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Is this thing on….

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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.

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Inner GlowHappy 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 today is 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 longtime northern California home and fruit ranch is preserved as part of the National Park Service as John Muir National Historic Site. Muir would probably not recognize his former dwelling. His 2,700 acres have dwindled to 8½. His home’s rural California surroundings have morphed into an industrial and population center. The quiet serenity he enjoyed writing in his second floor “scribble den” would now be impossible because an 8-lane freeway now passes within yards of the room’s windows.

When touring the house the freeway is constantly in your line of vision and buzzing in your ears. The home of someone who so loved and promoted the serenity afforded by nature is now in the shadow of concrete and steel. This is both a cruel irony and an effective reminder that the struggle to protect our natural resources and places of beauty is not over. John Muir’s advocacy and the creation of the National Parks was the beginning, not the end.

Click Here to Read More about John Muir National Historic Site.

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George Rogers ClarkSo last week you’re reading usa-c2c.com. There’s a post on Monday about Jimmy Carter. It seems that their President’s Day week has continued into two President’s Day weeks. But you come back Wednesday…still Jimmy. Then Thursday…still Jimmy. Even Friday…still Jimmy. What has happened? Have they forgotten about me, the dear reader?

No, not at all. The intrepid usa-c2c.com staff was sick. Very sick. So sick we couldn’t open up our computers sick. But we’re better now. Better enough to close out our President’s Day week and segue it into a new theme: illness-related Parks. First up is Vincennes, Indiana’s George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.

Hold up? Was George Rogers Clark a President? Was he especially sickly? No and perhaps sick with power and madness. But this post isn’t about good ol’ GRC, it’s about Vincennes, Indiana’s other favorite son: William Henry Harrison, the ninth POTUS.

Famously, WHH didn’t last very long as Commander-in-Chief. He entered la maison blanche 157 years ago tomorrow, March 4, 1841, and was dead a month later. His crime against the unforgiving fates was a two-hour long inaugural speech…in cold rain…without a coat. His subsequent mild cold turned into pneumonia which turned into our country’s first dead president, WHH, and our first accidental president, John Tyler.

So what does WHH have to do with GRC? Nothing really except they both enjoyed fighting Indians and they both have ties to Vincennes. GRC’s Park remembers his 1779 victory at Vincennes’ Fort Sackville. V Town became the capital of Indian Territory in 1800 and WHH was its first governor. For the next 12 years William would fight scores of Indians thus making Indiana safe for inclusion into these United States.

But legend has it that his victories came with a price: Tecumseh’s curse. Shawnee leader Tecumseh, perhaps apocryphally, manifested his word that any president elected in a year ending in zero would die in office. Did the curse come true? You betcha. WHH was the first victim and until Ronald Reagan’s fortuitous 1981 bullet dodging, the curse had been six for six. W has eluded the doom thus far but six for eight ain’t bad.

Click Here to Read More about George Rogers Clark National Historical Park.

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Herbert Hoover BirthplaceIt’s that time of year again…President’s Day and President’s Week! We have been counting down the days to when we can tell you about some of our favorite U.S. President-related National Park Sites and Presidential Libraries. First up is the long reviled and somewhat misunderstood Herbert Hoover.

Was he a great president? Not at all. Was he responsible for the Great Depression? Not nearly as much as he has been credited. In fact, the lessons we learned at the Herbert Hoover NHS and the adjacent Herbert Hoover Presidential Library were very surprising. Hoover grew up orphaned and very poor. He entered Stanford University in 1891, that venerated school’s first year of existence. Hoover received a degree in geology; surely a unique specialty among his presidential brethren.

Hoover didn’t teach with his degree nor did he go directly into politics. Instead he traveled the world working as a mining engineer whose specialty was finding gold, silver, zinc, and other precious metals. And find he did. By the time he turned 30 Hoover had built up considerable wealth given his uncanny ability to unearth metals. In the meantime, while on many Pacific Ocean-crossing trips he and his wife mastered numerous languages, Mandarin Chinese included, and authored the first English translation of the 16th-century mining bible De re metallica.

When the Great War began in 1914 Hoover directed his efforts towards humanitarian work, the most notable being a widespread and successful effort to feed war-ravaged Belgium. Hoover’s magnanimous humanitarianism continued throughout the 1920’s while he was U.S. Secretary of Commerce. So what went wrong? How could someone with so much experience in feeding people and aiding communities post-disaster be such a failure during the Great Depression? The short answer is that all of Hoover pre-Depression efforts depended on capital from private interests; Hoover didn’t believe in spending the government’s money. His Great Depression remedies while solid in theory relied on private donations which, despite many promises, never came.

Click Here to Read More about Herbert Hoover National Historic Site.

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Newest Park Service Addition Happy February. The month that has become synonomous with Black History. We wonder what the founder of Black History Month would think about his creation’s longevity and lasting importance. He would probably be brimming with pride.

Who created Black History Month, you ask?

Meet the latest addition to the National Park Service family and the Site that honors his legacy: Carter G. Woodson National Historic Site.

Currently, only an official NPS marker and a No Trespassing sign are up at the Site’s NW Washington D.C. location. To find out more about this distinguished historian you have to walk a few blocks down the road to the Mary McLeod Bethune Council House NHS .

While the historical significance of some Park Service acquisitions are dubious at best, this purchase feels long overdue. What we learned about Mr. Woodson at the Bethune Council House left us a little ashamed that we knew so little about the man who changed the course of history and how it is taught.

The Woodson House NHS is closed to the public “pending restoration.” The Park Service isn’t even speculating when it will be open. We hope we don’t have to wait too long.

Click here for the full review.

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Jelly Bean ManTadeusz Kosciuszko isn’t the only beloved American hero who challenged the Russians that’s celebrating a birthday this week. That’s right, today would have Ronald Reagan’s 97th birthday. His Dixon, Illinois boyhood home isn’t a National Park Site yet although its pending Park status was established by law six years ago today. Our didn’t take us to just National Park Sites, we also visited all but one Presidential Library. Reagan Simi Valley memorial was not the exception.

Do Reagan (and his library) and Kosciuszko (and his house) share anything more in common? Nothing whatsoever. Kosciuszko’s Philly home is one of the least visited National Park Sites with about 16 visitors per day. At the Reagan library, you will probably be in line behind 16 other people waiting for your ticket. And if you pick the right day (May 3, 2007 or January 30, 2008 for example) those 16 people might all be vying for the Republican Presidential nomination.

Yes, McCain, Huckabee, Romney, et al love debating near Reagan’s final resting place. Who can blame them? The Site is situated on a hilltop above California’s Simi Valley and the Library’s backyard offers unobstructed views of the Santa Monica mountain range, its rolling hills and the palatial estates nestled in its valleys.

They also might keep coming back to see the new Air Force One exhibit. The Reagan library doesn’t try to recreate the President’s plane Disney style a la a few other Presidential Libraries. Nosiree. They built an ersatz hangar, procured a decommissioned Air Force One, parked the famed flying machine in said hangar, and opened it up for tours. It’s the closest any civilian, except Harrison Ford, may ever get. As a result, the Library’s entry fee has risen from $7 to $12 per person. We are sure it’s worth it.

Click Here to Read More about the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library.

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A Pleasant Corner Lot for the Dashing PoleToday is February 4th, a/k/a Tadeusz Kosciuszko’s Birthday. Sure, we mentioned him everyday last week but that matters little. If you thought we wouldn’t honor our great Polish hero on his 262nd birthday than you would have been wrong.

Why should we continue to honor him? Well, after an early Revolutionary War setback, our dashing Polish Patriot never lost another fight on American soil, unlike New England’s kicker Stephen Gostkowski. You might say that poor Stephen never got a chance, that during the third quarter on 4th and 11 he should have been able to try that 49-yard field goal. We say perhaps now he knows what it was like for gallant Tadeusz. During the 1775 Battle of Fort Ticonderoga he beseeched his generals “Build fortifications here! The British can reach this point with cannons!” His generals unwisely ignored him and the battle was lost.

Tadeusz never made it to the warm sunny climes of Arizona; we’re sure his tan would have been spectacular. Instead he choose a small humble home in Old City Philadelphia. Given his Philly roots there’s no way he could have been rooting for the Giants. Nevertheless we are sure he would have admired New York’s stellar defensive tactics.

Defense was Tadeusz’s specialty! His tactics, engineering, design, and artistry were all pure genius. The best this country has ever seen. You couldn’t with fellow Slav and defensive genius Bill Belichick? Let’s see. First of all, Kosciuszko never needed any videotape to know what the British were doing. We admit that he too might have had spies but he also had to counteract much more menacing traitors. Benedict Arnold vs. Patriots’ videotaping assistant Matt Walsh. You decide.

Tadeusz did retreat pretty quickly at Fort Ticonderoga but he had to…he was facing cannon fire! What was Belichick’s Super Bowl exit excuse? Deadly confetti? Here’s some more reasons. Tadeusz was always impeccably dressed. He wrote the Polish Consitution. He successfully defended his motherland against Russia. And even then his Polish King betrayed him, surrendered to Russia, and Tadeusz was imprisoned in Siberia. Siberia! Where’s Belichick headed to after Super Bowl XLII, a McMansion in Boca Raton? His yacht in the Keys? Sometimes life just isn’t fair.

So our conclusion and message to Michael’s beloved Los Angeles (hopefully soon) Rams is fire Jim Haslett, exhume Tadeusz, clone his DNA, and thusly create the greatest defensive football mind known to man. Super Bowl XLIII here we come.

Click Here to Read More about the Tadeusz Kosciuszko National Memorial.

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Busy IntersectionDid you leave your house last weekend? Then you’ll completely understand this week’s theme: most crowded National Park Sites. On Monday we went to the crowdiest of them all: Yosemite. But not every crowded Park Site teems with people because of their extreme popularity. Some just happen to be located in population centers.

Battlefield sites are especially at risk for claustrophobia for many reasons. Warring armies never planned out where the fight would be. In fact, they usually met at highly trafficked crossroads. And if you live anywhere in the northeast you know that road locations and patterns don’t change much over time. Route 30’s path from Lancaster to Philly is the same now as it was in 1795. Don’t even get us started about New England roads.

A great number of battles also took place near urban centers. Except there’s more people now than there was during the Civil, 1812, and Revolutionary Wars. We all need a place to live. In addition, many battlefield sites didn’t even become parks until after people had decided to move onto said battlefield land.

The most famous “endangered battlefield” is Gettysburg National Military Park which has successfully repelled siege attempts from an unsightly 300-foot tower, a casino, and dozens of fast food restaurants. Next up, evidently, is a water park proposal. Of course that too will fail because some obscure statute states that you can’t have fun at Gettysburg unless your wearing a heavy wool field jacket.

However, at the end of the day Gettysburg is still in the country; it doesn’t have to worry about really heavy traffic. Unlike Manassas. The Federal and Confederate armies met twice at Manassas because it stood at a transportation crossroads, namely the intersection of the Warrenton Turnpike and the Manassas-Sudley Road. These roads and their heavy traffic remain. The Warrenton Turnpike, now U.S. Route 29 a/k/a the Lee Turnpike bisects the Park.

The Second Manassas Auto Tour follows these high volume arteries. Good luck keeping your wit’s end trying to pull into parking lots while 18-wheelers tailgate you with signature zeal. A Park Ranger suggested doing the Auto Tour only at a very early hour.

Click Here to Read More.

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Salem Maritime NHSNothing says Thanksgiving like turkey, football, and pilgrims. We took care of the turkey bits at Mammoth Cave National Park and the football at Wyoming’s Fossil Butte National Monument. (See Below) But what about the pilgrims? Through vociferous readings of our website we are sure that you know that there is no National Park Site dedicated to the pilgrims. The puritans are forgotten too! We’ll try to right that grievous wrong with our Salem Maritime NHS story which includes a pious complaint. But first, forget about our moaning and have a HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

We left our $35 a night (thank you priceline.com) Courtyard by Marriot in Woburn, Mass. at 9:00 a.m. hoping to have missed the commuter traffic. We had. Once Gab had successfully determined our route to Salem (I-95 to Route 128 then Exit 25 to Route 114) she started reading from Michael’s university history book. Today’s lesson, naturally, is about the famed Salem witch trials. We both slightly remembered the context from grade school. Possessed women, hysteria, spookiness, ghosts. Right? Wrong.

The Salem Witch Trails of 1692 were series of real events with real consequences. Hundreds were wrongly imprisoned and 20 died. The base cause of the trials was the movement away from a purely religious Puritan society and towards a society heavily influenced by commerce and trade. The witch trials were a culmination of a growing class struggle as well as a struggle to retain a Puritan societal order in the midst of increased independence and individuality. The primary victims were land-owning women and the aggressors were the conservative male theocracy. “Whoa,” we thought. “We can’t wait to learn more. This park is going to be fun.”

We put the book away as we neared Salem’s center. The town’s tricky one way streets and odd intersections couldn’t damper its old New England beauty. We stared at its broad common, and stately Georgian and Federal style buildings. We parked and entered the Visitor Center. Sailing ships, commerce history, trade displays. Were we missing something? It was as if history began after the trials; the Puritans had already lost the hearts and souls of Salem.

We walked down Hawthorne street, down to the harbor, down to the wharf. We learned that Salem was America’s second largest port in the 18th and 19th centuries. We learned that eastern countries believed Salem to be a country of its own because so many boats bore the city’s name. We learned about trade goods, scales, and storage systems. We were a little bored.

Our path back to the car would pass the Old Burying Point Cemetery. Maybe there would be something about the trials there. We turned onto Liberty Avenue and, lo and behold, witches galore. Witch wax museum, store after store selling cheap supernatural paraphrenalia, crystals, broom hilda-esque cardboard cutouts and candlelit host tour vendors. an unending barrage of lowest common denominater madness. More Bewitched than The Crucible, more Buffy the Vampire Slayer than The Scarlet Letter.

Why would the Park Service ignore the Witch Trials? Why would it leave the retelling of this socially significant and often remembered American event to amateurs and spectral tour guides? A 2003 AP article revealed that Salem wanted to change its image from chintzy Halloween destination to stately historic place to live. Why must the two be mutually exclusive? Why can’t the trials be taught by National Park Service. Why can’t they take dominion over the past?

In 2005, Viacom’s TV Land network unveiled a nine-foot tall Elizabeth-Montgomery-as-Samantha-the-Bewitched-witch statue at the corner of Essex and Washington Streets, two blocks from the Park’s Visitor Center. What happened again in 1692? We’ve already forgotten.

Click Here to Read More.

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