Go See Do Photography

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

Category: National Parks & Places (Page 1 of 5)

Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park

Cow in Field

Cow grazing at LBJ Ranch

Lyndon B Johnson National Historical Park is located in Johnson City (Lyndon’s family founded the town) about half an hour from Fredericksburg. The park “tells the story of our 36th President beginning with his ancestors until his final resting place on his beloved LBJ Ranch.” (NPS).

Log Cabin built by LBJ's grandparents

Log cabin built by LBJ’s grandparents in the Johnson Settlement section of the park

LBJ National Historic Park is made up of Johnson’s Boyhood Home, LBJ’s grandparents’ settlement, and LBJ’s Texas White House. The areas of the park are about 14 miles apart and a car is recommended for touring the park. Adjacent to the LBJ Ranch district of the park, LBJ State Park is home to the Saur-Beckmann Living History Farm, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, hiking trails, a bison herd, and a herd of Texas Longhorns.

Texas White House

LBJ’s ranch is probably the highlight of this park. Driving through the ranch and being able to see descendants of the president’s cattle (top) was a pretty unique experience. The Texas White House is one of the biggest attractions of the park. The Johnsons donated their Texas home to the Park Service while they were still alive but tours of the home were not offered until Mrs. Johnson’s death in 2007. In 2008, the President’s Texas office was opened to tours. Unfortunately, it is currently closed to visitors because of structural issues in the home. Visitors are still able to view it from behind a fence and get photos of it from an awkward angle (above).

LBJ's Presidential Plane in its Hangar

Parking at the hangar to get an up-close view of Air Force 1/2 (above) was pretty special too. Air force 1 was too large to land at the runway on the ranch so the president frequently flew a smaller JetStar to his Texas home, allowing him to continue his work away from D.C. The plane returned home to the park in 2016.

Overall, if you are in the hill country, I highly recommend a stop at LBJ National Historic Park. It will allow you to get a better picture of the 36th president (while skimming over issues regarding Vietnam) and his family history. The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day and is free to visit. For more information visit NPS.gov and Texas State Parks.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, check out the Texas Hill Country Road 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 Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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LBJ Ranch Pinterest Graphic

LBJ Ranch Pinterest Graphic

San Antonio Missions National Historic Park

Exterior of the Mission San Juan

Located just south of San Antonio, Texas, San Antonio Missions National Historic Park is made up of four Spanish missions built beginning in the mid 18th century to spread Christianity to the Native people of Texas. These missions are walled compounds featuring a beautiful, old, Catholic church and buildings where the priests and Native Americans lived. Altogether, the missions are the largest collection of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States and are the only UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Texas.

The missions only stretch eight miles from the city and can be accessed by River Walk’s Mission Reach, a hiking and biking trail that allows you to visit the missions without needing a vehicle. If you’re not that athletic, there are bus tours of the missions as well as a self-guided driving tour. The missions are open daily and are free to visit.

We began exploring the missions at Mission San Jose (below) which is home to the park visitor center. When we visited at the end of December, the visitor center was closed but there were rangers stations at the door with maps and to answer questions about the park. They were also stamping the National Park passport for you.

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Mission San José was founded in 1720 because Mission San Antonio de Valero (AKA The Alamo) had quickly become overcrowded with refugees when the East Texas Missions were closed. The building was built in 1768 from local limestone and still stands today. Of the four missions located within the park, this one is the biggest and most ornate. If you only have time to visit one of the missions, this is the one to see. It has the biggest grounds and you can see where the priests and the native people lived.

The second Mission on our mission tour was Mission San Juan (top). Mission San Juan Capistrano was originally built in 1716 in East Texas and was moved to San Antonio in 1731. Not to be confused with Mission San Juan Capistrano in California, the white exterior makes this mission different from the others on this tour. In 2012, a $2 million renovation project stabilized the foundation of the 300-year-old church.

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Our third mission of the day was Mission Espada. Espada was originally built in 1690 near present-day Augusta and named San Francisco de los Tejas. Just like Mission San Juan, Espada was moved to its current location on Espada road and was given its current name in 1731. Many modern churches in the area based their architecture around Espada including St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Wimberley, Texas. Nearby, the Espada acequia and aqueduct are also managed by the Park Service and continue to bring water to the missions as well as nearby residents.

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Located closest to the city, Mission Concepción was our fourth stop on our Mission tour. Misión Nuestra Señora de la Purísima Concepción de Acuña was founded in 1716 in East Texas and was moved to its current location in 1731. In 1835, the Battle of Concepción was fought on the grounds and is believed to be the first battle in the Texas Revolution. In 2009-2010 the mission underwent extensive restoration projects and is now the best-preserved of the missions.

If you are planning to visit the missions, bear in mind that these churches are still in operation and hold masses on Sunday mornings. When we visited, we were not able to go inside Mission San Jose because there was a funeral. Luckily, it was on the way back to San Antonio and by the time we were on our way back to the city, the building was open again and we were able to see the beautiful interior of the sanctuary. For more information about the missions, visit VisitSanAntonio.com or the National Park Service.

Of course, there is one more mission in San Antonio, Mission San Antonio de Valero, more commonly known as The Alamo, I will share about final stop on our Mission Tour next week. To read more about this trip, visit the Texas Hill Country Road Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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San Antonio Missions Pinterest Graphic San Antonio Missions Pinterest Graphic San Antonio Missions Pinterest Graphic

D.H. Day Campground in the Off Season

Empire Bluff Overlook

Back in 2019, we managed to score a campsite at one of Michigan’s most popular campgrounds right when they were first available to be booked in advance. Of course, I’m referring to D.H. Day Campground and when we first set up camp, we understood the hype around the campground. First of all, it is located in the amazingly beautiful Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Second, the campsites are big and private and the campground is quiet. Third, it is located in a great spot to explore all the fun things on Leelanau.

Camper from the dunes

View of our mini camper from the dunes

With campgrounds being closed longer than normal due to COVID, we didn’t attempt to get a prime summer reservation in 2020. Instead, we waited until late in the season when the campground goes back to sites being available on a first come first serve basis. This was Halloween weekend and I was nervous the campground was going to be busy and we were going to have a hard time getting a spot. Well, snow was on the forecast, and being a rustic park there is no electric service to heat up your campers in the freezing temperatures. When we pulled in there were maybe only three or four other sites that were occupied.

We did what any D.H. Day loving camper would do in that situation and we took one of the coveted and near impossible to reserve in the summer waterfront sites. It was very cold and the wind was strong so it was hard to enjoy the beach, but on the other side of the dune, it was a wonderful campsite. We discovered that many sites in this section involve some dune climbing to reach so there are only a few that are accessible to RVs or trailers. Those sites would be AMAZING for tents, though.

If you have been struggling to get a site at D.H. Day, try going offseason. It will be even quieter than in the summer and you may even be able to score a waterfront site. If you go in the fall you’ll also be treated to a show of fall colors on Leelanau. You’ll just need to bring extra blankets and maybe some hand warmers to keep warm.

While in Sleeping Bear Dunes we had to hike the Empire Bluff Trail (top). The last time we had been to the park, we tried the Alligator Hill trail and it did not live up to Empire Buff. I have heard really good things about the Pyramid Point trail and we will have to try it next time but I just needed another chance to soak in that Empire Bluff view before I try another trail that may or may not be better.

To try your hand a reserving a site at this very popular campground, visit Recreation.gov. Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page.

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Hiking Pictured Rocks: Chapel Rock

Chapel Rock

While camping at Tahquamenon Falls, we decided to take a day trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The lakeshore has blown up in popularity the last few years after being featured on Good Morning America. We used to refer to Munising as a food desert because if you didn’t bring it with you, you weren’t eating it there. With increased visitation, new restaurants and shops have popped up outside of the park. This was the first time we had been back to this area since our UP Road trip in 2015 and it was really good to see some life in this area!

Chapel FallsThe downside of the increased visitation is that the trails and parking lots were jam-packed with people. We decided to hike to Chapel Falls and there were so many cars on the side of the road to the Chapel Falls parking lot, it took us an hour to drive 3 1/2 miles to the lot. Being a holiday weekend, we were expecting crowds, but we weren’t expecting this level of crowds.

The hike to Chapel Falls (left) is about three miles round trip. The trail is on an old rail bed so it is relatively flat and a pretty easy hike. Somehow, when we got to the falls, Chris convinced me to double the length of our hike and continue on to Chapel Rock and Lake Superior (top). The rest of the trail was just as easy as before and the added mileage meant the crowds dropped off significantly. Overall, I’m glad we did the whole hike, but my legs were jelly by the time we got back to the car.

 

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If you plan to visit Pictured Rocks, definitely take some time to check out the revitalized downtown Munising. There are now many highly rated places to eat on TripAdvisor. If you plan to do this hike, arrive early, or pack your patience. We arrived after lunch and were able to get a spot in the lot, but as I mentioned above, it took a long time to get all the way there.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Chapel Rock Pinterest Graphic

 

Best Campgrounds in Michigan for Tent Camping

Sunset at McLain State Park

Camping seems to be the thing to do this summer, to get away from the crowds and get into nature. With so many new campers, I thought now would be a good time to share my favorite places to get into nature in Michigan. It is important to note that many of these campgrounds fill up on summer weekends, so definitely try to make reservations early!

When looking for campgrounds for tent camping, I’m looking for:

  • Privacy: without a big RV to retreat to, I prefer to have some trees separating me from my neighbors
  • View: my favorite campsites in Michigan are usually near a body of water and being able to see it from your site is unbeatable
  • Location: we are not the kind of campers that hang around the campground all day. We like campgrounds with activities nearby, whether it be hiking, boating or a town to explore
  • Cleanliness: while I haven’t had an issue with any campground in Michigan being unhygienic, the ones that made this list are clean.
  • Rustic vs. modern: I don’t need electric service while camping. I have learned that everything I need to power (mainly charging phones and camera batteries) can be powered through the AC adapter in my car. Modern bathhouses and showers are a plus but I am not opposed to an outhouse. I haven’t been brave enough to try dispersed camping without an outhouse yet.

With those parameters in place, here are my favorite campgrounds in Michigan, in no particular order:

D.H. Day Campground

D.H. Day is located in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. This campground only recently started taking reservations, before that people literally lined up early in the morning to get a site here and after camping here, I understand why. It is a rustic campground but campers do have access to the showers at Platte River (the modern campground in the park). The sites are big and very private and there is a nice beach located within the campground. When I booked, the only sites available were in the generator loop. With the rules about when generators can be run, it was pretty peaceful. Reservations are accepted from May to October. The rest of the year it is still first come, first served. With online reservations, D.H. Day books up early. You can book 6 months out at Recreation.gov.

Fisherman’s Island

Fisherman’s Island State Park is located near Charlevoix. The waterfront sites here are AMAZING and can fit a tent or small trailer. You basically have a small beach on Lake Michigan to yourself. This is a completely rustic campground but the setting is totally worth it! It is very quiet and it’s not too hard to get a site in peak season although the waterfront sites book up early. To book, visit midnrreservations.com.


Tahquamenon Falls – Rivermouth Pines

Like many Michigan State Parks, Tahquamenon Falls in the U.P. is a large park with many campgrounds throughout. My favorite has to be Rivermouth Pines. Located away from the falls where the Tahquamenon River meets Lake Superior, this area is off the beaten path and quiet. They are well spaced out and some of them are right on the water. The sites in this area are rustic but it is within walking distance to the Rivermouth campground where there is a modern bathhouse. To book visit, midnrreservations.com.

Hoeft State Park

Hoeft State Park, located near Rogers City, is really a hidden gem of the Michigan State Park system. It has a gorgeous Lake Huron beach and is near the Huron-Sunrise trail which is a popular biking destination. The sites are large and spread out with electric service and a modern bathhouse. One of the best things about this park is that is typically pretty easy to get a site and only really fills up on holiday weekends. Its still a good idea to reserve a site ahead of time at midrnreservations.com.

Straits State Park

Straits State Park in St. Ignace is the only campground that we routinely return to. It is very close to downtown St. Ignace so it’s very convenient if you are planning on visiting Mackinac Island. But what keeps me coming back to this park are the waterfront, bridge view sites. Even if you can’t get right on the water, both lower campgrounds have great views of the bridge and there is a little bench on the water where you can sit if you didn’t score a bridge-view site. The sites right on the water do not have electric service but Straits has the best showers in all of the state park system. The waterfront sites tend to fill up quickly but are easier to get during the week. To book, visit Midnrreservations.com.

Update after visiting 7/24/2020: Over the last few years the bridge view sites have opened up for the bigger rigs. What this means is that unless you can score one of those sites, you can’t really see the bridge from your site. Also, this makes the campground feel much more crowded than in the past. Some of that might just be that people are fleeing to nature this summer. Hopefully I’ll be able to get up there next summer and see if its calmed down at all. As of right now, I no longer recommend this campground for tents unless you can get one of those bridge view sites!

Hartwick Pines State Park

Hartwick Pines State Park is located near Grayling. The park has one modern campground and even has a few full hookup sites for the big rigs. But even with all of that, the sites are private and the park was very quiet when I visited. It also has a recently renovated shower house with some of the nicest showers in the state park system. The park has many hiking trails, a logging museum, and a lake for paddling or fishing. This campground worked out well for us as the first stop on our UP road trip, allowing us to do some of the drive on Friday night. Sites can be reserved at midnrreservations.com.

 

McLain State Park

In the Keewenaw peninsula near Hancock, McLain wins the award for best campground view ever. Perched on a cliff overlooking Lake Superior, offers a stunning view of both the sunrise and sunset over Lake Superior! The sites are kind of close and don’t offer a lot of privacy, but they do have electric service. Since I’ve been there, they did a major refurbishment of the campground since some of the cliffs had eroded and they lost some of the sites. With the renovation a new bathhouse which was sorely needed. While this isn’t the most popular campground, its not a bad idea to book a site in advance at midnrreservations.com

Wilderness State Park

Wilderness State Park, located near Mackinaw City, is one of the biggest state parks in the lower peninsula and has several typical state park campgrounds. A few years ago they added these amazing waterfront tent sites (double letter sites AA, BB, etc). These sites are very private and quiet, except for the road noise you get because they are right at the entrance to the park. What is amazing about these sites is that they sit right on the water so each site essentially has its own private beach. These sites are rustic but there is a modern bathroom at the nearby entrance station. These sites are set slightly off from where the parking is so they are not accessible for any kind of trailer. There are only a handful of these sites so it is best to reserve them early on midnrreservations.com.

Bay Furnace Campground

Located in Christmas, Michigan not far from Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Bay Furnace is a National Forest Service campground. It is completely rustic with outhouses but the sites are very private and the campground is very quiet. Of course, the park also has a beautiful, rocky beach on Lake Superior which is a great place to watch the sunset at the end of the day. Bay Furnace is one of the only campgrounds in the area that takes advanced reservations. The campgrounds at Pictured Rocks do now take reservations, but they are pretty small and fill up quickly so Bay Furnace is a great alternative. Reservations can be made at recreation.gov.

Due to high water levels in the great lakes, some of the best sites have been (hopefully only temporarily) lost to the lakes. Jack Pine campground at Ludington State Park is a hike in campground and one of my absolute favorite campgrounds in the state but it has been flooding lately. This has been a problem at Leelanau State Park as well as Tawas. Hopefully, water levels will go back down and these campgrounds will become accessible again.

Thanks for stopping by! What is your favorite campground in Michigan? Let me know in the comments! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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Wordless Wednesday: Grand Canyon 101

Camping Sleeping Bear: D. H. Day

I have always heard people talking about the D. H. Day campground at Sleeping Bear Dunes, but it has always been first come first served. I have heard stories of people lining up for hours just waiting for someone to leave. So, when I heard that National Park Service announced that they were going to begin accepting reservations for this popular campground, I began checking weekly to see if the website was up. After several months of delays, the website was up and I was able to secure a campsite for a weekend in August.

D.H. Day is the rustic campground at Sleeping Bear Dunes. There is no electricity and there are outhouses instead of bathrooms (just as camping should be, in my opinion). Because of when I booked, all of the loops were full, except the generator loop, meaning campers are allowed to use generators in camp during the day. Since we don’t spend a lot of time at our campsite during the day, this wasn’t a problem for us, but I did notice this seemed to be the loop with the bigger rigs.

Our site at D.H. Day

After camping at D. H. Day, I totally understand the hype. It is a gorgeous campground, right in the heart of Sleeping Bear Dunes. The sites are good sized and have a separated from each other. The campground also has a beautiful beach (top). My only complaint is that our site was very close to the outhouse (left) and it did not appear that way on the map, or I wouldn’t have booked it. If you are a camper, I highly recommend D.H. Day campground as a home base for exploring Sleeping Bear and all the Leelanau Peninsula has to offer! If you are thinking about camping at D.H. Day, I highly recommend booking in advance at recreation.gov because sites do fill up fast!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Hiking Sleeping Bear: Alligator Hill

View from the lookout on the Alligator Hill Trail

This past summer, we took a weekend camping trip to Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. Located on Lake Michigan, just south of Traverse City, Sleeping Bear Dunes is one of the most beautiful places in the state! Usually, when we visit the dunes, we head for the Empire Bluff Trail, which ends in one of the best lookouts in the state. This time, we decided to try something different and hike the Alligator Hill Trail, one of the most popular trails in the park.

Although longer than the short Empire Bluff Trail, Alligator Hill was an easier hike. It was a gradual uphill for most of the 1.3 mile hike to the lookouts. By avoiding the intermediate and advanced trails and stopping at each of the lookouts, this hike is 4.1 miles round trip, but much less strenuous than climbing to the top of Empire Bluff. The view from the overlooks was nice, but it didn’t compare to the striking sand cliff at Empire Bluff.

After hiking Alligator Hill, I have some recommendations for hikers at Sleeping Bear Dunes. If you are looking for a fairly easy day hike, with some nice views, you can’t go wrong with Alligator Hill. If you’re up for something a little more strenuous with absolutely amazing views, hike Empire Bluff. I was glad we hiked the Alligator Hill trail, but the next time we’re at the dunes, we will go back to Empire Bluff instead!

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to come back next week to read more about our weekend at Sleeping Bear Dunes! To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Mainely Acadia: Carriage Tour

While planning this trip, the number one thing we wanted to do was a carriage tour of the carriage roads. On our first day in Acadia (Sunday), while we were driving the Park Loop Road, we made a stop at Wildwood Stables to book a carriage tour. The first available tour they had was the following Saturday. We were planning on driving back to New Hampshire that day, but we were able to squeeze in a morning carriage tour before heading south. All week, we called checking for cancellations, but we weren’t able to get in any earlier than Saturday morning.

We chose the Mr. Rockefeller’s bridge tour, a two-hour tour that highlights the picturesque bridges that were planned by John D. Rockefeller Jr. One of the highlights of the tour is Cobblestone (above). Built in 1917, Cobblestone is the oldest bridge on the Carriage Roads and the only one built entirely out of cobblestones. The tour takes a short break so you can get out and explore the bridge. I wish I had more time to photograph here!

Jordan Pond Gatelodge

The tour was a great way to see the carriage roads and it was much less strenuous than biking. The price ($40 for adults for the 2-hour tours and $24 for the hour-long tours) is reasonable and totally worth it, in my opinion. The biggest downside is how quick tours book up. I wanted to wait until we knew what the weather was going to be like before booking and by doing so, all the tours early in the week were booked up. We were very lucky we stayed so long or we probably wouldn’t have gotten in. The moral of the story, if a tour of the carriage roads is on your must-do list for Acadia, book it as soon as possible to have your choice of tours and hope the weather cooperates.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip, visit the Mainely Acadia Trip Report page. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

Mainely Acadia: Park Loop Return

After a week on Mount Desert Island, we returned to our first stop of the trip, the Park Loop Road. It was a good way to bookend our trip with a nice drive along some of the most scenic spots in the park.

Of course, we got out and walked around the top of Cadillac Mountain to take in the panoramic view of the park. Guests are free to get off the path, but are just asked to stay on the granite surfaces not stay off the vegetation. If you are at all surefooted, this is a nice way to get out of the car and stretch your legs. You are already at the top of the mountain, so its pretty flat, but as you can see in the picture to the left, the ground isn’t very even so it can be easy to trip if you are not paying attention.

After heading down the mountain, we were ready for lunch so we headed to the Atlantic Brewing Company. ABC is the only brewery on Mt Desert Island and they have two locations – one downtown Bar Harbor and one not far from the park. I’m not a big beer drinker so I was glad to see they serve ciders in the restaurant. When we finished eating, we got a tour of the brewery. It is a very small brewery and with our small group, the tour only lasted about 20 minutes. Since we did those bourbon tours a few years ago, it was interesting how similar the beermaking process is. If you are looking to kill some time on Mount Desert Island and you like beer, the Atlantic Brewing Company tour is free and includes a tasting. For more information, visit AtlanticBrewing.com.

Thanks for stopping by! To hear more about this trip, visit the Mainely Acadia Trip Report Page. To read about some of our previous trips, click here. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page, follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Etsy and Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my Gear Page. For information about our new Guided Photography Tours, visit GuidedPhoto.com.

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