Tag Archive | National Parks

Circus Trip 2018: Badlands National Park

Day 13, Saturday, July 28, 2018

It was Saturday morning!  Although let’s be real – the days of the week didn’t have much significance for me on this trip, and beyond writing down what day it was in my journal, I didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to days or dates last summer.

I woke up, tore down my tent and took a shower.  Then I decided to try out the breakfast at Wall Drug – a western institution!  Wall Drug has been around since 1931 – I blogged about my visit in 2016 with my mom.  I had two eggs, toast, ham, and a maple frosted donut for breakfast.  YUM!

My breakfast at Wall Drug – coffee is 5 cents!

After breakfast, I headed back into Badlands National Park.

I drove down the Sage Rim Road again and found a few wild bison, and several domestic ones, as well as the prairie dog town!  I love prairie dogs!  It had been a couple of years since I had seen any, and they are still amazingly cute.  I didn’t see any more Bighorn Sheep, but I was ok with that since I had seen several the evening before.

I drove through the park from west to east, stopping at a few viewpoints along the way and checking out the scenery.  It was much cooler than my visit a few years before – in the low 70s instead of 97 degrees!  I hadn’t planned on spending a lot of time there on this visit though, so I kept it to a relatively brief drive through.  Just enough time for a lot of selfies!

Although I love the Badlands, I had so many more places to see on my trip!

 

 

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Circus Trip 2018: Badlands Evening

Day 12, Friday, July 27, 2018

After my visit to Ellsworth Air Force Base, I continued on my way to Wall, South Dakota and got a space at the Sleepy Hollow campground.  It was $15 plus tax for a tent site, one of the cheapest campgrounds on my trip.  I set up my tent, took a nap and then went to Badlands National Park nearby to see if I could find any wildlife.

Tenting it in Mellow Yellow

I wasn’t planning to stay that long at Badlands, as there was a thunderstorm in the distance – and I would be spending more time there the next day. It was interesting to see the storm approaching on the horizon – that light!

I drove slowly down the Sage Rim Road, where I found Bighorn Sheep!  They are so cute! And those babies!  I loved just watching them amble by.

It was too dark for good photos, so I made my back towards camp and stumbled upon one of my favorite photos of my entire road trip.  The recent rain had soaked the road, making it shine like chrome.  The road, the sky, and my car hood made for a spectacular but unexpected subject.  I still love this photo!

Back at camp, I had left-over sausage and rice, along with a Huckleberry lager.  And I did laundry.  Because not every evening on a road trip can have over-the-top excitement…  It was a great day!

My Huckleberry Lager – this was a pretty good beer!

 

Yellowstone Road Trip 2017: Yellowstone Arrival

Day 3, Wednesday, July 26, 2017

I woke up to a breeze at our campground in Arco, Idaho, and knew that it would start raining soon.  And it did – pretty much immediately after I had that first thought about it.  I got up and got going quickly, tearing down my tent and getting it all packed up and ready to go before the rain got too heavy.  I went and showered, since the kids were not as motivated to get moving!  After that, I took them for waffles at the breakfast bar at the campground, while Michael and Susanna packed up their stuff.  YUM!

We finally got everything and everyone in the van and hit the road; we decided to stop at Cabela’s for rain jackets for the kids.  Note: some kids HATE rain jackets – they feel “funny,” so you can imagine how this trip went!  We also got a pop-up rain/shade tent thing for any rainy days along the way.  Then we were all set!  Today was the day we were getting to Yellowstone!

There is a lot of driving on the way to Wyoming, by the way, but soon we made it!  We got into the park through the West Entrance and fairly soon we saw our first wildlife – a couple of elk!  The kids were fascinated.  We also saw a few bison and some pelicans and geese.

Elk Butt!

 

White Pelicans and Canada Geese

 

We didn’t want to do too much sightseeing though, because we needed to get our campsite set up and ready for our five nights there!  We checked in, got firewood, got our campsite number, and headed over to see where we would be!  Our site was in the trees and on a small slope, so we really had to scope out our spots for two tents.  We got tents up, got our shade/rain tent up and got settled in.  My tent was only about 20 feet from my brother’s, but at night, was I far enough away that I would get eaten by bears!?

Our tents at camp

 

We had a fire, and turned in relatively early, and of course it rained… Hard!  But my little tent stayed dry!

Distance for the Day: 2 hours, 53 minutes; 167 miles
Yellowstone Entrance Fee: $30 per vehicle for 7 days, free with a National Parks Pass
Canyon Campground, Yellowstone National Park: $30 per night for a tent site

Planning for The West 2016

In August 2016, my mom and I decided to do a road trip of the west. There are a number of National Parks in North and South Dakota that I have been interested in seeing for some time, and it was time to knock some off of my bucket list!  I am so glad that my mom was game to do this trip with me!

I looked into flying into Rapid City, South Dakota and was surprised to find that plane tickets from Washington State were going to be almost $1,000 each! Ditto with Bismarck, North Dakota. It was time to change the Plan of Action. Fortunately, I found flights for just over $200 per person to Billings, Montana. A bit more driving, but we were on our way!

The second hurdle was hotel prices. I was kind of surprised by the cost of hotels; I get that it was summer, but they still seemed really high for parts of small town North and South Dakota. Once I discovered that our trip coincided with the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in South Dakota, it all made more sense… I did ultimately find some reasonable prices for hotel rooms, but it took more research – and we didn’t stay at luxury accommodations…  Good thing my mama is flexible…

The car was another matter. For 12 days, our car ended up costing $497; which, with the exception of Colorado, is much higher than I have seen for my other long trips. Peak summer period, plus I think some of the higher price was due to the fact that the Takata airbag recall had taken so many rental cars off the road – car manufacturers were telling people not to drive their cars and were giving owners loaner rentals at no cost.  That would do it…  We booked a car originally at $525, then rebooked when the price went down to the $497 that we ended up with.  Ouch…

With our flight schedule set, I planned a loop that would begin in Montana and go through North and South Dakota, before moving into Wyoming and finally ending up back in Montana to fly home. I had an ambitious itinerary (don’t I always!) – Theodore Roosevelt National Park, Wind Cave National Park, Mount Rushmore, Badlands National Park and Devil’s Tower National Monument to start. With the extra loop in Montana for flights, I expanded the itinerary to include Little Bighorn Battlefield, Yellowstone National Park, and Grand Teton National Park. Since we were going to be so close, I also put Jewel Cave National Monument and the Crazy Horse Memorial on the list!

west-trip-map

Our route wasn’t quite what appears in the map above, as Google Maps was not cooperating as I tried to drag its little points around to where I wanted them.  Technology… Sheesh… It is close though, and you get the gist…

I planned a crazy-busy trip, and I was excited to get started!

Virginia 2015: Historic Jamestowne

Day 11: Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Jamestowne was the first permanent English settlement in North America; it was established in 1607; a town was constructed around the fort in 1619.  It is located Jamestowne Island, on the James River, just off of the Coast of Virginia.  It was designated as a National Historic Site on December 18, 1940, and is a part of Colonial National Historical Park.

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The monument at Jamestowne.

The first couple of years brought cooperation between the colonists and the Native Americans, who taught them how to plant crops and farm.  However, the relationship went south, and most of the Native Americans were wiped out by warfare.  The colonists had a difficult several years, and about 80% of them were wiped out by starvation and disease.

The second group of colonists included Polish and German artisans who set up a glass factory; glassware was one of the first export products from the colony.  There were also a couple of women – the first European women to join the settlement.

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One of the modern glassmakers at Jamestowne

Some of the “household” names associated with Jamestowne include Captain John Smith – a colorful character who went from murdering his master in England to mapping the river system near Jamestowne, learning the native language, and being elected the first Governor of colonial Virginia.  John Rolfe brought tobacco seeds from Bermuda, one of the first successful export crops, and married the daughter of a local Native American chief, Pocohontas.

The town was deliberately burned during Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, but was rebuilt.  In 1699, when the capitol of the Virginia colony was moved from Jamestowne to Williamsburg, the settlement was abandoned, although there were some plantations on the island into the 1800s.

It was a beautiful sunny day when Jon and I visited; we arrived about 10 am and watched the orientation film in a cool theater with seats all around – the movie is projected on the wall above the seating.  We did a brief tour through the museum and then headed out to the site.

I was surprised at how swampy the site was – we walked across a raised walkway over the swamp, home to several turtles!  They were so cute!  Once we were on the island, we checked out the fort site first.  There are a few reconstructed buildings and some archaeological sites to check out, as well as the grave sites of several of the original colonists.

Jamestowne-Swamp

The swamp at Jamestowne

Jamestowne-Turtles

Turtles!

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An archaeological dig at Jamestowne

We also saw the ruin of the Jamestowne Church – it was built in 1639 (although I believe it was the fourth church on the site) – the nave was built to commemorate the 300th anniversary in Jamestowne in 1907.  The day we were there, there was a drone on site – we found out later that it was shooting footage down the chimney of the church to assess its stability.

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Jamestowne Church – the ruined tower was built in 1639.

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A drone at Jamestowne! Not historic…

We wandered around the rest of the site and checked out the plantation house ruin, as well as the reconstructed foundations of various buildings at the site.  We also relaxed for a bit near the James River, enjoying the view and the float plane that was landing on the river.

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The frame of a Mud and Stud House – Jon couldn’t stop laughing at the architectural style name.

 

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A float plane landed on the James River

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The Ambler House – built in the 1750s. It was burned and rebuilt in two wars, and was abandoned in 1895 after a third fire.

We also toured the Voorhees Archaearium, the museum on the site that contains historical artifacts from the settlement.  They also have two skeletons from the site and the stories from how they died.  One died from a gunshot in the leg; the other skeleton was a captain at the fort.

Most interestingly, the museum had an exhibit on Jane; she was a fourteen year old girl who died and was cannibalized, most likely during the “starving time”.  There were a few of her bones on exhibit that showed evidence of the cut marks that indicate the cannibalization.  It was an interesting exhibit, and I appreciated their candid way of dealing with such a sensitive subject.

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A doe at Jamestowne – she would never have survived the starving time.

Then we headed over to the cafe for a delicious lunch, probably the best museum cafe food we had on the trip.  I had the U.S. Grant wrap with dried cranberries, turkey, walnuts and blue cheese spread with a side of orzo pasta and a slice of wonderful key lime pie.  Jon had the Union – a hummus veggie wrap with cole slaw and a Legend Brown Ale from a Richmond, VA brewery.

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An unidentified bird at Jamestowne

Although there is very little of the original site visible, it was fascinating to see the site where colonial history in North American really began.

 

 

 

 

 

Gettysburg NMP History

Almost everyone (I hope) knows the name Gettysburg and what happened here.  It was a monumental battle between the United States Army and the Confederate Army during the American Civil War.  A three day battle which would end with the most casualties of any one battle in the Civil War.  Over 46,000 men were killed, wounded or missing at the conclusion of those three days.  It was a battle that pitted soldiers against each other in hand to hand combat, in impossible charges over open fields, and in insufferable weather conditions.  It was a battle that would change the tide of the war, even though it would rage on for almost two more years.

Gettysburg National Military Park today includes most of the battlefield, and many of the other areas that were important to the battle, such as staging and supply areas and hospitals.  It also includes the cemetery, which is quite possibly the most famous cemetery in the United States, due to a small speech given here by Abraham Lincoln when dedicating the cemetery several months after the battle.  Lincoln’s speech was over in less than 2 minutes, but it has lived on in the collective hearts of the nation.  I learned it in school, and I bet you probably did too.

Gettysburg National Military Park

Gettysburg National Military Park

The first land was protected in 1863, and gradually more land has been added over the last century and a half.  Gettysburg was designated as a National Military Park in 1895, and eventually placed under the administration of the National Park Service.  To date, 3,965 acres have been protected, with new land added to the park as recently as 2009.  Gettysburg also protects over 1,320 monuments, 410 cannons, 148 historic buildings, 3 observation towers, and 41 miles of avenues, roads, and lanes.  And although it is not known whether any remains have yet to be discovered on the battlefield, soldiers who fought at Gettysburg were found where they fell as recently as 1996; there are probably more men still resting there.  It is truly sacred ground.

The Visitor’s Center protects the Cyclorama, a late 19th century room sized oil painting on canvas, that when viewed from a platform immerses the viewer in the scene.  It is fascinating to see in person.  Sadly, the park sold their Electric Map, a 30′ by 30′ display in relief of the battlefield with dozens of light bulbs that light up to show the troop movements on the battlefield.  I saw it when I visited Gettysburg in 2008, and gained an understanding of the movement of the battle over those three days that is hard to appreciate from watching a movie.  It may have been “old” technology, but it was effective.  If you want to see a video of the Electric Map – there’s one at this website.

in 2010, 1,031,554 people visited the park, making it one of the more visited units within the Park System.  Although I visited in 2008, I was looking forward to spending more time there, and we were going to see it on our trip!

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument History

Approximately 34 million years ago, there was a lake environment in the Florissant Valley of Colorado.  The whole area was part of the Laramide Orogeny, which also formed the areas that now make up Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado National Monument, and Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, in Florissant, Colorado

Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, in Florissant, Colorado

About 20 miles southwest of the Florissant Valley were several stratovolcanoes that erupted periodically.  Like Mount St. Helens in Washington state, these eruptions created large lahars, or mud flows, that would flow at high speeds down the valley.  One of the lahars flowed down into the lake in the valley, covering the flora and fauna in layers of mud, thereby creating a favorable environment for fossilization.

Florissant Fossil Beds contains thousands of fossils, with large numbers of invertebrates represented.  They include spiders, millipedes and bees, as well as clams and other mollusks.  Plant fossils include fruits, seeds, and cones, as well as 130 types of pollen.  I am amazed that you can tell one type of pollen from another when looking at a fossil!

And then, of course, there are the Redwood trees, part of the Sequoia family.  The redwoods that existed in the Florissant Valley are genetically distinct from the modern Redwoods in California.  But they are similar enough that it allows researchers to determine what the climate was like in Colorado at the time.

In the late 19th century, the fossils had been discovered, and researchers and tourists alike were flocking to the Florissant Valley to cart them off, especially large pieces of Redwood stumps.  At one point, two tourist lodges provided accommodations to tourists in the valley.  One of these lodges is actually the current Visitor’s Center.  The Park Service acquired the property after legal wrangling that pitted the Park Service and several scientists and citizens, who wanted the area protected, against landowners who profited handsomely from operating their concessions in the area.

The view from the trail - looking over at the Hornbek Homestead

The view from the trail – looking over at the Hornbek Homestead

The monument was signed in law on August 20, 1969 by President Richard Nixon.  It protect 5,998 acres of land, and now the park receives approximately 61,289 visitors.

We were going to visit next!