Recent comments

  • Fall Colors: What Can We Expect Across the National Park System?   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Don't forget about Zion. The high country / Kolob Terrace area has some of the most spectacular fall color in the West in late September, and the canyon itself can have some great color in November.

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Bob - if there's a silver lining in this story it's that experts are predicting (as Kurt mentioned in his Fall Colors post) above-average leaf color this fall for the Southern Appalachians. Last year, the fall color season in the Smoky Mountains region was muted due to the extreme drought and the above average temperatures during the summer and fall. I would suspect that leaf peepers will want to make-up for their losses from last year.

    Furthermore, motorists are starting to see some relief at the gas pump. The trends for gas prices are pointing downward for the foreseeable future (assuming no major disruptions in oil production).

    I think the Smokies should see a nice bump in visitation during the fall season, although the annual numbers will still be below last year's numbers.


  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Good point, SMH. I went back and tweaked the article.

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 6 weeks ago

    While I may agree that gas prices have created a downturn, I believe that climate change is another great contributor. The Smokies are just not what they used to be.

    I grew up in Knoxville, a stones throw from the GSMNP. Even though I now live in Texas, I still visit the Smokies nearly every year because my mother still lives in the area. Over the years I have noticed a serious degradation in the air, resulting in a corresponding decline in the views.

    There is a big difference between the misty clouds and fog which gave the Smokies their name, and the kind of poor visibility that occurs today. It changes the nature of what you have to try and enjoy. Instead of hiking along the Appalachian Trail and enjoying the distant vistas now muddled with dirty air, I'm more likely to enjoy the creeks and forests at mid-elevations. It's still good at times, but the number of good days are a lot less than they used to be.

    If the government is worried about the tourist decline, maybe they should be a little more worried about the air.

  • Is Climate Change Driving A New Forest Regimen in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem?   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Kurt, thank you for a beautifully written and thought-provoking piece. I hope you will write more about the effects of global climate change on our national parks. Are you planning on writing more regarding actions the national parks are doing to prepare for climate change or to adapt to it? I understand that response to the issue varies quite a bit among the parks.

  • Canyon Wilderness of the Southwest   6 years 6 weeks ago

    I Loved The Grand Canynon & would like to visit the Southwest again this fall!

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    The President IS the de facto emperor of the American Empire whether Bob chooses to snipe at his royal highness or not. The inability of the Congress to follow the Constitution and rein in the powers of the Executive, especially since WW2, has resulted in a fascist takeover by power hungry presidents who are totally in thrall to special interests such as the military industrial and high finance. Today's bailout of Fannie & Freddie for the benefit of the power elite, paid for by us the peon tax cattle, is the direct fruit of this top down form of corporatist national socialism.

    The next time you see the motorcade sweeping past you in line at your favorite national park just swallow your pride, stick out your arm and give a hale and hearty SEIG HEIL!

    "The judge, he holds a grudge
    He´s gonna call on you
    But he´s badly built
    And he walks on stilts
    Watch out he don´t fall on you."

    -------Bob Dylan

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Or ... admit it was political and snipe on. I'm all for sniping.

    Happy hunting,

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

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 6 weeks ago

    It's also been the case when I've been in backcountry that I've seen more American and fewer non-English-speaking hikers - by probably about 10 to 1 (though on a heavily traveled area like Cascade Canyon in the Tetons, that proportion didn't hold true unless I went away from Inspiration Point - and it was striking how much it changed). Since we say "hi" to almost everyone we pass, we get a decent idea.

    I think there could also be something to the accounting of numbers; I know they swipe my card every time they make me go through an entrance. Perhaps, there is a combination of factors.

    One thing - however - and this could be the result of a couple of reasons - more people are blogging this year on Yellowstone than they were the year before (and I'm talking about English-speaking blogs; the number of others seem to be going up - there is at least one regular Yellowstone enthusiast I am aware of who blogs in German). I have a few ways I can measure this from the work that I do on my newspaper. Now, this could simply mean that a higher percentage of people are blogging, or more people who travel are now blogging, or that blog search engines are picking up more pings from blogs than they used to pick up, or it could mean I've gotten significantly better at finding them. Or, it could mean also that there are more visitors to Yellowstone. There is a definitely correlation between peak visitation and the number of blogs mentioning Yellowstone; however, it's almost impossible to measure from year to year (especially as only a fraction of blogs end up in my newspaper). What that causes me to wonder is - what if we are wrong and American visitation is up in Yellowstone? If so, that might have to do with the fact that most people pre-plan and did so before the price of gas and airfare shot up, it could have to do with the ever growing population of the gateway counties, etc. For example, people using cars during winter through the North Entrance was up despite a harsher winter - perhaps, that's a function of population growth in the region.

    So, there's a lot we could speculate on, but there are no firm answers.

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

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 6 weeks ago

    I climbed Half Dome for the first time on Aug 5, 2008. I'm 63 years old but in good shape and have done this sort of thing before.

    This is not a silly dangerous undertaking. The present Park Service policy should remain, though I suspect that they have decided to limit access to the cables. This is because they were taking a survey there when I came down, and the questions were clearly slanted to get the result that "the overcrowding is too dangerous".

    There are several things people have not mentioned. First, it is perfectly possible to get up and down the cable route without aid of actually holding on to the cables. I in fact got down without a "death grip" on them, just sliding along them prepared to grip hard if my feet slipped: but in fact they did not and I got down on foot friction alone. This was in well-worn Vibram sole hiking boots. I was not able to get up on foot friction alone, and had to pull up with my hands. But ... I saw one guy with "approach" shoes (i.e. shoes intermediate in stickiness between ordinary Vibram and the really sticky climbing shoes) get up without grasping the cables, just sliding his hands along without grabbing. With real climbing shoes an experienced free climber would do it free. This would be seriously dangerous, but that's their idea of fun.

    It is a long day hike. At about 16 miles it is still not enough that I felt pooped when I got down (I left at 4:15 in the morning,
    reached the top at 9:15, left the top at 10:15, spent two hours on Sub Dome watching the show (which never had a wait
    to go up or down the cables) , and made it back to Curry Village at 5 pm in time for a shower and a nice dinner at the Ahwahnee (yes, you can get reservations the day you want to eat there, even at 5 pm.) By 11AM there were lots of people coming up who had started at a "prim and proper hour" from Happy Isles and seemed to me to be not terribly pooped as they started up the cables. At 1 PM on the way down I met the stragglers coming up, and these were those who, perhaps, had bit off a bit too much, with many questions to me "is the rest of they way up harder than THIS???". (Yes, folks, it is!)

    Half Dome, and its cables, is a great piece of historic Americana. It's a leftover from a free America that was not overly concerned
    with being a nanny state. It is an accomplishmet of sorts to get to the top. Its a place where the nanny state should overlook. Nobody is forcing anybody to do it (well, perhaps a few are trying to shame friends or children into doing it against their will, but that must be rare.)

    Just do it, come back, and spend $100 at the Ahwahnee dining room celebrating!

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    A president OF the people has no right to be treated like a king, even in a national park. Such treatment is un-American. Three cheers, Bob!

  • Yellowstone National Park Reporting Bullish Visitation   6 years 6 weeks ago

    I drove through Yellowstone on the way back to Colorado from a week in Glacier this last weekend. Despite claims of vast numbers of Europeans visiting Yellowstone in large vehicles, what was most striking was the vast number of Hummers and other belching SUVs from Texas and other Western states. These were real card-carrying, drawling Texans paying Wyoming gas prices to visit Yellowstone, many with fly rod in hand. And there were many, many fly rods to be seen. I guess no gasoline price is too high to fish the Yellowstone River.

  • The Denali Road Lottery Offers Regulated Leaf Peeping at Alaska’s Denali National Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    That seemed like a pretty logical question to me, MRC, so I posed it to the PIO at Denali. She told me that arrangements are being made to allow applicants to pay the application fee electronically. (Payment for permits would still have to be made at the park, as would any applicable admission fees.) If all goes as planned, the electronic payment option should be in place for next year's application cycle. But since the wheels of bureaucracy can turn very slowly, I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Incidentally, it looks like this year's Road Lottery will have fairly decent weather (highs in the mid- to high 40s), and there's no precip in the forecast -- at least not at the moment. Colors are past their peak in a lot of places, but still pretty good in others.

  • The Denali Road Lottery Offers Regulated Leaf Peeping at Alaska’s Denali National Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Can anyone think why they don't accept electronic applications with payment via Paypal (or similar)? Set up a decent web application once and spare a few people to wade through paper and enter the names and dates and stuff into databases by hand.

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Bob, your practiced "reasonable reply" isn't fooling anyone. This WAS a rant, evinced by use of the vernacular "nuther" and your lines:

    The prez was invited to return later this month to attend the grand opening of the Museum and Visitor Center. He declined, of course. ‘Been there, done that.'

    The first poster had it right...for Pete's sake, quit the political sniping.

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    I worked at Sequoia during Bush II's visit in 2000. A wall was knocked out between two rooms at the lodge to make a bigger suite. A television (probably tuned to FOX News) and treadmill were added to the room. Bush climbed to the top of Moro Rock. When shaking the President's hand, Sequoia National Park's air quality monitor told him not to slack off on clean air regulations. His visit pretty much shut down big parts of the park. Bush was there promising billions for the national parks. Remember? That was before 9/11. Oh, if only politicians would stop using parks as political pawns.

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Good grief, Tourist. Now I have to be envious of you too! Anyway, I'm glad you can see -- though some other Traveler readers obviously cannot! -- that EWS whining is basically driven by wishful thinking, not political persuasion per se. I would have loved the opportunity to shake hands with the President and First Lady. BTW, if you're interested in the latter's national park visiting activities, you might want to have a look at this site.

  • Cape Hatteras National Seashore Settlement Won't Ban ORV Use, But Will Restrict Travel   6 years 6 weeks ago

    The above comments are absolutely spot on the truth. I am very concerned that our natural resources be protected, but what the Audubon Society has done through this law suit is a miscarriage of justice, and in reality serves no one, no even the precious wild life they seek to protect.

    Thanks for reporting the facts. I fear the entire island of Hatteras will become off limits to people.

  • It’s Good to be the President When You Visit Gettysburg National Military Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    I happened to be at the Virginiia Memorial when the President and First Lady showed up. It was an incredible experience to be touring Gettysburg for the first time and then shake hands with the President of the United States. Reagrdless of ones political persuassion, an unforgetable moment.

  • Mountain Pine Beetles Chewing into Grand Teton National Park Forests   6 years 6 weeks ago

    What is different about this pest and the one destroying the lodge pole pines in the Rockies of Colorado? There we were told the destruction came as a result of the lack of normal thinning that occurs as a result of wildfires and only trees 8" and above were being attacked. It appears the "experts" in each area have different stories all covering the same outbreaks. It's no wonder it's hard to get the backing of people in lobbying those in power to change things.

  • Sky-High Ginseng Prices Boost Illegal Harvest in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    I was surprised just a few years ago to discover Extension Agent literature & programs, to encourage Pacific Northwest landowners to consider the ginseng industry. This area differs from the usual range of the species, but evidently trials & trail-blazers have shown it practical. We have a standardized buyer-network, and a number of large-scale ginseng-farm operations. The hope is plainly that more small operators will take it up, since their conditions are more likely to yield the more-exotic & unique roots that are always sought-after. Big farms produce a very uniform product.

    So ... what to do about illegal digging in Smokey Mountains Park? If harsh penalties protected the plants, then the answer would be fairly simple. Evidently, though, for some the temptation exceeds their fear of getting caught. If penalties worked there should be large plants growing in those places that favor ginseng. The lack of abundant or large plants probably indicates that more-skillful illegal diggers are continuing their activities. (For example, I recognize instantly that parking a car where it will attract the notice & arouse the suspicions of a ranger is not the savviest way to go about doing something illegal in the Park...)

    A serious potential consideration in erecting a largely unenforceable and ultimately ineffective penalty-system is the potential for a Prohibition-like outcome. It could foster a network of criminalized buyers who overlook that certain suppliers of roots are coming in with a product of a quality that others cannot obtain (because it now exists only in the Park). It could help inure reasonably law-abiding people to the risks & stress, and help teach them the special skills of illicit & surreptitious picking, etc. Both of these could then lead to a proliferation of other illegal activities in the woods.

    Sez your buyer, Oil-Can Suzie:

    "Sure is an awful lot of black bears in the Smokies these days, ya know. Did you hear what dried gall bladders & paws are fetching now? Don't get caught of course ... but it's a lot more lucrative than these few scrawny 'sang roots you got here. Give it a thought."
    This was basically the undoing of Prohibition - it provided fertile ground & cover for a general proliferation of outlawry.

  • Hawaii’s National Parks Are Attracting Fewer Visitors   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Interesting observations about Native Hawaiians, Ted. But while it's true that many Native Hawaiians dislike "haoles" (whites) and have profoundly anti-development views, that's not been a significant problem in their direct relations with tourists. Take the Big Island, for example. Native Hawaiians who don't like haoles don't interact all that much with Big Island tourists. The overwhelming majority of hotels (including some of the finest in the world) are situated over on the west side (the Kona Coast), whereas the densest clusters of Native Hawaiian are on the east side, where there's comparatively cheap land south of Hilo. (The east side of the Big Island is the rainy side; Hilo is America's rainiest city. While tourists don't like rain, Native Hawaiians seem not to mind it.) In 1999, Sandy and I stayed for a few days at a resort on the coast south of Hilo. This was not far from Pahoa, which is certainly one of the most interesting little towns I've ever seen. Not once during our entire stay did we have an interaction with a Native Hawaiian that was anything but cordial. Let me hasten to add that I have never been damn fool enough to take a rental car up one of those long private drives that wind through the trees off the main road. Haoles are not now, nor have they ever been, welcome in those private places.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 6 weeks ago


    You provide an interesting & instructive account. Thank you.

    When I was a kid on the Olympic Peninsula in '50s & '60s, everyone liked to have a 'bear-story'. Most of them began by the teller holding up the thumb & index-finger with a gap of 1 or 2 tenths of inch between them.

    "Yep, it was out there, oh, 400, maybe 600 yards", thumb & index-finger bobbing up & down, "moving at around 40 mph straight up that steep hill through impenetrable brush like it wasn't there. He musta went airborne when he cleared over the top."

    That's basically all anyone ever saw of a bear - a tiny black speck near the limits of vision, retreating at its panic-maximum speed. If you watched the black speck for as much as a full second, that was an unusually long sighting.

    The reason bears acted like that, of course, is they were routinely hunted.

    Today, Olympic Nat'l Park people are chewing their nails to the quick, getting ulcers worrying when the first Olympic bear-attack will suck them into the developing hurricane that now threats to ravage wildlife management professionals & institutions all across North American. They're in denial, their heads in the sand. See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil.

    Even quite recently, I would have said, "No, though hunting carnivores would do the trick alright, I can't see them coming around to it".

    Now, though, I definitely can see it, and I don't think it's very far off. I now think that the situation with bear & cougar has been allowed to degenerate to such a state that it is now all but inevitable the Parks will be forced to embrace hunting against their own bias & prejudice, and weather the withering flak they will get from anti-hunting allies among environmentalists.

  • Hawaii’s National Parks Are Attracting Fewer Visitors   6 years 6 weeks ago

    The security-driven 'airport experience' is an increasing deterrent to air-travel. Many complain about it. The chronic economic crisis for the airline industry, wage-reductions for pilots, and recurring stories of lax maintainance, all could understandably serve to reduce the willingness of a sensible person to entrust themselves to a 600 mph vehicle of dubious reliability.

    There are, as well, social problems in Hawaii which may make vacationing there less pleasant. Increasingly strong anti-development sentiments are becoming conspicuous in the Island scene. Some of this might spill over as hostility toward visitors. As well, there appears to be a trend in the U.S. to express greater sympathy for such social conflicts.

    Using environmental classification schemes, great swaths of the entire Hawaiian archipelago have been declared 'no-go zones'. It is now against the law to go ashore on the great majority of Hawaiian islands, and this causes resentment and impacts a potentially lucrative touring enterprise. President Bush, otherwise no big fan of environmental issues, has been especially keen to re-classify the archipelago.

    I have for some years now begun to wonder about the long term future of the State of Hawaii. Effects on tourism & Park-visitation seem like components of a larger social drama there.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 6 weeks ago

    They have tried relocating bears in Great Smoky several times, and the bears always return to the place from which they were taken. This bear was aggressive. I hate killing animals too, but the bears are overpopulating the park. It's time allow very limited and cautious bear hunting.