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National Parks Highway To Be Reblazed

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Spring and Summer road trips beckon. Last year it was the now "famous" Hypotenuse Trail, America’s newest and longest Transcontinental auto route, Miami (Key West) to the Puget Sound, off the interstates. Road travel as it was meant to be!

 

This year it will be the reestablishment of the National Parks Highway Association (NPHA) and reblazing the NATIONAL PARKS HIGHWAY (NPH),…. to reclaim the historical glory that is the Northwest. But you say it has been done…..true, but not in this century.

 

The National Parks Highway shown brightly in the first quarter of the last century, but apparently lost its original luster with the coming of the numbered highways of the late 1920’s. It competed with the Yellowstone Trail for travelers, and overlapped it in places. Had John and Alice Ridge, our esteemed friends and Yellowstone Trail forum monitors chosen it instead of the Yellowstone Trail as their focus, it would today have regained its former standing among road fans. But instead it has languished, barely recognized and nearly forgotten.

 

Perhaps the National Parks Highway doesn’t loom large in your memory. It may be confused with the grand National Park to Park Trail. The National Park Highway (1916-17) predates the National Park to Park Trail (1920) by three or four years and was a transcontinental route. The symbols for both are shown below on a 1923 Rand McNally Auto Trails map.

 

 

ARNPHSymbol.jpg

 

 

It’s western terminus was Tacoma (Mt Rainier NP) and its eastern was Chicago. I will post a detailed route here and on NationalParksHighway.org as soon as I get the site up and running.

 

Eric (AKA Sit Properly), one of our new members, shares some guilt or credit for this effort. As a recent Washington State resident, he has shown an interest in the Yellowstone Trail and other historic roads, and at the same time gently chided Washingtonians for our inattention to our history. This has aroused my state pride, and I have initiated this effort to begin to reclaim our birthright.

 

Recognizing that there will be a rush to get on board, I have claimed the domains NationalParksHighway.org and NationalParksHighway.com. Soon (weeks, not days) the Association will establish a website to proclaim the glories of the NPH.

 

I guess it is appropriate to comment, in case it isn’t evident, that like the Hypotenuse Trail Association, the National Parks Highway Association is pretty informal. Like that old western social club E Clampus Vitus, perhaps it will evolve into something more, but for now consider it whatever we want to make it. If you are interested in being a part of the reblazing of the National Parks Highway, or just want to play along, post your interest here.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road

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John and Alice Ridge here. We are pleased to be the "esteemed friends" of 'Keep the Show on the Road!' We are, moreover, delighted about the re-formation of the National Parks Highway Association and would be privileged were we to be considered to be early members of the Association.

 

We have acquired a fair bit of information about the NPH and its founder, Frank Guilbert, as we researched the Yellowstone Trail. Frank was a great character worthy of further research. There are many stories related to him and his Great Big (White?) Baked Potato worth writing about. His relationship to the Yellowstone Trail is such a story; he rather proposed a great joining of forces with the YT with one condition: the name YT would be dropped and NPH adopted by the combined group. Neither group seems to have even mentioned each other after that.

 

Their routes are so intertwined and their histories so related that it would seem that the YT discussion group might well be expanded to include the NPH. Unlike Guilbert, I think the forum title should include NPH in its name along with US 20 and the YT! If you find this to be of interest perhaps you could take the initiative to contact Becky Repp or whomever would be appropriate.

 

Allow us to comment on two of your notes about the NPH. I think your date of the beginning of the NPH (1916-1917) is not generous enough and, likewise, your eastern terminus is probably too pessimistic! I have in front of me (quickly located in its advanced storage location -- under the guest room bed) a map of the National Parks Transcontinental Highway "proposed" by the NPH Association and advocated by the National Highways Association published in 1915. It shows the route of the NPH from Chicago to Boston (with a lateral to NYC.) I have also seen maps, (probably Rand McNally but I would need to search them out) showing the NPH across the East. A quick search in our file cabinet found no proof that the NPH Assoc formally extended past Chicago. The NPH followed the route of the YT for most of the way with the exception of Indiana and some of Ohio. And, of course, they were much the same route to the West except between Milwaukee and Terry, Montana. It was in 1915 that Guilbert made his kind offer to take over the YT at the same time as he was formalizing the NPH Assoc.

 

YtTrailman

 

 

 

Spring and Summer road trips beckon. Last year it was the now "famous" Hypotenuse Trail, America’s newest and longest Transcontinental auto route, Miami (Key West) to the Puget Sound, off the interstates. Road travel as it was meant to be!

 

This year it will be the reestablishment of the National Parks Highway Association (NPHA) and reblazing the NATIONAL PARKS HIGHWAY (NPH),…. to reclaim the historical glory that is the Northwest. But you say it has been done…..true, but not in this century.

 

The National Parks Highway shown brightly in the first quarter of the last century, but apparently lost its original luster with the coming of the numbered highways of the late 1920’s. It competed with the Yellowstone Trail for travelers, and overlapped it in places. Had John and Alice Ridge, our esteemed friends and Yellowstone Trail forum monitors chosen it instead of the Yellowstone Trail as their focus, it would today have regained its former standing among road fans. But instead it has languished, barely recognized and nearly forgotten.

 

Perhaps the National Parks Highway doesn’t loom large in your memory. It may be confused with the grand National Park to Park Trail. The National Park Highway (1916-17) predates the National Park to Park Trail (1920) by three or four years and was a transcontinental route. The symbols for both are shown below on a 1923 Rand McNally Auto Trails map.

 

 

ARNPHSymbol.jpg

 

 

It’s western terminus was Tacoma (Mt Rainier NP) and its eastern was Chicago. I will post a detailed route here and on NationalParksHighway.org as soon as I get the site up and running.

 

Eric (AKA Sit Properly), one of our new members, shares some guilt or credit for this effort. As a recent Washington State resident, he has shown an interest in the Yellowstone Trail and other historic roads, and at the same time gently chided Washingtonians for our inattention to our history. This has aroused my state pride, and I have initiated this effort to begin to reclaim our birthright.

 

Recognizing that there will be a rush to get on board, I have claimed the domains NationalParksHighway.org and NationalParksHighway.com. Soon (weeks, not days) the Association will establish a website to proclaim the glories of the NPH.

 

I guess it is appropriate to comment, in case it isn’t evident, that like the Hypotenuse Trail Association, the National Parks Highway Association is pretty informal. Like that old western social club E Clampus Vitus, perhaps it will evolve into something more, but for now consider it whatever we want to make it. If you are interested in being a part of the reblazing of the National Parks Highway, or just want to play along, post your interest here.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road

 

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post your interest here.

Definitely interested! Anything that gets you closer to Indiana...

 

Chris

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This year it will be the reestablishment of the National Parks Highway Association (NPHA) and reblazing the NATIONAL PARKS HIGHWAY (NPH),….

A fine idea that I'll join, cheer, and (from afar) assist.

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I see by the response that a number of us have an interest in the National Parks Highway and in the formation of the new National Parks Highway Association. As I hope I have made clear this is a fun project. Our involvement is voluntary, and involves no binding commitments. The officers and directors positions, are honorary, and carry no authority, nor responsibilities. I hope that is self evident, but I just wanted to be sure that now or in the future no one expects more than a good time collaborating among virtual friends.

 

While our purpose is entertainment, our product will certainly be new information and new knowledge about an exciting old road. John Ridge has suggested and invited our collaboration on this forum with those interested in the Yellowstone Trail, and I applaud both his generosity and wisdom. Becky, Pat, & Jennifer, what are your thoughts?

 

That said, I am off today to the State Library to copy an early (1916) article about our highway. I have also added a couple more of the full scale detailed Rand McNally Auto Trails Maps to my collection. I have plotted cities, towns, and sidings on the old National Parks Trail through a couple of states. I plan to do a complete identification of the sites this week. I will post that work.

 

I hope that any of us who may be traveling even a small section of the road, will take the time to photograph and post your discoveries here. As soon as I have a little free time, I will create the National Parks Highway website, and perhaps we can incorporate a Goggle earth link for photos, etc.

 

I confess I am a bit excited, because the road appears to still exist in many places today, just waiting for us to “discover” and enjoy it, on the road, or even virtually. In the process of doing a little research I have turned up a copy of a 1915 – 16 National Parks Highway brochure at Washington State University, where my grand daughter attends college. I plan to be there early next month when she graduates, so I can visit the library.

 

I have also determined that the original lantern slides used to promote the highway when the scouting party crossed the country in 1916 still exist. So do the photos documenting the trip!!!! I will contact the museum holding them ASAP and see what access they will permit to the collection.

 

I am off to the State Library to see what else I can find, beyond the 1916 article I already know is there.

 

I’ll keep this gang posted.

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

 

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The trip to the Washington State Library was fruitful, turning up one article I had not seen, a long booklet I have in my collection, but couldn’t find readily, and the last page of a 1916 article I had previously missed. I also “discovered” original prints done by one of Washington’s famous pioneer photographers, Asahel Curtis. “Unfortunately” for our purposes they were a little too recent, being taken in the 1930’s.

 

In the future I will attempt to cite references so that others may use them.

 

One article, “The Good Roads Man” by Douglas Olson in the Pacific Northeasterner, Vol. 29, # 3, 1985 highlights the career of the spark plug behind the National Parks Highway, and describes its original extent. Reference to Frank W. Guilbert won’t be found in more than a couple of Google Search citations, but he was responsible for much that was accomplished in the way of Good Roads in the Northwest, and through his National Parks Highway achievements, his works extended at least as far as Illinois.

 

Guilbert was a Spokane and Eastern Washington booster, and did much for that area, but it was at the Frey Hotel in Seattle, in February 1915 that he and others created the National Parks Highway Association. The concept was to promote travel to the National Parks. The route extended from Chicago to the Puget Sound, and down the Pacific Highway to connect to Crater Lake in Oregon via Medford.

 

Having written the sentence above, I checked my own maps at historicalroadmaps.com and discovered that indeed, Rand McNally in its 1923 map marks the National Parks Highway practically past my house, along the Cowlitz Trail, the Pacific Highway, and old US99!!!!

 

I used to envy Jim (Mobilene) with his Michigan Road …. Jim, the fates have opened the door!! Does it get any better than this?!!

 

So I just returned from a trip along the National Parks Highway!!!! And the State Library sits beside it. The National Parks Highway has fallen so far from the public eye that an old roadie like me didn’t know that! Now I am eager to find some remnant of the old road’s identification. The Yellowstone Trail has its name emblazed on a few modern roads and its emblem on a few rocks and walls, or pillars. What is left of the National Parks Highway today?

 

Back to the History of the National Parks Highway…..

 

At the first meeting of the Association April 9th, 1915, a transcontinental trip was planned to demonstrate the “ease” of such a trip. We will recount the “ease” of that trip here in due course. It took over a month, but that included numerous promotional events along the way. What is amazing, beyond the trip itself, is that apparently the lantern slides used on the trip still exist, and Frank Guilbert’s photographs taken along the way are preserved at the Eastern Washington State Historical Society.

 

Guilbert was Chairman of the Executive Committee of the National Parks Highway Association and chief promoter of the project. The party departed from Chicago on June 4, 1916 and arrived in Seattle on July 6. Guilbert later described the trip as “…a continuous succession of mud holes, fords, and overflowing rivers.” I doubt however that was the description used in the early promotional brochures! In fact the promotional brochure I have seen states on its cover"The Smooth Road."

 

More will follow….

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

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The Frey Hotel is a beautiful building. It's on Yessler Way and is now housing for the homeless and low income families.

 

This cross-country trip would be a fun one to follow.

 

I've found reference to a couple different alignments through Washington, one even going to Everett and then south on what I assume was Old 99, which also goes right by my house. I ride on it every day! Not fully sure if it was ever National Park Highway (depending on which map you trust), but still a nice thing.

 

This is all pretty exciting. I'll be on some of the NPH tomorrow to Coulee City. There will be pictures.

 

-Eric

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The Frey Hotel is a beautiful building. It's on Yessler Way and is now housing for the homeless and low income families.

 

This cross-country trip would be a fun one to follow.

 

I've found reference to a couple different alignments through Washington, one even going to Everett and then south on what I assume was Old 99, which also goes right by my house. I ride on it every day! Not fully sure if it was ever National Park Highway (depending on which map you trust), but still a nice thing.

 

This is all pretty exciting. I'll be on some of the NPH tomorrow to Coulee City. There will be pictures.

 

-Eric

 

Eric,

 

I’m looking forward to your pictures and report! Yours will be the first of what I hope will be many. Document locations.

 

I got a call last night and I have been pulled away from home on an unplanned trip to California for a couple of weeks, so my attention is distracted from the National Parks Highway for the moment. I will keep an eye out for your progress, but probably not add much until I get back home.

 

I did trace the highway through Washington and Idaho last night on Google Earth, and since I can access those files while I am on the road, I will see if they can be easily shared.

 

In the meantime I am going to do a little US 99 / Pacific Highway stuff as I head south. I am in Eugene, Oregon this evening, and learned that the cause for the trip has improved from “grave” to “improving.” The doctor told family to tell me I didn’t have to rush down, but I was already in transit, so I will take my foot off the gas a little. I will do mostly short swings off the freeway onto the old Pacific Highway alignment, but I know several places of interest that I can report on without changing my ETA more than a couple of hours.

 

Have a good trip!

 

Dave

 

Keep the Show on the Road!

 

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Dave,

 

Sorry to hear about that. At least it's improving. That's very good.

 

The trip was long (450 miles) and my camera battery died. It was after the US 2 segment, so I got a LOT of Moses Coulee. I also got a lot of Old US 2 and was on the Vantage Highway near Frenchman Coulee when my camera stopped working. It was the most beautiful ground I've seen in a long, long time. We'll be heading out there soon though.

 

I should have the report posted tomorrow (200 pics). It was a great day.

 

And speaking of the Pacific Coast Highway, I was mistaken about the National Trails Highway going by my place, which is on current WA 99 - Aurora Ave. Looks like the PCH came into Seattle via modern day Bothell Way > Lake City Way > Roosevelt, etc. Not via Aurora.

 

We took that heading up to US 2. Looks like a lot of old sections to explore. Thank god. Something to do close to home!

 

-Eric

Edited by sit properly

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