There are few places in the world that have truly taken my breath away. One of them was Mt. Rainier National Park, when my dad and I drove through the park on the way back from our drive to Glacier National Park (in Montana) last year. We had taken a wrong turn, so tried to go through Mt. Rainier National Park to get to our destination but the darned road was closed when we got to the top of the pass. But where we turned around was absolutely breathtaking! It had wildflowers and glaciers and snow in autumn - just amazing. I had snow-shoed on a different part of Mt. Rainier a few years before that, which is where the picture above was taken.
Another place that took my breath away was when Matt and I drove to Alaska. We'd driven 7 long days and had passed up and through the Canadian Rockies which are just jaw-droppingly beautiful. But once we got to Alaska itself, we rounded this bend, and words just involuntarily spilled from my mouth: Oh My God. Alaska is just one of those places you have to see to believe. It was just this massive stretch of glaciated peaks that you could not believe! The third place that took my breath away - oh, wait, besides the Grove of the Patriarchs which is also in Mt Rainier National Park, is the Olympic National Park Hoh Rainforest (so I guess that makes it the 4th). It's so lush and mossy and ferny and well it reminds me of a simpler time. It reminds me of Hobbiton, the Shire of Lord of the Rings, maybe. I wonder why are all these places in the Pacific NW? I don't know, I guess even after traveling to Peru, Ecuador, Australia, Nepal my soul is in love with the Pacific NW!
At any rate, in one of the classes I teach online, a student passed along a link to an amazing article on protecting silence in our national parks - and the most silent place in all the US? The Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park (where I'm going in a couple weeks)! One of the exercises I have students in my Advanced Writing Workshop complete is to find an article that you think is truly outstanding, and then analyze why. This student chose, Silence Like Scouring Sand: One of America's quietest places, and the valiant effort to keep it that way by Kathleen Dean Moore, in Orion Magazine.
The topic, the lack of silence in our nation, also interests me because when I give feedback to students on their "Outdoor Observation Journals" which I have them do is how often the journals observe human sounds - whether cars, planes, barking dogs, or the like. I have students go out in nature, and record the sights, sounds, smells, etc but inevitably - every single journal I read - there's always some sound of humanity, even when students go on a hike in a state park or preserve. So I found this particular article really cool. And it's great writing.
My own favorite is Rick Bass' article in OnEarth Magazine, Return of the Black Rhino. It has poetry, drama, and beauty. It's got great character development, something often lacking in nonfiction conservation articles. I usually get bored by most feature articles, but this is just absolutely fantastic. There's even death, but I won't spoil the ending and say what happens... you'll have to read it yourself.