So I guess I have been sleeping under a rock. As many times as I have visited Sedona, and that includes at least six trips, I just visited West Fork Trail in Oak Creek, 12 miles north of Sedona.
During this time of the year the trees are changing colors in dramatic fashion. The golden maples (at least I think they are maples) are magnificent. All this set against the red rocks and turquoise sky is simply amazing.
It’s a well maintained trail along Oak Creek. Three miles each way but go at your own pace and enjoy the changing fall leaves and the creek that runs by. There is a $9 entry fee so bring some cash. I arrived late in the afternoon and didn’t get a chance to hike the full trail. I am told you might get a little wet as the trail crosses the creek. I will definitely make time for a return trip here.
I was lucky enough to spot about thirty elk taking it easy on a golf course in town. There are signs asking you to keep away, which I did, which is why you have to squint to see them in the photo at left. There is a paved walk along Lake Estes and the golf course that is extremely easy and allows for safe views of these magnificent animals.
Whew! Finally made it, safe and sound to San Juan Island. We caught the ferry at Anacortes, a couple hours drive from Seattle and boarded the ferry for a one hour trip across Rosario Strait to Friday Harbor. It’s $53 bucks to board your car onto the ferry but you don’t pay for the return. The forecast was for rain, and it did all day yesterday, but never anything harder than a light drizzle.Today’s weather beat the forecast and while it was overcast, it never rained.
I found out where Norman Rockwell has been hiding all these years.
In historic Roche Harbor, here on San Juan Island. It’s an old lime production company town and it is just as beautiful as it is patriotic, with less than a week before July 4th. With its American (and Canadian) flags draped all over white picket fences, you get a sense that they are polishing the barbeques and stocking up on fireworks as I write this. It is located on the Haro Strait and if Sarah Palin were here she would we able to see Canada from her hotel room. Amidst this Americana there is a beautiful sculpture garden overlooking the harbor and another one down the road from town. There were very nice, pricey pieces like the one below, dotted along a nice walkway. “Whale Tail” can be yours for $38,000.
There are several hikes around Roche Harbor. The longest is 1.75 miles.
Tomorrow – a real treat – my first whale watching trip! We went to Lime Kiln State Park for an hour today and stared at the sea. Saw a few porpoises but apparently missed the Orcas by two hours. They track them like we in New Orleans follow Mardi Gras parades. I’ll board the float, I mean the boat, at 1:30 p.m.
If you divided Niagara Falls into four or five sections, one of those pieces would look very much like Snoqalmie Falls in Washington State, about 30 miles from Seattle.
Its swirling waters shoot off a cliff with a force that sprays onlookers stationed at a viewing area. It’s got a nice picnic area and gift shop but as luck would have it, the hiking trails were closed on the day of my visit. So no walking for me here, just a spectacular view of Mother Nature’s handiwork.
My feet were in bad shape after Doe Mountain so I headed over to a place called The Hike House in search of alternate hiking shoes. I can tell instantly whether a shoe is going to work for me. It has to be very padded, especially around the metatarsal area. I tried on several pairs and settled on Salomon XT Wings 2.
It’s like walking on a mattress and my sore feet felt like they were getting a massage. So, my plan is to hike in MBTs and spend the rest of the day in these groovy shoes. They don’t have regular shoe laces but instead “cable” shoe laces that you pull tight then choke off with a little plastic contraption.
You might see a costume or two on any given day in New Orleans but on Mardi Gras day, the streets of New Orleans are filled with colorful expressions of celebration. You name it: men dressed as women, women dressed as men, and everything in between. It’s a nice complement to the parades which stroll down a traditional route from uptown to downtown to mark the beginning of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday.
It is the ultimate people watching experience. You can walk from uptown New Orleans and the Garden District to downtown and the French Quarter to enjoy the sites.
If you’ve never made it to New Orleans for Fat Tuesday, don’t miss it. If you can’t take off from work, the weekend prior to Mardi Gras day is full of great parades – enormous pagents like Endymion on Saturday and Bacchus on Sunday night cap off a full lineup of daytime parades. Each have celebrity monarchs. No surprise that the New Orleans Saints were in the lead this year. Tom Benson was king of Endymion; Drew Brees was Bacchus and Coach Sean Payton led the Krewe of Orpheus on Monday night.
Mardi Gras is what you make it. It is a family event for those who bring the kids and the barbecue pit. It is a more mature escapade for those who prefer Bourbon Street. One thing is certain: it is a cultural display like nowhere else in the world.
Mardi Gras next year is March 8. Make your reservations now!
It’s not often you can reach out and touch the upper part of a waterfall as it cascades below. You can almost do that at Johnston Canyon in Banff National Park in Canada. There is a rock tunnel (for lack of a better word) that brings you breathtakingly close to the waterfall. Brendan at Johnston Canyon Resort told me that it’s believed nature created a big indentation in the rock and a pioneer bore a hole through it, creating a small viewing area. It offers a spectacular view of the lower waterfall which drops about forty feet. You’ll get drenched by the mist of the waterfall and the roar of the rushing water sends a clear message from Mother Nature about who’s boss.
There is an easy twenty minute hike on a paved walkway to the lower fall and for the more serious hiker, you can venture further on to the upper fall. That hike will take about two hours roundtrip I am told.
Unless you’re into ice climbing you might want to wait until late spring of summer to visit. Alberta’s frigid temperatures ice over the lower falls.
How many beautiful walks are there in Canada’s Banff National Park? Too many to fit in a single blog entry! The best I can do is tell you about my favorites … and there are many. Instead of overdosing you on all of them, I am going to roll them out one at a time.
Drum roll please…
#1 The Crystal Waters of Lake Louise
Lake Louise is one of the most popular spots in Banff National Park and for that reason, you will have plenty of company on your visit. But who cares – the blue waters of this glacial lake in the mountains are picture perfect and offer an authentic alpine experience. The Fairmont has a resort on the lake but it is open to the public. There is a nice walk alongside the lake that is truly pleasant. You can hike further to a teahouse, about a four and a half mile walk.
This is a big ski area – I visited in the summer and the weather was stunning. Clear and cool.