Happy Birthday National Parks!

Happy 100th Birthday National Parks!

Growing up traveling to national parks and exploring the great unspoiled natural lands they protect, instilled a sense of wonder and gratitude in us for the incredible job our country has done at preserving the nation’s natural places. We wanted to give a shout out to some of our favorite parks and the areas we still want to explore on our next trips.


Yellowstone: Ask any regular American to name a National Park and chances are they will say Yellowstone. Arguably the greatest collection of natural wonders and phenomena reside within the park’s sprawling boundaries. Geysers, mountains, prismatic pools, abundant animals, sparkling trout streams, and roaring waterfalls make up just a selection of the scenery available to even a blacktop dwelling visitor.

We have had the opportunity to spend a few days in the wide expanse of Yellowstone and it has served to only whet our appetite for more. Having driven most of the roads and laid eyes on the major sites leaves us wondering what can be found just a few miles into the backcountry. We must go back, and we must spend time out of sight of tourists, RVs and buildings.


One such remote place we desire to visit is the headwaters of the Gallatin River. From its humble beginnings near 10,000 feet, this river quickly gains size and forms arguably one of the best trout rivers in the West. The upper reaches in the park hold trout, whitefish and grayling. Catching a grayling in the Lower 48 is an opportunity we would love to have, since we only rarely come in contact with waters holding that species. The chance to fish its riffles and holes is something that we look forward to on our next trip to Yellowstone.

Glacier: I merely spent a single day in Glacier National Park, and yet the images of its massive mountains and sparkling lakes are permanently embedded in my mind. There is something about the land lying hard on the borders of our nation that evokes the feeling that the earth is a powerful and formidable planet. The mountains are not only tall, but sturdy and heavy feeling. A glassy lake at high altitude suddenly turns into a rushing torrent carving away rock and gravel that has lain still since the earth’s creation. Glacier is in a word; awesome.


The many trails that lead away from the pavement into wild, untamed country beckon to us even now, sitting thousands of miles away in suburbia. It always excites me to think of a land where humans can be completely undetectable amidst the natural marvels and scenery. Glacier seems to me, and my limited experience of it, like a place where one might be able to disappear and never worry about waking up one morning with civilization tramping up to their doorstep.

I have always desired to camp among the mountains at Hole in the Wall in the northern section of the park. I feel it may be the kind of place where I awake at sunrise and gaze toward Thunderbird Mountain, and realize that reality is far more inspiring than the dreams I awoke from. A glacial cirque, perched a thousand feet above the valley floor, Hole in the Wall is a place that is secluded and unique. I know that on my next trip to Glacier, I will not pass up the opportunity to spend time in such a special place.

Grand Canyon: We have never felt so small as we did on the few days we spent at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Sometimes I feel like the true scale of a place is only fully realized when viewing from afar. It seems like you often need to take the average of the scale of nature to gain perspective of a place that is exceptional in size and grandeur. However, the Grand Canyon sets its own perspective.

We had visited the Grand Canyon a few times earlier in life, but never made it more than a few hundred yards below the rim. But standing on the edge of the Tonto Plateau in November, with snow crowning the red rimmed walls of the canyon, it seemed as if the Colorado River had formed the world, and everything beyond the pinched horizon no longer existed.


We were pleasantly surprised that trip to find healthy trout readily taking our flies in Bright Angel Creek that November. We did not expect the maze of rock and sand was concealing a verdant oasis where our favorite fish could be found. Since we experienced one of the best trips of our lives in an area so popular with travelers, we can only imagine what we might experience among the vast slots, plateaus, canyons and outcroppings. We look forward to someday making a multiple day excursion of either the Tonto Trail or exploring in depth the undisturbed vastness of the North Rim.



Great Smoky Mountains: The Great Smoky Mountains hold a special place in our hearts. Spending our entire lives on the East Coast, we always dreamed of climbing the tall rugged peaks of the Rocky Mountains or Sierras. Then we spent time in the Smoky Mountains and our views changed forever. Being only a half-day drive from the Smokies, we usually found ourselves their over Spring Break during college. We marveled at the fact that we could watch black bears in Cades Cove in sunny 60 degree weather, and a few hours later, post-hole in feet of snow while traversing the high, airy ridgelines.


The next time we adventure into the Smokies it will most definitely be for a multiple day backpacking trip. Exploring the North Carolina side that is cut off from easy access by Fontana Reservoir is the first experience on our list. Wetting a line mere feet from our campsites along Eagle and Hazel Creeks, and watching elk slip through the dripping forests on the way to their evening feeding makes us want to save up vacation days and go as soon as possible.

Olympic: My one and only experience in Olympic National Park was two-thirds of the way through a six week road trip around the country with friends. I was tired of being squeezed in the van, and listening to them snore in the tent so I took off from the Hoh River campground with my fishing rod and camera. Stumbling along the roaring Hoh River I forgot about fishing and became bent on finding out what was around the next corner. After a few hours, the heavy clouds lifted and before me towered the massive, snow covered Mount Olympus. I simply sat on a downed spruce log, hanging my feet above the water, and took it all in.


Walking back in the waning twilight, through shoulder high ferns, and city skyline high trees; it struck me how primeval and surreal the landscape was. I had never seen anything like it in my life and I knew I probably never would. By the time I meandered back to our tent and the other guys; I was quite content being around my friends, instead of all alone, pushing my way through the damp, mysterious forest.
Apart from the steep peaks and dense forest of Olympic, the park holds many miles of Pacific coastline. On our next trip we will definitely take time to fully explore the deserted beaches and craggy shoreline within the park boundaries. Being fishermen, we will also not waste a trip to some of the best salmon rivers in the country without trying to hook into a feisty brute making the tiresome journey to their spawning grounds. The rivers flowing from Olympic offer some of the best opportunities for unadulterated access to salmon running up from the Pacific ocean.

Take some time today, next week, this fall, or in the next year to go explore a national park. They hold so many hidden wonders off the beaten path that are simply waiting to be discovered and explored!

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