Whiskeytown National Recreation Area

Visited: August 2019

Duration: 4-6 hours

Accommodations: Stayed ON at Shasta View Hotel went to Whiskeytown, then ON at Redwoods.

I wasn’t really that thrilled about going to Whiskeytown, it was just a NPS site on the way from Lassen to Redwoods. We arrived here around 9 in the morning, it was a 1.5 hour drive from our hotel last night at the base of Mt. Shasta. We arrived at the Visitor Center and grabbed our needed supplies, Jr. Ranger book, t-shirts that say Whiskeytown, magnets, passport stickers and cancellations. This is the spot that my kids got these goofy hats that you will continue to see throughout the park visits. They love them, they drive me crazy 🙂

Once we got out of the VC, I realized how cool this place actually was, there are tons of things to do here and it is gorgeous. We took J.F. Kennedy Memorial Drive down to Brandy Creek. Passing the Kennedy Memorial and Glory Hole Spillway shown below.

This reservoir and dam feed all of California. The Central Valley project was built to move water from norther California to the drier areas farther south, The lake brings many benefits to this area like recreational opportunities, flood control, hydroelectric power, and a dependable water supply.

We made our way to the Brandy Creek area, where we parked, rented paddle boards, swam and enjoyed a picnic lunch. We had an amazing time and the views were awesome. This place really shouldn’t be missed.

Gunnar eating lunch and working on his Junior Ranger

After hours of fun, we headed back to the Visitor Center where we earned our Junior Ranger badges. Off to the Redwood forest, I can’t wait.

Check back soon for Redwoods National Park and the Oregon Parks.

Lava Beds National Monument

Visited: July 2019

Duration: 1/2 day 4-6 hours

Accommodations: Shasta View Hotel (between Lava Beds and Whiskeytown NRA) Highly recommend

Eruptions occurring 30-40,000 years ago formed over 700 lava tube caves found in Lava Beds National Monument. Lava tubes are formed by hot flowing streams of lava that start to cool. The center of the stream stays hot and flows, the outside of the the lava stream begins to cool and harden. The hot lava drains out leaving pipe like caves (tubes).

Here at Lava Beds National Monument you can explore above ground and below ground. We chose to explore the caves, this requires a permit to do (easy stop at the Visitor Center). There are over 700 plus caves in this park. The visitor center supplies you with flashlights, free of charge. Wear protective clothing, caves are cold, helmet, and don’t go alone.

We explored the Cave Loop road stopping at Mushpot Cave, Blue Grotto, Upper Sentinel and Lower Sentinel. We saw some pretty cool cave formations along the way.

Here is what the trails look like in the lava tubes
Cool formations

After our cave exploration we headed back to the Visitor Center and watched the film, finished our Jr Rangers, earned the badges and we were off to Mt. Shasta via Gillem Bluff. We headed to the northern part of the park to explore and drove through Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. This was a great stop up in Northern California. Our next visit is to Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. Check back for that.

Nevada

The Nevada state line sign taken on the Nevada/Utah border near Baker, Nevada. This is #38 out of 50 state line signs, but who’s counting, right?

Nevada was a beautiful state with a National Park I have ranked in the top 5 of my favorite U.S. National Parks, you can check it out here.

Great Basin National Park

We stayed at Hidden Canyon resort and loved it, ate in Baker and again loved it. We traveled US Highway 50 through Nevada, nicknamed The Loneliest Road in America. This holds true. I bet in our 6 hours of travel on this highway, we saw less then a dozen vehicles, we didn’t pass a soul and the dozen vehicles we saw were coming the opposite way. It was a gorgeous drive from Baker to Reno.

We overnighted it in Reno on our way to Lassen Volcanic National Park. We have a mini golfer in the family and I had researched that Reno/Sparks had an amazing Mini golf Park, it did not disappoint at all. Magic Carpet golf is awesome! This guy has gone all over America collecting old statues and incorporating them into his mini golf courses. You have to check this place out 🙂 Good times.

2 more National park service sites in this state, so we will be back soon, check back for Nevada sites.

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Visited: July 2019

Duration: 2 full days

Accommodations: Livings Springs RV and Cabins (reserved on Air BNB) highly recommend.

Lassen Volcanic National Park illustrates Earth’s most powerful forces. All four types of rock that originate from volcanoes can be found here in this park; shield, composite, cinder cone and plug dome. Lassen peak is one of the largest plug dome volcanoes in the world. Boiling mudpots, steaming ground, roaring fumeroles, sulfurous gases, lakes, mountains, volcanoes, great hiking trails, wonderful viewpoints, gorgeous streams and beautiful waterfalls put this park at #1 on my list of best national parks I have visited. You heard it here, this is by far my favorite national park (and this still holds true to date with 31/62 visited).

We arrived at Lassen on the Northeast side of the park and visited the Butte Lake area. This is made up of Butte Lake, Fantastic Lava Beds, painted dunes and cinder cone. We headed out on the Cinder cone trail, make sure to wear hiking boots or your shoes will be filled with cinder, take lots of water, it gets hot. Painted dunes is amazing!! Check it out.

We ate lunch at Butte Lake and enjoyed the view above. An older couple joined us for lunch and we chatted about traveling and baseball. Boys walked around the lake and found HUGE pinecones. What an amazing afternoon. We headed to the main part of the park (Manzanita Lake Area) and grabbed our Junior Ranger books, shirts, stickers and all the other goodies anyone would ever want at the bookstore. We then headed to Manzanita Lake where we did a Junior ranger program, had ice cream and enjoyed people watching at the store. This store had great items, I recommend buying shirts and souvenirs here at the camp store.

The next day we headed out early and drove the Lassen Volcanic National Park Highway, stopping along the way for viewpoints, hiking and pictures. This place allows for so many pictures, it is beautiful with so much to offer.

First Stop: Manzanita Lake with Lassen Peak in the background. There is a great trail that leads up to the Visitor center.

Next up: Devastated Area

Here at the Devastated area there is an interpretive trail with lots of sign posts and broken speaker information, we were educated here by Charlie Brown’s teacher. ha! The solar power wasn’t working that day or something, the kids thought this was awesome. This is the size rocks that Lassen peak erupted with in its largest explosion on May 22, 1915, paving the way for the creation of this park on August 9, 1916. For reference, Hunter was about 6 ft 3 in this photo.

Next stops: Lake Helen, Bumpass Trailhead overlook, Emerald Lake

Next stop: Hiking to Kings Creek

We stopped here for lunch and then headed out on the trail to see an awesome waterfall. This was easily one of my favorite hikes I have ever been on. Take water, the steps are killer on the way back 🙂 The views=worth it.

We hit the sulphur works area of the park next, what a fun stop. Kids thought it stunk (sorry not sorry).

For the Finale: Junior Rangers at the Kohm Yah-mah-nee Visitor Center

That was 2 days of an absolutely fantastic park. Lots of things to do, lots of time getting lost in nature and lots of amazing views. I highly recommend this park and visiting Northern California, it is good for the soul!

Passport Cancellations and we are off to our next stop (Lava Beds National Monument).

Great Basin National Park

Visited: July 2019

Duration: 6-7 hours, a full day

Accommodations: Hidden Canyon Retreat (highly recommend)

Let’s start this post off by stating that Great Basin National Park has gone right into my top ten National Parks with the possibility of top 5. This is Nevada’s and the NPS’s best kept secret. Out in the middle of nowhere this park will amaze and awe you, I guarantee it.

We arrived in the afternoon and headed to the Visitor Center in the town of Baker, Nevada. Here we earned our Dark Sky Junior Ranger patches and grabbed our Great Basin Junior Ranger books. The park rangers here were extremely helpful and very amusing both times we visited.

We headed into the park and hit up the Lehman Caves Visitor Center to check on cave tours. Unfortunately all the cave tours were booked up for the next several days so we skipped that (all ok we have been to many caves and are really caved out, I would rather hike above ground). We took to the interpretive trail behind the visitor center and visited the Rhodes cabin where visitors in the early 20th century stayed while visiting the Lehman caves. It is now on the National Register of Historic places.

Next up we got back in the car and drove up the Wheeler Peak Scenic Drive road and when I say up, I mean up, 9,886 ft! There are several overlooks I recommend stopping at on the way to Wheeler Peak. Just look at these pictures we took, not sure you could take a bad photo at this park.

The center stage here at Great Basin is a very unique specimen named the Bristlecone Tree, they are found up in the Snake Range between 9,500 and 11,000 feet. These trees are 3,000 to 5,000 years old and are the oldest living thing to still inhabit this earth today. Pretty cool, huh!!

Once atop Wheeler peak we set out to hike the Bristlecone Trail so we could hike through a grove of these trees, some were in the range of 5,000 years old. This hike was/is probably one of my favorite hikes in all of the parks I have done so far. Just awesome beauty all the way up and all the way down. The trees are truly awe-inspiring, I haven’t seen anything like it before. We had a hard time wanting to leave the grove. I highly recommend putting this park and trail on your bucket list! Check it out.

Gunnar was excited to see snow in July! We headed back into Baker, Nevada for some dinner, not expecting much. There was 2 places to eat and the first looked a little sketchy so we past on that, the next one was a very pleasant surprise. We had to wait about 10 minutes for a table but it was worth it. While waiting on the bench outside we played with a hairless cat, yes you heard me a hairless cat in the middle of nowhere Nevada. Gunnar kept calling it a skinless cat and didn’t realize what he was saying (nobody corrected him). We still let him call it that and we all giggle, he finally figured it out.

We sat down and ate our meal, one which I would drive straight to Nevada for again anytime of the day, it was the best burger I have ever eaten in my life!!! Straight up amazing food, Kerouac’s Restaurant, I would give it ten stars! After our fine dining we headed off to our retreat. Hidden Canyon Retreat is another hidden gem in Nevada. We loved this place and wish we could have stayed longer. Tonight we all got in the huge hot tub outside and enjoyed the most starred sky I have ever seen in my life. Great Basin is one of the National Parks in the Dark Sky program, meaning it has the least light pollution of all of the parks and you can see every star in the galaxy here at night. I can’t even begin to tell you how cool this was to see. Definitely one our favorite memories of this trip, and another reason for its ranking in my top ten of parks.

In the morning we enjoyed a great breakfast up at the lodge of the retreat, packed our bags for Reno and headed back to the Visitor Center in town. We earned our Great Basin Junior Ranger badges and got a telescope/astronomy lesson.

Badges, patches, passport stamps and everything else we would ever need and we are off.

I hope you enjoyed our trip to Great Basin National Park and I hope that this post will really “sink” in and get you excited to visit this park! Get it? Sink…..Basin…… Anyways put this one on the list, you won’t be disappointed. Until next time (Which will be Lassen National Park another one in the top ten if not #1). Check back soon.

Iowa

State line sign #13 of 50 for us. Funny because this is where we live, we just don’t usually stop for this one. Iowa has lots of fun and beautiful things to do, you would be surprised. This picture was taken in Marquette Iowa which is one of our favorite places to go in the summer and fall. It is just up the road from Pike’s Peak State Park and McGregor, another family favorite.

In Iowa there aren’t many NPS sites but we did manage to get both of them. The links are listed below and we enjoyed our visits to them, I hope you do too.

Effigy Mounds National Monument

Herbert Hoover National Historic Site

There is also a Smokestacks Heritage area we will visit someday that isn’t listed in the Passport book but does sound worth checking out.

Check back soon for that.

Chimney Rock National Historic Site

Chimney Rock National Historic Site was a quick, quick stop on our way to see Scotts Bluff National Monument. It is just a few miles away from our intended spot. This isn’t registered in the National Parks Passport book but it claims it is a National Historic site and it has cancellations.

We popped into the Visitor Center and Museum to look around. It does cost to go through the museum, we opted not too, we were short on time and we wanted to get up to the Chimney Rock viewpoint. It was a beautiful visitor center so take your time.

We drove up to the viewpoint and got these awesome photos. The one with just the boys went in our Nebraska state photo frame I loved it so much. Great historical photo sites are the best.

Great shots and I loved the sunflowers in the background. Make sure you stop here, it is a beautiful area of Nebraska. So glad we added this stop.

Until next time. I hope you enjoyed this short post. I didn’t want to exclude it because it is a beautiful place, it just doesn’t have much to do. Sometimes short and sweet is nice.

Dinosaur National Monument

Visited: July 26th, 2019

Duration: 6-7 hours, a full day

Accommodations: IHG points in Vernal, Utah (highly recommend this town)

Dinosaur National Monument is going to be divided up into 2 parts in the post. Canyon area of the park and the Quarry area of the park. We were heading west from Steamboat Springs so we started our morning off at the Canyon Visitor Center where we picked up our Junior Ranger books and handed in our Archeologist books and got badges for those as well. The Canyon visitor center is small but the ladies there were fun. Gunnar went to the restroom and then came in the visitor center and said to the rangers, “Don’t go in that bathroom extincts!!” They got quite the chuckle out of that.

We headed off onto the Harpers Corner Road, 31 miles of road that crosses sagebrush-covered plateaus. There are several overlooks and little hiking trails to the overlooks. This is a great place to get out of your vehicle and get some great views.

We enjoyed the drive along the Harpers Corner Road and it allowed the kids to finish up their Junior Ranger books. We headed to Dinosaur, Colorado in hopes of doing a little shopping and getting some lunch. Don’t hold your breath. This town is a ghost town. No food places were open and the shopping is super scarce. We chugged along hoping for something good to pop up. This Utah sign was about the only thing to stop for between the Canyon Visitor Center and the Quarry Visitor Center. We love state line signs and this one “triceratops” our other Utah sign.

We didn’t find anything of interest until we pulled into The Quarry Visitor Center along Hwy 149. Photo stop to get some pics of big stupid roadside dinosaurs. We stopped at the Quarry Visitor center and had a picnic lunch, there were great tables with sun shade. This is about the only place you can find around here to eat, so pack a lunch and enjoy a spot in the park.

At the Quarry visitor center there are many more things to do. We signed up for the tram ride up to the exhibit hall, where there is a wall with fossils still in them for you to see, it was amazing. While waiting for the tram we walked around the VC and got our supplies; magnet, stickers, stamps, cancellations and all of the collectible things we just can’t live without. Tram ride up was fun and informative. They have built a beautiful museum up here to view the fossils in.

We rode the tram back down, got our Junior ranger badges and then went on a very rewarding drive along the Cub Creek Road to see if we could find some Petroglyphs.

Fun dino outside of the VC
The Junior Ranger oath.
We found so many Petroglyphs!!

This drive was amazing. Lots of stops for pictures and getting out to look at things. I would highly recommend doing this drive.

We headed to Vernal, Utah for the night, a fantastic little town FULL of dinosaurs, shopping and great food. If taking a trip to Dinosaur National Monument, this is a town not to be missed. What a great little town and a fantastic monument. Another Colorado NPS site checked off our list. I hope you enjoyed our visit to the monument and maybe we sparked some inspiration for you to visit some day.

Vernal, Utah

Effigy Mounds National Monument

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Visited: June 2017

Duration: 2 hours

Accommodations: Camping at LaRiviere, Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin

Every summer we go camping and trail riding in beautiful Prairie du Chien Wisconsin.  This year we added an extra day onto the trip so we could visit this National Monument.  I had been here before on a field trip when I was a kid and I remembered everything. It’s a pretty cool place and the towns surrounding it have a lot to offer.  McGregor, Marquette and Prairie du Chien can keep you busy for a short week if you wanted a good mini-vacation and you are from the midwest.

On this trip we stopped in at the visitor center to get a self guided brochure and our Junior Rangers. We visited the north unit this time, it has some great views points (Eagle Rock and Fire Point), Great Bear Mound Group and Little Bear Mound group. Just a heads up, if you are interested in seeing lots of Mounds, Marching Bear Group might be what you are looking for in the South Unit.

We took off up the hiking trail from the visitor center, looking carefully for a vent one of the rangers had secretly told us about.  Just like she said, it was right there! Boys were elated that we found it. We told everyone that walked past us about it 🙂  It wasn’t a secret for long. Next up, awesome views of the Mississippi River.

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Eagle Rock View Point

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Eagle Rock

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Fire Point View Point

After you hit the view points you go back to the main trail to visit the mounds.  We hit both Little Bear and Great Bear mound groups.  Hard to see from the ground, I like the aerial pictures in the brochure better, obviously.  Still very pretty.

The term effigy refers to mounds built in the shape of something. Here at Effigy mounds they are mounds in the shape of bears and birds.

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We hiked around some more and got the phone call that dad was done running errands and is on his way back to pick us up.  We headed back down to the visitor center and finished up our Junior Rangers on the observation deck right outside.  We went in and earned our badges, got our stickers, magnet and cancellations and we were off to enjoy a weekend of riding mules.

That concludes our trip to this National Monument. We had a great time and will revisit the South part of the park on our next visit. Thanks for stopping by.

Nebraska

State line #5 of 50. This photo was taken on National Park Trip Season 1. Seems like just yesterday but we are still working on Season 5 in 2020, so it has, in fact been awhile. They are so little in this photo. We haven’t had a chance to post about Nebraska until now. It is usually a drive through state but on NPT Season 4 we decided to follow the Oregon trail and it took us right to a beautiful Nebraska National Monument and a state historical site (Chimney Rock) that goes with Scotts bluff.

Please feel free to check out the informational blogs on our trip through the Cornhusker state, and as always check back there are a total of 6 parks in this state and we will eventually hit them all. For now enjoy these:

Scotts bluff National Monument

Chimney Rock National Historical Site

That’s it until we head west again! Enjoy for now.

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