Treasured Lands


We just got this beautiful book from the library and have been looking through it. If you love our national parks you should try to find it! 



The title is Treasured Lands: A Photographic Odyssey Through America’s National Parks. It is hardcover and quite heavy. There are 456 pages of amazing photos. QT Luong worked on Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan’s documentary The National Parks America’s Best Idea. 




I love this part of the description: “In an odyssey that spanned more than 20 years and 300 visits, Luong focused his lenses on iconic landscapes and rarely seen remote views, presenting his journey in this sumptuous array of more than 500 breathtaking images.

Accompanying the collection of scenic masterpieces is a guide that includes maps of each park, as well as extended captions that detail where and how the photographs were made. Designed to inspire visitors to connect with the parks and invite photographers to re-create these landscapes, the guide also provides anecdotal observations that give context to the pictures and convey the sheer scope of Luong’s extraordinary odyssey.”

The Precipice Trail-Acadia National Park


We had a great long weekend in Acadia National Park. One of the highlights was The Precipice Trail to the top of Champlain Mountain. The Precipice is an iron rung and ladder route up the steep cliffs along the east face.


Last year, we were not able to hike the Precipice  because the parking lot was packed. We did the Beehive instead. The Precipice is twice as long as the Beehive and harder. This year we took the park shuttle from Blackwoods Campground where we were staying with friends. It worked out great.


There is an 850 foot elevation gain up the trail and it takes about 1 and 1/2 hours if you go at a safe pace. Wear good hiking shoes and bring water. This hike/climb would be hard to do if you are afraid of heights! There are several exposed areas and narrow ledges. Sometimes you will have to wait on a ledge for others to climb. 

There are a few different trails you can take back down the other sides of Champlain Mountain.

I thought the Precipice Trail was amazing and challenging. I am glad we hiked when it was a cool 70 degree day out. It was definitely more like climbing than hiking. Have fun and be safe if you do The Precipice. Remember the trail is usually closed from March-August for Peregrine Falcon nesting.

The Beehive Trail-Acadia National Park

I wanted to try one of the iron rung trails at Acadia when we visited. I was not sure if I would be able to reach some of the rungs, but I figured if little kids had hiked some of the trails I could too! We decided on The Beehive because it was shorter than The Precipice Trail with more open views on the way up. Also, the line of parked cars near the Precipice was crazy on the day we went. There are a few other iron rung trails at Acadia.

While the Beehive is a short 0.8 miles long, it is rated as a “Strenuous” climb/hike. You have to pull your weight up in several spots and you should not have a fear of heights. There are some steep spots and thin ledges. You can go back down the easier back side after enjoying the view at the top.

There were only two spots that were scary for me, and Craig and I had a blast. It was one of my favorite hikes I have done so far. My top three so far are The Mist Trail in Yosemite, The Beehive in Acadia and Uncle Tom’s Trail in Yellowstone. I also fell in love with the Upper Geyser Basin at Yellowstone, but that is more of a walk than a climb or hike. 

Our friends joined us in Acadia for this trip, and we had a lot of fun visiting the park and Bar Harbor, hiking and getting passport stamps. The Night Sky Festival had a lot of cloudy nights, but we got to go to a great Star Party on top of Cadillac Mountain one night. I will save that for a future post!

Airstream Travel Dreams

After taking a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in 2014, Craig and I realized how much of the US we had not seen yet. The amazing parts. I used to be a travel agent for many years, so we spent a lot of our vacation time at all-inclusives in Mexico and the Caribbean, on cruises and at Walt Disney World. At tourist spots like New York City and San Diego. I needed to experience the places I was selling. While we have loved all of our trips and do not regret taking them, we do regret waiting so long to see our national parks. Seeing a place like Yellowstone for the first time can be life changing. To know places like that are out there will change you. The only other trips that have come close are sites we have seen in Europe and the ruins in Mexico.

Our national park trips have made us long to see so much more of the world. It is frustrating to have a small amount of vacation time, but we are grateful for what we do have. Still, our dream is to save as much as we can, retire early and full time travel in an Airstream. We would love to travel for a few years, see everything we want to see and find some land to build a small home or cabin on. By small we are thinking under 750sf. We love the 25 foot and 27 foot Airstreams. An older one that is in good shape would be great too. Hopefully we will have one soon!

What are your travel dreams?

Joshua Tree National Park

Visiting Joshua Tree National Park is like visiting another planet! There are so many amazing boulders, rock piles, old mines, trees and desert plants and animals there. I think it is funny when John Carter wakes up on Mars and he thinks he is still in the desert. We had such a blast climbing the rocks and boulders and taking pictures. The park is named for Joshua Trees or Yucca brevifolia, a member of the Agave family. “By the mid-19th century, Mormon immigrants had made their way across the Colorado River. Legend has it that these pioneers named the tree after the biblical figure, Joshua, seeing the limbs of the tree as outstretched in supplication, guiding the travelers westward.” 

It was very hot when we were there-106-but we really wanted to see the park on our California road trip. Because it was so hot, it was not crowded at all. We got up early and went back to the hotel pool in the afternoon. Craig and I stayed at the 29 Palms Inn. It was a great base and right near the Oasis of Mara. I held the Old Frame 1 & 2 cabin and it had a private deck overlooking the Oasis! The restaurant there is also great. 

 

I got several new National Park passport stamps in Joshua Tree. Next time we visit we may go when it is a little cooler and try to see Death Valley as well.

 

Alcatraz-Golden Gate NRA

Last time Craig and I visited San Francisco, we did not have enough time to visit Alcatraz. I was really looking forward to it for our June 2015 trip. I booked our boat tickets 90 days ahead of time. The only way to get to Alcatraz is by a ferry operated by Alcatraz Cruises on Pier 33. Give yourself plenty of time to get there. The waterfront area is huge! The views of San Francisco on the boat and on the island are amazing. Our trip started out foggy, but then it turned sunny and the fog lifted. There is also a very popular night tour.

Alcatraz is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and has a few stamps for your National Parks passport. I love the lighthouse one!  

There is a garden tour you can do on certain days of the week if you get an early boat. You can also get a headset with a self guided tour. The narrators are former inmates and guards. The headsets are included in your entrance/boat fee. You can walk all over most of the island at your leisure and get a boat back when you feel like it. We even saw the cell from Escape From Alcatraz that had Frank Morris’s fake head in it. Before our trip we watched a few movies like The Rock and that made the visit even better.

The baby Seagulls we saw were very cute. Give yourself a few hours to see it all.

 

Book tickets and day trips to Alcatraz

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!

   

The Crow’s Nest at Old Faithful Inn

High in the rafters at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park, is an enchanting place called the Crow’s Nest. It is said that Robert Reamer, the architect that built the Inn designed it from a childhood fantasy. Bands used to play here for guests high in the air. It is 76 feet up and looks like an amazing tree house.

When I was researching our Yellowstone trip, I came across info on the Crow’s Nest. It turns out you can call the Old Faithful Inn bell desk, and if there is space during your stay, they will take you up to the Crow’s Nest and the roof of the Old Faithful Inn for flag lowering. I was lucky to read this in May when they first opened for the season. I was able to get a spot for our August trip!

We met at the bell desk at 6pm as requested. The bell person that we went up with told us another family might be joining us and was that OK. We said sure. We waited a bit more for the family to show up, but only the mother decided to go. (Wow, who would turn this down? Maybe someone was afraid of heights!) Then we set off for the stairs. They keep the stairs to this area locked for safety.

People were watching and wondering why we got to go past the gates. It pays to do some research ahead of time.

The Crow’s Nest was amazing, but the real honor was getting to lower the United States flag and state flags on the roof of the Inn.

This would be a great thing to surprise someone with on your trip. It is pretty high up, and the railings are low so be prepared. It can be windy as well. The view of the Upper Geyser Basin and Old Faithful is stunning.

 

Muir Woods National Monument

The last time Craig and I were in San Francisco we did a tour of Sonoma. On the way we stopped at Muir Woods National Monument. Muir Woods NM is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. It is about 11 miles north of San Francisco and a great half day trip if you are visiting the city. Muir Woods celebrated its 100th Anniversary on January 9, 2008! William and Elizabeth Kent donated the land to the government. They wanted it named after naturalist and writer John Muir. The park gets very crowded especially on the weekends. There is a park and ride from San Francisco if you do not want to worry about trying to find parking. 

The Redwood trees are so amazing to see in person. Coastal Redwoods can grow over 300 feet and they are the tallest trees on Earth. Redwoods have been around for about 240 million years! They are only found on the Pacific Coast.

“The redwoods, once seen, leave a mark or create a vision that stays with you always. No one has ever successfully painted or photographed a redwood tree. The feeling they produce is not transferable. From them comes silence and awe. It’s not only their unbelievable stature, nor the color which seems to shift and vary under your eyes, no, they are not like any trees we know, they are ambassadors from another time.”- John Steinbeck

It was very peaceful walking around and enjoying the trees. Get there early to beat the crowds! There is a lovely gift shop on site with US made gifts and art. We will have to go back soon because we did not have our National  Parks Passport at the time. We need to get a stamp!

Yosemite is 125!

yosemite

On October 1st, 2015 Yosemite National Park turns 125. In 1890 Yosemite became the country’s third National Park. Over 1,500 square miles were put aside for people to love and enjoy. Some areas like Hetch Hetchy were changed by development, but it is amazing what people fought to preserve.

Craig and I had been talking about visiting Yosemite for a long time, but other trips kept happening. We have been to California many times and I felt bad being so close to Yosemite, but not having enough time to visit. After seeing Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks in 2014, we realized what we had been missing and putting off for so long. I am sorry we waited so long to see our parks. I do not regret any of the wonderful vacations we have had, but now that Craig has more vacation time we are able to spend more time at the parks. I work from home so I can adjust my schedule. This year we are so excited to visit several of California’s National Parks. There are events, shows and displays going on for Yosemite’s 125th. There is also a new passport stamp!

I started my planning at the library and on TripAdvisor. I love that I can look up books on our online library database and have them shipped to our local library. I really like the Moon Handbooks and Lonely Planet guide books. If we like the books, we buy them and pass them on to help others planning a trip.

TripAdvisor has forums for most popular vacation areas and the people on there are a great help! They answer questions about driving directions, lodging, activities, restaurants, hikes, etc. I have always lucked out with hotels that are top rated on TripAdvisor too. Even though I started looking at hotels about 9 months in advance, most of the rooms in the Yosemite Valley were booked. The reservations for park lodges often open up over a year in advance. For Yellowstone they open May 1st for the whole summer. You can check on the official websites and call for the exact dates to book. They will charge a nights deposit to hold a room. If you have your heart set on in park lodging, but everything is sold out, keep checking the web site and calling. Rooms do open up when people’s plans change. Wawona, Camp Curry and Housekeeping Camp have more options as well. I have all of our rooms held for our Grand Circle Tour in October except one night at the Bright Angel Lodge at the Grand Canyon. I keep checking for a room every few days. More on that trip in a future post!

Since the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls was booked and the Ahwahnee only had rooms here and there, we decided to book at the Evergreen Lodge near the Big Oak Flat entrance. Evergreen Lodge is a little far from the Valley, but it had very good reviews and we will be spending time all over Yosemite. We did decide to splurge and spend one night at the Ahwahnee so we could see a lot of the Valley and have their amazing Sunday Brunch!

Evergreen Lodge Cabin

Evergreen Lodge

awh

After reading several guide books and TripAdvisor forums, we decided on five nights in Yosemite, one night in Kings Canyon, one night in Sequoia and two nights in Joshua Tree. Sequoia and Kings Canyon are also celebrating anniversaries of 125 and 75 years! We are flying into San Francisco to spend three nights at the beginning of our trip, stopping at Disneyland for their 60th anniversary and ending the trip with three nights in San Diego to visit friends! One day in Yosemite will be spent at Hetch Hetchy and the Evergreen Lodge, one at Glacier Point, one on Tioga Pass Road/Tuolumne Meadows, two in the Valley and one morning in Wawona/Mariposa Grove.

If you have any questions about our planning just ask in the comments!