Roadtripping the national parks in my Forester

Since its purchase in 2006, my Subaru Forester—named Betsy—has been a constant companion in my quest to visit every national park unit. The vehicle has transported Kim and I on some of our best road trips, whether that’s our Great American Roadtrip in 2007, our wedding post-wedding roadtrip in 2008, or many others. There have been a great many memories produced in the vehicle—the mystery rodent that chewed through our backseat fabric in Glacier, attempting to sleep on far too thick of air mattresses in the back of the vehicle at a random rest stop somewhere in California, or enduring a gauntlet of 70mph wind, dust, rain, hail, and snow on a drive to Utah with my kayak strapped to the roof for the very first time, to name a few.

Last week, I took what is probably my last national park road trip with Betsy: a long overdue visit to Chaco Culture National Historical Park—one of the first places we had intended to go once we got it. It was a last minute change of plans that had me take the Forester on that trip, but it was great to bring her out one last time, and especially to a remote park that requires a significant drive on dirt roads to access.

With 175,000 miles on her, and several significant repairs I’ve been delaying, and only one long national park road trip to the Pacific Northwest remaining (I’ll fly to the northeastern parks from now on), she’s likely finally retired from her road trip career. While I’d love to do some more long roadtrips with her, I’m also happy shuttling around my kayak and mountain bike around the state. Thanks for all of the lifelong roadtripping memories.

 

National Monuments designated under the Antiquities Act

The Antiquities Act of 1906 was the first piece of legislation to protect ruins and artifacts of Native American cultures. However, the law also gave the President authority to designate national monuments on federal lands—a powerful and important tool for protecting some of our nation’s most important treasures.

This authority has been used more than a hundred times by a total of sixteen Presidents—eight Republican and eight Democratic.

Many of the national monuments established under the Antiquities Act have later been expanded, merged, or converted into national parks (asterisks show ones that have retained their national monument status); several have also been renamed over time. While most of the national monuments are managed by the National Park Service, several are managed by other federal agencies, most notably the Bureau of Land Management as part of the National Conservation Lands (I’ve displayed those in italics).

Below is the list of designations. I’ve had the pleasure and good fortune of visiting the majority of these places. You should too.

Theodore Roosevelt (18)

9/24/06 Devils Tower, WY*
12/8/06 El Morro, NM*
12/8/06 Montezuma Castle, AZ*
12/8/06 Petrified Forest, AZ
3/11/07 Chaco Canyon, NM
5/6/07 Cinder Cone, CA
5/6/07 Lassen Peak, CA
11/16/07 Gila Cliff Dwellings, NM*
12/19/07 Tonto, AZ*
1/9/08 Muir Woods, CA*
1/11/08 Grand Canyon, AZ
1/16/08 Pinnacles, CA*
2/7/08 Jewel Cave, SD*
4/16/08 Natural Bridges, UT*
5/11/08 Lewis and Clark Cavern, MT
9/15/08 Tumacacori, AZ
12/7/08 Wheeler, CO
3/2/09 Mount Olympus, WA

William Howard Taft (10)

3/20/09 Navajo, AZ*
7/12/09 Oregon Caves, OR*
7/31/09 Mukuntuweap, UT
9/21/09 Shoshone Cavern, WY
11/1/09 Gran Quivira (now Salinas Pueblo Missions), NM*
3/23/10 Sitka, AK
5/30/10 Rainbow Bridge, UT*
6/23/10 Big Hole Battlefield, MT
5/24/11 Colorado, CO*
7/6/11 Devils Postpile, CA*

Woodrow Wilson (14)

10/14/13 Cabrillo, CA*
1/31/14 Papago Saguaro, AZ
10/4/15 Dinosaur, UT-CO*
11/30/15 Walnut Canyon, AZ*
2/11/16 Bandelier, NM*
7/8/16 Sieur de Monts, ME
8/9/16 Capulin Mountain (now Capulin Volcano), NM*
10/25/16 Old Kasaan, AK
6/29/17 Verendrye, ND
3/18/18 Zion, UT (incorporated Mukuntuweap NM)
8/3/18 Casa Grande (now Casa Grande Ruins), AZ*
9/24/18 Katmai, AK
12/12/19 Scotts Bluff, NE*
12/12/19 Yucca House, CO*

Warren G. Harding (8)

1/24/22 Lehman Caves, NV
10/14/22 Timpanogos Cave, UT*
10/21/22 Fossil Cycad, SD
1/24/23 Aztec Ruin (now Aztec Ruins), NM*
3/2/23 Hovenweep, UT-CO*
3/2/23 Mound City Group, OH
5/31/23 Pipe Spring, AZ*
6/8/23 Bryce Canyon, UT

Calvin Coolidge (13)

10/25/23 Carlsbad Cave, NM
4/18/24 Chiricahua, AZ*
5/2/24 Craters of the Moon, ID*
10/15/24 Castle Pinckney, SC
10/15/24 Fort Marion (now Castillo de San Marcos), FL*
10/15/24 Fort Matanzas, FL*
10/15/24 Fort Pulaski, GA*
10/15/24 Statue of Liberty, NY*
12/9/24 Wupatki, AZ*
2/26/25 Glacier Bay, AK
2/26/25 Meriwether Lewis, TN
9/5/25 Father Millet Cross, NY
11/21/25 Lava Beds, CA*

Herbert Hoover (9)

4/12/29 Arches, UT
5/11/29 Holy Cross, CO
5/26/30 Sunset Crater (now Sunset Crater Volcano), AZ*
3/17/32 Great Sand Dunes, CO*
12/22/32 Grand Canyon, AZ
1/18/33 White Sands, NM*
2/11/33 Death Valley, CA-NV
3/1/33 Saguaro, AZ
3/3/33 Black Canyon of the Gunnison, CO

Franklin D. Roosevelt (11)

4/26/33 Channel Islands, CA
8/22/33 Cedar Breaks, UT*
1/4/35 Fort Jefferson, FL
8/10/36 Joshua Tree, CA
1/22/37 Zion, UT
4/13/37 Organ Pipe Cactus, AZ*
8/2/37 Capitol Reef, UT
7/16/38 Fort Laramie, WY
5/17/39 Santa Rosa Island, FL
7/24/39 Tuzigoot, AZ*
3/15/43 Jackson Hole, WY

Harry S. Truman (1)

10/25/49 Effigy Mounds, IA*

Dwight D. Eisenhower (2)

7/14/56 Edison Laboratory, NJ
1/18/61 Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, MD-WV

John F. Kennedy (2)

5/11/61 Russell Cave, AL*
12/28/61 Buck Island Reef, VI*

Lyndon B. Johnson (1)

1/20/69 Marble Canyon, AZ

Jimmy Carter (15)

12/1/78 Admiralty Island, AK* (US Forest Service)
12/1/78 Aniakchak, AK*
12/1/78 Becharof, AK
12/1/78 Bering Land Bridge, AK
12/1/78 Cape Krusenstern, AK*
12/1/78 Denali, AK
12/1/78 Gates of the Arctic, AK
12/1/78 Kenai Fjords, AK
12/1/78 Kobuk Valley, AK
12/1/78 Lake Clark, AK
12/1/78 Misty Fjords, AK* (US Forest Service)
12/1/78 Noatak, AK
12/1/78 Wrangell-St. Elias, AK
12/1/78 Yukon-Charley, AK
12/1/78 Yukon Flats, AK

William J. Clinton (21)

9/18/96 Grand Staircase-Escalante, UT* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/11/00 Grand Canyon-Parashant, AZ* (Jointly managed by the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management)
1/11/00 Agua Fria, AZ* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/11/00 California Coastal, CA* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/10/00 Pinnacles, CA (Expansion)
4/15/00 Giant Sequoia, CA (Expansion—-US Forest Service)
6/09/00 Hanford Reach, WA (US Fish and Wildlife Service)
6/09/00 Ironwood Forest, AZ* (Bureau of Land Management)
6/09/00 Canyons of the Ancients, CO* (Bureau of Land Management)
6/09/00 Cascade-Siskiyou, OR* (Bureau of Land Management)
7/07/00 President Lincoln and Soldiers’ Home (Armed Forces Retirement Home)
11/9/00 Craters of the Moon, ID* (Expansion of Existing Monument; Bureau of Land Management)
11/9/00 Vermilion Cliffs, AZ* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Carrizo Plain, CA* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks, NM* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Minidoka Internment, ID
1/17/01 Pompeys Pillar, MT* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Sonoran Desert, AZ* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Upper Missouri River Breaks, MT* (Bureau of Land Management)
1/17/01 Virgin Islands Coral Reef, VI*
1/20/01 Governors Island, NY*

George W. Bush (3)

2/27/06 African Burial Ground, NY*
6/15/06 Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Marine (renamed Papahanaumokuakea Hawaii Islands Marine), HI
12/05/08 World War II Valor in the Pacific (incorporated USS Arizona Memorial), HI*

Barack Obama (32)

11/01/11 Fort Monroe, VA*
4/20/12 Fort Ord, CA (Bureau of Land Management)
9/21/12 Chimney Rock, CO (US Forest Service)*
10/08/12 César E. Chávez, CA*
3/25/13 Charles Young Buffalo Soldiers, OH*
3/25/13 First State, DE*
3/25/13 Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad, MD*
3/25/13 Río Grande del Norte, NM (Bureau of Land Management)*
3/25/13 San Juan Islands, WA (Bureau of Land Management)*
10/28/13 Military Working Dog Teams, TX (Department of Defense)
5/21/14 Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks, NM (Bureau of Land Management)*
10/10/15 San Gabriel Mountains, CA (US Forest Service)*
12/19/14 Tule Springs Fossil Beds, NV*
2/19/15 Browns Canyon, CO (Bureau of Land Management)*
2/19/15 Honouliuli, HI*
2/19/15 Pullman, IL*
7/10/15 Basin and Range, NV (Bureau of Land Management)*
7/10/15 Berryessa Snow Mountain, CA (US Forest Service/BLM)*
7/10/15 Waco Mammoth, TX*
2/12/16 Mojave Trails, CA (Bureau of Land Management)*
2/12/16 Sand to Snow, CA (US Forest Service, BLM)*
2/12/16 Castle Mountains, CA*
4/12/16 Belmont-Paul Womens Equality, DC*
6/24/16 Stonewall, NY*
9/15/16 Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument* (Atlantic Ocean)
12/28/16 Bears Ears, UT (Bureau of Land Management)*
12/28/16 Gold Butte, NV (Bureau of Land Management)*
1/12/16 Freedom Riders, AL*
1/12/16 Montgomery Civil Rights, AL*
1/12/16 Reconstruction Era, SC*
1/12/16 California Coastal, CA (Expansion of Existing Monument; Bureau of Land Management)
1/12/16 Cascade-Siskiyou, OR (Expansion of Existing Monument; Bureau of Land Management)

Some additional notes on these designations:

  • Congress has transferred 10 national monuments (Lewis and Clark Cavern, Wheeler, Shoshone Cavern, Papago Saguaro, Old Kasaan, Verendrye, Fossil Cycad, Castle Pinckney, Father Millet Cross, Holy Cross) to other federal, state, or local jurisdictions.
  • Congress has limited Antiquities Act powers in two states: Wyoming and Alaska.
  • The largest designation has been Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument at 140,000 square miles; the smallest was Father Millet Cross National Monument at 0.0074 acres.

Caves I’ve visited

One of the natural features I often enjoy visiting on my travels are caves. I’m not a caver, but I seem to find myself in many places that have caves and cave tours, and it’s rare for me to pass up an opportunity to explore yet another one. In fact, I’ve been to more than 20 of them—including most of the public caves in the National Park System. In no particular order, here’s the list:

  • Bear Gulch Cave, Pinnacles National Monument (California)
  • Crystal Cave, Sequoia National Park (California)
  • Mammoth Cave National Park (Kentucky)
  • Russell Cave National Monument (Alabama)
  • Wind Cave National Park (South Dakota)
  • Peppersauce Cave (Arizona)
  • Fort Stanton Cave, Ft Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (New Mexico)
  • Timpanogos Cave National Monument (Utah)
  • Jewel Cave National Monument (South Dakota)
  • Lehman Cave, Great Basin National Park (Nevada)
  • Kartchner Caverns State Park (Arizona)
  • Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark (County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland)
  • Sea Lion Caves (Oregon)
  • Grand Canyon Caverns (Arizona)
  • Carlsbad Caverns National Park (New Mexico)
  • Colossal Cave (Arizona)
  • Mitchell Cavern, Providence Mountains State Rec Area (California)
  • Lava tubes, Lava Beds National Monument (California)
  • Oregon Caves National Monument (Oregon)
  • Lava tube near Flagstaff (Arizona)
  • Lava tubes, El Malpais National Monument (New Mexico)
  • Lava tubes, Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve (Idaho)
  • Lava tube, Mojave National Preserve (California)
  • Thurston Lava Tube, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park (Hawaii)

The links above are to photos I’ve taken at each place—though mind you, it’s not always easy to take good snapshots inside a cave. I have several more albums to post, and I’ll update the links once I get those photos up.

My favorite caves include Carlsbad Caverns (there really isn’t one that can compare to it), Kartchner Caverns (Arizona’s best state park), and the Sea Lion Caves (great childhood memory and my only sea cave). I enjoy the occasional lava river tube, but I’ve seen enough of them now that each new one is less and less exciting. Of all of them, I think I was most disappointed with the world’s longest: Mammoth Cave. I attribute that to high expectations and the fact that we took a 4-mile, 4.5 hour tour where we only saw great formations in the last 200 yards or so. Several of these caves are less than spectacular, but still make for a fun stop if you’re driving by.

I have the distinct pleasure of working with the folks at the Fort Stanton Cave Study Project on the Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area (an area of the National Conservation Lands) and there’s some great science happening there.

Note that several of  these parks—particularly the ones with lava tube formations—have several separate caves that I’ve wandered through, but I’m only counting them as one for this list.

What’s your favorite cave? Which one should be on my list?

Our Mojave National Preserve roadtrip

Sunset over Kelso Dunes, Mojave National Preserve

It was February 2009 when Kim and I brought friends Victoria and Terry on a short roadtrip to California. Our primary destination was Mojave National Preserve, a national park unit tucked away between I-15 and I-40 near the borders of California, Nevada, and Arizona. It was a first visit for Kim and I, who had been on a quest to visit all of the national parks.

Along the way, we stopped at the Blythe Intaglios, a series of rock geoglyphs near the Colorado River. Because it had rained just before we left Arizona, some roads in Mojave were a bit rough and the park ranger suggested we stick to just a few parts of the park. We spent some time at the Kelso Depot and Kelso Dunes, and camped and hiked near Hole-in-the-Wall. We also managed a tour of Mitchell Caverns within the Providence Mountains State Recreation Area. When it was time to head home, we traveled along historic Route 66 and stopped off at Joshua Tree National Park for half a day before finishing the drive home.

It was a short trip, but we managed to see quite a bit. I’ve finally posted the photos from the trip, so please feel free to take a look and leave a comment or two.

National Parks I visited in 2010

The National Parks I made it to in 2010

2010 was an uncommon year for me in my national park quest. For years and years, Kim and I would have gone on several trips each year, all with the sole purpose of marking dozens of parks off of our list.

This year, things had changed. Even so, I was able to make it to a bunch of new parks—eight to be precise—and also made return visits to 10 other ones.

Most of the return visits occurred during personal time extended onto existing work trips. All but one of the new visits happened during my summer roadtrip. It was great to be able to mark off a bunch of parks — I’m looking at you Manzanar and Devils Postpile — that I had driven past before but was never able to stop and see.

Return visits

First visits

  • Aztec Ruins National Monument
  • Manzanar National Historic Site
  • Devils Postpile National Monument
  • Whiskeytown National Recreation Area
  • Lassen Volcanic National Park
  • Lava Beds National Monument
  • WWII Valor in the Pacific National Monument (Tule Lake unit)
  • Oregon Caves National Monument

I considered ranking the parks I’ve seen this year, but it’s always difficult to choose amongst such cool places. Each is in their own way special, whether it’s because of the terrain or the memories you create there. However, a few of this year’s experiences stick out.

One of those moments was seeing the bat show at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Another was finally—finally!—visiting the north rim of Grand Canyon National Park. Or being part of some amazing sunset light at White Sands National Monument. Or collecting wild blackberries by kayak in Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Or exploring Fern Canyon in Redwoods State and National Parks. Or spending several days kayaking through Canyonlands National Park.

There were certainly other moments, special moments, and others that are more forgettable, but each unique and special in its own way.

I’ve been particularly bad about posting photos and trip summaries from the trips I’ve taken this year. I’m hoping to start getting those up in the next few months.

So what are my 2011 National Park goals? I’m not sure yet—I suspect that it’ll be a relatively lean year, but I’m definitely hoping to mark off a few more. Do you have any national park trips planned this year?

Celebrate National Park Week with free admission all week

My next park visit: kayaking through Canyonlands National Park

The National Park System includes some of the most significant and inspiring places in the country. The parks have played a special role in my life, and this is a great opportunity to experience them.

From the National Park Foundation, who is partnering with the National Park Service on it:

Celebrate National Park Week April 17th – 25th, and celebrate what we all have inherited as Americans — 84 million acres of the world’s most spectacular scenery, historic landmarks and cultural treasures. Together we are owners of this land, and this National Park Week, the National Park Service and National Park Foundation invite you to pass along this tradition. Introduce a young person to their national parks and introduce them to a new world of experiences that can shape their future, protect our environment, and preserve our American legacy.
Share a park, and shape a life.

Whether you are visiting, volunteering or interested in sharing your national park experience with the world, below you will find all the resources you need to make your National Park Week experience a memorable one. Start by downloading your guide to participating in National Park Week.

National Park Week also means free entrance or admission to any of America’s 392 national parks. There are lots of great places comprising a variety of resources—there’s definitely something out there for everyone.

Be sure to check out the complete listing of events, many of which are scheduled for Earth Day. It’s also a great time to bring your kids to the national parks—April 24 is also National Junior Ranger Day. It’s one of my favorite government programs.