Alycat's Walkabout bio picture

    Hi! I'm Alyson, a world traveling shutterbug. I started the Alycat's Walkabout blog in 2014 as a way to share my experiences while volunteering in Australia and New Zealand. Since then, the blog has evolved into sharing my traveling experiences, one walkabout at a time.

    Be sure to check back often for updates. You can also follow the adventure on Twitter and Instagram at @alycatphotos. Looking forward to seeing you out there!

    Happy Exploring!


    I truly believe that our national parks are one of America's greatest ideas! To celebrate the Centennial of America's National Park System, I was on a mission to visit as many new parks in 2016 as possible. After finishing with 28, I am hoping to do better in 2017. How many will I get to? Be sure to follow along!


Fort Vancouver National Historic Site

Welcome to Fort Vancouver National Historic Site! Located primarily in Washington state, Fort Vancouver is situated along the Columbia River just across from Portland, Oregon. A portion of the park, the John McLoughlin residence, is located in Oregon City.

Fort Vancouver was founded as a fur trading post in 1825 by the Hudson’s Bay Company . When it was abandoned in the mid 1800’s, the US military took over operation of the fort. While the historical park is no longer in operation as a military post, there is still a heavy military presence and significant history at the site. This includes Pearson Field and the Vancouver Barracks.

Mount Hood sits majestically off in the distance.

It is important to keep in mind that none of these buildings are original. They were, however, painstakingly put together to adequately show what the fort looked and felt like. The effort is not lost on the parks visitors. Walking around is a step back in time.

I absolutely loved the large porch on the Chief Factor’s house. I could sit on it’s bench all day taking in the views of the mountain and the world around. It’s hard to capture just how romantic this porch is in a photo. Please trust me though. If you visit, take a moment to have a seat and take in the beauty around you. This park is filled with it.

Most of the buildings at the park are open for touring. Take a look back at how the lives of those who lived here almost 200 years ago were.

The wood shop.

I got an incredible treat when I walked into the blacksmith shop. These two gentlemen were fixing metal brackets that needed to be repaired around the park. I spent a good 30 minutes watching them work, pausing from their tasks only to speak to visitors who stopped by. It was fascinating to watch the process of making simple metal items.

If you have the chance to stop by and visit Fort Vancouver, I highly recommend it. The ability to interact with history here is something that you can’t find everywhere. Plan to spend several hours or a good portion of the day. You never know what ‘residents’ you might come across during your visit. Building in enough time before you arrive will allow you to fully enjoy these exhibits.


Grand Teton Vs. Cancer

In Summer 2018, Alyson and Nathan Rode will travel to Grand Teton National Park and attempt to summit its tallest peak, Grand Teton, at 13,776 feet. They will do so to raise awareness for pediatric cancer and funds for Vs. Cancer. They will blog their training and trip on You can contribute to their campaign here.

By Nathan Rode

A couple years ago, my wife, Alyson, and I joined a rock climbing gym—Triangle Rock Club in North Carolina. We’ve always been big outdoor enthusiasts and try to stay as physically active as possible in our busy lives. We never thought we’d venture outside on the rocks, but we have slowly developed the itch. Last September, we traveled to the Northwest for vacation—visiting friends in Seattle before heading to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. As we flew over Washington’s Mount Rainier, we thought about our climbing friends who had taken a trip to summit the fourth-tallest peak in the Lower 48 of the United States. Our sense of adventure started to lure us. How cool would it be to stand on top of a mountain, getting there with your own two feet—and hands—and looking out to the horizon with miles of beautiful landscape in between?

As we traveled to Grand Teton, we researched what it would take to summit Mount Rainier. Then we saw the Grand Teton Range for the first time in our lives. It’s absolutely striking. Our research turned into a compare and contrast. Rainier or Teton?

We decided on Teton and have been planning a trip since. One of our climbing friends is qualified to lead us so we don’t have to go through an expedition outfit. Going with a Teton group was our original plan, but our friend allows us to save some money and operate a little bit more freely in our attempt to climb.

We’re not so vain that we want to share our vacation plans with the world. Instead, we’re taking this opportunity to promote something we care about deeply.

As outdoor enthusiasts, Alyson and I are passionate about the environment. Anybody following our expedition can see just one example of what our country has to offer in its natural state. You don’t have to climb Teton to experience or appreciate its grandiose views. Our National Park system has so much to offer and is for everyone to enjoy.

Another passion we have is simply serving the community. We volunteer in several different facets and we’re going to use this trip to promote one of our favorite charities. Vs. Cancer raises funds for pediatric cancer research. Our friend, Chase Jones, founded the organization and we have supported it since its inception. If we can raise awareness for a cause while taking on our own personal challenge, why wouldn’t we seize that opportunity?

If you would like to donate to our Vs. Cancer campaign, we’ve set up a page with information. Half of the money raised will go toward research and the other half will benefit Duke Children’s Hospital, located in our hometown of Durham, N.C. Most Vs. Cancer campaigns are done by sports teams with athletes cutting or shaving their hair at an event. We don’t plan on being any different. Upon reaching the summit of Teton at 13,776 feet, I will pull out the clippers and Alyson will pull out the shears.

For the two of us, this will be the hardest thing we’ve done, but still easier than what hundreds of thousands of kids and their families go through fighting cancer. We hope you follow our journey and support our cause. We certainly look forward to sharing the story.

The Sights and Sounds of New Orleans

Welcome to New Orleans! It’s a city rich in history and culture with its own distinct flare for music, food and a good time. I just love it!

This will be a somewhat different Alycat’s Walkabout blog post as I reflect back on my time in New Orleans as a disaster responder. I invite you to see how the city has changed since 2005 through my eyes and lens.

New Orleans and its people hold a special place in my heart. Almost 12 years ago, I was deployed on my first disaster mission for the American Red Cross to the area in response to Hurricane Katrina.  I spent several weeks working in and around New Orleans and even rode out Hurricane Rita with people I had been helping. It was a tense few days as Rita came roaring ashore, but I remember them fondly.

This was my first trip back to New Orleans since my deployment. In between work events, I stopped by a few of the places I had worked to see how things had changed.

A few of the photos I took during my time in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina.

A before and after of a local school.

Above: the deserted French Quarter a week after Katrina came ashore in 2005.

Below: a lively French Quarter eleven years later. The bubbles (and people) have returned!

One of the few places that stayed opened following the hurricane was the Famous Door. The owners welcomed in the military personnel, first responders, and disaster staff with open arms. When you had a day off, it was nice to visit the local places that were still open. The thought was that by visiting these places, we were also helping the community recover economically.

Below: a photo of me with a group of fellow volunteers back in 2005 enjoying a day off at the Famous Door. Above: a photo of the Famous Door on my recent visit. It was great to see it open and busy.

As I mentioned before, New Orleans has some incredible culture, and music is at the heart of it. Spend an evening walking around, you are guaranteed to stumble across some amazing local band jamming out.

You never know what you will find in New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter. A variety of street performers can be found on each corner. You may even be invited to crash a wedding parade!

I mentioned the rich history that New Orleans has. If you enjoy history, a great first place to stop is at Jackson Square.

Oh, the food! New Orleans certainly knows how to do food. Cafe Du Monde is famous for it’s coffee and desserts. The original location in the French Quarter is open 24 hours a day. Just be prepared to wait as the line is usually very long. I promise though, it is worth it!

If waiting isn’t your style, there are other Cafe Du Monde locations around the city and suburbs. While they are not open 24 hours a day, the lines are usually a lot shorter.

Antoine’s Restaurant is the oldest family owned restaurant in New Orleans. If you are looking for a nice meal, this is the place to go! While I am not a steak eater, I was told by several folks that this was the best steak they had ever had.

Looking for some good Bar B Que? Moe’s is the place for you! It was recommended to us by a local, and it certainly lived up to the expectations.

Our final meal was at Camellia Grill, which opened in 1946. This beloved local restaurant was closed after Hurricane Katrina and did not reopen again until 2007. It’s famous for its counter service and incredible food. The milkshakes… oh man. So delicious!

Of course, you can’t leave New Orleans without having a few of their famous pralines!

As someone who considers them self a huge World War II buff, I was greatly surprised to learn that the official United States WWII museum was in New Orleans. That seemed like an odd location to me until I learned about the huge role the city played in the war.

Higgins Industries, which was based in New Orleans, built many boats for the military during WWII including the Higgins land crafts that were used on D-Day. These ships played such a significant role in the war that Dwight D. Eisenhower was quoted as say that Andrew Higgins’s ship designs won the war for the Allies.

If you are a history buff or a fan of the history of WWII, I highly highly recommend building in at least half a day into your schedule to visit this museum. It is one of the best museums I have even visited. If you would like to do the movies, I recommend getting there earlier in the day as they fill up fast.

Thank you New Orleans for a wonderful visit. I cannot wait to get back!

Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

This past fall, Nathan and I spent some time exploring gems of our national park system: Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP. Breathtaking, beautiful, mind blowing. The list of adjectives I could use to describe these two parks would fill a page. Whether you are a hiker, a wildlife fan or just looking to take in some incredible views, each park offers everyone the chance to explore their passion.

I honestly did not know what to expect when we first started planning our trip. I had heard great things about both parks, but it seemed everyone enjoyed them for different reasons. Anyone who knows me well knows I am the ultimate travel planner, especially when it comes to visiting national parks. So I spent some time researching the pros and cons we had been given to plan an adventure we would really enjoy. What we came away with was pretty awesome.

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Las Vegas to Phoenix… Exploring Arizona’s National Parks

One hundred years ago today, the National Park Service was founded. One hundred years ago today, our government began the process to preserve the best wilderness and historically significant locations across the country. It was a step that ensured that every American from that moment forward would have the opportunity to experience the best America has to offer.

I am truly passionate about our national park system. It is America’s best idea. To celebrate, I have been spending the year visiting as many “new” national parks as possible. I took full advantage of a business trip to Las Vegas in June to explore several of Arizona’s national parks. The road trip centered on the Grand Canyon, a crowning jewel of the park system and a world heritage site. While I had visited the Grand Canyon before, I had never explored the national park portion. It seemed only fitting to visit during the centennial celebration!

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