Showing posts from 2014

Kennedy Space Center

Location: Cape Canaveral, Florida
Date: December 19, 2014

I planned to go to Kennedy Space Center (KSC) to see the SpaceX Falcon 9 CRS-5 launch, but it was scrubbed until January. I went to KSC anyway and visited the rocket garden before going into the new building that houses Space Shuttle Atlantis. There were a lot of exhibits in this building, including a replica of the Hubble Space Telescope and a flight simulator. In the flight simulator you were strapped into a seat and pretty much shaken around a bit, but wasn't even close to as intense as the Mission: Space ride at Epcot.

After leaving the Atlantis building, I took the tour bus to the Saturn V Center. This was supposed to be a tour that also took you to the former shuttle launch pads, but because there was supposed to be launch on that day the bus went straight between the two buildings and past the Vehicle Assembly Building. The tour was shortened even though the launch was scrubbed and had been set to launch from a launc…

Shingle Creek Regional Park

Location: Kissimmee, Florida
Date: December 15, 2014

Shingle Creek Regional Park is a park in the Orlando area that offers opportunities for biking, fishing, and kayaking, among other activities. A kayak rental shop opened in 2014 at the Steffee Landing area along U.S. highway 192 in Kissimmee. From the rental shop you can kayak about one mile upstream on relatively flat and calm water where the stream is relatively wide. You can also go about two miles downstream before you reach a sign saying turn around. The first mile downstream is also fairly calm, but the stream then narrows and its current picks up speed as it winds through a cypress swamp. After going through some of this narrow section I decided to turn around and go back upstream since it was getting late in the day, so I never made it to the end of the trail.

The water here is not nearly as clear as on the Weeki Wachee River, but there were fewer people there and some wildlife visible, including a few turtles, bass, and ibis…

Gasparilla Island State Park

Location: southwest Florida
Date: December 14, 2014

Gasparilla Island State Park is a small park on the Gulf Coast of Florida just south of Boca Grande. The park contains the historic Port Boca Grande Light, which itself is a museum in addition to a functional lighthouse. Less then two miles north of this lighthouse is the Gasparilla Island Light, a taller, thinner lighthouse that you cannot enter. Admission to the park was $3 per vehicle, but there's not other charge for the museum or beach access.

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.

De Soto National Memorial

Date: December 14, 2014
Location: Bradenton, Florida

De Soto National Memorial in Bradenton, Florida commemorates the landing of Hernando de Soto in 1539. He led the first extensive organized exploration of what is now the southern United States. This is a small park on the southern side of the mouth of the Manatee River at Tampa Bay.

A half-mile loop trail that is partially a boardwalk goes through the mangroves and along the coast and has interpretive displays along it. The visitor center has a small museum, and the De Soto Monument and a replica Spanish camp are located near the parking lot. Overall there's not much to this park, but admission is free, and it is a good way to spend about an hour.

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.


Location: Memphis, Tennessee
Date: November 25, 2014

Graceland was the home Elvis Presley from 1957 until his death in 1977. Today it is open to the public, and there are several different tour packages you can purchase. The basic tour is a self-guided (with and iPad) tour of the mansion and grounds, but I also went to see the car museum and two planes. Overall, I was at Graceland for about four hours. Here are some photos from my visit when the mansion was decorated as Elvis decorated it for Christmas.

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.

Choctaw Lake, Tombigbee National Forest

Location: Ackerman, Mississippi
Date: October 25, 2014
Distance: ~6 miles

Choctaw Lake is a reservoir in Tombigbee National Forest and has a variety of developed recreation facilities around it. There is a campground, picnic areas, boat access, 37 miles of hiking trails, dirt roads for bicycling, among others. I began by parking at the northeast side of the dam and hiking down the Beaver Lodge Trail for approximately two miles before connecting onto the Splashing Dog Trail and hiking another two miles back towards the dam. There is a map here, but the Splashing Dog Trail is not shown but roughly parallels the Beaver Lodge Trail except on the southwest side of the stream. These two trails mostly went through forest, but also went around a pond and along a stream and have a few small hills, but are an easy hike.

Once back at the dam, I continued on a loop by taking the Lakeside Trail all the way around the lake back to the trailhead I parked at. The Lakeside Trail is wide, flat, and con…

Owl Creek Mounds

Location: southwest of Tupelo, Mississippi
Date: September 14, 2014

The Owl Creek Mounds are a series of platform mounds built between 1100 and 1200 CE in what is now Tombigbee National Forest. There were originally five mounds, but only two remain today. The largest mound (Mound I) it seventeen feet high and once had a ceremonial temple or "elite" residence on top. There is a short path going around two of the mounds with signs explaining the history of the area.

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.

National Aviary

Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Date: July 28, 2014

The National Aviary is the largest aviary in the United States and has about 200 species of animals, about 150 of which are birds. There are several exhibits including walk-through areas where the birds can fly around you such as wetlands, tropical rainforest, and canary hall. exhibits Eagles, condors, and penguins, owls, and other animals are also at the aviary.

© Copyright 2017 Matthew Pintar. All rights reserved.