Recent comments

  • Would Free "Loaner" Personal Locator Beacons Save Lives and Money in Parks?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    John -

    Thanks for the feedback about how the program is working so far there in the Blue Mountains!

    Kevin - appreciate your comments, too. It was good to know how the idea is faring at one U.S. park.

  • Would Free "Loaner" Personal Locator Beacons Save Lives and Money in Parks?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I think this is a great idea and we've been considering an on-site rental pilot program for some time now. As we're close to Mt. Rainier I've also toyed with the idea of providing our PLB rentals units at no charge during the off season when we have inventory literally just sitting around. Unfortunately, the combination that some higher ups in the NPS do believe people are more likely to take unnessary risks if they have a PLB has proven to be a significant road block. We have rented thousands of PLBs over the past 6 years and have the data which proves people are responsible. We also send out a general information sheet that stresses people may be responsible for rescue costs if the PLB was activated due to irresponsible use. If anyone has an "in" with the appropriate people who could work with us on a PLB loaner program for Mt. Rainier National Park, we'd be interested.
    Kevin Stoltz
    President
    PLB Rentals, LLC

  • New Visitor Center Coming to Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Carole: Per the Great Smoky website: "For updated road and weather information please call (865) 436-1200."

  • Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park Blows Up to More than 8,000 Acres   5 years 34 weeks ago

    We were there at start of this Sept, tenting in Bridge Bay campground. The Lake Hotel and adjacent Lodge are abt 3 miles NE along the lake. I can't see anything happening to the Hotel - it's hard up on the lake, and fairly separated from the forested region on the other (west) side of the loop road - and given the significance and value of the buildings, huge resources would be put into buffering it. Patrons could be asked to leave, if smoke became thick or services were disrupted, but staff will likely be needed, and are presumably well trained.

    Fire is a critical part of the cycle. When my wife and I last visited, in 1993, much of the park was still treeless after the 87 fire. Although gray trunks and deadfalls still dominate huge swaths of the park, there is now a heavy growth of small to medium sized pine, pretty well covering most of the slopes that previously burned. However, the new stuff is much more dense than a mature forest, so there will have to be a lot of die-off as these stands mature over the next few decades. New fires will will certainly consume much of that material. The elk have done really well in the opened landscapes since '87. Apparently, the moose have not come back well, after their forage along the rivers got ruined after '87. I think this has something to do with winter overgrazing of willow by the resurgent elk, which the introduction of wolves (mid-late 90's) is hoped to help with.

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

    Angel's Landing, for me, was the most challenging experience of my life. Oddly enough, I didn't realize that I was afraid of heights. I was a high ropes director at a summer camp where I actually challenged teenagers to overcome their fears. I had no problem free falling from the platform 30 feet high, trusting that the guy on belay had taken out the right amount of slack. I had no problem leaning over the edge of the zip platform 70 feet high, while I was teathered in.

    I climbed Angel's Landing on Good Friday in 2002. I will never forget seeing the last half mile of trail and taking a picture by the pine tree on top. I waited at least 20 minutes before I could muster up the nerve to commit. I remember the ledge close to the beginning. The chain was to my back against a wall. Your feet are barely inches from the sheer cliff taller than the Empire State Building. When people coming from the opposite direction needed to pass by, I held the chain with one hand, and grabbed a rock hold on the wall with the other. As I was holding on, allowing people to pass by, the fragile sandstone rock in my right hand actually broke off of the cliff and fell down the side. It was here that I had my first and only panic attack in my entire life. I literally had to tell myself to take deep breaths.

    I continued on up the trail, amazed by the beauty of the canyon. When I got to the very top, the clouds began to thicken. Out of nowhere, it began to sleet. My hands were going numb. As I hurried back across the half mile of Angel's Landing, I remember looking down at my bloody hand that had been holding onto the chain while rubbing against the side of the cliff.

    Again this was one of the greatest accomplishments (in terms of overcoming fear) in my life. I went skydiving 2 years later, it was a piece of cake for me compared to Angel's Landing. I'm still nervous with heights (when not in a harness) and the thought of doing it again terrifies me.

    Maybe the signs could be a little more blunt, since people like me, don't realize they even have a fear of heights. Still, I knew the risk when I committed at that pine tree after Walter Wiggles. I knew full well where a stumble would lead. It was staring risk in the face and perserving through the fear that made Angel's Landing such a great accomplishment in my life. I still have the picture of me approaching the summit framed in my high school classroom. It is a constant reminder to press on.

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

    Many options? You list only two - be trapped in a tour bus or be herded as snowmobiling sheep.

    Another option - albeit one few winter visitors will likely act on - is to cross-country ski through the park on the roads. Yes, this means one will need to winter camp (unless you can and are willing to ski the 31 miles from West Yellowstone to Old Faithful in one day to stay in the only winter lodging in the park interior). The advantage of this is you can stop when and where you want on your own schedule to look at things and not be trapped in a tour bus or herded like so many snowmobiling sheep.

    Once upon a time, one could operate one's own motor vehicle in the park on one's own schedule in the winter as well as in the summer but, alas, no more. This egalitarian option has been shelved to pander to PC pundits, many of whom have little personal experience of Yellowstone in winter in any manner, self-reliant or otherwise. Lest I be written off by some as a whiny snowmobiler, I do not own and never have owned a snowmobile. I did, however, live and work in Yellowstone more-or-less year-round from early 1979 through early 1984. In my job as an engineering technician, I had occasional need to travel into the park in the winter on snowmobiles. One winter on a week off, I also skied from Mammoth Hot Springs via Old Faithful to the South Entrance via the roads. On that trip, the snowmobles were no more obnoxious to me as a skier than the cars and RVs were to me as a bicyclist in the summer and certainly less hazardous. Based on my personal experiences of that time, I do not hold much with the rationales of those whose efforts lead to the current ban on individuals traveling on their own in Yellowstone with motor vehicles.

    Two options are not many options to those who are not able or willing to travel in winter without winter vehicles nor to those like myself who do not relish being herded as sheep.

  • An Analytical Look At The National Parks: America's Best Idea   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Love the introduction presented by Ken Burns. Quite powerful in how it establishes the historical foundation of the national parks by enriching it with first class historians, writers, poets and painters. Well balanced for the first episode. Very moving in how they establish John Muir as a pilot character in the preservation of Yosemite National Park. Excellent use on historical documents and photos. Very well done!

  • New Visitor Center Coming to Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Is there any problem with construction around your new building. I will be going to the Blue Ridge Parkway by way of 441. Please let me know.

  • Recalling Yellowstone National Park's Historic 1988 Fire Season   5 years 34 weeks ago

    could you see if you can find any information on the effects of the smoke had on people with and without asthma, or COPD. I am doing a paper on this side of the story of how the 1988 fire effected people other than material property. thanks

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

    I just saw that the Sierra Club is giving away a trip to Yosemite. You can sign up on their website: http://www.sierraclub.org/

  • An Analytical Look At The National Parks: America's Best Idea   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I think most readers of NPT rank one particular National Park as even less deserving of Park status than BLCA.

    Episode 1 was obviously dominated by Yosemite & Yellowstone: that's what the narrative was. But, while they don't all get name-checks, I sure saw a lot of images from National Monuments in the eye-candy sequences.

  • Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park Blows Up to More than 8,000 Acres   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Well, that is quite close, yes ... all the best information is found out by calling the 24-hour road information line at 307-344-2117, or the fire information line at 307-344-2580. The most updated Web site on this (and all wildland fires) is Inciweb; the page for this fire is http://www.inciweb.org/incident/1901/.

    I hope your son will be fine; I wouldn't worry; if evacuation is necessary, I'm sure they'll do it in plenty of time.

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

  • An Analytical Look At The National Parks: America's Best Idea   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I've never heard anyone question whether Mesa Verde should be a national park. Even though it protects some of the most significant historic artifacts and dwellings in North America, and even though most of the park's wilderness and backcountry is off-limits to the public, Mesa Verde meets just about anyone's definition of a national park: A place of broad ecological and/or historical significance that protects a wide range of resources. In this case, that's wilderness, Ancestral Puebloan history and much more. Now, if you're looking for a national park that never deserved that designation, you don't even have to cross state lines: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, as astoundingly beautiful as it is, was created in part to be a tourism boon for neighboring Montrose. Really, for Black Canyon to rise to "national park" standards, it needs to be greatly expanded to include neighboring Gunnison Gorge NCA and some nearby private and BLM lands. As it is now, its original national monument status would be quite adequate.

  • Traveler's Checklist – Colonial National Historical Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Pete A -

    You're right about the Cape Henry site; I elected not to include it in the story, since the site is located on the Fort Story Military Reservation, about 50 miles from Yorktown, and security requirements may occasionally make getting to it a bit inconvenient for some visitors. The site is jointly managed by the NPS and the Army under a rather complicated agreement, and I believe the City of Virginia Beach enters into the picture as well.

    Thanks for the information about the NPS Passport - I wasn't aware of that arrangement with the lighthouse store.

    More information about the Cape Henry site is available at http://www.nps.gov/came/index.htm Anyone planning to visit Cape Henry should go to that site and read the information on the "Directions" link concerning access to the area.

  • Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park Blows Up to More than 8,000 Acres   5 years 34 weeks ago

    My son works at the Lake Hotel and said he thinks the fire is about 3 miles away.
    What is the likelihood they will evacuate? Is it really that close to the Hotel?
    I've never been there so I have no concept for where this is at.

  • An Analytical Look At The National Parks: America's Best Idea   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I'll let someone else speak to the matter of Hot Springs, but I would like to point out these Mesa Verde facts. Mesa Verde's claim to national park status dates back over a century (Congress designated Mesa Verde a national park in 1906). The park is not only a World Heritage Site with some of the most important cultural artifacts in the Western Hemisphere, it is also huge (nearly 82 square miles) and includes 8,500 acres of federally protected wilderness (there is actually lots more wilderness than that, too). This is not to mention that the scenery is gorgeous. Just what in the heck more would we want a National Park to be?

  • An Analytical Look At The National Parks: America's Best Idea   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Well, to turn it around, instead of asking why the film doesn't emphasize non-"national parks" you might ask why Mesa Verde and Hot Springs are national parks instead of national historical parks or sites.

  • Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park Blows Up to More than 8,000 Acres   5 years 34 weeks ago

    The bad luck here is the road construction closing the road between Madison and Norris; this is a nightmare for travelers. The only saving grace was that this happened at the end of September and not the middle of August.

    We have had an unseasonably warm September, and so a quiet fire season suddenly erupted late, but weather later this week should help immensely.

    As for the fires, they are beautiful things - those old lodgepole pines are old; they look sick. They need fire to rejuvenate. If you see the smaller 21-year-old forests, those trees look MUCH healthier than those strange, scarred old pines. Fire is such a necessary part of the process, and the dead trees do look gorgeous to me mixed as mosaics with the living ones, with undergrowth and vegetation. Look from a mountain at dead forest mixed with living forest, and it's an artist's palette.

    So, Kurt is absolutely right on this, both from an ecological but also from an aesthetic standpoint. When a forest catches on fire like this, it likely needed to burn. The only problem is the bad luck of road construction with a well placed fire on the other side of the loop. That wasn't likely to happen, but it did, and I feel for those stuck in it confused about having to drive many hundreds of miles to get to where you are going.

    (By the way, I was at Tower Fall this weekend; I noticed the campground there was allowing people with vehicles to fill up the hiker / biker area; I imagine that there are extra spots even in the closed campgrounds, if you get trapped.)

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

  • Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park Blows Up to More than 8,000 Acres   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Actually, it's quite healthy for the forest to burn when the flames are ignited by lightning. It's simply nature's way of cleaning things up, so to speak, of sparking a new generation of lodgepole pines, of opening up meadows for ungulates and even bears.

    Plus, mixed generations of trees make a healthier, more resilient forest, as bark beetles are known to prefer trees with trunks that are larger than 6 inches in diameter. Get a forest of one generation of trees and bark beetles can rip through it more quickly than forests with more diversity, age-wise.

    Without these cleansing fires, the forests become too cluttered with downed trees and other forest litter that can lead to unhealthy forests that, when they do burn, can feed truly catastrophic fires due to the large amount of fuel.

    I covered the fires of '88, and was amazed at how quickly the forests came back to life with wildflowers, forbs, and other vegetation. Sure, a fire-charred landscape seems devastating, but the aftermath of the fire is rebirth, which truly is impressive to see.

  • Traveler's Checklist – Colonial National Historical Park   5 years 34 weeks ago

    For NPS Passport Stamp enthusiasts, there is a third component to this Park. The Park Service is actually responsible for a portion of the Cape Henry historical area located in the Ft. Story military base in Virginia Beach. Although the Park Service does not operate the Cape Henry lighthouses Museum Store, there is a NPS Stamp available in the store that says "Cape Henry" on it. I believe the Park Service has ownership over the park portion of the historic site that includes a Memorial Cross and statue of Admiral Comte deGrasse.

  • Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park Blows Up to More than 8,000 Acres   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I was in Yellowstone in after the fires in 88 & it is sad to see that such a wonderful place is on fire again. Hopefully they get some rain or snow up there to help put out the fire.

  • Accessibility in the National Park System   5 years 34 weeks ago

    I saw a good article about wheelchair access at the north rim of the Grand Canyon at http://AccessingArizona.com/

  • Would Free "Loaner" Personal Locator Beacons Save Lives and Money in Parks?   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Great to see that people are interested in the scheme from other parts of the world, our scheme has been well promoted in the Blue Mountains and is proving to be very successful with around 400 being loaned out since last October when the scheme started. We have had 3 rescues from very remote locations as a result and importantly we have had no inappropriate activations of beacons and we have had no beacons damaged, lost or stolen.
    It is of course very important to stress that beacons are only a small part of an overall strategy and are no substitute for proper trip preparation and planning (please see the "Think before you trek" scheme) of which the beacons are a small part.
    I think the key to success is accessability (24hr pick up and drop off is important), affordability (free is a good idea), simplicity (keep the process simple with no red tape) and of course publicity (the scheme will fail if people do not know about it).

    We think that we have saved many times the cost of the beacons in reduced search and rescue time (in fact it has changed the operation into a simple recovery) and have maybe saved a life or two. And thats just the first year.

  • The National Park to Park Highway   5 years 34 weeks ago

    This documentary ran again yesterday afternoon and I was facinated by how so many wonderful things can happen with the insight of just a few people. The fun part of this program was trying to determine which of the roads I traveled to see the parks were part of the ones they were paving anew. If you have not had the opportunity to go west and see the wonders of our national parks it should be placed at the top of your to do list, they are Magnificent!!

  • Arnica Fire in Yellowstone National Park Blows Up to More than 8,000 Acres   5 years 34 weeks ago

    Headed there Friday-Sunday. Hoping for the best. Dress warm.