Family Vacation Photos Subject to Tax & Fines

Taking photos from your phone now poses a serious risk to your pocket book.

National Forest land along the Apache Trail, Arizona).
National Forest land along the Apache Trail, Arizona). © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Believe it or not, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) is finalizing plans to fine photographers who shoot on federal wild lands without a permit.

Under the measure, still photography and commercial filming in Congress-designated wilderness areas would require a permit, and shoots would also have to be approved and meet certain criteria like not advertising any product or service and being educational.

These policies would require journalists to apply for a $1500 permit to photograph the 36 million acres of designated wilderness area administered by the USFS, reports Oregon Live.

These new rules would also make it illegal for independent photographers to take photos or shoot video (even with a camera phone) and would result in a fine of $1000 per shot. This even includes family vacation pictures! If you uploaded 10 photos to Facebook from a family vacation the government then fines you $10,000.

Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers said in a statement the directive has been in place for more than four years and “is a good faith effort to ensure the fullest protection of America’s wild  places.”

National forest lands at Brasstown Bald, North Carolina.
National forest lands at Brasstown Bald, Georgia. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Liz Close, the Forest Service’s acting wilderness director, says the restrictions are meant to preserve the untamed character of the country’s wilderness.

Close didn’t cite any real-life examples of why the policy is needed or what problems it’s addressing. She didn’t know whether any media outlets had applied for permits in the last four years.

She said the agency was implementing the Wilderness Act of 1964, which aims to protect wilderness areas from being exploited for commercial gain.

“It’s not a problem, it’s a responsibility,” she said. “We have to follow the statutory requirements.”

Exploiting public lands with a camera? Really?

The Forest Service’s previous rules caused a fuss in 2010, when the agency refused to allow an Idaho Public Television crew into a wilderness area to film student conservation workers. The agency ultimately caved to pressure from Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.

Critics have characterized the rules as too vague and say it infringes on the First Amendment’s free speech clause.

Cradle of Forestry, North Carolina
Cradle of Forestry, North Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights

“I am very concerned about the implications this has for Americans’ First Amendment freedoms of speech and the press,” U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) wrote in a letter to Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell.

“It is also very troubling that journalists could be held to different standards at the discretion of the issuing officer depending on the content of their stories and its relevance to wilderness activity.”

Walden said he worried access might be granted “based on political calculations” and noted a majority of Oregon land is controlled by the federal government.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) also voiced concern for the policy.

“The Forest Service needs to rethink any policy that subjects noncommercial photographs and recordings to a burdensome permitting process for something as simple as taking a picture with a cell phone,” he told Oregon Live.

“Especially where reporters and bloggers are concerned, this policy raises troubling questions about inappropriate government limits on activity clearly protected by the First Amendment.”

Most of the country’s wilderness is in the West. Nearly 50 wilderness areas have been designated in Oregon, including wide stretches of land around Mount Hood, Mount Jefferson, and Mount Washington.

National Forest Land enroute to Fish Lake, Utah
National Forest Land enroute to Fish Lake, Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights

The rules allow exceptions only for breaking news coverage of events like fires and rescues. They’re more stringent than similar policies on wilderness areas managed by a different federal agency, the Bureau of Land Management.

The BLM does not require any special permit for newsgathering in wilderness areas.

The Forest Service is currently accepting public comment on its proposal.

Worth Pondering…

Real freedom lies in wildness, not in civilization.
—Charles Lindbergh

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San Gabriel Mountains Newest National Monument

A large area of the San Gabriel Mountains is now a national monument.

San Gabriel Mountains Newest National Monument
San Gabriel Mountains Newest National Monument

During the final day of a Southern California visit President Obama made the announcement during a signing ceremony in the wilderness northeast of downtown Los Angeles.

346,000 acres of national forest land—from Santa Clarita to San Bernardino—was set aside Friday (October 10) during a ceremony at Frank G. Bonelli Regional Park in the San Gabriel Valley community of San Dimas. The rugged mountains provided a backdrop for the event, at which Obama described the “magnificent” mountains as an important part of the nation’s history.

The towering mountain range, which spans 655,000 acres from Interstate 15 in San Bernardino County west to Interstate 5 in Los Angeles County, draws more than 3 million visitors a year who ski, bike, hunt, hike, and horseback ride in its remote reaches.

The snow-capped mountains in winter provide a postcard-perfect picture for the foothill communities of Fontana, Rancho Cucamonga, and beyond. They also provide a critical drinking water source for Southern California.

The exact boundaries of the monument, which is the nation’s 110th, have not been released, reported The Press Enterprise.

The snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains as seen from the Interstate 10 and 215 freeways in Colton. (Photo credit: David Bauman, Press Enterprise)
The snow-capped San Gabriel Mountains as seen from the Interstate 10 and 215 freeways in Colton. (Photo credit: David Bauman, Press Enterprise)

The national monument announcement caps an 11-year effort to earn federal protections for the land, which has been marred by graffiti and vandalism, and trails that have not been maintained, said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Pasadena.

“This marks the biggest change for the mountains since 1908 and is an important and immediate step towards fixing these problems. With this designation, the San Gabriels will become a priority, opening up new streams of funding that can be used to ensure that the mountains achieve their full potential for all the people who have gone there to hike, fish, or just enjoy fresh air,” Chu said in a statement.

While praise for the pending designation was widespread, so was the criticism.

San Bernardino County supervisors, who first found out about the proposed monument in late August, voted unanimously in September to oppose it.

“We’re outraged by the process that we’ve been completely excluded from,” said Janice Rutherford, chairman of the county Board of Supervisors whose district includes the south-facing side of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Rutherford and Supervisor Robert Lovingood traveled to Washington, D.C., on September 19 to meet with U.S. Department of Agriculture Undersecretary Robert Bonney and express their concerns.

A January 2008 storm left snow on the San Gabriel Mountains. (Photo credit: Kurt Miller, Press Enterprise)
A January 2008 storm left snow on the San Gabriel Mountains. (Photo credit: Kurt Miller, Press Enterprise)

“The National Monument proposal has bypassed public input from San Bernardino County residents, skirts Congress, and has failed to answer even the most basic questions on how this will impact the public,” said Lovingood, whose district includes north-facing portions of the mountain range.

Judi Nelson, the mayor of Glendora, said she fears such a designation will bring restrictions on the popular forest, which offers seclusion and the full gamut of outdoor activities.

“The National Forest Service has managed our mountains for over 100 years and they have done a good job, but they’re underfunded. And having this monument doesn’t mean there will be money,” Nelson said.

Proponents have said recreational activities will not be limited under the national monument designation, which could open lines of public-private partnerships. They said operations at the Mount Baldy ski resort will continue uninterrupted and cabin owners with federal leases will not be affected.

Members of the San Gabriel Mountains Forever Coalition, which includes business leaders, environmental groups, churches, and water districts, devoted years to winning the designation, which they say will provide improved visitor services, including safe river access, more rangers and multilingual signs and displays.

The forest and its rivers provide habitat for endangered and sensitive species, including Nelson’s bighorn sheep, California condors, mountain lions, and native fish, said Daniel Rossman, the group’s chairman.

“The San Gabriel Mountains are a dramatic landmark that can be seen from the desert to the sea,” Rossman said.

“And when it becomes a national monument, the forest will receive the recognition and attention it so rightfully deserves.”

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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Best Fall Foliage, Leaf Peepers & The National Media

Known for its vibrant culture and rich history, Taos, New Mexico and the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway have earned their positions among leaf peepers and national media alike as being one of the top locations in the United States to see an impressive fall landscape dotted with a palette of warm reds, oranges, and gold foliage.

Explore the Enchanted Circle scenic byway through valleys, mesa, mountains, and national forest... all unique to north central New Mexico.
Explore the Enchanted Circle scenic byway through valleys, mesa, mountains, and national forest… all unique to north central New Mexico.

In the past month alone, Taos and the Enchanted Circle have topped several “best fall trip” lists in the country including in: Huffington Post (“10 Best Fall Foliage Trips In The U.S.”), National Geographic (“10 Best Fall Trips in World”), Los Angeles Times (“New Mexico’s Enchanted Byway Brings Fall Foliage Viewing Full Circle”), and USA Today (“10 Best: Places to see fall colors”), to name a few.

According to US Forest Service officials from the Carson National Forest which encompasses Taos County, elevations above 8,500 are beginning to peak and will reach their height by the first week of October. In the Carson National Forest, several hiking spots allow for prime leaf peeping while hiking. They include: Middle Fork Trail 24 (25 miles south of Taos on NM 518 in Peñasco); Devisadero Trail, once used by the Taos Pueblo Indians standing guard against raiding Apaches (three miles east of Taos along US 64); and Williams Lake Trail (near Taos Ski Valley).

Taos sits at an elevation of just under 7,000 feet, while villages along the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway range in elevation from 7,392 in Questa to 8,650 feet in Red River.

The 85-mile Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway Loop can take anywhere from 2.5 hours to half a day, depending on stops. The highest peak in New Mexico—Wheeler Peak at 13,167 feet—is visible along the route, or can become a diversion along the route through the scenic Taos Ski Valley.

The Byway loop begins in the original art colony of Taos and meanders through the Hondo Valley where famous author D.H. Lawrence once lived. The D.H. Lawrence Ranch was recently reopened to the public through the end of October. Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

Leaf peepers will notice Wheeler Peak along the windy road to Questa which is just half an hour north of Taos. The Wild Rivers area is where the Red River behind the town joins the Rio Grande in its deep and dramatic gorge. From Questa, the steep ascent into Red River is unusually scenic, offering stirring vistas of spruce and aspen.

Eagle Nest
Known as the Gateway to the picturesque Enchanted Circle in North Central New Mexico, Eagle Nest is conveniently located near Angel Fire Ski Resort and Red River ski area, Eagle Nest Lake, Cimarron Canyon, and Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Parks. (Source: iredriver.com)

Eagle Nest, just south of Red River, has a beautiful 2,400 acre lake stocked with trout and kokanee salmon and a chance to see wildlife such as elk, deer, bear, and eagles. The drive culminates with a stop at Angel Fire where the Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park stands. Built by one family as a shrine to their fallen son, the site is one of unusual emotion and presence. The drive returns to Taos along Highway 64.

Expect to see aspens changing to a vibrant gold along the drive in addition to Gambel Oak which transforms into a rusty red hue in fall. Golden cottonwoods along the Rio Grande River should also be visible in Taos.

Alternate directions (east to west) along the Enchanted Circle from Taos are: turn east on NM 585 (Paseo del Cañon), which dead ends at US 64, turn right. US 64 continues to Angel Fire and Eagle Nest. From Eagle Nest, turn north on NM 38 to Red River and into Questa. In Questa, turn south (left) on NM 522 which returns to Taos.

Another option for visitors seeking an eye-full is the “High Road,” which totals over 100 miles roundtrip, but offers awe-inspiring scenery and remote mountain villages that cling to their Spanish colonial roots.

Fall is a season of color in Taos: the gold of aspen and cottonwood trees, the red and green of chile peppers, and the multi-colored artist's palette.
Fall is a season of color in Taos: the gold of aspen and cottonwood trees, the red and green of chile peppers, and the multi-colored artist’s palette.

Along with a multi-hued feast for the eyes, Taos has many colorful cultural offerings in late September and early October including the 40th annual Fall Arts Festival and Taos Wool Festival, to name a few.

The oldest art festival in Taos—Taos Fall Arts Festival—features nine days of art events including The Paseo on September 26 which will feature outdoor art installations, performances, and visual projections. Taos Selects, Distinguished Achievement Awards, Memorial Wall, Pecha Kucha Night, and many more special events are intertwined within this amazing festival which takes place September 26–October 5. Visit taosfallarts.com for details.

One of Taos’ signature events—the 31st Wool Festival at Taos—will be held on October 4 and 5 and includes juried fiber arts creations; critters corner with live animals; demonstrations; silent auction; kid’s hands on section; contests; food vendors and more. Visit taoswoolfestival.org to learn more about the free event.

For complete information about Taos including more about the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway drive, visit taos.org.

Worth Pondering…

I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I ever had. It certainly changed me forever….The moment I saw the brilliant, proud morning sunshine high over the deserts of Santa Fe, something stood still in my soul, and I started to attend….In the magnificent fierce morning of New Mexico one sprang awake, a new part of the soul woke up suddenly, and the world gave way to the new.

—D.H. Lawrence

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Camp Without Reservations This Holiday Weekend

TripTrist Travel Planners has encouraging news if you want to go on a camping adventure for the long 4th of July weekend.

Enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers. Somewhere in southeastern Arizona between Coronado National Monument and Parker Lake, a BLM-administered camping site with limited services. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers. Somewhere in southeastern Arizona between Coronado National Monument and Parker Lake, a BLM-administered camping site with limited services. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It is possible to camp without reservations even though most sites in RV parks and campgrounds were reserved months ago.

There are three ways go camping without reservations.

Start by checking ReserveAmerica.com to see if any campsites are available due to cancellations. Users may set up an alert to be notified if a specific park has availability.

Next, look for campsites that don’t take reservations and get there early, preferable a day or two before the weekend.

If there is nothing available, do not disrepair. There are millions of acres of publicly owned land across the United States that allow dispersed camping.

What is Dispersed Camping?

Many people enjoy the solitude and primitive experience of camping away from developed campgrounds and other campers.

Dispersed camping is the term used for camping OUTSIDE of a designated campground. Dispersed camping is allowed anywhere in the National Forest or Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands. These are public lands that the federal government oversees.

Dispersed camping is permitted in designated areas within Anza-Borrego State Park in southeastern California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dispersed camping is permitted in designated areas within Anza-Borrego State Park in southeastern California. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As long as the general rules are followed, camp can be set up as close or as far from civilization as desired.

Dispersed camping means no services such as trash removal, and little or no facilities such as tables and fire pits, are provided. Some popular dispersed camping areas may have toilets.

There are extra responsibilities and skills that are necessary for dispersed camping. It is your responsibility to know these before you try this new experience.

Camping rules and regulations apply to make your experience safe, and to keep the natural resources scenic and unspoiled for other campers.

The following rules apply when camping in the wilderness:

Dispersed camping is allowed in a one-mile perimeter away from campgrounds and 100 feet from any stream. To prevent resource damage please keep your campsite within 150 feet from a roadway.

Bring your own water.

Be Bear Aware. There are bears on the National Forest, so camp accordingly.

Leave the area as you found it. Back out all trash and waste. Follow Leave No Trace guidelines.

When on camping on BLM land, don’t stay longer than 14 days

When camping in the National Forest, Don’t stay longer than 16 days.

Do not leave campfires unattended. Put fires dead out before leaving the campsite or don’t have a fire at, to eliminate the risk of starting a forest fire.

Dispersed camping is available in the national forest with access to Fish Lake in Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved
Dispersed camping is available in the national forest with access to Fish Lake in Utah. © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a detailed description of the rules visit the Forest Service website or the Bureau of Land Management website.

When deciding where to go, start by looking at a map of the destination. For example, Californians might want to drive up to the Sierra Mountains to enjoy the cool air, a clear view of the stars, and refreshing mountain streams and lakes.

Open up Google Maps, look at map of the eastern California. All of the light green areas indicate National Forest or BLM land. Zoom in further and pick a target area. Keep in mind that vehicles must stay on existing roads and it is best to camp in previously used areas to reduce damage to the environment.

If you follow these tips you can save a safe, low impact, dispersed camping experience.

Details

TripTrist Travel Planners

TripTrist is a website that provides a search engine for adventure travel and tours around the world. Choose from over 2,000 tours by locally owned and run tour operators. Travelers simply enter the location they would like to go and/or the activity they are looking for and browse from a list of exciting tour choices.

No need to visit dozens of websites to plan an adventure travel vacation, just use the TripTrist search engine.

Website: www.triptrist.com

Reserve America

Website: www.reserveamerica.com

US Forest Service

Website: www.fs.usda.gov

Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

Website: www.blm.gov

Worth Pondering…

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

—John Burroughs

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Forest Service Now Offers Digital Maps for Mobile Devices

The U.S. Forest Service now offers access to a variety of visitor maps for people using Android and iOS devices.

download (1)“This mobile app makes it easier than ever to plan your visit to a national forest or grassland,” said U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, in a news release.

“By putting important forest information right at your fingertips, it will encourage more Americans to get outside and explore their forests.”

The digital maps are part of USDA’s work toward reaching President Obama’s initiative to create a paperless government that also provides the American public with better, more accessible information.

Online customer surveys also indicated a desire for more online products and information, such as maps.

The Forest Service is currently working on the first phase of a website redesign, expected to debut early in 2014, which centers on a map-based tool for planning trips onto our nation’s forests, grasslands, and other special places.

The PDF Maps Mobile App, developed by Avenza Systems Inc., is available as a free download from iTunes and the Android Play Store. The app provides access to Forest Service maps, such as motor-vehicle-use maps, which are free while pages from national forest atlases are 99 cents and forest visitor maps are $4.99. Prices are pending for other agency maps.

pdfmaps-header-gwf2The maps are geo-referenced with the user’s location appearing as a blue dot. The app works on iPhones (3GS or newer) and iPads with WiFi+3G. It also works with Android 4 or newer operating systems on devices with at least 1 gigabyte of memory.

Through the app, users can purchase and download professionally created maps that are stored on their devices. They can use the maps based on their location when GPS is available. The maps also will allow users to measure distance and area, find coordinates, open a current view in Google maps, plot place marks, add notes, enter their own data, and add photos as attributes. Almost 700 Forest Service maps are available through the app.

In areas of national forests and grasslands where Internet connections are unavailable, the app and static maps work well if users download the maps prior to their visit. The apps and maps also will be useful for wildland firefighters.

In geographic areas with Internet availability users will be able to use the products with live data. The interactive map is expected to be available on a limited basis starting in March 2014.

Forest Service Now Offers Digital Maps for Mobile Devices
Forest Service Now Offers Digital Maps for Mobile Devices

Paper maps are still available for purchase online at the National Forest Store.

The Forest Service differs from other federal government agencies in how the Forest Visitor map is funded. The Agriculture Adjustment Act of 1938 calls for the sale of maps as the funding mechanism to revise and produce maps for the public. In 1999 the Act was amended to include products available through the web as “geo-referenced data.”

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service, an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

Public lands the Forest Service manages contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone. Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $7.2 billion per year. The agency has either a direct or indirect role in stewardship of about 80 percent of the 850 million forested acres within the U.S., of which 100 million acres are urban forests where most Americans live.

Forest Service Now Offers Digital Maps for Mobile Devices
Forest Service Now Offers Digital Maps for Mobile Devices

Details

US Forest Service

Established in 1905, the Forest Service is an agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Forest Service manages public lands in national forests and grasslands.

Address: 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-0003

Phone: (800) 832-1355 (toll free)

Website: fs.fed.us

Worth Pondering…

Millions of Americans each year use our national forests to go hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, swimming, horseback riding, and canoeing.
—Ric Keller

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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

Details

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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Alternatives to Camping in National Parks

ForestCamping.com, a comprehensive website for camping in national forests and grasslands, provides detailed information for campers interesting in discovering an alternative to camping in national parks.

Whether a first time visitor to a national park, or a returning  visitor, ForestCamping.com can help start planning.

According to National Geographic and National Parks Conservation Association, since 2007, among the top 10 national parks visited are Great Smokey, Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Olympic, and Rocky Mountain. These parks share a boundary with 17 different national forests with literally hundreds of developed campgrounds convenient to a park entrance.

National forest campgrounds available to the national park visitor offer a variety of experiences, amenities and freedom not often found in national parks. These parks include:

The Great Smokey National Park in Tennessee is a short drive from the family-friendly Tsali campground in the Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina.

The Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona has De Motte Park campground on the Canyon’s North Rim and Ten-X campground on the South Rim. Both are in the Kaibab National Forest.

Tioga Lake campground, in California’s Inyo National Forest is at Yosemite National Park’s east entrance and has fabulous views of the park.

Fred and Suzi Dow and their traveling companions.

The Stanislaus National Forest’s Diamond “O”, at the Yosemite National Park west entrance, is a peaceful alternative to the park’s crowds.

Baker’s Hole campground in the Gallatin National Forest, in Montana, has electric hook-ups and fishing in the famous Madison River and is less than 10 miles from the west entrance of Yellowstone National Park.

In the shadow of the Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming are rock climbing and incredible views with campsites tucked into a stand of lush Douglas fir at Teton Canyon campground in Targhee National Forest in Idaho.

Nestled in a lush rain-forest on the west side the Olympic National Park, in Washington, is Klahowya campground. A thick moss carpet covers the ground while the campground’s grand old trees seem to reach down to welcome visitors.

Campgrounds that offer tranquil alternatives to the hustle-and-bustle of the very popular Rocky Mountain National Park are the Roosevelt National Forest’s Peaceful Valley and Arapaho National Forest’s Stillwater campgrounds.

Stillwater campground has the additional attractions of recreational vehicle hook-ups, hot showers, and campsites on the beautiful 7,000-acre Lake Granby.

This is just a sampling of a few of the developed campgrounds in national forests located conveniently to seven of the top 10 most visited national parks. There are many more available to campers looking for alternatives.

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

An example of how many camping alternatives there are is found around Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks. With both bordering each other, there are 75 developed campgrounds in seven national forests within 75 miles of these Parks, some as close as three miles from an entrance.

Details

ForestCamping.com

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 11 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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Top Fall Color Hotspots in National Forests

Fall colors are about to burst all over the country and the U.S. Forest Service wants you to get outdoors and enjoy one of nature’s most spectacular seasons in your national forests.

“Autumn is a wonderful time of the year to plan a trip to see the beauty of your national forests,” said Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service in an agency news release.

“As tree experts, we have incredible resources on our website to help you plan a great adventure this fall season.”

From coast to coast, state and local economies are boosted because of the fall season and for many rural communities, fall color tourism is a major source of revenue. Hotels, restaurants, and local shops rely on the influx of dollars generated by fall visitors.

For example, the New England area receives an estimated $8 billion in local revenues annually due to fall activities. Throughout the Midwest, millions of visitors hit the road to enjoy the sights. In the West, the mountains provide destinations filled with tourists seeking a glimpse of shimmering gold aspens.

Weather conditions in all areas impact peak viewing dates, so information provided on the Forest Service website and phone hotline will help visitors best plan their trips.

The Forest Service’s Fall Colors 2012 website (see link below) includes clickable maps that link to forest-by-forest fall color information and to state tourism and fall color websites.

The timing of color changes and the onset of falling leaves is primarily regulated by the calendar as nights become longer. (Source: fs.fed.us)

Some of the most popular family friendly features include locations of scenic drives and trails, coloring pages for kids, the science behind the season, and links to a tree database.

Photographs from visitors nationwide will be added to the site.

Following tradition, the Forest Service has turned on its Fall Colors Hotline (see toll-free number below). The hotline provides audio updates on the best places, dates, and routes to take.

Learn the best places on your national forests and grasslands to see the changing hues by calling the hotline then pressing the number of the area nearest you:

  • #1 for Montana, North Dakota and North Idaho
  • #2 for Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and eastern Wyoming
  • #3 for Arizona and New Mexico
  • #4 for portions of eastern California, Nevada, southern Idaho, Utah, western Wyoming
  • #5 for California
  • #6 for Oregon and Washington State
  • #7 for Alaska
  • #8 for Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia
  • #9 for Illinois, Indiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, West Virginia, Wisconsin

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U.S. Forest Service

The mission of the Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation’s forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations.

The agency manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

Forest Service lands contribute more than $13 billion to the economy each year through visitor spending alone.

National Forests in North Carolina (Source: fs.usda.gov)

Those same lands provide 20 percent of the nation’s clean water supply, a value estimated at $27 billion per year.

The Forest Service offers many activities such as hiking, biking, skiing, camping, birding, using cabins, driving for pleasure, harvesting mushrooms, and gathering firewood. Many of the facilities and services associated with these opportunities are free. Some do require fees or permits to help maintain, manage and improve the amenities that you enjoy.

Address: 1400 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-0003

Phone: (800) 832-1355

Fall Colors Hotline: (800) 354-4595

Website: fs.fed.us

Fall Colors Website: fs.fed.us/fallcolors/2012

Fall Colors Audio: Fall colors, and why the change starts when it does

Worth Pondering…

Millions of Americans each year use our national forests to go hiking, fishing, hunting, camping, swimming, horseback riding, and canoeing.

—Ric Keller

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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.

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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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Arizona Bear Count Reaches Three

Numerous bear sightings and activities and bear attacks have recently been reported by officials in various regions of the U.S. and Canada.

This black bear wants his food food and he is waiting patiently. DO NOT FEED BEARS! (Source: Thomas J/travelooce.com)
This black bear wants his food food and he is waiting patiently. DO NOT FEED BEARS! (Source: Thomas J/travelooce.com)

Today’s post focuses on Tonto National Forest in the Payson, Arizona area.

Arizona authorities have now killed three bears in Tonto National Forest after three attacks on three people since May 31. Since 1990, there have now been a total of 10 confirmed bear attacks within the state, KPHO-TV, Phoenix, reported.

Game and Fish Department officials said two packs of hound dogs picked up the scents (June 24) of two bears near the Ponderosa Campground, east of Payson, site of the recent attacks.

A male American black bear was found one mile below the campground and a large adult female was found in Hellsgate Wilderness.

The hounds chased the bears into trees and officials fatally shot both bears.

The third bear was killed by Game and Fish ground crew.

Authorities said they are conducting tests on the dead bears to ensure they are the ones involved in the non-fatal attacks.

Tonto National Forest officials have temporarily closed all six campgrounds in the Payson ranger district until at least July 15 because of the bear attacks. They recommended campgrounds in the Coconino and Apache Sitgraves national forests for people who desire to camp.

The black bear, which is the only bear species found in Arizona, is considered the least aggressive of North America’s bears. Black bears are normally shy, bashful animals that seek solitude in densely vegetated areas.

Although the black bear population in the state is estimated to be near 3,000 animals, bears are rarely seen and when they are spotted, they typically run from humans.
That typical bear behavior though can be altered by the influences of humans, and those bears can become dangerous and problematic.

Bears that become accustomed to and unafraid of traffic, noise, and human activity, and particularly those that begin to associate people with food sources, are more likely to become involved in a human-wildlife conflict. A bear that enters a campground has already demonstrated habituation, and even a small bear can overpower an adult.

The family of the most recent bear attack victim, who was attacked June 24 while camping at Ponderosa Campground, asks campers and outdoor recreationists to take precautions when camping outdoors in bear country, Cerbat Gem reports.

The black bear has an acute sense of hearing and smell but has relatively poor eyesight. (Source: oklahomawildlifecontrol.com)
The black bear has an acute sense of hearing and smell but has relatively poor eyesight. (Source: oklahomawildlifecontrol.com)

While the investigation shows that the victim had taken the proper precautions to secure his food and garbage, Arizona Game and Fish Department officers believe that the bear responsible for the attack had already been habituated and conditioned to people and came to expect to find food or garbage in human-inhabited areas.

“Game and Fish is asking the public to do their part to keep bears wild and afraid of humans by not being complacent with food sources and garbage bins in areas where bears are known to live,” said Brian Wakeling, game branch chief and a wildlife biologist with extensive experience with black bears.

“We ask all residents and visitors to Arizona to take personal responsibility to not only protect yourself and your family, but to help minimize the chances that human behavior could change a bear and create a future public safety threat.

Drought conditions are likely a reason more bears, are coming into campgrounds in search of food.

Campers are reminded to take the following precautions to minimize bear encounters.

  • DO NOT be a contributor to food-conditioning
  • Keep your campsite clean; store food items and trash away from your tent or RV
  • Store food in air-tight containers in RV or car trunk
  • Keep food waste and garbage in a secure bear-proof container
  • Never leave cooking utensils, coolers, grease, or dish water lying around the campsite

Other potential food attractants include pet food, uncleaned BBQs, and even orchard fruit on the ground. The food odors attract bears that have a very keen sense of smell. Even an empty food wrapper can attract a bear from a long distance.

Remember: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear (Courtesy: U.S. Department of Agriculture)

If you do encounter a bear, try to scare the bear away by making yourself look as large as possible, making loud noises and throwing objects towards it. Do not run. In the rare event of a black bear attack, fight back aggressively.

Remember: A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear

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Worth Pondering…

In many cultures, the bear was looked upon with such reverence that members of the culture were not allowed to speak the word for “bear “. Instead, they referred to the animal with varied and creative euphamisms. Several names were used by the Navajo and other native groups—Fine Young Chief, He Who Lives in the Den, and Reared in the Mountains.

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