Recent comments

  • Yosemite Falls All Dried Up   6 years 33 weeks ago

    Thanks for the info everyone. I had known that it wasn't totally unusual for Yosemite Falls to run dry, but I didn't know that it happened every year. I appreciate all the extra detail you've provided.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker makes some good points and raises some good questions that should be explored.

    As I've noted several times over the past two years, Congress is quick to designate national park system units, but not so quick to adequately fund them. The result? Well, there's that $8 billion maintenance backlog for starters, as well as the National Park Service's trend toward replacing full-time rangers with volunteers because it simply can't cover all the bases.

    Lines need to be drawn, both to whittle down the Park Service's budget problems and, frankly, to protect the integrity of the park system. Now, that's not to say that adding Mount St. Helens would damage the integrity. I think a sound argument can be made for its inclusion. But as Lone Hiker questions, where do you stop? If the Park Service budget were solidly in the black, I'd probably jump on the bandwagon. But it's not.

    Frank and Beamis more than once have called for a reordering of the Park Service, and one project whose time perhaps has arrived is taking a good, hard look at the various units and deciding whether they truly deserve to be within the national park system.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    True, the event on 1980 marked a unique and significant geological opportunity for ecological and geothermal studies "right in our own backyard". The results were catastrophic in terms of environmental impact, while at the same time invaluable in the seismic and geothermal data that were collected. Most noteworthy has been the replenishment of plant and animal life at a far greater pace than previously thought possible by E&E scientists. While many scars still remain and the local geography and topography have been forever altered, and while there can be no arguement for this region being termed volcanically active, I would like to pose a few questions. Are we prepared to designate any or all future eruption sites are National Parks? Aside from chronology, what criterion are to be utilized to denote this event from probably future events in the same or any other range of mountains? There is mounting evidence and data currently being collected that strongly suggest other probable volcanically active sites beyond the Cascades. And while Volcanos National Park gained status as a national park through the usual "unique character" clause and to some degree due to its remote location and the novel character of the Hawaiian Island chain of ancient volcanic mountain builders, where are we prepared to draw the line in the sand? Should the area of the Mississippi River where it's channel was permanently altered by the New Madrid earthquake be designated a National Park, or monument or preserve?
    Are any other remnants of natural disasters within the scope of presevation? My vote would be to nix the NPS acquisition of Mt. St. Helens, consider status with other capable organizations (e.g., the State Park system of Washington?) and manage it from within. There happen to be more than a few local individuals with the resources to assist in both direct and indirect fiscal subsidies, as is common to many public facilities across the nation. I submit for reference funding sources at the Grand Tetons. Any other ideas?

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    Coldwater Ridge should remain open. We visited Mt. St. Helens in April and would not have been able to if it was not open then. This resource is very valuable for the general public and teachers such as myself.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    oh, and often times the agencies close things to get visitors to call politicians to get them to start funding things adequately... it's an effective "shaming" tool for getting politicians attention.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    "USFS simply isn't used to deal with keeping the balance between tourism and protection in a highly visible NM. "

    hold on a minute...

    maybe not a "highly visible NM" but they do manage highly visible, heavily used national forests- many national forests get way more visitation than the parks and are coping with much smaller budgets. san bernardino, wasatch-cache and maybe a few more near the front range of colorado come to mind... and there is no off season. i would put money on the fact that some of these forests have visitor centers that get more visitation in a weekend than some nps units receive in a year and are additionally on par or exceed annual visitation at yellowstone or yosemite.

    kurt- i'd like to see some numbers on this, to compare, if we're going to banter about nps vs. usfs and visitor centers and who should manage. i mean, really, it's not like you often even see uniformed rangers in the nps visitor centers (save zion, you see them there) last three visits to capitol reef were vols, saw no uniforms (concessionaire employees!) in bryce, retirees (vols) in yellowstone and i guess escalante doesn't count because they're blm anyway. i guess my issue is it's not like nps is the only land management agency out there dealing with the crowds. if you look at the population explosion out west, where the bulk of public land is, everyone is forced to deal with increased visitation trends these days.

    disclosure: i do not work for the usfs, i think it would drive me crazy.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    As I mentioned last time this came up, there is enormous pressure on the Forest Service for mining, forest and (intrusive) recreational use within the boundaries of the monument. Because the Forest Service's mission is not about protection of the resource, but best use of the resource, the Forest Service is prone to give in to these commercial interests.

    I hear what you're saying, but there seems to be a flip side as well. By providing special places to manage in a different, more protective manner, the FS may begin to evolve toward greater stewardship. It's difficult to help change the culture of an agency if all you do is take away the best places and give them to the park service.

    A similar tact is being taken with BLM's system of protected lands, called the National Landscape Conservation System. The Clinton/Babbitt strategy of giving the BLM (aka, Bureau of Livestock and Mining) some nice protected places seems to be having a slow - but steady - effect on the way the agency does day to day business. As long as the agency doesn't completely blow it, I believe that you can help slowly steer the ship in the right direction (ie, resource conservation and sustainability over resource extraction and "traditional use").

    Scott. |

  • Interpretation on the Tallgrass Prairie   6 years 33 weeks ago

    What's the difference between flint and limestone?" he was asked. "I really don't know," was the answer.
    Everyone clap for Owen. He already knew the answer.

  • 10 Best Lodges in the National Parks   6 years 33 weeks ago


    Great start of a thread. Here's my new favorite:

    The Chalet at Oregon Caves...I stayed two nites in a third floor room and had a gorgeous sleep listening to the waterfall out my open window. The ghost that lives across the hall didn't bother me a bit. The breakfast in the coffee shop below was yummy. Wonderful, relaxing place. I can't wait to stay there again. As I recall, the rates were very reasonable.

    BTW: Ref The Ahwahnee...The name comes from the Native American word for Yosemite Valley which means "place of a gaping mouth." How unintentionally appropriate is that! ;)

  • Interpretation on the Tallgrass Prairie   6 years 33 weeks ago

    In reflecting upon Owen's experiences during his recent visit to Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, I am afraid that the NPS interpretive program might indeed be operating at the C grade level. Now had the interpreter lied, or fabricated information, I would have given them an F, not a C. Sadly, this reported experience is not inconsistent with a growing number of other observations reporting increasing mediocrity within NPS Interpretive programs.

    Not that long ago, the NPS had a first class educational program staffed with professional naturalists and historians who took personal pride in striving for excellence in park interpretation. Most seasonal uniformed interpreters were secondary teachers and college professors who were employed during their summers as educational liaisons with the NPS and the visiting public.

    P.J. Ryan, of Thunderbear fame suggests that the reason mediocrity may have become so noticeable in NPS interpretive programs over the years is that no one has ever bothered to sue the NPS over a substandard guided walk or evening program. Of course, suing a government agency requires high attorney fees and lots of time.

    On the other hand, critical evaluations of interpretive experiences that are reported on the internet via electronic trip reports might be far more effective in bringing about positive corrective action.

    Preparing a fact sheet of Frequently Asked Questions is easy to revise and serves as an excellent learning reference for new personnel and the visiting public. Why is it that the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve home webpage lists 2006 Bus Tour Schedules? Why is it that only one FAQ is posted ("Where has all the tall grass gone?"). Obviously, NPS website maintenance is clearly needed here in addition to a more comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions and Answers Section.

    I recall my first role as an NPS Naturalist at The General Sherman Tree when the SEKI superintendent would frequently appear with visitors and listen to the presentation. He demonstrated a clear management concern for the quality of the program. SEKI Chief Naturalist Russ Grater would frequently demonstrate in the field what he wanted us to do in communicating an understanding of the value of ancient giant Sequoia forests. NPS Budgets were far less than today's (inflation adjusted) but a professional work ethic was more evident.

    Electronic trip reports published by knowledgeable park visitors which evaluate the integrity and effectiveness of NPS interpretive programs might serve as a modern method by which the NPS can get feedback from the public that will utlimately enhance the overall quality of the park experience.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    It seems like the USFS lacks the ability to mange a protected area with significant public interest. And given the other National Monuments administered by the USFS, they don't need this ability. Besides the two huge NMs in Alaska (Admiralty Island NM and Misty Fjords NM), the USFS manages tiny Giant Sequoia National Monument, California (just outside Sequoia & Kings Canyon NP), Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains NM near Palm Springs, California (Jointly with the BLM) and there is Newberry National Volcanic Monument in Oregon and of course Mount St. Helens.

    No other NM besides Mount St. Helens has a significant number of visitors. USFS simply isn't used to deal with keeping the balance between tourism and protection in a highly visible NM. So while the NPS lacks funding too, they at least have the experience how to manage protected areas with high public interest.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    And one more thing, the USFS does not operate three visitor centers in the monument. It used to, but one visitor center (Silver Lake) is now operated by the Washington State Parks and Recreation department and it isn't located in the monument, but several miles away near Interstate 5. Two are left and one is being closed. The one left, the Johnston Ridge Observatory, is essentially a bookstore, a movie theatre and a viewing platform. The visitor center that is closing (Coldwater Ridge) was the one with most of the interpretive displays. This will leave hardly any interpretive opportunities in the monument.

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    As I mentioned last time this came up, there is enormous pressure on the Forest Service for mining, forest and (intrusive) recreational use within the boundaries of the monument. Because the Forest Service's mission is not about protection of the resource, but best use of the resource, the Forest Service is prone to give in to these commercial interests. Mount St. Helens is too vital to science and the public to be parced out to private interests. The amount of compromise so far in the monument is unacceptable (already the boundaries are way too small and porous).

    No, the Park Service can't afford governing the area any more than the Forest Service. But I hope that doesn't stop us from protecting areas that ought to be protected. Mount St. Helens is of significant interest to the public and to science. We have arguably learned more from the 1980 eruption about explosive volcanic events than any previous event and the recovery information we're receiving from the blast zone is vital to so many areas of interest. This is a place that deserves park status if ever one does.

    When Lassen exploded in 1915, Congress moved to protect the area to ensure the public's interest. It's time we do the same for Mount St. Helens.

    If both NPS & USFS are strapped for cash, what difference is the transfer except that Mount St. Helens will receive the protection it deserves and stop the ravishing from commercial interests?

  • Should the NPS Be Given Mount St. Helens?   6 years 33 weeks ago

    Are three visitor centers necessary?

  • Yosemite Falls All Dried Up   6 years 33 weeks ago

    The watershed that feeds Yosemite Creek is very small compared to the massive watersheds for Bridalveil Creek (which feeds Bridalveil Fall) and the Merced River (which feeds Vernal & Nevada Falls). Yosemite Creek's watershed is based around the southern slopes of Mount Hoffman which isn't far from Yosemite Valley. It is natural even in high water seasons for Yosemite Creek to dry up in fall. This year everything is about a month early, due to the low snowpack.

    Personally, I find the dry fall beautiful. Usually by November or so, Yosemite Creek begins to trickle again and through the winter falls softly, building a nice ice cone. The cycle is stunning and really beautiful to watch.

  • Interpretation on the Tallgrass Prairie   6 years 33 weeks ago

    I have to agree with Owen here. Not only has the quality of interpretation slipped, but the quantity of interpretation has seriously declined. Used to be a host of walks and evening programs and other programs to help one better understand the park and its history, geology, etc. Now they're hard to find and now the few that are offered are often the same programs as last year and the year before.

    And of even further concern, in my opinion, is the way some of the parks (Yosemite's on my mind here) have really turned interpretation over to the concession. Delaware North does a big portion of evening programs and even nature walks in the park and this seems to me not to really be in the park's or the visitors' interests. The concessions are, after all, a profit-motivated business and if you don't think that the programs include a lot of info on where to get the best pizza rather than where to find the best glacial polish, you aren't paying attention. It bothers me that the NPS is so neglected by federal funders that we are left with turning over interpretation to private interests.

    I do have to say, I've been impressed by the interpretation brought to Yosemite recently by the Sierra Club at LeConte Memorial and by Yosemite Association. But there's no substitute for the ranger naturalist.

  • 10 Best Lodges in the National Parks   6 years 33 weeks ago

    I have to admit, I'm a real sucker for Roosevelt Lodge at Yellowstone and for White Wolf tent cabins in Yosemite. They are to me reminiscent of the old-fashioned park experience with a touch of civilization attached. I love waking in the mornings to the cool morning air, lighting up a fire in the wood stove... cup of coffee... I love the camaraderie of the lodge experience which both places afford. I also love the locations of these since they are both away from the main hubbub of these busy parks.

    To me, the Ahwahnee is a beautiful, architecturally-stunning, upscale experience that I would prefer were at the park's gates rather than smack dab in the middle of Yosemite Valley. It's too late to do anything about it now, but if everyone could evacuate the building and a rockslide could bury it, I wouldn't mourn too much.

  • 10 Best Lodges in the National Parks   6 years 33 weeks ago

    Has anyone thought about posting the room rates for the 10 best lodges? I Googled the rates for the Ahwahnee Hotel, and here's what I found:

    Ahwahnee $408
    Ahwahnee Cottages $408
    Jr. Suites $499
    Suites $893
    Tressider Suite w/Library Parlor $984
    Additional Adult in same room $21/night
    Add. rollaway bed in same room $11/night

    These prices to not include tax, which is an addtional 10%. This means that a suite at the Ahwahnee will approach and exceed $1000.00 per night!

    I wonder how the other 9 "best" lodges compare in price?

  • Interpretation on the Tallgrass Prairie   6 years 33 weeks ago

    I would like to thank you for your thoughtful comments. The Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve is indeed intriguing and worth the visit. I'd like it even more if there were bison grazing instead of cattle.

    My comments about the quality of interpretation during the bus tour of the preserve reflect my concern that there has been a gradual decline in the general quality of NPS interpretive/ educational services over the decades. Indeed, to his credit, this uniformed interpreter did not make up an answer for questions to which he did not know the answer. But, he made no attempt to follow-up, either. These were questions that I would consider to be of the frequently asked type. I'm positive that he's been confronted with variations of these questions many times before. My critique is not so much a reflection on the performance of a single person, but an indication of lower standards and expectations of local NPS management.

    In my travels, the best park interpreters and volunteers would first ask their colleagues for an answer to questions they could not address. Failing to find an immediate answer, they would request my home or e-mail address so that they could follow-up (provided that I was interested to get this information, and I ususally am).

    When I returned to my home in Oak Ridge, TN, I got online and visited the Tallgrass Prairie NPS web site. I communicated my questions and concerns to park staff via the e-mail address given on their "contact us" button, but to date there has been no response. Interestingly, when reviewing the preserve's web site, I did notice that they have a "Frequently Asked Questions" button, but when I clicked on it, only one single question came up ("where is all the tall grass?"). I expected more.

    Since I posted the original trip report, several individuals have written me with information about the Tallgrass Prairie carrying capacity for American bison. It seems that if properly fenced and maintained, the 10,861 acres of the TGP National Preserve is sufficient to sustain a population of serveral hundred grazing bison. That would indeed be a sight that would prompt a return visit.

  • Yosemite Falls All Dried Up   6 years 33 weeks ago

    Anon is right. Even after the record snowpack of the winter of 05/06, when the High Sierra Camps couldn't open until very late due to snow, Yosemite Falls was dry by Labor Day. And it was dry by late August the year before that. Nevada and Vernal Falls seem to run year round.

  • Yosemite Falls All Dried Up   6 years 33 weeks ago

    Any of you mountain climbers in need of a liquid rubberizing dip? Great for coating metal, plastic, rope ends Any ideas please pass them on to me.


    Mike Anderson

    Sad to see this picture, I was their back in the 70's We need to stop shipping our water out of the country! Remember to place a plastic Quart water filled container in your toilet tank. I have a gallon jug wedged in mine.

  • Yosemite Falls All Dried Up   6 years 33 weeks ago

    It dries up every year. Bridalveil usually doesn't though.

  • 10 Best Lodges in the National Parks   6 years 33 weeks ago

    I'll be the first to admit that I have yet to visit, or will EVER visit the entire scope of facilities offered within the NPS. I also concede to the fact that all encompassing words and statements never live up to their billing. That said, and having no point of reference regarding LeConte, I will say that by the strict definition and personal experience the Yosemite sites don't quite qualify in the sense of the term "lodge". And to me the greatest difference is the fostering of community that evolved naturally at Phantom versus the somewhat uncomfortably "forced" nature that existed on my trek through Yosemite. To be sure, the location of certain regions within Glacier is quite demanding and remote enough to keep away the "casual tourists" to which I usually make it a point to avoid in my personal backcountry expeditions. And the chalet atmosphere does indeed lend itself to the kindred spirit. But to consider them a similar lodge is a bit of a stretch in my humble opinion. Maybe my issue is that after a week or so in the middle of nowhere, sometimes quite literally, almost ANY structure becomes highly appealing, even the Muav Cabin, so it's possible my perspective isn't the most objective on many of the NPS facilities. Phantom isn't opulent, by any stretch, but that's not high on my criteria or I obviously would have selected the El Tovar from the Grand Canyon facilities. I'm just saying that the effort expended to reap the "reward" of the lodge is the greatest draw for me personally. But this is just one of those debates that anyone can justify his/her opinion on with little dispute from the masses.

  • 10 Best Lodges in the National Parks   6 years 33 weeks ago

    Oh, I wouldn't be so quick to say "no other lodge" in the park system can foster such camaraderie.

    There are the backcountry chalets in Glacier that would come close, I think, and LeConte Lodge in Great Smoky Mountains, of course. Both require some relatively significant hoofing it to find a berth. And in Glacier, you can rub elbows with your fellow hikers while making your own dinners in true collective fashion at the Granite Park Chalet.

    Others, no doubt, would point to the backcountry tent camps in Yosemite's high country. True, you don't cook your own meals, but you eat family style and so can regale your companions with park stories and foster community.

  • 10 Best Lodges in the National Parks   6 years 33 weeks ago

    So much for focusing on content. But since the author raises a new question, my personal hands-down choice is Phantom Ranch. Location, location, LOCATION!!! There are no "casual tourists" to be had in the bottom of the abyss, which enhances the level of camaraderie amongst kindred spirits, akin to a true brotherhood of a "lodge". No other facility in the NPS network is remotely (no pun intended) close to fostering that type of closeness among guests. Even the canteen visitors from Bright Angel campground become part of the overall family, albeit somewhat like a second cousin. For that matter, in spite of what you're thinking, those river-running folk, to some degree "casual" due to the lack of physical effort expended upon reaching the lodge, have a unique perspective on the facility after days (and nights) on the river. Before you ridicule me for taking them seriously as more than casual invaders of the inner sanctum, if you've yet to experience the length of the Colorado via watercraft, you are indeed missing the most unique adventure the Canyon had to offer. But I would still prefer the trans-canyon hike with a night (or two, off season) at the Ranch to any stay in ANY lodge.