Archive for the ‘National Monument’ Category

Voyageur GabAs soon as we entered the Grand Portage fort, we stepped back in time. There is no Visitor Center, no welcome and nobody dressed as a Ranger. You immediately step into the Great Hall and must orient yourself to the year 1800.

It works.

We touched sample pelts, dressed as voyageurs, wore the beaver pelt top hats, watched a massive canoe being made, saw flint lock rifle demonstrations, meandered through an 18th-century garden, and got cooking tips from the camp’s cook.

Our unexpectedly great Grand Portage NM visit helped numb our post-Isle Royale NP visit separation anxiety, brought us to the store selling the “best wild rice in the world” and saw our Nissan Altima shudder with fear when a giant moose ran across the road.

Who can ask for anything more? You can! Click here to continue reading our review.

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Looking UpHappy Earth Day week! In honor of wonderful planet Earth we are going to highlight National Park areas this week that examine the glories of conservation, preservation, and sustainability. There’s one man that immediately springs to mind when those topics are mentioned: environmentalist pioneer John Muir. It also just so happens that Monday was even his Muir’s birthday. He would have been 170 years old, a fraction of the lifespan of one of his beloved Giant Sequoia trees

Muir’s home and ranch isn’t the only National Park named in the conservationist’s honor. Across the bay in Marin County stands a grove of redwoods that were saved by a local businessman in 1905 from the rabid saws of loggers and named after John Muir. They are one of the area’s last remaining ancient groves.

It’s hard to imagine anyone would ever want to cut down these magnificent trees or how anyone would dare remove their magical powers and stately magnificence from the world. But profit has always triumphed over beauty; the monetary always means more than the spiritual. It takes a special person to stand up in favor of conservation and battle the unbeatable big businesses. John Muir was one of the first but, as the Muir Woods story shows, successive generations have seen his admirable struggle and continued his dream of preserving beauty and preserving life.

Click Here to Read More about Muir Woods National Monument.

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Open-Faced VolcanoWe were so giddy about Al Gore and his team’s recent Nobel Peace Prize win that we had to come up with a National Park topic week in his honor. We could have looked at the Park sites that honor Presidents who won the Nobel but that correlation wouldn’t have been completely accurate. So instead we’re examining Park sites that remember natural disasters. Today we go to the still-rumbling Mount Saint Helens.

It is clear that a volcanic eruption happened here. The land is a dusty tan. Downed trees still stand where they collapsed in 1980. They now make wonderful homes to woodpeckers and assorted insects. Lakes created by the blast shimmer in bright blues. The earth undulates below in odd configuration created by the landslide and the mud floes.

Then there is the volcano. She stands with a pugnacious spirit, smaller and much less majestic than her Cascade mountain cousins. She is asymmetrical, without glaciers, angry, agitated and hard at work.

In 1980, she ejected thousands of tons of ash and smoke sideways through her northern face, then an unknown phenomenon. She now stands without a top, 2000 feet shorter than she was in 1979. The crater is ever-changing, open, billowing smoke and dispensing magma. She is exposed and not too happy about it.

Click Here to Read More about Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument.

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Southeastern Utah.
Visited: No Time Soon
NPS Site Visited: Not There Yet
NPS Website

This is one that got away. We fear that getting to Rainbow Bridge NM , Utah will be near impossible, at least on our budget. Options: a.) $110/person boat ride or b.) a 34-mile round trip hike with limited camping options along the way. A permit from the Navajo Nation is required.

The second option wouldn’t be so bad if it didn’t require a 30-mile drive down an unpaved road to get to the trailhead. A 4×4 is strongly recommended. Poor little ‘Tima. We couldn’t do that to her. Renting a jeep or a driver to get us to the trailhead is also cost-prohibitive for frugal travelers.

The closest we came to Rainbow Bridge NM was getting its stamp at the Glen Canyon NRA.

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Freezing GabOn May 22, 1915 the continental United States saw its first major volcanic eruption of the 20th Century when northern California’s Lassen Peak, honored as Lassen Volcanic National Park, exploded with terrifying force.

During the week of May 21-27 we will be highlighting volcanic National Parks with writing so bold and forceful that you just might explode with giddy anticipation. Monday went went to New Mexico’s Capulin Volcano National Monument. Today we’re at Idaho’s Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve

It’s hard to imagine the desolate land around us as being alive. The unforgiving clusters of gigantic razor sharp rocks, the flat fields of jagged asphalt, the frozen air, the waterless terrain and the barren chasms of red rocks. The land looks like an abandoned strip mine left to ecological ruin.

But these rocks are alive. Not alive through water and air; this land is reliant on fire. Molten lava gives life to this terrain. It sustains, creates and rules with an exclusionary iron fist. Humans have never and will never master this terrain. Only the most daring and most (fool)hardy flora and fauna attempt to call this place home. Their rent is about due. Their fiery landlord maintains a strict schedule.

Every 2,000 years the lava returns, bubbling out and flowing across its domain. It came 15,000, 12,000, 10,000, 7,500, 6,000, 4,000, and 2,000 years ago. The landlord could return tomorrow.

Click Here to Read More.

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Capulin Sky

On May 22, 1915 the continental United States saw its first major volcanic eruption of the 20th Century when northern California’s Lassen Peak, honored as Lassen Volcanic NP, exploded with terrifying force.

During the week of May 21-27 we will be highlighting volcanic National Parks with writing so bold and forceful that you just might explode with giddy anticipation. First up: New Mexico’s Capulin Volcano National Monument.

We are driving up a volcano, circling around its base, steadily climbing to its mouth. The sky climbs even higher. Untold blues, soaring clouds, no haze, no limits no imaginable end. The land below feels further and further away. The road lifts our Altima like a jet, the cars below and their lonely two-lane road looks smaller and smaller by the second. We have arrived. We are at the top.

We scurry out of the car to look into the heart of this once snarling beast. She erupted 60,000 years ago. The ground shook for days. From an innocent hole some 1,100 feet below our present location, the volcano’s base, steam blew, then…explosion. Cinders, rock and other debris flew into the air forming Capulin. This debris fell from the sky in near perfect symmetry, stacking and creating the volcano we now stand on.

The land below stretches endlessly. Five states are visible they say. We can see the barren earth and their bumpy undulations. Underneath the reborn grasslands and swaths of yellow wildflowers is lava, lava that flowed from Capulin.

A mile-long trail leads around this dead monster’s rim. A one-mile circumference, 1,000 feet deep volcano. Imagine the eruption, imagine the debris, imagine the power! Mini-Capulin’s are more visible from the high lookout. They are everywhere. These small volcanos rose quickly, like Capulin, in the blink of a geological eye. Some are as old as Capulin, 62,000 years, some are much older. They are all extinct, but if there had been scientists at the time of Capulin, they would have said the field was dormant too.

The rim trail has surprises of its own. A pleasant western aroma wafts from its numerous junipers and hardy sages, wildflowers bloom with unexpected color and jays loudly announce their presence. And what is this? The rocks lining the trail look to be moving; their richly-red lichen won’t stand still. Wait. Those are ladybugs. Thousands of ladybugs. We walk further. The ladybugs swarm around us. They land on our arms they land on our heads they envelope us they welcome us into their unbelievable world.

Click Here to Read More.

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near Rocky Mount, Va.
Visited: November 1, 2005
NPS Site Visited: 278 of 353
NPS Website; Local Website

Site dedicated to Booker T. Washington, a man born into slavery in 1856, who became a major figure in turn of the century United States history. Washington is best known as the longtime president of Tuskegee Institute and intellectual adversary of W.E.B. Du Bois.

BEAUTY (6/10)
Beautiful rolling, rural Virginia countryside nestled next to the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. On this farm, horses roam, geese squawk, pigs slop and sheep lounge.

The reconstructed slave quarters, tobacco barns and meat curing rafters are not as extensive as they must have been 150 years ago. The horrors of slavery are hard to imagine when everything feels so pleasant. Only when you read and hear stories of the intensive labor it takes to harvest tobacco does the situation fall slowly into perspective.

Interestingly, Booker T. Washington’s exploits and achievements are neither the primary nor the sole focus of his eponymous Site. Instead, the Site delves into a much wider reaching and historically vital topic: Virginia and Carolina tobacco farming and the institution of slavery, a subject widely ignored at other relevant National Park Sites.

CROWDS (7/10)
We pulled into an empty parking lot. In the time it took to collect the camera and Passport book and lock the car, the lot had suddenly spawned several more cars. Where did everyone come from?

We hurried inside to beat the rush only to find Rangers setting up a special presentation for the afternoon’s Elderhostel tour. They welcomed us and invited us to grab a seat and tag along for the special talk on tobacco cultivation and tour of the grounds.

Have we mentioned we love Elderhostels?

The Site is located along Virginia Route 122 in a very rural part of the Commonwealth State about 22 miles from Roanoke and the Interstate 581 spur of I-81. From I-581, you have two choices: 1) Go South along U.S. Route 220 for 17 miles south until you get to the Va. Route 122 intersection at Rocky Mount. The Site is about 15 miles to the northeast along this road; or 2) take Virginia Route 116 south for 15 miles to the Route 122 intersection at Burnt Chimney. The Site is four miles to the northeast.

Choice one is longer, but might be faster. Choice two is the scenic route. Once you get to the Site, an easy grass path, called the plantation trail, meanders from the Visitor Center through the farm where Booker T. was born.

The Site has one of the better collections of African American-related history texts we have seen thus far.

COSTS (4/5)
No admission fees whatsoever.

We spent time with three different Rangers during our short visit. One who gave the tobacco talk; one leading the walking tour. and one who discussed Tuskegee, Booker T. and the lack of an NPS site dedicated to W.E.B. Du Bois at the bookstore.

His response to why no Du Bois site? Because he was a socialist. Michael’s quick response: What about Eugene O’Neill and Carl Sandburg? You know, you make a good point, he added while laughing.

On the day of our visit, we were treated to both a Ranger talk and a Ranger-led tour of the grounds. Neither of these are daily occurrences at the Site but neither were that substantial. We learned more chatting casually with the Ranger left behind to manage the bookstore.

On the FarmWhat the Site lacks in daily Ranger-led events and museum space, it compensates for with special events like book signings and lectures from guest speakers held at least twice a month. The Site has even started a Booker T. Washington Book Club which held its first meeting this month.

April 1st marks Booker T. Washington´s 150th Birthday and the Booker T. Washington National Monument´s 50th Anniversary. An all day celebration is scheduled.

FUN (5/10)
The Booker T. Washington NM provides an enjoyably rural setting for a peaceful afternoon. We found ourselves lingering even though we had seen and done everything that was offered. We even took advantage of the tables and benches next to the parking lot and had an impromptu picnic.

A trip to the Site can easily be fit in your road trip vacation itinerary because it lies just off the heavily vacationed Blue Ridge Parkway. This important historical destination honors a fascinating great American and enjoys a diverse staff of Rangers, all with unique pedagogic specialties.

TOTAL 53/80

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