雄伟的紫色山峰 Purple mountain majesties
Longs Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park
One of the 53 'fourteeners' in Colorado—mountains that exceed 14,000 feet—Longs Peak still manages to reach higher into the heavens than any other mountain in Rocky Mountain National Park at 14,259 feet. Thousands of climbers set off every year to attempt the summit. Some climbers will try to reach the peak of every fourteener in the US during their lifetimes—that's 96 different mountains.
Once the home of the Ute and Arapaho peoples, then silver miners and mountain men, today Rocky Mountain National Park teems with outdoor enthusiasts of every stripe. Birdwatchers, bikers, and hikers give way to snowshoers, skiers, and snowboarders as the seasons change. The park if full of wildlife, including nearly seventy kinds of mammals and almost three hundred bird species
普韦布洛城堡 Castle of the Ancestral Puebloans
Square Tower House in Mesa Verde National Park
We continue our celebration of National Park Week (through April 24)–and the UNESCO International Day for Monuments and Sites–with a visit to the impressive Square Tower House in Mesa Verde National Park. Square Tower House is one of many cliff dwellings constructed by the Ancestral Puebloans in what is now the American Southwest. At 27 feet, it's the tallest structure in the park. Square Tower House is also notable for its kiva, a round, sunken room used for ceremonies. Unlike most of the ancient kivas found in the region, the kiva at Square Tower House has an intact original clay roof supported by wooden beams.
Ancestral Puebloans lived in today's Four Corners region, where the borders of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico meet at a single point. It's unclear when exactly this culture emerged, but the current consensus is that the Ancestral Puebloans appeared in this area a little more than 3,000 years ago. They're believed to have built the series of cliff dwellings for defensive reasons as various factions competed for scarce resources when the region suffered from a prolonged drought. It's thought that the changing climate eventually became so severe that it likely drove them from the cliff dwellings sometime around 1300 CE, just a century or so after construction began. Today, many of the cliff dwellings have been restored and visitors can view the homes and kivas of the builders.
打卡马蹄湾会带来好运吗？ Does this horseshoe bring good luck?
Horseshoe Bend, Arizona
Grab your boots and gear, today we're heading to Arizona to hike out to Horseshoe Bend. Known as the 'east rim of the Grand Canyon,' it's actually about 140 miles from the other rims and is really more a part of nearby Glen Canyon. Scientifically, the beautiful view exists thanks to something called an 'entrenched meander.' Around six million years ago, the area was closer to sea level. The Colorado River, following the path of least resistance, meandered and became trapped when the Colorado Plateau uplifted around five million years ago. Over time, the river water cut through exposed sandstone, forming the thousand-foot-deep, 270-degree horseshoe-shaped bend.
Horseshoe Bend used to be a locally loved gem until social media came around to spread photos like this one. Now, nearly two million tourists a year hike to this national splendor. It's believed that, eventually, the Colorado River will cut through the neck of the bend. So, if you want your selfie with the horseshoe, you only have another million years, give or take.
A valley view at 9,000 feet
This is the Dallas Divide, but we're hundreds of miles from (and 8,500 feet above) North Texas. This saddle amid the southwestern Colorado Rockies cuts a swath just north of the San Juan Mountains. Nestled in those peaks you'll find Telluride, Silverton, and other former mining towns that got a boost from the Rio Grande Southern Railroad when it came to the Dallas Divide in 1890. Nowadays the divide hosts US Highway 62, a less-traveled byway for most Colorado travelers—but worth the detour if you're keen on a sweeping valley vista.
Super Sandy Sweet 16
We're in the Rockies of southern Colorado to celebrate Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve's 16th year as a full-fledged national park—though it was a national monument from 1932, and both the dunes themselves and the surrounding valley's history are far more ancient.
The dunes lie at the edge of the fertile, expansive San Luis Valley just east of the Rio Grande's headwaters and west of the Sangre de Cristo range shown here behind the dunes. Humans have lived around here for at least 11,000 years. But that's just a few grains in the hourglass for this sand field that formed when huge glacial lakes dried up, leaving sediments that were blown by wind against the mountains to slowly form the tallest sand dunes in North America.
High alpine color in Colorado
Songstress Dolly Parton once sang 'wildflowers don't care where they grow,' but we gotta believe the wildflowers growing in Colorado's American Basin, shown here, are pretty delighted with their surroundings. American Basin is in the San Juan Mountains in the southern part of the state, about a 5-hour drive from Denver. Visitors here will find rocky cliffs, streams, unique rock formations, and some spectacular wildflowers. July and August are the best time to see the blooms—it's the time of year when you'll reliably spot the Rocky Mountain columbine (Colorado's state flower), elephant's head, Parry's primrose, and marsh marigold. Bring us back a bouquet, all right?
Opt outside today
Instead of rushing to the mall today for Black Friday deals, perhaps you could make it a Green Friday and find a treasure in a nearby park or a wilderness like the Maroon Bells near Aspen, Colorado pictured here. A few years ago, outdoor retailer REI made news by closing its doors on the biggest shopping day of the year and encouraging its employees and customers to 'Opt Outside' and spend time with their families instead. And while there is still no shortage of shopping options available to the intrepid Black Friday deal-hunter, a growing number of organizations have gotten behind this concept of Green Friday. And let's face it, after all that turkey and pie yesterday, you could probably use a nice walk. (And you can always shop online at work on Cyber Monday ;).)
Fall color sweeps across the West
The leaves are changing across the West, and few views are more striking than this one of the fall foliage in the Uncompahgre Forest in the shadow of Chimney Rock. The spire and its neighbor Courthouse Mountain dominate the landscape here year-round, but the changing colors make this area—and drives along the nearby Million Dollar Highway—even more scenic in the fall.
The forest gets its name from the Native Americans who have historically lived here, a band of Ute Native Americans called the Uncompahgre Ute People. The Ute People came to what is now Colorado and Utah around 1300, and usually spent their autumns traveling to make offerings to the spirits and hunting buffalo. And, we presume, admiring the spectacular fall colors.
A place fit for the gods
Perhaps it was inevitable that the European settlers who established Colorado Springs decided to name this park the Garden of the Gods—the creation myth of the native Ute people cites this location as the spot where all life began. Today, it's a popular public park and National Natural Landmark. The Garden of the Gods is on the western edge of the city—an easy way for locals and visitors alike to get a heaping dose of nature without having to travel far from civilization. If you stroll past any of the rock formations here, you're likely to see a climber scaling the red and pink sandstone fins that give the park its distinct look.