Saturday, February 28, 2015

Bison Versus Automobile

Kind of reminds you of a certain auto insurance commercial... The couple in this video, filmed in Yellowstone earlier this month, were in a Nissan Xterra:


Thursday, February 26, 2015

Throwback Thursday

Have you ever looked at a map of Rocky Mountain National Park and wondered what the Alva B Adams Tunnel was all about? The tunnel appears as a dotted line, crossing through the heart of the park from Grand Lake to Estes Park. It was built in order to transport water from Grand Lake to farmers on the eastern plains of Colorado. This 13.1-mile tunnel is truly a marvel of engineering – especially when you consider there was no such thing as GPS or laser technology in 1944. Workers began drilling on both sides of the Continental Divide in 1940. The 9.75-foot diameter tunnel was completed on June 10, 1944 when workers met at the halfway point, roughly 3800 feet below the surface of the mountain peaks. Starting from both sides of the Continental Divide, the engineers were only 7/16s of an inch off alignment when they finally met in the middle!

Below is a documentary film on the construction of the Tunnel, produced in 1943 by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation:

Hiking in Glacier National Park
Grand Teton Hiking Trails

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Floating the Snake

This past summer Kathy and I, along with a few friends, took the opportunity to float the Snake River through the heart of Jackson Hole in the Grand Tetons. I knew this was a fairly popular activity for many visitors, so my expectations were already set fairly high. However, our own personal experience that day exceeded those expectations - we had an absolutely great time.

In addition to seeing some amazing scenery, one of my chief objectives was to see a variety of wildlife - especially bald eagles. Although we didn't see any mega-fauna, we did see several common mergansers, a couple of blue herons, an osprey, and six bald eagles - which happened to double the total number I've seen in my life!

Although it was late August, the morning of our trip was unseasonably cold. We were all dressed in fleece, gloves and long pants. After launching from Deadman's Bar, located just south of the Cunningham Cabin, our raft took us all the way down to Moose Landing (at Moose Junction), a distance of roughly 10 miles.

From its headwaters in Yellowstone National Park, to its confluence with the Columbia River in Kennewick, WA, the Snake River travels a total of 1078 miles. Along the way it flows though the Jackson Hole valley, the Snake River Canyon, Hells Canyon, and the rolling Palouse Hills of eastern Washington State. The drainage basin for the Snake encompasses parts of six states, while roughly 50 miles of the river passes though Grand Teton National Park.

Grand Teton National Park is home to the greatest variety of wildlife in the lower 48 states. With its lush willows to feed on, deep-water pools to swim in, and groves of aspen, the Snake River offers park visitors one of the best chances for seeing wildlife, including bison, elk, moose, pronghorn, deer, bears, beaver, or maybe one of the more than 300 species of birds that live in or migrate to the park.

Rafters will also enjoy spectacular views of the entire Teton Range, including Grand Teton, the highest mountain in the park. The first documented ascent of the 13,770-foot peak occurred on August 11, 1898 by four climbers. Two members of the Hayden Geological Survey claimed to have reached the summit on July 29, 1872. However, that ascent is disputed by climbers and historians who have concluded, after studying the climber’s accounts, that the two reached a side peak known as The Enclosure. Moreover, the 1898 climbers found no evidence of a previous ascent, including a cairn which was a common practice for the expedition.

If you're lucky you may notice a beaver lodge or two along the river bank. Beaver were nearly trapped to extinction in Jackson Hole during the 1800s when beaver hats were in fashion. However, they've made a strong rebound over the years, and have re-established numerous colonies in the wetland habitats around the park.

Roughly 8 miles downstream from the put-in at Deadman's Bar we passed a couple of cabins from the old Bar BC Dude Ranch. Established in 1912, the Bar BC was one of the first dude ranches in Jackson Hole. In 1985 Grand Teton National Park acquired the ranch, which was subsequently listed on the National Register of Historic Places five years later.

As we approached the end of the trip we floated past Menors Ferry. In 1894 Bill Menor came to Jackson Hole to set-up a homestead along the banks of the Snake River. In addition to his cabin and general store, he constructed a ferry that became a vital crossing point for the early settlers in the Jackson Hole valley. He operated his ferry until 1918 before selling out to Maud Noble.

The Menor Ferry is essentially a pontoon of two floats connected by a platform. This type of vessel is known as a "reaction ferry," which has a design that dates back to ancient times. The ferry uses the force of the river to propel the pontoon along a cable stretched across the river. The platform had sufficient room for a wagon and four-horse team. Menor charged 50 cents for a wagon and team, 25 cents for a horse and rider, but was free for pedestrians if a wagon was already crossing. The current ferry and cable system on the site today is a replica of the original.

All in all we had a great adventure. It was likely the best raft/float trip I've ever taken. Our outfitter was Barker-Ewing Scenic Tours, who did an absolutely outstanding job, and would recommend to anyone who was considering a similar trip. Most trips take about 2.5 to 3 hours. Morning and evening trips will be the best times for spotting wildlife, while mornings will offer the best views of the mountains.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Backcountry Skills: How To Cross a River

Spring hiking season is just around the corner for many areas in the lower 48. This means that snow in the higher elevations is beginning to melt, which usually results in high water in the creeks and streams along the slopes and valleys below. In many cases hikers won't have the option of crossing a stream via a footbridge, which means you'll have to get your feet wet. This can be a very dangerous situation for hikers, so you'll want to know how to do this without putting your life on the line. In this short video Backpacker Magazine offer several tips on how to cross a stream safely:


Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Teton Crest Trail Uncut

Is anyone else ready for hiking season? I know I am, but it looks like we may have at least a few more weeks of snow, cold and overcast skies. If you haven't decided where you're going to hike this summer, perhaps this video will provide some inspiration. In 2011 Dan McCoy hiked the Teton Crest Trail in the Grand Tetons, and came back with this wonderful video that highlights some of the incredibly beautiful scenery he saw along the way. His four-day, 42-mile route took him from the Rendezvous Mountain Aerial Tram to Marion Lake, across the Death Canyon Shelf to the Alaska Basin, over to Lake Solitude, and then after climbing Paintbrush Divide, he returned to civilization via the Paintbrush Canyon Trail.

This video clearly underscores why the Teton Crest Trail is one of the premier backpacking routes in America. For those that don't backpack, there are fortunately a handful of segments can be reach by day hikes, which are linked to in the above paragraph. Enjoy:


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Bill Would Clear Way for Recreational Paddling in Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks

Since first introducing Yellowstone National Park paddling legislation over a year ago, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis has worked with the Wyoming paddling community to revamp the legislation in response to concerns articulated by the National Park Service and other stakeholders, culminating in her introduction of H.R. 974 last week: the Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act.

The bill would require the National Park Service to promulgate a rule allowing paddling within three years after funds are made available for such a rulemaking. The rulemaking will replace Park Service regulations passed in the 1950’s, which prohibited paddling in both parks primarily to curb overfishing. These outdated regulations have prevented the Park Service from even considering proposals from the paddling community to open up certain rivers and streams for recreational paddling like canoeing and pack rafting. Rep. Lummis included the three year window in the bill to ensure Yellowstone and Grand Teton officials have ample time to conduct the studies and analysis necessary to set new rules allowing for paddling access. The types of hand-propelled watercraft allowed on waterways in the Parks would remain at the discretion of the National Park Service.

“This bill would remove an outdated federal ban on paddling that was instituted because of overfishing but today imposes a barrier to the responsible enjoyment of these waterways by the public,” said Rep. Lummis. “I took great care to preserve the discretion of park managers to actually manage paddling as they do any other recreational activity in the parks, and to ensure park managers have the time and resources necessary to go through the proper studies and analysis. The end result will be yet another way for the public to have truly unforgettable experiences enjoying the Wyoming treasures that are Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.”

The Yellowstone and Grand Teton Paddling Act:
Reinforces the authority of park service management over waterways within their jurisdiction.

Improves an overly broad, outdated federal ban on paddling from the 1950’s only when a new management plan is in place.

Gives sufficient time according to the requests of the Park Service for the rulemaking process as well as a National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) review.

Ensures that the National Park Service remains in charge of all management and supervision of access for paddlers through their agency rulemaking.

Creates an open, public process where folks can ask about their priority areas and gives an avenue for assurance of conservation.

Supports the NPS’ authority to monitor hand propelled watercraft as well as charge cost recovery fees for registration.

For the bill text please click here.


Throwback Thursday

Do you remember the 70s band, Firefall? They had a couple of big hits including, "Just Remember I Love You" and "Strange Way". Their name came from a Yosemite tradition that ran from 1872 to 1968 in which a bonfire was lit at Glacier Point. After sunset the burning embers were dumped over the cliff so that visitors in the Yosemite Valley could see the “firefall” drop 3000 feet onto the valley floor below. Conducted by the owners of the Glacier Point Hotel, the firefalls ended in January 1968 when the National Park Service ordered them to stop. Ironically, the hotel was destroyed by fire just one year later.

In 1871 the original owner of the hotel hired a man to build the Four Mile Trail, which still leads to Glacier Point to this day.

Hiking in Glacier National Park
Grand Teton Hiking Trails