Glen Canyon NRA: Colorado River and Petroglyph Walk

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 opted to explore part of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area on the Half Day Smooth Water Rafting tour with Colorado River DiscoveryThis was the highlight of our stay in Page.
We checked in early at the Colorado River Discovery store in Page. Next we rode a bus through a two-mile tunnel in the canyon walls to the docks at the base of the Glen Canyon Dam….this tunnel was created for the workers who built the dam. You have to comply with Homeland Security rules to use the Dam Access Tunnel. CRD provided us with clear plastic bags for our belongings.


At the docks we boarded a pontoon raft capable of holding up to 24 people…we only had 12 on ours so it was a peaceful ride. Our guide Nate told us a little of the area’s history, pointed out some interesting geologic formations, and various wildlife (we saw a few bighorn sheep.)


Nate kept it fun while we relaxed and enjoyed the ride. Do bring your camera. There is no splashing on the way to Horseshoe Bend and you can use the plastic bag to protect it on the way back when there is some spray.


We docked at Boater’s Beach at the foot of Horseshoe Bend. We walked a short path to see some petroglyphs…there was a National Park Ranger answering questions about them. Then we dipped our toes in the frigid 47 degree water…some folks had their swim suits and were brave enough to go all the way in.


Back on the boat,  we went a little further around the bend to see some interesting rock formations and then we motored back to the Dam access tunnel.



To see my other Glen Canyon National Recreation Area posts, please click on the links:


Location: 130 6th Ave, Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014



NHL: Monticello


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.


Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States designed and began construction of his plantation, Monticello, on land he’d inherited when he was 26 years old.


After his death, Monticello was sold to an admirer of Jefferson’s who preserved it with his own money. His descendants later sold it to the Thomas Jefferson Foundation which now operates the house as a museum. The home was eventually designated a World Heritage Site as well as a National  Landmark. The five cent US nickel depicts Monticello on the back of the coin.


Jefferson incorporated Italian Renaissance elements as well as designs of his own into the mansion. Jefferson was an inventor in his own right…he designed the Great Clock which has dual faces on the exterior and interior of the entrance hall. It is powered by a series of ropes and weights which descend through the floor into the basement with the passing of time.


My daughter and I visited Monticello as a stop on a road trip to South Carolina. We were lucky enough to get on a guided tour designed for families with young children.


It was an engaging tour for both of us. We enjoyed seeing the marvelous inventions inside the house and the beautiful, historic furnishings. At the end of the tour, we visited various stations on the grounds where we played games popular in Jefferson’s time and drew with a quill pen!



Location: 931 Thomas Jefferson Pkwy, Charlottesville, VA 22902

Designation: World Heritage Site, National Historic Landmark

Date designation declared: 12/19/1960

Date of my visit: April 2, 2010



Capitol Reef National Park: Cathedral Valley


Welcome back to National Parks & other public lands with T! Today is the National Park Service’s 102nd birthday…happy birthday NPS!! Exactly 102 years ago, President Woodrow Wilson signed the National Park Service Act. This year’s theme is ‘Something New for 102’, so get out today and see a new park or see an old favorite from a different perspective.


With only one day to see Capitol Reef National Park, we started out before dawn with a sunrise tour of Cathedral Valley.  Our guide Jen from Red Rock Adventure Guides picked us up at our hotel at 5:20 AM. For real.


Jen suggested that the best use of our time would be to go directly to the formations called Temple of the Sun and Moon for the sunrise (rather than drive the entire Cathedral Valley Loop,) then leave the park to go to Goblin Valley state park. We figured she’d know best and she was right.


For about 90 minutes after picking us up in Torrey, Jen drove her Xterra in the dark over unpaved, unmarked roads deep into the park while making pleasant conversation (she did give us the option to sleep while she drove, but we were awake, our bodies still on East Coast time.)  We never would have found this without her, or felt safe doing so…miles in the middle of nowhere with no cell service and few people. Jen has a satellite beacon in her car for emergencies.


We arrived at the temples as the sky was just beginning to lighten, but the moon was still up. The temples are monolithic stone formations which seem to ‘worship’ the sun and the moon. I was able to catch the moon in the elbow of the Temple of the Moon.


Sunrise was absolutely beautiful. The sun lit up the temples as it rose in glorious pink and purple hues.

After we’d taken about a thousand photos of the sunrise, Jen took us to a few other awesome locations that we wouldn’t have known about otherwise. There was a good balance of drive time and walking around time. Jen is a good conversationalist, so the time we did spend in the car passed by pleasantly and we learned a lot more about the area than if we’d just explored on our own. Before she dropped us off around noon, we visited three more sites.


We could see the distinctive Factory Butte while driving on Route 24 to Capitol Reef. We pulled out on a dirt road leading to it and explored the Nielson Wash…this is a conduit for water during flash floods and heavy rains, so don’t approach if those conditions exist. When dry, it’s an otherworldly canyon with little alcoves carved out along the way. We walked through the canyon a little ways and then returned to the car.


Our last sightseeing stop on the tour was the Fremont Petroglyphs inside Capitol Reef. We got out here briefly to see the ancient petroglyphs on the cliff wall. They are viewed from quite a distance…they are pretty high up…so we didn’t realize until reading the informational displays that the figures are huge…around 6 feet tall. Something definitely worth the 10 minute stop to read the signs and take a picture.


Location: Wayne, Utah

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 12/18/1971

Date of my visit: 4/13/2017


Glacier National Park: Twin Falls


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.


On our first day in Glacier National Park, we explored the Two Medicine area. We took the scenic lake tour on Glacier Park Boat Company’s Sinopah, a boat that has been shuttling tourists across the lake since the park’s beginnings. When we docked at the West shore, we took a guided hike with Nathan, our boat captain and naturalist.


The trail to Twin Falls is level and well-traveled. It begins with  a short boardwalk section over a bog and then becomes a packed dirt path with a bridge or two over creeks. It’s about a mile to the falls, so two miles round trip.


At several points, we paused on the trail so Nathan could highlight a few things. He pointed out several dead trees and said that a Chinook Wind (a warm wind that blows over the Continental Divide from the Pacific coast in winter) fooled them into thinking it was spring and made their sap start running. When the weather returned to freezing, the trees burst.


He also showed us some huckleberry patches. Huckleberries, similar to blueberries,  are a big thing in Montana…huckleberry pies, ice cream, BBQ glazes, salad dressings, etc are everywhere in restaurants and gift shops. The berries can only be harvested in the wild as they have not been successfully cultivated. Bears love them too, so one must be alert when walking through huckleberry patches.


Shortly before the falls  Pumpelly Pillar comes into view. This dramatically shaped rock is named for Raphael Pumpelly, who led the Northern Transcontinental Railway Survey Party that passed by it in 1883. The Twin Falls cascade off the eastern slopes of Pumpelly Pillar.


After taking a few photos at the falls, we headed back to the dock. Apparently we left a little too soon because people who arrived after us at the dock saw a moose on their return journey. While we sat on the dock waiting for the boat, we watched a surefooted mountain goat clamber up a cliff, high above the lake.


The boat tours that include the guided hike only go out a couple of times a day. They are very popular and sell out quickly. I was able to reserve our tickets online a few months in advance.

To see my other Glacier NP/Two Medicine Posts, click the following links:

Location: 2 Medicine Rd, East Glacier Park, Mt 59434

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 5/11/1910

Date of my visit: 6/23/2018

Glacier Lilies

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


Portland: Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and Museum

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The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Co. & Museum operates out of the former Portland Company Marine Complex, which built railroad equipment from 1846 to 1978.
The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Company is a not-for-profit organization, founded in 1992, whose mission is to preserve the history of the 2 ft narrow gauge railways that ran in the state of Maine in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Carrying both passengers and freight, these railways served the smaller communities in Maine, connecting with the full size lines in cities like Portland.
There is a 1½ mile long railroad that runs along the waterfront of Casco Bay and parallels Portland’s Eastern Promenade. The Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad company runs rides on these tracks in their restored train cars. In the winter, they run the Polar Express here.
We arrived just in time to take the short ride down the tracks. At the end of the line, the conductor stopped the train and let us off to peer over the barrier at the abandoned rail bridge.
When we returned to the museum, we explored the other trains and artifacts inside the building. Sheldon Cooper and little kids who love trains would really enjoy this place. Our group isn’t really into trains, but we still had fun at this stop.

You can see my other Portland posts by clicking: Portland Observatory, Portland Head Light, and Casco Bay National Estuary.

Location: 58 Fore St, Portland, Maine

Designation: Museum

Date designation declared: 1800s railway, 1993 museum

Date of my visit: 8/18/2015


Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area: Boston 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.


We were scheduled to be in Boston for a long weekend and so I checked the National Park Service website to see what park units we could visit while there. What a pleasant surprise it was to find that the NPS run tours out to some of the islands in Boston Harbor!

We chose the Boston Light tour out to Little Brewster island. The Boston Lighthouse was built in 1716, which makes it the oldest working light in the United States…over 300 years old. It was occupied by the British during the Revolutionary War and subsequently destroyed by the Patriots.


Since the lighthouse was rebuilt in 1783, it is not the oldest US lighthouse…that honor goes to the Sandy Hook Lighthouse in New Jersey. In 1989, the Senate passed a law requiring that Boston Light always be manned. The NPS maintains the Light in cooperation with the Coast Guard, though the actual beacon is automated now.

We met the park rangers at the visitors center kiosk in town, near the carousel and Quincy Market. They led our group to a boat docked behind the aquarium.

The ride through the harbor to Little Brewster took about 45 minutes. One of the rangers talked about the history of the various islands during our journey. Along the way, we passed a fort from revolutionary war days, the Long Island Light and other sights. We had fantastic views of Boston as we pulled away.


When we arrived at Little Brewster Island, Sally, the light-keeper greeted us, dressed in colonial-era attire. Sally is the 70th keeper of Boston Light…and the first woman in the role in its long history. She and her coast guard husband live alone out on that isolated island!

Sally, her husband and the rangers each led the tour through the various stations on the island.


We climbed the steps inside the lighthouse for a close-up look at the inner workings and the view from the top.


We explored tide pools below the keeper’s house and  a cistern that provides the light keeper’s house with collected rain water.

Some tips…there is no shade on the island. Wear sunscreen, a hat, bring water. There is no public restroom on the island and the boat does not stay docked while you tour the island…use the boat’s facilities on the journey.


Location: Boston, MA

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 11/12/1996

Date of my visit: 7/17/2015

This abandoned lighthouse is visible from Little Brewster Island
Airplane landing at Logan as we cruise out of the harbor
Passing by the Long Island Light on our way to Little Brewster
Exploring Little Brewster Island
Sally’s garden