Recent comments

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    I've hiked backcountry in Yellowstone three times, many times in Washington, and even more in Alaska. I honestly do not feel the need to have a gun. However, the thought has occured to me that having one of those small .22 derringer 4 shots would be nice- it would make a loud noise and a big flash. Plenty to scare off a cougar or black bear.

    The best thing is to be smart when you're in the woods. be kind of loud, and watch where you're going. And have a big can of pepper spray in a holster.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    RAH -

    I presume you're referring to the young woman who was murdered around New's Year Day in 2008, while hiking in Georgia. The case was widely publicized.

    Unless we're talking about a different incident, that case did not occur in a national park. As pointed out above, similar highly publicized cases near Yosemite in 1999 also did not occur in the park.

    I'd like to invite those who are convinced violent crime against park visitors is a significant problem to present even a modest analysis of how many of the extremely small number of cases actually: (1) originated on park property, (2) involved park visitors, and (3) could have been prevented if the victim had been armed. Feel free to use news reports, flawed as they may be. I think the results would be revealing.

    My personal experience during 30 years of performing law enforcement in 8 parks, including heavily-visited areas such as Grand Canyon and Lake Mead, is that many of the small number of violent crimes reported in park originated outside the park (example: a rape that is reported in a park actually began with an abduction of the victim outside the park, and a homicide reported in a park is actually a body dumping after drug-related violence that occurred outside the park.) Whether or not park visitors are armed is a moot point in preventing such incidents.

    Furthermore, many of the small number of violent crimes that do occur in the park are premeditated incidents involving family members or acquaintances (example: the man who pushed his wife over a cliff is a homicide reported in a park, but I doubt that the outcome would have changed if the woman had been armed. If your spouse who is standing behind you gives you a shove over the edge, good luck in whipping out your concealed handgun in time to change the outcome.)

    Are park visitors victims in very rare cases? Yes. Whether or not that justifies this major change in parks is more a question of philosophy and politics (i.e. interpretation of 2nd amendment rights) than a public safety issue.

    Do the presumed gains for gun supporters outweigh the presumed risks for those who oppose the change? If the new regulations remain in force for an extended period of time, only time will tell.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   6 years 10 weeks ago

    I hiked Angel's Landing in Oct 2007. It was easily the most beautiful experience I've ever had in the outdoors. Much of the ascent (and the view from the summit) feels as if you're flying suspended in mid-air over Zion Canyon.

    I'm an experienced hiker, in my mid-thirties, with a reasonable amount of trad rock-climbing experience, and little fear of heights. Even so, I have to admit that the view from quitter's corner (as someone here called it) gave me pause. In my opinion, Angel's Landing deserves to be treated more like a climb- this is a dangerous and hard hike, and deserves respect. If you're thinking of doing AL, here are some pointers:
    - Go early in the day, wear a good pair of hiking boots, and carry at least 1-2 liters of water and a decent amount of food.
    - Read up a little about climbing technique if you can- I found that my climbing experience came in handy, the chains I agree are somewhat of a crutch, and if you position your weight correctly they're often quite unnecessary.
    - Focus on your breathing- most people panic when they're taking short breaths...
    - Give yourself at least a couple of extra hours for the last half-mile. Mistakes happen when you're feeling rushed or tired.
    - Work on the trail in short stretches, and try not to think too much.

    As for myself, once I crossed the first really narrow constriction beyond quitter's corner (about ten or twenty feet into the trail), I stopped crouching, and stood up straight. From there on, the hike was pure exhilaration. I will never forget the light on that day, and the view from the top.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Murders have happened on NPS land and the worst in recent times was the young women killed in Georgia, I believe. She stayed alive for several days but was subdued and she fought hard. She was jogging and her dog survived but a gun may have helped her, Her martial training was not enough even against an older man.

    The fact is that some murderers do prey on people on NPS land since they think the solitude allows them more free reign to committ mayhem.

    CCW in NPS will not impinge on visitors solitude or the children's sensibility. They wil never know any more then they know at a movie or grocery store that someone has a gun hidden.

    Criminals hide their guns also so there may be guns already on people with bad intent. This just allows the good guys and possible victims to also be armed and even the playing field.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    The Ranger can lament all they want but CCW is now allowed and they will not know as there never dis who is armed or not. In all propbability the number of CCW at NPS will be very small and have little or no impact.

    The kids will not know and neither will their parents if a gun scares them so. Poaching will not increase since that is still illegal and this change has nothing to do with poaching. Most of those concens are just Gun scared hysteria.

    A very good point is that guns will not be allowed in buildings and that presents a practical problem. Guns can not be left safely in camp since there is very little security and the need to prevent theft of a weapon is a very high priority.
    Problably there will be a cost to secure storage for CCW holders for buildings and that may become a standard item in many states with CCW and prohibitions in several area that secure storage will be a need to provide.
    Kind of like spitoons were everywhere when chewing tobacco was more common or ashtrays for smokers.

    If I visit a park, say Gettysburg, and want to attend a lecture or a diorama, then a room set aside like a cloakroom but more secure for weapons to be checked for CCW holders. Serial number recorded and a receipt given and then that info given back when the owner retrieves the weapon. Like a check stub. Easily sone but it will add cost to the NPS.

    I expect that courtrooms should also do this since they check at entrance and then the guns are not left in unsecure cars where they can be stolen. I believ that Ohio was required to do this when they approved CCW.

    So this rule will require changes beyond changing signs and posting new signs at buildings.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Quite true, Ron, and that's why I said that the chances of infection are exceedingly remote. But me, I'm a very cautious sort of guy. If I ever get the chance to soak in one of those three tubs I won't be ducking my head under water or splashing water into my nose. Belt, rope, and suspenders.....

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Naegleria fowleri seems to live in the sediment at the bottom of warm bodies of fresh water. All of the tubs at Saline Valley are concrete or tile, so the vanishingly small chance of being infected there are as close to non-existent as possible. There have only been 121 cases in the U.S. since 1937 from all sources. There are many things more likely to kill someone at Saline Valley than this amoeba.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    You didn't mention victim number four, Gerald, so how were we to know? Incidentally, I feel really bad about victim number four. The police screwed up. Stayner killed Victim number four AFTER the police had already interviewed him about the Sund murders, failed to make the connection, and let him go.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    I know it happened in El Portal, but the young naturalist that was also killed WAS in the park. She should have been allowed to defend herself. My young daughter carries wherever she goes, and she knows how to use it. She is so dang quick on the draw! Wish I had her reflexes!
    The point to be made as far as the Sunds, however is that if they wanted to carry a weapon, they would have had to leave the gun in the room while they visited the park. That is not good idea for anyone to do that while they are on vacation for many reasons, the most obvious being the gun may fall into the wrong hands. That is the unintended consequences of gun control laws and how the bad guys get guns. Thus, law-abiding citizens should be able to keep their firearms with them no matter where they go, and this is the intent of the new NPS law. Myself, I believe visitor centers should not be any different, and as time passes they will probably won't be as it is also not a good idea to leave it in the car in the parking lot.
    The only ones who benefit from "gun free zones" are the criminals...they don't care what the law says.

  • National Park System Would Gain Official Wilderness Under Omnibus Lands Bill   6 years 10 weeks ago

    While I'd love to be a wilderness supporter, due to incorrect legal interpretation of the Wilderness Act, more wilderness usually equals less Mountain Biking opportunity. So, I'm off to complaining to my state senator... :(

  • Violent Deaths in the National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago


    What were talking about is a basic human right...the right to self defense....

    That right to self defense in not limted to HUMAN attackers...

    Bears in national parks are increasinly attacking visiters...mountain lions and cougers have attacked , mauled and killed children while their unarmed parents were within feet of them...

    Guns cause violence like fire extinguishers cause fires...better yet...most fires in homes occur where there are smoke detectors.....therefore smoke detectors cause home fires.

    Correlation does not equal causality..

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Tom, I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the disease threats at Isle Royale. I trust that you've already thought of directing your questions to the park superintendent and your research program manager(s). They ought to feel some sense of obligation in this matter. BTW, when I read Nevada Barr's most recent book Winter Study, the novel that has super ranger Anna Pigeon working with the ISRO wolf study program, I noticed that a whole bunch of scientists were listed in the books credits section. It's a good bet that somebody on that list is a goldmine of information you can use.

    Your query puts me in mind of an event that happened in July 1963. I was then an undergraduate student assistant (free lodging and tuition) at a six-week geology field camp based at an old CCC camp on a lake WAY back in the Seney Swamp in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. (Serious fans of Ernest Hemingway will recognize this as the the Big Two-Hearted River setting for one of Hemingway's lesser known productions -- the one that has protagonist Nick Adams in need of wilderness retreat and soul-healing.) Anyway, we students and the professor in charge opened the big old CCC-built lodge after it had been sitting unused for goodness knows how long. In addition to the mummified porcupine we found in the chimney, there was an incredible number of very live mice scurrying around. That evening we sat around the big kitchen table, drank Pabst Blue Ribbon (Lloyd Schmaltz was a very live-and-let-live professor) and amused ourselves by setting mousetraps for these rodents -- the very rodents whose droppings we had swept out of the huge lodge earlier that day. Mouse after mouse after mouse would pop into view, head for the nearest cheese-baited trap, and BAM! -- the trap, a newly dead mouse in its lethal embrace, would fly into the air accompanied by cheers that grew louder and louder as the evening progressed and our beer supply diminished. We could have repeated the exercise out in the shed where a similar colony of rodents was ensconced. I remember coughing every morning at dawn when I went out to the shed to start the diesel generator that powered the lodge's electrical system. This was an incredibly dusty environment, and I have no doubt that my deep coughs drew a good deal of powdered rodent crap deep into my lungs. Forty-five plus years down the road, I am left to assume that either the dust was not contaminated by hantivirus or my immune system is better than average.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Some might take exception to your "gift from President Theodore Roosevelt" remark, Jim. If the Kents hadn't rescued a big tract of pristine Coast redwood forest from the loggers and donated 295 acres of it to the Federal government, there would have been no national monument to proclaim. TR openly acknowledged the key role of the Kents' gift and felt it wholly proper for the Federal government to honor the Kents' request that the new park be named in honor of John Muir. The bottom line si that the Kents donated the land for the park, chose the name for the park, and deserve appropriate credit for the gift. Understand that I'm not saying that TR doesn't deserve some credit here. He obviously felt a great sense of personal pride in this particular proclamation.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Tell me, out of sheer curiousity, what good will the weapon be to you in your backpack? Imagine yourself walking along the trail, as you round an outcropping, you run into mama grizz and her two cubs a mere handful of yards away. Now what? I know, drop your pack, that will only take a second or two, then unzip or unbuckle the pack. Another couple of seconds. Now reach in and get a grip on the weapon and draw it out. I'm thinking at this point the grizz is on you like glue. But, at least the grizz is distracted with you and your companions or family can now make their escape. Congrats! Carrying a weapon has saved lives. Just not yours. Carry bear spray on your packbelt, easier access and weighs a lot less. Plus you don't have to be as accurate as with a handgun. Oh and the pepper spray works equally well on humans too, just incase you are attacked.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Thanks, Scott. In a former life I wrote the instructors manuals for the early editions of America's leading college text on environmental quality management. That, and regularly teaching a course called Human Impact on Environment, encouraged me to learn a lot about ecological concepts and principles. I don't do that sort of work anymore, but it's in my blood, and at odd intervals I slip into the deeper ecology mode when writing for Traveler. I'm sure that Kurt will rein me in if I cross the line, revert to professorial preachment, and start putting Traveler readers to sleep.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Bill, I've got a story about the Saline Valley hot springs in the works, and if I can clear some of this backlog I'll finish it and post it in the near future. Meanwhile, I've never heard of anyone being harmed by infectious disease lurking in the water there. Your signage suggestion put a smile on my face. I'd guess that the typical Saline Valley bather has about as much use for a warning sign as he has for a swimsuit.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 10 weeks ago

    Gerald, the 1999 murder of Carol Sund, her daughter, and her daughter's friend did not take place in Yosemite National Park. The murders occurred at a nearby place called El Portal. Seems to me you're implying that parks are unsafe because people may be killed while on their way to a park, while on their way back from a park visit, or while staying at a motel near a park. That argument doesn't work for me, no matter how many times I see serial murderer Cary Stayner inappropriately referred to as the "Yosemite killer" in the media.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Oops, sorry are just the messenger...I guess the three lobbying groups you mentioned are the drama queens I was referring to!

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 11 weeks ago

    "How will families with youngsters feel about attending interpretive programs in national parks when the person next to them might be armed? Will the National Park Service have to install metal detectors in parks to ensure gun owners don't enter buildings with their sidearms?"'re kidding, right? What a drama queen you are!
    Well ya know, that gun just might jump outa that holster all by itself and shoot that kid! Lions and tigers and guns...OH MY!
    Fact is, anti-gun liberals, those of us who will be carrying CONCEALED are law-abiding citizens who have passed extensive background checks. NO ONE will know and most people won't really care if there are people in the room carrying...unless they are linguine-spined libbies who suffer from gun paranoia anyway. Myself, I feel better knowing that if some looney without a CCW wants to start shooting up the place, I can stop it...or another law-abiding CCW could. Most rangers I have talked to see no problem with CCWs carrying in the parks...they will be concealed out of sight anyway. Uh, Mr. Wade...get a grip! Good thing you didn't live 100 years ago in the old west!
    If I knew my camp neighbor was packin', I would probably strike up a conversation about guns and ammo...and we could even check out each other's weapon of choice!
    The bad guys have been carrying all along. And remember Cary Stayner (Yosemite killer)? He didn't need a gun...he just used a knife. I'll bet Carol Sund, daughter and her friend would be alive today if they were armed....

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    I was there on Nov 3rd 2006. Have a great photo, different angle but same pine tree background. This fell almost 2 years later. The Old man in the Mountain in White Mtns NH, Franconia Notch fell 24 months after my visit in May 2001. It fell in May 2003. In Yosemite's Curry Village a large granite slab sheared off above Curry Village about two years after my first visit and again recently also two years after my last visit. Wierd how 3 places I've been have fallen after I see them.

  • Colorado Man Dies While Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Oof, sad. Hearts go out to family & friends. Altitude or cold or exhaustion?


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • National Park System Would Gain Official Wilderness Under Omnibus Lands Bill   6 years 11 weeks ago

    It will be interesting if the Omnibus Public Lands Act doesn't pass today - but the bean counters must be pretty confident, as Senator (and Vice-President-Elect) Joe Biden is apparently off to Asia today, according to the Associated Press - although apparently at least three Senators canceled plans to join him on the trip in order to cast their votes. The AP also says that this bill would be the biggest expansion of the National Wilderness System in 25 years (although, I'm guessing that's largely an artifact of the fact these bills had to be consolidated into such a large Omnibus Act.)

  • NPCA, Park Retirees File Lawsuit to Halt Change in National Park Gun Rules   6 years 11 weeks ago

    First of all free men and women have the right to keep and bear arms. Bear arms means exactly that, to carry on their person. There is no logical reason that National Parks should restrict that right as that lawful citizens are are not committing crimes in National Parks. The main impetus was against vandalism and poachers. CCW holders have a better record than even the police in not comitting crimes. There is no reason to suppose that CCW holders will suddenly feel required to shoot at animals or signs or even people. There are already laws against poaching and vandalism and shooting against people so a law restricting guns in parks is unecessary.

    Furthermore, there are National Parks in the Southeast that many researchers are told not to visit due to the lawlessness and the drug labs. Large areas of Oregon and Washington National Parks have acreages of marijuana farms. Rangers are considered more at risk than FBI agents due to increase crime.

    The main reason this regulation was changed is that many CCW people cross National Park land every day on the roads and unless they stop and unload and secure weapon and ammo they are committing a felony. Laws should not be created that make people who are othewise lawabiding commit a felony. The idea of laws is not to make lawabiding people to be criminals because of a regulation that is hard not to break going about their business innocently without ill intent.

    So to all that are scared of this change in regulation it simply a step back to pre 1976 when carrying guns in National Parks were allowed. This simply make it easier for CCW holders to cross park lands in a car not to break a law inadvertantly.

    There is no reason to presume that CCW holders will suddenly feel the urge to shoot in a National Park when they don't in the store or movie theater. This unreasonable fear that a gun has the ability to create homicidal urges in otherwise law abiding is ridiculous. Criminals are criminalbecasue the choose to break laws and those criminal will carry anyway like they do in cities. This allows the non criminals to also carry.

    The only thing that stops a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun whether a cop or a normal citizen.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 11 weeks ago

    I'm curious - are there other "gotcha's" one should worry about in the northern parks / states? The Isle Royale National Park (Island) in Michigan has had an ongoing wolf / moose - predator/prey study that has been going on for 50 years (as of 2008). There is a good possibility that I will be working in the study this May (the park is only open from May - September), and probably a good chance that I will be the first to open up some cabins, sheds and other enclosures that are closed from October to April. Recommended protocol? There is obviously a rodent population in every single state, in all environments - that goes without saying - yes?

    Being a native Texan, your comments on Rocky Mountain Spotted fever and the use of powdered sulfur as a deterrent are not lost. My youth was spent crawling around on the forest / plains floors, hiding in piles of leaves during paint ball matches, crouching behind blinds for hours while hunting and waiting for that one 'shot' while photographing. I figure that from what yall depict, me and all my buddies probably should be dead by now (40+ years.. be nice). In all sincerity, it's timely information at any age - wish we had known back then what we know now. Also - don't forget that ticks also carry Lyme's (sp) disease and a few other rarer ones. You can bet - if you catch sickness from a tick / flea bite, it won't be a pleasant ordeal.

    Lastly - while I've never heard of someone getting sick from a chigger bite, there has been many a night spent trying everything (smothering them with nail polish on your skin at the bite/entry area, clawing at them, ripping your skin off, etc...) to get rid of the darn things. They are a bane to all Texans - in all areas.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 11 weeks ago

    Better bring lots of ammo, Hobblefoot. Naegleria fowler is a single-cell organism and kinda on the small side.