Mount Rainier, WA

"The colors were almost fluorescent, and sickly sweet. The crystal-blue pond near the trail was ringed with the flowers, watched over by the trees of the most perfect green I have ever seen. Small explosions of fuchsia blooms, canary-yellow daffodils, and white buds sprinkled themselves among the enveloping waves of lilac like fireworks against the backdrop of verdant green."

Olympic, WA

"I marched down the beach to find the only redeeming part of this hike. The little crabs, in the many tide pools. Hundreds of them, running around the shallow water, all colors to match the rocks except for the red ones (which I noticed had been picked off by the crows in the sand). Thousands and thousands of tiny snails and hermit crabs had anchored themselves to every part of every rock."

Glacier, MT

"Aqua-blue, and as clear as the bright quartz that I collected as a kid. In fact, it almost looked as if the entire lake was still frozen, one large sheet of transparent ice. But the real glaciers floated on the water, laid static in a huge sheet at the base of the bowl of surrounding cliffs."

Craters of the Moon, ID

"As I returned through the one-foot crawl, my headlamp simply went out. Of course it did. I cursed, but turned on the only other flashlight I had, in my hand. Still, there had been a split second of panic as my eyes searched for light that wasn’t there, my brain confused at the curtain of dark that had so instantly fallen, like a blackout."

Grand Teton, WY

"The lady ranger came around to warn me, inexplicably appearing out of the dark green trees. She smiled confidently to warn me of the momma bear and cub that had just passed over the trail to the lake’s edge. I grinned nervously, and asked if she thought it was safe to pass. She hesitated, which was all the answer I needed."

Yellowstone, WY

"From the overlook, an unbelievably bright pool simmered and steamed down below. Acid-aqua and sulfur yellow, umber orange and ocean blue in the middle of this stark gray-swirled plane. The most beautiful water I have ever seen, although I couldn’t approach closer down on the actual boardwalks due to the perpetually full parking lot over there. A better view from above anyway, I think."