Our poor national parks and other historic sites suffer a lot of abuse. It's not just the millions of feet that wear down the trails but the yahoos who think they need to leave their mark everywhere they go or take pieces of ancient history or geology home with them. It's our bright lights that dim the stars, and footprints that wipe out decades of painstaking new growth. Pollution from cars, buses and industry miles away obscure once crystal-clear vistas in blankets of haze. Our noise shatters the peace and our garbage clutters once-pristine landscapes.
They may looked rugged and durable but the great parks of the southwest - or anywhere else, for that matter - are actually fragile, vulnerable environments whose greatest, most destructive enemies are human: you and I.
They are our most valuable and irreplaceable treasures and here's how we all can help keep them healthy and beautiful for generations to come:
• Park rules forbid picking the flowers, disturbing the wildlife, or removing the pretty rocks. Get caught doing so and you'll end up with a nice fine.
• Stay on marked trails and please don't remove existing cairns or build new ones. 4-wheel/bike only on designated routes.
• Pack out everything you bring in and dispose all garbage in provided bins
• Vehicle and motorcycles: avoid long idle times and, bikers, please don't rev those engines. Park only in designated areas.
• The parks are purposely lit very minimally to not at all at night. Use your vehicle's lights sparingly at parking areas if hiking or exploring after dark.
• Be respectful of disturbing the enjoyment of those around you: keep voices down and noise to a minimum.
• Please do not remove or disturb indigenous artifacts you may run across. If it looks important, report what you think it may be and approximate location to a ranger. Theft of artifacts is subject to large fines and could even land you in jail.
• Please do not stand or sit on any archeological ruins or touch pictographs or petroglyphs
• Defacing or destroying anything at all in the parks is not only strictly forbidden but a senseless, stupid thing to do. Doing so will result in a very large fine and some cell time. If you see anyone committing an act of vandalism, give 'em hell and then report them to the nearest ranger.
Please, take nothing home but pictures and memories, and leave no trace behind.
- National/State Park
- Hiking and Walking
Be cautious when going at that fast rate of speed down the highway. There are cattle grazing alongside the roads. No fences to stop them and it is legal and allowed in this area of the west. I had an antelope deer stop right in the middle of the highway when I was traveling about 70 MPH, and it just looked at me when I was approaching fast. My only choice to not hit the animal was hit the ditch, and that was no option. Luckily the deer meandered onto the other side of the road just before and I was able to swerve and stay on the highway and not hit it. It does happen. The cattle are aware and used to traffic, so they do not purposely walk onto the highway and stop, but do cross for better grass on the other side. Some sheep that I ran across, so to speak, take their time crossing and many just stand in the road.
- Arts and Culture
Just kidding but gotta put in a plug here for the men and women of the NPS. We've come into contact with a lot of rangers in the national parks and they're the best resources you can find for what/where/how to have a good time.
These folks are the caretakers of our most valuable natural treasures and the multitudes who come to enjoy them. When you run across one on a trail, they'll be making mental notes of how much water you have, if your footwear is going to get you into trouble, and generally what kind of shape you're in. These are also the folks that have to come and get you if you break a leg, collapse from heat exhaustion or fall over an edge. It's good to keep in mind that anytime you decide to risk your neck doing something careless, you're risking theirs as well?
Getting the skinny from the rangers at NPS visitor centers is the very first thing we do. They love to be asked about "their" park and are full of great ideas for activities that match your specific skill levels. They're also regularly re-assigned to different parks and often have but a few short weeks to learn enough about the flora, fauna, geology and history of that location to be able to give those great, free campfire talks and tours.
So be nice to them - they're pretty amazing people.
- National/State Park