Saturday, August 27, 2016

Happy Birthday, National Parks! (Part Two)

Continuing my list of national parks I’ve visited...

Sequoia, 2014. This is the first national park the PCT passes through, but we were on the backside, so we didn’t actually see any giant sequoias, just their younger (but still impressively big) cousins. Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the lower 48, is on the edge of this park. 

View from Mt. Whitney

King’s Canyon, 2014. Other than the traumatic (but, admittedly, gorgeous) Forester Pass, this was one of the most beautiful parts of the Sierra: fir trees, dramatic cliffs, crystal-blue lakes, and photos that make me wonder, “Was I really there?”

Yosemite, 2014. Again, on the PCT we only skirted the outer edge, so I haven’t seen any of the iconic sights, like Half-Dome. The scenery was pretty, but mostly I remember Yosemite because we ate gigantic burgers after a week of near-starvation. Best meal ever.

There was scenery...

...but mostly, there were burgers and salad. Om nom.

Lassen Volcanic, 2014. I had never heard of this interesting park before we hiked through it. Mount Lassen is a snowy peak surrounded by a landscape of obsidian, pumice, and pine forests, full of dramatic views. Again, we hiked along the backside of the park, but it was beautiful.

Crater Lake, 2014. Crater Lake will make you question reality—  the lake is so big, so impossibly blue, so unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. This was another park on my bucket list that I was excited to finally reach, and the PCT skirts the rim, making it a great place to take in the vastness of this crater filled with 10,000 years’ worth of rain and snowmelt. Also, the lodge had really good hot cocoa, which we drank while waiting out the hail.

Mount Rainier, 2014. I love the Cascades mountain range, and Rainier is the crown jewel. The surrounding area is a brilliant supporting cast: craggy peaks, alpine lakes, glaciers and firs, slopes covered in huckleberries. Absolutely worth the 2,300-mile walk there.

You can see Rainier's peak, disguised by clouds, immediately to Zach's left.
See the mountain peak hiding again?

North Cascades, 2014. This is my favorite national park I’d never heard of before. Tucked away in northern Washington, it is a park full of mystical sights: firs cloaked in the mist, steam rising from the impossibly-steep mountains, creeks threading down the crumbling slopes, larches glowing yellow in the autumn. This was the last national park on the PCT, and by that point I was so happy to be near the end that the beauty of the landscape almost made me cry. I’d love to return someday, especially to the magical town of Stehekin.

Top Three National Parks on my Bucket List:
Yellowstone— my brother worked there for a summer, and he said that even in three months he barely scratched the surface of all the amazing stuff there is to see.
Glacier— just from what little I’ve seen of Montana, it looks incredible.
Denali— because Alaska is cool!

Where have you been? Where do you want to go?

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