Knitting Meets National Parks

I feel like every knitter has some style, skill, or item that they prefer to knit (or maybe some that they avoid at all costs!).  For example, I really dislike knitting cables – to the point that last year, for our birthdays, my friend/labmate and I exchanged “knitting skills”.  I had found a cabled hat that I really, really loved but had no desire to knit for myself.  Kelly, on the other hand, is not a huge fan of knitting lace.  So when our May and June birthday’s arrived, Kelly gifted me a lovely cabled hat and I gifted Kelly a beautiful lace shawl.  If it was practical, I would spend all of my crafting time knitting shawls – lace shawls, bulky shawls, shawls of all shapes and sizes. I have over 100 shawls “favorited” on Ravelry and recently added 4 shawls to my favorites that I was especially excited to stumble across!

Kelly’s birthday shawl!

Ravelry member “averybusymonkey” recently published a collection of four stunning shawls inspired by one of my other favorite things, national parks! The shawl collection costs $17.00 for all four patterns and $1 from each purchase is donated to the National Park Foundation (which is the official charity for supporting the National Park Service). The parks that inspired the shawls (all parks which averybusymonkey visited when growing up) provide examples of the varied resources (both cultural and natural) which are preserved through the U.S. National Park system.

So let’s learn a bit more about each of these shawl-inspiring treasures.

(Neat fact: National Parks are abbreviated by the first four letters of the park name or, in the case of a park with two words in it’s name, the first two letters of each name.)

Bryce Canyon National Park:

Bryce Canyon National Park (BRCA) is located in my current, home state and is nestled in the beautiful red rock country that makes up much of Southern Utah.  Bryce Canyon was established under the Antiquities Act as a National Monument in 1923.  Both the Utah state government and Stephen Mather (the first director of the National Park Service) wanted the area protected to conserve the astonishing natural amphitheaters and statuesque hoodoos.  Not long after it’s initial protection, BRCA was “upgraded” to National Park status in 1928.

BRCA is a spectacular park, not only for it’s geological wonders, but for it’s night sky as well. BRCA is located at a high elevation in a remote area of Utah far from what most of us would consider civilization. The combination of these two conditions – the thin, clear air and lack of light pollution – makes BRCA a perfect place for observing and enjoying the night sky.  BRCA managers actively work to preserve and interpret the night sky resource and even have a “Dark Rangers” program made up of volunteer astronomers to help visitors understand the importance of natural darkness.

Bryce Canyon National Park (photo by Ashley D’Antonio)

Canyonlands National Park:

The second National Park to inspire the shawl patterns is also located in Southern Utah close to Arches National Park and Moab. Canyonlands National Park (CANY) was established in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson and in 1971 additional units were added on to the park including the Maze District.  The Maze District, which is a detached portion of CANY, contains an area known as Horseshoe Canyon.

Horseshoe Canyon is unique and worthy of protection in that it contains archaeological artifacts that span thousands of years. Some artifacts found in Horseshoe Canyon have been dated to 9000 – 7000 BCE (the time of mammoths and mastodons).  Horseshoe Canyon also contains The Great Gallery; a wall of varied types of Native American rock art.  Visitors are allowed to access Horseshoe Canyon, although getting there is not easy and requires hours of driving time and a 4-wheel drive vehicle.  From March until May, rangers lead three to five hour long interpretative hikes into Horseshoe Canyon.

Part of the Great Gallery in Horseshoe Canyon (photo by Scott Catron used under Creative Commons license)

Grand Teton National Park:

Grand Teton National Park (GRTE), located in Wyoming, is unlike the last two parks in that it is one of the top 10 most visited National Parks in the United States. The establishment of GRTE was spurred by the desire held by conservationists to expand Yellowstone National Park (located in the northwest corner of Wyoming) south to encompass the  stunning Teton Mountain Range.  Residents of nearby Jackson Wyoming were opposed to expanding Yellowstone but eventually agreed to the establishment of a separate National Park which would protect the Teton Mountain Range and various lakes at the base of the mountains and in the surrounding area. In 1929, President Calvin Coolidge established GRTE.

The Teton Mountain range includes some very unique geology.  Although the Teton Mountains themselves are some of the youngest mountains on the planet, the bedrock of the mountains protected in GRTE contain some of the oldest rocks in North America.  Additionally, there is ample evidence of the Pleistocene Ice Age in the valley floor of GRTE. Popular lakes, such and Jenny Lake and Jackson Lake, were formed by retreating glaciers 14,000 years ago.

Grand Teton in winter (photo by Ashley D’Antonio).

Olympic National Park:

Like GRTE, Olympic National Park (OLYM) is also one of the most visited National Parks in the United States. OLYM is located on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington and is close to such city centers as Seattle, Vancouver, and Portland. Established as a National Monument in 1909 by President Theodore Roosevelt, OLYM was designated as a National Park in 1939 by President Franklin Roosevelt. The park is also unique in that it protects a variety of ecosystems including Pacific coastline, temperate rain forest, and high-alpine mountains.

OLYM is also home to the largest unmanaged herd of  Roosevelt Elk (Cervus canadensis roosevelti).  Roosevelt Elk are the largest of the four subspecies of North American elk and, as you probably guessed, were named after President Theodore Roosevelt.  This unique subspecies of elk live in temperate rain forests and old growth forests. The protection of this species was one of the reasons for the establishment of OLYM and OLYM was actually almost named Elk National Park. Roosevelt Elk have very dark heads and necks and also have the largest antlers of elk species.  The herd found in OLYM currently numbers 5000 individuals.

A Roosevelt Elk – notice the very dark head and neck (photo by Matthew Zalewski used under Creative Commons license).

If you’d like to learn more about these national parks please visit the National Park Service website.

Now to go find myself some yarn to start knitting these shawls!


2 thoughts on “Knitting Meets National Parks

  1. I enjoyed this post. A biologist recently retired from academia, I now have time to knit! I find myself gravitating to yarns that reflect natural colors, such as variegated or tonal reds, blues, and other colors found in the desert. It would be fun to label projects with specific landscapes (or parks), such as my in-progress New Mexico desert socks. I can see a shawl or cowl in the reds and orange hues of the Utah canyon lands. 😉

  2. Macrobe – So glad that you enjoyed this post! I, too, mostly knit with natural colors and tones (although recently I have been drawn to deep, dark purples as well). I’d love to see your finished New Mexico desert socks and a shawl in red/oranges of the Utah red rock country would be absolutely lovely. I may have to keep my eyes out for a variegated yarn with that color scheme. Thanks for sharing your ideas and love of knitting!

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