Virtual National Park Week

Our second week of “virtual” summer camps saw us visiting the National Parks.

I kicked us off with a visit to Katmai National Park in Alaska. It’s probably best known for its Bear Cam at Brooks Falls, where the brown bears feast on salmon heading to their spawning grounds. But its origins come from a 1912 volcanic eruption at Novarupta which created the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes and prompted calls for protection. For a long time, it was thought that Mount Katmai erupted, but it turned out that nearby Novarupta was the main source, and that all the magma underneath Mount Katmai drained out because of the eruption and the mountain collapsed! There’s now a crater lake there, over 3000 feet below the height of the previous peak.

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Ellie followed up by taking us to the opposite side of the country to Dry Tortugas National Park. The most obvious feature of the park is Fort Jefferson, a Civil War-era fort that was mainly used to house deserters, but also held Dr Samuel Mudd, infamous for setting John Wilkes Booth’s leg, helping him to escape after Lincoln’s assassination. The coral reef is also a big draw, being part of the third largest reef in the world. Much of the park is technically underwater, and is home to a wide variety of sea life, including the turtles the park is named after.

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Lisa took us to Dinosaur National Monument, where you can actually touch the fossils! The theory is that there used to be a vast inland sea in the area. Droughts followed by floods deposited a ton of fossils around here. The Green and Yampa rivers also converge in the park, leading to some of the best white water rafting you’ll ever experience. There are also petroglyphs left behind by the Fremont people. The park is within a few hours of several other national parks in Utah, so when *all this* is over, it’s worth a road trip to see them all!

Evan took us to the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, so named because parts of the gorge only receive 33 minutes of sunlight a day. Hiking down to the canyon is so difficult that the NPS doesn’t maintain any official trails. You have to be able to navigate the unmarked trails on your own. Evan was fascinated by the town of Cimarron, which used to be a big rail hub, particularly for livestock. The railroad was narrow gauge in this area due to the difficulty of carving out space for the tracks. The most spectacular part to me was Painted Wall, the third tallest cliff in the lower 48 states. Its unique look is due to the pegmatite granite, formed by volcanic activity millions of years ago.

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Finally, our dog, Eliza got in on the act and shared how to become a Bark Ranger. BARK is an acronym:
Bag your poop
Always wear a leash
Respect wildlife
Know where you can go (stay on marked trails and be aware of buildings that aren’t pet-friendly)
Ellie and Eliza did a great job with their presentation!

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