Recent comments

  • Cell Phones in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago

    A true test of your outdoor skills comes with prudent, practical and rational thinking with experience. To hone down on these skills can even be better served and perfected when knowing you have less high tech garbage to haul with you in the back country. The cell phone is another example of crying and whining for help to mama when something go wrong. Ranger Sharsmith, Norman Clyde and Ansel Adams (and his huge camera tripod) did the back country woods with the primitive tools of camping but had the stout hardiest of a true backpacker. I can now hear them laughing about those cell phone cry babies when they get lost.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Valerie, you don't need a harness of any kind to hike Half Dome. The trail is a well trodden highway for hikers until you come to the very last slope, which is sheer rock. There you have the cables to hold on and the traverses to step on. Unless you are doing something extremely stupid, you will not be in the situation to need any technical equipment. Have decent boots, start very early to avoid the crowds as far as possible and do the last slope in your own pace, then you will be perfectly safe.

    But please don't expect too much. The view from half dome is not that much different to that from Sentinel Dome or even Glacier Point. But you can't see half dome from there. Thus making it essentially inferior than other vistas. Its the same in all places: getting on top of the most prominent landmark is nice but you can't see the very same landmark from there, so usually getting to the second or third prominent spot is better as you see the top spots from there.

  • Cell Phones in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Having horse packed into wilderness areas for 35 years and survived numerous accidents including having a mule killed by lightning while I sat on her, I continue to cling to the concept that the root word of wilderness is wild. Venturing into a wilderness area carries certain risks which need to be accepted or one needs to hold closer to civilization. Much of the purpose of a wilderness area is to provide a connection with the past that is lost when modern technology is present. Certain skills need to be honed if one is to have a true wilderness experience and if we can't take the time to develop them we best go someplace those skills aren't needed.

  • Centennial Projects: Do They All Prepare the National Parks for the Next 100 Years?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Just a couple thoughts after looking back at some of the above responses. This is my first, foolish attempt at participating in one of these newfangled blogs. I look forward to the installation of my chip within a few years, so I won't have to use an external device to merge with the universe.

    Planning is important to ensure that actions lead to the intended result. Sometimes planning documents are thick and you can stack them up in order to peer into the next cubicle. But sometimes they contain a wealth of thought, and examine the issues in depth, before working their way to a variety of solutions. In the Park Service, these possible solutions now include an environmentally preferred alternative.

    Sometimes, arriving at the planned solution takes a long time. Horace Albright visited Chickamauga battlefield in 1915 when it was under the jurisdiction of the War Department. He found it difficult to understand without the aid of a guide or some sort of interpretation. He decided then that the battlefields and historic sites would fit in the national park system better than where they were. It wasn't until 1933 that Franklin Roosevelt reorganized the agencies and brought many historic sites into the National Park Service. A ranger or superintendent who works in a park for five or ten years may not have the time to accomplish some kinds of tasks. The questions for each are: what do they want to accomplish? And, does what they want to accomplish further the long range preservation and interpretation of the park?

    Action without planning is easy. Sometimes it leads in the intended direction, but often it does not. Having been a field ranger, I can look back on my experience and some of the solutions that my coworkers and I suggested for problems without enough analysis. At my current park, visitors often ask where the restrooms are located. A common reaction is to suggest placing a sign that says "Restrooms" with an arrow pointing the way. That solution does help. But the solution that works when visitors don't see the sign is for our staff member to politely direct them to the restrooms.

    I remember a sign I saw at the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park maybe 10 years ago that stated: "Visitors are responsible for knowing and obeying park regulations," or words to that effect. I recognize that sometimes federal magistrates have goofy ideas about the importance of signs to provide cover for enforcing regulations, but it's hard to imagine a more hostile greeting for someone entering a national park. On the other hand, it could be the perfect fundraising technique: require all visitors to buy copies of Title 36 Code of Federal Regulations and Titles 5, 16, and 18 of the United States Code and put the profits in the park donation box. And, when they get done reading them, they might know all of the laws they are supposed to obey. Well, except for the state laws. But that's another story. I bet that sign at Rocky Mountain was the product of a sign committee with a vocal ranger member who argued that it was necessary for the proper protection of the park. But it's a poor solution to the problem.

    Mission 66 was the result of meticulous planning led by a man who had been preparing his whole life for such a task. Conrad Wirth's father Theodore was a park manager in Hartford and Minneapolis, where Conrad grew up. Theodore's plan was to provide a park within a half mile of every citizen in Minneapolis and he pretty well realized that goal. Conrad started with the Park Service in the early 1930s, and in 1933 managed to mobilize several hundred thousand CC' boys on the state side of the agency within just a couple months. By 1955, he was ready to lead the entire National Park Service to find ways for people to enjoy parks. The planners of Mission 66 invented the visitor center, and Conrad Wirth came up with the name. The visitor center is really just a tool to provide entry to the park and a offers a translator to help visitors "learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche."

    I think we have yet to come up with a better tool than the visitor center or entrance station to get people into the parks. Money enables lots of things including trails, chain saws, pavement, velcro, goretex, light weight backpack gear, gps units, semiautomatic weapons, and ballistic vests. It also provides for planning and for visitor centers and interpretive media that help people learn about our national parks. We have to weigh the value of each and decide where our resources will go.

  • Bear #399, And Other Grizzlies, Are On the Prowl In Grand Teton National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    It's so exciting to see these bears out again. Watching them all summer last year, you sort of feel like you are seeing old Family again when you see them. Lets hope they have a safe and incident free season.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Do you have a photo of your Via Ferrata harness? I am currently looking to purchase one. I thought I saw somewhere on another blog, you or someone had posted a picture of this particular harness and I am having a difficult time trying to locate it.

    I am planning to hike Half Dome the end of June this year.

    I'd greatly appreciate your providing any websites, or photos of suggested harnesses you feel would be most appropriate to hike Half Dome.

    Thanks! V

  • Creature Feature: Hellbenders   6 years 18 weeks ago

    There has been much discussion about the overuse and abuse of the Spring River in and around Mammoth Spring.
    The decline of the Hellbender is taken very seriously by a lot of residents in the area.

    The start of the decline of the Hellbender seems to be caused (perhaps, maybe?) by the introduction of trout into the river.
    Check the dates of initial trout release and the studies of Hellbender population and you too can see a correlation.

    It has been suggested by myself that an area of one mile below dam three be designated as a Hellbender habitat, and that no trout be released, and no large scale canoeing launches from resorts be allowed in the area.

    The raising of Hellbenders for release into the wild cannot logically take place if the river is not wild.

    In the meantime release Hellbenders further down stream concurrently, simutaneouly and then you will have a real study, and a chance of reviving the species in the wild.

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 18 weeks ago

    $103 million? Yikes - are these private interests also providing sustainable funding for the operation and maintenance of this visitor center?

    Its one thing to build these grand facilities. Its another to maintain the funding necessary to keep them going over time and not become a burden to the park and people they are supposed to serve.

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Kurt, this is another example of our historical and natural heritage being short changed by are present administration that has it's priorities backwards (as usual). Scrounging around for private funding for the national parks is a horrendous effort by the most dedicated who care. We can do better and even much better once Bush & Chaney leave leaving the damn disastrous and reckless war in Iraq. May it come soon!

  • Groups Sue Cape Hatteras National Seashore Over ORV Traffic   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Exactly how many times have you been to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore? As a Dare County native, I find it amusing that people who do not live here or visit our beaches very seldom are so quick to judge. We have had many miles of our beaches closed and protected for nesting purposes annually over the past 10 years. People who are born and raised here have an extraordinary sense of environmental issues and how everything we do has some type of effect. The number of birds that are actually nesting here are very few (high teens – low twenties is high estimate). They are more than adequately protected by a professional competent national parks staff. As for the sea turtles, we have one of the best programs to protect them and their nesting sites on the east coast. Most of the people who drive on our beaches are respectful of our environment. The NCDOT has posted signs at every beach access ramp. These signs describe beach driving etiquette. Does everyone always take the time to read them or follow the rules? No. The national park service responds quickly to complaints. These complaints result in written citations to those who are in violation.

    How many of you use chemically engineered fertilizer for your lawn? We get your run off. Your run off lowers the amount of oxygen in our waters killing many species of fish in our estuaries. Many people here are commercial fisherman who rely on these species of fish and their governmentally regulated stocks to make a living. Do you enjoy eating seafood? People living inland in North Carolina have a direct effect on our fish stocks and other environmental issues here in Dare County. The county with the highest cancer rates in the entire state of North Carolina. We don’t tell you how to run your business, farm, or what ever it is you do, so do not tell the residents of Dare County what we should and should not do.

  • Bear #399, And Other Grizzlies, Are On the Prowl In Grand Teton National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I just love this photo...just lumbering along after a deep sleep. Bring out the ankle bells and spray! Yellowstone slowly awakes! Let's just hope that old bear number 399 and her cubs survive another rambunctious tourist season. Bear canisters...please!

  • Who Visits Alaska's National Parks?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I've made 2 trips to AK so far and will be going again this year. My first trip was a multi-sport/touring trip that covered from Anchorage to Seward, Lake Clark NP, Whittier, Mat-Su Valley, Denali, and various points in between. Last year I did a raft/hike trip in the Arctic Refuge (Kongakut River); going again this year for same (Hulahula River - Brooks range to Coastal Plain). I love AK and have plans for several more trips , hopefully of at least a month duration.

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 18 weeks ago

    In theory, that's what the Centennial Challenge is all about...We should get an idea of how successful that is in the not-too-distant future when Interior/NPS announces the first round of funded projects. The concern, of course, is that while there are numerous needs across the park system, how many donors will want to underwrite a sewer system or a restroom?

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 18 weeks ago

    So, if such private donations are so forthcoming for the construction of visitor's centers, perhaps there is a way to channel that money into other priorities?

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 18 weeks ago

    The Gettysburg VC largely was given birth by private donations, while the Blue Ridge center was the largess of former U.S. Rep. Charles Taylor, R-NC, who seemed to have his funding priorities upside down. Was a facility of that stature and expense -- nearly $10 million -- needed? At a park that has roughly 45 staff vacancies because it can't afford them?

    Private contributions helped fund the Grand Teton center, though I can't recall exactly how much. There's also a new visitor center being built at Old Faithful in Yellowstone. Some $15 million of the $27 million price tag was raised by the Yellowstone Park Foundation.

    I can say the old Grand Teton and Old Faithful visitor centers badly needed to be replaced. And if not for private funds, the new facilities would not be so, shall we say, grand.

    There indeed are myriad funding needs across the park system, and at times it seems only those that can find a friend in the private sector get the money they need.

  • Gettysburg National Military Park: Of Cycloramas, Museums and Visitor Centers   6 years 18 weeks ago

    For all the talk of the National Park Service being so under-funded, it seems like there are an awful lot of Vistitor's Centers projects underway. There's a new one at Grand Teton, two new ones at Yellowstone, a new destination center on the Blue Ridge Parkway... it would be interesting to know just how many of them there have been. Now granted, the existing Visitors Center at Gettysburg was definitely becoming over-matched, as anyone who has visited on a summer weekend can attest. Nevertheless, should all these new Visitors Centers be the priority for the Park Service's scarce funding dollars?

  • Should Canyon de Chelly Be Given to the Navajo Nation?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I'm interested in the comment from the National Park Service that "Canyon de Chelly is unique among National Park Service units, as it is comprised entirely of Navajo Tribal Trust Land." I'm curious as to why Navajo National Manument and Hubbel Trading Post NHS don't also meet the same criteria? Additionally, Hohokam Pima National Monument is also located entirely on the Gila River Indian Reservation.

    To me it seems that it would be a shame for Canyon de Chelly to lose the recognition of National Park Service. I can only hope that a suitable equitable arrangement is worked out between the National Park Service and the Navajo Nation to bother respect the rights and history of the Navajo Nation, as well embracing the significance of Canyon de Chelly that makes it part of the national patrimony for all Americans.

  • Should Canyon de Chelly Be Given to the Navajo Nation?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    The Canyon and its archaeological significance is interesting and significant for all Americans: not only Navajos. The NPS can do a better job of managing it for accessibility to all Americans than the tribe can. Although the tribe certainly has important ties to the area, it does not have the mission to make it's tribal land available to the public as much as the NPS has the mandate to make its units available. That said, the involvement of tribal members in giving tours and managing the area is definitely appropriate and valuable to everyone. I took a night-time tour of the area a few years back. The Navajo guide did a very good job of guiding and narrating the tour. However, his level of administration and efficiency was well below the standards that the NPS brings to its duties.

  • Former National Park Service Directors Urge Interior Secretary To Keep Guns Out of Parks   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Ranger Tyler -

    Thanks for taking the time to address this issue in such a intellectual manner. I totally agree with you. If people don't like what the 2nd amendment says, they should look at changing it or repealing it. To ignore it or violate it is what is leading our great nation into chaos.

  • Former National Park Service Directors Urge Interior Secretary To Keep Guns Out of Parks   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker: You've gone down the slippery slope of equating an individual right to arms with mob justice.

    "NOT ONE of those original conditions exist in modern society."

    If that's the case, then you should work to amend the Constitution. Ignoring it tends to land us in trouble (think Japanese Internment during WWII, invading Iraq without a formal declaration of war, spying on US citizens without a warrant, etc.).

    "Attempting to apply a 17th century set of values and regulations to a 21st century dysfunctional society is an exercise in futility."

    Actually, they were late-18th century values, but leaving that aside, your point seems to be that the Bill of Rights has no relevance today. I find it hard to believe that we cannot apply the First Amendment's guarantees of freedom of speech, assembly, etc. to modern circumstances. I find it hard to believe that Due Process has lost its relevance. I find it hard to believe that we can't apply the idea of being free from self-recrimination to today's society.

    The Founders included the Second Amendment to protect citizens against the tyranny of government.

    Consider: The Nazi party banned weapon possessions by Jews, Roma (Gypsies), and other populations. Why? An unarmed populace could be more easily "managed".

    The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing. --Adolph Hitler

    We are in danger of forgetting that the Bill of Rights reflects experience with police excesses. It is not only under Nazi rule that police excesses are inimical to freedom. It is easy to make light of insistence on scrupulous regard for the safeguards of civil liberties when invoked on behalf of the unworthy. It is too easy. History bears testimony that by such disregard are the rights of liberty extinguished, heedlessly at first, then stealthily, and brazenly in the end. --Justice Felix Frankfurter

    Given the current Executive Branch's power grab, given the genocide in Darfur and other places around the world, given the rabid anti-immigration sentiment in our country, given the civil rights violations that continue throughout the world, given police excesses across the country, it seems that the Second Amendment--including the Founders' thoughts and statements about it--is more relevant than ever.

  • Former National Park Service Directors Urge Interior Secretary To Keep Guns Out of Parks   6 years 18 weeks ago

    This same set of quotations you would like me to expound upon has been posted previously within the confines of this site. Attempting to apply a 17th century set of values and regulations to a 21st century dysfunctional society is an exercise in futility. The thought processes that were involved in the basis for the Bill of Rights were derived from a repressive and expansionistic model of world domination that was the English, French and Spanish "standard way of doing business" in the 14th thru 18th centuries, a model not unique but rather stolen, or copied from the Romans, Greeks, Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Mongols, Ethiopians, Moors, and countless other power-hungry societies throughout the course of recorded history, and no doubt in prior times as well. In the initial stages of the United States political (and social) framework being outlined, certain freedoms that the Founding Fathers believed were being withheld from the masses for purposes of subjugation under various European monarchy were deemed required by our country in order to found "a more perfect union", that being one of equality across all barriers, with no one man or sect (i.e., elitist minority, as in king, lord, military junta etc.) holding dominion over the masses, hopefully eliminating or at the very least, severely disabling the prospects of such wannabe "rulers" to mold a society in their own image, thereby again, assisting to ensure the equality of all citizens.

    During this period in our history, there was also a notable lack of internal security against both foreign and domestic threats to our nation's sovereignty. The newly founded nation possessed no formal defense in terms of military or naval capabilities, nor any manner of internal keepers of the peace (e.g., National Guard, police,, which the "world powers" used as their primary means to foster their particular brand of expansionism throughout the known and expanding world. It was reasoned that if your little corner of the world was not previously laid claim to by one of the existing super-powers, you were fair game to be "claimed" by the first idiot that was able to hoist their nation's flag on your soil. From that instant, and nobody cared what your opinion was, or what your history was, or what your political or religious methods were, or how well developed or advanced a society you possessed, you automatically became subjects of whatever Queen of This or King of That was represented by the banner affixed to your shores. Bow down and pay up, or die. Sound suspiciously like the current US governmental system, doesn't it?

    The political, religious, and other personal freedoms that were endowed upon the initial citizens of this country were bestowed for two reasons. First to instill loyalty and a sense of "oneness" amoungst the new inhabitants, to show that a new beginning has been achieved by those willing to risk the hardships of life on the new frontier. Second was more to ensure that these citizens possessed the ability to function as both care-takers AND defenders of their new homeland. (Hummm, HomeLand Security, what a concept!) Empowering those most able was not just an empty exercise in "bestowing freedom", it was an absolute necessity. A major contributor to the success of the Continental Army were both new tactics (the old hit and run method learned from the Native Americans) and the ability to field a quickly mobilized "army" from the masses of blacksmiths, farmers, trappers, traders and any other with something to contribute to the war effort, from specialized skills in making weapon, owners of boats, horses and wagons, seamstresses, plus, and maybe most notably, enlisting the assistance of the "locals" who best knew the topography of the new land.

    Fast forward to modern times. NOT ONE of those original conditions exist in modern society. For better or worse, our military is quite well funded and equipped to handle both domestic and international disputes concerning our "national security", whatever that hell that means. (Actually, it means whatever those in power need it to mean at any given instant, just to keep us guessing and in the dark, which is where politicians need us to be kept.) We now also have well-developed state and national peace-keepers, and at least at the state level, they are not beholden to the federal officials. Of course, we are also stuck with our FBI and CIA, amoung other lesser-known acronyms that "assist" in keeping the peace, both internally and externally. We are also blessed with both a National and Coast Guard contingent, who are far more trust-worthy internally than certain other law enforcement agencies and political groups, such as the Democratic Party and the GOP. As the complexity of our society has evolved, so also has the requirements of those with whom we entrust to enforce the laws. It wasn't optional, it was and still is an absolute requirement of civilized society. Or are you suggesting we return to the days when the lynch mob and the posse were the lawkeepers in this country?

    As an aside, the above "documentary" is not one man's opinion. I suggest you, and any who would prefer a lynch mob find me, study IN DETAIL both Western Civilization pre and post-1500, and take an in-depth look at US History from it's inception thru the 20th C. I have not put forth any new or radical concepts in this most abbreviated outline of our nation and societal development. But maybe the oldest notions of mankind are true......."if you can't outwit your enemies, you're bound to be subjugated by them". I'll leave it to you to find the author of that quote, since you all seem rather adept at that type of thing.

  • The Monkey Wrench Gang: Coming to a Theater Near You?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I teach 8th grade social studies in Tuba City, and would love to see TMWG made into a film. We're dealing with some gang stuff, so that is the first connector. Second, and more important, we have a plume of radioactive contamination from the old uranium processing plant slowly moving into the sacred springs at Moenkopi, and who knows how much radioactive dust is settling in our lungs every time a SE wind arises? The Bush EPA has been silent (surprise!), but the House Government Oversight Committee is beginning to move. My kids could relate well, and now is the time for some green action.

  • A Sad Sign of the Times: NPS Promotes Body Armor Options To Rangers   6 years 18 weeks ago

    David I must respectfully ask, from your own comments ("If there is NOT a significant volume of gun crime in parks, then why not preserve and respect the current laws prohibiting gun carrying in the parks"); Are you objective enough to ask the same question about why this law was placed on the books in the first place, (the parks did not always designate themselves as a "gun-free zone")? If its really only about poaching then why would we have FEDERAL lands oppose a constitutional amendment? Certainly you understand the difference between a hunting rifle and a concealable weapon? Certainly someone who speaks on gun ownership and the role of the federal government understands ballistics enough to know the range of a .375 H&H Mag and a .380 Auto. Even more confusing would be a .50 Cal Desert Eagle and a .50 Cal Barret. The designation you're looking for is "concealable". While all weapons can be lethal, states have laws on what powder and size a cartridge must be for each game type so as to not inflict a non-lethal wound on an animal.

    If there is no need to change a law because of lack of evidence then there is no reason it should be on the books other than to restrict individual rights.

  • Groups Sue Cape Hatteras National Seashore Over ORV Traffic   6 years 18 weeks ago

    As a native Cape Codder I have been visiting the Outer Banx for 5 years now. I leave one beachside community in the summer and happily drive 18 hrs to get to yours. Beach access has become so limited here that I am more than happy to pack up my family of 6 and head to your beautiful beaches. We shut down large portions of our waterfront when a single Piping Plover nest is found. Our towns charge us to use our own beaches and the rich continue to use their power to close off sections of beach that have been for years open to everyone. The reason I head to the Outer Banx is that it reminds me of what the Cape used to be like when I was a kid, and before it was hijacked by limosine liberals and over zealous environmentalists. In my years of coming to your community I have only observed courteous and respectful ORVers. Once you start limiting access you will be done as a destination resort. We are all in favor of protecting the environment and it's wildlife, but by bending to the vocal minority and their all or nothing philosophies you will only lose your rights, your traditions and your incomes.

  • Should Canyon de Chelly Be Given to the Navajo Nation?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Kurt, I'd hate to see Canyon de Chelly National Monument decommissioned (or delisted, or disestablished, or whatever you call it). Can't we continue to carry this cultural treasure on the national park rolls even if it's turned over to the Navajo Nation for administration? I have one other question: Has there ever been a national park with a name more likely to be mispronounced?