Independence NHP: Independence Hall

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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. And to my American followers, be sure to show up at the polls tomorrow and vote!

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We started our day at the Independence Visitor Center to pick up our tickets for the Independence Hall tour. The rangers were very helpful and gave directions to various sites and even got us on an earlier tour than the one we’d reserved. (Be sure to use the restrooms here because there are none in the historic buildings once you go through security.)

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Independence Hall was built in 1732 to be the Pennsylvania State House. It is the birthplace of the USA, where both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were debated and signed.

You can reserve a guided tour of Independence Hall on the NPS website for a nominal fee (it cost me $7.50 for the 5 of us.) Tickets are free on the day of, but tours do book up quickly. Getting tickets for the tour is the only way to see the inside of the building where the Declaration of Independence was signed. The tour is pretty brief, but interesting and it is inspiring to stand in the place where our founding fathers formed our nation. The tour is limited to the first floor rooms most of the year, but may include the second floor in early winter months.

IMG_9652Our ranger first took us into the Courtroom of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. It was here in 1776 that the Patriots stormed in and tore down the King’s coat of arms in an act of defiance.

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Next we went to the Assembly Room.  This is the room where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were signed. It later became a shrine to the founding of America, housing the Liberty Bell. After his assassination, Lincoln’s body was laid out here before burial.  Now it has since been restored to its 1776 appearance.

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Afterwards, be sure to wait on the line for the tour at the congressional building next door…there are no reservations for that one and it is much more extensive than the one in Independence Hall. I will cover that in a future post. Both tours really drove home the awe and respect we should all have for what these men accomplished in 1776.

Location: Chestnut Street, between 5th and 6th Streets, Philadelphia, PA

Designation: National Historical Park

Date NPS designation declared: 1951

Date of my visit: August 2017

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Middle Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River

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Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! Today is National Public Lands Day and this year’s theme is Resilience and Restoration. It is a fee-free day for most parks, so get out and find your park.

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The Middle Delaware is a National Park Service unit contained within another NPS unit, the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The Wild & Scenic Rivers System was established 50 years ago and protects nearly 13 thousand miles of US rivers. These protected areas are managed by the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Fish & Wildlife Service, and the US Forest Service.

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I began my exploration of the Middle Delaware at the Kittatinny Point Visitors Center, right off Route 80 in Columbia, NJ. There, I was able get some pins, look at a map and speak to a ranger about places to go in the park. There is a beach behind the visitors center with a great view of the Delaware Water Gap.

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A water gap is formed when water carves a path through a mountain range. In Earth’s ancient history, the North American and African continents collided, creating the Kittatinny Ridge. Streams flowing on one side of the ridge scoured a channel over the course of millions of years and became the Delaware River.

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I traveled upriver on Old Mine Road, a narrow road with scary potholes and numerous pull-outs for trailheads and river access. I stopped first at a small pull-out and walked a little way on a level trail that parallels the river. There are some big old trees here.

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Next I stopped at Turtle Beach, but didn’t get out because the lot was deserted except for one run down vehicle and I couldn’t see to the river or the road from there. Maybe next time. A little further north, I found Poxono.

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Poxono has a boat launch and used to be a Boy Scout camp. There were a few vehicles here, but most of the people were out fishing on the river. I got right down to the water’s edge and had some terrific, unobstructed views of the river.

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Location: 85 Mercer Rd, Highlands, NJ 07732

Designation: 40 miles of the Delaware river, Delaware Water Gap, PA to Milford, PA

Date designation declared: 11/10/1978

Date of my visit: 6/3/2018

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View downstream of Poxono
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Poxono, an island in the middle of the Delaware River.

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Independence NHP: Liberty Bell

 

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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.

Happy 4th of July!

Growing up in the NYC public school system, one of our rites of passage was the class trip to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell. I don’t remember much about that trip besides horsing around with my friends on the bus and touching the actual Liberty Bell with my grubby 4th grade hands!

That’s right, they let 9 year olds, or anyone else who wanted to, touch the 200 year old symbol of America. Maybe we weren’t supposed to, but there really wasn’t any way to prevent it. Years later, this proved problematic when a crazed tourist attacked the bell with a hammer. We just can’t have nice things…

And so, in 2003, the bell was moved to its new home in the shiny new Liberty Bell Pavilion, across the street from Independence Hall. The pavilion is a block-long building dedicated to the Liberty Bell and its long and interesting history. It is very crowded and you will have to go through airport-type security to get inside,  but there is no entry fee or reservations required. It is best to go first thing in the morning, when it opens.

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Exhibits from different periods of the bell’s history line the walls of the long building leading to the bell at the far end. Most know the bell as a symbol of the American Revolution, but it has been a symbol of freedom for us in many other conflicts throughout our history.

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From ringing in the Declaration of Independence in July 1776, to cracking down the middle, to symbolizing the abolitionist movement during the Civil War, etcetera….this bell has seen and done a lot! There is a film in the exhibit just before the bell that I recommend watching… it’s very informative, and our friends from France who were touring with us enjoyed it very much.

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The bell itself is not encased in glass, but it is behind a railing with security standing guard in case you managed to sneak your hammer past the xray machine.  You’ll have to be somewhat aggressive if you want a photo with the bell…there are a lot of tourists trying for the same shot with the famous crack. If you are lucky enough to get there before the selfie hordes, you may be able to capture the bell with Independence Hall in the background.

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So snap away, do not touch and “Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof”

Location: N 6th St & Market St, Philadelphia, PA 19106

Designation: National Historical Park

Date NPS designation declared: 1951

Date of my visit: August 2017

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Gettysburg National Military Park

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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.

Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania commemorates the site of the Civil War’s bloodiest battle. It is considered a turning point in the war, with the Union forces repelling Robert E. Lee’s second invasion of the North. Over the course of 3 days of fierce fighting in July of 1863, about fifty thousand soldiers died…the costliest battle ever in American history.DSC01685

Five months after the Battle of Gettysburg, President Lincoln dedicated a National Cemetary at the site and delivered the famous Gettysburg Address, reminding everyone of the principles behind the Declaration of Independence and urging unity in the hopes that,

“these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

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Did you know that when Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, he was suffering from a mild case of smallpox?!

We visited Gettysburg on Labor Day Weekend in 2011. We started out at the Visitor Center where we perused the museum, watched a short film and viewed the interesting Cyclorama Painting. We picked up the Junior Ranger booklet for my daughter to earn her badge.

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The Eternal Light Peace Memorial dedicated on July 3, 1938, commemorating the 1913 Gettysburg reunion for the 50th anniversary of the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg. The natural gas flame is visible from 20 miles away.

We then took a two-hour bus tour around the battlefield and memorials. Tours are conducted by licensed battlefield guides…they have to take a course and pass an exam in order to conduct tours on the NPS site. Our guide narrated throughout the bus ride and we had several stops where we could get out, stretch our legs and take photos. There are over 1300 monuments, memorials and plaques here, comprising one of the largest collections of outdoor sculpture in the world.

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Our favorite was the Castle at Little Roundtop because we could go inside and climb the stairs to an observation deck. This memorial is for a New York regiment in honor of Ephraim Elmer Ellsworth who was the first Union soldier killed during the war. It was here that there were some volunteers performing a living history. This union soldier spent some time talking to my daughter and helped her with her junior ranger packet.

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Location: 1195 Baltimore Pike, Gettysburg, PA 17325

Designation: National Military Park

Date designation declared: Declared a National Park in 1895, decades prior to creation of the NPS

Date of my visit: 9/3/2011

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Our junior ranger being ‘sworn in’