Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Astounding Scenery

In my last entry, I talked about my favorite National Parks. I considered each park as a whole in choosing the parks. There are many other park that don't make that list but do have some astounding scenery. By astounding, I mean astounding, not pretty or nice or anything else. I am talking about blow-me-away scenery. This posting is devoted to those parks. I do not offer any photos because they would simply not do justice to the scenery.

Number one on my list of astounding scenery is Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah. Bryce Canyon is not really a canyon. It is the side of a plateau, a one-sided canyon if you will. It is not just a plain old side, though. The rock is in varying shades from white to yellow to brown, and fantastic shapes have been carved into that rock. Standing on the rim, you see these colors and shapes and a view that stretches forever. Astounding.

A close number two is Crater Lake National Park in Oregon. Crater Lake is a mountain lake that rests in the collapsed volcanic cone of Mount Mazama in the Cascade Mountain Range. For years I had heard that is was so blue, so pretty, blah, blah, blah. I usually don't believe anything that is hyped so much. I was so wrong. We entered the park from the north and took the road towards the rim road that circles the lake. At the Grouse Hill pull-off, I got my first view of the lake. I was amazed. It really is as blue as people say. The pictures do not do it justice. You need to go there and see it for yourself.

Next on the list is Yosemite National Park in California. Yosemite is the most over-hyped park on the face of the Earth. Because of this hype, I was not enjoying the park as much as I expected. No matter how beautiful, living up to this much hype is nearly impossible - nearly. On my last day there I was heading for the South entrance to continue on to Kings Canyon National Park. Naturally, I took this chance to drive to Glacier Point. Wow! I tend not to use the term breath-taking, but there is no other term to use when standing at Glacier Point looking down at the whole valley.

In fourth place is Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona. Unless you live under a rock, you know what the Grand Canyon looks like. Everyone has seen it countless times on TV and movies. However, this does not prepare you for seeing it in person. Your eyes see in three dimensions, and more importantly have a 180 degree angle of vision, much more than a movie camera. The canyon is huge, and it completely fills your vision. Astounding!

No list is complete without an honorable mention. Having been to so many National Parks, I don't expect to be amazed any more. Thankfully, I can still be. On my recent trip to Big Bend National Park in Texas, I hiked to the South Rim of the Chisos Mountains. The Chisos Mountains rise pretty much from the middle of a desert, so you might expect the view from something called "The South Rim" to be pretty good. Pretty good indeed. Spectacular is more like it. I give this view an honorable mention because it is a notch less grand than the other views, and mainly because the effect was as much from surprise as it was from splendor. I hiked about seven miles without seeing much in the way of views, and then I came to a sign that said "South Rim." I didn't see any south rim, but there was a trail heading up a slight incline, presumably to the edge of the cliff. When I got to the top, a spectacular "top-of-the-world" view opened up. Definitely worth the trip.

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