National Park Week Begins Today!

   National Park Week

National Park Week officially gets under way today and runs through April 28.  There will be many special activities in the parks throughout the country.  Admission to all national park units will be free Monday through Friday next week.

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Show Your Support for Our National Parks

The National Park Foundation is the official charity of America’s National Parks.  Chartered by Congress in 1967, the National Park Foundation is founded on a legacy that began more than a century ago, when private citizens from all walks of life took action to establish and protect our national parks.  Today, the National Park Foundation carries on that tradition as the only national charitable nonprofit whose sole mission is to directly support the National Park Service.

You can show your love for our national parks by purchasing T-shirts or other merchandise from the National Park Foundation.  Proceeds from the sale of this merchandise will help the National Park Foundation protect our treasured landscapes for generations to come.

 

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National Park Week 2013 (NEW)

     

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Top 10 Volcanoes on Our Trip

Mountains tend to sit in ranges and are usually surrounded by other mountains.  Whereas volcanoes are typically solitary masses that rise straight up from the surrounding plain.  As a result, volcanoes make an imposing feature on the landscape.  The height of the volcano’s peak above the plain is known as its “prominence.”  For example, Mt. Rainier in Washington has a prominence of more than 13,000 feet and is visible from Seattle 60 miles away.

But it’s not only the size of a volcano that makes it daunting.  It’s the possibility that a volcano could blow at any time and rain destruction down on everyone and everything in the vicinity.  Fortunately most volcanoes give plenty of seismic warning before becoming a real threat to people and property.

Following are the Top 10 Favorite Volcanoes of our trip:

 

1. Mt. St. Helens

Tree debris in Spirit Lake below Mt. St. Helens

Type: Active stratovolcano
Last Eruption: July 10, 2008
Last Major Eruption: May 18, 1980 (57 deaths)
Elevation: 8,366’;  Prominence: 4,605’
Location: Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Washington

On the clear morning of May 18, 1980, Mt. St. Helens erupted in a violent fury that became the deadliest and most economically destructive volcanic event in United States history.  57 people were killed.  250 homes, 47 bridges, 185 miles of highway, and 15 miles of railroads were destroyed.  This was our favorite volcano of our trip because evidence of its destructive power was still quite evident everywhere we looked, from the flattened forests, to the tree-filled Spirit Lake (shown above).  It was both exciting and unnerving to realize that if we had been standing there 32 years ago, we would’ve been instantly seared to death by ash and hot gas travelling 670 miles per hour.

  

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Top 25 Wildlife Sightings on our Trip

Sea lions, gators and bears, oh my…

We were blessed on our trip to see just about every major species of wildlife that one could hope to see while traveling in the western USA, Canada and Alaska.  Seeing and hearing wildlife in its element was a highlight of our trip.  Following are the Top 25 favorite wildlife sightings on our 10-month trip, our favorite sighting for each species.

    

1. Grizzly Bear

Grizzly bear standing upright in Denali National Park

Denali National Park, Alaska

The most exciting wildlife encounter was when a grizzly bear in Denali stood up, spotted a couple of backpackers, and took off after them.  I started snapping photos and shooting video from the safety of our bus, but I was worried that I might be making a snuff film.  Fortunately the young couple hopped on the bus in front of us before the bear could eat them.  We saw a total of 8 grizzlies on our trip, all in Denali National Park.

  

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Top 10 Favorite Dispersed Campsites

Dispersed camping is camping for free outside of established campgrounds on public land, typically on BLM (Bureau of Land Management) land, national forests or national monuments in the United States, or Crown Land in Canada.  We dispersed camp about 1/3 of the nights on our trip.  Not only did this save us thousands of dollars in campground fees, it greatly extended our nature experience.  Instead of being surrounded by people, buildings, lights and noise in a campground, with dispersed camping we got to enjoy wide open skies, sights and sounds of wildlife, remarkable natural features, privacy, peace and solitude.

Following are our top 10 favorite dispersed campsites.  It wasn’t difficult to choose our top favorites, but it was challenging to limit the list to only 10 places.  We judged dispersed campsites based the criteria stated in our article, Top 10 Reasons We Prefer Roadside Camping.

 

1. Yoho National Park

Wapta Falls Rec Site (3 nights)
Crown Land just outside Yoho National Park
British Columbia, Canada

View of Wapta Falls from our RV

Our campsite had a spectacular, unobstructed view of the wide Wapta Falls, which was only 1/3 mile away and roared loudly.  Behind the falls rose two 10,000+ foot glacier-covered mountains.

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Blogging About Life in the Country

Timm driving the tractor

We went from camping in the middle of nowhere to living in the middle of nowhere!  Our RV trip of a lifetime is over, and now we’re settling in to our new home on a 180-acre nature preserve in Daniel Boone National Forest in southern Kentucky.  If you are interested, please check out our blog about life in the country:

Little Wolf Nature Preserve

Dune Buggies in Anza-Borrego

This video shows two dune buggies zipping through Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in California.  This is followed by a nice look at Elephant Knees, a large mesa with a fluted side that looks like a line of standing elephants.  Sorry about the smudge in the video, it’s actually dust in the lens from the desert wind.

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Life After Trip

Timm saying goodbye to the Grand Canyon

On November 5, 2012, we hiked the final hike on our adventure of a lifetime.  We had hiked 835 miles over 292 days, and this hike was our grand finale in the Grand Canyon.  On that final day, we felt sadness that our year-long vacation was coming to an end.  We also felt a great sense of accomplishment, having visited 94 parks in 17 US states and 4 Canadian provinces.  This was even more than the 65 parks we had planned to visit on our very ambitious itinerary.  But most of all, we felt gratitude that we were fortunate enough to fulfill a lifelong dream, something that not everyone is able to do.

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Desert Tortoise Munching in Joshua Tree National Park

This desert tortoise captured our attention for quite a while in Joshua Tree National Park.  He was a magnificent creature.  His shell was over a foot in diameter.  He slowly ate his away along the desert floor, munching so loudly that we could clearly hear him chewing from where we stood several feet away.  He seemed blissfully happy and unaware of the world around him, sort of like how we are when we are hiking these national parks and disconnected from the real world.  This little fellow was such a draw that a weary camper carrying a full pack hiked two miles back to this spot when another hiker told him about the tortoise.

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Doggies Running in White Sands

One of the places on my Bucket List that we got to visit on our trip was White Sands National Monument.  Since I’ve been a kid, I’ve wanted to wander over the miles and miles of desolate white sand dunes and pretend that I’m Lawrence of Arabia.

As much as we enjoyed this beautiful desert monument, the dogs loved it even more.  Since there were no established trails, and the nearest other person was over a half-mile away, the dogs got to run around off the leash.  Although the top layer of sand was warm in the winter sun, the sand underneath was cool, soft and comfy on the dogs’ paws.

It didn’t take long for Shadow to start running and Darby to chase after him.  I’ve never seen a dog who loved to run as much as Shadow.  His long legs and strong stride made him hard to catch but a wonder to watch.

But Darby was no slouch herself.  Though she couldn’t hope to keep up with speedy Shadow, Darby was smart and cunning.  She’d chase Shadow just enough to get him running, then stand idly by until he started to tire.  Then Darby would position herself at a choke point to catch Shadow as he ran by.

It’s sad to think that blind Shadow will never run like the wind again.

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