Tag Archives: national park

Battles at Bull Run

Two battles were fought at Manassas. The first in July, 1861, and the second thirteen months later in August of 1862.

I spent three days at Bull Run, walking the battlefields, researching the events and talking with park rangers and volunteers. Manassas is about the best curated of all the battlefields I visited. The National Park Service is trying to return the battlefields to the way they were when the battle occurred. That means removing trees and structures as well as planting trees and restoring or recreating structures. Manassas staff has made the most progress on these projects.

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Geekemeritus 2023 Review

Note: This report was prepared in January, 2024, but due to a “Biden moment” (actually more than one), I thought I had posted it, but alas, had not. I only now discovered that.
So a little late, but here it is.

Well, it is the end of another year, one in which several long-time friends and family have died, and life has changed greatly for others. The reality of life’s brevity is finally coming to rest on me. Although I am not a fan of reliving the past, I think it is important to look at my year and revisit some of the events and savor those that were special in some way.

I covered a lot of ground in 2023 — About 10,000 miles, mostly on America’s byways. Only in the early 2000’s when I was flying between the US and UK have I traveled more. In the past 12 months, I…

  • Lived in the Airstream for 7 months
  • Spent time in 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces
  • Visited 11 Civil War battlefields
  • Camped in a World Heritage Site
  • Followed and explored the old Santa Fe Trail
  • Walked on the ocean floor
  • Climbed the Kill Devil hills
  • Camped on several American Indian reservations
  • Explored the original Manhattan Project site
  • Met many interesting people

Of all the places I visited, here is a severely limited list of stand outs.

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Camp Sumter

This is not a good place. This is Andersonville.

Between February, 1864 and the end of the Civil War Camp Sumter confined Union prisoners of war. Forty-five thousand came here, but only thirty-two thousand left. Thirteen-thousand died of malnutrition, exposure and rampant disease – a 29% death rate.

During the fourteen months Camp Sumter held prisoners, it was known as “Andersonville.”

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I Hiked the Hoodoos

Hoodoos are a geological formation when erosion attacks a hard rock layer over a much softer rock. Some are small and others as tall as a 10-story building. Because of the minerals in the rock they can have spectacular colors. They are found all over the world, typically in dry, hot areas, and the most impressive are in Bryce Canyon National Park. If you want to know more about how they are formed, the National Park Service has a good explanation. As you can see in the photo below, as the mesa has eroded over the eons, freeze/thaw cycles and erosion has removed the rock, leaving spires of varying height – as if they were dug from the ground.

Tropic Falls along the Mossy Cave Trail

North from the entrance to the National Park you will find the trailhead to Mossy Cave and Tropic Ditch. In 1892 pioneer setllers of the town of Tropic worked for over two years digging a canal to divert water from the Sevier River, over the cliffs of Bryce Canyon and into the Tropic valley, a distance of 15 miles and a drop of 1,500 feet. To reduce the labor, they followed natural courses where possible. Except for the drought of 2002, the water has flowed continuously for 130 years, giving life to the people and crops of Tropic Utah.

I spent two full days here, hiking through this magnificent landscape.

Canyonlands Dark Sky


CanyonLands is a relatively new National Park opened in the 60’s. It is a 90 minute drive from Moab; rugged and minimally developed. Ninety-five percent of the park can only be reached by hiking or 4×4 trails, many of them considered “high technical difficulty.” ATV’s are not allowed. There are no amenities like food, gas or cell phone service. The only flushing toilets are in the visitor center. The campsites are paved, but primarily to keep vehicles from damaging the surrounding desert.

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