Recent comments

  • Our Only Privately-Owned National Park Celebrates a Birthday and a Vital Conservation Easement   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Chris, I honestly don't know what ought to be done with Steamtown, or what might have been done to make it viable. I just know that it shouldn't have been made a national park.

  • You Still Can Visit Herman Melville's New Bedford   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Great Little Article. Got me reinterested in the book once again. I keyed on your "Traveler tip" and found the downloaded version to be quite expensive. Here in the "Most Historic City in America", Fredericksburg, VA. Our library subscribes to "NetLibrary". For the price of a library card (which is usually $0.00) you can download an unabriged, CD quality recording (21 hrs +) of Moby Dick. Down Load took about 15 min for 298 MB and will remain on your computer for 21 days before it self distructs. OMAR Q.

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker -

    An interesting summary of our relationship with the rest of the world in terms of energy, and our overall "energy policy." I agree with much of what you say.

    I certainly agree with you on the need to emphasize development of alternative energy sources. That, along with wiser use of all sources of energy, is the only long-term solution to our energy problem. Yes, we'll continue to need oil and gas as well, but we need to minimize our dependence on it as quickly as possible, for economic, geopolitical, national security and environmental reasons.

    Hey - another fan of Ponderosa pines! Unfortunately, we don't have them where I live, but I sure enjoy that wonderful smell whenever I'm back in Ponderosa territory.
    (For benefit of anyone who is wondering what we're talking about, on a warm day a mature Ponderosa pine has a faint but wonderful odor that reminds many people of vanilla - or cream soda. If the weather is right, you can enjoy the aroma just by standing in a large grove of the trees, but for the full effect, you've got to become one of those "tree huggers," and just get your nose right up next to the bark of a large tree.)

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 19 weeks ago

    And finally, to the point made by Mr. Burnett regarding his position that "One of our major problems is that we've never had a truly viable and comprehensive national energy plan." I think I get the general drift of your intentions here, but I believe that years ago our government decided on and committed to the path of the national energy "policy" by conducting what we would now consider rudimentary evaluations of the future needs of the still developing nation, estimating that the existing reserves in east Texas, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma etc. were insufficient to sustain the growth, and saw the middle eastern desert reserves and the local governments as exploitable. They "befriended" those who possessed the largest resource and proceeded to sell our nation's soul to the devil, striking an accord that in essence comes down to the following: "We'll supply (i.e. you'll pay us for the rights) the technology to develop your fields and make you the richest nation on earth, we'll back your regime and do anything necessary to insure domestic stability, politically speaking, and "protect" you from foreign insurgents by stationing our military personnel on your soil. In return, we agree to turn a blind eye and ear to how you conduct day-to-day affairs internally, and we would also expect some considerations in terms of production levels and pricing structures that favor our domestic national interests. We'll continue to supply any and all resources that you require for additional development of your fields, and even assist in your desires to become the local ruling and producing behemoth in the region. We'll assist in overthrowing and/or undermining any local government that causes you an uncomfortable level of concern to your long-term economic health. And we would appreciate you remembering how you got to where you are in the world, and where you would be without our assistance."

    Ah, another in a long series of shining examples of how our country attempts to conduct its expansionistic form of world domination through capitalistic manipulation.

    This scenario played out all well and good short term, as it allowed for our country's economy to expand, our technology to have steady access to a major tool of development, and furthered our military stranglehold on a region that we couldn't allow the "Red Devils" to gain access to first, thereby effectively isolating us from the world's largest sources of petroleum, which at the time was THE source of economic development world-wide.

    Fast forward half a century to our current position on the world's timeline.

    EVERYTHING in the world's climate has changed. Politically and militarily no "superpower" exists that causes us the "clear and present" concerns as did once the old Soviet Union. The local Middle Eastern governments have acquired a taste for power built solely on their ONE resource, and by default, WE are the ones that brought that monster out of the closet. We are no longer the only game in town specific to an ability to assist in another nation's technological development. As opposed to the worlds "savior and protector", a title we bestowed upon ourselves by the way, we are now the world's biggest (and possibly ONLY) bully, and are rightfully scorned and resented within the world community for the actions and attitudes that we display. It seems as though the only people on the planet who don't "get it", who have yet to ascertain the fact that the climate has indeed changed, reside within the American governmental system, who insist on conducting their affairs with the same old business-as-usual attitude. And it ain't workin' no more! Surprise, surprise, surprise as Gomer would have said. But even Gomer, in retrospect, appears to have more intellect than do the buffoons in Washington. IN the government that offense to the local populace, I assure you.

    For these and many other reason I implore everyone who reads and especially those who take the time to respond to sites like these to grab the cajones of your local elected officials and give them ONE chance for change. And if they don't respond to you, threaten them at their most sensitive level, their electorate. That ALWAYS gets their attention, REAL quick. And don't accept form letters and pat answers in return either. Make certain they grasp the reality, and that they understand that you comprehend the reality that in no uncertain terms our future as a nation, our "national security" and our stake as a future leader in the world's economic and technological marketplace DEMANDS that we take pole position in the development and application of alternative energy sources. It is so painfully easy to cut the Middle Eastern giant off at the knees and send them back into isolation in the deserts from whence they came with nothing but a resource that nobody wants, they can't sell, and thereby driving THIER economies into the ground. Better them than us!!!!

    Now, if any of you still confuse my stance on the need for development of alternative energy sources with some lame "tree hugging, enviro-maniac" tag that some folks just LOVE to hang on people, all you're doing is demonstrating your ignorance of the overall issues at hand. Whether we choose to allow domestic development in the environmentally sensitive areas of the nation or not is a small matter in the grand scheme of things. Take your short-term solution to a long-term problem and get into politics. You'll appear brilliant under those auspices. We as a nation need to begin seeking meaningful, more permanent solutions to what is admittedly a most complex issue. It's not as simple as "these drilling rigs are ugly" or "they're ruining the environment" or "we need the oil / gas / jobs / economic development". Make an attempt to view the entire scope of the issue before you begin to criticize someone else's suggestions.

    PS - I did hug a tree once, but that was only 'cause it smelled like vanilla......gotta love those Ponderosa pines!!!

  • Flooding Forces Closure of Mount Rainier National Park   6 years 19 weeks ago

    You can thank the tree-huggers for the flooding shown in the picture.
    The park wanted to clear the Kautz Creek channel just upstream from the bridge after the last event to ensure that the river stayed in-channel and protected the infrastructure, but the misguided enviros stopped 'em with all their EIS paperwork. So now, the taxpayer will probably have to pay to fix the road again.
    Maybe we oughta just fence these parks off, and NO ONE gets in, no employees, no tax dollars spent!

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 19 weeks ago

    I did not intend to imply I "bemoan" foreign travelers. I am just amazed that there are so many more of them than US travelers. We like to camp in or near the parks and have truly enjoyed sharing them with people from all countries.

  • Recalling Yellowstone National Park's Historic 1988 Fire Season   6 years 19 weeks ago

    im doing a report on the fire of 1988 in Yellowstone and this artical reallys helps.

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 19 weeks ago

    I fully agree with the insights of Rick and Lone Hiker, and the full respect to all visitors. There is also a lift you can get from the thrill you can see in foreign travelers; they seem to be energized by a freshness in how American the parks are.

    There is a tendency for any people to take for granted their own area, but it does not mean it is a fatal or permanent condition. People may come back and experience it again, when they are ready, and have a deeper time of it. We do seem as a people right now to be enthralled in Media, not experience.

    I think Lone Hiker is right about the value of deeper immersion in the resource. It changes you. I do think when you plan to travel to a foreign country you are more likely to plan an event, and not just experience the visitor center or the park road.

    Maybe during this time of economic downturn it would be good to conceive of new programs to bring young people to the parks. Or, make sure that parks are part of any 'national service' opportunity for young people. I still believe Americans can and do appreciate their parks when they are provoked into a real experience in a park.

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker: Good points and I myself enjoy the camaraderie of those hearty foreign visitors. Wow, those Germans and Swiss sure love our mountains and endless miles of hiking trails through our National Parks. I love there energy and robust attitude towards the great outdoors. The more the better attitude! While us lazy Americans would rather tip-toe through the parks without a feeling of it's pulse or existence...dash in and dash out, but forgetting why we were there in the first place. I met a young German man hiking up Mt. Whitney some years ago and I was surprised by his attempt to scale it in one day and back. Here he was with his day pack, German leather shorts and one good parka and all GO. I told him it was a mean hike to the top of old Mt. Whitney (14,400') and with his broken German accent replies in English: We Germans do this all the time in the Bavarian Mts. Long story short, he makes it to the top and back in less then half of a day. I just love this guys spirit of adventure which was filled with zest and zeal of great physical stamina. The fact is, most foreign visitors that I have met in the past, have taken a great interests in our National Parks. There's a deep sense of curiosity and awe written on their faces when coming upon the many beautiful splendors in which the National Parks were created for. Something which us Americans take for granted and with less appreciation...and it does show!

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Brandon -

    Well said!

    Most readers of this site have never been to the Big Thicket, and it's therefore hard for them to grasp the difficult situation rangers there often face. Many parks have similar issues with inadequate staff and backup for rangers, but they seem to be amplified at the Thicket for a lot of reasons related to the local culture and the surprisingly remote nature of much of the park.

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 19 weeks ago

    In the past I've made mention of my interactions with the various manner of person who choose to "indulge" themselves on the road less traveled, such as those I frequent. I find it amusing (and rather sad to say the least) that in my personal experience, the ratio of "foreign" to "domestic" visitors is easily 8-9:1 in favoring the wide diversity of foreign visitors, with representatives from most other continents. The sad feeling that I find myself wrestling with is that it appears from my most unscientific statistical gathering that our own American people are those most guilty of the "quick hitter" visit; drive in, park the car, run here and there, race back to the car and get the hell out of Dodge post-haste. Maybe the American tourist thinks that he'll be back soon enough to truly indulge him/herself in the cathedrals we call our National Parks, but rather I get the sick feeling that we've grown accustomed to taking these places for granted, or just plain "don't have the time", or most likely, "don't want to / physically can't expend the effort" to truly enjoy and discover all that comprise our precious NPS units. "Those damn foreigners" to which you refer are here to see the America that initially appeared to them via old movie sets, paintings, documentaries, and inferred frames drawn from their imaginations after reading various printed media, and they have both the time and the energy to make the most of what is most commonly a once-in-a-lifetime excursion to a place they thought only existed on celluloid or parchment. They're here to get the full experience, not some fly-by-night version that our own people call "seeing it all". For what it's worth, these are not my personal editorialized interpretations of someone's intentions; rather, I'm relating as verbatim as I can the substance of many conversations that I've had with hundreds of tourists from literally dozens of countries over the years. It hurts to hear them say that I'm one a precious few "locals" they've encountered in the backcountry, as they were sure Americans only existed near the lodges.

    In short Cookie, let's not bemoan the foreign tourists who "invade the sanctity" of our parks. I, for one, enjoy the hell out of these people, who for the most part, observe the highest levels of etiquette on the trails, are extremely polite and well spoken (save a certain group from the far East who shall remain nameless), and generally exhibit a high level of respect for their fellow travelers and their environment, which sadly to say is quite a juxtaposition to the average "local". I find not one iota of "fault" or "blame" with these visitors. Quite the opposite, the fault for our own people's attitudes, behaviors, lack of manners and most of all, lack of interest, is all OURS.

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 19 weeks ago

    I think the main topic of the story has only been briefly touched on. These offenders were on National park service property, property that tax payers pay for in order to hike, canoe and share time at the beach with their family and friends. Law Enforcement rangers make sure that the park remains a place where people want to bring their families. Individuals doing drugs are not part of this plan. Meth addicts that have pitched a tent on the NP beach and are consuming are not part of the plan. Groups of canoeists that break and sink thousands of bottles a year in the river are not part of the plan. They would take over these tax payer properties if it were not for LE rangers. Severely underfunded and understaffed, park rangers deal with a lot and don't always get the support they need from state and local enforcement. Someone replied they should have called headquarters for backup. Well, guess what, there is no backup, so when a drug user starts struggling with the ranger, he's lucky the ranger had a cool head and used deceit rather than force.

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Fascinating stuff, Owen. Thanks for clarification. I've tweaked the title and abstract.

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   6 years 19 weeks ago


    Here is what I was able to find in writing online at

    "The Life of Warren "Batso" Harding" by Burr Sneider (orignially published in the SF Examiner's Image Magazine, March 9, 1986):

    ".....Over Irish coffee he told us how the name “Batso” came about. When the film Midnight Cowboy came out, it seems, his friends decided that he bore an uncanny resemblance to the gritty Dustin Hoffman character, Ratso Rizzo. From that, combined with his penchant for hanging out on rock walls like a bat, came the moniker. And from Batso came B.A.T. – Basically Absurd Technology – Harding’s resolutely unprofitable mountain gear company, one of the products of which was the infamous “Bat tent,” designed to provide shelter on high walls."

    When I met Warren Harding in Yosemite during the time I worked in the Valley as a park ranger-naturalist (1969-71), I only knew him only as Warren, not "Batso." I'm sure that nickname grew on him over time.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Our Only Privately-Owned National Park Celebrates a Birthday and a Vital Conservation Easement   6 years 19 weeks ago

    I wonder if this or a National Herritage model would have worked better for Steamtown, even though it would have made a great State Park not a National one for which it is unsuited.

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   6 years 19 weeks ago

    I haven't heard that version before. The way I heard it is that Harding got the nickname Batso because he could hang from a rock wall "like a bat." The Dustin Hoffman character in the movie Midnight Cowboy went by the name "Ratso," which is phonetically similar. Can anybody out there clear this one up?

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Here's a short excerpt about the project, which I find encouraging:

    Pavement rehabilitation would likely involve in-place recycling of the existing deteriorated pavement, followed by an overlay of new asphalt paving. The new pavement would later be covered with a red cinder chip-seal.

    In-place recycling of the existing pavement at least sounds like a good idea, and I'd certainly vote for continuing the use of the red cinder chip-seal. In this setting, that treatment helps reduce the visual intrusion of the pavement, and perhaps helps reinforce subconsciously the idea that people using this roadway are in a special place.

    Kurt's original story above includes a link where you can make comments on the project to the park.

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   6 years 19 weeks ago

    One small point, 50 years ago Warren Harding was not known as "Batso". This is a nickname supposedly ascribed to Warren sometime after the film "Midnight Cowboy" was released in 1969.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 19 weeks ago


    I volunteered as a museum host for two weeks this summer at Yellowstone's Museum of the National Park Ranger. I, too, was impressed by the number of foreign visitors, although most of them attributed their excursion to the States to the favorable exchange rates since the dollar was in the toilet during that time. But, and this is a big but, I met hundreds of American visitors, also, people doing the kinds of vacations that are traditional--doing the western parks with the family. I was surprised at how popular the junior ranger program is with US kids. Each night at the evening campfire program at Norris, there were a line of kids seeking the signature of the ranger who had presented the program to prove that they had satisfied one of the requirements--attend an evening ranger program--for getting their junior ranger shoulder patch. Many of them came into the museum with their patches already attached to their shirts with safety pins. They were really proud of completing the program. It was really heart-warming to see how excited they were.

    So, US people still use the parks, but the families are there only in the summer when school is out. I can remember several times in the winter when I was the only English-speaker at Mather Point in Grand Canyon or at the old Flamingo Motel during the summer in Everglades when only Europeans were willing to brave the mosquitos or didn't know about them.

    Rick Smith

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   6 years 19 weeks ago

    While this section pavement is truly a Road to Nowhere, as the "development" east of the tunnel along Hwy. 9 will verify, I'm as guilty as anybody of utilizing it as a pass-through to Bryce. While we can debate the merits of the original intent and whose doorstep to lay credit / blame upon, the current status of the roadway is inadequate to continue to serve its purpose, both relating to the overall condition and the size of the available pavement. But who in the early 20th C envisioned all the goofs parading around the country in their Ford Expeditions and Chevy Tahoes anyway?

    Specific to this example, the Mount Carmel Road that is, I'm rather dubious that the overall visitation to Zion would suffer much of a decline should the tunnel be incapacitated for any reason. While definitely not convenient, other avenues exist to access the "main" southern entrance. And by far, the greatest tourist access is off I-15, not US 89, especially all those day-trippers from the Vegas saloons. Evidence that Springdale is a literal boom-town when compared to the entirety of the eastern pathway. So let's not play the panic card and correlate a drastic decline in revenue for Zion if indeed the highway were rerouted. A decline? Most certainly. Park closure? Not on your life.

    That said, I personally don't favor removing existing roadways from any of the NPS units, but I, unlike SO many other contributors to this site, have no employment history with the park service, so maybe my opinion isn't worth the computer it's typed on. I most certainly do support limitation of expanding the network of roadways, preferably limiting expansion to ZERO. But unless there's a plan afoot to let nature reclaim, as She has done to so many of the old logging roads for example, then periodic roadway improvements are just as important within the system as they are without. Or should we start debating the merits of maintaining the Interstate and US Highway networks as well, as they too require the evil byproducts of the petroleum industry in order for us to maintain our mobility as a nation; bicycle, car, or cross-trainers be damned?

    By the way, there are a few routes available to link Toroweep (or do you say Tuweep?) and the rims of the Grand Canyon to the other Utah parks that radiate southeast from the greater-St. George area. But they're most definitely NOT highways. Beautiful, scenic, kidney-bustin' backroads that themselves are as great an adventure as exploring the parks was intended to be, but we as a people have this notion that we should be able to get any and everywhere as quickly and conveniently as we can. It's our Divine right!!! How dare anyone inconvenience us by not paving every inch of the world so that we can use it, maybe once in a lifetime?

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   6 years 19 weeks ago

    True indeed, the railroads exerted enormous pressure in the formative years of the National Park System to see that roads linked railheads to parks, that lodges be built so those passengers would have somewhere to sleep and eat once they reached the parks.

    But I think the "original intent" as laid out by Frank can be questioned. Indeed, there was clear intent early on that vehicles be accommodated in the parks. Interior Secretary Franklin Lane saw to that when he outlined, on May 13, 1918, essentially how the National Park Service should operate. Along with stressing that the parks "must be maintained in absolutely unimpaired form for the use of future generations," Secretary Lane noted that roads, trails and other infrastructure should be installed with attention to complementing, not detracting from, the landscape.

    Beyond that, he wrote that, "All outdoor sports which may be maintained consistently with the observation of the safeguards thrown around the national parks by law will be heartily indorsed (sic) and aided whenever possible. Mountain climbing, horseback riding, walking, motoring, swimming, boating, and fishing will ever be the favorite sports."

    Even with that understood, though, it'd be hard to disagree that industrial tourism is a constant threat to the parks' landscape and, I think it can be argued in some quarters, to the national park experience. But what is the perfect national park experience? What should it be?

    What would be a moderate approach to road construction/maintenance in the parks? Some would argue that already there's a bear minimum of roads and, at the same time, thousands and thousands and thousands of acres of wilderness or de facto wilderness in which one can escape asphalt and fumes. (Of course, there also are some roads, such as the existing Carbon River Road in Mount Rainier's northwestern corner, that nature has been trying to remove ever since it was built.)

    Without roads such as the Going-to-the-Sun Road, the Mount Carmel Road, and Yellowstone's Grand Loop Road, how many visitors would be deprived incredible vistas?

    For those who would remove roads, would they support mass transit in the form, for instance, of light rail, or should all signs of these corridors be removed?

    These are not simple questions, and I would guess -- in light of all the economic, access, and environmental issues -- there are no simple answers.

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 19 weeks ago

    This refers to use of BLM land, not National Parks land. In my area (Nevada) BLM land is being taken constantly for housing, retail and manufacturing. Is drilling more obtrusive (noisy, smelly, brightly lit) than that?

    I am a lover and user of our National Parks. So many people with opinions about the use of it NEVER use it! In my travels I have seen we have saved these beautiful areas mostly for foreign travelers. And ME!

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   6 years 19 weeks ago

    The Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway was built for the expressed purpose of linking Zion, from the east, to both Bryce Canyon N.P. and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. This massive project was undertaken with a lot of pressure from the Union Pacific Railroad which had built lodges and other facilities at these parks and was anxious to have better roads on which to operate their fleet of tour buses out of their Cedar City railhead. It was all about maximizing corporate profits and the federal government sold it to the Utah locals as a way of bringing much needed "development" into their backward corner of Mormondom.

    Just like all other corporatist government interventions, be it the TVA, NPS or the Bureau of Reclamation, it is was an unnatural injection of imperial capital into a far-flung section of the empire that would never have had the means, intention or desire to undertake it with local resources. Just like the Roman aqueducts you see dotting remote sections of Spain and France, these massive public works are examples of what Wilhelm Röpke aptly termed the "cult of the colossal."

    These gigantic projects were far more than measures to bring electricity, agriculture or tourist development into rural areas but symbolized the mighty power of central government planning and the war on private initiative. In this way the 20th-century American federal government and European fascism were little different in their outlook and tone when it came to constructing these outsized monuments to their vision of a grand and glorious empire stamping its mighty and indomitable will upon the landscape. Look upon my works and tremble.

    Today millions of visitors use this road annually to access the parks and monuments of this region and it would extremely unpopular to close it down and let the Clear Creek/Pine Creek drainage revert back to its natural state. The genie is clearly out of the bottle and the industrial tourism that was spawned by it must continue unabated.

    I agree with Frank C. though. This is one of Zion's most spectacular sections and deserves better than a road clogged with RV's carved through its magnificence.

    Just one dude's opinion.

  • Fifty Year Ago Today, Warren Harding and His Buddies Conquered “Unclimbable” El Capitan   6 years 19 weeks ago

    Rick, your comments suggest that you don't consider that initial ascent a cut and dried example of unethical climbing. If that's your opinion, I agree with you. Harding and Caldwell put that route up in 1970 (spending 27 straight days on the wall) at a time when clean ("leave no trace") climbing was just starting to gain traction as an ethical requirement and the necessary gear lacked the variety and dependability that climbers take for granted today. Anyway, Harding was a crusty character who frankly didn't give a damn what other people thought of his methods, his gear, or just about anything else you care to name.

  • Election 2008: Fearless Forecasts, Foregone Conclusions, and Prescient Prognostications   6 years 19 weeks ago

    When it comes to Steamtown, I'd endorse another left-leaning policy.... "Mend It, Don't End It..."