I came to Lava Beds expecting . . . . well . . . . lava. But what I found nearly blew what’s left of my little mind. Lava Beds National Monument in north central California near a tiny town called Tule Lake (or Tulelake, it seems to be spelled both ways interchangeably) contains lava all right, and a whole lot more.
Exploring the Parks
It is almost absolutely silent. I sit down on a fallen redwood log and listen. I hear my own breathing. And a woodpecker somewhere far off to my right and what may be some frogs from a direction I can’t pinpoint. A squirrel chitters and a small bird of some kind chips. And all around me are the Trees.
One of my most favorite places on the face of the Earth is Great Basin National Park. It’s one of those Get Out and Do parks, although it certainly has a bunch of stuff for you if you prefer Look and See.
If the mention of Judge Isaac Parker doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you will remember Hang ‘em High, a popular Western from 1968 starring Clint Eastwood. The movie was loosely based on He Hanged Them High, a book by Homer Croy that was, in turn, loosely based on the life and times of Judge Parker. In the movie, Eastwood portrayed a U.S. marshal who brought wrongdoers in to face the judge.
The world’s third-oldest national park (established as Rocky Mountains Park in 1887), Banff is a wonderland of hiking, mountain biking, golfing, climbing, horseback riding, fishing, rafting, kayaking, skiing … you name it.
Garden Key is surrounded by the lapping ocean and, after the sun goes down, the nightly entertainment arrives. At first there are just a few pinpoints of light, then Venus is seen on the horizon. By the time you lie down to sleep, the stars fill the skies over Dry Tortugas National Park. The real show, though, is hours away.
There’s a park in the Canadian Rockies that features one of the country’s tallest waterfalls, one of the world’s most treasured collections of fossils, “spiral tunnels” designed to help trains chug literally through mountains, and a stunning alpine area so pristine that the number of visitors are limited to keep it that way.
There are trips where the road is the destination. In America, there’s Route 66, the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park, and Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park. After my wife and I explored the northern nexus of Jasper National Park, the world-famous Icefields Parkway beckoned.
First, north to the heart of the Canadian Rockies. Then, a 9-mile drive on a narrow, twisting road through towering trees. Finally, another half-mile hike over a creek and into the heavens. And there, at the end of the Path of the Glacier Trail, a giant mass of rock reaches into the clouds. At the foot of 11,033-foot Mount Edith Cavell, you feel like you’re worshipping in a temple at the top of the world.