Shipwrecks

 

If you want to see some wonderful old shipwrecks and some gorgeous scenery too then you must visit Munising, Michigan on Lake Superior. Here you will see three different wrecks via a glass bottom boat during your two hours ride aboard Shipwreck Tours. Perhaps the most impressive is the wooden ship built before the Civil War that sits only a few feet down on the bottom of the lake. Because of the perfect cold water temperature of Superior the wrecks have been preserved naturally and are amazingly intact and easy to see.

Over 30 ships have gone down in the bay around Grand Island and the Picture Rocks. The natural beauty of the rocks, caves and waterfalls are spectacular. You might even spy a Bald Eagle or two like we did on our visit.

And if you are into lighthouses the historic Grand Island East Channel Light is worth the cost of the trip.Opened in 1868 is was used to get ships from Lake Superior into the harbor of Munising . Its a rare wooden lighthouse and with fundraising from the community it will be saved as a lasting treasure of the area.

Admittedly, tickets for this little adventure are a bit pricey at $32 per adult and children under 12 are $12.00. But this is a very different and rare excursion that cannot be found just anywhere.

After the ride we drove 5 minutes to the U.S. Park of Munising Falls. With a paved hiking trail to this 50 ft. waterfall.; it is a great way to spend a little time before or after your boat tour. Waterfalls are plentiful around this area so I recommend you take some time to explore these natural wonders.

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This area of the UP is unique so pack a lunch or stay in the area awhile.Either way you are sure to come away with some amazing memories of a great time and some beautiful scenery that can only be found in this unique area of the Mid-West.

Kamp Vught- Herzogenbusch, The Netherlands

The last time we were in Europe I thought it was important for my kids to see for themselves what happened to the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, resistance fighters, and another other groups/persons who the Nazi’s targeted for extermination.  So we visited the Herzogenbusch Concentration Camp (Kamp Vught) near the town of Herzogenbusch where the horror of what happened to innocent people could be seen and to a small extent be felt by our kids. It was a lesson that shocked and saddened them. One that has changed them and how they see the world.

Although Kamp Vught is considered to be a transport camp rather than a death camp nonetheless 749 prisoners lost their lives while incarcerated against their will. Of those, 342 were murdered just outside the camp as the Allies were approaching.

The camp was built in 1942/43 with the prisoners being forced to finish the construction themselves. Over 31,000 people were housed here before being transported to the death camps of Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen between the years 1943-1944.

Today Kamp Vught is a National Monument dedicated to the victims of Nazi atrocities. The interior of the museum has been designed to be a reflective and thoughtful place spread out over several buildings and outdoor areas. The museum itself displays diaries,relics, personal items and the clothing of the persons who were incarcerated or murdered here.

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We learned that upon entry to the Kamp each prisoner was given a colored triangle on their gevangenenpak. Jewish prisoners received a yellow triangle, political prisoners and resistance fighters one red, homosexuals a pink triangle, and the ‘criminals’ (illegal butchers and black marketers) a black triangle.

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Outside there is monument that stands in honor of the children who were separated from their mothers and sent off to be executed. Standing there, reading list after long list of names, you could just “hear” the cries of parents and children as they were taken away by the guards. As a parent it felt horrific to think that there was nothing you could do to save your own child from extermination.

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Below you will see a picture of my sister-in-law as she stood in cell 115. What you cannot see is the tears running down her face as she contemplated the horror that happened in this room on January 16, 1944.  The day before, as a punishment for some drama occurring in the women’s barracks, the Kamp Commander forced 74 women into this tiny windowless room. Fourteen hours later the cell was finally opened and the remaining 64 women were freed. The plaque contains a list of the names of the ten women who suffocated due to lack of oxygen.

 

Although most the buildings of this once huge camp are gone a few still remain or were rebuilt. In this one, you can walk down row upon row of narrow bunkbeds, each three beds high, where the prisoners were kept. My nine- year-old daughter was shocked at how small and lumpy the straw mattresses were when she laid down upon them.

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More sobering was the crematorium. The cart that brought the bodies in to be disposed of still stands here a silent testimony to the hundreds of lives lost.

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Guard towers 100 meters apart and barbed wire fence also surround the property giving visitors a small sense of just what these prisoners were seeing and of the future that awaited them.

Near the exit of the museum there is a wall in which guests can reflect on their experience visiting Kamp Vught. This is what my 11 year old son wrote.

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This is a painful place to visit but a necessary one. It should serve to remind us of the horrors of war and and the cruelties that humans perpetrate against one another in the hopes that we never do so again. I would like to think that such vivid reminders of  a world gone mad will encourage the visitors of Kamp Vught to work for peace in their own backyards and keep the horrors of these times forever buried in the past never to see the light of day again. But we know that genocide and mass killings still occur all over the world today and with these events a question must be asked that cannot ever be properly answered. That question is WHY?

Kamp Vught is open 10:00-17.00, Sat, Sun 12:00-17:00.
Closed: Monday (October – March). The entrance fee is about 6 euros.

 

Pikes Peak-Colorado

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Ever since Zebulon Pike failed to summit Pikes Peak in 1806, mountaineers have come to this grand spot in the Rocky Mountains to have their own go of it. At 14,110 ft this is one of 53 mountains that are greater than 14,000 feet in Colorado and a challenge to climb.

There are several ways to reach the summit of Pikes. The first is just plain old hoofing it up the mountain via Barr Trail which is considered a Class 1 trail. It is a 13 mile climb to the top with an 8,ooo ft elevation difference from start to finish.

Another way to reach the summit is The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway which operates out of Manitou Springs weather permitting. It is a cog railway and is the highest railway in North America. This is an expensive way to summit at $38 per adult but the views are stunning and it is an unforgettable experience.

Since 2011 Pikes Peak Highway has been opened to the top. It is a 19 mile drive from Ute Pass and is maintained as a toll road so there is a fee to use it. At the top you will find a Visitors Center and gift shop but it is the things you will see along the way that you will long remember…the alpine woods, three magnificent lakes and the historic Glen Cove Inn. These are the things that come to mind when I think of Pikes Peak.

As always when you are at these altitudes be sure to bring along plenty of water so you keep hydrated. Altitude sickness with its attending headache is often experienced by visitors who do not take the time to acclimate. And remember it is COLD at the top so dress accordingly.  At Pikes the scenery is vast and the climb is one of those once-in-a- lifetime things you must do. So go and enjoy Pikes no matter how you get there!

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Dave climbing near Pikes Peak in Colorado

 

Montezuma Castle-Camp Verde, Arizona

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Let’s get one thing straight right from the get-go. Even though this is referred to as Montezuma Castle, the great Aztec chief himself never lived in this settlement nor contributed to its development; as this Pueblo was built over centuries and then abandoned at least 40 years prior to his birth.

It has been years since I have been to this sacred place that was once home to the Sinagua people but is now the home of  the National Monument that honors them. I still remember the raw feelings of the life force that still swirls throughout the canyon as well as a sense of awe that these native people, who lived so long ago, could design buildings and pottery that were so impressive and long lasting. Descendants of these ancient people live on in the Hopi and other native peoples of the Southwest.

The Castle sits about 90 ft up a sheer limestone cliff and was built over time and occupied from about 1100-1450 AD. though there is archaeological evidence that the Sinagua were in the area since 700 AD.  The main building contains about 20 rooms and is approximately five stories high. It was built within an alcove which allowed it to remain protected from the elements and was placed high enough to avoid the seasonal flooding that occurred on Beaver Creek which lay directly below this village. It is constructed from huge chunks of limestone and from clay obtained from the creek bed beneath the Pueblo. The ceilings were made of thatch that was procured from the Arizona sycamore.

One of the more interesting facts about Montezuma Castle was that it was abandoned for some time due to volcanic eruption of Sunset Crater but was later re-occupied and agricultural production was resumed after the effects of the eruption diminished.

The dwellings and the 860 acres that surround them were declared a United States National Monument in 1906 with the signing of the American Antiquities Act. Early visitors were allowed to climb ladders into the buildings but due to damage from these well meaning visitors the practiced was halted in 1951. Today you can only see Montezuma Castle from viewing platforms or along the 1/3 mile loop trail that winds below the pueblo. However,  it is easy to learn about Sinagua culture and see artifacts from the area at the Visitor Center.

This National Park is located near Camp Verde, Arizona off Interstate 17. It is open from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. everyday except Christmas.

There is a $10 fee to enter Montezuma Castle and the Tuzigoot National Monument which is valid for 7 days. Children under 15 are free.

HINT: Buy a National Park Pass ($80) which allows access to all National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands for a year for the pass holder + 2 adults. And if you are 62 years of age or older A Senior Pass can be purchased for $10 which allows you and three adults into all the National Parks without incurring additional entrance fees.