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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.

Filtering by Tag: road trip

Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Victoria Beyer

SEVEN WEEKS ACROSS AMERICA

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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North Cascades National Park

Victoria Beyer

SEVEN WEEKS ACROSS AMERICA

Diablo Lake

Diablo Lake

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.

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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.

Fort Ebey State Park

Victoria Beyer

SEVEN WEEKS ACROSS AMERICA

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After we dropped Grandpa off in Port Angeles to catch a flight back home, we continued across Washington State. We rode a ferry to Whidbey Island, and spent the night at Fort Ebey State Park. There you can explore concrete structures that served as a battery and the concrete gun emplacements that were built to help defend the coast during WWII. The sun was setting as we pulled up so we set off right away to check them out. They were very popular with the kids from the nearby campground, and it was a delight to see big kids having as much fun playing outside as the little ones.

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The old parade grounds face the ocean and the view of the sunset from there was just fantastic.

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Olympic National Park - Hurricane Ridge

Victoria Beyer

Seven Weeks Across America

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Several friends encouraged us to drive up to Hurricane Ridge at the northern end of Olympic National Park, and boy are we glad we took their advice. The panoramic view of the mountaintops was amazing. I REALLY wish I had a wide-angle lens so that I could have captured it properly. But just imagine this first image X 10 on all sides as you spin around. It was the most incredible view of the trip, for sure.

The blue patch at the top left is the Straits of Juan de Fuca and you can see Victoria, Canada, on the other side.

The blue patch at the top left is the Straits of Juan de Fuca and you can see Victoria, Canada, on the other side.

After a quick loop through the Visitor’s Center (heavy on the gift store) we took a nice hike. We were so lucky it was a clear day. We could see all the way north across the Straits of Juan de Fuca to Canada. As we walked through the meadows we came across a marmot colony, with several of the little guys peeking out from their burrows and trilling loudly.

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It’s a good thing we got there in the morning, because by noon when we left, the parking lot was packed and there was a solid line of cars doing the super-slow drive looking for spaces. The drive up and down the mountain was spectacular, as you might expect, and we were happy to see some wildflowers still blooming.

Point Cabrillo Lighthouse

Victoria Beyer

Seven Weeks Across America

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We headed up the coast from Santa Rosa, making our first stop at Point Cabrillo Lighthouse.  The first floor of the lighthouse serves as a museum.  You can also walk through the 1st Assistant Lightkeeper's house, which is decorated in period pieces.  There are beautiful trails around the headlands.  On our walk we saw some people diving off the wreck of the Frolic, which lies just off the coast.

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Kings Canyon National Park

Victoria Beyer

Seven Weeks Across America

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Though they are administered together and are geographically close, Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks have some very different areas.  Kings Canyon is also the home to some giant sequoias (more on that later) but it is more than just that.  We drove the Kings Canyon Scenic Byway to its terminus down in the canyon.  It's a windy road that hugs cliff edges and offers superb views of the beautiful South Fork of the Kings River below.

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Near the end of the road, we hiked around Zumwalt Meadow.  It's a pretty green gem, and the trail takes you through rocks and over boardwalks, at times skirting the river.  We were vigilant looking for rattlesnakes, but we are happy to report no sightings.

Our campground was back up the road, walking distance from the Visitor's Center and Grant Grove.  Unlike Sequoia National Park, there are no busses to ferry you around in Kings Canyon.  

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We really enjoyed the paved interpretive trail around Grant's Grove, which includes not only the immense Grant Tree, but also an old cabin, signage about the history of logging in the area, and a giant fallen redwood that you can walk through upright.  I figured that would be my daughter's favorite part of the trail, and I was right.  But I was not expecting to delight in it so much myself.  It just seems so crazy to be walking through a huge tree that's laying on its side.

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You can get a little closer to the trees here on the trail than you could at Sequoia.  Several are hollowed out from fire and this one was just right for a little fox to scramble through.