Monday, September 4, 2017

And today I finally get to post about our latest trip--Alaska!
I will divide this trip over several postings; it was a grand adventure!
We left on August 12th and returned on August 26th.  We visited 3 parks:  Glacier Bay, Denali, and Wrangell!  Up front we would like to thank the Rangers at each of the parks.  They were gracious and informative.  Each park, each visitor center, each different and unique.  And Alaska!  How can we describe it?  Huge!  It sets a new standard in measurement.  Beautiful, terrible, vibrant.  Every day was some new indescribable vista.
Let me say up front:  there are 8 parks in Alaska--and over 2 weeks we only had time and finances for 3.  We have our sights set on Gates of the Arctic--but that is for another trip.  Alaska changes everything!

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Photos!  Just a few--we got hundreds!

Karla at the Badlands National Park sign just as we are going in!

Boxwork on the ceiling of the Windcave!  A natural--and rare--formation!

Karla in our Badlands Pendleton blanket at the Badlands National Park!

A rope and timber ladder we had to ascend and descend on one of hiking trails at the Badlands!

The two of us enjoying a soda at Stoner Drug in Hamburg, Iowa.  Old fashioned soda fountain 
in the middle of the store--and best grilled cheese sandwich ever!  


Time to answer other questions!

1.  Other than the blog can we read more about the tour or about you in general?

Yes.  Below is a list of links and articles.  This list is constantly being updated.

facebook page ( and website page (


Tour address:

Blog address:

Park PR links to Media:
Carlsbad, NM newspaper:

In the Western Writers of America Roundup Magazine:

In Lone Star Literary Life:

2.  Both of you have books.  Where can we get copies?
Karla's 12th book just came out!  "Wooden Lions"
Each poem in the book is about an animal. A share of the proceeds are going back
to animal shelters and animal rescue centers.

Alan has 11 books.  His latest is "Waking the Bones"
These books, and several of our other books, are available through Barnes & Noble and Amazon.

Not all the titles are listed on those two primary retail sources.
Please drop us an email at
and we'll help you secure some of the other titles.

3.  What is your favorite park so far?
So not fair.  Every park is beautiful and unique.  And at this point we have only hit 11 of the projected 50!
We do have lingering memories of Yellowstone, Joshua Tree, Badlands, and Wind Cave--but each park is remarkable.
C'mon--Hot Springs is the ONLY park mandated to give away their primary asset!  If Mesa Verde housed thousands of people--
where is the burial evidence?  What is the complete historical story of the Dry Tortugas fort?  So many questions!
So much wonder!


Here it is:  the link to the interview we had at the NPR station at the University of Wyoming!
A big thank you to the radio station there!  We had a great time!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

While I'm posting I really need to add, again, a big thank you to all the rangers and guides at both the Badlands and Windcave.  And a big thank you to our publicist who helps us arrange so much of the tour.  And a big thank you to Patrick Marshall and his wife for the generous contribution.  And to work and our families.  This tour could not happen without a lot of support.  And a HUGE thank you to Pendleton Woolen Mills, our official sponsor (we love our Badlands blanket--we take it to ALL the parks.)

Please read the blog and keep track of us on karla's facebook page.

If I get a chance I'll post a link to an NPR interview karla and I did for the University of Wyoming!

And be on the lookout for some photos--and news of our next adventure!

p.s.  I saw a great sign the other day.  I don't know the source, sorry, but the sign said,
"Not all who wander are lost."  Karla are I wander--but we are so not lost.  We are in pursuit of a large dream, to help preserve beauty.  Find a way to join us.  Visit the parks.  Contribute to their cause.  There is much beauty to be found.

That's the quick view of our trip to the Badlands and Windcave!  We left so much out!  What about Chicken n Pickle you might ask?  What about the rope ladder in the Badlands?  What about the ticket for running a stop sign?  (Don't get me started.)  What about having to pay to get both in and out of Kansas?

But anyway--our next trip is Black Canyon of the Gunnison in Colorado!  The current plan is for us to leave Texas on July 21 and come back on July 30.  We do have a reading scheduled in the park (with a few other tentative stops lined up--but nothing in concrete yet!)  We are looking forward to meeting the rangers there and seeing the raw, rugged beauty of such a dramatic landscape!

Sunday, June 27, 2017 This day had to come.  We loaded up the truck, said goodbye to Kansas City,
hopped on I-35 south and headed back to Fort Worth.  Wow wow wow. What a trip.

Saturday June 24, 2017 Went to Nelson Atkins Museum.  Quote on the building:
"The soul has greater need of the ideal than of the real.  It is by the real that we exist.
It is by the ideal that we live." - Victor Hugo.
And what treasures did we see here! The finger bone relic of John the Baptist!
Paintings by Renoir, Degas, Monet! We saw Rodin's thinker out on the lawn!
(Alongside huge art of badmintons???) Modern art! Plus the Depression Era photo collection by Dorothea Lange.
That was beautiful in its art, but what a harsh time for America.  What a rich, rich day.
We stopped at the CinderBlock Brewery.  I had a pale ale, alan had a porter.
They had a food truck so I got a buffalo chicken burger.  Alan had a bison burger.
Yummy waffle fries, it was only about 1 mile from the La Quinta.
The big Spur awards was held back at the Marriott.
Karla wore a skirt she got in Key West when we went to the Tortugas.  She said she felt like a princess.

Friday, June 23, 2017  In support of karla's new book "Wooden Lions"
we decided to play hooky from today's WWA panels and go to a shelter
and make a dog food/cat food donation.  We took dog food/cat food and a book to them.
Then we hit a quilt store in Overland Park, THEN crossed the street and had an amazing high tea!
It was at the Clock Tower Bakery - owners Teresa and Ian  Gebbett -
We learned it was actually authentic English Afternoon Low Tea.  Wow! Best one ever! Overland Park, Missouri.
Sorry, Windsor Court of New Orleans, your first place high tea spot yields to the Clock Tower Bakery!

We walked just down the street and found a gazebo with a four-sided picnic table the size of a card table,
and we are started in seriousness to put all this in the journals!
In this park the winds are full, turning our papers in the composition books.
There is a Senior retirement center here, old folks and their grandkids and their little curly haired
dogs out for a walk.  A green walnut fell from the tree here in the park right in front of me.
This is how this entire Tour has been for a year - nature has blessed us.  These soft green gifts fall down before us.
We cannot help but reach for them.
We found a smoke shop - Cigar & Tobac Ltd.  Alan smoked his pipe and I picked out an nice Porotifino Macanudo.
We smoked a little while, then threw a bomb out to the other guys there who were playing a card game.
We asked about where to get the best BBQ.
It was a battle of the BBQ places! And when we finally left, we chose Fiorella's Jack Stack BBQ.
Amazing chicken, ribs and "burnt ends" plus good local brew beer.  Came back to la Quinta North Hotel.

On the way back to the hotel--
oh!!! The fireflies! I'm trying to remember the last time I saw fireflies.
Nothing less than magic, there in the tiny glen next to the hotel, flying within the thick honeysuckle and willow trees.
Beautiful.  We stood mesmerized as they flashed around us, believing again in fairies and wishes;
and all things full of wonder.

Thursday, June 22, 2017 Left Motel 6 in Kearney and drove to Kansas City, Missouri,
happy to be in one place for a few days.  Went to the WWA meeting, got registered,
did the Tour of the Arabia Steamboat Museum.  This was a steamboat coming down the Missouri River,
that got snagged by a huge floating tree, and sunk.  Everyone made it off except the donkey
(that was still tied up though the owner lied and said said he cut the reins but refused to get off the boat.
Why would he lie?) The dead donkey with a rope still attached to the iron rail told a different story.
This was 200 tons of merchandise of the day - of 1856.  You name it, spices, dishes, pans, jewelry, hats, clothes,
tools, glassware, it is a time capsule of merchandise, etc.  a modern 18 wheeler holds 20 tons -
just as a comparison.  Had dinner at 6 pm at the Marriott Hotel - (we are across town at another hotel),
then stayed for the auction.  I bid on a coon-skin cap, Alan got Donna Howells-Sickle platter.
I also bid on the live auction items of a bone Indian choker and a single silver squash blossom -
but didn't get either.  Followed an 18 wheeler full of bags of onions back across the Missouri River to our hotel.
Stopped at a cute tiny Scooter Coffee shop for a latte and a bacon breakfast burrito.
Headed to Kansas City on 80 E  following the Platte River like over 400,000 emigrants
who headed west to California and Oregon. Here are glimpses into early America.
These tall grass plains moving like a green silk skirt in the wind - soft rolls of darker and lighter waves in the sun.
The Platte yielded to the wide Missouri River.  I could not help but sing "Oh Shenandoah".
Oh, we crossed the Iowa border! Haha! How did we do this? We stopped between Nebraska City and Shenandoah
for a break, found out there is a post office in Hamburg, Iowa.
Going to drop Badlands post cards in the mail there, get lunch, then head on to KS.
Stopped at Stoner Drug in Hamburg. Precious place with old drugstore soda shop table and chairs.
Alan's cherry float beat the pants off my chocolate shake! Ms. Pat made a great toasted cheese sammich with chips.
We bought a bag of popcorn to go.  
Alan bought a t-Shirt and I couldn't resist a sweatshirt.
These tiny towns need support - they are the heartbeat in the Heartlands of America.
They had a great sign over the door "the Biggest lie I tell myself: 'I don't need to write that down.' " So true!
I forget everything! In Hamburg, everything points left off the highway.  (There's no going right).
Made it to Kearney, Nebraska Motel 6 for the night.

Sunday, June 20, 2017 Left Baymont Hotel in Hot Springs, SD. Stopped at Heart Song Quilt Shop,
picked up some buffalo fabric and old cowgirl squares. Adorable shop with the entire family working there.
She was teaching her kids how to cut fabric and run the shop.
Headed back to Wind Cave to say goodbye and thank you to Vidal,
take a picture of me putting sticker number ELEVEN on my suitcase - eeek!
We took the picture at an overlook of the famous bridge over Beaver Creek.
Then, on to the Western Writers of America (WWA) Spur Conference in Kansas City.
Will stop at Kearney, Nebraska tonight but on the way, leaving Hot Springs, we stopped at a cool rock shop.
Half the inventory was outside! The woman working there, very pleasant lady, had a severe flare up
of rheumatoid arthritis and used a walking stick, poor thing.
I got two sparkly geode pieces from the 1 dollar table, a coral looking rock from the 2 dollar table,
and two camel bone white hair sticks.
If you have a chance to go to Hot Springs then go to this rock shop!  It's on the road between the Cave and town--
and worth the stop!

Diverted off hwy 80 headed to Kearney Nebraska--because that is what we do.
If we haven't seen it--maybe we should!
On a back highway we ended up see a historical marker for the Pony Express! 1860-1861.
It's hard to believe that the Pony Express was only in business one year.
Yep, only one year, yet it is such an icon of the West.

Alan reminded me that one year ago today is when we started this grand adventure -
a year exactly that we left FW to start the Words of Preservation tour.
Wow. Already this is incredible in just one year.
At Wind Cave We met Vidal Davila, the Wind Cave NP Superintendent. Nice guy.
He is quiet, understated and very well respected by his staff.
He was so sweet to greet us and highly suggested the Natural Entrance Tour.
Today we woke to a busy day - arriving at Wind Cave for our 10 am Natural Entrance Tour.
The original natural entrance in the ground is no bigger than a rangers hat.
Our tour was in a group of 40 to see this Natural Entrance, (and into the improved entrance)
We learned the Lakota consider this the very place they come from:
The people lived far beneath the ground inside Wind Cave.
A few were tricked into coming up, and their punishment was being turned into the bison.
Later, the rest were given permission by the creator to go up.  They believe somewhere in that cave is the
pathway to the Spirit world.  We went into an entrance made by the McDonald family (early owners)
and  had an incredible day today hiking, scooting, touching, spelunking, climbing 10 stories below the earth
at Wind Cave National Park - omg... this place might have moved up to number one on my NP list!
In the 19th century Alvin McDonald, began exploring the caves at 16.
He mapped out and explored over 10 miles of it! He only lived to be 20 years old - died of Typhoid fever when he went to
the Chicago worlds fair to promote the cave.  It was his favourite place in the world. He slept in there.
At one point on the tour, the tour guide turned out all the lights.  The black is beyond dark.
It felt so... so... sacred down
there, and it smelled like sweet earth.  I even teared up climbing up from the cavern room named "heaven".
And while in the "room" called heaven, it looked like a dead end.  The guide, Ranger Lauren Reid,
said let's ask the Cave how to get out.  After we turned on the lights again, we looked up to find a
naturally formed arrow that led to the way out of the cave.  She said no one made that arrow.  Wow.
Then we learned the tiny natural entrance was the place the Lakotas
believe to be the beginning of the world, (their sacred place)  and the pathway to the spirit world lies in there.
The entire cave only about one mile wide, but it's like an incredibly deep bowl of spaghetti,
with tunnels for hundreds of miles.
We decided we need to be jr. Rangers! I adopted a bison / got a certificate and a stuffed bison calf!
We had dinner in Hot Springs at a place called Wooley's, named for the Mammoth site found down the road.
Had great burgers and their homemade beer.  I had the light pilsner, Alan had the stout.
Back on the road to Kearney, Nebraska tomorrow.

Fall River//Springs feeds the town of Hot Springs. It says it comes up "hot" at 87 degrees.
We chuckled. I guess when it is 30 below, 87 degrees is a life saver, but we think about Hot Springs, Arkansas
that comes up at 143 degrees, and our trip in the "Coffin" hot tub at the Great Sand Dunes in Colorado -
how the water was cooled to 119 degrees!

Sunday, June 18.  Happy Father's Day!
Alan and I packed up everything and we headed to Mount Rushmore --
another sad story there: The government made a treaty with the Indians for all this Black Hills land,
but Custer advertised the gold he'd found there, (the government had sent him there to find gold -
but historians say he never actually found any, he just said he did to keep his job).
So, thinking there was gold to add to the treasury, the government looked the other way-
no longer stopping tourists and thieves that wanted to enter the Indian's land.
These gold diggers destroyed their land, shot their Buffalo just for fun, and the Indians fought back.
Then suddenly, people were outraged at the Indian behavior, and Congress unanimously declared
to take back the Black Hills, then deface their sacred mountain with the faces of four white presidents.
This is a hard pill to swallow. The inhumanity.  Who of us would stand to be treated like that?
Wouldn't we all fight back? These Black Hills are their sacred lands.  Theirs.
The government "gifted" it to them, but when it was rumored there was gold, the government took it back, just like that.
It makes me angry.  They need to have their native, sacred space.
Saw Mount Rushmore.
Then drove over and saw Crazy Horse memorial.
That is an incredible, inspiring story.  It is already the largest statue in the world--and
it isn't even complete.  4 Mount Rushmores can fit in Crazy Horse's head--that's how big it is!
Had lunch at the reestaurant on site. (We MUST recommend the restaurant there.
Good food at a good price--and not just burgers and fries.  And wow, the shopping.
Some tourist stuff--but also live Native American vendors.  THAT stop was worth it.
From there we drove to Wind Cave and did a 6 pm reading.  Afterward, starving, we found a Steakhouse in Hot Springs -
right down the road from our Baymont Inn Hotel.  (We had seen it as we were driving in.)
It was 5 minutes till closing, yet they took us in and fed us steak!
Our waitress was cute - said she delivered her son the day before her Sweet Sixteen birthday party.
They had a signed photo with all the actors of Tombstone on the wall.  Alan was salivating!
Falling into bed exhausted.  Another crazy, busy, amazing day! Tomorrow 2 tours at Wind Cave!

Saturday, June 17.

We had the wee breakfast about 9 a.m.,
then headed to Hurley Butte Horseback Rides.  Had a 1- 1 1/2 hour ride.
Karla rode Ann.  Alan's horse - Alice.  Marshall Hurley's ranch.
Amazing ride - wide open and in the Badlands.
Marshall knew his horses. He knew his land.  He knew his family heritage, and he loved all three.
He talked about his simple life there on a ranch that had been in his family for generations,
while gratitude swirled in and out of him like breath.  He talked about taking his horse out to the top of the Badlands
butte a couple nights ago, and sat for hours watching the Northern Lights.
Oh! We had no idea you could see them from South Dakota!

We had a 2 p.m. reading at the Visitor Center so we grabbed a quick lunch at the restaurant next door (recommended.
Try the indian tacos.)  
Before our reading, Ranger Ed was grabbing lunch too, so we sat and talked with him more.
Rushed back to do a 2 pm reading at the theater.  Small crowd, but really into it.
Lots of great questions.  Met Ranger Maggie who is interning here from University of Pittsburg.
She told us we have to go see Red Shirt Table.  We had no idea what that was, but found it on the map
and decided when there's a place we are led to / we must go -- kind of like Lamar Valley in Yellowstone.
Went back to the Inn, but on the way, that same officer R. Almendinger pulled Alan over for failing
to use a left-turn blinker and for not stopping fully at a stop sig.  This time Alan got a ticket - seriously?
The ticket was only for the stop sign!  The officer said he was doing Alan a favor!  

Changed at the Badlands Inn.  walked Pontus, Headed to Red Shirt Table in the south side of the Park.  4:30 pm.
So, the Badlands has a south location inside the Pine Ridge Reservation.  It is the only NP
to co-share Indian Reservation land.  Stopped at the Lakota Visitor's Center.
Pictures, artifacts and history - such a sad history.

Sad also was this part:  The Lakota had a calendar system called  Winter Count.
They begin their winter on the first day it snows, and used pictographs on buffalo hide to
mark one thing about that year.  Sadly, the Lakota Ranger (waiting on his hat to arrive) -
even with a picture of his great great grandfather was on the wall, with a war Bonner head dress,
had no idea what any of the pictographs meant.  He said another girl that works there,
her grandfather was translating them, but he did it in Lakota , so nobody knows what it says.
That break our heart.  His own people.  The history of his own people lost.

We discovered that Wounded Knee was only 30 minutes south, but we went to see first - the magnificent Red Shirt Table!
Oh my! A view to rival the Grand Canyon - twice as wide ( it seemed like). Ranger Paleontologist Ed called these buttes,
but they look like sand castles - and there, standing in the rain, I wondered how it was possible that they didn't
disintegrate back into the earth.  So this was all underwater - all of these Badlands.
That's why there are no dinosaur fossils here.  But here was the beginning of dog and camel.
It's almost impossible to wrap a mind around the immensity of a very first creature.
Ranger Ed said this park had the most "firsts".

Filled with awe, we drove further down into the Pine Ridge Reservation, and came upon a sign that said this was
where Big Foot surrendered. Then 5 mikes down the road, the Wounded Knee Massacre.
Besides us being approached by vendors, it was sad, heavy place.  A billboard there told the story.
The Lakota under Big Foot had already surrendered the day before.  Big Foot was sick and dying, but
medicine man Yellow Bird went through the surrendered camp and called the warriors into action with the
wearing of some special shirts the false prophet Wovoka told them about, telling them they had done the Ghost Dance
to protect themselves from bullets.  Upon further study, it seems this entire tragedy was the web of Wovoka -
the man who said he had a vision of these special shirts and the Ghost Dance.  He was really, strangely,
quoting Revelations in the Bible! Then we learn he made a secret pact with the government to "control" the Lakota warriors,
falsely saying he had this vision about the special shirts that would protect them from bullets, etc.
He was the cause of all this unnecessary death.  (Looking over these notes on June 28th back in Fort Worth,
I have to add here that I just discovered another historical tragedy last night called the Dakota 38.
Apparently, just one week before Abe Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, he ordered the
hanging of 38 Dakota tribe men. So much for being Honest Abe, Forthright Abe. This kind of thing makes me almost
physically sick to my stomach).  Then we drove up to the memorial -- the one mass grave for over 200 fleeing,
unarmed Lakota people- mainly made up of women, children and the elders.  It smelled all wrong up there,
Alan said it best - there was a "dark, wrong undercurrent." It made me sick to my stomach - nauseated.
It seems even the earth revolts at such horrors.

It was a quiet drive back to the Badlands Inn, both of us overwhelmed in a strange grief.
We stopped at the town of Interior at the "Wagon Wheel Bar" at 9:45 pm in hopes of food,
(pizza was good, we'd heard) but their kitchen was "closed"
(even though we could see them making food back there for themselves!), so we had a drink at the bar.
Alan loves whiskey sour - extra sour, I had a gin and sprite with a lime.
I went and pulled out my bean dip and Fritos (which was dinner last night!) from the truck and we feasted again.
Man, this was one tough bar.  Local brews? The bartender repeated? "We don't have any of that fancy stuff."
We looked around- the people were rough and hard and no-nonsense.
They sell liquor in pint bottles--by the case.
Interesting way to end the day!

Friday, June 16, 2017 This is where dog begins. Here, in the Badlands! Dog!!!
Our rooms at the Badlands Inn (practically identical) are hilarious - tiny,
and the clothes rack is mistakenly put up right over the head of the bed - there's no way to hang anything!
But a cute room--and comfortable.

But wait.  That's getting ahead in the story.  Let's start with getting in the night before.  It was after 10 p.m.
and all we could see was the hotel (there were only about 20 rooms total.  Gravel parking lot.  Outdoor ice
machine and it was locked up.  It was too dark to tell any scenery or anything that was around us.

But when we got up in the morning--wow!  Pull back the curtains!
The Badlands were right there--on two sides of the cabin.
Tall, spiky hills, light khaki colored.  And there, within sight, was the entrance to the Park.
We could have walked to the park!
We got continental breakfast at the Badlands Inn - then a day began at the Visitor Center.
The most exquisite museum at any park - complete with paleontologist and geologist with a working lab
that visitors can go into and watch! We could see them actually chilling dirt away from fossils they have found
there in the Badlands.  We have never before been in a working paleontology lab.  It was fantastic!
This is the heart of the Badlands National Park.  They are doing physically with bones and fossils,
what we are trying to do - to preserve; to protect for the next thousand years.
Met Ranger Ed Welsh, paleontologist.  He is our contact.  Had a fascinating talk with him.
Not only did dog originate here, but camel as well! Tiny creatures to begin with.
We learned animals are bigger the colder the climate.  We could have listened to him talk all afternoon.
He was incredible.
What a fascinating man.  What he does for history, for the park - it is a direct preservation.

Alan got pulled over by Park policeman R. Almendinger for stopping on the road.
Seriously? There was a big horn sheep crossing directly in front of us!!!  We had photo proof!
Alan got by with just a warning.  The policeman told us to honk and keep moving.

Then we hiked the Door and Notch trails.  Written as moderate to strenuous, we laughed.
Oh, Guadalupe Mountain, with its 14 1/2 hour hike up 3,000 feet, was strenuous!
Had a great day of hiking, then drove the Loup Road up to Wall, stopped for an ice cream float and
chocolate shake at the famous Wall Drug Store (believe us when we say it's a huge place),
then back to the Badlands Inn.
Supper was Fritos and bean dip--and grateful we were for that! (More on that later.)

Fell into bed about midnight.  Hope Suzi the cat sleeps tonight.
She had to be put in her crate last night - she meowed all night.
It usually takes a day of travel for her to decide she's had enough.

Thursday 15jun17
Next morning (bright and sunny and very comfortable) while loading up the truck,
we met a man named Ron Alexander in a wheel chair who was
going through the gravel around the landscaping.  He gave us a piece of Petrified ivory he had found.
It's interesting going into Kansas:  it's a toll road.  You have to pay to get into Kansas--at least on the route we took.

We drove over the Solomon river past Salina in Kansas on the way north.  We made a whimsical
side trip to Delphos, Kansas because the name was interesting.  Turns out the town is famous for:
Grace Bedell who grew up here.  She was credited with influencing Abraham Lincoln to grow his beard.
The town was considered a good place to move to after the Civil War for a fresh start.
Karla took an iconic photo of Kansas wheat fields and a tornado shelter sign.
Yep, that's Kansas.

A little later we crossed from Kansas into Nebraska.
(Another toll booth!  You have to pay to get in and out of Kansas?) We stopped briefly at the Sinclair gas station
on the Kansas/Nebraska line. A lady named Phyllis was working there who said she was from outside Beaumont,
moved to Denver, then here.  Said she never expected to leave Denver.  Isn't it interesting where our lives take us?
Took a photo of Kansas sign then turned around and took a photo of Nebraska Sign: Nebraska: the good life.

We stopped in Brunning, Nebraska for lunch.  We knew nothing about the town--but it was about 2 and we were hungry.
Precious town - the woman opened her kitchen to feed us.  We were the only ones there.
Where's all the people? Right across the street from the restaurant was an EXCELLENT antique store.
Real Americana antiques--not just tourist cheap stuff.  Out in the middle of nowhere--and one of the best
antique shops we've ever seen.

As wheat was Kansas, Nebraska is green - corn and all other Irish fertile green things, with serious silos that put Texas towns to shame.  Oh, I'm talking major silos - more NASA than grain, with fields that look as if they were all cleared, the local homes and fence-lines so heavily treed.
But where are all the people? In Broken Bow we stopped and got gas and let Pontus out.
The town was named for a broken Indian bow some dude found in his yard 100 years ago.
Not quite as glamorous a name origin as we thought.

Kansas was wheat field flat, Nebraska has rolling hills and green green green.
It seems the only industry here is farming.  Further west in Nebraska, the land changes.
It becomes tall prairie grass rolling hills.  We expected anytime to come across a herd of buffalo, or a village of tipis.
The town of Halsey says: Crossroads of the sand hills.  Sand hills? These do look like coastal sand dunes, but they are covered in grasses.  Oh my goodness! We have stumbled into a World Heritage Site :   The Nebraska Sandhills are the largest wetland ecosystem in the US.
Most of this land has never been struck with a plow.  Semi-arid and a wetland.
Amazing.  No wonder the fight about the Keystone Pipeline.  They need to spend the extra money
and just go around the Indian land and these protected areas.  So...this was the beach however long ago.
This was port Aransas. This was Galveston.  The rest of the country south was the ocean.

Badlands trip.  Wednesday, 14Jun17 Headed out about 4:30 pm from Lewisville.
We decided to split the drive into 2 days.
Close to Salina, Ks there was an incredible electrical storm -
Thousands of lightning strikes inside this cloud.  In the afternoon the cloud seemed tame -
like people sitting in chairs, then turned into Whistlers Mother,
but when night fell, it was as if a million white fireworks were going off - some so blinding it took several seconds for eyes to recover.
Hit a fierce storm with hail just for a little bit, but then the storm continued northeast.
We stopped for the night in Salina, Kansas. It's the Hampton Inn - part of the  Hilton chain.  Good stop and good hotel  .
And now here it July 8th--and I finally have time to post about our latest trip--and the upcoming trip!
A big thanks to karla for keeping such good notes as we traveled on this latest park trip.  The overview is:  we started out driving from Fort Worth on June 14th--and were gone until June 25th.  And we saw The Badlands--and Wind Cave.  Both in South Dakota.  2 more National Parks!  Now up to 11!  Yes.  South Dakota.  And we drove.  But here.  I'll be posting day by day notes of just some of the adventures!

Sunday, June 4, 2017


I'm desperate to catch up on things.  I still have more to post about Hot Springs!  (A great conversation with one of of the rangers--who we REALLY need to thank.)
But while I have a few minutes let me step back some and talk about our stop at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park.   First, we have to give a big thanks to Eric Brunnemann who helped us arrange readings there --and a place to stay.  And the other rangers went out of their way to arrange a reading at the amphitheater in the park.  We had a GREAT time at that park--the highest point in Texas!

When the rangers say it is a strenuous hike to the top and back--believe them!

What a view though!

While we were at this park we also did a reading at New Mexico State University Carlsbad!

We were some of the performers at the Poetry and Jazz Festival.  So friendly and accommodating.  Good cookies!  They had multiple copies of our books in the book store.  And the crowd was really into the moment!  Thank you so much!


Where do we begin?  Let me start with this photo:

This is just a small selection of t-shirts I have been collecting on the National Park Tour.   Pay special attention to the second from the left!  That is from our Hot Springs National Park stop.  (And there are stories there too!  Ask us about the Superior Bath House!)  Anyway, that shirt is from the store "Spa Souvenirs and Gifts."  While you are at the Park go right across the street (literally, right across the street) (not kidding).  This store is fun!  The people are friendly, prices are good.  Good postcards--and this GREAT t-shirt.  I should have gotten two!

And while you are in Hot Springs, just 2 blocks away from the Park (really, 2 blocks) you should eat breakfast at the Pancake Shop.  OMG.  The sausage.  The pancakes.  The sausage.  Did I mention the sausage?

We had a GREAT time at Hot Springs.  Karla has some pictures posted on her facebook page and I'll try to post more later.

While we were in Arkansas we also did an outreach poetry reading at the Malvern County Public Library  A BIG shout out to Clare Graham--and a great photographer--and the other library staff--who gave us room and time!  Wonderful facility and such hospitality.  (Go to their book sale.  Hint hint.)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Oh, and could we tell you a tale about Guadalupe Mountains National Park!
What a hike!  And wow the pictures!  I hope to post some here this week.
The park personnel were very gracious--and helped us set up a reading in the park.  A big thank you to Eric Brunnemann who provided us with so much assistance.  We met amazing people and enjoyed that big Texas sky!

And wow--the view above El Capitan!

Now the next trip!  It was going to be Isle Royale in Michigan.  We were trying to plan and book and line up staying in the lodge and figuring out how many days driving and how to actually get to the island--and then we got interesting information.  Yes, the ferry does run twice a week (Monday and Friday only) but the LODGE ISN'T OPEN UNTIL THE END OF MAY.  If we were willing to camp for 4 days in the cold with no facilities at all--well, it's charitable to say that we didn't have the proper equipment to pull that off yet.  (Maybe we will be better equipped when we get to the Alaska parks!)

So, instead of Isle Royale we are going to Hot Springs National Park!  Isle Royale is getting moved to a warmer month.  We got a hotel booked already, we got a reading set up, I have a bathhouse in my sights, and am looking at the hiking trails.  More information as the days come up but for right now we are leaving Friday May 12th and coming back on the 17th.

As always, please follow Karla on Facebook.  And check back to this blog!

OH!  And did I mention the really big news?  Pendleton Woolen Mills has agreed to be a sponsor for our Words of Preservation Tour! We proudly carried a Badlands National Park blanket up Guadalupe Mountain!  Please visit the Pendleton website and take a look at their National Park Gear!  Pendleton is well known for their respect of the outdoors--and their textiles are of exceptional quality.  We are planning to take this blanket with us on all future Park adventures!

Saturday, April 1, 2017

A treat!  One of the first photos from our adventure at Yellowstone!

April 1st--and we prepare for our next park--Guadalupe Mountains!
We will be visiting this park the days of April 9th through 12th and are so looking forward to the hike to the top of the highest point in Texas!
Like so many of the other parks we have visited this park is attached to other adventures.  We are attending the annual convention of the Texas Institute of Letters which will be held in El Paso Friday April 7th and Saturday 8th.  Most of the events are open to the public.  The TIL membership includes some of the most accomplished and prestigious writers in the state.
The hospitality of the city will be on full display.  Most of the convention will be at the Doubletree downtown.  The main banquet will be at Ardovino's Desert Crossing.
TIL and the El Paso Library and local bookstores have arranged readings by some of the attending authors during the week.  Karla and I will be reading at the main library on Sunday April 9th at 3:30.
Our next reading is Tuesday April 11th at the Guadalupe Mountains National Park Amphitheater.  That starts at 6:30 p.m.
Then, on April 12th, we are reading at the library of New Mexico State University Carlsbad.  We are opening, and closing, their annual Jazz and Poetry Festival.  That starts at 3 p.m.
If you are in the area please try to attend one of our readings!  Or come to the park!  We'd love to meet you and share more stories of poetic wonder!

Thursday, March 16, 2017



This is as good a time as any to answer some questions that have come up.

1.  "How can I contribute to your Tour?"
      Follow us on this blog, send us emails, follow Karla on Facebook!
      But some people have asked specifically about money contributions.  While we are certainly trying to raise corporate funds and awareness for our quest we have not established any type of official or technical mechanism for funding by individuals.  To say this clearly:  we are not a 501(c)3 organization and we have not solicited funds from individuals.  We have not set up a gofundme page nor have we set up a paypal account.  (Not that those things might not happen--we just haven't gone there yet.)  For people, or organizations, who are interested in contributing we recommend you drop us an email  at  We'd love to hear from you!

2.  "Do you have a schedule of the parks you plan on visiting?"
Yes, we do.  We have not published that schedule yet but we do have targets set up for at least the next 2 years.  All dates more than 3-4 months out are flexible.  In fact, the order of some of the parks may change (based on weather, events, park calendars, etc.)  But for the most part we have a pretty good sense of what we plan on doing for the next year at least.  We plans on posting notices 2-3 months in advance on this blog.

3.  "How are you doing this?  Where are you finding the time and money?"
That requires a longer answer than we have time for here.  Suffice it to say:  we are finding the time and money.  This is a project of need and passion.  The parks should be celebrated.  We are finding ways and days to make it happen--using our own funds.  While we would love to consider sponsorship the project still needs to be done--and we are loving doing it!


We need to catch everyone up!

We recently got back from our 7th Park--The Dry Tortugas in Florida.

We will be posting some of the pictures in the next several days.  The Dry Tortugas is a fascinating park:  a combination of American History and environmental wonder,

And while I am posting about this trip Karla and I need to give a big shout out to the Key West Public Library for hosting a reading for us (and thank you to everyone that attended) and also a big thank you to Books&Books, the independent book store in Key West who ordered copies of our books for sale!  (Oh oh oh!  We stopped by the bookstore and met JUDY BLUME!  How gracious she was.  A golden few hours browsing among the books!)

And oh, we stayed at the Seascape Tropical Inn Bed and and Breakfast.  Highly recommended.  (Can you say mimosas every morning?)

We have so many pictures to post and so many stories to tell.  Drop us an email.  We'd love to hear from you!

Preparing for our 8th National Park!

We have so much to catch you up on!
It's going to take several posts!
First, our next stop is the Guadalupe Mountains National Park outside of El Paso.
We will be there the days of April 9th through the 12th!
We will be staying in the park (another post is forthcoming with the details
of the graciousness of the personnel involved) and performing a reading on April 11th
at the amphitheater within the park.  (And more about readings in another post!)
We are so looking forward to this park.  Not only is it in our home state
but it is the highest point in the great state of Texas!

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Our Tour


Words of Preservation: Poets Laureate National Parks Tour
We are karla k. morton and Alan Birkelbach
We are two Texas Poets Laureate and this is our quest.

For three years, in celebration of our National Parks’ 100th Anniversary,
we have been planning our National Parks Tour – to visit 50 Parks, write a book of poetry about the Parks, and give a percentage of the books sales back to the National Parks Foundation.

We began searching for funding, unsuccessfully, through organizations such as the Guggenheim, etc, but, unwilling to wait any longer for financial support, we began our Tour, visiting Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons National Parks in June, 2016.  We kicked off the adventure with an interview on NPR at the University of Wyoming, then visited the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Mesa Verde.

Already the magic began opening on the first day of arrival:   for the first time in 68 years a full moon rose on the solstice—and it appeared for us over  Yellowstone Lake.  
We can't wait to share that photo!

 On that trip we saw wonders of geysers and the immensity of Lamar Valley.   
We were close enough to smell the musk of Buffalo. 
We witnessed a pillar of rainbow.   
We happened upon the grave of Sacajawea.   
We picked up a coon-tail rattlesnake.

We would like to invite everyone to come along!

Like Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and John Muir before us,
We would emphasize this environmental treasure. 
Through our words we would help preserve and protect.    
The National Park Service helps maintain a cultural heritage. 
Civilization is maintained and preserved by communication and language.

We intend to be two Poets Laureate exploring, and writing poems about the beauty of the National Parks.

Certain things should never fall out of social consciousness. In this digital age there is no replacement for nature at its most profound. Wonder cannot be exported or imported, but it can be captured with words—and those words can travel unlimited miles.

Society is becoming more and more an urban world.  The Parks are a gift, a legacy, something uniquely American. What better way to instill respect and inspiration to our fellow man than by bringing these beauties, in the form of books, into the four walls of his home. 
We believe poetry is every man’s art, just as the National Parks are every man’s inheritance.

“The poem has the power,” Edward Hirsch says, “the almost magical potential, to release something that dwells deep within us.” As a society we need these sacred spaces. To bring the awareness of those spaces back into the world restores the virtues of honor, nurturing, and protection. Out of these two books of poetry will perpetuate historical moments and places.

This Tour is a union of nature and the arts. In Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes, he stated the importance of protecting these national properties, “in which every man has a right and interest, who has an eye to perceive and a heart to enjoy.” 
Poetry is our way to cherish this bounty; to gift it to the next seven generations.

The National Parks are priceless, and without doubt, America’s greatest resources.
These lands, while under the preservation of the government, still need champions, still need those who are willing to give their time and hearts to make sure they continue to be protected. Like Homer recounting the journey of Odysseus, we long to be the eyes and ears for the homebound, to bring our tales back to the hearth.

We are certainly not the first artists who believe inspiration can come through great natural beauty, who have fallen in love with the grandeur of our National Parks, but we want to take it one step further and try to do something incredible – to infuse that beauty into the written word – the eternal language of poetry.

Welcome to our adventure.
The wild is calling.

kk and Alan

Sunday, February 5, 2017

February 2017 National Park

02/05/2017:  We are only 10 days away from our next National Park--The Dry Tortugas!  We will be leaving out of Key West and exploring the surrounding area!