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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

Sunset69-year old Presidents who give two-and-a-half hour inaugural speeches don’t represent all the National Parks that can be sick. Not at all. Some Parks are sick themselves and need help. Case in point: the Everglades.

South Florida is a very young land mass, appearing anywhere from 6,000 to 8,000 years ago, a veritable newborn. Native Americans are thought to have crossed the Alaskan land bridge over 10,000 years ago, predating the Everglades. Since their creation, the shallow Everglades slowly meandered on its way to the Florida Bay. Human interaction was limited to a few Indian tribes until the turn of the century when full-scale settlement began in South Florida.

Since then, humans have drained the Everglades, disrupted and redistributed the water flow with canals, dumped sugar cane runoff and untold other waste products into the “River of Grass” and demolished and filled portions for development. The Everglades are in critical condition and there are no plausible solutions, only stopgap measures. Everglades NP is our most endangered National Park.

What can you do to learn more? Picking up Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s ecology classic The Everglades: River of Grass would be a good start or you could surf over to the website of the organization she began: the Friends of the Everglades. There are plenty more links there where you can learn about what you can do to save an American treasure.

Click Here to Read More about Everglades National Park.

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.

Can You Find the Secret Service?Why rise at 5 a.m. to drive across Georgia from Macon to Plains, population 700? Among Plains’ residents are Rossalyn and Jimmy Carter, and the former President and Nobel Peace Prize winner was teaching Sunday school that morning.

We were thrilled and excited, but we had doubts. Would we be welcome in this small town? The Maranatha Baptist Church is tiny, with room for only 300. Would there be room? It is not our denomination. Is it ok if we attend?

We arrived at the Church at 8 am. The Greeter smiled, laughed and erased our worries, The Secret Servicemen took our picture to ensure that our camera really was a camera and then urged us in, “you never know when the buses will show up.” We were fine.

Once seated inside, the pews filled around us, save the few cordoned off for active members. Before we knew it, a quiet man had slipped through a side door. Jimmy Carter was standing just six pews away.

He asked where we were all from. California, Uganda, Poland, Germany, Florida. People from dozens of countries and states had made the same pilgrimage. Gab eagerly yelled out Pennsylvania. Jimmy’s response, his warm wide smile of acknowledgment, made us all feel loved.

President CarterHis lesson’s topic was Joseph’s part in the Christmas story, but his lesson invoked elections in Mozambique, vacationing with his grandchildren and a profound biblical knowledge. We felt blessed and thankful for the teachings of such a pious, humble and great man.

Jimmy left saying, almost apologetically, that in two weeks he would be unable to teach in Plains. He was going to Palestine to oversee an election. He reminded us of what Anwar Sadat told him at Camp David that “regardless of religion, we are all sons of Abraham.” We must learn to live together.

Click Here to Read More about Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.

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.

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.