Celebrating USA Public Lands!

Yosemite NPLDThere are many different types of public lands in the United States, including local parks, state parks, national forests, and national parks. Yesterday was National Public Lands Day and I didn’t want to step past it. So much of my identify as a daughter of the West is associated with the open space protected by various public land covenants, especially those by the federal government.

I have ridden a horse on the public trails in the Sierra Nevada, walked and hiked among the redwoods and douglas firs of Yosemite and Redwood national parks. Our sensibilities around public access to the coast and to the sacred natural spaces is under attack. There are always people ready to exploit it for personal profit. I am so thankful that even something as small as the Effie Yeaw Nature Study Area in suburban Sacramento preserves a little bit of the wildness of Sacramento Valley and still remains for me and my grandson to enjoy. We only saw the fresh deer poop, not the deer themselves, but the potential remains to see something wild a short 20 minute car ride from his house. I do not want to take this for granted.

I also just learned from a father of a 4th grade student, that the National Park Foundation gives 4th graders and their families free park entry throughout the year. I hope all families with children around this age take advantage of this gift.

I’m going to sign off now and look at my calendar to find a time to visit Yosemite!

Harper’s Ferry a Historic Gem

People outside of Northern California don’t necessarily spend time learning about the 1849 California Gold Rush, but growing up in Sacramento, you can’t help but learn about it. Not surprisingly, people who live in this region of West Virginia you can’t help but absorb a lot of Civil War knowledge. Harper’s Ferry National Park is a gem of a park and so much more interesting than so many of the Civil War battlefields I’ve been to. And this was a continuous battleground over the course of the war.

IMG_4836The park is located on the Appalachian Trail and preserves the place where John Brown was tried and hung. As you walk around the old part of town you can see shops preserved as they might have been during the Civil War alongside a current day bookstore and places to find food or outdoor equipment.

You can also go on hikes or walks along the rivers. I hung out in the Coffee Mill while my friend Nyasha jogged and walked over bridges and along the river. The Coffee Mill was frustrating as so much of what was listed on the menu was unavailable.

We came across re-enactors in several places. I asked the three Confederate soldiers why motivated them to volunteer as living history docents. They are self-professed History nerds.

IMG_4832Parking is also a challenge. I grabbed one of the last spots along the street on Potomac Street. I downloaded the National Park Service parking app and paid via PayPal. After 10 a.m. you can probably expect to use the parking lot up the hill and take the shuttle to the main part of the historic village. I found it difficult to find a way to pay the day use fee. I finally waited in line at the entrance up the hill because I want our National Parks to be around for my grandchildren.

The entrance fee is just $10 per carload or $5 per person if you walk or bicycle into the Park. This is a real bargain at Harper’s Ferry.

Part of History! #WomensMarch 0n Washington

This young woman embodied the enthusiasm and spirit of the March. Another young woman had a sign that read “What Would Hermoine Do?

It was so thrilling to be part of history. This was the biggest worldwide march for women ever. It came together within just a few months with marches from Antarctica to Stockholm and all across the United States. My son and I went to the Women’s March on Washington, DC. It was the first really big march for either of us.


We drove from Boston to DC on Friday. It was a very long day due to traffic and weather. My college chum Carole was hosting us and her nephew Cade (who was my other March buddy). We chatted briefly, made plans for the morning and then went to bed.


With Carole’s local knowledge we were able to get going at 8:30 a.m. and beat the traffic. She went way round to the back of the Capitol and came back in, dropping us a few blocks behind the Supreme Court building. People were already streaming from everywhere–with pussyhats. So many pink hats!

We were packed in tighter and tighter. Everyone stayed positive, but after about 4 hours we needed to find an edge of the crowd.

We joined the throngs and walked toward the Capitol. Cade has worked for an Illinois Senator one year, so he knew his way around. Really though, you just had to follow the masses. Like everyone else we collected signs, button, and stickers, and took pictures of so many clever signs.


We walked past the inauguration infrastructure as it was being broken down. We kept expecting to have to go past some sort of security check. None. We never saw any police presence the entire day. They made no arrests at any of the dozens of Marches. The mood was good natured and even joyful at times.

The main stage was on Independence and because of the 500,000 participants we couldn’t get any closer than the Mall. Since none of us could hear the official program, people got creative and started their own chants. The most common was “This is what democracy looks like.” After 4 hours of crowd jostling I was hoping that Democracy might have a little more elbow room.


We began to make our way across the Mall and up 4th Street. This took another hour. More and more marchers were arriving to replace the small stream that were heading to the sides. So many marchers filled the area that it shut streets down for blocks. There was a festival atmosphere everywhere we went.


We noticed that some of the more expensive restaurants were closed for private inauguration parties, but we saw very few Trump supporters or school groups. We were getting peckish and Cade had been telling Tevis about District Taco, so I knew we’d end up there for lunch. It is delicious. My only suggestion is to add more seating!

The Metro became more and more crowded as the day wore on. We hopped on the red line to go to our friend Gary’s house and watch the speakers and music on CSPAN. We caught the end and then marveled at the many other marches around the USA–especially San Francisco. Beautiful.

The day held such a positive spirit. I still cannot get enough Facebook shares from family and friends who attended marches in Oakland, Sacramento (my grandson!), San Francisco, San Diego, Boston and my friend Mexicali Cindy who helped organize the very first March of the day in Auckland, New Zealand. Right on!

This is just the beginning of the Resisterhood!





Celebrate US National Parks on Independence Day!

Ahh Yosemite! The park that I grew up with and adore.
Ahh Yosemite! The park that I grew up with and adore.

The best travel bargain is the yearly pass to the National Park system. I bought my pass June 2014 for $80. I used it for 3 days in Yosemite ($20 a day per car = $60), then I used it in Zion (+$20) and then Grand Canyon (+$20). So I ended ahead. I ended ahead from day one, because it is a bargain to have access to such beauty in nature for just $20 a day.

Red steep canyon walls are the backdrop pretty much everywhere along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.
Red steep canyon walls are the backdrop pretty much everywhere along the Zion Canyon Scenic Drive.

So get off the couch or pool lounge chair and grab your car keys.

The sunrise illuminates an already gorgeous canyon to new heights of breathtaking.
The sunrise illuminates an already gorgeous canyon to new heights of breathtaking.

Go take a hike at one of our National Parks.

24 hours at the South Rim of Grand Canyon

Our first view of the Grand Canyon.
Our first view of the Grand Canyon.

Remote is not the best way to describe the crowded Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon National Park. However, it was our word of the day after we saw a funny t-shirt at the Market Plaza store: “Remote is not just the thing on the coffee table.” And as we hopped on and off the bus to Hermit’s Rest, we actually experienced that refreshing peace one does in a truly remote place between the Abyss and Mohave Point.

Looking back at the South Rim Village from Trailview Overlook.
Looking back at the South Rim Village from Trailview Overlook.

It was one of the few sections of the trail where it is not paved or without the rock barrier built by the CCC. We agreed as a security to stop if we were going to look at the canyon or take photos or gape at California Condors. It was quiet and beautiful and felt remote.

We had 24 hours to enjoy the Grand Canyon. We lucked in and grabbed one night in the Yavapai Lodge next to Market Plaza. We dropped our bags and walked about 40 minutes to view the South Rim for the first time (for my friend) about a mile from Veerkamp Visitor Center. Our goal was to mooch along the Rim Trail to Bright Angel Lodge and stop at anything of interest along the way.

We had 7:45 p.m. reservations at El Tovar dining room. This was also when the sun would have set and the bus would stop running to Hermit’s Rest. We planned to watch most of the sunset from Maricopa Point or Powell Point and catch the bus to El Tovar. Turns out that very few of the bus stops pick up/drop off in both directions. And we stopped to take photos so often that we reached Maricopa Point about the time we needed to turn around. That is when we discovered the only return bus stop was another half mile up the trail. We did not realize there was a 30 minute grace on our dinner reservation so we ended up dashing back on foot.

To see one riding the air currents wild and free was thrilling!
Finally I saw a California Condor! I have been reading about their decline and recovery my whole life! To see one riding the air currents wild and free was thrilling!

The El Tovar dining room is decorated in the classic Bavarian dark hunting lodge style. The patrons are noticeably grayer than the people we met on the trail. This is the only proper dining room we could find (the Yavapai Cafe was closed for remodeling) and it is expensive. The food was good, not great. Our server was competent but glum. And we were tired from hiking in the altitude and sun. It was a relief to get on the bus and ride back to Yavapai Lodge and crawl into bed.

We set the alarm for 4:30 a.m. so we could watch the sunrise. The Grand Canyon sunrise deserves a post of its own because it is delightful. Afterward, we ate breakfast at the cafeteria at the Market Plaza and bought sandwiches and salty snacks for our day pack. (We used my Nuun tablets to help us stay hydrated.) Our plan was spend the day riding the bus to Hermit’s Rest and hiking our way back.

Sunset: I have so many pictures on my phone of the Grand Canyon that it is a huge challenge to select photos for this post.
Sunset: I have so many pictures on my phone of the Grand Canyon that it is a huge challenge to select photos for this post.

It was a great day and not as hot as the previous afternoon. Wear sunscreen even when overcast! It looked like thundershowers might cross our paths but they were always at a distance. About 3 p.m. we were satiated. So much beauty!