Sunday, June 25, 2017

Kaloloch Lodge is gateway to Pacific beaches and rainforest of Olympic National Park

When exploring coastal zones of Olympic National Park a great place to stay is Kalaloch Lodge, located just off U.S. 101 at the southern border of the park’s coastal strip.
Our cabin had 2 bedrooms, living room, and full kitchen--and a
gorgeous view of Kalaloch Beach on the Pacific Ocean.
This rustic lodge is situated on a bluff above the Pacific Ocean and offers excellent views of and easy access to pristine Kalaloch beach—as well as other beaches with numbers instead of names. Nearby you’ll find a marine sanctuary, miles of hiking trails, and the lush, temperate Hoh Rainforest that makes the Olympic Peninsula so special.

Kalaloch's Main Lodge is almost 100 years old.
Kalaloch's Main Lodge is a legend in its own right. Built almost a century ago with lumber milled from driftwood logs that washed up on the beaches near Kalaloch Creek, the Main Lodge offers an environment with very few distractions—meaning no phones or WiFi. That’s just fine because nature is the main attraction at all Kaloloch accommodations.
Clouds reflect in the glassy beach at Kalaloch.

Our party of three stayed in a two-bedroom cabin with full kitchen. Located on the edge of the bluff overlooking  Kalaloch Beach at the point where Kalaloch Creek empties into the ocean, it was an excellent spot for admiring the ebb and flow of ocean water and for walking onto the glassy-smooth sand at low tide.

Sunset enticed many visitors to stroll along Kalaloch Beach
in Olympic National Park.
Gorgeous reflections of sky and clouds shimmered on the mirror-like surface, especially on our last night there. A gazebo and community fire pit on the bluff provided additional family-friendly opportunities. A bonus: cute bunny rabbits frolicked around our back yard, entertaining us with their antics.

Accommodations also include Seacrest House which offers motel-style rooms with private patios and balconies that face the splendid, often thundering, beaches. Nestled in a conifer forest just a short walk from Kalaloch's Main Lodge, Seacrest is the most secluded.

Beautifully weathered driftwood still washes up on the shore, and people still flock to the Main Lodge to see it. The Main Lodge is also a place to meet other travelers, purchase items from the mercantile store, or dine on locally sourced dishes at Creekside Restaurant. At dusk we enjoyed spectacular sunsets and reflections on the slick beach at low tide.
The river winds around and joins the ocean at the beach
just below the cliff where our cabin was located.
After a day spent trekking in the Hoh Rainforest and River region, Kalaloch Lodge was an excellent base from which to explore nearby Rialto Beach, Ruby Beach, and the Quinault Rainforest. There’s a 28-mile scenic Quinault River Road, which is definitely worth driving for a couple of hours (with stops). Despite a sometimes heavy rain the day we visited, the short Maple Glade loop—with magical visions in multiple shades of green—fuzzy, lacey, and furry textured varieties of foliage--was one of the prettiest trails we saw on the trip.

Larry demonstrates the size of the world's largest
Sitka spruce tree in Queets Valley.
Located in Queets Valley, this amazing area is also called “Valley of the Rain Forest Giants” because it contains the world’s largest Sitka spruce, western red cedar, Douglas fir, and mountain hemlock. It also claims the largest yellow cedar and western hemlock in the United States.

Whew! That’s a lot of big trees, but it’s understandable when you consider that the region can get up to six feet of rain a year.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Monday, June 19, 2017

Tips to avoid muscle pain when traveling

American Chiropractic Association offers tips to avoid muscle soreness when traveling

You’ve been in the car or the plane for hours, your back is aching and your legs are stiff and sore; you can’t wait to stand up and get moving again. We’ve all been there. This summer, plan for a pain-free travel experience by making small changes that can make a big difference in how you feel once your reach your destination, advises the American Chiropractic Association (ACA).

Walk before and after a long trip to stretch leg muscles.
"Prolonged sitting causes a buildup of pressure in the blood vessels in your lower legs, which causes soreness," explains Scott Bautch, DC, president of the ACA Council on Occupational Health. “Simple moves, such as stretching or contracting and relaxing your muscles, can increase blood flow.”
Twist in your seat when flying
to prevent back pain.
“Treat travel like an athletic event,” he suggests. “Warm up before getting into a car or on the plane, and cool down once you reach your destination. Taking a short, brisk walk to stretch your hamstring and calf muscles before and after a long trip can help prevent problems.”

Consider these additional tips for healthier travels:
Travel by Car

Stop to enjoy the scenery and you'll also help
your body stay flexible.
  • Adjust the seat so you are as close to the steering wheel as comfortably possible.
  • Progress through a series of muscle stretches when driving: open your toes as wide as you can, and count to 10. Count to five while you tighten your calf muscles, then your thigh muscles, then your gluteal muscles. Roll your shoulders forward and back. Always make sure to put safety first and keep your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.
  • Instead of constantly gripping the steering wheel, alternate tightening and loosening your grip occasionally to improve hand circulation and decrease muscle fatigue in arms, wrists and hands.
  • Take rest breaks to move around and refresh yourself. Never underestimate the potential consequences of fatigue to yourself, your passengers and other drivers.
Travel by Airplane
Crowded airplanes make exercise more challenging.
Stretch at your seat or get up and walk down the aisle.

  • Stand up straight and feel the normal "S" curve of your spine. To prevent back pain, use rolled-up pillows or blankets to maintain that curve when you sit in your seat.
  • Check all bags heavier than 5 to 10 percent of your body weight. Avoid overhead lifting of any significant amount of weight to reduce the risk of pain in the lower back or neck.
  • When pushing your belongings under the seat, do not force the object with an awkward motion using your legs, feet or arms. This may cause muscle strain or spasms in the upper thighs and lower back muscles.
  • While seated, vary your position occasionally to improve circulation and avoid leg cramps.
Information courtesy of Dr. Scott Bautch and American Chiropractic Association ACA's website.


Thursday, June 15, 2017

Antelope Canyon wows visitors

Named a Travel Channel Best Road Trip in 2015, the Page-Lake Powell area on the border of Arizona and Utah offers some of the best scenery and recreational opportunities in the country. A large part of that distinction is because Page is known as home of the Navajo reservation, gateway to Grand CanyonNational Park, and a houseboat haven on Lake Powell. 

But for people who love and appreciate the magnificence of nature's handiwork, perhaps the town's best claim to fame is Antelope Canyon.

You've probably seen pictures of Antelope Canyon without realizing where it is. It is one of the most photographed canyons in the world for calendars, magazine covers and artistic prints. In fact, it was the subject of a photo that sold for a record $6.5 million in 2014.

Read more about this incredible destination and photographer’s nirvana in my article for Dallas Morning News:

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Mall of America commemorates 25 years

Mall of America is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2017. Make it a bucket-list destination.
Hard Rock Café is a popular gathering place in MOA.
The Mall, a top American tourist and vacation destination, opened in August of 1992 in located in Bloomington, Minnesota, just minutes from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul and adjacent to the MSP International Airport.
Eye-catching entrance to this amazing indoor venue.
Mall of America (MOA) is the largest shopping and entertainment complex in North America. It has more than 520 world-class retail stores and restaurants; Nickelodeon Universe, the nation's largest indoor family theme park featuring 27 rides; SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium; a 4D immersive flight adventure; Crayola Experience; Rainforest Café; Hard Rock Café; the nation's longest indoor zip line, and an 18-hole mini golf course. 
It's hard to visualize the enormity of MOA
and all the glass involved until you see it!
The Mall is also home to a 500-room Radisson Blu hotel, a 342-room JW Marriott hotel; office tower; grand entrance and more.

Here are interesting facts on why Mall of America is so unique and should be on your bucket list of places to visit:
1.    Walking distance around one level of Mall of America is 15 miles
What could be more fun than an indoor amusement park and rides?
2.    8 acres of skylights allow about 70% of the natural light to enter the Mall
3.    40 % of visitors to Mall of America are tourists
4.    9 Yankee Stadiums can fit inside the Mall
5.    43 Boeing 747s tould fit inside the Mall
All ages find entertainment in MOA.
6.    65 semi-trucks were needed to transport trees to the theme park to create the outdoor feel of an indoor park
7.    Temperature inside Mall of America whether its spring, summer, winter or fall stays at 70 degrees
  1. 100+ pounds of food isfed daily to animals at SEA LIFE® Minnesota Aquarium — plus 90 extra pounds on the days the sharks are fed
      9.  347 Statues of Liberty could lie inside the Mall
  1. 400+ events are held at Mall of America each year
   11.  8,700 + weddings have been performed at Mall of America
  1. 11,000 year-round employees at Mall of America (13,000 during peak
Lego creations are a featured attraction.
   13.  30,000+ live plants are in Nickelodeon Universe® — plus 400 live trees climbing as high as 35 feet tall
  1. 170,000+ Legos have been lost in the LEGO® play area
   15.  40 million people visit annually which is more than the combined populations of North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa...and Canada
  1. There’s no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota.
Information courtesy of Mall of America. Photos from MOA, free sources, and Beverly Burmeier.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Get your thrills up in the Air

Zipping above trees
Ready for a new adventure? Think up — as in zip lining, skydiving (from an airplane or indoors), swinging on a trapeze or Flyboarding.

Skydiving above clouds
Ready to try something out of your comfort zone? Read about an abundance of ways to get your thrills — with your feet off the ground--in my article for Austin American-Statesman.
Getting ready to Flyboard at
Lake Travis, Austin
Each of these activities involves minimum risk for people of average fitness. Just bring a sense of adventure and a willingness to try something new. The best part: You’ll gain self-confidence — and bragging rights — for your accomplishments.
Photos by Larry Burmeier
Learning to fly on a trapeze

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Hoh River and rain forest of Olympic National Park

Fall colors just beginning to show in Olympic National Park
From the Hoh River in Olympic National Park, we headed to Kalaloch Lodge on the Washington state coast, where we would spend a couple of nights in order to explore more waterfalls and scenery in the Hoh Rain Forest section of the park.
Hoh Rain Forest is one of three ecological regions of
Olympic National Park.
This is a temperate (not tropical) rain forest, which means it is shady and cooler in temperature but still immensely verdant. Among the thick foliage—a tangle of low-hanging drooping branches curving upward in search of sunlight—we saw many different kinds of mosses in various shades of green.
The greenness is simply incredible.

Thick ferns along the path
Tree trunks, fallen branches, stumps, and ground are covered in yellow-green, emerald green, blackish-green, and silvery green plant life. Staggered ferns covered the ground, pencil tree trunks grew upward, and vines and mosses wrapped around other plants (plants growing on plants).

This is the cycle of nature: growth, death, replenishing. Fallen trees provide food for the next generation of plants and for forest critters that chew on decaying wood.
Our hiking goal was the waterfall on Hoh River Trail. Surprisingly, few folks walking on the trail seemed to know about it, but after more than two hours we found it. At the water’s edge, I splashed my hands to check the temperature—it was quite cool for early September.

The elusive waterfall
The weather was damp, with rain drops dripping from tree branches long after actual rain had stopped. We took our time to enjoy and photograph the immense variety of flora, including 24 species of plants found nowhere else in the world. The path was not too difficult, just long and messy with enough diversions to slow our pace.
On the return we stopped just off the trail, found “natural” seats (fallen tree trunks) and scarfed down our packed lunches. As for wildlife, we only saw one elk in the woods, although surely there were more staying out of sight.

I perched on a tree trunk to eat my sandwich.
After leaving the rain forest and heading down the coast, we stopped at Ruby Beach, so-called because tiny bits of garnet crystals in the sand give it a rosy glow in sunlight. At this scenic beach just off U.S. 101, the shore broadened into a wide expanse of glistening sand as the afternoon tide retreated from the rugged coastline.
Amazing sea stacks at Ruby Beach
Children were climbing on large sea stacks, rock formations in the water that shelter a variety of plant and animal life like crabs, anemones, mussels, and barnacles. Tidal pools also host animals tough and adaptable enough to live in the harsh conditions. The smooth sand, just dampened by the receding tide, provided amazing reflections that are among our favorite photographs.

Beautiful reflections in the outgoing tide
Back at Kalaloch Lodge cute bunny rabbits scampering around the yard of our cabin captured our attention and made us chuckle. The beach just below the cliff on which the cabin was perched invited us to take a stroll.
Glorious sunset at Kalaloch Beach
Sea breezes  and the setting sun created lovely striations of pink, yellow, and blue in the sky above the water—the perfect ending to another day of discovery.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Monday, May 29, 2017

5 things you may not know about travel insurance

Travel insurance is like any other insurance--you hope you never need it, but if you do, you'll be so grateful that you have it. We don't like to think about things that can go wrong when planning a trip, but if you experience delays, canceled flights that must be rebooked, or medical problems, you'll find that travel insurance was well worth the cost. If you've put off buying insurance, considering these points may change your mind:

It can cover road trips. Often we think of travel insurance for long flights to exotic places; however, insurance can be valuable in many travel situations, including road trips. If any part of your trip has prepaid, non-refundable components, you should consider travel insurance.
In addition, if your health insurance doesn’t cover you or your family while out of network, travel insurance with medical emergency coverage may be a good option. And if you are still confused by the Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) option with a car rental, many travel insurance plans offer optional car rental coverage which may be more cost effective than what the car rental companies offer.
Rental car coverage may be included in trip insurance.
It can cover expenses due to pilot strikes. In most cases, airlines will not reimburse you for a flight that is cancelled or severely delayed due to an airline strike. Most travel insurance plans, however, include unforeseen or unexpected labor strike within their trip cancellation or trip delay benefits. It's important to remember, however, that if you purchase a flight after a potential strike is announced, in most cases travel insurance will no longer cover that strike. 
It can provide reimbursement if you have to cancel your trip because of work. While most plans will cover you in the event you or your travel companion are laid off, many will also cover for reasons that go beyond this drastic life event. This could include being relocated, an important work requirement (notarized by your employer), if your organization is a participant in a merger or acquisition (that you are directly involved in), or if your office is damaged by a natural disaster.
You can give it as a gift. 
Worried about your aging parents taking off for a seven-day cruise to the Caribbean? Or your sister planning her off-the-grid honeymoon? Travel Insurance can be a great way to take care of those you love, and ensure they travel worry-free.

Comparing policies can be an easy process. Finding the right travel insurance plan doesn’t have to mean sifting through hundreds of offers. Consolidators like choose the best providers  and share details to help you compare plans, so you can make the best decisions for everyone who is traveling.

Information courtesy of Sarah Mann at Percepture on behalf of
Photos from free sources


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Spend summer days in Sweetwater County, Wyoming

Sweetwater County in Southwest Wyoming is characterized by wide open spaces – 10,500 square miles of room to escape from the hustle and bustle of every day. Located halfway between Yellowstone and Canyonlands National Parks, Sweetwater Country is known as “Flaming Gorge Country.” The area is characterized by the 91-square-mile Flaming Gorge Lake, the famed Green River, expansive deserts, and rugged mountains.

Sweetwater County is best experienced in summer, when outdoor recreation opportunities are at their peak. Get there via The Rock Springs-Sweetwater County airport which was recently ranked 37th on a list of 322 airports from around the country by  

Here are the top seven ways to spend summer days in Sweetwater County.

Lake Flaming Gorge: Visitors can enjoy the same recreational opportunities as Lake Powell offers, without the crowds. For this reason, the lake has become a haven for boating, jet skiing, waterskiing and fishing.

Killpecker Sand Dunes: Nature’s sandbox--the huge sand dune field--spans 100 miles from east to west and reaches heights of up to 100 feet. At 11,000 acres, it’s the second-largest moving sand dune field in the word. A herd of rare desert elk found nowhere else in North America makes its home here. The dunes are a popular spot for hiking and exploring the area on ATVs.

White Mountain Petroglyphs: Explore history through the carvings in the sandstone walls of White Mountain that beckon history buffs, photographers and hikers. The etchings are the story book of the Plains and Great Basin Native Americans who lived in the area up to 1,000 years ago.

Mountain Biking: Sweetwater County features some of the nation’s most sought-after mountain bike trails. Wilkins Peak Bike Trail System, accessed on the southeastern side of Green River, has been named the top trail system in Wyoming. The extensive, well-maintained trails have something for any rider – from beginners to experts.

Camping: Sweetwater County has 17 campgrounds and RV parks, allowing plenty of opportunity to get out and breathe fresh air. The campsites offer something for everyone – gorgeous views, RV connections, perfectly flat tent pads and just the right amount of roughing it, depending on the site choosen.

Whitewater Fun: Green River runs through the town of Green River and can be accessed from many points throughout the county. The Whitewater Park and North Channel Tubing section at Expedition Island Park are fun for frolicking. Near the outdoor Splash Park there is a lazy river and tubing channel that features a series of drops and three large pools. The Castle Falls Feature, a state-of-the-art whitewater park and play area, is located at the southeast tip of Expedition Island Park.

Fishing: In Sweetwater County anglers have their pick of tail waters, reservoirs, streams and a river that lead to some of the best coldwater fishing in the country. The Green River runs into Lake Flaming Gorge, which is the largest reservoir in Wyoming and offers Burbot, as well as four types of cutthroat trout.

Information and photo courtesy of Gaylene Ore, Ore Communications, and Jenissa Meredith, Sweetwater Travel & Tourism.


Tuesday, May 16, 2017

When flying with children, remember your P's: Plan, Prepare, Pack

If you’re flying with children, remember that no one on the plane loves them as much as you do. Other passengers may have less tolerance for their antics (just being a kid?). And a cranky or unruly child is the bane of travelers who may be seated nearby.
To make the flight more enjoyable for everyone, remember the three P’s and allow plenty of time to Plan, Prepare, and Pack.

Plan ahead:
Check the timing of flights as you plan the trip, and consider your child’s daily routines. Red-eye flights that depart late at night and arrive at the destination early the next morning may seem tempting. But don’t count on children sleeping during the flight (a crying baby is tortuous for everyone on the plane); and if you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll be grumpy the next day, too.

Also, check that your family can sit together on the flight. Some airlines charge extra for selecting seats when you book, but that can be money well spent. Book as early as possible for the best seat selection.
Eat before boarding the plane, but steer clear of greasy meals (skip the fast-food burger or pizza). Bring protein-rich snack bars, fruit, or nuts to soothe hungry tummies.

If you have active children who are not likely to nap on the flight, be sure they get plenty of activity prior to the flight, either playing at home or at the airport’s playground, if available. Running up and down the halls of the terminal is not an acceptable place to expend energy.
Prepare yourself and the kids

Getting ready for a trip takes time and patience, especially if children are flying for the first time. Talk about the look, sound, and feel of an airplane, so young ones are not afraid. Prepare them for the security screening process, so they won’t get upset when a favorite toy is taken away temporarily.
On the plane, you’ll spend time entertaining, cleaning, and putting kids to sleep. Bring along familiar playthings or tech gadgets that will help kids sit still.

Reclining in your seat to enjoy the view of the clouds simply may not happen, so give yourself time to rest after arrival before jumping into a jam-packed itinerary. Set realistic expectations and realize that the process of flying has built-in stress. The best you can hope for is to make it less stressful.
Packing your stuff

Check airline regulations and weight limits for baggage. Baby food, formula, and breast milk are often allowed in quantities beyond the allowable carry-on liquid size.
Gather all of the essentials in a small and easy-to-carry backpack. Important documents like passports, printed itinerary, transport details, and tickets belong in this bag. Also include your wallet, Smartphone plus charger, and prescription medication (if necessary). And don’t forget to bring an iPod loaded with fun apps along with your kid’s favorite small toy. Keep this bag with you at all times.

You need another bag to store things you may need to access quickly during travel. If you’re traveling with a baby, infant supplies like formula and wipes go into this bag. You also want to have at least two water bottles and a couple of snacks thrown in. Hand wipes and disposable placemats help minimize food mess. Add an extra set of clothes, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and pajamas for bedtime.
Everything else goes in the checked luggage. If you don’t need an item until you reach your destination or can purchase it there, don’t bring it on the plane. Pack versatile, comfortable clothes, and leave jewelry and expensive or sentimental items behind.  

Over packing means keeping up with more stuff and finding room for everything—plus souvenirs—on your return.

Tips condensed from:  by Alex Miller

Photos from free sources