New Visitor Experiences

Mesa Verde National Park – Summer 2010

 

18 - Long House

 

Mesa Verde National Park visitors find three new experiences available during the 2010 summer season. In partnership with the nonprofit Mesa Verde Institute the park expands their visitor programs to include guided hikes to Spring House, Mug House and a Wetherill Mesa Experience. The hikes, which begun Memorial Day weekend, will continue through Labor Day. The Spring House trip will be offered until September 30th.

“We want visitors to know that there’s more to Mesa Verde than Cliff Palace, Balcony House and Spruce Tree House,” says Acting Superintendent Bill Nelligan. “This is a great opportunity to learn more about Mesa Verde National Park.”

  • Spring House – This very strenuous hike is an 8-hour, 8-mile trek for the physically-fit adventurist. The unpaved, uneven trail includes steep drop-offs and switchbacks with a 3,000-ft. elevation change. In addition to visiting Spring House hikers will view Buzzard House, Teakettle House, Daniel’s House and archeological sites in Navajo and Wickiup Canyons. Lunch is included.

  • Wetherill Mesa Experience – Introduces the Ancestral Pueblo people who lived here from early pithouse to cliff dwelling occupancy (A.D. 600 – A.D. 1300). Hikers will learn about The Wetherill Mesa Archeological Project during the 6-mile, 6-hour easy to moderate hike. The joint effort between the National Park Service and The National Geographic Society was one of the largest archeological projects ever conducted in the United States.
  • Mug House – Is a 2-hour, 3-mile round trip on an unpaved, uneven trail with a 100’ descent. The strenuous hike involves a ladder, knotted rope, steep drop-offs, switchbacks and scrambling over boulders. When Mug House was excavated three mugs tied together were found hanging on a peg inside one of the rooms.

06 - Tour Group The three new adventures are limited to 14 people per tour. Tickets for the Spring House and the Wetherill Mesa Experience may be purchased online. Mug House tickets are only available at the Far View Visitor Center up to 48 hours in advance.

The Mesa Verde Institute continues to hosts Cliff Palace Twilight Tours between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Led by historic characters from Mesa Verde’s past, the 90-minute evening tours begin at 7pm. Tickets, purchased at the Far View Visitor Center, are limited to 20 participants each evening.

 

Previous Related Posts

Mesa Verde Mystique

Lodging in Mesa Verde National Park

Planning a Summer to Remember

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Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful Beat the January blues by planning a summer to remember. “When children see their first bear or geyser eruption, it typically makes an impression that lasts a lifetime, and those kinds of experiences are exactly what families can expect from a trip to Yellowstone,” says Rick Hoeninghausen, director of sales and marketing for Xanterra Parks & Resorts, operator of the lodges, restaurants and other concessions in the park. “To ensure Yellowstone memories are the best possible for everyone in the family, we recommend a little bit of advance planning coupled with realistic expectations.”

Hoeninghausen offers the following suggestions for ensuring a great family trip.

Before you go:

  • Carefully choose the time you travel. If you have very young children Bison or a flexible travel schedule, consider traveling during the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. These seasons offer a greater choice of accommodations and campground sites. Plus there is the added bonus of the best wildlife-viewing opportunities. Spring is the time to view bison and elk calves and fall is the mating season for bison and elk.
  • Study the park before you go. Xanterra offers a Yellowstone Adventure Planner through its online gift store. Priced at Adventure Planner$39.95, the planner comes  with a DVD highlighting the park, park map, copy of the Yellowstone National Park Magazine, guide to activities and picnic spots, safety and photography tips and coupons for more than $40 that can be used for gifts and activities. Another source is the National Park Service (NPS) site, Mud Pot which also offers a variety of online vacation planning tools. Learning about the park together also gives  family members a chance to discuss their expectations. After learning a bit about the park, ask each member what they’d like to do and see? Older teens may want to take a challenging hike while younger kids may want to see a mudpot.
  • Decide where to stay in the park. Yellowstone is highlighted by a huge diversity of geological features, including hot springs, geysersLake Yellowstone Hotel, Yellowstone Lake, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Lamar Valley, considered the best wildlife-watching region in the lower 48 states. Yellowstone’s nine lodges are located throughout the park. Xanterra recommends studying a map to help decide which location – or locations – makes the most sense. Some people prefer to change hotels every night as they move around the park; others prefer to establish one lodge as a home base and then return to the same lodge each night. Lodging reservations can be made at online  or by calling (1) 307-344-7311 or toll-free (1) 866-GEYSERLAND (1-866-439-7375) Ask reservations sales agents for their suggestions and guidance when booking lodges and activities.
  • Let every family member pick at least one activity. There are numerous activity choices that are perfect for every age group. For example, little ones might enjoy the Hikerscovered wagon ride to the Roosevelt Cookout. Another family member might want to participate in a ranger-led hike. Concessioner Xanterra offers an online adventure planning tool that allows travelers to choose activities based on the duration of the adventure, intensity level and region of the park.
  • Book your lodge(s) now. Yellowstone National Park features nine lodges in a variety of locations throughout the park. Some of the historic or most popular lodges – the Old Faithful Inn and Old FaithfulOld Faithful Inn Snow Lodge – are beginning to fill for prime summer dates. Still, with some 2,000 guest rooms in the entire park, there are plenty of rooms available for the summer. Lodging reservations can be cancelled with full refunds on deposits if made 48 hours or more before the arrival date. Hat
  • Pack smart. Yellowstone is one of the wildest spots in the country, and the weather is no exception. Pack for rain and widely fluctuating temperatures. Typical summer temperatures range from the high 70s to the low 40s. Sturdy shoes, sunscreen, hats and refillable water bottles should be included on every packing list.

During your trip:

  • Get to know the National Park Service rangers. Free ranger-led programs are offered daily in every area of the park. The pYellowstone Family Programrograms are fun, creative and available for families with children of all ages. For example, the Yellowstone Wildlife Olympics, a four-hour program offered six times during the summer, gives budding wildlife scientists a chance to show off their knowledge of the park’s non-human residents. The Junior Ranger program is a perfect way to engage children. Plus, there are ranger adventure hikes, evening astronomy programs and evening talks.

Yellowstone Falls

 

  • Don’t be too ambitious. An early-morning wildlife-watching tour in Lamar Valley followed by a ranger-led geyser hike followed by a lake cruise followed by the Roosevelt Cookout may sound like a good plan, but it’s not. And it probably would not even be doable. Driving from one part of the park to the other, especially in the middle of summer, takes time. And travelers lucky enough to encounter wildlife or other special park experiences during the drive should savor those experiences instead of worrying about making it to the next activity on time.

  • Lunch at Lake Yellowstone Lodge Think beyond the burger. Xanterra offers 17 restaurant choices in the park, ranging from the quick-serve Geyser Grill at Old Faithful Snow Lodge to the elegant Lake Hotel Dining Room. Every restaurant offers value-priced options to suit every budget, as well as vegetarian and children’s options.

  • Designate a spontaneous day. Over-planned vacations can sometimes  seem like a forced march, with everyone proceeding in lock-step to the next planned activity. Sometimes, planners just can’t help themselves. Hoeninghausen recommends “planning” a  Poolsnothing day. “The park is full of surprises – like an unexpected eruption of a backcountry geyser or a clear safe-distance sighting of a bear and cubs,” said Hoeninghausen. “Many families miss these special and truly memorable experiences because they’re driving to the next place on their agenda. Get up one morning and just let the day happen. Allow time to stop for that ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ wildlife sighting that seems to always occur when you Horseback Ridersare in a  rush.” 

 Moose

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  • White Pelican
  • Be safe. Follow all posted National Park Service signs and directions. Every year, tourists stray from a boardwalk in a hot springs area or get too close to wildlife. The National Park Service medical clinics see plenty of injuries each summer that could have been prevented if travelers had simply followed NPS rules.

  • Start your in-park visit with a trip to a National PCanyon Visitor's Centerark Service Visitor Center. NPS rangers have the latest information on wildlife sightings, trail conditions, ranger-led programs and more. This is also where kids can obtain information on becoming a Junior Ranger.

Wildlife Viewing

 

  • Do the dawn. Wildlife are early risers, and the best time to see them in action is just after dawn. Make the effort to get up early to improve your chances of seeing wildlife. Save the geysers for mid-day when animals are less active. The other great time to see wildlife is at dusk.

 

  • Visit Old Old FaithfulFaithful in the late afternoon and evening. When day-  trippers head back to their hotels in gateway communities, the popular spots such as Old Faithful Geyser have fewer visitors. See it in the late afternoon and you are more likely to find a place to sit and watch from the boardwalk benches.

Climbing AboardPools 2

Jewel Geyser

       

 

 

 

 

 

          Start planning your family’s Yellowstone

          memories today.

Pronghorn

 

Looking for Osprey

 Bugling Rites

After the bumper to bumper lines of summer tourists return home, savvy autumn visitors head to Estes Park, to explore a less crowded Rocky Mountain National Park, photograph snow dusted peaks or golden quaking aspen, and witness the fall rites Elk on the Moveof majestic elk.

As days shorten, large herds of elk move from their summer range among high slopes and alpine valleys to grassy meadows in the park and around town. Grazing wapitis add unpredictable hazards to the fairways and greens at the Estes Park Golf Course. A bugling bull plays havoc with the perfect back swing.

Fall denotes mating season, the rut, when bulls establish dominance and breeding rights of the herd. Body posture and displaying of antlers attract females. The antlers, shed after the rut, are an itching irritant. Intense rubbing and polishing against tree trunks creates dark scars especially evident on aspen. The scraping shreds the soft velScared Aspenvet summer coating.

During our last visit we decided to drive through the park on our way to dinner. Almost immediately after passing through the Fall River Entrance Station we see cars parked along both sides of the road. Sure enough, there’s a large bull with his harem munching in belly-high grass 800 feet away. We’re thankful for binoculars when observing from this distance, and spot several smaller herd members not initially seen with the naked eye. We hear our first bugle of the season – a combination bellow, whistle, grunt.

Teams of rangers and park volunteers monitor the area near the West Horseshoe Park and Sheep Lakes parking areas. Meandering streams snake through this lush meadow – a habitat sure to attract wildlife before nightfall. Through October 24 rangers offer a 30-minute nightly program, Elk Echoes, at the Sheep Lakes parking lot and a Saturday evening program at the Moraine Park Museum amphitheater.

Elk Herd Just before we exit the park at Beaver Meadows, traffic comes to a halt. We join the curious, parking along the side of the road – but not too far over into the planted restoration area. Armed with cameras and binoculars we walk to the edge of the gathering. There stands a magnificent bull with massive antler expanse watching over his herd. An observer noted that she counted 32 cows and calves.

This grouping feeds so close to the road rangers halt traffic in both directions. Almost on signal, three calves bolt across the highway to taste grasses along the south-facing bank. Dad observes for a minute or two before ambling after them. His mouth opens but we hear not a sound although it appears he’s talking to the wayward trio. Perhaps they are the teenagers of the herd. Circling uphill and behind, he gives one grunt and all three bound back to where they started.

Mr. Bull slowly sniffs his way across the asphalt, seemingly undisturbed. We speculate about three green stripes on his right side. Has he been purposely marked? “No, he’s just been in a tight spot with green paint,” a ranger informs. The green is a perfect match to the Beaver MeadoElk with Signws Visitor Center sign the sultan now poses next to.

Slowly he circles the harem, forcing them closer together, when suddenly he gives chase to a young buck on the hillside. They move through the herd until the buck retreats a safe distance away from the bull’s vigilant stare. Stretching his shaggy neck and lifting the six-point antlers the bull produces a deep, resonant call rising to a high-pitched, tinny whistle followed by a series of grunts. An elk bugle we’ll long remember

Tips for safe and successful wildlife viewing.

Learn about Elk Fest in Estes Park.

Estes Park Celebrates Elk

Elk Fest in Estes Park, Colorado salutes these awesome animals October 3&4, 2009. Educational exhibits and seminars help further our understanding of the mammals and their habitat, and teach us how to observe them in the wild. Modestly priced elk viewing tours is a stress-free way to observe without driving hassles. The guided tours leave from Bond Park in downtown Estes Park each afternoon of the festival.

Elk Head Shot A Mountain Man Rendezvous and Native American storytelling and live music enhance the weekend experience. Vendors offer an array of elk-ivory jewelry, wildlife art, scrimshawed antler knives, antler furniture and antler chandeliers. Food options include elk cuisine.

Anyone with the ability to imitate the haunting call of elk rut may enter the Bugling Contest on Sunday afternoon. Amateurs or professionals, adults, youth and junior youth (6 years old and younger) using vocal chords, horn or diaphragm are welcome to demonstrate their skill and compete to see who sounds most like a bugling elk.

I’ll need a great deal of practice on my bellow, whistle, and grunts to join in the annual bugling rite.

Successful and Safe Wildlife Viewing

  • Watch wildlife from a distance. Sit down and create a low profile. If animals notice you, or if they seem nervous, you are too close. Move away quietly.
  • Use binoculars or a telephoto lens to get close views.

    Chipmuck Preparing for Winter

  • Feeding wildlife is illegal in all national parks. Feeding wildlife reduces its ability to survive the long mountain winter. When they panhandle by roadsides, animals fall easy prey to automobiles. As they become habituated to humans and lose their natural fear, the animals become aggressive and may be destroyed.
  • Never approach wildlife. Harassing animals is unlawful.
  • Keep pets in your vehicle. Pets may scare wildlife, and animals can hurt your pet. A deer can crush a dog’s skull with its hooves. Pets can also introduce diseases such as distemper.
  • Drive slowly. Watch for animals crossing the road. Deer and elk are seldom alone: if you see one animal cross the road, look out for others that may follow it. Every year numerous animals are killed by autos.
  • Stop your car to watch animals only if you can pull off the road safely. Do not block traffic.
  • Talk quietly so you don’t disturb the animals or people nearby. If watching from your car, turn off the motor and headlights.

Guidelines courtesy Rocky Mountain National Park

Take to the Hills for Fall Color

Yellow Aspen Twig Fall arrives early in the Colorado Rockies. Beginning in late August aspen begin their shimmering transformation to golden yellow. Many forecasters predict an early and short color season for 2009. Even residents who rarely travel beyond the Denver metropolitan area plan a fall foliage day trip or Sunday afternoon drive. Consider these routes as you grab the camera and take to the hills.

  • Peak to Peak Aspens Peak to Peak Highway from Blackhawk to Estes ParkThis National Scenic Byway nearly parallels the Continental Divide for 55 miles between Blackhawk and Estes Park. Although it’s a continuous route various segments hold different Colorado State Highway designations 119, 72 and 7 as it travels northward through Rollinsville, Nederland, Ward and Allenspark. Some years the segment between Nederland and Ward offers especially stunning aspen color.
  • Old Fall River Road in Rocky Mountain National ParkA rewarding road less traveled in the park, the one-way (westbound)Old Fall River Road dirt road climbs from Horseshoe Park, west of the RMNP Fall River Entrance Station, to Fall River Pass, 11,796-feet above sea level. Along the ascent the terrain changes from mountain meadow to montane and subalpine forests before reaching the wind-swept alpine world above timberline. Nine of the 11 miles are car passable (except extremely low clearance vehicles) dirt surface – posted speed limit, 15mph. Tight switchback turns make the route  Elk - Head Shot unsuitable for RVs or trailers. In addition to changing aspen you’re almost guaranteed to see grazing elk along the way. A $1 Old Fall River Road guidebook is available at park visitor centers. The road terminates when it intersects with Trail Ridge Road near the Alpine Visitor Center. Turn right to descend the west side of the park to Grand Lake or turn left to follow Trail Ridge Road back to Estes Park.
  • I-70 from Empire to the Eisenhower/Johnson Tunnels – Large groves of aspen paint the mountain slopes along this Interstate corridor. Watch for bighorn sheep on the rocky slopes above Georgetown Lake and Silver Plume. Fill the day with exploring the shops and historic sites in GeorgetGeorgetown - Reflectedown or  Silver Plume, take a hike up Herman’s Gulch or ride the narrow gauge Georgetown Loop Railroad. Sample wines at Canyon Wind Cellars or lunch and tea in the Silver Plume Tea Room. Make it an overnight with reservations for dinner and lodging at the Peck House in Empire – the oldest hotel extant in the state. Caution: Eastbound I-70 frequently becomes stop-and-go, bumper-to-bumper on Sunday afternoons during color season. Plan your trip accordingly, consider stopping at a local restaurant for dinner or you may have lots of time to view the same grove of aspen.
Road Closing: The Guanella Pass Road, a frequent destination for leave peepers, between Georgetown and US285 closed August 21, 2009. Heavy summer rains created unsafe conditions due to rock instability. For current information, call 303-569-3251, press “2” for Guanella Pass.
  • Squaw Pass – Bergen Park to Idaho Springs – I don’t find a lot written about Squaw Pass but I think it’s a great Sunday afternoon drive, especially in the fall or on a clear winter day. From the Evergreen Parkway, CO74, head west on Squaw Pass Road, CO103. The road is paved albeit with a few rough and narrow spots along the 18-mile route to Echo Lake. The Squaw Pass Summit at 9,807’  is about half-way to the popular lakEcho Lakee.  A left turn in summer takes gasping visitors to the top of 14,264’ Mount Evans – the country’s highest paved road. CDOT closed the top four miles of the Mt. Evans Highway for the season on September 3, the lower portion remains open as of this posting. Check their website for updates. CO103 continues approximately eight miles down the Chicago Creek Road to Idaho Springs and I-70. Pick a sunny day to fully enjoy the sweeping views of mountain ranges and quaking aspen.

Check Back Soon for Additional Suggestions

  • Kenosha Pass
  • Gold Belt Tour – Florissant to Cripple Creek

We’ve Had Better Days

Yellowstone National Park to Helena, Montana

  • Bad night – Bob’s not feeling well.
  • Day is cloudy – the sky’s the same color as the steam and sprayfrom the geysers and fumaroles, forecast includes rain.
  • Breakfast at Old Faithful Inn Dining Room.
  • Nancy snaps a few pictures, watches Old Faithful one more time and goes to the temporary visitors center – the new one is taking shape.
  • Grazing BisonWe see a couple of bison grazing very close to the road, also a larger bison herds in meadows plus elk, a pair of nesting bald eagles and a muskrat swimming down the river.
  • Before leaving the park we stop at the Junior Ranger Cabin near Madison Junction.
  • Route US191 from West Yellowstone to Belgrade, goes through the extreme western portion of the park, then follows the Gallatine River for miles and miles.
  • Route US287 from west of Three Forks to Helena – broad valley with mountains in all directions, lots of wheat fields irrigated from the wide Missouri (River).
  • Wingate Hotel, Helena – this is a good facility and good value.
  • No prime rib at Silver Star Steak Company tonight, no Great Northern Carousel ride, no fun!

Reflections on the Day – Dubois to Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Posted 6/5 – No Internet connecions in Yellowstone

Reflections

 

  • A cozy and comfortable night at Twin Pines Lodge & Cabins in Dubois plus a continental breakfast.
  • Explore Dubois – from the cemetery to the Conoco.
  • Drive the Togwotee Trail – US26/287 to Moran Junction.
  • Only two short delays for construction along the Togwotee Trail route – the completed sections (19 miles) are huge improvements.
  • Descending Togwotee Pass and the remarkable first view of the Tetons.
  • Oxbow Bend Viewpoint – great views of Snake River and the Teton Range, today we had remarkably clear reflections – see above photo.
  • Lunch at Jackson Lake Lodge – Grand Teton National Park
  • Grant Village Visitors Center – Yellowstone National Park
  • Reservation at Old Faithful Inn – easy check-in, helpful and congenial staff.
  • Old Faithful eruptions – we watched three.
  • Dinner in Old Faithful Inn Dining Room – The roasted red pepper with smoked gouda soup was the highlight.
  • After dinner walk around the Old Faithful area checking out gift shops and guest facilities.
  •  Followed by relaxing on the 3rd-floor balcony watching people, gazing down into the crackling fire and noting architectual details of the historic lodge.
  • One final geyser eruption before retreating to our room.
  • Wildlife of the day included deer nibbling on spring aspen leaves, elk slowing ambling across the road, an osprey sitting on her nest and a mountain bluebird flitting from limb to limb.

Make Your Reservations

Lodging Available in National Park Lodges

New opportunities exist for summer travelers to several National Parks in the western United States. More travelers are making reservations on the web closer to their date of travel and many families are being careful with travel plans because of the current economic situation. Rooms in lodges within the National Parks traditionally fill months ahead of travel dates. Savvy shoppers may not only find available rooms but also money saving packages.

Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates lodges in six of the most visited National Parks.
old-faithful-inn-porch4

Old Faithful Inn - Yellowstone

The company also operates the Grand Canyon Railway, between Williams, Arizona and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

el-tovar-grand-canyon-lodge2

El Tovar - Grand Canyon

The U.S. Travel Association predicts nearly three-quarters of all Americans will visit a national park in 2009. Dave Hartvigsen, marketing consultant for Xanterra, offers planning tips for 2009 national park vacations.

  • Booking online is usually the quickest way to secure a reservation.
  • Be flexible. Be as flexible as possible with dates and choice of lodging for the best chance of getting a room on short notice.
  • Consider traveling during the first two weeks of June, the last 10 days of August or the first two weeks of September. Individual parks have unique soft spots. For example, Yellowstone has considerable availability during the entire month of May and late August through the end of the season in mid-October.
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    Lake Yellowstone Hotel - Yellowstone

  • Be timely. Group tour operators reserve blocks of rooms. If all the rooms are not sold, operators must release them for resale approximately 30 days out. Want reservations for July 30? Try booking on June 30 or July 1.
  • Be persistent. Rooms open up due to a variety of reasons. You might be the lucky one to re-book that room.
  • Watch out for third-party reservation web sites. Xanterra’s reservation services are FREE.
  • In addition to lodging, book activities and dinner reservations. Popular activities like the Old West Dinner Cookout at Yellowstone’s Roosevelt Lodge fill up quickly. Find information on making reservations on the Xanterra web sites.

    old-faithful-inn-interior1

    Old Faithful Inn - Yellowstone

  • Look for packages. The Grand Canyon Railway offers a variety of packages including train fare, lodging in Williams and Grand Canyon South Rim, and some meals. Yellowstone Summer Getaway Packages represent discounts up to 25 percent that include specially priced lodging and, in some cases, tours of the park.
  • Just show up. Travelers who arrive between noon and 6 pm often find last-minute rooms available. Once in a park, the front desk at any lodge can check availability for all rooms with the park.

Nancy’s Notes: I’ve tried them, many of these tips work. If you decide on the “Just Show Up” option have a plan B, gateway communities to the national parks often fill to capacity. Happy planning, safe travels.

Protecting Sonoran Desert Landscape

snp-saguaroWe visited the West section of Saguaro National Park this afternoon. Viewing the cactus studded Tucson Mountains we truly appreciate that the National Park was designated 76 years ago. Today the two segments of the national park bracket the growing Tucson metropolitan area.

More about the park later, meanwhile enjoy a few photos.

snp-flag snp-ocotillo

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snp-vista

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