Recent comments

  • Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Studying Interpretive Options for Moccasin Bend   6 years 42 weeks ago

    The Trail of Tears, as Mookie said, is more of a conglomeration of trails than anything else, not like the Appalachian Trail or Oregon Trail, which have one route. There are many different routes, and land and sea/river routes as well. As a general rule of thumb, though, the Trail of Tears that is best known (the one the Cherokees were removed on), runs from Western North Carolina through to Oklahoma.

    NPS is considering adding additional 'official' routes to the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail - see

    For a map of the Trail of Tears, click on

    "What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us." - Emerson

  • Giving a Name to Yosemite Area Peak for Longtime Ranger Carl Sharsmith.   6 years 42 weeks ago

    While Dr. Sharsmith was definately a great and influential person for Yosemite, I believe that this choice of peaks should be looked at, with regard to its history. In naming a peak, the history of the mountain itself should be evaluated, as well as Dr. Sharsmith's direct relationship to this peak, and compare this with the contribution of others/groups. I specifically would like others to compare the meaning and history of this peak with regard to Dr. Sharsmith to that of the Search and Rescue team, and both's influence in Yosemite and the area.

    Here is a little history of this specific mountain.

    Although there is no easy way to compare rescues, it is debatable, but also likely, that on January 8, 1982, the most difficult, dramatic, improbable yet successful rescues in the history of the entire National Park System occurred on this mountain.

    On January 3, 1982, an airplane I was in crashed onto the peak in the worst storms in recorded history of the area. Five days later, after extreme heroics of many people in a combined search and rescue effort, (six people knowingly and unquestionably risked their lives), I was successfully rescued. A listing of the people who risked their lives and their accomplishments are detailed below. On January 5, 1982, (day 2 f the search) the highest snowfall amount in history of Yosemite Valley occurred, which was 29.5 inches in a 24 hour period. This peak is higher and received even more snowfall.

    Chas and Anne MacQuarie: This husband and wife team were back country rangers at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite for many years, including 1982. Due to poor weather (blizzard) conditions, the first few days of the search were limited to ground crews. Chas and Anne hiked through the blizzard, (the worst storm in recorded history of the park) and waist deep snow in order to open a closed ranger station which helped the search. It took them all day, from sunrise to sunset, to reach this closed ranger station, which was only one mile away.

    On the 5th day of the search, the crashed plane was found by the NAS Lemoore Search and Rescue. Due to the steepness of the peak, the amount of snow (called loaded), and the high probability of an avalanche, the helicopter could not land anywhere close to the crash location. Chas and Anne were picked up, and dropped on the closest ledge to the crash site. This ledge was so small that the helicopter could do a one-skid landing, which was extremely difficult considering the conditions and size of the ledge. In their progress to the plane, they encountered an avalanche crack, which is where the snow has started to avalanche and then stopped. This is a sign of a very unstable slope and likely could avalanche at any moment. Anne stayed above and belayed (anchored with a rope) Chas who proceeded to the plane. If the slope avalanched, Anne could keep Chas from being caught in the avalanche. When Chas reached the plane and determined there was a survivor, Anne disregarded both their personal safety and climbed to the plane to help Chas dig enough snow to provide an exit for me from the plane and also supported the rescue efforts of the Navy helicopter crew on the ground. Once I was secured to the helicopter in a heroic rescue, they were left on the mountain to ski their way back to the ranger station (many miles away) due to my condition. With the helicopter going to the hospital, there was no time to return for them.

    Daniel Ellison: The Navy helicopter pilot stationed at NAS Lemoore who expertly flew the helicopter which not only found the plane, but also conducted the impossible rescue. In an amazing feat, Commander Ellison hovered the helicopter, low on fuel, at altitude, in severely gusting winds, and in a white-out without visual reference for over ten minutes in order to perform the rescue. This was the only way possible. It was his sure skill and ability, combined with the help of his crew, that kept the helicopter from crashing during the rescue. Commander Ellison earned and was awarded with the Distinguished Flying Cross, in peacetime, for this feat. This award is extremely difficult to earn in war-time, and even harder in peacetime.

    The criteria for the Distinguished Flying Cross are:

    The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States, distinguishes himself by heroism or extraordinary achievement while participating in aerial flight. The performance of the act of heroism must be evidenced by voluntary action above and beyond the call of duty. The extraordinary achievement must have resulted in an accomplishment so exceptional and outstanding as to clearly set the individual apart from his comrades or from other persons in similar circumstances. Awards will be made only to recognize single acts of heroism or extraordinary achievement and will not be made in recognition of sustained operational activities against an armed enemy.

    Gerald “Jerry” Balderson: Crew Chief Balderson was the person who spotted the plane (contrary to the Chronicle article of 11-28-07). Chief Balderson risked his life when he was hoisted down to the plane to rescue me. He worked in a blizzard white-out condition caused by the loose snow blown into the air from the helicopter’s wash. There have been two accounts as to the temperature, one being negative 40 degrees and the other being negative sixty degrees. To the human body, there likely is not that much of a difference between -40 and -60 degrees. Due to the avalanche conditions, Chief Balderson was not allowed to detach himself from the cable during his ground work. If the hillside avalanched, being tethered to the helicopter would limit the likelihood of his death, while greatly increasing the likelihood of the helicopter crashing. Due to the gusting winds and difficulty in the hover, the helicopter moved up and down during the rescue. When the excess slack in the cable came off of the snow, a huge static charge created by the helicopter’s rotors exhibited on Chief Balderson. This occurred many times. In his duties, Chief Balderson kept a watchful eye on the cable in order to make sure that he was not touching me when the cable left the ground and absorbed the shock completely himself. In my extreme hypothermic condition, the static shock would have unquestionably killed me outright by causing a heart attack.

    For his efforts, Chief Balderson earned as was awarded the Navy Marine Corps Medal, which is the second highest peacetime award by the Department of the Navy. In order to earn this medal, it must be clearly shown that the action was done with an unquestionable and high risk of one’s own life. The requirements are:

    Awarded to any person who, while serving in any capacity with the U.S. Navy or the U.S. Marine Corps, distinguishes himself/herself by heroism not involving actual conflict with the enemy. For acts of lifesaving, or attempted lifesaving, it is required that the action be performed at the risk of one's own life.

    Reg Barnes: During the rescue, Second Crewman Barnes completed the tasks of what two crewman would normally do. He not only expertly operated the hoist, but also acted as the visual eyes for the pilot in determining the position of the helicopter with regard to the mountain. Due to the direction of the very gusty and steady winds, the helicopter was forced to hover with the tail pointing toward the steep mountain. Second Crewman Barnes was the only person who could see how close the tail and its rotor was to the cliff, and relayed this information to the pilot, while also telling the pilot if there was slack in the cable to Chief Balderson by the feel of the tension in the cable. Due to the steepness of the mountain, the hovering helicopter was always dangerously close to the sheer cliff.

    For his efforts, Second Crewman Barnes earned and was awarded the Air Medal. The requirements for the Air Medal earned in an individual act are:

    Individual Award. Awarded to persons who, while serving in any capacity with the Armed Forces of the United States, distinguishes himself/herself by heroic/meritorious achievement while participating in an aerial flight under flight orders. Awards may be made for single acts of meritorious achievement, involving superior airmanship, which are of a lesser degree than required for award of the Distinguished Flying Cross, but nevertheless were accomplished with distinction beyond that normally expected.

    Dave Urban: Lieutenant Urban was the co-pilot of the helicopter during the search and rescue. Due to his position in the helicopter, he conducted the one-skid landing on a small ledge on a steep cliff near the top of a mountain in order to allow the ground rangers, Chas and Anne MacQuarie, to disembark and proceed to the crashed plane. Due to the severity of the gusting winds, this was a very difficult one-skid landing.

    For his efforts, Lieutenant Urban also earned and was awarded the Air Medal.

    Besides the heroics of the above people, all of which unquestionably risked their lives to save me, another very instrumental person in the rescue was Mr. John Dill of the Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR). Through his lifetime of rescue work, Mr. Dill has earned a mythical status among the search and rescue community. Words cannot adequately describe his abilities to understand the behavior of people and apply that with his knowledge of the terrain and conditions in order to locate missing people. With my rescue, Mr. Dill used the data provided, figured out which data was incorrect, and was able to pinpoint the probable location of the plane to a very small and precise area. In this small area, the helicopter crew was able to concentrate their search efforts to find a white plane with a brown tail buried under the snow with only the smallest of pieces being visible. The visible section of the plane was approximately two feet by three feet, while the search area was hundreds of square miles. It was Mr. Dill’s ability to limit the search area to the highest of probability areas that allowed the crew to be able to concentrate on such a small area and quickly observe such a small piece of the crashed plane.

    I also believe that it should also be noted that my survival also was above and beyond expectation. To survive an airplane crash, be stranded inside the small plane for five days, buried in snow, in sub-zero temperatures and with your dead mother and stepfather is not a normal everyday occurrence. When rescued, my body temperature was 84 degrees and wearing a T-shirt and long underwear, with my pants were frozen to my ankles. However, the crew managed to safely rescue me.

    Further, after my rescue, the Mono County Sherriff’s office risked their lives on the same avalanche prone slope a few days later to remove the bodies of my deceased mother and stepfather.

    While I greatly believe that this White Mountain should be re-named, I would be hopeful for you to look at the history of the mountain and all of the risks and sacrifices made there in order to determine what the most appropriate name should be. Not diminishing the greatness of Dr. Carl Sharsmith and his influence to the general area, I believe that the name of the mountain should reflect all that occurred on the specific mountain. I believe that “Rescue Mountain” or “Rescue Peak” would be more appropriate. However, should Dr. Sharsmith have a direct link, history, or contribution directly that overshadows the efforts of the Search and Rescue crews, I would appreciate this being demonstrated.

    It should be noted that “Rescue” is appropriate to demonstration the appreciation of the Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR) organization. YOSAR is considered one of the best SAR teams in the world and since its inception in the 1960’s, responds to approximately 200 calls per year. The team is mostly composed of volunteers, which shows their true dedication to helping others above themselves, and thus a more meaningful tribute is necessary. These people willingly and knowingly risk their lives for others in the harshest of conditions. The SAR group at NAS Lemoore also did many heroic rescues in the entire are of Central California.

    There are many reference newspaper articles that I could provide you should you desire. While the survival and rescue made national headline news, some of the articles are:

    SF Chronicle, Page A1, January 9, 1982
    SF Chronicle, Page A1, January 10, 1982
    Fairfield Daily Republic, A1, August 19, 2007
    Helena Independent Record, Page A1, October 14, 2007
    SF Chronicle, Page A1, November 25, 2007

  • What Will 2008 Bring the National Park System?   6 years 42 weeks ago

    So, people that own land within park boundaries can do whatever they wish with that land, even build a resort? That doesn't seem right. Do you think that will actually come to fruition? And, yes, that photo is incredibly beautiful.

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 42 weeks ago

    I read the article with great interest. I have heard for years about the deaths of a couple of students who climbed the dome in stormy weather with 7 other companions. Is this the July 25, 1985 occurrence? If anybody knows any more details about this I would appreciate it. I would like to know how the others involved have fared. Thanks

  • Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Studying Interpretive Options for Moccasin Bend   6 years 42 weeks ago

    There's not one actual trail, but generally the Native Americans were pushed from their lands in northern Georgia, western North Carolina, eastern Tennessee and northern Alabama, through Tennessee and Arkansas, into Oklahoma.

  • Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Studying Interpretive Options for Moccasin Bend   6 years 42 weeks ago

    Chance, where does the "Trail of Tears" begin and end?

  • What Will 2008 Bring the National Park System?   6 years 42 weeks ago

    Linda, regarding development inside parks, there are quite a number of privately owned parcels within borders of national parks. For instance, recently there was a case in Zion National Park when a parcel was put up for sale. The Park Service wanted it, but didn't have the funds to buy it. So it went to a California couple that, I think, is trying to develop a small resort.

    Anonymous, the photo was taken with a Nikon N70 on Logan Pass in July of 2005.


  • What Will 2008 Bring the National Park System?   6 years 42 weeks ago

    Kurt, nice looking photograph! What kind of camera do you use and what time of year was this picture taken? Great shot!

  • Groups Sue Park Service Over ORV Use in Big Cypress National Preserve   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Sorry, Mookie, I meant ORV use. I've just got snowmobiles on my mind lately with all the talk about it. Swamp buggies in Alaska - well, you never know what might happen with global warming.

  • What Will 2008 Bring the National Park System?   6 years 43 weeks ago

    I'll go one step further than you, Kurt, about Mary Bomar. Since her eight predecessors have not increased snowmobile trails, I'd like to see Bomar resign her position. She obviously isn't thinking about the long-term protection of our park system. And, I have a question: How can land within park boundaries be threatened with new development? Isn't all the land within boundaries part of the park system? I'd also like to see more National Parks established. If we don't protect more land now, people will push to develop that land and all that will be left are concrete jungles.

  • Park History: National Parks Built Around Caves and Caverns   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Mammoth Cave is in south-central Kentucky, near Bowling Green. Also, it is a National Park - I don't recall any lava tubes.

  • Groups Sue Park Service Over ORV Use in Big Cypress National Preserve   6 years 43 weeks ago

    it really looks like from the photo that clear cutting is he big issue here not the trail

  • Groups Sue Park Service Over ORV Use in Big Cypress National Preserve   6 years 43 weeks ago

    i 'm not with the shutting down of orv but limit it to clubs and club trail permit rides and then fine the entire club if rules are broken the club is fined or have a gunner from the state park system and by the way i want his or hers job.
    get real we spend moneys on a lot more trivial things in the park system and permits could offset cost
    there is a way if you look, if no one is there is it worth it all ?
    if a tree falls in the forest and no one is there is there a noise !!!!!!!
    ps: clubs are beng pushed out of the park system.
    why divide and concuer do they want to fight one big voice or many little voices

  • Park Service OKs Monetary Settlement On Great Smoky Mountains National Park's North Shore Road   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Better late than never?

  • Video : Winter in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Great video, Jeremy! As a fellow Yellowstoner and old interpretive photographer, I have to say that it's a fine piece of work and makes me feel like I'm right actual peace and quiet!!
    How did you guys get out there....was it before all the vehicles were called out of the park for the winter...or did you have to go out on a snowmobile of your own?

    Thanks again for the video!

  • Top 10 Most Visited National Parks   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Grand Teton is a tricky one. It is very easy to visit without being counted. Unless you drive the "inner road" you don't even pass through an entrance station. You can even camp at Gros Ventre (the park's largest campground) without going through a gate. Also, it is not necessary to stop at any station if you enter from Yellowstone (sign always says, "Please Proceed, No Stop Required), and even the other stations to the inner road are often unmanned. Though I imagine that vehicles are counted by some sort of device, they can't record how many people are in a vehicle. Some of the park's best attractions are outside of any gate, including the Visitor Center, Gros Ventre, Mormon Row, Schwabacher's Landing etc.
    Even at best I would think any of these figures are only educated guesses, because even in Yellowstone if you enter much before dawn or after dark there is no one at the gate.

  • Groups Sue Park Service Over ORV Use in Big Cypress National Preserve   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Snowmobiles in Florida? What's next, swamp buggies in Alaska?

  • Park History: Shenandoah National Park   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Hoover's requirement that it be above 2,500 feet was due to the fact that (at that time) mosquitoes could not live above that altitude. Having spent many nights in Shenandoah above 2,500 feet, I can tell you that is no longer the case, and I'd guess you have to get above at least 3,000 feet to be 100% out of the mosquito's wrath.

    Camp Rapidan is well preserved, and while one can't enter the buildings if you're just hiking through, it's a great spot to stop and have lunch.

  • White House Holiday Ornament   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Kurt/Jeremy: Happy Holidays, and thanks for all you do keep the latest NPS news and discussion flowing. This site must take up a huge amount of your time, and I am very grateful you do it. I wanted to pass along an idea, which is to ask folks to post their New Years Resolutions as it pertains to the NPS. For example, I resolve to visit 10 new NPS units in 2008, or I resolve to pester my senator to make sure there is ample funding for park rangers. Just a thought.

    Keep up the great work, and I hope you both have a great 2008!

  • Park History: Shenandoah National Park   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Thanks for the Great writeup. I had no idea about Camp Rapidan.

  • Groups Sue Cape Hatteras National Seashore Over ORV Traffic   6 years 43 weeks ago

    One needs to understand that Cape Hatteras was established as the Cape Hatteras National Seashore Recreation Area. This has never been officially changed and stands to this day. Note *Recreational*.

    Vehicular driving on the beach predates the establishment of this park and ORV access is a vital component to what attract many of the visiting public: fishing, wind boarding, shell picking, bird watching, etc, etc.

    Seasonally there are large areas closed to ORV access for pedestrian safety and bird and turtle protection and there are many areas that closed year round.

    The beach is not "ruined" as ORVs are confined to a narrow corridor of sand along the seashore and, with each storm, the evidence of ORVs is wiped clean.

    And I will you assure you the areas with ORV access are "cleaner" than those w/o since it's common practice for ORV users to clean-up the area during their stay.

    CHNSRA was established for recreational multi-use and to preserve the beauty of the northern Outer Banks. Under the management of Super. Murray he has done a wonderful job of balancing use and resource protection. Reasonable and responsible access along with scientifically-supported closures for resource protection is what the majority of ORV users want.

    Zero birds or turtles were harmed under the 2007 plan as has been the case for several years and the lawsuit, given that there is an active interim ORV plan in place, is frivolous & I predict these 3 groups will have their arses handed to them

  • Groups Sue Park Service Over ORV Use in Big Cypress National Preserve   6 years 43 weeks ago

    Conservation should be predominant. Superintendant Gustin is supposed to be the person overseeing this responsibility, but it seems her responsibilitiy lies with the snowmobilers. Protecting endangered species and the environment should be the priority here. All it takes is one change and significant damage could be done. Future generations should have the chance to see a pristine environment without the encroachment of snowmobiles.

  • Video : Winter in Yellowstone National Park   6 years 43 weeks ago

    How gorgeous! I'd love to be there right now, watching the Bison, hearing the geysers, listening to the gentle flow of water and the peaceful surround. Glad you edited out the snowmobiles. Now, can you get them out of the park altogether? I can dream, can't I?

  • Big Cypress National Preserve: The Latest Battleground Over ORVs in the Parks   6 years 43 weeks ago

    i have lived in south florida all my life, i'm also one of the few people born in the state i have lived and breathed both sides. people the dig holes with there tire and run into trees because they can is what hurt the area and not poeple that follow the tread lightly. i have a large 4x4 my self and love to go out for a drive but i do everything in my power not to dig holes or leave trash behide like other. the only way this is going to work is if we have both side sit down and talk about and not call each other names.

    thank you
    MR3 (US NAVY)

  • Senators' Letter to Open National Parks to Concealed Weapons   6 years 43 weeks ago

    I envision scenarios of armed campground users "protecting their families, in car campgrounds in particular" who end up taking potshots at passersby on their way to the restrooms in the middle of the night. Fearing that "Folks are quite vulnerable in their tents from all kinds of derelicts," they might shoot at anything that moves. Well-intentioned but trigger-happy campers seem to pose more of a threat than "all kinds of derelicts."