When I came to the States, I stumbled upon a site called Frommer’s Travel Guide that uses “experiences” to describe travel destinations and their attractions. So instead of “a beautiful waterfall”, an experience is “jump into a clear pool under a beautiful waterfall”. It struck me how proper this way is. You can know a mountain pretty well from a photo or a Wikipedia page, but you can only experience a mountain when you go there. Weather, companion, food, activity, animal, random encounters, all these define your particular experience with that mountain, and it’s your unique memory.
Some experiences can be easily copied, some cannot because of rare elements. Experiences gained from efforts (e.g. long hikes) tend to be more memorable, but some easy experiences can also be very appealing.
I want to write about national parks because I really love the national park system. It’s one of the best aspects of the United States we can experience and enjoy. Especially in the era that so many other things feel so messed up, we can always seek serenity, order, peace, and civilized behavior in national parks. I’ve been to 34 of them and they covered most of my best travel experiences.
10. Petrified Forest: Devil’s Playground
Petrified Forest NP is such a secluded national park that when I walked into their visitor center, there are only two rangers and zero visitors, zero. One of the rangers welcomed me: “Welcome to Grand Canyon!”
Without little hope, I asked, “do you still have permits for Devil’s Playground?” It’s an area that they only issue 3 permits each week. To my surprise, they still have!
It was a 4-mile-ish hike, starting with finding your own way to descend into a dry riverbed and ending with one of the most untouched lands I’ve ever seen. Those elephant-skin surfaces look like they have been there for thousands of years, so otherworldly yet so fragile.
On the way back I saw an amazing desert sunset with a light pillar at the horizon. It looks stunning.