15 days. 2,486 miles. 31 new national parks.
In March 2013, I had one of my most productive national park road trips. I called it my #BattlefieldsandBeginnings trip, and it primarily focused on as-yet-unvisited national parks in Virginia, North Carolina, and Maryland. I also snuck in a quick jaunt over the Pennsylvania border to hit Gettysburg and the adjacent Eisenhower National Historic Site.
A twitter recap of my #GreatWaters national park roadtrip* in August 2012. Sadly, I haven’t gotten around to posting the photos yet, or writing a passable summary yet, so this will have to do for now. Enjoy!
*and a shitload of roadside attractions/oddities.
While I’ve had some amazing travel years, 2012 surprisingly ranks near the top. I made it to 39 national park units I had not yet visited, took my first big solo national park road trip, visited a few new states and two new parts of the country, made it to the first Graham family reunion in several decades, marked off a few straggling park units that had dogged me for years, rafted and backpacked in some amazing places, gained a nickname for visiting all three specimens competing for the title of the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, started a new quest to hit all of the highest points of relatively flat states, and stopped by over one hundred roadside oddities and attractions. And, of course, created some fabulous memories. Continue reading 2012 was among my best trip years yet
Is this the quote (from one of my top 3 favorite movies) that got my balls of twine quest started?
One of the benefits of tweeting your trip is that it automatically creates an archive of sorts. Here’s all of the #ontheroadinthemiddleofuckingnowhere tweets from my trip.
But first, a couple of notes. One, I’m a bit bummed that the photos I attached to foursquare checkins aren’t autodisplayed; so if there’s a place that sounds interesting, click over to foursquare to see the shot I snapped. Also, since I was #ontheroadinthemiddleoffuckingnowhere, I also didn’t always have cell coverage, which meant that I didn’t get to check in or post to twitter. Nonetheless, it was fun to keep folks updated on my trip progress.
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.
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?
In addition to the cool national parks I visited in 2010, I also managed to make it to a few other notable places. Many of the places were part of work trips or extra days I added on to work trips—it’s nice having a job that gets you to such awesome locales.
Here’s a short list of some of the places I enjoyed visiting in 2010.
- Red Cliffs National Conservation Area
- King Range National Conservation Area
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
- Fort Stanton-Snowy River Cave National Conservation Area
- San Pedro Riparian National Conservation Area
- Canyons of the Ancients National Monument
Other cool places
- Antelope Canyon
- Horseshoe Bend (of the Colorado River)
- Monterey Bay Aquarium
- San Francisco
- Mogollon Rim camping
- Washington, DC
- Roswell, NM
- Grand Falls of the Little Colorado River
- Mono Lake
It was my first time visiting Red Cliffs, the King Range, Ft Stanton-Snowy River Cave, Antelope Canyon, and Roswell.
I’ll add links to my photos once I get around to posting them.
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.