Recent comments

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Haunted Hiker, no need to convert, I love biking. Spent my vacation this summer doing it, as a matter of fact, and just returned from a 24-mile ride.

    In fact, I agree with you that there are plenty of good dirt roads across the park system that would make wonderful mountain biking trails. The White Rim in Canyonlands is one great example, and of course the carriage paths in Acadia are another.

    I also understand there are some pretty good single-track routes on non-Park Service public lands that make excellent multi-day treks. The Kokopelli Trail that winds 142 miles from Colorado into Utah is one great example.

    And, to be truthful, I'd probably enjoy riding my mountain bike through Yellowstone's backcountry on a multi-day trip. But I just don't believe there's a need for it or that it'd be appropriate. I like knowing there's some backcountry where I can head without having to worry about a mountain biker coming around the bend at me.

    As someone mentioned earlier, this isn't an access question. There's plenty of access already in the parks, including plenty of mountain biking opportunities, as you yourself noted. Is it so difficult to agree that the Park Service has a different mandate than the U.S. Forest Service and BLM, which are more multi-use oriented?

    Lastly, that photo you mentioned? It pictures two IMBA reps cruising at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park during a demo day. I used that shot to illustrate the story because IMBA is the most ardent proponent of more mountain biking in the parks and, as the picture shows, they like to rock.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 37 weeks ago

    The NPS "preservation slant" is only how some interpret the Organic Act. I could argue that the NPS should have a "provide for the enjoyment slant."

    In fact, I can't find the word preservation in the Organic Act. Though I do find words such as "conserve" and "promote the use of."

    Devil's advocacy aside, the NPS seems to have much more urgent problems than to spend precious funds "planning to plan" in order to open a channel up to boaters.

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Certainly not every park or every suggested route is appropriate for bicycle use, but "mountain biking in national parks" should not be demonized. Park managers/planners should be open to consider it as an appropriate use for dirt roads that are closed to motor vehicle traffic, an be open to the idea of allowing a small percentage of trails to be suggested mountain bike trails.

    Sycamore Canyon in Santa Monica Mountains NRA sets an example of how mountain biking can be allowed along with other recreational uses in a park area. I hike and bike in this area, and the terrain, which is riddled with old ranch roads and fire roads, is well-suited for mountain biking. Also, some excellent single-track provides a wonderful experience for mountain bikers of all skill levels. There is a volunteer mountain bike patrol force riding the trails on weekends. Trail runners, bikers, hikers, and equestrians appear to get along quite well. If there is a Santa Monica ranger reading this, I'd love to hear what he or she thinks. But, best I can tell as a user, Santa Monica managers have done a fantastic job of allowing a multitude of uses in their park.

    The photo chosen for this story shows two "gear appropriate" mountain bikers going downhill on a dirt road. This is why they may appear a bit aggro at first glance. If Kurt had chosen a photo of a family biking on a flat dirt road or paved path in a national park, it would have a much different impact on the viewer's perception of mountain biking.

    A vast majority of people who mountain bike are what I call "hikers on bikes." I know people from 7 to 70 who enjoy this activity. The NPS should keep the mountain biking card in their hat of recreation activities they consider when planning park use. I'm guessing there are some old mining roads in Rocky that might serve well as a mountain bike trail and still leave hundreds of miles of trail to hikers only.

    Disclosure: I am a former NPS ranger who is a hiker/backpacker first and foremost, yet I have riden over 2000 miles as a long-distance "thru-biker," carrying all my food, water, and equipment on my mountain bike. And I have written mountain biking guides, including one for a national park. Kurt, perhaps you should let me take you "bike-packing" one day? Maybe I can convert you.

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Why not regulate each trail according to its appropriateness for biking? Seems to work on the carriage trails in Acadia and the mosquito-infested old roads of the Everglades, but it sure as heck doesn't make sense on the steep, narrow trails in places like Yosemite or Bryce. Ya?

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 37 weeks ago

    How many people do you know who can recite the NPS Mission? I certainly can't. " conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wildlife therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means..."

    An English teacher would have a field day editing the seemingly endless run-on sentence that describes the NPS Mission.

    Regardless, I've learned to overlook the Mission's rambling wording for the value of its meaning. It's about celebrating natural America, by allowing people to responsibly (emphasize "responsibly") visit, enjoy, and marvel at some of the most beautiful, wild and fascinating places around. One creative NPS employee I know compared the national park system to a can of your favorite soda. If you stick the sealed can on a shelf, you miss the experience of opening it up to savor its color, flavor, coolness, and effervescence.

    Nowadays many NPS employees are quick to close portions of national parks, whether they be facilities, trails, or vast tracts of land. "Resource protection," "budget shortfalls," and "safety" are the most frequently cited explanations. Sometimes legitimate reasons exist to close an area, but all-too-often I've seen closed areas remain that way because park staff are 1) too busy attending meetings, writing reports, and creating podcasts to notice the value of these areas to the public, and 2) many NPS employees are such environmental purists they don't believe the places should ever be touched by human feet (or bicycle tires).

    "Woops! You mean we haven't reopened that trail? Must have forgotten all about the silly Mission!"

    This indifference is well known to many park visitors, and it doesn't bode well for public relations. If you want a supportive public, insure that your park is available for public enjoyment.

    Simple Proposal #7: Keep Your Eye on the Mission

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Mark, you sound as if you know this topic quite well. Are you officially aligned with the mountain bike community?

  • Mountain Bikers Encouraged to Seek Access to Rocky Mountain National Parks   6 years 37 weeks ago

    The photo of mountain bikers descending on a wide dirt road doesn't sound any alarms for me. It looks they're having fun, are riding in a safe situation, and are enjoying their visit. Aren't those things appropriate for a national park visit?

    I'm a fan of mountain biking in national parks. Today's park managers have a better understanding of trail designs that work for all kinds of shared-use traffic. They have responsible partners to work with in the mountain biking community, and they have the power to decide which trails should be open to bikes and which should not. As you point out, shared-use trails are employed in parks across the country already, with excellent results. Why not expand on those successes?

    Today's park managers also face declining budgets and lowered visitation. Integrating mountain biking in a responsible fashion can help new audiances gain an appreciation for national parks. Mountain biking holds a lot of appeal for the younger visitors that National Parks need to ensure the longterm health of the system.

    Lastily ... Segways and paved roads are just straw-men targets. (So is comparing mountain biking to motorized traffic. I can tell the differerence btween a bike and motorcycle, and so can the Park Service.) Let's focus on bringing involving more people in the NPS experience, not filtering out all the potential new fans of the parks just because one user group wants to define the experience for everyone else.

  • Rockefeller Family Turns Over More than 1,100 Acres to Grand Teton National Park   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Thanks Rockefellers!

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 37 weeks ago

    I heard that Devils Tower was created by a giant bear trying to claw its way up the side of the mountain... now who do I believe? Hmmm...

  • Park Service's Top Investigator Pleads Guilty To Theft   6 years 37 weeks ago

    This is a quote from a current NPS employee that was posted in the comments section below the Pat Buccello news article (which can be accessed by clicking the above link in Kurt's piece titled "according to reports"). It seems that it's not just FORMER employees that know that there is systemic rot in the NPS. More and more current employees are speaking up too.

    "If anyone is naive enough to think this even warrants a raised eyebrow, you're misinformed, misguided or don't get out much. The NPS is only one agency that is completely rife with nepotism, favoritism and the REGULAR promotion or transfer of the worst the American workforce has to offer. No one at any level wants to address this sort of thing and it is absolutely swept under the rug if at all possible, which it is most of the time. If you're in it to do an honest days wotk on a level playing field, you're in the wrong agency. For all the rhetoric about "most of us are doing a good job", it's past that. Truly, most of the people are trying to do a good job. The system itself is broken. The agency is corrupt and has been for at least my nearly 20 years with it. Sad fact that this is only one little corner of the government that is filled with this sort of thing."

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Jeez, you guys are sharp. Nick is absolutely right that Devil’s Tower consists of phonolite porphyry, not basalt. That’s a good catch, since the distinction is quite important. Differing chemical composition aside, the two rocks aren’t formed the same way and don’t look alike. Porphyritic phonolite is an intrusive igneous rock that is formed from magma that cools relatively slowly below the earth surface. It is lighter- colored, and when formed from magma that begins cooling slowly enough it will have distinctive mineral crystals (phenocrysts) imbedded in a groundmass matrix. Basalt, an extrusive igneous rock that cools quickly on the surface, is fine-grained and also much darker than phonolite. You don’t find big mineral crystals in basalt because the hurry-up cooling process that produces it doesn’t provide enough time for the various molecules in the melt to get together and line up at the leisurely pace needed to form big crystals. A quick glance at Devil’s Tower might lead you to think you’re looking at basalt because the phonolite exhibits columnar jointing similar to that of Devil’s Postpile and many other basalt landforms.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Kurt & MRC----these are the types of creative ideas and solutions that I've been in favor of for a long time now. Even though I am of the opinion that much more serious surgery needs to be done to the actual structure of the agency, it doesn't hurt to begin a process of stepping back and looking at ways of rearranging existing resources to better serve the public and the lands under administration.

    When I was a ranger this type of talk was generally taboo because any reduction in lands under the NPS was seen as a threat to the existing order. I remember a conversation I had with a supervisor (division chief) who had worked at Glen Canyon before coming to my park. When I asked him what he thought of working at a boat ramp park he said that although he personally thought it was probably not an appropriate national park it was not for any of us to judge or publicly comment on. He also said that it had provided him with a job and a chance for promotion and that it was not for rangers to question the validity of a given park but only to administer whatever Congress saw fit to put under our purview. Since he was my boss I never brought it up again.

    It would be nice if managers in the NPS would, from time to time, dare to be honest about their role as stewards and what is an appropriate parcel of territory to administer and what is not.

    I wonder if the rangers in the soon to be created historic waterfall park in Patterson, NJ will be able to tell the public that their agency didn't think that it was a suitable site for inclusion. After all it is a piece of history that pertains to the site. I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that it won't be mentioned in any museum display or park handout. As always, political expediency and career survival are the #1 goals of a life spent working for the NPS.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Not to mention how the presence of that much water in the middle of the desert has drastically changed the ecosystem. I agree this shouldn't be the Park Service's problem. Reservoir management and sport hunting management should be the responsibility of some organization other than NPS.

  • Olympic National Park Ready for Wolves?   6 years 37 weeks ago

    i am all for wolves...i think that hunting wolves should be illegal everywhere......healthy wolves have never attacked humans before.....i love friend told me about them....before i met her...i knew nothing.....she taught me everything i know....and now both me and my friend have tried so hard to make it illegal in michigan to hunt them.....i hope it stays illegal.........forever

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Some of my NPS coworkers and I never understood why National Wreck Areas are included in the system. Some, such as Whiskeytown and Lake Roosevelt, seem more suited to the USFS's multiple use mandate rather than the NPS's preservation slant.

    Additionally, NRAs cost the NPS about $110 million in 2007 just to operate. That's money that could go toward operating the "crown jewels" like Yosemite or Yellowstone or working on the "maintenance backlog". I'd like to see NRAs transferred to other agencies (I understand they might have similar funding problems, but the use and mandate would match at least) or have NRA users (the boaters, the jetskiers, bikers, etc.) pay the bulk of the operating costs in user fees.

    Oh, and restore Glen Canyon! Long live Abbey!

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Wouldn't that be true for all National Recreation Areas? Are they really fit to be units of the National Park Service? shouldn't they be swapped with the BLM against their National Monuments?

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Some of the northern (non-water) sections which border Capitol Reef N.P. along the Hole-In-the-Rock Rd. corridor could be transferred to that park and other areas could be reconfigured into smaller sub-units that pertain to their own individual characteristics and unique geology and/or cultural significance. Some could possibly exist as Utah and Arizona state park land or be managed under Navajo tribal authority.

    There's a whole world of possibilities once we begin to hike away from the shimmering surface of that now buried canyon.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 37 weeks ago


    Good points all. Frankly, I think the region with its fantastic canyon country and ancient history would better qualify as an NPS unit if the lake didn't exist. I wonder if the NPS could swap Glen Canyon NRA for the BLM's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which really should be an NPS unit.

  • Glen Canyon NRA Officials Thinking Of Digging For Water   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Is this the proper role of the park service? Does cutting through sandstone cliffs so boaters can maintain a short-cut on Lake Powell really constitute fidelity to the Organic Act?

    The main problem is that Congress saddled the agency with this boondoggle of a water project in the first place. In most respects Lake Powell is a contradiction as a national park area in almost every way imaginable. For starters it has always seemed absurd to me that the NPS forbids visitors to tamper with cultural sites, when in fact the construction of the lake itself wiped out more Native American relics, rock art and cliff dwellings than a whole army of pot hunters could've ever achieved in a comparable time frame. It could actually be argued that at least the pot hunters preserve whatever relics they find, whereas the waters of Lake Powell have simply wiped them from the face of the earth for all eternity.

    Whenever I look out across the inundated depths of Glen Canyon from Wahweep Marina and listen to the roar of personal watercraft, speed boats and touring vessels the last thing I think of is a national park. The Bureau of Wreck wrought this abomination upon the land, I say let them deal with running it as a water park. The NPS has no business operating a boaters theme park, much less cutting deeper canyons for their convenience and ease.

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 37 weeks ago

    There's a great arch of pillow basalt on the way to the Pt. Bonita Lighthouse in GGNRA, Sausalito, Ca. And Olympic N.P., west of Seattle, has some near Hurricane Ridge.

    The ranger program 'Above the River's Roar' featured lava dams to the Colorado River in Grand Canyon; the tallest was 2,388 feet tall and 84 miles long.

    I believe the columns at Devil's Tower are of phonolite.

    R.I.P., Eric York.

  • Park Service Now Interested in Adding Christmas Mountains to Big Bend National Park   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Looks like we're heading towards a new designation in yet another NPS park:
    Big Bend National Park (and Preserve). :-b

    From the El Paso Times:

    AUSTIN -- The Texas School Land Board decided Tuesday to give the National Park Service 90 days to submit an offer to buy the Christmas Mountains Ranch.

    Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson wants to sell the 9,000-acre tract, because the state, he says, cannot adequately conserve the land. The Conservation Fund donated the land to Texas in 1991 with strict restrictions on its use.

    After weeks of public opposition to Patterson's plans to sell the land to a private bidder, the board decided to allow the National Park Service time to make an offer to add it to Big Bend National Park, about 300 miles southeast of El Paso.

    "I'm looking forward to meeting with National Park Service officials and interested parties to discuss how we can move forward," Patterson said.

    Patterson has been adamant that any future owner of the property must allow hunting there. The Park Service prohibits firearms in its parks, but the two private bidders have pledged to allow hunting in the Christmas Mountains.

  • How Will National Park Service React To Museum Proposal At Harpers Ferry?   6 years 37 weeks ago

    The latest obsession with the NPS has been "outreach." This means going outside the boundaries of the parks to reach audiences that were previously considered unreachable.

    Actually, outreach for national parks has been happening since their inception. The media, including magazines and newspapers, has done an outstanding job of promoting our nation's crown jewels. The most recent issue of National Geographic magazine featured a beautiful article on Death Valley. TV regularly covers the national parks; I'll never forget the old National Geographic special on Yellowstone's grizzlies (and who can forget that music?). I recently saw a great program about my park on the Discovery Channel. Any travel guide worth its salt will extensively cover the national parks within its area of description. Many companies which do business within or near a national park will promote the place on their brochures and websites. Nowadays, most of the big parks have "friends groups," which spend private donations to inform the public about the parks. And looky here! Featured on this very website is the latest craze, brought to you by our friends at NPCA ....a podcast!

    If you don't know about the national parks already, I'm sorry. You must have lived a very sheltered life. In fact, you must be so uninformed and unengaged I'm not sure reaching you will make any difference.

    The NPS thrives on crisis. Today's crisis is that teenagers and college students don't seem interested in national parks, and therefore we must reach them. But have they ever been reachable? Recall that most of these subadults are too busy partying and trying to get lucky to bother with attending ranger programs.

    Let these post-pubescent party animals grow up a bit and at least some of them will come to appreciate national parks. Isn't that how it worked for most of us?

    Like Beamis, I'm very concerned with how we spend other people's money. I propose we leave outreach to the private sector and re-dedicate the money saved to painting bathrooms, maintaining trails, informing visitors, and being dedicated to the parks--WITHIN their boundaries. This way, when the outreach of others pays off, the public can visit the parks at their be enjoyed, appreciated...and ultimately supported.

    Simple Proposal #5: Fix what's broken before you start something new

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Here's one I wasn't aware of -- from a William and Mary (flat hat) news article today. I assumed anywhere there's continental drift there's a chance for magma and the like, but didn't know these details...


    According to the National Park Service, 1 to 1.2 billion years ago, tectonic plates collided to form the Grenville Mountain range in the area where the Appalachian Mountains now stand.

    Around 570 million years ago, tectonic plates moved apart and lava began to flow, erupting at rift zones along the surface. The lava flows that exuded from the rift zones formed the Catoctin Formation, creating broad, rolling plains similar to those found around Big Meadows in the Shenandoah National Park. The original lava flows were originally composed of basalt.

    As they metamorphosed, they became richer in chlorite and epidote, and then became greenstones, which cap many peaks in the park. These greenstones produce jagged cliffs composed of very fine grains. The rocks tend to be of a light gray to rusted red color, but if freshly exposed, they appear green.

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 37 weeks ago

    Actually, I was just refreshed that this was a topic I could talk about without being called names... Really, my love for many of the great parks and my love of geology go hand in hand and I was just enjoying the continuation of the list! Meant no disrespect... I just got excited!

  • Park History: How Volcanics Sculpted Parts of the National Park System   6 years 37 weeks ago

    There are many dozens of units in the Park System that have landforms of volcanic origin within their borders. As Kurt has already explained, the list he extracted from one of the reading modules for my national parks course was only a sample, not a comprehensive listing. I compiled that sample for my students to show that parks with landforms of volcanic origin are distributed widely, exhibit interesting extrusive and intrusive volcanic features, and do not necessarily have volcanic terms as part of their name.