Thursday, April 28, 2016

Arches National Park Seeks Graffiti Vandals

Seriously, what the hell is wrong with people? Arches National Park recently discovered another act of graffiti vandalism, and posted this message on their Facebook page yesterday:
We need your help. Staff recently discovered new graffiti at Frame Arch, just off the trail to Delicate Arch. If you saw anyone carving or writing on the rock on the Delicate Arch trail, please contact the park via email or phone listed here:

Graffiti—marking, scratching, chalking, and carving on rocks—is unsightly and illegal. It damages the rocks and ruins other people's experience in this natural place. Rangers and volunteer groups spend hundreds of hours every year removing graffiti from the park. Help us protect your national park: if you discover graffiti in the park, please let us know.
No doubt, the two losers who did this, "Staten" and "Andersen", likely took congratulatory selfies after leaving their mark. By the way, this isn't an isolated case. This type of "tagging" seems to be a growing trend in parks around the country. Here's the photo Arches published on their FB page which shows the damage done:


Tips for Hiking with Kids

So you want to go on a hiking trip this summer, but you’re thinking that it might not be a good idea due to the young kids in the back seat. It’s likely you’re concerned that your children will be bored by the idea of traipsing through the woods. Although I hear this concern quite a bit, you really don’t have to hang up your boots until the kids go off to college.

Fortunately there are several things parents can do to make hiking enjoyable for their kids. The key is to keep them interested, motivated and, most importantly, make sure they have fun. Although that might sound easier than it really is, there are several things you can do to accomplish these objectives.

For very young kids you’ll have to keep the hike very short. As they get older and begin to build confidence and endurance you’ll be able to gradually increase the distance. Although we as adults enjoy expansive views, this really isn’t important to kids. Children much prefer things that are scaled down to their smaller world view. As a parent you should try to appeal to their sense of discovery and adventure, such as visiting a waterfall, a cave, large boulders, a hollowed-out tree, a gurgling stream, or a lake to possibly where they can skip rocks. In fact, water is usually a great motivator.

As you venture further down the trail during your hike try to point things out along the way. Perhaps playing a game similar to that of a scavenger hunt where your children try to find a variety of items such as certain trees, pine cones, wildflowers, boulders, insects, birds’ nests and various wildlife. National parks like Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, Glacier and the Great Smoky Mountains are all perfect for finding any of these items.

A few other important tips to keep children motivated are to let them set the pace, bring lots of snacks, take frequent breaks, be prepared for a variety of weather conditions, and maybe even consider allowing them to bring a friend along.

Grand Teton, Rocky Mountain, Glacier and the Great Smoky Mountains all offer many outstanding easy hikes that will appeal to both children and adults alike.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Major Water Line System Improvements Begin At Rocky Mountain National Park

Beginning on Tuesday, April 26, visitors may experience minor delays on Bear Lake Road between the Bear Lake Road/Trail Ridge Road junction and Moraine Park Discovery Center due to a water line improvement project. Work will take place Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through May 25. Traffic delays should be less than fifteen minutes.

This work is all part of a large project to improve and rehabilitate a water line and supply system that was installed in Rocky Mountain National Park in the 1950s. The improvements will cover the system from Moraine Park to the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and park headquarters area. This overall project will include replacing thousands of feet of pipe, rehabilitating valves, improving its condition to greatly enhance its service life, insure greater reliability, reduce water loss, enhance fire protection and reduce operational maintenance costs of a system that is over sixty years old and in poor condition. Expected completion for this overall project is in October of 2016.

A roughly sixty-two foot wide and seven foot deep trench is anticipated. After the project is complete, restoration will be a top priority.

For further information about Rocky Mountain National Park, please call the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206.


Friday, April 22, 2016

Canyon Lakes Ranger District Flood-Impacted Trails Update

Many trails across the Canyon Lakes Ranger District were impacted by the September 2013 Flood and a lot of great work by both staff and volunteers has taken place since then. Below is the status of these trails.

North Fork Trail: This trail is partially open to hikers and is anticipated to open more fully in June to hikers. Some additional work must be completed before the trail can be open to stock.

Crosier Mountain Trails: These trails are open but some additional work may take place this year or next to improve the temporary repairs made in 2014.

Hewlett Gulch Trail: Although this trail has been reopened to the public, early rains in 2015 did more damage. It remains open but some additional restoration work is needed.

Young Gulch Trail: One of the most heavily damaged trails by both the 2012 wildfire season and the flood, it remains fully closed. Analysis work for a rebuild has been completed and work will start taking place in 2016. Due to the extensive amount of work needed, it will not open this year.

Lion Gulch Trail: This trail was also heavily damaged and remains closed. Bridge work and trail restoration are both needed. The trailhead is also being used by the Colorado Department of Transportation during road repairs. It is anticipated to stay closed through 2016.

Homestead Meadows Trail: Portions of this trail were completely destroyed and is unstable. Analysis work for a new trail location will be needed before work can take place due to the extensive damage.

Over 600 hours of volunteer work took place on flood-damaged trails last season, in addition to work done by Forest Service trail crews. There will also be additional opportunities this season for the public to volunteer to make progress on the very popular Young Gulch Trail. Thanks to all the volunteers who have helped move us forward in getting trails restored and back open to the public.


Thursday, April 21, 2016

Video Hike to Ramsey Cascades

Awhile back the Great Smoky Mountains Association published a video of the hike to Ramsey Cascades. Dropping roughly 100 feet over the course of multiple tiers, Ramsey Cascades is the tallest waterfall in the Smokies. The popular trail takes hikers though the largest old-growth forest remaining in the Great Smoky Mountains, and passes the 6th tallest tree in the park. For more information on this beautiful hike, please click here.

© GSMA 2010. All rights reserved.

With more than 800 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In addition to Ramsey Cascades, the park offers many other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit the Smokies this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings to help with all your vacation planning.


Monday, April 18, 2016

Indian Peaks Wilderness Camping Permits Applications Now Available

The Indian Peaks Wilderness Area is one of the most highly visited wilderness areas in the nation. To preserve the wilderness experience, camping permits are required between June 1st and Sept. 15th, with limited spots available for each zone. The most popular sites and weekends often book up more than a month in advance and some areas are already close to selling out, so it's best to get your application in early. Overnight camping permits are $5 for each trip reservation.

To apply for a permit, google “Roosevelt National Forest Indian Peaks Wilderness,” and choose the US Forest Service website. Use the backcountry zone map and trails information on that page to research your route and top choices for camping.

When planning your trip, expect deep snow to linger on most trails through mid-July due to the high elevation. Roads to some trailheads don’t open until mid-June. In high alpine areas, winter conditions can occur suddenly and unexpectedly year-round, so be sure you are prepared with proper gear and footwear. Afternoon thunderstorms are common. Plan your trip to be off of exposed areas before noon.

Once you’ve determined your preferred route, the best way to receive a permit for your top choice is to download, print and complete the form and mail it with a check to one of the addresses listed on the application form well in advance of your trip. Allow two weeks to receive your permit by mail.

If you choose to deliver an application in person, please note that the Boulder Ranger District is open from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on weekdays from Memorial Day to Labor Day while the Sulphur Ranger District office is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekdays.

For more information click here or visit the national forest website.


Thursday, April 14, 2016

Ken Burns: Secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park

What makes Rocky Mountain National Park so special? Back in 2014 Ken Burns sat down with USA TODAY and shared some of the secrets of Rocky Mountain National Park. Burns, along with Dayton Duncan, are the creators of the PBS documentary, "The National Parks: America's Best Idea." If you haven't been to this park yet, here's why it needs to be on your bucket list:

With more than 350 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, and a wide variety of outstanding hikes, Rocky Mountain National Park is definitely a hikers paradise. If you do plan to visit Rocky Mountain this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Protection Of High Value Trees And Hazard Mitigation Projects in RMNP Continue In 2016

Bark beetles continue to be active within Rocky Mountain National Park, impacting large numbers of conifer trees. In 2016, the park will continue proactive mitigation efforts including applying insecticide, removing hazard trees, prescribed burns, utilizing an air curtain burner, and pheromone treatments. The park's priorities for mitigation of the effects of beetles are focused on removing hazard trees and hazard fuels related to the protection of life and property.

Starting in late April and ending by Memorial Day weekend, the park is planning to apply a Carbaryl based insecticide to up to 1,500 high-value trees to protect them from bark beetles. Insecticide will be applied from the ground and sprayed onto individual trees to repel beetle attacks. Treatment will occur in the following developed areas of the park: Aspenglen Campground, Moraine Park Campground, Fire Management offices, Hollowell Park and Upper Beaver Meadows picnic areas, and housing areas including Kaley Cottages, Wild Basin Entrance and Deer Haven, Mill Creek Ranger Station, and Tuxedo Park. Temporary closures to the public and employees will be in effect during spraying operations.

Last year, approximately 2,500 trees were treated and nearly all of these trees were effectively protected from bark beetle attacks. Treatment sites have been reduced on the east side of the park because infestation rates decreased in forests adjacent to high value trees. The frequency of treatment has been reduced to biennial application.

The park is also treating up to 300 high value limber pine trees with Verbenone pheromone packets to minimize infestation by bark beetles. Limber pine trees in the park are currently at risk of mountain pine beetle infestation and infection from white pine blister rust, a lethal non-native invasive fungus. Research is being conducted to identify if any limber pine trees within the park are resistant to white pine blister rust.

Spruce and fir trees are currently at risk of beetle outbreaks in mixed conifer forest types. In 2015, the park began treating spruce trees at McGraw Ranch with pheromone packets to minimize infestation by spruce and fir beetles. In 2016, the park will continue treatment at McGraw Ranch and also apply pheromone packets to trees in the Endovalley picnic area.

Park staff will conduct hazard tree mitigation through tree removal throughout the year. Small scale, selective hazard tree removals will take place at: Bear Lake Trailhead, Beaver Meadows Visitor Center and housing areas, Endovalley picnic area, Bighorn Ranger Station, Aspenglen Campground, Hidden Valley picnic area, Sprague Lake picnic area, Moraine Park Campground, Moraine Park Stables, Tuxedo Park, Glacier Basin Campground, Lily Lake, Fern Lake Trailhead, and along road corridors including Highway 34, Highway 36, Bear Lake Road, and Old Fall River Road. Temporary access restrictions, such as 15 minute traffic delays, in immediate vicinity of tree cutting operations can be expected. More detailed information will be provided on upcoming tree removal projects along Trail Ridge Road on the west side of the park.

Material disposal includes creating piles for future burning and wood consolidation at designated sites for potential firewood collection permits. More information on wood utilization will be available later in the year.

For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park please contact the park's Information Office at (970) 586-1206 or visit the park's website section on forest health.


Sunday, April 10, 2016

Epic Animal Migrations in Yellowstone

Some of the world's most incredible animal migrations take place within the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Among them are a 120-mile pronghorn migration, as well as nine elk herds with unique migration patterns. While on assignment in Yellowstone for National Geographic, photographer Joe Riis was able to capture the awe-inspiring migrations that few tourists are ever able to see:


Friday, April 8, 2016

Bears Begin To Emerge From Hibernation In Colorado

Colorado's bears have begun emerging from hibernation across the state. Colorado Parks and Wildlife, charged with perpetuating the wildlife resources of the state, are reminding outdoor recreationists, city dwellers and rural homeowners to be responsible and take steps to minimize contact with bears, for the health and safety of both humans and bears.

“About 60 percent of our collared bears have already emerged from their dens, which is pretty normal for this time of year," said Heather Johnson, a CPW mammal researcher, who studies bears in Colorado. "Most of the bears that are still denned are the sows with newborn cubs. They should emerge within the next few weeks.”

The black bear, Colorado’s only bear species, lives primarily west of I-25. They prefer forested or tall, shrubland habitat but may move through open landscapes as they disperse and enter adulthood.

Bears are omnivores and primarily eat vegetation such as grasses, forbs, berries, acorns, and seeds. They also eat insects or scavenge on carcasses, but can occasionally prey on newborn calves and fawns, beaver, marmots, deer, elk and even domestic livestock or agricultural products.

When a localized natural food failure occurs, black bears from the affected area become increasingly mobile and persistent in search of human food sources like trash, fruit trees, pet food, bird feeders, livestock and agricultural products.

As bears emerge from hibernation, CPW reminds the public to take precautions to reduce potential for negative interactions with bears.

“Bears that seek out human food resources are at a higher risk of mortality due to lethal removals by landowners or wildlife managers, vehicle collisions, electrocutions, and other factors. It’s best for both bears and people if the bears continue to forage on natural foods, and avoid human development," Johnson said.

Other tools, employed by CPW when human safety and bear mortality concerns arise, include altering bear hunting licenses, implementing aversive conditioning techniques, increasing education and outreach activities, relocating nuisance bears and reducing the accessibility of human foods to bears.

The statewide bear population is difficult to estimate because it is costly to observe this solitary and elusive species. All inventory efforts in Colorado involve extrapolating information about known bear densities in small geographic areas and applying them to larger areas. But more recently scientific sampling methods and advances in genetic analysis from the late 1990’s have enabled wildlife managers to use DNA from “hair snag” samples to estimate bear populations. As a result, the current, conservative, statewide estimate is 17,000 to 20,000 bears.

Bears have an extremely keen sense of smell and excellent memories. Once they have learned about a reliable source of food, they will often return. Once this occurs, it requires significant diligence on the part of people to keep these food-conditioned bears from coming back and creating conflicts.

Tips for outdoor recreationists:

• Make noise while walking or hiking to prevent surprising a bear. Clap, sing or talk loudly.

• Travel in a group if possible.

• Pay attention to the surroundings and watch for bear signs, such as tracks or claw or bite marks on trees.

• Review CPW’s recommendations in an brochure.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Iceberg Lake

Below is another outstanding video from "The West is Big! Travel Guides". This short video highlights the popular hike to Iceberg Lake, one of the best hikes in Glacier National Park, if not the entire national park system. The hike features stunning alpine scenery, up-close views of the Ptarmigan Wall, wildlife, wildflowers and of course, the alpine lake that typically features floating icebergs.

In this video the videographer is forced to temporarily retreat due to a family of grizzly bears on the trail. This is fairly typical, as I have seen at least one bear on this route every time that I've hiked it. Because the trail passes through prime grizzly habitat, most visitors choose to take a ranger-led hike. Hiking in groups is the safest mode of travel in grizzly country. Most human-bear encounters occur with solo hikers who don't make enough noise to warn bears that they're passing through. As a result, the park recommends hiking with at least two other people - groups of four is even better. Although you might balk at the idea of doing a ranger-led hike, I've had nothing but great experiences with the ranger-led hikes in Glacier. For more information on this outstanding hike, please click here.

With more than 740 miles of trails meandering throughout the park, hiking is the absolute best way to see Glacier National Park. In addition to the Iceberg Lake Trail, the park offers many other outstanding hikes. If you do plan to visit Glacier this year, please note that our hiking website also offers a wide variety of accommodation listings and other things to do to help with all your vacation planning.


Saturday, April 2, 2016

Lady Of The Mountain

Her name is Bronka Sundstrom. 13 years ago she hiked to the summit of 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier - at the age of 77, thus becoming the oldest women to summit the peak - a record she still holds today.

Bronka and her husband Aki moved to Tacoma WA in 1949. As a survivor of the Holocaust during World War II, Bronka and her husband would find peace while hiking around Mt. Rainier National Park. By sheer luck or accident, my wife and I had the pleasure of briefly meeting Bronka during a hike in the Paradise Valley of Mt. Rainier in 2013.

Below is short video by Outdoor Research that provides a little background on her life, as well as some footage from her historical climb of Mt. Rainier in 2002: