In Texas, even the riverbend is big
We're celebrating the 77th birthday of Big Bend National Park, the place the National Park Service calls 'one of the last remaining wild corners of the United States.' To get here, you have to be committed. This rugged terrain, which covers almost a million acres, is one of the most remote spots in the country—it's hours from the nearest towns or the closest airport, making it one of the least-visited national parks in the country. Those who do make the effort to get to Big Bend are rewarded with an undeveloped natural beauty, and silence, two things that seem to be in short supply these days.
At Big Bend you'll find craggy hiking trails, red mountain vistas, limestone canyons, and hot springs alongside the famous Rio Grande. There's also the wildlife you'd expect to find in the Wild, Wild West, including rattlesnakes, packs of javelinas, and 20 species of bats. But it's the huge night sky unencumbered by light pollution that draws stargazers to Big Bend from all over the world. After all, everything, as they say, is bigger in Texas.
Get on your bike and ride
In honor of the UN's World Bicycle Day, we're at Triglav National Park in Slovenia, with a birds-eye view of riders crossing this dubious-looking wooden suspension bridge over the glacial blue water of the river called Soča. Protecting some of the most magnificent mountain landscapes of the Julian Alps, Triglav is the country's only national park, but it's a stunner. Running along Slovenia's northwestern border with Italy, Triglav was first protected as a 'conservation park' in 1924, then made a national park in 1981. The park gets its name from the mountain at its heart, Triglav, long considered a symbol of Slovenia and of Slovene identity.
Since 2018, the UN General Assembly has recognized June 3 as World Bicycle Day to honor 'the uniqueness, longevity, and versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for two centuries.' The bicycle has gone through many iterations since Karl Drais created the brake-less, pedal-less bike forerunner called a 'velocipede' in 1817. The German inventor would likely be floored by today's variety of bike options, from new lightweight road bikes to heavier mountain bikes with fatter, knobby tires designed to handle rougher terrain. More than 200 years after von Drais introduced his two-wheeled contraption, bicycles remain as popular as ever. Chances are there's one just waiting for you to take it for a spin, and what better day to do so than World Bicycle Day?
A visit to Limerick on Limerick
Today is Limerick Day, and what better place to celebrate this unofficial holiday than in Limerick, Ireland. The connection between the historic city and the humorous, five-line verse is unclear. Several theories have been purported, none of them definitive. But the city of Limerick has embraced its namesake poetry style and in recent years the Limerick Writers' Centre has hosted an annual competition called Bring Your Limericks to Limerick.
We're looking across the River Shannon at the historic part of the city, a medieval section once walled off by the Vikings around 812 and known today as King's Island. That's King John's Castle on the left, built on the order of King John in 1200. Over on the right is St. Mary's Cathedral, which dates from 1168 and is the oldest building in Limerick still in use. History suggests the area was settled long before the Vikings conquered it and set about destroying Irish public records. The earliest map of Ireland, produced in 150 CE by historian and overall polymath Ptolemy, shows a place called 'Regia' at the same site as King's Island.
Caribou on the move
Each fall a quarter million caribou come together to form the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, a group that makes an epic migration through northwest Alaska. In great numbers they move south from their calving grounds in the Utukok River Uplands to their winter range on the Seward Peninsula. Fall is also the time when scientists attach radio collars to members of the herd, to track their location and health, and to gain information that will help conserve the species. When spring arrives, they'll complete the trip again in reverse, covering a total of 2,000 miles each year, give or take.
One of the best spots to see the herd on the move is where the great masses of animals cross this river, the Kobuk, at Onion Portage. The name of the portage derives from an Inupiaq (Inuit) word meaning 'wild onions' for the many wild onions that grow here. But the native Inuit people don't come here just to forage for onions. For millennia, the caribou crossing has drawn native peoples who rely on caribou meat, a tradition that continues to this day.
Go with the rainbow flow
Today's photo brings us to the banks of Caño Cristales, the 'liquid rainbow' that cuts a prismatic path through the heart of Colombia. From June through November, when the clear water is low, the abundant underwater plants that cover the riverbed show off their red, yellow, green, and blue hues. The star of the show—especially in this photo—is Macarenia clavigera, a riverweed that ranges from bright red to deep crimson or purple depending on its intake of sun rays. In August and September, when the florid flora are at their peak, it's a coveted nature excursion: Because the river's ecosystem is so fragile, visits are limited to guided tours.