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Runaway Bay, less than an hour from Ocho Rios, offers some of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in Jamaica. Reef fish school in the shallows on the beach side. Further out, along the gulf side of the reef, lobster traps scatter the ocean floor .
Locks are strategically placed along the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, many with housing placed adjacently. Lockkeepers were on twenty-four hour duty to man the gates and allow passage. From Georgetown to Cumberland, Maryland, 184 miles, the C & O traced the Potomac and carried goods into the Appalachian wilderness with hopes of connecting with the Ohio River at Pittsburgh. The steam locomotive made this endeavor obsolete. At five mile intervals, I hiked the canal’s towpath for half of 2007 and half of 2008. Using mileposts as a guide and alternate Saturdays for a schedule, I reached the terminus in Cumberland in August.
Boquillas Canyon on the Rio Grande
Ladybugs flock to the rocks on the right and warm themselves in the sun before leaping into the current of the Rio Grande. Whether a miniature afternoon float trip or a mass suicide, the bugs ride out of Santa Elena Canyon; located on the western boundaries of Big Bend National Park.
Empire State Building
Bracing a chill breeze on a winter’s eve during holiday season, people intent to elevate up the Empire State Building will stand in a line that almost reaches the circumference of the structure. A suggestion may be to arrive approximately an hour prior to the building’s opening each morning, brave the same chill, and be among the first at the top to greet the day.
Marche aux Fluers, Nice
The Cours Saleya in Nice terminates at the Matisse House. The artist resided in the building, with its impressive facade, for many years and created many of his masterpieces here. Every day, for over one hundred years, the Marche aux Fluers has been held in this plaza. Vibrant colors accentuated with outdoor cafes, invite a dynamic social environment; inspiration is everywhere.
Grass carpeting the range near Preston, Idaho has browned, dormant for the coming winter; a palette for the full autumn colors on display.
Monk’s Diner, Upper West Side
Tom’s Restaurant on Manhattan’s Upper Westside provided exterior shots for Seinfeld’s Monk’s. The restaurant, small and quaint, pays homage to the sitcom by displaying the definitive portrait of Kramer on its north wall. Any desire to find a booth, sip coffee and linger the day away is soon extinguished by the constant arrival of customers, huddled near the cash register, waiting for an open table.
A statue of young Elvis, in cover alls and with guitar in hand, appears to be approaching his boyhood home. This east Tupelo house is simple, representative of Great Depression poverty, a poverty felt deeply throughout the south. Poverty echoed by delta blues, which served as a musical influence for Presley. The house seems to be of standard architectural construct; plain, rectangular, white-washed, with a small front porch wide enough to support a swing, common to the region. The boyhood home contrasts the exorbitance of Graceland, only one hundred miles away.
The Original Floyd the Barber, Mayberry, North Carolina
With portraits of Andy Griffith and the cast of his show along the walls, the original Floyd opens shop each day in Mount Airy, North Carolina. His name, however, is not Floyd, though the shop retains the famous moniker. The proprietor has the demeanor of a country gentleman, sans the verbal ticks and mannerisms Howard McNear made endearing. Promoting two chairs no waiting, the barbershop accepts its place in TV land, but small talk is usually about the goings on around Mount Airy and not Mayberry. Visitors should expect no less. Still, once the sideburns are even and the trim is done, Floyd will allow two photographs; one photograph of the customer which is then placed on a crowded wall, and one of Floyd, which the customer can take home.
Saguaro National Park
The rising sun appears to evaporate the morning condensation off the Saguaro Cactus, growing in the Rincon Mountain District of this Arizona national park. Large jackrabbits are common throughout the park, choosing to walk among the sage brush and cacti rather than hop.
Havasupai Indian Reservation
The Supai Indian Reservation borders Grand Canyon National Park. West of Seligman, a state highway splits north from Route 66 and terminates along a southern side canyon. Visitors take a trail for approximately eight miles to the American Indian village of Supai. Switchbacks at the rim’s surface soon straighten, following a ravine which eventually reaches a lush river. The ravine narrows into a deep crevice which the trail, trickling water, and an occasional mule train carrying U.S. Mail shares.
Yorktown National Historic Park
Fortified mounds of dirt protected patriots from British bombardment at Yorktown, and are positioned along rises between the Moore House and Victory Monument. General Washington’s headquarters was located further inland. American independence was fought and won here.
Mount Mitchell, North Carolina
Whether it’s the Appalachians, the Blue Ridge, or the Great Smoky’s, mountain ranges throughout the eastern United States share pervasive fog banks. The fog generally remains below the crest line, but will at times rise up and cover the mountaintops. The highest point in North Carolina, Mount Mitchell, is capped by a look-out tower, visibly hazy through an afternoon cloud.
Paradise Village, Mexico
On a floatie, holding a half-consumed rum punch concoction, toasting the waterfall and slide at the Paradise Resort in Nuevo Vallarta.
“ Standin’ on the Corner…”
The girl, good lord, in a flatbed Ford, is merely an etching on the store front glass. The statue of a ‘60’s musician leans against the post. With his hairstyle, open collar, and blue jeans, he holds the guitar by its neck as it rests on the curb. Etched in an upstairs window, the couple stands in a pre-coital embrace. On the ledge of another window, a statue of a bald eagle is perched, observing the scene below.
Goat Island, New York
Horseshoe Falls is partially visibly from this Goat Island vantage point. Maid of the Mist boats will continue around that last bend, into the churning water, and through the heavy spray. The skyline of Niagara Falls, Ontario is ascertainable above the western gorge.
Old Town Nice
Crooked streets, narrow alleyways in perpetual shadow define Old Town. Cobblestones can take a toll on arches and toes, as many streets sharply descend from Castle Hill to the Promenade. Shop fronts are slightly wider than the entry, the interior claustrophobic. Fortunately, many stores cater to a niche market, so patrons are minimal. Above the 1st floor, balconies extend from flats; rod iron railings decorated with potted plants or utilized as a clothes dryer.
The morning sun overwhelms the statue with light, and is misleading. A sub-arctic chill penetrated the five boroughs this December. Passengers who boarded the ferry first were herded upstairs to the outside deck. Fortunate souls who entered last experienced the warmth of the cabin. The ferry was filled to capacity. Access on Liberty Island had been regulated to the perimeters; around the star-shaped base. Our first visit occurred two winters after 9/11, but by the second visit, November, 2008, the statue’s pedestal had opened. We visited the museum and climbed the pedestal’s interior, where stairs lead to an observation deck. One flight below Liberty’s left foot, we checked out the Manhattan skyline. The crown has recently opened, so on the third trip, we’ll complete the ascent.
Devil’s Bridge, Arizona
Take Dry Creek Road, south of Sedona, and travel west into Coconino National Forest. Follow directional signs to the Devil’s Bridge trailhead. In December, 2002, the trail was muddy, making my boots feel gummy. The sun had yet to break the shadows and patches of snow dotted the eastern ridge. The hike is relatively short—designated moderate—with the bridge less than a mile away. Crossing the bridge was easy; a narrow portal beneath, and a short, but wide span. The ravine seemed at least ten feet deep and the span was wet from morning dew, both issues required some slight precautions. The trail continues up the ridge before narrowing to almost nothing, replaced by cairns that seemed questionable.
House of Tolstoy
Visitors enter the Tolstoy House from the back foyer, and then tie felt booties over their shoes before touring. The window above the foyer provides natural lighting for a staircase to the second level. The first room is expansive; hardwood floors and with a grand piano in the corner. The Tolstoy’s entertained here. The next room, smaller, is elaborately decorated with period furnishings. Another room, his office, holds a large desk, made of a dark wood—mahogany or cherry—and supports a lamp, a writing set, and some loose papers. Apparently, he penned The Death of Ivan Ilyitch here. The upstairs hall separates the Tolstoy’s from their servants. The narrow hall; worn and deteriorated to a slant, accesses the austere rooms of these servants. Return outside and notice several cats lounging around the back of the house, waiting for nip. The house is within walking distance from the Park Kultury Metro station.
Tuzigoot National Monument
Tuzigoot rises above a mound in north central Arizona, a pueblo, that from a distance, resembles the great Aztecan pyramids of the Yucatan. The foundations of many rooms surround the still standing structure at the top. The exterior walls are plastered with adobe, while the interior walls are framed by log rafters. The rafters support an accessible roof; the staircase visible. The vantage point from the roof offers excellent views of the surrounding valley. Sedona is to the northeast. A swath of brown tailing slurry from a nearby copper mine discolors a portion of the valley.
Waterton National Park
Huckleberries along the side of Middle Waterton Lake attracted a lone bear. After a serious delay at the Canadian border, we were intent on touring the Price of Wales Hotel and then possibly finding a doable afternoon hike up to a glacier lake. The hotel lived up to all expectations, and the chosen hike required following the shore of Upper Waterton Lake to the Bertha Lake trailhead. At Bertha, an aged immigrant from Hungary played his recorder; the sound echoing off the glacier.
Beech Fork State Park, West Virginia
Beech Fork was a stopover campground on the way to my nine-day/ten-state trek through the south. Leaving DC around noon on Friday, I pulled into my campsite as the sun was sinking over the lake. My early morning departure left for little exploration of the park, since I wanted to tour the Lincoln birthplace and boyhood home in Kentucky as well as Mammoth Cave the next day and I needed an early start. Nevertheless, a herd of deer greeted me as I selected a site. New blades of grass had broken through as spring leaves began sprouting on the trees.
White Sands National Monument
The expanse of white sand in southwest New Mexico makes for an interesting hiking experience. The sands are in constant shift with no plant demarcation to define a path. Any slightly tread earth is as brilliant a white as the neighboring dunes. Standard highway reflectors mark Alkali Flat Loop; the park’s major trail. Thin and flexible, bending with heavy winds, each cairn along the loop seems to attract drifting sand. Though placed a relatively short distance apart, the cairns can be a challenge to locate, since many are almost buried by drifts. Getting lost in this mass of white, on a late afternoon, as the desert temperature quickly drops, is of serious concern.
One late afternoon and the closest parking spot was over three blocks away. The Mississippi River is only a short walk from Beale Street, and Memphis has turned its east bank into a city park. People were jogging, picnicking, walking their dogs, and kite flying. A river walk follows the shoreline before looping back to the parking area. There was a brilliant sunset. Back at Beale, Dyer’s was deep frying a burger and the juke joints were beginning to get lively. I was camping about twelve miles south at Fuller State Park, but couldn’t resist a couple of brews at BB’s place. He wasn’t performing that night. I saw him four months later at Wolf Trap.
Manassas National Battlefield
The southern ridge of Matthews Hill was where advancing Union armies forced a retreat of the Confederates. General Thomas Jackson had Confederate reinforcements further south at Henry Hill. Advancing Union soldiers saw Jackson sitting stalwart upon his horse, and referred to him as a “stone wall”.
A reconstructed house frame from the time period shows the method of construction. Archeologists have discovered the original foundations of the walls of the fort. The cannon and frame are positioned near the southeast corner of the original fort. Though the Memorial Church has been reconstructed, and statues of John Smith and Pocahontas are represented, Jamestown seems more fascinating as an archeological site rather than a historical one, and there is a difference. The museum on the property shows recently uncovered excavations of early foundations. Gravesites have been discovered. The old fort is an active dig. Decades passed and a newer settlement expanded outside the immediate fort. Shells of red brick homes stand to the south. An eight-mile loop takes a bicyclist to Black Point; the southernmost tip of the island.
Congaree National Park
Located southeast of Columbia, South Carolina, Congaree has only recently been designated a National Park. By the time I arrived at Congaree, I had caught up with the storm that drenched my campsite in Memphis, so my exploration of the park was a wet one. The plan was to rent a canoe and explore the swamp properly, the closest access point being Cedar Creek Road. Weather conditions altered the plan. I opted for the Sims Trail Loop: a boardwalk that extends beneath a bald cypress canopy, across to Weston Lake, and back to the Visitor Center. At points along the boardwalk, I could access several trailheads and explore the park in greater detail. My objective was to reach the Congaree River. Within minutes after leaving the walk, there was a cloudburst, and the trail went from soggy to muddy to spongy, boots sinking in the bog. I could almost see the swamp water rising.
The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum is located on Fifth Avenue, six blocks north of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and directly across from Central Park. Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, the architecture is as renowned as the art inside. From the seventh level, visitors spiral downward, viewing exhibits ranging from classic to contemporary. Many levels have annex galleries where special or temporary exhibits are displayed.
Rivaling Yosemite Falls for sheer drop, Takakkaw Falls is the pride of Canada’s Yoho National Park. Less than an hour from Lake Louise, Takakkaw is a mere thirteen miles on a spur road off Highway One. Water drops in three stages. The upper falls appear from a small crevasse along the mountain ridge, making a short, but narrow drop onto a wider precipice. The middle falls has the largest drop, with water shooting out uncontained, falling in waves, spraying the cliff walls. The lower falls cascade down a debris field before regaining composure along a streambed below.
Journey Behind the Falls
Looking directly into the Canadian side of Horseshoe Falls, the “Journey behind the Falls” experience allows visitors to enter the gorge and stand on a deck closest to the drop. Of all the vantage points available to view the falls, from both the New York and Ontario side, this observation deck allows one to experience the sheer magnitude of the water; the wind pressure, the back spray. Leave the deck and travel into a tunnel which leads to two portals. The portals open up directly behind Horseshoe.
Quai Rauba Capau, France
The English Promenade becomes Quai Rauba Capau as it continues below Castle Hill toward the Port of Nice. A manmade jetty extends out from the western shore separating the breakwater from the port. Visitors can walk the length of the jetty, a lighthouse at its point. A pop tent balances precariously above steps that lead to the surf. There was an uncertainty if anyone was inside.
Pilot Mountain, North Carolina
If the girls wanted Italian or Chinese food, Andy and Barney had to take them to Mount Pilot. The town of Pilot Mountain is eleven miles southeast of the fictional town of Mayberry; Mount Airy, North Carolina and is named after this knob to the west. A state park with a campground, Pilot also has a trail that loops around its base. The hike is less than a mile in length.
January 1, 2004
Times Square, December 31, 2003, on a clear, snowless, and bitter night: Happy New Year!
Petrified Forest National Park
The easiest access to Arizona’s Petrified Forest is off Interstate 40; simply loop through the Painted Desert, check out the petro glyphs at Newspaper Rock, and stop to visit Agate Bridge. The Giant Logs are part of an ancient wash along the southern region of the park known as, and fittingly named, the Rainbow Forest.
Cathedral of Christ the Savior
Scaffolding at the Cathedral of Christ the Savior has just been taken down prior to our visit. The exterior facelift had been complete. We had spent the afternoon taking a Moscow River cruise; past the Kremlin’s red wall, Red Square, and Gorky Park. Immediately downstream from the monument to Peter the Great, the large golden cupola came into view. It is still a great regret that the interior was closed to the public at that time.
Cades Cove, Tennessee
This region of Great Smoky Mountains National Park represents the last of a settlement of families that made their home in the park. The cove is approximately twenty-five miles from Gatlinburg. A looped road takes visitors alongside small churches and grave yards, gristmills and homesteads; an area of the country that remained untouched by civilization well into the twentieth century. I was about four miles from Cable Mill when I saw a Park Ranger directing cars around a tree that was garnering attention. A mother bear was having lunch up at the tree fork. In branches above her, three cubs jostled the leaves, carelessly searching for food.
The town of Sedona spreads below one of the many photographed vistas, visible from an eastern rise; an area vortex. New Year’s Eve was spent hiking up to Devil’s Bridge and New Year’s Day, we spent viewing the snow-covered Grand Canyon.
The rainstorm had broken and I was traveling southward from Estes Park and was at a ridge above the Lily Lake Visitor Center. I was heading towards Longs Peak Campground on a Friday afternoon for a three-day excursion into Rocky Mountain Park. Checking the rearview mirror, I noticed this double rainbow.
A fountain shares the headstones of Elvis Presley, his mother and father, and his twin brother. Wreathes, mostly shaped like hearts, decorate the gravesite, located in a corner at Graceland.
Wupatki National Monument, Arizona
Wupatki, an American Indian pueblo northeast of Flagstaff, has been designated a monument by the National Park Service. The wall of this Lomaki ruin was warmed by the evening sun. A winter storm arrived that night, forcing me to break camp early at nearby Kaibab Lake at begin the eight-mile descent into Supai, Arizona.
Like many adjacent towns that service visitors to National Parks, Gatlinburg, Tennessee welcomes Great Smoky tourists with an assortment of boutiques and gift shops, a variety of resorts and restaurants, and roadside oddities like Ripley’s and Wax Museums. Dollywood is nearby in Pigeon Forge.
Entrance to Saint Basil’s Cathedral
Once past the entrance to Saint Basil’s Cathedral, visitors find themselves in a maze of passages and rooms that are quite confusing at best. The corridors are dark, dank, and musty, which all add to the mystique of this world famous landmark. Several passages were off limits.
Maid of the Mist
Of all attractions at Niagara Falls, the Maid of the Mist is the most popular. Passenger ferries take guests from either the Ontario or New York shore into the churning water below Horseshoe Falls. A blue hooded raincoat repels the spray as the captain navigates into the mist. He stops for a few minutes before turning back toward shore.
The sheer number of buildings making up the Manhattan skyline, each unique in architectural style and reflecting the time period when it was built, is a reason in itself to visit the city. One can almost pinpoint the decade in which these two buildings in mid-town were erected.
Rising up from the Mississippi River, the Memphis skyline is separated by Tom Lee Park. A downpour dampened my campsite at nearby Fuller State Park, just south of the city.
The sun breaks through a summer storm above the beach at Nuervo Vallarta, Mexico. The undertow at Banderas Bay can be treacherous.
Carriages transport guests up the cobblestone streets of Williamsburg. I spent a chilly three-day Thanksgiving weekend at Colonial National Historical Park. Prior to Williamsburg, I explored the settlement of Jamestown and finished the trip visiting Yorktown, where Washington’s troops fought for independence. Historic Williamsburg has become somewhat commercialized with shops and restaurants at one end of the thoroughfare. It has become an east coast destination for those seeking theme parks and other amusements. My intent was purely historical.
Banana Plantation, Jamaica
Growing in the Blue Mountain foothills of eastern Jamaica, these green bananas were still ripening by early July. A bicyclist had placed an entire bunch on his head and balanced it with one hand as he wobbled down the pot-hole ridden blacktop.
This monument in central Arizona was inhabited by Native Americans with little involvement to the Aztec emperor. The site pictured is inaccessible to visitors, however, foundations of some rooms have survived and are available to view.