Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site – Kiowa County, CO
Women’s Rights National Historical Park –
Bedford Falls, NY
Elizabeth Cady Stanton House
Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area – Stonecrest, GA
Appalachian National Scenic Trail – Blairstown, NJ
Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail – Harpers Ferry, WV
Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site in rural eastern Colorado has had a passport cancellation reading “Eads, CO” ever since the site was added to the National Park System in 2007. The town of Eads, however, where the Park’s headquarters offices are located, is actually a couple miles from the site itself. Thus, the National Park Service has apparently decided to update their cancellation to read “Kiowa County,” rather than the town of Eads.
The highlight of this month’s additions, however, are three new stamps for Women’s Rights National Historical Park in upstate New York. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton house is the third park location to get its own passport cancellation, along with the main Visitor Center in Seneca Falls and the M’Clintock House in nearby Waterloo where the organizers of the Seneca Falls Convention met regularly. Elizabeth Cady Stanton was one of the giants of the women’s suffrage movement and a key organizer of the Seneca Falls Convention. The “Convention Days” stamps refers to the annual commemoration of the Seneca Falls Convention on or around July 20th each summer. The “Bedford Falls” stamp, however, is more closely associated with winter. The town of Seneca Falls was the model for the fictional town of Bedford Falls in Mrs. Parkasaurus’ all-time favorite Christmas movie, “Its a Wonderful Life.” The National Park Service annually hosts an “It’s a Wonderful Life” weekend in mid-December each year.
The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area commemorates the natural and cultural landscapes around two granite mountains located just east of Atlanta, Arabia Mountain itself and Panola Mountain. (The famous Stone Mountain, with its massive carving of Confederate leaders etched in the side, is part of the same geological province, and is located just to the north of the designated National Heritage Area.) This Heritage Area has previously had one cancellation, available at multiple locations, for the town of Lithonia, Georgia. This new cancellation reflects that a new town of Stonecrest, Georgia, containing Arabia Mountain itself, has been split off from the town of Lithonia, Georgia.
The Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area, like many heritage areas, is organized around a number of “themes.” For Arabia Mountain NHA, these themes are Natural Systems, Early Settlement, Culture & Community, Granite & Technology, and Spiritual Landscape. The Spiritual Landscape theme is relatively unusual – the only other example I can immediately think of is the Mormon Pioneer National Heritage Area in Utah. Thus, in addition to being able to obtain this new stamp at Panola Mountain State Park and at the Davidson-Arabia Mountain Nature Preserve, this stamp can also be obtained at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit. The Monastery of the Holy Spirit is an unusual location for a passport cancellation as a religious site, but they also preserve a significant natural expanse of the Arabia Mountain area. Their visitor center includes exhibits on the history of the monastery, and the gift shop includes fudge, fruitcake, and biscotti made on-site by the monks themselves.
The new cancellation for the Appalachian National Scenic Trail is for Blairstown, New Jersey. Blairstown is located just to the east of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area on the upper Pennsylvania-New Jersey border. This stamp is located at the Mohican Outdoor Center, operated by the Appalachian Mountain Club.
Finally, the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail has updated its stamp for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park to reflect the name of the town on the bottom instead of the name of the park.
Appalachian National Scenic Trail | Shenandoah National Park
Champlain Valley National Heritage Partnership:
Lake George Historical Association Museum
Pember Museum of Natural History
Continental Divide National Scenic Trail:
South Fork, CO
Pagosa Springs, CO
Pie Town, NM
Silver City, NM
North Country National Scenic Trail:
Crown Point State Historic Site, NY
The headliners from this group are the stamps for the newly designated Stonewall National Monument in New York City and the relatively newly designated Honouliuli National Monument outside of Honolulu, Hawaii. Despite the name, Stonewall National Monument consists of Christopher Park, located adjacent to a bar known as the Stonewall Inn – which was famously the site of riots on June 28, 1969 protesting police harrassment of gays. The stamp is being made avaialable at an information table in the Park, as well as each of the seven other national park sites located in Manhattan and nearby Mount Vernon, NY.
Salem Maritime National Historic Site is located in the town just north of Boston that is perhaps most famous today for its 17th Century “witch trials.” However, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the town of Salem was famous for its maritime trading network that stretched literally around the world. Today, the National Park Service site encompasses the historic wharves and approximately 10 historic buildings.
On July 14, 2006, Eastern National celebrated the grand opening a new bookstore and gift shop for the Park, which they branded as “Waite & Peirce” after one of the most-prominent trading partnerships from the port’s heyday. Aaron Waite (1742-1830) appears to have formed his partnership with Jerathmiel Peirce (1747-1827) in 1778, at the height of the American Revolutionary War with Great Britain. Records indicate that they jointly owned the two-gun schooner, Greyhound, and they likely used it in privateering ventures – i.e. attempts to capture British merchant vessels. After the war, Waite & Peirce built a successful mercantile enterprise that lasted until Peirce’s death in 1827. Among their merchant vessels was the Friendship. A fully sea-worthy replica of that boat, the Friendship of Salem, is now part of the park.
The Custom House is one of the centerpieces of the park, and the largest of the park’s historical buildings. The Custom House is where government officials worked who were responsible for overseeing the trade in the port of Salem and imposing the appropriate custom duties on cargo shipments. One of those government officials was Nathaniel Hawthorne whose House with Seven Gables is not official part of the national park, but is also one of the most-significant historical sites in Salem.
The Derby House formerly belonged to the Derby family, one of Salem’s most-successful merchant families. The Friendship of Salem is docked on Derby Wharf, which is part of the park, and the Derby Light lighthouse, which dates back to 1871, is located at the end of the Derby Wharf. Finally, the Narbonne House is set back a little bit from Salem’s waterfront and is more typical of the residences for Salem’s working class and small business owner families.
In addition those stamps, I’ve also updated my master list of stamp locations to include five dated unofficial stamps featuring the trail logo offered by the Nez Perce National Historic Trail in Montana and Idaho. The Nez Perce Trail marks the route the Nez Perce Indians and their leader, Chief Joseph, took in 1877 as they fled the U.S. Army.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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!
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.
One of the tricky aspects about visiting all of the U.S. National Parks is just identifying the list of what are the national parks in the first place. In my first post, I mentioned that there are three National Scenic Trails in the U.S. National Park System, and I thought that I would write a little bit more about them. The list of U.S. National Parks includes three national scenic trails;
And yet, there are a total eleven national scenic trails in the United States. So why does these three “count,” but not the other eight? What makes these three so special?
Officially, the designation of a long-distance hiking route as a national scenic trail was established by the National Trails System Act of 1968. Of course, the grand-daddy of them all, the Appalachian Trail was first conceived all the way back in the early 1920’s. Not too long after that, the parallel concept of of a Pacific Crest Trail was proposed in the 1930’s, running along the Sierra Nevadas. Both the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail were designated the first two national scenic trails in 1968. Confusingly, however, the Appalachian NST became a national park site, but the Pacific Crest NST did not. In particularly, the National Park Service was authorized to purchase most of the right-of-way for the Appalachian Trail – in that respect, at least, making it a true national park. The Pacific Crest NST, on the other hand, largely runs through existing national parks, national forests, Bureau of Land Management land, and existing state parks.
By 1980, three other national scenic trails were designated. The Continental Divide NST would parallel the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails by running down the spine of the Rocky Mountains. The North Country NST, on the other hand, would turn long-distance trails on their head by running mostly east-west from Lake Champlain in upstate New York to Lake Sakakawea in central North Dakota. Finally, the Ice Age NST would become the first single-state national scenic trail, making a long loop connecting sites throughout the state of Wisconsin. None of trails, however, authorized the acquisition of land by the National Park Service, and so none of these three trails are officially listed as national parks -even though the National Park Service is the lead Federal liaison for both the North Country and Ice Age Trails. (The US Forest Service, in the Department of Agriculture, is the lead Federal agency for the Continental Divide Trail.)
In 1983, however, three more national scenic trails would be designated. The Florida NST runs from the end of the Florida Panhandle all the way down to Big Cypress National Preserve, just north of Everglades National Park, and is not counted as a national park. On the other hand, the Natchez Trace NST and the Potomac Heritage NST would both receive this distinction. The Natchez Trace NST was designed to run alongside the Natchez Trace Parkway through Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. The Potomac Heritage NST was designated to run along the tow-path of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal National Historical Park in Maryland and Washington, DC, with extensions eastward through Maryland and Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay, and an extension westwards to Pittsburgh. In this respect, both the Natchez Trace NST and Potomac Heritage NST were unique in that although the National Park Service would not be acquiring additional Federal land for these trails (as was done for the Appalachian NST), these two new trails would be running in large part through existing Federal land – indeed through existing National Park Service land.
I actually had occasion to contact the National Park Service about this issue, and they indicated to me that shortly after these new trails were designated in the 1983, the legal department at the National Park Service Headquarters made the determination that these two new trails should be counted as national parks. Although they did not cite the specific legal rationale that was made all those years ago, I almost have to believe that the fact that these trails were largely designated on National Park Service land must have played a role in the determination. The irony, of course, is that since the Natchez Trace Parkway and C&O Canal NHP are both already national parks, in many cases these trails become places where you can “visit two parks at once!” Go figure!
Anyhow, its worth noting that it would be 26 years before another national scenic trail would be designated. In 2009, three new national scenic trails were created: the Arizona NST runs north-south through the State of Arizona, the New England NST runs from Long Island Sound in Connecticut to the Massachusetts-New Hampshire border, and the Pacific Northwest NST runs from the Continental Divide NST in Montana to Olympic National Park in Washington State. None of these three, however, are counted as national parks.