As we looked back on this summer’s travels, we noticed that it has a pervasive theme: wilderness. We certainly managed to get into some of the most astounding places in the USA in terms of wildlife. Picking a favorite is impossible and this has inspired us to begin our list of the best National Parks. However, “best” is such a vague term that it has to be broken down into pieces.
Best Wildlife Viewing: It’s a tie between Denali and Yellowstone. We saw lots more bears and at a closer distance in Denali but we saw TWO wolves in Yellowstone, how can we choose? Runner-up: Glacier Bay, so many whales!
Best Hike: It’s a tie between Kenai Fjords and Acadia. Acadia is in Maine, we didn’t visit this time but up until this summer it was our favorite park and the hiking there is exhilarating. Runner-up: Denali, every last inch of this park is open to hikers.
Best Place to Get Away: The solitude available in Denali is unparalleled.
We must award a very honorable mention to the Anan Wildlife Observatory. The only reason it is not included on our list is that it is not a National Park, although it is part of the Tongass National Forest and truly a wondrous place. It is beautiful and full of wildlife, there’s even some hiking needed to get to it.
Choosing one park as the most beautiful is impossible. Each park has different attributes and all of them are beautiful in so many different ways, it would be dishonest to call one more beautiful than another.
We had an incredible time during our travels this summer. As opposed to last year’s travels, we didn’t experience a jolt from culture shock and no major troubles which couldn’t be solved rather quickly. We only managed to lose a hat and our house key; and anything we forgot, could easily be bought where we were. It would be safe to say that no other country on this planet is as accommodating to travel as is the USA. Conveniences are everywhere: ATM machines, 24hr fast food joints, even bathrooms are not that hard to come by and credit cards are accepted almost everywhere.
The USA is a vast and beautiful country. It is also changing very fast.
One big thing we noticed was climate change. Everywhere we went to, people complained about the unusually hot temperatures and drought was in evidence even in Alaska. I might have been cold, but Alaskans were walking around in shorts. The Midwest of the country looked so dry it made one thirsty simply staring out the window. Glaciers are quickly disappearing and with them entire ecosystems. Do not let anyone tell you that climate change is not real because the reality of it is palpable when you look at the desolate landscape left behind by the devastating fires which have consumed so many acres of forests throughout the Northwest. The Union of Concerned Scientists did a series of articles this summer about the 2012 drought and its effects which you can find here if you’d like to know more.
The National Parks System was in fact the best idea ever conceived and we feel so grateful to all the people who worked and continue to work tirelessly to keep such places available to all of us. We’ve returned home inspired to take advantage of this treasure trove and get out more. We hope we have inspired you to do likewise. Until next time: Happy Travels!