Outdoors, action, adventure

Category: National parks

Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival to be held at Paramount Ranch

A young visitor examines a coast sunflower, native to the Santa Monica Mountains, at last year's Science Festival. The second annual Santa Monica Mountains Science Festival begins Friday evening at Paramount Ranch in Agoura Hills.

Sponsored by the National Park Service in partnership with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and California Science Center, the free festival will take place from 7 to 10 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and will give attendees a chance to ask and learn about the flora and fauna of one of our local national parks.

Friday's nocturnal activities include a campfire singalong; a lantern-led tour of Western Town; a night-sky program; and a nighttime hike to learn about animals that come out after dark, with the opportunity to identify bats, bugs and owls.

Saturday's events will include special presentations on native plant and animal species in the Santa Monica Mountains, bird and plant identification walks and hands-on demonstrations for children and adults. There  also will be live animal shows, bird watching and booths and games to inform and entertain.

The number of food vendors on site will be limited, so attendees are encouraged to bring their own food and water, as well as any personal comfort items, such as jackets, sunscreen, sunglasses and hats.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A young visitor examines a coast sunflower, native to the Santa Monica Mountains, at last year's Science Festival. Credit: Phil Crosby

Death Valley winter weekend

Mesquite Flat Dunes

Any amateur photographer worth his or her Badwater Salt Flats knows winter provides the best shooting opportunities in Death Valley, especially early and late in the day. The sun stays low, the weather is tolerable and the air is clear — barring any sand storms, as we endured on the last day of a recent trip.

That said, digital photography in the desert presents some unique challenges. Sure, that undulating sandstone and filtered sunlight looked fantastic in the slot canyon when you snapped photos during a hike. But very often, no amount of processing will help a downloaded image that ends up with a washed-out sky and a shadow-heavy canyon.

And when it comes to composition, does the world really need yet another shot of the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes with the Grapevine Mountains in the background? (Guilty as charged, see photo above.) As we discovered in a ranger-led program on desert photography that we stumbled upon at Death Valley National Park, the answer is a resounding "no."

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Images sought for Yellowstone Winter Photo Festival

Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park.

Shutterbugs of all skill levels are invited to share their favorite regional winter images at the third annual Yellowstone Winter Photo Festival, scheduled to take place March 9 at Yellowstone National Park.

Photographers are asked to bring digital photos taken in Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem on a thumb drive or photo CD so they can display and narrate their photos. 

Sponsored by the National Park Service and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, the festival presentation is scheduled for 7 p.m. at the West Yellowstone Visitor Information Center and is open to the public.

With no judging or prizes, the evening should be very casual and reminiscent of family slide shows, except everyone attending will be there because they want to be.

Those interested in participating should contact Rich Jehle at (307) 344-2840 or by e-mail for more information and to register. The registration deadline is March 7.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone National Park. Credit: National Park Service


Whale Watch and Intertidal Life Festival at Cabrillo National Monument

A statue of explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo looks out over the San Diego Bay at Cabrillo National Monument.

Cabrillo National Monument is hosting its annual Whale Watch and Intertidal Life Festival on Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

The 24th annual event celebrates the Pacific gray whales and their return to local waters during their southbound migration to Baja California. The weekend will feature opportunities to watch for the leviathans and the chance to take guided tide-pool walks.

There also will be films; guest speakers sharing their expertise on a variety of marine-related subjects; and exhibitor booths filled with activities and information about whales, tide pools and local oceanic organizations.

All events are included with the regular park entrance fee of $5 per vehicle and $3 for motorcyclists, bicyclists and walk-ins.

Cabrillo National Monument is at the tip of the Point Loma Peninsula, just west of the city of San Diego.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A statue of explorer Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo looks out over the San Diego Bay at Cabrillo National Monument. Credit: New Thanyacheron / National Park Service

Yellowstone National Park sets new annual visitation record

Visitors watch as Old Faithful geyser erupts at Yellowstone National Park.

For the second year in a row, and for the third time in the last four years, Yellowstone National Park has set a new annual visitation record.

During the calendar year, more than 3.64 million people visited the national park. Recreation visits in 2010 were 10.5% higher than recorded in 2009 -- which itself was a record year -- when almost 3.3 million people visited. 

The park also set monthly visitation records in June, July, August, September and October. 

All park entrances recorded annual visitation increases compared to 2009 levels, with the West Entrance continuing to be the park’s busiest, hosting nearly 1.5 million recreational visitors in 2010.

Park managers say they believe the record visitation was due in part to the public’s recognition that visits to national parks represent a good value for their travel dollar. Aggressive promotion by state tourism offices, stable gasoline prices and 2009’s public television series on the national parks are also believed to have contributed.

Detailed park visitation information is available online at www.nature.nps.gov/stats/.

Yellowstone National Park annual recreational visitors:












-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Visitors watch as the Old Faithful geyser erupts at Yellowstone National Park. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times

Chart credit: Yellowstone/NPS


National Parks 2011 fee-free days announced

Panoramic view of the Grand Canyon.

Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar announced Wednesday that the National Park Service would waive admission fees on 17 selected dates throughout 2011 and encouraged Americans to visit a national park this year.

"Many people have made resolutions to spend more quality time with loved ones and to get outdoors and unplug in 2011," Secretary Salazar said in a press release. "There's no better place than a national park to help keep those resolutions. Parks offer superb recreational opportunities, making them perfect places to enjoy our beautiful land, history and culture, and nurture a healthy lifestyle."

The 2011 fee-free dates will be the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr. Day (Jan. 15-17); National Park Week (April 16-24); the first day of summer (June 21); National Public Lands Day (Sept. 24); and the weekend of Veterans Day (Nov. 11-13).

Salazar noted that, with 394 national parks throughout the country, most Americans live within a few hours of a park, making them ideal locales for convenient and affordable vacations.

"In these tough economic times, our fee-free days will give families many opportunities to enjoy our nation's heritage and natural beauty in meaningful and affordable ways," he said.

Many national park concessions will also offer discounts on the fee-free dates, saving visitors on the cost of food, lodging, tours, and souvenirs. More information is available at http://www.nps.gov/findapark/feefreeparks.htm.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: Panoramic view of the Grand Canyon. Credit: National Park Service

Theodore Roosevelt National Park's elk-reduction effort at halfway mark

A small group of elk on the Ridgeline Nature Trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

The elk-reduction effort in Theodore Roosevelt National Park has reached the halfway mark of its 12-week season.

To date, 200 elk have been removed from the North Dakota park. The goal by the time the program is finished on Jan. 20. is to cull at least 275 cow elk from the herd of approximately 950 animals that make the South Unit area their home.

Teams of up to four volunteers, led by park staff, have been working since Nov. 1 to reduce the elk population. During the first six weeks of the program, 105 volunteers have participated in field activities, most from North Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, though some have come from as far away as Alabama and California.

"The elk reduction has exceeded all of our expectations," said park superintendent Valerie Naylor. "The volunteers have been very professional and have done a great job of working with their team leaders to safely shoot the elk, take biological samples and, in many cases, pack the elk out of the back country."

So far, 11,846 pounds of elk meat from the cull has been donated to North Dakota American Indian tribes, and 4,578 pounds of meat has been donated to Sportsmen Against Hunger for use in food pantries throughout the state. The remaining meat was transferred to the North Dakota Game and Fish Department for donation back to the volunteers who assisted with the elk-reduction effort.

All elk removed from the park have been tested for chronic wasting disease, officials said, with all tests negative.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A small group of elk on the Ridgeline Nature Trail in Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Credit: National Park Service

Three climbers rescued from Yosemite's El Capitan

A military helicopter was brought in to assist Yosemite Search and Rescue team members with rescuing three climbers from the wall of El Capitan. Three rock climbers were rescued Monday afternoon from the wall of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park, culminating a two-day rescue operation that involved more than 30 rescue personnel.

Sarah Land, from Oakhurst, Calif., Walker Mackey, 25, and Rio Mackey, 23, both from Boulder, Colo., were lowered down the 7,563-foot granite monolith after spending the night on the wall of El Capitan. Land, 24, sustained injuries Sunday when an approximately 200-pound rock dislodged and struck her during their ascent.

The Yosemite Emergency Communication Center received a call from Land Sunday morning asking for assistance after she was injured. At first, she and her companions attempted to finish the climb, but a few hours later Land called back and asked Park Rangers for help. With daylight dwindling, rangers were unable to bring in a helicopter or initiate the rescue and the trio were forced to spend the night on the wall.

Dwindling weather conditions, including fog covering Yosemite Valley and impending snowfall at the higher elevations, made completing the rescue mission on Monday imperative. The Army National Guard dispatched a Chinook helicopter to Yosemite Valley to help in the efforts.

Once rescue personnel were transported to the top of El Capitan they were able to assist the climbers, lowering them to the base, where Land boarded a California Highway Patrol helicopter and was flown to El Capitan Meadow where she was transported out of Yosemite Valley.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A military helicopter was brought in to assist Yosemite Search and Rescue team members with rescuing three climbers from the wall of El Capitan. Credit: Kari Cobb / National Park Service

Yellowstone will open for winter season on Wednesday

The geothermal pools of Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces in Yellowstone National Park send clouds of steam into the frigid winter air.

The interior roads of Yellowstone National Park are being packed and groomed in order to open Wednesday to commercially guided snowmobile and snow coach travel.

The roads that link West Yellowstone, Mammoth Hot Springs and the park’s South Entrance with Old Faithful and Canyon are set to open at 8 a.m. Travel on the East Entrance road and Sylvan Pass is scheduled to begin a week later, Dec. 22, at 8 a.m.

The same limited-use plan as last winter will be in effect, allowing up to 318 commercially guided snowmobiles and 78 commercially guided snow coaches into the park daily.

The park’s list of permitted snowmobile and snow coach operators is available online at http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/wintbusn.htm. No commercial operator submitted a proposal to provide snow coach tours from the park’s East entrance this season.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: The geothermal pools of Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces in Yellowstone National Park send clouds of steam into the frigid winter air. Credit: National Park Service


Yosemite Half Dome cable permits will be required seven days a week during 2011 summer season

A view of Yosemite's Half Dome and climbers using the cable.

Yosemite National Park officials announced Monday that day-use permits to climb the Half Dome cables will be required seven days a week for the 2011 summer season.

An interim program that required permits on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays was implemented by the National Park Service in 2010 to better regulate the number of hikers using the cable system. Safety issues  have arisen from crowding, which has also led to long waits on the popular hike. 

Although the interim program worked well on the permit days, visitor use on the cables during days when permits were not required reached peak weekend levels -- thus the change to a seven-day-per-week requirement for next year's summer season. 

The Half Dome day-use permits will be available starting March 1, 2011 for climbing the cables in May and June 2011. Subsequent permits will be available at the beginning of each month for permits three months in advance. 

Reservations for a permit can be made through www.recreation.gov or by calling (877) 444-6777. Up to four permits may be obtained under one reservation, with each person climbing the Half Dome cables required to have their own. Permits are free, but there is a nonrefundable $1.50 service charge for each permit obtained.

The Half Dome cables are generally in place from mid-May through mid-October, depending on snowpack and weather conditions.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A view of Yosemite's Half Dome and climbers using the cable. Credit: Scott Gediman / National Park Service

Man killed by aggressive mountain goat in Washington park was an experienced hiker

Boardman A 63-year-old man described by authorities as an experienced hiker died from injuries he sustained during an encounter with an aggressive mountain goat Saturday in Washington's Olympic National Park.

According to the Peninsula Daily News, Bob Boardman, of Port Angeles, Wash., was on a day hike with his wife, Susan Chadd, and their friend Pat Willits and had stopped for lunch at an overlook when a mountain goat appeared and moved toward them.

When the goat began behaving aggressively, Boardman urged Chadd and Willits to leave the scene.

Bill and Jessica Baccus, also out for a day hike with their children, saw Willits, a longtime friend of Jessica's, coming up the trail.

"Nobody saw what actually happened," Jessica was quoted as saying in the Peninsula Daily News. "They heard Bob yell."

When the group returned to the scene, they saw the goat standing over Boardman, who lay on the ground bleeding.

Bill, an off-duty park ranger, was able to get the goat to move away by waving a blanket at it and pelting it with rocks, although the animal stayed nearby. The Coast Guard was called while Jessica began cardiopulmonary resuscitation on Boardman.

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Half Dome cables at Yosemite to be removed for the season

A view of Half Dome and climbers using the cable system.

A sign that summer is officially over: Yosemite National Park officials have announced that the Half Dome cables will be taken down for the season on Tuesday.

The cables, which enable hikers to climb to the summit of the majestic granite dome, are taken down each October for the fall and winter seasons and replaced the following spring.

Visitors to the park are strongly cautioned against attempting to climb Half Dome without the cables in place, as the dome can be extremely slippery and may be wet and/or icy even in seemingly dry conditions.

-- Kelly Burgess

Photo: A view of Half Dome and climbers using the cable system. Credit: Scott Gediman / National Park Service


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About the Bloggers
Outposts' primary contributor is Kelly Burgess.