Saturday, July 30, 2016

Public Asked to Report Suspicious Activity Surrounding Recent Wildfire Starts

Disturbing trends in recent wildfire starts have led local U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement officials to request public vigilance regarding suspicious activity on public lands in southeast Wyoming and northern Colorado.

From July 15-26, five suspicious fires were started on the Medicine Bow-Routt and Arapaho-Roosevelt National Forests. The majority of these fires occurred fairly close to the Laramie, Wyo., area. The fires took place near Fox Park, Centennial, Commissary Park, Happy Jack Ski Hill, and Stub Creek, south of Woods Landing. All were suppressed during initial response by fire crews.

The Forest Service is actively investigating, and anyone with specific information on how these fires may have started should contact Law Enforcement Officer Hannah Nadeau at 307-343-2335.

Anyone witnessing future suspicious actions is also encouraged to contact Officer Nadeau.

As always, the U.S. Forest Service encourages fire safety to Forest recreationists. Campers and other public land users need to follow basic fire safety rules:

* Scrape back dead grass and forest materials from your campfire site.

* Keep your campfire small and under control; make it only as big as you need it.

* Keep a shovel and a water container nearby to douse escaped embers.

* Put your campfire dead out before leaving your campsite or going to sleep.

* Do not park vehicles in tall dry grass, since hot tailpipes can cause fine fuels to catch on fire.

* Remember that any ignition – cigarettes, campfires, gunfire, vehicles – could be the cause of a wildland fire, as grass and other vegetation is dry and extremely flammable.

* Always follow current fire restrictions.

* Fireworks are not allowed on federal lands.

* Stage I fire restrictions currently exist on the Thunder Basin National Grassland.

To report a wildland fire, please call the interagency dispatch centers below: 

- Routt NF – Craig Dispatch Center, (970) 826-5037

- Medicine Bow NF, Thunder Basin NG – Casper Dispatch, (307) 261-7691


Friday, July 29, 2016

Wildlife Investigator: Bear Attacked Cyclist Near West Glacier After Collision

Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks (FWP) personnel are continuing to investigate a bear attack on a mountain biker on June 29th on Forest Service property a few miles south of West Glacier. Brad Treat, a law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service, was riding his mountain bike when he was attacked by a bear on the Green Gate/Half Moon trail system off of U.S. Highway 2. Treat’s companion reported the incident and was not attacked. Treat was found dead by officers at the scene of the attack.

Based on preliminary findings, Wildlife Human Attack Response Team Lead Investigator Brian Sommers believes that Treat was moving at a high rate of speed on his mountain bike along the narrow trail and collided with the bear. Sight visibility at the location of the collision is very limited and the collision was unavoidable. The bear reacted which led to the attack.

Based on this information and the investigation to this point, the team has removed the bear traps and cameras from the area.

The Green Gate/Half Moon trail system remains closed and posted by Forest Service officials. For more information on the closure contact Flathead National Forest at 406-758-5200.

The incident is under continued investigation and more details will be released as they become available.


Comet Falls

Comet Falls just might be the most impressive waterfall I’ve ever seen. As one of the highest waterfalls in Mt. Rainier National Park, it plunges 462 feet over the course of four drops, with the tallest drop being measured at 301 feet.

This outstanding hike begins from the Comet Falls Trailhead, located near Christine Falls between Longmire and Paradise. The trail follows Van Trump Creek for the majority of the route. Along the way you’ll pass numerous cascades, cataracts and waterfalls as the creek rushes down the gorge. As a result of the rugged terrain the trail climbs fairly steeply in many spots.

The trail itself is also very rugged, and is littered with numerous rocks and roots. Given that wet conditions normally pervade in the Pacific Northwest, descending back to the trailhead can be fairly treacherous as a result of slick rocks, roots and mud. As you descend, your best bet is to try and avoid anything that’s wet in order to prevent slips. I would definitely recommend using trekking poles - especially during wet conditions.

Roughly a quarter-of-a-mile above the trailhead hikers will cross over Van Trump Creek on a footbridge that spans roughly 50 feet above a stream that crashes through a narrow, rocky gorge. Upstream is an awesome cascading waterfall (photo above), while Christine Falls plunges through the canyon just downstream from the footbridge. Although you can’t see it from this vantage point, I highly recommend visiting the roadside viewing area just up the road from the trailhead (photo below).

As we climbed higher we enjoyed a wide variety of wildflowers.

At just over 1.5 miles you’ll cross over Van Trump Creek where Bloucher Falls crashes into the rocky terrain just upstream from the footbridge. Don’t confuse this with Comet Falls, which is still another quarter-of-a-mile up the trail.

A distant Comet Falls finally comes into view not far above Bloucher Falls:
I highly recommend continuing a little further up the trail to get an up-front view of the falls as they thunder and crash into the rocks below. It’s quite amazing! This was by far the best waterfall hike we’ve ever done.

The waterfall received its name because it resembles the tail of a comet.
Beyond the falls the trail continues up to the sub-alpine meadows of Van Trump Park. Although snow made this area impassable during our mid-June hike, we really wished we could’ve continued on as this area is known for its awesome wildflower displays, as well as its dramatic views of Mt. Rainier. To reach Van Trump Park you’ll have to travel another mile and climb an additional 1100 feet.

Trail: Comet Falls Trail
RT Distance: 3.8 Miles
Elevation Gain: 1250 feet
Max Elevation: 4875 feet
TH Location: Near Christine Falls east of Longmire
Map: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails Illustrated Map

Day Hike! Mount Rainier uncovers the best trails for the day tripper, whether you’re a newbie hiker or a veteran with hundreds of miles on your boots. Northwest outdoors expert and Seattle Times's Trail Mix columnist Ron Judd reviews more than 50 of the best day hike trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, from Paradise and Sunrise to the lower foothills. The book describes classic routes - from easy to moderate to extreme - giving hikers the choices they want.


Fire Investigators: 2015 Colter Bay Dorm Fire Caused by Suicide

An investigation into a fatal structure fire that occurred last year in Grand Teton National Park has been completed. An ISB Special Agent worked with US Park Rangers, the State of Wyoming Department of Fire Prevention and Electrical Safety, Jackson Hole Fire/EMS, City of Rawlins Fire Department and United States Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives throughout the investigation.

Upon getting the call for help just after midnight on July 31, 2015, Teton Interagency Dispatch Center personnel initiated the immediate response of firefighters and medics. The fire originated in a second floor dormitory room of the Colter Bay dormitory, which is managed by the Grand Teton Lodge Company. Residents and neighbors deployed fire extinguishers until help arrived. Rangers, park structural fire fighters, and Jackson Hole Fire/EMS suppressed the fire within about two hours.

During suppression efforts, responders found an unresponsive man in the dorm room where the fire originated. Advance life support treatment was attempted to resuscitate him; however, medical control instructed the paramedics on scene to cease resuscitate efforts and pronounced the victim deceased. He was a 28‐year‐old employee of the Grand Teton Lodge Company, and had sustained third degree burns to over 50% percent of his body.

The investigation determined the man had intentionally caused the fire using a flammable device in his room that resulted in his death. The Teton County Coroner Office ruled the manner of death a suicide. Four other people suffered minor injuries from the fire. All patients were transported to St. John’s Medical Center where they treated and released.

The "all-out effort" by responders prevented the fire from spreading further than one room in the dormitory. "It was an amazing response from Grand Teton National Park firefighters, EMTs, rangers, and also the Jackson Hole Fire and EMS responders," said the park's spokesperson, Jackie Skaggs (retired).


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Small Wildfire Reported in Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park official have reported on their Facebook page that a small fire is burning near Jackson Lake. Here's what they have posted so far:
"Teton Interagency Firefighters are monitoring a lightning-ignited fire about three miles west of the northwest shore of Jackson Lake and about six miles south of the Grassy Lake Road in the park. Smoke is visible from the east side of Jackson Lake, including US Highway 89. No closures are currently in effect, but backcountry visitors to the area should remain alert for changing fire conditions."
Last week Teton Interagency fire managers announced that the fire danger rating was increased to Very High for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, Grand Teton National Park and Teton Interagency Dispatch Area. The National Park has also reported smoky conditions from two other nearby wildfires. Due to conducive weather conditions, those fires continue to grow. Here's an update on those fires:

* The Cliff Creek Fire was discovered on the Bridger-Teton National Forest at 2:30pm on Sunday, July 17th. It was reported approximately 5 miles north of the town of Bondurant. The lightning ignited fire has now burned over 21,000 acres, and is only 15% contained. The fire is currently moving towards and into the Gros Ventre Wilderness. Although Highway 191 was closed between Bondurant and Hoback Junction last week, it has since reopened. There are currently 721 personnel on this incident. For more information on this fire, please click here.

* The Lava Mountain Fire is burning northwest of Dubois on the Wind River Ranger District of the Shoshone National Forest. This fire was also caused by lighting on July 11th, and is currently active in thick timber. This fire has now burned more than 12,000 acres. There are 766 firefighting personnel on the scene. As of yesterday morning, there was 0% containment. Numerous evacuations and road closures in the area are currently in effect. Hikers should note that the Continental Divide Trail is still closed from Sheridan Pass to Pilot Knob on the Wind River Ranger District of the Shoshone National. For more information on this fire, please click here.

To report a fire or smoke in Bridger-Teton National Forest or Grand Teton National Park, call the Teton Interagency Fire Dispatch Center at 307.739.3630. For more fire information, please visit


Bench and Snow Lakes

We really lucked out on this one. We inquired about the Snow Lake Trail upon our arrival to Mt. Rainier National Park, but the ranger told us that it was still impassable due to snow. However, the next day, the park updated their website and stated that the trail was now “open”. So we jumped on our chance to hike this very scenic trail.

The hike begins from a roadside parking area known as “The Bench”, located east of Paradise on Stevens Canyon Road. From the trailhead you’ll enjoy some awesome views of Mt. Rainier and Little Tahoma Peak.

I would estimate that at least three-quarters of this hike passes through open terrain, which means you’ll enjoy some great views along much of the route. Not far from the trailhead we had a great view of 6917-foot Unicorn Peak, which rises out of the Tatoosh Range.

In mid-summer this area explodes with a wide variety of wildflowers, including beargrass. During our mid-June hike hundreds of avalanche lilies lined the trail near the trailhead.

Further up the trail we saw trillium and several other varieties, including these marsh marigolds sprouting from a tiny island in the stream.

After about a half mile you’ll reach a small rock outcropping just off the side of the trail on your left. This vantage point offers good views of Bench Lake to the east, as well as Mt. Rainier and Little Tahoma Peak towards the north.

From the outcropping the trail begins descending. At roughly two-thirds of a mile you’ll reach a split in the trail. The short spur trail leading towards the left will take you down to Bench Lake. Due to very high and dense brush surrounding the lake at the time of our visit, we really couldn’t see anything here. I’m not sure if this is typical or not, but it really wasn’t worth the effort. Perhaps the water level in the lake was higher than normal, which may have prevented us from reaching the shore.

Once back on the main trail we continued descending down towards a beautiful meadow along the valley floor. After crossing over a small creek the trail began ascending towards Snow Lake. Roughly one mile from the trailhead we reached our first snow field. From this point forward we hiked across hard-packed snow all the way to the lake. Because so many hikers had already reached the lake over the prior days and weeks, the route was very easy to follow. This lingering snow, which often rings the lake until late summer, is very likely the inspiration for its name.

At 1.2 miles we finally reached the end of the trail at Snow Lake. The views from the lake, which is tucked in a cirque below 6917-foot Unicorn Peak, are simply outstanding.

Here’s a view of Snow Lake looking towards the northeast:

On our way back to the trailhead we enjoyed sporadic views of Mt. Rainier:

All in all this was a very nice hike – in fact, we really enjoyed it. For the best photographic opportunities I would highly recommend doing this hike in the morning, as the mountains lie towards the west and the north, and will present themselves at their best in the morning light. I should also mention that the park website notes that “there is always a chance of seeing black bears” on this trail.

Trail: Snow Lake Trail
RT Distance: 2.4 Miles
Elevation Gain: 700 feet
Max Elevation: 4679 feet
TH Location: The Bench – east of Paradise
Map: Mt. Rainier National Park Trails Illustrated Map

Day Hike! Mount Rainier uncovers the best trails for the day tripper, whether you’re a newbie hiker or a veteran with hundreds of miles on your boots. Northwest outdoors expert and Seattle Times's Trail Mix columnist Ron Judd reviews more than 50 of the best day hike trails in Mt. Rainier National Park, from Paradise and Sunrise to the lower foothills. The book describes classic routes - from easy to moderate to extreme - giving hikers the choices they want.


Vandal Sentenced to Three Days in Jail for Carving into Iconic Roosevelt Arch in Yellowstone

Dakota D. Tipton, 26, of Joshua, Texas, was sentenced on Tuesday, July 26, 2016, for carving his initials into the iconic Roosevelt Arch. U.S Magistrate Judge Mark Carman ordered Tipton to serve three days in jail, pay a $250 restitution fee for repairs, and $40 in court fees.

On June 10, 2016, park dispatch was notified by a visitor that Mr. Tipton was carving his initials into a keystone above a small walkway arch adjacent to Arch Park. When contacted by law enforcement, Mr. Tipton admitted to using a multi-tool to carve into the arch, calling it “a bad decision.”

Mr. Tipton was issued a mandatory appearance citation for vandalism and appeared before the court at the Justice Center in Mammoth Hot Springs by phone Tuesday, July 26. He will likely serve his jail sentence near his home in Texas. This location is determined by the U.S. Marshal Service and/or the Bureau of Prisons.

The Roosevelt Arch, situated at the north entrance of Yellowstone National Park, was constructed out of local columnar basalt. Dedicated by President Theodore Roosevelt, who laid the cornerstone on April 24, 1903, the arch greeted early visitors who arrived in Gardiner, Montana via the Northern Pacific Railroad. At 50 feet high, the Roosevelt Arch is, and has been, a favorite photo point for visitors.

The Roosevelt Arch is part of the Fort Yellowstone National Historic Landmark District. National Historic Landmarks are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.

It is difficult to measure the actual cultural resource loss that Mr. Tipton’s actions cost the park. The sentence passed down by the judge reflects the egregious nature of such an action.

The keystone of the central arch is engraved with the words, “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.” “Let this unfortunate act be a reminder to all that the cultural treasures of Yellowstone National Park require our care and protection to ensure that generations to come will enjoy their presence on the landscape,” said Yellowstone National Park Deputy Superintendent Steve Iobst.