Recent comments

  • Volcanics Pushing Yellowstone National Park Higher   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Even more amazing are the people who purchase the properties. I admit to a certain wonderment (and lack of good judgement) about folks who desire "homes on stilts", precariously perched on mountainsides, just for the view! I've witnessed the results of mudslides carrying half-million dollar homes (25 years ago) into canyons in the Huntington Beach area. I know personally of 2 colleagues who own residences within a few hundred feet of "The Fault" just north of San Jose, because "it was all we could afford at the time", like these properties were somehow "cheap". On the other hand, the history of the worst earthquake in modern history lies within the scope of the New Madrid Fault, running through a region that few people would take for "risky", right in the heart of the Midwest. But you won't deter development in St. Louis, Memphis Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Nashville or Little Rock anytime soon based on the notion that the area, currently seismically active or not, is an "at risk" zone. So why should attitudes in the Rocky Mountain region be any different, just because it's less populace?

    As we all know, the most fertile soils on the planet are in the shadow of some of the most volcanically active mountains, and you'll never convince the under-developed nations that farming is too risky to conduct in those regenerating lava fields. I guess the underlying factor is that man will do as he sees best through his "blinders on" view of what needs to be versus what can be, even to the point of losing everything for short-term gain. But I don't see the current Yellowstone data as anything worthy of instituting a national, or even local panic.

  • House Resources Considers Legislation To Increase National Park Properties   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Bart: On this topic, I figured I'd said enough about pork and the over extension of resources.

    Anyway, while your Simple Proposal may not address the increase of NPS property, it is yet another fine example of outside-the-box thinking the NPS needs. It's pretty darn funny, too. I feel compelled to comment about my experience regarding the uniform at SEKI. During evening programs, we were required to wear a long sleeved shirt, tie, wool dress jacket, wool pants. Sometimes it was in the 80s during the EP, and we were required to build a raging fire, which added to our discomfort. I had sweat streaming down my face from the leather band in my flat hat, and I often felt like I was on the verge of fainting. Absolutely ridiculous! Additionally, at ZION we were not allowed to wear shorts in a desert environment where the temps frequently soared to 115. Are you kidding me? Finally, at LABE the chief ranger berated seasonals for having scuffs on their boots after leading a hike through a lava tube cave (sorry, basalt can be quite sharp!). Meanwhile, everytime Mr. Chief Ranger bent over, his buttcrack spilled out! Rangers should get dirty and should be allowed to be dirty in uniform. It's proof that they've been ranging!

    It seems to me that the NPS suffers from a false-god syndrome. Instead of focusing attention on nature and ranging, some employees worship uniforms, regulations, and so on. False gods. Image. Where's the substance? Good points, Bart. I still hope the editors give you some space for your Simple Proposals. Your regular contributions to NPT would be an asset.

  • Volcanics Pushing Yellowstone National Park Higher   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker, in the Mammoth Lakes area (not far from Mt. Whitney) of California, the continuous seismic activity around this part of the country, where past volcanic activity was once quite prevalent, doesn't seem to bother the local residents...million dollar ski chalets, expensive townhouses and condo's. This is one part of the country I consider beach front property ready to be sold for a pittance once the smoke starts spewing. This is really beautiful volcanic country ready to explode someday. Once the big one hits...it's shake and bake! It's amazing where developers build homes in California...anything with a view and on a fault line.

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 23 weeks ago

    HH: You're double dipping! Also, the NPS and the Organic Act are not yet even 100 years old, let alone 150. Yellowstone was set aside in 1872, 135 years ago, a generation before the NPS, and it was done so not to provide for people's enjoyment; it was done so to preserve it from resource exploitation and development.

    Bart: I too enjoy your thinking and sharing on NPT. You successfully use evidence and humor to make poignant points.

    As for the exact wording of a revised or new mission, I can't say. I might use the word preserve rather than conserve as was originally intended (although, if you look conserve up, one definition is preserve, but I think preserve sends a stronger message). The mission should mandate management based on the latest research (this would address the issue people closing areas without justification). I see problems with the use of unimpaired for two reasons: 1. It implies that before contact, humans didn't alter the environment and we should leave the land in a supposed "pristine" state; 2. It is too non-specific, too non-scientific a term.

    I see that you take the middle road, which first prompts me to applaud. However, after some reflection, isn't the middle road that's led us to the current morass? The fight to balance preservation with use has lead to dozens of director's orders, thousands of miles of roads, and many substantial impairments. While not a purist, I believe we should err on the side of preservation. There's a lot of talk about providing for enjoyment, but many equate that to unfettered industrial access. Roads have clearly been an impairment; an example I often cite is the Zion Canyon Road. The Virgin River has been channelized to protect the road, and now cottonwoods are not naturally regenerating. Resource managers at Zion proclaim "We need the road!", but I disagree. People could walk or bike a trail up canyon. They could ride a mule. Access doesn't have to mean impairment. Oh, and when a landslide backed up the Virgin River, the NPS was there to clear it to provide access, even though Zion's founding charter claimed its mission as preserving the geological processes of the Canyon, not preserving motorized access to the Canyon.

    Anyway, I have to get to work now. Hope to share more later.

  • Volcanics Pushing Yellowstone National Park Higher   6 years 23 weeks ago

    gargantuan eruptions there 2 million, 1.3 million and 642,000 years ago. These eruptions were 2,500,
    280 and 1,000 times bigger, respectively, than the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens

    By these ratios, looks like we're due for another big one! But by these same ratios, is should only be about 85-100X the intensity of MSH in 1980. If that's any consolation to the locals.

    Good thing these ratios don't mean much in real-time geological timelines or else those "the sky is falling" dooms-dayers would be all over this one. Or does this fall into the "ignorance is bliss" category?

    Funny thing about volcanos......they're rarely, if ever, truly extinct. Extinct correctly describes the Dodo, among other flora and fauna too numerous to list. Dormant is a better assessment, since we don't have enough accurate historical data from which to render judgement on the difference between those two terms with any REAL certainty. Makes for the basis for some interesting speculation though!

    I wouldn't put my condo on the market just yet Kurt.

  • Ghost at Blevins Farmstead; Excerpt From 'Haunted Hikes'   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Bravo for shining the spotlight on the Big South Fork! There are many interesting tales to be told from up on the Plateau - just take a look at the different names of rivers...No Business Creek, Troublesome Creek, Parched Corn Creek, Bandy Creek (shortened from "abandoned")....the list goes on.

    Haunted Hiker - there's multiple Blevins farms in the Bandy Creek area, so it could be that both the Ocscar Blevins Place and Jake's Place are haunted, although Jake's Place as been (over)used as a backcountry campsite, so I doubt there's any spooks there. As to if Oscar wore overalls, I don't know, but I'm sure Mr. Duncan does - he's a veritable encyclopedia of Big South Fork lore.

    ---
    jr_ranger
    "Good Planets are Hard to Find"
    http://tntrailhead.blogspot.com
    http://zinch.com/jr_ranger
    http://picasaweb.google.com/north.cascades
    President, CHS SPEAK (CHS Students Promoting Environmental Action & Knowledge)
    Founder and President, CHS Campus Greens

  • House Resources Considers Legislation To Increase National Park Properties   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Goodness me, I can't believe Beamis or Frank haven't chimed in on this one yet! But...on to the next Simple Proposal:

    As a long-time NPS employee, I've been to my share of meetings about uniform standards. To many in the agency, wearing of the uniform is so sacred that we must never get comfortable with current uniform standards. We must meet to discuss and tweak the standards, else we might forget about the uniform. And forgetting about the uniform is nothing short of sacrilege...punishable by...more meetings about the uniform!

    Someone once told me that a certain park's management was so obsessed with the NPS uniform they actually convened a meeting to debate whether or not it's appropriate for a pen to be visible in your pocket. Your tax dollars at work? Fork it over, Bub!

    The above comments being said, most of us acknowledge the value of wearing a presentable uniform: it allows visitors to easily recognize their public servants in the field. Period.

    As I see it, the uniform is a microcosm of yet another of the agency's ills: an obsession with image to the point of waste. Regarding image, we should be paying more attention to what VISITORS are seeing. If they're seeing (and complaining about) unmaintained trails, trashed bathrooms, and rude entrance station employees, we should be paying attention.

    If visitors are complaining about whether or not we're wearing poplin vs. summer tropical shirts, hiking boots vs. rocky walkers, or pens in our pockets, we should also be concerned...

    ...so...when's the last time you've heard visitors complain about pens in pockets?

    Simple Proposal #12: Worry Less About Image, More About Substance

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Frank:

    I'll bet we don't disagree that much, except maybe in certain details. Re closures of facilities/trails/areas, I'll resist citing specifics since I believe I'll risk losing my anonymity, which I find I'm thoroughly enjoying!

    But I will cite an example shared with me recently by a friend. He mentioned he went to a meeting in a major western park, during which some in attendance wanted to close a certain area (to any entry, including hiking). But they couldn't agree on what justification they'd use to do so! If these folks stopped to consider who's paying their salaries, maybe they'd reconsider their intentions.

    On a more humorous note, I once saw a sign on the gate leading into a remote section of a national wildlife refuge in Arizona. The sign read something like: "Area Closed, Public Entry Prohibited, Keep Out." Beneath this sign was another that read: "Your tax dollars at work."

    Re the Mission, I believe the basic intent, as Haunted Hiker stated, is still a good one. Recall that I emphasized the need for "responsible" public use. Defining such terms as "responsible," "public enjoyment," "conservation," "unimpaired" etc. is what becomes problematic. The intent of my original post was to let common sense dictate how we manage these areas, not the notions of a few purists (and conversely, not the notions of a few abusers). While a hiking trail represents some impact on an ecosystem, most of us agree that trails are a good thing. Most of us also agree that allowing for personal watercraft isn't such a good thing. Then we have all those more debatable areas imbetween.

    Hopefully reasonable heads will prevail and wise decisions will be made, taking into account the variables for each circumstance....and the intent of the Mission. Jeez...who am I kidding?!

    Just curious: what would be your wording of an ideal Mission?

    Good discussing this with you. I've admired your desire to think innovatively all along!

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Don't forget Pinnacles National Monument, south of the San Francisco CA area.
    From the park's web page:
    "Pinnacles National Monument gets its name from rock spires and crags that are remnants of an ancient volcano. The volcano eroded over millions of years as it moved northward along the San Andreas Fault. Rock debris in the form of boulders has weathered and settled, leaving behind spires of volcanic rock and talus caves."

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 23 weeks ago

    HH,
    One can "say" lots of things, but what you've said isn't backed up by the history of the Organic Act, the history of national parks, the history of the NPS. It's pure pontification. (For more on the history of the above, please see Sellars' Preserving Nature in the National Parks.)

    Also, research is not an institution; it's a process or a product. While I think about it, science itself isn't an institution; it is a systematic process for determining what is knowledge and what is not. Lone Hiker has done enough to show the absurdity of such assertions.

    Finally, Abbey's ideas are anything but antiquated (i.e. obsolete); were they antiquated, national parks wouldn't be limiting auto traffic in places like Zion. No, I'd say that Abbey's ideas are highly relevant today more than ever.

    Thanks HH for engaging me; I hope you see that I'm attacking your ideas and your assertions, not you personally. I think you're grrrreat!

  • Trekking to Dick Proenneke's Cabin in Lake Clark National Park   6 years 23 weeks ago

    I spent this past summer in Alaska. Although I never made it to Proenneke's cabin, I read his books and was SO inspired!

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 23 weeks ago

    science and research are also institutions which have a history of being "antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs constant revision

    Are you just attempting to throw off my blood sugar Haunted Hiker?

    I'll agree with your final premise, that science, ALL diciplines of the sciences, are subject to a constant state of revision. That's what good science is, hypothesis continually being subjected to experimental review, and modifications to current "conventional wisdom" mind-sets due to evidence collected by good design, execution and analysis. Science is subject to an ongoing, evolving process, and is the sum of knowledge gained through the course of mankind's thinking abount, reacting to, and exploring his environment. Due to the data collected by a series of good scientific practices, we now know that a) the world isn't really flat after all, b) the Earth really isn't the center of the known universe, c) you can't kill microorganisms by freezing them, at any temperature, for any length of time, d) life doesn't "spontaneously generate", e) certain chemical reactions give off heat which can be harnessed for multiple purposes, while others require an influx of energy to initiate an reaction, f) the controlled splitting of an atom releases copious amounts of raw energy, ......you get the point I'm sure. But the claim that these institutions have a history of being antiquated and fundamentally flawed, well, you've got the burden of proof on your side if you intend to make those accusations stick. Antiquated indeed.......absolutely NOTHING in our lifetimes has advanced faster than the quality of our lives derived directly from the knowledge brought forth by the sciences except our ignorance of the environment and our general arrogance as a species. Common, everyday mundane items such as microwaves, freezers, radio, CD/DVD's, analog and digital recording devices, computers, automobiles, healthier crops and a wider variety of them, synthetic clothing materials, plastic, rubber, steel, glass, procelain, air conditioning, jet and space travel, the advances to mankind's life directly accountable to the various sciences is almost endless. Not that all of these advances qualify as good......plastics are a blight on the environment, but without them, the cost of protecting and transporting goods would literally skyrocket. Microwaves are a truly useless innovation, originally intended solely as a method by which to rapidly increase the rate of motion in water molecules. Synthetic fibers are tear and wear resistant, color fast, but highly flammable and not really cost effective, but it saves the environment from the stresses of producing cotton. Automobiles? Don't even go there. Aviation brought the world closer together, so now we can fight about trivial things at incredible rates. But to write off the sciences as ANTIQUATED is absurd.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 23 weeks ago

    I say, parks are for enjoyment not preservation. I say, conservation is exactly the right word. I say, "wilderness" is wilderness; a park should be just that "a park." I say, science and research are also institutions which have a history of being "antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs constant revision."

    I say, we can define "unimpaired" until the glaciers return but it still won't resolve these issues.

    I say, providing for human enjoyment is a profound and beautiful mandate. And if protecting the environment also provides for human enjoyment, it is even the more sublime.

    Below I've reposted my earlier comments on this Organic Act matter.

    "Frank and I have disagreed on this before.

    But I still insist that the Organic Act has not failed. Yes, it is a paradox to conserve, promote the use of, and provide enjoyment for while leaving unimpaired. Yes, in order to fulfill such a mandate requires leaders possessing intellect, insight, and courage that the current NPS may not have or nuture. Yes, the NPS fails in small and not so small ways every day. But, all in all, the NPS has suceeded in its mandate by keeping the parks unimpaired enough to continue to provide for the enjoyment of billions of people over the last 150+ years. I don't buy into this doom and gloom scenario.

    The Organic Act is not "antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs extensive revision" any more than the Constitution of the United States is "antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs extensive revision."

    Hell, if anything's antiquated, it's evoking Edward Abbey. "

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Frank and I have disagreed on this before.

    But I still insist that the Organic Act has not failed. Yes, it is a paradox to conserve, promote the use of, and provide enjoyment for while leaving unimpaired. Yes, in order to fulfill such a mandate requires leaders possessing intellect, insight, and courage that the current NPS may not have or nuture. Yes, the NPS fails in small and not so small ways every day. But, all in all, the NPS has suceeded in its mandate by keeping the parks unimpaired enough to continue to provide for the enjoyment of billions of people over the last 150+ years.

    The Organic Act is not "antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs extensive revision" any more than the Constitution of the United States is "antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs extensive revision." Don't throw the act out with the bathwater.

    Hell, if anything's antiquated, it's evoking Edward Abbey.

  • Watching Wolves in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Merryland - you don't know how close you are to nailing the situation on the head! You can stop at any pullout, overlook or visitor center (my experience is in Rocky Mountain NP, Yellowstone NP, and Denali NP) and just stare off into space, and inevitably SOMEONE will ask what you see. I guess it's good that people are interested. That helps generate some form of support for the parks and their resources. But I just wonder if some people are willing to make an effort to go to places and look for animals or plants on their own.

    Always the cynic...

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 23 weeks ago

    I was not aware that any for-profit, trail building businesses existed.

    The fact that they exist says it all.

    This issue is nothing more than mountain bike creep.

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 23 weeks ago

    While I can definitely see the arguments made against biking, in the Big Bend's case in particular I think that a well-planned, environmentally friendly, sustainable single track trail is feasible. As it is not slated for the Basin, and as it is not slated for an area that sees a lot of foot traffic, I don't have a problem with it if done properly.

    I also think it is highly possible to create a trail in this area that doesn't promote consistent down-hill thrill-seeking behaviour, but rather trails with lots of small ups and downs that prevent a rider from gaining too much speed without sacrificing enjoyment. The Texas Trail Docs (an IMBA supported group) and Talon Trail Systems (an Austin-based trail building business) are both experienced in creating such trails.

    Conversely, if a new trail is not the best solution, perhaps we should close some dirt roads to vehicles and make them mountain bike and equestrian trails only. Like hikers don't appreciate mountain bikers bearing down on them, nor do bikers appreciate being run over by automobiles.

    I think the case should be made for park specific regulations. The impact felt in the Big Bend region is not the same as the impact that would be felt elsewhere, and vice versa. Thus we should not judge all parks by one, or one by all, or all by three in the case of the 5 year MOA.

    Ultimately, I hope that human powered activities have a fair shot over lazy vehicle-centric pursuits, lest we give way to the "pave our way to greatness" mentality that has turned Yosemite into the world's most beautiful parking lot.

    Food for thought....

    Full disclosure: I am an occasional mountain biker. (I spend more time rock climbing than anything else, but also very much enjoy camping/backpacking) I am not a member of IMBA, nor do I race in the Texas' local TMBRA circuit. I have hundreds of hours of trail building/maintenance experience, much of those used by mountain bikers. I am right handed. My favourite beer is Guinness, although I'm fond of New Belgium's many offerings. You can't beat the price of a good Shiner Bock though.

    Cheers.

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 23 weeks ago

    The bigger they are, the harder they claw...

  • Rockefeller Family Turns Over More than 1,100 Acres to Grand Teton National Park   6 years 23 weeks ago

    It's about freaking time. After using a front company in the 1920s and 1930s to swindle local landowners out of land in order to give Jackson Hole to the NPS, the Rockefellers then kept this land privately for themselves.

    But, don't get me started on this subject --

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

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Bart,
    Here I disagree with you. I believe the mission is antiquated, fundamentally flawed, and needs extensive revision. Instead of keeping our eye on the mission, we should revise or rewrite the mission (please see my comment on Glenn Canyon NRA for background/details). Why is it that once the government does something, that initial thing is almost NEVER revised or scrapped for something new, something modern, something rational? Are we preserving wilderness or preserving legislation? I digress.

    As for "closed", are you talking about closed to vehicular traffic or completely closed to entry? I understand that sometimes managers close caves at Lava Beds to protect nursing bat colonies, or sometimes managers emphasize that areas are closed to hiking due to cryptobiotic soil. If you mean closed as in I can't get my RV, 4x4, ATV, or even Geo Metro in there, then I don't see that as closed. These areas are opened to walkers, and that's how it should be. I'm reminded of one of my favorite Abbey quotes: "A journey into the wilderness is the freest, cheapest, most nonprivileged of pleasures. Anyone with two legs and the price of a pair of army surplus combat boots may enter." I think the environmental "purists" you reference would agree with Abbey; I don't think they want to keep people out; they merely want to keep out their deathmachinepolluting contraptions that completely alter the wilderness and humans' experience in the wilderness.

    To come back to the topic, I'm with Kurt and others who believe that old dirt roads make excellent biking/multi-use trails. Like Abbey, I'd rather see bikers than drivers. But like Kurt, I don't want to get mowed down by enthusiastic mountain bikers catching air.

    Finally, there are 3,793,079 square miles in this country. Roughly 2-3% of that is wilderness and/or national parks leaving roughly 3,679,286 square miles for mountain bikers. Isn't that enough already?

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 23 weeks ago

    We all sure can think of plenty of ways to spend monies the NPS doesn't have now, can't we? Blasting a convenience cruise crater in Lake Powell, planning mile after mile of new bike and hike paths, hundreds of millions for a museum to house the "colorized" version of the NPS. How about this sure to be unpopular notion.....no new ammenities of ANY fashion until the system is dealing from a balanced budget with all existing billions in backlog maintenance completed. Then, we talk turkey. Or to the turkeys, whatever.

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 23 weeks ago

    I see you're up to date on the Native American lore Jon. Yup, hunting bears can be a dangerous undertaking. FYI- the would-be hunter lived to tell the tale.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 23 weeks ago

    I can't find the word preservation in the Organic Act. Though I do find words such as "conserve" and "promote the use of."

    That's because from the draft to the official act, the word "preserve" was changed to "conserve", a largely rhetorical change. The act also mandates leaving parks "unimpaired" without any details of what "unimpaired" looks like.

    The Organic Act has failed on many accounts; it was not based on science or research; it was bent to satisfy the demands of the railroad and burgeoning tourism industry.

    The problems of today's NPS result directly from its past. Preservation was the core reason for establishment, but it wasn't interpreted as environmental protection.

    It's time for a major revision or a new charter that mandates environmental protection, that uses the term "preservation" rather than "conservation", is based on scientific research, and provides environmental protection.

    National Recreation Areas need not apply for membership.

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Haunted Hiker, no need to convert, I love biking. Spent my vacation this summer doing it, as a matter of fact, and just returned from a 24-mile ride.

    In fact, I agree with you that there are plenty of good dirt roads across the park system that would make wonderful mountain biking trails. The White Rim in Canyonlands is one great example, and of course the carriage paths in Acadia are another.

    I also understand there are some pretty good single-track routes on non-Park Service public lands that make excellent multi-day treks. The Kokopelli Trail that winds 142 miles from Colorado into Utah is one great example.

    And, to be truthful, I'd probably enjoy riding my mountain bike through Yellowstone's backcountry on a multi-day trip. But I just don't believe there's a need for it or that it'd be appropriate. I like knowing there's some backcountry where I can head without having to worry about a mountain biker coming around the bend at me.

    As someone mentioned earlier, this isn't an access question. There's plenty of access already in the parks, including plenty of mountain biking opportunities, as you yourself noted. Is it so difficult to agree that the Park Service has a different mandate than the U.S. Forest Service and BLM, which are more multi-use oriented?

    Lastly, that photo you mentioned? It pictures two IMBA reps cruising at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park during a demo day. I used that shot to illustrate the story because IMBA is the most ardent proponent of more mountain biking in the parks and, as the picture shows, they like to rock.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 23 weeks ago

    The NPS "preservation slant" is only how some interpret the Organic Act. I could argue that the NPS should have a "provide for the enjoyment slant."

    In fact, I can't find the word preservation in the Organic Act. Though I do find words such as "conserve" and "promote the use of."

    Devil's advocacy aside, the NPS seems to have much more urgent problems than to spend precious funds "planning to plan" in order to open a channel up to boaters.