…a passion for hiking and a well-earned post-trail happy hour can make for the perfect getaway.
…imagine hiking alongside Jupiter or Apollo, literally in the clouds, gazing down upon the seemingly endless Amalfi coast of Italy…
This 2,799-acre mountaintop region indulges a broad range of interests. Bunker Tower, previously a fire lookout, attracts visitors of all ages to ascend into the clouds for 360-degree views of the forests, towns, and countryside. Near the tower, Bald Rock Trail is the easiest trail in the park. The wooden boardwalk parallels the original trail, ending with expansive views at the exposed gray-toned Bald Rock. Nearby, Pulpit Rock Trail overlooks the expansive Talladega National Forest. A popular repelling destination, this red-blazed trail demands careful footing and steady balance on boulders and tree roots, but is worth the effort for impressive scenery at the trail’s end.
Gingerly I step through the crumbling watchtower at Samatai West and onto the Great Wall of China. I will never forget that first moment. The wall snaking off in either direction as far as the eye can see, the trail undulating up and down along the crest of the mountain ridge. It stops you in your tracks. It takes your breath away. Steep, narrow trails up to watchtowers where guards in centuries past would have watched for invaders, followed by crumbling steps down the other side where we would pick our way carefully and make our way back down.
There is no shortage of island destinations off the coast of Vancouver, British Columbia, but Galiano Island is the perfect choice for an escape from the city. First, the location can’t be beat. By the time you have enjoyed your bacon and eggs (or granola and whole wheat bagel, if you prefer) and drained your second cup of coffee, the ferry will be docking at Sturdies Bay. Second, no matter what you enjoy doing there is something for everyone on Galiano.
Welcome to Anchorage, Alaska, the largest city in the Last Frontier! Anchorage is tucked between the Chugiak Mountains and the Cook Inlet, creating a unique mix of city and wilderness all in one location. You can be wandering the exhibits of the Anchorage Museum in the morning, hiking in the mountains in the afternoon, and dining at a five-star restaurant that evening. Moose and eagles are a common sight in the city and sightings of Mt. McKinley (a.k.a. Denali) are not unheard of. Whether you are starting or ending your trip here, or just passing through, Anchorage needs a day or two of exploring. Here are five must do’s when visiting Anchorage.
The trail begins at the ridge road and descends, gradually at first, into the tropical rainforest. The curry-like fragrance of the spice trees and the twittering songs of the tropical birds surround you, as does the overarching canopy of the trees. Still feeling like you’ve entered another world, the wooded path climbs steeply upward again until it comes out on the canyon rim. What a dizzying drop-off! What a spectacular view! Far below is the green-treed bottom and far across are striated red cliffs. The gulf between is wide and deep — vast enough for helicopters to glide free, along with the tropicbird with its long feathered tail. Once hikers have reached this red clay ridge, they tend to traverse it gingerly, wary of the railing-free edge.
The hiking gets progressively more challenging as the days go by and we venture further and higher into the Himalayas. The air gets thinner and the terrain becomes steeper. Our lungs strain to get enough oxygen to our bodies. By the end of some days, my calves feel like lead and my knees are like jelly. Many times a day I briefly wonder why I am putting myself through this physical ordeal. Then I look up and take time to appreciate the panorama, or smile to a local child who offers a friendly greeting of “Namaste,” and all my pains are forgotten.
Climbing an active volcano isn’t something you get to do every day and there are very few places in the world where it’s even possible. One volcano where it’s possible and even reasonably manageable is Pacaya in Guatemala. Pacaya’s 90-minute strenuous walk up to the volcano cone can be eased by taking a ‘taxi,’ which is a horse, or four-wheel-drive vehicle.
Angoulême is enclosed in ancient city walls that crown the hill on which the city rests. The ramparts, dating before the Middle Ages, divide the Old Town from the suburbs, which cascade down the hill and out into the luscious river valley below. The Charente River was once used to transport salt, wine, paper, and lumber, among other products, making the city a key commercial center historically. Today it is known as the international comic strip and cartoon capital, and hosts the International Comic Strip Museum in a former warehouse on the banks of the river.