Recent comments

  • Photo Shoot: Today's Cameras Make It Easier to Capture the National Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I define luck as preparation meeting opportunity.

    That's a great definition, and one that anyone who attempts much outdoor photography can appreciate!

  • The Dune Climb at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Invites You to Climb, Run, Jump, Slide, Roll, Whoop, and Holler   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Don't forget to continue on after the top of the hill. Continue for two miles through low hills of loose sand out to Lake Michigan. By the time you get back, you have had a great workout. Done properly, it is a lot of fun. Done improperly, it can also be a lot of fun as my son and I discovered when we lost the trail, wandered through scrub and ended up at a 500 foot cliff overlooking Lake Michigan. On our way back we came across a deer jawbone that the wind and sand had bleached clean. It is an amazing place.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 49 weeks ago

    A point that seems to be missed by the mountain biking community is that no one is banned from hiking trails, only their bikes are. They can still enjoy the trails on foot, just like the rest of us.

  • Photo Shoot: Today's Cameras Make It Easier to Capture the National Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I can't believe this is real... yeah, I guess you are right, with new digital cameras we can all be great photographers, there isn't much to know in making pictures, it all depends on your will to spot unique wonderful places like this one above.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 49 weeks ago

    During the outdoor boom of the 1970’s many areas suffered severe damage due to the increased number of hikers. Hikers built illegal trails and camp sites, widened trails, littered, and ruined the outdoor experience for those who had come before; in short we did everything we accuse Mountain Bikers of doing now. Fortunately, Hikers learned the error of their ways. Today the “Leave No Trace” ethic is common among hikers. Education is the key; most people don’t want to damage the environment they just don’t know any better.

    Mountain Bikers have and will continue to embrace the same ethic. They must if they want to maintain their sport. I think bikers suffer from commercial advertising stereotypes that portray them as ADD afflicted, Mountain Dew swilling, extreme sports morons, who come down the trail backwards while juggling chainsaws. This is rarely the case.

    The illegal use of hiking trails and the illegal construction of “stunts” is a legitimate concern and I have seen the damage that can result. I’m sure it’s only a small minority of Bikers, but it seems to be condoned if not encouraged by many in the Mountain Biking community.

    While working with a local hiking group’s trail maintenance crew the leader made a decision to leave a fallen tree across the trail to stop bike use. Predictably, the next year there was a new trail around the tree. Whose fault was that the Bikers or the Crew Leader who made a dumb choice based on his personal bias? Hikers have to realize that not giving Mountain Bikers a place to ride is not going to lead to the end of the sport; it’s only going to lead to illegal use and abuse. An illegal user has little impetus for doing maintaining and improving the trail, while a legitimate user does.

    I have heard hikers say that “Bikers never due trail maintenance…” and a post above makes the same accusation about hikers. In truth, we are both independently doing the work, if only we could only work together. There are many that enjoy both sports and I could never understand why we perceive each other as enemies, we’re all out there because we love the outdoors

  • Landscape Painting Donated to Grand Teton National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Kurt,
    Thanks for writing this article.
    I stumbled across it looking for Harrison Crandall and was astonished to see a picture very similar to one we have in our living room with seasonal differences and a broken tree stump.
    Please pass this on to Quita if you have contact information for her.

    Hello to Quita from my father Rey Holmen who came to the Tetons in the summer during college visiting his brother in law Fritioff Fryxell (park ranger) and to work on photography with Harrison at his Jenny Lake Studio in the mid 30's. I believe you know my dad also. We later came out as a family many times and visited your father last when I was in about 15-16 and that would have been around 1967-68 perhaps.

    I have a great photo of "Hank" standing by the house in Blacktail Butte with the Tetons in the background.
    Please feel free to contact me by mail if you would like a copy.

    My father is now 92 "this week" and we'll be celebrating as he comes out to Park City to visit over Thanksgiving.

    Kurt, In lookiing you up I see you live here in Park city also! Small world!
    I hope we can get together some time. I'd be very interested in talking with you about your experiences in the Tetons.

    Thanks so much for writing this article.

    John

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    It's hard to argue the selfishness of mountain bikers, when you figure out that we're the ones being kicked out of thousand of square miles of land for no rational reason. The whole "different experience" concept is a smoke screen. I don't see why our government should decide how, we, the taxpayers who fund such parks, should be enjoying the parks (obviously as long as that enjoyment does not impact the environment). The mental shortcut is that MTBers zoom along, frighten the poor hikers who are there for mental contemplation of the pristine landscape... Bikers enjoy the landscape (otherwise, we'd all be sticking to road biking) in their own way, and that should be good enough. At that point, the typical Sierra Club argument is that by riding along and having fun, this takes away from the hiker's desire for solitude and peaceful enjoyment of nature. Well, that might be true to some minor extent, but those are public lands. If one wants absolute solitude, one should buy his/her own private Idaho. On public trails, we all need to share.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Frank -

    Sorry, you missed my point, so perhaps I wasn't clear. I wasn't attempting to establish what percentage of poaching was done by CCW permit holders and what kind of weapons were used. The key point is that removing the prohibition against carrying any type of loaded weapon in a park eliminates the single most valuable tool in the battle against poaching - because it then becomes necessary to wait until shots have actually been fired before a violation occurs. Once the trigger has been pulled in a poaching case, whether or not the person has a CCW is irrelevant.

    All the discussion about CCW has arisen because possession of a CCW is the vehicle the NRA and the administration have chosen to use as the vehicle to revise the existing regulations. If they had chosen instead to simply allow anyone to carry a weapon in parks, as some would prefer, then most of the issues that I and others have raised about public safety, poaching, etc. would still concern me.

    The current revisions are based on possession of a CCW as the "ticket" to get guns into parks - I'm only saying that some people will take advantage of that opportunity to "do wrong."

    Life would be immensely easier for rangers if, as you suggest, that "roaming park roads at 2 a.m. and checking out fields with [a] spotlight" would be evidence enough of intent to poach and the loaded gun would be irrelevant." While some parks do have local regulations against viewing wildlife with artificial light to help deter poaching, the reality is that "intent to poach" without a loaded weapon won't get you much mileage before most magistrates I've dealt with. Possession of the loaded gun is the key element in proving "intent", and if that possession is no longer illegal, the ability to reduce poaching will be seriously hampered. Yes, that's an opinion, but I'll take it to the bank after 30 years of dealing with these folks.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 49 weeks ago

    NPCA is overreaching in its conclusion. There is a strong desire by mountain bikers to bike in national parks, so the need is there. The public process/environmental review is code word for: "let's throw a bunch of nonsensical redtape into opening any trails to mountain biking so that we don't have to come out and say out loud that we hate bikes".

    Safety: it's a myth. Everybody talks about safety when it comes to mountain bikers, but nobody mentions anything about dangerous horses. Double standard... Truth is that the safety argument is completely overblown, especially in the back country where just about nobody ventures.

    Impact to environment: another myth. Scientific studies have shown that mountain biking impact on the environment is minor, about equal to hiking and definitely less than horse riding.

    The truth is that there is no rational reason to keep bikers out other than made up arguments that serve the wish of a few to keep public trails to themselves. In that regard, it seems that the NPCA is a bunch of rabid bike haters like the Sierra Club.

  • How to Hijack a National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Thanks for the comments!

    My primary purpose with this article wasn't to revisit the question of whether JNEM should have been added to the national park system- or whether it should remain. As long as it is part of the system, I'd argue that it should be managed by the NPS, under the same standards as other units - and not have major decisions that would drastically alter the nature of the area handed over to local special interest groups. No doubt those groups would be delighted to have the American taxpayers continue to pick up the tab for day to day park operations and probably at least part of the cost of their urban "revitalization" project while they remake the park into the image of their choosing.

    If that occurs, I'd suggest it represents a significant weakening of the integrity of the system as a whole.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I put no confidence in the McCain & Palin ticket to upgrade and enhance our National Parks to the stellar quality that the National Parks Conservation Association advocate. With Palin (Alaska's famed "drill-baby drill" Governor) bragging about her so called record as a top flight oil minister for the State of Alaska, and her exploits as a gut bucket moose hunter and wolf hater, I do find her to be another exact carbon copy of the Bush Administration. Sarah Palin is most extreme and dangerous as McCain to the point where I feel our National Parks will be even more deeply in peril...if both elected (or selected). That is to say, I fear more rape, pillage...and greed! It appears Obama has a more pragmatic and common sense approach in handling our domestic and foreign affairs with diligence and transparency...and that includes a holistic approach in saving and upgrading the National Parks and our environment...sometime that has been terribly lacking since year 2000.

  • How to Hijack a National Park   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I was at JNEM this past August. I really enjoyed the time I spent there. I thought the Museum at the base of the Arch was very good. Unfortunately I did not have much time to spend at the Old Courthouse since I needed to drive back to Chicago. This park is very different then the other 50+ parks I have visited this year. I liked the history about Lewis & Clark. I liked the history of building the Arch. I enjoyed going up in the Arch. After visiting the Arch it did make me sad knowing the vision and engineering creativity that built the Arch has now been outsourced to other countries. I like the JNEM the way it is now and I hope they don't change it.

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Re the NRA mention, IMBA posted the article, The Fight for Trails -- What IMBA Can Learn from the NRA, on its website without disclaimer and without disowning it, after deliberately seeking permission to do so. What are folks supposed to think when they land on that page, that IMBA opposes the NRA's deft form of lobbying, or that it's intrigued by it?

    There are indeed myriad lobbying and special interest groups out there. I would venture that all folks agree with some, disagree with some, and good care less about most. Would the world be better off without them? Probably yes, and probably no.

    How do you decide which are the good lobbying groups, or the bad?

    Why is someone castigated for opposing one or favoring another? Why is condemning NPS management decisions or styles OK, but questioning IMBA not?

    Zebulon earlier commented that opponents to mountain bikes in the parks are "selfish." Well, couldn't that argument be flipped? Couldn't the mountain bike community, which already has access to Forest Service and BLM lands, along with many state parks, be accused of being "selfish" for wanting to now enlarge its footprint in the national parks?

    As I've pointed out many times previously, the National Park Service has a decidedly different management mandate for its landscape than do the Forest Service or BLM. The national park experience is supposed to be different than those one has on forest or BLM lands.

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Taking an opinion piece from Mountain Bike Magazine, in which MB writer Joe Lindsey stated that "public relations ideas Carter pioneered at the NRA merit study" and changing that to IMBA "has indicated an interest in emulating the National Rifle Association" is disingenuous.

    Over 400 interest groups have lobbied this Department of the Interior this year, and the NPS has been lobbied this year so far at record levels. The Sierra Club has lobbied the DOI and NPS. So has Campaign for America's Wilderness, Defenders of Wildlife, National Parks Conservation Association, and the Helicopter Assn International.

    I agree with rick that NPT should come out against all lobbying groups that are "lobbying hard, and not always forthrightly" and the political system rather than picking on those lobbying a political cause that doesn't match NPT's editorial slant. The real problem isn't the NRA, NPCA, Sierra Club, or IMBA; the real problem is the political system.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Does anyone really doubt that once the camel has its proverbial nose under the tent, the next push will be to remove all restrictions on loaded weapons in parks? I sure don't.

    Slippery slope fallacy. You've also misinterpreted Chris W. Cox's statement, not that I think the NRA is better than any other lobby, including the ACLU or CNPSR. Cox stated that the Kempthorne's decision to review the ban is an important step in the right direction. And it is. It is an important step to restoring the Second Amendment on federal lands.

    The issue of wildlife poaching is also a red herring argument, which is used to divert the attention away from CCW permits.

    The current law prohibiting carrying concealed weapons has not stopped people from attempting to kill wildlife in parks. Additionally, the National Park Service does not keep comprehensive statistics on how much poaching occurs in its nearly 400 parks, so it's impossible to determine what percentage of of poaching was done by CCW permit holders and what kind of weapons were used in the incidents (concealable handguns or rifles). Without statistical evidence showing there was a decline in poaching following 1983's gun ban in national parks, I don't think anyone can make the case that this rule change will increase poaching.

    As far as punishing poachers, I think "roaming park roads at 2 a.m. and checking out fields with [a] spotlight" would be evidence enough of intent to poach and the loaded gun would be irrelevant.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    It should be Investing in park helped the economy before.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Thanks, Bob! As you no doubt know, sometimes people just prefer the romantic old stories, though. Keep up your good work, too!

    Cheers,
    Anne

    Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Ph.D.
    Historian & Author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History
    Chapel Hill, NC

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Yes Kurt your piece is indeed disingenuous. Comparing IMBA to the NRA is designed to be inflammatory. When checking the link one finds that IMBA was merely pointing out how to become an effective lobbying organization. By definition a lobbying organization tries to get rules passed, or voided, in order to benefit their constituency. Why is IMBA lobbying for trail use any different than the equestrian users in Mammoth caves lobbying for trail use. Unless you come out against all lobbying-including Sierra club and the Wilderness Society- you are indeed disingenuous. As to the single track issue: as a hiker would you prefer walking on a nice wooded track or a road? How about you lobby the NPS to rotate trail use: on odd days hikers can only use the roads and bikes the trails and on even days vice versa! (It's done on a popular trail system in Tennesee). You argue that 40 parks have some biking access and that's enough. How about the fact that hikers have hundreds of thousands of wilderness areas that bikes cannot access, but apparently that isn't enough for you. Why don't you just admit that you are prejudiced against a legitimate use of public land so instead of working to resolve conflict you create innuendo to enhance your position. Isn't that what you (inappropriately) chastise IMBA for doing?

  • Should Anything Be Done With Angel's Landing?   5 years 49 weeks ago

    This was my second time hiking to Angels Landing with my 9yoa son. I did it when wife was pregnant and waiting down at the parking lot. I ran it when I was 30yoa. I wanted my son to enjoy the experience. He loved it and wanted to do it again. We found it to be more scary by the web-postings than in reality. You need to take your time and concentrate. I feel that if you are in moderate shape you can do this hike.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Great article, Anne! Deep history beats shallow history every time. It's a pleasure to get the word from someone who really knows what she's talking about.

  • Survey Predicts Change in National Park Gun Regulations Will Lead to Wildlife Shootings, Management Problems   5 years 49 weeks ago

    One key point in this issue needs to be emphasized – the effect of the proposed rule on agency efforts to deal with poaching.

    As noted by the survey that started this thread, almost anyone who has work experience in a park understands the magnitude of the challenge to stem poaching. Given the vast areas involved and limited staffing, the odds of catching a poacher in the act are small. The current NPS regulation limiting ready access to loaded firearms in vehicles is the most effective tool for dealing with a serious wildlife management and public safety issue.

    The guy roaming park roads at 2 a.m. and checking out fields with his spotlight isn't admiring the scenery. When he's caught with a loaded gun on the front seat, current regulations make it clear a violation has occurred, and this problem can be resolved before shots are ever fired. Most state regulations define weapons allowed under CHL's so loosely that "heavier" handguns suitable for poaching are completely legal under the proposed regulation change.

    One commenter voiced the opinion that someone intending to break the law wouldn't go out and get a CHL. He's welcome to his opinion, but I strongly disagree, because there is tremendous financial incentive for commercial poachers to do just that.

    Poaching is not just Billy-Bob out looking for some easy venison, but big business that is a significant threat to the population of bears and other wildlife. A thriving and highly profitable international market for bear parts such as gall bladders and paws provides ample incentive for crooks to take their chances – and puts wildlife populations at risk. No, that's not anecdotal – do a Google search if you want easy documentation.

    I've found nothing to prohibit an individual from having a CHL from multiple states, and no information that states share information about convictions for hunting violations, especially if the conviction is not for a felony. The background checks for a CHL are normally a routine check of computer databases, which while better than nothing, are far from complete - and I make that statement from first-hand experience from my law enforcement career. Serious gaps in reporting convictions of Texas CHL holders to the state have also been previously addressed above.

    The legal ability to carry a loaded handgun in a national park would be a poacher's dream. Utah makes it especially easy for residents of any state to obtain a permit which is then good in many other states, and numerous companies are glad to help. Here's just one excerpt:

    "Based on recognition from other states, ease of initial application and renewal, and cost only, $65.25 for a five year permit, the Utah CCW Permit is the most valuable Multi-State CCW Permit available! Our Utah Concealed Firearm Permit is valid in over 28 States, and it is available to residents of any state…. available to ANY law-abiding citizen who takes the time to apply. Get your Multi-State Concealed Firearm Permit now!"

    Utah's "training" requirement? "Approximately" 4 hours in the classroom—no need to fire a weapon. One of these permit mills points out that Utah is "shall issue" state, "Which means that, unless you have a disqualifier on your record, they must issue you a permit." Disqualifiers in Utah? Unless you've been convicted of what they consider a "serious" crime (including a felony, crime of violence, or a recent alcohol or drug-related offense)... no problem. It's noteworthy than non-felonious hunting convictions are not a disqualifier for a Utah CCW permit.

    Poaching is also a public safety issue. Only one example for the sake of brevity: at my last park, a bullet fired by a poacher at a herd of deer missed its target and shattered a window in a home adjacent to the park boundary. Fortunately, the homeowner was not injured.

    Let's put one issue to rest. I'm absolutely not opposed to hunting, and when practiced legally and safely, hunting is an important tool for wildlife management in appropriate locations. That does not mean that some areas, such as national parks, should not continue to restrict hunting to provide opportunities for non-hunters who enjoy activities such as viewing of wildlife.

    And a final point – does anyone really believe the current push for relaxed regulations on handguns is the end of the NRA agenda concerning national parks? In an April 29, 2008 statement on the proposed changes, the NRA's chief lobbyist, Chris W. Cox, said "This is an important step in the right direction…" Does anyone really doubt that once the camel has its proverbial nose under the tent, the next push will be to remove all restrictions on loaded weapons in parks? I sure don't.

    Whether that's a good or bad thing depends upon your ideology and your philosophy about whether national parks should ultimately be any different than any other chunk of real estate.

    There's no need for others to restate their views on the 2nd amendment, which have already been more than adequately covered above.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 49 weeks ago

    Although we haven't yet seen the proposed rule change from the Park Service, the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) believes that the current mountain biking regulations appear to be working well and that there is no demonstrated need to change them. Like any use of the national parks, the use of mountain bikes on trails should be examined via a public process, environmental review, and fully comply with National Environmental Policy Act before given the green light.

    NPCA believes that any changes made to the mountain biking regulations must take into consideration: 1) the capacity of park staffs to effectively manage mountain biking and ensure visitor safety; and 2) associated impacts on wildlife, vegetation, overall trail conditions, and the experience of other park visitors. Furthermore, any changes to the current mountain biking policy should not allow for mountain biking on parklands that have been or may be recommended by the National Park Service or others for inclusion into the National Wilderness Preservation System.

    Bryan Faehner
    National Parks Conservation Association

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I have to admit that I was wary of going hiking on a mountain bike trail this past weekend but was pleasantly surprised. The Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA), the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Outdoor Chattanooga and the National Park Service Rivers Trails and Conservation Assistance (RTCA) maintain a single-track trail on Raccoon Mountain above the city of Chattanooga, TN.

    We took a leisurely stroll on this trail yesterday and found that it was in much better shape than most of the hiking trails we regularly use in this area and that the bikers we encountered were friendly and courteous.

    To be fair we are still in the throes of a prolonged drought which could account for the well packed and un-eroded nature of the trail surface but think that those who designed this track did a good job of matching it up well with the terrain it follows. As for the well-mannered cyclists, this is after all the Deep South so that may account for the more civilized behavior which is reportedly lacking in the mountains of Colorado.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 49 weeks ago

    I have worked at park where the vast majority of our trails were multi-use. Generally, we didn't have problems with biker/hiker conflicts. Most of our problems came out of horse/hiker conflicts that arose from horses being on hiking-only trails and spurs. Our biggest trouble with the bike trails were that after a large storm blew through, we had to go around and check all those trails for downed trees and remove them, instead of waiting for hikers/horse riders to report the damage to us, since the trees were quite the obstacle for bikers. This was a tremendous amount of effort expended on behalf of one specific group of visitors, and biking was the least popular of hiking, horseback riding, and biking....so we have to ask ourselves as managers if it is worth the effort. We could convert some trails and/or roads to bikes, but that would still be a huge undertaking.

    That being said, most trails in Forest Service and BLM areas are already open to biking? What's wrong with the idea that bikes should be restricted in national parks? True, they aren't ATVs or snowmobiles, but if I'm hiking in the Smokies or through a meadow in Yosemite, I don't want to have to worry about a bike careening around a corner and running into my family.

    @Mark E: NPT was recently criticized for using 'cut' to describe the building of bike trails instead of 'built'. You have used 'banned' to describe the prohibition of bikes on some Boulder-area trails. Why not 'prohibited' or describe the trails as closed?

    In conclusion, yes, there are a few places in the park system where biking has potential, but in the majority of sites (~2/3rds), it's either impractical due to resource/natural conditions issues (ie - do we really want bike trails in Death Valley or American Samoa?) or money to build and maintain the trails.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   5 years 49 weeks ago

    To respond to the first poster, please note that mountain bikes have only recently been reintroduced to most Boulder trails -- thanks to the good work done by the Boulder MountainBike Alliance (BMA) -- and are still banned from many of Boulder's most popular trails.

    Try a stroll on the Mesa trail and tell me if a no-bikes policy prevents trail widening and erosion. The truth is that all users have impacts, and that the shared-use trails that have been designed and built by the BMA (in cooperation with Boulder Open Space) are among the most popular -- and narrowest -- in the area. Also, please note that mountain biking is already allowed in 40 national parks at present, including parks with singletrack. I hope we see more parks following these successes!