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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Thursday, October 15, 2009

National Park Time Machine

"This could be fun", I thought, when Pam/Digging suggested we bloggers post their memories of National Parks. Drizzly days are perfect for turning the pages of dozens of photo albums, are great weather for finding and scanning decades of time-faded prints, then seeing them expand on a screen. I've also allowed the category to expand from National Parks to other places with that National designation.
Annieinaustin, Smoky MountainsKentucky's Mammoth Cave National Park and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park were the first on our life-lists, one-day stops along the route when moving from Illinois to South Carolina in the late 1960's. We took a tour of Mammoth Cave and got into a traffic jam in the beautiful Smokies, returning in later years with babies in tow to see more of each park. The only photos that showed up were a couple of fading b/w Polaroid Swinger prints but I think a few minutes of the Smokies exist somewhere on an 8mm reel. Philo disagrees. To find out who's right we'll have to finally get those home movies into digital format!

Roll down to the map in this Wikipedia article about the National Park System.... what's the first thing you notice? Pretty empty in the middle isn't it? Visiting National Parks west of the Mississippi would mean long rides in non-airconditioned vehicles in July - the only month Philo's company allowed vacations.

Annieinaustin, Badlands in 1970'sBy the mid-1970's Philo thought we could handle it, and he planned a road trip from Chicagoland to Wyoming with stops along the way, including Badlands National Park above. The kids loved Dinosaur Park in Rapid City - it isn't a National Park, but it's on the National Register of Historic Places. We took our first look at Mount Rushmore, a National Memorial and saw the Crazy Horse monument when Korczak Ziokowski was still alive and the rocks barely hinted there would ever be a face.

Annieinaustin, Devil's Tower WYWe met Devil's Tower, a National Monument, shortly before the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind was released. With no connections to extra-terrestrials to color our experience, we camped nearby, walked around the base, felt the power and fell in love with this wonderful place.
Annieinaustin,Bighorn MntAfter a stop to play in summer snow in the Bighorn Mountains, we enjoyed the rock stores and Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody, Wyoming, spent a terrifying night in a tent during a wind storm, and at last passed flower-covered cliffs to arrive at one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen, the Grand Tetons National Park.
Annieinaustin, cabin in Tetons, 1970'sFree of the car we found our waiting cabin and spent days breathing the fresh air, watching the lodgepole pines sway, playing on the shore and trying to catch glimpses of the marmots Pikas*.
Annieinaustin, lake view TetonsThen on to Yellowstone National Park - where geysers blew, mud pots sputtered and panther tracks could be found in the dry soil around our cabin. The beer can collecting fad was in full swing - we wanted our kids to look at the wonders of the park but they wanted to find rare labels. Riding horses along switchback trails kept them out of the trash cans!

Annieinaustin,horseback at YellowstoneAfter Yellowstone we moved on to a rough camp in the partially finished Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. When we hit a launderette in a mining town in Utah, signs on the machines warned customers not to wash clothes soiled with gilsonite, a natural asphalt mined in the area. We knew the next stop would be a treat for our dinosaur-crazy kids.... Dinosaur National Monument with its wall of real fossils exposed to view.

Philo revised the the route for a return trip in the 1980's - we aimed straight west through Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. Getting to the Tetons was a long hot, tense trip with dashboard gauges warning us how much our vehicle disliked the steep hills and heat of Wyoming.Annieinaustin, Tetons in bloomOnce again the Grand Teton Park welcomed us with its beauty. I signed up with a guide and went on a Good Medicine Plant Walk with a guide while everyone went hiking. Annieinaustin, Teton horse was FrankWe rode on Teton trails this time - Lily's horse was named "Frank".

Annieinaustin, rowing Coulter BayBefore shifting from the Tetons to Yellowstone we all went rowing on Coulter Bay Annieinaustin, Grand Canyon YellowstoneThe Grand Canyon - no not that Grand Canyon - the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Annieinaustin, rustic Yellowstone lodgeThe Rustic Cabins at Roosevelt Lodge in Yellowstone National Park let us pretend to be pioneers or cowboys. I bought bear bells to notify wildlife a human was around and refused to set foot outside without them secured to my shoes. Philo said the park was so crowded the wildlife had retreated and the bells were unnecessary
Annieinaustin, Mammoth Springs 1970'sWe moved on to Mammoth Springs Lodge for more exploring. One afternoon three of us stayed in the room while Philo & our oldest went hiking. They had more excitement than they'd planned, catching glimpses of wildlife (this seems to be a female moose).Annieinaustin, Yellowstone moose or elkWithout bear bells to signal their approach, the guys had to run for it when they surprised a grizzly bear! It came after them as they sprinted through tall grass to the branches of a tall tree. Luckily the bear didn't follow them up the trunk, but it didn't leave right away. Eventually they were able to descend and report to the ranger. I wonder if a grizzly will be featured when the new quarters are minted? Yellowstone is in the first group of National Parks Quarters scheduled for 2010

Annieinaustin, Devil's Tower 1980'sIndividual renditions of the five iconic notes of the Close Encounters' theme filled the car as we came near Devils Tower, but the potent atmosphere of this natural wonder overcame us once again and respect for its history kept us quiet as we walked.

Annieinaustin, Mt Rushmore,1980'sBeer can collecting may have been passé by the eighties, but checking off license plates of all the United States & Canadian provinces in the Mount Rushmore parking lot never goes out of style and neither does the studio of Rushmore's sculptor Gutzon Borglum. We checked in at the Crazy Horse Memorial, too - the enormous face hadn't changed a great deal, but the campus had expanded.

Annieinaustin, Philo and Lily, Mammoth CaveMore from the eighties: When returning from the ocean we stopped at Mammoth Cave National Park, spending the night in a simple and secluded cabin on the park grounds. Who needs TV when Lily is around? She invented a game called Guess the Relative, making us figure out identities as she impersonated members of our large extended family.

Annieinaustin, St Louis Gateway ArchAlso from the 1980's - a visit to family in St Louis and the Gateway Arch and Museum of Western Expansion...a National Memorial. I liked the museum but preferred the Shaw Gardens!

Annieinaustin, St Helens park, climb windy ridgeNow we've moved into the 1990's - the Empire Builder took us from Chicago to Seattle for a whirl of visiting and touring - my husband's childhood dream of visiting a volcano finally came true. We joined the lines of people climbing Windy Ridge to see Mount St Helen's National Volcanic Monument.
Annieinaustin, Mt St Helens 1990'sSigns of regeneration were visible when we saw the area, a dozen years after the devastating eruption.

Annieinaustin, Mt Rainier meadow 1990'sWe climbed the meadows at Mt Rainier National Park but took few photos in the drizzle and mist. There are so many places you can get to in a couple of hours when you're centered in Seattle! We saw beautiful state parks, took a ferry up to Butchard Gardens, and were amazed to walk in the Temperate Rainforest of Olympic National ParkAnnieinaustin Olympic National Park tree
I've never seen anything quite like these ancient, gigantic trees. Annieinaustin, Olympic temperate rainforest

We learned that when one tree fell it gradually composted in place, providing a medium for seedlings, thus becoming a "nurse tree".

The Pioneer took us back along a different route - we arrived at the train station in Chicago exhausted - but satisfied we'd crammed in as much as possible!

Annieinaustin Mammoth Cave knight statueSometimes the corny stuff works when a family heads to a National Park... mini-golf and wax museums can be fun, and kids like goofy statues like this one near Mammoth Cave.
Annieinaustin Mammoth Cave parkThe park around Mammoth Cave is beautiful, too - in 1993 we were delighted to see Pileated Woodpeckers. Both cave and park have a long human history - on this visit we walked through an old cemetery within the park boundaries. Early caver Stephen Bishop is buried there.

Annieinaustin, MT Rainier snowWe'd enjoyed the two-day train ride, but decided to fly to Seattle a few years later. We found Mount Rainier National Park buried in snow reaching up to the tops of wooden picnic tables.
MT Rainier foggy hill
Clouds and mist hung over Mt Rainier again that July. Some prankster taped a photograph of the mountain on the viewing window of the visitor center to show what we were missing.

In the late 1990's Philo's job took him to El Paso for weeks at a time and weekends gave him a chance to add more parks to his list: Guadalupe Mountains National Park, The City of Rocks National Historical Reserve, White Sands National Monument and the Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument below:Annieinaustin, Gila Cliff DwellingsHe made it to Carlsbad Caverns National Park, too - here's the amphitheatre:
Annieinaustin, Carlsbad AmphitheatreWe had a unexpected chance to return to the Black Hills in the late 1990's but had to put the trip together in a couple of days. With a rented Windstar, credit cards and better cameras we headed off, stopping to see touristy things we'd avoided before, like the Corn Palace, Reptile Gardens and even Wall Drugs. Annieinaustin, Badlands in 1990'sThe Badlands hadn't changed much but this time we were able to see the Prairie Dog village
Annieinaustin, Badlands prairie dog villageWe figured out why we'd seen so many motorcycles - our timing had landed us in the middle of the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally! Motels and parking places were hard to find but what fun to be close to the action!

Annieinaustin, Sturgis rally in 1990'sBandanna'd guys took turns taking each other's photos riding through tunnels or posing at the Mount Rushmore Memorial. Annieinaustin, Mt Rushmore 1990'sMore bikers rode to the Crazy Horse Memorial - and we were amazed at the progress that had been made - the face of Crazy Horse was awe-inspiring!

Instead of a basic motel we blew the budget and landed near Custer Mountain in a house away from other buildings and lights, with the most beautiful and star-filled sky we'd ever seen overhead. We added another park to our life-list, touring Wind Cave National Park, buying sweatshirts but taking no photos.

Annieinaustin, Devils's tower 1990'sDevil's Tower had never seemed more beautiful - just writing this post makes me want to be there again. Will that ever happen? If we still lived in Chicago we'd have driven back already, but we're in Texas, now. Big Bend National Park is in Texas, too, but that means little with the park entrance nearly 500 miles from Austin. We set out to see it in 2001.

Annieinaustin, Big Bend Park rdBeautiful roads, spectacular hikes and walks were everywhere, with views like this reflection of the Rio Grande at Santa Elena Canyon
Annieinaustin, Santa Elena CanyonFantastic night skies and the desert in bloom were the reward for going in March. We stopped at Caverns of Sonoma on the way back - truly one of the most beautiful caves we've ever seen and a National Natural Landmark.
Annieinaustin, Big Bend in bloomEven the most intrepid travelers can't drive to the next National Park - we flew to the big island of Hawaii a few years ago and walked through a tumble of green at the Thurston Lava Tube in Hawaii's Volcanoes National Park.
Annieinaustin, volcanoes national park lava tubeThe paths and terrain change as the flows do - when we were there a half-mile walk across the rock took the visitors to where the lava flowed

Annieinaustin walk to volcano flowPhilo had seen what a volcano had done at Mt St Helen's - now he saw one still at work.
Annieinaustin, Flowing lava Hawaii

A few years ago our family gathered once again at Mount Rainier National Park - we were shocked to find no mist, no rain, no impaired view.... just the full glory of the Mountain.

Annieinaustin, Mt Rainier 2005No one will need to hunt and scan old prints in future - the cameras in the family finally outnumber the family members.
Annieinaustin, Mt Rainier photo opThe title of this post was suggested by character Don Draper's assertion {YouTube Link) in the Mad Men episode "The Wheel" that the Kodak Slide Carousel is not a spaceship... it is a Time Machine.

ED: This post by Tabor made me realize the animals in the Tetons were Pikas - we saw the Marmots at Hurricane Ridge in WA.


  1. What a joy to read of your family adventures in national parks through the years, Annie. You have a very handsome family, and you guys have seen a LOT of parks. I already wanted to see Devil's Tower NM, but your description and pics make me want to see it more than ever.

    I've got a grizzly-in-Yellowstone story going up tomorrow. But yours is scarier.

  2. I liked this almost as much as the Ken Burns film! Well done Annie, I loved hearing the stories that go along with the photos. This is a treasure.

  3. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  4. Annie, Now you've done it. I've not seen any national parks west of the Mississippi, but your pictures make me want to this next summer. But then who will watch over my garden while I'm gone? Thanks for sharing this walk down national park memory trails, shall we say?

  5. Annie, what a beautiful post! Love the old photos...thank you for sharing!

  6. What a delightful trip down Memory Lane through the National Park System. It looks like you about have them all covered.

  7. Great post, Annie! Loved seeing you and your family through the years.

  8. I enjoyed this post so much, Annie! It must have been a lot of work to get together--thank you. Good grief: I'd forgotten that I'd been to Crazy Horse and the Badlands in the late '80s!

  9. You scanned a LOT of photos and you have visited many parks. I was surprised at how many places we have in common. I may try this...once I get a scanner. I have enjoyed the parts of the series that I have had time to watch.

  10. Thanks for taking your readers on this trip. Beer can collecting? Huh. I guess everything had a time.

    We're trying to break my 4-year-old nephew from his milk carton collecting fad. Dunno why he likes those things, but he does.

  11. Hi Pam/Digging - thanks for starting this! It was a surprise to see the details in the old photos once they'd been scanned and enlarged...not a surprise if your celebration makes us all want to travel ;-]

    Thank you for liking it SK- enjoy whatever park you see next!

    That's a big problem here, too Carol - we've both got to figure out how to leave! In the words of Dale Evans, Happy Trails to You!

    Thanks so much, Cheryl in Austin - I'm glad you liked it.

    We sure hope we'll get to Yosemite, Lisa at Greenbow - thanks for traveling down that Lane with us.

    Thanks Vertie - loved your trip, too!

    It took longer than I expected, Iris - one reason it got in just under the wire. It was kind of cool to see we had photos from 3 different visits in 3 different decades.

    By the time we bought a digital camera there were 2 bookshelves full of photo albums, Tabor - scanning and emailing helped our family keep in touch. Then it became a tool for genealogy. If you buy one, scan an old b/w photo and be amazed at what you can see when you zoom! Have fun!

    You're welcome, Mr Brown Thumb - you're too young to remember that beer can craze. Fathers were encouraged by acquisitive sons to try beer from other countries so they could have the cans.
    I can remember taking a group of kids downtown for field trip...they could spot an unfamiliar label at 50 paces and had fits because we wouldn't let them off the bus to snag them.
    Milk cartons? That's a new one!

    Thanks for coming along -

  12. What a great tour! I love the tale of your family trips and all the photos. And you got me in the mood for watching Close Encounter clips on YouTube. I especially love the first one from the very mod 60s. I've always wanted a hairstyle like that.

  13. Wow, Annie! You have covered miles of Parks there. It brought back memories of family vacations growing up. As a teen, I hated roughing it as we camped our way out west, but seeing all those sights made it worthwhile. I would love to see the Crazy Horse Monument finished...when I saw it back eons ago, the work had just begun.

  14. Wonderful tour of the National Parks Annie! I've been to quite a few, but it's amazing how many of them you've seen. Mammoth Cave was the first one I saw. I still can't believe my parents took all five of us stair-step kids, including my 3-week-old baby brother on that trip. Are we there yet. . . ? Thank you for bringing back a lot of fond memories.

  15. This was so much fun, Annie, seeing your family change through the years, and my, what a lot of parks you have visited! Reading many of these posts on the National Parks makes me realize just how much I have missed in the U.S. I do remember going to the Badlands and to Mount Rushmore as a teenager. I don't think I was the best traveling companion, having wanted to stay home instead of going on a long camping trip with my parents. What I remember most besides Mount Rushmore, which even I had to concede was awe-inspiring, is Wall Drugs and riding in an un-air-conditioned 57 Chevy in 100 degree heat:) Oh, and yes we had to stop at the Corn Palace, which I found very "corny" at the time (sorry). Somewhere I also have a black and white photo of prairie dogs--except they slipped back into the burrow just as I was snapping the shutter.
    Thanks for taking us along in your time machine!

  16. That was fun Annie! You have me remembering our own trips out west! We took the Empire builder, too. We started in St Louis...took the train to Chicago and then over to Seattle. What a lot of fun....We have the best train stories. Thank you for opening up the flood gates of memory. gail

  17. What an lovely journey through the years...and how nice for your family that it is now recorded! You certainly did a lot of traveling as a family and I'm sure created wonderful family memories in the process.

  18. I came back this morning to finish reading your National Park memories post. What fun! I loved seeing your family through the years. Isn't it awe inspiring just how much beauty there is to see in this vast country? We did an 18 day trip across country in '79 before our 3rd child was born. We were on our way to Australia to live, and flew out from the west coast. After that trip I wanted to stay and see more! We were impressed by Devil's Tower, and yes, the Grand Tetons is definitely one of the most beautiful places we've ever seen. Magnificent! We recorded the trip with slides, most of which haven't been made into photographs, unfortunately.
    Thanks for sharing this story of your family travels, Annie. It stirred some great memories and made us realize just how much we'd still like to see :)

  19. This was so fun!

    I was so glued to the TV, watching Burns' series on the National Parks - it was amazing, wasn't it? The diversity of the landscape - seen in your images too - just amazes me. I wish I had the patience to find all of the old photos (most are my parents home somewhere). Maybe one day. For now I'll daydream of hitching up the Airstream and heading west...

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    The retro photos are brillant.
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    Flowers Dublin

  21. With that link you're kind of a spammer, Flowers Dublin, but you're a polite one and I'm in a good mood. Your comment earned one free pass. Just one.



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