Recent comments

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Damn it Bob, you stole my thunder by a matter of seconds. I'll get you for this........

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 24 weeks ago

    The electric hybrid is a joke, and certainly not the long-term solution to our energy needs. All these vehicles are doing is giving with one hand (slight reduction in petroleum requirements) while increasing environmental concerns over battery recycling / disposal, along with a disproportionate increase in the power required to recharge the cells every day or so. You save a little in gasoline and you pay more to the electirc company. Where's the savings to the consumer? Vehicle costs are a wash. My utility bills go up. Sounds like a lose/ lose proposition from my perspective.

    The power generated from electric vehicles, such as the "green" snow sleds that are being touted for Yellowstone's winter onslaught, are inherently flawed to effectively perform their intended goal of noise / pollution reduction. Just like the rechargeable RC toys, both 1/64th scale and those monstrosities that the <10 set uses that emulate driving what’s tantamount to an electric go-kart, in rough terrain (especially when temperature extremes are factored into the equation) the discharge of the energy cells is too rapid to be useful for any meaningful length of time / distance. And that's probably a big reason that Yellowstone isn't all that keen on a fleet of those buggers running amok in the winter, Kurt. Too many search and rescue operations at risk retrieving stranded sledders who weren't paying attention to the "fuel" gauge, and didn't heed the warnings to come back home when the street lights came on.

    Now, the compressed air series vehicle currently entering initial production phase in France, now THAT'S something that could be useful. It utilizes a large cylinder of CO2 and a supplemental small gasoline tank that kicks in on when the internal recharging system is reloading the "gas" tank, as it were. It can go ~150 on compressed air alone, with NO petroleum assistance, and up to ~650 miles with the assist of a 5 gallon gasoline boost. The vehicle recharges its CO2 tank while driving, which is something the electric vehicles simply can't do efficiently without doubling battery capacity and weight, which defeats the whole purpose of the system as it drives overall "fuel" economy right down the toilet. The French series of vehicles may be "ugly", which is a personal issue anyway, but given the overall efficiency and the opportunity to shove it up Big Oil's behind, I'd buy a fleet of them, give them away and start another “French Revolution”.

    And as posted on other threads, geothermal is currently being enlisted as a major component of the power supply for many up-and-coming residential and commercial developments on both coasts. While the Yellowstone field is indeed huge, it's by far not the only or even most convenient source for "hot Earth" energy. Before we tap the Mother lode, a bit more expertise should be garnered in the most effective methods to manage /distribute the resource. But by all means, let’s put the pedal to the metal and get this resource on-line on a major scale within the next 5-10 years. Absolutely NO reason, technologically speaking, why that goal can’t be accomplished, unless you factor in the propaganda and general resistance from the utility infrastructure. Screw them…..and the horse they refuse to ride out on.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Thermo, there's no question that there's a lot of high-quality energy that could be tapped in the Yellowstone caldera, and we might even get the high net useful energy yield you assume. But even if we could agree that it's ethically acceptable to use and abuse one of the greatest natural treasures on the planet this way, we'd still be running two risks of absolutely gargantuan scale. The mind absolutely boggles at the thought. The first enormous risk is rooted in the fact that Yellowstone is unstable. You have no earthly idea what will happen when you start drilling here and there in the Yellowstone caldera. In the back of your mind lurks the knowledge that every once in a while (is it a 600,000 year cycle?) the Yellowstone caldera produces a volcanic eruption so cataclysmic that it almost defies description. You want to take the risk -- even a small one -- of triggering something like that? Not me. The second enormous risk is the one inherent in putting your energy eggs in one huge basket. Large-scale, centralized, capital intensive energy supply systems like the one you propose are not only extremely difficult and expensive to create and maintain, but also vulnerable to disruption, being no stronger than their weakest link ( the kind exposed by natural disasters, human frailty, and perhaps even terrorists). The general principle involved here is expressed in the statement "The more tightly we are wired together into the same complex grid, the greater the likelihood that a short-circuit anywhere in the system will fry us all.") Before taking such enormous risks, I'd like to see us use our money and brains to create a dispersed collection of small- and medium scale systems utilizing a mix of alternative energy sources appropriate for each local situation. It'd be quicker, cheaper, easier, and we could all sleep better. And yes, Thermo, I do understand that the typical smaller-scale system would have substantial front load costs and only a low- to moderate net useful energy yield. Energy security makes that kind of return worthwhile.

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Your question is an excellent one!

    Whether or not these bells in the backcountry would be considered "appropriate" today is a philosophical question, and involves the same opinions we see voiced on a lot of topics posted on the Traveler.

    People who visited – and managed – the parks in the 1920's grew up in a time when the "Wild West" was still very much a reality, and I suspect that for many of them, "wildness" was something simply waiting to be "civilized." The National Register information I found about the early development of Glacier noted "a conscious attempt to emulate European culture." In that context, these bells don't seem out of place.

    In today's world, it's increasingly hard to find places where it's possible to have an hour or a day – or more - away from the sights, sounds and smells of modern society. That's not a big deal for some people, but it has great value to others. I was amazed many occasions about how far sound can carry in the out-of-doors, and I'm sure these locomotive bells could be heard for miles.

    An occasional "ring" of those bells sounds like a fun and harmless novelty to many people, but to others who have spent hours or even days on the trail in the quest of a little escape from "civilization," a regular dose of clanging bells would soon wear thin. How many "rings" a day would be too many in that context – ten, fifty, a hundred? There would occasionally be the guy who just couldn't resist standing there and clanging the bell non-stop for several minutes!

    So, like many similar questions, whether these bells would be "inappropriate" today is in the ear of the beholder.

  • Do You Care About Energy Exploration Near Our National Parks?   6 years 24 weeks ago

    With all of the near surface thermal energy available, we should tap Yellowstone for massive geothermal energy development. It could power the entire western US and help to greatly reduce our fossil fuel consumption as well as provide additional electrical power generation we'll need for switching over to plug-in electric cars.

  • Greening the Parks: A Former Brownfield is Converted to a Lakefront Gem at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   6 years 24 weeks ago

    I'm probably preachin' to the choir here Bob, as you're most likely aware of the fact that throughout much of the 1800's, the burgeoning "village" of Chicago was committing that very environmental holocaust by utilizing the Chicago River as their residential and industrial waste transport system. Unfortunately, the river's flow was north / northeast, which placed all their crap right into the source of drinking and recreational water, Lake Michigan. Early photographs of the shoreline immediate to the city conjure up images of Lake Erie in the 60's, without the car tires. Then the city managed to conceptualize and complete one of the most ambitious civil engineering feats of our nation's history, reversing the flow of the river, which is the reason to this day why those poor folks "downstate" (all the way to the Gulf) feel the impact of the regional development, how the city maintains it's source of drinking water, and why the only US Great Lake isn't totally trashed at this point in time. That, however, is but a small portion of the history of atrocities perpetrated on the poor lake, and much more lasting impacts have been made by the steel and oil industries along the Illinois / Indiana border, the now shuttered nuclear reactor on the Illinois / Wisconsin border, along with a wide variety of other industrial dumping violations that occur from the area north to Milwaukee, following the coastline southeast through Chicago and up the eastern "seaboard" to the Grand Rapids area. Unfortunately to this day, storm run-off regularly forces untreated waste water into the lake, closing beaches, stinking up the joint for days at a time, and in no small manner impacting the commercial fishing industry which thankfully is mostly of a recreational nature. Trophies are still allowed but eating the catch isn't recommended. It's done, but isn't recommended.

    You're taking a big leap of faith believing most of the readers know about the "trophic" classification system. I know I managed to confuse the hell out of many micorbiology sections with those terms and how they applied preferred temperature (OTG), overall health of am ecosystem, but also an ability to metabolize various energy sources. Ah, the good ol' days of hetero, thermo, meso, auxo, chemo,............

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Pardon my ignorance, but why would the ringing of the bell be considered inappropriate?

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 24 weeks ago


    Please do not mention "age". It is a subject I would like to ignore.

    Rick Smith

  • This Park Wins the "Most Visits by a President" Award   6 years 24 weeks ago

    The park was absolutely stunning this year for the fall foliage! We brought our kids and dogs for 3 weekends in a row to enjoy the leaves. The trails are easy enough for hiking strollers, too! Extra bonus

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Your age is showing, Rick. Yosemite's firefall was discontinued in 1968! Thanks for jogging my memory. I've got an article on the firefall in my "Gone But Not Forgotten" queue.

  • That Ringing Heard by Backcountry Visitors in Glacier National Park Wasn't in Their Ears   6 years 24 weeks ago


    If this story has not yet been featured on NPT, I hope you or Bob will do one on the Firefall in Yosemite. It was an attraction for years until park management decided it was an inappropriate park activity. I agree with that decision but its history should be fascinating. I transferred to Yosemite not long after the last "let the firefall fall" was sounded. (At least that was what I always heard someone announced before the embers were pushed over Glacier Pointl.)

    Rick Smith

  • Greening the Parks: A Former Brownfield is Converted to a Lakefront Gem at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker makes a very good point about water quality issues, which seem intractable. I would only add that Lake Michigan can't be described very well in generalities. Although nowhere so clean, cold, and oxygen-rich that it unquestionably deserves to be classified as oligotrophic (like most of Lake Superior is), Lake Michigan is at least mesotrophic in its more northerly reaches where there hasn't been a lot of urban-industrial development. It's only down there at its southern end and in certain nasty niches (like paper plant-polluted Green Bay) that this magnificent body of water has been badly abused and trends toward eutrophic. Imagine how bad the situation would be if Chicago were dumping its waste water into Lake Michigan instead of into the Mississippi River watershed.

  • Yellowstone National Park Releases Winter-Use Proposal   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Yeah, big mess, and no one is sure how to deal with conflicting judicial rulings or how to interpret Brimmer's ruling. Does it mean that if the 318 rule passes that it overrides the ruling or is it an actual order to go back to 720 and start the process over again? I doubt this is something the Supreme Court wants to deal with (there's no constitutional question at stake), and yet with conflicting rulings on policy practice, I am not sure what can be done. An act of Congress could also settle this, but that seems very unlikely. The Park Service will probably be forced to conclude that the ruling means that 720 holds (which will force another lawsuit in Sullivan's court that they will surely lose) until they get the 318 rule through the court (which may have a better chance of surviving Brimmer's court).

    And, the 318 number or something just under that, might be the final number because the environmental groups at the fore are not going to fight for zero snowmobiles. That's an interesting stance to take when most people who are probably giving these groups money assume they are fighting all snowmobiles in Yellowstone - and probably had the leverage to that effect until they gave support for a lower number.

    As I've said before, this to me is also an issue of equity. Whatever the science is on the number of snowmobiles per day, I'm not sure the system that's set up - with paid and licensed guides, is more than an unfair law enforcement policy, rather than one with Yellowstone's best interests at heart. From what I've read here, it's also not good for the air - as is obvious to anyone who spends an afternoon in West Yellowstone in the middle of January.

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

  • Greening the Parks: A Former Brownfield is Converted to a Lakefront Gem at Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Having been a frequent visitor / explorer of the area (and this site) in years past, the terms "marvelous" and "miracle" are even an understatement of the transformation of this once industrial dump site. The local shoreline is indeed a precious resource with unique, sweeping vistas spanning the greater Chicagoland metroplex to the west and the shores of Michigan to the east. Quite the sight, standing at the bottom of the horseshoe that is Lake Michigan. Now if only something could be done to bring the water quality up to 21st C standards, then you'd REALLY have something to be proud of in northwest Indiana. Unfortunately this multi-state (and federal regulatory) issue is too complicated to be effectively managed with any short-term resolution package, unless you believe that our president-elect, being from the Chicago area, really is God, and can effect the level of "change" that he based his platform on during the campaign. But until then, this rehabilitation is a wonderful example of multifaceted cooperation between a diverse array of interests, and can possbily serve as a model for additional projects throughout other park service holdings, as an example of "it CAN be done".

  • Yellowstone National Park Releases Winter-Use Proposal   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Lets see, Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled the plans to allow 540 snowmobiles a day in Yellowstone was not backed by science.
    So Our Yellowstone National Park decided to allow 318 snowmobiles each day as a good thing.
    Now a Judge Clarence Brimmer commands Our Yellowstone National Park to up the limit to 720?!?


    Wyoming judge opens door for more Yellowstone snowmobiles

  • Our Only Privately-Owned National Park Celebrates a Birthday and a Vital Conservation Easement   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Chris, I honestly don't know what ought to be done with Steamtown, or what might have been done to make it viable. I just know that it shouldn't have been made a national park.

  • You Still Can Visit Herman Melville's New Bedford   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Great Little Article. Got me reinterested in the book once again. I keyed on your "Traveler tip" and found the downloaded version to be quite expensive. Here in the "Most Historic City in America", Fredericksburg, VA. Our library subscribes to "NetLibrary". For the price of a library card (which is usually $0.00) you can download an unabriged, CD quality recording (21 hrs +) of Moby Dick. Down Load took about 15 min for 298 MB and will remain on your computer for 21 days before it self distructs. OMAR Q.

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker -

    An interesting summary of our relationship with the rest of the world in terms of energy, and our overall "energy policy." I agree with much of what you say.

    I certainly agree with you on the need to emphasize development of alternative energy sources. That, along with wiser use of all sources of energy, is the only long-term solution to our energy problem. Yes, we'll continue to need oil and gas as well, but we need to minimize our dependence on it as quickly as possible, for economic, geopolitical, national security and environmental reasons.

    Hey - another fan of Ponderosa pines! Unfortunately, we don't have them where I live, but I sure enjoy that wonderful smell whenever I'm back in Ponderosa territory.
    (For benefit of anyone who is wondering what we're talking about, on a warm day a mature Ponderosa pine has a faint but wonderful odor that reminds many people of vanilla - or cream soda. If the weather is right, you can enjoy the aroma just by standing in a large grove of the trees, but for the full effect, you've got to become one of those "tree huggers," and just get your nose right up next to the bark of a large tree.)

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 24 weeks ago

    And finally, to the point made by Mr. Burnett regarding his position that "One of our major problems is that we've never had a truly viable and comprehensive national energy plan." I think I get the general drift of your intentions here, but I believe that years ago our government decided on and committed to the path of the national energy "policy" by conducting what we would now consider rudimentary evaluations of the future needs of the still developing nation, estimating that the existing reserves in east Texas, California, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma etc. were insufficient to sustain the growth, and saw the middle eastern desert reserves and the local governments as exploitable. They "befriended" those who possessed the largest resource and proceeded to sell our nation's soul to the devil, striking an accord that in essence comes down to the following: "We'll supply (i.e. you'll pay us for the rights) the technology to develop your fields and make you the richest nation on earth, we'll back your regime and do anything necessary to insure domestic stability, politically speaking, and "protect" you from foreign insurgents by stationing our military personnel on your soil. In return, we agree to turn a blind eye and ear to how you conduct day-to-day affairs internally, and we would also expect some considerations in terms of production levels and pricing structures that favor our domestic national interests. We'll continue to supply any and all resources that you require for additional development of your fields, and even assist in your desires to become the local ruling and producing behemoth in the region. We'll assist in overthrowing and/or undermining any local government that causes you an uncomfortable level of concern to your long-term economic health. And we would appreciate you remembering how you got to where you are in the world, and where you would be without our assistance."

    Ah, another in a long series of shining examples of how our country attempts to conduct its expansionistic form of world domination through capitalistic manipulation.

    This scenario played out all well and good short term, as it allowed for our country's economy to expand, our technology to have steady access to a major tool of development, and furthered our military stranglehold on a region that we couldn't allow the "Red Devils" to gain access to first, thereby effectively isolating us from the world's largest sources of petroleum, which at the time was THE source of economic development world-wide.

    Fast forward half a century to our current position on the world's timeline.

    EVERYTHING in the world's climate has changed. Politically and militarily no "superpower" exists that causes us the "clear and present" concerns as did once the old Soviet Union. The local Middle Eastern governments have acquired a taste for power built solely on their ONE resource, and by default, WE are the ones that brought that monster out of the closet. We are no longer the only game in town specific to an ability to assist in another nation's technological development. As opposed to the worlds "savior and protector", a title we bestowed upon ourselves by the way, we are now the world's biggest (and possibly ONLY) bully, and are rightfully scorned and resented within the world community for the actions and attitudes that we display. It seems as though the only people on the planet who don't "get it", who have yet to ascertain the fact that the climate has indeed changed, reside within the American governmental system, who insist on conducting their affairs with the same old business-as-usual attitude. And it ain't workin' no more! Surprise, surprise, surprise as Gomer would have said. But even Gomer, in retrospect, appears to have more intellect than do the buffoons in Washington. IN the government that offense to the local populace, I assure you.

    For these and many other reason I implore everyone who reads and especially those who take the time to respond to sites like these to grab the cajones of your local elected officials and give them ONE chance for change. And if they don't respond to you, threaten them at their most sensitive level, their electorate. That ALWAYS gets their attention, REAL quick. And don't accept form letters and pat answers in return either. Make certain they grasp the reality, and that they understand that you comprehend the reality that in no uncertain terms our future as a nation, our "national security" and our stake as a future leader in the world's economic and technological marketplace DEMANDS that we take pole position in the development and application of alternative energy sources. It is so painfully easy to cut the Middle Eastern giant off at the knees and send them back into isolation in the deserts from whence they came with nothing but a resource that nobody wants, they can't sell, and thereby driving THIER economies into the ground. Better them than us!!!!

    Now, if any of you still confuse my stance on the need for development of alternative energy sources with some lame "tree hugging, enviro-maniac" tag that some folks just LOVE to hang on people, all you're doing is demonstrating your ignorance of the overall issues at hand. Whether we choose to allow domestic development in the environmentally sensitive areas of the nation or not is a small matter in the grand scheme of things. Take your short-term solution to a long-term problem and get into politics. You'll appear brilliant under those auspices. We as a nation need to begin seeking meaningful, more permanent solutions to what is admittedly a most complex issue. It's not as simple as "these drilling rigs are ugly" or "they're ruining the environment" or "we need the oil / gas / jobs / economic development". Make an attempt to view the entire scope of the issue before you begin to criticize someone else's suggestions.

    PS - I did hug a tree once, but that was only 'cause it smelled like vanilla......gotta love those Ponderosa pines!!!

  • Flooding Forces Closure of Mount Rainier National Park   6 years 24 weeks ago

    You can thank the tree-huggers for the flooding shown in the picture.
    The park wanted to clear the Kautz Creek channel just upstream from the bridge after the last event to ensure that the river stayed in-channel and protected the infrastructure, but the misguided enviros stopped 'em with all their EIS paperwork. So now, the taxpayer will probably have to pay to fix the road again.
    Maybe we oughta just fence these parks off, and NO ONE gets in, no employees, no tax dollars spent!

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 24 weeks ago

    I did not intend to imply I "bemoan" foreign travelers. I am just amazed that there are so many more of them than US travelers. We like to camp in or near the parks and have truly enjoyed sharing them with people from all countries.

  • Recalling Yellowstone National Park's Historic 1988 Fire Season   6 years 24 weeks ago

    im doing a report on the fire of 1988 in Yellowstone and this artical reallys helps.

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 24 weeks ago

    I fully agree with the insights of Rick and Lone Hiker, and the full respect to all visitors. There is also a lift you can get from the thrill you can see in foreign travelers; they seem to be energized by a freshness in how American the parks are.

    There is a tendency for any people to take for granted their own area, but it does not mean it is a fatal or permanent condition. People may come back and experience it again, when they are ready, and have a deeper time of it. We do seem as a people right now to be enthralled in Media, not experience.

    I think Lone Hiker is right about the value of deeper immersion in the resource. It changes you. I do think when you plan to travel to a foreign country you are more likely to plan an event, and not just experience the visitor center or the park road.

    Maybe during this time of economic downturn it would be good to conceive of new programs to bring young people to the parks. Or, make sure that parks are part of any 'national service' opportunity for young people. I still believe Americans can and do appreciate their parks when they are provoked into a real experience in a park.

  • President-Elect Obama's Team Hints At Reversing BLM Leasing Decisions in Utah   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Lone Hiker: Good points and I myself enjoy the camaraderie of those hearty foreign visitors. Wow, those Germans and Swiss sure love our mountains and endless miles of hiking trails through our National Parks. I love there energy and robust attitude towards the great outdoors. The more the better attitude! While us lazy Americans would rather tip-toe through the parks without a feeling of it's pulse or existence...dash in and dash out, but forgetting why we were there in the first place. I met a young German man hiking up Mt. Whitney some years ago and I was surprised by his attempt to scale it in one day and back. Here he was with his day pack, German leather shorts and one good parka and all GO. I told him it was a mean hike to the top of old Mt. Whitney (14,400') and with his broken German accent replies in English: We Germans do this all the time in the Bavarian Mts. Long story short, he makes it to the top and back in less then half of a day. I just love this guys spirit of adventure which was filled with zest and zeal of great physical stamina. The fact is, most foreign visitors that I have met in the past, have taken a great interests in our National Parks. There's a deep sense of curiosity and awe written on their faces when coming upon the many beautiful splendors in which the National Parks were created for. Something which us Americans take for granted and with less appreciation...and it does show!

  • At Big Thicket National Preserve, a Combative Drug Dealer Changes His Mind When Ranger Stafford Shows Him His Taser   6 years 24 weeks ago

    Brandon -

    Well said!

    Most readers of this site have never been to the Big Thicket, and it's therefore hard for them to grasp the difficult situation rangers there often face. Many parks have similar issues with inadequate staff and backup for rangers, but they seem to be amplified at the Thicket for a lot of reasons related to the local culture and the surprisingly remote nature of much of the park.