A Day at Muir National Historic Site / Plan Your Trip

A visit to the John Muir Historic Site is a must visit for anyone visiting the San Francisco Bay Area. Many of San Francisco’s attractions are located on it’s peninsula or across the Golden Gate Bridge in Marin County. The John Muir Historic Site is located in Martinez, California, about a 36 mile drive to the east and northeast of the city. To drive there will take a special effort but the drive is very well worth the time.

john muir home photo

John Muir Home

Directions from San Francisco is as follows : Eastbound I-80 (Oakland – San Francisco Bay Bridge) to eastbound Highway 4. Exit at Alhambra Avenue, turning left at bottom of the ramp. Cross beneath highway. The park is immediately on your left.

At one point in his life, John Muir lived in Martinez, California and worked as a farmer. Some may not be aware of this fact since Muir is best known as being a preservationist and the founder of the Sierra Club. Muir was born in 1838 in Dunbar Scotland and migrated with his family to Wisconsin in 1849.

The John Muir National Historic Site is located in Martinez, whose land at one time was part of a large land grant doled out by the Spaniards and Mexicans. Large land grants were awarded throughout the Spanish and Mexican ruled territory.  The original Martinez land grant covered some 17,000 acres and reach as far as the San Francisco Bay.

muir historic site martinez california

Solarium in Muir Home

Dr. John Strentzel

Dr. John Strentzel, a noted horticulturist in Alhambra Valley, near Martinez and father-in-law of John Muir. was the owner and builder, in 1882, of the Victorian Italianate mansion which you can now tour. Later, this mansion served as the home of John Muir.

When the Strentzels resided in the mansion, John Muir and his wife resided in a Dutch Colonial home about a mile from the mansion. Muir was very active in his father in-law’s fruit orchard. When Dr. Strenzel passed away in 1890, the Muirs moved into the larger home.

This land in the Alhambra Valley was utilized as orchards. This small area of northern California had an ideal climate for orchards. Industry came to the area about the time of Muir’s death in 1914. This really marked the start of the decline of the orchard industry. California grew very fast during the mid to latter half of the twentieth century and the land increased greatly in value. As a result, much of the orchard land was sold to make way for development. What were once orchards is now dotted with homes, a story familiar to most of the area east of San Francisco and Oakland.

The Mansion

When John Muir died in 1914, his wife had passed away previous to that time, the original furniture from the mansion was removed by Muir’s two daughters. The National Park Service, with the help of Muir’s daughter Helen, refurnished the home with period furniture.

Washington palms are on both sides of the mansions entrance. These are members of the only native species  in California. There is also a Canary Island palm that grows next to the Muir house.

Touring the Muir Home

The first thing you want to do when visiting this historic site is to begin at the visitor center and watch the twenty minute film.

The Muir Home tour will show you the West Parlor (the formal parlor) , the Library, the Kitchen and Dining Room, the East Parlor and the Hall and Upstairs area. The second floor contains a series of bedrooms including that of John Muir’s, bathrooms and Muir’s Study and Study Annex.

You may also enjoy the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

A Visit to San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill

Visit Old Town Sacramento / The Steamboats

California and the Old Spanish Missions

The Adobe Structure

There is an adobe structure on the property. This adobe structure was built on the property in 1849 by Don Vicente Martinez, the son of the commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco. The adobe which you can see today was never lived in by John Muir and his wife but was the home at one time of Muir’s eldest daughter Wanda and her husband.

muir orchards and grounds

Hiking trail at Muir National Historic Site

Touring the Grounds

When you follow the trail through the historic site, in addition to the Muir Home and the Martinez Adobe, there is plenty to see. The three separate areas include the Victorian garden, the orchard and the natural area by Franklin Creek. There is a self cell phone tour of the grounds. You may also wish to explore the hills where John Muir hiked with his two daughters. Mount Wanda is open daily sunrise to sunset and many enjoy picnics on this hill. Seasonal wildflower walks, camp fire programs, bird walks and full moon walks are available on Mt. Wanda. The visitor center will have information on all activities.

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Trips Into History)

 

 

Visit the Historic Santa Fe Railroad Depot / Brownwood, Texas

santa fe train depots in texas

Around the country, particularly in the American Southwest, there are some excellently restored Santa Fe Railroad stations. The Santa Fe station in Brownwood, Texas is a good example. In Brownwood, the old Santa Fe Depot was also a famed Harvey House. The depot and the Harvey House were in two separate buildings connected by a loggia.

old santa fe railroad depots

Old Santa Fe Depot, Brownwood, Texas

The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad was instrumental in opening up the American southwest to tourism. Transporting the first tourists to the Grand Canyon is just one example. Their old railroad depots generally had a particular architectural style and of course the famous Santa Fe logo and signage.

Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad

The Fred Harvey name is forever connected with the Santa Fe Railroad for it’s many Harvey House hotels and Fred Harvey Dining Rooms.

In the early days of the passenger railroad service dining cars were essentially non-existent. So that passengers could have meals, the train would stop about every 80-100 miles. Passenger trains, trying to stay on a schedule, would allow the passenger perhaps one hour to eat a meal. If he or she was lucky the eatery might be located at the station. If not, they would have to search around town for a place to eat. Finding a decent restaurant, ordering your meal, eating it, paying for it and making it back aboard the train all had to be accomplished generally in one hour. Hopefully the train passenger did indeed find a good restaurant and hopefully made it back to the train before it left the station.

santa fe railway locomotive

Santa Fe Locomotive

The above scenario is what Fred Harvey went out to fix. Harvey had traveled regularly on trains and knew all too well the comfort problems of passengers. He also had a background in the restaurant business going back to the time he emigrated from Scotland.

Harvey eventually worked out an arrangement with the railroad to build dining halls and hotels, typically connected to or very nearby the depot. Fred Harvey gained a reputation for fresh meals at reasonable prices. He was aided greatly by the railroad in being able to ship in fresh vegetables. Fred Harvey Dining Rooms were staffed with Harvey Girls who went through a thorough character interview before being hired. There are many who have said that Fred Harvey and the Santa Fe Railroad civilized the southwest. Thanks to Harvey’s partnership with the Sante Fe Railroad, the Fred Harvey Company grew into a very profitable chain of restaurants, hotels and other businesses serving the growing  tourist trade.

The Santa Fe Railroad Station and Harvey House in Brownwood, Texas

The Santa Fe Railroad depot in Brownwood was built in 1909. The Harvey House Dining Room and Hotel was built adjacent to it in 1911. The brown bricks used in it’s construction were brought in from Coffeeville, Kansas. It’s also important to note that the Santa Fe Railroad buildings in Brownwood remain one of the few still intact in Texas. The railroad initiated passenger service to Brownwood in 1885 and utilized two different wooden structures until the brick depot was constructed. The current structure is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

During the heyday of railroad travel, Brownwood saw as many as fifteen trains per day pass through town. Service continued all the way to 1964 with as many as four trains per day.

The Santa Fe Railroad station and Harvey House now serves as home to the city’s Visitor’s Center and Brownwood Store. The Brownwood Visitor’s Center will give you all the information you need to explore Brownwood, Texas and learn about the history of the Santa Fe Railroad as it relates to the city. The Brownwood Store is a great place to search for Texas themed gifts and books.

Be certain to tour the old Harvey House which will give you an idea of how people traveled during the golden age of railroads.

Today’s old Santa Fe Railroad station and Harvey House in Brownwood, Texas is also used for events and weddings.

See these additional Trips Into History and Western Trips articles on the links below…

The Old Harvey House in Slaton, Texas / Now a B&B

The Santa Fe Railroad and Santa Fe, NM

Historic Dining Cars of the Santa Fe Railroad

Some excellent reference material on the subject of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad and Fred Harvey include…Appetite For America : Fred Harvey and the Business of Civilizing the Wild West – One Meal at a Time by author Stephen Fried. Also, Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest by author Richard Melzer.

santa fe train depots in texas

Another view of the large train depot Harvey House building

Getting There

Brownwood, Texas is located about a two hour and fifty minute drive west/southwest of Dallas and about a one hour and twenty minute drive southeast of Abilene, Texas . It is the county seat of Brown County.

The Santa Fe Railroad Station in Brownwood, Texas, is located on the block bounded by Washington Avenue on the north, Adams Street on the east, the Santa Fe main line on the south, and Depot Street on the west.

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Trips Into History)

 

Visit Spectacular Bryce Canyon, Utah

As most western travelers know, the state of Utah is fortunate to have many unique National Parks. One of those unique National Parks is Bryce Canyon.

bryce canyon hoodoos

Some of the magnificent spires

Bryce Canyon sits on the spectacular edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau, a place where intricately carved towers and archways of stone shimmer in a dazzling array of color. Because the park is on a plateau it really isn’t a canyon but it is marvelous.

The Geography of Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon’s rock is composed of layers of sediment deposits. Millions of years ago the area of Bryce Canyon was a lake. The sediment was deposited over these millions of years. Today,  the Paria River has exposed the layers.

Geography changes. The region shifted about 15 million years ago resulting in a series of plateaus. The Paunsaugunt Plateau is quite large and the Paria River gradually eroded away the plateau’s edge to form beautiful Bryce Canyon.

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon took it’s name from an early pioneer to the region. Ebenezer Bryce. came over from Scotland, married a local girl then moved southwards in steps, building sawmills as he went. In the mid 1870s Bryce and his wife reached the Paria River, where they along with some of his relatives settled for a several years.

bryce canyon national park hoodoos

A colorful Bryce Canyon scene

Bryce Canyon National Park was founded in 1924. The area was remote. European tourists to America didn’t venture there thus the first guest houses were built about the time the park was established.

The good part of this is that Bryce Canyon became an area of largely unspoiled beauty. The park is known for it’s enormous scientific value since plenty of historic information is trapped in its pinnacles & spires. It’s been determined that the rim recedes by about a foot every 50 years

The Hoodoos Of Bryce Canyon

The rock scenery at Bryce Canyon is commonly referred to as “Hoodoos“. Hoodoos are tall skinny spires of rock that protrude from the bottom of basins and “broken” lands.

Because the rock was laid down in layers, the hardness tends to vary. When water runoff trickles across the rock, some parts erode quite fast whereas other parts hold firm.

This variation in erosion speed causes the formation of pinnacles, or “hoodoos” of stable rock. In some places the water seeps down through cracks & eats out holes beneath the surface. When the side rock erodes away, an archway is left behind.

It is only a matter of time before the arch of the rock collapses. This results in another colorful pillar.

Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon is open all year round. Visiting Bryce Canyon National Park is a treat regardless of the season of the year. During the warmer months hiking is quite popular. Look up at some spectacular formations. Sunset Point & Inspiration Point  are a must for any visitor. Summer months can cause temperatures in the bottom of the canyon to soar. It is very important to be prepared for the heat by packing plenty of water for your journey.

As mentioned above, the park is open all year. For those who love the winter outdoors it is possible to cross-country ski in several areas of the park. You can also go snowshoeing instead of hiking on some trails. In winter the roads are opened between snowfalls, allowing a different perspective of the park. Snow capped pinnacles stand out sharply against the background of white snow and dark green trees. In winter the roads are opened between snowfalls.

See these Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

The Great Sand Dunes / A Colorado Adventure

Getting There

A visit to Bryce Canyon National Park can also be combined with visits to Utah’s Zion National park and south of that the beautiful Grand Canyon. Traveling from Bryce Canyon to the Grand Canyon will take you over the Glen Canyon Dam in Page, Arizona, another fun attraction to stop and tour.

bryce canyon vacation

Greenery against the beautiful rock formations

From the South through Zion National Park: Take I-15 north to UT-9 (exit 16). Follow UT-9 east through Zion National Park to US-89. Travel north on US-89 to UT-12. Go east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park. The visitor center sits 1 mile inside the park boundary.

From the South through Zion National Park: Take I-15 north to UT-9 (exit 16). Follow UT-9 east through Zion National Park to US-89. Travel north on US-89 to UT-12. Go east on UT-12 to UT-63. Take UT-63 south to Bryce Canyon National Park. The visitor center sits 1 mile inside the park boundary.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)

 

 

 

 

 

The Reasons You’ll Totally Enjoy A Rocky Mountain Vacation

When it come to major tourist regions in the U.S., the Rocky Mountain region is at the top of the list. Visitors to the Rocky Mountains enjoy hiking, skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, camping, fishing, rock climbing and much more. Add to this some of the most historic towns in the western U.S.

colorado rocky mountainsA 3,000 Mile Long Mountain Range

The Rocky Mountains stretch from old Mexico north through the United States and into Canada. The total length of this tremendous mountain range is over 3000 miles. The states that are part of this mountain chain include parts of California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, & Wyoming. Stories of early adventurers like Lewis & Clark, John Fremont and Kit Carson exploring the Rocky Mountains are legendary.

The Rockies are home to many scenic campgrounds, historic sites, ghost towns, gold prospecting sites, and of course national parks. Some of the historic towns you’ll want to put on your trip planner include:

Cripple Creek, Durango, Cortez and Silverton, Alamosa, Colorado.

Taos, Santa Fe and Las Vegas, New Mexico

Laramie, Cheyenne, South Pass City, Wyoming

Virginia City, Bannack Ghost Town, Gold Creek, Bozeman, Missoula, Custer Battlefield, Montana

great sand dunes

Great San Dunes National Park

The National Parks of the Rockies

National parks and monuments provide you with the opportunity to explore nature at its best. From the diversity of beautiful wildlife to the endless possibilities in their miles of trails. There are several world famous national parks in the Rockies, including Yellowstone, Rocky Mountain, Grand Teton, & Glacier.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Without a doubt, Rocky Mountain National Park is one of the best places to head for a vacation in Colorado. Rocky Mountain National Park has 355 miles of hiking trails. They range from flat lakeside strolls to steep mountain peak climbs.The road system of Rocky Mountain National Park offers visitors access to diverse ecosystems characterizing the higher regions of the central Rocky Mountains. The roads take visitors through lowland meadows and aspen groves, along swift-flowing rivers and up through sub-alpine forests to more than 12,000 feet in elevation.

Rocky Mountain National Park covers 415 square miles in north central Colorado. The east gate is at Estes Park and the western gateway is at Grand Lake.

Great Sand Dunes National Park

Great Sand Dunes National Park & Preserve is located 35 miles northeast of Alamosa, Colorado. This is in the southern part of the state relatively close to the border with New Mexico.

This geologic wonderland contains about 39 square miles of massive sand dunes, some 750 feet high. The Great Sand Dunes National Park also includes alpine lakes and tundra, six mountain peaks in the Sangre de Cristo Mountain Range over 13,000′ in elevation as seen in the photo above right. Among the trees you will see are spruce pine aspen and cottonwoods.

Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park  is located in the far northwest corner of Montana on the Canadian border. The Great Northern Railway, popularly referred to as “The Empire Builder”,  played a major role in the parks awareness to the general public having built it’s rail line from St. Paul, MN to Seattle, WA along it’s southern border.

In 1932 Canada and the United States declared Waterton Lakes National Park (founded in 1895) and neighboring Glacier National Park (founded in 1910) the world’s first International Peace Park. While administered separately, the park’s two sections cooperate in wildlife management, scientific research, and some visitor services.

See these additional Trips Into History articles on the links below…

What It Was Like To Travel On The Old Butterfield Stage Line

Garryowen and George Armstrong Custer’s Seventh Cavalry

Visit Spectacular Bryce Canyon, Utah

bannack montana ghost town

Bannack, Montana ghost town

Annual Rocky Mountain Festivals and Events

The Telluride Film Festival is a popular and prestigious annual event that attracts some of the biggest stars in Hollywood to a small Colorado town.

The Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous

The Rocky Mountain National Rendezvous (RMNR) is an annual celebration of life on the pre-1840 American Western frontier. The event is both re-enactment and living history, based on the fur-trade rendezvous that was held in the Rocky Mountains by the early fur trappers.  For detailed information regarding this annual event see website…http://rmnr.org/

Cody Nite Rodeo

Wild West Family Fun in Cody, Wyoming every night June 1st through August 31st 8:00 PM. Come early, meet the clowns & bullfighters, get your photo taken on a live bull or try your hand at riding a mechanical bull.

fort garland colorado

Infantry barracks at old Fort Garland, Colorado

Living History Program at Nevada City, Montana

The Outdoor Living History Museum in Nevada City, Montana, has one of the largest collections of Old West Artifacts outside the Smithsonian. The museum site  displays a hundred 1863 to early 1900 structures, and about 70 living history interpreters. Living history weekends are held Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.

Spectacular vistas, scenic highways and historic sites and towns are all part of the Rocky Mountains and the old west. The above mentioned historic sites, national parks and annual events are just a small sample of what awaits you on your next trip to the great and scenic Rocky Mountain region.

(Article copyright 2015 Trips Into History)

Your La Jolla, California Getaway / Scenic and Much More

The Land of Today’s La Jolla Dates Way back

What today is a beautiful tourist destination was at one time home to Native Americans. Artifacts found in and around La Jolla, California tell us that Native Americans settled along the Pacific shoreline nearly 10,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found stone utensils and other Indian artifacts for many years.

la jolla photosWhat happened to the native Americans who called this area home is an unanswered question. Did they migrate nearby? Did they move further south perhaps into Mexico? Answers to these questions still remain a mystery.

La Jolla Becomes Part of San Diego

The area around La Jolla was made part of San Diego in 1850. This would have been about 80 years after Father Junipero Serra built his mission in San Diego which was the first Spanish mission built in California, then called Alta California.  At the time San Diego took over La Jolla there were no permanent settlers in this section of land. It wasn’t until 19 years later  when two brothers, Daniel and Samuel Sizer, each bought a plot here. The plots sold were 80 acres in size and cost $1.25 per acre. This was quite a long time ago but regardless who would have imagined that an acre today in La Jolla would be priced in the millions?

la jolla coastline

Sea birds gather along the La Jolla coastline

Railroads Mean Growth

The railroad made it’s way to La Jolla, California in the 1880′s. This represented a milestone for La Jolla. Whenever the railroad laid tracks to a town the result was growth and typically large growth. The railroad was the catalyst for aggressive development including that of sea side resorts that would lure travelers from San Diego and inland communities. As an example, La Jolla Park Hotel opened its doors in 1893 and cottage-style homes were built along Prospect Street and Girard Avenue.

In 1900 La Jolla, California counted about 350 permanent residents. For the next twenty years La Jolla solidified it’s tourism appeal and tourism became it’s number one economic driver and remains so today.

La Jolla became known as an artist colony during this early 20th century period. The community was also fortunate to have newspaper heiress Ellen Browning Scripps settle there. Scripps used her wealth to help further La Jolla’s cultural base. In La Jolla, San Diego proper and in parts of southern California in general, her name is on numerous landmarks and institutions. One such well known institution is the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Ellen Browning Scripps Park.

Today’s La Jolla Attractions

Many refer to La Jolla as the jewel of San Diego. This is probably a pretty accurate description. La Jolla rests atop the bluffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. This world famous tourist destination and jewel of San Diego has attracted millions over the years, and continues to do so to this very day.

What to expect with La Jolla is a small town feel, some of the finest ocean and coastal mountain views anywhere in southern California and an easy to access coastline. Put these all together and you have one magnificent attraction.

Beaches, Restaurants and Shopping / Something For Everyone

The three main areas of interest for La Jolla visitors is the beautiful beach, the variety of unique restaurants, and the top notch shopping. Home to some of the best coastline in southern California, La Jolla offers beach goers the opportunity to play, relax, and just enjoy the sun on some of the finest beaches that even rival those found in Hawaii for their seclusion and serenity.

la jolla california coastlineFrom the long white sand of La Jolla Shores to the quiet and relaxing beach off Marine Street, you’ll have plenty of space to find your very own piece of southern California paradise.

La Jolla restaurants are world class and boast of having some of the finest chefs and up coming chefs in the U.S. Because La Jolla enjoys a year round growing season, these chefs have easy access to some of the finest food products found anywhere and that translates to some of the best meals you’ll ever enjoy.

You may enjoy these additional San Diego articles from our Western Trips website…

Coronado Island and the Historic Hotel del Coronado

The Oldest Building in San Diego Located in Old Town

For those who want to check out the shopping, many say that La Jolla offers some of the most unique shopping found anywhere. It’s been said that La Jolla shopping is the choice of celebrities and bargain-hunters alike. From the world’s most luxurious brands to everyday values.

la jolla attractions

La Jolla street leading to the coastline

La Jolla is a community to visit for a vacation, a great weekend getaway or if need be, just for a fun and relaxing day.  If you have to pick a season in an area that has four excellent seasons, summer is probably the best time to visit, as the beaches there are truly beautiful. Looking for a trip destination out of the ordinary and one with great photo opportunities, you may want to consider La Jolla, California. For more details of dining choices and shopping see website…http://www.lajollabythesea.com/

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Trips Into History)