Recent comments

  • Trails I've Hiked: Half Dome, Yosemite National Park   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Art,
    Was your Dad called Red? And, retired from the Navy?
    If so, you recognize my name. Repy and I'll pass on what your sister is up too.
    Tom Huxtable

  • Skyline Drive Designated as a National Historic Landmark   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Jim Burnett,
    Thank you very much for the press release. I have printed the release so that as my wife and I travel we can visit some of the new locations that may take a while to find their way into travel guides.

    Jim

  • Skyline Drive Designated as a National Historic Landmark   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Thanks for the comments.

    Jim - here's a link to the press release from Interior about the recent designation - it gives a short summary for each of the 16 sites.

    http://www.doi.gov/news/08_News_Releases/101408b.html

  • Skyline Drive Designated as a National Historic Landmark   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Great article, Jim! A well deserved honor for a truly wonderful highway.

    My family and I drove along 40 miles of the parkway on Sunday, 10/26, enjoying both beautiful high-pressure dominated weather and nearly peak fall foliage. (We traveled South from State Rt. 33 to State Rt. 250, or from Harrisonburg to Charlottesville VA.)

    A very unique and enchanting aspect of this highway is the way it meanders along the ridges, giving visitors fantastic panoramic views of both the Shenandoah Valley to the West and the Piedmont to the East.

    Come along as we explore some highlights of my family’s recent journey:

    The Parkway. It’s hard to actually find a stretch to photograph, as it is secreted amongst the ridges and trees almost seamlessly.

    Scenic Overlook on the Shenandoah Side. One can see why it is called “The Blue Ridge” in this photo. Massanutten Mountain in the background. Massanutten boasts a four-season resort, with a top-notch ski area that has runs that ascend to the top of the wave-shaped ridge pictured. You can hike from the top of a lift to the peak for great views of the resort itself.

    My two year-old son on his first rock climbing route. Just look at that technique! (Disclaimer: No toddlers were harmed in the making of this picture).

    Vistas like this await you at every turn. Scenic overlooks abound on either side of the ridge, as well as parking areas that access trailheads.

    Speaking of around the next turn….

    Colors were very near peak and quite stunning. The next week should produce some of the best colors of the season.

    If you're ever in the area, no matter what time of year, I would recommend taking this drive or any portion of it. You will not be disappointed!

    dap

  • Skyline Drive Designated as a National Historic Landmark   5 years 47 weeks ago

    I am thrilled to read this.Skyline Drive was a major part of my childhood.The fall colors and the ride to see them was always a special time for me.When I went home (to Richmond) to visit, I took my husband and children to Skyline Drive.They were as entranced as I have always been and we have wonderful photos of our trip. This is a must do trip for anyone who appreciates fall color and natural wildlife.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    To clarify a few points:
    1) do we really want it to be too easy or too fast to change something like a longstanding policy of the US Government?
    Yes, absolutely. The inference is that a long standing policy of our government equates to it being a good policy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    EX: we have a "long standing" national policy of backing the Saudi regime, who are as notoriously corrupt as our own ruling body, and whose people are (the majority anyway, as shown in a multitude of internal Saudi polls) as blatantly anti-American as any people on the planet, but our "look the other way and take the oil" policy is pathetic. We agreed to fund and our contractors were the majority interest in assembling the infrastructure by which the Saudi oil reserved could be harnessed and in return we were promised that our nation would reap the "benefit" of the largest oil producing nation in the world acting with our "national interests" in mind as OPEC was conceived and became the controlling body of the world oil network. In the days since, instead of working towards energy independence and cutting the Middle Eastern monetary giant off at the knees, we continue to pursue "national interests" throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Great policy, especially in light of the events of the past decade or so, don't you think?

    2) Depending on how thoughtful and skillful the public support or opposition for a certain issue is, it IS possible to influence both the White House and the Congress. They are instruments, and can be played.
    I guess that American public support and indignation on issues such as affordable health care, equalization of the tax structure, corporate welfare, a legal system that administers "liberty and justice for ALL", not just the lower and middle classes, education, social and national security, etc. etc. etc. is just not "thoughtful and skillful" enough to overcome the blockades that are the special interest lobbyists in Washington. A majority of the root of the evil that is capitalism is that only those who can AFFORD to support change can actually enact change. That simple rule effectively eliminates the majority of the population in this country ever experiencing the manner of "change" we seek. Using your criterion, I guess that makes most of us, by definition, unskilled, impatient and stupid. I profess to being unskilled in politics, and I hold career politicians in the highest levels of contempt for their inability to be accountable for the current status of our nation. I would, effective today, remove ALL career politicians from office to be replaced with skilled negotiators, people who can effectively research the needs of their constituents and work towards the most effective compromise on those issues, WITHOUT succumbing to the pork and influence that special interests demand.

    3) Civilizations fall because the governed no longer care about supporting that civilization.
    The fall of many empires over the history of mankind is largely attributable to two major factors: a) and inability to recognize the point whereby the empire could no longer effectively be "managed and controlled", and b) taking those from the lowest fiscal strata for granted and viewing their wants, needs and desires as socially inferior, or unworthy of serious consideration. Of the "great empires" of the past 4000 years, only the British of the 17th / 18th centuries began the process of pulling back the "reigns" before the entire system collapsed into chaos and ruin, and was the only great world power to not have the ruling family ousted from power by the people. Babylonia, Syria, Persia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, Mongolia, China, France, Spain, the Aztecs, Russia (shall I continue?) all met their end shortly after ascending to the pinnacle of international power. Our internal mechanisms more closely parallel those exhibited by Rome, France, Spain and the Aztec models. All were mighty military powers, far beyond the walls of the homeland. All exhibited great wealth that was, by and large, the profits of raping conquered nations. All were lead by wealthy ruling elite who did their level best to distance themselves from the "commoners" who supported and actually built the empires through their own physical toils, spilling their own blood when necessary. ALL eventually rose up in revolt against the ruling powers and deposed them, mainly through execution of the heads of state and their families. Taking those ruled for granted and neglecting their wants, needs and desires, or even more tragically, imposing YOUR wants, needs and desires on them, is the fatal mistake that sets the dominos in motion. The outcome is inevitable, chronology and geography be damned. This has nothing to do with lacking in desire to support the civilization, but rather, lacking the desire to support the governmental body, which is a separate issue completely. Pardon my metaphor...... but we, as a people, don't want the business closed. We just demand management that has the interests of the workers at hearts, not solely or exclusively the interests of accountants and majority shareholders. If, we're suffering, they should be as well.

    4) Obama the Inexperienced, United States Senator for barely 1 1/2 terms, and currently only the Democratic Flavor of the Month because nationally, people hate the "Hillary and BillyBob the Cigar Manipulator Show" even more than they hate his lack of references and credibility, which places him on almost dead equal footing with Sarah the Governor of a State Most Schoolkids Can't Find on a Map of the United States, is too closely joined at the hip with both convicted corrupt politicians and convicted felons for me to be too comfortable with his ability to effectively govern without maintaining a "business as usual" methodology. His rhetoric rings hollow to these ears, as does that of his contemporaries and predecessors. It makes one wonder if killing for our national system of government was ever the right thing to do. I strongly encourage your ballot goes to Ron Paul, Ralph Nader, or Larry the Cucumber as opposed to supporting another administrative nightmare that will be the 2008 President of the United States. Will any of my alternative candidates win, or even stand a chance? Please......but at least you can look everyone in the face and claim that you, thankfully, did NOT support another 4+ years of ineffective American governmental lackluster leadership, from EITHER party.

    Which really puts the immediate needs and overall future of our National Park Service in quite the conundrum, no?

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Why did the SF Chronicle not report on Obama's voting record? Could it be that he doesn't have one? If so, I guess you can only HOPE for the best - like on so many other issues.

  • Skyline Drive Designated as a National Historic Landmark   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Will you please provide the names of the other 15 sites and the states that received the National Historic Landmark designation? Perhaps an article that summarizes each one would be helpful.

    Thank you

  • Shuttles Make Visiting Cades Cove In Great Smoky Mountains National Park A Bit Easier   5 years 47 weeks ago

    I would hope that there would be sufficient trolleys so as to allow riders to depart, look and catch the next one back.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Anyone who is mentioned in the same breath as Mr. Pombo should scare the bejeebies out of people who have even a cursory interest in the parks.

    Info on Mr. Allard:
    Latest LCV Score: 18%
    In 1996, he ran against Gale Norton (yes, THAT Gale Norton) in the senatorial primary. He won the nomination.
    Wikipedia says: "In April 2006, Allard was named by Time as one of "America's 5 Worst Senators." The magazine called him "The Invisible Man" and said he was one of the "least influential Senators" because he "almost never plays a role in major legislation" and "rarely speaks on the floor or holds press conferences to push his ideas" despite his ten years in the Senate and his presence as a majority party member on two key committees.[2] The Rocky Mountain News retorted that Time made the "wrong call" and that Allard was a "hard-working advocate for Colorado interests."[3] The Colorado Springs Gazette claimed the article was "soft, subjective, snide, impressionistic slop — further proof of the low to which this once-serious publication has sunk....Allard was a co-sponsor of the James Peak Wilderness Bill, which created a 14,000-acre (57 km2) preserve around James Peak, and added 3,000 acres (12 km2) to the Indian Peak Protection Area. Allard also sponsored legislation which created Colorado's 85,000-acre (340 km2) Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. Allard is also chairman and founder of the Senate Renewable Energy and Efficiency Caucus[8] In 2006, the environmental group Republicans for Environmental Protection[9] praised Allard for his support of legislation to make the Army Corps of Engineers more accountable for its projects' environmental and economic impact, but censured him for supporting oil drilling both offshore and in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.[10]"

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Getting back to the topic of how the next administration will treat national parks, I suspect that either candidate will do better than the hopeless Bush administration has done. That said, I am more inclined to think that parks would fare better under an Obama admiinistration than one headed by McCain. For instance, I read an article several days ago that suggested that Steve Pearce, a NM congressman running against Tom Udall for Pete Domenici's seat, would be a possible choice for the Secretary of the Interior under Senator McCain. That thought strikes fear into the hearts of most park supporters as Pearce was Richard Pombo's choice to head the parks subcommittee when the Republicans controlled the Congress. He served without distinction and some would say that "serving without distinction" is not harsh enough. Other names mentioned in the article are Wayne Allard of Colorado and retaining Kempthorne. None of these names arouses a great deal of enthusiasm in me.

    Rick Smith

  • Perry's Victory and International Peace Memorial - War and Peace and Two Memorable Phrases   5 years 47 weeks ago

    I've been to South Bass Island twice and up the monument once and looked at it across the bay throughout most of the summers of my childhood. A couple years ago, I was on South Bass Island with a different purpose in mind - to visit Gibraltar Island and see Jay Cooke's old stomping grounds (Gibraltar Island is right off of South Bass Island). Cooke had a lot to do with the founding of Yellowstone, and I wrote about it in: Lake Erie, mayflies, and Jay Cooke: A Yellowstone connection in Ohio (a small picture from my cell phone of the monument also in the article).

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

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    My "simplistic take" was intentionally short and addressed what I see as the economic fundamentals behind the collapse of the (of course Western) Roman Empire and are based on the plethora of academic explanations available, including a particularly apt economic explanation by Ludwig von Mises.

    As for my predictions for the collapse of our overseas empire and the fiat money system, I don't know when it will happen, but the answer lies in Beamis' question: "How much longer can the government spend (borrow) $10 billion a month to wage needless war and still survive as a going concern?" And I'll add: "How much longer can the government spend (borrow) trillions a year to maintain 700 bases in 120 countries?"

    I'm not prophesying the doom of civilization or of America; I'm saying our empire and fiat money system are both unsustainable and will collapse, just like all other empires that debased their currencies to support their world empire.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    You can cast me as a doomsayer all you want but I'll stick to this one pertinent question: How much longer can the government spend (borrow) $10 billion a month to wage needless war and still survive as a going concern?

    We won't even go into the trillions for corporate welfare........

    Not much left for the parks, is there?

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Dear Frank C:

    1. Of your predictions of collapse, can you name some specific statistic or specific indicator or measurement now, which you will stand by, that will come to pass, say, in 2 years or 5 years to demonstrate that you are right about your prediction? Something that will then shape your opinion and future actions? I am remembering friends in the '80's who saw the collapse then of the American government and currency, and predicted that paper money would collapse and gold or diamonds would be the only substance of value. Some headed back to the earth, feeling that land and living off the land is the only safe and real alternative left. You (and they) could then see specifically whether they would deal with the facts of their predictions, or were just predisposed to cry "doom" as a way of avoiding responsibility and action in the world we actually live in.

    2. It seems like every kind of doomsayer has their own simplistic take on the collapse of Rome, as reinforcing their conviction of the inevitability of their doom-saying and a priori beliefs. I know something about Roman history, and think things were a bit more complicated than you say.

    But, for the purposes of clarification, I suppose you are talking about the "western" Roman empire, inasmuch as the richer portion of the roman empire in fact continued another 1,000 years. It is probably NOT true that the roman tax system was any more "arbitrary" than any other: in the west it did not tax the great estates and fortunes, and that is where the money was. that was policy, not arbitrariness. It did not effectively utilize the potential revenue from ongoing trade, which in fact trade continued for about another 400 years throughout the med. sea after the "fall" of Rome.

    If I were to respond to your simplistic take on the fall of roman, my simple but more correct take is that the people of the roman empire stopped caring if it fell or not. There is plenty of evidence that the people of the empire in the West still had the capacity to defend the empire. For example, there is the famous case in what is now southern France where the barbarians just walked right in and took over. Nobody resisted, in the same way you and Beamis do not help keep the American civilization coherant. But then when the barbarians violated the religious feeling of the local population they did rise up, and pretty easily tossed the barbarians out. Civilizations fall because the governed no longer care about supporting that civilization. We have always had that choice in America like elsewhere, and our society has been distinguished by those who have helped her in need, as FDR did. There were always people who just predicted doom and stayed out of it. Even in the American Revolution, it is estimated that fully 1/3 of the population stayed out of it, many with glib quips or tales of doom as their rationalization.

    3. Don't expect parks to thrive of there is no civilization left. Parks came into existence at the height of America's progressive ideology, based on the idea of planning and public good. You will need some element of capacity or interest in planning to help, and a belief in organized public good to sustain a civilization.

    When people gave up in the Roman west, nothing much survived for hundreds of years. Most small landowners who still owned their lands became serfs, in effect slaves. They stayed that way until the 1700's.

    There wasn't much left in their life for parks or gardens, and don't expect much to be left in yours.

    4. Working for the public good is the one way forward.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    I'd also like to point out that the disintegration is already beginning to happen with severe cuts of all types occurring within the agency as funds for infrastructure, personnel and visitor services are being drastically reduced. The last few smaller parks that I've traveled to all had visitor centers staffed by volunteers and most of the people that I know that still work for the NPS tell me that morale is grim as the budgetary axe is falling all around them.

    In some ways this is good news because it'll force institutional changes and a re-prioritizing of increasingly scarce resources but the longer term reality is that a government that spends $10 billion a month on blood soaked warfare with a Chinese credit card is neither morally fit nor fiscally sound enough to own and maintain national parks.

    Parks are supposedly a sure sign that a society possesses a certain degree of civilized enlightenment, yet the imperial regime on the Potomac not only lacks this quality but is on pace to become the most reckless and dangerous the world has ever known. Continued faith in their governance is certainly a lost cause and probably more than a little immoral.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Frank C. and Beamis: How can you honestly assess the holistic damage to this country and make prudent rational decisions until you have reach the presidential seat. We have no idea how extensive the damage is until Bush officially leaves office. I do admit we have a barrel of rotting apples running this country and must dump the ugly stench. But, to advocate and watch Rome burn on the sidelines and do nothing is extremely disturbing to me. I would certainly love to see more hope and faith injected into your comments and give the younger generation something to aspire too...instead of eking on (or even applauding chaos) for civil disobedience. In a way your comments suggest this...anarchy if you will! Now, that we have a black candidate running for the highest office (and most likely win) in the land, and all suddenly the doom sayers come out of the wood pile...along with the termites...and along with there speal of hopelessness and despair for this country. Youth is inspired by this election and rightly so. Let Obama be there beacon light of hope and dreams. I'm sure the National Parks will be in excellent hands under Obama's tutelage.

  • National Park Quiz 25: Threatened and Endangered   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Once a month is perfect with me. I will email you with some suggestions.

    Rick Smith

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    The American Empire is on the verge of collapse, and neither candidate is addressing that issue. The US is going broke.

    If you compare the American Empire with the Roman Empire, you'll see where we're headed. Rome fell after debasement of currency lead to inflation; price controls exacerbated the situation; an oppressive and arbitrary tax system drove peasants into destitution and onto a dole that required tax from those who could still pay. As the Empire reached its apex, new booty stopped flowing into the government's coffers, costly wars became unsustainable, and Rome's military machine and empire collapsed.

    The American Empire has 700 bases in 120 countries, and our empire is costing us hundreds upon hundreds of billions a year. We've devalued our currency through a fiat monetary system administered unconstitutionally by a quasi-governmental panel of bankers known as the Federal Reserve. We're seeing the heavy hand of price control in the housing market as government and the Fed struggle to keep interest rates low and housing prices artificially high. Inflation, when calculated with energy and food indexes, is over 10%, and the recent influx of newly-printed reserve notes into the system and the into hands of corporate banks will only further the debasement of the dollar. As the economy worsens, tax revenue will fall, and we'll have a choice to make: Save the Republic by shutting down our overseas bases and coming home from 120 countries, or continue the inflationary cycle to stretch out our occupation. I'm rather confident we'll do the latter, and the American Empire, like the Roman Empire and every other empire before it, will collapse.

    When that collapse and the ensuing federal bankruptcy occurs, national parks will close due to lack of funding. Beamis has so aptly demonstrated how neither candidate has addressed the impending collapse, and I second his notion that we ought to look at other ways of protecting national parks.

  • National Park Quiz 25: Threatened and Endangered   5 years 47 weeks ago

    [Ed: Item#4 has been rewritten. Zion is no longer one of the choices.] On question #4, Zion should also be an acceptable answer. Some of the released condors have been sighted in Zion, especially in the Kolob Canyons portion. But, of course, they are much easier to find in the Grand Canyon. Seeing one there this year on a trip amongst the parks in that region was a highlight of the trip for me. Growing up, I never thought I'd see a free-flying condor.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Anon---I am not pessimistic in the least but instead see the coming collapse of the Empire as a positive opportunity to return our country back to the founding principles upon which it was founded. All I'm saying is that now is the time to plan for new ideas and strategies for running these parks after the inevitable occurs.

    You cite Obama as someone who will restore "faith" in the country and that is where we are decidedly different because I will never give that part of myself to a governmental body. My faith is grounded in family, friends and community not Obama or a Kennedy or Ronald Reagan. Besides Mr. Obama does not differ very greatly from his opponent, they are much like a choice between Pepsi and Coke.

    We no longer have independent candidates representing the views of the electorate; rather, we have two corporate brands fighting for market share – the only tangible difference between the two is the advertising (campaign promises). Obama (Pepsi) promises to be the "choice of a new generation," while McCain (Coca-Cola Classic) declares that he's "the real thing." But while the two products may taste slightly different, they both consist of the same basic ingredients.

    We have a Congress with the lowest public approval ratings in history; yet both presidential candidates (and one vice presidential candidate) are, in fact, members of Congress. Even more discouraging, much of the "changes" offered by the two leading candidates are no more than cynical promises to undo the very messes they and their colleagues created.

    For example, both Sens. Obama and McCain spent ample television time during the debates pledging to end "corporate welfare" as we know it. Sounds great, but only if voters ignore that both candidates (as well as VP nominee Joe Biden) just voted to spend hundreds of billions of taxpayers dollars to bail out giant corporations like AIG, General Motors, Chrysler and a host of stumbling giants on Wall Street. Take from the poor and give to the rich that's some paradigm for you.

    Both the Republican and Democrat presidential candidates also favor America's ongoing war-mongering and imperialism overseas. McCain thinks that a multi-decade occupation of a sovereign country (Iraq) is perfectly acceptable for a nation that prides itself as a "beacon of freedom," while Obama thinks nothing of threatening military actions against Pakistan and Iran for so much as daring to engage in domestic activities that conflict with America's global interests.

    Of course, it's not as if Sens. McCain or Obama are the problem per se; more accurately, they are the products of a system that is broken beyond repair – a corrupt federal Leviathan that pretends that duopoly is choice and that an oligarchy is representative government. Yet every few years, millions of Americans continue to give some semblance of legitimacy to this Orwellian standard of democracy by participating (voting) and perpetuating its existence. They elect to put a fresh coat of paint and new shutters on a home that's very foundation is collapsing, and afterward they wonder why their house remains uninhabitable.

    No my friend, the sooner this whole edifice collapses the better. I take great solace in the fact I am alive to see it. The question for this forum will become what happens to the parks when the federal gummit is no longer solvent? It is something we'll be discussing sooner rather than later.

  • Natchez Trace Parkway – Colorful Choice for a Southern Fall Trip   5 years 47 weeks ago

    From 1994 - 1997 I worked in the Dancy, Kosciusko, and Tupelo Districts as a Wildland FireFighter.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    You may be right, but on your point that "the rest of the world is finally unwilling to fund its [our] enormous debt," in fact this week the US Treasury has been able to sell all the bonds it has wanted.

    These international funders seem to be willing to accept next to no interest. International currency is moving back toward the Dollar and the Yen, and away from the Euro. Somebody seems to think the USA is a safer place to park money, right now, than anywhere else.

    Not that I don't share your feelings about efforts to balloon an American Empire, and excess and debt.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Beamis: I have read many of your blogs that reflects much negativity, dour and gloom. For the next generations sake, how about offering some solutions so that we can move forward instead of regressing into a blog of doom and gloom. You squawk and bitch...so what new paradigm do you advocate? If we can give this younger generation a chance to renew faith in this country (like Barack Obama, Robert Kennedy Jr.) why don't you try to help, instead of being so overly pessimistic. Let's get rid of the old vanguard that resents change for the betterment of the whole. I believe the younger generation has the keys to drive this country forward into a new era of something that's refreshing, challenging and positive. Let's give them the chance that's long over due and deserve, instead of hog tying them down with corrupt dead wood politics. I truly believe Barack Obama offers this new direction to the next generation...young and old! The old vanguard refuses to see the brilliance in this mans power of positive thinking. I absolutely believe that Mr. Obama will be a great asset to the Dept. of Interior, the National Parks and the environment. Now, Beamis offer some solutions instead of regressing into the syndrome of sour grapes.

  • Upon Further Review – The Whirlwind Tourist   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Yes, it's kind of a shame. I had a group in Yellowstone who canceled the rest of there week reservation after two days 'because they had already seen everything'!