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Archive for national parks

Japan’s Bathing Beauties

By Linda Tancs

Buried in snow almost one third of the year, Japan’s Jigokudani Monkey Park in Nagano is home to Japanese macaques, popularly known as snow monkeys. The northernmost living nonhuman primate, they descend from the forest to bathe in naturally occurring hot springs, a pleasant respite from a cold day. Part of Jōshin’etsu-kōgen National Park, the monkey park is reportedly the only place in the world where monkeys bathe in hot springs. The park is not a zoo; the monkeys are wild and come and go as they please, enticed by feedings by professional staff. Keep a respectful distance when taking photos, or else you may go home with one less piece of equipment.

West of Key West

By Linda Tancs

Seventy miles west of Key West, Dry Tortugas National Park is accessible only by a daily ferry, private boats, charter boats or seaplane. It’s worth the effort, considering that one of the nation’s largest 19th- century forts (Fort Jefferson) is there. This 100-square-mile park is mostly open water with seven small islands. With so little dry ground, it’s best to see it by swimming, snorkeling or diving. Your reward will be corals and seagrass communities among the most vibrant in the Florida Keys.

Small But Mighty in New Zealand

By Linda Tancs

Abel Tasman National Park is a wilderness reserve at the north end of New Zealand’s South Island. Despite its small size, it’s the country’s most popular national park, making the case that good things come in small packages. It’s known for the Abel Tasman Coast Track, a 33-mile trail between the seaside village of Marahau and Wainui. Along the way you’ll experience golden sand beaches and a 154-foot-long suspension bridge over Falls River as well as plenty of lookouts and rocky headlands. Don’t miss a side trip to Cleopatra’s Pool, a natural rock pool with a moss-lined waterslide. It’s best to take the trek in stages; there are four huts and 18 campsites along the track, which must be booked in advance all year round.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Smoking Mountain

By Linda Tancs

They say that only the most adventurous dare to climb Mount Fitz Roy, the highest peak in Southern Patagonia’s Glacier National Park. At over 11,000 feet above sea level, you can understand why. Due to a fairly consistent atmospheric haze over its peak, it was originally named Chaltén, a word meaning “smoking mountain” in the indigenous Tehuelche tribe’s dialect. The current moniker, Fitz Roy, is a nod to Captain FitzRoy of HMS Beagle, the ship that voyaged around South America with Charles Darwin. Although there’s nothing volcanic about the revered granite walls, you’ll get smokin’ views of Fitz Roy from Laguna de Los Tres, some 1,400 feet from the base camp reserved for mountaineers.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Bristling in Nevada

By Linda Tancs

Characterized by their growth in twisted fashion at high altitudes, bristlecone pines are one of the longest-lived life forms on Earth. The name bristlecone refers to the dark purple female cones that bear incurved prickles on their surface. Nevada’s Great Basin National Park is noted for its ancient grove of bristlecone pines, a species only otherwise found in California and Utah. Although the largest grove of pines in the park is on Mt. Washington, the most accessible grove is located on the northeast side of Wheeler Peak, where a short, self-guided nature trail passes through a portion of it. The tree is legendary for its ability to thrive in impossible conditions, as is evidenced by the roots set among quartzite boulders. That no doubt accounts for the longevity of Prometheus, once recorded as the oldest tree in the world at between 4,700 to 5,000 years. The stump of that ancient bristlecone is in the park. You can count its rings at the visitor center.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Victoria’s Marine Emblem

By Linda Tancs

The weedy sea dragon is a marine emblem in Victoria, Australia. You’ll find it at Churchill Island Marine National Park, a protected marine national park located in Western Port, Victoria, Australia. Boasting 1,700 acres, it’s an important roosting and feeding site for migratory waders like whimbrels and bar-tailed godwits. So, needless to say, bird watching is a popular activity, as is snorkeling among the seagrass beds where black swans and fish congregate. You might also enjoy canoeing among the mangroves. Just off the coast of Phillip Island, Churchill Island holds an important place in the history of European settlement in Victoria.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Argentina’s Dead Rock

By Linda Tancs

The third largest national park in Argentina, Lanín National Park is named for the area’s largest peak, Lanín volcano, a word meaning “dead rock” in the native Mapuche language. It is, indeed, a dead rock—an extinct stratovolcano that can be seen for miles on a clear day. Many visitors come to climb the volcano, but the park is also prized as a conservation area for the monkey-puzzle tree, what naturalists call a  “living fossil” dating back to the Mesozoic Era. The park is located southwest of Neuquén province.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Under the Desert Moon

By Linda Tancs

Kings Canyon is part of Watarrka National Park in the southwestern corner of the Northern Territory in Australia. It’s prized for its towering sandstone walls and weathered rock domes known as “The Lost City.” You’ll also find “The Garden of Eden” there, a beautiful rockhole (an ancient rock pool) surrounded by rare plants. These and other iconic locales are found along the Rim Walk, a nearly 4-mile circuit stretching across the desert. The area has been home to the Luritja Aboriginal people for more than 20,000 years; consider a guided walk with an Aboriginal elder to learn more about the significance of the area. The park is about 280 miles from Alice Springs.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Top of the Nile

By Linda Tancs

The “top of the Nile” is where you’ll get the best view of Murchison Falls in Uganda, where the water powerfully squeezes through a narrow 22-foot crevice in the rocks to plunge over 131 feet below into a 164-foot radius pool. The falls are so spectacular that the national park of which it is a part is named for it. A three-hour, round-trip tour to the bottom of the waterfall will give you an opportunity to observe lots of local wildlife, like the shoebill stork, hippos and crocodiles. And you might even see the dwarf giraffe that was found in the park.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

All Aboard the Brocken

By Linda Tancs

The Brocken is the highest peak in the Harz mountain range in central Germany. From the summit you’ll get glorious views of Harz National Park, the first such park to span two federal states. The peak also offers Brocken garden, a botanical garden established on the summit in 1890. It houses more than 1,500 plant species from high mountain areas from all over the world, with a particular emphasis on the protection and conservation of species that are either threatened with extinction or very rare. Between mid-May and mid-October you can explore the garden between Monday and Friday twice a day with a gardener. One of the best things about the garden is how to get there. A narrow-gauge steam train departs from Drei Annen Hohne station and takes approximately 50 minutes to climb to Brocken Station, just 52 feet below the mountain’s summit.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

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