The mesmerizing waterfalls at Plitvice Lakes National Park are renowned for their unique colors, ranging from azure to green and blue. The waters are fed from underground Karst formations, and the colors change constantly throughout the day depending on the quantity of minerals and organisms in the water and the angle of sunlight.
Delicate travertine dams separate the 16 lakes that are visible on the surface, creating a unique ecosystem between each body of water. Formed as plants and bacteria in the water interact with the air, these barriers grow at a rate of 1 centimeter a year and continue to shape and form the myriad cascades the park is famous for.
Established in 1949, Plitvice Lakes is one of the oldest national parks in Europe and was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979. Croatia is a beautiful country with a rich and colorful past, and as one of the newest members of the European Union its friendly atmosphere and gorgeous scenery make this an ideal addition to any European adventure.
White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico is probably the least iconic spot within the National Park system. It has no sheer cliffs, no grand waterfalls, no red-rock strata, and no great clefts in the earth – in fact, it doesn’t even have a forest to call its own. And that’s just fine.
What it lacks in the notable landforms shared by other parks, it more than makes up for with an endless sea of the most glorious pure white gypsum sand and a special quality of light found nowhere else. Visiting White Sands is not so much a trip to see natural wonders as it is pilgrimage to experience an unparalleled expanse of light and form.
Our newest park is so vast and featureless in fact that once you leave the road in the main dune area it’s quite easy to get lost. The park service has placed pickets along major trails, but these often are blown down or buried in the shifting sands so carrying a GPS and noting distance land forms on longer hikes is a must.
The best times to visit are spring and fall when the temperatures are moderate, and as with any desert environment it’s essential to carry sun protection and water. Dusk and dawn provide the sweet light this park is known for and the rangers are very accommodating with gate closures. So the next time you’re heading to the southwest, make time to visit White Sands. It might be a little out-of-the-way, but it’s an experience you won’t soon forget.
TGIF – It’s easy to say after a long work week in which maybe things didn’t all go as planned, but we need to put things into perspective. Seventy-five years ago on this now quiet beach along the coast of Normandy, France decisions were made that have provided us with the freedoms we continue to enjoy today. This monument on Omaha Beach, Les Braves created by French sculptor Anilore Banon, is a tribute to the soldiers who made such great sacrifices during the Allied Invasion on D-Day to preserve our way of life.
Today I’m grateful to those who have given so much to allow me the opportunity to live and work as I choose. On Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day the National Park Service waives all entrance fees to the parks in honor of these sacrifices, but today is perhaps the best time to reflect on all that we have. So enjoy the day and exercise your freedom, through photography, sport or good company – and take a moment to remember those who helped make it all possible.