outdoors awesome

There are skies and then there are Blue Ridge Parkway skies. The southern end of the parkway in North Carolina winds through the highest elevations, offering dramatic mountain top views. When photographer Robert Stephens chanced upon this scene at Bear Trap Gap, he said “It almost felt like an out of body experience. You can’t believe what you’re seeing, but it’s there! I was so in awe of the light filtering over the ridges I had to remember to snap my shutter!” Photo courtesy of Robert Stephens.

An eagle flies through a rainbow as a storm clears one of the many small islands on Lake Vermilion. The fifth largest lake in Minnesota, Lake Vermilion contains over 75 small public land islands covered with birch, pine and spruce. Some of the islands have boat-in campsites, and many are only large enough for one site, ensuring that you can have an entire island to yourself!    The Bureau of Land Management works with the Bois Forte Band of Ojibwe (also referred to as Chippewa) to protect traditional-use areas and cultural sites on the islands. The lake is popular for fishing and contains a diversity of species including largemouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike and perch. Photo by Bob Wick, (@mypubliclands) Bureau of Land Management.

There’s no denying the unique attraction of Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming. Also known as “Bear Lodge” or “Bear’s Tipi,” the dramatic monolith is a sacred site to several Native American Tribes. Familiar to many in movies like “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” it’s recognizable to people around the world. But according to photographer Lori Eckhart, “There’s nothing like standing there in front of it. Its size, and the way it stands out and alone from anything else, just demands respect and fills you with awe.” Photo courtesy of Lori Eckhart.

Fascinating animals, muskoxen look like survivors of the Ice Age. Whiles other arctic animals spend their winter in hibernation, muskoxen live in open, unsheltered tundra enduring the unforgiving elements that come their way. One secret to muskoxen survival is their two layers of fur – a very long outer layer of fur that looks like hair and a short fuzzy underlayer of qiviut. You can find muskoxen on several public lands in Alaska, including Cape Krusenstern National Monument. Photo by Doug Demarest, National Park Service.