OUT: Haggerty’s Hikes Column March 29, 2009


If you hike through the hiking section of a bookstore and you find a new hike, does it count as exercise?

I’m still moving a little slow and not hiking the way I want, but that’s OK. I drove to the Colorado National Monument Visitor’s Center the other day and did not strain, stress or sweat. I did, however, stumble across some amazing finds, including T-shirts, hats, bandannas, calendars, cards, pins, posters, books, bottles, maps, energy bars, and hoodies – sweatshirts with hoods.

Very popular these days, you know.

I discovered new hikes — all in the books. I found ways of protecting myself from the sun, the wind, the rain, the sleet and the snow — and I talked the talk without hiking the hike.

I surveyed new sites (and sights) without ever leaving the visitor’s center. Thanks to a recent remodel, the windows of the center provide a breathtaking view of Monument Canyon, with the colorful Bookcliffs and snow-covered Grand Mesa looming large in the background.

The bookstore is operated by the Colorado National Monument Association in cooperation with the National Park Service. Store manager Denice Hight smiled as she discussed the new open concept, and the extra revenue the store has generated to help support one of America’s best kept national secrets.

“Our season usually starts in May,” she said, “but we’ve been really busy lately. In fact, we’ve been busy all winter.” An expanded product line has enabled the association to increase sales and support such things as the Junior Ranger Explorers Camp, which is getting bigger and better each year.

Anyone age 4 to 12 can become a Junior Ranger at Colorado National Monument. Each summer, however, the monument directs a Junior Ranger Explorer’s Camp with grants and matching funds — thanks to seed money provided by the Colorado National Monument

According to National Monument Superintendent Joan Anzelmo, more than 340 local kids joined interpretive rangers at summer camp in 2008. Staging area for the camp was at Devil’s Kitchen at the east entrance of the monument, 10 minutes from downtown Grand Junction.

The program targets local, underserved youth who would otherwise be unable to visit the park. It’s designed to engage these kids in hands-on activities to promote environmental awareness and is a bold and noble effort. Remember, many of these kids have never experienced the great outdoors.

The camp allows them to explore the park and introduces them to hiking, observing wildlife and studying the natural world, all while being active and having fun outside.

Better than mall-crawling or twittering, eh?

The Colorado National Monument Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Its mission is to assist the National Park Service with scientific, educational, historical, and interpretive activities. There are a number of these non-profit organizations across the United States, but Anzelmo said this is a very active association.

“It’s pretty exciting,” according to new association board president Denny Mayer. “We’re really making progress.”

Through operation of the bookstore, membership dues, and other fundraising activities, the organization raises money to publish interpretive materials and to help fund National Park

Service activities and projects in the monument, as well as outreach activities in the Grand Valley.

In fact, this past Wednesday, CNMA sponsored a talk about John Otto and the early days of the National Monument. Otto is The Man. He’s the guy who pushed to make this a national monument about 99 years ago. Next year, Hight noted, is the monument’s 100th birthday.

The talk was held at Mesa State College and featured Alan Kania, who has spent the past 30 years writing and talking about John Otto.

Kania just published a photographic history book of the Monument called, “Images of America: Colorado National Monument.” It contains some vintage photos of Otto and the monument, and of the Civilian Conservation Corps era in the 1930s.

In this economy, we may see those days again, but this time the photos will be in color.

“Many of the photographs (in Kania’s book) have been in archives and have never been seen by the public before,” Hight said, “so we are very excited about the publication of this book.”

It retails for $21.95.

Guess where you can get a copy?

Take Grand Avenue across the Colorado River and turn left on Monument Road, even though signs say it’s closed. Follow the detour signs through Rosevale, and back along Redlands Road. It will snake back to Monument Road. Stay on that until you reach the visitor’s center. Don’t forget to pay your fees at the gate. Those fees pay for a portion of the monument’s upkeep, too.

There are a couple short hikes beginning at the visitor’s center — such as the Alcove Nature Trail or Canyon Rim and Window Rock Trails — if you’re so inclined.

I found the books. That was it for me.


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