Not far from Niagara Falls is Old Fort Niagara, one of the prettiest forts you will ever see. The French built it in 1726, but wanted it to look like a ‘House of Peace’ instead of a fort, so as not to arouse the suspicions of the Iroquois. It was later taken by the British, then the Americans, and one again by the British. It was returned to the Americans at the end of the War of 1812. That was the fort’s last armed conflict, and since then has served as a barracks and training station .
Blog for Victoria Bennett Beyer Photography
The photography blog of Victoria Bennett Beyer, featuring travel photographs from road trips across America and botanical photography of plants, flowers and leaves.
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Isn’t this live oak lovely covered in lights? We made our winter pilgrimage to Old Santee Canal Park in Moncks Corner, SC, and were greeted by this beautiful tree.
Back in South Carolina
Mom and I have decided on a new tradition. Each time I come back to SC for a visit, we select a mini-adventure from a stack of index cards we filled out and take off! This August, we headed to Bishopville to see the beautiful gardens of Mr. Pearl Fryar. He has been working on this creation for the last 30 years, primarily using plants that local nurseries were going to throw away. With his dedication and skill, he has coaxed these castoffs into whimsical shapes that swirl and bow throughout his property.
The gardens are dotted with fantastic sculptures made by Mr. Fryar, too. They are frequently uplifting and positive in nature.
If this place doesn’t make you feel like a kid again, I don’t know what will. It’s free to visit the gardens, which are open Tuesday-Saturday, from 10-4 p.m. You can park on the lot across the street, but please be mindful of Mr. Fryar’s neighbors and do not block the street. It’s free to visit, but donations are welcomed. And, if you are lucky like me, you might meet Mr. Fryar while he’s out working in the garden. He’s quite friendly and has a lot of knowledge to share.
Back in South Carolina
Mom and I have instituted a new tradition - going somewhere new on a mini-adventure every time I am in town. On this day, we were on our way to Bishopville, S.C., when we passed this sign. Don’t you just love classic backcountry roads?
SEVEN WEEKS ACROSS AMERICA
Well, here we finally are. The last post about our epic, seven-week road trip across the country. The last place I photographed was the campground we stayed in, right outside the North Unit of Theodore Roosevelt National Park in North Dakota. In the 1930s it had been home to two companies of the Civilian Conservation Corps, who built two of the picnic shelters in the North Unit. You can see one in my previous post. Their structures are usually pretty easy to identify - they are frequently stone and have that sort of iconic look you associate with national parks.
And it was here that I finally got a good shot of our camper in action. I had taken so many photos of it in the beautiful places we had visited, but this is the one I liked the most. The last one of our little home away from home. There are many like it (we saw many twins on the road) but this one is ours :)
I don’t know when we will get back on the road. There are so many factors that steer our lives, but we were lucky to see an opening and just go for it. We had four weeks to plan our trip, and it went off without a hitch. We changed the plan only once (Death Valley, see you some other time when it’s not 107 degrees) and had only one unfortunate incident when the fridge decided to cut off and we had to throw a bunch of food out. And that one time we missed the ferry… we learned that you need to plan on getting there not one hour early, but two, because you might spend every second in traffic behind an accident. We learned that our country is so big that it can be deceiving. The southwest is so rich with places to visit that we rarely had to drive more than 3 hours between destinations. But the northwest is so big that we were driving twice that between destinations, and it would have been nice to drive a little less and explore a little more in that region. We learned that the Pacific coast is really no place for a camper (I’m looking at you, Oregon) because there is scant parking for large vehicles. But truly, the frustrations were minimal, and of course what we experienced in seeing our grand country was worth every minute. I think this will rank up there as one of the great adventures of my life, and I am truly grateful for the opportunity and for my family who came along for the ride.
SEVEN WEEKS ACROSS AMERICA
We first visited Theodore Roosevelt National Park last summer when we briefly stopped at the highway visitor center on our way home from seeing the eclipse in Wyoming. Right away we were sorry we did not have more time to stay, but we were excited by the idea of returning. So when we began planning our epic summer road trip this year, we knew we wanted to make this park a priority.
It was the last stop on our seven-week road trip, but far from the least. It is comprised of three areas, linked by the Little Missouri River and Theodore Roosevelt’s love of this land. We began our trip in the South Unit, and later made our way to the North Unit where we spent most of our time. The road to the Elkhorn Ranch Unit is not RV-friendly, so we left that for another trip.
We were, however, surprised by the number of other visitors. When planning, we were told by park rangers that the North Unit campground was never full. However, it was when we arrived! Luckily there are several other campgrounds near the North Unit, so we were fine. Even so, the park was hardly what I’d call crowded, particularly when compared to all the other parks we had visited. It was refreshing to find a parking spot at every pull off, and to hike and see only two other groups.
Some park Visitor’s Centers are so crowded that you just can’t wait to grab a map and get out of there. At the South Unit, which has the larger Visitor’s Center, we enjoyed talking to the rangers. One told us her favorite hike in the whole park was Caprock Coulee in the North Unit. The following day we headed out on this 4.2 mile hike - the longest my six-year-old ever did without getting carried at some point! It was such a varied trail, beginning in a grassland area that led to stone formations, including cannonball concretions, spherical stone structure that withstand erosion more than the surrounding rock. Then we hiked uphill through dense forests. We were surprised to see bison tracks here, having never imagined a bison pushing through thick brush along a narrow trail. Then we climbed up to where we could see the tops of the hills (as seen in the first image in this post). The view was beautiful, and we walked past a solo bison who was out on the bluff, seeming to admiring the scenery as well.
The trail then crossed the road, and we continued through scenery that was unlike anything we had previously hiked through. It was much drier here, and in places we were walking on rocks, only able to follow the path by the markers. The views over here were equally as stunning, especially when we were looking down at the Little Missouri River.
We finished our hike and took the rest of the scenic drive through the North Unit. We saw an abundance of wildlife - more bison, deer, pronghorn, prairie dogs and wild horses. As we reached the far end, it was clear a storm was rolling in, and we drove back to our campsite in the rain - the only rain we encountered in seven weeks on the road.
SEVEN WEEKS ACROSS AMERICA
Everyone always asks me which National Park I want to go back to. I’d have to say North Cascades in Washington is at the top of that list. We only stayed a couple of nights and I feel like we just barely scratched the surface of what this park has to offer. We hiked from the campground to the small town of Newhalem, where we had a look around. It’s a company town, owned by Seattle City Light where employees of the Skagit River Hydroelectric Project live and work. The park encourages you to visit the Gorge Powerhouse, where you can actually go inside and see how it works. Seattle City Light actually has been promoting the area to visitors since the lakes were created nearly a hundred years ago. The waters of Gorge Lake, Diablo Lake and Ross Lake are a stunning turquoise color that really must be seen to be believed. You can get a good look at them from Hwy 20.
Near the hydroelectric plant in Newhalem is this cool suspension bridge (with my even cooler little fox pictured). After crossing it you can walk up to Ladder Falls, which is lit at night with colored lights. Our bedtimes were a little too early for that, so we walked around it in the middle of the day. The Ladder Falls trail is surrounded by gardens that were clearly once very grand but could use a little more love these days. But it was just the right length of excursion for our family, given the heat we encountered. When my daughter is a little bigger I’d love to return to North Cascades and hike up into the mountains. There are so many trails here that look amazing.