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A mountain. A volcano. A story. Hidden in the backbone of the Sierra Nevada, Lassen Volcanic National Park is an amazing combination of extremes. Hot and cold. High and low. Big and small. The moment you stop into the park, you are immersed in a variety of wildlife and a sense of how small humans really are compared to this world.
The desert seems to stretch on almost forever, the mountains bare, the riverbeds dried up. As you follow the road winding up, up, up, you enter almost a new world. Huge rocks rise out of the ground like giant fists. Shrubs cover the dry ground. The sky seems to be ten times bigger. Lizards scuttle through the cracks in the rocks. And Joshua Trees reach up into the sky like open arms.
The Sonoran Desert is a complex, unique ecosystem. Spreading across southern Arizona for miles, vast yet not empty. The crowning jewel of the Sonoran Desert is the massive, long-lived saguaro cactus. Tall and many-armed, it is an iconic symbol of the American Southwest.
The wind blows over the desert landscape, howling through the canyons and lashing the grass with fury. Dust and sand cover the ground. Spiky cacti grows in massive numbers. Snakes slither and lizards jump underneath twisted trees. And from afar, it seems like a great wave of stone looms above the dusty floor of the Chihuahuan desert.
The sun rises over a dry, barren landscape. A mule deer roams through the hills, nibbling at the dusty stalks of grass, and a hawk soars over the ridges, catching the air currents as they swoop over the hillsides. Bats spiral out of a hole in the ground, searching for their nightly dose of insects. A nocturnal ringtail explores the underground world of darkness in search of food. Crystal-like cave formations, extremely delicate to the touch, rise from the floor and hang from the ceiling like needles and curtains.
Yellowstone is unique yet unstable. It is a land of geysers and boiling hot springs, mud pots and red bacteria mats. It is a land full of all kinds of green life in the summer, and frozen under deep snow in the winter. It is a land with a spirit to it.
My favorite place in the park was definitely the high country along Going-to-the-Sun Road. The wildflowers were all in bloom, and the animals were abundant and visible. Mountains surround us, jagged and sheer against the blue sky. One moment, the sun is shining and the next clouds darken the horizon, and shreds of rain fall like forks on the cliffs and meadows.