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Archive for October, 2007

Rainier’s WildflowersWe were so giddy about Al Gore and his team’s recent Nobel Peace Prize win that we had to come up with a National Park topic week in his honor. We could have looked at the Park sites that honor Presidents who won the Nobel but that correlation wouldn’t have been completely accurate. So instead we’re examining Park sites that concern natural disasters.

So far in this series we’ve been stuck in the past. Mount Saint Helens might still be rumbling but she’s in a rebuilding stage. She won’t experience major magma ejection in the near future. And the glaciers that covered Pictured Rocks? Are they even any glaciers left? No, we’re headed just north of Mount Saint Helens to her much more powerful older brother: Mount Rainier.

Back when we visited in 2005, Michael wrote that Mount Ranier would erupt before the Seahawks or Mariners won a sports title. He could have thrown in the Sonics for good measure. He even wanted odds. Just a few months after his bold comment the Steelers meekly vanquished the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL with a little help from the referees. Nevertheless, Seattle teams have yet to win anything and Mount Rainier has yet to blow.

But it’s going to happen. We visited so many National Parks will a destructive past and an unpredictable future. Most seemed to work with long, predictable cycles of dormancy between their difficult outbursts. We also noticed that many were just about at that dormancy’s end stage and moving into that oh-no-she’s-gonna-blow stage. Mount Ranier was no exception. We’re not saying “PPAAAANNIIIIC” but we’re not buying land in Seattle anytime soon.

Click Here to Read More about Mount Rainier National Park.

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Miners Castle at Pictured RocksWe were so giddy about Al Gore and his team’s recent Nobel Peace Prize win that we had to come up with a National Park topic week in his honor. We could have looked at the Park sites that honor Presidents who won the Nobel but that correlation wouldn’t have been completely accurate. So instead we’re examining Park sites that remember natural disasters. On Monday we went to the still-rumbling Mount Saint Helens.

Today’s catastrophic change was completely different. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. Upper Peninsula, Michigan. Look around you. Deep blue lakes, colorful sandstone cliffs, dramatic waterfalls, charming peaceful nature. This isn’t a place of environmental change and destruction.

Think again. This entire landscape, lakes and all, was created just 10,000 years ago (people were living here then) by the giant slow moving sheets of ice: glaciers. And you think it’s cold here in the winter!

The glaciers dug this region’s many famous lakes. From the massive five Great Lakes to Minnesota’s famed 10,000 lakes of varying sizes. These glaciers were so large that nothing north of the Ohio River was spared from their carving whims. New England, New York, the Dakotas, Ohio, Michigan, parts of Montana, Minnesota, and, the state the glaciation was named after, Wisconsin.

The Wisconsin glaciation is actually honored by its own National Park and a few National Trails. We haven’t been to Wisconsin yet but we did set aside a web page place holder for future use. But as you might have realized, the Ice Age National Scientific Reserve and Pictured Rocks are neither the only National Park Sites nor the only places you can witness the glaciers’ wrath. In fact, if you live in the northeast or the upper midwest just look outside.

Click Here to Read More about Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

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Open-Faced VolcanoWe were so giddy about Al Gore and his team’s recent Nobel Peace Prize win that we had to come up with a National Park topic week in his honor. We could have looked at the Park sites that honor Presidents who won the Nobel but that correlation wouldn’t have been completely accurate. So instead we’re examining Park sites that remember natural disasters. Today we go to the still-rumbling Mount Saint Helens.

It is clear that a volcanic eruption happened here. The land is a dusty tan. Downed trees still stand where they collapsed in 1980. They now make wonderful homes to woodpeckers and assorted insects. Lakes created by the blast shimmer in bright blues. The earth undulates below in odd configuration created by the landslide and the mud floes.

Then there is the volcano. She stands with a pugnacious spirit, smaller and much less majestic than her Cascade mountain cousins. She is asymmetrical, without glaciers, angry, agitated and hard at work.

In 1980, she ejected thousands of tons of ash and smoke sideways through her northern face, then an unknown phenomenon. She now stands without a top, 2000 feet shorter than she was in 1979. The crater is ever-changing, open, billowing smoke and dispensing magma. She is exposed and not too happy about it.

Click Here to Read More about Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument.

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Nez Perce NHPLast week we began a series on Native American heritage National Park Sites. These sites are often forgotten because a) they’re often located in the middle of nowhere; b) they commemorate the distant pre-Columbian past; and c) unlike battlefield sites, there is no date to commemorate their occurance. Our first stops were New Mexico’s Aztec Ruins National Monument and Georgia’s Ocmulgee National Monument. Today we journey to Idaho and the Nez Perce National Historical Park.

We were driving to the Garden of Eden, to the mud pit where Prometheus morphed clay into man. It was marked on our map as the Heart of the Monster. The Nimi’ipuu know that life began here in central Idaho. It is there story, it is their beginning. We followed the brown National Park sign into the small parking lot. It was a short hike to the beginning of man: a forty-foot tall conically symmetrical pile of grass-covered earth. We pressed the play button on the Park Service-installed audio device.

In the time before man there was a ravenous, greedy monster. He scoured the earth eating every animal in his path. Small animals, large animals, meek animals, fearsome animals. Every animal except for the coyote, who had become very lonely. The coyote thought to himself, “I must find a way to stop this monster. I must find a way to get my friends back.” Coyote soon had a plan.

Meanwhile, the monster knew of the coyote and was still very hungry. He did not have to look hard. The coyote was yelling to him from the highest peak of the highest mountain range. “Come eat me,” the coyote called. The monster was more than happy to oblige. He ran up the mountain and breathed in with all his might. The coyote did not budge; he had cleverly tied himself to the mountain with the strongest of ropes. The monster was confused and a little frightened. So when the coyote asked if he could enter the monster’s stomach to see his friends the monster said, “sure” and suspected nothing.

Heart of the Monster The coyote dove into the monster’s stomach eager to see his friends. They were all safe and greeted the coyote warmly. “But why would you choose to join us? Why would you let the monster eat you?” The coyote had a plan. He pulled out his trusty fire starter and his sharp knife, both of which he had hidden from the monster’s view. He built a great blaze, torturing the monster to no end. The monster screamed uncontrollably, allowing all of the animals to escape. Then coyote cut out the monster’s heart and slew the fearsome beast.

Coyote then wished to do something special to celebrate this great triumph. He would create a new animal from the parts of the monster: man. Coyote then skillfully cut up the monster flinging his body in the direction of the four winds, North, South, East, and West, naming the tribes of man that would arise from these bones: Coeur d’Alene, Crow, Blackfeet, Sioux, Flathead …

When all the parts were gone the Fox asked Coyote, “why is there no tribe here?” The Coyote rued his forgetfulness but had an idea. He shook the monster’s blood of his hands and from these drops rose the Nimi’ipuu people, small in number but strong in heart. This is how man came to be.

We left the Heart awed. How can any place be more important to a people? How can this belong to the National Park Service. Should we even be here? We are so thankful we had the chance.

In the 17th century, French fur traders saw local Indians wearing piercings in their noses and dubbed the Nimi’ipuu the Nez Perce. While it wasn’t the Nimi’ipuu who had the piercings, the name stuck.

We leave the site and turn onto Route 12, Lewis and Clark Boulevard. Immediately, there is a billboard on our right for a Nez Perce casino. The billboard features a slot machine, a buxom blonde woman and the word YES! The casino is less than 3 miles from the Heart of the Monster.

Click Here to Read More.

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