Adventure Travel Wilderness and Hiking Trails Fees Rise

The good news for adventure travel and wilderness hiking trails is that the USA has protected some of the most unique and incredible places to see on earth. Our National, State Parks, Monuments and Wilderness Areas are awesome, but for years there have been reduced number of visitors. Many citizens have said that a four-year program to increase national parks entrance fees to make them more uniform may discourage some Americans from visiting their national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Zion and Yellowstone.

The National Parks have been faced with a budget crisis. The parks are struggling to protect the historic, cultural and natural resources that the parks were created for. The parks are short of funds for operating facilities, repairs to roads, bridges, trails and buildings. There was an 814 million dollar shortfall in 2006. There are almost 400 areas of protection covered by the National Parks Service. Almost every park has fewer full time employees now than in 2001, while there were over 273,000,000 visitors to the parks in 2005. The park service needs more funding to provide education, interpretive and for the safety requirements of their visitors. This is a time of controversy about park fees, current plans for oil, gas and mineral exploration in our parks and of course removing the O’Shaughnessy Dam to restore the Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite.

Recently the federal government has moved to replace the National Park Service’s $50 annual pass with a new $80 multi-agency pass. Some people think that the fee increases are getting out of line. The park service raised entrance fees at 34 parks over the past two years and plans to raise them at another 124 parks in 2008 and 2009. At Glacier National Park in Montana and Joshua Tree National Park in California, the fees will go up twice, and beginning in 2011, park officials plan to increase fees every three years, based on inflation. There is a proposal to double entrance fees next year at Crater Lake National Park, now $10 per car. Will it drive the local visitors away? In 1997, when the park service began raising fees, the number of national parks visitors has fallen 1% while entrance fee revenue has gone up almost 16%. Many of them are from outside the United States and love to visit the American protected lands.

Will the National Park Centennial Act to rescue our parks before 2016 – the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service? The acts purpose is to eliminate the annual operating deficit and maintenance backlog in the national parks. If it passed, it was to create a check off box on American tax returns to fund the parks. As H.R. 1124 and S 886 it did not get passed in 2006. In spring of 2006 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report about our National Parks based on research, to the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee that found that funding had not kept pace with need, requiring park managers to reduce services including, “reducing visitor center hours, educational programs, basic custodial duties, and law enforcement operations, such as back-country patrolling. Additionally, the park system has been forced to close campgrounds, shorten operating hours, eliminate many interpretive programs, lay off many seasonal rangers, and eliminate many of the parks’ scientific studies programs.

So where’s the good news? Being an outdoor writer and avid traveler to our parks and wilderness areas Bob Therrien, President of TrainingPASS Sales, Inc. has created an outdoor recreation message board, he commented “The hardest part over the years, for me has been the research about which parks, hikes, climbs, locations and activities I want to visit with my family and friends. Exploring federal then state website after site, then mapping the distance from each area of interest is inefficient and many times lacking in information. To solve that inefficiency we have collected all the basic information about our parks, wilderness areas and national monuments and put them into one website. I don’t personally have a problem with the new park fees. It cost’s me more to take my family to the movies, and I’d rather enjoy a full day or two at a place like Denali National Park.

The USA has incredible adventure travel wilderness and hiking trails. To promote these areas AdventureZoneTOURS created a forum for sharing trip reports on National Parks, State Parks, National Monuments and Wilderness Areas.

The Outdoor Adventure Message Board opens up to reveal a listing of U.S. States, separated into travel regions. Click on any state region and there are sub forums for all the parks, monuments and wilderness areas in that region. Many times there are several interesting choices to pick from within a state region. For the activity-specific minded, AdventureZoneTOURS.com encourages users to share trip reports for a variety of outdoor activities from hiking, climbing, canyoneering, geo exploring, photography, ghost towns, mines, and cave to water sports such as boating, fishing, jet and water skiing, tubing, rafting, and scuba. Winter travel sports such as snowmobiling, skiing and snowboarding are featured. Hunting locations, ATV and horseback trails as well as the most scenic areas for outdoor photography are also available as individual topic posts. To research or share your favorite adventure travel location, and to share and promote outdoors, join us today!

Go East Young Man! Traveling the Orient – Asia Adventure

After spending a summer serving in war-torn east Africa, where I slept in a tent for two of the three months I was there; I returned to the United States to embark upon a law education. Far less adventurous and for me difficult to be passionate about, I struggled my first year of law school. Though I passed the first semester of courses by the skin of my teeth, my grade point average was quite discouraging for someone thinking to make a career practicing law.

Thankfully, it took a few months for our second semester final exams to be graded and posted. I therefore in good faith pursued an international law internship and summer program at the University of Hong Kong. Situated atop lovely Victorian Peak, I dived deeper into academia and international law.

What was unique about those three months in Hong Kong during the summer of 1995 was that the British government was still ruling. Upon taking a trip to the high court, I saw Chinese judges wear white British style wigs. It was a funny and rare site to behold.

My passion in particular was helping oppressed people in forgotten nations where their human rights were being violated. Unfortunately I learned from my law professor in Hong Kong that international treaties to uphold human rights are rarely enforced by the United Nations or anyone else globally. For me that further diminished the relevance of international law and my interest in studying it.

In those days a particular religious group smuggled Bibles across from Hong Kong into Shenzhen, China. I was asked to participate, which I did. That day of smuggling Bibles was far more exciting than my entire summer buried in law books in Hong Kong.

Upon returning home after successfully completing my summer internship and academic program, I opened a disheartening letter from my law school encouraging me to withdraw based on my dismal grade point average.

Wondering what on earth I would now do with my life, when walking home to my Brooklyn Heights apartment I heard a voice. “Go east young man! Go east!”

Gripped by what I heard, I determined to go to Chinatown that week. Upon doing so I met a Chinese Pastor who immediately offered me a job to travel with him throughout Asia and be his English teacher. Without hesitation I happily accepted. Not long thereafter I found myself in Taipei, Taiwan.

Across the street from my new apartment was Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park honoring the revolutionary Chinese leader who established Taiwan governmentally. Suffering from jet lag the first week I was in Taiwan, I journeyed outside looking for some food when I discovered the lovely park across the street.

Many people were exercising, enjoying the cool morning air. Tai chi was a particular favorite, which I saw both men and when doing with the utmost concentration and precision. The Chinese internal martial art is frequently practiced for health and longevity. The slow and fluid movements facilitate internal harmony and oneness within.

Before the business day began, the raising of the national flag, along with a soldier salute occurred daily. It was a delight to be able to see and behold. Though I could not yet speak Mandarin, what I saw with my eyes captivated my heart and deposited a deep respect for Chinese culture.

By reason of my association with Pastor Ko and other reputable wise men, I soon became a highly sought out speaker. Others throughout Asia began hearing of me and invited me to their countries.

My trip to Burma was a somewhat covert operation considering where I was invited to speak was deemed a “blackout area” where foreigners were not permitted. Nevertheless after meeting my initial contact in Rangoon, we were able to exchange the problematic national currency and secure a domestic flight to the remote destination.

There was no electricity. I slept on a blow up mattress under a mosquito net, while large rats crawled overhead at night. We hung our meager supplies and fruit from a string to keep the rats from getting to them during the evening.

When I awoke in the morning, there were always some fresh rodent droppings on my mosquito net. Nevertheless I was happy to endure such light afflictions considering the tremendous response of the people when I spoke to them about personal empowerment and being a world-changer.

Since the Universities had been shut down across Burma, students did whatever they could to further their education and professional development. That is why they were so enthusiastic to hear me speak.

Historically student and monk peaceful protests in Burma were ended by brutality and killing. What troubled me most however was the lack of opportunity for bright youth throughout the country. Religious leaders from the monasteries begged for rice daily in the streets of Rangoon. Democracy would not be tolerated as those in power were determined to hold on as long as possible.

What touched my heart the most was the humility and hunger of young adults to draw near to foreigners to learn anything they could. Such a yearning for knowledge and self-development deeply moved my heart to commit to do all I can for the Burmese youth. I pray the freedom within the hearts of the youth and monks of Burma can somehow victoriously breakthrough and transform their beloved country.

Upon reaching my twenty-eight day limit on my visa in Burma, I was forced to leave the country. My next stop was Thailand, a lovely country with much sexual perversion.

Never in my life had I seen such open prostitution as I had in Bangkok and Phuket. Prostitutes and transvestites freely approached people on the streets soliciting payment for sexual favors. Commonly ladies and “lady-boys” approached me uttering obscenities and selling services.

The U.S. Navy and Marines arrived in Phuket happy to party and take in some extracurricular activities. A few service men made friends with local girls. I can only imagine how many drunk foreigners wake up in the morning only to find they’ve slept with a transvestite.

Beyond the vice of prostitution, Thailand overall is a lovely place to vacation and visit. The food is fantastic. The people are friendly. The beaches are superb. Among the islands I visited were Krabi and Phee-Phee, the latter hit the hardest by the tsunamis.

A European restaurant owner told me stories of Burmese young ladies who had been kidnapped or promised work at upscale resorts. Once the Burmese girls were brought to the cities, their passports were taken and they were forcibly subjected to prostitution. I was informed that once the young ladies get HIV or some sexual disease, they are taken back to the Burmese border, given a fatal injection, and left to die.

Such human rights violations are rarely fought considering the limited economic opportunities in Burma. It is said even along the northeast region of Thailand families sell their own daughters into prostitution to make money.

Though I saw many beautiful young ladies, I managed to happily restrain myself. I was not interested in catching any sexual diseases, which I was told was quite common throughout Thailand.

I journeyed further south when I received an invitation to speak in Penang, Malaysia. Immediately upon entering Malaysia I could sense there was a stronger governmental hand upon the land. I found the Muslims in Malaysia to be very friendly and respectful.

My greatest adventure was traveling to East Malaysia, where I spoke in several poor villages. The precious people were very superstitious, practicing various voodoo like observances I had only before seen in Haiti. Some claimed they were harassed and troubled by demon spirits. Hence I spoke on the importance of guarding your heart, personal purity, and living fearlessly.

The villagers were overjoyed to have me as their guest and cooked innumerable dishes for me to sample. Their poverty by no means hindered their gracious hospitality, neither their generosity. I shall never forget the tenderness of heart the Malaysians showed me.

One unexpected visitor that showed up in a modest home where I stayed was a monkey. During the outbreak of Japanese encephalitis when the military was slaughtering all of the pigs, many were concerned about other animals contracting the virus. Thankfully we never fell ill with the disease and carried on through the outbreak unharmed.

While in East Malaysia (the island of Bornea), an invitation came to speak in Brunei. This small and oil rich nation didn’t have much to do socially at night, but the people were all very polite and industrious. Shell Oil and other petroleum contractors frequented the small country to do business.

What surprised me the most was to see over seventy people jam packed within a small house to hear me speak. The event was hosted by a Christian fellowship that legally was not permitted to meet publicly.

When I inquired further as to the laws of Brunei, I was told that only the Catholics and Anglicans are legally authorized to conduct Christian ceremonies. Brunei does not permit other religious groups to have churches or schools.

It was then I realized how priceless the freedom of thought and expression is, without which there can be no democracy or just government to serve the people. Such sacred freedoms we in the West so commonly take for granted are greatly cherished and only wished for abroad in such nations as Brunei.
Though Brunei has a prospering economy, it is a “dry country” meaning no liquor is sold in the country. Certainly forbidding the use of alcohol has its benefits. There are no drunk driving incidents to endanger people with, neither excessive substance abuse. As one who does not drink myself, such restrictions had no bearing upon me.

Nevertheless as a world traveler touring Asia, the laws of Brunei that restrict religion and consumption were very noticeable. On a more fun note, the free theme park the sultan constructed for all to happily use in the center of the country was a blast! Children and adults of all ages make merry and enjoy it very much! It is my hope the sultan’s generosity will extend over into social freedoms for the people of Brunei.

Upon leaving Brunei we were off to Jakarta, Indonesia. As a surfer Indonesia, the world’s largest archipelago, quickly became my favorite country in Asia. Considering I didn’t have much money to travel on, the inexpensive hotels and minimal cost of living made Indonesia very comfortable for me.

Even better the people were very generous. Wherever I spoke I always left with more money than I came in with. Upon going to get a hair cut at the salon, I was presently surprised to discover reflexology. Foot massage is very popular throughout Indonesia and only costs about $5 to $10 depending on where you go.

After a good workout at the hotel health club, I even managed to get a full body massage lasting one hour for just $10 to $15 USD. I suddenly felt like a king, though I was living on a pauper’s budget.

While traveling to different areas of Jakarta, my taxi driver pointed out to me a former hotel which had been bombed during the riots a few years ago. The building was utterly destroyed. I was told that Islamic terrorists had blown it up in anticipation of President Clinton and other Americans being there.

I learned about the May riots in which Chinese businessmen were also targeted by Muslim extremists who vandalized their homes and sought to kill them. Like clockwork every May, Chinese would leave the country fearing for their lives.

It seems the Chinese living within Indonesia made the locals jealous. Their business acumen and astute intellect provoked struggling Indonesians.

Nevertheless the same opportunities exist for all throughout Indonesia. Yet many people were easily aroused by the protestation calling for violence. Sadly many died over the years as a result.

I fell deeply in love with Indonesia and returned numerous times. I particularly remember my time speaking in East Timor during the war in 2000, before the United Nations granted them national sovereignty. It was a time of hardship and unrest, as war killed many innocent people. Thankfully Timor Leste, as it is now called, is a land dwelling in peace.

When the tsunamis swept through the island of Sumatra, I was moved with compassion to find my way to Banda Aceh. The longtime renegade province of Indonesia had historically killed dissidents and religious leaders of other faiths. Eventually the leaders of Banda Aceh forbid international aid workers altogether.

That all changed when Banda Aceh and the bordering towns were devastated by the tsunamis. International aid workers from around the globe were suddenly greeted with open arms, waving hands, and smiling faces.

I met men who had lost up to five children and their wives in a single day. One Muslim man told me he cried for two months straight.

Endeavoring to do what I could with what little finances I had, we helped a Muslim young man rebuild his home. His home had been leveled by the tsunamis and he washed to the top of a nearby mountain when the waves swept through.

It was nothing short of a miracle that those alive survived. As they all pulled together to rebuild their homes, bureaucratic delays from the government impeded progress. Nevertheless many proceeded to build with or without authorization.

Other allegations later surfaced that corrupt governmental officials nationally and locally were pocketing charitable contributions and not getting them to those most in need. Such corruption is widespread throughout Indonesia as is evident by the poor and faulty infrastructure across the country.

Bribery sadly is commonplace. Even more troubling was the drug epidemic I witnessed among the youth, many of whom use ecstasy. It is said some 15,000 youth die annually from ecstasy overdose.

The island of Java also has its problems with prostitution. Not something you would expect from an Islamic government.

The Bali bombings during which discos were set on fire and tourists killed sent fear throughout the tourism industry. As the economy took a nosedive, the Indonesian government and police quickly responded to terrorist elements seeking to thwart national stability.

The dangers of terrorists remain throughout isolated areas of Indonesia, as one never knows when a radical may strike. Overall Indonesia however is very peaceable, polite, and warm toward foreigners.

I often felt like a movie star everywhere I went in Indonesia as people shouted at me with joy hoping to get a wave or smile in return.

The sweetness and sincerity of the people stole my heart. Though I am an American born citizen, I left my heart in Asia. Every chance I get, I happily and wholeheartedly return to the continent where two-thirds of the world’s populace lives.

Here at home in America I survive, but afar in the east I thrive! Asia is where my heart comes alive!

Alaska’s Kenai Fjords National Park

The Kenai Fjords National Park is located in the southern part of Alaska in the United States. Like many other national parks and protected areas of Alaska, Kenai Fjords national Park was established under the Treaty “Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Acts” in December 1980. The Document was signed by then President Jimmy Carter. The Kenai Fjords National Park has a coastline of 966 kilometers and is 2690 square kilometers in size, which makes it the smallest National Park of Alaska.

The Kenai Fjords National Park is located in the southeastern part of the Kenai Peninsula and is a part of the Pacific Mountains. Approximately 65 percent of the Harding Ice Fields are located in the Kenai Fjords National Park. In Addition it’s home to many fjords, islands and peninsulas of the Kenai coast. The Harding Ice Field is a remnant of the ice age, a leftover from the ice surface during the Pleistocene. The Harding Ice Fields is a source of a further 30 glaciers and together they cover an area of approximately 700 square miles. The nearly flat surface interrupted by isolated peaks, are called “nunataks” by the Eskimos, which translated to “solitary peak”. Numerous small glaciers are coming from the ice field, some extend to the sea and others end up in the lakes. Along the coast, many glaciers have carved deep bays in the hilly coastline any many deep fjords emerged. The heavy vegetation of the rain forests covers the heights of the cliffs and grows about 200 feet above the ocean. The coastal area has a rich marine life with seals, sea lions, sea otters and whales. A large number of birds inhabit the cliffs during the summer. Big salmon groups are in abundance here, as well as tons of different shell animals.

The park is located about 100 miles south of Anchorage and is accessible by car, train or airplane. There are several hiking trails, which start at the ranger station at Exit Glacier. The most popular trail is a half mile long trek that leads directly to the glacier. There visitors can see into the caves beneath the glacier and listen to the sound of the glacier. There is also an approximately three miles long trail over the Harding Ice Field, but spending the night in the National Park is prohibited, so this is only for the fit. Student groups have significantly improved the hiking trails over the past four years.