Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path: Summit Bechtel Reserve

If you have anything to do with Boy Scouts of America, you’ve most likely heard of the Summit Bechtel Reserve.  Traveling north from New River Gorge, we were close to the Summit.  As National Jamboree was held there two weeks before our trip, we had met a lot of people on our trip who would see… Continue reading Off the Beaten Path: Summit Bechtel Reserve

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Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path: New River Gorge National Scenic River (visitor center)

Just north of Pipestem State Park is the New River Gorge National Scenic River.  We headed up to Sandstone Falls visitor center mostly to get the passport stamp for Bluestone River, which we'd explored at Pipestem.  When we arrived, we met a very chatty ranger who got the kids started on junior ranger books and… Continue reading Off the Beaten Path: New River Gorge National Scenic River (visitor center)

Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path: Pipestem State Park

My heart still racing from an encounter with a deadly reptile, we headed into West Virginia, leaving the Blueridge Parkway behind.  We planned to stay overnight at Pipestem State Park, a state-owned resort area. For our Iowa friends, this is much like Honey Creek on Lake Rathbun.  The park and resort lie on the Bluestone National… Continue reading Off the Beaten Path: Pipestem State Park

Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path: Blueridge Parkway

Stretching for over 400 miles beginning in Virginia, Blueridge Parkway is the most visited unit of the entire National Park System.  Driving south on Skyline Drive from Shenandoah National Park, you reach Humpback Rocks Visitor Center on the Blueridge Parkway.  We did not have time to drive the entire Blueridge Parkway, but we planned to traverse… Continue reading Off the Beaten Path: Blueridge Parkway

Off the Beaten Path

Off the Beaten Path: Shenandoah National Park

Spending the entire day walking wore out everyone's legs, so a scenic day of driving sounded great.  After spending the entire previous day at Colonial Williamsburg, we looked forward to driving some of the “most scenic roadways” in America. Headed northwest from Charlottesville, we arrived at Swift Run Gap, one of the southernmost entrances to Shenandoah… Continue reading Off the Beaten Path: Shenandoah National Park

Off the Beaten Path

Off The Beaten Path: Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Thanks to bridge construction, the next part of our trip almost didn't happen.  It was scheduled, planned, booked, etc, but while we visited rocket ships in Alabama, the Outer Banks lost power.  All of the Outer Banks, including our destination: Cape Hatteras National Seashore.        While contractors were digging the pilings for a new… Continue reading Off The Beaten Path: Cape Hatteras National Seashore

Off the Beaten Path

Off The Beaten Path: Biscayne National Park

Sometimes a little spontaneity pays off.  After leaving Key West and stopping in Big Pine Key for breakfast, we headed off to an unscheduled national park.  We pulled into the Dante Fascell Visitor Center of Biscayne National Park at 10:00am. We had not originally planned to stop at Biscayne.  However, the Junior Ranger badge for… Continue reading Off The Beaten Path: Biscayne National Park

Off the Beaten Path

Off The Beaten Path: Dry Tortugas National Park

While most of the island visitors were still sound asleep, we headed into downtown Key West to the Ferry Terminal.  On the way downtown, we encountered something unique to Key West - the famous Key West Gypsy Chickens.  We parked the car and crossed the street to the Ferry Terminal.  A short wait in line… Continue reading Off The Beaten Path: Dry Tortugas National Park

Off the Beaten Path

Off The Beaten Path: Everglades National Park

When thinking of Florida, most people picture beaches, Disney World, dolphins.  Why not swamps?  Much of Florida is swampland just waiting to be explored, including Big Cypress Swamp and the Everglades. The Everglades includes three visitor centers, all miles apart.  Driving between them would take several hours, which indicates the sheer size of this National… Continue reading Off The Beaten Path: Everglades National Park

Off the Beaten Path

Off The Beaten Path: Big Cypress Swamp National Preserve

After a day of driving and beaches, my legs ached for some stretching and we were ready for some new scenery.  Just outside of Naples, Florida, is Big Cypress Swamp National Preserve, our first stop for the day.  I originally planned a visit to the Welcome Center followed by driving the scenic Loop Road through… Continue reading Off The Beaten Path: Big Cypress Swamp National Preserve