Recent comments

  • NPCA Asks Secretary Kempthorne Not To Change Gun Regs in National Parks   6 years 35 weeks ago

    I'm not a member of the NRA, nor do I own a handgun, nor do I support the current administration. I am, however, a Constitutionalist and believe the job of every American is to defend the Constitution, not just part of it.

    Frank N.: malls, gun shows, and city parks are NOT federal land and are cases of private parties or local government regulating guns and are thus permissible under the Constitution. Remember, the Constitution is a limit to federal power and doesn't apply to Disneyland or the other flippant and ill-conceived examples listed.

    Thes arguments continue to ignore the Second Amendment's guarantee of the People to bear (or carry) arms on federal land. Your arguments continue to ignore the Founders' intentions. If you believe that the federal government should be able to prohibit law abiding people from owning and carrying guns, then you should work to have the Constitution amended.

    Ignoring the Constitution is what the current administration is doing by trying to bypass Congress to negotiate a treaty with Iraq. Ignoring the Constitution is how Japanese-Americans ended up in prison camps on American soil. Ignoring the Constitution leads to a loss of rights.

  • Super Volcano, The Ticking Time Bomb Beneath Yellowstone National Park   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Kurt: thanks for the heads-up on the new book. I wrote about the Super Volcano extensively for the Casper Star Tribune and struggled with how to convey the technical information from the scientists, to the lay reader. I'll have to see how Breining handles it.
    Most of the scientists I've talked to felt the Discovery/BBC show got the essential science right, if a bit sensational. Still, how can you talk about a super volcano eruption without it being sensational -- making Mt. Saint Helen's eruption look like popping a pimple.
    I used to newspaper in the Colorado mountain town of Creede, which is set among spectacular cliffs -- all that remains of a super volcano eruption some 65 million years ago.
    Living in proximity to Yellowstone reminds me of that hoary joke about civil defense exercises in the '50's -- the duck and cover routine which ends with "and kiss your *** goodbye."

  • Groups Fighting Road Building In Death Valley   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Members of the "kick the bucket club" would like to see some of the beauity and wilderness you seek to protect from all but those able to hike 10-20 miles with full pack.
    Ive driven these roads many years and resent that suddenely its time for change. Solitiude and peace are what is saught by visitors to these areas,that means access!!!!!!!!!!!!
    You seem to want to put it in a "box". For what?

  • NPCA Asks Secretary Kempthorne Not To Change Gun Regs in National Parks   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Folks, it's the philosophy of fear that's deeply entrenched and portrayed by the NRA and the Bush & Cheney administration. Scare tactics with crime helps to sell guns! The NRA and gun nuts will exploit this to the fullest extent. The next visit to the National Parks they may ask you:"Where's your papers"? Carry a gun? God forbid!

  • Paw Print Another Sign That Wolves Might Be Returning to Rocky Mountain National Park   6 years 35 weeks ago

    Very exciting. In addition to the "problem" of wolves naturally recolonizing an ecosystem of which they were- and should be- a vital component as a top carnivore, there will be great opportunity. After spending several months in Yellowstone several winters ago studying/ exploring the human-wolf relationship, both ecologically and economically, I see this as wonderful news- and so too should those people in the area looking for an ecotourism opportunity and environmental education opportunity. It will be interesting to see if the NPS has got what it takes to do it's job and provide protection for the RMNP ecosystem as a whole, the community of wolves moving back to another portion of their homeland and providing the educational/ wilderness experience for those of us who prefer to venture into the wildlands....

  • NPCA Asks Secretary Kempthorne Not To Change Gun Regs in National Parks   6 years 35 weeks ago

    ......."this isn't about risk; it's about the Constitution."
    War Cry of the NRA

    Should we then allow people to carry guns, as Mr. Kiernan points out, in the White House, Independence Hall, the Statue of Liberty, the National Mall? How about the Capitol Building? Isn't this a violation of my Constitutional Rights?
    What about all the various ordinances in cities across this land which restrict who and who may not carry a weapon? I know that many large cities do not allow guns in their city parks. I doubt that you would get away with (visibly) carrying a gun in most shopping malls. In fact, most GUN SHOWS prohibit carrying loaded guns! Isn't THAT a violation of my rights? If you insist on carrying a loaded weapon, don't visit the White House, a gun show or Yellowstone. How hard is that?
    I backpacked in Big Bend National Park, which is right on the border. No drug crazed, insane, wild drug runners! Just one young couple from California all week!
    Of course crime happens everywhere, even in parks. (Ever think that there are FEWER in parks because loaded guns aren't allowed?) Many victims of crime are carrying weapons at the time. (As Kurt points out (I believe) in another article, the beheaded female in Yosemite was actually kidnapped outside the park where guns could be carried.)
    Of course you COULD come across drug runners or a drug farm; but the chances are very slight. And if you did, I guarantee you that you would be dead long before you ever knew what you had stumbled on.
    If you think that guns stop crime, I would ask, "So, how's that working out in America's inner cities?"
    Be real. If I were going to rob, rape, kill someone in the back country, I would never give them a chance to pull their "protection" piece. I would shoot him from cover (especially if I knew there was a good chance that he was carrying), whack him on the back of the head with a rock or tree limb after he passed on the trail, get him in his sleeping bag at night, blast him with bear spray, or have MY gun already aiming straight at him when I approached. I'm not a crook and I can figure this out!
    No one is talking about taking anyone's gun away from him. Just like at the gun show, guns ARE OBVIOUSLY ALLOWED. They simply have to be unloaded and, in a park, packed away. There is NOTHING that you can legally shoot in a National Park. Millions of people visit National Parks (and gun shows) every year safely, without pack'n loaded heat. Taking a loaded weapon into a National Park is kind of like taking one into Disneyland (another place where your rights would be violated I'm afraid). Does crime happen in Disneyland.....yeah, sometimes. Does that mean that we want everybody packing loaded weapons in the happiest place on earth, around our kids and millions of visitors?...........NO!
    I am so glad that I don't live in such fear. Remarkable considering where I came from in life. I don't know that I could leave the house if I did.

  • Senators' Letter to Open National Parks to Concealed Weapons   6 years 36 weeks ago

    That sounds paranoid.

  • Pot Farmers Tilling Ground in Yosemite   6 years 36 weeks ago

    Drugs are a serious problem and seeing these marijuana plantations makes me think about how serious the problem really is. Drug smugglers are really powerful, they keep pushing drugs down to the market and the result is mostly disastrous. How can we stop this?
    Drug rehab facility

  • NPCA Asks Secretary Kempthorne Not To Change Gun Regs in National Parks   6 years 36 weeks ago

    "People who insist that they need to carry a loaded gun everywhere astonish me."

    I don't think anyone has said that here. What is being argued is that citizens have a Constitutional right to carry a loaded gun on federal land and that the federal goverment shall not infringe on the people's right to have and carry weapons. If you don't like that, amend the Constitution, but don't ignore it. Ignoring the Constitution is how we've ended up invading another country; ignoring the Constitution is how the government has been able to indiscriminately gather private data about citizens' library records, phone records, and email records.

    As for the unlikely event of something terrible happening, that argument ignores that the Second Amendment and Founders wanted to protect individual rights to carry weapons regardless if there were greater threats than crime to their safety.

    Finally, bad things do happen in national parks. About ten years ago, a female ranger (who was not law enforcement) was beheaded at Yosemite. Many parks have problems with crime: . Over the last decade, there have been thousands of violent crimes in national parks including murder, assault, and rape: .

    Yes the risk is low, but this isn't about risk; it's about the Constitution.

    Drug runners and criminals in border parks are a serious threat to safety. If I were to hike Saguaro's backcountry, I'd want a weapon to protect myself and my family. And that's my Constitutional right as a law-abiding citizen.

  • NPCA Asks Secretary Kempthorne Not To Change Gun Regs in National Parks   6 years 36 weeks ago

    People who insist that they need to carry a loaded gun everywhere astonish me. How have I lived to be 62 years old and NEVER carried one? I have hiked and backpacked all over this great country. I have walked (at night) down the streets of LA, New York, Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans and others.
    When I was a child my family lived in a very bad part of a (relatively) large city. I remember lying in bed at night and hearing drug deals (and worse) going on outside of my bedroom window. All of the homes in our neighborhood had bars on the windows and the owners (or renters) owned guns........except ours. My dad said that he refused to be a "prisoner" in his own home, and he said that pulling a gun only serves to escalate a situation and more people end up getting shot with their own gun than protect themselves with it. My dad was no wimp. He hit the beach at Normandy and was a decorated war hero. Nearly every house on our block was broken into in the ten (or so) years that we lived there, except one......ours. Several people were assaulted, we never were. Maybe the Good Lord protects the foolish. Maybe when you're "expecting" trouble it is more likely to find you. I have never felt the need to pack a gun.
    Violent crime is hardly rampant in our National Parks. Most folks are there with their families enjoying vacation just as you are. Guns are already allowed in parks. They simply have to be unloaded and packed away. Therefore they are still there; they are just not readily available to some hothead who just had someone "steal" his campsite. They have to be unpacked and loaded......time to cool down. Time to think about the meaning of the words, "federal offense". YES I KNOW: NOT EVERYONE WHO OWNS A GUN IS A HOTHEAD! MOST ARE NOT. All it takes is one.
    Our Park Rangers do an admirable job of balancing the protection of the resource with the needs of the public.
    Let's not complicate their lives. Right now if someone is in the possession of a loaded weapon they are already breaking the law and can be arrested. The ranger doesn't have to wait until there is a dead animal (or person).
    If you REALLY feel threatened walking the "mean streets" of the National Park back country, carry bear spray. I can assure you that no one is going to assault your wife with a face full of pepper!! Plus it can be fired from the hip. BTW, number of armed robberies and assaults in National Park back country last year: zero.

  • Association of National Park Rangers Opposes Change in Park Gun Regulations   6 years 36 weeks ago

    As a long-time professional in the "media biz" I can say that press accounts of backcountry violence are about exceptional, unusual, extraordinary events. In other words, they're weird, that's why they're news. Literally, the likelihood of these kinds of mishaps happening to any one of us is in the one-in-many-millions chance.

    Yes, violence does happen. But I'm just not too worried about loosing with those odds. You're far more likely to meet your fate at the hands of hypothermia, a fall, or a traffic accident on the way to a trailhead--thousands of times more likely--than from anything any sort of weapon would help you with.

    I'll accept that some number of situations exist where a deadly weapon would be the only viable solution. But then again, thinking about someone who's so afraid of the dangers that they feel they have to carry a powerful weapon, what are the odds that they'll be tempted to use that weapon in situations where, given some thoughtful consideration, a less drastic alternative would have been adequate?
    The WildeBeat "The audio journal about getting into the wilderness"
    10-minute weekly documentaries to help you appreciate our wild public lands.
    A 501c3 non-profit project of Earth Island Institute.

  • Paw Print Another Sign That Wolves Might Be Returning to Rocky Mountain National Park   6 years 36 weeks ago

    We are the ones who destroyed them in the first place and brought the problem on ourselves, we need to protect them and reintroduce them but the law needs to be enforced as well we have seen the problems that are happening all around us because of the lack of care we have given this planet. Since the wolves seem to be going on their own there we should allow them to continue to allow them to reclaim territory and while Rocky Mountain National Park is smaller when the area can handle no more some can be relocated to another National Park where there used to be wolves as well.

  • Paw Print Another Sign That Wolves Might Be Returning to Rocky Mountain National Park   6 years 36 weeks ago

    We reintroduced the wolves so it is our responsibility to manage them in balance with other points of view.

  • A Winter Visit to Grand Canyon National Park's Phantom Ranch   6 years 36 weeks ago

    Hi Carol,

    It's great to see you contributing to the commentary on National Parks Traveler. To answer your question, yes I met several women on the trail who were in our age bracket. No one in the women's dorm at Phantom Ranch complained of snoring either.


    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Great Basin National Park's Air Could Be Compromised By Proposed Power Plant   6 years 36 weeks ago

    I see lots of NIMBY here. That stands for "Not In My Back Yard."

    Having said the above, I too am concerned about air pollution near our National Parks. Too often traveling out West have I rounded a curve and there faced a huge coal-fired power plant. Coal-fired plants don't have to be dirty. I've seen a number of them where the stack gas is as clear as that of a gas-fired plant. The utility just has to want to do it. There has to be an economic incentive -- either mandated by the regulators or by the public at large -- to ensure that the coal-fired effluent will be relatively clean.

    Now about the suggestion concerning solar power -- gimme a break. Solar - even on a good day - produces very small amounts of DC power (like your AA batteries). Let me see you use DC to run a factory, a hospital, a hotel, or your home. Get real. Solar has some applications; that's true, but providing large quantities of AC power is not one of them.

    Well then, what about wind power? All those wind farms you see in Kansas are there due to tax credits and fast write off depreciation. If wind power had to stand on its own economically it would be a flop.

    Folks, I hate to be the one to tell you, but today the best and lowest cost way to produce electric power is either a steam boiler/turbine/generator or a gas turbine/generator (jet engine), or a combination of a steam turbine and gas turbine. Note that the steam boiler can be heated with gas, oil, coal, wood waste, garbage, or nuclear.

  • A Winter Visit to Grand Canyon National Park's Phantom Ranch   6 years 36 weeks ago

    Owen - Andre and I are very impressed with your accomplishment. I am not sure which was harder - the trek up and down or the stay at Phantom Ranch. It doesn't sound like many women do this circuit. Did you encounter any my age?
    Best wishes,

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 36 weeks ago

    The argument that people might die on Half Dome so it shouldn't be so accessible is as illogical as saying that people might die in a car crash while driving Tioga Road so it shouldn't be open. Of course someone could die on Half Dome. Or on the highways. Or at Glacier Point. There is reasonable risk for great reward in Yosemite. The careless fool who climbs over the guard-rail, splashes in the water, and washes to his death over the falls shouldn't be a reason that the rest of us to miss the spectacles that this park offers, including the Half Dome ascent. Check the stats; most of the Half Dome deaths have occurred when the cables are down for the season and the Park Service recommends NOT making the climbg.

  • Entrance Fee Repeal Legislation Would Have Little Impact on National Parks   6 years 36 weeks ago

    Sounds like the Park Service got another sweet deal on the back of our national forests.

    According to S-2438, National Parks can charge and everyone else can not.

    Trust me, entrance fees collected at the National Parks will never help cover any Forest Service or BLM expenses. Plus any money collected by Forest Service or BLM *must be* sent to the Treasury for the Congress to use as they so wish.

  • A Winter Visit to Grand Canyon National Park's Phantom Ranch   6 years 36 weeks ago

    Yes, I used two hiking poles (that I purchased in Glacier National Park almost ten years ago). Both the Bright Angel and the South Kaibab trails show signs of recent trail mainentance, so they were not as rocky or eroded as I remembered from previous trips. I recall that in 1969 there used to be two parallel ruts and a central ridge in the South Kaibab trail. Those are now gone. The trail has become more narrow, and thousands of log water breaks have been installed which, as I've said in the article above, makes downhill hiking somewhat difficult for younger and older knees.

    I totally agree with you about the heat and hazards encountered when hiking up the South Kaibab Trail during the daytime hours of the summer months. During my two summer-time hikes to Phantom Ranch in 1969, I opted to hike down and back by night, resting in the shade of the inner canyon by day.

    My two hikes to Phantom Ranch in 1987 were made in late fall. Those hikes were taken during the day, and were absolutely delightful. I highly recommend hiking these trails in late fall or winter, taking the slowest pace possible to enjoy the magnificent canyon scenery, which changes dramatically with each step. In my opinion, it is impossible to walk too slowly when walking into and out of the Grand Canyon.

    Other than noticing the effects of advanced age and the renovated conditions of the two trails, the only other major difference I noted from past hikes was the absence of geological interpretive signs. I recall these interpretive signs from all of my past hikes into the canyon. They were quite effective in explaining the significance of the various rock formations encountered on this walk through time. I have no idea why they have now been removed from their trailside locations. I missed seeing them.

    I also don't recall the squirrels at Indian Gardens having been so unusually large. They were the biggest squirrels I've ever seen in my life. Perhaps they have grown accustomed to daily access to an enhanced caloric diet composed of the remains of Phantom Ranch sack lunches? Or, perhaps these animals are simply storing a few extra pounds to survive a long, cold winter? Indian Gardens is an excellent place to stop and rest for lunch when hiking up from the bottom of the canyon.

    We were in our shirt-sleeves when hiking up from Phantom Ranch to Indian Gardens. However, temperatures cooled rapidly when entering the shade of the upper portions of the Bright Angel trail, which required putting on extra clothing despite the natural warmth of hiking uphill. Ice on the trail was encountered during the final mile and a half.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Fall Into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Kills California Woman   6 years 36 weeks ago

    I scan all the news on Yellowstone daily, usually 2-3 times a day, and I haven't seen a bit of news about this since it happened. Almost anything is possible; people really can accidentally plunge to their deaths from that location, one could commit suicide, or one could commit homicide. No matter what, it's certainly tragic, and as far as has been reported, still a mystery.

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

  • A Winter Visit to Grand Canyon National Park's Phantom Ranch   6 years 36 weeks ago

    Did you use hiking poles? They are motivators on the uphills (plant them alternatively in front of you and walk up to and past them) and knee-savers on the downhills. They also are help on rough, rocky or eroded trails -- like both Bright Angel and South Kaibab, which have such steady mule train traffic.

    IMO, South Kaibab might be a good hike-out option in winter, but I think for most people, it would be lethal in summer. It's exposed and broils in the sun, and unlike Bright Angel, there's noplace to get water en route. You'd have to carry a lot of water just to return to the rim w/out becoming totally dehydrated.

    Claire @

  • Association of National Park Rangers Opposes Change in Park Gun Regulations   6 years 36 weeks ago

    i agree,people with the proper permits are a very small amount of the problem, illegal arms are....... this law seems to prevent me from visiting all our national forest and parks, this is another way to chip away at the 2nd amendment, how many shoot outs have you heard of in a national park....... i think the present laws are just fine....

  • Fall Into Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone Kills California Woman   6 years 36 weeks ago

    How come we can't know the name of the "panic ridden" man who was with her? Who is this person who wrote this last comment. Why does everyone know Charlotte's name but not his? Somebody knows something. How about starting with Van Susteren or pictures of her with friends from myspace.

  • A Winter Visit to Grand Canyon National Park's Phantom Ranch   6 years 36 weeks ago

    One of the really pleasant surprises of this trip was encountering NPS park interpreter Stewart Fritts while he was conducting a guided walk along the rim at the Grand Canyon Village. His walk focused on the historic architectual accomplishments of Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter. Mr. Fritts is among the most knowledgeable persons alive from which to learn about the natural and cultural history of the park. He's worked at the Grand Canyon for 26 years.

    I previously had attended his award-winning evening presentation on "William Shakespear and the Grand Canyon," 20 years ago. It was truly outstanding then, and it is still given today, according to NPS brochures. He dedicates this presentation to the beauty of the canyon and the importance of literacy in America.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Crater Lake, On Average, Is Deepest Lake in North America   6 years 36 weeks ago

    Just to provide an update about my ongoing research on the deepest lakes of the world:

    Crater Lake is the deepest, when compared on the basis of average depth among lakes whose basins are entirely above sea level. The average depths of Lakes Baikal and Tanganyika are deeper than Crater Lake; however, both have basins that extend below sea level.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830