Dr. Val Farmer
Rural Mental Health & Family Relationships

The Ten Most Beautiful Places In America

August 28, 2006

I have been fortunate. I was born in Montana and lived in the west - Montana, Washington, Utah, California and Arizona - during my childhood and young adult years.

People often ask what my hobbies are. One answer is travel. If I had to pick an occupation for sheer fun, it would be nature photography. Or maybe a combination of nature and cultural photography. My wife, Darlene has been a willing and occasional reluctant partner is these travel adventures.

The ten most beautiful places. I want to share with you some places I’ve been that are magnificent beyond words. I am going to group ten places in no particular order. Each has a beauty that is unique and incomparable.

- Yosemite Valley, California from above and looking up from below. From any angle.

- Avenue of the Giants - a Redwood forest drive in Northern California. Unbelievable.

- Grand Canyon and, in particular, Havasu Falls in Havasu Canyon found at the bottom after a ten mile hike down into the canyon. Twin waterfalls falling into a pool of turquoise blue water.

- Kalalau Valley along the Na Pali cliffs on the North Coast of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands. I hiked in 11 miles and spent a week there looking up at the sheer cliffs and looking out at roiling sea.

- Olympic National Park - a moss covered rain forest in splendorous greens.

- Crater Lake, Oregon. Perfect reflective beauty I have seen once and have never forgotten.

- Bryce and Zion Canyons in Utah. The colors and accessibility of Bryce and the panoramas of Zion are nature’s masterpieces. We spent a week camping in Zion Park.

- Badlands in South Dakota as viewed from Sheep Mountain or from anywhere for that matter. Incredible sight.

- The Black Hills of South Dakota: Spearfish Canyon, Mt. Rushmore and Crazy Horse mountain, Custer State Park, Sylvan Lake, The Needles - the Black Hills are America’s best kept secret.

- The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone Parks. Mountain majesty and expansive and boiling, spewing nature. Yellowstone Falls from any vista.

Honorable mentions. That is my top ten. Now for my honorable mention list, also in no particular order.

Rain forests north of Hilo, Hawaii. Mount Ranier. Mount Shasta. Golden Gate Bridge. Southern Oregon coast. Going up and over the Beartooth Mountains in Wyoming to Montana. Wilderness camping in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming. Devils Tower, Wyoming. Picturesque Mendenhall Glacier, near Juneau, Alaska. Saguaro National Park near Tucson, Arizona - the Arizona desert in bloom after heavy spring rains.

The north shore of Lake Superior from Duluth to the Canadian border. Camping at Iceberg Lake in Glacier National Park. Alpine scenery in Rocky Mountain National Park and near Aspen, Colorado. Hanalei Beach on Kauai. Wisconsin Dells. Louisiana bayous and causeway north of New Orleans. The north shore of Oahu.

Times Square and New York City skyline. Historic sights of Washington DC. Wisconsin farms and countryside.

Mississippi River drives. Lake Powell, Arizona. San Diego Zoo. The San Antonio Riverwalk. Cape Canaveral and Kennedy Space Center. Outer Banks, North Carolina. 17 mile drive on Monterey Peninsula, California. Lake Tahoe.

To do list. Admittedly, I haven’t seen Niagra Falls, Carlsbad Caverns, New England in fall colors, Monument Valley, Arizona and Arches National Park in Utah. Isle Royale or Mackinac Island in Michigan. Mesa Verde National Park and Colorado River trip. Savannah, Georgia and Charleston, South Carolina. Florida Keys. Everglades. These places have allure for me and might crack my top ten list.

What did I leave off my top ten list for American travel? What are your favorite places?

International travel. I have done some international travel, not as much as I like but enough to make some observations.

Greece: View of Athens and the Acropolis from Mt. Lycavittos. Greek food. Visiting Crete, Santorini, Mykonos and Rhodes - each Greek island is a jewel and a treasure. The rich and famous have discovered Santorini and soon everyone else will.

Turkey: Roman ruins at Ephesus.

Canada: Arctic ocean from Ellesmere Island, Northwest Territories. Canadian Rockies - Banff, Jasper and Lake Louise. Quebec countryside. Montmorency Falls outside of Quebec City. Restaurants in Winnipeg. Grain elevators and canola fields in Saskatchewan. The view of Vancouver, B.C. from Grouse mountain. Chinatowns in Montreal and Vancouver. Countryside of Prince Edward Island.

France: Paris, Paris and more Paris. Plenty to do and see - architecture, museums, palaces, cathedrals. French cooking. Town Square in Nancy. World War I history at Verdun. French countryside. Trains. The Alps around Grenoble.

Luxemburg: charming, beautiful and accessible.

Japan: Beauty of temples, shrines and gardens in Kyoto and Kamakura. Festivals. Trains. Unique cultural experience. The size of Tokyo. Vibrant city of Fukuoka.

Mexico: The beaches of Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan. Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza and Uxmal. The ruins at Monte Alban and Teotihuacan. The waterfall at Eyipantla.

Guatemala: Lake Atitlan surrounded by cone-shaped volcanoes. Guatemalan highland cities and towns such as Quetzaltenango and Chichicastenango.

Eastern Europe: Castles in Slovakia.. St. Petersburg, Russia - architecture, palaces, museums, and Russian Orthodox churches. Krakow - Polish history and faith. Vienna - great city to visit. Everything about Prague - stunning beauty.

Places we’d like to see. Someday we plan to visit Argentina, China and Mongolia and the Lake Baikol area of Siberia.

I’ve heard that Italy is near the top of everyone’s list travel list: Venice. Almafi coast. Tuscany. Florence. The Austrian or Swiss Alps. Egypt. Croatia. Istanbul. Hong Kong. The Norwegian coast. New Zealand.

What else should be on my travel list?