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Exploring the Parks

Traveler peels back the layers to help you enjoy your national park experience to the max.

Snow And Solitude Amidst Yosemite's Winter Splendor

There’s one sure-fire way for avoiding the crowds at Yosemite National Park: visit during the winter. Gone until May are the crowds that fill the Yosemite Valley, Glacier Point, and the Mariposa Grove. You’ll love the freedom from take-a-number tourism, and be mesmerized by the pure, clean, quiet whiteness. It just might seem like you have the place all to yourself.

Western Frontier: Early Forts Regale America's Fur Trade Era

In the early 1800s, following in the footsteps of Lewis and Clark, a host of scouts, soldiers, trappers and traders began venturing from St. Louis, eager to explore and exploit the natural riches to be found in the wilderness of the West. It was America’s new economic frontier. The expansion of the fur trade would introduce new cultures and trading partners to farsighted business entrepreneurs.

Three Days In Big Bend National Park

Quiet spreads across Big Bend National Park during the winter months, both in the lack of visitors to this grand rumpled slice of parkland in southwestern Texas as well as audibly. Silence pervades the Chihuahuan Desert, both day and night. The wind blows, but it’s felt more than heard. The Chisos Mountains are quiet as well. The cactus and Ocotillo plants look drab and thornier than usual without their brilliant spring blooms to grace and hide the sharp spikes. Cooler temperatures prevail, and occasional snow- or hail-storms punctuate the season.

Sound And Light At Chaco Culture National Historical Park

An oddly familiar music greeted me as we pulled up to our reserved site in Gallo Campground, located in a side wing of Chaco Canyon’s buff-colored sandstone cliffs. That sounds like a white-crowned sparrow, I thought as I carried our tent to the 12-foot-square sandbox that would be our sleeping spot for the next four nights. I got out binoculars and, sure enough, there were the telltale white-and-black head stripes that identified it as my favorite mountain songster. But here in the desert? In mid-October? Already this national historical park in New Mexico, which my wife and I and a friend from Albuquerque were visiting for the first time, was surprising me.

Where Judge Parker Ruled: A Visit To Fort Smith NHS

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.

A Wild And Wet Weekend At Dry Tortugas National Park

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.

Exploring The Parks: High Season In Yoho National Park

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.

Exploring The Parks: High Season Along The Icefields Parkway

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.

Exploring The Parks: High Season In Jasper National Park

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.

Exploring The Parks: A Visit To The Harry S Truman National Historic Site

Harry S Truman was a true Missourian. It is the state where he was born and raised, where he met his wife to be, where he ran for public office, and where he chose to return following his presidency. Our 33rd president was born of modest means, worked as a businessman and farmer, and progressed up the political ladder from county judge, to U.S. Senator, Vice-President, and, upon the death of President Franklin Roosevelt, President of the United States. After it was all over, he returned to his home in Independence to live a down-to-earth life in the town he loved.

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