Parks Pass price hike 60% – How did that work out for them?


The demise of the beloved National Parks Pass cost the National Park Service more than $1.3 million last year, although agency officials expect revenues to rebound as folks grow accustomed to the America the Beautiful Pass.

According to Jane Moore, the Park Service’s fee program manager, 2006 sales of the $50 National Parks Pass, good for entrance into all units of the national park system, generated $22.1 million for the agency. During 2007, the first year of the $80 America the Beautiful Pass, the agency took in $20.79 million, a 6 percent dip in revenues.

Kurt Repanshek – National Parks Traveler

Who could have predicted a 60% jump would generate less income?

The full story is not in as yet, of course. I feel confident in calling the America the Beautiful Pass price a huge mistake.

I used mine recently in California. Many people were needed to check my Pass, especially the date punch, and it slowed down traffic every time I drove out of the Park. In Canada we hang our Park pass from the rear view mirror, a better system, much easier to police.

neoprene socks on the trail

I’ve always been suspicious of “waterproof socks” for hiking:

Seirus Stormsock Waterproof Sock

Seirus Stormsock Waterproof Sock

Crow confirms “they stink”: Waterproof socks: A bad idea

She likes neoprene socks. As do I.

It was an accident that started me wearing neoprene, actually. I took normal hiking footwear and water walking shoes on the West Coast Trail. And ended up wearing my speciality water shoes with neoprene booties for the entire hike. They were so bloody comfortable.

Sure my feet got “wrinkled”. But a quick rinse was enough to remove the sweat. And they dry in seconds.

Consider this option. One example:

Body Glove Flipper Slipper Neoprene Sock

Body Glove Flipper Slipper Neoprene Sock

I don’t wear neoprene on every hike. But my booties were perfect in Paria Canyon.

which ultralight hiking pack?

Do I deserve a new hiking pack? Lighter than my Granite Gear Virga (photo).

Yes. Because I’m worth it.

But which?

uberlitejpg.pngThe G6 Whisper Ultralight Backpack was designed in response to Ryan Jordan’s desire for a freakishly light, subcompact, overnight pack. The G6 Whisper Ultralight Backpack is a cornerstone of Ryan’s Super-UltraLight Backpacking (overnight backpacking with less than five pounds of gear) strategy. …

The G6 Whisper, at only 3.7 ounces (99 g), is the lightest commercially-available rucksack with enough volume for overnight backpacking by the accomplished ultralight backpacker. With more than 1800 cubic inches (30L) of main packbag capacity, an expandable rear pocket, and a short extension collar, the G6 Whisper Ultralight Backpack provides enough volume for virtually any serious ultralighter out for two or three days, and enough volume for the extraordinarily disciplined ultralight hiker with a very low equipment kit volume to spend several days to a week in the backcountry. …


Gossamer Gear G6 Whisper “Uberlite” Backpack @ Backpacking Light

What about the GoLite Ion?

The epitome of ultra-lite simplicity, the Ion was designed for ultra-lite fast-packing, summit bids, and adventure travel. Constructed of super durable Dyneema® gridstop fabric and a single watertight zipper at the opening, this top-loader features spacer mesh shoulder straps for comfort, an adjustable sternum strap and webbing hip belt, a hydration tube opening and a haul loop. Extremely compact and a true minimalist piece, the Ion is a featherweight 9 ounces!


GoLite Product Detail

As the Crow Flies linked to home made gear by Samurai Joe Valesko. He uses cuben fiber.


Joe Says:

“I carried a single Blast 26 backpack my entire PCT thru-hike (2,663 miles). I carried a base weight of around 5 lbs (gear list), and generally 12-20 lbs with full food and water.

At one point I carried 35 lbs for an 11 day stretch without re-supply through the High Sierras of California. My shoulders weren’t happy about that much weight, but the pack took it like a champ! (Under 20 lbs is a more comfortable weight with frameless packs)

By the end of the five month trip the pack was quite a bit frayed, but still in very usable condition. Not bad for a 3.5 ounce backpack!” Ultralight Backpacking Gear

That water bottle side pocket is excessive, don’t you think? Could shave some grams there, Joe.

(Incidentally, Kraig, I recall pooh poohing your suggestion to use an air mattress as the frame of a backpack. But now I do it all the time with my Virga.)

Leave a comment if you have other recommendations. Thanks!

new danger in the woods: Electric Bear Fence

Does Rocky Thompson make this stuff up?

(This can’t be for real.)

On his blog:

… Try to remember there’s an electrified fence right outside your tent when you get up in the middle of the night to take a piss. If a can of Bear Spray doesn’t offer the protection you’re looking for, then you might try lugging some fencing and batteries into the backcountry. The Bear Shock outfit weighs 3.7 pounds with batteries, and stretches around a 30 x 30ft area.

The website claims the batteries will last five weeks and blast someone with 6000 volts of electricity if touched. I say “someone” and not “some bear” since it’s much more likely you’ll walk into it than anything else. The Goat » Blog Archive » Portable Electric Bear Fence to Encircle Your Campsite


more photos – Bear Shock

Banff Festivals – good not great

After 5-days at the Banff Mountain Festivals 2007, here’s my FINAL review:

totempole_190.jpgThis was my first trip to Banff for the festivals.


  • bringing together so many outdoors enthusiasts
  • Banff and the Rocky Mountains
  • food available on site
  • sponsors, especially National Geographic and New Balance
  • “reading rooms” for previewing the books
  • TV monitors showing the performances for those without tickets
  • no bottled water on site (reduced environmental impact)
  • enthusiastic volunteers
  • =====

    THE BAD:

  • Banff Centre is a surprisingly poor venue
  • events are widely scattered across campus
  • trade show spaces too small and scattered
  • theatres are not great
  • confusing website
  • confusing schedule of events
  • Small gripe: I could walk in and out of movies when I wanted. Except Sunday morning when suddenly I was not allowed in after the first movie had started.

    My biggest complaint, though, is too much focus on mountaineering at the expense of all other Mountain activities. If you are not interested in climbing, don’t bother coming. That’s the message I get, as a hiker.

    That’s amusing since the Canadian Rockies are infamous for dangerous rock climbing. The infamous “rotten Rockies”. Most of the world’s best climbers don’t come here — except for a holiday at the Banff Festival.

    For Books, 2007 was not a banner year. The movies were better, I thought.

    I’m not sure the Banff Centre could ever host a great festival. The venue is limited.

    My advice is that you attend, instead, the superb World Tour. Or the Radical Reels tour. Check out the award winning books and award winning movies on-line. No need to spend the time and money to come to Banff.

    The Kendal Mountain Festivals in the UK looks better to me at first glance.

    Ask anyone else who travelled to Banff, you’ll get a more positive review, I think. I may be too critical.

    Banff Mountain Festivals 2007 – official website

    do NOT throw away your Nalgene

    16 Oz. Colored Narrow Mouth Nalgene Water Bottle - In Your Choice of ColorsChris on the Hike Alberta blog has been researching the dangers of Nalgene bottles leaching bisphenol.

    Goodbye to my Nalgene Bottles | Hike Alberta

    Click through if you want to see the details.

    It’s the first I’ve heard of this hazard. I normally carry one Nalgene, one soft drink bottle.


    UPDATE: Turns out Sarah on the Freezer Bag Cooking blog has already debunked this myth.

    Leave a comment if you are throwing away your Nalgene bottle. But first read the other comments.

    UNreality TV – MAN vs. WILD

    This week you’ll see a lot of press like this:

    Bear Grylls is back with a new one-hour special and the second season of MAN VS. WILD, airing Fridays at 9 PM (ET/PT) beginning November 9. Bear travels to the Himalayas for BEAR’S MISSION EVEREST, where this past spring he attempted to fulfill a dream to fly a powered paraglider higher than Everest …

    They are expecting good ratings for Bear Grylls and Discovery Channel.

    The controversy from last season — claims that some of his stunts were exaggerated or faked — will bring in more viewers.

    Discovery Channel has promised to be completely transparent this season. (Film editors will not lead viewers to believe Bear is on a desert island when he is actually sleeping in a motel in Hawaii.)

    Bear is the real thing. He climbed Everest at age-23. He’s a true survivalist. No question.

    But his show is more about sensationalizing the outdoors. Not about informing the general public.

    I can’t help cheering for the “other guy”. Survivorman — Les Stroud. I have a lot more respect for Les, a man who goes out for a week at a time, no cameraman or support crew.

    My advice to hikers is to watch Survivorman instead.

    To decide for yourself if Bear is a fraud, click PLAY or watch him on YouTube.

    Looks to me Bear has a life jacket on under his shirt. But how many people have followed his example and tried to float down a river using only a pack as a raft? What happens when one of those people drowns?

    How accountable are Grylls and Discovery Channel?

    As for myself, I boycott Man vs. Wild. Getting TV ratings this way is too dangerous.

    the Ipsos-Reid Parks Canada $1000 prize muck-up

    If you follow this blog, you know I have no confidence in Parks Canada.

    Love the Parks, distrust management.

    In fact, I recommend hikers go to the American National Parks instead if they want best value. (And I live next to the Canadian Rockies.)

    Yet, I credit Parks Canada for at least making the appearance of listening to the taxpayers who pay their salaries. Ipsos-Reid was hired to do a survey.

    angrygif.gifIt’s been a mess. I’ve been in the survey process for months, yet I have no idea when the thing will end. Is Ipsos-Reid simply milking Parks on this? What does this survey cost?

    Worst of all, Ipsos-Reid managed to further disgruntle users of the Canadian National Parks when they decided to dangle a $1000 / month prize for those taking part in the survey.

    Many who received an invitation to join the survey were confused when trying to log-in to the website.

    I could go on-and-on … (Backtrack through earlier posts on this issue if you are interested.)

    Finally today I got this email from Ipsos-Reid which clarifies some things. And leaves many other questions unanswered:

    Dear Mr. McCharles,

    Thank you again for bringing this issue to our attention. There are two separate links: is the official website for individuals who have received an invitation card to join the Parks Listens panel is the login webpage for individuals who have already registered with the Parks Listens panel.

    In order to clarify eligibility to participate in the Parks Listens panel and the prize draw contest, we have added more information to both web pages.

    If you receive any further communication from visitors who are having technical difficulties on the website, please direct them to our email address and will assist them.


    The Parks Listens Panel Team

    You cannot join the survey without an invitation. Those you can only get by visiting the Canadian Mountain National Parks and being randomly selected.

    Red’s Meadow – Mammoth, California

    When I staggered into Red’s Meadow off the John Muir Trail I had — like most hikers — a wide grin on my face.

    What’s not to love?

    The well-stocked General Store has groceries, sporting goods, fishing tackle, sundries and souvenirs. If you’re hiking the back-country, you can have a supply package sent to yourself at The Resort.

    The Mule House Cafe serves up delicious home cooked meals. Both open at 7 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. … The resort is located at the comfortable elevation of 7,500 feet.

    Red’s Meadow Pack Station and Resort – A Sierra Nevada Vacation Paradise

    I had dinner at the Mule House with two grizzled thru-hikers named Bigfoot and Captain America.

    My only complaint — why the $18 / site camping fee at nearby Inyo National Forest Reds Meadow Campground? The night I was there every thru-hikers site had only 1 person.

    Inyo has a designated camping area for thru-hikers. But it’s with the car campers!

    Why not have a walk-in backcountry camp for hikers? Note that the designated hiker’s sites in Glacier National Park near the Swiftcurrent Motel are free. The camping near the hot springs at Muir Ranch is free.

    If Inyo wants to encourage people to walk — reducing environmental impact — why are they not encouraging self-sufficient, low impact thru-hikers?

    Why are they catering to, even subsidizing, car camping?

    I’ll contact Inyo with my “suggestion”.

    Inyo National Forest

    PS — Hikers generally do not complain because they are so happy with the wonderful natural hot spring showers at that campground. For some, $18 is a small price to pay.

    TracMe Personal Locator Beacon

    UPDATE: Check the comment by Kevin Stoltz. He is very negative on this device:

    … how TERRIBLE this device is as an emergency rescue device. The ONLY positive thing is it’s size. It is a low power radio beacon which means someone else has to initiate the search (whether or not you’re actually in need of help). The TracMe is only useful once rescue parties get close. PLBs on the other hand are activated by the individual in distress and result in a distress signal (including location coordinates) being sent to satellites which in turn are relayed to the appropriate search and rescue organization. PLBs operate at 406MHz and have an extremely low false alarm rate.


    original post:

    The Hiking Ideas – Wilderness Trailcraft blog is investigating methods of sending for help in case of emergency.

    This is the first device small enough for me to seriously consider:

    tracme.jpgOn Monday I posted a story about the Spot Satellite Messenger device and I got a comment from Kevin Stoltz from PLB Rentals. He helped differentiate the category of PLBs from other messenging devices by saying the PLBs have more transmitting power – therefore they are a better safety device.

    He also mentioned to me to check out another device called TracMe.

    So I did. Here is a shot of the TracMe and here’s what the TracMe website lists as the unique features of their device:

    • Voice beacon – can be monitored by anyone on the existing radio emergency channel.

    • Does not automatically instigate a search and rescue – about 98% of distress alerts detected from inadvertently activated beacons are false.

    • Extremely small and light weight.

    • Low cost – less than half the cost of existing beacons.

    • Very low cost for the Search and Rescue (SAR) crews.

    • A search can be performed with a single aircraft and one ground crew of 2 to 3 people.

    • Will operate continuously for about 7 days – this gives the rescuers ample time to locate the beacon.

    • Single use – once the unit has been activated, it can be deactivated but not reused.

    • Shelf or storage life should be up to 10 years.

    TracMe Personal Locator Beacon

    – Hiking Ideas – Wilderness Trailcraft

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