Goodbye

Today Craig’s coworkers threw a really nice party to say goodbye. He has a few days left of work and then we get down to packing the last of our stuff and the truck! People are coming Labor Day weekend to pick up the couch, TV and table. Then it will really be empty in here!

We loved all the cute decorations and food. The highlight was the camper cake our friend made.


Quick Update 


2016 was an amazing year! Craig and I got to visit 4 new national parks (Glacier, Everglades, Biscayne and Dry Tortugas) and revisit 2 of our favorites (Grand Teton and Yellowstone.) We also had a great camping weekend with friends in Acadia National Park and hiked a must do-the Precipice Trail.


Our plans for full time RVing are a bit up in the air now with probable changes coming to the ACA. We will keep our eye on what happens and continue to save for an RV (hopefully an Airstream) and truck. We want to have a nice cushion to buy some land soon too. 


We had a wonderful time in Florida in October and are going back in January to see friends and family. We have no other plans right now for 2017. Our Alaska trip is being put off until we have more money saved. We will see what the new year brings! We know we want to see the Pacific Northwest soon. We also want to hike more of Yosemite. We hope you all have an awesome 2017! 

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!

Mysteries at the National Parks

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A friend just told me about a new Travel Channel show called Mysteries at the National Parks. Here is their description:

America’s network of national parks represents vast, dense expanses of virtually unexplored wilderness — hotbeds for mysteries and the unexplained. Each episode delivers several haunting stories to add to the backdrop and natural beauty of some of the country’s most famous national parks.

I found some of the episodes on YouTube. They seem a bit cheesy, but I am looking forward to watching them during Halloween time. Enjoy!

 

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 Highline Trail

One of the most popular hikes in Glacier National Park is the Highline Trail. You access the trailhead from the Logan Pass Visitor Center area. The trail is 15.2 miles long and gains over 1,900 feet of elevation, so it is pretty strenuous if you hike the whole trail. If you want to shorten the hike, you can hike to Haystack Pass (3.6 miles) and back (about 7 miles round trip.)

Near the first part of the trail you reach the ledge on the Garden Wall that hangs high above the Going to the Sun Road. If you have a fear of heights, this part may be tough. The ledge is only 4-6 feet wide and drops off about 100 feet on one side. There is a cable attached to the wall that you can hold on to. We saw some little kids that were very scared on this part.

After this part, the views start to get amazing. If you do not get on the Highline Trail early, prepare to see crowds. The Logan Pass parking lot gets packed too. It fills by 10am most mornings in July and August! We saw less than 10 people on the trail in the morning and had to let many people pass us on the way back. That tends to slow you down, so plan plenty of time.

We had two mountain goats blocking the trail at one point! A ranger came along and had to shake a plastic bag at them to move them off of the trail. It was not wide enough to get by them otherwise. One day soon, Craig and I hope to hike the Highline Trail to the Granite Park Chalet built in 1914.  

 

 

Grinnell Glacier Hike

If you visit Glacier National Park, the Grinnell Glacier hike is a must do! It is a moderately strenuous 11.6 mile round trip with over 1,800 feet of elevation gain. You can cut out 3.4 miles of the hike by taking two classic wood boats across Swiftcurrent Lake and Lake Josephene. Book them way ahead to get a spot. The hike opens fully towards the end of July. Otherwise, you may not be able to go all the way due to snow. Check the NPS site for updates.

Craig and I went on the ranger led hike and had a great time. It was tough climbing the first part of the hike, and we were glad to have poles going up and back down. Our ranger David stopped every so often to give the group a rest and to give slower hikers a chance to catch up. We learned a lot about the geology of the park, saw three glaciers, amazing wildflowers, walked through waterfalls, saw wildlife like Bighorn Sheep and 1.5 billion year old Stromatolites.

Take plenty of water on the hike and wear a hat and good hiking shoes/boots. You may want to order a box lunch from your hotel the night before and take a small soft-sided cooler with you. There is a picnic area along the way with benches and pretty clean pit toilets. It is a hard hike, but so worth the effort. It is probably my favorite hike I have done so far. It is hard to show how enormous Grinnell Glacier is with pictures. It is also amazing to see how far it has receded. Please go and experience it while you still can! 

Here is a great site for hiking Glacier. This site gives you details on the Grinnell Glacier hike.