Archive for September 2013
Where Is It: Only a one hour drive from Miami, the Park is southwest of Florida’s largest city, near Homestead, FL. It protects the southern 20% of the original Everglades. It’s the largest subtropical wilderness in the US, and the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River.
The Birth: The movement to transform the Royal Palm State Park into a national park began in 1923. Ernest F Coe led a commission established by the Florida state legislature, and he strongly advocated that a 2,000,000 acre national park be established, which was opposed by many commercial interests in Flordida. Eventually, a national Park was authorized in 1934 … in the middle of the Great Depression. The resolution specified that no money be allocated for the project for at least 5 years. The park was eventually dedicated by President Harry Truman in 1947.
It Happened Here: From Fox News:
Federal wildlife officials alarmed by an infestation of Burmese pythons in the Florida Everglades have tried radio tracking collars, a massive public hunt and even snake-sniffing dogs to control the invasive species. Now there’s talk of snaring the elusive pythons in specially designed traps.The U.S. Department of Agriculture received a patent in August for a trap that resembles a long, thin cage with a net at one end for the live capture of large, heavy snakes.Researchers say Burmese pythons regard the Everglades as an all-you-can-eat buffet, where native mammals are easy prey and the snakes have no natural predators. The population of Burmese pythons, which are native to India and other parts of Asia, likely developed from pets released into the wild, either intentionally or in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Size: 1,509,000 acres
Plants: From EvergladesPlan.org, which outlines the current plan to save the Everglades:
The Everglades is comprised of more than 100 marsh species that live in water all or much of the year. Its most well-known wetland plant is sawgrass, a normally hearty grass-like species that has formed thousands of acres of marshes. Floating aquatic plants that dominate the waterscape include bladderwort, white water lily, spatterdock and maidencane. Living among these is one of the tiniest members of the Everglades plant community, periphyton algae. The base of food webs, algae floats in mats on or just below the water’s surface, and is found throughout the Everglades.
In addition to aquatic ones, other plants in the Everglades live in wetland tree islands and upland hardwood hammocks that dot the landscape.
Tree islands are small forests of trees and shrubs that have adapted to a wet environment. They provide an important home to the many mammals that live in the Everglades and are a site for wading and migratory bird rookeries. Tree islands generally are named after the trees that dominate them, with the most common the bay, willow and cypress.
Animals: 36 federally protected animal species live in the park, and threats to their survival are grave.
From the Park’s website:
Unlike early national parks established to protect majestic scenery, Everglades National Park was established to preserve a portion of the vast Everglades ecosystem as wildlife habitat. The park is home to a vast array of animals that have adapted to a subtropical environment in which temperate climatic conditions, characteristic of latitudes to the north, merge with tropical Caribbean conditions. The winter dry season, which lasts from December to April, is the best time for wildlife viewing in the park. Weather conditions are generally pleasant during the winter and standing water levels are low, causing wildlife to congregate at central water locations. Shark Valley, the Anhinga Trail at Royal Palm, and Eco Pond in the Flamingo area are popular areas for viewing alligators, wading birds, and other wildlife. Boaters have additional access to wildlife viewing opportunities in Florida Bay and along the Gulf Coast.
Choices: From TripAdvisor.com:
The best kept tour secret…..you can go out in the swampy area with a ranger for a 1 to 2 hour trek.
My 15 year old said it was the most exciting thing he has done in his life. Apparently you can go out in any of the swampy areas at anytime by yourself – at your own risk. We chose to go with the park ranger
1 pm free ticket required. They only take the first 15 of the day to sign up. Can call or show up to see if there are any cancellations later in the day. REQUIRED: long pants And lace up shoes. You go out in almost knee to thigh high water – depending on how tall you are.
Fees: Private vehicles are $10 for a seven-day pass.
Staying There: There are 342 camping sites currently available. Campgrounds are available year-round. Reservations are made at 1-800-365-2267. Incredibly, fees are not charged June to August. Camping is half price for senior citizens, except for group sites.
Contact Info:40001 State Road 9336
Homestead, Florida 33034-6733 305-242-7700
Current Issues: From Wikipedia:
Less than 50 percent of the Everglades which existed prior to drainage attempts remains intact today. Populations of wading birds dwindled 90 percent from their original numbers between the 1940s and 2000s. The diversion of water to South Florida’s still-growing metropolitan areas is the Everglades National Park’s number one threat. In the 1950s and 1960s, 1,400 miles (2,300 km) of canals and levees, 150 gates and spillways, and 16 pumping stations were constructed to direct water toward cities and away from the Everglades. Low levels of water leave fish vulnerable to reptiles and birds, and as sawgrass dries it can burn or die off, which in turn kills apple snails and other animals that wading birds feed upon. Populations of birds fluctuate; in 2009, the South Florida Water Management District claimed wading birds across South Florida increased by 335 percent. However, following three years of higher numbers, The Miami Herald reported the same year that populations of wading birds within the park decreased by 29 percent.
The west coast of Florida relies on desalinization for its fresh water; the quantity demanded is too great for the land to provide. Nitrates in the underground water system and high levels of mercury also impact the quality of fresh water the park receives. In 1998 a Florida panther was found dead in Shark Water Slough, with levels of mercury high enough to kill a human. Increased occurrences of algal blooms and red tide in Biscayne Bay and Florida Bay have been traced to the amounts of controlled water released from Lake Okeechobee. The brochure given to all visitors at Everglades National Park includes a statement that reads, “Freshwater flowing into the park is engineered. With the help of pumps, floodgates, and retention ponds along the park’s boundary, the Everglades is presently on life support, alive but diminished.”
From the Miami Herald:
Over the last few years, staff members at Everglades National Park have experimented with ways to scare off flocks of vandals that lurk in parking lots every winter, sporadically defacing cars, trucks and boat trailers.
They’ve tried yelling at them, squirting them with water, even dangling dead ones upside down in trees.
But nothing has curbed the curious appetite that migrating vultures have developed for windshield wipers, sunroof seals and other rubber and vinyl vehicle parts. So this winter, the park is shifting to purely defensive tactics against the big birds, expanding a program that provides visitors at the most trouble-prone sites loaner “anti-vulture kits” consisting of blue plastic tarps and bungee cords.
“It’s recognition on our part that they’re part of the park and we’re the intruders in their world,” said park wildlife biologist Skip Snow. “The vultures are doing what comes naturally.”
Don’t Miss This: Options to see the park:
- Airboat Tours. While many see the airboat as disruptive to the peaceful environment of the Everglades, there’s no denying that it’s a really fun way to experience the swamp! Many vendors provide airboat tours and holders of the Go Miami Card receive a free tour as part of their purchase.
- Shark Valley Tram Tour. Shark Valley Tram Tours (305-221-8455) offers two-hour guided tours of the paved loop trail that runs 15 miles through the Everglades from the Shark Valley Visitors Center. This is a great way to spot some wildlife and get a high-level perspective of the River of Grass from the Observation Tower at the loop’s most distant point. If you’re planning on visiting during the park’s busy season (December through April), be sure that you call ahead for a reservation.
- Shark Valley Observation Tower. The Observation Tower at Shark Valley is one of the highlights of the Everglades. On a clear day, you can see for miles around and observe wildlife in the park’s swampy habitat. The Observation Tower is located about 7 miles from the Shark Valley Visitor Center on a paved path that is not open to personal automobiles. You may access it by bicycle, on foot, or by riding the park’s tram tour.
- Gumbo Limbo Trail. The Gumbo Limbo Trail, accessible from the Royal Palm Visitor Center, offers a self-guided walk through a forest made up primarily of gumbo limbo trees. The trail is a short half-mile and is paved for easy access. Bicycles are not allowed on the trail but visitors in wheelchairs should have no difficulty navigating it.
- Anhinga Trail. The 0.8-mile Anhinga Trail is a self-guided walk through a sawgrass marsh on an easy, paved trail. Like the Gumbo Limbo trail, Anhinga is not open to bicycles but convenient for wheelchairs and strollers. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll see some Everglades wildlife when you walk this trail. I’ve never been disappointed!
- Mahogany Hammock. The Mahoghany Hammock Trail is a 0.5 mile loop on a boardwalk through one of the Everglades’ unique ecosystems — the mahogany hammock. On this trail, you’ll see the largest living mahogany tree in the United States.
- Bicycle Tours. If you’d like to see the Everglades up close, a bicycle is one of the best ways to do so! You can either bring your own bicycle or rent one at the Shark Valley Visitors Center. Several trails in the park, including the Shark Valley Observation Tower Trail are open to bicycles. You may also choose to participate in a ranger-led bicycle tour — check at the Visitors Center for the daily schedule and more information.
OK, settle down out there. That’s a true statement: I do have one habit that annoys Velda. Really, I do.
And that’s all I’m admitting to. One habit. Velda annoyed.
Sometimes, when I’m backing out of a parking space, I’ll not put my seat belt on until I’m moving forward. Drives her nuts. Now, understand, I never drive any significant distance without a seat belt … its only when I’m backing out, and then when I turn back around to face forward I put the car in drive and put my seat belt on.
Drives her nuts. Sure way to hear nagging, every single time.
But, IMHO, that’s not a huge safety risk. Apparently she disagrees. Vocally. Predictably. Vociferously.
But that’s not today’s story.
Today, I was driving at 65 miles an hour in the #2 lane on the 210 … that’s something we Angelenos do, you see (seat belt firmly in place). In the # 1 lane, there was a lady driving a Surburban, going about 75. And she was texting. She looked to be 40 something, so I’m going to say she was old enough to know better.
But then, she was old enough to drive so she MUST know better.
I thought people understood that driving and texting don’t mix. Honestly, I thought the message had gotten through already.
Apparently it hasn’t.
So: Don’t text while driving. I’ll stop backing out without a seatbelt … you stop texting while driving.
There’s a daily jet service, about 30 minutes, via Alaska Airlines in the summer. Small charters and air taxis are available year-round.
The Birth: President Jimmy Carter designated 15 different Alaska areas to be administered by the National Park Service in 1978, and included an expansion of the Glacier Bay National Monument. In 1980m, Carter designated the area the Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve. Hunting is precluded in the National Park, but is allowed in the Preserve.
It Happened Here: The largest landslide/iceslide in modern times happened in 2012. Here’s how NBC News covered it:
“It’s certainly the largest that we’re aware of” inside the park, Glacier Bay ecologist Lewis Sharman told msnbc.com.
Larger landslides have happened over geologic time, Marten Geertsema, a natural hazards researcher for the Forest Service in nearby British Columbia, told msnbc.com, but it definitely was “one of the longest runout landslides on a glacier in Alaska and Canada in recent times.”
Moreover, the force was enormous, Geertsema said. No one was present, but had anyone been there they probably “would be blown over by the air blast,” he told the Associated Press.
Officials ruled out an earthquake as the trigger that caused part of the nearly 12,000-foot Lituya Mountain to give way, smothering the ice-white Johns Hopkins Glacier with dark rock and debris over an area a half-mile wide and 5.5 miles long.
Size: 3,223,383 acres in the National Park, and 58,406 acres in the Preserve.
# Visitors: 454,337 in 2012. The attendance is nominal October – April; July is when the people follow the sun to visit the park.
Plants: Glacier Bay is blanketed by a mosaic of plant life, from a few pioneer species in recently exposed areas to intricately balanced climax communities in coastal and alpine regions. Since virtually all the vegetation in the bay has returned to the land in the past 300 years following the retreat of the glaciers, this area is one of the premier sites on the planet to study plant recolonization.
Animals: Marine waters make up nearly one fifth of the park and no point of land is more than 30 miles from the coast. This means that the lives of virtually all the animals at Glacier Bay are tied to its productive marine waters or the biologically rich near shore environment.
Choices: Most visitors see GBNP on cruise ships. The National Park Service operates cooperative services, placing rangers on ships and boats that offer excursion trips to notable park sites.
Fees: There are no entrance fees.
Staying There: The park operates one 33-site campground that offers a bear-proof food cache, fire-pits and a warming shelter. It’s a walk-in campground, but there are wheelbarrows you can borrow to take your gear to the campsite.
The Glacier Bay Lodge is the only in-park hotel. There are 56 rooms, available Memorial day to Labor day. There are a number of B&B’s outside of the park.
Contact Info:PO Box 140
Gustavus, AK 99826
Current Issues: From the National Parks Conservation Association:
Recognized as “ground zero” for global warming, Alaska and its national parks are feeling dramatic effects from our changing climate. Alaska’s parks provide a living laboratory where this natural phenomenon can be observed (mostly) absent of direct urban & development influences as temperatures rise. Glaciers are rapidly retreating and the reduction of the polar ice pack is having an impact on wildlife and coastal communities from increased storm damage to the shoreline. The arctic tundra’s permafrost is melting, resulting in a loss of wetland ponds vital for waterfowl, and changes in vegetation will cause wildlife to move further north in search of food.
Don’t Miss This: From About.com:
No matter how you get to Glacier Bay, you’ll need warm clothing. Visitors often say it feels like they’re standing in front of the freezer with the door open when they’re facing one of the glaciers. A hat or scarf to cover your head and a pair of gloves will go a long way toward keeping you warm, and even if you don’t take a heavy coat, pile on all the layers you can muster. For even more warmth, go to your local sporting goods store and pick up some disposable pocket hand-warmers. Wear sunscreen. You’d be surprised how much of the sun’s burning rays get through, even on a rainy or cloudy day.
The Birth: From the National Park website:
In 1969 relatively high timber prices prompted private landowners to consider resuming logging operations. As a result of an effective “grass roots” campaign launched by the Sierra Club and many local individuals, Congress established Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976. That designation was not enough to protect the area from the force of Hurricane Hugo in September 1989. The park lost several National Champion trees, but the overall effect was a natural stimulus to growth. Hugo snapped tree tops, thereby allowing sunlight to come through the canopy, promoting new growth beneath. Fallen trees have provided shelter for many species of organisms; standing dead trees became new homes for a variety of plant and animal species, including fungi, insects, reptiles, birds, and bats.
On June 30, 1983 Congaree Swamp National Monument was designated an International Biosphere Reserve. In July of 2001 it was designated a Globally Important Bird Area, and on November 10, 2003 it was designated as the nation’s 57th National Park.
It Happened Here: Logging tried to happen in the early 20th century, but it proved to be commercially unprofitable due to the swampiness of the land. Heavy equipment couldn’t be used. Only trees close to the waterways could be cut, with the hope of using the waterways to float the logs out of the area. Unfortunately, due to the damp conditions, the green logs would not float. After a few years, operations were abandoned as unproductive, leaving the floodplain basically untouched.
Size: 26,546 acres
Visitors: 109,685 in 2012. May was most attended; December was least.
Plants: 75 species of trees are found in Congaree National Park. It is the largest intact tract of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining in the southestern United States.
Animals: The Park is entirely forested, but more than 170 bird species have been found in the park. Large animals that have been seen in the park are bobcats, deer, pigs, dogs, coyotes, armadillos and turkeys. The Park waters contain many types of fish, including bowfin, largemouth bass, panfish and catfish.
Choices: The Low and High Boardwalk Trails (2.4 miles total) are the best places to start for most visitors. After that, do the Weston Lake Loop Trail (4.4 miles) around the Oxbow Lake. If your are looking for birds, do the 11.7-mile Kingsnake Trail.
Fees: Congaree National Park does not charge entrance or tour fees.
Staying There: In 2012, the Park banned “car camping” … meaning you can’t sleep in your car. There are a few “walk-in” sites, where you have to walk to a site to pitch your tent.
Contact Info:100 National Park Road
Hopkins, SC 29061-9118 803-776-4396
Current Issues: The Park, perhaps still suffering its time as a National Monument when it was known as a Swamp … is considering charging for its services for the first time. The suggested fees are $10 for individual tent sites at the Bluff Campground, $15 for individual tent sites and $25 for group tent sites at the Longleaf Campground, $40 for picnic pavilion rental and $25 for guided canoe trips. Renting a canoe at local outfitters usually costs about $40 a day. Guided tours on Cedar Creek cost around $60 per person.
Don’t Miss This: Reservations for the free guided canoe trips on Cedar Creek can now be booked up to several months in advance. Visitors with flexible plans now stand a much better chance of locking in seats for the popular weekend trips.
A brass band with attitude. Love it!
Click the link. And I never saw the ending coming.
Thanks to g, the top commenter on this blog (!), for turning me on to the Mnozil Brass.
The Birth: From the National Park Service website for the Park:
The person most responsible for Bryce Canyon becoming a National Park was J. W. Humphrey. Mr. Humphrey was a U. S. Forest Service Supervisor who was transferred to Panguitch, Utah in July 1915. An employee suggested that J. W. view the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau. When Humphrey came to the rim, at the point now known as Sunset Point, he was stunned:
“You can perhaps imagine my surprise at the indescribable beauty that greeted us, and it was sundown before I could be dragged from the canyon view. You may be sure that I went back the next morning to see the canyon once more, and to plan in my mind how this attraction could be made accessible to the public.”
J. W. Humphrey had still photographs and movies of the canyon sent to Forest Service officials in Washington D. C. and to officials of the Union Pacific Railroad. Magazine and newspaper articles were written. In 1916, Humphrey secured a $50 appropriation to improve the road and make the rim accessible to automobile traffic.
By 1919, tourists from Salt Lake City were visiting Bryce Canyon. Ruby and Minnie Syrett erected tents and supplied meals for over night guests near Sunset Point. In 1920 the Syretts constructed Tourist’s Rest a 30 by 71 foot lodge, with eight or ten nearby cabins and an open air dance floor. In 1923, the Union Pacific Railroad bought the Tourist’s Rest land, buildings and water rights from the Syretts. Ruby and Minnie established Ruby’s Inn just outside the park.
Gilbert Stanley Underwood was hired by the Union Pacific to design a lodge near Sunset Point. The original main building was finished by May 1925. Additions were made and the final configuration completed by 1927. The standard and deluxe cabins near the lodge were constructed between 1925 and 1929.
President Warren G. Harding proclaimed Bryce Canyon a national monument on June 8, 1923. On June 7, 1924, Congress passed a bill to establish Utah National Park, when all land within the national monument would become the property of the United States. The land was acquired and the name was restored to Bryce Canyon. On February 25, 1928, Bryce Canyon officially became a national park.
It Happened Here: 19th century Mormon settler Ebenezer Bryce, for whom the park is named, said it was “a hell of a place to lose a cow.” The canyon’s remarkable collection of whimsical hoodoo spires were believed by the early Paiute Indians to be people frozen in stone by the mischievous spirit Coyote.
Size: 37,277 acres
# Visitors: 1,385,352 in 2012. The largest attendance was in September; the least was in January. It’s the 14th most-attended Park.
Plants: There are more than 400 plant species in the Park. The variety in plant communities in Bryce Canyon National Park is due to its diverse topography. While it is surrounded by desert, Bryce’s plateau gets much more rain and stays cooler during the summer. The resulting ecosystem is a fertile island hundreds of feet above a vast arid landscape.
Animals: 210 species of birds and 17 species of reptiles and amphibians have been seen in the Park. 73 species of mammals are known to be in the park.
Choices: There aren’t a lot of day hiking options in the Park, but you can combine 2 trails to create a 3-mile hike with some rather spectacular geology. Queen’s Garden Trail connects to the Navaho Loop, and they take you into one of the main amphiteaters in the park. You’ll pass Queen’s Garden and Thor’s Hammer. Bryce Canyon National Park is known as a park you see from your car … but when you go hiking, you’ll see a different park.
Fees: $25 per car for a 7-day pass.
Staying There: The Bryce Canyon Lodge has 114 rooms, including suites, motel rooms and cabins. There are a total of 210 camping sites in two campgrounds in the Park. They are both at 8,000′ in elevation. Maximum RV length is 30′. There are showers.
Contact Info:PO Box 640201
Bryce Canyon UT 84764-0201 435-834-5322
Current Issues: In August, the bicycle race Tour Of Utah crossed the Park on Utah State Road 12. The Park was apparently not consulted, and former Park employees are emphatically against cyclists riding through a National Park … on a State Highway. The sky did not fall during the event, apparently, and the Park was undamaged by cyclists riding through on an asphalt highway.
Don’t Miss This: Drive to Rainbow Point (18 miles one way) and stop at the 13 viewpoints on your return trip. Check at the Visitor Center for current road conditions and closures.
I’m a fan of college football. I know what it’s like to have an extra ticket.
I’m a dad. Love my daughter, known here as Little Girl.
That stated, I’m not going to use football tickets to pimp for my daughter. Like this guy did.
Gary Yates is a lifelong Tennessee Volunteers fan, who played the Florida Gators in football on Saturday. His stepdaughter is named Jessica Flanagan. Gary bought 4 tickets for the game so he could go with Jessica, Jessica’s date and his wife, Jessica’s mother.
And then Jessica’s date flaked on her, leaving Gary with an extra ticket … so he actually ran this ad on Craigslist:
The ad got response … big response. Jessica said there were 300+ respondents for this real life episode of The Bachelorette. She went through the email flood … and finally selected this guy:
Oh, and he’s also using this as a promotional event. He’s a radio personality in West Palm Beach for the ESPN afflilate.
Oh, and he already has a girlfriend.
But don’t worry: his girlfriend is cool with him going on this date. Aren’t you glad?
Oh, and the game?
It was as ugly as this dating situation. The first half was horrid; the 2nd half was just sad. Tennessee combined with # 19 ranked Florida to have no fewer than 7 turnovers. Tennessee lost, 31-17.
Jessica lost, again.
No, John McCain isn’t talking about Democrats. He’s talking about baseball.
What happened? The LA Dodgers won the National League’s Western Division championship, clinching after they defeated the Arizona Diamondbacks in Arizona.
So, the Dodgers celebrated.
The Diamondbacks had apparently asked the Dodgers, if they clinched, to leave the field after the game and celebrate in their locker room, not in front of the Diamondbacks fans.
Which they did, as you can see.
But after the champagne soaked in and the fans were gone, the Dodgers remembered that the Diamondbacks have a swimming pool beyond their outfield fence for fans to take a dip in during games. No clue who thought this was a good idea, but it’s there.
So the Dodgers hopped the outfield fence and partied on.
And that’s where it got weird. No less of an Arizona representative than the Honorable US Senator John McCain chimed in.
But this is baseball, so snippy responses must follow. And the ultimate response has to belong to a tweet from an unknown humorist who tweets as if he is the Dodger’s GM … but he’s not. What he is, is capable of responding to Mr. McCain.