National Parks Project

arches-cover-shot2    Once a teacher/learner, always a teacher/learner! I’m collaborating with Kathy Price on a new project and we are introducing the first two in our series of National Park downloadable learning activities books. They are perfect to take along on vacation to enhance the national park experience, to use as part of a unit about our great National Parks or just for the fun of learning.Take a look at what we’ve developed and stay in touch for additions to the series.






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George Washington Carver National Monument


A bit off the beaten path in southwestern Missouri, we discovered the George Washington Carver National Monument and learned a great deal. From our American history classes, we knew that George Washington Carver discovered many uses for peanuts and that he did much of his work at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. But there is so much more to this story!


George Washington Carver National Monument, established in 1943, was the first unit of the National Park Service to honor an African American scientist, educator, and humanitarian, and the first honoring an individual other than a U.S. president.

The Monument encompasses the original Moses and Susan Carver farm near Diamond, Missouri, on which G. W. Carver was born a slave in about 1864. There is a one-mile loop trail past the Carver family cemetery, through woodlands, across streams, to the restored 1881 Carver House and past the birthplace site. The museum in the Visitor Center is extensive and very interesting.


During the Civil War, guerrilla warfare was a constant along the Missouri-Kansas border. At one point, outlaws kidnapped young George and his mother Mary. George was found in Arkansas near death with whooping cough and returned to the Carvers but his mother was never found. During the post-Civil War racial violence, George and his brother Jim remained on the farm, sheltered and raised by the Carvers. George left the farm about 1875 but visited occasionally.


George developed his interest in and love of plants early, as well as a talent in art. Prior to 1865 it was illegal in Missouri to teach African Americans (enslaved or free) to read and write. Even with legal public access to education, the young black man found it difficult as many communities did not allow black students. With the Carvers’ encouragement to gain an education, George left to go to Neosho, Missouri, to attend a black school. Throughout his quest to obtain an education, George had to work to support himself which was often very difficult. In the late 1870’s George migrated to Kansas, first to Fort Scott, then to Olathe and to Minneapolis, Kansas, where he attended high school. He applied to Highland College by mail and was accepted but arrived to be denied admission because of his race.

He enrolled in Simpson College in Winterset, Iowa, to pursue studies in art. He transferred to Iowa Agricultural College (which later became Iowa State University) in Ames, Iowa, in 1891. Carver became the first African American to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, the first African American member of the faculty, and the first African American to receive a master’s degree at Iowa Agricultural College.


In 1896, Carver accepted Booker T. Washington’s offer to join the faculty of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Expecting to stay a few short years, Carver’s career at Tuskegee spanned the next forty-seven years. Feeling very strongly about service to mankind, Carver said, “No individual has any right to come into the world and go out of it without leaving behind him distinct and legitimate reasons for having passed through it.”

Carver taught self-sufficiency and sound conservation practices. When poor farmers were unable to come to Tuskegee for instruction, he proposed a traveling agricultural school and the Jesup Agricultural Wagon was initiated in 1906. It delivered instruction in farm life to thousands and was adopted by the USDA and expanded.

Carver developed over one hundred uses for sweet potatoes and three hundred for peanuts but did not patent any of his inventions as he felt that they should all be free and accessible to everyone. Carver was part of a movement called Chemurgy in the 1930’s. Chemurgy is the use of organic materials – especially farm products – to make industrial products. Henry Ford supported chemurgy and his plants produced hundreds of tons of soybean plastic car parts while other moguls began producing corn-based gasohol. Then something put the movement to a stop. Some implicate oil industry sabotage while others point to mass production complications and World War II. I couldn’t help but wonder where we would be today if chemurgy had continued.


George Washington Carver was a symbol of interracial cooperation in a time when that was rare. He received numerous awards and honors throughout his lifetime. A modest man who credited God as the source of his scientific revelations, Carver felt strongly about being of the greatest good to the greatest number. Carver died January 5, 1943 at Tuskegee and is buried on the campus of Tuskegee University.


Posted in agricultural research, chemurgy, George Washington Carver National Monument, Missouri, National Monuments, National Park, Travel, Travels in the U.S., Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hot Springs National Park



Our visit to Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas in late December tagged Park #45 out of the 59 National Parks on our bucket list. We enjoyed our visit – strolling Central Avenue and the Grand Promenade, touring the museum and asking lots of questions of the rangers, hiking trails on North Mountain – and left still somewhat perplexed.

Hot Springs National Park is unusual and just a little difficult to figure out as a national park. The National Park Service’s own definition of National Park states, “Generally a national park contains a variety of resources and encompasses large land or water areas to help provide adequate protection of the resources.” Hot Springs National Park is a highly-developed park in a small city surrounded by low-lying mountains and physically is the smallest national park at just a little over 5,500 acres. It doesn’t exactly fit the “large land area” designation and was conceived originally to “reserve” one resource – the springs – for the nation.


In 1832 the federal government took the unprecedented step of setting aside four sections of land. This was one of the earliest land-conservation efforts in US history, but boundaries were not marked, nor was there any real federal presence, control, or oversight. By the mid-1800’s individuals had filed claims and counterclaims on the springs and surrounding land. Many believed in the curative powers of the spring waters, and more and more people were attracted to the springs.

There are two stories or rather two directions of stories here: the one that is the history prior to 1832 and the one that follows 1832.

One generally thinks of volcanic action creating hot springs but Hot Springs, Arkansas, is not in a volcanic area. The water that emerges from the springs has been heated by the process of gravitational compression and the breakdown of naturally occurring radioactive elements. The water percolating downward eventually meets faults and joints leading up to the surface from which it emerges as hot springs.

There are 47 springs on the lower west slope of Hot Springs Mountain and all that steam rising led to the valley’s nickname, “Valley of Vapors.”

Old documents show that Native Americans knew about and bathed in the hot springs during the late 1700’s and early 1800’s and archeological evidence shows human habitation for almost 10,000 years. There is reason to believe that the Hernando de Soto expedition visited the springs in 1541 as the de Soto Chronicles detail “hot lakes” and, since there are no hot lakes, it is presumed they meant the springs. In the Fordyce men’s bath hall is a large fountain depicting the explorer receiving a cup of thermal water from a young Native American woman.


French trappers, hunters and traders were familiar with the area during the 17th and 18th centuries. The United States acquired the area in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase, and in 1804 President Thomas Jefferson dispatched William Dunbar and George Hunter to explore the springs. Their publicized report stirred up interest. More and more people came to soak in the waters, leading to the federal reservation designation in 1832. Federal designation but without federal power.

The first facilities erected to accommodate bathers were quite primitive, often little more than tents over individual springs. Likewise, lodging facilities were very basic and often indigent visitors camped out on the hillsides. The government took active control in 1877 after all the private claims on reservation land were settled. Federal regulation of bathing establishments and business practices tightened when the first reservation superintendent was assigned to the area. Bathhouses and hotels became more elaborate. The government even operated a free bathhouse and public health facility for those unable to pay for baths recommended by their physicians.


“The American Spa” was a health remedy destination and was state-of-the-art at the time. The U.S. Superintendent’s office registered licensed physicians authorized to prescribe the Hot Springs baths. The 1917 Cutter’s Official Guide to Hot Springs, Arkansas explained fees, services, facilities, and even local climate, listed authorized physicians and cautioned visitors about self-prescribing the water treatments. Copies were mailed free from the various bathhouses and hotels. It was apparently an effective public relations tool.


The Reservation over time evolved from a place primarily for those seeking medical treatment to a pleasure vacation destination. Bathhouses and hotels were built, destroyed by fire, rebuilt, or simply replaced with more modern and permanent facilities. Trails were developed and many leisure amenities were added. Hot Springs had its share of ups and downs, including the dubious distinction of having the first park ranger murdered in the line of duty. James Alexander Cary was killed by bootleggers while on patrol on West Mountain.


The use of “the waters” for medicinal purposes was augmented by other treatments, including: electrical treatments, use of the innovative Zanger mechanical therapy equipment (looked similar to much of the equipment in today’s gyms except prettier as it was made of mahogany), physical therapy, prescribed physical activity. The extent and variety of treatments were amazing.

Hot Springs Reservation became Hot Springs National Park in 1921. Monumental luxurious bathhouses along Bathhouse Row catered to crowds of health-seekers. The Army and Navy Hospital opened in 1933. Treatments reached a zenith in 1947 but by the 1950’s changes in medicine and the increased mobility of the public precipitated Hot Springs’ decline and one by one the bathhouses closed. The Buckstaff Bathhouse which opened in 1912 was the only bathhouse that remained open and is still in operation providing the traditional therapeutic bathing experience.


For decades, the once-grand bathhouses sat neglected and deteriorated. Through restoration and repurposing, these revitalized historic buildings are once again grand edifices, looking as they did in the early 1900’s. The Quapaw Bathhouse has reopened as a modern-day spa, the Lamar serves as national park store, the Ozark as a cultural center and the Superior as a restaurant and craft brewery. In keeping with the mission of maintaining the springs for the people’s use, there are several fountains where anyone can fill water containers to take away.

The Fordyce Bathhouse was restored to become the visitor center and park museum.


It is configured as the Fordyce was when it opened in 1915 with historic artifacts and furniture. The self-guided tour allows a view of the variety of treatments (some look somewhat like they belong in a torture chamber), various amenities and original splendor. The sheer size and complexity of the bathhouse is impressive.

With just a little imagination, walking beneath the huge magnolia trees along Bathhouse Row and strolling along the Grand Promenade with a side trip up one of the many trails on the landscaped grounds one can be transported to 1915 and the heyday of “The Health Resort with a National Backing.”

Hot Springs National Park is in the Zig Zag Mountains on the eastern edge of the Oauchita Mountains. These are some of the oldest mountains in the U. S. The highest point of elevation in the park is 1405 feet. Overlooks and trailheads on both Hot Springs Mountain Drive and West Mountain Drive offer a chance to enjoy the natural beauty of the area. We were also very pleased to learn that our dog was welcome on a leash on the trails in this park so we took advantage of that.

Each of our national parks is unique. Hot Springs National Park is no exception, just unique in a very different way. It is based on a single natural phenomenon and heavily leans toward the history and culture of hot springs bathing rather than the springs themselves.



Posted in Arkansas, Hot Springs National Park, National Park, National Park Travels, Travel, Travels in the U.S. | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pheasants and Photos


Tom and I road-tripped to Nebraska for Thanksgiving week and on the way we went hunting. He was hunting pheasants in Nebraska and I was hunting photos of early winter in western Nebraska and southern Colorado. I have to say I was a bit more successful than he was. He saw quite a few birds but had very few shots and didn’t bag any. I didn’t get a chance to snap a photo of a pheasant (and they are incredibly beautiful birds) but I did get some other photos.

Hunting in Western Nebraska

Early Winter in Southwestern Nebraska

Early Winter in Southern Colorado


Posted in Colorado, Nature Photos, Nebraska, scenery, Uncategorized, Winter | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

here2where online store

I’ve created an online store containing items featuring some of the photos from our travels. I hope you will take a look at it. Thanks.

Following are some examples

katmai_national_park_alaska_mugpetroglyph_tote_bag   canyonlands_national_park_ornament

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Lake Clark National Park


Lake Clark National Park was the last national park in Alaska on our bucket list to visit. In talking with someone who lived and worked there, the question we got was “What took you so long?” It was quite obvious that this was a very special place in the hearts of those folks.


Like a number of the Alaskan national parks, our way to get to Lake Clark was by air. So we boarded a small plane at Lake Clark Air in Anchorage and set off on another adventure. The flight took us over spectacular mountains, dozens of glaciers and through Lake Clark Pass to Port Alsworth on Lake Clark itself.


Having become a National Monument in 1978, Lake Clark was designated a National Park and Preserve in 1980 and enlarged through the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. The Park encompasses over 2.6 million acres and the Preserve an additional 1.4 million acres. Within the park are 4 National Register of Historic Places, 3 National Wild Rivers, 2 National Natural Landmarks and 1 National Historic Landmark. This all within a park with a total of 0 miles of road – yes, zero miles.


We stayed at The Farm Lodge in Port Alsworth. Lake Clark Air and the Farm Lodge are operated by a multi- generation Lake Clark family. In 1944, Mary and Leon “Babe” Alsworth staked a homestead at Tanalian Point on sheltered Hardenburg Bay. Babe Alsworth was one of the aviation pioneers in southwest Alaska. A narrow channel affords a landing and take-off “strip” for float planes and Alsworth also cleared a runway for wheeled aircraft. Tanalian Point was later renamed Port Alsworth and is currently home to about 100 year-round residents and is a base of operations for numerous fishing lodges.


Our cabin was located right on the shore so we had a ringside seat on the front deck to watch planes, both wheeled and float, arrive and depart. Babe and Mary’s grandson, Glen Jr. and his family operate the Farm Lodge and made our stay there relaxed and pleasant. The staff went out of their way to insure our comfort and make sure we got to do the things we wanted to do.

With numerous greenhouses and gardens, the meals served at the Farm took advantage of the fresh produce, and were outstanding. Custom sack lunches were provided for lunch to accommodate the various activities of the guests. Breakfast and dinner were served in the lodge at a designated time and provided the opportunity to meet and get to know the other guests. We thoroughly enjoyed the interesting people and the camaraderie.


The National Park headquarters was a short hike away so we set out to visit and orient ourselves to the park and of course to pick up any available information. The young ranger there was very helpful and pleasant. We watched a short film and picked up several books.

While at the Farm, we took a floatplane tour with Glen, Jr. as our pilot and guide. The scenery was so breath-taking it was hard to know which way to look out of the plane. Glaciers in many forms and stages presented all kinds of photo-ops, including pink algae living on a glacier.

We flew around Mt. Redoubt, which is an active volcano with steam rising from the snow near the top, and were near enough we could smell the sulfur!


We landed on a small lake and had our lunch on the shore, seeing bear tracks but no bears. However, Glen identified the soapberry which apparently bears like to forage. It was so peaceful and beautiful – certainly a great place for a picnic whether you are bear or human.

floatplane-tour    soapberries

Flying on, we saw many Dall sheep at mineral licks on the mountainsides and caribou trails were evident up and down the mountains. An aptly named Turquoise Lake shimmered in the sunlight.


Landing on Upper Twin Lake, we were treated to a visit to Dick Proenneke’s cabin with Kay as our extremely knowledgeable and enthusiastic guide.

At the age of 51, Dick Proenneke set out to prove that he could survive in the wilderness. He built his cabin during 1967 and 1968 using only hand tools and whenever possible, materials provided by the land. Neither the first nor the largest cabin ever built in the Alaska Bush, the remarkable craftsmanship, and the fact that he filmed the entire construction process makes it unique. Throughout the years, Dick Proenneke kept meticulous journals and, in 1973, his journals edited by Sam Keith, under the title One Man’s Wilderness, were published. Since then, a second volume has been published and a third is underway.

Proenneke was not a hermit. He kept up a great deal of correspondence and welcomed visitors to his cabin. It was quite obvious from the people we met who had known Proenneke that he was well-liked and respected. A self-educated naturalist, Proenneke lived in this cabin for 30 years without electricity, running water, a telephone or other modern conveniences. Dick Proenneke left Twin Lakes for the last time in 1999 at the age of 82 when the extreme cold and hard physical work became too much.

Proenneke donated his cabin to the National Park Service and it is now a part of Lake Clark National Park. The cabin and outbuildings were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2007.

Our final full day at The Farm, we decided to hike the Tanalian Falls Trail. Taking bear spray with us, we set out. We were told to carry on conversation, sing or somehow make some noise as we hiked so we did not inadvertently startle a bear. We did so, although we realized that it was rather unnatural for us to just chatter as we hiked. We did not come across any bears but the hike was pleasant and a very enjoyable way to spend the day.


It’s understandable why Lake Clark has such a hold on the people who live there. Flying is such an integral part of the way of life there, we asked Glen when he started flying and he said, “when I was twelve years old.” He grew up in Port Alsworth and told us that he had been many places all over the world and had never found another place he would rather come home to. That pretty much says it all.


For more information:

Posted in Alaska, hiking, Lake Clark National Park, National Park, National Park Travels, Travel, Travels in the U.S., Western U.S. National Parks, wilderness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Katmai National Park


When we planned the trip to Katmai National Park, we were thinking brown bears, brown bears and more brown bears. As we did prior to our visit, many people are fascinated by the bear cams located at Brooks Falls – Little did we know that not only are the brown bears amazing but there is so much else to make Katmai unique. Our visit there was truly special.


Katmai, located on the Alaska Peninsula and nearly 5 million acres in size, includes 15 volcanoes, magnificent scenery, and is home to North America’s largest population of protected brown bears – about 2,000 of them. It is one of the least-visited of our national parks, with only 37,818 visitors in 2015, ranking 53rd in visitation out of the 59 national parks.


Initially, we assumed we would stay at Brooks Camp, but we quickly found out that lodging there is booked up well over a year in advance. The person I spoke with suggested Kulik Lodge as our base. She said we might be happier there as it is smaller, with fewer people, and without the day-trippers from Anchorage and we could still make a day trip to Brooks for bear-viewing. This proved to be brilliant. We were very happy we were at Kulik. It’s truly a first class wilderness lodge. Manager Chaad McBride and his outstanding staff do everything possible to make a stay memorable and exactly what you’d like.


Kulik Lodge is a remote fishing lodge on Nonvianuk Lake and the Kulik River in the northern part of the park. At 6:30 a.m. we boarded a seven-passenger plane at Katmailand Air in Anchorage for the flight to Kulik. The 90-minute flight took us over breath-taking mountains and a brown bear ambled out alongside the gravel runway when we landed at Kulik.


Kulik Lodge is composed of the lodge building, individual cabins, and numerous outbuildings. It’s located in a prime fishing location with Nonvianuk Lake and Kulik Lake connected by the 1 ½ mile long Kulik River.


We were greeted by the wonderful staff at Kulik, treated to a great breakfast (which was only a sample of the excellent meals at Kulik) and introduced to our guide for the day, Grey. Tom and I are not fishermen so going to a fishing camp in the first place was a unique experience but we were game to try fly fishing. Grey was a good teacher and very patient as we learned a bit about casting from the lake shore.

We then went out in a boat to the Kulik River where we got into the river and started fishing. Yes, actually clambering in and out of the boat into the river. Getting back in was much more of a challenge than getting out. Throughout the day, we each managed to catch several rainbow trout, which are catch and release. Personally, I had always seen people standing in a cold river in waders and thought they were slightly crazy but I found out just how much fun it actually is and why you could really get “hooked” on it. We, of course, never made the “fish board” but we had a great time.


While we were fishing, a bear swam across the river, leaving her cubs on the other side. They were very noisy and obviously not very happy about it but it seemed as if she was telling them – “just be quiet and wait, I’ll be back for you” – much like any mother might.


Meals at Kulik are served family-style and were incredible. The chef there is outstanding. Lunch was served at noon and included homemade soups, salads and a variety of sandwich makings. The complimentary bar is open from 4 to 11, with appetizers at 6 and dinner at 7. The first evening we were there we had fried chicken, salmon, pulled pork, cole slaw, green salad, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, bread, jam and either lemon meringue pie or blueberry ice cream for dessert. Every meal was just as amazing as the first.


Mealtimes provided a time to get to know some of the other guests and discuss everyone’s activities for the day. There were only 23 guests at Kulik so it was a rather intimate group and we met interesting people. The fireplace in the lodge also served as a gathering and visiting place.


Since it never gets truly dark during the summer, some guests chose to go night fishing while we decided to walk around the property and just enjoy the peace and serenity and turn in a bit early. We had had a very full day.

Coffee on the front stoop at 5:30 a.m. provided a good start to the day which began with a hearty breakfast and a 6:45 boarding of float planes to Brooks Camp for bear-viewing.


The first stop at Brooks Camp is the ranger station for the required bear orientation. Bears have free range and the right-of-way and there are very specific guidelines for visitors. We saw a bear in the midst of the camp very shortly after our arrival. On our walk to the bear-viewing at the falls, we came around a corner of the trail and saw a sow and two cubs about thirty yards away coming toward us. Everyone scrambled to get off the path and out of her way. They are a bit intimidating and you definitely don’t want to get too close!

In Katmai, abundant salmon means abundant brown bear populations. Daily fish catch for most bears runs to 10 to 20 salmon a day and, nourished with such high-fat fare, male brown bears can grow to 1500 pounds or more than three times the size of interior grizzlies. Coastal brown bears and interior grizzlies are both members of the Ursus arcto species. The difference in size is attributable in part to the abundance of salmon in coastal and near-coastal areas.



We saw a sow and three cubs on the river bank as we approached the Brooks Falls viewing platform and then watched a number of bears fishing for salmon. It’s rather astounding how quickly these giant animals can move in order to catch salmon. The Park service has a pretty efficient system for allowing a certain number of people on the platform at once and rotating them after an hour to give someone else a chance.


Walking back toward the river viewing area, we came across a juvenile male coming down a path toward us. Once again it was a scramble to get out of his way – believe me, I was well back when I snapped this photo.


We spent quite a lot of time at the Brooks River viewing area watching bears fishing and what appeared at times to be playing with each other in the river. They were fascinating to watch.


Another possible day trip from Kulik is to the Valley of 10,000 Smokes. On June 6, 1912, residents of the northern Alaska Peninsula experienced one of the largest volcanic eruptions in recorded history. The Novarupta volcano eruption sent ash over 100,000 feet in the air and released 30 times the volume of magma as the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. When Robert Griggs in 1916 gazed into the former Ukak River valley and saw the transformation from the eruption, he saw tens of thousands of smokes curling up from its fissured floor and dubbed it “The Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes.” Even though those fumaroles have since died, the valley is still a unique and otherworldly landscape.

On our last day at Kulik, Bryce was our guide and we went fishing again but the weather turned on us a bit making a hot shower welcome after standing in the rain in the cold river. It cleared off later in the afternoon so Bryce took us on a tundra hike. Treeline in Katmai is less than 1000 feet so most of the park is above treeline and exposed to extreme weather. Plants that survive best hug the ground but moose, caribou, red fox, wolves, lynx and a number of other animals make this their home.


Our last evening at Kulik we were treated to a presentation by Sonny Petersen on the history of the lodge and Katmai. Sonny’s father, aviation pioneer Ray Petersen, in 1947 founded his Northern Consolidated Airlines. Petersen was committed to fishing conservation and was granted a permit to build and operate five “Angler’s Paradise” camps, making him the park’s first concessioner. Thus, he provided both the places to stay and, with his airline, the way to get there. Petersen was an avid southwest Alaska promoter wanting to attract the tourist “who goes places just to be amazed.”

Katmai National Park is a special place and Kulik Lodge was the perfect place for us. On the last evening, a young woman, Annie, from Beijing took this photo of us and later emailed it to me. It captures the bittersweet of our last evening at Kulik. We created great memories.


For more information:

Posted in Alaska, Katmai National Park, National Park, National Park Travels, Nature Photos, Travel, Travels in the U.S., Uncategorized, Western U.S. National Parks, wilderness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments