Apology Tendered

I APOLOGIZE TO KURT RAPANSHEK

I besmirched his name as a “Bought Blogger” by believing the list I saw published in The West Yellowstone News. It was my inference that the plea for funds to entertain and provide amenities issued by the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce pertained to the names that they listed as their visitors. According to Kurt Rapanshek this is not true and, he has never been subsidized by the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce. I apologize.

I can’t remove his name from the list as he requests. It is not my list, but the list of The West Yellowstone Chamber Of Commerce, published in The West Yellowstone News. I’m sure that, as journalists, they will make the necessary adjustments when Kurt Rapanshek lets them know about it. The West Yellowstone News has not yet responded to my requests for clarification of the article.

….. Skyblu

Buy A Blogger

IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PERQUISITES

bribe-000.jpgDid you ever wonder if what you read is all true, partly true, sort of true, not true, or bought and paid for? Some blogs are egocentric, some blatantly commercial, and some masquerade as news but are really just P.R. They are bought and paid for by commercial interests and the praise that they get in return.

Tour companies, travel agents, journalists, and others with an audience all are in a position to trade favors with interested parties – it may be tit for tat, or advertising, or just plain scam. But believe me it goes on and is not reported to the client, reader, patron, or believing citizen.

One classic example from our little town should serve as an example of how this works. The West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce recently had an article in the local “newspaper” and begged for money to bribe “independent voices” “to get the word out.”

This quote should give you some idea of the perquisites that are given to these “independent voices:”

“There are some days at the Chamber of Commerce where we seem to spend a majority of the day on our knees begging for donations in order to assist travel writers, major media and tour operators. Donations of rooms, meals, tours, food, gift items, bags and bows, even bottles of water make a huge difference in our ability to have these folks come to West Yellowstone-they are independent voices for us to “get the word out” about what a great destination we are.

 

In a small community like West Yellowstone, our Chamber Marketing budget is small and already allocated. So, when unexpected groups of tour operators, magazine or newspaper writers, photographers, web travel writers, radio talk show hosts, or television producers call and ask for help in setting up their trips. In turn, in order to take advantage of these opportunities for West Yellowstone, we have to reach out to you, our community.”

The list of “Independent Voices” is extensive:

 

  • Kurt Repanshek, Travel Arts syndicated writer writing about West Yellowstone as the “best gateway to Yellowstone.”
  • David Sason writing an article on Montana meeting sites with a focus on West Yellowstone.
  • Utah freelance writers working on a November/December article for Salt Lake Magazine about winter vacations in West Yellowstone.
  • Carol Calicchio with JohnnyJet.com, the most popular travel planning website in California.
  • Steve Cannon with KIDK-Channel 3 exploring the Painted Buffalo Project.
  • Sam Dalton with Boomeradventures.com who will be creating a web page about winter activities for boomer travelers.
  • Steve Pastorino with Fodor’s Travel Guide.
  • Eric Peterson with Frommer’s Montana and Wyoming Guidebook.
  • Eric and Sue Hansen, representing Oregon-based newspapers and Northwest Travel magazine, writing about birding and our birding trails.
  • Salt Lake City-based Western Leisure with a Chinese FAM tour including eight tour operators from the largest tour companies in mainland China.
  • Terry Mansfield with majesticradiotours.com who is creating a web site with downloadable radio spots about West Yellowstone.
  • A German journalist & a photographer representing Markische Allgemeine Zeitung, a large daily German newspaper.

Now then, with all this mutual back-scratching going on I wonder if what I read in, and hear from these commercial blogs, travel guides, TV stations, travel magazines, and tours is a product of journalism or just plain hype?

In the interest of full and honest disclosure, I have not received a bottle of water, free room, complimentary bicycle, free meal, discounted film, complimentary Internet connection, or any bribe or other compensation from the West Yellowstone Chamber of Commerce. Would that the entities above would disclose how much baksheesh they received.

At least I know that my site visitors are smart enough to take with a grain of salt anything that they read in a travel magazine or commercial blog.

Semper Fi, Redux

HAPPY FOURTH OF JULY

I hope this works. I’m sweltering in the hopper-laden meadows of Slough Creek. This post should appear at noon on July 4, 2007. I’ll find out when I get back. Have a safe and joyous celebration of our independence.

…..skyblu

skyblu tribute

Dinner In Yellowstone: 1908 – 1930

BOY, THE SWELLS HAD IT GOOD

The elite underpinnings of Yellowstone National Park are worth revisiting, if only for the nostalgic value and the lessons that can be learned.

Most visitors to Yellowstone in the early days expected that the best of contemporary civilization would be available – even in the wilderness. They demanded comforts and amenities commensurate with their station in life. The Railroads and concessionaires did their best to comply. They catered to the “upper crust” and the remunerations were commensurate with the amenities.

If you were wealthy enough to be at Lake Hotel in 1908 you would be able to enjoy the following dinner, (original spellings retained.)

Dinner:

Tomatoe Bouillon Sago
Potage a’la Maryland
__________

 

Dressed Lettuce, Sweet Gherkins,
Corn relish
__________

 

Baked Lake Trout a’la bordeleise,
pomme Louise
__________

 

Boiled Brisket of Beef, Fresh Horseradish Sauce
Boufalon Potatoes,
Lamb kidneys saute a’la Rachel,
Chocolate Cream Fritters,
Almond Sauce
__________

 

Roast Prime Ribs of Beef au Jus
Roast Leg of Pork with Apple Sauce
__________

 

Mashed Potatoes, Boiled New Potatoes
Carrotes a’la Vichy, French Green Peas
__________

 

Spanish Salade
__________

 

Pumpkin Pie, Apple Pie Sago, Pudding Cream Sauce,
Apricot Sherbert, Assorted Cakes
Imperiant Turkish Figs
__________

 

Eastern Cheese, Toasted Biscuits
Coffee, Cocoa, Tea, Milk

By 1930 elegance was rampant, and the dinner at Old Faithful Was a full seven courses: and a string quartet thrown in for good measure, (preceded by dinner music from the “crow’s nest.”)

Dinner was announced by the ringing of a bell in the lobby, and of course guests were expected to ‘dress.

No ‘walk-ins,’ no ‘general public,’ no decisions, no complaints, no waiting; just a perfectly planned and executed experience. (Original spellings retained.)

DINNER
Cream of Tomato, Salt Wafers
Consomme in Tasse, Melba Toast

Sweet Pickles, Radishes, Ripe Olives

———————–

Fried Filet of Sole with Tarter Sauce
Boiled Ham with Green Spinach
Broiled Sirloin Steak Maitre de Hotel
Compot of Rice with Fresh Fruit Sauce
Chicken Fricassee with Steamed Rice

————————–

Mashed Potatoes, Cauliflower au Graten,
Candied Sweet Potatoes,
Carrots Saute in Butter

——————–

 

Sliced Tomatoes French Dressing
Heart of Lettuce Salad 1000 Island Dressing

——————

Rolls
French, Raisin, Rye, and Wheat Bread

 

—————————–

Maple Cream Puffs, Hot Mince Pie,
Melba Peaches, Table Apples,
Chocolate Ice Cream,
Assorted Cookies

 

—————————
American, Swiss or Cottage Cheese, Crackers

Coffee, Postum, Tea, Milk, Iced Tea,
Cocoa, Demi Tassee

_______________________
Old Faithful Inn
Sunday, August 31, 1930
_____________________
Lectures by Ranger Naturalist on the Geysers, history,
bears, etc., at Bear Feeding Grounds at 7:00 p.m.: at
Museum at 8:15 p.m.

Searchlight on Old Faithful Geyser
Time announced in lobby.

I really like the “searchlight on Old Faithful Geyser,” bit. Now, that was dinner. A single sitting, come dressed, just the members of your own class, hotel guests only, enough wait staff to present a seven course meal, a bit of music, lecture by a pet ranger, feed Yogi, and a stroll on the veranda.

And a delicious evening was had by all.

=================

Touring Yellowstone: Early Adventures / Modern Patterns

THE STORIES WERE GRAND – AND DUSTY – AND DEADLY

In the beginning was the park and the park was with Grant and it was good. It was so good that escorted travel quickly became a desirable necessity for the visitors streaming to the wilderness on the grand tour of America. The journey became then, and now remains, the destination.

Simply walking, or riding a horse just didn’t cut it. Tours by stagecoach, surrey, buckboard, Tally Ho, and auto-stage became attractions in themselves. The guides were local cowboys, roust-a-bouts, trappers, poachers, panhandlers, and other locals that were without gainful employment at the moment.

From the “approved” to the “discouraged” it was possible to get a tour into Yellowstone. Just ask in Billings, Bozeman, Virginia City, or at any ranch in the area, accommodating guides could be found for a price.

Initially the explorations and touring were done on foot and horseback. Wagon trails and crude roads soon followed, (and that’s a story in itself.) Starting with the Hayden Expedition in 1871 the early exploration pattern was set. Large groups, and their attendant supplies, were carried around from base camp to base camp in order to explore local curiosities.

Soon rudimentary trails were followed to allow access, and then the roads. Visitors expected to be entertained between “the sights” and the rest is history.

The early wagons and stagecoaches provided little in the way of comfort, and the horses needed rest and recuperation. ‘Stops’ were established primarily at places that allowed for the preservation of the livestock. If you look at a contemporary map of Yellowstone you will note that the major place names or junctions are about a “day’s ride” apart. Makes good sense.

Of course camps, lodges, hotels, trinket shops, and other developments sprang up at these stage stops. By 1916, when the first automobiles were allowed into Yellowstone the roads and travel patterns had been set, and we’ve been adapting them to the motorized transport ever since.

A good case can be made for the depersonalization of Yellowstone by the early transportation patterns and guided tours. A better case can be made that road travel eliminates the splendor of the park and reduces it to a drive-through-postcard experience.

Early visitation practices persisted for great lengths of time, (many are still with us.) For instance, the “intimacy” with “nature” that was implied by feeding wildlife was an early practice that is still seen as an “innocent” activity.

Early on, the park officially fed bears; later everyone fed bears. In 1970 the park promulgated regulations forbidding the feeding of bears.

Well, girlfriend, it still happens. Currently it’s wolves. The Hayden pack’s alpha female is boorishly habituated and there is open ‘official speculation’ that visitors have fed her and other members of the pack. Coyotes, ground squirrels, marmots, birds, fish, otters, all are fair game for feeding. A persistent pattern in Yellowstone visitation.

How many visitors can a cowboy, gear jammer, poacher, trapper, guide, etc., entertain – and still make a buck? From the beginning it seems that the optimum number is between about 6 or 7 and 15 to 18.

The early stage coaches usually had this number, the White Motors Touring Limos hit this mark, and the contemporary vans do the same. Larger tour buses still lumber through the park but are not preferred by the visitors that can afford the smaller tours, (nor were the large numbers desired in yesteryear.)

Of course the fare is commensurate with the attention given the visitor. The fewer the costlier. The same is true today as it was in the days of yore. Even the picnic basket is hung off the rear.

Thankfully some patterns have disappeared. The robbery of stagecoach passengers is now conducted only by authorized park concessionaires, and not “Little” Gus Smitzer & George “Morphine Charlie” Reeb. The Nez Perce Haven’t killed any tourists since 1877, (brief story, timeline.) “Bushwhacking” is a practice that is discouraged by the trail system and the park personnel, yet it’s necessary to get to some of the remote features such as Plateau Falls, Union Falls, and the justly famous Fairyland Basin.

R.I.P. Rangers ?

A QUICK SAD NOTE

virtual-flyer.jpgI just saw a report in Yellowstone Park News about a virtual tour of Yellowstone Park. It noted that there was now a way to have a GPS gizmo in your car for “less than $50.” That’s just barely true. The price is $49.99 and the correct link to the site is Here.

The gizmo plays music and shows pictures and talks about the places on a map that are displayed on a touch screen. I’m not surprised that this is now available – I am surprised it took this long to get here.

There is a suggestion in the post that there will now be no need for rangers. I’d hate to see that, and I’d hate to think that a static spiel will attract customers to this venture. But, since we do love our recreation on a platter, and since it might keep the kids quiet, and since this is easy for the affluent, I suppose that it will become just another commercial money factory surrounding Yellowstone.

If you see a ranger in Yellowstone – take its picture. This vanishing breed will soon need the archival record that your photos can provide.

rip-ranger.jpg

Before I Rest

analysis COMPLETE, report PRINTED, boxes SHIPPED.

shipped.jpgWell, gals, the report is done and gone – HUZZAH! The staff is moving on to other projects, and I’m going to take a break.

Before I take a week or two off, (Mom’s coming here for Mother’s Day. We’ll go to Yellowstone – I’ll drive, she’ll pay,) there are a couple of things I need to say – as if I wouldn’t!

The stir and hubbub about raising fees to our National Parks is gaining attention in the media (Link, Link, Link.) This has been building since the “Fee Demonstration Program” was initiated about 11, or so years ago. Believe me, fees are going to continue to rise. There is no public outcry loud enough to stop them: it just makes a good story so it gets written.

One thing that is galling about the outcry is that it is a generalized and unfocused whine. It does not address the real costs of visiting parks – all of which are escalating at a pace that far outstrips inflation.

go-to-yellowstone.jpgYellowstone in the winter is an extreme example. Yet it does show that it’s not just park fees that are necessarily responsible for attendance figures. In fact, the Yellowstone case tests the conventional altruistic wisdom.

There has been no outcry about the way the National Park Service has forced the visiting public to spend exorbitant amounts of money to “enjoy the winter in Yellowstone.”

They have mandated that any person wishing to visit Old Faithful must pay no less than $100/day. And they have mandated that any person that wants to see the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone must pay an additional $100/day.

The very people that decry the petty increases of $5, or $10, or $20 for entrance fees at parks across the nation are blatantly silent about the gross and inappropriate monetary burden placed on the Yellowstone winter visitor.

The very people that whine about a few extra hydrocarbons in the air over Yellowstone, are afraid to mention that it now is a park not much cleaner and very much more expensive.

Interestingly, winter visitation figures for Yellowstone are showing a gradual upward trend, (watch the pollution figures climb as well.) This is not because the park is cleaner but rather, I suspect, because it is more exclusive. It is now attracting more affluent visitors. Visitors who can afford to spend their money on riding in a diesel bus in the warmth of splendor. Shielded, they are, from the very elements that they profess to adore.

poor-folks.jpgThis is the first step in a trend that Scott Silver calls a plan to DISNEYFY the parks.

Now that the “RIDES” cost more money, and now that the common people have been removed from underfoot, and now that exclusivity reigns, of course Yellowstone will attract more of the “right” people.

This injustice is certainly more offensive and obscene than a $15 fee increase. Where are the news sources decrying this injustice? Where are the bloggers pointing out this prostitution of our park system? Where are the activists that so sanctimoniously proclaim that the parks should be available to the common man? Where is Tom [“Really-Loves-Yellowstone”] Brokaw? You & I know exactly where they are – riding on a diesel powered bus, or an obsolete, unsafe, gas guzzling Bombardier. They don’t dare admit that they are just as happy that the guise of pollution has rid their beloved Yellowstone of the “little people.”

They certainly are not going to suggest that the very ranting that they have used to force commercialization is limiting access. They don’t dare suggest that a family of four can afford $800 for two days in Yellowstone, (plus $250/night for hotel.) Oops forgot about travel expenses, meals, souvenirs, gratuities, photos, etc. Is a two day visit to Yellowstone worth $2,800 to the average American Family of four – you bet it is, they just can’t afford it.

denali-ride.jpgThis condition is coming to all parks, even one near you. The Presidio is already long down this road, as is Denali. And as each park realizes that they can mandate tours in lieu of individual experiences – they will.

As each park unit discovers ways to allow concessionaires to take over NPS duties, they will. As each park unit manufactures unneeded services that can bring money to the trough, they will drink.

Just how many luxury hotels (with $500/night suites,) are needed in a national park? Just how many trinket stores constitute a “service” to the public? Just how many horse back rides, stagecoach rides, bicycle rentals, (with regulations and dedicated bicycle trails,) visitor centers, museums, (centralized or dispersed, or for the birds,) resource centers, paved pathways, parking lots, luxury diners & fast food emporia, etcetera ad infinitum, are justifiable as services? The NPS is busy selling the parks – or giving them to private interests as fast as they can. They call it ‘visitor services. They also call it a wilderness.

Americans, as a general rule, want their entertainment done to them: TV, MOVIES, TOUR BUSES, GUIDED EXPERIENCES, LUXURY SUITES, GLAMOROUS DINING, etc. This is what we’ve been sold, and this is what we expect. The USA is a capitalist place and capitalism rules the mindset of us all. After all; it can’t be good if it’s cheap, it must be good if rich people covet it. This is the American mindset, and it demands that the parks cost more – not less.

Even the the NPS believes that they should have expensive luxury and exclusivity. If you don’t believe it just call (307) 344-7381, and ask about the private, not open to the public, island facilities that the executive rangers use for their own enjoyment. Ask about the “White House” china service and the fancy catered meals. Ask where it is in the budget, while you’re at it. (Oh, planning retreat? – I get it!)

The NPS model flies in the face of our overriding cultural values. It suggests that the best things about our country can be had for bargain basement prices. It suggests that the government does amusement parks better than Disney. It’s time to change the model, or it’s time to change the culture. Go ahead pick your task.

Actually the Disney model is a better deal.

compare.gif

=========================

Question of the day:
Why are back country permits free?
Answer to the question:
There is no good answer!

In Yellowstone there are entrance permit fees, campground fees, photo permit fees, fishing permit fees, boating permit fees; but no hiking or back country camping permit fees. In the winter there are no snowshoe fees; and even though the park grooms ski trails there are no ski trail permit fees.

Did you know that if you bring your own horses, and weed-free fodder; you can take up five parking spaces with your rig, saddle up and ride in Yellowstone without a permit or a fee. Of course you didn’t know that; you can’t afford a horse, or a Hummer, or a six-horse trailer. Sad for you!

The NPS is missing a bet here. These kinds of activities could easily be taxed with ‘special user fees’ – this would defer costs of trail maintenance, back country signs, trail grooming, back country patrol and rescue, as well as toilet duty. In fact, very high fees would attract more elite visitors and generate more revenue.

We wonder where the righteous outcries will come from.

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