Shinjuku Gyoen National Park

One of the things I love about Tokyo are the many gardens and temples where one can escape the intensity of the city and retreat into a quiet sanctuary. Shinjuku Gyoen National Park is one such place. This 144 acre park located in the Shinjuku area of Tokyo, dates back the the Edo Period. It was mostly destroyed during WWII. By 1949 it had been rebuilt and was opened to the public. The park contains over 20,000 tress as well as French and English gardens, lakes, ponds, a greenhouse and much more.

We entered the garden at the Shinjuku Gate entrance and wandered through the Mother and Child Forest. This beautiful area has inviting trails for curious youngsters.

I saw some interesting shelf fungi here.

We spent the majority of our time at the Upper Pond area of the park where you will find a Tea House, bridges, trails, koi, cranes and so much more.

When theTravelersketcher paints, he always draws attention.

And the trees are magnificent.

Have you been to Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden? If so, please leave a comment about you favorite things to see there.

Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park, located in southern Oregon is a magnificent site to see. The lake was formed over 7,000 years ago during the massive eruption of Mount Mazama. The lake is the deepest in the USA, and one of the deepest in the world. There are no rivers running into the lake, but it maintains its depth through rainfall and melting snow. The lack of pollutants keep this lake amazingly clear and blue.

Crater Lake National Park was established 1902, thanks to President Theodore Roosevelt. Crater Lake Lodge was completed in 1915, and offers nice views of the lake, a restaurant, bar and other amenities. The lodge and campgrounds fill up quickly, so plan your trip well in advance. Rim Drive was completed in 1918 and is a good place to start your tour of the park. This 33 mile drive has many points of interest and places to stop to take photos.

Along the drive you will see the two islands in the lake, Wizard Island and Phantom Ship, as well as interesting rock formations.

There are many activities in the park including hiking, swimming, biking, fishing, boat tours, and in the winter, snowshoeing and cross-country skiing. Swimming is restricted to just one location which can be reached via the Cleetwood Cove Trail. We took several hikes including Watchman Peak, a short, but steep hike that ends at a fire watch tower.

It was a clear day when we hiked this trail and we were rewarded with a view of Mt. Shasta.

There are many places to take photos and stop to do a sketch.

We are fortunate to have an abundance of National Parks and Monuments in our country, and it is important that we protect the animals, plants and natural beauty in the parks. We need to preserve these public places and support conservation efforts to maintain these national treasures. If you visit, be a courteous and conscientious visitor.

Have you visited Crater Lake? If so, please leave a comment with your favorite activities there.

The Redwoods – Mighty, Majestic Trees

Sequoia sempervirens, also known as costal redwood and California redwood, are the tallest and largest trees on the planet. They once covered over 2 million acres in Northern California. Sadly, due to over-logging in the mid 1800s to early 1900s, they now cover only 131,983 acres. In 1918, the Save the Redwoods League was formed in order to preserve these beautiful giants.

I first visited Redwood National and State Parks as a child, and was awed by the trees. I visited again a few years ago, and found that childish amazement returning as I wandered down a path surrounded by these massive trees.

My brother, Kirk, and I, along with Babe in the late 1960s.

Located in Humboldt and Del Norte counties in Northern California, these parks draw thousands of visitors each year. The parks offer a variety of activities including hiking, backcountry camping, scenic drives and kayaking. If you have read any of my blog posts, you know that my husband and I love hiking, and that is what drew us to the park, along with the beauty of area.

There are many hikes to enjoy including Lady Bird Johnson Grove Trail, an easy, one mile, level loop through old growth forest.

There are many other hikes in the parks, and trees that beckon to be climbed.

I call this one “old man and the tree.” 🙂

We stayed at the Bishop Pine Lodge and Cabins not far from Trinidad. After a day of hiking, we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Larrupin Cafe.

Trinidad is costal community with much to offer.

The Save the Redwoods League is still active today, over 100 years later! Hopefully, their work will continue to protect these grand lords and ladies of the forest, for many years to come.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts and favorite activities in the Redwoods.

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley, the name doesn’t sound very inviting. In fact, an immediate response to a suggested vacation there might receive an incredulous “why?!?” My husband and I visited a few years ago for our anniversary. Needless to say, we received a lot of teasing for our choice of our anniversary getaway location. However, it truly is a majestic place, with canyons, dunes, vistas, craters and so much more to see.

Death Valley, located in Eastern California in the northern part of the Mojave Dessert, received its national park designation in 1994, so it is one of the newer national parks. It boasts some other designations as well, including being the lowest point in North America, and being one of the hottest places on the planet. On July 10, 1913 it was a scorching 134 degrees, making winter a great time to visit.

A highlight of our visit was a hike in Golden Canyon. This beautiful hike starts off through a narrow canyon, with many smaller canyons on either side of the trail.

After about one mile, you will see a large, steep hill where the path cuts right into the side of the rock wall.

Photos above taken by theTravelsketcher.

It is a bit dicey getting across the hillside, with the rock wall on one side, and a drop off on the other, so keep your eyes focused on your footing. The trail twists down through some steep, rocky ledges and opens up onto what looks like an old, dry riverbed filled with large, loose gravel. It took about 45 minutes to work our way out of the riverbed. Then we came to some hairpin turns through more narrow canyons. At several points we had to navigate down some steep, stone walls, keeping a watchful eye out for scorpions as we used the rocks for balance. Once out of the canyons, the trail opens up at the base of the mountains.

It was about another mile to get back to the trailhead. This hike isn’t for everyone, but it was one of the more memorable ones we have taken. As we left the trailhead, we were ushered out by this critter:

Coyotes are abundant in the park, be careful not to get too close.

Artists’ Drive is another beautiful place to visit.

The beautiful colors in the rocks were caused by oxidation of metals.

I found the plants to be interesting as well, since they grow right out of the rocks.

Dante’s View is another point of interest in the park.

Photo above courtesy of theTravelsketcher.

Badwater Basin, pictured below is the lowest point in North America. It sits at 282 feet below sea level.

Photos below, courtesy of theTravelsketcher.

There are many other interesting places within the park to visit including Scotty’s Castle, Furnace Creek, Panamint Springs and Twenty Mule Teams. These teams of mules hauled borax from Harmony Borax Works. Note that Scotty’s Castle is closed until 2020 due to storm damage. There are many other things to do and see in the park as well, so do some research before you go.

I highly recommend visiting Death Valley, it’s an interesting and historical place to see. I prefer visiting in the winter, because the weather is cooler and I am not too keen on seeing snakes. Scorpions are active all year long in the area, and we were given guidelines on avoiding encounters with them when we checked into our hotel. But, hey, that’s all part of the adventure!

Wishing you happy and adventurous travels,


Arms Raised to Joshua Tree National Park

At the convergence of the Colorado and Mojave desserts lies Joshua Tree National Park. Its quiet, surreal beauty will draw you in, and you will find yourself lost in its distinctive landscape. The many hiking trails you’ll find here are an open invitation to roam, wander and experience its rugged terrain. The trails twist and careen around massive boulders, plants and the spiny, prickly looking Joshua trees. The trees were named by a group of Mormon settlers who thought the trees reminded them of the Israeli leader, Joshua with his arms raised to Heaven.

Located in Southern California, not far from Palm Springs, this almost 800,000 acre park has much to offer if you enjoy outdoor activities. There are many hiking trails to discover and rock climbing. At night, you’ll want to lift your eyes to the sky and take in the vast stars above. We visited a few years ago in January, and the weather was perfect, low 70s and clear, brilliant blye skies. Several of the hikes we took include Barker Dam, Hidden Valley, and my favorite, Fortynine Palms. This 3 mile round trip trail takes you to a secluded oasis with a stream. It is a relatively easy hike, but be sure to take plenty of water. The oasis is a gorgeous place to relax.

It was a hot day when we took this hike, and on several occasions, when we caught a glimpse of the oasis in the distance, I was beginning to think it was a mirage.

You will find some Native American petroglyphs along the Barker Dam trail.

Skull Rock is an interesting site to see. As the name indicates, this large rock looks like a skull.

I couldn’t take enough photos of the interesting rock formations and plant life.

Earlier this year, during the government shut down, there was much vandalism and destruction of the Joshua trees. Apparently, this happens on occasion, but the deliquients took advantage of the lack of park rangers during the shut down, and did a tremendous amount of damage. I don’t think they were ever caught, but I do hope that they are haunted by the trees in their dreams. What a completely thuggish thing to do. We have a treasure in our National Parks, and as citizens of this country, we have the responsibility of being good stewards, so be sure to tread lightly and leave no trace of your visit.

Yosemite National Park

We are blessed to live in a country with some amazingly gorgeous national parks that have immense diversity of landscape, animals, flora and fauna. We have President Theodore Roosevelt to thank for much of the effort in creating some national parks, the US National Forest Service, and for his efforts to preserve the beauty of our vast country.

There are over 400 national parks in the US and US territories. I have been fortunate to have visited perhaps a dozen of these, so I have barley scratched the surface.

One of my favorites is Yosemite National Park, which is located in the western Sierra Nevada range of Central California. We visited in April, 2018 and the weather was perfect. A bit chilly in the mornings and evenings, but sunny, clear and absolutely perfect for hiking and exploring. As I have mentioned in many of my blog posts, vacationing in the off season means fewer crowds and lower prices as well.

We stayed at Wawona Lodge, formerly Big Tree Lodge.

This charming Victorian Era hotel opened in the 1850s, and is 20 miles from Tunnel View. This scene took my breath away when I first saw it in the misty, morning light.

Half Dome Rock is a granite dome at the eastern end of the park. It was first ascended by George Anderson in 1875, and is still a popular spot today for rock climbers.

Yosemite Falls is a spectacular site to witness. There are many waterfalls in the park and they are at their fullest in the spring.

And of course, there are many hiking trails in the park offering beautiful views.

As we wandered through a pretty meadow, we saw a group of picnickers sprawled out on blankets, with binoculars, oohing and aahing at the side of a cliff. We turned and realized that they were watching a group of rock climbers ascend a rock wall. We stopped to watch as well. The climbers are far more brave than I am! I prefer the spectator spot for this sport.

There are many more activities in Yosemite than what I have mentioned here, as well as the amazing beauty of the area. Have you been to Yosemite National Park? As always, please leave a comment and share your favorite things about the park.