankment and walked up right with the horses as there were several people already there. We just stood with them, taking pictures and just plain admiring them. One gentleman that was there said that as long as you are on foot and don't try to approach them too close (< 15'), they will ignore you. However, if you are on horseback, you will not be able to get near them. They were in excellent shape and quite ready for winter.

    We also saw bison, elk, deer, other furry mammals and prairie dogs, thousands of prairie dogs. In fact, I would say that they have somewhat of a prairie dog problem. Perhaps they should import a few ferrets.

    I realize that Roosevelt is a little out of the way, but is right on I-94 so you just travel a little higher and after visiting, then just head south right down US 85 to Rapid City to get to Mt Rushmore. It is a trip well worth it. Lodging is available in Medora, ND right at the entrance to the park and in Dickinson, ND, just down the road. For those of you interested, I have posted a handful of pictures at http://hankmoore.home.att.net/.

  • Crews Remove Garbage From Marijuana Farms in Sequoia National Park   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I will agree with your argument that moonshine is just as bad for one if not worse than someone growing marijuana and if marijuana were legal than people would not be growing it on forestry lands. Moonshine is illegal, just as marijuana is illegal and marijuana is harmful to the human body just as alcohol is. Something being legal or illegal doesn't determine if its harmful to one's body or not. Alcohol is bad for both the mind and body, so is marijuana. I have nothing against hemp, I know how useful it can be for making cheap plastics, rope, clothing, fuel, etc. It was originally the plastic and fuel companies that pushed to have marijuana illegal to ban hemp. But the article above is about people growing marijuana where they shouldn't be growing it and that cannot be condoned. A law is a law and must be followed. One day marijuana may be legal and our national parks will not be host to criminals growing, but until then it's a crime and cannot be ignored.
    drug rehab detox

  • New Solar Power System Puts This Park in the Forefront of Alternative Energy Use   5 years 44 weeks ago

    Good postings all. Hope this page gets a lot of visits.

  • 23,110 Candles -- One for Each Soldier Killed, Wounded, or Missing   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I have done the Illumination tour twice before, and it is truly an awesome sight - you will be left breathless. To think that each light represents one soul...it sends chills. I highly recommend that you go if you are able! Once when I went, there were several "vignettes" of living history reenactors scattered across the field...I've often wondered if all the scenes were "real".

  • Mammoth Cave National Park Adding Hiking, Biking Trail   5 years 44 weeks ago

    We spent the wonderful fall color change during the first week in November biking the new Railroad Trail. The article with pics can be found at www.Adventure-Space.com.

    We enjoyed the beautiful Mammoth Caves Railroad Trail as it ran under and through tunnels of arched rainbows made by the upper and middle terraces of the maples and other trees in the park. The high difficulty of this trail is only due to the extreme grades in a couple of places. It only took us about ten minutes total to walk our bikes up these portions. The rest was broken up between light grades which we had no problems biking up or coasting down.

    Safety warnings; DO NOT COAST DOWN THE STEEP GRADES AT FULL SPEED. Reaching terminal velocity of thirty to sixty miles an hour on a trail strewn with whatever nature wishes to drop like cones and nuts is not wise and could actually result in a true terminal velocity. We have cross over grade stubby trail tires and still had to be careful in a few places. Piles of gathered leaf fall as well as the occasional acorn or unexpected loose gravel at high speed could pitch a rider down one of the long draws or ditches that accompany the trail in places.

    But anyone using normal caution should feel right at home on the entire trail as long as inexperienced riders such as children are kept in short reign. We saw endless forests of various trees, ponds, rivers, deep ravines and high hills and mountains. And, the chicken sandwich at trail's end in the hotel's restaurant was pretty good, too.

    Adventure-Crew recommends this trail for all hikers and bikers. Make sure that you have proper experience and equipment for a flat tire as the trail is rather lengthy and being several miles from your car with a bike flat is not fun. We had a misbehaved tire with a reoccurring air loss issue that chose a four mile stretch away form the car to lose all of its air. We know that we didn't pick up anything on this new trail because we take very good care of our bikes and our bike guy in Morris Illinois reported to us that there was nothing in the tire upon our return from the trip. Fortunately, we were carrying a can of emergency inflate pressured air. So we were able to quickly ride back to our car before the tire went flat again; which it did a few minutes later.

    Stu Marks
    Editor of Adventure-Space.com

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   5 years 44 weeks ago

    One of our major problems is that we've never had a truly viable and comprehensive national energy plan. I'm not interested in which label is attached to the party currently in power, nor in the personalities, but I am interested in the results. I can only hope that the incoming administration will do a better job than previous ones of both parties in establishing some serious national energy goals and a strategy to reach them. What we've seen in recent years isn't a strategy - it's a give-away of valuable public resources.

    An effective energy policy can certainly recognize that some places are better suited to active oil, gas and other energy development than others. As discussed in other threads on this site, there's no logical reason to rush to lease areas in or next to sensitive sites for oil and gas - there are large areas of public lands already under lease that won't be developed for years.

    One reason development of existing leases is moving slowly is economics - now that prices for oil and gas have dropped, some large companies are scaling back on development of leases they already hold. An example is the huge natural gas field near Dallas-Ft. Worth called the Barnett Shale. A major player in that project has announced recently that it's scaling back purchase of leases. This is in a area of huge, proven gas reserves. If the companies aren't expanding leases in such areas, it's hard to defend tying up areas such as Utah with new leases on unproven terrain.

    I wish I could agree with Cookie that drilling rigs are "unobtrusive." However, I live in the middle of the East Texas oil patch, and have had rigs working within a couple of miles of my house for the past year. They are definitely intrusive, in terms of noise, dust, nighttime light and smell - but that goes with the territory here, and I'd much rather have them here than next to a national park, where the chance to escape from those intrusions is much more important.

  • New Solar Power System Puts This Park in the Forefront of Alternative Energy Use   5 years 44 weeks ago

    I see some reasons to hope that attitudes about alternative energy are beginning to change - as illustrated by the private investment in this system at Death Valley and your example of T. Boone Pickens, who made his fortune in oil and gas, but now sees the potential for wind energy. When successful businessmen put their money on the table, we're making progress.

    There's been growing interest in the past year or so about off-shore wind farms, which offer the potential to provide reliable winds for more hours each day and more days per year. The best locations identified for many of those sites are also far enough off-shore to avoid many of the conflicts with those who object to the aesthetics of wind generators - witness the death of an earlier project near Cape Cod.

    I believe it's possible to develop facilities for solar and wind without compromising scenic or other values of sites such as national parks. The same principles can (and should) be applied to oil and gas development. The key is responsible planning and dialogue, to determine what makes the most sense for any given location.

    An encouraging example on progress on alternative energy is a story about a proposed major wind energy development in South Dakota. Perhaps most important is the point that it's being funded in part by "BP Plc, Europe's second-largest oil company. BP plans to have 1 gigawatt of wind power generating capacity in the U.S. by the end of the year, which will rise to 3 gigawatts in the next couple of years,'' said the company spokesman Robert Wine. Together with Clipper Windpower Plc, it plans to invest as much as $15 billion to build the world's biggest wind farm in the U.S." Here's a link to the story.