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Archive for October, 2004

Lone Pine, Calif.
Visited: October 15, 2004
NPS Site Visited: Not an NPS Site
National Forest Website; Mount Whitney Info

 Mt. Whitney WHAT IS IT?
The eastern gateway to the top of Mount Whitney, the tallest point in the lower 48 states.

BEAUTY (10/10)
The Inyo National Forest must be the inspiration for wall murals and Bob Ross-type paintings around the world. It is easy to see why artists want to capture this beauty. Our campsite was positioned next to a gurgling stream surrounded by trees still holding on to their multi-hued fall foliage. Mount Whitney and its neighboring peaks loomed large in the distance, looking much closer than they actually are.

Sunrise showed Whitney in all its glory. Sunset lit up the barren foothills in oranges and reds. The night sky was even better. We have never seen stars like this. Camping usually puts us in our sleeping bags by nine o’clock. The brilliant field of stars, practically unspoiled by city lights made us want to stay out all night.

Another camper told us that when his friend saw Lone Pine Lake, she said she felt like she was in another world. We dismissed these exclamations until we got to the glacier lake ourselves. Another world indeed.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (4/10)
Mount Whitney Portal is part of the John Muir Wilderness, 100 miles of Sierra Nevada peaks and valleys protected under the Wilderness Act of 1964. The California Wilderness Act expanded the area which now totals 581,143 acres.

The John Muir Wilderness is one of the most heavily visited wildernesses in the United States. A lottery for permits was reinstated in 2000 to manage the vast number of people who want to experience the highest peak (14,496 ft) in the Continental U.S.

CROWDS (4/10)
Folks hiking along the Mount Whitney Trail were not as friendly as we are accustomed. Wearing only our daypacks, we even got scowls from some backpackers feeling the strain of the upward climb. As in, “you have no idea how hard this is.” A.) We do; B.) Don’t take your over-exertion out on us; and C.) Chill out. Relax. Look around you. This place is beautiful!

Perhaps we were still on a high from our Grand Canyon experience, but we didn’t appreciate the negativity on the trail, especially since we always gave loaded packers the right of way.

Starting the TrailEASE OF USE/ACCESS (1/5)
Numerous Rangers told us that, “comparatively speaking, Mt. Whitney is rather accessible.” Compared to what, Mt. McKinley in Alaska? The town of Lone Pine, near the Mount Whitney access point, is almost 120 miles north of the town of Mojave along U.S. Route 395. It is then a further 90 miles until you get to Interstate 5 and the Los Angeles sprawl of the San Fernando Valley. The Sierra Nevada Mountains have always been an effective terrific travel barrier.

Perhaps the Rangers meant that it does not take advanced mountaineering skill to get to the top of Mt. Whitney. Even so, getting a permit to hike up the side of the mountain is no guarantee. Because of the ascent’s popularity, strict limits have been placed on the number of people allowed on the mountain’s side. Unless you have a permit, you are only allowed to hike up 2.8 miles from the Mt. Whitney trailhead to Lone Pine Lake.

We asked about a Mt. Whitney permit and we met with similar responses to our Grand Canyon inquires. See our review for more info. First-come, first-served permits seemed to be available.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (1/5)
The Inyo National Forest Ranger station is all about issuing permits and taking care of administrative business. There is no gift shop.

COSTS (4/5)
Our campsite was an affordable $8 on weeknights. $10 for Friday and Saturday. There is no charge to hike as far as Lone Pine Lake. Going further requires a permit, which is $15 per person per trip into the Whitney Zone of the protected Wilderness area.

Other campgrounds in the Inyo National Forest vary in price from $14 to free for those that are out of season or have no potable water or facilities (meaning toilets).

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (3/5)
We met three Forest Rangers at the Inter Agency Visitor Center in the town of Lone Pine. They seemed well equipped to handle the minimal crowd late in the summer season.

This National Forest is divided into two zones, each with two Ranger Stations. We didn’t go far enough into the forest to encounter any of these outposts.

TOURS/CLASSES (3/10)
No tours or classes were offered at the Lone Pine campground. The Inter Agency VC in Lone Pine had plenty of free maps and single page guides to wildlife, birds and plants of the area, but not much more.

At the Mt. Whitney trailhead are a series of large outdoor panels, listing the distances and altitudes of points along the trail, helpful tips and reminders for hikers, a scale for you to weigh your backpack, and two pictures of a popular high elevation rest stop. The first picture shows clear skies, sunshine and what looks to be a relatively mild day. The second snapshot shows the same area covered in windblown snow and icy rain. The photographs were taken on the same day, within hours of each other. Lesson learned. While on Mt. Whitney, be prepared and don’t take anything for granted.

FUN (9/10)
We enjoyed hiking, watching an amazing display of shooting stars two nights in a row and relaxing by a sunny creek bed without ever getting too far from the conveniences of Lone Pine. We hardly even strayed from our original route. We owe Ranger Alisa at Manzanar NHS our thanks for being insistent that we check out Inyo NF.

Lake ViewWOULD WE RECOMMEND? (9/10)
National Forests are not officially part of our itinerary for this trip. Not because they lack in beauty or importance; simply because we had to limit the scope. There is only so much one can do in two years. Mount Whitney Portal in the Inyo National Forest is worth making an exception. This place is beautiful. The campgrounds are inexpensive and comfortable. Last minute permits to hike to the top of Mount Whitney are not impossible to get. We opted not to go to Yosemite, Kings Canyon or Sequoia NPs this month since the weather gets pretty unpredictable in the higher altitudes. If they are anything like what we’ve seen on this side of the Sierras, we can’t wait to go.

Note: Turns out we made the right decision when we chose to stay at a lower altitude. Days after we decided not to seek a permit to summit the crest of Mt. Whitney, several hikers were stranded in the Inyo NF due to a surprise snow storm. That same storm left two climbers dead in Yosemite. Yet another reminder that no matter who you are, Mother Nature always has the upper hand.

TOTAL 48/80

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near Independence, Calif.
Visited: October 14, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 113 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

GymnasiumWHAT IS IT?
Manzanar NHS remembers the forceful detainment of ten of thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. Manzanar was the site of one of ten “War Relocation Centers”.

BEAUTY (6/10)
If Japanese Americans had freedom of movement in and out of the camp, and had actually chosen to be there, Manzanar might have been an idyllic place. It is hard to appreciate the grandeur of the Sierra Nevadas and the peaceful valley oasis when it is so far away from the home and life you made for yourself along the West Coast. Residents of Manzanar did as much as they could to beautify their hastily constructed surroundings. Remains of orchards and rock gardens still remain.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (8/10)
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were singled out as the most visible threat to national security. War Relocation Centers, authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, allowed for the relocation of 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent from the Coastal cities of the United States. Two-thirds of those interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth. Most of those kept here were not enemy combatants or aliens; they were American citizens. A good number of the remaining one-third had lived in the U.S. for years but were denied citizenship through law.

Manzanar was in use from March 1942 until three months after the Japanese surrender in November 1945. At its population peak, over ten-thousand people lived in the 500-acre housing area.

CROWDS (8/10)
We pulled into the parking lot as a caravan of antique cars were being admired by site visitors and staff alike. The car tour had thought enough of Manzanar NHS to stop, as did a fair number of tourists. Manzanar probably benefits from its location on a main road connecting the Inyo National Forest and Mount Whitney Portal to Death Valley NP and Mammoth Lakes, a popular resort area.

The Site’s Interpretive Center is located in the Relocation Center’s renovated auditorium. Space was so well appointed that visitors, and later a large group from a nearby community college, could move about the exhibits, never feeling rushed or cramped.

Manzanar NHS, like the Truman Presidential Library, has a large guest book where visitors can log their comments about the Site and the events it memorializes. Whereas reading the Truman book made Gab cry, flipping the pages of Manzanar’s guest book gave us hope for a more understanding America. The crowds at Manzanar NHS affected our visit in a positive way.

Manzanar MemorialEASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5)
Manzanar NHS is located directly off U.S. Highway 395, 9 miles north of Lone Pine, California. The Site is 50 miles from the western entrance to Death Valley NP and 100 miles south of Mammoth Lakes, California. One can also access Yosemite NP by continuing for 50 miles north on the same road. It took us almost 4 hours to reach Manzanar from Los Angeles.

The Interpretive Center just opened in April 2004. The building is fully accessible. The grounds of Manzanar are viewed by taking a self-guided auto tour.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (5/5)
Excellent. A huge assortment of books ranging from first person narratives about life at Manzanar to essays opposed to and in defense of the use of detainment filled the shelves in an open, well-lit, friendly space. Some unexpected titles included Japanese language books, how-to origami books and sushi cookbooks. Non-book items included posters, tea sets, dishware, original paintings and children’s games that would have been popular at Manzanar.

If there was a particular title that they happened to be missing, the Manzanar NHS staff told us they would be happy to order it and have it shipped wherever we would like. In fact, they were eager to hear suggestions of what else they might include. We could not think of anything.

COSTS (4/5)
There is no charge to visit Manzanar NHS.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (3/5)
Only one Ranger, a volunteer and an employee of Western National running the bookstore were on hand to accommodate the crowd. All were in the auditorium and eager to answer questions. We encountered one of the most helpful Rangers ever, but felt a little guilty taking up so much of her time when she was the only Ranger available. More staff would compliment the wonderfully done Interpretive Center.

TOURS/CLASSES (10/10)
The key to Manzanar NHS is its tremendous Interpretive Center. The 8,000-sqaure foot Museum is located inside the Relocation Center’s auditorium. Graduations, plays and dances all took place here. Now it serves as a remembrance to a regretful period in American history. The visit begins with an even-handed, touching film centered on present-day interviews of former internees. The typical ups and downs of daily life are recounted: gardening, baseball games, high-school dances and friendship. In the face of forcible detainment and a complete loss of property and former life, those at Manzanar forged ahead and made the most of their lives behind the barbed wire and under the guard towers. Suitably, the first exhibit outside of the theatre is a to-scale model replica of the entire Relocation Center made shortly before the Museum’s opening by the 1942-1945 graduates of Manzanar High School.

One-half of the Museum personalizes the journey even further. You are given a Japanese American identification tag upon entry and come to understand what it was like to be that person. How did the experience at Manzanar change your life? The answers are amazing and the journey of discovery through the Museum is stirring. One display shows what it was like to be a child at Manzanar with period toys and schoolbooks. This exhibit is addressed not to adults but to child visitors. A short mirror, only tall enough for someone shorter than 5’ 0”, stands with a placard reading, “what were people at Manzanar like?” The unsaid answer: just like you.

A ReminderThe other half of the Museum looks at the broader history of the Relocation Centers, the Constitutional miscarriages and the modern-day relevance of the Site. It is a reminder that this is living history; it can and may be happening today. We must be vigilant in our defense of the Constitution and must fight to ensure that there is no place in America for the curbing of Civil Liberties. That is what freedom is all about.

FUN (8/10)
We did not expect to have fun at Manzanar NHS. We expected dour reminders of our nation’s wrongs. We expected to learn and leave in a troubled mood. These unavoidable emotions were elicited but trumped by a deep respect and admiration of those interred. The Site emphasizes the people affected just as much as the policies that affected them. It emphasized their heroic responses to their unjust and unconstitutional circumstances. This is their Museum; it is their story. We are thankful that NPS worked so closely with individuals whose lives were changed; thankful that those individuals chose to share memories that perhaps they’d rather forget.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (10/10)
The Museum at Manzanar NHS is a masterwork in design, content and experience. It should serve as a blueprint for future historic museums.

TOTAL 65/80

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Tuzigoot National Monument

near Clarkdale, Ariz.
Visited: October 9, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 110 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Tuzigoot DownhillWHAT IS IT?
Remnants of a multiple story southern Sinagua Indian village that contained at least 75 rooms. Archeologists believe that the Sinagua inhabited the village for 300 years, from the years 1100 to 1400.

BEAUTY (7/10)
Tuzigoot NM is larger but not as well preserved as the monument that shares its brochure – Montezuma Castle NM. If Montezuma Castle is a condo, Tuzigoot is a multi-level sprawling ranch house with extensions. Ruins of this expanded pueblo blends into the red rocky ground that surrounds it.

Like all prime real estate, Tuzigoot is built atop a hill, offering an unobstructed view of the land in all directions, and is not far from water. Builders of Tuzigoot had the right idea. New homes and partly constructed mansions blossom on all of the neighboring hills. As we were taking in the sunshine from Tuzigoot’s open rooftop, we thought this might not be a bad place to live.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (7/10)
Much of the culture that built Tuzigoot and other neighboring structures remains a mystery, at least to us. We do know that up to 250 people inhabited Tuzigoot in the 1300s, the height of the Sinaguan culture. Residents of Tuzigoot and other pueblos in this area abandoned their homes and moved out of the Verde Valley just one century later.

Tuzigoot could have been a trading hub, since artifacts and architectural elements are not limited to one geographical region. Macaws held significance to the people living here – remains of these beautiful birds are buried and preserved as well as their owners. This is about all we can tell you. This is more than we knew when we arrived.

CROWDS (7/10)
Lots of people here. We arrived as a tour was forming outside the Visitor Center. We shared a walk around the monument with about 30 people. All of them respectfully curious, like us, trying to understand a little better the people who once lived here.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5)
Tuzigoot NM is a short 15-mile drive from Montezuma Castle NM and Montezuma Well, both of which lie just off I-17. Sedona and Red Rock State Park are 25 miles northeast of Tuzigoot using ALT 89.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (2/5)
The bookstore is not the crowning gem of Tuzigoot NM. Nothing that separates the selection from those at other Arizona sites, also managed by the Western National Parks Association. No memorable knickknacks, other than some cool magnets.

COSTS (3/5)
Entrance to the site is $3.00 per adult. Children 16 and under are free, as are those with a National Parks Pass. We were able to join the just-starting tour, as were several other people, first and show our pass or pay admission after it finished. A nice courtesy.

Tuzigoot RangerRANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (4/5)
A Ranger-led tour, Rangers inside the museum and volunteers roaming the ruins checking to see if visitors had any questions. Oh if only the other sites we had visited in the past few days had this! What a difference it makes. We left those sites frustrated and confused, questioning why they were even historical sites. We left Tuzigoot feeling like time here was time well-spent. We left with questions answered and a desire to know more about the people called Sinagua and the Hopi, people who consider this an ancestral site.

TOURS/CLASSES (8/10)
By the time we got to Tuzigoot, we were getting pretty sick of the standard “No one really knows who these people were, why they came here and why they left” mantra. We heard it from volunteers, saw it on interpretive signs and in pamphlets and brochures at all of the Sinagua sites, as if this disclaimer should sufficiently quiet all of out questions and make us stop bugging staff. Just look at the ruins and move on.

At Tuzigoot, we were lucky enough to find a Ranger that was willing to share everything he did know and even better, who wasn’t afraid to say he didn’t know when an answer escaped him. Not “no one knows,” but he didn’t know.

Our hour tour ended on the roof of the partly reconstructed pueblo ruin. We spent another hour up there probing Jose for more information. It was clear that Tuzigoot and the Sinagua intrigued him as much as it did us and that he had done considerable research on his own, trying to find the same answers we were. We talked about the other sites, the logistics of reconstructing ruins and the issues around collaborating with not one, but several Indian tribes on archeological projects and interpretation of artifacts.

Tuzigoot is still a sacred site for Hopi, and many disagree with the unearthing of pottery shards and burial items of people they consider to be their ancestors. Jose talked about the fine balance between respecting and researching the site, particularly since remains of Sinagua were found encased in the walls of the central room of the pueblo, which we were standing above. Our conversation with Jose led Gab to finally ask:

“Is it possible that the Hopi know exactly why the Sinagua left and they just don’t want to tell us?”

“Anything is possible.”

There is only one guided tour daily at 11 am. Plan your visit to get there in time for the only tour given throughout all of the Sinagua sites (Montezuma Castle NM, Wupatki NM, Sunset Crater Volcano NM and Walnut Canyon NM).

FUN (8/10)
Walking in the sunshine, behind a smart and funny tour guide who held the whole crowd captive with his explanations, on a trail that took us right up to and inside the ruins themselves. Maybe we’re nerds, but at a historical site, it doesn’t get much better than this.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (8/10)
If you can get to only one National Parks historical site around Flagstaff and Sedona, make it this one. What the bookstore lacks is made up for in the array of artifacts at the museum and in the knowledge and availability of the Rangers. Go to Tuzigoot NM then have lunch in the historic town of Jerome, which is perched on the side of a nearby mountain. We wished we were hungry as we drove through its steep winding streets lined with good-smelling restaurants and cafés.

TOTAL 57/80

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Outer Banks, N.C.
Visited: October 16, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 262 of 353
NPS Website

LookoutWHAT IS IT?
56 miles of uninhabited North Carolina barrier island seashore reachable only via privately run ferries. You need to track down those boaters on your own with information available in and around the towns of Ocracoke, Harker’s Island and Atlantic.

We cannot lie. We visited the Harker’s Island Visitor Center and stayed on the mainland. Any ratings would be purely speculative. The video made the Seashore look very pretty and very remote. Ponies roam the beach, mosquitoes swarm and the traveler is on their own.

The introductory video at the Visitor Center had footage of boaters, anglers, off-roaders in big trucks and people in RVs camping out on the beach. We asked the Rangers what kind of people went out to the Seashore – Locals? Vacationers? Day trippers? Hard-core campers? “Everyone,” was their reply. We could not decide if being stranded on the island with such seemingly hearty lot would be really fun or really not fun.

The number of Rangers equaled the number of visitors in the VC at any given time. Said Rangers also stated that more Rangers staff the Island. The mainland VC’s telescope was not strong enough to confirm their existence.

Should you go? If our first paragraph failed to spark you interest, the answer is probably no. We were not in the mood and we think you MUST be in the mood to travel to Cape Lookout.

Lookout

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near Camp Verde, Ariz.
Visited: October 9, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 109 of 353
NPS Website

Montezuma CastleWHAT IS IT?
An almost fully intact five-story twenty-room 12th-century southwestern Indian building constructed on the side of a limestone cliff. The Site also includes Montezuma Well, a limestone sinkhole that provided the Sinagua people with a desert oasis for hundreds of years.

BEAUTY (7/10)
Montezuma Castle is imposing, mysterious and completely natural. It is an apartment complex tucked into the side of a cliff that has bravely fought erosion for almost 1,000 years. The building looks as if it has been carved out its surrounding walls. Montezuma Castle looks perfectly organic and no more out of the ordinary than the swallows’ nests that line the cliffs.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (4/10)
Montezuma Castle has nothing to do with Aztec emperor Montezuma. Settlers assumed that the astounding structures was so incredible that it had to have been related to the “more-advanced” culture of the south. While the people of the region had trade-relations with the Aztec nation, this building is completely unrelated.

The enigmatic Sinagua people built Montezuma Castle. Little is known about these people and little is taught at the National Park Sites dedicated to them. No one knows what historical significance this Site might have enjoyed.

CROWDS (5/10)
Our jaws dropped at first glance of the full parking lot. Numerous RV’s, bus tours, Harley’s and many rentals. We did not expect to run into many people. The Museum was unbearably full but the paved trail to the cliff dwellings was surprisingly sparse. We had no trouble snapping the obligatory photos. We even had a pleasant conversation with two fellow tourists from back east.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (4/5)
Montezuma Castle is less than a mile from Interstate 17, Exit 289. It is about 50 miles south of Flagstaff and 90 miles north of Phoenix. The trail that leads to the Castle is paved and easily accessible. For preservation’s sake, there is no access into the cliff dwellings.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5)
50% of the titles in the bookstore seemed to be aimed towards children. Even though we weren’t the demographic the store was seeking, we appreciated the signs that highlighted staff favorites and award-winning stories. There was little to elaborate on the Sinagua or the significance of what we were here to see. The store itself had two parts – a crowded cul-de-sac for the books and a larger kiosk with souvenirs and gifts.

Another View COSTS (3/5)
Entrance is $3 per person or free with the National Parks Pass.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5)
Midday Saturday, full parking lot, a perfect, sunny 80 degrees outside and only two Rangers, both perched securely behind the desk collecting entrance fees. Our questions as well as our compliments of the Park’s superb photo collection were met with brush offs. Our favorite dismissal was, “Yes, the pictures are nice. They were taken at Tuzigoot NM. They have a talented Ranger there.” After four straight highly disappointing Native American related Arizona parks, we hope that there is a talented Ranger somewhere.

TOURS/CLASSES (2/10)
The newly remodeled Museum does not use its space wisely. The exhibits are stuffed together, the sightlines are low and the traffic is not handled well. The museum shares the same drawbacks as the three Flagstaff sites. The history is not explained well, questions inevitably are raised, there is no one there to help and frustration results.

A full wall displays a timeline that shows what was happening in the rest of the world when Montezuma Castle was built. The realization that the erection of these meager cliff dwellings coincided with the building of the Gothic Cathedrals at Chartres and Notre Dame stirred up a disturbing amount of cultural superiority/bigotry that we thought were sufficiently suppressed. Of course, the museum makes an unfair comparison; one is art, the other is an apartment complex. Perhaps the intention is to educate, but the exhibit’s result is to disparage the wonder that you are about to see as well as the people who built it.

Money and staffing shortage allow for no Ranger talks.

FUN (3/10)
We were disappointed that we could not go anywhere near the dwellings but we understand. We did not have fun at the Museum but viewing Montezuma Castle was a treat.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (5/10)
Montezuma Castle is so easily accessible from Interstate 17 and such an amazing example of natural architecture that it merits a visit. You don’t need to spend much time to take in the Site. There are no tours, the Museum is sub-par and you cannot go into the dwellings. So you leave the highway, park, flash the National Parks Pass, go outside, look at Montezuma Castle, take a few pictures, take in the surroundings (if you’d like) and go back to your car. In and out in 20 minutes, max. Quick fun should not be a selling point for an American treasure but Montezuma Castle is what it is.

TOTAL 37/80

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near Independence, Calif.
Visited: October 14, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 113 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

GymnasiumWHAT IS IT?
Manzanar NHS remembers the forceful detainment of ten of thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent during World War II. Manzanar was the site of one of ten “War Relocation Centers”.

BEAUTY (6/10)
If Japanese Americans had freedom of movement in and out of the camp, and had actually chosen to be there, Manzanar might have been an idyllic place. It is hard to appreciate the grandeur of the Sierra Nevadas and the peaceful valley oasis when it is so far away from the home and life you made for yourself along the West Coast. Residents of Manzanar did as much as they could to beautify their hastily constructed surroundings. Remains of orchards and rock gardens still remain.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (8/10)
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were singled out as the most visible threat to national security. War Relocation Centers, authorized by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 in February 1942, allowed for the relocation of 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent from the Coastal cities of the United States. Two-thirds of those interned at Manzanar were American citizens by birth. Most of those kept here were not enemy combatants or aliens; they were American citizens. A good number of the remaining one-third had lived in the U.S. for years but were denied citizenship through law.

Manzanar was in use from March 1942 until three months after the Japanese surrender in November 1945. At its population peak, over ten-thousand people lived in the 500-acre housing area.

CROWDS (8/10)
We pulled into the parking lot as a caravan of antique cars were being admired by site visitors and staff alike. The car tour had thought enough of Manzanar NHS to stop, as did a fair number of tourists. Manzanar probably benefits from its location on a main road connecting the Inyo National Forest and Mount Whitney Portal to Death Valley NP and Mammoth Lakes, a popular resort area.

The Site’s Interpretive Center is located in the Relocation Center’s renovated auditorium. Space was so well appointed that visitors, and later a large group from a nearby community college, could move about the exhibits, never feeling rushed or cramped.

Manzanar NHS, like the Truman Presidential Library, has a large guest book where visitors can log their comments about the Site and the events it memorializes. Whereas reading the Truman book made Gab cry, flipping the pages of Manzanar’s guest book gave us hope for a more understanding America. The crowds at Manzanar NHS affected our visit in a positive way.

Manzanar MemorialEASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5)
Manzanar NHS is located directly off U.S. Highway 395, 9 miles north of Lone Pine, California. The Site is 50 miles from the western entrance to Death Valley NP and 100 miles south of Mammoth Lakes, California. One can also access Yosemite NP by continuing for 50 miles north on the same road. It took us almost 4 hours to reach Manzanar from Los Angeles.

The Interpretive Center just opened in April 2004. The building is fully accessible. The grounds of Manzanar are viewed by taking a self-guided auto tour.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (5/5)
Excellent. A huge assortment of books ranging from first person narratives about life at Manzanar to essays opposed to and in defense of the use of detainment filled the shelves in an open, well-lit, friendly space. Some unexpected titles included Japanese language books, how-to origami books and sushi cookbooks. Non-book items included posters, tea sets, dishware, original paintings and children’s games that would have been popular at Manzanar.

If there was a particular title that they happened to be missing, the Manzanar NHS staff told us they would be happy to order it and have it shipped wherever we would like. In fact, they were eager to hear suggestions of what else they might include. We could not think of anything.

COSTS (4/5)
There is no charge to visit Manzanar NHS.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (3/5)
Only one Ranger, a volunteer and an employee of Western National running the bookstore were on hand to accommodate the crowd. All were in the auditorium and eager to answer questions. We encountered one of the most helpful Rangers ever, but felt a little guilty taking up so much of her time when she was the only Ranger available. More staff would compliment the wonderfully done Interpretive Center.

TOURS/CLASSES (10/10)
The key to Manzanar NHS is its tremendous Interpretive Center. The 8,000-sqaure foot Museum is located inside the Relocation Center’s auditorium. Graduations, plays and dances all took place here. Now it serves as a remembrance to a regretful period in American history. The visit begins with an even-handed, touching film centered on present-day interviews of former internees. The typical ups and downs of daily life are recounted: gardening, baseball games, high-school dances and friendship. In the face of forcible detainment and a complete loss of property and former life, those at Manzanar forged ahead and made the most of their lives behind the barbed wire and under the guard towers. Suitably, the first exhibit outside of the theatre is a to-scale model replica of the entire Relocation Center made shortly before the Museum’s opening by the 1942-1945 graduates of Manzanar High School.

One-half of the Museum personalizes the journey even further. You are given a Japanese American identification tag upon entry and come to understand what it was like to be that person. How did the experience at Manzanar change your life? The answers are amazing and the journey of discovery through the Museum is stirring. One display shows what it was like to be a child at Manzanar with period toys and schoolbooks. This exhibit is addressed not to adults but to child visitors. A short mirror, only tall enough for someone shorter than 5’ 0”, stands with a placard reading, “what were people at Manzanar like?” The unsaid answer: just like you.

A ReminderThe other half of the Museum looks at the broader history of the Relocation Centers, the Constitutional miscarriages and the modern-day relevance of the Site. It is a reminder that this is living history; it can and may be happening today. We must be vigilant in our defense of the Constitution and must fight to ensure that there is no place in America for the curbing of Civil Liberties. That is what freedom is all about.

FUN (8/10)
We did not expect to have fun at Manzanar NHS. We expected dour reminders of our nation’s wrongs. We expected to learn and leave in a troubled mood. These unavoidable emotions were elicited but trumped by a deep respect and admiration of those interred. The Site emphasizes the people affected just as much as the policies that affected them. It emphasized their heroic responses to their unjust and unconstitutional circumstances. This is their Museum; it is their story. We are thankful that NPS worked so closely with individuals whose lives were changed; thankful that those individuals chose to share memories that perhaps they’d rather forget.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (10/10)
The Museum at Manzanar NHS is a masterwork in design, content and experience. It should serve as a blueprint for future historic museums.

TOTAL 65/80

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near Flagstaff, Ariz.
Visited: October 7, 2004
NPS Site Visited: 108 of 353
NPS Website

Cliff Dwellings WHAT IS IT?
Unimpressive cliff dwellings built in low ceiling rock ledges on the side of Walnut Canyon. The NPS indicates that the Sinagua Indians first constructed the makeshift brick abodes in the year 1125 and fully abandoned them by 1250.

BEAUTY (6/10)
Even though the cliff dwellings are under whelming at best, Walnut Canyon itself is quite nice. The 20 mile long, 400-foot deep canyon is lined by a wide array of plant life and includes five different biological zones. We saw yucca, prickly pear cacti, piñon trees, Douglas fir and Ponderosa pine. The canyon limestone walls camouflage the dwellings from a distance; good luck finding the homes in a wide-angle picture.

HISTORIC SIGNIFICANCE (4/10)
People inhabited the Canyon walls about one hundred years until they presumably realized that it was not the best place to live. Maybe they got sick of the steep hike every time they had to leave their homes. Who knows? Certainly not the Site. Most historical questions regarding the Sinagua have no answers. We don’t know where they went, we don’t know why they were here. We don’t even know what they called themselves. Perhaps their present-day ancestors are the Hopi, but that too is unclear. They may have been farmers; they may have been nomadic gatherers. Regardless, the Walnut Canyon cliff dwellings hardly seem to be that significant at all. Just a misguided place they chose to settle, a place so remote and so hard to get to that it stood long after other more typical and more important villages disappeared.

The Park became a National Monument in 1915 primarily because pottery collectors and tourists were destroying the ancient dwellings. When the millennium-old walls kept out the light, instead of just using a lantern, the pottery thieves turned to dynamite. The ancient homes had withstood 1000 years of erosion but were helpless in the face of human destructive tendencies. Most of the cliff dwellings you see are only the base of an exterior wall.

Walnut CanyonCROWDS (3/10)
The Walnut Canyon NM parking lot was full when we arrived. We quickly moved out of the Visitor Center and onto the trail. The room permeated the distinct fragrance of body odor. We soon found out why. The many tourists, mostly old and a bit hefty, had overestimated their physical abilities, decided to hike the 240-step Island Trail and were stuck wheezing atop all the path’s few park benches. Our hike out of the Grand Canyon may have shaped us up a bit, but we wanted to sit and relax too. No luck with that. Our quest for rest took us back to our Flagstaff motel and away from the Canyon’s beauty.

EASE OF USE/ACCESS (3/5)
The Site is three miles from Interstate 40, Exit 204 and about 10 miles east of Flagstaff. There are two trails at the Site. The east Rim Trail travels about a half-mile and provides vistas into the Canyon and of some of the cliff dwellings. We saw them and thought, “Is that all?”

The Island Trail is more strenuous, traveling 185 feet into the canyon and down 240 stairs. The Canyon rim stands at 7,000 feet above sea level and the stairs strained more than a few unsuspecting lungs. The mile long loop Island Trail allows you to walk through at least 25 cliff dwelling rooms. A walk down the Island Trail is essential. If walking up 240 steps is not your thing then there is no reason to come to Walnut Canyon; you won’t see anything.

CONCESSIONS/BOOKSTORE (3/5)
Yes, the Walnut Canyon NM bookstore stocks the exact same titles as the Wupatki NM bookstore and we gave that Site a 4. Walnut Canyon sells the books in a much smaller, low-ceilinged room. The aforementioned aroma has something to do with the lesser score. We did not want to spend any more time inside than we had to.

COSTS (3/5)
Entrance is $5 per adult, 16 and under free. If you have a National Parks Pass, there is no charge.

RANGER/GUIDE TO TOURIST RATIO (1/5)
We are not sure of the context, but at one point a Park Volunteer approached the only Ranger on duty and jokingly said, “Oh my gosh, a real Ranger!” Funny, but not really. Walnut Canyon NM was the third Flagstaff-area Park Site we had visited that day and the man on duty actually WAS the first real Ranger we met.

TOURS/CLASSES (2/10)
The Walnut Canyon NM Museum is scheduled for renovation next year. The change could not come any sooner. The Mission ’66-era exhibits are offensive, misleading and often wrong. The history interpretation has changed but the museum has not. Placards set along the Island Trail path are not much better. It is hard to leave Walnut Canyon without a profound sense of confusion.

Cliff Close UpFUN (3/10)
An understaffed, crowded, smelly and dubious-at-best historical attraction that has been demolished, tarnished and thoroughly robbed from by turn of the century tourists. It was not fun for us, except the subtle beauty of the Canyon and the strenuous hike back up it. Too bad there was no space to rest along the way to appreciate the surroundings.

WOULD WE RECOMMEND? (3/10)
Walnut Canyon NM is the least interesting, but the most naturally beautiful of the five National Park Sites within a 30-mile radius of Flagstaff, Arizona. We do not recommend stopping at Walnut Canyon; there are so many more appealing tourist destinations in the immediate area.

TOTAL 31/80

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