Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rocky Mountaineer: Seattle to Banff Canada via Luxury Rail

Come along with me on a train ride along the Puget Sound north of Seattle and east from Vancouver into the Canadian Rockies ... all in 4 short minutes.


For more information on the Rocky Mountaineer, go to www.rockymountaineer.com

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Cayman Islands: In Love With Sea Turtles



Breeding Lagoon
The Getaway Girl and her family took a cruise to the Caribbean this spring, landing in Cayman Islands one day. Since I love being one with nature and wild critters, the highlight of the trip was on Cayman Islands where we visited the CaymanTurtle Farm and the famous Stingray City sandbar for some uno-y-uno with the giant stingrays. (See Stringray City posting).

Nesting Beach
I am glad to say the Cayman Turtle Farm is not an accurate name. Thinking it would be a big pond full of turtles in someone's backyard (hey, it's the islands, mon), I was surprised to find the "turtle farm" is actually a large, 23-acre modern marine park and research center  dedicated to sea turtle breeding -- along with a marine  education center, an aviary, a nature trail ... and the largest swimming pool on the island. It's owned and managed by the Cayman Island government, which obviously helps with funding and establishing this facility as a world-renowned sea turtle research center.

Upon entering the park, I was astounded by a massive lagoon filled with hundreds of sea turtles! Across from the viewing area is a long, sandy beach for the females to lay their eggs. Our guide said this "breeding pond"  holds several hundred female green sea turtles and about 100 males. The staff monitors the beach each morning to see if there are any new nests. If so, they remove the eggs, they are incubated, and within a few months new baby sea turtles are born.

Cute little guy!
Each year, thousands of hatchlings are tagged and released back into the warm waters of the Caribbean. This tagging method is tremendously significant as it is the only method whereby a tiny sea turtle hatchling may be identified as a 300 pound adult more than 15 years later on a nesting beach. This tagging may allow scientists to discover whether or not sea turtles actually return to the beach from which they hatch to nest.

In addition to the green sea turtles, the farm has a large collection of holding tanks where they have rescued and care for loggerhead and even rare kemp's ridley turtles. There's even a "touch tank" where visitors can hold young sea turtles ... guaranteed to give  a  warm, fuzzy feeling.

For more information, on the Cayman Turtle Farm, go to www.turtle.ky



Wednesday, May 8, 2013

St. Simons Island - Coastal Georgia's Golden Isles

View of Jekyll Island from St. Simons Island

I rolled down my windows as I exited I-95, smelling the salty sea air as I headed east toward the Atlantic Coast.   Passing through the small port city of Brunswick, I  turned into the bluebird sky and vast salt marshes that welcomed me here to the Golden Isles of Georgia. In the distance, a mighty suspension bridge loomed like the Titanic, waiting to whisk me to my destination of St. Simons Island.

Located about an hour south of Savannah and the same distance north from Jacksonville, Florida, the Golden Isles are comprised of St. Simons Island, Little St. Simons Island and Jekyll Island.  The lovely barrier islands may just be the best-kept secret in the Southeast, where Southern charm and hospitality are alive and well and a world of relaxation awaits.

King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort
I spent 3 nights at the historic  King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort on St. Simons Island and spent my time exploring the islands and indulging in fresh and fantastic seafood. It was hard to leaving this sprawling seaside resort -- King and Prince is a charmer with 3 pools, a spa, golf, a beachside patio and the only oceanview dining on the island.

But it's hard for the Getaway Girl to stay put. There is too much to do and see on  St. Simons Island, which has a year-round population of nearly 20,000. I hopped aboard the Lighthouse Trolleys for a  tour and to learn about the history of the island. Fifteen plantations once grew cotton here, and you can still find bits and pieces of them, along with a historic fort, churches and graveyards amid picturesque live oak trees dripping in Spanish moss. There are shops to browse, a pier to fish off, and  many miles of bike trails.

If you like fresh seafood, you'll be in heaven here on the Golden Isles. As Cap Fendig, lifelong resident and owner of Lighthouse Trolleys told me, "we love to eat here on St. Simons Island ... that's why you see so many restaurants ...  going out to eat is something we do nearly every day." Indeed, fresh shrimp is served everywhere, along with grits,  crab cakes, oysters and lots of Southern soul.

Trawling on the Lady Jane brings up a baby sea turtle!
One of the most interesting side trips I took while here was a shrimp boat excursion on the Lady Jane out of Brunswick. This renovated shrimp trawler takes out tourists into the salt flats,  brings  in a few loads and dumps then right in front of you.  It's almost shocking to see the diversity of live sea critters the net unleashes  ... all kinds of fish, crabs, rays, even a sea turtle (don't worry, they all go back into the water). A marine biologist does a show and tell with all the slimy critters as Edna the pesky pelican stands over his head and trys to snatch the booty (great entertainment!).

If you are looking for a super relaxing ocean getaway, I highly recommend St. Simons Island.  I'll post on my visit to Jekyll Island and the Georgia Sea Turtle Center next.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Summer in Switzerland

Click on the arrow above to view a 4.30 minute video 


By Marcia Biggs

The Getaway Girl was recently invited back to visit her favorite European country --  Switzerland! This is my fourth visit to a place that reminds me of a National Geographic calendar at every turn.  


In past visits, I have hiked and biked and skied the mountains and valleys.  I have soaked in hot springs and sipped wine at the vineyards and soared in a hot air balloon.  And still, the prospect of returning to Switzerland set my heart aflutter.


 The impetus for my journey this time was the introduction of non-stop flights from Tampa International Airport to Zurich on Edelweiss Airlines.  My group of travel writers was invited to spend one week exploring the country from Zurich via train and other public transit with a Swiss Pass.


Traveling by the rail system is the only way to go when in Switzerland.  The Swiss Pass is also good for free or discount tickets on most city buses, trams, boats and funiculars (mountain cable railways), as well as admission to most museums.

Less than two hours by rail from the Zurich airport we arrive in Fribourg which has two distinct personalities  – old and new, French and German. The bustling city center with its museums, fine restaurants and outdoor cafes is young, vibrant and smart.  In the Old Town, which dates to the Middle Ages, covered bridges cross the narrow River Sarine, leading us through winding cobblestone streets.  

Old Town, Fribourg
Not far from Fribourg is the town of Gruyere…yes, as in Gruyere cheese.  We visit the cheese factory or La Maison du Gruyere (the House of Cheese we take a Disney-esque tour of the Cailler Chocolate Factory. The highlight of Gruyere, however, lies on the cliff overlooking town. The Castle of Gruyere is the centerpiece of a walled city dating to 1270 and completely restored from cobblestone streets to quaint hotels, restaurants, and caf├ęs.  The castle, Chateau de Gruyere, is now a museum with original murals, paintings, furnishings and even a collection of armor.
  
The medieval village of Gruyere 
Just an hour from Fribourg by train lies Interlaken, a lively town and international tourist destination if a packed Hooters smack in the middle of town means anything.  It’s also a center for adventure, with sports outfitters on nearly every corner offering everything from waterfall hikes to zip lining, bicycle tours, canyoning and white water rafting. The obvious favorite, though, is paragliding. During summer months, locals and tourists alike drop by the hundreds every day into the meadow in the center of town.

Wilderswil near Interlaken
I decided to forego the paragliding and rent an electric bike.  The Flyer bicycle is hugely popular in Europe. Unlike a scooter or Moped, the Flyer is an “electric assist” bicycle. Three levels of assistance help propel you along: Eco for flat roads,  Standard and High for uphill climbs. I spent an aftenoon exploring the nearby village of Wilderswil, and found the Flyer easy and fun.

A variety of steamboats offer delightful scenic cruises on the two lakes that border Interlaken.  We boarded a steamer on Lake Brienz to the spectacular Giessbach Falls and the grandly restored Victorian Grandhotel Giessbach.

Chapel Bridge
A  two-hour train ride from Interlaken takes us to the Medieval city of Lucerne. The city’s iconic 14th century Chapel Bridge and Water Tower may be one of Switzerland’s most recognized landmarks.  Crossing the River Reuss, the bridge draws tourists and locals alike who gather along the shore to watch the swans and relax at outdoor cafes.

If you are considering a European vacation, you can't go wrong with Switzerland. Scenic beauty, history and culture abound at every turn. I highly recommend researching and booking your trip through the Swiss Tourism web site at myswitzerland.com Here you'll find one-stop shopping for everything from lodging to a Swiss Pass. 

A sidenote: A great lodging option that allows you to save some money is by staying at a Swiss Youth Hostel. You can find modern, clean rooms at historic inns, castles and ski resorts across Switzerland for $50-$100 a night.     


Sunday, March 18, 2012

In the Garden of Good and Evil

BONAVENTURE CEMETERY
 Savannah, GA 

Hauntingly beautiful, this historic cemetery was featured in the film "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."



 On the outskirts of Savannah, lies this scenic resting place for the 
loved and lost souls of centuries past.


Monday, September 12, 2011

  A Visit to Beautiful St. Augustine

Click on the link above to view a slideshow
Photos and story by Marcia Biggs


The garden of the Westcott House (circa 1880)


My recent visit to historic St. Augustine 
was a delight to the senses. 

Historic Inns of Elegance, quaint cafes and sophisticated restaurants greet the casual stroller in Old Town.  A tour of the astounding collection of fine art at the Lightner Museum and an exceptional dinner in the museum's Cafe Alcazar were a highlight of the visit. Secret gardens and carriage rides, a walking tour of ethnic eateries,  a late-night martini at Rhett's where the piano bar coaxes you into a restful reverie.  

These are a few of the memories I bring home.

I stayed at the Bayfront Marin House, a short walk from the Bridge of Lions in Old Town. The Marin House is one of five Inns of Elegance where guests can expect the finest in historic bed and breakfast lodging.
Of course, the Getaway Girl needs adventure.
A dolphin watching eco-tour on an inflatable zodiac was a thrill ride, indeed.   A visit to the historic fort for astounding views of the Bay, a stop at the new state-of-the-art Pirate & Treasure Museum and a bicycle ride ended the day.

For an online guide to beautiful St. Augustine, click here.




Monday, September 5, 2011

Scalloping on Florida's Gulf Coast

Here on the West Coast of Florida,  snorkeling for bay scallops is a pretty popular weekend activity. The recreational harvest season for bay scallops this year runs June 25  through September 25. Unfortunately, you can’t search for scallops in Tampa Bay – it’s not legal here because of the limited number of scallops. However, about two hours north you can find numerous charter boats that will take you out.

 The most popular ports for scalloping include Homosassa and Crystal River, Suwannee, Cedar Key and Steinhatchee. There is a daily limit of two gallons of whole bay scallops in the shell or one pint of bay scallop meat per person. You are allowed to harvest bay scallops only by hand or with a landing or dip net. Divers and snorkelers are required to display a “divers-down” flag (red with a white diagonal stripe) while in the water and a fishing license is required.

If you think you would like to try scalloping, you can find a number of charter boats that go out daily. Click here for a guide to licensed boat captains who will take you out from the Homosassa and Crystal rivers for some Gulf Coast scalloping. Plan to rent a cabin or a hotel room nearby and make a weekend of it. Have fun!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Kayaking Safety Harbor


By Marcia Biggs
If you're looking for a quiet getaway just minutes from Tampa and the beaches, the quaint town of Safety Harbor on Upper Tampa Bay is the perfect hideout. Many visitors like to stay at  Safety Harbor Resort & Spa. From here you can stroll up Main Street and visit a number of small shops and cafes, enjoy the bike trail or just walk along the Bayshore to beautiful Philippe Park.


The Safety Harbor Pier

One of my favorite things to do  in Safety Harbor is visit the fishing pier at the Marina. Here you can see a fantastic sunrise and the sunsets aren't bad, either. During cooler weather it's easy to spot manatees who hang out at the end of the pier at the warm springs.  

 Tocobaga Tours offers kayak tours from the Marina most weekends, weather permitting. It's run by local resident Ken Bambery, who is a great guide and instructor for children and beginners. Ken takes you around the pier and along the shoreline where the mangroves usually provide excellent bird watching opportunities. When you reach Philippe Park, you'll learn all about the Indian Mound there and the history of the Tocobaga Indians and the arrival of  Hernando De Soto. It's an easy paddle and a great introduction to this special area of Upper Tampa Bay.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Arriving at Lake Atitlan

 By Ronnie Lovler

Photos by Tiffen Tapia

I’ll kick off with this picture of Lake Atitlan and the Atitlan volcano to begin this post. The first glimpse of the lake and the volcanoes is one of the times when the phrase "breathtaking" really does apply. Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America and its waters don’t flow anywhere else. What makes it such a spectacular sight are the three volcanoes that ring it – Atitlan, San Pedro and Toliman. Atitlan, which you glimpse here in our picture, is still active, although it’s been almost 150 years since it last erupted.

The traveler can catch a first glimpse of the lake on the approach into Panajachel from the Interamerican Highway. Don’t be deceived by the highway nomenclature. Consider it a paved path. You can drive, but I wouldn’t. I’d rather take my chances on the “chicken bus” so named for the obvious reason … the bus can hold passengers and chickens. On our journey, there were only people onboard – at least as far as I know – but we were crammed in like chickens! Sorry that it didn’t occur to us to grab a picture, but we did grab some shots for you outside the market in Antigua.

Panajachel is the main point of entry into the highlands. The town is a center of commerce for the indigenous Mayan communities who call the region home.We were able to find a nice little hotel – Mario’s – two beds, hot water, cable TV and breakfast for about $20. Nope, it wasn’t the least costly way to go, but we thought the price was right for comfort and cleanliness. And there was a computer room, with a couple of ancient Mac computers in the second-floor lounge where we could do a quick check of email. And we were right on the main drag – where we could catch a glimpse of the goats going by in the morning.

It was a good starting point from which to plan our Atitlan adventures. Details coming up.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sea Turtles and More in Monterrico

By Ronnie Lovler
I said I would tell you about seeing the sea turtles on the beach of Monterrico in my last post, and now I will. It happened at night, of course, which is when the sea turtles lay their eggs.  I was opting out of the trek along the beach because I was a bit worn out from the day.  My son, who is many, many years younger than me, (duh, of course, or he wouldn’t be my son!)  was up for adventure, so he went out to walk along the beach.  Sure enough, he found what he was looking for – sea turtles.  Then he came racing back to get me.  So I just had to go.  And lucky for me, there was one sea turtle had not yet made its way back into the water. It was amazing. Words fail me. That was my first sea turtle and this may sound like an exaggeration, but if I had gotten nothing else out of this trip, seeing that sea turtle might also have been enough.
One of the things I did that week in Monterrico was teach English classes to many of the kids from town. My host always organizes these types of givebacks. So in the morning, I was sitting down with the older kids (aged 12 – 15); and in the afternoon, when they got out of school, dozens of the younger kids would race over for their introduction to English. It is rewarding, but for this old gal, also exhausting.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Guatemala: Everything I remember and more

By Ronnie Lovler

It has been more than ten years since my last trip to Guatemala, so going there again was really a treat. This time around I was traveling with my 22-year-old son, Tiffen. Our first stop was Monterrico – a small village on Guatemala’s black sand Pacific Coast.  

From the airport, we went straight to La Avellana where we caught the “lancha” or ferry to Monterrico.  It was a four-hour ride, even though it is less than 125 miles away.  Why, you might ask? Traffic coming out of Guatemala City, which is more than words can describe. Rain. And roads that are filled with potholes and the aftermaths of frequent mudslides.
           When we got to La Avellana we were able to get one of the last “lanchas” into Monterrico. These are more like motorized wooden rowboats. Yes, there’s a motor, but oars are there, just in case.
            And we arrived, bodies, souls and luggage intact.  It took twice as long to get from the airport in Guatemala City to Monterrico than it did to fly from Miami to Guatemala (and that’s including airport security, pre full body scanning of course!).
            But this shouldn’t put you off – it’s part of the adventure – and when you get to Monterrico it’s well worth it, as long as you are not looking for high-end hotels, with fancy restaurants and a neon-studded nightlife.
It’s a village on the beach. And it’s a village on the beach in a developing country. It’s laidback and low-key.  The sunsets are fantastic. Every night, it seems. And so are the walks on the beach – even at night. The sand is black and the sky is black. You can see the stars, because the there aren’t lots of streetlights to dim the view.  The only real light comes from  the flashlights of people looking for the sea turtles that have come to shore. We got to see one. Amazing. I’ll tell you more about that in my next post.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chihuly Collection Is a Glass Act

If you like glass art, you have probably heard of Dale Chihuly, the Seattle glass artist whose colorful organic works have been exhibited around the world. Chihuly decided to open his first permanent gallery in downtown St. Petersburg in July, and it's a great place to visit if you are a glass art lover like me. Located along an upscale section of Beach Drive, the 7,600-square-foot gallery offers a look at the diversity and complexity of Chihuly glass.
Chihuly's love of nature is inspiration for most of his signature glass sculptures that take organic forms such as shells, flowers and sea creatures. Here you can also see one of his breathtaking chandeliers and his famous rowboat filled with hundreds of brilliant orbs.  Each of 16 installations is displayed in a space of its own, with lighting so perfectly tuned that it becomes part of the exhibit.

The Chihuly Collection is part of the Morean Arts Center, an educational facility and gallery about a mile away. If you have time, purchase the ticket that includes admission to the Hot Shop and Morean Galleries. Over at the Hot Shop, you'll see live demonstrations of glass blowing and you can even sign up for a mini-lesson to create your own work of glass art.

Check out my VisitSouth.com blog post on the Hot Shop here. For more information on the Chihuly Collection, go to http://www.chihulycollectionstpete.com/

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Great Tampa Bay Scallop Search 2010

video
This short video will take you on a fun excursion as we search for scallops around Fort De Soto Park in South Pinellas County.  Every year Tampa Bay Watch organizes this event and the community loves to participate! The number of scallops found helps determine the health of Tampa Bay and its eco-system. This year I joined executive director Peter Clark (driving the boat) and the nearly 150 volunteer boaters and snorkelers who spent the morning in the shallow seagrass beds  in search of the elusive scallop. The final tally this year was extremely low... only 32 scallops were found compared to 674 last year. Speculation pointed not so much to the quality of water, but rather to the extremely cold winter and recent hard rains.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Walk in the Park

Visited Moss Park on the southeastern edge of Orlando last weekend and despite the blazing heat took a hike through the neighboring preserve called Split Oak Forest. This is Orange County's largest park and I must say it is so clean and uninhabited that I thought it just opened! This 1,500-acre park is a jewel, with camping, picnicing, swimming and lots of wildlife.

We saw a number of sandhill cranes before we headed to the trails at the adjacent property. This 1,700-acre forest is on two lakes and the habitat  includes cypress swamps, pine flatwoods, oak hammocks, and marshland. The ranger told us it is prime habitat for gopher tortoises and a great place to see wildflowers in the fall.

Here's a few photos from our hike. Meg was on the lookout for alligators in the pond, while I swore I saw signs of wild boars. Alas, the sandhill cranes and a black racer snake were our only sightings this day. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Anna Maria Sunsets Rock


Whenever I go to Anna Maria Island (off Bradenton  north of Sarasota), the sunsets just blow me away. The beaches are pretty sensational, too, with beautiful white sand, clear blue water and lots of laid-back dives to hangout in. This is the weekend beach getaway for the middle class, although you can find a couple of luxury condos here and there. By and large, it's a beer and margarita kinda island with Three Dog Night cover bands and pizza by the slice. So what's not to like? Go to annamariaislandchamber.org to scope it out.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Life's a (Clean) Beach

On June 26, thousands of local residents (including the Getaway Girl) and business owners flocked to beach locations around Florida  to form a human hand-holding line on the shore in "Hands Across the Sand." Beachgoers united in a stand against opening off-shore drilling along the coast of Florida. Right now  the beaches of Florida's panhandle are suffering from tar balls and oiled birds washing ashore from the Deepwater Horizon  oil well 200 miles off the coast of Louisiana. Why take the risk even closer to our state?

In case you're wondering, I have first-hand knowledge that the beaches of Clearwater/St. Pete Beach are still clean and as spectacular as ever. Check out these recent photos and come on down and play in my sandbox!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Florida Weekend Getaway Deals

If you want a nice Florida getaway this summer at a super discount, I discovered a great site at visitflorida.com where you can bid on hotel packages and get over 50% off the regular rate.  I just spotted a winning bid for 3 days/2 nights in a one-bedroom condo at the Grand Panama Beach Resort for only $185! The retail value is listed at $668. Go to http://www.visitflorida.com/ and click on Florida Vacation Auction. You can also bid on tickets to many attractions such as zoos, botanical gardens, kayaking and museums.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Iceland is Open for Business!


The volcano has turned off. Tourism has turned on. If this doesn't make you want to visit, nothing will...check out the super fun video!

Monday, May 31, 2010

Protecting Nesting Shorebirds


At the moment, the beaches in Florida are still picture-purfect (no oil in sight). Here's a photo of me shot over Memorial Weekend at Honeymoon Island State Park ...  I volunteer to protect nesting shorebirds from predators like drunk boaters and their dogs. Not a bad gig, really. Most people see the signs and the taped off areas and understand they need to keep out. A lot of islands around Tampa Bay are rookeries and nesting is in full swing right now, so if you're at the beach and see the posted areas for nesting birds, please be nice and do not enter. This is an American oystercatcher, one of the threatened nesting birds.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Roadtrip 2010: Hope You Enjoyed the Ride



The Getaway Girl RV Roadtrip 2010 has come to the end of the road. A special thanks to my Roadtrippers John and Sandy, left, and Val and Brian, right (that's me in the center). Happy trails!




Friday, May 14, 2010

This Place Rocks


Here in Sequoia National Park, things really rock! Boulders the size of a house are everywhere amidst the forest and rivers and waterfalls.

Today we hiked 2 miles to Moro Rock, a massive granite boulder that can be seen for miles. Once you climb the 400 or so chiseled steps to the top, you get one mind-blowing 360-degree view. This photo shows Val and me at the top of Moro Rock. From the top, we could see the Continental Divide and all the way to Kings Canyon National Park, just north of this park.
With the weather finally in the 80's in the valley, we are happy campers. But alas, we leave at 5 tomorrow morning for the trip back to Phoenix. With Brian at the wheel, we hope to make it back home by dark tomorrow. It's been a great trip and I have come to appreciate the RV style of travel. Thanks go to my hosts, Val and Brian, for letting me experience this awesome trip!


There'Snow Bears Here


Everywhere you go around the Sierra Mountains, there are warnings about the bears. Don't feed the bears. Watch out for the bears. Well, today, we finally saw those sneaky bears! Freaked us out as we were driving along the main road in Sequoia National Park, rounding a curve and there they were ... a mother and 2 cubs. Took this photo from the car window.

Today, we drove south from Yosemite to a really beautiful area where both Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are located. It's a region of lush green forested mountains and rushing mountain rivers filled with boulders and white water rapids.


Although warm at lower elevations, as we drove up the winding park road the temps dropped 25 degrees as we got to around 4,500 feet and there was snow everywhere! Many trails and roads in the park are closed due to snow. This area is known for the famous towering Sequoia trees, so we had to make a stop to see the General Sherman Tree, the oldest living tree in the world. Here's Val in front of the tree at ground level.



Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Hikes and Waterfalls


We decided to hang around homebase in Oakhurst area today since we saw a good amount of Yosemite in the last two days. We found a beautiful 3-mile hiking trail just up the highway from our campground called Lewis Creek Trail and followed it through a deep pine forest and along the creek nearly the entire 3 miles. It was rushing with the runoff from the mountain snows and offered up some beautiful waterfalls over large boulders.

It seems everywhere you turn here, if there's a river or creek, there's a waterfall. The weather turned sunny finally so we enjoyed a bit of warmer temps in the 50s and 60s. Woo hoo! In the photo, we are crossing one of the hand-built log bridges along Lewis Creek Trail.
We finished up the day with our first cook-out .... finally... and a real campfire. Life is good! (If you can't see the video, go to my blog at www.getawaygirltravels.com)

video

I'm Falling for Yosemite Waterfalls

Things are looking up here at Yosemite....way up to the top of the dozen or so gushing waterfalls one can find throughout this magnificent national park. It's hard to watch where you are walking when the majestic scenery keeps your eyes to the skies most of the time!

Here is one of the most famous of them all ... Upper Yosemite Falls. As you can see, the rain has stopped (although it's still pretty chilly, in the 40s-50s), so we are happy to see the blue skies topping our waterfalls.

We are amazed with not only the number of tourists here for mid-May (hate to be here in summer), but the deer which are everywhere and seem relatively tame. This shot was taken not far from where we were eating a picnic lunch. Four deer calmly grazing in a small patch of grass right next to the road!

While there is only a smattering of wildflowers here and there in the lower elevations, Val and I have grown fond of the elegant white dogwood trees that are blooming everywhere. We don't have any in Arizona or Florida. Here's Val showing a dogwood blossom. Pretty, huh?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Rain, Rain Go Away

We started the day with chilly and overcast skies as we arrived at Yosemite National Park. This picture shows Val and myself at the edge of beautiful Yosemite Valley. We were surprised at the crowds -- busloads of Japanese tourists and lots of traffic in the park. By noon the rain was upon us, first a gentle drizzle but evolving into a steady downpour.

Our plans for hiking today dissolved in the gray mist that soon enveloped the valley. So we decided to take a 2-hour guided bus tour through Yosemite Valley. It was our only option ... and not a bad one, really.

We learned a lot about the history, ecology and geology of the national park, but the rain and cold (in the 40s) was not condusive to photography. By mid-afternoon, the rain had turned to snow in the upper elevations and we had to take an alternate route back to our RV park since we did not have chains for our tires! Yes, it's snowing here .... life is an adventure.

Note: If you can't see the video, just go to my blog page at www.getawaygirltravels.com

video

Monday, May 10, 2010

RV Roadtrip 2010: Phoenix to Yosemite

The GetawayGirls, Marcia and sister Val, head out from Phoenix on Saturday with Val's boyfriend Brian at the wheel of the 32-foot Winnebago. This will be a one-week road trip, accompanied by friends John and Sandy in their own home on wheels. We'll be visiting both Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks in Central California, and I hope to be posting nearly every day with a few photos and a video.

videoSaturday we travel 423 miles, stopping at a forelorn intersection off Highway 40 in the middle of the Mojave Desert to overnight in what appears to be an abandoned gas station parking lot. Next door is an antique shop with a bunch of old junk like vintage gas pumps, a rusty windmill and an old Texaco sign (see photo). On the other side of us is the Astro Burger. We hunker down inside our cozy RV and play cards, then continue on early the next morning.

On Sunday, we continue through the desert and into the Central Valley of California, where agriculture is king. All morning we drive past nothing but vineyards and orchards of walnut, almond and peach trees and vast expanses of cattle ranches. Finally we reach Fresno, where we head north into Yosemite country. Presto chango! The rolling landscape turns lush with pine forests and shimmering lakes and we feel a change in the air.

Yes, it's raining and chilly as we pull into our campground in Oakhurst and set up camp. But soon the sun comes out and we take a drive to Bass Lake, just 9 miles away (see photo). I am enjoying the cool brisk mountain air and looking forward to our first day at Yosemite tomorrow. Don't miss hot, humid Tampa one bit!