Archive for the ‘Tom’ Category


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.

Agashashok River emptying into Noatak River

Looking across Cape Krusenstern National Monument to the Arctic Ocean

Approaching Kotzebue – note its position at the tip of the Baldwin Peninsula

After returning to our room, we played games, and then went back to the Bayside Inn for dinner.  We walked by a stand where an EPA observer was stationed to count whales and other animals in the Sound. She said it was in relation to some heavy construction that was being done in the village.

We then explored another part of the village

We packed and “hoped for” a trip to The Gates the next morning.

9/9/20 W – Peter arrived at 7am with coffee. His face was red. He said he could not hear us because the blustery winds had temporarily affected his hearing. He said the north wind was crashing waves over the road at the Sound. Jared texted at 7:45am stating that the weather would not permit a flight to The Gates today. I checked the weather for the next day, which was another backup day, but it looked even worse.

We played games while considering what to do. By mid-morning, it had cleared somewhat, but the wind was still ripping through Kotzebue. We packed and walked the half mile to the airport. Our pant bottoms, boots, and the bottoms of our suitcases were caked in mud by the time we got there. Stopped by this sign for a photo –

I again asked if there was any possibility of flying to The Gates today – no, was the answer. Jared gave me the name and number for the Bettles Lodge on the east side of Gates of the Arctic N PRES and said it would be easier to access the preserve from that location with a float plane. His “fat tire plane” required a low water level in the Kobuk River to land on a gravel bar next to the river in the preserve. I had checked Brooks Aviation, which flies out of Bettles when I was planning my trip, but it was closed because of the pandemic. I did not know that the Bettles Lodge, had a float plane option and was open.

I changed the reservations for Peter and I so we could fly back to Anchorage today with Kate instead of tomorrow. It was a short walk to the Alaska Air terminal, and we were in the air to Anchorage at 1pm. Arrived ANC at 2:15pm. I was in and out of the Anchorage airport five times during this trip!

I rented a car and we drove to our hotel. I searched the internet for two hours gathering information on how I might get to Bettles and into the The Gates before I left Alaska. I contacted Bettles Lodge, and the young woman said it was not possible to make arrangements to get to The Gates. I asked her to have the owner contact me the next day.

We walked to Gweenie’s Old Alaska Restaurant for dinner – which way to go?

On the way back, we stopped to watch float planes land on Lake Spenard.

When back at the room, we convinced Kate to stay another day, so she could go to Kenai Fjords NP with us tomorrow.

9/10/20 Th – After a continental breakfast in our room, due to the pandemic, we were off to Kenai Fjords National Park and Seward.

It was another beautiful day reaching the high fifties. Did a few scenery stops on the way down – Bird Point on Turnagain Arm

Tom and Helen

Arrived at the outwash of the Resurrection River at 11am

First view of Exit Glacier in Kenai Fjords National Park


Start of trail – we did the Nature Trail and the Lower and Upper Exit Glacier Loop Trails

View from Nature Trail

Lower Exit Glacier Overlook

Trail to Upper Glacier Overlook

Upper Exit Glacier Overlook

I had originally planned on also hiking the Harding Ice Field Trail but instead decided to hike up the Wash Trail as far as we could go toward the toe of Exit Glacier.

I had done that in 1995 and was able to walk on the glacier!

Now, twenty-five years later, the glacier had receded so far up the canyon, that it was too dangerous to approach. I had to use my hiking stick for the first time to help with my balance when walking over the boulders and climbing on the rocks.

Kate and I got as close as we could and I took a great video of her, hair blowing in the wind, with the canyon, glacier, and roaring glacial stream in the background.  In total, we hiked about five miles.

You Tube video of Kate – “Beauty at Exit Glacier – Alaska”

We drove to Seward and took some photos at the Mariners Memorial on Resurrection Bay

The National Park Information Center was closed because of the pandemic

Went to Ray’s Seafood Restaurant for a late lunch/dinner. We had a window table with a great view of Resurrection Bay, the marina, the mountains, and seals popping up in the harbor.

It was a beautiful and laidback drive to Anchorage, everyone was tired. We got in about 6pm, made phone calls, posted photos, and got re-organized. Peter left at 8pm for his red eye flight back to Indy.

9/11/20 F – Kate was up at 3:30am for her flight back to LA. We said goodbye in the lobby, and I went back to bed for a couple of hours and then prepared for my Alaska Air flight to Barrow.

There was clear weather for the first half of the flight. I took a good 5.5min video as we flew over Denali (20,320ft) at an altitude of 40,000 feet. When we landed in Barrow (Utqiagvik), it was 35 degrees, wind 15-20mph, with light snow. This is a view of Point Barrow (northern most point in the U.S.) and the Arctic Ocean.

I was in the U.S. but a LONG way from home –

After COVID screening, my first task was to walk a block to the Wiley Post – Will Rogers Memorial. They died when their experimental seaplane crashed 16 miles short of Barrow. Wiley Post was a well-known early aviation pioneer and Will Rogers, a Cherokee from Oklahoma, was a famous actor, vaudevillian, cowboy, columnist, humorist, and radio personality. As I was setting up my tiny tripod on my suitcase, an Inupiat boy came by with his two friends on bikes and asked if I wanted him to take my picture. I said sure; afterward, I gave him an unexpected tip.

Some friends of his then showed up on an ATV. The female driver asked if I wanted to see a “wheelie.” I again said yes, and she proceeded to do one while laughing and heading down the gravel street.

I then walked 1.5 miles carrying my backpack and pulling my suitcase on the wet, gravel and mud roads to Iliasagvik Community College where the Inupiat Heritage Center, an Affiliated National Park Unit, is located. I wore two layers on my legs, three layers on my upper body, my Gore-Tex jacket, a fleece hat under the hood of the jacket – and I was still cold because of the stiff wind coming off the Arctic Ocean. I took some photos of myself and then proceeded another half mile to the Latitude 71 B & B. Nice room but no breakfast, because the owners had left that afternoon on the plane that I arrived on – for a vacation in warmer weather!

I settled in, warmed-up, and then walked to the Arctic Ocean

It was a half mile to the Niggivikput Hotel, also known as the “Top of the World Hotel.” They have some nice displays in their lobby.

A popular native craft is painting scenes on the baleen of whales caught off Point Barrow

Behind the hotel, on the Arctic Ocean, are a couple of old boats and whale bones, they made a nice backdrop for some photos.

I ordered the Reindeer Scrambler at their, one customer at a time take-out restaurant (because of the pandemic), and took it back to the Latitude 71 – it was delicious AND I had enough leftovers for breakfast the next morning!  That night, I set my phone alarm every two hours and got up to look for the Northern Lights – no luck, just tired in the morning!

9/12/20 Sat– I got myself organized in the morning and started walking through the village at 11:30am. I stopped at the local cemetery for some photos and then started walking toward the airport.

I came across Captain Frederick Brower cutting up his portion of a recently caught whale.

As a result of this encounter, I wrote the following article and submitted it to the Ideas and Voices column of the Springfield News-Sun for Columbus Day, which is now also identified as Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

Global Warming Impact on Indigenous People

Indigenous Peoples’ Day, October 12, 2020.  There are many indigenous people (Native Americans) in the U.S.  This article focuses on the Inupiat who live in Utqiagvik (Barrow) Alaska, population ~4,000, on the Arctic Ocean.  The Inupiat are part of the Inuit Ethnic Group.  In 2016, residents voted to change the name of their village (city) from Barrow back to the Inupiat name Utqiagvik.  This was one part of a local effort at “decolonization.” The Inupiat Heritage Center is located here and is an Affiliated National Park Unit.

While walking through the Browerville part of Utqiagvik, I met Frederick Brower, a native whaling captain. His family have been leaders in this community for generations.  He was processing his allotted parts of a whale he and his crew had caught a few days earlier off Point Barrow, the northernmost point of the U.S. He was preparing the meat and making oil from the fat.  In addition, he had a stack of other whale parts, such as bones and baleen, that he was giving to native artists for their various crafts. He explained that the crew and community also shared in the catch with all receiving portions of the whale. Further, he said he could have pursued another whale but rather it was the custom to help other whalers after an individual catch was made.

Making whale oil, notice the seal skins –

We discussed climate change, the resultant loss of ice in the Arctic Ocean, sea level rise, and the melting of the permafrost causing structures to fail in this area. Global Warming is seriously affecting the wildlife of this area (e.g. caribou, seals, walrus, polar bears, birds, etc.), as well as the Inupiat and their way of life.  At the current and projected increasing rate of deterioration, the community will have to move from this area within one or two generations.  The water will cover the land on which we were standing, native land that has supported this community for its entire existence.  They have attempted to slow the erosion by placing large blocks of tundra wrapped in plastic on shore, but waves continuously wash them out to sea.

Global Warming is REAL; it not only affects our indigenous people; it directly or indirectly affects all of us. The big take away is that we need to recognize what is happening. The next step is to work at solutions to the problem. One piece of the solution is to protect what remains of our natural environment, including its indigenous people.  In that regard, we must oppose the destructive policies that are championed by the fossil fuel industry, mining companies, and the lumber industry. Through lobbying and political contributions, they have excessive influence on our government laws, rules, and regulations. History has demonstrated that, because of a maximum profit philosophy, these industries have been unable to act in a socially conscious way. Their greed has too often resulted in destruction of the environment. We need to demand that our government representatives support protection and preservation of our incredible natural resources. We also need to play our part in this battle. It is not only necessary for the preservation of the world as we know it but also for our own personal health and that of future generations.

In the end, it is quite simple; do you support greed and destruction of the natural world OR community values and a healthy environment for everyone, like the indigenous Inupiat?

Captain Frederick and I shared emails and I then continued to the airport. Several locals stopped and asked if I wanted a ride, but I declined, saying that I needed the exercise. At the airport, not only were my backpack and suitcase pulled aside for internal inspection, I was also randomly selected for a “pat-down.” Our 737 had to be de-iced before we were able to leave for Anchorage.

After landing, I got settled in the Comfort Suites for the fourth time and then walked to Wendy’s for a carryout burger meal deal. On the way back, I stopped at Lake Spenard, as the sun was setting in the SW, to watch float planes landing. Lake Hood/Lake Spenard (they are connected) Seaplane Base is the busiest one in the world; it handles over 700 take-offs and landings a day.

I now had computer access and phone service at the hotel. I again contacted the Bettles Lodge and checked weather forecasts for the middle of the week to see if it was possible to get into Gates of the Arctic N PRES before I left Alaska. After determining that the probability was greater than fifty percent, it took me 3hrs to change seven reservations and make three new ones in an attempt to check off my next NP Unit. The airlines were the worst, long phone wait times, and increased fares for all flights!

9/13/20 Sun – I was up at 6am to continue my trip planning and diary. I left for the airport at noon and my flight to Yakutat took off at 3:15pm. It was another good weather day and I had terrific views east from the plane as we flew south along the Alaska coastline.

Landing in Cordova

Flight from Cordova to Yakutat – Scott Glacier

Copper River Delta on right –

See Yakutat on bottom righthand side of this map –

Landing in Yakutat, note airstrip. Mount Saint Elias (18,008ft) and Mount Logan (19,551ft), highpoint of Canada, can be seen in background.

I arrived at 5:43pm, checked into the Yakutat Lodge at the airport, and then went to the Yakutat Coastal Airlines office next door. Tanya, wearing her mask, came out to meet me – no one allowed in the office because of the pandemic. She stated I would have to come back the next morning at 10am and they would fit me in among the flights to take fishermen to area fishing camps. The salmon were running and there were lots of fishermen there.

I then took a short walk to the NPS office. It was closed but I was able to pick up park brochures/information from an outside rack.

Next, a Mongolian Beef and Broccoli over Rice dinner special and an Alaska Brewery White beer at the Yakutat Lodge Restaurant.

While there, Tanya showed up and told me I could go out at 8am the next morning. I said that was great because it would allow me to move-up my reservation back to Anchorage by one day. I spent the next two hours changing all (nine) of my remaining reservations.

I retired to my cabin across the road to find that the heat was off, I could not drink the water, the coffee maker did not work, and the alarm clock was broken. Fortunately, I was able to get them to turn on the heat!

9/14/20 M – I was up early, ate my suitcase food, and was at the Air Taxi across the road, where there were eight fishermen ready to go, at 7:45am. At 8am, Tanya said I would have to wait for the next group at 8:30. At 8:30, she said I would have to wait for the group at 9am. I was now worried I might not be able to make my new reservation – 11:45am flight back to Anchorage. At 9am, she informed me that I would be with the last group at 9:30! I immediately checked in for my ANC flight, to maximize the time I would have after returning from the Glacier Bay National Preserve to catch the Air Alaska plane.

We did leave at 9:30am and flew SE past Yakutat Glacier

Then crossed Dry Bay – the Alsek River flows into Dry Bay and then enters the Gulf of Alaska.

The fishermen were dropped off at the Doame River Lagoon, that is a river/lagoon/ocean location that is within Glacier Bay National Preserve

Hans, pilot of the Otter, then flew me to a tiny airstrip (more like a short gravel road) along the East Alsek River in the preserve

I had previously arranged for Rangers Adam and Mary to meet me there. I learned their cabin was about 0.3 mile away and started walking.

About halfway there, they met me on their ATVs in full gear (guns, etc.).

They said to follow them to the cabin/office area.

They were very kind, providing me with written and verbal information about the preserve. This is a very nice illustration of the Glacier Bay National Preserve area.

My 415th National Park Unit

Pictures of the preserve

My time was limited; I had to hustle back to Hans for my flight back to Yakutat

View flying back NW across Dry Bay

Ustay Lake at the toe of Ustay Glacier

Landing at the Yakutat airfield. I just made my Alaska Air flight and ate my Mongolian Beef leftovers on the way (39min) to Cordova.

Icy Bay and Mount Saint Elias

Bering Glacier

Chugash National Forest

Scott Glacier

It took 45min to load the fishermen and their fish in Cordova for the next leg of the flight to Anchorage.

I had rented a car to drive 7hrs to Fairbanks after I arrived. However, I decided it would be too stressful to accomplish that and still make my flight early the next day to Bettles. So, I canceled the car and booked an Alaskan Air flight (45min) to Fairbanks.

After landing in Fairbanks, I took a taxi to the Clarion, bought a cup of soup to add to my beef jerky and rice crackers for dinner and went to bed.

9/15/20 Tu – At midnight I woke up sweating and discovered that the thermostat (AC) was not working. Then the alarm woke me up at 5:22am – I had not set it! It went off two more times 15min apart, so I unplugged it. I complained at checkout, but the clerk offered no recourse. He did call someone, who told him I should have opened the window!

I took a taxi to Wright Air for my 9:15am flight to Bettles. There were two other passengers, and the rest of the single engine Otter was stuffed with cargo.  Note the plastic separation from the pilot because of the pandemic.

Flying north from Fairbanks to Bettles

It was drizzling when we arrived at 11am. I met the owner of the Lodge at the airstrip and then took a quick tour of the Lodge, which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

I took full advantage of the National Park Visitor Center near the airfield, visiting it three times during my time in Bettles

Topographical wall map section showing Nutuvutki Lake – just left of center

After lunch in the Lodge, I was introduced to my pilot Siegfried for the float plane flight to Nutuvutki Lake, which is located in the SW section of Gates of the Arctic N PRES. We drove a short distance to Bettles Lake, boarded the plane, and were airborne at 1pm. The weather was cold, cloudy, and wet. This photo was taken just after take-off when we were crossing the Koyukuk River.

We flew west past the Alatna Hills. The leaves on the deciduous trees were at their peak with bright golds and yellows set against the green conifers at higher elevation and colorful tundra in the wetlands at lower elevation.

There was water everywhere, ponds, lakes, rivers, and, at times, crashing into the plane.

The Alatna River

Helpmejack Hills

Walker Lake, which is in Gates of the Arctic National Park and Kobuk River

Approaching Nutuvutki Lake

Seig circled the lake three times before landing and coasting to a small beach area on the SW part of the lake. We were surprised to see a float plane parked next to a cabin on the lake.

As I exited the plane, he said “Watch your valuables, they have guns.” A man and his son, who had walked over from the cabin, met us. I discovered that their family had an “inholding” in the National Preserve. Later, Ranger Bob explained that there were many of these parcels and that most were owned by Native Americans or their descendants.

I walked around the area taking pictures. It was pristine, my boots sank into the soft earth and vegetation. Again, the colors were striking, despite the clouds and light rain.

Unfortunately, the weather was deteriorating, and we needed to start back.

Seig chose a more southerly route back to avoid turbulence, first flying over the Kobuk River,

and then southeast along the Alatna River,

before swinging back northeast to land at Bettles Lake

The Trump administration is supporting a road right through the middle of the preserve, so that a foreign mining company can extract copper and zinc!  That road would seriously disrupt one of the last mass migrations on earth – the migration, spring and fall, of around 500,000 caribou to and from the North Slope of the Brooks Range – see my Blog entry for Gates of the Arctic National Park, August, 2012.

At dinner, I sat across from a fellow who was a former EPA employee. He was there teaching a small crew how to correctly bury waste in the tundra. Later, I struck up a conversation with John, who was a Snow Safety & Explosive Specialist from Aspen CO. He manufactured cannon that he used for his Avalanche Mitigation Service (AMS). Afterward, I watched two videos in the Aurora Lodge. One was about Bob Marshall and the Eskimo Village of Anatuvuk. It described the changes of the last century. The second video was about Mardy Murie and her husband Olaus. They came to the Gates of the Arctic for their honeymoon and used dog sleds to explore the area. They lived here 15 years and then moved to what would become Grand Teton NP. They were leaders of the Wilderness Society and instrumental in the passage of the Wilderness Act (1964).

I again looked for the Northern Lights, to no avail, but I did come up with a good story for breakfast.

9/16/20 W – Last day in Alaska, there were five guests and two employees in the eating area of the Historic Lodge for breakfast. I startled everyone by telling them I had seen the Aurora Borealis at 3:30am. I described how the light was moving from left to right across the sky. It would get lighter, then darker. It was a rhythmical pulsating light – extraordinaire. I paused, then said “It was the rotating beacon from the airfield” – I got um!

Went back to the NP Vis Ctr for the third time, then packed for the 10:30am Wright Air flight to Fairbanks. This is a picture of the Dalton Highway that goes from Fairbanks to the North Slope and the oil pipeline that returns –

Arrived in Fairbanks at noon and joined three of the other Lodge guests in the shuttle to their hotel – that way I was closer to the airport terminal. I then walked the 1.5mi to the airport – it felt good to be walking!

My flight to Anchorage left at 5:25pm. My flight to Chicago left Anchorage at 10:14pm and arrived in Chicago at 7:21am. It was packed and they did not distribute food or drinks! The same thing happened on my next flight to Dallas/Fort Worth – yes, they sent me the wrong way to go home! My flight to Dayton was the same, full and no services. No more American Airlines for me!

Helen picked me up and we were home at 5pm. It was another excellent Alaska Adventure!


OH to FL Some NP Units in TN, NC, SC, GA, FL, and AL

January 26, 2020

1/13/2020Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area KY and TN, visited the park headquarters, also see Blog October 2009

East Rim Overlook of the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River

Stopped at Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site in NC to add to my photo collection from October 2010 (see Blog for that month)

Carl Sandburg (1878-1967)

Continued to Sassafras Mountain (3560ft), the highpoint of South Carolina

The new viewing platform is on the border between South Carolina (SC) and North Carolina (NC)

There is now a view from the top

Which did not exist in 1991, there was a fire tower there in 1988 (book pic)

1/15 – NP Unit stops in SC, first Ninety Six National Historic Site, this was one of many Revolutionary War Battleground sites in the Southern Colonies. We also visited in March 2016 (see Blog).

The first Revolutionary War battle in the South took place here on November 19, 1775; 1,900 loyalists attacked 600 patriots. After two days of fighting, they agreed on a truce. However, in June 1781, Nathanael Greene attacked and laid siege to the loyalists/British in the fort. He was not successful. The loyalists left the village in ruins in July and tried to destroy the star fort when they left, ending the existence of the village.

Why is it called Ninety Six? The location was at the intersection of two Indian paths, one from what is now Augusta GA to Camden SC. The other was called the Cherokee Path and it went from Charleston to the Cherokee town of Keowee. Ninety Six was 96 miles southeast of Keowee. After the Revolutionary War battle at Ninety Six,

I was disappointed that the ranger would not allow me to hold an old rifle for this photo.


Congaree National Park was our next stop. It is one of the smallest (by area) National Parks. Gateway Arch (St Louis) is ~91 acres – in my opinion it should be a National Monument or National Memorial NOT a National Park! It is a man-made structure with nothing “natural” about it! Hot Springs NP in Arkansas is the next smallest (#2) at ~5,500 acres. Number three is the National Park of American Samoa at 8,257 acres. Then #4 is Virgin Islands NP at 14,940 acres. Congaree NP is #5 at 26,539 acres.

I am going to start with our 2006 visit here – 10/13/2006Congaree NP is one of the most biodiverse in North America and protects the largest contiguous area of old-growth bottomland hardwood forest remaining the U.S. We toured the visitor center, watched a video, and then took the 4.4-mile Weston Loop Trail, at first on a boardwalk and then through the swamp. Notable sites included the bald cypress trees, cypress knobs, and moss-covered trees.

AND, we came across a five-foot long black snake that wouldn’t move off the trail. It looked as though he had recently eaten; we counted 19 bumps along his body! I took a video of the interesting water beetles on Cedar Creek. They would move together in a compact circle or long column and then, for no apparent reason, would start a wave action through the water. The rangers said they had never seen that before.

The next day, we stopped at a supermarket to buy food and then drove to Carolina Heritage Outfitters home base in Canadys SC on the Edisto River at 10am to pick up our canoe. We packed our gear and were then driven to our put-in location off US 21. The Edisto is a clear “black water” River that flows through bottomland swamp on its way to the Atlantic. On average, it was about 40 feet wide with a lot of strainers (fallen trees) near the banks. It was fairly shallow in most places and often had a very inviting sand bottom. However, we did not go in due to the unseasonably cold weather. We stopped in the sun on a sandy bank for lunch and enjoyed the tranquility of our environment.

Helen did a good job paddling (I couldn’t slow that woman down!) and we covered 13 miles with a 40-minute lunch stop in 3 hrs. 45 min.

So, we got to our “Tree House” earlier than expected. We were told it would take 5-6 hours.

The “Tree House” was not built in a tree but rather on stilts among the trees. It had stairs to a platform where there was a picnic table and grill and then more stairs to a one room “cabin” in the trees. Inside there was a little table, pull out couch, and gas grill for cooking. I laid out our sleeping bags in the loft overlooking the river and we then walked around the area. There were three “Tree Houses,” (out of sight of one another) on the river. Only two were in use, ours and one occupied by five female middle school teachers. When we returned, we had chips, salsa and beer outside at the picnic table and then Helen grilled a steak for dinner. As it got dark, I lit the Tiki torches around the platform and got out the oil lamps so we could see our dinner and then play Scrabble. It was cold (40s, we had on all our layers) but fun. The only “downer” was Helen’s mood when she lost at Scrabble!

I was up early the next morning to light the lamps, start the little heater, and prepare breakfast. I used the items left for us in a cooler – starting with the sausage in a seasoned iron frying pan followed by eggs over easy in the sausage grease.

We also had OJ, rolls, jam, plums, and made some hot tea. Helen was invited out of her sleeping bag at the proper time and we enjoyed our breakfast in the trees.

The next morning, we launched the canoe into a river mist among cypress stumps at 8am for the 12-mile paddle to the Carolina Heritage home base. The river became a bit wider, but we still had to be careful as we moved around the many strainers. During our two-day paddle we were treated to the site of wild turkeys, heron, egrets, and many other birds. We were told we missed the alligators because of the cold weather.


Today, 1/5/20, we started at the Harry Hampton Visitor Center

Harry was instrumental in passing legislation to preserve the largest remnant of old growth floodplain forest in the SE U.S.

Helen watched the park video as I did as much of the boardwalk self-guided tour as I could.

The Congaree River was in flood stage. So, I was unable to complete the loop or any other trails


Two more hours took us to Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, it is on the E side of Charleston Harbor not far from Fort Moultrie, which is part of the Fort Sumter NHP.  Pinckney is not a recognizable name to most Americans but he was an important figure in his day (1757-1824).

We returned to this site (were here in March 2011 – see Blog) for additional photos, to watch the video, and to walk the Nature Trail.

Charles Pinckney – Statesman, he is in the famous “Signing of the Constitution” (1787) painting by Louis S. Glanzman.  Pinckney represented South Carolina and was one of the drafters of the document.

The Nature Trail borders a tidal wetland, mosquitoes in January!

It leads to the location of the slave community

We arrived at our friend Karen’s home in Beaufort SC about 5pm


1/16 – Beaufort SC, Reconstruction Era National Monument has now been changed to Reconstruction Era National Historical Park. It has four sites.

We visited all four sites last year – see Blog for February 2019; however, the Vis Ctr was not yet open.

So, this year, we visited again during our stay with Karen in Beaufort


1/17 – Our first stop was Fort Pulaski National Monument outside of Savannah GA

It is named for Polish (Lithuanian) Count Casmir Pulaski who was killed (age 33) during a cavalry charge on the British lines during the Siege of Savannah in 1779. Pulaski was born in 1746 in a Lithuanian Province of Poland. He arrived in America in 1777 and joined the American Revolution fight for the cause of “Liberty and Freedom from British Tyranny.”

Visitor Center


Drawbridge and Entrance

We first visited here with Kate and Chad in 1996 when we did a side-trip during the Atlanta Olympic Games.

The fort was begun in 1829, after the War of 1812, as part of a systems of forts along the East Coast.

It was completed in 1847 but was not armed or garrisoned in 1861 when the Civil War began.

Some armaments – I love cannon pics!

It was immediately occupied by the Confederates (SC Militia)

On April 10, 1862, when the Confederates refused to surrender, the Federals started to bombard the fort with new rifled cannon from Tybee Island.

The fort walls, brick masonry, were not built to withstand this weapon, today and 1996

After 30 hours of bombardment, Col. Charles H. Olmstead surrendered.

After Federal control, the fort was a magnate for escaping slaves

Cockspur Island Lighthouse


Next, 3hrs to Fort Caroline National Memorial; it is a little east of Jacksonville FL. It shares a Visitor Center with Timucuan Ecological Historic Preserve. We visited here in March 2011 – see Blog.

Map from the late 1400’s – note, NO North America!

Commander Jean Ribault explored the area in 1562. He returned in 1564 and built a village and fort called La Caroline (land of Charles) to honor King Charles IX of France. Fort Caroline was constructed on the River of May (now St. Johns River).

River of May

In 1565, Admiral Pedro Menendez attacked Fort Caroline from his base in St Augustine. The Spanish slaughtered the inhabitants only sparing women, children, those that professed to be Catholic, and a few artisans that were needed in St Augustine.

The French exacted their revenge in 1568. They attacked and destroyed the fort, killing all that did not escape, and then sailed back home. However, France would no longer challenge the Spanish in the “New World.”

French Memorial Trail

Fort Caroline today

Timucuan “Friends”

Early drawings of Timucuan Indians

The local Timucuan Indians numbered in the tens of thousands when the Europeans arrived. They were ravaged by disease and by attacks from Spanish and British raids. There were only about 100 left when they emigrated out of the area in 1763.


The Ribault Monument, on the St Johns River, is also within the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve.  Photo from 2011.


It was now time for a hike. I started at the Spanish Pond and hiked the Spanish Pond Trail, the Timucuan Trail, and the Willie Brown Trail – about 3 miles.

This was a one-way hike.  Helen met me at the Theodore Roosevelt Parking Area

The 600-acre Theodore Roosevelt Area of the Preserve was donated to the Nature Conservancy by Willie Brown who grew up, lived, and died on the property. Willie was offered millions by developers but instead donated the land to protect it for future generations! The NPS acquired the property in 1990.

One of my objectives was the Viewing Tower at Round Marsh

This was the site of Willie Brown’s Cabin


We stopped briefly at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument in St. Augustine for a photo. We have visited here several times in the past, most recently March 2011 (see Blog)

Had fish tacos in St Augustine and then drove an hour south to Fort Matanzas National Monument. We took a boat to the fort in March 2011 – see Blog. The fort was built here in 1740 to protect St Augustine.

This is also the area where in 1564 Adm. Pedro Menendez de Aviles slaughtered about 115 Frenchmen who were trying to get back to Fort Caroline after their fleet was shipwrecked on Cape Canaveral during a hurricane.

We stayed at a Fairfield Inn in Palm Coast FL


1/18 – “Holed-Up” entering Canaveral/Merritt Island National Seashore

We were at the Apollo Beach Vis Ctr at 9am when it opened. We were disappointed to learn the rocket launch scheduled for today at the Kennedy Space Center (Cape Canaveral) had been canceled. This was the second time this had happened to us – see Blog March 2011, at the National Seashore.

Toured the Vis Ctr and watched the video

Turtle Mound

Ocean View from top of Turtle Mound 2011

Afterward, dropped Helen off at the parking lot for Beach #3. She walked north along the seashore searching for shells and picking up trash.

Meanwhile, I did the Eldora Hammock Loop starting with a short walk to the Eldora State House.

I then did the 0.5-mile Eldora Hammock Nature Trail

I continued to the end of the road and headed to the water

And walked about a half mile through the surf

Portuguese Man of War – Jelly Fish

Next, hiked the 0.5-mile Castle Windy Nature Trail to Mosquito Lagoon

Mosquito Lagoon

Picked up a tired Helen at the Parking Lot for Beach #2


Mistake, I drove through Miami trying to avoid the Florida State Tollway on our way to Key Largo. My bad, that resulted in a seven-hour drive to Key Largo instead of five! We arrived at our Airbnb condo in the Kawama Village HOA at 7pm.


1/19 Sun – settled into the condo and toured the grounds. They are still repairing units damaged by Hurricane Irma last year.


My dream SUV was parked by the wharf. A Ford EarthRoamer XV-LTS F-550 Off-Road RV, carbon fiber, marine grade, solar, with 41” tires, etc. – about 650K. The 2017 HD F-750 Super Duty, 46” tire model I saw online was 1.5 million!

Each afternoon, Helen swam laps in the 90-degree pool. Today, we went to the Crocodile Lake National Wildlife Refuge after her swim.

Very much enjoyed the “Butterfly Garden.”


We then did a hike in the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Hammock. Ate dinner at “The Catch” restaurant.  We chose the “Fish of the Day.” You then select among 20 different ways you would like it prepared. Helen chose blackened and I chose grilled. We played games every evening at the condo – Aces to Kings, Skip-Bo, and/or Farkle.


1/20 M – MLK Day, 15min to John Pennekamp Coral Reef SP. We did the 9am 2.5hr Snorkel Trip to Molasses Reef

It is part of the NOAA Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary

Good snorkeling, would have been better if it were sunny

Did some sunbathing on Cannon Beach

Then returned to the condo and rode bikes to Key Largo Fisheries for take-out shrimp and blackened Mahi-Mahi, plus Key Lime Pie!


1/21 Tu – very windy today, low 60s in the morning, cold front coming in. Drove south 1.5hrs on FL State Rt A1A, the “Overseas Highway,” to the National Key Deer Wildlife Refuge on Big Pine Key, only a half hour from Key West.

How do you tell an Alligator from a Crocodile?

After a picnic lunch, we did the short Blue Hole Nature Trail

And then the Watson and Manillo Trails

As can be seen, they did a controlled burn here last year

Did not see any miniature Key Deer. However, there is a photo of some later in this post when I describe our stop in Everglades NP.  The smallest deer in the U.S. are in FL.  The further north you go, the larger they get – e.g. for a very long time the record for largest deer in the U.S. was a deer shot in Ohio.

It was too windy to sunbathe in Bahia Honda SP, so we drove to Boot Key for a walk on Sombrero Beach. It was a nice, no fee, substitute.

We stopped briefly at the Dolphin Research Center

And this tourist trap on our way back to the condo

As we drove North, stopped for a short walk at the new, very nice, Anne’s Beach on the south end of Lower Matecumbe Key. It would be fun to spend the day at one of their eight single table picnic pavilions right above the beach.

Had a rotisserie chicken for dinner in the condo and played games


1/22 W – 41 degrees, wind 35mph, Wind Chill 31 degrees. It was raining Iguanas – literally! They fall from the trees and then are comatose until the temperature rises.

We had planned on using the condo kayaks today – no way. Had a lazy day; Helen did laundry and swam in the heated pool. We visited Captain Slate (SCUBA Adventures) on Islamorada Key. For years the Wittenberg SCUBA class would do its checkout dives with him. Splurged for our last night in the Keys by first enjoying the sunset on the Morada Bay Beach

And then having dinner at Morada Bay Beach Café. Calamari and fish tacos.


1/23 – 2hrs to the Shark Valley entrance to Everglades National Park

Entrance at Shark Valley, we have visited all major parts in the Everglades. Also, see Blog April 2009

Love those birds –

We visited here in 1976 with Stacy and Peter, this pic is on the Boardwalk trail near the Visitor Center

Now you must walk, bike, or take the tram along the route on the right to get to the Observation Tower

In 1976, you could drive the route. A nice hike is to take the tram to the Observation Tower and walk back along the Shark Valley Trail. That is were I took the pic of the miniature Key Deer