Muir Woods National Monument is one of the only old-growth coastal redwood forests in the world. Last month 35 fourth-grade students from Hoover Elementary in Oakland, CA stood at the feet of these giant trees, thinking about how they helped create this unique ecosystem and why this park was established to protect this important monument. An old-growth forest takes many years to develop and has large live trees, multi-layered plant life, dead trees and communities of plants and animals that depend on each other to survive. Students enjoyed smelling coastal redwood needles and how they play a part in the forest ecosystem.
Thank you to the Wyss Foundation for making this trip possible!
Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Tigran Nahabedian journeyed to Seattle, WA for the Northwest Youth Leadership Summit this past November, where he met other kids like him who want a career in parks and public lands. He even trained on a course where the first American to climb Mt. Everest learned to climb! Learn who the climber was by reading Tigran’s blog.
National Park Trust (NPT), The Trust for Public Land, Appalachian Trail Conservancy, and Oblong Land Conservancy completed the $2.38 million purchase of 219 acres of wooded land surrounding the Appalachian National Scenic Trail in July, 2018. The land has been conveyed to the National Park Service where it will be protected in perpetuity as federal land.
The land is located near Pawling, NY and will enable the trail to be moved around a marshy wetland where current hiker traffic is in conflict with the habitat needs of several endangered animal species. The property will also allow NPS to relocate a parking area away from the landmark Dover Oak. This eastern white oak is the largest tree along the entire length of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail, and compaction of soil by cars parked around it threatens its root system and long-term survivability. The Dover Oak is a local landmark and the largest white oak in New York State at over 114 feet in height and a circumference of over 20 feet. Had the property not been protected it would have been developed into a 50-unit residential subdivision that would have forever marred the trail’s pristine viewshed.
Photo courtesy of The Trust for Public Land
Another great feature of this section of the trail is that hikers can reach it by a 1.5 hour train trip from Grand Central Station in New York City, disembarking at the Appalachian Trail Train Stop. The train runs twice a day in the morning and again in the afternoon on the weekends making this section of the Appalachian Trail one of the most accessible units of the National Park System to an urban population.
Due to each of these unique attributes, this property was the number one priority for the National Park Service nationwide for 2018.
National Park Trust has made concerted efforts over the past few years to protect and expand the land surrounding the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. In 2017, NPT worked with The Trust for Public Land on the acquisition of an adjacent 1,500-acre parcel of old-growth woodland in Somerset County, ME. This land also protects the nearby Bald Mountain Pond, one of the few bodies of water in the lower 48 states which hold arctic char. The federally-listed threatened Canada lynx also roams nearby along with moose, fisher and black bears.The remoteness and scenic views make the property an iconic destination for backcountry adventures that combine paddling and hiking on the AT into a single day’s outing. It is one of the largest uncut forest blocks in central Maine with individual trees cored at almost 200 years old.
In 1996, National Park Trust also purchased a small but historic viewshed atop South Mountain, near Highfield-Cascade in Maryland. The site was a part of the Confederate artillery position during the September 14, 1862 Battle of South Mountain, where over 5,000 casualties occurred as troops marched to the Battle of Antietam on September 17. By preserving this land and donating it to the National Park Service hikers can continue to see the landscape that played a pivotal role in the Civil War.
Every good adventurer knows that you can’t always rely on a GPS unit or your cellphone to help you navigate outdoors. Being able to use a compass and a map are important skills when outdoors, especially in the wilderness.
Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Sarah practiced her orienteering skills at a local New Jersey park last weekend. Orienteering is an outdoor activity where you use a compass and paper map to navigate to checkpoints, or “stops”, hidden in a natural area. Sometimes people compete in orienteering competitions to see who can find all the stops the fastest! Read all about Sarah and Buddy Bison’s adventure below:
“This weekend I got to try orienteering at Estell Manor Park, which is a county park in Atlantic County, New Jersey. I started off by learning about orienteering and how to use a compass. If you are hiking in the wilderness, it is really helpful to know how to use a compass, since you might not be able to use your phone, and a compass never needs batteries.
I learned how to use the map and compass together to tell me which direction to go when I’m hiking. One interesting thing I learned is that there is a difference between the direction of the North Pole (Geographic or True North) and the “magnetic north” of the Earth. [A compass uses the Earth’s magnetic field to align with the point of “magnetic north”, which is in a different location than the geographic location of the North Pole. Learn more here.] I also learned how to use the map scale to figure out how far I should be walking between each of the orienteering stops.
Once we learned how to use the compasses, we headed out on the trails. Estell Manor Park has lots of great trails that go through the woods and some of the trails go by the Great Egg Harbor River. There are a few different orienteering trails to try here. Once we were out on the trail, I used the compass and the map scale to find my way to the different stops on the orienteering map. It was cold out and there was still snow on the ground, but I had a great time orienteering at Estell Manor Park. I’m hoping to come back to this park again a try one of the other orienteering trails.”
National Park Trust and Wreaths Across America (WAA) worked together this year to teach a new generation the importance of our nation’s memorials. Students from West Education Campus (DC) assisted Gold and Blue Star families with laying 140 wreaths on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Friday, December 14, 2018. In the process, students formed emotional connections with the families they helped, understanding their loss, and learning their stories.
Based in Maine, Wreaths Across America’s mission is to “Remember – Honor – Teach”. Buddy Bison Students learned about the WAA mission and our memorials prior to the moving ceremony, but none of them anticipated how much more they would learn by meeting the families of our fallen soldiers.
Anderson, a 5th grader from West Education Campus (DC) speaks with a Vietnam Veteran.
“It was so powerful. We told the students what they would be doing and why it was important, but as they spoke with the families and joined them in saluting the engraved names, it really impacted the students. I couldn’t have taught them the emotion they felt first hand,” stated Heimy Salgado, teacher at West Education Campus.
Gabriel, a 4th grader from West Education Campus (DC) salutes the memorial with a Gold Star father.
One wreath was laid at each of the 140 panels of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial by a Gold or Blue Star family member along with a student and a Maine Sheriffs Association officer (the Maine Sheriffs Association has worked with WAA since they began bringing wreaths to Washington, DC). The slow procession of the wreath-layings allowed time for each family to share stories about their loved ones honored at the memorial, and for their name to be read allowed and saluted by the Maine Sheriffs. One student, Carl, asked the Maine Sheriff officer what was the meaning behind this gesture. She graciously explained that is was a sign of respect then showed him step-by-step how to properly salute.
After the event, many students went home to research the names they had read, learning about who they were and where they were from. They also were eager to share stories with their classmates about the families they met and the soldiers they learned about.
“I was sad to see so many names on the Vietnam Memorial but I learned how each one of them sacrificed their lives for us. I won’t ever forget this experience,” said 5th grade student Talita.
Darren, a 4th grade student explained that “this was an emotional experience and it allowed me to connect with all the veterans and their family members.”
“I didn’t expect to connect to the family so fast. As we saluted his son’s name, I could feel what he felt. I know now the sacrifice they made,” said Gabriel, a 4th grader after laying a wreath with a Gold Star father.
Carl, a 4th grader from West Education Campus (DC) learning to salute from a Maine Sheriff officer.
National Park Trust and West Education Campus were honored to assist Wreaths Across America with this ceremony. Together we are teaching our children to remember the important sacrifice of our nation’s veterans and military families.
For more information on this event see our press release.
Buddy Bison Student Ambassador Bryan has been busy the last two years! This month, Bryan has made a list of his top 10 national parks and what he loves about them.
“Over the past two years I’ve had the opportunity to travel to 49 of our 50 states and 44 of our 60 National Parks. I’m going to give you the top ten countdown of National Parks, the best times to visit and family friendly hikes for your trip in 2019. (Note: While there are 60 National Park Service units labeled as “national parks,” there are a total 418 park service units, which includes historic sites, battlefields, etc.)
#10 Zion National Park
Bryan in the Narrows at Zion National Park
Zion was an amazing park. I got to hike the Narrows, which was cool. It’s also great for kids because they can play in the water. The best time to go is October because there are no flash floods and the fall colors are beautiful and the water isn’t too cold. The summer gets really hot, so be prepared for the heat. Make sure to bring your gear. And look for big horn sheep and lots of mule deer.
#9 Acadia National Park
Acadia was a mixture of green mountains and beautiful beaches. I enjoyed hiking the Coastal Trail which is right next to the water and lead right to the beach. I would visit Acadia in summer so you can experience the beaches.
#8 North Cascades National Park
North Cascades is one of the least visited national parks, so it is very quit. It also has amazing emerald green water caused by the minerals that come from the mountains. The best trail is the Bored Walk at Diablo Lake. You should go in spring or summer because in winter the visitor center is closed and in fall there aren’t too many fall colors.
#7 Theodore Roosevelt National Park
All the way out in North Dakota is a park dedicated to President Teddy Roosevelt. This park reminded me a lot like Yellowstone, but it is much less crowded. There are bison, prairie dogs, elk, wild horse, and coyotes howling. Take the Prairie Dog Town Trail and you will see hundreds of little prairie dogs running around and if you are lucky I saw a badger there! I think the winters would be harsh, so come during any other time of the year.
Theodore Roosevelt’s cabin in Theodore Roosevelt National Park
#6 Biscayne National Park
Biscayne is a place for swimming, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and so much more. The best trail is the visitor center trial which gives you beach access and great views of downtown Miami; bring your bathing suit. Also make sure to check out the mangroves because you could see manatees. The best time to visit is any time because the weather and water is always perfect.
#5 Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park
Bryan in Grand Teton National Park
Yellowstone is a park that if you want to see animals that’s the park to go. You can see anything from a grizzly, to bison, to a pika. I liked the Geyser Basin Trail which you get to see Old Faithful. The best time to go is fall because the colors and the wildlife encounters. Lamar Valley is a great place to view the wildlife and Mammoth Hot Springs VC there is always elk! You can plan this trip with Grand Teton.
Grand Teton was stunning. I did the Jenny Lake Trail which gave you stunning views of mountains and lakes. The best time to go is fall because they have beautiful fall colors and it’s the best time to see bears.
#4 Haleakala National Park
Haleakala was one of my favorites because I got to feel the clouds and see the silver sword plant which is an indigenous plant only found in Haleakala. The best trail is the Northern Visitor Center Trial because you get a viewing of the sun rise; make sure to make your reservations in advance for parking. The best time is anytime because it’s Hawaii! Take the road to Hana after your trip to this National Park.
#3 Mount Rainier National Park
The Shadow Lake Trail was awesome it lead you right to a water fall and behind the water fall was Mount Rainier. The best time to go is summer through fall because of the nice weather and fall colors. Winter might be too cold.
Bryan and his family at Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park
#2 Rocky Mountain National Park
The Rockies are indescribable; it’s so beautiful. I would do the Bear lake and Sprague Lake Trail which in winter you can walk over the frozen lake. The best time to go is any time of the year, but I like winter because you can snowshoe, sled, backcountry ski, and so much more.
# 1 Glacier National Park
The Crown of the continent is my favorite park because of the mountains, the emerald green lakes, the animals and scenery. You should do the Many Glacier Trail because of the lakes, the bears, and the glaciers; bring your bear spray. The best time to go is before winter because of the stunning colors, the best weather, and the biggest chance of seeing animals. Also, you want to visit before they close the Going-to-the-Sun Road, so check out the website before you make plans.
Bryan and his family on Many Glacier Hike in Glacier National Park