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On The Road Through The National Park System


We are beginning the ultimate 2010 road trip: North along the 469-mile length of the Blue Ridge Parkway followed by 105-mile-long Skyline Drive that winds through Shenandoah National Park. Then west to St. Joseph, Missouri, to follow the Oregon Trail to Oregon City, Oregon, before returning via the route followed by Lewis & Clark along the Columbia and Missouri rivers.

We will be following the Lewis & Clark route from Fort Clatsop, where the Corps of Discovery spent a very uncomfortable winter, to St. Louis, Missouri, where the expedition formally commenced its epic trip. At least, that is the plan. The National Park Service is one of several organizations involved in helping to interpret the two historical trails.

We will be traveling in a 2003 Toyota RAV4, a great road-trip vehicle that has rewarded us with 32 to 36 mpg during two previous cross-country trips. Removable rear seats allow sufficient storage for a small tent, an air mattress, three blankets, a small stove, and two ice chests (adequate for some brewskis), plus essential foods including peanut butter, Ritz crackers, Oreos, and canned tuna.

During Part I of the Ultimate Road Trip, we will be reporting from each of the four lodges on the Blue Ridge Parkway and the three lodges in Shenandoah National Park. In all, we will be spending 11 nights exploring these two parks before heading west to St. Joe and the Missouri River.

The beginning of summer is certainly a good time to leave our home in south Georgia that has become oppressively hot and humid. The cooler temperatures along the Blue Ridge are quite welcome to most of us deep-south crackers who glory in our wonderful falls, mild winters, and colorful springs, but wilt like a dehydrated azalea from mid-May to mid-September.

So check in each day to see where we've been and what we've found.


Sounds like a great trip. Have fun, be safe, and please post pics along the way!

Sounds like a great trip. But am I reading this right?

You're starting at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Parkway without exploring Great Smoky Mountains National Park? The start of your adventure, the Parkway, is within walking distance from Oconaluftee Visitor Center in the Smokies. Stop in and say hello.

What a great adventure you have coming. Truth be told, the Blue Ridge Parkway ranks pretty high for finding the best attributes in the great outdoors. Crabtree Falls north of Asheville, offers a fabulous campground, perfect after driving the high-altitude Black-Mountain section of the PKWY. Otter Creek Campground on the north end has got to be one of the best campgrounds in the park system, as it sits in a conifer-mix forest with a full-service restaurant in the actual campground! Talk about roughing it!

Shenandoah's Loft Mountain Campground is by far the best within that park, and I guarantee a bear sighting if you walk the AT Trail around the mountain (either between 6am and 8am, or 7:30pm or 9pm).

Out West you have to see the incredable Fort Union Trading Post NHS on the Montana/North Dakota Border, watch for Amtrak's Empire Builder roaring past mid-day. North Dakota is one of my favorite states after Alaska, Montana, Hawaii, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Maine, Mayland, etc, hey it beats New Jersey.

Have a great time out in the Parks!

Ben Lord

Have a great trip. Looking forward to reading about your adventures :-)


We look forward to greeting you here in St. Joseph! Along with the Oregon Trail, we are also celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Pony Express this year (also a National Park Service Historic Trail). Stop by our Visitor Center and say Hi!

Beth Carmichael
St. Joseph Convention and Visitors Bureau

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