Neighboring national parks Kings Canyon and Sequoia are known by locals jointly as “SEKI”. They’re even administrated jointly. The two parks, however, are vastly different. Kings Canyon is made up of a series of glacially sculpted canyons through which flow the ever beautiful Kings River and its tributaries. Sequoia protects groves of the Big Trees, beloved by all who meet them. One thing that both parks have in common is that they are predominantly wilderness areas, making them ideal places for hikers to get away from the crowds.
We spent a few days tooling around Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Canyon country is so beautiful. After our explorations, we learned that Trump had ordered to drastically shrink the size of not only Grand Staircase, but also Bears Ears National Monument. It’s unfortunate that Trump wants to diminish the land by opening it to commercial use.
Trump claims past administrations have abused the Antiquities Act, stating, “this law requires that only the smallest necessary area be set aside for special protection as national monuments. Unfortunately previous administrations have ignored the standard and used the law to lock up hundreds of millions of acres of land and water under strict government control.” Continue reading
After our glorious first full day in the Sierra, I can say with full confidence that I am whole heartedly in love with this place. I’ve been reading John Muir’s The Mountains of California for some time now. I had always struggled to read it at home as it is meant to be read outdoors. I’ve been in many a beautiful place while reading it, and have thus guffawed at Mr. Muir multiple times while he boldly proclaimed the Sierra the finest mountain range in all the land. But after finally arriving here, it felt as though being here was what our whole adventure has been leading up to. Muir’s thoughts and observations echo through my head as I stare in wonder at the glacially carved peaks; or ponder the beauty of the pines, firs, cedars, and hemlocks.
At the end of August, we spent a week (not nearly enough time) exploring the Olympic Peninsula. Upon entering the otherworldly rainforest, my imagination was immediately captivated. It seems that every fairy tale that has ever been told could have taken place here. The lush rainforest is at once alluring, and at times foreboding. In the midst of our hike to Enchanted Valley, I imagined Snow White singing to the birds in the meadow. Moments later, coming upon a wooded forest once again, the trees seemed ominous, as if the big bad wolf was lurking just behind the next grove. Many times I expected to come upon some cottage made of sweets, or to see a fairy nestled amongst the intricate moss.
Idaho is known by many for its potatoes. It’s even on their license plate: “Famous Potatoes”. Also on their license plate is “Scenic Idaho”, and it is this impression that I took from visiting Idaho. I’m fairly confident that many have no idea just how amazingly scenic Idaho actually is.
In fact, over 60% of Idaho’s land is owned by the federal government, and most of the federal land is managed by either the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service. The result is a treasure trove of beautiful places. Maybe I’m a jerk to Idahoans for letting their secret out, but SERIOUSLY, Idaho is the place to visit. Still don’t believe me? Listen up. Continue reading
Yellowstone is significant because it became the nation’s first National Park in 1872. The land was chosen because of its mysterious thermal features and other natural wonders. When you think of Yellowstone, you probably think of geysers such as the famous Old Faithful. And indeed—such features are truly wondrous and the main thing that most people come to see. The real value of Yellowstone, however, is its wildlife. The Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is large and wild enough to allow for a diverse ecosystem to survive and thrive. In fact, it holds the highest concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states.
We spent our first two days in Yellowstone in the backcountry, leaving from Blacktail Creek trailhead and hiking along the creek and then the Yellowstone River. The Yellowstone backcountry is a very peaceful and refreshing place; we ran into more marmots than humans.
We cancelled climbing Cloud Peak in Wyoming due to too much snow in the mountains. Instead, we hiked into the Beartooth Mountains from East Rosebud Lake trailhead. This hike reaches elevations in the 9000’s, and having called ahead, I learned that snow would begin at 8000 to 8500 feet. I have zero regrets about changing plans to hike in the Beartooth Wilderness. Natural beauty and wildlife are plentiful here.
What I was most taken aback by on this first mountain hike was the awesome force of the water racing across the landscape. East Rosebud Creek ran along our entire hike. I have never in my life seen so much water running with such ferocity. The melting snow is sure to be the cause of this phenomenon. Typically, when I think of a creek, I think of a gentle flow of water embedded in the landscape. Not so in the Beartooths in early summer; here the water does not flow within the landscape, rather it flies across it like a horse galloping at full speed. It seems to run atop the ground rather than within it.
My spirit finds peace only in the wildest places. The absolute calm and silence of an early morning in the boundary waters comes to mind. Perched at the end of a natural jetty of rock that reaches out to the calm water, the sun emerging beyond an island in a soft pink light, I meditate easily. I am interrupted fleetingly by the sudden splash of a fish breaking the surface. Only by being in a place like this can anyone understand the wealth of the land.
Devastation has hit me lately, as what few sacred places we have left in America seem to be constantly under attack by our new administration. As I struggle to figure out what I can do to help protect the land I care so deeply for, as well as the water that we all depend on, I cannot help but feel guilty for my shortcomings. Though environment is on my mind every day, I am no model environmentalist. My biggest flaw lies in the love I have for the open road. Continue reading