You are a Winner!

Those are words I’d love to hear!

The Submission Grand Prize: a trip for 4 to Yosemite National Park


The Voter Grand Prize: A Yellowstone & Grand Teton Adventure for 2

I could be happy with either prize!
I don’t know how I missed this earlier, but beginning June 20th, the National Park Foundation kicked off its Summer Scrapbook contest which runs until September 5th. Park enthusiasts are encouraged to submit entries in one of eight categories relating a personal experience from any of America’s National Parks. Along with the short essay, each entry must include a photo or video taken at the park with a trip to Yosemite being the Grand Prize.

Not a park visitor or not a writer? You can still win! Simply vote from September 9 – September 26th for your favorite Essay Finalist. In fact, you can actually vote one time per day in each category for a total of eight votes per day or eight chances to win that trip to Yellowstone.

It’s time to submit an entry for each category!

  • Fun with Family & Friends:
    Share your national park moments and memories of relaxing, having picnics, hiking, or simply enjoying some quality time with your friends and family in your national parks.
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    Redwood National Park
  • Celebrations & Achievements:
    Share your national park moments and memories of engagements, weddings, birthdays, holidays, or completing a goal.
  • DSCN0328
    Smoky Mountain National Park
  • Inspirational Moments:
    Share your national park moments and memories of star-studded night skies, picture-perfect sunsets, breathtaking vistas, and moments of inspiration.
  • photo
    Bryce Canyon National Park
  • Action & Adventure:
    Share your national park moments and memories of sports, activities, and adventure.
  • IMG_2796
    Everglades National Park
  • Hidden Gems and Surprises:
    Share your national park moments and memories of finding a little-known trail, an unexpected wildlife visit, and other surprises.
  • photo
    Bandelier National Monument
  • Making a Difference:
    Share your national park moments and memories of volunteer work or other ways you’ve helped.
  • Throwback:
    Share your national park moments and memories from 10 or more years ago.
  • IMG_7575
    Yellowstone National Park
  • Learning & Discovery
    Share your national park moments and memories of exploring American history, celebrating cultures, finding a fossil, taking a class trip, or other educational experiences.
  • IMG_0152
    Fort Matanzas National Monument

    Looks like I’ve got some work to do this week if I plan to enter an essay in the contest, and I’ve marked my calendar to start voting on September 9th. I want to be a winner!

Florida’s National Parks

Looking for something to do this weekend? Take advantage of free park admission today and tomorrow and visit one of the nation’s 401 national parks as they celebrate National Park Week April 19th – April 27. IMG_4567 Florida is home to three national parks, two national seashores, two national preserves, three national monuments, and a national cultural heritage corridor. Even if you can’t take advantage of the free admission this weekend, the parks are a great value any day of the year.

  • Biscayne National Park
  • Dry Tortugus National Park
  • Everglades National Park
  • Canaveral National Seashore
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore
  • Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Timucuan Preserve which includes Fort Caroline, a National Monument, and Kingsley Plantation
  • Castillo De San Marcos National Monument
  • Fort Matanzas National Monument
  • DeSoto National Memorial
  • Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor from Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, FL

Yesterday we toured the Kingsley Plantation in Amelia Island exploring the plantation house, kitchen house, slave quarters, barn, and waterfront. The informative self guided tour took about an hour, but unfortunately, the plantation house can only be toured on the weekend due to renovations currently underway.

With our trip to Kingsley Plantation, we can say we’ve visited them all. Time to get started on the hundreds of battlefields, trails, and historical places located throughout the state.

2 Down; 12 To Go

IMG_2886One of the adventures that both John and I included in our list of 14 in 14 was the Tamiami Triathlon, something we’d learned about last year on a trip to South Florida. It’s the perfect triathlon for us since it is not a competition and there is only minimal training required.

Participants can complete the paddling, hiking, and biking portions in one, two, or three days; and they can even be completed over the course of several weeks or months. The long President’s Day weekend seemed like the perfect time…not too hot…not too wet…not too buggy.

We saved what we expected to be the most difficult part of the triathlon for last. However, after slogging through the mud for five miles, biking fifteen miles on a flat, paved trail turned out to be the best part of the adventure.

There’s certainly no shortage of wildlife along the trail. Of course, the most famous residents of the Everglades, alligators, lined the path, but Shark Valley is actually a bird watcher’s paradise.

Three hours after climbing on the bikes we collected our prized Tamiami Triathlon bumper stickers. I’m glad it wasn’t a race so we could enjoy the Everglades, climb the lookout tower, and take lots of pictures. What a great adventure!

We even saw a mysterious reptile that not even the ranger could identify. What do you think? An immature alligator (about 5 feet long)? A crocodile? An exotic species? Leave a comment with your opinion.


Tamiami Triathlon: Phase 2

Image 1After completing the first leg of the triathlon paddling across Chokoloskee Bay, we drove about 15 miles east on the Tamiami Trail to the Oasis Visitor Center in the Big Cypress National Preserve to begin a five mile swamp walk.

Notice, this is not called a hike, but a “swamp walk”. Participants are required to check in at the visitor center where you pick up a “government issued” walking stick if you don’t bring your own, something I thought ridiculous, but after the first half mile, I used it consistently.

The volunteer warned us the trail would be wet, checked to see that we were wearing the proper shoes, and explained that since the original loop trail was too difficult to traverse, it had been changed to an out an back path.

We left the visitor center and walked to the sign indicating this is not only the beginning of the swamp walk, but the southern most point on the Florida Trail.


I was more than a little disappointed as we began walking on a neatly mowed lawn in the front of the visitor center and then one running parallel to a small airstrip, however about a half mile into the walk everything changed. No more mowed grass, no more wide path, but instead a 24″ path lined with sawgrass and alligator flag. Then another quarter mile and we hit the swamp we’d been promised.

After traveling a few hundred feet tiptoeing along the edge of the trail to avoid the mud, we hit an area that was not only muddy but covered by about 6″ of water. If completing the triathlon was our goal, slogging through the water would be required and that’s just what we did.


Unfortunately, the trail did not take us through an area with much variety in plant life, and since we started the walk a little after 2:00, it wasn’t prime time to view animals either – a couple of butterflies, the usual mosquitoes (though only few), and finally one deer as we approached the end of the walk.

I guess the point of the swamp walk was the swamp…the water…the mud…the challenge of pushing through an unsavory ecosystem.

Paddle – check.
Walk – check.

Only the bike remains!

Tamiami Triathlon: Stage 1


The Tamiami Triathlon made this year’s 14 in 14 list and the first leg of the triathlon is complete. We arrived at the Everglades National Park visitor center in Everglades City shortly after 9:00 and by 10:15 we shoved off in a tandem kayak heading for Sandfly Island.

Paddling across Chokoloskee Bay was relatively easy since the wind was calm and the water flat and by starting at dead low tide, that meant we’d have the incoming tide assisting us on our return…good news.

John threw in a line as we approached the mangrove islands and brought in a lady fish and after about an hour of paddling, we’d reached our destination.

We took a short walk exploring the island that had once been the home of Calusa’s and then later settlers that grew tomatoes on the island. We also met a couple of men who’d camped on Sandfly the previous night in what they described as an incredible lightning storm that ripped up one of their tents. How terrifying.

Time to paddle back across the bay and this time with the tide’s assistance, it only took about 45 minutes. We reached the shore. Stage 1 complete!