Archive for the ‘National Parks’ Category

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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Entering the PrimevalEnvironmental advocates can sometimes be heard to say “Make Earth Day everyday”. Well, we are going to heed their call and continue highlighting National Park areas that examine the glories of conservation, preservation, and sustainability. Today we move across the country from California’s Muir Woods to another park that boasts oversized trees: South Carolina’s Congaree National Park.

Congaree NP is home to North America’s largest, at 22,000 acres, intact floodplain forest. What that means is a great diversity of tall trees, a swamp-like feel, lots of birds and even more mosquitoes.

In the late 19th century, there were 52 million acres of old-growth floodplain forests in the southeastern United States. In just 50 years, logging companies harvested nearly all of these forests. Today, Congaree NP’s 11,000 acres of old-growth floodplain forest make it the largest example of this ecosystem in North America. The second largest old-growth floodplain forest totals just 2,000 acres.

Congaree NP’s excessively wet climate initially protected it from logging interests but in the 1950’s, conservationist Harry Hampton launched a passionate campaign to save this precious example of the earth’s natural past. A bitter fight between conservationist and loggers ensued, ending when the Congress set aside the land as Congaree Swamp National Monument in 1976. Congaree NP became an International Biosphere Reserve in 1983.

Click Here to Read More about Congaree National Park.

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Glacier NPAs we continue we Sickness Week some of you dear readers might be saying, “Are we sick? We haven’t seen a post in ages.” No, we are not sick; we’re just moving a little bit slowly. But when we were sick, about two weeks ago we did run a high fever. Which is sort of like what’s going on at Glacier National Park. Only Glacier National Park doesn’t have insurance and is not going to get better.

The park’s namesakes will not be there forever. As we were hiking to the Grinnell Glacier, one of the largest remaining ice floes in the park, we passed a set of young geologists who had kayaked out to the base of the glacier to measure it. It has shrunk almost 300% from 2001 to our visit in 2004. At this rate, Glacier National Park is anticipating its final glaciers to melt within 25 to 40 years. There is a bit of urgency if majestic ice forms are what you aiming to see.

No glaciers at Glacier National Park? Get used to it because it’s going to happen. Think about it, the next generation of children will visit the Park believing it got its name because it was formed by glaciers not because it has glaciers. Which will make it pretty much like every bit of land north of the 42nd parallel. Well, except for the dramatic ridges, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking landscape.

The culprit is, of course, that numerous American media outlets and countless citizens defensively insist isn’t supposed be happening: global warming. Problem is, it helps little for humans to be defensive. We may have caused this looming calamity but at the end of the day it’s our place on earth that is at risk. The planet, its myriad lifeforms, and its stunning scenery are all going to be fine in the long run. We are the ones who are endangering ourselves, making our sustainable life on earth more precarious by the day.

So what can we do? Firstly, we can stop living in denial. Secondly, we can stop rolling our eyes and scoffing at people who are living in denial. It’s your self-interest that’s at stake. After that a quick google search turns up many organizations with stop global warming: www.fightglobalwarming.com; www.stopglobalwarming,org; www.globalgreen.org; and www.sierraclub.org. The Sierra Club also includes a page with ten things you can do to cure global warming. Most of their suggestions sound pretty easy to us. If anyone else has any suggested email links just email them to us at gabandmichael@usa-c2c.com. Thanks!

Click Here to Read More about Glacier National Park.

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