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9 Facts About Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park was officially dedicated on September 4, 1915, making it America's tenth and highest elevation national park. With a quarter of the land located above the tree line, the alpine wilderness of the Rockies draws 3 million visitors a year. Here are a few facts about the Colorado wonder.

1. AN ADVENTUROUS TEEN BECAME ONE OF THE PARK’S BIGGEST ADVOCATES.

Enos Mills is considered the “Father of Rocky Mountain National Park.” Mills moved to Colorado on his own as a young teen in the 1880s and made himself right at home in the mountains, building a cabin in the Longs Peak Valley and ascending Longs Peakthe park’s highest point at 14,259 feetapproximately 300 times over the course of his life. His love of Colorado made him a devout advocate for the creation of the park, and he spoke and wrote at length to educate the public on nature preservation.

2. THE GREAT DIVIDE RUNS THROUGH THE LAND.

The 30 mile-long Continental Divide Scenic Trail is one of the park's biggest draws. It runs along sections of the actual Great Divide, the invisible border atop the Rocky Mountains that determines whether water runs east to the Atlantic or west to the Pacific. It splits the park into its eastern and western sections.

3. THE STORY OF A “MODERN EVE” EARNED THE PARK NATIONAL ATTENTION.

In 1917, the Denver Post documented the story of Agnes Lowe, a college student who was going to live in the park’s forests as a “modern Eve” for one week. Lowe, barefoot and dressed as a cavewoman, waved goodbye to a crowd of around 2000 people before she embarked on her wilderness adventure. Despite the national newspaper updates about Lowe’s escapades, the whole event was nothing more than a publicity stunt: Lowe actually spent most of the week at a lodge.

4. THE PARK'S HEADQUARTERS WAS INSPIRED BY A WORLD-FAMOUS ARCHITECT.

Tom Casey of Taliesin Architects and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture designed Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, which is the park's headquarters as well as a National Historic Landmark.

5. THE COUNTRY’S FIRST FEMALE NATURE GUIDES WERE TRAINED IN THE ROCKIES.

Esther and Elizabeth Burnell first visited the park’s Estes Park area in 1916. Noting their enthusiasm for their new surroundings, Enos Mills encouraged them to take nature guide training. When the sisters passed the examination, they became the first female naturalists certified by the National Park Service. The women were popular as nature guides and recorded many personal accomplishments. Elizabeth became the first woman guide on Longs Peak and ran the park’s trail school for over a decade. Esther homesteaded in Estes Park, snowshoed 30 miles across the Continental Divide, and married Enos Mills in 1918.

6. IT FEATURES THE HIGHEST CONTINUOUS PAVED ROAD IN THE COUNTRY.

Peaking at 12,183 feet (2 miles above sea level), Trail Ridge Road runs 48 miles between Grand Lake and Estes Park. Work was completed on the "highway to the sky" in 1933 after four years of an off-and-on construction schedule that was largely determined by high-elevation weather conditions. Eleven miles of the road are above the tree line, offering spectacular, sweeping views of the park’s alpine forests, tundra, and meadows.

7. IT'S HOME TO ONE OF ONLY A FEW ACTIVE CEMETERIES LOCATED IN A NATIONAL PARK.

Grand Lake Cemetery, established in 1892, 23 years before the park was dedicated, is located just within park boundaries. 

8. BIGHORN SHEEP ARE THE SYMBOL OF THE PARK.

Bighorn sheep, the largest wild sheep in North America, are both the symbol of the national park and for all of Colorado Parks & Wildlife, because of their distinct presence in the state. Though the population declined due to disease in the early 20th century, Rocky Mountain National Park is currently home to approximately 300 to 400 bighorn sheep. Visitors are most likely to spot a few between late May and June.

9. THE PARK’S FIRST PAYING GUEST WAS A LONGTIME FAN.

Abner Sprague, a 19th century homesteader and pioneer, was the first person to pay $3 for park admission in 1939. Sprague had a long history with the area: he homesteaded in Moraine Park in 1874, owned and operated a dude ranch on what would become park grounds, and named several natural features within the park. Sprague Lake is named after him. Today, visitors on foot or bicycle pay $10 per person and those in vehicles pay $20 for a seven-day pass.

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History
How an Early Female Travel Writer Became an Immunization Pioneer
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by A. Devéria
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu by A. Devéria

Lady Mary Wortley Montagu was a British aristocrat, feminist, and writer who was famed for her letters. If that were all she did, she would be a slightly obscure example of a travel writer and early feminist. But she was also an important public health advocate who is largely responsible for the adoption of inoculation against smallpox—one of the earliest forms of immunization—in England.

Smallpox was a scourge right up until the mid-20th century. Caused by two strains of Variola virus, the disease had a mortality rate of up to 35 percent. If you lived, you were left with unsightly scars, and possible complications such as severe arthritis and blindness.

Lady Montagu knew smallpox well: Her brother died of it at the age of 20, and in late 1715, she contracted the disease herself. She survived, but her looks did not; she lost her eyelashes and was left with deeply pitted skin on her face.

When Lady Montagu’s husband, Edward Wortley Montagu, was appointed ambassador to Turkey the year after her illness, she accompanied him and took up residence in Constantinople (now Istanbul). The lively letters she wrote home described the world of the Middle East to her English friends and served for many as an introduction to Muslim society.

One of the many things Lady Montagu wrote home about was the practice of variolation, a type of inoculation practiced in Asia and Africa likely starting around the 15th or 16th century. In variolation, a small bit of a pustule from someone with a mild case of smallpox is placed into one or more cuts on someone who has not had the disease. A week or so later, the person comes down with a mild case of smallpox and is immune to the disease ever after.

Lady Montagu described the process in a 1717 letter:

"There is a set of old women, who make it their business to perform the operation, every autumn, in the month of September, when the great heat is abated. People send to one another to know if any of their family has a mind to have the small-pox: they make parties for this purpose, and when they are met (commonly fifteen or sixteen together) the old woman comes with a nuts-hell full of the matter of the best sort of small-pox, and asks what veins you please to have opened. She immediately rips open that you offer to her with a large needle (which gives you no more pain than a common scratch), and puts into the vein as much matter as can lye upon the head of her needle, and after that binds up the little wound with a hollow bit of shell; and in this manner opens four or five veins. . . . The children or young patients play together all the rest of the day, and are in perfect health to the eighth. Then the fever begins to seize them, and they keep their beds two days, very seldom three. They have very rarely above twenty or thirty in their faces, which never mark; and in eight days' time they are as well as before their illness."

So impressed was Lady Montagu by the effectiveness of variolation that she had a Scottish doctor who worked at the embassy, Charles Maitland, variolate her 5-year-old son in 1718 with the help of a local woman. She returned to England later that same year. In 1721, a smallpox epidemic hit London, and Montagu had Maitland (who by then had also returned to England) variolate her 4-year-old daughter in the presence of several prominent doctors. Maitland later ran an early version of a clinical trial of the procedure on six condemned inmates in Newgate Prison, who were promised their freedom if they took part in the experiment. All six lived, and those later exposed to smallpox were immune. Maitland then repeated the experiment on a group of orphaned children with the same results.

A painting of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son, Edward Wortley Montagu, and attendants
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu with her son, Edward Wortley Montagu, and attendants
Jean-Baptiste Vanmour, Art UK // CC BY-NC-ND

But the idea of purposely giving someone a disease was not an easy sell, especially since about 2 or 3 percent of people who were variolated still died of smallpox (either because the procedure didn’t work, or because they caught a different strain than the one they had been variolated with). In addition, variolated people could also spread the disease while they were infectious. Lady Montagu also faced criticism because the procedure was seen as “Oriental,” and because of her gender.

But from the start, Lady Montagu knew that getting variolation accepted would be an uphill battle. In the same letter as her first description of the practice, she wrote:

"I am patriot enough to take pains to bring this useful invention into fashion in England; and I should not fail to write to some of our doctors very particularly about it, if I knew any one of them that I thought had virtue enough to destroy such a considerable branch of their revenue for the good of mankind. But that distemper is too beneficial to them, not to expose to all their resentment the hardy wight that should undertake to put an end to it. Perhaps, if I live to return, I may, however, have courage to war with them."

As promised, Lady Montagu promoted variolation enthusiastically, encouraging the parents in her circle, visiting convalescing patients, and publishing an account of the practice in a London newspaper. Through her influence, many people, including members of the royal family, were inoculated against smallpox, starting with two daughters of the Princess of Wales in 1722. Without her advocacy, scholars say, variolation might never have caught on and smallpox would have been an even greater menace than it was. The famed poet Alexander Pope said that for her, immortality would be "a due reward" for "an action which all posterity may feel the advantage of," namely the "world’s being freed from the future terrors of the small-pox."

Variolation was performed in England for another 70 years, until Edward Jenner introduced vaccination using cowpox in 1796. Vaccination was instrumental in finally stopping smallpox: In 1980, it became the first (and so far, only) human disease to be completely eradicated worldwide.

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travel
Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane
iStock
iStock

What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

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