On this holiday weekend, numerous federal employees are on the job, and many are in out-of-the-way places.
Take the Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, west of Colorado Springs, in the shadow of Pikes Peak. Or the Fossil Butte National Monument, on the high desert near Kemmerer, Wyo.
At those elevations, it is America the beautiful.
National Park Service employees at Florissant and Fossil Butte -- fewer than 20 total -- will be greeting visitors who want a break from the hubbub of daily life. For many of those visitors, there's nothing better than a summer hike or an easy walk down a trail maintained by the Park Service.
"We'll have some extended hikes scheduled for the Fourth of July weekend," said Jeff Mow, the superintendent at Florissant. "When a lot of people come here, they are looking for that natural experience."
Florissant is the site of a 37 million-year-old lake bed. It was formed after a volcano exploded, killing much of a redwood forest and capturing for all time remnants of prehistoric life.
David McGinnis, the Fossil Butte superintendent, said this weekend probably will be busy at his park, with visitors spending three to four hours walking among rocks that contain fossils of plants and animals from a lake that covered the area 50 million years ago.
On the park's two major trails, he said, hikers will see moose, deer, antelope and other animals. Indoors, visitors can see three bats on display -- the oldest bats in the fossil record come from Fossil Butte, McGinnis said.
McGinnis, a Colorado native, has worked for more than 15 years at the park, established in 1972. Mow, who grew up in Southern California, has been superintendent at Florissant, designated a monument in 1969, since February 2003.
The two national monuments are among the world's premier paleontological sites, and McGinnis and Mow take great pride that fossils from the parks are in the Smithsonian and other museums around the world.
"We probably have greater international recognition than national recognition," Mow said of Florissant.
Although Florissant's rocks have been examined countless times, "as new technologies for looking at fossils come along, people come back and revisit . . . and discover new aspects," he said.
For many western parks, July often turns into the busiest month of the year. It is the start of the tourist season, and the start of the fire season.
On this holiday weekend, "Rangers will be working in campgrounds, patrolling rivers and roads, and in the back country on trails," said Jackie Skaggs, spokeswoman for Grand Teton National Park. "The campgrounds will be full; the hotels will be full."
Last month, park rangers conducted their third major search and rescue in Grand Teton this year. A 35-year-old mountain climber from New York City suffered multiple injuries when he fell 150 to 200 feet on a snowfield and had to be rescued by helicopter.
July is usually a big month for rescues, Skaggs said. Last summer, for example, a group of 13 climbers was struck by lightning. One was killed, and five others were injured. The rescue involved dozens of Park Service employees and two helicopters.
This is the month that park employees also step up fire watches. A few weeks ago, firefighters extinguished the first wildfire in the Grand Teton park this year.
The superintendents at Florissant, about 6,000 acres in a mountain valley, and at Fossil Butte, about 8,200 acres of mostly desert landscape, expect to have a relatively peaceful holiday weekend.
At the top of Fossil Butte, McGinnis said, visitors see about a million acres of federal land held by the Bureau of Land Management. "So the park looks bigger than it is. You see a lot of geology around you. You don't see many roads or telephone poles.
"It's a wide-open landscape out here."
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