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National Parks in the USA

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Country: USA / World Region: North America

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      27.01.2006 13:17
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      These two national parks certainly stand in contrast to each other but both are well worth a visit.

      I spent three weeks in Washington State in the Summer of 2002 during which time I stayed with a friend who lives in Pullman in central Washington. Washington State is situated in the Northern corner of the West coast of the USA and borders Britsh Columbia (Canada), Idaho and Oregon.

      During my time there I visited the two biggest and most famous national parks in Washington State; Mount Rainier and Mount St Helens. In this review I am going to describe my experiences of both, hopefully to entice you over to that side of the world.

      ***Mount Rainier***

      Mount Rainier National Park was established on March 2, 1899, and covers 235,625 acres upto 14,410' above sea level. Mount Rainier itself is a snow topped active volcano, surrounded by forest and stunning green meadows of wild flowers. It is a truly beautiful and picturesque park and every year some 2 million people enter the National Park and drive up twisty mountain roads to gape at the stunning views.....
      I can tell you this because I have seen the pictures...... Yes I've been to the park I undertook the long drive, I even wore shorts that day, after all it was August in America......
      Well, it was freezing and it was so foggy that we couldn't see the bl***y mountain. I have a picture of us all stood in front of it (apparently) at the most famous of the viewpoints. Me with my blue legs shivering and just wanting to get back in the car, gutted that we couldn't see the mountain....
      But there you are... this is seemingly a common problem in Mount Ranier National Park regardless of the time of year..... it was still a good day out and of course you could still see the bits of the park that are in the immediate vicinity and it is beautiful to say the least. So clean and pure looking. We just went for the day but you could easily spend much longer here walking and enjoying the scenery if you have the weather on your side.
      However I was lucky enough to see the mountain indirectly!! Firstly from an internal flight I took back to Seattle over the National Park. The Mountain was clerly visible from the plane which was a spectular site and I have some amazing phots of it. On a clear day, like we had Mt Rainier can also be seen in the distance from Seattle which is also an amazing site and these experiences did kind of make up for the inital dissappointment somewhat.

      ***Mount St Helens****

      The weather on the day we visited Mount St Helens National Park was much more suitable and to be honest my experiences in this park are much more vivid.
      The park stands in stark and bleak contrast to the lush and fertile grounds that surround Mount Ranier......
      On May 18, 1980, the long-dormant Mount St. Helens erupted following an earthquake measuring 5.1 on the Richter scale. The north face of the mountain collapsed and within moments, this slab of rock and ice slammed into Spirit Lake, crossed a ridge 1,300 feet high, and roared 14 miles down the Toutle River. The eruption lasted nine hours and nearly 230 square miles of forest was blown over or left dead. This destruction is all too visible still today and recovery will take decades longer. The park certainly will not recover in our lifetimes.
      The whole site is desolate and bleak but in addition it truely is amazing...... hardly anything grows there anymore, there are few trees just the remaining trunks of those which survived the blast all bending over away from St Helens itself. It is spooky and feels unreal. There is an information point shows photos of the area before the blast including shots of the mountain which is a totally different shape and much smaller height wise than it was originally.
      St Helens is a spectacular and shocking site, one of the most amazing I have ever been lucky enough to come across. It sums up the extreme power of nature more than anything else I'd seen to that date..... Volcanic activity is still frequently recorded in the park and is sometimes closed for fear of another eruption.
      On the whole as there honestly isn't much left of St Helens then it is really only suited for a day trip but really it is well worth the drive to see this spectacular sight!

      Ranier has also the usual features that come with National parks, the possibity to camp, picnic facilities, bins, toilets and the odd restaurant and visitors centre here and there. Such facilities are obviously alot more sparse in St Helens. A small fee is charged to enter both parks, per car, in order to maintain the parks and pay for the wardens. If you arrive by foot or on a bike there is no charge. The roads are generally good in both parks, although in the Summer Ranier can get very busy on good days and on small,, windy roads the traffic is bound to be an issue somewhat.

      Washington state is also home to The Olympic National Park, part of which is coastal, is also suppossed to be lovely and well worth a visit but sadly we didn't have the time.....

      In summary, the National Parks of Mount Ranier and Mount St Helens Washington State are both worth while places to see, presenting a striking contrast. Washington State is a lovely part of the world and I definitely recommend a visit.

      Thanks for reading. Nicky

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        27.10.2003 14:35
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        Zion is a photographer's dream. It is very mountainous, with huge, high red mountains. As the light catches them during different parts of the day, their looks change dramatically. If you can stay for sunset, they are truly magnificent. There are shuttle buses which run regularly throughout the park and stop off at all the main views and trails. The lodge is a good place to note, as it has a café where you can get drinks, food, ice cream, etc. There is also an adjoining gift shop. There are many trails to walk, ranging from easy to very hard and from short to ?will this ever end.? Some of the shorter ones include Court of the Patriarchs, which is only 100 yards or so on a paved, steep trail that leads you to great views of the mountains. Another short and easy trail is Weeping Rock, which leads to a dainty waterfall where light water spray going over the trail is very refreshing. Another good trail is the Emerald Pools Trail near Zion Lodge. You walk along a trail which encompasses lots of views and types such as trees, waterfalls, hanging gardens and water pools full of huge tadpoles. You can walk as far as the lower emerald pools, or carry on to the middle emerald pool, which is a bit steeper. If you are feeling really good, you can go on to the upper emerald pools, which is a bit of a hike, but well worth the effort due to the views and waterfalls you encounter. The full length of the trail is about 2 miles. Near the Weeping Rock Trail is a diversion to Hidden Canyon Trail. This is described as moderate to strenuous; the latter is more accurate. This trail is 2 miles long (each way) and climbs nearly 900 feet in less than half a mile. A lot of the time, you are walking on very steep, rocky ground ? we met a snake en route, which was a bit worrying. Once you get towards the top, you are walking on trails which are literally cut out of the mountain and are very narrow, so much so that many parts have chains secured to the rock
        to help you pull yourself up with. This can be very scary, and we came across many people who decided to turn back. We didn?t and carried on--why, I will never know! Once at the top of the trail, the views are great. The only problem is that you then have to go back down. This was extremely hard on the legs, and I could barely walk by the time we had finished. In fact, I suffered for several days after, as did my husband. If you want something less strenuous, try the Riverside Walk. This is a lovely, easy walk which follows the river for about 2 miles each way on flat, paved ground. Very pretty views and lots of squirrels.

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