Zion National Park: Scout Lookout


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Being that Angel’s Landing is one of North America’s iconic hikes, my husband insisted on including it in our itinerary when visiting Zion National Park. Now while I have no fear of going to the rooftop of the city’s tallest building or gazing down on the countryside from an airplane or even a tall Ferris wheel,  put me on a ledge with a yawning abyss on either side of me and I will be completely paralyzed. So I knew going in that Angel’s Landing was not for me.


Thankfully, I did my research and realized that I could enjoy most of the journey without the mind-numbing, cliff-terror part. I could hike up the first two miles to Scout Lookout and then chill.


We started the hike at 8 AM on our third day in the park. After a brief pleasant flat stretch along the river, we began to ascend.


We had to take frequent breaks to catch our breath and take pictures. The higher up we got, the more beautiful the view.


After some long switchbacks that took us along the Western Rim of the main canyon, the trail turned in to a more shaded canyon. It was amazing to see the trees growing out of seemingly bare rock.


Then we arrived at the base of the tight switchbacks called Walters Wiggles, named for the first superintendent of Zion. These 21 curves, carved into a nearly vertical cliff, are the last hurdle before reaching Scout Lookout.


Scout Lookout is a large open area with gorgeous views and plenty of places to rest. My daughter and I relaxed, had snacks and took some photos while we waited.


Zion Posts:

Location: Springdale, UT

Designation: National Park

Date designated/established: 11/19/1919

Date of my visit: April 11, 2017


Fort DeRussy Beach Park Video


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.

Fort DeRussy is a beach-front military reservation in the Waikiki area. The beach stretches between Kahanamoku Beach and the Outrigger Hotel. While it is under the jurisdiction of the US Army, most of the park, including the beach, is open to the public. You can see my original post on Fort DeRussy here.


When going through my camera roll, I found a video clip I’d forgotten to include in the original post, so here it is. Enjoy!

Location: 2055 Kalia Rd, Honolulu, HI 96815

Designation: Military Reservation

Date established/designated: circa 1904

Date of my visit: April 2019

National Purple Heart Hall of Honor


Welcome back to National Parks and other public lands with T! Remembering those who have sacrificed on this Veterans Day and thank you to all who have served!

The National Purple Heart Hall of Honor shares a building with the museum for Washington’s Cantonment at New Windsor because it is here that the military award got its start. George Washington, while stationed at his Newburgh headquarters in 1782, created The Badge of Military Merit to recognize acts of valor by common soldiers. Three soldiers from the cantonment received the badge and then it fell into disuse.


General MacArthur revived and rededicated the the award to honor George Washington on his 200th birthday. In 1932, 137 World War I veterans received the first purple heart awards in a ceremony at the New Windsor Cantonment. Today the Purple Heart is awarded to members of all branches of the military who are wounded or killed in combat.


In 2002, Senator Hillary Clinton introduced Resolution 113 to create a National Purple Heart Hall of Honor. Newburgh locals provided compelling arguments for building it in Newburgh and so it was dedicated at the Cantonment site and opened in 2006.


There is no comprehensive list of the estimated 1.8 million recipients of the Purple Heart, so part of the Hall of Honor’s mission is to collect and preserve this data. If you or a family member have received a Purple Heart, you can obtain the enrollment form from the website here.


The museum chronicles the history of the Purple Heart and towards the back of the hall, there is a small theater where you can watch a ten-minute film featuring several veterans telling their stories. Behind the theater, there are kiosks with computers to look up names in the honor roll.


To see my other posts from The Hudson Valley National Heritage Area, please click the links below:

Location: 374 Temple Hill Road, New Windsor, NY

Designation: National Heritage Area, Museum

Date designated or established: 11/30/2006

Date of my visit: 2/18/2019


Biltmore Estate National Historic Landmark


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 Vanderbilt family, building on the shipping and railroad business started by Cornelius Vanderbilt, became prominent during the Gilded Age (the period after the Civil War.)


In that period the Vanderbilt  grandsons built ornate palaces to showcase their wealth including The Breakers in Rhode Island and The Vanderbilt Mansion in Hyde Park.


The Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina  is the largest privately owned house in the United States. The home is 179 thousand square feet and sits on a huge estate that includes a winery, stables and other attractions open to the public.


The mansion was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II between 1889 and 1895 as a summer home. Having fallen in love with the mountainous countryside, Vanderbilt bought up over 700 parcels of land to build his summer retreat.


In 1900, Cornelia, the only child of George and Edith Vanderbilt, was born. She grew up in this vast estate.


In 1914, the Vanderbilts sold a large tract of their land to the federal government which became Pisgah National Forest. During the Great Depression, Cornelia and her husband opened the mansion to the public in order to attract tourists to Asheville.


Today, the estate is run by a trust set up by the Vanderbilt Family and has a hotel, restaurants and other amenities on site. It attracts 1.4 million visitors a year.


My daughter and I toured the estate while on a road trip several years ago. At the time, photography was not allowed inside the home, though we enjoyed the guided tour through the many opulent rooms.


Vanderbilt Posts:

Location: 1 Lodge St, Asheville, NC 28803

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: 1963

Date of my visit: November 2007

One of the restaurants is inside the old stables
The dairy barn was converted into the winery.

Ringwood State Park: Jungle Habitat


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.


Jungle Habitat was a short-lived Warner Brothers theme park in West Milford, NJ. It featured a drive through safari ride with exotic wild animals. When the park closed abruptly in 1976, urban legend had it that the animals were released into the woods.


Twelve years after Jungle Habitat closed, the State of NJ purchased the land from Warner Brothers for $1.45 million, with the site being managed by Ringwood State Park. In 2007, a volunteer group called JORBA, began working with the state to create mountain biking trails on the 800 acre property.


In 2017, The State rejected a bid to turn the site into a for-profit mountain bike park and planned to incorporate it into Norvin Green State Forest, which is also managed by Ringwood State Park. Name change ideas were requested from the community since Jungle Habitat is still copyrighted by WB.


I toured Jungle Habitat recently with about 30 others with Take a Hike NJ. Nature has reclaimed the parking lots, animal enclosures and tram tracks for the most part, giving the place a Jurassic Park vibe.


There is a well-marked red-blazed trail just outside the parking lot, but to see the ruins, you must venture in further to unmarked territory. I was glad to be with a large group of people as it would be easy to get lost.


While exploring we encountered several mountain bikers and a couple of people walking their dogs.  But alas, we did not see the wolf packs or stray baboons of urban legend.


Location: 109 Airport Rd, West Milford, NJ 07480

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 1988

Date of my visit: August 25, 2019


Iolani Palace National Historic Landmark


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.


Iolani palace is the only royal palace on US soil. The palace grounds date back to the ancient Hawaiians where a heiau (temple) once stood. King Kamehameha III built his home here in 1845.


The Kamehameha dynasty came to an end and King Kalākaua replaced Kamehameha’s residence with the larger and more elaborate Iolani Palace in 1882. Kalākaua was the first of Hawaii’s kings to travel extensively. He was influenced by Victorian England and other European monarchies in his plans for Iolani Palace.


The lavish architectural style is considered American Florentine. The palace cost $340,000 to build…a huge sum at the time.


As we toured the rooms with our guide Isaac, he pointed out the extensive woodwork using Koa…a native, and pricey, hardwood. He told us that the palace had electricity…the first building in Hawaii to have it. There was also indoor plumbing, a telephone and a European style throne room.


A few months after the palace was completed, an official coronation ceremony was held for the king and his wife, even though Kalākaua had already been the ruling monarch for nine years. The pavilion where the coronation took place is still on the grounds and is now used for the inauguration of Hawaii’s governors.


Isaac told us, while we toured the royal bedrooms upstairs, that the royal family didn’t live here full time. If they weren’t receiving guests or entertaining foreign dignitaries, they stayed in a more modest house across the street.


Queen Liliʻuokalani  succeeded her brother after his death in 1891. In 1893, the monarchy was overthrown. After a failed attempt to restore Queen Liliʻuokalani, she was tried, convicted and sentenced to imprisonment and hard labor.


Her sentence was reduced to house arrest and she spent eight months locked in one room of the palace with nothing to do but make a quilt from scraps of fabric smuggled in. That room is kept empty as it was during her imprisonment and the quilt she made is on display there.


The Provisional Government took over Iolani Palace for its offices. It was then used as the capitol building once Hawaii was annexed by the United States. In 1969, it was vacated by the government.


The Friends of Iolani group, founded by descendants of the royals, reclaimed the palace and began the long painstaking process of restoring Iolani to its former grandeur. The exterior had been altered by the government over the years and those changes had to be undone. The original furnishings were auctioned off after the overthrow, but the Friends located many of the items and reacquired them.


Iolani Palace opened to the public in 1978 and the restoration is an ongoing process. There is a museum in the basement with many of the royal artifacts on display. Throughout the rooms on the guided tour, many of the gowns worn by Queen Liliʻuokalani are featured.


Oahu Posts:


Location: 364 S King St, Honolulu, HI 96813

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date established/designated: December 29, 1962

Date of my visit: April 13, 2019


The National Bison Range: Happy National Bison Day!

img_2264Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! Happy National Bison Day!

I posted about our visit to the National Bison Range earlier this year and you can see that recap here. But today’s post is about more than the 350ish residents of the wildlife refuge in Montana…it’s about honoring the estimated half-million American Bison now living in the USA on National Bison Day.


Yes, National Bison Day is actually a thing. Thanks to the persistent lobbying of the Vote Bison Coalition, a resolution was passed by Congress designating the first Saturday of November as National Bison Day. Then in 2016, President Obama signed the National Bison Legacy Act into law which officially made the Bison our national mammal.


Approximately 20 million bison once roamed the American plains providing sustenance for Native Americans. The Westward expansion of white settlers, ranching and over-hunting drove the species to the brink of extinction. In the early 1900s, there were only a few hundred left.


In 1908, Theodore Roosevelt established The National Bison Range in Northwest Montana. This was the first time federal funds were used to set aside land for the protection of wildlife and marked the birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System.


Location: 58355 Bison Range Rd, Charlo, MT 59824

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designation declared: 5/23/1908

Date of my visit: 6/26/2018