Erie Canalway National Heritage Corridor | Stephen & Harriet Myers Residence
Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area | Stephen & Harriet Myers Residence
Oregon National Historic Trail |
Craters of the Moon NM & PRES
Fossil Butte NM
Pony Express National Historic Trail | Camp Floyd State Park
The Lolo Pass in Idaho is where the Lewis & Clark expedition made a treacherous mountain crossing in September 1805, despite the early onset of winter weather. This stamp will be available at the US Forest Service’s Lolo Pass Visitor Center on US Route 12. The new stamp for the Lewis & Clark National Historic Trail finally replaces a previous stamp that had been available here from 2004 to 2007. In addition, this site has had a stamp for the Nez Perce National Historic Trail since 2011.
The new North Country National Scenic Trail replaces a previous stamp reading simply “New York” on the bottom that had been available at both the US Forest Service Finger Lakes Ranger Station in the town of Hector, NY as well as at Fort Stanwix National Monument in Rome, NY. The “New York” stamp is still available at Fort Stanwix.
The Allegheny Portage Railroad National Historic Site preserves a small section of what was originally a 36 mile railroad using a series of cables to carry canal boats over the Allegheny Mountains between separate sections of the Pennsylvania Canal. Operating from 1834 to 1854, until steam engines rendered the system of canal boats and cables obsolete, the railroad is known to also have been used by slaves attempting to escape to freedom; hence its inclusion in the Underground Railroad Freedom Network.
Meanwhile, the main route of the Oregon National Historic Trail passes some 60 miles to the south of the 50 million year-old fossils of Fossil Butte National Monument at Fort Bridger and Fort Bridger State Historic Site. However, an alternate route, known as the Sublette Cutoff, passes within just 5 miles of the park, and the park has recently added the Oregon Trail to its interpretive activities. Interestingly, the nearest town to Fossil Butte is Kemmerer, Wyoming, which is the home of the original J.C. Penney store.
Finally, Camp Floyd State Park preserves a historic stagecoach inn, just south of the Salt Lake City metro area in the town of Fairfield. Camp Floyd is one of the first stops where the Pony Express National Historic Trail diverges from the California National Historic Trail. The California Trail, which took 49ers to the gold fields of California, roughly follows the route of what is now Interstate 80 across northern Utah and Nevada. The Pony Express Trail, however, took a route that was roughly 50 miles to the south, a route that doesn’t appear to have translated into our modern road system.
On April 12, 2016, President Obama used his authority under the Antiquities Act to establish the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, DC. The Sewall-Belmont House has actually received funding and technical assistance from the National Park Service dating back to 1974, making it an Affiliated Area of the National Park System. However, since it has remained in private hands, it has not officially been counted as a Unit of the National Park System until now.
In picking this compound name, President Obama chose to eschew going with the “law firm” name for this new park of Sewall-Belmont-Paul National Monument. Instead, the name Sewall was dropped in favor of adding the name of famous feminist and suffragette Alice Paul.
The name Sewall comes from Robert Sewall, who had the house constructed on Capitol Hill around 1800. Historical records indicate that the Sewall family only actually occupied the house for a short time, instead renting out to numerous officials and dignitaries. Among its many residents were Albert Gallatin, Thomas Jefferson’s Secretary of the Treasury, who arranged the financing for the Louisiana Purchase and the subsequent Lewis & Clark expedition. Gallatin’s home estate in western Pennsylvania is now Friendship Hill National Historic Site.
Nonetheless, the house over time came to be known as the Sewall House. Although it cannot be verified, tradition has long held that during the British attack on Washington in the War of 1812 (now commemorated by the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail) shots were fired at the British troops from the Sewall House, leading the British to set the Sewall House on fire. If this indeed happened, it was noteworthy as while the British burned the government buildings in Washington, they actually took care to spare civilian buildings, which they viewed as belonging to once and future British subjects.
The name Belmont refers to Alva Vanderbilt Belmont, the wealthy philanthropist and feminist who bankrolled the National Woman’s Party’s acquisition of the Sewall House. Alva Erskine Smith was born into a wealthy family in Mobile, Alabama and her first husband was William Kissam Vanderbilt; grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and the brother of Frederick William Vanderbilt. (Frederick William was responsible for building the Hyde Park, New York estate that is now Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site.) Alva divorced her husband in March 1895, and then married Oliver Hazard Perry Belmont less than one year later in January 1896. (Oliver Belmont was the grandnephew of the famous Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie in the War of 1812, and commemorated by the Perry’s Victory International Peace Memorial in Put-in-Bay, Ohio.) Oliver Belmont’s sudden death in 1908 seems to have directly lead to Alva Belmont actively devoting herself to the cause of women’s suffrage.
The name Paul, of course, refers to Alice Paul. Alice Paul has rightly earned fame as the dynamo of the women’s suffrage movement in the United States. She recognized that the cause of women’s suffrage, which had languished for more than 100 years in this country could be brought to fruition through a relentless campaign of agitation and political action. She also recognized that she was just the person with the fame and charisma to rally a movement to do just that.
Frustrated by the pace of change, in 1913 Alice Paul, along with another woman, Lucy Burns, separated from the National American Woman Suffrage Association (N.A.W.S.A.) to form their own organization solely dedicated to a Constitutional Amendment for women’s suffrage. Shortly thereafter, Alva Belmont merged her own women’s suffrage organization into the new group, and in 1916 the new group was renamed as the National Woman’s Party. Just four years later the National Woman’s Party would secure its greatest success with the passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.
Around one decade later, when the National Woman’s Party needed a new headquarters, Alva Belmont was able to purchase the old Sewall House on Capitol Hill for that purpose. Located just a few blocks from the Capitol, it was a prime location from which the National Woman’s Party could engage in their principal work of lobbying Congress to advance their cause of an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. At the time, the National Woman’s Party officially renamed the Sewall House as the “Alva Belmont House,” but it appears that the long-standing Sewall House name was not so easily dropped out of common use, and the name Sewall-Belmont House came into popular usage instead. Now, of course, the property will become known as the Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument, and I suspect that this name change will be a bit more successful than the last, what with the branding power of the National Park Service behind it.
Many historians date the beginning of the organized women’s suffrage movement in the United States to the Seneca Falls Convention of July 1848. Looking at the history of the early women’s suffrage movement, its immediately apparent how women’s suffrage was a natural outgrowth of the anti-slavery abolition movement and also out of the religious traditions of the Quakers. The Quakers have long been an anti-clerical movement within Christianity, originating in 17th Century England. The Quakers believed in the “priesthood of all believers,” and did not typically have a formal religious hierarchy. By the 19th Century, these beliefs were evolving within Quakerism to include a more radical equality of all people, including men and women. Not surprisingly, many of the early leaders of the women’s suffrage movement were shaped in their beliefs by the Quakers.
Today, the National Park Service’s Women’s Rights National Historical Park includes the site of the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel where the Convention was held, as well as the homes of the Hunt Family and the M’Clintock Family, who were both Quakers, and the home of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who was not. Word of the Convention was initially spread both among progressive Quakers, and among the networks of activists in the abolition of slavery movement. These networks included Frederick Douglass from nearby Rochester, New York, who was a friend of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and who published word of the Convention in his North Star newspaper.
The Convention would last for two days, women-only on the first day, with men joining on the second day. At the end of the second day, the Convention adopted the Declaration of Sentiments, which became the seminal document of the women’s rights movement. It is notable for its comprehensive assessment of the inequalities between women and men of that day, and is now engraved in stone at Women’s Rights NHP in Seneca Falls. Although the first goal of the women’s rights movement would become the right to vote, from the beginning there was a broader articulation of civil and social rights – such as the right to own property, the right to higher education, and the right to become a “teacher of theology, medicine, or law.” All of these things, however, would take many years.
Following Seneca Falls, the women’s rights movement would receive a further boost in 1851 when Susan B. Anthony was introduced to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Since Susan B. Anthony would never marry, the absence of family commitments allowed her to spend more time travelling and organizing on behalf of the women’s suffrage movement. Anthony would become perhaps the most-famous women’s rights campaigner in the country, and the women’s suffrage amendment to the Constitution would become informally known as the “Anthony Amendment.” With the addition of Belmont-Paul National Monument to the National Park System, Susan B. Anthony now clearly holds the distinction of being the most-significant figure in the women’s rights movements who is not yet commemorated in the National Park System.
Despite Anthony joining the cause, however, success would not be the reward for this first generation of activists. Following the Civil War, the women’s rights movement would split over the question of supporting the 15th Amendment, which gave the right to vote to all men, including African-Americans, but not to women. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton ultimately decided to oppose the 15th Amendment on those grounds, leading to a split and the forming of rival organizations. That lack of unity may not have been decisive in the failure to secure women’s suffrage in the 19th Century, but it certainly didn’t help.
The leaders of the movement would continue actively working for the women’s right to vote for some 50 more years, all of them into old age, but to no avail. Lucretia Mott, a Philadelphia Quaker who played a leading role in drafting the Declaration of Sentiments would die in 1880 at the age of 87. In 1887, a women’s suffrage amendment would finally receive a vote in the U.S. Senate, but was defeated by a vote of 16 in favor to 34 against. Elizabeth Cady Stanton would die in 1902 at the age of 86. Susan B. Anthony would die in 1906, also at the age of 86.
Not surprisingly, historians cite the period of 1896 to 1910 as the nadir of the women’s suffrage movement as the heroes of the Seneca Falls generation began to fade away and it was unclear as to whom would succeed them. The organizations they founded, like the N.A.W.S.A. would continue, but they were under-funded and the cause of a Federal Constitutional Amendment had largely been abandoned in favor of pursuing women’s suffrage on a state-by-state basis.
Enter a young Quaker woman from Mount Laurel, New Jersey named Alice Paul. The year after Susan B. Anthony’s death, in 1907, Alice Paul would set out to Great Britain at the age of 21 to continue her education with postgraduate study at the London School of Economics and to join the women’s suffrage movement in that country. It was in Britain that Paul would have what she called her “conversion experience” and where she would join the militant wing the British women’s suffrage movement. It was in Britain that she met famed British activist Emmeline Pankhurst, and is also where she met fellow American Lucy Burns, which whom she would form a life-long partnership. It was also in Britain that she would be convinced that women’s suffrage would not be achieved by persuasion alone, but that the cause would require more forceful demonstrations.
Indeed, she would live this out in Britain, ultimately being arrested several times for civil disobedience. Once arrested, a frequent tactic of the suffragists, Paul included, was to begin a hunger strike, in hopes of securing a shortened sentence. However, after a particularly boisterous protest in late 1909, one in which Paul and other suffragists smashed windows, the stakes were significantly raised. In this instance, the British authorities responded to the hunger strike by holding down Paul and force-feeding her through a tube. The experience was so traumatic for Paul that she literally had to be carried out of the jail once her sentence was over.
A few months later, in January 1910, Alice Paul returned to the United States after three years in Britain. By this time Alice Paul was a suffragist celebrity in the United States. Moreover, she returned to the United States convinced that the goal of the women’s suffrage movement must be a Federal Constitutional Amendment, and that passage of this Amendment would require employing the same tactics of the militant suffragists on the other side of the Atlantic. By the end of 1912, she had completed her PhD at the University of Pennsylvania and had secured authorization from the N.A.W.S.A. to set up shop in Washington to begin lobbying activities for a Constitutional Amendment.
Once she arrived in Washington, she immediately set to work organizing confrontations in support of women’s suffrage and re-energizing the women’s movement through her charisma and her flair for the dramatic. Some of the brilliant protests she organized included a “March on the White House” the night before Woodrow Wilson’s inaugural parade in 1913, and the staging of “Silent Sentinels” in continuous peaceful protest outside the Wilson White House. The Sentinels would maintain a small fire in an urn, in which they would burn copies of any Woodrow Wilson speech referring to “freedom” or to “liberty.” These attempts to embarrass Woodrow Wilson were in keeping with Alice Paul’s grand strategy that all Democrats must be held responsible for the failure to pass the women’s suffrage amendment, since they were the party in power at the time. Alice Paul’s application of this opposition to all Democrats in the 1914 elections led to her break with the avowedly non-partisan N.A.W.S.A. and the founding of the National Woman’s Party, in 1916.
Now in charge of her own organization, Alice Paul only accelerated her campaign from there, leading to more civil disobedience and more arrests, both by herself and by the many supporters she inspired to join her. At one point, after many National Woman’s Party members were arrested after another protest, she specifically sought out arrest to join them, and was given a seven month sentence. In protest of the terrible conditions, she once again began a hunger strike, and this time she was force-fed raw eggs through a tube before ultimately being released.
However, soon the tide turned. In April 1917, the United States entered the First World War. The next January, Woodrow Wilson called for passage of the women’s suffrage amendment, quote, “as an urgent war measure.” The House of Representatives passed the amendment shortly thereafter. The Senate would finally follow suit more than one year later, passing it in June 1919 on its third attempt, sending the amendment to the States for ratification. The amendment was added to the Constitution upon ratification by Tennessee in August 1920, just in time for women across the U.S. to vote in the 1920 Presidential election. After 70 years of struggle, the women’s rights movement had achieved its most-important victory, and its hard to describe the role of Alice Paul as being anything less than central to this achievement.
With the 19th Amendment added to the Constitution, the question then became “what next?” In this interview, Alice Paul relates that her National Woman’s Party was heavily in debt from the long campaign. In the months immediately following ratification, the National Woman’s Party would basically shut down, the headquarters would be closed, and all efforts would be devoted to fundraising in order to pay off the debts. Meanwhile, the N.A.W.S.A., having accomplished its mission, would reorganize itself into the League of Women Voters, which we know to this day.
Reading about Alice Paul, however, you kind of get the sense that she would never really be happy unless she was engaged in campaign to make a difference. Having spent more than a decade of her life agitating for women’s suffrage, its hard to envision her retiring to a quiet life somewhere. So its not at all surprising that in 1921, when Alice Paul convened a meeting of National Woman’s Party to decide whether the continue, the decision was a resounding “yes.” Just as when Alice Paul first returned to the United States from Great Britain with the conviction that the top priority should be a Federal Constitutional Amendment, the new goal would also be a Constitutional Amendment. Two years later, in 1923, Alice Paul and others would return to Seneca Falls for the 75th Anniversary of the Declaration of Sentiments and to propose a new amendment to the Constitution establishing full equality for women. After some revisions in future years, it would become what we know today as the Equal Rights Amendment. The simple text of Article 1 of the ERA read:
“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
The campaign to secure passage of the ERA would consume the rest of Alice Paul’s life.
In 1972, Congress finally passed the ERA and submitted it to the States, with a deadline of 6 years for ratification. Alice Paul would die in 1977 at the age of 92 with the ERA just two States shy of ratification. Unfortunately for the ERA, no further ratifications would come by the 1979 deadline, and instead, some States would actually rescind their ratification. There was a half-hearted attempt to try and extend the deadline for three years to 1982, but by then it was clear that the momentum for the ERA, and indeed the dynamo behind so much of the women’s movement, had been lost. The extended deadline also expired with no additional ratifications, and the ERA was defeated.
Just as the 15th Amendment had split the women’s movement in 1869 by extending the right to vote to African-Americans, but not to women, the ERA, which was modeled on the language of the 15th Amendment, also split the women’s movement. From the beginning in the 1920’s, many in the women’s movement expressed concern that the ERA would take away special privileges enjoyed by women, such as special protection under labor laws and laws regarding alimony. In later years, other objections would be raised including that some of the consequences of the ERA would include taking away the exemption of women from the draft, prohibiting maternity leave policies, and ending “dependent wife benefits” under Social Security. Another objection raised in the 1970’s was that an ERA prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sex would also require the government to extend recognition of marriage to same-sex couples, since marriage was defined at that time based on opposite-sex couples. Ironically, the Belmont-Paul National Monument in Alice Paul’s honor was established less than a year after the Supreme Court decided that the Constitution required that anyways – even without passage of the ERA.
It is unfortunate, but understandable, that the lasting legacy to Alice Paul in the National Park System will be associated with the unsuccessful ERA effort, rather than her brilliant campaign and greatest triumph. After passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920, the rebooted National Women’s Party found a new headquarters in 1921 in a building called the Old Brick Capitol. When that building was ultimately condemned in 1929 under eminent domain to make way for the Supreme Court Building, Alice Paul’s old friend, Alva Belmont, stepped in with the funding to secure the old Sewall House as a new headquarters. Alice Paul would lead the campaign for the ERA from this building for nearly 50 years.
The National Woman’s Party would continue to lobby for the ERA for more than a decade. In 1997, the National Woman’s Party decided to cease its lobbying efforts and to focus on preservation and education. Even though the building will now be managed as part of the National Park System, the National Woman’s Party will remain an active partner at the site, including managing their extensive collection of historical artifacts associated with the campaign for the ERA, the life of Alice Paul, and the women’s suffrage movement. With its new designation as part of the National Park System, many more visitors to Washington, DC will encounter the story of this extraordinary leader, and will remember the legacy of how through sheer determination and charismatic inspiration Alice Paul changed the course of history.
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
Fort Monroe NM
Fort Scott NHS
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
#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.
#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!”
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.
#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.
#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.
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.
#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 way the contest works is that there are 10 finalists in each of 8 categories. Definitely take the time to read through some of the entries (especially in the other categories, of course!), as there are some great stories in there. You can vote for one finalist in each category each day – and voting lasts through September 29th. Each time you vote, you will be entered into a drawing for a trip to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park.