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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Dry Tortugas National Park

The Dry Tortugas are seven islands located nearly 70 miles west of Key West. You can take the official concesionare ferry (the Yankee Freedom), a seaplane or your own boat to get there. Most visitors plan a day trip by ferry. The ferry costs about $175 per person, but check during the year for coupons. They sometimes give $25-$50 off. You should know, the Yankee Freedom ferry is very fast and several people were seasick on our trip. We took Bonine just in case and were fine. We stood out in the front of the ferry for most of the trip back and forth. I saw a huge sea turtle! You can also camp for $8 per night. The Yankee Freedom ferry will carry your gear for you. The campsites were pretty nice and some were shaded by trees. They were steps from a beautiful beach.

The Island you will visit on your day trip is Garden Key. Most of the island is taken up by Fort Jefferson. This fort was built from 1846-1875. It was built to protect an important shipping channel. In 1825 a lighthouse was built to warn vessels about the dangerous reefs. There are many shipwrecks all around the islands. The fort was also used as a prison during the Civil War. Audobon loved the islands for bird watching and Hemingway for sport fishing.

There were two tours offered of the fort. A 30 minute one and one that took an hour and 1/2. Craig and I just did a self guided tour. There are apps you can download for this. We toured the fort for about half an hour-45 minutes, got our national park stamps in the visitor center and then went snorkeling with our new masks! We rinsed off, changed and had lunch on the ferry. Then we went back out to take more pictures. I also got a new t-shirt in the gift shop. It takes about 2 hours and 15 minutes to get to Garden Key by ferry. We left at 8am from Key West and got back about 5pm. We did not feel rushed, but would love to spend more time on the islands camping for our next trip.

It was a great visit and our 18th national park! Craig and I were celebrating our 20th anniversary and we had a wonderful time in the Florida Keys and the three Florida national parks. More posts about our Florida road trip soon!

Future Trips

I have been planning three trips for the future, but I always have a list of places we would love to explore in my Midori Travelers Notebook/Journal. I try to research way ahead for our National  Park trips because lodging can sell out very quickly. When I plan, I map out routes, hikes, look up hotels, read guide books and get on the Trip Advisor forums and ask questions.  I also make an itinerary in my free TripIt account. Then it shows up on my phone calendar and App.

In summer of 2016 we are going to visit Glacier National Park for the first time. Then we will drive down to Yellowstone, Grand Teton National Park and finish up our two and a half weeks in Jackson, WY. It is our 20th anniversary this year and the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. We decided to spend the 100th anniversary in America’s first National Park. We are so happy Craig got all of his vacation time approved. I started planning this summer’s trip last May. Even that far ahead, a Roosevelt Lodge cabin with a bathroom was sold out! I found out there are only about 14 of them and the summer season at Roosevelt is short.

We have also been planning a Florida road Trip for 2016. Craig and I lived in Florida for six years, but we have not explored the Everglades in depth. We also want to go to Biscayne National Park, Dry Tortugas National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. At first we thought we may want to go in January, but then we were worried it might be too cold to snorkel. Now we are hoping for October. I am glad we waited because Biscayne National Park just got back their boat tours. They had been looking for concessioners for a while now. I have been using the newer Lonely Planet Road Trip guide books for planning ideas. I love the routes they suggest in these books. The hotel and restaurant info is not in depth, but I like the maps a lot. 

The third trip we are planning is Alaska in 2017. We are super excited and this trip is long overdue. We are going to be doing a Princess Cruise and land tour for 15 nights with friends. We will visit four national parks on the trip and hope to get a lot of new stamps for the National Park Passport! I will post more updates on future trip planning and things we are going to see and do. I have also found some great hotels and restaurants you may want to check out. I have been using Pinterest as a helpful visual trip planning tool. Check out my Yellowstone, Glacier, Florida and Alaska boards for more hotel, food and drink, hiking and things to see and do suggestions. 

 


Yellowstone National Park Geysers and Thermal Features

At Yellowstone National Park there are around 500 geysers and over 10,000 thermal features! There are more geysers at Yellowstone than anywhere else on Earth. One of the best walks to see many of the pools, springs and geysers is the Upper Geyser Basin right near the Old Faithful Inn. I love this map of the area:

upper-geyser-basin-map

When we visited in 2014, Craig and I walked the whole Upper Geyser Basin, past Morning Glory Pool, through the woods to Biscuit Basin. It took about three hours round trip. We stopped to take pictures, videos and to sit near the Firehole River for a snack. Be sure and take your bear spray. We did not see many people past Morning Glory Pool.

There will be geyser eruption times posted at the Old Faithful Inn and the Visitor Center. There is also an NPS App you can download that will give you several possible eruption times. Sometimes, you will luck out while walking and see a group of “Geyser Gazers” that may be waiting by a certain thermal feature. They keep the rangers up to date on what might be ready to erupt. We got to see Beehive Geyser shoot 200 feet in the air! The rangers also give free walks and talks around the geyser basins during the day and evenings. 

Do not forget Norris Geyser Basin, Black Sand Basin, Midway Geyser Basin, the Lower Geyser Basin and Firehole Lake Drive. West Thumb Geyser Basin is also unique because it is next to Yellowstone Lake. I love the Fishing Cone hot spring where in the past people would catch a fish in the cold lake and then cook it in the spring!  Be careful! When you get past Morning Glory Pool, you are able to walk right next to some of the thermal features. The boardwalks can also get very crowded at peak times. Near Grand Prismatic Spring was usually packed. Stay on marked trails. What geysers have you seen erupt at Yellowstone?  Sometimes you will catch a surprise eruption!

 


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


Adams National Historical Park-Quincy, MA

Here are some pictures of our recent day trip to Adams NHP. The historic homes were closed until April, but the grounds were open and so was the visitor center. We were able to get 4 new stamps for the National Park Passport!

Adams NHP was home to four generations of the Adams family. John Adams was the 2nd president of the United States and his son John Quincy was the 6th president.

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