Capitol Reef National Park: Scenic Drive


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After our hike to Hickman Bridge, we drove back to the Visitor Center where we perused the displays about the park’s geological history. The rock formations in the park are sedimentary…loose matter that has settled in layers and has compressed into rock. Each layer is from a different period of the Earth’s history.


Next we continued on the service road past the Visitor Center to the Gifford Homestead. The Giffords were the last residents of Fruita and sold their property to the NPS in 1969.


The NPS and the Capitol Reef Natural History Association maintain a working farm on the homestead site with a store that sells baked goods.


We admired the horses and then got back on the road to begin the Scenic Drive. Just past the Gifford barn is the entrance to the drive with a lock box for the fee charged to drive the road. This is the only section of the park where there is an entrance fee and it is on the honor system.


The drive itself is five miles out and back and is indeed quite scenic. We were there towards the end of the day and there weren’t any other cars on the road with us.


We stopped at a few points to take photos. There are trail heads all along the road worthy of exploration, but we will have to save that for a future visit.


Capitol Reef posts:

  • Cathedral Valley
  • Goblin Valley State Park
  • Hickman Bridge
  • Scenic Drive
  • Panorama Point

Location: Wayne, Utah

Designation: National Park

Date designation declared: 12/18/1971

Date of my visit: 4/13/2017


Goblin Valley State Park


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While on the way back from a guided tour of Cathedral Valley in Capitol Reef National Park, we stopped at Goblin Valley State Park. In Utah, the State Parks are every bit as spectacular as the National Parks, with fewer crowds.


Goblin Valley State Park features thousands of mushroom-shaped hoodoo rocks, referred to as “goblins.” Goblin Valley has as many of these hoodoos as Bryce National Park, but most of the ones we saw in Bryce were pointier.


Our guide didn’t know we were huge Sci-Fi fans and so didn’t anticipate the sheer delight we experienced at finding ourselves in the middle of the alien planet that Tim Allen and Sigourney Weaver and crew landed on in the movie Galaxy Quest.


While we didn’t see any beryllium spheres, we did enjoy the paved roads into the park. The fees the state received for allowing the movie to be filmed there paid for the access road.


We spent at least an hour walking among the bizarre formations. Hubby found one that looked like an Easter Island head, there was another with a cool window. We saw very few people the whole time we were there.


Location: Goblin Valley Rd, Green River, UT 84525

Designation: State Park

Date designated or established: 8/24/1964

Date of my visit: 4/13/2017


Fort Point National Historic Site


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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


Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge


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I visited the Edwin B. Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge in southern New Jersey with a photography group a few years ago. The group leader had reserved a tour for us on an electric tram with a naturalist. Check the Refuge Events page of the Forsythe website for information on reserving a tour.


The National Refuge was created in 1984 out of the existing Barnegat and Brigantine refuges in order to protect tidal wetlands for migrating water birds. The refuge is located along most active flight paths of the Atlantic Flyway and is named for Edwin B. Forsythe, a conservationist and a former NJ Congressman.


The tram took us around the 8-mile wildlife drive while the driver told us about the history of the area and the types of birds that can be found in the refuge. We stopped at several points and got out to take some photos.


On one side of the loop, there is the incongruous juxtaposition of the refuge with the Atlantic City skyline.


We wanted to take a more leisurely loop around as we hadn’t been able to stop everywhere we wanted on the tram. So once back at the visitors center, we piled in one of the cars.


The snow geese were in the wetlands at the time of our visit…hundreds of white birds covering the wetlands as far as we could see. Snow Geese gather by the thousands at the refuge each winter.


While there, we also saw a few different ducks, egrets/herons and a juvenile bald eagle. Osprey also come here to nest, but we were there too early in the season for them.


Location: 800 Great Creek Road, Galloway, New Jersey 08205

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designation declared: 12/18/1986

Date of my visit: February 2016

A juvenile bald eagle perches on an osprey habitat with Atlantic City in the background.



Federal Hall National Memorial


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The site at Federal Hall National Memorial began in 1703 as New York’s first City Hall. The Stamp Act Congress met here in colonial times to protest taxation without representation.  It was renamed Federal Hall when it became the first capital of the United States in 1789 and George Washington was inaugurated on its front steps.


The capital and Congress moved to Philadelphia a year later and the original Federal Hall was demolished in 1812. The current building has been there since 1842. It was the Customs House and then the Treasury building.  In 1939 it became a National Memorial and now contains some relics dating back to Washington’s inauguration.


We visited Federal Hall after touring the 9-11 Memorial a few blocks away on a chilly winter day. We arrived in time to take a tour of the building with a ranger. He pointed out a lot of the architectural features and talked about the historical significance of the site.


The ranger pointed out some cracks in the wall over one of the doorways, with gauges to monitor movement. When the Twin Towers fell in 2001, the impact caused tremors which damaged Federal Hall’s structure.


In Sept 2002, a year after the attacks, Congress convened in Federal Hall for the first time in over 200 years to show support for New York’s recovery. In 2004, Federal Hall closed for a two-year renovation to repair the damage.

Location: 26 Wall St, New York, NY 10005

Designation: National Memorial

Date designated or established: 1939

Date of my visit: February 24, 2012

View of the NY Stock Exchange from the steps behind George Washington’s statue. The statue was placed in this spot in the late 1800s, and is believed to be where he stood on his inauguration day.

The National Bison Range


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We drove south from Columbia Falls on Day 5 of our Montana trip to see a few places off the beaten path. We traveled down the length of Flathead Lake and kept going until we arrived at the National Bison Range. Established in 1908 by Theodore Roosevelt, the National Bison Range is one of our country’s oldest National Wildlife Refuges.


The refuge’s mission is to provide sanctuary for the American Bison. Driven to the brink of extinction by the late 1800s, the bison have made a successful comeback due to the Bison Range and other public lands. There are about 400 bison roaming the refuge today.


The visitor center is open Thursday through Monday and we were there on a Tuesday. In the parking lot, there was a large educational exhibit about the types of animals found in the refuge, a lock box to place our $5 fee in and printed materials with which to take a self guided tour of Red Sleep Mountain Drive.


There was also a huge pile of antlers collected from the refuge’s animals as they shed them each year.


Red Sleep Mountain Drive is a one-way mountain road that climbs through grasslands into an alpine woodland and then has steep downgrades as it loops around to meet Prairie Drive. The loop is about 19 miles long with 10 points of interest featured on the self-guided tour.


We stopped frequently to take photos of the bison visible from the wildlife drive. They are used to cars and so were often pretty close. It is not advisable to get out of the vehicle while on the wildlife drive.


At sign number six on the drive, there is a small lot with a few displays about Glacial Lake Missoula which formed the valley below. There is also a restroom at this stop and a trailhead for the 1/2 mile High Point Trail.


The High Point Trail leads to a point 4700 feet above sea level and has some views we wouldn’t have seen from the road. It wasn’t too steep and wildflowers were blooming in the fields around us as we enjoyed the lovely walk to the top.


In addition to the herds of bison, the refuge is home to many other animals. We saw an elk, a pronghorn antelope and a few deer on our drive around the loop.


The last spot on the loop tour is the bison corral. The bison are rounded up once a year for identification and health checks.


Location: 58355 Bison Range Rd, Charlo, MT 59824

Designation: National Wildlife Refuge

Date designation declared: 5/23/1908

Date of my visit: 6/26/2018



Andrew Johnson National Historic Site


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0DSC05207We stopped at the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site in Greeneville, Tennessee on our road trip down to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. This site encompasses a couple of blocks in the town, preserving Johnson’s early home, tailor shop, presidential museum and his larger homestead.


Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, chose Johnson, an anti-secessionist Southern Democrat, as his running mate for his re-election campaign in order to promote his message of unity following the Civil War. Their ticket easily won the election. Johnson became the 17th president of the United States, only six weeks after being sworn in as VP, following Lincoln’s assassination.


Johnson was deeply unpopular, at odds with the Republican Congress over Reconstruction policies. His strict constitutionalism and opposition to civil liberties for the freedmen ultimately culminated in his impeachment by Congress. He was acquitted by one vote and served the duration of his term as a ‘lame duck.’



We began at the visitor center where we signed up for the next guided Homestead Tour. We watched the short film and browsed the adjoining presidential museum while we waited.  Johnson’s original, tiny tailor shop is contained within the Memorial Building.


Then we walked a couple of streets over to the Homestead for the ranger-guided tour. Andrew Johnson owned this large home for 24 years. The home was occupied by soldiers during the Civil War and pretty much trashed. When Johnson and his wife returned from Washington they renovated the home and redecorated in a Victorian style.


The Homestead passed on to two more generations and was then donated to the National Park Service with many original furnishings and memorabilia.


On our way back to the car, we stopped in the ‘Early Johnson Home’ across the street from the Visitor Center. The Johnsons lived here before moving to the larger Homestead in 1851.


I had mixed feelings about this park unit. It’s easy to write off the man who opposed the 14th amendment (giving citizenship to the freed slaves) as the worst president in history. But the park service does a good job in presenting all facets of this man who raised himself up out of extreme poverty, with no education, to become a defender of the Union and of the Constitution. They leave it to the visitors to judge him by casting a ‘vote’ in the impeachment trial after touring the site.


Location: 101 N College St, Greeneville, TN

Designation: National Historic Site

Date designation declared: 12/11/1963

Date of my visit: August 12, 2013