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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Draft Need To Know Covers: What do you think?


Below are four draft covers for Need To Know, the next Grayson Cole Thriller. The novel is set at Washington's Mount Rainier National Park and is a cliff hanger about a secret that's been buried on the volcano's slopes for nearly seven decades. Once revealed, the secret will shake the world to its foundation.

The first cover is reminiscent of a Tom Clancy Thriller and promises Clancy intrigue and suspense. The second  plays on novel's conspiracy theories, while the third mirrors a poster that might accompany the book's movie tie-in. The last resembles a spy thriller and hints at the secret at the heart of the story.

So which cover to you like? Make sure to vote in the online poll to the right.

Need to Know Tom Clancy Cover

Need to Know Conspiracy Cover
Movie Poster Cover
Need to Know James Bond Cover
Sean Smith is a former Yellowstone Ranger, and an award winning conservationist, TEDx speaker, and author. He writes national park thrillers from his home in the shadow of Mount Rainier National Park. To learn more about his thrillers click here or follow him on twitter: @parkthrillers

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Top Ten Things to do in National Parks

Today marks National Park Thrillers 5th anniversary. This article also marks National Park Thrillers 200th post. Over the past five years, we've written and talked about national park issues like funding, grizzly bear conservation, and what I've learned from my parents while visiting national parks.

Over the past five years, National Park Thrillers has seen more than 35,000 hits an had readers from across the globe. I appreciate my readers and listeners. Thank you for your support.

Today's podcast is entitled The Top Ten Things to Do in National Parks and can be found here. In this episode, we detail the ten things every visitor should do when visiting a national park from taking a hike to learning something new.

The Park Thrillers Podcast YouTube Video is found below.




What do you think of our list? What did we get right? What did we miss?

Sean Smith is a former Yellowstone Ranger, and an award winning conservationist, TEDx speaker, and author. He writes national park thrillers from his home in the shadow of Mount Rainier National Park. To learn more about his thrillers click here or follow him on twitter: @parkthrillers


Saturday, July 2, 2016

The Truth is Out There? National Parks and UFOs

Today is World UFO Day, a holiday for those interested in unexplained aerial  phenomenon to meet and look to the sky. The July 2 date was chosen because of its connections to the Roswell UFO crash.

My next National Park thriller is entitled Need to Know. It's due out this fall and centers on a UFOs and a world wide conspiracy to keep their true nature and purpose hidden from humanity.

UFOs have been spotted all over the world and on every continent. Not surprising the national parks are the location of some of the worlds most famous UFO sightingsse hidden from the world. What follows is a listing of the top five National Park/UFO sightings and connections.

5. Glacier National Park After World War II the United States in Operation Paperclip transferred thousands of ex-Nazi scientists to America to work on physics, chemistry, munitions, rockets, and advanced aviation programs. Some beleive these projects include super sonic aircraft that employ advanced pulse engines and light bending stealth technology. This stealth systems also allow them to fly in broad daylight without detection. Some believe these top secret craft have been tested and flown in Montana's Glaicer National Park.

According to these experts  Glaicer was chosen for a super secret advanced aircraft test facilities because it was the only park at the end of the war to be both remote and with railroad access. Nazi technology and materials were transferred to the park and stored in a two mile deep research facility, that according to some still exists today.


I've been to Glacier countless times, I've even been a ranger there having worked with the Park Service back in 1992.  I've driven the Going to the Sun road hundreds of times and at all hours of the day and night. If there is a secret base off the road (which is only two lanes), it is incredibly well hid. Moreover, in order to access the road without being seen, the CIA would have to close it (there is no other access across the park) causing huge traffic disruptions. People would notice the road being closed.

Finally, the Going to the Sun road is buried under dozens of feet of snow roughly 8 months out of the year. CIA and Nazi scientists would be either locked out or locked into their base for most of the year. If there ever was a secret Nazi test facility at the park, its likely been abandon for a more convenient place to conduct cutting edge research.

4. Yellowstone National Park It seems UFO, National Parks and top secret underground bases go together like pen and paper, peaches and cream, table and chairs. You get the point. Our next park on the list also involves top secret underground research bases.  Like Glacier, the federal government has supposedly excavated large subterranean caverns under the national park to conduct super secret research and tests. Strange lights and flying orbs have been reported, which some say proves the park is a secret base.  These UFO researchers believe that parks are actually cover and park regulations and restrictions on human movement are put in place to prevent visitors from stumbling on the truth.


Like Glacier, I've also been to Yellowstone countless times and as it just so happens I was also a ranger at our nation's first national park. I had the honor of working at the Grant Visitor center and leading hikes at the West Thumb geyser basin. On occasion I'd hear from visitors curious to learn about the secret tunnels and hidden bases under the park.

My standard answer was that I was a mere GS5 ranger and my security clearance was pretty low (okay actually non-existent). Therefore the park leadership didn't see fit to tell me everything about Yellowstone's management. However, what they did tell me is that Yellowstone is the site of the world's largest super volcano which is overdue for its next eruption. The super hot magma just a mere three miles below the surface, heats billions of gallons of groundwater to near the boiling point and spreads it throughout much of the park's acreage through many unmapped thermal vents, tubes, and fissures,  I seriously doubt there are massive underground installations in such a active geothermal and seismic place. This response was often met with a skeptical look and "oh, you must be one of them."


3. Devils Tower: According to scientists, Devils Tower is the neck of an extinct volcano.  The sides have eroded away through millions of years of wind and rain leaving the much harder volcanic rock which made up the volcanoes core. It is the nation's first national monument, having been established by Teddy Roosevelt in 1906.

UFO researchers from all over the world have been drawn to Devils Tower not the least of which because of its prominent role in the 1977 hit movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. The local Indians name for the site roughly translates as Bad God's Tower.

The site has become a mecca of sorts for UFO chasers. Locals even claim its some type of beacon or portal facilitating alien transport.

2. Washington Mall: In 1952, the United States was just entering the height of the Cold War. The
Russians and the Americans were in the initial phases of the space race. Americans were terrified they would fall behind the Soviet nemisis in what everyone knew would be the location of the next world war: Outer Space.

On July 19, 1952 Air Traffic Controllers spotted several objects on radar. There were no scheduled flights that evening. The objects came from the south and were seen over the national mall including over the national park units like the White House. Witnesses described the objects as oranges balls of fire trailing a tail.

The objects got the attention of the country including the president. President Truman asked the CIA to look into the objects. On July 29th, the Air Force held its largest press conference since World World II.  The Air Force claimed the objects were aerial phenomenon like meteors and radar hits were explained by temperature inversions.

While this was the official explanation, the CIA became concerned about the threat of UFO reports and how they could overwhelm defense resources, leading to a public panic, and facilitating a foreign invasion.

1. Mount Rainier: In 1947 Kenneth Arnold an executive, with the Great Western Fire Control Supply Company, was flying home from Chehalis Washington in a small two-seater private plane, when he spotted 9 objects racing down from Canada, past Mount Rainier and off past Mount Adams.  Mr. Arnold reported the sighting and is credited with the first modern era UFO sighting.

The Mount Rainier sighting is the starting point of my new thriller Need to Know which explores what would happen if an object had been buried in the mountain's snow and ice for nearly 70 years. The story delves into what its discovery would mean for the world and who might be willing to kill to keep it secret.


That's my list of the top UFO national parks. Did we get it right? Which parks did we miss? Tell us your UFO park stories in the comment section.

Sean Smith is a former Yellowstone Ranger, and an award winning conservationist, TEDx speaker, and author. He writes national park thrillers from his home in the shadow of Mount Rainier National Park. To learn more about his thrillers click here or follow him on twitter: @parkthrillers

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A More Perfect Union

Manzanar National Historic Site
It seems to be popular sport these days for those on both the left and right to talk down their country and its future. The left points to racism and gun violence as obvious evidence of our national sin. While the right counters it's an overreaching federal government and international terrorism that signals the country's failure.

But the only way one can truly make this claim is to ignore American history, to be truly ignorant of where we have been and where the country is likely to go.

What does this have to do with national parks, one might ask. When one mentions the term national park, the vast majority of people think of places like Yellowstone and Yosemite, the Grand Canyon and Everglades.  National Parks are the location of countless family vacations, where cherished memories are made. National Parks are home to treasured wildlife and spectacular scenery.

If this is all anyone thinks of parks then they have served their purpose. Yet, parks are much more.  National Parks surely tell and protect the positive aspects of our nation's history. But America's story is a complicated one.

Over our more than 240 year history, Americans have made progress such as slavery's abolition, the extension of the franchise to women, and civil rights, and environmental protection. We have established parks that rightly commemorate these accomplishments.

However, America's progress has not been a straight path. We have stumbled and fallen short of the mark. The United States forcibly removed Native Americans from their homes. During World War II, we interred thousands of Americans in camps. At our nation's birth, we enslaved millions condemning countless to a life of toil and misery, and led massacres against women and children.

These are true black marks on America's historical record. 

However, unlike most other countries, America doesn't shy away from its dark stories. Rather, we are a people who want to remember these dark chapters. We learn the lessons of these stories, so that we never repeat these mistakes.

America's founding document is the Constitution. It's opening statement, called the preamble, sets our central goal as "to form a more perfect union." Note the constitution doesn't say the country will form "a perfect union," a noun, a destination. Rather, our purpose is to "form a more perfect union," a verb, it's a process.

This goal is a double edged sword. On the one hand, America will never reach perfection. There is no promised land. Anyone expecting perfection will be disappointed. However, on the other as long as we continue to strive toward perfection, toward bettering ourselves, we attain the goal the founders set for us.

Sean Smith is a former Yellowstone Ranger, and an award winning conservationist, TEDx speaker, and author. He writes national park thrillers from his home in the shadow of Mount Rainier National Park. To learn more about his thrillers click here or follow him on twitter: @parkthrillers




Sunday, June 12, 2016

Please Designate the Apollo Landers as National Monuments

Please help add the Apollo landers to the national park system. Add your name to a petition asking
President Obama to designate the landers as national monuments.
This July 20th marks an important anniversary.  Sadly many will allow the day to pass without so much as an understanding of the importance of this date in world history. It marks the date of what many of described as the greatest technological achievement in world history. I'd drop the qualifier technological and call it humanities greatest moment, the Apollo 11 moon landing.


Why is this landing so important? Aside from the obvious engineering and technological achievements, for me its the political and societal hurdles that had to be overcome that are more impressive.


In 1961, President Kennedy challenged the United States to land a human on the moon and return him safely to earth before the end of the decade.  To us today this seems like a simple goal, easily attainable.  Yet it should be remembered that at the time Kennedy made this challenge America had only launched one person into space and only for 15 minutes. That's like someone climbing a local hill and saying within nine years, they would be the first to climb Mount Everest. It's almost laughable. In fact, going to the moon was as difficult as America's construction of the Panama Canal or it's building the atomic bomb.


And yet, with a clear goal, deadline, and political will the impossible happened, America landed not one but 12 people on the moon.


In the 47 years since America's landing on the moon, the United States' space program has languished. In fact, the nation's ability to launch astronauts into space is totally dependent upon the Russians. Meanwhile, private companies like Space X and countries such as China are ramping up their space efforts. It's likely people will soon return to the moon.


When that happens, the Apollo lander sites may be at risk of salvage, vandalism, or looting. Moreover, these sites are as important to human history as the prehistoric footprints found at Laetoli in Tanzania. As such, they Apollo sites are worthy of federal protection.

In 1906 Congress passed the Antiquities Act  which authorizes the President to designate federal property or territory as National Monuments. This property must be of historic or scientific significance.  The Apollo landers meet all three of these criteria. 

In 1906, President Teddy Roosevelt was the first president to use the Antiquities Act when he made Devil's Tower in Northeaster Wyoming at national monument. Since then nearly every president has used the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments, many of which later were elevated to national parks. 

President Obama has a unique opportunity before him. He can be the first president to designate a national monument on another heavenly body. This would set the precedent of conserving human history, scientific advancement, and the environment off planet earth.  With a simple stroke of the pen Obama would be able to place his conservation record among those such as T.R., Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter. Moreover, this designation will commemorate and send the hopeful message that humanity can make great leaps in progress, it just takes clear goals, set deadlines, and political will.

Mr. President please take this opportunity to designate the physical equipment of the six Apollo lander sites as national monuments. These sites should be added to the list of national park sites and jointly managed by the National Park Service and National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Please visit the following link and add your name to the growing list who support making the landers national monuments!

Sean Smith is a former Yellowstone Ranger, and an award winning conservationist, TEDx speaker, and author. He writes national park thrillers from his home in the shadow of Mount Rainier National Park. To learn more about his thrillers click here or follow him on twitter: @parkthrillers