Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The Top Wonders Of America's West

A couple days ago I watched the Travel Channel countdown the Top 10 Wonders of the West. While growing up and living in the West, I think I've been to most of the West's Wonders, so, seeing what the Travel Channel thought to be the Top 10 sounded fun.

Now these type list shows always have some choices that make me wonder what they were thinking. This Top 10 list of Wonders had me wondering more than most.

You know Grand Canyon is going to be on such a list, and it was, at #1. Yellowstone at #2, no quibble here. Yosemite #3, works for me.

Redwoods National Park at #4? Now is where you start to lose me. Redwoods NP is one of the newer National Parks. Sequoia National Park also has really tall, really old trees, growing in a very scenic location in the Sierra Nevadas. Sequoia NP is one of America's oldest National Parks, for good reason. But, it's not on this list.

Mount Hood, Oregon at #5 is where the Top 10 Wonders list starts getting goofy. Of all the Cascade Mountain volcanoes they pick what I think to be the least notable. What about Mount Shasta in California? Crater Lake National Park in Oregon? Mount Rainier in Washington? Mount Rainier is a National Park, one of the oldest. Mount Hood is not a National Park. How about Mt. St. Helens? It's a National Monument and really is a Wonder to behold. How about Mount Baker in Washington? Mount Baker is much more scenic and much more visible than Mount Hood. That is Mount Rainier at the top and Mount Baker above, viewed from Interstate 5 in the Skagit Valley, south of Mount Vernon.

Channel Islands National Park, out in the Pacific near Los Angeles, California is the #6 Wonder. I have never been to this National Park. It sounds pretty cool, referred to as "America's Galapagos." The only island group I have ever been to are the San Juan Islands in Washington. From the San Juans there are views of the Cascade Mountains to the east, the Olympic Mountains to the west, Mount Rainier to the south, Mount Baker to the east and one time a pod of Orcas surrounded the boat I was in.

Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico is the #7 Wonder. I have been to Carlsband Caverns National Park. I would definitely rank it ahead of Mount Hood and Redwoods National Park.

Now, here is where this list gets real goofy again. Arches National Park is #8. Mount Hood is a Bigger Wonder than Arches? And in my opinion, Arches is not even the Top Wonder in Utah. How do they leave Bryce Canyon National Park off this list. And Zion National Park? Or Canyonland National Park? If it's arches that fill you with Wonder, why is Rainbow Bridge, the world's tallest natural arch, not on the list. Just getting to Rainbow Bridge is a Wonder, because the easiest access is over Lake Powell, which takes you through scenery that is an Amazing Wonder. Canyonlands National Park is another Wonder in Utah. The Fiery Furnace Hike in Arches NP is one of the funnest things I've ever done. The view of Islands in the Sky in Canyonlands NP is one of the best Wonders my eyes have seen. My first visit to Zion Canyon, entering from the west, through the tunnel, remains one of the most jaw-dropping, stunning, memories of my life. I've repeated it several times. It never gets old. Maybe the Travel Channel should have just said all the Utah National Parks are Top 10 Wonders of the West.

The Columbia River Gorge is #9. The Travel Channel Top 10 Wonders of the West list has the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon. Actually it is in Oregon and Washington. The Oregon side has a very fun to drive, twisting, turning highway, built in 1916, with an eye to the views. The Washington side has Beacon Rock, a Rock of Gibraltar type monolith that is one of the biggest in the world, with a well-built trail to the top. The Gorge has one of America's most concentrated areas of waterfalls, including the second highest in America, that being Multnomah Falls. The hike up to the top of Multnomah Falls is truly a Wonder, as is the falls and the surrounding trails.

A strange aspect to having the Columbia River Gorge on this list is one might make a case that Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge are sort of part of the same scenic area. If you're looking for Wonders in Oregon, how do you forget the Oregon Coast and the Sand Dunes near Florence? And I've already mentioned Crater Lake National Park.

#10 on the list is Death Valley. I have been to Death Valley several times. It has never struck me as a Wonder or given me that sense of awe like I get when I see the Grand Canyon or Zion Canyon or Old Faithful erupt or Mount Rainier or Bryce Canyon or Yosemite. The Wonder of Death Valley is it is so HOT.

I don't know if I'd put Mount Hood and the Columbia River Gorge and Redwood National Park on a list of 20, or even 30, Top Wonders of the West. What about Olympic National Park? The Washington Coast Pacific Beaches? Craters of the Moon in Idaho? Glacier National Park in Montana? Lava Beds National Monument in California? (best spelunking I've ever done) Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado? Pikes Peak in Colorado? (the drive to the summit leaves you breathless) Monument Valley in Arizona? (a Wonder with some of the most recognized scenery in the world)

Anyway, I'd just hate to think a list like this might cause a traveler to drive by Mount Baker, Mount Rainier, Mount Shasta, Mount St. Helens or even Mount Lassen, to go out of their way to see Mount Hood. Not that Mount Hood is not a perfectly fine mountain, it just that I don't see how anyone could think it was the #5 Wonder of the West.

1 comment:

Cheap Tricks and Costly Truths said...

That's why we turn to "real" people like yourself for guidance...:)