Recent comments

  • Private Party At Charlestown Navy Yard Doesn't Lack Alcohol   6 years 40 weeks ago

    "more like a business" Eh! The Dick Cheney way...right Mary!!

  • Olympic Backcountry Still Buried in Snow   6 years 40 weeks ago

    My wife, her daughter and I went out the middle of June to backpack from Olympic Hot Springs to the Hoh Rain Forest via Appleton Pass and the High Divide. Or so we thought! We ended up just doing 4 days in the Quinault River Valley. The snow up on the peaks was plainly visible. And the streams were really flowing. Another time I guess.

  • Park Shuttles, More Than Just A Bus?   6 years 40 weeks ago

    The reason I accepted a seasonal position at Zion in 2000 was because it was the park's first year with a shuttle system. The shuttles made life in the canyon much simpler and much safer. Every high-volume park with roads should implement a mandatory shuttle system.

  • Climate Change: What Implications Does it Carry for the Parks?   6 years 40 weeks ago

    Old growth giant sequoias receive most moisture through snow melt. If the snow pack in the Sierra Nevadas continues to decrease as scientists predict, old growth sequoias may cease to exist. Their species will continue around the world, but humans in the coming centuries, may not be able to visit 3000-year-old trees. I can't say that I have much hope on the global warming front, especially given the International Panel on Climate Change's recent findings.

  • National Geographic Rates the Best Parks   6 years 40 weeks ago

    I'm with Kurt. One of my least favorite questions (aside from "Is it worth seeing?") at the VC was: "What's the best hike here?" "Best" is subjective and requires a value judgment. Guess it's human nature to rank stuff.

  • National Geographic Rates the Best Parks   6 years 40 weeks ago

    Over the years I've developed a distaste for these sort of stories, particularly since the magazines try to do them year after year and so are forced to come at them from different angles and so you begin to wonder how valid they are.

    What's the definition for "Best Driving"? Is it the most scenic? The most extensive? I'm not sure any park can match the Grand Loop in Yellowstone for driving. It leads you through geyser basins, along the brink of an incredible canyon, and through rolling countryside cut by rivers and studded with elk, bison, pronghorn and the occasion wolf.

    As for Best Climbing, why did they leave out Yosemite, Grand Teton, even Zion? And what's the difference between "Best Trekking" and "Best Hiking"?

    All parks have their own incredible attributes. I guess the only good thing I can say about NG Adventure's piece is that it gets people thinking about all the possibilities out there.

  • Climate Change: What Implications Does it Carry for the Parks?   6 years 40 weeks ago

    From are abuses to the earth's's payback time...nature bats last!

  • National Geographic Rates the Best Parks   6 years 40 weeks ago

    I have to agree with Teddy Roosevelt NP in North Dakota. Found some cougar footprints at the North unit, and while riding my mountain bike quietly around the South Unit scenic loop road, I surprised tons of large mammals as I rounded every corner - bison, pronghorn, mule and white-tail deer, an elk too. After all those ungulates I expected a moose was gonna be next! And that was on the paved road. I imagine hiking on the trail would have been even more amazing. Bison bumble their way through the campgrounds at night, coyotes howl, snakes slither, prairie dogs watch your every move... highly recommended... i can't tell you the feeling of rounding the canyon corner on a bicycle only to see a monstrous bison standing in center of the road. I climbed up on a rock and just watched as he took his sweet time moving on to something more interesting than me.

    -- Jon Merryman

  • Wall Street Trail in Bryce Canyon   6 years 40 weeks ago

    Amazing photo!! I'm at an international conference at Wake Forest with other youth from around Europe/Eurasia and they are like "This is America?! It so so beautiful" Mr. Dunway did a great job with this one!

    President, CHS SPEAK (CHS Students Promoting Environmental Action & Knowledge)
    Founder and President, CHS Campus Greens

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 40 weeks ago

    The Park service does not need to put the cable up in a wilderness. Since they have, it encourages the action of climbing half dome. Since they encourage it, they should require harnesses and clippin onto the cable. Anything less is criminal.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 40 weeks ago

    I've climbed Half Dome 3 times, once as a 17 year-old in 1962, once again in 1970 when I worked and lived in Yosemite Valley as a park ranger-naturalist, and finally in 1993 when I took my son up the cables. In 1993, my son just happened to be the same age I was when I first hiked the cables to the top. That ascent was notably much more difficult than was the previous two.

    Although in 1993, there was much more evidence of increased hiker use than during the previous two climbs, at no time did I experience crowds on the cables, at least not to the extent like they are depicted in the two photos above by Michael Maloney of the SF Chronicle. I suggest that perhaps the carrying capacity for Half Dome may now have been exceeded, especially if crowds like those in the above two pictures are becoming common-place.

    In the backcountry, a hiker always accepts some risk. This risk may be small, say only a small fraction of a percent per outting. But if thousands of people take that risk, then actual fatalities will be elevated from a "might happen" status, to "will happen." It's the consequence of a very small risk per individual multiplied by large numbers of risk-takers.

    Of course, in the case of the Half Dome cables, as the sheer numbers of risk-takers increase, so does the risk per person. Thus, an argument can be made for establishing a carrying capacity for the Half Dome cables based on annual use and numbers of fatalities per year.

    A sign at the beginning of the cables warning of the risk of an ascent or descent at least turns a seemingly safe adventure (because of all the others venturing up the cables without mishap) into an informed voluntary risk. The question then becomes, given an increasing number of hikers using the cables annually, "how many fatalities per year on Half Dome should be considered an acceptable risk?"

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 40 weeks ago

    I think Half Dome has become too "easy" to get to and it's partially the fault of the Park Service and the concession. There are whole sections in the gift shops devoted to "I made it to the top" shirts, hats, belt buckles, mugs, shot glasses, etc. You can warn people all you like about the strenuous nature of the hike, but if you market it like a competition, you're gonna have out of shape tourists trying it in sandals without enough water or time in a lightning storm.

    Removing the cables is admittedly tempting, but they've been climbing those cables for almost 100 years now, and going back would be very difficult.

    The easiest and I think most effective way to solve the problem is to take it out of Day Hike status and issue wilderness permits (for Christ's sake, if the top of Half Dome isn't wilderness, where is??) Limit access for the sake of the mounds of garbage left on top every day, for the sake of those who get to the top safely and don't risk the lives of rescuers for their dumb errors and also for the sake of the wilderness experience.

  • Is the Everglades Out of Danger?   6 years 40 weeks ago

    I have lived in Fl. most of my life and I am blessed to have seen Fl. as Fl. was once. Simply "beautiful". I am sorry to say my grandkids can't have a touch of pure nature like I did.I think urban,and over population in this country has taken a toll,not only in the everglades,our Gulf,fishing industry, the once beautiful Indian River Lagoon on our east coast.Getting back to the basic,I think over population has taken it's toll. Phil Craggs Bradenton,Fl.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Common horse sense...PLEASE! This hike to the Dome requires some basic common sense, and with reasonable decent wilderness skills, and careful preparations. For gods sakes people...THINK!
    Rachel Carson was right!!!

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I think NPS should issue back country permits with only a limited number of people obtaining them per day. This way people could actually enjoy the peace and solitude of the climb. It would also lead to being more prepared as you would actually have to do something ahead of time in order to climb. And I know this is not popular but a nominal fee for the permit should be charged. And before a lot of people get all up in arms about that comment think about it. You already need to have enough money to buy the right kind of shoes, gloves, backpack and food to make the journy what is another $20 for a permit. If you don't have the money for the permit then you don't have it for the shoes and other things you need so you are more likely to be unprepared. Charging for the permit could give the park service the money to help cover having a ranger stationed up there during the busy season and would help to offset the cost of rescuing someone in an emergency.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Jeremy: The climb is dangerous... 3 deaths in one year. HalfDome is a magnet and the Park continues the more than 50 year tradition to make the trek "more available" with the cables. The ascent should be like many other climbs: only available to those with the skills and proper equipment. Encouraging the average person to attempt a difficult climb is willful negligence.

    "I believe whenever we destroy beauty, or whenever we substitute something man-made and artificial for a natural feature of the earth, we have retarded some part of man's spiritual growth." ....Rachel Carson

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I think the article talks more about stupidity than a real danger on Half Dome. Don't people prepare before they go out to a national park? My guidebook says in big letters that the hike up Half Dome 1. is VERY STRENUOUS, 2. is 17 miles round trip (compared with a mile or 2 for Mirror Lake, Lower Yosemite Falls, or even Vernal Falls, 3. should not be attempted when the cables are down or when there is even a chance of wet weather. The article mentions the possibility of day-trippers biting off more than they can chew. Why on earth would you want to do a "drive-by" of a national park, especially somewhere like Yosemite? And if you have to do that because of kids or other commitments, wouldn't you want to prepare beforehand to maximize your time and enjoyment?

  • Product Testing in West Yellowstone   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Are you product testing Mosquito Repellent? The skeeters at Shoshone Lake miss you and would like more fresh blood.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    "Does the Park Service have an obligation to facilitate people's sense of a thrill or rush? "

    Good question. What exactly is their role when it comes to facilitating anything?

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    I don't understand why people who know little or nothing about climbing should be allowed to climb Half Dome. Easy solution - take the darn cables off the rock face. Personally, that would mean I'd probably never make the climb -- so be it. People are flocking to complete the feat only because they're available. Yeah, we could install safety nets, jackhammer stairs into the rockface, install telephones every 100 feet, pump water to the summit for those who didn't bring enough, install a giant lightning rod at the top, and hand out distress beacons as a public service, but what's the point? Does the Park Service have an obligation to facilitate people's sense of a thrill or rush? Then to have those same people urinate all over the mountaintop and feed marmots, squirrels and bears all their discarded food scraps along the way... no thanks, I'll spend my time elsewhere.

    Can you imagine lightning hitting that cable while hundreds of people were clinging to it for dear life? What a spectacle that would be!

    -- Jon

  • Park Shuttles, More Than Just A Bus?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    My appreciation of the shuttles goes back to the mid-80s at Grand Canyon where the Hermit's Rest route has been bus only during the peak visitation periods for a long time now. Riding my bike along the 7-mile route was much more enjoyable with only the occasional slow-moving bus to worry about. You never had the situation where full parking lots encouraged stressed out people to park illegally along the shoulder of the road because they felt "entitled" to a parking space. I also never had to worry about locking my bike because there were only bus riders coming and going. What I didn't like was that the commercial tour buses were also allowed to use the Hermit route, and with them, a complete busload would disembark at each stop and swamp the viewpoint with scores of chatty shutterbugs while the bus sat waiting with the engine running, adding a steady supply of diesel fumes and engine rumble to the park experience. At least with the shuttle, you rarely had so many people unloading at once and if they did, the bus left right away.

    More recently our family did the train ride up from Williams and once we got to the park, because of the complete coverage of the South Rim bus system, we could go anywhere we wanted with no car. Nice.

    -- Jon Merryman

  • Park Shuttles, More Than Just A Bus?   6 years 41 weeks ago

    For the last ten years, I've been enjoying going even one step further. I take the train from my hometown of Portland, Oregon to Merced, California, hop onto a handy YARTS bus which lands me at Curry Village. To get around the park, I use the valley shuttle, the hikers bus to Tuolumne or Glacier Point. I enjoy a whole wonderful vacation of hiking, biking, walking and do it all without the hassles of driving. For those of us who have never experienced the beauty of the Merced River Gorge, because we've been too busy keeping our eyes on the curves ahead and our grip on the steering wheel, taking the bus is a revelation. It's cheaper, far more relaxing and I'm using less resources. What's not to love?

    Yosemite has free shuttles in Yosemite Valley & seasonally in Wawona/Mariposa Grove. The hikers buses to Tuolumne and Glacier Point are for a fee (cheaper for one-way hikers). And YARTS serves both western gateways and eastern gateways in season. True, the valley shuttles are sometimes crowded. But so are the roads, and frankly... I'd rather one bus than fourteen cars.

    I remember the valley before the shuttles. Have you been to Happy Isles lately? Where once was a huge parking lot is now a fen and a diverse area of wildlife and plants. Let's see... riding a bus vs. a parking lot... no brainer.

  • Product Testing in West Yellowstone   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Jim (and everyone), don't some of the parks have those fat-tire wheelchairs available for people to get a little off the boardwalks every once in a while? My remembrance of Yellowstone was that the boardwalk trailed areas were enough to keep most people busy, interested, and fascinated, but if you wanted to roam elsewhere, contact the visitor center(s) or the West Park Medical Services and see what they've got. If they have any at all it won't be many, and you'll want to reserve in advance if they allow you to.

    Here's a great NPS link that will give you official park info on accessibility:

    Have fun! I'll be there in late August with my son.

    -- Jon Merryman

  • Ferrets Return to Wind Cave   6 years 41 weeks ago

    Good news is always welcome!

  • Product Testing in West Yellowstone   6 years 41 weeks ago

    That's a fantastic question. Off the top of my head, Yellowstone is a huge park, and so you'll be in your car so much of the time. In the geyser areas, there are very accessible boardwalks, which are perfect for wheelchairs, especially in the Old Faithful area. In some areas, however, I think that they won't be as accessible - for instance in Mammoth Hot Springs, which is more vertical and at the Mud Volcano area. At Mammoth, there's a lot, though that can be seen without climbing all the boardwalks.

    In the Canyon area, most of the approaches unfortunately have staircases of one kind or another. I'm wracking my brain for an overlook that doesn't involve some kind of stairs. There's also construction in the area.

    There are a lot of pullouts to stop and see scenery.

    As far as hotels, if that's where you are staying, I'm not sure. You should talk with the people you made reservations with. They also control many of the restaurants and can talk with you about that.

    Obviously, backcountry hiking is pretty much out of the question. There are no paved trails in backcountry. The closest you can get are the Lone Star geyser trail, which is mostly an old road (bikes are allowed on this trail) and along the old fountain flats drive, but I wouldn't recommend either. However, Yellowstone is definitely big enough to enjoy in a wheelchair, even if it's so big and so complicated that it's a sad truth that a person in a wheelchair won't be able to go up a mountain (though the Beartooth Highway just outside of Yellowstone's Northeast Entrance can allow for the same experience), won't be able to hike out to backcountry lakes and thermals, and in some cases won't be able to get close to some otherwise accessible features. However, there are still plenty of amazing spots, whether it's the overlooks of Yellowstone Lake, the geyser fields near Old Faithful, or viewing wildlife in the Lamar Valley. I'm going to try and take some time to look at this a little more and report a little more information.

    I've thought about this some; I think even a blind person could enjoy Yellowstone if only because the sounds, textures, and smells are so unique. Some hate the sulfur smells, but I think they are wondrous and unusual. I get nostalgic for those smells in my sleep. It's a feast of at least four of the five senses (I can't say I ate that well there), and I hope you'll have a great trip and that your child will love this magical place.

    Jim Macdonald
    The Magic of Yellowstone
    Yellowstone Newspaper
    Jim's Eclectic World