Recent comments

  • Upon Further Review – The Whirlwind Tourist   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Yes, it's kind of a shame. I had a group in Yellowstone who canceled the rest of there week reservation after two days 'because they had already seen everything'!

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago

    d-2, all great points, but I just don't see how a leg activates paddles kayak is not mechanized. It has pedals (like a bike) that propels the kayak forward. The whole mechanized argument is a smoke screen. I'd rather see trails opened or close based on sound reasoning. If a trail sees hundreds of hikers each day, then it's probably not the best trails to open to other uses. Now, for the other 80-90% of trails in the backcountry that see nary a soul each day, we should definitely explore their suitability to mountain biking.

    Somebody has yet to explain why trails that were opened to bikes for decades somehow need to become illegal the day that land becomes wilderness, besides the fact that we have an incorrect interpretation of the law. For those who don't remember, bikes were allowed in wilderness until the Reagan administration banned them. So, what one administration did, another one could undo by a simple reversal of interpretation. Congress does not need to be involved.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    In case y'all ain't noticed it yet but the U.S. government is totally bankrupt. The rest of the world is finally unwilling to fund its enormous debt and far-flung military empire any longer, as the printing presses in DC keep churning out that worthless Monopoly money like there's no tomorrow. Welcome to Zimbabwe on the Potomac.

    The gig is truly up and instead of quibbling about what the next lying tyrant is going to promise to do it might be a good idea to start deciding how to protect these parks under a new umbrella of care. The U.S.S.R. fell with much less weight around its neck than the crumbling criminal empire in DC, so to think that the current regime will last much longer is foolhardy at best and dangerously stupid at worst.

    It won't be long kids, mark my words, this ship is about to sink. Quit rearranging the deck chairs and start looking for the lifeboats. It won't matter much at all which party is occupying the bridge when the hull touches bottom.

    What we need is a whole new paradigm.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I believe, and have experienced, making changes happen with Congress and the White House, whatever the party.

    And, I think it is untrue that both parties will act the same. Also, I think Lone Hiker's broad and final-sounding comments are just not how it really is -- or at least so over-generalized as to be wrong in the list of things the Congress dictates regardless of the White House. Depending on how thoughtful and skillful the public support or opposition for a certain issue is, it IS possible to influence both the White House and the Congress. They are instruments, and can be played.

    I also think it is possible to get past the cynicism and anger and feelings of futility, but it takes training people in how to be effective poltically, and it takes a willingness to be hopeful and open to the change among the people. Bugsyshallfall makes a good point in how long it can take sometimes to make change, but then, do we really want it to be too easy or too fast to change something like a longstanding policy of the US Government? One of the reasons I like the Heritage Corridor approach to preservation and regional action is, that Heritage model teaches people how to be effective, and gets rid of some of the voodoo saying it is impossible to make real change.

    These political skills are actually simple skills, and can be taught. But you have to believe it is possible.

  • Sky-High Ginseng Prices Boost Illegal Harvest in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    where do you find out the current prices of ginseng?

  • Sky-High Ginseng Prices Boost Illegal Harvest in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    How does one tell how "old" a ginseng plant is?

    Ive been through my woods and found lots of sang, but wouldnt dare dig it. Some are about 2 feet tall and have 4 prongs.

    One more, how do you approriate dig sang, if you were going to move it closer for protection? comments?

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago


    I promised not to digress, yet I feel I must. One last time....

    Having worked at Fire Island National Seashore, I recognize the materials used to close beaches TEMPORARILY to protect nesting plovers. While the beaches are closed, again TEMPORARILY, the interdune regions of barrier islands are usually open to access and the bays behind them are also not affected.
    Frank C, you are correct Sir, that the initial intent of these closures are to be "Temporary". However, couple these temporary closures with:

    -Overwintering Population Closures (Birds)
    -Critical Habitat Designation (Birds)
    -Nesting Season Closures (Birds)
    -Fledging Season Closures (Birds)
    -Turtle Nesting Closures (Eggs laid)
    -Turtle "50-day window" Closures (Hatching)
    -Wilderness Study Areas (Year-round)
    -Safety Closures (Storms, beach erosion, etc.)
    -Closure Entry Violation Buffer Zone Expansions (Sporadic and Subjective)

    …And you have overlapping closures that can last year-round. These closure windows can be also be manipulated so that immense stretches of beach are closed for the entire summer season. Also, please remember that CHNSRA is operating under a Consent Decree, which has changed the rules dramatically. The environmental groups that wrote said decree have their own agenda.

    And closing an area to bikes or motorized vehicles is not the same as closing it to all entry.
    Again, correct Sir. However, the former can quite easily, and often times will, lead to the latter. That has been my point this entire thread. Nothing is sacred when it comes to access.

    You are Both Right as this has become a problem in National Parks: Temporay Closings of areas (for various reasons) happening one after the other.

    There is an idea out in some parks to allow for guided tours though the areas, allowing for people to see the area on bike but be monitored so as not to cause any harm

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker,

    As one of the main Volunteers at a NPS unit, I know how you feel as sometimes the simplist of things can take FOREVER to do.

    P.S. If you find someone, I would like some of that stuff too.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    There are a lot of "things" that need to happen with the park from the mundane, such as appropriate name changes, to the more serious the $4.5 billion maintance backlog and establishment of new parks. All of these issues are important and need to be addressed sooner rather than later. However, each of the candidates will address these issues differently.

    It is my personal opinion that Obama is the most likely candidate to address these issues in a sufficient manner.

    I do not have as much hope with McCain.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    'Tis the unfortunate truth that the most certain, enduring and accurate legacy of any man is lies not within the context of one's rhetoric, but rather in the footprint one leaves behind. For anyone fool enough to actually be swayed by campaign speeches, you get what you deserve. Talk itself is cheap, but never as worthless as when uttered by someone whose goal is election to public office. 'Tis again the unfortunate truth that no accurate evaluation can be completed until after the fact, when the lies are exposed, the unspoken words become evident, or at times, when promises are accidentally kept. In the political arena, the latter is the minute exception to the rule.

    McCain this, Obama that. Two losers with losing parties backing their efforts. Bear in mind that little that either of these Bozos thinks, speaks or feels comes to fruition without the blessings of the other 562 members of the Congress. We've been blessed with a system whereby no one person actually controls the direction on any given issue. We've also been cursed with little or no real choice between two power-mongering behemoths, only too ready to point fingers in the opposite direction as opposed to initiating substantive, positive momentum towards the common good of we, the people by whom they have been charged with steering the ship. That last notion seems to be conveniently forgotten once the ballots have been processed.

    You can pass blame along to the current Bush administration and certain of its appointees for a portion of the current state of affairs. But many of the larger issues (e.g. mineral exploitation, deforestation, funding, and the myriad of environmental concerns regarding the general flora and fauna of our nation's public lands) are congressional, not presidential. Unless you're making reference to the entire administration, all 600+ of them, the initial question posed for this thread bears no fruitful answer. Remember, no matter which party wins the presidential race, the VAST majority of those "other" policy-makers will represent the "mule" party (or jackass, either one works, it's all good) including but not limited to the Speaker of the House who, at literally the 11th hour on the third day of debate, as part and parcel of an ADDITIONAL 150 billion in pure pork, allocated half a BILLION dollars to the movie industry as part of the economic bailout package. That's something the nation just couldn't live without during the most critical financial crisis in recent history, more special effects and Hollywood mayhem. This from someone who alleges to be a "friend of the park service" and is currently lobbying to increase the already overburdened park budget by adding lands in her hometown to the tally of things we already cannot afford to maintain. What about holding up the Congress for some NPS funding Nancy? Or does it make too much sense to procure both lands to enjoy and funds with which to manage and maintain them in the same scenario?

    Note: To anyone truly anticipating "change" resulting from this or any other election in this country, pass me what you're smokin'. I too want to enjoy the mindless bliss that comes from being delusional.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    McCain has supported parks in Arizona. But he has opposed efforts of individual Members of Congress to add to the national park budgets through "add-ons" of additional funding. I think it is silly for anybody to think Congress should just rubber stamp ANY Administration's budget, whether Republican or Democratic budget. If it had not been for the INCREASES from Congress to parks over and above the Clinton, Bush the first, Bush the Second and Reagan budgets, parks would be in even deeper trouble than they are. It is not clear if McCain really understands what parks need.

    On Alaska, Palin has never been a particularly strong supporter of the National Parks in Alaska. The fact that there are parks in Alaska has very little to do with the elected politicians in Alaska. Although it is true that many Alaskans love the wilderness and did support the creation of Alaskan parks, and it is true that without the support of Alaskan Natives, the Alaskan parks never would have been established, it took widespread support from these Alaskans and many throughout the United States to beat back the united opposition to parks from the elected officials in Alaska. The real reason the parks were established was a trade off: in exchange for the construction of the Alaskan pipeline, deeding a huge amount of public land to the state (including Prudhoe Bay oil fields FOR FREE) and deeding large amounts of additional lands to Alaskan Natives, Congress agreed to set aside some portion of Alaska for protection. The Alaskan political establishment, neither Republican or Democrat, never would say anything nice about that, and did what they could to impair the effectiveness of those parks. So the fact that Palin is in Alaska says nothing about her support or understanding of the parks.

    With Obama, his record is also indistinct. The text he provided saying he supported parks, but only specifically referring to paying down the maintenance "backlog" in parks makes you wonder if he understands parks either. The big and long term issue with parks today is land preservation and ecological management. While we still have a chance we need to set up a sustainable future for preserved areas, and that involves buying land and doing science. It also involves a redoubled effort to 'tell the park story' through good visitor programs. Kids today need to learn something about the natural basis of all life, and get some love for the out of doors and some competence in self-reliance in a natural environment. That will take re-imagining interpretation and visitor programs, which have been cut too far back. Too many good professionals are being pushed out of parks. If Obama just intends to focus on "backlog" he will forget the most important thing in order to maintain facilities.

    Parks should not be used as a partisan, pre-election chance to rant in favor of this or that candidate. Both these guys have something to learn about parks. We should all realize that parks are about ALL of America, and FOR all of America. Together we should find ways to enlighten elected officials, starting with people who want to be President, that parks are supposed to symbolize the BEST in America, and we need them professionally managed so that they are not hammered into extinction. Lets start by buying up the private lands in parks while there still is a chance.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Well, Zebulon, national parks are not the only kinds of public lands. There are many different types of lands set aside at the state, local and national level for public enjoyment. All things do not have to be permitted at all of these places just because all are supported by public funds. It makes sense that parks have different rules from National Forests or Wildlife Refuges or public lands under the BLM. Nothing could be more "reasonable" than the American people deciding that parks should be different.

    And, as far as 'reasonableness' is concerned, it is certainly 'reasonable' to note -- and acknowledge -- that this is the law, and the law was specifically designed to avoid mechanized access. For the perfectly good public policy 'reason' that mechanized access changes the experience that Congress and the American people decided was the highest and best use of this or that segment of the public lands.

    I love my mountain bike. I get an experience on it I get no other way. But, Zebulon, I know it is an entirely different experience from hiking, canoeing or cross-country skiing into the wilderness (all of which I have done). I think you must know the experience on bikes IS different, and that is why you are pushing so hard for what you enjoy.

    It is not reasonable to think that all kinds of recreation use can simultaneously exist on every type of public land.

  • Yosemite Visitor Falls to His Death   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Pat had 4 childern 3,6 ,9 and a newborn and awonderful wife. He will be missed by all. As a friend his death was hard on all.He was a good man and ahard worker. He would have wanted the best for all he left behind.

  • How Will the Next Administration Deal With the Environment?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    If anyone thinks that Obama willl be good for our parks...think again.
    He will see that money goes to those who haven't earned "rebates" for those who haven't even paid taxes in the first place. Huge amounts of $$ to free health care for everyone...entitlements, entitlements, entitlements!! Obama's park budgets will be much smaller than even W's! Guaranteed!
    Why will Obama care about the parks? He has only one park unit in his home state...McCain has 19 park units in AZ and Palin has 17 in AK...McCain has always been a strong advocate of our national parks...just ask any superintendent of the Arizona parks! McCain is in the mold of Teddy Roosevelt when it comes to our parks...and Palin has spent a lot of time in Alaska's parks.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago

    I have yet to hear a reasonable argument as to why cyclists should be banned from Wilderness. People need to escape the harsh reality of daily life... Well, public parks are not your own private Idaho. Being publicly funded, they should be shared by all. All I hear is rationalization to justify the unjustifiable.

    I've been to Henry Coe (south of Silicon Valley, home to millions of people), biked there for a whole day, and barely saw another soul. And this is 30 miles south of San Jose, CA, a major metropolis. I bet that the same is true for just about any park in this country, and that except for a handful of very popular trails, most of them are empty beyond 2 miles from the trailhead. Yet, some Wilderness advocates are pushing hard to make Henry
    Coe state wilderness. The real goal is simply to ban bikes, and this is what is going on all around the US, thanks to the eco zealots from the Sierra Club and other so called environmental organizations.

    Please take a read through the following for the real history of the Wilderness Act:

  • Sky-High Ginseng Prices Boost Illegal Harvest in Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 18 weeks ago

    just curious how much is ginseng going for these days?

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago

    So, I was curious as to what the Wilderness Act mentions about bicycles. It says nothing. At least not directly.

    It requires wilderness to provide "outstanding opportunities for solitude or a primitive and unconfined type of recreation" and bans "other form[s] of mechanical transport". Certainly bicycles are "other forms of mechanical transport", and "primitive type of recreation" would also preclude the possibility of mountain bikes in official wilderness. (I think anyone would be hard pressed to say that mountain bikes are not "primitive", especially not those $5000 Cannondales.) Kurt talks about how bicycles, as a non-primitive recreational activity, would bother him in the backcountry. But where do we draw the line when it comes to primitiveness? Are GPS units and radios and other recreation devices part of "primitive recreation"? What if I'm annoyed by climbers who are using state-of-the-art equipment in their recreation? What if someone's two-way radio is bothersome?

    At any rate, these other considerations seem moot when it comes to the Wilderness Act's prohibition of "motorized transport". I don't think the IMBA would be wise to push that issue.

    But there certainly are a lot of fire roads in the back country of Crater Lake (which is not official wilderness) that would be fun to bike. Congress has been sitting on the Crater Lake wilderness proposal for years and years. Might have something to do with the boat tours, although under the Wilderness Act, motorized boats could be allowed on the lake because boats can continue to be used "where these uses have already become established". Which seems like a huge double standard. It's ok to have motorized boats on Crater Lake but no non-motorized bikes in the backcountry? Now THAT boggles MY mind. If it's played this way, I think IMBA would have a good case to allow bicycle where their use has already become established.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   6 years 18 weeks ago


    Thanks so very much for your answer to a challenging and quite "Mushy" question!

    I agree that the fairness aspect to landowners through public comment periods would be better today, and newer construction techniques could be less invasive, but the environmental concerns would certainly trump all others in regards to being built or not. I was amazed to see the previous posters reference to the Foothills Parkway in the Smokies that is still under construction that began in 1944!

    It is a true statement also that roads are currently built and expanded, and the restrictions in place today are beneficial, such as the new construction techniques and water drainage control systems that are utilized in my area of Virgina to help protect the Chesapeake Bay.

    We appear to have good weather for Sunday, and near peak foliage conditions! This trip should be quite memorable, as we are taking out 2 year old son for this first trip along the parkway, and cannot wait to see it through his eyes.

    Thanks for your article and thoughtful answers. I'll look for your book at the bookstore!


  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago

    Geez, Zeb, sounds to me like you need to get in touch with your inner 19th century anachronistic side. Why don't we just change all the rules and regulations to suit your fancies?

    I don't think the ban against "mechanical" devices defies logic. Believe it or not, there actually are some folks who enjoy escaping today's contrivances and experiencing a simpler time and life in a wilderness setting.

    And while you're right that one can head off down a trail and encounter few if any other users, how long will that last if bikes are allowed on those trails? A cyclist can cover much more ground than a hiker. Is it out of the realm of possibility that a hiker heads 5 miles or so into the backcountry, sets up camp and begins to enjoy the setting when two or three bikers come through?

    Just as bikers should be able to enjoy their activity, I don't think it's unreasonable to allow backcountry hikers to be able to enjoy their's -- especially when you consider all the opportunities for bikes outside the national parks.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   6 years 18 weeks ago


    Thanks for your input to my question. I had never heard of these instances, I'm guessing mainly do to my location in Richmond, VA. It does clearly show that lobbying and PAC donations can produce results, both desired and undesired.

    My hope is that the people of the area have reaped at least some benefit from the costly construction of these roads, and it was not done in vain.

    It is interesting that such large amounts of time have been spent on all of these projects. 20-60 years to complete some stretches? Astounding...

    Thanks again!'


  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago

    That's an interesting take on the definition of mechanized. I don't see how skis, canoes, kayaks, snowshoes, or even high hiking poles are less mechanized than a bike. It just defies logic.

    Really, Zebulon, you can't see the difference? A bike is a machine. Chains, gears and other devices that multiply human force and effect. None of the other devices you mention are machines. I think trying to see these devices as the same, is just a legalistic argument.

    I am not flat out against bikes in any National Park, but I do believe it should be presumed they are inappropriate, unless a specific finding is made that for a specific resource they are compatible and consistent with the purposes and capacity of that area.

  • Should Anything Be Done With Angel's Landing?   6 years 18 weeks ago

    The Zion Park Service shouldn't have to monitor who hikes Angel's Landing or any other major attraction in the main canyon. The vast majority of people who hike that trail come away happy and uninjured, with a newfound or renewed respect for its challenges. If an occasional hiker proves unprepared or unfit for the trail and pays the ultimate price, then their plight should simply serve as a helpful reminder to others that it's a risky trail where people need to be responsible for their own safety (and that of their children). Anyone who undertakes Angel's Landing hike as a proverbial "walk in the park" is just flirting with Darwin.

  • IMBA: Not Every Park Suitable For Mountain Biking, No Interests, Currently, For Trails in Wilderness Areas   6 years 18 weeks ago

    "And really, let's be truthful, wilderness areas are not off-limits to humans. They are off-limits to motorized and mechanical vehicles and devices, but open to those on foot, cross-country skis, canoes, kayaks, snowshoes and probably some other non-mechanical means that don't come immediately to mind."

    That's an interesting take on the definition of mechanized. I don't see how skis, canoes, kayaks, snowshoes, or even high hiking poles are less mechanized than a bike. It just defies logic. Wilderness access should be based on 1) whether it's human powered or not and 2) the impact of the activity.

    We don't want wilderness to become less accessible to humans. We all need to go in wilderness to enjoy its beauty. We can't erect nature temples that only a chosen few will be allowed to visit. Humans need to be part of the wilderness, not just some spectator from afar.

    As for the landmass percentage, it is totally misleading. It would be more interesting to compare the amount of wilderness to the total amount of accessible parks, since this is really where the issue is. Finally, let me give an example of how absurd the wilderness designation has become. California has been toying for a while with the idea of making Henry Coe state park (90,000 acres) state wilderness (CA wilderness rules follow Federal rules). People have been biking in Henry Coe for decades now. However, if this park becomes wilderness, bikes will automatically be kicked out of it. Nobody can reasonably explain why this park is suitable for bikes now, but might not be tomorrow if labeled wilderness. It just goes to show that banning bikes from wilderness defies logic and science, however, the Sierra Club and its ilk have been pushing for more wilderness knowing full well that it's a perfect means of appropriating a public park to a select few users. One day or another, reason will prevail and cyclists will be once again allowed in Wilderness. And BTW, you can ride a whole day in Henry Coe, and you'd be surprised to encounter more than 5 other users.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   6 years 18 weeks ago


    I would encourage you to look at two places to find the answer to your question.

    First, think of the North Shore Road controversy over in Great Smokies.
    You can read about it for yourself but it basically boiled down to a 1947 agreement whereby the feds foreclosed on people's land to build a dam/lake and promised to build a road in return. The road was never built, and over time the environmental and monetary costs of building it skyrocketed. Did the government uphold its word? No, and people were justified in asking the road be built. But did we NEED said road? Not really.

    Second, think of the Interstate 26 extension that runs from Asheville, NC northward to the Tennessee Tri-Cities area (Bristol, Kingsport, Johnsonville) near the TN/VA line. The extension is essentially a widening of the old US Hwy 23. Again, did we NEED the extension? Umm....probably not. But was it built? Yep. See

    What's this mean? If the proposed road can be sold to the right people and shown to have a positive impact on the economy, chances are that it'll go through.

    Also, as a footnote, construction on the Foothills Parkway on the TN side of the Smokies is still proceeding. The government owns the right-of-way, so it's being built as money allows.

  • Blue Ridge Parkway’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Begins   6 years 18 weeks ago

    That's a great question, and one that I get asked all the time. I usually say a couple of things in answer:

    1. You are certainly right that due to NEPA especially (1969), there would be *vastly* more requirements that the impacts of this project be considered than were in place when most of the Parkway was built. Now the good news of this would be that local people who were going to be adversely affected would have much more voice in the deliberations about what would be done. But the bad news, of course, might be the failure of the project. In the late 1960s/early 1970s, there was a proposal to extend the Parkway from North Carolina southward into Georgia, to a point near Marietta. The same standards were set out for the Parkway that had been applied up to that time on the NC and VA portions. But opposition soon arose, largely from the environmental community, it seems, who objected to more road building through wilderness areas. There were some public hearings, and maybe an EIS, and eventually the project foundered and died. So . . . in this regard, I can certainly say that this would be a much more difficult project to put forward today than in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s when a majority of the Parkway construction was done.

    2. BUT, on the other side of this, it is the case that somehow as a nation we do manage to continue to build highways all over the country. New Interstate corridors are built, bypasses are put in, old roads are widened, etc -- all of which certainly entails quite similar "impacts" on property owners and local citizens, not to mention the natural environment. And all of this continues to go on the post-NEPA age. So from that standpoint, I'd have to conclude that it would not be *impossible* to build the Parkway today, although it would certainly be more difficult (though, as I said above, possibly more fair).

    Does that help? I know that's a bit mushy, but these things are mushy. Enjoy your trip this weekend! The color should be just about at its peak, at least in some areas.

    Anne Whisnant

    Anne Mitchell Whisnant, Ph.D.
    Historian & Author of Super-Scenic Motorway: A Blue Ridge Parkway History
    Chapel Hill, NC