Recent comments

  • Forever on the Mountain   6 years 22 weeks ago

    I have a particular interest in your review since I am George Hall's daughter - the man who was superintendent in 1967. I remember that time well. Tabor made many significant errors in presenting his story - I have outlined the errors with the back up for each correction and sent it along to the author and his publisher. They sent along a nice thank you letter.

    I think the additional information is critical to completing the true story. The Alaska Rescue Group - now the Alaska Mountain Rescue Group in particular was not given the credit they deserved for the support they provided and the experience they relied on. It was a horrific time for everyone involved.

    My siblings and I have set up a website with my response and scans of my supporting documentation. It needs a bit of work still. I apologize in advance for that...I was priveleged to get feedback from many people in preparing the response including Wayne Merry, Joe Wilcox, and the Babcock brothers .

  • Zion National Park Planning To "Rehabilitate" Mount Carmel Highway   6 years 22 weeks ago

    Please question the original intent all you want, but please consider the following:

    The Yellowstone and Yosemite Park Act both specifically called for the preservation of "all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders," ultimately retained "in their natural condition".

    Unfortunately, corruption within the early park system was not an unusual phenomenon. Acting as a "body of police, styled assistant superintendents" were just as inefficient as they were fraudulent. "Creatures of political favoritism," the
    House Committee, Letter from the Secretary of the Interior, superintendents, unused to the services required of them, often "made merchandise of the treasures which they were appointed to preserve."

    Pressure was exerted to change "preserve" to "conserve" in the Organic Act's text, and "unimpaired" was not further explained, although park administrators accepted "undeveloped" as unimpaired, but unfortunately, under pressure from railroad, hotel, and automobile groups, viewed land in the farthest reaches of the park as suitably undeveloped.

    I'm holding in my hands a draft NPS management policy handed to me by Zion officials that states that "conservation is to be predominant. . . . the Act is explicit that enjoyment of park resources and values is to be allowed only to the extent that can be done without impairing those resources and values."

    In the case of Zion, the construction and maintenance of roads clearly is an impairment on the resource and values of the park. (Consider, as one point, that Cottonwoods are not reproducing naturally due to channelization of the Virgin River. Also consider Zion's charter mandated the preservation of geological forces, and the maintenance of the road, most notably after a landslide naturally dammed the Virgin River, has interfered with that mandate.) Will not the repaving of this road, and its subsequent use, result in disruption to and destruction of threatened desert big horn sheep?

    Also consider the recklessness at Zion when it came to road construction:

    In the summer of 1958, after having made an inspection of the area [Kolob section], with attention given the prospect of a road into it, the western representative of the National Parks Association wrote a letter to the superintendent of the park, copies of which went to members of the Association's Board of Trustees. Referring to the proposed road [into the Kolob Canyons section], the representative said, "First it would destroy scenic qualities. Second, it would eliminate entirely the cloak of solitude that rests over the area now. Third, it would forever mar the sense of adventure one inevitably feels when he approaches the region. It would become just another 'accessible part of the park', and having been stripped of its greatest blessing, its wild character--a quality that sets it apart even from the masterpiece that is Zion Canyon--it would be reduced to comparative mediocrity. . . .I do not believe we should concern ourselves with making every vista, canyon, or natural feature accessible. We should work to make this mood of atmosphere available in its purest form. This atmosphere is the very essence of the national park idea."

    It is time to recognize the undo influence of past interest groups on building roads in park and the present undo influence of current interest groups of maintaining said roads in parks.

    It is time to start restoring national parks to that which they were intended. Arguments that funding will be cut if people can't access every nook and cranny are simply slippery slope arguments based on fear and propaganda.

    I am under no illusion that Mr. Witworth, Zion's superintendent, will be any more likely to respond to my concerns about road re-construction at Zion than he was to respond about my concerns about Zion's repository of hazardous chemicals and junk in Oak Creek Canyon.

  • End of a Curious Era at Mount Rainier National Park   6 years 22 weeks ago

    Ooohh, I hated that building. Long curving ramps from one floor to the next. No stairs, no elevator, so it was a minor hike just to get to the top. And the panoramic views? Nonsense, there were trees blocking the view of the mountain. Great view of the Tatoosh Range and Nisqually Valley, but that's hardly the point.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    To go back to the title of Kurt's story that started this discussion: "Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?" My answer is "yes," and it sounds like quite a few others share that view.

    It is encouraging to read the comments in favor of a combination of conservation and accelerated development of alternative energy sources. I agree that's the only long-term solution. And ... I concede that development of some domestic resources of oil and gas is both a political reality and probably needed to help bridge the gap until better alternative sources of energy come on-line - but ONLY if the location of such development is carefully considered.

    Here's an example of such development I can live with: The full extent of the Barnett Shale natural gas field is not yet fully known, but it's already the second largest producing on-shore domestic natural gas field in the United States. It's located beneath north Texas, and active development of that field is underway. The Dallas-Ft. Worth airport complex covers 18,000 acres, and much of that is open space buffer. The first of about 300 planned wells are already being drilled on airport property. There are similar sites across the area that are currently in marginal agricultural use that could also be developed. In my book, that makes a lot more sense than developing new fields near areas such as national parks.

    There are a lot of good ideas above, but I was especially intrigued by Bob's comment:

    I'd like to see us use our money and brains to create a dispersed collection of small- and medium scale systems utilizing a mix of alternative energy sources appropriate for each local situation.

    That approach might help reduce the problems related to lack of existing infrastructure to move electric power long distances, from the places where wind or solar are most viable, to places with large concentrations of power consumption.

  • End of a Curious Era at Mount Rainier National Park   6 years 22 weeks ago

    I hope the new building won't come with some of the maintenance headaches I understand plagued the "flying saucer," and the new one should certainly be more energy efficient.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    Raser concentrates on geothermal electricity. There you run into the problem, that the national electricity grid is in an abysmally bad condition and the loss on the long-distance is considerable. High-voltage direct current could reduce the loss, but so far there are only two long distance HVDC lines, one between Quebac and New England and the Intermountain line between Utah and Los Angeles. Might Raser deliver the energy from the new plant to Anaheim over that power line? The new plant is pretty close to the starting point in Delta, Beaver County, UT so it might be possible.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    MRC, I'm not sure your first comment is entirely true. Raser Technologies earlier this month cut the ribbon on a 10 megawatt geothermal plant in Utah. They've already marketed some of the electricity to some California communities. Here's a snippet of their news release:

    Raser Technologies, Inc., a leader in geothermal power generation, inaugurated late yesterday its first commercial-scale power plant, in Beaver County, Utah, demonstrating the viability of advanced technology that can make geothermal a major price-competitive resource for this country’s energy supply. The plant’s output has already been committed to supply electricity to Anaheim.

    The company noted that the Beaver County plant, called Thermo, was built in only six months using its revolutionary modular construction design, greatly reducing the normal five-to-seven years typically required for traditional plant development and construction technology.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    Geothermal energy is almost impossible to store or transport. So Yellowstone is simply too far out-of-the-way to use the geothermal options there effectively. Fortunately it is not necessary to drill the nations first National Park, as geothermal energy can be used at almost every place where there are deep (12.000-20.000 feet) aquifers. And there you don't risk there to trigger a super-volcano.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker, you've been reading the crap I post on Traveler long enough to know that, if you want to kick my ass, you are going to have to pack a lunch, get a good book to read, and go stand at the end of a very long line.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    Dear Kath:

    -- On the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, it is wrong to think of it as a project to drill in only a tiny area. The fact is that the place they want to drill also happens to be the most sensitive part of the Range, right in the caribou calving ground.

    -- and, it is not true that the impact of development of the pipeline are insignificant. If you see what has happened to the Prudhoe Bay drilling zone, and superimpose that upon the calving ground inside the Arctic NWR, you'd see an area pretty much eaten up. Prudhoe Bay has had pretty continuous accidents and continual damage.

    -- a lot of the damage of development comes with all the ancillary impacts. The feeder roads. The location of headquarters sites, staff housing, feeder pipelines, air strips. Constant resupply. Recreation zones. Extra people during their time off creating a huge bump of access to the backcountry.

    -- All areas do not recover at the same rate. some of the Arctic areas that experienced only truck tracks during World War II ( we are talking 60 years ago) are still plainly visible. There are documented cases of one truck track leading to erosion and defrosting of permafrost to the extend that they actually became streams and drained entire lakes. You need to know what the impacts really are, and not be comforted by dismissing them all as equally sustainable.

    If you want to look right at development and go for it, don't minimize what the impacts are, but realize what the impacts are. All sites are not the same, and all cannot be developed the same way, or easily absorb the same amount of impact.

    -- On the Yellowstone system, I was involved in a review of the geothermal capacity of Yellowstone and other parks in the early 1980's. At that time, of the 10 or 12 major geothermal sites the size of Yellowstone's around the world, all but two had been "destroyed" by development. By destroyed, I mean what happens is the underground water in these systems is what is tapped. Draining that water for industrial heating use means that the phenomena you are used to at Yellowstone -- geisers and mud pots across a steaming landscape -- will go away. You can decide whether it is important or not that one of the two remaining sites like Yellowstone is preserved, or even is of value as a preserved site. But as long as you are using the underground hot water as the key thing for your development, tapping it will reduce or eliminate the water pressure needed to sustain what most people think of when they think of Yellowstone.

    Maybe we should just decide to try to keep our kind of massive technology in place, and just come up with increasingly difficult sources of energy by engineering it. Or, as Bob is suggesting, maybe we don't need to sustain an engineering system as the underpining of our culture based on unlimited cheap oil.

    The problem with the 'drill baby, drill' concept is we remain addicted to doing things in ways that just cannot last.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    Damn it Bob, you stole my thunder by a matter of seconds. I'll get you for this........

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    The electric hybrid is a joke, and certainly not the long-term solution to our energy needs. All these vehicles are doing is giving with one hand (slight reduction in petroleum requirements) while increasing environmental concerns over battery recycling / disposal, along with a disproportionate increase in the power required to recharge the cells every day or so. You save a little in gasoline and you pay more to the electirc company. Where's the savings to the consumer? Vehicle costs are a wash. My utility bills go up. Sounds like a lose/ lose proposition from my perspective.

    The power generated from electric vehicles, such as the "green" snow sleds that are being touted for Yellowstone's winter onslaught, are inherently flawed to effectively perform their intended goal of noise / pollution reduction. Just like the rechargeable RC toys, both 1/64th scale and those monstrosities that the <10 set uses that emulate driving what’s tantamount to an electric go-kart, in rough terrain (especially when temperature extremes are factored into the equation) the discharge of the energy cells is too rapid to be useful for any meaningful length of time / distance. And that's probably a big reason that Yellowstone isn't all that keen on a fleet of those buggers running amok in the winter, Kurt. Too many search and rescue operations at risk retrieving stranded sledders who weren't paying attention to the "fuel" gauge, and didn't heed the warnings to come back home when the street lights came on.

    Now, the compressed air series vehicle currently entering initial production phase in France, now THAT'S something that could be useful. It utilizes a large cylinder of CO2 and a supplemental small gasoline tank that kicks in on when the internal recharging system is reloading the "gas" tank, as it were. It can go ~150 on compressed air alone, with NO petroleum assistance, and up to ~650 miles with the assist of a 5 gallon gasoline boost. The vehicle recharges its CO2 tank while driving, which is something the electric vehicles simply can't do efficiently without doubling battery capacity and weight, which defeats the whole purpose of the system as it drives overall "fuel" economy right down the toilet. The French series of vehicles may be "ugly", which is a personal issue anyway, but given the overall efficiency and the opportunity to shove it up Big Oil's behind, I'd buy a fleet of them, give them away and start another “French Revolution”.

    And as posted on other threads, geothermal is currently being enlisted as a major component of the power supply for many up-and-coming residential and commercial developments on both coasts. While the Yellowstone field is indeed huge, it's by far not the only or even most convenient source for "hot Earth" energy. Before we tap the Mother lode, a bit more expertise should be garnered in the most effective methods to manage /distribute the resource. But by all means, let’s put the pedal to the metal and get this resource on-line on a major scale within the next 5-10 years. Absolutely NO reason, technologically speaking, why that goal can’t be accomplished, unless you factor in the propaganda and general resistance from the utility infrastructure. Screw them…..and the horse they refuse to ride out on.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    Thermo, there's no question that there's a lot of high-quality energy that could be tapped in the Yellowstone caldera, and we might even get the high net useful energy yield you assume. But even if we could agree that it's ethically acceptable to use and abuse one of the greatest natural treasures on the planet this way, we'd still be running two risks of absolutely gargantuan scale. The mind absolutely boggles at the thought. The first enormous risk is rooted in the fact that Yellowstone is unstable. You have no earthly idea what will happen when you start drilling here and there in the Yellowstone caldera. In the back of your mind lurks the knowledge that every once in a while (is it a 600,000 year cycle?) the Yellowstone caldera produces a volcanic eruption so cataclysmic that it almost defies description. You want to take the risk -- even a small one -- of triggering something like that? Not me. The second enormous risk is the one inherent in putting your energy eggs in one huge basket. Large-scale, centralized, capital intensive energy supply systems like the one you propose are not only extremely difficult and expensive to create and maintain, but also vulnerable to disruption, being no stronger than their weakest link ( the kind exposed by natural disasters, human frailty, and perhaps even terrorists). The general principle involved here is expressed in the statement "The more tightly we are wired together into the same complex grid, the greater the likelihood that a short-circuit anywhere in the system will fry us all.") Before taking such enormous risks, I'd like to see us use our money and brains to create a dispersed collection of small- and medium scale systems utilizing a mix of alternative energy sources appropriate for each local situation. It'd be quicker, cheaper, easier, and we could all sleep better. And yes, Thermo, I do understand that the typical smaller-scale system would have substantial front load costs and only a low- to moderate net useful energy yield. Energy security makes that kind of return worthwhile.

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 22 weeks ago

    Your question is an excellent one!

    Whether or not these bells in the backcountry would be considered "appropriate" today is a philosophical question, and involves the same opinions we see voiced on a lot of topics posted on the Traveler.

    People who visited – and managed – the parks in the 1920's grew up in a time when the "Wild West" was still very much a reality, and I suspect that for many of them, "wildness" was something simply waiting to be "civilized." The National Register information I found about the early development of Glacier noted "a conscious attempt to emulate European culture." In that context, these bells don't seem out of place.

    In today's world, it's increasingly hard to find places where it's possible to have an hour or a day – or more - away from the sights, sounds and smells of modern society. That's not a big deal for some people, but it has great value to others. I was amazed many occasions about how far sound can carry in the out-of-doors, and I'm sure these locomotive bells could be heard for miles.

    An occasional "ring" of those bells sounds like a fun and harmless novelty to many people, but to others who have spent hours or even days on the trail in the quest of a little escape from "civilization," a regular dose of clanging bells would soon wear thin. How many "rings" a day would be too many in that context – ten, fifty, a hundred? There would occasionally be the guy who just couldn't resist standing there and clanging the bell non-stop for several minutes!

    So, like many similar questions, whether these bells would be "inappropriate" today is in the ear of the beholder.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 22 weeks ago

    With all of the near surface thermal energy available, we should tap Yellowstone for massive geothermal energy development. It could power the entire western US and help to greatly reduce our fossil fuel consumption as well as provide additional electrical power generation we'll need for switching over to plug-in electric cars.

  • Greening the Parks: A Former Brownfield is Converted to a Lakefront Gem at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   6 years 23 weeks ago

    I'm probably preachin' to the choir here Bob, as you're most likely aware of the fact that throughout much of the 1800's, the burgeoning "village" of Chicago was committing that very environmental holocaust by utilizing the Chicago River as their residential and industrial waste transport system. Unfortunately, the river's flow was north / northeast, which placed all their crap right into the source of drinking and recreational water, Lake Michigan. Early photographs of the shoreline immediate to the city conjure up images of Lake Erie in the 60's, without the car tires. Then the city managed to conceptualize and complete one of the most ambitious civil engineering feats of our nation's history, reversing the flow of the river, which is the reason to this day why those poor folks "downstate" (all the way to the Gulf) feel the impact of the regional development, how the city maintains it's source of drinking water, and why the only US Great Lake isn't totally trashed at this point in time. That, however, is but a small portion of the history of atrocities perpetrated on the poor lake, and much more lasting impacts have been made by the steel and oil industries along the Illinois / Indiana border, the now shuttered nuclear reactor on the Illinois / Wisconsin border, along with a wide variety of other industrial dumping violations that occur from the area north to Milwaukee, following the coastline southeast through Chicago and up the eastern "seaboard" to the Grand Rapids area. Unfortunately to this day, storm run-off regularly forces untreated waste water into the lake, closing beaches, stinking up the joint for days at a time, and in no small manner impacting the commercial fishing industry which thankfully is mostly of a recreational nature. Trophies are still allowed but eating the catch isn't recommended. It's done, but isn't recommended.

    You're taking a big leap of faith believing most of the readers know about the "trophic" classification system. I know I managed to confuse the hell out of many micorbiology sections with those terms and how they applied preferred temperature (OTG), overall health of am ecosystem, but also an ability to metabolize various energy sources. Ah, the good ol' days of hetero, thermo, meso, auxo, chemo,............

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Pardon my ignorance, but why would the ringing of the bell be considered inappropriate?

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 23 weeks ago


    Please do not mention "age". It is a subject I would like to ignore.

    Rick Smith

  • This Park Wins the "Most Visits by a President" Award   6 years 23 weeks ago

    The park was absolutely stunning this year for the fall foliage! We brought our kids and dogs for 3 weekends in a row to enjoy the leaves. The trails are easy enough for hiking strollers, too! Extra bonus

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Your age is showing, Rick. Yosemite's firefall was discontinued in 1968! Thanks for jogging my memory. I've got an article on the firefall in my "Gone But Not Forgotten" queue.

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 23 weeks ago


    If this story has not yet been featured on NPT, I hope you or Bob will do one on the Firefall in Yosemite. It was an attraction for years until park management decided it was an inappropriate park activity. I agree with that decision but its history should be fascinating. I transferred to Yosemite not long after the last "let the firefall fall" was sounded. (At least that was what I always heard someone announced before the embers were pushed over Glacier Pointl.)

    Rick Smith

  • Greening the Parks: A Former Brownfield is Converted to a Lakefront Gem at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker makes a very good point about water quality issues, which seem intractable. I would only add that Lake Michigan can't be described very well in generalities. Although nowhere so clean, cold, and oxygen-rich that it unquestionably deserves to be classified as oligotrophic (like most of Lake Superior is), Lake Michigan is at least mesotrophic in its more northerly reaches where there hasn't been a lot of urban-industrial development. It's only down there at its southern end and in certain nasty niches (like paper plant-polluted Green Bay) that this magnificent body of water has been badly abused and trends toward eutrophic. Imagine how bad the situation would be if Chicago were dumping its waste water into Lake Michigan instead of into the Mississippi River watershed.

  • Yellowstone National Park Releases Winter-Use Proposal   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Yeah, big mess, and no one is sure how to deal with conflicting judicial rulings or how to interpret Brimmer's ruling. Does it mean that if the 318 rule passes that it overrides the ruling or is it an actual order to go back to 720 and start the process over again? I doubt this is something the Supreme Court wants to deal with (there's no constitutional question at stake), and yet with conflicting rulings on policy practice, I am not sure what can be done. An act of Congress could also settle this, but that seems very unlikely. The Park Service will probably be forced to conclude that the ruling means that 720 holds (which will force another lawsuit in Sullivan's court that they will surely lose) until they get the 318 rule through the court (which may have a better chance of surviving Brimmer's court).

    And, the 318 number or something just under that, might be the final number because the environmental groups at the fore are not going to fight for zero snowmobiles. That's an interesting stance to take when most people who are probably giving these groups money assume they are fighting all snowmobiles in Yellowstone - and probably had the leverage to that effect until they gave support for a lower number.

    As I've said before, this to me is also an issue of equity. Whatever the science is on the number of snowmobiles per day, I'm not sure the system that's set up - with paid and licensed guides, is more than an unfair law enforcement policy, rather than one with Yellowstone's best interests at heart. From what I've read here, it's also not good for the air - as is obvious to anyone who spends an afternoon in West Yellowstone in the middle of January.

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

  • Greening the Parks: A Former Brownfield is Converted to a Lakefront Gem at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Having been a frequent visitor / explorer of the area (and this site) in years past, the terms "marvelous" and "miracle" are even an understatement of the transformation of this once industrial dump site. The local shoreline is indeed a precious resource with unique, sweeping vistas spanning the greater Chicagoland metroplex to the west and the shores of Michigan to the east. Quite the sight, standing at the bottom of the horseshoe that is Lake Michigan. Now if only something could be done to bring the water quality up to 21st C standards, then you'd REALLY have something to be proud of in northwest Indiana. Unfortunately this multi-state (and federal regulatory) issue is too complicated to be effectively managed with any short-term resolution package, unless you believe that our president-elect, being from the Chicago area, really is God, and can effect the level of "change" that he based his platform on during the campaign. But until then, this rehabilitation is a wonderful example of multifaceted cooperation between a diverse array of interests, and can possbily serve as a model for additional projects throughout other park service holdings, as an example of "it CAN be done".

  • Yellowstone National Park Releases Winter-Use Proposal   6 years 23 weeks ago

    Lets see, Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled the plans to allow 540 snowmobiles a day in Yellowstone was not backed by science.
    So Our Yellowstone National Park decided to allow 318 snowmobiles each day as a good thing.
    Now a Judge Clarence Brimmer commands Our Yellowstone National Park to up the limit to 720?!?


    Wyoming judge opens door for more Yellowstone snowmobiles