Tag Archives: airplanes

Wright Brothers National Memorial

Overview

The Wright Brothers hailed from Dayton, Ohio but they came to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for the sustained winds they needed to get their winged contraptions off the ground.  They glided from the top of Kill Devil Hill more than a thousand times between 1900 and 1902.  Then on December 17, 1903 they finally made history: twelve-seconds of motor-powered, man-carrying flight in a heavier-than-air airplane.  After the fourth and longest flight (59 seconds) that day the flying machine was irreparably crashed and the brothers headed back to Ohio. 

Highlights

Museum, replica flyer and glider, monument, sculpture

Must-Do Activity

Since 1932, a massive granite monument has stood atop the 90-foot tall hill, which is actually a sand dune stabilized with planted grass.  Visitors to Kitty Hawk will also find a replica flyer and glider, reconstructed hangar, boulders marking the landing spot of each of the four flights, and a life-size bronze sculpture added on the first flight centennial in 2003. 

Best Trail

A paved walkway connects the Wright Brothers Monument atop Kill Devil Hill with the five boulders marking the lift-off point and four landings that occurred on December 17, 1903.

Instagram-worthy Photo

A full-scale replica of the 1903 flyer is located inside the museum run by the National Park Service (NPS).  Rangers give lectures in that room throughout the day, also explaining details of the replica 1902 glider.

Peak Season

Summer and every December 17

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/wrbr/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

There are NPS campgrounds located south of the memorial in Cape Hatteras National Seashore.

Related Sites

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park (Ohio)

Fort Raleigh National Historic Site (North Carolina)

Cape Hatteras National Seashore (North Carolina)

Explore More – The 1903 flyer on display here is a replica, so where is the original exhibited?

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Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Overview

Across the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon stands the palisade of Fort Vancouver National Historical Park.  From 1825 to 1860 it served as the Hudson’s Bay Company’s western headquarters, even after the U.S. took control of the territory from Great Britain in 1846.  Within walking distance, the National Park Service (NPS) also manages the free Pearson Air Museum at an active airport surrounded by the Vancouver National Historic Reserve.  A separate unit of the park, the McLoughlin House (free) is found in downtown Oregon City and focuses on the area’s significance as the terminus for the Oregon Trail.

Highlights

Reconstructed fort, period garden, Pearson Air Museum, McLoughlin House

Must-Do Activity

Today’s fort buildings are reconstructions, including the bakehouse, blacksmith shop, chief factor’s house, fur store, and bastion which are open to visitors with costumed reenactors inside happy to answer questions.

Best Trail

True to its past, Vancouver, Washington (not to be confused with the large city across the Canadian border) remains a major shipping center to this day.  Its waterfront is home to a sculpture honoring “Wendy the Welder” and the women who worked here during World War II.  Many structures are preserved in the surrounding Vancouver National Historic Reserve, including the Marshall House (tours for a fee). 

Instagram-worthy Photo

A garden designed to mimic one from 1845 is maintained just outside the fort’s palisade.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/fova/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

$10 per person (only to enter the fort itself) or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

Access roads paved, but parking is a short walk from the fort.

Camping

Battleground Lake State Park has a campground 20 miles northwest of Vancouver, Washington.  There are many camping options across the Columbia River in Mount Hood National Forest.

Related Sites

Grand Portage National Monument (Minnesota)

Whitman Mission National Historic Site (Washington)

Mount Rainier National Park (Washington)

Explore More – Before it became a unit of Fort Vancouver National Historic Site in 2003, when was McLoughlin House named a National Historic Site in the “father of Oregon’s” honor (even though he was Canadian)?

Minuteman Missile National Historic Site

Overview

During the Cold War, there were 150 intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) silos in South Dakota.  Start your visit at the thought-provoking museum in the National Park Service (NPS) visitor center on Interstate 90, located at Exit 131 (the east entrance into Badlands National Park).  It can be hard to get onto a tour of the Delta-01 launch control facility that same day without reservations, but you can always stop at the Delta-09 missile silo at Exit 116.

Highlights

Museum, Delta-09 missile silo, guided tours of Delta-01 launch control facility

Must-Do Activity

Guided tours of the Delta-01 launch control facility have very limited space and a nominal fee, but are no longer solely first-come, first served thanks to an online reservation system.  Guided tours are also available of the Minuteman II training silo at Ellsworth Air Force Base down the road on Interstate 90 at Exit 67, which is home of the free South Dakota Air and Space Museum (that is definitely worth a stop).

Best Trail

Located off Interstate 90 Exit 116, you can walk around the Delta-09 missile silo, which has interpretive signs around a deactivated Minuteman II ICBM.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Stop to read the quote by the front door to the NPS visitor center.  It is a sobering reminder of the brutal logic behind “nuclear deterrence” and “Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).”

Peak Season

Summer and the September weekend of the Custer State Park bison roundup.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/mimi/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

No fee for the main visitor center or the Delta-09 missile silo, but there is a small charge for the guided tour of the Delta-01 launch control facility.

Road Conditions

Access to the multiple sites is by paved or good gravel roads.

Camping

Campgrounds and free backcountry camping are allowed in nearby Badlands National Park.

Explore More – A single Minuteman II missile has a 1.2-megaton warhead, which is equivalent in power to what percentage of all munitions used throughout World War II?

Dry Tortugas National Park

Overview

Only accessible by boat or floatplane, Dry Tortugas National Park is a remote paradise 70 miles west of Key West and home to a diverse array of birds and sea life.  Fort Jefferson was built on Garden Key starting in 1846 and was never completed before it was abandoned in 1874.  Today birders come from all over to see the rookery of 100,000 sooty terns on Bush Key, and also get the joy of watching the acrobatic dives of brown pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and magnificent frigatebirds with their seven-foot wingspan.

Echo was bringing the CHAOS to Dry Tortugas National Park.

Highlights

Fort Jefferson, snorkeling, birding, overnight camping

Must-Do Activity

Turquoise blue water is home to amazing coral reefs right offshore from Garden Key, with some coral and sea fans growing on Fort Jefferson’s brick moat wall and old dock pylons.  Snorkeling among the historic debris feels like exploring an ancient shipwreck.  The daily ferry ship provides free snorkeling gear for day-trippers.

Best Trail

Walk the sea wall that circles Fort Jefferson for great views and a chance to see the endangered American crocodile that sometimes resides in the moat.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Walking the archways of Fort Jefferson in the rays of the rising sun or watching a sunset from atop its ramparts is a great reason to spend the night here.

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Peak Season

Weather permitting, the Yankee Freedom ferry boat runs daily all year, but you may want to be cautious during hurricane season.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/drto/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

A park entrance fee is collected by the Yankee Freedom ferry service when you purchase your tickets, but is refundable at check-in if you have an America The Beautiful Pass.  A nominal camping fee is charged to stay on Garden Key.

Road Conditions

A parking deck (fee) is located right near the docks and check-in for the Yankee Freedom ferry boat.

Camping

Primitive camping is allowed on Garden Key for a small fee.  Campers must bring all of their own water and the only way to cook is with charcoal since fires and stoves are prohibited.

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Scott walking on the moat

The lighthouse with Majestic Frigatebirds

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A view of the ferry boat from atop Fort Jefferson.
Yankee Freedom ferry boat docked outside Fort Jefferson.
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When snorkeling only ten feet from shore, this stingray swam right past us.
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Our original logo is for sale on a variety of products on Amazon and Cafe Press

Explore More – Why were the islands of the Tortugas labeled “Dry” on early maps?

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WONDON WAS HERE

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Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

Overview

Aircraft developed at an incredible rate between the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903 and the 1940s.  Yet at the outset of World War II, African-American men were not allowed to be pilots in the Army Air Corps (before the 1947 creation of the Air Force).  In 1941, an experimental program was started at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama to train hundreds of pilots, bombardiers, and navigators for the looming war.  The site is housed in the old hangars at Moton Field airport where historic airplanes and excellent interpretive panels  tell the story of the group of African-American men that came to be known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

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Highlights

P-51 Mustang airplane, interpretive film

Must-Do Activity

Start your tour inside Hanger No. 1 then watch the film inside Hanger No. 2, where you will learn about the Tuskegee Airmen’s goal of Double-V, victory over the enemy abroad and victory over racism at home.  After the war, in 1948, President Harry S Truman signed an order calling for “equality of treatment and opportunity for all persons in the armed services.”

Best Trail

No trails

Instagram-worthy Photo

Get a shot in front of the P-51 “Red Tail” hanging from the ceiling inside Hanger No. 2.

Tuskegee

Peak Season

The site is open year round, but every Memorial Day weekend there is a big celebration at Moton Field and many of the surviving Tuskegee Airmen visit the site.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/tuai/planyourvisit/hours.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

The site is handicap accessible, and if you contact the NPS before your visit they can arrange parking closer than the main visitor lot on the hill above Moton Field.

Camping

Dispersed camping is allowed at nearby Tuskegee National Forest.

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Jump at any chance to meet some surviving Tuskegee Airmen.  This event was in Cheyenne, WY.

Explore More – The 72 Tuskegee Airmen combat pilots shot down how many enemy aircraft during World War II?

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WONDON WAS HERE