Archive for the ‘Tom’ Category


Winter Trip to CA Part 1

January 31, 2018

1/15 M – Helen and I left Springfield at 7am and drove into a snow storm in IN and IL. Lots of cars and trucks crashed and off the road in the ditches along I70.  As we crossed the Mississippi River, we entered St Louis and could see the newly designated Gateway Arch National Park that Trump approved on 2/22/2018. It was previously called the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial and was a unit in the National Park System. I disagree with the new designation. There is no way that this man-made park is on par with any of the other 59 National Parks. Every other NP is, among other notable characteristics, a large preserved part of the natural environment. Think Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite, Acadia, etc., etc., etc. There is no comparison! In my opinion, it should be designated a National Monument or a National Historic Park.

We arrived at the Taum Sauk Mountain State Park Overlook (MO) about 3pm

It was 9 degrees when we started the short walk to the Highpoint of MO, Taum Sauk Mt 1,772ft

This was Helen’s 32nd state highpoint!

We stayed the night in the Homeport Inn B&B near Eminence MO and the Ozark River


1/16 Tu – We started with a 1mi round trip hike to Blue Spring in the Ozark National Scenic Riverway – it was COLD, –3 degrees!

Our next stop was Rocky Falls. It had now “warmed-up” to 2 degrees. We found about 95% of the Falls to be frozen!

We then drove to the Visitor Ctr in Van Buren and watched their video. The ranger was super-nice and gave us a new Ozark Riverway quarter.

We then saw the Big Spring CCC Historic District and did the hike that goes behind the spring

Looking out from behind where Big Spring boils up from under the rock face

It took a good hour to drive up river to Alley Mill. The red mill provided a perfect background for the turquoise water

It took about 3hrs to drive to Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield outside of Springfield MO. When we arrived, we found not only the Visitor Center but the entire park closed. I could not believe it!

That night we experienced our first Airbnb accommodation (Springfield MO). This was one where we had a room in someone’s home and used shared kitchen and toilet facilities. We found it very uncomfortable and vowed not to make any new Airbnb reservations where we did not have our own independent room and restroom. The host was very nice but we decided we would be more comfortable with our privacy.


1/17 W – We were back at Wilson’s Creek NB when the Visitor Center opened at 8:30am. They got an ear full about their closure the previous day. They explained that when the local schools closed because of COLD, that they also closed. I stated that this was a nationally, not locally, administered park. There was no notice of park closure on their web site. I asked that my concerns be passed on to the superintendent.

Most Americans do not realize the number of Civil War battles that took place west of the Mississippi River.

August 10, 1861, the Battle of Wilson’s Creek opened the Civil War in MO. It was the second major battle of the Civil War. For the next 3.5 years the state saw fierce fighting, mostly guerrilla warfare, with bands of mounted raiders destroying anything military or civilian that could aid the enemy.

After the Visitor Center, we drove the 5mi loop road stopping at points of interest. This is the Ray house where he watched the battle from his porch.

East Battlefield Overlook

Bloody Hill

Battle started here at 5am. Lyon’s troops then took Bloody Hill. Over 2,500 men were killed or wounded in the 6hr battle


It took about 2.5hrs to drive to Fort Scott National Historic Site KS, only 6mi west of the MO border.

Fort Scott had three distinct periods. The first was from 1842 to 1853 when it was one of a string of forts (MN to LA) that were built to protect Indian Territory. Eastern Tribes had been relocated to the west of the Mississippi River and the forts were to protect the Indians and their “new” land from white settlements. Yes, the troops were there to protect the Indians!

The dragoons (trained to fight both on horseback and foot), were also used to escort travelers on the Sante Fe and Oregon Trails. From 1846-48 they fought in the Mexican American War. With “Manifest Destiny,” i.e. America’s divine right to stretch from sea to sea, the idea of permanent Indian territory died and Fort Scott was abandoned in 1853.

Fort Scott was re-established in 1861 and served as a supply depot for the Western Campaigns during the Civil War. It was also a strategic location protecting SE Kansas from Confederate invasion. The fort closed for the second time in 1865 after the end of the Civil War.



Interestingly, it was re-opened from 1869-1873 to protect railroad workers. This was an example of US troops taking up arms against American citizens to protect the country’s business interests! Here are some pics from inside the buildings.


1/18 Th – Helen purchase a large piece of slag glass, in the shape of a fish, along a back hills road on the way to Pea Ridge National Military Park Arkansas.  Our first stop was the Visitor Center.  We then drove the park loop road stopping/hiking at points of interest.

“The Battle That Saved Missouri for the Union.” Recall that yesterday we were at Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield. After that battle (August 1861) the Confederates withdrew, reformed and joined with other forces in Arkansas. Now a 16,000-man army, including about 1,000 Cherokees, their objective was to take St Louis. The 10,500 Federals knew they were coming and dug in along the bluffs above Little Sugar Creek and below Elkhorn Mountain, which is part of the Pea Ridge plateau. This was one of the few Civil War battles where the Confederates outnumbered the Federals.

The battle took place over two days. On March 7, 1862 the Federals held off a major Confederate attack on its flank and rear.

On March 8th, the Union forces counterattacked and drove them from the field.

These were the positions of the forces before the second day of battle

The battle is also known as the “Battle of Elkhorn Tavern,” because on the first day of the battle the Confederates took the tavern and on the second day of the battle the Union forces took it back. After this battle, most of the Confederate and Federal troops moved east of the Mississippi to fight in other campaigns.


It took about 3 hrs to get to the Tyler Bend Visitor Center for the Buffalo National River

We then drove a short distance south to the Sod Collier Homestead

I then took the 1.5mi Riverview Trail back to the Visitor Center and Helen met me there. There were some nice views from the cliffs overlooking the Buffalo River

It took about 1.5hrs to drive west to the Ponca Wilderness area of the Buffalo National River

We arrived at the Steel Creek Ranger Station area as the sun was setting. I decided to hike across the fields and down to the river.

Photo of bluffs on the north side of the river. My shadow looks like I’m starting the O of the OHIO cheer!

I was able to get some nice pics of the bluffs from river level. I’d like to come back some time and canoe this part of the river.

It was cool; you can see some ice on the river close to shore

We did a quick stop at a homestead in Boxley Valley as we drove into Ponca


It was now dinner time and we stopped to ask where we might eat. They directed us back the mountain to the Low Gap Café where we had a good blackened catfish dinner. As we drove to our B&B, we stopped in Lost Valley where we saw a large herd of elk – too bad my camera was not able to get a good picture.

It was only a short distance to the Azalea Falls Beauty Lodge B&B. As it turned out, we were the only ones in the Lodge and they upgraded us to the Master Bedroom Suite with deck. This is a picture from the next morning.

The place was huge, extravagantly decorated and we had it all to ourselves. It was big bucks to build and decorate. This was the view of the central area as you walked in. the second pic is the back half of the same area taken from the second floor.

Many antiques and expensive reproductions

An eclectic choice of furnishings, Helen sitting in our bedroom and Tom at desk in bedroom

Our room, we actually used the two-person jacuzzi

In addition to our room, there were two large bedrooms on the second floor. These are pictures of the second-floor seating area at night and in the morning.

It was only Helen and I sitting at this table for a wonderful breakfast.

This was the nicest accommodation of our trip

It took 5hrs to drive to the Oklahoma City National Memorial. It is not a National Park Unit but is an Affiliated Area with NP rangers on site. The Memorial commemorates the April 19, 1995 truck bomb explosion set off by Timothy McVeigh (now referred to as a “domestic” terrorist) outside of the nine-story Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The blast destroyed one-third of the building killing 168 men, women, and children. This is the outside of the West Gate of Time – on the opposite side is a Large 9:03.

This is the inside of the East Gate of Time – note the large 9:01. 9:01am was the time the explosion occurred.

The Reflecting Pool, that is between the Gates of Time, represents the two minutes of destruction between 9:01 and 9:03. Note the empty chairs to the right.

The 168 chairs are within the footprint of the Federal Building. One for each victim, with the small chairs representing the children that were killed.

This is a picture of the only remaining walls, with the names of more than 600 people who survived the blast

Map of site


North of the Reflecting Pool is the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum

There is a chalkboard terrace at the entrance where visitors are encouraged to share their feelings


The hand painted tiles were made by children from around the world

The west fence, that was installed to enclose the crime scene, has found another purpose

American Elm now known as the “Survivor Tree”

McVeigh and his associate Terry Nichols were said to be retaliating against the government’s handling of the Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents (the bombing occurred on the second anniversary of Waco). April 19th is Peter’s birthday.  McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001 and Nichols is in jail serving a life sentence.

We slept at a Comfort Inn in Elk City OK


1/20 Sat – 1hr drive to Washita Battlefield National Historic Site in western OK

The US Government had just shutdown at midnight as a result of the failure of a budget bill in the Senate. We arrived at the Visitor Center at 8am when it was supposed to open; the rangers were inside. After knocking for a bit, one came to the door and said the Vis Ctr was closed due to the shutdown and he could not let us in. I asked if he could give me a park pamphlet. He reluctantly agreed and passed it through the door. Though the center was closed, we were allowed to tour the Historic Site.

We started by doing the Fire and Dust trail near the Visitor Center. The early morning sun produced some wonderful colors.

We then did the 1.5mi self-guided Overlook Trail to Chief Black Kettle’s Camp.  Black Kettle was a Cheyenne Peace Chief. In 1864, his village in Colorado was attacked while he was flying a white flag of surrender – the Sand Creek Massacre (we will visit that site later in this trip). Black Kettle escaped the massacre. While Black Kettle was still willing to make peace, other groups of Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Sioux raided ranches, settlements, stage stations and transportation routes. As winter approached in 1868, some 6,000 Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Kiowa laid out their winter camps along 15 miles of the Washita River valley. Unfortunately for Black Kettle, he chose to make his camp some distance upstream from the other tribes. On the morning of November 27, 1868, Lt. Col George A. Custer attacked the sleeping encampment. It is estimated that between 40-60 men, women, and children were killed, including Black Kettle and his wife Medicine Woman. Custer had their lodges burned and their winter supply of food and clothing destroyed. In addition, he ordered the killing of their pony and mule herds, about 800 animals. He also took 53 women and children as hostages as he retreated when the other tribes started to approach the scene. Custer’s “success” is thought to have contributed to his poor judgement at “Custer’s Last Stand,” the Battle of the Little Big Horn on June 25-26, 1876.



It is recommended that you not take photos at the battle site, as it is considered Sacred Ground


It was a 2.5hr drive to Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument in the Texas Panhandle. We started at the small Vis Ctr where a volunteer was on duty.

A Quarry Pit

Mohs Hardness Scale (0-10) – harder means sharper. Alibates Flint is 7.5





While we were watching the 11min park movie, the ranger arrived and stated that the Vis Ctr had to be closed due to the Government Shutdown. Lucky for us the volunteer had not got those instructions! We were allowed to finish the movie and then had to leave. We then did the mile loop trail from the parking lot.

Alibates Flint Quarries NM is within the Lake Meredith National Recreation Area.

Lake Meredith was created by placing the Sanford Dam on the Canadian River. This area was previously called the Sanford Recreation Area.


We then drove a gravel road to the Mullinaw Trail where we hiked to the Canadian River and back

We then went to Harbor Bay to view the Lake. This was the first warm day of our Winter Trip! We celebrated with an ice cream cone at the DQ in Fritch TX.

There have been drought conditions here in the TX Panhandle. Not good to have a grass fire near the Plantex Nuclear Weapons Plant of the Department of Energy (East of Amarillo TX)!



It was a 4hr drive to Lawton OK and the Fairfield Inn & Suites


1/21 Sun – Went to church and then drove to Dallas TX where we met Phil for lunch. We also went to an Apple Store nearby to get my iPad fixed. I had been keeping my diary on the iPad and then placing it in my suitcase for travel. A day ago, I found it had been shutdown. I was told that they think the iPad was trying to connect while it bounced around inside my suitcase (I had driven on some rough roads).  After ten attempts, the device shuts down for security reasons.  So, they reactivated it, but I lost my diary entries. I was so discouraged I stopped writing my diary on the iPad.  Afterward, we went to Phil’s home for a drink and met Hayden.  After a nice visit we proceeded to Plano TX to see Ed & Tricia.  Ed and I watched the Eagles beat the Vikings in an NFL Playoff game.

 1/22 M – Ed and I went to a shooting range while the ladies went shopping.  I also had the Sequoia serviced, washed, and gassed, so we were ready to leave the next day.

1/23 Tu – It was a 2hr drive to Waco TX. Our first stop was the Waco Mammoth National Monument, which is administered by the NPS, Baylor University, and the City of Waco.  It was designated a NM by President Obama in 2015.  We checked in at the Visitor Center and then paid $4 each (seniors) to have a Baylor University student give us a tour of the Dig Shelter.

Many Ice Age animals have been found here

In these pics we can see Mammoth and Camel skeletons

This sign explains the differences between Mammoths and Elephants

Humerus, or upper arm bone, of human vs mammoth

Our next stop was the Dr. Pepper Museum in downtown Waco

“Nations Oldest Major Soft Drink”

Across the railroad tracks was Magnolia and the Silos.

Time for Take-Out!

Ate our cupcakes as we drove 3 hrs to Lackland AFB San Antonio TX.  We stopped at the Valley High Gate to get our permit to go on base to see the Military Working Dog Teams National Monument.  This NM was signed into public law by President George W. Bush in 2008.

The Monument represents all wars since World War II and all five U.S. Armed Services (Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard).

There is a 9-foot bronze sculpture of a Military Working Dog Handler wearing combat gear and holding a dog leash in his left hand and a M4 rifle in his right hand. There are also four sculptures of the more common breeds of military working dogs. In this pic we see the German Shepherd and Labrador Retriever.

Doberman Pinscher

Belgian Malinois

This is called the “Not Forgotten Fountain” depicting a Vietnam War dog handler pouring water from his canteen into a helmet for his dog. Visiting dogs can drink out of the fountain.

I enjoyed seeing the vintage World War II aircraft surrounding the parade ground

As well as the planes near the entrance gate

It took 2hrs to get to the Americas Best Value Inn in Junction TX


1/24 W – 6.5hrs to El Paso TX.  Parked our car at the Speaking Rock Casino and walked to La Mision de San Antonio de la Ysleta de Sur established in 1680, the first mission in TX.  It was on the El Camino Real, the trading route between the U.S. and Mexico.  The current church was built in 1908.  The Tiguas Indians continue to worship at the church.  Helen is standing by the altar to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, note the Indian representation.

Mission Socorro (help) is only a few miles away.  It was founded when the Piro Indians fled following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680.  The current church was built in 1843.

Next stop, Chamizal National Memorial, and Cultural Ctr. In El Paso.

In 1848 the Rio Grande was named the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico.  However, seasonal floods would change the course of the river.  Sometimes people on what was called Cordova Island would live in the U.S. and sometimes in Mexico!  In 1963, after a “permanent” concrete channel was built, President Kennedy and President Mateos signed a treaty that gave the northern half of Cordova Island to the U.S. and land to its west and east to Mexico. The wall mural depicts settling our differences through friendship and understanding.

Old border marker, this side faced Mexico

This side face the U.S.

U.S. – Mexican Border


1/25 Th – drove about an hour to the BLM Prehistoric Trackways National Monument NE of Las Cruces NM. It was established in 2009 to protect plant and marine fossils as well as tracks of Permian (280 million years ago) reptiles and amphibians.

Sign at parking area

Starting on Ridgeline Discovery Site Trail

Gained about 500 feet in elevation – Organ Mountains in background

Discovery Site sign – we had great difficulty finding any trackways or fossils. Most of the obvious ones have been removed and placed in museums.

Prehistoric Tracks?

We decided to bushwhack down a wash to get back to the parking area. There was an interesting “mudstone” base at the bottom of this part of the wash

Exiting the wash, we covered about 3.5 miles on our hike

Helen – “tired” after hike


Bought an iron patio set for Kate and an amber necklace for Helen in Las Cruces, had lunch, and drove to the BLM Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks National Monument east of the city.

West Trailhead for Baylor Pass

Top of Baylor Pass, 6,430 feet

Hiking back to the SUV, the trail was 7 miles round-trip with a gain of 1,500 feet

Organ Mountains from the West

A.B. Cox Visitor Center near Dripping Springs

Driving to La Cueva Rocks Trailhead where Helen dropped me off

I hiked about 1.5 miles along the Nature Trail past La Cueva Rocks, the Hermit Cave, and Ice Canyon back to the Visitor Center where Helen met me with the truck.

La Cueva is a rock shelter archeological site that has been traced back to 5,000 BC

“El Ermitano” – The Hermit

Hiking back to Visitor Center

Returned to the Fairfield Inn in El Paso for the night. Helen said she was too tired to go out for dinner so we did take-out.

1/26 F – Helen’s Birthday – It took 11hrs to drive from El Paso to Twentynine Palms CA! Helen received many calls and texts from family and friends. Kate met us at the Fairfield Inn and we drove to the Palm Kabob House for a delicious dinner. Kate brought cupcakes, candles, and gifts for our celebration. The following day would be my real birthday surprise!

1/27 Sat – Mama and baby along Rt 62

Briefly toured the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center and headed into the park.

Joshua tree(s) with Quail Mountains in background

Start of Hidden Valley 1 mile Loop Trail

Beautiful rock formations

The “Great Burrito”

“The Kiss” 2005 and 2018

Keys View, Santa Rosa Mountains, Palm Springs below Mt San Jacinto on right

Cap Rock

Rock formations near Sheep Pass

Skull Rock


Diplodocus Head

I went looking for Arch Rock by White Tank campground and was gone about 45 minutes. I couldn’t find it, though I did climb around some nice rock formations. Kate thought I was lost!

I did find “Heart Rock”

Kate and Helen were exploring as well

As it turned out, Helen and Kate found Arch Rock right around the corner from our parking spot!

We had snacks and drinks in the car as we drove to the Whitewater Preserve in the new BLM Sand to Snow National Monument. We discovered it was closed because of Wild Dogs – we were told they had killed a cow the day before!

Not to be deterred, we drove to the Cottonwood access road off I10. Not much to see there, but I did check-out a section of the Pacific Coast Trail.

We then drove to the Mission Creek Preserve, which is also included in the new Sand to Snow NM. Stymied again! Also closed because of the wild dogs.

Now the “real” birthday surprise – arrived at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway at about 5pm and took the world’s largest rotating tram car —travels 2.5 miles (takes 10-min) along the cliffs of Chino Canyon, to the pristine wilderness of Mt. San Jacinto State Park.

We first checked-out the observation deck, the nearby viewpoints and the natural history museum.

Note the mountain pyramid shadow and the San Andreas Fault in the background

We then did the 1.5-mile Desert View Panoramic Trail before it turned dark. It was 25 degrees cooler on top (8,516ft) with some snow along the trails.

These viewpoints along the trail were called “Windows” because they allowed views of the valley


OK, the hiking was not a surprise, but dinner at the Peaks Restaurant, “A Culinary Experience Above the Clouds,” overlooking Palm Springs, the Coachella Valley, and the San Andreas Fault, was.


1/28 Sun – started our day with breakfast at the Fairfield Inn followed by a 1.2-mile hike in Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, another part of the new Sand to Snow NM.

It is a desert oasis environment with an abundance of plants, birds, and trees

We did a combination of the Marsh and Mesquite Loop Trails

Start of the hike

Nice boardwalks and observation decks along our route

Thelma & Louise


Kate left for LA and we continued to the new BLM Mojave Trails National Monument. This is the view from Sheephole Mountain

Salt mining

Trains run 24/7 both directions through the Mojave Desert. We saw several that were over 100 cars long with 6 engines

“Old” Route 66 – I love my model!

Entering Amboy Crater NNL site, which is now part of Mojave Trails NM

View of Amboy Crater from scenic overlook

Starting 3-mile round trip hike to crater

Hiking into crater

Then climb to and hike around rim

That night had dinner at Peggy Sue’s 50’s Diner in Yermo CA and then stayed in a trailer I had found on Airbnb about a half-hour east of the city. They called it “Glamping,” that is, Glorified Camping! Well, it would have been very nice, except they called us during the day and said there would be no hot water. Not wanting to find something else on short notice, not much out there in the desert, we said that would be OK. The woman said that they had put on the space heater for us because it would be cold that night. When we arrived, we found we could not adjust the space heater – so we ended up turning it off because it was just too hot in there. That night it dropped into the high 30s, we ended up half frozen!

1/29 M – entering Mojave National Preserve

Use the above map to follow our travels within this huge National Preserve. Our first stop was the Kelso Dunes area of the preserve.

Next, we took a 5-mile 4WD road to the Aiken Lava Tube

Interesting “Paw Print” and “Notch”

How would you like to have one of these volcanic balls landing on you!?

It was about a 0.25 mile hike up to the Lava Tube

“Yo, anybody down there?”

Stairs descending into lava tube.

View from inside-out

Exiting the tube

View toward Kelso Peak (4,764ft)

Kelso Depot Museum and Visitor Center – had a very good video

World War II Boom Town

Museum displays

Two of my favorite displays

The Mojave Road (4WD) – continues West to the right of the sign

Out next stop was the Hole-in-the-Wall Visitor Information Center

Interesting displays on the Desert Tortoise

Our objective here was to do the 1-mile Hole-in-the-Wall Rings Loop Trail

Petroglyphs along trail

Rounding ridge and entering Banshee Canyon

Now you see why this area got the name Hole-in-the-Wall – it looks like Swiss cheese!

Approaching the climb

Stacked rocks and convenient metal climbing rings

Picnic area at top of climb

 It took about an hour to drive to Nipton CA, population 20 – the tree area in the distance

The ENTIRE TOWN had been purchased by the American Green Co the previous summer. They are our country’s largest producer of marijuana.

An old adobe building there, Hotel Nipton, served as a motel as far back as the 1920s. It was an overnight stop for Clara Bow, the “IT Girl” from silent movie fame. We were the only ones there and stayed in the Clara Bow room. One downside was that the Union Pacific RR tracks were only 50 feet from the front door and trains run 24/7 down this mainline!

Recreational marijuana became legal in CA on 1/1/2018. The American Green Co is planning on Nipton becoming a Marijuana Tour Destination. All legal marijuana, as well as CBD (Cannabidol) hemp seed oil products, are now available for purchase in the small store. Jim, the manager, gave me a lesson in the operation of the marijuana product dispensing machine (basically a safe that operates like a vending machine) and info on the CBD products.

Psychedelic lights – to get in the mood!

The small restaurant there was not yet open for the season. So, we had to drive 20 miles to Searchlight NV where we ate a salad in a McDs inside the Terrible’s Casino and truck stop.


1/30 Tu – we were up early and drove back across the border into NV to access the Walking Box Ranch Road that drops south to the Nature Conservancy area. Sunrise in the desert –

Walking Box Ranch

The 4WD road continued south into Castle Mountains National Monument, which is in CA. It is embedded in Mojave Desert National Preserve along the NV border.

This new National Monument was designated by President Obama in 2016

I had some difficulty finding information on the NM but did discover that Canadian Newcastle Gold Ltd. has a lease on a large track in the middle of the monument that expires in 2025. They have been permitted to excavate 10 million tons of ore.  However, the info also stated that the mine was not active due to the relatively low value of gold and cost of open pit extraction at this location. Well, guess what? They are gearing up to re-open the mine! A van of workers going to the mine stopped us and asked what we were doing in the area. The foreman warned us not to go on mine property. I was a little lost?  (I never get lost)  So, I drove to the mining operation to ask for directions.

They directed me to the 4WD track that went west, back into the Mojave National Preserve.

Took the Hart Mine Rd to the Ivanpah Rd – the deteriorating ranch buildings in the Preserve are slowly returning to the natural landscape

The OX Cattle Ranch is still in pretty good shape

Our last hike in the Mojave Preserve was the 1-mile Rock Spring Loop Trail

Our first stop was the Rock House

We then continued to Rock Spring

Rock Spring was an important water stop for Indians, travelers, and commerce.

On the trail back to the Rock House and parking lot

We exited the Preserve and took US 95 south to Blythe CA, crossed over into AZ and drove by the Yuma Proving Grounds where we saw this observation blimp

Picked up some fruit and vegetables in Yuma and then took I8 along the Mexican border, through the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area, and on to our Prime Rib dinner (which we shared for $8.45) at the Golden Acorn Casino near San Diego. We arrived at our Airbnb hotel room (the Nautical Escape) in downtown San Diego about 6:30pm. That was planned, because there is free street parking from 6pm to 8am!


1/31 W – Parked on the west side of Balboa Park about 8am. The park was built for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition to commemorate the opening of the Panama Canal. Buildings were built in Spanish-Renaissance style. We walked El Prado Ave past the Museum of Man to the Prado restaurant for coffee.

El Cid statue in Plaza de Panama

Stopped by the old Carousel on our way to the Zoo. It was built in 1910 in NYC and shipped to CA. After set-up in LA and in Coronado, it made its way to Balboa Park in 1922. It is a menagerie of animals and all but two pairs are original with hand-carved European craftsmanship.  Also original are the hand-painted murals surrounding the upper portion of the carousel and the military band music.  This carousel is one of the few in the world still offering the brass ring game for everyone taking the 5-minute ride.

We had anticipated spending two hours in the Zoo but ended up staying for five!

Hippo – reflection makes it look like half of me is in his mouth!

Monkey Business

Selected Pics –

California Condors

Beside a ton of walking, we did the Aerial SkyFari and a bus tour

Tree roots – Balboa Park

Drove to Jonathan and Christina’s house north of the city for a pizza dinner at 6pm. It took an hour and fifteen minutes to get there and 20 minutes to get back!



Northeast U.S. National Park Unit Trip – Part 2

November 8, 2017

Northeast U.S. National Park Unit Trip – October 2017  Part 2

10/17 – We started our cold but sunny day by driving to the Cape Cod National Seashore Visitor Center

Viewed the displays, watched the film and then did the Nauset Marsh Trail

The road to Coast Guard Beach was closed for resurfacing, so we proceeded to the Nauset Light

The Three Sisters Lighthouses were originally on the coast but were moved inland

More impressive than the lighthouses –

Marconi Beach – chilly but fun!

Highland Light, also called the Cape Cod Light

In 1864, Thoreau wrote an essay for Atlantic Monthly on the history of the Highland Light. In this excerpt, he describes the power of the Light:

“The keeper entertained us handsomely in his solitary little ocean house. He was a man of singular patience and intelligence, who, when our queries struck him, rang as clear as a bell in response. The light-house lamp a few feet distant shone full into my chamber, and made it bright as day, so I knew exactly how the Highland Light bore all that night, and I was in no danger of being wrecked… I thought as I lay there, half-awake and half-asleep, looking upward through the window at the lights above my head, how many sleepless eyes from far out on the ocean stream — mariners of all nations spinning their yarns through the various watches of the night — were directed toward my couch.”

Tours cost $5 (seniors) and last about 20 min, the spiral staircase takes you 69 steps to the top

This sign describes how, in 1996, the lighthouse was moved 450 feet back from its previous location because of cliff erosion

From the lighthouse, it was a short drive to Pilgrim Heights where we did the Pilgrim Springs Loop Trail

Helen found the Spring!

This site represents where the Pilgrims drank their first fresh water in New England

Unfortunately, the Province Lands Visitor Center near the end of the Cape was closed for the season. However, the observation deck was open for a nice view of the Cape.


Race Point Beach – building is the Old Harbor Life-Saving Museum

Treasurers from the Sea

Provincetown is located within the protection of “The Hook” of the Cape. In 1616, John Smith described Cape Cod as “made of the main sea on one side, and a great bay on the other in the form of a sickle.”

Provincetown Harbor is where 41 Pilgrims signed the Mayflower Pact before stepping ashore on 11/11/1620. So, they first landed in what is now Provincetown NOT in Plymouth! The Pilgrims decided to move to what they called New Plymouth (because they had left from Plymouth England) 35 days later. There is no evidence that they actually landed on Plymouth Rock! They probably landed on the beach. I guess today you would call that Fake News! In 1774, Plymouth townspeople decided to move the top half of the rock to the town’s square and leave the bottom half where it was. In 1880, the top half was brought back and “re-joined” to the bottom half and the date 1620 was inscribed on it. In 1920 the rock was temporarily removed so that the old wharves could be removed and the waterfront re-landscaped. When it was returned, it was placed at water level. Through the years, pieces of the rock where chipped off for souvenirs. Approximately two-thirds of the top half of the rock was removed. Nevertheless, Plymouth Rock remains a symbol both of the virtues and flaws of the first English people who colonized New England. In addition, the folks of Plymouth are glade most Americans believe that the Pilgrims first landed on Plymouth Rock!

The cornerstone of the Pilgrim Monument was laid in 1907 by President Theodore Roosevelt and President William H. Taft dedicated the tower in 1910.

View of the Pilgrim Monument, Public Library, and Provincetown waterfront from the city wharf

Part of the Fishing Fleet and pleasure boats

Nighttime view of the Public Library, once the Center Methodist Episcopal Church (1860)

We shared a wonderful Cioppino dinner (basically shellfish in a spicy tomato sauce over pasta) at the Lobster Pot that evening


10/18 – We arrived at the New Bedford Whaling National Historical Park MA at 9am when it opened. The Visitor Center is in an old (1854) bank building. We watched the film, toured the displays and learned about the “City that Lit the World” – with whale oil.

The U.S. Customs House is on the opposite corner

Our next stop was the incredible New Bedford Whaling Museum ($15 seniors). The atrium holds the skeletons of three adult whales and one baby whale. These whales died accidentally or by undetermined circumstances.  There is a 37-foot male humpback whale on the right, a 66-foot juvenile Blue whale in the center, and a 49-foot pregnant North Atlantic right whale on the left. The baby skeleton can be seen inside it’s mother.

There is currently a NAVSEA exhibit in the atrium that is titled Stewards of the Sea: Defending Freedom, Protecting the Environment.  It is an interactive exhibit on loan from the U.S. Navy. It is used by marine mammal scientists to capture sounds and other data to better understand whales and their habitat. You can look through a “fish eye” telescope and see what Navy watch looks for when they scan the ocean surface for whales, watch blue whale tagging in action off the coast of Patagonia, and see an enormous, but stealthy, automated underwater glider.

There is an entire room devoted to “knots.” Another room had the world’s largest collection of scrimshaw artifacts.

Seaman’s Chest

The theatre held figureheads, name boards (stern) and quarterboards (bow or quarter panel) and other sailing memorabilia

Ship models galore!

Including the largest model ship in the world – the Bark Lagoda, a half-size (89-feet long) replica that was built inside the building in 1916.

Wonderful paintings –

Impressive display of a 48-foot sperm whale next to a whaling boat. A “Nantucket Sleigh Ride” took place after a whale was harpooned and a boat like the one you see was dragged behind until the whale was fatigued and could be killed.

Seamen’s Bethel (1832) and Mariners Home

Inside the Seamen’s Bethel

The pulpit ship’s bow that Herman Melville described in Moby-Dick was built in 1959 well after the book was published.

Melville shipped out on the whaling ship Achusnet in 1841 and was an experienced seaman. He also described the marble centotaphs (memorials) to lost seamen in the bethel in his book Moby-Dick (1851). A quote from the book: “In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman’s Chapel, and few are the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot.”

We walked to the Waterfront NP Visitor Center (Wharfinger Building) by Fisherman’s Wharf and the statue to the departing seaman

Walked back to the main Visitor Center and had a bowl of Clam Chowder in the Freestones City Grill across the street. From there, it is a 0.68 mile walk to the Rotch-Jones-Duff House and Garden Museum ($5 seniors). I very much like the “Burn While You Learn!” map that follows.  I now use it in my presentations promoting physical activity in our National Parks.

Life and Legacy of William Rotch Jr

Exterior of mansion and gardens – rose bush sale on the upcoming weekend, they plant new bushes each year

Some of the mansion rooms –

It took about an hour to drive to Newport RI and the Touro Synagogue National Historic Site. Their NP web site stated that the last tour was at 3pm. We arrived just before 2pm and were told that the synagogue was closing. We were not only disappointed that we could not get the tour but also that they would not let us get a quick glimpse inside the synagogue. There were four people there, but unlike other national park units, they were not cooperative.


Another hours’ drive took us to Providence RI and the Roger Williams National Memorial. No, not the pianist Roger Williams, but the one that had a huge impact on the separation of church and state in America!

We asked to see the 15-minute film but the young park ranger stated that he could do a better job than the film and proceeded to give us a 20-minute history lesson related to Roger Williams and the Memorial. He was excellent! Interesting fact, it is not a historic site because there are no artifacts that remain from Roger Williams life. Also, according to the ranger, the separation of church and state was not motivated by a fear that religion would negatively affect government but rather that the corruption and pollicization of government would negatively affect religion!

The start of Providence

Roger Williams Spring

Religious Freedom

Native American monument in the park

The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor runs from the headwaters of the Blackstone River near Worcester MA to Providence and Pawtucket RI and Narragansett Bay. It is billed, like other sites in New England (e.g. Lowell MA, Patterson NJ) as the “Birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution.” The Blackstone National Historical Park (2014) includes many sites within this “corridor.” All the mills and related businesses started by using water power from the Blackstone River. We began our visit in Hopedale MA, the former home of the Draper Corporation. Hopedale itself was established in the 1840s as an Christian experiment in communal living. The Draper business started in 1841 in the Little Red Shop where Ebenezer Draper had a machine shop. He was joined by his brother George in 1853 and together they found numerous ways to mechanize the weaving process. During the 1880s, Draper companies sold more than six million high-speed spindles to textile companies. By the 1890s, the Drapers dominated the loom making business. For over one hundred years the Draper family maintained complete control over the town. During this massive development they worked hard to develop a Utopian community. At its peak, the Draper Corporation employed over 4,000 workers.

Alas, due to the decline of the American textile industry the Draper family divested themselves of most of their town properties in the 1960s and the Corporation was acquired by an outside owner. By 1978 the plant was closed. If you blow up this picture, you will see that the 500,000-sq. ft. building is for sale!

It was dark by the time we reached our Fairfield Inn in Milford MA


10/19 – we started the day by driving to Whitinsville MA, another mill town along a tributary (Mumford River) of the Blackstone River. Like Hopedale it was a company town controlled by one family, in this case the Whitins. After the Revolutionary War, Col. Paul Whitin came here to work in the iron forge. He married the owner’s (James Fletcher) daughter and formed an alliance establishing the Whitin-Fletcher Cotton Mill in 1815. In 1826, Whitin bought out Fletcher and named the firm Whitin and Sons (he had five). They developed the Whitin Machine Works that would become the world’s largest textile machine shop. This is a picture of the Old Brick Mill cotton and textile machine shop built in 1826.

The Whitin Machine Works was built in 1847 for making machinery for picking, carding, and spinning cotton and wool.


Slatersville RI was our next mill town. It is located on the Branch River, another tributary of the Blackstone River. The Center Mill or #1 Mill that you see in this picture was built in 1843. The Slatersville Mills began a new life as apartments in 2007.


Our next stop was the Blackstone Valley Visitor Center in Pawtucket RI. The Slater Mill, America’s first successful water-powered spinning mill, is across the street (seniors $10). The mill (1790) has displays showing the evolution from hand-crafted textiles to those made by machines.

We also checked out the old mill buildings along the river and at Pawtucket’s Central Falls

We liked the “Tin Man” atop a nearby building; the cigar had a light in the end!

Pawtucket Armory (1895) on Exchange St is now an Arts Center

Along with the Industrial Revolution came a transportation revolution. Horse drawn wagons were too slow and expensive. There was a need to move heavy cargo cheaply and efficiently between the mills on the river and the port of Providence. The river itself was impassible to large boats. The first solution was the construction of the Blackstone Canal in 1824-1828. The canal was faster than roads, but more importantly much cheaper. Each canal barge could haul 30-35 tons of cargo pulled by only two horses.

However, the coming of the Boston to Worcester Railroad line in 1835, followed by the Providence & Worcester in 1847 allowed the Industrial Revolution to figuratively “explode” through the Blackstone Valley and America. The railroad was fast, cheap and reliable. It provided for the transport of raw materials, finished goods and farm products between the villages of the Blackstone Valley and the ports of Providence and Boston. Rail service also made practical the conversion of the textile mills of the valley from waterpower to steam power by the 1860’s and 1870’s.


Arrived at the Weir Farm National Historic Site Visitor Center (Burlingham House) in southwest CT for the 3pm tour. It was a cool, crisp, beautiful day. The afternoon sun and Fall colors enhanced the beauty of the place. We had an educational tour, explored the farm, took an enjoyable hike and overall had a wonderful experience. The site includes the Visitor Center, Weir house, Weir Studio, Young Studio, two barns, tack house, ice house, other out buildings, stone walls, and three gardens. The tour begins with a 13-minute video in the Visitor Center titled “Legacy of Landscape.”

This is exactly what I need for my fine painting skills –

In 1882, noted American impressionist painter, J. Alden Weir (1852-1919) purchased this farm on Nob Hill in Branchville CT from art collector Erwin Davis for $10 and a painting. It was the start of over 40 years painting this landscape. The tour continued at what was the Weir summer home, built in 1780.

Front porch

This is currently the only National Park Unit dedicated to American painting. The Thomas Cole NHS in NY that we visited earlier in this trip is an affiliate site that is not run by the NPS. This site was designed and is preserved by artists. National Park ranger Joe Trapani starting the Weir house tour.

We have visited many amazing homes and mansions in our travels. If I had my choice, this is the one I would choose to live in. Of course, it would have to come with all the incredible contents! Here are two views of the living room. Note Weir’s painting of “Anna in the Livingroom.” Anna was his first wife.

Notice Weir’s second wife’s initials EBW (Ella Baker Weir), his first wife’s sister, in the leaded window. The year that the house was expanded to almost twice its original size, 1900, can also be seen.

The formal dining room – note the figurehead/antler chandelier!

Looking out the kitchen window toward Weir’s Studio

The Weir Studio (1885), Young’s Studio is to the left behind the tree

Alden Weir’s daughter Dorothy (1890-1947), also a painter, met Mahonri Young (sculptor and painter) in New York at a dinner given by art collector Duncan Phillips in 1921. They married in 1931 and moved to the Weir Farm in 1932. That same year, Young built his own studio on the property. He was known for his small bronzes of athletes and laborers.

Young was one of Brigham Young’s grandsons (he had many!) and in 1939 was commissioned to create a sculpture commemorating Utah’s early history. He created his largest work, titled “This is the Place.” Those were the words of Brigham Young when he entered the Valley of the Great Salt Lake in 1847. It was dedicated on July 24, 1947 in Salt Lake City. Young also did a marble statue of Brigham Young that is in the Capitol in Washington DC.

Sperry Andrews a “conservator, anecdotal historian, and, most importantly, painter of the farm’s light, moods, intimate views and landscapes.” met Young in 1952. He knocked on Young’s door to meet the noted sculptor. Over the next five years they would forge a strong friendship. In 1957, when Young died, Sperry and his wife Doris bought the farm. Doris was also a painter and they worked together to preserve both the property and artistic legacy for future generations and artists.

The Andrews renovated and refurbished the home in 1958. Cora Weir Burlingham, Weir’s youngest daughter, lived next door. When the area was threatened by development in the 1970s, Doris and Cora banded together to bring about a community effort to preserve the farm. The Weir Farm Trust became the Weir Farm Art Center and in 1990 Congress designated 60 acres of the original farm the Weir Farm National Historic Site. It tells the stories of all three generations of artists.

Alden Weir placed this stone picnic table by the house over a hundred years ago. His three daughters would host tea parties at the table. Now, visitors can sit at that table and revel in their surroundings.

They can also walk about the grounds, gardens, pathways, trails, and fields. Weir had a portable studio he had moved about the property so that he could paint in comfort any time of the year. He called it his “Palace Car.”

Weir Farm preserves and protects an important part of the history of American landscape painting.

Weir painted natural landscapes; he also “created” landscapes that would then appear in his paintings. After winning a $2,500 prize for his painting The Truants in 1896, he used the money to purchase ten acres and constructed what today is called Weir Pond. A loop trail takes you across a meadow, through woods and around the pond. Additional walking/hiking is available in the Weir Preserve southwest of the farm.

Real and amateur artists and photographers are welcomed to the farm to utilize/discover their creative abilities. The park provides sketching and painting supplies. There are also artistic Junior Ranger activities for children. In addition, the Weir Farm Art Center sponsors an Artist-in-Residence program, whereby selected artists are provided month long accommodation in a Weir Farm residence with an adjacent studio. Over 200 individuals have participated in this program. In 2016, the National Park Bison Roam Weir Farm project was created to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. Each bison is covered with a historic painting related to the Weir Farm. The bison was recently named the national mammal.

So, you might say that Weir Farm NHS is a gift from the National Park Service, a gift that keeps on giving!

One important note, the buildings are closed November through April.

Stayed the night at the Danbury CT Courtyard by Marriott


10/20 – arrived at the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site in Hyde Park NY at 8:30am. Helen waited at the Visitor Center so she would be first in line to reserve tours when it opened at 9am. Meanwhile, I walked to the Roosevelt home and continued past it hiking the Cove Trail toward the Hudson River and then returned on the Meadow Trail (about 0.75 mile).

We were on the first tour of the day to Springwood, FDR’s home. The original estate and home were purchased in 1867 by his father. FDR was born in the home on January 30, 1882, the only child of James and Sara (Delano) Roosevelt.

FDR married distant cousin Eleanor Roosevelt in 1905. Her uncle, President Theodore Roosevelt gave her away. The couple resided in both Springwood and their New York townhouse. Their first child, Anna, was born in 1906. Over the next ten years five sons would be born, though one died in infancy. In 1915 FDR, under the direction of his mother Sara who lived with them and paid for the improvements, added 18 rooms to the house. This expansion accommodated the large family as well as providing for the entertainment of his political associates. FDR began the process of deeding his home to the National Park Service in 1943, two years before his death. After his death in 1945, the estate became the property of the Department of the Interior.

FDR’s birth room, master bedroom at the time

FDR’s childhood bedroom

FDR’s bedroom

Library and living room

FDR contracted polio in 1921 at the age of 39, he would never walk again unaided.  He refused to use a standard wheelchair, his were custom made to look like regular chairs

Music room, also known as the Dresden room because of the many pieces of porcelain

Many family pictures throughout home

A favorite spot, south side of house, overlooking the Hudson River Valley

Helen joined Roosevelts for a chat

Rose garden and grave site

Horse stable

FDR established America’s first Presidential Library and Museum here in 1941. It is the only one used by a sitting president. Here are a few FDR milestones:

1910 – New York State Senator

1913 – Secretary of the Navy. There are many ship paintings and models in the museum

1928 – Governor of New York

1932 – Elected 32nd President of the United States

1936, 1940, 1944 – Re-elected President, only President to be elected four times

1945 – Meets with Joseph Stalin and Winston Churchill (Yalta Conference) to negotiate postwar Europe

1945 – Dies in Warm Springs GA, Harry Truman becomes 33rd President of U.S.

When elected President in 1932, he initiated the “New Deal” – 15 new laws to relieve the Great Depression. The Social Security Act, National Labor Relations Board, Rural Electrification, March of Dimes, Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wage), Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) are only a few examples of his work for national progress and citizen protections under the law.

The CCC played a critical role in FDR’s strategy to conserve land and natural resources. It employed three million men over nine years, and raised public awareness of the outdoors and the importance of natural resource preservation. My uncle Vincent Martin worked for the CCC. FDR was a conservationist. He had planted over half a million trees on his property in Hyde Park and then through the CCC three billion more trees were planted across the country. When registering to vote, he described himself as a “tree farmer!” The CCC also built campgrounds, trails, wildlife habitats, roads, bridges, and dams. “FDR expanded the National Park Service mission in 1933 to include not only parks and monuments but also national cemeteries, national memorials, and national military parks. He also added the parks in Washington, D.C.”

His car, with all hand controls (he could not use his feet), provided some “freedom” from his daily routine

FDRs Oval Office Desk


It took about ten minutes to drive to Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site. Our hour tour began with a film on Eleanor’s life. Eleanor (1884-1962) championed social welfare and civil rights. In 1918, she discovered that FDR was having an affair with her social secretary Lucy Mercer. Despite this devastating news she continued to support FDR and his political ambitions. After FDR contracted polio in 1921 she helped him return to public life. She also joined the Women’s Trade Union League and met political veterans Nancy Cook and Marion Dickerman that year. They would become her mentors and friends. At this point, she had lived in her mother in law’s home for almost two decades and desired her own space. Val-Kill Cottage, now called the Stone Cottage, was built two miles from the “big house.” It became both her retreat and a center for advocacy. It was also a place for family picnics, walking in the woods, swimming, tennis, riding, and socialization. At Val-Kill she emerged as a political leader.

In 1926, the Val-Kill Industries shop/factory was built behind the cottage. It was designed to assist local farmers and their families with income in the off-season by training them in various crafts including furniture making, weaving, and the making of pewter items. In 1936 Val-Kill Industries closed and Eleanor converted the building into a 20-room house with an apartment for her secretary (1929-1953) “Tommy” Thompson.

Eleanor had an amazing life. On one hand due to her fortune of birth but more importantly, on the other, due to her character and sincere care for others.

This is one of my favorite quotes

Other notable quotes:

“The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.”

“You must do the things you think you cannot do.”

“One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes . . . In the long run, we shape our lives, and we shape ourselves. The process never ends until we die. And the choices we make are ultimately our own responsibility.”


Some important dates and accomplishments:

1924-26 – Edits Women’s Democratic News

1934 – Joins National Urban League and NAACP

1936 – Begins career as a syndicated columnist including column titled “My Day”

1939 – Resigned from the DAR because they would not permit Marion Anderson, an African American opera singer, perform in Constitution Hall in Washington DC. She arranged for Ms. Anderson to sing at the Lincoln Memorial!

1942-44 – Travels overseas to visit troops and hospitals during World War II

1946 – After FDR passes away, President Truman appoints her a delegate to the General Assembly of the United Nations. She serves on the Committee for Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs. She stated, “. . .the only woman in the delegation, I was not very welcome.”

1947 – Chairs UN Human Rights Commission

1948 – UN General Assembly adopts Universal Declaration of Human Rights; this was her proudest achievement.

1949-59 – She is active in national and international affairs. She has a TV show that deals with social issues titled “Prospects of Mankind” until 1962.

1960 – Agrees to support John F. Kennedy for President but only if he commits to supporting social issues.

1961 – President Kennedy reappoints her as a delegate to the UN. She chairs President’s Commission on Status of Women.

1962 – Dies and is buried next to FDR in the rose garden at Hyde Park


This was her office at Val-Kill

After the Val-Kill tour, we drove back to the FDR Visitor Center and obtained the last two tickets for the ranger tour at the Top Cottage. We boarded a park mini-bus and arrived at the cottage at 1:10. The Top Cottage was built by FDR as a “. . . small place to go to escape the mob.” He helped design it emphasizing it’s need to be wheelchair friendly. It is located one mile from Val-Kill at the top of Dutchess Hill, one of the places FDR would play as a child. Ranger Kevin Oldenburg beginning tour in cottage –

The cottage became FDR’s retreat and the porch and grounds became a venue for informal socializing.

After ten minutes in the cottage, the ranger took us out to the porch where he proceeded to tell us stories of events that took place right where we were sitting. For example, the visit of the king and queen of England in 1939 on the eve of World War II. A picnic was prepared at which the royal couple was introduced to hot dogs as an example of typical American food. At the time, many in the press wrote with disapproval on this treatment of royalty! Administration officials and world leaders frequented this place. There were intentionally no records of many of these meetings. In 1944, here and in the big house, FDR and Winston Churchill discussed collaboration between the U.S. and Great Britain in the development of an atomic bomb, then called Tube Alloys, and later known as the Manhattan Project. A document was signed called the Hyde Park Aide Memoire, it stated that this project would be kept secret, especially from the Russians and included the possibility of using the bomb against the Japanese.

Afterward, we decided to hike, rather than ride the mini-bus back to the FDR Visitor Center. It was a one-mile hike down the hill to Val-Kill and then another two plus miles along the Hyde Park Trail to our car.

We had to rush to get to get to the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site for the 4pm tour, the last of the day.

The mansion was being renovated, as can be seen in this photo. Also, the furniture in the rooms had been moved and covered to protect it. Therefore, I did not take pictures inside of the mansion.

Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt (1794-1877) rose from poverty and became the richest man in the country through his investments in shipping and railroads. The “Commodore” had 13 children. He passed the bulk of his wealth down to his eldest son William Henry (1821-1885). William doubled the family fortune, but his eight children lived lives of excess and extravagance. “Every one of William Henry’s eight children eventually owned a mansion on Fifth Avenue as well as several “cottages” in the country or by the sea.” For example, Cornelius Vanderbilt II built the “Breakers” in Newport RI, and George Washington Vanderbilt, the youngest, built the “Biltmore” in NC.

Frederick William Vanderbilt (1856-1938) built this mansion in Hyde Park on the Hudson River. He was the only child to increase his inheritance (from 10 to 70 million dollars). He and his wife Louise moved into the mansion in 1898. They were unable to have children; Louise died in 1926. During the 1930s his niece, Mrs. Margaret Louise Van Alen, called Daisy by her family and friends, served as a nurse to her uncle Frederick. When he died in 1938, he passed on most of his estate, including the Hyde Park mansion, to Daisy.

Trivia – Reginald Claypoole Vanderbilt (1880-1925), was the son of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, Frederick’s brother. Reginald had two daughters, Cathleen (1904-1944) with his first wife Cathleen Nielson, and Gloria (1924 – ) with his second wife Gloria Morgan. Gloria Vanderbilt, now 93 years old, has had a very interesting life. She was a model and fashion designer. She licensed her name for various wearing apparel (e.g. jeans) and also started her own company. L’Oreal launched 8 fragrances under her name. She was married four times and had four sons. She had two sons by her fourth husband Wyatt Emory Cooper. The first was Carter Vanderbilt Cooper (1965-1988) who committed suicide when he was 23 by jumping from the family’s 14th floor apartment. The second son is Anderson Hays Cooper (1967 – ) currently a CNN news anchor.

In 1939, she told her neighbor FDR that she would like to keep the mansion as it was and make it a memorial to her Uncle Fred. In 1940, the mansion and 211 acres of the estate were designated the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site. It is the only mansion from America’s “Gilded Age,” i.e. Civil War to 1900, in the National Park System.

After the tour, we walked through the formal gardens. We then stopped at this scenic overlook on the property.

From here I walked the Hyde Park Trail to Bard Rock on the Hudson River while Helen cross stitched in the car.

We arrived at a consignment store in Hyde Park at 6pm when they were closing. Unfortunately, the woman stayed open while Helen searched the store. That resulted in three carpets, pictures, and water goblets being transported back to Springfield. They were added to our luggage and the two large Japanese glass floats and the large brass propeller (purchased in Niantic CT) in the back of our Subaru.

We had dinner in a cool 1950s style diner in Hyde Park before heading to the Marriott Courtyard in Mahwah NJ. Waiter and waitresses were dressed formally with black bow ties.


10/21 – It was a 9.5-hour drive home, we arrived at 5pm


Northeast U.S. National Park Unit Trip – Part 1

October 27, 2017

Northeast U.S. National Park Unit Trip – October 2017     Part 1

10/12 – Harriet Tubman NHP in Auburn NY; I visited Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument in MD earlier this year – see April 2017. As is stated there, “She emancipated herself in 1849 at the age of 27 by escaping to PA (100 miles away), a non-slave state. She earned the nickname “Moses” for risking her life in guiding more than 70 of her family and friends to freedom. She also served as a nurse and spy for Union forces during the Civil War. Her knowledge of tidal stream areas helped her lead a raid in SC, the first woman to lead a U.S. army military assault. She eventually settled her family in Auburn NY, was active in the women’s suffrage movement, practiced her faith and founded a home for the elderly and disadvantaged.”

Our first stop was her grave in Fort Hill Cemetery (1822-1913)

She moved her family from Ontario Canada to Auburn NY in 1859. She continued to aid the poor and established a Home for the Aged on her farm in 1908.

She was very active in the Thompson African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church


Our next stop was Thomas Cole National Historic Site just south of Albany in the village of Catskill NY at the foot of the Catskill Mountains in the Hudson Valley

This is a NP affiliate site; you can tour the grounds but there is a fee to tour the Main House and Studios at Cedar Grove

1815 federal style Main House

Thomas Cole (1801 – 1848) founded the first major art movement in America – The Hudson River School. This is a view from the front porch of the Main House followed by two of Cole’s paintings of this view

Our guide and other Cole paintings

The 1839 Old Studio, he made his own paints, which may have contributed to his respiratory problems and early death


This was our biggest day traveling. We had already driven for 4.5 hours and now we had an additional 7 hours to our Fairfield Inn in Bangor ME


10/13 – Arrived at the new (2016) Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in ME at 9:30am. It is located on the east border of the huge Baxter State Park. We drove the 17-mile Katahdin Loop Road in the SE part of the monument.

This land was a gift to the NPS, however, it has been opposed by locals and the lumber industry. I believe mainly because of access issues related to roads, bridges and trees. President Trump directed the new Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to review the last 27 national park units that were designated by the Obama administration. He sent a report to the President in August however few details were released. The speculation is that he recommended changes in management of this National Monument that would be favorable to the lumber industry.

It was 30 degrees when we started the day but warmed up to the 50s by the time we left at 12:30

The Fall colors were at their peak – BEAUTIFUL

We started by taking a short hike to Lynx Pond

Picnic with a view!

Mount Katahdin (5,267 ft), is the highpoint of ME and the start (or finish) of the Appalachian Trail (AT). Helen and I climbed it in 1972, I climbed it in 1974 and Kate and I climbed it in 1996, all by different routes.

We only saw three people during our visit, one of which was Anita Mueller who wrote the text and did some of the photography for the Loop Road Interpretive Map. We asked her to autograph our map! Our last hike (mile 12) was to the Katahdin Brook Lean-to. It is on the northern extension of the AT, which continues up to Canada.


It took 3 hours to drive to Saint Croix Island International Historic Site on the St. Croix River south of Calais ME

The Visitor Center is on the mainland and the island is in the river next to the U.S.-Canadian border. You can take a private boat there but the NPS discourages visits due to erosion and other possible damage to the island. There is a short trail that leads to a point overlooking the river and island.

In 1604, Pierre Dugua sailed from France with the directive to “establish the name, power, and authority of the King of France; to summon the natives to a knowledge of the Christian religion; to people, cultivate, and settle the said lands; to make explorations and especially to seek out mines of precious metals.” This is a bronze of the settlement designed by Samuel Champlain who was on the voyage. Champlain hoped to discover a “Northwest Passage” to the Orient.

There are a series of descriptive signs and bronze statues along the trail