Places to go and things to see by Gypsy Bev

Archive for the ‘National Parks’ Category

Hopewell Mound Group’s Mysterious Crop Circle

Extraterrestrial, Paranormal, or Prank? Recently the Hopewell Mound Group near Chillicothe, Ohio  became a hot spot for crop circle investigation. An unusual sight of an intricately designed crop circle was noticed from an airplane flying over the area.  Therefore, this gypsy decided it was a great time to take a road trip to learn more about the mounds, as well as the crop circle.

Hopewell Mounds Visitors' CenterHopewell Culture National Historic Park’s Visitors’ Center provides an excellent short film giving possible history and reasons for the mounds being constructed in this area.  Located in the  beautiful Scioto River Valley, easily accessible water for daily use, as well as transportation, was of great importance to that early culture.

Hopewell MoundsThese historic mounds were the ceremonial center of the Hopewell culture from 200 BC – 500 AD. A stretch of land along the North Fork of Paint Creek contains the most striking total set of Hopewell culture remains in Ohio. This enormous legacy of geometric landmarks was created by unknown inhabitants prior to the time of the American Indians living on this land. Their name actually comes from Confederate General Mordecai Hopewell, who owned the land when the mounds were first discovered back in 1840. No one actually knows what name those original builders called themselves.

Interesting similarities, shared by the five mound groups in the Hopewell Culture, make them part of a larger picture.  Each field usually has a small circle, a larger circle and a square. Each square is 27 acres and the larger circle would fit perfectly within the square. The large circles all have the same diameter and encompass 20 acres. Many of these appear to have been laid out for their astrological significance.

Hopewell Mound 25The main section is often called the “Great Enclosure”, a six foot high, rough, rectangular, earthen enclosure measuring approximately 2800′ X 1800′. Mound 25 is located within this area and was the site of early excavations in the 1800’s. This treasure trove contained shells from the Gulf Coast, copper from Lake Superior region, and obsidian from Wyoming.  It appears that when the ceremonial life of a site was finished, they built a mound much like we would put up a headstone or monument.

Hopewell Crop CirclesThe recently sighted Crop Circle seems to be located very near this enclosure, but on the other side of the treeline, in the old channel of the North Fork of Paint Creek riverbed.  Since it is on adjoining property and under study, access is not permitted at this time. Circles were first seen from an airplane on September 20, 2012 as the pilot was headed toward the Serpent Mounds. This forty-three circle pattern in standing corn is not visible from any nearby road.   Some thought this pattern resembled a “reversible electric motor” and felt it appropriate to have been drawn near high tension power lines, which are located about 330 yards away. Was there a message intended?

Hopewell Mound Group MapThis map of the Hopewell Culture Group shows its boundaries as well as the location near the upper right hand side of Mound 25. From all information received, the crop circle appeared to the right of the Mound 25 circle and across the tree line. When explored by the Independent Crop Circle Researchers’ Association,  it was determined that the cornstalks were smoothly bent in many swirled and intricate patterns at heights from 2 inches to 4 feet. No footprints were found or any evidence of stepping on plants.

One significant difference came in comparison testing of the length of growth nodes in the crop circle vs those in the untouched field. Those in the circle were elongated, an unhoaxable effect, producing accelerated growth. These effects are often brought about by high levels of radiation.

Hopewell Hiking TrailTook a relaxing walk around the entire Hopewell Mound Group using their hiking trail, which was rather muddy and slippery in spots, and ending on the Bike Trail. Felt accompanied on that walk by someone from that long ago time. Believe I passed close to the spot where the Crop Circle was located from all the clues given, but could see nothing from the ground view.

When asked about the Crop Circle at the Visitors’  Center, the answer was  “there is no tangible evidence”, but they reminded visitors that Hopewell Culture is a very spiritual place.  Guess everyone will have to reach their own conclusion. The mysteries persist! Any ideas?

Actually, this is not an easy spot to find as it’s located in the middle of south-central Ohio without any nearby interstate access.  The Hopewell Mound City Group Visitors’ Center is located at 16062  SR 104, about 1.5 miles north of US 35 just outside Chillicothe, Ohio.  The Visitors’ Center is the best place to start your tour and they have maps available for each mound group. Rangers on hand are very helpful in giving driving directions. If anyone knows the location of Crop Circle University, please respond.

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Impressive Zion National Park “Treasure of the Gods”

Springdale, UtahBeautiful, Beautiful Zion  The town of Springdale, Utah rests in the shadows of Zion National Park where massive sandstone cliffs soar into the blue skies. Early Mormon settlers called these majestic stone canyons the “Natural Temples of God”.  Mormon influence can still be felt throughout the park as they named several of the rock formations.

Zion TheaterA great place to begin the day is to stop at Zion Canyon Theater and watch Treasure of the Gods, an IMAX film. Here you receive a great overview of the park and can then select some of those places you really must visit.  The film gives spectacular views of the canyon from an airplane flying over, as well as going deep within. Spectators feel they are actually viewing the canyon seated in that plane. Much centers around the Indian legacy from the 1500’s, as you experience the myth and magic of the canyon. Ancient native people called this rugged landscape home, for centuries.

There are two scenic drives here: the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive and the Zion Mount Carmel Highway. This trip we are exploring along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive, which is a favorite route. In fact, it is so popular that now during the summer months, this road into the park is closed to regular traffic, making access to the park’s scenic beauties available only through shuttle bus service from April 1 – October 31. However, during the winter months vehicle traffic is permitted making it much more fun to explore at your leisure.The Zion Mount Carmel Highway is open to traffic all through the year.

Three PatriarchsThe Three Patriarchs are a trio of very similar mountain peaks called Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  All of them are nearly 7000′ high so can be seen from many different parts of the park.  One of the shuttle’s first stops has a path that leads up a short incline for easy viewing.  The Emerald Pool is nearby and has several small waterfalls that add to the beauty of the surroundings.

The NarrowsCliffs on both sides of the road are a half mile high and end at the beautiful Temple of Sinawava, home of the Paiute Indians’ coyote spirit. Here the Virgin River travels a narrow path between the mammoth rocks. This is the perfect time to park your car, or get off the shuttle, and walk along the riverbank. This two-mile round trip Riverside Walk meanders all the way to the end of the trail, The Narrows.  To continue, you must wade, walk or sometimes swim in the river. Peeking through at the end of The Narrows you can catch a glimpse of the Temple of Sinawava.

Weeping WallAnother steep path leads to Weeping Rock where a veil of spring water seeps through the sandstone wall making it appear that the rock is crying. The steps culminate at a large eroded area with slippery floor from the tears and growing moss. Often there are hanging flowers enjoying a drink from the rocks as well. A gentle trickle of water flows through the rocks in the fall, but in the winter icicles often form. A guide remarked that this water should be quite pure as it is filtered through the sandstone rocks from the rim of the canyon on an incredible journey that takes from one thousand to four thousand years.

Great White ThroneThe Great White Throne, a highlight of Zion National Park, seems to glow in the evening light as it overlooks much of Zion Canyon. It stands out easily, even in the daytime, with a beautiful red rock background. Made of white Navajo Sandstone, the top appears glowing white while the base is red. This received its name from the Mormons, who felt this area represented the New Jerusalem, and called it The Great White Throne, a name appearing in Revelations as the seat of God for the last judgment.

Spending the evening in a small motel in Springdale was also quite a treat as it was necessary to patiently wait in the car for the elk to decide to move out of your way. They were very friendly and not the least bit afraid of cars or people. The elk enjoyed rubbing their antlers on the trees in the parking lot…and sometimes attempted using the parked cars.  This was one of those times when you could easily “reach out and touch someone’…an elk if you dared!

To visit Zion National Park from the North on I-15, exit on Hwy 20. Follow US-89 to Mount Carmel Junction where you will meet SR-9, which is the Zion-Mt Carmel Highway and is always open to vehicle traffic. 

From the South on I-15, exit 16 will take you through Hurricane and LaVerkin. Again you will take SR-9 to the entrance of Zion National Park.

Explore A Scenic Masterpiece Grand Canyon National Park

If “a picture is worth a thousand words”, then actually being there must be worth a million. Grand Canyon National Park, with the Colorado River’s wildwater rapids, is astounding beyond the imagination so it’s quite understandable for this scenic masterpiece to be listed as one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.

Located in the Northwestern corner of Arizona, this massive canyon has been carved over millions upon millions of years. Once this was home to ancient civilizations and in more recent time home to Native American Indian tribes. Still today it is home to five of those tribes: Havasupai, Hopi, Hualapai, Navajo, and Paiute.

Hopi legend says that ancestors once lived in caves and tunnels in the Grand Canyon.  This could actually be true! Not far near Peach Springs, Arizona on Route 66 are the Grand Canyon Caverns, 800 acres  of caves and tunnels underground, forming the largest dry caverns in the United States. Entrance today is through an elevator, which descends approximately twenty stories into the earth.  Perhaps the Hopi had a secret entrance.

The air here is pure and dry coming through about ten miles of limestone crevices from the Grand Canyon itself.  When taking a tour there, the guide mentioned that these caverns were designated as a nuclear fallout shelter during the Cuban Missile Crisis.  Some supplies still remained at that time…just in case. Sometimes my mind wonders if the whole inner earth looks like Swiss cheese.

Although larger than the mind can comprehend, this is a tranquil place filled with rare plant and animal life. Some of the elk here weigh as much as a thousand pounds so there is frequent warning: Never Approach Wild Animals.

One popular scenic view arises at Pima Point.  From this point, people say they can hear the Colorado River splashing as it echos off the canyon walls about a mile below.

There are many ways to see the canyon for the adventurous.  One is to descend the narrow ledges of the canyon on mule back.  Since the mule is considered to be the most surefooted of animals, many feel this is a safe way for exploration.  Others prefer wild water rafting down the beautiful Colorado River, which is partially responsible for the appearance of the Grand Canyon today.

Geologist John Wesley Powell led the first recorded expedition down the Colorado River the full length of the canyon starting at Green River, Wyoming. This Civil War hero, who lost his right arm at the Battle of Shiloh, filled diaries recapturing his astounding experiences on that 1869 three month expedition.  Here is an excerpt from Powell’s Canyons of the Colorado, a book written after his river trip:

“The walls now are more than a mile in height … A thousand feet of this is up through granite crags; then steep slopes … rise one above the other to the summit. The gorge is black and narrow below, red and gray and flaring above, with crags … on the walls, which, cut in many places by side canyons, seem to be a vast wilderness of rocks.

That is quite a trip as the canyon is 277 miles in length.  Variations in width make it even more unusual as it is only 600 yards wide at Marble Canyon, while at its widest, it is eighteen miles. The river moves quickly and has lots of rocks along the way so a trip down these rapids is a challenge.  The average depth of the Colorado River is about forty feet so a good idea to wear a lifejacket.

A great place to get an overlook of the canyon is from the Yavapai Observation Station, first located here in 1928. The view of the buttes and spires from this point is picture postcard perfect. What a great place to study the history and changes of the Grand Canyon.  Designed to blend in with the environment, the station was originally built of Ponderosa pine and Kaibab limestone. Here inquiring minds are told the complicated geological story of the formation of the Grand Canyon.

Every view is different at each time of the day. Sunlight as well as moonlight bring various sections to life.  During the busiest season, April – September, private vehicles are not now permitted along the popular West Rim section. Beautiful Maricopa Point on the West Rim is another favorite picture stop.  Also seen in the distance is the Orphan Lode Mine where copper and uranium were extracted during the 1950’s and 60’s.  October seems to be the perfect time to view the canyon at your leisure in your own vehicle. Then it is a tranquil place where you forget about the cares of the world and just relax in the arms of Mother Nature.  While driving some friends through the canyon on my last visit, the tranquility even captured a busy businessman, who never stops all day long. The only sound from the back seat of my car was zzz-zzz-zzz.

Grand Canyon National Park can be easily reached from I-40 exiting at either Williams – Route 64  or Flagstaff – Route 180. Both routes take over an hour to arrive at the South Rim. Pack a picnic lunch and plenty of bottled water to enjoy a relaxing day.

American History Shall March Along That Skyline

Six Grandfathers Mountain, now known as Mount Rushmore, was spiritual home to the Lakota Sioux Indians. Many of the Sioux were insulted by the building of the Memorial on their sacred land. Add to that the fact that the monument celebrates the Europeans, who killed so many of their tribesmen as well as appropriating their land, and it is no wonder there is still controversy between the Sioux and the US government today.

As far back at 1923, the people of the Black Hills region of South Dakota were searching for an idea to bring tourists to their part of the country. After seeing samples of carvings done by Gutzon Borglum, he was invited by historian Doane Robinson, The Father of Mount Rushmore, to the Black Hills so they could find an acceptable place for a large carving.  After dismissing the idea of using the Needles range, they settled on the granite faced Mount Rushmore near Keystone, South Dakota. The granite was relatively free of fractures, and it also faced southeast for more sun exposure. When the selection was made, sixty year old Borglum remarked, “American history shall march along that skyline.”

For one hour each evening, Mount Rushmore, The Presidents’ Mountain, is illuminated with steadily increasing lights that make this carving glow in brilliant splendor. The four presidential faces shown on this 1989 postcard are from left to right: George Washington, the father of our country; Thomas Jefferson, principal author of the Constitution, and instrumental in the Louisiana Purchase; Theodore Roosevelt, champion of conservation; and Abraham Lincoln, leader during the Civil War.

Today we can see the results of Gutzon Borglum’s  guidance of approximately four hundred workers, including his son,  from 1927-1941.  The four sixty foot likenesses of the faces rest on 1,278 acres. Original plans were to sculpt them down to the waists, but that idea was cancelled due to insufficient funds. Upon his death, Gutzon’s son, Lincoln Borglum, was in charge of completing the project, but he basically left it as the monument appeared upon his father’s death.

Today you can visit the Lincoln Borglum Museum where a film provides an introduction to the memorial site plus historic exhibits.  Take a lunch break at Carvers’  Cafe where you might find on the menu tasty dishes such as Jeffersonian Gourmet Salad or Teddy’s Bison Chili. If you are lucky, you can sit at a table by the large wall of windows, which provides a great view of Mount Rushmore. The Sculptor’s Studio displays the unique plaster models used prior to sculpting on the mountain side, as well as the tools used while carving. A recent addition is the Native American Heritage Village devoted to Indian culture and the Indians’ place in local history.

For another close-up view of the mountain, take the scenic chairlift ride through the Ponderosa pines. Views are spectacular and there is a park at the summit as well as a small outdoor grille.  You must be careful getting on and off as the chairlift stops for no one.  You do get a unique view of the presidential faces as well as enjoying the feeling of flying up the mountainside on the chairlift. Coming down you can either return on the chairlift or descend on the Alpine Slide.  This new slide is 2000 feet long and you are able to control the speed downhill on a wheeled sled with brakes. So it is up to you!  Either take a slow and leisurely ride down, or get a rush of excitement.

On the side of the mountain behind the faces is an interesting tunnel called the Hall of Records. In 1998, they began construction of a vault there that would hold sixteen porcelain enamel panels.  On these panels are: text of The Declaration of Independence, Constitution, biographies of the four presidents, and a short history of the United States.  All this is being done to preserve our present history for future generations. At this time, the Hall of Records is not accessible to the public.

Here at Mount Rushmore, you and your family can have a great educational experience by learning about the Indian heritage as well as the significance of the four faces carved there. Leaving the park, there was an interesting view from the back road where it appeared that George Washington was keeping watch on everything with eyes eleven feet across. The pupils of each eye are made of granite so they appear to twinkle when the sun hits them.  Maybe that is the reason the eyes seem to follow you!  Join the nearly three million people who visit here each year to see the faces march along the skyline.

Mount Rushmore Memorial in western South Dakota can easily be reached off I-90 off Exit 57 to Highway 16, which goes to Keystone. At Keystone take Highway 244 to the Mount Rushmore entrance. 

White Waves of Desert Sand

White Sand as far as the eye can see!  Beautiful waves and dunes of sand cover 275 square miles of land near Alamogordo, New Mexico. Approaching from Cloudcroft, a mountain village with an altitude of about 10,000 feet, the view of White Sands in the distance with a mountain background was spectacular.

Surrounded by military installations, White Sands National Monument, the largest gypsum sand dune field in the world, was an unusual environment to explore. White Sands Missile Range surrounds the place and was where the first atomic bomb was detonated. Holloman Air Force Base was just east of here and a few miles farther on you will find a landing site for space shuttles.A couple times a week, traffic will be stopped for a few hours as test missiles are being shot overhead. This is truly an interesting place for those interested in space travel, as in nearby Alamogordo you can find the International Space Hall of Fame.

Reaching White Sands National Monument, first stop is the Visitors Center, which was a 1938 WPA project constructed of adobe in Spanish pueblo style. Adobe bricks are usually sixteen inches long, ten inches wide, and four inches thick so this is a solid building which has stood the test of time. Two men would work all day to form about a hundred bricks. Set in a landscape of native plants, this is truly a Welcome Center to the area.

Outside it is time to explore. Don’t forget your water bottle because if the sun shines, this can be a very hot desert scene.  This is an especially unusual scene as gypsum is seldom found in the form of sand. But located here in a basin, the white gypsum  is captured, because there is no outlet to the sea. The dunes are constantly changing shapes as tiny grains of sand are blown into ripples across the vast white desert. This area, with shelters inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright, makes a great place for a rest, or to watch the antics of others on the dunes.

You will probably want to take a leisurely drive through the White Sands area, just to get the feel of things. There was a paved road for a couple of miles, and then you were on your own, to decide if you wanted to venture off driving on the gypsum highway through the hills of sand.

There were also a couple of walking trails – one mile-long path through the sand and another an actual boardwalk. Climbing to the top of one of these large dunes is a challenge and fun.  But this is one place where coming down is the hard part! Children have the right idea here as they use saucers or cardboard and slide down the dunes, resembling what a youngster would do with a sled in the snow.

Animals lived in this ocean of white sand in an evolved state as they became part of their environment and were thus camouflaged against the white desert scene. Salamanders, spiders and the Bleached Earless Lizard were white…just like the sand.

Drive, hike, walk the boardwalk, or go sledding!  So many options! But definitely an unusual place to enjoy the beauty that nature provides, including beautiful sunsets.

White Sands National Monument is in southern New Mexico along U.S. Highway 70, which can be reached off I-25 from Las Cruces or off U.S. Highway 54 from Alamogordo. Personally think the approach over the Sacramento Mountains on U.S. Highway 82 gives a great overview. Remember the roads may be closed at times for missile testing with a possible wait of several hours.

Powerful Beauty at Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Think there is only one Grand Canyon?  Think again!  Ones that come to mind other than the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona include: Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania at Pine Creek Gorge, Grand Canyon of the East at Letchworth State Park in New York, Grand Canyon of Pacific at Waimea Canyon in Hawaii, and one of my favorites Grand Canyon of Yellowstone in the northwest corner of Wyoming.

Twenty four miles long on the Yellowstone River,  Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is downstream from Yellowstone Falls, whose scenic beauty flows over rapids in its course through the beautiful canyon. During the Washburn expedition in 1870, Lt. Gustavus Doane described the canyon as follows:

“There are perhaps other canyons longer and deeper than this one, but surely none combining grandeur and immensity with peculiarity of formation and profusion of volcanic or chemical phenomena.”

Indeed this is a beautiful canyon and one many miss while taking a peek at the Grand Canyon itself. Upper Yellowstone Falls flows into a deep canyon below, then the stream takes a wild ride over rapids throughout its course. About 10,000 years old,  today the forces of erosion continue to sculpt the canyon through rain, wind and earthquakes. Lookout Point was one of the early popular spots for viewing the canyon, so back in 1880 the park superintendent decided to put the first railing around this area for safety measures.

Since this is an area of bubbling volcanic activity, it is not surprising that earthquakes happen here frequently. Tremors are felt here all the time. Actually the lookout for Inspiration Point has been shortened several hundred feet due to the quakes in this area. Today on this overhang, there is a nice platform with rails, which provides fantastic views of the canyon both directions.

A zigzag path, Uncle Tom’s Trail, down to near the bottom of the falls at Inspiration Point, created quite an afternoon diversion. The trail was named for Bozeman resident, H F Richardson (known as Uncle Tom), who operated a ferry in 1890 across the Yellowstone River in the canyon. Today that trail has been considerably improved; yet, with a drop of over 500 feet, at least 300 steps and lots of paved inclines, it still requires some perseverance. Slowly strolling down the steep blacktopped path, you could hear the roar of the falls and the peace of the canyon all at the same time. The climb back up was a bit more tiring and a lot slower.  Rested at the top and took a picture of the route taken as seen in the picture above.

At the Lower Yellowstone Falls, beautiful Artist Point has a picture post card view of the canyon and falls. This spot is off the beaten path, holding its beauty for the fortunate to discover. The combination of metallic lusters on the face of the canyon walls creates breathtaking color combinations that are one of a kind. This Lower Falls is 309 feet high, nearly twice the height of Niagara Falls but does not have nearly the same volume of water flowing over it as Niagara does. A member of the 1870 Washburn party, N. P. Langford, gave this brief but poetic description of the Lower Falls: “A grander scene than the lower cataract of the Yellowstone was never witnessed by mortal eyes.”

To end the day, made a relaxing stop at Green Dragon Spring where steam often fills the caverns of the hot spring.  Visitors must wait patiently for a glimpse of this sulfur lined cave with boiling green water. This is a land unlike any other in the United States and Theodore Roosevelt described it well when he stated:  “The beauty and charm of the wilderness are yours for the asking, for the edges of the wilderness lie close beside the beaten roads of the present travel.”

It is difficult to comprehend the beauty, majesty and power of the beautiful Yellowstone area without exploring it firsthand.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone is located very close to Canyon City, Wyoming in the northwest corner of the state. Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road arrives there from all directions. This road is usually accessible from May through October. During the winter months, roads are often snow covered and access to the park is either by snowmobile or commercial snow coaches.

Craters of the Moon Displays Unique Lava Fields

“A weird and scenic landscape peculiar  unto itself,” is the way President Calvin Coolidge described Craters of the Moon. Definitely feel like you are no longer in Idaho, when you reach the Craters of the Moon National Monument in the southern part of the state. This geological extravaganza of rugged lava flow covers 750,000 acres, roughly the size of Rhode Island, and it is the largest lava field in the lower 48 states.

The Great Rift, located along the border of the Snake River Plain, is a showcase of volcanic activity.  Lava flows, fissures, and cinder cones were created by a break in the earth’s crust about fifty miles long. Twisted rivers of lava coil around and through caves and tunnels.

But the eruptions here are not like those you would expect.  When we think of volcanoes, we picture a high cone shaped mountain with steep sides and a crater at the top.  However, Craters of the Moon eruptions are called “fissure eruptions” – outbreaks which occur along the cracks in the earth’s crust.

The Shoshone Indian legend tells the story of the volcano’s first eruption where the Snake River runs today. Many moons ago, flashes of lightning frightened the serpent so dreadfully that he squeezed the mountain until liquid rock came out of it, cracks had fire coming from them, and the mountain finally exploded. While there is evidence Indians hunted and sometimes camped here, no permanent settlements would have occurred. Perhaps they did use the basalt for their arrowheads.

Estimates date the first eruptions here about 15,000 years ago. The black lava flows were from the most recent eruptions, which occurred approximately 2,000 years ago. This desolate landscape has been described as a “garden fit for the devil,” and was later named Devil’s Orchard. Today scientists, hikers and curious visitors journey over many trails to explore the area. Need your walking shoes on, as the paths are sometimes steep and often quite long.

Isolated spots of vegetation called “kipukas” give clues to the type of plants growing in the past. High up on the hillsides you might find a 700 year old juniper tree, old sagebrush, or native bunchgrass. Down on ground level, collapsed tubes and caves demand that you use caution as openings can be hazardous. Many tunnels require special entry permits to ensure safety as well as protect sensitive geological features.

As you might guess, Craters of the Moon was used by NASA astronauts in training for the moon exploration back in 1969. They explored the unusual environment and studied the volcanic geology in preparation for their space journey.

Today Craters of the Moon is neither active nor extinct.  Just sleeping! Scientists actually expect some activity to take place in the area within the next thousand years.  Enjoy exploring where you can let your imagination run wild! It’s a great place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there.

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