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Author: Tiffany

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Little Niagara
Little Niagara

Chickasaw NRA felt different from the other National Park units I’ve been to. I found it difficult to navigate due to the lack of signs leading to the park. Once I arrived at the Travertine Nature Center I noticed the large amount of visitors meandering about, hanging out at the Nature Center, and playing in almost every bit of water visible. The Travertine Nature Center Park Rangers offered visitors information about the park, stamps, suggestions for hikes, and were incredibly patient with long winded visitor monologs.  I noticed many families congregating at Little Niagara, a small waterfall and swimming area. This would be a fun place for photography if you can get there early before it is packed with families swimming and setting up camp for the day. I would suggest seeing this particular part of the park first thing in the morning before the crowd hits it around mid-day. The park is free of charge and visitors are allowed, even encouraged, to frolic in the water. It was a hot Saturday morning and people were everywhere.

Buffalo Spring
Buffalo Spring

Once we left the crowded areas it was actually pretty enjoyable. The Antelope and Buffalo Spring hike was an easy/moderate 1.2 miles through a beautiful forest setting. While the trees are delightful it seems water is the main reason people are drawn to this park. If you happen to have a camera that is waterproof, dunk it and get some underwater photographs. The Buffalo Spring provided a calm shady place to sit and rest. The spring was constantly bubbling and I lingered here for a while relaxing in this quiet spot.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADon’t forget to check out the Bison Pasture Trail, a 1.9 moderate hiking loop, early in the morning as well. I went around 1pm and it was so incredibly hot that I couldn’t walk the entire trail. I was unable to see bison as I am sure they were hiding from the blazing heat.  I bet when they are out grazing it is a beautiful sight!

Chickasaw National Recreation Area is worth seeing if you can explore without the crowds. Be sure to chat with the Rangers before heading out as they can provide you with a plethora of information about the park.

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

San Antonio Missions National Historical Park

Mission San Jose - water well
Mission San Jose – water well
Saturday, June 18th San Antonio Missions National Historical Park offered a free open house and picnic at Mission Concepcion. The public was encouraged to bring in lawn chairs, food, and cameras for the community event. Live music was provided by Horizon, food trucks offered tasty treats for purchase, and kiddos were provided activities to keep them occupied! It was a hot Texas Saturday, nevertheless people were out enjoying the park. I had originally thought the missions were in close proximity to one another, but it turns out you need to drive to each one. They are not terribly far from one another, but it is something to consider if you are short on time or have other plans for the day.

 

Mission San Jose is spacious and well maintained. I was able to take my time looking around and snapping photos. My exploration was not hindered by other visitors due to the vastness of the grounds. The church (open to the public) displays some of the first examples of Baroque architecture in the U.S. including a beautiful piece of artistry called the Rose Window. “The Rose Window is known as the premier example of Spanish Colonial ornamentation in the United States”. Historians are unsure as to the significance of the window, however, there are a few theories out there explaining the mystery. Mission San José gives visitors a glimpse of what missions might have looked like some 250 years ago.

Mission San Jose - church
Mission San Jose – church

Mission Espada was about a fifteen minutes away so I headed there next. I found the Spanish detailing on the small church doorway, the stone archways, and remaining mazelike irrigation structures to be picturesque. The Espada Aqueduct and Dam are still functional and is said to be the oldest aqueduct of Spanish influence in the U.S. The system is about two-centuries-old and can be explored if you are so inclined.

Mission San Juan was significantly less busy than the other missions and it didn’t take me long to explore the grounds. The church, partially restored, is a smooth whitewashed stone façade which is drastically different in appearance from the other three missions. Due to recent structural issues the church is not open to visitors.

I would suggest visiting San Antonio Missions National Historical Park if you are in town. Parking was easy and the visitor centers were helpful and loaded with information. Perhaps combine visiting the park with one of their events!

Mission San Jose- stone walls
Stone walls surrounding the mission
2009 Flashback: Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

2009 Flashback: Pu’ukohola Heiau National Historic Site

PHNHSFlashback to an overcast April day, a relatively empty Pu’ukohola Heiau NHS, my camera and a few hours to explore before I met up with friends. I decided to visit Pu’ukohola Heiau alone as my friends preferred shopping to a rainy morning adventure. I was determined to visit the Park and get a passport stamp before I left the island. Also, I had heard black-tipped reef sharks could be seen in Pelekane Bay (early morning is usually the best time). Upon arrival I spoke with a park ranger to gather information about the park. I was told to walk around, stay on the trails, read, and listen. I wasn’t sure exactly what the listen part meant, but I left the Visitor Center pretty certain the ranger meant the cell phone audio tour.

Beautiful palm trees along the shore
Beautiful palm trees along the shore

I began walking, read all the posted signs, and occasionally listened to the cell phone audio tour. Eventually I just walked the trail, observed, and listened. Not to the audio tour, but to the sounds of this beautiful place. I sat on a bench for a while in the light rain and watched black-tipped reef sharks swimming in the bay! Watching the beauty of the sharks was worth the visit and by far the most fulfilling experience of the day. I tried to take photographs, but the rain made it a complicated process. Eventually I put my camera away and simply existed in the moment. I walked down to the shoreline to get a closer look at the sharks, unfortunately, it didn’t allow for a better visual on this low tide day. I sat near the shore under tall palm trees and listened to the water, rain, and wind.  

Historic stone structure
Historic stone structure

I cannot tell you how long I was there as I had lost track of time in the peacefulness of the Park. I was sitting by the water when I heard other visitors in the distance and decided it was time to head back to the car. Without realizing that I hadn’t explored the whole park I acquired my stamp and departed. I would like to revisit Pu’ukohola Heiau again, learn more about its historical significance, and explore its entirety as I missed a lot of it the first time. Though I wonder if the experience would be as powerful the second time around.

Pullman National Monument

Pullman National Monument

 

Greenstone Church
Greenstone Church

Chicago’s Pullman National Monument is a newly designated unit of the National Park Service. George Pullman was a railroad juggernaut who decided to build a company town for his employees. The idea was for his workers to have a “town” that provided them with a better standard of living and in turn he could retain those skilled workers. However, the town did not become quite the success Pullman had hoped for. The demand for railcars slowed and to make up for the loss of revenue Pullman lowered his workers wages, but kept the cost of living the same, inciting unrest within the community. The downfall of the Pullman legacy, company, and town was inevitable following a strike, a boycott, and riots.

Community Garden
Community Garden

 

Few buildings of the company town still remain, albeit some in a state of disrepair. The factory buildings have long suffered from neglect, a fire, and the elements. The Pullman Factory Administration Building, Greenstone Church, and Hotel Florence seem to have withstood the test of time, but were unavailable for touring.  Luckily I visited on a Bio Blitz day and was allowed access to explore part of the grounds usually protected behind locked gates. I came across an adorable community garden. Members of the community can request (after going to a meeting) a raised bed and cultivate it to their liking! The Factory Administration Building and Greenstone Church stood tall and illustrated the architecture of the time. Hotel Florence is currently under renovations, but the outside of the building and the surrounding areas were nice to walk around and photograph. It was a beautiful day, everyone at the park was so kind, and I was able to take my time walking around. If you are in Chicago and have time to visit their only National Monument I would definitely recommend it.Pullman-mural

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.

 

 

 

 

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

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

USPS Centennial Stamps

USPS Centennial Stamps

On August 25, 2016 the National Park Service celebrates 100 years of existence! In honor of this momentous occasion they have decided to celebrate all year long. The National Parks Services is hosting a myriad of events and free park days throughout the year. Today, however, I would like to discuss stamps. Yes…Stamps!

Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Copyright: 2016 USPS)
Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve (Copyright: 2016 USPS)

The United States Postal Service has decided to join in on the Centennial festivities! On April 25th, the USPS unveiled the 16th, and final, stamp in a brilliant collection to commemorate such an epic birthday. This pane of stamps doesn’t just showcase national parks – it also features a national monument, national historical parks, an aquatic garden, as well as national seashores, allowing for a richly satisfying representation of the parks system. Each stamp has been previewed individually (and alphabetically) since April 4th.

The first week of April previewed five sites including: Acadia National Park, Arches National Park, Assateague Island National Seashore, Bandelier National Monument, and Carlsbad Caverns National Park.

The second week, the USPS previewed: Everglades National Park, Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve, Grand Canyon National Park, Gulf Islands National Seashore, and Haleakalā National Park.

The final six stamps were previewed the week of April 18th. This unveiling celebrates Kenilworth Park & Aquatic Gardens, Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park, Mount Rainier National Park, San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, Theodore Roosevelt National Park, and Yellowstone National Park (one of the most-visited parks in the system).

The set of National Park Service Centennial stamps will be available on June 2, 2016! (Copyright: 2016 USPS)
The set of National Park Service Centennial stamps will be available on June 2, 2016!
(Copyright: 2016 USPS)

The June 2, 2016 first-day-of-issue ceremony will be held at New York City’s Javits Center (11am) as part of the once-in-a-decade World Stamp Show NY-2016. The show will run from May 28th-June 4th and admission is free. Can’t make it to NYC for the philately (the study of stamps and postal history) event? Dedication ceremonies will also be held at or near each park depicted in the stamp collection.

Want to know more?

Read the USPS press release.

Adventure on Earthlings ~ Tiffany