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Feb 24th
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Cheyenne Frontier Days, the world's largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration, opens July 22, 2011 and organizers promise 10 days of fun and excitement, with evening entertainment provided by a range of top artists such as Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Darius Rucker and Mötley Crüe.

Marking its 115th anniversary, Cheyenne Frontier Days (CFD) will run July 22-31, and the Wyoming extravaganza will feature parades, Native American dancing and storytelling, a carnival midway and a performance by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds air demonstration team.
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When considering booking a tour operator as you plan a visit to a national park there are a number of considerations to protect yourself.
We asked Jo Pendry, Chief of the National Park Service Concession Program, and her staff to provide our readers with some tips they can use to pick a tour operator, such as rafting or horseback guides. Here are their suggestions for you.

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If you are thinking about a snow-style winter vacation, think about visiting a National Park. There are a large variety of winter activities available to visitors, and whether you want snow, or even desert sun, the National Park Service (NPS) can offer both.

The following is a list we assembled from the National Park Service of places in the West you might consider, starting with Alaska. Check back often with us as we get nearer to winter for more information, as some of the National Parks have yet to post their winter events. As we receive their event offerings we'll post them for you.
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One of the most popular trails in the West, Island Trail at Walnut Canyon National Monument just outside Flagstaff, Arizona, has reopened after being closed since December 2007 due to rock slides.

Two separate rock falls occurred at Walnut Canyon National Monument, depositing a 49-ton boulder, several other large rocks, and 100 additional tons of debris on the primary trail, causing extensive damage. The rock falls completely blocked and damaged the trail, stairs, handrails, and a bench.
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True, it might be the symbol for energy and excess, but Houston retains a flavor of the old West that can be a surprise for visitors. For among the glass-encased high-rises standing in testimony to the oil patch's wealth, there are vestiges of the real West.

Take Ninfa's; it's a local Mexican restaurant that is widely credited for popularizing fajitas, a Tex-Mex dish of meat and veg, typically served on a sizzling platter.
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Maybe you know Moab, Utah for its beautiful scenery, proximity to Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, and outdoor recreational opportunities. Moab has been the destination of choice for spring, summer and fall adventure.

Few fans of the West, however, have experienced Moab's beauty as a scenic winter wonderland and playland for winter sports enthusiasts. It's Moab's special secret for snow country travelers.
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When asked to write this blog by old friend and colleague Mike Harris our first thought  was "cool." We saw a chance to express ourselves and chat with you about issues that concern all of us who love the West and find it an endless fascinating place to explore.

But then we thought of the reality of the West today. As boomers we've watched the West change faster than any part of North America.
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Twelve trails in six Western states have been designated as new National Recreation Trails, a decision made by Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne to help mark the 40th Anniversary of the National Trails System.

The Western states, Arizona, Iowa, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota and Texas, are among a total of 16 states that had 24 trails selected for inclusion in the National Trails System. The inclusion of the 24 trails adds more than 1,100 miles of trails to the National Trails System.
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Members of a tour group to Yellowstone National Park may have thought they were getting a really close view of Old Faithful, but what they ended up getting were citations for walking on the cone of the world's most famous geyser.

Park rangers said it was an individual from Wisconsin who called them April 27, 2011 after watching the situation unfold on the Old Faithful live streaming web cam. When the first park ranger arrived on the scene Wednesday evening, she found approximately 30 visitors off the boardwalk, standing around the cone of the geyser taking photographs.
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Grand Canyon Railway is now accepting reservations for its highly popular Polar Express train excursions to the "North Pole" to meet Santa Claus, the company said, and will be changing departure times to help ease congestion.

"We made these changes as a result of comments from our Polar Express guests in previous years," said Angela Berrigan, vice president of sales and marketing for the Grand Canyon Railway, located in Williams, Ariz. west of Flagstaff, Ariz. "Moving the times up and allowing an extra half hour in between runs will reduce congestion at the depot."
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Yosemite National Park's Tioga Road opened for summer season vehicle traffic May 7, 2012, but rangers urge visitors to take safety precautions while traveling on the road.

Due to a light snowpack this past winter (approximately 50 percent of normal), the Tioga Road was able to be cleared of snow early into the summer season.
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With spring quickly approaching, Colorado Ski Country USA (CSCUSA) resorts are preparing to welcome guests for skiing and riding by offering money saving deals and crowd pleasing events.

Spring skiers and riders can find bargains on lessons, lodging, concerts, and ski passes. Some resorts are even offering free skiing and 2-for-1 passes with resort reciprocation.
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After a three-week shutdown to allow for extensive renovations to be completed, the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park has reopened. Restaurants, shops, public spaces, and most of the guest rooms are again available to the public.

The hotel actually reopened March 17, 2011, but a monster snowstorm on March 19-20 knocked out power to the park and closed all roads. Power was restored March 26 and the roads reopened.
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Who were the people who lived at the Grand Canyon thousands of years ago? How did they survive? What did they do?

In a remarkable exhibit highlighting archaeological excavations that took place between 2007 and 2009 along the Colorado River, visitors to Grand Canyon National Park now through Sept. 7, 2011 will get a unique look at the Native American peoples who lived in the majestic canyon.

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After more than two years of construction and development, the History Colorado Center in Denver is now open to the public.

Designed to ignite imaginations of all ages, this 200,000-square-foot, $110.8 million museum treats visitors to a rich experience of exhibits and programs blending technology, media, environments and artifacts.
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North Dakota's state historic sites will open or expand hours for the 2012 summer season, beginning May 16 and continuing through Sept. 15.

The historic sites opening for the season include Gingras Trading Post near Walhalla; Fort Abercrombie, and its interpretive center, near Fargo and Wahpeton; Fort Clark Trading Post near Washburn; and Whitestone Hill near Kulm.
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The National Park Service will reopen the South Kaibab Trail to mule and stock use within Grand Canyon National Park beginning May 15, 2011, at levels approved in the park's new stock use plan.

The trail had been closed to mule and stock use during a reconstruction project to improve the condition of the trail for bother hikers and mule users alike. The new stock plan is dated Jan. 5, 2011.
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Phase II of the improvements called for in the Grand Canyon National Park's South Rim Visitor Transportation Plan/Environmental Assessment (Transportation Plan) are now substantially complete; and Mather Point and the Visitor Center plaza areas have reopened for public use.

In May of 2008, a Finding of No Significant Impact for the Transportation Plan was signed by the Regional Director for the Intermountain Region of the National Park Service (NPS).
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A presentation by two noted historians and a performance by the Old Arizona Brass Band this month will help Fort Bowie National Historic Site near Willcox, Arizona mark the 150th anniversary of the Old West fort.

Originally established in 1862, Fort Bowie was built during the decades-long conflict between the U.S. military and the Chiricahua Apaches.
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A surprise bus inspection at Yosemite National Park in California June 8-9, 2011 resulted in citations being issued to more than half of the vehicles gone over, and five buses being taken out of service.

A multi-agency task force made up of members from the California Highway Patrol (CHP), the San Francisco Police Department, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the California Public Utility Commission inspected a total of 56 buses at the park.
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