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"Padre Island National Seashore is unique for the beach," park ranger William Botts said. "We've got more wilderness beach here, probably, than any place in the world."

The island is home to an array of animals, like the Kemps Ridley sea turtles, which are protected there.

"We collect the eggs from the Kemps Ridley sea turtle," Botts said. "They are transported to a hatchery facility. The hatchlings are collected and brought down to the beach. We let them out and they slowly crawl down the beach."

The Laguna Madre on the bay side of the island is a haven for windsurfers. There, the water averages only about three feet deep.

Feb. 12, 2006

Yellowstone National Park was established in 1872 and is the world's first national park. It covers about 2.2 million acres, which is bigger than the states of Rhode Island and Delaware combined. The park has two-thirds of the world's geysers, including Old Faithful, which erupts about every hour and a half and goes 180 feet into the air.

"We're sitting on top of a volcano," said Will Yavorsky, a park ranger. "And that heat, that magma that is sitting down in the volcano is what's heating all the ground water and sending up to the geysers and hot springs."

There are also about 4,900 buffalo in the park.

"These are huge animals," said Yavorsky "They weigh about 2,000 pounds. That's bigger than your car, maybe bigger than your truck."

Jan. 29, 2006

Mount Washington in New Hampshire is the highest point in the United States at 6,288 feet above sea level. It is also one of the spots for the country's roughest weather. Observers live atop the peak for eight days in a row to study the weather, even though the only way to get there in the winter is by snow cab. Hurricane winds are a way of life on Mount Washington -- they occur 100 days a year.

"Where we sit, as the highest point in New England, we have a unique opportunity to observe weather phenomena that doesn't happen anywhere else," said David Balfrey, a weather observer.

Jan. 22, 2006

When you visit Maui, be prepared to spend a lot of time in your car -- because if you don't, that means you missed out on the famous road to Hana. The gorgeous drive along Maui's coast offers ample opportunity to stop along the way and hike down to the beach or up to the waterfalls. But the road isn't for the faint-hearted: At 52 miles long, it includes about 600 curves and 56 one-way bridges. Yet it's worth it for the beautiful views you won't see anywhere else in the world.

Jan. 15, 2006

The first permanent settlers came to Jackson Hole, Wyo., in the 1880s, and what they found there was so incredibly beautiful, they decided to stay. Today, people come to what many call "the last and best of the Old West" for world-class skiing. Those in the know call it the "steep and deep" -- which refers to the difficult terrain of the Tetons and the average snowfall of over 600 inches.

If you want to take time off from the slopes, you can go for a dog sled ride to a thermal spring. You also can visit the National Elk Refuge, a 25,000-acre area that is home to over 5,000 elk that come to this winter range because it has milder temperatures and less snow than areas in higher elevations.

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