Acadia National Park

Acadia (7)After leaving Niagara Falls, we still had a long drive ahead of us to our next Park.  We were both interested in exploring the northeast, so we shunned the turnpikes and took to smaller highways that led us through New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont.  The autumn foliage along the way was stunning, but we didn’t stop the car to take pictures, as we were heading to Maine, known for its amazing leaves.

Just off Maine’s eastern shore lies Mount Desert island, home of Acadia National Park.  We arrived mid-day to lots of fog and clouds, but didn’t let that stop us.  Thankfully, the park offers free shuttle service to the major sites, so we got a break from driving too.  We visited much of the eastern part of the island, including: Sand Beach, Jordan Pond and Northeast Harbor.
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The next day, we explored the rocky Maine coastline, where waves slam into enormous slabs of granite, and ducks, of all creatures, can be found swimming in the surf.  We were disappointed to find that the foliage was just beginning to change color in Maine, but were able to capture some hues during a nice hike.  The largest town on the island is Bar Harbor, which is a touristy get-away for east-coasters and cruise ships.  Of course, all of the restaurants feature lobster specialties, so on our last night we splurged on a lobster meal that did not disappoint!

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Niagra Falls

Since we were in the area, we just had to stop at Niagra Falls near Buffalo, NY!  (Wm forgot his Passport, so we only only had access to the USA side.)
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Cuyahoga National Park

Cuyahoga (6)As we meet people and tell them about our experiences at the National Parks we’ve visited so far, one thing we always say is: “Every Park is different and special in its own way.”  Thus far, we have been to 33 Parks, and that statement still holds true, and Cuyahoga is no exception.

Stuck halfway between two big cities (Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio), Cuyahoga is one of the newer Parks, having been designated just 10 years ago in the year 2000.  It’s strange because all around the Park there are houses; you even have to drive through neighborhoods to see some of the sights.  Also, there’s a small town right in the middle of it, which offers a tour by railroad.  This all seems quite unusual to people used to visiting Parks in remote places.

It’s a smaller park, so we spent just a day there; exploring its trails and features.  If we lived in the area we’d love to come back on bicycles, as the locals seem to do, to cover more ground.

Here are some of the beautiful things we saw:
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Isle Royale National Park

IsleRoyale (5)Isle Royale is located within Lake Superior.  Unfortunately for us the weather was terrible the day we reached the park’s visitor’s center and boat departure-point in Houghton, Michigan, and it would remain so for the foreseeable future.  This meant we wouldn’t be getting to the island this trip.

So, we got our park stamp, petted a stuffed fox, and watched a 30-minute video about the park.  We’ll have to return again one day!

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Voyageurs National Park

Voyageurs (10) The night prior to the final push to Voyageurs, Wm was having trouble sleeping.  While reading Neil Peart’s latest blog entry, he noticed that Neil had just visited Voyageurs a couple weeks prior, where he enjoyed a nice stay on the shore of Lake Kabetogama at the Arrowhead Lodge.  Believing in both Fun and Divine Coincidence, we figured it worth a shot to stay at the same place.  A quick phone call by Lisa revealed they had a room available in the lodge at a fair rate.  So, later that evening, after a long day’s drive across North Dakota and Minnesota with nary a deer-collision or road-frog squashing, we arrived at this lovely retreat, where indeed, the folks were very nice and friendly. 

The park itself requires a boat to explore, being 55 miles long and comprised of over 30 lakes and 1,000 islands.  Having heard reports that “no more boats were available for the year”, we were happy to learn that they were wrong, and that the final tour of the season still had seats available for the following day.  We jumped at the chance!
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The next morning, we boarded “The Beaver” along with 18 other passengers and 2 park rangers for a 5-hour tour. The first two hours took us over the glass-like waters of Kabetogama and Namakan Lakes, to our eventual destination: Kettle Falls. On the way we had several bald eagle sightings that gave us the opportunity to see these regal creatures in a variety of natural settings. There was even an occassional beaver dam, whose inhabitants managed to survive the many decades of trapping by early fur traders.  This far north, Autumnal foliage was on full display; deciduous trees burning gold, orange, and crimson while standing alongside evergreen firs.
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We disembarked at the Kettle Falls Hotel, which was built in 1910 to house lumberjacks. After sharing an enjoyable lunch at the park rangers table, we took a few minutes to explore the hotel once nick-named “the Tiltin’ Hilton” due to a heavily-sloped floor still visible in its bar-room.  There, Ranger Jessica was kind enough to drop a few coins into the old nickelodeon for us, which still dazzles the senses as it entertains.  She then led us to a nearby dam with a lovely view made famous by Hamms Beer in its “Land of Sky Blue Waters” advertisements.

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Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Stamp Theodore Roosevelt Park was named to honor the president who made a huge contribution to the National Park System by establishing five of the parks and creating the US Forest Service. He spent a lot of time ranching and hunting in North Dakota and once attributed the mental and physical toughness this land gave him, to preparing him for the role of President. This beautiful and intimate park features rivers, prairies, and colorfully striped hills. Other than taking in the scenery, two of our highlights were no surprise, interactions with wildlife. The park has several very large prairie dog towns. We had a lot of laughs watching them and listening to their chirped warnings of our presence. Our book and the park’s film had promised a large population of bison in the park. We searched for a couple hours and finally encountered a group of three, walking near the road. It was a great experience to be in such close proximity to these gentle giants.
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Badlands National Park

Badlands (47)The Badlands is a huge natural ‘wall’ that extends a hundred miles through the dry plains of South Dakota. Water has carved away at the cliffs creating a colorful and dramatic scene. We were able to see firsthand that the weather changes quickly in this part of the country. The previous day was nice and mild, but when we woke up in the morning to explore the park, it was very cold and windy. This prevented us from doing any hiking, so we resorted to exploring the 32 mile loop by car, while taking a few short walks to get more intimate with the red rock peaks.

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On the drive we passed areas recently impacted by wildfires, the contrast of the black ground and red cliffs was interesting. Not many animals have decided to make the Badlands their home, but we did have fun watching the very entertaining, fat, prairie dogs in the park.

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