Jody Victor: It took 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution to produce the unique ecosystems and distinct human culture displayed by the volcanoes in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
It was over 1,600 years ago when Polynesians from the Marquesas Islands migrated to Hawaii. They came in great double-hulled canoes guided by the sun and stars, and reading the winds, currents, and the flight of seabirds.
The beautiful park you see today was created to preserve the natural setting of Kilauea and Mauna Loa and as a refuge for the islands native plants and animals.
If you plan on visiting and hiking the wonderful trails, be sure to wear light layers and hiking boots or shoes. The temperature and weather can vary from rainy and chilly to hot, dry and windy depending on the elevation and area you are visiting. Park trails range in difficulty from easy walks (Bird Park/Kipuka Puaulu or Thurston Lava Tube/Nahuku) to longer hikes such as Kilauea Ike or Mauna Iki.
The true character of the park is best discovered on foot. With over 150 miles of trails in the park, exploration by walking and hiking can be a fascinating and enjoyable experience.
Located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and nestled on the rim of Kilauea caldera is the Volcano House. With its unique charm it has captured the hearts of travelers and islanders alike. The Volcano house has offered spectacular views and warm hospitality for decades as Hawaii’s oldest continually operated hotel with a history dating back to 1846.
Hawaii has always been one of our family’s favorite vacation destinations. Add in the spectacular volcanoes and you’ve made a wonderful choice for the whole family.
Yellowstone National Park is America’s first national park, established in 1872. It is spread out over three states; Wyoming, Montana and Idaho, and is home to a large variety of wildlife including grizzly bears, wolves, bison, and elk. Preserved within Yellowstone National Park are Old Faithful and a collection of the world’s most extraordinary geysers and hot springs, and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.
Of course no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without visiting the most popular geyser in the world, Old Faithful. There are also hundreds of other geysers and hot spring in the park. Hiking, camping, fishing, enjoying exhibits and films, and attending Ranger-led programs are among the many ways to experience Yellowstone.
Be prepared for the weather – the climate is one of cold winters and moderate summers. Accommodations range from rustic cabins to luxury suites. All of the developed areas in Yellowstone offer services such as gas stations, stores, medical facilities and campgrounds. There are an array of restaurants there too. Anything from the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room to the Old Faithful Geyser Grill; full service to light meals and fast food.
Services in the park include: boat rentals and charters, camping inside and outside the park, horseback riding, stores and gift shops, bookstores, daycare and kennels. Fun things to do include: photo tours, bicycling, hiking and backpacking, nature hikes, boating, fishing, and much more.
If you are looking for a great family trip you can’t beat Yellowstone – the kids will love it and so will you!
If you are ever on the coast of Florida in winter,and have the chance, go to a State Park or wildlife preserve that has mantees. These huge water mammals are interesting, gentle, and protected. Here’s some more info on them.
West Indian manatees are large, gray aquatic mammals with bodies that taper to a flat, paddle-shaped tail. The have two forelimbs, called flippers, with three to four nails on each flipper. Their head and face are wrinkled with whiskers on the snout. The manatee’s closest relatives are the elephant and the hyrax (a small, gopher-sized mammal). Manatees are believed to have evolved fro a wading, plant-eating animal. The west Indian manatee is related to the West African manatee, the Amazonian manatee, the dugong, and Steller’s sea cow, which was hunted to extinction in 1768. The average adult manatee is about 10 feet long and weighs between 800 and 1,200 pounds.
Manatees can be found in shallow, slow-moving rivers, estuaries, saltwater bays, canals, and coastal areas – particularly where seagrass beds or freshwater vegetation flourish. Manatees are a migratory species. Within ghe United States, they are concentrated in Florida in the winter. In summer months, they can be found as far west as Texas and as far north as Massachusetts, but summer sightings in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina are more common.
Manatees are gentle and slow-moving animals. They can swim upt to 20 miles per hour in short bursts but they usually only swim about three to five miles per hour. Most of their time is spent eating, resting, and traveling. Manatees are completely herbivorous. They eat a large variety of submerged, emergent, and floating plants and can consume 10-15% of their body weight in vegetation daily. Because they are mammals, they must surface to breate air about every three to five minutes. When resting, they can stay under water as long as 20 minutes.
West Indian manatees have no natural enemies, and it is believed they can live 60 years or more. Some die of natural causes but a high number of additional fatalities are from human-related causes. These occur mainly from watercraft collisions, ingestion of fishing equipment, and loss of habitat.
Manatees are an endangered species and are protected by federal and state laws. If you ever get to see them, you will understand why they are so interesting and worth saving for future generations.
The next time you are headed to Florida, think about stopping at Homosassa Springs. Visitors to the Wildlife State Park can see West Indian manatees every day of the year from the park’s underwater observatory in the main spring. The park also showcases native Florida wildlife, including manatees, black bears, bobcats, white-tailed deer, American aligators, American crocodiles, and river otters.
Even in winter, with its cooler days, there are many reasons to visit the park. You can start your visit with a leisurly pontoon boat ride down Pepper Creek to the wildlife park. Along the way you may see ospreys nesting, limpkins, herons or egrets wading in the creek, wood ducks swimming along, not to mention turtles sunning on logs, fish and, maybe even an otter.
Once you get off the pontoon boat you can walk leisurely along the elevated boardwalk system for a great view of the wildlife, including a Florida panther, cougar, bears, bobcats, deer, alligators and a wide variety of wading birds, birds of prey, and songbirds.
During the winter months with the gate open in the Long River bridge, the wild manatee have access to the warmer waters of the first-magnitude spring. On colder days, you may see dozens of wild manatees in the spring and spring run and thousands of fresh and salt-water fish that are free to come and go. The Fish Bowl, a floating underwater observatory, offers an unequalled, below-the-surface view of manatees and fish in the clear spring environment. Homosassa Springs Wildlife State Park’s Fish Bowl is probably the only place in the world where you can enjoy an underwater, close-up view of manatees without getting wet.
There is also a Reptile House, Children’s Education Center, a picnic pavilion to enjoy your own picnic lunch, a cafe with beverages and snacks, and two gift shops.
For trips this summer and anytime try our National Parks…
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Monument:
Built in honor of those who fought and died in the Battle of Lake Erie, but also in honor of the long peace between the United States, Britain, and Canada. The monument is located only five miles from the longest undefended border in the world. Construction of the monument began October of 1912 and the moment was opened to the public on 13the June 1915. It did not become a National Park Service Memorial until 1936.
Aboard the Niagara Commodore Perry won the first US Navy fleet action and captured an entire British squadron. Perry reported “Dear General (Harrison): We have met the enemy and they are ours. Two ships, two brigs, one schooner and one sloop. Yours with great respect and esteem, O.H. Perry”.
The monument itself is located on Lake Erie’s beautiful South Bass Island within the limits of Put-in-Bay village. The tour cost adults 3 dollars, while children are admitted free and involves a walk up through the winding stairs of the monument and ends with time spent at the top of the monument where visitors are treated to a gorgeous view of South Bass, the surrounding islands, and Lake Erie. The tour will probably take forty-five minutes or less, leaving plenty of time for lunch, dinner, or an extended stay in the beautiful village of Put-in-Bay.
Put-in-Bay village offers a variety of shops and restaurants. There is a State Park camp ground, cabins, hotels, and bed and breakfasts available for relaxing vacations on the Lake Erie Island. And don’t forget boat-owners, Put-in-Bay has a marina located walking distance from the village’s downtown!
From the mainland to South Bass Island Jody recommends Miller’s Ferry in Port Clinton, OH (whether you are on foot, bicycle, or motor vehicle).