Category Archives: History

5 Things You May Not Know About Juliette Gordon Low

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Recently I visited Savannah, Georgia for the very first time–a beautiful, interesting, and historically rich city I highly recommend! It is the birthplace of the Girl Scouts of America, and also the birthplace of its founder, Juliette Gordon Low. As a former…well, okay, very former member of both Brownies and Girl Scouts, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tour her home which is located right there in historic downtown Savannah. If you ever have the chance to get to that area, you’d be missing out if you didn’t see it. For information on the house and tours, click here: I’m Interested In Seeing The Home Of A Rockin’ Visionary And Authentic Womens’ Rights Advocate, Way Ahead Of Her Time! 

I’ll be honest, other than a paper I wrote a few months ago where I used Girl Scouts of the USA as my nonprofit topic, I have not thought much about my own experiences as a Girl Scout over the last few decades. And, as a mom of boys, it’s not come up in conversation either. I dropped out around 4th or 5th grade, as I recall, which is sadly pretty common. There were two young ladies in our tour group cohort who were still Girl Scouts and in high school, and they confirmed that it is unusual for girls to stick with it to the end. They are a rarity, and were there earning their pin for touring the house of the founder. They were extremely polite, gracious, intelligent, and enthusiastic young women–just the sort we want to transition into being our co-workers, friends, mothers, and leaders of our society in the years to come. Hmmmm….could there be a correlation? I think so! Maybe we all need to encourage the young women around us to stay in Girl Scouts for the long haul. They do sort of kick folks out at 18, and after 12th grade, so girls can’t stay in indefinitely, but “finishing” Girl Scouts is a trend I’d like to see, wouldn’t you? 


Anyway, back to the reason I started writing a blog this morning…On the tour I took, and thanks to some materials I browsed after taking the tour, I learned a few lesser known, but fascinating factoids about the founder of this truly amazing organization. And here they are…

1) She was an extremely accomplished painter/artist. I mean, we are talking professional artist quality here. Throughout the house are examples of her work, including a gorgeous, one of a kind set of hand painted plates on the dining table. 

2) As an adult, she was mostly deaf in one ear. This was due to a freak accident that happened on her wedding day when a grain of rice lodged in her ear. When the doctor took it out, her eardrum was damaged during the procedure. 

3) She made a poor choice of a spouse, and paid the price with a bad marriage. Of course, when a marriage is bad, no outsider really knows what happened, and as they say, it takes two. However, the impression I got was that her husband was not a very nice guy. In fact, he asked her for a divorce, she refused to grant it, and then he died shortly thereafter. Hence, Juliette Gordon Low remained Juliette Gordon Low–for always. 

4) This next one is copied and pasted right from the official Girl Scouts website–the section on Juliette’s life: “One of her special skills was standing on her head. She stood on her head every year on her birthday to prove she still could do it, and also celebrated nieces’ and nephews’ birthdays by standing on her head. Once, she even stood on her head in the board room at National Headquarters to show off the new Girl Scout shoes”. 

5) Juliette was BFF’s with Rudyard Kipling. They used to go fishing and camping together, and he taught her a lot about both. Just think, all those Girl Scout tendencies to go camping, hiking, and in general to appreciate and learn to navigate the great outdoors may have their origins in this friendship between two famous people! 

Just in case you didn’t know it, 2012 is the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of the USA…it says so right there on my commemorative t-shirt….

To learn more about the Girl Scouts of the USA, and just how it supports the leadership development, skill building, and self esteem of girls who then grow into the women who will shape this world, please visit their very impressive official website here: Girl Scouts of the USA

Until next time…

5 Women of Style…Iconic Because They Made their Own

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A lot of the stylish women featured in magazines, both entertainment and fashion, are listed as such because they follow fashion trends set by others, and look great doing it. That’s an accomplishment, I suppose, but the style icons that really interest me are those who march to the beat of their own drum and develop their own style. The ordinary women who pull this off are never brought to our attention, unless we know them personally, but here are a few of my all time favorites that I think you’ll recognize…

STEVIE NICKS

Why She’s Iconic: Because she took a few different looks, and melded them into her own unique signature style…Always ethereal, slightly mysterious, and cool–to this day! 

Click here to watch the ladies of The Talk interview Stevie about how her unique look was inspired, and has evolved. Stevie talks style around 19 minutes into this full episode, and sings at the end so it’s well worth watching the whole thing.  

Stylish Quote: “I think they all went too far. Their jeans got too low, their tops got too see-through. Personally, I think that sexy is keeping yourself mysterious. I’m really an old-fashioned girl, and I think I’m totally sexy”.

COCO CHANEL

Why She’s Iconic: She made sophisticated, simple, and elegant an always acceptable style option for women. You can never go wrong with a Chanel-esque look…this was true in her heyday, and will never go out of fashion. 

Coco Chanel on Biography.com 

Stylish Quote: “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous”. 

MADONNA




Why She’s Iconic: Madonna’s unique style literally symbolizes the 80’s. We’re glad a lot of it is permanently lost to that decade, hopefully never to return, but say what you will–this woman was definitely a style trendsetter who played by her own rules. 

Madonna, The Early Years, Singing “Borderline”  

Stylish Quote: “I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.” 

CLEOPATRA

Why She’s Iconic: Let’s face it, who knows exactly what she looked like? However, Cleopatra is and always will be a well known fashion icon, emulated still today. Any woman who can pull that off when no modern person ever even saw her deserves a place on this list! 

Here’s a fascinating article detailing a scientific study that found that Cleo’s infamous eye makeup was actually healthy–who knew? Cleopatra Eye Makeup 

Stylish Quote: “Be it known that we, the greatest, are misthought.” 

PRINCESS DIANA

Why She’s Iconic: Not for the reasons you’ve always heard…The late Princess Diana is a style icon in my book because of her successful style evolution, which mirrored her life. She evolved, matured, and found out who she really was over the years…And she took us all along for the ride. Her early years were filled with style bloopers, in my opinion, and she was responsible for me looking hideous more than once in big flouncy ruffles that were so not me, or her, for that matter. But, even when she was a world famous style icon who set trends all over the globe with her less than fashionable fashion, she demonstrated that quality that every style icon possesses–fearlessness. You can’t be truly stylish if you’re afraid to take a risk to express yourself! 

This is an article on the latest news of the ongoing auction of Diana’s famous dresses: Princess Diana 

Stylish Quote: “I like to be a free spirit. Some don’t like that, but that’s the way I am.” 

A Little Bit Country Rocks And Rolls!

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I grew up in Tennessee–specifically in Chattanooga. Yes, as in Choo-Choo. My memories are of a childhood surrounded by history that I was not particularly interested in at the time, “lightning bugs” (known to you as fireflies) in the summertime, those little square cheeseburgers (Krystals) that, sorry, no store outside their birthplace really knows how to make, and breathtaking Fall colors each and every year that brought a welcome relief from the unbelievably oppressive humidity of Spring and Summer. Think wearing all your clothes, plus those 70’s and 80’s torture devices known as pantyhose into a sauna, full steam on, and living alternately in that, and a walk in freezer, do not pass go. Not that I’m complaining about air conditioning!

Sweet Iced Tea…Note: When speaking around Southerners, it’s pronounced “SWEETtea” <–one word. Same with beer, aka, “COLDbeer”…:-)  

There’s something interesting I’ve learned about us Southerners over the couple of decades I’ve lived elsewhere in the country though–as a group, we don’t travel much. Driving two hours to get somewhere, to a Southerner, is a major trip. So, it’s really not surprising that even though I grew up in Chattanooga, and lived there until I was around 25, I really hadn’t spent much time in the Nashville area, which is a short 2 hour drive away. Recently, I visited “home” though, and had the pleasure of staying in the Nashville area at a more mature time in my life…when I actually am very interested in the history of a region, when I appreciate what’s going on around me, and when anyone who tried to put a pair of pantyhose on me in this weather, would have to kill me first. 

Always mindful of the true flavor in an area…the off the beaten path, not overly touristy stuff, I’ve compiled a few photos of some things to see and experience  in the Nashville area that you might be interested in if you’re ever hereabouts…Ya’ll…:-) 

My first stop was the Nashville Zoo, which is one of the nicer ones I’ve been to across the country. The best part is their design…they have a lovely tree canopy on most all of the trail, which really comes in handy in the summer heat! For hours and other visitor information, click here: Nashville Zoo at Grassmere

You can’t come here without visiting some sort of Civil War preserved house, cemetery, battlefield, etc. It’s history, and although I know there are some folks who would avoid that sort of thing in order to be politically correct, that’s doing yourself a disservice. To study the reality of history is to protect ourselves from repeating past mistakes. I’ve been to a few of these over my lifetime, but the one I visited on this trip was one of the finest. It was the Carnton Plantation, just a little south of Nashville in Franklin, Tennessee. Everywhere you turn here you can find some sort of house or plantation to tour. But this one, I think, is unique. The house on the property is closed to tours only, which we took. The tour guide was amazing and told us lots of interesting stories about the house, the people, and the Battle of Franklin. This house was turned into a hospital to treat the casualties of the Battle of Franklin, and the bloodstains are literally still on the floors of the house. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before….it was moving and impactful. Click here for more information on this must see: Carnton Plantation 

Also, I picked up this related work of historical fiction in the gift shop–a New York Times Bestseller that I am thoroughly enjoying, particularly after touring the house and grounds, and hearing all about the very real characters…Click the picture below to visit the book’s official website…

The last thing that I definitely wanted to see was downtown Nashville…where it all happened and still happens! If you aren’t good at driving in a city while lookey looing, don’t want to hoof it some fairly long distances, or would like to pop into one of the ultra cool bars with live music flowing out onto the street, even during the day on a weekday, then I highly recommend the Gray Line Music City Trolley Hop. The trolley bus is air conditioned, and the tour takes you all around to the important sites–the Tennessee State Capitol, Music Row, etc. And the drivers, much like the tour guide at the plantation, are amazing! During the 90 minute jaunt, they entertain with lots of fascinating trivia, and let you stop a couple of times to snap pictures. One eye opening bit of trivia I learned from our driver is that Music City is not known as such for the reasons you think–Country Music and its Stars. Nope, Nashville got its nickname when the Queen came to listen to musical performers at Fisk University, who were basically singing to fund the continuance of their school’s existence. The Queen first called Nashville Music City–and it stuck. If you take the trolley, you won’t regret it…And, it’ll orient you to where everything is so that you can go back to your favorite spots later! 

Here are just a few of the interesting and quirky things I saw in Nashville yesterday…

Me with Gary Rossington’s jacket at the Hard Rock Cafe…that’s where you get your trolley tickets, by the way…:-) 

This cool sculpture was too interesting to not get a picture of…remember Minnie Pearl from Hee-Haw? This is an artist’s rendering of her infamous hat located at the Visitor’s Center! 

The broken roller coaster on the Cumberland River (Downtown Nashville’s Waterfront) 

Nashville’s Parthenon…one of the most visited sites in the city. It’s an exact replica of the original. Here are some interesting facts about the Parthenon from Nashville.gov…

Facts about the Nashville Parthenon

  • The bronze doors weight 7.5 tons each. They measure 24′ high, 7′ wide and 1′ thick. There are two sets (4 doors total) of these enormous doors in the Parthenon. This makes them the largest set of matching bronze doors in the world. The Parthenon doors in antiquity were only slightly lighter and were wooden with a bronze overlay.
  • Like its predecessor in Greece, the Parthenon in Nashville faces east. In antiquity this would allow light to come into the building as the sun came up and the doors were opened.
  • Until 1988 visitors entered Nashville’s Parthenon through the doors at the west end of the building. Visitors now must enter the east end of the building at the sidewalk level.The east façade was considered the “front” of the building by the ancient Greeks

And finally, very close to Music Row is this beautiful, controversial, bronze statue. Beautiful, controversial, bronze, and nude–very nude. Hence the controversy, particularly in Nashville which is very much part of the Bible Belt. I loved it…truly a work of art!

For example, here’s the Baptist Press’s take on things: http://bpnews.net/bpnews.asp?ID=16858 And, here’s some information on the history of the statue: Musica
For critics, I think a picture is worth a thousand words…and, well, one word….ART, not to be confused with pornography….

Well, that’s it for now…I’ll leave you with this…pretty much sums it up and says it all!

Making A Positive Difference In Wartime; Miep Gies vs. Jane Fonda

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One of the goals of my blog here is to write about people who are making a positive difference, and hopefully, if I’m really lucky, make one myself. This week, actress Jane Fonda is getting a lot of press for her claims that she was canned by the home shopping network, QVC, for her status as a controversial person during the Vietnam War. You can read about that here: Jane Fonda — QVC Axed Me Over Possible Protests 

Whether or not you side with Jane Fonda or QVC in this matter, photographs tend to speak for themselves….

Jane Fonda wrote a rebuttal to her critics and QVC via her blog, and you can read that in its entirety here, along with the comments she has chosen to publish. I will state for the record that she has not yet posted my own comment, in which I ask her to make a donation of a portion of her millions to a Facebook Cause I founded, Thank a Vietnam Veteran, in order to prove the sincerity of her regret at supposedly being somehow tricked into sitting on that anti-aircraft gun: Jane Fonda’s Blog Post, “The Truth About My Trip To Hanoi”

Quite frankly, I was less than impressed with the argument set forth in the blog by Ms. Fonda. It seemed to be all about her, all about how she was framed and coerced by this that and the other person, and more than a little whiney. I’m sure that there have been some things said about her that aren’t true. This is the case with almost every celebrity, with every high profile news event, etc. But, Janey….Girlfriend…that’s so not the point. The point is, when you are confronted with a war that you don’t agree with, or a political leader that you don’t like and wish to protest, this is not how you make a positive difference. But, you’re a big girl now and you know that, don’t you?

For tips and pointers on how to make a difference in war time, no matter how Jane Fonda is trying to spin her actions now, 40 years later, when what she herself did and said is hitting her wallet, look not to Jane, but to a real wartime hero–Miep Gies.

Who???? Who, you say, well let me tell you a little bit about Miep Gies. Hopefully, afterward, you’ll want read and learn more about her for yourself. Miep shares one similarity with Jane–they both went against their own government during wartime. But that is where the similarities end. Miep Gies was one of the Dutch citizens who actively, at the very real risk of her own life, helped hide Anne Frank and her family in that annex  for two years during World War II. She is mentioned in The Diary of Anne Frank, and later penned her own account of that time in history in her volume, Anne Frank Remembered. I picked up a copy of it at the library today and, after reading just the prologue, cannot wait to delve into her account of those same events covered by Anne in her infamous diary. 

Consider these words from Miep Gies, as opposed to Fonda’s self aggrandizing, self pitying words in her recent blog:

“I am not a hero. I stand at the end of a long long line of good Dutch people who did what I did or more–much more–during those dark and terrible times years ago, but always like yesterday in the hearts of those who bear witness. Never a day goes by that I do not think of what happened to them…There is nothing special about me. I have never wanted special attention. I was only willing to do what was asked of me and what seemed necessary at the time”. 

Wow. I guess the point to my blog today, and I do have one, is that each of us has a choice, including me, of course. We make choices every day regarding our own actions. My feelings about Jane Fonda’s actions back during the Vietnam War are probably not a secret. However, I didn’t write this blog to bash Ms. Fonda. I think her actions, and her own words of spin in the guise of truth telling in her own blog probably speak for themselves and are up to your own interpretation. What I ask you (and myself really) to consider, is the contrast between Jane Fonda and Miep Gies. Both women claim to have had only the best of intentions during wartime.

And war, I might add, isn’t really the issue here either. Show me a person who “loves” war, and I’ll show you a troubled individual. As my WWII Veteran grandfather once told me, “Shell, nobody loves war. And nobody hates war more than a soldier.” However, my grandfather was a veteran himself, and saw two sons go off to Vietnam not knowing whether or not they’d come home to him whole, or in one of those infamous body bags. He was and still is, however, a lifelong Republican, and an educated man as well. He may not have supported every war the U.S. fought in his heart, but he always supported his country, and its soldiers. And he would also be the first to tell you that support is NEVER spelled by going into enemy territory during wartime and sitting on weaponry with the enemy for a destructive, hurtful, self promoting photo opportunity. That’s just not supportive, and I suspect even Jane Fonda knows that. Miep Gies actually went against her occupied country’s leadership at the time, in a bigger, way more gutsy manner than Jane Fonda could have dreamed of doing. But, and here’s the critical difference, she did it in a way that saved lives, that positively impacted the victims of war–she fought the good fight. Jane? Not so much, because I really fail to see how her stunt in North Vietnam positively impacted even one victim of war–either the Vietnamese people, or Vietnam Soldiers, now Veterans, POWs, or Casualties. 

So, in the end, I think we all have to decide….when it comes to doing what’s right, to helping the victims of a war, to expressing ourselves in a positive and constructive manner, and showing the world what we’re really made of….Will we be Jane Fonda or Miep Gies? I know who I choose! 

As always, thanks for reading….

Have You Heard of Victoria Woodhull?

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Because I never had. It’s entirely possible that my history education is sorely lacking, but I had no idea that the first woman to run for President of the United States did so way back in 1872!

Victoria Woodhull, who obviously didn’t win, opposed incumbent Ulysses S. Grant. Born in 1838 in Homer, Ohio, this eccentric, free thinking suffragette ran as the representative of the Equal Rights Party. She campaigned throughout her life for such intriguing causes as free love, labor laws, and legalized prostitution. Oh, and she made a killing on Wall Street too as the first female stock broker. She then took her spoils of capitalism and founded a newspaper in which she proceeded to publish the first English language version of The Communist Manifesto. Talk about diverse interests! And Woodhull was ahead of her time in other ways too…she publicized a sex scandal between popular and well known minister Henry Ward Beecher and one of his parishioners, and maintained high profile celebrity feuds herself with none other than Harriet Beecher Stowe and Susan B. Anthony. Who knew?

Controversial or not, kooky or not, this is one intriguing historical figure I’d say! If you’d like to learn more about Victoria Woodhull, here are some good sources:

Who Is Victoria Woodhull?

Victoria Claflin Woodhull

Victoria Woodhull On Wikipedia

Victoria Woodhull On The History Channel

All Things Victoria Woodhull

And here are some quite insightful (and gutsy for her time) quotes attributed to Victoria Woodhull:

“I am a free lover. I have an inalienable, constitutional and natural right to love whom I may, to love as long or short a period as I can; to change that love every day if I please”.

“I endeavor to make the most of everything”.

“I come before you to declare that my sex are entitled to the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”.

“I shall not change my course because those who assume to be better than I desire it”.

“I now announce myself as candidate for the Presidency. I anticipate criticism; but however unfavorable I trust that my sincerity will not be called into question”.

Here’s to history…Unsanitized, quirky, and fascinating!

 

 

 

 

 

Happy Birthday To The Girl Who Should Have Been 82 Today

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Had she lived, Anne Frank would have been 82 today. I’ve always been a little fascinated with The Diary of Anne Frank, more so as I’ve gotten older and better able to appreciate her obvious budding writing talent, her wit and charm, and her ability to craft such a beautiful volume under unimaginably frightening and difficult circumstances.

Anne Frank would have been phenomenal blogger! Her insightful observations about life, people, and her days and nights in the Annex were clearly well beyond her years. And she was funny too…well, maybe not LOL funny, but witty is the descriptor that comes to mind.

Sometimes I wonder what she would think of it all…personal computers, the internet, social media, texting, and blogging of all things. Really, just a new twist on what came naturally to her. A lot has been written about Anne over the many years since her father turned her diary over to the world, and a good many people have clearly found her as interesting as I do.

What is it about her that captures our attention so, and tugs at our hearts? Well, for me, it’s just how average, and at the same time extraordinary she was. And I guess also the unsolved mystery of what and who she might have become. Would she have been a homemaker and mother? And would her children have inherited her love of writing, and of telling the story of life exactly as she saw it? Or would she have become a dedicated career woman? Continuing to write…perhaps books, or even as a professional journalist of some sort?

We’ll never know now, but one thing that is so wonderful about sharing our words, whether it is in a diary, or a book, or a blog, is that a piece of you really does live on. Our words are our own, and offer a little glimpse into who we really are.  Because our thoughts and impressions, and particularly the way we choose to share them at the point we put pen to paper, or hand to keyboard, are as unique as our fingerprints…

Who knows what sort of life 82 year old Anne would be reflecting back on now as she blew out those 82 candles, or maybe just the big wax eight and two…No doubt she would have some stories to tell of post war Europe, and perhaps her own immigration to the United States, or even Israel.

One thing I know for certain—a woman like Anne would own a laptop, and have a blog. Maybe she’d give her blog a girl’s name too, just like she called her diary “Kitty”. And she’d write about all of the life that she’d lived, what was going on around her at the moment, and she would definitely have a lot to say about the realities and annoyances of being 82, I’m sure.

But, as much as I wish she were still around to share her thoughts with us today, she’ll always be…just a girl…in the writing business…sometimes witty…

“And finally I twist my heart round again, so that the bad is on the outside and the good is on the inside, and keep on trying to find a way of becoming what I would so like to be, and could be, if there weren’t any other people living in the world”. ~ Anne Frank

Click the photo of Anne’s Diary to visit the Anne Frank Museum Online. This is a wonderful site with a lot of interactive multimedia, and The Annex in 3D…

A Day Trip Worth Taking; Manzanar National Historic Site

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One of my favorite souvineers from a life of travels…I picked this up at Manzanar’s Interpretive Center gift shop. This Japanese word translated reads, “It Can’t Be Helped”.

In 1942, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which forced Japanese-Americans to evacuate the West Coast of the United States. To carry out this order, ten Japanese internment camps were established in the states of California, Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, and Arkansas. Approximately 120,000 men, women, and children, many of whom were actually loyal American citizens, were forced to leave their homes, sell any property they owned at a profound financial loss, and relocate to one of these camps. 

Read More About the History of Japanese-American Relocation

A few years ago, I visited one of the camps which has been preserved as a museum by the National Park Service. Manzanar Internment Camp, now a National Historic Site, housed 11,070 “relocated” Japanese-Americans during World War II. Manzanar is located in the state of California, in the Owens Valley region, at the eastern base of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range. The specific location of the camp as listed on their website is: “Manzanar is located on the west side of U.S. Highway 395, 9 miles north of Lone Pine, California and 6 miles south of Independence, CA.”

A typical scene from inside a barrack apartment at Manzanar, Photo from the Dorthea Lange Gallery

I visited Manzanar as an adult, and it had a profound impact on me. I grew up in the South, and I don’t remember hearing much about Japanese internment camps, and had certainly never seen one. This is probably due to the fact that Japanese-Americans lived mostly in the West during WWII, and that was also where all of the internment camps were located, except for the one in Arkansas, which I never heard about at all when I was growing up in Tennessee.

One of the guard towers of Manzanar-Photo by Fred Causey… Each guard carried Thompson submachine guns, shotguns, and 30′ caliber rifles…

As I toured the facility, and browsed the many exhibits at the park’s impressive Interpretive Center, I was struck by the incredible strength, tenacity, and grace that seems to lie at the heart of Japanese culture. I was also a little embarrassed that I hadn’t known more about this regrettable bit of American history before that day. Every American who has the opportunity to visit Manzanar should definitely do so! It is a great historic and cultural educational opportunity for both children and adults, and also a moving experience for anyone who visits, as you fully realize the loss and indignity this group of individuals was forced to endure.

Some of the children of Manzanar, Photo from the Francis Stewart Gallery

If you are taking a vacation to California, or if you live in the Western region of the U.S., there is certainly a lot to see! I lived out West for several years of my life and really enjoyed all of the beauty and the history I was able to take in there. My travels would definitely have been incomplete without a visit to Manzanar, however, and I urge you to take a day to see it yourself sometime—I promise you won’t regret your detour from the tourist traps, nor the extra gas (also known these days as liquid gold) you’ll burn to go a little out of your way!

Manzanar’s Website: http://www.nps.gov/manz/index.htm

Directions: http://www.nps.gov/manz/planyourvisit/directions.htm

Operating Hours & Seasons: http://www.nps.gov/manz/planyourvisit/hours.htm