Today’s post is 1690 words, 10 photos, an 8 minute read. Enjoy!
HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Welcome back to Traveling with Tom and to the year 2023, the year of the rabbit. It’s my wish that you and yours have a pleasant, fun, and prosperous new year.
On this New Years Day, I bring you Part 1 of my annual Reflection, Resolutions, and Renewal post. I’ll begin with a reflection on 2022 that will be continued in Part 2 next week.
I published fifty-two blog posts in 2022. A few of those were repeats of articles and photos from older posts. But for most of January, February, March, and early April, I published posts from our November 2021 trip through national parks and monuments in Colorado, Utah, and California. Here are a few highlights.
Arches National Park
The Delicate Arch is the most popular destination in the park. Here’s why: the opening or window is 46 feet tall and 32 feet wide making it the tallest free-standing arch in the park; it’s known around the world through the many published photographs; it’s the symbol featured on the Utah license plates.
There are three ways to see Delicate Arch. One is by way of a difficult three-mile trail from the Wolfe Ranch that takes visitors to the arch. Hiking time is estimated at 2-3 hours roundtrip. The second way is by way of a half mile hike to the Upper Delicate Arch Viewpoint from the parking lot. This is a steep climb to the top of a rock formation to view Delicate Arch from a distance of at least a quarter mile. After examining this trail, we decided to view the iconic arch from the Lower Delicate Arch Viewpoint, no huffing and puffing up a steep hill! I took the photo below with my telephoto lens extended to the max. Note the number of people milling around the arch. It is a site to behold. For my post on Arches National Park click here.
Bears Ears National Monument
The two buttes in the distance were named by the natives of the area in several languages, all translated to some version of Bears Ears.
Natural Bridges National Monument
Within the boundaries of Bears Ears lies another national monument, Natural Bridges. It’s run by the National Park Service and was the first national monument established in the State of Utah (1908). This park receives a little over 100,000 visitors per year. While it’s remote, I think it’s definitely worth the time and travel to see such natural beauty. For more information on this national monument click here.
Capitol Reef National Park
Capitol Reef protects the Waterpocket Fold, a S-shaped rocky spine that runs north to south through the park for nearly 100 miles. This feature makes the park narrow, six miles wide on average, and long, about sixty miles. The park is bordered on the west by the Fishlake and Dixie National Forests and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. On the east side, the boundary is primarily in the hands of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Click here for my post on Capitol Reef and click here for more information from the National Park Service.
Bryce Canyon National Park
Bryce Canyon National Park is world famous for its hoodoos, those tall, thin spires of soft rock topped with a harder rock. Nowhere in the world are hoodoos as abundant as at Bryce Canyon. They are created by erosion from thin walls of rock along the cliffs called fins. Over time, frost and dripping water create holes or windows. As the windows grow, the tops eventually collapse leaving a column. Rain further sculpts these pillars into hoodoos. Eventually, the snow and rain will weaken the hoodoo and it will crumple into a pile of rubble. For my blog on Bryce Canyon, click here.
Zion National Park
At the visitor center, we learned that Zion National Park is located at the junction of the Colorado Plateau, the Great Basin, and the Mojave Desert. This allows for a unique geography with a variety of features such as jagged mountains, buttes, mesas rivers, canyons, arches, woodlands, and desert. This makes it perfect for a national park. The most prominent feature of the park is fifteen mile long Zion Canyon that was carved by the Virgin River.
You might be wondering how this park was named. In the early 1870s, the explorer John Wesley Powell was in the area and named this area Mukuntuweap, a Paiute word meaning “straight canyon.” The Mormon settlers that moved to this area beginning in the 1850s, called it Zion, a place of peace referred to in the Bible. That name stuck mostly because the other name was hard to pronounce, spell, and likely more appealing to a broader audience.
In 1909, the Zion Canyon part of what is now Zion National Park was designated the Mukuntuweap National Monument. It was later renamed Zion National Monument and in 1919 designated a national park. The park today consists of nearly 150,000 acres of land. Nearly four million visitors were expected to visit Zion in 2021. I’m pleased to say my Traveling Partner and I were part of that crowd. Fortunately, we made our visit during the low season, I can’t imagine the high season crowds as Zion is one of the most popular parks in the country. The weather during our stay was very mild, sunny skies, highs during the day in the 60s, with lows in the 30s at night.
Death Valley National Park
Death Valley National Park is vast, covering over 3.3 million acres between the Great Basin to the east and north and the Mojave Desert to its south and west. Death Valley was designated a national monument in 1933 and upgraded to a national park in 1994. It preserves a diverse environment of deserts, salt flats, sand dunes, mountains, valleys, canyons, and craters. This park also preserves a number of plants and animals that have adapted and thrived in this harsh environment.
It was the California Gold Rush of 1849 that brought hundreds of people to this area looking for a short-cut to the gold mines. Legend has it that the name comes from a member of one of the group that barely survived their long journey through this forbidding land, turned and bid goodbye to “Death Valley.” Some of their group perished. The name stuck.
Devils Tower National Monument
On our drive home to Madison from Death Valley, we made stops in Wyoming to visit friends and in North Dakota to visit family. In Wyoming, we made a stop at Devils Tower National Monument.
Devils Tower looms 867 feet above the trees and prairie that surrounds it. The columns of igneous rock were created when volcanic magna penetrated rock to form intrusions. After an estimated 40-50 million years of erosion of sedimentary rock, the formation we now know as Devils Tower was exposed. Erosion still plays a part in the evolution of Devils Tower. Portions of the columns periodically collapse and break off. Some of the photos you’ll see later will show the rubble laying at the base of the formation.
The Kiowa, Lakota Sioux, and Cheyenne Native American tribes consider Devils Tower scared, each having their own story how it came to be. Bear Lodge was one of the many names for the Tower. It’s believed that the name Devils Tower came in 1875 during an expedition led by Col. Richard Dodge whose interpreter apparently misinterpreted the native name as Bad Gods Tower. Recent attempts by the tribes to have Devils Tower National Monument renamed as Bears Lodge Historic National Landmark have failed due to political opposition.
Click here to read my blog on Devils Tower.
Theodore Roosevelt National Park
When in North Dakota, I had the opportunity to visit both the North and South Units of Theodore Roosevelt National Park.
On the west edge of Medora is where one can find the entrance to TRNP. The pay kiosk was closed for the season so I made a stop at the visitor center to show my Senior Pass and chat with the park ranger. I asked about photo opportunities and any updates to the park since my last visit over two years ago. She told me just that morning, a ranger on patrol found an old buffalo bull dead near the Wind Canyon Overlook. A crew was headed out to load the bull on a flatbed trailer so it could be disposed of with reverence. This peaked my interest! She also told me about the upgrades and renovations at Peaceful Valley Ranch. Another point of interest.
With this information, I headed into the park. As I mentioned earlier, I’ve been to this park countless times. I try to go every time we are in western North Dakota. My first visit was in July 1961, I was eleven and attending 4-H camp. Then it was named the Theodore Roosevelt National Memorial Park, the only memorial park ever established and named after a person. It became a national park in 1978. While I can count on one hand how many cars I saw during my visit, it’s busiest during the warmer months, May through September. An estimated 800,000 visitors enter the park each year.
This photo was taken at the Wind Canyon Overlook, one of my favorite spots in this park. To read my blog post and see more photos from this park, click here.
I made a second visit to TRNP in early September. Here’s one photo from my early morning photo shoot. The River Bend Overlook provides a stunning view of the Little Missouri and flat plains below. The stone shelter on the overlook was built by the CCC. Click here to see more photos and read the full post.
That does it for this week. Stay tuned next week for Part 2 where I’ll continue to reminisce and reflect on 2022 and detail my resolutions for the new year.
Until then, happy travels!