Would You Leave Your Campfire Unattended?

Firefighters have discovered 23 illegal, abandoned, or escaped campfires burning on the Bitterroot National Forest in just the last seven days, according to a Bitterroot National Forest news release.

Bitterroot National Forest (Source: fs.usda.gov/bitterroot)
Bitterroot National Forest (Source: fs.usda.gov/bitterroot)

Two of the fires were discovered Sunday morning (August 11) off Skalkaho Highway near Gird Point Lookout and Railroad Creek (near the Idaho-Montana state line), east of Hamilton, Montana (40 miles south of Missoula).

Both fires had escaped their makeshift rings and if crews had not been close by, could have quickly and easily spread to nearby grass and trees.

The Forest Service is asking for the public’s help in stopping this growing problem. It’s a major concern as fire crews are spending their time responding to and putting out abandoned campfires, which could delay responses to new wildfires that start.

More than half of the abandoned campfires were discovered outside designated/approved campgrounds, where fires are currently prohibited under Stage 1 Restrictions.

Fire Restrictions

Stage 1 fire restrictions went into effect August 1 on the Bitterroot National Forest. Campfires are allowed only within a designated campground or recreation site which contains a Forest-provided fire ring.

For a list of all designated campgrounds and recreation sites, visit the Forest website (SEE link below)

Individuals who violate these restrictions could face fines of up to $5,000 and be held liable for all suppression costs and damages for starting a fire.

Forest Service map shows active wildfires in the U.S. The Elk Complex and Pony fires in Idaho are represented by Nos. 24 and 26, respectively. (Source: fs.usda.gov)
Forest Service map shows active wildfires in the U.S. The Elk Complex and Pony fires in Idaho are represented by Nos. 24 and 26, respectively. (Source: fs.usda.gov)

Current Fire Danger

The Bitterroot National Forest fire danger is currently very high.

Forest officials are asking the public to be extremely careful when camping and to remember that it’s your job and responsibility to properly maintain and extinguish all campfires.

Smoke & Haze

The smoke and haze that drifted into the Bitterroot Valley overnight is coming from the Pony Complex and Elk fires burning in Idaho.

Combined, the two fires have grown to nearly 200,000 acres


Bitterroot National Forest

The 1.6 million acre Bitterroot National Forest, in west central Montana and east central Idaho, is part of the Northern Rocky Mountains.

Elevation ranges from 3,200 feet at the north end of the Bitterroot Valley to Trapper Peak at 10,157 feet in the mountains on the south. In the Idaho portion of the Forest, elevations drop to about 2,600 feet along the Selway River and 2,200 feet on the Salmon River.

Half of the forest is dedicated to the largest expanse of continuous pristine wilderness in the lower 48 states—the Selway Bitterroot, Frank Church River of No Return, and the Anaconda Pintler.

Much of its beauty can be attributed to the heavily glaciated, rugged peaks of the Bitterroot Range. Drainages carved by glaciers form steep canyons that open into the valley floor. The abundance of natural resources offers a wide range of opportunities for recreation, grazing, wildlife, fisheries, timber, and minerals.

Bitterroot National Forest (Source: fs.usda.gov/bitterroot)
Bitterroot National Forest (Source: fs.usda.gov/bitterroot)

Enjoy the magnificent mountains, the serenity of wilderness, miracle of spring flowers, majestic big game, and sounds of birds.

Summer is a great time to visit the Bitterroot National Forest.

Recreation opportunities abound here including camping at 24 developed campgrounds and five group sites, hiking on more than 1,600 miles of trails, fishing for brook and rainbow trout in crystal-clear Alpine lakes, boating, biking, horseback riding, and more.

The Forest is home to many species of wildlife including deer, elk, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and moose, plus many varieties of smaller animals and birds.

Bitterroot National Forest Supervisor’s Office Address: 1801 North 1st, Hamilton, MT  59840

Phone: (406) 363-7100

Website: fs.usda.gov/bitterroot

Worth Pondering…

A beautiful flower, a beautiful river, a valley, a magnificent range—such is the Bitter Root.

—Wheeler, 1898

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Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies

If you are looking for an exciting vacation with beautiful views then consider exploring Forest Service lands in the Northern Rockies for beautiful landscapes, scenic byways, historic trails, and diverse wildlife.

For sheer beauty and allure, few regions match the Northern Rockies. Discover a convenient new way to research and plan absolutely incredible Rocky Mountain travel adventures—the Top 10 Scenic Drives in the Northern Rockies.

Beartooth All-American Road

The Beartooth Scenic Road has 10,000 mountain lakes, 20 peaks reaching more than 12,000 feet in elevation, and 12 national forest campgrounds. Witness the rare transition of lush forest ecosystem to alpine tundra in just a few miles on the highest elevation road in the Northern Rockies.

International Selkirk Loop All­-American Road

The public lands along the loop are home to the largest diversity of wildlife in the lower 48 states. Travel the Selkirk Range of the British Columbia, Idaho, and Washington Rocky Mountains to see stunning vistas, wildlife, year-round recreation, and colorful small towns.

Montana Scenic Loop

Holland Lake sits at the base of the Swan Mountains about 25 miles north of Seeley Lake, Mont., just minutes off the route of the Montana Scenic Loop. (Source: usda.gov)

At the heart of the 400-mile Montana Scenic Loop is the Bob Marshall Wilderness—flanked by the Great Bear Wilderness on the north and the Scapegoat Wilderness to the south. Enjoy striking vistas of awe-inspiring mountains, placid trout streams and abundant wildlife as they unfold along the Rocky Mountain Front, Glacier National Park, and the Flathead and Blackfoot River Basins.

Northwest Passage Scenic Byway All-American Road

Travel along U.S. Highway 12 along the Middle Fork of the Clearwater River and the Lochsa Wild and Scenic River—through the magnificent Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests culminating at the Lolo Pass Visitor Center. Explore the Idaho Rockies, including the land of the Nez Perce Indians, and trace the Lewis & Clark Expedition route across the Bitterroot Mountains and along the Wild and Scenic Clearwater and Lochsa rivers.

Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park Loop

The area is defined largely by the wide-ranging wildlife that inhabit the region, including grizzly bears, wolverines, wolves, and bull trout. Trace this stunning route through the Montana Rockies, featuring breathtaking scenery and Glacier National Park’s popular Going-to-the-Sun Road.

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail

With eight national forests along this route in Montana and Idaho, visitors can experience a number of landmarks and attractions while tracing the same path over mountains and along rivers that the Lewis and Clark Expedition took on their way to the Pacific coast.

Nez Perce National Historic Trail

Drive the route of the Nez Perce National Historic Trail in the fall to come across this picturesque scene. (Source: usda.gov)

The journey of the Nez Perce from their homelands is one of the most fascinating and sorrowful events in U.S. history. Learn the story of the Nez Perce by following in the footsteps of the 1,170-mile flight through Idaho, Wyoming, and Montana.


Drive the Top 10

This website will help you learn about the region’s four All-American Roads, 19 national parks, and the scenic byways and historic trails connecting them.

Retrace the rugged path of Lewis & Clark through Montana, Idaho, and Washington. Tour the hot springs of the Kootenay Rockies. Navigate the prehistoric depths of Hells Canyon—North America’s deepest canyon. Or witness an awe-inspiring Old Faithful eruption, a timeless tradition at Yellowstone National Park.

Explore the countless natural wonders, historical sites, and cultural sites that make the Northern Rockies so legendary and inspiring.

Website: drivethetop10.com

Worth Pondering…

As long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.
— John Muir

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Camping Opportunities in National Forests & Grasslands

As summer camping season approaches many families will rely on ForestCamping.com for camping opportunities in national forests and grasslands.

Mendenhall Glacier from the campground in Tongass National Forest, Alaska (Source: forestcamping.com)

Old man winter may have made a late arrival in your area but summer and the family camping season is just around the corner.

Camping is a good way for families to reconnect, to help strengthen family bonds, and counter the stressful effects of a busy lifestyle.

Many national forest campgrounds were designed, developed, and are managed for families, making them outstanding and affordable family vacation destinations.

Each year more families are discovering great family vacation destinations in national forest and grassland campgrounds. Whether camping with pre-school or older children, there are Forest Service campgrounds that will fit the family.

Using ForestCamping.com, with more than 2,400 developed campgrounds in 175 national forests and grasslands scattered across the country in 44 states, families can be assured they’ll find a Forest Service campground with what they want to see, do, and enjoy.

Canoes at Sawbill Campground in Superior National Forest, Minnesota (Source: forestcamping.com)

Whether close to home or for a cross-country trip, ForestCamping.com provides families—new or experienced campers—a source to locate an affordable camping experience.

Several examples follow:

Mendenhall Campground in Tongass National Forest, Alaska – Full hookups, a Visitor Center that is outstanding, fishing, hiking, hot showers, and a glacier right there. And it’s Alaska, the Land of the Midnight Sun, an ultimate family camping adventure destination. Details here>

Sawbill Campground in Superior National Forest, Minnesota – Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is just steps from every campsite. The adjacent outfitter has everything needed for a memorable one day or week long canoe trip into the BWCAC including canoes and guide. Imagine listening to loon calls while eating pancakes stuffed with fresh picked blueberries. Details here>

Glacier View Campground in Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho – One of 37 developed campgrounds in the Sawtooth National Recreation Area. Centrally located, it is convenient to the breathtaking Sawtooth Wilderness with fabulous hiking trails, Redfish Lake with Rainbow, Brook, and Mackinaw trout, historic Redfish Lake Lodge offering a boat shuttle to Sawtooth Wilderness, trail rides, and a cook’s night out, and interpretive programs throughout the summer. Details here>

Lake Powhatan Campground in Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina– Full hookups, modern bathroom facilities, beach and swim area, fishing, hiking

Redfish Lake near Glacier View Campground in Sawtooth National Forest, Idaho (Source: forestcamping.com)

, educational programs, and convenient to a number of attraction such as Cradle of Forestry Visitor Center, Blue Ridge Parkway and the Biltmore Estate, this campground has been popular with families for decades. Details here>


ForestCamping.com, the U.S. National Forest Campground Guide website, is a complete and comprehensive guide to developed campgrounds in national forests and grasslands.

It provides detailed information to campers looking to experience the great outdoors.

In addition to managing a website, Fred and Suzi Dow also self-publish Ebook CDs and downloads of eleven U.S. National Forest Campground Guides, which can be purchased online at their website.

Fred and Suzi Dow, authors and publishers of ForestCamping.com, have devoted 17 years to visiting, personally researching, and providing the public with free, detailed information about 175 national forests and grasslands and more than 2,400 personally surveyed campgrounds.

Website: forestcamping.com

Worth Pondering…

Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.

—John Muir

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Camping World Plans to Open 6 Locations in 2012

Camping World, the nation’s largest RV and outdoor retailer, announces plans to open new facilities of the national chain in six locations during 2012—Redding and Fresno, California; Washington State’s Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area; St. George, Utah; Conway, New Hampshire; Buffalo, New York; and Lowell, Arkansas.

“Our growth plans across the country are consistent with Camping World’s philosophy of commitment to enhance our customers’ total RV experience,” said Marcus Lemonis, Chairman and CEO of Camping World, in a news release. “By increasing the growth of both the retail and dealership locations in our network, Camping World is getting closer to achieving our goal of truly being the one-stop shopping location for the RV and outdoor enthusiast across the country.”

Camping World of Redding

Camping World of Redding will be located at 3700 Auto Mall Drive in Anderson, at Exit 670 off I-5. This new 37,776-square-foot facility will encompass both a Camping World retail store and Camping World RV Sales dealership in addition to an RV Collision Center on-site.

The tentative grand opening celebration is slated for May 2012.

Nearby Camping World SuperCenter locations include facilities in Vacaville and Roseville, California.

Fresno, California

Fresno is the second new market identified in the California area in 2012.

“With expected support of city officials, Camping World is in final stages of planning the new location which will encompass both a Camping World retail store and Camping World RV Sales dealership while generating tax revenue and new employment opportunities to the community,” said Lemonis.

Spokane-Coeur d’Alene Area

Camping World of Asheville, located at 2918 North Rugby Road in Hendersonville, NC offers convenient access for travelers at exit 44 on Highway 26 and will encompass both a Camping World retail store and Camping World RV Sales dealership. (Source: goodsamclub.com)

Camping World will open a new store in Washington State’s Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area, occupying the former Mastercraft building.

Camping World will lease the 10,800-square foot facility from Oppidan Investment, a Minnesota firm that will be the project developer.

This will be the first store operated by Camping World in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area.

Camping World of St. George

Camping World of St. George, located just off I-15 at exit 6, will encompass both a Camping World retail store and Camping World RV Sales dealership. It is in the facilities formerly occupied by Painters RV.

The tentative grand opening celebration is slated for April 2012.

Camping World of the White Mountains

Camping World of the White Mountains, located at 1571 East Main Street Route 302 in Conway, New Hampshire will encompass both a Camping World retail store and Camping World RV Sales dealership. It is in the facilities formerly occupied by Trafford’s RV.

The tentative grand opening celebration is slated for April 2012.

Nearby Camping World Super Center locations include facilities in Chichester, New Hampshire.

Camping World of Buffalo

Camping World of Buffalo, located at 5533 Camp Road in Hamburg, New York, exit 57 just off the NY Thruway (I-90) to Highway 75 will reopen in March and operate under Camping World’s retail store model as a one-stop, full service shopping destination.

Camping World of Northwest Arkansas

Camping World of Northwest Arkansas will be located in Lowell, Arkansas at exit 78 off I-540 and will encompass both a Camping World retail store and Camping World RV Sales dealership. Its new home is the facilities previously occupied by New Hope RV.

The tentative grand opening celebration is slated for April 2012.

Nearby Camping World Super Center locations include facilities in Little Rock, Arkansas, and Springfield, Missouri.


Camping World and Good Sam

Both founded in 1966, Camping World is America’s number one source for RVs, camping accessories, RV maintenance, and repair; Good Sam is the world’s largest RV owners organization offering helpful technical tips, vacation planning, extended warranty, magazine subscriptions, roadside assistance, and more to serve the outdoor enthusiast.

Partnered together, Camping World and Good Sam offer more to those who love the RV lifestyle by offering one-stop shopping and resources for everything RV and outdoor.

Good Sam members receive cost-saving benefits and services, plus valuable RV information and travel tips to get you ready for your next adventure.

Additionally, Good Sam represents more than 2,000 local RV chapters designed to bring RVers together from similar geographic regions for group camping excursions.

Camping World website: campingworld.com

Good Sam website: goodsams.com

Worth Pondering…

I hear the highway calling. It’s time for a road trip.

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Idaho State Parks Launching Passport Program

The Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation is launching a new program that allows vehicle owners to voluntarily pay a $10 fee when they register their cars that gives them access to 30 state parks in an effort to raise money for the embattled agency.

Director Nancy Merrill hopes the idea, modeled after a successful program in Michigan, will alleviate financial pressure on her agency that has been mounting since Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter moved to wean it from taxpayer support two years ago, reports The Associated Press.

Parks and Recreation currently offers a similar annual parks pass, but it now costs $40 and raises only $800,000 annually. Merrill is banking on the reduced price—and access to a much-broader audience through Idaho’s car registration program—to help bring in an additional $1.9 million annually.

“We’ve been going through a lot of troubles and strife these last few years, and we’re now an agency reinvented,” Merrill told the Senate Transportation Committee last week (January 17). “We’re seeking a dedicated funding source. It would move us toward a long-term sustainable process.”

She expects a bill to create the program to be introduced January 31. It’s called the Idaho State Parks Passport.

Parks and Recreation funding is due to fall 2.7 percent to $35 million for fiscal year 2013, with only $1.3 million coming from taxpayers, according to Otter’s recommendation to the Legislature. Almost everything else comes from user fees, including camping, boat launches, and recreational vehicle hookups, according to the Associated Press.

Green squares mark location of state parks in Idaho.

State support is down 80 percent from 2010, when Otter gave Merrill the mandate to slash government support as the recession pinched overall Idaho tax revenue.

In Michigan, a similar program raised $10 million in the first eight months in 2011, and ended the year with $18 million in the bank, Merrill said. It allows annual access to Michigan’s 98 state parks and recreations areas and 1,000 boat launches.

About 28 percent of renewing vehicle owners opted for the Michigan sticker.

Merrill said she’s being a little more conservative in Idaho, which has a third as many parks. She estimates the owners of about 20 percent of Idaho vehicles, amounting to roughly 250,000 registrations, will take advantage of the program.

By itself, that would generate $2.5 million.

About $800,000 from Idaho’s existing $40 passport program would be lost, reducing the net take to $1.7 million.

But with revenue from out-of-state Idaho parks users who’d still pay $40 for an annual pass, combined with proceeds from campers, boaters, and day-trippers who don’t have an Idaho State Parks Passport, the total new money would top out at about $1.9 million, Merrill estimates.

It’s needed to pay for deferred maintenance, because the loss of state taxpayer funding didn’t negate the need to continue to fix roofs, bathrooms, and other ailing park infrastructure.

“We’ve had more visitors with less staff,” Merrill told lawmakers, adding each of Idaho’s 30 parks has been asked to come up with a business plan to capitalize on new revenue opportunities.

For instance, there will likely be Frisbee-golf rentals at Massacre Rocks along U.S. Interstate 84 in southern Idaho, sand board rentals at Bruneau Dunes State Park east of Mountain Home, and weddings at Old Mission State Park in Cataldo in northern Idaho.

“As they talk about ways to improve facilities like fixing bathrooms, they’re also talking about marketing ideas,” she said.


Worth Pondering…
We didn’t inherit the earth; we are borrowing it from our children.

—Native American Proverb

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State Parks Struggle with Budget Cuts

The recession has legislators across the U.S. looking to cut services—and state parks are often among the first to feel the pain of budget cuts. That has led to closed facilities, reduced services, and fewer rangers.

Camping at Catalina State Park, Arizona. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

“These are tough times nationally,” said Phil McKnelly, executive director of the National Association of State Park Directors. “Most states are experiencing shortfalls.”

He said that many state park systems are in trouble, and most are looking for different ways to operate.

Utah has endured major general fund cuts for the current fiscal year and could face more in the future, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

“The majority of states are going through similar things in these tough times,” said Utah State Parks Director Mary Tullius. “Unfortunately, this is one of those areas where legislators look when they cut back. Utah seems to be in about the middle of things with some states suffering greater losses and others not so much.”


Across the country, examples of state park budgets being cut are numerous.

California: During the past six years California has reduced its park’s budget by 43 percent. As a result, 70 of its 278 state parks are slated for closure by July 1, 2012.


Stephen C. Foster State Park, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Arizona: The Legislature stripped its park system of voter-approved designated funds and all general taxpayer dollars in 2009, resulting in a loss of 50 percent of its full-time positions, seven parks being turned over to local jurisdictions, increase in entrance fees, and reduction in hours and services. Legislators also diverted $2 million of park gate fees to other uses.

New York: The Department of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has proposed closing 41 parks and 14 historic sites and is looking to reduce services at 23 parks and one historic site.

Idaho and Colorado: State park fees were increased and services reduced.

Washington: Park management and administrative staff were cut by 25 percent.

Funding sources

“All states are looking at new models and new ways to generate dollars to offset the descending general funds. A handful of states are down to few, if any, general funds,” said Courtland Nelson, director of the Minnesota State Park system.

The states whose park systems are faring the best are those that have a dedicated source of funding.

Michigan, Washington, and Montana instituted a passport system in which residents pay a nominal fee when they register their vehicle. They receive a license tag that gives them free entrance to state parks.


Monahans Sandhills State Park, Texas. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Oregon and Colorado state parks receive money from state lotteries.

Arkansas and Missouri voters approved a small percentage of state sales tax to be used for wildlife and parks programs.

Many states are raising fees for camping, day use, and services such as golf.

Renee Bahl, Arizona state parks director, has used a variety of methods in an effort to keep her state’s financially strapped system operating under a $19 million annual budget that includes no money for capital improvements.

The agency turned some parks over to local governments or Indian tribes to operate. Friends groups have held fundraisers to keep some parks open. About 1,600 volunteers—the equivalent of 100 full-time employees—are working in various capacities.

A big part of the reason that Arizona’s parks have been able to stay open is that many are located in rural communities where the jobs they provide are valuable. Bahl calls parks an economic engine in Arizona that supports 3,300 jobs with an economic impact of $266 million. “And that’s why communities have stepped up to keep parks open. That’s a small amount to pay for economic engines in these rural areas, she said.”

Fighting to survive

Cuts and closures have park officials scrambling to find partnerships with local governments or private friends groups and, when facilities must be closed, looking to keep the most popular facilities operating,

Worth Pondering…
Take time to listen to the voices of the earth and what they mean…the majestic voice of thunder, the winds, the sound of flowing streams. And the voices of living things: the dawn chorus of the birds, the insects that play little fiddles in the grass.

—Rachel Carson

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Best of the Road

Rand McNally, in collaboration with USA TODAY, recently crowned the first five winning towns the Best of the Road® in its inaugural search at the Destination Marketing Association International (DMAI) Annual Convention in New Orleans.

Sandpoint Idaho is a resort community that offers a little bit of everything for everybody! (Credit: sandpoint.com)

The winning towns are highlighted on Best of the Road, the 2013 Rand McNally Road Atlas, and on USA TODAY’s travel site.

Narrowed down from more than 600 submissions, 30 top towns in five categories—Most Beautiful, Most Patriotic, Friendliest, Most Fun, and Best for Food—were selected for review during the inaugural Best of the Road Rally. Equipped with brand-new Saab vehicles and Rand McNally RVND navigation devices, five teams of amateur travelers completed a three-week cross-country road trip, for a combined 25,000 miles traveled, personally visiting the six top towns in their assigned category.

To showcase their journey and share town experiences, the teams posted photos, videos, and blog posts on ontheroad.bestoftheroad.com, Facebook, and Twitter.

During a presentation of their “traveler’s journals” on July 14 in Los Angeles, each team consulted with the judges panel to determine which town would be crowned the winner in their category. The winners are:

Most Beautiful: Sandpoint, Idaho – reviewed by The McNavigators, who said the unofficial motto is “enjoy the great outdoors, connect with friends and keep life simple.”

Every year, the many visitors to Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills of South Dakota draw inspiration from the colossal portraits of four outstanding presidents of the United States: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Theodore Roosevelt. (Credit: nps.gov)

Most Patriotic: Rapid City, South Dakota – reviewed by Captain and Clark, who described the town as “a place where people from across the world and country can learn about America’s past, become inspired by its present, and find hope in its future.”

Friendliest:  Walla Walla, Washington – reviewed by Gone with the Wynns, who described it as “a town so nice they named it twice; a culturally diverse small town with happy faces everywhere you go.”

Most Fun: Glenwood Springs, Colorado – reviewed by TraveleingJules and TravelingJoan, who dubbed the town “a mountain of fun and an adventure capital, with endless ways to get your adrenaline pumping.”

Best for Food:  Lafayette, Louisiana – reviewed by The Fun Finders who learned the true taste of Cajun food to be “flavorful, not hot or spicy” and that after a meal, the best dessert is “Cajun dancing.”

Having visited to each of these towns in our motorhome, it’s hard to argue against their selection. They certainly are five great RV destinations whether you plan to stay a day, a week, or longer.

“Each of the top 30 towns truly provided an unforgettable experience during the Best of the Road Rally and it was hard to narrow it down to just one winner in each category,” said Dave Muscatel, CEO of Rand McNally. “We’re grateful to the residents of the finalist towns and their fans for showing tremendous enthusiasm and support in our inaugural search.”

Glenwood Springs is located 40 miles north of Aspen, Colorado and 60 miles west of Vail, Colorado. Awe-inspiring Glenwood Canyon is the gateway to western Colorado and is the starting point of many popular hiking trails like Hanging Lake and Grizzly Creek. (Credit: en.wikipedia.org)

The winning towns were presented by Rand McNally and USA TODAY to an audience of attendees at the convention’s “Industry Spotlight” seminar.


Best of the Road

Rand McNally’s celebration of the Great American Road Trip has given way to an online guide of the Best of the Road and features top attractions in more than 20 categories—from the Best Beach to the Best BBQ. This year, Rand McNally collaborated with USA TODAY, for an all-new the Best of the Road search with content created by travelers online and published in the 2013 Rand McNally Road Atlas.

Rand McNally

Rand McNally is a trusted source for maps, directions, and travel content.  Rand McNally’s products and services include: Interactive travel referral service, Tripology; IntelliRoute® truck routing software, and GPS devices; and a leading geography-based educational resources for the classroom.  The 88th edition of America’s #1 Road Atlas by Rand McNally will be available shortly and it includes digital TAGs which connect smartphone users to special mobile web pages.


USA TODAY is a multi-platform news and information media company. USA TODAY, the nation’s number one newspaper in print circulation with an average of more than 1.8 million daily, and USATODAY.com, an award-winning newspaper website launched in 1995, reach a combined 5.9 million readers daily.

Worth Pondering…
Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast—you miss the sense of where you’re going and why.

—Eddie Cantor

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Are You Bear Aware?

Wildlife is a huge part of the mountain and wilderness regions of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska, Alberta, and British Columbia.

Deep snowpack, more grizzlies

Grizzly bears are powerful, top-of-the-food-chain predators, yet much of their diet consists of nuts, berries, fruit, leaves, and roots. Bears also eat other animals, from rodents to moose. (Credit: talktocanada.com)

Numerous encounters between grizzly bears and humans have been reported this spring, attributed to a growing bear population stuck in the low country as a result of the deep snowpack. High winter snowpack levels mean bears are moving to lower elevations and are likely to stay there longer than in previous winters.

Grizzly bears are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, but their numbers have been growing in recent years, increasing the chance for encounters with humans, according to Chris Servheen, the grizzly bear recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In addition, heavy snowfall this winter has taken longer to melt in cool spring weather.

“You have more bears, and then you have these high snow levels so the bears can’t be in the mountains where they want to be,” Servheen said.

In a nonfatal encounter, two hikers were mauled by a bear in the Gallatin National Forest (Montana) when they came across a young grizzly bear and a sow chasing an elk. The 36-year-old woman tried to climb a tree when the sow bit her in the leg. The man was bitten in the forearm when he tried to fight off the bear. Neither injury was life threatening. They were not carrying pepper spray.

Servheen said it served as a good reminder for people to be bear-aware and make noise and always carry pepper spray while hiking in Bear Country.

Bear Concerns near Yellowstone

The long guard hairs on their backs and shoulders often have white tips and give the bears a grizzled appearance, hence the name grizzly. (Credit: firstpeople.us)

The Gallatin National Forest says grizzly bear experts have recommended banning tent camping in three campgrounds near Yellowstone National Park, including one where a Michigan man was mauled to death last July. The requirement for hard-sided recreational vehicles only is in effect for the Soda Butte, Colter, and Chief Joseph campgrounds just east of Cooke City because bears frequent those areas, reports the Associated Press.

Forest spokeswoman Marna Daley says the requirement is in place this summer while managers consider a long-range strategy. Hard-sided vehicles include those made of metal or strong composite plastic. Truck-box campers that have a 4-foot high hard side, in addition to a raised upper section, are permissible.

Bear Safety

It’s important to be informed about bears and what to do when you come into contact with them.

Bears are not tame, gentle, or cuddly; they are unpredictable and potentially dangerous.

Bears are naturally wary of people and are reluctant to come close to humans. However, if you do encounter a bear there are some important things to remember:

  • If the bear is spotted in the distance and has NOT seen you, back away (without running) the way you came while keeping the bear in view; remain calm and avoid direct eye contact
  • If the bear is at close range, back away slowly
  • If you need to move forward, give the bear as much space as possibly
  • If the bear is standing up, it is usually trying to identify you; talk softly so it knows what you are; if its snapping its jaws, lowering its head, flattening its ears, growling, or making ‘woofing’ signs, it is displaying aggression
  • Never come between a bear and its cubs or animal carcass, as the bear will protect them; slowly back away and leave the area the way you came
  • Carry pepper/bear spray when venturing into the wild
  • Report all sightings to Park Staff

A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

Black bears typically have black fur over the main part of their body with a tan colored muzzle. (Credit: bearsforever.com)

Don’t be a contributor to food-conditioning.

Wildlife experts say having a bear wreck your campsite is not only bad for you, but potentially deadly for the bear.

Bears that scavenge for food begin to associate food with humans, and become food-conditioned. Food-conditioned bears lose their natural fear of humans and become a threat to park visitors as they roam through the park in search of an easy meal.

There is little or no chance of correcting a food-conditioned bear; Park Rangers are forced to destroy them when they become aggressive towards humans.

Avoiding Dangerous Encounters with Bears

Food-conditioning of bears can be prevented by heeding the following simple precautions:

  • Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife
  • Reduce or eliminate odors that attract bears
  • Store food in air-tight containers in RV or car trunk
  • Keep your campsite clean
  • Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease, or dish water lying around the campsite
  • Obey all closures and warnings

The rule about bears is their unpredictability.

Note: This is the first of a two-part series on Bears and Bear Safety.

Worth Pondering…
Alive, the grizzly is a symbol of freedom and understanding—a sign that man can learn to conserve what is left of the earth. Extinct, it will be another fading testimony to things man should have learned more about but was too preoccupied with himself to notice. In its beleaguered condition, it is above all a symbol of what man is doing to the entire planet. If we can learn from these experiences, and learn rationally, both grizzly and man may have a chance to survive.
—Frank Craighead, Track of the Grizzly, 1979

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