Category Archives: National Parks

Pocahontas – Did Disney Get it Right?

April 30, 2018 – Jamestown, Virginia

Some of us might remember the 1995 Disney movie Pocahontas, in which the young Powhatan Indian maiden is romantically involved with one of the founders of Jamestown, Captain John Smith.  It followed 1994’s The Lion King, so you may still have had the latter VHS tape in your VCR and missed it.  We did a little digging to find out just what happened at this historic village, and if the young native really had a thing for the dashing Englishman.

Jamestown is the first successful English settlement in North America.  Captain John Smith was aboard a three-ship expedition that established James Fort on what is now known as the James River.  It lies a mere 3 miles from the center of Williamsburg, Virginia, which we visited in our last post.  They arrived in late April of 1607, finding a place they thought was graced with fresh water.  That was later known to be the result of snow melt, with summer revealing the area’s water to be brackish.  They were agriculturally ill-equipped, and 80% of them perished the next winter during a period known as the Starving Time.  It didn’t help that the settlers weren’t getting along with the natives, either.  According to Smith he was captured by the Powhatans and nearly executed at one point, only to have Pocahontas throw herself across his body to save him.  Pretty romantic, but not the complete story.  More on that in a bit.

Following those difficult first years, Jamestown flourished and was the capital of Virginia from 1616 to 1699. Eventually it was known as James City.  In 1698 the capitol building burned, so the decision was made to move the seat of power to Williamsburg.  The little settlement by the James River eventually disappeared, except for the brick church tower that the colonists had built.  The property changed hands a few times and was eventually donated to the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities in 1893.  That non-profit organization is now known as Preservation Virginia.  It was believed that the original townsite had eroded into the river.  The organization received federal assistance to build a seawall to protect what was left.

On April 30, we went to check this place out.  We weren’t quite sure where to go, as there are two locations that are administered by three organizations.  Bear with me on this. The Commonwealth (state) of Virginia owns a recreated living history museum called Jamestown Settlement just downriver from the original site.  We chose not to visit there, opting to instead see the actual place where the colony existed.  The Preservation Virginia site is immediately adjoined upriver by New Town, the direction Jamestown grew as it developed.  New Town is administered by the National Park Service, and was excavated beginning in the 1930’s.  Those digs are considered to be complete. It is confusing that those two sites are presented together as Historic Jamestowne.  With Preservation Virginia’s involvement a separate $5 per person fee was charged, over and above our annual NPS pass. There is no choice to go only to the National Park.

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Upon entering the park, we were greeted by this large monument that commemorates the founding of Jamestown.  We decided to join in on the archaeologist’s tour, which met in the shadow of the obelisk. So if the original townsite was washed into the river, what are they digging for?  Well, in 1994, a man by the name of Dr. William Kelso convinced Preservation Virginia to let him dig and see what he could find.

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Our tour guide, Danny Schmidt, explained to us how they found the impressions of the fort’s posts in the soil.  He joined Kelso right at the start of the project when he was just 16 years old and has been digging ever since. He bolstered his on the site experience with official degrees, and is now Senior Staff Archaeologist. He repeatedly commented that he was in the right place at the right time and feels very lucky to have spent his career in this location learning from Dr. Kelso.

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It is very clear where a trench was dug and where the posts were placed.  When the posts rotted, the impressions in the soil left a different color.  The walls of the fort were quickly reestablished, finding that only a small portion of the structure had washed away.

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Looking down this wall to the point in the river where the far wall would intersect, shows how tiny that lost section is.  Danny took us through the discoveries he and the team made, explaining how the dried up wells and basements of burned structures were used as dumps.  As they found them, thousands of artifacts were brought up to help tell the story of Jamestown.  Comparing what they were finding to historical accounts from the colonists, the archaeologists were able to even identify some of the human remains that were buried there.  Schmidt was very interesting to listen to, telling about the times he met George W. Bush and Queen Elizabeth II, along with how the archaeology team determined what each found object was telling them.

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The group is currently excavating the earth under the brick church that was originally built in the 17th century.  This version is from the 1920’s, although the attached tower is said to be original. Also, there is a museum on the property which displays many of the artifacts found since Kelso started digging.

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This armor was found in one of the wells.  It is still in pretty good shape, considering it is 400 years old!

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This tag was probably affixed to a crate of supplies that was brought from England.  The old English spelling had it listed as Yames Towne.  This tag flew on the space shuttle Atlantis to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the settlement.  It logged a lot more miles on that trip than it did on it’s first one!

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And this guy is Captain Bartholomew.  They determined it by his bone structure, the staff he was buried with, and the location and direction of his grave.  Schmidt even explained that they can determine what area of England a person would have come from, as the water in each place leaves different markers on the bones.  Amazing stuff.  They also found the bones of a young girl that was cannibalized during the Starving Time.

So back to our Disney story.  Danny told us about how they ended up finding the original church, along with the graves of four people from the settlement.

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He even showed us the spot where Pocahontas was married to….John Rolfe.  Huh?  What happened to John Smith?  He had left town in late 1609.  As far as our young Powhatan maiden, it turns out that she was captured and held for ransom by the English in 1613.  She converted to Christianity and married Rolfe in 1614.  He was the person who introduced tobacco to the New World as a cash crop.  Pocahontas bore their son in 1615 and the three set sail for England in 1617.  She died soon after of unknown causes at the young age of 20 to 21 years old.  She is buried in the church in Gravesend, England.

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Here are our feet on the exact spot that the Rolfes would have taken their vows.  Pocahontas would have been wearing pink laces.  🙂

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A selfie after the ceremony and we were on our way to discover the third corner of the historic triangle: Yorktown.  We will take a look at that in our next post, so be sure to stay tuned.  We found some nifty little tidbits while we were there.  Until then, don’t forget to “paint with all the colors of the wind” in your travels! (We still love a little Disney now and then!)   🙂

As stated earlier, there is an additional $5 per person charge to enter Historic Jamestowne, even if you hold an annual NPS pass.  Preservation Virginia also asks for donations during the Archaeologist Tour and again upon entering the museum, even though the first additional fee goes to them.  In addition, this was the first park we had ever seen that charged for a Junior Ranger book.  While it was only $1, we were concerned that some parents would forego having their children participate in the activity, thereby putting a roadblock into what Preservation Virginia and National Parks are trying to accomplish.  Perhaps they will rethink that in the future.

Jamestown Settlement is a completely separate location that charges its own fee. It is a recreated living history museum owned by Commonwealth (state) of Virginia. We did not visit this location.

 

 

 

Touring the Outer Banks

In our last post about Kitty Hawk, we took you to one small slice of North Carolina’s Outer Banks.  Today we show you the other places we visited on this ribbon of sand that extends for 200 miles along the Atlantic coast.

Commonly referred to as OBX, the area consists of the islands of Ocracoke, Hatteras, Pea, Bodie, and Roanoke, along with the peninsula known as Currituck Banks.  Due to the shifting nature of the sand and the force of the storms that shape them, some of these islands come and go.  What might be an island today could very well be a peninsula tomorrow.  One of the most dynamic places along the chain is Cape Point, a corner of sand that moves continually south and west.  Just to the north of that point is Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

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This sentinel has stood guard here since 1870 and is America’s tallest brick lighthouse.  Well actually, not quite ‘here’, as remember…the island is moving.  When built, the tower was 1500 feet from the shore.  The ocean reshaped the island over time to where the structure was in danger of falling into the drink.  That 1500 feet had become just 15 feet.

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So in 1999, the National Park Service contracted to have the lighthouse moved 1/2 mile southwest to a point that is 1500 feet due east of the shore.  The red arrow shows about where the lighthouse used to be.  The move was considered an engineering marvel, as the tower is nearly 5000 tons and almost 200 feet tall!

As we climbed the steps, we noticed that the salt air is taking a toll on the lighthouse.

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The iron window frames are either rusting or are missing.  Not sure exactly why that is being allowed to happen, especially after putting so much effort into moving it.  Hmmmm….

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There are 257 steps up to the light itself, along with these beautiful black and white marble landings every 31 steps.  It is a very long climb.

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Not to worry; they were ready for us at the top.

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From the gallery, we could easily see Cape Point…

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…and how far we were from the ground!

While we were on the Outer Banks, we also visited several other lighthouses.

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Bodie (pronounced ‘body’) Island Lighthouse stands 40 miles north of Cape Hatteras.  This beauty still has its first order Fresnel lens, similar to the one we were responsible for at Heceta Head in Oregon last summer.  Vandals destroyed the one at Cape Hatteras years ago, and it was replaced with an aircraft beacon.

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We also visited Ocracoke Lighthouse, which was built in 1823.  It is still operating!  To reach it, we had to take a one-hour ferry ride from Hatteras Island.

While on Ocracoke Island, we visited their local historical museum.  It had an interesting collection of items that show what living on this isolated island is like.

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At the back of the museum was a video and a list of words that O’cockers (people raised on Ocracoke) use.  It’s actually tough to understand what they are saying as they speak.  One of the stories on the film was about some friends who flew to Las Vegas and brought their own oysters in Styrofoam coolers wrapped in duct tape to save a few bucks.  The part about one of the packages splitting open on the luggage carousel was hilarious.  🙂

Farther north on the Outer Banks is Roanoke Island.  This small piece of land actually sits inside the barrier islands, even though it is considered to be part of OBX.  It was here that the Lost Colony of Roanoke once existed.  In 1587, England attempted to establish a presence in North America at this location.  More than 100 men, women, and children landed on the island and worked to build a colony.  Their leader, John White, sailed back to England for supplies, only to be delayed in returning by a war that had erupted with Spain.  When he returned in 1590, the colonists were nowhere to be found.  Among them was the first European born in America, Virginia Dare.  The county that OBX is located in is named Dare in her honor.  What happened to the colonists?  Many theories exist, but no one knows for certain.

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Next to the site where the colony was is the Elizabethan Gardens.  We wanted to tour here, as the spring flowers are all in bloom!

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The azaleas were just gorgeous!

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So much color and fragrance.

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The garden’s namesake, Queen Elizabeth I, stands proud in the center of the property.  She was responsible for sending the colonists to America.

And here is another fun fact while visiting the site:

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Roanoke Island was the scene of a Civil Was battle.  This gentleman was a Union brigadier general by the name of Ambrose Burnside.  It is his unique way of styling his facial hair that used a twist of his last name to describe it: sideburns.  I always wondered where that came from!

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And no trip to the Outer Banks is complete without watching the kite boarders!

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With the steady breeze, these people were having a great time.

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We even noticed several Michigan license plates on the vehicles in the parking lot.  Still too cold on the Great Lakes to attempt this in April.

As mentioned at the beginning of the post, these islands are constantly changing.  While crossing the bridge from Bodie to Pea Islands, we saw a curious sign:

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Hey….what’s up with this???  Well, Pea Island was once part of Bodie Island, until a hurricane cut an inlet across it in 1846.  The first ship to navigate through the new waterway was the Oregon, so that’s what they named the inlet after.  Thought we were back on the west coast for a minute…

That wraps up our time in North Carolina.  We move into Virginia next, as well as inland for a bit.  Stay tuned to see what we find on our next adventure.  Until then, safe travels to all!

Charles Who?

As we were exploring Charleston, we kept coming upon a name that sounded familiar to us:  Charles Pinckney.  That was due in large part to our Michigan lineage, as there is a town in the Wolverine state named Pinckney.  I remember it well, as I did a 50 mile bicycle ride there one day with some friends.  After some research, it turns out that the South Carolina Pinckneys appear to not be related to the Michigan clan.  But who was this Charles Pinckney, and why does he have a national historic site in his honor?  Well, it turns out that there were several people by that name in Charleston.  In this post we are going to focus on the one who is honored at Charles Pinckney National Historic Site.

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Charles Pinckney (October 26, 1757 – October 29, 1824) came of age in a wealthy family as the people of the English colonies in America prepared to declare their independence from Britain. As a young man he fought in the Revolutionary War.  He was captured during the battle of Charleston and was taken prisoner until after the war ended.  Over his career, he was a four term Governor of South Carolina, a U.S. Senator, a U.S. Representative, and an ambassador to Spain.  But his biggest claim to fame was as a member of the Continental Congress when the U.S. Constitution was drafted.  On May 29, 1787, he submitted a plan to the convention that was called the Pinckney Draught.  It was similar in many ways to the Virginia Plan, calling for the following:

  • Three branches of government: Congress, Judicial and Executive branches.
  • A separate House and Senate.
  • A President shall inform Congress the conditions of the nation (State of the Union).
  • The President shall be Commander-in-Chief.
  • No state shall coin money, establish tariffs, keep troops, or enter into a treaty.
  • Only the House shall have the power of impeachment.

He also exclusively came up with the idea that no person should be held to a religious test to hold any elected office in the United States.

Eventually, ideas from all of the plans presented were woven into what became the United States Constitution.  Pinckney spoke often during the convention that was responsible for the creation of the instrument, and his signature is on the final document.

So how did his country plantation become a national historic site overseen by the National Park Service?  At first glance, the answer to that is a bit confusing…as the 1820’s era home that occupies the site was built by a subsequent owner.

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It turns out that the property had been sold to developers in the latter half of the 20th century.  Most of the original 715 acre estate was turned into a golf course, homes, and such.  US-17 even runs through it.  When the builders began to prepare the final 28 acres for development into 42 individual home sites, a group of local preservationists led by two women came to the rescue.  In 1986 they negotiated a $2 million purchase price, and proceeded to raise the money to cover it.  In 1990, they donated the property to the National Park Service.  The park opened to the public in 1995.

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The grounds are beautiful, with several paths winding through the property.  Over 150,000 artifacts have been unearthed from the site, along with the foundations from the original buildings.  The visitor center has many displays regarding Pinckney’s life of service, several of the found artifacts, and an interesting display on the Gullah culture along the lower Eastern seaboard.  Gullah is a language developed by the slaves that has an English base with West African influences.

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A fantastic example of the language is this Bible they have on display.  The English translation is on the sidebars.  I found it mesmerizing.  They actually let visitors page through it.

As with our other recent National Park visits, we completed our Junior Ranger books and earned our badges.  Having to search the displays for answers really makes sure we read each display carefully.  While the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site wasn’t a major attraction, we were glad we made the effort to go there.  We now have an appreciation for the man and his contributions to our nation.  As we see his name in the future, we will have a better understanding of who he was and where he came from.

Next up: A serendipitous assignment of campsites in Myrtle Beach.  Be sure to see the amazing meetup that resulted from that, and the friendships that came about as a result!  🙂

Jekyll and St. Simons Islands

When we left you last, we had explored northern Florida in an area that had been contested by the French and the Spanish back in the 1500’s.  On Thursday, we moved a mere 70 miles up the road to Brunswick, Georgia.  Here we found stories of the pre-Revolutionary British, the Civil War, the early 20th Century elite, and modern day foreign trade.  With only a few days here it was not only a lot to discover, but it was hard to keep it all straight!

We began by pulling into our first Boondockers Welcome location.  This is a program where people allow you to camp on their property for free.  This particular location was hosted by Leslie and Skipper, and they were just super to us.  We even hung out with them one evening around their fire pit, and got to know them and their neighbors over cocktails.  To show our appreciation for their hospitality, we gave them a small gift bag with some goodies from Michigan.  🙂

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They lost several trees during Hurricane Irma.  Fortunately, they all fell across the driveway when no one was home.  Thank you again, Leslie and Skipper!

On Friday, we headed out to St. Simons Island.  This particular barrier island is home to Fort Fredrica, an 18th Century British outpost and townsite.  The settlement was put into place under the watchful eye of James Oglethorpe; a soldier, member of Parliament, and a visionary.  His plan was to establish somewhat of a Utopia for people in debtors prisons back in England, all the while creating a buffer between British colonies to the north and the Spanish to the south.  A fort was erected along the Altamaha River in 1734, and a fortified town was laid out just behind it.  There were 84 lots, most of which were 60 by 90 feet.  Each family also received 50 acres in the surrounding countryside to raise crops.  As the town began to spring up, the Spanish to the south took notice.  Sensing the rising tensions, Oglethorpe sailed back to England and brought back a regimen of over 600 soldiers.  In 1740, the British went on the offensive and set sail for St. Augustine.  The ships bombarded the Spanish fort for two weeks straight to no avail.  Details as to just why that was, can be viewed in our post on St. Augustine by clicking here.  The British headed back to Fredrica and the Spanish followed not too long afterwards.  They brought an army of 2000 men with the intention of taking the fort and town.  Unfortunately for them, the British were more familiar with the area and their troops and townsfolk  used guerrilla tactics to chase the Spanish soldiers back south.  Without too much bloodshed, the skirmish ended and order was restored.

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When we arrived we requested our Junior Ranger materials, and enjoyed the movie and displays in the visitor’s center. Not letting the fairly steady rain deter us, we headed out through the town-site to the fort.  The river has changed course, so much of the location of the fort is now underwater. A couple of magazines remain above ground. The foundations of many structures have been unearthed by extensive archaeological studies, including the storehouse which John Wesley lived above.  We were able to make out the earthen berms that were the base of the fort’s walls, as well as footings of many of the homes.

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The town’s streets were well marked, as were each of the foundations.  After we received our badges, we went to explore the rest of the island.

Across from the fort is this monument and memorial garden to John and Charles Wesley.

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John Wesley is the founder of the Methodist Church. Diana is United Methodist and was pretty excited to walk the same ground as John Wesley, especially on Good Friday.  He made five separate trips to Fredica from England in 1736 and 1737.  It was after leaving Georgia for the last time that he began the Methodist Church.  There is a large Methodist conference center and museum on the island.  We drove around the beautiful campus, but were too late to tour the museum.

We also visited the St. Simons Lighthouse.

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This impressive structure looked very familiar to us.  It turns out that the engineer responsible for it was a man named Orlando Metcalfe Poe.  He was General Sherman’s chief engineer who accompanied him on his March to the Sea near the end of the Civil War.  After the war, Poe became the chief engineer of the U.S. Lighthouse Service. He developed this style of lighthouse and St. Simons was constructed in 1872.  Just prior to that, Poe was promoted to become the Great Lakes lighthouse chief engineer, as the region’s burgeoning shipping industry required sentinels to keep them safe.  He oversaw the construction of 8 lighthouses on the Great Lakes that used this same design.  He also designed the first of the Soo Locks, which was named after him.  He was injured during its construction and died of a subsequent infection in Detroit shortly afterwards.  He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His lock, which he never saw completed, was totally rebuilt in the 1960’s to allow 1000 foot freighters to pass between Lake Superior and the lower lakes.  They kept his name on it. 🙂

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The view from the top is outstanding!  The original 3rd order Fresnel lens is still in use.

While we were at the top of the tower, we asked a local woman about the ships pictured above.  Brunswick is home to a huge port that deals with ‘roll off-roll on’ cargo, in other words…vehicles.

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This is a screenshot of the port from Google Maps.  The five rows in the area circled in red contains over 3000 cars and trucks.  Considering all the other vehicles in the lots, there has to be well over 50,000 of them there!  We saw several of those ships coming and going while we were in Brunswick, so they must really employ a lot of people to move those cars.

On Saturday, we made our way to Jekyll Island for a bike ride.  We had scoped it out on Thursday evening, and we found the paths on the island to be favorable for our TerraTrikes.

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That day, we visited Driftwood Beach.  In the photo, I am looking across the water at St. Simons lighthouse.

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We also toured the historic district that was established in the late 1800’s.  The Jekyll Island Club attracted the wealthy elite; names like Rockefeller, Morgan, and Vanderbilt.

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Here is the Rockefeller ‘cottage’.  🙂

So on our return trip, we set out to circle most of the island.

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We rode through the historic district…

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…over the marshes…

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…and along the seashore.  It was good to be back on the trikes!

That wraps up our time in Brunswick.  Our next destination is Savannah, but not before a quick stop to see a good friend.  Stay tuned for that adventure!  Until then, safe travels to all.

 

 

 

Timucuan Preserve and Jacksonville

On Tuesday, March 27th, we packed up and began our journey towards Maine and then Michigan.

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It took a little bit, as we had so many ‘see you in the fall’ goodbyes!   We will miss seeing everyone and look forward to next winter. We did manage to hit the road before noon.  🙂

Our first stop was Jacksonville, Florida, to take care of some errands and to do a little sightseeing. Diana tried out her new Moose membership to get us a nice little camping spot for two nights.  Wait…what?  Moose membership???  Let’s back up a step.  On Sunday, we met Diana’s sister Cheryl and her hubby Doug for lunch at the Beach House at Patrick Air Force Base.

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They are also fulltime RVers. Cheryl mentioned to us that she was a Moose member and how Moose International was not only a great fraternal organization, it also allowed RV parking.  We decided to have Diana join first to see if the membership is something we will use.  We met them next night at a local Moose lodge and with Cheryl as a sponsor and $35, she signed up!

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Long story short, we ended up with a last minute overflow spot at a lodge in Jacksonville.  For $15 a night we has access to electricity, water, and a dump station….perfect!

First order of business was to get our mail in Green Cove Springs and head over to the DMV to renew our Escape and trailer plates.  We have always been impressed with our adopted hometown, in that they embrace having thousands of their residents be fulltime RVers, marine cruisers, and military.  Many of those folks never see the town after the first initial contact, but we like making an appearance at least once a year.  Tuesday was our second time through this season, and I have to say they outdid themselves.  We pulled into the parking lot at our mail forwarding service at 4:30 PM and grabbed the mail.  We then drove two miles to the DMV and were in and out by 4:45 PM.  That’s 15 minutes to take care of both items. Impressive, to say the least!

So that left Wednesday free for us to explore the area around Jacksonville. Looking for anything that fell under the National Park Service auspices, Diana found Timucuan  Ecological and Historic Preserve (pronounced tee-moo-kwan). This vast area encompasses several national and state sites, not far from a major city.  It was donated in the 1960’s by a man named Willie Brown.  He was offered millions of dollars by developers, but he wanted it saved as an unspoiled wilderness for future generations. On this particular day, we chose three locations.

First up was Fort Caroline National Memorial.

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This is where the main visitor center for the entire preserve is located. Inside, the story is told of  this place where the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and St. Johns River meet.  There is evidence of over 5000 years of human habitation that has been unearthed in the area.  The first people here were the Timucua, a broad group of several tribes of natives. Sustained by the marine life found in the salt marshes, and also by plants and animals of the land, these people thrived here for centuries.

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This wooden owl was found in the preserve and is estimated to have been carved in the 1400’s.  It is the largest wooden effigy ever discovered from an archaeological site in the Americas.

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This yellow pine dugout was also unearthed here.  These canoes were the mode of transportation used on the St Johns waters by the Timucua.

In 1562, a French expedition, led by Jean Ribault, landed here and claimed the land for France.  Ribault left 50 settlers to establish an outpost and returned to France.  In 1564, the French built a triangular fort and named it ‘le Caroline’.

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The French did not do well in this new land and were facing starvation when Ribault arrived with help from their homeland. The relief increased the population, and also caught the attention of Spain.  The Spaniards soon established a claim to the south at St Augustine, with the intention of dislodging the French to their north.  Ribault sailed south to attack the Spanish post, only to encounter a hurricane that disrupted his ships and he beached too far south.  Admiral Pedro Menendez seized the opportunity and marched north to Fort Caroline.  His men massacred 140 French people, sparing women and children. 40 to 50 French escaped and were able to sail back to France. He then marched south and found the shipwrecked men.  The French pleaded for mercy to no avail.  Menendez killed 350 of them…all but those professing to be Catholics or musicians. That site became known as Matanzas, a Spanish word meaning ‘slaughter‘.  After driving out the French, the Spaniards took over Fort Caroline and renamed it San Mateo.  In 1568, the French returned for the sole purpose of seeking revenge. They killed most of the Spanish at the former French outpost, except for a few who escaped to St Augustine.  After burning the fort, the force returned to France.

From Fort Caroline, we drove northeast to  Kingsley Plantation.

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Along the way, Edsel 2 took his first ferry ride!  As you can see, Diana is sporting her Fort Caroline Junior Ranger badge.  🙂

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Kingsley Plantation was built in 1798 and is the oldest surviving plantation house in Florida.  No small feat, considering it’s exposure to hurricanes, termites, fire, and humidity.  The story is told here of plantation life, with the owners fortunes amassed at the expense of slaves’ labor and freedom.

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Located on the St Johns River, the farm was perfectly situated to transport its goods via water.  Cotton was king here, as was indigo, and sugar cane.

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Near the entrance to the property were the remains of the slave quarters, laid out in a semi-circle.  These 23 structures housed 60 to 80 men, women, and children.  They are made of tabby. This construction material is oyster shells cooked with water and lime, and then mixed with sand to form cement. The horrors of slavery were well portrayed here, serving as a reminder of this disturbing time in American history.

Our last stop was Ribault Club.

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This was a millionaires resort built in the 1920’s.  During the depression, membership declined and the building fell into disrepair.

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The State of Florida acquired the property in 1989, and through a partnership with the National Park Service and the City of Jacksonville, restored the club in 2003.

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The building is used mostly for weddings and events, and is open for the public to view at other times.

We really enjoyed discovering Timucuan Preserve on what turned out to be a beautiful day.  We left several sites to explore at a future time, making sure we thoroughly soaked in the beauty and history the areas we visited.  Be sure to follow along to see our next adventure as we head north along the eastern coast.

Newberry National Volcanic Monument

On Monday, July 10, we took a day trip southwest of Prineville to Newberry National Volcanic Monument.

At 1200 square miles, Newberry is the largest volcano in Oregon.  It is unusual in the fact that it sits east of the line of peaks that make up the Cascade Mountains, although it is very much a part of that chain.  Newberry Volcano is considered active, and with its proximity to the growing towns of Central Oregon, it is constantly monitored for geological changes.  Where most of the volcanos in the region are made up of one dominant mountain, this one is unique in the fact that it has over 400 smaller cones scattered around its main crater.  The main peak collapsed into its magma chamber, similar to what Mt Mazama (now Crater Lake) did.  Although both craters now contain bodies of water, they are very different from each other.  Newberry’s lakes are much shallower and are separated by a volcanic cone and rock that completely span the larger crater.  The national monument encompasses 54,000 acres and is administered by the U.S. Forest Service.

Since this was a day trip, it would have been a rush to hit every feature of this park.  We opted to skip Lava Cast Forest and the Lava River Cave on this visit, hoping to catch them later in the summer.  This allowed us to spend quality time at the other points of interest.

Our first stop was at Lava Butte.

This is a photo looking into the crater.  Lava Butte is a fairly symmetrical cinder cone that sits out on somewhat of a flat plain.  It erupted only once around 7000 years ago, spewing lava to the west. 

 That lava field remains free of vegetation, which really gives a clear view of the footprint of this small volcano.  Towards the end of the eruption, cinders built up around the vent and formed the 500 foot tall butte we see today.

The next spot we visited was the Big Obsidian Flow.

Talk about awesome!  This is a giant wall of black glass that oozed from Newberry Volcano just 1300 years ago.  We climbed the trail that ascends to the top of this geological wonder, being careful not to fall…as it would surely result in sliced skin!  

The hillside glistened in the afternoon sun.  Absolutely beautiful!

Here’s my sweetie with her Junior Ranger badge and obsidian ears!

While we were in that area, we checked out the two lakes in the caldera.  They were both very pretty with plenty of trees surrounding them.  Lots of people boating, fishing and swimming.

The last place we visited was Paulina Peak.  Named after Chief Paulina, the fierce Paiute warrior who defended these lands from settler encroachment, the 7940 foot mountain is the highest remaining point of the Newberry Volcano.

From the top, we had a 360 degree view of the area.  To the west, we could see everything in the Cascades from Crater Lake up to Mt. Adams in Washington. To the east, we could see Idaho and Nevada.  Now that’s exploring vistas!

While we were there, we spoke with this elderly gentleman. 

If you ever feel like you might be getting too old to hike, refer back to this post and this photo. The view from the parking lot wasn’t good enough for him…no, he needed to climb the extra 40 feet to the summit.  You just have to love this guy.   He had a sense of humor also, as Diana asked him what the large sandy area was in the woods off to our northwest.  His reply?  “Alien landing site.”  😉

We really enjoyed our day at Newberry National Volcanic Monument.  If you ever are near Bend, Oregon, be sure to check it out!

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Crater Lake

It all started with a big bang!

On June 22, we headed east from the coast to visit Crater Lake National Park.  We had visited this beautiful volcano-turned-lake in 1996 and have looked forward to seeing it again ever since.  Our friend Rick from On the Road with Maxine and Me had made the trek from Heceta Head a week before us and reported there was plenty of snow still adorning the park.  With temperatures at lower elevations topping 100 degrees, we knew we had to get over there soon if we wanted to see it dressed in white!

The 12,000 foot volcano that once stood where Crater Lake now is was named Mount Mazama.  Geologists estimate that it most likely had a similar appearance to Mt. Hood, which is further north in the Cascade range.  It took around 400,000 years to reach its full height. Sometime back about 7,700 years ago the volcano came to life, rumbling and releasing steam and ash.  Within a few weeks, the mountain erupted with such force that it emptied the magma chamber below it.  In what was estimated to be over the period of just a few minutes, the roof of the chamber collapsed and the top of the mountain fell into it.  It is thought that the force of the eruption was 42 times more powerful than the one at Mt. St. Helens in 1980.  Subsequent eruptions created small volcanoes within the crater, but nothing like the big bang that caused the mountain to implode.  Over the next several hundred years, rain and snowmelt filled the crater, creating the lake we see today.

Above is Wizard Island, which is actually a volcano within the caldera. There are two of these cones in the lake, but one of them is 500 feet below the surface.  The lake is an incredible 1949 feet deep, the greatest depth of any inland body of water in the United States.  No tributaries feed the lake, and the only outflow occurs through seepage.  This keeps the water quality exceptionally pure.  We were happy to see that there was still quite a bit of snow, despite temperatures in the upper 70’s at the crater rim.  😊. The green streaks on the water are a layer of pollen.

The lake gets its iridescent blue color from its massive depth and pristine water.

The drifts were still piled high against the visitor center, but almost all of the parks buildings were open for business.

This viewpoint was one of the few structures yet to be accessed…

…but the park workers were working hard to remedy that!

Edsel was dwarfed by this snowbank!  When we asked the ranger if there were any picnic tables in the park, she pointed to this massive drift and said “Under there”.  Guess we’ll eat in the Escape. 😉

Crater Lake Lodge was hopping with visitors…

…as were the mounds of snow surrounding the rim of the lake!

We saw several Clark’s Nutcrackers while we were there.  This species of bird was first described by William Clark on the Corps of Discovery expedition to the Pacific Ocean in 1805.  They are able to carry hundreds of seeds in a pouch below their tongues, which they bury in small caches to eat at a later time. Since they aren’t able to eat the thousands of seeds they store, many trees take root and thereby renew the birds’ food source.

Until this visit, we thought these little inhabitants of Oregon were chipmunks.  By completing our Junior Ranger books, we found out that they are actually Golden Mantled Ground Squirrels.  Chipmunks have a striped head.  Learn something new every day!

Little did we know back in 1996 that it would be 21 years before we returned.  Even though we are hoping to visit again later in the summer, it was difficult to leave this beautiful place this time around.  If you ever have the opportunity to visit Crater Lake, we highly recommend you do so!
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The Mouth of the Columbia River

It is often said ‘Life is short…eat dessert first’.  

On June 15, we headed up to Astoria, Oregon to take in the western end of the Lewis & Clark voyage to the Pacific Ocean.  For a long time, we’ve had an interest in the route that the Corps of Discovery followed from 1804-1806.  Lewis & Clark and their team went on what could arguably be labeled as the greatest camping trip ever. During our vacation travels in the past through the northern plains, we’ve encountered several references to the expedition. In addition, we’ve seen many historical sites regarding their trip in our visits with our friends Jim and Sue in the area around Alton, Illinois and St. Louis, Missouri.  We can even date it back to our 1993 trip to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Virginia, where Thomas Jefferson and Meriwether Lewis first researched the voyage.  This past March, our friends Fred and Bonnie from HappiLEE RVing urged us to read Stephen Ambrose’s Undaunted Courage… a historical biography of Meriwether Lewis…while discussing the subject on the beach in Florida.  They are planning on following the Corps of Discovery route this summer (follow them on their journey!), and it piqued our curiosity.  Having read bits and pieces over the years about the wet and miserable winter the expedition encountered in western Oregon, we had to see the area for ourselves! Our close proximity to the mouth of the Columbia River while we were working at Heceta Head Lighthouse made it possible.  Yes, we were eating dessert first, but we know from experience that life can indeed be short!

The Corps of Discovery sites around the mouth of the Columbia River include locations in Oregon and Washington State Parks, as well as the Lewis & Clark National Historical Park.  The first thing the group encountered was the area along the north shore of the Columbia that William Clark noted as “a dismal little nitch”, as depicted in the drawing above.  

It’s now a tight little bend in US-101 between the Astoria Bridge and a rest area.  Still, it’s easy to envision the expidition being holed up for several stormy days between the rocky shore and the mountainside.

The Corps moved from there to Middle Village.  There is a nice display of the canoes the Clatsop Indians used back then.  It’s not far down the river from Dismal Nitch, still on the Washington side of the Columbia.  It was from that base camp that they first ventured out to the shore of the Pacific.

This is the current view at Cape Disappointment, Washington, which is where Lewis & Clark first saw the mighty ocean’s surf.  Even with the jetties, it is easy to imagine the scene as they viewed it over 200 years ago.

Back at Middle Village, the Corps voted to cross the river into present day Oregon to find a suitable place to spend the winter of 1805-1806.  It was there on a small tributary that they built Fort Clatsop.

This building is a re-creation of the original fort.  The property includes a very nice visitor center that features a couple of movies on the expedition, along with several exhibits that detail the voyage.

There is also a trail from the fort to the canoe landing.  This was a protected area off of the Columbia tributary, now known as the Lewis & Clark River.  From there, the fort was just a few hundred yards away.

After seeing the fort, we drove down to Seaside, Oregon and found the location of the Salt Works.

Situated in the middle of a present-day neighborhood, the Salt Works was identified by a Clatsop Indian woman in the early 1900’s.  Her grandfather had told her of the site when she was a child.  This is where the Corps boiled seawater to get salt to preserve meat for their trip back east in the spring.

Just south of that was Haystack Rock.

Named for its resemblance to a farm haystack, this beach is where the dead whale washed ashore that Lewis, Clark, Sacajawea and several others came to get blubber and oil.  It is located at present day Cannon Beach, Oregon.

Even though the surrounding area was developed with modern buildings and roads, just being able to see the actual locations of the Lewis & Clark sites helps paint a visual image in our minds as to what they endured that winter.  Lewis was very descriptive in his journals and we had a good idea of what we were going to be seeing.  But no matter how good the description, there really is no substitute for putting ourselves on the same soil the Corps of Discovery occupied.  It has given us a desire to check out more of the Lewis & Clark Trail, and we hope to do so in the future!

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Kings Canyon National Park

We almost didn’t go….

After a very full day on Wednesday, May 10 at Sequoia, we planned to spend Thursday getting caught up on chores and such.  We planned our visit to Kings Canyon for Friday, still not totally sure what we were going to find there.  We seriously considered skipping it all together, as a quick check of Google Street View wasn’t revealing much more than a tree-lined road.  Well, something stirred in us that Thursday morning and before we knew it, we were in Edsel and headed for Sequoia’s brother to the north!

Rather than take the same road we took the day before, we decided to try the road that ran west of Sequoia through the foothills. What started out as a two lane road with painted lines quickly turned into a narrow country lane, somewhat reminiscent of the roads we experienced in Kentucky.  I had to tame my inner Formula One driver, so as to not go over the side. 😉. The road gained elevation as we went, eventually leading us to the entrance to Kings Canyon.

Looking at this photo and the previous one, it’s hard to believe they were taken an hour apart!  Our fears of a cloudy day soon dissipated as we drove further into the park.  We stopped at the Grant Grove Visitor Center to gather more information about Kings Canyon and ended up speaking to Ranger Meredith, a seasoned dynamo full of enthusiasm for her beloved workplace.  That stop paid off in gold as the day progressed. As we headed to the heart of the canyon, the road actually leaves the park for a stretch and enters Giant Sequoia National Monument.

This outstanding area was elevated to monument status in 2000.  The road through it is the only way to get into the main portion of Kings Canyon. With most of the turnouts on the opposite side of the road, we opted to catch them on our way back home.  Seeing what we had to look forward to was like knowing we were going to have a great dessert after our meal.  😃

One thing Ranger Meredith asked us was “Any geologists here?”  We expressed our interest, so she told us to go exactly 1/2 mile past Boyden Cave and look at the rock wall on the driver’s side.  She said that even though there isn’t a pulloff, stop in the road and take a photo…and if the cars behind us didn’t like it, too bad.  😉

Wow!  I guess this says a lot about the makeup of subterranean California!

From there, we headed upriver to Grizzly Falls.

This powerful torrent was the culmination of Grizzly Creek just prior to it entering the Kings River.

From there, the road re-entered the national park.  Our next stop was Roaring River Falls.

It definitely was roaring!  Diana asked a NPS trail worker what we could expect to see in July, if we had come then instead.  He said that the river would actually be higher in July, as the warm temperatures would be melting the mountain snowpack more quickly than it currently was.  

From there we went to Zumwalt Meadow.

We crossed this suspension bridge along the way.

We also had to cross over this flooded pathway, as a small creek was over its banks in this section of the trail.

This was the payoff at the end of the trail!  It was a very peaceful place to be.  From this point, the road went just a little farther to a place called Road’s End.  Diana spoke with three hikers there who had crossed the Sierras from the east.  It took them six days.  They had snowshoes as part of their gear, and they mentioned that there still is a lot of snow at the higher elevations.  There are several trails that leave from Road’s End that are more our speed, and we definitely want to return to try them in the future.

Heading back out the same road, we had a little surprise along the way.

Three wide load trucks with what appeared to be some sort of temporary housing units on the back came by!  I was over as far as I could possibly get, and had a few thousand foot drop off to my right.  Yikes!

The difference in height between the river and the mountaintops is around 8200 feet, making Kings Canyon one of the deepest canyons in the United States!  

As I stated earlier, we almost didn’t make the trip that day.  The next morning, the clouds hung at 2000 feet, so we wouldn’t have seen much of anything.  We were glad we made the effort when we did, so we were able to see the spectacular scenery that Kings Canyon has to offer.

Though it is a bit of a challenge to get to, take the time to experience it.  You won’t be disappointed!

Next up, we head towards Napa Valley!  Be sure to stay tuned!

Sequoia National Park

At a coffee shop in Kentucky last November, we scheduled a five day stay at Yosemite National Park as part of our trip to Oregon from Florida.  Record rainfall this winter took out a couple of key bridges between the campground we had reserved and Yosemite, and it would have increased the trip into the park to 2-1/2 hours.  While considering our options, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks showed up on our radar.  A few phone calls later, our new destinations were set!

These two parks are operated as one administrative unit, but are vastly different.  With that in mind, we will give Kings Canyon its own post following this one. We arrived on Tuesday, May 9 and set up base camp at Kaweah Resort in Three Rivers, just outside of Sequoia’s southwest gate. We drove up to the visitor’s center and picked up our maps, information, and our Junior Ranger book.

The next day we set off to discover Sequoia National Park!

As we entered the foothills, it quickly became evident that the roads were full of curves and hairpin turns.  It was seldom that we cleared 30 miles an hour, which was just fine with us.  There were plenty of turnouts to allow us to get over and let those with a tighter schedule to pass.  It was in these foothills that Moro Rock first came into view.  Knowing there was a pathway to the top, we headed that way.

Our first stop was at Hospital Rock.

This gigantic boulder was the winter home for up to 500 Potwisha Indians, and features several petroglyphs.  Hale Tharp, a settler originally from Michigan by way of Placerville California, gave the rock its name after two acquaintances of his were treated by the natives there for injuries they had sustained elsewhere in the mountains.

Just before Moro Rock is a trail leading to Hanging Rock.

Not exactly a place a person would want to be in a rain, ice or snow storm.  😉 The view from there was outstanding!

The trail does offer one of the better vantages of our next destination.

After the Hanging Rock Trail, we then began our ascent up the spine of Moro Rock.  The 350 rock stairs were fashioned in the 1930’s by the CCC and provide a fairly (but not totally) safe route to the top.

This is definitely one place where you want to heed the Stay on the Traîl signs!

Looking back, Hanging Rock can be seen in the center of the photo.  That’s quite a drop off.

The view from the top is breathtaking!  We want to note that this is not a place to be if there is a threat of bad weather.  Lightning can be an issue up here.  We also saw one woman scooting back down on her bottom, so a fear of heights comes into play on this climb.

From the vistas of Moro Rock, we descended into the forest that this park is so famous for.  Actually, the word descended  is a misnomer.  We gained a fair amount of elevation before we reached the taller sequoia trees.  That boggled our minds as typically the higher the elevation, the shorter the trees. That’s not the case here!

Words can not describe how impressive these trees are.  That tree is most likely well over 1000 years old.  The small tree to the left is also a Sequoia.  The bark on these trees is soft and squishy, about the consistency of a ripe avocado.  As you can see on the smaller tree, the needles are similar to a cedar or arborvitae.

They actually grow in a mixed forest.  There are several groves of them scattered around the park.

And there’s Diana waving from Edsel in the Tunnel Log!  

We traded photography duties with a couple at these twin sequoias.  One of the trunks showed a large forest fire scar.  These giants rarely succumb to fire, as the bark is flame resistant.  The trees have a surprisingly shallow root system, considering their size. The usual cause of death is that they simply lose their balance and fall over.



Which is exactly what happened with the Buttress Tree.   This giant actually toppled over in 1959 on a clear day with no wind.  It’s remarkable how little it has decayed since then.

And here’s two sequoia wannabes with the real deal!  I guess this could be called a shameless sequoia selfie. 😉

Of all the mammoths in Sequoia National Park, one stands larger than the rest.  In fact, it is the largest tree by volume on the face of the earth!

The General Sherman Tree!

This coniferous colossus is estimated to be 2200 years old!  To give visitor’s an idea how tall it is, the trail from the parking lot 1/2 mile away begins at treetop height (275 feet).  Walking back up the trail afterwards…at an altitude of 6000 feet above sea level…really drives the point home.  This tree is simply magnificent.

Next up is Sequoia’s neighbor to the north, Kings Canyon National Park!  Be sure to stay tuned!

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