This post finds our hero hiking Telescope Peak in Death Valley (11,049 feet). Telescope Peak towers over Bad Water Basin, the lowest point in North America (-282 feet below sea level). The climb from Bad Water Basin to Telescope Peak (11,331 feet in 15 miles) is one of the greatest vertical rises in the lower 48 states and attracts hikers from around the world.
Before Doug leaves for Death Valley, he receives a call from Pretty Boy, an old high school friend. Pretty Boy wants to join Doug on his hike. The Pretty Boy Doug knew in high school thought hiking was a long walk from his parking spot to the mall. Although the request seems odd, Doug shrugs and agrees. Pretty Boy will meet Doug in Death Valley and together they will summit Telescope Peak.
Unbeknownst to Doug, Pretty Boy is working for Xanterra, a private contractor that supplies services to national parks. Where once the Park Service reigned, Xanterra now stands, skimming profits from our public parks. Pretty Boy has been sent by Xanterra to conduct a preliminary survey of Telescope Peak with an eye to building a resort on top of this national treasure. Tourists will be whisked via tram line from the golf course at Furnace Creek to dinner and a soft bed on Telescope Peak.
Before calling Doug, Pretty Boy did his homework by visiting a Xanterra construction site in Montana. The issue is currently under discussion on many public lands: Should these places protect wild areas, or should they provide tourists with comfortable, easy access and profits for private corporations?
As Doug and Pretty Boy begin their hike, Doug misses some important clues that Pretty Boy has something in mind other than fresh air and stunning views.
Telescope Peak looms above the trail. Imagine what this will look like with Xanterra’s lodge perched here. Will our hero foil this evil plan? Or will Pretty Boy and Xanterra spoil Telescope Peak and make millions from our public lands?
Upon reaching the top, Doug explores the steep western mountain face searching for a more challenging route down. Left alone for awhile, Pretty Boy takes advantage of Doug’s absence to do his evil research for Xanterra.
Doug returns unexpectedly and catches Pretty Boy with his Xanterra blueprints.
In a flash our hero understands everything. Pretty Boy and Xanterra must be stopped.
Doug quickly forms a plan. He’ll get Pretty Boy out of the way long enough to descend Telescope Peak and contact the media. The trip down (15 miles and 11,331 feet) would take a normal hiker all day and all night, but Doug can do it in a few hours.
Will Pretty Boy use this time to think about what he’s done? Will he repent and forsake his evil ways?
Doug tells Pretty Boy and Xanterra what to do with their lodge idea.
“Public lands should protect wild places,” says Doug. “They should be run by the Park Service, not for-profit corporations.”
Note: Although there are currently no plans to build on Telescope Peak, similar outrageous projects have been proposed (and built) on public lands for private profit in the past. Doug, and all of us, need to stay vigilant.