Tag Archives: house

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

Overview

The tallgrass prairie formerly covered 170-million acres of North America, but today only 4% of that exists in a few isolated pockets due to conversion to agriculture.  The Flint Hills of eastern Kansas were too rocky for tilling, so this was an ideal place to create Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in 1996.  Occasionally, land managers utilize fire to support fire-adapted native grasses against invasive species. Before our visit in November 2014, large areas were burned.  The bison that live here enjoy eating the fresh green grass that sprouts following a fire and wildflowers thrive with the release of available soil nutrients.

Echo at Tallgrass Prairie

Highlights

Spring Hill Ranch, Lower Fox Creek School, bison herd

Must-Do Activity

After reading the interpretive panels at the visitor center, walk around the buildings next door at the historic Spring Hill Ranch.  The 1881 ranch house is open for tours seasonally.

Best Trail

There are many trails that wander through the 10,894-acre preserve that is jointly run by the Nature Conservancy and National Park Service.  Many loop options are possible, but no backpacking is allowed, possibly due to the bison herd.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Just down the road from Spring Hill Ranch is the one-room Lower Fox Creek School which was open from 1884 to 1930.  Its walls are made of local limestone.

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Chase State Fishing Lake has 10 primitive campsites two miles outside Cottonwood Falls, Kansas.  Several U.S. Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds surround Council Grove Lake, which is located 20 miles north.

Explore More – At first the grasslands may all look the same, but how many species of plants are found within Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve?

Sitka National Historical Park

Overview

Sitka National Historical Park offers a good introduction to the Russian and native influences on this region, as well as a forested trail past beautifully carved totem poles.  Created in 1910, it was the first National Park Service (NPS) site in Alaska, nearly 50 years before statehood.

Highlights

1843 Russian Bishop’s House, Russian Orthodox cathedral, totem poles

Must-Do Activity

Two miles of trails wind through the spruce forest passing more than a dozen totem poles and the site of Kiks.ádi Fort where the 1804 battle took place between Russian fur traders and the native Tlingit community.  To further experience the Tlingit culture, attend a traditional dance at Shee’tka Kwaan Naa Kahidi Community House. 

Best Trail

The adventurous can summit 3,354 foot Mount Verstovia for unsurpassed views of the harbor and the mountainous heart of Baranof Island.  This steep route takes all day, starting with numerous switchbacks before the trail disappears and scrambling over rocks to the top.  Also scenic, Indian River Trail is a flatter alternative.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Jagged peaks and tiny forested islands make Sitka the most beautiful spot in Southeast Alaska.  Bald eagles abound in trees around the town’s quiet boat docks, while the volcanic cone of Mount Edgecumbe sits zen-like off to the west. 

Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

There are no roads to Sitka, so you have to take an airplane, cruise ship, or ferry.  The main road on Baranof Island is paved and it is less than a mile walk to access the NPS visitor center from downtown.

Camping

Campsites are available at Blue Lake down a dirt road east of town in Tongass National Forest or at Old Sitka State Historic Park near the ferry terminal.

Explore More – When did the official transfer of Alaska from Russia to the U.S.A. take place on Castle Hill in Sitka (then known as New Archangel)?

Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Overview

Harry S Truman was a farmer, soldier in World War I, judge, U.S. Senator, and Vice President before assuming the duties of Commander-in-Chief after Franklin D. Roosevelt’s death in 1945.  He is perhaps best known as the man who made the decision to drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  The 33rd President was known for being a straight shooter; this quote speaks to us today: “You can’t divide the country up into sections… and you can’t encourage people’s prejudices.  You have to appeal to people’s best instincts, not their worst ones.”  Truman won a close reelection vote in 1948.

Highlights

Truman Home tour, film, Truman Farm Home

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center in downtown Independence offers a film and a few artifacts, as well as first-come, first-served tickets for ranger-guided tours of the Truman Home.  It was there Harry and Bess (his wife) lived from 1919 until his death in 1972.  It served as the summer White House from 1945 to 1953 and was given to the NPS upon Bess’ death in 1982 (the calendar still hanging in the kitchen is original). 

Best Trail

About a 30-minute drive from Independence, take a self-guided cell phone tour around the ten acres surrounding the 1894 Truman Farm Home, which once stood on a 600-acre farm that is now the Kansas City-suburb of Grandview, Missouri.

Instagram-worthy Photo

There is no photography allowed inside the Truman Home, so your best shot will be from out front behind the fence installed by the Secret Service in the 1940s to keep the public off the lawn.

Peak Season

Open year round, but we caught peak fall colors in late October.

Hours

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

Fees

The home tour costs $7 per person (no reservations) or is free with an America The Beautiful pass.

Road Conditions

All roads paved, but street parking is limited near the Truman Home.  It is easy to miss the poorly signed turn for the Truman Farm Home in Grandview.

Camping

None

Explore More – Why is a period not required at the end of Harry S Truman’s middle initial?

Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park

Overview

One could argue that George Perkins Marsh became the world’s first environmentalist with the publication of his book Man and Nature in 1864.  The sole National Park Service (NPS) site in the state of Vermont is dedicated to his property.  Later owners, Frederick Billings and the Rockefeller family followed through on Marsh’s conservation principles in their management of the farm and forest.  Laurence and Mary Rockefeller donated the estate to the U.S. government in 1992 and the park opened to the public in 1998.

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Highlights

Museum/film in the Carriage Barn Visitor Center, Mansion Tour, Garden Tour, trails

Must-Do Activity

Visitors have to pay for NPS guided tours of the mansion and its original artwork (including paintings by Thomas Cole and Albert Bierstadt).  There is also an entrance fee at the neighboring Billings Farm and Museum which is run by the non-profit Woodstock Foundation and provides a more hands-on experience that is great for kids, especially after a “do not touch” tour of the mansion.

Best Trail

Frederick Billings bought this family farm to practice the reforestation preached in George Perkins Marsh’s book.  There are 20 miles of trails through the forest around Mount Tom that open year round (though a ski trail pass is required in winter).

Instagram-worthy Photo

Be sure to take a walk through the well-manicured gardens on the property before or after your tour.

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Peak Season

Summer

Hours

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

Fees

Free to walk the trails, while the wide variety of tours cost extra (discounted with an America the Beautiful pass).  The adjacent Billings Farm is privately managed and charges a separate entry fee.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

Silver Lake State Park has campsites with running water.

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Tiff out front of the mansion

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The Rockefellers are in the photo on the right

View from the front porch

Jersey cows at Billings Farm
Park at the adjacent Billings Farm.

Explore More – What are some other National Park Service units donated by the Rockefeller family?

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WONDON WAS HERE

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park

Overview

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park preserves Orville and Wilbur’s bicycle shop and explains the development of air travel at a museum next door and several other locations on the Aviation Trail.  The brothers opened a flight school at Huffman Prairie where an interpretive center on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is run by the National Park Service (NPS).  We recommend you try one of the flight simulators at the two sites; they are free and they help you understand yaw.

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Highlights

Museums, historic buildings, flight simulators, National Museum of the U.S. Air Force

Must-Do Activity

In addition to learning about the Wright Brothers, the NPS also has an exhibit on Paul Laurence Dunbar, a local African-American poet whose home is occasionally open for tours.  When Orville Wright ran a print shop in high school, he published his classmate Dunbar’s work.

Best Trail

The Aviation Trail is not a walking trail, but it is mostly free, including the Parachute Museum and the National Museum of the U.S. Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

Instagram-worthy Photo

The NPS museum across from the bike shop has a replica of the 1902 glider that the Wright brothers took to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

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Peak Season

Open year round

Hours

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

Fees

None, except at the Wright Brothers Aviation Center and Hawthorn Hill mansion.

Road Conditions

All roads paved

Camping

None

The sales counter for the Wright brothers shop
Ranger-guided tours are the only way to get inside the Wright Cycle Company building.

The prices were a little shocking
Bicycles were expensive in 1895!

In a remade grocers of the time
Frank Hale’s grocery store has been restored in its original 1900-1917 location in Dayton.

A catapult like this replica helped with airplane liftoff
Huffman Prairie provides information on the Wright’s post-1903 experiments and flight school.

A memorial to the Wright Brothers

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Try a Wright flight simulator; we were told the one at Huffman Prairie Interpretive Center is easier.

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Tiff holds up her certificate saying she flew the Wright Flyer for 3 minutes without crashing.

Explore More – How many winters did the Wright brothers spend in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina perfecting their gliders before their historic flights on December 17, 1903?

1WonsTiny2

WONDON WAS HERE