When American President Calvin Coolidge signed the legislation protecting Craters of the Moon National Monument in Idaho in 1924, he called it "a weird and scenic landscape peculiar to itself". In all of my travels to our national parks and monuments, I have never seen the word “weird” used to describe any of them other than Craters of the Moon. It truly is weird, but also fascinating.
The Bay of Fundy is home to the world’s largest tidal fluctuation with an average fluctuation of 14.5 meters. While the local Native American people once attributed this to a giant whale swishing his tail, we now know this is due to the depth of the bay and its funnel shape. Experiencing this tidal fluctuation would be the highlight of our day, but by no means the only thing we saw that day.
Without a doubt the Yellowstone Wildlife Walks tour has one of the best itineraries of any Grand American Adventures tours. With three nights in the towering peaks and rugged wilderness of Glacier National Park, two nights in Jackson Hole Wyoming, allowing ample time to wander the breathtaking scenery of Grand Tetons National Park. Bear, elk, moose, big horn sheep, mountain goat and a seemingly endless variety of birds are plentiful.
But it is Yellowstone this tour is named after and you're given four days to explore the 2.2 million acres of wilderness; bison become an ordinary sight in the vast meadows, elk walk beside humans in the historic Mammoth village, and as we experienced recently, sometimes the grizzlies and black bears seem to go on parade and offer once in a lifetime experiences seeing these awesome predators.
The beauty of travel is that every day is its own mini adventure, you go places you’ve only read about, see things you hardly knew existed. But on every trip there’s that one special day, a thing I like to call THE BEST DAY EVER. Today was that day.
By all accounts, Yellowstone National Park is an amazing place. It is one of the three “crown jewels” of our national park system, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It has half of all the world’s thermal features, over 10,000 in all, within its borders. Add to that North America’s highest concentration of large mammals, and we were all very excited for our visit.
Monument Valley is a stop most of our tours make between Grand Canyon National Park and the adventure sport capital of America, Moab UT. Its iconic sandstone mesas, buttes and panicles have provided the setting for countless western movies over the past 75 years. The North and South Mittens are possibly the most recognizable rock formations in the whole of the United States. But the greatest treasure here, in my opinion is not the scenic beauty, which is amazing and breathtaking, but rather the people and the culture of the Navajo Tribe, who call Monument Valley home.
Hidden away in the northwest corner of Yosemite National Park is one of my favorite places to visit during the busy summer months. Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a man made lake, which fills the Hetch Hetchy Valley. The O’Shaughnessy Dam constructed between 1915 and 1922 block the Tuolumne River creating a source of drinking water via canals and aqueducts for the entire San Francisco Bay area. It also provides a passage from the parking area at Hetch Hetchy to one of the most easily accessible, yet pristine and quiet spots in the entirety of Yosemite.
Our day starts at the Grand Canyon North Rim. We’ve been staying at the lodge, enjoying the spectacular view, 5 star dining, and peace and quiet for two nights; tonight we will be staying in the heart of the Zion Canyon. As if these two parks, one in morning, and one at night weren't enough, today I have decided to stretch our day to capacity and include Bryce Canyon National Park.
Olympic National Park is full of natural beauty, and a variety of ecosystems so close to each other that in a single day you can travel to a beach, a rainforest and a glacier, and still be back to camp in time for dinner. A national park that is often overlooked, Olympic is a difficult stop for a leader like myself, not because there is a lack of things to do, but rather a lengthy list of sites not to be missed, and fitting it all in is nearly impossible in a couple of days. As the leader of the tour it is my job to plan the days out to give the best experience in the park with our limited time. In parks like Olympic, it is usually my favorite spots that make it to the top of this “to do” list.