Recent comments

  • Congress Passes Sweeping Public Lands Package, National Parks Will Benefit   6 years 6 days ago

    Wonderful, cyclists are getting kicked out of even more areas. Bike haters on the bike rejoice. More trails you won't have to share courtesy of the government...

  • House Consideration of Massive Public Lands Bill Could Involve Gun Amendment   6 years 6 days ago

    I'm ashamed to admit that Rob Bishop represents me. Sorry about that. But at least with President Cheney out, our parks finally have a chance at survival.

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   6 years 6 days ago

    Kurt, thanks for the suggestions on places to ride where mountain biking is allowed. I have ridden in the Sawtooths, assuming that's where the Williams Creek and Fisher Creek trail loop is located, the one between Ketchum and Stanley on the east side of the highway. Fine trails. I had to share them with a group of motorcyclists but they were polite, albeit unavoidably loud. I've also ridden some of the trails to the west of the highway that links Ketchum and Hailey.

    Regrettably, Wilderness advocates want to lock up parts of that area so mountain bikers can't ride there (maybe the Wilderness bill that just passed achieved this?):

    The San Rafael Swell, for those who don't know, is a majestic north-south-running escarpment (I hope that's the right term) that causes I-70 to drop from about 7500 feet in central Utah on the west side of the swell to about 3500 feet on the east side, which is near Green River. I've heard there are two or three worthwhile trails there. And I drive through there every summer on my way to Colorado's fine high-altitude mountain biking. Unfortunately, it's always 100 degrees at the lower level, where I think the trails are, so I keep going—too hot!

    Regrettably, Wilderness advocates also want to lock up the San Rafael Swell so mountain bikers can't ride there either:

    But apparently they're not making much headway (indeed, they have to rely on a New York representative and Illinois senator to push for it!):

    Good suggestions. We'd better ride these areas while we can do so legally. Sad, isn't it?

    I admit I'm more interested in access to Wilderness than the national parks. The parks are rather regimented anyway, and I doubt they're going to grow much. (Still, I support the NPS proposal, it goes without saying.) Wilderness keeps expanding and it now contains much of America's most majestic scenery.

    What I would like to do, however, is be able to ride all of the Pacific Crest Trail someday, including where it may run through a national park. As mentioned before, most of the PCT is engineered for cyclists: it's not steep and it's rather wide. It is dramatically different from the Appalachian Trail in those respects; now that is a footpath, or at least large parts are. Right now, it bears repeating, cyclists have zero access to the PCT. And that's how this thread started, lo these many words ago!

  • Designations Just One Example of Disparities Within the National Park System. Web Sites Are Another   6 years 6 days ago

    For the most part, NPS Web content is principally driven by 1) a dedicated/interested
    NPS employee (and in a few cases, employees, plural) and/or 2) a dedicated/interested
    volunteer. This is pretty much consistent whether the park be large or small, old or
    new. In many cases existing Web content was created by that NPS employee and/or
    volunteer, who is no longer associated with a given park and additions to Web
    content then grinds to a halt.

    Compounding that problem is a general lack of apprecation on the part of many
    NPS managers to expend resources to expand parks' Web offerings. THE primary
    focus is the park visitor who walks into the front door of the visitor center
    or entrance station and 'electronic visitors' don't count. That tends to
    discourage dedicated/interested NPS employees (and volunteers) from devoting
    more time to expanding a park's Web site.

    A case in point is the NPS History Web site (
    The electronic library (3,000+ documents online) is principally (though not
    solely) the work of one NPS employee and one volunteer; the only funding
    Management has provided is the salary of that one NPS employee.

    The old Expanded Web sites (mentioned previously) was an example of pre-CMS Web
    development efforts, most of which were done by people no longer associated
    with those parks, with no one left (or who has time) to migrate that content
    into CMS or 'expand' upon what was already performed. This content has been
    migrated to the 'archive' Web site, which is slated to be taken offline in October.
    If you think Web content is lean now, wait until October when tens of thousands
    of person-hours of Web development simply vanishes (if you have a favorite Web page
    in the archives, you better save it to your local computer now before it's gone).

    Practically, however, even under the best of circumstances, Gauley River NRA
    (or Fort Bowie NHS or Minidoka Internment NM, as examples) will never
    equal the content of units in the Park System that have been around for
    100+ years; the amount of research that has been conducted over the years,
    the plethora of resource specialists that exists in the larger/older parks,
    and the general level of funding that national parks will always garner versus
    smaller/less-visited park units will simply yield far more opportunities for Web
    content for the Yellowstones/Yosemites/Mount Rainiers than the
    Gauley Rivers/Fort Bowies/Mindoka Internments.

    Hopefully NPS Management will someday come to recognize the value of having
    BOTH a strong Web presence, in addition to the traditional in-park visitor
    experience, so the Gauley River's in the System will offer something more
    electronically than it does today.

  • Congress Passes Sweeping Public Lands Package, National Parks Will Benefit   6 years 6 days ago

    I get this message when trying to view the bill: "This bill is very large, and loading it may cause your web browser to perform sluggishly, or even freeze. This is especially true for old and/or bad browsers. As an alternative you can download the PDF of the bill or read the text on THOMAS."

  • NPCA Applauds National Park System's Cut of Stimulus Package, But Says Much Remains to Do   6 years 6 days ago

    I am not sure "a lot of money" spent within the National Park system is money well spent (But I guess that wasn't the premise upon which the stimulus package was built). The hierachy within the National Park system has in the past stepped on many a Senator/Congresman's toes whenever one would question what was going on within the Park. How many times can you step on one's toe (especially if he/she holds the purse strings) before they will withhold the funds that create the "power to be." Well, its' happened. Learn to work with people rather than against people and you may get what you want.

  • Congress Passes Sweeping Public Lands Package, National Parks Will Benefit   6 years 6 days ago

    I wish that the bill had included final wilderness designation for millions of acres of parklands in Alaska.

  • Congress Passes Sweeping Public Lands Package, National Parks Will Benefit   6 years 6 days ago

    This collection of bills sounds like money well spent. Perhaps we can squeeze some money into the next set to upscale the web presence of some of the smaller units. ;)

  • House Consideration of Massive Public Lands Bill Could Involve Gun Amendment   6 years 6 days ago

    House passes bill to expand wilderness in 9 states

    From Associated Press
    March 25, 2009 2:52 PM EDT
    WASHINGTON - Congress on Wednesday set aside more than 2 million acres in nine states as protected wilderness - from California's Sierra Nevada mountains to the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

    The legislation is on its way to President Barack Obama for his likely signature.

    The House approved the bill, 285-140, the final step in a long legislative road that began last year.

    The vote came two weeks after the House rejected the bill amid a partisan dispute over gun rights. The measure was brought up again in the Senate and approved last week, setting up Wednesday's vote.

    The bill - a collection of nearly 170 separate measures - would be one of the largest expansions of wilderness protection in a quarter-century. It would confer the government's highest level of protection on land in California, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia.

    Supporters called the bill landmark legislation that will strengthen the national park system, restore national forests, preserve wild and scenic rivers, protect battlefields and restore balance to the management of public lands.

    Opponents, mostly Republicans, called the bill a "land grab" that would block energy development on vast swaths of federal land.

    "After nearly a decade during which our parks were taken for granted and our range lands were scarred by a spider-web of roads and (drilling) well pads," the lands bill "represents a new dawn for America's heritage and American values," said Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee.

    Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and other Republicans complained that the measure would lock up millions of acres of land that could be explored for energy and used for other development.

    "Our nation can't afford to shut down the creation of jobs for jobless Americans, and we can't afford to become even more dependent on foreign sources of energy," Hastings said.

    The bill "even locks up federal lands from renewable energy production, including wind and solar," he said.

    Hastings and Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, tried unsuccessfully to amend the bill to allow visitors to national parks to carry concealed, loaded weapons. A federal judge last week struck down a Bush administration rule allowing loaded guns in parks and wildlife refuges.

    Because of a parliamentary rule adopted in the Senate, the House took up the bill under a rule that blocked amendments.

    Land to be protected in the bill ranges from California's Sierra Nevada mountain range and Oregon's Mount Hood to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado and parts of the Jefferson National Forest in Virginia.

    Land in Idaho's Owyhee canyons, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan and Zion National Park in Utah also would win designation as wilderness, and more than 1,000 miles of rivers in nearly a dozen states would gain protections. The proposals would expand wilderness designation - which blocks nearly all development - into areas that now are not protected.

    The bill also would let Alaska go forward with plans to build an airport access road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge as part of a land swap that would transfer more than 61,000 acres to the federal government, much of it designated as wilderness.

    Rick Smith

  • Flamingo Lodge is No More   6 years 6 days ago

    The last time we stayed there, a rain storm came up early one morning. The wind was blowing and the rain was about horizontal. It was coming in around the windows so bad that my wife was putting towels down to try and keep some of it off the carpet. I'm sure those buildings would have rotted away sooner than later if the storms hadn't taken them. Great times there.

  • National Park Designation is an Unholy Mess   6 years 6 days ago

    Speaking of Ft. Moultrie, here's a new news clip about the Ft.

    Museum Exhibit On Slave Trade Opens

    "African Passages," a newly-installed museum exhibit on the international slave trade at the Fort Moultrie Visitor Center, opened to the public this past weekend.

    The new exhibit examines the role of Sullivan's Island as a quarantine station during the international slave trade, when Charleston was the main port of entry for captive Africans in North America. Historians estimate that slave ships brought 200,000 to 360,000 men, women and children into Charleston's harbor. Between 1707 and 1799, when arriving ships carried infectious diseases, their free or enslaved passengers were quarantined either aboard ship or in island "pest houses." This painful history makes Sullivan's Island a gateway through which many African Americans can trace their entry into America.

    The exhibit includes the haunting Middle Passage charcoal works of Thomas Feelings and the exuberant Gullah art of Jonathan Green. West African objects, leg shackles and an 1803 slave identification badge are among the artifacts on display that are on loan from the collection of the Avery Research Center for African American Culture at the College of Charleston.

    The story of Priscilla and her seventh generation granddaughter's return to Sierra Leone provides a modern day link from Charleston across the Atlantic and three centuries.

    "The scholarship of historians Edward Ball and Joseph Opala uncovered this amazing connection from Sierra Leone to Sullivan's Island. The story of Priscilla puts a face on those oppressed by slavery," said Krista Kovach-Hindsley, NPS exhibit planner.

    With text written by journalist Herb Frazier, the exhibits were fabricated and installed by Studio Displays of Charlotte, North Carolina. Seed money for the project was donated in 2004 by the Committee of Descendants, a foundation established by Ed Ball and his extended family. The Remembrance Committee of Charleston has also been instrumental in seeing the project completed.

    "This is a story of national and international significance that is central to the birth and growth of the United States," said superintendent Bob Dodson. "It is a powerful story of strength and endurance that will touch people on a personal level. I am very grateful for the grass roots support of this long awaited exhibit. The Charleston community has been looking forward to the completion of this project for some time now. The exhibit builds on the commemorative marker installed in 1999 and Toni Morrisons Bench by the Road placed on park grounds in 2008.

    Rick Smith

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   6 years 6 days ago

    Kurt, extremely well expressed! The less tire tread in the National Parks, the better off will all be to enjoy the true solitude of mother nature. Silence is golden Zebulon!

  • National Park Designation is an Unholy Mess   6 years 6 days ago

    Interesting question. Fort Moultrie was transferred to the state of South Carolina after it was deactivated in 1947. The state of South Carolina then transferred the site back to the federal government in 1960. Assigning it to the National Park Service for administration as a component of Fort Sumter National Monument would certainly be the logical thing to do in those circumstances. An administrative decision like that wouldn't require a proclamation or designation of the sort you'd need for establishing a new NPS unit.

  • National Park Designation is an Unholy Mess   6 years 6 days ago

    I got curious and looked a bit deeper at the usual places for such an information - the hit came pretty easily, wasn't more than ten minutes searching. And thank you for the summary of the really know facts. But one big question stays: How did the NPS get responsible for Fort Moultrie, if not by designation or proclamation?

  • National Park Designation is an Unholy Mess   6 years 6 days ago

    Wow, MRC; that's a great catch! Right there on page 14 of that GMP (page 11 contains only a map) it says: "No enabling legislation exists for Fort Moultrie." That's pretty darn unequivocal.

    I just finished a pretty comprehensive (though not exhaustive) search of relevant historical sources and timelines without finding a shred of evidence that Fort Moultrie was ever proclaimed or officially designated a National Monument. What I did find was dozens and dozens of references to "Fort Moultrie National Monument" in a wide assortment of sources -- even Encyclopedia Brittanica. Now that is really interesting! It seems that this is one of those errors that's been repeated and repeated and repeated until it's assumed to be fact.

    Over the years I've told many people --including Traveler readers -- that Fort Moultrie is a national monument, even though it is not now, and never has been, a national monument. For that I most humbly apologize and promise never to do it again.

    Thank you, MRC, for putting me on the righteous path.

    BTW, this seems to be what we can say with confidence about historic Fort Moultrie. It was a coastal artillery installation ostensibly guarding Charleston harbor (though inadequately armed for the job) until 1947 when it was deactivated. Nearby Fort Sumter National Monument was established in 1948. The National Park Service assumed responsibility for Fort Moultrie in 1960, and the site was placed under the supervision of Fort Sumter National Monument.

  • National Park Designation is an Unholy Mess   6 years 1 week ago

    Bob, can you point me to the disignation of Fort Moutrie als National Monument by congress, please? The General Management Plan of Fort Sumter from 1986 - - states on page 11 that there never was any enabeling legislation for Fort Moultrie, so I am dubious if there ever was any kind of formal designation.

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   6 years 1 week ago

    "Over the years I've come to believe, to accept, that the national parks are a different animal than other public lands. They are managed for an entirely different purpose, one focused largely on conservation/preservation, not meeting everyone's recreational preference. Is that too idealistic? Perhaps. Kurt"

    Thank you, Kurt. You summed it up beautifully. It is important that there be places within relatively easy walking that are free of mechanical vehicles, both motorized and non-motorized, where people may have a quiet visit with nature. This issue should not be seen as a decision between complete exclusion of mountain bikes from all backcountry trails or opening all trails to mountain bike use. There should be and are many places where mountain bike enthusiasts can challenge themselves and thoroughly enjoy their sport. Equally, there should be places that allow only non-mechanized travel where hikers may find some semblance of natural solitude free of mechanical intrusions. The value of a non-mechanized access trail should not be measured in how many people may travel it but rather in the quality of the experience it offers.

  • National Park Service Ban on Lead Ammo, Fishing Gear Draws Ire of Shooting Sports Foundation   6 years 1 week ago

    As our technology continues to evolve, science seems to be catching up to our activities. There's nothing wrong with course correction in this instance. There's no harm in doing the right thing by wildlife, ourselves and just having a good outdoor spirit in general.

  • Designations Just One Example of Disparities Within the National Park System. Web Sites Are Another   6 years 1 week ago

    How about NOT mentioning those 38 units again until after this site posts an article about, or at the very least mentions the remaining 358 units? (Or is my math incorrect because I blindly believe the NPS' designations and official count of units is good enough for most purposes?)

    Since Yellowstone was a focus of the original article, I typed the term Yellowstone in Traveler's Search box. I received 90 pages of citations. 90 pages, or almost 900 individual posts to Traveler that either mention Yellowstone, or are devoted primarily to Yellowstone.

    How can we expect the general public to care more about the smaller and less-funded parks, especially in arenas such as web content or funding, when we here at the Traveler, one of the best web blogs around, mention the big giant parks over and over again in the majority of articles? That's what I was getting at when I used the infuriating term "lip service". Are we really that concerned with an issue such as web content to discuss inequity of monetary resources across the agency?

    What effect does inequity in web site content have on the majority of potential visitors? Probably not much. We live a pretty good life if we can devote the time and intellectual energy to argue back and forth about something such as this.
    But I humbly suggest to our readers, if we can't get the information we're looking for through our laptops, perhaps we need to unplug and actually telephone the park and speak to a human, or even *gasp* write to them to request the information we're looking for.

    (Consider that perhaps there just isn't that much at Gauley River except rafting and kayaking opportunities. Does a single use focus warrant endless pages of content or podcasts?)

    I mentioned banners for volunteerism and partnerships as a way of fostering awareness and concern among our readers for those parks that don't receive the attention and support from the NPS managers we all agree they should.
    It wasn't an attack on you personally, Kurt. You do an awesome job with the sight, I'm sure all readers would agree, and we're grateful for the considerable amount of time you devote to it.

    When offering criticisms for something so miniscule as equity of web content across the entire agency, perhaps we should offer solutions, or better yet, actively solicit our readers to go volunteer their considerable services to those parks whose web content isn't up to snuff.
    Because we all know that the only way this perceived deficiency is going to be rectified will be through private funding and volunteer man hours. The feds just don't have the scratch to make it happen. THAT was the point of my post.

    Let me now add that IMHO I for one would rather see any monies and energy possibly devoted to a more equitable NPS web presence diverted towards the maintenance backlog. Or payroll to provide an increased employee presence for me, the visitor. Or for even greater preservation and conservation efforts. Or for aggressive stewardship outreach among minority communities. Or for converting NPS facilities to sustainable, responsible technologies. Or for getting folks that can't afford their own computers (and are more concerned about where their next meal is coming from) into these incredible parks, perhaps for the first time in their lives.

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   6 years 1 week ago

    RT: There are plenty of bikes out there to choose from. The Ibis Mojo seems to be a great all day trail bike, light enough for a long ride, with plenty of travel to go on rocky trails. I don't get the 29er thing, but then again, I'm short. :)

    One point I'd like to make is that I don't want to have access to each and every trail out there. I recognize that trails with very high foot traffic should remain close to bikes as it would lead to user conflicts. However, such trails are a small fraction of the overall trail system. Again, the average hike is probably a few miles, whereas the average bike ride is around 20-25. Past the first couple miles from the trailhead, traffic dissipates and user conflict is diminished. Now, I'm sure that it'll take away from the experience for a hiker. I get that part, but I don't believe that taxpayer funded trails should be reserved for a chosen few.

    I also get that cyclists don't enjoy the park the same way that hikers do. Again, I don't see it as a problem. Let people enjoy the parks the way they want, so long as it does not negatively impact the park. The more people get in the parks, the more support they'll get. Hiking is more contemplative, whereas cycling is more of a flow thing. So what?

  • Designations Just One Example of Disparities Within the National Park System. Web Sites Are Another   6 years 1 week ago

    Volunteerism and lip-service?

    How's this for volunteerism -- The Traveler has been a volunteer effort for nearly four years now.

    As for lip-service, perhaps you should take a glance through the "Browse Content By Date" search function. Here's a quick rundown of variety:

    Let's see, in the past month there have been posts on Gateway NRA (1), Glacier (2), Grand Teton (3), the National Park Foundation's Junior Ranger Essay Contest, Everglades (4), Lake Clark NP and Preserve (5), Cape Lookout (6), the website situation, Navajo National Monument (7), Valley Forge (8), Voyageurs (9), Joshua Tree (10), Ocmulgee National Monument (11), Rock Creek Park 912), Shenandoah (13), Blue Ridge Parkway (14), Denali (15, Indiana Dunes (16), Cape Cod National Seashore (17), Mount Rainier (18), Zion (19), Bryce Canyon (20), the Waco mammoth site, Glen Canyon (21), Cedar Breaks (22) and Yosemite (23). We've also written about the massive lands bill that affected a handful of parks, including Pictured Rocks (24), Rocky Mountain (25), and Sequoia (26); the NPS ban on lead, and delisting of the gray wolf.

    And we've also had stories that touched on Grand Canyon (27), the National Mall (28), the prospect of Mount St. Helens in the park system, Chiricahua National Monument (29), Arches (30), Acadia (31), Scotts Bluff NM (32), the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park (33), Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve (34), Fort Moultrie National Monument (35), Saguaro NP (36), Olympic (37), and Buffalo National River (38).

    Less than one month, 38 different units mentioned, nearly one-tenth of the entire system. And look at the little guys sprinkled through there. C'mon, Anonymous, lip-service?

    Tell you what, you write an article on any unit you'd like to and we'll consider posting it. That way you can be part of the volunteer effort.

  • Designations Just One Example of Disparities Within the National Park System. Web Sites Are Another   6 years 1 week ago

    The largest, most popular parks are much more highly favored not just by visitors or managers.
    Park partners, especially "educational" partners, provide a great deal of funding to the larger parks with screaming resources that everyone wants to visit. The big sexy parks get more support, unfortunate but it's true, because it's awesome and cool to be associated with them.

    Who paid for the production of Yellowstone's volumes of web content? You can bet one of the partner's did, and not the NPS. Who got all that content up on the website? Very possibly one of their hundred's of volunteers.

    So, put aside the visitation arguments, the unification of branding arguments, etc. And let's look at a plain reality.
    The smaller, less visited units of the NPS have much smaller staff, and fewer, if any, financial partners. Who is supposed to develop the web content? Who is supposed to pay for it? Web content must be on the bottom of the priority list for the managers of smaller, less visited units.

    Seriously Kurt, I hope the motivation for this argument was to get a dialogue going, and not to criticize the big parks for taking advantage of the finances thrown their way, and the partners that are knocking down their doors. That's unfair, and unnecessary.
    And PLEASE, I hope no one suggests that the NPS add more staff in Washington or their regional offices to accomplish a web-equity program; those offices are already way too top heavy with marginal visible effectiveness, or results that affect the visitor in a positive, tangible way.
    It would be more useful for you to just put up a giant banner ad on this website that says VOLUNTEER AT YOUR LOCAL NATIONAL PARK, or CREATE FINANCIAL PARTNERSHIPS WITH YOUR FAVORITE PARK. Because we all know the sad truth that the federal government just won't pony up the dough to take care of all 391 units equitably.

    And while you're at it Kurt, how about a moratorium on Traveler content concerned with the same 20 big parks, and maybe a new focus on the 100 or so smallest or least visited parks? That would be a more proactive solution to the inequity you give lip-service to.

  • House Consideration of Massive Public Lands Bill Could Involve Gun Amendment   6 years 1 week ago

    This is crap. DINO needs fixing. Now. Surely we can wait on an NJ park?

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   6 years 1 week ago

    It's like ATV issues...ride your bikes on Forest Service or BLM land. It's just as spectacular (usually)

  • Sections of Pacific Crest Trail Poached by Mountain Bikers; Could Problems Arise in National Parks?   6 years 1 week ago

    IMTN, I guess I don't really see a problem. There are plenty of places to ride mountain bikes in national parks. The problem is not all mountain bikers like those options.

    I struggle somewhat to understand that, for reasons I'll elaborate on below, but also because there is no shortage of beautiful places to ride outside the parks, places where the beauty is national-park quality. Here's a short list:

    * The Vedauvoo area just east of Laramie, Wyoming

    * The Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument

    * The Sawtooth National Recreation Area

    * The San Rafael Swell

    * Moab's Slickrock Trail, where, by the way, you're not likely to encounter any hikers.

    * The Kokopelli Trail. I'm not sure, but I don't think you'll encounter many hikers here, either.

    If you've ever been to West Yellowstone, you're probably familiar with the Rendezvous Trail System. In winter it's one of the finest cross-country ski systems in the Rocky Mountain West. Come summer, it's a great trail system for mountain biking.

    A couple years ago my wife and I and a friend spent a morning riding our mountain bikes on the 25Ks of trails. The next day we headed into the park and hiked the Mystic Falls Trail. Same trip, two totally different experiences. How might the Mystic Falls experience have differed if there were mountain bikers on the trail?

    I guess the point I'm trying to make is that there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy both mountain biking and hiking, and that each in its own can be a unique experience, a different experience. I believe we need to maintain each of those experiences...but at times keep them separate as well. Now, I realize some will take that last statement and quickly point out that such separation exists in officially designated wilderness, which currently is off-limits to bikes. But how likely is a young family to hike all the way back into that wilderness for the experience?

    Over the years I've come to believe, to accept, that the national parks are a different animal than other public lands. They are managed for an entirely different purpose, one focused largely on conservation/preservation, not meeting everyone's recreational preference. Is that too idealistic? Perhaps.

    Is that a waste? Is that a misuse of taxpayer dollars? I don't think so. I'd like to view it as wise and prudent to hold onto something from the past and not let it be overrun, so future generations can experience it that way.

    The other day I cited a passage about going out into nature with our encumbrances left behind. That is part of the essence of heading off into the backcountry of a park, whether it's just a short mile-long walk or a multi-day sojourn.

    Now, under its current lobbying platform, the International Mountain Bicycling Association has been seeking access to more trails -- and to cut new trails -- in the national parks. They've stressed the importance of single-track, saying that's what mountain bikers want, that dirt roads are too boring. That indicates to me that mountain bike access in the parks isn't about seeing nature from your saddle, but rather expanding the possibilities for another thrill sport.

    Now, if that effort succeeds and all of a sudden there's a mountain-bike presence on park trails, how will that impact the young family with toddlers and tweens going for a short hike to a lake or an overlook? Will we encounter mountain bikes at the base of Delicate Arch?

    If IMBA succeeds in having wilderness closed not to "mechanized" travel, but "motorized" travel, thus allowing mountain bikers to head off deep into the backcountry, how will that impact the backcountry experience? Will it impact the backcountry experience? Probably not in every place, simply because some areas are just too rugged for bikes. But in some places it will. Is that a plus for the national parks, or a minus?

    Should we have places where you can only go as fast as your footsteps will carry you? Is that a benefit to our natural souls, or is that a joy and experience of a bygone era?

    You say that folks dislike the "mass-consumption" of national parks. But isn't throwing the doors open to mountain biking one more example of catering to that mass-consumption? You also say that wilderness has "a more stable following." If it's officially designated wilderness, it also comes without mountain bikes. Does that explain the "more stable following"?