NATIONAL PARKS: Yellowstone

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Aerial view of Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in Yellowstone National Park, WY.

Grand Prismatic Spring © Jerry Ginsberg

Yellowstone is not only America’s first national park, but the very first such preserve in all the world. Brought into existence with the 1872 signature of President Ulysses S. Grant, Yellowstone set the example for the worldwide park and preservation movement. It is the quintessential essence of our park system. Even after almost a century and a half, Yellowstone remains one of the crown jewels of the world.

We discussed a winter trip to Yellowstone in the October 2015 issue of eNews. In this issue, we’ll explore this vast park in warmer weather. Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: How do national monuments differ?

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

President Theodore Roosevelt was the original maverick. When he saw a problem, he found a solution, even if he had to bend the rules a bit to create one.

As far back as 1906, this activist president was faced with a need to protect the immense volcanic plug called Devil’s Tower in eastern Wyoming. Characteristically forging his own path, he applied the new Antiquities Act in an unorthodox fashion to create America’s very first national monument. Before he was done, Roosevelt signed 18 national monuments into existence.

Congress had intended the Antiquities Act to protect “objects of historic and scientific interest.” In essence, it was meant to prohibit pot hunters from stripping ancient Native American sites of their treasures. Still, after over a century of precedent, Roosevelt’s creative application of the act has now become settled law, and its continued use is unlikely to be altered going forward.

Certainly not all such monuments come into being in this dramatic fashion. Many wind their way through a bureaucratic process that can take years.

Once a monument is established, it becomes a unit of the National Park Service. Some monuments are administered by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). No matter how they come into being or who administers them, national monuments do not have national park status, facilities or the number of visitors that frequent national parks.

Of the approximately 130 national monuments presently in existence, 30 have been established in this young century alone. Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: White Sands National Monument

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Glowing gypsum dunes in White Sands National Monument, New Mexico.

White Sands © Jerry Ginsberg

Although the big state of New Mexico has just one lone national park within its borders (Carlsbad Caverns — see NANPA eNews December, 2016), there is a national monument that offers another opportunity for some terrific landscape images.

At just a few miles from the comfortable town of Alamogordo, New Mexico, the White Sands National Monument is an easy drive of only about three hours from Carlsbad Caverns National Park. If flying in, you might check for flights to both Albuquerque and El Paso, Texas.

White Sands is located in the Tularosa Basin, in the middle of the famous White Sands Missile Range. Because of its location, the dune field is closed to the public on days when a test launch is scheduled. Check in advance to avoid disappointment. Even then, launch schedules can change, and they take priority over tourism (and even us photographers).

Few National Park Service units have names that are so very descriptive as White Sands National Monument. The sand making up these terrific dunes is actually a granulated form of the mineral gypsum, and it glistens sparkling white, especially in the bright New Mexico sunlight.

Even though you’ll be driving the unpaved gypsum tracks within the dunes, they are hard-packed and suitable for any standard passenger car.

Hiking through these semi-firm dunes is only slightly less strenuous than doing so on the more typical loose sand found elsewhere. As you traverse a small part of this enormous 275-square-mile dune field, the rolling shapes seem to come at you in endless waves. Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: Bryce Canyon National Park

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Early morning light illuminates the fantastic hoodoos of Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah.

Sunrise Point © Jerry Ginsberg

Among our 59 national parks, perhaps the one that offers the greatest degree of pure fun is Bryce Canyon in southwestern Utah. Just a 56-square-mile morsel of the vast southwestern red rock country, Bryce Canyon offers deeply eroded red, orange, yellow and ochre amphitheaters, curving natural bridges, ancient bristlecone pines and an iconic Douglas fir so tall that looking at the top might well tax your neck muscles. Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Setting sun from a hidden rock niche in Carlsbad Caverns National Park, NM.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

Guadalupe Mountains and Carlsbad Caverns national parks are separated by the Texas/New Mexico state line. Still, they are close enough to be combined into a single trip. Taking these two parks together offers a big advantage for photographers, because the light in the two locations is complementary. While the Guadalupe Mountains will benefit from the same use of early and late light, as do most landscapes, subterranean cave photography can be enjoyed during the middle of the day when the light on the surface can be prohibitively harsh. Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: Las Glaciares National Park

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Since we’ve already explored a bit of the Chilean side of Patagonia with Torres del Paine in the November 2016 issue of NANPA e-News, let’s now take a look at the Argentine side. This vast, fabulous and still wild region occupies virtually a third of South America.

The Patagonian steppe is largely pristine wilderness filled with serrated peaks, glistening lakes and vast blue-white rivers of ice. Here, the winds blow incessantly and both the climate and life itself can be harsh.

Perito Moreno Glacier 

Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: Torres del Paine National Park

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

This is the time of year when I struggle to recommend good photo destinations for winter travel. Even though we are a really big country, there are relatively few national parks to be found in our southerly latitudes.

So let’s try something a little different. Once we cross the Equator, the seasons are reversed. For example, Christmas in the Southern Hemisphere arrives near summertime there owing to the tilt of the Earth’s axis.

Let’s take a look at Chilean Patagonia and famed Parque Nacional Torres del Paine (Towers of Blue National Park). Don’t worry; you can get by just fine with English.

Torres del Paine, © Jerry Ginsberg

Torres del Paine, © Jerry Ginsberg

Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: Dry Tortugas National Park

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Sunrise over Bush Key seen from Garden Key in Dry Tortugas National Park, FL.

Bush Key from Garden Key. Both—as well as Loggerhead Key—are part of Dry Tortugas National Park. © Jerry Ginsberg

Like many people, for a long time I thought that the tail end of the Florida Keys was the popular resort and tourist town of Key West. Continue reading

NATIONAL PARKS: Joshua Tree National Park

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

Sunset silhouettes a joshua tree - moonrise above - in Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Mojave Moonrise © Jerry Ginsberg

California has nine national parks—more than any other state in the nation—and the southernmost of them, Joshua Tree National Park, is located near the northern end of the Mohave Desert. This great desert park is easy to reach, easy to hike and lots of fun.

The calm beauty of the desert is near its peak here. Being out and immersed in the delicious solitude present before dawn is one of the great joys of nature photography. In such special moments, it is easy to feel the rhythms of the Earth and reconnect with Nature.

Despite its name, the Joshua tree isn’t a tree at all. This somewhat strange looking plant is actually a yucca. More to the point—in the bright light of day—it is immediately plain to see that it is not all that photogenic. The best images of these unique yuccas show them in silhouette, emphasizing their interesting and graceful forms, which are often backlit against a brilliantly colored sky. Continue reading

Shenandoah National Park

Story and photography by Jerry Ginsberg

In addition to my usual narrative on a particular park, this month I would like to make a special mention of the centennial celebration of the National Park Service. (See https://www.nps.gov/subjects/centennial/index.htm.) There is no time like the present to get out and spend some time in one of America’s most special places. So pack your gear and visit a national park! Or, two.

Hawksbill Summit

Hawksbill Summit © Jerry Ginsberg

Now let’s jump into Shenandoah National Park.

Among the premier drives located east of the Mississippi, the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive is certainly one of them. This great road runs across the top of the Blue Ridge above the Shenandoah Valley. The views along its route are so majestic that many folks would be drawn here just for the ride, even if this were not Shenandoah National Park.

The northern end of the drive begins at Front Royal, Virginia, near the junction of Interstates 66 and 81. Its southern terminus connects with the north end of the famed 469-mile Blue Ridge Parkway. In between are several entrances to the park and many scenic stops and trailheads. Continue reading