Category Archives: Uncategorized

From Sea to Shining Sea: Olympic National Park

Marmot Pass in Olympic National Park

Ladies and gentlemen, we’ve made it.  10 parks and some 7,000 miles later, we have reached our final destination- Olympic National Park.  The journey has been long; it has spanned high mountains, low valleys, meadows, and rivers.  But we’re finally here.  I hope you’ve had as good a time as I have but for now, let’s just make this last stop a worthwhile one.  Washington State- Olympic National Park- here we come.

Poised on the crest of the Pacific Coast, 3,000 miles away from the mountain in Acadia we first saw the sunset, Olympic National Park has a rich history that encompasses thousands of years.  The area has been home to ancient natives, Indian tribes, and homesteaders of the 1800’s.  When you visit, it is no surprise that people would want to call it home.  This Pacific coast might not have the glamour of beaches in LA, but it still has the serenity we have come to expect from America’s national parks.

The diverse environment of the Olympic National Park is not only protected by the National Park service but has also been declared by the United Nations as an international biosphere reserve.  This might be because there are few places in the world that features so many interactions of environments.  The Olympic peninsula is home to rugged coast lines, sub-alpine forests and meadows, and temperate forests surrounded by a range of mountains.  Along the coast there are outcroppings of rocks called “sea stacks,” which are home to trees, birds, and many kinds of animals.

Beaches at Olympic National Park

To take a nice break from our weeks of volcanic adventures, some sea and sand might be a welcome relief.  The gorgeous beaches of Olympic National Park are free of the crowds common in other beach areas, so we will really get a sense of the natural beach environment.  Go ahead and beachcomb!  Find something cool and enjoy the glories of the Pacific.

And then, it’s time to look through the many types of forests.  It may be hard to believe, but Olympic National Forest is actually home to a rare temperate rainforest.  Due to the amount of rain the area receives yearly, the Hoh Rainforest has developed into a diverse environment open for exploration to visitors.  It may not be the Amazon, but it will certainly an adventure you never thought you’d have in the northwestern United States.

For the final conclusion to our epic journey, the best ending may be in driving up to Hurricane Ridge.  The drive up here summits the mountain range and culminates in a stunning view of the surrounding area- looking out on the Pacific Ocean, the beaches, and the beautiful mountains.  Take it all in guys.

And with that, we can pack up our bag, take off those worn out hiking boots and call it a day.  I’m sure our plane with take off in a few hours and we’ll head home.  But for now, think about how far we’ve come.  10 national parks.  10 weeks.  We’ve traveled over 7,000 miles and seen some pretty remarkable things.  Thanks everyone for coming along with me.  It was certainly the adventure of a lifetime.

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A Map of our Journey

For more information:

http://www.nps.gov/olym/index.htm

http://www.olympicnationalparks.com/

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/olympic-national-park/

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g143047-Activities-Olympic_National_Park_Washington.html

Once in a Lifetime: Crater Lake National Park

Crater Lake National Park

In the last eight weeks, we have climbed mountains, braved swamps, and scaled cliffs.  Our journey has spanned hundreds of miles and eight national parks.  Though now our boots are worn, I hope you’re ready for the final stretch because I guarantee that you have never imagined a place like Crater Lake National Park.  Yes folks, like the pioneers of the 1800’s, we’ve made it to Oregon.

About 8,000 years ago, Mount Mazama, a sister volcano to the renowned Mount St. Helen”s, erupted with such strength that the summit collapsed and left a huge crater called a caldera.  Over time, the snow, water, and ice from the peaks of the cliffs fell into the crater and filled it with water.  What was left is what meets you when you first set eyes on Crater Lake- a vast expanse of remarkably clear blue water- filling a nearly two thousand feet deep crater at the top of a mountain.

But how do you get there?  There is only one way- the Cleetwood Trail.  It is the singular way to reach the lake shore from the cliff faces.  A 1.1 mile trek, this trail will take you directly to the boat docks.  Here you have the opportunity to do some swimming or even take a boat tour around the volcano led by park rangers.

View from Wizard Island Trail

These boats will take you out to Wizard Island, the volcano in the center of the lake.  It is actually one of two islands that have formed in the lake.  Not many people are able to say they have stood on a volcano island within a lake, within another volcano.  But we will be.  Not too bad.

The ventures allow you three hours to explore the island, during which you can hike to the top of the cone volcano.  One visitor from Wizard island suggests taking a lunch up there and enjoying the view.  No matter what, we are in for a stunning vantage point.

Perhaps the greatest part about views from any point in this park is the air in the area.  Some of the clearest in the nation, there are areas from which you can see hundreds of miles away.  I’ve been told that there are few better feelings than  standing at the top of a mountain, taking in all of your surroundings.  And with that clean air, the refreshing sensation of this experience could not be rivaled by any other.

Beyond exploration of the lake, however, our time in the Cascade Mountains could be filled with several other ventures.  Many trails in the park lead to gorgeous waterfalls like the Toketee, Plaikni, and Vidae Falls, which are must-sees for people looking to get a full sense of the Cascade Mountains.  The hiking here can be strenuous at times but that’s no match for us now.  We’re no strangers to a rough hike.

At the end of the day, we get to say we’ve encountered an unprecedented natural environment, explored it, and come out the other side.  After experiencing something so pure, so remarkable, and so vast, I don’t see how anyone could end up having anything but an appreciation for nature and all its wonders.  Especially for us, who have only one stop left to go, it is one step closer to the close to ten weeks of adventures.  I hope it’s been as worthwhile for you as it has been for me.

For more information:

http://www.nps.gov/crla/index.htm

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attractions-g143020-Activities-Crater_Lake_National_Park_Oregon.html

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/crater-lake-national-park/

Feeling the Heat: Lassen Volcanic National Park

Lassen Volcanic National Park

Manzanita Lake with Lassen Peak in the background

We did it, ladies and gentlemen!  We started at the peak of the east coast and we’ve finally reached California!  The journey is coming close to an end.  But never fear, there is plenty more in store as we take to the west coast.  This week, I present you with Lassen Volcanic National Park in the northeastern corner of California.  Many people immediately think of Yosemite or Yellowstone when it comes to parks in California but I’m here to tell you that there is far more to California than these two.  You might never have heard of Lassen before but after today, I promise you, it will shoot to the top of your list on places you want to visit.

From every angle you look at Lassen Volcanic, the views are absolutely breathtaking.  Home to the every single type of volcano in the world, the features of this park may take weeks to fully explore.  According to the National Park Service, every single rock in the park originates from the volcanoes.  The volcanoes in the area are currently dormant but surrounding the area are steaming lakes, boiling springs, and bubbling mudpots that are constant reminders of the 825,000 years of active volcanoes that have shaped this land.

But beyond its unique volcanic environment, this park is also located in the gorgeous Cascade mountains, which means there are plenty of sights to see once we get there.  For the best view of the Lassen peak, a walk around Manzanita lake might be the best way to begin.  Pictured above, this is perhaps one of the greatest natural landscapes one could imagine- and I’ve heard it’s even better at sunset.  Go fishing, kayaking, or swimming as you look on at an actual volcano!

Bumpass Hell Trail

Bumpass Hell Trail

Once you’ve had the time to marvel at the landscape, though, it’s definitely time to explore.  The best introduction to the hydrothermal environment of the park is through the Bumpass Hell trail, which meanders through the steam jets of the volcanoes in a path that appears to be out of a science fiction movie.  Take a walk, explore this active geothermal area, and work out those hiking boots.  It will be a hike unlike anything you’ve ever encountered.

The Boiling Springs Lake Trail, on the other hand, takes you out across a meadow to visit another of the park’s geothermal features: the lake that stays at a toasty 125 degrees.  After a visit to the Warner Valley meadow, which is surrounded by lush evergreen forests, you’ll get a better view of the more rustic side of the park.  And though the lake is certainly too hot for a dip, check it out anyway.  It offers yet another look at how all these volcanoes have made this park what it is.

After that, folks, you can cross “see a real volcano” off your bucket list.  You’re already experts at this point; we’ve traveled all the way across the country to get here!  You all deserve a break.  Have a nice rest by the lake or wherever you choose is best.  Only two more parks to go- are your boots broken in yet?

For more information:

http://www.nps.gov/lavo/index.htm

http://www.latimes.com/travel/california/la-tr-d-lassen-intro1-20140810-story.html

http://www.lassenrecreation.com/

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/lassen-volcanic-national-park/

Inside and Out: Great Basin National Park

Stella Lake at Great Basin National Park

Stella Lake at Great Basin National Park

Welcome to Nevada, folks!  Home to casinos, wedding chapels, and- as it turns out- the hidden gem of Great Basin National Park.  The history of this area goes back 12,000 years, to the Paleo-Indians, followed by the Fremont and Shoshone tribes, and finally the immigrants on the California trail, on their way to California for mining.  It became a place for ranching, mining, and- as we all know, conservation.  Many paths have crossed in this desert land and when our dirtied hiking boots finally set foot here, we must be ready to follow their lead and brave the wonders that the Great Basin has in store.

Carved out of the lands by glaciers, this desert landscape encapsulates terrain that begs exploration and appreciation.  The forest of bristlecone pine trees contains some trees that are over 3,000 years old!  As National Geographic points out, those trees were around when King Tutankhamun ruled Egypt- a long, long time ago.  But that’s just the thing about Great Basin National Park- while it might not have been around as long as Yellowstone or Yosemite, it has been in the works for far longer, as you will see when we explore further.

Inside the Lehman Caves

Inside the Lehman Caves

Perhaps the coolest part of Great Basin National Park and what sets it apart from other places we have visited are the incredible caves open for people to explore.  The Lehman caves, the most visited of the caves here, were formed thousands of years ago, when the Ice Age created pockets in the formations of limestone in the mountains.  What are left are one and a half miles of underground pathways filled with limestone stalagmites.  The caves are open to the public, but the main goal of the park is to preserve their delicate environment so they remain for generations to come.  Visitors may not be wearing any clothes that have been worn in other caves and are led by a park ranger at all times.  The most important priority is to keep both visitors and the cave safe.

To take a look at another ancient relic, though not quite so old, I would suggest taking a look at the Upper Pictograph Cave, just a short drive up the mountain from the Lehman Cave Visitor Center.  Here, you’ll found rock walls decorated by Fremont Indians about a thousand years ago.  These cave paintings have given researchers a glance into the lives of people from a long, long time ago and for visitors like us, are well worth taking a look.

But after plenty of time underground and in caves, a little bit of time in the outdoors might do us some good.  I would suggest starting at the bottom of Wheeler Peak, the tallest mountain in the region, and taking a survey of the land.  Maybe go fishing at Stella Lake, take a hike up one of the trails and get a great vantage point to look over the beautiful landscape.  Or just explore the park!  The best thing about the National Parks, as I’m sure you’ve come to see, is that there is something for everyone.  Find a ranger, ask around, and find the perfect adventure for you.  A place like Great Basin National Park is a pity to waste.

For more information:

http://www.nps.gov/grba/index.htm

http://www.greatbasinpark.com/

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/great-basin-national-park/

http://www.americansouthwest.net/nevada/great_basin/national_park.html

 

A Taste of Danger: Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

I’m going to leave the above picture for you to look at for a second.  Does it look a little dangerous?  How about breathtaking?  Welcome to Colorado and the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.  Established only recently in 1999, Black Canyon has actually been in the works for a long, long, long time.  National Geographic may have said it best when they explained,

“Imagine chiseling two parallel walls of hard gneiss and schist running the length of Manhattan and standing higher than two Empire State Buildings stacked atop one another, with water as your only tool…What you see from the rim is the product of two million years of patient work.”

That’s what you have to keep in mind when you stand on the precipice of Black Canyon.  Two million years.  From a vantage point of 2700 feet above the Gunnison River, the expanse of this park might not be entirely comprehensible to you.  Even in the earliest findings of history, no human occupation of the valley is to be found- the mighty cliffs were nothing any person sought to overcome.  Later in history, however, the canyon became an obstacle to Spanish, French, and American explorers trying to investigate the territories.  Something about a cliff over half a mile high that draws the attention of an adventurer!

The treacherous cliffs of the canyon

The treacherous cliffs of the canyon

As explorers of the 21st century, though, we have far more opportunities to experience this phenomenal park, thanks to the National Park Service.  If there are experienced climbers out there, I would say have at those cliffs- but be warned, these cliffs are not just steep, they also prone to crumbling and offering very little handholds. Attempt at your own risk; there are plenty of other adventurous escapades we can pursue.

The Black Canyon is inviting to some of the most experienced and adventurous of outdoorsmen (or women) because the territory is so very strenuous.  To me, the hike to the bottom of the canyon does sound like an adventure worth taking.  The National Park Service warns visitors that there are no marked trails to the bottom and that the hike itself is for only those in the best physical condition.  So if you’re ready to pack high-energy food and LOTS of water, feel free to get yourself down the canyon with guided ropes and a couple of friends.  Be careful of bears, though, and poison ivy.  But no matter how challenging all that sounds, think of the feeling of reaching the bottom of that awesome canyon and looking up.  I would think that’s worth all the bruises, scrapes, and poison ivy.

Regardless, I realize that risk is not for everyone.  For those who want a little less danger in their lives,  I suggest we take the Oak Flat Loop trail or the Rim Rock trail.  These two trails maintain views of the spectacular canyon without quite as much death-defying challenges, traversing the outer rim of the canyon and venturing into some of the park’s thick forests and death-defying cliffs.  Throw on a backpack, pack a water bottle and some snacks and head out for a hike and get a closer look at this beautiful creation of nature.

As you can see, as we get closer to the west coast the adventure is only growing.  Black Canyon is a reminder that there is danger in even the most majestic places.  Mother Nature sure has a way of making some phenomenal places for us to explore.  It is on us to choose the adventure that is best for us.

For more information:

http://www.nps.gov/blca/index.htm

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/black-canyon-gunnison-national-park/

http://www.visitmontrose.com/136/Black-Canyon-National-Park

Where it all started: Theodore Roosevelt National Park

“It is… vandalism wantonly to destroy or to permit the destruction of what is beautiful in nature, whether it be a cliff, a forest, or a species of mammal or bird. Here in the United States we turn our rivers and streams into sewers and dumping-grounds, we pollute the air, we destroy forests, and exterminate fishes, birds and mammals — not to speak of vulgarizing charming landscapes with hideous advertisements. But at last it looks as if our people were awakening.”   Theodore Roosevelt

View of the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

View of the badlands of Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Theodore Roosevelt first visited the badlands of North Dakota in 1883.  This young man would eventually become the 26th president of the United States and be known as the “conservationist” president.  But back then, he was just a man with a love for nature who recognized the necessity of preserving nature from human influence.  During his presidency, Roosevelt would go on to set aside 230 million acres of land as “national forests” and five areas that would go on to become national parks.  In many ways, he was the father of the park system that we know today- and the inspiration behind our next stop, Theodore Roosevelt National Park.

Roosevelt fell in love with this area long before his presidency and invested funds in a local cattle ranch.  Perhaps his love for this place and his influence in its development played the greatest role in its being named in his honor.  The Elkhorn Ranches were where Theodore Roosevelt came to shape some of his most important beliefs about conservation.  And the badlands, these vast expanses of hills, grasslands, and bison are like visions from another world, unlike anything you have ever seen before.  Breathtaking.

We have now hit the halfway point of our journey across the nation surveying the National Parks and I can think of no better place to start than the very place T.R. came to see how important preservation was.  Our natural first stop will of course be the ranches where he spent so much time.  Though all that remains of the ranch itself are the worn foundations of the buildings, the 35 mile gravel road there leads us to an area of seclusion seldom reached even in our last four stops.  Elkhorn Ranch will be our first introduction to the land Theodore Roosevelt fell in love with long ago.

From there, it’s simply a must to explore the Badlands for ourselves.  Theodore Roosevelt once said of the Badlands, “[they are] so fantastically broken in form and so bizarre in color as to seem hardly proper to belong to this earth.”  These rough, unforgiving features of the North Dakota landscape were what made T.R. see  the area so wonderfully unique and hopefully we will too.  The park offers plenty of scenic drives, hiking trails, and horsebacking trails to form a comprehensive understanding of the special place the badlands have in our country.

Wild Horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

Wild Horses in Theodore Roosevelt National Park

An element of the park perhaps best seen from the roads around it is the diverse wildlife.  Home to bison, wild horses, prairie dogs, and elk alike, Theodore Roosevelt National Park offers a unique experience to visitors to see these creatures in an entirely natural environment.  So even as we experience the anomalies that are the North Dakota badlands, we are always being reminded that the land is shared with many more animals than people.

Ultimately, I have brought you here because I think it’s important to be reminded of your roots.  As we continue to explore the rest of the country’s national parks, we should always keep in mind that they only exist because someone decided to fight for them.  I hope I inspire you to value them as well.

For more information consult the following sites:

http://www.nps.gov/thro/learn/historyculture/people.htm

http://www.nps.gov/thro/learn/historyculture/theodore-roosevelt-and-conservation.htm

https://www.medora.com/do/outdoor/theodore-roosevelt-national-park/

 

Seeking some relaxation: Hot Springs National Park

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One of the hot springs of Hot Springs National Park

Welcome to Arkansas, everyone!  We went through a pretty wet visit in Florida last week as we explored Big Cypress National Preserve and now we’re here, exploring the waters again… only slightly differently.  This week, I’ve brought you to Hot Springs, Arkansas to visit the one and only Hot Springs National Park for a little bit of rest and relaxation, so let’s get right to it!

Hot Springs is advertised by the National Park Service as the “oldest area in the national park system,” because, although it was not officially a park until 1921, the area was set aside in 1832 by president Andrew Jackson as a special reservation.  Yellowstone Park, the area widely accepted as the first national park wasn’t established for another 40 years!  So what attracted so many people to this small little place in Arkansas?

I’m hoping that from the name, you already know.  The natural hot springs here have been attracting the public since the 19th century, utilized as a spa destination.  According to National Geographic, even baseball teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnatti Reds, and Boston Red Soxs would flock to the springs in the 1880’s to 1940’s to soothe sore muscles after long games or practices.  But seriously, what’s not to love?  The natural water flow at the park (about 700,000 gallons a day) pumps in water at 143 degrees into luxurious springs that are open to the public.

Indeed, unlike many of National Parks, Hot Springs is not secluded from civilization, it is practically a part of it, inseparable from its counterpart town, Hot Springs, Arkansas.  Citizens of Hot Springs use the resources of the park as an almost economic staple of their town, constantly attracting visitors to appreciate the attraction of the luxurious springs.  Naturally, we will not be the only ones heading off to try out the springs and all their glory!

But never fear!  Hot Springs has plenty of attractions while we wait for a spot in the springs.  For a little bit of history, we could check out the historic Fordyce Bathhouse, which ran from 1915-1962.  This might not be quite as adventurous as some of our previous hikes but I think it does give us a glimpse of the zeitgeist of the park and how it was utilized for economic purposes while still protecting and conserving the nature.   Hot Springs has been used by the public for relaxation services for a long, long time.  The Fordyce Bathhouse is a prime example of this; it once contained a gymnasium, music rooms, and bath houses with natural spring water.

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View from Mountain Tower in Hot Springs National Park

The Hot Springs National Park might be best appreciated, however, from the vantage point of the Mountain Tower.  Situated in the Ouachita Moutains, this attraction elevates visitors high about the ground (1256 feet high, to be exact) and get a view of the park, the mountains, and the Arkansas countryside.  After a nice little hike from the park, we get to see the view pictured above, the vast expansion of beautiful mountains.

And then, if we’re lucky, we’ll get a chance to feel those amazing hot springs for the first time.  Feel the springs that generations of people have flocked to.  Feel the natural occurrence of warm waters not from a faucet, but from the Earth.  And maybe, just maybe, we’ll let the world fall away and relax a little bit.

For more information:

http://www.nps.gov/hosp/index.htm

http://www.nps.gov/HOSP/planyourvisit/index.htm

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60856-d3224470-Reviews-Hot_Springs_National_Park-Hot_Springs_Arkansas.html

http://travel.nationalgeographic.com/travel/national-parks/hot-springs-national-park/

Something to be Saved: Big Cypress National Preserve

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Wetlands of Big Cypress National Park

In our last two weeks on this trip, we’ve climbed mountains and hiked valleys and seen some of the most beautiful places our nation has to offer.  Beautiful- and conventional.  This week, things are changing a bit.  As we wrap up our long drive from Ohio, our stop is at the Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida.  But don’t expect any mountains or bike trails here; in fact, I suggest you turn in your hiking boots for a pair of muck boots and pants you’re willing to get pretty wet.

So far, I’ve introduced you to two parks that were deemed worthy of preserving for their contribution to the landscape of our country.  Protected by the National Park Service, these areas are subject to public access and use.  The National Park Service administers the Congressional laws and protections to several areas however, including parks, forests, monuments, and preserves.  Big Cypress, a National Preserve established in 1974, differs from a park in that it has far less strict legal protections- allowing hunting, oil exploration, and some off-road vehicles.

Slightly smaller than one of the parks, Big Cypress has plenty to offer us in our search for discovery in America’s beautiful park system.  Unlike so many parks along the east coast, its main allure lies not in its traditional forest atmosphere but in its unique environment of its own.  An offshoot of the famous Florida Everglades, Big Cypress offers a smaller and less tourist-heavy view into the renowned wetlands of Florida.

Rock_outcroppings_in_the_prairie_north_of_Concho_Billy_Trail,_in_Big_Cypress_National_PreserveIf you’ve never been to the wetlands before, it can certainly be an adjustment from the pine-needle lined paths of deciduous forests.  In a “freshwater swamp ecosystem,” terrain is far less predictable than your typical forest.  A good first introduction into these new surroundings of this area would be the scenic drive around the park, which offers an overarching view of everything there is to see while you’re there.  Both the Turner Road and Loop Road weave through and around the park area and will give you an orientation to the exciting new views in Big Cypress.  Take notice of the trees that give this place its name and the large population of birds to observe.  Watch how the swamp spreads as far as the eye can see.

Everglades_National_Park_Florida_PantherBut what is waiting within?  Well, the wildlife of the preserve give it some of its most notable features.  Avoid the alligators as you explore that waters of the lands and you just might get a chance to see the critically endangered Florida panther that calls this place home.  With only 100-180 of this species remaining in the wild, even a brief glimpse of one in its safest habitat is an opportunity to embrace.  The wetlands that the Florida panther calls home have disappeared at an alarming rate in the recent years (losing 260,000 acres of wetlands between 1985 and 1996) and as they did, populations of species like the Florida Panther and many types of waterfowl lost their home.  As we adventure, it is important to remember that these places aren’t being conserved merely for their beauty- sometimes conservation is a matter of life and death.  So keep an eye out for all the species that are being saved while we visit; there is much to be saved beyond beauty.

There is no question that Big Cypress National Preserve is vastly different from previous parks we’ve visited.  It may not have gorgeous sunrises or waterfalls, but I hope you’ve come to see that there is plenty more out there than wooded pathways.  Let’s keep the Florida panther and it’s wetland home safe for years to come!

For more information:

http://myfwc.com/conservation/freshwater/wetland-habitat/

http://www.gorp.com/parks-guide/big-cypress-national-preserve-outdoor-pp2-guide-cid8809.html

http://www.nps.gov/bicy/index.htm

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60734-d143074-Reviews-Big_Cypress_National_Preserve-Ochopee_Florida.html

https://www.handsontheland.org/grsa/whatsthediff.htm

A Little Escape: Cuyahoga Valley National Park

1-1250893099-cuyahoga-valley-national-park-entranceAfter a humbling sunrise witnessed on the rocky coast of Maine, this week our road trip takes us a little south to the lovely state of Ohio.  I know, Ohio is renowned for its bland landscape, frigid cities, and raging sports fans, but today we venture to the softer side of Ohio: it’s beautiful landscape.  Located a mere 27 minute drive from the city of Cleveland and tucked along the Cuyahoga River is our destination: Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

This welcome little haven away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city is a natural next stop on the tour of the National Parks.  Everyone knows about Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Grand Canyon, but it can be easy to forget that our nation has many wonders hidden where you least expect them: namely, under thirty minutes away from the home of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

The valley has been celebrated for recreational potential for hundreds of years, but it first gained wide attention in 1925 when the Olmstead Brothers landscape architecture firm conducted a study to discover the potential of the park’s offerings.   In their words, “it is in the valley that one can realize most effectively a sense of isolation and freedom from the sights and sounds of all the multitude of circumstances which go to make the modern city—and when all is said and done that is the justifying purpose of a country park.”  Even then, when the cities were only beginning to develop, people realized that a secluded area away from all the action was something to be valued.  Over time, countless numbers of conservationists fought hard to protect the area from expansion and pollution until it was declared a National Recreation Area in 1974.

The path was never easy for the little Cuyahoga Valley.  But as we pull in to the park, past the unobtrusive sign mounted on the brick stand, it is immediately clear why the land is worth saving.  There’s something about undisturbed forest that invites exploration.  According to the National Park Service, many of the park’s best features make for excellent day trips, so let’s hop out of the car and get going!

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Brandywine Falls at Cuyahoga National Park

If you’re in for a decent hike, we should head over to the Brandywine Falls, a 65 foot tall waterfall nestled into the little valley of the park.  We can take a look at these gorgeous falls from lower and upper observation decks, and if we’re looking to see the park further, we can hike the Brandywine Gorge Trail.  This winds down the valley around the falls, offering you interesting new views of the surroundings.

If you’re into a more historic adventure, we can hop on board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and ride around the valley.  Imagine being a within half an hour of a major city, riding on a train through beautiful wilderness.  What else could you want?

There’s something to be said of escaping an every day life in favor of a more austere environment.  By conserving these little havens away from our urban lives, we get to save a little bit of history- of times past.  We still get to enjoy the sounds of crashing waterfalls, running streams, and falling leaves.  Taking advantage of this luxury is something we simply must do.  What are you wasting your time doing?  Find one of these parks, head out there now, and start adventuring!

For more information:

http://www.nps.gov/cuva/index.htm

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g60784-d261325-Reviews-Cuyahoga_Valley_National_Park-Brecksville_Ohio.html

http://www.npca.org/parks/cuyahoga-valley-national-park.html

http://www.nps.gov/cuva/learn/historyculture/upload/History7-final-for-web.pdf

 

 

Taking Notice: Acadia National Park

Bass Harbor Lighthouse at Acadia National Park

Bass Harbor Lighthouse at Acadia National Park

There’s something about running water, hiking trails, and mountains that sets my heart on fire. Ever since I was little, I could leave no stream without putting my bare feet in; I couldn’t walk past a rock without climbing it to see what it looked like from the top. A Girl Scout and an avid camper, nature has always been an important part of how I see the world. But as I sit here writing this, a college student of nineteen, I’m keenly aware of how much more adventure is out there. I am surrounded on a daily basis by opportunities for conservation and appreciation of nature and yet, sometimes, I choose to ignore it. And so, as I take you with me on my feature of the National Parks, let’s see what we can learn about all there is out there to witness outside of our own little world.

Our first visit will take us northeast onto the rocky coast of Maine to Acadia National Park. In the past, this seashore played home to Native Americans, French Settlers, and Rockefellers alike, but today is serves as a haven for conservation and majesty unparalleled by any shore you’ve ever seen. Back in 1916, conservation spokesman George B. Dorr made the effort to protect Acadia from human expansion and industry and it has remained, ever since, a prized gem of the American landscape. But why should all this matter? Well, let’s see for ourselves.

Acadia is celebrated for its “multi-seasonal” ability to invite adventure. In one visit you could visit a lighthouse, go bouldering, hiking up trails, or take to the seashore.  Even if deep wilderness adventuring isn’t for you, Acadia also has a network of carriage roads that offer a peaceful and historic walk through the park without the tougher trails.  Truly, there is something here for everyone.

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

Sunrise from Cadillac Mountain

But whether you’re a nature lover like me or just someone who wants to get away, a must do on any trip to Acadia is to visit the highest mountain on the Atlantic coast- Cadillac Mountain. According to the National Park Service, on certain days of the year, you can be the first person in the United States to see the sunrise if you climb to the top early in the morning. 1,528 feet above sea level, you can stand there and experience the sun greeting the coast for the very first time.  Why should it matter if you have to get up at about 4 am to do it?  Get out your hiking boots because this is the chance of a lifetime!

It is for experiences like this that the National Parks cannot be discounted. In our fast-paced lives it can become so easy to forget our surroundings. When’s the last time you watched the sunrise or took notice of the way a river catches the light? We don’t do this often enough!  Eventually, we’ve all got to learn to take notice. Wake up early every once in a while and appreciate the world around you; don’t be so consumed in your own life that you turn down a chance to adventure deeper into the world.  And visit Acadia National Park!  Who wouldn’t want a chance to see that mountain, that seashore, and that sunrise for themselves?
For more information:
http://www.nps.gov/acad/planyourvisit/upload/history.pdf
http://www.tripadvisor.com/Guide-g143010-i2938-Acadia_National_Park_Mount_Desert_Island_Maine.html
http://www.npca.org/parks/acadia-national-park.html
http://www.nps.gov/acad/index.htm