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Happy Birthday, LBJ!

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Lyndon and Lady Bird.jpgTo sustain an environment suitable for man, we must fight on a thousand battlegrounds. Despite all of our wealth and knowledge, we cannot create a redwood forest, a wild river, or a gleaming seashore. But we can keep those we have.                                                                                                               -- Lyndon Baines Johnson


Lyndon.jpgLauded for his contributions to civil rights and maligned for his role in the Vietnam War, Lyndon Johnson is seldom hailed as a great environmentalist. His sweeping domestic program, the Great Society, is usually thought of as an economic agenda. Of course, he was deeply committed to putting "an end to poverty and racial injustice," as he explained in May 1964 to the graduating class of the University of Michigan. "But," he continued, "that is just the beginning." Listing his goals, he declared that it was vitally important to ensure that everyone had access to "a place where man can renew contact with nature."

LBJ also understood that many people, especially the poor, were isolated from natural beauty. Places like Yellowstone and Yosemite were great, but they were also very remote. Lyndon's job was fusing the traditional conservation movement with the changing realities of America's increasingly urban society. "We must not only protect the countryside and save it from destruction, we must restore what has been destroyed and salvage the beauty and charm of our cities," he explained. Urging local governments to beautify towns and create city parks and greenways, Lyndon pledged to create new parks and recreation areas within driving distance of major cities.

In February 1965, he spoke to Congress about conservation: "Association with beauty can enlarge man's imagination and revive his spirit. Ugliness can demean the people who live among it. What a citizen sees every day is his America. If it is attractive it adds to the quality of his life. If it is ugly it can degrade his existence."

Lyndon Johnson passed more National Park Service-related legislation than any other president, creating a staggering 52 parks, recreation areas, national historic sites, wildernesses, monuments, seashores, lakeshores and memorials! He even set aside working farms and created a national park dedicated to the performing arts (Wolf Trap National Park, in Virginia). Moreover, he created the National Parks Foundation, the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Trails System. Among the diverse group of historic sites and national landmarks set aside during the Johnson Administration are:

Lady Bird wildflower.jpg•    Biscayne National Park, Florida
•    North Cascades National Park and San Juan Island National Historic Park, Washington
•    Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site and Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina
•    Arches National Monument and Canyonlands National Park, Utah
•    Redwoods National Park and John Muir National Historic Site, California
•    Eisenhower National Historic Site, Pennsylvania
•    Agate Fossil Beds National Park, Nebraska
•    Assateague Island National Seashore, Maryland-Virginia
•    Herbert Hoover National Park, Iowa
•    Roger Williams National Historic Park, Rhode Island
•    Roosevelt Campobello International Park, Maine-Canada
•    Ellis Island National Monument and Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site, New York
•    Padre Island National Seashore and Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas
•    John F. Kennedy National Historic Site, Massachusetts

(Fittingly, LBJ's ranch is now a national park in its own right.)

At the urging of his wife, Lady Bird, he championed the Highway Beautification Act. This law tore down billboards and removed "beauty-destroying junkyards and auto graveyards," planting flowers and trees in their place. As Lyndon said, "The roads themselves must reflect, in location and design, increased respect for the natural and social integrity and unity of the landscape and communities through which they pass."

With the help of the Democratic Congress, he passed dozens of bills designed to limit pollution, preserve rare habitats and protect endangered species, like the Air and Water Quality Acts, the Pesticides Control Act, the Wetlands Preservation Act, and the Endangered Species Act.

And now... Test your environmental knowledge with this word search! When you're done, copy the unused letters into the blanks to discover a little-known fact about LBJ...

Lyndon wordsearch.jpg

Here are the answers (no peeking!)


Lyndon wordsearch answers.jpg
LBJ house.jpg

Smoky Mountain Salamanders

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Salclss 2.JPGAn iconic attribute of the Great Smoky Mountains is its salamanders - over thirty species live in the national park alone, from the elusive, twenty-nine inch "Hellbender" to the four-inch Jordan's red-cheeked salamander, which is endemic to the park. We joined in "Slimy Salamanders," a ranger-guided program in which the object was to catch these creatures, and subsequently we glimpsed the fast reflexes that these species must have; salamanders are small, fast, and well camouflaged, for the most part. The ranger instructed us to place them in a water-filled plastic bag once we had successfully captured them, so that they could breathe, the oils on our hands would not harm them, and so the other participants could see them as well.

Salamanders are typically thought of as aquatic creatures, but some are actually terrestrial, and we discovered the largest number of species living on land. In fact, the word "salamander" comes from the ancient Greek phrase meaning "fire animal," for they could be seen crawling out of burning logs and it was therefore believed they were born from fire. (Actually, they were just escaping the flames, since they tend to live under fallen vegetation or stones).

They belong to the order Caudata, along with newts, and they are carnivorous and mostly eat invertebrates, such as earthworms, grubs, and beetles. Some species of terrestrial salamandersSalhand.jpg are unique in that they do not have gills or lungs, but breathe through their skin instead. Most American salamanders le underground in the winter and during the daytime to avoid being eaten by predators and to stay cool and moist. In common with some lizards, they can shed their tails if attacked.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is a great place to see salamanders because they are diverse and commonly spotted. They are easily found under almost any rocks, logs, or just in shaded pools. According to the National Park Service, on any given day in the Smokies, the majority of vertebrates there, humans included, are salamanders!

Zion National Park's Top Hikelights

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riversideblog.jpgRiverside Walk Trail

deerzion.jpgWe went on a two mile hike, Riverside Walk.It starts by going down a paved stairway into a canyon. We saw an "amateur arch," an arch which hadn't yet been fully formed. It was part of a hanging garden, which was surprisingly lush for the desert. We also saw a family of deer. They were eating and weepwallzion.jpglicking a rock for the salt. Later on the family came out and walked alongside the trail for a while, then went back to the woods. There are nice views of the Virgin River alongside the walk, and some towering rocks leading to the walls of this canyon. The trail ends where the river takes up the whole of the canyon floor, but you can still go on to a place called The Narrows. This is a less populated hike, as there is barely a trail, but it is still one of Zion's top attractions.

Weeping Wall, Zion Nat'l Park    

    Weeping Wall (or Weeping Rock) is a short, paved hike, only 0.5 miles roundtrip. It goes up to a wall where water drips down. The water is 2000-4000 years old, as it has to seep down through sedimentary layers of shale. The water still drips quickly, despite that. We chose people where our water came from (Mikaela was the Egyptian pharaoh, Khufu, and I was Julius Caesar [I said he splashed Augustus with it].)

Emerald Pools

The Emerald Pools are very nice if you go in the fall. The trail is filled with ruts and small waterfalls trickle quietly across the trails, but the leaves on the trees are filled with fall color, making the hike to the bright blue-green lake waters very pretty.

Who's hiding in the fall foliage?


Viewpoints and Scenic Drives


The Zion-Mt Carmel Highway's famous 

Checkerboard Mesa is a stop recommended 

by several travel websites and magazines, but its eroded chessboard pattern is not as remarkable 

patriarch1.jpg

as many travel episodes show it to be. However, it is a nice stop (and don't forget to bring some checkers: they make a good picture).


Another good stop is the "three patriarchs," Isaac, Abraham, and Jacob. However, Mt Isaac's name cannot be fully attributed to the Biblical character: the man who gave these three mountains their names happened to be called Isaac, too. A clever way to name something after yourself without bluntly stating it?


Grand Canyon National Park: Hiking The North Rim

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A two-hour-long drive from Zion National Park, the forested North Rim of the Grand Canyon offers a shady alternative to the rocky South Rim. In summer, the national parks of the Southwest get unbearably hot, so we went in early November. Depending on how much snow falls, the North Rim sometimes closes in October, but the visitor center was open when we went. It was cold enough in the evenings that we were obliged to wear our winter jackets, but in the afternoon we hiked in T-shirts. (It gets hot in the day - bring lots of water!) Another advantage of visiting the North Rim instead of the South Rim is that, because only ten percent of all tourists traveling to the Grand Canyon visit the North Rim, it is not crowded. The campground was closed during our visit; consequently, we camped at the much warmer Zion. The following trails we hiked in a day, so none are very long or strenuous - no one wanted to hike 21 miles to the South Rim!

Bright Angel Point
Even though Mikaela hates heights (she is terrified of Ferris wheels, although they are Katrianna's favorite amusement park rides), this hike allowed for good photo-taking opportunities. The view is best when seen in the morning because air pollution worsens in the afternoon, making it harder to see. The paved, often narrow trail climbs though switchbacks, using fences in some spots and only shrubs in others to block the steep cliffs, to the viewpoint. The Colorado River can be seen from the overlook, still carving away at the canyon it formed. Coconino Overlook is more scenic and GC cconno2.jpgless scary but Bright Angel Point is more dramatic. Of course, nothing is as terrifying as the cracked Angel's Window, but this hike will not be enjoyed by people with acrophobia.

Coconino Overlook

People who hike from rim to rim pass this pretty panorama on their way up or down. We only went 1.5 miles round trip along the North Kaibab trail, which leads through switchbacks into the canyon. It is very easy on the way down and, although the return trip is uphill, it is not very difficult even coming out. The unpaved trail goes through a forest and over a fallen log slanting across the trail. For a short part of the walk, you travel under overhanging boulders (which look scary but assuredly will not fall on your head). Katrianna found it fun to yell things into the canyon and listen to the echoes. The view of the river was Mikaela's favorite scene of the canyon because it was shady and forested. Best of all, she was not scared.

Cliff Springs Trail
Driving along the paved road to Cape Royal, you will see a pullout with a hard-to-spot sign reading, "Cliff Springs." If you park there and cross the road, you will see a flight of pine-needle covered steps leading down into the forest. We hiked this trail at dusk, when it is mysteriously shadowy and very nice (even though it gets cold after sunset). A few steps down the trail, we came to an ancient Puebloan granary. The old walls had partly crumbled, revealing the inside chambers. Continuing down the trail, we hiked though a subalpine forest of aspen, pine and fir trees, a habitat we had not expected to find in Arizona. But the actual "spring" was the best part. To access it, we had to walk under a rock ledge that in parts was dripping water - and growing mold - across damp, sandy patches and through a small stream (which Dad found slippery, and proved it by almost falling in). The sunset was making the rocky hills on the other side of the valley glow with a soft pink light. It was definitely a worthwhile trail.

GC angl'swndow2.jpgCape Royal and Angels Window
Those with a fear of heights should not attempt to walk out on Angels Window. Cape Royal Overlook was also scary - in Mikaela's perspective - but is tolerable to acrophobics and will not leave them with quaking knees. We went a few steps out onto the window (which in national parks does not refer to a software program, instead meaning a narrow rock formation with a hole in the center). From our viewpoint you could not see straight down but on either side was a sheer drop with a frightening panorama. When we had returned to the first view of the window and were looking back at it, we were startled to see the crack that had been directly under our feet. The window is prettiest at sunset, when it is softly pink with the fading light. Cape Royal was another overlook and is easily confused with Bright Angel. The view from the point, however, is worth the short walk.

Gc brghy2.gifTo Keep Passengers Entertained On Long Drives
Get a copy of Brighty of the Grand Canyon, by Marguerite Henry. It's a short (224 pages long) novel based on the life of a real burro named Brighty. In the book, Brighty has many adventures. In one chapter, the burro accompanies Theodore Roosevelt on a mountain lion hunt and in another he is the first to walk across a bridge spanning the Grand Canyon. His owner, a prospector named Old Timer, was killed by a miner who wanted the valuable minerals on Old Timer's property. In the end, Brighty and his new owner, Uncle Jim, take the miner into court for a trial. The story is especially interesting to visitors to the Grand Canyon. WARNING: This book is extremely hard to put down and will inevitably be the cause of quarreling between readers in the backseat, who turn to questionable means to get the book (including hiding it between the folds of a jacket or snatching it from another reader's lap when they were not holding it). Nevertheless, it is still worth getting.

The Colossal Explosion: Yellowstone's Massive Volcano

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       When Wyoming was still a territory, Lieutenant Gustavus Doane, head of an exploring expedition, noticed something strange when looking out from the top of a mountain. He noticed that there was a giant volcano. But the Lieutenant, even though he made a good guess, thought wrong: in his mind, the ancient crater was extinct.

    ldfthflgysr.jpgTwenty craters have been in existence since mighty sheets of ice covered Yellowstone National Park. The volcano is known to be the cause of all the geysers, mud pots, terraces, and hot springs in the park.

When we went to Yellowstone, we liked seeing the mud pots (even though they smelled like rotten eggs) and we saw Old Faithful erupt three times. Then we went to Morning Glory Pool (a multicolored hot springs.) But, while we were there, we didn't see any symptoms that the supervolcano's blast was going to happen soon.

    Earthquakes have been happening recently (which is a sign that the park could explode soon). However, scientists say the eruption could happen anytime from next week to the next millennium. The future is anybody's guess!

   

For More Information:
USGS Volcano Facts
Discovery's Yellowstone Insights   
National Geographic's "Under Yellowstone"


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