Big Basin Redwoods State Park


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Big Basin Redwoods State Park is California’s oldest state park, established in 1902. Northwest of Santa Cruz, it is home to the largest stand of coastal redwoods south of San Francisco.


This is normally a pretty popular park with limited parking by the visitor center. But we visited in the midst of a stifling heat wave, so we had no trouble getting a spot in the early afternoon.


We stopped in at the visitor center to determine the best way to see the park given the 108 degree temperature. We opted for the Redwood Loop Trail, an easy half-mile loop with well-marked points of interest that begins at the end of the parking lot. The only other people we encountered on this trail were an elderly couple and a mom with a baby in a stroller. It’s a nice wide and flat path suitable for any ability.


As we ambled along, trying not to collapse from heat exhaustion, we stopped at the well-marked points of interest and read the placards.


We passed the ‘Father of the Forest’, a 2000-year-old, 250 foot tall redwood with a circumference of 16 feet.


We also saw the ‘Mother of the Forest.’ The Mother is not as wide as the Father, but is taller. She was once the tallest tree in Big Basin at 329 feet until a storm knocked off a portion, reducing her to 293 feet.


We stood inside the hollowed-out Chimney Tree to take in a unique view of the sky.


There are many other sights to see in Big Basin….waterfalls, varied habitats, ocean views, etc… But on this day, the short walk through the redwoods was experience enough for us. Being in the presence of these ancient giants is always a humbling experience and we were grateful for the well-maintained path through them.


Location: 21600 Big Basin Way, Boulder Creek, CA 

Designation: State Park

Date designation declared: 1902

Date of my visit: 9/1/2017


Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District


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Ringwood Manor and its surrounding 479 acres became a national historic landmark district in 1966. Ringwood State Park is comprised of the Ringwood Manor district and the nearby Skylands Manor. The NJ Parks department manages the site and provides regular tours of the mansion. Photography is not allowed inside the house, except during the Victorian Christmas Open House.


The surrounding Ramapo mountains are rich in iron deposits. Iron mines and forges made this an area of strategic importance during the Revolutionary War and again during the war of 1812.


Ironmaster Martin Ryerson built the first 10-room section of Ringwood Manor in 1807.  The State Park has maintained some of this original section with the simple Washingtonian decor that the Ryersons favored.


The Cooper-Hewitts bought Ringwood Manor as a summer home in 1853. Peter Cooper invented glue, gelatin and the Tom Thumb locomotive. Together with his son-in-law A.S. Hewitt (a one-term NYC mayor) he founded one of the largest iron companies in the USA.  A.S. Hewitt married Peter Cooper’s daughter Sarah.


Sarah Hewitt built several additions onto the house over the years.


Ringwood Manor has 51 rooms, 30 of which are open to the public via a ranger-guided tour.


Mrs. Hewitt favored lavish French Louis XV design. She allowed her husband to decorate only three of the rooms in a more masculine style.


She was an avid collector of marquetry, china, etc… Her collections are showcased throughout the manor.


The grounds were patterned after European gardens the Hewitts had seen on their travels. They also incorporated into the landscape salvaged items, like Columbia University’s iron gates and the Cooper Union Institute’s marble columns.


There is a large iron chain in front of the house which Mr. Hewitt thought was the chain that was stretched across the Hudson River at West Point during the Revolutionary War to keep the British navy out.


He later found out that he’d been scammed, that the chain was not authentic, but Mrs. Hewitt perpetuated the rumor that it was THE chain, so there it still sits. There is also a cannon from the USS constitution in front of the house along with other iron antiques.


The Hewitts had six children. The two younger daughters stayed on at Ringwood and ran the iron mines after their parents’ deaths.


The youngest son, Erskine, was the last surviving heir and donated the estate to the State of New Jersey in 1936.


Ringwood State Park posts:
  • Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District
  • Merry Christmas from Ringwood Manor National Historic Landmark District
  • Victorian Christmas at Ringwood Manor (Coming Soon)
  • Skylands Botanical Gardens (Coming Soon)

Location: 1304 Sloatsburg Rd, Ringwood, NJ 07456

Designation: National Historic Landmark District, State Park

Date designated or established: November 13, 1966

Date of my visit: 12/8/2018, 8/26/2018, 3/5/2016


There is a trail behind the mansion that leads past some colonial era graves to this dam

Coconino National Forest: Bell Rock Trail


Welcome back to National Parks and 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.


The Coconino National Forest surrounds the towns of Sedona and Flagstaff in Arizona with landscapes ranging from red rocks and deserts to pine forests. When planning our Sedona vacation, we’d come across a Mom site that listed two favorite family-friendly hikes: Devil’s Bridge and Bell Rock. We didn’t realize that both of these trails were within the National Forest boundaries, didn’t find the park’s website and just got directions at the hotel.


After hiking to the Devil’s Bridge in the morning, we decided to try the Bell Rock Trail in the afternoon. This trail head was much easier to find than the Devil’s Bridge trail…there are signs pointing to the parking lot off the main highway in town.


From the parking lot we took a nice walk up the wide, flat Bell Rock Pathway enjoying awesome views of Bell Rock & Courthouse Butte.  We shared the trail with cyclists and a lot of other casual hikers. There was no shade and we quickly tired from the August heat.


After a while, we came to a bench under a shade tree. My daughter and I relaxed there with a dehydrated cyclist while my husband continued on to the Bell Rock trail to climb up the rock.


While he was off on his rock climbing adventure, we saw a roadrunner in the path. My daughter had been hoping to see one the whole trip. Alas, he was too speedy for me to capture on ‘film.’


Hubby saw a rattlesnake up on Bell Rock. Thankfully, it didn’t pay him any mind. At one point, we managed to get a signal and he messaged us to look up to see him waving from an elbow high in the formation.


To see my other Sedona posts, click below:


Location: Courthouse Vista loop off HWY 179, Sedona, AZ 86336

Designation: National Forest

Date designation declared: 7/2/1908

Date of my visit: August 23, 2014



The Celery Farm Preserve


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The Celery Farm is a 107-acre wetland preserve in Allendale, New Jersey. The park was once a celery farm and was part of the John Fell estate, dating back to the Revolutionary War era. You can see my post about the John Fell House, which is across the street from the preserve, by clicking here.


In the 1950s, a non-profit organization called Fyke formed with the mission of saving some of Bergen County’s last undeveloped tracts of land. Today, this group maintains the trails and viewing platforms in the Celery Farm.


The preserve is an important habitat for birds…over 240 species have been seen here and it is a breeding site for over 50 bird species. I’ve also seen turtles, deer and was even surprised by a mink carrying a fish it had just captured (alas, I was in the middle of changing lenses!)


The main trail is an easy level loop around a large lake. At one end, you can branch off  into other trails over streams and through marshy meadows.


In some sections, you will find yourself passing by residential homes and the entrance to the preserve is right off the busy Franklin Turnpike. In spite of being in the midst of a densely populated area, most of the preserve is serene and quiet.


Location: Franklin Turnpike, Allendale, NJ 07401

Designation: Preserve and Bird Sanctuary

Date designated or established: 1952

Date of my visit: 2013, 2014


Twin Lights State Historic Site


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After attending the grand re-opening ceremony at the Sandy Hook Lighthouse (see that post here,) I stopped at the Twin Lights State Historic Site on my way back to the mainland.


At 200 feet above sea level on a steep bluff, the Twin Lights of Highlands have watched over the harbor entrance since 1828.


Officially named Navesink Lightstation, it was the first in the USA to use Fresnel lenses. The Fresnel lens, through its beehive design, magnifies the light from a small bulb so that it can be seen for miles. The Navesink lights had a range of 22 miles.


In 1862, the lighthouse was rebuilt, replacing the original structures and is still standing today. Two different shaped light towers are linked by the keepers quarters in the middle. One beacon was steady while the other pulsed, providing a distinctive navigational aid.


In 1899, Guglielmo Marconi  demonstrated his wireless telegraph from the light station by transmitting reports on the America’s Cup Race off Sandy Hook. The Twin Lights became the nation’s first commercial wireless telegraph station.


Technological advances reduced the need for lighthouses and in 1949, the Twin Lights were turned off after 121 years in operation. The State of New Jersey acquired the property and designated it a State Historic Site in 1962.


I browsed the exhibits in the museum housed in the keeper’s quarters and then climbed the North Tower for some pretty fantastic views. Visitors are allowed out on the caged-in balcony.


Location: 2 Lighthouse Road, Highlands, NJ 07732

Designation: State Historic Site, NRHP

Date designated or established: 1962

Date of my visit: 9/30/2018


Glacier National Park: Lake McDonald


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At ten miles long, Lake McDonald is Glacier National Park’s biggest lake. It is on the West of the Continental Divide, which receives more rain, so the area is lush.


The lake is not fed by glaciers and so does not have the distinctive turquoise hue found on the Eastern side of the park. But the water is crystal clear, showcasing the multicolored Argillite rock on the lake’s floor.


We stopped at Lake McDonald on our last evening in the park. It stays light longer in Glacier in the summer than where we live because it is farther from the equator. We stopped to dip our feet in the icy lake waters before going into the lodge for dinner.


Lake McDonald Lodge was built in 1913 on the Eastern shore of Lake McDonald at the mouth of Midget Creek. Like the other lodges in the park, it has a Swiss Chalet design which was part of the Great Northern Railroad’s campaign to attract tourists to the ‘American Alps.’


Though not as big as Many Glacier, the lodge has an impressive three-story lobby and was restored in the 1980s. It includes many of the original furnishings and some reproductions of the original Kanai craftsmen paper lanterns. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1987.


We had dinner in Russell’s Fireside Dining Room, which was far better than the disappointing meal we’d had previously at Many Glacier’s Ptarmigan Dining Room.


This appetizer is a charcuterie platter with local game and cheeses. It was delicious.


Location: 288 Lake McDonald Lodge Loop, West Glacier, MT 59936

Designation: National Park, National Landmark

Date designation declared: 5/11/1910, NHL 1987

Date of my visit: 6/27/2018


The High Line


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The New York City High Line is a 1.5 mile Rail-Trail on the west side of Manhattan. In 1999, neighborhood residents saved this elevated historic railroad from demolition and converted it into a public park with landscaping and art exhibits along a concrete walkway.  It first opened to the public in 2009.


From 1934 to 1980, this rail line carried meat to the Meatpacking District in New York. Today the park extends from 34th Street to Gansevoort Street. The NYC Department of Parks & Recreation is currently working on an extension called The Spur which is expected to open in April of 2019.


Some friends from France came to town and wanted to explore this park. We walked over to the entrance on 34th street and ascended to the walkway via a long ramp. We admired the interesting artwork we saw along the way (Exhibits change out periodically.)


We exited via the 16th Street staircase to have lunch in Chelsea Market, a busy indoor marketplace with shops and restaurants.


Location: Gansevoort & Washington Streets to 34th st & 12th Ave

Designation: City Park

Date designated or established: 2009

Date of my visit: 12/09/2016