Recent comments

  • Forget the Camp, Send Your Kid to Yellowstone National Park This Summer   5 years 27 weeks ago

    What a great project. When I was a pre-teen, I went to Quonset Point Naval Base in Rhode Island with the Police Athletic League and had the time of my life. I fired a machine gun, went on the JFK Aircraft Carrier and put out a flammable liquid fire in full firefighting gear. Later on, I became a firefighter.

  • What Priorities Should The Next National Park Service Director Address?   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Some random thoughts:

    -Consistency of leadership across a few administrations/presidents would greatly benefit the agency. How can political appointees, leap-frogging over one another, even hope to effectively lead? I personally think the agency is in need of a leader that has not only been a long-time employee of the NPS but is a demonstrated visionary that could establish a Mission 66 type initiative. (I assume the Centennial Initiative is an attempt at just such a program, but it's merits, aside from hiring increases, are dubious to say the least.)

    -Not one of our panel of experts mentions training or recruitment. Absolutely essential to any organization, public or private, is attracting and developing a staff that is well educated, well trained, and passionate about the enterprise at hand.
    Specifically concerning interpretive staff, the NPS desperately needs folks who are not only qualified for the job but genuinely like working with the public. (I think we've all had plenty of experiences with front line staff that are seemingly uninterested in the visitor's presence...) A genuine dislike for the visitor has led us to the iPod/cellphone tours that, while mostly well produced, are antithetical to principles of stewardship.
    I worry that some folks currently in permanent positions are just glad to have a paycheck and could care less about what kind of experience they provide the visitor.
    Am I correct in the knowledge that in the earlier decades of the NPS one was assigned a park to work at upon initial hire? Such an intake system would certainly help to weed out those folks that are just looking for a comfortable government job within their own community.

    -I have to personally wonder how ongoing comments about the "worth" of existing units must effect the morale of the employees that work so hard to care for and interpret those places.

    -I've personally witnessed a great divide, if you will, between natural resource management and cultural resource management. I would seriously doubt that few Chiefs of Resource Management are equally passionate about (or have the educational background) to successfully meet the needs of both cultural and natural resources.
    Would NPS units that are (by definition) wholly "cultural" or "historic" be better served by their own dedicated agency? While this wouldn't guarantee safety from the kind of mismanagement that Richard Sellers alludes to, it might help to attract and keep the folks that are truly interested in preservation, maintenance, and interpretation of these resources that are just as vital to our nation as the natural ones.

    Just some thoughts and possible answers...

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 27 weeks ago

    I just finished watching an old "West Wing" episode where the President and an advisor had recently been shot. A conservative pundit is arguing about how the ability of "law-abiding" citizens to carry guns makes us all safer. One of the President's men points out that three people (including the President of the United States) had recently been shot despite being surrounded by the most heavily armed, best trained security team in the world; and that they had been shot with a weapon legally purchased. Fiction, yes. But seven US Presidents have been shot in real life, four have died. Guns do not stop crime.
    Someone above wrote, "When I went to Yellowstone, I had a .44 Mag. revolver in my back back when I hiked and camped in the wilderness areas." Another states that he keeps one in his RV. I have read many such statements on these pages over the past several months that this issue has been debated. How can these individuals argue for the rights of "law abiding citizens" when they themselves are not?
    Most people who have actually spent a considerable amount of time in National Parks (as I have, back country and front) will tell you that there is no need for guns there. My daughter spends quite a bit of time hiking (alone and with her girlfriends) in Yellowstone, as well as in the Gallatin National Forest. She has never felt the need to arm herself. However, I do understand that there are grown men out there who are afraid to do so. So be it. Let the buckaroos have their toys. As Kurt implies, there are a lot of issues facing our National Parks. The fact that a handful of machos are walking around our parks with their chests (or something) all swelled up in second amendment pride, thinking that they are protecting the rest of us, is of little consequence in the big scheme of things (a shame, but of little consequence). My daughter, myself and millions of others will go about our business as usual. As has been pointed out, some law-abiding (read that law-breaking) citizens have always carried in National Parks. Carrying and discharging are two different things, after all. I believe that the millions of (truly) law abiding citizens who visit our parks safely every year should be able to expect that, in the event of an illegal discharge, the full weight of the federal government would come down hard....and I mean hard....on the perpatrator. As long as that happens, let the children play cowboys and indians while the adults get back to exploring our beautiful National Parks.
    Kurt, get rid of the bear spray. Most manufacturors recommend replacing it about every three or four years (the date on mine is an expiration date).

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Gentle souls... you have nothing to fear from law abiding citizens who are willing, unlike yourselves, to assume the responsibility for legally carrying a firearm. In fact you should find comfort in the thought that help may be near by rather than far away at the ranger station should trouble befall you. Remember when seconds count the police are only minutes away. In the national parks that may be hours.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Jim,

    Regarding bear spray, perhaps you could resolve a dilemma I've been faced with, and my bet is that more than a few other carriers of bear spray also have been confronted with: What's the shelf life on a can of the spray? I've got one that dates to 1991, and I'm guessing I should probably toss it. Do you know of any guidelines pertaining to the viability of the stuff? I've never seen any notation on the cans themselves. But then, perhaps they've added something since '91;-)

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Anonymous -

    You've summed up the correct approach for bear safety:


    The best thing is to be smart when you're in the woods. Be kind of loud, and watch where you're going. And have a big can of pepper spray in a holster.

    I'd like to note one comment about pepper spray for benefit of all readers of this post: it's essential that bear pepper spray be carried for defense against bears. The small canisters of "personal defense spray" purchased by many people for "urban" use are not the same product and are not effective against bears.

    Canisters of bear pepper spray have a larger capacity, discharge the product over a much longer range, and have a different formulation than the product sold for use against people. Look for EPA registration for use against bears when you purchase bear pepper spray.

    An informal survey of hikers in Glacier a couple of years ago found that about half who were carrying pepper spray had the "human" version, not the correct one for bears. It's an education issue.

    Incidentally, although it's not licensed for use against people, if push came to shove, I'd put my money on the average citizen having more luck defending himself against a human attacker by using bear pepper spray than a handgun. In a panic situation, some (many?) untrained shooters will have a hard time hitting their target with a handgun, but it's hard to miss at 30 feet or closer with bear pepper spray.

  • Studies Show Bear Spray More Effective Than Guns Against Grizzlies   5 years 27 weeks ago

    grizI'm taking both (gun and spray) on the trail where bears and cougars are known....whether blessed by the gov't or not. As long as drug cartels are growing pot in our national forests....to go unarmed for protection is foolish.

  • Resolved: I’ll Visit at Least These Five National Parks in 2009   5 years 27 weeks ago

    Gates of the Arctic is truly an amazing park. I vividly recall the trip with Joe McGinnis and the others in our party. I was privileged to be able to spend several years hiking, floating, dog mushing and flying in and around the Gates. I enthusiastically recommend it for those who want to immerse themselves in a wilderness setting. Winter travel in the park requires some in-depth planning and preparation, and you should have some experience in cold weather camping. Anyone thinking of trying it may want to hire an experienced guide and even take advantage of dog team trips offered by local guide/mushers. Back in the mid 1960s and 70s, very few people traveled into the central Brooks Range. My wife and I hiked the area for several years before we had our first on-the-ground encounter with other hikers. It turned out to be a small group led by a friend of ours.

    Ray Bane

  • Colorado Man Dies While Snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park   5 years 28 weeks ago

    He died of a cardiac arrest. He had a very clogged artery.

    [Ed: According to the Larimer County Deputy Coroner, the autopsy revealed that the victim had heart disease and an almost fully-blocked artery in his heart.]

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I've hiked backcountry in Yellowstone three times, many times in Washington, and even more in Alaska. I honestly do not feel the need to have a gun. However, the thought has occured to me that having one of those small .22 derringer 4 shots would be nice- it would make a loud noise and a big flash. Plenty to scare off a cougar or black bear.

    The best thing is to be smart when you're in the woods. be kind of loud, and watch where you're going. And have a big can of pepper spray in a holster.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    RAH -

    I presume you're referring to the young woman who was murdered around New's Year Day in 2008, while hiking in Georgia. The case was widely publicized.

    Unless we're talking about a different incident, that case did not occur in a national park. As pointed out above, similar highly publicized cases near Yosemite in 1999 also did not occur in the park.

    I'd like to invite those who are convinced violent crime against park visitors is a significant problem to present even a modest analysis of how many of the extremely small number of cases actually: (1) originated on park property, (2) involved park visitors, and (3) could have been prevented if the victim had been armed. Feel free to use news reports, flawed as they may be. I think the results would be revealing.

    My personal experience during 30 years of performing law enforcement in 8 parks, including heavily-visited areas such as Grand Canyon and Lake Mead, is that many of the small number of violent crimes reported in park originated outside the park (example: a rape that is reported in a park actually began with an abduction of the victim outside the park, and a homicide reported in a park is actually a body dumping after drug-related violence that occurred outside the park.) Whether or not park visitors are armed is a moot point in preventing such incidents.

    Furthermore, many of the small number of violent crimes that do occur in the park are premeditated incidents involving family members or acquaintances (example: the man who pushed his wife over a cliff is a homicide reported in a park, but I doubt that the outcome would have changed if the woman had been armed. If your spouse who is standing behind you gives you a shove over the edge, good luck in whipping out your concealed handgun in time to change the outcome.)

    Are park visitors victims in very rare cases? Yes. Whether or not that justifies this major change in parks is more a question of philosophy and politics (i.e. interpretation of 2nd amendment rights) than a public safety issue.

    Do the presumed gains for gun supporters outweigh the presumed risks for those who oppose the change? If the new regulations remain in force for an extended period of time, only time will tell.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 28 weeks ago

    I hiked Angel's Landing in Oct 2007. It was easily the most beautiful experience I've ever had in the outdoors. Much of the ascent (and the view from the summit) feels as if you're flying suspended in mid-air over Zion Canyon.

    I'm an experienced hiker, in my mid-thirties, with a reasonable amount of trad rock-climbing experience, and little fear of heights. Even so, I have to admit that the view from quitter's corner (as someone here called it) gave me pause. In my opinion, Angel's Landing deserves to be treated more like a climb- this is a dangerous and hard hike, and deserves respect. If you're thinking of doing AL, here are some pointers:
    - Go early in the day, wear a good pair of hiking boots, and carry at least 1-2 liters of water and a decent amount of food.
    - Read up a little about climbing technique if you can- I found that my climbing experience came in handy, the chains I agree are somewhat of a crutch, and if you position your weight correctly they're often quite unnecessary.
    - Focus on your breathing- most people panic when they're taking short breaths...
    - Give yourself at least a couple of extra hours for the last half-mile. Mistakes happen when you're feeling rushed or tired.
    - Work on the trail in short stretches, and try not to think too much.

    As for myself, once I crossed the first really narrow constriction beyond quitter's corner (about ten or twenty feet into the trail), I stopped crouching, and stood up straight. From there on, the hike was pure exhilaration. I will never forget the light on that day, and the view from the top.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Murders have happened on NPS land and the worst in recent times was the young women killed in Georgia, I believe. She stayed alive for several days but was subdued and she fought hard. She was jogging and her dog survived but a gun may have helped her, Her martial training was not enough even against an older man.

    The fact is that some murderers do prey on people on NPS land since they think the solitude allows them more free reign to committ mayhem.

    CCW in NPS will not impinge on visitors solitude or the children's sensibility. They wil never know any more then they know at a movie or grocery store that someone has a gun hidden.

    Criminals hide their guns also so there may be guns already on people with bad intent. This just allows the good guys and possible victims to also be armed and even the playing field.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    The Ranger can lament all they want but CCW is now allowed and they will not know as there never dis who is armed or not. In all propbability the number of CCW at NPS will be very small and have little or no impact.

    The kids will not know and neither will their parents if a gun scares them so. Poaching will not increase since that is still illegal and this change has nothing to do with poaching. Most of those concens are just Gun scared hysteria.

    A very good point is that guns will not be allowed in buildings and that presents a practical problem. Guns can not be left safely in camp since there is very little security and the need to prevent theft of a weapon is a very high priority.
    Problably there will be a cost to secure storage for CCW holders for buildings and that may become a standard item in many states with CCW and prohibitions in several area that secure storage will be a need to provide.
    Kind of like spitoons were everywhere when chewing tobacco was more common or ashtrays for smokers.

    If I visit a park, say Gettysburg, and want to attend a lecture or a diorama, then a room set aside like a cloakroom but more secure for weapons to be checked for CCW holders. Serial number recorded and a receipt given and then that info given back when the owner retrieves the weapon. Like a check stub. Easily sone but it will add cost to the NPS.

    I expect that courtrooms should also do this since they check at entrance and then the guns are not left in unsecure cars where they can be stolen. I believ that Ohio was required to do this when they approved CCW.

    So this rule will require changes beyond changing signs and posting new signs at buildings.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Quite true, Ron, and that's why I said that the chances of infection are exceedingly remote. But me, I'm a very cautious sort of guy. If I ever get the chance to soak in one of those three tubs I won't be ducking my head under water or splashing water into my nose. Belt, rope, and suspenders.....

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Naegleria fowleri seems to live in the sediment at the bottom of warm bodies of fresh water. All of the tubs at Saline Valley are concrete or tile, so the vanishingly small chance of being infected there are as close to non-existent as possible. There have only been 121 cases in the U.S. since 1937 from all sources. There are many things more likely to kill someone at Saline Valley than this amoeba.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    You didn't mention victim number four, Gerald, so how were we to know? Incidentally, I feel really bad about victim number four. The police screwed up. Stayner killed Victim number four AFTER the police had already interviewed him about the Sund murders, failed to make the connection, and let him go.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Bob,
    I know it happened in El Portal, but the young naturalist that was also killed WAS in the park. She should have been allowed to defend herself. My young daughter carries wherever she goes, and she knows how to use it. She is so dang quick on the draw! Wish I had her reflexes!
    The point to be made as far as the Sunds, however is that if they wanted to carry a weapon, they would have had to leave the gun in the room while they visited the park. That is not good idea for anyone to do that while they are on vacation for many reasons, the most obvious being the gun may fall into the wrong hands. That is the unintended consequences of gun control laws and how the bad guys get guns. Thus, law-abiding citizens should be able to keep their firearms with them no matter where they go, and this is the intent of the new NPS law. Myself, I believe visitor centers should not be any different, and as time passes they will probably won't be as it is also not a good idea to leave it in the car in the parking lot.
    The only ones who benefit from "gun free zones" are the criminals...they don't care what the law says.

  • National Park System Would Gain Official Wilderness Under Omnibus Lands Bill   5 years 28 weeks ago

    While I'd love to be a wilderness supporter, due to incorrect legal interpretation of the Wilderness Act, more wilderness usually equals less Mountain Biking opportunity. So, I'm off to complaining to my state senator... :(

  • Violent Deaths in the National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Interesting.....

    What were talking about is a basic human right...the right to self defense....

    That right to self defense in not limted to HUMAN attackers...

    Bears in national parks are increasinly attacking visiters...mountain lions and cougers have attacked , mauled and killed children while their unarmed parents were within feet of them...

    Guns cause violence like fire extinguishers cause fires...better yet...most fires in homes occur where there are smoke detectors.....therefore smoke detectors cause home fires.

    Correlation does not equal causality..

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Tom, I'm afraid I'm not familiar with the disease threats at Isle Royale. I trust that you've already thought of directing your questions to the park superintendent and your research program manager(s). They ought to feel some sense of obligation in this matter. BTW, when I read Nevada Barr's most recent book Winter Study, the novel that has super ranger Anna Pigeon working with the ISRO wolf study program, I noticed that a whole bunch of scientists were listed in the books credits section. It's a good bet that somebody on that list is a goldmine of information you can use.

    Your query puts me in mind of an event that happened in July 1963. I was then an undergraduate student assistant (free lodging and tuition) at a six-week geology field camp based at an old CCC camp on a lake WAY back in the Seney Swamp in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. (Serious fans of Ernest Hemingway will recognize this as the the Big Two-Hearted River setting for one of Hemingway's lesser known productions -- the one that has protagonist Nick Adams in need of wilderness retreat and soul-healing.) Anyway, we students and the professor in charge opened the big old CCC-built lodge after it had been sitting unused for goodness knows how long. In addition to the mummified porcupine we found in the chimney, there was an incredible number of very live mice scurrying around. That evening we sat around the big kitchen table, drank Pabst Blue Ribbon (Lloyd Schmaltz was a very live-and-let-live professor) and amused ourselves by setting mousetraps for these rodents -- the very rodents whose droppings we had swept out of the huge lodge earlier that day. Mouse after mouse after mouse would pop into view, head for the nearest cheese-baited trap, and BAM! -- the trap, a newly dead mouse in its lethal embrace, would fly into the air accompanied by cheers that grew louder and louder as the evening progressed and our beer supply diminished. We could have repeated the exercise out in the shed where a similar colony of rodents was ensconced. I remember coughing every morning at dawn when I went out to the shed to start the diesel generator that powered the lodge's electrical system. This was an incredibly dusty environment, and I have no doubt that my deep coughs drew a good deal of powdered rodent crap deep into my lungs. Forty-five plus years down the road, I am left to assume that either the dust was not contaminated by hantivirus or my immune system is better than average.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Some might take exception to your "gift from President Theodore Roosevelt" remark, Jim. If the Kents hadn't rescued a big tract of pristine Coast redwood forest from the loggers and donated 295 acres of it to the Federal government, there would have been no national monument to proclaim. TR openly acknowledged the key role of the Kents' gift and felt it wholly proper for the Federal government to honor the Kents' request that the new park be named in honor of John Muir. The bottom line si that the Kents donated the land for the park, chose the name for the park, and deserve appropriate credit for the gift. Understand that I'm not saying that TR doesn't deserve some credit here. He obviously felt a great sense of personal pride in this particular proclamation.

  • Park Rangers, Active and Retired, Lament Change in Gun Rules for National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Anonymous,
    Tell me, out of sheer curiousity, what good will the weapon be to you in your backpack? Imagine yourself walking along the trail, as you round an outcropping, you run into mama grizz and her two cubs a mere handful of yards away. Now what? I know, drop your pack, that will only take a second or two, then unzip or unbuckle the pack. Another couple of seconds. Now reach in and get a grip on the weapon and draw it out. I'm thinking at this point the grizz is on you like glue. But, at least the grizz is distracted with you and your companions or family can now make their escape. Congrats! Carrying a weapon has saved lives. Just not yours. Carry bear spray on your packbelt, easier access and weighs a lot less. Plus you don't have to be as accurate as with a handgun. Oh and the pepper spray works equally well on humans too, just incase you are attacked.

  • Muir Woods National Monument is More than Really Old, Really Big Trees   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Thanks, Scott. In a former life I wrote the instructors manuals for the early editions of America's leading college text on environmental quality management. That, and regularly teaching a course called Human Impact on Environment, encouraged me to learn a lot about ecological concepts and principles. I don't do that sort of work anymore, but it's in my blood, and at odd intervals I slip into the deeper ecology mode when writing for Traveler. I'm sure that Kurt will rein me in if I cross the line, revert to professorial preachment, and start putting Traveler readers to sleep.

  • Deadly Threats You Never Heard of Lurk in Our National Parks   5 years 28 weeks ago

    Bill, I've got a story about the Saline Valley hot springs in the works, and if I can clear some of this backlog I'll finish it and post it in the near future. Meanwhile, I've never heard of anyone being harmed by infectious disease lurking in the water there. Your signage suggestion put a smile on my face. I'd guess that the typical Saline Valley bather has about as much use for a warning sign as he has for a swimsuit.