A Shout Out To America’s National Parks — An Orcadian Abroad

It’s National Park Week over in the USA – and with the exception of a couple of pretty awesome cities, the national parks are my absolute favourite thing about America.

Sadly nobody can visit the national parks at the moment, but I wanted to do a round up of the ones I’ve been to – I’ve been to eight!

When we started planning our American road trip in 2018, the focus was on national parks, and we managed to hit up six in our time on the road (I always forget that Monument Valley isn’t actually a national park, which I can’t get my head around for some reason). The other two I visited a decade previously in 2008 on a Trek America coast to coast tour.

In keeping with my last post, I’m going to put them in alphabetical order, because I don’t feel like I can fairly rate them – although I do have two firm favourites! Here’s the list of all the parks I’ve been to.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah, USA

Arches National Park, Utah

I really didn’t have any expectations for Arches National Park, one of the smaller of Utah’s big five. I knew I wanted to hike out to Delicate Arch, and that was about it.

So when we drove into the park and were faced with monumental rocks and an alien-like landscape, I was gobsmacked. I really enjoyed exploring Arches, and it’s hard to take photos that do it justice because everything is GIANT. We were constantly stopping and looking up.

Because it’s a smaller park, it’s pretty easy to do in a day, even if you want to do some hiking.

Read more: Arches National Park and a Surprising Stop In Moab

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico, USA

via A Shout Out To America’s National Parks — An Orcadian Abroad

 

Trekking The National Parks: The Family Board Game (Second Edition)

Trekking the National Parks Family Board Game

 

 

National Parks Badges Puzzle 

 

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Spelunkering and Hiking Maquoketa Caves State Park

Maquoketa Caves 02.jpg

Maquoketa Caves State Park is one of the biggest attractions in Jackson County and is a great place for spelunkers and hiking enthusiasts.  This park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa m links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing a scenic hiking experience. Many areas on these trails have seen new construction, making the journey to the caves safer. Most of the caves may be entered by persons of average physical ability, but some are more advanced. However the park’s caves were closed to humans between 2010 and April 2012 in the hopes of protecting the resident bats from white nose syndrome.   

The park is in the Driftless Area of Iowa. This region escaped being glaciated in the last ice age, while regions to the east and west were not spared. The park has been subjected to hundreds of thousands of years of natural non-glacial erosion. 

The park’s caves, limestone formations and rugged bluffs represent a step back in geological time of thousands of years. Stalactites once hung from the ceilings and stalagmites rose from the floor. Souvenir hunters have robbed the caves of this rare beauty, but many formations remain. The park’s limestone caves, arches and chimneys including Dancehall Cave, Hernado’s Hideaway, Shinbone Cave, Wye Cave, and an unmarked cave within the Dancehall Cavern locally known as Steelgate Cave.

 

A bit of history

Artifacts such as pottery, as well as tools and projectile points made of stone have been found in the caves and surrounding area. These discoveries indicate that the Maquoketa Caves area has been of interest to humans for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Early recorded history tells that the Native Americans in the area were likely visitors to the Raccoon Creek valleys. The first Euro-American explorers first visited the caves as late as the mid-1830s. The area was originally known as Morehead Caves or Burt’s Cave. It had become a popular place for exploration, picnics, parties, and dances by the 1860s. A dance floor was constructed north of Natural Bridge in 1868, and a pavilion, which was used until the 1920s, was built sometime later. By the turn of the 20th century the area had become seriously degraded, and its popularity declined. (wiki)

 

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America’s Best Day Hikes       Great Hiking Trails of the World

 

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Most Popular National Parks — Golfkat Travel Blog

Each of us have our favorite national park.  Now that they are closed, perhaps we will appreciate them even more.  Mine, as you may know, is Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah.  In fact, I was just there in November.  Above are three of my photos from that trip.  The national parks are a true American treasure.  When we can travel again, I strongly suggest you place one or more on your travel plans.
But Bryce is not in the top five most visited.  What are the top five?
5.  Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado
4.  Zion National Park, Utah
3.  Yosemite National Park, California (only about 90 minutes from us)
2.  Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona
Most visited:  Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee
I am sure each of you have a favorite.  Some others I enjoy:
Badlands, Glacier, Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Acadia.
An article from Oyster:  The major parks in Utah — Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion — all offer a range of trails and experiences for visitors. You’ll also find that Zion and the Grand Canyon in particular are well suited to travelers who have any mobility issues. Zion offers a tram through the center of its majestic valley with clear views of the major summits and cliffs all around. Along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, the four main viewpoints (Yaki, Moran, Grandview, and Desert View) are all accessible. While Bryce Canyon is the least accessible of the major parks, though Sunrise Point and Sunset Point can easily be reached for some spectacular views.

via Most Popular National Parks — golfkat Travel Blog

 

 

National Parks Badges Puzzle 

 

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Trekking The National Parks: The Family Board Game (Second Edition)

Trekking the National Parks Family Board Game

Where Mountains and Sand Dunes Collide — Love and Dirt

Driving into Great Sands Dunes National Park, it’s hard to believe the beauty of what you are seeing as you get closer and closer to the landscape. Miles of sand dunes; the tallest in North America, with a sweeping backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. It doesn’t get more picturesque than this folks. This spectacular area has it all…wetlands, forests, tundra, mountain views, trails, and even sand sledding! I highly recommend adding this stop to your travel itinerary if you are in Colorado! Great Sand Dunes is located about 4 hours south of Denver, or 3 hours south of Colorado Springs.

Photo Credit: Jill Gietzen

Medano Creek

This unique water playground makes its appearance on average from April to June, with peak flow being in May, but it depends on precipitation and snow melt for that year. We had an absolute BLAST playing in the water here and taking in the background views. Exploring here was probably the highlight of the trip for the kids, despite the mosquitoes (see safety section at end of post).

Hiking Recommendations

High Dune Trail: This trail is around 2.5 miles, and if you make it to the top, it is WELL worth the hike. You will have a 360 degree view of the dunes along with the Sangre de Cristo Mountain range. It is absolutely breathtaking! Hiking to the top is a little over a mile, but is a bit arduous due to the fact that you will be hiking in sand, at elevation. This hike starts behind the visitor center at an elevation of over 8,000 feet, and climbs almost 700 feet to the top. Take it slow, and bring plenty of water. Hiking down is much easier! You can have a bit of fun with it! If you rented a sandboard or sled, you can slide down, or you can roll down it! Or run it! Whichever you choose, your descent will be MUCH easier than the hike up! I suggest beginning this hike earlier in the morning, especially if you are hiking in the summer, because the sand won’t be nearly as hot. Also, you will have a better shot at taking some awesome and dramatic shots of the dunes due to the position of the sun in the morning. After the hike, if you visit between April and June, you can cool off in Medano Creek!

 via Where Mountains and Sand Dunes Collide — Love and Dirt

 

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Nature’s Silent Message – Just released by Scott Stillman

Hike & Go Seek – Maquoketa Caves State Park

Maquoketa Caves 02.jpg

This park contains more caves than any other state park in Iowa. A trail system links the caves, formations, and overlooks while providing a scenic hiking experience. Many areas on these trails have seen new construction, making the journey to the caves safer. Most of the caves may be entered by persons of average physical ability, but some are more advanced. However the park’s caves were closed to humans between 2010 and April 2012 in the hopes of protecting the resident bats from white nose syndrome.   

The park is in the Driftless Area of Iowa. This region escaped being glaciated in the last ice age, while regions to the east and west were not spared. The park has been subjected to hundreds of thousands of years of natural non-glacial erosion. 

The park’s caves, limestone formations and rugged bluffs represent a step back in geological time of thousands of years. Stalactites once hung from the ceilings and stalagmites rose from the floor. Souvenir hunters have robbed the caves of this rare beauty, but many formations remain. The park’s limestone caves, arches and chimneys including Dancehall Cave, Hernado’s Hideaway, Shinbone Cave, Wye Cave, and an unmarked cave within the Dancehall Cavern locally known as Steelgate Cave.

 

A bit of history

Artifacts such as pottery, as well as tools and projectile points made of stone have been found in the caves and surrounding area. These discoveries indicate that the Maquoketa Caves area has been of interest to humans for hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years. Early recorded history tells that the Native Americans in the area were likely visitors to the Raccoon Creek valleys. The first Euro-American explorers first visited the caves as late as the mid-1830s. The area was originally known as Morehead Caves or Burt’s Cave. It had become a popular place for exploration, picnics, parties, and dances by the 1860s. A dance floor was constructed north of Natural Bridge in 1868, and a pavilion, which was used until the 1920s, was built sometime later. By the turn of the 20th century the area had become seriously degraded, and its popularity declined. (wiki)

 

168268265X      

America’s Best Day Hikes       Great Hiking Trails of the World

 

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The Lost Mine Trail: We Found Hiking Gold, but No Mine — BIT|Hiker

IMG_4778The Lost Mine Trailhead is on Basin Junction Road near the Chisos Basin Campground. The parking area is small (about 15 cars), so it’s a good idea to get there early. In case you’re wondering, 9:30am is not early. There were no spots, but we found another tiny lot about a quarter-mile east and road-hiked back to the trailhead. The mileage on this hike includes that extra distance, but the coordinates represent the actual trailhead.

Your mileage may vary.

IMG_4807

As on our South Rim Loop hike (read here), we were starting in the shadow of Casa Grande Peak; this time to the east of that majestic alp. We started off uphill directly into the blinding morning sun. The temperature was hovering around 50°F, and the sky was a brilliant azure broken only occasionally by a fluffy white cloud. The first hundred yards or so was paved, but the trail soon turned to gravely dirt and began to narrow. We were hiking into the same autumn-colored forest that we had enjoyed a few days before. Casa Grande again peeked over a mottled sea of red, orange, and brown.

IMG_4780IMG_4786After gaining some altitude, we we were able to look west through The Window and see the rumpled Texas desert stretching off to the horizon. The higher we climbed, the better the view. Soon we were getting views to the south as well, down into Boot Canyon. Twisting and turning, we wound our way east toward Lost Mine Peak. The countryside was stunning; much more open than the South Rim Loop (the rim itself being a noteworthy exception, with some of the most expansive views we’ve ever seen).  Still, this climb was a delight; at every turn in the trail we had a different vista to view.

via The Lost Mine Trail: We Found Hiking Gold, but No Mine — BIT|Hiker

 

 

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Nature’s Silent Message – Just released by Scott Stillman 

 

 

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