Left: Horsetail Falls, 2011. Photo: Joe Azure Right: The Firefall. Photo: National Park Service
The window is closing on a yearly glimpse of a natural phenomena at Yosemite National Park, during which the angle of the sun and the flow of water off the park's Horsetail Falls commingle in such a way that the waterfall glows, as if aflame. On the ground, photographers come from all over the world to freeze the image on their cameras, as in the photo above, left.
But for nearly 100 years, from 1872 until 1968, a flow of actual fire descended off the the park's Glacier Point, a vista point some 3,000 feet above the valley floor, as in the photo above, right.
The Firefall, as it was called, was set each night during summer. Park officials would collect Red Fir tree bark and set a large bonfire at Glacier Point each day. At 9pm, park workers would take long-handled rakes and push the embers off the cliff, to create the illusion of a waterfall of fire. This was all done to the delight of park visitors, who would convene in Curry Village in the valley to view the spectacle.
The Bureau of Land Management is getting an earful over its tentative approval of a lease to Alton Coal Development LLC, a group of Florida investors that want to expand an existing coal mining operation into public lands close to Bryce Canyon National Park.
The existing mine, on private land, is about 10 miles from Bryce Canyon National Park, is already disrupting the peace at park, says the National Park Service. The expansion would bring the noise, dust and light created by the mining activity even closer, degrading the park and hurting tourism.
Joining the NPS in its objection to the expansion is the U.S. Fish and Wildlife agency, which says the expansion would harm, or even wipe out, the southern populations of the greater sage grouse, a bird that has already found itself in the midst of a long battle between conservationists, ranchers, and energy developers in other parts of the West.
If you know someone who thinks eating backcountry ramen with a fork seems culturally inauthentic, yet does not have the patience to finesse campsite mac and cheese from a bowl to mouth with chopsticks, GSI has the ultimate utensil for them. The titanium Kung Foon combines the elegance of chopsticks with the practicality of a spork.
Let's cut to the chase. Here are a few of the most eye-catching new survival tools we saw at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City.
Wenger Hypex Jewelry: Having a multitool on hand at all times is ideal. But with airline restrictions and general paranoia about people carrying a knife, it’s not always practical. Plus a multitool can feel like a rock in your pocket, and look geeky on your belt. Now, you can always have your most used tools on hard with Wenger’s Hypex Jewelry. Wenger, bast know for its Swiss Army Knife, now makes practical pendants for mountain men that look like art. One is a screwdriver, anther a metric wrench, and yet another a corkscrew. (Wenger’s take on what tools you need in an emergency is broad).
“Rather than offering jewelry with a novelty use or survival gear that looked pretty, we bridged the two,” said Alex Reed, CEO of Axel Productions, official Licensee of Wenger.
When you turn your next hike into a summit date, bust out a picnic and open the wine with your necklace. She'll be somewhere between impressed and in love. Available June 2012, $50-$100, wengerna.com
It’s that time of the year again—time to start fantasizing about summer river trips. Many of the best stretches of family-friendly whitewater are regulated to prevent overcrowding, and if you want to lead your own multiday trip, rather than go with a commercial outfitter, you need to apply in advance for a government-issued private boater permit. Most river permits are allocated by lottery, and the best strategy for winning a launch is to go in with a couple other families and apply for the same dates. You can typically put in for several dates on the same permit, which also increases your odds. Read the fine print carefully, though, there are lots of caveats and the process can be confusing. Here's a guide to scoring a permit—or at least getting in on the lottery—for the best family whitewater trips in the West. Don't dally: Most applications are due February 1.
Good luck out there!
San Juan River, Utah Details: The 84-mile stretch from Sand Island to Clay Hills is a serene wilderness float through southeastern Utah’s rugged canyon lands, and with only two Class III rapids—both of which are easily walked around—it’s ideal for families with really young kids. You can apply for the 2-3 day, 27-mile Upper section from Sand Island to the town of Mexican Hat, the lower, 4-5 day, 57-mile section from Mexican Hat to Clay Hills, or the whole enchilada—typically a 7-day run, or eight if you want to leave time for side hikes and layover days. BLM permits are required for the main boating season—April 1 through October 31—and are issued by lottery. If you apply for but don’t win a permit, you can call for cancellations once the whitewater season starts. Due Date: Postmarked by February 1. Info & Download:435-587-1544 http://www.blm.gov/pgdata/etc/medialib/blm/ut/monticello_fo/recreation.Par.86013.File.dat/2012%20San%20Juan%20River%20Application.pdf;
Middle and Main Forks of the Salmon River, Idaho Details: The big daddy of Idaho rivers, the 104-mile, free-flowing Middle Fork of the Salmon, through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness, is one of the most coveted permits in the West (only about 1 in 20 applications are successful). It’s designated Wild & Scenic for all but one mile, with the only signs of civilization en route a few foot trails, backcountry landing strips, and private ranches. Bigger Class III-IV+ rapids, especially during spring run-off, makes this a better bet for families with teenagers, but it mellows considerably in late summer, when kids as young as 7 or 8 can make the trip. Lottery-issued permits are required for rafting during peak “control” season, June 20-September 7. The 82-mile, Class III-IV stretch of Main Salmon, from Corn Creek to Carey Creek, follows the same regulations. Due Date: Jan 31 Info & Download: Online applications only—no mail-ins. www.recreation.gov. 877-444-6777