The balancing act of travel

by Eliza Myers 19. July 2012 23:11



You never know how people are going to travel together until you hit the road with them, which is why I felt nervous about my husband’s first family vacation with my mom and brother to Yosemite National Park this spring. Although I had traveled with them individually, I was unsure if everyone’s travel styles would mesh well.

On the Mist Trail hike up to Vernal and Nevada falls, it became clear how their traveling preferences differed. Jeremiah is focused when hiking and likely to choose 12-mile trails going uphill the whole way. My mom and brother like to amble along shorter trails so they can stop to rest and examine less noticeable things like rock lichen.

One clue the hike felt overly taxing to my mother was when she nicknamed the 300 steps up to Vernal Falls as “the stone stairs of death.” After hearing this, I moved ahead and matched Jeremiah’s quick pace to check on him.

“We’re making good time. I think we can make it to the top of the Nevada Falls,” said Jeremiah, although we had previously agreed to only hike to the falls’ base.

“OK. How high of an elevation gain is that?,” I asked.

“Another 1,900 feet.”

“Right, so twice as high as we just walked?”

“Yeah, but we can walk up it quickly.”

Worried about how my mother would feel about this change in plans, I slowed down to see how she felt.

“I can’t feel my feet. It’s weird,” said Mom. “I can feel my legs, but they are really mad at me, so I wish I couldn’t.”

After these two varying accounts, I wasn’t sure what to suggest. How do you keep everyone happy when traveling? It is a trick group leaders have had to learn through years of experience. Group leaders have to master the art of meeting everyone’s travel expectations even though those can differ among people.

Fortunately for me, when Jeremiah learned my mom was tiring, he volunteered to only go to the base of the falls as agreed. He compromised as my mom and brother compromised to hike farther than they might have on their own. But once we got to the base of the magnificent Nevada Falls, everyone was satisfied. That’s the power of travel: Even when both sides concede things, one impressive view can make everyone 100 percent happy.

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Travel Thoughts

A Canyon Sanctuary

by Brian Jewell 18. April 2012 00:36

Branson may be known as the Music Show Capital of the World, but it also enjoys a wonderful natural setting in the Ozark Mountains. Visitors see two mountain lakes as they make their way around town; further away from the famous Highway 76, Dogwood Canyon Nature Park is a welcome respite for nature lovers.

It takes a bit of a drive to get to Dogwood Canyon, which sits on the border of Missouri and Arkansas. Groups that make out are in for a treat, though. This 10,000-acre nature preserve highlights some of the most beautiful geological features of the Ozarks: deep limestone canyons, caves, ponds, waterfalls and other impressive formations. Paved sidewalks and rougher trails wind throughout the park, giving visitors a variety of ways to explore. Groups can come in to the welcome center together, and then split up to do different activities such as walking/hinking, bicycle tours, ATV rides and Segway tours.

I chose to explore the park on horseback. Though many of the other activity options take visitors through the wooded paths at the bottom of the canyon, horseback adventures begin at a corral at the top side of the park. I took a one-hour guided ride, along with a friend from the Branson Area CVB. During the ride, our guide took us up and down trails that cut across the top of Ozark hills overlooking Dogwood Canyon. We rode slowly, going by the pastures where the park staff is raising a herd of bison, and through fields where other "off-duty" horses roamed freely, enjoying the sunshine on a warm April morning.

The trail rides are easy, relaxed activities that almost anyone could do, and guides can accomodate groups of up to 12 people on each ride. Twice a week, the guides take more advanced riders out on half-day excursions. Bigger groups can have their own experiences on tram rides through the park, which last two hours and include visits to the bison and elk pastures. During the summer months, groups can have a chuckwagon dinner in the fields during the tram tour of the park.

 

 

 

A hike to remember

by Brian Jewell 12. July 2011 22:27

Sometimes I do my best thinking while hiking down a mountain.

It's a cloudy day atop Mt. Alyeska, a ski area about an hour's drive south of Anchorage. Now in mid-summer, there is no skiing, as the temperatures hover around 60 degrees. Instead, Alyeska turns into a nature lovers paradise, with many miles of hiking trails leading from the Alyeska Hotel at the bottom to upper tram station near the top of the mountain. Braver souls can hike up the 2,300-foot incline; since I had limited time before dinner, I decided to ride the aerial tram to the top, and then hike down on the 2.5 mile North Face trail.

From the top of the mountiain, I enjoyed wonderful views of Turnagain Arm, an extension of the Cook Inlet, as well as the incredible greenery of the valley below me. Thick white clouds loomed low overhead, although instead of obscuring the view, they somehow seemed to tuck me in, creating a sealed-off wonderland of steep mountainside and lush color. Though trams passed by from time to time, the valley was nearly empty; as I set out on my hike, I had the whole mountain to myselt.

I was amazed how quickly the landscape changed, as the path went from steep and rock to gentle and muddy, then finally wide and well worn. As I descended, I discoveded new plant life at about every 100 feet in elevation. The colors and shapes of these leaves and flowes mezmerized me. Although I don't know what they are called or where else they grow, I enjoyed stopping to study them along the way, marveling at their intricate structures and the way that the colorful petals stood out from the green background.

The hike down was peaceful and leisurely. I made sure to make some noise along the way, to scare off any bears that might cross my path. And I took plenty of time to ponder the beauty of this corner of Alaska -- one of the most beautiful states in the country -- and to ponder my place in such a magnificent world.

 

Alyeska's aerial tramway

 

About to bloom

 

Beautiful buds


Deep blue "somethings"

 

Raindrops and wild flowers

 

Thanks to Cruises and Tours Worldwide for hosting us on this trip. Visit their website at www.cruises-toursworldwide.com.


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Alaska's Kenai Peninsula

Hiking Whistler Mountain

by Brian Jewell 7. August 2010 23:10

Though it was 75 degrees in Whistler today, on top of the mountain I found myself surrounded by snow.

The town of Whistler sits in a valley between two mountains, Whistler and Blackcomb. Both are ideal ski destinations in the winter; in the summer, they afford great opporutnities for sightseeing, hiking and gorgeous views of the British Columbia wilderness.

This afternoon I rode a chairlift up to the summit of Blackcomb Mountain, and then took the Peak 2 Peak gondola over to Whistler Mountain. There are plenty of scenic views to be seen during either ride, and visitors often spot black bears and other wildlife during their ascents. Hiking on the backside of the mountain, however, I found pristine environments, crystal glacial lakes and snowpacks that towered above my head.

A number of ski runs and access roads on Whistler Mountain are converted to hiking paths in the summer. From the gondola station, I took a lift to the very top of the mountain, then went for an hour-long hike back down along a path known as Pika's Traverse, which wraps around the backside of the mountain not visibible from the village below. The trail is wide and relatively easy to walk, gently descending in elevation back to the main mountain station. On this isolated side of the mountain, the air is quiet and the views are expansive — all I could hear was the trickle of water running off of the melting snowcaps, accompanied by an occasional windy howl.

At the top of the mountain, sevral large glaciers are still covered with snow in August, and looking across the mountain range, I saw that some of the other peaks are completely snow-capped as well. As I walked along Pika's Traverse, I would pass by large pockets of snow in the mountainside, and occassionally walk through passages in large snowbanks that were carved by snow-clearing equipment during the winter.

So although it's the middle of summer, there is still lot of snow at the top of Whistler Mountain... and yet hiking through it in short sleeves and jeans, I didn't feel cold at all. It's an amazing phenomenon, and it made for some amazing views on the backside of the mountain.

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