Video: A week in the desert

Follow along as the gang from Mammoth Media go on a week-long trip through the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

I’ve been to the Grand Canyon once, and Wife of Mine and I visited Arches, Zion, Dead Horse Point and Canyonlands just after we got hitched. It is a beautiful part of the country and this video captures it well — and it looks like they had a ton of fun, too.

(Mammoth Media on Vimeo)


10 things to do on Black Friday instead of shopping

10. Make cookies for friends and family.

9. Change the diaper. Feed. Burp. Tummy time. Nap. Repeat.

8. Read a book about suffering and happiness in the cold, at altitude.

7. Write a poem: Roses are red / Violets are blue / What ever shall we do? / Let’s try the zoo!

6. Go to the zoo.

5. Take down the Halloween decorations.

4. Plan your next trip.

3. Pull out your gear box and randomly weigh items.

2. Watch Patagonia’s Worn Wear video. Then attend a screening party at a Patagonia shop. Learn how to fix your gear instead of buying new stuff.

1. Get outside in the sun, snow, rain, fog, mountains, canyons, sands, plains.

Five myths about national parks

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo. (Photo by Mountains Call Me)

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo. (Photo by Mountains Are Calling)

The deal reached in Washington last week finally reopened the national parks. It was heartening to see how much coverage their closure garnered during the shutdown — a reminder of what they mean to people.

The Washington Post’s Five Myths series has a new entry about the national parks in the wake of the 16-day-long government closure. Written by Robert Earle Howells, a Southern California-based writer and contributor to “Secrets of the National Parks” and “The 10 Best of Everything: National Parks.”

The closing of America’s national parks was among the most emotionally charged aspects of the 16-day federal government shutdown. As party leaders raced to make a deal to reopen the government and avert a default, House Republicans were accusing the head of the Park Service of trying to make the shutdown “as painful and as visible as possible.” It’s a shame that the parks, usually a source of national pride, became rhetorical pawns amid a national embarrassment. But while the parks still have the country’s attention, it’s worth clearing up some myths about them.

Read the complete Post article here.

Follow @mountainscallme on Twitter.

A government shutdown and the National Parks

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

With a government shutdown looking more likely as the House and Senate continue a budget battle ahead of the Oct. 1 deadline, the effects on the National Parks system will be immediate. All 401 parks, monuments, historic houses and battlefields will close and parks users will be told to leave in a two-step process.

Day users

Day visits will end on Tuesday. The park entrances will be closed and day visitors will need to leave. Access roads will also be closed. Park offices and visitor centers will also no longer be open.

While park roads will be closed, any road that bisects a park and is used as a thruway for the surrounding communities will remain open.

Overnight users

Those using overnight facilities – park campgrounds, cabins and other accommodations ­– will be asked to leave within two days and will need to make other arrangements. Refunds will be up to the concessionaires that run the facilities, according to the NPS.

Backcountry visitors

Okay, here things seem nebulous. I haven’t found anything on the Web about those already in the backcountry.

I called the backcountry office at Rocky Mountain National Park to see if it had any information. The individuals I spoke to said that during a shutdown no new permits will be issued and access to the park will be closed. If you have a backcountry permit and are already on the trip, you will be able to continue.

One answer I could not find was if your course traversed from one park into another. If the junction were in the backcountry, I would guess you would be okay; if the trail went through a main part of a park facility or required a check-in? Then you might be in trouble…

What about in the case of an emergency in the backcountry during the shutdown? The parks will keep skeletal staffs for emergencies, but any support would likely be more scattershot.

If anyone has any more details about backcountry use during a shutdown, please let me know.

Park employees

Park employees deemed essential will remain on the job. According to the NPS’s contingency plans,  “Staffing will be held to the very minimum to perform essential functions. This will ordinarily be only law enforcement personnel, at a staffing level that allows for reactive emergency response commensurate with levels of park operations under the shutdown. However, in certain instances maintenance and IT personnel may be required for systems that normally require 24 hour monitoring or periodic maintenance, without which the system would shut down. Emergency responders, including Fire Management, EMS, and Law Enforcement personnel, not required for essential activities will be placed on furlough but may be called back to duty if an emergency situation arises.”

According to the contingency plans, a shutdown would put 87 percent of Park Service employees – more that 21,000 people – will be furloughed.

Economic effects

So how much is this going to cost the parks, the employees and the surrounding communities? According to the National Parks Conservation Association, “The last government shutdown in 1995-1996 cost local businesses $14 million per day. Our analysis indicates the actual impact on businesses now could be closer to $30 million per day.”

Two ways to see the outdoors

The New York Times and Sotheby’s, via a link on the Times website, offer up two ways to get outdoors:

1. Buy the $3,575,000 Snowmass, Colo., Lazy O Ranch:



Enjoy panoramic views from this dramatic, fully remodeled home on 3.56 acres overlooking the majestic 1,400 acres of Lazy O Ranch! Features include 6 bedrooms, 6 full baths, 2 half baths, 9307 square feet, spacious floor plan, top of the line finishes, striking log accents, ample master suite, wine room, theater, recreation room, air conditioning, two car garage, mature landscaping, pond/water feature and privacy. The ranch amenities include common horse pastures, barn, tennis courts, fishing ponds, hiking/riding trails and a manager on site 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Just 16 miles to the center of Aspen, and 6 miles to the quaint town of Basalt with specialty shops, restaurants, and renowned Gold Medal fishing in the Frying Pan River. Seller will consider a trade for a U.S. commercial income property of equal or greater value. Flexible and Creative Owner Financing Available. Originally $7,450,000 Now $3,575,000

(Hey, it’s reduced!)

2. Head out into our national parks and forests.

From Times columnist Nicholas Kristof:

During an August vacation with my family, I enjoyed lodgings so spectacular that not even Bill Gates or Warren Buffett could ever buy or rent them.

The scenery was some of America’s finest: snowcapped mountains, alpine lakes, babbling brooks. The cost? It was free.

We were enjoying some of America’s public lands, backpacking through our national patrimony. No billionaire can acquire these lands because they remain — even in a nation where economic disparities have soared — a rare democratic space. The only one who could pull rank on you at a camping spot is a grizzly bear.

One of the greatest things about heading into the outdoors is that it doesn’t cost a lot of money. Don’t get me wrong, you can spend a fortune outfitting yourself with all the latest gear and creature comforts, but you don’t need to do so in order to have a good time. Also, once you do have the gear your need — bargain basement or high end — the cost-per-day of being outdoors is not very high. Campgrounds are cheap. The miles you hike vs. the cost of food produces a nice return. Even a plane ticket, if planned out in advance, isn’t horrible when stacked up against vistas, rocks and waves. A bundle of wood may cost $5, but you get a couple of hours of enjoyment out of it while sitting around a fire. And, inexpensive beer and wine taste pretty good under the stars.

Think I’ll stick with the second option…