A Brief Story of Wilderness Areas in the U.S.

I read an article on National Geographic’s website that was a good short read about the Wilderness Act and wilderness areas. I particularly liked some of the quotes:

“In truth, ‘Wilderness’ is a state of mind and heart” is how photographer Ansel Adams once put it. “Very little exists now in actuality.”

And that actually means that ‘Wilderness’ is even more important now that ever. Lots of thanks to Aldo Leopold, the early conservationists, and President Johnson for putting the Wilderness Act in place in 1964.

50 Years of Wilderness

Great Articles on MO State Parks

When I picked up this week’s the Edge, a local weekly magazine, I saw a great cover with some nice colorful outdoor scenes and it showed one article inside was titled “Hiking in Missouri” so I knew I’d be reading through these. The Edge does a good job including a lot of outdoor activities in its pages, with local parks and such, so I often page through checking for those anyway. In this issue I came across two great articles by the Missouri Division of Tourism’s Scott McCullough. I had to post about them here since I thought they were very well done.

Lake Wappapello State Park
Courtesy of the Missouri Division of Tourism

I subsequently found these articles on visitmo.com so I could link them. The titles are slightly different in the Edge. The first was “Camping Around Missouri’s Lakes”, or “Lakeside camping at its best” that included info about lots of lakes and state parks I didn’t know much about, but would be something for a person to check out for sure if they were interested in camping, fishing, boating, kayaking, picnicking, swimming, etc. Hiking and even backpacking were mentioned for some including Lake Wappapello in the Ozarks.

Missouri Trails

Hawn State Park, Ste. Genevieve
Courtesy of the Missouri Division of Tourism

The second article was what I was really after, titled “Hiking And Biking Trails Are Abundant” at visitmo and “Missouri a trail lovers dream” by the Edge. Lots of parks were mentioned, some I’ve been to such as Castlewood State Park, several I’ve heard of, but also some I hadn’t heard of yet. These were from all around the state. I didn’t realize Missouri was given the title “Best Trails State” in 2013 by American Trails, a national nonprofit devoted to hiking, biking, and riding trails. This is due to the state’s contributions to promoting and improving its trails. Parks mentioned here included Ha Ha Tonka State Park, Weston Bend State Park, Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, Castlewood State Park, Big Oak Tree State Park, Lake Wappapello State Park, Finger Lakes State Park, Thousand Hills State Park, Roger Pryor Pioneer Backcountry, Big Sugar Creek State Park, Watkins Mill State Park, and the Katy Trail which is the longest rails-to-trails trail in the U.S.

I will definitely have to check some of these places out.

Hawn State Park, River Aux Vases
Courtesy of the Missouri Division of Tourism

Possibly More Recognition on the way for Cahokia Mounds

This is neat news for Cahokia Mounds and the amazing historical and archaeological sites of mounds all around St. Louis. In the radio hour they spoke about finding a site with evidence of 5,000 huts during the new bridge construction. They believe that was just 10% of the newly-found site. I think the State of Illinois has done a great job, and I hope they continue support in the future. But I also see great benefit to having some national recognition and a special designation for Cahokia Mounds and nearby related sites with the National Park Service.

Monk's Mound at Cahokia MoundsI recommend playing the audio at the link below with the “Listen” thing under the second paragraph.

“Efforts Underway To Enhance National Designation Of Cahokia Mounds”

I’ve been to Cahokia Mounds many times and really enjoy the place. You can imagine the thriving city that was there and with a large network of communities around it and feel the history.

Here’s a day hike report from there.


Yellowstone Adventures

Mammoth Hot SpringsIn September we spent about a week and a half in Yellowstone, staying in West Yellowstone, MT, and taking trips in the park every day. We had a fantastic time. Here are some photos on Picasa and below are some interesting highlights:

  • Drove 3,800 miles. Went over Teton Pass.
  • Drove the Beartooth Highway, wow! “the most beautiful drive in America”.
  • Hit many of the amazing sights in Yellowstone National Park – too numerous to list.
  • Slept in the car with 3 people one night (least comfortable car sleeping experience yet).
  • Tent camped one night and had a great campfire (with dead and down wood only!).
  • Day hiked 8 miles in the northwestern part of the park near Mt. Holmes and the Gallatin Range – rested in the hammocks and cooked lunch.
  • Buffalo, ospreys, elk, mule deer, red fox, giant obese cat with 2 thumbs on each paw … no bear or wolf but we skipped a couple crowds that might have seen one of the two in Hayden Valley.
  • Walked through a warm steam bath on a cold rainy day around huge hot spring pools of Midway Geyser Basin.
  • Were faced down by giant bull elks in rut season twice in the night, one time saved by a ranger using his patrol car as a shield.
  • Saw incredible stars you wouldn’t think possible.

Ansel Adams Wilderness Hike Write-up Is Up

Post Peak Pass, between Ansel Adams Wilderness and YosemiteWe covered some fantastic terrain in this 2007 trip to Ansel Adams Wilderness, with a brief between-passes bit of trail within Yosemite National Park. I’ve gotten the trip report up now. There are some beautiful lakes in this area on the eastern edge of southern Cathedral Range, which has some stunning peaks itself.  Plus there were great views of the other surrounding mountains including the Ritter Range and Clark Range. We spent four days on trail here and it was an outstanding adventure in the Sierra.

Paddling the Boundary Waters – REI Talk

Great spot to park a canoe, in Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
Credit: flickr user rit1981

Brad and I went to a talk at REI about the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) in northern Minnesota, part of the Superior National Forest. The speaker was a great guy named Jerry, retired teacher, that had been going up there for many years and actually first went there when he was a kid with his dad. I took crazy mental notes since I’d love to go there for a future trip and there was a handout so I’ll put here as much as I remember.

It was some great info. The Boundary Waters is his favorite place on Earth, one of the most beautiful places he says. The Wilderness Area is 1.1 million acres and the adjoining Quetico Park in Canada is 1.2 million acres. There are over 1,200 miles of canoe trails. I included the recommended equipment checklist that Jerry handed out at the very bottom.


They require permits for everyone going in, $16/person. They have a limited availability and reservations open up a certain time of year (forgot but probably early spring). Summer is the popular season and it may be difficult to get a permit for the popular entry points. However, during other times of the year they are pretty easy to get for any entry point and even during the high season it’s not too difficult if you are flexible on the entry point.

Camp sites

He said there are over 2,000 permanent camp sites with fire rings and “thrones”. The “thrones” are up beyond the camp site somewhere and have no cover. I guess they are thorough about having these since everything is close to the water. Fires are allowed in grates only. Some places there are no fires allowed due to all the dead-fall from wind storms.

The topography of the area and lakes are part of the Canadian Shield which is bedrock that has been scraped and scoured by glaciers many times over thousands of years. So the ground is mostly granite rock. This means you need a free-standing tent because tent staking is likely not possible. I didn’t ask if some anchor bags would work, maybe possible. But my tent isn’t free-standing so it might not work. Continue reading

Great Panorama Stitcher – Microsoft Research’s ICE

Best panorama stitching software I have found and now use is Microsoft Research’s ICE (Image Composite Editor). It’s extremely simple to use, has good quality results, and has all the options I need. It’s free, but it’s only available for Windows.

Microsoft Research’s ICE (Image Composite Editor)

I have had 2 cameras that each came with Arcsoft’s PanoramaMaker, I think version 3 and 4. I remember having to set the stitch points often in PanoramaMaker 3 but 4 was a little simpler. However, I compared the resulting stitched images made with both and found that the newer version made somewhat worse quality images! What do I mean by worse quality? I looked closely at the resulting images and one gave more fuzzed and less sharp results than the other. That was unacceptable so it left me wanting to find something better. They are up to version 6 now but I haven’t tried it.

I searched for an open source alternative. I found Hugin http://hugin.sourceforge.net/ and briefly tried that. It worked well and it has a lot of options but left a lot to be desired for the usability I was looking for.

Microsoft ICE Panorama Stitcher Features

Ever since I came across Microsoft’s ICE and tried it, I have been completely happy with it. Throw the photos in (just drag them in, nice), wait a few seconds, and you have a panorama. Don’t worry about the correct order, it finds it. Then you can do auto-crop, scale, and export as you like. It’s just a few buttons. And the resulting image quality is good from my testing.

Microsoft ICE panorama stitcher
Microsoft ICE panorama stitcher

Many cameras and smartphones now have automatic panorama stitching. I don’t have a camera like that so I’m not sure how those compare, and my phone has that ability but I have no illusions about the photo quality compared to my real camera. So if you’re in the same boat as me, you should give ICE a try.