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 Peak—the park’s highest point at 14,259 feet—approximately 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.

10 Secrets of Airbnb Hosts

iStock/Tero Vesalainen
iStock/Tero Vesalainen

Since it launched in 2008, Airbnb has grown from a scrappy tech startup to a major force in the travel industry. The website acts as a middleman between hosts with empty rooms, guest houses, and vacation homes to rent out and travelers looking for an unconventional (and often affordable) place to stay. The company reportedly recently valued itself at $38 billion.

Tech-savvy globetrotters may be familiar with Airbnb from the guest side, but being a host offers its own experiences. If they're willing to endure the occasional clueless, tardy, or rude guest, hosts often learn that meeting people from around the world can be just as rewarding as travel—and a lot more lucrative. We spoke with a few Airbnb hosts to get their perspective on what it's like to provide a temporary home away from home.

1. Airbnb will send a photographer to host homes.

Airbnb wants its listings to be successful, and they offer hosts some pretty appealing perks to make that happen—including sending a professional photographer to their space for a free photoshoot, if hosts ask for one. “The photographer made the room look really nice,” Steve Wilson, an Airbnb host who manages a listing in Austin, Texas, tells Mental Floss. “And the pictures are certified, so people know Airbnb took them and they’re not fake picture I took from the internet.” Enlisting a professional photographer pays off for both the hosts and the company: According to Airbnb, hosts with professional photos see a 40 percent increase in earnings compared to other hosts in their area.

2. Airbnb hosts know that cute pet photos can lead to bookings.

Brenda Tucker's dog, Boo.
Brenda Tucker's dog, Boo.
Brenda Tucker

Brenda Tucker first listed the spare room of her San Francisco home on Airbnb in 2009. As one of the company’s earliest hosts, she had the honor of having CEO Brian Chesky stay in her home, and he shared some useful tips. One piece of advice he gave is something dating app users may already know: Including photos of your pets is a great way to get attention. “Their data was showing that people weren’t really reading the listings, which is true of myself when I use Airbnb,” Tucker tells Mental Floss. “So I put my dog and my cat in the photos early on and that has been very, very helpful.”

3. There's a reason some Airbnb hosts greet you in person.

Some hosts have a set-up that allows them to check in guests without ever meeting them in person, but Wilson prefers to greet guests the old-fashioned way. It’s a friendlier way of doing business, but he says there’s another motivation behind the protocol. “I’ve worked in retail, and it’s like when you try to say ‘hi’ to every [customer]. It’s nice to do, but it’s also a way to reduce people shoplifting,” he says. “They might be more respectful of the space that way if they see a real person there.”

4. Sometimes Airbnb hosts get gifts.

Beyond checking in on time and being considerate, Airbnb hosts don’t expect much from their guests. But occasionally they encounter a guest who goes above and beyond to leave a good impression. Carla (not her real name), a host in Dublin, Ireland, who’s retired, recalls a woman from Belgium who expressed her gratitude by crocheting her a tea cozy. “It’s absolutely beautiful,” she tells Mental Floss. "She showed me that she used to make these, and she showed me photographs, and [then] she made me one. She was lovely."

Early in his Airbnb career, Wilson received a gift from an unexpected source. “One of my first guests was this guy, he had the worst possible photo of himself. It was weird and out-of-focus and he just looked mean and angry. I begrudgingly accepted his invite, and he turned out to be the nicest, sweetest guy. He was from Seattle and he gave me some freeze-dried salmon and a really nice note he wrote me later on a card. That taught me not to judge anybody by their picture.”

5. Not every Airbnb hosting experience is positive, however.

Even if hosts have positive feelings overall toward their experience with Airbnb, they’re bound to collect a few horror stories after working with the service long enough. One traveler Tucker hosted made herself at home by ruining the walls. “She brought her bike up 36 steps from the street, which left tire marks everywhere.” After that incident, the guest proceeded to wash her dirty clothes in the bathtub and lay it over the furniture in the shared living room to dry. “She did not expect me to come home early that day.”

Wilson recalls a guest who dealt with mosquito season by nearly setting his room on fire. “A few mosquitos had gotten in, he had basically let them in, so he kind of freaked out about it and bought all these mosquito candles and left them under the bed.” Fortunately, Wilson caught the fire hazard before it turned disastrous.

6. Hosts appreciate it when you clean up.

People who host on Airbnb know that cleaning up after guests is part of the job, but that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate it when people go out of their way to be neat. “It’s nice when they clean up a bit,” Wilson says. “They can leave their sheets or towels wherever. I don’t care about that stuff, but it's a nice little touch when they do the dishes. It's not that big of a deal but I feel like it’s considerate.”

7. Airbnb hosts hate it when you're late.

Traveling can be stressful and unpredictable, but if you tell your Airbnb host you’ll arrive at a certain time, try your best to stick to it if you want to stay on their good side. “I don’t want to wait around for hours and hours,” Tucker says. “I understand if your flight is late and that’s something you can’t help, but there have been a few people who unfortunately think I have nothing to do on a Saturday except wait around for six hours. When people are rude or have the expectation that you are a personal concierge and you should behave as a hotel, that makes things more difficult for me.”

Wilson repeats the same sentiment, adding that updating your host if you know you’re going to be late is much better than not communicating with them at all. “I always appreciate it when people give me a decent ballpark figure of when they’re planning to get in, and if they don’t make it at that time if they could possibly give me a heads-up that they’re going to be a little later than they were expecting. I have a set check-in and check-out time, but sometimes I can give people a little more time if they need it.”

8. Airbnb hosts don’t want to give you a bad review.

Airbnb hosts know how important reviews can be, and they aren’t quick to assign negative ratings to guests. Tucker says she always tries to confront issues with her guests in person before airing out the problems online. “I try to be diplomatic. Generally I can have a discussion in person where I can feel heard and there’s some kind of understanding,” she says.

But in some cases, even diplomatic hosts may feel forced to rate guests poorly as a warning to future hosts. Tucker says, “I had a woman who was very challenging. She came too early and she seemed a little entitled. She requested a refund because she was leaving early but she hadn’t let me know. I think that was probably the most negative review I ever gave.”

9. It's hard to make a living just from Airbnb hosting.

Many hosts use Airbnb as a source of supplemental income. For her day job, Tucker is the director of arts marketing for the San Francisco Travel Association, and Wilson is a freelance writer. Both say the money they make from Airbnb is a nice cushion, but it’s not enough to make a real living. “It’s not super lucrative, it’s just a stable stream of dough. I don’t think anyone would get rich off it, especially in a place where you’re taxed and have to have a [short-term rental] license,” Wilson says. Airbnb also takes a service fee of at least 3 percent from hosts for every night they book.

For Tucker, being an Airbnb host is more about meeting new people and being exposed to different cultures than it is about making money. “That opportunity to intersect with other cultures is incredibly interesting to me, and something that has enriched my life quite a bit,” she says.

10. Sometimes hosts make lifelong friendships with guests.

The relationship between Airbnb host and guest doesn’t necessarily end at check-out time. Thanks to her hosting gig, Tucker has developed lasting friendships with former guests who are scattered around the globe. “I've made very close friends with people who’ve stayed with me. I’ve traveled with an Italian guest of mine in France and in Italy. I’ve gone to Sweden twice to see a guest I keep in touch with. Those opportunities have been pretty amazing.”

You Can Pay to Cuddle Cows at This New York Farm

Михаил Руденко/iStock via Getty Images
Михаил Руденко/iStock via Getty Images

Cuddling offers proven health benefits: Snuggling up with something (or someone) warm releases "cuddle hormones" that reduce stress and boost your overall sense of wellbeing. But you don't necessarily need to find a human partner to reap these rewards. At the Mountain Horse Farm in Naples, New York, you can pay $75 to cuddle with cows for an hour, ABC News reports.

The cattle at this farm and bed and breakfast have been available for guests to hug since last spring. Originally, the farm only offered horse therapy, and then owner Suzanne Vullers realized that cows had something to contribute as well. Unlike horses, cows spend a lot of their days lying down. Their gentle, relaxed nature makes them the perfect cuddle companions.


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For $75, up to two people can hang out in the pasture for an hour and cuddle any cows that are willing. The Mountain Horse Farm emphasizes that it's not a petting zoo, and cows get to choose whether or not they want to get up close and personal with strangers. Visitors are shown how to best approach and interact with the cows before their snuggle session begins.

Offering unique experiences with livestock is an increasingly popular way for farms to make extra cash. Goat yoga has become mainstream around the U.S., and some farms have even organized alpaca dance classes.

To sign up for a cow-cuddling experience, you can book a session online.


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[h/t ABC News]

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