I went camping in some of our national parks last summer. In Bryce Canyon, I had a wonderful time listening to the rangers talks about hoodoos – such a scary sounding name for the tall, odd shaped pillars of rock that are caused by erosion. I loved the moonlight night hikes and stargazing in one of the darkest skies in North America. Even without a telescope, I could see over 7,500 stars, according to the ranger. I didn’t try to count them all, just imagined what it would be like to visit another galaxy. Would it look like ours? Purrs, Gulliver
I was visiting Yosemite National Park and heard a legend from a local Native American tribe which explained how parts of Yosemite were created. Here is the story. Many, many years ago, a Native American couple lived in the desert around Mono Lake, California. Learning about the beautiful Valley of Ahwahnee, they decided to go there and make it their home. Along the way, the couple began to argue. The wife wanted to go back, the husband refused. They argued so loudly, the Creator grew angry and turned the two into stone. The husband became North Dome and the wife became Half Dome, two large rocks in what is now Yosemite National Park. The wife felt bad about the quarrel and the rock she became began to cry, creating Mirror Lake. In the local Paiute language she is known as T’ssikakka or Tissayack. Purrs, Gulliver
Kip laughed when I asked him what his mother thought of his job as a smokejumper. “She thinks I am crazy… truly nuts and need my head examined.” Kip and his co-workers have a dangerous job jumping out of an airplane to fight fires in remote areas where there are no roads. There are only 450 smokejumpers in the USA who attend special schools like the one in Missoula, Montana which has been around for 75 years. The school trains smokejumpers how to jump out of airplanes and use parachutes, fight the fires by hand, and then carry out equipment that can weigh up to 120 – 140 pounds. This has been a busy year, with 81 fires going on around the Western United States, and I told Kip I admired his dedication to keeping people and property safe. “I love the outdoors” he simply said. Purrs, Gulliver
I spent some time camping at several of our national parks this past summer. Arches National Park is in eastern Utah. I did a lot of hiking and saw many of the 2,000 natural stone arches, in addition to sky-high peaks and giant balanced rocks. One evening, a ranger talked about the kinds of wildlife that live in the parks. Desert bighorn sheep and mule deer can be seen often, but mountain lions come out at night. Kangaroo rats, lizards, spadefoot toads and many types of birds also live in the park. Take pictures when it is safe, but don’t bother the wildlife, the ranger said. Purrs, Gulliver
A walking volcano? The Pinnacles rocks are all that’s left of 23,000,000-year-old Neenach Volcano. It once stood 8,000 feet high near what is now Lancaster, CA, 195 miles south. The San Andreas Fault ripped the old volcano in half and moves the land slowly north. It took the rocks a few million years to get here and according to the National Park Service, they’re still moving – about an inch per year. At that rate, they’ll be near where San Francisco is now in another 6 million years. The Pinnacles are a home for many kinds of wildlife, including the endangered California condor. These ancient birds can often be seen soaring on their 9 1/2-foot wide wings, looking for food. There are only about 425 California condors left in the world! Purrs, Gulliver
“Rocky Mountain High…Colorado” sang John Denver on the radio as we drove through Colorado. I tried to sing along, but my mom complained I was yowling too loudly. Such a critic! We headed to the Rocky Mountain National Park to do some hiking and maybe even see bighorn sheep, moose, elk or deer. I don’t want to see any bears or mountain lions – they might eat me! While the Rocky Mountain National Park is in Colorado, the Rocky Mountains are a series of mountain rangeswhich spread more than 3,000 miles from central New Mexico to northwest Alaska and include the Canadian National Parks of Banff, Jaspar, and Kootenay, while in the United States the mountains include Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks among others. I am looking forward to climbing Pike’s Peak, which has such beautiful views it inspired another song –“America the Beautiful”! Purrs, Gulliver
In 2012, scientists found the General Grant tree is the second largest tree in the world, behind the General Sherman tree. The General Grant measures almost 270 feet tall and 107 feet around at its base. The tree is named in 1867 to honor Ulysses S. Grant, and General in the US Army and later the 18th President of the United States. Estimates on its age range from 1650 years to 2700 years old. Counting tree rings does not give an accurate date of its age – scientists are still learning how to decide the ages of some trees.