Recent comments

  • Yellowstone Geologist Worries About What Goes "Bump" At Night   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Watching Yellowstone breathe has to be a humbling experience. It is a reminder of just how insignificant we are in terms of geologic history.

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 17 weeks ago

    DJ and Warren Z -

    A nice exchange of viewpoints and information! It was nice to see the article generated a little discussion, and I appreciate the input from both of you.

    Warren's comments as a former employee at Ford's Theater provided some useful, first-hand perspective.

  • Interior Officials Release Rule Change to Allow National Park Visitors to Arm Themselves   6 years 17 weeks ago

    I agree completely. It is foolish to think that the criminals will not have concealed weapons in the National Parks. It is also foolish to think that the law enforcement in the NPS will be able to protect law abiding citizens while they are in the Parks. Does anyone remember what Mr Stainer did to those three women? I applaude Mr Bush's decision. The law abiding citizens of this country have a right given to them by God, and not Congress or the politicians, to protect themselves. If those opposed to this rule don't like it they can continue to travel in the NPS unarmed. As for me, I am happy to have my right for self protection restored. Thank you Mr Bush!! And if the Obamanistas think that they can govern this country through the tyrany of the Executive Order they are only fooling themselves.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Kurt, you asked:

    If one feels slighted because they have to step to the side of the trail, or off the trail, when mountain bikes come through, how does it feel when you have to do the same with horses coming at you?

    Here's what one backpacker wrote in 2006:

    "My trip to Stanley Hot Springs was full of surprises. This was my first trip into the Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness, which was the 1st Wilderness Area designated in Idaho and one of the first of the entire United States. It lies directly north of the massive Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness, and is separated from the Frank by only one road, the Magruder Road.

    "We broke camp at Wilderness Gateway Campground at 4am in an effort to beat the heat. We were unfortunate to arrive during a week-long heat wave of mid-90s to 100+ temperatures. The last part of the hike down to Rock Creek was rough. There was little water, the trail was thrashed and loaded with horse poop due to extreme outfitter activity—in many places it was like hiking up jagged stairs. And, horse traffic on the trail proved cumbersome as the heat ratcheted up.

    "Horses have the right-of-way here, so every time they are encountered backpackers and hikers have to get off the trail, approx. 5-6 feet below the horses and crush beautiful foliage as a result while the horses pass and kick rocks and dirt all over the party below. This makes for slow going, and if you have heavy backpacks on can really suck. We had to do it 4 times. Some of the outfitters were actually upset at having to deal with us backpackers, I think it was because our dogs spooked their horses and one of them spilled their beer. All in this particular party were drinking beer and smoking cigars while on the trail."


    Now, take a look at how the professional horse outfitters advertise their Wilderness trips, keeping in mind that their activities are allowed in Wilderness whereas a solitary cyclist on a 25-pound bicycle is not:

    “Travel from yesteryear, luxury from today. A trusty horse will be your companion for the duration of your roving pack trip. . . . [¶] You’ll sleep under the stars at the confluence of luxury and wilderness. All guests stay in spacious high-grade waterproof tents with feather beds and pillows. And as for dining, our experienced cooks turn a rain fly and propane into a buzzing professional kitchen that rivals most big-city restaurants. The results? Exquisite cuisine you’ll remember almost better than the scenery.” (Paws Up Outfitters, “Luxury Montana Pack Trip in the Bob Marshall Wilderness,” available at

    “By virtue of the Wilderness Act of 1964 this area has been set aside as a place where the only possible means of transportation within are by foot or upon a horse. . . . [¶] . . . This is the land of many famous Mountain Men and many Indian tribes—an America[n] past. But, unlike its predecessors, you’ll enjoy the Wilderness in near luxury; clean, dry, spacious tents, warm soft sleeping bags, hearty and varied campfire cooking . . . .” (Absaroka Ranch, “The Pack Trip,” available at

    “[T]he camp is very comfortable. Hearty mountain cooking is prepared at the camp’s cook tent and enjoyed in the adjoining lining tent or around the campfire. Sleep in roomy guest tents supplied with a wood burning stove for heat, and cots and pads. Or grab your sleeping bag and sleep under the stars. [¶] This is the perfect way to enjoy the backcountry wilderness without the hardships of backpacking.” (Bear Basin Wilderness Outfitters, “Overview,” available at

    “About Liquor[:] BYOB.” “Physical Condition Required[:] Fair.” (Bear Basin Wilderness Outfitters, “Bear Basin Wilderness Camp Horseback Trip,” Washakie Wilderness, Wyo., available at

    (I found these items about two or three years ago, so I can't guarantee that the links still are good.)

    Feather beds and pillows; wood-burning stoves in tents; gourmet meals; bring liquor. This is primitive and rugged wilderness travel? And I would think that wood-burning stoves would be too heavy to lug around and they and their surrounding structures must also be set up semipermanently, which is a dubious practice under the Wilderness Act of 1964.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   6 years 17 weeks ago

    With regard to the prior post, succeeding in defining national parks solely as outdoor museums is precisely what will doom political support for them in the not-so-long run. The decline in public support is already happening, which is why the National Park Service has wisely proposed making it easier for people to engage in the popular, healthy, environmentally sound, but also fun activity of mountain biking in them.

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Warren Z -

    Thanks again for your response. I guess the conflict is mostly in my emotion and not in my common sense or intellect. I did admit that my position isn't defensible, and the more I think about it the more I don't make sense to myself.

    I appreciate your thoughtful replies and the opportunity you and this site give me to think past my knee-jerk response.

    I look forward to visiting DC again.

  • Great Basin National Park: It's More Than Simply A Cave   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Had an opportunity to visit Great Basin back in October of 2008. Incredible remoteness and beauty. At that time of year there was only one other person on the cave tour. The next day on Wheeler Peak I only encoutered three other people. If you get a chance also visit Lexington Arch.

  • Great Basin National Park: It's More Than Simply A Cave   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Thank God for Ronald Reagan!

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Again DJ, the original performance space at Ford's Theatre hasn't existed since the War Department took over the building in the late 1860's.
    The entire internal structural space as it existed from 1968 until prior to the current "upgrades" was a fiction. I guess that's why I don't see the harm in making it a little more comfortable and accessible while maintaining the historical look.

    ADA: you said "A building built in the 18th or 19th century wasn't built under the ADA, and I don't feel it should be obviously altered to comply." Well, I don't know that the current set of upgrades will be all that obvious. How does your wife feel about the limits on accessibility you would place on her? And what buildings owned by the Federal government, historic or not?

    For me, a site's individual character is not necessarily found in a certain level of authenticity (a battle that the structure of Ford's Theatre basically lost in the late 1860's) but in the meaning that you and I bring when in proximity to the place. That's where the NPS comes in and does an amazing job interpreting the site for the thousands of visitors the site receives every day.
    Trust me DJ, you'll find and feel what you're looking for at FTNHS, a/c or no a/c.

  • Dinosaur National Monument Superintendent Favors Law Enforcement, Maintenance, Interpretation Over Paleontology   6 years 17 weeks ago

    iam going to school to be a paleontologist and i wanted to know how much money do paleontologist make a year and what classes do you have to take to become a paleontologist and is worth the time,money and the schooling.

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 17 weeks ago

    For all those worried about the upgrades at Ford's Theatre, a fact needs to be reiterated.
    To my awareness, the only "upgrades" that will be housed within the original structure are the improved seating within the theatre, and the museum in the basement, which has always been in the basement. (A basement that was really just a crawl space in 1865.) The new restrooms, elevators, lobby, concessions, etc are not being installed in the remains of the original theatre structure itself, but in a modern building adjacent to the historic structure, with, I'm sure, minimal impact to what's left of the original structure. A more thorough reading of Jim Burnett's article, and some personal research, will tone down emotional reactions like DJ's.
    Considering how many times the President of the US has sweated through a performance in that building, it's amazing it took as long as it did to upgrade the air conditioning!

    As for enhancing accessibility, that's the law. Refer to the ADA. For instance, in my days of working there, the only way a person using a wheelchair could access the museum in the basement was with an antiquated chair lift that rarely worked. An elevator is necessary not just for ease of access, but consistency and quality of access as required by law.

    A quote from Jim Burnett's article:
    "So…by the time the NPS finally acquired the building, little was left of the original structure except the exterior walls."
    What visitors have been looking at since the reconstructed site opened to the public in 1968 is just that, a reconstruction. NOT a restoration of original materials and structure.

    While your fears are based on real concerns DJ, Ford's Theatre NHS probably would not have been reopened to the public, when it did, if it weren't for the initial and ongoing funding efforts of the FTS. That's just a financial reality of the NPS.
    I see where you're coming from DJ, I too worry about the NPS' growing dependence on outside partners to carry the financial burden of maintaining our national parks and historic sites. But the situation at Ford's Theatre is nothing like what you are worried about. Go see the site and you'll know your extreme worries are baseless where FTNHS is concerned.

  • Great Basin National Park: It's More Than Simply A Cave   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Great Basin National Park is one of our favortie parks to visit. The hike out through the bristlecones to the rock glacier is one of my personal favorites. The cave is really neat and a big hit with our two children. Wheeler Peak is a nice moderate hike. Osceola Ditch is interesting as well as Baker Creek. We hope to get out to the arch this summer, if we can hit the park between thunderstorms.

    The "gentleman" who wanted to remove Great Basin as a national park is an idiot, perhaps too lazy to get out there and truly enjoy all that Great Basin NP has to offer.

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Warren Z -

    Thanks for taking the time to address my sarcastic comments. The article struck a sour note in my head, and the more I mull it over, the more I don't think I have a solid defensible position on it.

    I do understand that there wasn't much left of the building, as Lincoln saw it, by the 30s. I also remember the very careful (I think) restoration of the 60s, and I had the pleasure to see it in the early 70s and again in the mid 90s.

    I guess, in a more general sense, as I get older, I see more and more of the chipping away of the physical and cultural artifacts of our history to make it more comfortable, more modern, more politically correct for today's visitors. I suppose a lot of it is necessary, and please understand I'm not talking only about the NPS here. I dislike seeing the 'modern world' changing our actual past.

    I know things can't just be left to rot, but I don't like them changed, either. I think I favor stabilization and a goal toward keeping/making any site accurate to the period that makes it 'historic' in the first place. I also realize that money, both to restore and maintain, is a very real problem.

    I suppose the question you're going to ask me is where do I think it starts, and how far should we go. Of course the more I think about it, I realize that I don't know; I know we need roads along the rim of Grand Canyon, even though they weren't there when Powell floated through. I know we need lights in caverns and boardwalks to geysers, but I wonder why, if you want to experience Ford's Theatre as President Lincoln did, then why can't you sit in an uncomfortable seat and sweat, and be quiet enough to hear the voices from the stage? If you want a comfy seat and a/c, there are a million places you could be, or you could stay at home in the recliner and watch a Lincoln bio on your plasma tv. The more it is updated, the less it is the 1865 Theatre. I mean, jeez, it's Ford's frikkin Theatre! If I want to see Pueblo Bonito I might have to perspire, and if I want to see the Everglades, I might get mosquito bites. The uniqueness of NPS sites is why I want to visit, and why they're NPS sites in the first place.

    I live a few hours from Niagara Falls, and every time I'm there, I wonder what it would look like had the US and Canada had the foresight and courage to make the area into National or International Park(s). One of the greatest natural wonders in N. America, it's a schlocky, garish tourist trap filled with souvenir shops full of Chinese crap, high rise casinos, dinosaur mini-golf, horror museums, and a modern $7million multi-media special effects computer controlled recreation of The Falls...housed at the very lip of The Falls! Just think...for only $15@, you can stand in line for hours (under cover to protect from the actual mist coming off The Falls) to enter into a brand new tourist attraction to see a 21st century re-creation, narrated by an animated beaver, of what The Falls looked like before tourist attractions spoiled it...and then you get sprayed by fake mist and everybody laughs and screams. Pardon my French,

    As far as the ADA goes, believe it or not I'm conflicted on that also. I know it's the law. I'm married to a handicapped individual in a wheelchair, but I feel there are some places that she will just never be able to go. I don't feel there should be obvious structural changes to historic buildings. A building built in the 18th or 19th century wasn't built under the ADA, and I don't feel it should be obviously altered to comply. (I'm goin to hell for that, aren't I?!) I also realize that these sites need water and indoor plumbing, electrical systems and lighting, fire protection and suppression, climate control for protection of artifacts, security systems. Like I said, I don't know where the building stops being historic and just becomes a pleasant 21st century reproduction that looks kinda like the original. You know, mostly.

    I will make an effort to visit DC and see Ford's Theater soon.

    Maybe I'm just grumpy this morning. Or possibly I've been warped by a lifetime of exposure to the extremes of Yellowstone Falls and Niagara Falls. The more I wonder about all this, the more I wonder about all this...what should have happened, what could have happened, what did happen, what might happen, what I worry will happen. (I'm speaking in a very broad sense here of course, not of any place in particular.)

    I Thank you again for your patient response. I'm a great fan of this site and your posts on it. Keep up the fine work.

  • Secretary Salazar on Guns in Parks: He'll "Take A Look At It"   6 years 17 weeks ago

    "Anonymous" said: I guess I'm lost. Just WHY do people want to carry guns in a National Park?

    Why indeed! I carry in the National Park for the same reason I carry when I go to Wal-Mart, McDonald's, Home Depot, or Safeway: I honestly hope that I will not NEED it, but I'll have it with me for that one-in-a-million chance that I might have to USE it.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 17 weeks ago

    This article makes me happy and sad. I am happy to see so many people enjoyng such as great climb but sad that one of my fav spots is so well known. I like to climb areas that are off the beaten path and this one is not not one of them.

  • NPS's Backlog, Updated   6 years 17 weeks ago

    They do let some of the roads become hiking trails, when they can't afford to keep them open as roads. I would like to see more investment in the National Parks (which I will admit is one of the few area I think spending should be increased). But if congress is not going to do that I think the director should try to raise more donations. One area more spending is needed is on enforcing rules. So many visitors are destroying the natural environment that those in the future are losing out.

    One thing I would do (theoretically - I never would be allowed to) is require people to read the rules and put up a bond. Then if they go marching off the trail onto fragile ground (there are plenty of locations where tramping around off the trail is a serious problem) the $1,000 they put up as bond is forfeited (and there would be a graduating scale, as the person failed to follow the rules additional times the fines would increase). With the income from those that fail to do what they promise people could be hired to enforce the rules. I know people wouldn't love being paid to do be enforcers but something has to be done, to preserve the parks. More funds could also allow the construction of more trails... that allow people to enjoy the parks without ruining fragile landscapes.

  • Park History: Timpanogos Cave National Monument   6 years 17 weeks ago

    I have posted photos from my recent visit to Timpanogos Cave National Monument. It was a nice visit but I must say the thing I would not miss in the immediate are is the Mount Timpanogos hike (even if you don't do the whole hike).

  • What Priorities Should The Next National Park Service Director Address?   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Actually, Jim has two good points: 1.) buy land and 2.) return land appraisers to the NPS. The consolidation of land appraisal in the Department was a politically motivated move on the part of the Bush Administration to control the land acquisition process so that it could be stalled or stopped. That and the lack of interest on the part of the Congress to approriate money from the Land and Water Conservation Fund has brought land acquisition to almost a complete halt. This is not only bad for park resources, but it is highly unfair to landowners who have property within the authorized boundaries of national park areas and are left holding the bag while acquisition delays continue on and on. It's not a pretty picture.

    Rick Smith

  • What Priorities Should The Next National Park Service Director Address?   6 years 17 weeks ago

    I couldn't agree more with Jim. Indeed, buying land is the most logical plan of action for this year at least. It goes without saying that without any land to work on, none of these proposals could be made feasible. The current economic situation will allow buying land a more viable option for most people. NPS should capitalize on that as soon as possible.

  • A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Thanks for the eye-opening article...

    Maybe the next project could be widening Skyline Drive to a six lane freeway, leveling some of those damned hills that slow us down, and finally get some MacDonald's and WalMarts up there.

    And how 'bout getting Mount Vernon turned into a one-story ranch style home with no steps and a drive through for viewing GW's crypt; "these upgrades will make the site more audience-friendly and will enhance accessibility" also.

    ...and oh!...Grand Canyon.........

  • Yellowstone Geologist Worries About What Goes "Bump" At Night   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Oh no! Not Jellystone! My husband and I along with our 12-pound cocker spaniel went there a couple of years ago--I'll never forget that we happened to be stopped on the road where a massive buffalo was standing not five inches from my car door. And my loopy male dog, who had been sitting placidly on my lap, went crazy--barked and barked and thumped on the glass trying to get at that beast, and I'm sitting there thinking, "We're all gonna die. That buffalo is gonna turn my car into a tin can and we're all gonna die." Fortunately, that buffalo never even twitched. Dumb dog.

  • Great Basin National Park: It's More Than Simply A Cave   6 years 17 weeks ago

    You can research this for yourself but I believe it's true — Great Basin is the national park in the lower 48 furthest from a Wal-Mart.

  • National Park Quiz 38: African Americans   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Native Americans and Mission 66 are both great suggestions, MRC. Keep 'em coming -- I need all the help I can get with quiz topics. BTW, no stigma attaches to missing number 11. It's a story that few seem to be aware of.

  • Great Basin National Park: It's More Than Simply A Cave   6 years 17 weeks ago

    I have enjoyed the cave about 22 times and yet saw something new each time. I have spent a week camping in the beautiful mountains and taking awesome nature hikes with knowledgable forest rangers. After travleing to many state and national parks, I can tell you this is one not to miss. Even the road to the cave is an experence. Locals have decorated the fence post and you laugh all the way.
    Check out their web site.

  • Great Basin National Park: It's More Than Simply A Cave   6 years 17 weeks ago

    Well done article, Chance! Back in the 70's, I was privileged to be the only signup for the daily cave tour. The excellent guide/naturalist took the extra time to show some seldom visited parts of amazing Lehman Cave, one of the most interesting I have visited. The back roads of northern Nevada are (were?) also beautiful. One could then drive for hours without seeing so much as a fence or powerline. Often the only sign of man was the cracked asphalt being slowly reclaimed by hardy desert plants. I suspect this has changed during the gold and energy rushes of the intervening decades.

    Jim Hansen needs some perspective. If he wants to drop park units from the system, he should visit Oregon Caves National Monument. The lovely forest setting would make a fine state park, but the cave is a moldy, blasted tunnel with almost nothing of interest. If it were a commercial cave in the east or midwest, it would have long ago gone out of business.