National Parks Senior/Lifetime Pass to Increase

Important deadline coming up!! As of August 28, 2017 the price of a Senior pass to the National Parks is increasing from $10.00 to $80.00 for persons 62 years and older.  The lifetime pass is available to persons 62 (not 65, as some may think.) The additional funding will be used to maintain and protect the beauty of our National Parks and to improve the park visitors experience.  Even at $80.00 it seems like a fantastic deal, to open the doors to travel at all of America’s wonderful Parks and historical sites.  Nevertheless, if you can get access to that pass (if you are 62 or older) NOW is the time to purchase.

Another terrific perk about the Senior pass is that your traveling companions also gain entrance to the park on the pass. A wonderful chance to take your spouse, take your children or grandchildren! When my husband first got his pass, we took our college age sons to Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Devil’s Tower. What a memorable trip that was! No entrance fees mean more souvenir shopping money! Yes, we still did our part to bolster the local economy and money into the Park’s gift store.

 

Senior Passes can be purchased at any federal recreation site, including national parks, that charges an entrance or standard amenity (day-use) fee. Proof of age and residency is required.  A list of which sites sell the senior pass can be found on the National Park Service site: http://www.nps.gov   In my own state of Wisconsin, there are 10 sites listed where you can purchase the pass, but all sites might not be very close driving distance. Additionally, passes can be purchased on-line, but an additional $10 fee is charged for processing.

So if you will be 62+ before August 28….better get your National Park pass to start working on that “bucket list”.

Put your traveling shoes on.  JES

Preserving a Legacy: St. Croix National Scenic Riverway

View of the St. Croix from one of the viewing platforms at the Visitor’s Center of the SCNCR.

Sometimes it is easy to make assumptions, frequently incorrect, based on common knowledge and not first hand experience.  It can be an eye-opening experience when you learn something new, that turns your previous assumption upside down. That happened to me recently with an updated geography lesson about the upper Midwest. Growing up in Iowa, the Mighty Mississippi, was the grand daddy of all rivers and forms the eastern Iowa border.  Sure,  I had heard of the St. Croix River, but just knew it was “up north” somewhere.  I didn’t realize that a large portion of the Wisconsin and Minnesota borders are defined by the St. Croix River, which joins the Mississippi further south, almost to the Iowa border in Prescott, Wisconsin.  So many “flatlanders” like myself, just make the assumption that it is mostly the Mississippi that carves out the pathways in the Midwest. Yes, this is true, but the St. Croix has an impressive presence north of the 45th degree latitude.

A visit to the National Park Service Visitor Center of the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway is a great way to learn how the St. Croix and the Namekagon rivers have had an incredible influence on this area of the upper Midwest.  In addition to learning about the fascinating geologic and historical information of the area, one can also get information here on hiking, canoeing and fishing these beautiful waters. The rivers have provided commerce, recreation and also abundant resources to support a diversity of wildlife.  The rivers of the St.Croix and Namekagon together make up 252 miles of protected waterway in the St. Croix National Scenic Waterway.

NPS photo, St. Croix river (circa early 1900’s) Logging with Wannigan house

The geologic history of the area began millions of  years ago when the glaciers carved out the river valleys and rugged bluffs overlooking the flowing rivers.  The first human inhabitants of the rivers  were the Dakota (Sioux) and the Ojibwe (Chippewa) that found this area to have plentiful resources for an abundant life.  The next to explore this area were the French and later the English fur trappers. The logging industry in the area took the St. Croix river valley by storm and the pique of the logging industry was the 1890’s. Log jams in the river frequently occurred, not only hindering the progress of lumber to the mills, but also damaging the fragile ecosytems of the rivers.  The life of the lumberjacks was challenging on the river, to say the least, and many lost their lives in this profession. They built small shanties that floated in the river to help carry supplies and were sometimes used to sleep in as they were “steering” the lumber downstream. The shanty was called a Wannigan as shown is this photo. The last major log drive was in 1914.  It is interesting that in St. Croix Falls, WI.  and Taylors Falls, MN. the lumber industry and the rich heritage of the river  is still celebrated today with “Wannigan Days”.  Now that is neat! I learned that new tidbit of trivia when moving to this area….I bet not that many people know what a Wannigan is, well know you know.

500 gallon Freshwater aquarium

When at the Visitor’s Center, be sure to check out the 500 gallon freshwater aquarium. It is stocked with great examples of the kinds of fish that anglers in the area are fishing for. The displays are great in learning all about the wildlife and the plant life near the river. Be sure to take a few minutes (only about 20) to view the film about the rivers and how the National Park Service established protection of this waterway thru the 1968 Wild and Scenic Rivers Act.

Map of the Namekagon and St. Croix Rivers

The Visitor’s Center is also a great source of information for planning camping, canoeing and/or fishing trips.  They can provide maps, educational materials and answer any questions about the area. The St.Croix River Visitor Center is easily found at 401 N. Hamilton Street, St. Croix Falls, Wi. It is just off the main road (87), 2 blocks north of the St. Croix Overlook Deck.

Put your traveling shoes on. JES

On the west coast, Seattle is an iconic waterfront city filled with experiences that you “gotta see” when visiting there. One of the neat features about Seattle is so many  of the  sites are along the waterfront or within walking distance of the main downtown area. Even if you only have a day or two to spend in this vibrant city, here are the Top Five attractions that really help to define the Seattle experience.

1–FERRY BOATS-Simplistic, but this is probably my favorite part of the Seattle area. Many native Seattle folks take them back and forth as commuters every business day and they are very commonplace along the waterfront.  Nevertheless, I find them so much an exciting part of visiting  this city.  It is really amazing how many people and vehicles fit on one of these huge boats. Even more amazing, is how smoothly and efficiently the loading and unloading is accomplished several times a day. For  more information on the ferry system, current schedules and sailing routes, check the Washington State Ferries web-site at: http://www.wsdot.wa.gov/ferries/  Crossing the water to Bainbridge or Kingston is not a long journey, but just long enough to enjoy being on the water and fantastic views of the skyline.  Also, usually just long enough to polish off a specialty coffee drink.  There are quaint little coffee shops all over Seattle and of course, right at the entrance to the Ferry terminals.  Seattle is  really big on coffee and is known for being the birthplace of Starbucks coffee. Which leads me to my next favorite: the original Starbucks cafe.

Original Starbucks on 1st and Pike, by Pikes Place Market

2–ORIGINAL STARBUCKS- Yup…this is where it all began: Starbucks Coffee. Even if you are not a huge coffee drinker, it is so neat to visit the original site where the first Starbucks opened their flagship store in 1971. It is smaller than one would imagine,  but therein lies the charm of the quaint place for the birthplace of this coffee giant. Tourists and locals alike seek out refreshment at this iconic stop frequently on their way to or from the next Seattle landmark: Pikes Place Market.  Another place that lends itself to lots of photo opps and an abundance of great sights and scents to sample.

3–PIKES PLACE MARKET-There are outdoor markets aplenty, but none can compare to the excitement and bustle of Pikes Place Market.  The Market opened in 1907 and is one of the oldest operating farmers’ markets in the country.  Before I went there, I heard that the vendors throw fish to each other in the process of filleting and also filling orders. What?! Sounds strange, and it is…but when you see a 15 pound salmon flying through the air it really gets your attention, not something you see in the average supermarket.  The Market is full of wonderful fruits, fish, vegetables, flowers and homemade honeys & jams.   Also, various craft items including jewelry, leather working, glass-works and pottery can be found there.  The building itself is quite impressive and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970. It sits overlooking the Seattle waterfront. Built on a steep hill, it has several different levels with an abundance of differing shops.  The vendors take pride in beautiful displays of their wares, even the peppers are an art form in and of themselves; so many different colors and shapes!

 

4–PIER 54-IVAR’S & YE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP-Probably these two are the easiest to find attractions on the waterfront. Literally right when you walk off the Ferry boat and next to the ferry terminals. Ivar’s is the seafood restaurant with both “casual” dining (more like a fast food style…but the food is still top-notch) and a lovely sit down restaurant.  Both Ivar’s restaurants offer great cuisine, depending what you are in the mood for.  The “casual” restaurant has outdoor setting by the water; and adults and kids alike are entertained by feeding your french fries to the seagulls. Entertaining yes….but the seagulls can sometimes get pretty aggressive. Just use caution; very small children shouldn’t partake in this activity.  Might be nice to keep all 10 digits.

Located on the same Pier is a very fun, touristy shop: Ye Old Curiosity Shop. Filled with many “curiosities” like shrunken heads, a 4 -legged chicken and mummies.  Some of the stuff is kind of creepy, although entertaining.  It has been part of the Seattle waterfront since 1899.  They have changed exact locations several times, but are generally in the same area. In addition to all the oddities, they do carry lots of the “usual” souvenirs, jewelry and also unusual items for purchase to remember your trip to Seattle. The totem poles at the front of the stores make great photo opps for you and your group. A terrific place to stop by and it’s right by the waterfront.

5–SEATTLE SPACE NEEDLE-One of the most recognized landmarks in Seattle is the Space Needle.  It is an observation tower that reaches 605 feet high and resembles the home of The Jetsons, if you remember that cartoon from the early 60’s. The tower was opened in 1962 and was built in honor of the World’s Fair held in Seattle that year.  The views from the top are fantastic and every one visiting this ocean front city should go up once. Yet, if you’ve done it once, that is probably enough.  Great views, but repeat visits to the city don’t really warrant several trips to the top of “the Needle”.  We did it once when my kids were little, but on subsequent visits I have always longed for and participated in the above listed “top 4”.  I wouldn’t think of going to Seattle without a trip to Pikes Place and lunch at Ivar’s. Polished off with a view of the setting sun by the deck of a Ferry boat.  Just writing these words make me realize I need to get back to Seattle soon.  Put your traveling shoes on. JES

Photo by Sigma Sreedharan (on Twitter, WA State Ferries)

Don’t let this be “The One that Got Away”

Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame & Museum, Hayward Wisconsin

Throughout the ages, fishermen have told their tales of “the one that got away”. Yet, in the north woods of Wisconsin there is a place that one can view the biggest, the best and the world records in fishing.  The Fresh Water Fishing Hall of Fame in Hayward, Wisconsin pays tribute to fresh water sport fishing and truly is an interesting place to visit.  Even, if you are not an avid fisherman, which I am not….it still is well worth a trip to see all the varied fishing artifacts and well over 300 mounted fish. The 7 acre complex boasts over 100,000 visitors annually.  And YES…you can climb the staircase inside the giant Musky and take a picture from his gaping jaws…Ahhhh! The ultimate photo of your visit here!

Their website clarifies that it is more than just a museum showcasing trophy fish but also on a mission to promote the sport: “The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is the international headquarters for education, recognition and promotion of fresh water sportfishing.”

Also among the giant fish statutes, is a rather large and interesting museum with thousands of antique rods, outboard motors, and publications. Throughout the hallways are dedications of anglers, both living and memorialized,  in the Halls of Fame who have brought many records to the sport of fishing. Some of the records are not just for the “biggest and best”, but also many anglers are remembered for their contribution for educating and promoting the sport of fishing.  I really don’t pursue fishing as a hobby, but you can’t help but get a little sentimental when reading some of the dedications in the Hall of Fame.

The giant Musky statue is the landmark feature and is quite impressive. He was built in 1978-79 and is an impressive 143 feet long and is 50 feet high. When you ascend the staircase to reach the top of the Musky, along the way are amazing facts and figures about fishing and additional highlights covering anglers’ achievements.

When in the North woods of Wisconsin, The Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame is definitely worth checking out. For more information you can check out:http://www.freshwater-fishing.org  So what tales of fishing adventures do you have to tell? Tall tales or otherwise, I love to hear them.

So head on out and “Put your traveling shoes on.” JES

How about a “Staycation”?

There really is something to be said about the joy of finding rest and relaxation in your own little neck of the woods and partaking in a  vacation in your own area…a “Staycation”, as it has been called in recent years.  Frequently budget demands require this, but there is much to be discovered when you change your view from that of a local to that of a tourist. Opening your eyes to new possibilities can be very rejuvenating even for close, local delights.

What a Welcoming Welcome sign!

A recent move to Wisconsin, has brought this to my mind and made me realize there is so much to discover just within a days drive of our new home. I recently drove back to Iowa to visit my Mother. When crossing the border back to Wisconsin,  seeing this welcoming sign brought to me not only a welcoming home, but also memories of dozens of trips to Wisconsin when we were Illinois residents. Seeing this sign makes me want to shout “VACATION TIME! ” But now that Wisconsin is my home, I feel like I am perpetually on vacation. **Sigh** Life is Good.  My apologies to the working people out there that only get 2 weeks vacation a year, but I feel blessed to have 52 weeks. Even though I am still working as a writer, it does not feel like work. I enjoy it so very much. ( I Digress) So back to the Staycation concept.

If you are visiting locally, you probably already know the interesting places in your area and your favorite restaurants, but for extra pointers I would recommend a visit to the local Chamber of Commerce or Visitors Center.  You can visit either online or the building itself.  I personally think it is great to go and “collect” brochures and also talk to the staff there about highlights of the area. Depending on the area, many Visitor Centers are organized by what type of activities you are pursuing: hiking, biking, shopping, trying a new restaurant, local museums, etc….. There probably is a whole lot more to do than most folks realize. For example, in my own little neck of the woods, I really did not expect to find a terrific vineyard. Wisconsin is a Dairy state after all, but vineyards are found in many areas. Even in these northern climates, some of the most terrific “cold crop” grapes produce fantastic wine! If you happen to be traveling in Wisconsin, check out the Wisconsin Winery Association at: www.wiswine.org to find a local vineyard.

Besides the obvious advantage of saving money on a Staycation, there are additional numerous advantages about the simplicity of a Staycation. If you don’t have to deal with airline travel you don’t have the hassles of cancelled flights, overbooked flights, crowded seating and adjustment to time changes. Granted, flights are great for quick travel that would take so much longer by car, but it is nice sometimes to do without the hassles of flying. When you travel locally, another perk is having the luxury of sleeping in the comfort of your very own bed. You don’t have to worry and wonder what the hotel will be like.

I love to travel, both near and far, yet there is alot to be said about the joy and simplicity of a Staycation.; defiantly worth a try.  Share with me here your Staycation adventures. And then…..Put your traveling shoes on. JES

Waterfall Wonders

ny-trip2014-037I am not sure when my fascination with waterfalls began, but it certainly has grown over the years as I have seen so many through my travels. The granddaddy of them all, Niagara Falls State Park in New York was established in 1885 and is a popular destination averaging over 28 million tourists annually. Niagara Falls are made up of three sets of waterfalls that are on the border between Canada and the United States. The Falls can be viewed by both the American and Canadian sides and each side offers a different perspective.

Any landscape is beautifully enhanced with the addition of a waterfall.  Just think, almost any park you visit one of the “key” features, and a photographers delight, is the viewing of a waterfall.  Whether they are big or small, the inherent beauty of them is always a pleasure to view, and the serenity that the flowing water provides is an added bonus.  Just think of all those little desk-top fountain to help you get your Zen on. I am more relaxed already.

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Brandywine Falls, Cuyahoga Valley N.P.

Frequently, waterfalls are tucked away in the woods and require a hike to get to. Yet, that just enhances the excitement, because  as you walk….you can hear the water “woooshing”.  We must be getting closer….. When you get there it suddenly appears and WOW! Cuyahoga Valley National Park (Ohio) has a beautiful waterfall with excellent viewing platforms over the falls. Brandy wine Falls cascades over sandstone cliffs creating a dramatic  main waterfall, then several smaller ones. The photo opportunities are endless in this beautiful area of the park.

Many factors of course, determine the size, pathway and occurrence of waterfalls.  The source of the water, precipitation levels, topography and geological features all define the distribution of waterfalls. If you want to view waterfalls in your own area, it is encouraging to know that there are significant waterfalls in all 50 states except Delaware and North Dakota.  An interesting site to explore that shows the location, and names of American waterfalls is:http://geology.com/waterfalls The site has an overview of the United States, with major waterfalls tagged in each region.  You can select a specific state and find out the number of falls in that state. Then you can take it one step further and find out the name and locations of each waterfall.  Really fun site to poke around on and to plan you next “Falls watching” venture.

Another important consideration when hoping to view waterfalls at their peak, is the time of year.  For some locations, the season does not matter, but for others timing is everything and the melting snows and spring rains really delivers a showcase of stunning waterfalls.  For example, a few years ago I visited Starved Rock State Park in Illinois during the early part of October.  The foliage was wonderful at that time of year but alas, it had been a dry Fall and the waterfalls in the Park (they say there are 14 in the various canyons) were barely a dribble.  It was still a great trip and the hikes around the canyons were terrific, but I was disappointed in the emptiness of the canyons….they seemed too still without the sound of cascading waters.  I hope to go back sometime in the spring, when the Falls in the park would be more robust.  It really is a beautiful park.

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Bridal Veil Falls, Alaska

Sometimes a walk in the woods is not required for viewing beautiful cascading waterfalls.  Depending on where you are, waterfalls are frequently spotted roadside, making the drive quite scenic. On the road to Valdez, Alaska there are several falls that can be seen along the drive and several turnouts are there to help you safely photograph them.  This particular collection of waterfalls in Alaska is not very large, but they are so incredibly scenic with the surrounding vegetation, rock formations and the beauty of Alaskan wildflowers. Depending on what time of year you are there, in the summer months the roadsides are filled with the Fireweed flower blossoms.  Fireweed is easily spotted by its bright pink or light purple flowers.  Here is a photo I took of Bridal Veil Falls along the Richardson Highway east of Valdez.  One little lone Fireweed in the foreground.

 

 

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Weeping Wall @ Glacier National Park, Photo by I-Ting Chiang on flickr

In Glacier National Park, Montana there are several alpine waterfalls within the park that can be seen in several different “formats”.  Many are small little waterfalls in the streams surrounded by mountain pines. Others are larger and more dramatic coming off the face of a mountain. Yet, one of the most unusual waterfalls is seen on the main road that traverses thru the park: the “Going to the Sun Road.” On this  twisting and winding road you come upon the “Weeping Wall”.  Several cascading falls on the side of the wall as you pass by.  I can understand why they close this road in the winter, where it turns to torrents of ice. Even in the beauty of a summer day, the mountain road is a very winding and treacherous. That is why I was glad that my husband and I left the driving to the experts on a “Red Bus Tour” as seen in this photo.  It was a great tour that allowed us to relax, take pictures and enjoy the ride. However, I have to confess…there were a few curves and drop offs on the road where I just had to shut my eyes and hold my breath. We made it back alive to tell the tale.

 

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Shoshone Falls-Idaho

Another joy in photographing waterfalls is the inherent possibility of capturing a beautiful rainbow highlighted within the picture.  Sometimes it is deliberate, sometimes like magic they appear in the frame. Well…lots of water, sun and….Voila…rainbows frequently appear.  Shoshone Falls, a stunning waterfall in Idaho, is frequently photographed and rainbows are  captured in those photos.  At 212 feet high, Shoshone Falls are actually higher than Niagara. Here is a photo with the beauty of the Shoshone Falls and a stunning rainbow framing them.

Anytime I am exploring a new area, I am on the look-out for the photo-ops of a stunning waterfall. So tell me, what is one of your favorite waterfalls? Can’t wait to visit another.

Put your traveling shoes on. JES

A Tribute to a true lover of the Parks: Theodore Roosevelt.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park– South entrance near Medora, N.D.

As  one drives through the rugged terrain of Theodore Roosevelt National Park, you appreciate the beauty of the rugged cliffs and eerie colors formed by the diversity of minerals found in this land. Land that has remained untouched by plows or backhoes for centuries, only modified by the wind, the sun and torrential rains. Included within the park are a diversity of landscapes and geological formations, such as the Petrified Forest and Painted Canyon.  The park consists of three separate units: the South unit (right off I-94), the North Unit and Elkhorn Ranch Unit.  Each portion of the park offers an abundance of  things to explore and opportunities for viewing wildlife.  Since the South unit is easily accessible (Exit #24 and #27 from I-94) near Medora, ND and also has two Visitor’s Center to help plan your adventure within the Park, it has a tendency to be the more frequently visited area of the Park.  The Visitor’s Center also has a really interesting museum about the man, the legends and some of the “naked truths” about this fascinating man who became our  26th President.  I was saddened to learn that Roosevelt lost both his mother and his wife on the same day: Valentines Day, 1884.  I can’t imagine the overwhelming grief.  He did seek solace in the lands that he so loved in the hills of North Dakota.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park, located on the western side of North Dakota, is a more low-key National Park and does not boast huge mountains or erupting geysers, but nevertheless it is an amazing landscape that has been called “The Badlands of the North”.  Not only does it help to protect this unique area of land, it also pays homage to a man who played a huge role in the development of the National Park Service that we know today.quote-i-have-always-said-i-would-not-have-been-president-had-it-not-been-for-my-experience-theodore-roosevelt-105-74-46 It is fitting that North Dakota was chosen as the site for Theodore Roosevelt National Park.  This land truly inspired him and helped him grow and toughen his resolve, both physically and mentally. He first came to North Dakota in 1883 to “bag a buffalo” and later become involved in ranching.  Through a series of both bad luck and severe weather killing the majority of his livestock, he gave up the ranching life. However, the lessons he learned in the wilderness and with cattle ranching helped to strengthen his resolve and also helped to solidify his conservation ethic. He was quoted as saying: “I have always said I would not have been President had it not been for my experience in North Dakota.”

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Roosevelt and John Muir at Yosemite

Theodore Roosevelt was sometimes referred to as the “conservation President”.  He was responsible for establishing five National Parks and also created a system for the President to preserve lands and monuments by the creation of  The Antiquities Act of 1906. Roosevelt signed the act into law, which gives the President of the United States the authority to, by presidential proclamation,  create national monuments, protect public lands and to protect significant natural, cultural, or scientific features. Roosevelt’s first use of the Antiquities Act was to declare the unique feature of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming a National Monument. The Act has been used over a hundred times since its passage. Its use occasionally creates significant controversy, usually instigated by differences of opinion between Congress and the President.

Recently, President Obama used his Presidential power through The Antiquities Act to proclaim  87,000 acres in Maine as a National Monument in north-central Maine. The area has been christened as: the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument.  I believe that you can’t help but be inspired and uplifted viewing this video and thinking of the preservation of this beautiful tract of land in Maine.

 

So here’s to those that help to preserve the beauty of our America and hopefully we can all get out there and  “Find your Park”.  For more information on the Find Your Park program, check out the National Park Service website at: https://www.nps.gov/index.htm

Put your traveling shoes on. JES