Happy Birthday, National Park Service!

At the end of July, I said goodbye to Lake City and headed down to Montrose, about two hours away.  Montrose is one of the largest cities in southwestern Colorado, and at 5,700’, it's about 3,000 feet lower than Lake City, so it’s a lot warmer and drier.  It was also my home briefly back in the early 1980s when I worked for the BLM, so Montrose has always been like an old friend.

 
 
Above:  I spent August near Montrose at the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park writing 35 website updates before I resumed my road trip.

After leaving Lake City, I pulled into the campground at Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, about 10 miles east of Montrose, on a Sunday afternoon and set up my camp.  I had a lot of website writing to do so I got right to work.  I headed into Montrose and walked into the library, found a nice place to work, and started writing.  As it turned out, that desk would be my home for the next three weeks.  Each day I worked in the library from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. writing updates, starting in April when I was in Portland and continuing on through July, when I was in Lake City. 

It was pretty much the same routine for three weeks:  Roll out of my truck at the Black Canyon campground around 7 a.m., have breakfast, drive into Montrose and take a shower at the KOA (the same place I lived back in 1983), get to the library at 10 a.m. when it opened, work there until it closed at 7 p.m., pick up some groceries at the City Market grocery store across the street, have dinner back at the campground, then attend the ranger’s evening slide show at 9 p.m.  By the end of August I'd seen some of the same slide shows three times, kinda like watching reruns on TV (but much more interesting).  Yep, that was basically my life in August.

I also spent some time driving around Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  During the past several million years, the Gunnison River has cut through a couple thousand feet of hard, metamorphic rock here, creating a canyon that, while not as deep or wide as the Grand Canyon, is much steeper. 

Black Canyon is also where I celebrated the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, the agency that manages the 412 units of the National Park System, including National Parks, National Monuments, National Historic Sites and others.  The first National Park, Yellowstone, was established in 1872 and several other National Parks followed, including Sequoia in 1890 and Mesa Verde in 1906, but there was no agency running them.  The management, such as it was, was the domain of the U.S. Army (which is why the National Park ranger hats today look like the old-time U.S. Army hats).  In the early 1900’s, a businessman and naturalist named Steven Mather was so disgusted with how the National Parks were being run – or, more correctly, not being run – that he wrote a letter to the Secretary of Interior, Franklin Lane and complained.  Lane wrote back to Mather and said, “If you think you could do a better job, then come to Washington D.C. and run them yourself,” so he did.  And on August 25, 1916, Congress passed an act creating the National Park Service.

I’ve been a huge fan of National Parks ever since I was a little kid, exploring National Parks with my family on our seemingly-endless summer roadtrips, and I’ve been to over half of the 412 National Park units now.  So I dropped by the Visitor Center on August 25, bought a commemorative National Park Service t-shirt, and chatted with Ranger Molly for a few minutes and wished her a Happy Birthday.

So to commemorate the 100th birthday of the National Park Service, here are some shots of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, which was my home in August.

The Black Canyon

 

All Caught Up

Of course, I didn’t spend all my time in the Montrose library during August.  For one thing, the library was closed on Fridays and Saturdays, so every Friday morning I drove up to Gunnison to use their wonderful library and great WiFi to work on my website.  I stayed at Curecanti National Recreation area every Friday night and then went back to the Gunnison library on Saturday until it closed at 4 p.m., then headed back to Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Montrose, about 90 minutes away.  It was a lot of driving but I needed an Internet connection to work on my website.

But the upshot is, after working in Colorado all summer – first in Lake City and then in Montrose and Gunnison – I’d taught myself web design and programming, wrote dozens of updates and posted over 1,600 photos. I hope you think it was worth it.  If you don't, just send me an email and I'll give you your money back.

Whew, all caught up!

Now that I was caught up, and after spending a glorious summer in the Colorado Rockies, it was time to hit the road again.

Montrose and Gunnison in Late August