Recent comments

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Thanks for the very interesting and well-written piece, Jim. I'm enough of a Luddite that I probably wouldn't use a GPS, even if I could afford one. I'm guessing spare batteries might be worth carrying. I'm also ancient enough to have made topographic maps the old-fashioned way with a surveyor's plane-table. The suggestions to also carry map & compass are very sensible, but one must be on guard with these as well. Metal objects and occasionally local geology can deflect compass needles. The generally excellent USGS topos produced from air photos can have errors ranging from misnamed and mislocated cultural features to incorrect drainage patterns due to floods, glacial advance/retreat, and very deep snowpacks present when the photos were taken. I've also seen pranks & vandalism regarding signs, even a few incorrectly placed by the Park Service.

    I think it was Mark Twain who wrote that ignorance is not as dangerous as what you think you know that just
    ain't so.

  • Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Are Costly To National Park Service, But Seem to Be Boosting Visitation   5 years 28 weeks ago

    As the price of something goes up, demand goes down.
    As the price goes down, demand goes up.
    Is the National Park Service stating something else?
    Seems rather suspect.

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I'd like to know which base map they were using: 24K or 100K. I have a Garmin with Topo USA maps but they're 100K so not too useful in canyon country. In fact friendsand I were lost for a couple of hours (missed a side canyon) in the Maze district of Canyonlands and we were using 24K topo maps (pre-GPS). Even that map scale is lacking in canyon country and Zion is definitely a challenging place for navigation.

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Some good comments!

    Bob Mishak is right on target with his comment for GPS use "off the road" or even on roads in remote areas.

    The moral of the story is, never depend on just a GPS, map or compass. Use all three and make sure you know how to use them.

    There's no question GPS can be a great tool. Earlier this summer I was on a couple of all-day boat trips in Alaska. The captain had a laptop computer running GPS superimposed on a detailed nautical chart, which made a great combination, and the screen on the computer was large enough to give quite a bit of detail. However... he also had radar, a depth finder, a compass, and a paper copy of that same chart.

    The small, hand-held devices many people carry can also be a useful tool, even in the backcountry, as long as we don't follow the advice blindly, or rely on it as the sole source of information for navigation – especially in remote areas that are unfamiliar terrain.

    Several earlier stories and comments in the Traveler are linked in the story above, and point out the reason for caution with GPS in such areas:

    A comment by Bogator on the recent Death Valley incident was an excellent one:

    One of the ways this can be fixed is for the GPS manufacturers and programmers to stop letting their programs use primitive roads as a viable option. As an example, in order to go from Escalante to Big Water, both my GPS and Microsoft's Streets and Trips wanted to send us down the Missing Canyon Road (Smoky Mountain Rd), BLM road 300.

    On the BLM map, this road is marked as a ATV road. I did research the road, as well as look at it on Google Maps, and saw that it was not a road we wanted to go down. And this was just one of serveral examples.

    The routing programmers need to classify these kinds of roads as primitive/4wd roads and not use them in routing unless the user has specifically requested primitve roads as an option.

    I did contact Garmin, my GPS company, about the problem, but so far, nothing has happened. GPS's are wonderful devices; My wife and I have traveled all over the US with one, but I never follow it blindly, especially in rugged areas.

    One other example: the website for Chaco Culture National Historical Park in New Mexico includes the following caution:


    Warning: Numerous visitors have reported that GPS devices are not accurate in the Chaco area. Please use our written directions below to avoid getting lost.

    So... no intention to dismiss the use of GPS away from the big city, but good judgment by the user is necessary. Sometimes, you need to take the information given with a block--not a grain--of salt.

  • Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Are Costly To National Park Service, But Seem to Be Boosting Visitation   5 years 28 weeks ago

    "The bottom line, according to the Park Service analysis, is that there was no obvious trend."

    A stunning statement. I'm no statistician, but my takeaway from their numbers is that 87% of the units had higher visitation on the fee-free weekends than on either one or both of the weekends before and after. Seems like a pretty clear trend to me.

    When Salazar announced the free weekends NPS estimated that they would lose $500,000 per day in entrance fee revenue. Now only two months later that estimate has morphed to $750,000 to $1 million. Something fishy going on there.

    The bottom line is that NPS has a vested interest in proving the inherently illogical proposition that entrance fees have no effect on visitation. They've been "marketing" and commodifying the Parks for years, claiming to take a more "business-like" approach, but they deny the most fundamental reality that real businesses have to face every day: the effect of pricing on supply and demand.

    For decades the highest entrance fee to any Park was $10 and most were $5 or less. Many more than today had no entrance fee at all. The Parks were managed as a public good, not as a profit-making enterprise. Then came Fee Demo and each Park got to keep all the money it could collect, with predictable results: entrance fees went up, and visitation went down. Econ 101. Some would view that as a good thing, after all the years of saying that overuse was damaging the Parks. Others would view it as a bad thing because of the social effects (those with the lowest incomes are impacted the most) and the likelihood that reduced visitation will be followed by reduced appropriations from Congress.

    Regardless of your point of view, the question of whether entrance fees deter visitation has been settled.

  • National Parks Will Waive Entrance Fees on September 27, National Public Lands Day   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Cecile,

    They've renamed the Golden Age Passport. It's now called "America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass – Senior Pass," and costs $10.

    This is a lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over. The pass provides access to, and use of, Federal recreation sites that charge an Entrance or Standard Amenity. The pass admits the pass holder and passengers in a non-commercial vehicle at per vehicle fee areas and pass holder + 3 adults, not to exceed 4 adults, at per person fee areas (children under 16 are admitted free). The pass can only be obtained in person at the park. The Senior Pass provides a 50 percent discount on some Expanded Amenity Fees charged for facilities and services such as camping, swimming, boat launch, and specialized interpretive services. In some cases where Expanded Amenity Fees are charged, only the pass holder will be given the 50 percent price reduction. The pass is non-transferable and generally does NOT cover or reduce special recreation permit fees or fees charged by concessionaires.

  • Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Are Costly To National Park Service, But Seem to Be Boosting Visitation   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Anon: Anecdotal evidence from the free weekend in June showed that some sales were up, some were down in the bookstores, restaurants, etc. Beyond that, those fees go to concessionaires and not to the NPS, so any increases wouldn't offset the loss in entrance fee dollars to the NPS.

    As to your second question, the Park Service did not question folks as to why they visited on the fee-free weekends, but it'd be a great answer to know!

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I think the key phrase here is,

    "That "level of detail" issue came into play on a May morning several years ago in Utah's Zion National Park."

    Note, several years ago. The GPS of today is a far cry from the GPS of even a few years ago.
    Kurt and I both found the even todays GPS may not be 100% accurate. We camped on an island in Muscungus Bay, Maine, that the GPS said didn't exist. We also paddled across dry land on Yellowstone Lake, according to our GPS that is.
    The moral of the story is, never depend on just a GPS, map or compass. Use all three and make sure you know how to use them. 'Nuff said...

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Great story ----- I have had 2 GPS one from Garmin and one from DeLorme ----- both are much less than accurate in the back country. From my narrow point of view DeLorme has no plauseable excuse because they put out nearly accurate maps in thier gazeteer book maps. I complained and they say "it is two different formats" maybe so but it is the same world. How ever they did give me a full refund . I now have a Garmin nuvi and a garmin map 76csx - both are great units but their maps still stink in the back country -- it is difficult to tell the roads from the elevation lines , in some places they just perpetuate errors from US Geological surveys done in the 1930's and 40's.
    Even the city maps that are a lot more accurate are about 2years behind on road changes and resturaunts that have moved or gone out of business. I guess that is somewhat undrstandable.
    To sum it up ---- GPS is a great step forward with many steps left to go --- Hope they get with it soon

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 28 weeks ago

    My GPS has saved me on many trips in the woods. I started using a GPS before they even have mapping GPSs for road use. Just a screen with the trail I've come from, waypoints that I've added, and lat/lon coordinates. I don't see how this is in any way the fault of the GPS unit. You should learn to use any tools you rely on. I would bet they were not better at reading a map. Of course when traveling anywhere dangerous, I take 2 GPSs and a map.

  • Upon Further Review: "But My GPS Unit Said Go Thataway..."   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Maybe I missed something but I don't know why you blamed this on the GPS. If the group had plotted an accurate waypoint on their unit before they left, the would have been led to within feet of the exact spot they were seeking.

    Like many of the other problems of this trip, the fault lies with bad judgment. Misusing a GPS unit is no more the GPS's fault than is misreading a map is the map's.

    But I do agree to you belt and suspenders approach. When using a GPS its always wise to carry a map and compass as a back-up. And most important, know how to use all three.

  • National Parks Will Waive Entrance Fees on September 27, National Public Lands Day   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I wouldlike to know more about the Golden Age Passport.

  • Pinnacles National Monument: Should It Be Labeled A National Park?   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I'd agree with Paul. Having visited all the 58 parks, I'd probably "rank" Pinnacles slightly above Cuyahoga and Hot Springs. This is the "bottom,[b]" and certainly not the "middle of the pack" mentioned by congressman Farr does. I don't know how many of those Farr has seen in person, but his assertion that many National Parks in the East wouldn't qualify as California country parks sounds equally strange to me. I always thought of Cuyahoga as a politically motivated abuse of the designation, however it is kind of cool to have a restored area elevated to such a status. Hot Springs is a bit odd. It has been protected since 1832, making it older than Yellowstone (1872). Once you consider the hills and the planned transition from city to wilds it's quite interesting. Apart from those two, I wouldn't call any other Park dinky.

    Tuan.

    National Parks images

  • The First NPS Area to be Officially Tsunami-Ready? Redwood National and State Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Nice post. World has been facing varied natural disasters in which millions of people have died and amounting of losses increased.But we can't control the natural disasters. Tsunami occured on 26 December 2004. It happened at the epic centre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. 230,000 people died in over 11 countries, the tsunami waves were as high as 30 meters that is 100 feet high. It caused major damage to India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. The earthquake was of 9.3 magnitude, one of the 2nd largest recorded on seismograph. There were many deaths and damages to property in Maldives, Myanmar, Somalia, Sri Lanka and Thailand. For more details refer http://www.journeyidea.com/information-on-tsunami/

  • Fall From Tokopah Falls Kills Visitor to Sequoia National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I was there at Lodgepole Monday Aug. 10, and watched as the rangers (about 6 of them), prepared to make the 1.7 mile trek to Tokopah Falls to help this young man. Yes, it is a moderate hike, but with the rocks and some up-hill portions of the trail, it would take at least an hour for someone going at a very fast pace to reach the falls. As I was leaving for home this morning I asked a ranger about the accident and he said the young man had not survived. I feel very sad about this. Tokopah Falls is very beautiful place, and also very attractive for people to want to climb the rocks. I wish they would post strict signs warning people to stay off. Unfortunatley there are none.

  • Climate Change and National Parks: A Survival Guide for a Warming World -- Coral Reefs   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Rather than engaging in an adhominem against Mr. Hockey Stick Mann (oops, I did it anyway) who co-authored the Nature study, I will share what others are saying about this study:

    “The paper comes to very erroneous conclusions because of using improper data and illogical techniques,” said Chris Landsea, science and operations officer at the National Hurricane Center. In his criticism, Landsea notes that the paper begins by saying that Atlantic tropical activity has “reached anomalous levels over the past decade.”

    This ignores recent work by Landsea and a number of other hurricane scientists who found that storm counts in the early 1900s — in an era without satellites and fewer seaborne observers — likely missed three or four storms a year. The addition of these storms to the historical record, he said, causes the long-term trend over the last century to disappear.

    “This isn't a small quibble,” he said. “It's the difference between a massive trend with doubling in the last 100 years, versus no trend.”


    The two independent estimates of historical storm activity were consistent, said Pennsylvania State University climate scientist Michael Mann, the paper’s lead author. Both, for example, pinpointed a period of high activity between 900 and 1100.

    “This tells us these reconstructions are very likely meaningful,” he [Mann] said.

    What is funny is that with that quote above, Mann is referring to the Medieval Warm Period, something he tried to smooth out in his tree ring study and previous hockey stick graph.


    "The levels we're seeing at the moment are within the bounds of uncertainty," said Julian Heming, UK Met Office. "It's been hotly debated, and various teams using different computer models have come up with different answers," he told BBC News.

    Rob Korty, an atmospheric scientist at Texas A&M University, said, “We must keep in mind the assumptions in this kind of work require are large by nature.”

    More here. This is a hotly contested issue being reported as fact.

    At any rate, I'm as skeptical of studies by Mann as I am press releases from PEER. Mann is very fond of using proxies rather than actual observations. In this case, it's sand sediments in ponds. Very dubious.

  • Fall From Tokopah Falls Kills Visitor to Sequoia National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Dear Diana,

    Our family offers heartfelt condolences for the loss of your brother. We were on the trail across from the cliff and saw the fall. My husband is trained in Wilderness First Aid and reached your brother as quickly as he could. Others were already at his side administering CPR and, I'm sure, doing all they could. My daughter (also 19) held his head for a while until others took over. A young German man on the trail ahead of me immediately ran down the 2-mile trail to summon rangers. I spoke with him later. A trail crew working 1 mile down the trail had radios and made contact with rangers. There is no cell phone service in Tokopah Canyon, nor most of Sequoia National Park. So many people responded to this crisis with due urgency, yet I doubt even a surgery center in Lodgepole would have been enough to save your brother. It is so sad.

  • Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Are Costly To National Park Service, But Seem to Be Boosting Visitation   5 years 28 weeks ago

    The two questions I am curious about are:

    (1) Where they have an entrance fee waived, is their an increase in the amount spent on refreshments and bookstore items that could offset the loss of entrance fees, and,

    (2) If someone visits because it is free that day, will that result in visiting the national parks more often in the future because of they enjoyed the visit and want to experience more parks (e.g., like stores giving out free samples to get you to try it and hopefully become a regular consumer of that product).

    Phil

  • Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Are Costly To National Park Service, But Seem to Be Boosting Visitation   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I've entered some NPS areas after the entrance kiosk staffs were gone for the night. I've heard that there are some areas that have low fees coupled with relatively low visitation (in particular one of the national historic sites in Hawaii) and often the NPS won't even staff the entrance stations because it costs more to do that than they take in.

  • Another Entrance-Fee-Free Weekend in the National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Some interesting chat. I am grateful to have had the opportunities to visit several of our National Parks.

    My dad who is over 80 has enjoyed his "senior pass" for 10-15 years. I believe the yearly pass, which allows a person or their significant other, and a carload of their closest friends access to ANY of the National Parks, is the best bargain available from the Government.

    I also applaud the "generosity" mentality. These places are amazing and can still the busiest of minds, allowing one to reconnect with what matters in life.

  • Fall From Tokopah Falls Kills Visitor to Sequoia National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    He was my brother, and it was pretty devastating to hear. Its a shame he couldnt get help sooner or else he would still be with us. He will be missed extrememly and always loved. R.I.P. kevin and i love you

  • Understanding Mountain Lions at Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area Gets A Boost From New Lion   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I hike in the Santa Monica Mountains a lot and particularly in the area adjacent to Hidden Hills. I've never seen a mountain lion and I don't want to. This is a highly urbanized area with housing developments bordering the parks. I worry that someday some runner or mountain biker is going to be mauled or killed as happened in Orange County a few years ago.

  • Entrance-Fee-Free Weekends Are Costly To National Park Service, But Seem to Be Boosting Visitation   5 years 28 weeks ago

    We were in Glacier the weekend following the last "free" one, and the traffic @ the West Glacier entrance was getting backed up well onto the main highway - so they opened the gates to everyone without charge! We have an annual passport to the parks, so it was of no consequence to us. But I wonder if this is a common practice at Glacier as well as many other of the more popular parks? Seems as though a revision to the entrance would be a better solution than just waving everyone through, at least as far as revenue collection goes.
    I also remember as a child arriving at Mt. Rainier VERY early one morning & being waved through as the attendant was working on a cup of coffee......

  • Panoramic Photography, Or "How Do I Get All of the Teton Range in the Picture?"   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Thanks for you tips...

    Regards,

    KAte,

  • Glacier National Park Officials Decide to Remove Grizzly Bear Family From Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    @ R. Stefancik:

    Yes, the genetic differences. It would not be wise to mix gene pools between the Rocky Mountains and Alaska. So maybe it would be an option to neuter the bears before moving them outside their natural range. But then they would be useless for the population.