Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rocky Mountain National Park & Continental Divide Socks

Bighorn Sheep, native to the Rocky Mountains
Going on a trip to the Rocky Mountains?  Well, you won't be the first.

The first tourists to visit the area of the Rocky Mountain National Park were the Paleo-Indians who visited about 11,000 years ago.  The Paleo-Indians left behind lots of stone tools, a familiar feeling for any modern camper who returns home to unload the car and yells out "Has anyone seen my (fill-in-the-blank)?  I think I might have left it behind at our campsite."

Later the Ute tribe inhabited the area that became the Rocky Mountain National Park. While the park area was never their permanent home, the Ute tribe dominated the area until the late 1700s (the state of Utah is named after the Ute tribe).

Ute Chief Severo and Family, 1899
In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson agreed to the Louisiana Purchase.  The eastern boundary of the giant Louisiana area was obvious - it was the Mississippi River - but the western boundary was a bit fuzzy.  Did it include all of the Rocky Mountains, or just the eastern edge of the mountain range?  And who really knew much about those mysterious, unexplored mountains, anyway?  Did we even want them

Jefferson's answer was to explore the Rocky Mountain region and map out the area to be prepared for future boundary disputes that he, wisely, knew would be coming one day.  In 1804 the Lewis and Clark Expedition left on their journey to become the first to scientifically explore and map the Rocky Mountain area.  Their vivid descriptions of beauty and wildlife brought mountain men who hunted and trapped in the Rocky Mountain area throughout the 1800s.  Trapping beaver peaked from the 1820s to the 1840s, when beaver fur hats were being replaced by silk hats, and at the same time the beaver population was declining.  In the 1860s homesteaders were moving into the area, building farms and communities. 

Mountain Man Seth Kinman, 1860
But as mountain men were disappearing at the end of the 19th century, the desire for the mountain man's legendary open-air lifestyle remained strong.  It had seemed that America's wild open spaces would last forever.  Thomas Jefferson had predicted it would take 100 generations to settle the west - boy, was he wrong, it took only about three generations!  Open spaces were disappearing, and by 1900 the growing national conservation and preservation movement advocated for an appreciation of nature and open spaces.  Camping and hiking became popular pastimes.  Homesteaders who had found the Rocky Mountain area difficult to farm found they could make more money by catering to tourists by building lodges, trails and roads.  

America's first national park was Yellowstone National Park, declared in 1872, although there was no national park service to take care of it. Yellowstone was maintained for many years by the U.S. Army, and later by the Department of the Interior.  As additional areas were declared national parks they were maintained independently as completely separate units under the Department of the Interior. One and a half years after the Rocky Mountain National Park was established, on August 25, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed a bill to create the National Park Service to conserve and maintain all of the national parks.

In 1909 Enos Mills, a Rocky Mountain nature guide and lodge owner, presented the idea of protecting the Rocky Mountains with a new national park.  Mills hoped that "In years to come when I am asleep beneath the pines, thousands of families will find rest and hope in this park."  After a six year campaign he was successful, and 101 years ago (January 26, 1915) President Wilson signed the Rocky Mountain National Park Act to create the Rocky Mountain National Park.

Continental Divide Socks
Now we're not asking you to copy Enos Mills and his six year battle to designate a new national park, we just want you to go to any park and knit.  Knit the Continental Divide socks (the first sock in our new National Parks Sock of the Month Series!), or any other sock pattern and then take a picture of your socks in any park to win monthly and quarterly prizes!

So what's the Continental Divide?  You learned about it in third grade, but can you still remember it now?  All water flows downhill and will eventually reach either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean. The Continental Divide is the line across the Americas (in the Rocky Mountains) where snow and rain on one side of the mountain will flow towards the Atlantic and snow and rain on the other will reach the Pacific.

Happy Knitting . . . . Scout

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