Great Smoky Mountains National Park: Roaring Fork Motor Trail & Grotto Falls


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.


Great Smoky Mountains National Park has a few scenic drives from which you can explore the park. The Roaring Fork Motor Nature Trail is  approximately 6 miles of narrow, winding road. It is one-way, just outside Gatlinburg.


The trail-head for the popular Rainbow Falls hike is at the beginning of this road. We stopped there, but saw that the hike was over five miles. It was a hot, humid afternoon and we weren’t really up to that challenge.


A little further along the loop, we parked at the Trillium Gap trail-head to take the shorter hike to Grotto Falls. It is 1.5 miles from the trail-head to the falls. It is steep and rocky in places.


At the top of the Grotto Falls hike, the falls cascade over a rock shelf.  This creates a ledge behind the waterfall. We walked behind the falls and cooled off in the spray.

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

Location: Gatlinburg, TN

Designation: National Park

Date designated or established: 9/02/1940

Date of my visit: August 2013



Crater Lake National Park: Rim Tour


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.

Millenia ago,  Mount Mazama (an ancient volcano) collapsed forming Crater Lake in its caldera. The pure blue lake is the deepest in the United States and is famous for its bright blue color.  There are no rivers feeding into the lake or underground water sources…the water is replenished only by rain and snow.

The Rim Drive is a 33 mile loop around the caldera. You can explore it in your own vehicle during the summer months, but we opted to take the two-hour tour with Crater Lake Trolley. We wanted to see all the highlights without having to drive ourselves. Park loop roads are no fun for the driver.

The trolley company is privately owned, but includes a national park trained interpreter on board. Our guide was great, telling us all about the history and geology of Crater Lake, interspersed with 5-6 stops where we got out, took photos and stretched our legs.


We first stopped at the Watchman Overlook where we had great views of Wizard Island. The Island is actually a volcanic cinder cone, with a peak about 750 feet above the lake surface. There is a boat running out to the island from a point on the north shore and a trail to climb to the top.


Next we stopped at the Llao bay turnout. Llao Rock is a prominent high point on the lake, rising 2000 feet above the water. It is named after the Native American god of the underworld, who, according to legend,  fought with the sky god, Skell, and caused the eruption of Mount Mazama, forming Crater Lake.


Next, we stopped somewhere near Cleetwood Cove. The Cleetwood Cove trail is the only way to access the water in Crater Lake. It is a steep trail down to the dock where the boats depart for Wizard Island. We did not descend as the trail takes 1.5-2.5 hours to walk round-trip.


Another interesting stop was the Pumice Castle Overlook. The Pumice Castle is a colorful formation in the otherwise monotone caldera wall.

Almost full circle, we stopped at the Phantom Ship Overlook to see the small island said to resemble a ghost ship in foggy weather.


Turning away from the lake to head back to the Rim Village, we made one last stop at Vidae Falls. It was too crowded to linger for long and many were anxious to return to the village for the restrooms so I didn’t get a decent shot of the falls.

The tour runs a solid two hours and there are no restrooms once you leave rim village, so be sure to use the ones by the community center before you leave.

To see my other Crater Lake posts click:

Location: Crater Lake, OR

Designation: National Park

Date designated or established: 5/22/1902

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016


Gateway National Recreation Area: Sandy Hook Light Grand Re-opening


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.


I attended the Grand Re-opening festivities for the Lighthouse and Post Museum at Sandy Hook last month.  The historic lighthouse had been closed for about 10 months to correct issues with the foundation and structure that were manifesting themselves in stains on the exterior. The Fort Hancock Museum had been closed since 2010 and suffered a major setback during 2012’s Hurricane Sandy.


The $1.3 million dollar cost of the renovation was funded primarily by the parking fees beach-goers are charged during the summer months. The park’s non-profit partner, Sandy Hook Foundation, also raised money to restore both structures.


The program began with a presentation of the flag by a local academy’s color guard, along with the national anthem and pledge of allegiance.


The mayors of Highlands and Middletown, a county Freeholder, a senior Coast Guard official, the superintendent of Gateway National Recreation Area and the Commissioner of the National Parks of NY Harbor were all in attendance and spoke briefly about the significance of the Lighthouse and Fort Hancock.


Commissioner Joshua Laird spoke of the lighthouse as a member of the NY Harbor Parks family, having borne witness to two and a half centuries of American history. Superintendent Jen Nersesian spoke of the lighthouse as a survivor, having outlasted several wars and major hurricanes. And we were all reminded by the Coast Guard official that the Sandy Hook Lighthouse is older than Boston Light’s ‘new’ lighthouse and is therefore the oldest functioning beacon in the US.


The speeches were followed by a ribbon-cutting, first at the lighthouse and then at the Fort Hancock Museum (housed in the old military jail.)


There was cake and lemonade in the Lighthouse Keeper’s Quarters (which serves as the visitor center.) There were also some people dressed in Revolutionary War era costumes providing living history demonstrations.


After cake, I waited on the line for a few minutes to walk up to the top of the lighthouse. Because of the narrow and steep spiral staircase, only eight people were allowed up at a time. The line moved fairly quickly and before I knew it, I was at the top, looking down on Fort Hancock, the Batteries and the New York skyline.


I headed over to the museum for a slide show and talk about the archaeological digs conducted by Monmouth University while the renovation was in progress.  Artifacts as far back as the revolutionary war were discovered.


This was a fun event and it was great to see the community involvement in saving these Historic Landmarks. I found out about it through Facebook, of all places, but I’m glad I did!

My other posts on Sandy Hook:

  • Sandy Hook
  • Grand Re-opening
  • Sandy Hook Light (coming soon)
  • Fort Hancock (coming soon)
  • Women’s Barracks (coming soon)

Location: 128 South Hartshorne Drive, Highlands, NJ 07732

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designated or established: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 9/30/2018


National Historic Landmark: The Hermitage

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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.

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For the past 8 years, the Northwest Bergen History Coalition has been holding a themed History Day. On History Day, several historic sites in the area are open, running tours and stamping passports. This year, the theme was ‘How Immigration & The Railroad Shaped Our Towns’ with 10 sites participating.

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The Hermitage in Ho-Ho-Kus is Bergen County’s first National Historical Landmark. The original dwelling was built in the 1700s.  During the Revolutionary War, Theodosia Prevost was left to tend the property while her husband was off fighting. She opened the home to soldiers as a rest station, extending a personal invitation to General Washington and his troops.

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Theodosia’s husband was killed during the war, but she continued to host the militia. Guests during the Revolution included James Monroe, William Paterson, the Marquis de Lafayette, Alexander Hamilton, Lord Stirling and Aaron Burr.

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Aaron Burr and Theodosia were married at the Hermitage in 1782, after the death of her first husband, and they lived there for a short while. The Rosencrantz Family bought the home in 1807 and in 1847 expanded it to a 14-room Gothic Revival mansion.

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The last surviving Rosencrantz heir, Mary Elizabeth, lived there for her whole life. In her later years, she fell on hard financial times and was unable to properly maintain the house.

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When she burned herself on the fireplace and had to call for help in the late 1960s, it was discovered that she and a cousin had been living in two rooms of the house without any heat or electricity. She was moved to a nursing home and willed the Hermitage to the State of New Jersey. She died in 1970 and ownership of the estate passed to New Jersey with the stipulation that one section of the house dating to the 1700s remain untouched.

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I managed to tour five of the participating sites that day. To see my posts on the other NW Bergen County historic sites, click on the following links:

  1. The Old Stone House (Ramsey)
  2. The Schoolhouse Museum (Ridgewood)
  3. The Hermitage (Ho-ho-kus)
  4. The Zabriskie House (Wyckoff) Coming Soon
  5. The John Fell House (Allendale) Coming Soon

Location: 538 Island Road, Ramsey, NJ 07446

Designation: National Historical Landmark

Date designated or established:: 5/22/1970

Date of my visit: 4/28/2018

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Only this one window has a stained glass panel. It is easily seen when at the threshold of the front door at the top of the staircase…designed to impress visitors.

Glacier National Park: Logan Pass


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As we continued down Going to the Sun Road in our Red Bus Eastern Alpine Tour, we could see that Logan Pass was socked in with fog. When we parked in the lot, it was freezing and visibility was almost zero.


Logan Pass was named after Glacier National Park’s first superintendent. It is the highest point on Going to the Sun Road and is one of the most visited spots in the park.


When we were there with the red bus tour, there were kids skiing on the snow drifts. We grabbed a quick photo by the Continental Divide sign and the went into the visitor center to see the displays and get a souvenir pin.


The red bus headed back up Going to the Sun Road, making a stop at the lush Reynolds Creek Valley overlook. There were waterfalls everywhere we looked. The view here more than made up for the fog over Logan Pass.


We stopped by Logan Pass to see the view later in the week when there was no fog, in the early morning before the lot was crowded.


This time we were able to see Clements Mountain looming over the visitor center. From the other side of the lot, we could see the sun rising over Going to the Sun Mountain.


To see all of my Going to the Sun Posts, please click the following links:


Location: Going-to-the-Sun Road, East Glacier Park, MT 59434, USA

Designation: National Park

Date designated or established: 5/11/1910

Date of my visit: 6/24/2018


Oregon Caves National Monument: Chateau Restoration


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.


For this special Wednesday segment, I spoke with Sue Densmore, executive director of the Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau. To see my previous posts on this park, please click Oregon Caves/Cave Tour and Chateau/Nature Trail.


As mentioned in my previous posts, we’d really enjoyed our visit to this off-the-beaten-path gem of the National Park Service and hope to someday return for a peaceful stay in the lodge.  I know that most of my readers are supporters of the NPS and its mission to preserve our nation’s natural wonders and historic legacy. I hope that you will find this information to be of interest.


As the NPS begins a much-needed overhaul of the 83-year-old Chateau, the federal funds allotted will only provide for functional improvements which have been deferred for 15 years. The Friends group is trying to raise additional funds to allow for the historic restoration work to be done during the same closure and avoid closing down the lodge for two seasons in a row.  The Chateau closed on September 30th, 2018 and will not re-open until the renovation is complete.


The Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau, a non-profit organization formed in cooperation with the National Park Service began the Chateau Restoration Campaign in 2012. The Chateau made the Restore Oregon’s Most Endangered Places list in 2016 and 2017 due to the long delay in obtaining federal funding for repairs.


When I asked Sue what the Friends’ immediate priorities were, she responded,

     “We are struggling with saving the Historic items today.  We have one month with this concession – so they are clearing out the inventory (refers to the vintage 1930s counter and bar stools in the Caves Cafè.)  So we are focused on that – needing to quickly raise a lot of money.

     Once this is resolved – we will also need to raise $100,000 to match the Travel Oregon Grant to do the Historic Furnishings Plan and restore the Monterey Furniture.”



To donate to Friends of the Oregon Caves and Chateau please click here. Donations are processed through the Network for Good and are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law.


Built in 1934, the Chateau has six stories, four of which have ground level entrances because of the steep hill it is built into. A stream was diverted to run through the main dining room and the building houses the largest collection of original Monterey furniture in the world. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1987.

Location: 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: 1987

Date of my visit: August 2016


Congaree National Park


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.

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Congaree National Park  in South Carolina protects the old growth forest on the floodplain of the Congaree River. When we were there, we thought it a swamp because the Cypress trees we saw were submerged in water. It is technically not a swamp, but a ‘bottomland’ subject to periodic flooding.


The Sierra Club and grassroots environmental groups fought to save Congaree from destruction by the logging industry in the Sixties. This park preserves one of the largest collections of ‘Champion Trees’ (a Champion Tree being the largest known of its species.)


It was declared a National Monument in the Seventies and converted to National Park status in 2003.


We stopped at Congaree on a road trip in the Spring of 2010. We picked up a Junior Ranger booklet and perused the exhibits in the visitors center. We watched the short film and then walked the two-mile boardwalk loop.


It was quite humid and buggy, so we were grateful for the elevated path.


There were only a handful of others in the park, so we pretty much had the loop to ourselves. At one point, we startled a snake sunning itself in the middle of the walkway.

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Location: 100 National Park Rd, Hopkins, SC 29061

Designation: National Park

Date designated or established: 11/10/2003

Date of my visit: 4/08/2010