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

 

 

 

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Ten Giant Reasons to Visit North Dakota

MapLoco States I Have Visited
MapLoco States I Have Visited

In the last few days there has been a viral survey on Facebook (seems like there is one every week!!).  Simply put, “How Many States Have You Visited” is fun for all because it is simple and adds color and is really a “go viral” piece.  MapLoco.com has apparently used it to draw attention to their site.  I did it and my results are above – yes, I only have three states to go.  Many of my friends have done it as well and one common theme I found among many of them….they had not yet been to North Dakota.  In fact, a couple of my friends even indicated that they may never find a reason to go to North Dakota.

North Dakota Map from 1958
North Dakota Map from 1958

North Dakota gets a bad rap from people because in the winter there are unbearable blizzards and snow.  The state is relatively flat and “may not” have interesting places to visit (or so people think).  But, despite the cold winter, there is plenty to see and do in North Dakota for fun, especially if you go in late Spring or during the Summer.  Here are my TOP TEN places to visit in North Dakota.

1. Theodore Roosevelt National Park – Medora, ND

Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park
Some of the scenic and colorful hills of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Yes indeed, there IS a National Park in North Dakota.  Theodore Roosevelt National Park, named after the President that pushed forth conservation by establishing the National Forest Service, and establishing 51 Federal Bird Reservations, 4 National Game Preserves, 150 National Forests, 5 National Parks, and enabling the 1906 American Antiquities Act which he used to proclaim 18 National Monuments. During his presidency, Theodore Roosevelt protected approximately 230,000,000 acres of public land.

2. The Enchanted Highway – Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND

Enchanted Highway in North Dakota
Enchanted Highway in North Dakota

The Enchanted Highway is a collection of the world’s largest scrap metal sculptures constructed at intervals along a 32 mile stretch of two-lane highway from east of Dickinson, ND to Regent, ND.  In my opinion, this is one of America’s TOP Roadside Attractions. (See my complete blog post about it here).

Fisherman's Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Fisherman’s Dream, one of the many Ginormous scrap metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway
Sumoflam visiting the Tin Family, another large set of metal sculptures on the Enchanted Highway

3.  Interstate 94 – The Highway of Giants

World's Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND
World’s Largest Buffalo, Jamestown, ND

Interstate 94 from Fargo to Dickinson boasts FOUR of the World’s Largest things (see my post about this part of North Dakota)…the World’s Largest Buffalo in Jamestown, ND; the World’s Largest Sand Crane in Steele, ND; Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow in New Salem, ND (see #6 below); and “Geese in Flight”, the first piece of the Enchanted Highway and the Guinness World Record Holder for the largest scrap metal sculpture in the world.

World's Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
World’s Largest Sand Crane, Steele, ND
Sumoflam at the "Geese in Flight" Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world's largest
Sumoflam at the “Geese in Flight” Scrap Metal Sculpture, the world’s largest

4. Rugby, ND – The Geographical Center of North America

Rugby, ND - The Geographic Center of North America
Rugby, ND – The Geographic Center of North America

I got to visit Rugby in 2014.  The novelty of visiting the Geographical Center of North America was too much to resist (see my post here).

The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America
The Rugby Monument to the Geographical Center of North America

5. Space Aliens Bar and Grill in Fargo, ND

Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND
Space Aliens Bar & Grill, Fargo, ND

I have visited three of these locations over the years.  For an out of this world tasty experience (they have BBQ Ribs!!) you must stop by Space Aliens.  They actually have TWO locations in North Dakota (Bismarck as well).  As you can see below, back in 2005 we finished off a massive all-you-can-eat dinner. And the quirky theme restaurant has all of the outer-space kitsch you want too!

Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005
Finishing off a pile of ribs at Space Aliens back in 2005

6. Salem Sue, the World’s Largest Holstein Cow, New Salem, ND

Salem Sue in New Salem, ND - the World's Largest Holstein Cow
Salem Sue in New Salem, ND – the World’s Largest Holstein Cow

For an udderly moooving experience, Salem Sue is a must see attraction.  At 38 feet tall, 50 feet long and weighing over 12,000 pounds, this cow is amazing fun.  On a hill near New Salem, ND (I-94, exit 127), this bodacious bovine can be seen from as far as seven miles away on a clear day.

Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing
Salem Sue is a giant of all giants. Udderly amazing

7. A Pyramid in the Middle of Nowhere – Nekoma, ND

The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex
The Pyramid Shaped MSR of the Mickelsen Safeguard Complex

This pyramid is actually called the Missile Site Radar (MSR) installation. It is part of a larger installation called the Stanley R. Mickelson Safeguard Complex (SRMSC).  Built in the 1970s. this complex was the United States’ first operational ABM (anti-ballistic missile) defense system. This lonely 80 foot tall pyramid can be seen for miles. (See my complete post about this part of North Dakota)

The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND
The Pyramid in Nekoma, ND

8. Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND
Thunderbird Sculpture in Bismarck, ND

This large four headed thunderbird statue at the Keelboat Park is uber impressive. The sculpture represents a powerful American Indian spirit that depicts thunderstorms. (See more here)

Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND
Sumoflam and Thunderbirds in Bismarck, ND

9. Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Center in Minot, ND
The Gol Stave Church replica and museum at the Scandinavian Heritage Park in Minot, ND

A tribute to North Dakota’s Scandinavian roots, the Scandinavian Heritage Park is a unique destination and most certainly worth a visit!! I loved it here.  (See my complete post).

Sumoflam with Dala Horse
Sumoflam with 30 foot tall Dala Horse at Scandinavian Heritage Park

10. Ducks and Ponds and Grasslands

A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1
A colorful duck in the rush as seen along ND Hwy 1

Contrary to what many may believe about North Dakota, I was quite surprised by what I saw on ND Highway 1.  All along the way there were many small ponds surrounded by grasses and filled with ducks and many other birds and wildlife.

Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1
Hundreds of ponds line the roads in ND, like this one on ND Hwy 1

Personally, I am not sure why North Dakota deserves the negative attention.  It is really a great place to visit (most times of the year).  Make sure to plan on adding North Dakota to your map of states visited!!  You will certainly have a Smile! (Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND)

Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND
Smiley Water Tower in Grand Forks, ND

 

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