Tag Archives: trail

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Overview

This site in northeastern Iowa contains 206 prehistoric earthen mounds, thirty-one of which are in the form of bears and birds.  Some of the rounded mounds have been dated back 2,500 years, but the images of animals (called effigies) began only about 1,400 years ago.  In addition to blades and beads inside the mounds, there is often evidence of fires burned in the effigy’s head, heart, or flank, perhaps as part of a burial ceremony.

Echo with Effigy Mounds

Highlights

Marching Bear Mound Group, Little Bear Mound Group, Mississippi River overlooks

Must-Do Activity

After perusing the museum inside the visitor center, take the steep trail that leads past Little Bear Mound Group to multiple overlooks from 300-foot tall bluffs above the Mississippi River.

Best Trail

Located a short drive from the visitor center, a trail in the South Unit climbs 2 miles one-way to the impressive Marching Bears Mound Group, the densest collection of effigies in the park.

Instagram-worthy Photo

It is very difficult to photograph the effigy shapes, so the best shots are found at overlooks of the Mississippi River.

05-Northwoods 2013 1090

Peak Season

Summer, but on our second visit during April we found the animal shapes were easier to discern.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All paved except the parking area for the South Unit which may not be suitable for large RVs.

Camping

No campground in the monument, but nearby Pikes Peak State Park has RV hookups and Yellow River State Forest offers more primitive sites.

03-Northwoods 2013 1083

Little Bear Mound
The mounds can be hard to discern in the summertime

Tiff next to two of the tallest mounds in the park

09-April 2017 138
In April, we saw these bear shapes located at the end of the Marching Bear Group, a 4-mile roundtrip hike.
11-April 2017 150
There is a picnic area at the southern trailhead on the banks of the Mississippi River.
12-April 2017 558
Coots in the Mississippi River

07-April 2017 129

Explore More – What is the wingspan of the largest effigy bird?

1WonsTiny2.jpg

WONDON WAS HERE

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.

Indiana Dunes National Park

Overview

A 20th-century battleground east of Chicago between industrialists seeking to build more steel mills and conservationists wanting to preserve natural diversity, in 1966 Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was created as a compromise between the opposing sides.  Its scattered bogs and dunes surround a beachside state park on Lake Michigan that dates back to the 1920s, with an Art Deco bathhouse dating to that era.

Update: As of February 15, 2019 it is called Indiana Dunes National Park.

INDU4

Highlights

West Beach, Mount Baldy, Glenwood Dunes Trail, heron rookery

Must-Do Activity

It is worth the price of admission to access the trail system within Indiana Dunes State Park to complete the 3 Dunes Challenge.  Take your photos back to the joint NPS-State Park visitor center to claim your prizes.

Best Trail

Cowles Bog Trail covers 5 rugged miles and accesses an isolated beach with views of the Chicago skyline.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Beach grasses with a backdrop of a steel mill are a surreal mix on the Cowles Bog Trail.

Indiana

Peak Season

The park is open year round, with the Lake Michigan beaches attracting crowds in the summer.

Hours

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

Fees

No admission for most of the National Park, except $6 per vehicle for summer lifeguards at West Beach and $12 per vehicle day use fee year round to enter Indiana Dunes State Park.

Road Conditions

All roads are paved.

Camping

While it is not on the beach, we enjoyed the quiet Dunewood Campground (fee) with its hot showers.

INDU
Historic bathhouse at Indiana Dunes State Park.

 

Climbing the dunes - there was a hiking challenge, so we had to do it
Tiff hiking up a sand dune.

 

A view of Chicago from the dunes
The Chicago skyline is visible from the beach.

Baby geese!

INDU3
Dunewood Campground

INDU6

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

Explore More – Mount Baldy stands 126 feet tall, but how much shorter is that than Mount Tom in neighboring Indiana Dunes State Park?

1WonsTiny

WONDON WAS HERE

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.

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.

Rocks2.JPG

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.

July Oregon 2318.JPG

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

IMG_3447

IMGP6621

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?

1WonsTiny

WONDON WAS HERE

Weir Farm National Historical Park

Overview

Weir Farm National Historical Park is the only National Park Service site in the state of Connecticut.  It is built around the art studios of Julian Alden Weir, an American impressionist painter that were later utilized by the Mormon sculptor Mahonri Young who made the This Is the Place monument in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Weir

Highlights

Free guided tour, free use of colored pencils/pastels, Artist in Residence program

Must-Do Activity

A unique opportunity the park provides is the use of colored pencils and pastels for each visitor to create their own artwork when they visit.  In this way they continue to allow the farm to inspire artists to capture the landscape in their own way, regardless of age or ability.

Best Trail

Pick up a self-guided walking tour pamphlet at the visitor center then walk (1.5 miles roundtrip) to Weir Pond, where the family loved to spend time in the summer fishing, swimming, and, of course, painting.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Get into the artistic spirit by posing with your face to the window like Weir’s wife did for a portrait in the family’s living room that you can see hanging inside the house.

Weir2.jpg

Peak Season

Open year round, but this was Weir’s summer home because that is the nicest time of year here.

Hours

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

Fees

None

Road Conditions

All roads are paved, but Nod Hill Road is steep and narrow which may be difficult for RVs and other large vehicles.  The small parking lot cannot accommodate large RVs.

Camping

None

Sketching at Weir Farm

These bison cutouts were painted and posted around the farm

A outside view of the sculpture studio

One of the other artists that lived here was a sculptor

On the porch of the Weir Farm House
Scott waiting on the front porch for our ranger guided tour inside the painter’s house.

Explore More – Julian Alden Weir studied impressionism in the country it was founded in, where is that?

1Wons

WONDON WAS HERE

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.

Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve

Overview

Usually sand dunes are associated with deserts, but in southern Colorado they sit at 8,200 feet and are surrounded by snowy mountains, pine trees, and Medano Creek where kids splash and make sandcastles.  These dunes are the tallest in North America, up to 750 feet in height, blown in grain by grain from the San Juan Mountains, 65 miles to the west.

Dunes

Highlights

Medano Creek, High Dune, Medano Pass Primitive Road

Must-Do Activity

The height and steepness of the dunes makes them a great place to try sandboarding or sand sledding, which works best when the sand is wet.  If you don’t have a homemade sandboard, you can rent one in the nearby town of Alamosa or bring a plastic snow sled (round saucers seem to work well).

Best Trail

Blaze your own trail to the top of 650-foot tall High Dune.  The 2.3-mile roundtrip climb is quite a workout at this elevation while sliding backwards in the sand, but bounding downhill makes up for it.  This park is unique because it allows dogs on the dunes, but bring foot protection for your canine on sunny days.

Instagram-worthy Photo

Stay in the dune field at sunset for long shadows on the dunes.  A major bonus if you visit in the spring or fall for a backdrop of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains.

june-2013-colorado-trip-295.jpg

Peak Season

Due to its high elevation (8,200 feet), summer is the best time to spend the night, otherwise it can be very cold.

Hours

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

Fees

$20 per vehicle or America the Beautiful Pass, but it is typically not collected in winter months.

Road Conditions

Other than the four-wheel drive road over Medano Pass, passenger vehicles can access all trailheads.  The park provides specialized wheelchairs are available for crossing Medano Creek and exploring the sand dunes.

Camping

Pinyon Flats Campground (fee) has two 44-site loops frequented by mule deer.  Backpacking permits are free to overnight on the dunes where the stars shine brightest.  First-come, first-served campsites are available along the high-clearance Medano Pass Primitive Road.  Dispersed camping is allowed in the neighboring Rio Grande and San Isabel National Forests.

June 2013 Colorado Trip 360

June 2013 Colorado Trip 274

imgp2365.jpg

Pronghorns at the dunes
Pronghorns grazing in front of the sand dunes in December.

 

Tiff with the mountains
Tiff sledding down a wet (i.e. fast) dune in October

 

Tiff heading to the parking lot
October brings fall colors to the cottonwoods

 

arch GRSA LR2
Our original logo is for sale on a variety of products on Amazon and Cafe Press

Explore More – What time of year can visitors “boogie board” the waves in Medano Creek?

1Wons

WONDON WAS HERE

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.