BOBBY MAGILL

Journalist • Photographer

Bobby Magill is a journalist and photographer based in Port Jervis, NY and Alexandria, Va.

Filtering by Tag: Colorado National Monument

Cutting (Gutting?) the Caretakers of Canyon Country

I just ran across this story from Channel 8 in Grand Junction which speculates about how federal budget cutting will force Colorado National Monument to cut costs and possibly reduce services. Of course, nobody knows just yet specifically how any National Park Service budget cuts would impact the NPS's ability to manage national parks and provide services to visitors.

The KJCT story reminded me that the National Parks Conservation Association just released a report about how gutting the NPS budget will impact your local national parks. The NPCA speculates that science programs forming the backbone of the park service's conservation efforts could be gutted or eliminated; visitor centers could reduce hours or close altogether and a slew of other changes could drive tourists away from parks. The report is well worth a read.

That report and the Utah-based film, "Plan 10 from Outer Space" ("Rocky Horror meets the Mormons!"), which a friend of mine showed us last night, got me thinking about canyon country. November is a fine time to visit Canyonlands National Park and Colorado National Monument, though I'd avoid Moab over Thanksgiving because on the lonely Thanksgiving evening I spent there a few years ago, I discovered the only available food was at the local Denny's, where the line was 50 people deep.

It was about this time four years ago when my friend Chas and I hiked the Rattlesnake Arches in the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness west of Grand Junction. It's a mighty fine hike through the highest concentration of natural arches in the world outside of Arches National Park, which is just down the highway.

But my favorite hike in the region is Mee Canyon, where you will find yourself suddenly in the giant Mee Canyon Alcove, where the wash at the bottom of the canyon inserts itself 300 into the canyon wall, creating a cave-like alcove said to be the largest or, at least, one of the largest anywhere on the Colorado Plateau. November is an excellent month to visit. Check out my photo album of my 2007 hike into Mee Canyon here.

Sacrilege and Intrigue at Cold Shivers Point

To say this aloud is to commit an act of sacrilege, at least in the eyes of those who discourage law-breaking in national parks: I find graffiti fascinating, particularly the inscriptions at Cold Shivers Point in Colorado National Monument.

I know from my previous reporting about the monument, there's a good chance that if the law may be broken (drugs, sex, graffiti, etc.) at the monument, there's more than a slight chance it happened at Cold Shivers Point. Why? Cold Shivers Point looks over a precipitous canyon 2,000 feet above and only a few miles away from downtown Grand Junction, where it's easy access for, err, a late night rendezvous with a fantastic view. Early one morning a few years ago, some friends of mine and I found a suicide victim at Cold Shivers Point. On a morning bike ride (and 2,000 vertical-foot climb) to the high point of Rim Rock Drive, we'd stopped at Cold Shivers to catch our breath. We felt a cold shiver, indeed.

If only the rocks at Cold Shivers Point could talk. They'd have some titillating and tragic stories to tell.

And they do: Graffiti is scrawled across the rocks, first loves and evidence of passings-by literally etched into stone. Every one of those people committed an ugly crime serving only to deface the wonders of the wilderness, create an eyesore out of a magnificent natural wonder and provide curious visitors like me with at least an hour of entertainment searching for stories carved into rock.

Criminal? Yes. Endlessly interesting? Of course.

Ruminations on a monument, or the place that could be Colorado Canyons National Park

ON THE EDGE OF THE UNCOMPAHGRE PLATEAU on Grand Junction, Colorado's southern skyline, Colorado National Monument glows in the Colorado Plateau sunset. There is much talk these days about the potential for the monument, whose boosters say has a name more befitting a granite obelisk than a 20,000 acre canyon-riddled wilderness, to become a national park called Colorado Canyons National Park.

Having lived in Grand Junction and visited Colorado National Monument more times than I can count (on a weekly basis while I lived there), it's hard to deny that the landscape protected within its boundaries is extraordinary. The monument is like Canyonlands National Park, only a tiny fraction of the size and on the edge of a sprawling city. And, the CCC-built Rim Rock Drive is without a doubt one of the most unforgettable and spectacular road cycling routes in all of Colorado. No trip to GJ for me is complete without a pedal up to the top of the Monument via Cold Shivers Point.

Whether Congress should re-designate the monument a national park is up for heated debate (and, frankly, I'm not sure myself) but whatever its fate, it will remain one of my favorite places in Colorado.

If you live in Mesa County, it's easy to take the monument a bit for granted. Spend the evening after getting off work taking a hike up No Thoroughfare Canyon, no camera in hand. An all-too-frequent occurrence, hence the shamefully few Colorado National Monument images in my collection. Nonetheless, I have a few, and these will give you an idea what's found amid those glowing redrock cliffs above Grand Junction. You can also check out my Colorado National Monument gallery on my website here.

 

Cold Shivers Point. Image by Bobby Magill, 2006.
Near the monument's West Entrance looking east toward Grand Mesa and Garfield Peak. Image © Bobby Magill, April 2010.
View from Rim Rock Drive below Cold Shivers Point. Image © Bobby Magill, July 2010.
Liberty Cap. Image © Bobby Magill, April 2010.
Red Canyon in Winter. Image © Bobby Magill, 2007.

 

 

 

Back in the day, there were people who wanted to turn the monument into a national park, expand the boundaries and protect this, the Mee Canyon Alcove, now part of the Black Ridge Canyons Wilderness adjacent to the monument. If the monument were to become a national park under the current unofficial proposal, Mee Canyon would not be included in the park.

 

Rim Rock Drive: The greatest ride in Colorado

FROM MY HOTEL ROOM in downtown Grand Junction, it was eight miles and more than 1,500 vertical feet to Cold Shivers Point at Colorado National Monument. My transportation was my road bike, and the route was Rim Rock Drive — truly one of the greatest bike rides in all of Colorado.

There are others, of course: Mt. Evans, Poudre Canyon, Colo. 141 through Unaweep and Dolores canyons, Trail Ridge Road, the San Juan Skyway and, maybe, Dinosaur National Monument. But Rim Rock Drive is a special case. The redrock sandstone cliffs above and below you give you the dizzying sense that you're flying on your descent — and you nearly are as your bike speeds downhill at 40 mph.

This used to be my morning exercise when I lived in Grand Junction. I'd get up at 5 a.m., point my bike toward the ornate cliffs of the Uncompahgre Plateau, and climb 10 miles from my apartment to Cold Shivers Point, the first overlook at the top of the plateau. Or, I'd just keep going, do the entire route over to Fruita and find my way back home via the Grand Valley's extensive network of farm roads. The whole circuit was a respectable 44 miles (or so).

This week, I was on assignment in Grand Junction, which meant my bike came with me and I'd get up once again at dawn to pay a visit to Cold Shivers Point before the sun began baking the valley.

Here's what the ascent looks like:

Sublime!

Colorado National Monument: What's in a name? Not necessarily (just) the state

The people who run Colorado National Monument on Colorado's Western Slope near Grand Junction once fretted to me about the name of this unsung little unit of the National Park Service. When people speeding through the Grand Valley on Interstate 70 see a sign pointing to Colorado National Monument, they can very easily assume it's a big granite obelisk memorializing someone or something prominent in the history of the state of Colorado.

Of course, that's not it at all. Colorado National Monument, named after the nearby Grand River in 1911 in anticipation of it being renamed the Colorado River, is a 20,000 acre tract of some of the most dramatic redrock canyon country in all of western Colorado.

The monument forms the towering red sandstone southern skyline of Grand Junction, something you just can't miss when you're driving through the area.

I once mentioned in a story for the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that the monument was named for the river and not the state, and someone from the National Park Service called me up disputing my claim. But it's true, the monument is named for the river even though the river was called the Grand River in 1911 when the monument was created by President William Howard Taft.

Colorado National Monument is an oddity in the strange saga of the naming of the Colorado River. Briefly: In the early 20th Century, the Grand and the Green rivers met in what is today Canyonlands National Park to form the Colorado River. Colorado politicians, however, thought it was only apropos for the Colorado River to originate in the state of the same name, so they lobbied hard to change the name of the Grand River to the Colorado River even though the main stem of the Colorado River system is the Green River. Hence the names Grand Junction, Grand County, Grand Lake, Granby, etc. One of the politicians involved in boosting for Colorado National Monument was also one of the chief proponents of changing the river's name. It was his wife that came up with the name "Colorado National Monument" because the river into which all the monument's drainages flow would soon be known as the Colorado River and because the state of Colorado had no national monuments at the time.

Perhaps it could be argued that because the monument was named after the anticipated name of the river, and the river was soon renamed for the state that the monument was also named for the state. But what was the state named after? The state's red-running rivers and red rocks, of which Colorado National Monument is an excellent example.

Read the monument's fascinating history here.

Meanwhile, I got my regular canyon country fix this weekend on a trip to Grand Junction. The light was fairly lousy for stellar photography and we hiked some canyons I'd visited a dozen times before, but it reminded me how lucky I was to have lived in Grand Junction.