Rising up from the earth, protruding like fingers up out of the ground are giant formations that change color with the sun and give an otherworldly appearance to the craggy terrain and surrounding desert and woods. A massive volcanic eruption created this unique landscape, which was then shaped over the centuries through erosion, weathering, and earthquakes. Deep narrow gorges and shear fractures give way to large-scale talus caves under the surface while creeks run through fault lines responsible for the ongoing seismic activity in the area. Prairie falcons and California condors soar overhead, nesting on cliff edges. Located 40 miles inland from the Pacific Ocean and south of San Jose, the the area is famous for the Mediterranean climate shared by John Steinbeck's beloved Salinas Valley to its east. This is America's newest national park. This is Pinnacles.
The ninth of California’s national parks, Pinnacles is the 59th national park in the country though it is hardly the federally protected land. The area was created as Pinnacles National Monument in 1908 under the purview of President Theodore Roosevelt, the president responsible for the national park’s system as it exists today. However, it wouldn’t be for another 105 years until President Barack Obama signed into law the creation of the national monument as a park. Today, Pinnacles is just a three and a half hour drive from Yosemite, the land that began the national park movement and the nation’s second national park.
The Great Sand Dunes have been inspiring people for ages. Native peoples considered it an important scared landmark, a place of food and medicine. Explorer Zebulon Pike described the moving sands as “exactly that of the sea in a storm.” Settlers came west in order to find gold and attempt to farm this isolated area. Bing Crosby even wrote a song about the singing sands. Established as a national monument in 1932, it would take more than 70 years for this icon of Colorado to attain national park status, making it the second youngest national park in the country.
Less than 30 miles from Columbia, S.C., Congaree National Park is still a hidden gem among largely urban and suburban surroundings. One of the nation’s youngest national parks, Congaree has long served as a beacon of shelter for those facing oppression. It was here that the Congaree people, for whom the area is named, did their best to survive despite European encroachment. Slaves from South Carolina plantations used the swamplands as a refuge and a way to escape, making their own villages hidden in the forest floor. Even today, numerous threatened and endangered species find a nice, safe habitat within the bounds of the park.
Dedicated to all things travel, places I have been and places I want to go.