Lackawanna Coal Mine


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On our way back from a stay in Northern Pennsylvania, we took a break from driving at the Lackawanna Coal Mine. We took a trip on the Mantrip…a unique enclosed mine car used to shuttle people from the visitor center down the steep slope and into the mine. From there we walked through the tunnels with a guide who was the descendant of a miner and learned about the history of the place.


The mine was opened by Continental Coal Company in 1903 and produced coal until it closed in 1966. In 1978, with funds from the federal government, the mine was converted into a museum. It opened to the public in 1985 and is managed by Lackawanna County.

Location: Bald Mountain Road, Scranton, PA 18504

Designation: Museum

Date designated or established: 1985

Date of my visit: 8/11/2006


Glacier National Park: Many Glacier Hotel Tour


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I’d read about Many Glacier Hotel’s dramatic rescue in a publication by The National Trust for Historic Preservation. I checked on the NPS website and saw that ranger-led tours of the hotel were held every afternoon. We timed our hike on the Grinnell Glacier trail to be sure we were back in time for the tour.


We returned back in time to have lunch in the Ptarmigan Dining Room. This is a beautiful place to eat, with its high ceilings, two story windows and the view of Swiftcurrent Lake. But unfortunately, the food was pretty mediocre for the price paid.


We met up with a park ranger in the hotel lobby for the tour at 2 PM. He spent some time there giving a history of the lodge.


Many Glacier Hotel was built by Louis Hill, president of the Great Northern Railroad. Many Glacier was the largest of all the hotels built in the park in an effort by Great Northern to attract tourists to Glacier National Park. Hill is said to have been obsessed with Many Glacier and was more involved in the design and construction than in his other Glacier properties.


It is designed to look like a Swiss Chalet as Hill considered Glacier to be the American Alps. The site for the hotel was chosen for the symmetry of the view across Swiftcurrent Lake. Grinnell Point is in the middle, flanked by ‘matching’ mountains on either side.


Time, the elements and some ill-advised ‘improvements’ took their toll on the structure over the years. In 1996, The National Trust For Historic Preservation included Many Glacier on its annual list of America’s Most Endangered Historic Places. The force of heavy winter snowfalls had actually knocked the massive hotel off its foundations and the whole thing was threatening to collapse into the lake.


Through the National Trust, the NPS and other organizations, the $42 million needed to restore the building was raised and renovations began in 2000. It took 17 years to pull the hotel back onto its foundation and restore it to its original design.


The ranger took us up to the second floor for an overview of the grand lobby. He pointed out the interesting design of the central fireplace, the restored double helix staircase and the Japanese lanterns. These are replicas of the paper lanterns originally installed by Louis Hill who incorporated Asian influences into the overall Swiss Alpine theme.


Next we went to the Ptarmigan Room where the ranger showed us pictures of what the Great Room looked like after a 1950s makeover. A drop-ceiling had been installed, harboring bats. The cathedral ceilings and pergola were restored in the 2000 renovation.


The tour concluded outside to discuss the Swiss architecture. The only wooden element remaining on the exterior is the carport. The rest is made of more fire-resistant materials because of the area’s history of wildfires.


Location: 1 Rte 3, Browning, MT 59417

Designation: National Park, National Landmark

Date designated or established: 5/11/1910 (1987 NHL)

Date of my visit: 6/27/2018


National Historic Landmark: St. Patrick’s Cathedral


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Saint Patrick’s Cathedral is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of the New York diocese and is perhaps the most famous Catholic Church in the US. It is on the busiest section of 5th Avenue, across the street from Rockefeller Center.


Once inside the doors, it is an oasis of calm in the midst of chaos. Though crowded with tourists when there is not a service, there is still a hush when compared with the blaring horns of the traffic outside.


The land was originally purchased by the Jesuits for a college campus in 1810 and served multiple purposes over the next several decades. At that time, this area was considered north of the city proper.


Construction on the cathedral began in 1858 and took 20 years to complete because work on it stopped during the Civil War. The Gothic Revival-style cathedral was dedicated in 1879 and had the main spires added nearly ten years later. They were the tallest structures in NYC at the time.


Renovations and additions continued into the early 1900s. The Cathedral was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

Compare the marble color in this photo, taken in 2010 to the aerial view of the spires from 2014 at the end of the post

The last time we visited, there was an extensive restoration underway. The Cathedral that I’d thought was grey all my life gradually emerged as pristine white marble. The restoration cost $177 million and was completed just in time for Pope Francis’ visit in 2015.


Location: 5th Ave, New York, NY 10022

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: 12/8/1976

Date of my visit: 8/1/2014

The Pietà by William Partridge is three times the size of Michelangelo’s Pietà
From the Top of the Rock, you can clearly see the cross-shaped floor plan in the style of the great European cathedrals.

Coconino National Forest: Devil’s Bridge


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The Coconino National Forest surrounds the towns of Sedona and Flagstaff in Arizona with landscapes ranging from red rocks and deserts to pine forests. We were staying in Sedona for part of our Arizona vacation and had stumbled upon the Devil’s Bridge hike when researching things to do in the area.


It didn’t occur to us at the time that this striking red rock terrain was actually part of a national forest, so we didn’t find the Devils Bridge webpage.  Instead, we asked at our hotel about it and they pointed us in the general direction with a map. Even with the map, we had a hard time finding the trail head at first. There is trail head parking just off Vultee Arch.


There is an easy green trail marked on the map at the trail head. There is also a moderate blue trail and difficult red trail. The trails are not themselves marked by color. We opted for the easy trail.


The easy trail is the dirt road just before the parking lot that the jeep tourism companies use. It is uphill, sandy, hot and dry…so ‘easy’ is a relative term. The whole 3-mile hike was a piece of cake for my husband (who runs Spartan Races) but not so much for me and my daughter.


In three-quarters of a mile, the dirt road meets up with the path to Devils Bridge. From there, it becomes more difficult. It’s another climb of about three quarters of a mile with some steep natural stone steps and very little shade.


There are wonderful views of the valley and surrounding mountains on the way up.


The natural bridge is a 50-foot high sandstone arch and looks perilous as you approach it, but it’s wider than it appears as you walk out on it. Fearless people do jumping jacks for selfies in the middle of the bridge.


I stood there long enough for a photo, fighting the urge to crawl back to safety, trying not to look down at the sheer drop on either side of me.


To see my other Sedona posts, click below:

  • Devil’s Bridge
  • Bell Rock (coming soon)
  • Chapel of the Holy Cross (coming soon)

Location: Devil’s Bridge Trail, Sedona, AZ 86336

Designation: National Forest

Date designated or established: 7/2/1908

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014


Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site


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My first stop in Hyde Park was to the Wallace Visitor and Education center where I watched the short film and then spoke to the rangers about making the most of my day. After touring Springwood, FDR’s home, I drove two miles to Eleanor Roosevelt’s Val-Kill.

This unassuming entrance was the front door, through which all visitors passed.

This is the only National Historic Site dedicated to a First Lady. When I was in grade school, I was assigned Eleanor Roosevelt’s biography for a book report, so I already had an inkling that she was pretty remarkable.  My tour through her home with the thoughtful commentary of the park ranger confirmed that she was an amazing woman.


On this site, Eleanor Roosevelt, along with three other women, established Val-Kill Industries in 1927.  Here, local craftsmen produced colonial revival furniture and pewter work in order to provide supplemental income for the local farming community. In 1938, because of the Great Depression, the factory was closed and converted into a cottage which became Eleanor’s permanent home after the death of her husband.


As the wife of a president disabled by polio, Eleanor Roosevelt played a more prominent role than any of her predecessors. She often made public appearances on the president’s behalf and was particularly outspoken when advocating for civil rights. She authored a daily newspaper column and hosted a weekly radio show.


After FDR’s death, Eleanor prepared Springwood, which had always felt more like her mother-in-law’s home, for transfer to the National Park Service. She moved into the more modest Val-Kill cottage and began the second stage of her political career.


She became the United States Delegate to the United Nations General Assembly from 1945 to 1952. There she helped to author the Bill of Human Rights.

Eleanor’s winter bedroom. During the warmer months, she slept on the porch.

She also entertained various politicians and foreign dignitaries in her simple cottage. There are photos of John F Kennedy drinking from one of the generic diner-type glasses in her dining room. The few luxurious items on display in the house were Eleanor’s family heirlooms…she didn’t care for anything ostentatious.

The heirloom candelabras are at odds with the utilitarian plates and glassware and the odd figurine collection Roosevelt brought back from Europe.

JFK visited Eleanor at Val-Kill because he wanted her endorsement in his bid for president. She had supported his opponent in the democratic primaries and agreed to support Kennedy only if he would promise to work towards improving the rights of minorities and women. In 1961, President Kennedy appointed Roosevelt to chair the Commission on the Status of Women. She died shortly before the commission issued its report.

Eleanor Roosevelt and JFK met in this room to discuss his election campaign.

The family offered Val-Kill to the National Park Service. The NPS initially declined due to lack of funds and so the estate was sold to developers. A non-profit ‘friends’ organization began a campaign to preserve Eleanor Roosevelt’s legacy and Val-Kill was designated a National Historic Site in 1977.

Eleanor’s ‘Sleeping Porch’

Hyde Park posts:

  • FDR Presidential Library
  • Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site
  • Gardens at Bellefield (Coming Soon)
  • Home of FDR National Historic Site (Coming Soon)
  • Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site (Coming Soon)


Location: 106 Valkill Park Rd, Hyde Park, NY 12538

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 5/27/1977

Date of my visit: 10/3/2018

The Stone Cottage is an older building on the property which now houses the museum
The ‘Kill’ for which the estate is named.

Thomas Edison National Historical Park: Glenmont


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On my previous visit to Thomas Edison National Historical Park, it was Edison Day and Glenmont was closed to allow all rangers to be on hand at the Laboratory Complex downtown. So I returned a few months later, hoping to see the rest of the park.


Glenmont was Edison’s mansion, about a mile away from the labs and factories in West Orange.  It is on 13 acres on a hill in Llewellyn Park, which was America’s first planned residential community.


To take a tour of the house, you must go to the Visitor Center on Main Street and get a ticket. Best to get there early as tickets often sell out by noon.  You cannot visit Glenmont, which is in a gated community, without a ticket and a pass for your car.

The Visitor Center in West Orange

Edison bought Glenmont for his new bride Mina as a wedding gift. It was a bargain because the original owner, who was a clerk for a dried goods company,  built the estate with $250k in embezzled funds. Edison paid $125k for the house, outbuildings, furnishings for 29 rooms and 13 landscaped acres.

Mina’s ‘Potting Shed’…she was involved in gardening projects in the community.

Photography is not allowed inside the mansion. The Park Service has kept the home as it was in Edison’s time, with most of his original belongings and furnishings displayed inside. The ranger who led our tour sternly cautioned us not to straggle behind or touch any of the valuable artifacts.


Having previously toured the Laboratory Complex, I wondered if Thomas Edison had spent much time in this home. He was a genius and an insomniac prone to working on inventions through the night and sleeping for an hour here and there on a cot in his lab. But when we went upstairs, the ranger pointed out the family room where Edison enjoyed playing checkers and other games with his children.


Upstairs was the noisy family room where the children could be as loud as they wanted (Edison was partially deaf.) Downstairs were the fancier rooms for entertaining guests. Mina Edison loved the conservatory with its windows and she loved to watch the birds.


Thomas Edison put the house into Mina’s name to separate it from the Edison Company… in case something went wrong with the company they wouldn’t lose their home. Mina sold the house back to the Edison company for one dollar in 1947 with the stipulation that she be allowed to live there until her death and that the house become a museum afterwards.


Mina and Thomas Edison are buried in graves in the back yard.

Edison NHP Posts:

Location: Llewelyn Park, West Orange, NJ 07052

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designation declared: 3/30/2009

Date of my visit: 8/18/2018

The garage which houses several antique cars

Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Newfound Gap & Clingman’s Dome Road


Welcome back to National Parks 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.

Another way to tour Great Smoky Mountains National Park by car is via the Clingman’s Dome Road. The first time we drove to Clingman’s Dome, we weren’t able to get out of the car at the Dome lot because a storm had descended on us. But on the drive up, we were able to stop at several pull-outs for breathtaking views.


We began at the Sugarlands Visitor Center. We perused the exhibits, watched a short film and got our bearings for the drive into the mountains.


From the visitor center, it was about 13 miles to Newfound Gap. We pulled over at some scenic vistas. There were dark storm clouds in the distance.


At 5000 feet elevation, Newfound Gap  is the lowest pass through the Smoky Mountains. It was discovered in 1872. Prior to that, the lowest pass was thought to be Indian Gap, two miles to the west.


At Newfound Gap, you can straddle the border between Tennessee and North Carolina. The Appalachian Trail is also accessible here.


The Clingman’s Dome Road begins at Newfound Gap. It is seven miles from here to the parking lot for the Dome, with more pull-outs along the way to enjoy the scenery. If you’re lucky, you’ll climb to the Dome at the end of the drive.

But on this day, we had to be content with the journey and save the destination for a sunny day.

To see my other Great Smoky Mountain National Posts, click the following links:

Location: Gatlinburg, TN

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 9/02/1940

Date of my visit: August 2013