Tomorrow – yes, tomorrow – is our National Parks’ 100th anniversary. (And all National Parks are free admission for four day. Happy birthday!)
Although not part of the National Parks System, I felt the need to include in this series some shots of Stu Patterfoot along the Oregon Trail in Wyoming. Because it’s history. Because it’s Stu. And because it’s so interesting.
During the mid- and late-1800’s, wagon train emigrants stopped overnight along the nearby North Platte River, and many recorded their names and dates in the soft limestone bluff, which has come to be known as Register Cliff.
Registration Cliff is a rock face where travelers could record by carving into the soft rock that they had made it that far. But today if you try to record that you, too, have passed that way, you’ll be arrested for vandalism. So acknowledge the history, sense the history, look at the history, but don’t touch. The near-barren landscape (trees only grow because of the nearby river) gives one a desolate feel of what early emigrants may have felt.
Most impressive (to me) at this spot was the worn rock made from thousands of wagon wheels heading for a new life further west. The sides of the prairie schooners must have scrapped the walls as they passed through here, with each wheel cutting deeper into the rock.
There are also thousands of cliff swallows guarding the wall. (Look above Stu’s head on the Register Cliff sign.)
As you write your stories, visit your settings. See the flora and fauna, and smell the history. Gather hundreds of ideas for future stories. Keep on writing.
Back in March I mentioned in a blog post the up-coming National Parks’ 100th birthday on August 25 (only three days away now). I showed a photo of Stu in front of Mount Rushmore. We lived about thirty minutes from there for about ten years. The scenery and wildlife of the Black Hills of South Dakota is stunning.
History: Many years ago a tourist was horseback riding in the Hills and asked his guide the name of “that mountain.” The guide said it didn’t have a name, so the tourist named it after himself. Fast forward a few decades and a visionary sculpture, Gutzon Borglum, saw faces in the bare cliffs. He designed and started the long process of creating the four US presidents seen today on Mount Rushmore. Can you name the four presidents? One had to be started over during the carving. And the original design was to be full busts, not just faces.
Six more days until our National Parks’ 100th birthday! What awesome places to visit, for anyone, but especially for writers and illustrators. There are ideas at every turn, every look.
Here is Stu Patterfoot visiting Jewel Cave National Monument in the Black Hills of South Dakota. There are about 1,000 acres of land on the surface with woods, rocks, and animals, with hundreds of miles of tunnels and passages below the ground. You really don’t know the term “pitch black” until you are deep in a cave and the lights are (intentionally) turned off. Even when experienced, it’s difficult to describe.
In celebration of our national park’s 100th birthday, here is Stu Patterfoot at Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.
Bison and wild horses roam the park. It was here in a parking lot, where I overheard a man asking a park ranger if he could put his granddaughter on the back of one of the bison walking though the lot so he could take a picture. I was very impressed by the young ranger’s calm no and explanation why not. Me, on the other hand, standing behind the grandpa, had popped open my eyes at his comment and dropped my jaw to the pavement. It would have taken me he’d asked that question, it would have taken me several minutes to respond. But then grandpa complained that the animals weren’t fenced in and why did they let them roam around if they were so dangerous? Well, they are fenced in, only the fences are miles and miles long. So: No sitting on the bison! Really. Don’t even get close. (In the photo below, Stu was only this close because he was inside a van. See the side mirror over his shoulder? Yeah. Don’t get close to wild animals. People are gored every year.)
Inside the park, it’s not just the animals, nor the human history of the area, but also the land itself. Just when you (I) think you’ve (I’ve) seen about every rock formation in the world (across these wide and varied United States), along comes an interesting sight. Take a gander at the size of this perfectly round naturally formed “pebble”.
In celebration of our national parks 100th birthday this month, here is Stu at the historic Cumberland Gap (National Historical Park).
This is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountain Range giving early American frontiersmen (and women, and bunnies), a Wilderness Road to “the West” (i.e., Kentucky and beyond). It is located near the conjunction of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.
(Also, naturally, American Native Indians lived in the area long before the white man showed up in history, and were familiar with the gap’s secret.)
Cumberland Gap also played a part in the US Civil War, but alluded any battles.
Today you can hike the old Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap, but the wide and long tunnel for cars makes the journey far shorter.
As a writer, merely sitting in locations where I know much history took place is inspirational. Where are your inspirational spots?
In honor of our US National Park’s 100th birthday later this month, here are some shots of Stu Patterfoot visiting Wind Cave National Park in the southern Black Hills of South Dakota. This was the first cave in the world to be named a national park. (Thank you, Teddy Roosevelt.) The park is nearly 34,000 acres on the surface with plenty of wildlife, but below ground it includes one of the world’s largest cave system. It is famous for the calcite boxwork formation which is quite rare and stunning.
Visit our national parks this month.
P.S. Towards the end of August, all national parks will be free for four days!!!!
Here is Stu Patterfoot along the Blue Ridge Parkway, a National Parkway maintained by the US Parks Service. The road passes through several states. These were taken in North Carolina.
When I was a child, my father drove us home for a bit on this road. It is windy, hilly, and the speed limit is 35-45 mph. My father could hardly wait to find a way to exit it, curing the entire time because he couldn’t go fast. Decades later, my husband and I visited the Parkway. We savored every moment on the windy, hilly, gorgeously scenic road and did not want the journey to end. Stu Patterfoot liked it, too.
In celebration of our National Parks Birthday later this month, here is Stu Patterfoot in Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado.
The park is enormous, and two photos can hardly capture the millions of places to stop for photogenic moments. Rocky Mountains National Park is an awesome landscape for fantasy stories, especially when you hike back into the wilderness (on trails) to when you can see or hear no sign of human life except for yourself (and companions).
Oh, and summertime is the best recommended time to visit, as some roads may be closed in the snowtime.
In Celebration of our National Parks Birthday which turns 100 on August 25th, here are shots of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. It is named such because if the dells rock formations along the Lake Superior coast, but there are also the dunes to climb, the many, many waterfalls to hike through woods to see. Blues and greens. The water is very clear. Greens and blues and clear. And lots of water in many forms.
Granted, these are summer shots, which is a great time to head north to this national treasure. If you go in winter, you would have another wonderland scene, but the predominate color then would be white-white-white. Also, mind, that although the water looks inviting, only if you are of polar bear descent should you attempt a dip into cool Lake Superior – any time of year.
Here is Stu Patterfoot visiting Devils Tower National Monument in the Black Hills of Wyoming. You can see this unique rock formation rising dramatically from the prairie for miles as you approach it, growing larger and larger and larger.
Climbers have tackled this formation for a couple hundred years. Although during the month of June, most climbers honor the Native Indians and do not climb these 30 days for related Indian ceremonies and prayers. Stu didn’t get much past the crumbled base.
Using US National Parks for writer inspirations for settings has existed before there were even National Parks. Devils Tower was used as a backdrop for “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” but visiting it after seeing the movie was a bit disappointing in that respect. Spoiler alert: FYI, you oldsters or old movie buffs, there are no aliens from other planets on the grounds. But I can’t guarantee the same if you look up.