1. Exploring America’s State Parks

    Photographer: Mike Nielsen

    »>Go to Slideshow: State Parks

    America’s 58 national parks are expansive and glamorous, gracing calendars and inspiring countless cross-country road trips. In their shadow, over 3,675 state parks carry on in relative obscurity, hiding an almost unbelievable variety of landscapes, ecosystems, and wildlife habitats. The masses mostly head to the big-name parks, leaving these smaller state alternatives on the fringes, often without another soul in sight.

    During this particular economic crisis, the future (and funding) of state parks looks as precarious as that of the wildlife they harbor. As cities sprawl into megalopolises, even during tough economic times, it seems short-sighted to abandon the few unspoiled places that remain—especially considering that America’s system of parks was developed by forward-thinking leaders during even rougher patches. In the midst of the Civil War, in 1864, a vocal group of advocates convinced Abraham Lincoln to set aside the land of Yosemite and the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoias for the state of California. And the well-conceived parks infrastructure that we take for granted today was a product of the Civilian Conservation Corps program of the 1930s.

    Given the embarrassment of riches that America enjoys (our parks make up 10% of the protected land in the world), it wasn’t easy to narrow it down to sixteen. In addition to the slideshow above, you can read about many more state parks here: State Parks Close to You

  2. An Adventure Awaits in Bend, Oregon…

    Hey Trazzlers,

    We’re excited about our latest regional travel writing contest: 365 Days of Adventure in Bend. Surrounded by mountains and forests, this former mill town turned adventure playground in Central Oregon is an ideal base to explore the outdoors. In the winter months, you can ski and snowboard on Mount Bachelor, and during the summer, you can fish, hike, cycle, raft, and swim, when this mountain town is blessed with sunshine.

    So, if you are a resident, a seasonal visitor, or someone who visited once and simply loved the town, consider submitting a trip for this contest. Maybe there’s a brewery or park you love, or perhaps you look forward to one of Bend’s annual events, like the 4th of July Pet Parade or Balloons Over Bend.

    For the Bend Writing Contest, our sponsor, Visit Bend, has rounded up some great prizes, particularly for active travelers and nature enthusiasts:

    Grand Prize: A Bend Adventure for Two

    Lodging for two at Mount Bachelor Village Resort in a condo along the Deschutes River; a $500 gift card for a shopping spree at Merrell, the official outfitter of Bend adventures; and dining at the award-winning restaurant Cork.

    Eager to enter? Check out the runners up prizes and details on our contest page. We look forward to reading your entries. Happy writing!

    —Cheri Lucas