Gateway National Recreation Area: Fort Hancock Women’s Barracks


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.

March is Women’s History Month in the USA and this Friday is International Women’s Day, so today I am highlighting a stop on the New Jersey Women’s Heritage Trail.


The Women’s Army Corp was formed during World War II. Women were given stateside non-combatant positions so that the men who would normally do those jobs could be sent into combat.


WAC soldiers were first assigned to Fort Hancock in New Jersey in 1943 and were originally destined for clerical positions. The women proved so invaluable to the war efforts that their roles expanded to the motor pool, commissary, finance office, etc…


The WACs were assigned to building #25. Known as the WAC Mansion, the building was 17,000 square feet and luxurious by army standards.


Today the Women’s Barracks is in need of repair, but fared better than some of its neighbors did during Hurricane Sandy. The National Park Service has offered many of the fort’s buildings for lease…lessees will be responsible for restoration and maintenance while preserving the historic integrity of the site. When I visited in September, there was an ‘under contract’ sign posted here, so hopefully it will soon receive some much-needed TLC.

This is a few buildings over from the Women’s Barracks and has partially collapsed. The Park Service does not have the funds to restore all of the Fort Hancock buildings so has begun leasing them out. The Marine Academy of Science and Technology has a building adjacent to this one and may rebuild it to expand their campus.

My other posts on Sandy Hook:

Location: 128 South Hartshorne Drive, Highlands, NJ 07732

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 9/30/2018


Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area: DeWint House


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The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area  is one of the forty-nine federally-recognized National Heritage Areas in the United States. The Hudson Valley NHA is considered a National Park Service affiliate. Through the partnership with the Park Service and other organizations, the Heritage Area includes over one hundred sites spread across ten counties in New York State.


I visited the DeWint House in Tappan, New York. This site is billed as Washington’s Headquarters in Tappan. George Washington stayed there on four separate occasions between 1780 and 1783.


I stopped first at the Visitor Center in the 1865 carriage house. A later owner of the DeWint house added this structure to the property after returning from the Civil War. There are many artifacts displayed from Washington’s time and there is an introductory video in which two charming children take visitors on a virtual tour.


The DeWint house was built in 1700, evidenced by the numbers set into the brick facade. During the Revolutionary War, it was owned by the DeWint family who had made their fortune in the West Indies. Over the years, the home passed to different owners until the Masons bought it and restored it as a Masonic Shrine in 1932.IMG_2641

George Washington stayed at the DeWint House four times during the Revolution. His most notable visit was the second, when he signed the death warrant of John Andre. Andre was the major who conspired with Benedict Arnold in the thwarted plans to hand West Point over to the British.


During a later stay, Washington negotiated the evacuation of British forces from New York City with British General Carleton.


After watching the video and looking at the displays in the carriage house, I went over to the stone and brick house. The house’s two first-floor rooms have been restored by the Masons and furnished to reflect the 1780s and Washington’s visit.


You can only peer into the rooms through a Plexiglas partition, so taking in the video and the museum displays first is necessary to appreciate the history of the site.


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

  • DeWint House (Washington’s HQ at Tappan)
  • Camp Shanks
  • Storm King Arts Center– Coming Soon!
  • New Windsor Cantonment– Coming Soon!
  • Purple Heart Hall of Honor– Coming Soon!

Location: 20 Livingston Avenue, Tappan, NY

Designation: National Heritage Area, National Historic Landmark

Date designation declared: 1996 NHA, 1966 NHL

Date of my visit: 8/18/2018


Glacier National Park: Grinell Glacier Trail


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On our last day in Glacier National Park, we decided to explore the Many Glacier Valley. We parked in the lot for the Many Glacier Hotel since we planned on touring the historic lodge in the afternoon. From the lot, we followed the horse trail over the road and picked up the Swiftcurrent Nature Trail around the head of the lake.


This short scrubby trail led to the Grinell Glacier Trail head. That parking lot was already starting to get full at 8:30 AM. The hike to Grinell Glacier is one of the most popular in the park.


I’d already checked online and warned my family that we would not be able to go all the way to the Glacier. It was the last week of June, but the trail is not usually cleared of snow and ice at the top until late July.


There were signs at the trail head saying basically the same thing, so we were mentally prepared to have a nice hike along the first two lakes and then go left at the fork towards Grinell Lake instead of bearing right to the steep trail to the glacier.


The first two miles were relatively flat, travelling up the shores of Swiftcurrent Lake and then Josephine Lake. When we reached the end of Swiftcurrent Lake. we looked back to see Many Glacier Hotel against the mountains where we’d started.


Then a gradual incline took us to a path above Josephine Lake through fields of wildflowers. We passed an inlet with an iceberg floating in it.


When we got to the fork, we saw young people descending from the glacier trail. They confirmed that we could not get all the way to the glacier, but that we could get to a great overlook of Grinnell Lake by following the glacier trail for 10 minutes.


Ten minutes turned out to be a steep, slippery, rocky climb of about a mile and maybe 45 minutes in the world of adults who have a less limited concept of time passage. Tall steps were carved into the rock in places and in others, little waterfalls rained down on us, cooling us off.


The view of Grinell Lake from the overlook is breathtaking. The color of the water is the most vibrant of the three lakes in the valley because it is the closest to the glaciers and receives the glacial flour runoff first.


At about the three and half mile mark, there was a ranger making sure that no hikers tried to go past the signs and risk traversing the ice covered cliffs.


As we headed back down the trail, we had to break the news to hopeful hikers on the ascent that they wouldn’t be able to go all the way to the glacier.


When we got to the start of Swiftcurrent Lake, we decided to hike the other shore back to Many Glacier Hotel. We were rewarded with some different scenes of canoes on the lake with Grinnell Point rising above it.


Location: 1 Rte 3, Browning, MT 59417

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/11/1910

Date of my visit: 6/27/2018


The Pierpont Morgan Library National Historic Landmark


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If you’ve watched the series or read The Alienist, a work of historical fiction by Caleb Carr, you’ve seen a representation of J.P. Morgan as a powerful financier who controlled Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt’s New York City of 1896.


In reality he was the USA’s most influential banker, financing the railroad, US Steel, General Electric, etc… With a group of other bankers, he helped to stabilize American markets during the Panic of 1907.


He was also an avid collector of rare books, manuscripts, antiquities and art with nearly inexhaustible funds. He built a lavish library in 1906 to house his collections. In 1924, his son opened to library to the public as a museum.


J.P. Morgan used the West Room as his private study. Its furnishings reflect his fondness for the art of the Renaissance. It was here that he met with the group of bankers in 1907 to resolve the national economic crisis. There is a vault in this room for the most valuable manuscripts.


The rotunda, with its marble columns and elaborate ceilings, was the original entrance to Morgan’s private study. The blue and white reliefs are modeled after the work of the artist Raphael in Rome. The paintings represent the three ages contained in Morgan’s collections: The Antiquities, Middle Ages and Renaissance.


The East Room is the original library. It is three stories of carved walnut and contains rare books including a Bible printed by Johannes Gutenberg in 1455.


More modern buildings were added to the museum later and contain rotating and permanent exhibits. We enjoyed the Etruscan jewelry section!


Location: 225 Madison Ave, New York, NY 10016

Designation: National Historic Landmark

Date designated or established: 11/13/1966

Date of my visit: 9/6/2015


Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Memorial


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It’s been over ten years since we spent a day touring the many monuments and memorials in Washington DC while on a road trip to visit family in South Carolina. We’d purchased tickets on a hop on and off bus and taken it around the Basin to the Jefferson Memorial.


After visiting the Jefferson Memorial, we decided to just walk over to the FDR memorial instead of waiting for the bus, just to go one stop. It wasn’t too far.


The Franklin Delano Roosevelt National Memorial is dedicated to the 32nd president of the United States and features four open-air rooms representing each of his four terms. As the president who saw America through the Great Depression and WWII, and also the only president to serve more than two terms, it’s understandable that his memorial is extensive.


At the entrance is a bronze sculpture of FDR in his wheelchair. The original design of the memorial concealed FDR’s confinement to the wheelchair. In his main statue, he has a long cloak draped over it, much as he appeared in his public life to avoid appearing weak. This stirred up some controversy and The National Organization on Disability later raised funds for the addition of the statue at the entrance. FDR was not deterred by his disability from becoming a great leader.


We followed the pathway through the rooms, past the sculptures (including one of Eleanor Roosevelt…she is the only First Lady included in a presidential memorial,) FDR’s quotes carved in granite and five water features, each symbolizing a major event in FDR’s presidency:

  • A single large drop – The crash of the economy that led to the Great Depression
  • Multiple stairstep drops – The Tennessee Valley Authority dam-building project
  • Chaotic falls at varying angles – World War II
  • A still pool – Roosevelt’s death
  • A wide array combining the earlier waterfalls – A retrospective of Roosevelt’s presidency *From Wikipedia



Location: 1850 West Basin Dr SW, Washington, DC 20242

Designation: National Memorial

Date designation declared: 5/2/1997

Date of my visit: November 7, 2007



Capitol Reef National Park: Panorama Point


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We’d had a full day in Capitol Reef National Park, having begun our tour before dawn to watch the sun rise in Cathedral Valley. As we headed towards the park exit at the end of the day, we made one more stop at Panorama Point.


If you are driving east on Route 24, the parking lot for Panorama Point is the first one after you pass the park entrance. Everyone stops here, so it can be crowded.


The short rock trail takes you from the parking lot to the top of a plateau where there are 360-degree views of the park. There are some educational displays up there about the pure air quality in the park that contributes to the amazing views.


From this vantage point, it’s easier to visualize the waterpocket fold as a reef, or barrier to travel. The rocky spine of the fold stretches on as far as the eye can see.


Capitol Reef posts:


Location: Wayne, Utah

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 12/18/1971

Date of my visit: 4/13/2017


Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge


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The Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge protects 7800 acres of wetlands and forested areas that are an important migratory rest stop and habitat for over 200 species of birds and other wildlife.


Great Swamp was once the Glacial Lake Passaic formed by the retreat of the Wisconsin Glacier at the end of the last Ice Age. Today, the watershed feeds the Passaic River and serves to ease floodwaters and provides water purification for the surrounding water supply.


A good place to begin your visit to the refuge is the Helen C Fenske Visitor Center. Fenske was a community activist who campaigned to stop the Port Authority of NY/NJ from building an airport in the wetlands in the 1960s. There are some displays in the center documenting how grass-roots organizations bought up parcels of lands and donated them to the federal government for inclusion in a refuge.


The Visitor Center has a garden viewing area where you can watch birds come to the regularly stocked feeders. The refuge was participating in the Great Backyard Birdcount the day I visited and had a ranger presentation on the types of birds to be found locally.


From the Visitor Center, I drove the park road to the Overlook, which is a parking area overlooking a swampy area where I’d imagine there are lots of birds during the right season. I could hear some in the distance, but there were none to be seen.


I continued around the park’s dirt road until I came to the Wildlife Observation Center.

This side of the refuge has a mile or two of boardwalk trails through the marsh to three different observation blinds.


These are sheds with slots cut out for viewing scopes. In one of the blinds, a birder with a powerful spotting scope found a yellow eyed duck, but it was too far for me to capture a good image with my camera.


Location: 32 Pleasant Plains Rd, Basking Ridge, NJ 07920

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designated or established: May 1966

Date of my visit: 2/16/2019