Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico are the states that make up the Four Corners. Culturally, the region is a combination of Mexican, Mormon, Navajo, Hopi, Ute, and Zuni ancestry. It is a part of the Colorado Plateau, a geological formation responsible for much of the snow and rainfall over the central United States. Citizens of the United States, particularly in this region, have free access to dozens of natural areas. Here’s a preview of all the places to explore in the Southwest. Go to the National Park Service Website or join the travelstoke app to discover information about the region.
Arches National ParkMoab, United StatesThis was a great vantage point where I was able to see the Delicate Arch to my left, the canyon in front of me, and the La Sal Mountains in the distance on my right. There are very few areas in the world where you can witness desert, forest, and mountain terrain all from one viewpoint.
Bridge CampgroundPagosa Springs, United StatesThe San Juan National Forest takes up a big part of Southwestern Colorado. This particular region is just north of Pagosa Springs in Poison Park. I’d strongly recommend bringing a GPS or topo map if you plan any extended backpacking trips through here.
#hiking #camping #backpacking #outdoors
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National ParkCrawford, United StatesThis is a remarkable canyon. On the day I visited back in April 2016, we experienced everything including sun, rain, snow, hail, and a rainbow. At its deepest it can fit the Empire State Building plus some.
#camping #hiking #canyon #explore
Mineral Bottom Take OutGreen River, United StatesIf you start your river trip through Labyrinth Canyon in Green River, a great place to take out is Mineral Bottom. The takeout lies just before the entrance to Canyonlands National Park and has nice open areas for camping. The whole of the Green River is well mapped and full of history thanks to the like of John Wesley Powell and John C Freemont and events such as a diphtheria epidemic and the Mormon Trail.
#canoeing #boating #river #canyon
The jagged San Juan Mountains are a haven for outdoor recreation, surrounding towns like Telluride, Durango and Montrose, which all played a role in the state’s mining history. With two spectacular national parks, a handful of scenic byways and more lakes and rivers than any other part of the state, this rugged region truly suits adventurers longing to hike 14,000-foot peaks, raft down thrilling whitewater, ski and snowboard on fluffy powder, rappel through waterfalls, camp in the wilderness and so much more.
Considered the Grand Canyon of Colorado, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park leaves visitors speechless, thanks to its dramatic landscapes, sheer walls and startling depths. The Gunnison River carved this 2,660-foot deep canyon over millions of years, creating a playground for rock climbing, hiking, fishing and stargazing.
More wonders congregate around Grand Junction: Grand Mesa, the world’s highest flattop mountain, is to the east, Colorado National Monument, a gallery of desert-rock formations, is to the west, and the dramatic Book Cliffs descend right into town from the north. Warm days and cool nights also make the Western Slope an agricultural gem, with towns such as Palisade, Delta, Paonia and Olathe supplying the state with wine grapes and produce like juicy peaches, sweet corn and tart cherries.
In the Four Corners area around Cortez, bluffs and plateaus are home to well-preserved archaeological ruins at Mesa Verde National Park and Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, offering some of the country’s most complete records of what life was like for the Ancestral Puebloans, who built entire cities inside gaping caves. The 116-mile Trail of the Ancients Scenic Byway links these two important sites, along with Hovenweep National Monument, a bevy of stone towers built by the Ancestral Puebloans, Ute Mountain Tribal Park and its ancient pictographs and petroglyphs, and the Four Corners Monument, where the borders of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Arizona meet.
This region is also home to 10,000-year-old hot springs, formed by snowmelt that collects in an underground aquifer, heats up and simmers to the surface. Soothe tired muscles or just soak up the natural beauty in pools found around Pagosa Springs, Ouray and Ridgway.
Though it might take a bit more effort to get to Mountains & Mesas, you’ll be rewarded with an environment that manages to slow down the pace of life yet amps up the adventure quotient, all while sitting at the forefront of the state’s farm-to-table ethos and delicious bounty of each season. The region’s spirit will begin to run through you as you absorb its unique history and diverse scenery.
On May 14, 1993, a young, physically fit man living in the American Southwest suddenly collapsed. He was rushed to a New Mexico hospital but died of acute respiratory failure within hours. The man had been on his way to a funeral — his fiancée died a similar death just days earlier. By May 17, medical center officials identified three similar deaths in the Four Corners region where the borders of Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah meet. All of the victims had been young and otherwise healthy.
On May 18, the New Mexico Department of Health contacted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for assistance, but laboratory tests failed to find a known disease among the victims. The CDC Special Pathogens Branch began a joint investigation with the state health departments of New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, and with the Indian Health Service, the Navajo Nation, and the University of New Mexico.
The deer mouse (shown here) and the white-footed mouse (shown in the title graphic), carry viruses that can lead to hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. (Images courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Three weeks later, the CDC identified the responsible pathogen: hantavirus.
Hantaviruses are zoonoses, diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans. Strains found primarily in Asia and Europe affect the kidneys and may cause severe circulatory problems, but less than 10 percent of the people infected die. The strain in the Four Corners outbreak, however, was different. Later named the Sin Nombre virus, it caused a much deadlier illness: hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS). Affecting the heart and lungs, HPS has a mortality rate of 50 percent. Between 1993 and 1995, it claimed the lives of more than 45 people in the southwestern United States.
This image shows the relative size of deer mouse and white-footed mouse scat, compared with that of a cockroach and roof rat. (Image courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
Identifying the pathogen was only the first step in addressing the Four Corners outbreak. Next, researchers had to figure out how the disease spread. All previous cases of hantavirus were spread by rodents, so researchers began trapping and examining as many rodent species as possible in the Four Corners area. On June 14, 1993, the CDC identified the deer mouse, found throughout North America, as the primary carrier. Other rodents have also been found to carry viruses that cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome: the cotton rat, ranging from the southeastern United States to South America, the rice rat, ranging from the southeastern United States to Central America, and the white-footed mouse, found throughout much of the United States and Mexico.
Mice infected with hantavirus can transmit the disease to humans through bites that break the skin, but this is fairly rare. The virus usually spreads through "aerosolization" — a process through which infected mice shed the virus through their saliva, droppings, and urine, and humans inadvertently inhale the particles if they are stirred up.
Although roughly 30 percent of the deer mice tested in the Four Corners region investigation were carrying the Sin Nombre virus, they weren't sick or dying. A virus does itself no favors by killing its host. "Smart" viruses coexist peacefully with their hosts, thereby prolonging their own lives, and the Sin Nombre virus may have coevolved with its rodent hosts for more than 20 million years. If humans were suddenly contracting the virus, their contact with the carrier rodents must have increased. Why?
"That's what the field of epidemiology is all about," said Gregory Glass, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. "We try to understand the factors that alter the risk people have for disease."
Glass has used satellite data to map animal populations since the 1970s. He realized that if he could map the distribution of animals, he could also map the diseases they carry. To examine the Four Corners hantavirus outbreak, Glass used Landsat satellite images, archived at NASA's Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC). He also collaborated with researchers at the IBM Watson Research Center Public Health Earth Science Information Partner.
Understanding the Four Corners outbreak wasn't a simple matter of knowing where to look, scientists also had to know when to look. "Bob Parmenter, an ecologist at the University of New Mexico pointed out that mouse populations take some time to get big enough to cause disease in humans," Glass said. "So the time to be looking at the environment wasn't when people got sick, but probably before that."
Rodents that carry the Sin Nombre virus can be deceptively cute, but suspected carriers must be handled with extreme care. (Image courtesy of Gregory Glass, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health).
Glass and fellow investigators started reviewing satellite images from 1992, the year before the outbreak. Early on, researchers hypothesized that the 1991-92 El Niño contributed significantly to the hantavirus outbreak by increasing precipitation. More precipitation meant more vegetation, more vegetation meant more mice. Yet, this hypothesis was based on data from just two study areas: the University of New Mexico's Sevilleta Long-Term Ecological Research Station, and Moab, Utah. Glass set out to test the hypothesis with a case-control study.
"If you know where people were when they got the disease, you can use satellite data to monitor the environmental conditions where the outbreak happened," said Glass. "But there's a problem. You could, for example, conclude that the area where people got sick has lots of trees. Does that mean being around trees helps the disease spread, or does it just mean that people like to have trees around their homes?" He explained that a case-control study is one in which the environment and habits of the people who become ill (cases) are compared to those who did not contract the disease (controls).
Glass and fellow researchers estimated precipitation at 28 case sites and 170 control sites during the springs of 1992 and 1993. They then compared those data to the previous six years' precipitation using rainfall records from 196 weather stations. They also examined Landsat Thematic Mapper satellite imagery collected the year before the outbreak to estimate the hantavirus pulmonary syndrome risk. Glass and his collaborators published the results of their study in the May-June 2000 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases. What Glass found is that, while there is a relationship between precipitation and hantavirus, it's not as simple as previously thought.
The Earth Science Information Partners (ESIP) is comprised of government agencies, national laboratories, universities, nonprofit organizations, and commercial businesses.
The hantavirus risk map project used satellite data archived at LP DAAC. LP DAAC is a Type 1 member, as are all of NASA's DAACs. The IBM Watson Research Center is a Type 2 member.
For more information, visit the ESIP webpage.
"One of the complicating factors relates to remote sensing. In areas that are semiarid, like the U.S. Southwest, the satellite readings don't correspond well with the actual amount of vegetation. The images show both vegetation and bare soil, and depending on the soil type, you can get false readings," Glass said. "Another complicating factor is the vegetation. I visited the Four Corners region during the next El Niño in 1998 and 1999 and realized that disease risk doesn't depend on the vegetation, per se. Broad categories of vegetation exist for high- and low-risk areas, but it's not a simple matter of saying piñon juniper forest is high risk, or salt bush lowlands is low risk."
A crucial step in solving the puzzle, Glass said, is collecting ground truth data. He began overlaying risk maps from 1992 through 1998 to determine where the high-risk areas persisted, and he visited those sites with CDC researchers to learn more about them. "Mice might be fussier than we thought about where they live. The vegetation might look promising, but maybe the soil's too hard, so the mice can't burrow. Maybe there's not enough moisture in the soil. These are all things we have to figure out, and public health officials need remote sensing scientists to understand the nuances of the imagery."
Another key to understanding hantavirus risk is acquiring more data. "We don't have enough statistical power to say much about precipitation patterns yet," Glass said. "An additional problem is that the data could be contaminated with past outbreaks of the disease. I'm positive there were earlier cases that just weren't recognized." The CDC agrees. Earlier cases of the Sin Nombre virus have been found in stored tissue samples taken from people who died of unknown lung diseases before the 1993 outbreak. Now, the earliest known case of the Sin Nombre virus has been confirmed in a 38-year-old Utah resident who died in 1959.
Do public health officials pay too much attention to illnesses like hantavirus pulmonary syndrome? "We don't have that many infectious diseases in the United States, so even 30 or 40 people dying from something is pretty frightening," Glass said. "You could compare the Four Corners outbreak to the recent anthrax outbreak. Nobody knew where it was coming from or how many people would be affected. With hantavirus, we didn't even know what it was or how it spread. So the problem isn't that you've got huge numbers of deaths, it's that you have a lot of people who don't know whether or not they've been exposed."
The 1991-92 El Niño brought unusually high precipitation to the Four Corners region in 1992. This led to an increase in vegetation and a hypothesized increase in the rodent population. Based on Landsat ETM+ satellite imagery, this map of the American Southwest shows the predicted risk for hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in 1993. Red and yellow indicate high-risk areas, and dark blue indicates low-risk areas. (Image derived from Glass et al.: Using Remotely Sensed Data to Identify Areas at Risk for Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome, 2000).
Beyond protecting Americans, monitoring conditions in the United States can alleviate suffering elsewhere. "Diseases like malaria, schistosomiasis, and dengue fever affect hundreds of thousands, even millions of people. In many cases, animals provide a reservoir for germs, or spread them among humans, and those animals are influenced by the environment. Using satellite data the way we have for hantavirus gives us a good evaluation of the data's use. Does having an image every 16 days at 30-meter resolution tell us enough to make some predictions? If it does, we can start using the data, if it doesn't, we have better ideas for how to design the next sensor."
One conclusion Glass reached from his research on zoonotic diseases is that outbreaks are more easily tied to environmental conditions when the carriers are arthropods. "The dynamics of arthropod populations, such as mosquitoes, are tightly linked to temperature and precipitation patterns. Vertebrates are generally bigger, they can move around more, and they can control their own body temperature. So while vertebrates certainly respond to the environment, it isn't clear just how they respond. That makes predicting hantavirus a little tougher."
Predicting hantavirus outbreaks accurately is what Glass eventually hopes to do. "You could just be extra cautious and predict a lot of outbreaks, but you can cause almost as much concern by over-predicting as by under-predicting. Businesses that depend on tourists, hikers, backpackers, and campers really feel the economic crunch when an outbreak is predicted.
"Being prepared for an outbreak helps mitigate the huge economic and emotional losses," Glass concluded. "Epidemiology has been a good detective tool, but it hasn't turned into a predictive science. Remote sensing and ground truthing can improve predictions. Once we understand the link between environment and disease, we ought to be able to forecast disease at least as well as we forecast the weather."
Glass, Gregory E., James E. Cheek, Jonathan A. Patz, Timothy M. Shields, Timothy J. Doyle, Douglas A. Thoroughman, Darcy K. Hunt, Russell E. Enscore, Kenneth L. Gage, Charles Irland, C.J. Peters, and Ralph Bryan. 2000. Using Remotely Sensed Data to Identify Areas at Risk for Hantavirus Pulmonary Syndrome. Emerging Infectious Diseases. 6(3).
All About Hantavirus from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed August 15, 2001.
Ecological Research Benefits: The Hantavirus Case Study (PDF file). Accessed January 9, 2002.
Nichol, Stuart T., Jiro Arikawa, and Yoshihiro Kawaoka. 2000. Emerging Viral Diseases. PNAS. 97(23).
For more information
NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC)
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|DAAC||NASA Land Processes Distributed Active Archive Center (LP DAAC) |
Page Last Updated: Jul 22, 2020 at 11:58 AM EDT
Modern day sceptical writers, academics, and the Smithsonian claim that this story is simply a piece of sensational yellow journalism . They insist it is a pure fabrication from top to bottom that preys on the spiritual yearnings of a gullible and superstitious public. On its surface, the article does appear improbable at best, and, at worst, a dishonest printing of fanciful tales to conjure up profits. The original author of the piece is anonymous which does a disservice to either the believer and the sceptic camps, and there never was a follow up article.
The Smithsonian has publicly denied the story outright (over a hundred years later) and denied any records verifying the existence of Kincaid or Professor Jordan. “The story also asserts that a Smithsonian archaeologist named S. A. Jordan returned with Kincaid to investigate the site. However, the Arizona Gazette appears to have been the only newspaper ever to have published the story. No records can confirm the existence of either Kincaid or Jordan.” Naturally, the academic community toes the party line without question.
Alternative researchers clamour online, insisting this is an elaborate cover-up. They claim that there does exist a “forbidden zone” within Grand Canyon National Park which completely forbids anyone to hike, camp, or explore there. They also point to the curious names of the landmarks in this allegedly off-limits area, and they even go so far as to suggest that shadowy branches of the Federal Government secretly monitor the entire area.
In the more extremist alternative factions, this is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg as they expand the scope into a complex conspiracy of subterranean reptilian overlords that manipulate the ruling elite class . The sceptical position is heavily fortified behind obtuse walls of authority and plausibility, easily defended against one lonesome article published over a century ago.
The objective researcher is justified in questioning the credibility of a newspaper and an anonymous author, but on the reverse side of that same token, this same researcher would be naïve to blindly accept the mainstream narrative presented by a government institution that absolutely does have a conflict of interest regarding the manipulation of the human history narrative. This is especially true when it comes to the U.S. Government and the elevation of indigenous cultures in the early twentieth century.
So, what is the reality, whose word is to be believed? As with any mystery, the skeleton key to unlocking it is objective reasoning, the suspension of any preconceived notions, and sailing upon the winds of evidence, avoiding the inevitable rocks and sandbars of confirmation bias, formal, and informal fallacy.
Cross the country on the lesser travelled – but blissfully untouched – northern route, taking at least two weeks to drive between Chicago and Seattle.
1. Madison, WI
The capital of Wisconsin also happens to be the most attractive college town in the USA, just 2hr 30min drive northwest of Chicago.
2. Badlands National Park, SD
It’s a long day of driving across the Great Plains to the Badlands, a truly desolate, magical place, especially at sunrise.
3. Black Hills, SD
Forested mountain plateau rising above the plains, home to Mount Rushmore and the equally monumental Crazy Horse Mountain.
4. Theodore Roosevelt National Park, ND
Drive into North Dakota to explore the wild, untouched and multicoloured badlands created by the Little Missouri.
5. Little Bighorn, MT
Cross into Montana to visit one of America’s most poignant battlefields, where Custer’s 7th Cavalry were trounced by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse.
This shabby old mining town in central Montana is a treasure trove of once grand architecture, old diners and even Cornish pasties.
7. Glacier National Park, MT
Northern Montana is dominated by this sensational preserve of glaciers, snowy peaks, alpine lakes and historic lodges.
8. Idaho Panhandle
I-90 cuts across this narrow section of Idaho, laced with inviting hiking and biking trails and home to the genuine Western town of Wallace.
9. Cascade Loop, WA
End up in Washington, touring the peaks and valleys of the mighty Cascade Mountains before arriving at Seattle and the Pacific Ocean.
With 52 states to explore, you can easily visit the USA for a two-week holiday or spend a few months travelling the country at length. Whatever your timescale or budget, here are some sample itineraries to whet your appetite for travel. Find one you like? Speak to a local USA expert to book your trip today.
In-depth, easy-to-use travel guides filled with expert advice.