Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Tag: National Park (Page 1 of 8)

Snorkeling Virgin Islands National Park

Honeymoon Beach

When I booked this cruise with two ports in the U.S. Virgin Islands, the first thing I did was look up Virgin Islands National Park and see how possible it would be to get there from St. Thomas or St. Croix. As it turns out, the National Park is located on St. John and there is no airport on the island. The only way to get there is by boat, with a ferry running from St. Thomas.

With a limited time in port for the day and the number of steps needed to get to the National Park (taxi from the port to the ferry dock, ferry to St. John, taxi/tour around the island), we decided to book a St. John Island Tour excursion through the cruise line. Unfortunately, that tour was canceled due to lack of interest so, with one day’s notice after we had boarded the ship, we had to figure out a new plan. We decided the easiest way to the National Park was through the one available excursion which they called “Champagne Catamaran Sail and Snorkel”.

Boats at Honeymoon Beach

Boats at Honeymoon Beach

From the port, we took an open-air bus to Red Hook where we boarded our catamaran for St. John. After tossing anchor at Honeymoon Beach, we got a snorkeling safety talk and tips about where to view the coral and the turtles and we jumped in the water. For one of my friends, this was the first time she had swam in saltwater, so it was a shock for her!

Turtle Swimming at Honeymoon Beach

Snorkeling with Turtles

I enjoyed snorkeling through the reef and seeing all the interesting sea life, for me, but the highlight of this snorkeling adventure was seeing a turtle! It was easy to tell when someone had spotted a turtle because there were a bunch of people in a circle around it. We watched it swim to the surface and then go back down to the sand.

After our snorkeling adventure, we got back on the boat and sipped champagne and cocktails on the way back to St. Thomas. It was a great excursion and I am glad we chose it, but I am disappointed that we didn’t get to see the rest of the island. I guess we will have to go back sometime and get to spend some time on the land!

Fish seen snorkeling

We originally didn’t have any snorkeling booked for this cruise, so I didn’t end up buying a new action camera or waterproof housing for my phone as I had planned. So, the first night after booking this excursion, I had to go to the photo studio and pay cruise prices for a waterproof phone case, so I would have photos to share with you from this excursion. Learn from my mistake! If there is a possibility of snorkeling and you want photos to remember it (or if you’re like me and wear glasses and take photos while snorkeling so later you can see what was down there), buy your gear before your trip!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Wordless Wednesday: Norris Geyser Black & White

Norris Geyser Basin Black & White

Epic National Park Road Trip Recap

Tetons

Whew! It only took six months, but I have finished the recap of our epic 3-week trip out west! This trip taught us a lot, especially about what we need to work on the road. Of course, we saw some amazing sites and the ones that I can’t wait to return to may surprise you!

For most of this trip, the weather was much hotter than I had expected. I feel like I wrote the phrase, “we were planning on hiking at X, but it was too hot” at least five times throughout the recap of this trip. The middle week at Yellowstone and Glacier was really the only one where it wasn’t oppressively hot. I would love more time to explore Badlands and Theodore Roosevelt without dying of heatstroke.

One thing that really surprised me through my recapping this trip is that three days in Yellowstone really seemed to be enough to see the highlights. Yes, with more time we could’ve gotten off the beaten path and explored some of the backcountry, but I feel like I saw what I wanted to see. I would love to return to Yellowstone someday, but it’s not going to be high up on my list.

On the other hand, with three days at Glacier, we barely scratched the surface. Yes, we managed to visit each of the areas in the park, but we were only able to do a few short hikes. I would love to go back later in the season and spend more time in the Many Glacier area and maybe even hike to Grinnel Glacier. I will definitely do my planning in advance to get a room at the Many Glacier Hotel!

Mountain in the Clouds

But the area that I really want to return to is South Dakota’s Black Hills. The other day, I was trying to figure out if we could manage a camping trip to Custer State Park next summer (no, I don’t think we can). Even though we had a full week there, it didn’t feel like enough! Of all the stunning National Parks we visited on this trip, it’s funny to me that this is the place that stands out the most in my memory.

I know I have mentioned this a few times already, but if you are looking to stay inside a National Park, lodging can be found less than a year out as long as you are flexible. I still hear people saying “I didn’t plan this trip a year in advance so I know I’m not going to be able to get a room in the park” and that is just not true. Keep checking for cancellations and subscribe to the park’s email list. We got our room at Rising Sun Motor Inn two months out and Old Faithful Inn two weeks out. Don’t give up!

Needles Highway

This was the first trip we took where Chris was working remotely and we learned a lot from that too. If you are working remotely from a hotel with at least one other person, spring for a suite with a door that closes. It was really nice when we were at the Roosevelt Inn and Suites in North Dakota and I was able to go in the bedroom and close the door when he was in meetings. Country Inn and Suites is a chain hotel that has this feature as well. The full kitchen at Roosevelt was nice to prepare lunches while he was working too. An AirBNB would also be good for this purpose.

Alright, I think that’s all I have to say about this trip! Check back next week when I share about some of our other explorations this summer!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Maltese Cross Cabin

Theodore Roosevelt's Maltese Cross Cabin

Heading Home

Indiana Dunes National Park

After three weeks on the road, exploring the western United States, it was finally time to head home. We left Watford City, North Dakota, and started on I-94 towards Detroit. The first night we stopped at a hotel in Moorehead, Minnesota, which is basically a suburb of Fargo, just on the other side of the border. I don’t know how you determine which states you have visited, but in my mind, I need to spend a night to make it count, which is why I chose Moorehead as a stopping point.

Inside the Mall of AmericaIn the morning, we continued heading east to one of the places I desperately wanted to visit as a child, The Mall of America. The Mall of America is the largest mall in the United States at 5.6 million square feet. The mall is home to 550 stores including 2 mini-golf courses, SeaLife Aquarium, and a 7-acre amusement park. It really was a sight to behold. It was a great stopping point for us to get out and stretch our legs during a long driving day and a place to find unique lunch options. If you are in visiting twin cities, The Mall of America is a good place to explore on a rainy day, but be aware that a lot of the attractions do require reservations in advance. I’m not as into malls as I was in my teenage years, so this isn’t really a place I wanted to spend that much time.

Wisconsin DellsAfter stretching our legs at the Mall, we continued on to the Wisconsin Dells where we were meeting some friends. Since we were just driving through, we didn’t have a ton of time to explore the Dells, we mainly just stuck to walking down the main drag. We did stop in a cheese shop and got some cheese curds because I think it’s a requirement in Wisconsin. I do wish we had time to explore the water and actually see the Wisconsin Dells. After meeting our friends, we continued on to Madison for the night.

The next morning we decided to hit the road early and we were actually able to avoid traffic in Chicago, which is unheard of. Our first stop of the day was at the final National Park of the trip, Indiana Dunes. Being the Fourth of July, the beach was already packed when we arrived so we really just did a drive-through and saw the Century of Progress homes on Lake Front Drive (top). The park is much smaller than the other ones we visited and (I’m sure I’ll get some flack for this) is primarily a beach on Lake Michigan. It was great to get a peek at my Great Lakes again after being away for weeks! Before being designated a National Park by Congress, Indiana Dunes was protected as a National Lakeshore (the same as Sleeping Bear Dunes and Pictured Rocks) and I really feel like that is a better description of what this is. It does not feel the same as a Yellowstone or even a smaller park like Theodore Roosevelt. In my opinion, this was a political move to bring tourist dollars to the state. If you are looking for a beautiful Lake Michigan beach outside of Chicago, definitely check out Indiana Dunes. If you are wanting a traditional National Park experience, go out west.

Alright, that is the end of coverage for this epic three-week trip! Next week, I will do my final recap and then I can move on to telling you about the other fun things we got to do this summer!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

2021: Year in Review

Logan Pass

Glacier National Park in June

2021 goes down as one of our best travel years yet. Despite COVID and all the precautions that go along with it, we were still able to get out there and explore these United States. Yes, my passport has been gathering some dust (that’s the nature of traveling during a pandemic) but I was able to see some sites this year that I have been dreaming about for a long time!

This year started off with a bang, and by bang, I mean snow and a cold snap in Texas.  We tasted Texas wine and visited the home of a former president. Of course, the fun was only just beginning when our connecting flight got canceled and we were stuck in Orlando for two days! This whole ordeal still has me kind of nervous to fly. Not so nervous that I won’t do it, but nervous enough that I build in extra time and buy trip insurance before I get on a plane.

Grand Prismatic Spring

Grand Prismatic Spring – Yellowstone National Park

Of course, in 2021 we took the biggest trip of our lives spanning three weeks. We visited 7 national parks, 4 other National park service sites, and 4 state parks spanning 12 states (8 of which were new to us). We saw Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone, and Glacier, places I have been dreaming about seeing for myself for a long time. It was a wonderful journey, but I hope I can say that it wasn’t a once-in-a-lifetime trip. I want to continue traveling like that and seeing all the places that make America beautiful!

Disney World 50th Anniversary

I don’t know if I can call the big trip the highlight of the year though, because I also got to be in the Magic Kingdom on October 1 for the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World. This has been a dream of mine for the last 10 years. It was a whirlwind trip where we had a hotel room we barely saw and got by mainly on caffeine. We also got to see Galaxy Edge in Disney Hollywood Studios. I know it’s not super new, but this was the first time I had seen it. I’m not a Star Wars fan, but I have to say, it was so cool! I still have to recap it officially on the blog, so that is all I will say about it for now. Stay tuned in the next couple of weeks for the details!

Runaway Camper Setup

We took some weekend trips around Michigan in the spring and summer and spent some time in our new mini camper. We finally kayaked out to Turnip Rock and walked across the Mackinac Bridge on Labor Day. We have some big plans for 2022 as well! I can’t wait!

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about our latest trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt: Elkhorn Ranch Unit

Elkhorn Ranch Unit

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra.

Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the lesser-visited parks. When visiting the North Unit of the park we saw only a handful of other people. When driving the rough dirt road to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit, we didn’t pass a single other vehicle and when we got out of the car, there wasn’t another person to be seen. If you’re looking for solitude in a National Park, look no further than the Elkhorn Ranch Unit.

Elkhorn Ranch SignThe Elkhorn Ranch Unit was home to Theodore Roosevelt’s “home ranch” in North Dakota and was where he came to heal after the death of his wife and mother. Roosevelt chose this location because of its remoteness. Roosevelt himself described the ranch in his book, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman: “My home ranch-house stands on the river brink. From the low, long veranda, shaded by leafy cotton-woods, one looks across sand bars and shallows to a strip of meadowland, behind which rises a line of sheer cliffs and grassy plateaus. This veranda is a pleasant place in the summer evenings when a cool breeze stirs along the river and blows in the faces of the tired men, who loll back in their rocking-chairs (what true American does not enjoy a rocking-chair?), book in hand–though they do not often read the books, but rock gently to and for, gazing sleepily out at the weird-looking buttes opposite, until their sharp outlines grow indistinct and purple in the after-glow of the sunset.”

Now, all that remains of the cabin are the foundation stones. Roosevelt abandoned the ranch in 1890 and locals stripped the buildings of their furnishings, although his desk was saved and can be seen at the south unit visitor center.

Shadows on the bank of the Little Missouri

Theodore Roosevelt is my husband’s favorite president and in a way, this trip was like a pilgrimage for him. He has read the whole three-book Theodore Roosevelt biography by Edmund Morris. To be able to walk in Roosevelt’s footsteps and see the foundation stones of his cabin (along with a visit to Chateau de Mores) was very special.

The Elkhorn Ranch Unit is located between the north and south units of the park. There is a National Forest Service campground near the parking area, other than that, there’s nothing else around for miles. The park website says to check-in at one of the visitor centers before making the drive because the road floods and can become impassable after rain and 4-wheel drive is recommended, but we made it in our rental Jeep Cherokee without any problems. There are no facilities or scenic drives in this part of the park, but if you enjoy American history, it is a good place to visit.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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Elkhorn Ranch Pinterest Graphic

Wordless Wednesday: Wild Horses

Wild Horse of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Exploring Theodore Roosevelt National Park

CCC Pavilion in Theodore Roosevelt National ParkLocating in northwestern North Dakota, Theodore Roosevelt National Park is one of the least visited National Parks in the United States. It averages about 600,000 visitors a year which might sound like a lot, but if you compare it to the 4 million that visit Yellowstone or Yosemite each year, 600,000 is not much at all. Coming from Glacier (which averages about 3 million visitors), the difference is very noticeable.

We started our exploration of Theodore Roosevelt in the North Unit which was closer to where we were staying. Of the two main units, the South Unit gets most of the traffic so when we arrived in the evening, we only saw a handful of other cars in the whole north unit. The north unit has a 14-mile one-way scenic drive that showcases the unique geological features of the park. There was plenty of parking at each of the overlooks and fresh air to breathe.

The South Unit of the park is larger than the north and is much busier. The South Unit has a 36 mile scenic loop drive that allows you to see the highlights of the park. Four miles of the road is closed indefinitely due to a landslide, although the area is open to hikers and bicyclists. Right where you have to turn around for the road closure there was one of the biggest prairie dog towns we saw on the trip.

Bison of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Wildlife is the highlight of a trip to Theodore Roosevelt. Muledeer, antelope, bighorn sheep, wild horses, bison, and prairie dogs can easily be seen in the park. When we were in the Black Hills we were SO excited to see a bison. By the end of our week in North Dakota, we were begging them to get out of the road so we could go home!

We had planned to do some hiking during our time at Theodore Roosevelt but with heat spell that was going on this summer, we determined it wouldn’t be safe. One day we stayed at the park until the sun went down and the temperature didn’t get below 90. Theodore Roosevelt National Park is on our list to return to outside of the summer or when Chris isn’t working so we would be able to hit the trails before the heat of the day.

If you are looking to visit a national park and get away from the crowds, definitely head to Theodore Roosevelt National Park, especially the North Unit. If I were to do this trip again, I would shorten the amount of time we had here, though. Unless you are doing a lot of hiking, you can see this whole park in two to three days.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week when I detail our experience at the Elkhorn Ranch Unit. To read more about this trip, check out the Epic National Park Road Trip. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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