Friday, February 5, 2016

Injured Backcountry Skier Rescued from Disappointment Peak

Rangers rescued an injured backcountry skier from Disappointment Peak in Grand Teton National Park yesterday afternoon, February 4, 2016. The skier, Rene Etter-Garrette, 32, of Jackson, WY, was beginning his ski descent of Spoon Couloir above Amphitheater Lake when he triggered a wind slab avalanche and was swept downhill.

Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received a call for assistance at 12:55 p.m. from Brian Close, 38, of Wilson, WY, who reported that his ski partner had been swept in an avalanche while making a ski cut at the top of the Spoon Couloir. The avalanche, which released about 30 feet above Etter-Garrett, carried him 1200 feet down the couloir to a location approximately 600 feet above Amphitheater Lake. While he did not lose consciousness, he was buried by the slide with his head and arm exposed and he did suffer a leg injury. The avalanche was estimated to have a crown that was 40 feet across and one foot deep.

Close and the third member of their party, Mike Bessette, 40, of Jackson, WY were able to ski down to Etter-Garrette's location, dig him out, and provide first aid. They applied a splint using an avalanche shovel handle, an ice axe, and rubber ski straps to stabilize the injury. At the rangers' request, they then assisted Etter-Garrette down to Amphitheater Lake where the helicopter could land.

Initially, weather conditions, which included a low cloud ceiling, made it unclear whether a helicopter rescue would be possible. The National Weather Service forecasted that weather conditions would continue to deteriorate for the remainder of the daylight hours. Rangers simultaneously prepared a ground team and aerial rescue team for both possible scenarios. A ground rescue likely would have lasted into the night and involved much greater difficulty. However, a brief break in the cloud cover made the aerial rescue possible.

Two rangers boarded the Teton County Search and Rescue helicopter, which used the Sawmill Ponds parking area along the Moose-Wilson Road as a staging area, and flew to the party's location on Amphitheater Lake. Etter-Garrette was flown to Sawmill Ponds at 3:02 p.m. with one of the rangers. There he was transferred to a park ambulance and transported to St. John's Medical Center in Jackson, Wyoming. The other ranger remained with Close and Bessette and skied to the Taggart Lake Trailhead with them.

Rangers remind those who venture into the backcountry that there is no guarantee of a helicopter rescue. Backcountry skiers should

Rangers commend the party for their self-rescue to Amphitheater Lake and their ingenuity in the creation of the splint. Their ability to get to the lake was instrumental in allowing the rescue to occur within a limited weather window. The party had ascended to their location via the Spoon Couloir and Etter-Garrette was wearing a helmet at the time of the accident.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Bull Moose Tangled in Swing Set Shows Consequences of Attracting Wildlife

Disturbing video of a bull moose with its antlers caught on a backyard swing is a prime example of the hazards of attracting wildlife to a residential area, Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials explained.

Recorded at the home of a Summit County resident who admitted to using salt to attract the animal, the footage shows the angry bull moose struggling with the swing's rope wrapped around its antlers while wildlife officers attempt to free it. After several difficult hours in its predicament, CPW officers were able to subdue the moose long enough to cut the rope. Appearing relatively unharmed although significantly stressed from its ordeal, the moose first charged its rescuers before running off.

Wildlife officials say human-provided food and other attractants are a leading cause of conflicts and incidents like this in which humans are injured, pets are attacked or wildlife is killed.

"These homeowners told me that they enjoy watching wildlife so they put the salt lick out to attract moose and other animals," said District Wildlife Manager Tom Davies of Silverthorne. "The fact that they caused the moose to suffer like it did and putting the officers in such a dangerous situation is a clear example of how irresponsible attracting wildlife to your home or neighborhood can be."

To reduce the possibility of it dying during the rescue, wildlife officers used a taser to subdue the moose. Although still being evaluated for this type of use by CPW, the non-lethal device, used by many police and sheriff's departments, has also proven effective for managing a variety of larger wildlife. Using an electrical current, the taser temporarily immobilizes an animal allowing officers to safely approach and free wildlife tangled in swings, hammocks, fences and other obstacles. In some cases, the device can also be useful in hazing an animal away from human populated areas.

“It was a difficult and dangerous situation but the taser worked exactly as we had hoped," said Davies. "Tranquilization drugs were an option but considering how stressed the moose became during this precarious situation, it would have likely killed the animal. The taser is proving to be very useful for a situation like this."

Davies said that the residents did not receive a citation in this case, but did receive a stern warning in addition to the significant shame they experienced by putting the moose and wildlife officers in danger.

"If they put out any food or salt licks again to attract wildlife, they will be fined," said Davies. "And that goes for anyone else who does something like this."

In addition to being illegal, placing food, salt or other attractants out for wildlife is unethical and has many serious consequences. It habituates wild animals to humans and can lead to severe digestive problems and possibly death in ungulates. Illegal feeding may also change wildlife migration and behavior patterns, encouraging elk and deer to remain in residential areas year-round, consequently attracting lions to the neighborhood. It can also increase wildlife mortality due to vehicle collisions. Leaving garbage unsecured can attract bears resulting in the death of the bear and posing a danger to humans as well.

"People feeding foxes and coyotes, which is a major problem in this area and across the state, can make them lose their fear of humans and this is when they can get dangerous," says Davies. "If a person is bitten, we have to remove the offending animal to prevent future injuries and also collect a sample to test for disease. In many cases, it becomes necessary to remove multiple animals to ensure a conflict fox or coyote is removed."

In addition to the dangers of feeding and attracting predators, wildlife officers say that encouraging a large, powerful moose to a residential area is a bad idea for multiple reasons.

"The video clearly shows how powerful and aggressive a moose can get when it feels threatened," said Davies. "Although predators in a residential area are a significant concern, little compares to the danger of having a moose near your home."

For more information about living responsibly with wildlife, visit


Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Top 5 Reasons to Visit Grand Teton National Park

Rising more than 7000 feet above Jackson Hole, the high peaks of Grand Teton National Park provide one of the most dramatic landscapes in the world. Although many people seem to treat it as an afterthought, only visiting the park as a side trip while visiting its more famous neighbor to the north, more time and focus should be given to this stunning landscape. Within its 310,000 acres the majestic mountains of the Teton Range are home to a wide variety of wildlife, eight peaks that top out above 12,000 feet, more than 100 alpine and backcountry lakes, and more than 200 miles of trails that provide intimate access to all of this incredibly beautiful scenery.

Cascade Canyon
The Cascade Canyon Trail is widely touted as one of the best hikes in the entire National Park System. In addition to the stunning views of 12,928-foot Mt. Owen, the trail visits Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The route is also known for the wide variety of wildlife that is frequently seen, especially bears and moose.

Lake Views
Lying along the eastern base of the Teton Range is a series of glacially-carved lakes. Rising sharply above their western shores, the views of the rugged mountains are stunning and dramatic. From the shores of Jackson, Leigh, Jenny, Phelps, Bradley and Taggart Lakes, hikers will enjoy some of the most striking views in the park.

Although Yellowstone rightfully receives a lot of attention for its wildlife viewing opportunities, the Grand Tetons are also known for its diversity of wildlife. The rugged mountains provide habitat to a wide variety of wildlife, including black bears, grizzly bears, elk, bison, bighorn sheep, moose, pronghorn, wolves, fox, lynx, bobcats and mountain lions. There are also more than 300 species of birds, including trumpeter swans, ospreys and bald eagles. A drive along Moose-Wilson Road is a popular way of spotting mega fauna such as bears and moose. However, hikes such as Amphitheater Lake, Hermitage Point, Moose Ponds and the Emma Matilda Lake Loop are all great choices for possibly seeing wildlife in the backcountry.

The abrupt rise of the Tetons from the valley floor arguably makes them one of the most photogenic mountain ranges in the world. As a result, professional and amateur photographers alike will enjoy a multitude of photo opportunities around the park. Some of the best spots for getting that perfect shot include Mormon Row, Oxbow Bend, Schwabacher’s Landing, as well as the Snake River Overlook, which was made famous by Ansel Adams' 1942 photograph. Of course all of the backcountry locations mentioned above will also provide outstanding photo opportunities.

Snake River Float Trip
The Snake River meanders along the sage brush flats below the Teton Range, and provides park visitors with the unique opportunity of enjoying the majestic mountain scenery from a raft. Although outfitters offer trips throughout the day, I highly recommend the morning trips, as the mountains typically look their finest when bathed in the glow of early morning sunshine. Morning is also the best time to view wildlife along the river banks, including bald eagles.


Friday, January 29, 2016

Many Glacier Campground Advanced Reservations Available Next Week

Advance campground reservations for the Many Glacier Campground in Glacier National Park will be available for the upcoming 2016 summer season beginning Wednesday, February 3 at 8a.m MST. Reservations will be available for approximately half the campsites through the on-line system. Previously, all the campsites were only available by first-come, first-served availability.

The Many Glacier Campground is located on the east side of the park, near the town of Babb, Montana. There will be 41 camp sites available for advance reservations and 62 sites on a first-come, first-served basis. The fee to camp at any camping site at the Many Glacier Campground is $23, an increase from the previous fee of $20. Reservations must be made three days prior to arrival and can be made up to six months in advance. The advanced reservations will be for camping between June 15 and September 4.

Campers are encouraged to create a profile account with prior to making a reservation. Advance reservations are also available through for the Fish Creek and St. Mary Campgrounds, and half of the sites at the Apgar Group Site. Camping at other park front-country campgrounds is first-come, first served availability.

At the Many Glacier Campground there are no electric, water or sewer hook-ups at individual campsites. Shared water spigots are located throughout the campground and a dump station is located nearby. Each campsite has a picnic table, fire ring and partial shade. Flush toilets are located at convenient locations throughout the campground. A wide variety of campsites will be available for advance reservations including limited sites for larger camping units, tent-only sites and generator-free sites. Most campsites are small and will not accommodate towed units over 21 feet. A limited number of sites can accommodate towed units that are 25 –30 feet in length. Campers with a camping unit that has a slide out are encouraged to make a reservation at St. Mary or Fish Creek Campgrounds in the park.

Food storage regulations are strictly enforced for visitor and bear safety throughout the park campgrounds. When not in immediate use, all food, beverages, coolers, cooking and eating utensils, toiletries, pet food or other attractants must be kept in a closed, hard-sided vehicle or secured in bear resistant lockers located throughout the campground.

Camping in the park is limited to a total of 14 days between July 1 and Labor Day, and 30 days between Labor Day and June 30.

For more information about camping in Glacier National Park, visit or contact 406-888-7800.


Thursday, January 28, 2016

America’s National Parks Report Record Number of Visitors in 2015

More than 305 million people visited national parks in 2015, eclipsing the all-time visitation record that the National Park Service saw in the previous year. The unofficial visitation numbers for 2015 were announced by National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis, as the National Park Service (NPS) is celebrating its centennial year.

"The increasing popularity of our national parks comes as we are actively reaching out to new audiences and inviting them to explore the depth and breadth of the national park system," Jarvis said. "The 409 parks we care for preserve natural, cultural and historic landscapes across 84 million acres in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and U.S. Territories, and they tell stories that reflect the great diversity of our nation."

Record visitation tests the capacity of the park system and challenges parks to continue to provide great experiences for all visitors. Jarvis said park managers are adjusting to make sure they have sufficient staff to provide interpretive programs, answer visitor questions, respond to emergencies and to keep restrooms, campgrounds and other facilities clean.

Park visitors can plan their trips to avoid peak crowds by visiting the most popular parks in spring and fall and by visiting early in the morning or later in the day. Visitors can also take advantage of shuttles and walking trails at some parks, including the Great Smoky Mountains, Glacier, Rocky Mountain and Grand Teton national parks.

"Even with record breaking visitation, visitors can still find quiet places in the parks for those willing to seek them out," Jarvis said. "I can take you to Yosemite Valley on the Fourth of July and within five minutes get you to a place where you are all alone."

Much of the increase in national park visitation is the result of the National Park Foundation's "Find Your Park" media campaign. The campaign has sparked interest from travelers and also from communities near national parks, state tourism agencies and Congress. In late December 2015, Congress approved a nine percent funding increase for the National Park Service, which will help the agency continue to provide excellent visitor services as visitation increases.

"The increase in Congressional appropriations comes at a critical time for the National Park Service and will help us to serve the growing number of visitors,"Jarvis said. "We look forward to continuing to work with Congress as it considers additional legislation in support of the National Park Service Centennial, which would further improve the national parks by encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism, while also allowing us to improve visitor services and connect with a new generation of national park visitors."

By the Numbers: Unofficially, the NPS recorded more than 305 million visits during 2015. That is an increase of more than 12 million visits, and more than four percent, over the 2014 figure of 292.8 million visits. About 365 of 409 parks in the national park system record visitation numbers. The NPS has recorded more than 13 billion visits to parks since park managers began counting visitors in 1904, some 12 years before the NPS was created. Official statistics including the most-visited parks of the national park system and the most-visited national parks will be released in late February.


Never Underestimate the Smokies - Appalachian Trail Thru Hike 2015

Thru-hiker and videographer, Gator Miller, does an excellent job of showing what life is like as a thru-hiker on the Appalachian Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. As the name of his video implies, "Never Underestimate the Smokies," the park can present a variety of challenges - from deep snow, fog and rain, to periods of boredom (his encounter with a deer). When the weather's good, however, the 71-mile section of the Appalachian Trail in the Smokies is quite spectacular.

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 the Appalachian Trail, 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.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Stunning Beauty of Rocky Mountain National Park

58NationalParks does an excellent job of showing why Rocky Mountain National Park is such a special place in this excellent visual overview of the park. From wooded forests to alpine tundra, the majestic mountains of Rocky Mountain National Park are home to some of the most spectacular scenery on Earth. This short video also shows why you might want to put this park 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.