The Freedom Trail-Boston NHP


On Wednesday Craig had the day off so we went into Boston with friends to walk The Freedom Trail. We had walked it back in 2010, but did not have our national park passport book at the time. We wanted to get some of the stamps that we had missed before we move away. 




The Freedom Trail is 2.5 miles long, so round trip it takes about 5 miles. We wound up walking over 10 miles though. We started at the Boston Common and walked to the Charlestown Navy Yard. We climbed the 294 steps in the Bunker Hill Monument, visited several churches and museums, had lunch in the North End and wound up at Eataly for drinks and dinner. In all a great day with friends and we got many new stamps for the passport! 















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Mesa Verde National Park

One of our favorite parks we visited on our Grand Circle road trip was Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado. Since it was towards the end of the season, it was pretty empty and quiet. We stayed at the Far View Lodge inside the park. The Lodge is open from April to October.  While the buildings are old, they offer great views if you can get a view room. The Kiva rooms have been updated and are pretty nice. The restaurant the Metate Room was fantastic! It was one of the best National Park restaurants we have been to for dinner. I had a chicken and pasta dish that was delicious. We found out the chef is from New York City. The staff was also great.

kiva room

Before we got to Mesa Verde, we stopped in Cortez outside the park. We went to the Colorado Welcome Center there and picked up our Balcony House tour tickets ($4pp) for the next day. They were very helpful and there is a lot of Colorado info in the welcome center. You can read about the park tours and how and where to purchase tickets on the NPS web page for Mesa Verde.We also had lunch and some beer at the Main Street Brewery.

Balcony House ladder

Balcony House was one of the few guided tours that were going on in October. Cliff Palace was closed for work and Spruce Tree House was self guided. The Balcony House tour was amazing and lasted about an hour. We had to climb a few ladders on the edge of cliffs as well as crawl through some tunnels. The ranger was great and everyone on the tour was very respectful. It actually brought tears to my eyes to be walking around these amazing sites.

tp Ladder

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We also went to the park Visitor Center, Chapin Mesa Archeological Museum, hiked the whole Far View Sites complex, and drove the Mesa Top Loop Road and the Wetherill Mesa Road. Next time we will stay longer so we can tour some of the other houses like Long House. We got to see Cliff Palace from an overlook, but I would love to walk through the site soon. If you will be near Mesa Verde, you should visit and see the cliff dwellings. The park preserves 600 cliff dwellings and 5,000 archeological sites! The dwellings were discovered in 1888 by two cowboys Richard Wetherill and his brother-in-law Charlie Mason. They were looking for stray cattle. They must have been in awe!

Visitor Center

Square Tower House

 Spruce Tree House sth

Because of the high elevation, the views are are beautiful. Have fun!

Mesa Verde View


Grand Circle Road Trip Thoughts

We are back from our 12 night Grand Circle Road trip and it was amazing. The passport has lots of new stamps. We visited 7 National Parks, state parks, NRA’s and National Monuments! 

Some random thoughts…

My top 5 parts of the trip: 

  1. Zion National Park-It looks like what you would imagine the Garden of Eden to look like. I was amazed at how much green and water was in this desert environment.
  2. Bryce Canyon National Park and Scenic Byway 12-Amazing! Like walking and driving in a fairy tale. A photographers dream.
  3. Mesa Verde National Park-Quiet! Intimate. The best service and the best food/restaurant (Metate Room.)  The cliff dwellings are beautiful and so well taken care of.
  4. Monument Valley and Antelope Canyon-Thank you Navajo Nation for sharing these with us. As Craig said “This is a magical place Patricia.”
  5. Grand Canyon National Park-because it is the Grand Canyon! We saw lots of Elk, Mule Deer, Ravens, Mules and a Big Horn Sheep ran through a crowd of tourists! It is so well run and like a small town. There was even a Ringtail Cat at dinner in the El Tovar Dining Room.

I am so grateful Craig and I got to spend our 19th anniversary experiencing the Grand Circle. Our country is so amazing! Get out and see it please. You will not be sorry. There were tons of tourists from China, France, Germany and Spain, but very few Americans. Go Find Your Park!   

White Mountain National Forest-NH

We went hiking this weekend in the White Mountains. We did around 8 miles of the Appalachian Trail and stayed overnight at the Zealand Falls Hut. It was great fun and we got some “unofficial” park stamps for our passport. The leaves have just started to turn and look beautiful.

 

We Are Back!

National Park stamps

So our California road trip was a success! We flew into San Francisco and stayed 3 nights. Then we drove to Yosemite and stayed there 5 nights. Next, we drove down to Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks and stayed a night in each. Joshua Tree was next for 2 nights, followed by a night at Disneyland and 3 nights in San Diego with friends.

I got so many new Western Region National Park Passport stamps I had to use some of the back pages! Along with the larger National  Parks, we visited the Golden Gate NRA, Alcatraz and Cabrillo National Monument. I will be writing some future posts on all of them. The parks are truly amazing and I highly recommend seeing as many as you can in the great state of CA!

   

National Park Stamps

After learning about the National Parks Passport program, we did some more research on the stamps and where to get them. The program was launched in 1986 to encourage people to visit the National Parks. Most parks and landmarks do have stamps, but it is  a voluntary program.

We have found our stamps in the visitors centers and gift shops. There is usually a little section with a desk set up and the stamp and stamp pad out. They sometimes have paper so you can test the stamp out first and get a good impression. The stamps are dated, so you can test that the date is correct before you add it to your passport.

Craig stamping our passport at the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park.

Craig stamping our passport at the Craig Thomas Discovery & Visitor Center in Grand Teton National Park.

There are several regions in the National Park service. Pacific Northwest/Alaska, the North Atlantic, the Mid-Atlantic, Rocky Mountain, Southwest, Midwest, National Capitol, Western and Southeast. Each region has its own color stamp. Pacific Northwest and Alaska are blue,  the North Atlantic is brown, Mid-Atlantic is light blue, Rocky Mountain is yellow, the Southwest is gray, Midwest is orange, National Capitol is red, Western is green and Southeast is purple. Sometimes, there are no stamp pads or the stamp is low on ink. Craig bought me a small set of craft stamps that match the National Park region colors and it will be easy to take one along now when we travel. Just in case!

I also found out that there is a group called the National Park Travelers Club! They are a group of people that love visiting the National Parks. They have conventions around the country and on their website there are forums and a master pin database. If you would like access to the database, the annual fee is around $10. There are hundreds of stamps listed by region in their database! You can search by region and print a list out to take with you when you travel. You will also gain access to a member forum section. Members talk about new stamps, travel, etc. It turns out there are many unofficial stamps like this cool Buffalo we got at the Lamar Buffalo Ranch in Yellowstone. We had to have a volunteer open up the gift shop for us to stamp it.  

Near the passports in the visitor centers and gift shops, you will also see stickers. There are new collectable stickers every year that you can also add to your passport. I only added a few because they take up a lot of room. You can also stamp your own book or a map, piece of paper, etc. to add to a scrapbook. I love the passport because it is small, has a lot of information in it and it supports the parks. 

I have some stamp information and pictures on my National Parks Pinterest page as well!