Recent comments

  • To Work, To Work, Off We Go To Work   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Actually, the CCC did some beautiful work in the Parks that has mostly endured and seldom been equalled since by the National Park Service. I'll bet they could lay a water line that would not need replacing several times a decade as has the one at Paradise, Mt. Rainier. Judging by the photo, the vegetative impacts look to be about the same though. The proposed new program might do alright if the Army ran it again instead of the NPS. And what could be more socialist than the idea of National Parks?

  • To Work, To Work, Off We Go To Work   6 years 20 weeks ago

    I just can't wait to revisit American socialism at its finest. No one can allocate scarce resources like a centralized bureaucracy. It'll be just like the 1930's all over again. Sounds like a party to me. Everyone grab a shovel and let's dig right in!

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Hi Bob. I'll chime in with some suggestions.

    Climbing the dunes at Great Sand Dunes is hard work, but it's great fun. It just about killed my Chicago lungs. If you get high enough, you can feel the dunes vibrate when the wind hits the resonant frequency.

    Mea Verde is a true natural treasure. I learned a lot about the Anasazi (now called Ancestral Pueblos in these pc times). You'll definitely want to tour the major dwellings and spend some time in the museum. But my best memory is the time I spent hiking around on Wetherill Mesa. That's the road less taken, as most people follow the other fork in the road. Wetherill has a couple of big dwellings (Long House and Step House). After touring those, I just hiked the trails. There are some digs that illustrate the dwellings during the period when they lived on top of the mesa. It's an easy hike - very flat and never too far from a tram stop. On a Friday afternoon last summer, I had the mesa to myself. It was easy for the mind to wander - and to realize that it must have been a pretty good place to live back in the day.

    I'll give another thumbs up to TR Natl. Park. Make sure to give yourself enough time to visit both units. One thing that was a bit disconcerting as a camper was that the bison have full access to all areas - even the campground. I was used to other parks (like Wind Cave) that keep them out of the campground. In the northern unit of TR, they were in the campground constantly. The rangers told us that they were perfectly safe, and they wouldn't trample through our tents. Then there were a few times when a full herd showed up to graze, and a complement of park rangers showed up to monitor the situation (in case it became perfectly unsafe suddenly). During the night as I tried to sleep, I'd hear the bison snorting as they moved around my tent. Oh well, it's better than bears, I guess. Don't miss the sunset at Wind Canyon. And you can check out my photos of the wild horses here:

  • Wal-Mart Request Would Put a Super Center Next to The Wilderness Battlefield   6 years 20 weeks ago

    I thought this was an interesting observation on the matter from libertarian columnist Lew Rockwell:

    Now a bunch of academic and media propagandists for federal power want to stop Wal-Mart from bringing low prices and great products to the working people of Orange County, Virginia. What is their excuse? The store is to be in a strip shopping mall one mile from a Civil War killing place. The deathfield, where 50,000 defenders defeated 100,000 invaders, is said to be "hallowed ground." But Wal-Mart is not (and cannot) build there. However, the shopping area is also "hallowed" because it was an assembly zone for the aggressors. Can't have it turned to commerce, a life-building activity disdained by left-wing intellectuals.

  • Glen Canyon Marina Fire Damage Estimate: $3-$5 Million   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Where was Hall's Crossing Security Team providing 24 hour security which is offset by our mooring fees? Why was it that the call happened to come from a couple who happened to be staying on their boat? Why did it take 45 minutes for NPS @ Bullfrog to respond? - Shouldn't Hall's also have the same fire prevention/security messures - ARAMARK needs to address these concerns. Luckily - there was an owner on the premise or all of the boats and marina facilities (on the water) would have been destroyed. One last thing - I know that times are quiet this time of year - with the nice housing facilities NPS has at Hall's - you would think at least a skeleton crew would be at the property.

  • Earthquakes Continuing to Rattle Yellowstone National Park   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Besides the 3 supereruptions that have occurred at Yellowstone in the last couple million years, there have also been far-larger numbers of 'lesser' but still important and sometimes major eruptions. For example, in the last 14,000 years of the current Holocene Era, there have been 20 large explosive events.

    It for sure would not take a supereruption, to put Yellowstone at the center of national attention. A 'normal' eruption could really shake things up, over a goodly chunk of the middle of the United States. No TV-drama necessary.

    Early on the morning of May 18, 1980, I was headed up the Little River Trail. This is on the north side of the Olympic National Park, in about the middle. A branch of the Little River divides Klahane Ridge from lesser-known Elwah Range (yes, where the dams are being removed). Both are northern spurs off Hurricane Ridge, site of the most famous & heavily-used destination-facility in Olympic.

    Along the lower part of the trail, Little River is just a creek, and is only there because of the precipitous chasm between the 2 ridges. Further up, there is no real stream.

    Warmed up & striding along, I was suddenly locked in position by a BOOM beyond my experience. The first sound was followed others, and while standing still I felt a puff of overpressure as a shock-front moved over me. "What the Hell?!", I thought to myself.

    The immediate possible cause that I had to deal with, is that a massive land-fall may have occurred, further up the Little River chasm. Total annihilation could be coming down the canyon toward me at a 100 miles an hour. I sprinted up the trail until it climbed several hundred feet above the bottom.

    As I recovered from the run, there was more stupendous noise. Could it be the Soviets, nuking the west coast to a cinder? I fixed my gaze in the direction of our local military targets and urban centers, and watched the sky ... knowing I should already have noted the flashes, had it been nuclear explosions.

    The hair-raising racket went on & on. Could it be the Mountain - St. Helens? From here!?? That's awful close to preposterous...

    But it was the mountain, of course. And my cousin and his brother had gone down there to 'have a look'. They had gone out the ridge-trail that is now the favored view-site (Dave is a DNR forester, and knew this short hike had the best view).

    Much of the blast deflected off the ridge they were on, and passed overhead (this site is well-within the zone of total destruction, but avoided the worst). Like me, at first they were confused by what was happening. It was not what they expected. But then it started to get dark. They started running. Then stuff started to fall on them, and it was getting really dark. They stopped, got under some trees and huddled beneath their gear.

    Dave does some fairly gnarly things as a forester, and is an advanced fire-fighter as well. With a glint in his eye he confides, "You know how we wonder sometimes, 'What if this tree jumps off the stump and squishes my guts out?' - can I handle it?" If I'm gonna die - can I deal with it ok? Well, now I know the answer." Big smile.

    By now, they realized it was the mountain, ash (and rock) was starting to get deep, and they were going to be buried. They found their flashlights, improvised their gear as overhead shields, hustled to the trailhead and abused their vehicle severely escaping the mountain.

    Remember, St. Helens was a fair small, if nicely-spectacular eruption ... and unbeknownst to me, my mother had headed from Olympia toward Spokane, and was overtaken by the main ashfall path, like me & Dave, at first having no idea what was happening.

  • Violent Deaths in the National Parks   6 years 20 weeks ago

    The people who will be allowed to carry firearms for self defense in the National Parks are the law abiding majority of responsible citizens. These are not people who act in a careless manner. Rational and reasonable citizens can be in possession of a firearm, a knife, an axe, a saw, explosives, or even a motor vehicle without endangering others. News articles and statistics are unnecessary to see that persons who take responsibility for their defense are not inclined to be negligent or incompetent. There is no possible way for the NPS rangers to provide protection to all the citizens who visit the parks, just as there is no way for law enforcement in other areas to be able to keep people from harm. This nation was founded on self reliance, and our national character is defined by individual liberty. If you think the "government" can protect you, then you are fooling yourself. If you want to be so foolish as to not defend yourself, so be it. Just don't try to deny the smart people their right to a proactive defense. All the worst crimes occur where citizens are denied the right to be armed. When the crazies and the criminals know an area is a "gun free" zone it means, to them, a safe target rich environment where they can do their dirty deeds without adequate opposition.

  • Glen Canyon Marina Fire Damage Estimate: $3-$5 Million   6 years 20 weeks ago

    well said, and nice profile, too! ;^)

  • Upon Further Review - Let Sleeping Snakes Lie   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Paul -

    Thanks for sharing your own story. Glad you saw the tail and not the head!

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   6 years 20 weeks ago

    There were tour packages which included free admission for children. 16 pounds was 32 bucks back then, but my anger for the exchange rate was directed not at Britons, but at the Federal Reserve and our government for continued currency devaluation; our $600 "stimulus" (read: inflation) check went to offset the exchange. But entrance fees need not be any higher than they currently are in US national parks. With increased revenue from retail and lodging, entrance fees would not need to be increased; they might actually decrease.

    Glad to see some of the Diamond Trading Company's ill-gotten profits go toward a good cause.

    What's so bad about saving or investing your money?

    What's so bad about private dinners or weddings held in historic buildings? An unused building is not a productive building.

    Better to drag one's feet on paying bills than to forcibly take money from others or to print money to pay the bills.

    Trusts have to deal with the hard reality of economics. National parks have to deal with the harsh reality of politics. I prefer the first option.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   6 years 20 weeks ago


    Interesting concept, but.....

    ...You paid 16 pounds per ticket, which works out (today) to about $46 and change for the two of you to tour the Tower. So a family of four could be expected to pay between $75-$100 just to gain entrance for one day? So you're OK with denying access to Americans, whose taxes go a good ways to supporting the National Park System (in theory), who balk at such pricing?

    ...The non-profit partners with the Diamond Trading Company, aka De Beers, and a private investing firm to achieve its financial goals, so the business isn't entirely self-supporting.

    ...The report is a bit cryptic, but it seems to indicate they stage private events in the Tower (and other properties) to defray costs. Now, I realize some park units lease out their facilities for events, but I don't think for a profit.

    ...They are dragging their feet on paying bills:

    During 2007/08 55% of supplier invoices were paid within 30 days of date of invoice (60% in 2006/07) and 71% within 40 days (76% in 2006/07).

    ...Four of their staff were paid between $159,000 and $174,000 annually, 12 made nearly $87,000. The CEO made $202,000+ this past year, an increase of $10,000+ from the year before (an increase of roughly 5% in salary, plus another 3.6% in pension benefits). It's unclear what the salary ranges of the rest of the staff of 564 were, so it's hard without further sleuthing to compare this salary structure to that of an American concessionaire.

    All that said, I'm in favor of searching for a better business model. I just don't think it's easily attainable due to the scale involved with the National Park System.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Kurt, to answer your question let me tell you a story.

    I visited the Tower of London in June. I paid about 16 pounds for an adult ticket, and all of that money went to the Historic Royal Palaces, an independent charity that receives no government support. My wife and I toured the castle all day long, and at lunch, we were famished from exploring the castle's well-preserved nooks and crannies. We ate a modest but high-quality lunch at a cafe integrated into a historical building. It was nice knowing that 100% of our food purchase went to maintain the castle. During our roving, we encountered countless interpreters, some dressed in period costume, who were very knowledgeable and helpful. On our way out, we stopped at the gift shop and picked up some affordable high-quality, full-color, gloss tour books. I felt good about the purchase because I knew that my money was my vote for maintaining the castle and all of my money would stay with the castle.

    Skim the Historical Royal Palaces' Trustees' Report if you would like to see how national parks could be operated in America.

  • Upon Further Review - Let Sleeping Snakes Lie   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Paul? You mean your name is really not Barky?

  • Upon Further Review - Let Sleeping Snakes Lie   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Clever! Yep, they're pretty lucky folks. I didn't realize reptilian suspended animation existed either!

    Here's my own NPS snake story: Obviously I survived ;-).


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Geez, Alexander, Happy New Year to you, too!

    I don't see where I was telling a "sob story" at all. All I was merely pointing out (after noting that I was not taking a stand one way or another on the business practices of concessionaires) was that the Jacobs family had very American roots but because they succeeded at their business (under the rules of the game, by the way) they were being ridiculed. You might say they succeeded because of "Our Great Country" and the opportunities it offers.

    And really, it's not federal dollars that are keeping DNC in business. It's the dollars out of the pockets of Yosemite visitors. True, the federal government technically owns the structures that DNC runs its operations out of, and is responsible for most of the upkeep beyond the 17-20 percent (if that's the correct percentage) that DNC must send back to the government. But if the rooms weren't full, if the restaurants weren't busy, if the gift shops weren't crowded, DNC wouldn't be there.

    And if you've been following the state of the National Park System, you know the government's not doing the best job in maintaining those facilities. Indeed, as I understand it one of the reasons the DNCs, Xanterras and ARAMARKS of the world have little competition for park concession contracts is because 1) the rate of return is so low and/or 2) smaller companies just don't have the financial wherewithal to survive in a highly seasonal market with rundown facilities.

    If it weren't for government oversight, would it be too hard to assume that concessionaires likely would invest more heavily to upgrade these facilities and pass the cost on to the taxpayers in the form of higher rates (and possibly pay their employees more, but that's just speculation). And then taxpayers would be howling that the government isn't doing enough to make national parks affordable. So which model would you prefer?

    Suffice to say that the intricacies of the national park concessions market are too many to distill in a few short graphs.

    And finally, Alexander, before you measure me for a coffin, know that sometimes, just sometimes, I take an approach to spur dialog, not to hold it out as my strongly held personal view.

    Frank, I follow your point re the transfer of wealth but, sadly, it too is the American way, is it not?. Standard Oil might have been the model. Wall Street firms are only the latest iteration. And what did public outrage in light of those bloated salaries and insane bonuses produce? Some of the fat cats are going to forgo their year-end 2008 bonuses. Gosh. It might be said that we (America) are victims of our own success, no?

    As for DNC's pay practices, are they not the industry standard? Wal-Mart might have perfected the use of retirees as door greeters, but if you look around many park concession operations you'll see retirees working the tills, as well as young (low-paid) college students interested in an adventure before they get serious with life and, of late, Eastern Europeans or Asians looking to solidify a foot in the U.S. (To be fair, I understand some operations offer benefit packages and 401Ks, but I don't know the extent of those or how widespread (up and down the pay scale or throughout the operation) that practice is.)

    I'm not endorsing that model in the least. In a way it's not too far removed from the Park Service's move to use volunteers, seasonals and outsourcing to replace full-time rangers, a practice I've long criticized. Unfortunately, it seems to be what society is tolerating.

    And really, isn't what's transpiring with the concessions companies simply free-market economics? If the market balked at their rates and their employment practices, wouldn't that lead to change or failure?

    Beyond all that, though, what model would you suggest replace the concessions companies? Should the federal government buy out the DNCs and Xanterras of the world and hand the businesses over to non-profits? And if so, where would the government find the hundreds of millions (small billions?) and the non-profits fully capable of running such businesses to do so?

    And let's not overlook that non-profits have been known to overpay their top executives (I believe the head of the Boy Scouts gets nearly $1 million annually) while the minions far below are volunteers. Some university trusts pay their managers exorbitant salaries and bonuses. I would suggest the situation in the parks you decry is not that far removed from what's going on in the rest of America's business sectors.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   6 years 20 weeks ago

    I was the ranger at Badger for a couple winters. There is a lot of park history tied up in downhill skiing at the park. I am inclined to vote for keeping it as a low-key, family-oriented place. It's also a great jumping off point for day ski tours to Dewey Pt. and longer overnight tours to Glacier Point and the Ostrander ski hut.

    I'll leave the argument about concessions, capitalism, corporate-bashing and what constitutes success to other posters.

    Rick Smith

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Thanks for the reminder to include the smaller, less visited national parks in our travel plans, dlmatz. We try to remind Traveler readers about these opportunities, even though we do focus more of our attention on the larger, more popular parks. BTW, our regular readers may recall that I wrote a rather lengthy article about]Allegheny Portage Railroad NHS last August. We'll try to work in an article about Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site at some early opportunity, too.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   6 years 20 weeks ago

    My sincere thanks to readers who've offered encouragement and suggestions for my 2009 parks-visiting itinerary. Since I managed to go through 2008 without adding a single new national park to my "been there, done that" list, I have very high hopes for a breakthrough year.

    Barky, I've only seen a few wild horses, but the memories really stand out. The idea that I'll see some more at TR makes me even more convinced that a visit is long overdue.

    I'll keep my camera handy when I'm there, too. I can see from Kirby's photos (which I heartily encourage everyone to peruse) that the TR viewscape is really special.

    Kurt's invitation to do some park-trekking in Utah is mighty hard to pass up, and not just because I intend to do some serious freeloading at his house. I've visited Bryce Canyon and Zion, but I've yet to set foot in Arches, Canyonlands, Natural Bridges, Capitol Reef, and several other Utah parks that I've longed to see.

    Good luck to you and your wife, Arlan. Having 17 more National Parks to look forward to is a blessing. You'll feel a bit on the melancholy side when you've visited that last one.

    Thanks for the Navajo National Monument suggestion, Tahoma. Alas; even though my personal quest for the Ancestral Puebloans can't be complete without a visit there, a side trip to Arizona can't be fitted into my Colorado itinerary this May.

    I've already visited Great Basin, dWalker. Well, sort of; it just wasn't a national park yet when I was there. Guess I'd better go back to make it a legitimate visit.

    Brett, your mention of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison puts me in mind of an amusing thing that happened when sandy and I visited there about 25 years ago (that's long before the redesignation). After spending the night in Montrose, we breakfasted and hit the road. Imagine our shock when we realized that we were being followed by several dozen police cars. They proceeded to pass us, one after the other, at breakneck speed -- zoom! zoom! zoom! Our rental car was practically rocking back and forth in the wake of those speeding vehicles. After about the 15th or so, I stopped counting. Later, we realized what was going on. The previous day there had been a funeral for a Montrose policeman who had been shot and killed in the line of duty. The cops in those speeding vehicles were on their way home after attending the funeral and spending the night in Montrose. As you may know, representatives from near and far are sent to funerals held for cops killed in the line of duty.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Please do not forget all the smaller park units that are local favorites. We have one just 20 minutes away - Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site. Or towards the other end of the state is Alleghany Portage Railroad National Historic Site. Sure Steamtown gets a lot more notice but the two I just mentioned deserve just as much attention and needs you to visit them just as much as the bigger parks. Huzzah for our "little" park units!

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   6 years 20 weeks ago

    At first, I was tempted to comment on keeping this "precuious jewel" and continue the tradition for a relaxing getaway for many world families to visit. However, when I read Mr. Repanshek's sob story of how my federal tax dollars are used to maintain a wealthy man wealthier.....I think you should geat real. Hell, If i was rich, I too would donate millions of dollars to my faviorite charity. You are a typical "American Business sucker" who falls for the small change money when tax payers are footing the bigger bill.

    I believe that the resort needs to be torn down and or have a "real" private corporation build a new resort without the help of our federal tax dollars.

    And for Frank, thank you for the information. You keep fighting! Becuase I do the same in my region of the country! You are not alone.

    If we could retire All the persons in the world who think and act like Mr. Repanshek, Our Great Country will be restored as it was once with "Good Morals and Ethics".

    Happy New year to all

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Happy New Year, Beamis!

    Happy New year to you too Kurt! (And to all NPT readers!) And congratulations on NPT's phenomenal success this past year! The hard work of the NPT team shows in the quality and depth of content your readers have come to expect.

    To answer your previous questions, I believe becoming a success IS the American dream. I do aspire to better myself and my family. The Jacobs' family recent success, however, is not the American dream the nation was founded upon.

    I think America was an attempt to break free of government monopolies and the mix of government and commerce known as mercantilism. I applaud those who rose from obscurity to be highly successful and make large profits. But those who earn profits on the backs of taxpayers have not generated any new wealth; they have merely (and arguably forcibly) transferred wealth from taxpayers to themselves. No amount of charity can disguise that.

    Yes, Beamis, that was the major point. If you examine the charges leveled at DNC, they resemble those directed at Walmart. Low wages. Unfair treatment. Poor or no health coverage. Discrimination. Where's the outrage? Why bash corporations like Walmart while sparing rebuke for government-granted corporate monopolies?

    I just don't get it.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   6 years 20 weeks ago

    Bob, I think you'll find Theodore Roosevelt to be similar to your beloved Congaree. Yes, TR is short of cypress trees and Congaree is lacking in bison, but both parks are underrated, underappreciated, and full of unique character. Last summer in TR, I got up before dawn and walked from our campsite down to the Little Missouri River to watch the sunrise. The next morning I was up before the sun again and hiked out to Wind Canyon. ("Hike" is too strong a word, it's a short stroll from the road to the overlook.) From up above the mouth of the canyon you look out over the vast wilderness in the northwest corner of the park with the Little Missouri snaking through the plain. Just as the sun came up and hit the River, a herd of bison about 60 strong moved out of the darkness and waded through the water. Watching and listening to them, my attention was drawn just south of this scene where a small group of pronghorns were cavorting in a field. Over the next hour, I watched the pronghorns go down for a drink, mingle with the bison for a moment, then return to their prancing - half a mile away and hundreds of feet below me. It was one of those moments...

    Then suddenly I heard a bison grunting MUCH louder than the grunts and moans from the herd. I crept around the corner of the little rocky rise I was on to find a big bull staring at me from about 30 feet away. When he finally meandered away I found my way back to the car.

    Here's a link to my shots from TR last August:

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   6 years 20 weeks ago

    By the same measure Wal-Mart doles out millions in charitable donations each year as well as its direct participation in disaster relief such as was performed in Hurricane Katrina, Rita and Ike. By all accounts they were much more effective than FEMA in getting food and supplies quickly to the neediest disaster victims in the aftermath of all three hurricanes because that is, after all, what they are in the business of doing in the first place: the distribution of goods.

    I think Frank was just pointing out the duality of standards when it comes to the typical corporate bashing seen in much of the commentary written on this website.

  • Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies   6 years 20 weeks ago

    So why does the sound of the spray scare off the bear... but not the sound of the gun? It sounds like you have it in your mind guns are bad no matter what. Don't make yourself sound so silly.

  • Interior Officials Want to Allow Concealed Carry in the National Parks   6 years 20 weeks ago

    The RIGHT to bear arms should not be restricted . Be it in a park or mall or at work..
    You damned Democrats will never give up until the phrase "only criminals own guns" become a reality and no one can defend themselves or their loved ones from the violence YOU CAUSED.
    40 out of 50 states have proven again and again, when citizens can defend themselves, violent crimes decrease significantly. When are the rest going to figure this out?

    Productive members of society that choose to carry concealed weapons to ensure their safety and well-being should not be labeled criminals by you democrats.

    are you?