Warmth is the Adventure of a Good Book

I believe that some days the best way to travel is through the pages of a good book.

Top Reads for a Great Adventure

  • Wild by Cheryl Strayed – Hike the Pacific Crest Trail.   Walk through 1,100 miles of one woman’s journey to find herself as she braves the wilderness.  I highly recommend reading this book before seeing the film adaptation in theaters–I could not put it down!
  • The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien – Travel there and back again.  Trek alongside Bilbo Baggins and the dwarfs on their quest to kill the great dragon.  For those who love fantasy adventures, you must read the one that started them all.
  • The Lord of the Rings Series by J. R. R. Tolkien –  Journey through Middle Earth.  Join the free peoples on a quest to destroy the one ring and save their world from darkness.  Continue from the Hobbit, to read the riveting conclusion to the third age of Middle Earth.
  • The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling – Soar into the Wizarding World.  Explore this amazing world alongside Harry and his friends while fighting the darkest of evils in the battle of a lifetime.  These books are hands-down my absolute favorites!
  • The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins –  Revolt against the capitol.  Fight with Katniss and Peeta to survive the dystopian society of Panem and free the twelve districts from a reign of tyranny.  This is the only series thus far that has been able to provide temporary relief from my Harry Potter hangover–that is saying a lot!
  • Shadow Mountain by Renée Askins – Connect with the wild.  Fall in love with sweet wolf cub, Natasha, and join Renée on her mission to bring wolves back to Yellowstone National Park.  If you’ve read and enjoyed Wild, this is another great book to add to your list.
  • Where did you do Bernadette by Maria Semple – Voyage to Antarctica.  Laugh and wonder at the curious lives of Bee and Bernadette Fox, an agoraphobic mother and adventurous daughter who have very different ideas about their planned trip to Antarctica.  This book had me laughing out loud and daydreaming about an escape to the South Pole.
  • Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer – Experience the darker side of Mount Everest.  Climb the world’s tallest mountain with Jon Krakauer and fellow mountaineers through the disastrous storm of May 1996.  This is a very moving read about the struggle to survive against the power of mother nature.

This really has me in the mood to pick up another great adventure!  I am always on the hunt, do you have any suggestions on another good book to snuggle up with?  Let me know in the comments below!

Good Book

This post is inspired by the theme warmth from the Weekly Photo Challenge.  If you enjoyed this, please check out other fun interpretations of this theme!

The Historic Charm of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia

Old TownIt is difficult not to lose your sense of time as you stroll the brick walkways of Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.   Even though the town’s main road, King Street, is now lined with endless modern shops and restaurants, stories dating as far back as 1749 remain preserved in it’s historic buildings. You can almost see the tales of George Washington and other predominant figures unfolding along the cobblestone streets and scattered gas-burning lanterns.

The Ramsay House

The Ramsay House

The Ramsay House

For those looking to soak up all the history this charming port city has to offer, I highly recommend starting at the oldest house in Alexandria, the Ramsay House, which now serves as the town’s visitor center.  From there you can pick up a map of historical sites for your stroll or catch one of the guided tours that are offered–I took the ghost tour around Halloween and was very pleased.  The city also offers several resources, including a dial-in historical tour via your cell phone, for free.

The Carlyle House

The Carlyle House

The Carlyle House

Next we go from the oldest house in the city to the only house in Old Town with a front yard, The Carlyle House.  The home was built by John Carlyle, a Scottish merchant and friend of George Washington, prior to the city’s rule that buildings must abut their front sidewalk.  It was used by Major General Edward Braddock and his aide-de-camp, George Washington, as a headquarters building during the French Indian War.  Another fun fact about this historical home–there is a cat buried in the walls!  Why? It is a Scottish good luck charm believed to provide protection to the home.  If these facts have you curious, the Carlyle House offers tours for those wanting to dig deeper into it’s history.

The Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop

Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop

One block up from the Ramsay House is another noteworthy spot, the Stabler-Leadbeater Apothecary Shop.  The shop was in operation from 1793 – 1933 and served members of the community, to include George and Martha Washington.  Unfortunately, the museum was closed briefly for renovations during my last visit so I did not get the opportunity to tour inside.  I learned from the free cell phone tour that the apothecary’s original jars and contents have been preserved, and that it is noted as the largest and most valuable medical collection of its kind!  I plan to return and tour the museum soon after it re-opens.

Gadsby’s Tavern

Gadsby's Tavern

Gadsby’s Tavern Restaurant

The last stop I want to highlight is Gadby’s Tavern and Hotel, now a fully operational restaurant and museum. The once hotel, now offers a mouthwatering menu with features like Martha’s Puff Pastry and George Washington’s Favorite, grilled breast of duck, that should clue you in on one of the tavern’s famous guests.  Along with George Washington, the tavern’s past presidential visitors include Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, James Madison, and James Monroe.  The tavern side of the building, is now the museum which is known to host classic events like ladies tea and ballroom dancing.

Gadsby's Tavern

Gadsby’s Tavern, “George at here” sign

Gadsby's Tavern

Gadsby’s Tavern

I hope these sites gave you a peak at why Old Town Alexandria should be on every history buff’s dream list.

Until next Friday, happy wanderlust!

Snowboard (or Ski) Your Way into the Heart of Colorado

179626_10100635556162244_2439413_nReady for some winter wanderlust adventure?  It is time to grab your snowboard/skis and head into the Rocky Mountains of Colorado.

There are so many places to hit the slopes it can be a bit overwhelming–like a kid in a candy store!  So, let’s narrow things down to the slopes near the I-70 corridor.  These resorts are ideal for those doing some snow tourism this winter due to their proximity to the Denver International Airport.  Flying into a major airport means cheaper plane tickets and more “fun funds”, and you can arrive at your resort of choice after a not-too-long scenic drive.  However, not all ski resorts in this area are created equal.

So which ski resorts make the cut?  

  • Arapahoe Basin Ski Area
  • Beaver Creek Ski Area
  • Breckenridge Ski Resort
  • Copper Mountain
  • Crested Butte Mountain Resort
  • Keystone Resort
  • Loveland Ski Resort
  • Steamboat Springs Ski Resort
  • Vail Ski Resort
  • Winter Park Resort

Steamboat Springs and Crested Butte are a little further off I-70 than the rest, but they had to make this list!  If you visit them, you will understand why–they are amazing!  Still having trouble deciding between these ten amazing resorts?  I’ve designed a wonderful infographic to help you narrow down which mountain is right for you.

Ski Infographic

If you have any questions about the resorts in this post, please don’t hesitate to ask them.  After living in or near Colorado for a good portion of my wandering life, I’ve had the opportunity to extensively explore most of I-70 corridor ski resorts.

Until next Friday, Happy Wanderlust!

Hains Point, The Hidden Gem of Washington D.C.

Hains PointAmid the hustle and bustle of the Nation’s Capital quietly awaits a scenic outdoor escape from city life.  The East Potomac Park (also known as Hains Point) rests on a tranquil peninsula between the Washington Channel and the Potomac River.  From the golf course to the playground, this peaceful slice of paradise has something for everyone.

Hains Point Loop

Hains Point Loop Courtesy of mapmyride.com

During my last visit, the often traffic-less roadway around the peninsula was alive with dedicated fall runners and cyclists enjoying their brisk outing by the water.  The Hains Point Loop is 3.2 miles around Ohio Drive SW and across Buckeye Drive to your start point. This is perfect for those who are training for an upcoming 5K race (5K is equal to 3.1 miles).  Or equally as nice for a “joy run”.

Peter

My nephew sliding down one of several slides

Meanwhile, we spent time with our family at the large and fully fenced-in playground.  Emphasis on the “fenced-in”…being a parent of only fur kids, my niece and nephews taught me that this quality is equally as nice with children.  We had a blast running free, climbing on the monkey bars, and sliding down the slides.  When we needed a five minute recharge, there were plenty of picnic tables available.  There was also the bonus of regular bathrooms (not port-a-potties) in case one of the crew needed to make a pit stop.  All in all, it was a great afternoon of fun for the family.

As the sun started to sink down in the sky, we decided to stop by the water to watch the sunset.  It is hard to beat the view and burst of colors on display during a sunset at East Potomac Park!  I decided to capture to scene in a video; it is the only way to appreciate how the colors dance off the surface of the water.

I hope you enjoyed your peek at Hains Point.  If you know of any other “city escapes”  in your area, please do share!  Until next Friday, enjoy the wanderlust!

You Won’t Believe What Awaits: FALL In Love With Alaska

When thinking of fall colors, the brilliant leaves of the Northeastern United States are typically the first things that come to mind. The bright reds, oranges, and yellows set against the deep green of the scattered evergreens are tough to compete with in beauty. However, believe me when I say that Alaska in the fall is a worthy competitor!  My first visit to the Frontier State landed perfectly during the peak season for Alaska’s fall colors and it was unforgettable!  To catch peak fall colors in Alaska, plan to visit between late August and early September.  It is the perfect time to get a health dose of wanderlust going and explore the colors of Denali National Park.

Mountains Blog

Mountain Tundra, Denali National Park in Alaska

For those who have been keeping up with the evolution of my art business, Under Open Skies, you may recognize the photo on the left. it is one of my favorites and I use it in my logo designs a lot.  I snapped this shot at Denali National Park, Alaska during my fall trip. It was unusually rainy for that time of year which made photographs and back-country camping a challenge.  This was one of the few times the clouds parted and allowed the sun to reveal the glorious array of fall colors!

What makes this so exotically beautiful (besides the unbelievable majesty of the Northern Rockies) is that these colors are not on the deciduous trees that we might be used to seeing them on, but rather on tundra brush.  At this altitude the permafrost soil layer makes it difficult for trees to root, and instead the low brush thrives enabling vast panoramic views of the surrounding mountains.

Bear Blog

Berry Hunting, Denali National Park in Alaska

Among the native brush are millions of edible berry plants, creating a bear paradise.  The bears are anxiously hunting for berries this time of year in preparation for winter hibernation which was perfect for wildlife viewing.  I have never seen as many bears (or ate as many blueberries) as I did on this trip which was both incredible and humbling since I knew I was no match for a bear in the wild.  So I kept a safe distance while I promised myself that I would get a larger telephoto zoom and return to Alaska another fall.

Mama Bear Blog

Mama Bear, Denali National Park in Alaska

These two bear shots were captured at a lower altitude where some mini evergreen trees still manage to grow. The most amazing bear encounter was with a mother and her two cubs pictured on the left.  Unfortunately, the second cub didn’t become visible until they had wandered pretty far away.  I say that with a heavy heart.  There are few things more frustrating than having amazing wildlife photo opportunities fall in your lap and realize your “great camera lens”  is out of it’s league.  Still, I can’t complain because this trip was incredible, and I now have my new telephoto lens ready for my next Alaska trip!

Bull Moose Blog

Bull Moose, Denali National Park in Alaska

The bears were amazing, but the animal that truly captures the spirit of Alaska is the moose.  Luckily this time of year is also rut season, which is when male moose are gathering their female mates.  This makes the moose more dangerous than normal but also extremely active.  There were moose traffic jams everywhere!

Cow Moose Blog

Cow Moose, Denali National Park in Alaska

Often viewed as awkward looking animals, I have had my love for the moose teased a bit over the years.  To me there is something majestic about them that captures my full attention and awe.  These large animals roam freely across the colorful tundra, towering over the rest of the wilderness.  Both gentle and dangerous, they tend to mind their own but can easily hold their own in a confrontation.  And who couldn’t love that face!

Save a Seat Blog

Great adventures await in Alaska

Yes, Alaska in the fall is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen.  Between the colors of the tundra and the vast display of wildlife, it is hard to imagine anything better.  I truly cannot wait to return (especially with my new camera lens), to once again enjoy and capture the rugged landscape.

I hope this got your travel bug going, if you have any questions about my trip to Alaska or you have a great story of your own, please share it in the comments below!  I’d love to get some great ideas for my second Alaska trip sometime in the future.

Top 5 Reasons Why D.C.’s Cherry Blossoms Are A Happy Person’s Must See

 

Believe in Pink5.  The blossoms are about friendship.  These gorgeous trees were given as a gift from the people of Japan to the people of the United States as a symbol of the blossoming friendship between our two countries. This spirit of friendship can be seen each year as people from around the world gather to admire the trees.  Friends play Frisbee together, while lovers picnic in the grove, and children laugh running through the falling petals.  Something about the cherry blossoms brings out the best in people.

4.  Washington D.C. has never been as beautiful.  There is something regal about the capitol city; it’s stunning buildings, museums, and art draw spectators all year long.  Yet no view of the city compares to those of D.C. dressed in it’s springtime best!

3.  The blossoms celebrate life and the renewal energy of spring.  Despite how separate from nature our fast-paced society seems to be, we will always be one with the world, living one moment to the next.  During spring we transition from moments of winter stillness to moments springing into life.  Spring in D.C. means the Cherry Blossom Festival will bring a pop of color, energy, and personality with it’s kite flying and parades.  The energy of the cherry blossom trees coming to life again is felt around you and within in.  This is the same energy that causes us to hop into our own phase of spring cleaning.  The blossoms represent the cheerful internal glow that clears the way for all the good things to come in our lives.

2.  There is something magical about the cherry blossoms.  The phrase pilgrimage is something you typically hear with regard to religion these days, but the cherry blossoms of D.C. generate full fledged pilgrimages.  People flock from around the world to see these trees but what is it that draws them?  Having been a regular cherry blossom pilgrim, I can attest that there is something mystical about the pretty pink flowers.  They are around for such a short period of time (14 days max) and when they bloom, along with how long they stay, is entirely dependent on the weather.  It is a game with nature trying to time your trip just right for peak bloom.  Too cold…they wait to bloom.  Perfectly warm then a quick freeze or heavy wind…they fall off and blow away.  So to even be in D.C. during this time can be a frustrating game of hit or miss, but when your timing works out it is a gift like no other.  Standing in a grove of cherry blossoms as the sun shines through and the petals drift down upon you…it reminds you that you are the princess in your life’s story and those  fairy tale moments truly do exist.

1.  They will be a memorable experience that brings a smile to your face.  I am smiling right now being caught up in a daydream about my magical moment in the cherry blossom grove.  I miss them already!

I’d like to share my Cherry Blossom memories with you.  Below is a sneak peek at the release of this year’s 2014 Cherry Blossom Photos from my Wanderlust Collection.  Which one is your favorite and why?  Comment at the bottom of this post and let me know!  I’d love to hear from you.

Cherry Blossom 14 049

Cherry Blossom 14 041Cherry Blossom 14 042 Cherry Blossom 14 060 Cherry Blossom 14 055Cherry Blossom 14 198 Cherry Blossom 14 186 Cherry Blossom 14 084 Cherry Blossom 14 064

Wanderlust: Spring into DC’s Cherry Blossoms

After a long winter, most of us anxiously await the first signs of Spring.  We keep a tight watch outside for sprigs of green grass, promising buds in the garden, and warmer sunny days.  Meanwhile Mother Nature plays out a dramatic dance between two seasons that keeps us in limbo.  A few days ago it was a winter wonderland outside my window, yesterday (the official first day of spring) it was blue skies and t-shirts, and now Tuesday’s forecast calls for a high of 35 degrees and snow.  It is a great example of some old spring wisdom; it comes in like a lion and out like a lamb.   Happy Belated Spring Equinox, oh, and here is more snow!

Me and the Cherry Blossoms in 2013

Me and the Cherry Blossoms in 2013

Yes, winter has been hanging in there but to me that is great!   I am one of those “odd ducks” who loves winter.  I said “ducks” with a ‘s’ because I am hoping there are others out there, any takers?  No?  Snowboarding down the mountainside, curling up under a blanket with a hot chocolate while reading a good book, and watching the snowflakes fall…what is not to like, am I right?  Okay, maybe not to most.  I am always very sad to watch winter fade away, until I remember that Springtime in Washington DC means Cherry Blossoms.  Having been a drifter my whole life (a Washingtonian right now), I am thrilled to experience the Cherry Blossom season again this year.

Washingtonians love our Cherry Blossoms, each spring the city is swept away with pink petal themes and the blossom countdown.  I am giddy with anticipation of their arrival.  Now, when I said season I should clarify that the Cherry Blossom timeframe isn’t so much a season as a miraculous display that can last up to two weeks (weather depending).  The National Park Service horticulturists monitor these delicate buds to provide a prediction of when the blossoms will be at peak bloom.  For 2014, the peak Cherry Blossom bloom is predicted to be April 8th -12th.  A bit later than the April 4th average due to the prolonged winter, but this should be just in time for the grand Cherry Blossom parade.  That is right, we love these pretty little pink petals so much we celebrate a mutli-week Cherry Blossom Festival that ends in a nationally televised parade!

Since there aren’t any blossoms just yet, and Cherry Blossom Festival officially kicked off yesterday, I thought I would share some photos I took during last year’s Cherry Blossom season.  I hope you enjoy them and stay tuned over the next few weeks for more Cherry Blossom photos and fun!

DC 040

DC 053

DC 042

DC 046

Want to bring some Cherry Blossom beauty into your home?  These photos and more are available through my Under Open Skies, Wanderlust Travel Collection.  Feel free to use the form below or email me at seekopenskies@gmail.com