Tag Archives: Day Trips

A Day Trip Worth Taking; Manzanar National Historic Site

Standard

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


Wild Kingdom Off The Beaten Path

Standard

The Circle B Bar Reserve

Just this side of Disney World, and a relatively short drive from whatever overpriced, overcrowded theme park resort you might be staying at in Orlando, is a tourist’s treasure that is so off the beaten path, so under-publicized, that it is known mostly to Central Florida residents. It’s the Circle B Bar Reserve, an environmental freshwater marsh and swampland reserve that is not only a total kick in the pants to visit, but unlike your favorite theme park with their marked up souvenirs and $50+ burger and fries lunches, admission is FREE. Special guided tours are available for a fee, but you really don’t need one to see what there is to see at the Circle B.

Walking at the Circle B, Down Alligator Alley

Obviously, the infamous American Alligator is the star attraction at Circle B, and you will be treated to plenty of them in their natural habitat in the reserve’s Lake Hancock, and also in the open swamps that line your walking trails. And no, there is no barrier between you and them—this is raw nature at its best! It’s safe, for the most part, as long as you don’t do anything stupid and make sure to keep your distance if you happen to spot one of our reptilian friends on your walk. There are even signs on the trail advising tourists to turn and go another way if a gator happens to be laying on the walking trail. Visitors are warned to not attempt to walk around the gator. The scary thing about that to me is that you know that sign is there because somebody at some point was dumb enough to try. Oh, and by the way, gators can outrun us, so don’t think for a minute that you have the upper hand because of your big ole human brain. If, despite your best efforts, one does take a shine to you, this guy seems to have some pretty good gator attack and avoidance advice: Israel Dupont; Living With Alligators. I heard a rumor somewhere that you can always try to sit on their back and clamp their mouth shut, at which point they are rendered helpless. Er…no thanks, I’ll pass…

Look Closely–On the left-ish side of the photo, you’ll spot a baby alligator, covered in green swamp muck!

Just to let you in on a little Florida Insider information—here in our state, if you see a standing body of water anywhere, including lakes, rivers, drainage ditches, swimming pools and bathtubs, it’s best to just assume there’s a gator in it, because chances are, there is. This little fella moved into the small pond just a few yards away from my house last Spring. I named him Al.

Al, The Neighborhood Gator

For serious nature enthusiasts, there is much, much more to Circle B than just alligators. The reserve’s website boasts of a “tremendous bird population, including a variety of wading birds, waterfowl, ospreys and bald eagles”. For butterfly lovers like me, there are several gorgeous fluttering specimens which may be observed in their natural habitat as well.

And they’re friendly  too…

As if all of this wasn’t enough, the reserve has a very nice, air conditioned Nature Discovery Center which is open Tuesday – Saturday 9AM -4PM and Sunday Noon-4PM. There you’ll find lots of educational information and exhibits, as well as friendly folks who can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about Florida wildlife and wetlands!

I hope you’ll take the time to visit this Florida treasure! You’ll probably want to leave your mouse ears back at the hotel though. I can just hear it now…

Lounging Gator #1: Hey Fred, juicy giant rodent at 3:00!

Lounging Gator #2: You can have him George, that last one gave me heartburn…

Oh, and one more thing…PETS ARE NOT ALLOWED at the Circle B, for obvious reasons!