GLACIER NATIONAL PARK, MONTANA
Glacier National was established in 1910, but its more than 1 million acres have been knocking around way before then, some 170 million years before, give or take a few million. Things were much flatter at that time, but then ancient rocks started shifting their shoulders, a kind of geological shrug, and mountains formed. Fossils have been found in these rocks that are considered to be some of the best examples of early life anywhere on earth, before life was doing very much of anything. In the mid nineteenth century there were roughly 150 glaciers in the park. As of 2010, there were twenty five. At this rate of climatic change, it’s estimated those will be gone by 2020.
DENALI NATIONAL PARK, ALASKA
It’s one of the wildest places on earth, six million acres fenced off to create a wildlife preserve. 92 miles long, Denali Park Road is the only way in, and it’s only paved for the first fifteen miles. For you and your car, that’s the end of the line. To venture further, it’s shuttle buses, tour buses, or for a more hands-on experience, courtesy buses are available that let you get on and off anywhere along the road. McKinley, America’s highest mountain, can be seen on clear days from 70 miles away. For practical purposes, you’ll only want to visit Denali between May and September when it’s relatively warm and light out. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see America’s Big Five and not be pawed, speared, gutted or filleted. That’s moose, grizzly, wolf, caribou, and Dall sheep, not to be confused with Masoor Dal, which is an Indian soup made with lentils, and pretty tasty if you don’t mind it hot. To get some sense of this vast tract of land, go up in a small aircraft. It’ll give some perspective over how insignificant you are. It’s nothing personal.