The Little Rock Nine

Prior to our arrival in Little Rock, Arkansas, I had made a reservation with the National Park Service to visit Little Rock Central High School, which is both a historical landmark and an operating high school.  During the school year, tours are only offered twice a day, and only while the school is in session.  Reservations are required.  Across the street from the school, the Park Service has a visitor center with exhibits, and many audio recordings to listen to from the students, teachers, and residents of Little Rock that give first hand stories about the events that happened in 1957.  For us, this was one of the most impressive and informative National Park Service tours we have ever attended.

Little Rock Central High School was built-in 1928 at a cost of $1.2 million (yes, that’s million…in 1928!)  It is the most impressive high school we have ever seen.  At the time our of tour, there was a group of students from Chicago on a field trip, and they were amazed at the school.  Since it is an operating school, the tour is very limited to the main entrance, the auditorium and the cafeteria.  We would have loved to roam the halls of the building.  You could just feel the history.  Other than security cameras and elevators, it seems to have been left in its original state.  The staircases had wooden banisters, and the auditorium still had the original wooden seats.  It has a current enrollment of 2422 students for grades 9 – 12.  The school continues to thrive today, and is considered one of the 16 best schools to prepare students for college with over 177 different courses offered, 30 advanced placement classes, and five foreign languages taught.

The school is so big, I had to do a panoramic shot to get the entire front of the building in the photo.  There are over 100 classrooms in the building.  There were about 60 people in our tour group, and I think all of us said “wow” when we first saw the school, except for the one student from Chicago who remarked ‘our school is trash compared to this!’

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Here is a close-up of the middle section of the school, where the main entrance is.


So why is this the only high school in America designated as a National Park?  Time for a brief history lesson.

“We the people” are the first three words of the Constitution as it was written in 1787.  But who does “we” represent?   White male landowners.  Over time, through amendments to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights,  the definition of “we” has expanded.   Some of these rights came as a result of protest, and the visitors center has details about how the rights of people have expanded as a result of individuals protesting.   Through protest, comes change.

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In 1954, the US Supreme Court outlawed segregation in elementary and secondary schools in the Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas case.  The schools in the Southern states were slow to begin the process of integrating schools, which would allow students to go to the school in their own neighborhood, instead of getting bused across town.

The Little Rock school board quietly discussed how to integrate students at the high school level, and announced it would accept African-American students at Central High School.  But they only wanted a limited number of students, and would only accept those who had straight A’s and perfect attendance.  Over 200 students applied, and the school board realized that was too many.  So they continued to raise the bar on the standards.  No African American student would be allowed to participate in any athletic or club event.  No after school activities.  The students were only allowed to attend school, and must leave immediately at the end of the school day.  Eventually only 10 students were left.

This integration did not sit well with Arkansas Governor Faubus, and he ordered the National Guard to bar the African-American students from school.  On September 3, 1957, a mob gathered outside the school, along with the National Guard.  One of the parents of the 10 students, after seeing the angry mob, decided against sending their daughter to that school.  Nine students were left, but they did not attend the first day of school.

On the second day of school, the Arkansas National Guard barred the students from entering the school.  These 9 students were harassed, spit upon, and shoved around as they walked towards school.  Not by fellow students, but by the parents and community members that gathered daily around the school.  By September 20, a Federal judge rules against the use of the National Guard, and the Little Rock Police were responsible for the students safety.   On September 23, the Little Rock Nine (Terrence Roberts, Elizabeth Eckford, Ernest Green, Thelma Mothershed, Minnijean Brown, Jefferson  Thomas, Carlotta Walls, Gloria Ray and Melba Pattillo) finally entered the high school.  But the local police were overwhelmed by the angry mob and a riot broke out.  The police removed the students from the school.

By this time, media from around the country were broadcasting multiple times a day from the school.  A local gas station, which had a pay telephone, was set up for the reporters.  That gas station, across from the school, has been preserved as part of the history. (gas was 22 cents a gallon, by the way!)


People around the country were both horrified and supportive of what they were seeing coming out of Little Rock.  But President Eisenhower had seen enough, and federalized the Arkansas National Guard.  In addition, he sent in 1200 soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division to restore order and protect the students.  The soldiers escorted students into the school, and remained inside the hallways of the school to protect the nine students.  The soldiers were not allowed inside the classrooms or bathrooms of the school.  As a result, the nine students were physically and verbally abused in the classrooms and bathrooms by fellow students.

In 1957, there were around 2000 students attending the high school.  About 200 of the students were constantly harassing the nine students.  In listening to the audio recordings of the Little Rock Nine detailing their experiences, it wasn’t the action of the 200 students that bothered them, as much as the inaction of the 1800 students that just stood by and did nothing.  They called them the silent majority.

One of the nine students was expelled, after she was physically assaulted by a group of female students.  She did not physically retaliate, but called them “white trash.”  After her expulsion, students passed out cards stating ‘one down, eight to go.’  By November, the Airborne Division leaves, and the nine students continue to endure verbal and physical assaults for the remainder of the school year.

On May 25, 1958, Ernest Green became the first African-American student to graduate from Central High School.  In attendance at his graduation, was a man who wanted to watch this historical event, Dr. Martin Luther King.

But that’s not the end of this fight for integration.  Governor Faubus shut down all the schools in Little Rock for the 1958-59 school year, in order to block the integration of the school district.  A Federal Court ruled the closing of the schools was unconstitutional, and the schools reopened in August 1959.

All of the Little Rock Nine not only graduated from high school (not all from Central), but went on to college and had very successful careers.  Jefferson Thomas passed away in 2010 from cancer, but the other eight are still alive.

If you are ever in the Little Rock, Arkansas area, please try to do this tour.  Even if you only have time to look at the exhibits in the visitors center, it is worth the time.  What these students had to endure was truly heartbreaking, but their will to persevere is inspirational.


Quote for the day:  “Any time it takes 11,500 soldiers to assure nine Negro children their constitutional rights in a democratic society, I can’t be happy.”  – Daisy L. Gatson Bates




Cousins come a callin’

First off, thank you for all the wonderful comments, e-mails and telephone calls from our last blog post.  It really meant a lot.

Dan’s cousins, Roni and Jodi, made a long road trip from the Twin Cities to come out and visit with us for two days.  We tried to pack as much as we could in the short amount of time they had, and we think we succeeded.  The only thing they were not able to check off their list was seeing a grizzly bear.

We spent the first day on a quick tour of Grand Teton National Park, trying to stop at some of  the highlights: Colter Bay, Jackson Lake Lodge, Signal Mountain, String Lake, Jenny Lake, Lupine Meadows, The Chapel of Transfiguration, Schwabacher Landing, etc…

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Dan, Jodi, Roni


After seeing some of  the highlights, we stopped in Moose for a little pizza at Dornan’s.  While sitting outside we were briefly entertained by a fox walking near the deck.

DSC04474 (2)The next morning we headed up to Yellowstone, making a few stops in the Tetons to view a herd of Elk,

P1000307 (2)followed by a mama and baby moose!

P1000363 (2)And no morning is complete without a stop at Oxbow Bend, with the low-lying clouds covering parts of Mt Moran.

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Yellowstone was pretty busy, but Roni said she had “positive vibes”, especially after our wonderful start to the day.  She was right, and we never had issues finding parking spots!  Our wildlife sightings continued, with an Osprey in a nest,

P1000516 (2)and a lone buffalo taking a nap along the side of the road!

P1000500 (2)The cousins were impressed with the view of the Lower Falls.

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I think Roni and Jodi may have a new future career in the park service!

P1000472 (2)No stop to Yellowstone is complete without a visit to Old Faithful.  It was Roni’s first time seeing the geyser go off.  Despite its name, it did not erupt until 25 minutes after its scheduled time.  The crowd of thousands was growing very restless, and a lot of cheers erupted when it finally went off.  Roni said it was worth the wait!

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Although their visit was very short, we had a wonderful time and are thankful Roni and Jodi decided to venture out west to see us!  Our door is always open for our family and friends to visit!

Quote for the day:  “Nobody will understand the craziness of your family better than your cousins.” – unknown


Close Encounters of the Moose Kind!

I have a lot to catch up on with the blogs.  We have been very busy the last few weeks, with visitors, wildlife sightings, packing up the rig, working 8 days in a row, and driving back to Wisconsin.  I will split this up into several posts.  First up:  visitors and wildlife.

September is a beautiful time to visit Grand Teton National Park, as the colors are changing, and the wildlife are very active.  It is the third busiest month in the park, and the weather can be hit or miss.  We had some visitors of our own, Mike and Sue, friends since college, drove out from Wisconsin to visit.  Mike was going elk hunting in Idaho, so he was only able to stay for one night, but Sue was able to spend several days hanging out with us.

We managed to give them a brief tour of GTNP, including a stop at the now peaceful String Lake.  During the summer months, this is a very popular area for swimming, kayaking and stand-up paddle boards.


Dan, Jonell, Sue & Mike

We went up by Jackson Lake, and were shocked by how much the lake has dropped since we saw it a month ago.  It should be a good crop of potatoes this year, as Idaho has taken plenty of water from the lake! Idaho has water rights to remove water from the top of Jackson Lake and due to the lack of rain they took a considerable amount this year.

dsc03956-1A short drive north of Jackson Lake brought us to the Berry Creek Fire area.  It was sad to see acres of burned forest land, but it will be interesting to watch this area rejuvenate over time.

dsc03959-1During our drive through the park, we spotted a lone female moose.

dsc03972-1Along with a large heard of pronghorns, including a mama with two hungry babies!


After Mike left the next morning, the three of us headed out to a short 4 mile hike to Taggert Lake. GTNP has so many excellent hiking trails, and the views never get old.

dsc03990-1After our hike, we starting driving around and noticed a number of cars pulled off the road, but we could not see what they were looking at, so we pulled over and walked about 100 yards to where the crowd was standing.  And we were glad we did!  At first, we just saw a head of a moose pop out of the willows. But then mama came into full view, followed by a pretty good sized baby.  We watched them for a while until they walked back out of view.


Dan and Sue spotted a bull moose on the way to the airport the next morning, but it was too dark to get a good picture.  So on our next day off from work, we left early in the morning to see if we could spot him again, and we were in luck.  He was still hanging out down by the airport.  The pictures are not the best, as it was early morning, and he was pretty far away.


I did remember to turn around and take one shot of the mountains while we were watching the moose.  You can see the airport on the left.  Jackson Hole Airport is the only airport located within a National Park.


We drove over to the same spot we saw mama and baby moose the prior week, and there was no one around (people that is), so we pulled over and started walking along the river.  Dan was about 30 yards ahead of me, when I saw him jump up and quickly start walking backwards.  Turns out he practically ran right into mama and baby moose, as they were on the opposite side of the river!  Dan was less than 10 yards from the mama moose as she looked right up at him as she was eating some vegetation. Did you know more people are killed by moose than bears?  I managed to take a quick picture of mama moose peering up at me, before we both walked away to a safe viewing distance.  I just love the expression on her face!


We walked away from the moose to a safe viewing distance, and both of them got up and started grazing.  The baby was very curious, and would look over at us.


We capped off our moose-filled day by having lunch with our friends Tom and Ellen.  Ellen’s daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter were visiting with them up in Yellowstone, and came down hiking for the day in the Tetons.  It was a great way to end a wonderful day!


It was a busy, but great week with visitors.  We started packing up the fifth wheel and getting ready for our last stretch of work.  (that will be for the next blog)

Quote for the day: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese






Fall Colors in Grand Teton National Park

Fall has arrived, and although the weather has been hit or miss lately, the view continues to be spectacular.  Now we know why September is the third busiest month at Grand Teton National Park.  The colors are amazing.  The photos simply do not do justice to the colors.

As I was typing up this blog, I received a notification from Word Press, which is the site that I blog from.  It said today is the third anniversary of this blog!  I was not aware of that.  Amazing how time flies.  And thank you to those who have been following along on our journey.  September 30th will be our last day at Luton’s Teton Cabins.  It has been a great summer, and I will have more next week, wrapping up all of our recent activities and animal sightings.

This will just be a quick, picture filled blog, so enjoy!



Quote for the day:  “Fall has always been my favorite season.  The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” – Lauren DeStefano

Yellowstone – summary of recent visits

Today is the 99th Birthday of the National Park Service!

We have taken advantage of having an entire summer to explore at the very first National Park, Yellowstone. We are very grateful that many intelligent folks had the foresight to protect and preserve so many parks, monuments, caves, historical sites, etc., for future generations to enjoy.

Yellowstone is such a wonderful park with so many unique features and areas to explore. Previously I have written about the thermal features in great detail. Instead of doing a lot of separate posts on the different areas, this one will summarize our last several visits.  So this is a bit photo heavy.


The animals are a big attraction in the park, and sometimes people forget this is not a zoo. The animals are wild, and this is their home. To date, five people have been gored by bison (buffalo). Four of them simply walked up to the bison to take a better picture, and one startled a sleeping bison while hiking. Just remember, bison have no interest in being in your “selfie”! We have seen our fair share of animals, except for a grizzly and Bull Moose in the park. The Lamar Valley area is best known for animal sightings, and we spent a day driving in that area. If you want to see animals, go early (think 6am).

Lamar Valley

Lamar Valley

The park has a lot of Pronghorn’s



As well as bison

where the buffalo roam

where the buffalo roam

And a few bison that seem to hang out right near the road, so you can view them safely from your vehicle

no selfies please!

no selfies please!

But the highlight of our trip this day was seeing a bear foraging for food. We watched him/her(?) about 10 minutes lifting up trees stumps with ease, searching for food. The bear finally stopped and looked back at all the people, and then disappeared into the woods. A park ranger had also stopped, to insure people were not getting any closer to the bear. We stayed in our truck, but many people had exited their vehicles. I think my photo from the safety of the truck turned out just fine. No need to walk closer to the bear.

hmm, tasty people

hmm, tasty people


As you are aware from previous posts, Yellowstone has plenty of waterfalls. After viewing the animals, we headed over to Tower Fall, which we had not yet seen. At 132 feet, the falls is a very popular viewing area. It is a very short walk (150 yards) from the general store in the Tower-Roosevelt area of the park.  I am not sure why it is called Tower Fall, instead of Tower Falls.

Tower Fall

Tower Fall

There is a more challenging ¼ mile walk down to the river, but you are rewarded with some nice views in the valley.

Tower Creek

Tower Creek

On our way back up, we encountered a baby pronghorn that was munching away right on the path, oblivious to the warning on the sign!

what sign?

what sign?


After viewing the falls, we decided to hit the Norris Geyser Basin even though it was over flowing with visitors. They say attendance is way up this year, and we believe that! This geyser basin has a lot a fumaroles (steam vents), which are the hottest of the geothermal features in the park. They have been measured at 280 degrees, and quickly boil away what little water is in the vent.

Norris Geyser Basin

Norris Geyser Basin

steam vent

steam vent

steam vent boiling

steam vent boiling


On another day we checked out the artist paint pots area, which is a short walk around some mud pots, geysers and hot springs.  The trail climbs to an overlook, which gives a nice overview of the area.

Artist Paint Pots

Artist Paint Pots

mud pot

mud pot


Another section of the park, on the way to Old Faithful, has more paint pots. Paint pots are a vat of bubbling mud formed by the mixture of heat, gases, volcanic rock, water, minerals, acid and living microorganisms. The pots in the Fountain Paint Pot section are fun to watch.  Photos just do not do justice to these.  You have to watch and listen to them plop and throw mud up and around.

Fountain Paint Pots

Fountain Paint Pots

In this same area, is another fumerole, Red Spouter. This was formed after the earthquake in 1959, which is example of just how unstable the ground is in many parts of Yellowstone. Prior to the quake, it was just a grassy hill.

Red Spouter

Red Spouter

And as luck would have it, we were fortunate to watch two geysers in this area erupt at the same time! Spasm geyser on the left, and fountain geyser on the right.

twin eruptions

twin eruptions

Having our geyser fix, we headed down Firehole Lake Drive to see what was located there. The Great Fountain Geyser, which had erupted the day before, was still very impressive to look at.

Great Fountain Geyser

Great Fountain Geyser

If you notice in the picture above, there is a castle shaped geyser in the background. (you may have to click the picture to enlarge) Shortly after this photo, that geyser started to erupt, so we watched from a distance. Given the relatively few people around that geyser, it was not a planned eruption.

White Dome Geyser erupting

White Dome Geyser erupting

After that one settled down, the Great Fountain Geyser started acting up, spewing a bit of water, before settling back down.

Great Fountain acting up

Great Fountain acting up

We drove over to the White Dome Geyser for a closer look. This geyser continues to get taller every year, as a small amount of silica is deposited on the sides after each eruption.

White Dome Geyser

White Dome Geyser

On our last visit to the park, we explored the West Thumb Geyser Basin and Yellowstone Lake. Due to the wildfires in Montana and Idaho, the air quality has really decreased, and there is a constant haze over the area. We stopped along the road to watch this little geyser erupt, with Yellowstone Lake in the background. You cannot see the mountains on the other side due to the haze.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellowstone Lake

Fishing Bridge used to be a popular area for fishing, but the park service no longer allows fishing in the area, as people were too successful, and the wildlife in the park depends on the fish more than us humans do. I was lucky to snap this photo just as four corvettes were crossing the bridge.

Fishing Bridge

Fishing Bridge

The most famous feature at the West Thumb is this hot springs fishing cone in the lake. Fisherman would boast about how they could catch a trout in the lake, then dunk it in the boiling water in the cone to cook it! This practice was banned in 1911.

Fishing Cone

Fishing Cone

We just never get tired of all the ever-changing features of Yellowstone National Park. It is truly an amazing place. If you have never visited, please put this on your ‘bucket list’. You will not regret a visit to the park, even if you only have a day. Thank you for following along this summer on our trips to Yellowstone. Hopefully you have enjoyed the photos (we have taken hundreds each visit), and learned a few things on geothermal features.

Quote for the day:  “There can be nothing in the world more beautiful than the Yosemite, the groves of the giant sequoias and redwoods, the Canyon of the Colorado, the Canyon of the Yellowstone, the Three Tetons; and our people should see to it that they are preserved for their children and their children’s children forever, with their majestic beauty all unmarred.” – Theodore Roosevelt