“Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul alike.” ∼ John Muir
It wasn’t long after I began fulltime RVing in 2001 that I started being asked what was the favorite place I’d ever been. Writing this in 2018, I have just as hard a time answering that now as I did then.
I usually say just one place is too hard to choose. But looking back, for sure Alaska was my favorite trip since that was the first time I was totally on my own and I’m just rather proud of myself that I managed to pull that off despite some of the difficulties along the way. That was the summer of 2003 and Denali National Park was one of the first ones I’d ever seen. I’ve always thought it was cool that I could say that my first time ever whitewater rafting experience was there.
Even though the pictures on that old MaliasRV website are small and blurry, I’m thankful I have them. As I was doing this page, I realized I had lost some of my Alaska pictures in a disgusting computer crash, so mostly the memories will have to do. Then my next thought was that I should go back now that I have a better camera, too. 🙂
Anyway, in general I always say that our National Parks have been my overall favorite and my goal is to see as many of them as I possible can.
As I was putting together this list of the ones I’ve done so far, I realized there are a few I’ve seen more than once and still never got around to doing website pages about. I’ll list those with links to the NPS page with a hope to do these pages at some point.
Acadia National Park (Maine) – June 2001: This was the first national park I saw when I first took off from Austin. I loved my time in Maine and I remember Acadia National Park being beautiful, but the mosquitoes were the biggest I’d ever seen in my life, even for a girl who grew up in humid New Orleans! Bummer that I didn’t wind up with any decent pictures – digital cameras were in the dinosaur age back then.
Everglades (Florida) – March 2002: This was one of the first trips I did with my mom and besides the meeting Mickey Mouse and Cinderella, it was also one of the first national parks I saw. We had a great campsite and I remember being surprised you could get so close to the alligators there hanging out by the boardwalk.
Denali (Alaska) – 2003 – We did the bus ride through the park and saw quite a few bear, but didn’t come out with much proof of it picture wise. But it was the first time I’d ever gone whitewater rafting and I’m happy to have those bragging rights.
Kenai Fjords (Alaska) – 2003: We did a glacier cruise here and saw almost every kind of wildlife available in that environment. Eagles, whales, precious puffin and calving glaciers! I didn’t even know at the time that it’s a national park, but it is. NPS website.
Carlsbad Caverns (New Mexico) – July 10, 2002: I remember being amazed at how beautiful and interesting the stalactites and stalagmites are, but I still can’t remember the difference between them. 🙂 This is the only picture I have, but I also remember thinking I’ve never seen darkness as complete as when they turned off the lights when we were in the main chamber.
Arches (Utah) – July 20, 2002: Don, my favorite travel companion was still traveling alongside me here and he said he knew I wouldn’t want to miss this stop. He was right, but a couple of days was not nearly enough and I ended up with very view pictures, so a return visit is definitely in order for this one.
Olympic National Park (Hoh Rain Forest, Lake Crescent) (Washington) – August 2002: The rich lushness of this place is impossible to describe. It’s a big park with many segments and I want to see more that I missed as well as what I saw then again another time.
Mount Rainier (Washington) – August, 2002: This magic mountain had been on my mind from the time I first starting looking seriously at motorhomes. I remember looking out the huge windshield and thinking I could see all of Mount Rainier without craning my neck. It was an early destination of mine because I had been briefly exposed to him when my brother lived in Seattle. I had never seen a mountain like that before with snow on it and I always wanted to see more.
Zion (Utah) July 2004: The landscape here was so incredibly beautiful, but I remember it was so hot it was almost unbearable to walk around too much. The A/C in the motorhome couldn’t manage to keep the inside comfortable, either. It’s another park I’d be more than happy to return to, but during cooler weather, that’s for sure.
Bryce Canyon (Utah) July 2004: But once getting to Bryce, those hoodoos were so incredible to me, I couldn’t resist getting on a couple of trails for various views of them. This is one park I absolutely want to return to since 3 days here was not nearly enough for me. Interesting shaped rocks and spires and mountain vistas – all the stuff I most love about our national parks!
Hot Springs (Arkansas) – September, 2006: America’s first resort, it is now the oldest, smallest urban National Park – the only one located within city limits. I really enjoyed walking around Bathhouse Row and soaking in the rich history and beautiful architecture.
Grand Canyon (Arizona) – First time in 2002, when I said I would never hesitate when asked again what my favorite place was. I was blown away, but even though I can’t really say that it’s my favorite so definitely today, it is still high on that list.
Redwoods – October 2005: One of the most beautiful things I shared with my mom was our fanatical love of trees, so this trip was truly a dream come true for us.
Yosemite – (California) – October 2005: The fall colors here were amazing. This southern gal not used to such things will never take changing leaves for granted!
Sequoia – (California) – November 2005: Some guy told us that if we had seen the Sequoia groves in Yosemite, we might as well skip Sequoia National Park. Being the biggest tree lovers ever, my mom and I both decided that was ridiculous and promptly disregarded that advice!
Yellowstone (Montana-Wyoming) – 2 visits – 2003 with mom when returning from Alaska and my return visit in 2015. My 2003 notes: Mom and I are absolutely enthralled with the landscape here – it feels like a totally different cosmic environment. To see boiling water bubbling from the earth in pools everywhere – to smell the sulfuric steam as it rises and to stare unbelievably at the vivid, strange colors tinting the surrounding land as if painted by the minerals in the whirling water – these are sights and experiences I would not trade for any other.
Grand Teton (Wyoming) was part of that visit with my mom in 2003 and my return in 2015. My notes from 2015 said I was “high upon arrival.” I haven’t said WOW so many times on the road in a long time! As told in my blog posts, getting here was not the greatest trip ever, but I was able to switch to pure gratitude mode upon first sight of these majestic mountains.
Glacier – I don’t even remember hearing much about Glacier National Park before we just happened to pass through there on our Alaska return trip. Wildfires prevented us from seeing all of Going to the Sun Road in 2003, but I knew I would absolutely have to return because even a little bit of that road fascinated me. When I made it back in 2015, I went up and down it as many times as I could. If I absolutely had to pick a favorite, it would still be under duress, but I’d have to say Glacier would be it. I loved the combination of Going to the Sun Road and how different it would look depending on the time of day you drove it, the sparkling lakes, the snow-capped mountains, the waterfalls and the wildlife. It truly does have it all.
Crater Lake (Oregon) – February 2005: Crater Lake is the main reason I decided to stay in this part of Oregon through the winter and summer of 2005. From the many tempting pictures I’d seen for years, I just had to see for myself if something on this earth could possibly be that clearly blue and beautiful. It really was!
Petrified Forest (Arizona) – 2006 & 2016: Another dual visit, once with my mom and I later passed through again in 2016. Timing was always busy enough that I just never got around to doing more than downloading the pictures from the camera.
Painted Desert (Arizona) – 2006 & 2016: When I was here with Mom in 2006, she made me take her picture here because she said she was an Ancient Landscape, too. She really cracked me up sometimes and I miss her more when visiting places we went to together.
Shenandoah (Virginia) – July 2007: We got on the Skyline Drive at the end of our month-long Blue Ridge Parkway tour. Mom went back to Austin and I hung around Virginia until it was time to head south again for leaf peeping on the Parkway.
Congaree (South Carolina) – May 2011: When my mom was living with my brother and sister-in-heart, we took a little trip here. Mom was getting more frail and had to be in a wheelchair, but she was still always raring to go, especially if it involved a national park!
Great Smoky Mountains (Tennessee) – 2013-2014: I loved it here so much I found it hard to leave, even after a year. Once I got there in the summer of 2013, I decided I wanted to see it in spring when all the rhododendron bushes I saw everywhere were blooming. That meant I spent the whole winter there, and even though it snowed where I was camped in Townsend, I was enthralled by that area the entire time I was there. Cades Cove became an obsession and I went around that 11 mile scenic loop countless times. I was “Confined” at Cades Cove Campground during the government shutdown in September 2013 and even though they closed the campground, it turned into one of the best camping experiences I ever had. Bears as neighbors and trail mates!
Death Valley (California & Nevada) – January 2016: When I was on the way from Oregon to Texas, friends told me not to miss Death Valley and my first reaction was that I would just as soon miss something with such a gloomy name. I wasn’t particularly interested in spending much more time in the desert, but I ended up being so glad I stayed. Other than Alaska, Death Valley is our largest National Park. There is almost 1,000 miles of paved and dirt roads with access to all kinds of neat drives and trails.
Big Bend (Texas) Jan-Feb 2017: When leaving Austin, I took the southern route back to Arizona that would take me by Big Bend. By this time, I knew I wanted to see it just because it was a national park because I hadn’t really been disappointed in any yet. It’s pretty much out in the middle of nowhere, but I liked being able to drive into it in the motorhome since I always love sightseeing out of that huge windshield. I enjoyed my stay at Rio Grande Village Campground. It’s definitely a lot more convenient to stay there rather than outside the park due to the long drives needed to get anywhere and the distances between.
Saguaro National Park (Arizona) – 2017 & 2018: East side — West side: Another park I’ve visited more than once and still have hundreds of pictures to finish going through before I can post them.
Haleakala (Maui) 1987-1991: Obviously I wasn’t RVing then, but living on Maui was my first “unrealistic” dream that I made come true through sheer determination. It was one of the most powerful experiences of my life and I can’t list my national park accomplishments without including those. I don’t have any of those old Hawaii albums with me, so the one above was taken in 2004 by my daughter, Keala, during a visit with her, who also fell in love with Maui and lived there for a while.
Volcanoes (Big Island of Hawaii) 1989: My trip to Volcanoes was part of a manager retreat when I worked at Embassy Suites in Maui. I had been to the Big Island before, but this was much more special. They took us up to the rim of Kilauea’s Halema‘uma‘u Crater and while the lava lake wasn’t as active as the website shows now, we were able to watch a ceremonial hula in honor of the legendary Pele. It was one of the most moving things I’ve ever seen in my life.
Looking back on all these visits now through the years, it’s definitely not an exaggeration to say that my favorite places are the national parks I’ve been blessed to see. I wonder how many more I can get in? My National Parks Checklist.
Some cool quotes I like about national parks:
“Guard it well, for it is far more precious than money…once destroyed, nature’s beauty cannot be repurchased at any price.” ∼ Ansel Adams
“I look forward to an America which will protect the beauty of our national environment, which will preserve the great old American houses and squares and parks of our national past. National parks and reserves are an integral aspect of intelligent use of natural resources. It is the course of wisdom to set aside an ample portion of our natural resources as national parks and reserves, thus ensuring that future generations may know the majesty of the earth as we know it today.” ∼ President John F. Kennedy
“When words become unclear, I shall focus with photographs. When images become inadequate, I shall be content with silence.” ∼ Ansel Adams
“Of all my philanthropic endeavors…the saving of these beautiful natural areas has given me the profoundest pleasure and the most heartwarming satisfaction.” ∼ Paul Mellon, American philanthropist
My favorite John Muir quote:
“I don’t like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains – not hike! Do you know the origin of that word ‘saunter?’ It’s a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, ‘A la sainte terre,’ ‘To the Holy Land.’ And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not ‘hike’ through them.”
I giggled when I saw this because I always say I dawdle on a trail, not hike. But now that I know the root of the word saunter, that’s what I’m gonna do now!
“God never made an ugly landscape. All that the sun shines on is beautiful, so long as it is wild.” ∼ John Muir