Weekly Review: January 11th

Wyoming Counties and Forest Service worry about overuse in the Bighorns

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Four counties surrounding the Bighorn Mountains, will be assembling a group of citizens. They will provide feedback on overuse in specific areas of the Bighorns.
 
The four counties are Sheridan, Johnson, Big Horn, and Washakie. They have been collaborating to solve issues in the Bighorn Mountains for years. They each send representatives to the Bighorn Mountain Coalition, which communicates with the U.S. Forest Service. They give and receive feedback about issues in the mountains.
 
Recently, the Forest Service has focused on the issues associated with heavy groups of campers in specific areas. These campers often dole heavy use on popular sections of the forest. Dispersed camping only alleviates the issue when the campers are visiting less-travelled sections of the forest.
 
Heavy concentrations of campers impacts roads and vegetation. The forest service is also experiencing issues with garbage and sanitation. The problems have been on the Forest Service’s radar for years.
 
The popularity of the Bighorns isn’t helping the issue any. The Sheridan visitor’s center receives more than 100,000 guests per year. Sheridan Travel and Tourism has also directed its efforts to encourage dispersed camping.
 
On their website, Sheridan Travel and Tourism lists several of the campgrounds available in the Bighorns. The list for backpacking areas is far more extensive. With more than 1.1 million acres and 1,200 miles of trails, the site states that the Bighorn National Forest offers limitless camping opportunities.
 
Shawn Parker, the director of travel and tourism, says that his department tailors marketing to whatever the Forest Service needs. He reaches out to the Forest Service to discuss what their recreation numbers look like. He uses that information to target marketing efforts into areas where the agency can handle it.
 
The citizen new group is expected to have 16 members, four from each county. Applications to be a member of the group closed on Jan. 4. After members are notified of their selection, they will begin holding meetings to come up with solutions to this problem.
 
For my community, if you have plans to visit the Bighorns this summer, call the Sheridan Travel and Tourism office at (307) 673-7121. The director can tell you can some places that don’t see as much traffic.
 

Avalanche Safety

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Wyoming saw its first avalanche of the winter on December 22nd. A Rock Springs man dies after an avalanche buried his snowmobile in the Wyoming Range near Jackson Hole. It was also the first fatality of the season within the US affording to Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center Director Bob Comey.
 
The snowmobiler was riding uphill on a small convex slope when a wind slab fractured on a buried layer of faceted snow. The 100-foot-wide avalanche has a 22-inch crown and ran roughly 100 feet. It broke above the man, carrying him about 50 feet and flipping his snowmobile on top of him.
 
You can usually avoid avalanches with proper training. Take advantage of a course this winter if you plan to go snowmobiling or alpine skiing outside of a resort this season.
 
Several classes are available through the Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.
 
Many local search and rescue teams offer brief courses as well, some of which are free or have a small cost. I took a brief course through the Carbon County Search and Rescue. They talked about the different types of snow and how to know when you or other activity could trigger an avalanche. The crew also showed the gear one should have on hand in case they get stuck in an avalanche. The number one item is a beacon. It’s a device that alerts rescue teams of your location.
I also recommend taking a class once a year to refresh your knowledge.
 

Lunar Eclipse January 20th

 
Wyoming will be one of the best places to view a total lunar eclipse on January 20th. While the lunar eclipse doesn’t have quite the wonder of the solar eclipse, which took place two summers ago, it is still stunning.
 
This event is called the January Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse and it will reach its totality right about 10:20 p.m.
 

Some National Parks close

 
Joshua Tree National Park has closed as a result of visitors damaging trees during the ongoing government shutdown. Besides damaging the trees, tourists have overflowed trash cans and restrooms. Motorist have created new roads, which is not allowed.
 
The park closed yesterday because officials lack the resources to clean and protect the destination. Employees can’t return to work as the partial government shutdown drags into its third week.
 
Instead of completely closing like in past government shutdowns, the Trump Administration has forced the National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, to operate with a limited workforce. This has resulted in trash cans and toilets on federally managed lands not getting serviced and acres of habitat unprotected.
 
While some bad apples have been ruining the national parks, members of the public have been volunteering to help clean and care for parks. They’ve been unclogging toilets, picking up trash and putting up sign reminding visitors that they are on their own.
 
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are also closed. Yosemite National Park limited access to some areas of the park. Park officials closed Hetch Hetchy and Mariposa Grove due to lack of restrooms and resulting impacts from human waste. Employees who are working will cite people entering closed areas.
 
Lack of staffing to plow snowy roads or to keep watch over areas for safety is also forcing park officials to limit access to the public. Arches National Park shut down because the park’s inability to plow the roads after snowfall made conditions unsafe for visitors.
To see how Wyoming’s National Parks are affected by the government shutdown, check out last week’s review
 

My upcoming adventures

 
I’m headed to South Dakota this weekend for a Women Who Hike event. I can’t tell you exactly where right now, but when I return I’ll be posting a vlog. I’ll also have a new blog post about meeting up with strangers to take hikes. If you have any questions about meet-ups feel free to leave me a DM on Instagram or ask on my twitter post.

My Goals for 2019

I don’t typically take part in New Year’s Resolutions because you shouldn’t limit yourself to a new year to make changes in your life. If you discover an area where you need to grow on December 23rd, you should start on December 23rd. There’s no reason to wait.

Having goals, is different. Year-long goals are a good measure of what you want to do in 365 days. You can also have shorter or longer term goals, like three month goals or 10 year goals.

 

I’m using the SMART Goals guideline to outline the things I want to do this year.

Specific – What exactly will you do?

Measurable – How will you know if you meet your goal?

Achievable – What steps are you going to take to reach your goal?

Relevant – What about your goal makes it important to you?

Timely – When do you want to complete your goal?

 

I’ve decided to share my goals with you, so you can all hold me accountable. I plan to provide you with updates with my accomplishments. My hope is also that these goals will inspire you to develop some plans for 2019 as well.

 

Goal 1: Go on my first solo backpacking trip

I plan to go to Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area in Sweetwater County to complete this goal. I went there with my best friend for my birthday last year. I loved the landscape and saw some even cooler looking landscape off in the distance. We were car camping, so the far off land wasn’t accessible. I plan to park my vehicle at the end of the dirt road. From there I’ll hike south and backpack in Monument Valley.

adobe town

I plan to get a one person backpacking tent to make traveling easier. About a month before my trip I’ll take my backpack out on the trail,  getting to the weight I’ll need for the trip. I will complete my goal this spring or summer.

 

Goal 2: Take a Wilderness First Aid course

Because I spend a lot of time in the outdoors, it’s important that I take the NOLS wilderness first aid course. Plus, I’m planning on getting involved in a program that requires this course (can’t reveal what it is yet). I plan to take the course in April.

 

Goal 3: Catch a fish on a fly rod

I got a fly rod last summer, but never caught a fish. It’s hard! I’ll try to get out to one of the many lakes around me or to the North Platte or Encampment River at least once a week. I’ll also let my boyfriend teach me more techniques that may help me. I want to complete this goal by July.

fly fishing

 

Goal 4: Updating this blog twice a week

I plan to update this blog with a weekly update on what’s happening to lands and conservation in Wyoming and US. I also want to publish posts that are a little more fun, like this one, on a weekly basis. Doing this helps me to connect and share what’s happening in Wyoming. I’m also invested in the lands in this state and want Wyoming’s quietness to have a louder voice when it needs protection. I’ve already planned and written five other blog posts to get me started. As the year progresses I’ll continue writing and paying attention to the news around me.

 

Goal 5: Backpack the Encampment River Trail

I love this trail. It is my absolute favorite! But I’ve never hiked the whole 15 miles. I plan to change that this summer. I’ll do this with a group. I’ll prepare myself for this hike the same way I’ll prepare for backpacking in the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area.

encampment river

 

Goal 6: Hike a new trail in the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Two summers ago I worked hard to hike as many trails as possible in the Medicine Bow National Forest. While I knocked a few off my list and discovered some new favorites, I have several trails left to wander. I have a few trails in mind that I’d like to tackle. One is the trail to Medicine Bow Peak from Dipper Lake. It’s the least common route to the top, and the only one I haven’t done. I’m also interested in the Medicine Bow Rail Trail.

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I have a guide book that is specific to the Medicine Bow National Forest, so I’ll use it to plan my adventures. These trips will take place sometime between July and September.

 

Longer term goals

One of my lifetime goals is to travel to every National Park in the United States. So far I’ve visited Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Badlands National Parks. I have a long ways to go. I’m hoping to be able to visit Voyageurs National Park in August, but I’m not sure I’ll make it there this year. I don’t currently have a timeline of when I’d like to do this, but I would like to complete it by the age of 50.

Another lifetime goal is to hike to the highest point in every state. This one will be a bit harder because to do so, you have to figure out how to get through private property. To date I’ve only made it to the highest point in South Dakota, which is Black Elk Peak.

I have another highest peak goal, which is to get to the highest point in every county in Wyoming. Wyoming has a total of 23 counties, and I believe I’ve made it to the highest point in one. There’s some debate over what is the highest peak in Albany County. I’ve heard it’s either Medicine Bow Peak or Laramie Peak. The guidebook I have says Medicine Bow Peak has about mile of elevation on Laramie Peak. If anybody knows which is higher for sure, let me know! Medicine Bow Peak is 12,013 feet in elevation, for reference. I might make it to Bridger Peak this summer, which is the highest point in Carbon County at 10,950 feet.

 

What are your goals, short or long term?

Weekly Review: January 4th

Federal Government Shutdown Impacts Wyoming Sites.

Several federal sites, parks and landmarks throughout Wyoming closed or have limited services. This is due to the partial federal government shutdown, which began on December 21, 2018.

National sites are seeing limited access, services, emergency personnel and ranger-led tours. While the shutdown is closing some national sites, Yellow Stone National Park and Grand Teton National Park remain open.

Yellowstone National Park:

Yellowstone remains open, but, all government-run operations and facilities closed. Entrance stations are not staffed. Park staff are providing emergency services and law enforcement. All park regulations, including those on snow travel, are in effect as normal.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana is open to wheeled vehicle travel. Visitors can access all the commercial services along this route. This includes commercial services in Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower.

Visitors can also access commercial services in the interior of the park via over snow travel. Concessioners are currently providing funding for road grooming so that over snow access to the interior is possible. If conditions become unsafe at any time, roads and/or developed areas in the park may close.

For the most current information on services offered by Yellowstone National Park Lodges, visit www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.

 

Grand Teton National Park:

Entrance gates are open, but not staffed. Visitors can access the park with no visitor services available. Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are not available.

 

While you can still access the national parks in Wyoming, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. I haven’t heard about how the closures are affecting parks in Wyoming. I have heard, however, that toilets are overflowing at Joshua Tree and litter is gathering in Yosemite. Visitors are venturing off roads and trails, causing serious damage to delicate ecosystems in Death Valley.

If you do go camping in a national park during the shut, bring a trash bag and your own toilet paper. Do your part to help out in the absence of employees.

 

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area:

All park facilities (restrooms, visitor centers, etc.) are currently closed. Visitor access to recreation areas, trails and fishing on the area’s waterway remain open.

 

Devils Tower National Monument:

Access is unavailable.

 

Fossil Butte National Monument:

Facilities closed.

 

Fort Laramie National Historic Site:

All fenced facilities closed.

 

National Elk Refuge:

Sleigh ride tours on the National Elk Refuge through Double H Bar continue as scheduled. For more information on ticket sales and services, please call the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce at 307-733-3316.

Federal employees tell visitors to Wyoming’s national sites to practice caution. They should follow all safety protocol on national lands as the shutdown has limited emergency services.

 

Wyoming State Parks remain open and unaffected, with abundant recreation options.

 

The Government Shutdown in General

President Donald Trump announced a partial government shutdown 14 days ago on December 22nd. This was after Democrats rejected his demand for 5 billion dollars in wall funding. Democrats and Republicans have reached a stalemate with disputes on border security and wall funding.

Bipartisan congressional leaders headed to the White House this morning. They planned on talking on how to end the partial government shutdown. Lawmakers are looking to break a stalemate over Trump’s demand for five billion dollars to build his proposed border wall. The two major parties stand far from a deal on border security as many federal works face missed paychecks.

Democrats passed bills Thursday evening to reopen nine federal governments. This was one of their first acts in their new House majority. Their plan does not call for the money for Trump’s wall. Eight of those departments would get funding through September 30th. The Department of Homeland Security would reopen through February 8th. Because the measures don’t include money for Trump’s border wall, he has vowed not to sign the spending packages.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi said, “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that? We’re not doing a wall. It’s an old way of thinking. It’s not cost effective.”

Trump has so far shown no willingness to cave. He said Wednesday that the shutdown would last “as long as it takes” to see his demands met.

As the shutdown drags one, political pressure on Republicans has increased. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner was the first Senate Republic to call for reopening the government, even without a border wall deal.

“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” Gardner said.

Gardner wants to pass legislation with the 1.3 billion dollars Democratic leaders have proposed for border fencing.  From there he believes Congress should work to get more funding. Gardner said negotiations on Trump’s border wall can continue once Congress reopens federal agencies. He added Republicans can “let Democrats explain why they no longer support border security.”

As of noon on Friday January 4th, I hadn’t heard any further updates on the federal government closure.

 

My thoughts on the border wall

I’m going to be blunt and state it. I am 100 percent against the border wall. I’m not going to talk about the social aspects, because I don’t have enough knowledge to talk about that. My biggest concern is the environment and the wildlife that live along the border. Animals don’t understand borders and if the government builds a wall that could affect their migration corridors.

Along the border the US has National Parks, State Parks and wildlife areas containing miles of critical ecosystems.

Additionally, nature has already built a wall along part of the border. The Rio Grande Gorge acts as a huge trench between Mexico and Texas. A large canyon wall scales both sides of the river. A physical border wall would block several animals from the Rio Grande, which is their only reliable water source. The wall would also prohibit dispersal of wildlife, likely causing genetic isolation.

Once populations are genetically isolated, they can deviate through one of two mechanisms. These are natural selection or genetic drift. Let’s touch on natural selection first. Limited resources ensure that wildlife with certain genes leave behind more offspring than others. As a result, those genes become more common in the population over time. In genetic drift, a random event can wipe out individuals non-selectively so that some genes become more common while others are eliminated.

Why is this important? For many animals to thrive, their gene pools need to be as varied as possible. Isolated from each other, they’re in trouble. Genetic isolation puts wildlife at risk of extinction or genetic problems. There can be problems with inbreeding, which can pass on undesirable genes for the animals.

Ben Masters is working to develop a documentary that further details the ecological and wildlife impacts that the wall would present. Click the picture to see the trailer on this film.

 

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The crew  traveled 1,200 miles along the U.S. and Mexico border to experience the vast landscapes. They journeyed from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on horses, mountain bikes and canoes. They also came face-to-face with the human side of the immigration debate.

The River and the Wall is slated to be released this year. Masters and his crew traveled to Washington recently for a private screen of the film. Following the screening, Representative U.S. Representative Will Hurd(R-TX 23), Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX 16), and Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) joined Director Ben Masters, Producer Hillary Pierce, and Associate Producer Jay Kleberg for a panel discussion moderated by Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet.

 

I’m not against border security, but I don’t think the wall is the right answer. The government needs to do something else. It’s not an easy black and white answer.

 

Other news

Wyoming Game and Fish

Back in Wyoming, the Game and Fish Department made some changes to licenses for 2019.

Starting this year, when people buy a fishing, small game, game bird or furbearers license, it will be valid for 12 months from the sale date. In the past, these licenses would expire on the first of the New Year. Now, if a person buys their license on July 1st, 2019, the license will expire on July 1st, 2020.

Game and Fish personnel listened to public feedback. They found a year-long license was something many people were requesting, so they could get the full use of the license.

With these new changes, Game and Fish will print the expiration dates for licenses and conservation stamps. Hunters and anglers will be able to keep track of when they need to buy again. If people renew early, the start date for the new license will begin the day after the current one expires.

Game and Fish also implemented a 2.5 percent processing fee for credit card transactions. When people buy hunting applications or licenses with credit cards, Game and Fish used to pay the processing fee. This resulted in a 1.8 million dollar expense on the department’s behalf each year.

 

What I’m listening to:

 

The Future Perfect podcast: How to save a species (if you really want to)

This episode is a couple months old, but has good information about the black footed ferret. The US Fish and Wildlife Service thought the ferrets were extinct until a Wyoming rancher rediscovered it in 1981. The host of the podcast goes through the debate about whether agency should continue with efforts to continue saving the ferrets.

The Journey Begins

 

Hiking is the same thing as walking, only hotter and twice as far as you want to go. But usually, you’re glad you went.” — Anita Diamant, The Boston Girl

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Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m Emma and That Solo Hiker Chick you might see sometimes wandering the trails. I’m based out of South Central Wyoming.

I started this site after gaining a love for the public lands surround me and realizing that I may need to fight for those lands someday. While my main stomping grounds are relatively safe from any large, drastic changes, I’ve started to notice the impact that pine bark beetle is having on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. I’ve realized that I can also use my voice to make changes to make the forest more sustainable. I also discovered a love for Adobe Towns, which is facing a bigger threat of oil and gas intrusion.

I hope to use this site to share information and spread awareness about the places I love to protect them.

I also share my own hiking experiences and favorite tools to use out on the trail.