Tag Archives: Cape Hatteras

January Stamps: Steel, Slavery, and Security

The Gantry Crane is part of the Battle of Homestead self-guiding tour sponsored by the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area. Photo from 2006.

A total of 13 new stamps this month:

Everglades National Park | Nike Missile Site

Lassen Volcanic National Park | 100th Anniversary 1916-2016

Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail | Bitterroot Valley, MT

Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area |

      • Battle of Homestead 1892
      • Bost Building NHL
      • Carrie Furnace NHL
      • W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop

Underground Railroad Freedom Network |

      • Cape Hatteras NS
      • Christiansted NHS
      • Fort Monroe NM
      • Fort Scott NHS
      • Monocacy NB
      • Petersburg NB’
Aerial view of the Nike Missile Base at Everglades National Park. Photo Credit: Rodney Cammouf, Nataionl Park Service
Aerial view of the Nike Missile Base at Everglades National Park. Photo Credit: Rodney Cammouf, Nataionl Park Service

If you participate in the Passport program long enough, you’ll no doubt have many cases of the “one that got away” – a stamp that you just missed due to the circumstances of the day.   The Parkasaurus Family just had one of those moments as we visited Everglades National Park over Christmas week just last month.  We had hoped that this visit would give us a “complete set” of all four Everglades Passport stamps, only to have Everglades receive this new stamp for their Nike Missile Site, which is open by guided tour.   As we like to say, though, this gives us another reason to go back to this park!

Nike Missiles were early surface-to-air missile defense systems that were deployed during the first part of the Cold War in the 1950’s and early 1960’s.   Nike Missile sites can also be viewed at several locations in Golden Gate National Recreation Area,  including one in the Marin Headlands area with its own Passport cancellation.   Nike Missile Sites are also included within the boundaries of Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and Gateway National Recreation Area in New York and New Jersey, but are not part of the interpretive program at either park as near as I can tell.  (UPDATE: a reader in the comments informs me that Gateway NRA’s Sandy Hook Unit in New Jersey does offer guided tours of its well-preserved Nike Missile Site on the weekends in-season, as this schedule from Spring 2015 confirms. Gateway NRA has a second Nike Missle Site at Fort Tilden in Queens that is very deteriorated.)

Although the history of the Cold War is slowly being included in the National Park System through places like Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota, Eveglades National Park is actually a surprisingly rich location to learn about the history of the Cold War.   Due to its proximity to Cuba, the Nike Missiles stationed in Everglades National Park were some of the last to be decommissioned, remaining active some five years after other sites around the country were taken out of service.  In addition, numerous locations around the Park were used by the Central Intelligence Agency to train Cuban exiles to conduct operations against the Castro Regime in Cuba. These efforts even included the stationing of secret weapons caches for arming Cuban exiles in areas around the park!  In addition to these clandestine offensive operations, during the 1950’s the US Air Force actually trained National Park Service Rangers as part of the Ground Observer Corps  Program, whose role was to have participants capable of identifying incoming hostile bombers attacking the United States.   Although advances in radar technology rendered the program obsolete by the late 1950’s, that program is illustrative of a much different era in U.S. History, one in which Everglades National Park was in many ways located on the United States’ front lines in the Cold War.

Meanwhile, Lassen Volcanic National Park, in northern California, is continuing an extended centennial celebration.  Last year, Lassen Volcanic added a new stamp marking the centennial of the 1915 eruption of Mt. Lassen.   This eruption lead to the creation of Lassen Volcanic National Park the following year on August 9th, just a couple weeks before the creation of the National Park Service itself on August 25, 1916.

 

While traversing the Bitterroot Valley in 1805, Lewis & Clark received confirmation of the Lolo Pass to the north over the Bitterroot Mountains. This photo from the Lochsa River, just beyond the Lolo Pass, illustrates the harsh, mountainous terrain, they would have to cross to reach the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.
While traversing the Bitterroot Valley in 1805, Lewis & Clark received confirmation of the Lolo Pass to the north over the Bitterroot Mountains. This photo from the Lochsa River, just beyond the Lolo Pass, illustrates the harsh, mountainous terrain, they would have to cross to reach the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean. Photo from 2005

The new stamp for the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail will be located at the Ravalli County Museum in Hamilton, MT, about 30 miles south of Missoula. The Lewis & Clark expedition passed through this area in early September of 1805, the second year of their cross-country expedition. Just before passing through this relatively broad valley, they encountered the Native Americans now known as the Salish.  Lewis & Clark purchased horses from them and gained valuable information about the Lolo Pass to the north, which they would eventually take over the Bitterroot Mountains, just barely making it through before the early onset of winter.  Interestingly, Lewis & Clark were so amazed by the unique sounds of the Salish language that they speculated that the Salish must be the lost descendents of Welsh explorers from the 12th Century – which was a popular legend in America at the time.

It is also worth noting that the Bitterrot Valley actually owes its name somewhat indirectly to Lewis & Clark.  The American Indians of the area would eat the roots of this plant after boiling them until they were soft, and the women would collect these roots in the valley during the late summer each year.  In 1805, they shared some of these roots with the expedition, but Lewis found that “they had a very bitter taste, which was naucious  to my pallate.” (spellings from the original)   Nonetheless, on the return journey back east in 1806 Lewis was able to collect some specimens of the complete plant, which he he returned back east as part of the expedition’s collections.  Botanist Frederick Pursh of the University of Pennsylvania would later give this species the scientific name Lewisia rediviva in Lewis’ honor.   And of course, that initial assessment of the bitter taste lives on to this day in the name of the valley and of the mountains.

This decaying water tower is one of the signature landmarks at the Battle of Homestead site in the Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area.. Photo from 2006.

The Rivers of Steel National Heritage Area, like other National Heritage Areas, is a partnership program – but in many ways, it also functions as “Steelmaking National Historical Park” in the absence of a full-fledged national park dedicated to the history of steelmaking in southwest Pennsylvania. The main starting point for any visit to the Heritage Area is the visitor center and headquarters for the River of Steel Heritage Alliance in Homestead, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh.  The Bost Building  was originally built as a hotel, and served as the temporary headquarters of the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers during the contentious strike and lockout of 1892.  That strike culminated on July 6, 1892 with a conflict between the striking workers on one side and the security agents and strike-breakers hired by the Carnegie Steel Company on the other side.  The nearby site of that battle is already a Passport location for the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail and features a small visitor contact station, some wayside exhibits, and a cell phone audio tour.   Across the Monongahela River from this site are located the Carrie Furnaces National Historic Landmark.  There lie the remains of the giant blast furnaces at the Homestead Steel Works, and are open only by guided tour from May to October.  The Carrie Furnaces are actually the core of a proposal to create a Homestead Steelworks National Historical Park; you can also see part of this facility in this 13 minute online video tour.

Finally, the last new Passport location is for the W. A. Young and Sons Machine Shop and Foundry, which is located about an hour south of Homestead in Rices Landing, PA, and has been restored by the Rivers of Steel Heritage Alliance.

Appomattox Plantation at City Point in Petersburg National Battlefield once had a number of slaves before it was occupied by the Union Army in the closing stages of the Civil War.  Photo from 2015.

The last stamps this month are for the Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom.  This is partnership that includes any site that tells the story of slavery or emancipation in the United States.  Since this partnership includes more than 500 sites and programs, for purposes of the Passport, the Network only issues cancellations to sites in the Network that are already part of the National Park System proper.  The waterfront at Christiansted National Historic Site in the Virgin Islands was once part of the slave trade from 1733 to 1803 as a colony of Denmark.  Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia preserves the Appommattox Plantation at City Point, which was later used as General Grant’s Headquarters.  Like most southern plantations, the plantation included a number of slaves, whose stories are now told by the National Park Service.  Similarly, Monocacy National Battlefield includes the Best Farm, which was founded  in 1793 as L’Hermitage by French plantation owners from what is now present-day Haiti.  The  Vincendiere Family owned slaves at the plantation into the 1850’s.

Fort Monroe National Monument in Virginia was amously used as a refuge for escaped slaves during the Civil War as well.  Union General Benjamin Butler argued that if the Confederates wished to argue that slaves were legally property and that they had legally seceeded from the Union, then escaped slaves were legally “contraband of war” and thus no longer needed to be returned under the terms of the Fugitive Slave Act. The story of escape from slavery is now part of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore.  A monument there marks the site of the Hotel d’Afrique on Hatteras Inlet, which was used as a safe haven for escaped slaves during the Civil War.

Finally, Fort Scott National Historic Site in eastern Kansas tells the story of the “Bleeding Kansas” years of the 1850’s.  During this time, pro-slavery southerners and pro-abolition northerners flooded in to Kansas, and frequently had conflicts with each other, as they attempted to influence whether Kansas would enter the Union as a so-called “slave state” or “free state.”  The violence would include an appearance by John Brown, who would later go on to fame (and his death) in a raid on the Federal Armory at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.   This violence also led to the infamous case of Republican Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts being nearly caned to death by South Carolina Congressman Preston Brooks after Sumner gave a speech sharply criticizing the role of one of South Carolina’s Senators in instigating the violence in Kansas.  The violence ultimately came to an end only when southern Senators abandoned the US Senate during the Civil War, allowing Kansas to be admitted to the Union as a “free state” in 1861.

The addition of this month’s new stamps means that there are now 1, 997 Passport cancellations currently available.   That means next month we will almost certainly pass 2,000!    Excluding anniversary and special event cancellations, there are still 1,897 cancellations available.

Fort Scott National Historic Site
Fort Scott National Historic Site in Kansas is one of several new sites adding an Underground Railroad: Network to Freedom Passport stamp this month. Photo from 2006.

 

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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

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30 for 300 – Part I

I’m going to take a brief break from my usual postings on this blog to engage in a little self-indulgence.   Careful readers may have noticed in my recent Trip Report that my trip to Petersburg National Battlefield marked my milestone 300th national park visited.  To mark this occasion, I’ve decided to put together a brief retrospective on 30 of my favorite moments from the visits to my first 300 national parks.   These are not necessarily my 30 favorite national parks, but rather they are 30 of my favorite moments from visiting national parks – in fact, some national parks that have had more than one special moment in my travels to them may even appear more than once.   For simplicity, I’ve limited the choices here to parks that I visited after 1998, when I first discovered the Passport Program and first started to conceive of the possibility of visiting all the national parks, and all the way up to my trip to Petersburg just a couple months ago.    To make this more readable, I’ll break this up into three posts of 10 favorite memories each.  So without further ado, here are #’s 21-30 of my “30 for 300” in the national parks.

#30) Yosemite National Park in the Snow – March 2006
I figured that I should start this off this series with a  national park that would rank as many people’s favorite.   Back in 2006, I met up with a friend of mine from college who was living in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time, and we headed out to Yosemite National Park for the weekend.  After our first night in the Curry Village, we woke up to find that our spring day in Yosemite had been turned into a Winter Wonderland.   The snow cover made the iconic Yosemite Falls especially spectacular.

Yosemite Falls in the snow made this national park visit especially memorable.
Yosemite Falls in the snow made this national park visit especially memorable.

#29) Discovering George Rogers Clark National Historical Park – May 2003
When you set out to visit all of the national parks in the United States, one of the many rewards is the discovery of the unexpected places that you never even knew existed before the journey began.   Perhaps no place symbolizes that “discovery of the unexpected” for me more than George Rogers Clark National Historical Park in tiny Vincennes, Indiana.  Most Americans have never heard of George Rogers Clark, although most have probably heard of his “little brother,” William Clark, of the famous Lewis & Clark expedition.

During the heart of the American Revolutionary War, however, it was older brother George who would stake first claim to the history books.   In the dead winter of mid-February 1779, George Rogers Clark would lead 170 volunteers out of Fort Kaskasia in Illinois on a daring sneak attack.  Together they would march across 180 miles of flooded prairie, sometimes wading through icy water that rose to their shoulders, to surprise the British garrison at present-day Vincennes.  Their arrival caught the British completely by surprise – understandably given the extraordinary conditions – and he was able to force their surrender.  This victory helped cement American control of the whole territory from Ohio to Illinois.  This control would then be formally recognized four years later in the Treaties of Paris that ended the American Revolution, making this territory part of the fledgling United States, rather than part of Canada .  Younger brother William would make his own way into the history books some 14 years later, but this extraordinary effort under incredibly harsh conditions demonstrated that there was more than one Clark brother with “Undaunted Courage.”

Today, Vincennes, IN is a location that is truly “off-the-beaten-path,” but the impressive memorial to George Rogers Clark commemorates his story – a story that I would likely never have learned had this national park not existed.

The George Rogers Clark NHP in Vincennes, Indiana memorializes a forgotten hero. Photo Credit: National Park Service
The George Rogers Clark NHP in Vincennes, Indiana memorializes a forgotten hero. Photo Credit: National Park Service

#28) Playing in the Surf at Cape Hatteras National Seashore – July 2002
Sometimes we visit a National Park to pursue solititude, and sometimes national parks are best visited with a friend.  In the summer of 2002, my best friend from college and I took a road trip through all three of the national seashores in the middle of the Atlantic Coast.   At Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina, we particularly enjoyed playing in the surf, tossing a football to each other, with the waves crashing around us.   Approriately enough, we named this particular game “Hatteras,” in honor of how much we enjoyed the pristine sandy beaches at this park.

#27) Counting Alligators at Big Cypress National Preserve – May 2014
The spring of 2014 found me travelling across south Florida from Miami to Naples with my family on the Tamiani Trail.  Along the way, Big Cypress National Preserve proved to be the perfect place to stop for a picnic lunch.  Right outside the picnic area, there is a boardwalk running alongside a canal that was also the perfect place to look for alligators with my then three-year old son.   I can still hear him saying, “Dad, there’s another one!”

You don't have to look hard to find alligators at Big Cypress National Preserve.
You don’t have to look hard to find alligators at Big Cypress National Preserve.  There are at least six in this photograph.

#26) Cajun Culture at Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve – May 2004

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve in southeast Louisiana is something of a grab-bag of a national park, covering New Orleans’ French Quarter, the Barataria Nature Preserve just west of New Orleans,  the Chalmette Battlefield from the War of 1812 just east of New Orleans, and then three Acadian Cultural Centers in the nearby cities of Eunice, Lafayette, and Thibodaux.  Back in 2004, I was heading out to the Prairie Acadian Culture Center in Eunice, some 2.5 hours west of New Orleans, to try and catch a scheduled demonstration of cajun music.  Unfortunately, as sometimes happens, I was running late getting out there, and ended up missing it.  As it turned out, though, I had no worries.  The Ranger on duty that day said that she was in a cajun music band herself, and that her band was playing a gig that evening at a nearby restaurant called Bubba Frey’s.  Arriving there, the special that evening was “boulet” – a dish that reminded me of a hush puppy, only with seafood mixed in.  Acadian Cultural experiences rarely get more authentic than that!

#25) Looking Up at the World’s Biggest Trees in Redwood National Park – March 2001
In 2001, I was only two years out of college and making my first trip to the State of California.  While visiting two of my friends in the San Francisco Bay Area, we decided, almost son the spur of the moment, to make the long day trip up the Pacific Coast Highway to Redwood National Park.  This was my first encounter with the Pacific Coast Rainforest and with the giant trees.  There’s a reason why these giants have inspired generations of conservationists.  Standing under some of the tallest living things anywhere on the face of the Earth is always awe-inspiring.

Its hard for a photograph to do justice to the towering heights of some of the world's tallest trees, which are found in Redwood National Park.
Its hard for a photograph to do justice to the towering heights of some of the world’s tallest trees, which are found in Redwood National Park.

#24) Sailing to Dry Tortugas National Park – December 2002
Dry Tortugas National Park is one of the harder-to-reach places in the U.S. National Park System.  Its location says it all – 70 miles west of Key West.  The centerpiece of the park is historic Fort Jefferson, which straddles the tiny island of Garden Key like a behemoth – so much so that its walls seemingly stretch right over the edges of the key and plunge into the ocean.   The Fort was built in the early 19th Century to protect the shipping passage around the Florida Keys into New Orleans, and was later used as an Alcatraz-style prison. Today, on a day trip out of Key West, not only do you get to tour this impressive historic fort, but the boat operators also provide snorkeling gear to discover the coral reef that has grown up around the walls in the ocean below.  To top it all off, nearby Long Key, which is frequently connected to Garden Key by a sandbar, is a major seabird rookery.  From my vantage point standing on the walls of Fort Jefferson, Long Key looked like it was a scene out of Jurassic Park, surrounded as it was by a virtual cloud of nesting seabirds.

For those prone to seasickenss, Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park can also be visited by seaplane. Long Key can be seen in the far back of this image. Photo Credit: National Park Service
For those prone to seasickenss, Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park can also be visited by seaplane. Long Key can be seen in the far back of this image. Photo Credit: National Park Service

#23) Discovering Petroglyphs at Arches National Park – July 1999
I could probably fill a whole blog post with my stories from Arches National Park, a true gem of the National Park System.  On this trip, I was travelling by myself, on my way to Salt Lake City, and was camping on Bureau of Land Management Land along the Colorado River, just outside of the National Park.  While there, I ran into a young woman who was also travelling solo.  We agreed that it would be fun to go hiking together in the Park.   It turns out that she had heard that there was a “secret” petroglyph panel in Arches National Park.  Its “secret” because there is no marked trail to the panel, and the Park Rangers will not provide directions to it. This is due to the relatively small number of petroglyphs in the Park and the very high number of visitors that this “destination park” receives every year.  Nevertheless, her directions were good, and when we arrived at the location, we found this simple sign from the National Park Service, “You’ve Found Something Unique – Please Preserve It.”  Really – that sign could be placed almost anywhere in the National Park System, but it was particularly poignant here.  This was the very first time I had ever encountered petroglyphs, and I was enthralled.  Moreover, more than 15 years later, in an age when almost all information is available on the Internet, it seems amazing that a place with unpublished directions like this can still exist.  You can see some good photos of the Dark Angel Petroglyphs, including that sign, here.

#22) The World is Big and Small at Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve – September 2008
Since Wrangell-St. Elias National Park & Preserve is one of those odd national parks that “counts twice,” I’m going to cheat a little bit and include two moments from this trip.

The main visitor center for this Park, located in Copper Center, AK, is set up somewhat unusually. The theatre with the park movie is actually located in a separate out-building from the rest of the visitor center.  So after planning my hike in the main building, I went out to watch the move.  I was so floored by the stunning aerial photography in this film that I just had to go back into the main building and ask the Rangers about how the photography was done, and hopefully purchase a take-home copy – something I had never done before (or since!).  That ended up being a most-fortuitous decision.  While I was talking to the Rangers back in the main building, the phone rang.  A nearby flight-seeing operation had someone who was interested in going up for a tour, but they needed someone else to split the cost of the plane.  The Rangers said that this had never happened before all summer – so clearly this was “meant to be.”  The following hour spent flying above the glaciers in the Wrangell Mountains was one of the most memorable hours of my life.

Few experiences can compare to seeing the rugged peaks of the Wrangell Mountains up close from a flight-seeing tour.
Few experiences can compare to seeing the rugged peaks of the Wrangell Mountains up close from a flight-seeing tour.

Shortly after the flight-seeing tour ended, I proceeded to drive the rest of the way towards my planned hike.  Along the way, I stopped at an overlook like this one, with the aspens in full fall colors.   I checked my phone at one of these stops, and I had a text message with a picture of my new nephew, Aiden, who had been born just an hour or two earlier more than 3,800 miles away, on the other side of the continent, in Florida.  This day had shown that the world was both larger and smaller than I had imagined.

Even in the middle of the wilderness, modern technology meant that news of a birth on the side of the continent could still reach you.

#21) “She Said ‘Yes!'” at Harper’s Ferry National Historical Park – October 2007
As things were getting serious with my then-girlfriend, it only seemed natural given my second love for the national parks that I should ask the big question in a national park.  I was lucky to pick a beautiful fall colors day in West Virginia.  We began the day with a quiet picnic lunch away from the crowds on Bolivar Heights in the western end of the Park.  Then we headed to the historic downtown, where we discovered that the recently-rennovated Historic St. Peter’s Chapel was open for the first time that I had seen in my several years of having visited this Park.  Since we are both Catholics, that ended up being the perfect place to combine faith, hope, and love and to ask her to spend the rest of our lives together. I’ve felt a special connection to this national park ever since.

The author and the future Mrs. Parkasaurus capped off their big day by happily celebrating at the top of Maryland Heights in Harper’s Ferry National HIstorical Park.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this post, if you’d like to keep reading, here are links to Part II with #’s 11-20,  Part III with #’s 1-10, and the Honorable Mentions.

Stamp Collage 1-001

 

Edit: This post was updated after original publication to add the stamp collage image at the end.

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April Stamps – Ready for the Beach!

Assateague Island National Seashore has enjoyed 50 years of sunsets like this one.  Photo from 2007.
Assateague Island National Seashore has enjoyed 50 years of sunsets like this one. Photo from 2007.

There are four new stamps on Eastern National’s list for April, three at two national parks, and one at a national historic trail:

  • Assateague Island National Seashore | 50th Anniversary 1965-2015
  • Cape Lookout National Seashore | Great Island Cabins
  • Cape Lookout Naitonal Seashore | Long Point Cabins
  • Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail | Philadelphia, PA

Additionally, there were two other stamps that were previously reported, but were listed as “new” on the list for the first time this month.  One was for the Civil War Defenses of Washington | 150th Anniversary of the Civil War, which was used to commemorate that 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Fort Stevens on the outskirts of Washington, DC back in July 2014, and the other is for the National Park Service’s Washington Support Office in downtown Washington, DC.

With the new stamp for Assateague Island National Seashore, this actually marks the fourth straight month that a new anniversary stamp has been issued.  While anniversary stamps used to be an occasional novelty in the Passport Program, there’s no question that they now seem to be a definite trend.  While some people like having the extra anniversary cancellations available, at Parkasaurus, we don’t see how it makes sense to make a stamp for a one-year anniversary with a seven-year adjutable-date wheel.  Traditionally, collecting all the passport stamps at a national park  would be a way of ensuring that you visited all the major sites within the park,  but an Anniversary stamp arguably falls into a different category.  Ideally, we’d like to see parks celebrating anniversaries to offer creatively-designed anniversary bonus stamps instead.

Anyhow, it is interesting to note that three of the four new stamps this month are for National Seashores.  There are 10 national seashores and 4 national lakeshores in the U.S. National Park System.  The first, Cape Hatteras National Seashore, was established way back in 1937.  The other 13 national seashores and national lakeshores, however, were all established in a 14-year period from 1961 to 1975, starting with Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts on August 7, 1961 and ending with Canaveral National Seashore in Florida on January 3, 1975.

This burst of activity in protecting pristine seashore and lakeshore environments is often attributed to the influence of Lady Bird Johnson,   During her husband’s Presidency, Lady Bird Johnson was known as a prominent advocate of the U.S. National Park System, and she famously envisioned a system of national seashores as a “string of pearls” along the coast of the United States.   The 1960’s were obviously a period of tremendous growth in the post-World War II “vacation culture” in the United States, and development of coastal areas in the United States.  Nevertheless, it is amazing to think that for more than a decade up to the very beginning of 1975 nearly one new national seashore or national lakeshore was established, and that there has not been a single new one since.

The Cape Lookout Lighthouse is an iconic feature of Cape Lookout National Seashore. Photo Credit: National Park Service

The two new stamps for Cape Lookout National Seashore are to be located at the Ranger Stations associated with each of two separate groups of rental cabins available on the Seashore.   Both sets of cabins are fairly rustic.  The Great Island Cabins are wired for electricity, but incredibly are “BYOG” – bring your own generator.  The Long Point Cabins do have electricity and air conditioning.  However, neither set of cabins includes a refrigerator; bring your own cooler, and ice is available for purchase on the island.

With these additions, Cape Lookout National Seashore now has six stamps.   The Beaufort, NC stamp (just released in September 2014) and the Harker’s Island, NC stamp at the park’s main visitor center are both located on the mainland.   The remaining four stamps will all require a ferry ride.  The Light Station Visitor Center stamp at the Keepers Quarters for the iconic Cape Lookout Lighthouse is accessible by ferry from the Harker’s Island area.   The Great Island Cabins and the Long Point Cabins are accessible by ferries from Davis, NC and from Atlantic, NC, respectively.  Finally, the stamp for Portsmouth Village actually requires two ferries, a ferry to Ocracoke Island on Cape Hatteras National Seashore, and from there, a ferry to Porstmouth Village – making it one of the most-remote stamps in the Passport Program.  Portsmouth Villlage is the best-preserved ghost town east of the Mississippi River, having formerly served as a “lightering village” – a way station to transfer cargo from heavy ships crossing the Atlantic Ocean on to lighter ships traversing the Ocracoke Inlet through the Outer Banks.  The village was slowly abandoned after the shifting sands of the Outer Banks and changing technology rendered the lightering system obsolete, and today it is now also famous for having perhaps some of the most vicious mosquitoes in all of the U.S. National Park System – but that is perhaps a blog post for another day.

Appropriately, historical French Flags and historical American Flags both fly at the Yorktown Battlefield Unit of Colonial National Historical Park.  Photo from 2007.
Appropriately, historical French Flags and historical American Flags both fly at the Yorktown Battlefield Unit of Colonial National Historical Park. Photo from 2007.

The fourth stamp this month is for the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail.   In 1780, the nascent United States took its informal alliance with France in the Revolutionary War to a new level with the arrival of a few hundred French ground trips in Newport, Rhode Island under the command of General Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau.   This national historic trail (which is not one of the 407 national parks) commemorates the route that Washington and Rochambeau took with their forces to Yorktown, Virginia and the last major military action of the Revolutionary War.  There, perhaps even more significant than the presence of French ground forces, the presence of the French Navy effectively cut off British General Charles Cornwallis’ avenue of retreat by seas.   With no other option, that forced General Cornwallis, in 1781, to surrender to General Washington, the American Army played “The World Turned Upside Down,” and two years later the war would officially be over with the Treaty of Paris being signed in 1783.

There previously have been two stamps available for the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route NHT.  One of them lists all the States through which the trail passes, “CT DC DE MA MD NJ NY PA RI VA,” available at Independence National Historical Park in Philadelphia and Thoms Stone National Historic Site in Maryland.  The other just lists “DC, MD, VA;” available at the George Washington Memorial Parkway‘s Headquarters at Turkey Run Park in Virginia.   This new stamp will simply say “Philadelphia, PA” on the bottom and will be the first place-specific stamp for this Trail.  It will presumably either compliment or replace the existing stamp listing all the States at Independence NHP.

Speaking of the end of a war, there was also a new stamp discovered this month that was not on the monthly list.  This stamp was for Appomattox Court House NHP | 150th Anniversary of the Surrender.   The village of Appomattox Court House in Virginia is, of course, the place where the Civil War effectively came to an end with the surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia to Union General Ulysses. S. Grant and his Army of the Potomac, 150 years ago this month.

With the addition of these five new stamps, by our calculations there are now 1,886 active cancellations to collect, with 79 of those being for anniversaries or special events.

Update: This post was updated on April 13th to add the paragraph clarifying that the new Washington-Rochambeau NHT stamp at Independence NHP will be different from the generic stamp that has already been available there for the last couple years.

 

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February 2015 Stamps: Roebling Bridge & Many More

The Roebling Bridge is an engineering marvel that is now preserved as part of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recretarional River.
The Roebling Bridge is an engineering marvel that is now preserved as part of the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recretarional River.  Picture from 2006.

Eastern national has released its list of new Passport Stamps for the much of February, and the list includes a sizable 17 stamps, 14 of which are truly brand “new.”  Of the remaining 14, three are annivesary stamps, four others are for Trails and Heritage Areas, and the remaining seven are for new areas in national parks.

Headlining the list is a new stamp for the Roebling Bridge in the Upper Delaware Scenic & Recreational River.   Although  most people think of river-based national parks as being primarily about rafting, canoeing, and kayaking, the Upper Delaware SRR also includes notable historic sites like the home of author Zane Grey and the nearby Roebling Bride.  The Roebling Bridge is a true engineering landmark, constructed by the same John Roebling that would later go on to construct the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.

Although in the modern day we are used to bridges that carry land vehicles over water, back in the heyday of canals, bridges were also used to carry water vehicles over water.  In the picture above, you can see that the modern-day roadbed was once used by canal boats crossing over the Delaware River, and the rebuilt wooden towpath can now be used by pedestrians.   Also rebuilt are the icebreakers at the base of the bridge:

 

The base of the Roebling Bridge contains icebreakers.   Picture from 2006.
The Roebling Bridge was built to carry canal boats over the Delaware River, which was often full of lumber being floated downstream.  The base of the Roebling Bridge contains icebreakers to protect the bridge in winter months. Picture from 2006.

The stamp for the Roebling Bridge gives the Upper Delaware SRR a total of three cancellations:  Beach Lake – where the park headquarters is; The Zane Grey Museum – in Lackawaxen, PA: and the Roebling Bridge – also in Lackawaxen.

Other new stamps this month include a new stamp for Hatteras Island at Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina.  This will likely replace the existing stamp for Buxton, NC at the Hatteras Island Visitor Center, next to the iconic Cape Hattereas Lighthouse.  It remains to be seen if this will be a net new stamp for this park, or if it will join the existing stamps for Manteo (park headquarters), Bodie Island, and Ocracoke Island for a total of four.  A few years ago, there was also a fifth cancellation for the town of Nags Head, NC, but that stamp has since been lost or retired.

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site's preserved nuclear missile silo is one of the highlights of a visit to the park.  Phot Credit: National Park Service
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site’s preserved nuclear missile silo is one of the highlights of a visit to the park. Phot Credit: National Park Service

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site in South Dakota has added two cancellations this month.   This relatively new national park is the first dedicated to telling the story of the Cold War in the United States.   The first new stamp is simply labeled “Visitor Center,” and will no doubt be found at the brand new park visitor center that had a soft opening in November 2014.   If you are planning a trip to this park, you may want to plan a trip for September 26, 2015 and the official grand opening and dedication of this park’s first visitor center.  Up to this point, the Ranger Contact Station for the park had a stamp simply labeled “South Dakota,” which may now be replaced with the opening of the visitor center.

The other new stamp is for Launch Control Facility Delta-01.   This facility is only open during ranger-guided tours, so be sure to plan ahead!  This cancellation joins the existing stamp for Launch Facility Delta-09, which is the park’s missile silo, and the other major site within the park.

Magnolia Plantation in Bermuda, Louisiana is one of two plantations preserve at Cane River Creole National Historical Park
Oakland Plantation outside of Natchitoches, Louisiana is one of two plantations preserve at Cane River Creole National Historical Park.

Cane River Creole National Historical Park preserves two plantations in northwest Louisiana.  Officially, this park lists one new stamp, for Derry, LA – the site of Magnolia Plantation.  For many years, the Park has had a single cancellation available at both plantation sites, reading “Natchez, LA” on the bottom.  Natchez is the location of Oakland Plantation, which is the site with more-developed visitor facilities, including the only one of the two plantation sites that also offers house tours.  At one point in time, there was a cancellation for Bermuda, LA available at the Oakland Plantation, but it was lost or retired several years ago.  The issuance of a unique stamp for Magnolia Plantation thus gives this park a total of two cancellations.

Among the changes to the National Park System in the Defense Authorization Act for 2015 was a provision renaming First State National Monument to First State National Historical Park, and expanding it to include several additional sites.   This month, stamps with the new park name have been reissued for the existing sites at Dover Green in Dover, DE; New Castle Courthouse in New Castle, DE; and the Woodlawn Preserve in Wilmington, DE.  Additionally, stamps were ordered for two additional sites that are imminently to be added to this park: one for Kent County, DE to be at the Dickinson Plantation site, and another for Lewes, DE to be at the Ryves-Holt House.  John Dickinson was a signer of the US Constitution, and the Ryves-Holt House is reportedly the oldest house in the State of Delaware – so neither of these two new sites seem likely to get the blood racing.

In addition to all of the above stamps, there are three new anniversary stamps issued:

  • Chalmette Battlefield (part of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park & Preserve) | 200th Anniversary 1815-2015 – for the 200th anniversary of the famous Battle of New Orleans that ended the War of 1812 and propelled Andrew Jackson to the Presidency.
  • Fire Island National Seashore | 50th Anniversary 1964-2014 – a stamp that seems a little late to the anniversary stamp party, but nonetheless commemorates 50 years of protecting beaches on the south shore of Long Island.
  • Agate Fossil Beds National Monument | 50th Anniversary 1965-2015 – a stamp that marks 50 years of protecting fossil mammals from approximately 20 million years ago in western Nebraska.

I posted last month my thoughts on the recent trend for anniversary stamps, so I won’t go into that topic again.

Finally, there are a few new stamps for Heritage Areas and Trails:

  • the Essex National Heritage Area in northeastern Massachussetts has a new stamp for the town of Beverly, MA.
  • the Coal National Heritage Area in southern West Virginia has a new stamp for the New River Gorge National River‘s Sandstone Visitor Center.
  • the Juan Bautista de Anza National HIstorical Trail marks the route of Juan Bautista de Anza’s 1776 expedition with more than 200 men, women, and children from Mexico to establish a new settlement at San Francisco Bay.   The first new stamp is for Atascadero, California in San Luis Obispo County where the Atascadero Mutual Water Company manges a stretch of the trail suitable for hiking.
  • The second Juan Bautista de Anza stamp is for Hacienda de la Canoa in Green Valley, Arizona.  This historic site has a new exhibit on the de Anza expedition.

With all of these new additions, we now estimate that there are 1,968 cancellations out there to explore.   Closing in on 2,000!

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