The Seventh Day of Christmas: Gift Ideas for the Travel Lover

There’s nothing like a good hike, especially when on a road trip, while stuck in the car for so many hours in a day. I really fell in love with hiking a few years ago, and am now addicted!

Here’s some handy items that I would absolutely love for a walk up the side of Mount Washburn, in Yellowstone National Park (I’m not sure why that one popped into my head…):

A sturdy pair of hiking boots

A sturdy pair of hiking boots

Cosy jacket for the chilly mornings

Cosy jacket for the chilly mornings

Good, heavy duty socks

Good, heavy duty socks

Something cooler, when it starts getting hot!

Something cooler, when it starts getting hot!

Some handy pants, with pockets

Some handy pants, with pockets

Water bag

Water bag

Some cool shades

Some cool shades

The pack

The pack

Ok – can someone buy me a plane ticket to Wyoming…Yellowstone is calling me for a hike!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Colorado Bound

I am off tomorrow on a six day event in Boulder, Colorado – America’s ‘most active city’. My school has graciously allowed me to attend a series of professional development events and I am looking forward to seeing this beautiful state, if I can squeeze in a bit of time somewhere!

Here’s my list of things to do:

1. Hike on one of the plenty trails available.

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2. Visit the University of Colorado Natural History Museum.

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3. Shop at the open-air Historic Downtown Boulder & Pearl Street Mall and Twenty Ninth Street.

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4. Take a tour of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. Yep, I’m a geek. Maybe they will hire me?!

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5. Stop for a drink at one of these: West End TavernThe Walnut Brewery or the Mountain Sun.

Mountain Sun Sign

 

Have a great weekend!

Top 5: Wilderness Escapes in Toronto

This past weekend, I was feeling very restless and decided that I needed a good dose of fresh air, in the form of FRESH air (not the busy street smoggy stinky downtown Toronto air).

My fiancee was also feeling this same restlesness, but also, his finger was itching to try out a few new ‘gagdets’ he purchased for his Nikon D800. He is the ultimate wildlife photographer, so he busily searched for places near to us where I could take my meds consisting of fresh, nature filled air (umm, I am not sure what that is…), and he could satisfy his trigger finger (FOR HIS CAMERA).

We discovered Leslie Spit, which was exactly 15 minutes away from my condo. I could not believe it. There we were, standing in nature, yet able to see the city skyline right behind us. It was perfect.

The investigation is going to continue as I list the top 5 ‘wilderness’ escapes in and around the city of Toronto.

5. Lynde Shores Conservation Area – Probably about a 45 minute drive to find this nature retreat, but worth it to hike around a swampy scene filled with deer, birds and beaver!

4. Colonel Sam Smith Park – Can’t wait to check out this park. Probably a 25 minute drive from my condo, I could be there, exploring the trails along the Toronto waterfront. It would especially be neat to find the beaver and snakes to photograph.

3. High Park – This park is surrounded by the Gardiner Expressway to the south, Bloor Street to the north, and subdivisions on either side. I completed a 5K race here a few years ago, and marvelled at all the green around me, while dragging my feet up and down some tough hills.

2. Rouge Park – I haven’t been here yet, but I have heard so many wonderful things about this area, that it could quite possibly beat out Leslie Spit for the #1 spot.

Right next to the Toronto Zoo, it boasts many birds, deer, plant and reptiles, some that are endangered and rare. Can’t wait to go!

1. Leslie Spit/Tommy Thompson Park – it had to be #1, since I have been here. It’s home to  countless species of birds, mink, beaver, fox, coyote and owl – oh and muscrat, which we ran into accidentally on our hike.

This semi-man-made spit became quite a wonderful ‘accidental’ wilderness right in the heart of Toronto.

Further Reading:

Toronto Wildlife: Where to Find Wildlife and Birds in Toronto

Fantasy Friday: Poland

I’ve wanted to go here since I met a very nice girl when I was in grade 1 that had just moved from there. She was so nice and kind and only had good things to say about her former home (and we were in grade 1….).

Lonely Planet has my dream tours:

  • Gdańsk

    A port with great historical significance and many architectural delights

  • Słowiński National Park

    An unusual national park filled with lakes, bogs, meadows, woods and shifting sand dunes

  • Toruń

    Gothic architecture at its best, and the birthplace of Copernicus

  • Poznań

    Lively commercial city with plenty of museums and great entertainment options

  • Wrocław

    Poland’s fourth largest city, with plenty of cultural and architectural attractions

  • Auschwitz-Birkenau

    The Nazis’ largest extermination camp is Poland’s most moving sight

  • Malbork

    In a country strewn with castles, this monumental Teutonic masterpiece tops the list

  • 8 The Great Masurian Lakes

    A region of myriad lakes and patchwork forests, loved by sailors and kayak enthusiasts

  • Białowieża National Park

    Home to wild European bison and Europe‘s largest patch of primeval forest

  • 10 Warsaw

    The country’s capital, a place of unshakable energy and stamina

  • 11 Zamość

    A city with an abundance of Renaissance splendour and oodles of charm

  • 12 Zakopane

    The country’s most beloved mountain resort, with ample opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and winter sports

  • 13 The Bieszczady

    A forgotten corner dominated by mountains, meadows and pristine forests

  • 14 Kraków

    A city life no other – a royal seat for 500 years, its beauty will leave you gob-smacked

Fantasy Friday: Beautiful Bolivia

Lonely Planet knows how to do it right in Bolivia, of course.

Let’s close our eyes (wait…read this though) and picture ourselves being transported to one of the wildest parts of South America:

Simply superlative – this is Bolivia. It’s the hemisphere’s highest, most isolated and most rugged nation. It’s among the earth’s coldest, warmest, windiest and steamiest spots. It boasts among the driest, saltiest and swampiest natural landscapes in the world.

Top 5 things to do and see in Bolivia:

1. Salar de Uyuni – An eerie, otherworldly sea of salt that will haunt your daydreams for years to come.

2. Potosí – A wealth of colonial churches with fabulous paintings, and miners looking to strike it lucky in hell.

3. Sorata – Alluring spot for action or inaction, for exhilarating treks or swinging in a hammock.

4. Parque Nacional Torotoro – Thousands of dinosaur tracks criss-cross this rough and rugged beauty of a national park.

5. Samaipata – This picturesque, laid-back town is the gateway to the pre-Inca site, El Fuerte, and stunning Parque Nacional & Área de Uso Múltiple Amboró.

Just stunning. What a unique and interesting landscape/history this place has. Count me in!

Hike #1 this summer: Carthew-Alderson – Waterton, Alberta

It was a tough decision making this hike my #1 experience this summer while away camping and doing photography for 2 months.

My previous three: Specimen Ridge in Yellowstone, Sulphur Springs in Jasper, and Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone were all spectacular hikes.

But, after I looked over the photographs that were taken on this hike, I figured out that it was not such a hard decision after all.

Here are the dets from the Waterton Park site.

Distance: 18.0 km / 11.1 mi (one-way, transportation needed to or from trailhead)
Time: 6 – 8 hours (plan a full day)
Elevation Gain: 650 m / 2132′

Carthew-Alderson is one of the most beautiful hikes in Waterton Lakes National Park. Enjoy some of the most breathtaking scenery the Canadian Rockies has to offer! This trail winds through the montane, sub-alpine, and alpine zones! From Carthew Summit look east over the peaks to the prairies, and south into Glacier National Park, Montana.

Highlights include a misty walk through one of Waterton Park’s oldest forests, and the pyramidal grandeur of Mt. Alderson. You can take the hike from Cameron Falls in the Townsite to Cameron Lake, or from Cameron Lake to the Falls.

Follow the thick red line!

So come 7:45 am on this beautiful August morning, with coffee in hand (necessity!), we set out with a group of about 10 others in a mini bus from The Tamarak and headed to Cameron Lake to begin this adventure.

As per usual, we began our little competition of making sure we stayed in first place, ahead of the bus load of people that were dropped off with us. A few quick pictures were snapped of the two glacial lakes along the way.

It seemed that everywhere we turned, an amazing, jaw-dropping scene awaited us. So for once, we decided to sacrifice a record time on the hike and take it slowly. We stopped to appreciate all of the various scenes in front of us.

Wowee – look at that!

One of my favorite spots on the hike was an optional side trail to the peak up Carthew Ridge. It had one of the most breathtaking views I have ever seen. You could see into Montana, and Glacier National Park. You could see all the glacial lakes dotting the landscape and mountain peaks rising from the ground and surrounding you in a awe-inspiring 360 degree view. As my boyfriend was off on one of his frantic searches for wildlife to photograph, I sat atop a rock and enjoyed a peaceful view of the rugged landscape.

Another fav (it was so hard to pick a fav moment) was walking over a ridge of snow that emptied out into a lake. I could actually see the belly of the snowpack from the base of the lake. Ohhh what fun it would be to take my geography students to this area!

Overall, I had to designate this hike as my favorite, over Avalanche Peak in Yellowstone because there were just so many unique, diverse and spectacular views awaiting me with every 10 steps I took.

Almost there! We can see the townsite peaking out from the trees.

Hike #4 Specimen Ridge: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Hike #3 – Sulphur Skyline: Jasper, Alberta

Hike #2 – Avalanche Peak: Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

What the bleep is glamping?!

I’ve been seeing it everywhere lately, this ‘glamorous camping’. And by everywhere, that means on Pinterest. I can’t quite wrap my head around the concept, and why this is becoming/is so popular.

Here is my version of glamorous camping:

Glamorous! I even have my Kobo awaiting me on the picnic table!

Not so glamorous – after a wind storm. Bye bye tent.

Anyway, I don’t think my version of glamorous camping is the same version that everyone is talking about. Research time!

This luxury camper in the Highlands of Scotland has a shower, TV, microwave, kettle, fridge AND an electric heater AND is 200 metres from pubs and a grocery store. Don’t worry though, you have to rough it a bit – there is NO cutlery provided. Phew!

At least I can see a picnic table in this photo. Some of the next glamping experience do not have this camping staple at all! Shame, shame.

Wow – check out this one in Martis, Italy. There are tiny Christmas lights all over the ‘Emperor Bell Tent’.

Please read what this site provides for a wonderful glamping experience:

“No sleeping bags, hard floors, or ‘roughing it’ we provide everything you need for your glamping holiday.

Leave your cares behind and unwind. We provide everything,  just bring your heart and soul and romance. Honeymoon couples will be spoilt upon request!

Each Emperor tent has a separate private gas heated shower, vanity basin and eco toilet facility, you also have a private terrace with garden furniture and a little Cool Pool.”

WHAT?! Shouldn’t your private little terrace there be the edge of a cliff, situated along a valley with a meandering stream, speckled with grazing ___________ (bison, deer, antelope, bear….ANY wildlife).

This place has breakfast service, PRIVATE showers, a fridge and a freezer, even CUTLERY! Wow. Way to be closer to nature!

On Mafia Island off the coast of Tanzania – your very own private island awaits your glamping experience. It starts off describing the bar and restaurant areas encourage guests to walk around barefoot, then walk out to your private beach, and later have a nice cool shower in the solar powered facilities.

And hey – while you are at it, go to the spa for a nice massage to help you relax just a bit more…

Finally, near Queenstown, New Zealand, I could take a helicopter into a very remote area (could I at least hike in there?! Is that too much to ask?!).

Here’s what’s in store in this glacial valley:

“Guests are hosted under canvas in luxuriously furnished tented suites complete with wall to wall sheepskin carpet, king beds, private deck set with its own hot tub, full en-suite with double vanity and endless hot showers.

On-site facilities include the ‘Mountain Kitchen’ with its well stocked library, dining room, living area, open fires, first class chef and on-site private guides.”

A LIBRARY?!?! A FIRST CLASS CHEF?! SHEEPSKIN CARPET!?!? Why is the word CAMPING even PART of this style of traveling?! This isn’t a type of glamourous camping, it’s a type of luxurious travel in very expensive but unique rooms with full amenities and beyond. I can’t even use the word ‘rustic’ for most of these examples.

Do I sound cynical? If I do, it’s because I am fighting very hard right now not to click on the reservation button on one of these options. Groan.

More glamping locations:

The Red Snowshoe in Slocan Valley, British Columbia – Canada

Forest Tree Houses, South Carolina – U.S.A.

Le Camp – South Western France

Surfing Beach – Santa Maria, Greece

Mmm I could do this one – are there sand flies?