“Lo! Cintra’s glorious Eden intervenes In variegated maze of mount and glen. Ah me! What hand can pencil guide, or pen, To follow half on which the eye dilates Through views more dazzling unto mortal ken Than those whereof such things the bard relates, Who to the awe-struck world unlocked Elysium’s gates?”
One of the things I love most about living in Portland is the perpetual, snow-capped backdrop of Mt. Hood, the prominent 11,249-foot volcano that dominates the horizon to the east. Whether I’m crossing the Fremont Bridge or circling the top of Mt. Tabor, a glimpse of the lonely mountain always gives me a bit of a thrill—and not just because it signifies a temporary break in the rain.
In 1471, Moulay Ali ben Rachid founded a village high in the Rif Mountains of northern Morocco—a fortress to launch attacks against the Portuguese in nearby Ceuta. In the centuries that followed, this secluded town would provide refuge for the Moors expelled from Spain, for the Jews fleeing the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition, and for weary travelers in search of peace and tranquility.
I’ve never been one to seek out the packaged excursion. Call me old fashioned, but I truly enjoy the process of scouring guidebooks, tracking down timetables, and navigating unknown places with a degree of independence. What I may suffer from getting lost or missing the occasional train is (usually) nothing when compared to the connections I come to feel with the rhythms of foreign life. But like so many rules, there are exceptions.
From the rocky spires of the Grand Tetons to the craggy shores of Acadia, the United States’ 59 national parks are as diverse as the nation itself. Where Death Valley holds a world record for the highest air temperature ever recorded (134 degrees), the slopes of Mt. Rainier saw an astounding 93.5 feet of snow in the winter of 1971. So what makes Olympic National Park stand out among these millions of acres of natural wonder?