In 2018, outdoor recreation is more popular than ever, which has led to innumerable subjective rankings of locations, and of the fifty-nine National Park units. While various social media users and webpages debate whether Yellowstone or Yosemite are the best parks, under the surface, many park units escape the public consciousness. Quietly, however, some of the online and in person discussion has turned to 2017’s eighth most visited National Park, Olympic, and its surrounding wild areas. This is a change in that for many years, Washington’s most popular park was Mount Rainier, and many outdoor purists both in and out of Washington sought to keep the trails of the Olympic peninsula secret. But, with greater information available on the internet, popular media, and word of mouth, many visitors are now seeking out Olympic National Park and Olympic National Forest to enjoy some of the jewels of the Pacific Northwest and national public land system as a whole.
While much of Dublin, and Ireland is full of light and music, there are darker places that represent the formation and history of Ireland as a whole. First among those is the Kilmainham Gaol, the central jail for Dublin from 1796 through 1924. While it was a jail, Kilmainham was also more than that - it was a central courthouse - and a site that is also linked to the Irish independence movement. From 1798 through 1916, the leaders of the various rebellions against British rule were imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol, and in many cases, were executed within the walls of the jail. In addition to the many revolutionaries that were held in Kilmainham, the jail held many thousands of inmates throughout the years, including one as young as seven. While it was a seat of power, repression, and inequality for many years, Kilmainham eventually turned into a location that served as a rallying point for the Irish independence movement after fourteen members of the Easter Rising, including the wounded James Connolly were executed by firing squad in 1916. Today, Kilmainham is the largest abandoned jail in all of Europe, and is one of the most popular museums in all of Dublin.
Even though the Pyramids in Egypt, Macchu Picchu in Peru, and Angor Wat in Cambodia receive attention as some of the oldest structures on Earth, and rightfully so, there are other locations around the planet that are just as impressive, and just as mysterious. Out of all of these spots, it should come as no surprise that many of these structures are located in Ireland, and one of them, Newgrange, is considered one of the most important megalithic structures in Europe. Like the Poulnabrone Portal Tomb, the site at Newgrange is also a tomb, but is considered a passage tomb that was constructed at a similar time - items at Poulnabrone were dated at around 4200 B.C., and Newgrange was reportedly constructed around 3200 B.C., well before the construction of Stonehenge, and the aforementioned pyramids.
For as long as Niagara Falls has been known to man, there has been an inexplicable desire to either explore the falls in a new way, or experience the rush of going over the falls. From unprotected falls, to barrels, to tightropes and beyond, the falls have seen beyond their fair share of daredevils and deaths. And, over the years, the Niagara Falls zone has seen an uptick in “extreme” tourism, helicopters to zip lines to hiking trails through the gorge, and trips behind the falls. For those wishing to head above the falls and have a unique and “extreme” experience, the Whirlpool Aerocar is a 101 year old attraction with a near perfect safety record.
From the border crossing at the Ambassador Bridge up past Oil Springs to the North and Niagara Falls to the East, the province of Ontario has big skies, and miles upon miles of mostly flat farmland. While it is beautiful green country, it is not a spot that most outdoor enthusiasts go to seek adventure. Yet, in this area, there are enclaves of wilderness that still exist to this day, mostly bounded by the Great Lakes that also surround this part of Canada. A prime example of one of these wilderness enclaves is Pinery Provincial Park. While Pinery Provincial Park is mostly known for the campgrounds and beaches along the shores of Lake Huron, it was established to protect one of the largest remaining stands of Oak Savannah habitat in Ontario. While the park’s beaches are impressive, a great way to experience the natural beauty of the parks is along the Hickory Trail.
Niagara Falls. From its initial formation some ten thousand years ago during the Wisconsin glaciation through its erosion during the following millennia, this location has showcased the raw natural power of the planet. After its formation, this spot has also awed and amazed first the native inhabitants of the region, and then from 1604 on, European explorers and tourists. Today, in 2017, Niagara Falls is not just a regional tourist attraction, but a well-known and sought after world-wide tourist destination. Unlike many other natural wonders, however, Niagara Falls straddles an international border (Canada - United States) and has a number of distinctive attractions for visitors; some with history; and some that are for the more adventurous.
No matter what country one is in, there are always locations that have changed the direction of history. Some of these locations, like Gettysburg and Waterloo are well-known, and well visited. Other locations, like Mahon’s Rock in Ireland, are hardly visited, but are equally important. One of the most important historical figures in Ireland is Brian Boru, who became high king of Ireland in the late 900’s, before being killed at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014. However, what is not well-known is that Brian’s rise was predicated on the killing of his brother, Mathgamain (Mahon), who was, prior to his death, Brian’s leige, and the King of Munster. While Irish medieval history is complex, what is known is that in 976, Mahon was betrayed at a meeting that he thought would be with the Bishop of Cork, and kidnapped. Once kidnapped, he was brought to a remote location - Mushera Mountain - far from his base of power - and killed on the rock that remains to this day. In order to avenge his brother, Brian started a series of campaigns that ended with him ruling Ireland, and occupying his fateful place in history - things that would not have happened without the actions that occurred on a remote mountain on a remote rock.