Posted by: Kirsten | Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Keen Arrival Captions: What’s in a name?

Keen Arrival Captions: What’s in a Name?

“An anagram (Greek ana- = “back” or “again”, and graphein = “to write”) is the result of permuting the letters of a word or words in such a manner as to produce other words that possess linguistic meaning. The meaning of the new word so created is seen in the context of or in contrast to that of the old word so as to create humorous or interesting associations between the two. Anagrams are a type of word play.”

Using the letters in the phrase [National Park Service] I was able to come up with many descriptive passages that amazingly align with one or more National Park Service administered areas.  In fact, the phrase “Keen Arrival Captions” is also an anagram of “National Park Service”.

Are you ready?  Here are just some of the ones I’ve come up with:  {List © 2006, Jon Tyler Merryman}

  • Death Valley Nat’l Park (A Solar Park Incentive)
  • Moores Creek Nat’l Battlefield (Creek Variation Plans)
  • Cape Hattaras Nat’l Seashore (Pelican Narratives OK)
  • Trail of Tears Nat’l Historic Trail (Trail Variance Spoken)
  • Great Smoky Mountains Nat’l Park (Native Carolina Perks)
  • Kenai Fjords Nat’l Park (Native Parka Licensor)
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Nat’l Historic Site (In Parks Via Tolerance)
  • Delaware Water Gap Nat’l Recreation Area (Active in Personal Ark)
  • Glacier Nat’l Park (Rival Peaks Container)
  • Aztec Ruins Nat’l Monument (Kiva Planter Scenario)
  • Wrangell-St. Elias Nat’l Park & Preserve (Inter-Alaska Province)
  • Channel Islands Nat’l Park (Proven Catalina Skier)
  • Acadia Nat’l Park (Airier Plankton Caves)
  • Bering Land Bridge Nat’l Preserve (Travels on Ice in a Park)
  • Boston Nat’l Historical Park (Evil Tea Scorn in a Park)
  • Virgin Islands Nat’l Park (Seek Tropical Nirvana)

And there are a LOT more!  Stay tuned for future installments adding to this list.  Are there any YOU can come up with?  Or as an alternative, take a park’s name and scramble the letters to create your own anagrams.  Example: “Pinnacles” = “Nice Plans”…!

Parke Diem!
— Jon

Posted by: Kirsten | Sunday, 30 November 2008

Tarheels held their ground at Moores Creek

Moores Creek National Battlefield is one of those out-of-the-way parks you might’ve never known existed unless you’re a true blue North Carolinian.  Chances are you won’t be driving by on the interstate and see a big brown sign that says Moores Creek NB — exit here.  No, you need to plan your route carefully to get anywhere near this NPS unit.  For us, we were headed home to Maryland from five days in coastal South Carolina.  The fastest way home was up U.S. 17, then to I-40 west, then I-95 north the rest of the way home.  But a slight detour onto U.S. 421 north got us within three miles of the park, and heck, when you’re that close, you just gotta stop, right?

I knew the park was small and visitation was sure to be light.  After all, it was also the day after Thanksgiving and most people on the roads were driving hundreds of miles as fast as possible to get home. We got to the parking lot and except for two vehicles driven by NPS employees, it was deserted. We walked into the visitor center to view the park orientation video, and the ranger on duty actually seemed relieved to see us.  Must’ve been a slow day so far. We watched the very well-made film (better than many other battlefield parks with more nationally well-known events), viewed the well-designed exhibits, then headed out to the loop trail to see the field of battle.

The walkway started out as a very springy, rubberized trackway that you might have seen on a modern playground.  Walking on this surface actually felt GOOD as we strolled through the longleaf pine forest.  After a while the walkway reverted to hard-as-rock asphalt and finally boardwalk once we got to the swampy/creeky area.  The boardwalk crosses the creek away from but within sight of the bridge, and gives you good insight into the swampiness all around that would necessitate using the only bridge for safe crossing.  Cypress trees dominate here, and cypress “knees” (modified roots) pop up from the muck like little pointy-hatted garden gnomes, allowing the cypress to “breathe” during higher water levels.

Once on the far side of the creek, you are walking where the British Loyalists walked, approaching the bridge in the direction of the visitor center (and in 1776, toward the Patriots’ well-entrenched forces).  The bridge was partially dismantled by the Patriots to make crossing difficult, and its condition also sealed the Loyalists’ fate as they realized they were outnumbered, outgunned, and out of options.  Charging into the fray with nothing but pikes and broadswords wasn’t the smartest of ideas either!

Today the bridge is in fine shape, although it’s had a tumultuous history, with neglect, bad choice of materials/design, and bad weather contributing to a succession of new and destroyed bridges over the years.  As you cross southward you see the 1930s version of what the earthworks might have looked like — the actual location of the originals is unknown — at least for now. 

I won’t tell you every detail of how the battle unfolded, but I will say that I arrived not expecting much, and left very satisfied that our entire family left a lot smarter and with a much better appreciation of what transpired south of the Mason-Dixon line during the Revolutionary War.  We even learned where the Tarheels got their nickname!  And although these Patriot soldiers weren’t called Tarheels in their day (that name didn’t “stick” to North Carolina soldiers until the Civil War era), they certainly held their ground and set the precedent for future sons of North Carolina to proudly follow.

Travel note: Despite my overly dramatic opening pessimism, anyone heading east on I-40 toward Wilmington/Cape Fear Nat’l Seashore or points north headed south toward the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area can easily make a slight detour to hit this park.  Check the park’s website for directions and maps.

Posted by: Kirsten | Thursday, 20 November 2008

Two New Exhibits at Truman NHS

From an NPS press release:

Two New Exhibits at Harry S Truman NHS Visitor Center

Harry S Truman National Historic announces two new exhibits:

  • Christmas with the Trumans
  • January 20: A History of Presidential Inaugurations

…on display at the visitor center, located at 223 N. Main Street, Independence, Missouri.

The annual Christmas display features holiday decorations and household artifacts used by the Truman family at their Independence home. From the nine foot tree in the living room to the turkey for dinner, Christmas at 219 North Delaware was much like Christmas at any home in America. Presents were wrapped, holiday cards sent and the tree was trimmed with colorful lights, glass ornaments and tinsel. Like many of us, the holidays were a chance for the Trumans to spend time with family and friends in the comfort and warmth of home. The exhibit will be on display until January 9, 2009.

January 20: A History of Presidential Inaugurations features photographs and artifacts that trace the history of presidential inauguration. For more than two hundred years America’s citizens have witnessed the inauguration ceremonies of the President and Vice President of the United States. From the first inauguration of George Washington, in New York City, in 1789, to today, as we prepare for the 56th Presidential Inauguration, the swearing-in ceremony represents both national renewal and continuity of leadership. As each president has offered a vision for America’s future, we reflect on the history of inaugurations. The exhibit will be on display through the end of January, 2009.

The mission of Harry S Truman National Historic Site is to interpret the broad life experience of President Truman encompassed in the National Park Service resources in Independence and Grandview and to preserve those resources which tell his life story. The park seeks to educate present and future generations about Truman, his role as a citizen and his influence on history. The visitor center is located at 223 N. Main St., Independence, Missouri and is open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. The visitor center will be closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day. There is no admission fee for the exhibits. For further information, please call the visitor center at 816-254-9929 or visit the park website at

Harry S Truman NHS Resources:

Posted by: Kirsten | Monday, 3 November 2008

Autumn candlelight tours at Moores Creek National Battlefield

Autumn candlelight tours at Moores Creek (North Carolina) National Battlefield

Moores Creek National Battlefield will offer free candlelight tours from 7 to 9 p.m. on November 15, 2008. This is the only time of the year when visitors can walk the battlefield by the glow of candlelight. Along the way visitors will meet people of the past and learn about events that led to the first Southern battle and patriot victory of the American Revolution. Reservations are required and may be made starting November 1. For more information, please contact Tim Boyd or James Sutton at 910/283-5591.


Posted by: Kirsten | Sunday, 2 November 2008

Grand Illumination at Shiloh National Military Park

Historic Corinth (Mississippi) Grand Illumination

On November 7 and 8, Shiloh National Military Park staff, in cooperation with the city of Corinth, Mississippi, will host a series of public activities for the Corinth Heritage Festival. A memorial grand illumination with more than 8,000 candle luminaries will memorialize the total number of men killed, wounded, or captured during the Civil War Battle of Corinth fought on October 3-4, 1862.

In addition, a heritage crafts fair, local youth art competition, symphony concert and living history presentations are scheduled at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center. For more information, please contact the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center at 662/287-9273.

Posted by: Kirsten | Saturday, 1 November 2008

Linkin’ with the past

From an NPS press release… looks like a great November homeschool project! — JTM

“Looking for Your Lincoln Hero” essay and art contest underway

Participants nationwide are invited to submit pieces that illustrate the heroic qualities of Abraham Lincoln that they most admire as well as a description of the person in their own lives who most embodies those same qualities. The Lincoln-like hero can be someone known personally, or someone admired from afar. Artwork is also accepted in the competition. The submission deadline is December 1.

The “Looking for Your Lincoln Hero” contest is sponsored by the Looking for Lincoln Heritage Coalition, management entity for the Abraham Lincoln National Heritage Area in central Illinois. Contest details and more information can be found at To learn more about Lincoln’s life journey, visit For more information, please contact Hal Smith at 217/785-5268.

Posted by: Kirsten | Friday, 31 October 2008

North York Moors National Park: The Moor the Merrier

Another business trip to England and another chance to visit a British national park on a Saturday.  Last year I spent considerable time in the Yorkshire Dales National Park visiting caves, castles, cheese factories, and cathedrals.  This year I was determined to visit one of the other nearby national parks in northern England and the two closest options were Peaks District National Park and North York Moors National Park. The weather all week had been windy and somewhat rainy, and they were calling for the chance of snow a few days after I was scheduled to fly home, so the thought of scaling some lofty peaks during a windy and rainy or potentially snowy day didn’t set too well with my goal of enjoying myself for the day, so I set my sights on North York Moors instead.

I got up early on Saturday and headed out toward the town of Pickering, which is the southern terminus of the historic railroad that runs north through the eastern portion of the park up to the town of Whitby on the North Sea coast. My thought was to hike north as far as I could and take the train south, leaving the option of hiking the second half as well if the weather and adequate daylight cooperated.

Sixty miles and numerous roundabouts later, I approached Pickering and decided to drive further into the heart of the park to start my hike.  The hamlet of Levisham and its rail station offered free (donations accepted) parking as well, and ensured I wouldn’t have to walk a considerable distance just to get into the park proper. 

By 9am I was dressed for any weather, backpack full of goodies for the day, and heading north on a road alongside the railroad tracks, armed with my GPS unit and my handy dandy laminated map of eastern North York Moors — very detailed!  My GPS, while still extremely useful for getting around, had no road information for the U.K. whatsoever, so I was basically reading off latitude and longitude coordinates and placing myself on the map that way.  It wasn’t perfect, but it worked pretty well. And on a cloudy day, having the GPS serve as a compass to ensure I was still heading north at times was very comforting.

The road climbed steadily higher while the railroad remained down in the Newtondale Valley, and eventually I made a sharp left turn into the woods, up the spine of a ridge, and finally to an overlook with views like you see above.  The woods themselves, however, were equally idyllic at times, with winding green carpets of grass inviting you to “come this way instead”.  Flowers and berries lingered for a final week or two before succumbing to the first frost, and with a very stiff wind at my back, it made for a very pleasant hike — at least this far into it.

About halfway into my hike, the woods gave way to open moorland, and soewhere beyond the moors was my destination — the town of Goathland, with train service back to Levisham when I was good and ready.  The last trains didn’t head south until well after 6 pm, so I had plenty of time, the wind at my back, and oh crap, what happened to my GPS?

It had just started to rain and with a steady 25-30 mph wind with gusts approaching 50, it wasn’t really the best time to realize you’ve lost your GPS somewhere in the past mile or two. Now I was walking back into the wind and rain trying to remember every step I took over the past 30 minutes or so.  Half a mile later I found it in the grass between a gravel road and the woods — thankfully I was using it inside a plastic bag to keep the rain off of it, and the bag stood out as it laid there on the roadside. Retracing my steps I finally made it back to the place I realized the GPS was missing, and continued northward.  At least by now the rain had stopped coming down again.

My first view of the moors was rather disconcerting.  They seemed to go on forever, and although you could see a very long way since there were no trees on the moor, the town was still nowhere in sight.  Halfway across the moor, following a muddy, narrow, rutted path through the heather, I stopped at a rockpile, which was a welcome sign on an otherwise homogenous landscape. Two or three times I spotted another hiker or a couple following the paths up ahead of me, and every time the people seemed to vanish into thin air.  For landscape with literally no place to hide, I couldn’t help thinking of the movie An American Werewolf in London where they were told to “beware the moors”.  It was a tad creepy.

Also as I hiked, it seemed I could always see the top of the hill ahead of me, and when I got there, more uphill remained.  It’s a very strange landscape, and I suppose having very few reference points lends itself to illusions and misjudging of distances. The moorland is a manmade environment designed to support the grouse population. Lands managers burn areas from time to time so there’s high heather and low heather, some for food, some for nesting. In the winter, the sheep are allowed to roam around the moors, knocking snow off the heather so the birds (not only grouse, but curlews, plovers, lapwings, and merlins too) can get to their food source.

Finally, I made it to the edge of the Goathland moor and spotted the outskirts of Goathland up ahead.  Sheep were everywhere, both on the moorland and within the town itself, wandering pretty much anywhere they wanted. I still had at least a mile to go to reach the train station, which as it turns out, isn’t just any train station.  If you don’t recognize it from this first photo, see if the next photo helps jog your memory.

That’s right — it’s the Hogwarts Express with service to Hogsmeade Station via Track Nine and three-quarters — the actual train station and locomotives used while filming scenes from Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s (Philosopher’s) Stone.  Funny thing is, I had no idea this little gem was here when I started my hike in the morning, and what a pleasant surprise it was, and a great way to end my day.  If I was to return with the kids, this journey would make a great two-day hike, stopping once to overnight, and dividing the trip roughly into a forest day and a moor day, making more frequent stops to check out the birds, flowers, and ferns. The trains only run for one more weekend this year, but 2009 is just right around the railroad bend.

Posted by: Kirsten | Monday, 27 October 2008

Harry Potter National Park?

So I had this business trip to England over the past 9-10 days, and had planned on a cycling adventure through Peak District National Park last Saturday.  However, the weather was rather windy and rainy all week, so rather than get blown off the road into the peat bogs, I decided to do a hike instead, and at a different park — North York Moors National Park.

North York Moors has an historic steam train ride that goes through the eastern portion of the park, running roughly north and south… how convenient!  So my master plan was to hike north as far as I could and take the train back.

To be continued AFTER I recover from jet lag…

Posted by: Kirsten | Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Smokejumpers, Groundpounders, and Hotshots: Tales from Wildland Fires

From an NPS news release:

Department of the Interior’s Museum in Washington, DC hosts presentation on Wildland Fire featuring first-person accounts

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Department of the Interior will host a multimedia presentation on wildland fire prevention and containment, featuring fire-proofing tips for homeowners and first-hand experiences of Interior firefighters, on Saturday, October 18, 2008, from 2:00 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. in the Yates Auditorium of the Main Interior Building. The public is invited to attend this free family event, entitled “Smokejumpers, Groundpounders and Shots – Tales from Wildland Fire” at 1849 C Street NW, Washington, DC 20240.

Handling a wildland fire on public lands takes all kinds of people and a concerted effort across governmental agencies. Fire professionals from the sky and on foot combat these blazes and before they go home, many of them “mop up” the containment area, making sure there are no hotspots.

Come hear first-hand experiences from the people on the ground and in the air! This presentation is of interest to a wide variety of people. Are you concerned about wildland fire near your home? If there’s a wildfire on a mountain or grassland near your community, who responds? Did you ever wonder what it is like to leap from an airplane into the face of flames? Does the 20th anniversary of the Fires of Yellowstone make you curious about wildfire then and now? Come to the Department of the Interior auditorium on Saturday, October 18, for answers and stories.

Please join us for this intriguing family event – parents don’t forget your cameras! For more information call 202-208-4743 or visit the website at

Cool Resource:

Posted by: Kirsten | Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Japanese Tea Gardens of Golden Gate Park

Our family visited the Japanese Tea Gardens in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park a couple of weeks ago.  Well, actually… everyone in the family but myself (and the dog) visited the gardens.  And oh, I’m not bitter, in case you were wondering. Really, I’m not.  Really.

Originally created as part of the 1894 Worlds Fair, the gardens have gone through several transformations over the years, some well planned and well-intended, and other times questionable or arguably destructive.  One thing hasn’t changed much however, and that’s the sense of peace and tranquility one feels in this place.

“How would you know, you haven’t been there!” you might be asking yourself right about now.  My wife and her mother reportedly visited the gardens many times during my wife’s younger days growing up in the Bay area, and when researching it on the internet this evening, I saw countless testimonials of the power and majesty this place possesses.  Some went so far as to say that it has such a quieting effect on people that all you really hear when you’re visiting is the click of cameras. Still others swear that even though thousands upon thousands visit the gardens every year, you can always seem to find a place of your own without disturbances.

With the countless cultural, historical, and recreational attractions in Golden Gate Park, you can’t possibly be disappointed if you decide to visit.  And what better way to experience some Japanese culture without coughing up the money for tickets to Japan? The admission price is very reasonable considering the sheer number of plants that must be tended to on a regular basis — surely a labor of love.


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