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  1. #21

    Default North Carolina - South Carolina - North Carolina - Tennessee

    August 28 and 29

    Once again Google Navigation found a route I would not have picked using the atlas, but it worked nicely. Driving the smaller, secondary roads is always more scenic and enjoyable. Our first stop of the day was at Booker T Washington NM, near Hardy, VA. He was born a slave on this farm in 1856 and went on to be a great educator, believing that education was the great emancipator. There are few remaining structure, some rebuilt, but a lot of the land is natural. The morning we were there a group of bird watchers were heading out.

    Over hill and dale and we were at Guilford Courthouse NMP, back to the Revolutionary War, and a battle in March 1781. Nathanael Greene was the commander of the Colonial troops, British general Cornwallis won this battle, but suffered significant losses. Seven months later Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown, VA ending the Revolutionary War and the birth of the United States. Today this site is an active recreation area, with trails throughout the park and connecting to regional trails.


    Monument Row

    Crossing into South Carolina we arrived at Kings Mountain National Military Park, a Revolutionary War battle in the Fall of 1780. One of the key concepts displayed at this site is the division of local citizens, how neighbors chose sides during the war. Were you going to be a Patriot or stay British?

    Not far away is Cowpens National Battlefield, another Revolutionary battle, this one in January 1871 and is part of the Overmountain Victory Trail which covers Tennessee, Virginia, North & South Carolina. This was the trail that the patriot militia followed as part of the Kings Mountain campaign.

    Continuing west we stopped at Carl Sandburg Home NHS in Flat Rock, NC. This is where the famous writer, folk singer, social activist and Pulitzer Prize-winning poet and biographer Carl Sandburg lived and worked with his family. Mrs. Sandburg, Lillian, owned and operated a premier goat dairy from 1935 to 1965. A goat herd is maintained and you can visit the barn.

    Home - under restoration


    After spending the night near Asheville, NC we picked up the Blue Ridge Parkway and drove it south to the terminus at Great Smoky Mountains NP. We love driving this parkways, but it takes a lot longer! On previous visits we have driven the entire length, either late Spring or early Fall is the best time, especially for camping, as well as flowers or colorful leaves. The visitor center near Asheville has a large, horizontal map of the entire 470 mile route. I moved the magnifier to highlight Mabry Mills - besides a beautiful mill, the restaurant serves great regional meals.

    Waterrock Knob

    While driving through Great Smoky Mountains National Park we noticed a large increase in attendance, parking lots were full. I did get a photo of a large flower I had seen throughout the trip, which I initially thought was milkweed, but later discovered to be Joe Pye Weed, a native plant that is part of the sunflower family.

    We returned to my sister's house in East Tennessee for a relaxing evening.

  2. #22

    Default Tennessee - Mississippi - Arkansas

    August 30 - 31

    Time to head west and back in the van! We returned the rental car, stocked up and hit the road by noon on Tuesday, August 29. This is the view from my sister's back porch looking out over the Clinch River, part of the TVA (Tennessee River Valley Authority).
    Clinch River

    We found these critters at the Crossville, TN Visitor Center, just off I-40 which also provides information for Big South Fork NRRA.

    Crossville Otters

    Southeast of Nashville is Stones River NB, another bloody battle in 1862 in the Civil War and a major victory for the Union troops.

    Stones River NB
    Visitor Center

    Pokemon Go

    Another relaxing drive, brought to you by the NPS, is the Natchez Trace Parkway which begins south of Nashville and travels 444 miles, south into Mississippi. We followed it for about 60 miles before stopping for the evening.

    Natchez Trace Parkway - Steele's Iron Works

    The next morning we started by visiting Shiloh NB, at the southern edge of Tennessee. There are 2 Civil War battlefields included as part of Shiloh NB, the battles took place in April 1862. The Confederate troops came on strong, but Union troop reinforcements overnight turned this into a win for the North. 23,000 casualties were suffered and it was considered the largest loss in a battle, up to that date.

    Shiloh NMP
    Visitor Center & Pokemon Go

    Just across the border, into Mississippi, is the other battlefield in Corinth, MS. The visitor center for the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center does an excellent job of interpreting the war, beyond the military story. The walk leading up to the center has replicas of relics found on battlefields, it winds up a short hill. Inside the displays cover many topics related to life in the area during the Civil War, including Contraband Camps. These were settlements of slaves who came together in camps in Union-controlled areas.

    Corinth Civil War Interpretative Center
    Shoulder bag relic

    Rifle relic

    Contraband Camp

    The non-interstate highways in the south are easy to drive, many are divided and avoid the slowdowns of going through the center of towns, we made our way across Mississippi on several of these highways. Time to get back West - crossing the Mississippi River into Arkansas.

    Mississippi River bridge to Arkansas

    Along the way to Arkansas Post N Mem we stopped at the Dale Bumpers White River NWR, although maps and signage just shows White River NWR. This was renamed in 2014 to honor the former US Senator of Arkansas, Dale Bumpers, for his part in establishing this refuge. Even though you are well north of the bayou country of Mississippi and Louisiana this area has many features of that ecosystem. On the refuge you can find Bald Cypress tree, and on a hot day like today you can see a 28 ft replica of the tree in the lobby. For a 'desert rat' these trees, sitting in water are always a treat to see. We saw several groves as we drove in this area.

    White River NWR
    Visitor Center


    Not far down the road and along the Arkansas River is Arkansas Post National Memorial, no original structures exist but its historical importance begins in 1686 when it was established as a French trading post. The flagpoles tell the story of many changes over time as the flags of France, Spain, Britain and the Confederacy have all been flown here. Today it is as much a natural preserve, as a historical sight.



    We ended the day in Little Rock where the high heat index continued to follow us.

    Little Rock - Heat Index
    Last edited by Pmount; 10-10-2016 at 11:43 AM. Reason: Change dates

  3. #23

    Default Arkansas - Oklahoma - Texas - New Mexico

    September 1-2

    As we stayed in Little Rock, AR it was a quick drive to Little Rock Central High School NHS, the site of school desegregation in 1957. This was the outcome of the federal lawsuit initiated by the Brown vs Board of Education, in Topeka, and where we visited earlier on this trip. This site is unique, an active high school is just across the street from the visitor center. The actions at the time are appalling to me, especially when I read that instead of integrating the school the local school board closed the school for an entire school year. The gas station, pictured below, is a step back in time to that period. On another corner is a small park and memorial to the past and future.

    Street scene

    School closed


    About an hour away, Hot Springs National Park, established in 1921, is right in town, as evidenced by the difficulty of finding parking near Fordyce Bathhouse, the main visitor center. Once parked we walked along the main street; on one side are tourist stores, on the other are the historic bathhouses that provided the thermal baths. Being in town and in a national park was a great place to play Pokemon Go.

    Entrance sign & Pokemon Go

    Inside bath house & Pokemon Go

    Park along Bath House Row

    As we headed northwest towards Fort Smith NHS it started to rain, not heavy but enough to cool the air, which was appreciated. In the town of Fort Smith is Camp Chafee, an active Army base and where my parents (both deceased) were married in 1944. This site was established in 1817, as part of Indian Territory.

    US Marshall wagon

    On the way into the visitor center I saw this attractive moth on the sidewalk.

    We spent the night on the eastern edge of Oklahoma City.
    Visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial is always a somber moment. Walking around the grounds is a peaceful, but somber reminder of this horrific domestic terrorist event in 1995. There is a NPS presence at this site, however it is not considered one of the 413 units, but an affiliated site.


    This tree is on the east end of the site and survived the explosion on that day. Seeing the pictures of the area at the time make you realize the devastating damage, yet this tree thrives today.
    Survivor Tree

    Reflecting Pool

    Further west, out on the plains is Washita Battlefield NHS. At this site Gen. George Custer attacked a Cheyenne village at dawn in November 1868. The village population was around 300, 60 were killed during this attack, including Chief Black Kettle and his wife. In addition over 600 ponies were killed, with the remainder 275 captured by the US Army. The visitor center tells the story of the battle, but also the culture of the Cheyenne at the time of the battle and today.

    Entrance walkway


    The plains surrounding the visitor center are preserved in their natural state and provide a rich ecosystem to explore, however today the dark skies kept us inside.

    Finally crossing into Texas we made our way to Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument, which is encompassed within Lake Meredith NRA. This site preserves the rock quarries which provided flint for Native Americans 13,000 years ago for mammoth hunting. The displays inside show the flint in various stages; from rough rock being shaped into useful tools. The quarries can only be visited on ranger tours.

    Source to Blanks

    Blanks to Tools

    Flint boulder

    We kept driving, stopped for dinner, and entered New Mexico. We got to camp tonight! The only campground available was a commercial one, near Capulin Volcano NM. It was the beginning of Labor Day weekend, they squeezed us in between 2 RVs. So happy to be sleeping in the van with dry, cool air.
    Last edited by Pmount; 10-11-2016 at 10:03 AM. Reason: Rewording

  4. #24

    Default New Mexico - Labor Day weekend

    September 3-4
    Labor Day weekend

    As we were camped within view of Capulin Volcano NM, that was our first stop of the day. This site was established in 1916, so it shares the Centennial year with the National Park Service. Just outside the visitor center is a great example of volcanic activity around the main feature of a volcano, a squeeze up - this one with a tree growing on top. Capulin last erupted 56,000 years ago.

    Evening view

    Window celebration

    Squeeze Up


    South on I-25 and about 8 miles west is Fort Union NM, a frontier outpost active from 1851 - 1891 and a stop along the Santa Fe Trail. There are extensive ruins which you can walk by on a trail that winds through the area. The blue sky and clouds provide a dramatic backdrop. While here, and just outside the visitor center doors, I saw a large, probably 5-6 ft., bull snake cross the sidewalk. I told the staff and visitors inside the doors, they rushed out, but they just saw his tail end as he went into shrubby. The ranger told us it was probably 'Henry', their resident bull snake. Bull snakes are harmless to humans, they prefer rodents. Rattlesnakes are seen at this site and signs warn visitors.




    Continuing south on I-25 brought us to Pecos NHP. The main site has a visitor center with artifacts dating back to the Pueblo Indians which inhabited this area since C.E. 1000. Besides the Native American history, this was also the site of a battle in the Civil War, a little further west in Glorieta Pass in March 1862. Federal troops were guarding military supplies when the Confederate troops invaded New Mexico to try and capture them. Ultimately, the Federal troops prevailed and Confederate troops retreated back to Texas. We visited the area, a pullout alongside the road by the Johnson Ranch.

    Visitor Center

    Glorieta Pass monument

    Glorieta Pass - Johnson ranch house

    We spent the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday in Santa Fe. It was Labor Day weekend and I did not plan well. We did get a motel room for Saturday night, barely, and luckily got a camp space for Sunday night, up the mountain, in a favorite campground, Black Canyon Campground (USFS).
    On Sunday we met a group of people from the National Park Travelers Club at the New Mexico History Museum for a talk by the former Chief Historian of the National Park Service, Dwight T. Pitcaithley. He spoke about the NPS Centennial giving great background information about the development of the parks over the past 100 years. The museum is part of the Santa Fe Plaza, which was very crowded as their annual Fine Arts Festival filled the plaza. We luckily got the last parking space in an open lot. After the talk we enjoyed sharing Happy Hour with our group at a restaurant on the outer edge of the plaza. Very glad to return to camp and enjoyed a cool, dry and quiet night.

    Field of yellow in Santa Fe park

    Santa Fe Plaza - Art Show, Santa Fe Society of Artists

  5. #25

    Default New Mexico - Utah

    September 5 & 6

    We were ready to move on, heading home, but we wanted to visit a few sites on our way home. A favorite site is Chaco Culture NHP, the drive into the park is a bit rough, but doable in any 2-wheel drive car. The last part is dirt, some rough washboard sections and not passable after rains and also open range. On our way in and out we were met by a friendly herd of goats.

    Once back in Chaco Canyon NHP we got a campsite. You can now reserve campsite at, and highly recommended as this campground does fill, especially during the summer and on weekends. This was a great place for us to relax and enjoy the western landscape.

    Within the campground there is a section for tents only, which juts back into a wide canyon. The campground host had told us there was a family of barn owls that were quite noisy at night. A couple of tent campers the next morning confirmed that the owls were very noisy, all night long. It appeared the owlets were calling for their food and would call louder when the parents came back to the nest. Glad we were camped around the corner.
    Barn Owl

    We left Chaco and continued into the NW corner of New Mexico to Aztec Ruins NM. The items displayed in the visitor center are uniquely shaped. Walking the short trail you explore 900 year old ruins which had 400 masonry rooms.


    Floor plan


    Crossing into southern Utah and following the backroads, which have good signage, we arrived at Hovenweep NM, another great site and campground. We got our favorite campsite and enjoyed a pleasant evening view to the southeast to Sleeping Ute Mountain.

    Evening view from campsite - Sleeping Ute Mountain

    Wildlife Sightings - August 28 - September 6
    Fox Squirrel
    White-tailed Deer
    Black-tailed Prairie Dog
    Pine Squirrel

    Black Vulture
    Double-crested Cormorant
    Red-shouldered Hawk
    Wild Turkey
    American Crow
    Eastern Meadowlark
    Great Egret
    Broad-winged Hawk
    Great Blue Heron
    American Robin
    Northern Mockingbird
    Canada Goose
    Common Raven
    Great-tailed Grackle
    Black-chinned Hummingbird
    Turkey Vulture
    Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
    American Coot
    Northern Harrier
    Mourning Dove
    Steller Jay
    Brown Creeper

  6. #26

    Default Utah & Back home again to Arizona!

    September 7-8

    I forgot to add this picture to the last post, loving the western sunsets!
    Hovenweep Sunset - 9/6

    Before breakfast in camp I walked out along the rim to view some of the ruins, which I think are unique to the many we have visited over the years. Hovenweep has six different sites in the area that once housed 2,500 people that were built from 1200 - 1300 C.E.


    Desert Cottontail


    While enjoying breakfast in camp we got a glimpse of this jackrabbit cruising by.
    Black-tailed Jackrabbit

    We made a quick stop at Natural Bridges National Monument, an easy drive from Hovenweep. Glad we hadn't planned to spend time at this site as today they were doing road construction along the loop drive and delays would be extensive. Glad they are getting some road work done.

    Entrance sign

    As we didn't get back to see any of the bridges I took a photo of the landscape, the white rock in the distance is from what the bridges are formed.

    Heading south towards Arizona we stopped in Mexican Hat at the San Juan Inn and Trading Post, a popular river trip stop, for lunch. Parking was not available next to the restaurant, so we parked along the wall, towering rock wall. Once we got seated and looked across, my husband was not comfortable with the parking place. Luckily a space opened up and he moved the car.

    San Juan Inn & Trading Post

    Parking space

    San Juan River

    Once back in Arizona we headed for Flagstaff to our favorite campground, north of town. The critters, live ones, usually entertain us.

    Bonito Campground (USFS) - N of Flagstaff, AZ
    Steller's Jay

    Abert's Squirrel

    Abert's Squirrel


    Thursday morning we enjoyed breakfast in camp and then got serious about getting home, south down I-17, to east I-10 in Phoenix and back to Tucson.

    Wildlife Sightings
    Cottontail Rabbit
    Black-tailed Jackrabbit
    Abert's Squirrel

    Barn Owl
    Say's Phoebe
    Canyon Towhee
    Common Raven
    Red-tailed Hawk
    Black-billed Magpie
    Rock Wren
    Steller's Jay
    White-breasted Nuthatch
    Western Bluebird

  7. #27

    Default NPS Centennial Road Trip - Trip Statistics

    This was a great trip; a different type of trip for us, and successful. We knew it was going to be hot and humid so we had to stay in motels, more than normal. We had a goal of visiting as many NPS sites to collect their commemorative NPS Centennial stamps. Our goal was met and exceeded, we were able to visit more sites than originally planned.

    Basic statistics:
    43 days
    29 states
    11,673 miles - van and rental car
    49 states & DC license plates seen (Hawaii not seen)

    118 NPS Centennial stamps
    12 National Wildlife Refuge stamps
    1 Whispering Giant (RI) visited
    49 letterboxes found
    Infinite memories and fun!

    Of the 43 days traveling; 10 nights camping, 3 nights with family and 30 nights at motels.

    Total expenses;
    42% Lodging
    27% Meals
    31% Gas, parking, tolls & rental car
    <1% Misc - ice, showers

    The percentage for lodging and meals is a flip from most of our previous trips, obviously staying in motels 70% of the trip increased the lodging cost. Due to cost, as well as weight management, we carried a cooler and food to fix meals while traveling. Gas was a little bit less than previous trips, possibly because we used a rental car in place of our cargo van for 2 weeks, as well as the low price per gallon this summer.

    Average Daily costs
    Motel - $63 per day. Through Red Roof Inns we received 2 free nights for each 3 nights stayed, it was a promotion during the summer. Most of the other nights were spent at Motel 6, which we prefer due to their low cost and for the most part they have the quietest room air conditioners and the mattresses are comfortable. The most we paid was for the conference hotel in Philadelphia, Doubletree Airport, we paid $125. The nights there were not great; adjoining door with people talking loudly, ice machine a few doors down and a loud air conditioner. We stayed at a few independent motels which were fine, usually closer to $75.

    Food - averaged $30 per day. While traveling and staying in motels we tended to have lunch out and dine in the room at night. Sometimes it was sandwiches, and some nights we had delivery or take out.

    Gas -
    Lowest paid -$1.73 in Republic, MO & Carmi, IL
    Highest paid - $2.26 Chatham, NY
    Rental car - $400
    Parking - $25
    Tolls - $30

    I hope this trip report helped to highlight the amazing diversity of National Park Service sites that we are able to experience on road trips. I saw a chart which categorized the 413 sites; Arts & Humanities, Civil Rights, Expanding the Frontier, Fossils & Evolution, Geology & Natural History, Military, Native American, Peace, Presidents & Patriots, Religious History, Technology, Transportation & Industry, Water-based Recreation & World Heritage Sites (UNESCO). I haven't checked, but I believe we may have visited at least one of every category. Most of the sites we have visited previously, however I always learn or experience something new on every repeat visit.

    Officially the Centennial year ends in December, but the park sites will all be there next year and beyond - Enjoy!
    Last edited by Pmount; 10-14-2016 at 06:05 PM. Reason: Spelling

  8. #28

    Default Gotta get'um all - Passport Stamps

    As I have done for previous trip reports, the following link is a webpage my husband created of ALL the passport and bonus stamps he collected along the way. Reviewing the pages just gave me a fun re-wind of this epic trip.


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