Tag Archives: history

City of Rocks National Reserve

Overview

In the high desert of southeast Idaho stands a collection of granite spires that served as a welcome rest stop along the California Trail.   At the height of the gold rush in 1852, some 50,000 pioneers passed this site in a single year.  Many left their names painted in axle grease, still legible on Camp Rock and Register Rock.  Today it is a popular destination for rock climbers from around the world, but also has 22 miles of hiking and equestrian trails.

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Highlights

Rock climbing, Register Rock, Window Arch, primitive camping

Must-Do Activity

Rock climbers flock here from around the world to take on the granite spires that inspired emigrants on the California Gold Rush Trail to name it City of Rocks.  The grippy granite is fun for any skill level to clamber around on and easily accessible from all campsites.

Best Trail

Trails snake through this area leading to different climbing routes, especially around Elephant Rock, which is a great place to watch other climbers.  Keep watching the skies, too, as a variety of raptors (and pigeons) enjoy the thermals here.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Window Arch is a great place to watch the sun come up, just try not to wake up campers in the neighboring sites.

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Peak Season

Summer, since it is very cold at this elevation (7,000 feet) in other seasons.  Autumn briefly turns aspen leaves yellow.

Hours

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

Fees

Free to enter and only $12.72 to camp per night (so bring exact change)

Road Conditions

A dirt road winds through the park and is accessible to passenger vehicles.

Camping

78 primitive campsites located off the dirt Emery Canyon Road, with several nice sites sit right next to Window Arch.  For more upscale accommodations try the Lodge and Bunkhouse at nearby Castle Rocks State Park.

Lots of fins

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One of the more famous inscriptions
Emigrants on the California Trail passed right through here.

CIRO

Explore More – How many billions of years ago did the oldest granite here form?

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Kalaupapa National Historical Park

Overview

Located on the remote northern peninsula of Molokai, in the Hawaiian Islands, this isolated spot was selected by King Kamehameha V in 1865 as a quarantine area for those suffering from Hansen’s disease (also known as leprosy).  It is fairly noncontagious and successful treatments were developed, meaning patients have not been forced to live here since 1949.  There are still no roads to the settlement, so you will have to get the necessary permits through Father Damien Tours to fly, hike, or ride mules into the restricted-access park.  Nobody under age 16 is allowed.

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Highlights

Kalaupapa Trail, St. Philomena Church, Kalawao Settlement

Must-Do Activity

“Must do” in this case means you are only allowed to enter this park on the 4-hour bus tours led by Hansen’s disease patients who choose to remain living here, which truly enhances your experience.  From them you will hear the amazing stories of the exiles and those who helped them, including two saints: Father Damien and Mother Marianne Cope.

Best Trail

Hiking down the 1,600-foot high cliffs is an exciting introduction to the land, or you can ride a mule on the same trail.  Permits required.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The tour stops for lunch at the long-abandoned Kalawao Settlement at the end of the road, which offers stunning views of the 1,600-foot cliffs that plunge into the Pacific Ocean.

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Peak Season

The weather is nice year round in the tropics, but always be prepared for rain.

Hours

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

Fees

Permits are required to enter this park and the only concessionaire is Father Damien Tours.  A day trip including flights from Honolulu cost $249 per person in 2016, but cheaper options are available if you are already staying on Molokai Island.

Road Conditions

The dirt roads are bumpy, especially in a bus, but you won’t be driving so just enjoy the scenery.

Camping

None

A view of Kalaupapa from near the top of the trail
Tropical jungles and extraordinary overlooks are two reasons to enter the park via the Kalaupapa Trail.

Tiff on the downhill

Scott with an awesome tree

Tiff at the restored church built by Father Damien in the 1800s
Father Damien served here at St. Philomena Church in the later abandoned Kalawao Settlement; he was canonized in 2009.

Active Catholic church in Kalaupapa

Tiff boarding our plane to get topside on Moloka'i
Small airplanes are used to fly in and out of Kalaupapa, offering great views of Molokai.

Explore More – Since 1865, how many Hansen’s disease patients were buried in Kalaupapa?

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Andersonville National Historic Site

Overview

During the Civil War, Andersonville Prison in central Georgia held approximately 32,000 Union prisoners in a compound designed for only 10,000.  As the tide turned against the Confederacy in 1864, the prisoners were not adequately cared for and thousands perished.  Following the war, Clara Barton helped lead the effort to identify the 12,920 men buried here and place a gravestone for each of them.  In addition to being a National Park Service (NPS) site, it remains an active military cemetery and is also home to the National Prisoner of War Museum.

Andersonville

Highlights

National Prisoner of War Museum, monuments in Andersonville National Cemetery, prison site

Must-Do Activity

This may not be the best NPS site to bring children to, given the exhibits in the National Prisoner of War Museum do not pull punches in their depictions of the brutality endured by captured combatants throughout the ages.  That said, it is very well-done and a powerful experience.  We can promise that you will not leave this small Georgia town harboring the same feelings about war with which you arrived.

Best Trail

Walk (or drive) around the Civil War prison site to read interpretive panels and see the reconstruction of the North Gate and Northeast Corner of the stockade.

Instagram-worthy Photo

You thought your deadlines were tough, but if an Andersonville prisoner crossed this “dead line” he was immediately shot.

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Peak Season

Year round, though it can get hot and humid in the summer.

Hours

https://www.nps.gov/ande/planyourvisit/basicinfo.htm

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved.

Camping

None in the park, but several campgrounds nearby including one across the road from the cemetery and Georgia Veterans Memorial State Park near Americus.

In the National Cemetery at Andersonville

Reflection of the American flag on the tomb of the unknown

Tiff outside the main gate at Andersonville

The memorial outside of the museum

Tiff in the POW museum (those are all guns trained on her)
Tiff inside the National Prisoner of War Museum.

Inside the POW museum

Explore More – What was the fate after the Civil War of Confederate camp commander Henry Wirz?

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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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First State National Historical Park

Overview

Delaware was the last of the 50 states to gain a National Park Service (NPS) site.  Finally in 2013, this park was created from a group of buildings associated with Delaware being the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787 inside The Golden Fleece Tavern in Dover.  The NPS does not yet have a visitor center at any of the multiple sites across the state and relies on its partners to provide tours and information.

First

Highlights

New Castle Court House, Dover Green

Must-Do Activity

We recommend you take a tour inside the historic New Castle Court House that dates back to 1732; it is less than an hour’s drive north of Dover.  You can learn a lot in an hour from a passionate tour guide, anything from its association with the Underground Railroad to why Delaware has that strange rounded border on its north end.  The New Castle Court House is occasionally still used to hold minor court proceedings.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The Golden Fleece Tavern in Dover is long gone, but you can still read the marker on the corner of State Street when you visit the lovely Dover Green, which is surrounded by photogenic red-brick buildings.

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Peak Season

Mostly open year round, but some sites may only be open during the summer months.

Hours

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

Fees

None, but donations accepted.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but street parking is limited around New Castle Court House and the Dover Green.

Camping

None

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Inside this tavern Delaware ratified the U.S. Constitution on December 7, 1787
Elizabeth Battell’s Golden Fleece Tavern is where Delaware became the First State in 1787.

William Penn, founder of Delaware (formerly part of Pennsylvania)
Scott hanging out with William Penn (of Pennsylvania fame), since Delaware was part of that state until 1776.

View of 1731 foundation in Old New Castle Courthouse

View of English-style courtroom inside Old New Castle Courthouse
Inside the historic New Castle Court House, which is still used to hold court on rare occasions.

Explore More – Why does Delaware have that strange rounded border on its north end?

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