Recent comments

  • Creature Feature: The American Marten   6 years 11 weeks ago

    We were fortunate to see three young martens playing about 15-20 feet from us as were traveled down the Cleetwood trail at Crater Lake on September 8th, 2008 at about 9:30 AM. Unfortunately, I spent more time struggling to get my camera out of my backpack (DOH!) than watching them, but my 2 companions enjoyed a nice view. They were tussling so much that one nearly slid onto the trail in front of us. Then a larger marten, we assume the "mom", noticed us and rounded up the youngsters and away the 4 of them went.
    What a lucky day and a valuable lesson to keep the camera ready at all times.

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Yes, Barky, there's a very distinct attendance spike in October. The GRSM attendance data for the most recent five-year period (2003 through 2007) show that average visitation in October is 1.13 million, while September visitation averages 883,000. October visitation actually exceeded both September and August visitation in all five of those years.

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Question: is there an increase of GSM visitors during leaf season? That's when I managed to visit the park, and it was absolutely spectacular! I remember hiking up some mountain under the canopy, and hitting the top, and seeing acres and acres of brilliant color. Took my breath away, it did.

    ==================================

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • National Park Quiz 19: Trails   6 years 11 weeks ago

    50% are too infirm for trails? Wow! Must be our great American diet ...

    ===================================

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • A Historian's Take on the National Park Service   6 years 11 weeks ago

    What a great article, he touches on a lot of great NPS topics. Hats off to Dr. Pitchaithley.

    ====================

    My travels through the National Park System: americaincontext.com

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Frank--

    I tend to agree with you that our "war on drugs" is not winnable and, therefore, the country needs to devise a different strategy. But, until that new strategy is in place, law enforcement people like the rangers involved here can't just walk away from an incident. The topic, however, is so toxic that no politician will ever be the first to propose a new approach. It will have to come from us, the voters.

    Rick Smith

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 11 weeks ago

    I, too, read about this in the Morning Report. The report lists "a number of bags of marijuana and Vicodin pills", but doesn't specify how much. My reaction upon reading the story was, "What a waste of federal time and money." The war on drugs is the older cousin of the war on terror. Wars against ideologies or addictions can't be won. Looks like there might be another "five men and a women" in our already overcrowded jails with as many as 50% of the incarcerated there for drug-related charges. What a waste of money!

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Lots of people have had very positive interactions with Hells Angels, Marylander. And many others have been bullied, assaulted, and even physically harmed. These are Hells Angels, not Hells Pussycats. (If you know who the Hells Angels "One-Percenters" are, you know that they are some of the baddest dudes on this planet.)

    Yes, Hells Angels are usually well-behaved in public. But law enforcement officials aren't sure what to expect when Hells Angels are around, so they prepare for the worst. I thank them for that, and if Hells Angels feelings get hurt, so be it. When you join the Hells Angels you are making a statement. I just wish that the Hells Angels members whose behavior inclines to the plus side of the ledger would be more choosy about the company they keep.

    In the Lake Mead instance reported here, there was intelligence (the precise details of which aren't available to you and me) indicating that the Hells Angels wanted to make repeated forays into the park and vicinity in the future. The park welcomed them (by issuing an event permit), but the very strong and conspicuous law enforcement presence told them they had better understand that the welcome is conditioned by an expectation of non-disruptive behavior -- period, end of discussion.

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 11 weeks ago

    I feel a whole lot safer being near the Hell's Angels than I ever would being in close proximity to the jack-booted visor helmeted thugs that I saw on television who were providing "security" for the two Welfare/Warfare conventions this past August.

    Or as Dylan most famously put it: [i]"To live outside the law you must be honest."

  • Lake Mead National Recreation Area Hosts 150,000 Weekenders and a Hells Angels Poker Run   6 years 11 weeks ago

    A lot of people are scared of the Hells Angels, but I have to say that the 2 times my family and I have stumbled into one of their rallys they have been very well behaved. Better behaved then the regular tourists around them. In 2006 we arrived in Cody, Wyoming for the July 4th weekend, only to discover to our surprise that there was a Hells Angels rally. We were camping with Hells Angels members literally on all sides. My husband was none to happy, given their reputation and proximity to our children, but we had absolutely no problems. At the rodeo, a must see if your ever in Cody for the 4th of July, the bikers even tried bull riding which was hysterical. I do realize that the Hells Angels have earned their reputation due to bad behavior in the past, but the two recent times we've experienced a rally, they have been more peaceful and well mannered then the regular tourist crowd and absolutely nothing to panic about.

  • National Parks Will Waive Entrance Fees on September 27, National Public Lands Day   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Good points. But if you are going to get down to brass tacks about admission fees (the details of which I wanted to avoid discussing in this brief article), you will need to point out that there are various categories of visitors who don't need to worry about paying entrance fees, such as America the Beautiful Pass Holders, Golden Age Passport holders, Volunteers-In-Parks (VIP) Volunteer Pass holders (awarded to volunteers who contribute 500 hours of service on a cumulative basis), and certain others.

  • National Parks Will Waive Entrance Fees on September 27, National Public Lands Day   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Two-thirds of the parks don't charge any entrance fees. By my count, only 16 of the top 50 most visited parks charge entrance fees and some of those (like Lake Mead and Acadia) are only seasonal or for parts of the parks. Thus, the overwhelming majority of visitors to the national parks never pay an entrance fee.

  • Federal Judge Refuses to Let County Cut Highways in Roadless Section of Death Valley National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Rs 2477 is a restriction on an 1851 law setting apart all roads and trails as public and 60 feet wide that
    the title to the those set asides were removed from federal control leaving the underlying title in we the
    people of the united states these roads and trails were to be recorded and protect by the counties

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 11 weeks ago

    My observation is in direct opposition to Mr. Cureton. My family moved to Gatlinburg in 1942. I grew up there, leaving in 1960 after college. The visibility in the 50's and 60's was good in October but not so good in other months. Now, having moved back in 1996, the days of outstanding visibility in mid-summer, Spring and December/January are much more prevalent. than during my youth. There were almost never clear days in June/ July in those days. My home overlooks Mt. LeConte so I have a nice vantage point.

    Leo Benson III

  • How To Buy National Park-Related Gifts Without Leaving Home   6 years 11 weeks ago

    The long awaited Mt. Rushmore pewter ornament is now available at www.innerpeacedesigns.net. It is under the ornaments tab. I've been looking on their website for a month or two and today it's there. I ordered one. The detail is beautiful on it. I may purchase more for Christmas gifts. They seem to be working on other National Parks also at this time. I'll keep checking to see when they are ready for purchase.

  • Fall Colors: What Can We Expect Across the National Park System?   6 years 11 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 11 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.

    Jeff
    www.HikingintheSmokys.com

  • Visitation Decline at Great Smoky Mountains National Park Has Area Businesses, Residents, and Governments Worried   6 years 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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 11 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!