Tag Archives: travel

What’s With All These National Park System Units, Anyway?

Ever wondered what the difference is between a national park, a national monument, a national recreation area, etc?

The other day, during a Zoom meeting, a member asked if a national park was a single unit. Another member wondered if people understood the difference between different units within the National Park System. Heck, I write about national park units I’ve visited and sometimes I need a little primer. So, I wrote an article for the National Parks Traveler about the differences between units found within the National Park System.

To read the article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Road Trippin’

Road Trippin’ Through Oregon Landscape

Despite the price of gas, you should not be dissuaded ever from taking a road trip. You see far more, closer, than you would in a plane filled with maskless people hacking, coughing, and sneezing and prone to fits of rage. I should know. I have flown my share of miles over the years. Now, I drive to places I would not have thought to go, otherwise.

Road Trippin’ Up Washington Pass To North Cascades National Park
Road Trippin’ Along The Chisos Basin Road In Big Bend National Park

I read a great article this morning in the National Parks Traveler. It’s written by the Traveler’s Editor-in-Chief about his 2,500 mile road trip from his home in Utah to attend a family wedding. Along the way to and from, he stopped at four park units within the National Park System, in Kansas and Nebraska, America’s heartland. He’s written about these places before, but he acknowledges that it’s one thing to write about them, but another thing entirely to actually visit them and speak to the rangers helping to protect these pieces of history and landscape. There’s a visceral feeling and a certain amount of satisfaction in reaching your destination via a road trip as opposed to flying (although reaching your flight’s end in one piece and on time – more or less – is a visceral satisfaction of its own, too, I guess).

Anyway, these images represent road trips I’ve taken in my own SUV. These are trips I might not have driven had I not been able to finally afford a vehicle that would not only take me to these places, but allow me to pack what I want without having to worry about weight limits and, if I wanted, I could camp overnight in (sorry, poor grammar here).

You might want to read the Traveler’s article, yourself. It’s a good one and might urge you on your own road trip.

Just click on the very top image to be taken to the Traveler’s article.

Oh, I don’t plan on driving to Nebraska or Kansas or anyplace out East anytime soon, but it brings to mind the road trips I’ve recently taken in Washington state and Oregon, along the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Ice Age Floods National Geologic Trail, and even my winter road trip to Yellowstone National Park.

I’ll be continuing my road trips as long as I am able to do so.

On Top Of Columnar Basalts At Drumheller Channels National Natural Landmark

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Photography In The National Parks: More Favorite Spots For Photography

Sunrise Viewed From The Sinnott Memorial Overlook At Crater Lake National Park (Oregon)

If you have ever visited a national park more than once, then you probably have a few favorite spots in that park that you like to revisit, right? I certainly have favorite spots, and managed to find more than a few in the park units I visited since late 2019. I have written about these spots in my latest photography article for the National Parks Traveler.

To read my article, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca Latson, all rights reserved.

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Overlooked Gems Of The National Park System

Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park / courtesy of the National Park Service

Lassen Volcanic, Pinnacles, and Theodore Roosevelt national parks were just a few of the overlooked gems within the National Park System that were discussed during the National Parks Traveler’s first-ever webinar.

You missed it? Well, you can watch the recorded webinar on your own time by clicking on the image above.

Who knows – maybe at some point in time ahead, I and my national parks photography will be featured on one of these monthly webinars.

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National Parks Traveler Webinar: Exploring Overlooked Jewels

Sunrise at the Mather Overlook area, Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Ok, I’m not certain that Great Basin National Park in Nevada is an overlooked jewel or not, but I can tell you from personal experience that it is out in the middle of nowhere, and during my late summer visit, while the park was busy, the crowds were definitely fewer than, say, Yosemite or Yellowstone or any of the other of the most-visited park units back in 2021. The infrastructure at Great Basin is small, and the town of Baker has a population of about 98 people, so lodging there is pretty sparse. The closest town of any real size is Ely, Nevada, about 1-1/2 hours’ drive from the park. This national park is located in basin-and-range country, so getting there means your vehicle had best be in good shape, because a breakdown out there would definitely ruin your day.

That said, there are definitely other places within the National Park System with fewer summer crowds that can offer great park experiences, and the National Parks Traveler will be hosting a webinar on April 12, 2022, to discuss those park units.

To read more and register for the webinar, click on the image above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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National Parks Traveler Checklist: Yellowstone In The Winter

Taking a stroll along the boardwalks at Upper Geyser Basin
Following the tour leader in Porcelain Basin
Meeting up with one of the Yellowstone locals
Geyser gazing is a nice winter activity in Yellowstone

Thinking of a winter trip to Yellowstone National Park? There’s still time to go this year, but 2023 looks like a better option. Before you go, check out the latest Traveler Checklist I’ve written for the National Parks Traveler. It’s all about planning for your winter trip to this national park, getting there, where to stay and eat, and what to do once you’re there.

To read the Checklist, just click on any of the images above.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Foot Prints And Face Mask Trash In Yellowstone National Park

Footprints And A Face Mask At Crested Pool
I Spy With My Little Eye A Discarded Face Mask At Biscuit Basin
Boot, Paw, And Hoof Prints On The Shallow Terraces Of Grand Prismatic Spring

I visited Yellowstone National Park back in mid February 2022. It was a fantastic trip and I came home with memories of wonderful experiences and great photos. I also returned with a somewhat lower-than-usual opinion of people who visit this national park and leave marks and trash like those you see in the photos above. I guess people are either ignorant of park etiquette, or they think they are above it all and none of the rules apply to them.

Regarding the human foot prints among the wildlife foot prints at both Crested Pool and Grand Prismatic Pool: bison and foxes and wolves and coyotes cannot read the signs the national park has posted warning of the dangers of straying off the boardwalk in the geyser basins. People, on the other hand, can read the signs – they just don’t want to follow the warnings and are what I consider willfully ignorant. What these people don’t realize is that the crust really is thin around thermal features. Proof of that can be found at spots like Blue Star Spring in Upper Geyser Basin. Look into that searing hot, saturated aqua-blue pool and you’ll see the bones of a young bison who made a misstep back in the 80s.

This brings to mind my 2019 autumn visit to Yellowstone. Among the idiots who walked up to Old Faithful Geyser that year was one moron who decided it would be awesome to walk right up to Old Faithful that night – around midnight, I think. The burns he ultimately sustained made him decide to seek medical help, no matter how much trouble he might get himself in. The next day, as I was wandering along the boardwalks up there, I noticed rangers and other orange-vested people out there walking around near Old Faithful, retrieving articles of clothing that guy left behind, and checking to see if there was any damage to the geyser and surrounding area. These thermal ecosystems – and really, all ecosystems within any national park – are fragile and it doesn’t take much to screw them up. If they can be healed, it takes a looonnnnggg time. The snowcoach guide who took me and four other people through Midway Basin told us it takes a very long time for hoof, paw, and human foot prints to disappear from those shallow terraces around the edges of Grand Prismatic.

And let’s get to the face mask issue. This is yet another form of trash that people carelessly leave behind. Ok, more than likely, the mask either slips off the face or slips out of a vest or pant pocket when a person is pulling out something else, but they are sloppy at keeping track of things like face masks. Certainly mars the view, don’t you think? Sure, I can clone out the offending trash, but I have it here so you can see what I saw when I pointed my camera in that direction. It made me sad and angry at the same time.

Most photographer whose pages you visit on some platform like Facebook are pretty careful to not say anything political or otherwise incendiary to alienate prospective purchasers of their work. I suppose I should do the same, but I’ve never kowtowed to conventional practices and am of the belief that there are times when you have to take a stand one way or another. I don’t fence sit when I believe in something strongly enough.

Many people don’t care if they “foul their own nest” when it comes to visiting a national park, rather than leaving no trace so future visitors can appreciate the wild beauty. As such, I have very little patience with people, nowadays. I’m sure my attitude does not win me any fans or photo purchases, but I’ve never been one to shy away from writing (or saying) what I think, regardless of how it may irritate people. I point out human ignorance, stupidity, and hate where ever I see it. I find the people who write to tell me what a bitch I am are generally the ones who have committed the sins about which I write.

I hope the idiots who left that face mask trash and marked up the fragile areas within and around the hot springs were not photographers. That kind of cretin gives the rest of us photographers a bad name. I’m thankful there are still photographers out there who respect the land and the wildlife they photograph. I just wish they would speak up a little louder in defense of these ecosystems.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Happy 150th Birthday To Yellowstone National Park!

Old Faithful At Sunrise

Happy 150th Birthday to Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park! From originally believing the amazing wonders in this park were just a figment of mountainmen’s imaginations (remember my post about “Colter’s Hell”), to a place that approached a record of almost 5 million visitors in 2021, this 2,221,766-acre national park (nicknamed the “American Serengeti”) has a little bit of something for everybody, from amazing geology to 92 trailheads to 15 miles of boardwalks to mountains and valleys and wildlife. Five percent of the park is covered in water, 15% in grasslands, and 80% in forests. Of that 80% of forests, 80% are lodgepole pines. How’s that for your #TriviaTuesday ?

This image was captured just around sunrise on one recent freezing winter morning. Old Faithful was in the final throes of erupting and I was the only one out there in that spot. There were maybe 7 other people waaaay down at the other end near the Old Faithful Lodge and Cabins.

Speaking of Yellowstone, all through this month, I’ll have articles published in the National Parks Traveler about this park: a Traveler Checklist for winter in Yellowstone, a quiz and trivia piece dedicated to Yellowstone, and winter photography in Yellowstone. So, stay tuned and I’ll let you know when those articles have been published.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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Reader Participation Day: What Is The “National Park Experience” To You?

Bison In A Snowstorm At Upper Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park (Wyoming)

I just returned from a winter trip to Yellowstone National Park. It was full of bucket list items I was able to check off. An amazing experience about which I’ll be writing in upcoming articles for the National Parks Traveler.

And, speaking of the Traveler, today’s edition has a Reader Participation Day article asking what the “national park experience” means to YOU. Why not go over, read the article and the questions asked, and leave a comment at the end of the article. The Traveler uses these things as pointers to what articles to next write and publish.

To read the article and leave a comment, click on the image above.

As for the image itself, it was serendipitous. I was staying at the Old Faithful Snow Lodge, and got up early that morning to do photography along the Upper Geyser Basin. It was snowing, and as I approached Old Faithful, I saw a small herd of bison grazing right there. Luckily for me I’d brought along my long lens (Sony 100-400mm) and captured some iconic shots that you’ll be seeing in upcoming Traveler articles.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved

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Photography In The National Parks: My 10 Fave Photos From 2021

The First Kiss Of Sunrise At Tipsoo Lake, Mount Rainier National Park (Washington state)

Everybody has a favorite photo (or two or three or more) they’ve captured in a national park, right? I certainly have mine. Today’s edition of the National Parks Traveler has published what was officially supposed to be my first Photography in the National Parks column for 2022 (but it got superseded by my Fort Clatsop article). Anyway, today’s article is a look back at my 10 fave images from 2021.

To read the photo column, see my other nine favorite photos, why I like them and how I got each shot, click on the image above.

This image, captured just at the beginning of sunrise on a frosty, snowy morning in Mount Rainier National Park, is one of those 10 favorites. For me, it was a culmination of trying to get just the right sunrise composition of this spot overlooking Tipsoo Lake, over which “The Mountain” towers. Sunrises are, of course, always gorgeous here, but they can often look waaaay oversaturated. In truth, that’s *exactly* the way sunrise looks, for maybe a minute, before the sunrlight then turns white on the snowcapped mountain. The colors for that one moment almost scream at the eye. So, for this shot, I waited for the perfect moment to photograph the composition just as the sun kissed the top of the mountain, leaving the rest of the scene looking cold in the blue/purple shadows of the morning.

Copyright Rebecca L. Latson, all rights reserved.

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