Archive for February 2nd, 2008

Mesa Verde

 Even though Mesa Verde’s cliff dwellings are crumbling and looters stole most of the ancient artificats from the city, the cliff city of the Pueblo Native Americans still astounds people 800 years after their creation.

The Pueblo began to build their city in times of plenty, around the 1200’s.  During a drought in the early 1300’s the Pueblo abandoned the cliff dwellings.  It was discovered by whites in the 1880’s and were quickly robbed, looted, and plundered.  Soon after, fortunately, a National Park was created around the site.  The arid climate and shelter from the cliffs themselves have beautifully and ornately preserved the dwellings.

The site is in Four Corners country (between Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico).  You can climb steep ladders and crawl through tunnels to see the largest cliff dwelling in North America first-hand.  This is not for those afraid of heights or small tight spaces however.  The highest point is at 8,572 feet above the ground!  Tours are available for history buffs.

Admission is $10 per car and the nearest hotel is the Far View Lodge, where rooms cost up to $102 a night.  You can also camp out in the park for a nominal fee.  The park is open year-round.  There are fewer crowds in April to June, but in July, there is a Mesa Verde Indian Arts Festival, which is always a crowd-pleaser. 


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Glacier Bay National Park

So why freeze in the cold Yukon territory?  Well, if there was ever a good reason, it was Glacier Bay National Park.  Located in southeastern portion of Alaska is a park filled with wildlife, water, ice, and raw nature. 

One of the biggest crowd pleasers in Glacier National Park is the Aurora Borealis, or the Northern Lights: colored, textured lights swirling and pulsating in the starry night sky.  So, what is really happening?  (I have to add some science content.)  Earth is constantly being pummeled by a solar wind: particles of protons and electrons the sun throws into space as a result of solar flares.  Some of the charged particles are attracted to our planet’s magnetic poles and then smash into our atmosphere causing those pretty lights.  The best time for this sight is around the fall and spring equinoxes when the solar flares are at their worst.  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has a geomagnetic storm watch so that you can stay up to date.

Another reason to go to this park are the whales.  The park is right by the Pacific Ocean.  Large groups of Orcas and humpback whales breed and feed very near to the Alaskan coast.  The mating season is June to August.

Last but not least, are the glaciers.  Most scientists speculate that by 2050, there will be no glaciers left in the park as a result of global warming.  As of now, however, there are 9 glaciers in the 5,130 square miles of land in the park.

There is a vast diversity of wildlife in the park, including humpback whales, Orcas, harbor seals, sea lions, otters, wolf, coyote, grizzly bear, moose, lynx, marmots, a huge variety of sea birds, and snowshoe hare are some of the most popular ones.  (http://www.nps.gov/glba/naturescience/index.htm)

Because there are no roads to the park, most people take cruises or hire out boats to take them to the park.  Either way, it is definitely worth the price.  Hurry up though, as it may soon be called “Glacierless Bay National Park.”

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