Nature

Know This Place

Travel with Lauren Smith as she finds a sense of home on the road, much like the migrating birds she studies. "The month after I moved to Montana I went to an environmental conference in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. There, I heard a Blackfeet elder say this: “We are bound by breath to honor and take care of this place.” The elder was speaking about conservation, and how it is important to care for all parts of an ecosystem—the watershed, the soil, the plants, the animals. To care, the elder said, you need to settle in a place and let it settle in you. Once this happens, you are bound by breath to honor and care for that place." Click here to continue.

Dining with the Sky Gods

An hour later and I'm clinging to a cable on the side of the mountain, treading a path so narrow my feet no longer fit side by side safely, but only one in front of the other. There is a steep, almost vertical drop to my right hand side. Indeed, at one point there is only a metal bar sticking out from the sheer rock, bridging the next bit of narrow path. Don't look down, I think. Hang on to the cable with both hands. Phew. Done.

Inspiration from Zion

Inspiration from Zion

"Driving from Denver to Los Angeles with my first husband and baby son in 1973, I wanted to enjoy parts of the country I'd never experienced. Tiredness interfered with that often, sending me into uneasy dozes as Richard drove and Lyle sang with the radio, banging out time on his carseat. And so, only one sight has really stayed with me for all these years: Zion National Park in Utah."

Discover Lapham Peak State Park

"I consider myself a champion of curiosity, and the life of Increase Lapham resonates powerfully for me," writes Janet Frost. "I don’t believe that it was an accident that a man driven by curiosity and the yearning for scientific knowledge landed in the territory of Wisconsin." Frost takes P&P readers through Lapham Peak Park, an enchanted wilderness with a prominent peak that rises 1,200 feet above sea level—click here to read more about Lapham's life and this majestic Wisconsin state park!

 

A Monumental Day of Blogging

In light of the Executive Branch of the government directing the new Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, to review recent monument designations, we’ve been reflecting on the essential value of national monuments within the National Parks Service, We prefer Parks & Points be apolitical, focusing on the beauty and importance of public lands — wonder and passion is what inspired us to start Parks & Points, and we celebrate public lands within the content we publish. But the present moment begs us to reflect more deliberately and pointedly, because these monuments are irreplaceable and essential. Losing them would be a misstep for our culture. The value we as a society place on learning from history, and on cultural understanding, feels to be in jeopardy.

Walnut Canyon National Monument, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

Walnut Canyon National Monument, photo by Amy Beth Wright.

On a recent road trip to Arizona and New Mexico, we visited seven different national monuments and one national park. The monuments were comparably breathtaking to any celebrated national park, though less crowded. In our few hours at El Malpais National Monument in New Mexico, we explored caves (we hoped to see a bat, though was not to be this time), lava fields, and trails — we photographed colorful spring wildflowers and enjoyed the land that “We the People” own and can enjoy. At Sunset Crater we marveled at the still dark and ashy terrain stained by volcanic eruptions centuries ago, and at Walnut Canyon we were struck silent by a six-hundred foot gape in the earth that nestles cave dwellings of the early Sinagua people. In fact, the one national park we visited on our recent trip, Petrified Forest, started out as a national monument. The monument designation is an important and critical step to securing land and preserving it for public enrichment and enjoyment — it has on more than one occasion been the point of entry to the NPS system, followed by a national park designation in more than one instance, including Acadia and Zion National Parks among many others. And we’d challenge anyone to find a national park that isn’t loved by visitors. Consider this — the Statue of Liberty is a national monument.

Cave open for exploration at El Malpais National Monument, photo by Derek Wright.

Cave open for exploration at El Malpais National Monument, photo by Derek Wright.

The national monuments that are currently up for review may not see the same number of visitors as some of their more famous cousins within the National Parks Service system, however these lands are vital to our history as a nation and sense of purpose as a culture. We’ve come to place in our history where our public lands are valued for different reasons by different parties. “Protected” is no longer an absolute. And now, as a culture, as a society, we need to decide whether to maintain our public lands for recreation, exploration, learning, and science or whether to cede them to private interests for resource harvesting and unregulated use. We hope you will join Parks & Points in urging Secretary Zinke to keep the designations as they are — the value of our public lands is too great to be in the hands of the few.

You can visit www.monumentsforall.org for more information, and to register your reflections on the importance of these sites. The federal comment period runs through July 10 and we do hope you’ll take some time to make your voice heard.

El Morro National Monument, photo by Derek Wright.

El Morro National Monument, photo by Derek Wright.