Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Hanging Garden Trail

IMG_6266

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.

IMG_6261

After touring the Glen Canyon Dam, we asked a ranger in the visitor’s center for a short hike we could fit into the end of our day. He gave us directions to the Hanging Garden hike. The turn-off is 1/4 mile from the opposite side of the Glen Canyon Bridge from Carl Hayden Visitor Center on Highway 89.

IMG_6245

There aren’t great signs for the turn off, so we initially parked at the wrong trail-head.

IMG_6264

Our ‘wrong turn’ was an interesting hike meandering around the cool sandstone formations on the shore of Lake Powell.

IMG_6246

Then we went a little further down the road and found the right turn-off. Trail-head parking is 500 yards off of Highway 89 on a dirt road.

IMG_6265

This short, 1-mile round trip trail was created by the park service and leads to a startling green oasis beneath the rim of a butte. The route is easy to follow with a path marked by rocks along the entire route. There was no shade on this trail, but that was the only difficult part of the hike.

IMG_6290
There is a seep spring hidden beneath the sandstone. This spring captures rainwater and then slowly releases it, causing vegetation to grow vertically on the sheltered wall. It was pretty cool to see this in the midst of the barren landscape.

IMG_6283

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

Location: Scenic View Drive and Hwy 89, Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014

IMG_6247

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Glen Canyon Dam

IMG_6184

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.

IMG_6176
Having taken a morning raft tour of the Colorado River, we chose to explore the Glen Canyon Dam after lunch.
IMG_6187b
First, we stopped at the Dam Overlook on the east side of the river. If heading from Page to the Carl Hayden Visitors center, the overlook is before you cross the river, tucked behind the Glen Canyon NPS Headquarters. We walked down the short, steep path and stairs to amazing views of the Dam and the Colorado River.
IMG_6193

Then we crossed the River and signed up for the next Dam tour. We had to pass through security screening and pay a nominal fee. As a federal power plant facility, security measures are in place. While no bags, purses, knives, weapons (duh!) or food are allowed on the tour, wallets, cameras, and clear water bottles are welcome.

IMG_6226

On the tour, we got to walk out on top of the dam with a knowledgeable guide. There are some artifacts on display.

IMG_6209

The tour took us from the top of the dam, and down into it to see the workings of the power plant.

IMG_6220

The Dam was completed in 1966 and forms Lake Powell. Though touted as a vital source of renewable energy and regulated water flow, environmental groups criticized its impact on the Grand Canyon’s ecosystem. Because of the controversy, it was one of the last dams of its size to be built in the USA.

IMG_6202

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

IMG_6215

Location: Hwy 89, Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014

IMG_6207
The water level was pretty low when we visited. Our guide said this was the result of over a decade of severe drought.

Glen Canyon NRA: Colorado River and Petroglyph Walk

IMG_6076
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.
IMG_6192
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.
IMG_6161
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.

IMG_5998

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.)

IMG_6046

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.

IMG_6090

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.

IMG_6094

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.

 

IMG_6124

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

IMG_6096

Location: 130 6th Ave, Page, AZ

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/18/2014

IMG_6070

IMG_6102

Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area: Boston Light

IMG_0758

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.

IMG_0715

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!
IMG_0700

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.

IMG_0789

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.
IMG_0693

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.
IMG_0729

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.

IMG_0816

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!
IMG_0779

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

IMG_0778

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

IMG_0780

We explored tide pools below the keeper’s house and  a cistern that provides the light keeper’s house with collected rain water.
IMG_0801

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.

IMG_0793

Location: Boston, MA

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 11/12/1996

Date of my visit: 7/17/2015

IMG_0819
This abandoned lighthouse is visible from Little Brewster Island
IMG_0727
Airplane landing at Logan as we cruise out of the harbor
IMG_0737
Passing by the Long Island Light on our way to Little Brewster
IMG_0785
Exploring Little Brewster Island
IMG_0796
Sally’s garden

IMG_0784

Gateway National Recreation Area: Sandy Hook

IMG_2679

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.

Sandy Hook in New Jersey is one of Gateway National Recreation Area’s three geographical units. The other two are in Staten Island and Queens, with the three parks framing the ‘gateway’ to New York Harbor.

I grew up on Staten Island and Sandy Hook was the closest beach to us for summer Jersey Shore trips. We’d load up the station wagon with family, friends and beach paraphernalia and head ‘down the shore’ several times during the hot summer months each year. Without a commercial boardwalk, it was the quietest beach within our day-trip radius, but we still left bright and early to avoid the traffic.

As kids, we thought of it as a welcome escape from the heat and a chance to body surf in waves less gross than on the Staten Island beaches. We didn’t realize that the peninsula had more to offer than the beach just after the entry gate or a life outside of July and August.

DSC06347
Spermaceti Cove Life-Saving station was built in 1894 as a base from which to rescue shipwreck survivors

I started visiting Sandy Hook again in recent years when a group of friends hosted a photo meet there on a mild March day. We spent the entire day walking the northern end of the peninsula, beginning at Fort Hancock.

Fort Hancock was built in 1896 and served as a primary defense of New York City up through the cold war. In 1954, operations were converted to a Nike missile base. The fort was decommissioned in 1974. There is still an active Coast Guard station just north of the fort.

IMG_2635

What remains of the fort are the ruins of the batteries and the distinctive row of yellow houses (Officer’s Row.) When I visited with the photo group in 2014, little more than a year had passed since Hurricane Sandy had devastated these buildings and the charter school located in the complex. The school was rebuilt shortly afterwards and I’m guessing the homes have now been stabilized as well because the NPS is bidding out 60 year leases for them (according to their website.)

IMG_4166

Sandy Hook is also home to the Sandy Hook Lighthouse. Sandy Hook claims to be the oldest lighthouse in the USA, and indeed, every time I post a photo of it on social media, a few fervent admirers will sing its virtues as THE oldest light still in use.

IMG_2674

However, I have been to Boston Light and heard exactly the same thing from the lighthouse-obsessed couple that live on that isolated island and keep the light running when not conducting tours.

People who love lighthouses are very passionate about them and their claims to fame.

So which IS the oldest working lighthouse? It looks like Sandy Hook might actually be the winner by a technicality. Sandy Hook was built in 1764. The ORIGINAL Boston light was built in 1716 but was destroyed by fire and rebuilt in 1783. Thank you, Wikipedia!

DSC06349
Leaves of three, let it be!

That same year, I chaperoned a class trip to Sandy Hook for my daughter’s middle school. There were rangers and environmentalists on hand moving the kids through stations to learn about various aspects of the local ecosystem.

DSC06369

We learned about the horseshoe crab, a living fossil that has been on this earth for 450 million years. Their blue blood is invaluable to the medical industry and there is no synthetic substitute for it. Over-harvesting has led to a marked decline in the population in recent years and the species is threatened.

DSC06411
We were too late to save this one

After learning about the horseshoe crabs, the kids went out on to the beach and rescued the ones that had been beached by turning them over near the shore line and watching them swim away with the next wave.

DSC06422
This one happily swam away with the next wave

A year or two after the field trip, by the miracle of Instagram, I discovered that there were seals to be seen in Sandy Hook during the cold winter months! I checked the NPS website and found that I could sign up for a free ranger-guided viewing of the seals. We met our ranger at the lighthouse and caravanned to an undisclosed location. The NPS is having trouble with people traumatizing wildlife for the sake of photos, or doing plain stupid things like taking selfies with grizzlies for social media, so the rangers asked us not to post location specifics. Remember folks, it is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to come within 100 yards of the seals, so if you are lucky enough to see one on the beach, keep your distance.

IMG_4083

When we got to the viewing spot, the rangers set up some telescopes so we could see the seals more clearly. Even with my longest lens, the photos were still pretty far off, so we were in no danger of harassing a marine mammal that day. It was still pretty exciting to see them!

IMG_4169

Another great thing about Sandy Hook in the off-season is that dogs are allowed. There are lots of great paths winding through the fort area towards the beach at the very tip of the peninsula. On a clear day, you can see lower Manhattan from this beach.

And in the summer, I hear it’s a nude beach…no dogs or cameras allowed. 🙂

Location: 85 Mercer Rd, Highlands, NJ 07732

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: March 2016

IMG_4156

 

 

Glen Canyon National Recreation Area: Lone Rock Beach

DSC06502

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.

After spending the morning touring Lower Antelope Canyon, we needed a respite from the heat. We’d originally planned to go to Horseshoe Bend right after Antelope, but switched up the itinerary and drove to Lone Rock Beach on the Utah side of Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. What a spectacular setting in which to cool off!
DSC06468

 

This beautiful soft sand beach on Lake Powell is maintained by the National Park Service and the view is dominated by the monolithic Lone Rock. It’s about 12 miles north of Page. We paid a $15 entrance fee. There is limited hard-surfaced road, with the majority of access to Lake Powell on sandy roads or beach. We were driving a rental sedan and were warned we could get stuck driving down to the beach so we parked in the lot (which has a restroom) and walked to the water. It’s a long walk, but we’re used to long walks in hot sand to get to the water back home at the Jersey shore.

DSC06501

The water is warm and a beautiful turquoise color. The beach was not crowded at all, even though there were a lot of RVs in the main area (this is a popular camping site in the Park as you can pull your RV right up to the water’s edge.) We set up our mat a little ways down from them and had that section all to ourselves. This was the perfect way to spend a hot afternoon.DSC06545

 

Lake Powell is actually a man-made reservoir created by the Glen Canyon Dam. It was surprising to see all the motor boats and jet skis speeding around the lake, considering that people have to drink this water. Just sayin…

While Lake Mead (formed by the Hoover Dam) was larger than Lake Powell when they were both created, Lake Powell is now larger by volume due to a more intense drought/ falling water levels at the Nevada end of the Colorado River.

Location: Lone Rock RoadBig Water, UT 84741

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: 8/17/2014

You can see my previous post on Glen Canyon NRA : Horseshoe Bend here.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area: Marin Headlands

DSC02552

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 Golden Gate National Recreation Area protects over 80 thousand acres in Northern California. For this trip, we decided to explore the Marin Headlands section. The Marin Headlands is a peninsula just north of San Francisco on the Marin County side of the Golden Gate Bridge. I’d been to San Francisco many times before and had seen the bridge from that perspective, but this was the first time for all of us viewing the bridge, Alcatraz and the city from this vantage point. There far fewer tourists here and we enjoyed the view that much more, even though the bridge remained mostly shrouded in fog.DSC02528

We stopped in two places. The first was Point Bonita. We hiked down the steep half mile trail through a tunnel in a hill and across a bridge to Point Bonita Light. There was a ranger on hand whose grandmother had lived in this lighthouse as a child. We spent a lot of time talking to him about the lighthouse which was constructed in 1855 as the third lighthouse on the West Coast. It is still active today and managed by the coast guard.DSC02538

The second place we stopped was the Marine Mammal Center.  Thank goodness for places like these! Our group felt it was well worth the visit and admission just to support the organization’s efforts to rehabilitate sick and injured marine mammals.
That said,we didn’t spend very long there. Our agenda for the day was pretty packed and we were there in between tour times. You can self-guide, but this is really not a zoo/aquarium. The animals are unwell and too much noise and commotion is not good for them. They can be viewed from a distance, but without the narrative from the docent on success stories, it was really too sad to linger for long. DSC02561

On the drive to the lighthouse, we found a pullout with a seal rock that was close enough for us to really see the seals without binoculars.

Location: 948 Fort Barry, Sausalito, CA 94965

Designation: National Recreation Area

Date designation declared: 10/27/1972

Date of my visit: August 12, 2012

DSC02526