Jelly Beans and Places Stayed

Time for another contest!

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A couple months ago, my dear blog readers had a chance to win either a big ol’ jar of jelly beans or a blog picture sent as a 8.5 X 11 print. The challenge was to guess how many miles I had hiked.

Our new contest revolves around the number of places I have stayed during my entire voyage. Here are the rules:

  • Leave a comment with your estimate of how many different locations I’ve spent the night
  • Each time Clarence, my teardrop trailer, was in a different site counts as an individual place
  • Next Friday, June 30, I will announce the winner

Reminder: if you don’t see your guess posted right away as a comment, don’t panic, I have to approve all comments before they become official.

Let the guessing begin…

Nature Break

I’ve been back for a week. The oppressive high temperatures in the NOVA area make me miss the dry heat of the southwest and the cool breezes of the coast.

I am intent not to settle comfortably into an indoor lifestyle. It’s trickier to get outside when abiding in a sprawling metropolis, but there are quite a few nearby regional parks at my disposal.

One of them is Morven Park, a historic estate located in Leesburg, VA. The Ridge Trail was a leisure 1.3 mile stroll through a forested area dotted with landmarks from the past.

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Yes, it was hot. Yes, there were ticks. Yes, I enjoyed every minute of it. The tree cover tricked me into thinking that I was a great distance from human developments.

I even saw some spotted turtles, who hung out near the path relishing the humidity.

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Burtle the Turtle

I guess this would be considered Park #48? 🙂

And the Award Goes To… (Part II)

Every park that I’ve been to is special in it’s own way. The diversity found within the natural areas of our country is truly astounding.

That being said, some parks piqued my interest a little more than others.

Introducing my favorites…

(1) Best Hiking: Redwood Forest

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Tall trees, lush greenery, coastal views peeking through the trees… can’t get much better than this.

(2) Best Desert Park: Joshua Tree

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Everything about this place captivated me. The rocks were unique, the sky was gorgeous, and the wildflowers were in full bloom.

(3) Best Lil’ Town: Bar Harbor (outside of Acadia National Park)

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An overlook in Acadia with Bar Harbor nestled neatly off in the distance. This town boasted excellent lobster, fun shops, and an overall non-touristy feel.

(4) Best Exploration: Channel Islands

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This piece of paradise was chock-full of fun places to discover. There were rocky coasts, sea caves, and historical ranches.

(5) Best Views: Glacier

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Those mountains. That sky. *sigh*

(6) Most Isolated: Isle Royale

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In the middle of Lake Superior. I commuted 3-hours via ferry to experience this wonderful wilderness.

(7) Best Waterfalls: Yosemite

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One of the many waterfalls in the Valley. The heavy winter snow resulted in a tremendous amount of falling water.

(8) Best Forests: Sequoia

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I enjoyed walking through forests full of these giants. The crisp spring air and snow-clad floor made the atmosphere peaceful and fresh.

(9) Best Pure Fun: Lassen Volcanic

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Snowshoeing and looking at geothermals was a grand ol’ time.

(10) Best Overall: Olympic

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Beaches, forests, mountains, and more!

Cuyahoga Valley Recap

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Beaver Marsh (I didn’t see any beavers)

Countdown:

  • 0 more parks to go!

Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 2 nights
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Family outing

High:

  • Biking along the canal
  • The Canal Exploration Center featuring historical exhibits on the Ohio and Erie canals
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Canal Exploration Center: one of the best museums I’ve seen this trip

Low:

  • Constant traffic noise
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Enjoying the shade on the Ledges Trail

Favorite Hike:

  • Ledges Trail

Favorite Treat:

  • Buckeyes: a peanut butter and chocolate treat unique to Ohio
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A platter of buckeyes. (I only ate one, I promise)

Park #47!

I did it.

I have officially visited every national park within the contiguous United States.

I felt such a sense of accomplishment adding the last stamp to my passport booklet in Cuyahoga Valley, a park snuggled neatly in between Cleveland and Akron, Ohio. Huge bridges overhead shuttled cars along the interstate while visitors and wildlife enjoyed this small piece of nature hidden within an urban landscape.

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Mission accomplished!

There was an incredible amount of history that I found fascinating. Who knew that canals played such an integral part in America’s development? I rented a bike and pedaled along the old canal, admiring abandoned locks and water fowl. I even saw a big ol’ snapping turtle resting on a log.

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My wheels for the day

There were some charming waterfalls that I had to myself briefly during the early morning hours. Water cascaded down and I took the time to appreciate every second. I was intent on eking out the last drop of enjoyment from my year-long nature exploration.

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Can you spot the turtle?

Only Ansel Adams, the famous photographer, could so perfectly sum up my thoughts as I officially wrapped up my trip.

I believe the world is incomprehensibly beautiful – an endless prospect of magic and wonder.”

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Finding magic and wonder in the marsh

Acadia Recap

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Countdown:

  • 1 more park to go!

Length of Stay:

  • 2 days, 3 nights

High:

  • The compactness of the park; so many neat things to see wrapped up in a relatively small area (= less driving)
  • Every hike I did
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Yet another incredible overlook on another incredible hike

Low:

  • Too many detours

Favorite Hike:

  • Beehive trail (lots of iron rungs and exposed parts)
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Enjoying the view on the Beehive Trail

Favorite Treat:

  • Lobster roll*

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*Probably the top 5 best foods I’ve had on my trip

 

Making Lemonade, Small Planes, and Iron Ladders

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Silly selfie

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.

Or in my case: When life throws a deer in front of your car, fly to Acadia National Park.

It just didn’t make sense to hang out in Wisconsin for a week while I waited for my car to get fixed. Hotels were pretty pricey, and I knew that I would be going stir-crazy lingering in a city.

I crunched some numbers. When I calculated the cost of gas, lodging during the drive, and tolls, taking a last-minute flight to Maine didn’t seem like such a bad decision.

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A small plane

So I spent a glorious 2 days on Mt. Desert Island, the largest and most popular part of Acadia.

I drove my sweet rental car, a Jeep Cherokee, along the coast, marveling at the rugged rock meeting the Atlantic Ocean. I laced up my hiking boots and explored the mountains and unique ecosystems, the sound of the crashing sea in the distance.

On one occasion, I decided to do a quick 0.4 mile hike to a lookout point. I soon realized that the majority of the hike was iron ladders, and that the “trail” was really more of a nontechnical rock climb.

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Up, up, and away…

It was fun.

Even though flying is a pain, I’m happy that my impromptu decision will save me hours in the car in the long run.

Now, my trip is officially back on track. One more park to go!

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