If you enjoy fishing, try fly tying. The equipment doesn't take up much room and feathers are light. Making spinning lures also doesn't take much equipment. If you want to do things the old fashion way, you can carve your own plugs out of balsa wood. Don't know if anyone still sells them, but before Herters went out of business they use to sell kits and the materials to build your own custom fishing rods.
...Don't know if the NP system is like the COE, but being Government I'd expect it is as convoluted. COE is funded out of Dept of Defense funding but the fees collected go into the General Fund...Under the current fee program, 85% of the fees collected at National Parks, National Forests, National Wildlife Refuges and Bureau of Land Management facilities stay at the location where collected. The other 15% goes to the agency. There some proponents of returning to a system of having all revenues go to the treasury and then Congress appropriating the funds.
...3 weeks ago I met with the Super. and his staff of Wind Cave NP to discuss the reason for the closure of the Elk Mountain camp there. Under sequester, they must reduce spending. They cannot reduce spending on managing the land, wildlife and features of the park. What's left? The electives like the campground, visitor services. Sadly these are the most visible features to the traveler, are not targeted for political reasons for media exposure of the reduction of service...Having worked for the land management agencies in previous tough economic times, there are almost always multiple ways to cut costs such as: cutting or eliminating non-essential training (i.e. that not required by law such as law enforcement, paramedic, etc.), cutting or eliminating non-essential travel and conferences, replacing vehicles and other equipment based on actual need not age, smarter procurement, re-evaluation of land management and wildlife management practices challenging the "this is the way we have always done it" mentality, re-evaluation of staffing requirements to ensure that staff is performing the most important functions and identify those functions which can be eliminated or deferred, consolidating administrative functions, etc. The use of volunteers has been mentioned, but there are also often opportunities to partner with groups, organizations and industry such as was the case in Yellowstone to get the roads plowed.
Not seasonal, Yellowstone is open all year, with winter sports as well. Not all roads are plowed tho ...
Yellowstone may be open in the winter, but visitation is low which is why I said it is mostly seasonal. If you look at Yellowstone's Visitation less than 4% occurs in the winter. The total November - April visitation is lower than the lowest other month. Great Smokey Mountains NP lowest winter month visitation is nearly 10 times that of Yellowstones highest winter month and twice Yellows total winter visitation.
There has always been some variation and controversy in how the numbers are collected at each park. Parks with no entry gates/fees or unrestricted drive thrus have to estmate the number of passengers in a vehicle even if they have traffic counters on all the roads. Independance National Park was not listed in the top 10, so I imagine that they do not count/estmate the number of people that walk/drive down the streets through the park every day as visitors. Yellowstone for the most part is a seasonal park with a relatively short summer season, so peak daily visitation or percent of facility capacity used may be more indicative of use/crowds than annual visitation. Fuel prices as well as spring and fall weather variations contribute to annual variations in visitation to remote and high altitude parks like Yellowstone. Sometimes the variations in total numbers are not as great as the variations in the type/mode of visit. With variations in fuel prices; the number of tenters/backpackers, Rvers and motel visitors may move in opposite directions as may stays in park service campgrounds versus concession campgrounds.
One can spend many hours pondering the National Parks' Visitor Statistics. Much more interesting, in my opinion, to just get out there and start visiting them. If you make it to all the Parks, then there are the National Monuments and Historic Sites. Over 400 locations and growing.
...Though there is a real decrease in actual funding, it seems to me that the parks have taken the approach of maximizing the impact on the public, probably to make a point...
I tried looking at the actual appropriations to see if there is actually a decrease in funding or a decrease in the increase. Since there is not a final appropriations bill for 2013 it was impossible to tell for sure. The Park Service actually requested slightly less in 2011 ($3.14 billion) than was appropriated in 2010($3.16 billion) so it is very hard to say what impact the sequester will have. It could all change when/if the 2013 final appropriations bill is passed. There is often a lot of gamesmanship by the agencies and their advocates at budget time to get the public to influence their representatives regarding funding.
I have not kept track of the weather in Yellowstone this year, but changes in the road opening dates is not all that unusual. I remember a year in the 1970s when I was working in Yellowstone that the Beartooth did not open until late July and then closed early due to heavy snow. The recent run up in fuel prices could also have an effect on plowing operations. It would be interesting to know if they have delayed the reporting dates for any/many of the seasonal employees?
Whatever vendor you get, supplement that with a WiFi Ranger Sky. It will give you a strong signal amplified from anything that's available as a hotspot.
Since you say you need a lot of band width, I would suggest that you look at ways to supplement your cellular with park WIFI. Wifi Ranger makes some decent products, but I personally do not think that the Sky is the best way to do that. It introduces another hop to your WIFI connection so introduces more speed loss. Using an external CPE like the previous WFR Boost or the new Mobile connected to a router gives you an outdoor amplified antenna plus the lower speed loss of a two radio repeater with only one hop from the AP. The WFR routers are setup to work with the Ubiquity products so that even though they no longer sell the Boost, you can create your own pretty easily if you do not need all the features and extra cost of the Mobile.