You always hurt the one you love

January 11, 2008

face slapclimb_ca at GoBlog derides California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger for proposing to close 48 state parks.

Probably because the roads aren’t big enough for his Hummer. But let me say this, the only thing more pathetic than Arnie is our state legislature. Bunch of amateurs. They couldn’t balance a budget if it was just two pennies and a dime.

This reminds me of somewhat similar stupidity that went on here in Tennessee a few years ago.

When then-governor Don Sundquist couldn’t push through an income tax to balance the budget, he desperately turned to other means in 2001 to salvage his quickly-declining reputation as a fiscal conservative. A key part of that strategy was to close 14 parks and cut the operating hours of the remaining parks.

A melee of lawsuits and petitions ensued, but Sundquist held firm and the parks remained closed through the end of his term.

Shortly after former Nashville mayor Phil Bredesen took office in 2003 he ordered the parks reopened and the others put back to full operation.

The budget was immediately plunged to new depths of red ink, right? No, of course not.

In fact, Bredesen has managed to push balanced budgets through the legislature every year and the Rainy Day Fund has reached record levels.

Oh, and about the state parks: In September, Tennessee’s state parks were recognized as the best in the country.


Better living through mountain climbing

August 15, 2007

The Guardian reports a group of 15 people in England who suffer from schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression climbed a 4,406-foot mountain to improve their mental health.

More than three-quarters of the participants report a sense of achievement from the challenge and say they feel more confident. All 15 have reduced their night-time sedatives, five are on less psychiatric medication, and three have had fewer auditory hallucinations.

(Tip: Linda Benschop via AT-L)


Goodbye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out

May 25, 2007

‘Road to Nowhere’ won’t be finished

The National Park Service said today it doesn’t plan to build the so-called “Road to Nowhere” through Great Smoky Mountains National Park.


Winter adventures in summer

May 10, 2007

Dave LewA friend of mine, Dave Lew, is like me in many ways.

  • I’m not-so-young but I feel young. He’s young.
  • I like bicycling. He was once a junior pro-level cyclist.
  • I like whitewater kayaking. He paddles big water in Utah and Peru.
  • I like mountains. He climbs mountains all over the world.

Okay, so we’re really not that much alike. Or maybe he’s like me, only more extreme.

Anyway, today I received word from Dave that he’s arrived at his next great adventure, spending the summer on a scientific expedition in Greenland. He’s there for a project called the Greenland Halogen and Hydrogen Radical Photochemistry Experiment.

And that’s another area where I’m not much like him. I haven’t a clue what a Halogen and Hydrogen Radical Photochemistry Experiment could possibly be.

Dave says his team has started a blog. If you’re into halogen and hydrogen radical photochemistry experiments, or just curious what it’s like to live and work in Greenland, check it out.


Looks like we dodged some nasty weather

April 22, 2007

I don’t know how we got so lucky, but it seems that we hardly had any weather at all last weekend compared to some parts of the Appalachian Trail.

Sections of the trail through Great Smoky Mountains National Park were especially hard hit by last week’s storms.

Thru-hiker David Maggiotto said in his blog the trail near Clingman’s Dome was littered with blow-downs.

On the northside descent of Clingmas the downed trees became increasingly abundant. It’s hard to really describe the mess it was. The trees wouldn’t simply fall across the trail—they fell at every angle, sometimes horizontally right on the trail, forcing us to bushwack along side the path for a 100 feet or so. These were not little dead trees we navigated under, over, or around. Enormous Spruces fell, and they took down all the smaller trees that were unfortunate enough to be growing beside them.

Tom-B, one of the thru-hikers I met last week, wrote in his hiking journal that he had a lot of snow last Sunday, just a few hours after I talked to him.

On the way out of Hot Springs, NC, there was a light rain that turned to a gentle snow when I got to the hight elevations. As I approached the shelter, the wind picked up and the snow drifts were approaching knee deep! Fortunately, I got to the shelter which was open on the downwind side, so once I ate and snuggled in my sleeping bag, I was warm & cozy!

Incidentally, today it was 80° with bright sunny skies. I got in a nice but short (23 miles) bike ride this afternoon.

Such is the weather in East Tennessee.


Vicarious ride

April 20, 2007

YouTube - Tour de GeorgiaLately I’ve been getting a lot of traffic to a trip report I wrote a year ago about riding in the Circle the Bald charity ride and watching the Tour de Georgia.

I would have liked to do the ride and watch the race again this year, but the event was moved to a Friday (today). I didn’t feel I could afford taking a day off from work, so I missed it.

But thanks to Road Mag, I got enjoy some of this year’s activities, including a rider’s point-of-view video of the last 1km to the top of Brasstown Bald.

This way there’s no aching calves, burning lungs, or sweat in the eyes.

But it’s not as much fun, either.


Then again, maybe not

March 26, 2007

cracked-nps.jpgWhen I commented recently about a stop Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and National Park Service Director Mary Bomar made at Great Smoky Mountains National Park on their listening tour, I took a tentatively positive view of the event.

But maybe — just maybe — if there are enough of these listening sessions, and if enough people participate to let their voices be heard, we can get park bureaucrats to re-align their goals with our need for wild and natural places that are protected for future generations.

Yet even with my disclaimer, my comments now seem almost exuberant when I look back on them just 10 days later.

That’s because I read this post by National Parks Traveler.


A rare view from the Smokies

March 15, 2007

View from Mt. CammererAn unusual occurrence happened in the Smokies Tuesday. Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne and National Park Service Director Mary Bomar came to Great Smoky Mountains National Park to listen and to hike.

During the day they hiked with some school children, and then that evening they held a session in Gatlinburg, Tenn., to hear suggestions and ideas on President Bush’s $3 billion National Park Centennial Initiative.

That’s unusual because it runs counter to the notion that Interior Department bureaucrats, mostly Bush-appointees, put politics before protection, ignore park problems, and are on a budget-slashing binge.

Jeffrey Hunter notes that the media advisory for this event was sent just the day before. Yet subsequent reports indicate the session was well attended and many people were given the opportunity to comment.

National Parks Traveler has the best coverage of the listening session I’ve read so far in a guest post by Owen Hoffman.

Hoffman says it was a good thing to see the administrators listening and responding to the public.

The overall atmosphere of this meeting was definitely upbeat and an improvement over what I witnessed over one year ago in Sevierville, Tennessee, when I attended an ill-fated and poorly organized NPS “listening session” that was intended to introduce the public to the details of the proposed draft re-write of the NPS Management Policy Guidelines.

But he saw signs of concern. Though little of it was mentioned during the session, the parks service is moving in a direction that places more emphasis on seeking and relying on philanthropic partnerships to carry out park goals.

This is a trend that needs to be watched. We should not have to resort to funding our parks like we fund sports arenas, with corporate naming rights and priorities that are out of step with the community’s interests.

But maybe — just maybe — if there are enough of these listening sessions, and if enough people participate to let their voices be heard, we can get park bureaucrats to re-align their goals with our need for wild and natural places that are protected for future generations.

That would be rare.


It’s getting lonely in Cades Cove

March 5, 2007

Cade’s Cove deer
Cades Cove, January 2006
It’s apparently getting lonely for the deer, anyway.

According to this article from a Florence, Ala. newspaper, the population of deer is dwindling in Cades Cove, a popular tourist destination in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

“Bob Miller, spokesman for the national park that straddles the Tennessee-North Carolina border, said several factors have contributed to the number of deer in Cades Cove.

“As the number of black bear and coyotes in the park have increased, the white-tailed deer population has declined, he said.”

The only time I’ve been to Cades Cove when it wasn’t packed with tourists was early on a chilly, January Sunday morning. Usually they’re driving bumper-to-bumper while gawking at the wildlife from their cars.

I’ve sometimes joked that the deer are really just animatronic displays put there for the tourists. If the trend keeps up, maybe the park service will have to resort to that for real.

(link via National Parks Traveler)


A hike with a killer view

February 3, 2007

Just keep your eye on the trail.

Short stroll in a Chinese national park

link (via camp4u)


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