Page 1

On the Cover

“Fringed Gentian” Marsha Karle, retired from a long career with the National Park Service and now working on her “second” career as an artist, drew inspiration for this Fringed Gentian from time spent in Yellowstone National Park. Her work is on display, and for sale, at the Going to the Sun Gallery in Whitefish, Montana, and the Sacagawea Gallery in Bozeman, Montana. This watercolor, measuring 11 inches by 8 inches, was still available as this guide went into production.

Contents Essential Park Guide / Summer 2014


Down At The Seashore From historic lighthouses and phenomenal fishing to sandy beaches and great shelling, these 10 national seashores offer something for everyone.


Rocky Mountain’s Base Camp Estes Park, the eastern gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park, is well-steeped in Western charm and hospitality.


Millennials In The Parks Millennials aren’t intimidated by national parks. They just take a more adventuresome and social tack when it comes to enjoying them.


Pick Your Lakeshore Freshwater is the main ingredient in the four national lakeshores, but not the only avenue towards fun.


On The Road Again Tackling all 401 units of the National Park System in one swoop would be daunting, but small bites make for great adventures, as these four road trips make clear.


Staying With The Locals Since Reuben “Ruby” Syrett started hosting guests at his Tourist Rest lodge in 1919, Ruby’s Inn has been the place to stay during a visit to Bryce Canyon National Park.


Summer’s For The Birds Birders on the beaches this summer should keep an eye out for “B95,” a Red Knot with a prodigious flight record under his wings.


Gearing Up For Summer Are you properly equipped to tackle the parks this summer? We have a few suggestions...


Hiking Rainier Though Mount Rainier National Park attracts a great amount of climbers, the park’s mountain flanks and forests have some incredible hiking options.







Family Hikes In The Parks Traveler’s 100,000+ Facebook crowd has more than a few suggestions for family hikes in the parks. Trading Parks Sure, everyone knows about baseball trading cards. But do you have any national parks in your card collection?


What’s Your National Park IQ? Test your national park IQ, and bone up on summer in the parks, with the professor’s latest quiz.


Parting Shot The Virgin River’s waters run beautifully through Zion National Park.

Editor Kurt Repanshek Special Projects editor Patrick Cone art director Courtney Cooper contributors Kirby Adams Danny Bernstein Greg Breining Patrick Cone Robert Janiskee Carli Jones Michael Lanza publishED by

Essential Park Guides are published by National Park Advocates, LLC, to showcase how best to enjoy and explore the National Park System. National Park Advocates, LLC, P.O. Box 980452, Park City, Utah, 84098. © 2014 Essential Park Guide, Summer 2014. All rights reserved. The contents of this publication may not be reproduced in any form without written permission from the publisher.


It’s Summertime,

And The Options Are Many In The National Park System

Ocracoke Lighthouse stands tall on Cape Hatteras National Seashore / Kurt Repanshek

Summertime, for many, equates with beach time, and there’s no shortage of that in the National Park System. From the 10 national seashores that line the country’s coasts to the four national lakeshores that rim the Great Lakes, the park system offers you plenty of freshand saltwater options when it comes to escaping the heat. You can take a sea kayak out, pitch your beach umbrella, or go in search of shells to add to your collection. But summer vacations also encourage exploration out on the open road, and we’ve highlighted some great trips that allow you to take in several parks during one excursion. Ever consider visiting Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in New Hampshire, or Cedar Breaks National Monument in Utah? This story that begins on page 26 will encourage you to add those to your checklist. We also take a look at how the Millennial generation views the national

parks and the outdoors, family hiking at Mount Rainier National Park in Washington state, and even turned over a new card – National Park Trading Cards, that is. Of course, what would a national park visit be without a hike? To come up with some ideas for family hikes, we reached out to Traveler’s 100,000+ Facebook followers and came away with a rich list that starts on page 40. Traveling to the parks means finding great places to stay, and our summer guide takes a look at the gateway towns of Estes Park, on the doorstep of Rocky Mountain National Park, and Bryce Canyon City, the front door to Bryce Canyon National Park. With so much to do in the National Park System in summer, it’s a shame that the season is so short.

~ Kurt Repanshek


Danny Bernstein is a regular contributor to the Traveler and the author of a number of hiking guides, including the Mountainsto-Sea Trail Across North Carolina and Hiking North Carolina’s Blue Ride Mountains. Based in North Carolina, she is frequently on the road exploring national park units (and collecting national park trading cards along the way).


Greg Breining, who writes about Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in this issue, is never far from water and his sea kayak. He writes about science, nature, and travel for The New York Times, Audubon, and many other publications. His latest book is Paddle North: Canoeing the Boundary WatersQuetico Wilderness. He and his wife, Susan, live in St. Paul.

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Pat Cone is an awardwinning photographer, writer, and editor. He has worked on assignment for publications such as Arizona Highways, Ski, Skiing, Smithsonian, Sunset, National Geographic World, and dozens of other regional and national publications. Traveler’s special projects editor, he produced this issue’s road trips story and currently is considering candidates for fall road trips.

Utah native Carli Jones grew up exploring the outdoors on family outings, weekend camping trips, and hiking in Zion and beyond. An editorial intern for the Traveler who writes about Millennials in this issue, she is a student at the University of Utah studying communication and nutrition. During her spare time she cycles, hikes, rock climbs and snowboards.

Michael Lanza spends so much time with his family out-of-doors that it’s a wonder he can find time to write. He is the author of the award-winning book Before They’re Gone–A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks. He is also the creator of the blog The Big Outside and Northwest Editor of Backpacker Magazine. His story about hiking at Mount Rainier National Park starts on page 38.

Cape Lookout Light / Kurt Repanshek

By Kurt Repanshek


Cape Lookout National Seashore, North Carolina

Dancing on the morning breeze, the sea oats sway to and fro while the Atlantic surf crashes the beach. Two surfcasters, knee deep in the water, wait for the inevitable bite. This is seashore perfection: no crowds, no boom boxes, no wafting sunblock mixed with the fresh ocean air. It doesn’t get much better if you’re searching for a slice of wild America. Cape Lookout National Seashore on the North Carolina coast comes without frills. You need a ferry, or your own boat, to reach its trio of barrier islands. But once you do, it’s as if you’re on your own island, as uncrowded as it is. Mid-June found us on South Core Banks in a nofrills, $75-a-night, wood-frame cabin. There were wooden bunks with mattresses (bring your own linens), plywood floors, walls, and ceilings, running kitchen water, and a bathroom with shower and toilet. Electricity is only provided if you bring your own. But

From atop Cape Lookout the historic Keeper’s House and the beach come into view / Kurt Repanshek

we weren’t expecting a four-star accommodation. Simply a spot on one of the wildest beaches in the National Park System. There are ten National Seashores in the National Park System, with amenities ranging from dunes to pitch your tent among and the Spartan cabins at Cape Lookout to pricey beachfront rental houses just beyond the National Park Service boundaries. At Cape Lookout, not only do we share meals with the omnipresent, and quick-to-pounce-on-a-morsel, seagulls, but we are also a short stroll across the sand and through the sea oats to the pounding surf. Swimming here comes with risks, as the long currents that rake the beaches can be treacherous for swimmers. That said, the cautious and watchful can enjoy the refreshing water in between relaxing on a beach blanket while catching some rays. Don’t want to chance the currents? Spend the day beach-combing; the shelling here can be amazing. Among the possible finds is the Scotch, or Ridged, Bonnet, the North Carolina state seashell. During our stay, pink sunrises and Technicolor sunsets launched and shuttered each day. In between those displays, we explored. You can get around by foot or sea kayak, but South Core Banks also features a back road between the sand dunes and Core Sound that visitors in four-wheel-drive rigs can negotiate. After dropping the 6

air pressure in the our rig’s tires to 15-20 psi, we bounce this route south to Cape Lookout with its lighthouse, visitor center, and historic U.S. Coast Guard Station. Here the day-trippers who motor out from Harkers Island across Back Sound are numerous, and their music reaches to the top of the 207-step Cape Lookout Light. The views from atop the light—south to Shackleford Banks with its feral horses, west to Harkers Island and the mainland, north towards Portsmouth Village, and, of course, east out across the Atlantic—are are those 207 steps to the top of the light!. Back at our cabin later that evening, with the steaks on the BBQ out front and cold drinks in our hands, the sunset flashes its display to the west. Overhead, the ever-present seagulls perch on the roof. Our only regret is that we didn’t bring any surfcasting gear to provide fresh fish for the grill.

If you go: Cabin reservations can be made in January. The high season is fall, when the fish are running and the surfcasters are thick. If you plan a midsummer escape, consider a Long Point Cabin, as they have electricity and ceiling fans. If you opt for those at Great Island, consider packing a generator and window air-conditioner. Plan a spring visit and scan the offshore waters for Humpback and Right whales heading north for the summer. Do consider a visit to Portsmouth Village, which dates to the late-1700s when it was established as a seaport. Just pack lots of bug repellant and comfortable walking shoes. After

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Ponies are the locals at Assateague Island National Seashore / Kevin Moore you tour the village, take the 3-mile hike through the false maritime forest (Boys Scouts planted this forest in the 1950s, it wasn’t naturally occurring) and out to the coast, where you’ll find excellent shelling opportunities. Check the seashore’s calendar to attend a ranger-led tour to Shackleford Banks to view the horses.

Dotting the coastlines of the United States are ten national seashores, each offering a slightly different experience. Each of the other nine national seashores offers a slightly different experience. Here’s a quick overview of those destinations.


Assateague Island National Seashore, Virginia/Maryland

Ponies in the morning mist-they’re a sight to see at Assateague Island National Seashore. You might awake in your dune country campsite to find them gazing right back at you. More likely, you’ll spot them throughout the day roaming free about the 48,000-acre seashore’s beaches and marshlands. Ponies and sea foam are just part of the memories from an Assateague Island vacation. The national seashore, shared by Virginia and Maryland, offers the morning sun glinting off the Atlantic, campsites with views of both the ocean and Chincoteague Bay, dark, starry skies come night, and history threading back to 1750, when a Spanish galleon beached here.

To ensure an encounter with the seashore’s fabled ponies, visit the last Wednesday of July when the Virginia herd is rounded up and driven from Assateague Island through the bay waters to Chincoteage Island for the annual foal auction staged by the Chincoteague Volunteer Fire Department. These wild horses gave rise to Misty of Chincoteague, an award-winning children’s book Marguerite Henry wrote in 1947 after being inspired by the ponies. Fourteen years later, the book was transformed into a fulllength feature film. Another option for tracking the ponies is to use your cellphone to learn where you’re most likely to spot them, how to do it without disturbing them, and some history on the herds. To tap into this information, dial 410-864-9128. Ponies, of course, aren’t the only reason to visit Assateague. Cooling off in the Atlantic is a summer tradition. Canoeing and kayaking are popular here, as is over-sand travel, used by many to reach both campsites amid the dunes and the beaches for surfcasting. Throughout the summer months park rangers can help you get the most from your visit, leading kayak tours and other outdoor activities when they’re not presenting a variety of natural history programs at the Toms Cove Visitor Center in Virginia.

If you go:  Camping is only allowed on the Maryland side of the seashore. You’ll find front-country sites at either the Bayside or South Ocean Beach campgrounds a bit south of the Assateague Island Visitor Center (410-641-1443). There also are a number of backcountry sites open to hikers or paddlers. During your vacation, not only can you look for the horses, but you can enjoy the freshest of seafood meals by clamming, crabbing, or fishing. To build your appetite, take to some of the seashore’s short hiking trails, its bike paths, and life-guarded beaches. While you’re allowed to collect sea shells, you have to limit yourself to a gallon of shells.


Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

Though Florida is one of the most populated states in the country, there still are places where you can flee humanity in the Sunshine State. Canaveral National Seashore, just north of the Kennedy Space Center, is one of them. Here on the Atlantic Coast the seashore’s beaches draw surfers, swimmers, surfcasters...and turtles...lots of turtles. While Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina might count 250 turtle nests in one season, at Cape Canaveral nearly 8,000 nests were counted in 2013, the most of any unit in the National Park System. So attractive are the seashore’s beaches to sea turtles

that last year each kilometer of beachfront averaged more than 200 nests. The four species that nest here— Loggerhead, Green, Leatherneck, and the occasional Kemp’s Ridley—are all important, require protection, and need the seashore’s nesting grounds. But the seashore’s riches are more than just biological. Here, along the longest undisturbed stretch of barrier island on the Florida coast (24 miles), there are 150 documented archaeological sites within the seashore, including 40-foot Turtle Mound, one of the tallest Native American shell mounds on the east coast of Florida. Ranging some 600 feet long, this pile of shells—an estimated 1.5 million bushels—was thought to have once stood 75 feet high before years of erosion and modern human activity. Dating back to 800 AD, the midden is constituted mainly of oyster shells, a key food source for the Timucuan Indians. More shell mounds can be found at Seminole Rest not far from Oak Hill. Snyder’s Mound, which dates back to 2,000 B.C., is set on the shores of Mosquito Lagoon. This mound of clam shells stretches about 740 feet long, 340 feet wide, and about 13 feet high. More recent history can be found at Eldora, a late-19th century agricultural community built near Mosquito Lagoon. Residents grew pineapple, citrus fruits, and even olives. Today you can tour the Eldora State House, where inside you can imagine life here through the photos and some artifacts. Don’t overlook the seashore’s hardwood hammock forests and mangrove islands to get a good feel for the seashore’s diversity. And if you’re a birder, time your visit and you might encounter hundreds of thousands of ducks and coots, and migrating and wintering shorebirds drawn to the mudflats along Mosquito Lagoon.

If you go: Winter is the busy season in Florida. If you head to Canaveral during those months, or even the summer slow season, avoid crowds by choosing a destination other than the Apollo District on weekends. Mosquito Lagoon, and historic Eldora and Seminole Rest, are good bets for losing the crowds. Want to spot a sea turtle? Join one of the seashore’s Turtle Watch Programs, in which rangers take groups out at night to watch female turtles lay their eggs. Manatees and bottle-nose dolphins are frequent visitors to Mosquito Lagoon.

A boardwalk helps you explore the Turtle Mound at Canaveral National Seashore / NPS


Cape Hatteras National Seashore offers some of the best surfcasting on the East Coast / NPS


Cape Cod National Seashore, Massachusetts

Clambakes, body surfing, whale watching, and fishing are just some of the pastimes at Cape Cod National Seashore. Others include beach volleyball, birding, hiking, and, quite naturally, swimming. Summer vacations at the Cape have long been an American tradition, dating back well before the national seashore was authorized in 1961. So popular is the seashore, in fact, that the vacation season has stretched out, going well beyond Labor Day and creeping into October. And why not? Waters, whether you’re talking about the Cape’s freshwater kettle ponds, Cape Cod Bay, or the Atlantic, remain relatively warm through September. High season, of course, generally offers the best variety of activities for your visit. At Provincetown, watch a “breeches buoy” demonstration at the historic Old Harbor Life-Saving Service Station at Race Point Beach, leave the town dock on a whale-watching tour, and then return for dinner at one of the town’s eclectic restaurants. You also have six lifeguard-protected beaches on the seashore to enjoy, though finding one without crowded parking areas in summer could be difficult. During the height of the season, most parking lots fill by mid-morning. Arrive before 9 a.m. or after 5 p.m. to 8

The Race Point Light at Cape Cod National Seashore / NPS

land a spot without jockeying or jostling for a place to spread your beach blanket. Dozens of ranger-guided programs, including walks and hikes, talks, surfcasting lessons, and canoe trips are offered each week in July and August. Details are available at the seashore’s website. Any time of year is a good time to hike the Fort Hill Trail and visit the Penniman House in Eastham. The trail rambles about 1.5 miles along open fields and through red cedar stands, offering outstanding views of Nauset Salt Marsh (bug alert!) and superb birding. Another good candidate for fresh air is the Beech Forest Trail at Provincetown with its remnant hardwood forest and ponds. Like lighthouses? Don’t miss the Highland Light in Truro, which is open daily for tours from mid-May until midOctober. The Three Sisters Lights and Nauset Light are located near Nauset Light Beach in Eastham, and offer several tours each week from late spring into early fall.

If you go: Rental properties go quickly. Start late in the year for the following summer for your best selection. Flying into the region? Consider Providence, Rhode Island’s TF Green Airport, instead of Boston’s Logan Airport, which can be pricier due to add-on fees and taxes. While the National Park Service does not operate campgrounds at the national seashore,

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

nearby Nickerson State Park in Brewster offers more than 400 sites across its 1,900 acres, and there are some nice commercial campgrounds elsewhere near the national seashore.


Cape Hatteras National Seashore, North Carolina

Sun, salt spray, and sand are the main ingredients for a traditional Outer Banks vacation. Here on the North Carolina coast, where barrier islands bare the brunt of the Atlantic Ocean, families have been coming for decades to enjoy not only those aspects of summer but some of the best fishing along the Atlantic coast. The experience is so good that the National Seashore concept was born right here in 1937 when Congress authorized Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Stretching more than 70 miles from Nags Head south to Ocracoke Inlet, the seashore draws those interested in history (during World War II the waters off the national seashore were thick with German U-boats that time and again targeted, and sank, unprotected merchant ships), surfcasting (fishing is particularly good in the fall when drum and bluefish are running), or simply flying a kite and enjoying the surf. Towns that dot the seashore— Nags Head, Rodanthe, Salvo, Avon, Buxton, Frisco, Hatteras Village, and Ocracoke—are all popular destinations. So picturesque and romantic is

Rodanthe that it was the backdrop for a 2008 movie starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane, Nights in Rodanthe. But the other towns are steeped in that seaside charm, too. Visitors have a rich variety of activities to choose from: bird watching here along the Atlantic Flyway, shell hunting (winter and fall offer some of the best finds), fishing, of course, and solitude for early risers, late evening strollers, or simply walkers heading up or down the beach away from any crowds. Campers have four campgrounds to consider—at Oregon Inlet, Frisco, Ocracoke, and Cape Point—and lighthouse lovers have three to admire— Ocracoke Light, Bodie Island Light, and Cape Hatteras Light (though access is only permitted to the last two). History fans will find the restored Chicamacomico Lifesaving Station of interest. Crews from that station gained fame in 1918 when they braved burning waters to save 42 from the Mirlo, a gasoline-carrying British steamship that hit a mine planted by a German U-boat. The explosion ignited a layer of gasoline atop the ocean waters. According to historical accounts, the men rowed their surfboat through a “hellish environment that blistered paint on their boat, burned their skin, and singed their hair and clothing...”

If you go: Plan far ahead to make lodging reservations, as Cape Hatteras has a deep and loyal following of vacationers. Spring and fall are the best times to fish; by the middle of summer fishing is best offshore. Winter fishing can be productive, but the weather is harsh and sometimes dangerous. Winds that sweep across Pamlico Sound on the back side of the barrier islands produce excellent windsurfing and kite boarding. Many windsurfers and kite boarders use the Salvo Day Use and Haulover day use areas on Hatteras Island. Ocracoke Inlet was the favorite anchorage of the notorious pirate Blackbeard (Edward Teach). Blackbeard was finally killed in a battle near there on November 22, 1718. His decapitated body was thrown overboard into the inlet.


Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

Cast across more than 36,000 acres, this national seashore is on an island, the largest of Georgia’s Golden Isles. Make the ferry boat crossing from St. Marys and you’ll discover history of those long ago enslaved here, blueblood manses, about 18 miles of waveswept beaches, and nearly 9,000 acres of official Wilderness. It’s an appealing setting for natural and cultural history,

Birders can find great blue herons at Cumberland Island National Seashore / NPS

but one that requires a determined, strategic, approach as only 300 visitors a day can visit, and 120 of those slots are reserved for campers. That’s right, just 300 a day, so crowds are not the same as those you might encounter on a summer day at Coast Guard Beach at Cape Cod National Seashore. Peak visitation, as it is, falls from March into June, and then September into October. Come in August and you just might have that ferry to yourself. Looking for history? Tour the north end of the seashore, at the Wharf and the Settlement, to see how the islanders here, mostly blacks, lived a century ago. On the southern end of the island stop at Dungeness. This mansion, now in ruins, was built by Thomas Carnegie, brother of Andrew. It burned mysteriously in 1959. While you can’t go into the ruins, you can snap some nice photos.

If you’re looking to add to your birding life list, or just want to see some feathered residents, head down the Willow Pond Trail that crosses the island. But keep your eyes open for the alligators. The Marsh Boardwalk on the south end of the island also can be good for both birding (black skimmers, oystercatchers and pelicans are regulars, while fresh-water ponds serve as rookeries for wood storks, white ibis, herons and egrets) and tidal creatures. Want to spend the night, but not on the ground? Try to book at room at the Greyfield Inn, a high-end bed-andbreakfast.

If you go: You can make a ferry reservation six months’ out (877-860-6787, Mon-Fri 10 a.m.-4 p.m.). The first ferry departs at 9 a.m. (check in 30 minutes in advance at the seashore visitor center or chance losing your spot) for the 45-minute crossing. Plan to arrive by 8 a.m., so you can tour the seashore’s visitor center in St. Marys before boarding. While there, ask for a bird list


for Cumberland Island. There are a number of camping options, from the Sea Camp front-country area with 16 sites, cold water showers, running water, and fire rings, and the Stafford backcountry campground with toilets, non-potable water and fire rings, to the Brick Hill, Yankee Paradise, and Hickory Hill Wilderness campgrounds. You can reserve a site six months ahead of your visit. Spring and late fall are the high seasons (and less buggy seasons). All camping permits are assigned at the Sea Camp Ranger Station, which also assigns all backcountry, Wilderness, and Sea Camp campsites once you reach the island.


Fire Island National Seashore, New York

You may not think that you could lose yourself in the embrace of a forest at a national seashore, but that’s something you’ll encounter when you head to Fire Island National Seashore just off the south shore of Long Island, New York. Here, away from the pounding Atlantic and the swells of Great South Bay, there’s a gem nestled behind the dunes of Fire Island. Hidden from the ocean by two lines of rising dunes, and so protected from salt spray flung by the waves, a more than 350-yearold maritime forest of American holly, Shadblow, Sassafras, Black Gum, and thickets of other vegetation has withstood time and development. The Sunken Forest covers 39.5 acres of the seashore and preserves a globally rare collection of plants across a thin strip of forest never more than a quartermile wide.

Another surprise is that the seashore’s Otis Pike Fire Island High Dune Wilderness, a 7-mile-long stretch of undeveloped barrier island, is the only officially designated Wilderness in all of New York state. It’s one of the smallest wilderness areas in the National Park System, at less than 1,400 acres. You can explore it via foot or sea kayak and enjoy a rare wilderness adventure just 60 miles from New York City. While backcountry camping (reservations and permits via recreation. gov) is a great way to experience the Fire Island Wilderness, there is more to enjoy at Fire Island National Seashore. The William Floyd Estate, home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, can be toured on the Long Island mainland at Mastic Beach. There you’ll find 250 years of history represented in architectural features and artifacts from three centuries of American life. Beach lovers should consider Watch Hill, a beautiful life-guarded beach on the oceanfront. You’ll also find a boardwalk nature trail that winds from bay to beach, through extensive pristine salt marsh habitat, early successional maritime woodlands and inter-dunal swale.

If you go: Lighthouse Beach, on the west end of the national seashore, is one of the more crowded spots in summer, so you might want to avoid it and head to Watch Hill. Thanks to its location along the Atlantic Flyway, Fire Island is great for birdwatching, especially during the spring and fall migration times.

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 carved a breach from ocean to bay in the Fire Island wilderness. The natural feature continues to be shaped by the wind and waves and serves as a reminder of the dynamic nature of the barrier island. The wilderness breach is accessible via a 3 mile round-trip walk from the Wilderness Visitor Center. Cherry Grove, one of the nation’s first and oldest LGBT communities, is located within the national seashore’s boundaries.


The warm Gulf waters are the main attraction at Gulf Islands National Seashore, but anyone with an interest in American history – from the Colonial days up through World War II – will find a reason to visit as well. Sugar-sand beaches and Gulf waters are the big lure for the seashore, which is spread across Mississippi and Florida in the form of six distinct areas in each state. Those brilliant white sands originated in the Appalachian Mountains far to the north. Erosion swept grains of quartz into rivers and streams that carried them into the Gulf of Mexico, where wave action deposited them here. Beach lovers should know that crowds are greatest during June, July, and August, as well as during spring break in March. On those warm and sunny days of spring and summer, the Pensacola Beach can generate traffic jams, too. But if your schedule is flexible, September and October are two of the best months to visit. You’ll en-

Hurricane Sandy in 2012 cut a breach through the wilderness area at Fire Island National Seashore / NPS


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida/Mississippi

The varied landscape at Gulf Islands National Seashore includes Halstead Bayou / NPS

counter fewer crowds, continued nice weather, and the always enticing water. Fall and spring are good seasons for birders to visit, as they bring many migratory species (Yellow warblers, Pine warblers, Eastern towhees, and Scarlet tanagers just to name a few) to Gulf Islands National Seashore. The seashore’s military history dates to the mid-1700s, when the British built the Royal Navy Redoubt on the mainland of today’s national seashore near Pensacola. The Spanish had a fortified foothold on the mainland too, around 1797, before the fledgling United States took control with masonry Fort Barrancas, built between 1839 and 1844. The United States also built Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island in 1834 to protect Pensacola and the naval yard from foreign invasion. Though Florida was far from the frontier involved in the Indian Wars in the 1880s, when Geronimo and other members of the Chiricahua-Apache tribe were captured they were imprisoned for 18 months at Fort Pickens. Today’s visitors interested in military firepower should visit Fort Massachusetts on West Ship Island, where you can find a 19th-century, 15-inch Rodman cannon. This 25-ton cannon, capable of propelling a 400-pound shell three miles, features a bottle-shaped barrel that had been cooled from the inside out at the foundry. This technique made these canons stronger than others.

If you go: Be sure to check out the Naval Live Oaks area of the seashore east of Gulf Breeze, Florida. President John Quincy Adams in 1828 des-

Padre Island National Seashore is a popular nesting spot for Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles / NPS

ignated this as the first government tree farm. Live oaks were treasured for the density of their wood, which also was disease resistant, in construction of naval vessels. Fort Massachusetts’ durability was showcased during Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Storm surges rising to 30 feet overran the fort, which since has reopened to the public. You’ll need a boat, or a ferry ticket, to reach West Ship Island and Fort Massachusetts.


Padre Island National Seashore, Texas

Turtles and birds are some of the higher profile visitors to this stretch of Texas along the Gulf Coast. Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, the smallest of sea turtle species and the world’s most endangered, arrive, sometimes in waves, to Padre Island National Seashore’s beaches in April, May, June, and early July to lay their eggs. Unlike most sea turtles species, these turtles nest during the day, which makes it relatively easy for researchers to monitor how many come to nest. Sandhill cranes, meanwhile, arrive in the fall, then spend the winter on the seashore’s coastal prairies. These 3-4 foot tall birds, with their red masks, are attention getters from the start. Birders also migrate regularly to Padre Island, for more than half of all bird species found in North America have been spotted here. Coastal prairies once covered the coast of Texas. Today, less than 1 percent of those prairies remain, and Padre Island protects a large portion of what remains, drawing both birds and birders.

Anglers also are drawn to Padre Island, most notably in the fall when “Sharkathon,” the United States’ largest surf-fishing catch-and-release event for sharks and sport fish, draws surfcasters. If you’re seeking salt water solitude, Padre Island National Seashore is hard to improve upon. Here 70 miles of coastline – dunes, prairies, and windswept tidal flats – are protected in an undeveloped state. Since beaches are considered highways in Texas, you’re allowed to drive down the coastline, and “primitive camping” is allowed along this stretch, too. Four-wheel drive vehicles are highly recommended. Also, observe the posted speed limits. Diehard windsurfers, meanwhile, know that Bird Island Basin on the bay side of the island is one of the most popular locations in the country for their sport thanks to the reliable breezes. Campers, both with tents and recreational vehicles, have Malaquite Campground with its 48 semi-private sites. This campground near park headquarters and a short walk to the Gulf offers designated sites for RV or tent camping and six sites for tent camping only. Tent campers also are allowed to pitch their tents on the beach in front of the campground. This campground provides flush toilets, cold-water showers, picnic tables, grills, and shade structures.

If you go: If you are a bird watcher, driving the beach can be a great way to see a variety of shorebirds. As long as you remain in the vehicle they pay very little attention to passing automobiles.


Alamere Falls, Point Reyes National Seashore / NPS

When you arrive at the visitor center, don’t leave without a trash bag. Unfortunately, the Gulf currents push a lot of marine debris onto the beach, and volunteers who help collect this trash are greatly appreciated.


Point Reyes National Seashore, California

It’s the stuff of legends, of treasure seekers. Somewhere, not far from land, lies buried treasure in the seabed of Drakes Bay. Within the remains of the 16th century Spanish galleon San Agustin there could be priceless heirlooms, or merely shards of porcelain dishes that the ship was carrying from the Philippines to Mexico. What is known is that the wreck of the San Agustin in 1595 in waters now within Point Reyes National Seashore is the first recorded shipwreck on the West Coast. While archaeologists visit in hopes of locating the ship’s remains, most visitors to Point Reyes are looking for

something else. They might be looking to kayak the seashore’s waters, hike its high bluffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean, or watch the annual year-end gathering of thousands of elephant seals that come to mate. Or, they might be birders, drawn to Point Reyes because of its location along the Pacific Flyway, which explains why more than half of the known bird species in North America have been tallied here. Most visitors do not come to swim in the Pacific or catch rays while lying on the beaches. The waters are just too cold and rough; the mid-60s F air temps are too cool, and the fog is too thick in summer. But sea kayaking the 15-mile-long Tomales Bay is popular, as is hiking on the Bear Valley Trail. If you’re looking to avoid crowds, choose the Estero Trail or head to the end of Limantour Spit. Head to the beaches—about 80 miles of shoreline—and you’ll be rewarded with tide pools, harbor seals peering at you from the water, and, if

you know where to look, a waterfall. Alamere Falls can be reached from the Wildcat Campground by walking about a mile south on the beach (the usual Alamere Falls Trail has been closed due to storm damage.) Backcountry travel (reservations via; permits must be obtained at the Bear Valley Visitor Center) in the seashore is highly popular, with destinations sought along Drakes Bay and within the hills and valleys of the Phillip Burton Wilderness. Boat campers have the west shore of Tomales Bay to explore.

If you go: When the elephant seals hog the beaches from December through April, a great viewing spot is from the overlook near Chimney Rock. Interested in seeing the seashore’s Tule Elk? Head to Tomales Point any time of year. Want to avoid summer crowds? Along with the suggestions above, plan to visit the historic Point Reyes Lighthouse some other time. National seashore trivia: Point Reyes is the only national seashore on the West Coast.

Ten national seashores, ten different seashore experiences. Figuring out which one to visit can come down to honoring a longstanding family tradition, or setting out on a new adventure in the National Park System. 12

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

bighorn bo


, “Rock climbing is great up on Lumpy Ridge. You ll get a nice view of the village, too. Try not to butt heads if someone gets in your way, no matter how tempting that might be. Meander along the Fall River or Big Thompson for a , scenic stroll in the afternoon. It s beautiful this time of year.” Base Camp for Rocky Mountain National Park Extend your stay and your savings.

| Sponsored content |

Estes Park

A Natural Extension of Rocky Mountain National Park By Kurt Repanshek

Strolling, appropriately enough, down Elkhorn Avenue, the small band of elk didn’t notice that Estes Park is not inside Rocky Mountain National Park, and you likely won’t, either.


estled between Lake Estes and the park’s forested mountains, this small Colorado town blends seamlessly into the landscape. Lodgepole pine and fluttering aspen fringe town, which the Fall and Big Thompson rivers both flow through. The Fall River Road and Moraine Avenue will lead you into the park in minutes. It was the prospect of gold that drew Joel Estes to this bucolic valley in 1859. Yet golden sunbeams glinting off the snow-capped Longs Peak in the distance better reflect the richness of this setting. Wherever I walk through town, the mountains are within sight. It’s a sprawling vista that prompted Enos Mills in 1915 to venture that this “splendidly scenic region with its delightful climate appears predestined to become one of the most visited and one of the most enjoyed of all the scenic reservations of the Government.” 14

A disciple of John Muir in the fledgling national parks movement of the early 20th century, Mills arrived in Estes Park as an ailing 15-year-old and soon conquered both Longs Peak and tuberculosis. Fortunately, he didn’t get over his love for these mountains, forests, rivers, and valleys that he succeeded in seeing woven into the National Park System. Estes Park is a natural extension of Rocky Mountain National Park along its eastern border, where it has comfortably shouldered the role of base camp for visitors to this idyllic high country for well more than a century. Hospitality here dates to the 1860s, when the first dude ranch appeared, offering not only traditional hunting, riding, and fishing forays but also mountain climbing excursions for its guests. These days you still have dude ranches from which to choose where you’ll end your day. Through the

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

years my visits have been based out of cabins and condos, all virtually within arm’s length of the park and within sound of the babbling Fall River. Those elk I saw cavorting down Elkhorn Avenue? Their brethren are scattered throughout the park. As I drive up Trail Ridge Road, I constantly pull over to frame elk in my camera’s viewfinder. Horseshoe Park rightly could be called Elk Park, for the animals congregate here in early summer and again in the fall. So, too, do bighorn sheep that clamber down the mountainsides to graze the succulent grasses and take onboard minerals not as readily available in higher elevations. Not so visible are the black bears, mountain lions, and bobcats that also call the park home. Searching for wildlife can be easy as you drive towards the roof of the park along Trail Ridge Road, or more organized tours can be arranged

Photos courtesy of

by enrolling in a Rocky Mountain Nature Association seminar or joining one of the area’s guides for a day. What you do between sunup and sundown depends on how much you want to exert yourself. You can climb Longs Peak, trail ride a horse into the park, take a Jeep tour, pedal a bike, or simply take a hike. But you don’t need to spend all your time in the park. Around town, you can keep busy with a visit to the MacGregor Ranch Museum to better understand the ranching history of the area, or treat your youngsters to fire engine tours at the Stanley Hotel (while adults learn about the haunting that goes on in the hotel). A bit south of town you’ll find the world’s largest key collection (reportedly more than 20,000 keys) at the Baldpate Inn, which will give you your own room key to spend a night or two. Early fall is a great time to visit Estes Park, where you can thank Enos Mills for his belief that these rumpled mountains and their jagged peaks were national park worthy. And, this year you can help kick off Rocky Mountain’s centennial celebration. The year-long party begins on September 4, the park’s 99th birthday. A re-dedication ceremony will bring the celebration to an end on September 4, 2015. The timing of the kickoff coincides almost perfectly with the Elk Fest that arrives in early October. Set for October 4-5, this event celebrates these animals that are ubiquitous with the park and town. Activities during the festival range from elk viewing tours and bugling contests to Native American music and dancing. Get up early, or stay out late, and you can catch the bulls as they bugle to summon their harems. No matter how you leave Estes Park for Rocky Mountain National Park, the trip into the park will be quick, and reward you with gorgeous landscapes, tumbling waters, and plenty of wildlife to fill your camera. At day’s end, Estes Park will be waiting for you.

By Carli Jones


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

What is better than packing a car with sleeping bags, tents, new tunes, and good friends? Not much in my opinion! Here in northern Utah I am spoiled with weekend desert adventures that range from meandering around Devils Garden in Arches National Park to canyoneering the narrow ravines of Zion National Park. Exploring the natural wonders, and connecting with friends, is kept alive by the National Park System. The parks make for a great getaway.


ome of my fondest, adolescent memories were generated from time outdoors, enjoying national parks with my family. Revisiting the parks reminds me of my fanny-packtoting childhood. It’s what brings me back time and time again. Despite my outdoor adventures, there has been a steady decline over the years of Millennials visiting the parks, and the National Park Service is concerned that this lack of young visitors will leave future generations disconnected with nature. While this observation stands on its own, there are those of us who plan our vacations around the parks, with our annual park pass handy in the glove compartment. It’s not uncommon for Western Millennials like me to have grown up around weekend trips to the desert; our national parks are nature’s playgrounds. The avid park visitors in my generation long to discover the hidden gems each park offers, searching for a truly unique experience. In a recent interview with the Traveler, National Park Service Director Jon Jarvis touched on what Millennials look for when visiting national parks: “They want to experience it in perhaps different ways than their parents did… they want an element of discovery and adventure... they like to [experience national parks] within their peer groups, not necessarily as a family group.” Elements of discovery and adventure are exactly what Millennials hope to find, a sincere one-of-a-kind experience. National parks provide an outlet for us to spend time with genuine friends hiking, biking, climbing or just lighthearted joking around a campfire. Parks set the stage for candid friendships, giving visitors a place to relate to one another outside of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Though city nightlife and skyscrapers are appealing to some, I prefer the serene landscape of towering mountains and the smell of wildflowers in the spring. Searching for new adventures through the charming blossoms and lofty peaks, I snap photos for the sole purpose of sharing these experiences on

Carli Jones in the field / David Glover

social media. Social networking outlets are more than just a virtual domain to keep in touch with the people who come and go from our busy lives. It is where we can share our excursions with not only our friends, but also the world through technological means. Director Jarvis and the National Park Service are very aware of the Millennials’ obsession with staying connected through social media. “They also want to utilize their electronic devices as part of that experience, their iPhones, iPads, whatever the latest device is, they’re not going to leave it at home,” the director told us. “Lack of connectivity is a concern, they want to be able to immediately share that experience on social media. That’s where they exist.” Sometimes our generation can be spotted hiking dirt trails with a device in hand, in an effort to share personal journeys of self-discovery through their love for wildlife. We are tech-savvy and at times, too connected even when “tuning out.” I am guilty of this, too, and look forward to reliving past trips through photo sharing with others. There always seems

Describing the marvels of Yosemite Valley with only words would take eons, yet posting a photo on Instagram or Facebook took only a few seconds.

Opposite page: Carli Jones, second from right, with other millennials gathered at Tenaya Lake in Yosemite National Park / Carli Jones



Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Opposite page: Half Dome from Olmsted Point at Yosemite / Patrick Cone

to be at least one pal who captures our amusing outings effortlessly, from the car ride, to inside jokes, to packing up the campsite. High quality snapshots are more accessible than ever to the common traveler with a cellphone conveniently placed in your back pocket. Why not post and share for the rest of the world to see? The question seems to answer itself. Just last summer, a group of friends and I managed to roadtrip our way from Salt Lake City, Utah, to Yosemite National Park in California. For an ambitious group of 20-something vagabonds, just arriving at the park in one piece was a feat in and of itself. Through social media, each one of us was able to share and document the entire journey with those back home, inspiring them to visit the stunning 1,169 square miles playground for themselves. Describing the marvels of Yosemite Valley with only words would take eons, yet posting a photo on Instagram or Facebook took only a few seconds. Not only do Millennials hope to show off the breathtaking view of lush green pines framing Half Dome from the valley, but they also want to give an exact location so others know where they can go to gaze at the towering granite wonder. Hashtagging and geotagging photos posted on social media outlets allow friends and followers to see exactly where the photo was taken. For the National Park Service, this is great news. Millennials are essentially promoting and exposing national parks online with spectacular photos that capture the beauty and wonder each park offers. “The main reason I moved from Chicago to Utah was to be able to do more stuff outdoors. I can take off Friday afternoon and be camping in Moab or the Tetons in only a few hours. It doesn’t get much better than that,” says Salt Lake City transplant John Conlon. The short, few hours it takes to get from Salt Lake City to Arches National Park feel like heaven after devoting the

Carli Jones, second from right, with girlfriends in the mountains / Jeff Larson

majority of my free time during the week to being indoors attending lectures and memorizing Pi to the tenth place. Did I mention that heaven’s price tag fits well within my starving student budget? Toss a tent, sleeping bag, and few camping essentials into the car and voilà! It’s the perfect recipe to celebrate acing finals week, no matter what the season may be. Add a swimming suit to the mix and I’m ready to raft down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. For those thrill seekers who like to fly, they can pack along their squirrel suit and do some base-jumping near Zion, or skydiving just outside of Arches. Free-falling through towering sandstone formations is an experience not many try. Those brave enough to take the leap are likely to remember the experience unlike any other. While some wonder why kids don’t engage with the outdoors, I’m here to tell you that we like to experience it in different ways than our parents did. Challenging the traditional camping weekend and making each getaway different from the last is what makes trips to national parks exciting. We are more prone to canyoneering, base-jumping, hang gliding, or bouldering along the side of busy trails trying to make each visit more memorable than the last. I don’t plan to stop visiting our parks, ever.

While some wonder why kids don’t engage with the outdoors, I’m here to tell you that we like to experience it in different ways than our parents did.


Pick A National


Twelvemile Beach at Au Sable Point with Grand Sable Dunes in the distance / NPS


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014


By Greg Breining

For A Relaxing Summer Vacation Though there are just four national lakeshores, each offers a wonderful mix of summertime activities.


Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, where Lake Superior’s stupendous power pounds Michigan’s craggy shore, is a tremendous place to kayak. But plan for a few extra days unless you have a really favorable weather report. Pictured Rocks runs along 40 miles of shoreline northeast of Munising. Cliffs of Cambrian sandstone rise from the lake’s clear, cold waters – some more than 200 feet above lake level. There are rocks on one side and 100 miles of open lake on the other. That makes for some dicey paddling when the wind whips out of the north or northwest, but, thankfully, there’s plenty to do in the meantime. My trip to the park illustrates the point. Our first day, my wife, Susan, and I paddled from Munising out to Grand Island National Recreation Area. While it’s not part of the national park, it’s still a terrific place to paddle, dawdle in sea caves, and camp on the beach. The second day, aware of impending rough weather, we struck camp and beat a hasty bearing to the cliffs of Pictured Rocks. We intercepted the shore near Miner’s Castle, an imposing headland, and followed the cliffs to the northeast. These tall, massive cliffs, pock-marked by indentations and rock pillars, are interrupted by pocket beaches. A nifty hole in a cliff spouted water as waves slapped its face. These cliffs are named for the deposits of minerals that leach from the cliffs to stain their lake-ward face. The sandstone is predominantly a rich

Exploring Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore by kayak can involve negotiating arches Lake Superior has carved into the landscape / Greg Breining

buckskin color, with vertical traces of bright orange, lurid purple, rust brown, and even indigo and turquoise. Bobbing on the building waves, we weaved and sloshed drunkenly through the massive sea arch at the point known as Lover’s Leap. (Longago tourists or local boosters dusted off their best Victorian cliches, hence Lover’s Leap, Indian Head, and Bridal Veil Falls.) We continued to Grand Portal Point, a foreboding, for boating, knuckle of sandstone pointing north toward Ontario. Well, enough fun for the day. Rather than hang out fully exposed to the open lake, we retraced our way back toward Munising. The next morning, six-foot waves filled the lake all the way to Canada, beating the base of the cliffs mercilessly. There’d be no paddling on the big lake that day—or the next, as it


turned out. But we found other things to do. Some 90 miles of trail wind through 73,000 acres at Pictured Rocks. Much of the mileage follows the high cliffs above the lakes. We hiked to the precipice of Spray Falls, where Spray Creek launches into thin air in a free fall to the lake, and we walked White Pine Trail beneath mammoth beeches and hemlock. We were barely able to clasp our arms around a hemlock – at least 10 feet around. Susan left for home, and the next day, when the wind finally abated, I left my camp on Little Beaver Lake and paddled along a short channel into Beaver Lake and then down sandy, crystal-clear Beaver Creek. After portaging a massive logjam, I reentered the stream and bobbed onto Lake Superior. The cliffs were behind me as I paddled east, but more than half of Pictured Rocks’ shoreline still lay ahead of me. I made an astonishing discovery: the namesake cliffs were only part of the attraction. I paddled along the endless sand of Twelvemile Beach, which was even more enjoyable. Through late morning and early afternoon, I paddled, stopped, and lounged whenever I wanted. The Grand Sable Dunes became visible as I rounded the point, revealing the white cylinder of Au Sable Light. Huge sand hills sloped up more than 200 feet from the water to form a big slanted beach. I vowed that next time I came to Pictured Rocks, I’d take a quick look at the rocks and spend the rest of my time at the beach, perfect for its beauty and solitude.

If you go: The best time to paddle Pictured Rocks is during July and August, when water is at its warmest and weather most likely to be calm. Winds rise in September, but you’ll have more privacy. Except on the warmest, calmest days, you’ll want to wear a life vest and a wetsuit or drysuit. Keep an eye out for the tour boats that bring tourists to see the cliffs. If you don’t have gear or experience, go with an outfitter. Paddling Michigan/Uncle Ducky Outfitters, 1331 West M28, Munising, MI 49862. 877-228-5447. For trip information, check Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, P.O. Box 40, Munising, MI 49862-0040. 906-387-3700. A backcountry permit is required to stay overnight in Pictured Rocks. Permits must be obtained in person and not more than one day before your departure. For access points and lakeshore campsites suitable for kayaking, see Backcountry Trip Planner.


Sailors enjoy views of historic light stations that long have helped keep mariners safe / NPS


Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, Wisconsin

It would be overly simplistic to define Apostle Islands National Lakeshore merely through its watery connection to Lake Superior. True, the lakeshore is comprised of 21 islands that dot the lake, but this 69,372-acre mix of water and land also boasts more lighthouses than any unit of the National Park System. There are geologic oddities such as the sea caves that Lake Superior has carved into the shoreline. Plus, this area still retains some of the best examples of a boreal-temperate forest landscape in the Great Lakes region. And, of course, there is the lake. Apostle Islands is often overlooked by the rest of the country, but is well known among park travelers from Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota. That changed a great deal this past winter, when enduring cold froze Superior and turned those sea caves into ice caves, dripping with fanciful frozen formations. Media attention from throughout the country and as far away as Austra-

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Kayaks are a great way to explore Apostle Islands many islands / NPS

lia generated the heaviest tourism the lakeshore has seen, winter or summer. For those who prefer summer visits, Apostle Islands is a kayaker’s paradise. Of the 21 islands (presumably named by early Jesuits who, on early maps, referred to the scattering of islands as “Isle de 12 Apostles”) you may camp on 19 of them. Got two weeks available for paddle-driven exploration? Apostle Islands can accommodate you. Campers without boats can take

scheduled excursions to island campsites. The Stockton Island trip, for instance, offers a chance to hike and camp on the largest island in the park. Walk the beach at Julian Bay here and you’ll discover the sand squeaks musically underfoot. If you prefer to explore on foot, the lakeshore’s eight light towers harken to an earlier day when lightkeepers worked to warn Lake Superior ships away from the islands. Five are open for tours during the high season.

If you go:  Sight-seeing cruises are the best way to explore the lakeshore if you don’t have time, or feel comfortable, heading out in a kayak. Concessionaire cruises will take you on a 55-mile tour of Lake Superior, with great views of the Raspberry and Devils Island lighthouses as well as the sea caves. Take the half-day cruise to Raspberry Island in July and August and you can benefit from a ranger-led tour of the historic lighthouse, which first flashed its beacon in 1863 and which has been refurbished to reflect its early 20th century appearance. Hikers who take the Tombolo Trail on Stockton Island not only have sea gulls overhead, but you might spot black bear tracks on the beach, hear the chortling of sandhill cranes, or catch the laughter of loons. Divers have four wrecks they can explore.


Sleeping Bear Dunes / NPS

How Did Sleeping Bear Get Its Name?

Long ago, along the Wisconsin shoreline, a mother bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. The bears swam for many hours, but eventually the cubs tired and lagged behind. Mother bear reached the shore and climbed to the top of a high bluff to watch and wait for her cubs. Too tired to continue, the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear. — NPS

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan

Bears, water, and sand are the main themes that run through this lakeshore that hugs the main arm of Lake Michigan; bears that drew life in Anishinaabek legend, water that flows both rhythmically and tempestuously, and the sand that towers over the landscape. But there are also sun-splashed beaches perfect for escaping summer’s heat, a rich maritime history, and the newest wilderness area in the country that offers a 32,557acre mix of beachfront, dunes that rise 450 feet above Lake Michigan, islands, and wetlands and hardwood forests that lure some of the 240 bird species counted at the lakeshore. It’s that natural Great Lakes coastal beauty that earned Sleeping Bear distinction as the “Most Beautiful Place in America” from Good Morning America viewers. That type of branding can generate crowds, and with 1.3 million visitors in 2013, Sleeping Bear was the second-most visited of the four national lakeshores. But you can still enjoy that beauty without crowds. For starters, avoid Platte River Point, and North Bar Lake. Instead, explore the Port Oneida Rural Historic District with its turn-of-the-century collection of well-preserved farms. Head out to South Manitou or North Manitou islands (ferries leave from Leland), relax at 669 Beach on Good Harbor Bay, or explore the landscape via the Old Indian, Windy Moraine, or Cottonwood hiking trails. The 4-mile Old Indian Trail offers sweeping views of Lake Michigan. Windy Moraine is a 1 1/2 mile loop through a forest of beech-maple and pines, while Cottonwood runs about 1.5 miles through rolling dunes, though hiking through sand makes it a bit more strenuous.


Swimmers savor the long summer days in Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore / NPS

Those who venture to South or North Manitou islands are in for a treat. South Manitou Island features a U.S. Life-Saving Service station built in 1901 (one of three U.S. Live-Saving Service stations on the lakeshore), a now-retired lighthouse and Keeper’s quarters that you can tour, and remnants of a farming community that dates to the late 1800s. North Manitou Island is managed almost entirely as wilderness. As such, most visitors come for backpacking and camping.

If you go: The Dune Climb and the Dunes Hike Trail are great experiences, but they also are strenuous. In mid-summer, if you hike the trail on a high dunes plateau, fully exposed to the sun overhead, take plenty of water, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunscreen. The 27-mile-long Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, when completed, will provide a fully accessible experience for hikers, bicyclist, walkers, cross-country skiers and people of all physical abilities.



Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Indiana

Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore shares Lake Michigan with Sleeping Bear Dunes, which is 275 miles to the north. Indiana Dunes is a quilted landscape of sorts, interspersed as it is with industrial sites and a state park. Yet this lakeshore provides an escape to the beach and offers a cultural window into the past. Despite the crowding of the surrounding urban environment, Indiana Dunes is a rich ecological island. Though it covers just 15 miles of beachfront, and 15,000 acres overall, the biological diversity here is among the highest in the National Park System. Pinhook Bog, for example, is Indiana’s only true bog. Here a layer of sphagnum moss floats atop an ancient lake and serves as the rooting medium

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

for a forest. The Cowles Bog Complex is a mix of wetlands that is a small remnant of an area known as the Great Marsh, where an open body of water flowed into Lake Michigan 4,000 years ago. The bog is being restored with native plants with a goal to boost the lakeshore’s biological diversity, provide a resting place for migratory birds, and create a rich outdoor classroom. You can explore the lakeshore’s environment by examining glacial moraines left behind 14,000 years ago by retreating Wisconsin glaciers, fishing the Little Calumet River, or strolling through an oak forest. Tours of Pinhook Bog are possible, too, though you have to go with a ranger. Of course, summertime beckons visitors to the beach and the cool waters of Lake Michigan. Families should consider heading to the lakeshore’s West Beach, which in 2011 was recognized by Parents Magazine as one of

Cardinal in Cowles Bog / NPS

“America’s Ten Best Beaches for Families.” Kayakers can paddle along a 15-mile stretch of the Lake Michigan Water Trail that runs between Chicago, Illinois, and Michigan City, Indiana. When completed, the water trail is expected to loop along the entire 1,600-mile coastline of Lake Michigan.

If you go: While Lake Michigan’s waters can be refreshing, they can also be dangerous. Under extreme conditions the lake can take on the appearance of a sea, with high waves and dangerous rip currents. Though it’s been more than 70 years since the 1933 World’s Fair was staged, you can still tour five historic homes from that World’s Fair. The Century of Progress tours in October let you see the insides of the Cypress Log Cabin, House of Tomorrow, Florida Tropical, Armco Ferro, and Wieboldt-Rostone houses. Watch the lakeshore’s website for details for this year’s tours. Head to Indiana Dunes in March and you can take part in Maple Sugar Time at the historic Chellberg Farm, when the pioneer art of boiling down sap in open iron kettles over wood fires is practiced.

Kayaking, lighthouse explorations, bird watching, hiking, camping, or simply relaxing on a beach with a book. The choice is yours.


Saint-Gaudens posed with his assistants for this photo in 1905 / NPS

North Cascades National Park, a wild and rugged landscape begging exploration / Patrick Cone


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Checkerboard Mesa at Zion National Park / Patrick Cone

On The Road Again

By Patrick Cone

...In The National Park System The open road beckons most in summer, but deciding exactly where to head can be difficult. Each of these trips into the National Park System offers a wonderful weekend escape, or you can truly dally and turn each into a week’s exploration.

Drift Back in Time

If you’ve read any history of the Revolutionary War, you know how fickle and lucky we were to be triumphant in our quest for freedom. That’s evident throughout the city of Boston and within the surrounding countryside. Standing in the spots that made history can make the past come to life for the whole family. This trip is about what was, and now is. At Boston National Historical Park, put on your walking shoes and walk the Freedom Trail from north to south. You’ll go from Bunker Hill (where the British got a hint of what was to come), on to the Old North Church (where lanterns signaled their invasion), and then to the Paul Revere House. Faneuil Hall has been called the Cradle of Liberty, where in 1764 the seeds of dissent were sown. Put yourself in the shoes of the citizens in 1770 when British arms were used against unarmed citizens at the site of the Boston Massacre, and finish your day at Boston Common, since 1634 America’s oldest public park. Venturing afield to fill in the story, head a half hour westward towards Concord on Highway 2 where the opening battle of the War of Independence took place on April 19, 1775. Here, Minuteman National Historical Park preserves the artifacts, stories, and landscape that forged a nation. Another 2.5 hours up I-89 are two notable historic gems of the National Park System. Near the town of Windsor, New Hampshire, is Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site, the grounds of one of America’s greatest sculptors. Augustus Saint-Gaudens was the designer of the 1907 $20 gold coin, and creator of the well-known Standing Lincoln statue. With its extensive galleries, grounds, nature trails, and public concerts, this gorgeous, hardwood-

Percy Moran painted this version of the Bunker Hill battle in 1905 / Library of Congress

forested mountain setting is a great destination. The exhibit on Abraham Lincoln, whom the sculptor knew personally, connects us with our past triumphs, and tragedies. Just 22 miles to the west, across the Connecticut River in Woodstock, Vermont, is the Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park. There, under 400-year-old hemlocks and sugar maples is a landscape dotted with stone walls and covered bridges. It’s an agrarian legacy of conservation and sustainability. This operating dairy farm (c.1871) has been, and remains, a model of ecological philosophy since 1865’s publication of George Perkins Marsh’s book, Man and Nature. Time your visit to the park’s calendar and you’ll find sheep-shearing demonstrations and horse-drawn wagon rides, free ice cream, and ongoing dairy operations in 19th century barns. You’ll shudder at just how much work it took to survive a century ago, compared to our ease of existence today. Deeply deforested during the


Sea stacks are just one side of Olympic National Park / Patrick Cone

1800s, more than 10,000 trees have since been planted, making the park a shady, cool respite even on the warmest summer day. And, the Sunday summer concert series attracts musicians from around the world. It’s a trip back in time.

From Sea to Peak

its crashing surf and tidepools. It’ll take about four hours to drive from the coast to Mount Rainier, via the state capitol in Olympia, but once there everything is big. Rivers are big, trees are big, and the mountain is massive and tall at 14,410 feet. The geologic displays are stunning, so follow highway 706 through Ashford to Highway 123, through the park’s Nisqually Entrance and on to Longmire and Paradise on the south slope, before continuing around the eastern edge of the mountain on 123. Take a side trip into Yakima Park—the grassy meadows surrounding Sunrise—before heading back downhill while paralleling the White River, one of six major rivers that start on the mountain. Then it’s time to head north four hours to the North Cascades National Park Complex, first east to Yakima on Highway 410, then north to Wenatchee. A sidetrip to Lake Chelan, and a boat ride on the Lady of the Lake to the wilderness hamlet of Stehekin, is a great diversion. At Okanagan head northwest towards the ski village of Mazama, and then it’s up over the Pacific crest, where fjord-like lakes, jagged peaks, and the occasional semi-dormant volcanos of Mt. Baker, Mt. Shuksan, and Glacier Peak jut skyward. Time things right and your three-hour drive back to Seattle will coincide with the blooming of the tulip fields along the Skagit River Valley, a sight to behold. It’s big country, and a bit of road time, but the scenery will certainly keep your interest.

Washington state’s Puget Sound is a forested metropolis, braided with inlets and bays and ringed by steep, glacier-clad peaks. On the west skyline, the stately, wet Olympic Mountains grab moisture from the ocean clouds to nurture the temperate rain forest of Olympic National Park. To the east the queen-mother’s throne, nearly three-mile-high Mount Rainier, holds court on clear days in its namesake park. The sawtooth ridges and deep canyons of North Cascades and its national park complex march towards the north. Summer in the Northwest can mean days of glorious blue skies, a welcome respite after a foggy winter and rainy spring. It’s an ideal time to tour these three jewels of the National Park System, starting in Seattle. From the wharf take a bracing ferry ride to the Olympic Peninsula, and day hike Marmot Pass into the park. Then drive the southern edge of the Strait of Juan de Fuca towards Port Angeles (80 miles from Seattle), watching the ship traffic going and coming. The Hurricane Hill Trail near the roof of Olympic National Park is a short, easy hike with a tremendous panoramic view, but take a raincoat because this ridgeline can live up to its name. Use a map to find Lake Crescent, Cape Flattery (the western-most point in the contiguous states), and the coastal side of the park with 28

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

There’s Cold in Those Hills

The Black Hills have long been considered sacred ground by the native people, and after a visit here, perhaps you will too. Start your journey in Rapid City, South Dakota, which is set against the eastern slope of the mountains. The history here, of miners, soldiers, and native tribes, is fascinating. Gold drew the original settlers, but tourism now sustains the region. Just 90 minutes (53 miles) south of Rapid City is Wind Cave National Park, which treasures one of the world’s longest caves at 140 miles. The natural opening “’breathes” with changing weather and pressure. The whistling sound of escaping air gave the cave its name. On the surface, herds of bison and elk graze the grassy meadows. Prairie dogs chirp from their mounds as eagles soar above. Underneath it all are the unique formations that occur when limestone is carved by underground streams. Thin blades of calcite are built up in a honeycomb formation (called boxwork), along with cave popcorn, helictite bushes, and calcite rafts. The cave is a fragile fairyland of stunning natural beauty. There’s camping a mile away, and visitor center for the curious. Only 35 miles to the west, on the south end of the Black Hills, is another wellknown natural site: Jewel Cave National Monument. Here you’ll find the thirdlongest cave in the world, with nearly 170 miles of passages. Sign up for a guided cave tour, but take a coat - it’s only 49°F, which will feel pretty good on a hot sum-

A painting inside the visitor center at Devils Tower portrays the legend of how a bear trying to climb the outcrop left its claw marks in the rock / NPS

Grafton, Utah, nearby to Zion National Park, was a backdrop for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid / Patrick Cone

mer day. Originally developed as a calcite mine by the Michaud brothers in 1900, it’s now operated by the National Park Service, and is a popular destination for adventurers and families. Of course the most-visited site in the Black Hills is not a natural feature, but four huge faces. Mount Rushmore National Memorial is just an hour’s drive northeast of Jewel Cave, and here the action is all above ground. The larger-than-life faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln gaze down from the granite cliffs, a monument to America. Sculptor Gutzon Borglum spent 14 years on the mountain, finishing his work in 1941. There’re exhibits, campgrounds, and all tourist services down below their profiles. If you’re looking to get away from the crowds again, head north on Highway 385 towards the rough but refurbished town of Deadwood, then keep going towards one of the truly stunning landmarks of this world: Devils Tower. Just off the northwest corner of the Black Hills, this volcanic butte has won fame in movies, on Wyoming license plates, and for its challenging basalt rock climbing routes. A Lakota Sioux legend tells how the columns were formed by a giant bear’s claws, and named Bears Lodge (Matea T’ipila). As a sacred native site you’ll see medicine bundles left as offerings at its base. Rapid City is 100 miles back east along Interstate 90 to close your loop.

Rocks and Roll Through Canyon Country For mind-blowing scenery, vast vistas of eroded stone, and rugged topography, Utah is the place. The Beehive State

is home to five national parks (Arches, Bryce, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef, Zion) and five national monuments (Cedar Breaks, Grand Staircase-Escalante (managed by the BLM), Rainbow Bridge, Natural Bridges, and Hovenweep) for good reason. It’s the greatest earth on show. You can spend a week, a month, a summer, or a lifetime exploring this landscape of deep chasms, forested peaks, and rushing waters. For 200 miles and over a few days, you can take this quick tour to get a taste of this place, and visit some gems of the National Park System. It’s a desert like no other. Start your tour in St. George, Utah (120 miles northeast of Las Vegas). Once a Mormon outpost, this is now a tourist, golf, and retirement community in what is called Utah’s Dixie. Red cliffs and pine-top peaks ring the valley, and a white-washed Mormon Temple stands like a sentinel against the blue sky. Your adventure starts with a quick (42 miles - less than an hour) drive along the Virgin River to Zion National Park. Think of this as Yosemite in sandstone. It’s a magic kingdom of canyons, waterfalls, desert pools, and sheer walls. Take a misty walk up the Virgin Narrows Canyon, or scare yourself with a hike up the classic Angels Landing Trail. From Zion, head north 60 miles up Interstate 15 towards Cedar City and Cedar Breaks National Monument (with a 5-mile sidetrip to the Kolob Canyon section of Zion). Cedar Breaks is a half-mile-deep amphitheater of stone etched out of the colorful Markagunt Plateau, dropping from the forested rim at 10,000 feet. Take a hike along the Spectra Point Trail through wildflowers towards the ancient bristlecone pine groves. Bring your spotting scope,

Cedar Breaks National Monument is home to some of the oldest trees on the continent, such as this Bristlecone Pine / Patrick Cone

or borrow a look at the dark skies, at the park’s Saturday night Star Parties. Highway 148 is open from late May through October, once the deep snowbanks have melted. Heading east across the forested plateaus along Highway 143 you’ll find your way to Bryce Canyon National Park 40 miles away. Scenic Byway Highway 12 winds its way up through crimson rock tunnels through Red Canyon on the way up again to high altitude. Descriptions of Bryce fail to describe it, but the red and orange limestone pillars (called hoodoos) resemble a forest of stone. Hiking trails drop maze-like through them for a few-minute stroll, or an all-day hike. On most any day you can see 200 miles in any direction from atop the scenic drive There are shuttles, campgrounds, and lodges up on top as well. From Bryce Canyon head south again on Highway 89. This road was once the main north-south route for travelers decades ago, as evidenced by the many relic gas stations and motels. It’s a slower paced trip back towards Zion 84 miles down the road. After entering the park from the east you’ll drive through the Navajo sandstone domes and drainages of Checkerboard Mesa. Drive through the mile-long Mount Carmel Tunnels, carved through the sandstone landscape, and back towards St. George once again. There’re dozens of interesting stops all along the way, including the ghost town at Grafton downriver from the park, made famous by a bikeriding Paul Newman in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Next time, add another week to take it all in.


| Sponsored content |

Ruby’s Inn: Western Hospitality On The Doorstep Of Bryce Canyon By Patrick Cone

It sounds counterintuitive to head to the Utah desert this summer to cool off. But Utah is an enigma: it is desert, canyons, and high mountains in one trip. You find groves of Ponderosa pines and wildflower meadows in abundance in Bryce Canyon National Park. The days are warm, the nights are chilly. The view of the desert is astounding, and at night visibility is measured in light-years.



ravelers from around the world come to Bryce to marvel at what time, wind, and water have created: an amphitheater of pinnacles, pillars, and hoodoos. The rosy morning sunlight on the red, orange, and cream-colored limestone is pure magic, and a photographer’s dream. But, unless you want to drive up Red Canyon from Highway 89 in the dark, it’s best to spend the night here, either at one of the nearby lodges or campgrounds. The park’s North and Sunset campgrounds fill up fast, but if you’d rather have a warmer experience, then stop at Ruby’s Inn at the park entrance. In 1916 Reuben “Ruby” Syrett built his family ranch on this high, forested ridge, and soon was showing visitors the wonders of the area. That led to his Tourist Rest lodge a few years later. Then, in 1923, Bryce was designated a national monument, a development that lured more visitors and turned Ruby’s into the de facto base camp from which daily excursions into the monument were launched. In the ensuing decades this hostelry—affectionately known by locals and repeat

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

A massive stone fireplace is the focal point of the lobby at Ruby’s Inn / Ruby’s Inn

visitors simply as Ruby’s Inn—continued to evolve, adding post office, cafe, gas station, an RV and tent campground with 180 sites, and three lodges with a total of 700 rooms: Best Western Plus Ruby’s Inn, Best Western Plus Bryce Canyon Grand Hotel, and the Bryce View Lodge. These days you’ll also find a rock shop, photo supplies, and an auto mechanic on site, too. It’s just about the center of activity at Bryce Canyon.

There’s a lot to do up here at Ruby’s, from horseback rides, ATV and mountain bike rides and rodeos to helicopter tours. If you’re looking for one-of-a-kind merchandise, the gift shop offers everything from ice cream and fishing tackle to native jewelry, artworks, and the requisite postcards. Start your day with a calorieintense breakfast for a long day hike, or finish the day with dinner, a swim in the inn’s pool, and a soft bed. Summer is the busy season, so call ahead to reserve one of Ruby’s 700 rooms, or one of their 180 campsites. Inside the park, walk the rim, bike the trails, or hike the trails. Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday throughout the summer attend one of the park’s star parties, where Bryce Canyon’s “dark rangers” will guide you across the night skies, and offer you some time at one of their telescopes. Then return to Ruby’s and cozy up in front of a blazing fire in the lobby and make plans to return come winter when snow falls deep and snowshoes or cross-country skis are the gear on which you tour the fairyland of stone. It’s a magical spot. You might even run into some of the Syrett family, who know how to welcome visitors with genuine Western hospitality.

Ruby’s Inn offers visitors entertainment at Ebenezers, trail rides, and charming cabins set in the pines / Ruby’s Inn


It’s Summertime And The

Shorebirds Are Busy By Kirby Adams

Birding is all about seasons, but the birds’ schedules don’t always conform with our calendars. For different groups of birds, our summer can mean a variety of things. For migratory songbirds, it’s nesting season. The eggs are laid and hatch, then the young are fledged and sent off on their own. For the American Goldfinch, summer is more like spring, a time to gather in flocks and find mates for their nesting, which may not begin until late summer.

Red knots face a struggle to survive due to deteriorating habitat and foods / USFWS


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014


any shorebirds, however, view summer as fall. By the time the official solar summer begins in late June, shorebirds can already be found headed south for the winter. “Fall” migration of shorebirds along the Atlantic Coast heats up in July and August. The beaches of the Atlantic and Gulf coast parks, from Padre Island National Seashore in Texas all the way to Cape Cod National Seashore in Massachusetts, provide important stop-over habitat for some long-distance migrant shorebirds, and wintering grounds for others. An August afternoon at Cape Cod National Seashore can produce thousands of shorebirds. Semipalmated Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, Sanderlings, Short-billed Dowitchers, Semipalmated Sandpipers, and Red Knots will appear in gatherings of several dozen to as many as several thousand in the case of the sandpipers. Red Knots and turnstones are far more deliberate in behavior than their smaller sandpiper cousins, which have a penchant for sprinting across beaches on short, jetblack legs. Red Knots move slowly and peck deliberately at the sand or mud. The Red Knot is known for one of the longest annual migrations of any bird, over 9,000 miles from the high Arctic to the southern tip of South America – and back again. One particular Red Knot became known as the Moon Bird because, after being banded in Argentina in 1995, it was estimated he had traveled the distance to the moon. Since then, this bird, known officially as “B95” for the code on his leg band, has migrated enough miles to get halfway back from the moon again! Birders excitedly scope and photograph any Red Knot with orange leg bands to see if the “B95” can be seen on the band, indicating the Moon Bird has lived to log another season of globetrotting. Individual fame aside, Red Knots are in trouble. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has proposed listing the rufa subspecies of Red Knot that travel up the Atlantic Coast as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. This particular species has declined by 75 percent over the past three decades, largely due to habitat loss and ecological factors. Climate change is causing dwindling food supplies at the Arctic nesting grounds, while their favorite food during spring migration – horseshoe

Piping Plover from Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore / Kirby Adams

crab eggs – is disappearing due to heavy harvesting of the crabs. A decision on the listing is expected this coming fall. A shorebird that is already listed as threatened is also a prized find for birders along the Atlantic Coast, as well as the Great Lakes. The Piping Plover is a diminutive shorebird with a habit of building nests in shallow depressions right on sandy beaches. The birds themselves have a sandy-colored back, making them nearly invisible on a beach unless they’re moving. There are estimated to be fewer than 7,000 individuals alive today, with a little more than half of them nesting on Atlantic beaches. During nesting season, use of offroad vehicles and other visitor traffic is prohibited near nesting sites to protect the cryptic birds and their nests. At Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina, the nesting closures can encompass areas up to 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) across due to heavy foot and vehicle traffic.

Closures are far smaller around nest sites on the more secluded Great Lakes beaches. At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, birders can observe nests from only a few dozen yards away at several beaches. In early summer, the chicks go exploring on the beach, venturing ever closer to the chilly Lake Michigan waves. A patient birder can recline motionless on the sand and have Piping Plovers run past within just a few feet, a real treat with such a critically endangered bird. Try your hand at some shorebirding this summer at your favorite national seashore or lakeshore. Binoculars, a spotting scope, and a lounge chair are all you’ll need to spend a summer afternoon watching flocks of shorebirds stop by to fuel up on their way south. And make sure to keep your eyes on the Red Knots. You never know when you might spot the Moon Bird making one more trek across the globe.



Summer Gear Guide A Tale Of Two Tents Let’s face it, backpacking tents are cut small, almost ensuring a packed sardine feeling for their occupants. While it’s nice to snuggle up with your significant other, sometimes that generates way too much heat, and shifting positions can wake your partner. Fortunately, there are times when you have some leeway to avoid that cramped feeling, such as when you’re paddling a canoe or kayak or car camping. These are occasions when you can haul a bit more gear without breaking your back. Sierra Design’s Flash 3 and Mountain Hardwear’s Optic 3.5 are a couple of three-season tents to turn to when weight isn’t a driving factor. Both are designed to hold three people, which makes them wonderfully spacious for two.

Sierra Design’s Flash 3

Sierra Design’s Flash 3

This roomy tent features an attached rainfly, something that ensures the interior stays dry from the point when it leaves its stuff sack until it’s upright, a transition that takes minutes and provides you with a low-slung, wind-shedding, gale-withstanding shelter. The doors on either end are not covered by vestibules, but rather awnings that jut 17 inches out from the tent body. This makes access easy, greatly enhances visibility, and allows you to keep the door open in the rain, unless winds are whipping the precipitation sideways. On the tent sides the fly extends a good way out, creating storage compartments on both sides to keep packs, boots, and other gear out of the weather yet within easy reach. Zippered openings in the interior walls allow you quick access to your gear. Additional mesh pockets attached to the walls hold smaller items such as flashlights, wallets, and cellphones. Good separation between the mesh interior walls of the Flash 3 (MSRP $400) and the outer rainfly provide excellent ventilation to ward off condensation on the coldest nights. Setup is quick: less than 5 minutes for one person, even quicker with a helper. Inside, you have 41 square feet of floor space and 44 inches from floor to ceiling at the peak. Packed, this tent weighs 6 pounds, 3 ounces.

Mountain Hardwear’s Optic 3.5

This is another spacious, albeit slightly unusual, option for two people who like to stretch out in the backcountry. The non-traditional approach taken by the designers is to place one door on the side of the tent and another on the end. When the detachable rainfly is covering the tent, this approach provides good visibility out one side of the tent and out one end. There are, though, no windows on the other walls. Leave the rainfly off and the mesh walls allow visibility in all directions... and great airflow. With 45 square feet of interior space, the Optic 3.5 (MSRP $285) is a bit larger than the Flash 3. It also offers 12 square feet of vestibule space to stow your gear out of the weather. At 6 pounds, 11 ounces, it’s comparable in weight. The Optic 3.5 offers interior stowage space in the form of five mesh pockets for small items such as glasses, flashlights, and, if needed, bear spray. As with the Flash 3, this tent goes up quickly. The fly reaches practically to the ground, ensuring a dry night’s sleep in a downpour.

Both tents offer loops near the ceiling to install optional gear lofts or to run lines for hanging items.

Mountain Hardwear’s Optic 3.5


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

How to decide which tent to go with? You could flip a coin. Or, if your normal backpacking trips take you into dry regions with little chance of rain, the Optic 3.5 provides an airy night’s sleep with the rainfly left in the stuff sack until needed. If you’re more concerned about precipitation, the Flash 3 is the way to go.

A Place For You, And Another For Your Meal Big Agnes made its name with sleeping bags, pads, and tents, but this Colorado company didn’t stop there. Two items worthy of your gear box are the company’s Helinox Table One and Chair One. These two lightweight, small-packing, quick assembling pieces of camp furniture make life in camp a tad more comfortable.

Table One

(MSRP $99.95, 1 pound, 5 ounces) comes with two mesh cup holders in the middle of a tabletop measuring 24 inches by 16 inches and standing 16 inches above the dirt.

Chair One

(MSRP $99.95, 2 pounds) will hold up to 320 pounds, keep you 13.5 inches above the dirt, and has a mesh back panel to keep you cool.

Staying Warm In The Middle Of The Night Evolution isn’t unheard of when it comes to backpacking gear, and Sierra Designs and Therm-A-Rest have products that are proof of that when it comes to keeping you warm in your tent.

Sierra Design’s Backcountry Bed

Sierra Designs continues to be a trend-setter with its Backcountry Bed, a three-season sleeping bag that’s a cross between a mummy bag and a down comforter. While mummy bags are great when it’s cold, a key flaw in moderate weather is that you have to unzip to cool off. The result is one cool/cold side of your body, and one warm/hot side. Sierra Designs solves this problem with the Backcountry Bed. While the basic mummy shape helps contain body heat, a panel on the top of the bag can be tossed back much as you would the covers of your bed. Fold the panel back, and you also have two insulated pockets to keep your hands warm. The design does away with the need for zippers, so no snagging in the middle of the night as you’re trying to zip up or zip down to adjust to your comfort zone. There’s a foot opening to poke your feet through if things get too hot down there as well. These sleeping bags come with either 800- or 600-fill down, in either two-season or three-season models. Since men sleep a little warmer than women, the women’s versions of these bags carry a bit more insulation (and a bit more price). A sleeve on the back of the bag holds your sleeping pad in place. If that’s not enough bang for the buck, Sierra Design stuffs these bags with its DriDown, so a wet bag will dry more quickly than other down bags. The 600-fill 3-season bag (MSRP $300 men’s, $340 women’s) is rated to 28/25 degrees, while the 800-fill 3-season bag (MSRP $400 men’s, $440 women’s) is rated to 31/25 degrees. You also can turn to 2-season Backcountry Beds, which are $50 cheaper.


Weekend Warriors For Hauling Camp With You Osprey’s Exos Line

Therm-A-Rest’s Auriga Blanket

There are times when you really don’t need a sleeping bag. River trips in the middle of summer in Utah, for example, when the nighttime temps don’t drop much past 65 degrees. That’s when Therm-A-Rest’s Auriga Blanket (MSRP $270 reg./$290 long) comes in extremely handy. It’s an idea so obvious it should have come about long ago. In essence, this is a blanket filled with 750-fill down that, when paired with a good insulating sleeping pad, will keep you warm down to about 35 degrees. The footbox is designed to slip over the end of your sleeping bag to hold things in place, while baffles run the length of the blanket to help keep out drafts. The blanket even has fasteners to attach to your pad if necessary. While the shoulder and hip girth measurements are just 48 inches, keep in mind that this is a blanket and doesn’t fully wrap you. There’s plenty of room for movement. At just 1 pound, 8 ounces in the long (76 inches) version (fits to 6-foot-4), the Auriga Blanket is a great, lightweight sleeping alternative for summer backpacking trips.


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Backpacks are getting smaller, both out of recognition that aging Baby Boomers don’t have the backs to carry all they once did, and that Millennials wouldn’t think of carrying what their parents once did. And Osprey Packs is constantly tweaking its line of backpacks to mesh with those realities in mind. Their Exos Superlight line is one good example of the transformation to smaller, lighter packs. Within this line come three packs—the 38, 48, and 58—that weigh in between 2 pounds, 3 ounces and 2 pounds, 12 ounces. (MSRP $159.95-$219.95) These packs are streamlined, thanks to ample use of stretch mesh pocketing, have internal sleeves for your hydration system, and have a number of adjustments that can further reduce the weight based on your needs. The lid, for instance, can be removed if you don’t need it. With that detached, a storm flap flips over the top to provide a weather-resistant roof with a compressionstrap cinch for stability. Also, the removable are straps will hold a sleeping pad, or other piece of gear, to the pack bottom. On the front of the pack you’ll find four loops to tie off other pieces of gear. Mesh pockets on either side come about half-way up the length of the pack, and then an integrated compression strapping system can be used to constrain items longer than the pockets. For comfort’s sake, Osprey employs a suspension system pairing a mesh backing for good air circulation and an EVA foam-padded harness. Small pockets on the shoulder straps can hold a GPS device or snack, while zippered pockets on the hip belt can hold slightly larger items. A bonus of this pack’s smallish, stream-lined design is it forces you to think two or three times when you’re packing it at home. Will you really need that heavy fleece jacket? While the pack includes an ice tool attachment, an integrated rain cover might be a more popular option. As it is, you need to purchase that separately. Still, if you’re looking for a lightweight option to hit the trail, this is a good one

Osprey Exos 48

Mountainsmith’s Mystic 65

Mountainsmith’s Mystic 65

This is either a big daypack, or a small backpack, but that makes sense, since Mountainsmith is marketing their new Mystic 65 ($219) pack as the perfect carrier for a 3-day journey. Big enough for what you need for just a quick weekend jaunt into the high country or desert country. So, we though we better try it out. On a recent trip to one of Utah’s sandstone canyons, we were able to stuff a light sleeping bag in the separate, bottom pocket, store rain pants and rain jacket in the top flap, and fill the main compartment with stove and fuel, food sack, and an extra layer of clothes. A tent was easily secured on top along with a sleeping pad, which was cinched down with the aforementioned detachable top pocket. By the way, we’re big fans of detachable top flaps, for use as a quick pack once it’s off. It’ll easily fit rain gear, first aid kit, a few snacks, water bottle and map. Perfect. On the main pack, there’s also a pass-through front pocket panel, stash pockets on each side, and nice tool-mount webbing on the front to clip our canyoneering gear onto. The ICS (illiac crest shelf) hip belt is well-padded, as is the back, and it puts the load squarely on your hips, where you want it to be. And, the large breezeway keeps the back off the pack, to help keep you dry. It’s the largest pack in their Mountainlight series, but still only weighs in at a touch over five pounds, but can carry up to 75 pounds. It’s super comfortable and looks well built, and durable, and we were happy to have a chance to try it out. For those trips when your small pack is too small, and the big one is too big, the Mystic 65 seems just right.

Eagle Creek’s 2-In-1 Backpack/Duffel

Youngsters shouldn’t be left out when you’re hauling gear to camp, and Eagle Creek’s 2-in-1 Backpack/Duffel (MSRP $80) is a good starter pack for children. This isn’t a high-end pack by any stretch, and not designed to haul many pounds. But it can be rigged to either be worn as a daypack or carried as a duffel, and will hold Johnny’s or Susie’s clothing and toiletries, along with a favorite book or stuffed animal. Two mesh side pockets can carry a water bottle or other small items. Use it as a duffel and you get a bit more space, turning a 1710 cubic inch backpack into a 2000 cubic inch duffel.

See more gear reviews on the Traveler

Exploring Trails Mount Rainier National Park’s

By Michael Lanza


Mount Rainier and the Nisqually Glacier from Glacier Vista / NPS


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

he three kids—my 12-year-old son, Nate, and 10-year-old daughter, Alex, plus my 15-year-old nephew, Marco—are slightly less than enthusiastic about our plan to hike the Skyline Trail Loop above Paradise, on the south side of Mount Rainier National Park. My 76-year-old mom, Joanne, normally an eager hiker, shuffles along this morning, still recovering from a long, hard hike up Mount St. Helens two days ago. Our group isn’t exactly the picture of bubbly cheerfulness at the outset of our six-mile day-hike, despite the cobalt sky overhead and made-for-hiking mild temps and slight breeze—the kind of weather for which Pacific Northwest hikers patiently wait out nine months of rain every year, a sign of devoted, true believers. But I know “The Mountain” will charge up my little group’s energy level very soon. Hiking in Mount Rainier National Park, where another five-star panorama usually awaits around the next bend, does not require much patience. Sure enough, before long, we emerge from a copse of resilient confer trees—still outflanked by snow in August—to the kind of view that can make you wonder whether the alpine sun and elevation have conspired to tamper with your delicate brain. But it’s real. Looming very large over a huge chunk of our visual horizon, 14,409-foot Mount Rainier’s visage of snow, gray rock, and cracked, blue-andwhite ice towers several thousand feet above our sprawling, wildflower-filled meadow. Minutes later, we come upon a fat, furry marmot posing for photos on a trailside boulder. Then the kids bound over to a nearby snow slope to run laps up it and “ski” back down on their boot soles,

A Meadow Rover volunteer speaks with a visitor along the Skyline Trail at Paradise / NPS

• The six-mile Skyline Trail loop above Paradise climbs 1,400 feet to a high point of 6,800 feet and delivers almost constant views of Rainier’s south side, as well as St. Helens and Adams in the distance. • The six-mile, out-and-back hike from Van Trump Park Trailhead (4.5 miles above Longmire on the Longmire-Paradise Road) to Christine Falls (minutes from the trailhead), 320-foot Comet Falls, and Van Trump Park, climbs 2,200 feet through ancient rainforest into sub-alpine meadows with views south to St. Helens and Adams. Add two miles round-trip to Mildred Point, at 5,800 feet, an overlook of the Kautz Glacier where mountain goats are known to hang out. • The steep and little-traveled Eagle Peak Trail from Longmire climbs almost 3,000 feet to a saddle just below the summit of Eagle Peak, at the west end of the Tatoosh Range, with cliff-top views gazing across a deep valley at Rainier, which looks close enough to touch. The meadow just below the saddle explodes with wildflowers in mid-summer. • The easy, 1.1-mile walk through the quiet, awe-inspiring Grove of the Patriarchs, on the Ohanapecosh River in the southeast corner of the park, takes you through a forest of giant Douglas firs, western red cedars, and western hemlocks—showing off the breadth of biodiversity in a national park with an elevation range of 13,000 feet. • From Sunrise, on the northeast side of Mt. Rainier—with parking-lot views of three of Rainier’s biggest glaciers—dayhiking options abound. Follow the Wonderland Trail five miles out-and-back to the wildflower meadows above Berkeley Park. With more time and energy, combine that with the loop over Burroughs Mountain, with views across Glacier Basin to the Emmons and Winthrop glaciers on Rainier. • From Mowich Lake on the mountain’s northwest side, Spray Park is a six-mile, out-and-back hike with 2,200 feet of elevation gain to reach the beginning of vast meadows bursting with wildflowers. Give yourself extra time to venture farther out this trail, which boasts some of the best views of Rainier in the park.

Wonderland Trail flowers / Michael Lanza

delighting in the anomaly of playing in snow on a balmy summer day. When we are able to pull our eyes away from Rainier and turn around, we look out at the decapitated ruins of Mount St. Helens and another snowy and icy hulk, 12,280-foot Mount Adams, second-highest peak in Washington, both volcanoes rising high above the forested mountain ridges and valleys. For families or anyone who likes a scenery payoff to match more than their effort, Mount Rainier National Park is a day-hiking paradise—and not just at Paradise, probably the most popular trailhead in the park. Besides views of The Mountain and some of the best wildflower shows in America, park trails offer vistas of some of the biggest glaciers in the Lower 48, waterfalls, roaring whitewater rivers gray with glacial flour, dense rainforest, and occasional sightings of mega-fauna like elk, mountain goats, and black bears. After several visits to the park, I have some favorite day hikes. Go in the first half of August, when the substantial snowpack of winter and spring has melted away enough to reveal a riot of lupine, beargrass, pink monkeyflower, and other wildflowers.



In The Parks This Summer?

By Kurt Repanshek


ummer can pose a difficult problem for national park travelers: Where do you go and what should you do?

You could head to a national seashore or national lakeshore to cool off. Or visit the Rocky Mountains and dip your toes in Iceberg Lake at Glacier National Park in Montana. Perhaps you should visit Nevada and Great Basin National Park’s Baker Creek as it crashes down from 13,000-foot Wheeler Peak. June, July, and August are the months for high-country hikes, whether that high country is along the Teton Crest Trail of Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming or on the forested shoulders of Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park in Maine. Mount Rainier National Park’s high country in Washington state is a cool spot (relatively) in July and August, Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota offers watery miles of backcountry to paddle, and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska is tempting with its 13.2 million acres to wander, whether you do it on foot or in a raft. Wherever you wind up, take a hike. Traveler’s Facebook audience had some great ideas for family hikes in the parks, and we’re happy to share them with you. Just remember, individual capabilities range greatly, and while some hikes might be appropriate for your youngsters, peers in their age group might have difficulties. Bottom line: Judge your children’s ability with safety in mind. And go prepared with plenty of water, wide-brimmed hats, sunscreen, snacks and, if you’re heading into bear country, bear spray. Now, let’s take a look at some hikes!


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Hiking Yosemite’s Mist Trail in summer is a great escape from the heat down below in the Yosemite Valley / Patrick Cone

Ship Harbor Trail in Acadia National Park / Colleen Miniuk-Sperry

Hidden Lake Trail in Glacier National Park / Kurt Repanshek

Acadia National Park, Maine

Glacier National Park, Montana

Acadia’s beautiful Carriage Roads offer a tranquil pedal or stroll through the shade of the park’s hardwood forests. They’re a favorite of Donna Fisher Wilhelm. There are water, trees, and mountains on the South Bubble Trail, which Jeff Klugh calls “A moderate hike with a nice payoff at the top! We still can’t push Bubble Rock over the edge!” Youngsters can handle the 1.2-mile loop of the Ship Harbor Trail. “A nice hike from woodland to the sea,” says Marty Grieger. For more options, check out the park’s hiking page.

One of the most popular, family friendly trails in Glacier is the Hidden Lake Trail, which Pam Winegar Pappas and Marc Poutre both rightly suggest. From Logan Pass it rewards you with wildflower-covered meadows, mountain goats, and the gorgeous lake far down below. The nearby Highline Trail is another great one, notes Cynthia Schwartz, saying, “It’s a great place to take some incredible pictures.” Also receiving votes in Glacier from Haze Mac and Ted Jacobi was the Avalanche Creek Trail, while the nearby Trail of the Cedars is favored by Cindy Shaffer. Both lead you through a bit of temperate rain forests, though the Avalanche Creek Trail is four miles long (vs. 0.7 miles) and the payoff is a gorgeous, towering basin where cataracts plunge into Avalanche Lake.

Arches National Park, Utah The 3-mile roundtrip to Delicate Arch can be challenging to just about everyone on a hot summer day. Though it’s only 1.5 miles one way, the trail marches up across sundrenched slickrock, rounds a corner on a somewhat narrow ledge, and then rewards you with a spectacular view of this iconic arch. Plenty of water for all involved is mandatory. While Pam Nunno favored this hike in Arches, Amie Warth recommended you take your family to Devils Garden with its many trails. You can hike just 1.6 miles roundtrip on a mostly flat trail to Landscape Arch, or get more of a workout by following the nearly 6-mile-long Primitive Loop trail that will appeal to teens.

Big Bend National Park, Texas Summertime hiking in Big Bend can be rigorous, though Inga McFadden recommends the South Rim Trail

Emory Peak view in Big Bend National Park / NPS

with its views of Emory Peak. It does lead you up into higher elevations with its 2,000-foot gain, pulling you to cooler temps. At 12-14.5 miles roundtrip, this is best for families with lots of hiking miles under their boots.

Canyonlands National Park, Utah This red-rock park offers a number of great family trails. A favorite of visitors is Mesa Arch in the Island in the Sky District. It’s short (just a half-mile out and back) and the sunrise will burn an indelible image in your mind as the sun’s rays peak through the arch. That said, youngsters are more apt to prefer clambering atop nearby Whale Rock.

Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio Often overlooked due to its Ohio location, Cuyahoga Valley offers some wonderful hiking options. Toni Stutler recommends the Ledges Trail, which is just about 2 miles (perfect for novice hikers), offers an overlook, and winds through hemlock and yellow birch forests.

Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona Many trail miles can be logged at the Grand Canyon, and not all are youngster friendly. The South Kaibab Trail, recommended by Elena Talladen, is for experienced hikers. A long day can be spent hiking down the trail to Phantom Ranch, enjoying lunch there, and working your way back to the South Rim. Though doing such a hike in one day, particularly during the summer, is frowned upon by park staff. That said, novice hikers will enjoy the 3-mile roundtrip down this trail to Cedar Ridge, where you’ll find gorgeous views and restrooms. Jeannette Brummett suggests the section of the South Rim’s Rim Trail between Monument Creek Vista


and Hermits Rest that is also known as the Hermit Road Greenway Trail. This is roughly 3 relatively level miles one way (you can ride the shuttle bus back to Grand Canyon Village), with some breathtaking views into the canyon.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming Grand Teton is a Western icon for hikers, though some of the hikes are certainly more strenuous and challenging than others. Reaching the Teton Crest Trail, for instance, requires a 4,000-foot climb (via Death Canyon) out of the Jackson Hole Valley. But once you reach this trail, you can cruise 30+ miles through high-country grandeur, as Bobbie Tumolo recommends. For a less strenuous, more reasonable, hike with youngsters, Chrissy Hughes suggests the Jenny Lake area, where you can hike to Hidden Falls or Inspiration Point, or simply stroll around this small lake nestled at the foot of the Tetons.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee-North Carolina With 800 miles of hiking trails, Great Smoky Mountains offers many possibilities for family hikes. Rosie Bert Butterfield and Carrie Kobb suggest the Laurel Falls Trail with its 80-foot waterfall, while Leslie Linowski recommends the short hike through the woods to Rainbow Falls. “We really enjoyed Boogerman Trail in Great Smoky,” says Soon Hee Green. “It was quiet and untouched compared to many popular trails and the sight of old trees combined with rhododendrons and birds was perfect. It was fun hiking and reading about history of that trail how it was preserved by one man.” Another popular hike is the 8-mile roundtrip to Charlies Bunion, as recommended by Mike Waalkes. The Appalachian Trail is your path to a spectacular overlook. You gain 1,640 feet in elevation, making this hike perhaps not the best choice for young hikers.

Joshua Tree National Park, California

Bumpass Hell in Lassen Volcanic National Park / NPS

Kenai Fjords National Park, Alaska It seems few of us manage to reach Alaska, but if you make it to Kenai Fjords National Park, Chad Cameron Jones recommends heading to the Harding Ice Field and Exit Glacier to stretch your legs and enjoy the views.

Lassen Volcanic National Park, California The views along the Bumpass Hell Trail are reminiscent of Yellowstone National Park, with its steaming thermal vents. At just 3 miles roundtrip, and with a gentle elevation drop, this trail is great for families, says Staci Danko.

Mount Rainier National Park, Washington Such a big park, with so many hiking options! Elena Talladen recommends the Nisqually Vista Trail at Paradise, a 1.2-mile route that offers views of the Nisqually Glacier. Another Paradise trail worth exploring, says Randy Wilson, is the Skyline Trail. This 5.5-mile loop offers great wildflower displays in summer, as well as views of the Nisqually Glacier and, of course, Mount Rainier.

This desert park offers a setting in sharp contrast to those in the Rockies or High Sierra: a Joshua Tree-studded landscape that is inviting and curious. While summer might be too hot to do much hiking here, when cooler months arrive consider the nature hike to Barker Dam, a suggestion made by Lisa Dubois Hull.

Dutchman’s Breeches bloom by a trail in Shenandoah National Park / NPS


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Redwood National and State Park, California Roy Deering suggests the Mill Creek Trail found within Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Spend a half-day wandering through old-growth redwoods and admire the crystalline waters of Mill Creek. Look closely and you might spy some of the coho and Chinook salmon that swim here.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado At Rocky Mountain, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with hiking possibilities. Teri Egts recommends Chasm Lake for a nice family outing. It’s a 8.5 miles roundtrip, with an elevation gain of 2,360 feet, so youngsters should be experienced hikers to tackle this one. But the payoff is the face of Longs Peak in your face! For novice hikers, the half-mile path around Bear Lake is great, notes Mary Ledwin Rudd, who also says the Glacier Gorge area offers good walks. “As your kids grow, you take them farther,” she says.

Shenandoah National Park, Virginia The Limberlost Trail at Milepost 43 on the Skyline Drive is “good for young kids and is also an accessible trail,” notes Kathy Haines. “Story of the Forest Trail is good for kids, also.” Nancy Davis Merrey agrees: “It was the perfect place to take kids! That was the first place our girls saw caddis flies.” Linda Long Turner, meanwhile, recommends “any section of the Appalachian Trail” in the park, while Riley Hays would point you towards Dark Hollow Falls.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming/Montana/Idaho Yellowstone has a lot of possibilities when it comes to hiking. While any of the boardwalks that wind through the geyser basins are perfect for families, there are other options to consider. If you head into the backcountry, don’t forget your bear spray. Katherine Linnemanstons recommends the 8-mile roundtrip Osprey Falls Trail a bit south of Mammoth Hot Springs. This trail switchbacks you to the bottom (and back up) of Sheepeater Canyon, where you stand before a 150-foot waterfall created by the Gardner River. Not necessarily a good hike for youngsters due to the steep descent and returning climb. If you find yourself near Tower Junction, Todd Jasina suggests you try the Hellroaring Creek Trail. This 4-mile roundtrip is short compared to the Osprey Falls Trail, but involves a steep, roughly 500-foot descent down to the Yellowstone River. The payoff of this out-and-back hike is standing on the suspension bridge and gazing into Hellroaring Creek. A relatively level hike leads 2.5 miles to Fairy Falls, which Betty Martin Bartelt recommends. You can build on that by continuing on to Imperial Geyser another half-mile or so down the trail. Other family favorites include Uncle Tom’s Trail with its great view of the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, recommended by Amy Waalen Hansen, and Mystic Falls, suggested by Garnett Johnson Hutchinson.


Yosemite National Park, California Yosemite can present some difficult challenges if you’re starting on the floor of Yosemite Valley, because most hikes head ...up! But if you study the park map carefully, you can find some great options. Randy Arellano suggests the Sentinel Dome Trail, which heads off from the Glacier Point Road. The hike is an enjoyable 2.2 miles and takes you past wildflower colored meadows and forests and a 360-degree panoramic payoff. Anthony Byrd and several others suggested the Clouds Rest Trail. The trailhead is on the west end of Tenaya Lake along the Tioga Road, and the trail runs 7 miles one-way, which can turn into a long day for younger hikers. The Panorama Trail, recommended by Kathy Barkus, runs 8.5 miles from atop Glacier Point down to the Yosemite Valley floor. Naturally, you have some killer views along the way. But it’s also steep in places, and younger hikers might wear out before the bottom. If your kids are experienced, this can be a great day-long hike past some incredible waterfalls (Illouette, Nevada, and Vernal) with outstanding views. (A bus ride from the valley floor will get you to the trailhead)

see what we have planned AT

Zion National Park, Utah This red-rock cathedral offers a nice selection of hikes in Zion Canyon, and many more on the plateau above. Where do you start? The 2-mile-long Kayenta Trail, suggested by Cassidy Allen, “is not too taxing or long, but wonderful views and not too high to climb.” There are some drop-offs, though, but the payoff is the cool waters of the Emerald Pools. A number of our Facebook followers recommended Angels Landing, though that hike might be a bit extreme for families with youngsters. For those hikers comfortable with precipitous trails, exposure, and having to rely on chains to reach the landing, this 5.4-mile hike packs a great reward with its panoramic view of Zion Canyon. Another suggestion for a hike in Zion, from Wes Bridges, was the Narrows, though it again might be too challenging for ‘tweens and younger. That’s just a broad sampling of the hiking possibilities in the National Park System. They are never-ending.

Available now at


Move Over Baseball,

National Parks Have Trading Cards, Too By Danny Bernstein

People have been collecting stuff forever. When adults visit national parks, they can collect passport stamps or pamphlets. Children earn Junior Ranger badges, though getting one takes a lot more effort and time than a passport stamp.


ut there’s something else out there to collect, too, and it looks a lot like baseball trading cards. Only these are more educational. Since 2011, select national parks have been giving out trading cards to young visitors. The program, launched at Richmond National Battlefield Park in Virginia, was designed to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War and to encourage families to visit multiple national parks. “The program has grown,” says Mike Litterst, a public affairs specialist for the National Park Service who came up with the idea. The first series of cards debuted in 2011 for the start of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. The next year, new cards came in as the program expanded beyond the Park Service’s Northeast and National Capital Regions. Now, with 2014 marking the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the trading card program has broadened its theme to “Civil War to Civil Rights.” The complete list of cards is on the web. You actually can collect them without leaving home, as you can download individual cards from a Flickr website, but it’s more fun to pick them up in the parks. There are now 87 participating parks in 32 states, with a total of 550 cards available. To earn a card at a park, children can ask a question, engage in conversation with a ranger, or attend a park program. Rangers may have cards in their pocket and hand them out after a discussion. It varies from park to park. The beauty of this program is that a park can design and give out about as many cards as it wants. Harpers Ferry National Historical Park has 14 cards, ranging from one on abolitionist John Brown to topics


on Feeding an Army and Seeking Freedom and Protection. And just like baseball cards, the backs of national park cards have facts about the person or event. Much of that information might be lost on a large park website or on one of many placards throughout the park. With the potential of 550 cards and maybe some duplicates for trading, how can kids keep the cards so that they don’t just become clutter in their rooms? Eastern National sells special clear plastic boxes for 50 cards ($1.99) or 100 cards ($2.99). Or you can buy plastic inserts with pockets for a large ring binder. Once I saw the list, I wanted to see how certain parks fit in the Civil War to Civil Rights theme. Almost any park in the Northeast or Southeast has a Civil War connection. Civil War battlefields such as Gettysburg National Military Park or Shiloh National Military Park obviously belong in this program. Perhaps not so obvious are the cards from the Brown vs. Board of Education decision and Harry S Truman (Harry S Truman National Historic Site), though each played a major role in the AfricanAmerican Civil Rights struggle. Manzanar National Historic Site in California also has a card, as this site remembers the World War II internment of Japanese-Americans in military-style camps. There also are cards that memorialize the lives of five notable internees, including Ralph Lazo, a Mexican/Irish-American teenager who decided to live in Manzanar to stay with his Japanese friends. Other parks offering trading cards had me scurrying to the individual park website for an explanation because I couldn’t see an obvious connection to the theme. The Hot Springs National Park set includes depictions of African-American

Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

bathhouse workers; they were the main staff for the bathhouses but couldn’t use the facility themselves. The federal government even offered free baths for the poor, a practice that lasted until 1957. The Wright Brothers National Memorial cards include Bessie Coleman, the first female African-American pilot. I also noticed parks with Civil War and Civil Rights themes without trading cards. Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site is not on the list. Nine African-American students attempted to study at the formerly all-white Central High School after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision. The Smoky and the Blue Ridge Mountains played a prominent part during the Civil War. Yet, neither Great Smoky Mountains National Park nor Shenandoah National Park have created trading cards. Both parks have active Junior Ranger programs for several age groups. The parks may have had to make some choices, given staffing and financial constraints. Also absent from the collection are general topic trading cards for any of the large Western landscape parks, such as Yellowstone, Yosemite, or Grand Canyon. Stamps, coins, and even baseball card collections can now be worth a fortune. eBay now sells trading cards. Will they be worth anything in the future? Engaging and encouraging the younger generation to visit national parks is always a good thing. To get most cards, a family has to search out historic sites, national monuments, recreation areas, and cemeteries. That should be encouraged as well. Maybe they should give out trading cards to adults.


SUMMER QUIZ by Bob Janiskee

Test your knowledge of summer in the national parks! During a warm and sunny summer weekend you can expect to see hordes of sunbathers, swimmers and waders at

In which of the following national parks would you be able to find the coolest conditions for a “beat the heat” backpacking trip in July?

On a hot summer afternoon, which is an indicator that an individual is suffering from heatstroke and at grave risk of death or severe heat injury?

In which of the following parks would a summer visitor be most likely to encounter daytime temperatures exceeding 100 degrees F?

In which of the following national parks could a summer visitor ride his bicycle on the Towpath Trail in one direction, and then take his bike with him aboard a train returning him to where he started?

If a friend were to tell you that he visited Alaska in July and photographed every one of the “Big Five” while visiting a single national park, you could logically deduce that he

The National Park Service openly declares that nude and topless bathers are permitted to sunbathe and swim at

During the summer in Glacier National Park, the wind in stream valleys tends to:

Which of the following units of the National Park System has the highest incidence of fog during the summer?

A. Baker Beach in Golden Gate National Recreation Area B. Boca Chica Island in Biscayne National Park C. Oak Island in Apostle Islands National Lakeshore D. Rockaway Beach in Gateway National Recreation Area

A. Theodore Roosevelt National Park B. Congaree National Park C. Everglades National Park D. Glacier National Park

A. Drakes Beach in Point Reyes National Seashore B. Sailors Haven Beach in Fire Island National Seashore C. Gunnison Beach in Gateway National Recreation Area D. China Beach in Golden Gate National Recreation Area

A. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park B. Great Smoky Mountains National Park C. Voyageurs National Park D. Acadia National Park

A. Lowell National Historical Park B. Steamtown National Historic Site C. Cuyahoga Valley National Park D. Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area

A. slow down as the day warms up B. blow toward higher elevations in the afternoon C. blow toward higher elevations around the clock D. blow toward lower elevations around the clock

A. face that appears pale or chalky-white B. skin that is dry to the touch C. pulse that is very slow and weak D. rectal temperature of 101 degrees

A. visited Katmai National Park & Preserve B. was a boat passenger at some point during his trip C. photographed a caribou and a Dall sheep D. is telling you a big, fat lie

A. Gulf Islands National Seashore B. Gettysburg National Military Park C. Badlands National Park D. Acadia National Park

You’re likely to end up bleeding from miscellaneous scratches if you decide to bake a special dessert with this fruit you’ve legally gathered in a national park during June (in the South) or July (in the North). A. blackberries B. strawberries C. gooseberries D. huckleberries

Answers: (1) D. Rockaway Beach at Gateway National Recreation Area is managed for mass recreational use. (2) A. Thanks to its mid-latitude, continental interior location, North Dakota’s Theodore Roosevelt National Park experiences very hot summers as well as very cold winters. (3) C. Gunnison Beach in the Sandy Hook (New Jersey) unit of Gateway National Recreation Area has long been managed by the National Park Service as a clothing optional beach. (4) A. July temperatures average about 48 degrees on the upper slopes of Mauna Loa, a 13,679-foot mountain in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. (5) C. The Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad’s “Bike Aboard!” service has proven very popular with bikers at Cuyahoga Valley National Park. (6) B. During summer afternoons in mountainous areas, the heating of upper slopes causes warm, light air to rise in stream valleys, resulting in a warm upslope wind called the “valley breeze.” (7) A. Blackberry bushes found in the wild have spiny stems with numerous sharp thorns that can tear or puncture skin not protected by gloves or thick clothing. (8) B. Dry, flushed skin is a red flag indicator of very dangerous overheating. It signals that sweating has ceased and the body’s main cooling system, evaporative heat regulation, has shut down. Left untreated this condition can quickly lead to death or serious injury, including permanent brain damage. (9) C. Caribou and Dall sheep are two of the “Big Five” watchable wildlife species in Denali National Park and Preserve. The other three that can be seen in the park are the grizzly, wolf, and moose. (10) D. Coastal fog is very common in Acadia National Park during the months of June, July and August because that’s when warm, moist air is most frequently available for chilling by cold ocean water.


Essential Park Guide | Summer 2014

Parting Shot

The cool waters of the Virgin River in Zion National Park captured by Paul Tipton


Alberta Falls, Rocky Mountain National Park / Kurt Repanshek

Essential Park Guides arrive four times a year to seasonally showcase the best of  the National Park System. Special supplementary guides focus on key aspects of the national park experience. Advertisers and sponsors can leverage National Parks Traveler’s global audience of  1.5 million readers with these guides, which explore the parks with content ranging from lodging and hiking to wildlife viewing and photography. The guides are the perfect multi-platform package for lodges, gateway communities, gear and clothing manufacturers, and outfitters, to highlight their accommodations, communities, products, and services to an affluent audience of park lovers.

Essential Park Guide, Summer 2014