Recent comments

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Uses the "S" Word On Second Day at the Office   6 years 5 weeks ago

    Of course another arguement againt snowmobiles in Yellowstone is the problem of bison following groomed roads out of the Park and into trouble in Montana, though I guess the roads have to be groomed for snow coaches as well. Wouldn't it be great if the Obama administration could find solutions for both of these problems? I know that these are minor blips on the Obama radar (if they are blips at all), but sooner or later decisions will have to be made. I feel like a newlywed on his honeymoon. Sure hope I'm not disappointed on my wedding night!

  • 4-Year-old Dies in Fall off South Rim of Grand Canyon   6 years 5 weeks ago

    "An adult has to hold onto a 4 year old at all the Grand Canyon overlooks. Constantly and tight."
    I agree, but I also agree that accidents happen. Sometimes in the wink of an eye. When I was little my family and I visited the Grand Canyon. I was clearly told to stay back away from the edge. My sister and I were playing on a hill perhaps a hundred yards or so away from the edge while my mom and dad were taking photographs. My sister was chasing me and I ran down the hill. My momentum was such that I couldn't stop at the bottom and almost ran off the edge of the canyon. My dad grabbed me at the last instant. One second we were well back away from danger, no reason for my parents to be concerned, the next I had one leg hanging over the precipice and my arm nearly being ripped out of its socket by my dad. I am forever grateful that he was able to react so quickly.

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Uses the "S" Word On Second Day at the Office   6 years 5 weeks ago

    Of course you're right, Jim. Science can't be held in a vacuum as a cure-all. And neither can values. The trick is to find a balance.

    In the case of Yellowstone snowmobiles, the Bush administration seemed to completely ignore the science and kowtow to a surprisingly small special interest. I think it just as easily, and no doubt more legitimately, have held that the science and public opinion overwhelmingly dictated a phase-out of snowmobiles in favor of snow coaches.

    Of course, the wild card in this case is also the blinders to developing science in terms of cleaner and quieter snowmobiles. A few years back a Utah-based company had developed an electric snowmobile that was as powerful as a 2-stroke, and yet no one jumped on it (no pun intended).

    And in March this year the 10th Clean Snowmobile Challenge will be held at Michigan Tech. Teams of engineering students from participating schools will be given a stock snowmobile and re-engineer it to reduce emissions and noise while maintaining or improving performance. A record 18 teams have registered, the most since the first Challenge was held, in Wyoming. Thirteen will compete in the internal combustion division, with five in the zero-emissions division, formed in 2006 for electric sleds.

    Perhaps it wouldn't hurt to see the snowmobile industry send a rep or two to this event, and have the NPS at least monitor it to see what's possible. When and if an emission-less snowmobile is commercially produced, I'm not sure how effectively folks could argue against the machines in Yellowstone.

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Uses the "S" Word On Second Day at the Office   6 years 5 weeks ago

    The problem with making decisions based on values is that everyone's values are different. My values may be different than yours, and both of our values are no doubt different from former (don't ya love it!) President Bush. Science is science. While I would agree that you cannot blindly follow science wherever it leads, decisions clearly based on it are hard to dispute.

  • 4-Year-old Dies in Fall off South Rim of Grand Canyon   6 years 5 weeks ago

    Whoa, Rudee, that's pretty harsh. I agree that many groups of inner city kids (and even from other areas of the country) at times seem to be running like wild packs in the parks. But if they don't even get a chance to experience a park how can they learn to appreciate them?

    I remember a trip to Yosemite when there was a large contingent of kids I suspected came from the LA area (or somewhere similar). They were loud and raucous into the night at Camp Curry and early the next morning. But the long hike to Half Dome wore them down. I figured they either came away with a great appreciation for that wonderful place, or determined never to set foot there again. But at least they had an opportunity to see it for themselves and make that decision.

    I don't think we should deny anyone that opportunity.

  • Interior Secretary Salazar Uses the "S" Word On Second Day at the Office   6 years 5 weeks ago

    I wish people were careful about this when they would give hegemony to science without a clear understanding of what science does and doesn't do. Science does not settle value decisions, which must be at the root of any policy decision. It isn't something that takes the place of values or is itself a higher value.

    What we should ask is that people make decisions based on values (and those need to be discussed and settled as well - and they can be unless we are moral relativists) that are consistent with the science. And, not doing so of course, is just one of the sins of the Bush Administration. They would make policy decisions based on values they held that were absolutely incoherent, not only at the values level but when you compare those values with science.

    However, I'm wary of anyone who thinks that policy can simply be a matter of letting science hold sway. You cannot reduce policy to science, and we should be careful about saying it. Western land issues, for instance, are rarely about science, but science is used by both sides to create a smokescreen over deep value and cultural divides. Since people have very little confidence in arguing over values in any meaningful way, they find more comfortable grounds on which to argue - science is a popular and easy catch-all solution for everything (the serious dialogue on values perhaps hurt by centuries of undermining rationalism in ethics by the intellectuals in Academia - an interesting story in itself putting an anarcho-lefty like me in league with right-leaning Catholic types; I did nearly complete a Ph.D. at Catholic U. after all).

    In truth, I think this is all just code from Salazar that there will be policy changes; how far those changes go is anyone's guess.

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

  • 4-Year-old Dies in Fall off South Rim of Grand Canyon   6 years 5 weeks ago

    I have to say, this verifies my cynicism when I toured the South rim once. The place was crawling with urban brats of all kinds who were clueless about being in the outdoors. Kids running rampant, women hiking trails in high heels. It was a ridiculous three ring circus. They were ALL like a bunch of children in need of supervision, not just the 4 year olds. They wer fairly rude and mannerless to boot. The sad thing is that the park system even let's ANY of them in in the first place! There should at least be a dress code! Those kind of people should stay in their city parks in Yonkers or whereever they come from and leave the great outdoors to people that know how to appreciate it.

  • National Park Quiz 38: African Americans   6 years 5 weeks ago

    Congratulations, Barky. This was not a particularly easy quiz. BTW, I'll soon be selecting quiz topics for March. Got any suggestions?

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 5 weeks ago

    Warren Z-

    Thanks for the comment, and the perspective from someone with first-hand experience at the site. The tip on the publication will be appreciated by history buffs.

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 5 weeks ago

    Thank you for another excellent article. Your reporting will surely help folks navigate a site that used to be somewhat visitor-unfriendly. I'm eager to return there and judge the experience for myself. I've sat through performances in those old chairs and they are indeed extremely uncomfortable!

    I lived in the Washington, DC area from 2000-2005, and during a small portion of that time period I worked for an NPS partner at Ford's Theatre NHS. It was an incredible place to work, my interactions with visitors were never boring, the days never long (at least during the Spring and Summer months!) The diversity of visitors to Ford's Theatre NHS is rarely matched in other parks across the country, such is the national and international draw of the Lincoln legacy. (And of John Wilkes Booth as well: I was astonished at how many visitors couldn't wait to see the gun that Booth used to assassinate Lincoln, not out of reverence for a fallen president, but out of glee to see the weapon that killed an "enemy" of their ancestors.)

    This article brings to light some important points about Ford's Theatre that were always a challenge for visitors to deal with.

    Until I worked there myself I did not know that the current performance space was in fact a reconstruction. The majority of visitors I interacted with on any given day didn't know this either, but some did indeed care. I wondered why the Park Rangers did not include this piece of information in their talks, but I quickly learned that I could easily have a negative effect on a person's visit by "educating" them about the history of the structure in which they were standing. This piece of information was best left to self discovery.

    Another challenge was access to the theatre space itself. Because the reconstructed performance space is used by a professional theatre company, rehearsals and performances often meant the theatre space itself would be closed to visitors. While this fact was of course advertised, many visitors were not aware of this logistical detail. Even repeat visitors, returning for a second or third or fourth time, were once again not able to enter the theatre space to see the presidential box because they had not realized that the professional company's schedule would have an effect on ability to see the space.
    The new ticketing system not only solves the problem of long lines and wait times, but solves the availability problem as well. The ticketing schedule posted on the FTS website clearly outlines when the performance space itself will be available for viewing and ranger talks. This is a great improvement from a visitor satisfaction standpoint I think. Though surely there will still be some disappointment if the space is unavailable on any given day, proactive management of the process can only help.

    Thanks again for the excellent article, and for providing the forum to add additional comments!


    For the NPS/history/architecture buffs out there, I have an excellent out-of-print publication to recommend.
    I picked up a used copy a few years ago at the suggestion of one of the incredibly knowledgeable interpretive rangers on duty at FTNHS.
    "Restoration of Ford's Theatre", Historic Structure Report, by George J. Olszewski, Historian for the National Capital Region at the time the report was published, 1963.
    It contains an incredible wealth of photographs from 1865, 1893, and the 1960s, ephemera, architectural drawings, a full listing of productions that took place at the theatre... just a great resource for anyone looking to fill out their Lincoln collection.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 5 weeks ago

    @Zebulon: Of course it is the governments role to determine which kinds of use are allowed on which parts of the public lands. Bikes are permitted in National Forests, on BLM land and in more than 40 national parks including spectacular routes like the White Rim Trail in Canyonlands National Park. But other parks are closed to bikes - particularly on single trails. That's perfectly fine and in accordance with the mandate of national parks.

    And regarding the detrimental effect on the experience of hikers: Please think about all your encounters between bikers and hikers on single trails. Who stops, steps aside and lets the other pass? Can you think of a single case in which the biker left the trail to let a hiker pass? I can't. It doesn't happen, not once. This infallible rule makes the hiker feel second rate and this ruins his or her experience.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   6 years 5 weeks ago

    Muir Woods is simply wonderful. I remember going there last year with my wife. Teddy made the right decision to declare this a national monument in the name of John Muir. I must say, it's one of his administration's legacies. Something that the next generations will surely appreciate and preserve.

  • 4-Year-old Dies in Fall off South Rim of Grand Canyon   6 years 6 weeks ago

    LOL! You're right Russell.... they probably haven't had kids.

    I heard this story a long time ago and every once in a while it would drift out of the back of my mind because of just the sheer horror of it and what the parents must go through. I finally decided to try to verify the story and I googled child fell down grand canyon and this story came right up. I was very disaapointed that this wasn't another urban legend.

    We and our kids need a lot of prayers just for them to make it through childhood. I had a young girl child once and we were standing at the crosswalk waiting for the light to turn green when she looses her footing and begins tottering toward the street as a couple cars were approaching. I had to grab her by the hair to make sure she didn't stumble into the street.

    That seems extreme to me but anyone with kids knows how this is! A child restraint leash is good but I don't even think taking a child up to the GC is such a good idea.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Joan, all great points. Let me address them if I may.

    "I can still use the trails, I just need to walk them". How would you feel if we turned the argument around and banned hiking? You could still use the trails, you would just to ride a bike like the others. I don't believe it's the government role to decide for us how to use a trail, as long as said usage does not impact negatively the trail/environment.

    Not allowing mechanized transportation. That good old reason to ban bikes from wilderness. Nobody sees any problem with other form of mechanized transportation such cross country skiing, kayaking, carbon fiber hiking poles. This is clearly not a solid reason to ban bikes. As for the difference between a gas powered machine and a bike, it should be self explanatory.

    Destroy the experience of hikers on trails!!! Now, we get to the heart of the matter which is simply that a category of users refuses to share a public good. I can certainly understand how one would not want to share wonderful trails with another user group (personally, I'd love it if there were no hikers or equestrians), but then again, national parks are nobody's private Idaho either. :) This is especially silly since most trails more than 2 miles outside the trailhead are usually mostly empty.

    As for the damage done to trails, I've seen trails torn to bits by horse riders, but that clearly does not bother anyone. I've also seen major damage inflicted by hikers shortcutting a hillside leading to major water erosion. Yet, I'm not asking that hikers be banned from all trails. Multiple scientific studies have simply shown that cyclists don't cause any damage to the trails. That's just a fact, unless of course all these people were out to get hikers. ;)

    To get back to my initial posting, it'll be interesting to see whether Mr. Obama decides to cater to the Sierra Club wing of the democratic party or stick to a more moderate stance and let the rule stand.

  • Don't Try this At Home: Driver's Life Saved By Vegetation and Ledge at Colorado National Monument   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Our local news paper has a slide show of the wreck:

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Really Joan? Waaaaayyyy more damage than what I'd would see on the foot-travel-only section of popular hiking trails? Say, the Appalachian Trail? The Colorado Trail? The Wilderness sections of the Colorado trail? Come visit the later and take a good look at he sections that allow bikes and those that are restricted to foot travel. Then tell me if the bike sections are more degraded than the foot sections.

    Try it and I think you'll sing different tune on the relative impacts of bike/foot travel. But then you'll likely say, "Well I just don't feel safe near/like to see/believe I can share trails with ... bicycles."

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 6 weeks ago


    Nobody is banned when mountain bikes are restricted. You are still able to hike the trail along with the rest of us. It is only your mode of transportation that is restricted.

    There is no reason to allow mechanized transportation, including mountain bikes or snowmobiles, on trails in the parks. They may be appropriate on dirt roads, but they totally destroy the experience for hikers on trails. And despite certain biased studies showing that they do no more damage than hikers, all you need to do is go to a heavily used mountain bike trail, and you will see incredible damage - way more than you ever would see from hikers.

  • It's Not Too Early To Start Planning This Summer's National Park Vacation   6 years 6 weeks ago

    We've been helping families plan National Park camping trips for 10 years and our Trip Consultants have a good feel for when each Park normally begins selling out. In 2008, we reserved about 2500 nights in NPS and NFS campgrouds across the west, but we expected things to progress much more slowly this year. Yet, so far 2009 looks about the same as previous years. Families who may have been planning a trip to Europe, a cruise, or a Disney vacation tell us that they want to simplify this year's summer vacation and save some money. The National Parks are often the first thing that come to mind.

    Dan Wulfman, Founder
    Tracks & Trails - Western Driving Adventures

  • It's Not Too Early To Start Planning This Summer's National Park Vacation   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Kurt -

    Good advice. A friend started checking in mid-summer last year on lodging in Yosemite for this coming summer - and found very slim pickings, with the possible exception of the higher-priced spreads. He was told by a reservations agent for the concessioner to plan a year ahead for peak travel periods in mid-summer at Yosemite.

    It will be interesting to see if current economic conditions change the equation, but I'd second your comments - plan ahead for popular sites or facilities.

    A related suggestion is to go just before or after peak season if it fits a person's schedule - and if things you want to do are open for the season. We had a great experience in Alaska two summers ago in late May and early June. We got some great buys on lodging - one spot we stayed near Denali was significantly cheaper than the same room would have been only two weeks later. An added bonus - we encountered virtually none of the infamous Alaskan mosquitoes, and were told we were about a week ahead of the bugs. I don't know if that was typical or if we were just lucky, but it sure made our time out and about a lot more pleasant!

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 6 weeks ago

    JD, you're misinformed and factually inaccurate. Multiple studies have shown that bicycles do no more damage than hiking and way less than horse riding.

    Betty, our parks belong to all of us and not to a favorite minority of users. Whether there are other places to bike is completely irrelevant to whether local parks should decide whether to let bicyclists on existing trails. Last and not least, lumping a human powered activity like cycling with snowmobiling is at the very least disingenuous.

    This all boils down to the fact that entrenched users simply don't want to share a public good with other legitimate human powered recreational users.

  • Yellowstone National Park: Poster Child For Goofy Gun Laws   6 years 6 weeks ago

    That laws respecting the right to carry arms have been somewhat liberalized by this rule change is a good thing in and of itself. Civil liberties are like that, but their rightful expansion often comes with some confusion and getting-used-to.

    Greatly relaxing carry laws or removing the licensing requirements would surely make for less confusion, but such moves are probably unwarranted or unlikely. I firmly suspect that the best solution is a national reciprocity bill, and we are sure to see one coming along soon. There can really be no other way ... currently, 48 of 50 states issue (in one form or another) licenses to carry protective arms. They too issue driver licenses ... but at this time, carry licenses are not nationally-reciprocal like driver licenses are. There can be no other way but to make the licenses nationally-reciprocal, and draw boundaries around some maximally-restrictive standard.

    Indeed, the best solution is to make all carry licenses nationally-reciprocal, and to define some maximally-restrictive standards. That way, carriers would know what is maximally restrictive ... and more liberal states could relax those maximal standards as they see fit.

  • Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?   6 years 6 weeks ago

    It's sad that our lives are being manipulated by a chosen few on the issue of our planet's "weather" cycle. It's even more curious how after decades and decades of abuse from mankind, his "intellect" now drives him to right past wrongs which he doesn't even completely understand. A guilty conscience might be a terrible thing to bear (like Bogie in Treasure of the Sierra Madre) but acting rashly based mostly on ignorance is even worse. Yes, Kurt, reams and reams of data have been complied, but to what end? Nobody and I mean NOBODY really understands the full scope of the evidence. Reams of data have also been compiled on topics such as cancer, HIV, the relationship between socio-economic status and a propensity for violence, the evils of cannabis, the odds for success when raised in a single parent home, etc. Most, if not all of these issues are less complex than is the history of our atmospheric development, but we, being the ego-centric organisms that we are, have some notion that we can accurately decipher life's intricacies when we've yet to demonstrate an ability to grasp the finer, more subtle concepts of our daily existence. So if one of my brethren throws down some rather hefty report on any given topic, we're all supposed to bow down and do homage to the Great Lord of Knowledge? These data, while available for our perusal, have the nasty habit of neglecting to mention the specific hypothesis and methods used to drive the study. Unfortunately, those are key elements in ANY proper study. Gathering data sets is all well and good, but if not effectively directed, the processes and corresponding evidence that have been compiled are generally useless. I know other posters to this site have rallied behind the good ol' boys at NASA and their supposedly irrefutable reputation. That's fine. Everyone needs a standard to rally beneath. All I'm saying is that while there can be no dispute that the climate of our planet is anything but a static process, our files pertaining to the rates and specific cycles is pathetically inadequate to correctly assess where we currently stand within any given cyclical event. Warming? Cooling? Yes, on both counts. Normal? Extreme? Not enough historical data to base a long-term prognosis upon. Reversible? Possibly, but by what degree is literally anyone's guess, with the operative term being GUESS. Should we be doing all we can to limit future impact on the system as a whole? Damn straight buddy. Why didn't we start earlier? We weren't, and still haven't been given the tools to do the job effectively. We've been strangeld by Big Business again, who sold our collective souls to feather their personal (and corporate) nests. And to this day, the bottleneck in any attempt to correct the flaws in this whole program is still at their doorstep. Long live Big Oil indeed..........

  • Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Dan raises some valid points. Issues such as climate change and guns in the parks will not be settled at the Traveler.

    But I'd disagree that this is the wrong forum to discuss them. They are both, in their own ways, highly relative to the national parks, and a key mission of this site is to report on and explore issues pertinent to the parks.

    National park visitors need to know about both issues. Obviously, there are many folks interested in being able to arm themselves in the parks, and just as many if not more who object to such an action. Why shouldn't the merits be discussed on the Traveler?

    As for climate change, it is happening, regardless if there's unanimity in the driver. How that climate change is being expressed on the ground I'd argue is of interest to park visitors, whether it's in the form of retreating glaciers, warming waters, disappearance of long-native flora or fauna.

    Anglers rightfully want to know why in late summer fishing often is banned in some Yellowstone streams because the waters are too warm and so the trout too stressed by being hooked. Why are moose seemingly disappearing from Isle Royale? Why is Glacier expected to be glacier-less within three decades? To ignore these topics on the Traveler would be a mistake.

    If the Park Service can in its approach to reducing its carbon footprint educate visitors on how they can do the same in their own lives, what's wrong with that? If climate change is not being motored primarily by humankind, the only damage done will be a cleaner planet.

  • Lost to Hurricanes, the Flamingo Lodge at Everglades National Park Will be Hard to Replace   6 years 6 weeks ago

    My wife and I stayed at the lodge in December 2000 and had a great time despite unusually cold weather. The birding was fantastic. It's sad that nothing has been put in place to allow people who cannot camp to experience this special place. Camping wouldn't bother us but it is not feasible to bring the necessary equipment from home (England). Why couldn't the National Park Service provide some fixed tents for rent? They do that in The Gambia, West Africa in remote areas with great success. Hope something is done before too long.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 6 weeks ago

    Those of us who appreciate peace and quiet in natural surroundings are not always "liberals". We are just folks who love our great natural areas and will hike to great lengths to get away from it all so we can enjoy nature in its most natural setting. There are plenty of places outside our National Parks where people can enjoy their mountain bikes, snowmobiles etc in backcountry settings.