Category Archives: National Parks

2017 trip – day 21 – honoring the dead

A few more miles, another day, another state (Ohio – 11), another national park (Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis – 9), and several more license plate jurisdictions spotted (Kentucky, Arkansas, Virginia, West Virginia, Louisiana, New Jersey, and South Carolina – 48 so far).

First off for the day we found a tiny cemetery in the middle of the farmlands east of Auburn, Indiana, Cosper cemetery.  A year or so ago I would not have thought to stop here.  However, in the past year, I had a break through on one brick wall in my family history research.  I have known for about 10 years, not too long after I discovered who my father was, that one of my great grandmothers was Catherine Francis Miller.  And I had some hints as to her parents, John Miller and Barbara Wappes.  But that was the end of my information.  Then through some connections through my online family trees I made contact with a cousin and found enough information to go back a bit more.  Catherine’s father was Johnathon G Miller, and he was born in 1832 in Pennsylvania and died in 1922 in Idaho.  Also, his parents were Eli Miller and Catharine Eva Whisler.  They were both born in Pennsylvania, but later moved to Indiana and lived, died, and were buried, in De Kalb county Indiana.  Today we found their gravesite and were able to stand in fields where they had lived.

As always with family history research, breaking through one brick wall always results in 2 or more new ones.  Eli is my new brick wall and I need to find his ancestry so I can find where in Europe his family came from.  For Catharine, I have 2 more generations of family in my tree and will need a future trip to Pennsylvania to have the experience of walking in the shadow of my ancestors in that place, and maybe to find information to break through another brick wall.

From Cosper we moved east and north toward Cleveland. But first a stop at a relatively unknown national park, Fallen Timbers Battlefield and Fort Miamis.   A simple site with several plaques explaining the event to which the park is dedicated.  One monument with 4 sides.  Here is what each side of the monument says it is dedicated to:




side 1:  In memory of the white settlers massacured1783-1794.

side 2 : To Chief Little Turtle and his brave Indian Warriors.

side 3: Dedicated to the Greenville Treaty, written in 1795 after the 1794 battle of Fallen Timbers, and which led to the opening of present day Ohio to white settlers.

side 4: To the pioneers of Ohio and the Great Northwest.

Without knowing much else about the events that took place here just think about the dedications on the 4 sides of that monument.  Except for failing to mention that there had also been some Indian civilians massacred a bit earlier in the history of the area, this monument covers quite a bit: both sides in a conflict, the treaty which ended the conflict, and the expansion of our country as a result of that treaty.

It got me thinking about all of the national parks we have visited and the various reasons they have been protected as national treasures.  Some for nature, some for beauty, some because of connection to a person central to our nation’s history, some celebrate an important period of time for our nation, some to celebrate a national achievement, and some to mark a place of national shame it is important we do not forget.  Think of the Rosie the Riveter park for celebration and the Japanese internment for shame.  Here at Fallen Timbers is one monument covering at least 3 of those reasons in one place.  Without the preservation of this event with at least some honesty about why it is being preserved important parts of our history and lessons we should learn and relearn would be lost.

One final thought the place evoked is that I wondered what monuments might be preserved in the future about events taking place in our day.  Will they be monuments to events of which we are proud or events of which we are ashamed and hope never to allow to happen again.

2017 trip – day 20 – back on the road

Felt like a long day today.   After all the activities of the last few days we got off to a slow start.  Today was sort of the start of part 4 of our trip.  Part 1 was Glacier National Park.  Part 2 was long haul driving to see parks across the North and spread out around Lake Superior.  Part 3 has been the people part of the trip.  Now Part 4 is going to be closer to our usual sightseeing type of traveling.  We will be visiting parts of the country we have either never seen or only quickly driven through, including Indiana, Ohio, and Kentucky, with many places to see related to our country’s history.

One more park today: Indiana Dunes, number 8 for the trip.  This is an area where the cooperative work of local people plus state and county govenment has resulted in the preservation of and public access to over 15 miles of shoreline at the bottom of Lake Michigan.  I couldn’t help thinking that a few projects along this line to make more ocean and lake shoreline available to the public back in our city of Seattle would be a good thing.

We saw one new license plate, Indiana, bringing the count to 41.  Indiana brings us to 10 states visited so far. We also passed the 4,000 mile mark and our little Prius is holding up well.

As a genealogist I had a desire to see the Allen County Library in Fort Wayne Indiana.  It is one of the top rated public libraries in the country, particularly related to researching family history,  I did get to see the library, but between traffic out of Chicago, more time than expected at the Indiana Dunes, a longer time for lunch than usual, and a error on my part in failing to realize we were passing into the Eastern Time Zone, we did not really have time for me to do any research.  Nothing particular I was going to look for so nothing lost.  Anyway, family cemeteries national parks and presidential sites await us tomorrow.


2017 trip – catching up to day 16

I haven’t been blogging every day so far, but will keep up better now.  The first part of the trip has involved some long driving days to get across some of the vast stretches in the middle and north of our country.  We are now done with with far north and heading into the central states.  More places and activities planned with less distance between.

Since my last blog we have visited 5 national parks, Voyageurs (those who voyaged across the north country by land and water to carry on the trade between people throughout the northern part of our country and Canada), Grand Portage (also related to trade, this was the path between the cargo carriers on the Great Lakes and the inland water ways in Canada), Apostle Islands (a beautiful set of islands in Lake Superior), Isle Royale (an uniquie island preserve dedicated to preservation and to providing a place for what they call silent sports like biking, canoeing, kayaking, and hiking), and Keneewaw (dedicated to the history of copper mining in the Keneewaw Pennisula in the upper part of Michigan – the U.P.)  Lots of amazing views, history, nature, things to think about.  That’s 7 parks so far.

For the numbers:  We saw 2 more state license plates, Iowa and Missouri.  Also saw a “US Government” plate which does not designate any particular state.  That is 39 jurisdictions so fare.  For our trip we on on day 16, passed the 3500 mile mark today, and are gettingg 49.6 mpg with the Prius. So far we have been in 9 different states.  We have seen many beautiful bodies of water from the Mississippi to Lake Superior, to Lake Winnebago and many more but have not really been counting.

Today we drove through some areas of Wisconsin where our ancestors lived in the 1800’s. We visited 3 cemeteries and found grave stones for 4 of my ancestors and 2 of Peg’s.  My 3rd great grandfather, Stephan Goeser, was part of 60 families that moved from the Rhineland in Germany to Johnsburg, Wisconsin in 1845.  He was the first person buried in the cemetery for John the Baptist Church, before the original church building was even completed.  One of his sons, Joseph Goeser, my 2nd great grandfather moved from Johnsburg to Westphalia, Iowa in the 1870’s and 3 more generations of my family were born and raised there.  Another of Stephan’s sons, Chrisant, after traveling from Germany to Wisconsin, made an even longer journey.  In 1849 Chris heard about the finding of gold in California.  He and another brother decided to try their luck.  To get from Wisconsin to California in 1850 they traveled east on the Great Lakes, then took and ocean vessel around the cape of South America and up to California.  The unconfirmed family story is that he returned with a stash of gold which he divided among his children.  Three of his daughters had become nuns and taken a vow of poverty, so their share was given to their order, and may have been used to create a vessel for use at Mass.  The convent they belonged to was the order of the Franciscan Sisters of Perpetual Adoration, whose convent we visitited yesterday in La Crosse.

We have a good friend there, sister JK, who we met years ago when teaching in a small school in Iowa.  In talking with her, she told us she had checked with their archivist and the story about the gold could not be confirmed, though it was possible.  On further conversation, we discovered that the convent where our friend first connected with the Franciscan Sisters was in Carroll, Iowa.  This is the same convent where Peg’s grandmother had briefly studied to become a nun, and was on staff as a nurse in 1920.  Another sister in the Franciscan order, sister FF,  was a professor who taught several classes in Seattle which Peg took when studing for her Masters of Divinity.  Yet, another sister in the order, sister JB, who we had also met when teaching years ago, is now working in Iowa in the same area where my mother was born and raised.  Sister JB is originally from that area, Panama, Iowa.  She is also a distant cousin of mine.  Further, when my grandmother worked as a midwife around Panama in the decades prior to the 40’s, sister JB was one of hundreds of babies whom my grandmother helped deliver.  Of course she wasn’t a sister at that time. Recently sister JB took a group of local women on a immersion experience to Cental America where she had worked when she was young.  One of the women who went along was a cousin of mine is married to a descendant of the Stephan Goeser who’s grave we saw today.

As you can tell, I just love learning about family history and especially about the amazing interconnections we all have.  In the philosphy tapes we are listening to while traveling, a question was raised regarding who we are as humans.  The question is about Nature vs Nurture.  Which do you think controls who you are today?

I believe it is some of each.  Finding out about family history helps me understand both. Our parents and ancestors, through their DNA give us what amounts to our core nature in the form of our physical characteristics and some of our abilities.  However, in raising us they also are a major part of the nuturing that helps form who we are until we become mature enough to take responsibility for ourselves.

Anyway, enough for today.  Tomorrow, is an exciting day as I get to meet a niece and nephew and several grand nieces and nephews for the first time.

2017 trip – Sep 10 – Day 6 – or Day 1

Today felt like the first real day of vacation since we left. The sky was clear for the first time since leaving Seattle. The Sun was out and I actually needed to use my sunglasses.  The West side of Glacier is still essentially shut down because of fires but some southerly winds overnight pushed most of the smoke and haze north of our place. We decided to take a crack at driving around the southern perimeter of the park and visit the East side. Turned into a longer day than expected but it was worth while. We visited both the Two Medicines and the St Mary’s visitor centers.

They had a very nice film about the history of the park and we were finally able to see the amazingly beautiful peaks of Glacier. It is really a very captivating view as you approach from the East. We were not able to see the glaciers up close but saw a couple from a distance. We will have to come back in the near future if we want a closer look.  In 1850 there were 150 active glaciers in the region. Today there are only 25 and they are much smaller. The expectation is that the last glacier will disappear between 2020 and 2030. I would like to hear the explanation for that from those who deny global warming.

The other place I wanted to see was the Triple Divide Peak. This is a mountain that lies at the intersection of the North South US Continental divide through the Rockies and what is called the Northern divide.  Rainfall on the West of the continental divide eventually flows to the Pacific Ocean. On the East it flows to the Missouri, the Mississippi, the Gulf, and the Atlantic Ocean.  Rainfall to the North of the Northern divide flows to Hudson Bay and the Artic Ocean. Thus, at this peak, rainfall can flow to any of three different oceans just by the fact of which side of the line it falls on. This is the only triple divide with water flowing to three different oceans in the world. Unfortunately the peak is nowhere near the tallest in the park and other peaks block a view of it unless you do some back country hiking for at least 6 to 7 miles. We were not prepared to do that and could not have if we wanted to because hiking permits are very limited due to fires in the park right now. But I got close.

We did see a bit of nature though. Lot’s of flowers, beautiful clear lakes, many squirrels, and, with a short hike, a couple of beaver dams and lodges. But the best sight of the day was along a roadside seeing a very large herd of Bison on the move. I have seen Bison before but never even close to this many.

For the numbers, not much to report. Our license plate count is up to 35, 29 states and 6 Canadian Provinces. We put on about 200 miles but are back at our same place for one more day before heading East.  Our little Prius is getting about 49 miles per gallon.  We will be heading East in a day and then we will start adding on the miles, the states and the parks.

2017 trip – Day 2 – to Glacier National Park – sort of

About 280 miles today.  2 new states, Idaho and Montana. Saw license plates from 4 more states and another Canadian province. That makes a total of 22 & 5. The western states we have not seen are New Mexico, North Dakota, Kansas & Missouri. Highest elevation was at Lookout Pass at 4725 feet. A lot going on at that point. Continental Divide, state line between Idaho and Montana, and change of time zones from Pacific to Mountain.

Second day of our trip was pretty uneventful. The fires throughout the northwest continue to fill the air with a thick haze. Visibility varies between about a quarter of a mile and a mile. Even with the low visibility you can still see the some of the wonderful variety of landscapes around our country. The rocky mountain slopes in Washington look different than those in Idaho and different from those in Montana. Even the round hay bales the making of which paid for part of my college education back in Iowa, look different in Montana where they like to stack them to look like the mountains surrounding the fields, somewhere beyond the smoky haze.

In traveling you also adjust to the subtle cultural differences. In Seattle the citywide speed limit has been reduced to a maximum of 30 mph even on major arterials. So getting out on the freeway it takes awhile to adjust to speeds of 55 then 65 then 70 mph across the state. Then you get to Montana.  The freeway speed limit is posted as being 75 mph. But you get the feeling that is merely a suggestion – a suggestion quite a few people pay little attention to. Even after getting off the freeway, on an ordinary back country 2 lane paved highway the posted limit is 70 mph. I think many locals think of that as a minimum rather than a maximum. If I set the cruise control at 67 or 68 and one of the few other cars on the road came up behind me they could not wait for a chance to get around the “slow vehicle” ahead of them. Just adjusting to the local culture.

Our plans for a tour bus trip to the Crown of the Continent in Glacier Park are postponed from Thursday to Saturday.  We are hoping for some rain and wind on Friday to clear out some of the haze and make the journey through the mountains more enjoyable.

2017 trip – Day 1 – to Spokane

Day one of our trip was relatively uneventful.  Many fires burning around the Northwest so the skies were hazy and the air was full of ash and the smell of burnt wood.   Other than that our trip is off to a good start.  300 miles today.  Only one state, Washington, though we did make it almost to the Idaho border.  Highest elevation was as we crossed Snoqualmie Pass at 3022 feet.   Though we were only in one state, we did play our traditional license plate game and already spotted vehicles from 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces.  One oddity for the day is passing the town of George, Washington.

Tomorrow we make it to near Glacier National Park.  With fires in and around the park we are not sure what our activities will be when we get there.  But figuring it out as you go is part of the adventure of traveling.

Today I was struck by one overriding thought – Isn’t is amazing how interconnected we all are?  In these times of extreme division, I find the fact of our connectedness much more powerful than our differences.  Our world seems to be focused on how people differ from each other by religion or ethnicity.  Our country is torn by differences with so many people much more sure of what they are not than of what they are.  Problems are blamed on Republicans, or Democrats, on Conservatives or Liberals, on Progressives or Tea Party members, on the Black Lives matters folks or on the cops, on white nationalists or on the antifas.  The one thing that is most common is that whoever is doing the blaming does not identify themselves as part of the group at fault.  Within my own family, factions have developed with no communcation allowed between those groups.

Today, with people and trucks from 4 corners of our country, with farm products and merchandize, with carnival rides on the move and with people of all kinds at rest stops and restaurants, what I saw was what we had in common and how we are all interconnected.  None of us, as individuals or as a single group, can survive alone in this modern world of ours and I hope more of us can see this and learn to work together to make our world a better place.

The other reason I was thinking in this direction is that on this trip we will be visiting several places of amazing connectedness.  Peg and I met at Iowa State University almost 43 years ago.  We knew from the beginning that we had some Iowa connections in our background. However, we did not think we had other connections further back in our family history.  I thought of myself as a 3rd generation descendent of German farmers and she was was from an Army family with recent ancestry in France and other parts of Germany.

Since then we have learned that her grandfather was born in a French village only 30 miles from where my great grandfather was born.  On this trip we will be visiting places in Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana where various members of our ancestral families lived only miles from each other.  Tomorrow we will travel through Idaho.  Though not stopping on this trip, just south of us are places where both my adoptive grandfather and my biological great grandfather lived for part of their lives.

Just some thoughts about our connectedness and what we have in common.   I hope each of you can take a minute and identify some connection you have to someone who on the surface seems different from yourself.


Ready for the 2017 National Parks road trip – start -2

Seems like we are almost ready to hit the road for out next big National Parks and other adventures road trip.  The plan is to travel over 8000 miles in about 50 days; to drive through parts of 20 states; to visit 32 new national park sites, 20 other national park subunits or revisits, 9 presidential home or sites, a dozen other museums, sites for famous folks, or oddities along the way.  In addition, we will visit various parts of the country where our ancestors lived and 10 cemeteries where about 25 of our ancestors are buried.  Finally, but not least, we will make about a dozen visits with various individuals or groups of people as we travel, including former classmates, friends and family.  Below are 3 maps which show the overview of where we will be heading.  Feel free to follow along.

I will try to blog most days and let you know what we have found. In addition, if you know me, you know I love to play with numbers.  So I will be keeping track of, and reporting on, almost everything that can be quantified: miles traveled, hours in the car (expecting over 200), parks and sites visited, a countdown to spotting at least one license plate from all 50 states, and maybe some elevation and temperature extremes as we find them.  The trip starts in 2 days on Tuesday the 5th.

One request we have:  For the kids, holding down the fort at the Borkalow, while we are  on the road, for friends following us and waiting for our return, and for friends following us who we are expecting to meet on the trip.  Please keep in touch while we travel by either commenting on these posts or by sending an email or a text.  We like to feel like we are staying connected while on the road.




Day 27 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip – July 12

By the numbers:

  • One – One phone call from home – had to cut yesterday’s blog short.  A call from home put a temporary stop to our trip, and maybe a bigger stop.  One of our sons is in the hospital.  We spend last night and most of today trying to get a handle on the situation.  Options including abandoning our car here in Georgia and flying home.  However, after many hours of conversation with all family members. we have decided to continue our trip and monitor the situation as we go.  For now we can help more by being available to talk and explore options than if we were less available while flying back home.  If we dropped everything and started to drive back it would be 5 or 6 days to get back to the West Coast.  So, for today at least we have kept traveling, checking in both along the way and at every stop.  That may change tomorrow.
  • 230 miles. From Jacksonville, Florida to Savannah, Georgia – 5392 miles for the trip.
  • One new license plate spotted, Quebec.  In addition to 48 states and D.C. we now have seen 4 Canadian provinces.
  • 3 National Parks today. – Cumberland Island National Seashore, Fort Frederica National Monument,  Fort Pulaski National Monument.  37 Parks and designated areas for the trip.
  • 98 degrees.

The parks the last two days have been of two types.  One is of the National Preserve nature.  When you see these areas in there natural state, with all of the wonderous elements of creation living and thriving within their boundaries is makes me thankful, we live in a country which values our need to care for the planet sufficiently to protect these places.  It also makes one wonder at what it must have looked like along the whole East Coast before so much of it was developed to fit the needs of just one of God’s creatures – humans.

The other type is historical in nature.  This is the part of the country which was in active dispute during the height of the colonial powers trying to divide up the known world.  Fort Frederica was the southernmost fort of the English defending their claim to North America from the North and as far South as they could stretch.  Castillo De San Marcos was the northernmost fort of the Spanish trying to extend their claims as far north as possible.  Fort Matanzas was basically a fortified watch tower to protect the backwater approach to Castillo.  In between those two for a very brief time the French had Fort Caroline, where they had designs on wedging their way into the Americas between the other two powers.  That did not last long.

One thought for me was a reminder of how Florida fits into our early national history.  We all know that Florida was not one of the original colonies.  However, I did not have it clearly in my head how much later it was before Florida became a State. Before reading ahead take a guess as to which number of state Florida was when it entered the Union.

Florida was still a Spanish Colony until 1821.  All of the other Deep South states had entered the Union by 1819.  Arkansas and Michigan entered in 1836 and 1837.  Florida did not become a state until 1845, only 15 years before the Civil War, and was the 27th state.

One other thought for the day, as I find myself valuing family relationships to a great degree.  Part of a poem I heard from Garrison Keillor on the Writer’s Almanac, from “Reading Late” by Jesse Graves.

This book we write together keeps me turning pages deep into the night, re-reading chapters . . .

as the main characters grow steadily beyond our grasp, suspended from the hidden strings of this love story [and] develops with so much indirection and suspense, I can’t stand to put it down.

Tomorrow, we will stay in the Savannah area while we figure out the situation back home.

Day 26 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip – July 11

By the numbers:

That’s all for now.  Maybe an update later.

Days 23, 24 & 25 – 2015 Transcontinental Trip – July 8 to 10

By the numbers:

  • 237 miles since the last update.  From Ocala to Tampa, Florida, around Tampa, and then to the Eastern seaboard and Palm Coast Florida tonight– 4982 miles for the trip.
  • One new license plate spotted while in Tampa Bay – CT – only three states left to find.
  • 1 National Park today – Canaveral National Seashore.  29 National Parks for the trip to this point. Several more tomorrow.
  • 98 degrees with a “real feel” of 105 at the peak of the day.
  • 2253 miles –  the approximate straight line distance from Seattle to our furthest point from there today at Canaveral Seashore.   Less than half the driving distance.

Took a few days to recuperate in Tampa while Peg spent time with a friend who works there.  Car service after 5000 miles on the trip and 90,000 for the car revealed no concerns.

Used the time to do anything other than drive.  Read some, took a nap, and caught up on some ancestry research.  I don’t have any really ancestry from the southern part of the country so nothing particular to explore here regarding that.  Just generally keeping up with automated hints from and corresponding with various people with connected family histories.  Got one new contact from someone who found me in a DNA research site to which I belong.  The DNA indicates we are likely 5th cousins but we have to exchange some info on our family research to try to find which branch of the family that connection might be from.  Even with as much research as I have done that type of connecting is not easy.  Not long ago I got a similar request from a person born in Vietnam, whose father was an American soldier there during the Vietnam war.  He does not know his father’s name but is searching.  DNA indicated he and I are likely 5th or 6th cousins.  I don’t have information that far out on most of my family tree, and even where I do, I rarely have info on military service.  He will need matches with more people who will then have to cross check their trees to find a common line.

Anyway, a bit of a sidetrack from our trip, but that is what I was doing the past few days.

Today, we drove to Canaveral Seashore and then up to Palm Coast, Florida.  Always amazing how different each ocean, or gulf or large lake can look.  The Atlantic Seashore is so much flatter than anything on the West Coast, the water is much warmer, and the ocean looks more green than does the blue Pacific.  2015-07-10 20.18.16-1Take that last comment with a grain of salt from a partially color-blind observer.  However, my non-color blind, photographer wife agrees with this observation and took this lovely picture:

I wish we could have seen some manatees at Canaveral today but apparently the hot weather this summer has made spotting them much less likely.  As with many other stops on this trip we will have to return during cooler weather.

Tomorrow, the plan is for only a short drive, but one filled with several National Park options, on our way up the coast to Jacksonville at the northern shore of Florida.  See this map as one of the more interesting tools I have used in planning our trip and trying to see as many parks as possible.  After it opens, zoom in on the Florida coast and see how many parks there are between Canaveral and Savannah, Georgia.