Thursday, October 01, 2015

Yosemite Turns 125 on October 1st

Today Yosemite National Park is celebrating the 125th anniversary of President Benjamin Harrison signing legislation which made Yosemite our nation's third National Park.

Yosemite National Park park spans nearly 1,200 square miles on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada range in central eastern California. 

Each year more than 3 million visitors go to Yosemite to see magnificent rock formations, grassy meadows, crystal-clear streams, majestic waterfalls, rushing rivers, ancient giant sequoia trees, and abundant wildlife.

Climbing the cable route up Half Dome

On top of Half Dome looking down into the valley
The granite and water of Yosemite make for spectacular landscapes.

At the top of the steel cables.

Hetch Hetchy Reservoir

To honor this historic anniversary, Yosemite is holding special events in the park throughout the day, including a large public ceremony in Yosemite Valley that will have special speakers, dignitaries, a commemorative program and cake!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Equipment Spotlight: Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed

The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed is a fun new sleeping bag design that allows for some seriously comfortable backcountry sleeping. The bags weigh around 3 pounds and come with a variety of fill types (poly synthetic fiber or down) and season levels (from 1.5 season to 3 season). There is even an extra large Duo bag that sleeps 2.

Unlike traditional mummy sleeping bags, the Backcountry Bed has no zipper and allows for a quick and quiet exit for those late night calls of nature. No more getting a zipper stuck and fighting off panic while you try to escape your bag like Houdini! The shell and liner are a very soft nylon, and while they seem very thin, I have had no problems with rips or tears.

The comforter style top is over-sized and allows for incredibly easy temperature regulation. Fold it up and tuck in the sides for extra warmth or throw it down for extra air. The comforter top also has built in insulated hand pockets to keep your hands warm on cold nights. The bag comes with a sleeping pad sleeve along the upper third which keeps your pad in place without sacrificing your ability to sleep on your side.

One last feature that makes temperature regulation a breeze is the self-sealing foot vent. A little too warm? Pop those feet outside the vent and cool down in a hurry.

Socks not included.

For more info on Sierra Designs Backcountry Beds head over to the Sierra Designs website.

Cat Tested and Approved

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Spend a Week in Paradise & Take a Walk in the Clouds

Koke'e State Park, Kauai, Hawai'i (Oct 4th - Oct 10th 2015)

Located north of Waimea Canyon on the west side of Kauai, Koke'e State Park covers over 4000 acres of fluted cliffs, lush green tropical rainforest and cloud covered bogs at an elevation of roughly 3000 to 4000 feet above sea level.

With over 45 miles of hiking trails through cloud forests covered in mosses and ferns, Koke'e State Park is an excellent spot to see native Hawaiian plants (like koa, 'ohi'a, and mamane trees) and colorful endemic Hawaiian forest birds (like the apapane, i'iwi and 'amakihi).

Koa trees can reach heights of well over 100 feet.
I'iwi are bright orange-red and have long curved bills.
Apapane rely heavily on the nectar of 'ohia blossoms.
Beautiful 'Ohi'a trees are common in Hawai'i
Mamane trees can grow to over 50 feet and prefer higher elevations.
 'Amakihi are green-yellow Hawaiian honeycreepers.

Akala (giant Hawaiian raspberry)
Koke'e's ecologically rich high elevation forests are truly unique in the world and are in need of protection from invasive plants which threaten their existence.

On the Wilderness Volunteers Koke'e trip our service project will focus on the removal of non-native, invasive plants and vines such as Kahili ginger, Strawberry guava, Firetree, and Banana poka.

Our partner organization on this project is the Koke'e Resource Conservation Program, a volunteer based alien species control program working in cooperation with the HawaiĘ»i Department of Land & Natural Resources State Parks Division.

The Banana Poka is an aggressive woody vine that can entangle and kill large stands of forest.   
Learn more about Kauai’s native plants, flowers, trees and birds in the cloud forests of Koke'e with Wilderness Volunteers!

Read more about the area and the project here.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

North America's Tallest Mountain Has A New (Old) Name


This week President Obama announced that he would be issuing an executive order to change the name of North America's tallest mountain. 

In 1917 the 20,237 foot peak (called Denali by indigenous Athabascan people) was federally recognized as Mt. McKinley in honor of assassinated President McKinley. After decades of controversy over the name and repeated attempts by the state of Alaska to rename the peak against fervent opposition from Ohio (McKinley's home state) the matter was finally decided this week.  

Read more about it here.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Photos From The Field

Here are just a few of the fantastic photos uploaded to the Wilderness Volunteers Gallery so far this season.

Hammond Canyon, Manti LaSal National Forest, UT (photo by Tim P.) 

Mojave National Preserve, CA (photo by Paul G.)

Admiralty National Park, AK  (Photo by Bob. H.)
 Superstition Wilderness, AZ (Photo by Ralph K.)
Volcano National Park, HI (photo by Ashely N.)
Mojave National Preserve, CA (photo by Paul G.)
Canyon De Chelly, AZ (photo by Lisba F.) 

Admiralty National Park, AK (photo by Rose B.)

Escalante River, Glen Canyon NRA, UT (photo by Chris R.)

Siskiyou Wilderness, CA (photo by Ken W.)
Mojave National Preserve, CA (photo by Jaclyn.G.)

Siskiyou Wilderness, CA (photo by Reed M.)

Yosemite National Park, CA (photo by Dean T.)
Mojave National Preserve, CA (photo by Paul G.)
Denali National Park, AK (Photo by Katy G.)

 A huge thank you to all our volunteers for helping Wilderness Volunteers give something back in 2015!

You can see other photos from the 2015 trip season as well as pics from previous seasons at the Wilderness Volunteers Photo Gallery.

Friday, July 31, 2015

The Real Cost of Disposable Plastic Water Bottles

An average bottle of water only costs about $1.21 but what else does that bottle cost us?

Some scary facts about bottled water:
  • In 1976 the average American consumed 1.6 gallons of bottled water each year
  • In 2008 the average American consumed 28.3 gallons of bottled water each year 
  • Americans are the world's leading consumers of bottled water, consuming four billion gallons per year.
  • Sixty million plastic bottles end up in US landfills every day.
  • Bottling water has produced more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.
  • It takes three liters of water to produce just one liter of bottled water.
  • 1.5 million tons of plastic is used to manufacture water bottles each year.
  • Only one out of every five water bottles is recycled.
  • You can get approximately 450 gallons of tap water for the price of one bottled water.
  • In the United States alone plastic bottle production consumes approximately 17 million barrels of oil per year.
  • Disposable water bottles make up one third of all trash dumped in America’s national parks.
Since 2008 nearly 20 of our nation's national parks have banned the sale of plastic water bottles at their vending machines and concession stands in an effort to reduce park based greenhouse gas emissions and the amount of litter in the parks.

-Zion National Park banned the sale of bottled water in 2008 eliminating more than 60,000 bottles from the waste stream in the first year alone.

-In 2012 Grand Canyon National Park banned the sale of water packaged in individual disposable containers and began a "Reduce, Reuse, Refill!" campaign after finding that disposable bottles comprised 20% of the park's waste stream and 30% of the park's recyclables. Estimates indicate that over 40,000 bottles were removed from the waste stream in the first year.

These parks and almost 100 other parks are members of the Climate Friendly Parks Program, a collaboration between the National Park Service and the US Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the green house gases being generated by our national parks.

Save money and protect our public lands by ditching the bottled water habit and switching to reusable water bottles.

*photo by Leonard John Matthews

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Exploring Bighorn Crags in the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness

Stretching across six(!) National Forests, is the incomparable Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. At 2.367 million acres, “the Frank” is the second largest protected wilderness area in the contiguous United States, just behind Death Valley. Established in 1980 as the River of No Return Wilderness, it was renamed after Senator Frank Church, who played a key lead role in passing 1964’s landmark Wilderness Act.

Coursing through this picturesque land is the Wild and Scenic Salmon River, named the River of No Return by pioneers due to its high speed and one-way only travel. Today the Salmon is one of the most popular areas for experiencing a whitewater thrill, with runs of both the middle fork and main fork barreling down deep canyons with gorgeous scenery.  The river is fast as it drops steeply through towering canyons 1000’ deeper than the Grand Canyon.

High above lies the remote and jagged Bighorn Crags, a rugged collection of granite peaks and alpine lakes offering spectacular vistas for which it is widely known.  Recreation opportunities abound here, with incredible fishing for native salmon and steelhead trout, miles upon miles of hiking, and a photographer’s dream of sweeping views surrounded by rugged peaks in this undeveloped forest. 

Indeed, the area does see high traffic (for Idaho standards anyways) and our service project, set for August 15 - 22, is assisting wilderness rangers on the North Fork Ranger District with needed trail maintenance on the Mirror Lake Trail. This will include building a turnpike through a bog, creating and installing log waterbars, and retreading a section of trail. We’ll start with a 9. 5 mile scenic backpack via Birdbill Lake to a picturesque base camp at Mirror Lake. The Forest Service will provide pack animals to carry our group food, commissary and tools. Free day activities might include day hiking to Ship Island Lake, Big Clear Lake basin or other remote lakes or peaks, picking and eating in season huckleberry, fishing, swimming or just relaxing beside alpine lakes & streams.

Feel free to check out pictures from previous years of WV projects over on the gallery to see some examples of this incredible area. Click here to learn more and signup for the Bighorn Crags, FCRONR Wilderness service project, August 15 - 22!