Recent comments

  • Considering a Hike up Half Dome?   6 years 28 weeks ago

    i have climbed up Half Dome and I am only 11 and also two of my other friends did it with me. We were told that if haven't done it before you should so we did. And the 3 of us were beginners and hiked 70 miles in 9 days and at the end of the trip we had the option to go up Half Dome and we did. It was that scary and it wasn't that hard but the view is worth it. The only kind of creepy part was when you go down the cables. But if you have the option to go up Half Dome and you haven't then you should and don't forget a camera.

  • Seventy-Five Years Ago, the Reorganization of 1933 Impacted the National Park System Like No Other Event Before or Since   6 years 28 weeks ago

    The 1933 Order also changed the name of the National Park Service to the Office of National Parks, Buildings and Reservations. A name the employees detested until it reverted to its former name in 1935.

  • Cedar Breaks National Monument About to Turn 75   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Thanks for posting about the birthday. I hadn't remembered that. Of, perhaps some minor historic interest: I was NPS manager of CEBR 1967-1970. For those who haven't visited there, it's much like Bryce canyon, just smaller and much higher in elevation. My residence there was,as I recall, 10,350' in elevation. Some of the most prolific and beautiful wildflowers anywhere. Lots of mule deer in the meadows alongside the road (6 miles). Contains bristlecone pines, some very old examples. Easy to visit on a loop incompasing N.Rim of grand canyon, Zion and Bryce. When I was there CEBR was one of 3 NPS units,administered under Zion. During my last year there, a reorganization placed Zion, Bryce, Capitol Reef, Pipe Spring and Cedar Breaks under one "General Superintendent", stationed in Cedar City. (I continued my management role at CEBR and was asst. Gen. Supt.). Incidentally, I was the person who removed the Cedar Breaks Lodge and cabins. These had originally been built by the railroad co. (as in Grand Canyon, etc.) operated as a concession. By the late 60s they were obsolete, and due to the very short season, no longer economic. There was some minor controversy, and I do understand the nostalgic view of the 'old-timers', but I felt we couldn't justify the man-made intrusion. The season, by the way, IS very short, only about 3 months. The snow drifts get to be 40'deep and spring opening is quite a chore. I visited about 4 yrs ago and the beetles were attacking many of the beautiful big trees. (Engleman spruce, alpine fir, mostly) A great little park, though, and a wonderful training ground for an 'entry-level' park manager. Don't know if I can make the events, but I do highly recommend a park visit. Don

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker - the entire concept of entrance fees is unsupportable. The NPS gets less than $100 million from entrance fees from the 130 parks that charge them. This is wrong on so many levels: 1) parks that do not charge fees are at a budget disadvantage and are left to fight over the 20% leavings, 2) fees exclude some users, 3) the time and staff spent on collecting fees comes from the fee income itself, 4) it makes the NPS little more than an offshoot of the IRS, 5) some parks are now collecting more fees than they can spend since they are limited to spending them on building things. Imagine if Congress proposed to raise the NPS budget by, say, $250 million and as part of the deal eliminate all entrance fees! The public would love it and who would be against the Congressman who sponsored the bill? Grand Canyon was $2.00 a car in 1987 and $25 a car by 2007. That is more than a 12-fold increase in 20 years. What will it be in another 20 years- $300 a car? Entrance fees have never been a good idea.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    About a year ago I looked into the issue of lodging (and even dining) rates in the national parks, as some certainly are eye-catching (and wallet-draining). There seem to be at least two factors that seem to be immutable:

    1. NPS compares/matches lodging rates to rates outside the parks. So in the case of Grand Teton, for instance, you've got tony Jackson and its high rates. Should the NPS cap rates in the park when compared to those in Jackson? Should it do that and then subsidize the concessionaires?

    2. Places like Yellowstone and Glacier not only are relatively remote (and so have higher building costs), but the seasons are shorter than in places such as Zion or Sequoia, and so concessionaires have a shorter period of time to make their revenues and yet still have year-round bills to pay.

    Yet another issue involves the bureaucracy that has evolved around restoration/renovation of lodgings in the parks. In the case of historic structures (ie. Many Glacier, Lake McDonald Lodge) there are costly requirements when it comes to renovating these places. Plus, I've been told the NPS is not the easiest agency to deal with when it comes to getting approval not just for renovations in general but also when it comes down to what color of paint is used.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker, it's unclear what you are suggesting. Obviously the rates are high, but also obviously they are not too hgh because these lodges are usually booked up. The room rates are subject to the immutable laws of supply and demand. I don't stay in the Ahwahnee because it is too expensive, but I wouldn't want it to be turned into some sort of dormitory, with bunk bed in the main hall or the elegant dining room turned into a mess hall, in the name of some sort of socialistic idea of fairness. No new lodges will likely be built within the national parks. The old historic lodges must be maintained as part of the park's living history.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    I'm not shocked Yellowstones lodges are not listed... We stayed in the cabins at Lake Lodge and they are in desperate need of updating... $150 -200 a night for a full size bed that sags in the middle and 1970 furnishings are not what I call great. We did have beautiful room in Canyon Lodge at $200+ for the night but the cabins that surround that village looked like they needed much updating as well. I am positive that many of the other lodges in the Yellowstone park are quite lovely but Xanterra,who runs all of these sites, really need to take in consideration that the prices they charge are not in keeping with the shape some of their facilities are in. I would not have minded paying a reduced fee for the substandard room if I thought I was getting a bargin...We love to stay in Yellowstone because it is so close and beautiful but I think the next time we go, we will look at staying just outside the park.

  • Seventy-Five Years Ago, the Reorganization of 1933 Impacted the National Park System Like No Other Event Before or Since   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Interesting article, especially in light of the comments regarding the establishment of the new commission.

    I wonder whether the big Western wilderness parks still 'dominate' and in what ways (i.e. budget, staff, visitors, etc.)?

    These articles on history and legislation offer lots to think about.

  • Congressman Calls for Emergency Declaration to Protect Grand Canyon National Park from Mining   6 years 28 weeks ago

    I agree with Sabattis.

    It is a problem that people come to the Olympic National Park, stand atop high elevations (to which they usually drove in a car, on a paved highway), and decry that they can see evidence of logging - the patch-work of clearcuts and regenerating forestry-units - covering hills & ridges many miles away, far outside the Park boundary. "That's just awful. How can they get away with it?"

    National Forest lands are not Parks. They are open to mineral exploration, mining claims, and extraction. And if they are one of the Forests that have trees - logging! The lands outside Grand Canyon National Park are ... not Park. Demanding that they be treated as though they are, is irrational.

    There is a cost to this mind-set & behavior. The credibility of the environmentalist movement as a whole suffers. We live in an era of gradually increasing conservatism which may well be pulling steadily ahead of liberalism.

    For the Green ethos to display itself as grasping is to court dismissal in the perception of the general (voting) public.

  • Oglala Sioux Just Might Reclaim Southern Half of Badlands National Park   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Bob Janiskee,

    A fine article on a challenging & historic topic.

    Here in the Pacific Northwest & Olympic Peninsula, the drama is a familiar one, and few any longer have much doubt of the long-range trend & outcome, viz the Native Tribes and the U.S. Government.

    In 1974, the (Judge) "Boldt Decision" affirmed the right of the Tribes to half the fish in the waters of Washington State.

    Mid-nineteenth century Treaties partly compensated the Tribes for giving up their claims to the lands they lived on, by stipulating "The right of taking fish, at all usual and accustomed grounds and stations, is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory."

    "In common" means half-and-half, and that's what the Natives get, these days.

    Formerly, Washington State systematically pooh-poohed the Treaty. The Fed sued the State.

    In recent times, the salmon runs have been weak and unprofitable, some endangered. But we are working to restore them, and one day I don't doubt our river-mouths will be seething with salmon, again.

    Half of the windfall harvests will belong to the tribes. They will be wealthy, and powerful.

    In recent years, the Makah Tribe, on the far northwest tip of the Olympic Peninsula, reasserted their traditional whale-hunt. Each season, helicopters pound back & forth over my beach-side home, news-choppers running the coastline from all the big-city television stations over in Puget Sound, out to Cape Flattery for footage to decorate the News Hour.

    Beyond the Treaty-language, there awaits an array of other Tribes-related issues, and the National Parks will often figure prominently in them. Practically all of our western Parks were used by the Tribes, and archaeological & ecological study is documenting the extent & particulars.

    Lake Mills, Elwha River, Olympic National Park

    The Elwha Tribe is involved with Olympic National Park in rehabilitating the Elwha River watershed. Dams on the river extinguished all salmon runs, but will soon be removed.

    None of the Park-territories were "pristine" ecosystems. Not only were they human habitat - they were modified human habitat.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Hi Kath-

    Mather's writings are not lost on me. But the pandering to the societal elite stage of the development of the park system is not only a waste of facilities in the modern era; it is counterproductive to the current fiscal constraints imposed by the modern day DC elitists. An idea that served its intended purpose, indeed it was, but the time has come for the idea to evolve and develop a new direction better suited to the current state of the parks. Mather got the results he wanted. Now a new paradigm is required to continue Mather's legacy.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    I am shocked that not one of the Yellowstone Lodges is on that list! However, Jenny Lake Lodge is my favorite lodge ever, National Park lodge or otherwise.

  • Federal Judge Refuses to Let County Cut Highways in Roadless Section of Death Valley National Park   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Ted Z.,

    Sorry - I did not mean to leave the impression that my aim was to defend Inyo County or weigh the merits of their claims. If Inyo is anything like my home Clallam County here on the Olympic Peninsula, they have approval ratings that make Congress feel well-loved! And they earned them! ;-)

    Really, my aim was to address the depiction of R.S. 2477 itself as bogus, which is fairly common but inaccurate & misleading. The statute still applies to rights-of-way from before 1976. It was repealed in '76, for new claims, but pre-76 ROW is explicitly 'grandfathered' under it.

    Ted Z. said:

    Several of Inyo County's claims involve routes that the County never maintained, as far as anyone can tell. (emph. added)

    The provisions of R.S. 2477 never required the ROW be "maintained", only that it be "constructed"1. It is quite common - 'the rule', actually - that successful R.S. 2477 claims have been neglected & overgrown for long periods. ROW does not 'go away' because it is not maintained.

    While several high-profile disputes have revolved around the claims, and I daresay even the antics of specific Counties, R.S. 2477 is not aimed at, restricted to or mainly utilized by Counties. Anybody - from Grandma Pettipoo to Native Tribes to the State of Alaska to the full spectrum of NGOs from hunters & dirt-bikers to tree-huggers & animal-rights radicals can & have successfully used R.S. 2477.

    1. Bearing in mind the law was written in 1866, the meaning of "constructed" and "highway" were a good deal more modest than today. 'Trails' routinely qualify under R.S. 2477, today, and the construction involved consisted mainly in moving logs & boulders aside and hacking back bushes & limbs.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker, I read a biography of Stephen Mather. He, the first superintendent of the national parks, was the mover and shaker behind putting luxury lodgings in the parks. The thinking was that until the elite of Washington, D. C. and the east coast had what they considered to be a comfortable place to stay, they wouldn't support the expansion of the national parks system. So that's why there is a presidential suite at the Ahwahnee. It was a smart plan and he had the best interests of the park system in mind when he did it.

  • Freak Rockfall Kills Colorado Couple At Glen Canyon NRA   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Forever in our Hearts they will be. Coming up on a year and still no sign of Uncle Don. Rest in peace! Love you and miss you both still.... We still can't believe you are gone. Thank the Lord, you both knew the Lord. See you in Heaven one day!!!

  • Federal Judge Refuses to Let County Cut Highways in Roadless Section of Death Valley National Park   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Mr. Clayton makes some correct observations, but I disagree on a few points.

    Some extremist counties across the West view R.S. 2477 not as a shield to protect legitimate transportation needs but as a sword to defeat protections for wilderness, wildlife, and water quality on federal lands. For example, Kane County, Utah, ripped out federal closure signs and placed its own signs opening routes to off-road vehicles in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. They did this on routes federal land managers had closed to protect the Monument from damage from ORVs. And the County had never bothered to prove that the routes met the standards for R.S. 2477 rights-of-way. See

    Several of Inyo County's claims involve routes that the County never maintained, as far as anyone can tell. One of the routes identified in the County's complaint drops over a huge cliff. See . In short, these alleged "highways" aren't the life-blood of travel or commerce in the County.

    Further, while it's true that the Federal Land Policy Management Act (FLPMA) did not vacate rights-of-way that were created up until 1976, counties must still prove their claims in federal court if they want to challenge federal ownership. Congress provided only one way to do that: through the federal Quiet Title Act. And that law has a 12-year statute of limitations. That means that if federal land managers have put the County on notice more than 12-years that they didn't think a highway existed - for example, by protecting the area for its wilderness character - then the county can't waltz in later and say "that's our highway." So, the recent decision is right that Inyo County waited too long.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    My favorite lodge in the Canadian Rockies is Num-Ti-Ja Lodge in Banff National Park. It is located on the shores of Bow Lake, just off the Icefields Parkway. This facility was personally designed and constructed by mountain man, adventurer, guide, and big-game hunter Jimmy Simpson. I highly recommend Room 13. The service at the Lodge is outstanding as are its views of Bow Lake, the Wapta Icefield, and the Bow Glacier. The scenery from the vantage point of Num-Ti-Jah Lodge is featured on recent Toyota TV ads.

    The prices for rooms at Crater Lake Lodge in Crater Lake National Park, starting at $143.00 per night, are quite a bit lower than the prices quoted for many of the other top ten lodges. I think the prices for the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite starting at $450.00 US, with suites going over $1000.00 per night, are far beyond the economic means of the greater majority of national park visitors.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • Traveler's Picks for Where to Get Wet in the National Park System   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Of course there's the chance to get wet by wading or swimming in the deepest lake in the USA at Crater Lake National Park. Hike down the Cleetwood Trail to Cleetwood Cove and let your feet dangle off the boat docks, or better yet, go for a swim. Take a ranger-guided boat tour to Wizard Is. and use either the docks or the boulders composed of andesitic basalt lava as a platform for diving into the lake.

    Crater Lake is among the purist lakes in the world, since practically all of its water comes from direct precipitation, mostly in the form of winter snow. A very small amount of lake water comes from the melting of snow accumulation on the inner caldera walls and from inner caldera springs.

    The water in Crater Lake is extremely clear. A Secchi disk reading was recorded on June 25, 1997 at a depth of 41.5 meters (136 feet). This is the maximum depth at which the disk can still be seen by someone observing from a boat.

    The best time to get wet in Crater Lake is in August and early Sept. During these months, the surface water of Crater Lake may appproach 60 degrees F, but don't dive too deeply; the water temperature drops precipitously with increasing depth. Swimming in Crater Lake in June is only for the brave and courageous. The maximum surface temperature of the lake during this month is merely 48 degrees F.

    Owen Hoffman
    Oak Ridge, TN 37830

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    10 lodges......average MINIMUM cost per room a scant $280.50 per night + tax, (as you'll see noted in the article, room rates begin at the base prices listed and most accommodations within the lodges are notably higher, especially if you require a "room with a view"), min/max for BASE rooms of $85/$550, and 85 bucks doesn't even get you a bathroom. I wonder if you get a bed or a cot in a closet. If you seriously can't think of anything better to do on your visit to "our national parks" (OK, I'll cut the Canadians in, but Dr. Bob's right, San Fran doesn't qualify) with your $300+ dollars than literally waste it for one day's lodging, with no meals, gratuities, or any other amenities included, you deserve everything bad in life that happens to you. Really folks, for what amounts to paying the equivalent of almost $40/hour for a place to sleep, or $30/hour if you sit on the veranda and have a cocktail or two, oops, forgot to factor in the cocktail....make that $40/hour either way, you must be educationally impaired.

    In other threads we've bandied about the pricing of simple entry fees to certain NPS units being well above the level that allows for a large segment of society to even consider visiting. I say, kick out corporate run lodging, let people know they've about to embark on a trip to a National Park, not some damn country club, spare the useless amenities which only serve to drive the cost of day-to-day business operations through the roof, regain control of basic operational costs and stop running these lodges as luxury hotels. If a certain segment of the population stops visiting because they aren't going to be treated as though they're "special", fine, let 'em stay home and watch TLC, Discovery, PBS, or the other outlets where these fine landscapes are displayed. All that money being wasted, no monetary benefit to the NPS, and people actually have the gall to raise issues with the entrance fees and permit costs? Somebody needs to kick you in the vertical smile and dislodge your head from the orifice in which it’s become "lodged".

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Kurt, you're absolutely right about Curry Village. That is more accurately called a tent slum; crowded, noisy, filthy bathrooms, penned in between the roads and parking lot, large unappealing dining hall with food that provides calories but nothing else. TML and to a lesser extent White Wolf Lodge have a different ambience entirely. Small, quiet, better dining, least until I posted here about how wonderful TML is.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   6 years 28 weeks ago

    This is a general comment. I am in no way saying this child provoked the situation. I've visited this area many times and have encountered bears several times. I've heard stories about people leaving food out and/or not latching trash containters so they could attract bears. I've witnessed a few dumpster diving bears and they act pretty fearless of humans. Why do people leave food traps? I'm not sure if they're hoping to get a photo on vacation or what. But, I believe this is what helps to create agressive bear behavior near humans. In Cade's Cove, I've seen people stop their cars and jump out with their cameras to get as close as possible to capture a bear photo. I think people need to be more respectful of nature, but I also agree that if relocation isn't a possibility, the animal should be destroyed for safety reasons. It's sad, but the behavior most likely will not change once they're agressive.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    I almost mentioned TML, Kath;-)

    Of course, not all tent cabin accommodations were created equal. While Curry Village utilizes the same tent cabins as those at TML, I'd never put Curry Village on a "best lodging" list.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Thank goodness my favorite, the Tuolumne Meadows Lodge, a group of tent cabins in Yosemite, isn't on the list. It's hard enough now to get a reservation there. Staying at the TML is a much more authentic national park experience than at all those fancy places far removed from nature.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Kurt: You established a new word in your blog that has been a important contribution to the National Parks: Parkitecture! When I review some the architecture or "parkitecture" of the past that was established back in the 1920's, and post war 1930's with the civilian conservation core (CCC), I take a moment to reflect with respect (and great awe) the men and women that put these enormous projects together and gave us some of the most beautiful architecture, bridges, trails and infrastructure of the world. The enormous undertaking of these projects still today brings us much pleasure to see and visit. The past architects had a very special talent blending in the natural surroundings of the landscape with it's design concepts that fitted well with it's environment. More less to say, "form follows function" which was coined by the famed architect Frank L. Wright. I deeply regret today, we don't have that same passion and movement to re-establish our National Parks on the same level or plateau of inspiration, dedication and commitment, which definitely reflects from the lack of true leadership in this country. The National Parks today are nothing but a parasitic breeding ground for corporate interests and to the corporate pimps that pander for it's greed.

  • MSNBC’s Top 10 National Park Lodges List Draws Curmudgeonly, but Gentle Criticism   6 years 28 weeks ago

    Such lists, of course, are entirely subjective. That said, there are some glaring omissions, such as Yellowstone's Old Faithful Inn, if you like rustic atmosphere, or Lake Hotel, if you prefer elegance. Either, in my book, surpass Many Glacier, which, though in a spectacular setting, needs some serious restoration work and renovations. The rooms are small and cramped, the furnishings shabby. Or at least they were when I visited in 2005.

    Also missing is the Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley, another top lodging in my opinion. And what of the Stanley Hotel, which, although outside the park boundaries, long has been tied to Rocky Mountain National Park?

    What goes into the perfect national park lodging list can not easily be defined. Do you want rich, rustic flavor, such as that which originally went into the Old Faithful Inn, the Bryce Canyon Lodge, Grand Canyon Lodge, and other creations of the original "parkitecture" movement? Do you want more modern amenities and, dare I say, class, such as can be found in The Ahwahnee and Lake Hotel? Should the setting be remote and presumably pristine? Should a decent restaurant be part of the package? What of cost? While Jenny Lake Lodge certainly exudes rustic charm with service to boot, and meals included, $550 a night seems a tad much, no?