John Muir National Historic Site: Happy Earth Day!


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John Muir published 300 articles and 12 books in his lifetime

“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” –John Muir


Happy Earth Day and happy 181st birthday to John Muir, father of the National Parks! My very first post on this blog back in February of 2018 was about the John Muir National  Historic Site and you can see it by clicking here.


I wan’t sure how much space photos would use back then, so I only included four in that first post. I didn’t take many because on the day we visited there was an oppressive heat wave, but I’ve included more in this special Earth Day post.

This sequoia tree, now about 120 years old, was planted by John Muir himself when he lived here on the fruit ranch in Martinez, California.

Location: 4202 Alhambra Avenue, Martinez, California

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designated or established: 8/31/1964

Date of my visit: September 2017

The ornate decor in the 17-room Italianate mansion is attributed to Muir’s wife and father-in-law
There are still olive trees and fruit orchards on the grounds of the National Historic Site

Big Basin Redwoods State 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.


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


Año Nuevo State Park


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Año Nuevo State Park  is about 55 miles south of San Francisco on Highway 1, and is known for its elephant seal breeding colony. This is one of the world’s largest colonies for the northern elephant seal. The seals swim  an average of 2000 miles every year on their migration from the Arctic to Año Nuevo.


We were there on the very first day of what is considered ‘Juvenile Haul Out Season’, which begins after the April-August Molting Season. To see the babies, you need to take a guided hike with a docent during breeding season which is mid-December through March. The park is closed for two weeks at the beginning of December when the pregnant females arrive to give birth.


When it’s not breeding season, you must hike from the visitor center over about 3 miles of sand dunes to the seal viewing platform. We were concerned that my disabled cousin wouldn’t be able to do that hike with her cane and unsteady feet. I checked into the state park’s Equal Access program and was able to reserve a docent-guided tour that bypassed the sandy hike.


We arrived in the midst of a blistering heat wave, a little early for our scheduled tour. We perused the exhibits in the Visitor Center and watched the short film. The journey the elephant seals make each year is remarkable!


Then we boarded a van and our guide drove us on unpaved park roads to the Equal Access Trail. This is a quarter-mile boardwalk trail out to the viewing platform. Our guide walked with us, pointing out various flora and fauna along the way.


What a wonderful service this is for the disabled! We are so grateful to the park and our docent for providing us with this amazing experience. We learned a lot about the elephant seal life cycle and saw some huge bulls on the shore.

Location: 1 New Years Creek Rd, Pescadero, CA 94060

Designation: State Park

Date designation declared: 1985

Date of my visit: September 2017

Año Nuevo Island is just off the point and is part of the State Park and Reserve. The abandoned buildings are the remains of a 19th century light-keeping station.

Fort Point 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.


After exploring the Marin Headlands on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge (you can see my post on the Marin Headlands by clicking here,) we drove across the famous bridge to visit Fort Point nestled under its southern side.


Fort Point was built during the Gold Rush by the United States Army to defend San Francisco Bay against foreign attacks. It was completed just before the start of the Civil War and never saw battle.DSC02578

Renowned for its fine masonry, it was saved from demolition in the 1930s . The Golden Gate Bridge architect designed the span to arch over the fort instead of razing it.


The fort is now protected as Fort Point National Historic Site, signed into law by President Nixon in 1970. It is administered by the National Park Service as a unit of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.


We tagged on to the end of a ranger-led tour and explored the three levels where there are historical artifacts on display. There are great views of San Francisco and Alcatraz from the roof. And this view of the Golden Gate is quite a different perspective from the usual bridge vista.


Location: Long Ave & Marine Dr, San Francisco, CA 94129

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designation declared: 10/16/1970

Date of my visit: August 18, 2012


Top 10 Posts of 2018


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! As 2018 draws to a close, I’d like to do a year-in-review post. It’s been a great inaugural year here on the blog, with 113 posts, over 5000 visitors and over 600 people following along on the journey. I am grateful for and humbled by your support.

Here are the top ten most popular posts from 2018 (you can click on each title to go to the original post):

10: Great Smoky Mountains National Park – Clingman’s Dome (Tennessee/North Carolina)DSC05739

9: Montezuma Castle National Monument (Arizona)IMG_5657

8: Muir Woods National Monument (California)F-_2012_2012-08-11-San-Francisco_DSC02511

7: Crater Lake National Park – Garfield Peak (Oregon)Day7-IMG_6122

6: Bryce Canyon National Park (Utah)DSCN0953

5: Flathead National Forest – Whitefish Mountain (Montana)IMG_1677

4: Acadia National Park – Loop Road Highlights (Maine)IMG_1355

3: Acadia National Park – Jordan Pond and the Bubbles (Maine)2007_0527(009)

2: Glacier National Park – Running Eagle Falls (Montana)IMG_1792

And the most popular post of 2018….Capitol Reef National Park – Cathedral Valley (Utah)IMG_8712

Happy New Year everyone and here’s to happy exploring ahead for 2019!

Happy 50th to the Trails, Rivers, etc…


Remember that classic TV show where the pregnant wife has gone into sudden labor and the husband gets pulled over for speeding  while trying to reach the hospital but then the quick-thinking police officer provides an escort with sirens blazing for the expectant couple? Perhaps cliche, but fifty years ago today, that scene played out for my parents and I narrowly avoided charging into this world on the city streets thanks to the NYPD.


October of 1968 was also a fruitful month for our public lands. On October 2nd of that year, the National Trails System Act and the Wild and Scenic River Act were both signed into law.

The Tomales Point Trail is a National Recreation Trail contained within the NPS Point Reyes Unit.

The National Trails System Act initially designated two national scenic trails, the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, and made provisions to study 14 other trails for inclusion. The Act was later amended to include historic trails and rail trails. Today there are thousands of miles of national trails including 11 National Scenic Trails and 19 National Historic Trails. The trails are managed by five different government agencies and more information can be found on the Partnership for the National Trails System Website.

The Rogue Wild and Scenic River in Oregon was one of the original 8 rivers named under the Act in 1968.

The National Wild and Scenic River Act initially designated eight rivers and today protects over 150 rivers. These are managed by four government agencies and more information can be found on the National Rivers Website. To see my previous post on the Middle Delaware click here (posts on the Rogue and Flathead National Rivers are coming soon.)

The Smith Wild and Scenic River in California runs through parts of Redwood National Park.

Redwood National Park was also designated on October 2nd, 1968. To see my post on that park, click here.


Other park sites (which I have yet to visit) and are turning 50 in October include:

  • Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Washington.
  • North Cascades National Park, Washington.
  • Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Washington.
  • Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, North Carolina.
  • Biscayne National Monument, Florida. (Re-designated Biscayne National Park in 1980)

Found this video clip I must have accidentally taken on my waterproof camera while kayaking down the Smith River:



Muir Woods National Monument


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.

Muir Woods National Monument is an old-growth coastal redwood forest and is part of California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, 12 miles north of San Francisco. Being the most accessible redwood grove to tourists visiting San Francisco, it is insanely popular.


Because the crowding and traffic up the narrow, winding mountain roads were becoming unmanageable, the NPS has recently implemented a policy that requires all visitors to either reserve a paid parking space in advance or buy a ticket on a shuttle bus (also reserved in advance.)


The last time we visited Muir Woods was 2012 and it was definitely busier than it had been on any of my previous visits. We had to park on the road quite far from the visitor center and hike in, hoping no one would hit our car while we were gone. (Did I mention the roads are narrow? And winding?)


But once we got past the throngs at the entrance, we enjoyed a peaceful walk on the loop trail, past Redwood Creek and through the awesome Cathedral Grove. The loop trail is level, easy and a great way to experience these magnificent giants.


We’d picked up a junior ranger booklet and helped my daughter fill it out as we followed the trail. It was a sort of scavenger hunt to figure out a code to unlock the junior ranger box back at the visitor center and get the ‘badge’…really just a lame sticker, no ‘swearing-in’ ceremony with a ranger like at other parks. There are just too many visitors here for that, but I thought the scavenger hunt was a unique alternative.


The woods were shrouded in fog as we began, typical due to the proximity of Muir Woods to the ocean. It lifted at some point on our hike back.

Muir Woods was saved from destruction by William Kent, a US Congressmen in the early 1900s. In order to save the last Redwood Groves in the area from being cut down by the logging industry, he purchased the land. When a water company took him to court because they wanted to build a dam on Redwood Creek, he donated the land to the federal government on the condition that they protect it and name the new monument after John Muir, the naturalist.


Interesting fact: the remade Planet of the Apes movies were partially set in Muir Woods (that’s where the evolved apes make their new home at the end of Rise of the Planet of the Apes) but those scenes were mostly shot in British Columbia. The monument does make a cameo or two, though.

So, bottom line…If you are planning on exploring the Marin County side of the bay, do incorporate Muir Woods into your plans. But advance planning is required because of the new reservation policy and this park should not be your ultimate destination for visisting a redwood grove in California.

We have seen groves in Redwoods National Park in the far north of the state and in State Parks south of the Bay Area….all of them were far more peaceful and immersive experiences than getting to and walking through Muir Woods.

That said, Muir Woods was where I saw my first AMAZING giant redwood back in the 80s, and for some it might be their only chance to see one…if that is the case, you can’t miss a visit to Muir Woods.

Location: 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: January 9, 1908

Date of my visit: 8/11/2012