Archive for the ‘Tom’ Category


OH to CA, NP Unit Sites

March 31, 2021

Traveled to Los Angeles to spend Easter with Kate.  Helen flew, I drove 8,400 miles round trip re-visiting about forty NP Units.  I slept in our SUV wherever I found myself at the end of each day. These visits were for both pleasure and to obtain additional photos and information related to these sites.  Some of these units are already on our Blog, some are not.  If I visited the unit before 2008 – it is new to this Blog.

3/24/21 W – to George Rogers Clark NHP in SW Indiana.  See Blog for May 2010.


Lincoln Boyhood Home N MEM in SW Indiana.  See Blog for May 2010.   Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, died of milk sickness; she is buried here.

Shiloh NMP in TN.  See Blog for May 2012.  I arrived in the evening.

Here is some new information and photos related to the gunboats that participated in the battle.

I also visited Corinth MS, where the Confederates were headquartered during this two-day battle.

After the battle, the Federal forces supported a “Contraband Camp” for escaped slaves.

Shiloh NMP also contains the Shiloh Indian Mounds National Historic Landmark.  Eight hundred years ago, a town occupied the high river bluff overlooking the Tennessee River.

3/25 ThPresident William Jefferson Clinton Birthplace Home NHS in Hope AR.  See Blog for May 2014.  Clinton lived here for seven years.  He was born in 1946 and his family moved to Hot Springs AR in 1953.





Poverty Point NM in LA.  See Blog for May 2010.  This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  When Stonehenge was being built and Queen Nefertiti ruled Egypt, American Indians were building earthen monuments in north LA.  This site is somewhat unique in the NP System in that it is run by the state of LA. 

Cane River Creole NHP in LA.  See Blog for May 2012 when we did Oakland Plantation.  On this trip, I did Magnolia Plantation.  Both were cotton plantations before and after the Civil War.

The Magnolia’s big house (private property) was burned during the Civil War.  It was rebuilt by the Hertzog family in 1896 and they still live there.

Overseer’s House and Hospital

Slave/Tenant Quarters made of brick – unusual.

Plantation Store

Natchez NHP in MS.  See Blog for August 2013.  On this trip I concentrated on Natchez history and Fort Rosalie.  Forts on the bluff overlooking the Mississippi River were controlled by the French, British, Spanish, and now Americans.

Rosalie Mansion is owned by the Mississippi Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR)

3/26 F – Our first visit to New Orleans was in December 1969 on our way to Mexico from MD in our new (used) VW camper. I have visited New Orleans many times, but this is my first New Orleans post to this Blog. These first photos are from 1990.

Jean Lafitte NHP and PRES has six sites.

I will start with the New Orleans French Quarter.  These photos are from 2004 – a visit to Jackson Square, a cruise on the paddleboat Natchez, and a night on the town. We enjoyed lots of Cajun food!

The remainder of the photos are from March 2021.  French iron work –

Joan of Arc – Maid of Orleans

Jean Lafitte NHP Vis Ctr

de Bienville Founder of New Orleans in 1717

Latrobe Square and French Market

The second site is Chalmette Battlefield.  It commemorates Andrew Jackson’s victory over the British in the Battle of New Orleans.  This battle took place on January 8, 1815 AFTER the U.S. and Britain ended the war with the Treaty of Ghent.  However, Congress did not ratify the treaty until February 1815, so fighting continued – seems senseless!  At the same time, it has to be recognized that there were lengthy delays in communication in 1815.

War of 1812

Battle of New Orleans

British positions

Packenham’s Fall

American positions

Chalmette Monument

Chalmette Plantation

Malus-Beauregard House


Chalmette National Cemetery

Grand Army of the Republic Monument

The third site is Barataria Preserve (Marrero LA), 26,000 acres of marsh, swamp, and hardwood forest.

The Land is Sinking, and the Water is Rising

Visitor Center Trail

The fourth site is the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux.  First, the Wetlands adjacent to the Bayou Lafourche.

Then the Cultural Center

There are regular performances in the Auditorium (Theater)

The fifth site is the Acadian Cultural Center Lafayette.  There exhibits, films, program, and boat tours of Bayou Vermilion.

The Atakapa-Ishak Trail

Lafayette’s Festivals Acadiens is held each year

The sixth and final site of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice.  They have exhibits, Cajun music and dancing, cooking demonstrations and live radio programs at the Liberty Theater.

When in the French Quarter, I did a re-visit of New Orleans Jazz NHP.  In 1990, I was able to get tickets for a performance of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, which was really great.  This time neither the Visitor Center nor Preservation Hall were open because of the COVID Pandemic.  Also, it is my understanding that both are being relocated to Louis Armstrong Park near Congo Square.

French ironwork balconies on Decatur St

New Orleans Jazz NHP Visitor Center on N Peters

Luncheon Jazz Band at the Market Café

Street performers at Latrobe Park

The New Orleans Jazz Museum is now located in the old U.S. Mint

3/27 Sat – Chad and I did a trip to Big Thicket N PRES in August 2013 – see Blog.  It is in SE TX north of Beaumont.  Visitor Center displays –

John and I hiked three trails in the Preserve.  The first was the Sundew Trail.  We did the one-mile outer loop.


Sundew plants – their sticky globules look like dew drops, attracting and holding insect to digest.

The second trail was another one-mile loop – the Pitcher Plant (insect eating) Trail

John at the start of the Beaver Slide Trail – bottomland hardwoods

Beaver Dam

Look what I found – bladderwort flower, another carnivorous plant.

Ok – am I going to cross the stream?

Cypress Slough

3/28 Sun – I had a 5-hour drive to Lyndon B. Johnson NHP, in Johnson City TX – also see Blog for May 2012.

Johnson City TX

The Johnson Settlement Trail (~1 mile) takes you through the Historical Park.  The first stop is Sam Ealy Johnson Sr.’s Cabin

After doing the Johnson Settlement Loop, the walk takes you to the LBJ Boyhood Home

The LBJ Ranch (Texas White House) and LBJ State Park and Historic Site are 14 miles W of Johnson City

Amistad National Recreation Area is in South Central TX on the Mexican border.  Amistad means “friendship” in Spanish.  The Amistad Dam on the Rio Grande River produced a reservoir that now provides for recreation.  Helen and I visited in 2006 but many of my photos did not come back from processing that year.  Therefore, I returned on this trip to fill the photo gap.

Visitor Center displays

Governors Landing

I did the short Diablo East Nature Trail

This is a photo from the end of Viewpoint Rd

Again, this is a National Recreation Area – Amistad Reservoir

3/29 M – arrived at Fort Davis NHS in west TX at 8am

Troops from Fort Davis protected immigrants, freighters, mail coaches, and travelers on the San Antonio – El Paso Road from Comanches and Apaches, 1854 to 1891.

Fort Davis

The fort is noted for its Buffalo Soldiers and bugle calls.  Historians think Indians named the black troops “Buffalo Soldiers,” because their hair resembled that of buffalos as well as their fighting ability.

Life was more deadly than battle –

Gatling Gun

My first visit to Guadalupe Mountains NP was in 1991 when I climbed Guadalupe Peak (8,751ft), the highest point in TX.  I did an early morning 8.8-mile hike (elevation gain of 2,927ft) in windy conditions.  High winds coming off the desert are common for this peak. 

Trailhead, peak, early morning photo, and illustration

There was a triangular stainless-steel monument on top with three insignias, one of which was for American Airlines, who paid to place it there.  The second was for the Post Office Department of the U.S. with the symbol of a Pony Express rider.  The third stated, “1858-1958, Dedicated to the airmen who, like the stage drivers before them, challenged the elements through this pass with the pioneer spirit and courage which resulted in a vast system of airline transport known as “American Airlines.”

Descent, nice trail –

In 2006, Helen and I attempted to climb the peak.  After about 3 miles, we came around the corner of a ridge and “got nailed by the wind.”  We fell to the ground; then crawled back, while being blown sideways.  I estimate the wind at over 100 mph.  It was the strongest wind I have ever encountered!  We were unable to continue and headed back to the car. 

On this trip, I went to the Frijole Ranch History Museum

And also did the McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail

It was only a half hour drive to Carlsbad Caverns NP.  When I crossed the border into New Mexico, I moved back one hour – from Central Time to Mountain Time.  I arrived at 2:15pm, the last time of the day that one could start the Self-Guided Tour through the caverns.

My first time in the caverns was in 1963 when on a road trip with friends.  Carlsbad Caverns NP was my very first National Park!  My second visit was in 1966 with my mother and three brothers.  Beside our hike into the cave, we also saw the “Bat Flight.”  We sat in awe as we watched the bats fly out of the cave in mass to forage in the surrounding dessert during that night.  I returned in 2006 with Helen and we did an audio tour of the caverns.

Model showing descent from Natural Entrance, Big Room, and elevator to Visitor Center.

On this trip, I hiked down 1.25 miles through the natural entrance, descending over 750ft.

View up before going deeper into the cave.

To Devil’s Den

Entering the “Big Room”

Giant Dome and Twin Domes


Mirror Lake


Crystal Spring Dome – largest active stalagmite in cave

Dolls Theater

Chinese Theater

I expected many people to be in the cave but that was not the case.  I saw no more than 15 people during my 2.5 hours in the caverns.  The solitude and quiet was wonderful!   The Big Room –

3/30 Tu – arrive at White Sands NP in south-central NM about 7:30am.  In 2019, it was upgraded from a National Monument to a National Park

I had been here with friends in 1963 – Ray, Chuck, Tom

And with family in 1966 – Joe, Pat, Tom

I did the Dunes Drive and hiked four short trails

For first hike was the one-mile Dune Life Nature Trail

I had to wait for the front-end loader to clear the parking lot of sand at the interdune boardwalk before parking

You Tube Video – Interdune Boardwalk Trail

Dunes Drive to Alkali Flat Trail

Dune Sledding

Playa Trail – to barren dry lakebed

Departing Shot

It was 3.5hrs to Bowie AZ; then twenty minutes on the unpaved Apache Pass Road to the Fort Bowie NHS trailhead

Our first visit was on a cold day in 2010 – see Blog for March 2010

View from Visitor Center toward First and Second Forts

School Foundation, Parade Grounds (flagpole), and Second Fort Bowie Infantry barracks ruin in distance (white)

Sitting in ruin of First Fort Bowie

Infantry Barrack ruins at second Fort Bowie

Returned to Apache Pass Road by way of the Ridge Overlook Trail

Apache Pass

I arrived at Coronado N MEM in SE Arizona on the U.S.-Mexican border at about 5:30pm.  See Blog for March 2010.

My objective on this trip was to hike to and into Coronado Cave, about a mile roundtrip.  My first stop was the Visitor Center (closed).

It was getting dark, so I rushed to the Cave Trail parking area and started hiking up a stream bed, which I thought was the trail.  After about a mile I figured I must have missed the point where the trail left the stream bed.  I retraced my route but by the time I found the trail it was too dark to proceed.

“THE WALL”    U.S. – Mexican border

3/31 W – I arrived at Tumacacori NHP at 8am before it was open.  I saw a ranger and he allowed me into the park.  See Blog for March 2010 for information/photos from our first visit.

Jesuits started the mission in the 1690s and then in the early 1770s Franciscans took over and constructed what can be seen today.

My next stop was Saguaro NP – East, the Rincon Mountain District.  See Blog for March 2010 for our visit to Saguaro NP – West, Tucson Mountain District.  The Visitor Center was closed because of the pandemic, but all trails were open.

My first visit here was in 1963 with friends.

On this trip, I drove the Cactus Forest Loop Drive stopping to take for photos and to take short hikes.

Mica View Trail

Desert Ecology Trail

Freeman Homestead Trail

Continued North on I10 to Casa Grande Ruins NM.  Located in south-central AZ.  See Blog for March 2010 for previous visit.  The following map shows Indian Ruins across the four corners region.  As you will see shortly, after Casa Grande Ruins NM, I continued north to Hohokam Pima NM, Montezuma Castle NM, Tuzigoot NM, Sunset Crater NM and Wupatki NM – all Native American sites in Arizona.

Casa Grande – the “Big House”

Casa Grande is a unique four-story structure and remains a Sacred Place.  It was the centerpiece of the largest Hohokam village in the Gila River Valley.

Hohokam Pima NM is located a little further north in the Gila River Indian Community.  It was known as “Snaketown.”  See Blog for March 2019.  The site was excavated in the 1930s and then covered leaving nothing visible above ground.

There is a tribal cemetery nearby.

Proceeding north on I17, I stopped briefly at Montezuma Castle NM

The last time we visited here was in 2005 with friends we met in graduate school at the University of Maryland.

Montezuma Well is nearby.  Note the Indian drummer at the overlook.

I arrived at Tuzigoot NM at 4:30pm.  So, I only had a half hour to rush through the Visitor Center and do the 0.6mi Pueblo Trail before they closed.  We had a leisurely visit here in 2005, but I only had one photo from that trip.

It was a Southern Sinagua village built between 1000 and 1400, 120ft above the Verde Valley.

Tuzigoot is an Apache word for “crooked water” (Verde River). 

I drove through Sedona at sunset and then slept in Flagstaff

4/1 Th – I got coffee in Flagstaff (24 degrees this morning!) and arrived at Sunset Crater Volcano NM at about 8am.

On my first visit here in 1966, my brothers and I hiked to the top (1,000ft gain) and then ran down the side.  In 1982, I thought I was going to do that again.  However, I was told that it was no longer permitted to climb the crater.  I took this photo to show the paths that people previously followed – which scared the cinder cone.   

In 1998, Chad and I hiked the Lenox Crater Trail

On this trip, I hiked the Lava Flow Trail, a one-mile loop. 

Note that the trail scars are no longer visible on Sunset Crater (8,039ft) – nature can heal itself if we permit that to happen.


View of the San Francisco Peaks, including Humphreys Peak (12,633ft) – the highpoint of Arizona.  All were part of San Francisco Mountain.

View of Sunset Crater from the NE

See the previous map for Sunset Crater and Wupatki NMs.  I did the short walks to the six major pueblo ruins in Wupatki NM.  This was a repeat of previous visits in 1966 and 1998.

Wukoki Pueblo is built on a Sandstone outcrop.

Looking back at Sunset Crater (left) and San Francisco Peaks

The Wupatki Pueblo 0.5mi Trail (0.5mi) starts at the Visitor Center.  This 104-room pueblo was a regional trade center.

Chad on our 1998 trip



Looking back at Wupatki from Ballcourt

Nalakihu and Citadel Pueblos

Box Canyon Pueblo

Lomaki Pueblo

Arrived in LA in time to go to the Burbank airport with Kate to pick up Helen for our Easter celebration.


National Park Unit Road Trip Part 1 – NY, MA, CT

November 15, 2020

11/5 Th – 9hrs to Rest Area on I-84 in PA outside Port Jervis NY

11/6 F – Hawks Nest Overlook was my first stop on the Upper Delaware National Scenic and Recreational River

Cowen Farm, NPS Ranger Station

Proof I was IN this National Park Unit

Eagle Observation Area

Roebling Aqueduct for canal boats crossing the Delaware River.  John A. Roebling was also the engineer for the Brooklyn Bridge

It was part of the canal that linked the Delaware and Hudson Rivers

Hiked the Towpath Trail

Zane Grey Museum

Minisink Battleground, after raiding Minisink (Port Jervis), Loyalists and Mohawk Indians decimated NY and NJ militias on this hill

The Delaware NSRR is 70 river miles long and is the border between NY and PA

No Survivors – 1763

Ten Mile River

Fort Delaware (1775-1785) – typical American settlement fortification

Skinners Falls Rapids


2.5hrs to Kate Mullany House National Historic Site (Affiliated) in Troy NY and a personal tour by Paul F. Cole, Executive Director of the American Labor Studies Center

At age 19 she founded the first all-female union in the U.S. – The Collar Laundry Union

Detachable collars were very popular, you did not have to clean the entire shirt, you could just clean and iron the collar!

In 1864, at age 25, Kate led a strike “Don’t Iron While the Strike is Hot.”

It resulted in a 25% increase in wages and improved collar worker’s conditions

After her father died, her mother purchased land and built this brick duplex with three units in each side of the row house. The family lived in the top right unit and rented out the other five for income. Kate lived in the apartment with her mother, three sisters, and brother. There are four tiny “bedrooms,” a parlor, a kitchen, and a small back porch. The outhouse and water were outside.

Kate married (John Fogarty) and moved to Buffalo, and later returned to Troy, dying in this apartment in 1906. She is buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery under a Celtic Cross.

Kate Mullany was the first woman appointed to a national labor position. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame in Seneca Falls, NY in 2000. In 2016, she was entered in the Labor’s International Hall of Fame.

First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton dedicated the Kate Mullany House as a National Historic Landmark in 1998. It was designated a National Historic Site in 2005. The house is owned and operated by the American Labor Studies Center. They hope to “officially” open the house for visitors in 2021.


It took me 40min to drive N to “Saratoga” now Schuylerville NY, a village in Saratoga County. The village is in the northeast part of the Town of Saratoga, east of Saratoga Springs. This is where British Gen. Burgoyne surrendered to American Gen. Horatio Gates on October 17, 1777, ten days after the second Battle at Saratoga Battlefield. The Village of Victory is adjacent to Schuylerville to the southwest and the Hudson River forms the village’s eastern border. I toured monuments and the Schuyler House in the evening and then slept in the SUV on Church St.


11/7 Sat – Drove 10 miles S to Saratoga National Historical Park, the location of the “Battles of Saratoga.” I arrived at the NPS Visitor Center as the sun was rising in the east.

I took this photo through the window of the Visitor Center, which was closed due to the pandemic

In 1777, British Gen. John Burgoyne moved down from Canada through Lake Champlain and the Hudson River Valley with a force of 4,000 British regulars, 3,200 Germans, 400 Iroquois, and 250 Canadian loyalists. At the same time, Col. Barry St. Leger moved east from Lake Ontario into the Mohawk Valley with his British troops. They were to meet in Albany and then join forces with Sir William Howe’s large army in New York City and destroy the rebellion.

At the beginning of American offensive action against the British in 1775, a small force of “Green Mountain Boys” had captured a small British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain. They were led by Ethan Allan and Benedict Arnold.

On July 6, 1777, after a four-day siege, Fort Ticonderoga fell to Gen. Burgoyne’s forces. American Gen. Philip Schuyler used delaying tactics to slow the British advance as they continued toward Saratoga. In mid-September, Burgoyne crossed the Hudson River at Saratoga (now Schuylerville) and continued south where he met a force of 8,000 Americans dug in at Bemus Heights on the Hudson River. The Americans were led by Gen. Horatio Gates, who had replaced Schuyler. The first “Battle of Saratoga” took place here on September 19th.

The ten-mile tour road did not open until 9am, so I took a 4-mile hike across major sections of the battlefield. For clarity, the following photos are presented as though I was driving on the ten-mile, ten stop, tour road.

Stop 1 Freeman Farm Overlook, the first battle at Freeman Farm took place on September 19, 1777.

Stop 2 – Neilson Farm, American defensive positions were located here, and the Patriots returned here after the first battle at Freeman Farm.

Stop 3 – American River Fortifications (Bemus Heights) on the Hudson River. Col. Tadeusz Kosciuszko, a Polish military engineer, directed the construction of these fortifications. They overlooked the Hudson River and controlled the road to Albany.


Stop 4 – Chatfield Farm, an American outpost position that noted the start of the second British attack on October 7, 1777.

The Ravine

Stop 5 – Barber Wheatfield, British Brig. Gen. Simon Fraser was mortally wounded here at the start of the October 7th battle.

Stop 6 – Balcarres Redoubt, the first battle at Freeman Farm (9/19/1777) was considered a British victory because the Americans withdrew to their defensive positions. After the battle, the British built defensive positions of their own, including the Breymann and Balcarres Redoubts, on the Freeman Farm.


The British attacked the Americans on October 7th. The American counterattack at the Barber Farm caused the British to withdraw to these defensive positions.

The Canadian Cabins were taken in the American assault

Stop 7 – Breymann Redoubt

Gen. Benedict Arnold, though relieved of his command by Gen. Gates, led one of the attack columns. He then participated in the successful attack on the Breymann Redoubt. He suffered a leg wound as he entered the redoubt.

The Boot Monument commemorates Arnold’s service in the Continental Army BUT does not name him! After Saratoga, Arnold felt he was slighted and insulted by the Continental Congress. He was in command of the American fortifications at West Point NY in 1780 when he changed sides (turncoat) and attempted to give his command to the British. He was rewarded with the British rank of Brig. Gen and 6,000 pounds! He led British raiding parties for the rest of the war.

Stop 8 – Burgoyne’s Headquarters (September 19 through October 7, 1777)


Stop 9 – The Great Redoubt and British Hospital

Stop 10 – Fraser Burial Site

Burgoyne’s Retreat to Saratoga

As mentioned above, I visited the following sites the previous evening – surrender at the Village of Saratoga (now Schuylerville) on October 17, 1777.

The British had established a supply depot here – Fort Hardy

The 155-foot Saratoga Monument is located about one mile away in the town of Victory.

The stone obelisk was completed in 1883


I also stopped at the nearby Schuyler House

4hr drive (200mi) to Lexington Common National Historic Site.

Paul Revere and rode from Boston toward Concord to warn Colonials that the British were coming! He warned John Hancock and Samuel Adams in Lexington and continued his ride west. The Lexington militia, led by Captain Parker, took positions on the Lexington Green and met the British at 5am on April 19, 1775. No one knows who fired the first shot but afterward 8 militia were dead and 10 wounded. The British had one wounded and continued toward Concord.

Captain Parker Statue

Lexington Green

Entering Minute Man National Historical Park

Did Paul Revere warn the militia in Concord that the British were coming?

Paul Revere and William Dawes left Boston and took different routes to warn the Colonials in Concord (militia armory) that the British were coming. They joined in Lexington and met Dr. Samuel Prescott who was returning to Concord. The three then continue the ride west. Paul Revere was captured at 1am on April 19, 1775 at this location on the Old Concord Road. William Dawes escaped and returned to Lexington. Dr. Prescott also escaped and was able to continue to Concord. So, it is he who warned the Colonials in Concord that the British were coming! We must be aware that “History” can be re-interpreted and re-written and be careful to check the authenticity of our sources.

Samuel Whitney, muster master of the Concord militia, lived in this house along the battle road in 1775. It was purchased by writers Louisa May Alcott and then Nathaniel Hawthorne, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

British reach Concord and burn the armory. Militia think their homes are burning and several hundred come out of the hills to the North Bridge. British soldiers fire and kill two-colonials. Militia return fire – this would become known as the “shot heard round the world.” Monument on the “British side” of the North Bridge –

The Minute Man statue is located on the “Colonist side” of the North Bridge

The British retreated and were harassed all the way back to Charlestown. At the end of the day, the British had 73 dead and 174 wounded. Colonials lost 49 men with 41 wounded – the Revolutionary War had begun!

Old Manse


1.6hr (100mi) drive to Hartford CT and Coltsville National Historical Park on the banks of the Connecticut River (Authorized NP Unit – 2014).

When the historic brownstone buildings 8 & 10 (Forge and Foundry) are transferred to the National Park Service, it will become an official NHP! A van now serves as the “Visitor Center.”

The main Armory factory has an iconic blue dome with stars, topped by a rearing colt statue.

Samuel Colt started his Hartford factory in 1847. There were years of mismanagement and failure before demand for Colt’s revolver would result in a successful Colt Patent Fire-Arms Manufacturing Company. After Samuel Colt died in 1862 (age 47), his wife Elizabeth ensured that the industrial empire flourished for over 40 years.

The area is an urban renewal zone. For example, the Thomas Hooker micro-brewery is in a building of the armory complex.

An industrial village evolved that provided practical, spiritual, and recreational opportunities for armory workers. The armory worker housing has been converted into apartments.

There are also apartments in the Samuel and Elizabeth Colt’s mansion – Armsmear

Carriage House

James B. Colt House (1855), Samuel’s brother lived just down the street. He served as Treasurer of Colt’s Manufacturing Company.

The Historical Park includes the Church of the Good Shepherd

What is now Colt Park, was part of the Samuel and Elizabeth Colt estate

Slept in the SUV at a Service Area on the NJ Turnpike, I used an eye shade to block out the lights


See Part 2 – DC, VA, and WV; posted December 2020




Alaska National Preserves

September 30, 2020

This post includes:

Katmai N PRES, Alagnak Wild River, Aniakchak N PRES, Denali N PRES, Noatak N PRES, Kenai Fjords NP, Inupiat Heritage Center (Affiliated NP Unit), Glacier Bay N PRES, and Gates of the Arctic N PRES

Lake Clark N PRES, and Wrangell-Saint Elias N PRES can be found on this Blog under July 2011

Yukon-Charley Rivers N PRES,  and Bering Land Bridge N PRES can be found on this Blog under August 2012

9/1/2020 Tu – I had to complete a COVID Declaration and have proof of a negative test before entering Alaska.

TSA took my peanut butter at the Dayton airport! All flights were about one-third full today with everyone required to wear a face mask, except for eating or drinking. I liked watching my flight information on my personal screen. The screen map showed us flying over Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, and Yukon Territories of Canada and then into Alaska. After consuming 3 airline zip lock snack bags and two of Helen’s turkey sausage sandwiches, I was full when the plane arrived in Anchorage at 5:40pm (9:40pm OH time). I felt younger, having gone back in time four hours.

9/2/20 W My 47-minute Alaska Air flight arrived in King Salmon at noon. It was windy, cold (53 degrees) and raining as Alexi (pilot) and I pushed the float plane away from the Katmai Air dock on the Naknek River. We flew east over Naknek Lake

Then north over Katmai National Park

Then to a peninsula on the north shore of Novianuk Lake, which is in Katmai N PRES

We landed at Agate Beach on the east side of the peninsula


We were on the leeward side of the peninsula. Without the wind, the conditions were comfortable.

After the plane was anchored to the beach, we started exploring.  Agate Beach is named for the abundance of agate rock on the beach.

The moving clouds, rain, and backlight from the beach, made it difficult to take photos, but Alexi did a good job taking this one –

After about 30 minutes, we took-off and flew west over the now closed Royal Wolf Lodge

It was raining as we followed the Alagnak Wild River west under the clouds. The river originates from Kukalek Lake in Katmai N PRES and flows generally west to Bristol Bay. It is a prime salmon fishing river.

Alexi circled a spot on the river several times making sure she was set up for a tricky river landing. We landed at a place called Cutbank at Estradas, for the now empty cabin that still sits on the north side of the river.

The Alagnak Wild River is somewhat channeled here allowing for a landing. For most of its course to Bristol Bay it is spread out and shallow. Alexi skillfully tied off the plane to a solid tree root ball and we proceeded to explore the area.

We did not see any animals but did see lots of tracks along the river. I had to have my photo taken in the river so I could prove that I had truly experienced this National Park Unit. The river take-off was a bit “hairy” due to the river current, but we made it fine and were back in King Salmon in about 20 minutes.

I had rented a primitive cabin from the Antler’s Inn for two nights. I was cold, weary, and hurting because of my wet feet/legs and being bounced about in the small plane. As soon as I got in the cabin, I got out of my wet leggings and water shoes, turned on the heat in the cabin, and got under the covers to get warm.

I had a fit-full night with aches/pains and the 4-hour time change, but plenty of time to get back to physiological and psychological “normal” by morning.

9/3/20 Th – Chris Klosterman, my Trygg Air pilot, picked me up at 10:30. He said Trygg meant safe in “Scandinavian.” He fueled his plane and loaded some supplies including fuel containers for a stop at Pilot Point on the Bering Sea. We took off about 11:15am.

The flight there was over baren but beautiful country. The colors and contrasts were wonderful no matter what light was available. The weather was mixed with clouds, rain, and a bit of sun – Bering Sea in distance

We saw one bear and lots of birds flying south. Chris said some of them were swans. Chris shared one of his mother’s homemade Norwegian cinnamon rolls and I shared my beef jerky.

Landing at Pilot Point, supplies were off-loaded, and the fuel containers we were carrying were filled. A large tent was also loaded for a drop off at a hunting lodge on Cub Creek.

We took off and flew south, bouncing, due to a strong wind, toward the east side of the Aniakchak Caldera – approaching Aniakchak National Monument

The break in the caldera wall releases the water from Surprise Lake in the caldera. This break is called “The Gates.” It marks the start of the Aniakchak River.

Caldera model – The Gates, right center

Pinnacle Mountain

Waterfall at start of Cub Creek on the south flank of Aniakchak Peak (snow in background). We landed at a tiny clearing by the creek in the National Preserve. Fuel containers, tent, and supplies were off-loaded for the lodge. Moose season was starting in four days.

After a quick take-off in the rain, we headed for nearby Meshik Lake in a rain squall

Meshik Lake is at an elevation of about 500 feet. There is a small stream that flows west from the lake to the Bearing Sea, while another small stream flows east from the lake to the Pacific Ocean – a unique geological feature!  Some members of the National Park Travelers Club (NPTC) have their float plane pilot “skim off” Meshik Lake and then return to King Salmon. They then say they have been in Aniakchak N PRES – I do not think that is legitimate. I feel you must at least walk in the National Park Unit in order to say you have been there.

We followed the Aniakchak River east

Approaching Aniakchak Bay.

Chris did an exciting landing on the beach just below the area where the Columbia River Packers Cabin was once located. I did videos to show the incredibly short distance that was needed by the Beaver aircraft to land on and take-off from the beach. There is a building above the beach that serves as a cabin and maintenance location for the National Preserve.

YouTube video

We explored the beach area and checked out the cabin

We then hiked to the lagoon that empties into Aniakchak Bay

We saw flocks of birds, seals, and amazing scenery

Heading back to plane (in center)

A bear had gotten there before us

Our time here was way too short. It was pristine, raw, and beautiful. I believe if I were ever forced to choose my favorite National Park Unit, it would be the combined Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve. The time had come to return to civilization. We took-off and flew west.

YouTube video of take-off – look for bear crossing Aniakchak River after take-off

We had to fly through a few rain squalls along the way

There were more bears, but I was too slow with my camera to get any photos. About halfway to the caldera, we turned north and headed back to King Salmon

I enjoyed sitting in the co-pilot seat of this sturdy DH Beaver aircraft

We landed about 4pm, making it a 4.75hr excursion.

By landing at Pilot Point, Cub Creek, and Aniakchak Bay on this trip, and also having landed in (on Surprise Lake) and explored the caldera of the volcano in 2012, I feel I have truly experienced Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve.

9/4/20 F – This was my backup day in case weather prevented my flight yesterday. After my granola and tangerine breakfast, I walked across the highway and took a picture of myself sticking my head through a moose billboard that was an advertisement opposing the Peeble Mine. It is a proposed gold mine that would devastate the local environment and pollute Bristol Bay – the largest salmon fishing area in the world.

I then went to the Katmai NP office and met with Ranger Burt, who provided me with stamped brochures of the area National Park Units.

Afterward, I had an unpleasant 1.5 mile walk back to my cabin. The gnats were terrible! I had my cap, hood, and facemask on, and used my hands to act like windshield wipers across my face. Despite my efforts, I had several bites on my face, ears, and neck by the time I got back to the cabin. My Katmai Air flight leaving King Salmon was delayed by two hours. I took this photo of Redoubt Volcano on my flight to Anchorage – it last erupted March to July 2009.

I rented a car and met Peter and Kate at our hotel. It was 9pm and they were waiting for pizza they had ordered. We had all tested negative for COVID-19, so were able to hug and enjoy our time together un-masked!

9/5/20 Sat – We awoke (5:45am) to a beautiful day! There were low level clouds and fog as we drove north on A1 and then A3 toward Talkeetna.

Just before Talkeetna, you come around a curve and get a spectacular view of Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley).

We stopped by the Mount McKinley Cemetery to see the memorials to several climbers who died on the mountain. I took a photo of the names of the six climbers who died in 1995, the year I attempted to climb the mountain.

We met our helicopter pilot Danielle at the Talkeetna Air office and received instructions for our flight to Denali N PRES – Take-off view of Mount Foraker and Denali

Kahiltna River

Dutch Hills

The Heli was a spiffy blue color with an outstanding wrap around window for excellent vision.

Kahiltna Glacier

Peter and Kate Selfie

It took about a half hour to fly west to the N PRES

West and East Forks of the Yentna River

Mount Kiskon 3,943ft

We landed on a ridge just below the top of Mt. Kinston at a spot called 3270 for its altitude.

On the way there, we saw swans, eagles, and three bears (Papa, Mama, and Baby – just kidding). Kate took this picture of a black bear.

After an amazingly smooth landing, we moved about the ridge taking photos

After leaving the ridge, we flew north up the East Fork of the Yentna River. The Yentna Glacier is in the center of this photo –

Glacial moraine and toe of the Dahl Glacier – we have great photos as well as videos of our entire trip

Out next stop was a gravel bar on the East Fork of the Yentna River just north of where it joins the West Fork.

The helicopter was not permitted to land in the N PRES. So, from here we did a short walk into the N PRES for some photos. This was my #413 National Park Unit.

On the way to and on the return from the N PRES, we had great views of Denali, Mt Foraker, and many other peaks in Denali National Park to the north. On the way out of Talkeetna, we stopped at the Denali Brewing Company for a cold one –

An hour down the road, we did a two-mile hike to Thunderbird Falls in Eklutna

We then drove to Wasilla, Sarah Palin’s hometown. Remember, she said she could see Russia from her back door, check out the map. The Iditarod Trail Museum is located there.

As we approached the Salmon Viewing Platform on Ship Creek in Anchorage, we saw a Mama bear and her three cubs cross the road in front of us.

There were many salmon in the creek preparing to swim up the “fish ladder” to their spawning spots.

I was driving, so, Peter and Kate had no choice but to go along with me to several Anchorage sites. The first was the Eisenhower Statehood Monument

Then the old Alaskan RR Engine at the Railroad Terminal

Then the Captain Cook Monument in Resolution Park

Then Earthquake Park on the Kirk Arm of the Cook Inlet. In 1964, the largest earthquake to hit North America this century struck this area. The 9.2 quake produced a 40-foot tidal wave that destroyed Seward, hit CA, and did not stop until it crashed into Antarctica.

9/6 Sun – It took an hour to drive back north to Reflection Lake, but it was not as impressive as it was yesterday in the fog. While there I decided that, instead of a glacier walk on the Manatuska Glacier, Peter and Kate should do the Talkeetna Air flightseeing experience, including landing on the Kahiltna Glacier of Denali. I felt they should not pass up the beautiful day we were having. Most days of the years it is not even possible to see Denali! We made the reservation and then continued driving to Talkeetna.

After checking in for the flight, I called Chris, the Denali NP Ranger I had been communicating with, and he agreed to meet me at the closed Visitor Center to pass on a park brochure.

We then did a short walk across the old Alaskan RR bridge and then on a gravel/sand bar to where three rivers come together – the Chulitna, Susitna and Talkeetna Rivers.

A scenic spot where we had a clear view of the rivers, Mount Foraker, and Denali

Kate then treated us to burgers at “Shirley’s World-Famous Burger Barn.”

The next task was for Peter and Kate to weigh in and pick out their boots for the glacier landing.

They did the “Mountain Voyager” tour, with Kate getting to sit in the co-pilot seat.

They had a fantastic flight and took a lot of outstanding photos and videos. The following are just a sample –

By the time they took off from the Kahiltna Glacier, Denali was being covered in clouds

9/7/20 M – Our Alaska Air flight left Anchorage at 10:30am and arrived Kotzebue (above the Arctic circle) at noon. We filled-out our COVID paperwork at the airport and then walked 0.5 mile, pulling our suitcases, to Sue’s B & B, now only a B.

We then walked along Kotzebue Sound – population about 3,200\

They are taking the pandemic seriously here. Also, no alcohol sold in this native settlement because of the lack of tolerance and abuse by indigenous peoples.

We passed a man who was drying “she fish.” He said that white folks did not like this fish because it had too many bones!

We played a lot of games during our time together, especially at night and when it was raining

It was raining at 9:30pm when I noticed a glow outside. We rushed to Kotzebue Sound to see a beautiful sunset.

Peter and Kate were excited when seals “popped up” to say Hi. Sue brought us heaters for our rooms, and we settle into bed about 11pm.

9/8/20 Tu – I was up and out at 5am in hopes of seeing the Aurora Borealis. It was clear and cold with a half moon, but no Northern Lights. Light was coming through clouds to the East as I returned to the room. We waited all morning for a text from Jared of Golden Eagle Outfitters Inc. Air Taxi – “Trust Us with Your Life, Not Your Daughter or Wife.” I had arranged for him to fly us into Gates of the Arctic and Noatak National Preserves.  We passed the time by playing Farkle, Aces to Kings, and snacking. I decided to call Deanna, a NP Ranger, and meet her at the Western Arctic Heritage Center. She gave us stamped brochures for the parks but was not allowed to let us in the Visitor Center.

We continued across the street so I could talk to Jared about our scheduled flight into Gates of the Arctic N PRES and the Noatak N PRES. He said the weather was not good for the flight to The Gates, so I suggested we do the short flight to the Noatak N PRES today, and try to do The Gates tomorrow. After all of my communication (e.g. emails, phone calls), I was disappointed in Jared’s seeming lack of concern and communication related to my attempt to get into these two national preserves.

Jason was the pilot of our Cessna for the 25min flight from Kotzebue to a gravel landing strip along the Agashashak River in Noatak N PRES – Leaving Kotzebue

Noatak River emptying into Kotzebue Sound – then Chukchi Sea – then Arctic Ocean

Following the Noatak River north

Turning east and following the Agashashok River into Noatak N PRES. We saw three muskoxen resting on a ridge.

Landing in preserve, it was overcast with a temperature of 46 degrees

We explored the immediate area, taking photos, and chatting

Ready for take-off on short gravel strip.  This was Peter’s and Kate’s first flight in a “Fat Tire Plane” – able to make landings and take-offs in a few hundred feet.