Recent comments

  • Mount Rainier National Park Offers a Snowplay Area and Guided Snowshoe Walks   6 years 13 weeks ago

    An old joke maintains that there are only two seasons at Paradise, winter and the Fourth of July. However, it's no longer 'the world's snowiest place'. Mt. Baker ski area in northern Washington has been the annual snowfall record holder since 1999 with 1,140 inches:

  • With Winter Hitting Much of the Country Hard, There Are Many Ski Opportunities in the National Parks   6 years 13 weeks ago

    I dont have a real recollection of unbearable train noise. It might depend whether you are on the "track side" or the other side, in the lodge, the cabooses or the new cabins. Perhaps the deep snow in the Izaak Walton Inn area muffles the sound somewhat, while in Belton, which I remember as being more of a valley, the train sounds are confined and seem louder. Just conjecture, but why not?

  • Going to Denali Next Summer? It's Not Too Soon to Make Some Essential Reservations   6 years 13 weeks ago

    So many years ago I was there I cannot give you a certain answer, but I do believe that there is room for someone who has the spontaneity you desire.

    My feeling is that you can be certain of being able to go somewhere in the park. As far as camping at Wonder Lake - maybe yes and maybe no. In other words, if you are going to be truly spontaneous you may also have to be flexible. Aside from campgrounds filling up, there is always the possibility of certain areas being closed for various reasons, including nesting, bear activity, or other "acts of god". In these instances, some areas can be closed even if you have reservations.

    But Denali has the dual identity you seek - some room for the wayfarer, and some room for the planned (packaged) tour. Why not aim for something in-between if you can (for your first trip). Book in at Camp Denali (look up the url yourself if you are so inclined... I am not advertising the place). There you can have the proximity to Wonder Lake and a certainty of accomodations. Then take a few days after that and see where you can go in the park. After several summers there I can guarantee a great trip no matter where you hike. I especially loved the idea of very few trails (none actually in most places). You will get used to wet socks and boots that go squish squish as you trudge through the moss.

    Good luck!


  • Cascade Pass, North Cascades National Park   6 years 13 weeks ago

    I have posted several photos from my hike of Cascade Pass. It is a great hike.

  • Improving Paradise: Mount Rainier National Park Gets a Fine New Visitor Center   6 years 13 weeks ago

    I visited last year and the old visitor center really did need to be replaced. The park is amazing. Here are some photos of my visit to Mt. Rainer

  • Have You Ever Sneaked Into Shiloh National Military Park?   6 years 13 weeks ago

    I'd still be careful with that "exactly at dawn" thing, MRC. Though the first shots were fired in twilight, firsthand accounts make it clear that the initial contact took place during full dark ( official records have it at 4:55 a.m.). A true Civil War fanatic might very well want to be at Fraley Field (the place where the opening shots were fired) at the time when the Federal patrol first encountered the Confederates -- and that would be in full dark. I have no doubt that some of the sneak-ins occur for that reason.

  • Have You Ever Sneaked Into Shiloh National Military Park?   6 years 13 weeks ago

    Very impressive, MRC!

    In the spirit of fun, I can't resist noting it's a good thing Daylight Savings Time wasn't in effect at the time of the battle, or this subject could be even more interesting. Was that 5:15 a.m. Standard Time or Daylight Savings Time?

    Under those circumstances, confusion about the time might have changed the course of history. As the various commanders were synchronizing watches to coordinate the start of the surprise attack, at least one of them probably would have been muttering under his breath, "Dang, was I supposed to 'spring forward' or 'fall back' last Sunday at 2 a.m.?"

  • With Winter Hitting Much of the Country Hard, There Are Many Ski Opportunities in the National Parks   6 years 13 weeks ago

    Good addition, Claire. But can you tell me how noisy it is with the train tracks so close? I've thought a stay in the Belton Inn in West Glacier would be nice, but I've heard the trains running all hours of the day and night can take some getting used to.

  • With Winter Hitting Much of the Country Hard, There Are Many Ski Opportunities in the National Parks   6 years 13 weeks ago

    Arguably the most unique national park ski/snowshoe opportunities, are Glacier National Park's winter trails accessed directly from the Izaak Walton Inn. Set in a snow-rich valley between the park and the Great Bear Wilderness, the inn grooms and tracksets more thean 30 km of x-c trails and also has a permit to lead ski/snowshoe tours into the park. On the map, it's in West Essex, off US Hwy 2 and also a flagstop for Amtrak's Empire Builder. See

  • Have You Ever Sneaked Into Shiloh National Military Park?   6 years 13 weeks ago

    I thought it would be fun to be there in the morning of April 6. Your description was lively and I liked it a lot. So I looked for the time of sunrise at that time and location and was thrilled that calsky offered to calculate it even for the 19th century. The coincidence that 5:15 was exactly the beginning of dawn was too good not to mention here. Thanks for the post and the reply.

  • Have You Ever Sneaked Into Shiloh National Military Park?   6 years 13 weeks ago

    Cripes, MRC, you are really a stickler for detail. I can see that I had better be more careful if I want to keep you off my back! First, let me say that you are not wrong. As to whether you are exactly right, well, I've still got some room for weaselspeak, so here it is. The term I used in this article is "pre-dawn twilight." I used that particular term because I thought that what they had at 5:15 a.m. on that day was nautical twilight (for which the term pre-dawn twilight is appropriate), and you can't assume that the average person knows what the hell nautical twilight is. (I happen to know what it means because I used to teach meteorology, though not necessarily very well). Now, MRC, you've enlightened me (pun intended) by telling me that 5:15 a.m. on the opening day of the battle was actually civil twilight, just a few ticks of the clock removed from nautical twilight and therefore entitled to be called dawn instead of pre-dawn. Or maybe we should just call it "daybreak" and let it go at that? What the heck; I'm just going to delete "pre-dawn" from the article and pray that twilight will suffice to indicate that it was not yet full daylight.

  • Have You Ever Sneaked Into Shiloh National Military Park?   6 years 13 weeks ago

    5:15 on April 6, 1862 was not pre-dawn in southern Tennessee, it was to the minute the beginning of dawn, defined as the sun standing 6 degrees below the horizon. This is enough light to read a newspaper. Calculation made by

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   6 years 13 weeks ago

    @NC rider: They can not get along, and this is not just a matter of respect. It goes deeper.

    Think of any single track encounter between a hiker and a biker or horses and mules. Who will step aside and let the other pass? It is always the hiker. 100%. While that is not really an issue while it happens, it has an impact on the self-esteem of the hiker. He feels inevitable second rate after a few encounters. It will make him angry and severely damage his outdoor experience.

    I certainly felt so on Bright Angel Trail when I was passed by a mule train just below Indian Garden on the steep, narrow cut into the Tonto Plateau. It's a spectacular experience to immerse into the deep red sandstone, the desert environment of the Inner Gorge. We were very early, almost alone on that part of the trail. And there we encountered a train of around twelve mules with a guide who was polite, no question of that. He asked us to step aside and let them pass. Of course we did so. And stood for a few minutes in the dust and the smell of the mules. And in the chatter of gaudy, physically unfit tourists who I felt back then do not belong in a desert environment(*). It disturbed my experience. I still can see the dispersed dust in the air several minutes later on a photo I took of a singular yucca against the stone. Where there should be deep shadow and the column of yellow blossoms before it, there is noise of the dust in all the dark parts.

    The same is true for encounters between hikers and bikers and here I can speak from both sides. I am not talking not so much about uphill (for the biker) sections, but it is certainly true for the downhill parts or long flat sections with hard surface, perfect for speed. There the landscape becomes just a backdrop, a playground for the biker. This is about fun, about speed, about going to the physical and technical limits. Any obstacle becomes a nuisance or even a danger. Hikers are perceived as obstacles. When you have really fun, you will shout ahead or ring your bell to make them aware of you in advance so they can jump aside. And this is not a matter of respect, because this is the core of the fun for bikers. they are out there with their bikes (and not on foot) because of the speed downhill, because of the fun to master a difficult section without setting a foot to the ground.

    I see no way how bikers and horses/mules can coexist with hikers on the same trail, their relative speed and impact on each other is too different. And I can not see how new trails for them could be justified in a National Park. Is it acceptable to refer them to National Forests and BLM land for their playgrounds?

    * This is the difficult and different issue: How to organize accessibility for all to the marvels of a Park without impairing the experience by the support infrastructure.

  • Going to Denali Next Summer? It's Not Too Soon to Make Some Essential Reservations   6 years 13 weeks ago

    The park service and concessionaire will lead you to believe that the only options are those listed on the park website. For anyone considering a tour you might look at the establishments in Kantishna at the end of the park road. One to multi-day options are available and overall these are a more personal, more relaxed, more informative way to experience Denali than the concessionaire tours. If you are interested in backpacking you will have to get a permit to do so in the park--although Denali State Park and some areas bordering DNP are also possibilities. Depending upon the time of summer and the specific areas one might want to visit in the park one may have to have the luxury of patience and time to secure the necessary permits. I have been blessed to live and work in and near Denali for many years. It is a great place to spend time but does take some planning to do so. Again I would recommend looking at options beyond the shuttle and Natural History and Tundra tours.

  • Interior Officials Planning To Make It Easier for Mountain Bikers to Gain Backcountry Access in Parks   6 years 13 weeks ago

    This is not complicated.... Hikers, horses and bikers can get along IF, ...
    1) The trails are designed properly on proper soils.
    2) The overall density of visitors is meets visitor's expectations.
    3) All visitors respect one another.

    Given none of these simple rules are ever really meet to everyone's expectations,
    some limits -and zoning- are required so that everyone can enjoy the outdoors.

    I would like to bike on single track in the backcountry...but I realize I should not be allowed on all trails because other visitors are impacted by my riding. Likewise, I would expect that hikers and horse-riders not complain about bikers on mixed-use trails. The balance needs to be struck and can only be done at the local level using national fair guidelines.

  • The AARP Seven-Tip List for Economical National Park Visiting is One Tip Short   6 years 13 weeks ago

    Thanks, Claire. I didn't address the seasonality issue because I assumed that seniors would be using these tips for travel throughout 2009. I think that's what the author had in mind.

  • The AARP Seven-Tip List for Economical National Park Visiting is One Tip Short   6 years 13 weeks ago

    Some of these "tips" are unhelpful in light of many parks' intense seasonality.

    Re. Stay in the park; in-park rooms are often cheaper: "Often" does not mean "always." Not having to drive in and out of a park DOES save gas and wear-and-tear on the vehicle. AARP didn't mention that.

    Pitch a tent; campsites are cheaper than rooms: Oh come now. What were they thinking? I'll wager that most AARP members are beyond being willing to pitch a tent and trek to the toilets in the middle of the night. How about suggesting renting a self-contained RV, which provides at least minimal creature comforts, including a bathroom, electric lights, a real kitchen and heating/cooling. No hotel room at all. No dealing with rain, wind, heat or cold. No sleeping in a sleeping bag on a Thermarest or low cot. The ability to prepare 3 meals a day.

    Re. Skip the summer; off-season rates are cheaper: In some case/places, there are no off-season rates at all because properties are closed. Examples? Far View Lodge at Mesa Verde Natl Park; Crater Lake Lodge in Crater Lake NP; and lodges in Glacier NP are among those closed in winter, while the Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley NP is closed in summer. Of course, if these tips include loding near the park, off-season rates ARE generally lower. Also, in snow country, while the parks are technically open, many roads are unplowed, and snowshoes or cross-country skis (or very occasional snowmobiles) are required to get into the park at all.

  • Going to Denali Next Summer? It's Not Too Soon to Make Some Essential Reservations   6 years 13 weeks ago

    MRC -

    A good question, and one which may be a bit hard to answer, given uncertainty about how much the economy may impact travel to distant locations such as Denali next year.

    Perhaps some of our readers are Denali veterans, and will offer some suggestions. If I'm able to get some opinions from the park on your question, I'll post them here.

  • Video: Wal-Mart's Super Center Plans Draw Opposition From Generals Lee and Grant   6 years 13 weeks ago

    My good freind Delegate Mark Cole of Spotsylvania does a fine job portraying Ulysses S. Grant and protecting his district.

    Semper Fi

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   6 years 13 weeks ago

    Thanks, Kirby, for pointing out that the people designing, building, and maintaining green roofs are not idiots, and should not be expected to ignore the obvious. Criticism of green roofs is typically rooted in a very shallow appreciation for human ingenuity and ability to learn from experience. Green roofs are here to stay, and thank goodness for that. Energy savings notwithstanding, building green roofs can help alleviate urban heat island effects and improve the viewscape.

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   6 years 13 weeks ago

    Speaking of fads, I realize it's en vogue to ridicule any attempt to steer the status quo toward more environmentally friendly practices, but the unfortunate facts are that green roof technology is constantly improving, learning from its mistakes, and showing some real benefits.

    Many green roofs these days are using easily removable trays that can be laid out in a grid, allowing easy access to the actual roof in case of a problem. One of the originators and suppliers of the trays is here in Michigan, actually.

    The trays in particular, and many roofs in general, are using plants adapted to harsh and semi-arid conditions. Sedum has been the plant of choice in many areas and is proving to need very little if any watering, even in areas like Portland, Oregon with significant hot and dry periods.

    Yes, it takes a strong structure to support the weight of a green roof, but even in Pittsburgh, where many of the buildings are from the age of "build 'em quick and cheap" they're finding many of them well-suited to green roofs. It doesn't require a radical change in structure or materials to allow a roof to grow some Sedum.

    Back to Portland, again, they've had lepidopterists up on their roofs studying butterflies because the roofs are proving to be oases of insect diversity in easily accessible (to people) urban environments. Entomologists are doing field work up the steps from their office. This has the potential to reduce habitat fracturing and provide opportunities for study of island effect in insect populations.

    Finally, while it hasn't been quantified, there's psychological benefit to humans. Folks that are cynical about every attempt to beautify and "green" the urban landscape probably wouldn't enjoy it, but to many folks, being able to take a lunchtime stroll among some greenery, flowers, birds, and butterflies is an antidote for urban malaise and stimulant to a buried or repressed biophilia (ala Ed Wilson).

    Forgive me for not being sour on green roofs, but I've met the people studying and producing these things. They aren't enviro-wackos and are far from Pollyanas about the problems.

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • Going to Denali Next Summer? It's Not Too Soon to Make Some Essential Reservations   6 years 13 weeks ago

    Happy holidays to the team and all the readers of the Traveler!

    Reading this probably excellent advice for those who make travel plans and stick to them, I'd like to ask how feasibly it would be these days to go to Denali in a more chaotic style. I never was in Alaska but slightly more than ten years ago, I was just one week from buying the air ticket when unfortunately something happened that made me cancel the plans. Back then I was certainly the spontaneous traveler, since then I got a bit older and only slightly wiser.

    So how about I arrive with decent equipment at the park, walk to the backcountry information desk and tell them that I would like to do a three day/two night backcountry trip in some spectacular part of the park and spend two or three nights at the Wonder Lake campground plus maybe one night in one of the campgrounds in the entrance area. The order of the activities is open according to availability. Would that be even possible? Can one do great trips outside the actual park instead?

    Or has visiting Denali become something like a packet tour, preplanned, prepayed and with full preview in a catalog?

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   6 years 13 weeks ago

    LOL. You expounded upon this nonsense much better than I did, Ted!
    Another example of "green" idiocy!
    When are many enviros gonna realize there is no free lunch?

  • Who's Being Mentioned For Director of the National Park Service?   6 years 13 weeks ago

    I like Michael Finley. But your rumor about the reason he retired is bunk. He's not that weak.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 13 weeks ago

    They did the right thing in killing the bear if he harmed a child and showed aggression toward the Rangers.

    Anywhere you the put the bear, he could have easily been in contact with people again. I'm glad they didn't give the bear another chance to harm or kill someone.