β›Ί National Park Notes

I’ve been to 18 national parks and counting. Here are my thoughts on each:

  • Arches
    • The hike to Partition Arch is a fun little scramble with an amazing view at the end.
    • Double Arch is a short stroll from a parking lot and just incredible.
    • The hike to Delicate Arch is probably the most popular in the park. The most difficult part of the hike is over sun-exposed rock, so bring plenty of water.
  • Black Canyon of the Gunnison
    • Small park. You need a wilderness permit to hike below the rim.
    • If you don’t get a wilderness permit. Hike to Warner Point and enjoy the view and quiet.
  • Bryce Canyon
    • The red hoodoos look especially beautiful in the snow.
    • Of all the parks I’ve been to, this one most feels like walking on a foreign planet.
  • Canyonlands
    • The name is appropriate. The canyons are wide and vast.
    • Next time I would like to check out the Needles District, particularly Chesler Park.
  • Congaree
    • I found Congaree underwhelming, though I was there for only half a day. It might be worth a revisit to go kayaking.
  • Denali
    • I didn’t go far into the park, but Denali Mountain is incredible from a distance.
  • Glacier
    • You will have to wake up super early in the morning if you want to hike the Highline Trail. Parking fills up quickly.
    • Hike to Grinnell Glacier. See marmots and bighorn sheep. Bring a Gatorade Glacier Freeze for color comparison (spoiler: they are identical).
  • Grand Canyon
    • Hiking down to the canyon on an icy morning without clamp-ons is reckless and not recommended. We went carefully, but saw several people slip and fall.
    • Bucket list items: Rim-to-Rim Trail and kayaking the Colorado River.
  • Grand Teton
    • Like Yellowstone, the wildlife is incredible.
  • Joshua Tree
    • Yucca trees, boulders, and influencers.
  • Mount Rainier
    • I did not anticipate liking Mount Rainier as much as I did. It is a stunning mountain.
    • Hike to a fire lookout tower for amazing views.
  • North Cascades
    • It’s difficult to get to, so I would recommend on planning an overnighter.
  • Pinnacles
    • It’s a small park, a bit out of the way from anything interesting.
    • Sometimes the caves are open, sometimes they aren’t.
    • The park has a pool. You’ll have to share it with bees looking to cool down.
  • Redwoods
    • The park stretches over a huge area. Make sure to visit the coast while you are there.
    • The hike to Fern Waterfall is busy even in shoulder season. The waterfall was more impressive than I expected, thanks to recent rainfalls.
  • Sequoia
    • Big trees.
    • The High Sierra Trail is gorgeous.
  • Yellowstone
    • Yellowstone feels a bit like the Disneyland of national parks. You go from attraction to attraction, taking a stroll along a boardwalk at each stop.
    • It’s huge and there is so much to see.
    • The wildlife is stunning. Everywhere you look, you’ll find something — bison, bears, deer, marmots, foxes.
  • Yosemite
    • Half Dome looks incredibly intimidating from below the cables, but isn’t so bad, and is absolutely worth it.
    • In the summer it is hot, dry, and packed with tourists. Bring a mask or handkerchief to cover your face so you aren’t inhaling too much of the kicked up dirt.
    • Don’t keep to the valley. At least hike to a waterfall.
  • Zion
    • Absolutely stunning, maybe my favorite national park.
    • I went in December several years ago. We woke up early enough in the morning that there weren’t a ton of people hiking Angel’s Landing. I highly recommend going in the downseason.

Not a national park but still in the system:

  • Alcatraz
    • Great audio tour.
    • I hear the night tour is the way to go.
  • Cabrillo NM
    • Near San Diego and very busy.
  • Carrizo Plain National Monument
    • During wildflower season it’s packed with tourists behaving abominably as they take their Instagram selfies.
  • Colorado NM
    • More worthy of national park status than many national parks.
  • Edgar Allan Poe NHS
    • Cool gift shop.
  • Independence Hall
    • Reserve a tour before your visit.
  • Manzanar National Historic Site
    • Such a tragic, desolate place.
  • Marin Headlands National Recreation Area
    • Cool lighthouse.
    • Gorgeous views of San Francisco.
    • Say hi to Karl.
  • Montezuma
    • It’s a brief walk, but cool to see these cliffside dwellings, even from afar.
  • Muir Wood National Monument
    • Redwoods!
    • As an alternative, consider visiting Big Basin State Park with equally amazing redwoods and far fewer tourists.
  • Point Reyes National Seashore
    • Really cool lighthouse.
    • Stop for oysters on your way home.
  • Presidio of San Francisco
    • Go for a picnic when you’re in The City.

πŸ•Œ Notes on Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina

I lived in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina for three months in late 2022 and early 2023. Here are my notes:

  • Sarajevo is very affordable. We stayed next to the old Ottoman bazaar, just around the corner from where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was shot, and the rent was half as much as anything else we paid in Europe.
  • The bazaar and Ferhadija make the city center pleasantly walkable.
  • The mountains around the city are remarkable. They seemingly go straight up, surrounding the city with massive natural walls.
  • The downside to the surrounding mountains is that they trap smog. They still burn coal in Sarajevo, so the city turns grey and bleak during the winter.
  • Mostar is worth a visit. It’s a small and charming place. The countryside on the drive over is gorgeous.
  • Eat cevapi. Drink Sarajevsko beer.
  • When we visited, smoking was still legal in restaurants. Only a few places with indoor seating did not allow smoking. This led to us mostly ordering takeaway during our stay.
  • Many popular European destinations get overrun with tourists. This can lead to tourist fatigue for locals. Sometimes that fatigue can manifest into a mild display of annoyance towards visitors. Bosnia is nothing like that. I never felt anything but welcome. Bosnians seem genuinely appreciative of tourists visiting their country.
  • On New Year’s Eve, Sarajevo throws a free concert in the city streets. Thousands flock to the city. It’s a blast.

🍺 Notes on Dresden, Germany

I spent 6 weeks in the fall of 2022 in Dresden, Germany. Here are my thoughts:

  • Neustadt is the hip place in Dresden. Alaunpark is always lively. There are food trucks in Alaunplatz almost every day. And there is a forest called Dresdner Heide for easy hiking.
  • We were lucky enough to be in Dresden during the fall festival. It is lovely. I can only imagine how wonderful their annual Christmas market is.
  • The symphony is excellent. We saw a performance of Schuman and Brahms.
  • Drink the beer. Eat the currywurst and dΓΆner kebabs.
  • Overall, the food in Dresden is excellent. Wide range of cuisines, all delicious.
  • Bastei is a short train ride away if you are into hiking. They have a reaction ferry to take you across the Elbe.
  • Dresden is a popular waypoint for those traveling between Berlin and Prague. Both are worth at least a day trip if you’re staying in Dresden. I recommend visiting the Mucha Museum in Prague if you like Art Nouveau.

⚾ Notes on Visiting PNC Park in Pittsburgh

There might not be a better way to get to a ballpark than walking across those iconic yellow bridges over the Allegheny.

The ballpark maximizes its use of the city’s best features, the Allegheny River and that gorgeous Pittsburgh skyline. The outfield backs up to the river, so you get sweeping views of downtown Pittsburgh. There are bars, food booths, seating, and activities all along the pavilion. No better place to be.

The hamburgers are hockey pucks. The chicken tenders are decent. Both meals came with more fries than I could eat in one sitting. The condiment bar is excellent.

There was some good merch in the clubhouse store. A lot of love for the Pittsburgh Crawfords.

The between-inning pierogi race is high-quality entertainment.

The on-field product is consistently subpar due to owner Bob Nutting’s unwillingness to sufficiently finance personnel improvements as highlighted by the team’s abysmal draft pool usage.

🌷 Notes on the Netherlands

I spent six weeks in the Netherlands in 2022. I stayed in Weesp and spent weekends in Amsterdam. Here are my notes:

  • If you go to a national park and talk to a park ranger, they will be confused if you say you prefer hiking over biking the trails.
  • Eat the apple pie.
  • The Dutch don’t really do consumer debt, so you might encounter businesses that don’t accept credit cards. Some don’t even accept cash, only Dutch bank cards.
  • Weesp is like a town out of a fairy tale. Canals. Windmills. Lily pads. Perfectly picturesque.
  • Reserve tickets for the Anne Frank and Van Gogh museums well in advance. Even with limited entry, the Van Gogh Museum was packed.
  • In Valencia, Spain, citizens follow the pedestrians-over-bicycles-over-cars right-of-way hierarchy very well. That’s not the case in Amsterdam. Cyclists reign supreme (in and out of bike lanes).
  • Every Dutch person I met speaks pitch-perfect American English.
  • Canals are so cool. On separate occasions, I saw a floating pride parade and a floating brass band.

β˜” Notes on Edinburgh, Scotland

I spent a month in Edinburgh, Scotland in 2022. Here are my notes:

  • The best food I ate in Edinburgh was Korean fried chicken bao sandwiches and American-style barbecue.
  • You will probably be advised to try a deep-fried Mars bar and a deep-fried pizza. Neither is worth it.
  • Hike up King Arthur’s Seat. Beautiful views. Just be prepared for a crowd.
  • Walking (or biking) the Water of Leith Walkway is a wonderful way to get around if you’re in that part of town.
  • Edinburgh has a solid botanical garden. I especially like the rock garden.
  • Go to Princes Street Gardens. Drink a beer. Admire Ross Fountain and Edinburgh Castle.
  • Absolutely take a trip to the Highlands. Find a trail away from the crowds. It’s gorgeous.