Speed Kills in National Parks

One of the things I have learned from visiting numerous national parks is that it’s the journey and not the destination that matters. While you may have a specific destination in mind when you start off the day, sometimes the greatest adventures and most fun come from the unexpected side paths that reveal themselves and you choose to take. It’s the journey of getting to where I am heading rather than the destination which usually proves to be what gives me the most out of my trips.

With this in mind, it amazes me that so many people that visit national parks seem to be in such a hurry to get somewhere. They are so focused on the destination that they forget to take in all the wonderful and unexpected surprises along the way. This seems to be especially true when it comes to getting somewhere by car in national parks.

speeding kills bears sign

When you visit national parks this summer, remember to slow down. Take your time to admire the beauty and wonder all around you, even when in the car. Not only for yourself, but for all the animals that call the national park their home. Speeding cars kill far too many of the animals living in national parks than it should…

Sequoia National Park wildflowers

I sometimes get asked why I go back to the same national parks again and again. Some of my friends seem to think that national parks are static and never changing. Their assumption is that once you have seen one place, then there is no real reason to see it again because you’ll simply be seeing the same thing that you saw the last time you visited. I think that most of them don’t realize how much national parks change depending on the time of year that you visit them, or even the time of day.

The truth is that national parks are dynamic and ever changing. I don’t remember a time when I have visited an national park and thought “nothing has changed.” Whether I am viewing iconic landscapes in a different season where plant and flowers are completely different, or simply in a different light due to where the sun happens to be, I constantly find new and interesting things with each visit.

While much of Sequoia national park was covered in snow during my last visit, coming to the park in June allowed me to discover this:

sequoia national park wildflowers

pink wildflowers Sequoia

One of the greatest parts of national parks is their ability to get you to slow down a bit and relax. if you can manage to do this, you will notice that while the general landscapes may appear to stay relatively the same over time, the truth is that you will never see them the same way twice no matter how many times you visit. Please visit them often to try and prove me wrong 🙂

Stephen Tyng Mather Memorial Plaque Sequoia National Park

One of the things I like most about wandering in national parks is that by simply taking a path a bit different than most people, you often stumble upon little things that many people may not know about. Walking along the road from Tunnel Log to Crescent Meadow (the road was closed to traffic except shuttle buses, so it seemed to be a great way to get some solitude on a busy weekend at Sequoia National Park when there were a lot of people at most places), I spied a something off on the left hand side of the road. While I wouldn’t say that the area was overgrown, it was definitely not a place that had been kept pristine.

The rock was off the road a ways and shrouded by trees so that most people driving by in the shuttle bus or in their own car would never even notice it was there. Even if they did happen to see it, there is no turn-out or place for a car to stop. Only those who happen to be walking in that area are likely to have ever seen it.

As I came closer to it, I saw that it was a memorial plaque dedicated to Stephen Tyng Mather:

Stephen Tyng Mather Memorial Sequoia national park

This is what the inscription read:

Stephen Tyng Mather July 4, 1867 – January 22, 1930

He laid the foundation of the national park service, defining and establishing the policies under which its areas shall be developed and conserved unimpaired for future generations. There will never come an end to the good he has done.

Stephen Tyng Mather Memorial Plaque at Sequoia national park

While I know that most people won’t think this is something that is worth going out of their way to see when they visit Sequoia national park due to limited time and so many places to see in the park, it’s a secret bit of knowledge that you can try to spy if you ever happen to be in the area…

Tijuca National Park Brazil

Unusually for a city, Rio de Janeiro has its very own National Park within the city. In fact the Tijuca Forest National Park is itself one of the main attractions of Rio, and is famous for being home to Corcovado Mountain, the statue of Christ the Redeemer, and numerous other well-known landmarks and attractions. It’s easy to spend a full day there, whether you’re exploring on foot, bicycle, or in the back of a Jeep being driven by a local guide.

One of the last remaining areas of Atlantic Rainforest in the state, the Tijuca Forest actually isn’t primary rainforest. Until the mid-19th century, what is now Tijuca Forest National Park was covered in sprawling sugar and coffee plantations. As the plantations took their toll on the soil and environment in general, The Portuguese King Dom Pedro II ordered that the forest be replanted to restore the natural splendour of the area. After thirteen years of slave labour, the project was a spectacular success, the results of which can be seen and enjoyed today.

 Rio Corcovado Waterfall Brazil

Like national parks around the world, Tijuca offers a multitude of outdoor activities to its visitors. Mountain climbing is a popular choice, and the park boasts access to a few stone mountains, including Pedra Bonita, Pedra da Gávea, Bico do Papagaio, and Rio’s highest peak, Pico da Tijuca. Any of these spots offer amazing views of the city, and tandem paragliding and hang gliding tours take off from Pedra Bonita for those who really want to engage nature and see Rio from a truly special perspective.

As a protected forest, it probably comes as no surprise that it’s a good place to see animals, and birds in particular. For those interested in bird watching it’s a great spot, as over 500 species of bird call Tijuca home. Even if you’re just casually walking through the forest on your own or as part of a Jeep tour, there’s every chance you’ll see monkeys as well — or at least hear them. There are numerous beautiful waterfalls and streams to be seen as well, and even more options for explorations underground if you’re not the claustrophobic type. Gruta Luiz Fernandez is a limestone cave where visitors to the park can go spelunking, rappelling, or wandering just for fun.

Christ Statue Brazil

Last but not least, and probably a fairly obvious omission thus far, is the statue of Christ the Redeemer, symbol of Rio and even Brazil in general. As one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, it is a sight not to be missed, and though it’s visible from all over the city, it really is different seeing it up close. Apart from the view of the statue itself, looking down on the city of Rio from the vantage point of Corcovado Mountain it absolutely worth the trip up.

Dan Clarke is a regular visitor to Brazil as part of his work for Real Brazil Holidays, a UK tour operator specialising in tailor-made travel to Brazil, including the Tijuca Forest and Iguazu Falls national parks.

Tunnel Log Sequoia National Park

While recently visiting Sequoia National Park, I decided I wanted to see Moro Rock, but the road was closed except to shuttle buses. The shuttle bus stop after Moro Rock is for Tunnel Log. Although the bus I was on was full (all the seats were taken with plenty of people standing), I was surprised when we reached Tunnel Log to see nobody outside and not a soul on the bus move to step outside. I saw this as my chance to escape the weekend crowds for at least a little bit and stepped off the shuttle. The bus took off and, to my delight, I was left there by myself.

The first thing I did (well, besides a little happy dance to be on my own) was to take a look at the impressive statistics of the hollowed out log:

tunnel log sign Sequoia National Park

Any tree that is big enough that a car can drive through it is pretty damn impressive:

Tunnel Log at Sequoia national park

While the tunnel is what I assume most people would focus upon, I also found the weather root system of Tunnel Tree to be both beautiful and on par in impressiveness as the tunnel itself:

root system of Tunnel Log

And just because I know most people wouldn’t even bother to take a photo of what the inside roof of the Tunnel Log looked like, I had to do it (charred with graffiti on top)

top inside of Tunnel Log

I am still a little baffled why nobody wanted to explore this area, but I thoroughly enjoyed the chance to do so without anyone else around…