My Visit to Russell Cave National Monument

“Underwhelming” is a decent one-word description of my visit to Russell Cave National Monument in northeast Alabama.

My son and I preparing to be underwhelmed.

The outdated and rundown visitor’s center’s main highlight was a dog calmly lying in the sunlight out front. An informational video was the centerpiece of the visitor’s center. It narrated the history of the cave and the evidence discovered showing human activity dating way back. The visitor’s center also included displays of various items found in the cave.

The two park rangers seemed rather disinterested in their job and their visitors, yet very interested in their conversation with each other. There was a family of four there with us.

After a short walk on a railed boardwalk, we arrived at the aforementioned cave–a large hollowed out spot in a cliff with a stream running out of it. Visitors are not permitted in the cave. Archeological paraphernalia is in the cave giving the idea that we were in an important place. We could see darkened rock in the cave ceiling, which the video told us was evidence of years of camp fires.

Arriving at THE Russell Cave. You could cut the underwhelmedness with a knife.

And that was it.

We were there for maybe half an hour, ten minutes of which were spent watching the video. It was unique and pretty in its way, but you’re not going to spend much time there.

John F. Kennedy set the land apart as a National Monument solely for its historical significance–the fact that many people came here over the years. And by so doing, made sure few people would come in the future. This is perhaps the worst National Anything I’ve ever been to. It is possible that JFK really didn’t need to do this for his country.


Hiker’s body found on Longs Peak

The body of a 39-year-old Thornton man was recovered Sunday afternoon after he was reported missing by the friends who he had been attempting to summit Longs Peak with.

The man, who was not identified by name, was last seen at the top of the Loft at around 9:30 a.m. Saturday. He had been winter mountaineering in the area with two friends when he tried to descend down to the trailhead, according to the National Park Service.

When the man’s friends got back to the trailhead later that day, rangers say they noticed his vehicle was still in the parking lot – prompting them to report him missing.

Local News Story

NPS story

The Loft section between Mount Meeker and Longs Peak

Here is a hiker’s description of what The Loft is as well as information about The Loft route up Longs Peak:

The actual loft area that gives this route its name is the wide-open flat plateau that separates Mt. Meeker and Longs Peak. Regardless of season, due to the somewhat uniqueness of this small area, The Loft is usually a windy place. Since Longs Peak carries so much prominence and is anchored by the equally lofty Mt. Meeker to the southeast, this area, though definitely NOT a col, functions in accordance by funneling the winds across its flat expanse. Exceptions in weather always exist of course, but the norm is to expect windy conditions on this plateau.


Tourist falls off Mather Point at the Grand Canyon

Park rangers said they received a call around 4:15 p.m. Tuesday about a park visitor falling off the rim of the canyon west of Mather Point. Friends and family told KCCI that Gom Dang was posing for a picture when he fell to his death.

“He started handing me his phone,” Ruot said. “I don’t know, I guess I was a little far from him or whatever the case was, and he slipped backward. He fell with his back, and he rolled over.”

NPS Story

His family has established a GoFundMe to defer costs of getting his body transported to his home state of Iowa.

Family’s remarks and GoFundMe

Iowa Local News story

Illegal Tour on Hawaiian Volcano

A tour guide based in France and a tour group of 13 people were caught early Monday morning sneaking into the closed area at Halema‘uma‘u, the erupting summit crater of Kīlauea volcano.

National Park Service law enforcement officers spotted the group just after midnight, and issued citations for violating the terms of the closure to all 14 people. The tour guide was issued additional citations for operating a non-permitted business in the park and creating a hazardous condition. All 14 were escorted out of the park.

The 44-year-old male tour guide, affiliated with the French tour company Adventure et Volcans, must make a mandatory court appearance and faces a maximum penalty of $5,000 and six months in jail. His name is being withheld as the investigation continues. The violation of closure citations are $100 each, with a $30 processing fee.

“This is a serious violation,” said Chief Ranger John Broward. “Areas surrounding Halema‘uma‘u Crater are closed because of extremely hazardous volcanic conditions that include high concentrations of toxic gases and particulates, ongoing volcanic explosions and frequent collapses of the crater walls,” he said.

National Park Service Report

Not all tours are licensed by the National Parks. I have heard of the same thing occurring at the Grand Canyon and other parks. Unlicensed tours are illegal and could end in disaster.

Man Dies Hiking in Zion National Park

Zion Nation Park officials have released the identity of the man who fell to his death on the popular Angels Landing trail.

Tate Ryan Volino, 45, was discovered March 3, after apparently falling from the trail. Volino was from Osprey, Florida who leaves behind his wife and two sons, 13 and 15. According to the national park, Volino was an author, volunteer and family man.

“We are all very saddened by this accident, and profound loss. Our deepest condolences go out to the Volino family, friends and loved ones,” Jeff Bradybaugh, Superintendent of Zion National Park said.

The climb offers breathtaking views and attracts crowds of hikers in the hundreds of thousands every year.

Park authorities believe the hiker fell from one of the higher points on the t


“[He] had a high visibility of trauma.” John Marciano with Zion Nation National Park said.

He was discovered by a couple of hikers in the vicinity of Refrigerator Canyon. It features a long, steady climb with almost 1,500 feet in elevation gain.

KUTV Local News Story



Tree Fall Kills Woman in Yosemite

A woman was struck and killed by a falling tree in Yosemite National Park on Sunday morning March 5, 2017,  The tragic accident occurred in Half Dome Village, in Yosemite Valley, at around 10:00 a.m. yesterday morning, amid heavy snow and high winds.

Destiny Rose Texeira Borges, 20, from Ceres, California was in the park working for a company contracted by the park concessioner.

National Park Service Report


Borges was outside, in front of a hard-side cabin, not a tent cabin, about 10 a.m. when she was struck by the top of a mature Ponderosa pine that appeared to be 100 feet tall before it fell, Gediman said Monday after visiting and observing the accident site.

The tree came down about a thousand feet due east of the ice skating rink at Half Dome Village, Gediman said.

“We did have a winter storm going on,” Cindy Bean, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Hanford, said Monday. “There was snow and winds were gusting. We’re estimating between 20 and 30 miles per hour in that area around that time.”

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help Borges’ family defer funeral expenses. The online post Monday described her as a “beautiful and bright young lady just starting to live a bright dream.”

Destiny’s mother is a single mom, the online post said.

The Union Democrat Local News Story

Grand Tetons Skier Rescued

Grand Teton National Park rangers and Teton County Sheriff’s Department Search and Rescue members saved the life of a backcountry skier with resuscitation efforts on Friday evening, March 3.

The skier, Mike Connolly, age 61, from Idaho Falls, was skiing with three other family members and friends when the incident occurred.

Connolly went into cardiac arrest while rescuers were flying to the scene, and as the rescuers arrived, CPR efforts were in progress by the other members of the party. Connolly had no pulse, and was not breathing. Rescue personnel used an automated defibrillator shocking Connolly one time.  He successfully regained a pulse and began breathing. A short time later he was able to verbally communicate to those around him.

A family member, search and rescue members, supplies and equipment were short-hauled from the scene. A park ranger skied with the remaining members of the skiing party and safely returned to a trailhead parking area along the Moose-Wilson Road.


Official National Park Service Report

Idaho State Journal News Story