CA, Alberta: Jasper National Park – Sunwapta Falls, Goat Lick, Maligne and Medicine Lake, Edith Cavell Mt – Angel Glacier and Ghost Glacier

Continuing our way up north on Icefields Parkway, after leaving Banff National Park, we pursued our adventure through Jasper National Park. Do you think we run out of superlatives in BNP?.. that was not really the case.Jasper National ParkJasper National ParkAt 11,228 km2, this is the largest national park in Canadian Rockies, with more than 1,000 km of trails in total, and 300 km are around the town of Jasper. Established in 1907, it is viewed today as a little island in the vast wilderness. Wildflowers and wildlife are the main attractions in JNP, beside the outstanding, fascinating scenery, breathless sensations and speechless feelings.Jasper National ParkThe park is open year-round, however during winter there might be roads closures due to avalanche-control work or snowstorms. The most visited season is summer July-August, and hiking the most common activity.Jasper National ParkAlthough the peaks are not very high they are among the most spectacular Rocky Mountains. Different sedimentary layers can be observed in the large and colourful valleys.Jasper National Park

The main points of interest in JNP, along the Icefields Parkway are: Athabasca Glacier, Athabasca Falls, Sunwapta Falls, and Goat Lick.

Sunwapta Falls are accessible after a short drive off the parkway. About 18m high, the falls are more spectacular in early summer, as the volume of water is high due to the glacier melting, and the falls become more turbulent, where the origin of the name comes (Sunwapta is a Stoney Indian word for turbulent river).Sunwapta Falls 1Sunwapta Falls 2Sunwapta Falls 4Sunwapta Falls 3

We felt so lucky to see several mountain goats at Goat Lick. This area is called like this because the goats gather here to lick the silt, a mineral rich in calcium and sulfate. We could see from the distance several cars stopped on the way, so we had time to slow down and not scare away the goats.Goat lick 1Goat lick 2Goat lick 3

The road to the Maligne Lake goes along Medicine Lake, both part of the Maligne Valley. Named by the natives Medicine Lake because they thought it has magical powers, is not an actual lake. During the fall and winter, the glacier melt waters that floods the lake during summer will disappear, becoming a basin with scattered pools of water connected by a stream. The water actually streams through a cave system, surfacing 16 km downstream of Maligne Canyon. When the melt water exceed the sinkholes, the Medicine Lake will “re-appear”.Medicine Lake 1Medicine Lake 2Maligne Lake 1Maligne Lake 2

Mt Edith Cavell was named after a WW I heroine, and it is the highest and probably the most scenic mountain in Jasper area. A short trail from the parking lot led us to the viewpoint right in front of the Angel Glacier, where the sun was shining over, just in time to see it going to sleep over the mountain.Angel Glacier 1Angel Glacier 2

At the feet of Angel Glacier lays the exquisite remnant of Ghost Glacier, where the small icebergs floating in the turquoise water gave us the impression of an Ice Age movie scene.Ghost Glacier

CA, Alberta: Banff National Park – Bow Valley Parkway, Johnson Canyon, Bow Lake, Peyto Lake

Leaving Canmore, where we had our base for few nights, for Jasper (our next stop), we found ourselves going through the heart of Banff National Park. I still didn’t know at that time BNP was going to be our secret memory factory.Leaving Canmore 4

Leaving CanmoreBanff National ParkEstablished in 1885, after three railway workers discovered a cave containing hot springs, BNP became a worldwide known park. After several changes in boundaries since its creation, the park has now 6,641 km2 of valleys, mountains, rivers, forests, glaciers and endless trills. Consisting of 2 major towns, Banff and Lake Louise, BNP has millions of visitors during the summer and winter looking for various activities. With about 1,600 km of trails, Banff seems to be the largest network of trails, which makes the park so famous. Located approximately 100 km west of Calgary, BNP is stretching 240 km along the Eastern slope of the Continental Divide (also known as Great Divide). The Continental Divide is the line following the height of land that separates areas drained by rivers that flow to opposite sides of the North American continent(in Canada, the water flowing in rivers eventually reaches the sea in either the Arctic, Atlantic, or Pacific Oceans).  The divide in Canada is not necessarily obvious and starts from a point somewhere in the Columbia Icefield, from which the three axes of the Continental Divide diverge.Leaving Canmore 2

Leaving Canmore 1Bow Valley Parkway (Hwy 1A) is the alternative route between Lake Louise and Banff, and it goes parallel with Bow River. Along this scenic 51 km route there are several viewpoints, picnic areas, campgrounds, and hiking trails. Johnson Canyon that goes along Johnson Creek is very famous for its spectacular charm, including the Lower Falls, where the creek falls abruptly. The trail up to the Lower Falls is about 1 km and goes along the canyon on a wide and easy path that turns into steel catwalks for some distance.Johnson Canyon 2

Johnson Canyon 1Sturdy and with solid handrails, these catwalks carried us at different levels of the canyon, so we could enjoy it from different angles along the route. It was really nice to see the heights of the canyon, from the bottom or from the top, deeply carved by the rapids of the creek, or by the Mother Nature over time.Johnson Canyon 5Johnson Canyon 6If you would like a little spray of water in the face, you can go closer to the falls through a little tunnel in the limestone bedrock. We didn’t have a chance to get to the Upper Falls, I understand they are even more spectacular.Johnson Canyon 3Johnson Canyon 4Nature at home, we witnessed new wonders of the life. No matter how hard the life can be, there is always a way up to the light.Johnson Canyon NatureThe shining and translucent blue waters of Bow Lake is one of the main points of interest along the Icefield Parkway. Named after the reeds that grew along the Bow River (and that were used by the local First Nations people to make bows), this magnificent lake was created when the Bow Glacier has melted away and retreated, leaving space for this peaceful oasis.Bow Lake 1

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Bow Lake 3Another significant viewpoint along the pathway, and my favourite one, is the stunning Peyto Lake. A short paved uphill trail (about 1 km) from the parking lot leads to one of the most scenic viewpoints in the whole area. Far below, Peyto Lake is spreading lazily its grace, in its exquisite coloured tones. You can stay mesmerized for hours staring at this breathtaking view.  Named after Bill Peyto, an early trapper and trail guide in Banff area, the lake is renowned for its brilliant turquoise colour during the summer time, and which is given by the reflection of the suspended glacial rock debris (flour or silt) that is carried from Peyto Glacier.Peyto Lake 2

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Peyto Lake 1Very interesting the panel where you can look at the Peyto Glacier today through a hole, while watching a picture of the glacier since 1885 and observe how much receding in all these years.Peyto GlacierAlong the highway, heading up north, you can’t really notice when Jasper National Park begins, but the best reference you are within the JNP boundaries is when you reach Athabasca Glacier

CA, Alberta: Wildlife along the Icefields Parkway

Canadian Rockies, home to a wealth of wildlife, is such a great place to observe many species! There are certainly specific rules for hiking in the “bear country”, and the safest one is to stay away from them🙂, since the bear spray might not be useful all the time!black bearWe didn’t really have time for much hiking in the few days we have spent through the parks, but we had a considerable opportunity to see plenty of wildlife during our stay, and I can say that every single day was a joy and a delight.elkbighorn sheep with babies

white tail deer

mountain goatsToday, black bears still exist in about 60% of their historical range. A very general population estimate suggests there may be up to 600,000 black bears in North America and more than 380,000 in Canada. Due to their relatively robust numbers, black bears are not a Species at Risk in Canada.

As more grizzly bears go to higher elevations in the spring and early summer, black bears tend to move to lower elevations to avoid grizzlies and feed on berries. In Banff National Park, black bears have become adept at using both wildlife overpasses and underpasses to cross the busy Trans-Canada Highway. However, their ability to climb trees also enables black bears to scramble over fence posts along the highway, exposing them to dangerous highway traffic.Today, the prairie population of grizzly bears is locally extinct in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. It was extinguished through human intolerance, market hunting, rapid conversion of habitat to agricultural fields, and loss of key prey (buffalo). It’s estimated that up to 20,000 grizzly bears remain in western Alberta, the Yukon and Northwest Territories and British Columbia. In Alberta, the grizzly bear is designated as threatened, while in British Columbia, it is blue-listed (at risk). The current estimate of the grizzly bear population on provincial lands in Alberta is 691, and up to 16,000 in British Columbia.

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baby mountain goatThe main threat for grizzly as well as black bear survival is the human. The increase in human population, along with the accidents causing mortality along the roads and railroads are the most common cause of bear death. We noticed along the Icefield Parkway several wildlife overpasses, and we learned there are in total 44 wildlife crossing structures (six overpasses and 38 underpasses), and 82 km of highway fencing. In this way, Banff National Park has the most wildlife crossing structures and highway enclosure fencing, reducing with about 80% the risk of animal accident.wildlife overpassWe didn’t realize at the beginning why the park rangers are coming so quickly if a bear is grazing along the main street, but we soon learned that actually most of the bears are marked and traced, for both human and bear safety reasons.herd of elksgrizzly bear

CA, Alberta: Athabasca River – Athabasca Falls – Athabasca Glacier – Glacier Skywalk

Name of Athabasca has originated from the Cree word where there are reeds, and most of the Athabasca names are to be found in Alberta.

The Athabasca River, with its 1,538 km, is the longest river in Alberta, and starts from an unnamed lake north of Mt Columbia, on the west side of Mt Athabasca and Athabasca Glacier, flowing to the north, and ending into the Arctic Ocean. The first 168 km, located in JNP are designated as a Canadian Heritage River, for its importance to the fur trade and the construction of railways and roads.athabasca-river-1Wide or narrow, rapid or slow, the river has impressed me the most at one confluence, when a limy flow of the river met the main stream. Interesting to see how much these streams will flow together without really mixing up. So different and so alike; and this is the beauty of the Mother Nature, she knows wonderfully to bring and blend the things together.athabasca-river-2The most impressive part of Athabasca River is located about 30km upstream of Jasper, where the spectacular Falls of Athabasca are located. athabasca-falls-3athabasca-falls-6Only 23 m high, Athabasca Falls are so powerful and forceful that one can see at how much carving over time the river has done to the walls of granite, creating different shapes and potholes in the deep gorge.athabasca-falls-5athabasca-falls-4athabasca-falls-2Splashes and rainbows at different times and different spots made the visit another wonderful place to feel the power and the thrill of the nature.athabasca-falls-1Athabasca Glacier, probably the most accessible glacier in North America, with its massive 6 km long and 1 km wide tongue stretches majestically within walking distance from the Icefields Parkway. The glacier can be viewed from the Parkway, or people can walk up the trail from the parking area to the foot of the glacier for a closer view, free of charge. But we decided we could not miss the adventure of riding and walking on the surface of the glacier, and chose the Glacier Adventure package, which includes both the riding the all-terrain Ice Explorer vehicle and the walk along the glass-floored Glacier Skywalk at the cliff’s edge over Sunwapta Valley.glacier-skywalk-1glacier-skywalk-2After missing the appointed time from the ticket because we were waiting at the end of the line, and didn’t hear the announcements (one need to be really close to the entry point to hear the staff), we had to reschedule for a couple of hours later. In this way we ended up going on the Skywalk first, and due to some mist appeared from nowhere, about 10 people and we had the whole Skywalk for ourselves. glacier-skywalk-4Which was actually the best thing for myself, since less vibrations while walking on the glass floor. Definitely the view could be better on a sunny day, nevertheless we enjoyed the top view and the whole valley entirely.glacier-skywalk-3Second part of the adventure was much more thrilling: a bus took us to a meeting point to get into a gigantic Ice Explorer, which took us up to the glacier itself.athabasca-glacier-8Big and slow, designed especially for glacier travel (with a cost about $ 1mil. to build an Explorer, accordingly with the driver), the vehicle has run on its way to the Glacier through a big puddle to wash its tires. We learned in this way that washing the explorer tires is helping to slow the melting process of the glacier. Actually it is truly amazing to hear how much this glacier is reducing its length, at a rate of several centimetres each day. We have been also told that each day new crevasses appear along the glacier, and each morning a security team is scrutinizing the visiting area, clearly marked with orange poles.athabasca-glacier-2athabasca-glacier-10Going outside of this area is not allowed, and even there, all crew members are watching carefully and continuously the whole surface.athabasca-glacier-9Most of the people did drink some melting water flowing through several cracks in the glacier. I personally didn’t dare to drink it, but that was very tasty so I heard. Amazing blue, translucent blue, incredible tone of colorless blue water: you need to look carefully in these pictures to see that there is actually water in these little puddles.athabasca-glacier-5athabasca-glacier-6Witnessing how a bit of meting water can create its own hole and channel in the glacier, I no longer wonder how fast the glacier is melting nowadays. While waiting for the rest of the people from my vehicle to come in, the driver with another crew member tried to deflect the course of some water that was trying to form a little puddle right under our feet. Receding and melting at an alarming rate, losing half of its volume and retreating more than 1.5 km in the past 125 years, Athabasca Glacier is the most visited glacier in North America.athabasca-glacier-3athabasca-glacier-4athabasca-glacier-0

CA, Alberta: Rocky Mountains – Icefields Parkway and its wonders

Rocky Mountains, North America’s largest mountain system, are widely known for dazzling valleys, rocky peaks, abundance of wildlife, snow-covered ridges, and alluring meadows. The Canadian Rockies extend 1,200 km north from the American borders, in both provinces of British Columbia and Alberta. You could spend months in these pristine lands, never seeing the same scene; you can do biking, hiking, horse riding, boating, fishing, rafting, Via Ferrata, or just simply open-mouthed staring if that could be named as an “activity”J. The week we spent in 2016 in these lands filled me with so much gratitude and energy I could hardly imagine I could get.icefields-parkway-2

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Arriving in the mountains on a gloomy day, enveloped by the misty clouds, we found easily our way coming from Vancouver, via Okanagan Valley. We learned on our way about endless means of trekking; while walking and biking on the Highway is forbidden in province Ontario, it seems this is allowed in the provinces of Alberta and British Columbia.

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The most extensive, most accessible and most famous ice field in North America, along the AB – BC border and along the Continental Divide is Columbia Icefield. This is a remnant of the last major glaciation, and about 325 km2 accordingly with some sources, however all glaciers are receding at a fast speed. As the glaciers retreated and melted away, piles of rock and sedimentary layers were left behind. Beautiful carvings were formed over decades by rapid rivers, and gorgeous lakes have emerged in their amazing emerald and turquoise colours due to the glacial silt suspended in the glacial water.

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One of the most scenic drives in the world, and one of the purpose in our trip, Icefield Parkway offers so many wonders and surprises that one cannot even dare to think about. Located along the Columbia Icefield, the Icefield Parkway links Lake Louise to Jasper, offering inspiring scenery, wildlife watching, exciting activities and so much more. The route is actually built right along the main lookouts, with easy access to few main glaciers, valleys and some other important points of interest. All of its winding 232 km going through the heart of Jasper and Banff National Parks, are such a grand sight, a delightful spectacle that one must see to fully understand. More than a drive, this journey through the majestic Rocky Mountains still remains the most visited place in Canada. With the new Free 2017 Discovery Pass, it might even be the most visited place in the world, in 2017!

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Icefield Parkway can be easily traveled in 3 to 4 hr, however to really enjoy all the stops and views you have along the route, it is better to do it in a full day, and take as much time as you can to experience every kind of feeling at every stop or viewpoint, marked or unmarked. And following the journey with our trusted instincts, we found ourselves immersed in the seducing and mesmerizing adventure, a true odyssey of our life.

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US, Wyoming: Devils Tower

Of course, the Tower reminded me of one of the first Steven Spielberg’s famous movies Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Faded memories of a black and white wallpaper, or a strange pile dumped on a wrong spot. Watching this movie as a kid left me with impression of a mysterious place, a picture painted with non-matching colours on a rough, and old wallpaper. No nightmares about aliens, but only fantasies about foreign places. Growing up without computers and internet, I only found much later what Devils Tower was.
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Many Native American legends have circulated about Mato Tipila, meaning “Bear Lodge”. It might be the most popular one is from Kiowa Tribe:
One day, an Indian tribe was camped beside the river and seven small girls were playing at a distance. The region had a large bear population and a bear began to chase the girls. They ran back toward their village, but the bear was about to catch them. The girls jumped up on a rock about three feet high and began to pray to the rock: “Rock, take pity on us; Rock save us”.
The rock heard the young girls’ pleas and began to elongate itself upwards, pushing them higher and higher out of the bear’s reach. The bear clawed and jumped at the sides of the rock, but broke its claws and fell to the ground. The bear continued to jump at the rock until the girls were pushed up into the sky, where they are, to this day, in a group of seven little stars (the Pleiades cluster). Marks from the bear’s claws still line the sides of Devils Tower.
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America’s first national monument (designated by President Teddy Roosevelt in 1906) stands out in a straight and lofty posture of its 865 feet, visible from a very far distance. Actually many cars only stop at the last intersection before the entrance, where the best view is probably from, and then they turn around pursuing their next destination. But not us. We continued our way to the monument, even though the busy road and slow traffic made us chew our nerves a little bit.
Located in the South East of Wyoming, closer to Mt Rushmore rather than Yellowstone Park, this was a last minute destination added on our road trip, due to a documentary we watched coincidentally a week before we left for our adventure. Isn’t that destiny? How convenient to find new places right on our pathway!
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Several miles of footpaths to watch wildlife and rock climbing are the most looked activities one can have it here. There are certain regulations for rock climbing, and actually there were quite few climbers on the tower while we were hiking around.
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Col. Richard Dodge named the place Devils Tower in 1875, when he was leading a military expedition to confirm the reports of gold in the Black Hills. Back then, scientists thought Devils Tower was the core of an ancient volcano. But no other volcano traces were found in the area, and recent research suggest this is an igneous intrusion. Anyway, a great place for geologists, they continue to search for more detailed explanations of the tower itself and of the vertical structure of the walls.
Very interesting to see how something can emerge and grow due to erosion, and now it is diminishing due to the same reason. Rocks are continually breaking off and falling from the steep walls. Sometimes an entire column falls, and the piles of rubble and broken columns, boulders and stones are the proof that the Tower was actually much taller and larger than today.
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Important place of worshiping for Natives, Mato Tipila is still thought today as an Axis Mundi, the core of their spirituality. All visitors are advised to not touch the colorful bundles and pieces of cloth tied around branches around the Tower, prayer offerings representing personal connection to the site. As foreigners on their ancient lands, we could not do otherwise, than respect and admire their continuous tradition.
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Having a late lunch at one of the restaurants in the park we had refreshed out mind and body with some local specialties: Texan fingers and buffalo burgers. The very long waiting time made us wondering if, maybe they went to hunt the buffalo in the meantime, but watching all the funny notes from the walls made us forget about hunger.
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The surprise of the afternoon came later, after our bellies were full and happy. Heading to the exit of the park we had a little unexpected show with some little cute prairie dogs. A young couple were feeding them so they can come closer for better pictures, so we stopped right away to take advantage of the show. Not sure why they call them dogs, since they more appear like tiny dinosaurs to me, but none the less, they are so playful and energetic when fighting for food with each other, and we enjoyed so much.
Prairie dogs actually got their name from the sound they make when danger is near: barks or yips. Cute, small rodents for visitors they can be a pain for farmers, as they have same diet as cattle and horses, and can destroy a farmer crop of alfalfa, hay, wheat or corn. These ground squirrels live in underground towns, their tunnels go down about 3 to 5 meters, and can be about 30 meters from one entrance to another. They are very social and live in colonies, or towns that contain hundreds of members. The towns are divided into wards, and then neighbourhoods. Each neighborhood is made up of family members and have bedrooms, nurseries, bathrooms, and also a listening room, where they listen for danger when getting outside. The entrance is surrounded by a pile of soil which serves as a lookout and protect their burrow against flood. It seems they even make social visits to their neighbours, greeting them with a sort of kiss, and grooming one another.
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FR, Grasse: Scented memories

Have you ever had a song stuck in your head, a poem, or a picture? Or just simply a sweet memory of a place, event, or a person? Or some fond memories like my flavored nostalgia of the pretty city of Grasse, the centre of the French (and even the world) perfume industry?

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Distracted or rather lost in the city, we ended up going to Fragonard Perfumery, a place with certain feelings and casual perceptions.

Swirling through the flasks and stills, perfume containers, and bottles, we learned a bit about perfume history and perfume making in their own little museum.

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And the last but not the least we ended up to their gift store where we enriched our already fragrant senses.

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US, South Dakota: Black Hills – Keystone – Mt Rushmore or Great faces – Great places

Black Hills are only one-hour drive from Badlands National Park. The name comes from the native Lakota Paha Sapa meaning hills that are black, because they look dark from distance. And this is not because the hills are dark, but because of the green vegetation standing out in the middle of the plains. Coming from the eastern grasslands, we could see Black Hills rising from afar, where the pine forests and the granite peaks create a distinctive landscape from what we’ve seen until now. One of the oldest mountains in North America, these hills are actually the highest mountains east of the Rockies with its highest peak little over 2,200 m.

Black Hills

Black Hills

Black Hills

Considered a home of Lakota Sioux and the center of their spirituality, The Black Hills were ever changed when gold was discovered in 1876 in Deadwood. Described as the “Island in the Plains”, The Black Hills actually contain 5 national parks, and offer everything for a great destination: scenic drives, trails, waterfalls, fishing places and endless attractions for the whole family.

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Deadwood

Keystone, founded in 1891 when gold was discovered here, flourished in 1894 when the city reached nearly 3,000 people (larger than Rapid City at that time). Now the city offers a unique feeling of a western town, with lots of boutiques and shops. What strikes you is the 1880 style; if you would not see so many visitors, you would feel like in a western movie, waiting for a gunman to show off at any window, or the seven magnificents come around the corner.

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Keystone

Keystone

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From caves to museums, from mines to the trails, even digging for gold:), this whole area is now so touristy that one can get entertained for weeks with so many adventures and activities.

Big Thunder Gold mine

Big Thunder Gold mine

Big Thunder Gold miners

One spectacular place close to Keystone is Mt Rushmore, named after a New York lawyer who came to investigate mining claims in 1885. Carved within 14 years, between 1927 and 1941, the mount represents a shrine to the American democracy. The granite faces of four American presidents were selected on the basis of what each symbolized: George Washington was the father of the country, Abraham Lincoln for preserving the Union, Thomas Jefferson for expressing the Declaration of Independence, and Theodor Roosevelt for the world affairs and expansionist dreams. The sculptor Gutzon Borglum selected this mountain because of its height and consistency, and also because it catches the sun for the greatest part of the day.

Mt Rushmore

Even though the project spanned 14 years, only about 6.5 years were spent actually for carving, while the rest of the time was spent due to bad weather, or the lack of funding. The total cost of the project was about $900,000, and continued until the death of Borglum.

Mt Rushmore

A surprise to our evening there was the Lighting Ceremony that started with a little presentation by a park ranger, and a video about Mt Rushmore. The ranger called for all military and veterans out of the audience to join him on the stage and help him with the flag-folding ceremony. Also, he asked each of them to present themselves, with names and ranks. What I found very touching was the moment when almost everyone in the audience sang the national anthem, and I could feel the true patriotic vibe in the air. Lighting the faces of the presidents was under our expectation, but still their illuminated faces were worth staying up so late.

Mt Rushmore

Mt Rushmore

Mt Rushmore

Until the wind and the rain alone shall wear them away” – Gutzon Borglum

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US, South Dakota: Badlands National Park

There is a time when one will go backpacking, there is a way where one will go biking, but here is the time when one needs a car, as long North American roads require.

Heading South through North Dakota happened in a blink of the eye. The friendliest (Dakota is the native Sioux word for “friend/ally”) highways with almost no traffic gave us the chance to reach our first way point very soon: Badlands National Park. Not that the lands we’ve seen in the first 2 days of our trip were any better (chuckle!), but I can’t really say that the prairies, or rather the Great Plains, were very appealing. The Great Plains cover most of North and South Dakota, and the endless plains, hills, shrubs and grass that you can see all over can make you think if these areas are really inhabited. But yes, ranching is the predominant agricultural activity, as we could see hundreds of herds of cattle with alternating fields with rolls of hay; so we figured out people are still living in these places (I guess only the brave ones), even though we very rarely saw anyone.

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Deciding that we will visit several national parks this summer, in the states, we agreed to buy an Annual pass. I believe this is a great way to promote outdoor activities, since the pass provides access to all national parks in US, and there are really quite few!!

The Big Badlands (Badlands National Park) covers about 244,000 acres of buttes, pinnacles and spires mixed with and in the middle of grand prairies.

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These desolated places, ravaged over ages by wind and water have become so colourful in their multiple sedimentary layers of yellow, red, white and orange, and where many fossils were discovered over time (e.g. three-toed horses, saber-toothed cats). Actually the park is considered the world’s greatest fossil bed of animals from Oligocene Epoch of the Age of Mammals of approximately 30 million years ago.

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Mother Nature, the actual sculptor in these forgotten landscapes, is carving graciously about 1 inch every year, creating surreal shapes, fantastic pinnacles, rugged dunes, and multicoloured layers in all the steep canyons and ravines. Deep gorges between these cute pinnacles make the hiking dangerous outside of the main path, and very few courageous or rather reckless people ventured to walk on top of these treacherous, adjoining little trails.

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Driving the spectacular 30-mile Badlands Loop Road through this amazing cluster, myriad of pinnacles, I could see why The Lakota named this place “Mako Sica”, meaning “land bad”. Rocky but fragile ridges are spread as much as one could see along the horizon. Patches of prairie grass lay down below or far in the distance. And while the sky seems so close to this collection of hillocks, as a guardian over time, I could not stop wondering if these are truly earthly lands or they are some strange alien territories from another space or another time.

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