May Stamps – Lots More to Choose From

Eastern National has released its list of new cancellations for the month of May, and the list is quite a doozy!   A total of 25 new stamps are listed, although many of them are replacements for already-existant stamps.  Let’s take a look….

The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is marking its 50th Anniversary in 2015.
The Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area is marking its 50th Anniversary in 2015.  Photo from 2012.

Anniversary Stamps

  • Sequoia National Park | 125th Anniversary 1890 – 2015
  • Kings Canyon National Park | 75th Anniversary 1940 – 2015
  • Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area | 50th Anniversary 1965-2015

Its starting to look like Parks Passsport enthusiasts may well remember 2015 as being the “Year of the Anniversary Stamps.”   At least one new anniversary stamp has been issued each month in 2015, and the trend shows no sign of letting up.  I’m still not sure that it makes sense to be making Passport Stamps with adjustable dates that are good for seven years with a single year permanently etched in the bottom text of the circle, but they seem to be popular for the moment!

Its interesting to note the Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park share more than just a a new Passport stamp this month.   The two parks share a common superintendent, have a single joint brochure for both of them, and even share the same website (just click the links if you don’t believe me!)   In fact, it sometimes appears that the only think keeping Sequoia National Park and Kings Canyon National Park from being listed as a single Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Park that counts twice is the force of tradition.   Still, until these stamps were issued, I’m not sure if I had ever realized that these two national parks were created 50 years apart, almost to the day.  Sequoia National Park was established on September 25, 1890 and Kings Canyon National Park was established fifty years and six days later on October 1,  1940.   If you are in to anniversary celebrations, it sounds like a trip to Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks the last week of September could be a lot of fun!

Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area wouldn’t come along until 1965, and so celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. Delaware Water Gap NRA preserves a particularly beautiful section of the Delaware River as it flows past the Pocono Mountains on the border between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.   The “water gap” refers to the southern end of this park where the river literally cuts through one of the mountains, creating a “gap” in the mountain.  Today, this park is within an easy day’s drive of both the Philadelphia and New York metropolitan areas, making it a great place for residents of those urban areas to get out into the parks.

 

landscape-dig
Of the four new national parks established in December 2014, Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument outside of Las Vegas, NV is the second to get its own Passport stamp.  Photo credit: National Park Service

 Stamps for New National Parks

  • Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument | Nevada
  • Pullman National Monument
    • Historic Pullman Foundation
    • Illinois Historic Preservation Agency
    • National Pullman Porter Museum
  • First State National Historical Park
    • Beaver Valley – Woodlawn Tract
    • Fort Christina – Wilmington
    • Old Swede’s Church – Wilmington
    • The Green – Dover
    • John Dickinson Plantation
    • Ryves Holt House – Lewes

Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument was one of four new parks established by Congress in December 2014.   Located outside of Las Vegas, NV it preserves the desert landscape as well as fossils of mammoths and other creatures from the last ice age.   Right now it doesn’t have any visitor facilities, so its passport stamp is being kept at the Alan Bible Visitor Center for Lake Mead National Recreation Area in nearby Boulder City, Nevada, just to the south of Las Vegas.

Pullman National Monument is an even newer national park than Tule Springs Fossil Beds, having been established by Presidential proclamation in February 2015.  I’ve written about Pullman twice already, here and here.  Similar to the way in which Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument / National Historical Park in Maryland was established by relying upon other preservation parterns in the area, it appears that Pullman National Monument is following a similar model  Pullman NM actually already had its first Passport stamp, reading Chicago, IL on the bottom available at its dedication ceremony, in which President Obama signed his proclamation establishing the new national park right on site.  That cancellation is available at the Historic Pullman Foundation’s Visitor Center, which will surely now also have the stamp recognizing the role the Foundation is continuing to play in preserving and interpreting this site.  The Foundation is curently offering tours of the site on the first Sunday of the month, and will continue to own and manage some of the historic buildings on the site, including the Market Hall.   Likewise, the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency will also continue to own and manage some of the historic properties at this site, including the architecturally-significant (and beautiful) Hotel Florence.  Finally, until the National Park Service is able to open its own visitor center at the site, one of the best ways to learn about the history of the Pullman company town,  which is now a national monument, will be a visit to the National A. Philip Randolph Pullman Porter Museum, which is also located on-site.

First State National Monument was originally proclaimed by President Obama in March 2013 with three sub-units, Dover Green in the State Capitol, the old New Castle Courthouse in New Castle, and the Brandywine Preserve in Wilmington.  In December 2014, Congress renamed this parkFirst State National Historical Park, and also authorized expanding its boundaries to include a few additional sites.  In February 2015, new stamps were issued for the original three sites with the new name, First State National Historical Park, as well as for two of the new sites.  This month, it appears that new stamps have been issued with new bottom text for four of those first five sites (only the New Castle Courthouse site is not listed), as well as for two new sites, both in Wilmington.   One is for the Old Swedes Church, which claims to be the oldest continuously-used house of worship as originally built in the United States, with a history stretching back to 1698.  The other is for nearby Fort Christina, the site of the colony of New Sweden way back in 1638.  The story of Swedish settlement in the United States is not one that is often told, so these should be very interesting additions to the National Park System.

 

The author and his junior T. Rex at the Blue Heron historical coal mining community in Big South Fork NRRA wearing a T-Shirt from St. Croix NSR.  Both Parks have new stamps this month.  Photo from 2013.
The author and his junior T. Rex at the Blue Heron historical coal mining community in Big South Fork NRRA wearing a T-Shirt from St. Croix NSR. Both Parks have new stamps this month. Photo from 2013.

Stamps for Existing National Parks

  • Big South Fork National River & Recreation Area | Helenwood, TN
  • Gateway National Recreation Area | Ryan VC – Floyd Bennett Field
  • Yellowstone National Park | Wyoming
  • St. Croix National Scenic River
    • St. Croix River
    • St. Croix Visitor Center
    • Namekagon Visitor Center

Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area in northeastern Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky has recently been adding Passport cancellations for visitor facilities in its gateway communities.  In addition to the long-standing three stamps for the Park’s three visitor contact stations at Oneida, TN; Stearns, KY; and Blue Heron (a historic coal mininng community near Stearns, KY) the Park added stamps for Crossville, TN and Historic Rugby, TN in August 2014.   Helenwood, TN is also a gateway community, and is the latest addition to this program.  You can check out a Parkasuaurs Trip Report from this Park here.

Gateway National Recreation Area includes a number sites in the immediate vicinity of New York City in Brooklyn, Staten Island, and northern New Jersey.     Floyd Bennett Field was New York City’s first municipal airport, and now provides urban recreational opportunities, including campaing.  The Ryan Visitor Center is the National Park Service’s main visitor facility there, and this stamp replaces a previously-existant stamp.

Its not clear what to make of a new stamp for Yellowstone National Park that simply says “Wyoming” on the bottom.  Yellowstone currently offers 13 different Passport cancellations throughout the Park, and it appears that this would be the 14th.

The St. Croix National Scenic Riverway includes the St. Croix River and its main tributary, the Namekagon River.  Its hard to tell what to make of the stamp that simply reads “St. Croix River,” but the “St. Croix Visitor Center” will likely replace the existing stamp at the visitor center in St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin on the Minnesota-Wisconsin border; and the the “Namekagon Visitor Center” stamp will likely replace the existing stamp at the visitor center in  Trego, Wisconsin in the northern part of the state.  This park also includes older stamps for the “Marshland District” and for “Minnesota-Wisconsin” that are kept under the counter at the Namekagon Visitor Center.  There is also one other stamp at Prescott, WI at the Great River Road Visitor & Learning Center in Prescott, Wisconsin where the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway meets the Mississippi National River & Recreation Area.

 

Canyons of the Anicents National Monument includes many pueblo ruins, as well as a portion of the Old Spanish Trail National Historic Trail
Canyons of the Anicents National Monument includes many pueblo ruins, including Lowry Pueblo pictured above, as well as a portion of the Old Spanish Trail National Historic Trail. Photo from 2010.

Stamps for Park Partners

  • Old Spanish National Historic Trail | Canyons of the Ancients NM
  • The Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor
    • Old Sturbridge Village
    • Prudence Crandall Museum
    • Lebanon Historical Society Museum
    • Roseland Cottage
    • Norwich Heritage & Regional Visitor Center

The Old Spanish National Historic Trail marks the old trading route between Spanish Santa Fe, New Mexico and Spanish Los Angeles, California.   There are currently 50 different Passport stamps along the various routes of the trail.   Canyons of the Ancients National Monument was proclaimed by President Clinton in January 2000, but it is not a national park because he assigned it to the Bureau of Land Management for management, rather than to the National Park Service.  Canyons of the Anicents is located in southwestern Colorado and is basically contiguous with the much smaller (and much-earlier designated) Hovenweep National Monument operated by the Naitonal Park Service.  It preserves numerous historic pueblo ruins in a largely natural and unexcavated state.  This stamp for the Old Spanish NHT will be housed at the excellent Anasazi Heritage Center in Dolores, Colorado, which is the BLM’s main visitor center for the National Monument.

In addition to establishing four new parks in December 2014, the Defense Authorization Act for 2015 also made a number of administative changes.  Among these changes was rebranding the clumsily-named Quinebaug-Shetucket Rivers Valley National Heritage Corridor to the much-catchier sounding Last Green Valley National Heritage Corridor.  The Last Green Valley NHC includes numerous sites in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island.  The first three sites listed above all previously had stamps under the old name, whereas the last two are new additions to the Passport Program.  The Old Sturbridge Village is a 19th Century living history villate in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.  The Prudence Crandall Museum  in Canterbury, Connecticut preserves the home of the woman of the same name, who was named Connecticut’s “state heroine” (ever wonder how many states have a state heroine?) for her role in providing education to African-Americans.  The Lebanon Historical Society Museum preserves the history of the Connecticut town of the same name, and back in 1998, it was featured in the New York Times.  Roseland Cottage Gardens and Carriage House is a historic property in Woodstock, Connecticut.  Finally, the Norwich Heritage & Regional Visitor Center is located in the Connecticut town of the same name.

With these new additions, Parkasaurus now counts 1,900 active Passport cancellations currently available, or 1,818 stamps excluding anniversary stamps and other special event or special program stamps.

Share this Parkasaurus post: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Follow Parkasaurus: Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

30 for 300 – Honorable Mentions

Well, I should have figured when I first set out to do this series that it would provide to be nearly impossible to pick just 30 favorite moments from the hundreds of visits that I have made to the first 300 national parks that I have already visited.   Or even worse, that I would get to the end and realize, “how could I possibly have left out that?”   So sure enough, I have a few national park memories that got left on the figurative cutting room floor that I just couldn’t leave unmentioned.

Thus, as a postscript to my “30 for 300” series, here are five “honorable mentions” that I just couldn’t leave out.

#5) Searching for Starfish in the Tidepools at Olympic National Park – August 2003
Olympic National Park is often called “three national parks in one” for its combination of rugged alpine scenery, lush temperate rainforests, and spectacular Pacific coastline.  The day after that 20 mile hike I mentioned earlier in this series, I’m not sure which I enjoyed more – seeking out the fabulously colorful starfish like these guys:

Growing up in the Eastern United States, Parkasaurus just isn't used to seeing starfish like this.
Growing up in the Eastern United States, Parkasaurus just isn’t used to seeing starfish like this.

Or else enjoying the absolutely amazing sunset behind the rock spires of the coastline:

They don't make sunsets like this on the Atlantic Coast either...
They don’t make sunsets like this on the Atlantic Coast either…

 

#4) Walking Among the Ruins at Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument – February 2003
This trip was memorable in large part simply because my friend and I were not supposed to be there.   We were only visiting this Park because a major snowstorm had cancelled all flights to the East Coast, giving us an unexpected extra two days in New Mexico.  Salinas Pueblo Misssions was the first national park I visited that primarily preserves the civilization of the prehistoric pueblo-dwelling peoples, so it will always be special to me for that reason.  What makes Salinas Pueblo MIssions particularly distinctive, however, is that at each of the three prehistoric pueblos preserved in the park, the Spanish had also built a large mission church right in the middle of the pueblo, which is also preserved. Thus, this park preserves the moment of contact between two cultures, and is a place where you can really feel the sweep of history beneath your feet.

#3) Special 100th Anniversary Commemorative Programs at Mesa Verde National Park – June 2006
By the time I visited Mesa Verde National Park three and a half years afte rmy visit to Salinas Pueblo Missions, I had started to become abundantly familiar with the story of the Ancestral Puebloan people, or as they are sometimes called, the Anasazi.  Since the ancient pueblos are largely permanent structures that were built in a desert environment, the U.S. National Park System includes quite a few of them.

Mesa Verde National Park, of course, preserves some of the most-spectacular abandoned Ancestral Puebloan ruins out of all of them.   In 2006, Mesa Verde also celebrated its 100th Anniversary with numerous special programsthroughout the summer.  One program my friends and I were particularly lucky to catch was a Ranger providing costumed interpretation as J. Walter Fewkes, one of the first archaeologists to study the cliff dwellings at Mesa Verde.

A ranger dressed as archaeologist Jesse Fewkes really helped bring the story of Mesa Verde to life, with the famous Cliff Palace in the background.

 

#2) Rafting with Au Pairs on the New River Gorge National River – June 2003
One of my former co-workers used to be, as he described, a “den mother” for au pairs working in our area.  Essentially this meant that he had some responsibility for looking out for them, helping them deal with any problems they may have, and also organizing a social activity for them each month – so that they could have some regular time together with peers while adjusting to life in a new country.

For three years, one of the biggest events he organized as a “cap” to their year in this country was a whitewater rafting trip on West Virginia’s New River Gorge, and for those years he invited me to come along as an additional chaperone and driver (since the au pairs generally did not have their own car in this country, naturally.)   It was an offer that I couldn’t refuse.  A two-day trip on the New River Gorge in late spring or early summer is perhaps the perfect river for “newbie” whitewater rafters.  The first day provides some light rapids to get used to the water, and the second has enough big rapids to provide a real adrenaline rush without requiring too much in the way of technical maneuvers from the paddlers.  Plus, the trip provided a great opportunity to make new friends with young women from far away places like Poland, Hungary, and Germany without ever leaving this country.

#1) An Evening Walk on the Beach at Assateague Island National Seashore – August 2007
There’s nothing like walking on a beach at sunset in the summer, when there is no longer a harsh sun beating down on you, and the sand is cool underfoot, and the water is still warm to the touch.  I snapped this picture by wading into the water and taking this picture of the future Mrs. Parkasaurus by looking back towards the shore, and the sunset off in the west.

This picture of the future Mrs. Parkasaurus has become one of the author's personal favorites.
This picture of the future Mrs. Parkasaurus has become one of the author’s personal favorites.

 

And that’s a “wrap” for the series.   If you missed any part of it, you may want to go back and check out:

Part I with #’s 21-30

Part II with #’s 11-20

Part III with #’s 1-10

 

Share this Parkasaurus post: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Follow Parkasaurus: Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

30 for 300 – Part III

And now, here is the conclusion of my 30 for 300 series with my Top 10 Memories from visiting my first 300 national parks!

In case you missed it, you may also be interested in Part I with #’s 21-30; Part II with #’s 11-20; and the Honorable Mentions.

#10) Exploring Ellsworth Rock Garden at Voyageurs National Park – July 2012

My 2012 trip to Voyageurs National Park was magical in multiple ways.   This trip was one of the first camping trips I did with my Jr. T-Rex, who only 20 months old at the time.   Voyageurs is also one of the best places in the country to see bald eagles in the wild, and we saw them seemingly everywhere.  Then, once evening sets in, the star birds of this Park are the loons, whose haunting calls echo over the lakes in the twilight hours.

The top highlight of this trip, however,  was discovering the Ellsworth Rock Gardens.    Back in the ’50s and ’60s, a gentleman by the name of Jack Ellsworth from Chicago vacationed on Kabetogama Lake in the summers and constructed a vast and elaborate set of terraces, flower beds, and fanciful rock sculptures. This site is truly “off-the-beaten-path,” as it is only accessible by boat – which also means no crowds.  We literally had the site to ourselves when we visited, despite being the middle of the summer tourist season.   To find something this elaborate quite literally in the middle of nowhere was truly one of the most surreal experiences of my travels.

Ellsworth Rock Gardens is one of hidden gems of Voyageurs National Park, and indeed, of the whole U.S. National Park System.
Ellsworth Rock Gardens is one of hidden gems of Voyageurs National Park, and indeed, of the whole U.S. National Park System.

 

#9) Picnic Under the Cherry Blossoms at National Capital Parks

Since the Parkasaurus Family lives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC this has become an annual tradition for us – and so this is the only one of my “30 for 300” without a specific date attached to it.  Yes, the Tidal Basin area gets absolutely crowded during cherry blossom season – but for good reason.   There really is nothing like strolling under the cherry blossoms at peak bloom.  The trees form a sea of puffy white bloosoms above you, with iconic accents provided by the visages of the Washington Monument, the Jefferson Memorial, and the other monuments and memorials around the Tidal Basin.  The cherry blossoms are fleeting, though, with peak bloom lasting only 3-5 days each year.  So each year we monitor the reports closely of when the peak bloom will be, and we always make sure to find time in our schedule to head downtown with a blanket and a picnic basket and enjoy the spectacular scenery of one of the Nation’s Capital’s rites of spring.

Even with the well-deserved crowds of people around you, it is still possible to find spots to enjoy the pure clouds of cherry blossoms.
Even with the well-deserved crowds of people around you, it is still possible to find spots to enjoy the pure clouds of cherry blossoms.

 

#8) Hiking to Cathedral Rock at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore – May 2006

Located way up on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is another of my favorite hidden gems of the National Park System.  In fact, if it were rebranded as Pictured Rocks National Park instead of national lakeshore, it would probably get a lot more of the attention that it so richly deserves.

My visit to this Park in 2006 included one of my all-time favorite hikes.  From the trailhead at the end of Chapel Road, there is a choice of two trails, one leading to Cathedral Rock and Chapel Beach, the other leading to Mosquito Beach.  I must admit that I never took the trail to Mosquito Beach, but this seems like an easy choice, right?

The full loop trail to Cathedral Rock and Chapel Beach is 9 miles, so it makes for a substantial day hike.  Additionally, one of the few drawbacks of this hike is that a substantial portion of those 9 miles leads you through relatively non-descript pine forest.  The payoff at the end is worth it, however.  After spending an hour and a half walking through the forest, the sensation of going over that last rise and seeing the pristine waters of Lake Superior and the spectacular rock formations on its coastline open up before you is truly breath-taking.

Cathedral Rock is one of the most-impressive natural features on the Lake Superior coastline.
Cathedral Rock is one of the most-impressive natural features on the Lake Superior coastline.

 

#7) Climbing the High Dune by Moonlight at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve – July 1999

Sand dunes in Colorado?   This National Park certainly provides the unexpected.  There are few sights that can compare to seeing North America’s tallest sand dunes nestled against the base of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains in southern Colorado.   On my trip to this park in the summer of ’99, I arrived relatively late in the evening and claimed a campsite in the Park’s Pinyon Flats Campground.   I then took advantage of the full moon that evening to go out and climb to the top of the High Dune under the soft glow of the moonlight.  Reaching the dunes involves crossing a shallow stream, and from there, with the benefit of the cool night air, bare feet were definitely the order of the day.   While most people who visit this Park in July have to deal with the scorching sunshine and heat on the dunes, my trip was a magical mystery tour in an other-worldly landscape with cool sand under my feet and the full moon high in the sky.

The dunefield at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve under the sunlight, rather than the moonlight.  Photo from a return visit in April 2015.
The dunefield at Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve under the sunlight, rather than the moonlight. Photo from a return visit in April 2015.

 

#6) “Baby Moon” on the Blue Ridge Parkway – October 2010

The Blue Ridge Parkway has been one of my absolute favorite national parks ever since I drove it end-to-end in August 2001.  If you love a good road trip, as I most certainly do, then the Blue Ridge Parkway’s 469 miles with no traffic lights, no stop signs, and almost never-ending series of overlooks, historic sites, and waterfall hikes is almost like a little slice of heaven.   In the Fall of 2010, as Mrs. Parkasaurus and I were preparing for the birth of our Jr. T-Rex, we decided to take a “baby moon” trip together before the baby arrived.  A trip on the Blue Ridge Parkway during Fall colors season, and to enjoy a corn maze in the shape of the Parkway’s 75th Anniversary logo was a logical choice.  On the way back home, we happened to discover a cabbage patch growing right up next to the Parkway, which seemed like the perfect symbol for our trip.

Mrs. Parkasaurus picking out a baby from the cabbage patch on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
Mrs. Parkasaurus picking out a baby from the cabbage patch on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

 

#5) Hiking the Lamar Valley at Yellowstone National Park – August 2006

Yellowstone National Park, in my estimation, is one of the ten most amazing places in the world, and thus rightfully attracts its fair share of visitors.    Away from the geysers and thermals however, and away from the traffic jams caused by the bison and the grizzly bears, there are still places in Yellowstone where you can get off the beaten path.  On my second trip to Yellowstone, in 2006, that place for me was the Lamar Valley in the far eastern end of the Park.  I no longer even remember what inspired me to do so, but I set off on a hike in this part of the Park without even so much as a marked trail – and just spent a couple hours taking in the grand scenery of the American West and a little quiet solitude.

A solitary bison in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park.
A small group of bison in the Lamar Valley of Yellowstone National Park.

 

#4) Finding Incredible Isolation at American Samoa National Park – September 2005

I could easily fill an entire blog post about my trip to American Samoa National Park (which for some reason is officially called the National Park of American Samoa) – and in fact, I may just try and do that sometime down the road.   Suffice to say that just visiting American Samoa National Park involves travelling to what is far and away the most-remote location in the National Park System – located as it is some 4,500+ miles southwest of Los Angeles in the Southern Hemisphere.   However, even within a Park like this, there is remote, and then there is really remote.  Only a handful of visitors each year are able to make it out to the island of ‘Ofu.  For the lucky few who make it, it is a true tropical paradise.  Dramatic rainforest-covered cliffs drop down to white sand beaches, with a pristine coral reef literally almost close enough to touch.  I’ve traveled to many different places, but I’ve never felt further away from the cares of the world than when I was on the island of ‘Ofu.

The one hiking trail on the island of 'Ofu doesn't get a lot of foot traffic, so the author found that a machete came in handy.
The one hiking trail on the island of ‘Ofu doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic, so the author found that a machete came in handy.  Some of ‘Ofu’s beautiful beaches can be seen in the background.

 

#3) “Ocean in View, O the Joy!” at Lewis & Clark National Historical Park – July 2005

In addition to dinosaurs, I’ve always had a soft spot for national parks dedicated to explorers.   In the summer of 2004, my best friend and I decided to celebrate the bicentennial of Lewis and Clark’s Cexpedition by taking three weeks to travel the entirety of the National Park Service’s Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail, which now marks the route.   Nearly two weeks into the trip, we finally reached what was then-called Fort Clatsop National Memorial and is now called Lewis & Clark National Historical Park.  Whatever you call it, the ending point of the Trail is the National Park Service’s reconstruction of the small fort that Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and their men (along with Sacagawea and her family) built to pass the winter of 1805-1806.  Our sense of relief at reaching the end of our road trip was of course nothing compared to the relief that Meriwether Lewis  and Wiliam Clark must have felt when writing the words in his journal, “Ocean in View, O the Joy!”   Still, our trip following in their footsteps, and listening to an audiobook of their journals along the way, and traveling from one end of our country to another was full of memories that are not soon to be forgotten.

The author and his friend celebrating at the reconstructed entrance to Lewis & Clark's Fort Clatsop
The author and his friend celebrating at the reconstructed entrance to Lewis & Clark’s Fort Clatsop

 

#2) Interning at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument – Summer 1999

As an undergraduate, I double-majored in geology and economics.   As I entered college, my dream was to some daydevelop a career studying fossils as a paleontologist.   By the time my college days were over, however, I had recognized that my future calling lay in economics, rather than geology or paleontology.  Still, I stuck it out and completed my double major, and before beginning a career in economics, I took advantage of my geology degree to spend the summer after graduation as an intern with the National Park Service.

It was actually that summer internship which set me on my journey of trying to visit all of the U.S. National Parks.  You see, Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument is an absolutely incredible place, with beautiful Rocky Mountain alpine scenery and 35 million year old fossils of insects so perfectly preserved that you can still see the veins in the wing of a fossilized wasp.   Yet, before taking this internship, I had never even heard of it.  Thus, it occurred to me – how many other incredible places that I have never heard of could I discover if I started visiting national parks?   And so the journey began…

The author, performing some trail maintenance as a Ranger intern in his younger days at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.
The author, performing some trail maintenance as a Ranger intern in his younger days at Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument.

 

#1) Wedding Day at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park – July 2008

If you’ve been paying close attention, you’ve noticed a pattern with my 30 for 300’s #’s 21-30 and #’s 11-20.   Sure enough,  10 months after getting engaged at Harper’s Ferry, we returned to the Park to get married at Historic St. Peter’s Chapel.

The author and Mrs. Parkasaurus get their first Passport stamps together as an (almost) married couple just before their wedding ceremony.
The author and Mrs. Parkasaurus get their first Passport stamps together as an (almost) married couple just before their wedding ceremony.

We made the most of the experience, including getting Passport Stamps together to mark the special day, and then climbing the old stone steps to the Chapel’s location on the cliff above the lower town.  Since the Appalachian National Scenic Trail runs along those steps, my wife can say that she hiked a portion of the Appalachian Trail in her wedding dress!

The happy couple and the scenary of Harpers Ferry National HIstorical Park.
The happy couple and the scenary of Harpers Ferry National HIstorical Park.

Thank you very much for joining me on this trip down memory lane through some of my favorite moments from visiting my first 300 national parks.  I obviously continue to love both visiting parks for the first time, and revisiting the parks I have been to before, and I hope you will continue to join me in sharing that journey on this blog.

Top 10 Stamps

If you missed it, here is Part I with #’s 21-30; here is Part II with #’s 11-20; and here are the Honorable Mentions.

Share this Parkasaurus post: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Follow Parkasaurus: Facebooktwittergoogle_plus

30 for 300 – Part II

In continuing celebration of having reached my milestone 300th U.S. National Park visited, I’m posting about 30 of my favorite memories from my national park visits thus far.

Click here for Part I – #21-#30.

#20) Hiking to Mt. Olympus Viewpoint at Olympic National Park – August 2003
National parks are often places for testing our limits.  On a visit to the vast Olympic National Park in Washington, my friend and I naturally hoped to catch a glimpse of Mount Olympus.  The only problem was that reaching any of the viewpoints for Mount Olympus required an extensive hike in to the interior of the Park.  My friend and I compounded the problem by insisting upon going for a loop trail – in this case, one that was a whopping 20 miles.  Suffice to say, we were neither suffiicently prepared nor properly conditioned for a hike of that length.  By the time we dragged ourselves back to the car, a couple hours after sunset, we were both completely and utterly exhausted.  Still, we did catch that glimpse of Mount Olympus!  Well, just barely, as we had to look for it between breaks in the clouds.

The author, catching a fleeting glimpse of the glaciers on Mount Olympus, midway through a massive 20-mile hike.
The author, catching a fleeting glimpse of the glaciers on Mount Olympus, midway through a massive 20-mile hike.

 

#19) Landing at Portsmouth Village on Cape Lookout National Seashore – July 2002
By coincidence, I have two hikes in a row that were both a little more than I had bargained for.  As mentioned in this Parkasaurus post,  Portsmouth Village is one of the best-preserved ghost towns and one of the most-difficult to reach Passport cancellations on the East Coast.  Just to get to the site, you need to take a ferry from the mainland to Ocracoke Island in Cape Hatteras National Seashore,  and then from there hire another boat to take you over to Portsmouth Island.   The ghost town of Portsmouth Village was interesting enough, but what my friend and I were completely unprepared for were the absolute clouds of mosquitoes!   I remember applying multiple layers of high-strength Deet, and still seeing the mosquitoes line up on my blue jeans trying to find a way in!   Fortunately, the kind Park Rangers on the island took mercy on my friend and I gave us a ride on their Gator to help speed along our visit!  No, they didn’t actually let us drive it – but they did let us pose for this photograph!

The author and his friend, escaping the mosquitoes any way they can – with the help of some kind Park Rangers.

 

#18) Hiking the Savage River Trail in Denali National Park & Preserve – September 2008
By contrast, I have nothing but fond memories of this hike in Alaska’s Denali National Park & Preserve.  Our first day in Denali, my wife and I took an all-day bus tour out to Wonder Lake, which of course has been made famous by the photography of Ansel Adams.  Although we weren’t lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Mount McKinley on that day, we had enough exciting encounters with Alaskan wildlife to fill a scrapbook full of memories.  For our second day, we decided to head out on our own to enjoy some of the Alaskan solitude.  The Savage River Trailhead is the furthest point into the Park that you can drive your own vehicle without a special permit, and this late in the season, we seemingly had this part of the park all to ourselves.   Even though it was only Labor Day weekend, this was already pretty late in the visitaiton season for Denali – indeed, the plants on the tundra were already beautiful fall colors of red and gold.   The image that sticks with me from this trip, however, is reaching the end of the marked trail and seeing the Savage River valley stretch off into the seemingly infinite Alaska wilderness.

The Savage River heads off into the Alaskan wilderness, and the untapped possibilities ahead.

 

#17) Patriot Day at Minute Man National Historical Park – April 2005
The American Revolution began with the “shots heard ’round the world” in the villages of Lexington and Concord, an event now marked every year as Patriots’ Day in the State of Massachusetts.  Normally, visiting a national park in the morning is a good way to beat the crowds – but not on Patriots’ Day in and around Minute Man National Historical Park.  A reenactment is held each year on Lexington Green (technically not part of the National Park Service’s property), followed by commeorative ceremonies at Old North Bridge in Concord.  The event begins  in Lexington at 5:30am – and literally every parking lot in the village of Lexington is packed.  Savvy locals get there even earlier than that with step ladders to provide viewing points for their young children.  The reenactment event itself, true to history, only lasts a few minutes; the Americans fire a few shots, the British fire back, and the Americans run,   Afterwards, it seems that almost everyone heads over to the local Catholic Church, located just off the Green, to enjoy a pancake breakfast sponsored by the local Boy Scout Troop.  Smart thinking by those Scouts!

The statue of the Minute Man, located just off Lexington Green, in the soft glow of sunrise on Patriots’ Day.

 

#16) Sequoia National Park, Home of the Big Trees – August 2009
In 2009, I attended my first Convention of the National Park Traveler’s Club, held that year at Sequoia National Park.  It was great to spend the weekend with so many people who were dedicated to visiting the U.S. National Park System, especially in such a stunning setting.  Although I had previously seen the world’s tallest trees at Redwood National Park, it was little preparation for seeing the true giants of the Kingdom of Life growing on the edges of alpine meadows.  Looking up, it can be somewhat hard to comprehend the soaring heights of the Redwood.  On the other hand, when you stand at the base of sequoia that is many times the circumference of any other tree you have ever seen, there is no mistaking that you are in the land of giants.

Sequoias often grow best on the edges alpine meadows, which create particularly picutresque settings.
Sequoias often grow best on the edges alpine meadows, which create particularly picutresque settings.

Perhaps nothing illustrates the sheer size of these trees quite like this picture of a toppled sequoia.  Even laid flat on its side, the sequoia still towers over the trees around it.

Sequoias remain larger than life, even in death.
Sequoias remain larger than life, even in death.  Yes, that is young sequoia from the next generation in the distance.

 

#15) Waking up to Bison at Breakfast at Theodore Roosevelt National Park – July 2004
If you talk to enough travelers in the U.S. National Parks, many of them are likely to agree: Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota (of all places!) is one of the true hidden gems of the whole U.S. National Park System.   I previously blogged a little bit about this Park back in December 2014. and highlighted the spectacular scenary, the history of Theodore Roosevelt’s days as a rancher in this area, and the unusual rock concretions in the shape of mushrooms.  On my trip in 2004, however, the biggest surprise was waking up in the morning in the Juniper Campground in the Park’s North Unit to the sounds and smells of herd of bison wandering their way through the campground!   I guess that when you are bison, you go where you please, and in this case, that was right past our tent!   Normally, Park Rangers wisely advise everyone to keep a very respectful distance from bison – but in this case that wasn’t an option!  Suffice to say that I got as close to the snorting and grunting bison as I will ever want to be.   Fortunately, nobody was hurt, and the memories were unforgettable!

With a site like this right outside your tent, you don't even need to wait for your coffee in the morning!
With a site like this right outside your tent, you don’t even need to wait for your coffee in the morning!

 

#14) Father’s Day Riding the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad at Cuyahoga Valley National Park – June 2013
Like many young boys, my now-four-year-old Juniot T-Rex has long had a love affair with trains.  So when travels to visit family took us through northeast Ohio on Father’s Day weekend in 2013, there was an obvious way to combine daddy’s love of national parks and son’s love of trains – a trip on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.   Suffice to say my little T. Rex was beside himself with joy to be riding the train.  The conductors even let him help punch the tickets while on board.   The train  railroad provides service from nearby Canton to various stops throughout the Park, and runs frequently enough that it can even be used to support a short visit or hike within the Park before being boarded for a return trip.

A trip on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is a joy for kids both big and small.  Photo from 2005.
A trip on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad is a joy for kids both big and small. Photo from 2005.

 

#13) Backpacking with Friends at Death Valley National Park – January 2009
On my first visit to Death Valley National Park, in January 2005, I remember feeling profoundly small.  That shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering that Death Valley has one of the largest vertical elevation gains in the country, from 282 feet below sea level at Badwater Basin to more than 11,000 feet in elevation on nearby Telescope Peak.

In January 2009, I returned with two of my friends from college for an overnight trip in the Death Valley backcountry.   Backpacking is itself a humbling experience, especially in a desert park like Death Valley, as everything you need for survival in the loneliness of the backcountry must be carried in with you.  After our excursion, we did take some time to take in the salt flats in Badwater Basin and enjoy the otherworldly landscape of the lowest point in the United States.

Three friends celebrating a successful hike to the back-country
Three friends celebrating a successful hike in the Death Valley back-country with some sight-seeing at the lowest point in North America.

 

#12) New Year’s Eve at the Lincoln Memorial – December 2007
I’ve previously blogged about my love for the Lincoln Memorial.   I’ve actually twice spent New Year’s Eve at the Lincoln Memorial.  The first time, in 1999, was for Washington’s commemoration of the turning of the Millenium.  That event was nice enough, with the highlight being when they shot fireworks off the scaffolding that was then-surrounding the Washington Monument.  The down-side is that it was very much a made-for-TV event.  So, when the TV Network went to a commercial break, everything stopped and you were reminded that you were standing in the cold and in the mud, with nothing to do until the commercial break ended.   So that event doesn’t make my Top 30.

However, eight years later I returned to the Lincoln Memorial on New Year’s Eve, with my then-fiancee, the future Mrs. Parkasaurus.  Many people may not realize, but Washington actually does not normally have an outdoor New Year’s Eve event.  So on December 31st, 2007 it almost felt like my fiancee had the illuminated Memorials on the National Mall to ourselves.   As we climbed the steps of the Lincoln Memorial just before midnight, we shared that special moment  transitioning from one year to the next with just the security guard and two other couples who had similar ideas.  It was a fantastic New Year’s Eve like no other.

The view from the top of the Lincoln Memorial at night is one to be savored. Photo from July 2011.

 

#11) The 150th Anniversary of the Civil War at Harpers Ferry National Historical Park – September 2012
For the past four years, the National Park Service has put on a number of events marking the Civil War Sesquicentennial.  Although as a family with two young children, we have attended fewer of these events than I might otherwise have liked, we definitely made it a special point to go to some of the events marking the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Harper’s Ferry, given our special connection to this Park.   We’re glad that we did.

On the night of September 12, 2012 costumed interpreters from the National Park Service helped recreate several scenes from the night of September 12, 1862.   That was the night that Union troops,  recognizing that their position was indefensible, abandoned the town of Harpers Ferry to be captured by the Confederates the next day.  Visitors were led by lantern light to various locations around the historic downtown where the costumed interpreters using material from actual letters and diary entries from 1862 really helped recreate some of the thoughts and emotions that various townspeople in Harpers Ferry must have been feeling on that night – both those who would be leaving, as well as those who would be left behind.   Quite simply it was not a night that I will not soon forget.

Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park is where history happens. Photo from April 2015.

I hope you enjoyed Part II of my 30 for 300 retrospective.

In case you missed it, here is a link to Part I with #’s 21-30, here is Part III with #’s 1-10, and here are the Honorable Mentions.

Part II Pictures

Share this Parkasaurus post: Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestmail
Follow Parkasaurus: Facebooktwittergoogle_plus