Tuesday, August 16, 2022


Historic markers along the road: Standing where Teddy Roosevelt got inspired

“Historic marker, 500 feet.” You know the feeling, right? No matter what it is, you sort of have to stop. It’s almost as if, since someone was thoughtful enough to mark it, you owe it to yourself to reward their efforts with at least a brief stop. Maybe it doesn’t always feel rewarding. Maybe it’s actually not that interesting. But still, if somebody thought to put a plaque or a marker there, there’s just something about it that’s worth your time. At least that’s how I feel. Can you relate?

I have always felt naturally drawn to those subtle invitations along the road. If something happened there, I want to know more about it, whether it interests me or not. It’s one of the real charms of the road. We all have our favorite signs. The special ones connect us to some event or incident that we have pondered in the past. And then, when we find ourselves right there, it almost doesn’t feel real. All of a sudden, you are breathing the same air as whoever occupied that space creating history before you arrived.

I wanted to share one of my favorite signs. It’s at Yosemite National Park. I was in the middle of researching a book that I was writing on President Theodore Roosevelt. Back in 1903, during his first trip to California, he quietly set aside three days and nights to go backcountry camping with the famed naturalist John Muir. Over their campfires, horseback rides, and hikes in the wild, the two men hatched an idea that eventually gave way to the creation of our National Parks. Like many of you, I revere the National Parks. I truly find them to be our most valuable national resource and over the years they have given both myself and my family much pleasure.

There’s a sign in Yosemite that marks close to the exact spot where the men spent their third and final night together camping. When I found it, it gave me great pause. I had been working on the book for about a year, re-tracing as many of their steps as I could, and this truly was, for me anyway, the most pivotal spot. Standing there, I let my mind drift back and imagine what it must’ve been like more than 100 years ago when they sat by their campfire under the stars discussing what they could do to help preserve and protect our most beautiful open spaces.

Whenever I go back to Yosemite, I always make sure I go visit the sign and then reflect a little bit on what took place there. There are a number of signs around the country that have a similar effect on me, but not quite to this degree. How about you? What’s the sign or marker that makes you stop and think? The one that makes you pinch yourself a little bit? The one that makes you feel the most gravity. These places matter. To a traveler, they become like an oasis. They nourish us and enrich us.

All of a sudden, I can’t wait to get back to Yosemite.

Read more from Chris Epting here

Chris Epting is an author, award-winning journalist/photographer and dedicated road tripper. His best-selling books including James Dean Died Here (the locations of America’s pop culture landmarks), Roadside Baseball, and The Birthplace Book, along with many others that remain popular with many travelers and RVers throughout the country and world. He is excited to be contributing to RVTravel.com and looks forward to helping to lead you places you may not have discovered otherwise. You may learn more about Chris at his author’s site, www.chrisepting.com



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Michael Galvin, PhD
9 months ago

Have you noticed often there is a “Historic marker, 500 feet.” sign and then no marker? Or no warning sign, just the marker you see as you go past?

Mike Gast
9 months ago

Mine was while living in Central Montana. It was a marker for the Battle of Canyon Creek” between the U.S. Army and the fleeing Nez Perce tribe, left by Chief Joseph. It is in a remote spot just north of Laurel, Montana, just west of Billings. It’s a lesser known section of the Nez Perce Trail of Tears saga. It’s a very lonely spot, and it’s easy to see it exactly as it was in 1877 as General Reno chased the Native Americans across the prairie. It deserves more attention than it gets.

9 months ago

Check out the app ‘Explore Here’. It provides pictures and text of the nearby roadside and interpretive signs as you travel. Also shows Native lands, NPS, memorials, volcanos and hot springs. I haven’t played much, but it showed me all the local signs quickly. Not sure where I found this one, may even have been a prior RVTravel newsletter!

RV Staff(@rvstaff)
9 months ago
Reply to  Jayne

Hi, Jayne. Yes, this was an app that Chris Guld, Geeks on Tour, reviewed in a post in the RV Travel newsletter this past August: “This app lets you read historical markers without even stopping” https://www.rvtravel.com/app-lets-read-historical-markers-stopping/ Thanks for mentioning that! And happy exploring! 🙂 –Diane

Lil John
9 months ago

I have a “Love-Hate” relationship with historical markers. My wife and I love to stop at them, but we have to add an extra day to our trips so we can read them all!

9 months ago

I see a lot of these markers on the side of 2 lane country roads. I would stop and look at most of them but they never have parking or even a shoulder near them.

Kinda sad but stopping would be dangerous and foolhardy in those circumstances.

Richard. Hughes
9 months ago

I don’t remember where it was, but I once saw a sign that said, “Hysterical Marker” “Sitting Bull stood up here”

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