Ypsilon Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, July 4, 2008
Ypsilon Lake, Rocky Mountain National Park, July 4, 2008
Step back to the 1830s and 1840s with a visit to this adobe fort along the historic Santa Fe Trail
This is the first of a series of periodic reports on specific places I’ve visited — and you might want to as well. Post a comment or let me know directly what you think of this new Travel Babel feature.
Bent’s Fort welcomed anyone traveling along the Santa Fe Trail, including Indians, soldiers, Mexicans, Germans, French, Irish and blacks — tolerance that was not to be taken for granted in its heyday. William bent encouraged alliances among people who would later war violently on each other.
Two major volcanoes eruptions since January impact national parks and resort towns
In January, the central Chilean volcano called Llaima began breathing fire, sporadically emitting lava flows that turned the snow that covered upper slopes into steam and sending an ash column more than 10,000 feet into the sky, as was dramatically captured in filmed reports from National Geographic and CNN. The 10,252-foot volcano is reportedly one of the country’s most active, having erupted as recently as 1994. It is some 422 miles south of the capital of Santiago. The nearest town, Melipueco, was evacuated, as were visitors and rangers in Conguillio National Park.
Chaiten, some 400 miles farther south near the Chile-Argentina border has been erupting since May 2, forcing evacuations first from the nearby eponymous town of Chaiten, then the larger and then more distant community of Futaleufo and even moving out military personnel. This was far more surprising. “The long dormant 3,280-foot (1,000-meter) Chaiten volcano began erupting on Friday for the first time in thousands of years, and the huge plume of volcanic ash is clearly visible on satellite images cutting a swathe across South America’s southern tip,” according to a Reuters report. Airlines have canceled flights to southern Patagonia, because of the potential danger of volcanic ash being sucked into jet engines.
Chaiten’s eruption is still going strong (NASA satellite, photo right). It is located in what vulcanologists refer to as the Andean Arc that stretches from Chile, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. “It is home to 2,000 volcanoes, 500 of which experts say are potentially active. Around 60 have erupted over the past 450 years,” Reuters noted. While Argentina is not usually listed as part of the arc, ash has been reported in the Argentine resort of Bariloche in Nahuel Huapi National Park and even as far away as the capital of Buenos Aires. The region is famous not only for skiing at Bariloche but also for Tahoe-blue mountain lakes. As ash, which soared into the stratosphere, continues to fall over a wide region, it could impact the ski season that begins in June, and the lakes might no longer be so pristine.
Another Airline Bites the Dust
Travel Insurance Tips
In the past several days 3 airlines have suddenly ceased
business. Travelers can use travel insurance to help protect
themselves but there are a few things they should know before buying:
1. Buy travel insurance from an independent source rather than from the travel provider. Travel Insurance policies offered by tour operators, cruise lines, or airlines either don’t cover their own financial default or they exclude the financial default of the company from whom you purchase your coverage.
2. Check the insurance plan to see if they have a list of airlines or travel companies that they either will or will not cover. One company, Access America, provides a list of companies they will cover while two other companies, Travel Guard and Travelex, provide a list of companies they will not cover.
3. Buy travel insurance very soon after they make a deposit. Default protection is only available if you purchase your travel insurance within 10 to 21 days of your initial deposit. The time period varies with each company and plan so our advice is to do it within 10 days to ensure that you have the maximum flexibility.
4. Review the coverage carefully. Some plans will have a “waiting period” after the coverage is purchased before the default coverage goes into effect. In some cases this is 14 days after you buy the insurance. Another reason to buy coverage early.
5. Buy your trip or airline ticket through a travel agent. Some insurance plans exclude coverage if you have purchase your trip directly with the travel company. Most travel insurance plans will not, however, to have the maximum flexibility you should purchase your trip through a travel agent, whether locally or online, rather than buying direct.
6. Always use a credit card for the payment of your ticket or trip. In the event of a default you might be able to dispute your charge and have the credit card company remove it from your billing. This is fine if it happens prior to your trip but doesn’t help much if you are traveling at the time of the default. If that happens other airlines might offer you an alternative flight on a standby basis but it can still result in delays and additional expenses that would be covered by many travel insurance policies.
These are all ways that a consumer can minimize their risks. You can never
eliminate all risks but you can take prudent measures to minimize them before
Flooding beneficial but probably won’t be repeated until 2012.
The recent artifical flood unleashed earlier this month via a three-day water release from the Glen Canyon Dam that I blogged about earlier this month appears to have been successful — better that the two previous floods that, at the time, were also reported to have been successful in rebuilding sandbars for wildlife habitat and also as beaches were rafters could camp.
According to a widely published Associated Press report, Grand Canyon National Park superintendent, upon returning from a five-day trip down the recontoured Colorado River flowing through canyon floor, told reporters, “”On a couple of big sandbars there were already beaver tracks, bighorn sheep tracks. You could see the animals already exploring new aspects of the old canyon….It changes the feeling of the canyon as you see the sediment along the shoreline from a feeling of increased sterility to one of a greater amount of vibrance. The benefits are substantial.”
This is a contrast to similar manmade floods in 1996 and in 2004, which, according to the AP report, “actually resulted in a net reduction in overall sandbar size because they were conducted when the Colorado River was relatively sand-depleted, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Officials believe this year’s flood will be beneficial because sand levels in the river are at a 10-year high and are three times greater than 2004 levels. Whatever benefits come from this year’s flood, however, will be eroded within 18 months without additional floods every year to 18 months depending on the amount of sediment available, Martin said. In its environmental assessment on Glen Canyon Dam releases, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation calls for no other high-flow releases until after 2012.”
So now that the authorities have figured out when and how to do it, there’s another example of a foot-dragging federal government that now predicts that this year’s benefits could well be gone within 18 months but is planning to wait another four years before unleashing another flood.
“Take only pictures. Leave only footprints,” has long been the slogan of the Leave No Trace movement, in an effort to persuade users of public lands not to abuse the nation’s forests and parks. For years, Volcanoes National Park rangers have pleaded with visitors not to take away volcanic rocks as souvenirs. Now, they are begging people not to leave anything either. According to an Associated Press report, “rangers at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are launching a program to stop people from leaving religious offerings at the summit of Mount Kilauea — including food they say attracts rats and cockroaches.”
Park officials say that some 45 pounds of unwanted “offerings” must be removed from Halemaumau Crater each week. These include flowers, bottles, money, incense, candles and crystals, but the problem is food that well-meaning visitors leave for Pele, the goddess of fire. The report continued,”One ranger recently found a whole, cooked piglet replete with a papaya, orange and apple in a cardboard box…The rotting offerings pose a hazard to the endangered nene goose, the state bird endemic to the islands, the park service said.”
Many years ago on the island of Bali, I saw offerings everywhere, including in front of shops every morning and on the hood of my rental car. A Chinese tradition is burning fake money to assist the deceased in the afterlife. Freelance fires are illegal in Volcanoes, as in virtually all national parks.
The national park has always been a leading attraction on the Big Island of Hawaii, increasingly so since Kilauea began erupting, continuously, on January 3, 1983.
According to the natural-wonder-filled Greenpeace calendar that hangs in my kitchen, today is World Forestry Day. I’d never heard of it, so I looked it up. Celebrated at the autumn equinox in the Southern Hemisphere, which leads me to infer that it might have started in Australia or New Zealand, it supposedly encourages the planting of trees (sort of like Arbor Day, I suppose) and encourages preservation of “green cover.” It did cause me to think about woods and forests I have known and enjoyed. Here are five that have impressed me for the most different of reasons.
In Glacier National Park in northern Montana, the fleet of 33 vintage red buses with roll-back canvas tops built between 1936 and 1939 were refurbished several years ago and have again been used for sightseeing tours from both the east and west sides of the park for the last five or six summers. The buses travel along Going-to-the-Sun Highway and also go north to Canada’s Waterton Lakes National Park. Scenic interpretive Red Bus Tours range from the three-hour Western Alpine Tour from Lake McDonald ($30 adult, $15 child) to the 8 1/2-hour International Peace Park Tour from Glacier Park Lodge ($75 adult, $37.50 child). Exact dates vary, but most routes begin in mid-June and end in mid-September. You can book on-line or by calling 406-892-2525.
Starting this summer, visitors to Yellowstone National Park, which is partly in Montana but mostly in Wyoming, can also sightsee in retro fashion with the return of eight of the park’s White Motor Company Model 706 touring vehicles. These long, low-slung “Old Yellow Buses,” which began service in 1936, are back — and isn’t it happily appropriate to have yellow buses plying the byways of Yellowstone? The park’s fleet, which once totaled 98 touring vehicles, transported visitors for more than 20 years. With park visitors increasingly using private vehicles, the Old Yellow Buses were dispersed to museums, other tour operators and who-knows-where- else.
Much to their credit, Max and Thelma Bigert revived the line, starting service again on September 17, 1989, precisely 88 years after its inaugural passenger run. They like to say that they put the train back on track. Last May, I reached the Canyon by road but left via the Grand Canyon Railway, a delightful ride that lasted 2 1/2 hours but took me and my fellow passengers way back into the last century with entertainment enhancements from this one. We rode through the forest with live entertainment in each car (left), a staged train robbery and terrific tales, tall and otherwise, spun by conductors in old-style uniforms. We detrained in Williams, an interesting little town along Historic Route 66.
The Bigerts are bowing out, but the show will go on. They put the railroad up for sale last year. A letter of intent transferring the railroad to Xanterra Parks & Resorts, the nation’s largest national parks concessionaire, was soon signed. By late March, assuming the National Park Service approves, Xanterra should be operating the train. Under the Bigerts the Grand Canyon Railway has been operating daily service between Williams and Grand Canyon National Park, summer and winter. It has been welcoming more than 220,000 passengers a year, and the Bigerts’ operation also includes the the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, an RV park, a restaurant and several real estate parcels, all in Williams. The amount of the bid was not disclosed.