In southwestern South Dakota is a single national park that is home to two different worlds. One of these worlds is among the last wild prairies in the country, a place where the animals of the plains can roam freely and where the native peoples of the Great Plains once dwelled.
However, the more famous realm in these parts is its underworld, a mysterious cavern that is still withholding secrets even after more than a century of exploration. So many people focus on visiting this deep cavern they forget to enjoy the amenities found above ground. Wind Cave National Park is famous for what lies underneath the prairie, but the duality of this place is what makes it one of the most intriguing national parks in the country.
Wind Cave is considered the sixth largest cave in the world, though an average of four new miles of cave is discovered here every year. In addition to its lengthy reputation, Wind Cave is home of boxwork formations, some of the rarest cave formations in the world. In fact, 95 percent of the known boxwork cave formations in the world are found here in Wind Cave. Most importantly, Wind Cave was the first cave ever given protection under a national park designation, setting an important precedent for future national parks.
Truly, this national park sounds like something out of a fairytale or mythology when described to outsiders. It is said to be the place of a legendary battle between the Klamath underworld god Llao and their sky god Skell. Visitors flock here hoping to explore Wizard Island or spy the Old Man of the Lake. A pumice desert and old-growth forests dot the land. Trails with names like the Watchman, Lightning Spring and Castle Crest invite the curious in. Crater Lake is a place where mythology meets reality and, as a result, natural beauty blooms.
The serene beauty of this mountain belie the danger it poses to the entire Puyallup River Valley. Mount Rainier is part of the same range of volcanic mountains as Lassen Peak, Mount Shasta, Mount Hood, and the most infamous Mount St. Helens. Rainier is one of 16 volcanoes on the Decade Volcano list, meaning it is could pose a volcanic hazard to thousands of people. For now, things remain peaceful in Wonderland and have been for more than 115 years.
Perhaps one of the most famous of all the American national parks, Yosemite will be celebrating its 125th birthday beginning in October 2015. Even so, a mere quasquicentennial is just a blink of an eye in the history of this remarkable land. Visitors here can explore ancient places and learn about the people and animals that have long called it home. As John Muir once described it, Yosemite is full of God’s thoughts, a place of peace and safety amid the most exalted grandeur and enthusiastic action, a new song, a place of beginnings.
Run alongside its sister park, Kings Canyon, Sequoia preserves these trees that were once on the literal chopping block, nearly destroyed by logging interests. The first of California's eight national parks, Sequoia has become a legend in its own time. Now, celebrating its 125th birthday, Sequoia has given generations of visitors the gift of walking among the giants, learning from their wisdom and enjoying the breathtaking splendor of one of the most beautiful and uniquely American landscapes.
Just about every type of rare gem or jewel has been found in the state, including a star garnet that is only found in Idaho and India. The search for gems, gold and silver helped push Idaho to statehood, but there were plenty of other industries that have kept the state running from agriculture to timber. Though it has only been a state for a little over a century, Idaho has storied history that can be explored through the places Idahoans have left behind. From mining and minerals to fur trapping to the immigration of Mormons westward, there is a lot to gain by seeing what has been lost in the Idaho backwoods.
The Yankee Fork Towns
This combination of cultures and histories has produced a truly unique state. However, Hawaii was an independent country for most of its history and much of its culture is rooted in that history. From native fishing villages to the homes of the first European immigrants to settle the island to resort towns and sugar plantations worked by natives but run by wealthy whites, there are plenty of communities that were once well-known places across Hawaii’s islands but have now faded back into the surrounding scenery. While not much remains of these former communities, their stories are intertwined with that of Hawaii’s history. Learning about these lost towns and what caused their collapse gives us more insight into how America’s 50th state became what it is today.
Apua - The Fishing Village
From some of the earliest civilizations to inhabit America to one of the first gold rushes in American history to a retreat designed for one of the wealthiest robber barons in America to religious utopian community, towns and cities in Georgia have come and gone. Some have been absorbed into larger communities, others buried underwater or behind battlefield walls and some have just disappeared off the face of the map as quickly as they once appeared. Learning about these lost communities will give insight into various chapters in Georgia history.
The Gold Rush Towns
The biggest concentration of gold was found in White, Lumpkin and a portion of Cherokee County, and enough gold was found in the Lumpkin County seat of Dahlonega that the U.S. operated a mint there until the onset of the Civil War. It should come as no surprise that various communities sprang up around these mines, created by both the prospectors themselves and those who hoped they could make a buck or two off the miners. These early American boomtowns would be set on a course numerous others would follow as gold, silver and oil were found throughout the country.
From planned communities to towns torn apart by racism, many of the ghost towns that dot Florida each have their own unique stories. Somes of these cities tied their fates to resources like ore, lumber and citrus fruits only to suffer when the industry went South. Others were intended to be places of sanctuary or utopias only to fall short of the mark their founders aimed for. While these towns may not be found on many maps anymore, they provide unique insight into the history of this sunny state.
Aladdin City - The Planned Community
Throughout the years, developers have tried to cash in on Florida’s sunny atmosphere by creating communities designed to attract those who want a little bit of the Sunshine State for their own. These planned communities can take off in a big way, but not all are successful. Several towns rose out of the Florida land boom of the 1920s like Miami Springs, Coral Gables and Opa-locka. While these towns managed to make it off the ground, other communities, like Aladdin City, were not so fortunate.
In addition to the nearly 3.4 million tourists who come from around the world to tour Yellowstone, the park is also home to researchers and biologists. These scientists are working to study the volcanic and geothermal energy of the park as we ll as preserving the animal and plant life that dwells within.
Dedicated to all things travel, places I have been and places I want to go.