The final day of Selinda marked the end of our expedition - and what a bittersweet finale it was. The dogs were pushed out by lions, the hyena pups were hiding in the den, and nary a predator to be found. We did manage to come across a herd of cape buffalo, and marveled at their militaristic formations. As the truck moved closer, the pack would stampede for about 30 feet, then turn around and lower their horns in a perfect phalanx.
Selinda Safari Day 3 - August 2021
Our third day in Selinda continued the theme of searching in vain for wild dogs. Instead, we came across a den of young hyenas. The family group consisted of two adults, two of this year's pups, and one adolescent precocious to a fault. The teenager came right up and chewed on the tires of the truck without a care in the world. It's truly incredible to gaze into the thoughtful eyes of this maligned predator.
Selinda Safari Day 2 - August 2021
The Selinda private concession is a vast, arid plain punctuated with fertile rivers and seasonal watering holes. On our first full day at camp we visited such a location, and within minutes were completely surrounded by dozens of elephants from several distinct herds. I attempted to count the animals and gave up around 30 or 40. As we returned to camp, we drove into a series of wildfires which our intrepid guide Ruben stamped out with naught but force of personality and a green stick.
Selinda Safari Day 1 - August 2021
Arriving at Selinda Camp is a wholly theatrical event. After the tiny bush plane lands, you take a quick jeep ride to a speedboat which skims along the spillway to the lodge's front porch. Seeing hippos at eye level gives you an entirely new respect for the size and power of the majestic beasts.
Selinda Camp - August 2021
Selinda Camp takes everything to the next level. Have you ever heard of a tented camp that includes a wine cabinet, copper clawfoot bathtub and private in-deck pool? Meals, schedules, and activities are completely customized around your personal desires - for us, that meant spending as much time in the bush as possible, searching for wildlife in general and the elusive wild dogs in particular.
Chitabe Safari Day 4 - August 2021
Our final night in Chitabe was continuously interrupted by the roars of male lions marking their territory. We set out at first light and were fortunate enough to experience the call of a lion close enough to feel the reverberations. The goosebumps may never leave our forearms.
Chitabe Safari Day 3 - August 2021
Our second full day in Chitabe was spent hunting for the wild dogs. We came across two separate abandoned nesting sites, but never did find the pack. Instead, we stumbled across a hyena feeding frenzy on an abandoned impala carcass. The vocalizations were truly incredible, ranging from high pitched squeals to low, throaty grunts.
Chitabe Safari Day 2 - August 2021
Our first true day in the bush spoiled our expectations for what a game drive could be. Our first day we saw all of the big cats: lions, cheetahs, and leopards. We were tantalizingly close to seeing a leopard ambush an impala from a tree stand - but alas, our French safari companions shouted out and spooked the huntress at the last possible moment, spoiling the ambush. Lesson learned: if you're going to pay four figures a night for a safari camp, spend the extra money and charter a private vehicle.
Chitabe Safari Day 1 - August 2021
We arrived in Chitabe well past noon, and immediately embarked on the afternoon game drive. We knew we had entered the bush when we arrived in a clearing with a truly absurd amount of fauna. Elephants, impala, wildebeest, tsessebe, warthogs, giraffes... all were present in a single clearing. No stateside game drive prepared us for the sheer variety of life we found in sub-Saharan Africa.
Chitabe Camp - August 2021
Chitabe is a beautiful safari camp in the southeastern part of the Okavango Delta. While technically a "tented camp", the raised boardwalks and spacious accommodations are a far cry from any tent I've ever seen. Elephants in particular love the palm trees surround the camp, and can frequently be seen at arm's length from the boardwalk.
Zuri Zanzibar Resort - August 2021
After summiting Kilimanjaro, we were due for some well earned rest and relaxation at the luxurious Zuri Zanzibar. Our villa was breathtaking, the sandy beaches were as stunning as advertised, and there was plenty of good food and booze to go around. We couldn't shake the overly commercialized feeling however. Everywhere we went, someone wanted to sell us something or upcharge us for some detail. The merchants patrolling the beach at the edge of the resort were particularly relentless.
Zuri Zanzibar Spice Garden - August 2021
One day while strolling through the grounds of Zuri we stumbled upon the spice garden, and absent-mindedly agreed to take a tour. It ended up being the highlight of our entire Zanzibar expedition. Our knowledgeable guide was quick with his pocket knife, slicing off leaves and bark and roots for us to smell and taste as he explained how different parts of various plants were used to cultivate the legendary spices of the island. The experience was tactile, real, and gave us a whole new appreciation for the multitude of life around us.
Zanzibar Prison Island Tour - August 2021
Zuri operates on the cruise ship model, wherein they offer a variety of guided excursions outside of the resort - for a substantial additional fee, of course. Once such experience we opted for was the Prison Island tour. The small rocky island off the coast of Stone Town was originally intended as a penitentiary, but was quickly repurposed as a holding place for the more troublesome slaves from the local markets as well as a quarantine facility. Today, through a strange twist of fate, it is used as a breeding ground for giant tortoises.
Zanzibar Stone Town Tour - August 2021
Stone Town is an eclectic mix of history and modernity. On the exterior you have the narrow streets and beautiful Eastern architecture, while beneath the surface are all of the trappings of Western tourism. The old fort is used to sell rugs and holds a Reggae festival. The classic hotel restaurant has a special on Coca Cola and pizza. The aromatic and claustrophobic stalls of the old spice market all sell the same prepackaged goods from a single distributor. The most striking part of the city is also the most disturbing - the museum explaining how Zanzibar was once the lynchpin of the slave trade to the Ottoman Empire and all the Eastern hemisphere.
Kilimanjaro Day 10; Back to Civilization! - July 2021
The final day of trekking, all anyone cares about is getting off the stupid mountain and into a hot shower. This is a shame as descending through the rainforest was one of the most beautiful and interesting parts of the trip. The trail was slick and muddy, but with crampons attached to our boots we made good time and were soon leaving the park. After bidding farewell to our guides, and thanking them profusely, it was time to move on to the next stage of our adventure. But the mountain will forever remain a cherished memory.
Kilimanjaro Day 9; Mweka Millennium Camp 12533ft - July 2021
Day nine was our descent, and easily the toughest day of trekking for me. It turns out that while hiking up 4,000 feet of loose shifting gravel is difficult, sliding down it is excruciating. Luckily, our intrepid guides knew what they were doing and with more than a little assistance I was able to descend safely. The day is a blur as you pass from the glaciers, down through the alpine desert, past heath and moorland and deep into the rainforest.
Kilimanjaro Day 8; Crater Camp 18865ft - July 2021
Summit day! Unfortunately we took no photos of the ascent itself - the long, steep, treacherous journey required every ounce of concentration and determination to make it through. After what seemed like days (and in reality was six or eight hours of hiking), we arrived at Gilman's Point on the edge of the crater. From there, we would traverse around the crater rim to our final goal at Uhuru Peak. The weather, which had been pleasant all journey, finally turned on us that day and the wind was cold and wet. Hiking through fields of ice in full parka when just days ago we had been in short sleeves was surreal and hauntingly beautiful. We finally reached famous faux-wooden sign announcing we had arrived at the Roof of Africa, the world's tallest freestanding mountain. Pictures were taken, hugs and handshakes exchanged, manly tears shed. But our journey was not yet over - we had to continue on past the peak, and down into the crater where our tents awaited us. Sleeping in the crater of a volcano sounds like great fun. It is not. I was so exhausted, the air was so thin and so bitterly cold, that I could not properly appreciate the beauty around me and no one in our party was feeling up to venturing out to see the lava cone.
Kilimanjaro Day 7; School Hut 15452ft - July 2021
Day seven was spent crossing The Saddle - the sloping plateau between Mawenzi Peak and Uhuru. The terrain was gentle and easy, but the wind was howling. There is no shelter on the saddle, no place to stop for food or to relieve yourself. At this point I was also feeling the elevation and all the classic signs of altitude sickness - headaches, nausea, loss of appetite. We settled in for an early night and tried to mentally prepare for the tough final push.
Kilimanjaro Day 6; Mawenzi Tarn Hut 14157ft - July 2021
The fifth day of the trek opened with a short but steep climb up to base of Mwenzi Peak. From here on, we were going up - there would be no more descending until we reached the summit. As we arrived at the muddy pond, the cloud bank was intense and it was difficult to see around. After lunch, we took an acclimatization hike up Mwenzi to survey where we would be going the next day. This is when it really hits home that there is no easy way up to Uhuru. The final ascent is visible from up here, and seems impossibly steep. Climbing back down to our camp gave us some foreshadowing of how difficult the descent would be. But all worries left us when we saw the incredible stars and the Milky Way, clearer and more breathtaking than any other place on Earth we have visited.
Kilimanjaro Day 5; Kikelelwa Camp 11811ft - July 2021
After another reasonably short day we arrived at possibly my favorite of all the camps - Kikelelwa. This is a magical place where water bubbles out of the ground and exotic groundsels sprout from the rock at unlikely angles. The air is filled with birds and insects - a welcome sight after the barren wastes of alpine deserts. Even our porters took a break to listen to a soccer match over the radio. The cheering, celebrations, and trash-talking lasted long into the night.
Kilimanjaro Day 4; Rongai Second Cave 11319ft - July 2021
On the fourth day we descended back down to a relatively low elevation. It was a relatively short and easy day of trekking, which was merciful as fatigue began to set in. Somewhere around the fourth night you really miss a hot shower and food that doesn't come off of a camp stove (no matter how admirable a job our chef did with what he had to work with). And then it hits you - this is day four of ten. You're not even halfway there yet. Uhuru seems a distant dream from down here.
Kilimanjaro Day 3; Pofo Camp 13106ft - July 2021
Day 3 began with a rapid ascent to around 14500 feet. This overlook is notable in that it is the highest we will be for some time, and also one of the best places to get cell reception. From there, we would slowly wind our way down and around the mountain towards Mawenzi Peak. The day was spent in the rocky moonlike desert, climbing over plates of shale and obsidian on what could only most generously be considered a trail.
Kilimanjaro Day 2; Moir Hut 13652ft - July 2021
As the second day of climbing began, our expedition was in high spirits. The Shira Plateau is beautiful, and you have a dazzling sense of being truly on the mountain and looking out over the plains of Africa. Kibo Peak still beckons tantalizingly in the distance. The going was easy at first, but things became much steeper after lunch. By the time we stumbled into camp, we were rising out of the moorland and into the foreboding alpine desert. The views here are strangely alien, as if we were climbing onto a rocky inhospitable new planet.
Kilimanjaro Day 1; Shira I Camp 11848ft - July 2021
At Londorosi Gate we met the small city of porters who would be assisting us in our climb. As soon as the paperwork was settled, we began the first leg of our journey by truck, travelling all the way to base of the Shira Plateau, an ancient lava flow some 11,000 feet in the air. From here, you are already in the cloudbanks and the summit looks surprisingly close and achievable. After an picnic lunch we began our trek to our first camp, Shira I. It was a shortest day hiking by far, but did include climbing in and out of a few old gulches which was surprisingly difficult.
Ndarakwai Ranch - August 2021
After some brief complications with our transportation were resolved, our adventure began in earnest at Ndarakwai Ranch. Located in the foothills of Kilimanjaro, the tented camp sits on 11,000 acres of wildlife refuge. Sadly, this has not stopped conflict with the traditional Masai people, and as a result a great deal of the park has been damaged by fire and cattle. We took a brief hike and a wildlife drive as we met our travel companions and prepared ourselves for our Kili trek.
Ballooning Over North Dallas - August 2020
Our first hot air balloon flight was fantastical bordering on surreal. The air was improbably still, and there was hardly any sensation of movement whatsoever. We scarcely noticed leaving the ground, and yet soon we found ourselves looking down upon the disturbingly uniform expanse of suburbia and the frenetic activity of the local airport. None of it would have been possible with out the dedicated support of the ground team, which expended significant efforts to deploy, monitor, and recover our vessel.
Chisos Mountains, Big Bend National Park - December 2017
When most people think of Big Bend, the last thing that comes to mind is temperature mountain landscapes. However, the Chisos Mountains are exactly that - a small mountain ranged contained entirely within the park, home to species you would expect to find far further north: oak, fir, whitetail deer, and allegedly black bears and mountain lions. It's one of the few places in park which is open year-round, and hosts the only lodging on park.
Chihuahua Desert, Big Bend National Park - December 2017
The Chihuahua desert composes most of Big Bend National park, and is every bit as vast and lonesome as one might imagine. In some stretches there is no shade or water for miles, and all the eye can see are some cacti and maybe an occasional bird circling far overhead. However, closer examination reveals a wide variety of flora and geological formation.
Santa Elena Canyon, Big Bend National Park - December 2017
Santa Elena Canyon was one of the most surprising features of Big Bend. In the far southwestern corner of the park, the trickling Rio Grande has carved through up to 1500 feet of the surround mesa, leaving a scar in the rock that can be seen from miles away. Along the river, an array of plant life announces the presence of the water which is so scarce in the region.
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center - September 2015
Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose Texas is one of the largest wildlife preserves in the United States. We stayed overnight in the beautiful lodge, and then woke up early the next morning for the morning safari tour. Highlights included hand feeding a giraffe, being stalked by a cheetah, and a rare viewing of the critically endangered Grévy's zebra.
Dallas Zoo Giants of the Jurassic - April 2015
Giants of the Jurassic came to life at the Dallas Zoo with lively animatronics. More than a dozen species were represented in various settings. The only disappointing part was that kids weren't calling out their favorite Land Before Time character.
De Golyer Estate - December 2014
The De Golyer Estate is a stunning mansion on the Dallas Arboretum property. During the course of the year, the mansion is decorated from top to bottom and opened to the public. For this Christmas season, the mansion has been filled with carolers.
Dallas Arboretum - December 2014
There wasn't much flora in this display at the Aboretum, but the themed mechanical exhibits were unique and creative. Each day was lovely during the day, but at night they took on a whole new life.
Emerald Princess - December 2014
The Emerald Princess was our home for seven nights. The massive ship was impressive if unattractive, transporting approximately 3500 guests and 1500 crew members. Despite this, we still felt small in the expanse of the ocean at night.
Dallas Arboretum - November 2014
Autumn at the Aboretum housed more varieties of pumpkins and squash than we ever knew existed.
Firestone and Robertson Distillery - June 2014
An unassuming pre-Prohibition warehouse in downtown Fort Worth hides the Firestone and Robertson distillery. I was surprised to learn that the famous TX Blended Whiskey was in fact a blend of Kentucky spirits. However, F&R plans to reveal their homegrown straight bourbon in the near future.
Dr Pepper Museum - May 2014
The Dr Pepper museum was a lighthearted portal to a lost era of American history wherein soda was a food crucial to the war effort and it was considered good for your health to drink it three times daily.
Waco Mammoth Site - May 2014
Waco Mammoth Site is one of the best kept secrets in north Texas. Hidden away in an inconspicuous metal barn is the only preserved nesting site of the Columbian Mammoth anywhere in the world. Some sixteen intact specimens have already been excavated, and several more are currently left in situ for observation.
Medieval Times Dallas - April 2014
The antics of the knights were impressive enough, but the true stars of our dinner and tournament were the well trained and beautifully adorned horses.
Dallas Arboretum - April 2014
The Dallas Arboretum is widely regarded as being one of the most impressive flora displays in the region.
Ft Davis and McDonald Observatory - February 2014
McDonald Observatory is hailed as the best place to view the stars in the continental United States. The moon was one day past full, limiting our view but offering an impressive display all its own.
Animals Inside Out - February 2014
Animals Inside Out was smaller but more varied than the original Body Worlds, and was definitely the highlight of our trip to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.
Chinese Lanterns at Fair Park - November 2013
Despite being about as authentically Chinese as Orange Chicken, the latern festival was nonetheless a dazzling sight to behold.
Ringling Bros Circus Presents Dragons - August 2013
Dragons gave a new twist to the traditional circus experience while still incorporating the classics such as clowns, acrobats, lion tamers and elephants.
USS Texas and San Jacinto - July 2013
Boasting the largest guns in the world during WW1, the Mighty T still saw action on D-Day, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa.
Houston Zoo - July 2013
The Houston Zoo hosts a large number of animals in a small, compact area... we got lost more than once.
Houston Museum of Natural Science - July 2013
The butterflies in the Houston Museum of Natural Science were a difficult subject matter to capture.
Dallas World Aquarium - April 2013
The Dallas World Aquarium surprisingly hosts more than just fish. The multi-storied warehouse is also home to tropical birds, reptiles, and live entertainers.
Sea World San Antonio - April 2013
Although in recent years the franchise has become more focused on rides and attractions than the animals, the jovial staff and trainers still set Sea World apart from standard amusement parks.
Ft Worth Zoo - January 2013
Fort Worth has always been our preferred zoo in the metroplex, and the newly opened Museum of Living Art only reinforced this belief.
Falcon Heavy Test Launch
The Falcon Heavy launch was a once in a lifetime opportunity to witness history in the making. We arrived before daybreak to ensure a prime viewing location. As the day wore on and the launch window was repeatedly delayed, the crowd grew increasingly anxious. Finally, a small puff of steam meant that the rocket was being fueled. From that point onward, we were all convinced that the launch would be an uparalelled sucess and the day was a jubilant celebration of the triumph of human ingenuity.
Kennedy Space Center Tourist Facilities - February 2018
The tourist area of Kennedy Space Center is not overly large, but it is densely packed with exhibits showcasing both the storied past and the optimistic future of American space travel. Everything is tastefully done and nothing feels showy or gimmicky. The most moving part to me was a presentation of the history of the space shuttle program, which concluded with a dramatic unveiling of the Atlantis spacecraft suspended mid-flight.
Kennedy Space Center Functional Facilities - February 2018
The Launch Director's tour was one of the highlights of our trip to Kennedy Space Center. The commentary of Mike Leinbach, the final Space Shuttle launch director, was poignant and moving. It was all too clear that fifteen years later, the city, the people, and in fact the world had not recovered from the Columbia disaster. To this day the memory of the lost follows all that NASA does and reminds us that nothing about spaceflight is safe or routine.
Buffalo Trace Distillery - April 2017
Buffalo Trace appeared to be the largest and most industrial of the distilleries. The sheer volume of product rushing through the heavy equipment was intimidating. It honestly begs the question of whether some of the other large brands were hiding thier heavier operations from the tourists.
Town Branch Distillery - April 2017
Town Branch is the only distillery I know of which also has a brewery on the same physical location. This gives them an edge at creating a wide variety of interesting products, from bourbon barrel aged stouts to American single malt whiskies. In contrast to the historical locations, their campus was very open and modern feeling.
Woodford Reserve Distillery - April 2017
Woodford Reserve has a spacious campus filled with gorgeous gray stone buildings, most of which are original. Of particular note is the cramped, unheated government building where a federal agent used to live onsite to monitor the distillation process. Another fun element was the lengthy barrel run, still used to transfer barrels from one step of the process to another.
Angel's Envy Distillery - April 2017
Angel's Envy had the most stylish of all the distilleries, an antique warehouse revitalized with hardwood decking, natural lighting, and plenty of artistic illustrations. If I had a distillery, this is what I would want it to look like. The only disappointment was that they only sold the original bourbon onsite, and not the rye or the cask strength.
Four Roses Distillery - April 2017
Much of the Four Roses distillery was off limits due to their ongoing renovations. Since this location is on the National Registry of Historic Places, this means that they have to meticulously disassemble the build and then reassemble it back exactly in kind. Despite this, it was a fun tour describing the fascinating rise and fall of bourbon and the role Japan played in its revival.
Wild Turkey Distillery - April 207
Although it's comfortably withing the loop for the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, the Wild Turkey distillery somehow felt like it was out of the way and somewhat forgotten. The site was old, but neither modernized nor particularly well preserved. The most noteworthy part of the tour was their sensory lab, where the distillers ensure that every bottle is indistinguishable from the target sample.
The Seelbach Hotel - April 2017
The Seelbach is another classic hotel in Louisville, arguably even more ornate than the Brown. We had an awkward encounter here when the front desk assigned us a room that was already occupied, but they quickly made up for the mistake and the rest of our stay was quite enjoyable.
Thunder Over Louisville - April 2017
Thunder Over Louisiville is a massive celebration each year, one week prior to the running of the Kentucky Derby. It features one of the country's best airshows and culminates in the world's largest annual fireworks display. From our VIP rooftop seats we had a great view of the action... and the open bar certainly didn't hurt.
Churchill Downs - April 2017
The museum at Churchill Downs was a fascinating window into a sport about which I knew very little. Quaint traditions meet modern opulence, ludicrous hats meet cutthroat competition, and timeless glory meets modern technologies.
The Brown Hotel - April 2017
The Brown Hotel is a gorgeous old building in downtown Louisville, first opened for business in 1923. While staying there be sure to try their famous creation - the original Hot Brown, which has spawned numerous imitations and knockoffs and become an important part of local cuisine.
Evan Williams Bourbon Experience - April 2017
The Evan Williams Bourbon Experience is an odd marketing stunt in downtown Louisville. In place of an actual tour, we entered a replica speakeasy and listened to a speech by the customed bartender. This was our least favorite stop along the bourbon trail, but completion's sake demanded we attend.
Bulleit Distillery - April 2017
The Bulleit distillery outside of Lexington was originally home to Stitzel Weller, a distillation company which went out of business in 1972. The site only reopened In 2014. One of the more interesting sites is the old cooperage building, which still displays some of the original equipment.
Kentucky Artisan Distillery - April 2017
Kentucky Artisan Distillery is a small craft location that services a variety of different brands. The most famous of these is the Jefferson's line of products. The highlight of the tour was their barley in malting process.
Four Roses Bottling and Warehouse - April 2017
Four Roses has two sites available to tour as their distillation and bottling facilities are separate. The bottling and warehouse facility contains my favorite part of any distillery tour - the rickhouse with all of its delicious aromas. Here we learned about the ten different recipes of Four Roses, which kicked off a statewide search to collect them all.
Jim Beam Distillery - April 2017
Jim Beam's location was less of a distillery and more of an amusement park. Although the tour guide was decidedly uninspired, the location featured fun activities such as bottling your own Knob Creek and whiskey vending machines with prepaid cards.
Willet Distillery - April 2017
My only regret from my pilgrimage to Kentucky is that we did not have time to take the full tour at the Willet distillery. Unfortunately, we had a previously scheduled obligation and so we were only able to take a quick peek at the grounds and visitor center, vowing to be back again someday.
Heaven Hill Heritage Center - April 2017
Heaven Hill does not have a publicly available tour of their distillery. Instead, they built a large visitor center and quasi-museum. The facility itself was somewhat lackluster, but our scheduled tasting was exquisite and featured great bourbons with a knowledgeable host.
Maker's Mark Distillery - April 2017
Maker's Mark claims to have the oldest operation bourbon distillery in the world. It's also a very attractive campus, filled with shady trails and the distinctive black and red designs. The highlight of their tour is the ability to wax dip your own bottle.
Limestone Branch Distillery - April 2017
Limestone Branch is a small distillery on the Craft Bourbon Trail. We were pleasantly surprised to find out that they were the producers behind Yellowstone bourbon, among others. The proprietors were very friendly and allowed us to sample some of their upcoming experimental mashbills.
Mammoth Cave National Park - April 2017
Mammoth Cave is the longest known contiguous cave system in the world. It's also surprisingly alive, featuring running water, bats, spiders, and algae. Our four mile tour demonstrated a variety of different features and formations.
MB Roland Distillery - April 2017
MB Roland's claim to fame is their "dark fired whiskey", which means that they smoke their corn before it undergoes the fermentation process. The short tour really drove home just how small some of these craft distilleries can be - I believe the entire operation was only about four employees.
Corvette Museum - April 2017
The most dramatic part of the National Corvette Museum is the story of the sinkhole which swallowed eight of the rare and historic vehicles from the showroom. When we visited, restorations of the damaged cars was still in progress. We also toured the Bowling Green assembly plant, but were unable to take pictures inside.
Corsair Distillery - April 2017
Corsair is a small distillery with a big personality in Nashville. They specialize in "weird" whiskies using such grains as oat and quinoa. Not all of the experiments are a hit, but this is an up-and-coming group I expect big things from in the future.
Jack Daniel's Distillery - April 2017
Jack Daniel's distillery in Lynchburg is the oldest registered distillery in the United States, dating all the way back to 1866. Here we learned about the sugar maple charcoal filtering processes which differentiates Tennessee whiskies from other styles.
Hot Springs National Park - October 2016
Of all of the bathhouse on historic Bathhouse Row, only the Fordyce Bathhouse has been preserved as a museum to showcase the equipment and facilities of the time. Of particular interest is the women's section, which at the time was hailed as being virtually identical to the men's. Other houses have been converted into modern day spas, and one is even a microbrewery.
Blanchard Springs Caverns and Ozarks - October 2016
Caverns is nestled away in the picturesque Ozark National Forest. It is a living cavern, home to spiders, cave crickets, and unfortunately, invasive mold. The views aren't particularly spectacular compared to some of the caves we've visited, but it was a fun experience with a number of neat formations such as the Battleship.
Natchez Trace - October 2016
The Natchez Trace is perhaps the greatest roadway in America that you've never heard of. Running 444 miles from southern Mississippi into central Tennessee, the roadway follows a historic trail used by early American settlers. The road is closed to commercial traffic, meaning there are no semi trucks, roadside advertisements, or amenities of any kind. Instead, dozens of pull-offs showcase various historic sites and artefacts, but the real show is the natural splendor of the land and wildlife. This segment we toured the southern half of the Trace, from Natchez to Tupelo.
Vicksburg National Military Park - October 2016
Vicksburg National Military Park is located on the outskirts of the city. Therefore, the majority of the monuments and historic locations are dedicated to the Union forces who were assaulting the city, while the Confederate locations are outside the park scattered amongst the city itself. Perhaps the most moving sight was the landscape itself, which is still visibly scarred from the artillery fire some 150 years later.
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve - October 2016
Jean Lafitte National Historic Park and Reserve is hidden away in the south side of New Orleans. It seems like an unlikely place for a national park, and you happen upon it without much in the way of warning or signage. Inside the park, we found disappointingly few alligators, but the wealth of interesting plant life made up for it.
Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument - May 2016
The Florissant Fossil Beds are significant due to their preservation of ancient leaves and insects, which are usually too small and fragile to become fossilized. Unfortunately, most of the fossils have been removed from the site, and all that is left to see are photographs and the stumps of fossilized redwood trees.
Glen Eyrie Castle - May 2016
Glen Eyrie was the home of the railway baron turned Union general turned surveyor William Jackson Palmer. He built the residence into the style of castle at the request of his wife, Mary Lincoln "Queen" Palmer. After their deaths, the property was purchased by a Lutheran ministry and is now used as a hotel and conference center.
Black Canyon of the Gunnison - May 2016
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is nearly 3,000 feet deep at its lowest point. The main attraction is the Painted Wall, where 2 billion year old pegmatite adorns the steepest cliff face in North America.
Colorado River Headwaters Scenic Byway - May 2016
Our journey on the Colorado Headwaters Scenic Byway began as an attempt at a shortcut. While it certainly did not end up saving us any time, we were glad to have made the detour.
Rocky Mountain National Park - May 2016
We were unprepared for the huge amount of snowpack still on the ground at Rocky Mountain National Park, and did not make it far into the field. However, the landscape was gorgeous even from the roadways.
Stanley Hotel - May 2016
The Stanley Hotel was a surprisingly bustling venue which worked hard to play up it's "haunted" reputation and downplayed it's actual historical significance. The highlight was Cascades Restaurant, which features a whiskey bar containing more than 500 unique bottles.
Dinosaur National Monument - May 2016
Dinosaur National Monument is probably the greatest paleontological site every discovered in the United States. The exhibit hall preserves some 1500 fossilized bones in situ on a single wall of the cliff face, which once upon a time was the bed of an ancient river. Amazingly, what you see today is roughly 1/6 of the original site: most of the fossils were excavated and sent to places such as the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh.
Fantasy Canyon - May 2016
Alternatively known as "Nature's China Shop", Fantasy Canyon is a very small park in a remote part of Utah where some very intricate and very delicate rock formations are found. The monument is a brief snapshot in time where the silt and shale has eroded away from the cliff, but the slighter tougher sandstone remains. Unfortunately, erosion continues on and several of the more famous features have already been destroyed.
Wort Hotel - May 2016
One of the first buildings to be constructed in Jackson Wyoming, for many years the Wort Hotel was famous for its bar and illegal casino. These days the bar remains open, and remnants of its colorful past have been converted into historical exhibits.
Grand Tetons National Park - May 2016
The Grand Tetons are iconic; the range is what immediately springs to mind when most people think of the Rocky Mountains. The prominence of the mountains is astounding: you can draw a line on the map precisely where the plateau ends and the mountain begins to soar. The Grand Tetons is also one of the best places in the country to see moose, the beautiful and ornery king of the deer family.
Old Faithful Inn - May 2016
The world's largest log cabin was built in 1903, mostly to prove that it could be done. The architect, Robert C. Reamer, claimed that its asymmetry reflected the chaos inherent in nature, but really, it seems to have been built as a testament to American power of will. The cavernous main room stretches some seven stories high, and is completely open air: the actual lodgings of the inn are something of an afterthought attached to one side.
Old Faithful Area, Yellowstone - May 2016
Old Faithful is located in a region called the Upper Geyser Basin. This is where the big guns live: the eruptions here are dramatic in their violence. Some of the other geysers such as Beehive were more impressive to watch than Old Faithful, but the world's most famous geothermic feature is still prized for erupting like clockwork every 92 minutes.
Canyon Area, Yellowstone - May 2016
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is one of the most iconic scenes in the park, and is what many people think of when they think of the great national park. Unfortunately several of the lower trails were still closed for the season, but the view from above was still spectacular and we more than made up for it with a series of lucky chance wildlife encounters.
Lake Village And East Entrance, Yellowstone - May 2016
On the east edge of Yellowstone, the elevation rises and the mountains form a formidable boundary. The vegetation becomes sparser and the snow becomes deeper; this is ideal grizzly bear country. Yellowstone Lake was still partially frozen, yielding some dramatic patterns in the ice.
Tower-Roosevelt Area, Yellowstone - May 2016
The northern most end of Yellowstone is home to Lamar Valley, and the Tower-Roosevelt Area. This is the only portion of the park which is open year round and provides the best viewing for wolves, black bears, and all of the large herbivores.
Mammoth Hot Springs Area, Yellowstone - May 2016
Mammoth Village is built on the site of the Army fort, built in 1886 to protect the nation's first national park from trespassers and poachers. The hot springs themselves are still growing at a rapid place, and changes are visible from year to year. An elk herd perpetually inhabits the streets.
Norris Area, Yellowstone - May 2016
The Norris Area is probably the most geothermally active area in the park. The hot springs and geysers here aren't as large as their counterparts to the south in the Old Faithful area, but they very vibrant and active. No two erupt on the same timings or in the same manner: each has its own unique personality.
Devil's Tower - May 2016
Standing alone in the flat landscape, Devil's Tower holds religious significance for more than twenty Native American tribes.
Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range - May 2016
Thought to be descended from Cortez's war horses, the wild mustangs have been living peacefully on Pryor Mountain for more than two hundred years. They are thought to be the last truly wild horses in North America. To see them, visitors must traverse a treacherous mountain road of steep cliffs and uneven boulders.
Badlands National Park - May 2016
In early May, the Badlands are surprising lush and hospitable. Green prairie grass sweeps out to the edge of and even into the formations, and a chorus of bird song fills the air.
Chapel In the Hills - May 2016
With blueprints provided by the Norwegian Department of Antiquities, a Lutheran pastor built an exact replica of an ancient Nordic stave church in the hills of Rapid City.
Jewel Cave National Monument - May 2016
While Jewel Cave does not contain any gems, it does boast a wide variety of speleothems in a surprising array of colors and shapes. With over 180 miles of mapped passages, scientists have only begun to discover what is thought to be the third longest cave sequence in the world.
Black Hills National Forest - May 2016
The Black Hills still bare the scars of the infamous Jasper fire in 2000. Efforts are underway to replant the areas which were so badly damaged that they would never grow back naturally. Through it all, the granite peaks of the Needles remain largely impervious.
Wind Cave National Park - May 2016
Wind Cave is so named because the tiny natural entrance into the cave demonstrates changes in the air pressure, causing a strong breeze to blow into or out of the cave depending on the weather. While it is lacking in diversity, it is world famous for its unparalleled showcase of the boxwork formation.
Crazy Horse and Mt Rushmore - May 2016
Started nearly 70 years ago, the Crazy Horse monument is still barely just begun. It dwarfs Mount Rushmore in both size and level of detail. After Crazy Horse, Mount Rushmore is rather underwhelming, and in person is obviously unfinished.
Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument - May 2015
Tent Rocks was designated a national monument in 2001. The surrounding land is still owned by the Cochiti Pueblo tribe, and may be closed by order of the tribal governor. The rocks themselves were formed by a volcanic explosion and then shaped by seven million years of weathering and erosion. A trail winds through slot canyons between the hoodoos and eventually rewards travellers with a dazzling view from above the formation.
White Sands National Monument - May 2015
Nestled between the San Andres and Sacramento mountains in southern New Mexico, White Sands National Monument is the world's largest concentration of gypsum sand. More than 140,000 acres of rolling white dunes stretch out before you. The site is completely surrounded by the White Sands Missile Range and Holloman Air Force Base.
Carlsbad Caverns - February 2014
Pictures do not do justice to the majestic Carlsbad Caverns, one of the largest and most impressive caves in the world. We embarked on the Lower Cave tour in order to see even more amazing natural wonders.
Wigwam Motel in Holbrook, AZ - May 2015
The best known of the Wigwam motels is actually the sixth out of seven such sites. Constructed in Holbrook, Arizona on the historic Route 66 in 1950, it is one of only three that have survived to the present day. The interiors are suprisingly spacious and well appointed, and several old classic cars permanently resting in the parking lot add to the retro atmosphere.
Petrified Forest National Park - May 2015
Despite the best efforts of the National Park Service, a great deal of the wood once found in the Petrified Forest National Park has been carried away by looters. Fortunately, the park still has much to offer, including the desolate Blue Mesa badlands and the famous red Painted Desert.
Montezuma Castle - May 2015
Montezuma's Castle is all that remains of a large cliff dwelling community built in central Arizona over a three century period between 1100-1425 AD. Contrary to the belief of the Spanish explorers who named the site in the 1860s, the site is of Pueblo origin and not Aztec. Unfortunately, interior access to the building has been closed to the public for several decades.
Red Rock Scenic Byway - May 2015
The Red Rock Scenic Byway runs through the iconic cliffs of Sedona and the Coconino National Forest. Designated as an All-American Road by the US Department of Transportation, the stunning views are a worthy destination in their own right and well worth the slight detour off of the interstate.
Grand Canyon National Park, South Rim - May 2015
with well over four million annual visitors, the Grand Canyon National Park is one of the best known destinations in America. Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1979, the canyon itself can be viewed from four distinct rims: one from each cardinal direction. Our trip took us in through the South Rim, the busiest entry with the most infrastructure, and on up to the East Rim, which boasts the Desert View Watchtower.
Barringer Meteorite Crater - May 2015
50,000 years ago, a rock made of nickel and iron about 50 meters across crashed into central Arizona, leaving an impact crater 1200 meters in diameter. Today the site is controlled by the privately owned Barringer Crater Company, which floods the surrounding area with overly self-aggrandizing advertisements.
Chiricahua National Monument - May 2015
Chiricahua National monument boasts spectacular vertical rock formations formed by a massive volcanic eruption some 27 million years ago. The remote location in southern Arizona means that this remains one of the least-visited national monuments today. The high altitude and sharp changes in elevation make the trails throughout the park difficult to navigate.
Cozumel - December 2014
We found Cozumel itself to be largely distasteful: oppressively humid and full of overly aggressive street vendors. However, our excursion to the Jose Cuervo tequila tasting and Discover Mexico museum was both entertaining and enlightening.
Belize City and Lamanai - December 2014
Belize is home to many ancient Mayan ruins which are only now being discovered and excavated. Most of the work at Lamanai has been done in the past decade, and there is still much to be done. Our tour involved lengthy transport by both bus and riverboat to get to the remote location.
Roatan - December 2014
The island of Roatan was developed almost exclusively for tourism, and the contrast between the foreign money and the local population was striking. It rained constantly that day, but the views were still breathtaking.
Boston - November 2014
Boston is one of the most historic cities in America, with a unique blend of modern and colonial styles. Most of best sites can be seen along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile red brick pathway that meanders through the city.
The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological Park - June 2014
The Garold Wayne Interactive Zoological foundation is an unforgettable experience. The wild tiger may well be doomed to extinction, but what we saw is a shadow of the great creatures that once ruled the jungles.
Italy - October 2012
For our honeymoon, we spent touring the Italian countryside and staying in historic castles. Our major destinations were Rome, Vatican City, Perugia, and Milan.