When we think of Canada, the word “nature” and its corollaries, “clean,” “green,” and “serene” are among the first associations. It would be no surprise, then, to learn that the national parks scene of our northern neighbor is truly magnificent. Of the most celebrated of these attractions is Banff, a quaint town clasped in the jagged hands of Alberta’s Rocky Mountains. Famous for a landscape that juxtaposes commanding skyscraper-cliffs with tranquil aquamarine lakes and soothing hot springs, Canada’s first national park is well-worth the pilgrimage.
Spotlights, Celeste Hackenberg
Dining with the Sky Gods
The Traunsee lake, in Salzkammergut, Austria, glitters before us in the morning sun, a deep, cold blue. The Traunstein, a mountain of nearly 1700m looms above us, it's jagged grey stone face serene in the cool morning light. I was nervous to tackle it on my own, as people have died on this mountain, so my friend agreed to come with me. She knows the path well and is also much fitter than me - I know she'll help me if I need it. I also know I'll have to pace myself to make it. With equal measures of fear and determination, we begin to walk upwards into the forest.
Oh. My. Goddess.
Essays, Pen Hassmann
Lost in Tikal
“I spent forty dollars to stay in a cabin edging the rainforest. Armed with water and a spray bottle of Skin So Soft, I crept out an hour before dawn and flashlighted my way thorough screaming monkeys to the top of a pyramid. It was an easy climb. I sat alone atop an ancient structure eating oranges and watching toucans fly from horizon to horizon as the sun rose. I watched a family of monkeys clean each other. When other people began to arrive, I climbed down and headed into the tangle of green where ants carried leaves several times their size. Everywhere was wonder.”
Essays, MFC Feeley
Change in An Unexpected Place
“It’s the end of September, and the leaves on the trees in Seoraksan National Park should be in the midst of transformation. The pictures I saw online assured me this was the place to see summer turn into autumn. In the photos, the mountains looked engulfed in flames. When I arrive, Seoraksan is cloaked in darkness. But when I wake up in my pension room, I can see that the trees have held off autumn. The mountains have found a way to hold onto summer. The landscape is covered in broccoli florets, making it just as supple as the clouds in the far-stretching sky. It’s beautiful, but there’s a small sense of disappointment. I’m not sure if Seoraksan will have what I’m looking for. I am here with other foreign English teachers, and we head down from our pension room to the lobby. The manager suggests a few options for hikes. We decide to go to Geumganggul Cave, approximately a 2,000-foot climb. The manager says there is a Buddhist Temple at the top.”
Essays, Maggie Thach Morshed
Enigmatic Fraser Island
Islands are not unique in the scheme of things, but Fraser Island – a short ferry ride from Queensland’s Sunshine Coast – is the beautiful accident of sand and wind. No bedrock, no volcanic uprising or tectonic history. Formed over millennia by prevailing winds shifting sand north-easterly from the coast, its mass was eventually exposed over the post ice-age ocean. Valleys and hollows filled by reliable subtropical rain formed pristine lakes, and seeds followed in the wind, settling in the thin, mineral-rich soils to rise as now-isolated species. Migrant birds and fish found refuge, and mankind followed; the Butchulla aboriginal people named it K’Gari – paradise.
Spotlights, Cristian Silver
The Journey of Two Lifetimes
“My husband Jim wanted his ashes scattered in Ireland. In easier times, we talked of the hows and whens of such a journey. I did suggest an alternative: Irish Fest celebrated along the shores of Lake Michigan, pipers playing in the distance. Then we both laughed and headed to safer ground . . . familiar retellings of adventures experienced over the years we traveled together. We saw ourselves, younger and full of future, and enjoyed the remembering. But I never forgot how those conversations started in the first place.”