Tag Archives: history

World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument

Overview

The WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument was created in 2008, composed of three sites in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, California’s Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark, 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.

Highlights

U.S.S. Arizona Memorial, museum at Pearl Harbor, U.S.S. Missouri tours

Must-Do Activity

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. 

Best Trail

Call or stop by the visitor centers for Lava Beds National Monument or Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge to learn more about accessing the ruins of Tule Lake Segregation Center National Historic Landmark near the California-Oregon border.

Instagram-worthy Photo

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 surface. 

Peak Season

Year round, especially on and around December 7.

Hours

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

Fees

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.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, though parking is limited at the Pearl Harbor site.

Camping

There is camping available around Tule Lake in Lava Beds National Monument and Modoc National Forest.  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?

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Overview

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.

Highlights

McKittrick Canyon, Pinery Station, Guadalupe Peak, Salt Basin Dunes, Dog Canyon

Must-Do Activity

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. 

Best Trail

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.

Instagram-worthy Photo

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. 

Peak Season

Summer, though wildfires can shut down large portions of the park.

Hours

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

Fees

$5 per person or America The Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

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).

Camping

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.


This design we created to celebrate Guadalupe Mountains National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

Explore More – Why are the peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains full of marine fossils?

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Death Valley National Park

Overview

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. 

Highlights

Badwater Basin, Zabriskie Point, Golden Canyon Trail, Devils Golf Course, Artists Drive, Salt Creek Interpretive Trail, Titus Canyon, Telescope Peak, sand dunes

Must-Do Activity

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.

Best Trail

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.

Instagram-worthy Photo

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. 

Peak Season

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.

Hours

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

Fees

$30 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

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.

Camping

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.


This design we created to celebrate Death Valley National Park is available on a variety of products at Cafe Press and Amazon.

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)?

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WONDON WAS HERE …TWICE …THRICE …FORCE? …FIF!

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

Andrew Johnson National Historic Site

Overview

At age 15, Andrew Johnson fled his apprenticeship in Raleigh,North Carolina and eventually started a tailor shop in Greeneville, Tennessee.  In 1829, he began his political career, ultimately serving as a U.S. Representative, Governor of Tennessee, U.S. Senator, Vice President, and President upon the assassination of Abraham Lincoln in 1865.  He was the first President to be impeached after vetoing the Tenure of Office Act (later found unconstitutional by the Supreme Court) and was acquitted by the margin of one vote.

Highlights

House tour, tailor shop, museum, film, National Cemetery

Must-Do Activity

Start at the visitor center, which offers a film, a small museum, and the enclosed tailor shop where Andrew Johnson worked before going into politics.  Dress-up clothes are available if you want to take a photo straight out of the mid-1800s (no smiling for authenticity).  There you can also pick up a free timed ticket for the homestead tour and a ticket to vote in Johnson’s impeachment trial. 

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

The small National Cemetery atop a hill in Greeneville, Tennessee contains the graves of Andrew Johnson, his wife, and about 200 soldiers.

Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved with designated parking lots at the visitor center, homestead, and cemetery.

Camping

Cherokee National Forest offers campgrounds southeast of Greeneville.

Explore More – Why did young Andrew Johnson flee North Carolina six years before his apprenticeship contract expired?


WONDON WAS HERE

Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site

Overview

On April 14, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln attended a play at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C., which General U.S. Grant was also expected to attend.  It is common knowledge that Lincoln was shot by an actor (John Wilkes Booth) not performing in the play and died the next morning of his wounds.  What is less well known is that the assassination plot also targeted the Secretary of State William Seward(critically injuring six men and one woman) and Vice President Andrew Johnson (which was never attempted).  Since 1933,the National Park Service has run the site and the neighboring Petersen house where Lincoln died, which are open to tourists with timed tickets except when rehearsals are underway in the still-active theatre.

Highlights

Museum, Booth’s gun, ranger program, live theatre

Must-Do Activity

You can get a ticket to the free ranger talk that does not include the National Park Service’s excellent museum downstairs from the theatre, but this should not be skipped by visitors.  It contains thought-provoking interpretative material and the original gun used by Booth to shoot Lincoln.

Best Trail

Take a walk to the boarding house where the conspirators met, which is now a restaurant in D.C.’s Chinatown.  Mary Surratt, who ran the boarding house, became the first woman executed by the U.S. federal government on July 7, 1865.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There are still plays performed at Ford’s Theatre, but your timed ticket will only get you in to listen to a ranger talk about the assassination without any singing or acting.  Either way, the stage right balcony provides the best view of the President’s box seats.

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Peak Season

Summer, but it is open year round.

Hours

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

Fees

A timed ticket is available online (with a reservation fee) and in person (free).  Theatre performances charge an admission fee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but parking can be a challenge in Washington, D.C., though it is easier on weekends.

Camping

None

Explore More – Are theatre-goers allowed to sit in the presidential box during performances?

WONDON WAS HERE