Tag Archives: National Park

Scrambling in Joshua Tree

IMG_0923We stopped in Joshua Tree for a few days to break up the drive from Sedona to San Diego. Both Tim and I have great memories of previous trips there and we wanted to share the fun of scrambling in the jumbo boulders with Hunter.

We had initially hoped to camp in one of the campgrounds within Joshua Tree National Park but unfortunately they just aren’t designed to hold a 49 foot monstrosity! After finding the one spot that would fit and realizing we were on an extreme angle and parked next to an area that had a sign warning of dangerous bees (really???), we decided to give up on that vision and head into 29 Palms to the commercial campground there. 29 Palms Golf Resort is an older, smaller worn down version of the Voyager resort in Tuscon. It was just fine for a 2 night stop…

Joshua Tree has a number of different areas / zones to the park. Situated between the Great Basin desert to the north and the Sonoran desert to the south, the Mojave desert is a rain shadow desert with a mix of latitude, elevation, geology and plants. We successfully completed another Junior Ranger badge and enjoyed the learnings through out the day.

One of the interesting “geographies” is the Chulla Cactus Garden. As you drive from the south entrance to the north entrance you suddenly come across this area full of chulla cacti. It is maybe a couple of kilometres deep and stops as quickly as it starts, leaving you really curious about the ecosystem that created it.

IMG_9435We spent a good three hours exploring all of the rocks and pushing our various comfort zones with heights and gaps.

IMG_9442Although the rock looks just like the slick rock found in Utah and northern Arizona, it is not! It’s a scratchy mixture that is almost like rough concrete. Not nearly as comfortable to slide or contort yourself when scrambling but it does provide good grip.

Another fun day playing outside in the sunshine ūüôā

Fort Pulaski, Tybee Island Georgia

fort pulaski cannon studyingFort Pulaski is a Civil War fort that is now a National Monument run by the National Parks Service. It was commissioned by President James Madison as part of the coastal fortification system shortly after the War of 1812. Construction started in 1829 and they were still working on the armament in 1860. As it turned out, before United States troops could occupy the fort, they had to conquer it.

fort pulaski lee hunter

On January 3, 1861, 2 weeks after South Carolina seceded from the Union, and one week after Federal troops occupied Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbour, Georgia Governor Joseph Brown ordered state militia to seize Fort Pulaski for the Confederate States of America.

When it was constructed, people felt that it was “un-takeable” as it had 7.5 foot walls and was located over 1,000 yards away from the closest firm ground. This was based on the usage of smooth bore heavy artillery. When the Union came to attack in February 1862, they spent 2 months hauling heavy artillery across the sand and marsh of Tybee Island at night. They brought with them 5 experimental rifled cannons and it was these cannons that successfully penetrated the fort walls and resulted in the Confederates surrender after only 30 hours. The union then took over the fort, repaired the breached wall (notice the red bricks) and used it as a base to attack Savannah and a prison for Confederate soldiers.

The entire fort area is incredibly well maintained. It felt like we were in England looking at old forts and castles there, with the green grass, large moats and solid fort walls.

fort pulaski musket firing

They had a great interpretive program and junior ranger program. We all learn so much from these and Hunter is so proud of the badges that he gets. Because we are doing this as part of our school curriculum, Hunter has to complete all pages of each book vs the minimum to get the badge. We learned all about firing a musket and about the transition from smooth bore to rifled artillery.

fort pulaski rifle cannon

Fort Frederica, Georgia

fort frederica visitor centreFort Frederica¬†is a National Monument run by the National Parks Service. It is more of a ruins than an actual fort these days and highlights the 1700’s when Georgia was settled by the British, through to 1742 when the British and Spanish clashed as part of Spain’s attempt to expand north from Florida. The British were successful in defending their land and the fort was disbanded shortly after then 1742 battle.

Walking through this fort was a big change from the Castillo de San Marcos that we saw the day before. The grounds were beautiful but it left a lot up to your imagination.

The visitors centre had some great artifacts of that time period. The best was a 1700’s drinking game that is the precursor to pinball. Games were how pubs differentiated themselves from each other to gain customers.

fort frederica drinking game

Crystal gazing at the Petrified Forest National Park

hunter arms full petrified wood

 

Petrified Forest National Park is another lesser visited national park located in the North East corner of Arizona as you head towards New Mexico. The Hedderman family¬†had stopped at the park a few days before us and raved so we thought we would spend some time in this self proclaimed “science park” while on our way to New Mexico.

After the highlights of discovering Route66¬†I wasn’t sure if there would be the patience and focus required for this visit. With a Junior Ranger badge on the line, Hunter snapped right to it and got to work. They also had a Junior Paleontologist program so we signed Tim up so he could be part of the learning as well.

hunter tim paleontologists

We enjoyed the historic information and education on what forms petrified wood. There are some great trails there and we explored a few short ones, only because we ran out of time to catch the longer ones initially planned.

It was incredibly quiet with few people there and drastically different landscape that you see in most other places.

Hunter and Tim both successfully completed their programs and got badges. Hunter also got his first patch, which was a big hit and has sent him in search of more!

hunter petrified forest jnr ranger

Jasper National Park

athabasca river Jasper

We had originally planned to head south from Prince George through the northern interior of BC to mountain bike and then check out Whistler and Squamish to see what all the noise is about.

That was changed on the fly when our friends that were coming back to the Yukon from Colorado were able to pick up 2 softtop surfboards for us from Costco super cheap. We hauled out the maps shortly before leaving home and estimated that Jasper would not be too far out of our way and would be somewhat along their path. Jasper is always a great fall visit so everyone said YES and we picked Sept 10th to connect.

We had hoped for a relatively quick 4 hour drive from Prince George to Jasper on the 9th but we managed to land smack in the middle of mountain blasting 20 km before the park and sat in various places on the road for 90 minutes. Hunter was fairly enthralled as there were lots of machines and they were placing dynamite directly into the rocks to blow the shale off…

bike paths in Jasper

We stayed at the Whistler Campground run by the National Park Service. It is a large campground but one of the few that is open past September 1st. Full services, very clean and very professional staff.

An afternoon ride to town to check out the bike paths was just what we needed after spending all day in the truck. It was an amazing Indian Summer day – 25c, big blue skies and lots of sunshine! Jasper has a fabulous set of tourist oriented bike paths along the main roads and they made for easy riding, which was exactly what we needed. Boys being boys we found many sets of stairs to ride down and things to jump over just to keep the challenge going. So far so good that I am still keeping up!

Lee Athabasca River Jasper

The morning of the 10th we enjoyed a sleep in and then headed off on our bikes to explore the renowned Valley of the 5 Lakes Trail. Having learned from our Burns Lake Epic mistakes, Tim and I both agreed that it was not likely we would complete the 17km trail and that there were a few logical turn around points noted on the map. The trail starts just on the other side of the Athabasca River – a Canadian Historical River that is magical for its glacier silty blue colour. It is a very family friendly multi-use trail (bikes, hikers & horses) and starts out with a fairly gradual uphill. That gets you about 1.5 km down the trail and then you hit a series of abrupt (i.e. push your bike) uphill slopes that really suck the energy out of 10 year olds that are the same size as their bike! We persevered and made it about 4km down the trail…

Using all of the learnings from Burns Lake, we were in the midst of a rocky/tricky long downhill when it dawned on me that Hunter would have to push his bike back up all of this and that maybe it wouldn’t be smarter to make it to the bottom and then make the decision. Who said we were too old to learn! Hunter worked hard and pushed his bike back up all the downhills because he was determined to ride the downhills back to the trail head. A great lesson about goals and motivation!

There are a series of smaller loop trails on the opposite side of the river just west of Jasper town centre and if I could do our ride over again, I would have chosen one or two of those loops taking the heat into consideration. As much as I am a hot weather person, Tim and Hunter are not and the heat just seems to drain their energy. More learnings for us as we adventure plan.

We headed back into town and hit up the Coldstone Creamery Ice Cream shop and then parked ourselves on the lawn of the Jasper Park Visitors centre to access their free WiFi and for Hunter to complete his Junior Warden book… A fabulous but quick 2 days in Jasper. Well worth the stop!

Hunter Jasper Jr Warden