Golden Gate National Recreation Area: Point Bonita Lighthouse


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The Golden Gate National Recreation Area protects over 80 thousand acres in Northern California. For this trip, we decided to explore the Marin Headlands section. The Marin Headlands is a peninsula just north of San Francisco on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge.


Point Bonita Lighthouse sits at the entrance to San Francisco Bay in the Marin Headlands. Point Bonita was the third lighthouse built on the West Coast (in 1855)  and was the last manned lighthouse on the California coast. It is maintained by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate NRA (The coast guard maintains the still-active signal) and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991.


We hiked down the steep half mile trail through a tunnel in a hill and across a  suspension bridge to the lighthouse. There was a ranger inside whose grandmother had lived in this lighthouse as a child and he told us some her stories as we perused the museum displays.


Originally, Point Bonita was up higher on the cliffs and the light was often obscured by fog. The current lighthouse was built at a lower location in 1877. It is on a bluff 124 feet above sea level and a shipwreck from the Gold Rush years is just offshore from it.


Golden Gate National Recreation Area posts:


Location: 948 Fort Barry, Sausalito, CA 94965

Designation: National Recreation Area, NRHP

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: August 12, 2012


Maui Ocean Center


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Maui Ocean Center is one of the largest tropical reef aquariums in the world. Their mission is to ‘foster understanding, wonder, and respect for Hawai‘i’s Marine Life.’ We visited as part of our ‘Best of Maui’ tour while our cruise ship was in port.


We had lunch in the cafe as part of our admission. The food was pretty good for a restaurant in an aquarium and our table looked out on the ocean.


All of the animals that live there are found in the oceans around Hawaii. There are several exhibits outdoors, including a touch pool and the sea turtles, which you can see from above and below the water.


In the buildings there are extensive coral reef exhibits. The Ocean Center is growing artificial coral in the hopes of restoring coral populations in the wild.  Hawaii’s reefs are declining due to global warming and pollution (sunscreen that is not reef safe is illegal now in Hawaii.)


There is also an Open Ocean tank with sharks and rays. We walked through the clear tunnel from one end to the other and a ray parked right over our heads.


It is against local laws to exhibit live cetaceans, so the Ocean Center has a Humpback Whale sphere instead. This is a 3D film featuring humpback whales project onto a planetarium ceiling. We relaxed in the reclining seats, listening to the soothing narration and felt like we were swimming underwater with the humpbacks.


Maui Posts:


Location: 192 Maalaea Rd, Wailuku, HI 96793

Designation: Aquarium

Date of my visit: 4/15/2019


Saint Paul’s Church National Historic Site


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Saint Paul’s began as a simple wooden structure in Eastchester in 1700, built by Puritans who were against the Church of England. The British then established the Anglican Church of Westchester County in 1702 in an attempt to get better control of the colony.


In 1763, Eastchester was a large and prosperous town. In celebration of the end of the French and Indian War, the town began building a large fieldstone church near the original structure, inspired by the architecture of Christopher Wren. Wren had designed many of London’s buildings after the Great Fire of 1666.


The Revolutionary war interrupted the building of the church. The large stone structure was used as a field hospital for the American, British and Hessian armies during the war. The congregation continued to worship in the wooden building until the wood was needed for firewood.


After the war, the tower was completed and plaster ceiling and walls added. It was consecrated as St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in the early 1800s.


In the early 1900s, the surrounding town had become more of an industrial area. St. Paul’s fell into disrepair. FDR’s mother, Sara Delano Roosevelt, spearheaded a campaign to restore the church.


The same firm that had worked on Colonial Williamsburg restored St. Paul’s to its original appearance in 1942. The congregation continued to shrink as people moved out of the area, however, and in May of 1977, the last service was held.


The church was de-consecrated so that the Federal Government could purchase it and transfer ownership to the Department of the Interior. Today, the National Park Service runs a visitor center out of the old carriage house and conducts ranger-led tours of the church and cemetery.


I met Scott and Tiff from Raven About The Parks at the visitor center (this was their 353rd NPS unit visited!)  We watched the short film and then followed the ranger into the church. We toured the parishioners boxes, the pulpit, rang the bell (a cousin to the Liberty Bell)  and learned about the church’s history.


The ranger took us upstairs to the balcony where the poor parishioners used to sit. He played a song on the original pipe organ and then took us behind the organ to peer up into the tower. Then we went outside amongst the 250 year old gravestones and found the marker for the Hessian soldiers’ mass grave.



Location: 897 S Columbus Ave, Mt Vernon, NY 10550

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated/established: July 5, 1943

Date of my visit: September 21, 2019


Scott and Tiff from Raven About the Parks visiting their 353rd NPS unit!

Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary


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Rockleigh Woods Sanctuary was once a Boy Scout Camp on the border of New Jersey and New York near the Palisades. Rockleigh Borough purchased the land in 1975 and the NY-NJ Trail conference maintains five blazed trails in the Sanctuary’s 84 wooded acres.


I met up with Take A Hike NJ at the sanctuary on a nice September day and brought along my dogs. This is a dog friendly park. We encountered many other dogs on the trail (and one horse), though my girls seemed to be the only ones on leash.


We followed the yellow and white blazes, hiking about 3.5 miles and gained 500 feet in elevation. There were several stream crossings with strategically placed stepping stones. We passed some ruins along the way and saw some bright orange mushrooms.


The Borough of Rockleigh is a Historic District. The land was given to New York by New Jersey in the 1600s and reverted back to New Jersey in 1769 in a border dispute resolution between the two states.


Location: 26 Rockleigh Rd, Rockleigh, NJ 07647

Designation: Borough Park

Date designated or established: 1975

Date of my visit: 9/28/2019


ʻWailua River State Park: ʻŌpaekaʻa Falls


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After our tubing expedition with Kauai Backcountry Adventures, we began our tour of Kauai’s North shore. Our first stop was the ʻŌpaekaʻa Falls overlook. This waterfall is visible from the highway…no need to hike.


ʻŌpaekaʻa is Hawaiian for ‘rolling shrimp.’ The falls are 151 feet high and flow year round into the Wailua River in Wailua River State Park. We could see birds flying near the cascading water.


Kauai Posts:

  • Wailua Falls
  • Lihue Plantation Hanama‘ulu Ditch
  • ʻŌpaekaʻa Falls
  • Wailua River State Park Coming Soon
  • Mount Waiʻaleʻale Coming Soon
  • Fuji Beach Coming Soon
  • Moloa’a Beach Coming Soon
  • Kīlauea Point National Wildlife Refuge Coming Soon
  • Kīlauea Lighthouse Coming Soon
  • Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge Coming Soon
  • Wai’oli Hui’ia Church Coming Soon
  • Waimea Canyon State Park: Red Dirt Falls Coming Soon
  • Waimea Canyon State Park: Waimea Canyon Lookout Coming Soon
  • Waimea Canyon State Park: Waipo’o Falls Coming Soon
  • Kōkeʻe State Park: Kalalau Lookout Coming Soon
  • Kōkeʻe State Park: Pu’u O Kila Lookout Coming Soon
  • Russian Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park Coming Soon
  • Hanapepe Swinging Bridge Coming Soon
  • Spouting Horn Coming Soon
  • Koloa Heritage Trail: Spouting Horn Coming Soon
  • Koloa Heritage Trail: Keoneloa Bay Coming Soon
  • Nā Pali Coast State Wilderness Park Coming Soon


Location: Kuamoo Road, Wailua, Kauai, Hawaii

Designation: State Park

Date of my visit: April 18, 2019



Harriman State Park: Jackie Jones Loop


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Harriman State Park, only 30 miles north of New York City, is New York State’s second largest state park. It encompasses more than 47k acres, 30 lakes and 200 miles of hiking trails.


I explored this park with Take A Hike NJ! on a beautiful September Sunday. We chose a variation of the Jackie Jones Loop, a trail which passes through some ruins, ascends to a Fire Tower and a camping shelter before returning to the park road.


After finding parking for the group at the trailhead, we followed the yellow blazes to the ruins of the Orak mansion. Orak is Karo spelled backwards…the mansion was built in 1923 by George Buchanan, an executive for the company that makes Karo corn syrup.


After Buchanan’s death in 1939, the mansion was sold to the park. It was demolished in 1973.


We continued on up the trail to the steel fire tower. Built in 1928 at the 1276 foot summit of Jackie Jones Mountain, it was renovated in 2018.


It still seemed a little rickety to me as we climbed it to take in the surrounding views, but the little dog in our group made it up the 60 feet, so who am I to complain? From the top, the NYC skyline, the Hudson River and the lakes of Harriman State Park can be seen.


Continuing along the trail after the tower, we climbed another ascent to the Big Hill Shelter. This is one of nine stone shelters throughout Harriman, for use by campers. This was a good place to rest before heading back down around the loop to our cars.


Harriman Posts:

  • Jackie Jones Loop
  • Lake Welch (Coming soon)

Location: 54 Seven Lakes Dr, Sloatsburg, NY 10974

Designation: State Park

Date designated/established: 1910

Date of my visit: September 8, 2019


St. Benedict’s Painted Church: NRHP


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! If you are seeing this on Twitter or Facebook, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking the link.


Saint Benedict’s, also known as The Painted Church, is an active Catholic Church in Honaunau on the big island of Hawaii. It was built between 1899-1902 by Father John Velghe. Velghe was a Belgian missionary who sought to convert the native Hawaiians to Catholicism.


Velghe painted frescoes along the interior ceiling and walls of the church for instructional purposes since most of the locals at the time couldn’t read. The murals on the side walls depict various scenes from the Bible.


The murals behind and above the altar create the illusion of a European cathedral with vaulted ceilings, though the church is a simple wooden structure.


Our ‘Best of Kona’ excursion with Norwegian Cruise Lines stopped here first. We were invited to go inside where a volunteer told us about the Painted Church and its history. Then we exited to make way for the next group of visitors.



By the front steps is a statue honoring Saint Damien. Fr. Damien de Veuster was also a Belgian Catholic Missionary who ministered to the lepers on Molokai. He ultimately succumbed to the disease himself, passing away the year construction on St. Benedict’s began.


The church and cemetery overlook beautiful Kealakekua Bay. We snapped a few more photos before boarding the tour bus to continue our journey.


Kona Posts:

  • St. Benedicts
  • Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park (Coming Soon)
  • Royal Kona Coffee (Coming Soon)
  • Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historical Park (Coming Soon)
  • Huliheʻe Palace (Coming Soon)
  • Mokuaikaua Church (Coming Soon)


Location: 84-5140 Painted Church Rd, Captain Cook, HI 96704

Designation: NRHP

Date designated or established: May 31, 1979

Date of my visit: 4/17/2019