Ah, Thanksgiving. The holiday weekend is a fine time to share gratitude with family, play touch football with friends, and catch up on all of those travel stories you’ve been meaning to read. We consume scores of travel-oriented articles every week and keep tabs on the best of the best. With this in mind, here is a rundown on three of our recent faves. Consider these Cliff’s Notes our Thanksgiving present to you. You’re welcome.

Quiet was the subject of a recent issue of the California Sunday magazine, and one of the best pieces in the bunch was by Ashley Powers. The story, “Preserving the Quietest Places,” takes readers along on a trip through Rocky Mountain National Park with an expert in soundscapes. The result is stellar reportage and beautiful prose that somehow plays with the sense of sound, a new take on the notion of “show, don’t tell.” Perhaps the highlight of the story: the details Powers offers about her main source’s obsession with loons—his vanity license plate (CMNLOON) and his Instagram handle (@gavia_immer), which is the loon’s Latin name. Just be sure to read this one in relative silence, OK? 

On the surface, Paul Kvinta’s Outside Magazine article about the feral cat problem on the Hawaiian island of Kauai technically isn’t a travel article in the traditional sense. About halfway into the piece, however, you realize that the author is telling this news feature with such vivid detail that the piece offers as much of a sense of place as any travel story ever could. The piece is informative, too—read it and you’ll learn how diseases that previously only affected feral cats now are impacting other species of animals. Everybody knows we’re partial to cats in Hawaii, but this piece offers a different perspective entirely. For that reason alone, it’s worth the read. 

We’ve jonesed for the Olympic Peninsula ever since the Twilight movies. That explains our initial interest in Lucas Peterson’s recent “Frugal Traveler” column for the New York Times about the Hoh Rain Forest and a nearby town. Peterson’s column is almost always a fun read, and this particular installment is no exception—especially when he talks about the forest floor inside the Hoh where “new trees sprouted out of the moldering logs of their dead ancestors.” His details about Port Townsend were spot-on as well. Yes, it’s a great walking city; yes, it really does rain a lot; and yes, many locals warn open-minded visitors about getting “sucked in.” As travelers, these balanced reviews always make our lives easier.

Matt Villano is a freelance writer and editor based in Healdsburg, California. In nearly 20 years as a full-time freelancer, he has covered travel for publications including TIME, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Sunset, Backpacker, Entrepreneur, and more. He contributes to the Expedia Viewfinder blog and writes a monthly food column for Islands magazine. Villano also serves on the board of the Family Travel Association and blogs about family travel at Wandering Pod. Learn more about him at Whalehead.com.