Arches National Park, Utah Photo by Greg Vaughn
travel world WINTER 2016
I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
Featuring Stories on U.S. National Parks: Yellowstone Grand Teton Grand Canyon Big Bend Death Valley Ozarks With Photography on Many More Plus Katy Trail State Park
The Magazine Written by North American Travel Journalists Association Members
LETTER FROM THE EDITOR We often take for granted the wonders around us. But as you’ll see in this special issue of TravelWorld International, we shouldn’t. In August of this year, the National Park Service celebrated its centennial. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed the legislation that created what would become one of our most important treasures. The first National Park was Yellowstone, and you’ll see it beautifully represented here.
Dennis A. Britton Editor
To acknowledge the 100th anniversary, we asked our members to take us on word and photo trips around the United States. And we got a bountiful response. The park system covers more than 84 million acres in every state, the District of Columbia, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, including national parks, monuments, battlefields, military parks, historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas, scenic rivers and trails, and the White House, according to the Park Service. Our publisher, Helen Hernandez, is on the board of trustees of the National Parks Conservation Association, which was founded a mere three years after President Wilson signed the parks legislation. The motto of the NPCA is “Preserving Our Past. Protecting Our Future.” It does this through education programs and as a watchdog against threats to the system, including a lobbying mission in Washington. “We (the NPCA) are committed to making certain that our natural wonders are protected and saved to be enjoyed and treasured forever,” Helen said. “I want the parks to be a part of everyone’s life as it has been for me and my family.” In this issue of TWI, you’ll find lots of wonderful surprises— including that we snuck in a nifty state park for you to learn about. We present the highly visited iconic parks but also you’ll find at least three pieces on Big Bend National Park, which the Park Service describes as being in “splendid isolation…where night skies are dark as coal and rivers carve temple-like canyons.” You’ll find word pictures like that and sparkling photographs throughout this special issue. If you haven’t visited these parks in person, you’re in for a real treat.
E d i t o r: d en n is @ tr a v e lwo r ld m a g a z ine.com D esi g n Di rect o r : jo y @ tr a v e lwo r ld m a g azine.com
TravelWorld International Magazine is the only magazine that showcases the member talents of the North American Travel Journalists Association
Group Publisher: Publisher: Editor in Chief:: Editor:: Design Director: Operations Manager: Administrative Assistant:
NATJA Publications Helen Hernandez Bennett W. Root, Jr. Dennis A. Britton Joy Bushmeyer Yanira Leon Daniel Saleh
Contributing Writers & Photographers: Linda Aksomitis John Gottberg Anderson Joy Bushmeyer Jacqueline Harmon Butler Mary Lu Laffey Jeffrey Lehmann Don Mankin Elaine Masters
Vanessa Orr Barbara Gibbs Ostmann Bennett Root, Jr. Debbie Stone Greg Vaughn Sarah Vernetti Efrain Villa
Editorial /Advertising Offices: TravelWorld International Magazine 3579 E. Foothill Blvd., #744 Pasadena, CA 91107 Phone: (626) 376.9754 Fax: (626) 628-1854 www.travelworldmagazine.com
Volume 2016.04 Winter 2016. Copyright ©2016 by NATJA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission is prohibited. Advertising rates and information sent upon request. Acceptance of advertising in TravelWorld International Magazine in no way constitutes approval or endorsement by NATJA Publications, Inc., nor do products or services advertised. NATJA Publications and TravelWorld International Magazine reserve the right to reject any advertising. Opinions expressed by authors are their own and not necessarily those of Travel World International Magazine or NATJA Publications. TravelWorld International Magazine reserves the right to edit all contributions for clarity and length, as well as to reject any material submitted, and is not responsible for unsolicited manuscripts. This periodical’s name and logo along with the various titles and headings therein, are trademarks of NATJA Publications, Inc. PRODUCED IN U.S.A.
I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
MULTIPLE NATIONAL PARKS
8 Photography By Greg Vaughn 16 National Parks Story & Photos by Jeffrey Lehmann 20 8 National Parks, 2 Couples, 3 Weeks and 1 Car
Story & Photos by Elaine Masters
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK
26 Yellowstone Geothermal Features - Photography By Bennett Root, Jr. 30 Tackling Yellowstone By Barbara Gibbs Ostmann 36 Midnight Visitor, Yellowstone National Park
Story & Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler
travel world WINTER 2016
I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
38 Grand Teton National Park,
A 40th Wedding Anniversay, And The Bentwood Inn
Inclucing Grand Teton National Park Foundation Initiatives Story by Joy Bushmeyer Photography by Dick Bushmeyer
GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK
48 52 58 62
Be Prepared to Be Awed!
By Mary Lu Laffey
An Epic Journey to Inspire the Spirit A Tale of Two Canyons
Story & Photos by Efrain Villa
A Grand Canyon Adventure
Story & Photos by Debbie Stone
By John Gottberg Anderson
South Carolina’s REVOLUTIONARY RIVERS
Listen closely. The waters of the Pee Dee & Lynches Rivers whisper stories of swampy battlefields, colonial rice fields and routes to freedom. Retracing the past from Native American settlements to the island hideout of the Revolutionary War’s Swamp Fox, your outdoor adventure becomes a history lesson you will never find in a book.
Don’t just read history... paddle history. 6
travel world WINTER 2016
I N T E R N AT I O N A L M A G A Z I N E
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK
67 Channeling My Inner Annie Oakley in Big Bend, Texas
Story and Photos by Vanessa Orr
72 Big Bend National Park: Big Country & Big Surprises in the Lone Star State
Story and Photos by Don Mankin
76 KATY TRAIL STATE PARK
76 Katy Trail State Park, Missouri
Story and Photos by Linda Aksomitis
80 A Beginner's Guide to
Death Valley National Park Story and Photos by Sarah Vernetti
84 Two National Parks in the Ozarks
Story and Photos by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann
Mt. Rainier National Park, Washington Olympic National Park, Washington
North Cascades National Park, Washington Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
M U L T I P L E P A R K S
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming
Glacier National Park, Montana Badlands National Park, South Dakota
M U L T I P L E P A R K S
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona/Utah Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
Arches National Park, Utah Canyonlands National Park, Utah
M U L T I P L E P A R K S
Death Valley National Park, California Joshua Tree National Park, California
Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, KilaueaVolcano Pu’u O’o eruption
M U L T I P L E P A R K S
Shenandoah National Park, Virginia - Black Bear
I WILL NEVER FORGET THE FIRST TIME I WENT TO A NATIONAL PARK.
Guadalupe Canyon National Park, Texas - Yellow Flowers
Grand Canyon, Arizona - Big Horn Sheep
I was five years old sitting in the front of the family station wagon with my parents, while my sister and brother slept in back. We slowly climbed the dark serpentine road out of Fresno. I could smell the trees, but I couldnâ€™t see much in the headlights. When we finally reached the summit and entered Wawona Tunnel, I started to get excited. As we emerged monumental Yosemite Valley was revealed shimmering in the glow of a full moon on a warm windless summerâ€™s night. I could not believe my eyes. It seemed like heaven. The next few days were filled with events that I still remember vividly, not the least of which was being brave enough to sleep outside under the stars only to wet the bed when a black bear ripped open the ice box next to me. Tighten your saddle strap and hold on because here comes a small sampling of my lifetime of National Park favorites.
Glacier National Park, Montana
National Parks Story & Photos by Jeffrey Lehmann
Yellowstone, Wyoming - Prismatic Hot Spring, Photo by Eric Winter
Grand Teton National Park Ballooning
M U L T I P L E P A R K S
Visit two awesome parks in one trip, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, by staying in-between at Togwotee Mountain Lodge. Avoid the summer crowds at Grand Teton’s Park Headquarters, by heading east on nearby Antelope Flats Road to see bison and antelope with the Grand Teton as a backdrop. Take a boat trip on beautiful Lake Jenny and then hike a moderate hill to breathtaking Hidden Falls. Visit in winter to hit the slopes at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort in the Teton Range and then snowmobile up-close and personal with Yellowstone’s wildlife. These animals aren’t stupid, they walk on the road rather than through deep snow!
famous for Western films starring John Wayne, Jimmy Stewart and many others. This is the heart of the so called “Grand Circle” of national parks. Glen Canyon is also home to Rainbow Bridge National Monument – one of the world’s largest natural arches. Mule trips are a great way to see Bryce, especially in the heat of summer. Alstrom Point at sunset offers spectacular views of Lake Powell and the road passes through the Grand Staircase, although I recommend taking an off-road vehicle.
Grand Canyon Rafting
Two park properties not enough?
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area Lake Powell Rainbow Bridge
A “must-see” in the region are the narrow sandstone “slot canyons” that range from flat and easy like famous Antelope Slot Canyon to high adventure requiring climbing gear and dry suits like those in and around Zion. I recommend taking a guided tour, since these canyons can be dangerous. Hit the canyons early midday since this is when the sun is overhead and shines directly into the slots. For the trip of a lifetime, take a guided week-long motorized raft trip through the Grand Canyon.
For scenery & marine life, a boat trip to
the Kenai Fjords National Park, (from Seward, Alaska) is hard to beat. On my last trip, we saw a calving glacier as well as humpback whales, orcas, sea otters, puffins, Dall porpoise, seals, and much more.
On the East Coast visit Cape Cod National Seashore where you can see whales from shore, but take a whale watching tour to get up-close.
Enjoy the vistas of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, where deer are seen daily at the historic Skyland Resort and Big Meadows Lodge or take an energetic hike to fun natural rock waterslides. Visit in October, for stunning fall colors and to see Black Bears out eating acorns to fatten up for winter. This is also a great place to see stunning fall colors. Nearby, you can experience American history by visiting comparitively small Washington D.C. featuring 36 national park properties and there are another 34 national park properties within day-trip distance.
Shenandoah National Park Skyline Drive Scenic Byway
Denali National Park is a grand all-ages adventure. Visit Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, Grand Staircase Escalante, Cedar Breaks, Vermillion Cliffs, Pipe Springs, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area aka Lake Powell all easy day trips from the small historic town of Kanab, Utah,
In addition to wildlife, there are vast landscapes of incredible beauty and the highest peak on the continent. For the adventurous, there is also whitewater rafting and helicopter glacier tours. Tip: only park buses are allowed deep into the park and the first bus each day often sees the most wildlife. The downside is it leaves at 5 a.m.! Reserve before your trip since tours sell-out weeks in advance.
In the South, dive the reefs in Biscayne National Park within sight of Miami or less than an hour’s drive away take an airboat ride to
see alligators in Everglades National Park. Forget cruising through the Carribean, stay and experience it by visiting the
A little farther north is Fort Pulaski near Tybee Island, Georgia outside of Savannah.
U.S. Virgin Islands National Park Virgin Islands National Park. It includes 60% of St. John Island, swim with sea turtles in Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, walk on the same beach as Christopher Columbus at Salt River Bay, be transported back to the European 18th Century at Christiansted National Historic Site and learn about America’s first freed slaves, but don’t miss Buck Island Reef National Monument one of my favorite places on the planet… Take the full-day tour! On your flight home, layover to
Washington’s Olympic National Park offers hundreds of waterfalls
It ended castle-like fortifications forever as well as dramatic mountain after newly developed riffled canons scenery on Hurricane Ridge. quickly breached the walls during a Civil Much farther west War battle. The wildlife is great too; alligators sunning themselves moatside, Pearl Harbor, Hawai'i Bald Eagles scanning for fish from the is a moving experience. fortress walls, and even the occasional manatee. In the West, see fascinating ancient cliff dwellings of Ancestral Puebloans and
enjoy “100-mile views” at Mesa Verde National Park where mule deer are everywhere at dawn and dusk. Mesa Verde is near the Four Corners and is also in the “Grand Circle” with Aztec Ruins and Chaco Canyon nearby.
Bike tours down the Haleakala National Park volcano cone are popular, but I suggest a fascinating lava tube tour. If you’re still set on a big name national park, try it in the offseason to avoid the crowds. For example,
Yosemite in winter is
see San Juan National Historic Site and World Heritage Site in Puerto Rico
The top 10% of visited parks receive fantastic 60% of the visitors, while the bottom 10% receive less than .1% of visitors. So, with lots to do including skiing avoid crowds and that includes the distinctive Spanish and ranger guided snowshoeing at fortresses of Castillo San Felipe del Morro, Badger Pass and in the valley cross try the road less traveled like Castillo San Cristobal, Fort San Juan de la country skiing, ice skating, and Cruz, and much more. Northern California’s themed dinners in historic lodges.
UNESCO San Juan, Puerto Rico National Historic Site
Lassen Volcanic National Park,
think Yellowstone without Old Faithful but with mountain scenery. Then nearby
Redwood National Park to see the tallest trees in the world
including majestic Roosevelt Elk, Fern Canyon that you’ll recognize from the film Jurassic Park, and beautiful Canaveral National Seashore on the seascapes.
Already have an Orlando theme park vacation planned? Drive 45-minutes to
Space Coast, where you can also visit the awesome rockets of Kennedy Space Center!
In Central California, look for California Condors at Pinnacles National Park
Add a night and visit the beautiful fortress at Castillo de San Marcos or National Monument in St. Augustine. Catch the cannon firing demonstration explore the Channel Islands during the day, but return for the beautiful for a true “Island of the Blue views at night. I also suggest a ghost tour Dolphin” experience. of St. Augustine.
The National Park System is often referred to as “America’s Best Idea” and now you know some of my favorites. Centennial year aside, national park visitor numbers have been declining since 1987 while the overall U.S. population has increased by more than 30%! This means a much larger percentage of America’s youth have yet to visit a National Park. For me, our national parks are still heaven on earth. So, whether you’re an old pro or a first timer, get out there and enjoy an experience of a lifetime… and take the kids! If you end up wetting yourself like me, I promise not to tell.
M U L T I P L E P A R K S
Jeffrey Lehmann is the Emmy awarded host and Emmy awarded producer of the “Weekend Explorer” travel series provided free to PBS stations nationwide.
8 National Parks, 2 Couples, 3 Weeks and 1 Car
Story and Photos by Elaine J. Masters
Grand Teton National Park
t started with the phone call. “I got accepted in Philadelphia!” From that moment forward our blended family worked on getting our young couple situated across the country. After all the packing, selling off belongings, shipping and arrangements, the final task was getting the car there and our family road trip to see eight National Parks was born. Trips often start out with grandiose visions. We discussed camping, glamping and renting an RV or camper van. By the time we settled on the itinerary, with two couples - one boomer, one millennial - the trip wasn’t grand, it was practical. Early in June we piled into one car for three weeks of driving.
We had traveled together before. Father and son had a lifetime of it; the new wife and girlfriend, a bit. We weren’t strangers but definitely had different ideas of how to do a road trip. J wanted lots of camping and long hikes. V bought hiking boots begrudgingly and took to the trails with him. Dad helped foot the bills and reserved several nights at lodges. I helped with planning and hoped my road trip experience would pay off. Knowing that J and V were moving across the country made us more patient about the overloaded car. Unfortunately that patience was tried with the packing and unpacking necessary every night to dig things out. We two Boomers packed as light as possible and there still wasn’t enough room for our minimal gear.
Travel styles collide in close quarters. J wanted to get quickly from point A to point B. He had a plan and was sticking to it. We wanted more time to wander, to pull over for pictures and discoveries. There wasn’t time for spontaneous discoveries. We filled up on too many convenience store snacks and ate bags full of salty carbs to reward ourselves for driving the long hours. The young couple wanted, needed, full regular meals. We Boomers were accustomed to coffee and a light snack before starting the day, eating lightly for lunch and then enjoying a larger dinner. We all ended up pudgy by the end of the trip with the extra eating, snacking and sitting.
here are several books that we shared to prepare for the trip especially Michael Oswald’s great tome, Your Guide to the National Parks
which listed all 58 in full detail for visitors.
There were a few we all agreed on immediately and soon our course was set. At the outset, we visited family near Yosemite, our first park. The first morning we slipped into the grand valley for a short walk a few hours before the crowds filed in. We passed them crawling along the road into the valley as we scooted out heading west. On we sped through the wine country of Napa and a few stops before arriving at Redwood National Forest for several short hikes and onto Crater Lake for the night. I took advantage of the WiFi in the Crater Lake Lodge for a few hours while the others hiked. Quiet time alone became a premium. Mount Rainier really won our hearts. The winding drive to the peak was studded with views. Vast stretches of snow in sunlight made the mountain glow. Paradise Lodge was our refuge for the night. The mighty timbers of the historical building, spacious dining hall and small rooms were reminders of how travelers were once rewarded for making the journey. Glacier National Park was the next goal and we had reservations at Belton Chalets, just outside the park entrance. It was another historic building but the rooms were nicely upgraded. Our dinner on the deck was one of the best meals of the trip with surprisingly succulent meats, great service and lots of local ingredients. Unfortunately, the next day we faced rain on the Road to the Sun. The mists had me fantasizing about Hobbits, but the crowds didn’t fit the vision. Unfortunately, also we had booked the last couple of rooms in the St. Mary Lodge on the far side of the park. While the lobby and upstairs were comfortable, in an over-stuffed, Wild West way; our rooms were bare-bones in the basement, an afterthought perhaps for days when volunteers and Park staff needed lodging. Before getting back on the road, we wandered the St. Mary Lake trails, full of brooks and wildlife. A few months later, sadly, fires swept through most of the scenic lake front areas we had walked.
Mt. Rainier National Park Mt. Rainier Snow Lake
Glacier National Park
M U L T I P L E P A R K S
I didn’t want to say that Yellowstone was my favorite National Park, to be part of the fan club, but it’s hard not to be gobsmacked by the geothermal oddities and colors, the yellow rock canyons, and especially the abundance of wildlife, big and small. Yellowstone is supremely managed. What is this vortex where animal and man jostle close and still flourish? If its famously expansive caldera were ever to actually explode, the hole it would leave would run through the heart of everyone who’s ever visited.
Yellowstone - Elk
y this time in the journey we’d worn into a pattern of driving, packing and unpacking, eating and not. I’d relinquished trying to stay up on social media, at best posting a picture every day or so. This part of the country was new to me. The grandeur, surprising vistas, and encounters pulled me to attention. I’m just glad the rest of the family were patient with my early work angst. I learned to ask for time for myself, to let the others do the harder hikes, to go at my own pace and take the pictures I wanted without feeling badly about slowing everyone down. We had our most unique and hardest two nights of the trip at a commercial campground, Yellowstone Under Canvas. Lack of preparation found us illprepared for the anti-glamping experience we faced. The campground though was a vision - off the main road, set into surrounding acres of open grassland, with a creek and fire pits. Our days in the park were long, sunny, and hot but come dusk, temperatures dipped to just above freezing. Each of our two tee pees were basic - two cots with thick sleeping bags, lanterns and a small table, but the group bathroom was on the other side of the site. The showers were lovely and warm with all the towels we could want; getting in and out however was a chilly crucible. On the edge of the property sat the lodge restaurant, an impressive log, A-frame. Kitchen magicians created the most delicious breakfast platters, then burgers, seared trout and breads for lunch and dinner. New revelations came when we moved on to Grand Teton National Park, less than an hour south of Yellowstone. For two nights we slept in comfy, attached cabins near the main lodge and marveled at the views across Jenny Lake, and shifting shadows of the jagged peaks. Created through John D. Rockefeller Junior’s ingenuity, it was easy to see how he became enamored with the land and why he worked hard to preserve it from over-grazing and development. The space drives one to introspection and I loved the bench he placed on a hillside near the lodge that faced the mountain range.
Mt. Rainier - Paradise Lodge
Before parting ways in Omaha, we drove through the Badlands National Park. The narrow highway crossed grasslands and dipped into close valleys framed by striated canyon walls in startling colors. Reds and pinks shot through with ribbons of sandstone in vanilla shades; the whole then cut into shapes and sharp ridges by the wind. We paused to watch mountain goats savoring greens along the road and kept going. I could’ve wandered, hiked there for days but we were running out of time. It’s enough to pause even briefly in these natural wonders spread widely through the country. I’d like to say our trip drew us closer to one another but with the tight quarters and the pressure to press on, it was oddly hard to connect. Certainly long hours in the car could lend one to conversation but it was tiring and for introverts, a challenge. Our varied interests sadly kept us politely at arms length.
Mt. Rainier - Critter
On the final day we stopped in Rapid City after walking around the Mt. Rushmore monument. The light was fading. Small clutches of teenagers jockeyed for best placed selfies. A few squirrels skittered past searching for handouts. The mighty noses and profiles seemed diminished as shadows crept across their cheeks. Cafes and galleries closed quickly and we had no time to linger. It was a powerful road trip but sadly, ‘no time to linger’ might have been the mantra for our journey.
Glacier National Park, Montana
11 Tips for a cross-country National Park Road Trip: 1. For family groups traveling together, start discussions about itineraries months in advance. 2. For peak summer visits, reserve lodging six months in advance to get the places you want and the best prices. 3. Keep on budget: Spend a night camping, or in cheaper accommodations, then splurge a few nights on historical lodges and nicer hotels. 4. GPS cerrtainly helps but won’t always be available. 5. Mobile WiFi would’ve been great and taken some work pressure off being online during long drives. 6. The Hotel Tonight App usually works well but book more than 2 hours before arriving to avoid confusion about the reservation and rates. 7. Keep room in the car for a small cooler. We used an insulated bag to keep things chilled but it was too easy to squeeze and leak. 8. Stop at grocery stores with deli counters for quick lunches. We found it easy to satisfy everyone from salad eaters, sandwich lovers to yogurt-spooners. 9. Keep comfort in mind to manage stress. Bring travel pillows. 10. Drink enough but not so much that potty breaks are too frequent. Avoid extra salty snacks. If you’re indulging in a bag of chips, keep from overeating by putting a portion in a small baggie and eating that only, or at least finishing it before reaching for more. You won’t over indulge as easily.
M U L T I P L E P A R K S
Elaine J. Masters: The Trip Well Gal Award-winning freelance writer / author / blogger: Tripwellgal.com Associate producer NPR podcast, Journeys of Discovery Travel Massive San Diego Co-host Books/Audio: Drivetime & Flytime Yoga Facebook / Twitter / Linked In / Pinterest / Instagram / YouTube
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Photo credit: Robert Demar / aerial view, Mark Gardner / bikes, Mike Bertrand / Friday Harbor, Jim Maya / whales
Lopez Island • Orcas Island • San Juan Island / Friday Harbor
InspIratIon For the senses VisitSanJuans.com
Explore Historic Friday Harbor Find Endless Adventure
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Mammoth Hot Springs
Yellowstone Geothermal Features
Photography by Bennett Root, Jr.
Y E L L O W S T O N E
Photography by Bennett Root, Jr.
Y E L L O W S T O N E
Orange Mound 29
The quintessential Yellowstone scene: bison with geothermal steam in the background.
Photo courtesy of Wyoming Office of Tourism
Tackling Yellowstone From Horseback Camping Trips to Cars and Modern Lodgings, Visiting the Park Has Changed Over Time By Barbara Gibbs Ostmann As the National Park Service turns 100 this year, all eyes on our national parks, often referred to as America's Best Idea.
n 1872, when President Ulysses S. Grant set aside two million acres of wilderness in the Wyoming Territory to create the world's first national park, he set into motion an ideal that would capture the hearts and minds of the American people and the world. The concept was further cemented in 1916 when President Woodrow Wilson signed the act that created the National Park Service (NPS).
Today there are 409 units within the park system. Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas holds the title as the oldest. It was first protected when Congress declared the area a reservation in 1832, 40 years before Yellowstone became the first national park. Hot Springs was designated a national park in 1921.
EARLY DAYS IN YELLOWSTONE
His granddad's early trips were by horseback and horse-drawn wagon. When the road over the Sylvan Pass opened after the snow melted, Fred led three horse-drawn wagon trips per summer, July 1, August 1 and September 1. Each camping trip lasted 16 days, and the cost was $10 per person per day. (Today's visitor can see in two days what took 16 days back then, says Bob.)
Today, more than three million travelers visit Yellowstone each year. That's a far cry from the first year, when around 1,000 people visited the park, traveling on horseback. Yellowstone was hard to get to and was totally lacking in amenities. But word spread about the amazing sights in Yellowstone, and the people came. By 1915, cars were entering Yellowstone, and by 1925, wagons were being Bob Richard, who lives in Cody, just eliminated. His grandfather then used outside the park, grew up on the trucks to haul the camping gear, while North Fork of the Shoshone River, the guests rode horses or in touring cars. living and breathing Yellowstone. "I Paving the park roads began in the 1930s, was born in this area, and I've been but wasn't finished until after WWII. guiding in Yellowstone since I was 12 years old," says Bob. He is now 79. Bob was 10 when he began
accompanying his grandfather on trips Bob's grandfather, Fred Richard, and learning the names of every peak, was one of the first outfitters for bluff, river and valley, and the stories Yellowstone. Fred got his first license behind them. At age 12, he "led" a pack in 1906 from the U.S. Army, which trip for his granddad, but he realized later managed Yellowstone from 1886 until that the cook and wrangler were really the NPS took over in 1918. the ones in charge.
Bob further explored Yellowstone during his years as a park ranger, 1956-1960. He was the last designated horse patrol ranger in Yellowstone, and his mount, Red, was the last Morgan stallion the park owned. After a stint in the Marine Corps, Bob returned to his beloved Wyoming. He often took people on tours of Yellowstone for free, just because he enjoyed it. His father told him to start charging. In 1987, Bob established Grub Steak Expeditions, and was licensed by the park to lead tours. He sold the company in 2012, but still guides for them. For someone so familiar with Yellowstone National Park, what is Bob's favorite spot? He pauses to consider, then says, "Lamar Valley, because of the wildlife. I usually can find bears, antelope, bison, elk and wolves."
Y E L L O W S T O N E
Photographers at a Yellowstone Association Institute workshop set up their cameras for a photo shoot of the Yellowstone River in Hayden Valley. Photo courtesy of NPS Photo by Jo Suderman
By far the best known geyser in the park, Old Faithful erupts, on average, every 92 minutes.
SO MUCH TO SEE The problem with Yellowstone, as with many other national parks, is that there is more to see than time allows. To really experience the park, visitors need time to hike, to look for wildlife, to pause and reflect, to savor the sunrises and sunsets; yet for many people, a quick drive through with stops at key points is all their schedules allow. Even the quickie version of Yellowstone can be eye popping and awe inspiring, so donâ€™t let time constraints deter you. Being stuck in a "bison traffic jam" might be one of the most vivid memories of the trip. Although Americans love their cars, and most people want to drive through the park on their own, a good way to see the most park in the least amount of time is with a guided tour. Xanterra Parks and Resorts, the park's main concessioner, offers many guided tour options, as do companies in each of the gateway towns to the park -- West Yellowstone, Gardiner and Cooke City, Montana, and Cody and Jackson, Wyoming. In the winter, the only park road that is open to cars is between the North and Northeast entrances. But snow coaches and other snow vehicles transport guests into the park.
Photo courtesy of Wyoming Office of Tourism
Sights to see depend on the season, as much of the park is inaccessible in winter. Old Faithful is probably the number one attraction year round. Although it is neither the largest nor the most spectacular of the park's more than 200 geysers, it is the most dependable, with eruptions approximately every 92 minutes. Old Faithful Inn is itself an attraction; don't miss the guided tour of the magnificent fir and lodge pole pine structure.
Photo courtesy of Wyoming Office of Tourism
The name of this thermal pool says it all: Bluebell Pool. One of the many wonders of Yellowstone National Park.
Yellowstone is a hotbed of geothermal activity. The hot springs and travertine terraces at Mammoth Hot Springs and the geysers, springs and pools of Norris Geyser Basin and the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins give visitors a close-up look at many of the park's most outstanding geothermal features. Yellowstone Lake is North America's largest mountain lake at such a high elevation (7,733 feet or 2,357 meters). In the summer, kayakers on the lake paddle past steaming, bubbling geothermal pools and mud pots along the lake edge. Other must-see sights include the spectacular Upper and Lower Falls in the 20-mile-long Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, and wildlife viewing in Lamar Valley or Hayden Valley. Depending on your fitness and activity level, choose from hiking, fishing, boating, sightseeing tours, ranger-led programs, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding and wildlife watching.
Photo courtesy of Wyoming Office of Tourism
The Grand Prismatic Spring is accessed by the Midway Geyser Basin boardwalk.
Y E L L O W S T O N E
The pot of gold at the end of this rainbow over Hayden Valley is the wonder of Yellowstone National Park.
Photo courtesy of NPS Photo by Richard Lake
Sometimes visitors get lucky and are treated to a double rainbow in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Photo courtesy of Wyoming Office of Tourism
Possibly one of the most photographed views in the park: the Upper Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Those early visitors to Yellowstone wouldn't know what to make of today's park road system and the network of lodging and dining facilities within the park. Roads from the five park entrances feed into a sort of figure eight, designed to provide unobtrusive access to the park's many wonders. One of the key ways to make the most of a park visit is to stay within the park, either camping, in cabins or in lodges or inns. Being in the park puts you closer to the action, saves on driving time, and enables you to pack 24 hours a day with park experiences. Lodging and activity reservations well in advance are strongly recommended, but it's worth checking at the last minute in case of cancellations. Xanterra, the principal concessioner for lodging, dining and activities, operates a wide variety of services in both summer and winter. For an immersive Yellowstone experience, consider one of the Yellowstone Association Institute programs. These in-depth courses are led by experts and often offered in collaboration with inpark lodges. Classes on wolves, geysers, photography, birding and other topics are designed for several age groups, from middle school to boomers. Barbara Gibbs Ostmann, a contributor from Gerald, Mo., is a big fan of national parks. This article first appeared in AAA Midwest Traveler, May/June 2016.
Photo courtesy of Wyoming Office of Tourism
BEFORE YOU GO For park information, call the NPS visitor information line at 307-344-7381 or visit www.nps. gov/yell. For lodging, camping, activity and dining information, contact Xanterra Parks and Resorts at 307-344-7901 (general information) or 866-439-7375 (reservations) or visit www.YellowstoneNational ParkLodges.com. For Yellowstone Association Institute, call 406-848-2400 or visit www.yellowstoneassociation.org.
Always be prepared by dressing in layers. Don't forget a jacket or sweater, rain gear, sunglasses and sunscreen. Always carry extra clothing and food when hiking. And practice Leave No Trace, taking only memories, leaving only footprints.
Photo courtesy of Wyoming Office of Tourism
The grande dame of Yellowstone National Park, the Old Faithful Inn is 113 years old. Try to make time to take the informationpacked, guided tour of the interior of this historic inn.
Y E L L O W S T O N E
Midnight Visitor Yellowstone National Park Story & Photos by Jacqueline Harmon Butler A loud thumping on my porch woke me up. My heart was racing as I crept from my bed to the nearby window. Slowly I peeked out and discovered a huge buffalo staring right at me. Only a thin sheet of glass separated us. She huffed and stamped her hoofs and shook her massive head. I was terrified and wondered what I should do. I could see the rest of the small herd slowly munching on the grass in the central courtyard. My friends and I were staying in a group of individual tiny cabins in a group surrounding a large grassy yard. The cabins all had twin beds and little bathrooms. Nothing else. And no telephone! I was petrified and didnâ€™t know what to do so I slowly closed the curtain and quietly got back in my bed. I listened to the buffalo huff around for a while and then all was silent. To my relief she must have wandered off to join the rest of the herd.
Yellowstone National Park - Bison Mom & Baby
y friends and I were staying in the little cabins at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel in Yellowstone National Park. We had dined in the beautiful dining room. The chef created a delicious selection of local products, including buffalo sliders.
Yellowstone National Park Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel Cabin Front Porch
I chose a mixed greens salad topped with fried goat cheese, followed by an assortment of main dishes to share with my friends, including: Bison top sirloin roasted with garlic and herb compound butter, buttermilk mashed potatoes; Pistachio Parmesancrusted trout; Huckleberry Barbecue chicken and Linguine with Smoked Chicken with caramelized onions and fresh mushrooms. We couldn’t resist the Bison Burger topped with mushrooms, bacon and American bleu cheese. Of course we couldn’t pass up a selection of desserts. The Yellowstone Caldera was a warm chocolatetruffle torte with a molten middle. Nor could we resist the Montana huckleberry cobbler a la mode or the Yellowstone Sundae made with huckleberry ice cream with a mixed berry topping. Oh my! My friends were visiting the park in the early spring. The scenery was incredibly beautiful. We saw hundreds of buffalo wandering around and many adorable babies following beside their mothers. The male buffalos don’t have much to do with the females except when it’s mating season. They usually wander off by themselves and leave the females to take care of the babies. It’s tempting to approach the animals near the road but our guide cautioned us not to do get too close. The animals are wild and dangerous and very protective of their young.
Yellowstone National Park Buffalo Pasta Yellowstone National Park Osprey Nest
Y E L L O W S T O N E
We saw amazing wild life: a family of grey wolves wandering on a hillside, a black bear having lunch in a grassy meadow, a nest of osprey with hungry babies calling to their mother and hundreds of buffalo. It was thrilling! Spring is an ideal time to visit Yellowstone. Before the hundreds of visitors arrive in the summer. We were able to enjoy the scenery and wildlife at leisure and there was not much traffic on the roads. As scary as it was having my midnight buffalo visitor I have to admit that I think it was my most memorable experience of Yellowstone.
Grand Teton National Park, A 40th Wedding Anniversary, And The Bentwood Inn
Plus Important Grand Teton National Park Foundation Initiatives
Story by Joy Bushmeyer
Forty years ago I married a mountain man. Besides his many hikes on the Muir Trail in California, one of his fondest memories was of snowshoeing in Grand Teton National Park, taking photos with his 8x10 view camera. After nearly forty years of marriage and raising four kids, a trip back to the Grand Tetons seemed like a great idea. So when my friend Sue and her husband Mike, co-owners of a gorgeous bed and breakfast resort in Jackson Hole Wyoming (The Bentwood Inn), suggested we visit and include it in a story on the Grand Teton National Park, I thought it would be a perfect place to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary. And it was!
The short flight from LAX got us into Salt Lake City before 11:00 am. We set off in our rental Rogue, the perfect size SUV for two, and comfortably headed north from the city, passing vistas of steep and rocky mountains on the east, watching stores and businesses give way to fields and livestock as we neared Idaho. In the open spaces and clean air of Idaho I began to feel a combination of relaxation and excitement about all that is not city.
Bentwood Inn Jackson, Wyoming
Photography by Dick Bushmeyer We had followed Hwy 15 north and turned off at McCammon, taking a slightly longer route, which offered us the chance to see an historical and unique area called Lava Hot Springs. Today people visit to either bathe in mineral pools or play in the waterpark, but centuries ago Native Americans (primarily the Shoshone tribe) based their winter camps by these warm waters. We continued eastward across the Idaho/Wyoming border and eventually were traveling adjacent the beautiful Snake River. The pools and rapids were abundant and we kept stopping at turnouts for photos and even drove down to a small boat launch where kayakers could enter. With only a few miles to go before we would sleep, we entered the rustic, yet sophisticated, town of Jackson. Passing spreading ranches and then heading up the road toward Teton Village, the main ski resort, we finally arrived at our destination, off the main road, privately nestled in a majestic grove of old growth Cottonwoods and pine trees.
The Bentwood Inn was built in 1995. It was constructed using massive 200-year-old logs brought in from Yellowstone National Park after the great fire of 1988. The craftsmanship is remarkable and a great room warms and welcomes you as you enter. There are five different bedroom choices, The Indian Paintbrush Room, The Wildflower Room, The Bunkhouse, The Cowboy Room and The Cabin. All feature amenities such as a private fireplace, a comfortable king-sized bed, and in some a window seat for enjoying incredible views. We loved staying in the Indian Paintbrush Room with the little balcony that overlooks a meadow-like backyard. We dined nearby, at one of two recommended casual establishments within walking distance of the Inn. Due to gusty winds and dropping temperatures we drove to our destination, enjoyed some soup and ale and returned to call it a night. What a lovely surprise when we awoke to find our little balcony looking over a snow-covered yard!
Snake River Below Jackson
G R A N D T E T O N
Bentwood Inn Great Room (Photo courtesy of Bentwood Inn) Indian Paintbrush Room
Cowboy Room (Photo courtesy of Bentwood Inn)
National Museum of Wildlife Art
Bronze Elk at Wildlife Art Museum
Bronze Moose and View of National Elk Refuge from Wildlife Art Museum
Sunday morning rang in the arrival of the 40th anniversary of our nuptial blessing! After a spectacular breakfast at the inn, we geared up for wind and weather ... and photography ... and headed for the national park. Passing the ranches again we turned left and entered the charming downtown area of Jackson. The park in the square at the very center of town displays bronze historical statues, photographs with historical information, and arches made of hundreds of antlers adorn each corner entrance. We turned north and headed toward the Grand Teton National Park, the National Elk Refuge, and the Wildlife Museum. Our first stop is the Wildlife Museum, which we nearly missed because its exterior color and texture blend perfectly into the rocky terrain. Outside, you will see bronze statues of running elk, a huge bison, and a tall moose. The museum showcases the tremendous love and appreciation people have for the wildlife in this area. Inside the museum countless paintings depict visions of local weather, terrain and animals. The art and information is so well presented that one almost feels a spiritual reverence to this great place. Back outside and looking east across the valley (or “Hole” as it was coined by fur trappers in the late 1800’s), the National Elk Refuge stretches for 25,000 acres. It is bordered on the east by the Bridger -Teton National Forest and on the north by the Grand Teton National Park. It was established in 1923 and is home to an average of 7,500 elk. Gazing across this vast, unmolested valley is a mesmerizing experience and it gave me an incredible feeling of being at one with the earth. As the highway proceeds along the west side of the valley, north to the National Park, a very long and smooth bike path provides an exceptional way to experience this grandeur.
Bike Path aside the National Elk Refuge
Snake River Scene Near the Visitor's Center
Finally we arrived at Grand Teton National Park! It was a lovely crisp and breezy day with snow flurries and heavy intermittent clouds. While we were unable to get photos of mountain peaks, we still enjoyed taking many pictures in the park. Memories of the snowshoeing/ photography trip stood out to my husband and he showed me one of his subjects, the little brown Church of the Transfiguration, peacefully sitting in the foreground of the Grand Teton panorama. Nearby, we took some anniversary photos of ourselves at the scenic and famous Jenny Lake.
40th Wedding Anniversary Photo at Jenny Lake
Driving back toward the main highway we stopped by the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor’s Center. The building is an eco-friendly work of art, compatible with the landscape and brandishing scenic views of the Grand Tetons. The center is infinitely informative with fantastic demonstrations, exhibits, a theater, and a gift shop. One could stay occupied here for hours but our rumbling tummies wouldn’t allow it. Not far away is Dornan’s, a great spot for lunch and spirits and also with one of the best views of the Tetons. We enjoyed soup and ale while watching a lovely snowfall.
G R A N D
Then we headed further north to clearer skies and the top of the park. We photographed big, sparkling blue Jackson Lake, visible all along the west side of the highway. Then there was a spontaneous side trip to the top of Signal Mountain, about 6 miles to the summit, which provided spectacular views looking eastward across the valley. We traveled back along the Snake River, stopping for photographs near the Moulton Ranches. We aimed west and hoped for that great shot where the Grand Tetons would shine forth between cloud formations. But alas, the clouds grew heavy and raindrops began falling, eventually changing to wet snowflakes.
View East from Signal Mountain
T E T O N
Bentwood Innkeeper and Chef Bob Schrader
Photos Courtesy of Bentwood Inn
We hurried back to get ready for our special anniversary dinner at the Snake River Grill, in downtown Jackson. Happily we had time to partake of the daily fresh spread of hors d’oeuvres and wine at the Bentwood Inn. The fare was delicious and socializing with other guests in the great room added interest and enjoyment! Then back to town we drove in the lovely late afternoon sun with bright fall-colored leaves garnishing the wet streets and trees. They were ready for us at the Snake River Grill, as reservations are required nearly a week in advance and they do follow up with confirmation! They were aware of our 40th Anniversary and after cocktails and delicious dinners of pork shank and filet mignon, we were presented with a dinner plate decorated with a Happy Anniversary message beautiful written in chocolate on the rim surrounding a decadent chocolate and caramel dipping dessert.
Monday morning offered a time to relax before going shopping. The Bentwood Inn is a great place for leisure, and although it is perfect as a base for ski trips, Yellowstone excursions, and Grand Teton adventures, it is also a wonderful place to just kick back. My husband found a guitar to strum while browsing the small library, and I found the courage to attempt some piano music at the antique baby grand. While the fire crackled and kept the great room warm, a constant supply of homemade chocolate chip cookies, apples, oranges, an extensive selection of teas and, of course, coffee, all made us feel entirely comfortable and at home. The extraordinary innkeepers at the Bentwood, Bob and Virginia Schrader, provide excellent concierge service and bestow impeccable hospitality and gourmet dining. They prepare all foods fresh daily. The complimentary gourmet breakfast is described by Frommer’s Travel Guide as “hearty and sumptuous”. Homemade sweet breads and seasonal fruit accompany something sizzling on the griddle every day. Evenings bring a selection of wine, cheeses, fresh fruits and vegetables, plus other special treats the chefs cook, to be enjoyed in the great room. At least twice weekly the innkeepers offer a four course seasonal dinner prepared exclusively for guests as a lodging enhancement. Innkeepers and chefs Bob and Virginia have backgrounds in law and hospitality and also ran their own luxury inn and restaurant in New Hampshire. Serendipitously, the Schraders and the Bentwood Inn found each other and the combination makes this bed and breakfast a first class resort.
Sustainable tourism is one of the most important aspects of the Bentwood Inn experience. The Inn is committed to a Green Initiative Program, which means that its operations are measured to reduce environmental impact in every area including: water, energy, solid waste, and landscaping and food preparation among others. The Bentwood Inn is proud of having been accepted as a “Platinum GreenLeader” in the TripAdvisor® GreenLeaders™ program. It also can boast a “5 Green Key” rating, the highest possible rating awarded by the prestigious Green Key Global Eco-Rating Program. The Bentwood Inn is constantly implementing green-friendly renovations to improve their efficiency and reduce their overall environmental footprint.
Seasonal Photos of Bentwood Inn Courtesy of Bentwood Inn
The Bentwood is proud to be a member of “NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC UNIQUE LODGES OF THE WORLD”. National Geographic Unique Lodges of the World is a collection of selectively chosen sustainable lodges that provide guests with not only engaging eco-friendly experiences, but also incredible local adventures in amazing locations.
G R A N D
A crucial and informative part of our trip took place on Monday afternoon. Our friends and owners at The Bentwood scheduled an appointment for us with the GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION. For nearly two hours we sat with Kim Mills (Director of Communicationa & Corporate Relations) and Mark Berry (Vice President) and listened and learned about the real challenges concerning the Grand Teton National Park. The Foundation is made up of a group of hard working, dedicated people who love Grand Teton National Park and who are fighting to protect it. There are very critical issues facing the park today! Please see the
T E T O N
sidebars on the following two pages deliniating the initiatives being implemented by the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.
Packing and leaving wasn’t easy. My complaint was that our stay wasn’t long enough. But now that we know so much more about the park and the wonderful Bentwood Inn, I’m sure we will be returning ... probably as often as possible. This is a magnificent part of our country and should not be missed by anyone. Many thanks to Sue Boos and Mike Scharf and all at the Bentwood Inn. And special thanks to Mark Berry and Kim Mills with the Grand Teton National Park Foundation.
BENTWOOD INN 4250 Raven Haven Rd, Wilson, WY 83014 (307) 739-1411 https://www.bentwoodinn.com/
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION INITIATIVES: KEEPING ALL LAND INSIDE THE PARK FROM PRIVATE DEVELOPMENT! The State needs to sell trust lands inside of Grand Teton National Park for the appraised value of $46 million to fund Wyoming K-12 education. Governor Matt Mead has set the deadline for sale at December 31, 2016. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell has secured half of the funds ($23 million) and the other $23 million is being raised privately through the Grand Teton National Park Foundation (GTNPF) along with the National Park Foundation (NPF). The alternative would be a commercial sale to the highest bidder, who could in turn build anything of commercial value on the land. The consequences of the later would greatly endanger the current primal splendor of the park and impede long established migration patterns for buffalo, elk, moose and pronghorn herds.
National Elk Refuge
GTNPF INITIATIVE : WILDLIFE STUDIES
• Gray Wolf monitoring and research • Innovative grizzly bear research project
including funding bear resistance food storage boxes Eliminating stresses on native Yellowstone and Snake River cutthroat trout (fish passage issues, competition with non native fish and warming water temperatures) Removal of non-native plants and replacement of native grasses and shrubs 44
Grand Teton National Park Bridge below Jenny Lake
GTNPF INITIATIVE : YOUTH ENGAGEMENT
lack of young, diverse people in parks • The today has been recognized as a need for improvement
that engage younger • Programs generations and diverse communities have been implemented
Vida is one that provides extensive • Pura outdoor learning experiences and leadership training for the Latino community
• The National Park Service Academy
introduces diverse college students to career paths within the NPS
GTNPF is bringing tribal youth • The into the park for internships doing Photo courtesy of The Bentwood Inn
preservation work on historical buildings and properties, doing trail work, and learning about NPS careers. GTNPF INITIATIVE : "INSPIRING JOURNEYS" A CAMPAIGN FOR JENNY LAKE
million in private monies through the • $14 GTNPF will fund various maintenance issues at Jenny Lake
a complex of trails, bridges and • Create other facilities at Jenny Lake interpretative plaza similar • Ato redesigned the current visitor complex • Trailhead restoration in backcountry • Improved west boat dock • Redesign at Hidden Falls and Inspiration
G R A N D T E T O N
GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK FOUNDATION
Grand Teton National Park Jenny Lake
www.gtnpf.org www.facebook.com/gtnpf www.twitter.com/GrandTetonFdn
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BE PREPARED TO BE AWED! By Mary Lu Laffey
Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service
G R A N D C A N Y O N
hen President Theodore Roosevelt visited the Grand Canyon in 1903, he asked our ancestors to keep it for their children, their children’s children — which would be us — and all who come after us as “the one great sight which every American should see.” More than a century later, my knees jellied as I looked at the “great sight” and quickly decided that “grand” is not a big enough word to describe what Roosevelt was taking about. The Grand Canyon is immense. It sprawls, yawns and stretches between 10 and 18 miles from one side to another. I had read that visitors could see 100 miles away and I believe it. The millennia of rock, shale and sandstone separated by the twisting power of the Colorado River gleam in colors of cream and yellow, rose and red, gray and all spectrums of ochre. On this day, the layers of the high plateau formed over 150 million years ago morph from purple to blue, green to bronze under a piercing blue sky. The sight draws you in to appreciate what Roosevelt was talking about. And what President Woodrow Wilson was able to do about it — establishing the National Park Service in 1916 and signing the National Park Act in 1919.
For those that cannot spend that amount of time at the bottom of the canyon, the park’s shuttle bus service is an efficient way to get to see it from different points. If you never get off the bus, the ride is 75 minutes, round-trip to and from the Village Route Transfer Station. The Grand Canyon Visitor Center is at the South Rim and is the place Throughout the year, bus service to start a visit. Especially with the starts at 4:30 a.m., so sunrise options are available; the routes end one 100th anniversary of the National Park System kicking into high gear hour after sunset. in 2015 and throughout 2016. Outbound the bus route stops at nine canyon overlooks. On the return, By the time the anniversary there are four: Hermits Rest was rolls around, there will be more built circa 1914 as a rest area at the interpretive exhibits including end of the Rim Trail. Pima Point, is information about the rock layers and the fossils they contain. A new considered the westernmost point along the West Rim Drive. Mohave theater addition is also planned. Rental bikes for cyclists and more Point provides a spectacular view “way finding” information for those of the Colorado River and the buttes beyond. There is a stop at Powell wishing to make their own way Point, which is more of a peninsula. around the national park are also Powell Point was named for Major teed up. John Wesley Powell, a late 19thcentury explorer who is credited One of the most popular ways with the first known passage on the to see the canyon is from the Colorado River through the Grand Colorado River. Rafting trips can Canyon. Lake Powell is also named range from 5 to 19 days, on and in his honor. The views from these along its 277 miles. The literature points are the ones that postcards says it can be a life changing are made of. experience, and from the view from above, I am prone to agree. It isn’t easy to step away from any Looking into the ancient rock is thrilling but looking up would be as of the viewing platforms—like most visitors, we were spellbound. well. The South Rim is the more visited of the two more accessible viewing places — the North Rim has fewer roads but it where the mule rides descend several thousand feet into the canyon.
Grand Canyon Boating by the Havasu Cliffs
Grand Canyon Shuttle Service 50
Photos Courtesy of the National Park Service
Photo Courtesy of the National Park Service
Grand Canyon Mather Point
IF YOU GO GRAND CANYON NATIONAL PARK: Grand Canyon National Park is located in the high plateau of northern Arizona.
One of the Seven National Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the canyon measures between 10 and 18 miles wide and one mile deep. (928) 638-7888, www.nps.gov/grca/contacts.htm
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE: www.nps.gov NATIONAL PARK SERVICEâ€™S CENTENNIAL: www.nationalparks.org/centennial YOU SHOULD KNOW: Admission is per vehicle or by foot or bicycle for a visit of up to seven consecutive days. WHEN TO GO: Grand Canyon National Park is open 365 days a year.
April to October has the best weather in this part of Arizona. The South Rim is pleasant during the summer, when crowds are at their peak; at the base of the canyon, the temperature can rise to 100+ degrees. Spring and fall are unpredictable with storms. Winter is beautiful, but can be difficult. The National Park Lodges system offers 2-day round trip mule excursions. Other excursions include rafting the canyon on the Colorado River, overnight hikes and hot air balloon tours. Maps are available for those wishing to explore on their own.
G R A N D C A N Y O N
GETTING AROUND: Between March and December, shuttle buses provide transportation between the Village Route Transfer Station and Hermits Rest, with stops at nine canyon overlooks. The return trip stops at four points.
STAYING WHERE: Grand Canyon National Park Lodges, (888) 297-2757, www.grandcanyonlodges.com, operated by Xanterra Parks and Resorts. Other lodging is available adjacent to the park or in nearby Flagstaff, Arizona. Within the park, camping is first-come, first served as well as with reservations.
an epic journey to inspire the spirit
Story and Photos by Debbie Stone
Grand Canyon Trail Going Down in Time
From atop the south rim of the Grand Canyon, the trail down appears daunting. It weaves and snakes its way amid the layers of rocks, eventually vanishing from sight. I take a deep breath, step off the edge and begin my descent into this vast and imposing abyss. Most folks only see the Grand Canyon from overlooks at the rim. Some view it from down below aboard a raft, as they ply the waters of the mighty Colorado River. I have had the privilege of enjoying both these perspectives in the past, but now I was going to undertake what only one percent of visitors actually do â€“ hike the entire way to the bottom of this behemoth. No mule riding for me! I wanted to make the journey on foot to get the full canyon experience and feel the ultimate sense of accomplishment in this feat. To explore this resplendent natural wonder, I opted to join a guided, small group trip with Wildland Trekking, a highly reputable company specializing in outdoor hiking adventures in and around the Grand Canyon. With a guide, I knew I would learn so much more about this treasured national monument than if I were to do it solo. And in the company of other like-minded companions, I would have the added bonus of a camaraderie-rich adventure.
The Grand Canyon gained national park status in 1919, eleven years after being designated a national monument by President Theodore Roosevelt. Since then, millions of visitors have flocked to this aweinspiring sight. Though it is not the deepest canyon, its overwhelming size and intricate and colorful landscape have contributed to its global fame and almost mythical status. Geologically, this landscape is significant because of the sequence of ancient rocks that are beautifully preserved and exposed within its walls. These rock layers provide a record of much of the early geological history of the North American continent. Additionally, it is one of the most spectacular examples of erosions in the world. Itâ€™s hard to comprehend the size of the canyon because itâ€™s so overwhelming in scale. The numbers say it all: 277 river miles long, up to eighteen miles wide and one mile deep. As for age, the canyon itself is a fairly young feature, geologically speaking, having formed only in the past five or six million years. The rocks in the bottom of the canyon, however, are a different story. They date back billions of years and tell a tale of land masses colliding and drifting apart, mountains forming and eroding away, sea levels rising and falling and relentless forces of moving water. It is said that each step you make as you descend into the canyon takes you back in time 30,000 years.
Grand Canyon from Overlook on South Rim
G R A N D On Wildland Trekking’s 3-day Phantom Ranch Hiking Tour, your first day is spent on the descent into the canyon on the South Kaibab Trail, one of two “superhighways” in the Grand Canyon. It’s about 7.5 miles from the trailhead near Yaki Point to Phantom Ranch, your home at the bottom of the canyon for the next two nights. The South Kaibab was constructed in the 1920s in response to an uber-capitalist who insisted he owned the rights to the Bright Angel Trail, the one main route in existence at the time. The National Park Service decided to construct a trail of its own, along a protruding ridge; the effect being that it is one of the most straightforward descents found in the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon Park Service Sign
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It starts out steep and never lets up, but there are plenty of places to stop, take in the spectacular views and rest your weary feet. At Oh-Ah Point, for example, you can look east towards Desert View Watchtower and see numerous side canyons that slash their way down to the Colorado River in deep, but regular intervals. Between each of these drainages, jagged rows of rock project up from the recess with their familiar lineup of weird looking, yet incredible buttes, spires, mesas, knobs, castles and temples with names like Vishnu, Brahma, Isis and Shiva. Other formations within the canyon honor explorers, scientists and heroes of different countries and cultures. There are even pirate and Camelot themed monikers or simply visually descriptive titles such as Cape Solitary, Kangaroo Headland, Point Retreat and the Alligator.
Grand Canyon Trail
As our group passed from one layer of rock to another, I noted the contrasts, particularly between the Coconino Sandstone, a pale almost white strip of rock, and the Hermit Shale, a bright red/brown layer beneath it. And then there are the purple quartzite boulders that stick up from out of the Redwall Limestone. The array of colors in the layers is sublime, due mainly to trace amounts of various minerals which impart the numerous hues to the canyon walls. What surprised me the most, however, was the number of trees in existence, as I never expected to see much green in the canyon. Further enhancing this palette were the wildflowers and cacti in spring bloom. I marveled at how far our group had hiked in a fairly short time and when I could see the Colorado River getting closer, I thought the end to this relentless staircase was near. Distances, however, are deceiving in the canyon and those in-the-know will tell you to focus on what you’ve done as opposed to what you still need to do. It’s all about putting one foot in front of another. But, as our guide Dillon told us, “It’s not a race. Life is fast. Slow down. Take the time to be in the moment and marvel at this special place.”
Grand Canyon Trail Cactus Blooming 54
Dillon was the consummate guide, knowledgeable and attentive, with a passion for the Grand Canyon that was ever present. It was clear he loved his job for many reasons: the physical activity, meeting people from all around the world, sharing the beauty of this place with others and having an “office with incomparable views.” He regaled us with facts about all things Grand Canyon, including its history, geology, flora and fauna, pointing out the surprising diversity of plants and other living things that make their home in the canyon, as well as the different fossils embedded in the sandstone. He reminded us that the canyon is the story of life enduring through desolation, drought and other harsh challenges. And he made us laugh with his delightful sense of humor, which served as a welcome distraction during times of fatigue. Most importantly, he was the bearer of our food, providing us with delicious picnic lunches and snacks galore to sustain us on our trek. He carried a forty-pound backpack, full of sustenance, first aid supplies, extra water, books and more, while nimbly navigating the trail. We merely toted our daypacks, as the mules had taken our overnight bags down to Phantom Ranch earlier in the day.
Grand Canyon Bright Angel Trailhead
Grand Canyon - Cargo Mules on Trail
G R A N D C A N Y O N
At times, it was only our group on the trail and we felt like we were the only inhabitants in this magical world. Then, we would encounter others making their way up or down. The ones who were descending like us were talkative and friendly; whereas, those ascending were intensely focused on the uphill challenge. I knew I would be in their shoes soon enough, as I recalled the famous rule of the Grand Canyon: “Going down is optional; going up is not.” We also shared the trail with pack mules and mule riders, marveling at these creatures’ strength, stamina and ability to navigate steep switchbacks with agility.
reserved in advance and have set times at communal tables in the dining hall. Dinner is either hearty beef stew or steak with accompaniments. Vegetarian chili is available for nonmeat eaters. A canteen is also on site with access to snacks, beverages, basic supplies, etc. It’s hard to believe that this piece of civilization exists in such a remote locale, but it’s certainly a welcome sight to tired hikers and backpackers, and even the mule riders who arrive complaining about their sore derrieres. The ranch serves as a gathering spot, a crossroads of sorts, where people from all walks of life mingle and share their canyon experiences.
When we finally reached the bottom, we crossed over the Colorado River on a suspension foot bridge, pausing to gaze at the jaw-dropping panorama. Then on the final leg to Phantom Ranch, we stopped at an Anasazi Indian site with ruins dating back 900 years. All that’s left are the remains of the foundation of some buildings and some old stone tools. The Anasazi were the ancestors of the Hopi and the other modern Pueblo Indians. The site provides evidence of early inhabitants in the canyon. Phantom Ranch is the only outpost at the bottom of the canyon where you can spend the night, either at the campground nearby or at one of two types of accommodations – rustic cabins or dorms. Meals are
Day two of the trip dawns and my calves and those of my fellow hikers are screaming. All that downhill is tough on the body and we gingerly walk to breakfast doing the “Kaibab shuffle.” Though this is a day where the activities are optional and I am envisioning myself splayed out on the little beach nearby, Dillon proclaims that the best cure for sore muscles is to hike some more! So, our group dutifully follows our fearless leader as we head up to a vista point to look down at the river, followed by a gentle walk along Bright Angel Creek to where it meets Phantom Creek. At this picturesque juncture, we stop for another tasty lunch where I stick my tootsies in the icy water. The painful numbing sensation feels oh, so good.
Grand Canyon - Phantom Ranch at bottom of canyon
All too soon the next day arrives and at the early hour of 5:30 a.m., we begin the trek to the top, this time using the Bright Angel Trail, the other main route through the Canyon. Though it’s longer (9.5 miles to the rim), this well-maintained trail has access to water in a few places, unlike the South Kaibab where it’s essential to carry all your water with you for the entire hike. And there’s shade, glorious shade, in a number of spots, as well as several rest houses with toilets. The first few miles of the route starts with an easy traverse along the Colorado River, followed by a beautiful hike up Pipe Creek Canyon. Seeing sunrise from this locale was an extraordinary experience. Though we soon lost sight of the river, the trail remained cool and green, as it crossed over Garden Creek several times. Cottonwood trees provided ample shade, as the morning began to warm up. And mini waterfalls added to the lovely charm of this fairytale-like scene. I learned that the best way to deal with the ascent was to break it up into sections. It’s much more manageable than looking at the monstrous, towering cliff way up in the stratosphere, wondering how you’re going to get up there - and then realizing that it’s not even the rim! I would gaze behind me at the trail I had just hiked, which descended for miles, and I would congratulate myself on the distance I had covered. There are switchbacks in spades, but relief is in sight once you arrive at Indian Garden, a lush oasis with a campground, water and bathroom facilities. It’s a tropical paradise, which also signifies the halfway point on the trail.
The final miles are tough, as they just seem to get steeper and steeper, and yet the rim still appears to be out of reach. It’s time to pull out the Snickers, or my favorite, a Payday bar, for a boost of energy to propel me up the last part of the trail. When we “top out,” it’s high fives all around, as we bask in our achievement. Though I am grinning from ear to ear, reveling in my success, I am also humbled. This glorious rock cathedral has showed me what it’s like to be a small being in a very big place. I leave with the utmost respect and admiration for Mother Nature’s magnificence.
For more information about hiking the Grand Canyon with Wildland Trekking Company: www.wildlandtrekking.com
Grand Canyon - Suspension Bridge at bottom of canyon
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A TALE OF TWO CANYONS “I find that in contemplating the natural world my pleasure is greater if there are not too many others contemplating it with me, at the same time.” – Edward Abbey
Story & Photos by Efrain Villa
Grand Canyon North Rim 58
THIS LAND WAS MADE FOR YOU AND ME … AND THEM The National Parks Service (NPS) kicked off its centennial celebration on the heels of a recordbreaking year in which more than 300 million people visited the parks. It is likely that many NPS sites will see another surge in visitation in 2016 as a result of the additional media attention surrounding the anniversary. So parks are more crowded now than ever and our social media feeds can make it seem like all of our country’s natural marvels have already been discovered, plundered with selfies, and reconstituted with Instagram filters.
However, even the most popular parks continue to offer many ways to commune with nature on trails less traveled. In a recent press release, National Park Service Director Jonathan B. Jarvis gave encouragement to those who want to avoid hordes of people Facebook Live broadcasting or catching Pokémon on their phones. “Even with record breaking visitation, visitors can still find quiet places in the parks for those willing to seek them out,” says Jarvis. “I can take you to Yosemite Valley on the Fourth of July and within five minutes get you to a place where you are all alone.”
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Grand Canyon South Rim 59
Grand Canyon Bright Angel Point
he Grand Canyon National Park, perhaps the most famous NPS park and second in popularity only to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, has had year-over-year visitation increases since 2011. As of last September, it had already welcomed more than 4.8 million visitors since January, translating to the second-highest number of annual visitors on record, even without taking into account the last quarter. Once tabulated, the October through December numbers are likely to push the park past the alltime 5.5 million annual visitor record set last year. However, ninety percent of all that Grand Canyon traffic is on the South Rim, leaving the North Rim virtually untouched by group tours, motor coaches, and device-obsessed crowds.
Grand Canyon Lodge
Part of the difference in visitation patterns is due to the fact that the North Rim closes for the winter from October 15th through May 14th, but even on months when both rims are open, the north gets far less visitors; accessibility is a big part of the reason why. The South Rim is easily accessible from interstates and urban centers with heavily developed tourism infrastructures, whereas the North Rim is located in what is known as the Arizona Strip; a sparsely populated region (6,000 inhabitants) with limited road access and geological barriers, the most obvious being the Grand Canyon itself.
Grand Canyon View from Cape Royale
Furthermore, the South Rim is what people know through pop culture. From the Griswalds to the Simpsons, famous families have long been taking trips to the South Rim and impressing images of those plunging, panoramic vistas into the American psyche. So it is no wonder that to most visitors a trip to the Grand Canyon is synonymous with peering over the edge of the South Rim along with thousands of other tourists. If the two sides of the canyon were twins, the North Rim would be the cool underground artist with a loyal cult followingâ€Ś The South Rim would be BeyoncĂŠ.
WHY THE NORTH RIM? Not all views are created equally. At the North Rim, you do not just stare at the Grand Canyon, you become a part of it. The lookout points here are not necessarily in front of you; they tend to surround and envelop the visitor in a wonderful sweep of bluffs, ponderosa pines, and precipitous chasms. It is also more than one thousand feet higher and 10°F cooler here than in the South Rim, so it very literally has a different feel. Emily Davis, the Public Information Officer for the Grand Canyon National Park, says, “People usually first experience the Grand Canyon at the South Rim, and the ones who feel like they might be missing out on something, tend to come back and visit the North Rim for a more solitary experience. The two sides are very different.” Even animals look and act differently here. The Kaibab Squirrel, a rare subspecies of the Abert’s Squirrel found only on the North Rim, has adapted to the environment by evolving unique coloration patterns and habits that distinguish it from its relatives on the other side of the canyon. Its symbiotic relationship with fungi and ponderosa pines make it a crucial player in the North Rim’s ecosystem. Condors, mule deer, bison and bighorn sheep are some of the other animals that can be spotted along the many hiking trails.
The Kaibab Squirrel is a subspecies of Abert’s Squirrel and can only be found in the North Rim. It has a symbiotic relationship with the fungi and ponderosa pines of the region. As it feeds on the fungi and pines, it disperses it pores, which help the pines access nutrients from the soil.
LODGING AT THE NORTH RIM Although tourism complexes have been constructed on both sides of the canyon, lodging is more limited on the North Rim. Camping spots fill up early and backcountry permits are required for camping within the canyon. For visitors seeking a bit more comfort, Kaibab Lodge and Jacob Lake Inn offer accommodations near the North Rim entrance, the latter is famous for its cookies. For the ultimate North Rim lodging experience, though, you cannot beat a stay in the historic Grand Canyon Lodge, which is the only complete surviving lodge and cabin complex in the national parks. Originally built in 1928 by the architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood, the majestic landmark burned down four years later and was rebuilt in 1936 on the original footprint. It incorporates natural materials native to the region, including Kaibab limestone and ponderosa pine timber, resulting in an aesthetic profile that appears to organically grow out of the rocky precipice on which it is located. (While inside, remember to rub the nose of the famous Brighty the Burro statue in the lobby for good luck; you’ll notice from the sheen on the nose that you are not the first to do so.) The restaurant offers regional and 1930s themed food and has been certified as a green restaurant since 2009. Complimentary shuttles to the Kaibab trailhead are available twice daily, and one-hour and half-day mule rides can be arranged at the Trail Rides Desk from 7:00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m., daily. Currently, the Grand Canyon Lodge is accepting reservations for the 2017 season, which are in short supply and high demand. 928-645-6865 www.foreverresorts.com/grand-canyon-lodge
These balancing rock formations can be found on the way from Navajo Bridge to Lee’s Ferry, where the Colorado River and the Paria River join and river rafting excursions begin.
NORTH OF NORTH Approximately 100 miles northeast of the North Rim entrance is Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which is roughly the same size as the Grand Canyon National Park and carved by the same river, but it gets less than half of the visitors as its famous neighbor. It is definitely worth a visit. “There are several ways to get away from the crowds, and distance is just one way,” says Christiana Admiral, the Chief of Interpretation at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. “Experiencing the parks at night during off-peak hours is another way visitors can have a more intimate experience. This year we started several dark sky programs, including a two-day festival in October and we have received funding to repeat the program in 2017.” There are many amazing sites at the recreation area, including Navajo Bridge, Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon Dam, Lake Powel, hanging gardens, Rainbow Bridge National Monument (purportedly the highest natural bridge in the world), and many other natural wonders you can contemplate alone… or with company.
Glen Canyon Dam
The second largest dam in the US, only 16 feet shorter than Hoover Dam, is the reason why the Colorado River is no longer “colorado” (red), the dam filters out the natural, red sediment in the water. Projects are underway to allow the dam to more naturally mimic its ancient flow.
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Horseshoe Bend Navajo Bridge Horseshoe Bend, located within the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, is accessible via a 1.25 mile roundtrip hike from the trailhead parking lot.
The original historic steel arch bridge was constructed in 1929 and 66 years later was replaced by a more modern bridge that accommodates larger vehicles. The Navajo Bridge Interpretive Center anchors the two bridges on the west side of the canyon.
A Grand Canyon Adventure Six days and 188 miles of rafting the Colorado River
Story by John Gottberg Anderson
Photos by Barb Gonzalez
Grand Canyon and the Colorado River 62
When outdoors lovers speak of “bucket list” experiences, the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River is very often right at the top of their lists. Photographer Barb Gonzalez and I crossed it off ours last August, when we joined a commercial trip with Western River Expeditions for six days of whitewater adventure. We were no strangers to river rafting. From Oregon’s Rogue to Montana’s Flathead, the Rio Grande in New Mexico to the Middle Fork of the Salmon in Idaho, we had challenged our share of whitewater. Our biggest previous adventure had been on Hells Canyon of the Snake River, where it draws the boundary between Oregon and Idaho. Hells Canyon is deeper by nearly 2,000 feet than the Grand Canyon itself. Between its walls, the Snake River will often run at 50,000 cubic feet per second. That’s a lot of water. But it pales compared to the Grand. Below Arizona’s Glen Canyon Dam, which holds back Lake Powell, the Colorado may carry twice that much water at a modest flow. An average of 300 feet wide and 40 feet deep, this river is a world-class challenge.
On the 188 miles of Colorado River that we traveled, we endured no fewer than 69 sets of named rapids. Some of them sent waves of more than 30 feet crashing upon us. The moment our vessel plunged past the point of no return, we were doused by water so cold it shocked us, even in the heat of midsummer. We were tossed every which way as we clung tightly to the ropes of a raft that seemed to bend almost in half. Had we let go for even a millisecond, there was a good chance we would be cast into the river. That would have left us gasping for breath even as our personal flotation devices — once called “life vests,” but there’s no guarantee they will save a life — strived to keep our heads above water. As we struggled, we might have inhaled gallons of river water, which is somewhere between ruddy red and chocolate brown in color, having scraped the ancient walls of more than 800 miles of canyon on its way from Colorado and Utah into Arizona.
Down the River This is what it’s like in the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River, North America’s legendary gorge. Rising in Rocky Mountain National Park, the Colorado travels 1,450 miles to Mexico’s Gulf of California. The 277 miles at its heart are embraced by Grand Canyon National Park, visited by 4½ million people every year. Fewer than 1 percent of those visitors ever see the park from river level. Most stare from rimedge viewpoints at the staggering expanse, a dramatic panorama of prehistoric landforms with colors that vary from morning to twilight, spring to fall. The first non-native adventurer to enter the gorge was John Wesley Powell, a one-armed Civil War veteran who took eight men in four dories down the river in 1869. Covering 930 miles in 14 weeks in the years before the Colorado was dammed, they barely escaped with their lives.
Grand Canyon and the Colorado River - Hermit Rapid
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Grand Canyon and the Colorado River - Elve's Chasm Giant rafts sounded like a better idea for our journey. One reason we chose to travel with Western River was that company founder Jack Curry had devised motorized “J-Rigs” for Grand Canyon travel in the early 1970s. Each 37-foot-long pontoon raft holds four guides, 14 passengers and all expedition equipment. With 20 separate air chambers in compartmentalized rubber tubes, these rafts offer maximum flexibility with separate seating for those in search of wild (up front, hanging onto safety ropes) or mild (atop food coolers). We launched at Lee’s Ferry, just upstream of U.S. Highway 89A, the only road crossing of the Colorado River between the Glen Canyon and Hoover dams. We took out
at the Whitmore Helipad on the Hualapai Indian Reservation, where a helicopter lifted us to an airstrip at the Bar 10 Ranch for a small-plane return to Marble Canyon. The journey, our guides explained, would take us through 1.8 billion years of geologic history. The Grand Canyon was carved only the past 6 million years by faulting and glacial meltwater. But the southwesterly flow of the Colorado River has revealed more than two dozen distinctive strata of sandstone, limestone, shale and other minerals, including basalt and quartzite, that date from a time when this plateau was a coastal landscape — one whose current form began to take shape about 70 million years ago with the uplifting of the Rocky Mountains.
History and Nature Every few miles (we lost about 1,500 feet in elevation from put-in to take-out), the rock formations changed, adding a touch of mystery and wonder to our voyage through the past. There were ample signs of civilizations that existed before white Americans intruded: Relic finds indicate that native tribes have been here for at least 5,000 years. In Nankoweap Canyon, an early 12th-century Anasazi granary is even visible from the river. One day, we disembarked at the Unkar Delta to hike into an archeological site once inhabited by the pre-Puebloan Cohonina culture. The site was strewn with pottery shards, baked clay fragments mostly red, gray and white in color, many bearing painted designs. In sections of the canyon farther upstream, more than 200 split willow-branch effigies of bighorn sheep have been found.
The bighorn, one a staple of early people’s diets, are still here. In fact, we saw more of these animals, with their magnificent crowns, than any other. They peered at our rafts from cliffside perches throughout our voyage. We also made occasional mule-deer and coyote sightings, and observed scores of raptors, great blue herons and waterfowl such as mergansers. Songbirds were out and about as well, from phoebes and vireos to yellow warblers. We kept our distance from rattlesnakes, and they from us, but other reptiles, including chuckwallas and collared lizards, were common sights.
Daily Routine Each day on the river followed a similar pattern. We were up at 5:30 as the sun’s first rays peered through the canyon walls from the east. Strong “cowboy coffee” greeted us to breakfast, which was always hearty: eggs, meat, pancakes, fruit and more. Our day’s rafting was often interrupted by hikes to waterfalls and other points of intrigue. On our second day, for instance, we explored Redwall Cavern, a vast limestone amphitheater with a sandy floor and room enough to play a game of football or, certainly, Frisbee throwing. One of our favorite stops was Elves’ Chasm, an enchanting oasis of ferns and moss dripping through contorted rocks above the clear pools of Buckhorn Creek. On another occasion, we paused 90 minutes at Deer Creek Falls, where a beautiful 150-foot waterfall plunges through a narrow slot canyon to reach the river. It’s a great place for a cold soak, especially after a steep hike to a clifftop for more spectacular geology and views.
We typically reached our campsite by 4 p.m., at which point we were set free to find our campsites, set up our tents and unroll our sleeping bags. Sand was omnipresent; it crept into our clothing and our bedding, blew into our eyes and hair. Bathing in the river didn’t help much, as its fine, red-rock grit seemed merely to reinforce the soil we already carried. We finally had to decide that it was okay to be dirty. We never knew for certain what we’d get for dinner, but it was always good. Our main course one evening was grilled chicken breast, another night spaghetti, a third barbecued salmon, yet another 12-ounce New York steaks with all the trimmings. We always had dessert. And long after the sun disappeared behind the cliff walls, it continued to gleam upon the cathedral-like spires that rose as many as 6,000 feet above us, giving us light almost until we fell asleep.
Heat and Rapids Initially, we had some concern about heat on the river, as August temperatures in the desert may easily climb into the 90s and higher. In fact, we were chilly more often than not: The canyon’s high walls block sunlight during many hours of the day, and direct sun had often vanished by the time we set up camp near the river banks. Afternoon rain squalls (and potential flash floods) posed a bigger threat to the journey’s enjoyment than sunstroke. Heat exhaustion is more of a problem for the hikers who accompany pack burros on the nine-mile descent from Grand Canyon Village, on the South Rim, to Phantom Ranch, with cabins a mile off the main river on Bright Angel Creek. As
two backpackers waved at us from a suspension bridge that we crossed beneath during our third day on the river, I couldn’t help but feel that they had a very long uphill climb ahead. Just below that point, we hit the biggest rapids of our trip in the Granite Gorge section of the river. Turbulent Hermit Rapid is the most dangerous on the river, we were told. Over the years, it has taken more than its share of the 700 fatalities recorded in the Grand Canyon. It was followed by Crystal Rapid, which would be rated Class V on most rivers. Created by a boulder fall in 1966, it requires extreme skill and courage to negotiate. We had that in our guides. A full moon lit our camp on our final night, illuminating the Mojave Desert vegetation that had replaced the coyote willow and mesquite prevalent on earlier days of our expedition. A warmer east wind, perhaps driven by encroaching thunderstorms, was tickling the ocotillo, barrel cactus and century plants that rose about us. The waiting list for a Grand Canyon trip can be as many as 10 years long for a private trip permit, which is granted through a weighted annual lottery. While a self-guided trip with friends or family in a flotilla of oar boats and dories can be thrilling, it can also be dangerous, particularly if you’re a less-than-prepared firsttimer. We considered traveling with a commercial operator such as Western River Expeditions (www. westernriver.com) to be a better option. The Colorado River season begins in May and continues into September. The price tag of $2,699 per person isn’t cheap, but most bucket-list opportunities are not.
John Gottberg Anderson writes on travel and recreation from his home in Bend, Oregon.
G R A N D C A N Y O N
IT HAS THE POWER TO RECONNECT A FAMILY, REKINDLE A ROMANCE, REJUVENATE A SOUL.
We’re not sure exactly what it is around here, but something magical happens when you just add water to your vacation. From the natural healing powers of our mineral hot springs to the beauty of Hanging Lake. From the fun of the world’s largest hot springs pool, to the recreational paradise supplied by our two rivers. Dads act younger. Moms laugh more. Brothers actually don’t mind sisters as much. Couples rediscover each other. And somewhere along the way, everyone remembers the feeling of unabashed joy. That’s the power of our water.
Plan your Glenwood Springs getaway at VisitGlenwood.com.
Big Bend National Park - Guide Rachel Hall of Big Bend Stables
Channeling My Inner Annie Oakley in
Big Bend, Texas Story & Photos by Vanessa Orr “Trust the horse. She doesn’t want to go over the cliff any more than you do.” As I heard my guide, Linda Walker, the owner of Big Bend Stables in Lajitas, TX, say these words, she was motioning me to urge my horse, a rather savvy mare who reveled in my lack of experience, to come closer to the edge of a yawning chasm in the west Texas desert. And while I had no doubt of Linda’s abilities, or her understanding of the equine mind, I had just about reached the limit of the surprises I was prepared to face during my visit to Big Bend National Park, which had just that morning included a to-the-death fight between a roadrunner and a tarantula mere steps outside my motel room door.
The fact that my horse occasionally lost purchase and started to slide off the trail was not the least bit alarming to the guides, who were able to skitter up and down the winding rocky switchbacks on their horses like they did it every day—which I guess they did. They encouraged me to enjoy the monumental views of Old Mexico and the Bofecillos mountain range, and when I did finally get the nerve to look up, it literally took my breath away—almost as much as the sound of cascading rocks under each misplaced hoof.
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Big Bend National Park is unique— not only in the wildlife that it contains and its magnificent views, but in the experiences that if offers to those who love adventure. The 900,000-acre park, which is located at the base of the southwestern side of the state, is separated from Mexico by the Rio Grande River. It’s a place of grandiose vistas and wide open skies where water, mountains and desert converge to create a landscape that’s striking in its beauty.
Big Bend National ParkView from Lost Mine Trail
One of 60 Species of Cactus in the Park
Burros in Boquillas Mexico Roadrunner at the Lodge
Mule Deer at Chisos Mountains Lodge
A Husky at the Chisos Mountains Lodge
person can feel cowed by Big Bend’s vastness, or feel welcomed by all of the opportunities it presents to travel beyond his or her comfort zone. From the moment I arrived, I was eager to explore—to climb high peaks and raft down rivers; to stare up at the night sky in a place known to be one of the best places in the nation for star gazing. The good news is that there’s no shortage of the ways that you can enjoy the great outdoors in Big Bend; the only problem is that because it’s so massive, you might not have enough time to do everything that you want. For those who love wildlife, southwest Texas is pretty much heaven—Big Bend alone is home to more than 3,600 species of animals (including insects) and 450 species of birds, and you don’t have to look far to find them. Taking a walk on the quarter-mile path outside of my room at the Chisos Mountains Lodge, which is the only accommodation located within the boundaries of the park, I was accompanied by a very curious roadrunner that wove in and out of my legs but wouldn’t stay still long enough for me to take a focused picture. About 10 feet off the trail, a pair of mule deer locked horns in a play battle, witnessed by about six other deer and me…who probably wondered why I was wrestling with the camera as I tried to get proof that this was actually happening within spitting distance of the lodge. I’m happy to say that I did not see any mountain lions, despite there being a number of signs warning of their presence, and I also—again, quite happily—did not come upon the bear that hikers told me was a little ahead of me on the Lost Mine Trail. Big Bend is a hugely popular place for hikers, and it’s no surprise considering that there are more than 200 miles of trails within the park for every level of ability. I enjoyed a fairly leisurely hike up to the 6,850-foot peak of the Lost Mine Trail in the Chisos Mountains—the cooler morning weather was perfect and the path, while a little steep in places, was extremely walkable. The only delay in the journey was the need to pull out the camera every 20 feet—the views were magnificent as I headed from the basin to the top of the mountain, where I was rewarded with the sight of the moon, still visible in the daylight, perched beside Casa Grande, a square-shaped mountain that soars above the lodge and campgrounds.
Big Bend National Park Casa Grande
Riding with Big Bend Stables
B I G View from Lost Mine Trail
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Driving into Big Bend National Park
Despite getting only about 13 inches of rain a year, Big Bend’s landscape is alive with color, provided by the 1,200 species of plants that grow in the area. Driving through the desert on the way to Santa Elena Canyon, it was startling to see bursts of yellow and red in addition to all kinds of cacti— the park is home to approximately 60 species including yucca and prickly pear.
Sotol Vista, View toward Mexico
The canyon itself is a marvel—while you can see it for quite a while before you actually reach it, nothing prepares you for the sheer immensity of the 1,500 foot limestone walls that form a natural barrier between the U.S. and Mexico. Composed of the calcified bodies of sea creatures, the bottom of the wall is estimated to be 140 million years old; the top of the wall is much younger, at only 70 million years old. There is a short path that you can climb to venture inside the canyon; the day we went, we had to wade across Terlingua Creek to get to the trailhead, but it was well worth the wet shoes. Speaking of getting wet, there are numerous ways to explore the Rio Grande, from rafting down the river with a guide to taking a rowboat over to Boquillas, Mexico at the Boquillas Port of Entry. For $5 roundtrip, this is the coolest border crossing ever—on the Mexican side, you can take a burro ride into town to enjoy something to drink or eat in the town of 250 people; a car ride is also available for the less adventurous.
Riding Burros in Boquillas, Mexico
Trail to the Hot Springs
Langford Hot Springs, beside the Rio Grande 70
This border crossing was closed after 9/11, and just reopened in 2013—you do need to check in on both sides of the border, so make sure to take your passport. I can tell you that my burro ride into town was about as successful as my horse ride through the desert; it seems obvious that getting an animal to listen to me is not one of my talents. One of the most surreal experiences I’ve ever had—and that is taking into account riding the aforementioned burro and traveling in a rowboat across the river—was visiting Langford Hot Springs, where I soaked in 105 degree water in what was once a bathhouse, but is now an open-air, somewhat slimy concrete brick-enclosed “tub” right beside the Rio Grande. While most of the area is now in ruins, it was originally a spa built in the 1900s by J. O. Langford, who was sent west by his doctor to recover from tuberculosis—now it’s just a great way to relax as you stare up into the huge expanse of white-clouded blue Texas sky. Speaking of surreal, you have to love a national park that includes a town where the mayor is a goat; a title that Clay Henry and his descendants have held for many, many years. According to our guide Mike Davidson, who had a story for every stop along the way, Clay Henry was the name of a beer-drinking goat in Lajitas, Texas, who was infamous for drinking alcohol on Sunday in defiance of the state’s blue laws. “The goat didn’t understand,” said Davidson, adding that Henry won a hotly contested mayoral race against a three-legged dog and a wooden Indian in a bought election. You can visit a descendant of Clay Henry today, who is housed in a pen with a number of female goats who perhaps make up his advisory cabinet. I didn’t ask.
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Lajitas is also a popular place for golfers, as the Lajitas Golf Resort has a course designed by Ryder Cup Captain and Hall of Fame inductee Lanny Wadkins. My interest was piqued by another activity offered at the resort, though— the chance to handle real guns while learning to shoot. While this is not something that I would have done back home, Big Bend National Park lends itself to trying new things—and it turns out that I’m actually channeling an inner Annie Oakley. I can say with confidence that I handle a rifle pretty well—as long as I’m not on horseback while I’m trying to shoot.
Altar at Terlingua Cemetery
My visit to Big Bend ended—too soon—with an evening in Terlingua, a ghost town where I was honored to have the opportunity to sit among the families in the local cemetery as they celebrated the Day of the Dead. Somehow this far from civilization I still felt right at home, gazing up at the thousands of stars that littered the night sky and wishing—yawning chasm and all—that I could stay a little longer.
Sunset over Big Bend
B E N D Day of the Dead in Terlingua
Sky over Langford Hot Springs
The Rio Grande in Big Bend National Park
BIG BEND NATIONAL PARK: BIG COUNTRY AND BIG SURPRISES IN THE LONE STAR STATE Story & Photos by Don Mankin
Terlingua Metal Mosquito Sculpture
The"Prada Store" on Road to Marfa
The last thing we expected to see on the lonely two-lane black top in the heart of SW Texas was a Prada store. Upon close inspection, we realized we were looking at an art installation, the first sign of the quirky avant garde art community in nearby Marfa. This was only the first of several surprises on our recent exploration of the wonders of -- get this -- Brewster County, TX, in a remote corner of a state better known for oil, chili, and cowboys. The main draw was Big Bend NP, the best national park most people have never heard of. It’s remote, almost 300 miles from El Paso, and huge, over 800,000 acres. The few people who make the effort to visit have its rugged beauty almost to themselves. There is no easy way to get there, but the remoteness is part of its charm. We flew into El Paso, then drove for four hours, passing the faux Prada store, and stopped for the night at the historic Gage Hotel in Marathon (gagehotel.com), less than an hour from the park entrance. Under the watchful gaze of a mounted white buffalo head in the hotel bar (ergo the name, the White Buffalo Bar) we had a dinner of roast quail, braised elk tenderloins and an outstanding IPA from the Big Bend Brewery just down the block. It was as good as anything I have eaten in major cities around the world. The next morning we explored Marathon before heading to the Park. Marathon used to be a railroad town during the boom years in the late 1800s when ranching dominated the West Texas economy. It is now reinventing itself as a tourist stop on the way to Big Bend and a scenic escape for residents of the “oil patch” (Midland and Odessa) a few hours to the north and west. Marathon is pretty small so we covered most of it on foot in a just a few minutes.
In and Around the Park We spent the next two nights at the Chisos Mountain Lodge in the park (www.chisosmountainslodge. com), a sprawling collection of lowslung wooden buildings in a basin surrounded by sharp peaks and broad monoliths of red rock. Our first morning in Big Bend was clear, bright and crisp in the mountains where we were, but foggy on the floor of the park. From the road near the lodge high up in the mountains, we could see puffs of mist filling the gaps between the jagged spires of rock and rounded buttes jutting up from the desert floor. We headed down into the fog toward Santa Elena Canyon at the far western edge of the park. The fog soon lifted, and I remembered why I love driving through Big Bend. It takes pretty much an hour to go almost anywhere, but its usually an easy, enjoyable drive on the straight, empty ribbons of road. As I drove I
day-dreamed and stole glances at the lunar landscape of desert, canyons, mountains and wind- and rainsculpted rock rolling by. We reached the Santa Elena Canyon parking lot about 9:30 a.m. It was empty, and no one else was in sight. A short walk across a sandy beach took us to the edge of the Rio Grande. This shallow and narrow rio is not so grande by the time it trickles through Santa Elena Canyon. If we wanted to, we could have waded across the 20 to 30 yards of knee-deep water to Mexico. A steep narrow path winds into the canyon up from the beach. In just a few minutes we were surrounded by rock walls, and the only sound we could hear was the burble of the river. We didn’t run into any one else until we headed back down the path to the beach. The total length of the hike from the parking lot and back is less than two miles.
View from the Window Trail
B I G B E N D
A After lunch at the lodge, we went on the 5.6 mile round trip hike to the Window, a notch in a cliff at the end of a streambed which spilled out high above the desert floor. The steep trail descends about a 1,000 feet alongside the dry streambed, then funnels through a narrow tree-shaded canyon to the Window. I inched up as close to the Window as I dared on the slick rock and could see the desert many miles away and almost 2,000 feet below.
The next day featured a horseback ride on state park lands adjacent to the national park. The horses, lunch, and Armando, our guide, were provided by Big Bend Stables (www.lajitass tables.com/bbstables.html). The scenery was provided by God, god, Yaweh, Allah, Krishna, the forces of the universe, or whatever, depending on your beliefs. I didn’t bother with that. I just gawked and hung onto the saddle horn for dear life. Later that day we eased our sore butts onto bar stools at the Starlight Theater Restaurant (www.thestarlighttheatre. com) in the ghost town of Terlingua.
Terlingua is an interesting town, if you can call it that. It was a thriving mining town in the early part of the 1900s, then fell on hard times and was eventually abandoned in the 1940s. In recent years it has turned into a refuge for artists, hippies, bikers, survivalists, itinerant river guides, 9-11 conspiracy theorists, snow birds, tourists and other free spirits, many of them living off the grid. The Starlight has the best food, drink and atmosphere in Terlingua. Of course, there are only a few eating/drinking establishments in Terlingua, but I would probably say the same if there were many more. We ate there two nights and had some of the best Texas BBQ, roast quail, and chili I have ever eaten. We also drank a lot of tequila and had a great time talking to some of the locals. It’s a good thing Terlingua is just down the road from the Big Bend Casitas (bigbendfarflung.com/lodging/), where we stayed for the next two nights, a definite advantage after an evening at the Starlight.
On Horseback in Big Bend Ranch State Parke
On our last day in the park we canoed down the Rio Grande on a trip run by the Far Flung Outdoor Center (bigbendfarflung.com). It was a mellow, leisurely paddle down the shallow, slow-moving river through canyons and desert. Our several hours on the river were broken up by lunch, a two-mile hike, and a long soak in the historic hot springs on the river bank. One of the canoes did get hung up in an especially shallow stretch of the river and overturned. The occupants walked a few feet to shore while the guides emptied the water out of the canoe. If they had walked the 10-20 yards to the opposite shore they would have been in Mexico — illegally, of course, but it didn’t seem like it would have been a big deal if they had. It was that kind of trip. Another evening at the Starlight and another night at the Big Bend Casitas and our five-day Big Bend adventure was almost over. But not quite. The drive from the park along the river on FM-170 to Presidio is one of the most scenic drives in North America.
Paddling Down the Lazy Rio Grande
On the Way Back
From Presidio we headed north and stopped for an hour or so in Marfa, an unlikely oasis for cutting-edge art. In addition to the Prada store that really isn’t a Prada store, Marfa also has its historic charms, including the Presidio County Courthouse and the Hotel Paisano (hotelpaisano.com) where James Dean, Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson stayed while making the Academy Award-winning movie classic, Giant. We considered spending the night in Marfa at the Paisano, but decided to press on to Van Horn one hour north for the night, so we could visit Guadalupe Mountains National Park the next day. We stayed at the historic Hotel El Capitan (www. thehotelelcapitan.com), just off I-10. I don’t know if James, Liz and Rock spent any time here, but the rooms were comfortable, if a bit tight, the food was good and the bar was great. Like the Starlight, the other patrons at the bar were very friendly. One even flirted with my 70 year old wife, making her day (as well as mine).
Guadalupe Mountains NP is an hour north of Van Horn and even less well known than Big Bend, but its rugged desert mountains and empty trails were definitely worth the side trip. We only had a few hours in the park, but it was enough time to take the 2.3 mile loop trail to Smith Spring. If I ever get back to this part of the world I’ll make sure to spend more time here. The adventure wasn’t over. The only way to describe the road from the park to El Paso, Hwy 62, is lonely. And there are no gas stations along the way. We had to take a 20-mile side trip (a side trip off a side trip) along even lonelier farm roads to Dell City to the only gas station for almost 100 miles. It was a self service station and no one was there. I spent a few anxious moments hoping that my credit card would work in the pump. It was Sunday and the town looked shut down, so I’m not sure what we would have done if our credit card or the pump didn’t work.
Morning in Santa Elena Canyon
Hot Springs on the Rio Grande
In any case, they did and we made it back to El Paso in time for an excellent Mexican dinner at the authentic, 90-year-old L&J Cafe (www.landjcafe.com/#about) before catching our flight back home to Los Angeles. I usually travel far for adventure – e.g., Asia, Africa, Alaska, Antarctica, and Australia. What a pleasure to discover someplace remote, scenic, uncrowded and quirky in my own metaphorical back yard. No sleepless nights from jet lag or gastric distress from unfamiliar cuisines (the chili, on the other hand…). As a Californian, I’m not a fan of Texas politics. But to quote another Californian in a much different context and with a very different accent, “I’ll be back.”
B I G B E N D
Cyclist Leaving Machens Trailhead
Katy Trail State Park Missouri
Story & Photos By Linda Aksomitis
The Katy Trail State Park has many distinctive features, one of which is that it’s the longest rails-to-trails park in the United States. Imagine an historic railroad, the MKT, otherwise known as the Katy, running for 264 miles through the state of Missouri, then remove the tracks—and that’s the park. It’s a long, crushed limestone, skinny path that more or less follows the Missouri River.
I was lucky enough to join a group of cyclists hosted by Missouri Tourism to explore the trail in June. While I stayed with the support vehicle since I don’t cycle, I hiked a lot of the trail and explored many of the communities along its path. As I told my cyclist friends, it felt like every day lasted a week with all of the discoveries I made!
Here are some of my favorite stops on the Katy Trail.
I flew into St. Louis, MO, situated right next to St. Charles and the start of the Katy Trail State Park at the Machens Trail Head. St. Charles, the original seat of Missouri’s state capitol in the 1800s, is an historic city. In fact, the old Capitol building is just a stone’s throw from the Katy Trail.
Augusta is a B&B paradise with a dozen, mostly historic, properties. After an early morning walk, I ate breakfast at Kate’s Coffee House Café to the ringing of 160 year-old church bells, then sipped wine from vineyards established in 1859 at Mount Pleasant Winery for coffee break. The Augusta area, I discovered, was the first federally approved American Viticultural Area in the U.S. The reason—the Hayne Silt-Loam soils in the area.
You don’t even have to leave the trail to see the 15’ statue of Lewis & Clark, and Seaman (Lewis’s Newfoundland dog) in Frontier Park. In fact, the Katy Trail between St. Charles and Boonville is an official segment of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail. Between my strawberry shortcake at Boone’s Colonial Inn for lunch, and a cold one at the Bike Stop Café, I spent the afternoon soaking up the history of St. Charles.
Today, there are a dozen wineries with amazing tours like the ones at Montelle Winery and Noboleis Vineyards. The vineyards I didn’t visit, I sampled during dinner at the Silly Goose Restaurant in Augusta.
Boonville New Visitors' Center
I have to confess that Hermann was my favorite stop along the Katy Trail. My visit started at the Stone Hill Winery, and its Vintage 1847 Restaurant built in an old barn with even the stalls still preserved.
K A T Y
One of the great things about Hermann, especially for visitors on bicycles, is that they have a low cost ($10 for the day) trolley that takes you out to all nine wineries for tastings as well as through the historic town. After a day of wine tasting, it’s also great to find many B&Bs to stay in. Mine was the Captain Wohlt Inn (circa 1840) with a room that was historic—cool—and comfy! For insights into the past of this historic community, the Old German School Museum is a must-see. Likewise with the Tin Mill Brewing Company, where you’ll find their brewed beer or cider along with pizza, and a completely intact mill that’s ready to grind grain.
Cyclists ready to fill their coolers and move on will find the Wurst Haus, with all of its homemade brats and sausages (they recently won 10 first place prizes out of 10 entries in the Best of the Wurst German competition!), the perfect place to have breakfast and stock up.
S T A T E
JEFFERSON CITY Jefferson City is the Missouri State Capitol, so a free guided tour of the Capitol Building is great for a hot afternoon’s activity. While the elegant Ozark gray marble interior is stunning, my favorite room was the House Lounge with the colorful Thomas Hart Benton Murals and their playful look at the state’s history. For a totally different experience of Missouri, visit the Missouri State Penitentiary (built 1831), which looks exactly the way it did when the last prisoner was moved to the new facility in 2004. You can even sit in the gas chamber if you dare! Afterwards, chill out at everyone’s favorite local ice cream spot, Central Dairy Ice Cream Parlor, or sip some cool Go to Jail Ale, or Deathrow Oatmeal Stout, at Prison Brews Brewpub.
T R A I L
Boonville Station Depot
P A R K
Clinton Trail End Boonville Old Station Caboose
Boonville Train Tracks
Katy Trail cyclists find the old 243’ train tunnel at Rocheport a great place to get out of the sun. The tunnel, built in 1892, has a naturalistic cut through the native stone on the eastern end, and the western end has a Romanesque arch, with the soil above supported by brick and rustic stones.
K A T Y
The town has a number of beautiful historic brick properties to see as you pedal through, plus some antique shops to stop in. My most amazing find though, was a jukebox store/museum, with all kinds of musical collectibles from a 1948 Trashcan juke box to vintage albums.
T R A I L
Boonville is a great stop, with the Boonville Visitor Center & Museum situated right on the Katy Trail. Next to it, you’ll also find the restored mission style station and caboose, along with the Lewis Miller’s Mitchell Collection of vintage cars, wagons, cycles and motorcycles. It has 400 sites and structures on the National Register of Historic places, one of which is Hotel Frederick—I can highly recommend it for lunch or a place to spend the night.
SEDALIA The old west is still alive and kicking in Sedalia, which for a few decades back in the 1800s was the trail’s end for cattle drives. In fact, an iconic bronze sculpture of a cowboy driving cattle, created by J. Michael Wilson, fills the Trail’s End Starline Brass Plaza. Marked by an historic arch, the downtown has about 112 properties on the National Historic Register. The Sedalia Katy Depot which is part of the trail, was built in 1896, has been fully restored, and contains an excellent museum of the area history. And for a great dining experience as the end of the Katy Trail nears, check out Kedhe’s BBQ, aboard a vintage rail car.
CLINTON TRAIL HEAD I’m sure you’ll agree, when you reach the Clinton Trail Head, mile marker 264, that the Katy Trail has been a grand adventure!
Clinton Trail - Mile 264
S T A T E P A R K
About the Author: Linda Aksomitis is an author and travel writer. Find her online at: http://aksomitis.com & http://guide2travel.ca
A Beginner’s Guide to Death Valley National Park How to Make the Most of a Death Valley Day-Trip Story & Photos By Sarah Vernetti
Death Valley - Badwater Basin after Rain
o go along with its ominous name, Death Valley National Park features a fittingly intimidating climate. As the hottest, driest, and lowest point in North America, the park possesses a stark, yet beautiful landscape full of sand dunes, salt flats, and vast stretches of open terrain that have an almost eerie quality. Although hotel and camping options exist within the park, many first-time visitors choose to use Las Vegas as their day-trip starting point. Although it’s impossible to see such a vast park in its entirety in one day, it is feasible to see some of the park’s best highlights in a limited amount of time. If you’re wondering where to begin your Death Valley adventure, consider exploring these quintessential spots:
FIRST STOP: FURNACE CREEK After your drive into the park, you’ll be ready to refuel and stretch your legs. Grab lunch at the casual Forty-Niner Café, explore the general store, and take a stroll through the nearby Borax Museum. Don’t forget to check out the outdoor portion of the museum, which features historic trains and mining equipment. Golf enthusiasts will want to check out the 18-hole Furnace Creek Golf Course, which sits over 200 feet below sea level, making it the world’s lowest course. The park’s Furnace Creek Visitor Center is located just down the road and provides an excellent introduction to Death Valley’s unique ecology. If you’re visiting during warm weather, you’ll want to snap a selfie near the digital thermometer located outside.
D E A T H Death Valley - Dante's View MESQUITE FLAT SAND DUNES Death Valley is home to several collections of sand dunes. Perhaps the best known, and most easily accessible, are the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes, which provide visitors with plenty of room to hike, explore, and climb. The sand-covered expanse is dotted with trees, shrubs, and animal tracks. The hike out to the tallest dune is approximately 2 miles round-trip. Although the sand dunes are best enjoyed in the morning, nighttime visitors can join one of the rangerled star-gazing tours that are often held here.
BADWATER BASIN Officially the lowest point within Death Valley National Park, Badwater Basin is a popular stop for tourists. Explore the salt flats, which form a stark, almost moonlike landscape that stretches out from the boardwalk. Be sure to remember your camera, not only to document the unique landscape, but also to snap a photo with the Badwater Basin elevation sign.
SCENIC OVERLOOKS A visit to Death Valley wouldn’t be complete without a stop at one of the park’s scenic overlooks. Two of the best are Zabriskie Point and Dante’s View. Zabriskie Point features sand-colored rock formations that look like they are a backdrop in a science fiction film. Located just five miles from Furnace Creek, the overlook can be a quick stop on your way in or out of the park. Dante’s View, on the other hand, requires a little more effort. However, it is worth your time. Located at the end of a winding road, 25 miles from Furnace Creek, Dante’s View provides travelers with a dramatic look at Badwater Basin and the mountains that encircle it.
V A L L E Y
Death Valley Badwater Basin
Death Valley The Other-Worldly View from Zabriskie Point
Death Valley - Badwater Basin from Dante's View Death Valley - Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes
One of Trains on Display at Borax Museum Furnace Creek Street Signs and the Borax Museum
D E A T H V A L L E Y
Two National Parks in the Ozarks Ozark Rivers Flow Through Two National Parks Story and Photos by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann
A flaming fall revue around the Highway 7 bridge over the Buffalo River near Pruitt Photo Courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
hen people talk about national park vacations, certain images usually come to mind: Yellowstone, Yosemite and the Grand Canyon, for starters. There's no question that these scenic wonders merit their universal appeal. But there are national parks all 84 around the country that offer
plenty to see and do, without the need for an expensive airplane ticket. For people in the Midwest, the Ozark National Scenic Riverways in the Missouri Ozarks and the Buffalo National River in the Arkansas Ozarks are two topnotch outdoor destinations practically in one's backyard.
You might tend to think of the rivers as summer destinations, because floating is one of the primary activities. But they are wonderful in the fall -- as well as the winter and spring. Each season brings its own special beauty and outdoor activities. Fall is especially appealing, when the trees turn on their flaming foliage.
The pristine waters of Alley Spring are the epitome of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways
O Z A R K S
anoeing, kayaking, fishing, hiking, camping, horseback riding -- you can do it all in either park, year round. Both offer cultural and natural history and nearby elk herds. There are many similarities, although each park is unique.
The Ozark National Scenic Riverways (ONSR) was the first national park created to protect a wild river system, the Current and Jacks Fork rivers. It was authorized by Congress in 1964. Three Missouri state parks -- Big Spring and Round Spring on the Current River
and Alley Spring on the Jacks Fork River -- were transferred in 1967 to the National Park Service (NPS) to serve as the cornerstones of the ONSR. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) cabins at Big Spring are a popular lodging option for visitors. The cabins are currently closed for renovation.
Horseback riding is a popular activity on the Buffalo National River. Several horse camping sites are available in the area. Photo Courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism
he ONSR became the prototype for the Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968, which helped protect rivers around the country, including the Eleven Point in southeast Missouri. The Buffalo National River in Arkansas was the country's first national river (not a river system, as with ONSR); it was signed into law on March 1, 1972, one hundred years to the day after the establishment of America's first national park at Yellowstone. Two Arkansas state parks – Buffalo Point and Lost Valley – were transferred to the park service to become part of the new national park. The CCC cabins at Buffalo Point are an evergreen choice for visitors.
AN OZARK FLAVOR
To this writer, one of the best parts of visiting the Ozarks is interacting with the locals, the people who live and work in that neck of the woods. One of the most colorful Riverways characters is Jack Peters, a fixture on the Upper Current River since the late 1960s. Peters and his wife, Lois, have owned and operated Running River Canoe Rental, on Highway 19 between Salem and Eminence, since 1979. Prior to that, Peters was a ranger with the National Park Service and was instrumental in the beginning phases of the Ozark National Scenic Riverways. “When we [Jack and Lois] arrived here in Shannon County in March 1967,” said Peters, “the National Park Service had just acquired the first 12 acres. I was the ranger for the Upper Current district.”
Although the ONSR was authorized by Congress in 1964, it didn’t open to the public until 1972. During that time, Peters and others worked to obtain the land for the park, which now has more than 80,000 acres. Peters recalls that Congress appropriated $11 million to buy up to 89,000 acres along the 134 miles of the freeflowing Current and Jacks Fork rivers that are protected in the ONSR. That corridor included a two-mile buffer or gap on either side of Eminence and Van Buren, to allow for future development. Although the park’s goal was to protect a mile-wide corridor along the rivers, Peters noted that really isn’t enough “to truly protect an entire watershed; it’s just a minimum.” Fortunately, the ONSR is bordered by other protected areas, including six Conservation Areas managed by the Missouri Department of Conservation: Peck Ranch, Sunklands, Angeline, Current River, Logan Creek and Rocky Creek. Three state parks, Echo Bluff State Park, Current River State Park and Montauk State Park, are within or alongside the ONSR.
The Upper Current River, from Montauk State Park to Two Rivers, where the Jacks Fork joins the Current, is probably the mostloved float river in the state, and the summer weekend crowds prove it. For the best experience minus the crowds, try to go on weekdays or in the off-season; you’ll often have the river almost to yourself. The same holds true for the Jacks Fork, a tributary of the Current. If you’re looking for a scenic river with a wilderness feel to it, the Jacks Fork is the river for you. The narrow upper section is lined with tall limestone bluffs, sometimes on both sides of the river, almost like a canyon, making it susceptible to flash flooding. The limited access for the upper 30 miles makes it the most primitive river in the region.
Ben Milburn, owner of Buffalo River Outfitters in St. Joe, Ark., enjoys riding horses along the Buffalo, as well as floating and fishing on it.
The ruins of Welch Hospital hover near the roiling waters of Welch Spring on the Current River
O Z A R K S
he crystal-clear Jacks Fork and Current rivers are dotted with springs, which keep the water about 60 degrees year round. Perhaps the most beautiful spring is Blue Spring on the Current. It was called Spring of the Summer Sky by the Native Americans because of its intensely blue water. Alley Spring with its landmark red mill is probably the most photographed site in the state. Big Spring's daily flow averages 286 million gallons, making it Missouri's largest freshwater spring and one of the largest in the United States. There are caves all along the river ways. The biggest is Jam Up Cave, on the upper Jacks Fork, accessible only by river. The entrance, an arch 80 feet high and 100 feet wide, is visible from the river. Round Spring Cave is much easier to access, and park rangers lead lantern tours during the summer. Devil’s Well is a deep, dark, scary sinkhole containing a huge underground lake. There’s a lot of history within the river ways. People of all ages enjoy the chance to ride an old-fashioned river ferry at the Akers Ferry crossing on the upper Current. The historic cabin at Pulltite Spring is an echo of the past, as are the ruins of Welch Hospital at Welch Spring. The picturepostcard red Alley Mill is open seasonally for tours. Hikers on the Ozark Trail can view the old Klepzig Mill not far from the shut-ins at Rocky Falls. Missouri's newly restored elk herd is nearby at Peck Ranch.
Eminence is famous for its cross-country trail rides. There are miles of horseback trails through the area and thousands of riders participate in annual trail ride events. You might even see some of Shannon County’s famous wild horses as you float the Jacks Fork or drive the back roads.
THE NEIGHBOR TO THE SOUTH
The Buffalo National River in northern Arkansas protects 135 miles of the 151-mile river that flows from high in the Boston Mountains to its confluence with the White River, descending almost 2,000 feet along the way. The Buffalo is generally divided into three sections for recreation purposes -- upper, middle and lower. Typically, the float season begins in spring with plenty of water to float the upper section on down. Spring rains produce whitewater rapids in the challenging upper section. As the season progresses and the river level drops, the floating options move downstream. Because the Buffalo is mostly rainfall dependent, it’s a good idea to check with local outfitters for current conditions in the section you want to float or fish. Weekdays are best for fishermen and floaters who want to avoid crowds. Although floating and fishing are key attractions of the river park, there are plenty of other things to do. Hiking is
exceptional, with more than 100 miles of maintained trails leading to scenic bluffs and vistas along the river and in the surrounding forest. Hiking is especially popular from November through March. Camping, backpacking and horseback riding are other favorite activities. The Buffalo also is well known for the restored elk herd near Ponca. The elk are a major tourist draw throughout the year, but especially in October and November in Boxley Valley and at the Elk Festival in Jasper in June. The Ponca Elk Education Center sponsors the Color Fest in Ponca each October. Be sure to allow time for a scenic drive on Highway 7, especially at the height of the fall foliage. The national park also preserves the cultural history of the Buffalo River and its peoples. From village sites and bluff shelters of the early Mississippian and Osage Indians to the cabins of pioneer farmers and the ruins of a mining district to its CCC legacy, the park captures the heritage of this section of the Arkansas Ozarks. Even today, it is, as described by the NPS, “an island of time and space,” a valley where turn-of-the-century lifestyles and landscapes still exist. In Boxley Valley, traditional farming continues. The Parker-Hickman Farmstead in Erbie and the Collier Homestead at Tyler Bend illustrate the lives of the early settlers. The ghost town at Rush Historic District gives a glimpse of the zinc mining boom-and-bust of the area.
Floating and fishing are two main reasons why people love the Buffalo National River.
BEFORE YOU GO: For more information about OZARK NATIONAL SCENIC RIVERWAYS
O Z A R K S
or Park Headquarters P.O. Box 490 Van Buren, Mo. 63965 573-323-4236 For more information about BUFFALO NATIONAL RIVER
The historic cabin on the trail to Pulltite Spring was built in the vertical log style. The Park Service plans to someday restore it.
or Park Headquarters 402 North Walnut, Suite 136 Harrison, Ark. 72601 870-365-2700
DESTINATION INFORMATION EXPLORE BRANSON, MO
Branson, Missouri, nestled in the lakeside beauty of the Ozark Mountains, is America’s affordable, wholesome family entertainment capital that emphasizes fun, comfort and the feeling of being right at home. Featuring an array of live theaters and attraction venues and active recreational pursuits, the community embodies essential American values such as patriotism, faith, courage and generosity of spirit in a warm inviting atmosphere that is truly genuine and heartfelt.
UNITED STATES ALABAMA
Desert character. It can’t be conjured, landscaped or kindled with twinkling bulbs. Projected against this rugged backdrop is a panorama of charm: Resorts and spas infused with Native American tradition. Golf courses that stay emerald green in the middle of winter. Mountain parks crisscrossed with trails. Sports arenas worthy of the Super Bowl. Restaurants that invite you to dine beneath sunshine or stars.This is the desert you never knew. Discover it.
Palm SpringsBureau of Tourism (760) 778-8415
DISCOVER OXNARD, CA
Nestled along the Pacific Coast between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, Oxnard, California offers everything you need for a great vacation. Catch a boat out of our scenic marina for a whale watching cruise or to explore the Channel Islands National Park, “America’s Galapagos.” Enjoy miles of uncrowded beaches and oceanfront bike trails. Grab a kayak, ride the ocean on a paddle board, soak up Southern California’s beautiful-year-round weather. Play at our world-class golf courses and taste local wines along the Ventura County Wine Trail. Celebrate the sunset. It’s time to discover Oxnard!
Visit South Bend Mishawaka (574) 400-4025
Greater Birmingham Conv. & Visitors Bureau (205) 458-8000
Hunstville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau (256) 551-2235
Kansas Department of Wildlife Parks & Tourism (785) 296-4922
Tourism New Zealand (310) 857-2205
Visit Buena Park (714) 562-3560
http://www.huntsville.org Explore Fairbanks 907-459-3770
Sedona Chamber of Commerce (928) 282-7722
Stay In Simi (805) 526-3900
Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Assoc. (970) 945-5002
Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau (502) 560-1480
Jefferson County CVB (504) 731-7083
Greater Lansing CVB (517) 377-1423
Arkansas Department of Parks & Tourism (501) 682-7602
Franklin County Tourist Development Council (850) 653-8678
Little Rock CVB Phone: 501-370-3224
Santa Rosa Tourist Development Office (850) 939-2691
Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB (417) 243-2137
North Little Rock Visitors Bureau 501-758-1424
The Beaches of Fort Myers and Sanibel (239) 338-3500
Visit Central Florida (863) 551-4707
Catalina Island Chamber & Visitors Bureau Phone: 310.510.1520
http://www.catalinachamber.com Lowell Milken Center Phone: 310-570-4773
VISIT PHOENIX, AZ
Visit Bloomington (812) 355-7723
Finn Partners (212) 715-1600
www.FinnPartners.com Niagara Tourism & Convention Corporation (716) 282-8992
http://www.niagara-usa.com Turning Stone Resort Casino (800) 771-7711
DESTINATION INFORMATION (Cont’d.) VISIT PALM SPRINGS
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, CO
Palm Springs, California is known for its storied Hollywood legacy, Native American heritage and stellar collection of mid-century modern architecture. Palm Springs is California’s ultimate desert playground. It truly is like no place else. Lounging by the pool and soaking up the sun is always a favorite pastime. If you want to explore the outdoors and enjoy the beautiful climate, there are plenty of activities. Soar to the top of Mount San Jacinto on the world famous Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, hike scenic trails and stroll through the ancient palm groves in the Indian Canyons, or take an off-road excursion of Joshua Tree National Park or the San Andreas Fault.
Take a ticket to your next Colorado Rocky Mountain adventure by exploring “America’s Most Fun Town,” Glenwood Springs, Colorado! For over a century, visitors from around the globe have added Glenwood Springs to their travel itineraries. Our destination is family friendly, affordable, and blessed with a remarkable mix of geological wonders including hot springs, vapor caves, two rivers and a canyon, surrounded by the glorious Rocky Mountains. Whether you crave hiking, biking, fishing, outdoor activities or relaxing spa time, you’ll find it all in Glenwood Springs.
VISIT SALTY, FLORIDA
We’re Salty! If you’re looking for the old Florida experience you’ll find it in Franklin County. Tucked along Florida’s Panhandle, the coastal communities of Alligator Point, Apalachicola, Carrabelle, Eastpoint, and St. George Island offer beaches, history, adventure and fresh Apalachicola Bay seafood served up in an authentic “salty” setting. Relax on award-winning, pet-friendly beaches, climb historic lighthouses, charter eco-tours and fishing trips or bring your own gear and enjoy camping, paddling and hiking on acres of wooded trails and miles of quiet streams. Tee up on a championship golf course, enjoy live theatre performances in an historic venue and browse local galleries, museums and shops. Fresh local seafood is served at more than 30 area restaurants and local seafood markets.
Burlington/Alamance County CVB (336) 570-1444
Discover Newport, Rhode Island CVB (401) 845-9117
Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau (919) 245-4323
South County Tourism Council (401) 489-4422
Durham Convention & Visitors Bureau (919) 680-8326
Sioux Falls Convention & Visitors Bureau (605) 373.2012
Graham County Travel & Tourism (828) 479-3790
Johnston County Visitors Bureau (919) 989-8687
Cherohala Skyway National Scenic Byway (423) 442-9147
Outer Banks Visitors Bureau (252) 473-2138
Wilson County Tourism Authority (800) 497-7398
Galveston Island CVB (405) 797-5152 Visit Big Bend (432) 837-3915
Visit Houston (713) 437-5275
Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau (405) 297-8973
Baker County Tourism (541) 523-1589
http://www.basecampbaker.com Washington County Visitors Association (503) 644-5555
TRAVEL SERVICES City Pass
Toll Free (888) 330-5008 Direct: (208) 787-4300
www.citypass.com Exodus Travel (647) 880-1581
Whidbey and Camano Islands Tourism (360) 629-7136
http://www.visithouston.com Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism (360) 671-3990
San Juan Islands Visitors Bureau (360) 378-6822
Quebec City Tourism (418) 641-6654, 5421
MEXICO PUERTO VALLARTA Visit Puerto Vallarta (212) 633-2047
Travel Tacoma + Pierce County (253) 284-3253
Nothing like hitting the @OKC_Rapids for an amazing day on the water
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