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Dear Bob and Sue: A National Parks Podcast
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Dear Bob and Sue: A National Parks Podcast

Author: Matt and Karen Smith

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In Dear Bob and Sue, authors Matt and Karen Smith share stories of their travels to all of the U.S. National Park as well as other spectacular public lands. From adventures gone awry to memorable moments and Q&As from readers, get to know the couple behind the books and get inspired to go on some adventures of your own.

49 Episodes
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Our country’s national parks are frequently referred to as “America’s Best Idea,” for good reason. There are 423 National Park Service sites that protect everything from natural wonders to historical sites to endangered animals. Every one of them has something unique and special to offer visitors, but on this episode, we showcase our favorite 25 national parks. If you’re not planning to visit every national park, these are the ones we think you should visit in your lifetime. What are some of the parks that made our list? The crown jewel of the North Atlantic coast A park that contains 2,000 sandstone arches A park that’s beloved for its fruit orchards and its mini pies to go  The largest park in the lower 48; it’s also the hottest, driest and lowest park A park where visitors walk amongst brown bears A park where you can see the largest trees by volume in the world The park that’s referred to as the Alps of America A park that has multiple ecosystems A park with the highest road and the highest Visitor Center in the U.S. Links to more information: A list of all the NPS sites Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
The southwest corner of South Dakota has an incredible variety of National Park Service sites to explore, and one of our favorites is Badlands National Park. From its mixed-grass prairie to its jaw-dropping geologic rock formations, this is a must-see park. In this episode, we talk about ways to explore the area on foot, by driving along the scenic road and by stopping at the numerous overlooks. You’re likely to spot the resident wildlife: bison, bighorn sheep, pronghorn antelope, and lots of prairie dogs welcoming you to the park. Plus, we offer suggestions on where to stay and how much time to allot for your visit. Some of the topics we discuss in this episode: Other amazing public lands to explore near Badlands NP Why there’s a chance you could find a million-year-old fossil in the park How Badlands got its name When and how bison were returned to the park How black-footed ferrets were saved from extinction Our favorite hikes in the park What it was like to stay in a cabin at Cedar Pass Lodge Why Wall Drug is worth a visit One perfect day in Badlands National Park Links to more information: Book a cabin at Cedar Pass Lodge NPS Badlands National Park website  Book a tour at Minuteman Missile National Historic Site Learn more about Wall Drug Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
44 Mailbag!

44 Mailbag!

2021-05-2751:39

It’s time again for our monthly mailbag episode where we answer questions from our listeners about national parks and other public lands, as well as questions about gear, hiking trails, and a broad range of travel-related topics. Some of the questions/topics we discuss in this episode: What kind of backpacks we use on our hikes Whether or not mosquito headnets really work Why we don’t use hydration bladders in our backpacks Which parks are good for small children Why we each have our own passport stamp books Whether or not we’ll be heading back to the Chilkoot Trail again this summer Driving a remote and rugged dirt road in Capitol Reef National park Advice and tips for older hikers Links to more information: Road conditions in Capitol Reef National Park Where to buy Permethrin Insect Repellant for clothing Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Only a three-hour drive from Seattle, North Cascades National Park looks like you’ve traveled all the way to Switzerland. With its 300 glaciers and soaring mountain peaks, North Cascades is a wilderness park best explored on foot during the summer months. We discuss our favorite hikes, as well as a unique park lodge in the tiny town of Stehekin that can only be reached by boat, seaplane, or on foot. And we share a story about a frightening night we spent in a remote backpacking campsite.  Some of the topics we discuss in this episode: The three NPS units that make up the North Cascades park complex Where the Visitor Centers are The best time to visit for hikers Why this is one of the least visited national parks Where we like to stay when we visit the park Our favorite hike in the national park  How to get to North Cascades Lodge in Stehekin Fun things to do and see in the Stehekin area What happened to us during our backpacking trip to Stehekin Links to more information: Book a room at North Cascades Lodge in Stehekin Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In the third episode of our series about volcano parks in the Pacific Northwest we’re featuring Oregon’s Crater Lake National Park, which has one of the most stunning scenes in any national park: a sapphire-blue lake situated in the middle of a collapsed volcano’s caldera. Reaching a depth of almost 2,000 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest and most pristine lake in the country. What is there to do in this park besides gaze in awe at this incredible view? A lot, actually. On this episode we talk about the wide variety of activities available, plus lodging options in the park, and the best seasons to visit. Some of the topics we discuss in this episode: Where the only place to swim in the lake is located Why there is no limit or license needed to fish The different boat tours available Who the Old Man of the Lake is Why Matt wants to be a trolley captain Our favorite hikes in the park What gives the lake its deep blue color Things to do in the park in the winter Links to more information: Check out Crater Lake’s webcam Book a room at Crater Lake Lodge Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Rising more than 14,000 feet above sea level, Mount Rainier stands as an icon in the Washington landscape. In this episode we discuss this active volcano and the incredible national park that surrounds it, one of the oldest parks in the national park system. With 97% designated as wilderness, we share tips on how to visit some of the developed areas, with information about what to see, where to stay, when to go, and our favorite hiking trails.  Some of the topics we discuss in this episode: Why it’s called Mt. Rainier and the controversy surrounding its name How to visit the park in the winter Why you might want to wait until July for your summer visit What the five different developed areas of the park are like What it’s like to stay in Paradise Inn, one of the great lodges of the West Our favorite hike in the park Information on summiting Mt. Rainier Other things to do and see in the park Links to more information: Check out the current road status in Mount Rainier National Park Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
What’s the most difficult day hike we’ve ever done? Without question it was climbing to the top of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in WA state. Mount St Helens is part of the Cascade Range: 13 volcanoes that lie in an 800-mile chain from British Columbia to northern California. Seven of these thirteen volcanoes have erupted at least once in the past 200 years, one of those being the most catastrophic and deadly volcanic event ever experienced in the United States: the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens. In this episode we’ll discuss the details surrounding the eruption, as well as our grueling hike to the rim of the volcano. Some of the topics we discuss in this episode: What happened in the months leading up to the eruption What kind of devastation the blast caused  Why so many people died as a result of the eruption Why the area was made a national monument Tips as to how to prepare for your climb to the rim of the volcano What it was like to stand on the edge of the crater Other things to do and see in the park Links to more information: Link to a video of Mount St. Helens’ eruption Where to get a Mount St. Helens climbing permit Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
39 Mailbag!

39 Mailbag!

2021-04-2244:57

It’s time for our monthly mailbag episode again, where we answer questions about national parks and other public lands, as well as gear, camping and a broad range of travel-related topics. Some of the questions/topics we discuss in this episode: What NPS sites turned out to be more than we expected Whether or not you need a campsite reservation in Olympic NP in the summer Have we been recognized by fans during our travels In which parks did the cost to get there outweigh the experience How many days does it take to see Congaree NP What are some ways to visit the ocean parks What has been our most difficult day hike These questions and more on this episode of Mailbag! Links to more information: Link to boat tour to Channel Islands NP Link to boat tour to Dry Tortugas NP Link to boat tour Biscayne NP Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
38 The Ten Essentials

38 The Ten Essentials

2021-04-1554:34

What’s in your backpack? To prevent emergencies from happening while you’re hiking, and to deal with any that might arise, it’s important to include items from the Ten Essentials list. The National Park Service encourages all hikers to know what the Ten Essentials are, and to carry some version of them in their backpack. In this episode, we’ll discuss each of the ten categories, and give suggestions about what we like to carry with us on day hikes.  Some of the topics we discuss in this episode include: What forms of navigation you could bring in addition to a paper map What first aid items we’ve used the most What a ferro rod is and why you should practice using it Why you should carry duct tape What the 3-in-1 tool is that Karen never leaves home without Why we always pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches What are some ways to sterilize water along a trail What items we pack that are not on the Ten Essentials list What is Karen’s 11th Essential Links to more information: The National Park Service Ten Essentials Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Alaska’s eight national parks contain some of the most spectacular wilderness areas in the NPS system, but two of them, Gates of the Arctic and Kobuk Valley, consist of nothing but millions of acres of wilderness. There are no roads, no trails, no campsites and no services of any kind. In this episode we talk about our adventure to these two remote parks, the last parks on our original national park journey. Join us as we travel to these places that few visitors ever see, above the Arctic Circle.  Some of the topics we discuss in this episode include: Where these parks are located What the options are for tourists who want to visit them Why we saved these two parks for last Where we stayed and what it was like How it felt to climb into a small plane again What our park visits entailed Why Matt tipped our pilot extra Who we met that had a big impact on us How much this trip cost Links to more information: The Bettles Lodge website Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
One of the most beautiful state parks in the country, Utah’s Dead Horse Point State Park, offers jaw-dropping views and incredible hiking trails. You can also rent one of nine yurts for a camping experience that combines the fun of tent camping with some of the luxuries of a hotel room. In this episode, we’re coming to you from inside one of those yurts, and we’ll discuss what it was like spending the night here, plus everything you’d want to know about the park and our experience driving the nearby, infamous Shafer Trail. Some of the topics we discuss in this episode include: What is the Shafer Trail and what kind of a vehicle do you need to drive it Why we had to race to the top of Canyonlands to find a park ranger How Dead Horse Point got its name What are the yurts like on the inside Why Karen thinks the parking lot bathrooms by the yurts would be a nice place to spend the night Why Dead Horse Point is known for its sunrises and sunsets What the campgrounds are like at Dead Horse Point Links to more information: How to reserve a yurt at Dead Horse Point State Park Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
35 Mailbag!

35 Mailbag!

2021-03-2550:302

It’s time for our monthly mailbag episode again, where we answer questions about national parks and other public lands, gear, camping and a broad range of travel-related topics. Some of the questions/topics we discuss in this episode: Is it a good idea to visit all four Colorado national parks in one trip? What happens after you spray a bear with bear spray? What kind of shoes are best to hike in for water crossings?  What are some good parks to visit if you only have a long weekend? Where are the best places in the Southwest to stargaze? These questions and more on this episode of Mailbag! Links to more information: Link to Rocky Mountain NP fire closures Link to Dark Sky Parks Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
New Mexico has so many natural and historical wonders you’ll have to visit several times to see them all. But if you have a free week, might we suggest that you start in Albuquerque and make a big loop the way we did a few years back. Whether you do this trip yourself or simply join us on this episode as we recount our experiences, you’ll agree that Land of Enchantment is a fitting nickname for New Mexico. Some of the sites we discuss in this episode include: Bandelier National Monument – could this be our next national park? Santa Fe – why this is such a magical place Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument – a must-see natural wonder White Sands National Park (was a National Monument when we visited it) – why this site is no longer a premier spring break destination for college kids Smokey Museum and Historical Park – what is it exactly that makes Karen want to hold Smokey’s hand Carlsbad Caverns – we can’t talk about New Mexico without mentioning its most famous cave system Albuquerque – in search of The Chicken Brothers and the Walter White residence Petroglyphs National Monument – you can walk your dog and see thousands of examples of ancient rock art at the same time Links to more information: More info about the Smokey Bear sites Photos from our trip Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
When we set out to visit all of the national parks, we drove past countless national monuments on our quest to check all the parks off our bucket list. Thankfully, in the years since we completed our original goal, we’ve retraced a lot of our road trip routes, adding stops at many of the incredible monuments that we missed on our first go-around. While national parks often get most of the headlines and visitors, our country’s 129 national monuments are every bit as remarkable, each in their own way. Established by either Congress or the President, these sites protect our historic places, cultural ruins, and natural, wilderness areas. In this episode, we talk about five of our favorites. The national monuments we discuss in this episode: Devils Tower (Wyoming) - why you may or may not want to visit in early August Cedar Breaks (Utah) – what ancient beings live on the rim of this monument Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (Utah) – what’s so spooky about this place Natural Bridges National Monument (Utah) – it was the first what? Chiricahua National Monument (Arizona) – why you might want to stay in your RV or tent at night when visiting this amazing place Links to more information: Photos from our trip Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Who hasn’t dreamed of seeing the tallest peak in North America close up? Denali, at 20,308 feet in elevation, and its namesake national park are breathtaking to behold. In this episode, we share stories from our two visits to Denali and explain how visitors get into the backcountry on the only road through the park. During our first trip, we let the driver of our green transit bus worry about keeping his wheels on the road so we could focus on taking in the stunning landscape and wildlife. And on a subsequent visit, we booked a Fourth of July stayover at a backcountry lodge only to realize that there would be no fireworks—because it never gets dark. As a bonus, we open with a discussion about the new National Park Service app. Some of the topics we discuss in this episode: What do Alaskans do when a moose dies in their front yard—or backyard. A little history of the park Why private vehicles are only allowed to drive to milepost 15 in the park. When and how to get a permit for a once-a-year opportunity to drive farther into the park. Everything you’d want to know about the transportation system in the park. What’s the 30% club and how to become a member. What it’s like to stay in the backcountry lodge in the park. What park activities are available to visitors in the winter. Links to more information: The new National Park Service app Denali NP website Photos from our trip Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
31 Mailbag!

31 Mailbag!

2021-02-2547:58

Our first all-mailbag episode. Thank you for all the questions and comments you’ve sent to us about our podcast. We thought we’d try something new and dedicate an entire show to answering your questions. It was a lot of fun recording this episode; we hope you enjoy it. Some of the questions/topics we discuss in this episode: What are the transportation options to Isle Royale National Park? How do we stay in shape? Why didn’t we take the pottery chard we found in Grand Canyon NP to the park headquarters? Do we ever do outdoor adventures with our adult children? What’s it like to go to the top of the Gateway Arch? Have we ever thought of creating videos? Links to more information: Links to our latest YouTube videos: Kahtoola MICROspike® review Jetboil demonstration Ratsack and BearVault review Links to ferry info to Isle Royale NP Ferry from Copper Harbor Ranger III Sea Hunter III Voyageur II Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In this episode we take you with us on a journey to six of our favorite state parks as we talk about what makes each of these parks unique and why we think they’re astounding. With more than ten thousand state parks spread across the country, our list of favorites is long, and we may have to record several episodes about these smaller, but just-as-spectacular public lands. On our original trip to all the national parks, we had little time to visit them, but since then, we’ve made it a point to see as many as we can. Consider this episode a mere sampling of the hidden treasures that await you. (And, no, we are not partial to parks with “Smith” in the name. But they do get our attention.) The parks we discuss in this episode: Custer SP (South Dakota) Jedediah Smith Redwoods SP (Northern California) Valley of Fire SP (Nevada) Antelope Island SP (Utah) Goblin Valley SP (Utah) Smith Rock SP (Oregon) Links to more information: Photos from our trip Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
Saddle up, partner! Apologies for the corny opening, but—spoiler alert—more horse-related puns are awaiting you in this episode. We’ve taken many treks into wilderness areas in the past ten years, yet most of them have been of the two-legged variety. On this adventure, we let our four-legged friends do the hard part, carrying us (and our stuff) deep into the Pasayten Wilderness of north-central Washington state. As it seems with most of our exploits, there were a few bumps in the trail that we didn’t anticipate. But by the time we ended our four-day, three-night trip, we were ready to do it all over again. We just needed a few days for our butts to stop aching. Some of the topics we discuss in this episode: What it was like to ride a horse for the first time in 25 years The curious suggestions we got from friends as we were preparing The unique characteristics about each of our horses The magnificent setting of our camp and the details of camp life Why our horses deserted us and how we got them back How it felt to wake up in a frozen tent in August Our amazing daytrips  And, it wouldn’t be a Matt and Karen adventure without a guest appearance from an oh-too-familiar slithery companion Links to more information: Photos from our trip Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
28 Havasu Falls

28 Havasu Falls

2021-02-0449:21

Taking a wish out of Karen’s bucket, in 2016 we braved the hike down into the Grand Canyon to Havasu Falls with our friends John and Lolly. Fortunately, we both scored lodging in Supai Village, on the Havasupai Indian reservation, so we didn’t have to carry packs full of camping gear with us. Havasu Creek's waterfalls are a natural wonder that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime. If you Google photos of Havasu Falls, rest assured that the turquoise blue water in those pictures are what you’ll see as you’re standing there in person, looking up in awe. In this episode, we describe our trip to see the falls, including the hike down and back, and our stay at the lodge in the remote village by the falls. Some of the topics we discuss in this episode: Where the heck is Havasu Falls? Hint: Not by Lake Havasu Why it took us a couple of tries to do this trip How a last-minute medical emergency almost stopped us for a second time Where the trailhead is for the hike down Description of the hike to Supai Village Seeing the jaw-dropping falls in person Staying at the lodge in the village Tips for how to get a reservation at the lodge What we would do differently if we went back Links to more information: The Havasu Falls website where you can find more information and make reservations Photos from our trip Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
In this episode we talk about some of our favorite hikes in the national parks. It took us a couple of tries to record this one because we had too many on our original “favorites” list. (We may have to do a follow-up episode someday to talk about all of the other jaw dropping trails we left out.) So grab your notebook because we provide a ton of information about must-do hikes in many of the most popular national parks. If you’re like us, you’ll want to hike many of these trails multiple times. Just be sure you take plenty of water, bear spray, and a headlamp. Do not forget your headlamp! And at the end of the episode, we answer a question from our mailbag.  Some of the hikes we discuss in this episode: Devil’s Garden-Primitive Loop – Arches NP Chesler Park-Joint Trail Loop - Canyonlands Fairyland Loop - Bryce Canyon Gower Gulch-Golden Canyon - Death Valley Giant Forest Loop Trail - Sequoia And many, many more... In the mailbag segment we talk about whether we have any plans to hike long-distance trails like the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trails Links to more information: Amazon link to the 24-inch folding table we use for our side-of-the-road picnics in the national parks* On Amazon, select the 24-inch size table. It should be priced just under $50. Photos from the hikes we discussed in this episode Where to learn more about our books and travels Join the conversation on Facebook - we want to hear from you! Check out our Instagram account *We participate in the Amazon Associates affiliate marketing program. If you make a purchase on Amazon by following a link on this page, we may be paid a fee. Fees earned through this program help support this podcast. Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices
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Comments (6)

Nancy Heimburger

Hello! just thought I'd pass on this tid bit on Smokey the Bear. This is our little town in the Northwoods of WI. I wonder if this makes us famous?!

Mar 20th
Reply (1)

Nancy Heimburger

We loved our Alaska trip in 2014! took the bus ride - for 11.5 hours! just shy of the very end yahoo! long day but so nice to go way into the park. didn't know about the resort at the end, would have stayed there a night or 2. next time... our favorite hippie town was our last 2 days, Talkeetna! Met Mayor Stubb's the cat. Next trip is March 2022, northern lights. probably stay in Fairbanks or North Pole. Hard to hit up a winter place in March since we live in the Northwoods of WI when we'd rather go south for some warmth, but it'll be a magical winter trip! can't wait! love listening to all your travel adventures, keep em coming!

Mar 7th
Reply

Ed Johnson

this might be the best podcast I have ever heard. The subject matter is exactly what I have been looking for. The audio quality is perfection, jaw dropping, stupendous, I also need a thesaurus. I could listen to these two for hours and hours. I am envious of and eternally grateful for the wealth of information you both posess. I am currently doing my mundane work dreaming of the days when I will attempt to follow in your footsteps of getting as many park stamps as possible. Thank you for all you do.

Jan 29th
Reply

Jenny Danek

Love everyone of the episodes! You have become my walking companions. Sadly, I am all caught up. Need more soon.

Jun 11th
Reply

Lisa Tranter

loved it! great hosts and so enjoyable. you can tell they are having a great time with the pod cast.

Feb 1st
Reply
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