Saturday, May 25, 2013

My Four Favorite National Parks

The Grand Canyon National Park-One of the top 28 Natural Wonders of the World

Memorial day, May 27 is the start of the summer vacation season here in the US. It is a good time to prepare for your summer vacation, perhaps visiting a national park or national monument. With the price of gas up to $4.00, save fuel cost by visiting a national park or national monument near you.

The following four national parks are my favorites and within driving distance from my residence:

1. BRYCE CANYON: The park is famous for its unique geology, consisting of a series of horseshoe-shaped amphitheaters carved from the eastern edge of the Paunsaugunt Plateau of Southern Utah. The erosional force of frost-wedging and the dissolving power of rainwater have shaped the colorful limestone into bizarre shapes including slot canyons, windows, fins and spires called “Hoodoos”. The park was named after the Mormon pioneer Ebenezer Bryce and it become a national park in 1924.

My wife and I visited this park three years ago, on the last week of August. That trip was one of the best vacation we had since my retirement in 2002. Tinted with colors ranging from light brown to dark red, these whimsically arranged rocks, creates a wondrous landscape of mazes. A 45 minute walk from Inspiration to Sunset Point was the highlight of our visit. Ponderosa pines, high elevation meadows, and fir-spruce forest border the rim of the canyon and abound with wild life. Several scenic points offer a panoramic view of three states and about 200 miles of visibility. We did not stay overnight, but our guide tour and driver informed us that the lack of large light sources nearby, creates unparalleled opportunities for for stargazing at night. The mesmerizing views of the canyon is worth your time.

2. GRAND CANYON: This park is the only natural wonder of the US, that made it to the final 28 natural Wonders of the world as announced by the new 7 natural wonders of the world organization. We have also visited this park and I agree with the 7 new natural wonder judges that Grand Canyon should be one of the top 28 finalists in this worldwide contest. The Grand Canyon is more than a great chasm carved over million of years ago through the rocks of the Colorado Plateau. It is more than an awe-inspiring view. It is more than a pleasuring ground for those who explore its roads, hike its trails or float in the currents of the turbulent Colorado River.The Canyon is a gift of nature that transcends what we experience in life. Its beauty and size humbles us. Its timelessness provokes a comparison to our short existence in this universe. Visiting the place makes me feel calmed and relaxed, as I gazed in amazement the beauty and splendor of this National Park. The park can be enjoyed whole year round. We visited this park about seven years ago and still remembered how spectacular the park was.

3. YOSEMITE: My wife and I had no plans of visiting this park this year. But we have visited this park three times, when my family was still residing in the Stanislaus County, Modesto, California in the mid 1970's. The park embraces a spectacular tract of mountain and valley scenery of the Sierra Nevada. It was made into a national park in 1890. The park has a number of waterfalls, meadows, forests that include groves of giant sequoias, the world largest living trees.

The park highlights include the Yosemite valley, high cliffs, and waterfalls. There is the historic Wawona Hotel( famous for its Christmas Dinners and Decorations), the Mariposa Grove, which contains hundreds of giant sequoias, Glacier Point, Tuolumne Meadows and a large sub-alpine meadow surrounded by mountain peaks and Hetch-Hetchy- a reservoir in a valley considered a twin of Yosemite Valley. Ninety Five percent of the park area is designated as wilderness areas that provides opportunities for solitude and relaxation. There are over 800 miles of trails for hiking and backpacking. There is some trout fishing in the streams that my family enjoyed during one of our visits several years ago. Our first visit to the park in the early 1970's was my first experience in camping. One night, our camp site and garbage can was visited by the bears - an experience my kids will never forget. The visit of the bears was the highlight of our trip to Yosemite at that time. The classic beauty and fascinating ecosystems of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range are well represented in the wilderness of Yosemite National Park. I consider this park very friendly to families with small children.

4. ZION NATIONAL PARK: This is another park that my wife and I visited three years ago. The park is home to narrow canyons, overlooks, emerald pools, a petrified forest, a desert swamp, springs and waterfalls, hanging gardens, wild flowers and wildlife. It is located in Southwest Utah near the Arizona border. Zion National Park is part of the Southwest "Grand Circle” of national parks, monuments, historical areas and recreation areas. It is also a wilderness preserve which includes the world largest arch-KOLOB ARCH,spanning 310 feet. The park has high plateaus, a maze of narrow, deep, sandstones canyons and striking rock towers and mesas. The North Fork of the Virgin River has carved a spectacular gorge with canyon walls that rises to 2000-3000feet above the canyon floor in most places. My wife and I just spent just 90 minutes touring the canyon by the Park's bus. We did not have the time to hike or at least stay overnight. We wish we have more time to enjoy the wild life flora and fauna of the park. According to the park's guides, the Park is home to many mammals and critters such as the collared lizard, Gambel's quail and sometimes even a golden eagle.

Other national parks and monuments that we have visited since 1960 are as follows: The Redwood National Park, the Muir Woods National Monument, The Point Reyes National Seashore, The Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, The Hawaiian Volcano National Park, Shenandoah Mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountain and its famous Skyline Drive in Virginia, and last but not least is the Luray Caverns in West Virginia.

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