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12.21.2011 - 47 comments 

This my friends is a really exciting National Park visit for me. Not only is it the third (of four) National Parks I have visited in the state of Colorado, but more importantly to me, is the fact that it is also the halfway point on my Bucket List for all 58 of the U.S. National Parks. I have now visited 29 U.S. National Parks leaving 29 still left to visit.

If you are wondering what other parks there are that I have already visited in Colorado; they are Mesa Verde National Park and Rocky Mountain National Park. The only one left in Colorado now that I have not visited is the Great Sandunes National Park.

But getting back to this particular blog post, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison's unique and spectacular landscape was formed slowly by the action of water and rock scouring down through hard Proterozoic crystalline rock.

No other canyon in North America combines the narrow opening, sheer walls, and startling depths offered by the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. And as you can see from these pictures I have posted here, it is a really spectacular park. In fact I wondered why I have not heard much abotu this park. I am sure there are a couple of reasons for that.

One reason is probably that it is not all that easy to get to and there don't seem to be many large towns (and airports) around it. But the biggest part may be that in the age of National Parks, this is a relatively new one. In fact it was only upgraded to a National Park in October of 1999. So I guess the word has not yet gotten out? But this place was spectacular in my opinion.

The Gunnison River through Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park drops at an average of 95 feet per mile. By comparison, the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park drops an average of 7.5 feet per mile.

While the people of the Ute bands knew of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, it was an obscure geographic feature to explorers for hundreds of years. The Spanish were the first Europeans to canvas western Colorado with two expeditions, one led by Juan Rivera in 1765, and the other by Fathers Dominguez and Escalante in 1776. Both were looking for passage to the California coast, and both passed by the canyon.

Fur trappers of the early 1800s undoubtedly knew of the canyon in their search for beaver pelts. They left no written record of the canyon, though, probably because they couldn't, in fact, read or write.

By the middle of the century, exploration of the American west had captured the nation's attention. In turn expeditions came to the Black Canyon searching for railroad passageways, mineral wealth, or in a quest for water. Eventually explorers came to see the canyon, not for commercial wealth, but for the renewal and recreation that it offered.

Today, you can walk in the footsteps of some of these hardy and inquisitive forebearers. The canyon still offers a rugged and demanding experience, even as it did more than a hundred of years ago. This point was made when a hiker at the visitor center asked if he needed to check in and they told him; "no not really!" As I looked as those sheer cliffs of granet going down into that canyon I thought... "good luck buddy!"

I would rate this National Park as one of my Top 10 U.S. National Parks becuase of its ravishing natural beauty. Yet another example of the beauty that God has created for us all to enjoy. "The canyon has been a mighty barrier to humans. Only its rims, never the gorge, show evidence of human occupation – not even by Ute Indians living in the area since written history began." ~ Left by the Kolb Expedition of 1916.

8.20.2011 - 14 comments 

From a dark and hot volcano to a peaceful and serene waterfall seems like a nice transition to me. Even though that is not exactly the way our trip happened, but at this next location in my blog posts we got to see two water falls at the Akaka Falls State Park on the Big Island.

The Falls are located along the northeastern Hamakua Coast, you can see two gorgeous waterfalls on one short hike. You'll have a very pleasant 0.4-mile uphill hike that will take you through a lush rain-forest filled with wild orchids, bamboo groves and lovely draping ferns.

As you follow the paved footpath, you'll first see 100-foot Kahuna Falls which is also impressive even if not as large as the Akaka Falls is. Then you can continue to follow the loop around the bend, and you'll discover towering Akaka Falls which plummets 442-feet into a stream-eroded gorge. Beautiful Akaka Falls is perhaps the Big Island's most famous waterfall. It is also easily accessible (if you don't miss either of the two signs to it). This hike takes less than an hour and it is just breathtaking. Maybe even more so as I get older, but truly the sights are just awesome and around every corner is something else to make you stop and ponder for a while at the beauty that God has created here.

The falls are on the northeastern side of Hawaii’s Big Island, just north of Hilo, in an area called the Hamakua Coast. This area has 84 inches of rainfall a year, this area is mostly known for the Hamakua Heritage Corridor drive, a road trip along the coastline that passes by lush tropical rain-forests, waterfalls and lovely seaside views. In my humble opinion, this was one of the more gorgeous sights on the island of Hawaii. And it gets the LZ approval for whatever that is worth to you.

"As long as I live, I'll hear waterfalls and birds and winds sing. I'll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm, and the avalanche. I'll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can." — John Muir

7.22.2011 - 9 comments 

What can you say about a first trip to the Big Island other than... it sure is big? Well there is plenty that can be said about it. But its bigness is the first thing I noticed about it other than how much black lava there is on the island. It is so big in fact that it is almost twice as large as all of the other Hawaiian Islands put together.

Of course you know that my first adventure on any trip that has a National Park is to knock off one more line item from my personal "Bucket List". For me this National Park was one that I was really excited about because of the fact that it had a real active volcano in it.

This park was founded in 1916, and it encompasses 333,000 acres from the summit of Maunaloa to the sea. Here you'll be able to find 150 miles of hiking trails through volcanic craters, scalded deserts, rain-forests as well as a museum, petroglyphs, a walk-in lava tube called Nahuku (Thurson's Lava Tube) and two active volcanoes: Maunaloa, which last erupted in 1984 and Kilauea which has been erupting since January 3rd, 1983. In fact this caldera in Kilauea was making lots of gas and noise when we were there and then the very next day after we were there, it erupted.

The extraordinary natural diversity of the park was recognized in 1980 when it was named a World Biosphere site by UNESCO and in 1987 when the park was again honored as a World Heritage site. As you can see from several of these shots below and the one with the title, Thurson's Lava Tube was a highlight to my park visit. You started off in a beautiful rain forest and then you got to what looked like a fern covered cave opening. Then as you strolled through the lava tube, it was lit in several places by lights so that you could see where you were going because the tube was long enough that you could not see the other side where it came out.

As you exited the tube, you had to climb up what looked like 15-20 feet worth of cement steps. At that point you were back in the rain forest again. It was a wonderfully beautiful walk and the trip through the tube was one of many highlight features of a wonderful trip just I will expand on later blog posts.

Kilauea is sometimes called "the world's only drive-in volcano." This prolific volcano currently produces 250,000-650,000 cubic yards of lava per day, enough to resurface a 20-mile-long, two-lane road daily. As of January 1994, 491 acres of new land have been created on Hawaii's Big Island. The current eruption may last another 100 years or stop tomorrow. Pele, the volcano goddess who the Hawaiians say lives here, is very unpredictable. But the chance to watch Kilauea's blistering lava flows meet the sea is just one of the reasons to visit. It was really a wonderful sight to see but at the same time, it was a rather eerily scary and deadly looking one too.

The shots I am adding to this post hopefully will give you some kind of vision of what we saw while in the National Park itself. But you can't really appreciate the smells and odors that came with these shots. Nor can you feel the sense of heat and deadness that the black lava everywhere had.

“The glowing magma emerges like redhot toothpaste from a long, wide crack and then crawls into the Pacific, creating a tall, furious cloud of steam." ~ Robert Gross


6.09.2011 - 9 comments 

The next step in my "bucket list" knock off just happened to be the Redwood National (and State Parks) that are located along the coast of northern California. They are really not too far from our visit to Lassen Volcanic National Park and the path that led us through the City of Redding, California.

There are several areas that comprise Redwood National Park and California's Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks (dating from the 1920s), the combined RNSP contain 133,000 acres. Located entirely within Del Norte and Humboldt Counties, the four parks, together, protect 45% of all remaining Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens) old-growth forests, totaling at least 38,982 acres.

I am not sure if any of you saw the program that National Geographic Magazine did on these Redwood Trees in this area or not but if you get a chance to see it, it is definitely a must see for me. You can even stream it on NetFlix if you have it. It relates two different stories about the Redwoods. One is about trying to photograph them and the other is about tow people who try and find the most southern and northern groves of Redwoods. It was a quest that they did on foot and it took almost a full year and they traveled about 1,500 miles.

These trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. In fact they are said to be the largest living thing on the planet. In addition to the redwood forests, the parks preserve other indigenous flora, fauna, grassland prairie, cultural resources, portions of rivers and other streams, and 37 miles of pristine coastline.

In 1850, old-growth redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acres of the California coast. The northern portion of that area, originally inhabited by Native Americans, attracted many lumbermen and others turned gold miners when a minor gold rush brought them to the region. Failing in efforts to strike it rich in gold, these men turned toward harvesting the giant trees for booming development in San Francisco and other places on the West Coast.

After many decades of unobstructed clear-cut logging, serious efforts toward conservation began. By the 1920s the work of the Save-the-Redwoods League, founded in 1918 to preserve remaining old-growth redwoods, resulted in the establishment of Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks among others.

Redwood National Park was created in 1968, by which time nearly 90% of the original redwood trees had been logged. The National Park Service (NPS) and the California Department of Parks and Recreation (CDPR) administratively combined Redwood National Park with the three abutting Redwood State Parks in 1994 for the purpose of cooperative forest management and stabilization of forests and watersheds as a single unit.

The ecosystem of the RNSP preserves a number of threatened animal species such as the Brown Pelican, Tidewater Goby, Bald Eagle, Chinook Salmon, Northern Spotted Owl, and Steller's Sea Lion. In recognition of the rare ecosystem and cultural history found in the parks, the United Nations designated them a World Heritage Site on September 5, 1980 and an International Biosphere Reserve on June 30, 1983.

The Park was spectacular and even though there is no way (short of using the National Geographic Magazine's photographer) to even try to get the huge perspective and enormity of these trees, I have tried to capture at least some of the magnificent size of these giant trees and the beauty of this National Park for you to enjoy.

"Our redwood trees are treasures that need to be protected and preserved. By adding more than 25,000 acres to Redwood National Park , this legislation would help conserve the redwood forest, provide watershed protection, and protect wildlife habitats." ~ Diane Feinstein


4.13.2011 - 11 comments 

Hey take a look at this... a blog post of mine that is not about a National Park and not even on my "Bucket List". But best of all it was a surprise to us when we left Lassen Volcanic National Park and spent the night in Redding, CA. Who knew that this relatively new bridge was in this quaint little city? Well not us... that is until we saw a photo of it when we checked into our hotel. The first thing we did was to find out where this bridge was located and how to get there.

The person at the front desk told us how to get there and then told us that we should go right before dusk in order to see it as the sun was going down and then to be able to see it with its pathway across it lit up at night.

The Sundial Bridge provides pedestrian access to the north and south areas of Turtle Bay Exploration Park, a complex containing environmental, art and history museums and the McConnell Arboretum and Gardens, and it forms the gateway to the ten-mile-long Sacramento River Trail.

Drift boats of fishermen are often seen passing beneath the bridge as they fish for salmon, steel-head and rainbow trout. In the distance, Mount Shasta is barely visible. Shasta Bally is visible to the West looking upstream in the Sacramento.

It was designed by Santiago Calatrava and completed in 2004 at a cost of US$23,500,000. The bridge has become iconic for Redding. Sundial Bridge who's Official name is really Sundial Bridge and it Carries Bicycles and pedestrians as it Crosses the Sacramento River there in Redding.

Its design is called a Cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge. Its Total length is 700 ft (213 m) and its Width 23 ft (7 m) with a clearance below of 26 ft (8 m) In opened July 4, 2004 and as you can tell from its name... spans the Sacramento River in Redding, California, United States and forms a large sundial.

The bridge celebrates human creativity and ingenuity, important themes of the 300 acre Turtle Bay Exploration Park. The steel, glass, and granite span evokes a sense of weightlessness and the translucent, non-skid decking provides for spectacular viewing at night.

The bridge is also environmentally sensitive to its river setting. The tall pylon and cable stays allow the bridge to avoid the nearby salmon-spawning habitat there are no supports in the water while encouraging public appreciation for the river.

Plazas are situated at both ends of the bridge for public use; the north-side plaza stretches to the water allowing patrons to sit at the river’s edge. We did go down to the one at the other end of the bridge from the Park side and determined there was not much down there to see (at least at night) with the exception of the lit up bridge from the bottom side.

All in all we really did enjoy this little surprise side trip. Sometimes a destination can really be a trip... other times the trip is really the destination. I am not sure exactly what I meant by that, but it sounds profound... or is that more that is sounds confusing?

“Too often. . .I would hear men boast of the miles covered that day, rarely of what they had seen.” ~ Louis L’Amour