Recent comments

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I've worked as a river guide in Grand Canyon for over twenty years, and this example serves as a perfect illustration of the softening and sense of entitlement that's rampant in America nowadays across the board. We've seen it on river trips, and I'm sure the Rim rangers are pretty tired of it too. A very small percentage of the population has any connection with what wilderness really means, and devices like the SPOT beacons foster this lack of responsibility manyfold. Not to be mean-spirited, but these jackasses
    needlessly risked the lives of rescuers several times, and should be thrown in jail and fined heavily. Their conduct borders on the unbelievable, but sadly is all too common. Anything else is an insult to the rescue community.

  • Recalling Yellowstone National Park's Historic 1988 Fire Season   5 years 31 weeks ago

    You can get somewhat of a feel for the reforestation by looking at the photos on this site: though I didn't say any taken beyond 1999.

    Some areas, understandably, are doing better than others. Some parts of the forest along the road coming in from the South Entrance look pretty devastated when you think it's been 20 years, but they're coming back.

    More information can be found here:

    No doubt a little more Internet research would turn up more info.

  • Recalling Yellowstone National Park's Historic 1988 Fire Season   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Are there alot of pictures of the beautiful new forests regrowing in Yellowstone? I've driven through there a few years before the fires of 1988, fully knowing the forests were headed for a disaster in the following years to come because of mismanagement by the government (Nat'l Park Service). I'm thinking alot of areas may still be void of any new tree growth because of the high intensity of the fires in many areas? If you get a chance could you tell me where a person might find some information regarding this. I live in Oregon currently and don't plan on any trips soon to Yellowstone.... I would think that the internet must have some proof on the beneficial aspects of the forests fires that raged through the park in 1988. So I can view how wonderful forest fires really are. Sincere Regards, X-Worker

  • Adding to the National Park System: Here's One List Of Possibles....   5 years 31 weeks ago

    maine north woods??

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I've heard of various backcountry hikers (with cell phones) who were otherwise in good shape with plenty of food, water,and shelter but didn't want to continue because they were tired. The most entertaining quote when the NPS decided to send out someone on foot to check the state of these hikers was "Where's the helicopter?" as if they expected to be airlifted out just because they were tired.

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    And just think - they're teaching their offspring how to handle all these "emergencies". Look for more don't-need-rescuing rescues in the future.

  • Columbus Day is also Native American Day   5 years 31 weeks ago

    While all American school children are taught that Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, few are aware that not only the Viking Age explorers are proven to have made it to North America, but, that, possibly, many other explorers, traders, and colonists may have also visited our shores in truly ancient times. Even fewer are aware that Columbus never reached the mainland. Historical, epigraphical, genetic, cartographic, and archeological evidence accumulated over the past century of so indicates there may have been numerous ancient cultures that crossed the Atlantic and Pacific oceans to visit the Americas. Columbus was not first, just the first to be recognized.

    Many Native Americans protest the celebration of Columbus Day and many States and municipalities either do not recognize it as a legal holiday or celebrate the date under a different name and with different ideas or reasons.

    This petition proposes to change the name of the holiday to one that all can support and celebrate: Explorers Day. Many people, not only in our history, but also living and working today deserve recognition for their explorations into areas of study that either once did or continue to enlighten mankind.

    Those who believe that Columbus deserves celebration may still celebrate his great accomplishment as a navigator. Those who feel Meriwether Lewis and William Clark deserve recognition for their exploration of the American west can do so. Those who believe that Watson and Crick should be recognized for their revolution in genetics may celebrate them. Those who think Chief Joseph or Squanto deserve celebration may do so. All who explore new areas of study and thus contribute to the expansion of mankind's knowledge and peaceful coexistence deserve recognition, not just the most famous navigator.

    Please consider adding your voice to this plea.

  • Traveler's Gear Box: Hauling Your Gear Around   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Joe Average,

    Some great input! As you noted, it often comes down to the rig you're driving and how ingenious you are.

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I'm surprised this didn"t make the national news - "4 previously thought to be extict dodos were discovered in the Grand Canyon!"

  • Traveler's Gear Box: Hauling Your Gear Around   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I went a different route. Whether it is a better route depends on needs vs wants.

    We drive a 10 year old CR-V with a four cylinder engine. It's our family's "big" vehicle. We really like this vehicle and bought it new 185K miles ago. We get ~25 mpg all the time with it. We'd like to have a huge SUV or van but don't want to fuel or maintain it the rest of the year. Or drive a large vehicle. We'll likely replace this CR-V with another CR-V in another 100K miles.

    Our cargo/projects/camping hauler was once a simple 5x8 utility trailer with 12 inch tires. I upgraded that trailer to a wooden floor from expanded steel wire and welded up a steel tailgate/ramp for it over the years. We removed one of the leaf springs leafs so it had a little suspension movement. The axle was rated for 2300 lbs and we generally hauled 300 lbs on it. For ten years+ it was a good hauler.

    The down side to that trailer was the open top. Nothing was secure despite bike locks and chains. Everything was exposed to the weather. We looked a little like the Clampett's arriving everywhere because the trailer towards the end of our ownership was needing a third paintjob. I also never installed proper bike racks or a cargo box. I was going to do that and then I had a different train of thought that I'll detail below. It was HEAVY despite it's small size.

    We sold that trailer for about the same price as I originally purchased it for and sniffled a little as it rode away with it's new owner. Lots of our family history with that trailer.

    The trailer you reviewed is a great upgrade from what we had for camping. Proper bike racks, some weathertight cargo space, etc. Still though it is open to the weather and I don't want $1200 worth of bicycles to be exposed to the road spray, the grit and the oil of the wet highways when we get caught out in bad weather. When we park somewhere with an opentop trailer I worry about being out of sight of the trailer and fear somebody would take our stuff. Just having stuff visible is half the danger.

    Still I like the lightness and the ease with which this Yakima could be stored!

    I looked at small enclosed trailers sold by several American manufacturers and most were either VERY expensive (the kind sold to the hot rod or motorcycle enthusiasts) or very large and heavy requiring more vehicle than we want or need for family commuter duties the rest of the year.

    I spent three years in Italy back in the early 90s and the good people there had really small and economical trailers to pull behind their 1.6L family sedans and hatchbacks. These were basically plywood luggage boxes with wheels. Some had clever features like the ability to be stored on the tailgate beside a wall. I wanted something more substantial than that but it didn't have to be too HD b/c our bikes don't weigh much. They almost met our criteria. Covered. Lightweight. Lockable. Stands on the tailgate for storage. I began to price building one at home. I got prices for torsion axles, wheels, tongues, plywood, locks, and lighting.

    I looked around some more on the European websites and more right ideas for a small but very useful trailer. (cue Thomas the Train music...)

    There are a dozen+ brands of small steel galvanized trailers that I found on European websites. I began looking to see what I could buy in the USA from those companies. "Easyline" was an option but I not HD enough I thought. Wanted larger wheels. We decided that if we were going to sell our old utility trailer on which we had hauled our tablesaw, our VW Beetle body, our whole house-full of belongings three times when we moved around after college - that we wanted something in between a plywood box and an American style HD trailer.

    I settled on a Thule trailer -errrr, a Brenderup actually. As I understand it Thule sold Brenderup trailers under the Thule name for a while and then gave it up to sell HD American style trailers. The Thule trailers are aluminum at least and lighter than their all-steel American-style cousins but much more HD than we wanted.

    Another option was a modified teardrop trailer that I built so the kitchen section could be removed and bikes put into the sleeping area for travel. I could design it easily enough but to be honest I didn't have the time to build it. And the cost would be higher.

    I was able to buy a Brenderup 1205S from the Midland, TX Brenderup distributor along with a second set of sides (it's modular) giving me a taller trailer when I want to install them (~10 minutes), and a plastic locking top. It's met all our needs. Lightweight at 300-400 lbs. Lockable. Covered. Weathertight (I had to add weatherstriping to the trailer in several places at very minimal cost). Stores on the tailgate if I want. It has an independent torsion-elastic suspension meaning no springs - just rubber mounted suspension that works very well under all the on-road and off-road conditions I have thrown at it. It's rated to carry 1650 lbs.

    Using scrap wood my sons and I built an inside bike rack and bench/utility table over three evenings earlier this month. I ripped a pine 2x4 and place each stick along the edges of the floor beside the walls. If I remain settled on this design I'll rebuild the racks with oak or some other more durable wood and make them look better with stain and sealant.

    Made two crossmembers out of aluminum and screwed them to the pine boards I placed along the walls. Bolted two $80 Yakima (?) "Honda OEM" bike racks to the middle positions and two Delta fork mounts at the outside positions. The middle positions are for child/teen sized bikes and the outer positions will fit anything. Actually I can carry four adult sized mtn bikes but the top is not tall enough. I could leave the top at home...

    Those outer bikes need the handlebar stem to be loosened (one 6mm allen head screw) so the handlebars can be turned sideways. 3 mins to ready a bike to ride after a trailer ride.

    Behind the bike is what looks like a wooden bench from a stage coach. It lifts out to be used for a bench or table or left in place it carries our stove/grille in the base and our camping gear on top. Left in place it is the prefect height for a work surface for food prep or camp repairs.

    We "could" sew a tent to snap to the top and trailer and make an old style VW poptop camper from the trailer. Sleep on the trailer floor at night with the top up, haul bikes during the day.

    The trailer has not been altered at all. Not even screws to hold anything in place. Just closing the tailgate locks the racks and bench in place. It can all be removed with no tools and 2 mins of work. We also built a removable floor that allows us to leave the bikes at home and place gear above the bike racks.

    It is not as minimalist as the Yakima trailer which might be a good thing or a bad thing depending on your needs and expectations but it is well suited for my family. I want to do some serious cross-country travel and prefer everything buttoned up and strapped down inside the trailer rather than on or in our car with us.

    This past weekend we hauled about 1/3 of a rick of firewood inside the trailer to a BSA campout. It was rainy and muddy. I could have gotten more wood into the trailer but didn't need to. It also carried all our weekend camping gear including our Coleman Roadtrip grill (bulky thing but nice to cook on). I drove about 70 miles at ~65 mph on the interstate without a wobble. The drive into the BSA campground was VERY muddy and/or gravel. We unloaded and had a good time. For the trip back without the firewood I reorganized the trailer into 6-8 Rubbermaid containers each carrying different parts of our gear. One had our trash. One had our muddy clothes and footwear. One carried the tents and poles and lights. One container had everything else. Our food container was back there too. Other containers were empty.

    My mileage for the trip was still about 24-25 mpg.

    My point in replying to this review is not to bash the Yakima or any other small trailer but the draw attention to alternatives to driving a large vehicle year round or on vacation. This a great way to travel and still have space for stuff. It works well for us since we split often our vacation time between tent camping and hotel rooms. We like to bike with our kids. Won't afford an RV or the large tow vehicles nice as they are.

    A smaller tow vehicle is so much easier to fuel and park the rest of the year. Even with this trailer it is easy to squeeze down narrow streets or trails. In a parking lot I simply pull straight through two end to end parking spaces. I can also park it in two side by side spaces by backing in and causing the trailer to rotate 90 degrees to the side. Took some practice!

    We can also chain the trailer to a tree in a campground if we want to leave it during a day trip to town for shopping. Or just leave it hitched to the car because much of the time I don't know it is there. No worries about ripping the bikes off of the roof rack going under a fast-food canopy either.

    Small trailers like the Yakima and Brenderup are well suited for small car/CUV tow vehicles so regardless what the cost of fuel does over the next ten years, we can adapt.

  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Snowshoe hiking is a great adventure at Sequoia National Park for winter time recreation. Pick a nice winter day when everything is pristine clear, grab your snowshoes and warm parka and on your way for good exercise with nature.

  • Bad Timing: Road Closures Along the Blue Ridge Parkway During Leaf-Peeping Season   5 years 31 weeks ago

    It can not be emphasized to much - CALL BEFORE LEAVING. Yesterday, Oct 20, 2009, we left our home in Swananoa, NC and headed for rt 276 and up to the parkway. The south bound was closed due to weather related conditions. It seems that our frosty mornings have created some rather icy patches on the road at the higher elevations. We still had a nice drive but we were unable to visit the Graveyard Fields. Our out of town guest were understandably disappointed.

  • Fatal Fall from Angels Landing in Zion National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I agree with the recommendation for a few more strategically placed chains and the renovations stated above by PhotoHiker Bob. I have hiked many of the trails at Zions and stopped at Scouts Landing on the way to Angle's Landing. Having ascertained the situation prior to arriving at that point, then actually seeing the climb ahead of me, I decided it was not up to my "emotional/cognitive skill level." I had the physical skill but had hesitation and reservations about going out to the landing. This should be a consideration for all. It does not take just competence to make such a hike, but also clear-minded confidence. I don't mean brash confidence, but sound decision making capabilities based on the conditions, the mood, the feelings, the number of persons, and so-on. I too believe the statistics of deaths in the park may be a higher number, however, we cannot attribute all deaths to Angel's landing or Emerald Pools. I was hiking in the park this past spring when a death had occurred, but it was a rock climber on the sheer face of a cliff, with professional mountain gear and skills far exceeding that of any experienced hiker in the park. It happened by accident. It was sad, but was a fact of life, that even the most experienced climbers can incur an accident based upon circumstances beyond control. I would like to see greater safety measures undertaken on Angel's Landing. This would be beneficial for even those unforeseen circumstances which lead to an "accident." Sure we can all say that only experienced hikers should attempt the trail, or only those meeting certain criteria should be allowed to hike all the way. But it is the flukes in nature, the simple unforeseen circumstances that lead to death of even the most experienced and skillful of individuals. The perfect example is of the cliff climber who fell to his death. It would be great to just say he knew the risks and he was willing to take them. Yes, however, he was not on a popularized trail, well traveled and well worn by thousands of hikers every year. This needs to be considered. This cliff climber had all the proper gear necessary to make his climb as safe as it could be. Shouldn't this be the case for Angel's Landing? Make it as safe as it could be, then if an "accident" occurs, at least as fellow human beings, we can say all was done for safety, to eliminate or reduce the risk of death as far as is humanly possible. It lacks a true sense of compassion for fellow hikers to just say, "hike at your own risk"...."assume the risk of death if you should so desire." This is heartless and cold. Every type of outdoor recreational park, event, or activity that is sponsored (In this case by the Federal Government) should contain the safety amenities equal to the risks, and provided by that sponsor. Certain inherent risks are evident, but all attempts should be made to minimize these risks. If one wants to wander off the trail, or ski out of bounds in the back country, they assume the risk of death and the inherent liabilities. But trails and ski runs and river runs, etc., should all have the safety implements in place as far as is humanly possible. Tell me and I forget...Show me and I remember...Involve me and I learn. As a patron of this National Park, I would like to recommend the implementation of the safety upgrades mentioned by Photohiker Bob. My heartfelt condolences to the survivors of that woman who fell to her death.

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    These idiots should be arressted for felony stupid.

  • Behind the Lens With a National Park Photographer   5 years 31 weeks ago

    > It definitely makes one envious.

    The reality of the job is that unless you are well established and successful enough to have staff (think Art Wolfe, Frans Lanting, and a few of that caliber), as a nature photographer, you are likely to spend much, much more time in your office than in the field.


    National Parks images

  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I had a blast snowshoeing in Yosemite a couple of years ago. The white stuff was coming down pretty hard too. My car was parked for only a couple of hours and there was maybe 3 inches of snow on the roof.

    Our guide was actually Shelton Johnson:

    I'm thinking of visiting the Seattle area sometime soon. While it doesn't snow much in Seattle, I'm wondering where might be a good opportunity to snowshoe nearby. I suppose the possibilities are either Mt Rainier or Olympic. I guess I'm leaning towards Olympic since there are other things to do in the area. Maybe snowshoeing at Hurricane Ridge. The only thing that would make it perfect would be if Sol Duc Hot Springs were open (apparently it's not in the winter) for snowshoeing in the afternoon followed by a mineral waters soak at night.

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Kirby Adams:
    But seriously, the only solution I see for this is stiffer penalties (either civil fines or criminal charges) for frivolous summoning of emergency aide. That's easy to say, but it begs the question of who decides what's frivolous and what isn't? And it also will inevitably lead to someone not using a summons during a real emergency for fear of retribution and perishing as a result.

    Usually that's for judges, magistrates, or juries to decide. Some of the larger national parks have their own magistrates.

  • Adding to the National Park System: Here's One List Of Possibles....   5 years 31 weeks ago

    How do you keep a people down? You 'never' let them 'know' their history.

    The 7th Cavalry got their butts in a sling again after the Little Big Horn Massacre, fourteen years later, the day after the Wounded Knee Massacre. If it wasn't for the 9th Cavalry Buffalo Soldiers, there would of been a second massacre of the 7th Cavalry. Read, and visit site/great American military history,

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Deciding what's frivolous and what's not could have been as easy as "you called for emergency due to lack of water and have declined rescue...clearly you are neither physically nor mentally equipped for a backcountry trip so we are evacuating you whether you like it or not".

    As has been discussed here before, I really think that the NPS needs to consider 1) rules and regs for back country access and 2) availability of SPOT devices.

    Heck, the next group that has one might end up using it because someone's 5 year old is afraid of the dark!
    In any case, back country rescue should be a cost borne by those who use the service, just like AAA.


  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Snow, of course ... can't wait to get on my skis -- see Tower Fall with no one around; ski right by the upper terraces at Mammoth, ski in the NE corner, and try something new ...

    I actually got on my skis in Bozeman on October 10; not really good snow and not enough, but it was my birthday, and I was determined to do so and managed a few hundred yards in town; here's to a good season!

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

  • This Third Time Was Anything But Charming – SPOT Misuse At Grand Canyon National Park   5 years 31 weeks ago

    The helicopter should have dropped them at the county jail to spend some time thinking about their decisions.

    But seriously, the only solution I see for this is stiffer penalties (either civil fines or criminal charges) for frivolous summoning of emergency aide. That's easy to say, but it begs the question of who decides what's frivolous and what isn't? And it also will inevitably lead to someone not using a summons during a real emergency for fear of retribution and perishing as a result.

  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Kicking around the idea of a trip to Everglades or Padre I guess my answer is "sand."

  • Adding to the National Park System: Here's One List Of Possibles....   5 years 31 weeks ago

    We don't take care of the parks we have, the only reason for most of the new ones is to buy votes.

  • Reader Participation Day: Winter Park Visits, Snow or Sand?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    I love snow but since I grew up in a very mild climate, I'm not that experienced in it. Because of that I don't want to explore parks in winter (unless I had a button I could easily push to get help....hehe). Since I'm much more experienced in the sun and sand, that's where I'd spend my winters. In fact I'm only an hour from Death Valley right now and have been spending a lot of time there. I'd also recommend of my favorite parks!

    Ranger Holly

  • Is Technology Compatible With The National Park Wilderness Experience?   5 years 31 weeks ago

    Hikers Evacuated After Three SPOT Activations In Three Days

    On the evening of September 23rd, rangers began a search for hikers who repeatedly activated their rented SPOT satellite tracking device. The GEOS Emergency Response Center in Houston reported that someone in the group of four hikers – two men and their two teenaged sons – had pressed the “help” button on their SPOT unit. The coordinates for the signal placed the group in a remote section of the park, most likely on the challenging Royal Arch loop. Due to darkness and the remoteness of the location, rangers were unable to reach them via helicopter until the following morning. When found, they’d moved about a mile and a half to a water source. They declined rescue, as they’d activated the device due to their lack of water. Later that same evening, the same SPOT device was again activated, this time using the “911” button. Coordinates placed them less than a quarter mile from the spot where searchers had found them that morning. Once again, nightfall prevented a response by park helicopter, so an Arizona DPS helicopter whose crew utilized night vision goggles was brought in. They found that the members of the group were concerned about possible dehydration because the water they’d found tasted salty, but no actual emergency existed. The helicopter crew declined their request for a night evacuation, but provided them with water before departing. On the following morning, another SPOT “help” activation came in from the group. This time they were flown out by park helicopter. All four refused medical assessment or treatment. The group’s leader had reportedly hiked once at the Grand Canyon; the other adult had no Grand Canyon and very little backpacking experience. When asked what they would have done without the SPOT device, the leader stated, “We would have never attempted this hike.” The group leader was issued a citation for creating a hazardous condition (36 CFR 2.34(a)(4)).

    NPS Digest Daily Headlines

    "...adventure without regard to prudence, profit, self-improvement,
    learning or any other serious thing" -Aldo Leopold-