Park Related Books I Read in 2019


A blogger I follow, Ken Dowell, recently posted his top six books of 2019. That gave me the idea to look at the books I’ve read this year and rate the ones related to public lands. I completed my Goodreads challenge of 38 books read for the year, up from 32 in 2018.


Three of the 38 were related to National Parks and one to a National Forest. When we are traveling to our vacation destinations by plane, I like to download a novel about that place to read on the journey. Alas, I was in the midst of a 1000 page fantasy epic on our flight to Hawaii this year, but I managed to get in a viewing of Moana with my daughter to get into the Aloha spirit.


Have you ever read a book about, or set in a National Park? Would you recommend it? Here are the ones I read this year, in no particular order:

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray and Laura Kamoie  hanilton

This is a work of historical fiction, but a very well-researched, compelling one. Not having a small fortune to spend on the Broadway production of Hamilton, this was a more accessible way to form a connection to our founding fathers and the birth of our nation. I especially liked that it was told from Eliza’s point of view.

The authors discuss their sources at the end of the book and they did travel to many of the sites where the events took place, such as Saratoga, Morristown and The Grange. After reading the novel, I saw that the Grange was putting on an Eliza-focused event for Women’s History month and I made sure to attend.


Track of the Cat by Nevada Barr

This is the first in a series of 19 books about the adventures of Anna Pigeon, a National catPark Service Law Enforcement Ranger. Each novel is a mystery which Anna must solve within the confines of a national park and its community.

Track of the Cat is Anna’s first assignment to Guadalupe Mountains National Park in West Texas. There she must solve the puzzle behind the mysterious death of a fellow ranger.

Nevada Barr was a Park Ranger herself and created the character of Anna Pigeon when she was working in Guadalupe NP. Her descriptive imagery of the terrain, wildlife and the insider view of the NPS can only have come from firsthand experience.

I have not yet been to any of the Texas parks, but my friends Scott and Tiff over at Raven About The Parks have blogged about Guadalupe. You can see that post here.

Dark Divide and Badlands Witch by Carrie Vaughn

darkThese paranormal novellas are very loosely tied to public lands. An ex-con retired from vampire hunting and the centuries old witch who shares his consciousness travel to Donner Pass to help a Tahoe National Forest Ranger solve the mystery behind another ranger’s death…was it the ghosts of the Donner Party?

I don’t have pictures, but I have been through Donner Pass. A friend and I were traveling for our company many years ago. The plan was to start off in our Reno stores and then drive to Sacramento to rendezvous with a district manager. A sudden snowstorm in the pass trapped us in a fleabag motel in Reno for the night. Rather than risk the specter of starvation and cannibalism in a Sierra Nevada blizzard, we shared a room, pushed a dresser against the door and slept with one eye open until the sun rose the next day.

In Badlands Witch, the duo heads to the Badlands to solve another supernatural murderbad mystery. These books are fun, quick reads that are more about immersing the reader in the Kitty-verse (these characters are a spin-off from the Kitty Norville series) than in the landscape, but the author did do her research to make sure she got the vibe right.

Carrie Vaughn posted about her Badlands research trip here. She also visited Deadwood and Custer State Park.


Happy New Year!


Morristown National Historical Park: Jockey Hollow


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.


The Jockey Hollow unit of Morristown National Historical Park is the site of the Continental Army’s main winter encampment. My first stop was the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center. There, I watched the 15 minute film and arranged for a volunteer to take me inside the Wick House.


The film described what life was like for the common soldier who wintered at Jockey Hollow during the harshest winter of the War, from December 1779 to June 1780. Huddled in log cabins with rags for clothing and little food, the army hunkered down to wait for Spring.


The miserable conditions gave rise to desertions and mutinies, but the death toll was actually small compared to the winter previously spent at Valley Forge. Lessons learned from Valley Forge led to smarter construction and better hygiene designed to prevent the spread of disease.


After watching the film and touring the Wick House, I decided to walk the 2.5 mile park loop road. There are 27 miles of hiking trails in the park, but these were all covered with snow and ice on the day of my visit. There were plenty of pedestrians, dog-walkers and cyclists sharing the road with me.


About halfway around, I came to the Grand Parade. This is now just a field representing the original larger field where soldiers drilled, lined up for inspection and is where an administrative office stood from which court marshals were issued. A few men were hanged and buried here.


Next I came to the site of the Pennsylvania Brigade’s encampment. Here there are reconstructed soldiers huts which are used for historical reenactments in the Spring. The log cabins were small and bunked 12 men.


The officers’ huts were bigger, with two separate rooms that housed two men each. The officers’ huts were built last, after the soldiers’ cabins were completed.


By 1780, the soldiers had constructed 1200 huts in Jockey Hollow.


Morristown Posts:

Location: 586 Tempe Wick Rd, Morristown, NJ 07960

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designated or established: 3/2/1933

Date of my visit: 2/23/2019


Morristown National Historical Park: Wick House


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.


The Henry Wick House is part of the Jockey Hollow unit of Morristown National Historical Park. Jockey Hollow was the winter encampment site for George Washington’s army during the brutal winter of 1779-1780.


The Wick House is just behind the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center. I asked at the desk if there were tours and the ranger had a volunteer, dressed in Colonial costume, take me up to the house to show me around.


The volunteer was-well versed in the history of the park. She told me Henry Wick was a wealthy farmer who moved his family to Morristown  from Hampton, Long Island. He built the farm house on 1400 acres which made him the town’s largest landowner, so Washington sought him out when planning his encampment.


The farm was prosperous with wheat and cornfields and orchards for producing apple cider. The cider was Wick’s main source of income.


In 1779, The Wicks only had one daughter, Temperance, still living at home. (Fun fact: the park road, Tempe Wick Road, is named for Temperance) The family of three moved into two rooms of their house in order to allow Major General St. Clair and his two aides to set up his headquarters there for the harsh winter.


Henry Wick allowed the army to clear over 600 acres of trees to build huts for the soldiers. This turned out to be a winning proposition for Wick…he got land for fields cleared for free. Three years later, when the last of the troops left the cabins, he got all the lumber back, too.


Morristown Posts:


Location: 586 Tempe Wick Rd, Morristown, NJ 07960

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designated or established: 3/2/1933

Date of my visit: 2/23/2019


Morristown National Historical Park: Ford Mansion


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.


The Ford Mansion in Morristown National Historical Park was built by Jacob Ford, Jr. in 1774. The home is considered a mansion because of its grand hall, formal parlor and palladian windows. These were meant to showcase the Fords’  wealth which was earned in the family’s iron forge business.


Ford served in the militia, but died of pneumonia in 1777. His wife, Theodosia, took ownership of the house and kept the family businesses running…unusual for a woman in those days. She rented the house to Continental Army soldiers and weathered a smallpox outbreak as a result.


George Washington arrived  in 1779 and paid to rent the Ford Mansion. He, his wife, aides and servants moved in while his army camped nearby in Jockey Hollow.


Theodosia and her children lived in two downstairs rooms of the house while Washington was in residence.


The location was ideal for Washington and his troops as it was midway between Manhattan (capital for the British Army) and Philadelphia (the American capital.)


The Ford businesses also provided critical resources for Washington’s army. Washington used the Ford Mansion as his headquarters until June of 1780.


You must take a ranger-guided tour in order to see the inside of the house.


Tickets for the tour are first come, first served and can be purchased at the Washington’s Headquarters museum, Wednesdays through Sundays in the Spring and Summer.


I took the tour with a friend in the beginning of the season and it was actually pretty full.


Location: 30 Washington Place, Morristown, NJ 07960

Designation: National Historical Park

Date designation declared: 3/2/1933

Date of my visit: April 2016