Three National Parks in Three Days
There are four National Parks in Colorado. Because Rocky Mountain National Park is currently experiencing unprecedented fires, on Friday we drove past that exit and made our way to Black Canyon National Park.
Friday night, we tented at the park campground. The next morning we took in spectacular views of the deep canyon. Far down below we could see the Gunnison River rushing through, but the park sign said that the river flow was dramatically reduced due to diverted water to nearby towns and farms.
The canyon is so narrow that in some places, the river receives only 33 minutes of direct sunlight. As we stood gazing across it at the 2,250-foot Painted Wall – Colorado’s tallest sheer cliff, my wife commented, “I feel so small!”
I agreed with her. Taking in Nature’s incredible expanses makes grasping our comparative insignificance easy.
On Saturday night, we bedded down at the base of the San Juan National Forest’s’ Blackhawk Mountain and fell asleep to the sound of the icy stream just yards from our tent.
Sunday morning, we headed south into Mesa Verde National Park to ponder the lives of the Ancestral Puebloan Cliff Dwellers. I couldn’t help marveling at how more than seven centuries ago, their community of a few thousand had so permanently altered the landscape.
As we drove away, I asked myself what impact communities of a few hundred thousand have on the world today. Like the Cliff Dwellers, we’re making choices that will reverberate through the ages.
Sunday night, we set up camp on a mountainside at North Zapata Ridge and awakened yesterday to views of North America’s tallest sand dunes.
In the Great Sand Dunes National Park, we learned that removing just one of the ecosystem’s essential elements would collapse the dunes, some of which rise 750 feet above the San Luis Valley floor.
In the 1920s, concern about gold mining and concrete manufacturing destroying the dunes led the P.E.O. (Philanthropic Educational Organization) Sisterhood to advocate having the local habitat preserved.
In 1932 President, President Herbert Hoover signed the legislation they sponsored into law, creating the Great Sand Dunes National Monument.
After visiting these three parks in three days, I’m back in civilization. And on Election Day, I can’t help thinking, “We may feel insignificant. We may think that our voices don’t count, but we will leave an imprint on this Earth. The ecosystem needs each of us to do our part.”
We can make a difference. Our votes matter!