Shutdown Status: States Pay To Reopen Some National Parks

We’re going on two weeks of government shutdown, with tourists hoping to see national parks having to sneak in or go home. Thousands of park workers have been furloughed and local businesses who generate income from tourism are feeling the pinch. Several U.S. states are taking matters into their own hands, effectively paying the federal government so that they can reopen.

The status as of today:

Arizona: It’s costing $651,000 to open the Grand Canyon for a week, though no money is allotted past that time and some local businesses worry it won’t help them in the long run.

Colorado: Over 10,000 visitors went out the Rocky Mountain National Park this weekend after the state reached an agreement to pay over $40,000 per day to keep it open.

New York: The Statue of Liberty re-opened yesterday, costing New York $61,000 per day out of its tourism budget — but visitors generate an estimated $350,000 daily.

South Dakota: Mount Rushmore will cost over $15,000 a day to reopen, with corporate donors helping the state open the park again today.

Utah: 8 attractions will reopen today, including Bryce Canyon and Zion National Park, at a cost of $166,000 per day.

See the status of all the national parks here.

National Park App Maker Back With Better, Free Offer

Last year, in celebration of National Park Week, Chimani Apps gave away their suite of National Park apps. Normally, the apps sell for between $4.99-$9.99 each with an average rating of 4 1/2 stars, but the company gave away one million downloads. Now, Chimani is back with five new national park apps that feature an augmented reality viewer, crowd-sourced maps and a social sharing tool enabled with Near Field Communications (NFC) technology. Better yet, they are all free.

“Chimani users are now able to actively contribute to the national park community and help build better geo-spatial data for each of the parks,” said Kerry Gallivan CEO/Co-Founder in a NationalParksOnline article.

The company is releasing a new app on each of the five days of National Park Week. New parks added are Grand Teton National Park, Glacier National Park, Olympic National Park, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks and Bryce Canyon National Park. These, and all other Chimani apps, will be available for free starting Monday, April 22.

The apps have constantly updated maps, event schedules, points of interest, hiking details, as well as sunset and sunrise times for scenic overlooks. Users can access tide schedules along the coast, review lodging options and more on the apps, all designed to work without a cellphone signal.

We like that Chimani does not just throw their apps out there and hope for the best. Their users actively contribute to the national park community by helping build better geo-spatial data for each of the parks.

“A great example of this is’s user Tomthepom who spent the winter meticulously editing the park data within Grand Canyon. Thanks to Tom, the data found within the Chimani maps is the most detailed and up-to-date available anywhere – digital or print,” said Gallivan.

The Chimani apps are available for the iPhone, iPad, Amazon Kindle and Android devices. They can be downloaded directly from Apple’s iTunes App Store, Google Play and Amazon AppStore.

[Photo credit – Flickr user Dark_muse]

10 days, 10 states: Hiking the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

“It’s a hell of a place to lose a cow” -Ebenezer Bryce, early settler

Amidst a gaggle of peace-sign obsessed Japanese tourists assembled for the sunrise on Bryce Point, an elderly man with a cane somehow managed to glacially sneak up on me.

“That,” he breathlessly stammered as we watched the rising sun dance upon the red rocks of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater, “is exactly what I came here for.”

Still alarmed by his stealthy presence, I smiled as he slid a shaky hand into his jacket pocket and eventually emerged with a yellow, disposable Kodak camera. A well placed eye in the viewfinder, a solitary click, a lingering moment of reflection, and the man turned back towards the parking lot with the air of having said goodbye.

Though the moment was fleeting, a profound point had been made: Bryce Canyon, Utah is the type of place you see before you die.

Staring out into the abyssal “how-on-Earth-did-it-get-like-that” geology of the amphitheater walls, it’s a surreal feeling to be standing in one of the last places in the contiguous 48 states to be explored by modern man.

Once the dwelling of the Fremont and Paiute tribes, it was Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce who first forayed into the mysterious canyon in the 1870’s in search of suitable ranching and grazing lands. Settling in a primitive one room cabin at the base of a landscape completely foreign to westward expansionists, it was Bryce who is rumored to have made the astute statement regarding the lost cow.

At an air-sucking and frigid elevation that ranges from 8000-9000 feet, all cows aside, I feel that Bryce Canyon would be a hell of a place to try and live in a one room cabin in the middle of nowhere. Although set out in the middle of the desert, the weather forecast is calling for snow.

%Gallery-138990%While snow in the desert is always a counterintuitive concept, it’s this combination of cold temperatures and desert snow that gives birth to the unearthly rock formations that dominate the canyon. Melting snow or rainwater will slowly seep its way into fine cracks in the sedimentary rock, and as the temperature drops and the water freezes, the expanding ice will wedge the rock apart until it erodes to the valley floor below.

The result of this liquid assault is rock spires called hoodoos that can tower up to 200 feet over the red canyon floor. According to Paiute mythology, the hoodoos are the frozen remains of the Legend People who were turned to stone by that old southwestern trickster, the coyote.
Descending below the canyon rim on the short but steep Navajo Loop trail, it’s a theory that doesn’t require stretching your imagination.

Ambling down “Wall Street”, the narrow section of trail where the vertical walls of the canyon reduce the trail to a shoulder-width red sliver, I almost expect to see some “Occupy Bryce Canyon” protesters squatting in the canyon recesses. Instead, I round the bend and find two towering spruce trees well over a hundred feet tall leading a lonely existence in an environment otherwise devoid of green life. Though only 7:30am, it’s not the first time today I find myself scratching my head asking “how?”

Though intriguing, I didn’t walk this trail to ponder over spruce trees. I came for something bigger. Something manlier. Something that would make me feel like a conqueror.

I came here to stand beneath Thor’s Hammer.

Ridiculous, I know. It’s just a rock. But it’s the rock with the best name of any natural formation that I’ve seen yet since setting out to explore “10 days, 10 states, 10 great American sights”. Simply standing beneath Thor’s Hammer makes me want to sail ships and eat meat. It makes me want to pillage.

There would be no pillaging in this canyon, however. At least not today. I came to Bryce Canyon to catch the sunrise, and to gaze at one of darkest skies in the country while nestled in a cold but star-kissed tent.

I came to Bryce Canyon to hike amongst the hoodoos and reflect on isolation.

I came to Bryce Canyon to see it before I die.

Follow Kyle on the rest of his journey as he explores “10 days, 10 states, 10 great American sights”

REI Adventures offers great national park summer escapes

Now that Memorial Day has come and gone, and the summer travel season is officially upon us, many travelers will be planning their annual escapes. For more than a few, that will mean a summertime visit to one of America’s national parks, which continue to be favorite destinations amongst travelers everywhere.

With this in mind, REI Adventures, the travel arm of the popular gear stores, has put together a host of great itineraries for travelers looking to visit a national park this year, without having to deal with the hassle of planning for it themselves. The company offers 20 unique trips to some of the best national parks in the U.S. system, including Alaska’s Glacier Bay, Yosemite, Bryce Canyon, and more.

While these trips do indeed offer the classic national park experience, such as backpacking the Grand Canyon or kayaking in Yellowstone, there are a number of them that are unique and adventurous. For example, REI offers a four-day cycling tour of Death Valley, as well as backcountry climbing in Joshua Tree. There is even an option for a family-centric trip through Great Smokey Mountains, the most popular national park of them all.

These tours vary in degree of difficulty and scheduled activities, but they all offer a great national park adventure. So instead of stressing over your summertime plans, let REI Adventures take care of all the details for you. Then, when you’re ready to go, you can simply enjoy the trip, while someone else takes care of the rest.

View the full list of available itineraries here.