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A morning cruise through the heart of Moscow begins at the Kievskaya Metro station and continues past the sports complex, Sparrow Hills and Moscow University, Gorky Park, the Kremlin and Red Square. The view of the city and its landmarks are excellent from this vantage point. The central university building is visible from anywhere in the city, however the cruise offers a closer vantage point. To the left is the sight of the Moscow Olympics and to the right, Gorky Park, with its somewhat dated amusement rides and it dysfunctional space shuttle. A Peter the Great statue separates a tributary and to the left, the just finished Christ’s Cathedral comes into view. Beyond the cathedral, the red brick Kremlin walls enclose the bright yellow buildings and several more churches; the site marks Mockba’s origins. Beyond the eastern wall, Red Square and that definitive Russian symbol, Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
Located in Julia Pfeifer-Burns State Park, McWay Falls splatters onto a pristine beach cove below. Sheer cliffs deny access to the cove by foot and violent waves crashing against a violent central California coastline make access via kayak equally hazardous. Furthermore, since the cove is part of California’s system of state parks, McWay Falls is considered a protected area and therefore trespassing is against the law. Nevertheless, a short hike from the parking area beneath State Highway 1, and one will reach the magnificent Pacific Ocean and the first view of the falls. This rocky coastline, from San Simeon, all the way north, even beyond the Arctic Circle, has some of the most beautiful scenery on the planet. The trail is nestled between a sheer cliff and a pine forest, and ends at the ruins of the Waterfall House, built by the early owners of the property. Late afternoon visits are encouraged since it will take most of the day for any sunshine to eliminate the cliff’s shadow and burn off any coastal fog.
Mount Whitney Hike
Access the mountain from its eastern slope at the Portal, which at over 8,500 feet, and makes the 14,496 Whitney climb doable. With two camps strategically positioned along the way, one can pack up for two days, climb the peak on the third, and return to base on the fourth and fifth day. Many day hiker’s choose this option: a pre-dawn starting time on a long August day after much of the seasonal snow has melted, and then returning to the trailhead within an hour after sundown. Be sure that back country permits are in order, and that high altitude limits have been tested. Make sure to bring along a hiker’s headlamp along with a hydration bag and walking poles. Also, prepare for a worst case scenario and pack necessary survival gear. The trail loops its way up from the Portal and crests at Lone Pine Lake. It then follows the stream up to an elongated meadow where the first camp is located. The trail winds up to and beside Mirror Lake, and takes a sharp left, and onto a series of switchbacks, some marked only by cairns. The general rule is to have returned to Mirror Lake by dusk or otherwise risk remaining on the mountain overnight without a tent or bag, since cairns can’t ne navigated in darkness. Consultation Lake hosts the second camp; a jumbled rock field and the foot of a climb known as the 99 switchbacks. After the switchbacks, the trekker crests at the saddle, where at just 1000 feet below the summit, one can view both the Owens Valley to the east and much of the Sierra Nevada Range to the west. The long, slow mile to the summit requires the hiker to negotiate a moonscape of sizable boulders, rock jumbles, slippery scree and melting snow fields. The final stretch, with the stone cabin in sight, challenges every aching muscle as well as one’s lung capacity, but the view is priceless. On the return, trying to reach the Portal before sunset will only increase the risk of injury—and even the slightest injury has serious ramifications here. Beware of a quick dissension.
May, 2006 Lost Coast, California
The Mattole River in northern California flows through the King’s Range before reaching the Pacific shore. One of the few areas left in California without freeway, parking lots, and convenience food, the Lost Coast is fittingly named. Accessing the Lost Coast Trail requires taking a narrow road, one-lane at times, through the King’s Range and into farm land before reaching the river and following it to the sea. The trailhead begins on the dark sand beach where small flowers bloom on dunes and brace themselves against the persistent winds. This volcanic soil is spongy to the step. This consistent step, sink, and step out can get quite monotonous, and can challenge less developed muscle tissue. The trail follows the beach southward across ravines where trickling water falls from the coastal foothills. During spring, wildflowers will awash these hills with color. A day hiker can plan to make the trip to Punta Gorda Lighthouse and return if conditions are right. Opt for a hike to the lighthouse in the morning, chancing the coastal fog. Accept the fact that visibility to the lighthouse may be diminished on the way there, yet wait for the fog to lift before the return trip. Once the coast is clear, literally, head back, savoring every moment. Note that by mid-afternoon the wind force can be severe. Punta Gorda is a make-shift campsite for those continuing down the trail. The antechamber of the lighthouse is often used for storage. After exploring the white-washed structure, squeeze up the narrow spiral staircase and through the even narrower opening up to the light room for amazing views.
Havasupai Falls is eight miles from the rim of Grand Canyon National Park, though not part of the National Park system. The Havasupai Indian Reservation borders a western edge of the park and is accessible via an unmarked highway off U.S. 66 and north of Seligman. Supai is the only village located anywhere in the canyon and is accessible by foot or helicopter. Arrive at the parking area at road’s end and descend a series of switchbacks into a ravine. As the ravine walls get higher and begin to change to a reddish brown color, the trek resembles that of a slot canyon. Soon the high pitched sound of cowboys herding cattle can be detected down trail. A Native American cowboy appears with twenty mules in tow, single file, with each mule carrying corrugated plastic U.S. Mail crates at each side. The cowboy nods, several dogs bark commands at the mules, and the train passes, with another cowboy and his dogs at flank. What just transpired is the Supai Village U.S. Mail Service, and when passing it is highly encouraged that hikers yield the right of way. Other mail trains will pass in like fashion before the hiker reaches the river. The river is nestled among bright green foliage. The canyon has stretched higher and several lone monoliths seem to have risen from the walls. These imposing structures are considered by the Supai to be ancestral sentinels protecting the village. The village includes a school, a church, a resort, a clinic, and a helicopter pad for emergencies. There is also a resort, a restaurant and a store. Walk through the city before ascending deeper into the canyon. After several minutes, the precipice of Havasupai Falls comes into view. The trail takes a side route and continues below the falls, where greenish pools of warm water reflect against the rock. Swimming is permitted. Set up camp here and later, continue the four miles to the Colorado River where several more waterfalls are visible.
San Luis Obispo (SLO)
Home to a California Mission as well as Cal Poly, SLO is a small college town located within ten minutes from the central coast. A creek flows through town separating the San Luis Mission from Higuera Street. Shops border a park like setting. The town is somewhat Bohemian, with an active nightlife, as evidenced by Bubblegum Alley on Higuera. Decades of chewed bubblegum add color to the narrow brick passage.
Fields of Lazy Susan's rest among the Appalachian Range where mornings are a misty blue. Take Skyline Drive from Front Royal, Virginia, southward through the narrow park. Once Skyline Drive leaves Shenandoah, it becomes the Blue Ridge Parkway, which continues south almost to the Georgia state line. The drive partially shares the Appalachian Trail, with many side trails descending toward the valley floor exposing pristine waterfalls. Deer and bear are plentiful, as are Monarch butterflies in late summer.
Lake Louise at Banff Park Canada
Crystal Blue Lake Louise is a premiere destination among the five National Parks that make up the Canadian Rockies. Located just south of where Highway 1 forks westward into British Columbia and Yoho National Park, Lake Louise boasts the Fairmont Chateau Hotel on its eastern shore. The lake is surrounded by rugged mountain peaks accessible by trail or boat.
Alabama Hills, California
Located in the eastern shadow of Mount Whitney, the Alabama Hills are accessible via the Whitney Portal Road. The Hills are covered with jumbles of sizable boulders excellent for climbing or exploring. Classic movie westerns were filmed here, further evidenced by the store shops and cafes along Highway 395 in Lone Pine. Glossies of famous Hollywood cowboys are proudly displayed. The drive up to the portal will end at a parking lot and the Whitney Trailhead; an elevation well over 8500'.
Buy tickets prior to visiting Alcatraz. Concessioners will boat visitors out to the island which offers excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge to the west. Plan an afternoon visit in the summer where the temperature is warmer and the sun has had time to burn off the coastal fog. Upon docking, the visitor will immediately notice the makeshift red lettering on an eastern exterior wall, identifying the Native American takeover of the island in the early 1970's. Though there are tours available, the island is self-guided for the most part. Skeletal remains of the outbuildings have been sacrificed to the encroaching vegetation, while the main prison building is well maintained by the park service. Tour Capone's and the Birdman's cell, the cells of the three escapees, and visit the mess hall, showers, exercise yard, and solitary confinement cell, as well as other locations of notoriety before the return to the dock.
Smithsonian’s Museum of American History
Seinfeld's Pirate Shirt represents a smattering of American pop culture phenomena on display at Smithsonian's Museum of American History located at the National Mall in Washington D.C. The museum, however, is much more than prop and wardrobe collections from Hollywood. The history of transportation and technology are represented, as well as memorabilia from American presidents and American wars. There are many galleries displaying amazing exhibits representing all aspects of life in the United States.
Port Lucaya, Grand Bahama Island
Located on Grand Bahamas Island and accessible by air from either Atlanta or Miami, Port Lucaya is a well maintained boating and tourist enclave just east of the town of Freeport. Grand Bahamas Island is less visited than the Nassau and the Paradise Island area, and therefore offers a more relaxing experience. Our Lucaya is a hotel resort operated by Westin and includes many restaurant and shopping options. Lucaya Village offers more affordable dining and shops as well as a stage area for performing and entertaining. Be sure to experience the Junkanoo Festival; Bahamian Carnivale. Also, try Kalik; tasty Bahamian beer
The steady hike over slick rock in the heat of the day can be quite demanding. An early morning trip in the spring or autumn is highly recommended. Most people view Delicate Arch from a distance several miles away along the park's side road. The trail to Delicate passes near a sizable rock precipice which temporarily obstructs the view. The hiker will be quite impressed with the appearance of the arch. Standing precariously on the ledge of a natural bowl on one side and a valley cliff on the other, the arch is fittingly named.
Old Clark Homestead
The house Grandfather Clark built during the Great Depression is located below a draw just north of Manor Creek Waterpark in Waynesboro, Mississippi. The grandparents divided their acreage up between four siblings and mom received seventy acres of bottom land covered in creek branches, and thick undergrowths of briars and vines. "I hate a goddamn vine", Dad would lament after spending a sweltering summer day harvesting the seventy acres for paper wood. During ’72-’73 the family's entire income came from thinning, transporting and selling the tall pines to paper mills in Waynesboro or nearby Laurel. Dad bought a dilapidated egg farm building, tore it down and moved it to the Clark homestead. The family rebuilt it as a massive barn which enclosed chickens, hogs, a corn crib, and a smoke house. A carpenter and mechanics shop defined to south side of the barn.
We harvested vegetables, gathered eggs, and butchered hogs. Many nights we were awakened by the family Boston terrier (Woo Woo) baying an opossum or armadillo in some dark regions of the property. With a flashlight and an ax, and with Dad's persistent hollers to encourage the dog to continue barking (in order to locate his precise whereabouts), Dad and I would reach the commotion, pull the varmint out by the tail from where he was dug in, and who was by now "playin' possum", and then crack it's scull with the head of the ax. An opossum is notorious for raiding gardens and hen houses. My room is at left front, the windows behind the pine tree. The family lived at the homestead from 1965-66 and again from 1972-73. They were quite possibly the best years of my life.
Albuquerque City Limits
Located in the shadows of the more touristy Santa Fe, June, 2006-Located in the shadows of the more touristy Santa Fe, Albuquerque is a great city to visit in its own right. There are many area mountains to climb and the Hot Air Balloon Festival in October is of particular interest.
Smithsonian's Air and Space Museum
With a collection that includes the Spirit of Saint Louis, in the foreground, and Apollo capsules rescued from the Pacific, the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum located on the National Mall in Washington D.C., contains over a century's worth of famous and significant air and space craft. The plane that broke the sound barrier is there, the orange plane in the background, as is the Voyager, which journeyed non-stop around the world in eight days. I volunteered at the central desk from April ’08 to April ’09.
Jamaica’s Blue Mountains
Biking down the Blue Mountains requires hiring concessioners. Since the highest point of the range is located on the island's eastern side, visitors can also access the mountains via Kingston to the south, or the Ocho Rios area to the north. A shuttle takes the bikers to the crest with mountain bikes in tow. A stop for lunch includes Blue Mountain coffee. A rest stop allows for a tasting of raw sugar cane; a compliment to the standard fare. The ride ends at the waterfall pictured. Riders are invited to wash off at the swimming hole below, and for a buck or two, Jamaican children will entertain by making a cannonball from a precipice above.
The Window at Big Bend
One of the most difficult National Parks to reach in the lower 48 states, Big Bend National Park in Texas is a distant drive from either San Antonio or El Paso. Driving southward where ranchland becomes desert, there's a feeling of nearing the end of the world. One should not visit this park in the summer months, when temperature resembles that of Death Valley. One should also realize that visiting this outpost of formidable terrain requires preparation, in terms of water and food stuff. Though the park has dining, lodging accommodations and supply stores, precautionary efforts must be made. From the park's major intersection, the road splits east and west toward two amazing canyons along the Rio Grande. Concessioners offer rafting rides in the canyons. Once arriving at the river, a ferryman will row the visitor to Mexico and back for two dollars. Another spur route takes the trekker into the Chisos Mountains, where cooler climes allow for pleasant hiking. When hiking, look for deer and javalinas. Above, the Window Trail frames the distant desert floor.
Generally there is not a disappointing view of the central California coastline. Each turn of the road traveling north from Ventura offers crashing waves, rugged shoreline, and pristine wilderness. U.S. 101 passes through several sizable hamlets, all encroaching upon each other. Highway 1 splits at San Luis Obispo and into the Cambria/Hearst Castle area. There, elephant seals nest and play. Of important note, making the trip on a late afternoon in the summer is highly encouraged. A lengthy morning drive may result in the entire journey being socked in by coastal fog. From San Simeon north, the road follows the coastline around high ridges and deep ravines, as waves violently splash against the rocks below. The heart of Big Sur is a pine forest high above the drink where spur roads and trails descend down to sandy coves.
One of the smallest state capitols in the United States in terms of population, this Maryland destination culturally thrives. The several short blocks between the statehouse and the sailboats allow the visitor to experience a settlement well over two hundred years old. Old shops and taverns still cater to visitors. There is a statue near the dock of author Alex Haley telling a story to three small children.
Santa Elena, Mexico
Take a right turn at the Big Bend National Park intersection to the road's end at the Rio Grande. For two dollars, up front, this gentleman will carry the visitor into Mexico, sans passport. Children wait with mule and for another dollar or so; they will taxi the visitor the two hundred yards to town. Santa Elena has a school, a church, and a cafe, where the best goat cheese chicken enchiladas on the planet can be served up. The rowboat and taxi fares are round trip.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado
A newly designated national park, Black Canyon is so named for its ability to soak up light. Though one can access both rims, the southern rim is less primitive and more maintained. Several places are designated as look-out points, located at places so narrow, one seemingly could throw a rock from one forested rim to the other. Unlike many western canyons, Black Canyon has a paved road that descends to the canyon floor and the rapid Gunnison. Campsites are available in a shaded area near the river.
George Washington Masonic Temple Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia
Designed to resemble the lighthouse of Alexandria in ancient Egypt, Washington's Masonic Temple honors the nation's first president as a mason. Inside there are many images of Mr. Washington wearing the Masonic emblem around his neck. Tours daily take the visitor to various levels, each with a specific theme or purpose. The tour culminates at the observation deck where one gets sweeping views of the meandering Potomac River, the National Mall, and that other George Washington landmark in the distance.
The Calgary Tower stands among downtown city streets as a testament to a hearty folk who live upon the frozen tundra of western Canada. When visiting during the summer, note the electrical plugs located at each office building's parking spaces; anything to assist automobiles to start during the long winters. Calgary has an excellent cultural district where art and theater thrive. There are rooftop gardens, an island park on the Bow River, and an amazing zoo, not to mention the Calgary Stampede, where once a year, cattle rush the city streets steered toward the Saddledome and the areas world famous rodeo. Also, the city is within an hour of the Canadian Rockies.
Hoodoos at Bryce Canyon, Utah
Ethereal formations spiral skyward from the canyon floor while sunlight provides a constant change in color. Bryce Canyon is located in south central Utah, approximately halfway between Arches and Zion National Parks. Bryce is not an enclosed canyon like the Grand or the Black. Access is along the southern ridge. The park road provides ample places for parking and accessing the trails that descend into the hoodoos. The canyon is particularly eerie on a bright moonlit night.
The San Francisco Trolleys
A National Park in motion, these trolley cars travel between Fisherman's Wharf and Market Square, taking various routes in the process. The wait to return from one turn-around point to the next may take an hour or longer, especially on a crowded summer afternoon. Still the trolleys are a must experience while in the city. The procedure required to help the trolley change directions is of particular note. Sitting on a large turnstile, the car is pushed by two city employees until the tracks line up. Boarding then begins. While hanging on is much more exciting then sitting on an interior bench, warnings abound about the narrow clearance between passing trolleys. Also, be cautious about jumping on and off while in motion. Getting too close to the operator's working space will sometimes provoke another stern warning.
Antietam Battlefield, Maryland
The rebel yell is demonstrated as is the shooting of muskets at this historic Civil War battlefield and hallowed ground. A self-guided driving tour includes farmhouses and once bloody cornfields. Stone memorials remind visitors of the various infantry divisions who fought that one September day, honoring the 23,000 killed.
The Cimiez Neighborhood of Nice, France
The Greeks established a stronghold on these French Riviera shores and named the fortress Nike, after the goddess of victory. Nike, however, was conquered by the Romans, who established their own fortress further inland from the coast in an area of Nice known as Cimiez. The ruins include a bathhouse and an amphitheater. The amphitheater is well preserved and still hosts concerts.
Cadillac Stonehenge in the Texas Panhandle
Located just west of Amarillo in the Texas Panhandle, and just south of Interstate 40, Cadillac Stonehenge is a series of automobiles planted into the earth at approximately 45 degree angles. Glass, trim, and other potentially dangerous objects have been removed and all left are the frames. Graffiti, over the years, all g-rated, have made this roadside attraction quite colorful. Even though the Stonehenge is on private land, visitors are generally welcomed to explore the site.
The Calaveras County Jumping Frog Jubilee
Mark Twain would be proud to know that well over 100 years after his short story: “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was published, this small California county in the Sierra Nevada foothills has created a frog jumping festival. Contestants from all over the west bring thoroughbred frogs trained in the art of distance jumping. Though other typical fair attractions and activities are taking place, the jumping frogs are the stars. Children set their prized participant on the stage, assistants measure the length of the jump, and judges debate the frog’s worthiness, all to the glee and sometimes bewilderment of the grandstand crowd.
After reaching the surface streets from New York’s City Hall subway station, this massive structure comes into view. Follow the pedestrians toward the bridge and notice that the pedestrian walk is suspended across the middle of the bridge and above the traffic. When crossing, stay in the right lane to allow joggers and cyclists to pass. Enjoy sweeping views of Manhattan, Liberty and Ellis Islands. A walk between the towers and the support cables is quite an experience. Upon reaching the Brooklyn side, take the steps down and walk toward the East River where grass, trees, and park benches follow the shoreline. Relax in the shadow of the bridge, hear the sounds of traffic crossing, and note the Chrysler Building in the distance.
One of the most distant areas to reach in the lower 48, Canyonlands National Park is located in southeastern Utah near the Colorado border. Two mighty rivers; the Green and the Colorado, meet here amidst amazing sculptured rock formations along a plateau that has been eroding for eons. Anyone unconvinced that the Colorado could have formed the Grand Canyon need look no further than the results of the river in Utah. The town of Moab is nearby, popular mainly for mountain biking along slick rock, four-wheeling through the wilderness or hiking among the states natural arches. At least a day’s drive from Salt Lake City, Denver, Phoenix, or Las Vegas, the Canyonlands are quite a distance, but worth the trip. As an added bonus, a driving loop can include Bryce, Zion, and the Grand Canyon. The slot canyons around Page, Arizona and Monument Valley can all be part of the itinerary. Make sure to visit the Needles; sharp spires shooting skyward in the southern section of the park.
California's Carrizo Plain
Nestled in the foothills between the San Joaquin Valley and the Coastal Range, Carrizo Plain offers a great springtime drive through blooming California poppy fields. The hills are awash in colors of yellow, orange, blue and purple, against a canvas of fresh sprouting grass. Deteriorating homesteads dot the roadside, Native American writing is visible at Painted Rock, and Soda Lake plays optical illusions on many who view it from Overlook Hill. The San Andreas Fault dissects the plain.
The Tomb of the Unknowns
The Changing of the Guard at Arlington National Cemetery is a solemn affair that invokes a sense of patriotism. The clicking of the boots, the precision of the rifle spin, and the uniformed march, all demand a standing respect to those who fought in the country’s great wars. The event occurs every half hour in the summer and hourly the rest of the year, 24-7, 365 days. It has been said that when a recent hurricane blew up the eastern coastline ravishing the Chesapeake Bay, guards were given the option to wait out the storm. They refused and continued their commitment through the tempest.
One of the best things about the Calgary Zoo is the entire section dedicated to animals from the arctic tundra. While bear, elk, moose, and caribou are expected in such an exhibit, the Musk Ox and the Arctic Fox were a pleasant surprise. The zoo is relatively small when compared those in warmer climates, but nevertheless, animals from most continents are represented. The playful moment between a mother and her baby gorilla is priceless.
Channel Islands National Park
Looking north at Inspiration Point on East Anacapa Island allows the visitor, on a clear day, to see the entire chain making up this offshore National Park. Looking west, the city of Ventura, California is visible. Looking straight down, the Pacific Ocean thrashes against the rugged rock. There are three Anacapa Islands: West, Middle, and East. The East Island is where most visitors arrive when visiting from the mainland. NPS approved ferry concessioner’s transport people out on day trips. In the spring, whales can be spotted off starboard as dolphins race the boat. The island’s dock is located just north of the famous Anacapa Arch; a detached piece of island partially submerged in the ocean and exposing a beautifully rounded natural arch. Nesting seals, seagulls and pelicans make the island chain home. Seals play among the kelp forests; an invitation to snorkel or dive. Several ship wrecks offshore also encourage diving. The loop trail traces the perimeter of the island; a mile or so hike among spring wildflowers. It extends to the point and back. The lighthouse on the south end has a constant bellow.
Capitol Reef National Park
Utah’s Capital Reef National Park is in the nether lands of the Utah outback. The closest access is off Interstate 15 in Saint George and reaching the entrance requires driving through Zion and Bryce Canyons. Well worth the drive, the park is defined by massive rock formations that were once part of an inland sea. Evidence of sea life abounds among this ancient reef. Visitors drive along an ancient sea bed where narrow passages through ravines expose brilliant monoliths chiseled by water and wind. Take a side trip to an arch sighting or locate ancient Native American writings on sheer bronze colored walls. Early Mormon settlers homesteaded the reef floor.
Touring the interior of the U.S. Capitol is as simple as notifying ones representative of the intent. The representative will then send one gold ticket per person. If planning to stay in the D.C. area for a week or so, note that most representatives keep offices at buildings within a block from the capitol. One could call one day, pick up the gold tickets, and take the tour the next. The gold ticket allows access not just inside but also lets the visitor view the senate chambers while senators are in session. Of course, the gold ticket option only works when there is a session. Another option is to arrive at 8:00 A.M. at a kiosk near the Visitor Center, stand in line, and at 9:00, the kiosk will open and disperse one white ticket per person. These tours take the visitor up the steps, into the foyer and the rotunda, before touring the statue room and then downstairs where the original Supreme Court was held. The steps outside facing the mall offers excellent views.
Dunn's River Falls
Anyone who plans a visit to Jamaica must include Dunn’s River Falls in the itinerary. Easy to do since most cruise ships docked at Ocho Rios and most resorts located on the north shore offer excursions to Dunn’s River. The falls are a series of cascades traveling downward over 600 feet to the Gulf of Mexico. Travelers from around the world arrive at Ocho to climb the falls. For a fee, visitors are assigned a guide who informs everyone of the climbing procedure. A human chain forms by holding hands, similar to kindergarten field trips. The second lead follows the foot placement of the guide and so forth down the chain. Foot placements are vital; otherwise the rushing current will send one into the falls. Step by step the ascent is made. There are many places to break the chain and play in the inviting pools. If deciding to do so, simply wait for the next passing chain and continue up. Note the guide collects camera equipment prior to the journey and returns it at the top. If the guide has your equipment, it’s best to stay with the original guide. Dunn’s River has a gift shop and a place for lunch.
Entrance to Carlsbad Caverns
One of the largest cavern systems in the western hemisphere, Carlsbad, located in the southeastern corner of New Mexico, in most known for the daily departure of thousands of fruit bats every summer evening about dusk. The Visitor Center offers an elevator ride to the depth of the cavern, but the more adventurous may want to trek from the cave’s entrance down, through and to the amazing formations below. A winding series of switchbacks take the hiker into darkness as swallows dart in and out the cave’s mouth, making a beautiful high pitched whistle. The hand rail is vital to the descent, since eyes need a while to adjust to the sudden darkness. The trail is made of coarse asphalt needed to give extra traction. Water seepage drips in search of subterranean streams. Once at the bottom, explore the rooms. The stalactites and stalagmites are amazing. Return to the cave’s mouth early, sit at the amphitheater, and prepare to watch the rush of bats exit for a night of dining over the Texas and New Mexico landscape.
Chapel of the Holy Cross
Two huge rocks form the foundation of this church located just southeast of Sedona. The exterior is designed to reflect the evening sun while the shaded interior welcomes warmth, even in the coldest winter, for evening mass. Relatively easy to access off the Interstate 17 between Phoenix and Flagstaff, the church is open to all visitors. Once entering through the massive front doors, one may opt to light a few candles or just wait for services. If not wishing to do either, the building and grounds still invite exploring.
Photographed here in 2007 at Hains Point; the manmade peninsula of land that separates the Potomac River from Washington D.C., the Awakening has since moved further down river and to the Maryland bank. A mega-resort named National Harbor purchased the sculpture and installed it as part of its beach front. The Awakening involves a man, measured at 100 feet, buried into the ground with only the face and four appendages showing. His right foot is visible above the ankle. The bent left leg protrudes upward. Children can walk through the bent knee or slide down the shin. The left hand writhes in pain, while the right arm stretches up and outward searching for a hold. The face, painfully agonizing, seems to be grasping for air. Open mouth and sunken eyes struggle amidst a scruffy beard and unkempt hair. Comparisons of everyone from Moses to Lincoln are in order and many surmise the sculpture to symbolize the resurrection of John Brown, famed abolitionist who was hung after a siege at Harper’s Ferry.
The East End of Grand Bahamas Island
Flying into Freeport on the Grand Bahamas, the northernmost island visited of the chain, allows one to spend a more economically affordable vacation than Nassau to the south. Enjoy dining on conch and drinking Kalik at any one of the eating establishments at Port Lucaya. For a day, rent a car and drive across this narrow stretch of land stopping at the East End, where visitors are welcomed. Along the way, take an hour or so and enjoy Lucayan National Park, where beautiful mangroves open into a forested beach and the shallow Atlantic is a perfect blue.
Colorado National Monument
A mesa positioned above the Colorado Valley near Grand Junction, this National Monument represents one of many where one can tour spectacular formations of rock carved over eons by both the natural elements and the mighty Colorado. Located in a geographical area known as the Colorado Plateau, which encompasses all of southern Utah and much of northern Arizona, Colorado National Monument is a relatively easy visit. It is also considered a great stopping point for hikers traveling the west and needing a place to camp between Mesa Verde and Arches. When driving, one will notice monoliths that have broken away from the mesa and stand alone in the many ravines that define the monument. From the road, trailheads depart below the rim and into hidden canyons.
The Grave of Edgar Allan Poe
The grave of Edgar Allan Poe is located in the heart of Baltimore at the Westminster Church. The church and graveyard is on a small city lot that has since been encroached upon by the University of Maryland Hospital. Enter during daylight hours and visit the cemetery grounds. The headstones are sunken and crumbling, the moldy markers invoke a sense of eeriness. The site is appropriate; with one expecting a raven to be perched nearby, on constant watch. The large monument in the front corner marks the remains of Poe, his wife and mother-in-law. Visit the interior of the church and see the bottles of cognac, one has been left each year at midnight on Poe’s birthday by an anonymous toaster. The toaster has made an annual pilgrimage each year, but stopped in 2010.
The Cote d' Azur
Take the light rail train either east or west from the city of Nice, France and experience many coastal views en route. Westward are the cities of Antibes and Cannes, while adventure eastward and travel through Monte Carlo and toward Genoa, Italy. The tracks hug sheer cliffs as medieval French hamlets stand perched on distant hillsides, protected behind fortressed walls. While cities along the French Riviera provide excellent views of the Mediterranean, an inexpensive afternoon by rail will offer much more.
Crater Lake at Sunset
The caldera of a volcano filled with water. Crater Lake is particularly identifiable by Wizard Island, visible to the southwest of the lake. The cone-shaped island is accessible by boat, which for a fee will deposit the hiker at the island dock; the trailhead to the top of the cone. The island is made up of powdered volcanic rock which can be very slippery when climbing. After an island visit, drive around the rim and stop often at vistas or at trailheads. Plan to stop, specifically, at the turn-out identified as Phantom Ship. Near the southeastern shore, a three-mast rock formation protrudes above the lake surface. The rim road then forks has a spur route takes the visitor out to Pinnacle Valley, where otherworldly spires grow out from a barren ravine.
Craters of the Moon National Monument
Central Idaho is covered in thousands of acres of hardened volcanic lava. Craters of the Moon National Monument lies amidst a particularly thick lava flow. Boardwalks trek out to Buffalo, Beauty, and Dewdrop Caves. Make sure to explore Indian Tunnel. In the evening trek a few minutes away from the campsite and watch the sparrows circle the lava field for food.
Biltmore Estate in Ashville, North Carolina
A gift from a young wealthy bachelor to his fiancé, the Biltmore Estate is a testament to late 19th century opulence. George and Edith Vanderbilt raised their daughter, Cornelia, among the rich interiors with priceless works of art and the expansive grounds and gardens where one could ride thoroughbreds seemingly for days. Now open to visitors, the estate is still owned by the Vanderbilt’s, who use the income generated by the ticket sales to cover the taxes on the property. With the Blue Ridge Mountains as a backdrop, the garden and garden house offer abundant variety of plant life. The grounds host sculptures and terraces, a creek and a bass pond. The Italian Garden, where the above photograph was taken is quite impressive. Equally so is the Vista, located past the central fountain and the drive, up a rise, and across a lawn, where Roman columns support trellises draped in vines, all surrounding a statue of Apollo with a hunting dog. Trails from the main house to the Bass Pond and back make for an easy trek.
A book, a movie, and even referenced in a power ballad by the Scorpions, Gorky Park is a staple attraction for anyone visiting Moscow. Every great city in the world has a premiere park that is distinctly its own. Long tree-lined lanes attract Muscovites as well as a substantial squirrel population. Newlyweds, sailors on leave, and school children all enjoy a leisurely stroll. There is a midway, where games of chance offer enticement. Comfort food is served throughout the park. Reminiscent of any 1940’s era American boardwalk, Gorky Park also has harmless carnival rides and each with a Russian twist. There are tunnel rides, where cars take ticket holders into and through darkened corridors, similar to Fantasyland at Disney World. Note the Russian depiction of Mount Rushmore on one particular ride. There is also a section of Gorky devoted to all things science, and in fact, a mock Russian space shuttle is open to the public.