Sunday, July 31, 2011

Update on International Senior Travel Discounts

My friend, Rick, from the Philippines, just sent me this update ...

Parity for foreign senior citizens eyed

By the way, if you want to read more about living in the Philippines, Rick has a great blog ...

Your Guide to Living In The Philippines

Saturday, July 30, 2011

International Senior Travel Discounts

I have an Internet friend, Rick, who resides in the Philippines. He recently asked me about any senior discounts that we had available to us on our Southwest trip. I used my Senior Lifetime Pass from the National Park Service. That saved us a small fortune on entrance fees to the national parks and national monuments that we visited. Otherwise, there wasn't a heck of a lot of other opportunities.

Things, though, are quite different in the Philippines. According to Rick, "a 20% discount are mandated by law for card-carrying senior citizens for such services as restaurants, hotels, theaters, medical prescriptions, hospitals, and public. Alas the keyword here is "citizens". Foreigners can't legally avail of this benefit".

He did continue to say that some establishments will extend a discount to any senior citizen so he is able to take advantage of some discounts because of his age.

(See Update on this information.)

Our 'conversation' got me to thinking, wondering if there are other countries that mandate a discount for senior citizens and, also, what countries might offer senior discounts to anyone, even tourists.

If you have information on this, please leave a comment. Thanks!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How to Pack Light

I have a friend who just barely keeps her checked bag under 50 lbs. I have another friend who fits everything into her backpack and small rolling bag. Their different styles of packing represent their different styles of travel. My friend who checks her bag is a travel agent and needs to dress professional when leading group cruises. The friend who packs light has no need for that, sometimes traveling alone or with one friend, staying in hostels and eating in the same restaurants locals eat in.

For those travelers that would like to try and travel lighter, I am passing along a recommendation for two web sites that should be a great place to start: OneBag and One Bag One World. Both sites have great recommendations on how to lighten your travel load.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Best Web Site For South West Information

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

I spent many months preparing for our trip to Arizona and New Mexico. I used the National Park Service web site extensively for information on the national parks and national monuments we planned to visit.

But the best web site I found for our trip was The American Southwest. Loaded with extensive and detailed information, I printed off many pages to bring along with us.

If you are planning a trip to any of the states covered by The American Southwest (Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, Wyoming) I highly recommend starting your research at this site.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Dealing With Liquids When Flying With Carry-on Only

This has been a recent topic of discussion in my International Travel News newsletter. One traveler wrote in that he deals with the problem of liquids, gels and pasts by not carrying any of them.

Dann Halverson of Houston, TX gets a big Thank You for providing the following information.

Shampoo: J.R. Ligett's solid shampoo

Shaving Cream: uses the solid shampoo

Toothpaste: Daily Care Toothpowder

Face Cream or Lotion: Use Dove body soap instead

Laundry Detergent: Scent Killer laundry powder available at outdoor stores like Bass Pro Shop

Body Powder: Scent-A-Way also available at stores like Bass Pro Shop

The above two items, as Mr. Halverson notes, are meant for hunters ... he figures if the deer can't smell the hunter, then the person traveling next to you won't smell you either.

Traveling For Premium Dark Run

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Diageo for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

As readers of my blog know, I’m always looking for unique and unusual places to write about. This post is about the village of Zacapa in eastern Guatemala which celebrated its centennial in 1976 and, at the same time, began to produce Zacapa premium rum .

The land to the west of Zacapa is composed of acidic volcanic soil and receives long periods of sunlight every day. It is a premier region for growing sugar cane and this sugar cane is used to produce Zacapa premium dark rum using a unique rum making process. Typically rum is made using molasses, a byproduct from the sugar making process. Zacapa uses only the virgin sugar cane honey, the result of the concentrated first press of the sugar cane.

What really gives this rum its remarkable taste is the aging process it goes through. The rum is aged in the Quetzaltenango highlands, located 2,300 metres above sea level. The cool mountain air helps to slow the aging processes, giving the rum a unique complex flavor. Based upon a process that the Spaniards used over 500 years ago when they aged sherry, all of the rum is passed through casks that were used for other alcoholic products: American whisky, Oloroso sherry and Perdo Ximenez wines. Each of these casks gives the aged rum its special characteristics, resulting in Zacapa rum’s unique taste.

For rum drinkers looking for something unusual, join the Zacapa Society at Society members not only will learn more about this premium rum brand but may also have the change to influence the society’s direction. There is even the possibility of society members picking up a reward for their help.


Visit Sponsor's Site

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Road Food: St Clairsville, Ohio - Mehlman's Cafeteria

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

So here we are, zipping eastward on I70 and looking for some place to eat. Just west of the Ohio/West Virginia border I saw a sign for Mehlman's Cafeteria. Didn't have a clue but decided to give it a try. I swung off at the exit and weaved my way through small St. Clairsville, trying to locate the cafeteria.

I found it but ended up passing it the first try. The driveway entrance was really narrow and I missed it. Turned around and made my way into the parking lot, which at 11:30 a.m., was already packed. We didn't know what to expect but with all of these customers, how bad could it be?

We certainly weren't prepared for what we found inside. Food is served true cafeteria style. We grabbed trays and silverware and, of course, first there were the desserts. We took a piece of pecan pie to split. Everything is served and priced a la carte and I chose the stuffed chicken breast with a side of green beans and cabbage and noodles. My husband had the penne pasta. We each had a large soda and the TOTAL bill was $13.59! No wonder it was so popular.

Now to the food. My stuffed chicken breast was excellent. The green beans were overcooked but the cabbage and noodles was good. My husband said the pasta was good. And the only reason we had trouble with the piece of pie was because we were both stuffed from our meal.

If we are ever on I70 again at the OH/WV border, I plan on stopping at Mehlman's Cafeteria. Maybe they will still be serving the stuffed chicken breast.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

LIberal, KS to Kansas City, MO

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

We are on our way back to civilization but before we get there we are driving miles and miles through flat lands of corn and wheat fields. It is very dry in this area and the majority of farms have sprinkler systems, the kind that go in a circle. It is interesting to see the green corn growing within the irrigated circle and the brown wheat growing outside the circle.

We pass grain elevator after grain elevator, all connected by a rail line and about 20-25 miles from each other. Where the grain elevators are located is also where the towns are located, if you can call them that. The town buildings usually consist of a gas station and maybe some type of grocery store. There is really miles and miles of nothing out here. We can't even see the farm houses from the road, guessing that they are located at roughly the center of the property.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Red River, NM to Liberal, KS

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below)

From Red River we drove to "3:00" on the Enchanted Circle Byway and then turned northeast towards Raton. We had learned that Raton Pass was part of the Santa Fe Trail and the break in the mountains was obvious as we drove through the area.

Our next stop was Capulin Volcano National Monument. The road to the top of the volcano was another curvy and narrow mountain road. Some of the S-turns were quite sharp and we were surprised to see a full-sized motor home in the parking lot at the top of the rim. I spoke with a park ranger who told me that they stop opposing traffic when a motor home is on the road. I wasn't surprised. There is no way a car and motor home could pass each other on some of those curves.

The view from the top was spectacular. We could see for miles and miles. It was well worth the drive.

There is a paved path to the bottom of the cone and I decided to tackle it. Going down, of course, was easy. I'm glad I had my walking stick with me as it made the hike back up a lot easier.

Looking up from the bottom was great too. I could just barely make out the shelter at the edge of the rim. For those who are a bit more hardy than we are, there is a path that goes, literally, all around the rim.

Once we left the park we had a decision to make. We could return to Raton and pick up I25 to Colorado Springs and then I70 east. Or we could continue on route 64 southeast to Dalhart, TX and pick up route 54 to Liberal, KS, passing through the Oklahoma panhandle to through Wichita and picking up I70 at Topeka, KS. We made the decision to go through Liberal, KS and it was the right decision. Along the way we met up with a couple, at a rest area, who had tried to go north on I25 out of Raton. They were stuck for 1.5 hrs on I25 because a wildfire had jumped the highway and the road was closed. In the end, they had to re-route and were following the same road we were.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Santa Fe to Taos to Red River, New Mexico

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

I have really very little to write about Santa Fe and Taos. Both deserve their reputations of being artsy. I found Santa Fe boring because all of the buildings, due to building codes, look the same.

We enjoyed walking around the town square, strolled the display of Indian jewelry several times, saw an interesting display at the Georgia O'Keeffe museum and had a fascinating docent leading our tour at the history museum. We had a beautiful sunset, made all the more beautiful by the smoke in the air from the Arizona forest fires.

Originally, we had planned on spending about 4 or 5 nights in the Taos/Red River area. This is supposed to be a great area for trout fishing but with the lack of rain, fishing was off the agenda. We spent one night in each of Taos and Red River. We made a decision not to visit the Taos Pueblo. I know. Several people said it was not to be missed but after reading about it we chose to skip it.

Instead we did a leisurely drive from Taos to Red River on part of the Enchanted Circle Scenic Byway. Red River is a small town located in the Red River canyon. Geared towards fishing, it was a disappointment not to be able to take advantage of the area. However the scenery was beautiful and it was an enjoyable ride.

Mother and Daughter Weekend

This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Hiltons of Branson for SocialSpark. All opinions are 100% mine.

My daughter and I are planning on spending a weekend together, somewhere away from home. The problem is that, so far, we have not come up with the somewhere. Then I saw an advertisement for Branson, MO and thought this might be perfect. Between the country music my daughter loves and all the fantastic shopping, which we both love, Branson might just be the place for us.

If we did decide on going to Branson, I would definitely book at one of the Hiltons of Branson. In general, I love the Hilton chain and in Branson the locations are great. So are the Hilton summer deals such as the Branson Best Value Vacation Package, a third night free along with free tickets to the Legend of Kung Fu Show, a shopping gift card, two-day passes to Silver Dollar City and a $25 credit for Level 2 Steakhouse.

I love the idea of going to the Silver Dollar City adventure park. I’m not particularly adventurous although I do like water rides and Silver Dollar City has two of them. That’s probably enough to keep me busy all day. At night, there is a wide selection of shows to keep us busy, either before or after we enjoy our dinner at the Level 2 Steakhouse.

Visit Sponsor's Site

Monday, July 11, 2011

Road Food: Restaurants in Santa Fe New Mexico

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

When we were in Santa Fe we stayed at a hotel along Cerrillos Road. Cerrillos Road is a long commercial road, running southwest out of downtown Santa Fe. It is loaded with hotels, restaurants, and all kinds of commercial businesses including Wal-mart, Borders, banks, etc.

When we were there the road was also broken up with construction. On our way to our hotel in the early evening, we decided to eat dinner before going to the hotel and then having to make our way back through the construction.

I spotted a restaurant called Wok and we decided to pull in. We were a bit on the early side for dinner so the restaurant was pretty empty. But as the evening wore on, more diners arrived and we could see they were doing a good take-out business.

We enjoyed our dinner at Wok Chinese Cuisine. The restaurant was clean and nicely decorated with cloth tablecloths. Our food was excellent, with large portions, and reasonable priced. The service was friendly and courteous. If you are in Santa Fe and looking for Chinese food, I highly recommend Wok at 2860 Cerrillos Road, in the plaza next to Jackalope. The hours are Monday through Thursday 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., Friday and Saturday they are open until 9:30 and they are closed on Sunday.

The other restaurant worth writing about is Maria's New Mexican Kitchen, located at 555 W. Cordova Road. This restaurant is a must for Margarita lovers ... I have never seen such an extensive list of Margaritas (165!) or tequilas. My husband ordered the combination plate which included the best chili rellenos we have ever tasted. Upon inquiring we learned the cheese they use is Monteray Jack. It was also our first experience with sopaipillas, a puffed (hollow) dough that is served with local honey, to cut the spiciness of the food. If you want to experience northern New Mexican food when in Santa Fe, Maria's is the restaurant to visit.

On Our Way to Santa Fe

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

After leaving Navajo Dam, we worked our way back west to pick up 550 south. We drove south through Cuba and then San Ysidro, turning northeast towards Los Alamos, spending the night in White Rock.

Route 550 is a typical four-lane highway but it was a pleasure driving along New Mexico route 4. We saw some beautiful scenery, enjoying pull offs right by a small stream.

I'm Trying To Win a Trip to Cancun

I have another blog called Good Stuff for Free. I only post on there links for truly free stuff that I send away for myself.

One of the free sample I turned up is for Bolt, an energy drink. And they are giving away a free trip for two, including airfare, to Cancun. And I would LOVE to win it.

All I need are tons of people (LOL) to sign up for the free sample. Can you do me a favor and be one of those signups? I don't get your information or anything like that. The only way I know people are signing up is by my counter going up.

Simply click on the link below and enter your name and address for your free sample.


Free Sample of Bolt Energy Tablets

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fishing The San Juan River Below Navajo Lake State Park

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

Every hear of a 'community'? During our travels I have seem many signs welcoming us to 'The Town of ...' or 'The Village of ...' This time, we were welcomed to the 'Community of Navajo Dam.'

Located in northwestern New Mexico, Navajo Dam is located on the San Juan River below Navajo Lake State Park and the dam which creates the lake. The 'community' consists of a gas station, grocery store, one restaurant and two motels, both associated with a tackle shop and fishing guides.

We decided to stay with Fisheads, making the choice because they are an authorized Orvis fly fishing shop. Next to the shop is a small motel and connected to the shop is a restaurant open from early morning to late in the evening ... which is very good since it looked like the only place to get a meal. We had a room with two queen sized beds and the accommodations were comfortable.

Along the drive from Navajo Dam towards the state park there are several turnoffs giving access to the river. There was fair availability for fishing from the shore but excellent availability for waders. Based upon the number of people we saw in the river, the area is obviously very popular.

We tried some fishing from shore and my husband was successful catching a small fish or two. He finally made the decision to book a guided float trip and it was a very good decision. We met our guide, Mike, early in the morning and he rigged up my husband's rod. Mike had several other rods with him but we didn't need them as I was just going along for the ride.

Mike really knew the water and the fish. We both learned a lot about fishing for trout in the San Juan River, such as watching for subtle changes in the line. He also gave my husband some feedback about his casting and it all paid off as can be seen by the huge rainbow that my husband landed. And this was just one of two big rainbows he got into the boat.

A nice sized brown trout also made it into the boat and what was interesting to both of us was the fight it put up. Compared to even the larger rainbow, the brown gave a lot more action on the line. As for me, I was the official photographer, of course, but most of the time simply sat back and relaxed and enjoyed the beautiful river and the stunning scenery.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: Fairfield Inn - Disappointing

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

Our preferred hotel chain is Hampton Inn. Second in line has been Fairfield Inn. Until this trip.

I guess I've been used to the newer Fairfield Inns, with all rooms off inside corridors. This trip we stayed at two that had outside corridors. Whether the building has always been a Fairfield Inn or it had been another motel/hotel at some time and Marriott bought the building and re-branded it, I don't have a clue.

Either way, the two facilities with outside entrances were old and tired, with small rooms and old, noisy air conditioners. In the future, I plan on only staying at a Fairfield Inn if all of the rooms are off inside corridors.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Looking For a Massage in Ouray, Colorado

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below)

One of the main attractions in Ouray, Colorado are the hot springs. I managed to squeeze in some time one afternoon and headed over there for some soaking.

I have to admit I was disappointed in the hot springs as I like my water HOT and I didn't feel that the pool with the hottest water was hot enough for me. I considered getting some exercise in the lap pool but that water was ice cold, unlike the lap pool I swam in at Akureyri, Iceland where the water was lukewarm. In spite of that, I had a nice visit because I had a pleasant surprise: the availability of a massage.

Healing Touch Therapies is located at the Ouray hot springs pool. I arranged for a one hour massage, feeling that the rate of $65 for the hour was very reasonable. My masseuse was Mary June and I thought the massage was great. Her direct phone number is 970 519 0001.

(Keep in mind that Healing Touch Therapies is located within the hot springs pool area and there is an admission fee to the pool. )

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Ouray, Colorado and The Hot Springs Inn

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

Too bad I had to leave this place. Loved it. We were in a valley surrounded by the snow-capped peaks of the San Juan Mountains, including one that was over 14,000 feet. During the day the temperatures were high 70's. At night the temps dropped and we slept with the window open, listening to the sound of the Uncompaghre River outside our window. We had come to this little town for some R & R and for Jerry to fish the river.

We got plenty of R & R although not enough as far as I was concerned. We stayed at The Hot Springs Inn. The accommodations were huge with two king beds, two comfortable chairs, a 'fireplace', a refrigerator, a microwave and a small porch that overlooked the river. There was just one thing missing from the room: a desk or table. Which was quite interesting since there was the fridge and microwave so it was possible to have a meal in the room. But no place to eat it. Or (gasp!) a place for us to work at my laptop.

So I went to the front desk to see if they had something we could use as a makeshift desk. The very friendly and helpful staff set out on a search with me and we ended up in the supply room where I requisitioned a toilet seat box (firm, right size) to be used for the laptop. Placed across one of the chairs it worked perfectly as a makeshift desk.

Fishing in the Uncompaghre River was another story. As dry as the Arizona and New Mexico had been, the rivers of the San Juan Mountains were just the opposite with late snowfall and late snow melt. It was not possible to fish this raging river.

The alternative option turned out to be fishing below the dam at Ridgeway State Park, about 20 minutes north of Ouray. This turned out quite well as it was possible to fish both from the shore and by wading in the stream. My husband was able to hook into some nice brown trout.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Review: Mesa Verde National Park

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

Since fires had kept us from seeing cliff dwellings at Gila National Monument, we decided to take another detour off of the planned itinerary and headed to Mesa Verde National Park. We had to think hard about this decision because the visitor's center is 15 miles from the entrance, fifteen miles on a road that curves up, around and over just a few hills. What the heck! What's another mountain road?

The drive to the visitor's center turned out to be great. It was very scenic and there wasn't too much traffic to give us any problems going around turns in the road. Based upon the information we had, only the Spruce Tree House could be seen on a self-guided tour. All of the other ruins required a ranger led tour at $3.00 per person.

We decided to stick with just the Spruce Tree House, not because of any fee but because of the walking and climbing required for the other tours. (One tour required climbing five 8-10 foot ladders and another tour has the visitor crawling through a 12 foot tunnel and "climbing up a 60ft (20m) open rock face with two 10ft (3m) ladders to exit the site.")

We enjoyed our visit to the Spruce Tree House. The walk down, of course, was easy. There were two rangers stationed by the ruins, more than willing to answer any questions. It was possible to enter some of the rooms and I climbed down to a kiva. We spent quite a bit of time there before facing the hike back up, taking advantage of the benches along the way.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Tuba City, Arizona to Monument Valley to Cortez, Colorado

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

Our destination after the Grand Canyon was Monument Valley. I did not have a hotel reservation which did turn out to be an issue. It was Memorial Day weekend and I could not find availability in Monument Valley at either The View Hotel, which is actually on the Navajo reservation or at Gouldings, located across from the entrance to Monument Valley. Another alternative was Kayenta, AZ, about 20 miles southwest of the valley. No availability there either.

We ended up spending the night at Tuba City, AZ, a very non-memorable place and further from Monument Valley than I wanted to be. With no place appetizing to eat, except for a McDonald's and a place like 7-11, we ate dinner out of the cooler.

Our drive from Tuba City to Monument Valley was quite interesting. Essentially we drove through desert and a lot of nothing except strong winds, driving the sand across the road to a point where visibility dropped to about 5 car lengths. Getting in and out of the car was miserable. We would have to take turns opening the car door because if doors were open on both sides of the car, the wind blew in sand and blew out anything not tied down. The sand got into our hair and clung to our skin. It was pretty awful and I was not a happy camper.

We finally made it to Monument Valley and, after paying our entrance fee, had a choice of doing the valley drive ourselves or taking a guided drive. The woman who took our money at the entrance looked at our car (an SUV w/ decently high clearance) and said we should be just fine.

Well, we were but it was an incredibly nerve wracking drive. We had been forewarned by a friend whose son had visited recently and the road was just as horrible as he had described. Huge ruts. Big holes. We are convinced the road is kept in this horrid condition so the tourists will sign up with the guides if they really want to see the park.

The self-drive starts out as a two way road, and then becomes a one way loop. The beginning of the two way road is steep and the ruts were so bad I was afraid I'd bottom out and/or get hung up. While we considered what to do, we watched a truck head down the steep road and the driver safely navigated this section by zig-zaging back and forth across the road. Knowing the secret I decided to give it a try and we successfully made it to the end of the two way section.

At that point my husband nixed our going on the one way loop ... suppose we came to a section that was even worse and I wasn't comfortable taking my car through? So we returned the way we had come, having 'seen' Monument Valley.

According to my itinerary, we had another day in this area as I thought it would be much more scenic. Instead, we backtracked to Kayenta and headed east to the four corners monument. Being on Indian land, there was a fee to enter. The monument looks pretty new, with a disk in the ground marking where the corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah meet. Surrounding the monument were flags and craft booths, with lots of Indian made jewelry and artwork.

By this point we had enough of the wind and the desert and the sand and were ready to move beyond this type of terrain in a hurry. We looked at the map and took the shortest route possible to Cortez, CO, very ready to get into the San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Help With Visiting Grand Canyon National Park

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

The Grand Canyon is overwhelming. No question about it. I studied the official Grand Canyon National Park website before we left home, printing off some of the information, and it wasn't until we got there that some of it began to make sense.

Between the information available in the newspaper (available online as a .pdf file and handed to you at the entrance), the bus stops and bus routes (cars are not permitted on some of the roads), the historical area and the parking, it takes some planning if you want to maximize your experience.

First, absolutely nothing is close in the park. Whether it is going from the visitor's center to the Market in Grand Canyon Village to the historical lodges to the start of the red line bus route, getting from one place to another is either a hike, a hop in your car (but then you have to find another parking spot) or a ride on one of the buses.

If at all possible, before leaving home print out the multi-page guide that is on the website. We had the Spring guide and the Summer guide is now available. Take a look at the Ranger Led programs to see if any interest you so you can schedule your time appropriately. Ditto with times for sunrise and sunset.

We spent three nights in Tuscayan, giving us four full days at the park. The first afternoon we stopped at the visitor's center and, even though we were at the park before Memorial Day weekend, our parking spot was still a 10 minute walk to the center. There are four huge parking lots by the visitor's center and I am sure during the height of the season that they are all needed.

We learned that most people spend only a few hours visiting Grand Canyon National Park. If that is what you will be doing, walk to the Mather Point overlook near the visitor's center. Then take a blue line bus through the village, transfer to a Hermit Rest bus (red line) and enjoy the ride, stopping at one or two of the overlooks if you have the time. The buses run frequently and by the time you walk to the end of an overlook and back, the wait time for the next bus will be very short.

For our stay, we decided the best way to tackle the visit was to arrive early in the morning, return to our hotel during the heat of the day, and then head back to the park in the cooler evening. This worked very well for us. We got to see elks early in the morning along the road into the park. We got a parking spot along one of the roads near the beginning of the Hermit Rest bus route. We also avoided most of the crowd.

I wanted to hike as much of the rim trail as possible. The map in the guide gives the distances between the stops on the Hermit Rest bus route. We chose which ones to walk and which ones to bus between. Most of the trail is paved or groomed and is a relatively easy walk. Keep in mind though that as your walk west, you'll be walking uphill.

We broke our visit up into half the red route one day, half another time and the orange route another time. One morning we caught the first red line bus of the day. When we returned, approximately two hours later, there was a huge line waiting to first start out. We spent time wandering by the historical hotels, popping inside to see the architecture. (It was in this area that we saw the most people.) And we made a point of staying for sunset and one morning arriving early enough for sunrise.

We saved Desert View drive for our last morning as that was the road we were planning to use to leave the area and continue on our trip. There is another visitor's center at the East entrance so I got another stamp for my park's passport. At the East entrance is the Watchtower, another Mary Coulter building. Be sure to go inside and, if you can, climb to the top. The drawings inside are beautiful and the view from the top is stunning.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Desert Flora

(Our southwest trip started May 1. All of my posts were written as the trip went along but were not posted live until we returned. If you want to read all the posts related to the trip, click on "southwest" in the label section below).

I loved the flora we saw.

Most of it was in the wild so I had no way of knowing what the plant was called. This beautiful purple flower is growing in the gypsum sand at White Sands National Monument.

This is a yucca and is the New Mexico state flower. Also growing at White Sands National Monument, every part of the plant is usable.

I don't know the name of this plant but it is very unusual in that we saw it often but with different colored flowers. Some were yellow, some were orange, some, this this one, a burgundy red. Most of the time we saw it along roadsides.

Not only did we see lots of saguaro at both sections of Saquaro National Park, but we also saw many of them just along the roadsides as we drove through the area.

This is a fishhook barrel cactus. If you click on the image and look carefully, you can see that the cacti spines are curved like a fishhook.

The cactus on the left is my favorite. In the right photo you can see a saguaro blossom. They appear on the end of the arms and, after several weeks, a very seedy fruit forms. The Native Americans collect the fruit and make jams and syrups. Some families still have 'camping' rights in the national park. They, literally, set up a camp for a few weeks to collect and cook down the fruit.