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Hiking Moab: Outside the National Parks

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You don’t have to know me too well to know that I love hiking, and if I had my choice of doing it anywhere in the world, I’d choose Southern Utah. I’ve been a heck of a lot of places on the globe, but I just can’t get enough of my coveted Promised Land. Most people who’ve been to the vast and exciting area choose to go to what I call “the other side,” meaning Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. I completely understand why: easier access from Vegas, much more well known. Guess I can’t blame them. And hey, less traffic on “my side,” which is the east side of Southern Utah. Moab and I  met way back in 1995, quite by accident, when my beloved Mom and I wanted to see Arches and maybe just a bit of Canyonlands on one of our first road trips. Which we did! Love was born. Love has only grown. In fact, when I buy an RV and head out to live on the road in a few years, guess where I’ll be heading first? Maybe I’ll never leave!

Today, I’ve done so much hiking in Arches and Canyonlands that when I went back this summer I decided to explore outside the parks. Frankly, Arches is wonderful, but it’s so small and there are so many vehicles choking the roads that I take a pass now. I’ve pretty much hiked everything there and with plenty of other wonders to keep me busy, I’m not hankering yet to do them again. On the other hand, I still have not had enough of Canyonlands. It’s much more remote, way bigger, and offers four “districts,” two of which I haven’t even set foot in yet. So, I did spend some time there yet again, repeating hikes I haven’t done in a few years. But here are a couple of treks beyond the famous parks that I’d give about seven hundred stars to. They’ll feed your hunger for the Arches and Canyonlands, with a lot less human traffic.

Fisher Towers

Located on the gorgeous Utah 128, Fisher Towers is an absolute stunner about 20 miles east of Moab. Leave I-70 at exit 214, SR 128 West, not at US 191 the way the interstate signs say, and take this lesser known and used route to Moab. You can thank me after you do it. I’ll talk more about the highway itself below, but for now let’s concentrate on Fisher Towers.

As you near the majestic and castle-like towers, there will be a few pull-offs along SR 128. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that any of these are the official parking areas for the Fisher Tower Trail; they aren’t. The actual trail is about a mile down a well-maintained gravel road that is accessible by any vehicle and has its own clearly seen sign. Any of those other lots will have you on horse trails. I made that mistake, though I can’t say I’m at all sorry, as I was hiking surrounded by arguably the most incredible scenery on Earth, and different 360 views than the Fisher Towers Trail. But if you only have a few hours to hike before you continue on to Moab, take the signed dirt road.

Before I did this hike I found some misleading information that designated the trail as easy. Don’t make this mistake, either. Fisher Towers isn’t easy. It’s rocky, the footing is tricky in some places, and there’s 1,800 feet in gain/loss over approximately five miles round trip, including a ladder. I suggest full hiking gear, most importantly sturdy boots and socks high enough to keep you from collecting dirt. There’s also very little shade if you’re hiking in warm weather, not a drop of water, even though the Colorado River is not far away on the opposite side of SR 128, and slippery sand in several places. But make no mistake about it, the payoff is grand. The rusty sandstone towers resemble man made ruins, so much so that when I posted pictures on Facebook I had to explain that the scenery is the handiwork of none other than Mama Nature.

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The entire trail is a spectacle to behold, but the real payoff is the first mile and a half. Expect nothing better than that and you won’t be disappointed when you get to what appears to be the “end” and find many little side trails to views your jaw has already dropped for a thousand times. Find your personal favorite and have lunch before you head back to your car.

Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail

This is one of those trails that I can’t believe I didn’t do the first several times I was in my favorite place. Do yourself a big favor and don’t GPS this one! The route GPS or Google Maps gives you is misleading. The trail is totally simple to get to from Moab. Just head toward Arches National Park on 191 North from town and turn left on SR 279, another beauty, albeit a short one. Drive with your head on a spindle until you come to the well-marked trail parking lot on the right hand side.

The Corona and Bowtie Arch Trail is another hot, dry, sandy one with a big time reward. It’s much flatter than the Fisher Towers hike, with less than 500 feet in gain/loss, a lot of it on the initial climb from the parking lot. If not for some rather tricky cables and a ladder, I’d rate it as easy. The hardware makes it moderate. And yes, you can see the arches without ascending the ladder, but don’t you dare miss a closer look.

I had the whole fabulous area to myself, though All Trails rates it as “heavily trafficked.” It’s fair enough to say that the cables and ladders will keep some people away. Don’t be one of those people; it’s takes about two minutes to do both, and the cables have very good footholds, though I wouldn’t recommend doing it with dogs, children, (including those on your back) or in wet or icy conditions. This trek is real National Geographic stuff and better yet, can be done in a matter of two to three hours, including all the silly selfies you can muster.

Highway 128

Okay, it isn’t really a hike, and if you’ve never been to an area like Southern Utah you probably can’t fathom a highway being a destination, but take my word, SR 128 to Moab is a trip in and of itself. When I go to the area now I’m prone to just parking on the side of the highway, donning my backpack, and setting off to see what I can see. When you leave I-70 it’s going to take an hour or so of driving for SR 128 to “get good,” but when it does, oh, it’s pretty fantastic! The Colorado River will start out to your east, on the left side of the road, but will eventually flow underneath the highway and end up on the right the remainder of the way to Moab. Before long you’ll enter the Colorado Riverway Recreation Area, scene of delight for paddlers and rafters. I had my first trip on the river this summer, but that’s another blog! Soon Fisher Towers come into view on opposite side of the road, with Castleton Towers thrown in for good measure. I’ve always thought that this land of wonder could be a national park. Maybe it will be someday.

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Closer to Moab on 128 are Grandstaff Canyon and Icebox Canyon. I intended to do Grandstaff while I was there this summer, but I ran out of energy! Next time.

My side of Southern Utah offers so much, inside and outside the national parks. This is just a morsel of what the area offers to hiking fans, not to mention mountain bikers, BASE jumpers, and many other adventure seekers. I like to say that if you ain’t been to Moab, you ain’t really been. When are you going?

My New Direction

 

Did you ever do something you’ve always wanted to do and ended up wanting to do something else instead? Well, I did just that!

For decades, I wanted to write and publish books. With the opportunity that self-publishing brought, I went for it and gave birth to seven works of fiction, all of which I love and am very proud of.  Those seven titles came out between January of 2017 and April of 2019. Meanwhile, I started blogging here about a year and a half ago and realized that I also love doing that. As I went along, I noticed that more than anything I was writing, my travel and hiking blogs were attracting attention. Made me wonder if maybe I had to rethink my focus, as there’s only so much time in a day, particularly when you already work a full-time teaching job. Even as I wrote books about rock and roll groupies, it was always on the back burner to align all my writing with the things I do everyday and love to do. Makes perfect sense, right?

Cut to the beginning of this year. I start my 2019 travels. Trips to see my niece in South Carolina. Patagonia. Portugal (again.) Road trips. Sri Lanka. In between, lots of hiking and weekend trips. The book writing starts to slip. And then, it naturally takes a back seat. To the point that I hardly even want to put out that last book, as hard as I worked on it. I did it anyway. Got some blogs out there, too. And wished that I could find time to post more. The outdoor fun continues, and soon, the fiction writing is totally derailed, even though my plan was to have ten books “out there” before I considered a change in focus. Suddenly, traveling, hiking, and blogging about traveling and hiking are the most important things, and what continue to garner me the most attention.

Well! I did revive my fiction pursuits for long enough to edit two more books this summer, and I have two others in pretty good shape, one of which I totally forgot existed! But after an incredible year of travel and adventure (with still more to come!) I had to make a decision. And here’s what just kept coming up: I want to get paid to take road trips. Yeah, it sounds crazy, but that’s what I want, and that’s what I’m pursuing. I plan to take an early retirement from my teaching job in three years and live on the highways of the United States and Canada in an RV (and to further explore Australia, New Zealand, and any other countries that beckon in the same fashion.) Until then, I’m going to learn how to support myself doing what I love to do most. And folks, I loooooove being on the road.

My blog will be the cornerstone and first step toward that dream. Soon, I’ll be monetizing. Yeah, I love looking at my website so pristine and pretty and without all those annoying flashing ads. But if I want to live my dream I have to get going on figuring out how to pay the bills while on the road and to supplement my retirement income.

Some other ideas are to start a YouTube channel, get public speaking gigs, and write how-to books. I’ve already begun a guide to being a pro at road tripping. Click here for a preview. I’m also collecting names for an all-new newsletter with more travel, hiking, and lifestyle advice and information. You can sign up here if you would like to receive it.

Changing directions is so tough, even if you know it’s what you should do. But I feel excited and optimistic about my decision, like everything is aligning just the way I want it to!

Thank you to everyone who has supported my writing career thus far, to everyone who has followed my blog, and to those who have read and enjoyed my work.

You ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

Be A Weekend Warrior!

As I head back to my teaching duties after another summer of total freedom, I’m faced with the prospect of not being able to leave town for three whole months. It’s the longest stretch of time of the year for me that I have to be home, playing it cool. Most people have twelve-month jobs with even longer periods between time off. If you’re in a new job, it could take a year or more before you have a paid vacation. Maybe you don’t even get a paid vacation. Does that mean you have to be miserable until you’re cut free for more than a few days in a row? Absolutely not! The answer is to become a Weekend Warrior!

Yeah, we all have to clean our homes, take care of the yard, and pay the bills. But, we have to be careful that those things don’t encroach on our down time. What you NEED to do doesn’t have to always eat up the time that you could be doing what you WANT to do with. Make this your mantra: DO MORE OF WHAT YOU WANT TO DO AND LESS OF WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO. That’s the first step in being a Weekend Warrior. Don’t let what you have to do overwhelm you to the point that you can’t find time for fun!

Truth is, I used to be an obsessive cleaner. Cleaning was my thing. Couldn’t see a spot anywhere. Well, not anymore! I still must live in a clean and tidy home. But you won’t catch me pushing a mop any more frequently than every other week.  I’d much rather be hiking. So, that’s what I’m doing instead of cleaning. The real trick is getting your surroundings just the way you want them, so that when things get a little out of sync it’s quick and easy to get them back that way. If you let things go for too long it’s too difficult to remedy them quickly. That’s when we get bogged down, and soon we’re working instead of having fun. Who wants to spend every hour of free time dusting shelves or cutting the grass?

Once you get things behind the scenes the way you want them, you’re ready to be a Weekend Warrior.

The Great Outdoors

My first choice for the weekend is being outdoors. And you can be sure I won’t be sitting still. Do you know how great it is to love doing something that also keeps you healthy? I read a great article years ago about things that are a waste of money. Joining a gym was included on the list. Can’t help but agree with this. Mother Nature has the world’s biggest gym. And it’s free! “The outdoors” can be just about anywhere. That doesn’t necessarily mean being in the woods. I’m lucky enough to be able to take day trips to New York City or Boston. The next day I can be in the mountains or hiking around a peaceful lake. Maybe you live close to a different city. Take a bus or train and walk the streets for a day. If you’re a foodie, (I’m not!) sample the street cuisine. If you aren’t, pack a couple of meals in a backpack and find the best view possible when it’s time to eat lunch. Are you fortunate enough to live near a National Park? Well first, I’m jealous! Second, how good of a day or overnight trip is that? Unless you live on the moon, I’ll just bet that you live somewhere near a state park or forest. It takes three hours to hike six miles at a normal pace. In the same three hours you can walk nine miles at a normal pace. Maybe you love being on the water instead of walking around it. Renting a boat for a day doesn’t cost much. I know a lot of people, and not just men, who find fishing totally relaxing. You don’t even need a boat to do that. You can do it from the shore and bring a nice picnic lunch for those moments when the fish aren’t biting. Doesn’t that sound better than cleaning?

The Great Indoors

I personally think that eating out a lot is a waste of money, but if it’s your thing and it relaxes you and allows you to escape thoughts of work, then do it! Maybe a morning walk, lunch at your favorite place, then a movie.  You’ll still have time to relax on the couch at home and have a glass of wine after several hours on the town. How about reading? Does anyone besides me take the time to read as a hobby? This is one that I wish I had more time to do. I’d love to just sit around for hours a day and read. But that doesn’t put steps on the pedometer, and there’s no view! Still, having a book on the kitchen table to read while you have coffee or a snack, or in between Weekend Warrior activities can make those pages go by pretty fast and allows you to keep your brain active and entertained.

Sporting Events

I have to give this its own category, since sports are both inside and outside. If spectating is your thing, there are plenty of opportunities to support local or national teams in every sport under the rainbow. Being there is a lot more interesting than watching it on TV!

Craft Shows and Fairs

It’s staggering how many specialty shows and fairs are out there now to enjoy. Whatever you’re interested in, there’s a show for you. You just have to find it. Your local AAA chapter can likely help!

And last, but not least…

Meetup

Don’t have anyone to Warrior with? Need some new and fresh ideas? I highly recommend Meetup. Let’s face it: It’s hard to meet people, what with everyone hiding behind a computer or cell phone. Meetup gives you the chance to come face to face with men and women that have the same interests you do. There are groups for just about everything, and the ones I’ve checked out have made me feel very welcome from the first get-together. It’s 100% free to join, create a profile, and search for events, and a lot of the groups strive to schedule low-cost meetups so members can attend frequently.

Listen…no excuses now! Put down that cleaning rag and have fun during your time off instead!

 

 

Four Things You Must Do in Sri Lanka

 

 

When Lonely Planet named Sri Lanka the top destination to visit in 2019, tourism boomed. The country had it all: stunning beaches, incredible wildlife viewing, great exchange rate, colorful and friendly locals. Then, April 21st happened. On Easter Sunday, in the capital city of Colombo, three Christian churches and three luxury hotels were targeted by seven suicide bombers, leaving 259 people dead and the world’s trust in Sri Lanka sagging.

I’m not here to write about the minute details of the attack. What I am here to say is that less than three months later, I visited Sri Lanka, and it’s a perfectly safe place to go. All the pluses mentioned above, and more, hold true. Furthermore, Sri Lankans are not in denial about what happened. They know they have to dig the country out of a hole. They wanted to talk about it. It was refreshing.

If you have plans already, don’t cancel them.  If you’ve always wanted to go, I say: go. My travel companion and I went with One and Only Travels and had our own guide/driver, and four and five star hotels. I’m not getting paid to endorse this company and do so only based on the experiences we had. They offer packages that are flexible and can be changed based on your priorities. Leaving group travel behind was a real plus. And the price we paid was almost embarrassing. We spent two weeks in the country for under $3,000, including airfare, which I booked through cheapoair. 

Here are four things to do that shouldn’t be missed.

VISIT BUDDHIST TEMPLES & HISTORICAL SITES

All the other great stuff aside, my first attraction to Sri Lanka was the Buddhist sites. I remember pouring over books about the philosophy long ago and reading that Sri Lanka was one of the best places in the world to explore Buddhism. Back then, I never thought I’d be lucky enough to get there, especially since it wasn’t considered a safe country due to a 25-year civil war that lasted from 1983 to 2009. But lo and behold, I made it! The grand daddy is to visit the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic (Sri Dalada Maligawa) in Kandy, which holds a tooth which is said to belong to none other than Sidhartha Gautama, also known as Buddha. Don’t expect to see the actual tooth unless you stand in an extremely long and slow moving line, but you can certainly easily take in the ritual of the opening of the golden doors that hide it and watching devout Buddhists as they worship the sight of the tooth.

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My personal favorites were Dambulla Cave Temple located in the town of the same name and offering five ancient caves filled with Buddhist images and statues, some as old as 2,000 years, and nearby Sigiriya Rock Fortress, which was not only a monastery for many centuries, but was once the residence of a very creative king.

 

The entrance to the Sigiriya, or Lion Rock, was once in the shape of a giant lion. Today, only the paws and claws remain, but it is a fun, unique, and interesting climb that includes viewing some well-preserved frescoes of scantily clad women that may be a sampling of the king’s many concubines. Ruins of the king’s fortress remain at the top, and the view is pretty great, too!

VIEW WILDLIFE

Since I was always so interested in the Buddhist aspects of Sri Lanka, I never really considered it to be a great place to see wildlife. Good thing my travel companion enlightened me. Naturally, the best place to view animals is at national parks, but don’t be surprised if you see some amazing creature lumbering down the side of the road:

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This gorgeous lady was happy to be photographed and videotaped for a few minutes, but chased our vehicle when she’d had enough! Ahh, what a memory!

Want to really see some elephants? We viewed almost two hundred of them in Kaudulla National Park. We also went to Sri Lanka’s most famous park,  the extremely remote Yala, where we were blessed with spotting a leopard coming to a watering hole for a drink.

 

Extra added bonus at Yala: viewing the raging Indian Ocean. Our tour included two other national parks, but we paid what turned out to be very small additional fees for our guide to set us up to go to Kaudulla and Yala instead. Worth it! These safaris were private, like the rest of our trip. Top that.

We also visited an elephant rescue as well as a turtle hatchery, which I’ll talk more about below.

DON’T DARE MISS THOSE GORGEOUS BEACHES

As an island nation, Sri Lanka has beaches on all sides. We hit the coast as our last stop, south of Colombo, in the Beruwala area. Beruwala is lined with private resorts. It’s also home to turtle hatcheries, which buy eggs from locals who intend to eat them. Instead, the hatcheries bury the eggs and raise the turtles for three years before setting them out into the Indian Ocean.

Side note: I didn’t ask to hold this big, flopping boy. The owner just plunked him in my hands and started taking pictures!  I was afraid of dropping him, and he gave me a scratch or two, not unlike a cat, before I lowered him into the safety of his tank.

Beruwala Beach and the roaring India Ocean lie beyond the boundaries of the resorts, which are protected by security guards. Once you leave the confines of your hotel, you are fair game to any and all souvenir merchants. But the further I got down the beach, the less humanity I saw. Even in a heavy tourist area like Beruwala, it is possible to find a slice of privacy. I also found a monitor stalking around! As the self-proclaimed Lizard Whisperer, I was able to get some pretty good shots of him. Not recommended for everyone.

THE MOUNTAINS

The beach was our last stop before heading home, but as a hiker and a lover of solitude, the mountains of Sri Lanka were the best of the best. To be more specific, the area of Ella was without match on our adventure. This was the place I didn’t want to leave.

Back to Lonely Planet one more time. The famed train from Demodara passes through terraced tea plantations en route to Ella. Lonely Planet rated it as one of the top experiences to have in the entire country. This stumps me, because my friend and I thought it was way over-hyped. The windows were dirty, it was uncomfortable and hot, and children were running up and down the aisles the whole time. If that’s your idea of fun, well, you’re going to love it. We thought being in the car and driving through the plantations was much more wonderful. Oh, and Ramboda Falls, with trumpet flowers in bloom, was simply one of the most jaw-dropping scenes I’ve ever been lucky enough to take in.

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Ella is a Westernized town with more than enough restaurants and shops to please the most homesick American. We drove right through and ended up in a remote enclave called 98 Acres with a view of Little Adam’s Peak, which we climbed the next day. We loved this area so much, we talked about going back to Sri Lanka just to spend more time there!

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I’ve just scratched the surface of the wonders of Sri Lanka. Easily one of my favorite countries, with something for everyone. A visitor can get a pretty good overview of the island in a couple of weeks.

Are your bags packed?

 

 

Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: Journey with Dorothy

Oh heck, it’s just been too long since my last post, and here I am two trips behind! Since I wrote last I’ve been to North and South Carolina to see my beloved niece, and followed that up with a couple of weeks in Sri Lanka, which also included a long layover in London. I’m heading to the Southwest next Tuesday for two glorious weeks of hiking, so I’d better get catching up a little here!

If you read all my blogs then you know that I have a “thing” for the Wizard of Oz. I also have a “thing” for weird and interesting places. So it’s only natural that I’d take great interest in an abandoned amusement park in North Carolina called The Land of Oz. There are plenty of stories to be found on social media and beyond about the place. Let me take some of the mystery out of the Land of Oz, and tell the real story.

I won’t go into the history of the park and have anyone yawning. But if you’re interested, and also want to read about the spook factor, click here.

These days, if you’re paying attention, you’ll find out that the Land of Oz has been restored. The park opens on select weekends in the summer, and even fewer weekends in the autumn months. The summer offering is called Journey with Dorothy, and is usually announced in early spring. After some research, I just kept watching the Land of Oz website until the tickets went on sale. We paid about $30 with taxes and fees, but prices may change for next year.

Now, if you’ve heard previously about the Land of Oz and read articles like the one above, then the following news may be disappointing: no, you can’t “jump the fence” of Oz and wander through this “creepy” place on your own. The theme park is at the top of Beech Mountain and is part of a ski resort of the same name. To even get to the park requires a ride on the ski lift, or a bus. (My niece and I took the lift, which takes about ten minutes, and was an extra ten bucks.) The people writing these articles had to have gotten permission to enter the property. Having been there, sneaking into this place isn’t likely. And when you can Journey with Dorothy, who needs to break in?

Here’s how it will go.

Before you start down the Yellow Brick Road you’ll meet up with your group in a gazebo with a beautiful view from 5,500′ above sea level. There, you may be asked to volunteer to be the Scarecrow, Tin Man, Cowardly Lion, Glinda, the Good Witch of the East, or the Wicked Witch of the West. Once props are handed out, you’re ready to go!

Your journey will last a little over an hour, and in that hour you will start out in Kansas, where you’ll first meet Dorothy Gale. But not until you run into her nemesis, Miss Gulch!

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Toto will be mentioned, but don’t be disappointed to find out that there isn’t any dog jumping out of a basket. Training a dog to follow this whole program would be pretty tough. Anyway, the journey is so well done you’ll hardly notice.

Shortly after Dorothy appears out of the Gale household she sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” Then, the storm comes. You’ll follow her through the dark house, across uneven floors that sure feel like they’re shaking and spinning, and when you exit you’ll be in Land of Oz and will start your journey down the famous road!

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As you can see from the picture it’s still a little rickety.

Along the way, all the beloved characters get their time to tell their stories, and you’ll have the opportunity to take pictures of them.

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(Hey, I never noticed the Wicked Witch of the West had a baby, did you?)

Our Dorothy was also very gracious about posing with everyone who wanted photos. Don’t be embarrassed to ask just because you’re a grown up! This experience is for kids of all ages!

As you follow Dorothy and her pals down the Yellow Brick Road you’ll also encounter a witch’s castle, trees with faces, and lots of colorful flowers before reaching Emerald City, where the Wizard will hand out his many wonderful gifts to the travelers.

The journey ends here. What fun!

Just a warning about the weather: we were there at the beginning of summer and it was cold and windy on Beech Mountain. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that however it feels closer to sea level will be how it feels at 5,500 feet. The temperature felt a lot more like mid fall New England than southern summer.

Boone, North Carolina offers many types and prices of accommodations and is twenty miles from the Beech Mountain Resort and the Land of Oz.

Interested in Journeying with Dorothy? Start watching for tickets in March of 2020!

 

Daring Tales of A Determined Woman: The End of the World

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By the time this gets published I’ll be a long way from the End of the World and will, in fact, be somewhere quite normal.  That wasn’t the case this past February, when I traveled to Ushuaia, Argentina, the third stop on a whirlwind trip to Buenos Aires and Patagonia. Previously, I posted about how to get to Patagonia for cheap, and what to do if you’re ever in El Calafate, a popular town to start your Patagonian adventures from. I’ll finish by talking about Ushuaia, Tierra Del Fuego, which is also known as the End of the World because, well…it’s pretty much the last town in Argentina before you either fall into the Beagle Channel or you board a really expensive boat to Antarctica.

I’m going to be completely honest here: this isn’t an exciting place. Ushuaia isn’t hopping with things to do like El Calafate. You aren’t going to see stunning glaciers or world famous national parks. The main reason to visit Ushuaia is to say that you’ve been to Ushuaia, or even better, to say that you went to Antarctica! I can say the former, but I can’t say the later. (Yet!) Yeah, I reached the End of the World, and being able to add it as my location in my Facebook posts made me the talk of the town for about three days. Social media silliness aside, my travel mates and I were grasping to find things to do to fill our time there.

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Before I make suggestions, let’s talk about pronunciation. I hadn’t a clue how to say the name of this place, so I made something up in conversation: oo-shoo-ah-i, and hoped that I was right. Nope! Impress your friends by knowing how to say the name of the town: oos-way-ah. That’s right, you don’t pronounce the “sh” like you would in English. Good. Now that you know more than I did when I was already on my way there, we can now move on to bigger and better things.

After the excitement of El Calafate, I was kind of stumped on the quick one-hour flight down to Ushuaia, with a kind of “now what?” thing going on. When I had done my research from home, the information I came up with was scanty at best.  Yet, my thoughts changed as we neared. If you’re as lucky as we were and get a clear day to fly into the area, you’re going to get the best view you’ll ever have of the mountains surrounding the town:

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And you may just get the feeling that you’re about to land in a dream. Not so, but it’s definitely something to remember.

The town itself, while not particularly attractive, is well equipped, with plenty of restaurants, including a Hard Rock Cafe, gift shops, and quirky venues, like the Ice Bar.  For ten bucks you can spend something like twenty minutes in the place, have a really strong drink, and wear a silver and fur poncho and gloves while rubbing elbows with the Abominable Snowman. This may not seem like a lot of time, but when you see how small the ice room is and feel the cold start to seep in, twenty minutes will seem like an eon. I’m not sorry I went, but just a warning: the people running the place were incredibly rude and unprofessional. Maybe you’ll have a different experience.

A walk around town will provide you with a chance to take a picture in front of the sign touting the geographical End of the World, as well as a another spelling out the name of the town in giant white letters. You’ll also be afforded the best sea level view of Ushuaia, with a reflecting shot of the mountains and colorful boxy buildings:

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If this doesn’t sound that exciting to you, join the crowd. But rest assured, I’ve saved the best for last. The most fun you can have in Ushuaia without going to Antarctica is to get on a boat tour to Isla Martillo, to see the penguins. It’s a lovely experience. You’ll also see sea lions and cormorants, which are similar to penguins. Most tours don’t allow you to get off the boat. We didn’t and I don’t feel like we missed much. The vessel still got close to the animals and gave plenty of time to take pictures.

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Several companies compete with each other for customers. We went with Canoero Catamaranes and were very happy with our experience. Comfortable boat, friendly staff, and nice on-board amenities.

Whew! It took me months to do it, but I finally have a complete trio of Patagonia posts!

Now, time to complete my packing for tomorrow’s trip…

 

 

 

Daring Tales of a Determined Woman: Proving the World Wrong

The world around us can be pretty rough place, the people who inhabit it even rougher. They bring us down about things that we know aren’t true, yet they bear so heavily on our minds that they become true. We have two choices in the matter: either we can let those untruths shatter us, or we can prove them wrong. I’ll bet you already guessed that I prefer the latter. There would be no reason for this post if I thought otherwise.

For years I didn’t have people to hang with. Ninety-five percent of my life was spent alone. For my first three and a half decades I had my mom, dad, sisters, niece, and nephews to be with. Some have passed away, others have gone their own way and only come back occasionally, a few are still hanging on. Regardless of where they went, (or didn’t), they left a big hole in my life that took almost as many years to fill.

Make no mistake: I love being alone and take no issue with it. In fact, that subject had its very own blog several months ago. However, over the past couple of years I’ve noticed a very interesting phenomenon taking place: the entrance of great people. It’s an event that I can’t help smiling to myself about, even giggling, because for years, so many potential comrades made me feel like I just wasn’t worth bothering with. As is always the case, there are the haters that still do.

Chasing is for the young and foolish, and I did enough of it to last me a lifetime. What you learn as you get older is that things happen in their own time, not because you want them to. I don’t believe that things happen when you aren’t paying attention or you aren’t “looking,” but that they occur because the timing is right. The timing may never be right for some things, and relationships are at or close to the top of that list. Then again, if you really make a connection with someone, you may just need to recognize when you should “step back” and give that other person some room, while you continue on with your life. I guess it goes back to that old saying, “If you love someone, set them free.” Love can always be changed to like or respect, and the rest of the saying, “If they come back they’re yours, if they don’t they never were,” still holds true. When I stopped chasing and learned to have patience in my potential relationships, good things started happening.

Friends 1

Here’s something wonderful I have to relate: I was searching Facebook for images for this post, and I came up with way more than expected. And once again I was overwhelmed. Wow, people like me! This fact is still a miracle to me. It took years, but I now have an amazing hiking companion. I also have travel partners. I’ve met a ton of wonderful writers through conferences and book signings. Facebook may have a lot of things wrong with, and you have to take the word “friend” with a grain of salt, but I’ve met wonderful individuals online that eventually became my real, face to face friends. I even have peeps that I meet up with to enjoy some nightlife. After a fifteen year absence, I’m cutting the rug again once or twice per month. Most of these relationships happened all on their own, but I highly recommend Meetup. There’s a huge selection of groups out there that are waiting to find you and are filled with folks who love to do the same things you do.

I hear people around me talking about the many friends they have. The whole world seems to be on the list. But when the going gets tough, where are they? Better to have a few heavy  hitters that are there to pick you up when you’re down than have a stadium full of fair weather buddies. Cement those relationships by being as good a friend to them as they are to you. And be choosy. Not everyone is good for you. If someone is too anxious to be in your life, there’s probably good reason for that.

In closing, don’t believe what the world says. You’re really okay.

If I am, you are, too.