Chickasaw National Recreation Area – A Downgraded National Park

Chickasaw National Recreation Area – A Downgraded National Park

 

 

When the Chickasaw Nation was forced to relocate to Indian Territory, within their new borders they found a wooded area filled with fresh water and strong-smelling mineral water springs. They believed these springs had healing powers. Fearing that they would not be able to protect this area from commercial development and becoming another Hot Springs, Arkansas, they sold it to the Federal Government, with the condition that it be protected, and kept open to the public. In 1902 Senator Orville Platt introduced legislation designating this area the Sulphur Springs Reservation, and in 1906 Congress passed legislation creating Platt National Park, named for Senator Platt, who had recently died.


CCC built structure around Buffalo Springs.

At 640 acres, Platt National Park was the seventh and the smallest unit in the National Park System. Though small it was no less popular, in 1914 it received more visitors than Yellowstone or Yosemite. In the 1930s the Civilian Conservation Corps was assigned to make improvements, to make the area deserving of being a National Park. They added many buildings, and landscape features, that significantly altered the character of the park. By 1949 it was receiving more than a million visitors a year. However, many people within Congress felt that Platt National Park lacked the grandeur and scope expected of a National Park. On March 17, 1976, Congress changed the status from Platt National Park to the Chickasaw National Recreation Area because it was not the same natural beauty as Yellowstone and Yosemite. This former national park was added to the Arbuckle Recreation Area to create a lush playground for all to enjoy.


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The older portion of the park, the Platt District, remains popular, still receiving more than a million visitors a year. It features the springs, a swimming hole, fishing, boating, hiking, and camping. The swimming hole has a small man-made waterfall called the Little Niagara. Here the spring water is cold and a host to people of all cultures.


The lower falls at Little Niagara.

There are three basic camping areas. The Lake of the Arbuckles areas: Buckhorn, Guy Sandy, and The Point. One, Guy Sandy, is first come-first serve and does not require a reservation. You simply show up, decide on your spot and visit the kiosk, then pay for your stay. Buckhorn and The Point are reservation camping loop is very nice with full hook-ups and full almost all year round. The third camping area is within the historic Platt District, the original area of the park has three camping loops, in which the only one is open year round and only first come-first serve. This area is surrounded by the rushing creek and active in the springtime.

Ren and I first visited in Fall of 2013, we were on the way back from visiting family in Oklahoma. This was before we really caught the travel bug, but we fell in love with the park and made plans to return. We have revisited the park several times since then, it is a reasonable drive from both Fort Worth and from Tulsa. When I started photography it was one for the first places I wanted to go.
We decided one day to visit the visitor center and hike trails behind it. Here the shade from the canopy of trees kept us cool in the Oklahoma August heat. It was quiet for the most part, except the various little waterfalls and birds chattering in the treetops. Here we found a peaceful place just minutes away from the main county road. It was an amazing hike.


Hiking along one of the many trails at Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

We then took the time to swim in the swimming hole just below the Little Niagara Falls. We even followed many of the young people and jumped off the top! It was exhilarating. I remember my heart pumping and watching the people ahead of us pop up from down below. My knee was aching, it was only recently healed from being broken and the cold, spring water felt good, taking away the swelling.

It may not be a National Park anymore, but it is still worth a visit if you are in the area.

Thanks so much for visiting this park with us!
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Waco Mammoth National Monument – Waco, Texas

Waco Mammoth National Monument – Waco, Texas

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A few weeks ago a good friend of ours sent us information about an event the Earth Day Texas Organization was holding on Thursday, August 18, 2016. They were showing a video in conjunction with the National Parks Service in Texas, SMU, and TEDtalks. The name of the video show was “The National Parks of Texas: In Contact With Beauty.” This was a PBS video shown on the PBS station in 2015, but we were just now seeing it. It is a mystery how or why we had never heard of this video. Maybe we have been so hung up on Texas State Parks only, we had not tuned our brains in to hear it.

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We knew about a couple of the National Parks Service sites here in Texas.  In June we visited Fort Davis National Historic Site and even discussed driving to Guadalupe Mountains National Park, but the one that surprised us the most was Waco Mammoth National Monument in Waco. We had visited Mayborn Museum once and saw the mammoth dig but never knew it had become a National Monument in 2015.  I wanted to see if there had been type of “announcement” on YouTube concerning the dedication of the monument and came across the actual video of President Obama signing the paperwork making it official.

Having been at the museum site many years before it had become a National Monument, we assumed we were going to be visiting the museum again. However, as we followed the gps app, we found we were headed in the complete opposite direction of where we had planned to visit. So this was going to be an adventurous day for sure. As we came to the location we needed to turn, we saw the huge sign that told us were had arrived.

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As you know, Scott and I had to get out and do the huge photo production or else we didn’t feel it would count towards the project. So he took out the tripod to do the photo right, no more selfie photos for us, unless it is just to post on instagram or otherwise. We decided if it worth doing, it is worth doing right. Therefore we had to set up the tripod, take a sign photo, us in the next photo and then there is the silly photo that goes along with it. It definitely make the opening of our videos interesting.

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We then headed up to the office to get registered and stamp the passport. I think I am more excited about that than the photos. There is something so satisfying to here the click click of the stamp as you push down on the handle. Then to see the cancellation knowing it is because you made it to yet another National site. I really wish we would have had the passport when we visited the Golden Gate Bridge and Yosemite in January. I guess we will have to go back and stamp both of those twice. Shoot, what a hardship that will be. Can’t you see it pains me? Haha.

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While I have thought about doing a video on the National Parks Service Passport, I haven’t even tried to do one yet when there are quite a few really good ones out there already.  If you are curious about the passport and the cancellation process, please watch this video made by MMC/TRODAT USA (they make the stamps and passports):

We met Raegan King, the director of the Monument, and were shown where the tour was getting ready to take place. Our guide was Gena Stuchbery and she was fantastic. I am sure all of the tour guides are, but in my opinion our Gena was wonderful. She was one cool lady when it came to the Q&A and she knew what the facts were about the bones, dig site, building, and history. I actually learned so much information on Saturday that I am still amazing myself and friends with all of it.  I loved that the creators of this site thought about the way information would be given to the public. We walked a ways from the headquarters to find this semi-circle of stones which were perfect for sitting through the Ice Age portion of Gena’s presentation.

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I think my favorite thing about the whole location is that they have taken the time to build something that will encourage future generations to look for answers through science. I know everytime I see a fossil, I get excited because it reminds me that it, the past, really did happen. The dinosaurs roamed the earth, the sea covered this great state of Texas giving us the limestone to walk upon, and the volcanos helped to make the beautiful landscape we see all around us. If it were not for places like our National Parks, Historical Sites, and Monuments, we would possibly not see and be able to learn how precious and special this world is. I know it makes me appreciate my life and the world around me much more.

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The tour leads you through a gated area to the actual location of the original dig sites.  This was the location where, in 1978, Paul Barron and Eddie Bufkin found a femur bone that was definitely not your average femur bone of cattle or humans.  In 1996 the owner of the land donated it to the City of Waco to build the dig shelter.  This building is kept under lock and key because of the bones not being fossilized and can be damaged if the conditions are just wrong for them. I won’t spill all the secrets here, but thanks to Canada for figuring out how to protect these bones giving the site creators a way to preserve and present in such a unique way.  It is also a live digging site so the bones are precious and must be protected from scavengers.

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Upon entering the site, I found myself in awe of the light and openness of the area.  It was huge, but of course when you think of what the room is home to, it must be.  I loved seeing how they elevated the floor from the ceiling and protected the bones below.  It is such a unique and thoughtful way of presenting the bones.  This is not just a display though, this is an active dig site and they have interns who come in and work on the bones.

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While we stood around looking at the bones of the mammoths, camel and other creatures, I found myself wondering what my part in all this was. How was it I was going to contribute, share and encourage? One, of course is by the blog and the videos, but another way is to tell all of you about the website page where you can donate and volunteer your time. By donating money, you help keep the facilities up so they can keep their electricity on and continue to protect the bones by controlling the temperature and the humidity within the building where the bones are kept. The money also helps to pay the programs and educational events the location has to encourage learning. If you would like to donate to the National Parks Service, please visit HERE!

If money isn’t something you feel you are called to do, maybe you should look into giving a bit of yourself and volunteering. Many times, the parks, historical sites, and monuments are not allowed to have as many employees as they truly need because funding is not always available. Volunteers can be found doing things like working in a park store, giving tours, or just picking up litter. There is something for everyone. If you would like to volunteer with the National Park Service, please visit HERE!

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The third way you can help your National Parks, Historical Sites, and Monuments is to encourage your friends and family to visit these places. There is so much to learn and the traveling will help them, and yourself grow as a person from the experiences you have as an individual or a family. Not only will traveling to these locations help you to experience new locations, cultures, and people, but it will help you and them see the beauty of our country, world. Seeing this and learning the history will help you to respect and appreciate what is in nature, which, in turn will help you to protect these places for future generations to see, learn, and grow, just as you have.

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I bring this third issue up because recently there have been some things happening in our National and State Parks that has broken my heart. There have been people who have decided they wanted to leave their mark upon these places of beauty and importance by painting their “tags” and “art” upon places like Zion National Park, Yellowstone, Yosemite, and countless other locations. It has happened here in Texas as well at our Enchanted Rock more than once. This causes much work for those who work in the park, causes the park to lose money because certain areas must be closed to the public, and discourages people to not visit these places because the beauty is being destroyed. Remember it is illegal to deface these places and there are fines and jail time for doing so. For more information on this story please go HERE!

Yes, there have been many, many, many years of people scratching their names into rocks, benches, and caves at the places, but that does not make it history or beautiful.  It is still damage, granted it does mean something when you see a name and year from before the location was a place of national importance, but that still does not give anyone the right to do it today.  Instead of destroying these places of beauty to be your “mark on the world” why not pick up some trash someone left behind or stop someone from chopping down that baby redwood?

Please take time to visit, donate, and volunteer at a National Park, Historical Site and/or Monument, it will change your life. Then, encourage others to do the same.  For a full list of the National Park, Historical Sites and Monuments in Texas, please go HERE!

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Can They Actually Do THAT To A National Park?

Can They Actually Do THAT To A National Park?

In 1906 Oklahoma had a National Park; it was actually the seventh National Park created, yet it is no longer as such. I was surprised to find the Chickasaw National Recreation Area just outside Sulphur, Oklahoma, was once Platt National Park, named after Orville H. Platt who was a Connecticut Senator who served on the Committee on Indian Affairs.

Oklahoma was once Indian Territory and these mineral springs were known to the Chickasaw and Choctaw to be “healing” waters.  They would come together here to be refreshed and cooled during the summer months. Because the “white” man was beginning to encroach on this Native American place of healing and camping, the tribes approached the 1902 government about taking the area to be turned into a place where everyone was able to us use and enjoy instead of it being taken and used privately.  It was then turned into the seventh National Park, Sulphur was moved a little ways from the area and there it sat for many years being used as a health spa complete with golf course.

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The was not used for much more than mineral springs, health spas, and cattle grazing until the 1930’s when the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began to work on the area. The CCC company working on the Platt National Park was Company 808.  This company worked on the park creating bridges, making swimming areas, building spring coverings, planting over 60 types of trees and so much more for eight years until they were moved to the Rocky Mountains National Park in 1940.  The community of Sulphur was appreciative of these young men and did what they could to help them have a clean, attractive camp by donating many gallons of paint for their barracks.

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Even though this was the smallest of all the National Parks, Platt National Park brought in many visitors and helped to create a highway system enabling the masses to visit the area. Unfortunately, because this park was not on the same degree of grandeur as Yellowstone or Yosemite National Parks, it was not seen to be of the same superior status. Seventy years after this seventh national park was created, it was no longer a park, but a recreation area.  The park was combined with the Arbuckle Recreation Area (Lake Arbuckle) being renamed the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

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Taking time to visit the Sulphur area to enjoy this hidden gem, you will find the Chickasaw National Recreation Area Headquarters/Chickasaw Visitor Center is direct across from the main gate.  It is a recent build and rather beautiful.  You will find information about the park, local attractions and history; lots and lots of history to be enjoyed here.

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Even though this is no longer a national park, you can camp in the campgrounds that were once well visited as Platt National Park.  There are three areas:  Central Campground, which is ten group campsites; Cold Springs Campground, which is direct across from the Travertine Creek and has 63 sites and open from May through September; and finally, the Rock Creek Campground, where 105 year-round sites can be found near Veterans Lake.

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Scott and I have been begging friends and family to meet us halfway between them and us for a time of celebration and relaxation, but they never seem to be interested.  Now with the knowledge of this having once been one of the first national parks, I feel an urgency to visit again; I long to camp beneath the trees lovingly planted by Company 808, to swim in the swimming hole where hundreds of thousands have cooled themselves during hot summer days, and to hike the paths once walked by those who had the courage to give up something so special and important to their people to save it for further generations to enjoy.

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Taking time to visit the Sulphur area to enjoy this hidden gem, you will find the Chickasaw National Recreation Area Headquarters/Chickasaw Visitor Center is direct across from the main gate.  It is a recent build and rather beautiful.  You will find information about the park, local attractions and history; lots and lots of history to be enjoyed here. (The photo below is a direct link to their site’s photo; unfortunately, we have not been able to visit the center as of the writing of this post.)

For a very good video on this beautiful park, please click HERE.

If you are interested in a deeper, more intense amount of history about this location, please click HERE.

For the NPR story that caught our attention, click HERE.

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SFO Vacation – Part Two – Trees, Trains, and a Beach; the San Francisco Adventure Continues

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Sunday, January 17, we woke up to a fabulous breakfast of Gluten-Free Banana-Blueberry Pancakes and bacon.  I was extremely thrilled to have pancakes without any flour! Barbara said she added vanilla to help give it a more pancake flavor; it was well worth it.   This trip will turn into a feast for my gluten sensitive gut and I will definately be sharing the websites of the places we induldged.

Because of the time of year we decided to visit, we were rained on most of the ten days we were there.  However, getting to see the area lush, green and misty was so worth the rain boots, ponchos, and umbrellas. We were able to see the Bay Area in a way many tourists will not see.  This gave our trip a hue of imagination and fairy dust.  Ok, maybe not the fairy dust, but it sounded good.

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Once we were packed up with rain gear, we headed to the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park.  This would be our first state park that was not a Texas State Park.  We loved every step we took within this park with giant Redwood trees, banana slugs and rain.  The area we spent our time was the Old Growth Redwood Grove Loop Trail.  It is a nicely cared for trail, clearly marked points of interest, and wooden fence giving this park a comfortable path.  This path is wide and accessible with no steps or hard-to-maneuver areas so everyone can enjoy these amazing trees.

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My friend Barbara has a thing she likes to do with her out-of-state visitors, tree hugging.  If you remember, I had Scott practice for this by hugging a tree at Tyler State Park.  That was definately not even close to good practice.

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As you can see, the trees in Henry Cowell are definately huge.  “How do they get so large?” is what I think I am hearing from you all.  From the California State Park website we find this answer to that very question:  “The trees grow tall for the following reasons: large amounts of rain (60-140 inches per year), mostly from November-April; summer fog which reduces evapotranspiration; temperate climate, average temperatures between 45 degrees and 61 degrees Fahrenheit; rich soil in river bottom flats; few natural enemies; burl sprouts, which promote growth after injury by fire or toppling; wind protection by other redwoods.”  And yes, I did hug a tree myself as well as we getting one taken together.  Unfortunately the photos are not that great since it was dark and rainy.

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In the Texas State Park tradition, we decided to take a sign photo.  Unfortunately it was pouring at that point so we took the photo inside the visitor center.  We both looked so horrible due to the rain, but this is now an official State Park in our books!

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So, the State Park was finished and it was time for the Roaring Camp Railroads.  This was an actual logging camp.  The railway used here is original to the camp.  If you have ever wanted to ride a steam engine train, this is a wonderful place to do it.  It is not a long continuous trip, but you will find it full of “switches” to get you up to the top of the mountain.  Yes, I said mountain!  The view is fantastic with all the way up.  But before you enjoy the train ride, you will enter into the town of Roaring Camp and you enter via a covered bridge.

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This is a place to bring your children so they can experience the gold rush days.  Granted, it won’t be like the real gold rush days, but it will give them a wonderful opportunity to experience a little bit of history.  Once you have enjoyed the panning for gold, a tasty treat and souvenir shopping it will be time to take a ride on the Roaring Railway up the mountain to see the Cathedral Grove.

On your way up, you will see some wonderful views, skyhigh redwoods, and unique historical activity.  Once you get up to the top of the mountain you will be given about thirty minutes, give and take, to explore the area and taking a quick break.  We were able to see the grove of Redwoods that is called the Cathedral Grove.

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This was only two-thirds of our day, we still needed to find food for a late lunch and Barbara had still more plans for us.  We piled into the car and headed to the coast!

We went to a beachside town called Capitola.  This had the cutest historical downtown with the tourist shops and tasty resturants.  The best part of this town though was the beach.  I haven’t seen the beach and ocean in more than twenty years and it was like going home.  Scott had never been to the beach even though he had lived in California for a little while so it was wonderful time two!

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One of the best things about our trip into Capitola is that Scott got extremely giddy when he came across a Soquel Creek running into the ocean.  He said he knew about creeks and rivers rushing into the ocean, but he had never seen it happening.  Because I was in tall rain boots I waded into the creek just to show off.

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We were having so much fun looking at the beach and it’s pretty surrounding buildings, but we were getting very hungry so we were off to find food.  We found a Mexican Seafood restuarant called Margaritaville just off the beach next to the creek and it was warm and tasy.  If you are in that area, you should try them because they are worth it.

We finished lunch and walked around the downtown area a bit to visit a couple of shops.  While we were walking around town we came across a shop window full of my favorite things:  rubber ducks!  I had to have a photo.

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This being our final destination for the day, we climbed into the car to head for our home away from home.  It was a wonderful day, but so much for us to enjoy over the next few days.  So, stay tuned for more!

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SFO Vacation – Part One – San Francisco, Here We Come!!!

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Scott and I were lucky enough to travel to the San Francisco area and Yosemite this past January.  It was a whirlwind of a trip, but so worth every moment.  We are planning to visit the areas again, but it will be a while.dfw

Getting up extra early on Saturday, January 16, we were taken to DFW airport to catch a plane to San Francisco.  Neither Scott or I had flown in a while so it was a new experience since so many things had changed.  One of the biggest changes has been security.  It was an experience to say the least, but not as horrible as we have heard.  This doesn’t mean every pass through airport security will be easy, but for it being our first time we found it to be less horror story and more “oops, sorry, we’re new to this.”

Once we blundered our way through the security area, we were able to find coffee and food.  Then we sat ourselves down near our gate and waited patiently to be called for boarding.  Soon we were called to board, found our seats and stowed our carry on and backpacks.  We were lucky enough to have a window seat and next to each other.  Scott was ready to take some morning light photos from his window and enjoy a short two and a half hour flight into LAX.

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Our layover at LAX was just long enough to get some lunch (breakfast was small) and then sit near our gate and wait. We were lucky enough to not have to wait too long and were were quickly on our way to San Francisco Airport.  I had forgotten how beautiful it was to see the mountains, rivers and lakes from thousands of feet above.  It was amazing.  We were able to see snow covered mountains, the Hoover Dam, and the ocean.  Unfortuantly it was raining in San Francisco so the closer we approached the bay area, the more clouds there were.  This caused us to not be able to see the San Francisco skyline as we approached; all we saw was water from the bay and the guiding lights then the runway.

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We were met by our friend Barbara who had a wonderful afternoon planned for us.  She drove us to a very pretty area called Gate Vista Point in Belmont (The photos at that link are not ours, they belong to Robert Gourley).  Everything was so green, purple and blue!  Explaining this wasn’t always the case, she told us about the rain and how wonderful it was to have in the California region.

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Once we took the appropriate tourist photos, we piled back in the warm car (it was extremely chilly) to be driven to a winery she loved to visit.  Along the drive we saw mountains, trees, and did I mentions mountains?  Apparently this is a very mountainous area with twisty, turny roads.  It was beautiful, but she assured us there was more to come as we neared our turn onto to Montebello Road in Cuppertino.  The road twisted this way and turned that way all while going up, up, up.  We passed cyclists riding up the road and I found myself in amazement of their bravery to cycle up such a steep incline AND along side the edge of the road that went down, down, down.  Suddenly this narrow two lane road turned into a very narrow one lane road still twisting and turning showing some of the most fantastic views I have ever seen to this point in our trip.

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We finally reached our destination, Ridge Vineyards.  It was truly a relief to get out of the car and stretch knowing we were on level ground.  Both Scott and I took a few moments and tried to breath in the view while taking as many photos with his camera and my phone as possible.  This vinyard is only the second vineyard Scott and I had been to so we were not exactly sure what to expect.  We were able to taste many of their locally grown wines and I am not a red wine person, but it was some really tasty stuff!  Their best wine was the 2012 Monte Bello, well worth the money!

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Once we finished the wine tasting, we started down the long, winding road.  I was so nervous but Barbara was very good at driving this road.  She took her time and didn’t care what the crazies behind us wanted.  The rain had cleared up a bit so we were able to see San Jose and Sunnyvale in the distance.

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We headed to the San Jose house we would call home for the next week and a half.  I was shocked when Barbara explained we were in the middle of the Silicon Valley!  For some reason I thought it would have been more flat and industrialish.  I am not sure who laughed the hardest, Scott or Barbara.  Silicon Valley was so beautiful and I had just seen the tip of the San Francisco Bay Area; there was so much, much more Wowing to come.

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