Archive for the 'park' Category

Carlsbad Caverns

March 29th, 2009

Group Shot - Parks Ranch, NM

I hate to post two stories so close together, but since our internet connection is about to go from ‘two tin cans and a string’ to ‘no one can hear you scream’, I’m going to go ahead and put up the Carlsbad post along with a link to the fancy pictures.

One of the sights we were both looking forward to since we hit the road was Carlsbad Caverns. Neither of us had been here since we were children and while I couldn’t recall anything about the cave, I remember being fascinated throughout the entire trip. Since we’ve taken up caving as a hobby, Carlsbad has taken on the aspect of your run of the mill holy shrine and a required pilgrimage.

We knew our America the Beautiful pass would get us into the Big Room for free, but one day underground wasn’t going to do it. We’re trying to stick to a budget here, so rather than paying for a guided tour of other sections of the cave or other caves in the park, I emailed a couple of people in the local grotto and asked if they had anything going on. It was short notice, but they both responded and took us on two separate trips in two days with two caves each day!

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Gila Cliff Dwellings

March 29th, 2009

Gila Cliff Dwellings, Gila NF

It’s actually been so long ago that when Jenn mentioned she was uploading the pictures from Gila National Forest, I had no idea what she was talking about! Obviously, this post is way overdue. About six weeks overdue actually.

The Gila Cliff Dwellings weren’t really on our way; in fact, I think you could say they aren’t on the way to anywhere, but we took a little detour to see them anyway. By little detour, I mean it was about fifty miles off our route. Did I mention that the last twenty-five or thirty miles were on some pretty hairy mountain roads? That leg alone took around two hours. The signs advised no vehicles over thirty feet! The grades were fairly steep; the turns were sharp and many.

However, it was a very pleasant ride as we weren’t in a hurry to get there and were planning on staying over in one of the many campsites along the way. And there were quite a few campsites. Dispersed camping and a number of actual campgrounds lined the route. Many, if not all, of the forestry campgrounds were free, but memory is a bit hazy. It was nice to see a bit of snow on the ground still, when temperatures were pushing eighty in the desert we’d been driving through just a bit earlier.

The cliff dwellings were quite interesting. They are built inside of natural sandstone caves and have walls built inside of them that are still standing today, despite time, weather and treasure hunters. We were lucky enough to show up just as the interpretive presentation began and had a guided tour through the dwellings. As usual, our America the Beautiful pass covered the cost of the tour, but it was a fairly small price in any event. Don’t quote me, but I think it was in the range of $5 per person. It’s a bit awe inspiring to realize that people have been using the same area for thousands of years and by the way, that’s their house right over there!

If you’re going anyway, by all means check out the displays at the visitor center as well as the nature display at the base of the cliff dwellings. Both are well worth a look. In addition, there are a few other dwellings in the area that are on a smaller scale. Ask the local volunteers and they’ll be glad to point you in the right direction.

Vicksburg

February 11th, 2009

ms_Vicksburg1.jpg

During our trip down the Natchez Trace, we took a daytrip a bit west towards Vicksburg. Jenn and I are both into museums and historic attractions, but neither of us is all that into the nuts and bolts of particular battles. So, why would we go to Vicksburg, where you spend several hours driving around the battlefield and reading about the intricate details of the battle including the number of casualties at each battery of guns? Well, mostly because we have an America the Beautiful pass and hate to pass up a chance to get into something for free that might entertain us for the day.

The military park really is a pretty drive and not a bad way to spend the day. However, after the first six or eight miles, I think we were both pretty well bored with the dry descriptions of troop movements and casualty counts. Don’t get me wrong, this era of our history is very important and shouldn’t be discounted, but I really had a hard time reading similar descriptions repeatedly, none of which you could really sink your teeth into except perhaps the description of tunneling into earthworks in order to blow them up, which is something I thought had died out a few hundred years earlier. This same area had the wonderfully colorful description of a slave who was ‘blown to freedom’ when a mine was touched off below him.

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Natchez Trace Parkway

February 10th, 2009

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Leaving Tennessee, we hopped on the Natchez Trace Parkway a bit south of Nashville and took it to the end in Natchez, Mississippi. Now, it wasn’t leaf peeper or flower sniffer season, but it was still a beautiful drive. The entire parkway is around four hundred and fifty miles long, two lane blacktop through the countryside. It closely follows the original Natchez Trace, which was a footpath through the forest used by Indians and traders up until the late nineteenth century. The speed limit is fifty miles an hour and only non-commercial use is allowed. In short, you couldn’t hope for a more leisurely drive. I was surprised how light traffic was. We often went fifteen minutes or more without seeing another vehicle.

If you get tired of driving, the park system has you covered. There is some kind of pull off every few miles. These range from historic areas and exhibits to nature areas and hiking trails. In addition, there are three free, primitive campgrounds on the parkway, spaced roughly every hundred and fifty miles. You may also overnight at the visitor center in Natchez. We’ve heard that these campgrounds fill up quickly during the snowbird migration, but in mid-January, the campgrounds were pretty empty.

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America the Beautiful

November 9th, 2008

America the Beautiful Annual PassI know a lot of fulltimers swear by various camping club memberships to keep their camping costs down throughout the year, but at Hitek Homeless, our focus is on avoiding camping fees altogether. That being said, sometimes it is just more practical to stay in an established campground overnight and some sort of discount card sure would be nice.

Recently, we stopped over in a national forest and it was getting too late to be out looking for a campsite in the dark. The fees posted for this campsite were $5/day. You can’t beat that with a stick, right? Wrong! For the first time, I noticed that our America the Beautiful pass would allow us to camp for HALF PRICE somewhere.

Now, I happen to think this interagency pass is an excellent deal for folks that want to check out the national parks as they travel, so we picked one up while visiting the Wright Brothers memorial in Kitty Hawk, NC. At the time, we joked about buying an $80 pass to avoid paying an $8 entrance fee. But, you’ve got to remember that the interagency pass takes an all you can eat approach to entrance fees. It will get you and up to three other people into just about every federal area where they charge an entrance fee for free. This includes national parks, monuments and historic sites, forestry service, bureau of land management, bureau of reclamation and fish and wildlife sites as well as federal recreation lands.

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