Recent comments

  • Reader Participation Day: So, What Do You Think of the Ken Burns Film So Far?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    First off, as for the continuity, I wonder how the DVD will be since the program is divided into what I'd more or less call episodes. I can't help thinking that if you want to later watch it on DVD it will seem odd to have it this way with each "episode" sort of recapping the previous one.

    But I'm surprised no one has mentioned, or complained about, the bias. For me personally, the bias matches up pretty closely with my own views but you can't deny he's pushing a particular perspective and view about what the parks should be, their value, history, etc... There are clear good guys and bad guys, and some figures who he wants to avoid labeling bad guys (i.e., people who got kicked out of their homes) are kind of glossed over. Is this slant a good thing or should the film have been more apolitical? I think "rooting for the parks" is a nice perspective personally, but obviously in pushing this view, a lot is left out of the story.

    Also, given how much time was put into this, I am surprised how little footage of the parks we see. Burns is really interested in the story of how these places became parks, but has next to nothing on the natural and human history of the places that made them worthy of that designation. I expected this to be a grand showcase of what the parks have to offer and show Americans why they should visit them, as well as tell their story, but it's much more the latter than the former. I understand this is his style and that much of that has been and probably will be done in other films, but I can't help thinking that the story might be told a little better by showing what makes these places so unique and special, and not as many old photoraphs of the buildings and people, photos which, as has been mentioned, get shown over and over.

    But overall I'm enjoying the program a lot. I'm looking forward to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt area and to the stories of some of the later-established parks.

  • Fatal Fall from Angels Landing in Zion National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I hiked that trail in 1983 and made it most of the way, but my God, is that trail terrifying and dangerous!

    I remember thinking at the time I was hiking it, "People have definitely died here".

    And they have!

    I am not surprised.

    Another scary trail is the "Buckeye Camp Trail", on coastal HWY 1 in California,
    right near the boundary of Monterrey County. There is a sign on the right & a parking area.

  • Reader Participation Day: So, What Do You Think of the Ken Burns Film So Far?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    As history, it works; I'm learning a lot I didn't know. But as story-telling, it falters a lot. Conflicts are built up -- Cameron vs. Mather! Stay tuned! -- but then done away with by a few sentences on the following evening. At the same time, troubling issues like the forced removal of people in the creation of Smoky Mountains National Park are barely touched on.

    This approach is a problem largely because the filmmaker has decided to make his documentary a narrative -- and then stops and starts the story over and over. It's largely a script problem, and makes me wonder if a less chronological approach might have been more interesting.

    Beautiful images, of course, but often no indication of where the shot was taken -- unless of course it was Yosemite or Yellowstone, which we see over and over. I agree there are too many writers interviewed and too few rangers. Who are these writers? What did they write?

    I'll keep watching because, as I said, I'm learning things. But there are history lessons that are necessary and history lessons that are compelling; this one seems more necessary.

  • Wintry Weather Knocking Down Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago


    It is more likely that the smoke over J hole originated from the Bearpaw fire in the park. My wife and I dayhiked the Paintbrush/ Cascade loop (In GTNP) last saturday 9/26. The smoke was present, but not overwhelming as we headed up. It didn't seem to affect some bugling elk along the way who headed towards the smoke. At about 8500 feet, we rose above the cloud and breathed the crisp air we expected upon embarking. As the day went on, the wind direction shifted, and the northern flank of the Grand which was veiled in gray, cleared out nicely, providing us resplendent views heading down to Cascade canyon from lake solitude.

    The following day, we embarked on a 3 day journey to Heart Lake in Yellowstone's SE corner. In the afternoon we watched as the plume from the Arnica fire grew and shifted with corresponding changes in wind strength and direction from the trail as it rises above the Heart Lake Basin. For the better part of the day, the reach of the smoke tended to the ESE- towards the Thorofare part of the park. As nite fell, we noted difficulty in breathing, similar to what we encountered during the Paintbrush hike. Mt Sheridan could barely be seen behind us and the moon looked yellowy in the sky.
    It was possible that some of the smoke may have reached the J hole that nite on a northerly wind.

    Monday, we climbed Mt Sheridan on a mostly smokefree day. We hit the top (10,300') about 1 pm. This is a phenomenal vantage point in which to see both parks layed out in their entirety below. It was relatively calm on top with only slight breezes out of the west. The tetons were obscured, but still visible with billows of smoke filling the Hole. In Yellowstone, the Arnica fire was split into several plumes with lingering low smoke only covering the Bridge Bay area. A huge plume was rising in the valley east of Mts Doane and Stephenson at the far east end of the park.

    We enjoyed a lovely clear nite, with a bright white moon hovering over us to the south (in the direction of the Tetons). Tuesday, we hiked out by way of the upper Snake River to the South boundary RS. A long, but lovely hike that we would recommend to any junkie who loves the Teton/Yellowstone backcountry. The air we breathed was high quality National Park excellent! About a mile from the end, we walked out of the woods on to a classic Yellowstone meadow borne of thermal and glacial origins, and were greeted by another view of the tetons. Once again, the pall of smoke seemed to be local in origin, as above us were storm clouds mixed in with strikingly clear and blue skies. None of Yellowstone's smoke was drifting south.

    Check into the Bearpaw fire as the source of your disappointment.

    Hope to see U out there next summer!

    RT- Elmhurst Ill.

  • Updated: Tsunami Waves Slam Into American Samoa and National Park of American Samoa, Leaving Death and Destruction in its Wake   5 years 34 weeks ago

    From InsideNPS Oct 1:
    Shortly before 7 a.m. on Tuesday, September 29th, an 8.0 magnitude earthquake struck 120 miles from American Samoa, a U. S. territory with a population of approximately 65,000 people. The earthquake was followed by a tsunami that produced several large waves that destroyed the park’s visitor center and offices. All park employees and volunteers are accounted for and are safe. At least one employee's house and four employees' vehicles were destroyed by the tsunami. Fortunately, this event happened early enough in the day that most employees were not yet at work and were in areas of high ground that were unaffected by the wave impacts. The few employees who were at the office were able to run to the safety of high ground, although most of them had to run through water to get there. The park visitor center and all contents, including the park's curatorial collections, were destroyed. The entire park fleet of vehicles was destroyed with the exception of two vehicles. The extent of damage to park marine resources will not be known for some time. Undoubtedly there will be impacts to coral reefs and there will be significant amounts of debris in the water and along beaches. Most of the park terrestrial resources appear to be undamaged. Park staff initially assisted the U. S. Coast Guard with rescue and recovery operations on site and are currently engaged in assessing and providing for the well-being of NPS employees and volunteers. They have also been assessing damage to park facilities, salvaging equipment and cultural resources, and securing NPS property from looters. Park staff will be available to continue assisting with the broader FEMA-led recovery operation in the coming days. Park employees are doing a great job of keeping their spirits up and helping each other and the rest of the community through this difficult event. Special agent Neal Akana from Hawaii Volcanos National Park flew to American Samoa yesterday morning and has been acting as the NPS representative at the FEMA unified command meetings. He is working with superintendent Mike Reynolds to prepare for the arrival of the Western Incident Management Team, critical incident stress management personnel, and other support staff who will arrive tomorrow. A team of cultural resource specialists will be assisting with the assessment and recovery of cultural resources in the park and will likely assist with the broader recovery efforts on the islands.

    Also from InsideNPS: the blog of a park marine biologist & his wife has more descriptions & photos:

  • Wintry Weather Knocking Down Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    We were in Yellowstone at Lake Lodge. Our reservations were for 9/25 through 9/28. Watching them put the pipes together and seeing the whole operation was really something. We talked to firefighters from Bozeman, MT and CA who were stationed to help protect the buildings. The smoke was really thick the afternoon and evening of 9/26 with ash flying through the air. We decided to go to Old Faithful on 9/27 but packed our stuff before we went just in case the road closed again and we couldn't get back. We watched helicopters dipping water from Bridge Bay to fight the fire and about 15 minutes after we came through to West Thumb, they closed the road. We watched the fire from West Thumb and could see a lot of flames and both white and black smoke. We ended up in West Yellowstone that night because the road was closed and left the park for Casper the following night. Seeing how they manage fires was the highlight of the trip.

  • Update on Razor Clam Harvest at Olympic National Park Set for October 7   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Local papers are reporting tentative clamming dates for Kalaloch as Oct 17-18, noon to midnight; also Nov 4-7, Nov. 14-17, Dec, 2-5, and Dec. 31-Jan. 3:

  • Gloryland Brings Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson Full Circle   5 years 34 weeks ago

    After watching Ken Burns documentary on the national parks and hearing Ranger Johnson speak so eloquently about his personal experiences as a ranger is most touching...this man loves his job. A real natural that reflects the love of his professional work and a genuine affection for all people. I rate him along with Carl Sharsmith (Yosemite's famous deceased ranger) as a top flight professional. Your right Kurt...full circle for Ranger Johnson and it's getting bigger by the day.

  • Mention Officially Designated Wilderness, and How Many Folks Think of Shenandoah National Park?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Fire Island National Seashore remains the only park in the northeast U.S. with wilderness. And, it's the only federal wilderness in the entire state of New York. Who would have thunk it!

  • Wintry Weather Knocking Down Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    The smoke you saw was actually caused by a fire in the tetons, one edge of which was in the Leigh Lake area. There was also a prescribed burn in the mountains opposite the tetons. Both caused smokey conditions there.

  • Gloryland Brings Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson Full Circle   5 years 34 weeks ago

    A key consideration was the existence of racially segregated facilities in the national parks. Concessionaires were legally able to operate racially segregated facilities in the national parks until shortly after World War II. They were finally ordered to fully desegregate all park facilities in late 1945. (Federal Register, December 8, 1945, page 14866). Still, some concessionaires continued to offer racially segregated facilities for years afterward.

  • Wintry Weather Knocking Down Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    There has been a fire in the Tetons going at the same time. As a counter-point to Colorado Cowboy, one blogger wrote this "Yellowstone pyrotechnics benefiting Mount Moran."

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

  • Reader Participation Day: So, What Do You Think of the Ken Burns Film So Far?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I am loving it!

  • Wintry Weather Knocking Down Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    There are fires at Jackson Lake as well, and those are much more likely to be the smoke you see around Jackson town. We were at the West Thumb geyser basin on Monday 9/27 and while we could clearly see the smoke to the north across the lake, we could not smell it from that point. Perhaps the wind has changed, but on that day at least, none of the Arnica smoke was headed south.

  • Reader Participation Day: So, What Do You Think of the Ken Burns Film So Far?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    So far so good. I have enjoyed it, especially finding more out about some fo the people behind the scenes, for which so many spots in parks are named. I only wish they would talk more about other parks, like Glacier (even though they mentioned it tonight), verses spending so much time on Yellowstone and Yosemite.

  • Gloryland Brings Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson Full Circle   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Were African-Americans allowed entry into our National Parks from the earliest of their establishment? If not, perhaps that may explain their sense of alienation with our parks. Hope someone can reply to this query. I am interested to know more about whether or not we had segregation in our national parks until the civil rights legislation was enacted. I know that several parks in Baltimore city were closed to African-Americans until the mid 1960s.

  • Wintry Weather Knocking Down Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I can't believe that only 1 month after our family's visit to Yellowstone that it's snowing! We had such great weather at the end of August, sunny in the 70's during the days! Weather sure changes fast in the mountains...

  • Demolition Update: It’s One Down and One to Go at Gettysburg   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Besides the National Tower, that "banjo" cyclorama has always been the most hideous thing on the field. Restore the historic character of the park to the 1860's and haul this "architecture" of the 1960's out with the trash. There must be a deserving landfill somewhere closeby.

  • Wintry Weather Knocking Down Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    My wife and I were at Jackson Hole, WY visiting the Grand Tetons National Park when this fire broke out. We thought the fire was at the Grand Tetons because the mountains were almost completely obscured by the smoke. The smoke was so bad that we left Jackson Hole a day early because we were both coughing so bad. We were surprised when we learned this smoke came from Yellowstone. I feel sorry for the Jackson Hole residents who had to breath that nasty smoke and for the disappointed Yellowstone visitors whose visits were turned upside down by the road closures caused by the fire.

  • Updated: Dueling Judges Push Yellowstone National Park Snowmobile Limit Back to 720 Per Day   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Mountain bikes aren't allowed on the vast majority of NPS unpaved trails. The only ones I know of that do allow mountain bikes are essentially unpaved roads wide enough for motor vehicles.

    I would note that backcountry users (i.e. backpackers) also pay special fees in many national parks, including use and reservation fees. Yosemite actually doesn't charge for backcountry permits if they're not reserved. At the very least, backpackers face quotas in some of the more heavily used backcountry areas.

    In addition, campers are effectively limited by the number of available campsites.

    It's not as if there aren't any precedents for special use (backpacking, camping, snowmobile) limits.

  • Gloryland Brings Yosemite National Park Ranger Shelton Johnson Full Circle   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Thanks for the info. After seeing this in my morning net routine I was able to get a hold request in on the book at the local Seattle library.

    The more I see of this fellow - here, online, in Burns' documentary - the more I admire him.

  • Updated: Dueling Judges Push Yellowstone National Park Snowmobile Limit Back to 720 Per Day   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I think the reality is that the American public, through taxes, pays for the bulk of the park and those salaries. Snowmobile permits are a small, small pool of revenue in the overall picture, particularly when you factor in how much summer entrance fees generate for the park vs. winter entrance fees. Hikers and mountain bikers do pay entrance fees, too, when they come into Yellowstone.

  • Updated: Dueling Judges Push Yellowstone National Park Snowmobile Limit Back to 720 Per Day   5 years 34 weeks ago

    The reality is that permits for snowmobiles pay for the park and those who maintain the parks salaries. Are the mountain bikers paying anything for stickers? Hikers paying for stickers for their hiking boots...?
    I don't think so.
    Snowmobiles should be allowed on public land. We as outdoor enthusiasts deserve to use the park in the winter just as we are allowed to drive into the park in the summer!
    Do they limit campers or cars in the summer?

  • Plenty of Options For Visiting Yellowstone National Park This Winter   5 years 34 weeks ago


    At Yellowstone you have to ski shuttles to choose from:

    From Mammoth, they run you south to the Indian Creek Trailhead.

    From Old Faithful, they run to both Divide Trail and Fairy Falls.

    You can find some details at this site: -- though pricing hasn't been set. Also, the times of departure from Old Faithful's Snow Lodge are off by 15 minutes. They should read 7:45 a.m., 8:45 a.m., etc.

  • Another Cellphone Tower OKed for Kings Canyon National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    One has to bear in mind the legal and business contexts of these decisions. As mentioned in the article, the Telecommunications Act of 1996 requires land management agencies to consider all applications for the installation of cellular equipment on NPS lands. The burden of proof in these cases is on the agency to demonstrate harm to resources if it is to deny a permit to a telecommunications provider. In a case where the proposed installation is in an already-developed communication site, it is rightfully difficult for an agency to demonstrate resource impairment from an additional antenna or tower structure of a height consistent with the existing development. In terms of business, telecom providers require a certain customer-density to make these things pay. They are targeting developed areas - busy road corridors and areas with lodging or residences. The bars you might get on a backcountry trail is a happy or unhappy accident, depending on your perspective (I don't carry a phone in the backcountry, but I don't mind if you do). So I see little risk that cell towers will proliferate in remote areas. The profit just isn't there. All this said, it seems reasonable to expect land management units to develop NEPA-approved plans that provide clear guidance for assessing resource impacts from proposed facilities. This will give agencies a much stronger basis to deny a permit when the proposal would create unacceptable adverse impacts on park resources.