National Monument

A Couple of Weeks in the Rear View Mirror

The posts we are sharing here on our travel blog are on a delay with our current location; in other words, we’re behind with posting about our adventures once again!  I’m writing this from Flagstaff where tomorrow we pick up Claire & Kyle from the airport to commence our rafting trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon.  But a lot has happened between our last post and today that we’re trying to capture because this travel blog also serves as our personal trip journal.  Fred has some great photos and is finalizing a couple of posts on our visits to Great Sand Dunes NP and Rocky Mountain NP — places we’ve been in the past two weeks — but before we get to those, let me share a few of our other adventures, albeit viewing them in the rear view mirror.

Fort Laramie NHS — Yet another fort we have had the pleasure to visit, this one in eastern Wyoming, Fort Laramie’s history dates back to 1834 when it was established as a fur-trading post bringing trappers and traders together.  By the mid-1800s, as weary westward-heading pioneers followed the North Platte River along the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails, they found Fort Laramie a good place to rest, repair their wagons, and resupply for the next portion of their journey.  The fort was acquired by the U.S. Army in 1849 as tensions with Northern Plains Indian tribes grew.  Finally, it was abandoned in 1890 and homesteaders took over the upkeep of the little settlement until local public agencies came along to protect it permanently.  Today, Fort Laramie National Historic Site tells the story of commerce, westward expansion, and the Indian Wars; it is a blend of beautifully-restored buildings and foundations of what once was.

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Fred’s Devils Tower National Monument

I had wanted to see it since I saw the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind way back in the late 80s. Since then I have seen the film at least five other times, and a portion of it too many other times to count, and every time it came on the screen I would be reminded that it was still on my bucket list to visit this monolith in person. So on a July day as I drove on a winding state road through Wyoming, both Laura and I had our eyes peeled for the distinctive tower out the picture window that is Charley’s windshield. Finally, there it was, large and imposing on the horizon, Devils Tower.

Devils Tower is the namesake of Devils Tower National Monument, which was the first monument in the national park system. President Theodore Roosevelt designated it as a national monument in 1906 under the newly enacted American Antiquities Act of 1906. This was just one of many public lands that would be protected by Roosevelt during his time in office. Referred to as Bear Lodge by Native Americans, it was given the name Devils Tower by Colonel Richard Dodge in 1859 while escorting an Office of Indian Affairs survey team to the massive rock formation. Rising some 1,267 feet from the Belle Fourche River, it stretches 867 feet from base to summit.

So after over 30 years of this incredible formation residing on my to-do list, I was finally standing at the base of it and gazing up, way up. Making the experience even more special was that the campground where we set up camp was near the base of the mountain, and every evening at dusk the campground showed Close Encounters of the Third Kind on a large-screen television with the tower looming high above the makeshift outdoor theater. While I planned to get up very early the next morning to shoot the mountain at sunrise, there was no way that I could pass up watching the movie once again, this time with the star of the show as part of the experience. About half way through the film, a thunderstorm rolled into the area and it began to rain. While most others in attendance left, I moved under a tree and continued watching the film with three other brave souls. It was fun when Devils Tower made its first appearance in the movie and almost in unison we all said, “There it is.”, and  clapped a few times. As I sat there I watched with one eye on the tower waiting for lightning flashes to illuminate it, and once again thoroughly enjoyed this wonderful film, one that is so full of possibilities and hope.      

Photos from Devils Tower National Monument are below.

If you click on a photo, you can see a larger version of it.  You can also use the arrows at the bottom (click on the photo if they disappear on you) to scroll through all the photos in a photo set.  The sets are arranged to be viewed from the upper left corner across. To close a photo set, click on the ‘X’ in the top right corner.



Journey Through Nebraska and South Dakota

Ever since returning from our short “vacation from our vacation” in L.A. to see Garrison Keillor’s last show, we have been turning it up on national park and park unit visits.  We are taking advantage of the nice summer weather by spending the better part of July in the north central part of the U.S., a.k.a. the Great Plains grasslands area which, incidentally, we just learned is the largest ecosystem in the U.S. — who knew?!  Anyway, we are having a busy three weeks in Nebraska and the Dakotas before we make our way over to Billings, Montana, from which we will fly back up to Alaska to visit the final two [of the eight up in Alaska] national parks we missed during our trip up there last year.  But I’m getting ahead of myself — Nebraska and South Dakota first.

NPS Passport Cancellation StampI’ve decided to do something a little different with this post.  Instead of uploading photos from this Nebraska/Dakotas leg of our trip, I’ve decided to share drawings from my sketchbook.  For those of you who don’t know, the National Park Service Visitor Centers sell passport books and then each NP Visitor Center has passport stamps for inking into your passport book.  Instead of the traditional NPS passport book, I have created my own; I’m actually on my third book of sketches and stamps now — I figure I’ve drawn over 200 pages for all of the national park units that we’ve visited.

Here are my renditions of what we have seen in Nebraska and South Dakota:

My sketch of Scotts Bluff NMScotts Bluff National Monument – Gering, NE — The Oregon Trail represented promises of a new life out west.  The California Trail promised gold.  The Mormon Trail lead many seeking religious freedom to the Promised Land out in Salt Lake City.  All three trails brought early pioneers through Nebraska where, after weeks of travel across prairie grasslands, they met up with 800′ bluffs.  Thousands of wagon trains passed by the daunting bluff known as Scotts Bluff which was accompanied by a tricky climb through Mitchell Pass.  Also passing by here, in the short-lived era of the Pony Express [1860-1861], riders changed horses at the Scottsbluff station.

My sketch of Chimney Rock NHSChimney Rock National Historic Site – Bayard, NE — Before they got to Scotts Bluff, settlers saw this iconic rock monolith.  Visible for miles around in the flat Nebraska landscape, this eroded remnant of a butte reaches 325′ into the sky and was certainly a prominent landmark for the westward-bound settlers.

During our two-day stay in this area I couldn’t help but imagine what it must have been like to travel across the country in a bumpy wagon train — the dust from the dry tracks of the wagon trains that came before… the foul smells of the oxen… the unpredictable weather that no doubt included rain, sleet and snow… terrible terrible sickness and frequent death that beset travelers not up for such a strenuous trip… the list of unpleasantries goes on.  And yet in the name of “Manifest Destiny,” travel across the country these pioneers did, in search of a better life.  I guess I shouldn’t complain about my small closets in Charley, now should I…?


My sketch of Agate Fossil Beds NMAgate Bluffs Fossil Beds National Monument – Harrison, NE — Rich deposits of fossils have been found in this area by paleontologists suggesting that ancient but now distinct creatures once roamed in this area.  Given the volume of fossils here, it is believed that during a period of drought animals concentrated around the scarce watering holes that were available.  Over time they ate up all the vegetation around these few water spots, and then in the heat and drought grew too weak to walk farther out for food, thus they died by the watering holes, became covered in mud, and were then preserved as fossils.  Among the skeletons found here are strange looking creatures including a small rhinoceros, a carnivorous bear-dog, a land-dwelling beaver, a bad-ass hog, a tiny gazelle-camel, and other Miocene-epoch animals.  For over 100 years now paleontologists have been studying these fossils which has helped answer questions about the past.

A second part of this national monument is an incredibly impressive collection of American Indian artifacts given to one James H. Cook, a frontiersman in this area, by people of the Lakota (Sioux) tribe.  In 1874 Cook met Chief Red Cloud and the two developed a steadfast friendship over decades, during which time Cook received many gifts from the Indians.  Today the family’s collection belongs to the park and many priceless items are on display that tell of the Native ways of life.


20160717_185203Jewel Cave National Monument – Custer, SD — There are several cave systems in this area, including the nearby Wind Cave National Park — another Jolly Out There destination, of course — and each is known for something specific.  Jewel Cave is named for its gem-like calcite crystals that sparkle when illuminated.  These are just one of the many speleothems, or cave formations, that can be seen when touring the caves.  While Frostwork is the signature formation, others include Draperies, Dogtooth spar, Gypsum flowers, and even Popcorn and Bacon.

The only way to see the caves is through ranger-guided tours.  Jewel Cave offers a couple of touring options, but visitors only see a small portion of the 180 miles of mapped passageways; the rest of the cave has been set aside for research and is not open to the public.  Jewel Cave is the third longest cave in the world but it is still being explored and new passageways discovered by volunteer cave explorers.


My sketch of Mount Rushmore NMMount Rushmore National Memorial – Keystone, SD — What started as a preposterous idea to draw sightseers to the state of South Dakota became a work of art for the ages.  This is Mount Rushmore, the magnificent American symbol that honors our past presidents who were dedicated to the birth, growth, development, and preservation of our nation.  

Initially conceived to be a parade of Indian leaders and American explorers who shaped the frontier, the idea for a huge granite sculpture as a gateway to the West was met with skepticism and even hostility.  Undaunted by public opinion, champions of the idea called upon master sculptor Gutzon Borglum, a Danish (yay!) immigrant who was just beginning to achieve fame for his “big” work.  Borglum changed the location and even the subject of the initial idea, and in doing so elevated the memorial to a national cause.  

Calvin Coolidge dedicated the memorial in 1927 and work commenced.  It took 14 years to complete the four heads carved high into the granite outcroppings where the Black Hills rise from the plains [and incidentally, the original name of the rock Borglum chose was Mount Rushmore so the name stuck], but only six of those years involved actual carving on the rock face.  Borglum died in March of 1941 but his son supervised the final work which stopped in October 1941 on the eve of the U.S. entry into World War II.  Mount Rushmore overwhelmed its critics and continues to dazzle the world with over two million visitors each year.

My sketch of Minuteman Missile NHSMinuteman Missile National Historic Site – the grassy plains of SD — “At the end of World War II — the first and only wartime use of atomic bombs — the United States possessed only six nuclear weapons.  After the Soviet Union tested its first atomic bomb four years later, the arms race took off.  Within four decades, the global arsenal had multiplied to a peak of around 65,000 weapons.”  The display inside the Visitor Center at the Minuteman Missile NHS charts the world’s nuclear stockpile and illustrates how the United States , its allies, and its enemies went to the brink and back during the Cold War.

Fortunately for mankind most of the missile silos have been deactivated and destroyed, but a couple of these 1960s missile sites were preserved and turned into a museum where visitors can explore the significance of the arms race, learn about Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), and understand their role as a nuclear deterrent that maintained peace and prevented war.  Delta-01 is the launch control facility and a couple of miles away, Delta-09 is the old launch facility, both preserved in time.

They Came Before Us

Four Corners Visits
NPS park units in the American Southwest — we’ve visited those highlighted in pink

We have spent the better part of these last six months in the American Southwest, and we seem to keep criss-crossing the Four Corners region that is Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico — there is truly so much to see here!  In our many passes through this area, we have visited more than twenty different national park units that preserve and protect ancient Native American dwellings, artifacts and history.

No Refugees!In each and every one of our visits to these sacred places, a theme, obvious as it is, kept running through my head — they were here first.  A long time ago.  Between 12,000-13,500 years ago.  The First Peoples of our country.  Not the Spaniards who wanted this territory to expand their own in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Not our European ancestors who took over this land in the 18th and 19th centuries.  No, it was the American Indians who were here long before us.  Navajo and Zuni and Shoshone and Paiute… Cheyenne, Arapaho and Ute… Apache and Comanche and scores more.  They all came before us and lived their lives here long before we ever did.

I won’t use our travel blog as a political platform, but with all the talk of refugees and building walls and the clear rise of xenophobia, not just in the United States but throughout much of Europe, as well… and now just this week as the reality of the true meaning behind the “Leave” vote associated with Brexit sinking in, I can’t help but think back to the Native Americans.  The cartoon on the right was posted on Facebook and it seems to punctuate my point.

Enough said in my non-political post.  Here are the highlights and photos from our visits to the last three national monuments we have visited, all designated to protect ancient Native American dwellings that belonged to those who came before us.  [Note the Native Americans don’t consider these places ruins, but rather sacred places.]

Tuzigoot National MonumentTuzigoot National Monument can be visited by taking a nice little ride south of Sedona, Arizona; we toured this place a couple of weeks ago when we returned to this area.  Managed in conjunction with Montezuma Castle which we visited back in February (see my Montezuma Castle National Monument post) this place was one of the homes of the Sinagua peoples; ancient farmers in the Verde Valley.  Evidence of their agricultural lifestyle has been found, chronicled, and preserved in this place that means crooked water in Apache.  Tuzigoot pueblo was originally two stories high, crowning the summit of a long ridge rising above the Verde Valley.  In addition to walking around this ancient dwelling, the Visitor Center is home to a wonderful little historic museum featuring incredible artifacts and explanations of the life of the Southern Sinagua peoples.  Most impressive to me was the intricately painted pottery.

If you click on a photo, you can see a larger version of it.  You can also use the arrows at the bottom (click on the photo if they disappear on you) to scroll through all the photos in the photo series.  To close the series, click on the ‘X’ in the top right corner.

Yucca House NMYucca House National Monument was a bit underwhelming, but then again, there is nothing at this monument other than two mounds of rubble covered with vegetation.  This site that is eight miles south of Cortez, Colorado, is unusual in that the pueblo being protected has never been excavated, so it remains just the way it was abandoned eight centuries ago.  One of our guidebooks had a photo of what looked like a sign on a locked gate, but we didn’t find any such sign when we attempted to visit.  This photo is it — the unearthed remains of the pueblo called Yucca House.  As no services whatsoever can be found at this location, we had to get our passport stamp at the Colorado Visitor Center in Cortez.

Fred & Laura at HovenweepHovenweep National Monument was just the opposite of Yucca House; this place was spectacular as it features dramatic evidence of once-thriving Pueblo communities grouped at canyon heads in this area along the Colorado-Utah border that is otherwise just full of pinion, juniper, scrub sage and yucca.  There are six sections to this monument that is in the heart of Canyon of the Ancients National Monument, a property managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  We visited two — the Square Tower Group, which is the main area with a wonderful Visitor Center, and the Holly Group which took a lot more effort to get to.  As one of the photos below shows, it’s a good thing we drive a Subaru!

Square Tower Group — After watching the overview movie in the Visitor Center, we hiked the 2-mile loop trail that took us up one side of Little Ruin Canyon, down through and across it, and up the other side.  Along the way we passed a dozen archaeological sites with ancient structures atop the mesas — these round, square, and D-shaped towers were the homes and ceremonial buildings to the ancestors of today’s Pueblo Indian tribes.  Although these dwellings have not supported life for some 700 years, the remains show that the Pueblo people were skilled builders.  They shaped very uniform bricks and held them together with mud mortar, often studded with smaller, decorative stones.  Incredible are these remains as they demonstrate the skilled precision with which these three- and four-story towers were built centuries ago.

Holly Unit — This nearby unit was also built in the 1200s at the edge of another cliff on another mesa.  A couple of towers remain here at Holly Unit, and so well constructed are they that even after the foundation boulder split off the canyon rim long after its residents moved away, the bases still remain, if even at a tilt.  Another feature of this unit is the remnants of a solar calendar, including rock art that is illuminated at the solstices.

Throughout Hovenweep, examples of well-made pottery, jewelry, and clothing clearly suggest that these villages were part of a well-developed society.  Our day spent here was perfect, if not a little hot; truly an Out There day!

Fred’s Canyon de Chelly

In a previous post Laura wrote a wonderful piece about our recent visit to Canyon de Chelly National Monument. Funny that we had previously been in the area many times, had been told that we definitely needed to see this national monument by a number of people, had read up on it, looked at photos of various scenes inside the park, had wanted to see it, but had never actually worked it into our travel schedule. While it did take us a while to get here, it was indeed, well worth the wait.

Images from our visit to Canyon de Chellty National Monument are below. I’ve also included a couple of Canyon de Chelly photos taken by the iconic photographer, Ansel Adams. While there is no way that my work could approach his brilliant images, it was incredible being in this special place and viewing the scenes from where he would have first seen them. And then trying to capture that moment.  

If you click on a photo, you can see a larger version of it.  You can also use the arrows at the bottom (click on the photo if they disappear on you) to scroll through all the photos in a photo set.  The sets are arranged to be viewed from the upper left corner across. To close a photo set, click on the ‘X’ in the top right corner.




Canyon de Chelly National Monument

Canyon de Chelly NM

Canyon de Chelly NMOur travels have found us close to this national monument several times, but it always seemed like we had places to be and other destinations to see so we never quite made it to this place of magnificent beauty.  Canyon de Chelly (pronounced de-SHAY) National Monument sits in the northeast corner of Arizona on the Navajo Indian Reservation.  The monument is quite large (nearly 84,000 acres) and features not one but three canyons — Canyon de Chelly, Canyon del Muerto, and Monument Canyon.

Matt Claw, native Navajo artist from whom we purchased a couple of carvings
Matt Claw, native Navajo artist — we purchased some of his rock carvings

While the National Park Service administers this national monument and protects the record of human history found herein, it is truly home to Diné, the Navajo people.  These canyons have been sacred to the Navajo and other ancestral Puebloan people for centuries, and people have lived here in these canyons for some 5,000 years; longer than anyone has lived uninterruptedly anywhere else on the Colorado Plateau.

Because some natives still live in and around the canyons here in the Navajo Nation, access to the park is somewhat limited.  Visitors can enter into the canyon in two ways:  1) with an authorized Navajo guide who takes small groups around in an SUV or on horseback through the bottom of the canyon to the various sites; 2) by hiking down the only trail that’s allowable — White House Ruins Trail — to see the ruins, then hiking back out.  Of course we opted for the hike, waiting until the late afternoon when the sun shaded much of the trail.  It was an easy 2.5 miles round trip, although still scorching hot thanks to the deadly heat wave making its way through Arizona.  But no complaining from us; we had water, and once down in the canyon, we were rewarded with close-up views of the White House Ruin, built and occupied centuries ago by ancestral Puebloan people.

If you click on a photo, you can see a larger version of it.  You can also use the arrows at the bottom (click on the photo if they disappear on you) to scroll through all the photos in the photo series.  To close the series, click on the ‘X’ in the top right corner.


Spider Rock at CdC
Spider Rock standing 800′ tall

Canyon de Chelly can still be enjoyed without going down into it. Two scenic drives, one along the north rim of the north canyon (del Muerto) and the other along the south rim of the south canyon (de Chelly), offer panoramic views of the canyons, and from overlooks visitors can peer down into the labyrinth to see remnants of lives lived long ago.  Many ruins, some of them along the canyon floor and others built into cliff-side caves and caverns, are visible proof that these Anasazi — Navajo word for ‘ancient ones’ — called this place home.  

Throughout our two-day visit in the park, we saw several Navajo, many of whom were selling their art — paintings, carvings, jewelry, and the like — along the lookout points.  We picked up a couple of souvenir pieces and talked to these natives; a truly rewarding experience.

One of the most popular features in the park is Spider Rock, an 800-foot sandstone spire that rises from the canyon floor.  Photos hardly do this monolith justice; it’s truly a sight to behold!



As we have been traveling around here in the American Southwest for a good part of these past 12 months, we have frequently been asked, “Have you been to Canyon de Chelly yet?”  Clearly this place has left a mark on the people who have visited here.  Well, us, too.  And now we can answer, “Yes!” we have been there, and we will add that we really liked it.

Canyon de Chelly NM

Rainbow Bridge National Monument

Rainbow Bridge NM
This one takes the prize for the smallest sign — it maybe stands 2′ tall.

I had been wanting to visit Rainbow Bridge National Monument for a long time.  It is the largest known natural bridge in the world, and from the photos I had seen of it in my national park guidebooks and on my phone app* it looked like a truly spectacular sight to behold — I had to see it!

So finally on our third visit to Page, Arizona, we booked the scenic boat tour that leaves from the Wahweap Marina on the western edge of Lake Powell and runs some 50 miles through the lake in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area (NRA) which, incidentally, happens to be another national park unit and thus destination for our Jolly Out There adventures — we got a two-fer with this trip!  For a couple of hours we cruised up the lake, finally turning into one of many bays… then we headed into an even narrower cut… then finally we were back in a cove where a series of floating docks is set up to facilitate visiting Rainbow Bridge.

Beautiful Lake Powell in the Glen Canyon NRA

Visiting by boat is definitely the easier way to get to Rainbow Bridge; visiting it by land requires a hiking permit and either a 14- or a 17-mile hike through the Navajo Nation lands.  Once we docked at the boat ramp, it was a short 1.25-mile hike following the riverbed through sandy terrain back to the… oh, there it is!  What a majestic sight to behold!

Rainbow Bridge NM

Rainbow Bridge stands 290′ from the base to the top, and it spans some 275′ across.  To put this into perspective, it is nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty, and the U.S. Capitol Building Dome can nearly be tucked under it.  

How Rainbow Bridge was formedThe rock from which the bridge is carved is some 200 million years old.  What started as a soft Navajo sandstone rock fin was no match for the forces of water flowing around it.  Water eventually punched right through the rock forming the bridge.  The harder Kayenta layer stayed firm and provides the base support that has allowed Rainbow Bridge to stand strong over the millennia.

Rainbow Bridge NMWe sat in on a brief ranger talk, no doubt timed with the arrival of us tourists from the tour boat.  In it we learned the geological story of the creation of the bridge, and also the story the Native Americans attach to this sacred place.

So at last… I finally made it to Rainbow Bridge.  It absolutely did not disappoint!

* Check out Chimani National Parks — it’s a great app that has information about every national park unit.  It also links to the various NPS websites and allows you to track your visits to all of the national park units and earn badges when you do so!

#48 and #49

#48 – Iowa.  #49 – Nebraska.  We have now visited 49 of the 50 states on our Out There journey!  Our last one will be North Dakota which we have slated to visit in July, but let me back up and tell you how we came to visit the Hawkeye and Cornhusker states and what we did in each one.

This past Sunday we left Mom’s in Wisconsin and began our journey west in Toad (the Subaru Crosstrek that we tow) to reunite with Charley, our RV, which we had left in Salt Lake City a little over six weeks ago.  [We decided to leave Charley behind — our longest separation from him to date — because we were spending a lot of our ‘visit back in the Midwest’ time in Chicago and we didn’t want the burden of figuring out where to park a 30′ motorhome in the big city; it just seemed easier, not to mention faster, to trek back in a car rather than an RV towing a car.]   So Sunday… after crossing through beautiful southwestern Wisconsin and enjoying the spring blossom season for the third time in 2016 — lucky us! — we joined up with I-80 which traverses the country from New York City to San Francisco.  Incidentally, on our journey east back to Chicago in mid-March, we learned at the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum and Boyhood Home (that’s a mouthful!) in Abilene, Kansas, that we have Eisenhower to thank for our nation’s Interstate system!  Back to I-80… it took us through Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming before returning us to Salt Lake City and Charley yesterday/Thursday late afternoon.  So five days, several stops, and 1,600 miles later we are now back to living our gypsy lifestyle in Charley, and with two more states added to our tally.

In Iowa, we visited the following two national park units:

Effigy Mounds National Monument — is an area located along a scenic stretch of the Mississippi River in northeastern Iowa that protects a variety of ceremonial and burial mounds created long ago by the Native Americans who lived in this area.  Still considered sacred by many local tribes, some 200 effigy mounds are found here.  Many of these mysterious mounds take the shape of bison, birds, bears and other creatures common to the area between 1,400 and 850 years ago when it is estimated these mounds were created.  As we always do, we took in the overview movie in the Visitor Center before setting out on a short walk in the woods to see some of the mounds.


Herbert Hoover National Historic Site — preserves the birthplace of Herbert Hoover, the 31st president of the United States.  He was born in 1874 in a humble, two-room cottage which stands on the site today, along with some other community buildings which have been restored or replicated, including the 1853 one-room schoolhouse, the 1857 Society of Friends (Quaker) Meetinghouse, and a blacksmith shop that represents one like his father ran.  Although he was only in West Branch, Iowa, for the first ten years of his life (his father died in 1880 when “Bert” was just six and his mother died four years later, leaving behind three orphan children who were sent off to live with various relatives — Bert was sent to Oregon), Hoover was greatly influenced by his early years here.  The family’s Quaker religion instilled in him generosity, hard work, and service to others, and informed his life of public service as president (he served one term during the Great Depression) and in the years after his presidency (he lived until age 90) as he worked for social justice and worldwide peace.  Herbert Hoover and his wife, Lou Henry, helped plan what is now this national historic site with the intent of providing an understanding of the life and work of this great man who leaves behind a remarkable legacy.  They are buried together on the property, and his presidential museum and library are also found here in West Branch.


Talia, Katie & I in Lincoln
Talia, Katie’s daughter who’s a freshman at Nebraska, Katie and I

Katie P’s house — is the place we visited during our drive across Nebraska.  Katie is a DDD sorority sister who hails from Lincoln.  We met as 18-year-old freshmen at the University of Wisconsin.  We’ve stayed connected over all these years, and it was wonderful visiting with Katie, her son Jack, her daughter Talia, and her beau of about three years now, Mike.  Katie cooked us a great dinner, took us to a campus ice cream shop — does she know Fred or what?!? — and provided these two weary travelers with warm and cozy beds.

We were going to visit more of the great state of Nebraska, but the cold Fred developed in Wisconsin left him without any energy whatsoever, so we decided we’d have to visit Nebraska’s national park units at another time….  Just one state left!!

Where are the Jollys heading next?

National Park Unit Visit Status - 3/14/16
National Park Units — pink highlights are those we’ve visited as of 3/14/16

This is a map we have hanging up inside Charley, our RV.  It shows all of the national park units, and the pink highlights show which ones we’ve been to.  Can you tell what area of the country we haven’t visited yet?  Well that’s about to change as we make our way back to the Midwest for a few family events here in late March and early April.

We’re routing through southern Colorado, Kansas and Missouri, then up through Illinois on our drive east, then when we return to Salt Lake City [where we left Charley] in mid-April we will travel through Iowa, Nebraska and the northern part of Colorado.  This trip will get us to three of the four remaining states we have yet to visit on our Out There trip — Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska — and we expect to get to another 12 or so national park units, including another one of the big Parks — Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.

This summer we’ll pick up our remaining state, North Dakota, and we’ll visit all but one of our remaining national parks by the end of September.  We’ve saved the most difficult park to get to — National Park of American Samoa — until Spring 2017 after the rainy season down in the islands.

Expect lots more miles by our end-of-the-month tally, and watch our Out There By The Numbers counts continue to go up in our other categories, as well.  And on we travel….