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As much as I enjoyed my cross-country road trip, there were two places that really stood out as the most amazing: Yellowstone National Park and Badlands National Park.

NP badlands

The Badlands of South Dakota are anything but bad. Driving west along the highway, passing hundreds of miles of flat grassland, they suddenly rise in front of you, huge towers of rock cut through with deep crevasses, all lit in brilliant shades of yellow, orange, and red. We drove our way through the park and literally gasped with delight around every corner. There was great wildlife, too: coyotes, mountain goats, and a rattlesnake warning or two.

UNESCO yellowstone

This is the Morning Glory Pool at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming (a UNESCO World Heritage site). Though Yellowstone is famous for its geysers, I found its bubbling mudpots and steaming springs in psychedelic colors to be more compelling. I also never realized how much it snows there. The road we took in had only opened for summer two days before, and the parks service had plowed the snow up on the side of the road; it was piled higher than our car was in some places. Yellowstone is a vast place, 3,468.4 square miles (8,983 km2), and includes so much more than just the geysers. The wildlife here was even more exciting. We saw a bear (from very far away), as well as a moose, and more buffalo (bison) than I could count. We often had to stop to let them cross the road, and we even had to pass some who were walking along the road.

Since today is July 4th, our national independence day, I feel like I should post something patriotic, but the truth is that these wonders of nature are one of the things about my country that I am proudest of. I’m glad that they are preserved in the parks system, and I hope that we can continue to protect them for years and years.

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