Jan Ellen Ferrigan


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What is Like to Go to All 59 U.S. National Parks?

Don and Shelly Hafner

Don and Shelly Hafner of 59nationalparks.com

Don and Shelly Hafner are on quite the adventure. The couple is visiting all 59 parks in the U.S. National Park System in 59 weeks!  How cool is that?

Don and Shelly went to their first park on April 1 and have knocked off about 1/6 of the list so far. I found Don and Shelly’s 59nationalparks.com website through Twitter. You can also see their park photos on Instagram. I am so fascinated with their journey, I asked them if they would like to do a blog interview. They kindly complied and here it is. Their answers will inspire, and perhaps even surprise you a little:)

Why are you traveling to all 59 National Parks?

Our primary purpose for visiting the National Parks is to (hopefully) inspire others to pursue their goals regardless of how daunting they may appear on the surface. Our journey is not a “bucket list” trip nor is it an exercise in selfishness. Rather we are hoping it is possible to achieve a worthwhile goal with proper planning and determination. We are totally driven by the idea expressed by Mark Twain that the only things you will regret twenty years from now are the things you didn’t do or accomplish.

Which park was first and which will be last?

Our first National Park was Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. We chose Hot Springs because it was the first “reserve” of land sent aside for public use by the Congress. We also selected Hot Springs because it is the closest National Park to our home. As for the last, everyone will have to wait until July 4th, 2015. We don’t share where we are going next. We regard our last National Park as our “Home” park and have been there many times. Sorry, those are the only hints we are willing to give.

How are you accomplishing this both physically and logistically? What modes of transportation? What routes? Do you have sponsors that are helping?

Physically our trip so far has been challenging. We don’t stay in one place too long. We are actively visiting and photographing the Parks everyday. Our days begin early and usually end after midnight. We have been on a number of challenging hikes and adventures already. How do we do it? For us, it has been an exercise in determination. As for logistics, we are getting a lot of help from others. For example, we used a travel agent for the Alaskan part of our journey. There is no way we could have set up all of the adventures she set up for us in Alaska.

We have already used a number of modes of transportation. Most of our trip so far has been by driving our Ford pick up and pulling our small camper. We have also taken a flight to the Virgin Islands and a boat trip to the Dry Tortugas National Park. In July we are going to park the truck and camper for a while and use our Ford CMax. Expect to read about a seven day cruise somewhere along the way.

We have received no direct payments nor do we have sponsorship. We are funding the trip ourselves thus far. We are Ambassadors for Flow397 and for the YonderApp. We have traded out promotion and professional photography services for complimentary stays at a few RV parks. Would we accept sponsorship? We are willing to listen. We are going to be in every National Park and we know that has to be attractive to a number of businesses.

Are there any parks that you are timing your visit to be at a certain time of the year because that is the best season to visit?

We seek moderate weather. We won’t, for example, be in Death Valley National Park in August or in Glacier National Park in January. That principle is the guide to our itinerary. We are thinking about visiting a few parks more than once. We would love to make our second visit to Yellowstone National Park in the Winter.

Do your friends and family think you are nuts?

We thought everyone would think we were nuts. In fact, we deliberately looked for people who might think that. Criticism from others has been rare. The most common response we received when we explained what we were doing was “cool”. One doubting neighbor thought that it was an April Fools joke (recall we started in Hot Springs on April 1st). One family member expressed some doubts.

What are a few items that have proved invaluable to your trip so far?

We like it when the RV park store has ice cream! We can say for certain it is not the GPS which has led us on some very inconvenient, time consuming routes. The most valuable thing so far is not an item. It has been the time that we have been able to spend together as husband and wife.

Anything else you would like people to know?

We are interested in working with school children. There are two schools that are following us in Kansas City. We spoke with them before we left and have had FaceTime calls with classes from National Parks. Assuming scheduling works out, we would be happy to stop and present to schools as we travel.

We didn’t plan this, but we feel blessed by being able to meet and “adventure” with people we “knew” from social media. That has been an unexpected highlight of our journey.

Follow Don and Shelly’s National Parks adventure at 59nationalparks.com

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Backyard Box Turtle

ImageWe found this Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) in our yard about a week ago. I created a record for our sighting on the Virginia Herpetological Society’s site.

We have seen this box turtle before, which isn’t surprising because box turtles typically have a home range of 230 m (according to the National Zoo factsheet on Box Turtle). Some other interesting facts: They are omnivorous and eat a varied diet of plants, bugs and small animals. Box Turtles don’t get big, but they can live to be 100 years. We think our box turtle is a girl because she had brownish eyes, instead of the red or orangish eyes of a male, and a flat plastron (bottom part of shell). We hope that we see this girl  in our yard for the next 100 years or so.

Box Turtle Reporting Virginia


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Have You Seen Play Again?

I saw Play Again yesterday evening at a screening organized by a local high school student who is completing a senior project focused on getting kids outside (see a news story about her impressive project here).

If you haven’t heard of it, Play Again is a documentary that came out in 2010. After winning numerous film festival awards, the screenings are still going strong. The film follows six typical teenagers that attend a no tech wilderness camp. All the teens have average to extreme addictions to video games, social media and/or texting.  Scenes from the camp are interspersed with comments from experts on child development and the influence of too much screen time or too little outdoor time. As with all good documentaries, the most telling moments are those that are presented without commentary, allowing the audience to make connections by themselves. In particular, the facial expressions of the kids, especially two of the boys who played a lot of video games before the camp, were happier, less stressed and less tired-looking once they spent time at the camp. That is a subjective observation, but it was pretty apparent and amazing.

The only thing about the film, that I would have liked to see done differently is the ending. After the camp, the kids are asked to attempt “screen time fasts” to see how long they could go without any time on computers, phones or watching TV. Some gave up right away. Others lasted several days, but it was clearly hard.  I felt the fast idea emphasized the negative denial aspect of turning off technology, instead stressing the more positive and more likely to succeed long-term idea of challenging the kids to find creative ways to commit to inserting other activities into their lives.  Some did find more time to get outside or participate in activities that got them away from screens. Notes on what the kids did after the wilderness experience are in the final moments of the film.

The screening I attended was followed by a panel discussion led by local experts. Really interesting and well done. Ironically, watching all that nature time on the screen was refreshing and made me want to go camping. Have you seen Play Again? What did you think?


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Today is National Bookmobile Day

National Book Mobile Day

How cool is that?

I love bookmobiles. Beyond logical sense, love bookmobiles. The bookmobile stop time for our neighborhood stop is in my google calendar and I’m disappointed when I miss it.

My love for bookmobiles goes back to childhood. I have a vague memory of touring a bookmobile at a fair or somewhere similar.  I loved to read (still do!) and couldn’t believe what a great idea bookmobiles were.  But alas, there were no bookmobiles in our neighborhood.

When I discovered earlier this year that the bookmobile stops about a block from our house twice a month, I was jazzed. Every time I walk on board, my childhood wish is fulfilled and it makes me happy beyond reason, beyond sense, but since I’ve also known myself to be unhappy beyond reason and sense, I take bookmobiles as a good thing and go with it.

If you love, or even like bookmobiles, celebrate National Bookmobile Day by visiting your local bookmobile or by telling your library how much you like bookmobiles.

This whole week is National Library Week.  Check in and check out a book to celebrate.


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Snow Dino

Snow Dinosaur in the park near our house on a recent snowy day

Snow dinosaur in the park near our house on a recent snowy day

We had a warm temperature snow storm last week. Heavy snow is bad for tree limbs and power lines (our power was out for 2 days!), but wet  snow is great for constructing snowmen and snow creatures. We came across this frozen fella in the park. I don’t know which neighbors created the snow dino, but everyone who saw it was impressed. Sadly, the temperatures warmed and the snow dino went, well, the way of the dinosaurs.


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The Liebster Award – Sharing the Love

Supernova from Digging History nominated me for the Liebster Award. (take a look at his blog, you’ll be amazed by his knowledge of history, his adventures and how fascinating metal detecting can be)   Thanks Supernova! The award is much appreciated from such a great blogger.

From Supernova’s post, I see that the award comes with the honour/responsibility of answering 11 questions and nominating 11 other blogs for the award. I did a Google search for the award and couldn’t find where it originated. The format seems to have morphed slightly over time in the blogosphere from the looks of older posts on other blogs. (The passing on part does remind me a little of a chain letter email, but since the instructions do not come with a dire warning of horrible things that will happen if I don’t honour anyone, I’m game 🙂 The bloggers I nominate can do as they wish. At very least, this is a good opportunity to let people know about some wonderful blogs.

Here are the rules for The Liebster Award:
Section 1.
Add the award logo to your blog.
liebster-blog-award
Section 2: answer these questions.
1. What makes you happiest?  Spontaneous moments with my daughter.
2. Do you love the Ocean or the Mountains more? Ocean.
3. What has been your favourite moment of 2012? Being Santa Claus.
4. What is your favourite quote and why? “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Thomas Edison
5. Do you like yourself? I’m working on it.
6. Do you stay up till the Stroke of Midnight on New Years Eve? Yes.
7. Something you wish to get done ASAP? Write something great.
8. What was your favourite class while still in school? Wildlife conservation biology
9. What musical instrument have you tried to learn to play? The flute in high school. My efforts were a dismal failure and a constant source of amusement for my friends.
10. Anything you wish you had learned earlier? How to love – or to speak Spanish. Both would have been useful to know earlier.
11. Do you like to do crafts or draw or even paint? Yes. I should have taken visual arts instead of instrumental music in high school:)
Section 3
Pass the award onto 11 other blogs and let them know. Here are my nominations for The Liebster Award. They are all super blogs that I enjoy stopping in on for different reasons. Take a look and be inspired. 
2.   Peach, Plum, Orange – great writing, photos, cute dog – and sometimes I miss Toronto.
5.   Joy and Woe – doesn’t do awards – but she is talented, funny and worth mentioning.
10. Sunday Moments – I could nominate this one just on name alone. I also like the peaceful photos.
11. The Daily Atticus – a daily photo of Atticus the dog. Gotta love dogs and dog-lovers.