Posts or Comments 12 December 2017

Archive for "National Parks/Monuments"



New Mexico &White Sands joydeanlee | 20 Apr 2014

National Parks/Monuments—White Sands

Between Almagorda and Las Cruses, New Mexico on US-70, White Sands National Monument rises up from the desert, an amazing white mass of gypsun sand glaring so brightly that you need sunglasses on a sunny day.

White Sands National Monument

According to the National Park Service website, “Rising from the heart of the Tularosa Basin is one of the world’s great natural wonders—the glistening white sands of New Mexico. Great wave-like dunes of gypsum sand have engulfed 275 square miles of desert, creating the world’s largest gypsum dunefield. White Sands National Monument preserves a major portion of this unique dunefield, along with the plants and animals that live here.”

Another tidbit of information from the NPS website is that just a few inches of the dunes consist of loose sand. “Rainwater falling on the dunes dissolves some of the gypsum and cements the sand grains together, creating a crude form of plaster of Paris. This makes the white sand dunes easy to walk on.”

And walking/hiking across the dunes or sliding down in your own waxed plastic snow saucers or one that you buy at the Visitor Center at the park’s entrance provides fun for kids of all ages, although I’d be afraid that I’d break a bone or two or be bruised from end-to-end. Children up to 10 years old should be accompanied on the slide down by an adult. Sliders are also cautioned to select dunes that do not have any vegetation, rocks, or other obstacles.

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Parent and child prepare to slide down the dunes in their waxed plastic snow saucer.

An easy hike is the Dune Life Nature Trail which provides info about the plants and animals common in the dunes. The Interdune Boardwalk provides views for people in wheelchairs or other limited mobility.

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Vegetation as well as wildlife abounds in the park.

Photography opportunities are best two hours after sunrise and two hours before sunset. Selecting places where few people have tread will provide photogs with the most pleasing images.

Ranger-led events include sunset strolls, full moon bike rides, and a trip to Lake Lucero as well as presentations about subjects such as salt mining and the animals of White Sands.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting White Sands 6-10 times in the last 25 years, particularly as I traveled from Texas to the Phoenix metro area. I chose to take the roads less traveled, often through the mountain town of Cloudcroft in the Lincoln National Forest east of Almagorda and then down US-70 to Las Cruses, New Mexico to again travel on I-10, the fast highway.
Because I currently have a house/pet-sitting client in Las Cruses, I have many more opportunities to visit not only White Sands but numerous other parks in the area.

Arizona &Grand Canyon &Grand Canyon &National Parks/Monuments joydeanlee | 12 Dec 2013

National Parks—Grand Canyon

Visiting Grand Canyon National Park is always an awe-inspiring experience. Since 1988 I’ve traveled to Grand Canyon five times, each time with a different friend or family member. I love watching the reactions of people I care about to experiences that I enjoy.

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To view a slideshow of my Grand Canyon photos, click on any photo.

Although first afforded Federal protection in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later as a National Monument, Grand Canyon did not achieve National Park status until 1919, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. (NPS.gov website)

1988: That summer Eileen Donewald, a long-time friend who is now deceased, and I traveled from Indiana to Mesa, Arizona. Springfield, IL, Hannibal, MO, and Mesa Verde National Park were on our travel list. The stop at Grand Canyon was our last one before we drove to Mesa where her son, Mike Donewald, his wife Linda, and their son Christopher lived.

2000:Next visit was in December, and the snow on the cliffs enhanced the colors. Again I left Indiana with my friend Jennifer Eberhardt (now Lynn) on a roadtrip with stops in Nashville, Dallas, Carlsbad Caverns NP, White Sands and Saguaro national monuments, Walnut Canyon NP, Grand Canyon NP, and Sedona, AZ before reaching Mesa, AZ, where I spent the winter with my friend Eileen.

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2001: My older daughter, Helena Abbing, accompanied me on my third trip to Grand Canyon in May after we traveled from Santa Fe, NM, to Canyon de Chelly (pronounced sh long a) National Monument with a quick stop at Shiprock before reaching Grand Canyon. The sad fact was that at both Canyon de Celly and Grand Canyon I had to spend a lot of time in our motel rooms working on indexes. I was still working full-time then and the deadlines had to be met. Final destination: Mesa, AZ.

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2005: Next trip to Grand Canyon was with one of my sisters, Joyce Ann Buchanan in January. She flew to Dallas from Indiana, and then we followed the same roadtrip route that I’d taken with Jennifer. We still laugh today about an incident that occurred at Saguaro National Monument. Too embarrassing for details. Final destination: Mesa, AZ.

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2006: Finally my most recent visit to Grand Canyon was with another long-time friend, Doris Strimple. The May weather was perfect for walking along the South Rim path. Doris had flown from Indiana to Houston where I’d been house/pet-sitting, and again we stopped at most of the same places I’d visited with both Jennifer and Joyce Ann. One of the highlights of our trip was walking down the natural entrance into Carlsbad Caverns. Final destination: Mesa, AZ.

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The natural wonders of the United States, particularly in the West, merit numerous visits.

Big Bend &National Parks/Monuments &Texas joydeanlee | 03 Sep 2013

National Parks—Big Bend

Big Bend National Park lies on the Texas-Mexico border where Rio Grande flows through the Santa Elena Canyon, steep mountains rising up from the river on each side. The International Dark-Sky Association has designated Big Bend as an official Dark Sky Park. This is the Association’s description of a Dark Sky Park: “a park or other public land possessing exceptional starry skies and natural nocturnal habitat where light pollution is mitigated and natural darkness is valuable as an important educational, cultural, scenic, and natural resources.”

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The Rio Grande flows through the Santa Elena Canyon. On the left is Mexico and on the right, Texas.

Background: I’d traveled I-10 from Houston en route to and from Mesa, Arizona, at least once a year beginning in 1999 and noticed the signs for Big Bend National Park, but I never had the combination of time and money to make the trek to the southwest tip of Texas. In early December, 2012, I completed a house/pet-sitting job in Las Cruses, New Mexico and planned the trip to Big Bend before my next house/pet-sitting assignment in Houston.

Getting to Big Bend is, indeed, a long trek. Chisos Basin Lodge, the only lodging other than camping in the park, is located far from any major city. From the lodge to San Antonio, 448 miles (7 hrs); from the lodge to El Paso, 340 miles (almost 6 hrs). The park has 1,252 sq. miles, which is larger than the state of Rhode Island. It is the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States, according to Wikipedia.

The awe-inspiring view and the peace and serenity evoked by the surroundings made my stay at the Chisos Basin Lodge memorable; it is the most beautiful setting I’ve ever stayed in. The Window, one of the most photographed views in the park, unfolds before you on the downhill approach into the basin

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The Window can be viewed from the Chisos Basin.

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The Mule Ears is another of the often-photographed rock formations.

Everglades &Everglades National Park &Florida &National Parks/Monuments joydeanlee | 26 Mar 2013

National Parks—Everglades: Royal Palm Visitors Center–Anhinga Trail

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The trail is named after this waterfowl, the Anhinga. The name comes from the Brazilian Tupi language and means devil bird or snake bird.

The Everglades is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.

According to the National Park Service website, the Anhinga Trail is “…one of the most popular trails in the park because of its abundance of wildlife. The self-guiding tour winds through a sawgrass marsh, where you may see alligators, turtles, anhingas, herons, egrets, and many other birds, especially during the winter.”

For further information: http://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm

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According to Wikipedia, the name alligator is an anglicized form of el lagarto, the Spanish term for “lizard”, which early Spanish explorers and settlers in Florida called the alligator.

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Alligators galore…plus a couple of waterfowl.

Everglades &Everglades National Park &Florida &National Parks/Monuments joydeanlee | 21 Mar 2013

National Parks—Everglades—Backcountry boat tour

South Florida (mainly Everglades National Park) and The Keys had always interested me. So when I found a short block of time with no house/pet-sitting commitments in early March, 2013, I headed in that direction.

To view a slideshow of the Everglades National Park backcountry boat tour, click on any photo below.

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Mangroves grow in brackish to saline water.

A backcountry boat tour sounded like a good way to get a feel for the Everglades and see native trees and flowers up close. A cold wave had swept into the south, so I’d already planned to dress warmly. Then after a guide at the Ernest Coe Visitor Center near Homestead warned me that it would feel like “Minnesota weather” when we out on the open water, I grabbed a a sweater wrap that is my coat for winter in Indiana.

Thank goodness I took the sweater wrap. You’ll note in one of the slideshow photos that I wrapped myself in the wrap in addition to the heavy cotton hooded jacked I wore. I wasn’t the only one bundling up as you can see from the boat driver’s dog ((Photo below).

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The female boat driver’s dog, who rode with her regularly, was a great distraction for young and old alike.

National Parks/Monuments &Oklahoma City Memorial joydeanlee | 25 May 2012

National Parks—Oklahoma City National Memorial

Oklahoma City has been on my route to/from Indiana as I traveled to both the Phoenix area and Southern California over the last 10 years. However, I’d never taken time to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial until May, 2011.

No one can forget the bombing on April 19, 1995, of the Murrah Federal Building which killed 168 people. That event was the most serious terrorist attack in the United States prior to September 11, 2001, and it shocked the nation.

When I read about the international competition (624 entries) for the design of the memorial, I realized how this event had touched the hearts and minds of people all over the world.

The Oklahoma City bombing is now dwarfed by the huge death toll from attacks on September 11, 2001. But anyone who visits the Oklahoma City National Memorial will be touched by the simplicity and symbolism of the design.

For more information on the Oklahoma City National Memorial, visit (http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/secondary.php?section=2&catid=30).

To view a slideshow of the memorial, click on any photo. If info about the photos is not displayed in the slideshow, click Show Info.

The photos below and in the slideshow were taken by my sister Mary Hunt and me.

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The East Gate, one of the two Gates of Time, is engraved with 9:01 representing the demise of the innocence of this Heartland city. Its image is captured in the Reflection Pool in this excellent photo by Mary Hunt.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

Messages of hope, particularly for the rescue workers, were painted on ceramic tiles (now on a wall) and sent to the city where they are as part of the memorial.

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The Field of Empty Chairs represents the 168 people who died in the bombing. According to Oklahoma City National Memorial’s website, 19 of the chairs are smaller, signifying the children who died there. I regret that I did not notice this significant difference.

Grand Teton &National Parks/Monuments &Yellowstone joydeanlee | 28 Jun 2011

National Parks—Grand Teton and Yellowstone

One advantage of the vagabond lifestyle I’ve adopted is that I’ve visited numerous national and state parks coast-to-coast. I’m starting a series highlighting the major features of the national parks.

In October 2009 I drove from Indiana to Colorado where I visited with family and friends in Colorado Springs and attended the fall workshop of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the American Society for Indexing in Denver.

One of my sisters, Mary Hunt, flew there to meet me, and we began a 10-day road trip that for her ended in Portland, Oregon, because she had to fly back to Indiana. I then drove to Bellevue, Washington, for a house/pet-sitting assignment which provided me with new places to explore…but that’s another post.

To view a slideshow of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, click on any photo. If info about the photos is not displayed in the slideshow, click Show Info.

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Old Faithful Geyser, Yellowstone National Park

A serious snowstorm challenged the beginning of our road trip, but we persevered. When we encountered a total white-out lasting just a few seconds on I-80 West (after we left Cheyenne, Wyoming), Mary and I both screamed. Thankfully the white-out lasted only a few seconds. Much scarier than any snowstorm or fog I’d previously encountered!

Jackson, Wyoming was our home for the few days we spent exploring the highlights of Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. Although I’d attempted to reserve a room at Old Faithful Snow Lodge months in advance, I was unable to book a reservation. Thus we’d reserved a room outside the park. I’d been able to make dinner reservations at the dining room at Snow Lodge, and when we walked into the hotel a sign proclaimed Rooms Available. I guess it would pay to recheck the reservations site closer to the date you’ll be visiting a national park.

Highlights of our trip: Grand Teton mountains, Old Faithful Geyser, hiking the Geyser Basin, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. Mule deer, coyotes, and bison were abundant. A herd of the bison grazed along one of the roads. Mary had the passenger window rolled down as I drove very slowly through the herd. She was able to photograph one of the bison very up close and personal—no zoom lens required!

I learned the hazards of traveling on a tight budget. We lunched in the car daily with fruit acquired at breakfast at our motel, peanut butter and crackers, and iced tea. I placed my small digital camera on the console between the front seats (above the drink holders), and oops! my camera slide into a glass of tea. I immediately took out the SD memory card and battery, soaked up the excess liquid with napkins, and left the camera open the remainder of the day. Next day it was working! However, the view finder was always cloudy. I retired that camera a year later, and it still works well.

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A bison strolled by the road allowing my sister Mary to photograph him up close and personal. However, she was yelling “Speed up! Speed up!”