Recent comments

  • It's Not Too Early To Start Planning This Summer's National Park Vacation   5 years 47 weeks ago

    We've been helping families plan National Park camping trips for 10 years and our Trip Consultants have a good feel for when each Park normally begins selling out. In 2008, we reserved about 2500 nights in NPS and NFS campgrouds across the west, but we expected things to progress much more slowly this year. Yet, so far 2009 looks about the same as previous years. Families who may have been planning a trip to Europe, a cruise, or a Disney vacation tell us that they want to simplify this year's summer vacation and save some money. The National Parks are often the first thing that come to mind.

    Dan Wulfman, Founder
    Tracks & Trails - Western Driving Adventures

  • It's Not Too Early To Start Planning This Summer's National Park Vacation   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Kurt -

    Good advice. A friend started checking in mid-summer last year on lodging in Yosemite for this coming summer - and found very slim pickings, with the possible exception of the higher-priced spreads. He was told by a reservations agent for the concessioner to plan a year ahead for peak travel periods in mid-summer at Yosemite.

    It will be interesting to see if current economic conditions change the equation, but I'd second your comments - plan ahead for popular sites or facilities.

    A related suggestion is to go just before or after peak season if it fits a person's schedule - and if things you want to do are open for the season. We had a great experience in Alaska two summers ago in late May and early June. We got some great buys on lodging - one spot we stayed near Denali was significantly cheaper than the same room would have been only two weeks later. An added bonus - we encountered virtually none of the infamous Alaskan mosquitoes, and were told we were about a week ahead of the bugs. I don't know if that was typical or if we were just lucky, but it sure made our time out and about a lot more pleasant!

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 47 weeks ago

    JD, you're misinformed and factually inaccurate. Multiple studies have shown that bicycles do no more damage than hiking and way less than horse riding.

    Betty, our parks belong to all of us and not to a favorite minority of users. Whether there are other places to bike is completely irrelevant to whether local parks should decide whether to let bicyclists on existing trails. Last and not least, lumping a human powered activity like cycling with snowmobiling is at the very least disingenuous.

    This all boils down to the fact that entrenched users simply don't want to share a public good with other legitimate human powered recreational users.

  • Yellowstone National Park: Poster Child For Goofy Gun Laws   5 years 47 weeks ago

    That laws respecting the right to carry arms have been somewhat liberalized by this rule change is a good thing in and of itself. Civil liberties are like that, but their rightful expansion often comes with some confusion and getting-used-to.

    Greatly relaxing carry laws or removing the licensing requirements would surely make for less confusion, but such moves are probably unwarranted or unlikely. I firmly suspect that the best solution is a national reciprocity bill, and we are sure to see one coming along soon. There can really be no other way ... currently, 48 of 50 states issue (in one form or another) licenses to carry protective arms. They too issue driver licenses ... but at this time, carry licenses are not nationally-reciprocal like driver licenses are. There can be no other way but to make the licenses nationally-reciprocal, and draw boundaries around some maximally-restrictive standard.

    Indeed, the best solution is to make all carry licenses nationally-reciprocal, and to define some maximally-restrictive standards. That way, carriers would know what is maximally restrictive ... and more liberal states could relax those maximal standards as they see fit.

  • Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    It's sad that our lives are being manipulated by a chosen few on the issue of our planet's "weather" cycle. It's even more curious how after decades and decades of abuse from mankind, his "intellect" now drives him to right past wrongs which he doesn't even completely understand. A guilty conscience might be a terrible thing to bear (like Bogie in Treasure of the Sierra Madre) but acting rashly based mostly on ignorance is even worse. Yes, Kurt, reams and reams of data have been complied, but to what end? Nobody and I mean NOBODY really understands the full scope of the evidence. Reams of data have also been compiled on topics such as cancer, HIV, the relationship between socio-economic status and a propensity for violence, the evils of cannabis, the odds for success when raised in a single parent home, etc. Most, if not all of these issues are less complex than is the history of our atmospheric development, but we, being the ego-centric organisms that we are, have some notion that we can accurately decipher life's intricacies when we've yet to demonstrate an ability to grasp the finer, more subtle concepts of our daily existence. So if one of my brethren throws down some rather hefty report on any given topic, we're all supposed to bow down and do homage to the Great Lord of Knowledge? These data, while available for our perusal, have the nasty habit of neglecting to mention the specific hypothesis and methods used to drive the study. Unfortunately, those are key elements in ANY proper study. Gathering data sets is all well and good, but if not effectively directed, the processes and corresponding evidence that have been compiled are generally useless. I know other posters to this site have rallied behind the good ol' boys at NASA and their supposedly irrefutable reputation. That's fine. Everyone needs a standard to rally beneath. All I'm saying is that while there can be no dispute that the climate of our planet is anything but a static process, our files pertaining to the rates and specific cycles is pathetically inadequate to correctly assess where we currently stand within any given cyclical event. Warming? Cooling? Yes, on both counts. Normal? Extreme? Not enough historical data to base a long-term prognosis upon. Reversible? Possibly, but by what degree is literally anyone's guess, with the operative term being GUESS. Should we be doing all we can to limit future impact on the system as a whole? Damn straight buddy. Why didn't we start earlier? We weren't, and still haven't been given the tools to do the job effectively. We've been strangeld by Big Business again, who sold our collective souls to feather their personal (and corporate) nests. And to this day, the bottleneck in any attempt to correct the flaws in this whole program is still at their doorstep. Long live Big Oil indeed..........

  • Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Dan raises some valid points. Issues such as climate change and guns in the parks will not be settled at the Traveler.

    But I'd disagree that this is the wrong forum to discuss them. They are both, in their own ways, highly relative to the national parks, and a key mission of this site is to report on and explore issues pertinent to the parks.

    National park visitors need to know about both issues. Obviously, there are many folks interested in being able to arm themselves in the parks, and just as many if not more who object to such an action. Why shouldn't the merits be discussed on the Traveler?

    As for climate change, it is happening, regardless if there's unanimity in the driver. How that climate change is being expressed on the ground I'd argue is of interest to park visitors, whether it's in the form of retreating glaciers, warming waters, disappearance of long-native flora or fauna.

    Anglers rightfully want to know why in late summer fishing often is banned in some Yellowstone streams because the waters are too warm and so the trout too stressed by being hooked. Why are moose seemingly disappearing from Isle Royale? Why is Glacier expected to be glacier-less within three decades? To ignore these topics on the Traveler would be a mistake.

    If the Park Service can in its approach to reducing its carbon footprint educate visitors on how they can do the same in their own lives, what's wrong with that? If climate change is not being motored primarily by humankind, the only damage done will be a cleaner planet.

  • Lost to Hurricanes, the Flamingo Lodge at Everglades National Park Will be Hard to Replace   5 years 47 weeks ago

    My wife and I stayed at the lodge in December 2000 and had a great time despite unusually cold weather. The birding was fantastic. It's sad that nothing has been put in place to allow people who cannot camp to experience this special place. Camping wouldn't bother us but it is not feasible to bring the necessary equipment from home (England). Why couldn't the National Park Service provide some fixed tents for rent? They do that in The Gambia, West Africa in remote areas with great success. Hope something is done before too long.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Those of us who appreciate peace and quiet in natural surroundings are not always "liberals". We are just folks who love our great natural areas and will hike to great lengths to get away from it all so we can enjoy nature in its most natural setting. There are plenty of places outside our National Parks where people can enjoy their mountain bikes, snowmobiles etc in backcountry settings.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 47 weeks ago

    I hope they're banned. The damage done by mountain bikes is enormous. The decision will be political but hopefully with an environmental foundation.

  • At New River Gorge National River, an Iconic Bridge Attracts Suicide Jumpers   5 years 47 weeks ago

    I too have been touched by the loss of a loved one on this bridge since the last entry. I try to get past the anger and fruitfulness of a young life lost because of the finality of the act. We do not know the desperation and hopelessness one feels because they had chosen not to let us. We can not change things nor can we find answers, we can only hope and pray that our lord will grace our loved one's soul with the peace that they could not find with us.

  • Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    This debate reminds me of the ongoing flame war about concealed carry in the parks. Not only is the argument getting nowhere, but I think this is an especially bad forum for the debate. There are big, ongoing debates about whether the climate is changing, whether this change is caused or exacerbated by humans, and to what extent that change is harmful or beneficial.

    Two photographs of a glacier do not constitute evidence in this debate, any more than would two sample temperatures, taken roughly at midday, in the same area, 60 years apart. Retreating or advancing glaciers are not naked-eye evidence of climate change, per se, because glaciers are the products of systems that are far more complex than mere temperature. If glaciation trends constitute a single data point, or perhaps a small series of data points, their relevance to the debate is still dependent on many other factors.

    Regardless of this point, the ongoing, multi-faceted global warming debate will not be settled on National Parks Traveler. Neither will the ongoing, multi-faceted debate over the place of firearms in society. If these debates are ever settled, it will not be here. This is Kurt's house, and if he wants to raise these topics, that's his prerogative. Clearly, topics of high controversy drive traffic, and that's perfectly reasonable.

    But I worry about the role of the National Park Service in the greater climate change debate. I worry that what should be a non-political organization is taking on a partisan role (whether single-issue, or broad-based). The NPS's Visitor's Bill of Rights promises visitors the right "to be treated with courtesy and consideration," and "to receive accurate and balanced information."

    That promise of accurate and balanced information is a tricky one, particularly in this case. Shall we tell visitors accurately that the sky is blue, or should we balance that with the possibility that the sky is green? To some people, climate change is as real and settled as the color of the sky, and anyone who says otherwise is some combination of ignorant, corrupt, and evil. To others, climate change is real, but not anthropogenic. To a third group, climate change is a complete fraud. Shall we bow to the first group, which is undoubtedly the most vocal, and treat anthropogenic climate change as fact?

    I think the NPS should move slowly on this point. There is no need to lead public opinion or public policy. No matter what anyone says, the science of climate prediction is not settled. (That statement invariably draws sputtering hysteria. If any reader is tempted, please, spare me.) If the NPS should take up the climate change drum too loudly, it risks alienating some of its supporters, both in political life and among the greater population.

  • Help Ken Burns Chronicle the Parks   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Back in the early 1990s, I met a National Park Service ranger named Donald Scott. He was quite interested that I was the chapter advisor for the Sigma Chi chapter at UC Berkeley. It turns out that when Stephen T. Mather held the conference to write the National Parks Act, he did it at Cal and had the congressmen and other dignitaries stay at the fraternity house. Mather was an alumnus of the house and very proud of his association with both Sigma Chi and the Park Service. As it is told in the history of the park service, Mather wanted to have a collegial, symposia type atmosphere during the conference. At one point he had the undergraduate brothers do a football cheer, much to the horror of the conference participants.

    The house still stands on the same spot today. The same place where Mather built it back in the 1910s.

  • Freeze On New Regs Could Impact Efforts to Expand Mountain Biking in National Parks   5 years 47 weeks ago

    It'll be interesting to see what happens. Will Obama cater to the very liberal wing of the party (i.e. your typical Sierra Club bike hater) or will he be more centrist in his approach (i.e. recognize that the rule simply transfers decision making power to the local park)?

  • Lost to Hurricanes, the Flamingo Lodge at Everglades National Park Will be Hard to Replace   5 years 47 weeks ago

    I so miss being able to come and stay in the Lodge. The Everglades is magical. I enjoyed bringing my children there in years past and have taken many good memories home with me: the prairie warblers and other birds, the bobcat sitings, and the moonflowers which opened at dusk.

  • Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Hanson's data had to be revised and the warmest year was substantially changed. His latest data used the wrong month and than declared that he had no confidence on temperature data that came from Russia. There is substantial number of scientists who dispute the hypothesis that global warming or climate change is man made.

    There is not enough time to go into the entire dispute, but Gore’s carbon actually followed the climate by 800 years. Check out Viscount Monkton data and challenge to debate Al Gore on this subject.

    The planets climate has changed a lot over millions of years. This year cold spell may have more to do with the very low sunspot activity this year. Low sunspot activity has correlated in the past with cold years like the little Ice Age of the 1500-1600 I believe.

    As Lone Hiker states that El Nina and El Nino cycles have a lot to do with weather. Also the cold wells in the oceans that are thermal sinks and affect the warm currents have a lot of effect.

    Carbon probably less than water vapor, which has greater concentrations. However conservation by more efficient systems and CF bulbs that last longer but have more mercury have beneficial effects. Certain areas of the globe seem to be changing, warm areas melting glaciers in the Alps and increase sea ice in others.

    I doubt that there is any real dispute that the glacier depicted had substantially retreated. My point about more useable land is that when the glaciers retreated in northern Europe more arable land was available to grow crops and that enable civilization to rise and flourish. The average temperature in Roman times seem to be higher than currently and then the long cold years of the Dark ages seemed to be a cold period. So humans seem to thrive in warmer climates periods than cold periods.

    Wind power on the coast in oceans like the Delaware project that has constant wind seems to be a good idea. I am not sure if it is economically competitive without subsidies compared to fossil fuel. I am not happy about large swaths of the middle of the country with huge windmills. I believe that is costly and despoils the landscape. I would prefer smaller nuclear power plants for electricity, which is clean and takes up a smaller footprint.

    Personally I prefer the beautiful valley and water in the second photo to the bleak snowfield in the first. I would be able to enjoy the valley more than if it was still a glacier filled.

    There are still many glaciers and Ice Mountains for those who enjoy climbing and hiking glaciers.

  • National Park Quiz 38: African Americans   5 years 47 weeks ago

    A couple of weeks ago, you challenged me to attempt this quiz when it came out. My results ... well, got 8 right. I am irked I got #7, about the Tuskegee Airmen, wrong. I visited that site (actually, it was just a trailer in a field, the NPS was still figuring out what to do with it), and should have known Moton Field was the right answer.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • National Park Foundation Loses Its Honorary Chairperson   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Are you sure she's not continuing in the position? There's no press release on NPF's website, and there's no reason a former first lady can't be the honorary chair of a foundation.

  • National Park Foundation Loses Its Honorary Chairperson   5 years 47 weeks ago

    No kidding. First I've heard of this. I guess her absence from NPS issues puts her above her husband on the Success-O-Meter: she didn't leave any mark at all, while her husband left a big stain.


    My travels through the National Park System:

  • Interior Officials Want to Allow Concealed Carry in the National Parks   5 years 47 weeks ago

    I don't necessarily agree with the "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns" concept, I think most of those arguing against the new proposal are kidding themselves about what would happen. Does anyone doubt that some people have been "packing" in national parks for years? Have any of you ever been frisked? I haven't, and I'm not convinced that the change will lead to more irresponsible gun carriers - they're already there.

    Just my opinion, of course.

  • National Park Foundation Loses Its Honorary Chairperson   5 years 47 weeks ago Mrs. Bush was trying to help the NPS while her husband was slowly destroying it? I am confused, how much good did she do and how much did she influcence her husband?

  • Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    I'm sitting here on the 21st. of January in Livingston Mt. looking forward to another clear day in the fifties. So it has been for the past couple of weeks. There is no snow in the valley, and it is getting pretty thin on the surrounding mountains. Yesterday I was out tilling soil in my garden (not that I plan on planting for four more months, but it was that nice out). I realize that this is all meaningless, just as the fact that Ancorage Alaska had the third coldest summer on record is meaningless. This is the weather, not the climate. The weather is what is happening today, this week or this year. The climate is what the overall trend is over many years. There is little doubt that the overall climate is warming. A couple of degrees is all that it takes to cause glaciers to disappear, bark beatles to run rampant, forests to vanish, arctic sea ice to melt and polar bears and other species to become extinct. As John Muir said, "When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe." Who knows what species is "hitched" to us in such a way that when it goes, we also go?
    We can argue the cause of climate change until we are blue in the face. The majority of responsible scientists seem to believe that the industrial activities of man at least are a contributing factor. Even many formerly objecting voices are beginning to lean that way. It is also possible to locate responsible scientists who disagree, as well as thousands of dissenting opinions of less than reliable sources.
    The point is that it really doesn't matter. If it is man caused, even in part, we might be able to reverse it. If not, then our fate may already be sealed. The good news is that most of the things we are being asked to do to combat climate change can do nothing but benefit us, both in the short term and the long; and we might, just might, be able to save the planet as a bonus. Winterizing our homes does nothing but make us more comfortable and save us money; as does switching to energy saving (and long lasting) light bulbs. Developing wind and solar energy, and moving toward hybrid, natural gas and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles does nothing but get us out of the back pockets of oil producing nations; and frees us from an addiction to a fuel source that is rapidly disappearing. Clean coal technology does nothing except create jobs for Americans and reduce air pollution. When companies "go green" experience has shown us that they do nothing but increase their profits.
    If we can save the planet as well, this is win, win. But even if we can't and we are all doomed in a hundred or five hundred years (or even if the planet is in no peril at all), these things still make sense. Even if climate change does not exist, we should all be backing the war against it; if for no other reason than our pocket books and the nation's economic health and security.

  • Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Interesting notion, that of "more usable land". But usable in what manner? The atmospheric variances that currently exist on the planet and the direct interaction that they impose on the existing land masses are a direct result of not only the proximity and topography of land masses in relation to the seas but in the specific temperatures of the sea water in a given region. On a small scale, I'm sure you're all aware of the concept of the El Nino / La Nina phenomenon that occur periodically in the Pacific region, and how climatologists relate the relatively small warming and cooling patterns associated with each phenomenon to our weather in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly here in North America. Space dictates that the permutations that might arise from an overall warming trend in the oceans of a little as 2 degrees C (about 5 degrees F for the metricly challenged) cannot be given their due in this post, but some of what is generally agreed to be the end products of such a shift in the sea temps would be the following: stronger surface winds; larger, more tightly compacted and far more vicious tempests, increased frequency of "severe" storms.

    Now for some additional background information. The existing pattern or roadmap that our storm systems follow is a direct cause / effect relationship with not only water temperatures, but more specifically WHERE those water temperatures occur at any given time during the year. The position of the warmer waters serves to direct the formation and general path of the storms, along with other factors such as the jet stream and other layers of aloft winds. As those warm waters drift, as they seasonally do, storms are directed as to where they will encounter and impact along our western coastline. Then, their reformation or intensity are subject to other wind patterns and water temperatures, most notably those conditions existing along the Gulf Coast, and those beneficial rains that allow the Great Plains to function as the Bread Basket of the World are largely a product of favorable conditions in the southern and along the southeast coasts.

    As for your supposition of longer growing seasons in the Plains? Not likely at all. A general warming trend in the Pacific is bound to shift storm patterns, which currently are optimal for the growing season in the center of the nation. Storms being redirected into Canada would most likely not reap the benefit of Gulf moisture without a tremendous increase in the south /southeasterly winds, which at the required velocity would rip the top soil from heart of the nation just as a similar situation did in the 30's. On the other hand, a seasonal shift to the south and the rains enter Mexico, a country that doesn't possess the quality of soil to retain the vast influx of mew moisture, and would most likely be subject to massive flooding and erosion. That coupled with the relatively narrow land mass that is Central America would encourage storms to reform before they even begin to degenerate as they currently do over the much larger land mass that is the US. That scenario doesn't bode too well for the Caribbean nations and other points east. A longer growing season? More likely, a season without conditions for growth, as the abatement of storms also would sound the eventual death knell of the Great Lakes and much of the Mississippi, Missouri, Colorado and Ohio watersheds. Not much to irrigate your crops with, eh?

    Additionally, if as they estimate, the melting polar caps would add as much as 200' to the existing sea levels, another rather significant chunk of "usable" lands would be eliminated from the equation along ALL of our coastlines, in all nations around the globe. And maybe most unfortunately for us all, there goes our planet's last reserves of fresh water, unceremoniously dumped in the salinity of the seas.

    But maybe it won't happen. Maybe the overall climate change is less drastic than we think. Maybe by switching to alternative fuel sources enough damage can be reversed to make amends for how greedy and blindly stupid our business managers have been. Maybe we, people of all nations, creeds, socio-economic backgrounds, will all come to our collective senses and act for the good of mankind. Maybe the world will indeed implode in 2012. And maybe a black man from Kenya and a White man from Kansas will have a son that will grow up to become President of the United States of America.

  • Yosemite National Park Officials Looking For Suggestions on Preserving Badger Pass Ski Lodge   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Those interested in the history of skiing in the National Parks should not miss Ch XIV, "The Problem of
    Winter Use" in the Mount Rainier Administrative History:

    The ski lifts and winter lodging have been gone for over 35 years, but current MRNP management still seems to view winter use as an inconvenient 'problem'. Many tens of millions of dollars have been spent to relocate the road and address some of the past issues. The large staff still plows the road after each snowfall to prevent serious damage to Glacier Bridge and various structures at Paradise. Yet the public is increasingly excluded over the past several years, with ever more flimsy excuses.

  • Sequoia, Kings Canyon National Parks Low on Snow For Holiday Weekend   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Things still seem to be pretty grim in that neck of the Sierra for winter fun, Anonymous. Here's the latest forecast from the folks at Monticeto:

    Today: Partly sunny, with a high near 51. Calm wind becoming west southwest around 5 mph.

    Tonight: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 38. Southeast wind around 6 mph.

    Wednesday: A 50 percent chance of showers. Cloudy, with a high near 54. East wind 9 to 15 mph becoming south.

    Wednesday Night: Rain. Low around 40. Light and variable wind. Chance of precipitation is 80%.

    You can keep tabs on the weather at this site as the weekend draws closer, but today things look pretty slushy.

  • Climate Change: Fact or Fiction?   5 years 47 weeks ago

    Stephen -

    Thanks for your comments. Integrity of the evidence is always a valid area of concern for any topic, and worthy of discussion.