Category Archives: National Parks

Travel Journal Hack & National Parks 100-Year Commemorative Stamps

Picked up a National Parks 100-Year Commemorative stamp sheet at the US Post Office yesterday. These would be great to use as you travel! If you’re not one to keep a travel journal, here’s a quick travel-journal hack that’s easy and inexpensive… Write on an oversized post card your experiences and mail back home to yourself! When you return home, you’ll have memories ready to put in a scrapbook!

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Wyoming & Montana | The Grand Tetons & Yellowstone

Just to recap, our journey westward was on a time crunch — we needed to get to Washington State in time for the wheat harvest which was coming early that year due to heat waves.  At this point in our journey, we had made it to Wyoming and the route that day was to see as much as we could see while passing through the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  It was a Monday following the 4th of July week-end.

My friend, Jen, encouraged me to see the Grand Tetons, so this dictated our decision to enter Yellowstone thru the southern entrance.  As we got to the gate for the Grand Tetons, one good decision we made was to purchase a National Parks Annual Pass. We paid $80 for access to any National Park within the United States and it was money well spent, because we would go on to use this pass to cover our admission to not only the Grand Tetons, but also Yellowstone National Park, Mt. St. Helens National Park, Lewis and Clark National Park, The Redwoods, The Grand Canyon National Park, and the Carlsbad Caverns National Park (I feel like I’m missing one in this list — just know it came in handy a lot!) The pass is good for an entire year and covers admission fees for the entire family and your vehicle.  Note: If you have a 4th Grader in the family, you can get a free annual pass!

National Parks Annual Pass

You can follow details on the National Park’s website if you want to secure the pass before you travel, but we just purchased ours at the park’s entrance. Remember that with the annual pass, you can also get a discount on gift shop purchases which adds to your savings. And if you are over the age of 62, you can get a smoke’n good deal on this pass!

One thing we noticed right away was the cooler air and how FRESH the air smelled! The clouds hung low clinging to the mountains as we made our gradual climb that morning.

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We stop for a bathroom break and I managed to get all the kids to hold still long enough for a group shot.

We stopped in at Jenny Lake at the Grand Tetons and the water was beautiful and clear! (I’ll have to find my photo of us at the lake and will add it to this posting when I find where I archived it.)

The Grand Tetons

The mountains jutted up towards the heavens and literally we stood in awe of how majestic they appeared.

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We found a RV parking spot to park at the Grand Teton Visitor Center. Be prepared to hike to the sites from these locations! And don’t be surprised if cars take RV spots!
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Baby girl has the best big brothers!
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Some pretty wild flowers.
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A pretty meadow on the way between the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.
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This deer grazing at the Grand Tetons was incredibly tame! She grazed while onlookers swarmed around her.

Yellowstone was gorgeous! The scenery just went on and on… until your eyes landed on all the people. Granted it was a holiday week-end, but folks, it was crazy busy with bumper-to-bumper traffic often and fighting crowds of people just kills any outdoor enjoyment for me personally. In fact, we quickly learned that if you’re towing a RV, you can’t get off on any of the side roads to visit some of the main attractions which was a bit of a bummer.

Tip: If you want to explore Yellowstone, plan to stay for a few days and have a spot where you can unhook from your travel trailer so you can see the sights that are often found on side-roads.

We were surprised to learn that you have to have a permit to put your own kayak into any body of water within Yellowstone AND you have to have your kayaks inspected. I guess there’s some sort of weed that can be brought in on kayaks that they don’t want to propagate so this is a safe guard they take. We knew we weren’t going to take our kayaks down because I had done some research in advance and knew that we didn’t want to purchase the permit for the boys to fish when we really didn’t have a whole lot of time to see the sights.

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One of our teens — they love being in the great outdoors and exploring new sites!
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So many pretty waterfalls in Yellowstone!
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On our way through Yellowstone we had a great learning opportunity for the kids as we crossed the Continental Divide three times in three different spots!

We crossed the Continental Divide three separate times while making our way from the south entrance to Yellowstone to the north entrance of Yellowstone. It provided a great learning opportunity for the kids!

We went to go see Old Faithful, but it was so crowded that there wasn’t a single place to park! All the RV parking spots were taken with vehicles that were not RVs nor towing! Big bummer as my husband had to circle and wait for us to see when Old Faithful would do her thing. We decided that almost an hour-and-half wait wasn’t worth it given the crowds and parking situation, so we opted to keep moving through the park as we were feeling the time crunch to get to Washington State.  It was shortly after leaving the Visitor’s Center at Yellowstone that we hit a major delay. We sat in crawling stop-and-go traffic only to discover people were enthralled with a small herd of buffalo. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen buffalo before, but I was like, “Really people?” An hour delay for this?!

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We encountered a huge delay and sat in traffic for nearly an hour because of these creatures. A heard of buffalo quietly grazed while people gawked nearby.

We would later laugh about how we saw more natural wild life in Washington State than in Yellowstone! But again, that may not be a fair assessment, because we only went through Yellowstone in a day.

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One of the many steaming hot spring found along our drive.

One word of advice I’d offer… the way thru the north area of Yellowstone has some pretty steep drop-offs at spots and might be a little bit nerve racking if you’re a new driver in a RV. Even my husband was leery as we made our way through some narrow passages along a cliff side overhang.

We also hit an area of construction. Here’s another tip… If they mention there’s construction in an area, avoid it. Seriously — find an alternate route because you will be c-r-a-w-l-i-n-g at a snails pace AND your rig will get covered in dust, gravel and grime! Ugh!

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On our way out of the north exit of Yellowstone.

We did see some elk on the way out of the north entrance of the park. They also were really tame paying no notice to the people surrounding them.

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An elk grazing near the north entrance to Yellowstone.

When we left Yellowstone, we found the next town and stopped for dinner. We got out of the car and were SHOCKED at how dirty it had become from going thru the construction area in Yellowstone!

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Had to take a pic when we stopped to eat dinner that evening in Montana. Our poor vehicle and trailer was covered in dirt from the construction we went thru in Yellowstone.
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A close up of our running boards on our tow vehicle after we had left Yellowstone!

Feeling the urge to get as far as we could in Montana, we aimed our sights for Missoula, Montana and planned to roll into a Walmart parking lot around midnight to break our journey. When we arrived, we were surprised to find the whole back side of the parking lot lined with RVers tucked in for the night! We managed to find a spot towards the back of the lot and as we were moving the kids from the car to the RV, there was a truck that came through the parking lot with two guys yelling profanity to the RVers (and us), “This isn’t a F***ing RV Campground!” Over and over they yelled this at the top of their lungs directed towards the parked RVs. They past by yelling their rant and went to make another loop. My husband and I looked at each other and immediately decided to move on from that location. We didn’t need a drunk’n heckler and our safety sensors were tingling telling us to get out of there! So we loaded up the kids (it was about midnight mind you) and we got back on the freeway.

We used our app to try and find a spot to overnight and the first rest stop we came across was dark and unlit. We opted to continue to keep driving. It was about 1:30 am in the morning when we came upon the next rest stop (and last rest stop before heading over the pass). Thankfully, it was well lit and we pulled in next to a semi and helped get the kids to the RV where everyone immediately conked out after a very long day.  They were such troopers! We didn’t sleep long as the road noise was pretty loud from the nearby freeway, causing my husband and I to stir and wake around 6 am. We  got back on the road pressing on towards our destination and eager to cross into Washington State stopping to eat some breakfast after we got over the pass.

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Our overnight camping spot was a safe haven that night in Montana after a run-in with some crazies in Missoula, Montana.
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This is how we do breakfast on the go while traveling … some groceries that include fresh fruit and some muffins. And it does wonders for the driver to find a good cup of coffee for the road! 😉

In summary, I think my husband and I decided that in order to really do Yellowstone justice, we needed to NOT visit on a holiday week-end and we needed to plan to stay for at least three days so we could unhook and explore.

I do have to admit that the seismic activity in the area is disconcerting knowing that this was at one time a very active volcano.  I did love it for the educational aspect as we would go on to visit another volcano in Washington (Mt St Helens), so this was a great opportunity for the kids to see two very different types of volcanos. I will post about Mt. St. Helens at a later date, but for now, suffice to say, I am glad we saw the Grand Tetons, but Yellowstone was a bit of a bust and let down on a number of levels. Probably poor planning and expectations that were over-inflated on our part. Had we not been pressed for time and visiting at a time of year that wasn’t peak season, this could have been a great opportunity to explore and learn more about volcanos and geology.  It’s on our list to try again at a later date when time allows.


5kidsandarv-approved5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”
Copyright 2016

Chickamauga Battlefield & the Chattanooga National Military Park

 

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I will never forget the first time I visited a historic battlefield from the Civil War in Atlanta and walked the rows and rows of headstones of soldiers that had fallen in battle. There was awe as I read stories about grandfathers, fathers, and sons all going out to fight and falling to their deaths as Sherman marched to Savannah. It was the first time I realized that what I had read about in my school books, actually happened and those families still remembered and felt that loss. It really happened. And there was a great cost to both sides who fought over this freedom.

Being history lovers, we always look forward to the opportunity to explore and learn something new — especially in our home state. So when we went to Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, the nations oldest and largest battlefield, we were amazed at how much land this battle encompassed. We started out at the Visitor’s Center at Chickamauga (which I recommend you do the same). If you’re in a RV, note that they have RV parking to the left of the Visitor Center (just follow the signs) which is great!

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Chickamauga Battlefield - 5kidsandarv

We were surprised to see the largest collection of antique rifles we had ever seen. The boys were in rifle heaven.  They even got to see a blunderbuss — a rifle that they had seen on the TV show, Pawn Stars — and stood within inches of one (see pic below).  The Fuller Gun Collection of American Shoulder Arms collection spans about six rows if memory serves me correctly; certainly an impressive collection. There was even a rifle that had a built-in coffee grinder in the stock!

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Rows and rows of antique rifles - 5kidsandarv

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Peyton pointing at a rifle he likes

Wax soldier charging - Chickamauga Battlefield

Chickamauga Battlefield - Wax Soldier

They had some wax soldiers to help illustrate how the soldiers fought and even a real Battery Wagon. I especially love how they preserved the cannon balls that were lodged into the trees. I’ve seen this at Kennesaw Mountain National Park’s Civil War Museum as well and it just shows the reality of what was flying thru the air and the force that these pieces of artillery had to destroy whatever was in it’s path.  They also offer a short film, but we had arrived towards the end of the day after the last film had already started to show.

Canon balls embedded into trees

Battery Wagon from the Civil War - Chickamauga

Chickamauga Battlefield - Battery Wagon History

Model of a Battery Wagon and how it would have been pulled. Chickamauga Battlefield

There is also a selection of cannons in front of the Visitor Center, showing the variety of military arsenal used at the time. After we finished at the Visitor Center, we loaded the kids up and drove thru the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park where the battle took place. What impressed me was that there were a multitude of memorials erected in the memory of those that had fought. (Most of the 1,400 monuments and historical markers on the battlefields were planned and placed by Boynton and other veterans of the battles.) We would be driving along and a sign would simply state, this is where General so-and-so fell and died. Very sombering to know that a life — someone’s son, brother, husband, or father — ended there. We stopped by the Wilder Brigade Monument — a tower constructed around 1899 to aid in viewing the national park — and Jes and the older boys climbed the stairs to the top while I stayed in the car with the sleeping littles.

Did you know? The four Union generals given credit for bringing an end to the Civil War (Generals Ulysses S. Grant, William T. Sherman, George H. Thomas, and Philip Sheridan) were all in Chattanooga in the autumn of 1863.

Chickamauga Battlefield Tower

Chickamauga Battlefield Tower Top

Did you know? Arthur MacArthur, Jr. was awarded the Medal of Honor for bravery in the Battle of Missionary Ridge, November 25, 1863. His son, Douglas MacArthur, was awarded the Medal of Honor during World War II.

Cannons on display at Chickamauga Battlefield

Chickamauga Casualties

Did you catch that? About 37,000 men that were killed, wounded or missing! A battle that included 124,000 men! That’s a huge confrontation!

So, when I saw the little cabin (see pic below) used as the outpost for treating the wounded on either side, I couldn’t help but to think of the numbers of men lying in this very grassy knoll, probably lined up in row after row, hoping to live and survive the excruciating pain as they faced an amputation to survive… Be sure to read the following taken from the reader-board shown next to the boys. (Still can’t believe this home housed a family of NINE!)

Snodgrass Cabin - Chickamauga Battlefield

Snodgrass Cabin

We only spent a few hours at Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park as we were headed towards Chattanooga to camp, fish and explore, but we saw a lot, learned more about the Civil War, and it didn’t cost us anything but our fuel. (Awesome!) Hope you check this out if you’re in the area! It’s worth the visit and if you end up visiting, be sure to leave a comment of how it was in the comments below!

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WHAT KIDS CAN LEARN THRU THIS EXPERIENCE:

  • Civil War History
  • Battery Wagons
  • Cannons
  • Visual progression of how guns and rifles developed over time

You’ll walk where Confederate and Union soldiers fought in the bloodiest two-day battle of the war on September 19-20, 1863. The Visitor’s Center offers exhibits, bookstore, Fuller Gun Collection of American Shoulder Arms and 23-minute film.

Cost to go thru the Visitor Center:
Adults – Free
Seniors (65 and over) – Free
Active Military Personnel – Free (with ID)
Students – Free
Children 12 and under – Free*
*Be sure to ask for a Junior Ranger Packet which is free and a great teaching tool.

Point Park on top of Lookout Mountain is the only Designated Fee Area located within Chickamauga and Chattanooga NMP. The fee is $5.00 per adult (age 16 or older). Children 15 years or younger are free.


TIPGet a national parks pass and gain free admission into any National Park in the country.


Hours:
Chickamauga Battlefield Visitor Center is open daily from 8:30 am to 5 pm Eastern Click here for more details.
*Visitor Centers are closed New Year’s Day and Christmas.

Tours:
The historic Cravens House on Lookout Mountain is open for tours Saturday and Sunday afternoon from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the summer. Cravens House closes at 5 p.m. Contact Lookout Mountain Battlefield Visitor Center at 423-821-7786 for additional information. For additional tours offered click here.

Pets are more than welcome in the park. However, please remember to keep them leashed at all times.

Be sure to check the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park Web site for possible re-enactments around the time of the battle’s anniversary (September 19-20)

See Map Graphic
Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park
3370 Lafayette Rd
Fort Oglethorpe, GA 30742
(706) 866-9241

Also nearby is the 6th Calvery Museum, Lee and Gordon’s Mill, and Lookout Mountain, tour Ruby Falls and ride the world’s steepest passenger railway at Incline Railway.

Map of Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park 

Click Map to Enlarge


Was this information helpful to you? If so, please click the links below to share on Facebook or pin to Pinterest so that others may enjoy this experience as well. Thanks for spreading the word!

 

5kidsandarv-approved5 Kids and a RV recommendations are based on personal experience and do not represent the business, agency, or not-for-profit we feature. We share our experiences in an effort to inspire parents to engage and explore with their children. As always, whenever trying something new, please use your own good judgement in what best suits the needs of your family to keep everyone safe while having fun.

5 Kids and a RV: “Let’s go learn something today.”
Copyright 2016