Recent comments

  • Mules In Grand Canyon National Park: Should They Stay?   5 years 48 weeks ago

    I like mules, do not mind their leavings and believe it is a great experience for folks that would otherwise just snap
    a few pictures from the rims parking lots.
    Historical (?) not in the least when compared to the canyons history, sounds tritely hubristic to my ear.
    Anyway, I agree with the park that it is time again to take a look at the commercial / private stock use, safety and impact issues, etc..

    "...adventure without regard to prudence, profit, self-improvement,
    learning or any other serious thing" -Aldo Leopold-

  • Descendants of Mesa Verde Anasazi Help Produce a Musical Masterpiece   5 years 48 weeks ago

    Hardly "mumbo jumbo," however you define it
    One of the dangers in using a catch all name like "Anasazi" is that it disguises real differences between the people lumped together. The Ancestral Puebloans descendants speak at least 6 distinct languages and differences between the peoples played a major role in the collapse of their civilization in the four corners region. Details in my recent book, The Ancestral Puebloan Primer (available from,, and specialty book stores).

  • Aerial Search Continuing for Missing Coloradan On Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve   5 years 48 weeks ago

    going alone is perfectly fine, but never,EVER travel light! always pack as if you are going to be up there a minimum of two weeks!

  • Aerial Search Continuing for Missing Coloradan On Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve   5 years 48 weeks ago

    A sad and difficult situation for everyone involved.

    The terrain, altitude, weather conditions and size of the area involved make this a tough one.

  • Brady Campaign Sues Interior Department over Concealed Carry in National Parks   5 years 48 weeks ago

    ...from 2002 to 2006, 1916 violent crimes occurred in national parks, including murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery.

    As I commented on a different post on the gun topic, some of those crimes had only a technical connection to a park (Examples: the body was found in the park but the crime was almost certainly committed elsewhere; a lovers quarrel that ended in a shooting on a greyhound bus that only by coincidence happened to be driving on a road in the DC area that is under NPS jurisdiction.)

    Such incidents definitely skew the numbers on the high side, and paint an inaccurately high picture of the number of serious crimes involving visitors who were in the park minding their own business when the crime originated.

    ...the 240 women raped between 2002 and 2006... were victims because they were denied the means to protect themselves.

    First, I fully agree that these sad situations represent reprehensible crimes. However, the same principle cited above applies here as well. Some (I'd go so far as to say many) of these crimes began outside a park (where in almost every case the victims could have been armed if they had chosen to do so.) In such cases, the victim had no idea she would end up in a park before the night was over, so she certainly wouldn't have left her gun at home simply because of the previous NPS rule.

    Based on the cited numbers of an average of about 50 such incidents occurred in all NPS areas between 2002 and 2006. I'd be willing to bet that a larger number of such incidents occur each year in plenty of individual cities - where under state law, those victims were not "denied the means to protect themselves."

    No, I don't have firm numbers, and had no reason to track that, but during 30 years in NPS law enforcement and 40 years in following such reports in the media and official sources, I feel I'm on solid ground in stating that the number of women who are accosted while visiting a park and then raped are extremely small indeed.

    The same could be said of any other violent crime: the chances that a law-abiding park visitor will become the victim of a crime in a park are much lower than even the already small number of reported incidents would suggest.

    "...more than 125,000 comments were received on the proposed rule change, and that many of these comments expressed opposition to a change in the existing rules." True, but “many” does not constitute a majority. They fail to mention the 4.7 million Americans represented in the one letter from the NRA.

    Simply counting the number of members in any organization to gauge public support quickly degenerates into a game of spinning the numbers. By that measure, you'd have to consider the total membership of all groups that took a position pro or con on any issue. It's also risky to infer the position of individual members of any group on any issue. As a gun owner and former NRA member, I wasn't in favor of this particular position, and I suspect some NPCA members were.

    Sorry, just paying your dues to any group and assuming that registers your position on any topic doesn't impress me very much. If you're trying to get a picture of public sentiment on an important topic, a key measure is how many people cared enough about it respond individually to a call for public comments – which makes the distribution of opinions in those 125,000 comments that were made a much more valid measure in my book.

  • Mules In Grand Canyon National Park: Should They Stay?   5 years 48 weeks ago

    Craig W. I did the same thing you did; sat at the computer trying to come up with what I wanted to say, finally left the computer and came back to it, with your comment in place. I agree with you and John 100%. Its time The Majority, i.e., the Interest for All People Groups, make some decisions for us rather than mostly being dictated to by The Chosen Few, i.e., Special Interest Groups. Leave the mules alone.

  • Mules In Grand Canyon National Park: Should They Stay?   5 years 48 weeks ago

    I also agree with John. If they remove the mules I will have no reason to vist the park as the ride is on my bucket list.

  • Mules In Grand Canyon National Park: Should They Stay?   5 years 48 weeks ago

    Ditto for me to John's reply.

  • Mules In Grand Canyon National Park: Should They Stay?   5 years 48 weeks ago

    As I read the article I was trying to come up with a reply. But, after reading John's reply. I must say I agree with him.

  • Brady Campaign Sues Interior Department over Concealed Carry in National Parks   5 years 48 weeks ago

    The Brady Bunch said:
    "...crime data show the park system to be one of the safest places in the nation. "

    They are correct, less crime occurs in national parks on average than in the rest of the nation, but it does not mean NO crime exists. In fact, from 2002 to 2006, 1916 violent crimes occurred in national parks, including murder, rape, kidnapping and robbery. During the same period, there were an additional 18,105 so called non-violent crimes committed on park property including burglary, theft of motor vehicles and arson. It is should be safe to assume that had some of these non-violent crimes been interrupted while occurring they would have most certainly turned into violent crimes as the perpetrators tried to complete the crime or at least escape. So, "YES" Mr. Helmke and Mrs. Brady, crime is lower in our national parks on average, but if you were one of the 240 women raped between 2002 and 2006 I sincerely doubt it would help you to know it happened in one of the safest places in the nation. These victims were victims because they were denied the means to protect themselves. Using Brady Campaign logic we should disarm our soldiers in Afghanistan because statically it is a safer war zone than any other to date. It is not that soldier do not die there, but fewer die there than die in Iraq or have died daily in other war zones. According to the DOD, as of May 2009 there has only been 686 U.S. soldiers killed in the entire 8 years occupation of Afghanistan compared to the 4300 in Iraq. Therefore, by applying Brady logic, it must be logical that these soldiers pose a greater threat by being armed than they face from the Taliban and should therefore be disarmed. I mean, just think about it, there were almost 17,000 murders in the U.S. last year alone and only 686 in the entire 8 years in Afghanistan, so if the Brady bunch does not consider us justified in protecting ourselves here in the U.S. then they certainly must not support it in Afghanistan. Really Mr. Helmke, how high must crime become in an area before ones earns the right to defend self and family?

    The Brady Bunch said:
    "its members will be irreparably harmed because they will no longer visit national park areas and refuges out of fear for their personal safety from those who will now be permitted to carry loaded and concealed weapons in such areas. Moreover, those who do visit such areas will have their enjoyment of those areas profoundly diminished by the increased risk to safety created by this rule change."

    The same has been true for thousands of Americans for years, that being those unwilling to disarm and travel into the parks defensive less or those who entered the parks defenseless and spent much of their time worrying about becoming a victim of the current crime occurring there. Unlike the irrational Brady members who falsely believe that they are safe merely because a law exists that prevents someone from carrying a gun, the rest of the nation knows that laws only stop honest people who are not a threat in the first place and give criminals a free crime zone to operate.

    The Brady Bunch said:
    "numerous studies have confirmed that concealed carrying of firearms does not reduce crime and, if anything, leads to increased violent crime."

    To date the Brady Campaign has never produced a single validated study that supports these claims. They rely mostly on reports authored by other anti-gun groups in order to distance themselves from the false reports when they are proven to be fabricated. They love to quote groups with long reputations of fabricating stories and statistics then claim no association when the report is proven bogus. The few studies they have undertaken were so skewed in application that they could in no way be considered an accurate representation of fact. In contrast, both national and state statistics show that violent crime has not risen and has in most cases decreased in areas where concealed or open carry was permitted. It is no coincidence that mass shootings occur in gun free zones.

    The Brady Bunch said:
    "...more than 125,000 comments were received on the proposed rule change, and that many of these comments expressed opposition to a change in the existing rules."

    True, but “many” does not constitute a majority. They fail to mention the 4.7 million Americans represented in the one letter from the NRA in favor of this change. For some reason the NRA is never recognized for what it actually is, a collection of members, that is American citizens who choose to voice their opinion collectively rather than publically and disruptively like the Brady squad and its numerous off shoot organizations. They want people to believe that the NRA is just a single bully on the block. Let the NRA support one of their causes and see how quick the 4.7 million members become noticed.

    In short, the Brady Bunch continues the same old Chicken Little "the sky is falling" fear mongering claims, which have been proven false time and time again across the nation, to garner support for their misguided cause. Despite the fact that disarmament has in every case resulted in an increase in violent crime (England, Canada, Australia, etc.) they continue to forge on in their attempt to make this country as unsafe and dictator ruled as the rest of the world. Fortunately this is a mute point now that President Obama has (reluctantly) signed national park carry into law.

  • Mules In Grand Canyon National Park: Should They Stay?   5 years 48 weeks ago

    In my opion it would be a terrible thing to remove the mules from the park. Not only are they an historical part of the park , but for some people the only means of tranportaion down into the canyon. Therefore removing them would jeopardize a large part of the publics Grand Canyon experiance just to satisfy the grumblings of what appears to be a special interest group.

  • Cables Are In Place On Half Dome in Yosemite National Park   5 years 48 weeks ago

    Here's the story on the gloves. They are in a word: junk. They are discarded by previous hikers and are indeed considered trash by the park service. Some people even think the NPS puts them there. They are oversized, torn, moldy (yes, sitting there for weeks tends to grow funk) and potential carriers of the affliction “mogo on the gagogo.” The point is, bring your own tight fitting – good gripping – gloves. I wear bike gloves all day as I use hiking poles and they prevent blisters. Once on the cables you need max grip. The man above is right. Coming down you will be sliding the cables across your palms just asking for blisters.

    Rick D.

  • Still No Sign of Missing Climber on Mount McKinley in Denali National Park and Preserve   5 years 48 weeks ago

    I wonder what would cause someone to not go with a buddy system. We learn that in 1st grade. Very Sad!

  • Tips for Staying Safe During Your Visit to the National Parks   5 years 48 weeks ago

    This from a local tv station on the question of "staying safe" in Grand Canyon.

    Grand Canyon fraught with peril for unprepared
    (May 23rd, 2009 @ 9:21am)

    GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK, Ariz. - Frank Poole worked out at a gym and hiked around his Mississippi home carrying a weighted pack for months in preparation for his trip to the Grand Canyon.
    But it wasn't long after Poole started hiking on a popular Grand Canyon trail that he was struggling to breathe. Several hours later, he was in a northern Arizona hospital, where doctors determined the 75-year-old Poole had suffered a heart attack.

    ``I never suspected I was having a heart attack,'' Poole said recently from his home in Oxford, Miss. ``I just thought it was the heat and extra exertion, the altitude and things like that. I was just so naive.''

    As tourist season picks up, emergency workers at the park and hospital officials know they'll start seeing more people with injuries or those who, like Poole, didn't know they had underlying health conditions that surfaced during the strenuous hikes at the canyon.

    The canyon lures millions of people each year with its colorful landscape, immense size, and awe-inspiring geology. But it presents obstacles that can leave even experienced hikers emerging sore and fatigued, including scorching heat during summer months, an altitude of 7,000 feet, and steep, rocky, winding trails.

    ``There's a million ways you can hurt yourself down there,'' said Lon Ayers, who works in the park's backcountry office.

    The last few weeks have illustrated that.

    In late April, an Ohio man fell 60 feet when he was peering over the edge of the canyon and lost his balance. Two days later, two teenagers and a young man who were swimming in the Colorado River at the bottom of the canyon were swept away and drowned. Another injury occurred when a mule lost its footing on a trail, fell and rolled over the passenger it was carrying.

    Falls, fatigue, extreme temperatures and horseplay at national parks around the country lead to nearly 3,600 search and rescue operations each year, according to 2007 figures. The park service also responds to 16,000 emergency medical calls a year for anything from abrasions to twisted ankles, heat stroke and cardiac arrest, said Dean Ross, NPS branch chief of emergency services in Washington, D.C.

    Rangers at the Grand Canyon perform more rescues than at any other park, including 300 helicopter rescues a year, said Ross.

    People who come prepared, bringing plenty of snacks and water, and who pace themselves and listen to their bodies fare the best.

    ``Don't be afraid to try it, (but) take it easy,'' said Dave Florence of Green Bay, Wis., who recently completed a 40-mile, five-day hike at the canyon.

    But hikers don't always heed warnings from rangers and on signs posted around the canyon.

    Allan Widener of Louisville, Ky., recently took the Bright Angel trail just off the canyon's South Rim. After a park staff member strongly recommended that Widener not head down without water, the hiker quipped that, ``I don't drink water, I drink Coke.''

    On the way back from his 11/2 mile hike, leaning against the canyon wall in a shady spot, the 48-year-old said he wished he would have had something to drink.

    Park rangers say they generally encounter three types of people hiking in the canyon. There are the strong-headed ones, usually in their teens and 20s who have an invincibility complex and will go against recommendations. Others are excited and unprepared but willing to change plans if needed.

    Then there are people like Albert Shank, who are prepared and generally stick to plans they've made, but sometimes get in trouble because of circumstance or because they made a bad decision, said Marc Yeston, deputy chief ranger.

    Shank was about 28 miles into what was supposed to be a 42-mile rim-to-rim run in April when his legs started cramping and his body refused to keep down any food or water. He nearly collapsed on a park bench and spent several hours having saline pumped into his body before he was able to walk out of the canyon.

    The Arizona State University faculty associate, who often runs distances longer than marathons, had plenty of water, energy bars and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches but not enough electrolytes or salty food.

    ``That was a rookie mistake, and I'm not a rookie,'' he said. ``I learned that no matter how good of shape you're in, the canyon is something you need to respect, and dehydration will take you down.''

    What can be deceiving at the Grand Canyon is that the temperature at the South Rim, where 90 percent of all visitors go, is about 20 degrees cooler than at the bottom. And while most trails lead hikers up a mountain before the downward descent, it's the opposite at the Grand Canyon.

    ``It's a unique set of circumstances,'' Ayers said. ``People from all over the world need to at least hear it from somebody on what to expect. People who have never hiked the Grand Canyon before expect it to be a walk in the park.''

    Ayers said the level to which hikers are prepared amazes him at times.

    Other times, rangers say they aren't sure what people were thinking. They've seen a man in a business suit carrying a briefcase full of water bottles, a man playing a tuba and people hiking without shoes or in flip-flops.

    ``It all stems from a lack of preplanning and knowledge of these trails,'' said Ian Buchanan, a seasonal park worker who advises people on smart hiking. ``A lot of people get the sense that it's Disneyland when it's an environmental park.''

    At the Flagstaff Medical Center - northern Arizona's only Level I trauma center - officials have a name for the spring and summer months when many tourists travel to the canyon. They call it ``Grand Canyon Season.''

    It's a time where about 30 percent of heart patients are brought in from the canyon with conditions such as valve and rhythm problems, and heart disease and blockages.

    Since the hospital started its open heart surgery program in 2004, there has been at least one month where all heart attack patients came from the Grand Canyon, said Gigi Sorenson, the hospital's cardiopulmonary services director.

    ``You just get used to it,'' she said. ``And now when tourist season kicks in, you just start to expect when they call and say they're coming from the canyon.''

    Poole, who had three clogged arteries, was the hospital's first open heart surgery patient after his heart attack at the canyon in 2004. He said his general good health, the exercise he did in preparing for his trip and willingness to seek help spared him from a more serious problem.

    He hasn't had any complications with his heart since the surgery. ``My heart's in good shape now,'' he said.

    Rick Smith

  • Creature Feature: Yellowstone National Park, Home to Wolves, Grizzlies, Elk, Moose, and ... Crystal Salamanders   5 years 48 weeks ago

    Good topic.

  • Hiker Dies at Death Valley National Park   5 years 48 weeks ago
  • Mesa Verde’s Tribal Park Neighbor: So Near, So Far, So Different   5 years 48 weeks ago

    Great story, Bob! Thanks for the tip on a spot worth seeing.

  • House Seals Deal To Allow Wide Range of Firearms into The National Park System   5 years 48 weeks ago

    Anonymous says,

    tourists have never been a target of criminals in the past on NPS land

    No argument from me.... although I'd say "extremely rarely" in the interest of accuracy.

    I suspect we've long since wrung any new ideas out of this whole discussion, so I'll move on to other topics on the Traveler.

  • New Gun Regulations for National Parks, Wildlife Refuges Won't Take Effect for Nine Months   5 years 48 weeks ago

    I suggest that NPS starts talking to NFS on how NFS has handled this all these years. Also the NPS personnel needs to learn that the gun liberties in the state they reside in. No longer do the NPS have a separate jurisdictionon gunlaws. I assume that legal opinion on facilities and structures will be sought but since CCW had gone intoo effect once already they should have most of this preplabnned. Take down the signs and chnage the language on the websites about weapons

  • House Seals Deal To Allow Wide Range of Firearms into The National Park System   5 years 48 weeks ago

    Actually, last year there were 5 incidents of muggings attacking visitors on the National Mall with knives. The park police shut that down fast and there were arrests of the juveniles and it stopped.

    The police jumped on that becasue tourists have never been a target of criminals in the past on NPS land . Usually they attack on the street to steal a wallet or purse. So the high street crime in DC should not have reflected in the stats. Th BW Pkwy has a lot of street ravers. I live near it and hear them many evenings. But this is a traffic issue and speeding issue not a violent crime.

    I expect that drunken drivers and drug possesion arrests are high on GW and BW Pkwys since these are major commuter routes. Most people do not realize they are on NPS land.

    The VA commuters will be affected since some use portion of the GW pkwy and have CCW in thier cars and no longer have to stop on their drive to work to store the gun in the trunk from their hip. Thi s change will allow them not to be hassled or inconvenienced trying to accomodte safe storage when they do not have to on other federal or state roads in VA

  • Historic Pear Trees and a Pig are Part of the Story at this Beautiful Island Park   5 years 48 weeks ago

    What an interesting piece! I have bookmarked for future reference and reading. Apple trees on apple seedling is a sure fire way for long term apple production.

  • House Seals Deal To Allow Wide Range of Firearms into The National Park System   5 years 48 weeks ago

    DVP made some good points in terms of Mr. Kane's statistics, and I appreciate both of them taking the time to present this information.

    A couple of points of further clarification on Mr. Kane's data.

    Mr. Kane believes that NPS numbers under-report violent crimes in parks by a "factor of about 21," based on "over 11,000 narcotic related offenses in national parks …involving gangs, organized crime, and drug dealers…”. It wasn't clear where that number of 11,000 such cases came from; it may in fact be from a valid source. If so, it helps to keep in mind that the limited number of categories used for stats such as the FBI uniform crime report sometimes result in "pigeonholing" offenses into broad categories that aren't very descriptive of the individual situations.

    "Narcotic related offenses" are a serious problem, but the vast majority (such as an arrest of an individual for possession of a small amount of drugs) are not "violent crimes," and I'd need to be convinced that such a large number of cases involving "gangs, organized crime and drug dealers" actually occurred parks. Attempting to interpolate those numbers into significant under-reporting of violent crimes such as murder and rape simply isn't valid.

    Mr. Kane is concerned that the number of serious crimes in parks is seriously understated by the NPS because of the number of cases handled by cooperating agencies rather than the NPS. Things may have changed since I retired 8 years ago, but based on my personal experience, if a serious crime occurred in a park, we completed a report - and included the incident in our annual stats - even if another agency ultimately took the lead role in the investigation and/or prosecution.

    There are mechanisms to prevent double-reporting by of those incidents in databases such as the FBI Uniform Crime Report, so I agree it's sometimes difficult to compare NPS stats and other reports. However, even if you include all violent crimes in parks in which the NPS had no role in the investigation, I believe you'd have a hard time coming up with many more of those serious offenses than were reported by the NPS. It would be interesting to see any data to the contrary.

    One strictly anecdotal source in the "NPS Morning Report" which for a number of years has summarized serious incidents in parks - irrespective of which agency handles the case. Is that a comprehensive list of criminal activity in parks? No, but it's a pretty good snapshot of what's happening in parks, especially for major cases such as homicides. I've read those on a regular basis for years, and that source clearly suggests there aren't a lot of murders in parks falling through the reporting cracks.

    Mr. Kane makes a valid point with the statement: "It would not be unreasonably to assume that the majority of these crimes [such as rapes and assaults] were handled and reported by the U.S. Park Police and occurred most likely in the 3 urban parks patrolled by the Park Police."

    He is correct that those areas often account for a disproportionate number of such cases each year; the NPS is responsible for some pretty unlikely pieces of real estate in downtown Washington, D.C. and while offenses which happen there are in fact crimes that occur in a park, including those in the stats gives a very skewed picture of risks posed by visitors to the vast majority of other NPS sites. What happens on a downtown D.C. street in the middle of the night doesn't have much correlation to the risks faced by a camper in a Rocky Mountain National Park - or any other "traditional" park.

    In a very real sense, NPS crime stats may in fact over-report serious crimes, in terms of how much risk is faced by a traditional park visitor. Here are some examples of "violent crimes" which have been reported in parks in past years:

    - a shooting on a Greyhound bus on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway was the result of a lovers quarrel between 2 passengers on the bus. The incident happened on NPS property in the urban area, so it was counted as a homicide in a park.

    - U.S. Park Police found a partial human skull, with an apparent gunshot wound, on the shoreline of the Annacostia River in the D. C. area. Did that crime actually occur in a park, or was the body simply dumped there? Did the skull wash ashore from elsewhere? I don't know, but it was reported as homicide on NPS property.

    - Some (many?) of the rapes reported in parks are incidents which began in a town outside the park boundary and ended in the park. While the actual crime occurred in a park, such sad situations aren't a true reflection of the risks facing park visitors.

    There are numerous similar examples.

    Are there vast numbers of violent crimes occurring in parks that are not reported, or which are absorbed into the data for other agencies? I'm not convinced.

  • 8-Mile-Long Multi-use Path Opens in Grand Teton National Park On Saturday   5 years 48 weeks ago

    Sounds like a paved pathway. I doubt that it will be a popular bike trail at only 8 miles. More like better for wheechairs so disabled will have a chance to see more of the natural beauty of the place. Off course they also may be predator food.
    If large numbers use the pathway that is unlikely and the wildlife coridoor will change to nocturnal or another place.

    I wonder at the trade off of expense versus value and why a 8 mile trail takes two years but that is moot now that it is completed.

  • Historic Pear Trees and a Pig are Part of the Story at this Beautiful Island Park   5 years 48 weeks ago

    A very interesting read. I have bookmarked this for future reference and reading.

  • Missed Portage Leads to Death At Big South Fork National River And Recreation Area   5 years 48 weeks ago

    If people are going to engage in high adventure then they have assumed the risk. It is regrettable that a person died. But basic safety precaution when on any water is a PFD. A cell is no good without service or when it gets wet.
    People have to learn to be responsible for their own safety and that means research when traveling an unknown area. Even check out the conditions when it is a known area.
    I have done WW rafting Class IV an V and fallen off is dangerous water and the guide was very quick to get me recovered since it was an underwater ledge spot. That was with all the safety precautions. I was in little danger due to good guides.

    I like adventure but it always has risk. I do not like the idea that NPS is responsible for warning when people choose to go off the beaten trail.

    If this area has more deaths then maybe more warnings are in order. But since it may have been a cardiac condition that is not warranted yet.