Bandelier National Monument (NM)

The Las Conchas Fire of 2011 was the largest in New Mexico history. It eventually burned 150,000 acres and threatened Los Alamos, home of the Los Alamos National Lab. We in the West have become accustomed, almost inured to hearing about forest fires like this. Every year, their ranges, frequencies and intensities seem to grow, a... Continue Reading →

Lava Central: El Malpais National Monument (NM)

Lava, lava, everywhere. New Mexico might as well be called the Volcano State for all the young, exposed and hardened lava flows that are virtually everywhere. I had always thought that Oregon and Washington laid claim to the largest lava flows ever to have happened on the continent, but New Mexico is not lacking in that... Continue Reading →

El Morro National Monument (NM): Graffiti Memorialized?

As we drove east along Hwy 53 past Gallup toward El Malpais, the terrain was pretty unremarkable with little to pique our interest until a massive mesa came into view. Travelers in previous centuries surely would have been drawn to it. The area has been made into El Morro National Monument for reasons explained below.... Continue Reading →

Sunset Crater Volcanic National Monument (AZ)

If a volcano were erupting in my backyard, spewing lava and ash, I might be tempted to move away. This is precisely what the ancient Puebloan peoples did when Sunset Volcano erupted in the 11th century. It has done so several times since then in a span of 50 years. The monument is a grim... Continue Reading →

Wupatki National Monument (AZ)

An hour north of Flagstaff lies Wupatki National Monument. From Page, it was a leisurely hour and a half drive to the entrance. There are some 800 ruins within the monument, a staggering number even if you expected a large settlement. Only a few are open to the public. The largest and most impressive, Wupatki Pueblo,... Continue Reading →

Rainbow Bridge National Monument (Utah)

The last time we were in Page back in 2008, we decided against visiting Rainbow Bridge because it seemed pricey just to look at a natural bridge, even if a spectacular one. Ever since, I wondered if we'd missed an opportunity, not knowing if we'd ever return to Page. As luck would have it, we did... Continue Reading →

Cedar Breaks National Monument (UT)

Situated in the middle of Dixie National Forest, Cedar Breaks National Monument is a testament to the forces of uplift and erosion. It shares the visual splendor of Bryce Canyon National Park not too far away, but it stands 2,000 ft higher in elevation at over a breathtaking 10,000 ft above sea level. Although both... Continue Reading →

John Day Fossil Beds National Monument (OR)

One of the most visually striking areas in the Pacific Northwest is one that looks strangely Southwestern. In the arid deserts of eastern Oregon, there are formations that are as unusual as anything in Arizona. John Day Fossil Beds National Monument is also a mother lode for fossils from the Cenozoic era when ancient mammals... Continue Reading →

Canyon de Chelly National Monument (AZ)

Spider Rock, where Spider Woman taught the Navajos the art of weaving, towers 800 feet above the canyon floor. Many television commercials were filmed here, notably ones with cars precariously parked on top. It’s arguably the most spectacular physical feature of Canyon de Chelly National Monument, one best appreciated by driving to the overlook along... Continue Reading →

Natural Bridges National Monument (UT)

Many travelers going through the Southwest skip Natural Bridges National Monument because it’s tucked out of the way and maybe because the small park features only three natural stone bridges. But a visit is well worth the time. Bridges are rock spans that are carved out by a river. They typically form where a river... Continue Reading →

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