The Best and Worst of 2016 | A Year in the Outdoors


Author: Steven Shaw
Date: 12.30.16

Goodbye 2016 and hello 2017. While we are looking forward to all the new adventures the new year will bring, 2016 was a year to remember in the outdoors. It was full of triumphs and tragedies that will live on in legend… both good and bad.

Here’s a look at our best and worst of the year in the outdoors...

Best is this a good idea? ... Limiting visitors in Yellowstone

Limiting visitors in Yellowstone is again being tossed around as an idea to alleviate congestion in the park. If you’ve ever visited the park in July or August you will clearly understand. While more than 4 million people visit the park each year, it feels like roughly 3,999,999 people crowd in during the busy summer months. The insane amount of people has made it all but impossible for park rangers to ensure wildlife is not harrassed and the park’s resources are not damaged.  Still there are critics and rightfully so. This is a debate that is sure to rage on in 2017.

Best random State Park (at least for most of us) … Amicalola Falls State Park

Amicalola Falls State Park is located in north central Georgia. While fairly famous in Georgia, it’s largely unknown outside of the peach state. The park’s main attraction is the 729 foot Amicalola Falls, which is the highest in Georgia. The park is also home to the trail that leads to Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail. Another truly unique feature of the park is the Len Foote Hike Inn.  The “Hike Inn” should be taken quite literally, everyone who stays at this rustic hotel in the park must first hike 5 miles into the building.  

Best #TwitterChat … #HikerChat

Friday, 10 AM mst. #HikerChat is a staple in the outdoors community on Twitter. The hour long chat hosted by Teton Sports is a great place to meet new like minded folks from around the world.     

Best we hope you don't disappear … Woodland Caribou

Woodland Caribou have all but disappeared from the Lower 48. There is allegedly a small herd that crosses the border on occasion from British Columbia and roams the Selkirk mountains near Bonners Ferry, Idaho and the Kootenai National Wildlife Refuge. However, we’ve been up there at least a half dozen times hoping to spot them and have not had any luck, nor has anyone else we’ve spoken with. Better luck near year we hope.

Best reason to go to Canada … Free Parks all year long

Is there a prettier place in the world than Banff? We could argue yes, but we would certainly not disagree if someone said no. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Canada becoming a country, the government is allowing anyone to visit Canada’s wonderful national parks for free in 2017. Speaking as someone who just recently did a loop through Revelstoke, Glacier, Yoho, Banff, Jasper and Kootenay National Parks, words simply cannot do justice to how truly spectacular these treasures are. This year hit the road, stop at Tim Horton’s and then hit the trail up north.

Best well that's awesome … Yosemite gets bigger

2016 saw Yosemite National Park get its largest expansion in nearly 70 years. The Trust for Public Land and the Yosemite Conservancy, with support from the National Park Trust and American Rivers organizations, purchased the roughly 400-acre Ackerson Meadow, along the western boundary of the park. A little perspective, 400 acres is about the size of 300 football fields. Read More...

Best knock it the hell off … Rock stacking

Rock stacking… This is sure to spark debate. Pointless making of cairns has become an epidemic in wildlands around the country. Cairns have a purpose for route finding, 100 of them next to each other is simply blight. We go to the woods, the desert and the mountains to connect with nature. In our view, endless stacks of rocks are a clear violation of Leave No Trace Principles.

Best National Park you've never visited … Mammoth Cave

Everyone goes to the Smokies, Yosemite and Yellowstone on vacation, but very few go out of their way to visit Mammoth Cave National Park. Mammoth Cave is located in Kentucky and has so much to offer! Obviously, the cave, which is the longest known cave system in the world is amazing. The park service offers daily tours. Above ground, the park offers many things as well. Mammoth Cave hiking trails weave across the park and through nearly as much biodiversity as the Great Smoky Mountains. 

Best technology in parks … Lassen sandbox

This year the National Park Service installed an “augmented reality” sandbox in Lassen Volcanic's Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center. The super cool sandbox allows visitors to turn the sand into sweet topographic maps.  

Best trail angel … A.T. lightning strike survivor seeks her trail angel

Mollyann Hart was struck by lighnting on the Appalachian Trail near Washington Monument State Park in rural Maryland. For well over a year she has been looking for a mysterious “trail angel” who took off running to call for help. So far she has yet to find this person. Read Mollyann’s full story about being struck by lightning along on AT right here.    

Best example of corporate greed … Delaware North Trademarks

To us the newly minted “The Majestic Yosemite Hotel” will always be The Ahwahnee. Earlier this year the National Park Service was forced to change the names of several iconic landmarks in Yosemite National Park over potential trademark infringement issues with DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, a subsidiary of the Delaware North Companies. It should be noted Delaware North lost the contract in Yosemite, then pulled the trademark card. Read More...     

Best I didn't see that coming … Sierra Club calls founder “unabashed racist”

Joseph Le Conte who, with the likes of John Muir, was a co-founder of the Sierra Club in 1892. Earlier this year the Sierra Club sent a letter to the National Park Service to change the name of the LeConte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite Valley. Why?  An excerpt from the letter says Le Conte “was an unabashed white supremacist, who's racist views were widely published after the Civil War, including in a book entitled “The Race Problem in the South,” in 1892.”  Clearly, we did not see this coming. Read More...        

Best disturbing trend … Vandalism in parks

Vandalism in parks is nothing new, but this year it seemed to us that it was particularly widespread. The grand canyon was tagged, so was Capitol Reef, as well as Yellowstone, Arches and perhaps worst of all some drunken idiots decided to break into a restricted area in Death Valley and take a swim in the habitat of the world's rarest fish. Just an opinion, but we can pretty much guaranty that 99.999% of taxpayers would like these selfish criminals get hefty fines and jail time rather just slaps on the hand.        

Vandalism on public land.

Vandalism on public land.

Best actress that should be unemployed … Vanessa Hudgens

Another hand slap… Actress Vanessa Hudgens showed her 22.7 million Instagram followers how to carve on rocks outside of Sedona. She wanted the world to know that her and boyfriend Austin Butler are apparently madly in love, because she insisted on carving Austin + Vanessa and drawing a heart around it.  Don’t worry she was punished with a $1,000 fine. Her net worth is estimated at $10 million. As far as we can tell she has kept quiet about the whole ordeal, clearly waiting for it to just go away. Read More...

Best slap on the hand … Casey Nocket sentence

Speaking of slaps on the hand, admitted serial park vandal Casey Nocket was sentenced this year. A judge sentenced Nocket to 2 years of probation and 200 hours of community service. She was also banned from all federal public lands during her probation period, which let's just be honest is impossible to enforce. She will have to pay some restitution, but that exact number remains unknown. She used acrylic paints and markers to draw on rock formations in 7 national parks. Read More...

Best you'll be missed … Dean Potter    

Iconic rock climber and base jumper Dean Potter died on May 16, 2016. Potter and Graham Hunt were attempting a wingsuit flight from Taft Point in Yosemite National Park. Potter rose to fame throughout the 1990s and 2000s for his incredible feats on the big walls of Yosemite.

Best worst time to be a grizzly bear … Hunting Yellowstone grizzlies

Hunting grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem appears to be a forgone conclusion. It is true the population has tremendously rebounded, however, it’s also true that a healthy grizzly population requires connectivity with other areas inhabited by the bears. Additionally, if how Idaho, Montana and Wyoming handled wolves is any indication, we have serious doubts they will act responsibly. Guess we will have to wait and see if the wolf mentality of “shoot, shovel and shut up” translates over to grizzlies.  

Best best time to be a grizzly bear … Yellowstone's bear bathtub    

This one you simply have to watch the video, nature at it's very best. Watch here...  

Best don't knock until you try it … Glamping

Glamping has long been associated with the lifestyles of the rich and famous. While some consider glamping a 5 star resort, we have taken a different approach. You need to get yourself a giant fortress of a tent that’s bigger than your first studio apartment, a comfortable air mattress a few throw pillows and appropriate stemware for adult beverages. Does not sound half bad right?  It’s not, this has been tested and approved.

Best places that hardly anyone visits … National Wildlife Refuges

National Wildlife Refuges are literally in every single state, yet hardly anyone visits them. Which at least for us is kind of a blessing. Everyone we’ve visited is kind of like having your own private park bursting with wildlife. Chances are you live near a few National Wildlife Refuges, next time you are looking a for new place to explore, check out a refuge or two. Explore Here...

Best this is going to get ugly … Scott Pruitt the head of EPA

Anyone who cares about the environment and the outdoors should be very concerned about Donald Trump’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. Trump tapped Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to head an agency whose “basic mission is to protect human health and the environment -- air, water, and land.” The problem, in Pruitt’s official bio on his Attorney General page it’s state he is “a leading advocate against the EPA’s activist agenda…” This strikes me as kind of like having a cattle rancher in charge of PETA.

Best wait and see (It could be worse) … Ryan Zinke the new Secretary of Interior

Ryan Zinke will be the Secretary of Interior under Trump Administration. The Montana Republican is a bit of wild card. He come out publicly against selling off public lands, even going as far as to call himself a “Teddy Roosevelt conservationist.” But his score card from the albeit agenda driven League of Conservation Voters tells a different story. We really will have to wait and see which Ryan Zinke has the White House’s ear. Read More...

Chimney Tops Fire

Chimney Tops Fire

Best you need to be in prison … Kids who started the Great Smoky Mountains Fire

Two idiot kids that were old enough to know you don’t play with matches sparked a wildfire in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The wind-fanned flames would kill more than a dozen people, destroy thousands of buildings and cause hundreds of millions of dollars in damage. Currently they are facing charges as juveniles, but it remains to be seen if they will be moved to adult court.  Read More...

Best clothing company to boycott … “High on Life"

Earlier this year the vandals over at ugly Canadian clothing company “High on Life” decided to bring their side show stateside. In their wake leaving path a destruction. Perhaps most egregious they recorded themselves leaving the boardwalk at Grand Prismatic Springs. Why? So they can become Instagram or YouTube famous? Read More...

Best misguided rescue attempt … Tourist puts bison calf in car

This is kinda something you have to see to believe. A Yellowstone tourist put a bison calf in a car and drove it to a ranger station. Why? Because he thought it was cold. We watched his appearance on ABC News and honestly believe his mistake was paved with good intentions, but regardless is stupidity at its finest. The calf had to be put down after the herd rejected it following the incident. Read More...

Best get off scot free … Acquittal of Oregon occupiers

Earlier this year, Ammon Bundy and his clan of gun-toting, freedom-sipping, american-flag-wearing yokels decided it was a good idea to lead an armed standoff and take over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in eastern Oregon. For 41 days they impeded government work, damaged taxpayer property, and literally shat on culturally significant Native American sites. You would think they would get in some sort of trouble right? Wrong… Acquitted. It should be noted that one of the occupiers was killed in a shootout with police. Read More...

Best worst way to die in a national park ... Brain-eating amoeba found in Grand Teton

There are many ways to die in the outdoors. Hypothermia, fall off cliff, get eaten by a bear, or good old fashioned exposure just to name a few. Let's add to that list with a rather frightening way to bite the dust.  This year a brain-eating amoeba was found in Grand Teton National Park.  Don’t know about you but this is near the bottom of my list on ways I want to die. Read More...

Best what the F@$% …  Former NPS Superintendent steals human bones

A former National Park Service Superintendent of Effigy Mounds National Monument in Iowa pled guilty to stealing ancient Native American remains. He kept them in his garage for decades, in the process doing severe damage to them. He was sentenced to one year of house arrest, 10 consecutive weekends in jail, 100 hours of community service, $108,905 in restitution and a fine of $3,000. Read More...

Best politician for the environment … Barack Obama

President Barack Obama has been eco warrior during his 8 years in office. Obama has protected more land and water than any other president in history! To the tune of more than 260 MILLION acres of land and water. This year alone he’s been celebrated by environmentalists for designating 3 new National Monuments in California.  Now during the twilight of his administration he protected the massive, beautiful and culturally significant Bears Ears in Utah and Gold Butte in Nevada.

Best shameless plug … TrailMob’s “GearFinder”

We’ve been working for a while to help folks find the best gear at the best price from places like REI, Backcountry and Sierra Trading Post. So we designed what we are calling the “GearFinder.” I know we really rattled the old braintree thinking of a catchy name. Anyhow, shameless plug time. It’s freaking sweet. All you do is type in what your are looking for, then sort by price, best match or % off.  Find Gear Here...

Best well isn't that nifty … Google's PhotoScan App

This is a must-have app if you are old enough to remember film cameras. Wouldn't it be nice to have those old prints that are crammed in shoe boxes nice and organized digitally on your computer. Well with Google’s PhotoScan app you can do just that. Head to app store and just search PhotoScan. Read More...