Portland Casco Bay National Estuary

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.
Casco Bay is both a working port and a vital estuary. An estuary is a place where rivers and tides converge and marine life thrives in this ecosystem. Casco Bay is a National Estuary under the Clean Water Act which is overseen by the Environmental Protection Agency.


Perhaps not the most scenic waterfront I’ve ever seen, there is a lot of natural beauty here mixed with gritty fishing industry and oil tankers. The Eastern promenade, which winds along the bay, is nice for a stroll. There are plenty of walkers, joggers and bicyclists enjoying the outdoors here.


The relative calm and quiet in Casco Bay makes it ideal for kayaking and paddle boarding. We really enjoyed our sunset tour with Portland Paddle Company and our guide Kalla. It was hard work, but not so tough that out-of-shape-me and my 13-year-old couldn’t manage.


First we paddled over to an old railroad bridge and saw some nesting ospreys.


Next we went out to an island in the bay where we saw some seals and lots of sea birds.


There are over 700 small islands, called the Calendar Islands, in Casco Bay.


Then we coasted back to shore to enjoy the glorious sunset.

At this point we were starving and didn’t want to wait to be seated somewhere. We stumbled back towards the main part of town and into the first promising restaurant we saw: DiMillo’s on the Water. The restaurant is a big ship at the end of the pier… prime location, lots of tables, we didn’t wait long to be seated.
To see my other Portland posts, click on the links:

Location: Portland, Maine

Designation:  National Estuary

Date designation declared: 1987

Date of my visit: 8/18/2015



Everglades National Park: Gulf Coast


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.

Having found cheap tickets to Fort Meyers during Spring Break, my daughter and I decided to visit the Gulf Coast section of Everglades National Park before moving on to the House of Mouse. Everglades National park protects over a million acres of wetlands at the Southernmost tip of Florida and has four visitors centers in the different sections of the park.


We arrived at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City first thing on a morning in April 2016. The Visitor Center was structurally damaged by Hurricane Irma in 2017 and is operating out of a trailer as of this writing.

We checked out the exhibits, checked in for our reserved boat tour and enjoyed the sleepy, balmy marina while we waited for our boat to arrive.


We took the Mangrove Wilderness tour with the only company licensed to do boat excursions inside the National Park boundaries. You can find them by clicking here.

The other air boat tours advertised in the area are more commercial and not bound by some of the park rules regarding conservation. The air boats themselves may look cool, but they are louder than the types of boats used by the park concessionary and disruptive to the local wildlife.


The Mangrove Wilderness tour we took in 2016 was on hold for a while also due to damage in the area by Hurricane Irma, but now it is back up and running. The company also runs a separate 10,000 Islands tour that we didn’t have time for on this trip.

Our tour took us past some nesting Osprey outside the marina and across open waters and then wound through the Mangrove tunnels.


We saw lots of wildlife along the way, including some Scarlet Ibises, a dolphin, birds of prey and an alligator.

Our NPS-trained guide taught us about the ecosystem as we motored along and we spent a very peaceful couple of hours touring through the Everglades. He also talked at length about the problems they are having with pythons and other non-native snakes. These were pets at one time that either escaped or were released and then reproduced. Now they threaten the delicate balance in the Everglades and a state-sanctioned hunt for them is on.

There were only 6 of us on the boat, and at one point, the guide took family photos for each couple with a picturesque mangrove tunnel as the backdrop.


Location: Everglades City, Florida

Designation: National Park

Date NPS designation declared: 12/06/1947

Date of my visit: April 2016


Crater Lake National Park: Garfield Peak


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.


7,700 years ago,  Mount Mazama (an ancient volcano) collapsed forming Crater Lake in its caldera. The pure blue lake is the deepest in the United States and is famous for its bright blue color.  The Lake owes its intense blue color to its depth and clarity. Because the lake is so deep and clear, the longer rays of the light spectrum are absorbed while the shorter waves (the ‘BIV’ component of ‘ROYGBIV’) are reflected back as the color we see.


The awesomeness of this park is on par with that of the Grand Canyon, but not as vast. We only had a day here and managed to get in a hike to Garfield Peak, along with other activities which will be covered in future posts.



The Garfield Peak Trail is a 3.4 mile roundtrip, popular trail with over 1000 feet in elevation. The highest point is over 8000 feet, so you are already starting at a high elevation of around 7000 feet at Rim Village. It is a steep hike to gorgeous views. 


The path to Garfield Peak begins behind the historic lodge. It is steep and strenuous…a steady incline to the top. Our group was a little whiny that day, having gotten up before dawn to beat the crowds into the park. And the uphill hiking at high elevations kicked our butts (except for my husband, who runs Spartan races.) Even so, we made it there and back in two hours by taking it slow and taking breaks. It was so worth it…all along the way we were treated to the most breathtaking views.


We left at 8:00 am and had the trail to ourselves for most of the hike. It was starting to get busy when we descended. I had to watch my footing, especially on the descent…loose rock/sand makes it easy to slip and fall off a cliff or turn an ankle. I would not do this hike with young children.


I’d used the SLR for photos on the ascent and then switched to a lighter point-and-shoot camera for the descent. This camera has a great 60x Optical zoom, so it was lucky that I was holding it as we reached the meadow at the bottom of the trail and saw a hawk up in the trees.


Location: Crater Lake, OR

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/22/1902

Date of my visit: 8/25/2016


The Waters off Acadia National 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.


When visiting Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine, there are lots of sights to see in Frenchman Bay and beyond. Marine wildlife, historic lighthouses and wildlife refuges are plentiful in the waters off the coast. The only way to see some of these things is by boat.

When we visited in 2007, we took a fun, friendly and educational ride on Lulu Lobster BoatWe went out with Captain John on Lulu on a beautiful day in May. Captain John and his first mate kept us entertained with lore about the area, the seals we visited at Egg Rock and lobster fishing.
The queasy among us were given seasick wristbands and no one was ill. We were also loaned binoculars at the seal watching point for better viewing. The tour lasts about 2 hours and was well worth it.
Egg Rock Light , built in 1875, it is one of coastal Maine’s architecturally unique lighthouses, with a square tower projecting through the square keeper’s house. Located on Egg Rock, midway between Mount Desert Island and the Schoodic Peninsula, it is still an active aid to navigation.
The light was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as Egg Rock Light Station in 1988. The signal is automated and the island and light are owned by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. It is a bird sanctuary and not open to the public.
Also in 2007, we took a whale & puffin tour with the Bar Harbor Whale Watch Company. The tour began off the shores of the Petit Manan Lighthouse. This light was built in 1855 and is still an active signal, automated and solar-powered. The island it is on is a wildlife refuge with an active breeding colony of puffins. It is not open to the public.
Somewhere on our way to the next lighthouse, we saw a Humpback whale. Whales arrive in Maine towards the end of April and migrate south to warmer waters in October.
Mount Desert Light is on an island 18 miles south of Bar Harbor. It was built in 1847 and added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988.  The station is managed by the College of the Atlantic and is now used as a research station for their work on finback and humpback whales.
To see my other Acadia posts, click here:





Location: Mount Desert Island, Frenchman Bay

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: Lights added to NRHP in 1987 & 1988

Date of my visit: May 2007


Oregon Caves National Monument: Chateau & Nature Trail


Welcome back to National Parks 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 Chateau at Oregon Caves is one of the National Park’s “Great Lodges,” and a National Historic Landmark. While visiting the park (read my post on the Discovery Cave Tour here) we went into the Chateau to admire the decor and have lunch in the 1930s era Caves Café.


What a fun retro café! We were delighted to step back in time while relaxing in this charming and friendly soda fountain.


We especially enjoyed the sweet potato fries and the shakes were huge and to-die-for. My daughter could not finish her chocolate malted so of course I helped her… Delicious, best shake I’ve ever tasted.


After our lunch and cave tour, we had time for a short hike before getting back on the road. We picked up The Cliff Nature Trail behind the Visitor Center. This one mile loop travels over the marble cave and ascends nearly 400 feet through the fir trees of Siskiyou National Forest to panoramic views of the Illinois Valley.


It took us less than an hour to complete the trail, allowing for a slow ascent and lots of photo stops.



Location: 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 7/12/1909

Date of my visit: August 2016


NRHP: Portland Head Light


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.

Portland Head Light, aka the Cape Elizabeth Lighthouse was built at the direction of George Washington and completed in 1791. It is the oldest lighthouse in present-day Maine, though Maine was still a part of Massachusetts at the time of construction. It was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1973.


Today the lighthouse is automated and is operated by the Coast Guard, while the keeper’s house and surrounding Fort Williams Park are maintained and preserved by the town of Cape Elizabeth, just south of Portland.


We parked by the Ship Cove beach area and walked the Cliff Trail towards the lighthouse.


There are places along this trail where you can clamber down rough paths and walk out onto rocks for a ‘better’ view of the light (trust me, there are no bad views.) This doesn’t seem especially safe…the ocean can be unpredictable and wash you right out to sea if you’re not careful.

That is my husband, risking the rocks, to take a picture of me taking a picture of him…because that’s how we roll…

We noticed another lighthouse out in Casco Bay. This is the Ram Island Ledge Light. It looks like a ruin, but it is solar-powered and apparently still works.


We arrived at the light and toured the museum inside the Keeper’s House. You cannot go up in the tower.


On the other side of the lighthouse, some rocks are painted as a memorial to the shipwreck of the Annie McGuire in 1886. The light keeper rescued the crew, providing them with the means to climb to shore. No one knows why the ship crashed into the rocks as the signal was quite visible.


We then walked a path through the park, past some ruins of the fort batteries and back to the beach where we dipped our feet in the icy water and took a few photos of Battery Keyes, built as part of Fort Williams in 1906. The fort remained in use until 1962.



You can see my other Portland posts by clicking: Portland Observatory Tower

Location: 12 Captain Strout Cir, Cape Elizabeth, ME 

Designation: National Register of Historic Places

Date designation declared: 4/24/1973

Date of my visit: 8/17/2015


Oregon Caves National Monument: Cave Tour


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.

We’d spent a few days with extended family on the California coast, just south of Oregon. After a lovely time spent exploring Redwoods National Park, we packed up the car, said goodbye to the cousins and headed North to Oregon Caves National Monument.

Oregon Caves National Monument and Preserve is a protected area in the northern Siskiyou Mountains. The 4,554-acre park, including the marble cave, forests, hiking trails and a historic lodge is 20 miles east of Cave Junction.

That last 20 mile stretch after Cave Junction is a real nail-biter with hairpin turns, sheer drop-offs and little gps reception as it winds through the remote mountains to the park. Originally, we’d planned to stay at the Caves Chateau while visiting sites in Southern Oregon, but when I realized that was the only way in and out, I changed our base of operations to Grants Pass.


I’d reserved our cave tour reservations online. We arrived at the visitor center ahead of schedule. When we checked in, the ranger moved us up to an earlier tour.


We took the Discovery Cave Tour with Ranger Neil. He really made the tour with his corny jokes and fun cave facts. Even the teenagers were entertained.


The tour lasted 90 minutes and was pretty strenuous. We were basically climbing around inside a mountain, ascending and descending, squeezing through narrow passageways and stooping to avoid concussing ourselves on low ceilings. In many places the stairs had no railings and the marble floor was slippery. It was a chilly 44 degrees Fahrenheit and we were glad we’d worn our jackets.


After navigating the labyrinth for a while, the path opened up into a huge room with amazing formations, about 200 feet below the surface. Here, we climbed a steep metal staircase to view some awesome ‘drapery’ formations in the dome ceiling.


Out of close to 4000 caves managed by the National Park Service, only Oregon Cave and two others are made of marble. The rest are formed in limestone.


Once we were all back outside the cave, Ranger Neil took a group photo for us and then accompanied us back to the visitor center to help the girls complete their junior ranger badge.

Location: 19000 Caves Hwy, Cave Junction, OR 97523

Designation: National Monument

Date designation declared: 7/12/1909

Date of my visit: August 2016