10 Things You Didn’t Know About The Idaho Backcountry Where Hannah Anderson Was Found

A 16 year old named Hannah Anderson was abducted by a family friend last week in a series of events that left both her mother and brother dead. Her saga began in Southern California and ended far away, in the wilderness of Idaho, when she was rescued by FBI agents over the weekend. Anderson’s abductor, James Lee DiMaggio, had fled to one of the most remote areas in the United States, the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness. The protected area is a beautiful place, but few people know much about it. In an effort to give you a clearer picture of this northern area that is relished by outdoors enthusiasts, here are some facts about the Frank Church River Of No Return Wilderness.

  1. It’s the second largest protected wilderness in the contiguous United States.
  2. It’s the largest area without any roads in the contiguous United States.
  3. The wilderness stretches across six different national forests.
  4. The wilderness was renamed after Senator Frank Church after he had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer because of his efforts to protect the environment while in Congress. President Reagan signed the act less than four weeks before Church’s death.
  5. The diverse mix of wildlife found within the area includes wolverines, grey wolves, mountain lions, mountain goats, elk and lynx.
  6. It is the home of the Salmon River, a popular whitewater rafting spot.
  7. Despite the myriad bodies of water within the area, only 10 inches or so of precipitation fall annually near the rivers while as much as 50 inches accumulate near the mountaintops, usually in the form of snow.
  8. There are 296 trails throughout the area.
  9. There are 114 bridges within the area.
  10. There are 1.5 million acres of trail-free land within the wilderness.

Wilderness Search for Kidnap Suspect and Girl

Tourists Amazed By Serengeti Wildebeest Calving

wildebeest, Serengeti
February is a special time on the Serengeti. Right now its population of some 1.5 million wildebeests are giving birth to an estimated 8,000 calves a day, the Tanzania Daily News reports.

The East African nation has seen some 16,500 tourists come to watch the event in Serengeti National Park, including 5,800 domestic visitors who are part of a growing African middle class that’s boosting tourism across the continent.

This mass calving happens every year. All the pregnant wildebeests give birth within the same period of a few weeks, a process called “synchronized calving.” The animals give birth while standing up or even moving around, and wildebeest calves are walking within a couple of minutes. Once all the pregnant wildebeest have calved, the whole herd heads out.

These adaptations help protect the calves from predators. You can bet that hyenas, lions and other sharp-toothed critters are flocking to the area along with the tourists. Wildebeests are also hunted by humans to make a kind of jerky called biltong. This is legal in some parts of Africa although, of course, not in the park. One Tanzanian scientist estimated that half the calves will get eaten or die from other causes during the wildebeest’s 600-mile migration.

[Photo courtesy user zheem via Flickr]

America’s baddest badlands

badlands, Death Valley
One of the greatest things about the United States is its environmental diversity. From towering forests of pine to sun-hammered deserts, from snowy peaks to steaming swamps, this nation has it all.

Some of the most compelling places are also the harshest. Take this view of the sand dunes of Death Valley, taken by talented photographer John Bruckman. This is the worst part of the Mojave Desert–lower, hotter, and drier than any other spot in the country, yet it has a subtle beauty this image captures so well. With the majority of us living in cities or suburbs, these open, empty spaces call out to us.

They certainly do to me. When I moved from the leafy upstate New York to southern Arizona for university, I discovered what people really mean when they talk about America’s wide open spaces. They set you free, and they can kill you if you’re not prepared, yet somehow their deadliness only adds to the feeling of freedom.

America’s badlands remind us that life can cling to even the bleakest of landscapes, that the empty places can sometimes be those most worth visiting.

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Petrified Forest National Park expands by 26,000 acres

Petrified Forest National Park
The Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona just got bigger to the tune of 26,000 acres.

After years of negotiation, the National Park Service bought the land from a ranching family, the Daily Democrat reports. This land had been enveloped by the park when it expanded from 93,500 acres to 218,500 acres in 2004.

The park is famous for its colorful petrified trees scattered across the landscape. The scenery is equally colorful, with rugged hills striated with differently hued stone.

Since the new acquisition is remote ranching land closed to visitors, it should prove a treasure trove to archaeologists and paleontologists. Traces of prehistoric Native Americans, such as arrowheads and petroglyphs (rock art) are common finds in the park, and many dinosaur bones have also been found. Scientists get first dibs on the area, so it will be at least a few years before it opens to the public.

[Photo courtesy the Petrified Forest Ranger, who has an amazing photostream on flickr]

Kelty Gunnison 2.1 tent giveaway

Last week we reviewed the Kelty Gunnison 2.1 tent. This versatile back woods shelter works equally well at a full-service campground as it does on a lightweight backpacking excursion. We’re hooking-up one lucky Gadling reader with a Gunnison 2.1 of their own. That’s right, it’s time for a tent upgrade.

The Gunnison 2.1 is a two-person shelter that sets up quickly, and keeps occupants dry in heavy downpours. With camping season in full swing, there’s no better time to win some new outdoor digs.

HOW TO WIN:

  • To enter, simply leave a comment below telling us your favorite camping spot.
  • The comment must be left before Friday September 3, 2010 at 5pm Eastern time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • One winner will be selected in a random drawing.
  • The winner will receive one free Kelty Gunnison 2.1 tent.
  • Open to legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia who are 18 and older.
  • The tent is valued at $189.95
  • Click here for complete Official Rules.