Video: One Day In Yosemite National Park

On June 26 of last year, 30 filmmakers descended on Yosemite National Park to take part in a very interesting project. They spread out across the park’s 761,000 acres in an effort to capture the essence of a single day in that iconic place. They shot footage of the landscapes, wildlife, visitors and staff. They managed to record images from that day that were both sprawling in scope as well as intimate and personal. And at the end of the day, everything they captured on film was turned over to Steven Bumgardner, the park’s official videographer, who compiled everything into the stunning short film that you’ll find below.

Ever wondered what a day in Yosemite is like? Watch the video and find out. Enjoy!

Revolutionary War battlefield of Saratoga to be excavated

One of the most important battlefields of the Revolutionary War is going to be excavated by archaeologists ahead of an EPA cleanup.

Back in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s, General Electric dumped polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into the Hudson River near Saratoga, New York. The dumping was banned in 1977 due to risks to public health, and the EPA has ordered GE to dredge up the affected silt from the river. Dredging destroys archaeological sites, though, and has already damaged Fort Edward, a British fort in the area dating to the mid 18th century. Archaeologists are working to excavate the stretch of river near Saratoga before the dredgers arrive.

Saratoga was on the frontier for much of the 18th century and played a large part in the French and Indian Wars (1755-1763) and the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). During the two battles of Saratoga in September and October of 1777, the American army stopped the British advance down the Hudson River Valley, then surrounded them and forced them to surrender. It was a major victory that led to the French coming into the war on the American side. French help was one of the deciding factors in an ultimate American victory, and the creation of the United States.

The Saratoga National Historical Park 9 miles south of Saratoga, New York, includes the battlefield, a visitor center, the restored country house of American General Philip Schuyler, a monument, and Victory Woods where the British surrendered on October 17, 1777.

Archaeologists hope to find artifacts from both wars and are currently looking for a British army camp.

[Image courtesy U.S. government]

Reminder: National Parks Week begins today

Despite the fact that it was nearly shut down by the budget crisis, National Parks Week kicks off today and will run through next Sunday, April 24th. In celebration, many parks in the system will host great events all week long, and all admission fees will be waived to the parks, and dozens of national monuments as well. To find a fee-free destination near you, click here.

Some of the special events scheduled to take place during Parks Week include a celebration of nature at NatureFest 2011 in the Congaree National Park, training junior rangers at the Explore, Learn Project in Shenandoah NP, and a birthday party for John Muir at the Muir Woods National Monument in California. Muir was an early proponent of the parks and instrumental in getting the U.S. Government to protect those lands.

In addition to the official park events, a number of affiliated organizations are also offering some great deals for visitors to the parks this week. For instance, the Grand Canyon Lodges are offering a “buy one, get one free” deal on their sunset tours of the West Rim, and there are discounts available on lodging near a variety of parks throughout the U.S. Click here to view a list of special offers and discounts that are available.

As for me, I’m heading to Joshua Tree to attend an event that is being sponsored by the National Parks Conservation Association and Nature Valley. I’ve never been to this particular park before, so I’m looking forward to the visit, during which I’ll be helping to preserve the habitat of the endangered desert tortoises that live there.

So? Do you have any plans to take advantage of National Parks Week? Where are you going?

New water bottle stations in Grand Canyon make park safer, more “green”

Stretching for 277 miles through the Arizona desert, the Grand Canyon is amongst the more impressive natural wonders you’ll ever see. It is over 6000 feet in depth and at its widest point, it is 18 miles across. Everything about the place is truly epic in scale, and that is why the park receives nearly 4.5 million visitors a year. But all those visitors can have an impact on the environment there, which is why the National Park Service recently took steps to protect the Canyon, while serving its visitors better at the same time.

A few weeks back the NPS completed the installation of nine water bottle stations in the park. Those stations, located in the highest traffic areas, will provide visitors with plenty of water while hiking in the canyon, which can be quite warm in many months of the year. Visitors are now encouraged to bring their own reusable water bottles or hydration packs, and refill often while on the trail.

Keeping visitors hydrated during hot days in the park was only one of the reasons these stations were installed however. The Park Service estimates that about 30% of all the waste removed from the park comes from plastic water bottles, and they are hoping that these filling stations will become a more viable option for hikers, while cutting down on litter and the use of plastics in general. The Park’s leadership has made a commitment to being more environmentally friendly, and they’re encouraging visitors to do the same.

Six of the water stations have been installed along the South Rim at Hermits Rest; the Bright Angel and South Kaibab Trailheads; the Canyon Village and Desert View Marketplaces; and
Grand Canyon, Verkamp’s and Desert View Visitor Centers. An additional three refilling stations have been installed along the North Rim at North Kaibab Trailhead, North Rim Visitor Center, and at the North Rim Backcountry Office. Two of those, the North Kaibab Trailhead and the North Rim Visitor Center are for seasonal use only, while all others provide access year round.

Considering how environmentally unfriendly plastic water bottles are, this is a great move for the Park Service. It is also a fantastic resource for travelers in the Grand Canyon as well. The hot, dry weather often surprises visitors to that park, and there are a high number of evacuations there each year for heat and dehydration related issues. Hopefully a readily available supply of water will help address that issue as well.

Nat Geo brings national parks maps to iPhone and iPad

National Geographic has launched a new iPhone and iPad app that is sure to please travelers visiting America’s national parks. The app offers detailed maps of 15 parks, providing information on places to camp, trails to hike, locations of shops and visitors center, and other points of interests.

The program is apply named National Park Maps HD and it comes preloaded with digital versions of Nat Geo’s excellent Trails Illustrated Maps. The parks that are included are amongst the most popular and beautiful in the entire national park system, attracting millions of visitors on a yearly basis.

Upon launching the app you’ll be presented with a map of the U.S. with a photo representing each of the parks. Simply tap on the park you would like to explore and a detaied map will appear with an overview of the region. Double tapping the screen will allow you to zoom in even closer, showing you all the roads, campsites, and various other points of interest. And if the default maps don’t have the detail you need, HD versions of each of the maps are also available to download inside the app, bringing the zoom levels up even further.

National Parks Maps HD also offers the ability to use your device’s built in assisted GPS to triangulate your location and there is even an in-app compass to help you find your way. You’ll also find an option to place virtual pins on the map to mark your own favorite places and the built in search function allows you to locate anything you’re looking for in the park. The amount of information at your fingertips is fantastic and a real benefit for travelers.

The list of parks included in the app are Acadia, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Glacier/Waterton, Grand Canyon, Grand Teton, Great Smoky Mountains, Mount Rainier, Olympic, Rocky Mountain, Sequoia/Kings Canyon, Shenandoah, Yellowstone, Yosemite and Zion. If you were to buy each of those maps in paper form, it would cost over $300.

The National Park Maps HD app is available now for $4.99. The universal app is a one time download that will work on both your iPhone and iPad. If you’re planning a trip to one of the above parks in the near future, this would make an excellent travel companion for sure.