Recently I joined a mini reunion of college pals in Sun Valley, Idaho for a trifecta of outdoor activities: mountain biking, fly-fishing, and river kayaking.
Read all about it in the San Francisco Chronicle travel section: Sun Valley’s Summer Rush.
With all of the uncertainty shaking up the world right now (hasn’t it always been this way?) in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Japan, and recently in Egypt and Tunisia, you begin to wonder where you should travel these days and what places you should avoid. The renowned author of many novels and travel books, Paul Theroux, has an answer: go just about anywhere.
He wrote in a recent New York Times essay that if you’re willing to put up with some discomfort and able to be flexible with your movements, the rewards of travel in troubled places are enormous. Such travel can show you the utter stupidity of much human conflict and the inspiring ways people manage to live their lives.
And isn’t that ultimately why we travel? To understand life on our planet and see how others express their humanity?
Rough travel can be, well, rough, and sometimes the lessons learned come only in retrospect, but they are lessons worth learning, now and in the future.
I had coffee this morning with Nikki Rose, old friend and fellow San Francisco transplant who’s spent most of the last decade in Crete, her ancestors’ land. Her specialty? Cooking!
Since 1997 she’s worked to conserve Crete’s cultural and natural heritage through her own version of a slow food movement, engaging more than 40 small business and individuals in “Crete’s Culinary Sanctuaries” to offer visitors a taste of traditional Cretan cuisine. Ingredients come from local organic farms, and chefs put a modern twist on the old cuisine so there’s always a tasty surprise.
Her programs have received sustainable development awards from the likes of National Geographic, and she’s booking tours for the summer. Visit artisan food producers, organic farmers, rural communities that have been inhabited for 4,000 years, and take botanical hikes in the land of the Minoans. Explore ancient sites, too.
And of course, eat well.
If you’re tired of the March mud or a winter that just won’t quit, maybe a trip to Tahiti is the fix you need. Moon Handbooks has just released the 7th edition of David Stanley’s guidebook to Tahiti, and you can just about feel the sea breezes wafting out of the book.
Triporati’s South Pacific expert, Stanley has spent much of the last 30 years traveling, crossing six continents overland and visiting 212 of the world’s 245 countries and territories. That puts him right up there as one of the world’s most traveled people.
As much as he’s traveled, he returns to the South Pacific again and again and considers it his favorite area, which says a lot about the appeal of the place. His book is full of the practical advice you’d expect from any good guidebook, but Stanley’s decades of experience in the region give this volume a special appeal. He knows the people, he knows the territory, and he knows how to share it with his readers. This make him the ideal guide to get you started on your journey.
Me? I can’t make it to Tahiti this year, but next month I’m going to Fiji. And I’ll be carrying Stanley’s new Moon Fiji Handbook with me when I go. This one is in its ninth edition, and I’m getting started in my pre-trip preparation.
Ziplines are all the rage at adventure resorts and ski areas, but sometimes we forget that they originally served a practical purpose to move people and materials across impassable chasms. And sometimes we need to be reminded that they still do.
In a report on Slate from Colombia, Joshua Foer takes a ride on a cable that’s been getting daily use for 60 years. Do you want to hitch a ride?
On a gloriously, sunny crisp clear day in SF, I started wading through our snow gear in preparation for a school snow trip to the Sierras. It must be mentioned that keeping snow gear up to date for growing kids is tricky, but I think I’ve got it all sorted and labeled. All this talk of snow and winter got me thinking about my own winter bucket list, winter adventures high on my “to do” agenda.
When most of the country is dreaming of beaches and sun, I’m dreaming of the white stuff. I love snow and all the fun one can have outdoors when the temperature drops and precipitation turns to flakes. Three unusual activities came to mind. One, visiting Sweden’s Ice Hotel, but I already posted about that one.
The second, skating Holland’s many canals has been a lifelong dream. Inspired by Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates, skating the canals has become a rarity due to pollution and climate change. 2009 was a big year for canal skating and many Dutch citizens rediscovered their soul when they strapped on their skates two winters ago.
“This has got to be the craziest sport I’ve ever done,” my friend George said to me as we rested on our mountain bikes gazing down a precipitous slope toward pine forest and spiky mountains in the distance. “Here we are in one of the most beautiful places on earth and when we’re on our bikes we can’t even look at the scenery!”
The mountain bike trails from the top of Sun Valley’s fabled Bald Mountain (9150 feet elevation) wind through meadows, switchback down sheer slopes, weave through pine forests, and really get the adrenaline flowing. We were cruising (or rather, braking) down eight-mile-long Warm Springs Trail because the friendly fellow who sold us tickets for the gondola to take us to the top sized us up and said, “Take Warm Springs Trail. You’ll see when you get up there that you have two choices, Cold Springs and Warm Springs. You folks want Warm Springs. It’ll be a lot better for you.” Then he grinned and said, as if questioning our resolve, “Cold Springs is not for the faint of heart.” Continue reading »
Cue the Deliverance Music.
It was July 4th weekend so we were expecting crowds, and save for a few kayakers and boat enthusiasts, we pretty much had the river to ourselves. We had planned a moderate backpacking trip but when one in our party had abrupt knee surgery in April, we opted to paddle to our campsite instead of forcing the kids to hike with packs a la the Bataan Death March. The preparations were similar to a backpacking trip, but we could bring comfy pads and a cooler. I was concerned about tipping the canoe, but my friend hails from Minnesota and has done this sort of thing before.
“That’s a big-fish cast,” guide Jim Santa said as my fly landed on the far side of the creek just shy of the willows lining the bank. The fly caught the current, drifted through the ripples into the shade, swirled once and flowed under the overhanging bush in the deep water. “Whoa. There’s gotta be a fish there. Put it back there again.”
I recast and landed the fly in the same spot, watched it run with the current in the shade, under the willows and through the deep water again. But no strike.
“People say they catch fish but only small ones, and I tell them they’ve got to put the fly where the big fish are. That cast was right where the big fish are,” Jim mused, as I couldn’t tempt a trout to rise to the fly.
“I’m pretty good,” he continued, “but I couldn’t make a better cast than that.”
That, of course, was music to my ears, even though I suspected that he said the same thing to everyone.
We were fishing Wild Horse Creek, a quintessential Idaho trout stream in Copper Basin in Challis National Forest 26 miles north of Sun Valley. Jim was leading me and three of my best friends through a morning of fly-fishing that promised lots of contemplation and — we hoped — a few fish. Continue reading »
As the snowmelt begins to pour off the Alps and wildflowers emerge in the meadows, I find it hard to banish thoughts of hiking in Switzerland. My plans for this year will focus on California’s Sierra Nevada and Washington’s Cascades, but my heart will be in Switzerland.
A few years ago I tromped around the Jungfrau region with friends, basing ourselves in the tidy village of Mürren that clings to a ridge above the Lauterbrunnen Valley with a front-row view of the legendary peaks the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau. A year before that, with young children in tow, my father-in-law, wife, and I trekked the trails out of Grindelwald in the shadow of the Eiger. Both experiences left me wondering if it could get any better.
As everyone knows, it can always get better. These days I’m dreaming of hiking through the terraced vineyards above Lake Geneva in the Lavaux region between Lausanne and Vevey. No, this isn’t alpine hiking, and the trail I have in mind will take only half a day to complete, but the area is near the top of my list of the world’s most astoundingly beautiful places. Continue reading »