|Thursday, Jul 5, 2012|
While many Americans celebrated Independence Day by sweating over their backyard barbecues, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO) burned off hundreds of calories by climbing Independence Monument, an iconic sandstone monolith at Colorado National Monument.
This technical ascent, requiring climbing ropes and gear, took several hours, and included a five-mile roundtrip hike.
Upon reaching the 450-foot high summit, Udall joined 16 other rock climbers to hoist a huge American flag while a five-piece brass band performed patriotic tunes for a large crowd from across the canyon.
Udall, 61, was following in the boot prints of John Otto, the monument’s first caretaker, who started the unique flag-raising tradition in 1911. Several park rangers also welcomed visitors to Independence Monument View Overlook, where a computer setup enabled them to see and hear Udall express his enthusiasm for the outdoors and our nation’s freedom via Skype.
“Raising the flag atop Independence Monument at Colorado National Monument was a great way to celebrate the Fourth of July and honor John Otto’s vision.” Udall said. "Independence Day gives us the opportunity to reflect on the members of our armed forces, firefighters and all those who work to protect and preserve what makes the United States so great."
Udall is no novice to Colorado National Monument or rock climbing. An avid mountaineer, he has climbed or attempted some of the world’s most challenging peaks.
After graduating from Williams College in 1972, he moved to Colorado's Western Slope and began a long and successful career with the Colorado Outward Bound School as a course director and educator, then served as the organization’s executive director from 1985 to 1995.
Scores of park visitors celebrated the holiday at the monument. Many of them enjoyed a guided hike with a ranger on Otto’s Trail to watch the climbers ascend Independence.