Marilyn Ostermiller Presents: Under the Radar Low Profile National Parks, Part 2

This is the second of a two-part series focused on 10 of America’s lesser known national parks. The first part was posted June 26.

Outdoor activities ranging from sedate to high adrenalin can be found at America’s National Parks.

Want to go canyoneering? Zion National Park has become one of the premier places in the country to participate in this exciting activity that combines route finding, rappelling, problem solving, swimming, and hiking.

Want to meet a dog sled team?  Alaska’s Denali National Park’s kennels are open year-round, hosting the only sled dogs in the country tasked with helping to protect and patrol a national park.

Looking for a “road less traveled” experience? The following five National Park are relatively undiscovered compared to the ones that attract millions of visitors annually.

American Alps

North Cascades National Park, located about three hours drive from Seattle, offers serious mountaineering. Beat generation author Jack Kerouac captured his impression of the park in the 1958 novel, “The Dharma Bums,” where he wrote, “I went out in my alpine yard and there it was … hundred of miles of pure snow-covered rocks and virgin lakes and high timber.”

The park also offers accessible trails and short, scenic strolls, and steep, grueling hikes. Mammals native to the park include mountain goats and wolverines.

Annual visitors: 20,677

Glaciers Abound

North Cascades National Park, Washington encompasses more than 300 mountain glaciers,  127 alpine lakes and cascading waterfalls. The Ross Lake National Recreation Area is a popular starting point for the 400 miles of trails that meander through the valleys and cut through the mountains with switchbacks and rocky terrain.

Annual visitors: 20,677

More Than Meets the Eye

Nevada’s Great Basin National Park boasts dense forests filled with 5,000-year-old bristlecone pines. Visitors who venture underground at Lehman Caves will find an ornate marble cave filled with stalactites, stalagmites and more than 300 rare shield formations The park’s Great Basin is one of the darker spots in the country at night, making it a place to marvel at the Milky Way and constellations, away from the light pollution encountered by city-dwellers.

Annual visitors: 116,123

Photo Credit: National Parks Service

At Great Basin National Park in Nevada, rimstone dams cover the cave floor in the Cypress Swamp.

 

 

Discovered by Fur Trappers and Gold Miners

Minnesota’s Voyageurs National Park comprises 30 lakes and 900 islands that once were traversed by Native Americans, European explorers, fur trappers and gold miners who navigated the U.S.-Canada border in birch-bark canoes. Much of the park can be reached only by water. The Kettle Falls Hotel, built by a timber baron in 1910, is the only lodging within the park.

 Annual visitors: 238,313

Keep an Eye Out for Gators

Congaree National Park is in South Carolina, near Charleston and Colombia. Canoeing or kayaking Cedar Creek takes visitors past some of the tallest trees in eastern North America. Along the way, they are likely to see river otters, deer, turtles, wading birds and even an occasional alligator

Annual visitors: 87,513

Before you go to any of the 59 national parks, visit nps.gov to check for any current warnings about conditions at the park, such as trail closings.

If you are planning to travel with children, the following books, suggested for 8 to 12 year olds, may be of interest:

  • National Geographic Kids National Parks Guide USA Centennial Edition: The Most Amazing Sights, Scenes, and Cool Activities from Coast to Coast!
  • National Geographic Kids Ultimate U.S. Road Trip Atlas: Maps, Games, Activities, and More for Hours of Backseat Fun Paperback.

 

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

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How to “BEE” Kind to Bees.

For thousands of years, honeybees have transformed flower nectar into that wonderful sweetness called honey.  Not only is honey a delicious treat in recipes or to sweeten a cup of tea, it has many medicinal properties as well.  Due to its sterile qualities, doctors used it as wound dressings during the civil war.

Honeybees are important in another crucial way – as pollinators of our food supply.  The USDA estimates that “about one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honeybee pollination”.  Some crops, such as almonds, rely completely upon honeybees for propagation.

So what, you might ask?  Honeybee populations are dwindling worldwide from a combination of factors that contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder. This happens when worker bees leave behind a colony with only a queen and a few immature bees, resulting in death of the colony. Currently the main factors are thought to be: viruses, parasites, management stressors, migratory stress and pesticides.  To view a film on CCD: http://www.vanishingbees.com

Honeybees are one of many indicators of a healthy environment.  A disturbance in their life cycle, could be a symptom of larger issues.           

HOW CAN WE HELP?

  1. Buy organic to help reduce pesticide use.  Refrain from use of pesticides in your own yard and garden.
  2. Plant pollinator-friendly plants such as bee balm and red clover.
  3. Buy local and single producer honey to support small scale bee keepers in your own community.
  4. Enjoy the wonderful taste of local honey in your own recipes.

BEE KIND TO BEES…Our Food Supply Depends on it!

 

Under the Radar: Low Profile National Parks Part 1, by Marilyn Ostermiller

More Americans than ever plan to vacation with their families this summer, according to a recent AAA survey. Many of them are going to America’s national parks. The Great Smoky Mountains expect about 10 million visitors this year, compared to five million each at the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

Looking for a “road less traveled” experience? Five low profile national parks, based on the number of annual visitors, are listed below.

Ultimate Wilderness

 Alaska’s Gates of the Arctic National Park and Preserve was created to preserve and protect 8.4 million acres of the diverse Arctic ecosystems of Alaska’s Brooks Range. It serves as the headwaters for six wilderness rivers. There are no facilities, roads or trails. Visitors should come equipped to backpack, hike, camp and cruise the rivers. Transportation in and out of the park, usually by plane, must be pre-arranged.

Annual visitors: 10,047

Photo Credit: National Parks Service:  A Student Conservation Association volunteer stands on the Continental Divide in the Brooks Mountain Range, which divides the continent north and south.

Sunken Ships: Isle Royale National Park is a remote island in Lake Superior near Michigan’s border with Canada. Cars aren’t allowed in this wilderness of forests, lakes and waterways where moose and wolves roam. There are dive sites where visitors plunge into the lake to explore several shipwrecks. Ferry is the only way to get there and camping reservations are required for visitors who want to spend the night.

Annual visitors: 18,684

Water, Water Everywhere, But Not a Drop to Drink:  Dry Tortugas National Park is a cluster of seven islands 70 miles west of Key West, Florida. The “Dry” in its name came from the Spanish explorers who determined the sea water surrounding the islands was not fit to drink. “Tortugas” is the Spanish word for the sea turtles that build their nests in the protected sandy shores.  The waters around the islands particularly appeal to snorkelers because their coral reefs teem with interesting marine life.

Annual visitors: 70,862

South of the Equator:  National Park of American Samoa, Territory of American Samoa, is 2,600 miles southwest of Hawaii. It is America’s only national park south of the equator. Rain forests and extensive coral reefs are its main draw. Visitors should pack snorkel or diving gear; air tanks can be rented. The only land mammals are three types of bats, among them the fruit bats with three-foot  wingspans.

Annual visitors: 13,892

Newest National Park:  Pinnacles National Park in California was designated the 59th national park in 2013. It dates back millions of years ago, when multiple volcanoes erupted, flowed, and slid to form the land encompassed by this 26,000-acre park. Rock climbers and hikers are drawn to it. Another attraction are the condors. About 30 of them are tagged, but fly freely.

Annual Visitors: 206,533

A sequel to this blog post, scheduled for July 10, will acquaint readers with five more of the less-traveled parks around the country. The U.S. National Parks Service provides extensive information about the 59 parks it operates  including trip planning information. https:www.nps.gov

Marilyn Ostermiller is a long-time business journalist who now writes for children. You can follow her on Twitter @Marilyn_Suzanne.

 

 

 

Like Bugs? There’s a Museum For That!

As much as we adults lament the “peskiness” of insects, they are endlessly fascinating creatures and worthy of respect.  Without insects, our food supply would be in grave danger. These mysterious creatures are fascinating to children as well.

If you and your children want to learn more about insects, check out some of these INSECT MUSEUMS dedicated to bug fans everywhere.   You can make it a stop on your summer vacation.

  1. Oregon Zoo, Portland: Has an African millipede that’s 9 inches long (HUGE for an insect).  http://www.oregonzoo.org
  2. Los Angeles National History Museum: Insect hynts, puppet walks and cooking demonstrations with bug chefs.  Try BUGABOO BROWNIES made from mealworm flour.  http://www.nhm.org
  3. Pacific Science Center, Seattle, Insect Village: Mechanical Insect displays and walking stick bugs among the highlights.  http://www.pacificsciencecenter.org
  4. Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Zoology Dept: Largest collection of Praying Mantises and Dung Beetles.  http://www.cmnh.org

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  5. Butterfly House and Insectarium,Texas Discovery Garden, Dallas: Huge variety of tropical and near-tropical butterflies.  http://www.texasdiscoverygardens.org
  6. Fossil Beds National Monumnet, CO: Largest collection of insect fossils in the world. http://www.nps.gov/flfo
  7. Museum of Life and Science, Durham, NC: Though not an insect, Orb-weaving spiders are the main attraction.  http://www.lifeandscience.org
  8. Insectropis, Toms River, NJ: Interactive exhibits and a place to donate living bugs you don’t want to keep at home.  http://www.insectropolis.com

9. Butterfly Wonderland, Scottsdale, AZ: The largest butterfly pavilion in the US.   http://www.butterflywonderland.com

10. Insectarium and Butterfly Pavilion, Philadelphia, PA: Touch, eat, and learn about our multi-legged friends.

http://www.phillybutterflypavilion.com

Why not “scratch your itch” and learn more about insects.

 

1…2…3…Butterflies!

Here’s a novel way to encourage children to practice counting and other math skills: try counting butterflies.  All across the US, volunteers are counting butterflies in the name of science. In 1975, the North American Butterfly Association (NABA) launched it’s annual butterfly count program. Volunteers from all over North America  join together on designated days to identify and count butterflies – no scientific degree needed. By using only your eyes and enthusiasm, you will contribute to scientists understanding of local butterfly populations and how they have changed over time.

For more information on where and when these counts take place check out the NABA website: http://www.naba.org

You can also learn more about butterfly counting at: http://www.monarchnet.uga.edu,  or at: http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org.

Happy Counting!

Use Native Plants For a Healthy Yard…and Planet.

Adding flowering plants to your garden supports earth-friendly pollinators such as bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.  But not just any flowering plant will do.  NATIVE PLANTS are necessary in order for insects such as butterflies to reproduce.  Without pollinating insects, our crops and food supply is at risk.

What is a native plant?  A plant that grew in the US in free colonial days.  More importantly, the plant should have grown and evolved LOCALLY.  Plants native to Maine would not be the same as those found in Kansas.  To create healthy ecosystems, our gardens and farmlands are best pollinated by creatures that depend on NATIVES for their survival.  One great example is planting milkweed for the monarch butterfly – an endangered species.  While butterfly bushes ATTRACT these insects, monarch butterflies DO NOT lay their eggs on anything except the milkweed.   

Milkweed from my garden.

For more information about native plants in your area, visit: http://www.npsnj.org

http://www.natureconservancy.org

Also check out the children’s environmental site: http://www.Parade.com/turfmutt

Follow the “right plant, right place” rule when you plant your garden.  Transitioning to Native Plants makes a positive contribution to our environment and the future health of our planet and food supply.

Save Seeds…Save Life…Spread Some Beauty

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the critical importance of SEEDS.  It’s not something we think much about, but our very lives depend on seeds.  Without them, we have no food.  And we all know how important food is.  If you hold seeds in your hand…you hold life.  Monsanto and other companies hold patents on seeds.  Think about this: THEY CAN CONTROL THE WORLD’S FOOD.  If we want to ensure biodiversity and ample food for future generations, we need to preserve seeds and all the abundant varieties of foods they represent.  How can we do it?

Saving seeds was common practice for our ancestors, to ensure that there would be food even during lean times.  As mechanization and hybridization took over farming in the 20th Century, the practice was lost….but thankfully, not forgotten.

SEED BANKS are popping up in an unusual place…your local library.  There are more than 600 seed libraries in North America.  These collections will provide a free packet of seeds, information on gardening and seed saving techniques.  SEED SAVERS is responsible for much of today’s seed library stock.  It has 25,000 varieties – many of them rare or exclusive – dating before WWII. These seeds belong in the public domain and cannot be patented. The goal is to get these seeds into as many people’s hands as possible.  Why not visit your local library and plant some seeds?

For more information on this important program visit: http://www.seedsavers.org

http://www.libraryseedbank.info

You can spread some beauty in your own backyard by making some wildflower SEED BOMBS. 

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Seed-Bomb

For more garden crafts visit:  http://www.redtedart.com/garden-crafts-challenge-get-crafty/