Genesee Riverway and Erie Canal Path: History via Bikes

The Broad Street Bridge that used to take the old Erie Canal across the Genesee River.  I'm biking on the Genesee Riverway Trail.  Rochester, New York

The Broad Street Bridge that used to take the old Erie Canal across the Genesee River. I’m biking on the Genesee Riverway Trail.

For some reason, I’ve never biked (or even hiked) the Erie Canal Path.  It really isn’t that far from where I live and I’ve driven across it more times than I can count.  But for some reason, it’s never been a destination.  That all changed a few weeks ago when we decided we wanted one last hoorah before the kids started school.  Our last bike ride went so well, we thought it would be fun to do another.  Two canal locks, a dam, Rochester’s signature bridge, and 18 miles (29 km) later, we were sure: it had been a wonderful ride.

 

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Times Square Building, near where we began our ride, Rochester, New York

Times Square Building, near where we began our ride

I actually started by researching the Genesee Riverway Trail.  The problem was that …Read More

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10 Ways to Pack More Efficiently

Box full of cans, raisins, and macaroni and cheese (not to mention a few granola bars), ready to be packed in the van

Box full of cans, raisins, and macaroni and cheese (not to mention a few granola bars), ready to be packed in the van

So how do we get 10 people and all their clothes, food, trip info, and amusement for a three week adventure into one full size van?  Well, I’m certainly not going to give away all our tricks (because you probably don’t want to know, lol) but there are things we’ve found out along the way about how to pack more efficiently.  It helps that we’ve some pretty amazing packers who fill every nook and cranny with stuff (and then can find what we need without unpacking every last thing), but I think I can share a few things that could be used with (almost) any vehicle.

 

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Food, waiting to be packed

Food, waiting to be packed

#1 Ditch the suitcases.  Really!  They’re terrible …Read More

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Heliotrope Divide and Coleman Glacier – Fantastic Views!

Mount Baker and the Heliotrope Glacier from the

Mount Baker and the Coleman Glacier from the “end” of the Heliotrope Divide Trail

If you want a jaw-dropping view you don’t get most other places, try the Heliotrope Divide Trail on the side of Mount Baker in Washington.  Seriously.  The trail itself may not be that exciting (save for the four stream crossings), but at the end is a view you won’t easily forget.  A huge glacier spreads upward, beautiful yet ugly blue crevasses pitting the surface in neat yet natural streaks up the side of the snow.  After the shock of the glacier, look up to the cone of Mount Baker, or ‘way across the valley to the waterfalls that roar out from beneath the ice and snow.  Really: you don’t want to miss this one (especially at 6.5 miles (10.4 km) RT).

 

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Close-up on some of the ice and crevasses on Heliotrope Glacier, Mount Baker-Snoqualie National Forest, Washington

Close-up on some of the ice and crevasses

I hadn’t actually planned to hike Heliotrope Divide on …Read More

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Cape May Zoo: Free – and a Good One, Too!

This cheetah is pacing the fence because she can smell the white tailed deer on the other side!  Cape May Zoo, New Jersey

This cheetah is pacing the fence because she can smell the white tailed deer on the other side!

The Cape May Zoo is definitely something special.  Ok, sure, it has some of the same animals you’d find in almost any other zoo.  But what other zoo – besides the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. – has over 500 animals…and charges no admission prices to the casual traveler?  And the zoo is clean, the animals well-cared for and happy, there are no pushy donation displays, and the enclosures just small enough to let you get close to the wild animals…  What other zoo would I drive 4+ hours in horrible traffic, just to visit for a few hours?

 

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I first read about the Cape May Zoo about 7 years ago.  However, a …Read More

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Book Review: John Fielder’s Best of Colorado

John Fiedler's Best of Colorado Book

John Fiedler’s Best of Colorado

I originally wrote this review of the book “John Fielder’s Best of Colorado” for the now-debunked E-pinions website, so if it’s a little different style than what I usually publish, you’ll know why.

 

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Pros: Great information for the whole state; information about attractions for everyone; good index; outstanding photography

 

Cons: Doesn’t include admission price info; there aren’t pictures of everything

 

Climbing Fitzpatrick Peak was a last-minute decision when we read about it in John Fielder's Best of Colorado, Sawatch Range.

Climbing Fitzpatrick Peak was a last-minute decision when we read about it in the book.

I originally got this book out of the library when I was planning a family vacation to Colorado.  We even went clear across the county to get the book, because it was new and they wouldn’t do an interlibrary loan for us.  Well, I can tell you that the book was worth every mile we drove to get it, and worth the price to buy it.  I’d recommend it to anyone going to Colorado, no matter where they were going and what they are interested in doing, because this book has information for the entire state, both east and west (although it focuses on the mountain areas), and has helpful information about just about every activity available, from gaming, hotels, and restaurants to hiking, mountain biking, and rock climbing.  And, oh, did I mention that the photography is excellent?

 

North Clear Creek Falls on a misty morning, Rio Grande National Forest, Colorado

North Clear Creek Falls on a misty morning

John Fielder has written many, many books about Colorado.  He is also an excellent photographer, and in the book he often will give tips on how to take the best shots.  For example, about photographing Black Canyon of the Gunnison he says, “In order to create a sense of depth, employ perspective by including foreground in your scene when composing views into the canyon.  Foreground objects could include a pinion pine, juniper tree, interesting rocks, or a friend standing on the edge of the abyss!  If you wish to photograph in direct light, find vantages that allow you to see up or down the canyon.  Although the canyon runs on a northwest/southeast axis, find places where the rising and setting sun shines into, not across, the canyon, thus reducing the amount of shadow that can ruin the image.  Visit in winter when fresh snow creates highlights on the rock walls.”

 

Attop Hallet Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park.  This hike wasn't mentioned in the book, but the trail to get up here (Flattop Mountain) was.

Attop Hallet Peak, Rocky Mountain National Park. This hike wasn’t mentioned in the book, but the trail to get up here (Flattop Mountain) was.

The way that the book is laid out also just makes a lot of sense: John Fielder takes each section of the state, and then divides it up into town areas (for example, Vail is one town area, and Georgetown is another) with information about activities in and near the town.  I found this very helpful as I was looking in specific areas of the state for activities, and having all of the information in one place was great.  Activities include main attractions, hiking, cycling, rock climbing, mountain biking, gaming, museums, restaurants, and even rock hounding (the activities listed depend on what is in the area).  This is great; I can skip all the gaming and go straight to the hiking descriptions!  There are also special icons that indicate when he is talking about 4-wheel-driving and activities that are good to do with children.  Occasionally, there will also be information boxes with Colorado lore.  An added bonus is the “Scenic Location”s where the author talks about some of his favorite places to go (usually scenic drives, but all of which have great photo opportunities).  That’s another con: way too often he say this specific view is the absolute best scenery in Colorado!

 

Although from his description I wasn't sure if I'd like Creede, Colorado, it turned out to be a highlight of the trip.

Although from his description I wasn’t sure if I’d like Creede, Colorado, it turned out to be a highlight of the trip.

If you’re looking for a specific attraction, but can’t remember where it is in the book (very easy to do—there’s so much information!), the index is also excellent.  Just about every city and attraction that is mentioned in the book is in the index.  This is a very big pro for me!

 

Chihuahua Lake.  This book inspired me to climb my first 14er - Grays Peak!

Chihuahua Lake. This book inspired me to climb my first 14er – Grays Peak!

As I said in the cons, the one drawback with the book is that he doesn’t tell if there is a fee for the activities (except hotels and restaurants, where he gives general pricing information; for example, $-$$$).  Because I was planning for a large group, this information would have been helpful, especially if the fee was per person (per vehicle isn’t so bad since we all drive in one vehicle).  Another drawback is that there is so much information that he can’t possibly give a lot of information on anything, so you may want to research some of the attractions on the internet (like I did) before you go.  Still, his directions to the attractions tend to be very good, especially if you have a good map to follow as well.

 

Bottom of Long Draw Route, Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado

I don’t think the Long Draw Route to the bottom of Black Canyon of the Gunnison was included in the book, but there was enough info about Black Canyon to get me interested in researching it on the internet.

To sum it up, this book is incredible, and gives enough information that you could probably plan a vacation anywhere in the mountainous part of the state using this book alone.  (OK, I did look up the attractions on the internet, but you wouldn’t necessarily have to do that.  Also, it might be better to find hotels and such in other travel guides as he doesn’t list each and every hotel or restaurant in a given town or city.)  The librarian at the library we got the book from said she loved it because she felt like she could travel to Colorado in the pictures, and she had a hard time returning it to the library.  So, that’s another use for the book: the photography is so good you can take a trip without leaving the comfort of your armchair!

 

What’s your favorite travel book about Colorado?

Climbing St. Mary's Glacier, Colorado - another highlight discovered in the book.

Climbing St. Mary’s Glacier – another highlight discovered in the book.



Imagine what it would be like to take a trip through Colorado with John Fielder as your tour guide, or to be on location at a Fielder photo shoot. Now is your chance to do both! The celebrated photographer who has traveled the state for more than 20 years in search of its most beautiful vistas shares his love for Colorado's rugged beauty, as well as his knowledge of Colorado's historical, recreational, and cultural richness, in this extraordinary guidebook. Through lively text and spectacular images, John reveals more than 160 of his most treasured Colorado locations to photograph so you can work magic with your own camera. You can enjoy some of the state's prime offerings while you travel, as John profiles his favorite restaurants, hotels, hiking and biking trails, and area attractions. Local lore and cameos of influential Coloradans through the ages highlight the state's fascinating heritage. Whether you're a longtime local, a new resident, or an out-of-state visitor, John Fielder's Best of Colorado guarantees the ultimate insider experience!
List Price: $29.95 USD
New From: $6.55 USD In Stock
Used from: $0.53 USD In Stock

 

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Ptarmigan Ridge – So Many Exclamation Points!

Mount Baker, as seen from the meadows near the end of the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

Mount Baker, as seen from the meadows near the end of the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail

“Ptarmigan Ridge or bust.”  That’s what he told me one beautiful morning a few days before we planned to leave on a trip.  I stared at him in disbelief.  Usually a quiet, easy-going guy (particularly when it comes to which trails to hike), I wasn’t expecting anything quite this strong from anyone, let alone him.  “Ok,” I said – and set out to make sure that if everything else blew up, we’d be in Washington and do that trail, 10+ miles (16+ km) RT through the snow or not.

 

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Why I hike the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail: Views of Mt. Shuksan, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington

Why I hike the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail: Views of Mt. Shuksan

We’d done the Ptarmigan Ridge Trail about five years ago as a side-jaunt while doing the …Read More

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The Chapin / Chiquita / Ypsilon Loop: 3 Summits, 8 Miles!

Climbing Mount Chiquita, the views are outstanding! Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Climbing Mount Chiquita, the views are outstanding!

Ever since I read about the Mount Chapin, Mount Chiquita, Ypsilon Mountain loop trail in Rocky Mountain National Park in 2006, I’ve wanted to hike it.  I had it all planned, too: We’d go in September, before the snow fell, and we’d have a lovely (if longish for us then) hike (total length is about 8 miles (12.8 km) RT).  However, an early snowfall kept us far away from RMNP altogether, and after a few snowy hikes near Colorado Springs (including Raspberry Mountain and the Manitou Railroad Grade) we left Colorado behind for the warmer temperatures of Canyonlands National Park.  Still, I never really forgot about the hike.

 

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Looking back down the trail up Mount Chapin, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Looking back down the trail up Chapin

So imagine my surprise last year when I realized …Read More

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Tubing the Delaware – So Fun!

From the kayak, I snapped a picture of the tubers ahead of me on the Delaware River, Upper Delaware River National Recreation Area, New York

From the kayak, I snapped a picture of the tubers ahead of me

A few weeks ago, I did something I’ve always wanted to do.  Something I read about most of my childhood, heard about how fun it was, even planned at one point, but never did it.  Until now.  I tubed the Delaware.  Y’know, like, filling up a rubber tube, plopping in the water, plopping yourself on top of it, and floating downstream to wherever-the-river-takes-you.  And I can tell you it was so much fun!

 

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Rangers patrolling the river; they especially seem to frequent the rapids, Upper Delaware River National Recreation Area, New York

Rangers patrolling the river; they especially seem to frequent the rapids

We had a local guide with us; a friend who’d grown up in Port Jervis, New York and had done this particular route 50-100 times …Read More

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Games We Play on the Road

Autumn foliage on the road in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

Autumn foliage on the road in Great Basin National Park, Nevada

What do you do when you’re driving clear across the country to a vacation destination?  How do you fill those long hours in the car without either going stir crazy or hating every moment of the ride?  We often read, but you can only read for so long (especially when your books have to last three weeks…and you decided not to bring all three Lord of the Rings books this time).  And we enjoy looking out the window, but again, just how long can you do that in Wyoming?  So we began playing games.  These are some of our favorites.  Some are pretty typical (20 Questions) while others are at least somewhat original (Sing that Word).  Most are aimed at children / teens age 8+, but most could be played by younger ones, as well.  All can be played with any number of players, from 2 to infinity.

 

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Fall flowers at Corona Arch, Moab, Utah

Fall flowers at Corona Arch

That Reminds Me Of… This is one of my favorites, maybe because …Read More

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Hiking Up Green Mountain in Black Canyon of the Gunnison

The aerial view of Black Canyon from Green Mountain, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

The aerial view of Black Canyon from Green Mountain

Ok, so Green Mountain in Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park may not be the most spectacular trail in the state – or even in the park – but it does have some good points.  First, it’s one of the longer trails on the North Rim (the only other long trail is the Deadhorse Trail, which I haven’t checked out yet).  Second, you can see Exclamation Point along the way, and if there’s a view that’s worth seeing of Black Canyon, it’s at Exclamation Point.  Third, you do get a unique view of the canyon, almost like a view from an airplane flying low.  So I suppose it is worth climbing at almost 8 miles (12.8 km) RT, even if it’s not as spectacular as other vistas in the park (that are right next to the road).

 

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Early morning light on the cliffs from the North Vista Trail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Colorado

Early morning light on the cliffs from the North Vista Trail

We started out from the North Rim Ranger Station one very early morning in August.  In case you’re curious …Read More

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