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Reader Participation Survey: Help Us Name the Top 100 National Park Locations to See Before You Die

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Earlier this week we touched on the national parks mentioned in the book, 1,000 Places to See Before You Die. Somehow, Mammoth Cave National Park didn't make the cut, and if you've been there, you know it should have. Help us compile a list of the top 100 national park locations to see before you die. We'll start the list.

* Mammoth Cave National Park. The longest cave in the world -- and still with no end in sight! -- this underground labyrinth presents geologic wonders sculpted down through the millenia by trickling waters.

* Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park. This geyser has been amazing viewers for hundreds of years.

* Half Dome, Yosemite National Park. Just making the trek to the top of this granite dome is something you'll never forget. Gazing down into the Yosemite Valley is another marvel.

* Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde National Park. Why the architects of the cliff dwellings that drape Mesa Verde fled the region continues to be a mystery. Today the dwellings are a showcase of the tenacity and ingenuity of a long ago society.

* Logan Pass, Glacier National Park. While the Going-to-the-Sun Road is a main attraction for those visiting Glacier, stopping atop Logan Pass to snap photos of the ever-present mountain goats and to look at the whittling long-ago glaciers did to the surrounding mountains is an image that stays with you long after your vacation ends.

* The Racetrack, Death Valley National Park. True, it takes some determination to reach the Race Track, but when you pass Tea Kettle Junction and finally reach the playa with its rocks that mysteriously snake across the landscape, you're left with a mystery that you'll talk about for years.

* Jordan Pond, Acadia National Park. An idyllic setting on an island that is idyllic on its own, the pond and its pond house, where you can snack on over-sized popovers smothered with strawberry jam, or stick around for a lobster dinner, is one of the iconic settings in the National Park System.

Comments

Some others I would add from National Parks I've been to so far:
Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde
Chaco Canyon, all of it! Amazing Native American Ruins; this was once a major metropolitan area, and it's stunning to see this ancient city
The flight of the bats in the evening at Carlsbard Caverns
Spider Cave in Carlsbad Caverns
Sunset over El Mapais
El Morro for "historical graffiti"
Acadia National Park, especially the sea coast

[Guano Point (Grand Canyon West Rim) is awesome, yes, but it was removed from this list because it's not part of the National Park System. It's tribal land. Ed.]


Lonesome Traveler:
The big trees. It makes no difference which park you see them at, or whether you choose to visit the giant sequoias or the coast redwoods. You will be overwhelmed by the sense of ancient, brooding majesty. Try to arrive at dawn.
And a pox on anyone who helps finance their destruction by purchasing a redwood deck.

Giant sequoia is not commercially valuable. I heard the problem when there were attempts to log them. They tend to be brittle, break into pieces on impact with the ground, and sometimes even shatter. The wood itself isn't suitable as a building material. Apparently the biggest use of giant sequoia lumber was for shake shingles.

Redwood is actually very important for its timber. Nearly all commercial redwood is managed second growth and very few old growth trees are legally cut. There's an active recycling program for all sorts of old growth lumber. The boardwalk at Muir Woods National Monument is mostly old growth redwood salvaged from an old mill (I heard primarily the building itself).


The viewing platform atop Hawksbill mountain in Shenandoah is a real treat - watch the peregrine falcons hunt - it's amazing!


The big trees. It makes no difference which park you see them at, or whether you choose to visit the giant sequoias or the coast redwoods. You will be overwhelmed by the sense of ancient, brooding majesty. Try to arrive at dawn.
And a pox on anyone who helps finance their destruction by purchasing a redwood deck.


Watching a turtle release [at Padre Island National Seashore]


Perhaps spending the night on Wizard Island is illegal, but it is often done by park staff and special guests. I did this in 1967-68 while performing limnological research at night. When the lake turns to glass at night when the wind comes to a pure calm, looking down into the depths of the lake to view the Milky Way above is an experience I'll remember for the rest of my life.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830


I'll add one from Professor Bob's stomping grounds: any of the groves of ancient cypress, tupelo, and loblolly pines in Congaree National Park. I'm a sucker for old growth anywhere, and this place is some of the tallest mixed deciduous forest on the planet.


I had to add a few of my favorite experiences:

The Narrows at Zion. A great experience.
( But always be aware of the weather and any cautions)

Although only a national monument: Fort Laramie, with it's interpreters it is must for history buffs.

Often missed but so close to others is Capital Reef; especially in the late summer, early fall when the orchards are open.

Playing in the river late morning at Sand Dunes National Park, especially after hiking the dunes early morning. So cooling.

A glass bottom boat ride in Key Biscayne National Park.

All the monuments in Washington, DC at night.


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