N is for National Parks & Monuments – #atozchallenge

The US National Park System has 417 official units throughout the country including 59 National Parks, 87 National Monuments, 19 National Preserves, 51 National Historic Parks, 78 National Historic Sites, 4 National Battlefield Parks, 9 National Military Parks, 9 National Battlefields, 30 National Memorials and a number of other National sites including National Rivers, National Seashores, National Lakeshores, National Parkways and National Trails.

Bison relax along Lava Creek in Yellowstone while pronghorned antelope look on from the background
Sumoflam and Cannons at Vicksburg National Military Park
Towpath Trail in Cuyahoga Valley NP, Ohio

Officially, the National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the National Park System for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.

Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
A couple of my children at the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln in Kentucky in 1997
Badlands National Park in SD

The NPS is a great blessing to the citizens of this country and all others that may visit.  They have some amazing offerings and a road trip that passes by these is not a worthy roadtrip.  These sites are the gems of our country!

Though I have visited all 50 states in the US, I have not been able to get to many of the sites.  Of the 59 National Parks, for instance, I have only visited 28 of them and some of those were way before my travel blogging and photography days. Of all of the others, I have been to 77 of the nearly 350 sites.  So, I still have a long way to go.

Grand Tetons along US 89 in March 2013
Visiting Shenandoah National Park on Easter Sunday 2017
Gettysburg Address Commemorative Sign, July 1998

That said, I have thoroughly enjoyed my visits to many of the National Parks, Monuments and other NPS sites. My personal favorites are Glacier National Park (Montana), Grand Teton National Park (Wyoming) and Yellowstone National Park (WY) — OK…I love the mountains!!

Following are some photos of some of the other NPS Sites that I have visited over the years.  More are sure to come soon!!  (In fact, just this past weekend — Easter weekend 2017 — I drove the Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park and got photos of the Easter Sunrise!!)

Easter Morning Sunrise 2017 in Shenandoah National Park
Grave markers of the US Calvary Soldiers that died at the Battle of Little Big Horn in Little Big Horn National Monument in Montana
Sumoflam at Montezuma Castle National Monument in Arizona in 1983
Visiting the Grand Canyon in 1983
Dinosaur National Monument, Vernal, UT
Family at Sunset Crater National Monument north of Flagstaff in July 1993
The Washington Monument and the US Capitol in Washington DC in 2016
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Visiting Craters of the Moon in Idaho in 2013
Entering Mt. Rainier National Park on WA 410 south of Greenwater, WA
Agate Fossil Bed National Monument in Nebraska
With some family members and a friend at Glacier National Park (May 2005)
Purple Mountain Majesties – Glacier Bay National Park, Alaska
Mount Olympus and Olympic National Park in Washington as seen from Hwy 104
One of the wild horses on the sand dunes at Assateague National Seashore in Maryland
Visiting the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona with some tourists from the Isle of Man in 1983
Sumoflam at the White House – July 1990
Mt. Rushmore in 2013
Family at the Lincoln Home in Springfield, Illinois, Summer 2001
Visiting Yellowstone National Park in 2014
Family at the George Rogers Clark National Historic Park in Vincennes, Indiana Summer 2001
Capulin Volcano – part of the Capulin National Monument in New Mexico
Some of the kids viewing the massive New River Gorge Bridge in New River Gorge National River, WV in August 1995
Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, NY 1990
Visiting Bandelier National Monument near Los Alamos, New Mexico in 1979. I have always enjoyed visiting old Indian ruins.
Sumoflam at the Everglades in Florida in July 1990
At the St. Louis Arch in Missouri
At Golden Gate Bridge in May 2015
My son Seth at Wupatki National Monument in April 1992





G is for Grandeur – #atozchallenge

The United States is a vast and diverse country. From sea to shining sea there are sweeping vistas and spectacular scenes of nature.

The grandeur of this country is not seen on the interstate highways, but on the back roads and the gravel roads that have woven the fiber of this country.

Grandeur as seen on a back road in North Dakota – The Enchanted Highway
Mt. Moran in the Grand Tetons as seen from Colter Bay Lodge

I am always awestruck by the superb landscapes that one can witness on the back roads. Some of these landscapes, such as the Grand Canyon and the Rocky Mountains, are known by everybody. But there are so many more spectacles to feast your eyes upon.

When speaking of grandeur, perhaps one of my most favorite locations is Monument Valley in the northwest corner of Arizona and the southwest corner of Utah. Located within the Navajo Indian reservation, this amazing natural wonder has been the backdrop for many movies and television commercials. And one can only stand in a location or another and must turn their head from left to right to catch the full glory of this spectacular wonder of nature.

Visiting Monument Valley with my family in 1993
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona
Sumoflam at Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona in 1990
Coal Mine Canyon in Arizona, ca. 1983

Not too far from there and also on the Navajo Reservation is a much lesser known, but in another way very spectacular sight. Called Coal Mine Canyon, it is a hidden gem off of a two lane highway east of Tuba City, AZ.

Coal Mine Canyon is filled with a variety of HooDoos…ghost like rock formations that can form eerie shadows and spooky formations at night.  The view goes on for miles into Blue Canyon.  In any other state, this might be a National Park or Monument.  It is just one more canyon in Arizona.

Sitting high up on Mt. Evans in Colorado in 1990 looking down at a crystal lake,

Head north into Colorado and take a ride up to Mount Evans north of Denver. Nearly 13,000 feet up, it offers up an amazing view of the mountains and lakes below.

The Beartooth Range in northern Wyoming.
At Beartooth Level — looking at the mountains from the top of the world

Not to be outdone in the words of grandeur, is the scenic highway that traverses the Bear Tooth Range along the Montana and Wyoming border. I have only been there once and it was in the very early spring on the first day the road was open. There were still piles of snow on both sides of the road. But the expanse of the mountains left me in awe.


An antelope and her calves run through the grasslands near Craig, CO
SD 63, a gravel road, runs through northern South Dakota’s grasslands and badlands

But grandeur is not just mountains or spectacular geologic formations. I can drive through the plains of North Dakota or South Dakota and experience miles and miles of grasslands.

I have driven through these great plains in North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming and Nebraska. To some, the drive through these vast grasslands might be considered boring. To me, the vast expanse of grasslands is stunning.

The Oyate Trail highway in southern South Dakota
Wide Open Spaces near Scottsbluff, Nebraska
Mountains and grasslands near Glacier National Park and Bynum, Montana
Expansive views across Wyoming
Sandhill Cranes fly over high plains near Dell, MT
Expansive corn fields in central Missouri
Atlantic Sunrise in Maine

Then there is the grandeur of the oceans. I have been blessed to have been able to see the Pacific Ocean from the northern parts of Washington and Oregon all the way to the coast in Southern California. I have also seen the Atlantic Ocean from points in Maine all the way south to Florida. The amazing sunrises and sunsets over the water provide unspeakable grandeur and a glorious feeling.

Like the oceans, the Gulf of Mexico offers similar sights. Nothing like witnessing the spectacle flocks of pelicans flying in sync overhead.

Christmas sunrise near Ocean City, Maryland with a dolphin swimming by
Waves crash on the Pacific Ocean in the northwestern-most point in the continental US near Neah Bay, WA
Brown pelicans fly in synchronized formation over the Gulf of Mexico near Galveston, TX
A hoodoo at Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming

The most gratifying part of experiencing grandeur for me is that every back road and numbered highway offers a peek at splendid views. One needs only crest to the top of a hill and laid out before your eyes are wonderful scenes like that of Hells Canyon in Oregon, or in Hell’s Half Acre in the middle of Wyoming. Drive along a two Lane highway in the eastern United States in the fall and you get to the top of the hill and see nothing but spectacular fall colors as far as the eye can see.


Hell’s Half Acre in Wyoming
Hells Canyon in northeast Oregon is actually wider and deeper than the Grand Canyon
View of Cincinnati, OH

But the grandeur is not just in nature. From a different perspective, the views of the skyline of a big city offers its own brand you were. Whether enjoying the skyline of Manhattan from across the river in Hoboken, NJ to witnessing the scene of riverine cities such as Pittsburgh or Cincinnati from the top of a hill, one gets a sense of how small they really are.

Three of my grandchildren look out at the lights of New York City from Sinatra Park in Hoboken, NJ
A panoramic shot of Pittsburgh from Mt. Washington
Seattle as seen from a boat in the Puget Sound
Massive bald cypress forests in Caddo Lake in NE Texas

I am grateful to live in these United States and my heart is filled with joy that I have been able to travel many a back road and experience the grandeur of this country.

With each new road comes a new experience. I still have yet to personally experience the special nature of Yosemite National Park or the giant sequoia trees of Northern California. But I have seen the vast expanses filled with volcanoes in Hawaii or the old volcano cones in New Mexico and Arizona.

Grand Tetons as seen from Driggs, Idaho
Humongous field of sunflowers in Central Kentucky. This too offers a feeling of grandeur

I have driven the long highway over Lake Ponchatrain in Louisiana and over the amazing Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel. These man-made spectacles still offer a sense of grandeur.

The river into Juneau, Alaska as seen from a mountain top near Juneau
Fall colors as seen from a highway near Damascus, VA in 2016
Fall colors in horse farm country on a small road near Lexington, KY
Grand scene of the Badlands National Park
Visiting White Sands, NM in 2013
Bison relax in a wide field with antelope grazing in the background. Taken form the road in Yellowstone National Park
Sawtooth Mountains as seen from Stanley, ID
Two Medicine River canyon in Montana
Rock City in Central Montana
Fall colors from the Virginia Creeper Trail in Virginia
The grandeur of nature with sunbeams shining over a lake in Kentucky

So, get out on the road and experience this country for yourself.


A to Z Challenge: The K Towns #atozchallenge

During the month of April I am participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. The challenge has each blogger select a theme and then do a post thematically from A to Z during each day of April , except Sundays. My blog is number 1337 out of 1670 participating blogs. This year my A to Z posts will take you across the back roads of America to many unique what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016

K The K Towns

Kemmerer, Wyoming

Welcome to Kemmerer-Diamondville, Wyoming
Welcome to Kemmerer-Diamondville, Wyoming
US 30 east of Kemmerer/Diamondville
US 30 east of Kemmerer/Diamondville
Harvey Jackson mural on a corner in Kemmerer, WY
Harvey Jackson mural on a corner in Kemmerer, WY
Oregon Trail Marker in Kemmerer, WY
Oregon Trail Marker in Kemmerer, WY
Sumoflam with wooden Ma and Pa
Sumoflam with wooden Ma and Pa
JC Penney Mother Store
J.C. Penney Mother Store

Kemmerer, Wyoming and Diamondville, Wyoming are basically twin cities that reside in what is called “The Fossil Basin” due to the abundant fish fossils in the area.  On the way into Kemmerer I passed Fossil Butte National Monument, but did not have time to stop there. Some of the world’s best preserved fossils are found here including fossilized fish, insects, plants, reptiles, birds, and mammals.  They are apparently exceptional for their abundance, variety, and detail of preservation.   There are also “Dig-your-own” fossil quarries located in the hills surrounding ancient Fossil Lake, just west of Kemmerer and Diamondville.  So, this is a haven for fossil enthusiasts. Also, In 1902 James Cash Penney came to Kemmerer to open a business.  He set up the “Golden Rule Store” and opened its doors on April 14, 1902 in partnership with two other individuals. The partnership later dissolved, and, in 1909 Penney moved his headquarters to Salt Lake City to be closer to banks and railroads. The “Mother Store” still operates in Kemmerer. You can see more about my visit to Kemmerer and other Wyoming spots HERE.

Keystone, South Dakota

Welcome to Keystone, SD
Welcome to Keystone, SD
Mt. Rushmore near Keystone, SD
Mt. Rushmore near Keystone, SD

Keystone, South Dakota is the Gateway to Mt. Rushmore National Monument.  The town has a number of touristy shops, lots of hotels and motels and a few little resort types of things, typical of a “Gateway” town. The real point is that you need to go through Keystone to get to Mt. Rushmore National Monument.  A wonderful place to visit. Check out my post about my 2013 roadtrip from Glendive through the Enchanted Highway in North Dakota and into Keystone HERE.

Ketchikan, Alaska

My wife in Ketchikan, Alaska in 2004
My wife in Ketchikan, Alaska in 2004
Road up on stilts in Ketchikan, Alaska
Road up on stilts in Ketchikan, Alaska
House on Stilts in Ketchikan
House on Stilts in Ketchikan
Our Cruise Ship "Amsterdam" towers over the small town of Ketchikan, Alaska in 2004
Our Cruise Ship “Amsterdam” towers over the small town of Ketchikan, Alaska in 2004
Sumoflam with a Totem Pole in Ketchikan
Sumoflam with a Totem Pole in Ketchikan

In my last post I wrote about Juneau and our cruise in 2004.  After our visit to Juneau we then went on to Ketchikan, Alaska.  The town is dotted with totem poles and lots of souvenir shops.  It really was a fun place to visit.

Kensington District in Toronto, Ontario

Kensington Ave. in Toronto
Kensington Ave. in Toronto
Welcome to Kensington
Welcome to Kensington Street Art
Store Fronts in Kensington
Store Fronts in Kensington
CPub Clothing Shop in Kensington
CPub Clothing Shop in Kensington
Customers Needed sign in Kensington Market
Customers Needed sign in Kensington Market
Shops in Kensington
Shops in Kensington
Kensington Wall Art
Kensington Wall Art
King of Kensington
King of Kensington
Kensington Wall Art
Kensington Wall Art

OK, I admit it…Kensington is just a district of Toronto, Canada’s biggest city. But, in many respects it is like a little enclave of a town in the midst of the city. The smells and aromas of the food and markets are wonderful, but even better is the eye candy in the form of colorful store fronts, wall art, street art and shop signs.  I was always a fan of wall murals and art, but it was in Kensington that I fell in love with “graffiti” and Street Art, which has continued to this day.  I visited Kensington in 2008 on part of an all day trip to Toronto.  See the full story with a ton of photos HERE.

Kadoka, South Dakota

Kadoka, South Dakota water tower
Kadoka, South Dakota water tower
Badland's Travel Stop - Belvidere, SD
Badland’s Travel Stop – Belvidere, SD
Kadoka Badlands Petrified Gardens
Kadoka Badlands Petrified Gardens
Museum sign in Kadoka, SD
Museum sign in Kadoka, SD
Old Wagon Wheel Motel Neon Sign in Kadoka
Old Wagon Wheel Motel Neon Sign in Kadoka
Badlands National Park in SD
Badlands National Park in SD
"Scrappy" the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang - Kadoka, South Dakota
“Scrappy” the Scrap Metal Buck by Brett Prang – Kadoka, South Dakota

Kadoka, South Dakota is the Gateway to the Badlands National Park. A great little rustic town with a couple of Trading Posts, and a few interesting statues, etc.  Scrappy, the scrap metal deer made from auto parts was fascinating to me.  See my full post about Kadoka and the Badlands HERE and HERE.

Kremlin, Montana (Honorable Mention)

Kremlin Post Office, Kremlin, Montana
Kremlin Post Office, Kremlin, Montana
Kremlin, Montana -- USA Style
Kremlin, Montana — USA Style

Kremlin, Montana is another of the interesting small communities on US Highway 2, the Hi-Line, in Montana. The town of Kremlin apparently got its name from a Russian immigrant who was laying railroad track in the area around 1890. He saw the Bears Paws mountains in the distance and they reminded him of home.

Kirkwood, Missouri (Honorable Mention)

Laumeier Sculpture Park and Museum in Kirkwood, MO
Bro. Mel Meyer – Chairs, 1996 (located downtown Kirkwood)
Bro. Mel Meyer – Chairs, 1996 (located downtown Kirkwood)

Kirkwood, Missouri is a suburb of St. Louis and is known for its massive collection of outdoor artwork, especially the pieces located in the Laumeier Sculpture Park. I am always a fan of creativity and outdoor art and the large number of huge pieces at the Sculpture Park was fascinating.  You can see photos of many of them on my post about a visit to St. Louis and Kirkwood in 2010.  The post can be seen HERE.

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A2Z-BADGE [2016]