Thursday, January 31, 2013

Beringia, The Land Bridge, And Ed

We got you covered.

Last Thursday, the Wild Tundra Foundation (WTF) opened its 2013 international mega-conference in Anchorage, AK.

Keynote speaker and WTF Arctic Expert Mikhail Zhitonztik addressed the issue of the world's first cross-continent national park.

The new park is intended to span the Bering Strait and connect Russia's Far Eastern Chukotka Region with Ed's Bait and Tackle on the U.S. side.

Quoting Stephen T. Mather, first Director of the U.S. National Park Service, Professor Zhitonztik reminded attendees that "scenery is hollow enjoyment."

He went on to say that "tourist who sets out in morning after indigestible breakfast and fitful night of sleep on impossible bed is only go to catch first flight home."

"Polar bear, bird colony, walrus, the fishes of Bering strait not the priority," Zhitonztik said. "We just want national park. One to bring dollars. Like Disneyland."

The idea for this unique trans-national theme park was first proposed by Mikhail Gorbachev, the very last Soviet leader. Gorbachev apparently hoped that cash flow from such an enterprise would prop up the Soviet economy.

Unfortunately for him, no.

But times are different now. The smell of real money is in the air. All noses are tilted upward, and sniffing rapidly.

Just recently Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree creating Beringia, Russia's new far-east national park.

On the US side, the Bering Land Bridge National Reserve has existed since the 1970s, right back of Ed's smokehouse.

First Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton shook hands on the deal, and then Ed paved his parking lot and expanded his walk-in beer cooler.

"By welcoming the private sector as a partner in park operations, we broaden the economic base of the region," said Secretary Clinton.

Taking a cue from the U.S. National Park Service, whose 500 concession contracts gross $1 billion annually, the Russian government has encouraged investment by private corporations.

Such as Solntsevskaya Bratva, the Semion Mogilevich Organization, and possibly the last remaining members of the Izmaylovskaya Gang, if any are still alive.

"These people know how to collect," said Zhitonztik, "and my relatives, they cook and operate the fun rides. Will be great opportunity for all. Screw the bears. We got plenty stuffed ones."

When we attempted to reach Ed for a closing comment, we were told that he was "at home with sick headache", and his replacement, a man identified only as "Miroslav", shouted angrily and waved us off with a gun.

The new national park will be accessible via air or sea. Only.


Russian national park Russian national park to bridge US-Russia divide

NPS Commercial Services

NPS Authorized Concessioners

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Smoke This

But don't inhale.

Hi, there!

This is Bob ("Smokey the Bandit") Ferguson for your National Park Service.

Well, folks, late last year the Great Smoky Mountains National Park approved some new backcountry use fees.

Today, in anticipation of the upcoming hiking season, park officials announced details about those fees to the public for the first time.

The fees are due to go into effect on February 13, in time for Valentine's Day. But, if you sign up now you qualify for a Lover's Discount of 1.7%, and you get a free box of Snickers Midgies (in the convenient three-pak) for your sweetie. (Retail value, $0.98.)

Well, back to the news.

Now, all Great Smoky Mountains National Park backcountry campsites and shelters will soon be coin-operated. The fee for either the campsite or shelter will be $4 per night, per person, payable in quarters.

Can't carry a week's worth of quarters due to that bum knee? Well, don't worry.

At this very moment we are installing battery-operated change machines at selected spots along the Park's trails. All you need to carry is a few $5, $10, or $20 bills, and we'll serve up all the quarters you need, barring further budget cuts to the National Park Service, trail washouts, balky supply mules, or dead batteries.

Campside maid service will be $16 extra (per person).

And if you want breakfast in bed, the fee is $1275.50, for the meal, helicopter rental (with certified pilot), insurance, and radio communications. (Per person, payable in recently-minted quarters.) In case of a crash and/or loss of life, you and your party will be held both civilly and criminally liable, of course.

Now, what about scenery? Hey, I'm way ahead of you on that one.

You can eyeball as much scenery as you want from the road. Just head out in your Buick and open your eyes.

For backpackers, it's even simpler.

Your registration for backcountry travel, which must be done no more than six months in advance, and no less than six months in advance (though they can be overlapping six-month periods) automatically includes your Scene-O-Matic Goggle® fee.

While wearing your Scene-O-Matic Goggles®, which remain locked in place on your head for the duration of your trip, you are welcome to look up, down, or to either side, while enjoying commercial signage messages from your Great Smoky Mountains National Park Approved Sponsors.

Whenever you, the hiker and/or backpacker, approach and/or approaches any approved scenic overlook, the lenses of the goggles automatically darken, and you simply drop $9.75 (in any combination of quarters, dimes, nickels, or pennies) into them to regain your vision and enjoy the view.

Once away from any officially approved scenic viewpoint, which is all of them, the Scene-O-Matic Goggles® automatically brighten to once again give you a clear view of our sponsors' helpful messages.

So, to sum up, make this year the year you finally come to appreciate what the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has become, through the dedicated efforts of the National Park Service and our many Approved Sponsors.

So, this is Bob ("Smokey the Bandit") Ferguson signing off for all of us here at GSMNP, Inc., reminding you not to forget those quarters!


Get ready to pay up for backcountry Smokies camping

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Magic Of Roadkill

Plenty of vitamins, minerals, calories, and roughage, plus bits of glass and some gravel.

Who says we don't support outdoor recreation?

Wyoming is a state where people are known for living close to the ground. We're a no-nonsense sort of people here.

And, from the very beginning, we've supported the Continental Divide Trail. Without Wyoming's good, solid soil, that very same trail would collapse and fall into a deep hole.

It hasn't happened yet, and it's not going to.

We here in Wyoming fully support the Rocky Mountains, and the Rocky Mountains support us, our state, the Continental Divide Trail, and many other recreational activities such as skiing, sightseeing, and hunting traffic signs.

Yet, in these times of falling state revenues and budget shortfalls, we simply can't keep supporting each and every sport that's out there, and really - how many backpackers are there anyway? Twenty? Fifty? Fifty-three? Maybe fifty-four in a good year?

Not too many, though every now and then a local newspaper will feature one of these yokels tramping from Mexico to Canada and make it sound like a big thing. Especially those two or three oddballs every year who go from Canada to Mexico.

But where's the beef?

Your typical backpacker comes into town with two dollars in his pocket and spends 25 cents, and then vanishes forever in a cloud of dust, shed dandruff, and some stray armpit hairs, never to be seen again.

That is a luxury we can't really support any more.

Which is why I, Rep. Dan Z. Wuntit (R-Cheyenne) am proposing a bill.

House Bill 144 to be precise, which will institutionalize what is known among hiking riffraff as "Trail Magic".

The magic in my bill is to turn roadkill into nutritional meals for those rambling backpackers, allowing them to eat as much as they want so they can get the hell out of the State of Wyoming, and we can drop any and all support for any hiking or backpacking trail and such like.

I call it the "Eat It And Beat It Bill".

The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission will provide licenses to any potential Road-Food Scrapers.

To qualify as an official Scraper, a person has to commit to "putting road-killed wildlife carcasses to a beneficial use," such as creating "Trail Magic", by turning crushed raccoons, ground squirrels, skunks, and rattlesnakes into meals for hikers.

Dumpster diving would also be a lawful source of hiker nibbles.

Which would lower the burden of municipal garbage collectors and reduce the amount of edible materials we now consign to landfills, turning those substances instead into high-energy body fuel for rangy, shiftless backpackers.

To those who claim that people may intentionally run down stray critters, claiming they were already roadkill, I say fine. Let 'em. We got too many varmints out there now.

Anyhow, to abuse the law would be to abuse your vehicle for the sake of a few hikers. Anyone taking on a steer or pronghorn will learn the true value of automobile repairs, so that will be self-limiting. And all our ranchers know how to shoot straight, further reducing the likelihood of plowing into livestock.

I say let's try this. Anything that can't get out of the way shouldn't be on the road to start with.

That goes for hikers too. The less we have to think about them the better.

This is Rep. Dan Z. Wuntit ("The man with a plan.") signing off.


Wyoming bill would legalize collecting roadkill for food

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Gimme A "B". Now Gimme A "F".

Through the lens, backward.

I don't know how this happened.

Me and my buddies were chilling out following an early dinner this one afternoon.

We were at a campsite beside the Peaceable Crest Trail near Lumpy Lake in the Awshucks National Forest.

For those of you not familiar with the area, it's only a few miles outside of Starboard, Oregon but really isolated despite that.

So we were just talking and stuff, and then there was this rustling in the bushes partway around the lake and we started joking about bears and stuff.

Sure there's bears around, but they're pretty scarce in this section of the Trail, and there were three of us anyway, so it was no big deal. But then the rustling went on. And then there was some more of it from the other side of the lake.

Kind of all around us.

Pretty soon Ed just had to get up and go for a look. Then I came too. Bob stayed put for a while.

Ed and me circled around to the first spot, kind of sneaking up on the sound. Every now and then the bushes over there would shake and rustle and then it would go all quiet again. We couldn't figure out what the hell it was.

Pretty soon there was Bob too. He got curious like the rest of us and came and joined in.

Well, then we saw some shapes moving around back in the trees. Thought we did. Something was out there but we couldn't tell what.

It was still light out - not that late really, so it wasn't scary, just weird.

Bob was going to go back to the tent for his camcorder but when he turned around there was this big guy standing back there. The big guy already had Bob's camcorder and he was filming us.

Well, when I say it was a big guy I mean that, sort of. I don't think it was a guy at all, but he was big.

He was about eight feet tall and hairy all over, no pants or anything, but he looked like he knew how to use a camcorder.

It definitely was Bob's camcorder, and Bob's tent was open too, so we were pretty sure.

But when you're looking at the business end of an eight-foot-tall hairy guy with arms like telephone poles and no pants you stop to think before you jump around and do anything sudden.

And then there was this other stuff going on too. The bushes moving around. The shapes back in the trees. All that. We didn't know what to do this time, for sure.

Then this big hairy guy starts circling around us and making some kind of noises with his mouth.

It was like he was narrating into the camcorder, getting himself on the soundtrack. He was walking around pretty slow and first he climbed up on a rock and pointed the camera down at us, and then he walked behind some trees like he was a lion stalking some prey, and then he took the camera down to the ground for some low angle shots of us.

All kinds of stuff.

We just stood there.

This went on for fifteen, twenty minutes before the guy finally quit. Guy, or whatever he was.

Then he took the memory card out of the camera and there was kind of all this hooting all around us from in the forest, and all the shapes out there were still moving around, but they started to melt back into the deep forest, and so did the big guy.

After a while the hooting died down too.

We were going to get some pictures of his big footprints but he took our only memory card with him. We didn't really feel like chasing him down, not a guy of that size, with all his friends around.

So, since it was still kind of light out we packed up and moved a few miles farther on before we made camp for the night.

Then six weeks later about the time we were ending our trip we were in this little town. We had a motel room with a TV in it and Ed liked to watch Oprah for some reason. We always ragged on him for that, but I guess we got lucky because we were on that night.

Not in person, but in a video.

It was the same guy as far as we could tell, the big hairy guy, but he had his face combed and he was wearing pants and a shirt. Even a necktie. He was Oprah's guest.

Still eight feet tall too. They had to make a special chair for him and everything.

He was showing video footage of a strange and mysterious group of humans of the same kind who were invading his home turf every summer.

That would be us I guess.

He couldn't talk too good - more grunts than anything, but there were subtitles on the screen, so we understood it all.

"First Ever Confirmed Footage Shot By Bigfoot", it said, right there on the TV. "Tranquil homeland once again invaded by stinky humans", it said. "Stinky dirty humans tramping across our land, treating it like a playground. Disrupting our peaceful way of life."

Well we didn't get to share our side of the story. Getting surrounded, being spooked, having our property stolen. All that.

We tried to get Oprah to book us to hear our side, but her people told us she was too busy setting up a show on men who ride side-saddle and the women who love them.

I guess. Something like that.

Anyway, most people never did care about us.

Mr. Bigfoot and some of his friends are the ones on TV these days, not us backpackers. I hear they got a movie deal, and not from some guy with a camcorder. A big money deal. Professional stuff. And a reality show.

"Big Hairy Brother," or something.

Nobody cares about us at all. Same old same old.

We're just like some odd specimens somebody found one day out in the woods, but not really worth getting to know.

That about sums it up as far as I can tell.


Live Giant Squid Filmed in the Pacific for the First Time

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Noise From The Driver's Side

Any bozos on this bus?

Congressman Scoots Popoff of Colorado wants fairness.

In December he expressed concern over Forest Service plans to exclude mountain bikes from a new segment of the Continental Divide National Scenic Trail, despite allowing hikers and horses there.

"How long will we, the American public, be forced to put up with this leftist recreational regime?" Mr Popoff thundered in a recent speech.

He likened the National Scenic Trails to the Interstate Highway system - both built and maintained with federal dollars, but only one of them allowing tractor-trailer units and speeds over 70 miles per hour (115 kph for you foreigners).

In addition, the Congressman labeled backpackers a public nuisance and a possible health hazard to both those living along the Trail and law-abiding citizens who just want to tear up a little turf every now and then, and shoot at signs along the way.

First, he said, backpackers are too slow, and pose a risk to more normal trail users. "Those scruffy idtiots just can't move fast enough to get out of the damn way," he snorted.

And, he asserted, hikers are "elitists who have all the time and money in the world to wander around aimlessly while the rest of us working poor have jobs to go to, and can only take our Hummers and Husqvarnas out on weekends, and then guess who's clogging all the trails?"

Grudgingly conceding that mountain bikes are honorary machines, the Congressman nevertheless hoped to ban not only hikers and horses from the entire National Scenic Trail system, but any vehicle not capable of sustained speeds of at least 40 miles per hour (65 kph) on level ground.

Next week he plans to introduce legislation to grade, pave, and stripe all trails, upgrading them to meet FHWA Functional Classification (Section IIB) Channelization Guidelines.

With that level of improvement, the Congressman said, trails will no longer be embarassing vestiges of pre-civilization, but they will become national emergency military transport routes, so funding can be provided by the Department of Defense, which has all the money needed to do anything, anyway.


Tipton Urges Forest Service to Allow Mountain Bikes on New Trail Segment near Gunnison and Crested Butte