SIX WILD & FREE PUBLIC LAND SANCTUARIES
We each get one life. Because life is short, I can’t advocate for spending time on empty or meaningless activities. Then again, to live a healthy and productive life sometimes we’ll all be required to do things we’d prefer not ever do in the first place. For example, I prefer not to spend time with dentists.
Not once did I step foot inside an office of dentistry, for the entire decade of my 20’s. Existence is double edged sword. Which is particularly true for anyone whom decided it was a solid idea to make a career out of dentistry. Thank you, but how? I horror at just the thought of what you do at work… You put your tools, and fingers, in wide open gaping mouths of strange people you barely know? Is that correct? That’s tough for me to envision myself being able to do. So I guess thanks my brothers and sisters of dentistry. All of you personally scare me, but thanks nonetheless.
Profound experiences in which learning and growth can be attained is more fulfilling for the human condition than sitting at a desk in a cubicle for the better part of an entire day. Based on these circumstances, I recommend taking the scenic routes when appropriate in life. If I have the extra time without running into larger problems in the process, I usually wander and enjoy the scenery. Based on my experience, I believe my strategy is foolproof. The following list includes six particularly scenic locations to visit and enjoy on U.S. public lands. All of the following regions come profoundly recommended.
BITTERROOT NATIONAL FOREST, MONTANA
Stunning and remarkable scenic values are free for the taking at Blodgett Canyon in Montana’s Bitterroot National Forest. Similar in a sense to the awe-inspiring natural beauty of Yosemite National Park, but without the crowds, amenities, roads, or modern developments. A stunning place to bear witness, experience, and hike on land owned by the American people.
SAWTOOTH NATIONAL RECREATION AREA, IDAHO
A few years ago on a road trip to explore the vast deserts and forests of eastern Idaho, somewhere near Salmon and Challis, I stumbled upon a fellow traveler and we struck up a conversation about the natural beauty in the area. As we discussed some of our favorite places to find nature’s beauty, my new acquaintance mentioned that the most stunning mountains her eyes had ever seen, were less than a three hours drive away from our current location.
Later that evening my road partner and I were pretty excited as we hit the highway for Stanley, Idaho, on a mission to find the Sawtooth Mountains. Nightfall eventually set in before we arrived at our destination for the night, so upon arrival we quickly set up camp in the dark and went to bed. Because Stanley, Idaho is located at a much higher elevation than the spot we’d broken camp from the night before, we spent our first night in the Sawtooth’s, frosted inside our sleeping bags. At best, the air in the high mountains near Stanley was bitterly cold.
The next morning the weather was as clear with brilliant blue skies surrounding camp in all directions. After briefly looking around at our surroundings, it was clear why this range of mountains came with such a positive recommendation. Because I’d never seen the Sawtooths before, they looked almost unreal to my eyes on a crisp, clear, and breathtakingly beautiful morning in September. These mountains turned out even bigger and better then I ever could have imagined. The beauty values of the entire region surrounding the pint-sized town of Stanley, Idaho are top-notch in every direction.
SAN JUAN ISLANDS
NATIONAL MONUMENT, WASHINGTON STATE
With so many beautiful regions and landscapes in the greater Pacific Northwest, it would be difficult to pick one single place as my favorite. There really isn’t one place I consider the most beautiful of them all… Nevertheless, the San Juan chain of islands in Washington State would be near the top of any hypothetical list I could create. If for some reason I was attempting to answer such questions. The natural beauty of the surrounding area is magnificent.
The largest land-mass above water in the San Juan chain is Orcas Island. Orcas also has the highest mountain peak in the region. Mt. Constitution rises 2400 feet above the surrounding waters. Legit hiking opportunities are available on Orcas, especially with a visit to Moran State Park. Obstruction Pass State Park is also a noteworthy hiking opportunity to check out while touching ground.
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, OREGON
Rising high above the adjacent Alvord Desert (the “playa”), Steens Mountain is unique and stunning among southeastern Oregon’s desert landscape. Due in large part to the remote location of Steens Mountain at the northern reaches of the vast Great Basin Desert, the landscape in the local area remains mostly wild and untamed. I recommend also exploring the neighboring Alvord Desert on any trip to the vicinity of Steens Mountain.
NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING
Established in 1872 as the world’s first National Park, Yellowstone was protected by the powers of the United States Congress, for the stated reason: “dedicated and set apart as a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”.
Yellowstone National Park protects an awesome and one of a kind natural landscape. Providing habitat for a diversity of native wildlife, in addition to all the mountains, lakes, rivers, geysers, hot springs, and other geothermal features… Yellowstone National Park is unquestionable national treasure owned by the American people.
Tip-Top Tip: The Yellowstone Region gets crowded during the summer tourist season. Then again, it doesn’t take much to escape the masses. While the roads and boardwalks are packed out, find a trail, and take a hike. It usually doesn’t take more than a quarter mile or so, to find solitude, and escape the crowds. The Yellowstone region has a numerous backcountry waterfalls and geyser areas that I personally don’t recommend that you miss. Since the vast majority of Yellowstone visitors do in fact miss out on viewing the backcountry attractions, these landmarks are extra special, for those that do make the trek.
BOB MARSHALL WILDERNESS COMPLEX
NATIONAL WILDERNESS PRESERVATION SYSTEM, MONTANA
An entirely intact ecosystem surviving into the 21st century? Not quite because Caribou and Buffalo had a historic presence in the region, and are absent from the present day Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex. Still, the “Bob” is about as close as it comes to unspoiled, untouched, and undisturbed landscape in the contiguous 48 states today.
The totality of the Bob Marshall Complex encompasses three individual, legally separate wilderness areas. All designated wildernesses adjoin and abut one another to cover the greater Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex region. Designated as the Scapegoat Wilderness, the Great Bear Wilderness, and the Bob Marshall Wildernesses. The complex includes approximately 1.5 million acres of wild land, actively managed to protect the natural values in the region. The complex also runs parallel with the southern border of Montana’s Glacier National Park.
Outside Alaska, the Bob Marshall Wilderness Complex (in conjunction with Glacier National Park immediately north of the complex) is one of the last remaining spaces in which humanity has left to remain wild and natural enough, for grizzly bears to maintain a continuing presence in the 21st century, without running into greater conflicts with modern humanity. (The Yellowstone National Park Region being the only other major location that Grizzlies still roam wild in substantial numbers in the contiguous 48 states).