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Water loving willows hug the edges of the shore. Lost Lake, at its peak, is around 79 acres. Right now, it is draining away.

About half way around from the lake entrance, a sharp eye might spot a footpath leading out onto the grassy, muddy lake bed. Follow that and soon the sound of rushing water is audible.

Then, there it is. The hole.

Dave Kretzing has a pretty good grasp on the mystery of Lost Lake. He's a retired hydrologist with the U.S. Forest Service and he's spent years thinking about what happens here and why.

Every place has its own sound. A small group of scientists is hard at work recording the natural sounds of national parks all across the U.S. — more than 70 soundscapes so far.

For our series on the centennial of the national parks, we traveled to Colorado, to find out how they create these portraits of sound.

First Lesson: It's Very Hard To Escape The Sound Of Humans.

Colorful acrylic paintings on red and gray rock formations and profiles of people smoking cigarettes, signed with a repetitive "Creepytings," caused an uproar on Reddit more than a year ago. Now, the uproar is calming.

After spending a month drawing and painting on the rocks in seven national parks, Casey Nocket, 23, of San Diego, was banned this month from national parks and other federally administered lands, according to the National Park Service.

As the weather teeters between 1997 DJ Jazzy Jeff and 2002 Nelly, we've been spending a lot of time staring out the window, wishing to be anywhere but inside: the beach, the pool, the basketball court, Grand Teton National Park.

Mount Rainier, or Tahoma, Tacobet, Ti'Swaq or Pooskaus.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Kim Malcolm talks with Laurie Ward about why Mount Rainier National Park is participating in an online contest to win grant money. Ward is executive director of Washington's National Park Fund. The park is hoping to restore a cabin that would provide housing for search and rescue volunteers.

She sails by the memory of the stars.

Her bones are lashed together with 6 miles of rope. Her twin wooden masts are lowered and outstretched only by the power of muscled arms. And once fully extended, the red, V-shaped sails announce who she is.

She is the Hokule'a, Hawaii's famous voyaging canoe, built in the double-hulled style used by Polynesian navigators thousands of years ago to cross the Pacific.

Climbers descend Mount Everest in good weather.
Courtesy Madison Mountaineering

Death again has marked the climbing season on Mount Everest: four climbers died last week and two more are missing.

Seattle-based guide Garrett Madison’s team was hit by tragedy last year. But he told KUOW’s Emily Fox there was no doubt that he would return to the world’s tallest mountain.

An inventory by public radio of Northwest geography found more than 200 places with names some people might consider ethnically or racially offensive. For instance, there's Negro Ben Mountain in southwest Oregon, Chinamans Hat in western Idaho, Jew Valley in southern Oregon and Redman Creek in north central Washington.

Oregon’s House Interim Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use and Water held a hearing Monday on potential conservation measures for a remote high desert and canyon land area known as the Owyhee in Southeast Oregon.

Should we commercialize our state parks?

May 18, 2016
Lake Sammamish State Park
Flickr Photo/Jeff Sandquist (CC BY 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/5dJnYj

Kim Malcolm speaks with Seattle Times reporter Lynn Thompson about the trend of state parks seeking investment and partnerships with private companies. Thompson recently wrote an article about a proposed partnership between Rent-based outdoor retailer REI and Lake Sammamish State Park in Issaquah. 

Timber-dependent counties, environmental groups and a Native American tribe are formally protesting a plan to manage 2.5 million acres of public land in Western Oregon.

After Fires In West, Mushroom Hunters 'Chase The Burn'

Apr 20, 2016

Right now, and in the coming weeks, from Northern California to Alaska, commercial and amateur mushroom hunters will be scouring hills that were ravaged by fires last summer and fall. Their prey? Morel mushrooms.

"Sometimes we call it 'chasing the burns,' " mushroom enthusiast Kevin Sadlier says, in search of the black morel mushrooms that grow in the springtime after a forest fire.

Yellowstone National Park, a wilderness recreation area stretching for nearly 3,500 square miles atop a volcanic hot spot in Wyoming and parts of Montana and Idaho, may be in trouble.

Each year, Yellowstone attracts millions of visitors and provides a home to countless animal species, including the once-threatened grizzly bear and bison. But finding the right balance between tourism and preservation can be tricky.

The Bureau of Land Management released a new proposal Tuesday for managing the former Oregon and California Railroad forestlands in Western Oregon.

The so-called “O&C Lands” have traditionally been used to generate money for local counties, but since the 1990s, those revenues have been shrinking.

'Week in Review" panel Paul Guppy, Bill Radke, Maud Daudon and Sydney Brownstone.
KUOW Photo/Kara McDermott

Advertising is coming to an outdoors near you, can commercialism save our state parks? Also, should Seattle give heroin users a safe place to inject? And, should we give over a Sodo street for a basketball arena?

Bill Radke runs the the fast break with The Stranger’s Sydney Brownstone, Washington Policy Center’s Paul Guppy and Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce CEO Maud Daudon.

Soldiers perform fast rope insertion certifications at Joint Base Lewis-McChord in January 2015.
Flickr Photo/CC BY NC SA 2.0)/https://flic.kr/p/rakSmz

Joint Base Lewis-McChord is no longer considering a controversial proposal to land helicopters at seven wilderness sites around the state.

Officials at JBLM made the decision after receiving feedback from stakeholders and reading 2,350 comments from the public which were mostly negative. 

Smith Rock State Park in central Oregon is an increasingly popular destination. In the past five years, visitation increased from 450,000 to about 700,000 day use visitors.

Scott Brown, the park manager, said he's glad to see so many people enjoying the high desert attraction. But all those additional visitors, hikers and rock climbers tax the resources and infrastructure at the park.

“Many days of the year now, particularly in the spring and the fall, there’s no parking available," Brown said. "The restrooms, there’s long lines. There’s more trail maintenance.”

"Limited" commercial advertising is coming to Washington State Parks. The state park system will begin placing ads in parks as early as this summer to make itself more self-sustaining.

A still from Chris Morgan's short movie about grizzly bears.

If you feel like you're just waking up from a long winter, you're not alone. Bears feel the same way. And they're out and about in the North Cascades.

Somewhere in the Rocky Mountains, there is a bronze chest filled with gold and precious gems. The search for this hidden treasure has become a hobby for some, an obsession for others, and for one recent searcher — a fatal pursuit.

The man behind the treasure is Forrest Fenn, an 85-year-old millionaire, former Vietnam fighter pilot, self-taught archaeologist, and successful art dealer in Santa Fe, N.M.

"No one knows where that treasure chest is but me," Fenn says. "If I die tomorrow, the knowledge of that location goes in the coffin with me."

No matter where you are in Tucson, Ariz., you're no more than 20 miles from Saguaro National Park. The park and its tall, pronged, namesake cacti literally surround Tucson. There's the rounded top of the park's cactus-studded Wasson Peak to the west, the park's desert-to-forest Rincon Mountain Range to the east and about a million people living between.

But if you go around Tucson — to its historic barrio neighborhoods, swap meets or hiking trails — and ask people about their neighboring national park, you might be surprised.

"Saguaro High School?"

The National Park Service wants you to get out into nature.

But the success of campaigns like the National Park Service's Find Your Park and others from state tourism offices has created a huge demand. Last year, a record 305 million people visited national parks. As the Park Service likes to point out, that's more people than went to every single Disney park, NFL, NBA and MLB game and NASCAR race combined.

Driving through the gold-brown savanna of Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California, past its Dr. Seuss-like trees and water-carved rocks, it's easy to see why the national parks have been called America's Best Idea.

Spend a few hours with some of the park's employees, like Cultural Resources Branch Chief Jason Theuer, and you'll see that national parks are also another thing: expensive. There is a nearly $12 billion maintenance backlog of work that needs be done but isn't because of limited money.

Republican Congressmen from several Western states are running with a theme that emerged during the recent armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon. 

The goats and their kids are a popular site in Washington state's enchantments.
KUOW Photo/Gil Aegerter

Getting a permit to stay in one of Washington's most coveted backpacking areas will require more luck this year.

Capturing Valhalla: OPB's Toughest Shoot

Jan 31, 2016

In the summer of 2015, OPB’s Oregon Field Guide and a team of highly skilled canyoneers embarked on a journey to explore Valhalla — an uncharted gorge hidden in the Oregon wilderness.

The expedition was a dream come true for crewmembers who have spent their lives working in and exploring the outdoors. It would prove to be the most challenging project in Oregon Field Guide’s 27-year history.

When your gondola gets stuck in midair at a ski resort with one of the highest vertical drops on the continent, you'd be forgiven for having pangs of fear or even panic. For teenager Kody Lapointe and his dad, it was a chance to take an "insane ride" on a rope suspended from a helicopter — and to videotape the event.

On a rainy fall day, a group of bundled up hikers explored Leslie Gulch. Kirk Richardson, with Keen Footwear in Portland, pointed to a bulbous rock formation jutting from the canyon wall.

"I like this one that’s kind of a split molar root," Richardson said. "Looks like something you’d see in a dentist X-ray."

Northern spotted owl numbers are declining across the Northwest, and the primary reason is the spread of the barred owl, according to a new analysis published Wednesday.

Federal scientists have been keeping tabs on spotted owls for more than 20 years now.

“We have a lot of data that suggests that they’re in real trouble,” said study co-author Eric Forsman, a retired U.S. Forest Service biologist.

Biologist Mark Buktenica scours the shoreline of Crater Lake. He scans white sun-bleached rocks, takes a step, flips a rock.

Scan, step, flip.