A short easy hike along a gravel path, the Cholla Cactus Garden of Joshua Tree National Park glows in early morning and late afternoon sunlight. Twenty miles north of the Cottonwood Visitors center, this dense patch of panda bear cholla grow at the base of the Hexie Mountains to the west. A mile north and south of the trailhead parking lot, drivers are warned not to pull off the road. At the trail, you quickly see why - tiny heads of cactus dropped off the mature cacti and blown about by the wind. The hiker is likewise advised not to leave the gravel trail. Against the dark green Hexie Mountains, the yellow-white needle cloaked cholla look like something out of a fantasy.
The United States is one of the most diverse countries on earth, jam packed full of amazing sights from St. Patrick's cathedral in New York to Mount Hollywood California.The Northeast region is where it all started. Thirteen British colonies fought the American Revolution from here and won their independence in the first successful colonial rebellion in history. Take a look at these rolling hills carpeted with foliage along the Hudson river here, north of New York City.The American south is known for its polite people and slow pace of life. Probably they move slowly because it's so hot. Southerners tend not to trust people from "up north" because they talk too fast. Here's a cemetery in Georgia where you can find graves of soldiers from the Civil War.The West Coast is sort of like another country that exists to make the east coast jealous. California is full of nothing but grizzly old miners digging for gold, a few gangster rappers, and then actors. That is to say, the West Coast functions as the imagination of the US, like a weird little brother who teases everybody then gets famous for making freaky art.The central part of the country is flat farmland all the way over to the Rocky Mountains. Up in the northwest corner you can find creative people in places like Portland and Seattle, along with awesome snowboarding and good beer. Text by Steve Smith.