Recent comments

  • The AARP Seven-Tip List for Economical National Park Visiting is One Tip Short   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Some of these "tips" are unhelpful in light of many parks' intense seasonality.

    Re. Stay in the park; in-park rooms are often cheaper: "Often" does not mean "always." Not having to drive in and out of a park DOES save gas and wear-and-tear on the vehicle. AARP didn't mention that.

    Pitch a tent; campsites are cheaper than rooms: Oh come now. What were they thinking? I'll wager that most AARP members are beyond being willing to pitch a tent and trek to the toilets in the middle of the night. How about suggesting renting a self-contained RV, which provides at least minimal creature comforts, including a bathroom, electric lights, a real kitchen and heating/cooling. No hotel room at all. No dealing with rain, wind, heat or cold. No sleeping in a sleeping bag on a Thermarest or low cot. The ability to prepare 3 meals a day.

    Re. Skip the summer; off-season rates are cheaper: In some case/places, there are no off-season rates at all because properties are closed. Examples? Far View Lodge at Mesa Verde Natl Park; Crater Lake Lodge in Crater Lake NP; and lodges in Glacier NP are among those closed in winter, while the Furnace Creek Inn in Death Valley NP is closed in summer. Of course, if these tips include loding near the park, off-season rates ARE generally lower. Also, in snow country, while the parks are technically open, many roads are unplowed, and snowshoes or cross-country skis (or very occasional snowmobiles) are required to get into the park at all.

  • Going to Denali Next Summer? It's Not Too Soon to Make Some Essential Reservations   5 years 39 weeks ago

    MRC -

    A good question, and one which may be a bit hard to answer, given uncertainty about how much the economy may impact travel to distant locations such as Denali next year.

    Perhaps some of our readers are Denali veterans, and will offer some suggestions. If I'm able to get some opinions from the park on your question, I'll post them here.

  • Video: Wal-Mart's Super Center Plans Draw Opposition From Generals Lee and Grant   5 years 39 weeks ago

    My good freind Delegate Mark Cole of Spotsylvania does a fine job portraying Ulysses S. Grant and protecting his district.

    Semper Fi
    Omar

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Thanks, Kirby, for pointing out that the people designing, building, and maintaining green roofs are not idiots, and should not be expected to ignore the obvious. Criticism of green roofs is typically rooted in a very shallow appreciation for human ingenuity and ability to learn from experience. Green roofs are here to stay, and thank goodness for that. Energy savings notwithstanding, building green roofs can help alleviate urban heat island effects and improve the viewscape.

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Speaking of fads, I realize it's en vogue to ridicule any attempt to steer the status quo toward more environmentally friendly practices, but the unfortunate facts are that green roof technology is constantly improving, learning from its mistakes, and showing some real benefits.

    Many green roofs these days are using easily removable trays that can be laid out in a grid, allowing easy access to the actual roof in case of a problem. One of the originators and suppliers of the trays is here in Michigan, actually.

    The trays in particular, and many roofs in general, are using plants adapted to harsh and semi-arid conditions. Sedum has been the plant of choice in many areas and is proving to need very little if any watering, even in areas like Portland, Oregon with significant hot and dry periods.

    Yes, it takes a strong structure to support the weight of a green roof, but even in Pittsburgh, where many of the buildings are from the age of "build 'em quick and cheap" they're finding many of them well-suited to green roofs. It doesn't require a radical change in structure or materials to allow a roof to grow some Sedum.

    Back to Portland, again, they've had lepidopterists up on their roofs studying butterflies because the roofs are proving to be oases of insect diversity in easily accessible (to people) urban environments. Entomologists are doing field work up the steps from their office. This has the potential to reduce habitat fracturing and provide opportunities for study of island effect in insect populations.

    Finally, while it hasn't been quantified, there's psychological benefit to humans. Folks that are cynical about every attempt to beautify and "green" the urban landscape probably wouldn't enjoy it, but to many folks, being able to take a lunchtime stroll among some greenery, flowers, birds, and butterflies is an antidote for urban malaise and stimulant to a buried or repressed biophilia (ala Ed Wilson).

    Forgive me for not being sour on green roofs, but I've met the people studying and producing these things. They aren't enviro-wackos and are far from Pollyanas about the problems.

    -Kirby.....Lansing, MI

  • Going to Denali Next Summer? It's Not Too Soon to Make Some Essential Reservations   5 years 39 weeks ago

    Happy holidays to the team and all the readers of the Traveler!

    Reading this probably excellent advice for those who make travel plans and stick to them, I'd like to ask how feasibly it would be these days to go to Denali in a more chaotic style. I never was in Alaska but slightly more than ten years ago, I was just one week from buying the air ticket when unfortunately something happened that made me cancel the plans. Back then I was certainly the spontaneous traveler, since then I got a bit older and only slightly wiser.

    So how about I arrive with decent equipment at the park, walk to the backcountry information desk and tell them that I would like to do a three day/two night backcountry trip in some spectacular part of the park and spend two or three nights at the Wonder Lake campground plus maybe one night in one of the campgrounds in the entrance area. The order of the activities is open according to availability. Would that be even possible? Can one do great trips outside the actual park instead?

    Or has visiting Denali become something like a packet tour, preplanned, prepayed and with full preview in a catalog?

  • The Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Gets a "Green Roof"   5 years 40 weeks ago

    LOL. You expounded upon this nonsense much better than I did, Ted!
    Another example of "green" idiocy!
    When are many enviros gonna realize there is no free lunch?

  • Who's Being Mentioned For Director of the National Park Service?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I like Michael Finley. But your rumor about the reason he retired is bunk. He's not that weak.

  • Black Bear Attacks Child at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 40 weeks ago

    They did the right thing in killing the bear if he harmed a child and showed aggression toward the Rangers.

    Anywhere you the put the bear, he could have easily been in contact with people again. I'm glad they didn't give the bear another chance to harm or kill someone.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 40 weeks ago

    This is a ridiculous discussion. Close down dangerous trails? Yes if there are too many crazy people killing themselves by mere oversized self-overestimation. That is a phenomenon I found so often in the US. People who do not know what they do think they can do everything. I found this also in US citizens in areas like Nepal. They think they just can challenge and press the good fortune. I think God loves the Americans since so amazing few accidents happen. For me as an experienced hiker and alpinist the angels landing trail is a trifling hike. Although for me it is an easy stroll, I always take care where it is necessary. But I am aware that so many people who do the hike do not really know what they are doing. But in this country everybody is free to walk wherever he wants. Right so, or do you want to close all places where one might fall down or be rammed by a car when crossing a parking lot?

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 40 weeks ago

    This is a ridiculous discussion. Close down dangerous trails? Yes if there are too many crazy people killing themselves by mere oversized self-overestimation. That is a phenomenon I found so often in the US. People who do not know what they do think they can do everything. I found this also in US citizens in areas like Nepal. They think they just can challenge and press the good fortune. I think God loves the Americans since so amazing few accidents happen. For me as an experienced hiker and alpinist the angels landing trail is a trifling hike. Although for me it is an easy stroll, I always take care where it is necessary. But I am aware that so many people who do the hike do not really know what they are doing. But in this country everybody is free to walk wherever he wants. Right so, or do you want to close all places where one might fall down or be rammed by a car when crossing a parking lot?

  • Who's Being Mentioned For Director of the National Park Service?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Are nominations being accepted?
    I nominate Gayle Hazelwood.

    Editor's note: Who is Gayle? Read this article for some insights.

  • Comment Period Reopens on Whether National Park Visitors Can Arm Themselves   5 years 40 weeks ago

    i have been a gun owner for over 4 years now and have had my permit for close to one. i thankfully have never had to pull or discharge my firearm for any reason except in the range. thank god. i carry my gun with me everywhere i go except work, i'm not allowed to by law i'm a teacher, therefore, i cant have it on school grounds nor in my car. other than that, it's on me, on my side or in a fanny pack. do i feel safer with my gun? you're damn right i do. the way things are nowadays people get robbed for the clothes off your back so why wouldnt i carry it anywhere and everywhere. do i want to shoot someone? hell no, it's something i hope i never have to do, but if me or anyone that i'm with is threatened or in a situation where i have to use it, you can bet your ass i will not hesitate. a gun is for personal use only. i'm not a vigilante, or a guardian angel for anyone. and i'm certainly not going to wait around for someone else to come to my rescue. if you read the laws carefully, law enforcement is not required to protect you as an individual but more as a society in general. would you want to have to wait those 10-20 or more minutes for someone to have to come to your aid or would you rather protect yourself and not risk your life or that of anyone around you. as far as carrying in national parks, i am totally for it. people say that it will be more of a reason to shoot and kill innocent wildlife or to scare hikers and people walking trails. i dont know but as a responsible gun owner, i know the laws and i have never nor will i ever use my handgun to scare or intimidate others, nor will i shoot anyone or anything innocent just for fun. that would make me a murderer and that i am not. my gun is for personal protection. if you look up or talk to park rangers the world over, they'll tell you just how much crimes are committed in national parks. rapes, murders, assaults. why should i have to fall victim to that if i'm a law abiding citizen who responsibly carries his firearm without harming anyone or anything.

    While neither the U.S. Forest Service nor the National Park Service keeps precise statistics about crime on federally protected lands, officers and rangers say that crime appears to be on the rise in the backcountry. Between 2002 and 2007, there were 63 homicides in national parks, 240 rapes or attempted rapes, 309 robberies, 37 kidnappings and 1,277 aggravated assaults, according to National Park Service statistics.
    The article can be found here:

    Statistics of people harmed in national parks by crime or wildlife are not justification for carrying guns, sure. I carry a gun with me every day, everywhere I go. I don’t shoot people, or have any intention of shooting people. Most people wouldn’t guess that I have a gun. I don’t carry it because I’m going somewhere dangerous and I’ll need it, I carry it because I am responsible for my own safety.

    If you think our Nat’l Parks are safe havens, free from crime and bastions of peace and harmony with nature, you obviously don’t get out much. Just ask Julianne Williams, Carole Sund, daughter Juli, Silvina Pelosso and Laura Winans. Oh wait, you can’t. They were murdered in a National Park!

    carry responsibly

    Ed's note: Carole Sund, her daughter Juli, and Juli's Argentian friend Silvina Pelosso were not killed in a national park, as has been incorrectly claimed in this comment and in blogs all over the Internet. The three murder victims had recently visited Yosemite National Park. We do not know of a crime statistics category that consists of "people who have recently visited national parks."

  • When You Really Want A Park To Yourself, Consider Capitol Reef National Park   5 years 40 weeks ago

    My wife and I discovered this beautiful park last year in October. We had been in Moab visiting Arches and Canyonlands and we wanted to go next to Bryce Canyon. When I researched ways between the two areas, I found Utah 12, A Journey Through Time Scenic Byway. It is designated an All-american Byway (see http://www.byways.org/explore/byways/2020/ & http://www.so-utah.com/hwy12/homepage.html) and goes between Torrey & Panguitch. Driving from Moab by way of US 191, I-70, and UT 24 took us right past Capital Reef NP. Of course, we stopped. The orchards are beautiful and the drive down the water-pocket fold is stunning. Don't miss Cassidy Arch. A good part of the park road is good and easy to navigate. If you are a little more adventurous and have the proper vehicle, there are a lot of primitive roads including the spectacular Burr trail through the water-pocket fold. There are also petrogylphs as well as the remains of the little town of Fruita. We especially enjoyed the school house, since we are both retired school teachers.

    Now UT 24 is a very scenic drive, but UT 12 is spectacular (see http://www.scenicbyway12.com/). It skirts the northern border of the Grand Staircase-Escalante NM and provides grand views of that area. You will also pass over the Hogsback. This is a section of the road south of Boulder that is built on the crest of the slickrock. Either side of you, the canyons drop a thousand feet down. For someone from Florida, it is enough to make you go weak at the knees. Make sure that you stop at the joint agency visitor's center in Escalante. It is new and quite nice. They have all kinds of stamps for your Passport. Moving on, there are all kinds of things to explore. Just before Bryce, you can take a side trip to Kodachrome SP and, if you have time, drive on to the Grosvenor Arch, an unusual double arch.

    A note of caution: if you use a GPS navigator and if you go off of the interstates or US and state highways into the Grand Staircase, be careful. Many of the primitive roads in the area carry numbers, either county numbers or BLM numbers. The mapping programs used by these navigators as well as Microsoft's Streets and Trips recognize these roads are viable roads. Many are not; they are very primitive roads that can be very, very rough as well as impassable in bad weather. Make sure that you check out any of these roads with another source such as the visitor's centers. The BLM has several in the area.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 40 weeks ago

    I don't know for sure, but basically mountain lions are all over the bay area. I also saw this: http://www.bahiker.com/cgi-bin/ikonboard/topic.cgi?forum=4&topic=47
    The good news is that the big cats don't see us as prey... usually. :)

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Lepanto:

    "Apples and oranges."

    I wasn't making a comparison of any type. I merely asserted, with the data to back my assertion, that regional offices' budgets have increased 30% since 2001. You bring a strawman but don't successfully rebut my argument with any data.

    "...through the Bush years more than half of the required outlays were not completely funded."

    What data do you have to support this claim? Which outlays were not completely funded?

    "...the info is just not there unless you go office by office and actually ask the people who actually do the work what the staff levels in critical areas were before, and what they are now."

    Well, if the "info is just not there", then you don't really have any evidence. Here you use the "person who" fallacy. Anecdotes like this do not prove anything. Hearsay or anecdote is not statical evidence. "...in science and logic, the 'relative strength of an explanation' is based upon its ability to be tested, proven to be due to the stated cause, and verified under neutral conditions in a manner that other researchers will agree has been performed competently, and can check for themselves." Your suggested method and hypothesis is unsubstantiated and does not qualify as information.

    ...during the glory days of the NPS...

    I have heard about the fabled "glory days". When were they, exactly?

    ...the NPS central offices are empty shells.

    If this assertion is valid, which I've seen no solid evidence to prove it, then almost a billion dollars over the last 8 years were wasted paying salaries to people who didn't actually exist in buildings that did not house any physical capital.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Zebulon: I want to emphasize that the "$3,000 per animal" I mentioned is a recollection. I am virtually certain I read that in a report, but I didn't go back and check. BTW, Almost every time I visit the the Bay Area, my hosts take me to Briones Regional Park in Contra Costa County for a long hike up and down those rolling hills. You live in the Bay Area, so can you tell me if mountain lions live in or pass through Briones? My hosts, who are Pleaant Hill residents, tell me its a "definite maybe," but I'd sure like to get a more definitive answer. I'll be hiking Briones in mid-January.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 40 weeks ago

    $3,000 per animal x 150 animals = $450,000!! Sounds pricey to me, especially since the NPS could probably auction off the right to hunt those deers and actually make money off of it. Then again, I'm more of a numbers guy by trade, and I remember going hunting with my dad when I was a teenager. Point Reyes is also in the San Francisco bay area where everybody (including me) has an opinion on everything.

    On a semi related subject, I learned recently that our local park district killed 2 mountain lions less than a year ago because they were killing sheep right next to a university (which backs up to a park).

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    * Death of a Land Bill. When the Omnibus Land Management Act of 2008 died earlier this month, it took with it many valuable legislative tidbits that would have benefited the National Park System in many ways. For instance, the measure would have designated official wilderness in Rocky Mountain National Park and Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore; expanded the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System; expanded the National Trails System; would have allowed members of the military -- active or veteran -- to purchase the National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass (aka, the America the Beautiful Pass) for just $10; established the Paterson Great Falls National Historical Park (which perhaps didn't deserve such a designation, anyway) in New Jersey; created the Thomas Edison National Historical Park, also in New Jersey; provided funding for the Keweenaw National Historical Park; revised boundaries of a number of NPS units; and then some.

    Thanks for including that, this is a good example of what a NHL of a Affiliated Area of the national park system should be as the study said not a NPS unit. Plus, I cxan think of other areas of our nations history that need a NPS unit more than the one represented at Great Falls.

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Wade,

    I don't know if you have already gone to Zion or not, but in response to your question, the chains do not go all the way up the mountain. There are many times where you are left to figure a way to get up as there may be two options or so. So, a carabiner is out. If the chains went all the way, it would be a disruption for others. Realize that there are people coming down as you are trying to come up; however, most are very patient and will wait for you to come on up or you can wait for them to come down. As far as being afraid of heights, only you can make the decision of whether to go all the way. Good luck.

    Jacqueline

  • Woman Dies in Fall From Angel's Landing   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Lulu,

    Had to laugh at your name of "quitter's corner". My description of that area is that it is like going to the party and not dancing. Thus, in May 2008 I, at almost 61, make the trek all the way to the top. I was just a little over a year post intensive shoulder surgery and not so great of a knee, so I was most delighted when I was able to accomplish this adventure. I don't know that I will ever do it again, i.e. I lived to tell about it and that is my story. Other posters are right about keeping it open; however, the chains do provide a service and I think they should remain there. One girl had her camera fall over the ledge and, thus, lost all of her photos of having been at the top--felt so sorry for her. Some of the folks that died, were, in my opinion, probably not as careful as they should have been as they were experienced and figured that was enough. It was a slow and steady experience for me, i.e. no ridge running from this girl. Can't wait to go back (maybe Sep 09) and get in some of The Narrows this time around.

  • What Were the Top Stories Across the National Park System in 2008?   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Look again, Frank C.

    Apples and oranges. SALARY increases are partially covered by budget increases, but through the Bush years more than half of the required outlays were not completely funded. This means they are paying the highest-paid people more, but have less money to pay new employees. This is what started this: why do region offices appear bloated?

    Also, new -- I think useless initiatives -- get funded while critical needs do not get funded. Check out the specifics in the contracting for example. Many senior contract managers have retired. No warrants for small purchases -- under $10,000 per perchase -- are even being issued. There now actually are regions with only one or 2 fully functional contract officers who are able to do all kinds of contracts. The others who remain are being called inadequately trained, and will be squeezed out or already have been squeezed out. I am thinking of a room of contract officers in one region that was once full of workers. Now, there is one supervisor and one contract officer in the whole office. You may not call that a "cut" because of the smoke of the absolute "size" of the budet vs what it is actually going for.

    Again, the way to do this, and the info is just not there unless you go office by office and actually ask the people who actually do the work what the staff levels in critical areas were before, and what they are now. In the offices I know of, if you were to compare the key (workers) staff in the central offices (regions, washington, service centers) with the staff levels FOR THOSE KEY FUNCTIONS during the glory days of the NPS, you will find them decimated. True, we now have people working on wastes of time like "GPRA" or special initiatives of the Director, or reporting, or downsizing exercises (this one is big just now and consuming A LOT of staff capacity) you will find that, where it matters (land acquisition staff for example had a big cut in 2006) , the NPS central offices are empty shells.

  • Alexander Hamilton's "Country Home" on the Move in New York City   5 years 40 weeks ago

    AN UPDATE, inspired by the photo found by RogerB34, of Hamilton Grange.

    I pursued the question to the National Park Service guy who is leading the restoration of Alexander Hamilton's house in Harlem, New York City. Here is a portion of this message to me on RogerB34's discovery:

    "thanks for the picture. It shows details that we didn't know, like the number of treads and risers for the back porch stairs (you can see them in the forefront of the picture; louvered shutters over the rear door transom; single horizontal top panel on the rear door (we surmised the same for the "mirrored doors" inside and this confirms that. We're ordering a print of the picture to see what else we can find under the microscope. The picture looks like the one we have of the fron elevation prior to the move (same photographer?). I think the address was a typo and should read 143 and Convent Ave."

    So, the picture DOES reveal the ORIGINAL (but hightly disturbed) site where Hamilton actually built his house, those are the gum trees Hamilton planted, PLUS, RogerB34 unearthed additional architectural information the national park service can use in order to restore The Grange properly !

    Well done ! There was a time the NPS had the staff to thoroughly review all the photographic sources for a restoration job as part of the Historic Structures Report, so RogerB34's vigilance is obviously appreciated.

    for those of you who have not yet seen the photo, go back up to RogerB34's message, and find the link, above.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Here's another successful elk reintroduction program that started adjacent to a park; it's now established a herd at the Buffalo National River:


    In 1981, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission, in cooperation with private citizens initiated another elk restoration project in the Ozark Mountains of northwest Arkansas. Between 1981 and 1985, 112 elk from Colorado and Nebraska were released … Today, most of the estimated 400-450 elk in the state occur … on National Park Service land along the upper and middle sections of the Buffalo National River.

    You'll find more details here.

  • Elk Population Growing at Great Smoky Mountains National Park   5 years 40 weeks ago

    Ted: Archery (and crossbow?) hunts are least objectionable in terms of noise control and hazard reduction, but animal rights activists and many others insist that using arrows or crossbow bolts to dispatch large animals is inhumane. (Hunting with atlatls would presumably be even more objectionable, since very few people would be able to hit a deer in a vital area using a spear-thrower.) Incidentally, I didn't mean to imply that hunters in the national parks are limited to archery and primitive weapons in all cases. For example, sport hunting is a traditional visitor activity at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, and while shotguns are preferred for small game, the weapon of choice for deer and bear is the scope-sighted high powered rifle. Rifles are also permitted for deer and bear hunting at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, which also has shotgunning for waterfowl and upland game (including rabbits, snowshoe hares, grouse, and woodcock). I believe that only shotguns and primitive weapons are allowed at Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, where sport hunting for various species is permitted during nearly four months a year. And of course, hunting with high powered weapons is routinely allowed in the National Preserves. The bottom line here is that people who think that sport hunting is a rare activity in the National Park System just haven't looked into the matter deeply enough.