Travels cancelled or postponed.
This is the time we live in now, but it will not always be like this.
We will be able to travel again soon, and I'm sure many of you are already planning your next adventure, waiting with fingers crossed for a time when we will be able to get out and play again. Here's a blog post dedicated to those beautiful places that call us to explore.
A few days ago on Instagram I posted a photo of Laguna Colorada in the Bolivian Altiplano, and in the caption I wrote that it was one of the prettiest places that I had ever seen. I thought I could narrow down all the beautiful places that I have been fortunate to visit into a list of the top 5 prettiest places. But at the time I could not, and I ended up with a 5 or 6 way tie for 5th. I know. I wimped out. But I have found the courage to complete the task. Here is my top 5 most beautiful places.
1. Kauai, Hawaii
Kalalau Clouds, Kauai, Hawaii
I start the list with my home island, Kauai. The natural beauty here is simply off the charts. The greens and the blues give a healing quality to the landscape and the energy here just feels good. When thinking of this list the feeling of the places became very important to me. Thinking about how being somewhere makes me feel. And being on Kauai just feels good. I've been all over the island to photograph and I think the most beautiful places are Kalalau Lookout (photo above), Hanalei Bay (below) and Ke'e Beach, looking towards the Na Pali Coast and the dancing waves that at times mosh and at others delicately pirouette.
A Perfect Day in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii
Hanalei Bay is the happy place. I don't photograph here too much because it's not a place to work. It's a place to enjoy. It's the place to take a long walk on the beach and figure things out. To sit with wifey and friends with a cooler and towel. To play. To live. To be.
Dance at the Bay, Kauai, Hawaii
Lastly, if you catch Ke'e beach on the right day this place just gives and gives and gives. The mana or energy is so powerful to be spiritual. I like it best in the fall when you might catch the waves jumping towards the rugged cliffs of the Na Pali Coast. At this time of the year the light is exceptional and the side/through light of the evening can really light up the ocean waves as they rise through the air.
When Conditions Are Right, Kauai, Hawaii
Alive, Kauai, Hawaii
2. Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, California
Yosemite Valley in Spring is nature's perfection. Standing at Tunnel View, looking out over the valley and seeing El Capitan on the left, Half Dome in the middle, and Bridal Falls on the right is seeing symphony of symmetry. It is absolutely awe inspiring.
Dreamworld, Yosemite NP, California
Light enters the valley and plays with the many waterfalls, creating rainbows in the day and moon bows at night.
The Bridal Veil, Yosemite NP, California
Moonbow Chasing, Yosemite NP, California
And while Yosemite is certainly no secret, you can still find quiet scenes to have all to yourself. Here, you can contemplate the serenity instilled by the granite walls that are all around you. And in the fall you can appreciate the quiet calm brought by this magnificent local as the Merced runs slow and offers time of reflection. The overall feeling of Yosemite is inspiration.
Merced Run Slow, Yosemite NP, California
3. Laguna Colorada, the Bolivian Altiplano, Bolivia
Laguna Colorada in Reserve Nacional de Fauna Andina Eduardo Avaroa, a Bolivian national park very near to the Chilean border, is incredible. It's water is the color of burnt-orange and rust-red. It's full of rare flamingos-- James's, Andean, and Chilean flamingos. And 16,000 foot mountains surround it. Vicunas roam it's shore and play in the valleys that lead to its shallow waters. The feeling of the place is newness, like what the Earth was like when it was new.
One of the Prettiest Places I Have Ever Been, Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
When the Earth was New, Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
The flamingos flying around this lake really helped to put this place on the list. The scenic beauty is incredible, but the flamingos give the place life and a relatable splendor.
Walk on Water, Laguna Colorada, Bolilvia
James's Flamingo Gliding By, Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
The surrounding area of the Reserve is raw and surreal. The weather volatile. It is a place where you believe that you may find something that you have never yet seen. It is incredibly fresh and new and even a little playful.
Hey There, the Altiplano, Bolivia
The Altiplano, Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
4. Denali National Park, Alaska
A Sunny Summer Day in Denali, Denali National Park, Alaska
Alaska is the wildest place I have ever been and Denali National Park may just be the wildest place in Alaska. Big mountains. Big vistas. Big wildlife. The place is just so wild and awesome.
Denali Park Road, Denali National Park, Alaska
Denali is a park that rewards those who persevere. If you are looking for wildlife, dome days you don't even see a bear's butt. But on other days you see Toklat Blonde Grizzlies, Caribou, Moose, Wolf, Ground Squirrels, Beavers, lynx (I haven't yet seen one in Denali, but I've heard they are there...), snow hare, porcupine, and so much more! And when the weather is clear the mountain views of the Brooks Range are uplifting. I've said before that seeing Denali or the mountain is like seeing God. It makes sense that Denali means "The High One" because seeing it is indeed a spiritual experience. On some days Denali is like a storybook land whose pages are full of nature's gospel. Church.
Alpen Glow, Denali National Park, Alaska
Caribou Crusing, Denali National Park, Alaska
Northern Lights, Denali National Park, Alaska
5. The Santa Cruz Trek, Cordillera Blanca, Peru
To this day the best hike I have ever done is the day hike to Laguna 69 and the best through hike or backpack is the Santa Cruz Trek. Better than the Teton Crest Trail, better than Tombstone and better even than the Kalalau Trail. Here is a glimpse of Laguna 69.
The Magic Triangle of Laguna 69, Cordillera Blanca, Peru
And waterfalls that we passed on the way...
Nature is Awesome, Cordillera Blanca, Peru
The Santa Cruz trek was a difficult hike with several high altitude passes, the highest of which was Punta Union Pass at 4,750 meters above sea level. Here's a look on a cloudy day from atop the pass (best lunchtime view I've ever had).
Circle of Blue, Santa Cruz Trek, Peru
Looking back at the trip now, I realize that this was my first time real experience in a big wilderness area. And now I just want more and more.
Mahalo for reading. What's your Top Five? I'd love to hear about them in the comments section below. I'm always looking to add to the list!
Stay well and be safe!