Saturday, September 29, 2007

Why so few Yellowstone hikers?

I have heard and read various groups lamenting that so few visitors to Yellowstone ever get away from the roads and boardwalks. Some discuss ways that more visitors could be motivated to hike. I've begun to wonder though if that is what the Park sevice wants or is good for the Park. Unlike some other Parks, such as Glacier and Grand Teton, the main Yellowstone map does not show hiking trails. The few times I've asked about trails in Yellowstone, the rangers have not seemed to be very informed or up to date. I've also met rangers on the trail more times in Glacier than in Yellowstone, even though I've hiked about 10 times as much in Yellowstone as Glacier. I also note YNP does not maintain many trails well, bridges are not replaced and trail markers lay on the ground on many trails. I wonder if the Yellowstone Park service prefers to not discourage but not really encourage unsupervised hiking. More hikers, especially inexperienced hikers, would have more accidents, get lost (see here), and cause more wildlife incidents. All of these would be expensive and difficult to manage, better that fewer of the nearly 3 million visitors actually explore away from the road, Yellowstone in particular needs to maintain a balance between preserving the environment, protecting animals, and accommodating visitors.

On a personal basis, I know I like the trails that are used less often, some days I don't see another hiker although I don't avoid the more used trails. I like seeing animals and crowds of hikers or horsemen probably reduce chances of seeing rarer animals. Locally, in Mt. Rainer Park, I've hiked trails that were so popular I was rarely out of sight and never our of hearing of other hikers. Other local trails may have a line up waiting to sign in and be badly eroded from overuse. I know that Glacier and Grand Teton manage to accommodate more hikers without too many problems but it may be that the majority of Yellowstone visitors really want to do other things than hike and that may be one means of protecting the Park.

I have no inside knowledge, this is all speculation on my part.


Saturday, September 22, 2007

Yellowstone, again.

I spent last week in Yellowstone Park and the surrounding area, hiking and car camping. I'm having trouble writing about it because I didn't have any interesting encounters with animals and mainly stayed on trails I've been on before. I greatly enjoyed myself and had good weather but I'm not inspired with topics for blogging. I usually go to YNP both in early June and during September. Both times have advantages and potential disadvantages, I suppose discussing them is a good topic.

The main advantage of June is the relative ease of seeing interesting animals. While some may be more apparent in September, I nearly always see more in June. I also see young animals, I've been lucky enough to watch young deer, elk, and pronghorn nurse and cavort. I've heard wolves at the dens and seen coyote pups and young bear cubs of both species (from a distance). I've watched pronghorns chase both coyotes and wolves away from young. I also like the green.

The main advantages of September are generally better, at least drier, weather and the absence of mosquitoes. In June, if the weather is nice, there are mosquitoes as well as ticks. Also, more trails are open since in June some management areas are off limits to hiking and also may be blocked by snow or creeks or rivers too deep to cross. I also enjoy hearing elk bugling and fighting and seeing the aspen turn color. A downside may be fires and smoke.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Wenatchee hikes

Over the Labor Day holiday I took 2 hikes in the Wenatchee National Forest, north of Lake Wenatchee. Since rain was forecast for the Seattle area, I wanted to go to the drier area east of Steven's Pass. On Saturday, I hiked up Estes Butte to the old lookout site. This trail is short but goes up 2900' in less than 3 miles. I've hiked it before, the last time the trail had just been re-routed to make it less steep but longer. Sunday I hiked to lower Twin Lake from the White River valley, and ate lunch at the old Forest Service cabin, seeing only 1 other group of hikers. Both days I saw mule deer, not yet very wary of people.

I was surprised to see so few hikers on the trails, along the Chiwawa and White River valleys below there were many campers and lots of vehicle traffic. In the Chiwawa, there were lots of off trail bikers noisily infesting the roads and motor trails. I also saw some "hunters" (sneer quotes intended) driving slowly along roads looking for game. The deer archery season and the black bear season is now open and I was careful to wear bright clothing and cap. I don't have an objection to hunting but have little respect for those who think hunting is driving along a road.

Even at the higher elevations, it isn't fall yet, only the mountain ash is beginning to turn. Mostly the sky was clear and deeply blue. Saturday night only got down to about 50 at 3200' elevation. I remember other Labor Day weekends that I experienced frost even along the valley floors. While a couple of years doesn't prove a warming trend, records do indicate the season between frosts is growing longer in the North Cascades. Fortunately most of the annoying bugs were far fewer than 2 weeks ago, I only saw 1 mosquito and no small black flies. Lots of hornet and bumblebees but they didn't bother me except when eating.

I drove home after my hike on Sunday wanting to avoid the crowds coming home on Labor Day. The Monroe Evergreen State fair was winding up and I knew there would be lots of traffic there. Next weekend I head for Yellowstone National Park, I hope the area gets rain and the thunderstorms let up.