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North America, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

A Salute to Fall from Prince Edward Island!

September 29, 2014 • By

 

I first fell in love with Prince Edward Island through the narrow view of a photo lens.  Its’ vast beauty shined through whether it was the picturesque countryside or pensive seaside.   I was enamored with its quaint architecture, beautiful seashore and knew that one day I would have to bear witness to it to make sure that it was all real.

I was fortunate to get that chance around this time last October.  Fall was upon us.  The leaves had begun to change, the air was crisp and the island was only occupied by the people left behind to brave the cold weather that was yet to come.  Tourist season was well over which is what made this trip all the more appealing.

While there was public transportation, it was imperative to rent a car so that you could spend time exploring all of the nooks and crannies of the island.  There was always something incredible waiting just ahead and our impatience wouldn’t have been able to bear the constant interruptions of the leisurely island trams.

We wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and just relax and enjoy the wonders of nature.  We were not disappointed.  Now, a full year later, I want to share what makes PEI such a special place to visit.  Come along with me and explore the first installment of discovering the miraculous natural aesthetics of this wonderful island, won’t you?

 

 


City Views, North America, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

Enjoying a Rainy Day in Van Dusen Botanical Gardens in Vancouver

June 10, 2013 • By

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The rain brought with it silence and solitude as we walked along the massive pathways that guided us past a menagerie of trees, shrubs and perennials.

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It was the cusp of late winter dawning in to early spring and the gardens took on an interesting profile.

The deciduous trees had long been bare and there was some evidence that flowers were awakening from their deep slumber. The sky was overcast and provided a grey backdrop to the illustrious palette that lay before us.

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South America, Trip Reports

My Easter Island Trip Report

August 23, 2012 • By

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Easter Island is known for the strange statues that dot the landscape and the vast mystery surrounding how they were made and moved and why they were toppled over.

But for the uninitiated, that’s literally the extent of the layperson’s knowledge of the land known as Rapa Nui by the residents of the most remote island in the world.

What makes this mystical island even more special is discovering it through the eyes of Rapa Nui Travel, a local tour company which was arranged by Ecotours Chile Private Tours. We hit the ground running our first day when a rep came to our hostel to give us a schedule of events for our two half day tours and one full day tour that we had booked.

Each tour was made special by the two guides that had an obvious affection for their work. We were picked up from our hostel on time every day and never ran behind schedule. Our complete and absolute comfort took precedence and their thorough knowledge of the island’s history was evident.

Both of our guides (Frieder, a German native and Tongariki (sp) a 6th generation Rapa Nui) were kind, affable, intelligent and took the greatest pleasure in sharing their vast knowledge with us. There was no question too silly to ask because you always felt that they eagerly anticipated each one of them. With few exceptions, we pretty much covered the entire Island. Just driving through the various sectors was an exercise in tranquility.READ MORE


North America, Reviews, Trip Reports

Discovering the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park with Wildlife Expeditions of Teton Science Schools

June 25, 2012 • By

Last summer, I spent an entire day exploring two of our best known National Parks.  They’re the ones that everyone learns about in school but nothing prepares you for what you actually witness up close and personal.  We were fortunate to be the guest of the Teton Science Schools which has two campuses in the Grand Teton National Park and in the city of Jackson Hole, Wyoming.  The school’s mission is to educate about natural resource sustainability and conservation and they offer six innovative programs to do that:

  1. Educational Programs are offered year round to students and youths to learn “geology, ecology, weather or plant and animal adaptation” .
  2. Graduate School “develops leaders in place-based teaching, field ecology and experiential education”.
  3. Teacher Learning Center “combine nature-based and outdoor education with innovative leadership strategies of educational reform.”  Science teachers throughout the country come to hone their skills by studying this delicate eco-system.
  4. Journeys School is a pre-k to 12th grade program that “consists of four critical pillars that act together to empower students to change the world”.
  5. Conservation Research Center “was formed in response to the growing need in Jackson Hole and the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for responsible conservation and land stewardship”.
  6. Wildlife Expeditions ” has a well-earned reputation of locating all kinds of wildlife in the Greater Yellowstone Geo-ecosystem and providing fascinating educational experiences in a fun and relaxed environment”.
Naturally, our tour was a part of  the Wildlife Expeditions component of the school.   All of the tour guides are bona-fide Biologists who not only led you to the spots that made Yellowstone famous but taught you so many great details that you actually felt as though you were on the most inspiring field trip ever.  The full day tour began barely at the crack of dawn and ended around sunset.  We boarded a large safari styled four runner with roof hatches for easier viewing.  Mark, our guide, was friendly and a little too chipper for that hour of the morning.  However, his enthusiasm was instrumental in snapping me out of my stupor.  That and the lovely thermos of coffee that he had on hand for tourists who refused to go to bed on time the night before.  At noon, we had made our way through the Tetons and Mark stopped at a lovely scenic spot where he set up a tasty picnic lunch for us to devour.  Continuing on, an hour later, we got to spend the bulk of our time in Yellowstone where we learned about the history and mystery surrounding it.

Our guide, Mark leading us to the first waterfall in Yellowstone

During westward expansion, the government decided to protect and not allow development in the region now known as Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  At first, it was scoffed at because there was literally land as far as the eye could see so what was the point because land was inexhaustible.  It worked out well because the idea of having a protected area that everyone could enjoy was a good one and thus, the first National Park in the world was established.

Yellowstone is one of the largest active volcanoes in the world.  It has over ¾ of the world’s hydrothermal features.  There are over 10k that lie within the boundaries of Yellowstone, the second largest number is in Iceland which only has about 900:

Clepsydra Geyser at Yellowstone

Geysers – actively shoots up boiling hot water from underground.

The Morning Glory Pool at Yellowstone

Hot Springs – boiling water pooled on the surface.

Fumeroles billowing to the surface

Fumaroles are steam vents blasting from underground.

Fountain Mud Pots

Lastly, fountain paint pots is where the mud is actually boiling.

When early explorers came and noticed all of these hydro-thermal features their only explanation was that there had to be a volcano nearby.  Of course, there was no evidence of a cone shaped above ground volcano and it wasn’t until satellite imagery was invented that they could see volcanoes close to the earth’s crust.  The explorers had no idea that they were standing in the middle of the volcano. When a volcano erupts it spews out molten rock from the earth’s core and after its finished erupting, the space that the rock once occupied is now vacant and over time, the crater walls of the volcano will collapse in on itself.

Historically, there have been 5 major eruptions at Yellowstone.  One happens about every 600k years and the last time was 640k years ago, so we are way overdue for an eruption but that’s from a geologic standpoint where time tables are much different from ours.  It’s thought that a massive earthquake will take place before an eruption.

There’s an average of 6-8 earthquakes that occur daily at Yellowstone; people aren’t aware of the seismic activity which ranges from 1-2 on the Richter scale so not really large enough to notice.  Yellowstone is constantly monitored so all activity are easily measured by scientists.

The hydro-thermal features act like pressure releasers.  In 1959, there was a 7.2 magnitude quake right outside the western boundary of Yellowstone and it affected the Teutonic plates underneath the pressure releasers, the hydro-thermal activity and its plumbing structures.  As a result, some geysers stopped erupting and formerly grassy areas suddenly began to spew steam.

Three features that we focused on in Yellowstone:

Old Faithful Geyser in the middle of showing off

Old Faithful – which not surprisingly, gets the most press.

The magical, pastel wonder of Artists Point at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone River

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone – has a 300 ft waterfall over the canyon; neither are discussed that much in the press.

Watching the water flow through the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River

The Yellowstone River

Yellowstone Lake – largest lake in North America; above 7k ft in elevation.  There are no boat size limitations on this lake and it is completely surrounded by 15.3 sq miles of wilderness and freezes over in the winter.

The Grand Tetons

The Grand Tetons is 330 acres in size; Yellowstone is 2.2 million acres.  Yellowstone used to be the largest National Park in the lower 48 until 1994 when a wilderness area was added to Death Valley National Park giving them a total of 3.3 million acres.  However, Alaska’s Wrangell St. Elias is the largest with 13.2 million acres.

6 mile stretch between Yellowstone and Grand Tetons

There is a six mile stretch of land separating northern edge of the Grand Tetons and  southern tip of Yellowstone.  This stretch of land consists of forests that are under the control of the Department of Agriculture.  The National Parks surrounding it is under the Department of the Interior.  Therefore, hunters can actually use that 6 mile stretch to hunt.  However, they are forbidden to use either the Tetons or Yellowstone.  During the hunting season, this forest is flooded with hunters who are attempting to get elk, moose or deer as they migrate from one park to the next during the winter.

People getting way too close to the moose at Grand Tetons

The vast majority is hunting for sustenance and will target the female elk (cow) for instance, the hunters who are strictly hunting for game will target the males because of their enormous size.  As long as they do not cross into National Park territory, it’s all legal but it does affect the blood line of the Elk over time if the best and strongest are brought down by the hunters.

[box type=”info”]I was a guest of the Teton Science Schools which is a private, 501(c)(3) non-profit educational organization, operating year-round in Jackson Hole, Wyoming in partnership with Grand Teton National Park and as a permittee of the Bridger-Teton National Forest and the Caribou-Targhee National Forest. Please contact them at 700 Coyote Canyon Road | Jackson, Wyoming 83001 | Ph. 307.733.1313 | Fax 307.733.7560 | email: info@tetonscience.org[/box]

North America, Reviews, Trip Reports

Bucking ‘n Bronco’ n in Wyoming at the Jackson Hole Rodeo

November 25, 2011 • By

You know the old saying: “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”. The same holds true when visiting the wild west. Not because someone would challenge you to a duel in the town square, but because you’d want to experience everything that makes a particular region special or unique. We were invited to attend the Jackson Hole Rodeo and absolutely jumped at the chance to experience something so exciting and new. We took a few short videos to illustrate exactly what happens when attending such an event.

As usual, the bull wins!

This bull is in therapy for anger issues, not that I blame him.  Wouldn’t you be upset if someone was always riding your back?

Warm-ups before the games began. I was surprised to see so many kidlets in the rodeo.

I was really impressed by the number of young people who are active participants in the rodeo.  I guess like with anything, the earlier you start out, the better you will become.  Lest you think that the Jackson Hole Rodeo has forgotten about us grown-ups, they haven’t.  They offer an intense two hour Intro to Rodeo program for beginners of any age.  The goal is to inspire a sense of teamwork and confidence and promises that at the end of the program, you will leave as a cowboy.

Though the cowboy was determined to stay in the saddle, the bull had other ideas.

We arrived fairly early to an empty stadium.  By the time the festivities began, we had a full house.  Rodeos are very popular to residents as well as visitors despite its short season from late May to mid September.  I suppose that has something to do with the snow.  Last year, they welcomed over 735″ of the little darlings…..

I guess this bull didn’t take public humiliation well.

Maybe it’s me, but the bull sitting down was a strong indicator that he wasn’t into it.

 

Ok, we weren’t laughing at the kid…I mean the human one. We were laughing at the fact that the whole thing was just TOO cute!!

Whoever thought of putting a kid on the back of a sheep had too much time on their hands….but it was still adorable!

This one scared me a little bit. I wasn’t sure if the cowboy was left unscathed.

I guess that’s the risk you take, but luckily, he wasn’t hurt so everything ended up ok.

 

I got the distinct feeling that with that last head butt, the bull was saying “This is my house!! What?! What?!”

Though this cowboy stayed up longer than most, he still didn’t make it for the required 8 seconds, so he was out.

If you are looking for family friendly fun and a chance to do something different, check out the Rodeo.  We weren’t expecting much since this wasn’t necessarily our cup of tea, but we ended up truly enjoying the sport and our fellow spectators who seemed to have attended a rodeo or two.  If you plan to visit, Jackson Hole, I highly recommend that you pay them a visit.

 

  • Covered Seating – $18.00 for adults; $16.00 for seniors (60+); $12.00 for ages 5-12; ages 4 and under is free and all taxes are included.
  • Uncovered Seating -$15.00 for adults; $13.00 for seniors (60+); $9.00 for ages 5-12; ages 4 and under is free and all taxes are included.

 

Jackson Hole Rodeo

447 West Snow King Ave

Jackson Hole, Wyoming 83001

Rodeo Entries (307) 733-TJHR (8547)

– Office (307) 733-7927

– Fax (307) 734-1101

jacksonholerodeo@gmail.com

 

Things To Do
Jackson Hole

City Views, North America, Trip Reports

36 hours of fun in historic downtown Savannah, Georgia

October 29, 2011 • By

We wanted to get out of town, the problem was deciding where and how far could we go on such short notice. My sister had never been to Savannah and it had been over a decade since Carisa and I’d seen it, so we decided to go for it. After a four hour pre-dawn drive, we arrived in the city around 10 am just in time for our first activity, the Grayline Trolley Tour that we scored for $15.00 pp.

It was a great way to get an overview of the city so that we could investigate it fully later on in the day. We were enjoying the sights and sounds of this cultural gem until we happened upon the funeral of Troy Davis, the man who was executed days earlier despite a world-wide outcry against it.

It dampened the mood, undoubtedly, but we decided to stay focused on what was destined to be a world-wind of activity for the three of us. Immediately after our hop on hop off tour, we decided that one time around the bend was enough for us. We knew that it was getting close to ‘supper time’ (southern vernacular for lunch) so it was time to stop by the Lady and Sons eatery to try their 15.99 buffet(drinks and dessert included).

The Lady’s reputation certainly preceded her because we were warned to come by early in the day to make reservations for lunch and/or dinner due to the overwhelming demand for a table there. Still we were fortunate because we only had a two hour wait given that we gave no prior notice of our arrival.

We decided to kill some time by walking across the street and spending probably too much money purchasing souvenirs from a store that sold its goods for half off. I’m willing to bet that the half off sale is a perpetual event, but it was worth the effort. After one and a half soul-killing hours we walked over and luckily was told that a table was ready.READ MORE


North America, Reviews, Trip Reports

Rafting the rapids with Dave Hansen Whitewater in Jackson Hole, WY!

September 13, 2011 • By

Boyhood visits with his parents to Jackson Hole made an indelible impression upon young Bud Chatham. So much so, that he made a resolution to continue his family’s tradition as a young adult. Life and circumstances took him to other places, but his heart was firmly ingrained in a little town in Wyoming.


He never forgot the rolling mountains dotted with Cottonwood trees that clustered along the riverbanks; nor could he get the exotic wildlife and expansive parcels of land out of his system. Once he decided to permanently settle there, he started out working odd jobs on his uncle’s campgrounds, Snake River Park KOA. After putting his in his time toting that barge and lifting that bale, he along with his wife, Kelly, purchased the campgrounds. Continuing his quest for world domination, they purchased the legendary Dave Hansen Whitewater eight years ago.

What’s the legendary Dave Hansen Whitewater, you ask? Well, he’s a guy…obviously. But what makes him uniquely special is that he was the first to get permission to raft down the Snake River. He started his company in 1967 and became one of the first owner’s of a commercial whitewater rafting company in Jackson. He is responsible for naming two of the humongous rapids on Snake River, the big kahuna and lunch counter probably because he was the first to live to tell about it. Dave worked side by side with Bud for one year as they transitioned ownership of the business.

We were scheduled to arrive at their headquarters at 265 W. Broadway which was a mere two blocks from the town square. We walked into the office which was a combination retail outlet, sundry shop and reception area. There was a group ahead of us, but we were soon assisted by a young man who took our info and then pointed toward something that I never thought I would see in person never mind attempt to wear. A. Wet. Suit. After the universe fell off its collective chair with laughter, I tried to beg off and say that’s ok, we’ll skip it. But he cautioned me that the waters would be very cold so get to stepping! We settled on the wet boots, wetsuit jackets and our dignity.

As we exited the changing room, a tall, wiry guy was standing at the desk and he turned toward us as soon as we came out. With outstretched hands, he introduced himself as Bud Chatham. Aha! Just the guy we were looking for. He drove us to the campground where the rest of the rafting party would meet us. It was fortuitous that he took us there because I had never really been on a campground and didn’t quite know what to expect. I mean I had seen RV and Camper overnight parking lots, but this was a little different. It wasn’t that large, you saw the requisite vans and campers, but I didn’t expect to see the cutest (a technical term for structurally sound) cabins ever. I asked Bud if I could take a look inside one and though time was tight, he happily obliged.

There were three types of cabins: Kamping Lodges, Kamping Studios and Kamping Kabins. Each one sleeps four but they rent for 195.00, 165.00 and 91.00 per night, respectively. I was impressed with the fact that each one had it’s own garden in front and picnic table and grill in the back.

Pics of the Kamping Lodges:

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Pics of the Kamping Studios:

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Pics of the Kamping Kabins:

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Pics of Communal areas:

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If I have the good fortune of visiting Jackson Hole again, I would reserve one of the lodges during my stay. As soon as you walk in you will see wall to wall natural wood, from the wooden wall slats to the natural wooden cabinets and doors to the hardwood floors. To my immediate right, as you walk into the lodge, is a leather sofa. Past the sofa is a room on the right with a Queen sized bed. Directly across is a dining table with four chairs with a flat screen tv hanging on the wall above it. The background encompassing the entire back wall of the room was a kitchen with a fridge, microwave, sink, electric stove and to the far right an AC unit. The room to the front left was a second bedroom with bunk beds and at the left rear was the bathroom with a full sized tub. The smaller Kabins are parallel to the Snake river and you have the freedom to walk to the shore. Some Kabins are en-suite, but there is a communal bath and shower area on the campus. A general store is on site for those needing specific provisions.

I think when God was handing out kindness, Bud must have snuck in line twice. He is one of the most giving, interesting, knowledgeable, polite men that I’ve met on vacation or otherwise. He’s running a thriving and successful business and I can’t think of anyone more deserving than he.

It was soon time to board the bus to the drop off point where we would meet our rafting guide, Ginny. I felt immediately at ease upon meeting her. She was fun, confident and knowledgeable. After helping us into our life jackets, she gave us safety instructions on what signals she would give us at the appropriate time. Soon we were on the water and heading toward the rapids. Naturally, I didn’t know what to expect, we drifted for awhile to become acclimated, but as we got closer to the rapids we were instructed to paddle through it. Some waves were stronger than others but be prepared to get soaked to the gills! I can’t recall the last time I’d had so much fun! Ginny had instructed us on how we should position our feet underneath the folds of the raft so that we’d be less likely to fall overboard.

Back at the office, Bud had suggested that we take the smaller 8 person raft. I was heistant at first because I thought a larger raft would be better, you know the “safety in numbers” thing. Now that I was actually in the raft, I got it. It was a much better ride in comparison to my neighbors in the larger raft, we had more bounce and weren’t as weighted down. Our group was laughing and getting drenched happily 90% of the time as we rode wave after wave. Initially there were scary moments, but Ginny was calm so that kept me calm. We felt every wonderful and glorious wave are we floated down the river.

At certain points, Ginny gave us the opportunity to get out and swim. Along the way, she would point out certain areas where there were rockslides and she mentioned how the water table had risen this year as a result of their receiving over 735 inches of snow but that didn’t deter devoted rafters. We were fortunate enough to see a bald eagle and its nest and a couple of osprey. The entire area was like a picture postcard….beautiful!

Rafting pics – Thanks to our new friends Dan (our cover guy) and Melissa Carr for sharing their photos:

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All in all, it was a great and exhilarating experience and different from what I usually do on vacation. We are making plans to do a little rafting back home on the Chattahoochee. What a difference a day makes! It really was fantastic and I can’t recommend it highly enough. The entire journey lasted almost two hours. When we got back we got a chance to thank Ginny for such a wonderful time and even took a few pics together. One thing you may want to keep in mind if you can’t see without your glasses. Purchase from DHW or bring with you something called a ‘croaker’. It’s an eyeglass cord that will hold your glasses so that you won’t drop them in the river. Each end fits over the arms of your glasses and will hold them taut to the back of your head. If you plan to take pics, be sure to bring a plastic case to keep your digital camera in to prevent it from getting wet. Also, it helps if you bring a swimsuit and/or wear shorts if you opt out of wearing the (complete) wetsuit.

The bus driver (who happens to be very knowledgeable and entertaining) took us back to the campgrounds for lunch which was included in the price. We had a chance to get to know our fellow raft mates better and ruminate about how great the day was. I challenge anyone who for whatever reason tend to play it safe by sticking with the usual mundane activities on holiday to try this. Dare to try something different and check out Dave Hansen Whitewater!!

[box type=”info”]We were so fortunate to be Bud’s guest during our wonderful rafting adventure, but my report is still my honest assessment of Dave Hansen Whitewater.

Find them at:

265 W. Broadway Jackson Hole Wyoming 83001

Phone: 307-733-6295 Toll Free: 800-732-6295

Email: info@davehansenwhitewater.com

Be sure to check them out on Facebook and Twitter [/box]


North America, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

My Jackson Hole, WY Trip Report

September 6, 2011 • By

I confess. I’ve always had a love and affinity for westerns. I grew up watching shows like Bonanza, The Big Valley, Bat Masterson, The Rifleman….you name ‘em, chances are, I saw ‘em. So, it stands to reason that someday, I would have to go exploring and see the west with my own eyes. I saw some pictures of Jackson Hole, Wyoming online one day and decided that it would be the first place on my list as I tore a swath through the wild blue yonder. I think sometimes, we are attracted to things that we don’t get to see on a regular basis. I was intrigued with the idea of roaming areas unaffected by commerce and developers and Jackson Hole fit that bill to a “T”. Surrounded by mountains, Jackson Hole is 48 miles long and 8 to 15 miles wide, and its floor slopes from 6,779 feet above sea level in the north to about 6,069 feet at its southern end. The Snake River, originating in the high country of Yellowstone, meanders through the valley, fed by the Gros Ventre River, Flat Creek and others. To the west, the famed Tetons soar into the sky without the preamble of foothills. The Grand Teton, the highest peak, is 13,772 feet above sea level. To the east of the valley, the Gros Ventre (Big Belly) Mountains rise more gently from the valley floor. Its population is slightly over 8500, small town living at its best. However, a number of temporary residents swell the totals during the tourist seasons⎯in the summer months by 52,000 and by 5,000 in the winter months.

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I booked a flight three months ago with American Airlines (ATL – JAC) via Onetravel.com and the fare was a reasonable $425.00 in comparison to the $921.00 fare that it would cost me if I booked it today. After a short layover in Dallas, we arrived in Jackson Hole almost seven hours later. After admiring the mountains from the air, it was a stunning sight to see from ground level. We deplaned old school style by walking down onto the tarmac using the portable airplane steps. It was so quaint and I hadn’t done that in years. The airport was very small with a wooden ranch style facade that I think had maybe nine gates in total. We were greeted by an arch of elk antlers as we entered the doorway of the airport. Sweet!  I went straight to the Hertz rental desk (there were three rental car companies in all) and picked up my car. The clerk was kind of a jerk but I was too amped to let him get under my skin, I had places to go and people to see. I drove out of the airport, hung a right and headed straight to town which was about 17 miles away according to the map, but it didn’t seem like it was that far.

Me in silhouette walking through the arch of antlers at Jackson Hole Airport

The one thing that I learned is that the airport is located inside the Grand Tetons National Park which explained why we were surrounded by mountains and clear blue skies. The mountains still had snow caps due to the over 735 inches of snow that fell this past winter!! There were several turnoffs that allowed you to stop, park and take pictures to your heart’s delight. We arrived almost at dusk on a Friday evening and were scheduled to take a Stage Coach ride but it was getting dark and we figured that it would be best to actually see what we would pass along our route, so we decided to try another day. Instead, we checked into our hotel room where I was fortunate enough to be hosted by The Best Western Lodge at Jackson Hole where we stayed five glorious days enjoying the peace and comforts of home. A review of the hotel is forthcoming. It was really getting late so we decided to get dinner at a local haunt called Bubba’s. We ordered baby back ribs, bbq chicken, baked beans, coleslaw, salad and garlic toast. The toast was so large it needed its own zip code and the meat practically fell off the rib bones. It tasted so good, it would make you slap your mama. LOL! Seriously, it was an excellent dinner which made up for our not eating lunch that day because we were famished! The next day we got to do two things that I never thought that I would ever get the chance to do: Whitewater rafting and fly fishing. It was fantastic! Dave Hansen’s Whitewater, owned by Bud Chatham, was kind enough to host us. I have to say that I haven’t met a nicer guy than Bud. If you ever decide to add a visit to Jackson Hole to your itinerary, make it your business to sign up with this company. They were as professional as they were kind and the entire experience was one of the best of my life.   After going back to the Snake River Park KOA, Whitewater, and Cabin Village for a hearty lunch, we were on our way to the second half of our adventure, learning to flyfish with Will Dornan of Snake River Anglers. When it comes to fishing, I am clueless. I have always wanted to learn but never had the opportunity. Will is passionate about fishing; it is without a doubt that it’s in his blood. I had a great time learning how to cast, didn’t catch anything but I really wasn’t expecting to. The fun was in the doing and that was enough for me.  He offers full and half day instruction and it is time well spent.   I can’t recommend these two guys highly enough, so look for an in-depth report on my amazing water adventures with these companies in the near future. We finished fishing in just enough time for Will to drop us back off at Dave Hansen’s Whitewater so that we could grab a quick dinner. There was a Wendy’s on the way, so we just stopped and bought two of their amazing apple pecan salads with pomegranate vinaigrette salad dressing. We practically had to wolf it down so that we could make the Jackson Hole Rodeo before 8 pm. This was another new experience as I had only seen rodeos in the movies and a couple of times on tv. I have to say seeing it in person really made you invested in the cowboys who tried to beat their alloted 8 seconds in which they had to stay on the bulls or wild bucking broncos. It was so much frenzied fun and a visit to the city wouldn’t be the same without experiencing the elation and joy of the rodeo. We were really surprised to see so many youngsters who seemed almost too young to walk riding briskly on horseback. Impressive!   The next day we decided to devote to exploring the Grand Tetons, a national park that attracts four millions visitors annually. It’s a nature lover’s paradise that surrounds you with wildlife, pristine rivers and splendorous mountains. It was a living postcard that left you spellbound and helpless to resist its charms. We stopped at the Visitors Center to purchase a few souvenirs and to look at the vast array of historical artifacts that chronicled the history of Jackson Hole. You will have to drive several miles before reaching the entry gates, where you have will have to pay to enter the park. You may purchase a 7 day pass for $25.00, this will cover all of the occupants of your car. If you are planning a visit to Yellowstone, be sure to save that pass as you can use it for that park as well. We were literally left speechless as we drove through the park. Our first stop was at the Jenny Lake gift shop where we were watched like hawks by the three ladies manning the store. On the other side, there was a sundry shop. We put down the souvenirs that we were going to buy and walked over to the kind gentleman to purchase snacks from him instead. We left and started walking the path that would eventually take us to the lake. It took less than 15 minutes to arrive at our destination, a clear and unaffected body of water. There was a ferry that took you to the other side of the lake. However, the ride lasted only 10 minutes and cost $10.00, so I wouldn’t recommend it. It was much more interesting to walk around and cheaper too. We went back to the car to continue on our scenic drive. Four miles down the road, we happened upon a one laned road on the left that seemed to lead to nowhere. The road was North Jenny Lake Junction which eventually took us to an overlook that surrounded the lake and gave us an exceptional view of the Tetons. There were many makeshift benches constructed out of natural rock boulders where you could sit and admire the view. You would even maneuver your way down to the shoreline. After a few hours, we decided to head back to town because we had an early call the next day for our Yellowstone tour. As we drove through we recalled how much the town square was a prototype of an old western settlement. There were an assortment of restaurants and shops located around the square’s perimeter. Situated dead center was the town’s lone public park which was alive with tourists passing cameras back and forth in an effort to get the best shot that they could brag about once they’ve gotten back home. We remembered our missed appointment with the Stage Coach and decided to park the car and walk through the park back to the Stage Coach depot at the corner of Cache Street and E. Broadway. The coach was pulling off as we arrived so we went into the station to get our tickets and waited on the wooden benches outside. Finally, you could hear the plodding of the horse hooves coming our way. Moe the driver, tipped his hat as the passengers were disembarking and we were escorted up the step to the coach and were seated. The ride ($9.00 for adults and $4.00 for kids) took all of 12 minutes where we circled a four block radius of the square before being dropped back off at the station. It was pleasant, we got to see parts of the town that we hadn’t ventured on yet, so it was a good ride. The only negative is that you must be prepared to hold your nose because the horses aren’t very polite. lol Nevertheless, you now had bragging rights for having actually ridden a genuine stagecoach! I learned from Moe that the current owners have had the business for the past 15 years, but the stage coach naturally, has exchanged hands for over 100 years. We did a little more shopping and hurried back to the hotel to order pizza and turn in for the night. Six A M…..no profaner words could be spoken during the course of one’s vacation. However, that was the time that we had to be ready and waiting in the lobby for our tour guide to collect us for the trip to Yellowstone National Park. Not one minute after his scheduled arrival time, our guide Mark showed up. He was friendly, affable and very handsome (which didn’t hurt after all). We hopped into the comfy van and headed to pick up the next and last passengers, Marci and Steve, a very friendly and warm couple from Boston. The Tour company, Wildlife Expeditions was unique in that it was a division of Teton Science Schools a private year round school aimed at K-12 and graduate students as well as teachers. Mark has a graduate degree in Biology and was very knowledgeable about wildlife in general. I felt that we weren’t just shown beautiful things but the whys, wheres and hows regarding the park and the wildlife that inhabited it. It was a very interesting learning experience that was fun and enlightening. Look for an in-depth review of our tour through the world’s first National Park soon.   The next day was our last and was a frenetic one. We had to get up around 7 am to check out of the hotel. But I wasn’t going anywhere without my first cup of java. After grabbing a to-go cup, we collected our carryons (we are getting so good at traveling light!) and drove off to the post office so that Carisa could mail off her snowglobe since we couldn’t take it on the plane. The post office only had 4 actual parking spaces and you had to park where you could if you were out of luck. Our very last activity was to take the Jackson Hole aerial tram ($29.00 adults) to the 4,139 foot Rendezvous Mountain. We got a little turned around, but eventually located Teton Village where our tickets were waiting for us. There weren’t many people waiting to go up with us, but keep in mind it was around 9 am, the sane ones were still asleep. I learned that the tram carried 100 passengers and it took about 10-13 minutes to get to the top of the mountain. It was a smooth going but we were warned that there would be some turbulance as we passed each of the five trolley archways that holds up the tram line. It was a glorious sight…we had a 360 degree view of the entire Teton Village. After disembarking, we spent some time enjoying the view before heading into Corbet’s Cabin to enjoy strawberry waffles and milk for breakfast. We aren’t skiers but we couldn’t believe that people actually navigated these impossible mountains. You would have to be braver than me to attempt it, but obviously many people do since Jackson Hole is a premiere destination spot for those who love winter sports. After an hour or so, we decided to take off to catch our flight back home. All in all, I love Jackson Hole and I am so happy that I can scratch this off my bucket list. If I could afford it, I would consider living here but someone would have to figure out a way to get rid of the snow first because I’m not really a fan. LOL! Actually, since 97% of the land is publicly owned, homes are expensive to buy and rents are high so that would probably end my quest to live here. However, Jackson Hole is ideally suited for visitors, it’s a small town, but if you are outdoorsy and love nature, you will feel at home. [box type=”blank” class=”bg-blue rounded-10″] During my stay in Jackson Hole, my hotel and activities were arranged by the most magnificent Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. They could not have been more generous with their time and their assistance was immeasurable. [/box]


North America, Reviews, Trip Reports

A Review of the Orchards Inn of Sedona

July 12, 2011 • By

 

I’d had a particularly busy day having taken a short day tour of the city of Sedona, purchasing a few souvenirs, visiting parks and taking a ride on the Verde Canyon Railroad.  It was getting late, so I figured it was as good as time as any to make my way to my next hotel, the Orchards Inn of Sedona.  At first glance, I thought it was positioned in a weird spot.  It was set back a couple of blocks from the main drag on Hwy 89A and it was literally two blocks from the Best Western hotel that I stayed at.  It was a unique complex, I would hazard a guess that it had been an apartment complex in another life.  It was expansive, yet welcoming and check-in was easy enough.  I have to admit that I’m no fan of apartments, in fact, hate could be used to describe my feelings toward it.  They must have soundproofed the rooms, because you don’t hear the usual rumblings from next door as I had expected.

I was given my keys and told that a buffet breakfast would be served every morning in the Taos Cantina restaurant located right in front of the hotel on the main highway.  Interesting tidbit: If you booked your room via Expedia, you would have to pay the regular 9.99 charge for breakfast.  If you booked directly from them, the breakfast was included.  I guess their position is you’ve already gotten a great deal on the room, you could at least spring for breakfast.  The good news is that paying 9.99 for that  breakfast was a steal!  They had everything that you could imagine: juices, pancakes, cereals, fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage, coffee….it was a pretty huge spread that gave no one a reason to leave hungry.

My room was upstairs, so I grabbed the carry-on and made my way up the steps.  As I entered the room, a small kitchenette was to my right and the bathroom was on the left.  Looking straight ahead, I saw a king sized bed, a table with two chairs, sofa, table and a fireplace!  There is one thing that I learned about Sedona….it gets COLD at night!  It’s as if the universe is apologizing for beating you down with the sun all day long.  And there it stood the piece de resistance….the covered patio door.  I was eagerly anticipating what I would see beyond that patio since I was already spoiled with a beautiful view from my room at the Best Western.  Drum roll, please…….

 

 

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I was ecstatic!  I was entranced with the view and I decided to spend most of my time sitting on the sofa admiring it.  Alas, I had to get to work.  Up to that point, I had not checked emails or anything and I had to start writing articles.  The next day, I decided to stay close to home and walk around the property to check it out and take pictures.  One of the constants while visiting Sedona is that the city is very clean, the residents (and visitors) seem to take pride in treasuring and maintaining the beauty that is Sedona.

Another thing that I noticed is that though Sedona is located right smack dab in the middle of the desert, there was plenty of flora to admire especially at the Orchards Inn:

 

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I noticed that the property was old western rustic yet extremely inviting at the same time.  It was much larger than it appeared to be, I thought that you would have to trudge through the lobby to get to your room like most hotels, so it was a pleasant surprise to see more units (that were slightly obscured by trees) dispersed along the west end of the lobby.    Along the way, I came across a telescope…the type that you would see on observation towers….that pointed directly at the red rocks to give you a bird’s eye view.   At the opposite end was a walk way that led to the pool area.  It was crystal clear and beckoning me to jump in.  I don’t know how I resisted it!

On the way back to the parking area, I ran into a gentleman who had an Orchards Inn badge on his lapel.  I asked him if he was the manager and he said that he was.  I mentioned to him that I absolutely adored the view from my balcony.  I’m not sure if he knew that I was there to review his hotel or not.  He took my hand, shook it and told me that they were fortunate to have such views and was glad that I enjoyed it.  In parting, he asked me to let him know if I needed anything.  I was impressed at his gentle and affable demeanor.   All in all, I rather liked the Orchards Inn of Sedona.  Without a doubt when you visit, I think the safe bet is that you will spend most of your time sitting on your private balcony taking in the splendid view from across the canyon.


[box type=”1″ align=”left”] Hotel Amenities

  • Heated Pool and whirlpool overlooking Oak Creek Canyon and Snoopy Rock (the rock actually looks like Snoopy lying on top of his doghouse with the bird, Woodstock, sitting on his nose!)
  • Complimentary Gourmet Breakfast Buffet
  • Private complimentary parking
  • Pets are welcome
  • 70 Well appointed rooms and suites with either a king or two queen beds
  • Every room has spectacular Red Rock views (like my room!)
  • In-room fridge, coffeemaker, iron/board and hair dryer
  • Complimentary wireless high speed internet access
  • Third floor rooms offer gas burning fireplaces
  • Non-smoking rooms
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[box type=”blank” class=”bg-blue rounded-10″] Full Disclosure: During my stay in Sedona, Arizona, I was a guest of the the Orchards Inn of Sedona which was arranged by the fantastic Sedona Chamber of Commerce. However, my review is and will always be my honest impression of my time there.
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North America, Reviews, Travel Advice, Trip Reports

A Review of A Spa For You in Sedona, Arizona

June 24, 2011 • By

Thea Draaisma, miracle worker

The first thing that you notice when you step into A Spa For You Suites in Sedona is the owner, Thea Draaisma’s mega-watt smile that seems to come from somewhere deep in her heart and makes a soft landing on her face. She walks toward me with hands outstretched, “You must be Renee!” a half question and half declarative statement. I confirm it and she responds back with an all encompassing hug. I am there for a 90 minute session that consists of a 45 minute massage and a 45 minute Japanese facial massage. After escorting me into the session room, she begins to explain exactly what I can expect from each procedure. I have to say that no one has ever taken the time to sit down and confer with me about any issues that I may be having, at least no more than asking where my trouble spots were.

Sitting area where you could relax before your session began

I was able to get a little background on her during the consultation. She had been working for seven years at the Hilton Sedona Spa when she decided that there needed to be a day spa that could serve the average resident of Sedona. Thus, A Spa For You ‘s humble beginnings started in a renovated building located right across from her present location. The former location consisted of one treatment room and a reception area. The five year old business boasts a staff of five masseuses who specialize in all massage disciplines.

Reception and retail area. I made sure that I bought a bottle of lavender essential oil before I left.

A couple of years ago, her present space became available and after several months of re-construction, it officially opened almost a year ago. It’s housed in a quite unassuming building until you step inside into a serene cocoon that immediately soothes and calms you. She offers that it was her husband who renovated the place and I comment that he’s done an exceptional job. From the cool lavender wall color, to the curved wall in the sitting room, great care has been taken in bringing Thea’s business to the next level.

Thea explaining what I can expect from today's session

Thea makes you feel comfortable immediately because her warmth and sense of compassion is genuine. You can usually spot the fakes with the shrill over the top laughter and painted on smiles or their obvious preoccupation with something else because you know that they’re not listening to a word you are saying. I think what makes Thea different is that she loves what she does and better yet, she loves people….a critical asset when working with so many. She began with the massage which was so relaxing, she had to wake me up several times during the session due to my (loud) snoring….what can I say…..I was out like a baby. Admittedly, it was embarrassing, but she took it all in stride.

A view of the receptionist desk; be sure to schedule your next appointment before you leave!

As an arthritis sufferer, I was looking forward to a focus on that area during the session. Not only did Thea work her magic on my old tired bones, she alternately placed cold marble stones and warm stones on my knees giving them an equal balance of hot and cold treatment. May I just say that I was in heaven? I started to chuckle to myself that if an army ever wanted to defeat an enemy, hire Thea….by the time she gets through with them, they would be turned into melted licorice.

She would be a Delilah to their Samson.  I was so relaxed; she kneaded muscles that I had never been introduced to. I resembled a lump of clay and I loved it!

Next, she brought out facial cleanser, facial serum, toner, masque and a moisturizer from the Lafernation skin care line that she offers for sale and set them into an assembly line. She said the constant in Japanese facial massage is movement; you can feel the temperature and various textures of the product, but the one thing that remains the same is that my face would constantly be in motion. She began to massage my neck and shoulders first because that stimulates the lymph nodes that will open and release toxins. Warm rocks were used on my neck and shoulders as well.

My face felt very refreshed and clean afterward; uncluttered by anything I’d put on earlier.  I truly enjoyed my session with Thea which was made even moreso because of her genuine love for her work and affinity for people in general.  Such talents can’t be learned; they either exist or they don’t.  If you happen to find yourself in Sedona, why don’t you drop by after hiking through one of the picturesque trails and let Thea work her magic on you?  You’ll find yourself getting acquainted with those muscles you’ve never used before too.

Services offered at A Spa For You

  • Traditional Warm Oil Massage
  • Jin Shin Jyutsu
  • Couples Massage
  • Pre-Natal Nurturer
  • Synchronized 4 Handed Warm Oil Massage
  • Trager Balancing
  • Unique Sedona Hot Rock Massage
  • Japanese Facial Massage
  • Connective Tissue (deep) massage
  • Swedish
  • Therapeutic
  • Cranial Sacral
  • Reiki
  • Reflexology
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    **Please note that my session was a gift from Thea Draaisma, however, my review is my honest assessment of my experience there.

    A Spa for You Sedona Day Spa (By Reservation Only)
    30 Kayenta Court
    Suite #1
    Sedona, Arizona 86336

    To book your Reservation and for further information
    Please call us at: (928) 282-3895
    SMS Mobile Text “spa” for call back at: (928) 821-3238
    or email us at: thea@aspaforyou.com

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