Zion National Park

Utah’s first national park is probably its most spectacular — and that’s no easy feat for a state that boasts a whopping five, including the Bryce hoodoos and the famous arches of, of course, Arches.

And we only got a small glimpse of its wonder. Zion National Park is definitely a park worthy of a return visit — I think I hear the Subway, the Narrows and maybe even Angel’s Landing calling my name. Continue reading

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Bryce Canyon: Up close and personal with hoodoos

On my 31st birthday, I became acquainted with something magical: hoodoos. Not the folk magic, or the gurus (in the form of an Australian new wave band), but one of the funkiest geological features that some say look like Queen Victoria or Thor’s Hammer if you look close enough.

IMG_1487That’s Victoria on the far right. I think.

We packed up and headed out of Moab, getting to know more of the Utah landscape (including Big Rock Candy Mountain) as we headed towards our next national park: Bryce Canyon. A lesser known park, Bryce Canyon is actually not a canyon, its an amphitheater (or, multiple amphitheaters). But it IS the largest collection of hoodoos — spires created by erosion — in the world. The National Park Service website says there is no place like it, and after seeing it with my own eyes, I’d have to agree. Continue reading

Road tripping through the Wild West

Wild West mapSeventeen-hundred miles, six national parks, four states, two adventurers. Or pseudo-adventurers.

After covering a good chunk of the West Coast last year and this past spring, it was time for the Addingtons to check out uncharted (for us) territory: The wild west. I had the opportunity to present at a conference in Salt Lake City in late September, which put us smack in the middle of a beautiful and largely unpopulated part of the country and close to numerous iconic national parks.

And so, we adventured — driving on quiet 80-mph highways and two-lane scenic byways, hiking up and down mountains, taking 1,000 pictures of big blue skies and deep canyons and craggy peaks and curious hoodoos and expansive arches. But always sleeping in a comfortable bed and drinking delicious local beer each night and eating giant sandwiches and salads because I wouldn’t take a vacation that didn’t include those things.

By the end, we had traversed Utah, Idaho, Montana and Wyoming. All places with few people, crappy cell service and some of the most amazingly beautiful sites.

I’m continually intrigued by the western half of the United States. Only residing on the East Coast, it’s a whole different world out there. I’m also grateful to have such beauty in our own backyard and always cognizant that many had their lives, lands and culture stripped from them to make it possible.

Here are our stops:

  1. Yellowstone National Park
  2. Yellowstone: Hiking Mount Washburn
  3. Grand Teton National Park/Jackson Hole, Wyoming
  4. Antelope Island State Park on the Great Salt Lake
  5. Salt Lake City
  6. Moab: Canyonlands and Arches
  7. Bryce Canyon National Park
  8. Zion National Park

Day Trip: Cumberland Island National Seashore Part 2

Click here for Part 1!

After we had our fill of the Dungeness ruins, we started to make our way towards the beach. There’s a few places up and down the island where there’s access and we had originally planned to utilize the one near Dungeness, but we were informed during orientation that recent rains had flooded the access. So instead, we trekked up to the Sea Camp beach access, by the more civilized of the campground sites. We heard varying distances from the dock to the beach access (.7 miles, 1.5 miles). We took the main road (which is unpaved) to the Sea Camp trail.

As we approached the beach, the live oaks trees made the most beautiful canopy, twisting and curving into a lovely tangle.

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Just beyond the tangle, the sand dunes rose up. I was a little surprised at how huge they were.

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When we finally reached the beach, there was only a handful of people out. A few couples and a larger group. We headed south at least a quarter of a mile, so we were far, far away from even the closest person. When we looked south, there was not a soul. How many beaches can you go to in the middle of August and say that of?

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The water was heavenly. It was calm as could be. One of my main complaints about the ocean in August in the south is that its so warm its not even refreshing. The sun is hot as it is — when I go to the beach I want to go for a cool swim. Despite the calm waters, the water still ended up being refreshing. When little ripples came through, they brought cool water in. It was a good thing too — because the sun was scorching and it was a good 95 degrees that day. We ended spending a good four hours just relaxing on the beach.

We had scheduled to take the 4:45 ferry back, so a little after 3 pm, we packed it up and moved on. We headed back to the main dock that we had first gotten off on. We had a few minutes to kill so we just hung around for a bit.

Joel rested for a bit.

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I played with the camera some more.

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By the time the ferry came around, there were far, far fewer people on than the trip to the island. One of the park rangers who was waiting for the ferry with us said that most people take the earlier ferry in the summer. In fact, this is Cumberland Island’s least busy part of the year. According to the park ranger, when people come for the first time in the summer, its also their last time in the summer — they return during more pleasant times of the year! Can’t say I blame them.

It was a nice breezy ferry ride back to St. Marys. To be honest, we dozed during most of it.

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I’d definitely like to return to Cumberland at some point to explore the rest of the island. We saw only a fraction of it, so I’d love to rent bikes and check out places like Plum Orchard farther north. They’re $16 per day and only allowed on the main roads. We saw a couple on our hike back to the dock and they didn’t seem particularly pleased with them, but it may be worth a shot.

Now, onto crossing off the rest of my summer bucket list…

Day Trip: Cumberland Island National Seashore Part 1

I may complain about the south, Florida, the heat, the flatness and the list goes on. But I appreciate that there are some absolutely beautiful places in the Southeast. While much of the Atlantic shoreline from Maine to Miami is developed, with huge mansions, small shacks and condos galore lining the beaches, there’s an occasional spot where developers have been driven out.

Continue reading