Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve (Colorado)

… was authorized as a national park 14 years ago today, pending land acquisition. The land was acquired and Great Sand Dunes became America’s 58th (of 59) National Park September 24, 2004. It had been a national monument since 1932.

GreatSandDunes

The tallest dunes in North America are the centerpiece in a diverse landscape of grasslands, wetlands, conifer and aspen forests, alpine lakes, and tundra. Experience this diversity through hiking, sand sledding, splashing in Medano Creek, wildlife watching, and more!


Through the breaking apart and movement (rifting) of large surface plates on Earth’s surface, the Sangre de Cristo Mountains were uplifted in the rotation of a large plate. Fossils from the bottom of an ancient sea are now preserved in high layers of rock in the Sangre de Cristos. The San Juan Mountains were created through extended and dramatic volcanic activity. With these two mountain ranges in place, the San Luis Valley was born, covering an area roughly the size of the state of Connecticut.

Sediments from both mountain ranges filled the deep chasm of the valley, along with water from mountain streams and rivers.

Sand that was left behind after these lakes receded blew with the predominant southwest winds toward a low curve in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The wind funnels toward three mountain passes here – Mosca, Medano, and Music Passes – and the sand accumulates in this natural pocket. The winds blow from the valley floor toward the mountains, but during storms the winds blow back toward the valley. These opposing wind directions cause the dunes to grow vertically.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve


A small gallery below of photos taken August 30th of last year. Note the solo adventurer in the long-range photo without any grass visible. Also, you can see the waves on the sand in the closeup, and how grass takes root where it seems impossible.

Click any image for larger versions.

I include the park sign because somewhere nearby are my prescription sunglasses, carelessly left on the roof of the car while peeling off layers.


Zion National Park (Utah)

… … was established on this date in 1919.

Located in Washington, Iron, and Kane Counties in southwestern Utah, Zion National Park encompasses some of the most scenic canyon country in the United States. Within its 229 square miles are high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstone canyons, and the Virgin River and its tributaries. Zion also has 2,000-foot Navajo Sandstone cliffs, pine- and juniper-clad slopes, and seeps, springs, and waterfalls supporting lush and colorful hanging gardens.

With an elevation change of about 5,000 feet-from the highest point at Horse Ranch Mountain (at 8,726 feet) to the lowest point at Coal Pits Wash (at 3,666 feet), Zion’s diverse topography leads to a diversity of habitats and species. Desert, riparian (river bank), pinyon-juniper, and conifer woodland communities all contribute to Zion’s diversity. Neighboring ecosystems-the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin, and the Rocky Mountains-are also contributors to Zion’s abundance.

Zion National Park

Originally Zion was proclaimed Mukuntuweap National Monument (July 31, 1909); Mukuntuweap was incorporated into Zion National Monument (March 18, 1918); Zion National Monument became Zion National Park.


President Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 151 Years Ago Today

Nicolay Copy

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

But in a larger sense we cannot dedicate — we cannot consecrate — we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.


Make Her Smile

By my Granddaughter Kiley (11 when first posted a year ago today).

Every girl, if I’m not mistaken, wants to feel pretty. Maybe all the time. Maybe just once in a while. Maybe hardly ever. But our appearances matter to us. We want to impress people. We want to look cute, or at least clean. So next time you see a girl in a pretty outfit, look closer. If she’s not smiling, she’s not confident. If she’s not smiling, make her smile.


This Year’s Political Realignment of the Century

NewMexiKen can remember going to a Poli Sci class the morning after LBJ’s landslide against Goldwater in 1964 and hearing the professor tell us how it was the end of the Republican Party. With that hindsight, I have found the talk about this year’s realignment and the end of the Democratic Party pretty amusing.

Every Saturday’s big game has to be the biggest game ever. Every election where one party replaces the other has to be the end of the losing party.


Arches National Park (Utah)

… was redesignated from national monument to national park on this date in 1971.

Delicate Arch

Arches National Park preserves over 2,000 natural sandstone arches, like the world-famous Delicate Arch, as well as many other unusual rock formations. In some areas, the forces of nature have exposed millions of years of geologic history. The extraordinary features of the park create a landscape of contrasting colors, landforms and textures that is unlike any other in the world.

Arches National Park

For there is a cloud on my horizon. A small dark cloud no bigger than my hand. Its name is Progress.

The ease and relative freedom of this lovely job at Arches follow from the comparative absence of the motorized tourists, who stay away by the millions. And they stay away because of the unpaved entrance road, the unflushable toilets in the campgrounds, and the fact that most of them have never even heard of Arches National Monument.

The Master Plan has been fulfilled. Where once a few adventurous people came on weekends to camp for a night or two and enjoy a taste of the primitive and remote, you will now find serpentine streams of baroque automobiles pouring in and out, all through the spring and summer, in numbers that would have seemed fantastic when I worked there: from 3,000 to 30,000 to 300,000 per year, the “visitation,” as they call it, mounts ever upward.

Progress has come at last to Arches, after a million years of neglect. Industrial Tourism has arrived.

Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire (1968)

“In 2010, the park received over one million visitors.”

Arches is magnificent and should be on any list of must-see national parks.

NewMexiKen photo, 2010