Tag Archives: Day Hike

Detour: Bandelier National Monument

Established in 1916, Bandelier National Monument protects 33,677 acres of the Pajarito Plateau on the southern slopes of the volcanic Jemez mountains, located west of the Rio Grande Valley and Santa Fe in northern New Mexico. Over twenty-three thousand acres of the Monument are federally protected wilderness. But the heart of Bandelier is the thousands of Ancestral Puebloan sites scattered across the plateau and its steep canyons. Among these, the many sites in Frijoles Canyon are the most famous and dramatic. The hub of visitation in Bandalier, this canyon was where Sean and I headed for our all-too-short visit to the Monument on November 13 [2021].

Continue reading

White Sands National Park: Dune Life Nature Trail

On the afternoon of November 12 [2021], my birthday, Sean and I continued to explore White Sands National Park. After our hike on the Park’s longest marked trail, we wanted to see two of its other, much shorter interpretive hikes/walks in the transition areas between desert, grassland, and dunes.

Continue reading

White Sands National Park: Alkali Flat Trail

White Sands National Park protects 145,762 acres of soft gypsum sand dunes and adjacent Chihuahuan Desert transition zones in the Tularosa Basin of southern New Mexico. It was first protected as a National Monument in January 1933 in the waning days of the Hoover administration. On December 20, 2019, congress upgraded it to a National Park, increasing its total area by some 2,000 acres and making it the sixty-second of sixty-three National Parks.

Earlier plans to consider expanding the monument were ultimately subsumed into the Tularosa Basin’s military use and legacy. The Park is surrounded by White Sands Missile Range and is adjacent to Holloman Air Force Base. The Trinity Site, where the first atomic bomb was detonated in 1945, is about sixty miles from White Sands National Park in the northern part of the Tularosa Basin.

The deep time legacy of the place was underscored in September 2021 when researchers announced the discovery of 23,000-year-old human footprints in the Park, hard evidence that not only had humans arrived in the Americas earlier than standard textbooks claim, but they had pushed far into the interior of North America some 10,000 years earlier than the 13,000-years-ago date that had until recently been accepted by mainstream archaeology.

Truly, White Sands is a special place.

For my forty-third birthday on November 12, 2021, Sean and I spent the whole day exploring the Park, the third birthday I’ve now spent in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Continue reading

Guadalupe Mountains National Park: El Capitan/Salt Basin Overlook Trail

It wasn’t much past dawn on Sunday, November 7 [2021] when Patrick and I pulled into the parking area of Pine Springs Visitor Center at Guadalupe Mountains National Park. On this day off in our very busy Texas video shoot, we wanted to do a hike or hikes in the Park. Neither of us was particularly keen for the elevation gains we’d need to get up into the Park’s high country, so we opted for a front country hike: the El Capitan/Salt Basin Overlook loop. It was long at 11.5 miles, but its elevation gain was modest, and it was rated “moderate” by the Park Service, so it sounded perfect. It ended up being a very tough hike.

Continue reading

Dinosaur National Monument: Road’s End

Split Mountain

Our 2021 roadtrip to Colorado (and Utah) was sixteen full days and fifteen nights on the road. For a National Parks trip that was somewhat born of circumstance—buying a car, strategizing a post-lockdown COVID-era trip—this trip would have a huge influence on the year to come, both for Sean’s and my Park trips and for the shape of Bold Bison’s business travel. It has also reoriented us—or me—a bit to thinking about the continent. Our first taste of the Ancestral Puebloan world at Mesa Verde would inspire Sean and me to visit four more Ancestral Puebloan sites in the year to come, culminating in a May 2022 sojourn to Chaco Canyon. I would return to Great Sand Dunes National Park by myself—solidifying my infatuation with the San Luis Valley and the Sangre de Cristos—only a little over two months after this trip. We would return to Denver twice more. And flirting with the Colorado Plateau would lead to a February 2022 trip to Arches National Park (and a planed return to Moab in 2023).

But all that is to come. First, it’s time to wrap up this adventure.

We ended our time in Dinosaur National Monument on the afternoon of Friday, September 3 (2021) and began a holiday weekend journey home to Chicago that was itself an adventure. But first we had one more hike—stroll really—out at the end of Cub Creek Road before breaking camp and heading out.

Continue reading

Dinosaur National Monument: Petroglyphs

Fremont Petroglyph

The Fremont People lived in what is now Utah, Idaho, Colorado, and Nevada for roughly the 1,000 years from 300 to 1,300. Unlike their contemporaries and neighbors, the Ancestral Puebloans in the Four Corners region (and later along the Rio Grande), the Fremont did not build permanent architecture like pueblos and cliff dwellings. Their villages were more ephemeral, and much of what we know about them comes from the tools and the art they left behind. The art, in the form of striking pictographs and petroglyphs, is often sublime.

On Friday, September 3 (2021), we knew that, one way or another, we’d have to be leaving Dinosaur National Monument early. But we didn’t want to go without seeing the grand Fremont petroglyphs near the campground.

Continue reading

Dinosaur National Monument: Above Echo Park

Echo Park

After our morning visiting the Dinosaur Quarry and early afternoon checking out the paved portion of Cub Creek Road, we spent the remainder of the afternoon of Thursday, September 2 (2021) driving into the center of Dinosaur National Monument’s canyon country, just across the state line in Colorado. Our ultimate destination was the hike out to Harpers Corner, high above the Green River near its confluence with the Yampa River.

Continue reading

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Rock Stomp

Painted Wall (right)

Tuesday, August 31, the alarm clocks on our phones woke us a little after dawn. After dozing a bit longer, Sean and I climbed out of the tent to prepare for the day. “We have to go see Painted Rock,” Sean kept saying groggily. Indeed, we wanted to go and see the morning light on the Painted Wall—the highest cliff in Colorado—before going to the Ranger Walk at 9am. Then it would be off to the north rim for the rest of the day.

Continue reading

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park: Warner Point Trail

Beyond the end of the road, Warner Point Trail leads to the highest point on Black Canyon of the Gunnison’s south rim. Named for minister Mark Warner, whose dogged advocacy led to the canyon’s protection as a National Monument in 1933, the trail is a short three quarters of a mile each way. As the afternoon of August 30 continued, we decided to hike out to see the view.

Continue reading