Scenes from Bryce Canyon National Park, Utah

I’ve always been one to love a good interconnected narrative. It’s the reason I spent much of my twenties poring over the mysteries of LOST, attempting to unravel the connections between survivors and Others and past, present, and future. It’s why in the span of two weeks, I watched every single film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, diving into a meticulously layered chronicle of S.H.I.E.L.D., Hydra, Nine Realms, a Mad Titan, and a team of avenging heroes.

Scenes from North Cascades National Park, Wash.

It’s been a difficult few weeks here in Portland. On the afternoon of September 2, a teenage boy tossed a smoking firecracker into Eagle Creek Canyon, igniting a blaze that quickly consumed more than 35,000 acres. As firefighters worked to contain the devastation, Portlanders were left helpless as the Columbia River Gorge went up in flames and ash fell upon the city like a terrible, unwelcome snow.

Rocky Mountain National Park

Scenes from Rocky Mountain National Park, Colo.

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.

3 Days in Olympic National Park, Wash.

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?