Joshua Tree National Park is chock full of evidence of former inhabitants and land use. We had a fun time exploring old gold mines as well as the residences of past miners. Joshua tree is a place where you can just imagine cowboys and their herds roaming. But the preservation of Joshua tree is in thanks not to these rustic cowboys and prosperous miners who used the land to their advantage. Those who saw the area as a special place that must be protected were women who saw the beauty, not the bounty, of the land.
Moab is an interesting place. Some call it the mountain bike capital of the world. For others, off-roading is the name of the game. Climbers and canyoneers, too, love to explore the red rock landforms. Many events take place in Moab: Easter weekend hosts Jeep Safari. The fascinating hippy/slacklining/base jumping festival (GGBY “Gobble, Gobble, Bitches, Yea”) takes place Thanksgiving weekend. And let’s not forget that Arches National Park, which draws over 1.5 million visitors each year, is located just north of Moab. The diverse groups that Moab draws result in a culture-rich town which is always teeming with people.
“Delicate Arch” – Arches National Park
“Navajo Arch” – Arches National Park
Nothing but Utah could have pulled me away from the mountains of California. We ended up skipping most of Colorado (stopping only at Mesa Verde) in order to lengthen our time in the Sierra. But Utah is a place I had been yearning to explore, and not for the 4% beer. Mysterious photos I had seen of the bizarre red rocks had been drawing my attention for years.
Hiking in the Needles – Canyonlands National Park
Neighboring national parks Kings Canyon and Sequoia are known by locals jointly as “SEKI”. They’re even administrated jointly. The two parks, however, are vastly different. Kings Canyon is made up of a series of glacially sculpted canyons through which flow the ever beautiful Kings River and its tributaries. Sequoia protects groves of the Big Trees, beloved by all who meet them. One thing that both parks have in common is that they are predominantly wilderness areas, making them ideal places for hikers to get away from the crowds.
Camping in an alpine meadow – Kings Canyon National Park
Oobee meets a Big Tree – Sequoia National Park
We spent a few days tooling around Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Canyon country is so beautiful. After our explorations, we learned that Trump had ordered to drastically shrink the size of not only Grand Staircase, but also Bears Ears National Monument. It’s unfortunate that Trump wants to diminish the land by opening it to commercial use.
Devil’s Garden – Grand Staircase Escalante
Trump claims past administrations have abused the Antiquities Act, stating, “this law requires that only the smallest necessary area be set aside for special protection as national monuments. Unfortunately previous administrations have ignored the standard and used the law to lock up hundreds of millions of acres of land and water under strict government control.” Continue reading
The massive and ancient Coast Redwood trees (Sequoia sempervirens) are master survivors from a prehistoric time. They are built to withstand fire, to ward off insects, and, most impressively, to regenerate themselves through burl sprouts. When a redwood is distressed from, say, fire, the cells or burl sprouts within it react by shooting out sprouts which can become new trees! It is not uncommon to see a redwood, dead or alive, with a younger cloned tree shooting up from beside it or even from within it! Is there any other species on this planet that has the ability to clone itself in such a way? While looking up a massive trunk to the tree branches and the reiterated trees sprouting from it, I said “This…this is higher power.” These trees have survived thousands of years because of their design. I am not a religious person, but being out here, I don’t doubt that there is a creator. Here, in nature, is where my church lies. Come out here yourself, and maybe you will be reminded that it is by honoring nature that we honor our maker.
The thickness and dampness of Redwood bark protects the trees from wildfire
Aside: I feel blessed to have spent a full month in the Canadian Rockies. I still have more to write about the area, as well as the amazing Olympic Peninsula, but for now I just wanted to skip ahead to Redwood National Park due to the level of influence it has on me.
Our first hike in the Canadian Rockies was to Egypt Lake near Sunshine Village Ski Area. At Healy Creek camp on the last morning of our three-day journey, we met three young Banff residents who were coming in while we were headed out. As hikers do, they asked us how our trip was, and we told them the scenery had been great, but some of our fellow campers at Egypt Lake had been utterly negligent about bear safety. They were as horrified as we had been when we told them that we witnessed a group of kids eating in their campsite.
Hiking Healy Pass to Egypt Lake – Banff National Park
The hikers then told us that they had just heard that Bear 148 was currently located in the Sunshine Village Ski area. “They dropped her off in Yoho, but she came right back to Sunshine,” the man claimed. We had heard of Bear 148 before. She apparently had grown a little too accustomed to being around humans, having had chased a few humans and even strolled onto a rugby field full of adolescents. We were uneasy about the presence of such a conditioned griz, but they told us not to worry as we at least didn’t have a dog. Bear 148 has a particular aversion to dogs. They told us also about the legend they called “The Master Bear”, also known as “The Boss”. The Boss had been seen on the side of the road eating a black bear. He is the biggest bear in the park, and has fathered many of the bears in the Canadian Rockies. Our hike out was a bit scary that day, what with the thought of the bear-eating bear and the presences of Bear 148. As always, we practiced bear safety measures, and made it out without a sighting.
Though it would be tremendous to see a brown bear, we have no desire to. Certainly, our own personal safety is a concern. But the truth is that humans are much more of a threat to bears than bears are to humans. In the United States in particular, if a bear is food conditioned or shows any interest in humans, the bear is viewed as a threat and is killed. Canada seems to give bears more of a chance, which is why Bear 148 still roams. Sadly, her fate is questionable too. Continue reading
Grand Teton National Park, established in 1929, is part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. While Yellowstone was the first National Park, Teton is special in that its establishment was influenced by many different locals who truly appreciated the area and wanted to preserve the wildness of the Tetons.
String Lake – Grand Teton National Park
In the early 1920’s, residents began noticing that development around Jenny Lake was starting to invade the Tetons. In 1923, locals met with then superintendent of Yellowstone at Maud cabin to start a conversation about preservation in the Teton Range, eventually leading to Grand Teton National Park being established in 1929. Continue reading
Yellowstone is significant because it became the nation’s first National Park in 1872. The land was chosen because of its mysterious thermal features and other natural wonders. When you think of Yellowstone, you probably think of geysers such as the famous Old Faithful. And indeed—such features are truly wondrous and the main thing that most people come to see. The real value of Yellowstone, however, is its wildlife. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is large and wild enough to allow for a diverse ecosystem to survive and thrive. In fact, it holds the highest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states.
Killdeer – Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone
We spent our first two days in Yellowstone in the backcountry, leaving from Blacktail Creek trailhead and hiking along the creek and then the Yellowstone River. The Yellowstone backcountry is a very peaceful and refreshing place; we ran into more marmots than humans.
We cancelled climbing Cloud Peak in Wyoming due to too much snow in the mountains. Instead, we hiked into the Beartooth Mountains from East Rosebud Lake trailhead. This hike reaches elevations in the 9000’s, and having called ahead, I learned that snow would begin at 8000 to 8500 feet. I have zero regrets about changing plans to hike in the Beartooth Wilderness. Natural beauty and wildlife are plentiful here.
What I was most taken aback by on this first mountain hike was the awesome force of the water racing across the landscape. East Rosebud Creek ran along our entire hike. I have never in my life seen so much water running with such ferocity. The melting snow is sure to be the cause of this phenomenon. Typically, when I think of a creek, I think of a gentle flow of water embedded in the landscape. Not so in the Beartooths in early summer; here the water does not flow within the landscape, rather it flies across it like a horse galloping at full speed. It seems to run atop the ground rather than within it.