Isaac Babcock, and his new wife Bjornen, made a decision to spend the first year of their married life on an unusual honeymoon. They decided to spend the year living and filming a documentary in Idaho’s Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness which focuses mostly on wolves but also on the other amazing wildlife and landscapes found there.

B88 of the Chamberlain Basin Pack, credit - Isaac Babcock 2002

B88 of the Chamberlain Basin Pack, credit - Isaac Babcock 2002

They lugged around a hefty, but adequate, camera to film wolves, dippers, otters, bighorn sheep, elk, bluebirds, salmon and other wildlife and captured some amazing footage from very remote parts of the wilderness. They endured some real hardship to make this very good episode of Nature on PBS.

Isaac is a former member of the Nez Perce wolf recovery team and has been involved with Idaho wolves for a long time. I first crossed paths with him while we were both searching out the Buffalo Ridge Pack of wolves near Clayton, Idaho back in 2003. During the winters he had off, and since he left the Nez Perce Tribe wolf program, he has spent a lot of time filming in places like Idaho and Yellowstone. Some of his previous footage has been used in programs like Outdoor Idaho.

Some Idaho residents, like myself, may have seen this documentary when it was premiered during IPTV’s fund drive but April 18 will be the premier for the rest of the country.

Watch River of No Return on PBS. See more from Nature.

Watch a Preview of River of No Return | Nature | PBS.

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About The Author

Ken Cole

Ken Cole, Buffalo Field Campaign‘s Executive Director, is a 5th generation Idahoan, an avid fly fisherman, wildlife enthusiast, and photographer. He was formerly the Idaho Director for Western Watersheds Project.

87 Responses to “River of No Return” Premiers on PBS’ Nature Tonight

  1. One of the very few instances in life when I wished I had TV.

  2. avatar Salle says:

    That’s really great to hear, I’ve been wondering where he’d gone off to.

    Among his long list of talents, Isaac has always been an exceptional photographer as far as I have ever known, this should be really good.

    Thanks for the heads up, Ken.

    • avatar Salle says:

      Oops. Ralph, I thought I saw Ken’s name at the top of the post, my mistake!

      Linda Jo, after a time it will likely be available in its entirety online. We’ll get to see it eventually… unless I can convince a friend with a TV to watch it with me.

  3. avatar Doryfun says:

    Yes, did see it already. Great footage, only a good amount of dedicated time can get. Took a few notes. Some interesting points challenging a few “what we thought we knew” type things. A worth it, for sure.

  4. avatar Jeff says:

    I watched on Idaho PBS last month, very interesting.

  5. avatar matt bullard says:

    I was traipsing around Clayton in 2003 looking for those same wolves. Never saw them, nor did I bump into you or Isaac. But I did get some good photos of their very fresh prints in the mud. Looking forward to seeing this…

    • avatar Ken Cole says:

      I think I saw those wolves on at least 50 occasions over the years I was there. Had them howling all around me and even called one to within 20 yards.

      • avatar Salle says:

        Ken,

        I remember the day I stopped by that study area you were working and saw all those tracks. What really made the day for me, regarding that visit, was that I was standing in a place where I could be absolutely certain those wolves had been shortly before… and that you could confirm it was true. That pack had a following of a sort due to the challenges of their management issues. I was glad to see for myself where they had been hanging out. I wouldn’t have traveled that way if you hadn’t been working there.

      • avatar Louise Kane says:

        did these wolves survive this year? I hope so

  6. avatar Mike says:

    Wow, awesome. Thanks for the heads up.

  7. avatar Lesly says:

    Watched this in Idaho PBS about a month ago. Amazing story, neat couple, and great photography. Made me want to visit the area.

  8. avatar Caryl Brown says:

    I am so excited about the upcoming NATURE documentary on The River of No Return Wilderness, airing April 18, 2012. I always watch the Nature programs on PBS, but this episode will be especially important to me because my son Patrick Brown was involved to some extent in the adventure, since he is a Wilderness Ranger in The River of No Return Wilderness. After college in the ’90s Patrick left the sunny South and followed his bliss to Idaho. He found his life’s work and his life partner, Amber Kostoff. They are in fact getting married there on August 25, 2012, and they live and work together, similar to the couple in the film. I miss him and I know he won’t return to his (former) home except to visit, but that’s OK because he is the happiest man I’ve ever known, in large part attributable to his life in The River of No Return Wilderness.

    • avatar IDhiker says:

      Caryl,

      Would this be the same “Amber” that worked at Cabin Creek a couple years ago?

      • avatar Caryl Brown says:

        Dear Idhiker, Yep, that is she. Amber and Patrick worked together at Cabin Creek and elsewhere in The River of No Return Wilderness, and are now engaged. A wonderful love story from the Wilderness. Amber is my future, beautiful daughter-in-law, I’m proud to say!

  9. avatar IDhiker says:

    While I was doing an archaeological survey for the Payette National Forest, I was fortunate to meet Isaac and Bjornen at the Taylor Research Station (Big Creek) while they were doing the filming. I couldn’t believe the size of the camera (“hefty, but adequate”) they were “lugging” around.

  10. avatar Mike says:

    Let me say how lucky you folks are to have this kind of resource within a short drive.

    I would do anything to be this close to such wilderness. From Chicago, it is literally five hours to the nearest roadless area (north woods), and they are under 20,000 acres and have been logged in the past, and are mostly bogs in many cases with little elevation change.

    To get to the “good stuff” it’s about 6-7 hours (Sylvania Wilderness, Porcupine Mountains, McCormick wilderness, Trap Hills, Huron Mountains, Isle Royale) and ten hours for the “big daddy”, the BWCAW.

    I often dream about having even a 20,000 acre mountain park with three hours, this monolith on the horizon of corn, complete with lakes, streams, pines, and waterfalls.

    I get my fill by touring the west every year in August and September (sometimes pushing into October). I tent most of the time in the national forests and parks. But to get to my favorite campsite in the Gallatin National Forest is is twenty-two hours of driving.

    I’d be thrilled and blown-away to have a place like Lassen Volcanic National Park within three hours, which is why I’m trying to get my tail to Northern California permanently.

    • avatar Elk275 says:

      Mike, which campground in the Gallatin National Forest is your favorite? On the Boulder River? Twenty-two hour drive, it is a 15 minute drive from my house to the Gallatin National Forest-sorry my child.

      • avatar Mike says:

        Oh, there are many fine campgrounds in the Gallatin, almost every one superior to any campground in Yellowstone. The same goes for the scenery. 🙂

    • avatar sleepy says:

      Mike, I certainly know your feelings.

      Having grown up in the New Orleans area, there were certainly remote uninhabited areas around, but unfortunately laced with oil service industry canals.

      Other than that, the nearest “wilderness areas” were small acreage remnants in northern Arkansas or eastern Tennessee, a good 8-10 hours away.

      I now live in northern Iowa, so MN’s superior national forest is a “mere” 5 hrs. north, and the BCWA perhaps 6 or 7.

      Thank god for small blessings, I guess.

  11. avatar Louise Kane says:

    Is this wilderness area protected from hunting and trapping?

    • avatar Mike says:

      No, sadly. Most USFS wilderness areas allow both.

      • avatar Pam says:

        I don’t think there is anything “sad” about being able to hunt in the wilderness. The animals there are managed in the same way that animals are managed for the rest of the state – with their best interests in mind. Animals move around, there isn’t a fence around the wilderness. Why would we treat them any differently? That being said, those deep in the wilderness are best protected by their location because their are fewer hunters due to accessibility and the increasing laziness of our species. The animals in the FCRNRW are doing just fine.

  12. avatar Wolf Moderate says:

    Not allowing hunting/trapping in these areas would be a sure-fire way to ensure that no other proposed wilderness areas are ever enacted. No citations needed.

  13. avatar Matt Bullard says:

    Of course, those are Wilderness areas within National Parks.

  14. avatar Debra K says:

    Saw it last night in McCall; the Babcocks were kind enough to show it locally before its national debut. Kudos to them for enduring many hardships and perserving financially on a shoestring to make it.

    The turnout for the McCall showing was overwhelming, standing room only, and even included a Valley County Commissioner. I saw him at another Frank Church Wilderness-related event–maybe finally an appreciation that wilderness can also mean jobs and revenue for a community?

    Excellent footage of wolves and other wildlife. I especially appreciated the focus on dippers and other small creatures often overlooked.

    Made me proud to live in Idaho for the first time in a long time. Can’t wait for my backpacking trips into the Frank later this year.

    • avatar Kelly Miller says:

      Last night I saw the premier of River of No Return & am still aglow with the photography, admiration for the Babcocks, the wilderness and wildness that they captured. This film is personal, human, and humorous. They admittedly only scratched the surface of what we know as the Frank Church wilderness area, but what they did & what they saw is incredible. Please watch PBS Wednesday night for the debut. It is beautiful!

  15. avatar rork says:

    I’ve done the Frank Church twice with my brother, perhaps 9 days each time, north of the Salmon. Both times we met only one other group, and both times they were scientists and surprised to see “ordinary” backpackers. They would then grill us about fish or trees we had seen.
    I was impressed by the number of cougars, and honored to see them, though I was jerking my head around allot when we walked below the many low rock benches. Seeing overturned 600 pound boulders also gave pause, but we failed to meet grizzles. We were fastidious about hoisting our packs way off the ground though. First time (perhaps 1988, I was a baby) it was smoky as hell, and we once saw fire on the slopes above us (just Ponderosa though). Our car had notes all over it to get out. The mule deer cannot be trusted – they will steal your socks off a tent line even if you are standing 20 feet away. Many elk and moose, the sheds we found were way too big to pack out. There was evidence of elk hunters using horses for access in the fall, but these filthy alien animals (the horses, not the hunters) can only get certain places, as stories of the sheep-eater wars attest.
    Fire looks to be very important to the landscape and the number of different types of land seemed determined by how often and when last it burned there (it’s chicken and egg though). It also made me sad – as elsewhere, only the most difficult “useless” land is protected, and I wished I could have seen intact richer landscapes too, with big-pickle trees abundant (that may be more common south of the Salmon, on the north slopes, or near the Selway – never been there).
    I recall asking a ranger what the super-common lilly blooming in the mountains was, and it took 10 minutes for him to finally teach me I was talking about bear grass.
    Oh, there are Boletus edulis (cepe, porcini, steinpilz) where the unopened button stages already weigh about 1 pound – I won’t say in exactly what situations. We were predominantly there to fish and walk the country.
    It’s perhaps my favorite place yet, maybe cause it’s so hospitable compared to the other wildernesses I’ve been too, where you can walk through treeless rock or snow for days (I only know Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Washington).

    Where I now live (Michigan) the conservation clubs and hunters are essentially anti-wilderness. They are concerned with easy access using cars, RVs, or snow machines, and do not care that our young people (and plants and animals) deserve to have places that are a mile, or a day, from the damn road and the fat asses. They are simply not familiar with any pro-wilderness or multiple use ideas, and only want “freedom” to do whatever they want everywhere. Forest service recently downgraded 14 roadless areas. This was paraded as a victory over anti-hunters. (PS: I kill many white-tails.)

    • avatar Mike says:

      ++Where I now live (Michigan) the conservation clubs and hunters are essentially anti-wilderness. They are concerned with easy access using cars, RVs, or snow machines, and do not care that our young people (and plants and animals) deserve to have places that are a mile, or a day, from the damn road and the fat asses. ++

      This is the majority opinion amongst hunters, I find.

      ++They are simply not familiar with any pro-wilderness or multiple use ideas, and only want “freedom” to do whatever they want everywhere. Forest service recently downgraded 14 roadless areas. This was paraded as a victory over anti-hunters. (PS: I kill many white-tails.)++

      These are the hunters that have been “Ted Nugent-ized”. Misinformation is the #1 problem in that community.

      You are a rare breed.

  16. avatar DB says:

    Regarding hunting in wilderness, specifically the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness: there would be no FCRNRW if it were not for a group of activists, primarily sportsman in Boise, who formed the River of No Return Wilderness Council in the early 1970s. Ted Trueblood, perhaps the country’s foremost hunting and fishing writer, was the Council’s president. Former governor and Secretary of Interior Cece Andrus, an avid hunter, also influenced Frank Church to push for the full 2.3 million acre wilderness proposal in congress.

    • avatar Mike says:

      ++Regarding hunting in wilderness, specifically the Frank Church River of No Return Wilderness: there would be no FCRNRW if it were not for a group of activists, primarily sportsman in Boise, who formed the River of No Return Wilderness Council in the early 1970s. Ted Trueblood, perhaps the country’s foremost hunting and fishing writer, was the Council’s president. Former governor and Secretary of Interior Cece Andrus, an avid hunter, also influenced Frank Church to push for the full 2.3 million acre wilderness proposal in congress.++

      Frank Church, well before this, was the senate floor sponsor of the 1964 Wilderness Act. He also introduced the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act in 1968. These were the essential building blocks for the wilderness.

      Frank Church did not hunt or fish. He was a progressive Democrat and attended Harvard.

  17. avatar Rob says:

    This is my idea of a perfect life.

  18. avatar Ken Cole says:

    I hope lots of people got to see the show. I watched it again for the third time and it makes me long for the times I have spent in many of the places they visited.

    I was fortunate enough to get to spend several week long stints at the Taylor Ranch and I really enjoyed the wildlife watching. I got to stay in the cabin that they showed in the film which is one of several on the ranch. I even rode in the same plane they showed.

    While there I saw wolves, elk, deer, bighorn sheep, and even a bobcat stalking cottontail rabbits just right out the back door.

  19. avatar timz says:

    It was a very good show, just a little two short, could have watched that stuff for a couple hours. Having been to a couple of those spots several years ago certainly made me want to plan a return trip.

  20. avatar Valerie Bittner says:

    What a sweet healing “tonic” to sustain us through our unceasing fight to restore the wolves to all of the places they belong — beyond the incomprehensibly beautiful Frank.

    Watching those spectacular pups at the beginning, tumbling about in their joyous moments of play, free for the time-being from fear, sociopathic killers, and IDFG’s political double-speak (I wonder if IDFG’s decision-makers had the guts to watch the film?) brought me close to tears.

    Kudos to the film-makers for their countless hours to bring us that up-close footage.

  21. avatar jdubya says:

    Very nice film.. Thanks for the warning it was on!

    • avatar Tom says:

      Saw Radioactive Wolves last year on PBS. Haunting, yet beautiful. Gotta give it to the researchers in Chernobyl’s exclusion zone, or “dead zone”, that’s one of the last places on this earth I would want to be in for any length of time.

  22. avatar rork says:

    Did they even mention the dams on the Snake, or tell much about there being essentially no salmon in the Salmon.

    They whitewashed the inholdings – they should be bought out. They make large areas of the wilderness that are near them places that I don’t want to go, defacto making it much smaller. Flying over or into wilderness is an abomination, legal or not.

  23. avatar Virginia says:

    I watched “River of No Return” last night and wished that it was a two hour program. I felt bad for Bjornen as I think she said she has rheumatoid arthritis. Kudos to her for taking that trip. What a beautiful place and what an awesome experience for them! I was really wishing I was with them. I enjoyed the focus on all of the wildlife.

  24. avatar Kayla says:

    It was a Great Show!!! Now if anyone wants to see this or see this again, it can also always be seen at the PBS – Nature Website on the web I do believe.

  25. avatar George Meredith MD says:

    Thing I like about Issac Babcock’s photography is that it is not staged. Babcock obviousaly spent hundreds of hours waiting for some of these shots…..cf the old Mutual of Ohama which released half starved bobcats to chase half starved cotton tail rabbits.

    How about the cow elk protecting her crippled sister from a wolf pack. And the white tail in the iced over creek finally falling prey to the ever patient wolves. And the relocation of the wolves with their small pups. Youb just can’t fake these things!

    Finally, Smokey the Bear needs to rewrite his script…burned over conifer forests are wildlife meccas, not the biological deserts that Smokey portrayed!

    To learn about marshland restoration Search:
    George Meredith MD marshland restoration

  26. avatar Donna Wiedrich says:

    I enjoyed this documentary but there really wasn’t a lot of wolf footage. I wonder why? Oh but according to Tony McDermott Idaho has 1200 – 1600 wolves right? I emailed Tony (and copied Virgil Moore) shortly after the March 21 public forum in Boise and asked him to share the source of his data and pointed out that his own biologist stated a much lower number as well as his own website. Haven’t heard a peep. I assume he didn’t respond to Ken Cole’s letter either. What a corrupt bunch they are.

    • avatar Ken Cole says:

      No, he never did respond to my letter. And, when I asked one of the higher ups in IDFG about it he punted and quickly turned to talk to someone else.

  27. avatar Nin says:

    Has anyone ever checked that lady for Lyme Disease. I believe that she has it, not rheumatoid arthritis. It has become the fastest growing vector borne illness in the country and anyone spending any time at all out of doors needs to be educated about it.
    The standard “titer” test is totally unreliable and a Western Blot from a reputable lab should be used, but it is actually diagnosed clinically.

    • avatar Melanie says:

      Oh my gosh wouldn’t that be terrific. And lime disease can be cured but RA is a tough one. We need to make sure she knows this might be a possibilty! And what a wonderful film. Thankyou for your great efforts to bring to us such wonderful rare moments.

      • avatar Jane says:

        I posted the same thing before I saw yours, Nin. ILADS believes Lyme and coinfections to be underlying cause of many autoimmune diseases including RA. And sadly, chronic lyme is almost impossible to cure, but it can be managed.

  28. avatar April says:

    I turned the tv on mid-broadcast as they were watching the salmon at the end of the lifecycle and Bjornen was lamenting about her pain. I didn’t hear her say what the diagnosis was but as soon as she said “the pain jumps around” I thought–she has Lyme!

    I have it. I only know because I was bit by a tick and watched for symptoms. I had two negative tests locally while my Western Blot from a specialized lab in California called iGenex found a positive.

    RA is a common misdiagnosis. Untreated, Lyme can debilitate and even kill.

    Clearly Bjornen is a nature enthusiast. Only 50% of Lyme patients recall a tick bite. Certainly she could have had one at not known it.

    I hope she gets info on Lyme from someone. You need a specialist– not a run of the mill dr.

    • avatar Mike says:

      Yeah if you’re getting serious RA type symptoms at a young age and you’re an outdoor lover, it’s a good bet you’ve got lyme.

      Well said April about the specialist. You need a lyme literate doctor. Even many infectious disease docs are not up to date on the condition. Med school students spend very, very little time on lyme. It’s almost meaningless, actually. What you need is someone who keeps up with all the latest news, studies, and other information. Many docs simply give up on that and of course they become useless for treating lyme.

      You can “get it under control”, only to have it cross into your CNS by breaking the blood-brain-barrier years later and ruin your life. I would seek a lyme literate doctor immediately if an outdoor lover and experiencing weird symptoms. Go to lymenet.org, the “medical questions” forum, and ask for a doctor nearest your location. They are few and far between. The users will PM you the location of effective doctors.

  29. avatar Roco says:

    Echo the lyme comments……Get checked. It seems quite likely given her symptoms.

  30. avatar Ken Cole says:

    I’m not sure why so many people are trying to diagnose Bjornen’s health problems by watching a television show. I’ve received emails and there have been several comments to this blog about it.

    I understand the concern and I’m sure people are being thoughtful, but, according to the interview that I saw with them, she now has her condition under control.

    There is an interview with them that you can watch here: http://idahoptv.org/dialogue/diaShowPage.cfm?KeyNo=1324&versionID=234337

    • avatar Wolf Moderate says:

      How would you study and view predators if they were not allowed to hunt in areas such as “White Mountain National Forest in NH and Cape Cod National Seashore in MA, among other places”? What do you propose to do with the excess deer that would certainly occur due to the lack of human predators? Just allow “nature” to take its course, allowing disease to slowly kill off the herds, allowing way for the good old boom-n-bust cycles? Seems that human hunting these days can and often is the most ethical tool to control “wild game” populations. Like it or not, there are 7+ billion people on earth, humans can/have/are the grand puppet master, when it comes to wildlife.

      Or would you rather have more predators in areas close to human civilization that would “naturally” cull the ungulate herds? What happens when one child dies by a coyote in NH? It would be back to the way it is now. My point is that hunting is a renewable resource, treat it as such. Use the funds that are brought in by sportsmen to purchase more lands or restore habitat, which would be much better for the coyotes, “coy wolves”, and wolves anyhow. Could you imagine what ecosystems could be restored if agencies weren’t tied up in litigation, using valuable money and personnel hours on fighting often times frivolous lawsuits for years and sometimes decades?

      “IF there was no hunting/trapping and moose and other wildlife were more visible.”

      Just playing devil’s advocate, but don’t you think that the anti-wolfers have the exact same view as your above quote when it pertains to apex predators? It’s a proven fact that ungulates no longer spend as much time in open spaces and riparian areas due to wolves in the NRM. Hence the regrowth of aspens in Yellowstone among other things that are touted here often.

      • avatar Jon Way says:

        I’m saying that systems are fundamentally different where human hunting isn’t involved and animals (including both predator and prey) are allowed to determine outcomes without humans involved with high tech weapons.

        I have no problems looking in different places for elk when I am in Yellowstone b.c wolves have moved (and killed) them out of low lying (vulnerable) areas. I would rather get that wild feeling of non-human intervention then driving into a game farm like you seem to imply. Again, I am talking about relatively small areas, esp in the NE….

        And your comment about coyotes or whatever animal killing a child in NH b.c of no human hunting makes no sense. You sound more like a politician in Idaho then have any reality of knowledge of coyotes, etc. If there were no hunting in these places you would still have many more dangers than being attacked by predators, which would rather feed on the overpopulated deer that you mention.

    • avatar Marion says:

      Hi Ken,
      I don’t think that people are trying to diagnose Bjornen’s health problems, they are aware that many times Lyme’s disease is misdiagnosed and mistreated. The arthritis of Lyme disease can look like many other types of inflammatory arthritis and can become chronic when it is misdiagnosed for too long.
      I was misdiagnosed and if not for many people’s (some stranger’s) concern and thoughtfulness, I would still be struggling with the RA that I was diagnosed with.
      I have tried to searching for a blog/ website to contact Bjornen myself and have not been able to find her . Would you please consider sharing the emails/ blog comments about the Lyme’s information with Bjornen and let her decide whether she wants to further investigate Lyme’s, question her current diagnosis and the possibility that she was misdiagnosed and find a Lyme Literate Doctor. She is so young and has many years of living to live. If those years could be disease and pain free, what a difference it would make in her life. Thank you Thank you and please think about sharing this info.

  31. avatar Jon Way says:

    I just watched the program and thought it was great. I wonder how IDFG responds to the fact that wolves in ID make it to the worldwide screen yet are being slaughtered in that state. It was well written and designed…

    I wish there was a footnote for how wolves are currently being treated there… Also, I agree with Mike with the thread above that it really is unfortunate that there aren’t other non-hunted areas outside of national parks. Whenever I go to White Mountain National Forest in NH and Cape Cod National Seashore in MA, among other places, I think what amazing places these could be IF there was no hunting/trapping and moose and other wildlife were more visible.

    • avatar louise kane says:

      I just got this notice…if you want to keep hunting out of national parks, or most of them,make sure to call your senators.

      “On Tuesday, April 17, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Sportsmen’s Heritage Act, which as drafted, could allow much of the National Park System to be opened to hunting and recreational shooting. The bill included language that purports to exclude national parks and national monuments from hunting and recreational shooting, but is so poorly drafted that it could result in hunting being permitted in national parks, like Yellowstone and the Great Smoky Mountains [Learn More]. In addition, it ignores the many designations of “national park unit” that also do not allow hunting, such as national historical park, national military park, national memorial, etc. Now that the bill has moved over to the Senate, its advocates are working aggressively to get it to the Senate floor. It is essential that the bill include a genuine exclusion for the National Park System that does not change current law.”

    • avatar Mike says:

      Jon –

      I agree. I often get goosebumps when I enter national parks, and not just for the scenery. For here, I know the animals are finally left alone. I know I won’t find traffic signs shot up by hicks, or shotgun shells, nor hear the annoying sound of gunshots as I’m trying to enjoy nature.

      National Parks are very special places, and you’ll find that the lack of hunting reduces the riff-raff substantially.

      • avatar Ralph Maughan says:

        Mike,

        I love national parks too, but your second paragraph certainly is smug.

        • avatar Mike says:

          Ralph –

          I get paid to make those observations, and people ask me things such as that quite often. Safety and comfortable campsites are at the top of the list.

          Families don’t want to camp next to guys pounding beers and shooting stuff. There is a significant drop-off in riff-raff when entering a NP across the board.

          Certain types know the behavior they can get away with in national forests (shooting road signs, running off-trail on an ATV, poaching, pinning paper bulls eyes to living trees, disobeying fishing regulations, heavy drinking, etc).

          Generally campground rules are a bit tighter, sometimes enforced in national parks. No one is dragging the Weber deck grill form their house to a campsite in the back of their pickup, either.

          While national forest campgrounds are often less busy (and I do prefer that), this often comes at a price. Most of the rule-breaking I witness and note is from locals. Drunkenness, running ATV’s in dry grass meadows during fire II stage restrictions, fights, wild shooting, you name it. It all comes down to education and self-awareness. The rangers for the most part are a buffer to those who lack these attributes, while in the national forest, it’s Boys Gone Wild.

      • avatar Wolf Moderate says:

        Interesting perspective. Personally I view National Parks as sterilized environments. A bunch of yuppies wearing Patagonia attire, staying in campgrounds with showers, water, and electricity. That isn’t nature. That is an amusement park.

        Also, it is only for the rich, or at the very least upper-middle class. $20 (6 years ago) to enter Yosemite? Of course that’s not counting up all the other costs involved with visiting these National Parks. I agree with you about National Parks keeping the Riff Raff out, if you are talking about lower class individuals and inner city kids due to the exorbitant costs associated with visiting these areas.

        • avatar Jon Way says:

          Wolf Moderate,
          the upper class in national parks??? I think the exact opposite. A family can spend a week in a park for $25 and don’t need anything special other than a tent and items you would use for any other outdoor activity. Even driving to many of them is an affordable family vacation.

          Remember in most places the yuppies that you refer to are in a small fraction of most large parks with 90+ % being backcountry, essentially wilderness areas.

          • avatar Mike says:

            ++Wolf Moderate,
            the upper class in national parks??? I think the exact opposite. A family can spend a week in a park for $25 and don’t need anything special other than a tent and items you would use for any other outdoor activity. Even driving to many of them is an affordable family vacation.++

            True. There is one thing I have an issue with, and that is the price of the campgrounds in national parks (and in concessionaire-run national forest campgrounds, which are often unfriendly). In many it’s $20+ a night, which is absurd for any campground. A week spent at Bridge Bay in Yellowstone can cost you $140.

            There should definitely be a tiered pricing scale, not only for those entering the parks but those camping. Park-friendly vehicles such as Prius’s and gas sipping cars should receive a considerable discount. I think it’s ridiculous that an RV pulling a hummer pays the same as a couple in a Prius. What kind of example does that set? Of course the RV is going to use far more resources such as electric and sewer, not to mention suck down more gas and spew more emissions that directly contribute to the the loss of whitebark pine, among other things.

            ++Remember in most places the yuppies that you refer to are in a small fraction of most large parks with 90+ % being backcountry, essentially wilderness areas.++

            Yuppies (I’m not sure what everyone’s definition is, but I’m assuming decently-dressed white people in Honda’s and Subaru’s) are by far the most well-behaved people I run into when filming campgrounds and national forests. Sure, not all of them are ideal, but they seem to offer a bit more self-awareness as to the noise they make, and the condition of their campground. They slip in and slip out, camping often in a minimalistic style and the toys they bring are usually human-powered like kayaks, rafts, canoes, and bikes. They mostly drive vehicles that are friendlier to the park, and like I said above they practice a minimalistic style of camping, which increases the enjoyment of the park for everyone.

            • avatar Dan says:

              “There should definitely be a tiered pricing scale, not only for those entering the parks but those camping. Park-friendly vehicles such as Prius’s and gas sipping cars should receive a considerable discount. I think it’s ridiculous that an RV pulling a hummer pays the same as a couple in a Prius.”

              Yeah, I agree it’s ridiculous the Prius and the RV are not paying the same rates. The Prius is sticking it to the rest of us because he’s not paying his fair share of road taxes. The Federal-Aid Highway Act collects 18.4 cents per gallon of gas to build and maintain the roads in this country. The roads that people are taking to these National Parks.
              So Prius guy is complaining about my kids riding around the campground screaming, yelling and having fun on their bikes because a RV allows lots of room for bikes and that’s what kids do, while I’m subsidizing Prius guy because I’m paying ten times the road taxes he does.

        • avatar Mike says:

          ++Interesting perspective. Personally I view National Parks as sterilized environments. A bunch of yuppies wearing Patagonia attire, staying in campgrounds with showers, water, and electricity. That isn’t nature. That is an amusement park.++

          Most NP campgrounds don’t have showers or electricity. Sure, there are a bunch, but it’s not the norm.

          Yellowstone is probably the worst example. Most of the campgrounds are, for all intents and purposes, terrible. The design is poor, the layouts poor, enforcement of generator hours is non-existent, they are loud, crowded,and so forth.

          But,they are enforced well when it comes to public drunkenness and questionable behavior. You can’t walk from your site and start discharging a firearm into the woods, which is quite nice. Johnny Lead can’t set up a shooting gallery just into the bushes, either,and believe me that’s the thing I get asked about most – drunks with guns.

          There are certain parks with incredible campgrounds and wild experiences while car camping. Grand Teton has a great tent-only campground called Jenny Lake. Glacier has some exceptional remote car campgrounds such as Kintla and Bowman. Redwood National Park is a real sleeper here, too.

          ++Also, it is only for the rich, or at the very least upper-middle class. $20 (6 years ago) to enter Yosemite? Of course that’s not counting up all the other costs involved with visiting these National Parks. I agree with you about National Parks keeping the Riff Raff out, if you are talking about lower class individuals and inner city kids due to the exorbitant costs associated with visiting these areas.++

          Actually most inner city kids visit the parks by group tours. Visitation is way up across all demographics.

          I don’t think it’s the price that keeps riff-raff out, but rather the rule set and perceived enforcement. Many offenders I see in national park campgrounds have toys and gas-guzzling, climate change-unfriendly vehicles such as pickups and SUV’s. If they can fill these toys with gas they can afford a $20 entrance fee. The problem is they can’t go Boys Gone Wild in the national park, and that’s what they’re up there for, to rip up alpine meadows, to splash mud, to speed through the woods, to drink, and too shoot stuff, living or not. There’s a great sense of perceived freedom of getting blasted on Seagram’s 7, riding your ATV illegally, and pulling over and shooting things that make a “neat” target. Seen it many times.

          • avatar louise kane says:

            “Many offenders I see in national park campgrounds have toys and gas-guzzling, climate change-unfriendly vehicles such as pickups and SUV’s. If they can fill these toys with gas they can afford a $20 entrance fee. The problem is they can’t go Boys Gone Wild in the national park, and that’s what they’re up there for, to rip up alpine meadows, to splash mud, to speed through the woods, to drink, and too shoot stuff, living or not. There’s a great sense of perceived freedom of getting blasted on Seagram’s 7, riding your ATV illegally, and pulling over and shooting things that make a “neat” target.” I have also seen similar offensive behavior and its not coming from the yuppie environmentalists. Most of my friends that hike and camp, including myself walk in and out whether day hiking or backpacking, and use non powered toys and are respectful of the wildlife and wilderness. good points Mike

          • avatar Nancy says:

            Interesting Mike.

            Was at a friend’s yesteday when a trio of vehicles (luxury car, big truck pulling a 5th wheel and another truck pulling a flatbed trailer, loaded with 4-wheelers) pulled up to the curb next to her house.

            Noticed the man had gotten out and was wandering around in the street so I opened the door, stepped out and asked if he was lost. He laughed and said “No, I just look that way. We’re on our way down to Lima to shoot us some gophers” Then the lady with him, called their dog (who’d been busy pissing in a neighbor’s front yard) back to the 5th wheel, they then loaded up and left.

            Ahhh, tourist season has begun 🙂

            • avatar louise kane says:

              a sad thing that people can go to the wilderness, woods, or anywhere expressly for killing something and that’s their idea of fun, and its legal. I feel so fortunate when I am able to take a hiking trip and so much more when I see wildlife. Once when staying at the red river lodge and doing day hiking in in the flaming gorge area, a friend and I heard some crackling. She looked behind us and we saw a huge herd of elk. We sat back to back quietly without making any noise. The elk came pretty close maybe 50 feet from us surrounding us. We sat there until dusk when something spooked them and they took off. It was an amazing experience. One of those life affirming, its so good to be alive moments. I wonder how people can watch a live animal and the first thing that comes to their mind is to kill it. I always feel amazed to see any wild animal whether an opposum, elk, antelope, coyote or raccoon, even rabbit. There are so few of them and so many of us. And too many with bad “toys and guns.

            • avatar WM says:

              Louise,

              You do realize, of course, that even those of us who hunt for food find those same experiences as you, most fulfilling. Hunting for deer, elk, antelope and other ungulates occurs only about two or three months of the year, and for an individual hunter depending on the tag purchased may only be able to hunt a couple of weeks beginning in early fall (up to a month or a bit more in some states).

              And, as for those raccoons or opossum, which you seem to think are rare, just look along the roadside. Both are to some extent, nocturnal, and opossum are usually solitary, which is why you don’t see them so much, nor do the motorists who hit them on the roads. Raccoons, in my experience, are prolific and sometimes pesky. We have big old buck (also called a boar) raccoon that visits our fenced yard frequently and has killed neighbors’ cats, and I live in a city of 500,000 people. There is no shortage of raccoons or opossum anywhere, to my knowledge.

            • avatar JEFF E says:

              I can almost hear the violin music over the traffic noise.

            • avatar WM says:

              Jeff E.,

              LOL. I have not always lived in the city, and do not now by choice (it is a spouse thing). I can even hear sea lions with regularity above the traffic noise and the violins. And, of course, can be in ONP, Rainer NP, or North Cascades NP in about two hours, or in other non-NP Wilderness in about the same time. Then, there is, of course the symphony and those violins not far away.

              Darn, but I have an older SUV too(actually two including the Subaru), as well, since it snows on the passes around here, and one gets about 20 mpg (13 in town), the other 24 mpg.

            • avatar JEFF E says:

              WM,
              Ya, where I live if I go out to the road and turn left I am in the hills in ~5 min. If I turn right I am headed into town ~5 min. I always seem to be turning left for some reason. I leave the violin music and the traffic noise behind.

          • avatar JB says:

            “Many offenders I see in national park campgrounds have toys and gas-guzzling, climate change-unfriendly vehicles such as pickups and SUV’s.”

            I’ve been to YNP and GTNP many times, always (except for once) in an SUV. My wife and I still own the same SUV, which is now 11 years old. It gets >20 MPG, has only once carried a firearm, and has been used on countless trips to parks and NFs. As a father of a three year old and owner of a large-breed dog, the small SUV is ideal for those that like to camp, backpack, and get off the beaten path from time to time. 🙂

            • avatar louise kane says:

              Wm is it ever possible for you to say anything to me that is not condescending, shitty or pedantic?

              “And, as for those raccoons or opossum, which you seem to think are rare….”

              What I said was” I always feel amazed to see any wild animal whether an opposum, elk, antelope, coyote or raccoon, even rabbit.”

              Wild animals whether, rare of not, are all unique and seeing animals in their habitats never cease to thrill me. Because humans kill them or drive them away when they are inconvenient and destroy their habitats and displace them for malls, roads and human dwellings makes it all the more remarkable to see them.

              what exactly was your point?

            • avatar Mike says:

              I have family members who own SUV’s. Customers, friends you name it. And they hear about it whenever I see them in it.

              I’ve seen people at the top of Dunraven Pass in Yellowstone letting their Ford Expeditions idle and say “aw” as the naturalist explains that the bears are losing their main food source in whitebark pine….

            • avatar Mike says:

              Louise –

              Those of us who have the empathy gene understand that all life has value. 😉

  32. avatar Ken Cole says:

    The full episode is now available online.

    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/episodes/river-of-no-return/full-episode/7648/

    The IPTV Dialogue program where they are interviewed

  33. avatar Lisa Thomaschek says:

    I got to see it last night. Very cool!!

  34. avatar Jane says:

    Loved the doc. Spent many happy summers (70’s) backpacking in those areas (Salmon, Snake, Clark Fork etc). So glad it is protected and that the wolves and eagles are back.

    Bjornen, please get tested for Lyme and other tic-borne diseases. I contracted it on a trip to the Wind Rivers 8 years ago and your symptoms are similar. Check into herbal protocols… much better than Western meds. Samento, etc. Cowden and Byron White for starters.

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‎"At some point we must draw a line across the ground of our home and our being, drive a spear into the land and say to the bulldozers, earthmovers, government and corporations, “thus far and no further.” If we do not, we shall later feel, instead of pride, the regret of Thoreau, that good but overly-bookish man, who wrote, near the end of his life, “If I repent of anything it is likely to be my good behaviour."

~ Edward Abbey

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