One of the many things that makes this country great is its willingness to remember inglorious moments in its past, such as the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Following the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an executive order authorizing the detention of more than 110,000 U.S. citizens of Japanese descent. Manzanar War Relocation Center was the first of 10 internment camps built throughout the western U.S. It held about 10,000 citizens (mostly from Los Angeles, California) in 36 blocks of wooden barracks across a one square-mile fenced enclosure.
Museum, film, reconstructed barracks, gardens, memorial
Opened in 2004, the National Park Service visitor center is
located inside the former camp auditorium, which now houses an excellent
museum. Self-guided walking and auto
tours take visitors to two reconstructed barracks, the camp gardens, and a
cemetery with the Manzanar Memorial.
You can walk or drive the 3.2-mile auto tour with 27
Located in the camp’s cemetery, the Manzanar Memorial is
often swathed in origami paper cranes.
Summer, though temperatures can get hot with little shade.
On the east side of the San Francisco Bay, Richmond was chosen by the National Park Service (NPS) in 2000 to commemorate the work of thousands of women and men nationwide who built the machines needed to fight World War II. By 1945, women made up almost a third of the workforce in the U.S. and about 41% of welders in the Kaiser shipyards here. The Visitor Education Center offers hands-on exhibits housed in a Ford Assembly Building formerly used to make tanks. Tours are also offered on the SS Red Oak Victory, a cargo ship built here during the war.
Museum, film, Rosie the Riveter Memorial, SS Red Oak Victory, real-life “Rosies”
The special thing about this park is the incredible
opportunity on most Fridays to meet real-life “Rosies” who worked here during
the war. During our visit, we got to
hear the stories of two women, Agnes and Marian. They won’t be around forever, so put this
site at the top of your NPS to-do list.
The paved Bay Trail winds through Richmond and stops at the
Rosie the Riveter Memorial in Marina Bay Park.
The poster of
a woman in factory work clothes flexing her right bicep is perhaps the most
famous image to come out of World War II.
“Rosie the Riveter” was also a popular song on the radio in the 1940s.
Year round, but especially on Fridays when real-life
“Rosies” are at the visitor center.
The WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument was created in 2008 and disbanded in 2019. It was composed of three sites in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, California’s Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark (now a National Monument), and five sites around Honolulu, Hawaii’s Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, much better known as Pearl Harbor. It was there that on December 7, 1941, a surprise attack on the U.S. Navy fleet led the country to formally enter World War II.
Memorial, museum at Pearl Harbor, U.S.S.
At Pearl Harbor there is a free museum run by the National
Park Service and you can pick up free tickets to ferry to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, which was dedicated
in 1962. You will be hard pressed to
find a more tasteful and solemn war memorial than this one. Tickets can also be purchased to tour the
nearby U.S.S. Missouri battleship and
U.S.S. Bowfin submarine.
The wreckage of the U.S.S. Arizona battleship serves as the graves for 1,102 sailors and
Marines who were on board when it sunk, and it still leaks black
“tears” of oil that leave a rainbow sheen on the water’s
Free entry to the museum and free timed tickets for the ferry to the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial available to the first 1,300 people each day or by reservation. Tickets can also be purchased to tour the nearby U.S.S. Missouri battleship and U.S.S. Bowfin submarine.
All roads paved, though parking is limited at the Pearl
Private and county campgrounds can be found on Oahu Island outside the city of Honolulu.
Explore More – What
significant event took place upon the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri battleship on September 2, 1945?
Since there are no campgrounds at Carlsbad Caverns National Park in New Mexico, many people stay at Guadalupe Mountains National Park just across the state border. The park contains the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet, so snow is not unheard of here. One night when we stayed there in December, we awoke to an inch of snow. It always looks like it just snowed at the Salt Basin Dunes.
McKittrick Canyon, Pinery Station, Guadalupe Peak, Salt Basin Dunes, Dog Canyon
The Chihuahuan Desert is home to many unique plant species,so start with the Pinery Trail behind the visitor center and learn to spot the differences between lechuguilla, sotol, yucca, and the many species of cacti.
Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in Texas at 8,749 feet and the steep trail to its summit from Pine Springs Campground crosses through several ecosystems providing wonderful views of El Capitan and the surrounding landscape.
Autumn is a great time to visit to catch the vibrant red leaves of bigtooth maple trees. Find them by hiking from Pine Springs Campground on Devil’s Hall Trail or further north through McKittrick Canyon to secluded Pratt Cabin, built in the 1920s.
Summer, though wildfires can shut down large portions of the park.
Roads are paved, including the 60 mile drive to Dog Canyon at the north end of the park, except the last 7.5 miles to Salt Basin Dunes (good dirt road) and Williams Ranch (4×4 road).
Pine Springs Campground and remote Dog Canyon Campground both have running water, but no RV hookups. Free backcountry permits provide camping opportunities at designated sites, though trails tend to be very steep and strenuous.
Explore More – Why are the peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains full of marine fossils?
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Death Valley is our favorite of the 9 National Parks in California. Ghost towns and abandoned mills abound throughout its 3.4-million acres, including Leadfield on the one-way dirt road through Titus Canyon. Most of the attractions are found in and around the historic Furnace Creek Inn: watch sunrise at Zabriskie Point or sunset at 5,475-foot Dantes View; hike through gorgeous Golden Canyon or under Natural Bridge; drive to the ironic Devils Golf Course or the colorful Artists Drive; and walk into Badwater Basin, which at -282 feet below-sea-level is the lowest point in North America, even more impressive since it sits directly beneath 11,049-foot Telescope Peak.
Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point, Golden Canyon Trail, Devils Golf Course, Artists Drive, Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, Titus Canyon, Telescope Peak, sand dunes
Death Valley averages less than 2 inches of precipitation annually, yet less than 10,000 years ago Badwater Basin was the bottom of a massive inland lake, the remnants of which be found along Salt Creek Interpretive Trail. Here tiny desert pupfish survive in the salty, hot water. The related and endangered Devils Hole pupfish can be seen at a disconnected part of Death Valley National Park surrounded by Nevada’s Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
There are great trails throughout this park, but we prefer walking wherever we want on the many sand dunes. The best are the Panamint Dunes; tucked on a mountain slope they require a three mile hike to reach. That means when you drop your sleeping bag on top you will likely have the place to yourself. More centrally located are the popular Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes. In the northern section of the park the steep Eureka Dunes have a free primitive campground at their base.
A dry, flat lakebed in the northwestern corner of the park provides a racetrack for rocks of all shapes and sizes. High winds and ice crystals are the key to their movement, which is clearly shown in their wake. Do not let the 26 mile dirt road stop you from visiting this spectacular site. It is passable by most vehicles when the road is dry (we drove our mini-van there)and when the Racetrack is wet you should refrain from walking on it anyway.
Spring and fall, with summer’s being incredibly hot except at the highest elevations. However, it can snow just about any month of the year.
The main roads are paved, but to really enjoy the park you should drive a high-clearance vehicle (rental 4x4s are available near Furnace Creek). As of December 2018, Scotty’s Castle is still inaccessible due to flood damage on the road.
There are campgrounds, but a unique aspect of this National Park is that you can disperse camp for free along many of its dirt roads. Backcountry camping is also free and does not require a permit.
Explore More – What is the connection between Death Valley, 20 Mule Team Borax, and Stephen Mather (who in 1916 became the first Director of the National Park Service)?