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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Winter a great time to visit your national parks and read a good book

Las Vegas Review reporter Margo Bartlett Pesek has an article on the many benefits of visiting your national parks in the winter.  Draped in a winter white, parks like Yellowstone, Yosemite and even Zion become otherworldly.  Winter crowds are often smaller than over the summer, yet the experience and adventure to be had is on par with peak months.

One of my favorite park winter pastimes is curling up with a good book next to a crackling fire in one of the great lodges. Looking for a good winter park read?  I have the perfect suggestion.

What's your favorite park to visit in the winter?  What's your favorite winter park activity?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ranger Magazine Review of Unleashing Colter's Hell

Reprinted from Ranger magazine, Winter 2012-13, with permission from the Association of National Park Rangers,

Unleashing Colter’s Hell: A National Park Thriller

Sean Smith. Create Space, August 2012. ISBN: 13-978-1479109650, 313 pages. $9.99, paperback, Amazon

Reviewed by Rick Smith
Ever since 9/11, protection rangers from areas such as Olympic, Yellowstone and Big Bend have been sent to guard the icons of the National Park System — Mount Rushmore, the Statue of Liberty and others every time there is a perceived eminent threat to the nation’s security.

What if the target was Yellowstone with its 2.25 million acres sitting on top of one of the most active thermal areas in the world? That is the premise of former Yellowstone ranger Sean Smith’s book. Would it be possible to trigger a strong enough earthquake to cause the super volcano to erupt? And who would be mad enough to try it and where would they get the trigger? And where does the owner of Yellowstone’s major concessioner fit in?

These are just some of the questions that face Yellowstone ranger Grayson Cole and his reluctant partner, rookie FBI agent Diane Harris, as they unravel an intriguing set of circumstances that occur in the mother park. I say that Harris is reluctant because she thinks being sent on this assignment is like what another generation of NPS employees used to say about being sent to Tuzigoot if they screwed up. (It wasn’t true, of course, as Tuzigoot is a fascinating site. I think it was the name that generated the saying.) But as the coincidences pile up, Harris begins to see, as does Cole, that this is no peaceful walk in the park, but a deadly serious situation.

I am not going to say much more about the plot as I don’t want to spoil it for the readers of

Ranger who may wish to purchase the book. I enjoyed the book, although the parts that dealt with the Washington political inside scene dragged a bit for me. However, when the scene switched to Yellowstone, the pace of the book picked up. Cole talks and acts like a ranger and Harris is just enough of a city person to counterbalance Cole’s experience in the park. Their encounter with a grizzly while in the backcountry seemed real to me.

I hope Ranger readers will buy this book.  It entertained me for the week it took me to read it.
Rick Smith, a life member and former president of ANPR and the International Ranger Federation, retired from the National Park Service after a 31-year career. His last position was as associate regional director of resources management in the former Southwest Region. He then served as acting superintendent of Yellowstone. He lives in New Mexico and Arizona.

Get a copy of the novel here.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Unleashing Colter’s Hell: A Terrifying Scientific Thriller

As a former Yellowstone ranger, I’ve seen firsthand the public’s fascination with the park, a captivation that never seems to wane.  Nearly every week, the press is filled with stories out of America’s first national park.  Yellowstone clearly has the ability to touch virtually everyone who visits it.  It as if Walt Disney designed the park himself.  This remote northwest corner of Wyoming has it all.  Spectacular scenery, towering waterfalls, massive canyons, and abundant wildlife give it a special place in America’s heart.
Throw in the park’s quaint historic buildings and visitors are whisked back to a more romantic time.  Add the other worldly aspects of the park, its geysers and hot springs, and one had the nearly perfect Disney created environment with a new vista or discovery around every corner.
But Disney didn’t design Yellowstone. The park isn’t Disneyland. Yellowstone is, in fact, a super volcano and beneath the park’s postcard setting is a killer, capable of unleashing hell.
The park’s super volcano lies at the heart of my new novel, Unleashing Colter’s Hell.  The novel is a gripping thriller about a terrorist attempt to ignite the volcano and quite possibly destroy the United States.  A single park ranger, Grayson Cole and a rookie FBI agent Dianne Harris are all that stand between the world and apocalypse.
According to scientists who study Yellowstone, the volcano erupts roughly every 600,000 years.  Previous Yellowstone ash clouds have buried the eastern 2/3 of the country in dozens of feet of debris.  If Yellowstone were to erupt today entire cities would be buried, crops would be destroyed, and the sun would be blotted out for weeks if not months, possibly throwing the world into a mini Ice Age.  Millions would die. 
According the geologic record, Yellowstone’s last eruption was 600,000 years ago.  The volcano is due for another blast.
Strict adherence to scientific theory was one of the side boards of my novel.  Except for taking artistic liberty with a few aspects of the story, like the formation of a new geyser, I wanted the story to be based on reality as much as possible.  This gives the plot more credibility, and in my opinion, more terrifying implications.
Federal scientists, as well as researchers from state and private universities are watching Yellowstone very closely.  Ground deformation, rising lake levels, or increased geyser activity and volcanic gas release could all be indicators of a pending eruption.  However, since no modern human has ever witnessed a Yellowstone eruption, scientists are left with untested theories on what would truly precede an eruption.  Moreover, once an eruption became inevitable there would likely be little we could do but make a concerted effort to get people out of harm’s way.
Unleashing Colter’s Hell is a work of fiction.  My intent in writing the thriller was to tell a scientifically accurate story that was compelling to readers.  As one Amazon reader review put it “You will enjoy this book but beware it may pique your interest in going to Yellowstone or scare you away forever.” I believe I achieved this goal.

Unleashing Colter’s Hell is available in paperback or Kindle.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

UNLEASHING COLTER'S HELL up for Dec/Jan Group Read!

UNLEASHING COLTER'S HELL the "gripping", Yellowstone thriller, is nominated for the Goodreads Dec/Jan Group read!