Today is the day! It is the centennial of the founding of the National Park Service! As an American citizen, you own the Parks and we all have great reason to celebrate. There is so much diversity, beauty and breathtaking landscapes to explore and as cliche as is sounds: there truly is something for everyone.
So on this day August 25, 1916 President Woodrow Wilson signed the act creating the National Park Service, a new federal bureau created to manage and protect the national parks and monuments in our country. At that time, there were only 35 parks and monuments that held the status as National park or monument. In the 100 years since the establishment of the National Park Service, that number has grown to encompass more than 400 sites, 411 to be exact. As of this writing, President Obama recently added the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine to be #411 on that list. A list that encompasses not only unique and awe inspiring lands, but also includes hundreds of places across this country that tell the stories of those that came before us. There is both natural history and beauty and the also histories of man in the many monuments found within the National Park Service. The more than 20,000 National Park Service employees help to care for and preserve the local histories of each site. Visitors to a National Park or Monument know they can come away from their experience refreshed from the recreational opportunities available, but also knowing a little more about the unique history of the area and the lay of the land.
So many people talk about experiences they are determined to achieve and say, “It’s on my bucket list”. So many times those bucket lists include one of our many beautiful National Parks. I myself have been to so many, and look forward to many more. You hear of folks that have traveled to ALL the parks; now that would be quite an adventure. If you are counting just National Parks (and not monuments) there are currently 58 National Parks. I honestly don’t think I will live long enough to visit them all, but it sure is fun to try. All those stamps in my National Parks “passport” are fun to collect! See my blog explaining the passport program: https://travelingamericablog.wordpress.com/seek-out-your-passport/
Sometimes people get caught up in just the most well-known parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite, but it is amazing what you can find in the “unexpected places”. I live in the Midwest and found it very interesting that a beautiful park exists within a days drive of our home: Cuyahoga Valley National Park just south of Cleveland, Ohio. We visited the park in June and were amazed at the scenic trails and several cascading waterfalls within the park. Here is a view of the Brandywine Falls. The Cuyahoga River runs thru the park and provides the back drop for many interesting tales of the history of the canal system. What a neat place to visit, it wasn’t on my “bucket list”, but so glad I went!
The establishment of the National Park Service, was not all wine and roses and was not without huge hurdles, both political and economical. Yet, we have many to thank for their perseverance for making it all happen. The National Park Service will continue to have issues as it continues into it’s second century, but one would hope that it’s purpose would help to preserve it’s goals, and to preserve our lands. From the words of the original act signed into law in 1916, we remember why the National Park Service was established in the first place: “…which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such a manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”
So say Happy Birthday to the National Park Service for 100 years of commitment to our lands and resources and continued success moving forward. To find a Park that you would like to visit, check out: https://www.nps.gov/findapark/index.htm
Put your traveling shoes on. JES
Every young geography student in America probably was taught the acronym HOMES to remember all five names of the Great Lakes. Even as adults, we use it as a handy little reference: Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior. Five truly Great Lakes in the heart of our country. So what are some of the features that make them so “great”?
I recently saw a fascinating, but scary, documentary about the on-going story of the west’s water crisis: “Killing the Colorado” (River), which makes me realize that frequently Midwesterners take for granted the abundance of water right here. So one of the most important features to remember is that the Great Lakes system is the largest source of fresh drinking water in the world. About 97% of the world’s water supply is salt water in oceans and seas; water that provides recreation and abundance of food, but not drinkable. So protecting and caring for the life source of water found in the Great Lakes has become of utmost importance for the preservation of their beauty and a resource to us. Mistakes we have made in the past with pollution, over-fishing and neglect have (hopefully) taught us the extreme importance of the preservation of our Great Lakes. A wonderful organization: the Alliance for the Great Lakes, established in 1970, helps to “protect and restore the world’s largest surface freshwater resource.” They help to educate the public on matters of preservation, help to organize beach and coastline clean-ups and assist with the implementation of the control of invasive species. In recent years the concern of the invasion of the Asian Carp into the Great Lakes has created the need for several programs to stop the destructive elements of these very invasive fish. You can read more about this organization and their work with the Great Lakes at: http://www.greatlakes.org
In addition to preservation of the quality of the water for drinking, the Great Lakes of course provide an abundance of recreational opportunities. The five Great Lakes span 10,000 miles of shoreline making it longer than the coasts of both the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines of the United States. Nifty huh!? Sometimes California thinks they have the monopoly on abundant, beautiful shorelines. Take a spin around the Great Lakes and see the beauty that is here in the middle of the country.
Another superlative that I think is pretty cool is the fact that with all those miles and miles of shoreline, the Great Lakes has the largest concentration of lighthouses in the world. Not just the country, the world. I think that is pretty cool, something that makes the Midwest stand out shall we say. Plus, I am a lover of lighthouses to the extent that I consider myself an aficionado. Living in the Midwest, in the heart of all these lighthouses, makes it easy to be interested in them and their histories. So in the Great Lakes region, there are over 200 lighthouses dotting all that abundant coastline. However, with modern navigation systems, most of the lighthouses are more of architectural and historical significance, and are not actively in use as guidance. So there’s a recreational pursuit for you: go Lighthouse touring. Fishing, boating, beachcombing are all great recreational pastimes in the Great Lakes, so add seeking Lighthouses to the list.
Even with all the lighthouses to guide those ships in the past, tragically however the amount of ship wrecks in the Great Lakes is staggering. It is amazing that since the 1600’s, that the remains of over 6,000 shipwrecks are in the waters of all the Great Lakes. Looking at pictures of ship wrecks one can just imagine the devastation to crew and product. When ships go down, there was not always loss of life, but nevertheless seeing a ship in its watery grave never fails to bring a shudder and a feeling of sadness. Apparently there is also a certain intrigue and mystery about shipwrecks; there is an abundance of literature and groups of people interested in the topic. One ship in particular that is very easy to view, even from the shoreline is called “Sweepstakes”. Pictured here, it was built in 1867 and was used predominately to transport coal. It is one of the most easily viewed ship wrecks today as it lies in only about 20 feet of water in Lake Huron. Out of all the photographs of shipwrecks that I have seen, this one in particular really gives me goosebumps. Perhaps it is because it is so clear and it feels as if any minute a corpse could float to the surface. (Like I said…..Goosebumps)
The beauty, history and importance of the Great Lakes in our lives continues to be relevant. Having an appreciation for them encourages our preservation and proper use of them to guarantee a continued legacy for generations to come.
Put your traveling shoes on. JES
Sometimes as a gardener, or even as simply a lover of flowers and plants, one can find oneself “stuck in a rut” with the same old plants year after year and perhaps an unwillingness or trepidation about “thinking outside the box.” A visit to Chicago Botanic Garden helps to inspire and also to rejuvenate an interest in the wonderful beauty that is found right in one’s neighborhood and very back yard. The Chicago Botanic Center is located in Glencoe, Illinois and includes 385 acres of land dedicated to showcasing some beautiful plants and innovative landscaping. The garden was opened in 1972 and with over 50,000 members, it currently has the largest membership of any U.S. public garden.
Yes, many of the traditional plants and flowers are there, along with some exotics not found in the Midwest. However, the presentation of them is everything, a wonderful variety of flowers clustered with a multitude of leafy green plants. A Marigold does not just look like another simple Marigold when portrayed in this beautiful landscape. Many of the plants are commonly found in local yards, but when they are paired with other plantings, it gives new insights as to what works well together. Of course light conditions, soil conditions and moisture needs must all be taken into account and it is great to get recommendations from the expert gardeners there.
In addition to the botanic showroom, Chicago Botanic Garden has numerous statues and garden artwork throughout the garden enhancing the beauty of the flowers and water features. The inspiration portrayed by the sculptors is enhanced by the backdrop of lush trees, flowers and several small lakes within the garden. One sculpture in particular pays homage to the man who is considered the Father of Taxonomic Botany: Carolus Linnaeus (1707-1778) He created a system for plant classification using both the “genus” and “species.”
Initial impressions of Chicago Botanic Garden lead one to believe that it is just another lovely park with plants, fountains and art work. Yet, this place is also a research and development facility for seed propagation and developing hardy plants for this area of the country. Several green houses on the premises work year round on botanical production. In terms of educational enrichment, certificate programs offered at the School of the Chicago Botanic Garden include: photography, horticultural therapy, Midwest gardening, professional gardener, garden design and botanical arts.
A busy day touring the garden can make one hungry and thirsty. Two cafes are available: the Garden View Cafe and the Garden Grille. The Garden View Cafe offers fresh, locally produced ingredients to serve up fresh salads, soups and sandwiches. The Garden grille offers hamburgers and chicken sandwiches and daily specials. There is enough variety there to please almost any palette. After renewing your energy at the cafe, don’t forget a stop in the gift shop: “The Garden Shop”. A wonderful array of all types of “goodies” to choose from including clothing, specialty books, stationary and also children’s items to inspire young gardeners.
Admission into the garden is free, but there is a parking fee. Membership includes free parking daily and you can visit as many times as you want. A membership also includes discounts at both of the cafes, the Garden Shop and discounts on programs as well. For more information you can call : (847) 835-5440 or click here to link to their website: http://www.chicagobotanic.org/
It’s such a wonderful garden to visit…and hard to see it all in just one trip. My friend and I will be going again soon! Put your traveling shoes on. JES
Many people don’t realize it, but there is a beautiful “gem” of a National Park in the heart of the Midwest, just south of Cleveland Ohio: Cuyahoga Valley National Park. From the Native Americans word for “crooked river”, it is pronounced “Ka-uh-ogh-ha”. It is a beautiful park with waterfalls, cliffs and valleys, and a rich history about life in the mid-western states. When people think of National Parks, they frequently think of the “classics”: Yellowstone, Acadia, the Grand Canyon. Yet this park in Ohio is a beautiful representation of our National Parks system: preservation of natural beauty and also a link to the past. Looking at timelines, Cuyahoga Valley National Park is very young as a member of the National Park service. It was established as a National Recreation Area in 1974, then became a National Park in 2000. The fact that it is a relatively young National Park is very evident as one drives through the park and sees many residential areas throughout the park that were “grandfathered” in and allowed to remain within the park boundaries. These private residences do not distract from the beauty of the park, however sometimes seem odd from what people consider a “National Park” should be like. There are so many roads that go in and out of the park, and of course the residents that live there have easy access in and out. It sometimes blurs the definition of the park boundaries.
The park itself preserves 33,000 acres along the Cuyahoga river valley between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. The natural beauty of the park includes deep gorges, waterfalls, cliffs and century old majestic trees that rise high in the skyline. Most of the trees are typical of the Midwest and the deciduous seem to outnumber the pines. With the abundance of Maples, I would imagine this would be a wonderful place to visit in the Fall to see all the changing colors. A diversity of beautiful wildflowers can be found throughout the park and more than 100 bird species nest in the valley. The many trails within the park are perfect for both hiking and biking. Many cyclists make use of the fantastic “towpath trails” that follow the canal paths throughout the park. Some of the canals have all but disappeared except for a low trench, but others still have water in them and still seem “usable”. The towpaths where the mules were used to tow boats along the canal, have all been resurfaced and make fantastic bike paths.
In additional to the natural features, the park has a fascinating history about the use of the canals. The “canal era” from roughly 1825 to 1913, was a period of time that Americans relied heavily on the use of the canal system for economical transportation of both products and passengers. The Ohio-Erie Canal was built in 1825 and served to connect Lake Erie all the way south to the Ohio River. It helped to provide transportation and increase commerce from 1827 to 1913. In 1913, a devastating flood occurred that did extensive damage to the canals. At this time the railroads were also expanding into a major form of transportation and beginning to replace the widespread use of canals. The railroads soon became the primary source of transportation and life on the canal boats became a distant memory. When visiting Cuyahoga Valley National Park, be sure to visit the Canal Visitor Center, in the northern part of the park with some fascinating displays and some really interesting historical information about river commerce and lifestyles of the hardworking people who depended on the canals.
Another aspect of the park rich in history, but also providing an adventurous way to get back and forth throughout the park is the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. The train ticket gives you an all day pass and you can get off at any stop and get back on to explore several areas within the park. The train also offers meals onboard and “tastings” of beer or wine. With your tasting, you receive a CVSR commemorative tasting glass! Cyclists can also board the train, with their bikes. They have the option to bike the towpath trail one direction then take the train the other. Considering how many lengthy trails there are in the park, this is a terrific option for cyclists if you just run out of steam. Bear in mind that the train does not run 7 days a week. Unfortunately when I was there it was not running. Generally they run Wednesday through Sunday, but be sure to check their web-site for more detailed information and ticket prices: http://www.cvsr.com
Like many National Parks, the park rangers are so interesting to talk with and have a wealth of information about the attributes of their park and also the area of the country they live in. I would like to give a “shout out” to Ranger Jan at Cuyahoga Valley National Park~ she was a delight to talk with and shared so much information and history with us. We ran into her at two different Visitors Centers; so much fun chatting with her! So Hi Jan! We will have to go back again one day, and maybe that time we can catch the train! Put your traveling shoes on. JES
When you look at all the magnificent beauty within America’s National Parks, it is very easy to have a sense of civic pride, especially this year as we celebrate the Centennial founding of the National Park Service.
If you have not visited a National Park lately, 2016 may be a fantastic year to plan a trip to one as we commemorate the founding of the National Park Service. There are currently 59 National Parks and over 117 protected areas that are designated national monuments. There is something for everyone to discover and also parks are accessible in every part of the country.
Teddy Roosevelt is remembered as instrumental in generating an interest in preserving and cherishing the natural beauty of the lands found in our country. He was one of the most visible advocates of the establishing and preserving of the Parks: often remembered as the “conservation president”. He loved the great outdoors and began several steps to insure the preservation of our nation’s natural landmarks. The passage of the 1906 Antiquities Act enabled Roosevelt and future presidents to proclaim certain sites and landmarks historical and/or scientific and worthy of preservation. The very first site to be proclaimed as a national monument under this act was Devils Tower in Wyoming. It is a unique natural feature, rising 825 feet above the Wyoming plains. Roosevelt’s dedication to the preservation of lands prompted the establishment of Teddy Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. With rugged terrain and landscapes filled with colorful geographic features, the park has been described as the “Badlands” of the north.
Roosevelt paved the way for park preservation, however it was really Stephen T. Mather who helped to turn the concept of a National Park system into legislative reality. Mather was an American industrialist and conservationist who promoted the concept of the creation of a federal agency to oversee the National Parks administration. In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson signed into law an order establishing the National Park System. Stephen Mather was appointed as the first director of the National Park Service in 1917.
Since 1916 our National Park service has continued a legacy for 100 years. I encourage you to celebrate this legacy by visiting a National Park sometime during this Centennial year. Check out the National Parks web-site at: www.nps.gov to find information on the park of your choice. I have a few parks on my list that I am hoping to see including Glacier National Park in Montana….lots of chances for great photos! Can hardly wait to view these mountains with my own eyes and take my own photos other than internet voyages. Put Your Traveling Shoes On. JES
(Authors note: I originally posted this in March, but revised with a few updates and photographs)
Travel planning on the Internet: it really is not as confusing and intimidating as it might initially seem. After planning and executing a few trips, it is amazing how adept one can become. Travel Planning for that fantastic trip sometimes requires some “practice makes perfect”, but there are a few caveats that help make the learning curve a little less painful and more economical. In planning several trips, both airline travel and by car, I found out through trial and error several tips to improve travel planning. Internet travel is not limited to searching for airplane tickets, some of my best car trips were planned with the help of internet searches. Nevertheless, my first venture with using the Internet for travel planning is probably where everyone starts: getting the best deal on airline tickets. There are so many sites out there to chose from, but here are a few guidelines to assist you in getting the best deal:
The Shoshone Lodge & Ranch in Cody Wyoming: www.shoshonelodge.com is a beautiful place right near Yellowstone National Park that surprisingly enough does not show up in several internet searches. My husband found it by simply hovering the cursor around the east side of Yellowstone. We were glad we found it then the rest came easy: their web-site has everything laid out nicely. So never underestimate the power of just “poking around” on the internet, you will be amazed at what you will find.
Planning and negotiating the ins and outs of a trip with the help of the internet can help in so many ways. Not only do you save money by shopping around for the best deal, once your trip is planned you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. Put your Traveling shoes on. JES
Millions of Americans visiting both our State and National Parks every year take in the beauty surrounding them as they walk in the woods and traverse across the bridges and trails. Yet, do many of these park visitors take a few moments to pause and reflect on just how these pathways were blazed, bridges were built and trees planted? Many projects across this country encompassing more than 700 local, state and national parks were completed by the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as one of the efforts to put thousands of young men to work during the Great Depression. The CCC was envisioned by FDR as not only a way to help construction efforts in the country, but also to instill a spirit of hope to thousands of men and thereby helping raise the optimism, and economic standards, of the entire country. When FDR presented the bill to Congress, urging the formation of the CCC, he stated:“This enterprise…will conserve our precious natural resources. It will pay dividends to the present and future generations. It will make improvements in National and State domains which have been largely forgotten in the past few years of industrial development…More important however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work…We can take a vast army of these unemployed out into healthful surroundings. We can eliminate to some extent at least the threat that enforced idleness brings to spiritual and moral stability. It is not a panacea for all the unemployment, but it is an essential step in this emergency.”
On March 31, 1933 Roosevelt signed the bill into law and work quickly began to organize and implement the operation of the CCC. Since it was such a huge undertaking the successful implementation of FDR’s vision required the cooperation of several branches of the government to assure its success. The Department of Labor was utilized for the enrollment of the young men. The War Department was responsible for feeding, clothing and training the enrollees for their duties and the Agricultural and Interior Departments selected the work projects, supervised the work and oversaw the administration of the camps.
The volume of projects accomplished by the CCC from 1933 to 1942 is reflected in the statistics. The majority of projects were conservation efforts and thereby had the greatest impact on our parks and farmland. Approximately 125,000 miles of roads were built, 13,000 miles of foot trails built, 972 fish stocked and between 2 and 3 billion trees were planted. Additionally, 40 million acres of farmland benefited from erosion control projects.
Working in the camps as a CCC worker, instilled in most of the workers a great deal of pride in what they were accomplishing for their country. Yet, it was no picnic in the woods; the men worked long arduous hours and were paid only $30.00 per month, thinking in simpler terms:$1.00 per day. Even by 1930 standards…it still didn’t seem like much. Most of their salary was sent home to their families. It was very beneficial that their meals, clothing, lodging and medical care was included in their work with the corps. Over its 9-year span the CCC employed about 3 million men nationwide. The profound impact of the CCC on our Parks system provided an expansion and development of the parks so as to create many new opportunities for Americans to explore the great outdoors, frequently in new ways for many visitors. The CCC was a great benefit to the Parks and even today the legacy continues. An organization called CCC Legacy helps educate and foster an appreciation of the works that were accomplished by the CCC. They have a web-site: http://www.ccclegacy.org with links to how one can learn about the history of their accomplishments and how a person could assist in conservation efforts in their own community.
The National Parks are basically funded through three main channels: tax supported, user fees and private donations. During its tenure, not only did the CCC help the National Parks develop into the parks we know today, but they helped them complete those projects at a great savings. The question has been asked before, but deserves to be given consideration: would the CCC work today? Perhaps Yes. If the formation of an active Civilian Conservation Corp., or one similar to the one that was formed in 1933, were to be successful it would need to take several cultural and political differences into account. The major goals would undoubtedly remain: to restore the original CCC structures, provide maintenance in Parks while simultaneously providing rewarding work for unemployed young people. When people think of America, they not only think of our freedoms and lifestyles, but also the beauty and diversity of our lands. Our State and National Parks help to showcase these beautiful lands, as well as helping to preserve them.
So the next time you visit either a state or national park, ask a few questions and see if you can spot projects completed by the CCC. Chances are good you may find some of their work; so many projects across this country we have the CCC to thank for.
It is a legacy that deserves to endure. Put your traveling shoes on. JES
Sources: “Our Mark on this Land: A Guide to the Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps in America’s Parks”, by Ren & Helen Davis (published 2011)