Forget Yellowstone

Yosemite and Yellowstone are beautiful… and way overcrowded. Why not go for a hike in one of America’s least-visited parks instead, where you’re more likely to see a bear, moose or ‘champion tree’ than another human?

Sockeye salmon jump in front of two adult Brown Bears standing at the top of Brooks Falls, Katmai National Park, Alaska. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

A secluded tropical sand beach and fringing reef in the Samoa National Park in Ofu Island, American Samoa. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

Bald Cypress and willows on a foggy morning. Bates Old River, Congaree National Park, South Carolina. Photograph: Jeff Cypress/Alamy Stock Photo.

The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Arizona, USA. Photograph: Marek Zuk/Alamy Stock Photo

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The only functional showers at camp are attached to the small dining hall where Garden Girl eats. She saw me, asked if I was staying in her part of camp for dinner, and had a short but pleasant conversation with me, and then went to get food.

I spent a good fifteen minutes fiddling with my backpack pretending to be busy because I felt too awkward to just walk over and sit down. I kept worrying that it would be presumptuous to invite myself to sit by her, but that it would be weird to specifically ask permission… I eventually looked in the mirror, said, “Of course it wouldn’t be presumptuous. She’s one of your best friends here. Dale Cooper wouldn’t worry about this,” and then… fiddled with my shoelaces until I made eye contact with her. She’d saved me a seat.

secret--targaryen  asked:

So I always hear Stannis's "saving the kingdom to win the throne" line praised as proving he's the only king who cares about his kingdom. I was shocked to see this response, because when I read it I thought it said something deeply unpleasant about Stannis's priorities--that he isn't saving the kingdom because it's the right thing to do, or even the smart thing to do, but because it will put him on the throne. I thought it painted him as power-hungry. Have I badly misunderstood something?

Well, you have to look at the line in its entirety and in context.

“You came because we sent for you, I hope. Though I could not say why you took so long about it.“

Surprisingly, Stannis smiled at that. “You’re bold enough to be a Stark. Yes, I should have come sooner. If not for my Hand, I might not have come at all. Lord Seaworth is a man of humble birth, but he reminded me of my duty, when all I could think of was my rights. I had the cart before the horse, Davos said. I was trying to win the throne to save the kingdom, when I should have been trying to save the kingdom to win the throne.” Stannis pointed north. “There is where I’ll find the foe that I was born to fight.”

Stannis’ endgame was always saving the kingdom, whether from the Lannisters or the Others. But before the end of ASOS, Stannis always filtered this genuinely righteous drive through his bitter resentments and grievances. There’s a certain catharsis in imagining Stannis striding into King’s Landing at the end of ACOK and uprooting every conspiracy within in one fell swoop (indeed, my first time through AGOT, I was expecting Stannis to show up at the end to save Ned’s ass), but he lacked the right mindset at that point to be the best possible version of himself. As we see in ASOS regarding Edric Storm, Stannis was buying into an ends-justify-means philosophy aptly summarized as “win the throne to save the kingdom.” The struggle over Edric’s fate crystallized the costs of such an approach, and ended with Davos making the case that it matters how Stannis comes into his rightful power. He must demonstrate what kind of king he would be. He must save the kingdom first

And Stannis does exactly that, because not only does he save the Watch and North from the wildlings, he then proposes to let the latter through the Wall under terms of peace. In the context of a book in part about war between the wildlings and the Watch, it’s a radical proposal, one from a man who has come to see his kingdom as more than an abstraction on a painted table. Jon and Stannis forge an alliance on the idea that the wildlings are included in the realms of men. 

Again, look at the context. Jon has just bluntly called Stannis on not doing this sooner. Stannis agrees–this was his duty, and Davos reminded him of it. This isn’t about ambition, it’s about Stannis acting as king instead of just declaring himself king. He rejected the temptation of the stone dragon in favor of earning the title “Protector of the Realm.” And though I think he’ll ultimately succumb to sacrifice later on, it’ll be in the attempt to avert apocalypse.