We have an airline mileage plan, so our first consideration was how to use the miles. Mule thought he would like to enjoy photographing the wildlife preserves in Kenya, so we began investigating them and the possibility of stop over in Europe. The airline rules are that we must return within one year.
It turned out that the time in the Kenya sites would be limited and required an escort. That makes sense. We know nothing about African wildlife. But, it made the trip less attractive. Nevertheless, we continued to plan an itinerary and researching the European sites. The more we looked at the time, effort, and cost involved, the less enthusiastic we became.
It is so much easier for us to travel in the United States. There is a lot of the US that Mule hasn't seen and if we spent the rest of our lives photographing the sites, there would still be more to photograph. So we decided to focus on the US sites, with maybe a sojourn into Canada. (For example, Glacier in the United States is adjunct to Waterton in Canada and Jasper-Baniff is both of Waterton.)
Canadian Rockies World Heritage sites (the contiguous national parks of Banff, Jasper, Kootenay and Yoho, as well as the Mount Robson, Mount Assiniboine and Hamber provincial parks): "Criterion (vii): The seven parks of the Canadian Rockies form a striking mountain landscape. With rugged mountain peaks, icefields and glaciers, alpine meadows, lakes, waterfalls, extensive karst cave systems and deeply incised canyons, the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks possess exceptional natural beauty, attracting millions of visitors annually."
Carlsbad Caverns National Park World Heritage site, New Mexico: "The park’s primary caves, Carlsbad and Lechuguilla, are well known for the abundance, diversity, and beauty of their decorative rock formations. Lechuguilla Cave exhibits rare and unique speleothems, including a great abundance of large calcite and gypsum formations, including the largest accumulation of gypsum “chandeliers,” some of which extend more than six meters (18 feet) in length." I've been to Carlsbad on several occasions.
Grand Canyon World Heritage site Arizona: "Widely known for its exceptional natural beauty and considered one of the world's most visually powerful landscapes, the Grand Canyon is celebrated for its plunging depths; temple-like buttes; and vast, multihued, labyrinthine topography. Scenic wonders within park boundaries include high plateaus, plains, deserts, forests, cinder cones, lava flows, streams, waterfalls, and one of America’s great whitewater rivers." We visited the Grand Canyon once and are looking forward to capturing it beauty in a variety of light.
Kluane / Wrangell-St. Elias / Glacier Bay / Tatshenshini-Alsek: "Criterion (vii): The joint properties encompass the breadth of active tectonic, volcanic, glacial and fluvial natural processes from the ocean to some of the highest peaks in North America. Coastal and marine environments, snow-capped mountains, calving glaciers, deep river canyons, fjord-like inlets and abundant wildlife abound. It is an area of exceptional natural beauty." We cruised through Glacier Bay, but we haven't spent any time on land.
Mammoth Cave National Park: "Mammoth Cave is the longest cave system in the world. The long passages with huge chambers, vertical shafts, stalagmites and stalactites, splendid forms of beautiful gypsum flowers, delicate gypsum needles, rare mirabilite flowers and other natural features of the cave system are all superlative examples of their type. No other known cave system in the world offers a greater variety of sulfate minerals."
Smoky Mountains National Park World Heritage site "The site is of exceptional natural beauty with scenic vistas of characteristic mist-shrouded (“smoky”) mountains, vast stretches of virgin timber, and clear running streams." "Includes almost as many trees as in all of Europe."
Olympic National Park World Heritage siteWashington: "Olympic National Park is of remarkable beauty, and is the largest protected area in the temperate region of the world that includes in one complex ecosystems from ocean edge through temperate rainforest, alpine meadows and glaciated mountain peaks. It contains one of the world’s largest stands of virgin temperate rainforest, and includes many of the largest coniferous tree species on earth." We visited this park once and are looking forward to photographing and exploring it.
Petrified Forest National Park, Arizona. This site was submitted in 2008, but it has not yet been added to the list. "This park, with its scenic vistas and spectacles of colorful rocks, is one of the premier places in the world for the study of the ecosystem of the Late Triassic Epoch. It contains the largest deposits of petrified wood in the world, as well as important fossils of plants and animals, including early dinosaurs, all in a detailed stratigraphic setting that allows changes in the ecosystem and biota to be effectively traced through the end of the Triassic. Fossil discoveries at Petrified Forest National Park have shaped the understanding of the late Triassic world, and new discoveries continue to highlight its global significance."
Redwoods National and State Parks World Heritage site, California: "Redwood National Park comprises a region of coastal mountains bordering the Pacific Ocean, equidistant (560 kilometers or 350 miles) from San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. It is covered with a magnificent forest of Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens), the tallest living things and among the most impressive trees in the world. Several of the world's tallest known trees grow within the property." We like the Redwoods so much that we lived in Arcata and left only due to career opportunities.
Waterton Glacier International Park, Montana and Canada, Montana: “Both sites were originally designated by their respective nations because of their superlative mountain scenery, their high topographic relief, glacial landforms, and abundant diversity of wildlife and wildflowers.” Neither of us have visited these parks. Going to the Sun Road You Tube Videos prompted me to refresh my driving skills through mountain passes. So, we drove all the major California mountain passes, including the steep, windy Ebbets Pass without center lines and the Sonora Pass with its 25% grade.
Yellowstone National Park World Heritage siteWyoming: "The extraordinary scenic treasures of Yellowstone include the world’s largest collection of geysers, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River, numerous waterfalls, and great herds of wildlife." Grand Teton National Park is not a World Heritage site, but due to its scenic value and wildlife, we'll include it when we visit Yellowstone. I have been to both parks twice. Mule has been to neither. We'd like to spend an extended time in each, photographing scenery and wildlife. The area is known as the American Serengeti.
Yosemite National Park World Heritage site, California: "Yosemite has exceptional natural beauty, including five of the world's highest waterfalls, a combination of granite domes and walls, deeply incised valleys, three groves of giant sequoia, numerous alpine meadows, lakes, diversity of life zones and variety of species." We have been to Yosemite too many times to count and still get excited about going. Between Memorial Day weekend and Labor Day is the worst time to visit because it becomes a city of visitors. The dogwood starts to bloom in mid-April; the waterfalls are their best in May; and the fall colors are wonderful in October and November. However, some areas are only open during the summer.
This list is getting narrower. Which of the US criteria 7 sites appeal to you?
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!” Dr. Suess