The Recovery Package: Necessary Layoffs
A quick rundown of former Interior secretary Dirk Kempthorne's greatest hits as parks overseer:
(1) Under his watch, the NPS tried to increase the number of snowmobiles in Yellowstone to 540 per day; last fall a federal court declared the proposal illegal.
(2) On election day, Kempthorne opened some 148,000 acres of land in Utahincluding large swaths near Arches and Canyonlands national parksto oil and gas leases.
(3) Insult to injury: Before leaving office, Bush, Kempthorne, and pals pushed through a midnight regulation permitting concealed and loaded firearms within park limits. Suffice it to say any replacement would be an improvement, but early returns suggest that new Interior secretary Ken Salazar will o...
THE INSIDER: Kris Thornbury, budget assistant in the Division of Maintenance, 16-year park veteran, and, according to NPS colleagues, the go-to expert on backcountry camping
THE BOTTLENECK: Yosemite National Park, some three hours north
THE BACK DOOR: "With more than 800 miles of trails, you never run out of places to explore in Kings Canyon," says Thornbury. "I would camp at 10,551-foot Gardiner Basin, near the shore of Lake Alaska, in the southeast part of the park." From the trailhead at Cedar Grove, a glacial valley off Highway 180, it's a 25-mile trek to Gardiner Basin. On the way, you'll hike through upper Paradise Valley, then cross the South Fork of the Kings River. Stop at Woods Creek, set up camp anywhere, and cool your feet in the stream
THE LAUNCH PAD: John Muir Lodge (doubles, $170; 559-335-5500) is a rustic 36-room hotel just half a mile from 154-acre Grant Grove, which is full of monstrous sequoias.