Recent comments

  • Violent Deaths in the National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago


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

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

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

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

    Correlation does not equal causality..

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

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

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • Collapse of "Wall Arch" Proves Gravity Does Work at Arches National Park   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • Colorado Man Dies While Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park   6 years 19 weeks ago

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


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • National Park System Would Gain Official Wilderness Under Omnibus Lands Bill   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • NPCA, Park Retirees File Lawsuit to Halt Change in National Park Gun Rules   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

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

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

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

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

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Fortunately with the new rule changes regarding guns in the park, I'll just blast those little amoebas to peices!

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago


    Check out this brief that was filed on behalf of Dick Heller in the US Supreme Court. Those folks, you will see, fight not only for their enumerated right to keep and bear arms, but also for their penumbral right to gay marriage.

    For the record, I am pro-gay, pro-choice, and pro-privacy. I am also pro-gun rights. Individual rights are not just a list of things you can do. The idea is one of personal freedom and a commitment to responsibility, both individual and societal. Perhaps when I feel the most free is when I am in the backcountry, be in National Parks, Wilderness Areas, Forest service property, or BLM land.

    But I think that you are mistaken to demand that every rights-oriented interest group fights on all front, for all rights at all times. I for one support the ACLU, but they have a dismal record on 2A rights. Before Heller, they said they would not support the 2A because it protected "states rights." Now that the SCOTUS has come out and said it protects an individual right ... do they change their position? No, they say "we disagree with the Supreme Court." They see what they want to see.

    Good luck in your battles for equal rights. They are yours. Go get them.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Mr. Wade and McElveen's comments are unnecessarily alarmist and have little basis, if any, in evidence coming out of states where shall-issue right-to-carry has been law for a decade or more.

    First, the majority of the US population lives in shall-issue states, so people and their small children are already in proximity to lawfully armed citizens.

    Second, Federal buildings in parks have always been off-limits and they don't have metal detectors. As before, law-abiding people will not carry in federal buildings, and as before, criminals of a mind to carry inside these buildings will do so anyway.

    Third, carry licensees already have to disarm when they cross certain state borders, enter schools, university campuses, and the like. They understand and abide those boundaries, and they will do the same when national parks straddle states with different carry laws.

    Finally, data coming out of shall-issue right-to-carry states confirm that licensees are an extraordinarily law-abiding demographic. In many states, licensees are 15-20 times less likely to be arrested than the public at large. Simply put, licensees are extraordinarily trustworthy people. There is no rational basis for worry about crimes at the hands of these people.

    All said, the arguments forwarded by Mr. Wade and McElveen are simply unfounded. It is rather absurd to hear them arguing so strongly for something that has little, if any, rational basis.

    I suppose that what dumbfounds me the most regarding these arguments is their long and repetitive history.

    Florida passed shall-issue right-to-carry in 1987, and similar arguments were brought out at that time. Since then, only 2 states have NOT passed some form of concealed carry law. During this 20-year process, these same arguments came up in state, after state, after state. Now after 20 years these fears of Mr. Wade and McElveen have yet to be realized! People, we have good, solid data regarding these carry policies. Look at the data, and distrust the alarmist rhetoric.

    Public policy is too important to be swayed by empty arguments. We are smarter than that.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   6 years 19 weeks ago

    A wonderful site, made even more so by its proximity to San Francisco. Many other large cities should be so fortunate.

    Another gift to all of us from President Theodore Roosevelt.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

    I agree that none of these perils should discourage visits to parks, but they are a good reminder that prudent measures are a good idea - for visitors and employees.

    This article also brought to mind a humorous personal experience (although it probably didn't seem so at the time):

    Back in the 1980s, I worked in the Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, and the park staff agreed to participate in a study by the state Health Department to try to determine if ticks in the area were carriers for Rocky Mountain spotted fever. I can testify from personal experience that the thickets of southeast Texas qualify as critical habitat for both ticks and chiggers, so the park staff also provided a pretty good test group for effective repellents against those critters.

    For several months, when we went to the "field" we were armed with a set of small glass vials and some official Texas Dept. of Health labels. If we found a tick on our person, we collected it, put it in the vial, secured the lid, and completed a stick-on label with details (was the tick attached to us or merely crawling, date and location, etc.) The bottled ticks were then shipped off to the lab, where they presumably gave their lives for the sake of science.

    One afternoon, the Chief Ranger called me into his office near the end of the day, and a rather unusual conversation ensued. After some preliminary small talk, the short version went something like this:

    Chief: "So, how are you feeling today?"

    Ranger J (who has just returned from a delightful day in the woods and swamps, where the readings for both humidity and heat exceeded "90"): "Okay."

    Chief: "Any unusual medical problems lately?"

    Ranger J: (Increasingly puzzled): Nope.

    Chief: (after a bit more beating around the bush): "Well, I just thought I should let you know three of the last four ticks you sent in came back positive for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever."

    Ah, the joys of rangering!

    As a follow-up, my personal experience was that powdered sulphur, applied topically as a dusting powder, was the best anti-tick measure. The military-issue insect repellent, which contained something like 95% DEET as the active ingredient, was also fairly effective, but since it melted plastic camera lens caps and water bottles, super DEET fell out of favor as a classic case of the preventive being worse than the threat.

  • National Park System Would Gain Official Wilderness Under Omnibus Lands Bill   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Jim, thanks for the update on this measure. Sen. Coburn really is turning into an irritant to some. Though if hindsight is of any help, there more than likely is more than a few servings of pork in this omnibus bill. That said, I'd be surprised if the senator has any luck in derailing this train. There are too many states and politicians to benefit.

    While the above story touches on many of the NPS-related items, one that I overlooked (can you blame me, with a 1200-page bill?) is the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail. This trail, among other things, would follow the course of the great Ice Floods that flooded central Washington up to 100 times.

    As I understand it, and as the Ice Age Floods Institute explains on its web site, this would not exactly be a footpath but rather a travel corridor along which the Park Service would be expected to establish interpretive plaques and kiosks.

    If the omnibus bill passes, the Traveler will take a more expansive look at this proposed trail.

  • National Park System Would Gain Official Wilderness Under Omnibus Lands Bill   6 years 19 weeks ago

    An article in today's Las Vegas Review-Journal provides a hint of the upcoming fight over this bill, led by Senator Coburn. He says:

    "The omnibus bill would withdraw millions of acres of public land from energy development, increase government spending by more than $10 billion and add even greater restrictions to federally managed lands."

    The Oklahoma lawmaker has added a new twist to his strategy. He:

    proposed an amendment that would prevent any new spending until the National Park Service gets caught up with a $1.5 billion repair backlog at high profile parks.

    The amendment singles out Lake Mead National Recreation Area, along with the Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty, Yellowstone National Park, the USS Arizona, Glacier National Park, Civil War battlefields at Gettysburg and Antietam, and the National Mall in Washington.

    The prohibition on "new spending" presumably refers to activities that are included in this bill. Unfortunately, I haven't seen all calls by Coburn to actually provide any funds to help with the NPS backlog, so stalling progress on other provisions until the backlog is corrected is a clever stalling tactic.

    Although I agree this bill has many excellent provisions, it's fraught with the same peril as many omnibus bills, which lump a large number of individual bills into one package, and thus become a convenient vehicle for the oft-debated earmarks, such as yet another "road to nowhere." Since the bill is reported to include about 1200 pages, it is hard for anyone to wade through all the text, posing some risk that a ringer or two that even bill supporters will later regret is lurking in the fine print.

    Will the bill actually come to a vote on Sunday? When the votes are counted, will there be any hanging chads? It'll be interesting...

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Geez, Bob, are you trying to take all the fun away from a park visit?

    As for plague, we shouldn't forget that it killed an NPS wildlife biologist in Grand Canyon National Park in 2007.

    Other threats, though not disease-related, include altitude sickness (aka acute mountain sickness) that can strike if you head above 8,000 feet and are not acclimated; heat stroke or heat exhaustion, which are very common in the Grand Canyon during the summer months; hypothermia, which can occur in many parks if you're not careful, and; various nasty intestinal ailments that are common to Colorado River rafting parties.

    All that said (and I'm sure we missed some threats), I wouldn't let any of these keep me out of the parks.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Yes, you are definitely forgiven. We were just there on Tuesday (visiting from Utah) and loved it. Your excellent write-up provides great background for one of America's treasures.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   6 years 19 weeks ago

    What a story. I have enjoyed the warm springs in Saline Valley over the course of three days and broke all of the rules of safety as did others with me. Suppose we were lucky. Hope there are signs posted now. Beautiful area and aside from a few people that like to play their stereo full blast, it was very nice. Think signs would be out of place? I know the loud music was.