National Parks for Veterans Day

Veterans Day is coming up and many of our National Parks are celebrating by offering free admission to service members and their families. I'm going to run down a few parks that sound like fun to me.

The Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument has an odd name. Are there actual fossil beds or is it just a monument to fossil beds? It's a puzzler but luckily we can figure it out fairly quickly. Located 35 miles west of Colorado Springs, the fossil beds contain an interesting combination of big fossils, like redwood trees, and tiny fossils like insects, seeds and itty bitty fish. You can see the small fossils in the visitor center and the bigger fossils on the one mile hiking loop.

My eyesight is not the best. Years ago my family went to see Niagara Falls but I couldn't see them because I'd broken my glasses and my eyes weren't good enough to see even something so large as the Falls. I wonder how I would do with the Grand Canyon. Would I notice it or just fall in? If you'd like to test your own ability to find a giant hole in the ground you might want head off to the Grand Canyon National Park for Veterans Day.
While mule rides book up more than a year in advance you have a pretty good shot at taking a nice bike ride along certain parts of the park. Details can be found here:

Fort Necessity National Battlefield doesn't just have a great name; it’s also the site of the opening battle in the French and Indian War. Interestingly the fort doesn't protect a strategic area. Instead it's built in a meadow that George Washington camped in and liked because there was nothing to obscure his view of approaching enemy troops, fresh water was and pasture was also abundant, important for the soldiers' horses. If you can't make it to the Battlefield itself you might find the link on the left side called History and Culture of interest. I was intrigued by the story of a young George Washington and his trials and tribulations at this pivotal battle.

The Steamtown National Historic Site in Scranton, Pennsylvania is offering more than just free admission to veterans and their families; they're also offering free rides on the Scranton Limited. The rides last about thirty minutes and are pulled by a diesel locomotive. You can also see a movie called Steel and Steam, which sounds like a steampunk vaudeville act but is probably about the making of the railroad or something. You can get all the details here:

At Mammoth Cave National Park in Kentucky veterans and their families can take tours of the cave for free. There are four different tours offered, most of which have a choice of two different times. There is a Historic Tour, a tour of Mammoth Passage, another one of New Entrance and finally Frozen Niagara, by which I'm guessing they mean stone Niagara. I'm also guessing this one is pretty quiet compared to the one I visited with my broken glasses. I've written about Mammoth Cave in a prior column and it's an amazing place. At one time there was an entire tuberculosis hospital in the cave. Hard to believe, but true. More details can be found here:

The Presidio of San Francisco is a beautiful place where I spent many happy hours growing up. My oldest son was born at the hospital that used to be there before BRAC in 1989. I think the hospital is now headquarters for Lucas Arts or something but plenty of the Presidio was saved and is now a National Park. On Veterans Day you can take part in an event called Irony, which explores the Japanese-American experience during the Second World War. According to the description "Japanese-American soldiers were recruited for secret training because of their heritage, while at the same time their families were interned for the same reason." You can also take part in a one mile hike called Post to Park 15 Years Later, which is kind of self-explanatory. If you're not interested in anything official you may want to explore the park on your own. There is a total of 1,491 acres just waiting to be enjoyed, with a variety of plants, mammals and birds that feel like they’re having a bad day if no one takes their picture.

One-Paragraph Review

This week's one-paragraph review is from Renesme who writes in to say, "What happened to Worst Week? Did it get cancelled? That was an awesomely funny show." (It was in fact cancelled and the last episode aired on June ninth of this year. You can watch episodes you may have missed here: Do you have a one-paragraph (or smaller) review you'd like to share? Send it in to me for consideration. You can reach me at