Crater Lake sneaks up on you. The mountain holding the lake is just one more of many rather nondescript mounds on the horizon.
Some stories, whether focused on travel or a specific issue, deserve a longer treatment.
There are plenty of options, all across the National Park System during the winter months. You can cross-country ski through Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, experience the wintry wonders of the brand-new Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument in Maine, soak up the sunshine on a beach at Virgin Islands National Park in the Caribbean, or simply watch it snow while planning next summer’s vacation.
Obama administration officials tout that the president has protected nearly 550 million acres of public lands during his tenure, but observers say those numbers tell an uneven story of how President Obama has stewarded the environment, and add that the Democrat can accomplish much more before he leaves the White House.
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.
Four weeks, three venerable national parks, three entirely different experiences. And time to mull the future of the National Park System and its caretaker, the National Park Service.
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.
My parents and I entered Aruba’s Arikok National Park in the early morning, intent on finding birds and beating the heat. Temperatures were already running high, and would continue to rise into the 80s and 90s by the end of the afternoon. Still, I felt too excited to care. As we turned a trail corner in a brushy section near the visitor center, my parents and I heard a loud rustling in the undergrowth. I had been in Aruba for less than 48 hours, and I wracked my brain for what large animal could be shuffling within the borders of the park. Illogically, thoughts jumped to cougars, bears, wolves – obviously, none of these species exist on Aruba.
Staying hydrated and reducing waste. Those are two keys to a vacation in the National Park System, particularly during the months when you’re more active in the outdoors.
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.
National parks are far from one-dimensional. They hold history, beauty, and the natural world in all the nooks and crannies of their landscapes. Old-growth forests, canyons that streams and rivers have gnawed into the earth, colorful coral reefs, expansive lakes, and some of the first vestiges of human encounters with nature all are contained within the parks. This great diversity and intersections of nature are what draws QT Luong again and again into the National Park System with his cameras.
A distinguished historian of the New Deal and American reform, Otis L. Graham, Jr., now offers us a monumental look at the presidency. Nor in preparing this book was he unmindful of the current election cycle. Who will be our next president, and of special relevance, will he or she be concerned about the environment?
Rocky Mountain National Park elk are not shy about posing for you. Indeed, they are the ubiquitous ambassadors for the park, and appear seemingly everywhere, at any time.
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.
“Animal Life as an Asset of National Parks,” proposed two revolutionary ideas, first, that predators should live unmolested in the parks, and second, that education was essential to the visitor experience.
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.
My first day in Costa Rica’s famed Manuel Antonio National Park was, surprisingly, underwhelming. We set out to find sloths and Technicolor birds, but instead we were greeted by dense vegetation, a few spiders, and crowded beaches, with sand too hot to walk on. We left, not understanding what all of the hype was about—much like the first time I went to Yellowstone National Park and didn’t see a bison.