June 2009 / Links updated 2012 VACATION IDEAS FOR NATURE LOVERS
Suggestions from Fellow Readers
ONE-MINUTE VERSION: Begin the research for your next getaway here. This issue brings you pictures and descriptions of readers' favorite nature spots, including mountain wildernesses, wildlife refuges, historical landscapes and more.
For Earth Day 2008, I started a collaborative Google map of favorite nature spots by and for readers of This Green Life. Over 300 locations have been added to date—some little known, some famous, all special to the people who recommended them.
With summer upon us, it seemed a good time to bring a few of these places to your attention. In assembling the list, I went for diversity in landscape, location and type of experience, giving precedence to domestic sites as most readers are American, though I've included international destinations on the side.
Mt. Katahdin, ME "Famous for marking the end of the Appalachian Trail, Mt. Katahdin lies
in Baxter State Park - a truly remote wilderness where bear sitings are
—Robin, Apr 18, 2008
WHERE: Baxter State Park, ME.
Map it. WHAT: The state's highest mountain at 5,267 feet, Katahdin is located in Baxter State Park, a 200,000-acre forested wilderness filled with peaks, waterfalls and wildlife, from moose to bobcats to flying squirrels. The park has 200 trails ranging from gentle to difficult. WHY: Because the Appalachian Trail ends here, of course! East-coasters rarely get to experience a wilderness like this. HOW: See the Baxter State Park website.
Bosque del Apache NWR, NM "This is a beautiful place, and a magnet for birders."
—cougarox, Oct 23, 2008
WHERE: Socorro, NM, along the Rio Grande. Map it. WHAT: Bosque del Apache is a 57,000-acre refuge at the edge of the Chihuahuan desert, visited by tens of thousands of birds each year, representing 300 different species. The great spectacle of fall and winter is the vast flocks of snow geese and sandhill cranes taking off each morning and flying back in at dusk to roost. WHY: It's a Serengeti for birds, with magnificent desert colors and scenery. HOW: See the Bosque del Apache website.
Sequoia National Forest, CA "Beautiful rock formations, Kern river runs through it bringing all kinds of wildlife. A place to see eagles, bears and mountain lions."
—smcartney656, Apr 2, 2009
WHERE: Porterville, CA. Map it. WHAT: The forest includes 38 groves of giant sequoias, the largest trees in the world, along with canyons, meadows, rivers and peaks as high as 12,000 feet. WHY: Besides viewing extraordinary trees, you can engage in virtually any outdoor activity you like, including hiking, camping, horseback riding, mountain biking, fishing, water-skiing, swimming, whitewater rafting, kayaking and skiing. HOW: See the Sequoia National Forest website.
Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, KS "Lovely grasslands, saved from the plow by the flint in the soil. Flat
topped hills and wooded draws. The open skies lead the heart upward."
—J, Apr 18, 2008
WHERE: Near Strong City, KS. Map it. WHAT: This 11,000-acre swathe of rolling American prairie offers a choice of two frontcountry and three backcountry trails. If you can't handle a trail, you can take a 90-minute bus tour. The preserve includes a historic ranch house. WHY: Virtually all the prairie that originally defined the country's heartland has been converted to farmland. I would love to see what this once quintessential American landscape looked like and feel my heart go upward, like "J." HOW: See the Tallgrass Prairie website.
Canyonlands National Park, UT "What an amazing place... with amazing views... Panorama Point, The Maze Overlook... The Dollhouse. You've got to 4 wheel drive to get there and it's worth it."
—PJ, Apr 9, 2009
WHERE: Near Moab, UT. Map it. WHAT: One of the great national parks, Canyonlands encompasses 340,000 acres of canyons, mesas and buttes carved out by the Colorado River and its tributaries. You can drop in for a quick scenic drive through Island in the Sky, spend several days exploring remote areas in the Maze or Needles districts or take an overnight river trip. One area has Native American rock art. WHY: The scenery is breathtaking, with dramatic land formations everywhere you look. The red rock and high desert climate make for stunning sunsets. HOW: See the Canyonlands website.
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Go to the map for more recommendations and to add your own. (See below for helpful instructions on how.) And have a great, restorative vacation this summer, whether you go near or far.
Sheryl Eisenberg, a long-time advisor to NRDC, posts a new This Green Life every month. Sheryl makes her home in Tribeca (NYC), wherealong with her children, Sophie and Gabe, and husband, Petershe tries to put her environmental principles into practice. No fooling. Read more about Sheryl.
Viewership of the This Green Life Google Map has extended way beyond our little community, if I may call it that. Our recommended nature spots have shown up in countless Google search results and been consulted more than 125,000 times.
Map contributors have suggested awe-inspiring locations around the globe. Here are a few:
Kruger State Park, S. Africa "The Big Five [game animals] are only the tip of the iceberg (or the ears of the hippo, as we would say)."
—Tanya, Nov 25, 2008. Map it.
Katherine Gorge, Australia "A series of beautiful waterfalls forming warm pools in the Katherine River. Magical place!"
—Claire, Jul 24, 2008. Map it.
Sintra, Portugal "A wonderfull place to enjoy nature."
—Carolina, May 28, 2008. Map it.
Seoraksan Nat'l Park, S. Korea "This park is beautiful. A true gem in Korea. There are numerous peaks, waterfalls, even some wildlife! (rare in Korea). There's something for everyone here from the out of shape to the extreme climber." —Alexandra Wilson, May 25, 2009. Map it.
Quilotoa Crater Lake, Ecuador "Spectacular lake in a collapsed caldera and the beginning of one of Ecuador's most beautiful day hikes, Quilotao to Chugchilan." —lpwords, May 10, 2009. Map it.
RIGHT AROUND THE CORNER Some favorites are not vacation meccas, but places that grace everyday lives:
Squamish Harbor, WA "This fall the ducks are back on our little estuary that they share with the otters. We also have an osprey who fishes here year round."
—Susan, Oct 23, 2008. Map it.
U of Alabama Arboretum, AL "A great spot to find nature in Tuscaloosa County."
—Julia, Oct 28, 2008. Map it.
Yellow Dog River Falls, MI "One of the prettiest places I can ever remember going to; ever since I was just a baby my family has camped there....Pity kennecott is opening a sulfide mine near Eagle Rock, upstream, to cause the most damage possible." —Ecco, Nov 26, 2008.
Fernbank Forest, GA "Part of the Fernbank Science Center, this is probably the sole surviving piece of old growth forest in Atlanta....Check with the science center for wonderful guided birding walks!" —Jennifer, Jun 4, 2008.
Spectacle Pond, Brighton, VT "This glacial "pothole" lake in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom is the lovliest spot on earth! I have been camping here many times... do yourself a favor and head on up to Brighton State Park for a few nights of serenety." —ravenfrank, Nov 25, 2008 Map it.
SIGN IN to your Google or Gmail account. (You need an account to edit the map.)
Click the edit button in the panel to the left of the map.
DON'T CHANGE the map title or description! INSTEAD, click the balloon icon near the map zoom controls.
Move the balloon to your favorite spot and click.
Tell us why you love it—and link to a picture if possible.
Sheryl Eisenberg is a web developer and writer. With her firm, Mixit Productions (mixitproductions.com), she brought NRDC online in 1996, designed NRDC's first websites, and continues to develop special web features for NRDC. She created and, for several years, wrote the Union of Concerned Scientists' green living column, Greentips, and has designed and contributed content to many nonprofit sites. In between issues of This Green Life, she muses aloud on green issues at thisgreenblog.com.