Saturday, January 29, 2011

Joshua Tree National Park

usbackroads destination-Joshua Tree National Park

We visited another National Park today.  As usual, as soon as Bugaboo saw the entrance station he growled and then resigned himself to sleeping in the back seat for the rest of the day.  We did learn that even though dogs are banned on National Park trails you can walk them on dirt roads open to motorized traffic!  So on dirt roads or campgrounds and of course on a six foot leash.  Buggy says I would rather sleep.

The admission fee is $15.  Free with the Senior or Access pass.

Well, there are National Parks that knock your socks off with scenic views and National Parks that were established for other reasons.  Joshua Tree National Park is one of those established for other reasons.  Originally established with Organ Pipes National Park (both were established as National Monuments in the 1930's).

As mentioned earlier many National Parks were established for economic developement reasons and pushed by the local communities and railroads (see A Short History of Boondocking).  However, Joshua Tree National Monument (became a park in the 1990's) was established to preserve a park of the California desert for scientific reasons.

Here is the National Park Service history in the 1930's:   "As a result of the growing scientific orientation developing in national park planning, Organ Pipe Cactus and Joshua Tree were "representative-area" national monuments, established to preserve representative portions of land containing unique desert flora. In the view of the agency, Organ Pipe Cactus and Joshua Tree were also "primarily of scientific rather than popular value," and capital development seemed pointless."  This web link is worth reading if you are interested in public lands of the west:  NPS National Monuments.

If your driving I-10 the stop into the Park into Cottonwood Springs is worth the drive.  Go to the trail head and head down the draw for a perfect picnic lunch

So if your looking for a National Park with "knock your socks off scenery" Joshua Tree National Park is not it.  There are bigger Joshua Trees on BLM land.  There is more spectacular scenery on BLM lands.  However, the National Park Service does pick up the litter.  One of the problems with deserts is that "bad looks awful" and tends to ruin the view.  The Park Service gets rid of the litter and bad.  The roads are nice with pull-outs and every once in awhile you get an interpretive sign.

The Park does have one outstanding view from Keys View.  That is worth the drive for a view of the San Andreas fault and southern California.

However, Joshua Tree National Park has the same problem as most National Park Service managed land.  The campgrounds are worthless.  The Park Service manages 84 million acres of land yet cannot find enough room to put in a 55 foot campsite spur.  So unless your driving your Prius and bringing a tent you will HAVE to find accomodations outside YOUR National Park!  We cannot recommend any of the campgrounds in Joshua Tree longer than a 27 foot Class C.

Joshua Tree National Park is also famous for another reason.  In 1973 Gram Parsons died and his friends tried to fulfill his wishes by cremating his body by burning his casket at Cap Rock.  Gram Parsons started the country-rock movement with the Byrds album Sweethearts of the Rodeo.  The albums with the Flying Burrito Brothers did not sell as well.  It is a typical 1960's rock story and yes he did die at the age of 26 along with Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and a passel of rock stars that also died at 26.

The Park Service is trying to remove ALL evidence of the EVENT.  Now the funny thing is that Gram Parsons died in 1973.  After 50 years, under federal law his death will become a "significant"  historical event.  Now there is now doubt that 12 years from now there will be a interpretive trail and brochures on Gram Parsons and his relationship to Joshua Tree National Park.  Go now, before the bureaucrats get to "interpret" a significant event in rock history.

If you want to learn more about Gram Parsons prior to 2023 and the Park Service interpretation here is book on his life.  At least, Emmy Lou Harris is still around to remind us you can still look and sound good in your sixties.

Here is the link to the Wilkipedia entry on Gram Parsons.

Here is a picture of the site were the casket was burned.  The Park Service has sandblasted the rock posted, but some is just barely visible.  There is a significant amount of charcoal, but I suspect it is from campfires since the event,  However, it does raise the hair on your neck.  In the sand, are the words RIP Gram Parsons.

For many in the baby boom generation Gram Parsons and the Flying Burrito Brothers were their introduction too country music.  It was a small step from country rock to straight country.  In my case, I was already hooked on the harder stuff like Merle Haggard, Dolly Parton, and Bob Wills.  But as a Berkeley student I did enjoy the Burrito Brothers, Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airman among others.  This was especially useful with those friends that could not handle the harder stuff like Merle.

I do look forward to returning to Joshua Tree in 2023 to see how the Park Service deals with this "historical" site.

UPDATE June 2013:  The Park Service has started the process of creating a memorial (interpretive site) for Gram Parsons.  Here is the link to the article in Billboard:

Not sure of the date of the your stuff!!!!  But it appears to be early in the 21st century, so the National Park Service was considering it and appears to be just waiting until Gram Parsons becomes a historical figure.

As I suggested, go now before the National Park Service ruins a historic site with excessive interpretation.   The article suggests that Gram is not yet a historical figure.  No, that will happen in 2013 as noted in my post.

However, the construction and interpretive design will take a few years.  So the process has started with the public discussion phase in interested media such as Billboard.  Next will come the building of local support and finally public meetings, an environmental analysis, and public comment then construction!!

Gram is probably starting to laugh hysterically, wherever he is.

Here is the link to the official Park Service website:  Joshua Tree National Park.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I-5 A usbackroad??

Backroads Destination--I-5????

Well, we finally left the idyllic weather at Black Butte Lake and headed down I-5 for the California desert.  I am certain that I-5 does not qualify as a usbackroad.  It is however, a quick an efficient way to get down to the desert and that sunshine.

The forecast for along I-5 called for dense fog lifting by 10:00am and then slowly later each day as the high pressure cell moved over the Central Valley.  We left Black Butte Lake in the sunshine and headed for Sacramento and promptly drove into the fog.  It was not to bad since for most of the distance we were able maintain the legal speed of 55 mph.  There were a few spots where had to drop the speed to 35 mph due to visibility.

For us, the nights lodging was first.  This is the first time we have ever stayed in a commercial campground.  The destination was Kit Fox RV Park just off I-5 in Patterson, California.  In keeping with a goal of driving 200 miles a day and less than four hours it was a perfect fit.

Nice and well taken care campground.  It is a Passport America campground.  Had a good laundry facilities and the bathrooms were heated for those chilly mornings.  Good wi-fi.  All in all perfect for our needs when just passing through.

The fog was predicted to thicken so we kept a close eye on the National Weather Service web site.  In the previous posting I mentioned the forecast discussion section.  We also clicked on the satellite imagery to see the extent of the fog.  Under current conditions you can click on the 3 day history and it gives the visibility for the past three days.  So we watched Sacramento, Hanford, and Bakerfield.  There was no point to an early start.  So we got up late to give the fog time to burn off.

We stayed the following night at Orange Grove RV Park outside of Bakersfield.  Nice facility.  The highlight is picking your own oranges since the RV Park is in a orange grove.   The oranges were ripe and real good.   Much better than those in the stores.

Yesterday we pulled out in very thick fog, but knew as soon as we started climbing in elevation we would be above the fog.   For the remainder of the day bright sunshine with blue sky and hundred mile visibility.  We rolled for four hours into 29 Palms and Joshua Tree National Park.  We will probably stay here a couple of days and then join friends from Wenatchee and Idaho in Yuma.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dealing with Uncertainty While Traveling

Backroads Information - The problem of being male.

This posting is really about Bugaboo and his trials and tribulations during the month of January.  It has not been a very good year for him.  He is our first male dog and it has been a learning experience for all of us.  My first German Longhair Pointer Yoho was so mild mannered that I only had to raise my voice to get her to mind.  With Buggy he quickly earned the "good citizenship collar" and really does not mind it since it means he gets to run and hunt. 

We were planning on being somewhere in the Mohave Desert by this time, but delayed at departure from Black Butte Lake due to the wonderful weather.

Then we had to take Bugaboo to the emergency vet.  His troubles started last month while skiing up at our  cabin at Camas Meadows.  Bugaboo ran into one of the aspen groves, broke through the crusty snow and crawled out with a stick in his mouth.  He was unable to close his month and was in pain.  I quickly assessed the situation and pulled the stick straight out of his mouth.  He seemed fine about that, but a bit touchy.

Afterwards he started growling at us whenever we approached him.  Susie thought is was the terrible two's and the fact he was not neutered.  So off he went to the vet to be neutered.  This led to the infamous Snoot Full Intensifier.

After a few days Susie noticed a lump on his throat and took him into the vet.  Our vet thought it might be the trach tube or the teeth cleaning that caused an infection and gave him some antibiotics.  All was fine until the 14 days of antibiotics ran out and then the lump was back!!  So off we went to Chico to find a vet.  All day Saturday and 624 dollars later we came back to the campsite.  The vet did find a piece of stick in the abscess.

Our thanks to Doris, the registered nurse, from Chico that removed Bugaboo's drain and stiches at the campground.

He has a high pain tolerance so was acting just fine throughout the entire month except for the growling.  

So just for being male and hurt he ended up with three vet visits and being neutered.  It has not been a good month for him. 

The trials and tribulations of being male extend even to dogs.

Throughout this episode we have been keeping an eye on the fog formation in the southern San Joaquin Valley.  Towing in snow is matched by driving in tule fog.  We used our Wilson Antenna antenna to connect to the internet and the National Weather Service.

Now here is trick for getting a better weather forecast.  Click on the weather forecast for the area you are interested.  Here is the link to Sacramento Weather.  Below current conditions is a section labeled Radar and Satellite Images.  Below that section is Additional Forecasts and Information.  And in this section is a tab called Forecast Discussion.  Click on this.

This will give additional forecast information.  Much more detail than in the regular forecast.  In many cases, there will be a discussion on what will happen if the forecast is WRONG.  More information than you will need in most cases, but then again when your trying to avoid bad weather well worth reading.

The plan is to leave tomorrow morning for Los Banos and then Bakersfield the following day.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Trails of Black Butte Lake, Orland, California

The weather forecast said sunny skies and 65 degrees for the next week at the lake.  So we decided to stay for another three days and depart on Sunday.  The weather has been perfect and there are lots of trails to hike in the area.  The Grizzly Flat Area at the south end of the "project" has the longest most interesting trails.  Here trails follow Stony Creek and the uplands just above the creek.
This is the view from the north side trailhead.  It had three horse trailers in it so it is popular with horse riders.  However, what caught my attention was this palm tree.  Now palm trees are not native to northern California.   Remember the previous post on the Art of Seeing in the Outdoors?  Well, the palm tree could only mean one thing. That this was a homesite in years past.  A short stroll over to the tree revealed a foundation and old rusty wood stove.

I suspect there is a story behind the palm tree.  Maybe a homesick southern Californian that moved up to Grizzly Flat or perhaps it was a gift from a visitor.  I suppose the true story is lost in the mists of time.

But as we hiked the trails we found more stories just a compelling from the recent past.  These came complete with dates.

The sign indicated that this spot was special to both father and son.  The son died well before his time at the age of twenty-four. 

This memorial "offering" seems to imply that one of them, probably the son was a veteran.  Hopefully, both of them can find peace along banks of Stony Creek.

Nature has it's own mysterious stories along Stony Creek.  As we were walking the trail we noticed a animal draped high in a tree about 40 feet above the ground.  We took out our binoculars and took a closer look.  I have seen plenty of dead coyotes throughout the west. However this is the first time I have seen one in a tree forty feet above the ground!  Take a close look at the coyote.  That branch is too small to support the weight of a man or probably that of a cougar or a bear.   My only thought is that a Golden Eagle might be large enough to place the coyote up in the tree.   The Black Butte area is full of Turkey Vultures and maybe he was stashing his food where they could not get to it.  Anybody else with ideas??

So our hikes around Black Butte Lake found more questions than answers today.  But it was an interesting day.  We saw some special and unique things on our hike.  The fact that it was 65 degrees and sunny made it a perfect day.  Bugaboo agreed that is was a perfect day as he explored the oak woodland forests of California.

The previous weekend there was only two of us in the campground.  Tonight it appears the campground is about 40% full.  Looks like several families decided to have a get together at the lake.  For the past two nights we were the only rig in the campground.  Neighbors!!  What a concept.

If you take the Orland exit from I-5 and head west towards Black Butte Lake look behind the Shell Station and Taco Bell.  There is a office type building is the City Gates Cafe which serves Portuguese food.  We had the two Portuguese breakfast specials at 1:30 in the afternoon.  They no longer serve dinner only lunch and breakfast.  Be sure to get a loaf of their Cinnamon Bread for six dollars.  Heaven, at a very cheap price.  Fudge was also very good.  Worth the stop and it is only a short drive down from Black Butte Lake.  

If your towing do not drive into their parking just park in the cul-de-sac at front.  You can turn around any size rig in the cul-de-sac.  There is an RV Park next door that advertises 66 foot pull-through spurs but we did not check it out.  

The lake is the place to be for us!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Black Butte Lake, Orland, California

Backroads Destination-Black Butte Lake, Orland, California

We pulled out of the Valley of the Rogue State Park on a foggy day.  The fog held with us all the way until Weed.  However, the good news is that pass into California was clear, but foggy. 

Our destination was Buckhorn Campground on Black Butte Lake managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers.  Last night we were alone in the campground.  Tonight the population has tripled!!  This on a holiday weekend and just eight miles west of I-5.  The campground is a little tight and by the look of things it is VERY busy during the summer months.  The campground has hot showers, but no hook-ups.  The price with the Golden Pass is $6 per night.  That can buy a lot of gas for the generator.

The campground has good cell service with Verizon and the internet connection through the cell phone is fairly good.

The fog showed up Sunday morning so we just headed over the Clear Lake to have lunch with one of Susie's high school friends.  It was clear and warm in Clear Lake, though very crowded and loud.  But a nice spot for lunch outside in the sunshine at the Main Street Cafe.  Breakfast is served all day and that was my choice.

Back at Black Butte Lake we took the "interpretive" trail from the campground.  We did not see any interpretive signs, but the trail is well worth taking.  Nice hike along the lakeshore.  You can also bail off the trail and go "beach combing".  No fishing lures or other cool stuff.  Just one golf ball, but Bugaboo did enjoy swimming in the lake.

We did fry a circut breaker while camped at the Valley of the Rogue State Park in Oregon.  So this afternoon it was a trip to the Home Depot to pick up a circut breaker for only $59.95.  The Home Depot was located south of Chico in a shopping mall, just off Highway 99.  There was a laundromat, lots of places for lunch, and a supermarket (Rawley's) for groceries.  It was a worthwhile stop.  We managed to get everything done without moving the truck!

Then back to Black Butte Ranch in time for the sunset.  A glass of red wine.  65 degrees.  And at six dollars a night we might have to extend our stay!

We are camped in site 8 which is the most popular site at Buckhorn Campground.  The campground is heavily used during the summer months and it definitely is NOT a usbackroads site at that time.  However, winter with one or two campers in the campground definitely makes this a usbackroads destination.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Snoot Full Intensifier

Backroads Product-Snoot Full Intensifier

Just a brief digression from our usbackroads information.  

Has your hunting dog lost that "edge" as he's aged?  Is his nose good enough to know that birds are in the area, but no longer good enough to point them?  Does he get embarrassed when those young, whippersnapper pups run over and put up HIS birds?

Bring back those days of your dogs youth with the Snoot Full Intensifier for bird dogs.  Yes, the Snoot Full Intensifier will make your dog young and virle once again.  You will swell with pride as you watch your old dog once again, point and hold point on those wily pheasants.  Chukers will once again quit running when they see your dog with the Snoot Full Intensifier.  We do recommend caution when hunting Chukers; the nose might still be willing, but please be sure that your dogs legs are still functioning!!  And Quail, well no longer will your dog be confused with a covey snoot full of scent.

Well, the Snoot Full Intensifier will also help that young puppy focus on the scent.  Yes, the scent will be much stronger and you will fill with joy as your pup "freezes".  The Snoot Full Intensifier will also slow down your pup as they work heavy cover.

Wow, is that a point.  I bet that dog is getting a "snoot full scent" of the bird buried under the snow!  Sometimes when the flush occurs you will not even have to fire your gun as the bird flies right up your dog's nose!

Maybe, you let your wife and kids pick your next hunting puppy from the litter.  Yes, what does it matter?  They all came from the same blood stock.  It is a crap shoot when you pick a puppy anyway.  So is that why your dog just lays around belching and farting throughout hunting season?  Maybe that cute personality is just a cover for an inadequate nose.  Well, you can boost that dogs skills by simply using the Snoot Full Intensifier in the field.

Your dog will become so intense when hunting that you might want to consider getting a "good citizenship collar" to complement the Snoot Full Intensifier.  Yes, once your dog gets that intense bird scent you will appreciate the ability to reach out and touch him at a 100 yards.

So now for a limited time you too can purchase the Snoot Full Intensifier for your bird dog.  Price is only $19.95 plus shipping and handling.  But act now since quantities are very limited and dependent on how more surgeries our dog will require this year.  The Snoot Full Intensifier don't go hunting without it!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Valley of the Rogue State Park, Gold Hill, Oregon

Backroads Destination-Valley of the Rogue State Park, Gold Hill, Oregon

We left Eugene at 9:00am and promised ourselves that we would stick to the Golden Rule.  Travel only for four hours maximum and less than 200 miles.  The destination for the day was Valley of the Rogue State Park.  We will spend the night here and then head over the pass in California tomorrow morning if we have bare roads.

Most people are familar with the Valley of the Rogue Rest Area along I-5 just outside of Medford.  I have been stopping at the rest area for over 40 years, but this is the first time we stopped at the campground.  It is a nice campground between I-5 and the Rogue River.

The campground has full hookups for $20 a night in the winter time.  Plenty of pull-through and back-in spurs.  I originally chose a pull-through, but then thought that I should practice my backing up skills since we arrived early.  I figured I had three hours before dark to get the Carriage 5th wheel into the spur.  It went smoothly and in less than 3 minutes we were parked and hooking up the utilities.

The campground has a riverfront trail that goes for several miles all the way into the small town of Rogue River.  Nice walk along the river.  Bugaboo appreciated the opportunity to smell some natural scents after our urban stay.   It is a several mile walk to town and back, but hey you can probably find an ice cream somewhere in Rogue River to to boost your energy level.

This is a nice campground and a wonderful stop for a day or two when your traveling up or down I-5.

Since we left Wenatchee five days ago we have not seen the energy source for this planet.  We suspect it is still out there somewhere.  The National Weather Service promises that we will see it and 65 degrees by Tuesday of next week in California.

Do not forget yesterday's posting on E-Book Readers.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

E-Book Readers for the Back-Country

Backroads Product-E-Book Readers for the Back-Country

Books and backroads go together.  There is something about reading a book in the middle of somewhere that is relaxing and a special activity.  For years, we've carried piles of books to read while on our trips.  Living in a rural area many years ago, we almost moved across the county line when we found out the next county had an outstanding library system, while ours was just a one room library!

Well, in this electronic age you can take thousands of books with you in a device that is 8X5 inches in size!!  I will review the three major e-book readers out there.  First, the new Kindle from Amazon, next the Nook Color from Barnes and Nobel, and of course, the Apple IPAD.

You will most likely own an E-Book reader sooner or later, and probably sooner.  This Christmas after extensive review our tech savy daughter purchased the NookColor for us as a Christmas present so we would have books to read in our travels south this winter.

I know there are many who say you can't replace the experience of reading from books. My first impressions from reading an e-book I do agree it is different than reading a book.  I tend to read in paragraphs and go back and forth quite a bit.  The e-book makes you read in a more linear way.  If you read sentence by sentence, e-books will be a pretty quick adjustment.  The screen is easy to read and it is easy to "swipe" to turn the page either forward or backward.

You will more than likely read many more books, since they are so easy to download.  And if you are searching for a particular book from a review you came across, it is easy to get it within seconds. I have also downloaded books that I passed on while at the library.  It was easy to download it and see if I liked it instead of checking it out and hauling it home and then back to the library.  In most cases, the libraries allow you to download PDF files.

It is great to be able to check out books in the middle of somewhere.  The most popular format is epub.  The Kindle will support this format fall 2011.  If your into buying books the Kindle is fine.  If you want to download library books the NookColor or the IPAD is the way to go.

One other use for e-readers is to put ALL those manuals on stuff you buy on the device.  Stick them in one folder and you have them handy in one spot when you need them.  If you're smart, you will file them under the card reader so you can easily move them when you upgrade your reader in the future.

You will find Web browsers on some devices.  The reason our daughter purchased the NookColor was she knew we would be checking e-mails and browsing the web.  It seems the browser is somewhat lacking, but it does work.  It does not allow for streaming of web internet or web radio broadcasts.  It also does allow some video to play on it.  It does play podcasts and it HAS Pandora!!   We stream from the Nook right into our speakers.  You can purchase a 1/8" stereo plug at both ends and plug into a speaker system.  See this link for our recommended speaker system.  You can also listen to Pandora while reading a book.  If you're into music, Pandora is a web site you will enjoy:  Pandora  You can purchase an electrostatic stylus to make cruising the net easier on the Nook.

Magazines on the readers:  This is really where the NookColor shines.  I can see why magazine publishers are excited about the tablet computers.  I would really rather read a book than a e-reader all things being equal; but a well written magazine formatted for an IPAD or NookColor will quickly make you forget paper magazines.  Soon the publishers will catch on and offer video and audio embedded into your e-reader.

Should you buy it now?  Yes, buy it now.  Why miss all those wonderful books you can read on an e-book.  Changes are coming because the market will soon be flooded with tablet computers.   Price will probably go down significantly; but more importantly, new color screens will make them more readable.  You just have to wait a year or so for the enhancements.

To decide which e-reader to purchase, sign on to your library's e-book site and see which readers they support and the number of books available.  The new books tend to show up first on the e-book sites, so if you're into best sellers getting them through your library will save you LOTS of money.  As mentioned earlier IPAD or NookColor are supported by libraries.  The Kindle will have that format in fall 2011.

The Apple IPAD which "everybody" expected to fail in the market place has become the new "hot" tech product.  Somebody once described market research at Apple as the left side of Steve Jobs brain talking to the right side.  You have to give Apple credit they know what you need before you do!!

The IPAD is great for magazines and kids.  It is heavy, but has a larger screen than the NookColor or the Kindle.  It is great for browsing the web.

It is good for reading books, but cannot be used in full sunlight.  Book availability is less than for the Kindle or the Nook.  The current generation of the IPAD is a great product.  The next generation is probably going to be significantly better.   But, will you always be waiting for the next best thing, when you can be enjoying it now?

This is the one we own.  It is halfway between a Kindle and an IPAD.  So it has compromises between both.  It is neither an IPAD or a Kindle and has the disadvantage of just coming out.  It does use the Android operating system, which  gives you applications.  However, Barnes and Noble has "locked" the operating system to give them more control over content.  So it is similar to the IPAD in that regard.

As mentioned earlier Version 1.2 update  allows streaming video and audio on the NookColor.  With a good wi-fi connection I can listen to radio stations from home or anywhere else on the planet.   There are lots of books available from our library in the epub format so I cruise the new book listings every several days to see what is new.  You can easily download books even with a phone line connection.

This started the e-book revolution.  The battery lasts for a month.  You can read it easily in direct sunlight.  It weighs only 8.5 oz or half of the NookColor.  The downside is that it is in black and white only.  So it doesn't matter for books, but magazines and other products may not display as well on the Kindle.

It has Wi-fi, but cannot display video.  So it might work for checking e-mail, but surfing the web will take you right back into the dark ages.

If you're into ONLY reading books AND buy them, this is a no-brainer for the price.  The Kindle will be around for a long time.  You will own more than one e-book reader in the near future and the Kindle can be one of them.  It is inexpensive to test the waters by starting out with the Kindle.

So there is the future of reading AND it is here now.  Pick one of the above.  You cannot go wrong.

Monday, January 10, 2011

US Fish and Wildlife Service

Backroads Information- US Fish and Wildlife Service

The US Fish and Wildlife Service, founded in 1940, is the last of large federal agencies managing natural resource lands.  The Federal Duck Stamp program jump started the agency by generating monies  for protection of duck habitat.  For a long time, the agency was known as the duck hunting folks.

They have gone well beyond just providing duck habitat.  Their 7,960 employees manage an annual budget of 2.32 billion dollars.  They manage 96.2 million acres of federal land, which is more than the National Park Service!!  A large portion of these acres are in Alaska and you need to join Sarah Palin on her float plane adventures to access much of it.

Way back in the Nixon administration, a little law passed called the Endangered Species Act.  Here's a trivial pursuit question for you.  What US President signed into law almost all the significant environmental legislation in the 20th century?  Answer...That would be Richard M. Nixon.

It took a few years for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to catch on to their new responsibilities.  Way back in the early 1980's while preparing Forest Plans for the National Forests we called the Fish and Wildlife Service and said, "Hey, under Federal law we need to talk to you about Grizzly Bear management".  Well, they were too busy to show up and talk to us.

Here is the US Fish and Wildlife Service link.  On the left side, click on the Recreation link.  Quickly they send you the the Reserve America reservation service.  Wow, how's that for bad public service!!  Well, as they said it get worse.  Click under Refuges on the left side.  Nice map of the United States.  Click on Washington, then click on the Columbia Wildlife Refuge.  Quickly by-pass the National write-up and go the the local site: Columbia National Wildlife Refuge .  See anything on campgrounds or recreation?? Not so much.

Well, you can always click on usbackroads:  usbackroads Columbia Wildlife Refuge.  Finally some information on the Wildlife Refuge.

Keep the US Fish and Wildlife Service on your list of federal lands to explore.  There are some really neat spots.  However, their lack of public information and rules and regulations really hamper public use.  In fact, keep your eyes peeled for this wonderful Fish and Wildlife Service sign.  Yes, it does say NO PUBLIC ENTRY!!. 

There are some great Fish and Wildlife lands, but good luck finding them.  However, they are well worth searching out, because when you do find them it is highly likely you will NOT have much company. 

I have always been partial to swamps and the US Fish and Wildlife Service has more than their fair share.   Follow the state birding trails.  Many of these include the Fish and Wildlife sites and can provide additional information on these areas.

If a US Fish and Wildlife area requires a admission fee remember you can use your Duck Stamp to get in without paying the fee.

Keep your eyes open for US Fish and Wildlife sites.  They are worth seeking out, even if it is difficult or next to impossible to get public information on them.

Monday, January 3, 2011

US Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Areas

Backroads Information-US Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Areas

If the National Park Service is the rich uncle of the natural resource agencies, the Army Corps of Engineers (COE)  is the rich uncle you never met.

The Army Corps of Engineers actually predates the United States of America being founded by George Washington during the Revolutionary War in 1775, one year before the Declaration of Independence.  How's that for an Uncle you never met?

I have worked for private industry, Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service and in all those years of attending professional meetings I NEVER met a person that worked for the Corps of Engineers (COE).  They keep a fairly low profile, even in the professional community.

The Corps has 34,000 civilian and military employees.  Inside the United States, the COE is concerned with dams, canals, and flood protection.  Those dams generate 24% of the hydropower which equates to 2% of the electricity in this country.

It is the lakes created by the dams which provide the recreation opportunities on 12 million acres of COE managed land.  Congress provides them with a budget of around 270 million dollars to manage that land, mainly for recreation.  There are 420 lakes in 43 states that provide 90,000 campsites and 4,300 miles of trail, and hundreds of boat launches.  They are clearly not in the same league as the BIG 3 Federal agencies, but much of their land is concentrated in the mid-west and east, areas where the BLM and Forest Service are under-represented.

Here is the best website to start exploring COE lands:  Click on a state and a map will come up showing the COE facilities located in the state.

There are several "oddities" about COE recreation managment.  I suspect that the Corps would rather turn over the recreation facilities to some other agency to manage, rather than doing it themselves.  In fact, they have turned over 1,800 recreation sites to state parks, Forest Service, and other agencies to manage the facilities.  This is unfortunate since in most cases the COE does a much better job than those other agencies. 

The COE is never mentioned in the Recreation Enhancement Act REA.  When reading the act, I was amazed this agency was overlooked!  I know we have the "best Congress money can buy", but really you would think some Congress person would know that the COE manages Federal recreation land and facilities!!

What this means in terms of public use is the COE cannot sell the Senior or Disability passes authorized under REA.  However, they do honor them in COE managed facilities.  So, buy them BEFORE you get to the lake, and they probably will NOT be accepted if someone else, such as a contractor, is running the COE facilities.

Boondocking on COE land is usually found on lakes far away from urban facilities.  Our favorite boondocking locations are on COE lands along the Snake River in Washington state.  The COE provides great facilities, even for boondockers.  Our boondock location has a toilet, table, fire ring, and garbage pick-up.

The COE runs a first class operation in their campgrounds and boondocks.  If you're tired of paying for sub-standard facilities, find a COE managed campground or boondock close to you.