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26 August 2016

Flashback Friday | National Parks



Today is the Flashback Friday blog hop over at A Life Examined. The idea is to republish an old post of yours that maybe didn't get enough attention, or that you're really proud of, or you think is still relevant etc. We started this blog almost three years ago and have many more followers now then we did back then. I figure that there are probably a number of our earlier blog posts that some of you haven't seen before which might be of interest.

Our National Parks turned 100 years old yesterday, so it seemed fitting to share this post about our favorite National Park moments and celebrate this incredible national resource.

{This was originally posted in April 2015 as part of the A to Z Challenge. You can find the original post here.}

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One of Scott's favorite words lately is outstanding, always said with a slightly sarcastic tone. Scott is from North Dakota. I don't know if you know anything about North Dakota, but the folks there aren't exactly known to be effusive with their praise about anything. Ask Scott what he thinks about something and he is likely to say something like, "Could be better, could be worse" or "It's fine" or "It's okay" etc. So when he says that something is outstanding, I get pretty confused. Does he really think it is outstanding or is he just being sarcastic?
While we were touring some of the National Parks in the western part of the States towards the end of last year, we did have some amazing experiences. Things that even Scott would say were outstanding. So here they are - just a few of our outstanding National Park moments. There were so many outstanding moments, that I'll probably have to do another installment at some point.
Death Valley | Golden Canyon & Gower Gulch



Many people who visit Death Valley do the Golden Canyon walk. Its two miles round trip and is classified as an "easy" hike with a gradual and steady uphill grade on a rocky trail. And if you're a Star Wars geek you can see where some of the scenes from the original movie were filmed (check out this amazing site for more details!) Even if you're not into Star Wars, the Golden Canyon walk is well worth doing as it gives you a great insight into the geology of Death Valley. Once you get to the end of the Golden Canyon trail, be sure to continue on for 1/4 of a mile to see the Red Cathedral.

After you're done seeing the Red Cathedral, rather than go back the way you came, you really should continue on to the Gower Gulch loop which turns the whole thing into a 4 mile round trip hike. We saw spectacular painted hills, hiked across a narrow divide which led to some amazing views of the badlands, walked through main drainage of the Gower Gulch and scrambled over rocks before making our way back to the Golden Canyon parking lot.

We weren't really prepared for the hike, only having the vaguest idea of the trail from a map at the Golden Canyon parking lot, and I think that's what made it so outstanding. We had absolutely no idea what to expect. Every turn brought something new and unexpected. And the trail was marked very poorly in parts, so we had to guess which way to go at some points, which made me feel so adventurous! Definitely worth going those couple of extra miles beyond the Golden Canyon and exploring Gower Gulch.

(You can find more details about the trail, including a very useful map, here. And you can read more about our adventures in Death Valley here.)

Yosemite National Park | All Of It!


Yosemite Valley

Jaw Dropping Wow. That pretty much sums up Yosemite National Park. The place is truly outstanding. I wasn't sure if it would live up to the hype and it did. Big Time. There is a reason Ansel Adams spent all that time in Yosemite taking photos. There is simply so much stunning beauty that it would take a lifetime and more to ever do it justice. I don't even have the words to describe it, so the best thing you can do is go there yourself and see what I'm talking about. I think you'll agree - it is outstanding.

(You can read more about our time in Yosemite National Park here.)


Petrified Forest National Park | Blue Mesa Trail





We weren't originally planning on going to the Petrified Forest National Park, but I'm sure glad we did. While the petrified wood is interesting, in our opinion, the real stars of the park are the brilliantly colored badlands on the Blue Mesa trail. The colors are really as amazing as those in the photo above. You can view the badlands from up top at a viewpoint, but they're even more stunning if you walk down the moderately steep path and do the 1 mile loop trail. Sure you might huff and puff a little bit as you walk back up the hill to your car, but totally worth it.

While the Petrified Forest National Park (and the adjacent Painted Desert National Monument) might not be on your bucket list, if you're in the area, its worth a visit. Not only can you see enough petrified wood to last you a lifetime, you can also take a step back in time and see where the historic Route 66 once cut through the park, as well as visit the historic Painted Desert Inn which has been lovingly restored. But, whatever you do, don't slip any of the petrified wood into your pocket. Just one little sliver and you're looking at hefty fines and possible jail time. I've never been able to figure out why people might think it is okay to steal stuff like that, but I guess it takes all kinds. 


Grand Canyon | Bright Angel Lodge


Bright Angel Lodge, Grand Canyon


When we were at the Grand Canyon, we splurged just a little and stayed at the Bright Angel Lodge. There is something to be said about staying right in the middle of the park in one of the historic lodges. Most of the lodges in the National Parks are actually pretty pricey and you have to book well in advance. Fortunately for us, we were able to do a last minute booking and it actually wasn't too much of a splurge, compared to the other lodges in the park and hotels outside of the park. Bright Angel Lodge is one of the more affordable lodges at Grand Canyon. If you're looking to do things on the cheap, you can share a room with three other people and use a communal bathroom. (We chose to just share a room with each other and opted for a private bathroom.) And if you want even less privacy, book a room next to ours with connecting doors. I saw a door in the little hallway in our room, assumed it was a closet and peeked in. Instead of finding a closet, I found some guy changing his pants. Oops.

Bright Angel Lodge was designed in the 1930s by Mary Jane Coulter, a famous Southwest architect. Today it is a registered National Historic Landmark which has preserved historic features, such as the Buckey O'Neill Cabin where one of Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders stayed. It sits right in the middle of the park on the edge of the South Rim. During the day, it is popular stop for the folks on tour buses, but during the evening things quiet down nicely. And, if you like baked enchilada pie, head to the Bright Angel restaurant. Delicious!

(You can read more about our adventures at the Grand Canyon here, here & here.)


Joshua Tree National Park | Camping




We camped in a number of National Parks, but my favorite spot was at Joshua Tree National Park. We had a great campsite - pretty spacious with great views and surrounded by Joshua trees. I'm not sure why I liked it so much, but for some reason I just had a real sense of peace that night sitting around the fire and looking up at the stars. That is until some unidentified creature ran across our feet. A bit unnerving to say the least. We never did figure out what it was.

(You can read more about our adventures at Joshua Tree National Park, including an encounter with evil tribbles here.)

Have you ever visited any of the National Parks? Which one was your favorite and what was your most outstanding moment?

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30 comments:

  1. I would love to visit all the National Parks. We loved our one night at Mesa Verde, Everglades was always a favorite, especially since it was close- And Dry Tortuguas is really neat. Hopefully we'll be able to work in a trip there this winter.

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    1. I'd really like to take our boat over to Dry Tortuguas. It sounds amazing!

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  2. I love the National Parks and have long been a member of the Association. Currently I am recording the National Geographic series on the parks which is running on TV. I am not sure I have a favorite, but I do have a beautiful photo of Bryce Canyon hanging in my living room.

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    1. I bet that's a great series! The National Parks are such an amazing treasure.

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  3. I've been to the U.S. several times, but have not had the chance to visit any of the national parks. Your photos are outstanding! :)

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    1. Next time you head over this way, definitely make some time and visit one or more of them. You won't be disappointed.

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  4. I've been to all but one of those. I didn't stay at the motel either. Lovely places to visit.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. One of the things on my bucket list is to visit all of the National Parks. There are so many amazing ones we haven't seen yet.

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  5. The National Park system of the U.S. is wonderful. I've been to many of them and some of them many times. My favorites are Yellowstone, Glacier, and my sentimental favorite of the Great Smokies which I used to live near and spent many hours exploring. Oddly, though they are relatively close to where I now live, I've never visited Joshua Tree or Death Valley. Not that I haven't wanted to, but I've just never taken the occasion to visit them.

    My wife and I try to visit at least one National Park each year.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out

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    1. You've mentioned three that I've never been to, but would really like to get to one day - Glacier, Yellowstone and the Smokies.

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  6. So beautiful!!! I have never been to any of the national parks but here in Montreal, Canada, we have a lot of nature parks where you can walk and explore and I enjoy my time in them, as I love long walks in nature. :)

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    1. I'm glad you have nearby nature parks. It's so relaxing to go out walking in nature :-)

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  7. It's awesome you've been to so many places! I had no idea the Petrified Forest park also had those beautiful blue-ish striated hills. In fact, I'd call them "Outstanding." LOL!

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    1. The Petrified Forest is utterly amazing with all of the colors.

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  8. I enjoyed that flashback... took me all the way back to 1976 when I stayed at the Bright Angel - maybe I shared with 3 people, maybe it was just a hostel then, I don't remember. I do remember skinny dipping in a side stream, and hiking up at dawn so I crossed the see-through bridge in the dark. I get really scared of things I can see through, at any height!

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    1. I think there are also hostel/shared rooms at Bright Angel. It's such a nice rustic place to stay.

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  9. I've been to a few of these and would like to visit so many more. These parks really are a treasure. I wish more people appreciated and respected them for what they are.

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    1. We saw some really disrespectful people during our travels, which is such a shame as they are a resource we should all protect.

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  10. I've been to all those parks, and I love all of them :) Haven't stayed in the lodge at Bright Angel or anywhere else, though. We are camping folks all the way.

    Another cool thing to do at Golden Canyon is to start at the top--at Zabrisky Point--and hike down into Golden Canyon as a one-way trip (or back up. Last spring my husband and I did an exchange, each of us hiking one way). Key desert tips: start early. No, a little earlier. You'll thank me :)

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    1. You're so right about starting out early in the desert. It gets so hot, so quickly, even in the winter.

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  11. I love the US National Parks. I've been to a few and was fortunate enough to stay as long as I wanted most of the time, since we had a camper or a tent and few obligations. The ones out west are outstanding and it is one of the reasons why we are heading that way again in October. In a couple of weeks, Mark and I hope to have our first ever "vacation" together since we started our business in 2009. We will go camping in Acadia NP. Looking forward to the beauty of Mother Nature. Hopefully the NP system can get more funding from the government soon. Such a shame that the budgets have been cut.

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    1. Have fun at Acadia - another place I want to visit! Looking forward to seeing your blog posts on it :-)

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  12. I don't have any idea how many Nat'l Parks I've been to. My family traveled quite a bit when we were all younger, and I had been in about 40 states by the time I was 12. I guess it would be fun to see a complete list and check off those I've seen. There are eight Nat'l Parks in Alaska, I have been to four of them, mainly because most are not on a road system, only accessible by air or boat. It's on my bucket list to collect all of the "Alaska Geographic" society's patches of all of our parks. I have a fair amount already.

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    1. I always get one of the pins from each National Park we visit. The patches would be really cool to collect too.

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  13. I spent the first 30 years of my life on the edge of the Allegheny National Forest so that must count for something. I love your comments about the taciturn nature of people from North Dakota--it reminds me of the people where I grew up, They certainly kept me humble!!!

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    1. That would be great to spend so much time living near the Allegheny Forest! That definitely counts :-)

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  14. Wow, ya'll have been to some great parks! We've been to the Smoky Mountain park, but that's about it. So many places on my bucket list!

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    1. I would love to get to the Smokies one of these days. So much to do, so little time :-)

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  15. Of these, I've visited Petrified Forest and Grand Canyon. This year, we've added Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Rocky Mountain to our tally. Expect a splurge on the blog soon! My favourites remain the parks of South Utah - all of them. I just love how you drive out of one and there's another one almost on the doorstep!

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    1. Looking forward to your NP posts on the blog :-)

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