Tag Archives: National Parks

Catching Up – Installment 1

Long, long ago (well, last October at least) we drove from California to Waco, TX. And we took 10 days to get there! The reason it took so long was that we made stops at any number of National Parks along the way. I just checked where I had left off with our travel stories, and it seems we had just left Page, AZ and Lake Powell. Then I went to Gary’s journal to refresh my memory about what came next –

Tuesday, Oct 11 –
Left Walmart & drove east along rt. 98 & 160. Stopped at 4 Corners (Navajo land) & also Hovenweek NP – Pueblo Village-buildings. Continued on to campground. Set up RV. Relaxed. Went to Dinner. Pizza – Stopped at Walmart – ordered drugs. Went through many back roads to get to Hovenweep.
Wednesday, Oct 12-
Went to Mesa Verde NP. Toured Balcony House and drove around to all other lookouts. Stopped @ museum & watched movie. Also went to Anasazi Village for more movies and museum. Dinner @ small restaurant. Picked up scrips @Walmart and did laundry @ campground.

Yes – we do lead an exciting life, filled with Walmart trips and laundromats. But there were a couple of POI’s in those paragraphs too!

Four Corners –
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Truth here – it was a little disappointing. Although, it was what it said it was – a marker of where the four states come together. Several folks were waiting in line to get a picture of someone in their group standing in all four states at once, but that didn’t seem all that important to us. In looking back over my pictures, the one above is really, truly the only one I took. Oh well.
Hovenweep National Monument
I’d never even heard of the  Hovenweep National Monument. How about you? Here’s a little bit about it from the website –

Once home to over 2,500 people, Hovenweep includes six prehistoric villages built between A.D. 1200 and 1300. Explore a variety of structures, including multistory towers perched on canyon rims and balanced on boulders. The construction and attention to detail will leave you marveling at the skill and motivation of the builders.

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We enjoyed a bit of a hike
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and were impressed with these remains perched on the canyon rim.
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Here’s a little panorama of the canyon –
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See the mountains in the distance? It was quite the landmark in this neck of the woods!
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🙂
After we did a bit of exploring in the Hovenweep ruins, we continued on our way to our next campground. Remember the mention of lots of back roads?
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Oh, yeah, baby!
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We settled nicely into our campground (and worked in that exciting stop at Walmart). The next day we set out for Mesa Verde – a true highlight of our ‘long road to Waco”.
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Mesa Verde National Park

Mesa Verde, as you probably know, is all about cliff dwellings. It was absolutely amazing to see these masterpieces of engineering from centuries ago.
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While most of these cliff communities were viewed from overlooks, there was one that you could actually tour. The Balcony House
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And it was a real hands-on tour!
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We had an excellent Native American guide, who, as we stood silent in one of the rooms, serenaded us with a melody from his handmade flute.
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It was goose-bump beautiful!
These cliff dwellings were truly amazing.
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And the view on the way back to the campground was pretty striking too!
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It was a great day – from the guided tour to the many cliff dwellings to the beautiful views to those handy movies!
I’d highly recommend it as an addition to your bucket list!

Well, that gets us a little farther down the road, but there are still more adventures to share. But enough for tonight! HERE‘s a link to more pictures of the Hovenweep National Monument, and HERE‘s a link to more photos from Mesa Verde National Park.
I’ll save the rest of the trip for another day!

Presidential Things

Yesterday, while the nation was focused on the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States (whether you were cheering or weeping or just had your fingers crossed, I hope you were also praying!), we were concentrating on the 36th POTUS – Lyndon Baines Johnson. I was still in high school when LBJ was in the White House, and coming from a conservative family I don’t have any warm and fuzzy memories of this President.  Taking over the reins from JFK, enlarging the Vietnam War, ushering in massive welfare policies – those are the flashes of memories of LBJ I have. So yesterday when we visited the LBJ State Park and Historic Site, it was nice to put a more human face to this President.
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This property. also known as the Texas White House, was truly the Johnsons’ “Heart Home”, and it was easy to see how this was a place where a weary President (and his family) could come and get refreshed and filled up for the heavy job of the running this great country.
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But this wasn’t just a vacation get-away for the President and his family. He spent almost 1/4 of his presidency at the ranch, had telephones and TVs in every room, and entertained (and ‘did business with’) many heads of state during his time at the Texas White House. The house itself has been totally restored to how it looked during his Presidency, and the tour was excellent! (Sorry, no photography was allowed. =( ) Interestingly, one of the videos which we enjoyed was a tour of the ranch that was made during LBJ’s lifetime with him narrating in many places. The video was black and white and grainy, but you could really sense LBJ’s love for this land and his Texan heritage. Did you know

  • Johnson City was NOT named after LBJ, but after one of his ancestors that settled this area.
  • The president not only had a TV in every room, but several rooms had three TVs so he could watch all the stations at one time. (Remember when there were only THREE TV stations instead of 1,947?)
  • LBJ had an Amphicar, which could be driven right into water and then used as a boat. Apparently he especially liked to drive unsuspecting riders right into his lake, all the while exclaiming that his brakes weren’t working.  The car is one of several automobiles on display that the Johnsons used both on the ranch and in Washington.
  • LBJ spent 484 days at his ranch during 1886 days as POTUS. No wonder he had a state of the art (for the day) communication center set up at the ranch!
  • Instead of a guest book, LBJ had visitors sign their names in concrete squares (12×12) that he then placed around the property.

Just four short years after he retired to the ranch, LBJ died of a massive heart attack while on the ranch. Lady Bird Johnson outlived him by 34 years.  Both are buried near their beautiful Texan home, beneath gracious Live Oaks, with a church steeple in the distance.
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We thoroughly enjoyed getting to know ‘the man’ behind the President, and seeing the property and lifestyle that shaped who he was and how he governed. And of course, perhaps the best part of the outing was that we were hanging out with dear SOWER friends!
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Nothing makes history more fun than seeing it with friends!
I highly recommend checking out any Presidential libraries, homes, birthplaces, etc. that you might come upon during your travels. There is ALWAYS something to learn!

Now where were we?

Right – just leaving the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and heading to Page, AZ for our next National Park visit.
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And what a beautiful drive it was!! Most of it was a very scenic drive along the Vermillion Cliffs,
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across the Colorado River
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up a couple of ‘hills’
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and then down into Page, AZ.
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Page is a fairly new city, having been founded and then developed only during the building of the Glen Canyon Dam.
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And of course, the dam created Lake Powell, which is a huge recreation (boating, camping, hiking, etc.) area.
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Now we didn’t take in ALL there was to do the area, but we gave it our best (scratching the surface style) shot!
There was the Dam Tour –
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which was made all the more interesting by our tour guide, who was a Page ‘native’ and had lots of stories from ‘back in the day’. Like when he and his buddies would cut school and explore the inner tunnels of the dam, before security shut that down. (He was also a retired policeman, so that added a bit of interest too!)
We took in one fairly long hike to find some “slot canyons”.
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It was not only a beautiful drive to GET to the hike –
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(more of those beautiful Vermillion Cliffs)
but since the hike was through a “wash’, there wasn’t much of an elevation change to deal with (our nemesis!).
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Although the slot canyons at the end of our Wire Pass hike were probably not as impressive as perhaps the more well known Antelope Canyon (Wire Pass – Free. Antelope – almost $100 for the two of us), we certainly were impressed!
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We absolutely love the sculpture of these rock walls

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A wonderful reminder of the creative beauty of our God! (And the power of moving water!!!)
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We checked out a bit of lake shore camping,
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(maybe next time!)
enjoyed another short hike
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and just generally enjoyed the beauty of the day.
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As the sun was beginning to sink and hoping to catch the sunset, we checked out another highly recommended (and short) hike – Horseshoe Bend.
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We were not alone in our thought process!
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(I confess – this picture really cracks me up!! And – they are ALL too close to the edge!!!)
I guess I’ve seen more beautiful sunsets –
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but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen more people hoping it would be (more beautiful)!
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So that about wraps up our time at the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. There was so much to see and do here (not to mention that it might have been nice just to sit on the beach and stare at that lake) that it might warrant a trip back! But for now – it was pack ‘er up and move on down the road.  Still to come – Four Corners, Mesa Verde, Hovenweep, and the Petrified Forest.

Next time, okay?

As always, thanks for stopping by. And thanks for your patience as I work on getting this ol’ blog up-to-date between lovin’ on these cutie pies!
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I’m sure you can understand my distractions!

Steph

Oh – and if you’d like to see some additional photos from our time in and around Page, Arizona, you can check them out HERE!

The North Rim

Back in late April of 2010, Gary and I did what we affectionately called the Grand Rock Tour. We took two weeks and visited the Grand Canyon, Zion, Bryce, Arches, Capital Reef, and any number of lesser known National Monuments, Navajo sites and other POI’s along the way. But since it was, after all, late April, the North Rim of the Grand Canyon was not open yet for the season. So as we made the trek to Waco from California, it was one of our very first stops. Now you might think that seeing the North Rim is just like looking into the Grand Canyon from the “other side” but it really is quite different. Well, we thought it was, anyway!
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The South Rim is certainly the more developed area, while the North Rim is definitely the “road less traveled”. We were there during the last month of the season, and some hospitality areas were closing the next weekend. We were thrilled with the beautiful yellow Ash that lined the roads as we made our way to the canyon, not at all disappointed with the lack of crowds and traffic!
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Our day started cloudy and gray, and we were worried about how the ‘viewing’ would be, but all was well! We took in a couple of hikes, followed all the roads we could and were just.plain.amazed at the beauty and majesty that was before us! Here is just a sampling of those amazing views –
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(Just for the record, we did hike to “Angels Window” – that big hole in the rock!) Can you see the Colorado River peeking through the window?
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It really was a spectacular day and to remind us that the season was just about over, what started out as a late afternoon shower
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ended up as this –
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One last picture – not so much of the canyon but of the view from the other side of the plateau –
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Ahhhh…..
So you know I took a bazillion pictures and I did my best to whittle them down to a manageable number, and then only shared a couple in this post. But if you’d like to see more of the beautiful ‘less traveled’ North Rim, you can check them out HERE!

And if you’d like a little refresher of that Grand Rock Tour of 2010 – here is a link to one of the first posts in that series. Feel free to check it (and others in the same time frame) out!

Kings Canyon and Giant Trees

One of our other goals (along with getting to Yosemite) while we were at Sugar Pine Camp was to get back to the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park which was only about 100 miles away (which in the overall scheme of our life is pretty darn close!). We had visited the “Sequoia” part of the park back in February of 2009, but since it was, after all February, the Kings Canyon part was closed. Too. Much. Snow. Here’s the Sequoia Visitor Center on the day we visited in 2009-
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so you can see why snow might have been an issue. So this time, while there was a bit of overlap, we were focused on Kings Canyon (northern and higher altitude) section of the park.
Once we started east from Fresno, the drive started to climb.
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and the views became expansive.
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Our first stop in the park was the Grant Grove area – home to the General Grant Tree and a beautiful walk through some giant sequoias.
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The General Grant Tree is also known as America’s Christmas Tree (designated by President Calvin Coolidge in 1926).
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(It looked a little more “Christmas-y where we were here last time -)
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Those giant sequoias are amazing
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but we really wanted to make our way to Kings Canyon. So on we went!
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We did check out a couple of stops along the way – one was a short hike into Grizzly Falls, which unlike Yosemite Falls, actually had some water falling.
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And such beautiful clear water it was!
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Once we made it to the bottom of the canyon, we followed the path of the Kings River.
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We also took a hike through Zumwalt Meadow, which was part meadow
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and part not-so-much-meadow.
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It was a beautiful hike and after we continued on to the end of the road, we turned around and just un-wound the trip down. I confess that somehow, the trip back seemed much more dramatic. Might have been because now we were in the outside lane!

From the steep canyon walls
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to the realization of just how far down DOWN was once we started to climb out of the canyon.
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(Still not sure you can get the real feel for how steep it was – but it was pretty impressive, believe me!)
One last stop on the way home was to drive by Hume Lake –
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Sure would’ve liked to set a spell in those chairs!

Soon we were headed back to Sugar Pines –
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and a nap!

Thanks for coming along on our Kings Canyon excursion. If you’d like to see some additional photos (you knew that was coming, right?), you can check them out (in reasonable order of the day) HERE!

[Since this is also a Monday (as in Mondays are for Memories), if you’d like to check out the photos from our 2009 trip to the Sequoias, just click HERE!]