Texas is a diverse state, with arid plains, bustling cities, unique history, and quiet coastlines. Take a road tour and experience all of it this spring.
Exploring the Parks
If you find yourself in our 50th state this spring, take a break from the beach and crowds and tourist haunts to learn a bit about how these islands formed and who the original people were. You can get a good glimpse of this by hopping an inter-island flight from Oahu to the Big Island—Hawaii—and experiencing its fascinating geology and anthropology.
The view eastward from Point Loma, at just 422 feet above the Pacific, encompasses San Diego Bay, the city skyline, and the low silhouette of the Laguna Mountains against a brilliant sky. To the west, the surf pounds rocky cliffs and the steely-blue ocean stretches to the horizon. In 1542, Spanish conquistador Juan Cabrillo, the first “tourist,” gazed across the scenic landscape from this same viewpoint.
Famous naturalist John Muir said, “The Big Tree (Sequoia gigantea) is Nature’s forest masterpiece, and . . . the greatest of living things. . . . No description can give any adequate idea of their singular majesty, much less their beauty.”
With the countdown to the National Park Service’s centennial this August down to fewer than 180 days, anticipation is building, reservations are filling, and crowds are filing into the National Park System. Last year marked the second year in a row of record national park visitation, with more than 307 million visitors exploring the park system, this year almost certainly will stretch that run to three years.
What’s in a name? Well, when you hear Hance, the Big Drop, Lost Paddle, or Lava Falls, we’re talking about some of the largest, craziest river rapids in our national parks. Interesting names, for sure, but how do they rate? We posed this question to our river rats: What are the best rapids in the parks? They came up with quite a list. So, if you’re looking for exciting and death-defying whitewater in the parks…
There are many units of the National Park System where you can explore and have fun on sand dunes – Death Valley National Park in California, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan, Great Sand Dunes National Park in Colorado … and Kobuk Valley National Park in Alaska.
“If everyone knew just how beautiful it is, everyone would be out here,” my 64-year-old mother, Jacque, declared as she gently and gracefully stroked the muddy Colorado River with her kayak paddle. “Just think, we’ll get to see amazing sights only a few people have—or ever will—see on this adventure,” I responded with a smile from my 14-foot inflatable Stand Up Paddleboard.
Imagine a place in Southern California without freeways, a place without strip malls, smog, or freeway-clogging traffic. Then, imagine a necklace of grassy islands where eagles soar and foxes run, where abandoned olive groves and ripening figs attract ravens. Imagine crystal-blue ocean waters, where the golden Garibaldi swims through swaying kelp forests beneath wave-battered sea caves, undisturbed by cargo ships and oil platforms.
We had come to Canyonlands National Park from North Carolina, Texas, Colorado, Virginia, Missouri, Utah, and California, determined to spend six leisurely days floating the Green and Colorado rivers through one of the most remote, rugged, and majestic regions of the continental United States. Paleontology was not on our itinerary, but geologic history lay in every direction here in southeastern Utah.