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Month: May 2016

Summer events at Cabrillo National Monument!

Summer events at Cabrillo National Monument!

In celebration of the NPS centennial, Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego is hosting special events all summer, in partnership with the Cabrillo National Monument Foundation (CNMF) and Cabrillo National Monument Conservancy (CNMC).  Many of these events are after-hours and extremely special, since the park normally closes at 5pm.  Visitors have a chance to experience sunset from the park, one of the best vantage points of San Diego (in my opinion).

  • Extended hours on Memorial Day, Monday May 30th.  12pm-8pm.  Check out the Open Bunker Day and a special Ranger guided sunset walk!
  • Sunset Yoga in the Park, sponsored by the Cabrillo National Monument Conservancy. Join Cabrillo’s resident yoga instructor for an all-levels sunset yoga classes overlooking the beautiful Pacific Ocean.
    • When:  Saturday June 18th and August 20th, from 6pm-8pm.
    • Please bring: Mat, Towel, Water, & Ticket for Entry.
    • Cost: $30. A portion of event proceeds will be donated back to the park to further expand programs that foster unique visitor connections with the natural environment.
  • Celebrate the 4th of July at Above the Fireworks at Cabrillo National Monument 2016.
    • Cost is $50 per vehicle (with up to 10 occupants).  Tickets are limited so get yours today!
    • What to bring:  Low-profile chairs, Flashlights, Sweatshirt or Blanket
    • Check-in 6pm – 8pm, no late check-ins will be admitted
    • Tickets are non-refundable
    • Picnics are encouraged, but alcohol is not allowed. Cabrillo National Monument policy is a smoke-free and trash-free park (whatever you pack in, you pack out) and no dogs are allowed.
Fireworks over the San Diego bay from Point Loma
This is during the winter boat parade, but the view will be similar with two more areas of fireworks.
  • Full Moon walks, available free to members and guests of Cabrillo National Monument Foundation (June 20) and Cabrillo National Monument Conservancy (August 18, September 16, November 14).  There are perks to joining the organizations – first and foremost, helping support San Diego’s only National Park!

    Taken in January 2012, this rare view of the moon rising over downtown is visible from Cabrillo National Monument during special events.
    Taken in January 2012 from Point Loma, this rare view of the moon rising over downtown is visible from Cabrillo National Monument during special events.
  • Fee free days – August 25-28, in celebration of NPS 100th birthday!
  • August 25th is also Lighthouse open tower day – the 2nd of the 3 days per year where guests can explore the Old Point Loma Lighthouse all the way to the top!

    View inside the Old Point Loma lighthouse tower at sunset
    The tower is only completely open 3 days per year

Hope to see you at an event!


Waco Mammoth National Monument

Waco Mammoth National Monument

Mammoth Sign 2016Recently I had to opportunity to visit Waco Mammoth National Monument in Waco, Texas. The monument was added to the National Park System in 2015. It includes a shelter that is climate controlled and protects the dig site while ongoing scientific studies are conducted. It also offers visitors an overhead view of the fossils via a suspended walkway. Visitors can roam the grounds for free, while a $5 fee allows you to see the dig site and partake in a guided tour.

Inside the Dig Shelter
Inside the Dig Shelter

This paleontological site is unique in that it is the only discovery of a nursery herd of Columbian mammoths in the nation. It has been hypothesized that the nursery herd of 24 adult and juvenile mammoths arrived at their early demise by means of drowning together “in a single natural event between 65,000 and 72,000 years ago”. The shelter houses fossils not just from Columbian mammoths (distant relatives of the wooly mammoth which lived in significantly colder northern regions), but also other Ice Age animals including a Western camel, dwarf antelope, giant tortoise, and a saber-toothed cat. The majority of the excavated bones are stored at Baylor University’s Mayborn Museum Complex. Baylor has been instrumental in the exploration of this site since the initial stages in 1978.

Mammoth fossils
Mammoth fossils

It was interesting to learn about various Ice Age animals and the catastrophic event that annihilated this herd of Columbian mammoths. If you are in the area add this monument to your list of places to visit.





Share the Experience Photo Contest!

Share the Experience Photo Contest!

Attention all outdoor enthusiasts! The Official Recreational Federal Lands Photo Contest – Share the Experience – is now open! They are seeking photos from amateur photographers that highlight the best of America’s federal lands, national parks and historical sites. The winner will grace the America the Beautiful Federal Recreation Pass in 2017.

Here is a basic rundown of the details.

  • There are six categories for photo entries: Adventure & Outdoor Recreation; Historical & Cultural; Scenic, Seasons & Landscapes; Every Kid In A Park; Wildlife; Night Skies.
  • The photos must be taken on the lands or within the facilities of these participating agencies: National Park Service; U.S. Bureau of Land Management; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
  • Photographs must be taken between January 1, 2014 and December 31, 2016 and contest entries are accepted from April 28, 2016 to December 31, 2016.
  • Eligible to legal residents of the 50 United States and DC, who are at least 13 years of age or older as of April 28, 2016.  Amateur Photographers (less than 20% of your total income is from photography)only. Photographs must be taken by you and you must have the rights to the photo.
  • Prizes include more than $30,000 in cash and other great prizes sponsored by ACTIVE Network, Celestron and Historic Hotels of America. Winners will be announced Spring 2017.

For more information, or to enter, visit the Share the Experience website here.

Haleakala National Park for Photographers

Haleakala National Park for Photographers

So you are planning a trip to Maui and you want to capture some great photos of the stars and sunrise on Haleakala. What should you bring?

-A camera capable of taking long exposures. Any DSLR, GoPro, point and shoot with a manual mode, and even an iPhone (with the right app) will suffice. This trip I used an Olympus Tough TG-4 and a GoPro.  Photo above taken with the Olympus Tough TG-4, Live Capture mode. Exposure was only about 8-10 minutes since the sky was becoming lighter close to sunrise.  Arrive 2-4 hours before scheduled sunrise for dark skies and light trail photos.

-A tripod & camera mount. There are tons of options out there, from tiny Gorillapods to traditional Manfrotto tripods. Just be sure you have the mount you need for the camera.

-A cable/remote release. You don’t want to ruin your stable photo on the tripod by stopping the photo with an unsteady hand. Newer point and shoot cameras (including the TG-4 Tough) can be controlled with your smartphone. DSLRs typically have associated cable releases that cost $15.

-A headlamp, preferably with a red light option, to preserve your night vision and everyone else around you!

-Any time lapse tools. GoPro Hero 3 and newer have a Time Lapse Photo mode, which takes sequential timed photos, which you can import in the GoPro software to make a time lapse video. The newer GoPro Hero 4 models also have a nice Time Lapse Video feature, which will stitch all your photos together in camera and make an MP4 file in GoPro Studio. If you want all of the individual photos and a higher res video, you should use Time Lapse Photo mode.

-A snack and water. There are no restaurants in the park, so you must pack food in and out. You can grab pre-packaged food at local grocery stores the day before your trip, or stop at the 24-hr Zippy’s in Kahului before you head up the mountain. Also, at 10,000 ft elevation, you will become dehydrated much faster so be sure you have plenty of water, especially if you are sticking around a while.

-Something soft to sit on. The lava rocks are pretty sharp and if you get tired of standing you will be grateful for something to sit/lay on.

-A hat, gloves, jacket, long pants, closed toe shoes and hand warmers. It is very cold at 10,000 ft every night.  Even colder if it’s windy.  You likely won’t want to leave your camera, so you will be glad you have something to help keep you warm.

-Patience, an extra camera and something to keep you occupied!  Time lapse shots take a long time for nice star trails – 30 minutes minimum.  You will want a second camera for taking other shorter shots as the light improves.

Yoga in the Park

Yoga in the Park

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park and San Antonio Missions National Historical Park would like to invite you to practice yoga in their park, for free! Sounds like a great excuse to get some friends together and experience your park in a new way. A little yoga in the sun, bonding time, and a few laughs in a national park is a recipe for an epic outing! Heather and I are huge fans of yoga and have both practiced for a few years now. Both of us were drawn to yoga for different reasons and at different times, but we share a passion for its physical and mental benefits.

Dancer's pose on the beach at sunset
Dancer pose in Costa Rica 2015

There isn’t one reason I enjoy yoga, rather it’s a multitude of them. It provides me with a moment of stillness, relaxation, and quiet all while moving in and out of postures. It not only strengthens my physical body, but my mind as well. Whether you are a beginner or advanced yogi there is always something new to learn about your practice and yourself. My go-to posture is Lord of the Dance (often referred to as Dancer pose) because it requires complete concentration while balancing and strengthening. I find this posture to be empowering when I am properly aligned, balanced, and breathing. It affords me the opportunity to cultivate the ability to stay in the moment.

Reverse warrior on Jungfraujoch
Find peace at the top of Europe in reverse warrior

“I love yoga because it is a way for me to recollect and focus my thoughts on myself in a world of constant, continuous information and multi-tasking.  It is my peaceful time, free of interruptions.  Physically, it relaxes and opens areas of my body, like my shoulders, that become tense during the course of the work day.  I was drawn to vinyasa style yoga because I love the constant movement and dance between postures and the strength I have gained from the practice.  I especially love yoga in nature because I am already disconnected from some (or all!) technology, and the yoga takes the peace to the next level.  One of my favorite postures when I am outdoors is reverse warrior, because I love feeling the opening of my hips and rib cage, and it’s relatively safe to do close to the edge of a mountain!  It took me a while to really master the posture and refrain from doing a back bend, focusing on the side bend instead.”  ~ Heather

There are many opportunities to yoga in your park.

Grab your mat, a friend, and get your yoga on!

Hopewell Culture National Historical Park

© Hopewell Cultural NHP 2015
© Hopewell Cultural NHP 2015

Dates: Every Saturday from June 4th – July 30th

Time: 9am-10am

Location: Mound City Group Visitor Center

What to bring: Mat, water, and towel

Cost:  Free

Contact and RSVP: Melinda Repko (740)774-1126

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

© San Antonio Missions NHP
© San Antonio Missions NHP

5/24:  7am at Mission Concepcion

6/28: 7am at Mission San Jose

7/26: 7am at Mission San Juan

8/23: 7am at Mission Espada

What to bring: Mat, water, and towel

Cost: Free

Park Contact: Natalie Campbell (210) 534-8875 ext 231

Flashback to my first national park visit – Shenandoah National Park

Flashback to my first national park visit – Shenandoah National Park

Growing up, I spent a lot of time outside and at the shore, but always close to my home in South Jersey. So it wasn’t until college that I began to travel and visit national parks, starting with Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

I remember the drive from Williamsburg, VA to the southern Rockfish Gap entrance to the park, because it was one of my first drives in the Appalachian mountains. The flat terrain and straight roads you could see for miles ahead gave way to foothills and winding roads, the Appalachian
mountains visible in the distance. Surrounded by the lush, green forests of towering chestnut and red oak trees, we entered the park and weaved our way north on Skyline Drive.

SIgn for Loft Mountain Campground
Loft Mountain campground

We got a campsite at Loft Mountain campground, the largest in the park, towards the southern end of the park.  It has an amphitheater with beautiful eastern and western views of the mountains.  This was my first camping experience, and there was a rumbling of bear sightings near the campground the night before, so needless to say every rustle of a leaf or branch was amplified in my mind as I tried to sleep that first night.  Alas, I slept and did not have a bear encounter.

Sunrise from Shenandoah National Park from Loft Mountain
Sunrise to the east from Loft Mountain

The following day we drove north to our destination for the day – mile marker 45.6 to hike the very strenuous 8.2-mile Whiteoak Canyon-Cedar Creek circuit, past numerous waterfalls and cascades.  It was summer so the trees were lush and offered ample shade as we descended from the road. The cascading waterfalls serenaded hikers beside the trail, and the smells of the creek lingered in the cool air. At one point, a brown bear was spotted drinking at the creek far below.

A cascading waterfall along the Whiteoak Canyon Cedar Creek circuit in Shenandoah National Park
One of the many cascades along the Whiteoak Canyon-Cedar Creek circut

The water in the pools was cold, even in the summer, but refreshing for a quick dip after a long descent. Occasionally, we passed other hikers on the trail, especially around the crystalline pools, but most of the time we descended to the sounds of nature and the rhythm of our own footsteps.

A hiking trail in the forest at Shenandoah National Park
Hiking through the lush forests to the sounds of nature and our own footsteps

The hike took 6 hours, even though we descended the steep side and ascended the “easier side,” which was recommended in an old hiking book.  This is the opposite of what is recommended on the NPS site, possibly because you hit the waterfalls early and there is not as much to see on the difficult ascent.  Sore and exhausted, but feeling accomplished, sleep came shortly after and the thought of bears in the campground didn’t phase me this time. The beauty of the hike stayed with me and I visited Shenandoah National Park many times after.

Shenandoah National Park Quick Facts

Year established: December 26, 1935 (Authorized May 22, 1926)
Size: 197,438.76 acres (79,579 acres of wilderness)
Annual visitors: 1,321,873 in 2015 (Peak 2,411,500 in 1970)
Hours: 24 hours
Best activities: Hiking, camping, fall foliage, spring wildflowers
Where to find the passport cancellation stamp: Two visitor centers – Dickey Ridge (North) and Harry F. Byrd Sr. (South)

Meteor Shower Viewing

Meteor Shower Viewing

Arizona’s Petrified Forest National Park is hosting an Eta Aquarid meteor shower viewing on Saturday, May 7th. Even though the meteors do not fall quite as abundantly for us here in the northern hemisphere, we are still able to view the quick moving and often bright meteors during predawn hours. The Eta Aquarid meteor shower typically favors the southern hemisphere and is annually visible from April 19th-May 20th. This year, May 6th brings with it a new moon, supplying us with an intensely darkened sky with which to optimize our meteor viewing. This annual event doesn’t necessarily offer distinct peaks of meteors, but rather plateaus. The greatest number of predawn meteors has been predicted between May 4th and May 7th.

Now for a little background on this particular meteor shower. Eta Aquarid is named after a star, Eta Aquarii, which lies in the Aquarius constellation. The radiant point (the point in the sky from which meteors appear to originate) seems to lie very near this bright star. There is no need to keep your eyes focused on the Aquarius constellation as meteors can be seen all over the darkened sky.

What is the source of this brilliant shower? Halley’s Comet! What do we know about Halley’s Comet in conjunction with Eta Aquarid? The wake of a comet is littered with trails of dust and debris which often causes a meteor shower. The orbital path of Halley’s Comet is annually crossed by Earth in late April-May. Earth is deepest in Halley’s Comet debris field typically around May 6th. When the dust and debris collides with Earth’s atmosphere it results in the predawn showers.

Obviously, that was an extraordinarily general summary of the interactions between Earth, Halley’s Comet, and the resulting meteor shower. I am by no means an expert on the subject. If you want to know more please visit with the park rangers at the Petrified Forest, consult your local astronomer or astrophysicist. Neil deGrasse Tyson, anyone? If you are able to make it to the viewing please let us know about your experience.

Event Information:

Who:   You and your fellow meteor fans/knowledge seekers

What:  Meteor Shower Viewing

When: 7pm on May 7th

Where: Petrified Forest National Park – Chinde Point

Why:  Because you are curious

Park Contact Information: Kip Woolford   928-524-6288 x273


Adventure on Earthlings ~ Tiffany