Pu’uhonua O Hōnaunau National Historical Park

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Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park preserves an ancient Hawaiian place of refuge. This was the second stop on our ‘Best of Kona’ excursion.
If you broke a law, any law, in old Hawaii, the penalty was death. The only way to escape that sentence was to flee to the sanctuary of a pu’uhonua. There, a priest would provide absolution to the law-breaker.
Just outside the walls of the sanctuary are the remains and reconstruction of temples, royal fishponds and a village  where the chiefs lived for generations.  The ancient nobility were buried here, but their remains were moved to the Royal Mausoleum of Hawaii in 1858.
We walked the path to the beach to see the Hale o Keawe temple and surrounding totems. From the lava jetty, we could see colorful fish swimming nearby. This is a sacred place, so snorkeling is not allowed, but one has only to stand at the water’s edge to glimpse the rich marine life.
Continuing on the path took us past some fish ponds and through a gap in the great wall, constructed of lava rocks.  Then we headed up to the visitor center to listen to a ranger talk before heading back to the tour bus.


Kona Posts:

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


Location: State Hwy 160, Hōnaunau, HI 96726

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designated or established: July 26, 1955

Date of my visit: 4/17/2019



Liberty State Park: Black Tom


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.


Liberty State Park is on the Jersey City waterfront in full view of the NYC skyline, Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. The park was opened in 1976 for the nation’s bicentennial. The green oasis in urban surroundings is considered ‘The People’s Park.’


I’ve visited this park many times and blogged about the Empty Sky Memorial and the Central Railroad of NJ Terminal which are both on park grounds. On a recent visit to the park with a community group, our tour guide brought us to a section I hadn’t been to before: Black Tom.


Black Tom was originally an island between Jersey City and Liberty Island which became a peninsula when the railroad added landfill. Black Tom became a major munitions depot for the US in the early 1900s.  By early 1915, the US had not yet entered WWI, but was only selling weapons to the Allied powers.


Imperial Germany sent spies to the US to infiltrate and destroy the ammunition stockpile at Black Tom. On July 30th, German agents caused an explosion in the the depot that was equivalent to an earthquake of 5.5 on the Richter Scale. Windows shattered in midtown Manhattan, the roof of the Ellis Island Immigration Center collapsed (prompting the evacuation of immigrants to lower Manhattan) and the Statue of Liberty’s torch-bearing arm suffered structural damage (the torch has been closed to visitors since then!)


Though only a handful of people died in the attack, the property damage equated to $460 million in modern times. The attack also was one of the factors that led to the US entering the war. After WWI, the US sued Germany to be compensated for the loss, but WWII got in the way of the debt being paid.


Today, there is little evidence of the catastrophic explosion that took place here. There’s a picnic area, some jetties, a circle of flags and a sculpture of a WWII soldier carrying a concentration camp victim.


Location: 402 Morris Pesin Dr, Jersey City, NJ 07305

Designation: State Park

Date designation declared: 1976

Date of my visit: 9/23/2019


Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse: 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.


The Lighthouse Challenge of NJ celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2019. I visited about half of the participating sites, focusing on the ones I didn’t see in 2018.


I arrived at the first stop on my list, the Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse, right at dawn. I climbed the stairs to the top to watch the sun rise over Philadelphia.


Tinicum is in Paulsboro, NJ and is one of a pair of lights marking a section of the Delaware River. It is still an active navigational aid. By aligning the front and rear range lights and aiming for the center, ship avoid Little Tinicum Island as the travel up the Delaware.


The light was first activated on December 31, 1880 and had keeper’s quarters. The Coast Guard automated the signal in 1933. The Keeper’s homes were demolished in the 1950s, leaving just the steel frame towers.


2019 Lighthouse Challenge Posts:

  • Tinicum Rear Range Lighthouse
  • Finn’s Point Lighthouse
  • Supawna Meadows NWR
  • East Point Lighthouse
  • Maurice River
  • Cape May Lighthouse
  • Cape May Point State Park
  • Tatham Lifesaving Station
  • Stone Harbor Bird Sanctuary
  • Lifesaving Station 30


Location: 70 Second Street, Paulsboro, NJ 08066, USA

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designated or established: September 15, 2005

Date of my visit: October 19, 2019


Ramapo Mountain State Forest: Van Slyke Castle


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Ramapo Mountain State Forest protects 4,269 acres in the mountainous region of Northern New Jersey. It is in both Passaic and Bergen Counties and is a separate park from the adjacent Ramapo County Reservation.


There is a well-marked network of trails here. I met up with a local hiking group in the upper lot on Skyline Drive. In my previous visit to this park, I’d begun at the lower lot.


After hiking down to Ramapo Lake, we walked around the lake on the Blue trail and ascended the White/Castle Trail to the ruins of Van Slyke Castle.


Once up top, we had great views of the NYC skyline, Ramapo Lake and another body of water.


Van Slyke Castle was built in the early 1900s by two of Ruth Cole’s three husbands. Her second husband, William Porter began the mansion on Fox Mountain and called it Foxcroft. Porter died before it was completed and Ruth continued the construction, re-naming it after her third husband Warren Van Slyke.


After Van Slyke died in 1925, Ruth lived there until 1940. The mansion was left to her family who sold it. It was then abandoned during a bitter divorce. It burned down in 1959, leaving behind the stone walls.


We explored the castle ruins before looping around, past a water tower, to return to Skyline Drive.


Ramapo State Forest Posts:


Location: Skyline Drive, Wanaque, NJ 07465

Designation: NJ State Forest

Date designated or established: 1976

Date of my visit: 9/1/2019





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


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 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!