9 Facts About Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park was officially dedicated on September 4, 1915, making it America's tenth and highest elevation national park. With a quarter of the land located above the tree line, the alpine wilderness of the Rockies draws 3 million visitors a year. Here are a few facts about the Colorado wonder.

1. AN ADVENTUROUS TEEN BECAME ONE OF THE PARK’S BIGGEST ADVOCATES.

Enos Mills is considered the “Father of Rocky Mountain National Park.” Mills moved to Colorado on his own as a young teen in the 1880s and made himself right at home in the mountains, building a cabin in the Longs Peak Valley and ascending Longs Peak—the park’s highest point at 14,259 feet—approximately 300 times over the course of his life. His love of Colorado made him a devout advocate for the creation of the park, and he spoke and wrote at length to educate the public on nature preservation.

2. THE GREAT DIVIDE RUNS THROUGH THE LAND.

The 30 mile-long Continental Divide Scenic Trail is one of the park's biggest draws. It runs along sections of the actual Great Divide, the invisible border atop the Rocky Mountains that determines whether water runs east to the Atlantic or west to the Pacific. It splits the park into its eastern and western sections.

3. THE STORY OF A “MODERN EVE” EARNED THE PARK NATIONAL ATTENTION.

In 1917, the Denver Post> documented the story of Agnes Lowe, a college student who was going to live in the park’s forests as a “modern Eve” for one week. Lowe, barefoot and dressed as a cavewoman, waved goodbye to a crowd of around 2000 people before she embarked on her wilderness adventure. Despite the national newspaper updates about Lowe’s escapades, the whole event was nothing more than a publicity stunt: Lowe actually spent most of the week at a lodge.

4. THE PARK'S HEADQUARTERS WAS INSPIRED BY A WORLD-FAMOUS ARCHITECT.

Tom Casey of Taliesin Architects and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture designed Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, which is the park's headquarters as well as a National Historic Landmark.

5. THE COUNTRY’S FIRST FEMALE NATURE GUIDES WERE TRAINED IN THE ROCKIES.

Esther and Elizabeth Burnell first visited the park’s Estes Park area in 1916. Noting their enthusiasm for their new surroundings, Enos Mills encouraged them to take nature guide training. When the sisters passed the examination, they became the first female naturalists certified by the National Park Service. The women were popular as nature guides and recorded many personal accomplishments. Elizabeth became the first woman guide on Longs Peak and ran the park’s trail school for over a decade. Esther homesteaded in Estes Park, snowshoed 30 miles across the Continental Divide, and married Enos Mills in 1918.

6. IT FEATURES THE HIGHEST CONTINUOUS PAVED ROAD IN THE COUNTRY.

Peaking at 12,183 feet (2 miles above sea level), Trail Ridge Road runs 48 miles between Grand Lake and Estes Park. Work was completed on the "highway to the sky" in 1933 after four years of an off-and-on construction schedule that was largely determined by high-elevation weather conditions. Eleven miles of the road are above the tree line, offering spectacular, sweeping views of the park’s alpine forests, tundra, and meadows.

7. IT'S HOME TO ONE OF ONLY A FEW ACTIVE CEMETERIES LOCATED IN A NATIONAL PARK.

Grand Lake Cemetery, established in 1892, 23 years before the park was dedicated, is located just within park boundaries.

8. BIGHORN SHEEP ARE THE SYMBOL OF THE PARK.

Bighorn sheep, the largest wild sheep in North America, are both the symbol of the national park and for all of Colorado Parks & Wildlife, because of their distinct presence in the state. Though the population declined due to disease in the early 20th century, Rocky Mountain National Park is currently home to approximately 300 to 400 bighorn sheep. Visitors are most likely to spot a few between late May and June.

9. THE PARK’S FIRST PAYING GUEST WAS A LONGTIME FAN.

Abner Sprague, a 19th century homesteader and pioneer, was the first person to pay $3 for park admission in 1939. Sprague had a long history with the area: he homesteaded in Moraine Park in 1874, owned and operated a dude ranch on what would become park grounds, and named several natural features within the park. Sprague Lake is named after him. Today, visitors on foot or bicycle pay $10 per person and those in vehicles pay $20 for a seven-day pass.

Driving This Thanksgiving Holiday? Here’s the Worst Time to Leave, According to Google Maps

Marcos Assis/iStock via Getty Images
Marcos Assis/iStock via Getty Images

For many people, cooking the turkey correctly or dodging political arguments with family members aren't the most stressful parts of Thanksgiving. It's having to share the road with millions of other travelers on the way to Thanksgiving dinner. If you're hoping to make this element of the holiday a little more tolerable in 2019, plan your day with data from Google Maps.

As Travel + Leisure reports, Google Maps recently published a roundup of Thanksgiving travel tips, including the absolute worst times to hit the road. You may think that leaving the day before Thanksgiving will give you a head-start on traffic, but according to Google, Wednesday is the busiest travel day of the week. Congestion peaks between 3 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Wednesday in many parts of the country. If you have no choice but to travel on November 27, plan to leave earlier in the day before roads get too crowded.

It pays to leave the house early the day of the actual holiday. Around 6 a.m., roads will be clear in most major cities, with traffic gradually increasing throughout the morning and peaking as early as noon.

As people who regularly travel for Turkey Day know, getting to dinner on time is only half the headache. Traffic can be just as brutal on the way home. To make the journey as painless as possible, plan to leave first thing in the morning—ideally on Sunday, when most travelers have completed the trip.

Traveling for Thanksgiving is rarely as simple as driving to and from dinner. If you plan on making pit stops along the way, Google has travel information for that as well. According to Google search trends, "ham shops" are busiest at noon the day before Thanksgiving, and outlet malls reach peak traffic around noon on Black Friday. Here are some more stress-free travel tips for the holiday season.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

Journey to the Monarch Mosh Pit

iStock/Spondylolithesis
iStock/Spondylolithesis

Each fall, millions of migrating monarchs return to Mexico to wait out winter. The gathering makes Woodstock look like a business conference. Here’s how they get there.

Mosh Pit

In the mountains of central Mexico, the butterflies crowd on the branches of oyamel fir trees. The trees provide a perfect microclimate that prevents the butterflies from getting too hot or cold.

Texas Toast

After winter, the butterflies fly north to Texas in search of milkweed, where they lay their eggs. Many adults will die here; northbound monarchs generally live only three to seven weeks.

Juice Cleanse

One of the reasons monarchs love milkweed? Protection. As caterpillars, they absorb the toxins in the plant, which makes them less tasty to birds.

Connecting Flight

Eventually, a new generation of butterflies will make its way north to Canada. It takes multiple generations of butterflies to reach their final, most northerly destination.

Dine and Dash

On the way, butterflies will eat practically anything. Sure, there’s nectar—but they’ll also slurp the salts in mud.

Catching Air

When fall returns, a new generation of monarchs rides the air currents more than 3000 miles back to Mexico. They navigate by calibrating their body clocks with the position of the sun. (An internal magnetic compass helps them navigate on cloudy days.)

Latitude Adjustment

Monarchs “are one of the few creatures on Earth that can orient themselves both in latitude and longitude,” The New York Times reports—a feat sailors wouldn’t accomplish until the 1700s.

Southern Charm

Miraculously, each generation of southbound monarchs lives up to eight months—six times longer than their northbound descendants. Their longevity might have something to do with a process known as reproductive diapause (which is a fancy way of saying that the insects won’t breed until winter ends).

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