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.
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.
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.
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!!)
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 towns. To see what other bloggers will be posting about, check out the link: A to Z Theme Reveal List for 2016
The V Towns
Back in 2007 I had occasion to visit a friend of mine in Alberta, Canada. One of the side trips we tool was to the town of Vulcan, which has taken full advantage of its name and the association with the TV show Star Trek. Vulcan is a town located midway between the cities of Calgary and Lethbridge inthe prairies of Southern Alberta, Canada. The population of the town was 1,940 in 2006, and the population of the county, which is also named Vulcan. See more about my Vulcan visit HERE. Live long and prosper!!
Last week I posted about a place near Sweet Grass, Montana called Jerusalem Rocks. About 70 south of there is a town called Valier. It is a small town of about 700 and really does not have a whole lot there. But, just outside of town is another outcropping of hoodoos and formations in a place called Rock City. I wrote about this and other similar places in a post HERE. But, you may also want to check out my complete post on my Montana US Highway 89 adventure HERE.
In 1975 I made weekly trips from Salt Lake City to Vernal, Utah for work as a record/tape distributor. I loved the drive and Vernal was actually a nice place to visit every week. In the early 2000s I once again visited with my family as we ventured to the Dinosaur National Monument. Along with my trips, I would drive the switchbacks form Vernal and over the area known as Flaming Gorge. This is beautiful country and well worth the visit. It has been many years since I have been there, and I hope to get there again soon!
On a family trip in 2014, we drove through the town of Vandalia, Illinois as part of our return trip home. Our main reason for coming here was to see a fire breathing dragon…made from metal. But, Vandalia is so much more. This is where Abraham Lincoln kicked off his career as a politician. It was the western terminus of the National Road, one of America’s first highways. The Kaskaskia Dragon was a load of fun for the grandkids too!! Check out my full trip report with lots of photos HERE.
In the summer of 2014 I cruised down the Blues Highway and ended up spending the night in Vicksburg, Mississippi. I woke up early the next day to visit the Vicksburg National Military Park before heading further south on Highway 61. The park preserves the site of the American Civil War Battle of Vicksburg, waged from May 18 to July 4, 1863 and also commemorates the greater Vicksburg Campaign, which preceded the battle. The expansive park includes 1,340 historic monuments and markers, 20 miles of historic trenches and earthworks, a 16-mile tour road, 144 emplaced cannons, a restored gunboat, and more. A must see for Civil War enthusiasts, but also a great place to learn about a facet of American history. Besides the park, the town has a great Coca Cola memorabilia museum and a number of murals along the river wall. You can see many more photos and a more detailed writeup about my visit in 2014 HERE.
Versailles, Kentucky (Honorable Mention)
Living in Lexington, Kentucky offers many wonderful opportunities for “Staycations.” One great place to visit nearby is the lovely and historic town of Versailles (pronounced Ver-sales) which is on US Highway 62 west of Lexington. Versailles is well-known for its quaint, small-town beauty, beautiful horse farms and Kentucky’s famed bourbon distilleries, including the famed Woodford Reserve. Many of the famed Bluegrass Horse Farms are in Woodford County and near Versailles. I have never written a blog post about Versailles, but I would highly recommend a visit there if you come to Kentucky. Plan the trip in April and go to the races at nearby Keeneland Racetrack then take the Bourbon Trail. Check out my 2013 blog post about Horse Farm Country with many photos about horses, horse farms and the Horse Capital of the World — right HERE.
Vincennes, Indiana (Honorable Mention)
In the summer of 2001 my family took a trip westward to Utah (including the trip to Vernal noted above). Early in the trip we went through Vincennes, Indiana to visit the George Rogers Clark National Historical Park. Founded in 1732 by French fur traders, Vincennes is the oldest continually inhabited European settlement in Indiana and one of the oldest settlements west of the Appalachians. It sits at the intersection of US Highway 41 and US Highway 50. George Rogers Clark (November 19, 1752 – February 13, 1818) was a surveyor, soldier, and militia officer from Virginia and the highest ranking American military officer on the northwestern frontier during the American Revolutionary War. He served as leader of the Kentucky (then part of Virginia) militia throughout much of the war. Clark is best known for his celebrated captures of Kaskaskia (1778) (Way before the fiery dragon noted above!!) and Vincennes (1779) during the Illinois Campaign, which greatly weakened British influence in the Northwest Territory. Because the British ceded the entire Northwest Territory to the United States in the 1783 Treaty of Paris, Clark has often been hailed as the “Conqueror of the Old Northwest”. his younger brother William was the “Clark” in the Lewis and Clark expeditions. This trip was well before my travel blogging days, but the Memorial was definitely one of our more memorable experiences on a trip across the country to see history.
Did You Miss My Other A to Z Challenge Posts? Click on a letter below to see the others.
This is Part 2 of a Three Part series on “Creating the Wanderlust” – how I have shared travel experiences with my children and grandchildren over the last 30+ years and how this has opened their eyes to the world around them. You can see Part 1 here.
During 1996 and 1997 we didn’t travel much though we did visit a couple of Kentucky sites including the birthplace of Abraham Lincoln near Hodgenville, KY and Cumberland Gap.
The big highlight of 1997 was when our 1995 French exchange student Barbara Grandvoinet came back to see us and we ventured off to St. Louis for a visit to the big St. Louis Art Museum, the Science Museum and the Gateway Arch and more. This was a BLAST of a trip for all of us, though fairly short. (Barbara has since become quite an accomplished short film director and has traveled the world. She too got the wanderlust!! — see more about her here and her personal Website at Babs Productions)
The visit to the Gateway Arch was the first for all of us and we took the opportunity to take the ride to the top and get a view like no other. It was scary up there knowing that nothing was below our feet but a bit of steel and lots of air.
Our next big adventures took place in the summer of 1998. This was a really exciting year for my two oldest daughters, who both got to make trips from little Nicholasville, KY to the excitement of Europe. Amaree was accepted into an All-American Choir who toured a number of countries in Europe and performed. At the about the same time, Marissa was invited to visit Barbara in France. Amaree had the opportunity to join Marissa in Paris. Both got to meet Barbara’s family and both had amazing experiences. (Dad is still jealous as he still has not had the opportunity to visit Europe — but he will!!)
We took three trips to the east during 1998. The first trip was to take Amaree to Pennsylvania where she would meet up with the touring choir and have orientation prior to heading to Europe. Along the way we visited Hershey and toured the Chocolate World facility. While there Seth dragged his arm down the stair rail and got it stuck in the rail. Security had to help him out and it took quite a “scary” while for all of us. In the long run all was OK and were even given a bunch of chocolate for the inconvenience.
From Hershey we also visited Easton, PA, home of the Crayola Museum (and at the time also had a Pez Museum which was closed in 2009 after a lawsuit). It was fun to go through the museum and watch how Crayola Crayons were made.
So, we had to return to Pennsylvania a week later to drop Amaree off for the actual trip and on the way there Amaree, Seth, Solomon and I headed to Gettysburg, where there was a gigantic Civil War reenactment taking place to commemorate the 135th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg (see some interesting photos someone else took of the actual encampments, etc.). This actually came as a surprise to us as we had just planned to visit after dropping Amaree off. But when we got there we saw thousands of white tents. It was pretty “in-tents”!!
We searched around town for a Gettysburg Address and found out that almost every house in Gettysburg had one. However, we did find a sign that had Gettysburg Address written on it.
We also found the “Dead Center of Town”……
Ultimately, it was a quick two day round trip. But, it was not the last trip east. A few weeks later I made my way to New York to pick up both Amaree and Marissa. Chelsea, Seth and Solomon joined me on this trip and we met my sister Sherry there as well. We visited some family, but perhaps the most memorable photo I have is the one below with the World Trade Center in the background. Little did we know that a mere 37 months later both of these buildings would be gone…destroyed by terrorists.
Unfortunately, this too was a quick trip and we didn’t have time to get many photos of the kids and New York, but the one above is priceless!!
In 1998 we were also looking at schools for Marissa and took a quick trip to Buena Vista, VA to look at Southern Virginia University. While on this trip we also took a visit to historic Lexington, Virginia. We finally decided on BYU for her and in 1999 took Marissa out there with Seth and Solomon. In 1999 we also headed West as a family (except for Marissa who came down from Utah) for Christmas with my wife’s family in Mesa, Arizona and then a visit on New Year’s Day 2000 with my Aunt Maxine in Albuquerque on the way home. It was a fun year…
A little side note: Montezuma Castle was one of the first four National Monuments dedicated in 1906 by President Theodore Roosevelt.
Akela Flats is one of 10 Bowlin Travel Centers in the Southwest, most of them along Interstate 10 from Tucson, AZ to Las Cruces, NM. These are the ultimate “Tourist Traps” with lots of fun stuff. In 2011 we visited “The Thing” on a trip from Arizona to Kentucky. I’ll have a Flashback post about that trip in the near future.
During the fall of 1999 some of us also made a quick trip to Cleveland to visit the Laurienzo arm of my family up there. Along the way we stopped at the Longaberger Basket HQ in Newark, Ohio. Giant picnic basket!
The new millennium ushered in another year of travel for us. Not only did we drive home the first two days of the year 2000, but we made a few other interesting trips. We took a trip to Nashville for the Dedication of the LDS (Mormon) Nashville Temple in May 2000.
On another adventure in May, we took a two day swing up to Chicago for the grand opening of the “Sue” T-Rex exhibit at the Field Museum. We had heard about this event and since Chicago is really only a 6 hour drive, we took the opportunity to attend the event as a family. “Sue” is the largest, most complete, and best preserved Tyrannosaurus rex ever discovered.
Early in 2001 my boys and I joined a number of friends from Kentucky and even Utah in Memphis, Tennessee for the Liberty Bowl game between BYU and Louisville. It was a miserably cold day and miserable for BYU fans in general. But, we made sure to enjoy the “blues” and sought a little Graceland before digging into some Memphis BBQ!
Travel continued that year with a couple more trips. Over the summer we took the family to Nauvoo, Illinois to see the new LDS Temple being built there and also visit some of the church historical sites. Along the way we also visited some museums and historical sites.
In 1779 George Rogers Clark led a group of 170 foot soldiers on a n 18 day trek to keep the British from laying claim to Fort Sackville, which was, at that time, on the outskirts of the western frontier in present day Indiana. This helped America gain possession of the northwest territory. The beautiful building and the statue and seven murals inside of the Clark National Monument, tell the story of this great Revolutionary War battle.
From Vincennes, we continued west to Springfield, Illinois to visit another Abraham Lincoln Monument. This was the Lincoln Home National Historic Site, where we were able to tour the home, see the furnishings and learn more about the Illinois era of Abraham Lincoln’s prolific life.
Along the way, we made a stop in Hannibal, Missouri and visited some Mark Twain historic sites. Seth and Solomon got to learn all about painting fences, while my wife and daughters looked at some of the shops.
From Hannibal we headed north to Nauvoo and Carthage with a brief stop in Quincy. Some of my step mother’s ancestors were buried here…namely, Hanks family members (yes, related to Abraham Lincoln). We tracked down the grave markers and took etchings of them.
There is a great deal of family history on my wife’s side in Nauvoo so it was a great opportunity to see both LDS Church Historical Sites while also learning how this related to the family’s heritage.
On our way home we stopped in Indianapolis to visit the wonderful Indianapolis Children’s Museum. This was our fist time there and I have visited a couple of times since 2001, including a visit with the grandchildren in 2013 (see post about that here).
On our 2013 visit two of my grandchildren posed in front of the same statue, which had been moved to a different location on the museum grounds. When I took that photo, I had forgotten all about the one I took in 2001…funny…
The big news for 2001 was that our daughter Amaree departed for a year and a half long LDS Mission to Japan. Her travel experiences would take her back to a country she knew and loved. Ironically, she was sent to the same area where served back in 1976 to 1978.
In the summer of 2002 we headed to Utah to visit my wife’s parents. It was a fast trip with few stops, but we did make a stop in Dinosaur, Colorado (near Vernal, Utah) to see the amazing Dinosaur National Monument. Once again, there was always an effort to go to places where the children could learn about the world and its history.
With the growth of children and their attending college and serving missions, coupled with busy jobs, much of our family travel seemed to dwindle. Marissa was soon off to Thailand to serve an LDS mission and the other kids were involved in other things. Julianne and I did get to go on a cruise to Alaska with her parents and siblings in June 2004, but the kids didn’t come along.
Amaree eventually got a teaching in job in Montana, so she and Seth headed west on a “Sumoflam adventure” of their own (with much advice and travel guidance from their Dad of course).
We didn’t really have any more big trips until the wild year of 2005. I had spent about six weeks in Cebu, Philippines early that year for work only to come home to THREE engaged daughters. By May, the entire family was traipsing all over the country for weddings. In May we went to Gatlinburg for our youngest daughter Chelsea’s wedding and then a few weeks later we were off to Montana and Cardston, Alberta for our oldest child Amaree’s wedding. Less than 10 days later we were back in Kentucky for Marissa’s wedding and a TRIPLE reception.
After a brief recovery, the whole family (except for Chelsea) was off to Montana. This was the prime opportunity for me to make a full-fledged road trip plan with lots of stops along the way. Thanks to a kind friend at work, we were loaned a conversion van, so Seth, Solomon, Marissa and I loaded up and headed west for one of my epic offbeat trips!! We left on June 15, about 4 weeks after getting back from Gatlinburg. (see the entire trip report on my old website – with dozens of photos, some of which will be shown below)
Thanks to the internet and Roadside America, among other sites, I planned this trip meticulously. It was probably my biggest adventure ever with my children, at least with some of them.
Roadside guidance provided by……
Ultimately, this trip covered 4500 miles in six days. We ventured through (or into) ten states and one Canadian Province. We saw dozens of unique sites along the way as well. We actually retraced some of Amaree and Seth’s route from 2004 as well. But, more than education this time, we set out to make this a fun and quirky offbeat trip to relieve from stress of weddings and to just have fun. Here are a few of the better shots. So many more are on my old journal post at sumoflam.biz. The ultimate vacation!! Many memories were made…
Our first day took us from Lexington through Indy, Chicago, Minneapolis and finally St. Cloud, MN. The second day was another doozy….
We finally got into my old stomping grounds of Great Falls, Montana late on the 17th and really needed some rest. The next day would be Amaree’s wedding in Cardston, Alberta and we would then return home via Glacier National Park…
The four of us headed out of Great Falls on June 19th in two cars (Seth and Solomon returned in the car he drove out to Montana with Amaree in 2004). We headed southeast for more adventures on the way home….
After an overnight stay near Mt. Rushmore, we had one more day of travel…a really long trip home in two cars with very little time as Marissa had to get back home to prepare for her wedding…just three days away.
After hitting Mitchell, SD, we “splurged” on a cheap meal at Taco Bell and began the long trek home on the highways. We stopped in Blue Earth, MN at dusk in hopes of seeing the Green Giant but were hit by a massive rain storm, so we slept it out in a rest area. After a couple of hours we were back on the road with a couple more stops along the way to rest. We finally got home early in the morning…tired, hungry and weary, but enthralled from the amazing trip… then Marissa’s wedding in Louisville and the reception.
And thus ends Part 2 of my “Creating the Wanderlust” series. Part 3 begins the “Grandchildren Era” and includes more cross country trips with kidz and grandkidz. The years 2005 to 2013 have been a completely thrilling joyride!