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10 Best of Everything, National Parks

Author : National Geographic
Published : 2011-04-12

In a catchall bid to categorize the national parks, the staff at National Geographic has a new book for you just in time for National Park Week. 10 Best Everything, National Parks, is a book of lists, with the parks as a backdrop for those lists.

Turn to the index of this book and you'll find parks by the 10s:

* 10 best national park landmarks

* 10 best parks for "amazing trees"

* 10 best parks for waterfalls

* 10 best volcanic parks

* 10 best parks for finding dinosaur remains

And on and on and then on some more.

Of course, while this book provides you with plenty of ideas from which to build your own national park checklist around, it also is good fodder for arguments. Why, for instance, do the authors list Canyonlands National Park under its 10 best parks for "(D)istinctive, prominent, and instantly recognizable natural landmarks," and yet not include nearby Arches National Park, home to Delicate Arch, a landmark so notable it graces Utah's license plates?

The authors, perhaps recognizing a way to list more parks than they might otherwise, rectify this oversight by citing the 10 best parks for "Rocks & Arches." Arches, of course, gets first mention.

Quibblers also might wonder why, under the 10 best parks for fossils and dinosaurs, the authors include Glacier National Park, even though they note "(T)he fossils themselves aren't much to look at," and yet overlook Yellowstone with its fossilized trees.

Beyond geologic and natural resource lists, the book also touches on 10 best parks for "short backpacking trips," "backpacking: epic hikes," for "horse riding," for "day hikes," and even for "walk-up summits" and "accessible trails."

But there's more. Would you believe a 10 best parks for "day hikes with a twist"? This chapter points out such trails as the Precipice Trail in Acadia National Park, the Eagle Cliff Mine Loop in Joshua Tree National Park, the Harding Icefield Trail in Kenai Fjords National Park, and, of course, the Narrows in Zion National Park.

Here's how the Harding Icefield Trail is described:

Call it a staircase to the Ice Age. This stellar hike leads from the face of Exit Glacier, pretty cool in itself, to the stunning white vastness of the Harding Icefield on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula. The hike itself is not on snow, though some may be encountered near the top. The trail switchbacks steeply for nearly 4 miles and climbs 4,000 feet. Along the way a hiker might see some black bears indifferently grazing, and nimble mountain goats taunting his laborious approach. At the top, of course, is the icefield, a place that’s more like the North Pole than the pole itself is—a 700-square-mile landscape of snow and ice, unbroken but for a few craggy peaks.

Obviously trying to please as many groups as possible, the authors also included "10 best" sections on "trail runs," "4x4 trips," "mountain bike rides," and "fly-fishing spots." But the authors seem to go overboard on paddling, with sections on 10 best parks for "float trips," "white-water thrill rides," "flat-water trips," and even "houseboating trips," "sea kayaking spots," and "wind sport locales."

In keeping with the watery theme, there's also a 10 best parks for "scuba and snorkeling sites," and while the authors don't directly cite Virgin Islands National Park, they do point to Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument, offer a photo to St. John, home to both the park and the monument, and then point to Virgin Islands National Park as one of their 10 best parks for "beaches."

This is a rich book, one that's cleverly written -- "One of the essential delights of the North Woods, the call of the male common loon is probably best heard at dawn, echoing over a tree-fringed lake when the air is still enough that the water reflects dawn like a mirror. (The smell of bacon frying in a skillet helps, too.)" --, nicely supported with great national park photos, and which can be a great resource if you've got a particular interest and are wondering which national parks might address that interest.

At times they might push the limits -- "park rooms to beg for"? -- but this book will both entertain you and leave you with plenty of ideas when planning your next national park getaway.

If there's a pitfall, it's the lack of a checklist to measure your progress in 10s.

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