A recent October trip to Yosemite and Mariposa County, CA followed a huge rain storm. The robust waterfalls thundered all around and the scenery was more striking than I had remembered from my last trip at the end of July. Autumn colors enhanced the spectacular vistas and there was a crisp feel in the air. Not more than 50 yards from the trail two rutting male deer banged their antlers together putting on a great show. I had packed for winter; fleece, down jacket, hat and gloves. It was in the 70’s and I was in a sweat during the day; the weather can be so changeable. I was stressing before I left, worrying about whether I needed chains or not for the drive up; instead I swam in the hotel pools and applied sunscreen liberally.
My first night I spent at the Tenaya Lodge, right outside the park. The Tenaya had the feel of a Park Lodge, animal heads on the common room walls, giant beams and an outdoorsy style, but was considerably fancier than a rustic lodge. The bed was big and comfortable but unfortunately I slept poorly due to the altitude and a late night specialty coffee (decaf) that I suspect had more alcohol in it than I could tolerate. Elk was on the menu (which my kids were excited about) and I would love to take my family back to explore all the Lodge’s offerings.
One October a few years ago I spent a couple of days in Churchill, Manitoba looking for polar bears. Churchill is famously the “Polar Bear Capital of the World” because so many bears come in to den when the pack ice breaks up on Hudson Bay. In the fall, when Hudson Bay begins to freeze, ice forms first around the spit of land where Churchill sits, and the bears know it. That’s why they gang up here, why thousands of tourists like me come to gawk.
But now there’s a new game in town: snorkeling with belugas. Yep, you can don a dry suit and slip into water that was frozen solid last week and come nose to nose with beluga whales. John Flinn took the plunge and conveyed his experience in the San Francisco Chronicle this week. Continue reading »
One night some years ago I arrived in Guanajuato, Mexico for the first time, knowing little about the place beyond its being yet another Spanish colonial city. When the bus couldn’t get anywhere near my hotel on Jardin de la Union because the streets were jammed with revelers, I got out, shouldered my bags, and plunged into the crowd.
Maybe it was the long bus ride that had warped my ability to make sense of my surroundings, or it could have been my diet of magic realism literature I was on at the time, but the scene I wound through that night presented the kind of phantasmagoria that can induce hallucinations. Was everyone in costume? Was it a warmup for Dia de los Muertos, the Day of the Dead? Colors flashed by, shouts and laughter and the melodious rhythms of Spanish ricocheted off balconied buildings. Smoke from street stalls carried the scent of grilled meat. And I continued to push my way, gently because this was a happy throng, across the plaza to the hotel. Continue reading »
In the late ’60s and early ’70s the thought of a trip down the Mekong was the stuff of nightmares. The place was a war zone, and the only way to see it was courtesy of Uncle Sam. But thankfully times change, and today the great river that runs from China through Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam is accessible to anyone who wants to put paddle to water, assuming you have the proper paperwork and know your way around.
Which is a good reason to find an outfitter who can handle the logistics. Some top adventure companies offer trips on the Mekong, but these are mostly cruises. For journeys by kayak, Bangkok-based river explorer Steve Van Beek brings something extra: 40 years of residence in Southeast Asia and almost as many years exploring the region’s rivers. Continue reading »
It’s almost sundown on the eve of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar; Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. I was thinking about years past and how I’ve spent the day. In NYC, schools are often closed. Mine was never closed because it was an International school and if they took off one holiday they would have to take off everything: the Swedish King’s birthday, Diwali, Chinese New Year. I am not religious and my husband likes to say I am Jew–ISH, which suits me fine but I do feel connected to the heritage on my dad’s side.
I have never been to Israel, but would love to go some day. The Israeli city of Tel Aviv would be my first stop. Tel Aviv sounds like such a vibrant city and since, so often there is bad news coming out of the Middle East, I thought it was a good time to bring up the 100th birthday of this bustling metropolis. This pulsing city of more than 1.5 million is the most liberal in Israel, full of artists, gay bars, high-tech companies and Bauhaus architecture. Tel Aviv is called the Barcelona of the Middle East, a hip city, with trendy restaurants and night life which, despite the ongoing political conflict that is never far away, has a lot to offer visitors. Upcoming anniversary events include:
* International Art Biennale (ARTLV) (9 September – 9 October), showcasing contemporary works in dozens of exhibitions.
* The Green Festival (17 October), dedicating of the Green Route along the Yarkon River and a centennial bike ride.
* Fashion Week in Tel Aviv Port (19-22 October).
Now is the time. The crowds are gone, the days are clear and warm and the nights are cool to cold. Mosquitoes and just about every other flying insect have bedded down for the winter or perished in the chill. Campsites are available. And Yosemite’s vaunted Tuolumne Meadows is as beautiful in the fall as ever.
I spent the 4th of July holiday weekend there, my first visit in 25 years, which told me a couple of things: just how quickly time can pass and a quarter of a lifetime can slip beneath your feet; and how short-sighted I’d been to allow so many years to drift away without making the simple four-hour-plus drive up from San Francisco. I swam in Tenaya Lake, fished the pools and streams that fed into it, got some strikes in the Tuolumne River as it wound through the meadows, and later, at Cathedral Lake, saw a trout with a head as big as my fist emerge from the depths to strike my lure repeatedly before losing interest, too smart to be caught by an occasional fisherman like me. Continue reading »
3 Comments | Filed Under Adventure Travel, California, Camping, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Feature, Fishing, Hike/Backpack, North America, Northern California, Travel, United States, Yosemite, wildlife
It was a hot summer day and I had promised my youngest son I would take him and his best friend, one of my best friend’s daughters, canoeing on the Russian River. We left early and drove up to Guerneville, a small town along the river in Sonoma County. I wasn’t sure what two almost six year olds would make of the adventure, but I was excited. I have fond memories of canoeing on the East Coast from my childhood and did it a few times on the Russian River in the early nineties. Visions of swimming and frolicking in the river, picnicking on a sandbar and most of all enjoying the day with my husband and the two kidlets got me revved for the escapade. We did some research and found a company named Burke’s Canoe Trips that does half day adventures. This sounded great, but not with the wee ones; maybe with my ten year old and a buddy though. We found Johnson’s Beach, a really quaint spot, where you could rent canoes by the hour; perfect for our questionable passengers. When we arrived we found a sweet little beach spot which reminded me of spots in NY I visited as a kid in the 70’s; really low tech, really friendly and family run. It wasn’t fancy but I liked it like that. You could rent an umbrella and a buff dude would come over and pound it into the sand for you. The snack bar served soft serve for a dollar and you could rent inner tubes to float along if you didn’t want to paddle. The changing room was a wooden structure with hand-made curtains; loved it! Continue reading »
The Pacific Islands of Fiji have been once again suspended from the Commonwealth following yet another coup. The political instability in Fiji is constant and most certainly affects tourism. I have been to Fiji twice, once for work and once for pleasure, although both trips were amazing and equally pleasurable! I dream of the endless blue waters, legendary scuba and snorkeling, magical waterfalls and the incredible cuisine; a mixture of native tropical fare infused with Indian spices. These spices were brought to the islands by the many Southeast Asian Indians who came there to ‘work’. The melange in the cuisine is tantalizing but the ethnic tensions between the natïve Islanders and the Indians was palpable when I was there and part of the polical and social strife today. This is the thrid time Fiji has been suspended from the Commonwealth. For up to date information check out the US State Department site.
When I first heard about Camp Mather, a city run family camp near Yosemite, for San Francisco residents, I thought it sounded like a bad cross between the Catskills and a low-rent Club Med. In theory, I hate organized activities and en masse vacationing. It didn’t help that our close friends who I adore, who are British (cue Monty Python accent) raved about it saying how one can bring rugs, flags and ‘fairy lights’ and decorate your cabin; it sounded dismal to me. Yet, many of our close friends, people we love and admire, cool families with kids our age, said it was fantastic. So we took the plunge last year, did the lottery in January and got a spot. We had a lot of fun and although we felt we hadn’t drunk the Kool-Aid we decided to re-apply this year. I decided if it weren’t my ‘only’ vacation it was a great thing to do as a family and the kids loved the autonomy. Continue reading »
I’ve never been to Texas, unless you count changing planes. Austin interests me, the music scene and the reputation for hip and eco friendly folks; sounds like a great city. I know a few people who have moved there and say it’s affordable and very livable. I also have an old friend from Dallas who moved back there and swears it’s an amazing place. I am a coastal person, can’t be too far from an ocean and Texas, deep in Red America, I must admit, scares me a bit. But, I heard an amazing tale on the radio the other day about a renaissance of outdoor activities on the notorious Rio Grande River. The natural boundary between the U.S. and Mexico and the final resting place for so many who try to cross it illegally, has an ominous image. I guess I never thought about the wonders of the famed big river. The natural habitat, the birds, kayaking; the report was so uplifting. Continue reading »