The Great National Park that is Florida

While National Parks are relatively few on the East Coast (only seven east of the Mississippi), there are three in Florida alone. The recent storms and devastation along the Florida coast highlight the high human habitation in the area, but in our weeks there we were amazed at the wildness and wildlife concentrated at America’s southern tip, so alive it felt like a fight against encroaching mankind.

Fort Jefferson, capstone of the Dry Tortugas National Park

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The Peace of Wild Things (and Places)

Sunrise in Voyageurs National Park.

Wendell Berry’s poems, fiction, and non-fiction have been a near-constant companion on the road.  As some of you who have read earlier posts know, we started this trip with the goal of restoring body and spirit in some of the country’s most beautiful places. There are few authors who better speak to that desire than Mr. Berry.

As an example, here’s a short poem that I used to read in the urban jungles of Beijing.  It may have single-handedly brought us back to the American wild.

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

And I wake in the night at the least sound

In fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,

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Saguaro: Everything’s coming up Tucson

I knew nothing about Saguaro National Park before arriving in Tucson. Relatively small in size, with the city splitting the East and West sides of the park, I didn’t know what to expect other than to see some enormous cacti. Who knew everything would be so utterly delightful?

East Saguaro National Park

Saguaro itself only has backcountry tent sites on the East park, so we took the Whale to the Tucson Mountain State Park campground (Gilbert Ray) near the West entrance, and feeling lucky enough after snagging the last spot I wasn’t expecting much besides a square of concrete to call home. But it was great. Not only was it cheap and 5 minutes from the Saguaro visitor center, it is tucked away up in the Tucson mountainside, with saguaro and all kinds of prickly friends scattered around nicely spaced campsites. It even had electricity! (I am learning to savor the days we are plugged in and I can turn on lights and charge computers without a care.)

Gilbert Ray campground

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All this time,

the life you were

supposed to live

has been rising around you

like the walls of a house

designed with warm

harmonious lines.

As if you had actually

planned it that way.

As if you had

stacked up bricks

at random,

and built by mistake

a lucky star.

“Lucky” by Kirsten Dierking from Northern Oracle.

Channel Islands: Backcountry camping in the clouds

Three days is too short to spend in these islands, and in off season there were fewer ferries and kayak tours available, but we got lucky and had the chance to camp overnight at Del Norte on Santa Cruz Island and sea kayak for a day.  The kayak trip was fun and stormy, but it was the hike up to our backcountry site that took my breath away.  Literally and figuratively.

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Channel Islands: Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins (and some whales)

One amazing thing about Channel Islands National Park, is that despite the beauty abounding on the chain of four islands that make up the land mass of this park, the majority of the wildlife and preserve are underwater.  The Santa Barbara Sound (the channel between the seaside towns of Santa Barbara/Ventura and the islands) is teaming with marine life and the weird and wonderful kelp forests.   Continue reading “Channel Islands: Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins (and some whales)”

Pinnacles, CA: Starting out the Year of the Rooster with Condors

On the first day of the Year of the Chicken, we started our road trip with the last National Park to be added to the register, Pinnacles, which only became a National Park in 2013. It’s a two hour drive from our starting point in the Bay Area, and given it’s small size and quiet/new reputation, we hadn’t been expecting much. I’m learning it’s nice to be wrong. Continue reading “Pinnacles, CA: Starting out the Year of the Rooster with Condors”