Imagine a place in Southern California without freeways; a place without strip malls, smog, and millions of people. Imagine an ocean where the golden fish, the Garibaldi, is prolific with hundreds of other species in an underwater forest of kelp beneath wave-battered sea caves. Imagine a place that is still California as it once was, a century ago, with adobe ranch houses, sweeping vistas of cliffs and beach, mountains and valleys, grasslands and cypress groves, and unbelievable quiet.
Some stories, whether focused on travel or a specific issue, deserve a longer treatment.
I had completely forgotten that Skagway is home to a unit of Klondike Gold Rush before I got off the Alaska Marine Highway ferry M.V. Columbia at the pier in Skagway, Alaska. But there it was right on Main Street – a big Arrowhead outside a large old building labeled Visitor Center.
There are national park units long-accepted for their fall colors, and then there are the surprising destinations that brighten up the landscape. Here are a handful of them for your consideration.
Fewer than 12 months separate the National Park Service's 99th birthday and its 100th. What happens over the course of the next year will go a far way to determining if it will be a happy birthday or not.
It was a beautiful late summer evening, and my family and I had spent the day hiking in Badlands National Park. As the setting sun cast a golden glow on the park’s signature peaks and plateaus, my family and I pulled into a nearby guest ranch, where we had booked a cabin for the night.
The two of us had traveled through Idaho on numerous occasions, most often during drives across the scenic northern panhandle on the way from North Cascades National Park to Glacier National Park. We had also followed the Snake River during several trips and visited Craters of the Moon National Monument on at least three occasions. Despite multiple journeys through the state whose license plates have long saluted its “famous potatoes,” we had never visited City of Rocks National Reserve.
“We are all travelers in the desert of life, and the best we can find in our journey is an honest friend.” — Robert Louis Stevenson.
For nearly a century, a popular story has linked the origins of the National Park Service to the genius of one man. In 1914, Stephen T. Mather, a self-made millionaire in the borax industry, visited Yosemite and Sequoia national parks. Finding both of them poorly managed he wrote Secretary of the Interior Franklin K. Lane and complained. “Dear Steve,” Lane allegedly replied, “If you don’t like the way the national parks are being run, come on down to Washington and run them yourself.”
It was raining when I got to Lewis and Clark National Historical Park. Since I’ve recently had enough rain to keep me satisfied for a good long while, I didn’t go out to the replica of Fort Clatsop where Captains Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, and the rest of the Corps of Discovery spent an uncomfortable three months in the winter of 1805 and 1806.
We have discovered during years of travel to America’s national parks that many of our most enjoyable visits have occurred at some of the smallest and least-visited units. It is a pleasant experience to visit a park where crowds are sparse, quiet is the norm, and National Park Service employees have time to engage in leisurely discussions.
While all national parks have abundant wildlife throughout the year, fall is prime time. Birds and animals are on the move, preparing for winter, and courting. They’re busy and plentiful.
National parks actually glow in autumn. From the fluttering gold of aspens and larch in the parks along the spine of the Rocky Mountains to the oranges, yellows and reds of the hardwood forests that cover Eastern parks and even on the Southwest’s sandstone, fall is the season of incandescence in the park system. Where do you find these rainbows? Here’s your guide to the "best bets" for fall color in the National Park System.
It didn't take long, less than seven or eight minutes, to kill the grizzly. First she was immobilized with a drug, and then the equivalent of a shot to her brain and it was over. While the killing brought an end to a bear that attacked and partially consumed a hiker in Yellowstone National Park, it won't likely bring an end to the controversy that was fanned by Social Media commentators.
On a warm summer day, under calm blue skies, the Railroader's Festival came off without a hitch, but a lot of steam, at Golden Spike National Historic Site.
Taiga is a word of just two syllables, and yet it connotes remoteness. Its synonym – boreal – is slightly more familiar, though it too conjures the distant, the mysterious. But if you travel to the Great Lakes, to the national lakeshores that line the southern shores of those inland oceans known as Superior and Michigan, you can find yourself deep in the coniferous forests, the taiga or boreal forests, more familiar to the Canadian landscapes to the north.
From enjoying the park’s waters, to relishing the changing scenery and observing the raucous wildlife, autumn in Rocky Mountain National Park is full of adventures and sights you won’t want to miss.
Perhaps few people today remember Nancy Ayers, but I will never forget her. Certainly, on being informed of her death last winter, a flood of memories came rushing back. In her honor, I decided to reread Polly Welts Kaufman's National Parks and the Woman’s Voice. Although I recalled no woman in the book quite like Nancy, I owed it to her to reflect on our friendship. A book reminiscent of her qualities seemed the perfect touch.
September into the heart of November are my favorite months in the National Park System. The days aren’t quite as long as they are in July and August, but the bugs and crowds are on the wane, wildlife is on the move, and the crisp night air is perfect for sleeping under the stars, or in a cozy cabin.
There has been lots of discussion and debate on the Traveler in recent months over the size of the National Park System as well as the propriety of some of the units in that system. Most recently, a reader took issue with a piece looking at Fort Vancouver National Historic Site that questioned what the goal of the historic site really was.
Editor's note: The Coalition to Protect America's National Parks, previously known as the Coalition of National Park Service Retirees, maintains the National Park System in its current form is too small, and that more effort should be made to expand it. In this article, the Coalition explains its rationale for such an effort.