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Ok Then!

Apologies for the non-post. We were just testing out a new toy (hello! iP*d T*#ch!) to see if mobile blogging would be a possibility as we head south. Waaaay south in a few weeks. And it looks like we have a functional (and free) app. Nice.

So, you may just see a few photos and highlights from some National Parks from a different nation here soon. We are counting the days to our trip to Australia!

Two weeks in Queensland. One week in New South Wales. Not nearly enough time to do all that we’d like to do, but we’ll take what we can get. I can’t tell you how great it feels to pull out our backpacks, tent and camping gear and to see just how many socks and t-shirts we can cram into small spaces. The goal is to get everything we need (bear in mind, we’ll be spanning seasons too) into two carry-ons. Anyone placing bets?

Is this thing on….

We Heart Trails

This weekend, I ventured out on to the trails again. Only this time, I was running.

The 13th Annual Mrs. Smith’s Challenge hosted by the Lancaster Road Runners Club wound its way up and down and around the Lancaster County Central Park. About 200 women scrambled over roots, slid down rocky slopes and squished through some marshy muck, cheering each other on the whole way. I’m not sure that my running mate Annie was as keen on the experience as I was, but even she couldn’t deny the scenic appeal.

“This sucks,” I heard her grunt behind me as we made another ascent. “But it sure is beautiful.”

Now, here’s a little secret. Just between you and me: I don’t run very fast. In fact, Michael equates watching me run with watching an injured animal try to make their way through a mud pit.

Maybe that’s why I’ve got a new crush on trail running – because my stride and my pace fit right in. I don’t get flustered by people passing me on narrow trails – two years of hiking with Michael taught me that. I don’t mind long stretches of just me, my thoughts and the woods either – again, two years with the speed hiker made me appreciate those quiet moments just as much as the friendly chatter that happens when you do come across someone that shares your pace.

During some of those silent moments on the trail this Saturday, of course my mind wandered back to some of my favorite trails from the C2C trip. I wonder what it would have been like to run that one….I wonder which National Park trails are the best ones to run?

I found a special Trails edition of Runner’s World waiting for me at home with some answers. The Spring 2011 RW lists these as its top five (links will take you to our reviews):

  1. Acadia National Park, Maine
  2. Yosemite National Park, California
  3. Mount Rainier National Park, Washington
  4. Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
  5. Zion National Park, Utah

That’s a pretty good list. But I can think of a few more. What’s your favorite National Park trail to run?

I’ll share mine (or what I think they would be) later this week.

**

PS – Happy Mother’s Day, moms. Wishing moms of all kinds a peaceful day today.

People! You have just a little more than 48 hours to cash in on FREE ADMISSION to any National Park in honor of National Park Week, which is April 16-24 this year. What are you waiting for?? Go!!!

And let’s just pretend there was no rain in the forecast* this weekend, gas was free and you could spend this weekend at any National Park you wanted. Where would you go?

Michael’s vote was Big Bend. And as I re-read our review, I see he’s got some great timing:

Weather allows for a small window of opportunity at Big Bend NP. The rains and the summer heat make May through October a sparse time at the Park. November through February can get cold, especially at the high altitudes. Consequently, March and April is the time to visit. These months also coincide with the voluminous bird migrations for which the Park is famous.

Me, I’m in a Canyonlands kind of mood:Canyonlands NP - copyrighted. please don't use without asking us.

The trails and scenery in the Needles District of Canyonlands NP make it an ideal desert hiking park. The hikes around Chesler Park and the Needles all loop and meet. Well-marked wood signs tell you which way to go. The trails are perfect for both day hiking and leisurely overnight treks. Our map shows at least 16 backcountry campsites in the Chesler Park region alone.

What about you? The question really wasn’t meant to be rhetorical? Where would you go? Better yet, where are you going?**

Happy Earth Day!

*and really, don’t let this deter you from taking advantage of National Park Week – there are plenty of indoor attractions in the national park system. Historical sites count. And caves! What about caves?

**Can’t decide? Use our Search function here to have a look around, or, use our Reviews at www.usa-c2c.com which are arranged by geographic region and state to plan your next trip.

When this article popped up in my google reader this week, I have to say I chuckled just a little bit and then wondered, what took them so long?

The flipping of reservations and permits in Yosemite — the third-most-visited national park — is so rampant on Internet sites like Craigslist that park officials are “becoming more aggressive” in trying to shut down these operators, said Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman….A review last week of all 29 Craigslist sites in California revealed dozens of ads peddling prime camp spots during the summer high season, including the coveted Yosemite Valley floor.

In visiting 300+ National Park sites and camping and hiking in most, Yosemite was the only, ONLY one where we had no chance of sleeping anywhere near the park without a reservation prepared months in advance. And this gutted us. I remember this six years later because we actually got some static from another blogger when he came across our original review. (he called us cranky).

The large crowds are a double-edged sword. First the good: Everybody is happy and having tons of fun. Kids are excited and smiles are everywhere, you might as well be at Disneyworld.

Now the bad: The large crowds necessitate advanced planning, especially if you want to spend the night. There are no same day openings from April through October. You NEED to book a campsite five months in advance. Yes, FIVE MONTHS IN ADVANCE. Everyone from Rangers to tourists to the birds above repeated this planning mantra. Since we have not had to plan at any other National Park Site we refused to believe in Yosemite’s exclusivity. Now we believe. Book your lodge and hotel rooms well in advance too.

Do not expect to find you own secret hiking spot in the Yosemite Valley. All ten trails are full of people with varying levels of hiking skills and perfume amounts. Even the very strenuous Half Dome hike (up over 4,000 feet in 9 miles) is full of people, most of them greeting you with warm hellos. Michael first gained his love of hiking here, mostly because of the kind nature of his fellow hikers.

As you can see, we still had a fabulous time, and you probably would too. There is no denying the infectious nature of thousands of people around you all carrying the same “is this cool or what?” silly grin across their faces. Which makes it that much more of a bummer when you have to get into your car and drive an hour plus to find an affordable place to sleep.

Here’s my confession, if Craigslist existed in the days of our USA-C2C trip we would have been one of those people willing to pay twice the price for the privilege of spending the night in a place that stole our hearts and signifies everything beautiful and wondrous about America. Who wouldn’t? Don’t hate the scalpers; think of a way to make this beauty more accessible to those who don’t have five months to plan, who find themselves on a day trip and realize there is so much more about Yosemite that they want to know and see. Don’t punish spontaneity! Especially if it brings you one step closer to understanding the value of our National Parks system.

Perhaps these recent revelations will cause Yosemite to think of some creative ways to accommodate some last-minute campers (like the Grand Canyon, perhaps?) In the meantime, you can always try your luck at the park’s eastern Tuolumne Meadows:

Space in the Tuolumne Meadows campground is just as scarce as it is in the Yosemite Valley. But, unlike the Valley, there are options. There are ample, first-come, first-served campsites just east of the Park’s eastern entrance, near Lee Vining, Calif. We spent the day in Yosemite, retreated outside of the Park boundary and away from the crowds at night, relaxed and watched the Perseid Meteor Shower.

It’s…..

The day before my birthday. And as you know, I am all about extending the celebration for a few days.

This year’s birthday weekend will be spent seeing this band in this city at a venue that just happens to be steps away from this National Historical Park. And in between visits to the Monk’s Cafe and seeing a very loud show, I am guessing I will know where to find Mr. Seed, who can’t resist a National Park site if it is within viewing range.

I wonder how much has changed since our first USA-C2C visit 5 years ago. We’ll be sure to let you know.

What better way to spend it than reading about the site of an important Revolutionary War battle where, on October 7, 1780, a ragtag force of Scots-Irish Appalachian mountain men obliterated the Loyalist battalion led by flashy British Maj. Patrick Ferguson?

Who doesn’t love Scots-Irish Appalachian mountain men?

A Legitimate Question

I was having a conversation with someone the other day and they asked a very legitimate question, “where are you?”

liberty bell

liberty bell

Michael and I have been residing in Harrisburg, PA since we ended our trip in December 2005, just a few months ahead of schedule. Bags were unpacked, the ‘Tima got a car wash, items were pulled out of storage and a new home was found (a few blocks away from the old one).

Since then, one of us went back to work, one of us found a new job, we both wrote for a few other places, and in between we’ve gone back to some of our favorite park sites to give them a second look, like Independence Hall National Historical Park, the Liberty Bell and our beloved Thaddeus Kosciuszko National Memorial.

New sites were given National Park site designations since we created our original list, like the Carter G. Woodson House National Historic Site in Washington D.C. This was one of our final stops, but our visit was still a little premature. The African Burial Grounds National Memorial in New York is another newbie we have to add to our “still to see” list.

Did we reach our goal of Every. Single. NPS site in the Continental United States?

Almost.

Did we reach our goal of rediscovering America and answering the question, “what, exactly, does it mean to be American?”

We’re not sure if America ever becomes a static answer, or if the discovery ever ends. We found a lot of different answers, and had the time of our lives trying.

And it ain’t over yet.

It’s Been How Long?

Too long.

Last summer, Michael took pains to transfer all of our posts from www.usa-c2c.com over here to their new home. And they’re almost all here. We had big plans. We would post every day! We said. We would stay up to date on National Park news and add our two cents. We affirmed. Well, things happen.

But now we are back. And just in time to get ready to celebrate that day we set off to see all of the National Park locations 5 years ago.

Wow.

Since then so many of you shared your stories with us, talked about your own plans to travel to the National Parks, shared your travel tips and road rules and hopefully now have a smooth USA-C2C long-sleeved T-shirt to show for it. Thanks so much for keeping in touch. And letting us know that www.usa-c2c.com was a resource for you. Because that was the hope.

www.usa-c2c.com is still there. Still up and running. But we’ll be focusing most of our attention here, at NationalParksOnline.net, where there is an easier search, a way to leave comments and all kinds of bells and whistles we didn’t have with the site we started so long ago.

For those who are keeping track, there are still a few sites left to see, still some more stories to tell.

What? You didn’t think we told you everything on the road, did you?

Welcome (or welcome back) to NationalParksOnline.net.

Our Island50-foot diameter, perfect circular shape. Circumference dotted with large granite boulders. Surrounding our circle is a range of the bluest waters imaginable. Deep royals, rich navys, distant cornflowers, and endless azures. Our circle rises with only slight symmetrical convexity from which sprout dozens of fragrant evergreen trees. A padded pine leaf surface provides our base, downed wood provides our warmth. For this weekend this is our island, this is our Minnesota world.

Voyageurs National Park is an endless wilderness of water. Its lakes feel more like oceans than ponds. The water runs deep and the sky is endless. There’s no hiking here. Land exists as a border, a barrier. We explore via two-person canoe, like the fur-trapping french canadian voyageurs before us. Our bags sit in between us two paddlers. We travel wherever the water takes us. Our only fixed destination is one of the Park’s many campsite that dot the border landscapes. Our first day’s journey will zig zag from campground to campground looking for an empty nest.

We arrive at each campground too late. Our binoculars show no openings. Each haven is occupied by a motorboat working with far more horsepower than our tired triceps. Each site brings another failure. It’s starting to get late. We’re still in our canoe. Our tensions rise and the arguments ensue.

Then she appears: our island. She looks flat, she looks empty, she looks secluded, she looks safe. She’s not official but she looks all right to us. Others have been here before. Perhaps last week perhaps last month. A brass marker proves she’s been surveyed by the U.S. Geological Service. But she is ours now.

We relax and the worry dissipates. We’ve been canoeing all day but this is the first time we’ve taken in our surroundings: it’s beautiful. We sunbathe on our rocky shore and watch the sun set for what seems like hours. Bald eagles fly overhead. We spot a moose swimming from island to island. The next day, we sleep in until the rain stops. We only leave to explore the neighboring islands looking for firewood.

That fire never happens. Black skies come rushing toward us almost as quickly as the motorboats scurry to get back to their campsites. A downpour is coming. We collect our things and jump in the tent the second before the heavens open. Our tent is being whipped by sudden bursts of wind; our weight is the only thing holding it down. We sneak a peak outside a see ferocious whitecaps and a threatening darkness. Twenty minutes later the skies clear, the waters calm and a phenomenal sunset captures the world.

“Could we stay on our deserted island forever?” we wonder. Maybe if we had remembered our fishing rods.