Archive for September, 2011

The four deepest lakes in the US, are Lake Chelan in the Cascade mountains of Washington, Lake Tahoe up in the mountains from Reno, NV, Crater Lake in Oregon and finally in the Midwest, Lake Superior, one of the Great Lakes. Crater Lake is filled almost entirely by melted snow. At 1,943 feet deep, it is the deepest lake in the United States and one of the deepest in the world. It is also one of the clearest. On sunny summer days, neither words nor photographs can capture Crater Lake’s remarkable blueness. For much of the year – usually October to July at higher elevations – a thick blanket of snow encircles the lake. An average of 524 inches of snow fall in the park every year. Crater Lake lies in a caldera, or volcanic basin, created when the nearly 12,000 foot high Mount Mazama collapsed around 7,700 years ago following a large eruption. Humans probably witnessed the cataclysmic eruption; nevertheless, local Indians said nothing about Crater Lake to trappers and pioneers, who did not find it until 1853. In 1902 Crater Lake became a national park. There is a beautiful lodge there and it’s easy to drive the rim. Many people like to hike the area & there is a small island out in the lake that visitors can boat to. One time I met some friends who were camping there. However tales of bears and mountain lions as well as other wild animals in the vicinity helped in making my decision to sleep in my car instead of a tent that evening. If you ever get a chance to visit this beautiful lake, please do. Next up: New England in the fall

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—I have to say this is my favorite type of vacation. Since I am in hotels over one hundred nights a year, when I go on vacation, I like to unpack once but keep moving. And that is exactly what a cruise ship does. My brothers and I try to take at least one cruise a year (although lately I have done some for my job, too). Living in Texas in the winter we have been able to go on cruises pretty reasonably since we don’t have to fly and can book last minute. There are some great deals to be had if you book in the last 45-60 days. And we have learned a lot along the way. To me, an inside cabin is the least desirable. Some people say you don’t spend that much time in your room, which is true. But I hate the closed in feeling in an inside cabin. A balcony, of course, is great but for the price, a room with a window is fine. You get a good view and don’t have that closed in feeling. I have never done a port hole but I suppose it would be better than an inside cabin. I have done a lot of research on the internet and there are many good sites but my two “musts” are booking last minute on “Vacations To Go” for great deals and don’t forget to check “Cruise Critic.com.” There is invaluable information on that site about ports you will be visiting, as well as cheaper but safe things you can do to avoid those expensive shore excursions. One thing we have learned, especially on Caribbean cruises, is to skip city tours and go by taxi. If you use the taxis at the terminal they have to have a special license to be able to come into the terminal area and therefore are very safe. They may negotiate a fare but when you get in the terminal, go to the information booth and ask what a “city tour” will run. If you have read your ship bulletin and checked cruise critic you should know the sites you want to see. Then go talk to the driver. Never get in the taxi until you have negotiated your fare. And, the taxis have the same rate for 1-4 people. So….we find a couple on ship who wants to share a taxi with us. That way we split the cost and & there is always safety in numbers. On our last cruise we stopped at five ports. Every city tour ran $60-65 on the ship. In a taxi it was $40 which ended up costing us $10 each plus a small tip. At the end of the cruise we had spent $65 each on all five city tours total. One time in South America, we went to see the penguins in a national park in the region. The ship wanted $130 each. We went with another couple and we paid $25 each plus a $5 tip each for a total of $30! But, I can’t stress enough how important it is to do your homework. You don’t want your vacation ruined because you didn’t do your homework Next up: An indescribable Western Lake

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Yellowstone, the granddaddy of the national
parks….as you enter from the south entrance way down to the right amid tall
canyons is the Lewis River.  It is
amazing how the scenery changes when inside the park.  Everyone thinks of Old Faithful but there is
so much more to this park.  As you follow
the Lewis River it keeps getting closer and closer to the road until finally
you reach Lewis Falls and the Lewis River is now right next to the road.  Lewis Falls is actually where they took the
pictures for the beer cans for Hamm’s beer—“from the land of sky blue waters.”

Yellowstone had over 10,000 geothermal
features.  The 4 types of geothermal
features are geysers, fumeroles, hot springs & mud pots.  Why are there so many there?  If you look at a map of the park you will see
a big ring that goes around the center.
The center of the park is an ancient caldera.  What does that mean?  It once was a huge volcano and the cone
collapsed.  Normally we are about 15
miles from the molten core of the earth.
But at Yellowstone we are only anywhere from 2-3 miles from the molten
core.  Therefore when it rains or snows
the water doesn’t have far to go to reach the hot molten core and it comes back
up in various steam features like geysers or the others mentioned above.

John Coulter asked permission of the Lewis & Clark
party to explore on the way home from the Pacific Ocean.  Imagine what it must have been like to come
into Yellowstone and see the geysers and other geothermal features
erupting.  When he got back to New York
and tried to describe what he saw, no one believed him.  They laughed and called it Coulter’s Hell!

A must stop is, of course, Old Faithful.  But don’t forget the Mud Pot area where all
four geothermal features can be seen in one place.  If you go all the way to Mammoth Falls, you
will be in the farthest north of the park.  And the upper and lower falls of the
Yellowstone River is one of the most photographed sites in the park.

To the west, the exit will take you to West
Yellowstone, MT (another neat cowboy town).
And at the east entrance, the road will take you to Cody, WY.  If you get to Cody, be sure and visit the
Buffalo Bill Historic Museum there.  I
could write a page about that place, but the collection of Western art alone is
worth the visit.

Finally, don’t forget Yellowstone in the winter.  You can come in (but very limited) on
snowmobiles. But, the two entrances that are opened all winter are the south
entrance from Jackson, WY and the west road from West Yellowstone, MT.  However, I use the term “opened” very
lightly.  The park is not opened to
vehicles—too much snow and no way to clear the roads.  Instead you stop at the two entrances (you
must have reservations) and big snow coaches take you to the Old Faithful
area.  There is one hotel opened there,
called Snow Lodge.  I have never had a
chance to visit Yellowstone in the winter but have talked to several people who
have and they say it is a journey that should not be missed.

Next up: From a National Park to Cruising

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Some people like the ocean and beach; others like to travel to the mountains. Some go by car, train, plane, or cruise ship. No matter how you get there, going on vacation is something almost everyone looks forward to. Last week we looked at Seattle & the Pacific Northwest. This week let’s look at a couple of national parks. Although Smoky Nat’l Park is the most visited, which makes sense due to its location, the granddaddy of them all & America’s first National Park (1872), Yellowstone has to be pretty near the top of anyone’s list. There are 5 different entrances to the park but the best way, if you can do it, is to enter from the south. The reason: Jackson Hole & the Tetons. Jackson Hole is a cowboy town that still boasts wooden sidewalks. Sandra Bullock & Harrison Ford have homes in Jackson, WY where there is less than 60 frost free days a year. There is an elk refuge right outside town that has thousands of elk that winter there. But the best thing about Jackson Hole is the view as you leave going north when you get your first glimpse of the Tetons. Sometimes people actually gasp when they see the mountains the first time. A hole is a French word for valley and the hole runs about 40 miles with no foothills up to the mountain, which helps give the area such a dramatic aspect. As you look at the Tetons you can understand why the Arapaho say it is “the place where the makers work is not yet finished.” The mountains are still rising! And where did they get their name? Well the story goes some sex-starved Frenchmen came into the hole the first time & thought they looked like breasts…thus the word Tetons. One time I was having breakfast out along the Snake River and one of my travelers said “that sure is beautiful wallpaper.” What a neat way to describe the view. And if you go there and are by the Snake, don’t forget a rafting trip. One time a moose actually walked right in front of our raft and we were too much in awe to realize how dangerous the situation might have been. A stop at the Chapel of Transfiguration, Jenny Lake, Coulter Bay and Jackson Lake Lodge are also a must as you make your way along the road that leads into Yellowstone. Although it is less than 90 miles between Jackson & Yellowstone, you can easily spend most of the day getting there due to all the wonderful stops along the way; that is if you don’t make any overnight stops on the way. Next up: The Granddaddy—Yellowstone.

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