Category Archives: National Parks and Monuments

The Coast of Northern California and the Redwoods

Good morning, Northern California! Today, we drive the last leg of our trip down to San Francisco. We’ll explore the Avenue of the Giants, Redwood National Park, stop for lunch in Mendocino, and finish the day having dinner at Fog Harbor in Fisherman’s Wharf.

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Filed under Fun Outings, Fun Stuff, National Parks and Monuments, Project Life 2018, Seattle to San Fran 2018

Snoqualmie, Mt. Rainer and Portland

Vacation Day 3!

Today we drove out of Seattle. Our first stop was at Snoqualmie Falls. This waterfall is the tallest in the state of Washington. Next we drove to Mt. Rainer National Park. Just outside the park is Crystal Mountain. There we took a gondola ride to the top where the views were spectacular and we ate lunch at Summit House. It was 42 degrees and the boys loved the snow patches. After the drive through the park, we headed down to Portland. In Portland we stayed at the Nines Hotel. We snacked in the roof and then ate at The Urban Farmer restaurant. Our waitress mentioned to the chef that Davy is in a bee club at school, so he came out and took us on a tour of their rooftop garden, showed us their rooftop apiary, and then their aquaponics garden in the basement of the hotel. It was an awesome personal touch experience.





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Cody – Buffalo Bill Museum and the Rodeo

Day 7! Today, we head out of Yellowstone and off to Cody, Wyoming.

Woo Hoo! On our way out, going toward the east entrance of the park, we FINALLY see a bear. And not just one bear, but TWO! Those were some pretty brown grizzlies next to the road.

Once we reached Cody, we stopped for some lunch at Millstone Pizza Company and Brewery. Andy and I tasted their flight, while the boys played in the arcade downstairs. Afterward we headed to the Buffalo Bill Museum. This museum was amazing. Whereas Matty liked it for about 30 minutes, Davy and I wandered through for about two hours.

We checked into the Best Western, let the boys swim, and then we headed off to Wyoming’s Rib and Chop house for a few steaks before making our way to the rodeo. Nothing says 4th of July weekend like a good old western rodeo with fireworks LOL. We stayed for about half of the show, the boys were exhausted. We missed the bulls, but we got to watch the bucking broncos.



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Filed under Jackson Hole/Yellowstone 2017, National Parks and Monuments, Project Life 2017, Vacations

Off To Yellowstone We Go!!!

Day 4! And we’re on our way…

Today, we leave Jackson Hole and head to Yellowstone National Park. On our way we grab some bagels and fruit, stop back in Teton National Park to drive up next to the Teton’s and visit the Chapel of the Transfiguration. We were told that this little chapel has the most gorgeous view, and they were not wrong. It is a log cabin, built in 1925 and is owned and operated by St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson. We stopped for a small hike to see Jackson Lake, and then we headed north.

Our first stop in Yellowstone was to see Old Faithful. It’s here we watched the famous geyser and had lunch. Next, we drove to Midway Geyser Basin and walked the board walk to see the Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest spring in the park. And lastly, we drove west until we hit the edge of the park and then back east to Canyon Village to check into our hotel. The scenery was beautiful and it was the perfect day for a drive.


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Whitewater Rafting the Snake River…

Day two of our Westward journey. Rise and shine we started with breakfast at Bubba’s BBQ next to the hotel and then we hopped into the car to go for a drive.

Right outside of Jackson is The Grand Teton National Park. We stopped at the visitor center and then drove through the south end of the park ending at Lake Jackson. The drive was beautiful and we saw deer and bison.


Our big adventure of the day was our whitewater rafting trip. Our bus driver drove us thirty-five minutes southwest outside of Jackson where we met our guide Tom and loaded in. Although it’s 80 degrees outside, the water was 52 so everyone was put in wetsuits. The water was cold, the canyon gorgeous, and the class 3’s were more fun than any other we’ve been on. We had 10-foot waves, it was crazy.


For dinner we ate Mexican, and Matty and I wandered into the town square for some shopping, the street shootout, and some ice cream.


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OBX 3 – Wright Bros Memorial

IMG_0145After we left the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse we drove north into Nag’s Head.  Since Mr. Dan is a pilot and talks about flying his planes to the boys and Pixar is releasing a movie called Airplanes this summer, I thought that it would be fun for the boys to learn a little about the first flight ever taken.


A 60-foot (18 m) granite monument, dedicated in 1932, is perched atop 90-foot-tall (27 m) Kill Devil Hill, commemorating the achievement of the Wright brothers. They conducted many of their glider tests on the massive shifting dune that was later stabilized to form Kill Devil Hill. Inscribed in capital letters along the base of the memorial tower is the phrase “In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.” Atop the tower is a marine beacon, similar to one found in a lighthouse.








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OBX 2 – Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

IMG_0135Rise and Shine!  The sun is out and the weather couldn’t be more beautiful.  Today we continue our exploration of the Outer Banks.  The lighthouse wasn’t open just yet so we checked out of the motel and headed south to the town of Hatteras.  It’s the furthest point you can drive, from here you take a ferry over to Ocracoke.  There is a lighthouse here and I was sad that we were going to miss it.  The boys and I stopped at a café, grabbed a few lattes, a smoothie, a few breakfast pastries and headed back to visit the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.








Here’s a little more history about the lighthouses from the OBX.  The Cape Hatteras Lighthouse protects one of the most hazardous sections of the Atlantic Coast. Offshore of Cape Hatteras, the Gulf Stream collides with the Virginia Drift, a branch of the Labrador Current from Canada. This current forces southbound ships into a dangerous twelve-mile long sandbar called Diamond Shoals. Hundreds and possibly thousands of shipwrecks in this area have given it the reputation as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”.   The lighthouse is 210 foot height makes it the tallest brick lighthouse structure in the United States and 29th in the world.  The National Park Service acquired ownership of the lighthouse when it was abandoned in 1935. In 1950, when the structure was again found safe for use, new lighting equipment was installed. Now the Coast Guard owns and operates the navigational equipment, while the National Park Service maintains the tower as a historic structure.  1,250,000 bricks were used in construction of the lighthouse and it is 248 steps to the top.










In 1999, the Cape Hatteras lighthouse had to be moved from its original location at the edge of the ocean to safer ground 2,870 feet (870 m) inland. Due to erosion of the shore, the lighthouse was just 120 feet from the ocean’s edge and was in imminent danger.  The Cape Hatteras Light House Station Relocation Project became known as “The Move of the Millennium.”  It is the tallest masonry structure ever moved (200 feet tall and weighing 5,000 tons).  The boys and I walked out to the original location, it was very close to the water and the Park Ranger told us that the lighthouse would not have survived Hurricane Sandy.

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Charles Pinckney, Charleston Market, Ghost Tour

After leaving Fort Sumter, we decided to drive over to see Charles Pinckney’s house to get a stamp for our Passport book.  Only 28 acres of Charles Pinckey’s 715-acre Snee Farm plantation remains undeveloped. The Friends of Historic Snee Farm, Inc. saved the property from developers and donated it to the National Park Service. Charles Pinckney National Historic Site, SC.


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Charles Pinckney was a member of an important low country family.  He began his government career at the young age of 22 and retired at 64.  Pinckney is considered one of our country’s Founding Fathers.  Some of his accomplishments include:  Militia officer during the Revolutionary War, Representative to State and National Legislators, Four-term government to South Carolina, Author of parts of the U.S. Constitution, Ambassador to Spain for 5 years.

Another thing that we learned about was the Gullah culture.  The Gullah are a distinctive group of Black Americans from South Carolina and Georgia in the southeastern United States.  There are roughly a half a million still living in small farming and fishing communities along the Atlantic coastal plain and on the chain of Sea Islands which runs parallel to the coast. Because of their geographical isolation and strong community life, the Gullah have been able to preserve more of their African cultural heritage than any other group of Black Americans. They speak a creole language similar to Sierra Leone Krio, use African names, tell African folktales, make African-style handicrafts such as baskets and carved walking sticks, and enjoy a rich cuisine based primarily on rice.


During the 1700s the American colonists in South Carolina and Georgia discovered that rice would grow well in the moist, semitropical country bordering their coastline. But the American colonists had no experience with the cultivation of rice, and they needed African slaves who knew how to plant, harvest, and process this difficult crop. The white plantation owners purchased slaves from various parts of Africa, but they greatly preferred slaves from what they called the “Rice Coast” or “Windward Coast” West Africa. The plantation owners were willing to pay higher prices for slaves from this area, and Africans from the Rice Coast were almost certainly the largest group of slaves imported into South Carolina and Georgia during the 18th century.

For the rest of the day we headed over to downtown Charleston, the French Quarter, and the Battery.  We parked off of Meeting and just wandered through the streets looking at all different kinds of shops and the outdoor market.

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For dinner we ate at Henry’s across from the market and no trip to Charleston is complete without an order of shrimp and grits.  Davy loved the shrimp and grits and this is when he declares to me that he just loves trying new foods.  He picked up a puzzle box and we stopped for some ice cream before going on our carriage ride.







Our carriage ride was a ghost tour and here is one of Davy’s favorite stories from the ride.

Philadelphia alley (AKA “Dueler’s Alley).  Tucked away just off Market Street, running between Cumberland and Queen Streets in the beautiful French Quarter, lies Philadelphia Alley, ca. 1766.  This alley has a high brick wall running down both sides meaning there would be less bystander casualties, so it is believed that this is the reason it was chosen for the dueling.  Dr. Ladd and Ralph Isaacs were friends, and after several disputes including one over a woman and then an article printed in the paper Dr. Lad fearing he would be labeled cowardly and that his reputation would suffer challenged Ralph Isaacs to a duel. If not for himself, then he must defend the honor of Perdita, the young doctor reasoned. Steeling his resolve, he whistled on his way to meet his rival with pistols at dawn.


They pair of duelists met in the misty morning light of Philadelphia Alley. Intending on letting the challenge blow over, Dr. Ladd fired his pistol into the air, a way to save face. Ralph Isaacs meant to fire into Dr. Ladd’s leg, intending only on a slight wound to embarrass the doctor, but the pistol ball fired erratically and struck Dr. Ladd in the stomach. The physician was taken by gurney to his boarding house on Church Street. He died of the wound ten days later.

It is said that Philadelphia Alley still carries the sounds of pistol shots, the smell of gunsmoke, and the eloquent trill of Dr. Joseph Ladd’s whistling on his way into the alleyway that fateful morning. Ghostly visions of ladies in gowns appear on photographs, as do shadows and violet fire. Some experience time loops. Considered to be the most haunted lane in Charleston, there are rumors of over thirty recorded deaths.

Davy also liked the story of Blackbeard’s 30 men being hung in the battery and left for 6 weeks to warn off any who were thinking about piracy and the story of the man who took a photo on film of St. Philip’s cemetery in 1987 and after having developed his pictures discovered this ghost of a woman grieving over her stillborn child’s grave.


Last night here….off to North Carolina next!


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Fort Sumter and the USS Yorktown

The skies were a little cloudy this morning and The Weather Channel predicted a 40% chance of rain, so the boys and I decided to shift our activities for the day around and head on over to Patriots Point first.  Everyone knows that Davy loves the Civil War, so there is no way that we could come to Charleston and not go to Fort Sumter.  After decades of growing strife between the North and the South, on April 12, 1861, the Civil War officially began when Confederate artillery opened fire on this Federal fort in Charleston Harbor. Fort Sumter surrendered 34 hours later. Union forces would try for nearly four years to take it back.  We bought our tickets and boarded onto the ferry that took us out to visit the Fort.





Once we reached the Fort, we were given one hour to look around.  One of the things that we learned was, Fort Sumter National Monument has one of the best collections of 19th century seacoast artillery anywhere in the United States. Davy loves cannons so you can only imagine how excited he was to see all of these.

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The USS Yorktown (CV-10) was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy.  Under construction as Bon Homme Richard, this new Essex-class carrier was renamed Yorktown in honor of Yorktown (CV-5), sunk at the epic Battle of Midway (June 1942). Built in an amazing 16-½ months at Newport News, Virginia, Yorktown was commissioned on April 15, 1943, and participated significantly in the Pacific Offensive that began in late 1943 and ended with the defeat of Japan in 1945. Yorktown received the Presidential Unit Citation, and earned 11 battle stars for service in World War II.

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I found the ship to be very moving.  From the Congressional Medal of Honor museum to all of the pictures that adorned the walls.  Looking around at the photos, I officially felt old.  The one thought that kept coming back to me from looking at the mannequins and the photos was that the boys fighting and serving all looked so young :(…  When did that happen??!!!  I guess I am almost 20 years older than most of them…. sigh….  Last thought, after following my boys all around the ship and up and down the stairs, there is no way Andy could have served in the Navy.  The ceilings were so low that there were times I even had to duck!

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