Tag Archives: National Monument

Pullman National Monument

Overview

South of Chicago, Illinois, the town of Pullman was built in 1880 as one of the first master-planned communities in the nation.  It was constructed by the Pullman Palace Car Company for its employees to rent houses with modern amenities typically unavailable in the city.  Due to the grassroots efforts of its residents over the years, the town was spared demolition in the 1960s and it remains incredibly well-preserved architecturally.  Pullman National Monument was established in February 2015 by the executive order of former Chicago resident Barack Obama.

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Highlights

Historic buildings, introductory film

Must-Do Activity

The National Park Service (NPS) visitor center in the neighborhood shows a 20-minute film and offers walking tours.  You can also take a self-guided tour past the historic homes, most of which remain private residences.  More buildings may open to the public in the coming years as the NPS develops this unique historical site in cooperation with its current inhabitants.

Best Trail

None

Instagram-worthy Photo

Greenstone Church was made with serpentine quarried in Pennsylvania, giving it an interesting color that doesn’t even require a photo filter.  Also, it has gargoyles.

Green!

Peak Season

Open year round, but Chicago is known for its harsh and windy winters.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved and there is a free parking lot at the visitor center.

Camping

None

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Operated 1881 to 1975, the Hotel Florence had the only bar in Pullman until the 1900s and was under renovation in 2016, but may now be open to tours.

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The green rock church

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It will take a lot of restoration work to get the Pullman Factory Administration Building open to the public.
Pullman is known for making the fancy train cars
Scott inside the Visitor Center and museum.

Explore More – Why did President Grover Cleveland direct federal troops to disrupt the 1894 strike by Pullman Palace Car Company employees?

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Lava Beds National Monument

Overview

Near California’s northern border lies isolated Lava Beds National Monument.  There are 700 lava tubes within the monument and many of them are open for self-guided caving.  Lava tubes form when the rapidly cooling surface solidifies into rock and free flowing lava drains out beneath.

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Highlights

Skull Cave, Golden Dome, Petroglyph Point, Captain Jack’s Stronghold

Must-Do Activity

Only one cave near the visitor center is lit, the others all require flashlights, with hardhats and kneepads recommended for some of the tighter squeezes.  Explore as many lava tubes as you have time for, like Skull Cave with its wide entrance or one of several caves that contain ice year round.

Best Trail

1.5-mile roundtrip hike to top of Schonchin Butte where a fire lookout offers panoramic views across lava flows to Tule Lake, Glass Mountain, and Mount Shasta.

Instagram-worthy Photo

All you need is a flashlight to walk less than half a mile underground to Golden Dome, the most spectacular feature of the park.  The gold flecks are actually colonies of hydrophobic bacteria that thrive in this humid, lightless environment.  Other caves containing them include Thunderbolt and Blue Grotto.

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Peak Season

Open year round, but due to its elevation (5,000 feet) the aboveground surface can get a bit hot in summer and cold in winter, but it is usually nice inside the lava tubes.

Hours

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

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The entrance road from Oregon and Cave Loop Road are paved, but most are dirt south of the park in Modoc National Forest.

Camping

Indian Well Campground is located near the visitor center and Cave Loop Road.  Dirt roads in the neighboring Modoc National Forest provide free dispersed camping.

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Standing in the wide entrance to Skull Cave.

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Lavasicles hang from the ceiling inside a narrow section of lava tube.
Hydrophobic bacteria light up in Golden Dome
Group shot under the Golden Dome.
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Tiff with our guidebook in the Catacombs.
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This is what Lava Beds looks like above the surface.

Explore More – How did 60 Modoc warriors led by Captain Jack keep 1,000 U.S. troops at bay for six months in the 1870s?

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Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Overview

“The green desert” is home to dense stands of saguaros, ocotillos, and its namesake organ pipe cacti.  The monument’s 330,689 acres sit on the Mexican border of Arizona and were recognized as a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve in 1976.  The park has a reputation for being dangerous, which it can be for NPS Law Enforcement due to its border location, but tourists should encounter no problems while enjoying the beautiful landscape.

Organ

Highlights

Ajo Mountain Loop, Alamo Canyon, birding, earn an “I Hike For Health” pin

Must-Do Activity

The namesake cactus is more common further south and shares this landscape with 27 other species of cacti, including the famous saguaro.  To see the cacti at their best, I recommend driving the 21-mile dirt road Ajo Mountain Loop in the evening before turning in for the night at the campground.

Best Trail

The National Park Service (NPS) runs a shuttle some mornings to Senita Basin from where you can hike back to the visitor center (with an optional side trip to the abandoned Victoria Mine).

Instagram-worthy Photo

The park’s Ajo Mountains are mostly volcanic rhyolite and their jagged outlines photograph well in the twilight hours with the famous saguaro cactus silhouetted in the foreground.

Saguaros and Diaz Peak

Peak Season

Anytime but summer when temperatures regularly soar above 100°F.

Hours

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

Fees

$25 per vehicle or America the Beautiful pass

Road Conditions

The highway is paved to Kris Eggle Visitor Center and Twin Peaks Campground, but most of the dirt roads are passable for all vehicles.

Camping

The park has the very nice Twin Peaks Campground (with solar showers) where you can pick up free hiker shuttles that allow for one-way trips back to your tent.  There are also a couple dry campsites (permit required) on Alamo Canyon Road.  A permit is required for backcountry camping.

Related Sites

Coronado National Memorial (Arizona)

Saguaro National Park (Arizona)

Tumacácori National Historical Park (Arizona)

Lots of organ pipes
Organ pipe cacti
A cristate formation on an organ pipe
An organ pipe cactus with a unique cristate formation.
Sunset on the Green Desert
Estes Canyon
Phainopepla
We saw unique bird species like this phainopepla, in addition to Scott’s orioles, Gila woodpeckers, black-throated sparrows, and, of course, ravens.
The border wall under construction in January 2020
It is a steep 2-hour long scramble up to this arch
Raven about the park in the Sonoran Desert

Explore More – Why is the Visitor Center named for Park Ranger Kris Eggle?

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