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8 Best Mancations for Every Type of Guy

No offense guys, but many of you are tough to please when it comes to travel. While plenty of you are avid travelers, for the most part, women dominate travel decisions and planning. Whether you’re looking for a guy’s trip, bachelor party, solo getaway, or a father-son vacation, here are eight destinations where you can truly have a stress-free vacation.

San Diego, California

three men surfing in san diego california

Relax and unwind in California while avoiding the hassle of Los Angeles. San Diego makes for a great solo trip or bachelor party destination—with activities suiting both types of trips. La Jolla is a great surfing destination, while downtown San Diego is home to great nightlife. Go to a Padres game, play a round at world-famous Torrey Pines, take a craft brewery tour, enjoy rooftop bars in the Gaslamp Quarter—the activities are endless with year-round mild weather and fewer crowds than other popular California destinations.

Where to Stay: If you want to golf, stay at Hilton La Jolla Torrey Pines for a guaranteed tee time at the legendary course every day. Or opt to stay closer to downtown at Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter for a more urban experience.

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Rome, Italy

Outdoor view of the colosseum or coliseum, also known as flavian amphitheatre

For an incomparable European experience, look no further than Rome. From the ruins of the Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Circus Maximus to the lively nightlife, Rome is the perfect guys trip. You can also golf at the championship course, Parco di Roma Golf Club, with the St. Peter’s dome as your backdrop.

Where to Stay: The Rome Cavalieri offers pools, access to Parco di Roma Golf Club, gladiator training in the hotel’s private park, a central location, an Italian Super Car “experience day”, a private visit to the Vatican Gardens and Sistine Chapel, and its own art collection for the ultimate Roman experience.

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Phoenix, Arizona

Man holds a bike in the air phoenix arizona

Enjoy the desert heat in Phoenix poolside or on the golf course at any of the area’s 185 courses. Depending on the time of year, you can also catch a football game at the University of Phoenix Stadium or a baseball game at Chase Field. Take an ATV tour in the desert, river raft and fish outside of Scottsdale, or rent a boat on Tempe Town Lake (all within driving distance of Phoenix).

Where to Stay: The Arizona Biltmore boasts eight pools, private cabanas, bike rentals, desert jeep tours, Grand Canyon tours, and a championship golf course. You’ll have it all at this resort.

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Bali, Indonesia

tourists walk through the gate of a hindu temple in bali

If you’re willing to make the journey, Bali is the best Southeast Asian destination for a guys trip. You can surf at some of the world’s best beaches, relax at countless infinity pools, visit Hindu temples, and enjoy the beautiful landscape of the rice paddies and volcanoes. Once you’re there, everything is pretty inexpensive and the food, nightlife, and culture are well worth the flight.

Where to Stay: Conrad Bali is located on the coast of Nusa Dua at Tanjung Benoa and offers activity planning, golf, a beach coastline, a wellness studio, three restaurants, and multiple pools.

Maine

man hiking in the woods of main

If you’re looking to go off-the-grid, the Maine Huts & Trails is the perfect adventure trip. The hut-and-trail system is located in western Maine along trails marked by mountains, lakes, rivers, and waterfalls. There are four hut stops—Stratton Brook, Flagstaff, Grand Falls, and Poplar—connected by paths accessible via foot or bike. From hiking and biking to fishing, canoeing, paddleboarding, and swimming, the options are endless. And if you’re looking for a winter trip, you can ski and snowshoe.

Where to Stay: Book your trip through Maine Huts & Trails, with rates at $90 per night, including three daily meals.

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Louisville, Kentucky

a bourbon flight in louisville kentucky

Take on the bourbon trail with your group of guy friends (and SmarterTravel’s handy five-day guide). From the bourbon to the food, Louisville makes for a great weekend or long-weekend destination. Check out the Louisville Slugger Museum and Muhammad Ali Center for some non-bourbon activities.

 Where to Stay: 21c Museum Hotel Louisville also doubles as a contemporary art museum, fulfilling your childhood dream of sleeping in a museum. They offer free tours, and a great view of downtown Louisville, all within a few blocks of 4th Street’s nightlife.

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Killarney, Ireland

view of canoes on lake in killarney ireland

You can have any type of vacation in Killarney. It’s a stop on the Ring of Kerry circuit, the start and endpoint for the Kerry Way walking trail, and home to the castles, lakes, and mountains found in Killarney National Park. It also offers access to renowned golf courses and a great culinary and pub scene.

Where to Stay: The Ross is located in the heart of the town center, close to the national park. They also offer an “Off the Beaten Track” guide and cater to whatever activity you decide to do: if you’re golfing, they will store your golf equipment and offer early breakfast, or if you’re hiking, they will reserve guides, pack a lunch, and give route recommendations.

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Lake Louise, Canada

man paddles on lake louise in canada

Located in Banff National Park, Lake Louise offers a variety of activities for your guys-only trip in Canada’s “Diamond in the Wilderness.” Come summertime, the area offers hiking, ATV excursions, canoeing, fishing, golfing, horseback riding, rock climbing, and white water rafting. And in the winter, the lake is home to some of the best downhill skiing areas anywhere. Year-round, you can opt for a helicopter tour, glacier walk, wildlife safari, skydiving, paragliding, cave tours, or grizzly bear tour. Make sure to also check out the town of Banff, about a 40-minute drive away for even more activities, bars, and fine dining.

Where to Stay: The Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will plan your entire trip through their concierge service so you can enjoy your vacation stress-free. Choose from their seasonal guides and make sure to take one of their GoPros with you to capture your adventures.

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Beach Experiential Travel Outdoors Sustainable Travel

Watchmen, Orcas, and Matcha Green Tea: What It’s Like on the ‘Canadian Galapagos’

Tucked away somewhere just below Alaska and off the coast of northwest Canada lies Haida Gwaii. Wander the west coast beaches and you’ll find Japanese ramen containers and other “tsunami trash.” Try to sail through its passages and you could be stuck in seconds. This place is not for the unadventurous. A trip here requires patience, a willingness to unplug, and an urge to trust and connect with the local people.

To the west is nothing but ocean until you reach Japan. With no land masses between them, the Haida Gwaii islands are met with a very powerful ocean and an uninterrupted force of nature. An ocean so powerful, that the west coast is one of the most dangerous for mariners, and trash from the 2011 Japanese tsunami still washes ashore.

Haida Gwaii Will Get You to Unplug

There’s no cell service in most parts, and accommodations have limited bandwidth on their Wi-Fi. Coming here is a forced (and often welcomed) digital detox. You won’t be trying to post to Instagram because you literally can’t, and after just a few hours on the island, you’ll appreciate that.

What Haida Gwaii does have is immense wildlife, an insane coastline, and a fascinating native population.

Haida Gwaii, Islands of the People

The Haida people are to thank for the pure experience. Native to the island chain, the Haidas have lived on Haida Gwaii (which translates to “Islands of the People” in Haida) for over 12,500 years, with some recent discoveries dating the population as far back as 17,000 years ago. They established trade with Japan, Hawaii, California, and even Mexico thousands of years ago, and passed down their culture through oral history. Right now there are about 1,400 Haidas (the total island population is about 4,500) living on the islands who continuously work to protect their land and culture.

Haida traditions run strong on the islands, especially their connection to nature. Haida art is recognized worldwide, and can be seen in wooden carvings or totem poles, jewelry-making, and cedar basket weaving. Haida art materials come directly from the earth, using elements like red cedar trees for totem poles and naturally pigmented paints—to get the color red, they use deer blood.

But the most important relationship within Haida culture is that of man to sea. In the Haida language they have 54 words alone just to describe the movement of the ocean. A Haida diet consists mostly of food from the sea, like salmon, kelp, seaweed, crab, halibut, and roe.

Meal at Keenawaii’s Kitchen

On the islands, you can eat at Keenawaii’s Kitchen—a restaurant inside chef Roberta Olson’s home—for a traditional welcoming meal.

Protecting Haida Gwaii

As a First Nations people, they’ve struggled (like many) to maintain their identity, but have done so by protecting their environment and culture politically, and now with culturally responsible tourism.

In order to preserve not only the environment and oceans, but also their culture, the Haidas created a “watchmen” program. This helps protect important Haida Gwaii sites, as well as teaches visitors about the history and importance of their heritage. The concept of the watchmen is taken from traditional Haida clan structure, where three members stood watch over the land, sky, and sea. Now, the watchmen oversee five important sights on the island—K’uuna (or Skedans), T’aanuu (Tanu), SGaang Gwaii (Anthony Island/Ninstints), Klk’yah (Windy Bay), and Gandle K’in (Hotspring Island)—and ensure their environmental and cultural preservation.

A totem pole at the Haida Heritage Center

Make sure to visit the Haida Heritage Center before you go off on your own, for an overview of the Haida Gwaii culture and a chance to talk to Haida people and even some watchmen. You’ll find the five watchmen sights in Gwaii Haanas, the national park reserve on the Southern part of the island. Another highlight of the national park reserve is the wildlife. Known as “the Canadian Galapagos,” you’ll find everything from orcas to falcons to black bears on this archipelago.

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When visiting the national reserve, Gwaii Haanas, or “Islands of Beauty”, visitors must first go through an orientation. You’ll learn about the watchmen, things to do (how to camp, where to sail and kayak, etc.), and safety tips. Other ways you can enjoy the island and culture include via sea plane, on ocean excursions or fishing trips, by hiking, and more. Go at it on your own, or take an organized tour through different parts of the park via boat, kayak, plane, and overnight hiking tours.

Travel Tips for Haida Gwaii, Where to Stay, Eat, and Transportation

The Haida House is a great place to stay for a glimpse at Haida culture and for an all-inclusive experience. It offers traditional (and delicious) meals, helps organize tours, and has its own cultural ambassador. Plus, the sunrise view is killer. The resort has a good relationship with all the locals on the island, and on my trip we took a boat tour with Haida Style Expeditions. At the end we pulled up the captain’s crab traps and brought about 20 crabs back to the Haida House to have on the menu for dinner.

The Haida House at Tllaal

For transportation on Haida Gwaii, it’s best to rent a car—unless you arrange for different tour operators to pick you up. There are a few taxis, but service outside of the two main towns, Masset and Queen Charlotte, is limited. Note, you’ll most likely have cellphone signal in these areas.

Meals will vary depending on your accommodations, but there are a variety of no-frills coffee shops and restaurants in both Masset and Queen Charlotte. Head to Jag’s Beanstalk for an Aussie-style cafe with terrific coffee and sandwiches; or hit up Queen B’s in Queen Charlotte for the world’s best matcha green tea latte—at least the best I’ve ever had. (You can Instagram it later.)

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These small towns prove that there is more to the islands than just old-growth forests and campsites. There’s a thriving population adapting to modern-day technology and pop culture that’s still willing to sacrifice almost anything for Mother Nature.

Come for the wilderness, stay for the people. And remember yah’guudang, which means “respect for all things.”

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Ashley traveled to Haida Gwaii courtesy of Destination BC. Follow all of her adventures (big and small) on Instagram and Twitter.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Cities Historical Travel Outdoors

7 Reasons to Visit Abitibi-Temiscamingue, Quebec’s Best-Kept Secret

My first glimpse of Quebec’s Abitibi-Temiscamingue region was from the window of a tiny propeller plane shuddering its way down through a rough patch of clouds. I saw trees, lots of them, a rich green carpet of firs, spruces, birches, and aspens, interrupted only by the occasional lake. From above, it was a landscape that appeared clean and unspoiled. And that impression didn’t change after I landed.

[st_content_ad]I’d been to the province of Quebec before, but only to the urban areas most tourists visit: Montreal and Quebec City. Abitibi-Temiscamingue, often called Abitibi for short, is located on the other side of the province, bordering Ontario—and it feels a world away.

You won’t find the centuries-old cobblestone streets that you would in Montreal or Quebec City; instead, many of Abitibi’s settlements still feel like the gold-rush frontier towns they once were. Home to Canada’s largest open-pit gold mine, the Abitibi region has long been known for its mining industry. But tourism is on the rise—especially among adventurous travelers looking for pristine natural landscapes, friendly locals, blissfully untouristy towns, and plenty of outdoor adventure.

The region’s name comes from two Algonquin words. Abitibi means “place where the waters divide,” describing the way rivers in the northern part of the region flow into the Hudson Bay while those in the southern part drain into the St. Lawrence River. Temiscamingue means “place of deep waters,” which is appropriate considering this area has more than 20,000 lakes and rivers.

aiguebelle national park

Aiguebelle National Park

My first stop in Abitibi was Aiguebelle National Park, which one local described to me as “the intimate national park.” She wasn’t wrong. Aiguebelle’s uncrowded hiking trails, serene lakes, and rustic wood cabins offer a unique alternative to the bustling overlooks at better-known Canadian national parks like Banff and Jasper.

The most popular trail here is La Traverse, a moderate hike that boasts surprising variety within a two-mile loop, including waterfalls, scenic viewpoints, geological features, and a suspension bridge high above La Haie Lake. Besides hiking, other activities in the park include fishing, kayaking, canoeing, and snowshoeing—but keep an eye out for moose.

To fully appreciate Aiguebelle’s charms, spend at least one night in the park. While tents, campsites, and “rustic” cabins (read: no water or electricity) are available, the most comfortable options are chalets featuring a kitchen, an indoor bathroom, running water and electricity, and lake- or riverfront views. At night you can toast marshmallows over an outdoor fire, gaze up at a sky strewn with stars, and fall asleep to that rarest of sounds: perfect silence.

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Fort Temiscamingue National Historic Site

Once home to the Algonquin people, and then a vital trading post where French and English trappers struggled for control of the local fur trade, Fort Temiscamingue is one of Abitibi’s most important historical sites. You can check out educational exhibits, walk along a trail with informative displays, and enjoy a picnic overlooking Lake Temiscamingue.

refuge pageau

Refuge Pageau

Animal lovers shouldn’t miss a visit to this wildlife refuge in Amos, which adopts injured or orphaned creatures such as wolves, bears, foxes, and birds of prey. Meet their uniquely named animals, like bald eagles Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton, Banana the baby moose, a porcupine called Chewbacca, and a noisy crow named Coco—the refuge’s longest-term inhabitant (too injured to return to the wild, she’s been a resident for 24 years).

Refuge Pageau was founded in 1986 by a former trapper and his wife, who decided to turn their energies to rescuing local wildlife. Visitors can take a guided tour, explore the refuge at their leisure, or book one of two extended tour options that include feeding the animals and other behind-the-scenes activities.

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Abitibi’s Main City: Rouyn-Noranda

If you’re arriving by air, you’ll likely fly into Rouyn-Noranda, a small city of about 38,000. When the weather’s nice, join the locals on the five-mile downtown bike path that circles Lake Osisko. You can rent bicycles for free at Velo Cite, located right on the bike path near Maison Dumulon, a restored 1920s general store.

Rouyn-Noranda’s arts and culture scene is small but growing thanks to the new Musee d’Art (MA) and several other galleries worth visiting, including L’Ecart and La Fontaine des Arts. Keep an eye out for the murals street artists have been adding to walls around town as well.

la cite d'or

Mining Heritage in Abitibi-Temiscamingue

A visit to Abitibi offers a glimpse into the past and present of Canada’s mining industry. At La Cite de l’Or you can suit up like a miner—hard hat and all—and descend 300 feet underground into a historic gold mine in Val-d’Or. The visit is a multisensory experience: You’ll smell the musty dampness of the mine, hear recordings of the clamorous machinery the miners would have used, turn off your helmet light to see just how pitch-black it is underground, and feel the chill of your descent from the surface as you head deep into the Earth.

Just down the street from La Cite de l’Or are historic wooden houses that were home to workers when the mine opened in the 1930s. One is open to the public, so visitors can see period furniture and learn about what the miners’ lives were like (including what their “vices” were: casinos, taverns, and houses of prostitution, on which they were tempted to spend their paychecks).

To see how modern-day mining has changed, visit the massive Canadian Malartic mine, which produced more than 18 tons of gold last year. Check out the Mineralogical Museum nearby, then climb the stairs to the viewing platform high above the mine, which is so large it makes the full-size trucks and machinery below resemble children’s toys.

Food and Drink

For a region without any big cities, Abitibi offers a surprising variety of food. Rouyn-Noranda has the most options, ranging from excellent Asian fare at Horizon Thai to tapas and inventive takes on local dishes at Le Cachottier. Consider having breakfast at the friendly Le Saint-Exupery cafe, and—because you can’t visit Quebec without having some poutine—stop by the 24-hour Chez Morasse, which offers more than a dozen different takes on this famous dish of fries, gravy, and cheese curds.

In Val-d’Or, Abitibi’s other main city, top restaurant choices include Windsor, offering French/Canadian fine dining; Balthazar, a cozy cafe and bakery; and Bar Bistro l’Entracte, which serves up contemporary cuisine that includes both regional dishes and sushi, and often hosts live music.

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FME rouyn-noranda

Festivals and Events

Abitibi-Temiscamingue offers a number of annual festivals and events that are worth planning your trip around. Love music? In late summer Rouyn-Noranda hosts the Festival de Musique Emergente (FME), or Emerging Music Festival, featuring up-and-coming artists in genres ranging from folk and rock to electronica and rap. Visit in the spring for the Festival des Guitares du Monde en Abitibi-Temiscamingue, also in Rouyn-Noranda, when dozens of gifted guitarists take the stage. Every August, Osisko en Lumiere lights up Rouyn-Noranda with concerts and fireworks over a three-day period.

If your tastes run more to food, head to the little town of Ville-Marie in August for its Foire Gourmande, or Gourmet Fair, where you can sample regional specialties and take cooking classes while enjoying a range of arts, crafts, and musical performances.

Interested in indigenous culture? Travel to Amos for the Pow-Wow de Pikogan, featuring traditional songs and dances.

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Sarah Schlichter traveled to Abitibi-Temiscamingue as a guest of Tourism Quebec. Follow her on Twitter @TravelEditor for more travel tips and inspiration.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Outdoors Weekend Getaways

Getaway: A Tiny House for Rent in a Secret Location

Would you book a getaway not knowing anything about the destination beyond the fact that it will be within a two hours’ drive from your city?

I like surprises and nature but I hate camping, so when Getaway and Buick reached out to me offering to put me up for the night in a secret tiny house (and loan this city-dweller a Buick Encore to get there), I couldn’t refuse.

Getaway: A Tiny House for Rent in a Secret Location

[st_content_ad]Getaway is designed to be the antidote to modern, urban life. The cabins are all set in serene locations away from civilization, and are based around the concept of unplugging and getting back to nature. You certainly won’t find Wi-Fi here, and you likely won’t have cell service either. Each cabin comes equipped with a “cell phone lock box” which encourages you to put away your phone during your stay.

So how does this adventure work? You simply book a tiny house through Getaway (there are two-person and four-person cabins available), select one that’s near New York or Boston, and then you wait. About a week before your adventure begins, Getaway will send you the address of your tiny house. I’m sworn to secrecy as to the location, but the Getaway site does disclose that the Boston-area houses are in the forests of New Hampshire, and I can confirm that it’s in a peaceful location that’s great for hiking.

When the address popped up in my inbox, I was excited—it was to a spot that I had never heard of before, even though it wasn’t that far from where I live. I was glad to have the Buick Encore to get me there, as the car has built-in Wi-Fi and OnStar, which means I wasn’t totally off the grid and didn’t get lost trying to find the cabin, thanks to the handy in-car navigation. T-Mobile users can sympathize: Every time I leave a major metropolitan area, I’m usually forced off the grid, so having the ability to still make calls, text, and look up directions gave me great peace of mind.

Getaway

The Getaway House

After an easy drive from Boston, I turned down a dirt road and found a compact house that was perfect for the weekend. The tiny cabin’s site had everything needed for a night’s stay in the woods—a picnic table, a fire ring, wood, fire starters, snacks (like s’mores!), and trees perfectly spaced for rigging up a hammock. Stepping inside the tiny cabin, I was impressed by the set-up—not an inch of space was wasted in this clever design. Large picture windows let nature in, while the screen door kept the undesirable parts of nature (bugs) outside.

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As someone who leans more towards “glamping” than camping, I was excited to find a cozy double bed, running water and a stovetop, electricity, heat, and a bathroom with a toilet and a shower.

It was a perfect night to spend in the wilderness, with just a hint of fall crispness in the air that made us appreciate our roaring fire. We relaxed in the hammock and gazed up at the stars, unobstructed by city lights, before cooking our own dinner over the fire, which made it taste immeasurably better than any restaurant dinner—especially the s’mores. In the morning, we woke up naturally as the light streamed through the windows and the birds started singing, rather than by a harsh phone alarm. Instead of immediately checking our phones, we put on our hiking boots and set off for the trails, bringing Getaway’s helpful “guide to returning to the real world,” a notecard offering tips for maintaining that vacation zen feel after leaving, with us for when we were ready for re-entry.

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Caroline Morse was hosted by Getaway and Buick. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline to see photos from her travels around the world.

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Active Travel Adventure Travel Arts & Culture Experiential Travel Outdoors

7 Reasons Why Anyone Can Hike the Swiss Alps

Hiking the Swiss Alps conjured up daunting images in my mind—facing down towering mountains with an overloaded backpack, having to purchase special gear, and getting lost hiking alone, never to be found again.

Why Anyone Can Hike the Swiss Alps

Turns out that was a bit dramatic, and pretty much anyone, regardless of experience or fitness level, can hike the Swiss Alps (no hiking boots required)

You Can Catch a Ride up or Down

[st_content_ad]Some people may call this cheating, I call it eliminating the worst parts of hiking—much of the Swiss Alps are serviced by a great network of fast and easy-to-use cable cars, gondolas, funiculars, and cog railways that can whisk you up or down the mountain. This is great for people who are short on time but still want to hike the Swiss Alps on a day trip, as you can start from a higher elevation and get right to the great views and good trails.

Or, hike up and take a cable car down, saving your knees/joints and skipping the boring descent after you’ve already summited.

Most cable cars, cog railways, and gondolas are handicapped accessible as well (click here for more information), as are the viewing platforms.

No Gear Required

I usually have my Vibram-soled hiking boots when I attempt any summit at home in New England, but to save suitcase space, I only packed running shoes. Thanks to the well-maintained, mainly dirt trails, I was completely fine, even on the hikes with “medium” and “difficult” ratings. The only essentials you need to hike the Swiss Alps in the summer are: Sunscreen (the sun is stronger at higher altitudes), sneakers, a water bottle, and a jacket (the weather can change quickly and gets cold at higher elevation). That’s it!

No Sad Granola Bars Needed

I’ll admit a squished peanut butter sandwich or granola bar tastes pretty good when it’s the only thing available after a long morning of hiking, but you know what’s even better? A three-course hot meal served with local wine. Since most of the mountains are accessible without hiking, you’ll find amazing restaurants next to many of the trails, so you don’t have to worry about carrying all your fuel with you. Check out these high-elevation restaurants in Zermatt, and you can spend your hike deciding whether to get fondue or rosti when you arrive.

Themed Hikes

Do nature, fresh air, and amazing views bore you? (Or maybe you want to hike the Swiss Alps with a reluctant partner or kid?) Then Switzerland’s Theme Trails are for you. These hikes educate, offer up tastings (hello, wine road) or entertain, as the trails are based around different subjects to hold your interest.

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Easy-to-Follow Trails

If you’ve ever panicked from not seeing a rock cairn for miles, you’ll appreciate the Swiss Alps’ easy-to-follow trails. Most of the day hikes you’ll do in the Swiss Alps are single track paths that have bright yellow signs, which are clearly marked with directions and the amount of time to certain landmarks—so you won’t even need a map.

It’s Free

You don’t have to pay an entrance free before you hop on a trail, as most are on public land.

However, if you’re planning on utilizing one of the transport systems up or down, you’ll have to pay. Note that if you have a Swiss Travel Pass, you’ll get a 50 percent off your ticket on mountain railways and cable cars.

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Well-Maintained Paths

The Swiss have a reputation for being detail-oriented and efficient, which is evident in their hiking trails. A network of volunteers from the Swiss Hiking Trail Federation does an excellent job at keeping the trails in great shape, so you won’t have to fight through overgrowth or worry about a washed-out trail when you’re here.

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Caroline Morse was hosted by Switzerland Tourism on her visit to hike the Swiss Alps. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline to see photos from the Swiss Alps and the rest of Switzerland.

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Booking Strategy Island Luxury Travel Money

9 Epic Luxury Hotels We’d Book If We Won the Lottery

[st_content_ad]Every time the Powerball pot goes over a certain amount, I mentally revise my list of epic luxury hotels to book. These over-the-top, exclusive hotels are out of budget for most of us, but that doesn’t mean we can’t dream.

Epic Luxury Hotels We’d Book If We Won the Lottery

luxury hotel

Gladden Private Island, Belize

The only way to truly escape from it all is to book a stay on a private island like Gladden, where it will just be you, up to three companions (only if you choose), and a staff that’s been trained to be invisible while catering to your every whim.

You might not even have to win the jackpot to stay here–it costs $2,950 per night for two people or $3,550 for four, but that includes “all meals prepared by a gourmet chef, all beverages including fine wines, all activities including snorkeling, scuba diving and PADI certification, spa treatments, transfers from and to Belize City.” Which, if you take full advantage of all the offerings, is very nearly a bargain.

 luxury hotel

Taj Lake Palace, Udaipur

Forget an epic hotel on a private island—what if the luxury hotel itself is the island, for instance the Taj Lake Palace? Built in 1746 to serve as Prince Maharana Jagat Singh II’s “pleasure palace,” this opulent hotel appears to float in the middle of Lake Pichola. You’ll arrive via boat, and your mere presence will be celebrated with a shower of rose petals, a spread of refreshments, and a guard to escort you under a sequined embroidered umbrella.

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luxury hotel 

Bedarra, Australia

You’ll have to share Bedarra’s all-inclusive luxury with a maximum of 17 other guests, as this epic hotel has just ten guest villas, which accommodate 18 people total. The lush island adjoins the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. And while other parts of the Great Barrier Reef have become tragically over-visited, Bedarra is near the outer section of the reef in an area that’s much harder for tourists to reach. You can feel good about spending over $1,000 AUD a night here, as the resort places a huge importance on environmental sustainability.

luxury hotel

Mandarian Oriental, New York City, USA

Go big in the Big Apple with a stay at the Mandarian Oriental, where the cheapest room on the cheapest night starts at $795. Go even bigger at this luxury hotel with a suite, starting at $14,000 a night. (And that’s not even the most expensive—the Presidential Suite doesn’t list prices online, lending credence to the old saying that “if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.”). Hey, on the bright side—a full breakfast is included every day (even if you slum it in the $800 room).

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luxury hotel

Le Bristol, Paris, France

When five stars just don’t cut it anymore on your quest for epic hotels, you need a “Palace” hotel, an exclusive rating given to luxury hotels in France that go above-and-beyond the star-rating. Just 16 hotels have earned this prestigious rating, including Le Bristol. Le Bristol is a dream for foodies, as it can claim four Michelin Stars–three awarded to its Epicure restaurant and one to its Le 114 Faubourg brasserie.

luxury hotel 

The 13, Macau, China

The 13, which is being billed as the world’s most expensive hotel, isn’t open yet, so you’ve still got time to save your (trillions of) pennies. Macau’s luxury hotel cost an estimated $1.4 billion to build, and will have 200 villas available to book when it opens. Need a ride? The 13 is stocked with a fleet of 30 customized Rolls-Royce Phantoms worth approximately $20 million, ready to take guests wherever they want to go.

Each room will come with a butler certified by the English Guild of Butlers, and all guests will have access to a private shopping center, where they can buy exclusive, limited-edition items, in case they didn’t spend enough on accommodation.

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luxury hotel 

Burj Al Arab, Dubai, United Arab Emirates

The Burj Al Arab is probably the most famous luxury hotel in the world. Shaped like a sail, this hotel is also one of the tallest buildings in the world. The hotel is situated on a private island just off the coast of Dubai, and is so exclusive that you can’t even cross the bridge to the hotel without being a guest there or having a reservation at one of the restaurants.

luxury hotel 

One Room Hotel, Prague, Czech Republic

You’ll need to book early at Prague’s One Room Hotel, because as the name implies, this hotel only has one room available. Why? Because it’s located on top of the city’s famous Zizkov Television tower. As the room sits 200 feet above Prague, you’ll have some amazing views—and the undivided attention of the hotel staff.

luxury hotel 

Tsala Treetop Suites, South Africa

Treehouses don’t mean roughing it—at least, not if you’re staying at the Tsala Treetop Suites in South Africa. These 10 suites are more luxury hotel than treehouse (but with all the views and privacy of a tree-top outpost) as they all have private decks, infinity pools, sitting rooms, fireplaces, and plush bedrooms—situated in the forest canopy.

What to Wear at a Luxury Hotel

For info on these editor-selected items, click to visit the seller’s site. Things you buy may earn us a commission.

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Caroline Morse has an entire list of epic luxury hotels ready to go in case she ever wins the lottery. Follow her on Instagram @TravelwithCaroline and Twitter @CarolineMorse1 to see her stays at some pretty awesome hotels around the world.

Categories
Booking Strategy Budget Travel Business Travel In-Flight Experience Luxury Travel

Norwegian Air: Business Class for the Budget Traveler

Norwegian Air has been entrancing travelers with cheap flights and quietly dominating the transatlantic market for the last couple of years. I’ve flown with them a few times before and while I’ve always appreciated the modern, clean, and spacious cabin, I’ve often bemoaned the fact that on Norwegian, like many other budget airlines, everything from headphones to blankets cost a little bit extra. Recently, I had the opportunity to get out of economy and fly from London to New York in Norwegian’s premium cabin (aka Norwegian Air Business Class), where pretty much everything, excluding a few snack items, is included and the seats are more comfortable.

Norwegian is still a low-cost airline and the average cost of their premium tickets, when compared to first and business class on other airlines, definitely reflects that. On Norwegian, premium class is not about excess luxury, but about strictly making your long flight more comfortable, so you arrive at your destination fresh, fed, and with as little jet lag as possible.

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Norwegian Air Business Class: Comfort

On the Sunday evening I arrived at Gatwick, the airport was crowded and a little hectic. After checking my bag (Norwegian limits total carry-on luggage weight to 15 kilograms), I headed to the Number One lounge that Norwegian Premium passengers have access to, hoping for some quiet time. It was a nice-enough lounge, but also very crowded during the time and I struggled to find a seat.

However, when I finally boarded the plane and took my seat, I found plenty of space to unwind with 46 inches of leg room and a comfortable chair. I reclined instantly and the crew served juice and water as we waited for take off. I also found a complimentary blanket on my seat, which was very soft and cozy. I noticed one passenger even asked a flight attendant if he could take his with him. When I’ve flown economy on Norwegian in the past, blankets cost $5 extra and were not of as good quality. However, even in premium class, no pillows were available.

Premium class on Norwegian does not feature lie-flat seats, but the seats are still very comfortable and spacious and you can recline quite a bit.

Full disclosure: I am only 5’3’’ and my yoga practice usually allows me to roll into a comfortable ball on most airline seats.

Norwegian Air Business Class: Food

My flight lasted a little under seven hours, so we were only served two meals. For the first, we were given a choice between a chicken or beef entree and the second was a delicate, but tasty salmon salad. This is not a luxury in the sky dining experience, but the food was definitely a big improvement from economy class. Additionally, all alcoholic beverages were complimentary and after the first meal, the flight attendants came around with small bottles of Baileys and Cognac as a digestif, which definitely upped the dining experience.

Norwegian Air Business Class: Jet Lag

One of Norwegian’s biggest selling points is that the combination of their smart mood lighting, optimal cabin pressure, and fresh air results in less jet lag for passengers. I did feel less sore and achy than I usually do when getting off a long-haul flight. The morning after, too, I felt well-rested. There are a lot of other factors that go into jet lag than just cabin pressure, so it’s tough to quantify. However, I did feel more alert upon landing after my flight in premium class than in economy.

Norwegian Air Business Class: Conclusion

Norwegian’s economy prices are hard to beat, even if you do have to pay a little more for meal service and blankets. However, their premium prices are also pretty decent when compared with the cost of business- and first-class tickets on other transatlantic fights. Norwegian Premium might not be about all-out luxury, but there are a few frills and perks to upgrading, and if your main concern is arriving at your destination feeling fresh and less stressed out, it’s definitely worth the upgrade from economy.

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Jamie Ditaranto flew premium class courtesy of Norwegian Airlines. Follow her on Twitter @jamieditaranto.

Categories
Holiday Travel Road Trip Weekend Getaways

Three Days of Adirondack Livin’

Author: WackyHeathen
Date of Trip: September 2006

My friend Slim’s family owns a house in the Adirondacks on beautiful Piseco Lake. (Technically it’s called a “camp” as its not insulated for the winter.) The Welsh Roberts invited me to spend Labor Day Weekend with ’em to get a true taste of backwoods livin’. And, like a snipe who just got let out of a soapbox, I jumped at the chance.

So northward did we truck it from central New Jersey, up the NY Thruway (Rt. 87), cutting over at Albany to the rolling undulation of deciduous, smoke-covered hills, changin’ foliage already beginning to show. We arrived at the Roberts Camp on Friday evening about 2130, the weather overcast, the air heavy and crisp like a lizard’s tale.

A choice of two zig-zagged paths, a tiled mosaic of rocks, tree stumps and roots, led the way to the camp. It’s a red-brown, two-story cabin about 150 feet from the water’s edge. The property was purchased by Mr. Robert’s grammymammy in 1908 for $1,800 and a blood handshake. A second downward twisting route descends to a narrow sandy beach where the highly-reputed MV “Admiral Spoons” rests proudly, half on the shore, half in the lake. We would take the spoons out several times during the weekend for some boatin’ and fishin’.

On the first night, I didn’t spend too much time acclimatin’ to my accommodations, because Slim and I had decided it was time to mingle with the local element. So we headed to the OxBow, a hot upstate nightspot (choice being somewhat limited ya’ll) where the threat of being beaten up seemed minimal. Slim had a propensity for doin’ just that — gettin’ beaten up — so I wanted to avoid any potential situation where the possibility of gettin a whoopin’ was high. In fact, when we arrived, we were approached by several different locquatious locals who were intent on making us feel welcome. I must say, I was a bit surprised by their mental acuity. I had preconceived notions about people from the boonies (ironic, but hint of truth nonetheless), but like a baby with a bumblebee makin’ momma proud, those notions were quickly squished. It could certainly have been a result of my incredibly low expectations, and had I expected sparkling conversation, I may not have been as impressed. I usally keep my expectations low. Slim Pete and I had a solid night of people watching and conversatin’, and we decided to return the next evenin’ for some live music.

It’s easy to see why such a place is so important to the folk up in the Adirondacks. Despite the natural beauty everywhere, the place is isolated, and social communion is a key element of enjoying the landscape without going insane. Stories abound about people in the area lettin’ this place get them involved in some bizarre/heinous undertakins. When you don’t have people to talk to, you start talkin’ to the fog, or the woods. During dinner on Sunday night, there was an extended story tellin’ session about the colorful folk who’d made their way through these hills, picking off hikers and the like.

The weekend forecast called for “da da da. da da da da doo da da, stormy weather” and the like. Weather forecasting in general seems to be more an art than a science, and this is even more true on Piseco. The lake is considerably large, and any of the locals will go on at length about how it commands its own weather system. During one fishin’ expedition, it was windy and rough on one end, and a the other end, two to three miles away, it was calm and the sun was pokin’ through the clouds.

Saturday was rainy and cold, so we were confined to the cabin for much of the day. A fire in the living room supplied the only source of heat for the entire place. But because I’m such a hearty fellow, this suited me just fine. Like Slim’s dog Rusty, I could really get used to camp living. There is a shower, but its not typically used more than once per person per week. I took a single shower over the three day weekend and Slim took this act as an opportunity to do some ribbin’. The water that comes through the house is just lake water heated through a pump. It’s strained to keep large pieces of lake matter from cloggin’ the pipes, but beyond that, it comes out as is. Slim mentions that he sometimes just hops in the lake with some soap-on-a-rope and does his washin’ there.

The whole lake setting is stunning. I’m not going to try to describe it, cause I just couldn’t do the place justice. Besides lookin’ like a painting, there’s also a quietness about the whole area. A man can actually hear his own thoughts in the Adirondacks. He can hear the voice from within surfacin’ (see above). The two photos featured in this trip report are really just the tip of the loon’s tail.

On Piseco, people usually fish for small-mouthed bass or lake trout. Unfortunately, the weather conditions weren’t right for catching anything. It was either too windy, too rough, or we went out at the wrong time. A combined four hours of fishin’ yielded only two bites. Slim, an expert fisherman, was responsible for both, catching a 15 inch “grunt” (unimpressive generic fish). Sadly, I was unable to introduce my own approach to fishing — catch, kill and release.

By Saturday evening we were ready to head back to the Oxbow to check out the scene. When we arrived, we were met by some serious hootin’ and hollerin’. It turns out that there were two Bachlorette parties who had decided to hit up the Oxbow. Slim and I were mortified. We’re tough guys, so we stayed. The music was pretty bland, each song pretty much a tedious continuation of the last.

Sunday mornin’ (1 p.m.), Slim took me to the local golf course, Pleasant Lake GC, a very nice nine-hole course where you can play all day for $17. After 13 holes, a combination of foul weather and hatred of golf ended the outing, and we headed back to the camp.

As there is no TV in the cabin, people are forced to talk to each other, play games or read. There is a healthy emphasis on story telling. Word actually travels fast up in these parts, and per usual, embellishments are added. Most of the stories involve a hiker or hikers gettin’ lost, and disappearing into the woods forever.

One other activity of note: With the bad weather keepin’ us holed up, we were forced to be creative. We decided to take on a month old Sunday Times’ crossword puzzle. Despite a concerted effort, our four educated minds, my own as sharp as a scorpion’s tail, were unable to complete even three quarters of the puzzle. Slim wrote a hate letter to Will Shortz.

Categories
Outdoors

Magnificent Munising, Michigan

Author: sightseeingsue
Date of Trip: March 2006

Munising is nestled on the south shore of Lake Superior in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and is about a 2 ½ hours drive from the Mackinaw Bridge. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the northern U.S., with superb views of the Bay from every glance. It’s a small town with a population of only around 2,500, but it boasts a wide array of different activities to keep any vacationer happy.

The Pictured Rocks Natural Shoreline can be found here and stretches out for 42 miles of shoreline ending near Grand Marias. Here you can view beautiful mineral stained cliffs in different formations, lighthouses, and waterfalls in this untouched paradise by boat, car, or by hiking trails. This area is also a wonderful place to go hiking and exploring the many majestic waterfalls they have to offer. Many are only a short walk away, and others are a nice hike in the woods.

The quaint little downtown has several nice and very reasonably priced restaurants. Some that can even be enjoyed while overlooking the bay. There are numerous hotel and resorts for travelers to stop at to rest their heads. If you prefer camping then you will not have to look far, as there is a great camping spot right in town and situated right on the shore of Lake Superior. You will be hard pressed to find another location with as beautiful of a view at any other campground.

If you want to try your luck at gambling, then a short 5-minute drive through the town of Christmas is all you will have to do to find the Kewandin Casino. Though this town has one of the most beautiful beaches only 10 minutes from town (Autrain Beach) it’s not too common for people to do much swimming in Lake Superior, as water temperatures usually don’t get warmer than 45ºF. There are rivers and streams that people find better suited for swimming in.

If fishing is your thing, then bring your boat or book a charter and be in for one of the best fishing experiences of your life. Whether you choose to fish for steelhead, salmon, or lake trout on the big lake, or you prefer trying your luck in one of the many inland lakes for walleye, bluegill, or bass, you will not be disappointed with your catch. Don’t miss an opportunity to visit Munising.

For Fishermen:
If you are in town for fishing you may need to purchase a Michigan state fishing license if you don’t already have one. License fees vary due to age and length of time required. So, the best way to find out about them is to pick up a free Fishing Guide found on many magazine racks around town. This guide will also list what time of year you are able to catch specific fish. Licenses can be bought at the two area Hardware Stores, Holiday Gas Station, or Hillside Party Store in town.

Pasties: Don’t miss an opportunity to try one of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula’s favorite foods while in town. The pasty is a sort of portable beef stew, folded into a purse of pie dough, and baked to a rich, golden brown — it is oh-so yummy. A meal in itself. You can find these for sale at either Munising bakery or at several of the areas restaurants around town. A trip to Munising wouldn’t be the same without one.

Weather: Without checking the forecast, you will never be able to predict what temperature it will be while visiting Munising. Some times during the summer months the temps will be in the 90ºs, while other times hard pressed to reach 60ºF. One 4th of July, the temperatures started in the high 70ºs, and after a coldfront went by it dropped in to the 40ºs in a matter of minutes. Always pack a lot of clothes. In the winter months, expect lots of snow and to be cold. It didn’t get to be one of the Michigan’s premier snowmobiling cities for nothing! Some of the hotels in town now offer saunas to get the chill out from your bones.

And my best suggestion is don’t forget to bring your camera. This city is beautiful during every season, but especially in the summer months. When in the heart of downtown, Munising Bay will offers you spectacular postcard views from every glance.

Munising is located on Highway 28 in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on the shores of Munising Bay. It’s a 2½ hour drive from the Mackinaw Bridge, 6½ hours from Grand Rapids, or 8 hours from Detroit. The best way to get around town depends on the season. Snowmobiles rule the winter months, while cars with four-wheeled-drive are used in the other months.

The roads in town are paved, but you will definitely run across some dirt roads while exploring the area. Some are in good shape while others off the beaten- path are best used for dirt biking. The road crews are used to the heavy snow this town gets, so roads are usually in good driving condition even after a heavy snowstorm. This town is a breeze to get around in, but just remember to keep you eyes on the road when you drive as you may find yourself peeking out off into the bay…it’s that beautiful.

Au Train Beach

Au Train Beach is located off of Highway 2 on the shore of Lake Superior. Only 12 miles west of Munising and 9 miles from Christmas, it’s a great place to stop at while in the area. The beach is beautiful and the sand so clean and golden in color, it makes this trip worthwhile. You will not find a more beautiful place to spend a day lying on the beach and reading a book, playing a game of volleyball or Frisbee, or building sandcastles on the shore of the river or the lake.

Most people swim in the river, as the lake’s water usually doesn’t get warm enough for most. Even in the hot summer months, water temps are frequently around 45 to 50 degrees. The beach area is never very crowded, and it’s only a short walk from the parking area. This is a great place to spend a day at the beach.

Buckhorn

The Buckhorn restaurant/bar is a favorite among the locals and vacationer that come to town. The fresh lake perch is my favorite and is as good as it gets. This place sets deep in the woods between Munising and Wetmore and only a 10-minute drive from Munising. When driving to get here though you may think you are lost in the forest, but continue on into the woods a tad more ’till you finally run across this place. It’ll be worth it.

The Buckhorn offers nightly specials and the food tastes very homemade. The menu consists of just about everything; like sandwiches, steaks, pasta, and fresh fish. They offer a small salad bar with a few side salads that add to your meal. The meal and drink prices are astonishingly cheap, with none over $20. There is a bar with a pool table on one side of this joint, and the restaurant on the other side.

They are able to accommodate large groups, as we know this first hand, as we walked in with around 20 of so hungry people one evening. The waitress didn’t even get flustered by our mob and did a top-notch job of servicing us. Everyone received a satisfying meal, which ranged from spaghetti, to perch, and burgers. They even had a kiddies menu for the little tykes.

It’s a very casual atmosphere, so whatever you are wearing will go. They don’t offer a breakfast meal, and don’t open up until around lunchtime. And if my memory serves me, they are also closed on Mondays.

Another nice thing about this place is that it overlooks a small picturesque lake. Being seated in the back section overlooking the lake is the best spot in the house, and don’t be surprised if you find yourself gazing out the window getting lost in the moment if you are seated in this section.

Conclusion: If you want to find a nice relaxing place to eat a decent tasting and priced meal and aren’t afraid to drive a little off the beaten-path to get there, then I would definitely recommend this to you. Remember a couple things though; first don’t expect to be in a hurry as this is a true UP establishment…nobody’s ever in a hurry up there. And in the winter month’s people usually drive their snowmobiles to get here, as it’s near many popular snowmobile trails.

Kewadin Casino

This casino is not too old and built like a log cabin, so you will love the up-north feel to this place. It has a great little restaurant with wonderful sandwiches and snacks to fill you up. There are not too many machines or table games to choose from, but enough to enjoy yourself for a few hours. There is also a hotel next to the casino that offers great room rates and amenities.

Some of the hotels in the area offer casino packages, which give you a few tokens to play with once you come stay with them. It’s enticing and usually gets me in the doors.

Munising Falls

Munising Falls is considered one of the seven “Notable Falls” in Michigan, one of the most visited waterfalls in Alger County, and probably one of the easiest to get to with only a short 5 minute leisurely walk to see them. They can be found about 2-3 miles from downtown Munising at the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Visitor Center. This park is heavily visited, but has a nice size parking area that I have not seen full yet.

Once at the park you will find restrooms, and kiosks with information pertaining to the falls and the trails surrounding the Pictured Rocks National Park area. The trail to the falls is clearly marked, wheelchair accessible, and takes you down a short groomed path (800 feet) to experience the falls. The winding walk goes into the woods and lies next to a quaint little stream surrounded by trees and wildflowers native to the area. Once there you will be witness to this truly majestic sight as the water drops suddenly over a limestone ledge 40 to 50 feet below.

The Park Service no longer allows visitors to walk around, behind, nor underneath the falls for safely reasons, but there are several viewing platforms areas that you can climb to for that special picture opportunity.

I don’t recall the hours the park is open, but it seems like it is open during most of the daylight hours. These falls are open year round but are more frequented in the summer months. I have never experienced these falls in the winter months but have heard they create some absolutely exquisite ice formation.

*Directions: From M-28 in Munising (where it bends 90 degrees), to east on H-58 (Munising Avenue) 1 ¼ mile to Washington street, which forks off to the left. Turn left (north) onto Washington Street, and go about 1/2 mile to where it bears right, at a hospital. The Munising Falls parking area is on your right, across from the hospital.

This is a definite must-see if you are in the area.

Pictured Rocks Boat Cruise

Pack your camera, check your batteries and head out to Munising City Dock for a relaxing 3-hour tour to discover spectacular rock and cliff formations, some of which rise over 200 feet of the Pictured Rocks. These nature wonders can be seen best my this boat tour, which will take you out onto the crystal clear waters of lake Superior for an experience you won’t easily forget.

Tickets can be purchased in advance, or by stopping by the gift shop next to the pier. Tours start the Friday before Memorial Day and continue through the day after Labor Day. Prices for the 2006 season; $29 for adults, $12 for children ages 6 to 12; and children 5 and younger are free. They do offer group rates too, and the schedule varies during the season so make sure to check out their website for accurate departure times. I would imagine that sometimes the tours may get cancelled if the weather is too rough.

Once you are aboard one of several boats available in their fleet, you can either find a seat on the enclosed lower level of the boat or choose to seat up on the upper deck to take in the full experience of the ride. If the weather is warm get there early to assure a spot on the top deck, as these seats go quickly and have the best views.

The ride was smooth as they have new state-of-the-art stabilizers that provide a smooth ride. But, I also checked the weather to make sure the weather was calm for the day I went out. I’m not much for wild waves on boat rides.

Once seated, the captain and co-captain go over all the safety guidelines like don’t hang over the edge and keep small children supervised at all times, etc., and then we were off into the deep waters of Lake Superior. All the boats are regulated by the U. S. Coast Guard, and are equipped with all the latest, greatest safety gadgets available to assure you are getting a safe ride.

Our trip was narrated by our captain and included a little history of Munising, their fleet of boats, and interesting facts of some of the landmarks we passed while on our tour. While still in the bay we saw Grand Island off into the distance, along with the East Channel Lighthouse, then once we reached beyond the bay we started to see the rocks. Now’s the time to take out your cameras.

One of the first and probably the most famous you see is Miners Castle, as you can see this one not only from a boat, but also by the observatory deck in the park or by hiking the trails. When you see photos of Pictured Rocks, Miners Castle is usually the snapshot you will see.

The tour goes on for 2 ½ to 3 hours, and sometimes takes you within feet of some of the rock formations to marvel at there heights and the unique colors they exhibit. Each rock takes on its own unique shape and color, and that is why the Indians probably named them after things they could easily identify. One of the more famous rocks, and one of my favorite, is Indian Head…it is looks like a profile of an Indians head, hence the name.

As the tour continues you will see numerous caves, waterfalls, beaches and other named rock formations along the way. We were especially lucky as the waves were extremely calm that day to actually enter one of the caverns to get an up close and personal view.

If you are near Munising during the summer months put this on your list of things to do. You won’t be disappointed. I look forward in doing this again, but next time I’m going for the sunset cruise for a totally different perspective of this incredible adventure.

Wagner Falls

Sometimes, just the smallest of stops stay with me the longest…maybe that is why visiting Wagner Falls is one of my favorite places to visit, when I am in the Munising area, to take in some nature and not take the wind out of me doing it.

Wager Falls, one of the seven “Notable Falls” in Michigan, can be found just minutes outside of Munising, MI. Picturesque, and being easy to visit, is why you will want to visit here. This scenic waterfall is just a short ½-mile trail, nestled amongst virgin pine, hemlock trees, and beside a rambling stream. When you arrive you will see a small parking area and a sign leading you to the trail. Once out of your car you will be surprised to hear the rushing sounds of the water, which will make you eager to head out into the woods to check this out.

The trail is an easy scroll, and my parents in their 70’s had no problem and were able make the walk. There is a bench along the way if you need to rest for a minute or two. Once at the falls you will see a platform for a great picture opportunity (some of my family have used this background for their Christmas Card Photos), but don’t worry you don’t have to climb the few stairs to enjoy its beauty. The falls are about 20 feet in height and get their water source from Wager Creek. In the winter months awesome ice formations can be seen with this waterfall.

If you are in the area then don’t miss this opportunity to check out this breathtaking waterfall. It only takes a few minutes to experience it, and you won’t be sorry that you stopped.

White Fawn Cabins/Glen Forest Resort

White Fawn Lodge/Glen Forest Resort is located in Wetmore, Michigan, about 10 minutes from Munising. We stayed here for a family reunion vacation in August of 2005. A total of 30 family members came along, and we rented four of the units that were available. This resort is situated on a small inland lake off of Highway 13, next to the Hiawatha National Forest.

The rental cabins vary in sizes. There is one large two-story cabin that can sleep up to 12 people comfortably. The other cabins sleep any where from six to eight. The units are clean but very typical of UP cabins. They are furnished with dishes, pots and pans, and a refrigerator and stove. This is my type of camping…

Don’t expect to watch TV here, as they only get one channel, and that’s out of Green Bay, Wisconsin, which is 3 hours away — not a station you want to get your weather reports from.

The resort offers a community room (pole barn), which we used to have a family party at. It is usually used for breakfasts during snowmobile season, but it was adequate for our purpose and had a stove, refrigerator, and lots of tables for us to use. We even had a family talent show, which we had to do a little rearranging to make work, but it was fun and worked out okay.

The cabins ranged in price from $800 for large unit to $600 for the smaller cabins for the whole week. They provided towels and bedding and had a small convenience store on-site. Each unit has use of a rowboat for the week. The lake offered a swimming area and paddle boats to rent by the hour. The kids loved the fishing and spent many hours trying to caught the big one. There is one large campfire pit that is on the property for your use; just bring some wood, a guitar, and some beverages for a great time.

This place isn’t for everyone, but then for the price and the beautiful setting, it’s well worth the drive and price for most. It’s the perfect place to go to relax and enjoy the nature the Upper Peninsula of Michigan has to offer.

Categories
Outdoors

To Hell and Back KOA Campgrounds

Author: Robert H.
Date of Trip: July 2009

Any KOA can be a wonderful place for camping. Well, if it is managed correctly. The KOA in Cherokee North Carolina is one that is very poorly operated. The staff appears friendly and smile well. On the other hand there is a predominant “we don’t care” attitude. it’s as though they smile as long as they get your money, but the specifics and happiness of any one camper is none of their concern.

My wife and I planned our trip to KOA in Cherokee months ago. The pictures on the site really look great. However, as many know, a picture does not always say a thousand words but, actions speak volumes.

We were very specific when we reserved our cabin. My wife’s 88 year old grandmother wanted to join us. We clearly stated that we would need a cabin close to the bath house due to toileting needs of her grandmother. We were assured they would do everything they could to accommodate us. Remember our reservations were made months in advance.

When we arrived at our campsite we were greeted with cabins quite away from the bath house. In fact we even had to cross a small bridge to get to the bath house. So we ended up using a portable toilet for Granny and had to dump it and clean it every day. Furthermore, our firepit was loaded with trash including half eaten food. The icing on the cake, almost literal in a way, was the blue tarp on the top of our cabin. We were to discover at 2am that it leaked and it leaked right onto our heads. This was replaced the next morning with a larger green tarp and they refused to move us despite the fact that there were numerous cabins near the store, and consequently right beside a bathouse, that were all empty and remained empty the length of our trip. We were assured that all of those cabins were reserved.

On our first day my 10 year old daughter wanted to go to the bouncing pillow. She was given permission and ran off excitedly. Ten minutes later she returned and asked for money. We found out the hard way that they charge for the use of the bounce pillow and to play putt-putt golf. This was disappointing to say the least. On the KOA website the picture of the kids enjoying the amenities does not include the faces of the disgruntled parents who found out that it would cost them dearly to have their children play. Remember what I said about pictures and actions.

Finally, the overall incompetence of the management and staff was shown on the day I decided to access the internet from my cabin by paying for Wifi at my cabin. They advertise free Wifi however, they don’t tell you that it is only by the main building and not at your site. In any event, I paid the fee for one day through paypal. Then I found that the internet does not work, except to allow you to pay for service. When I went to the store and explained my problem to the management I was told that I should have paid for a code at the office as paying through paypal always results in nonfunctioning service(there is no sign anywhere that explains this. Of course, they absolutely would not give me a refund as paypal was through corporate. When I asked the KOA corporate office for a refund they directed me back to the management at the KOA in Cherokee. All of this is an example of a poorly managed KOA and a corporate office that obviously does not care.

In contrast, we stayed at a KOA in Rodanthe, NC. This was a wonderful experience which we were a little apprehensive about when we reserved the cabin.

To our surprise we were in a clean comfortable cabin that provided a spigot right outside the cabin to clean dishes or anything else. The firepit was empty and there was a clean picnic table and a swing on the front porch.

My then 9 year old daughter had a blast. Not only did she play Putt-Putt golf for free and jump on the bouncing pillow at no charge, but the teenagers there actually engaged the younger children. The management provided kids handfuls of waterballoons to use at the launchers. All of this was no charge. My daughter rented banana bike without some exhorbitant deposit and it was inexpensive.

The staff was knowledgeable about the area and presented a genuine warm friendliness. As a matter of fact, they provided an actual outdoor movie (the Cherokee KOA claims to do one nightly, they did one when we were there and it was inside). The staff actually stayed around during the movie and interacted with the campers – young and old.

The KOA at Cherokee and KOA’s corporate executives should learn from the people who do things right. KOA on the Outer Banks in North Carolina Knows how to treat their customers. I guess this review should have been entitled from Heaven to Hell in KOA.

Categories
Island

Moon Over Maui

Author: vanhooke
Date of Trip: March 2005

Highlights:
Walking on an unoccupied beach in the moonlight was the best. Kaanapali is one of the top-10 most beautiful beaches, and you seldom see anyone walking it at night. During whale season, be sure and spring for a room on the water. The only problem is that you won’t want to leave the lanai to do anything else while they’re frolicking out there. I counted 22 whales from the lanai the morning we left.

Quick Tips/Suggestions:
Most rooms have a small refrigerator. Stop by the grocery store and stock it up. It’s not about food here – it’s about kicking back and relaxing. It’s much cheaper to buy your own wine and beer. Add chips, dips, nuts, cheese, etc., and it’s happy hour on the lanai. Spirits and snacks will be about $10 each. Watching the sun set over the ocean was priceless.

Best Way to Get Around:
Rental cars are a must here! You need to be able to go into town for an evening, or to the other side of the island for an afternoon.

Royal Lahaina
Following a loooong day of travel, I dug in my heels and refused to stay in a cottage– even though my husband suggested we check them out. “I want to be in the main tower!” I insisted. They must have thought I fell off the corn wagon yesterday. The luxury accommodations are the cottages. Following a good night’s sleep and a walk around the grounds, I ate crow and asked to be moved into a cottage. My husband will never let me forget this!

Kaanapali Beach Hotel
Lie around the whale-shaped pool and eat cheeseburgers hot off the grill. Throw in a topical drink (or two) and this is heaven. Ask for a waterfront room, though there is not bad room here. It’s locally owned and the only true Hawaiian Hotel here. They give art lessons, hula lessons, etc. It’s great for families. They have good restaurants, but the burgers are hard to beat.

Dinner cruise
Okay — it’s hokey but memorable. You get to see the island from the water and meet other visitors from around the country. We all went dancing together later, as the dancing on the cruise put us “in the mood”. And they even sing “the looove boat,” and if you’re having a birthday or anniversary, you’re acknowledged. The Mai Tais flow, and the food wasn’t bad. It wasn’t a four-star restaurant either, but then, it’s not meant to be.

Kimos
The hula pie is to die for! This restaurant sits right on the waterfront. One time, the whales came through the harbor and we were able to see them from the open-air dining room. The food is excellent.

Moose McCullacutties
This place is fun! There is dancing at night and a breakfast that is to die for. And it’s cheap, especially the Bloody Mary’s and screwdrivers. What a way to start the day.

Bakery
This is in a little shopping center right off the main drag, to your right of Pizza Hut. First, check out the Pearl Connection – I buy all my Hawaiian pearls here! One sandwich from this bakery will feed two on the beach. And they bake and supply the local restaurants with their muffins and desserts. The macadamia-nut muffin is to die for! Does it get any better than a cold beer and a sandwich on your lanai? I don’t think so.

Cheeseburger in Paradise
The name says it all – cheeseburgers in paradise. Throw in some live music, a plate of chili fries, and an alcoholic beverage. It’s right on the water.

Hyatt Restaurant
This is the best dinner show in Hawaii! The Mai Tais are the best I’ve ever had, the food is exceptional, and the show is very informative and entertaining. Whenever anyone who’s never been to a luau goes to Maui with us, we bring them here. It’s not a luau; it’s better. They do have the pig in a pit, and it is paraded like at a luau, but unlike a luau, the food is good. Allow time to walk the hotel grounds. They’re beautiful and lush. I’ve never stayed here – I think it’s too intimidating and formal for Hawaii, but enjoy visiting. I go for more laid-back accommodations.

Categories
Miscellany

Eureka I love it! — Eureka Springs, Arkansas

Author: nmcmom
Date of Trip: October 2002

I loved the changing colors of the foilage and the Annual Corvette weekend. The combination of brightly colored leaves and cars was awesome. The narrow, steep streets and the scenic backroads are wonderful to experience. We also toured local caves, and shopped till we dropped. This is a haven for historical nuts as well. There is a town full of victorian houses and a wealth of architectural gems.

Quick Tips/Suggestions
The streets are steep, and you need to ride the trolley to the top of town, and walk down to see all the sights.

Best Way to Get Around
The absolute best way to see the town is the trolley system. There are trolley stops in all major areas of town, and in many of the local accomodations.

Riverview Resort
We had a standard cabin with a kitchen, which helped since I was eating for two. Our view of the river was across a vast field from our back balcony. We could see the mountains around us in the distance as well. The parking right outside our door had us feeling right at home and reluctant to leave. I enjoyed talking with the owners, and they have a guide service and canoe rentals available for fisherman or adventure seekers. They have larger cabins available as well for families or larger groups.

Annual Corvette Weekend
The first weekend in October has been a weekend for Corvette lovers to see and be seen. We enjoyed the scenery combined with the view of the classic muscle cars. Even though we don’t own a corvette, we were right at home as we looked at all the cars parked and driving all over the town. There were so many groups of people staying in the area hotels that there was a great feeling of family.

Categories
Family Travel

Smoky Mountains Magic

Author: LaineWtman
Date of Trip: May 2007

We live in Nevada and our daughter lives in Florida with her family. She had been assigned to work in Iraq and we wanted to get together before she went. Our other daughter lives in Northern Georgia, so we wanted to meet somewhere convenient for all of us. We decided on the Smoky Mountains. I poked around online and found Aardvark Cabin Rentals in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee. They had a cabin equipped with an elevator, which was very convenient for me as I use a mobility scooter. They were wonderful to work with, and we were looking forward to our vacation.

We flew into Knoxville, TN, and the kids drove up. We met at the cabin. It was a wonderful cabin, high on a mountain, with a fabulous view. We had some problem with the elevator so the cabin rental people sent someone out right away. It turned out to be our problem in understanding the directions. We were instructed, and the employee was friendly and accommodating, even though he had to come out on a Saturday Night. “Our” cabin had six bedrooms and seven bathrooms and was just perfect.

The weekend days we spent getting acclimated, going to the grocery store, and just becoming familiar with our environment. Sunday night we went to the show Dolly Parton’s Dixie Stampede for dinner and the show. It was a great evening, and the kids loved all the horseback riding in the arena in front of us, and their dinner, which was a dinner to be eaten with fingers only. The servers were cute teenagers who were very friendly and quite good at their jobs.

On Monday, the kids all went to a water park and we went through the Great Smoky National Park, and over to Cherokee, NC. It was a wonderful day. Tuesday, we all packed up and went to Dollywood. We were very surprised that it was so big, and had so many things to do. We had a blast! The kids loved the rides, we loved the music, we all loved the FOOD! It was a park built on the natural hills around there, so be prepared for hiking up and down hills. We especially loved the train and the kettle corn!

Everywhere we went, we felt Dolly Parton’s hand, giving local people work and pride, and giving tourists something fun to do. There were many tourist activities, restaurants and shows that were not run by Dolly Parton, but we felt welcomed by Dolly Parton. We actually felt welcomed by everyone………what a nice place to go! For any family looking for a good vacation, we highly recommend the Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg area for all ages. We had a wonderful time and are looking forward to a repeat visit some day.

Categories
Miscellany

Yosemite Trip Compilation

Author: Judy P.
Date of Trip: January 2001

Things to do and valuable tips for the Yosemite and Wawona areas as written by Judy, aYosemite-loving “Princess*” who enjoys a relaxing vacation (i.e., no camping, heavy-duty hiking, bear hunting, or rock climbing!)

*Judy’s “Princess” Tour is in no way affiliated with Princess Cruises. (Maneuvering a cruise ship along the Merced River could be extremely hazardous to your health!) This is merely promoting maximum enjoyment (and shopping and eating) for minimum effort.

Disclaimer: I have never thought about writing all this information down, so please be aware that some of it may be incorrect (gasp!). I THINK I have it down pretty well. It’ all from memory (huh?).

_____________________________________________________________________

This is a compilation of my many trips to Yosemite.

My favorite place to stay in Yosemite is The Redwoods. It’s a small community in Wawona, just inside the south entrance of the park. There are probably 100 or so homes nestled in a wooded area–some of them are occupied year round and some of them are rented out for vacationers. They have many different styles and sizes from which to choose, with varying rates. There’s lots of wildlife– wake up in the morning and go sit on the deck and chances are you’ll see deer meandering around your “yard.” The Stellar blue jays and squirrels are everywhere.

One nice thing about The Redwoods is that you have a kitchen and a BBQ. I usually figure out what meals I want to have while there, then take it all up with us in an ice chest. (I drive there.) That way you don’t have to pay a lot for a meal, and you can enjoy eating it out on your deck while taking in the scenery, blue sky, and fresh air. How often do you get a chance to each fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies or potato chips and dip in that kind of environment?

Check-in time at The Redwoods is 3:00 p.m. Unpack, relax, go to the small grocery/liquor/drug/souvenir store and maybe the Pioneer Center during the last few hours of daylight. Thoroughly familiarize yourselves with the deck chairs, the munchies, the bbq, the trees, and the fireplace.

If you happen to be driving from the south (Los Angeles or San Diego areas), before you even get to Yosemite, after the long, boring drive through ugliness, and after you drive through Fresno, you’ll go through more boring, wide-open flat land for a while (30 minutes or so?). But then it turns beautiful. Enjoy the gorgeous landscape (depending on the time of year) of rolling (green?) hills, large rocks/boulders deposited by glaciers many moons ago, wild flowers(?), oak trees, and an occasional cow or horse. It’s beautiful!

In Oakhurst (just south of Yosemite) you may want to stop to fill up your gas tank and/or grab a small bite to eat. There is only one gas station that you will see (on this particular tour route of mine) in all of Yosemite; luckily it’s in Wawona. (It’s a Chevron.) There used to be one in the middle of the valley, but it’s gone now. When you leave Oakhurst, you’ll be getting to your cabin in about 30 to 40 minutes.

General Tips
If you’re leaving Wawona and going into the valley for the day, take a flashlight with you. When you get back to your cabin, it will probably be very dark and getting to the cabin from your car is not always easy due to pine cones, branches, uneven ground, etc. Besides, before you leave the safety of your car, you may want to check for bears, raccoons, or Sasquatch!

In order to prevent splinters and/or spider bites while carrying firewood to your cabin (it’s usually stored outside the cabin), take some heavy work gloves with you. Fires in fireplaces have been outlawed during June, July, and August. (Due to too much smoke in the air.)(Bummer!)

You may want to take a fan if you’re going during the summer. Very few places in Yosemite Park are air-conditioned (including the cabins in Wawona), and it can get very hot and stuffy!

Most of the cabins will have a fan, vacuum, broom, ironing board & iron (please — who wants to iron on vacation?!)in the hall closet, and extra blankets and pillows in the bedroom closets.

If you’re going during fall, winter or spring, you may want to take some newspaper for starting the fire. The front office will give you a little fire-starter kit (one for each night) when you check in, but if it doesn’t work, you’re out of luck.

It may be a good idea to take some of your favorite pots & pans, kitchen/bbq utensils, spatulas, steak knives, paper plates/towels, baggies, & Tupperware. The kitchens are “fully” stocked, but one man’s “fully” is another man’s “what were they thinking?” There’s usually an empty drawer in which to store your own stuff. Don’t forget charcoal briquettes and lighter fluid if you plan to barbeque!

Make sure you take lots of film and/or memory cards and your camera. You’ll need to take billions of scenery shots and gazillions of dumb shots of everyone in the cabin. (Use your camera self-timer and get in the photos too!) And for great outdoor shots, a split neutral-density filter helps a ton!

How can I put this gently? In a small cabin, a spray can of air freshener can help save lives.

Take some playing cards, books, magazines, and games. (Don’t forget pens and paper to keep track of your high scores, or even dice and chips if you’re wishing you went to Vegas instead).

Most cabins will have checker/chess boards with 7% of the pieces missing … and decks of 49 or 50 cards.

Take a pair of binoculars for viewing scenery or wildlife or particularly good-looking mountain people.

Always wear comfy walking shoes.

Whenever you leave the cabin for the day, be sure to take a jacket and an umbrella. Some of the points that you’ll be stopping at are quite cold and windy, and you never know when rain might happen!

Make sure you have tire chains if it’s winter. The rangers will make you put them on if there’s snow. The law says you must carry them while traveling during winter.

When you’re at the cabin, the night before you go into the valley, you may want to plan/pack for a picnic lunch to eat somewhere along the river. (Perhaps at the Swinging Bridge picnic area in the Valley — there are picnic tables there, and toilets, but beware, only pit toilets.) Or just picnic anywhere. Take a blanket with you so you can enjoy sitting on the dirt next to the river. And plenty to drink. (Don’t forget the bottle opener or corkscrew. Are there laws regarding outdoor alcohol consumption? Does anyone care?)

I like to have a picnic lunch one day, and the next day have lunch at Degnan’s Loft pizza place near the Valley Store. (See below — The Valley Store, Day Use Parking, Food, Cash, etc., in the Valley.)

As many times as I have been there (30, 40, 50?), I always tend to feel lost in the valley. The mountains are so high around me, and there are so many trees, it seems like you just keep seeing the same things over and over. Hello!! That’s because the streets in the valley are just a loop. If you take a wrong turn or want to go back to something, just keep going and eventually you’ll get there again. No big deal. Unless you leave for one of the other main highways at the west end of the valley. The scenery is always awe inspiring — no matter how many times you see it!

Bathroom facilities: As you stop at places around the valley, you never know if there’s a pit toilet or flushing toilets. Here are some pointers: (Personally, I HATE pit toilets and would rather wait for a flush one!)

There are no bathrooms on the 45 minute drive into the valley (well, a pit toilet very soon after you leave the cabin, at the Wawona Campgrounds).

If you need to go to the bathroom in the valley, there are flush toilets located next to the Valley Store, at Yosemite Lodge (off to the right around the corner of the check-in desk), and at the Ahwahnee Hotel. If you’re in a hurry for one, park at the Valley store, (or have someone drop you off in front of the store), run through the store to the back side of the store, exit, and turn to your left. There’s a hamburger stand and a rest room. That’s your best choice for a “quick,” flush bathroom.

If that bathroom is being cleaned (seems to happen quite frequently), go back towards the store. As you were leaving the store, instead of turning left, walk straight towards the road, turn right on the walkway just before the road, walk 30 or so, then turn to your right again when you see a pair of buildings parallel to each other just down the way. Another restroom is in the main wide walkway between the buildings (to the left). There’s also a soda machine there in the middle near the bathroom. (This bathroom is usually cleaner, warmer, and less crowded than the one next to the hamburger stand.) Both of these bathrooms are good-old flush toilets.

The nearest bathroom at The Ahwahnee is upstairs on the second floor, in the corner near the dining room. Far away from the front door and the bar. Dumb place for a bathroom. Desperately running from the bar, across the lobby, and up those stairs is not fun!

A note about phones: Very often cell phones do not work in Yosemite — no antennae in national parks. A few pay phone locations: In front of The Redwoods main office, at the Wawona Hotel behind the lobby (just outside to your left), in front of the Village Store in the valley, and just before the entrance (outside) at Degnan’s Loft pizza place in the valley.

Entrance to the Park
When you approach the south gate, prepare to be charged $20 for a one-week pass. Hold on to that receipt; you’ll need to show it when you leave the park. (They usually staple it to the map that they give you.) They will give you a map and a little newspaper. The newspaper may have some interesting things for you to do or see.

The Redwoods cabins will not let you check in till 3:00 p.m. So if you’re early, there are some things to do in the general vicinity to bide your time.

The first place you may want to visit, just inside the gate is:

Mariposa Grove Of Big Trees Just inside the South Entrance (turn right at the T intersection just inside the gate) and go about 15 or 20 minutes or so. Lots of huge Sequoia trees. There’s a tram ride that they charge for, but I don’t remember how much ($6?). I’m not sure, but the tram ride may only operate during summer. It’s pretty to walk around a bit, but it’s hilly and how far do you want to walk to see tree after tree? (The old “bridge” tree that you may be familiar with and hoping to see is no longer standing. It was struck down by lightning in the ’60s or ’70s, I think.)

The Wawona Hotel
Built in the mid-1850’s The hotel is in Wawona, 5 to 10 minutes after you enter through the South Entrance (and turn left). Parking is scarce, and you may have to walk a little bit uphill to get to the hotel. The main lobby is sort of charming, feminine, 1920ish. Imagine your bustle swaying as you sashay along the wooden planks outside the rooms. You can sit and have a drink and listen to a pianist in the lobby or play chess or checkers in front of the fireplace. Or sit on a wicker chair on the veranda while you await the stage coach (just kidding about the stage coach!). The dining room is pretty nice. Expensive. Reservations recommended, maybe required. I’ve had really good and not-so-great meals there. At night the parking lot is very dark, and much of it is not paved, so take a flashlight with you so you don’t trip on your way back to the car — especially if there’s snow or it’s raining. The restrooms are outside the back door of the main lobby and to your left, just past the pay phones. (Fun when it’s freezing!) They are inside and are flush toilets, are there are even some showers too since some of the rooms don’t have bathrooms. There are no restrooms inside the dining area or lobby.

Also, to your left (just across the street from the hotel) is a golf course. There are often deer meandering there to welcome you into the park. Take a glance over that way while you’re driving past.

The Chevron Gas Station
STOP THERE AND FILL UP IF YOU DIDN’T ALREADY IN FRESNO OR OAKHURST! It’s the ONLY gas station anywhere around in Yosemite! There is not one in the Valley at all.

The Wawona Store And Post Office and the Pioneer Center are located right next door to the Wawona Hotel. This little store has a pretty good (small) selection of groceries and “artsy-craftsy” things. I think it may be open later than The Pine Tree Market that’s closer to your cabin. (See below.) The Post Office is also attached.

The Pioneer Center is on the other side of this parking lot, a little farther back off the road. I love to walk around this place. When you first approach the center, there’s a covered “barn” that has lots of old farming equipment, etc., on display. It’s interesting to read the information plaques. Then go on to walk through the covered bridge. I think it’s pretty neat to imagine how they built it and to picture stage coaches riding through it. Then there are about 10 or so old structures to look at/in. Sometimes on weekends there are folks dressed up as Pioneers giving demonstrations, and also stage coach rides (for a nominal charge — probably only in summer.) As you enter the Pioneer “Village” through the covered bridge, let’s imagine that particular spot is 6:00 o’clock on a clock — there’s a cute little old creepy jail cell at 4:00, and at 11:00 is a structure (I don’t remember what — a house I think), that has an old-fashioned water pump outside, just to the right back side of it. It’s fun to give it a pump and have water come gushing out and imagine living that way in the past.

At The Redwoods
Walk by the River. It’s a nice area for a leisurely stroll. At the intersection where the main lobby is located, Chilnualna Falls Road (chill-nwall’-na)- or also known to me as “the Main Road”) and River Road, if you head down River Road (south towards the river), it goes to the end (a few blocks or so) and veers to the left. Go around the “U” a little bit, and off to your right you will see a cabin that’s built up on the hillside, overlooking the river. You can park around there somewhere (not really marked), and walk down to the river. It’s very pretty and peaceful. Not too difficult to get down there, but I wouldn’t do it in high heels. Darn — you’ll have to take them off!

Everywhere you go in Wawona, be on the lookout for deer. You might even see some little Bambis with their moms during springtime. You may see a raccoon at night, or even a bear. I have seen both, but only once — in 1972!

Trail to Lower Chilnualna Falls
(Chill-nwahl’-nah — easy for you to say!) The trail to Lower Chilnualna Falls is a little steep. If you feel like walking a bit, it’s very pretty along the Chilnualna Creek. The trail to the Upper Falls is way too steep for my liking. As you drive on Chilnualna Road to the falls/creek, there’s a bridge that you can drive over. There are quite a few more homes/cabins beyond it. And a trail to something they call the swinging bridge (no, not the same one as in the Valley.) I’ve never been on that trail.

The Pine Tree Market
This is located to your left on Chilnualna Road (the smaller main road off of Hwy 41, a few blocks before you get to the The Redwoods office). It’s a very small market with food, booze, drinks, and touristy stuff. This place is very handy, but it closes very early, so be careful. Don’t figure you’ll pick up ice or drinks on your way back from the valley … chances are it’ll be closed at 5:00 p.m.

The Valley is a 45-50 minute drive from your cabin.

Along the Way to the Valley
As you leave The Redwoods to head out for the valley, you’ll turn right onto the main highway (41). About 1 or 2 minutes onto the highway, there’s the Wawona Campgrounds to your left. The Merced River runs through there and it’s a pretty place to get out and stroll along the river a bit.

Yosemite West, Glacier Point Intersection/Chinquapin, and Badger Pass Ski Area Along the way into the valley, to your left, you’ll pass a turn-out for Yosemite West. That’s a pretty fancy rental home/residential area. You’re now about 2/3 of the way to the valley.

Very soon after that, you’ll pass the “T”-intersection for Glacier Point. There’s just a couple of small buildings. This intersection/city(?) is know as Chinquapin (cheenk-a-pin). This road leads to Glacier Point and Badger Pass Ski Area. If you can take that road (it’s closed during winter due to snow), it’s about an hour’s drive up to the top. It’s pretty neat, but it takes a while. There’s a couple of gift shops and a small food place and a major lookout spot that looks over the valley (to one side) and Half Dome and two large waterfalls (on the other side) — Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls (those are MAJOR hikes to get to — see below). For years the rangers did the “Fire Falls” from Glacier Point, down to Camp Curry below. That stopped in 1969. Too many people were trampling the meadows and polluting the air with their cars, camp fires, and trash. L

As you approach The Valley — Lookout Point a.k.a. Tunnel View a.k.a. Inspiration Point Three-quarters of the way to the valley, you’ll drive through a badly burned area (the big fire in ’95?). There isn’t much space to pull over (I think only one spot on the other side of the road). It is starting to grow back and get green again. Soon (maybe 5 minutes or so) after that area, you’ll come around a big sweeping curve to the right, and as you approach it, you’ll see a valley below and mountains on the other side, and as you round that curve, ahead you’ll see “The Valley” (El Capitan, Bridalveil Falls, etc.) It’s quite spectacular. If it’s safe enough, you can pull over to the other side of the street and park to look. But if not, don’t fret — there’s a major overlook spot just ahead with lots of parking. You’ll go through the Wawona Tunnel. (It took them 2 years to dynamite through and they were lucky that they met in the middle!) At the very end of this long tunnel, you can turn left into the parking lot to the major overlook area. Everybody stops there, so it’s crowded and crazy. People are everywhere and are totally oblivious to cars in the parking lot. Sit on the little wall and have someone take your picture (with your camera!) in front of the magnificent scenery.

It’s about another 5 minutes into the valley from there — maybe 10 minutes to the store.

As you drive around the Valley, notice the “Flood Level” signs from the 1997 flood. (About 7 feet high or so!) Amazing to think that the water was ever that high in the Valley. (Except for during the Ice Age, of course!)

Bridalveil Falls
This is one of the first things you come to when you enter the valley. Drive into the parking lot. The walk to the falls is a little steeper and more difficult than I like, but a lot of people do it — you be the judge. The walk up to it is very pretty, with the river meandering through the area. As you get closer to the falls, it gets steep, cold, wet, and very slippery. You really see it better just standing in the parking lot! And it’s a lot more comfortable! Well — maybe just walk a little ways up the trail — it is very pretty.

Beyond Bridalveil Falls (5 minutes?) is the Swinging Bridge Once you leave the parking lot of Bridalveil, the Swinging Bridge and “beach” area show up suddenly on your left side, while you’re just driving through some trees in the valley before you get to anything else, with not much parking available. As soon as you see perpendicular parked cars to your left, slow down and try to get in there with them. There isn’t a parking lot, per se, just some head-in-only parking on the side of the road. There’s a pretty walking bridge that crosses over the Merced, some pretty river and mountain scenery, a “beachy” area, and picnic tables. There are some pit toilets there. It’s pretty to walk over the bridge and look around.

The Chapel, built in 1879, it’s the oldest building still in use in Yosemite. It’s somewhere along the road on your way into the valley in an open meadow. (I’m not exactly sure, but you can’t miss it off to your right.) It’s very cute — very popular for weddings. But the inside is kind of ugly and very musty smelling. I was disappointed. I wonder how many brides have passed out in there during the summer. It was pretty much ruined during the Flood of ’97, so they had to do some major refurbishing.

Sentinel Bridge
Follow the signs to the Village Store. You will be making a left turn that will instantly take you over Sentinel Bridge. Look to your right. It’s a beautiful view of Half Dome and the Merced River. A big attraction for photographers at sunset, as Half Dome lights up sort of orange (alpenglow) and reflects in the river. It’s gorgeous! There’s a parking lot just beyond the bridge, off to your left if you want to get out and look. If you’re thinking about getting a picture, to do it any justice, you’ll need a split neutral density filter to darken the sky. Otherwise, it washes out and just goes blah.

The Main Store, Day Use Parking, Food, Cash, etc., in the Valley There are signs everywhere directing you to the Day Use Parking Lot. You can take shuttle busses from there to just about everywhere in the valley. If you just need to go to the store, I think it is a two hour time limit to park in the store parking lot. (The two parking lots are a long block away from each other.)

As you approach the main store, there’s a wooden kiosk out front that sells tickets to the “Two-Hour Valley Floor Tour.” (I think they charge $18 per person or something like that.) This is an open tram ride with a guide. It’s wonderful! But again, I think it’s only open during the summer. If it’s cold out, make sure you are bundled up! It picks you up across the street from the ticket kiosk, in front of the Garage. And it also stops at The Ahwahnee Hotel and the Yosemite Lodge.

It goes up to the Lookout Point and your guide will point out many fascinating facts. It’s just about the only way to cool off on a hot summer day if you don’t care to don a bathing suit and go play in the slightly frigid river.

The Valley Store is the place to get lots of good Yosemite touristy stuff! And food. It has a pretty large grocery store and a large souvenir store. There’s a decent bathroom around the backside (you can exit out the back of the store and turn to your left) and to your right is also a hamburger stand (pretty crummy actually). You can eat there only outside on the patio. It may be too cold, but the blue jays and squirrels are fun to watch. There is also a sporting goods store (keen on mountaineering and camping equipment, or course), an art/book store, and an ATM at the end of the buildings. If, when you exited the rear of the store, instead of turning left, head straight for the road, turn right at the sidewalk, and walk a ways (a block or two?). There are many more buildings, including a Degnan’s Loft (pretty good pizza, up a flight of stairs), a semi-deli/store for sandwiches with only a few tables and chairs, some shops, a post office, an Ansel Adams gallery/store, and an Indian museum and an old graveyard.

The Degnan’s Loft pizza place is the best deal in town. (See above for location.) Everywhere else is either a crummy hamburger or cafeteria or a hopelessly overpriced so-so meal. Hope you like pizza. (You wait in line to order, then they bring it to your table. Not fancy, but it’s pretty good and has large picture windows so you can enjoy a pretty view.)

A nice walk across the street from the main store, you’ll see a “Garage” and a Fire Station. Walk to the intersection at either end of that block and go around the corner and get on the walkway (not really a full-on sidewalk) that runs parallel directly behind the Garage. You’ll walk about 1/4 to 1/2 mile on a nice walkway, with a gorgeous meadow and view of Half Dome on one side of you (to the east) and some neat privately-owned homes on the left. You’ll just be walking around the block, back to the store parking lot. Get back in your car and leave the parking lot and follow the signs to The Ahwahnee Hotel.

The Ahwahnee Hotel
Opened in 1927, it’s another nice thing to do. It’s at the northeast end of the valley. On the street, you will pass through a “gate” that says “Ahwahnee.” Then a few seconds later look to your left and you will see what’s left of a large rock slide that happened quite some time ago (I don’t remember when). One of the tour guides once said that it happened in the early morning and the noise woke up all the guests in the hotel. Everyone panicked, but it stopped short of burying the hotel. Rumor has it that the maids had to change a lot of sheets that day! Park in the lot (it’s kind of weird, but I always find a space). When you get out of your car, look up at the mountains right there across from the hotel. Incredible. Walk to the main entrance of the hotel. (It’s a wooden overhang and walkway.) Go inside — to your left is a nice bar to sit and enjoy a drink and look out the windows. To your right is a “foo-foo” junk store. If it’s nice outside, you can go sit out on the patio and have a drink. I suggest that you walk outside (around the “back”) a little ways away from the hotel so you can see the “whole picture.” It’s really quite stunning — the hotel architecture, the trees in front of it, and the mountains behind it. The hotel is made out of concrete, not wood, as it appears. Then there’s the famous 4-star restaurant in the other end of the hotel. (I didn’t care for the service or the food, but it’s famous! Very hoity-toity — need to be dressed up to get in.) At least take a peek inside. Also, walk beyond the dining room (to the left of it) and look at The Grand Room. Old Indian décor and a fireplace that an army could stand in. (The price to stay there is up to $360 per night for a standard room!)

Leave there and follow the signs to Yosemite Lodge (or The Lodge.) About half way to the Lodge, you’ll approach Yosemite Falls. (It’s the big double-decker falls on the north side of the valley). Turn into the parking lot.

Stop to look at Lower Yosemite Falls While you’re driving, approaching Yosemite Falls on your way out of the valley (to your left going into the valley — to your right going out of the valley), drive very slowly when you are about to pass it and look down near the bottom of it, in line with the sidewalk. (Or pull over, park, and walk.) There is a perfect clearing of the trees right in front of the lower falls so that you can see it from the street. If you blink you’ll miss it! There is a meadow across from the falls and in that meadow used to be a hotel. The owner thought that it would be neat to clear a path to the falls so his guests could enjoy the view. Mysteriously, soon after he did that, his hotel caught fire and burned to the ground, never to be re-built. How sad.

You’ll be driving along through the valley and come across a turn-out to a parking lot on your right for Lower Yosemite Falls. Park in the lot.

Lower Yosemite Falls Trail — Mild hike/walk — Maybe 1/4 to a 1/2 mi. loop? 30 to 45 minutes? Pretty easy and beautiful scenery. Park in the lot and follow the trail up to Lower Falls — You’ll be right in front of the falls. There is a slight/medium incline up to the falls — take your time — it ain’t goin’ nowhere. But then keep going around to the right, beyond the falls — the trail loops and ends up back at the parking lot. About 3/4 of the way through, as you’re heading back to the parking lot, (sort of in a straight-away, “ferny” area), keep a lookout to your left; there’s a break in the trees and you will see Half Dome in all its glory. Spectacular surprise photo shot. A little bit further is a bench where John Muir had built a cabin with a view of Yosemite Falls. History big time. This trail was “under construction” and the falls and riverbed were completely dry when I was there in September 2002. Hopefully, the river isn’t taking over the trail in springtime. But there were a couple little bridges, so I assume it’s passable.

The Yosemite Lodge
The lodge is rather spread out, blah, and nothing spectacular. But just behind the main lobby is a small amphitheater and restaurants and stores. The Mountain Room Restaurant (in the middle corner) is a semi-decent, sort-of-over-priced restaurant (nothing spectacular, except for the view of Yosemite Falls). There is a bar next door to the right (which I’ve never been in), a nice little junk store further to the right, a few more tourist shops in between, and a very mediocre cafeteria at the left end.

You can drive around and follow the signs to Camp Curry, Housekeeping Camp, and Upper and Lower Pines campgrounds, just to look around at the camp sites if you want. You might get lucky and see a bear in the campgrounds. I never have. But I have seen many coyotes and deer.

Leave there and follow the signs to exit the Valley and head towards Wawona (Hwy 41).

Valley View a.k.a. Gates of the Valley One of my faves! On the way out of the valley, you’ll be heading towards Wawona (while you’re heading out of valley). You will pass a large rock-slide to your right, then a little while further, as you’re approaching the Wawona Turnoff, all of a sudden to your left when you come around a curve, you will see a little clearing and a small parking lot with about 10 spaces at an angle to the road. There is no sign or warning, so drive slowly. Turn left into it and get out and look! You’ll see a gorgeous view of Bridalveil Falls and Cathedral Rocks on one side of the valley and El Capitan on the other side, with the Merced River running by you in the foreground. This area is especially grand at sunset (the alpenglow lights up El Capitan in an orange/yellow glow, which then reflects in the river.) If you look at this as the sun is setting, you will still barely have time to get back to the cabin before it’s totally dark. Don’t put your sunglasses away, though. The setting sun will suddenly peak out here and there at weird spots during the curvy road and blind you!

At this point you can either head back to your cabin, choose the Wawona Hwy 41 turnoff, or you can go see Cascade Falls for a 45 minute detour (if sunlight time allows): (See below for Cascade Falls.)

Fern Spring
World’s Smallest Waterfall — Just beyond Valley View, you will approach a fork in the road where you will turn left to head back to Wawona — Hwy 41. You’ll immediately drive over a bridge and the Merced, then about 5 seconds later is the “World’s Smallest Waterfall” to your right. Look down near the road, about three or four feet back from it. You can pull over right there and look — not necessarily a big thrill, but it’s cute. It’s called Fern Spring.

Then it’s back on the curvy road again to Wawona Hwy 41. Watch for animals — they like the sunset hours. When you get home, light the fireplace, bake some cookies for dessert, and barbeque something wonderful to eat! Have the men clean up dinner while the ladies play Crazy 8s. Then play games with everyone. Have a good night’s quiet, restful sleep in the mountains.

Side Trip to Big Oak Flat Road and Cascade Falls
Instead of taking the road to Wawona as you leave the valley, you can take the Big Oak Flat Road (which heads west out of the valley) for about a 20 minute ride that winds up through a couple of short tunnels and a spectacular waterfall (Cascade Falls) just off the right side of the road. There’s a parking lot on the left side of the road as you’re approaching. But you don’t know that the waterfall’s coming up. The parking lot is before you see the waterfall. So park in the small parking lot to your left, and then walk a minute and cross the street to view the falls. There’s a sidewalk there with a guard rail for you to view the falls safely.

Two other neat places to go in the Valley:

Happy Isles
If you have more time, go to Happy Isles. It’s at the very end of the valley, and can only be reached by shuttle bus. You need to park your car in the Camp Curry Day Use Parking Lot (follow the signs), then on the road right next to the parking lot, the shuttle bus will pick you up (every 10 minutes or so). Take the bus to the Happy Isles stop (maybe a 10 minute ride, if that). Get out and walk around. The scenery is gorgeous. The river rushes through there and they have pretty bridges to walk over and a nature center. And lots of Dogwood trees. This is also the beginning of the trail up to Vernal Falls and Nevada Falls. (About 2 miles to Vernal, practically straight up to heaven, then another 2 miles to Nevada. Not for the faint of heart!) I went to Vernal Falls twice; it took me about two hours to get up there. I stopped a lot to rest!) Towards the back of the Happy Isles area, there was a massive rock slide in 1996. It’s amazing to see how it snapped off trees like toothpicks. Just a reminder of the serious side of Mother Nature! Always be aware!

Mirror Lake
You can also take the shuttle bus to Mirror Lake. (It’s the only way to get there.) Unfortunately, it doesn’t drop you off at the lake. You still have to walk (I think it’s one mile) on a paved road with a slight incline. If you’ve never seen Mirror Lake, I think it’s definitely worth going to see at least once in your life, especially in the spring time. They say that it’s not really much of a lake anymore; more of a meadow, but the last time I went during the spring (about 2 years ago), it was beautiful. I was surprised how much water was there and how gorgeous the surrounding scenery was.

Horseback Riding Stables
In that same vicinity are horseback riding stables. I have never ridden there. One thing I don’t like about it is that they make you wear a helmet. We don’t need no stinkin’ helmets!!! Ever see John Wayne wear one? Besides, the older I get, the bigger and meaner those horses get! Who needs them anyway?

During the Summer Only

Glacier Point
It’s a nice drive to the top, about an hour or so? Beautiful scenery. There’s a very nice overlook area, store, cafeteria, and even bathrooms. It is an incredible view. (I think that about a third of the way to Glacier Point is Badger Pass Ski Area.)

Tioga Pass/Olmsted Point/Tenaya Lake
This area is beautiful. Unfortunately, it’s up so high (almost 10,000 feet), that the road there (Tioga Pass) is only open during summer. Too much snow the rest of the year. It will take you most of the day to drive up there, look around, and get back to Wawona. My favorite stop along the way is Olmstead Point. There’s a parking lot and you just walk out to the “cliff” and look at the view. Breathtaking. You will see the back side of Half Dome, among other cool stuff — like cute little marmots, too. It is at a very high altitude, so remember when you’re walking — you’ll notice it!

Tenaya Lake is very pretty. Get out and walk around. It’s a good size and it’s turquoise blue.

May Lake
In the Tioga Pass is a small/medium-sized lake called May Lake. It’s quite the hike. I let my boyfriend and his son talk me into this adventure once. Not again! We parked on the road at the trailhead marker and started climbing. I’m too old for that stuff! It was gorgeous though. We came upon a meadow that was down a hill. It was so gorgeous, that I just had to go run through it. While I was posing for my boyfriend to take my picture in the meadow, I realized that my sunglasses were filling up with mosquitoes! Yuck! So you may want to resist the urge to do some serious meadow running! Then when I thought I could hike no longer, we came upon a parking lot! Gee, we could have parked in the lot, much closer to the lake, and saved myself all that wear and tear! But then, just past the lot, the terrain got steep and rocky. The lake was very beautiful when we finally got there, but I won’t be doing it again! Save it for the young and/or physically fit. Did I really see families with back-packs and sleeping bags passing me like I was standing still??? I need to eat more spinach!

Tuolomne Meadows
Driving through Tuolomne Meadows is beautiful. July is the best time for wildflowers galore, but even without them, the creeks and mountains are spectacular.

Hetch Hetchy
I went there once, and don’t quite remember the details. It was pretty neat, but it takes a day to drive out there, hike to the closest (and I use the term loosely) waterfall, and drive back. The waterfall was gorgeous and the dam is interesting to see, but I couldn’t help but get depressed that it had been another beautiful valley back when until the 1920s, when it was filled with water and was dammed to serve the San Francisco area. Poor John Muir fought so hard to keep it pristine, and he actually died trying to preserve it.

When you leave Yosemite — a good place for brunch When the fun is over and it’s time to get back to reality, you won’t feel like cooking breakfast and cleaning it up before you leave — you already have enough things to do! Pack up your stuff, clean the cabin, take your trash to a bear-proof can (located throughout the area), load up the car, and don’t forget to set up your tripod and your self-timer camera to get a nice shot of you all in front of the cabin. Go check out at the office, and wave good-bye. If you happen to be heading down south when you leave Yosemite, as you go down the winding road, beyond the park entrance after about 10 miles(?) of winding through the woods, just before Oakhurst, you will start to come to an area that’s a little inhabited and the trees have thinned out. Just before the Bass Lake turnoff (or maybe it IS the Bass Lake turnoff) (to your left at the intersection) there’s a cute little wooden restaurant (The Mountain Grille or something like that?) on the corner up against a hill. It’s cute and homey inside and they have pretty good food. And even the rest rooms are very nice. Now get ready for the boring ride back home!

Categories
Outdoors

Gilbert Lake State Park, NY

Author: Fyre
Date of Trip: June 2009

We went to Gilbert Lake State Park, in the Central Leatherstocking region of NY. from June 20-27, 09. It’s located in the town of Lauren, NY. We had never ‘done’ a state park, and this was our first venture. We rented a cabin, which cost us just under 495.00 a week. The cabin had 2 bedrooms, one with a double bed, the other with bunkbeds and a single bed. In the ‘lvingroom/dining room area of the cabin was another single bed. Our cabin also had a kitchen with a gas stove, a full size refrigerator, and a sink with cold running water. The only drawback was we had to heat water to wash the dishes. The cabin had a flush toilet, which was located in it’s own small alcove of the screened in porch. The cabin had a fireplace, as well, in the living room area, a table and chairs, and on the screened porch-which looked out on the woods, were two lovely adirondeck chairs.

This park allows you to bring your pets, providing you bring a record of their innoculations. We bought one of our cats, as our older cat needed a break and was being looked after by my sister. Our younger, more rambuncious cat, Ruffy, accompanied us. He’s a great traveller, and seemed to really enjoy coming with us, though we could never get the ‘come along kitty’ harness on him, so he remained in the cabin the whole time. Yet, I think he really enjoyed it! He had alot of space to run around there, and plenty of beds to sleep on. There is no air conditioning, but it was so lovely and cool, as the cabin is in the woods that you don’t need it. The windows open and are screened, and the porch doors open to the rest of the house, so you can get in plenty of fresh cool air. We bought a fan, but only used it once. You have to bring your bedlinens, cooking pots and dishes, and towels as well as your luggage, but that was ok. There was plenty of cabinet space for them. You have to take a shower in a bathhouse, but the showers were always available when we went, and very clean.

The park is lovely, with a lake for swimming, paddle boats you can rent, fishing. There are also many nature trails you can hike, and enjoy. One time we went hiking, and came upon some bear tracks, and bear droppings. We got pretty nervous, because the whole area went very quiet, as though there were a bear around, so we turned and hiked back! Our first day there, when we arrived, we got there just about 3. It was pouring rain, so after settling into the cabin, we went and got some firewood, and then went to walmart to get some groceries. It was still raining, and we were tired, so we came back to the cabin, lit a fire inside (it was chilly) we cooked hotdogs over the fire on sticks, like real campers! and made smores! The cabins don’t have TV or radios, but we bought our own radio. It was hard to get reception, so we spent alot of our evening time cuddling with each other and the cat, playing with the cat, and reading and talking. We put our large air mattress in front of the fire in the living room. We didn’t need to-pleny of beds, but we liked the idea of cuddling in front of the fireplace. My husband became obsessed with fires…when we were at the cabin, he spent alot of time making fires when he could, including the firepit outside and our barbecue (both supplied by the park)

The second day, after having some cereal and then going for a shower, we came back to the cabin and changed into our clothes…we always drove to the showers and went in our jammies, then came home and changed. Then we went out to explore. We decided to do the ‘wine tour’ which actually started off with a wonderful Cider Mill! It’s called the Fly Creek Cider mill, and is actually the only working cider mill left in the area. The cider is wonderful, and they have a snack barn and lots of wonderful dips and salsas for free to taste. It’s simply fantastic. There is a place to sit outside that has ducks, geese, hens and a turkey who come up to be fed. There are coupons one can get from their website and get money off. We bought some cider and fudge, and enjoyed it immensely. Then we went off to the brewery Ommegang, which is close by. It has the only Belgian beers brewed in the US. It’s very formidible, and quite wonderful! there is a free tour, and a sampling of the beer. We bought a large bottle of their specialty ale to have with our meal one night! Then we went to the Bear Pond Winery. It’s got a great selection of wines. We had a tasting that was 4 for 5 dollars, which you got back if you bought wine. We did, and it was great! We wound up going to their little food place next door, with a coupon, we got 20 per cent off, and our late lunch cost us all of 10.00 for two burgers and a large fries and two drinks. Their burgers were home made with all the fixings, and their fries were home made. It was great quality for the money. We went back to the cabin, took out bottle of wine to the lake, and sat there and had wine and cheese and crackers and fruit-we had bought fresh strawberries at a farm stand…as a supper. It was too cool for swimming, but we walked around. It started to rain, so we went back to the cabin.

The next day we decided to drive to Cooperstown. If you are into baseball, it’s great. We aren’t great baseball fans, but the town is very quaint. They have a trolley to take you around if you want to do that. We just found a spot to park, put out money in the meter, and took a walk. Went down to the lake, and watched the birds flying. We then went to their wonderful library, which is a lovely old time library, bought some books at a book sale, and then went to their small gallery where they were having an exhibition. Went back and got the car, and we decided to stop at the Cooperstown Cheese Company. My husband is a chef, and loves good cheese, so this was his stop. Well, apparently it had been bought out by this fellow who is promoting barbecue. Husband is from Mobile, Al, worked for years in New Orleans, so we had the barbecue-pulled pork sandwiches and a side of roasted corn. It was very good that first day! However, it was not the next day, and it should be mentioned it is expensive for what you get-a simple bun with cut up pieces of smoked pork on it with barbecue sauce. The corn and any side is an extra 2.50, which to be honest, is expensive. The second day, the corn was way overcooked, and the sandwich was just so so. The half a rack of ribs was 18.00, which was just too much to spend. We had a sampling. It was ‘ok’, but rather dry. I think the place has some potential, but the prices have to be better, there need to be more options to the menu, and the store needs to have more stock on the shelves. We then took a drive around the countryside, and went for a walk/hike around the park.

That night my husband cooked us a light meal, and we had toasted marshmallows for dessert. The next day husband and I went to a local cheesemaker named Linda. You can meet Linda, and the wonderful goats that make the milk for the cheese you buy at Sherman Hills farm (http://www.sherman-hill.com/). We got to meet and pet the goats, and bought some lovely different types of cheese, including the most heavenly feta cheese I have ever tasted. We’d do it again in a heartbeat! Thank you Linda! If you’re in the area, please check out Linda and the goats-her goat cheese is wonderful. Which leads me to say that you’re in the middle of dairy country. There are milk farms everywhere, and lots of small farms that have their own farmstands and places with produce for sale! Do check them out!

We ate lunch at a wonderful local Diner, the Corfu diner. Do check them out. Their prices are very reasonable, their food is just great. They are located in the ‘city’ of Oneonta, I’m probably messing up the spelling. But you’ll know. After the goats and lunch we took a drive to nearby Delhi and checked out some great local food at a small market there. There are alot of markets all around. In many of the tourist places, like Fly Creek, you can pick up a little map with lots of info and coupons in them. Check out the local produce and farms! After that, we went back to the cabin and had a wonderful fish fry on the fire out back! It was alot of fun, and we roasted mashmallows afterward.

The next day we went to Howe Caverns. Now, to be honest, though the drive was fun, the place was just ok, and I thought it was pretty over rated. I didn’t much care for it. It was 18 dollars a person to get in, and do a tour. We did, but I think it was a bit of a rip off. I guess having been to the Grand Canyon, and seeing some wonderful rocks outside there, and at Red Rock Canyon there, caves just aren’t my thing…I get too claustrophobic. I didn’t do the boat ride, and another couple told me I didn’t miss anything-they found it boring too. I thought it was the only part of our trip I could have done without. It was pricy and over rated. That afternoon, we came back and I went swimming in the lake. My husband waded in, but thought it was really too cold. We wound up going back to the cabin, going for a walk, and then grilling some veggies and shrimp over the fire for dinner. It started to rain, so we took shelter inside and cuddled. Our cat ate shrimp with us, and raced around from window to window, chasing a fly!

The next day we took a drive up into the mountains, then went to see Linda again and bought some more cheese. She suggested we take a ride to a nearby town where they had alot of good local produce and also one of the only alpaca farms in the area. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find them, but we did find alot of wonderful scenery and a small local park with a great lake. We sat by the lake, took a walk, and then went to the town of Catskill. It was nice, and I’d like to go back. After a local lunch at a small place, we drove back through scenic hills to Gilbert Lake. We went hiking, and then saw some really large bear tracks and some scat. The whole forest went really quiet, and it freaked us out, so we turned and walked back, after a little stop by a wonderful ice pond, which reflected the sky into the water. We were the only people around, it felt as though we had the park to ourselves. We sat outside, and then took a ride back to Walmart and a local food store to get our cat some more food.

The next day we went back to Fly Creek and then had breakfast at a small place up the street. Great breakfast-I can’t think of the name of it, but there are only two places to eat in the little town, and it’s the one open in the morning! Great food!!!!! After leaving, we went to Bear Pond, picked up more wine, then took a drive. We went back to Gilbert Lake, and went swimming. Husband mainly read on the beach, and talked with other folks. People are very nice there, and I can’t say enough good things about the park. We went for another hike, and then relaxed that evening, packing some of our stuff. We left the next day.

Some of the highlights of our trip were Linda and the goat farm, the wonderful Gilbert Lake and seeing so much wildlife, deer, a fox, an otter, ground hogs, and so many birds! It’s just beautiful country, and I would suggest it to anyone. If your family need a fairly low cost vacation, renting a cabin makes sense, too! You can bring your family pet, and you can cook over the barbecue. Theres swimming, hiking and fishing if you like it. Theres so much nature around you. Our cat really seemed to enjoy it. The only drawback which was not so hard was having to go up the road to take a shower….but this wasn’t so difficult when one considered everything else. It was a great break!