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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

It REALLY needs to be on your “Bucket” list: Glacier National Park

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St. Mary Lake in Glacier National Park

During the centennial year for the National Park Service, they have been running a campaign called “Find Your Park” encouraging visitation to the many choices available in our national park system.  I feel it is hard to narrow your choice to just one favorite park, but nevertheless I have “Found my Park“: Glacier National Park in Montana.  The only thing I can see wrong with the park is for me it has become an obsession…I can hardly wait to return.  It was originally on my “Bucket List”, and I am so very happy I was able to visit the Park, but I really hope to return again someday.  I leave the park with a desire to return because it is so vast and with an abundance of adventures, that you really can’t experience Glacier all in one trip.

glacierwaterton-mapGlacier National Park is located in the northwestern corner of Montana, bordering Canada.  The Park was originally established in 1910 and encompasses over 1,500 square miles. The range of topography in the park, including mountains, crystal clear lakes, glacial feed streams and forested valleys,  provides not only a photographer’s dream but also numerous other recreational pursuits.  The park is home to 762 lakes and several waterfalls-both big and small. In addition to kayaking, canoeing and fishing, there are 151 maintained trails in Glacier for many different hiking experiences. The Park also supports a large population of both plant and animal life. Bears, both black bears and Grizzly, are among the mammals found here. An abundance of Big horn sheep and mountain goats are also found grazing on the highest peaks.

Another unique feature of Glacier National Park is it has been declared the world’s first International Peace Park. At the northern boundary of Glacier, the border into Canada connects with Waterton Lakes Park. The two parks together share over 1,800 square miles of breathtaking summits, glacial terrain and shimmering waterfalls.  I had hoped to see Waterton as well on my trip.  My husband and I both took our passports (yes, required) however we ran out of time.  Perhaps on my next trip. Also, the area is home to many Native American tribes and the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is on the east side of the Park.  There is much to learn about the history of the Blackfeet people in this area, that in itself warrants another blog post on the topic.

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Red Bus Tours

A very good place to start at Glacier, to get an overview of the entire park, is the iconic “Going to the Sun Road”.  The road bisects the park, traverses up and over mountains and crosses the Continental Divide.  It was a monumental task to complete and took 10 years build; the road opened in 1933. Personal vehicles are allowed on the road, but I recommend leaving the driving to the experts: the drivers that are familiar with all the sharp turns and heart stopping drop offs.  If I had to drive it myself I would have been “white-knuckling” it  the entire way and would have not been able to enjoy the views.  If you are a seasoned mountain driver, go for it…I’m from the Midwest: a true flat-lander when it comes to driving.  So my husband and I decided to take a “Red Bus Tour” and it was incredibly well worth it.  The Red Buses themselves are a staple in the Park and have a rich history. Since 1914 the Red Bus Tours have been operating in Glacier and providing for visitors  “unparalleled experiences touring through one of the most spectacular parks anywhere, and they have done it with the elegance and grace that has become synonymous with these unique vehicles.” I thought it was a nice touch that all the drivers wore a dress shirt, tie and a “motoring cap”.  The buses themselves were made by the White Motor Company around 1936 and then refurbished by Ford Motor company. Logos for both companies are on each vehicle.  Several different tours are available: some 3 to 4 hrs, others all day (8 hrs). If you are visiting Glacier I would highly recommend a Red Bus Tour and I stress the importance of a reservation.  It is a pretty popular activity in the Park and they get booked.  For more information, their website is: http://www.glaciernationalparklodges.com/red-bus-tours 

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Lobby of Glacier Park Lodge

Another historic and stunning feature of Glacier, are the historic lodges of the Park.  When planning a stay near Glacier, there are an abundance of lodging opportunities available from bed & breakfasts, camp grounds and several hotel chains. Even if you choose to stay somewhere other than the classic Lodges you’ve just got to go see these beautiful iconic lodges. Go have a cup of coffee or lunch or just peruse the little gift shops. (I did alot of perusing, ask my husband…) There are four beautiful historic Lodges at the Park: Glacier Park Lodge (built 1913), Many Glacier Hotel (1914), Lake McDonald Lodge (1913) and St. Mary Lodge and Resort (built early 1930’s) All of the Lodges were built in the grand, old style of a mountain resort with huge pillars, taxidermy mounts and several windows  to take in the views of beautiful mountains and pristine lakes.

Originally named Glacier National Park, back in 1910 there were about 100 glaciers, sadly that number has diminished to 37.  It is a changing world we live in and Yes you can blame it on Global warming, partially. However, in the bigger picture the climatic changes we experience are also evolutionary changes on our fragile planet.  Whatever the case may be, I highly recommend going to Glacier National Park and soaking up all the beauty you can experience there…get there before they all melt. It may be sooner than we realize.  Put your traveling shoes on. JES

#GlacierNationalPark,#RedBusTours, #LodgesatGlacier,#GoingtotheSunRoad

Happy Birthday National Park Service!

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Yellowstone National Park–Wyoming/The very first National Park

Today is the day! It is the centennial of the founding of the National Park Service! As an American citizen, you own the Parks and we all have great reason to celebrate.   There is so much diversity, beauty and breathtaking landscapes to explore and as cliche as is sounds: there truly is something for everyone.

So on this day August 25, 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau created to manage and protect the national parks and monuments in our country.  At that time, there were only 35 parks and monuments that held the status as National park or monument. In the 100 years since the establishment of the National Park Service, that number has grown to encompass more than 400 sites, 411 to be exact.  As of this writing, President Obama recently added the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine to be #411 on that list.  A list that encompasses not only unique and awe inspiring lands, but also includes hundreds of places across this country that tell the stories of those that came before us. There is both natural history and beauty and the also histories of man in the many monuments found within the National Park Service.  The more than 20,000 National Park Service employees help to care for and preserve the local histories of each site. Visitors to a National Park or Monument know they can come away from their experience refreshed from the recreational opportunities available, but also knowing a little more about the unique history of the area and the lay of the land.

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Horseshoe Lake-Denali N.P. Alaska

So many people talk about experiences they are determined to achieve and say, “It’s on my bucket list”.  So many times those bucket lists include one of our many beautiful National Parks.  I myself have been to so many, and look forward to many more. You hear of folks that have traveled to ALL the parks; now that would be quite an adventure.  If you are counting just National Parks (and not monuments) there are currently 58 National Parks.  I honestly don’t think I will live long enough to visit them all, but it sure is fun to try.  All those stamps in my National Parks “passport” are fun to collect! See my blog explaining the passport program: https://travelingamericablog.wordpress.com/seek-out-your-passport/

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Brandywine Falls-Cuyahoga Valley N.P.

Sometimes people get caught up in just the most well-known parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, but it is amazing what you can find in the “unexpected places”.  I live in the Midwest and found it very interesting that a beautiful park exists within a days drive of our home: Cuyahoga Valley National Park just south of Cleveland, Ohio.  We visited the park in June and were amazed at the scenic trails and several cascading waterfalls within the park. Here is a view of the Brandywine Falls.  The Cuyahoga River runs thru the park and provides the back drop for many interesting tales of the history of the canal system.  What a neat place to visit, it wasn’t on my “bucket list”, but so glad I went!

The establishment of  the National Park Service, was not all wine and roses and was not without huge hurdles, both political and economical.  Yet, we have many to thank for their perseverance for making it all happen.  The National Park Service will continue to have issues as it continues into it’s second century, but one would hope that it’s purpose would help to preserve it’s goals, and to preserve our lands.  From the words of the original act signed into law in 1916, we remember why the National Park Service was established in the first place: “…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.” 

So say Happy Birthday to the National Park Service for 100 years of commitment to our lands and resources and continued success moving forward.  To find a Park that you would like to visit, check out: https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm

Put your traveling shoes on. JES

A Midwestern “Gem” of National Parks

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Brandywine Falls~ Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Many people don’t realize it, but there is a beautiful “gem” of a National Park in the heart of the Midwest, just south of Cleveland Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  From the Native Americans word for “crooked river”, it is pronounced “Ka-uh-ogh-ha”. It is a beautiful park with waterfalls, cliffs and valleys, and a rich history about life in the mid-western states. When people think of National Parks, they frequently think of the “classics”: Yellowstone, Acadia, the Grand Canyon. Yet this park in Ohio is a beautiful representation of our National Parks system: preservation of natural beauty and also a link to the past. Looking at timelines, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is very young as a member of the National Park service. It was established as a National Recreation Area in 1974, then became a National Park in 2000. The fact that it is a relatively young National Park is very evident as one drives through the park and sees many residential areas throughout the park that were “grandfathered” in and allowed to remain within the park boundaries. These private residences do not distract from the beauty of the park, however sometimes seem odd from what people consider a “National Park” should be like. There are so many roads that go in and out of the park, and of course the residents that live there have easy access in and out.  It sometimes blurs the definition of the park boundaries.

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Bridal Veil Falls

The park itself preserves 33,000 acres along the Cuyahoga river valley between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. The natural beauty of the park includes deep gorges, waterfalls, cliffs and century old majestic trees that rise high in the skyline. Most of the trees are typical of the Midwest and the deciduous seem to outnumber the pines.  With the abundance of Maples, I would imagine this would be a wonderful place to visit in the Fall to see all the changing colors. A diversity of beautiful wildflowers can be found throughout the park and more than 100 bird species nest in the valley. The many trails within the park are perfect for both hiking and biking. Many cyclists make use of the fantastic “towpath trails” that follow the canal paths throughout the park. Some of the canals have all but disappeared except for a low trench, but others still have water in them and still seem “usable”.  The towpaths where the mules were used to tow boats along the canal, have all been resurfaced and make fantastic bike paths.

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Canal boats pulled by Mules

In additional to the natural features, the park has a fascinating history about the use of the canals. The “canal era” from roughly 1825 to 1913, was a period of time that Americans relied heavily on the use of the canal system for economical transportation of both products and passengers. The Ohio-Erie Canal was built in 1825 and served to connect Lake Erie all the way south to the Ohio River. It helped to provide transportation and increase commerce from 1827 to 1913.  In 1913, a devastating flood occurred that  did extensive damage to the canals. At this time the railroads were also expanding into a major form of transportation and beginning to replace the widespread use of canals. The railroads soon became the primary source of transportation and life on the canal boats became a distant memory. When visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park, be sure to visit the Canal Visitor Center, in the northern part of the park with some fascinating displays and some really interesting historical information about river commerce and lifestyles of the hardworking people who depended on the canals.

Another aspect of the park rich in history, but also providing an adventurous way to get back and forth throughout the park is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The train ticket gives you an all day pass and you can get off at any stop and get back on to explore several areas within the park.  The train also offers meals onboard and “tastings” of beer or wine.  With your tasting, you receive a CVSR commemorative tasting glass! Cyclists can also board the train, with their bikes.  They have the option to bike the towpath trail one direction then take the train the other.  Considering how many lengthy trails there are in the park, this is a terrific option for cyclists if you just run out of steam. Bear in mind that the train does not run 7 days a week.  Unfortunately when I was there it was not running. Generally they run Wednesday through Sunday, but be sure to check their web-site for more detailed information and ticket prices: http://www.cvsr.com

Like many National Parks, the park rangers are so interesting to talk with and have a wealth of information about the attributes of their park and also the area of the country they live in.  I would like to give a “shout out” to Ranger Jan at Cuyahoga Valley National Park~ she was a delight to talk with and shared so much information and history with us.  We ran into her at two different Visitors Centers; so much fun chatting with her! So Hi Jan! We will have to go back again one day, and maybe that time we can catch the train! Put your traveling shoes on. JES

1916~2016 Centennial Celebration of the National Park Service

When you look at all the magnificent beauty within America’s National Parks, it is very easy to have a sense of civic pride, especially this year as we celebrate the Centennial founding of the National Park Service. 

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Yellowstone National Park

If you have not visited a National Park lately, 2016 may be a fantastic year to plan a trip to one as we commemorate the founding of the National Park Service.  There are currently 59 National Parks and over 117 protected areas that are designated national monuments. There is something for everyone to discover and also parks are accessible in every part of the country.

Teddy Roosevelt is remembered as instrumental in generating an interest in preserving and cherishing the natural beauty of the lands found in our country. He was one of the most visible advocates of the establishing and preserving of the Parks: often remembered as the “conservation president”.  He loved the great outdoors and began several steps to insure the preservation of our nation’s natural landmarks.  The passage of the 1906 Antiquities Act enabled Roosevelt and future presidents to proclaim certain sites and landmarks historical and/or scientific and worthy of preservation. The very first site to be proclaimed as a national monument under this act was Devils Tower in Wyoming.  It is a unique natural feature, rising 825 feet above the Wyoming plains.  Roosevelt’s dedication to the preservation of lands prompted the establishment of Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota.  With rugged terrain and landscapes filled with colorful geographic features, the park has been described as the “Badlands” of the north.

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Theodore Roosevelt and Conservationist John Muir at Yosemite National Park. (established 1890) photo: PBS.org.

Roosevelt paved the way for park preservation, however it was really Stephen T. Mather who helped to turn the concept of a National Park system into legislative reality.  Mather was an American industrialist and conservationist who promoted the concept of the creation of a federal agency to oversee the National Parks administration. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law an order establishing the National Park System. Stephen Mather was appointed as the first director of the National Park Service in 1917.

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Glacier National Park~ Montana

Since 1916 our National Park service has continued a legacy for 100 years. I encourage you to celebrate this legacy by visiting a National Park sometime during this Centennial year. Check out the National Parks web-site at: www.nps.gov to find information on the park of your choice. I have a few parks on my list that I am hoping to see including Glacier National Park in Montana….lots of chances for great photos! Can hardly wait to view these mountains with my own eyes and take my own photos other than internet voyages.  Put Your Traveling Shoes On. JES

(Authors note: I originally posted this in March, but revised with a few updates and photographs)

 

 

The Impact of the CCC on America’s Parks

Millions of Americans visiting both our State and National Parks every year take in the beauty surrounding them as they walk in the woods and traverse across the bridges and trails.  Yet, do many of these park visitors take a few moments to pause and reflect on just how these pathways were blazed, bridges were built and trees planted?  Many projects across this country encompassing more than 700 local, state and national parks were completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

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Elkmont Bridge~Great Smokey Mountains National Park (photo by by Bob Davis on Bridgehunters.com)

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as one of the efforts to put thousands of young men to work during the Great Depression.  The CCC  was envisioned by FDR as not only a way to help construction efforts in the country, but also to instill a spirit of hope to thousands of men and thereby helping raise the optimism, and economic standards, of the entire country.  When FDR  presented the bill to Congress, urging the formation of the CCC, he stated:“This enterprise…will conserve our precious natural resources. It will pay dividends to the present and future generations.  It will make improvements in National and State domains which have been largely forgotten in the past few years of industrial development…More important however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work…We can take a vast army of these unemployed out into healthful surroundings.  We can eliminate to some extent at least the threat that enforced idleness brings to spiritual and moral stability. It is not a panacea for all the unemployment, but it is an essential step in this emergency.”

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FDR at Civilian Conservation Corps camp

On March 31, 1933 Roosevelt signed the bill into law and work quickly began to organize and implement the operation of the CCC.  Since it was such a huge undertaking the successful implementation of FDR’s vision required the cooperation of several branches of the government to assure its success. The Department of Labor was utilized for the enrollment of the young men.  The War Department was responsible for feeding, clothing and training the enrollees for their duties and the Agricultural and Interior Departments selected the work projects, supervised the work and oversaw the administration of the camps.

The volume of projects accomplished by the CCC from 1933 to 1942 is reflected in the statistics.  The majority of projects were conservation efforts and thereby had the greatest impact on our parks and farmland.  Approximately 125,000 miles of  roads were built, 13,000 miles of foot trails built, 972 fish stocked and between 2 and 3 billion trees were planted.  Additionally, 40 million acres of farmland benefited from erosion control projects.

Working in the camps as a CCC worker, instilled in most of the workers a great deal of pride in what they were accomplishing for their country.  Yet, it was no picnic in the woods; the men worked long arduous hours and were paid only $30.00 per month, thinking in simpler terms:$1.00 per day. Even by 1930 standards…it still didn’t seem like much.  Most of their salary was sent home to their families. It was very beneficial that their meals, clothing, lodging and medical care was included in their work with the corps.  Over its 9-year span the CCC employed about 3 million men nationwide. CCC logoThe profound impact of the CCC on our Parks system provided an expansion and development of the parks so as to create many new opportunities for Americans to explore the great outdoors, frequently in new ways for many visitors. The CCC was a great benefit to the Parks and even today the legacy continues. An organization called CCC Legacy helps educate and foster an appreciation of the works that were accomplished by the CCC. They have a web-site: http://www.ccclegacy.org  with links to how one can learn about the history of their accomplishments and how a person could assist in conservation efforts in their own community.

The National Parks are basically funded through three main channels: tax supported, user fees and private donations. During its tenure, not only did the CCC help the National Parks develop into the parks we know today, but they helped them complete those projects at a great savings. The question has been asked before, but deserves to be given consideration: would the CCC  work today? Perhaps Yes. If the formation of an active Civilian Conservation Corp., or one similar to the one that was formed in 1933, were to be successful it would need to take several cultural and political differences into account. The major goals would undoubtedly remain: to restore the original CCC structures, provide maintenance in Parks while simultaneously providing rewarding work for unemployed young people. When people think of  America, they not only think of our freedoms and lifestyles, but also the beauty and diversity of our lands. Our State and National Parks help to showcase these beautiful lands, as well as helping to preserve them.

So the next time you visit either a state or national park, ask a few questions and see if you can spot projects completed by the CCC.  Chances are good you may find some of their work; so many projects across this country we have the CCC to thank for.

It is a legacy that deserves to endure. Put your traveling shoes on.  JES

Sources: “Our Mark on this Land: A Guide to the Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in America’s Parks”, by Ren & Helen Davis (published 2011)

http://www.ccclegacy.org             http://www.nps.gov

 

 

 

Start @ the Visitor’s Center!

When traveling to popular attractions, to make the most of your trip, it only makes sense to start at the Visitors Center. Obviously, it is a great place to start to get your bearings about what you want to see, brochures and if at a National or State Park-trail maps to help you navigate your way. Several people, however, begrudge the whole idea of even stepping foot in the building.
I remember several family vacations when my sons moaned about having to “make Mom happy” and go to the visitors center.

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“Are we done yet?”

Here they are at the Grand Tetons Visitors Center looking tickled pink to be there-they wanted to get out on the trail ASAP. “Take the picture Mom and let’s go!” That particular center is filled with beautiful statues, paintings and of course a bounty of information about the natural history of the area. It’s a great place to start your trip….but I would venture to say that a Visitor’s Center is so much more than brochures and maps-it can itself be a destination of great interest. This occurred to me recently when I took my Mom to Union Station in Chicago. I decided that since I was in the city, anyway I would take the time to go the Visitors Center and update my collections of brochures and guides, that were at least a decade old. A little research ahead of time revealed 3 different visitors centers in the downtown area. Since I was on foot, I wanted one within walking distance to the train. I chose the Chicago Cultural Center: only 1 mile from Union Station.

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An easy walk and some good exercise for me. The decision was made. When I arrived I was amazed at the grandeur and stoic elegance of the building. When I found out the background of the building, its amazing that it was originally built as Chicago’s first public library in 1897. The detail and craftsmanship with mosaics, polished glass and marble makes it stand out as a real gem of architecture in the city. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is also a protected Chicago landmark. Here is a look at the beauty of the front entrance. Another Visitors Center, showing an alternative style in contrast to the ornate architecture of the Chicago Cultural Center is the Anchorage, Alaska Visitors Center. Located in the heart of downtown Anchorage, it is easy to spot by the grass growing on the roof and the log-cabin construction in the midst of city buildings and businesses. Reflecting the pioneer spirit and the beauty of the great outdoors it also depicts a quaint image of the “Last Frontier” that Alaska is usually associated with.Alaska-2015 005

It not only provides the usual brochures and travel tips…but is a great photo op of a unique visitors center that could ONLY be found in Alaska! So when you are starting out on a trip, and collecting your brochures, be sure to spend a little time at the visitor’s center. You never know what new things or sights you will most assuredly take in. The Visitor’s Center….a great place to start.  Put your traveling shoes on. JES