For those of you who read my first article last year, you know I went to the Canadian Rocky Mountains, which is part of a chain of mountains known as the North American Rocky Mountains. This year I crossed the border from Canada to the United States to explore the American Rocky Mountains. I went to four national parks, one state park, two major Midwest cities, and six states. That sums to a 2000-mile road trip. There are many places, but we have been driving parallel to the North American Rocky Mountains for the whole time. We had to drive through the mountain range in order to get to Yellowstone, Denver, and Utah. Since I went with a tour group, I will go over what I saw and recommend which places deserve more scrutiny.
First, we travelled to Denver and the Colorado State Capitol. It was a good relaxing day to prepare for the next day, but if you are travelling by yourself, then it is not worth seeing the Capitol. Most state capitols are the roughly the same design. Colorado State Capitol is a little bit different because it has a solid gold top that commemorates the gold rush during the 1950s. The third step from the top is one mile above sea level. It is one of the highest state capitols in the country. One mile above sea level is not scary because Denver sits on a plateau that is 5,280 feet above sea level. I recommend that you bring sunscreen because the ultraviolet rays on a plateau are more intense than on sea level. Afterwards, we went to 16th Avenue. It was just shopping and small tourist attractions. The street is a little different because the entire street is a shopping mall.
Next day we went to Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse. If they did not put Crazy Horse with Yellowstone on the same itinerary, then I probably would not go. The statue when completed is supposed to be the largest in the world; however, owners of Crazy Horse stalled the construction of the monument due to the lack of funds. So far, only head is completed. To put the size of the head in perspective, you can put the four monuments on Crazy Horse's Head and still have some room left over. Other than taking pictures with the statue from a viewpoint, it was a shopping and eating destination. At Mount Rushmore, I had two hours, but it takes three hours to climb up to the head. So I recommend three or more hours at Mount Rushmore. There are good photographic angles of the Black hills at the very top. These two sites were interesting because I studied AP US History for one year and I knew the history of all the presidents until 1992.
People who want to see animals native to Wyoming, Montana, and South Dakota area should plan to visit Bear Country USA. There is a safari where you drive your car and look at indigenous animals such as the black bear, grizzly bear, coyote, wolf, etc. Afterwards, there is a small zoo to supplement the experience. The highlight is taking photos of a small scuffle between two black bear cubs.
On my third day, I went to only five tourist spots at Yellowstone National Park. The park does not belong to any state, but to the federal government. If you commit a crime within the park, then you have to face a trial or hearing in Washington D.C. Geysers in New Zealand and Iceland are well known, but nowhere are there as many geysers as in there are in Yellowstone. After watching the film, "2012", many people know there is a super-volcano underneath Yellowstone. There were several eruptions. One eruption was 2 million years ago, another 1.3 million years ago, and again in 640,000 years ago. It spewed about 240 cubic meters of debris. After three eruptions, the central part of the park collapsed and formed a 30 to 45 mile basin, also known as Yellowstone Lake. Yellowstone Lake is a gorgeous place to take photos. You can capture the moment when the sun sprouts out of the horizon like a plant. There are birds that add color and interest to the landscape. Geysers sprout water vapor to decrease the chance of an overexposure in your photo. The steam also gives the lake a mysterious perception.
The magmatic heat underneath Yellowstone fires up the underground water. Then suddenly, the geysers spew out a tower of water. Old Faithful has erupted. The bad news is that Old Faithful has become less and less faithful. It does not erupt every 40 minutes or 60 minutes, but every 90 to 100 minutes.
South of Yellowstone's border is Grand Teton National Park. This national park has mountains that are part of the North American Rocky Mountain chain. Everybody knows the mountain from watching Paramount picture films because Paramount uses the mountain as part of its logo.
Further south is Arches National Park. This is the national park where I can spend more time examining landscape. Water, ice, underground salt movement, and extreme temperatures are responsible for shaping the rock at Arches. The arches formed because the underground salt bed slowly eroded after millions of years. These salt beds exist because an ocean existed at Arches National Park about 300 Million Years ago. After millions of years, the water evaporated and the residue from floods, winds, and oceans covered the salt bed. Over time, the earth compressed the debris into one-mile thick rocks. Some arches fall because of the unstable salt bed and the weight of the thick layer of rock. These massive structures become a kind of window to the other side of the park. It is best to photograph it during Sunrise or sunset because the sun casts a shadow that makes the rock glow a soft reddish-orange.
These national parks are only a portion of the places that I visited. Other places include Salt Lake Cityand the Church of Jesus Christ and Latter Day Saints. Others include the Utah State Capitol where I met Miss Utah. In Colorado, I took pictures of Red Rock State park that pales in comparison to Arches National Park. We did not spend a lot of time at each site because these Mid-Western sites are not as jaw dropping as the Canadian Rocky Mountains. Sure American Rocky Mountains are taller, but Canadian Rocky Mountains are prettier with their snow capped mountains and moraine filled lakes.