Channel Islands, CA

"Santa Cruz emerged from the mist, and we pulled into the craggy cliff face. All of the grass on the island was tawny, light brown and gold, coating the huge rolling hills that ended abruptly at the shore. Small, endangered foxes could be seen roaming the Scorpion Cove campsites, spoiled on human food, but so terribly cute with their catlike forms and faces."

Sequoia, CA

"It was a long, confusing trek to the General Sherman Tree, as well as the Congress Group and the President. I wondered what made these in particular so special. They looked identical to others I’d already passed on the trail. Apparently, General Sherman is the largest tree by volume in the world, at 275 feet tall and 36 feet in diameter at the base."

Yosemite, CA

"Nevada Falls billowed rainbow off the rock face, the icy water letting off a fiery, colorful aura that could not be properly photographed. It burned, absolutely, with every color, shamelessly. The Liberty Cap presided over this, as well as the deep, sweeping valley below. The wildflowers and trickling cliffs shone in the waning, warm sunlight. I stood there for a long time, watching, listening, and then I descended my final mountain peak for this trip."

Lassen Volcanic, CA

"And the best part of Lassen? The butterflies. Millions, billions of them, in orange and black sheets sweeping up the mountainside, carried onward by the winds. I was so dearly lucky to have seen such a thing, so many of them teeming so quickly through the air at once that they bounced off my sunglasses a few times. It felt as if this sight was just for me, as if they were welcoming me home in this swirling, colorful parade. I couldn’t believe it."

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."