Friday, May 24, 2019

Away from the beach--Hawaii's other amazing sights

Sun and surf.
That’s what many people go to Hawaii for. Not a bad idea, as the islands have some of the most spectacular beaches in the world. But there is so much more to discover about the beauty of this state. Here is a quick sample:

Waimea Canyon is a sightseer’s paradise—a mile wide, 10 miles long, and more than 3,500 feet deep. Rust-colored rock formations punctuated by patches of deep green make this one of Kauai’s most impressive landscapes. In fact, it is often called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii since it is the largest canyon in the Pacific.
Canyon walls sculpted centuries ago by rivers and floods and layered in different shades of red often hide waterfalls spouting from the jagged cliffs. Hike into the crater or take a picnic lunch to enjoy at the top in Koke’e State Park. There, Kalalau Lookout and other points provide stunning views of the crimson walls and once-cultivated valley of this canyon that extends to the Pacific Ocean.


It’s easy to spend the day discovering the riches of Maui, a shimmering green island with scenic emerald peaks and flowing waterfalls. Being adventurous—and not intimidated by deep curves and hilly terrain—we decided to drive the Road to Hanna. Our plan was to stop at Wai’anapanapa State Park to see the sparkling black pebble beach set against contrasting blue ocean waters. Although we missed it at mile 32 we eventually back-tracked and enjoyed a pleasant picnic lunch amid the park’s rugged coastline, lush greenery, and piles of black lava rocks.
Following lunch, we tramped over the shoreline rocks that have been polished to a shine and are more than finely ground than sand. You can take a dip in the turquoise water or spend time exploring caves and a lava tube--marvels of this park.

Big Island
Easy blowing trade winds often bring clouds and rain to the east side where Hilo is the main city. That makes it lush and green--in contrast with the leeward western side (Kona is the main city) which is much dryer and tends to be sunnier and warm. Both are worth exploring.
Leave the splendor of Maui behind and hop over to the Big Island, a land of contrasts.

One of the most spectacular adventures you can have is a helicopter ride over one of Hawaii’s live volcanoes hissing with steam and spitting fiery lava. It’s a sight you won’t soon forget. After visiting Volcanoes National Park, find different views of the island at stunning Akaka Falls State Park and rugged Laupahoehoe Point Park. Remote Waipi’o Vallley is brimming with history and untouched natural beauty including cascading waterfalls, verdant valleys, and dramatic black sand beaches, much of which can be seen from Waipi’o Lookout.


When you've had enough beach time, walk through paradise as you take a guided nature hike into a thick rainforest. It’s the perfect opportunity to learn more about Oahu’s botanical delights, as well as geology, history, and mythology. 

For three hours we trekked through a tropical rainforest while listening to our guide’s knowledgeable commentary about every plant, large and small, and exotic fruits like mountain apples and strawberry guavas.  We learned that Ti plants, whose leaves, when wrapped around money, are said to bring good fortune.  Thick bamboo stands shielded us only slightly from frequent showers—this was the rainforest, after all--as we squished along now-muddy trails. 

After about an hour, the sound of rushing water led us to a clearing, where 300-foot waterfalls crashed and splashed into a rocky freshwater pool.  Ignoring the bone-chilling temperature of the water, I slid gingerly off a small boulder--and gasped as the icy water swirled around me.  The exhilaration lasted a few breath-taking moments, enough for my husband to snap photos proving my bravery.  

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier





Thursday, May 16, 2019

Historic Bath in England is delightful

When visiting London, you’ll probably want to escape the big city vibe at least once, so check out destinations for a day trip into the countryside. One of the most delightful places to visit is beautiful, historic Bath, just a two-hour drive from the city.
Site of the Roman baths
 Bath is a popular tourist spot and can be crowded, but it’s still more relaxed than the hustle and bustle of London. You can take a train, bus, or book a tour to this city named for the ancient Roman baths built over its supposedly healing mineral springs. Today there is a square with a fine museum surrounding the ancient underground bathing site.

There you can see displays, Roman artifacts, and excavated foundations of the mouth of the health-giving spring. Today you can bathe in the modern Thermae Bath, the only natural hot springs in Britain that you can bathe in. A good view from the inside, if you don't care to participate in a steaming bath, can be enjoyed over coffee and sweets at the Pump House Restaurant.

Inside Bath Abbey
Eventually the wool industry helped Bath to grow and prosper even more. During this time, about 500 years ago, the town built its grand abbey, the last great medieval church built in England. A visit to the ornate Bath Abbey with beautiful fan-shaped vaulted ceiling and elaborate stained glass windows at both east and west ends is a must.

Bath’s popularity diminished by the middle of the 1600s—until King James II’s wife, Queen Mary, went there to bathe in hopes of getting pregnant. Since she gave birth 10 months later, there was renewed interest in Bath’s healing properties, and a resort was built.

Our visit happened following a cruise that ended in London.  We hired a driver to meet us at the port as we disembarked from the ship and spent the day touring a different part of England. The rural scenery was stunning--gently rolling hills with farms and pasture land made the drive especially pleasant.
Royal Crescent
Free town walks are offered in Bath every day, led by volunteers who enjoy describing highlights of the city’s honey-colored Georgian heritage. Highlights are the Circus (like a coliseum) and the Royal Crescent building where the wealthy lived in 18th century Bath. Today anyone can live in this huge crescent-shaped complex that is an excellent representative of medieval architecture.
Park in Bath
We decided on a self-guided walk about in Bath, so we could cover not only the square but go a few streets over to the Putteney Bridge at River Avon and take a walk through the pretty park.
Bridge on the River Avon
After window shopping a bit, I bought a beautiful glass pendant (glass shops and artisans are abundant in Bath). Before leaving we tucked into a candy shop to purchase some of the city’s renowned chocolate. As we drove out of the city we stopped for a late lunch just outside Bath at a family restaurant and pub where we enjoyed delicious plates of traditional (and superbly fresh) fish and chips and some local ale.
Agriculture is prominent in rural areas.
While we didn’t indulge in “baths” we did enjoy our visit to a place drenched in history and elegant architecture. Our drive continued through the pastoral Cotswolds region before returning to our hotel and a next-day flight to Switzerland.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Saturday, May 11, 2019

Free live music in Memphis, Tennessee

Music has played a key role in the development of Memphis, Tennessee. The legacy of previous artists like Elvis, Otis Redding, and B.B. King inspires modern musicians today.
While there is an abundance of venues to hear and enjoy live music, it’s even sweeter when you can listen for free. This year is an especially great time to check out the music scene as Memphis celebrates its bicentennial and shares 200 years of music, soul, food, and culture.
When planning your visit to Memphis, check out these lively—and free--music venues.

Beale Street Entertainment District
Corner of 2nd Street and Beale Street
One of America's most famous streets, Beale Street is where W.C. Handy penned the first blues song and where you’ll find three blocks of restaurants, nightclubs, live music, museums and neon. Peruse the A. Schwab Dry Goods Store, follow the music Walk of Fame, see hundreds of motorcycles for Bike Night (every Wednesday night in the summer) or catch the Beale Street Flippers hand-springing down the street. 
Levitt Shell Concerts
Located in Overton Park
​Built in the 1930s and recognized as the site of Elvis' first professional rock 'n' roll show, the Levitt Shell is an outdoor performing arts pavilion located in beautiful Overton Park. Every summer and fall, the Levitt Shell hosts more than 50 free concerts – blues, gospel, country and rock represented. 

Playhouse on the Square
66 S. Cooper
Playhouse on the Square is a regional theater company located in the Overton Square dining, shopping and entertainment district. It offers pay-what-you-can nights; just look for the show schedule on the company’s website.
Handy Park
Beale Street
​Concerts that take place in Handy Park are always free and open to the public. On afternoons, performers take to the small stage for free blues shows and other events. 

Southland Park Gaming & Racing
1550 N. Ingram, West Memphis, Ark.
Free general admission to live and simulcast greyhound and thoroughbred racing, seven days a week year-round.  
Information and photos courtesy of Caroline Parkes, PR Manager, Memphis Tourism


Saturday, May 4, 2019

Finding wildlife is easy at Etosha National Park

Majestic elephants are common sights in Etosha National Park in Namibia.
Namibia’s premier wildlife viewing destination is a huge expanse of savannah in the northwest part of the country. Etosha NationalPark is one of the oldest and largest parks in Africa and hosts a plethora of large mammals and spectacular birds. This is true despite the fact a huge salt pan, remnant of a huge lake that existed two million years ago, covers a fifth of its surface area, and this shimmering white expanse is extremely inhospitable to living things.
Actually, it’s the Etosha Pan for which the region is most famous and the park is named. Almost entirely devoid of vegetation, most game gathers along the rim (especially to the south) of the pan which makes viewing wildlife a bit easier. About 50 natural and manmade waterholes attract a variety of species and allow for excellent viewing when staking your spot nearby. When the rainy season begins in November, the animals seldom need to visit the waterholes along the tourist routes, congregating instead in large herds on the grassy plains.
The arid Etosha salt pan is easily visible from the air.
Four of the “Big Five” of African wildlife (lion, leopard, elephant, and black rhino) can be spotted among 114 species of mammals here. Because there is little water, species like buffaloes, hippos, or crocodiles to not live in the park. The best time to visit is during the winter months of May-October (our trip is in July) because vegetation is sparse and temperatures are lower.
Small planes take us from one camp to another.
A stop at Desert Rhino Camp, more basic than the last but a center where professional trackers record information about the rare desert-adapted black rhino, gives us the opportunity to follow trackers on an expedition and mark our first sighting of a “Big Five” animal before heading to Etosha.

Fantastic view from our cabin in Ongava Lodge and Reserve in Namibia
Following our fifth and sixth flights on puddle-jumper planes in Namibia, we eventually arrive at Ongava Lodge and Reserve, a luxurious hilltop lodge set high on a ridge inside a private game reserve with resident white and black rhino and a busy water hole. This private game reserve adjoining Etosha is a conservation success story that developed when local families turned unproductive cattle ranches into a prolific 74,000-acre haven to rehabilitate and reintroduce wildlife.
Female lions drink while they wait for the male to
eat his fill of their recent giraffe kill.
Following a late lunch, we embark on a game drive through the Reserve and soon spot zebras grazing on the sparse grass. Our first really exciting sighting was a group of lions with their fresh kill of a giraffe. Three lionesses and one male lion had hunted and killed the giraffe when it came to drink at the water hole. The male feasts on the fresh meat and growls if the females came too close. So they wander over to drink—and provide us with excellent photos of their reflections in the waterhole.

Different species co-exist peacefully in the wild.
Soon another truck comes by. Since the guide is an employee of the Reserve (our guide is employed by the tour company Natural Habitat) he is allowed to have a rifle which is required if anyone leaves the safari vehicle. They had spotted white rhinos—the color refers to the mouth—so we join their group as they exit the vehicles and walk towards a group of a dozen rhinos coming across the plain in our direction.
White rhinos approach our group of travelers before meandering
another way.
We hold our collective breath and creep along as the rhinos meander through the tall tan grass, so close they can look us in the eye. Fortunately--because rhinos can be extremely dangerous if they decide to charge--these deem us harmless and wander off in another direction. Another amazing experience!

Back in the vehicle, we spot more plains animals like zebras, Oryx, springbok, impala, and many vibrantly-colored birds.
Cabins in wildlife camps are often basic
but comfortable, although some are fairly
We spend another full day at Etosha National Park, where springs around the salt pan draw a plethora of game including red heart beast (the fastest antelope species), black-faced impala, elephants, black wildebeests, ostrich, zebras, spring bok, Oryx, and kudu. Our cameras keep clicking even as we remind ourselves to stop and just watch the action in nature.

Multiple species of wildlife will drink at water holes at the same time, but they are always on guard checking for predators. Not surprisingly, impala, antelopes, and ostriches move out of the way as we watch a large bull elephant approach a waterhole. While he isn’t a life threat, his sheer size is intimidating to other animals. Watching the elephant splash, blow bubbles, and suck water into his trunk, curl it upward, and lift the trunk to squirt water into his cavernous mouth is fascinating. His movements are slow and deliberate—necessary for such a large body.
A bull elephant splashes water on himself.
At another water hole we spend about an hour observing a family of 13 elephants, including moms and babies, as they march over the savannah toward the water. Young elephants play “tussle trunks,” a game where they appear to be trying to decide what the trunk is good for. As they begin to leave, the matriarch elephant keeps everyone in line while walking with the group, even the newborns. And before long another group of elephants comes across the savannah to the water hole—more than 30 in an hour’s time. What a thrill to see such a spectacle!

A family of elephants leaves a water hole.
Another highlight of our day in Etosha National Park is watching two giraffes walk in smooth, graceful movements toward a water hole. Giraffes are very cautious as they cross the plain and approach the water hole, stopping often to sense if danger lurks. They drink one at a time because when they bend down on their knees to drink giraffes can’t get up fast to run if prey should strike. Because they are more vulnerable, they do not scare other animals away from the water as the elephant did.
Giraffes are vulnerable to prey when bending down to drink.
The interaction of these animals in nature is fascinating to watch, so we take our time at different spots, soaking in the tremendous opportunity that we are privileged to have.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier



Tuesday, April 30, 2019

National Wildlife Federation honors top city, Austin, Texas

The National Wildlife Federation, America's largest conservation organization, has honored Austin, Texas as the number one spot on its list of the nation’s most wildlife-friendly cities.
The honor is part of NWF’s 81st annual National Wildlife Week. Wildlife in urban and suburban areas face tremendous stress as people chop down trees, plant yards, drain wetlands, install storm water systems, erect buildings and pave roads. The “Top 10 Cities for Wildlife,” recognizes cities that are not only taking direct action to help wildlife, but their residents are also creating wildlife habitat in their backyards, balconies, at schools and throughout their communities.

Criteria for honoring cities is based on several important criteria for wildlife, including the amount of parkland within the city, participation in urban wildlife programs and citizen action measured by citizen participation in the National Wildlife Federation’s Certified Wildlife Habitat™ program. Certified Wildlife Habitats™ are properties that provide all the necessary elements for wildlife to survive – food, water, cover and places for wildlife to raise their young, while integrating sustainable gardening practices.
“Austin’s progressive values and beautiful natural environment make it the best city to live in for our people AND our wildlife, stated Austin Mayor, Steve Adler. “Proud to be named, for the second time in a row, the top city in America for wildlife by the National Wildlife Federation!”

The city of Austin currently has a total of 2,616 Certified Wildlife Habitats, more than any other city in the country, and 121 of those are Schoolyard Habitats. The city is a signatory of the Mayors’ Monarch Pledge and a national leader in its efforts to restore habitat and improve city landscapes for the declining monarch butterfly. Austin is also a certified Community Wildlife Habitat and the city promotes the creation and conservation of wildlife habitats through the Wildlife Austin program.
“Austin residents should be proud that their passion for wildlife has resulted in the creation of more Certified Wildlife Habitats than anywhere else in the country, explained Susan Kaderka, Executive Director, National Wildlife Federation South Central Regional Center. “These habitats form a network of connectivity that allows wildlife to truly be at home here. We hope other cities will replicate some of Austin’s actions so that every city in the country becomes a haven for wildlife.”

Learn more about the National Wildlife Federation’s Garden for Wildlife and Certified Wildlife Habitat programs at, about the Community Wildlife Habitat program.
Information courtesy of Anna Vecchio via 



Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Free entertainment in Memphis, Tennessee

Memphis celebrates 200 years of culture, soul, music, food, and fun during its Bicentennial Celebration in 2019. If you've been thinking about visiting Memphis, this is the year to make it happen.
The entertainment district has something
for everyone.
South Main Arts District 
South Main Street
​Located along the trolley line on South Main Street in Downtown Memphis, this culturally-rich neighborhood is known for the historic Arcade restaurant and Orpheum Theatre, the National Civil Rights Museum, art galleries, murals, hip restaurants, a farmers market and trendy shops.

Cooper-Young Entertainment District
Cooper Street and Young Avenue
​Cooper-Young is an eclectic neighborhood and historic district in the Midtown area of Memphis, named for the intersection of Cooper Street and Young Avenue. Visit this walkable neighborhood for unique boutiques, an annual street festival in September, galleries, cool murals and specialty restaurants.
Lots of bike trails in Memphis
Court Square
Main Street between Corut Ave and Madison Ave
A wonderful park in the middle of Downtown Memphis. Come by every Thursday between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. for a food truck round-up. You can explore the shops and vendors nearby or just relax on a bench by the square’s grand fountain. 

Listen to music on Beale Street.
Beale Street Entertainment District
Corner of 2nd Street and Beale Street
One of America's most famous streets, Beale Street is where W.C. Handy penned the first blues song and where you’ll find three blocks of restaurants, nightclubs, live music, museums and neon. Peruse the A. Schwab Dry Goods Store, follow the music Walk of Fame, see hundreds of motorcycles for Bike Night (every Wednesday night in the summer) or catch the Beale Street Flippers hand-springing down the street. 
Plentiful food and drink
Broad Avenue Arts District
Broad Avenue/Sam Cooper Boulevard between Hollywood and the railroad tracks
​Originally a suburban community on the rail line between Memphis and Raleigh, this district is today home to clothing, art and home decor shops, free art walks, murals, bike lanes and buzz-y restaurants.

Historic Collierville Town Square
Main Street Collierville
​Established in 1867 after the Civil War left the original town in ashes, the historic Collierville Town Square is the only town square in Shelby County. Browse the boutique shops, enjoy a picnic in the park, catch free concerts or shop for hard-to-find hardware at the oldest store in Collierville, McGinnis Hardware (est. 1887). 
Memphis at night
Martyrs Park
Located just north of I-55 Bridge
​With a majestic view of the Mississippi River, the park is home to a stunning statue commemorating the citizens who tended the sick and dying during the yellow fever epidemic that devastated the city in the 1870s.

Robert R. Church Park
Church Park is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Beale Street Historic District. The park was built by the city's first African-American millionaire, Robert Church, as a haven for African-Americans during the early 1900s. 
Big River Crossing on bikes
Big River Crossing
Access from Channel 3 Dr./Virginia Ave. W. Street parking is available on Channel 3 Drive; lot parking is available at Martyrs Park.
The longest pedestrian and bike bridge across the Lower Mississippi River invites you to walk from downtown Memphis all the way to West Memphis, Arkansas. The views of the river and downtown Memphis skyline are one-of-a-kind. Big River Crossing is open daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

Mud Island Riverwalk
125 N. Front St.
To get an understanding of the Mississippi River's role and influence over Memphis, visitors shouldn’t miss the free Mud Island Riverwalk experience. An epic scale model, the Riverwalk spans five city blocks and is marked with cities, bridges and historic markers to give visitors perspective on the Mississippi and its people. The riverwalk is open 10 a.m.-5 p.m Tuesday through Sunday, April through October. 

Information and photos courtesy of Caroline Parkes, PR Manager, Memphis Tourism



Friday, April 5, 2019

Cruises to put on your bucket list

One of our favorite ways to travel is cruising. You get on a comfortable and fashionable floating hotel, only have to unpack once, meals are delicious and ready when you are, and entertainment is available almost every night. What could be simpler?
There are thousands of ports to explore all over the world (yes—to all seven continents), so you can cruise repeatedly and not duplicate destinations. If you really want to up the ante on your vacation, consider sailing to places most people only dream of visiting.  Here are some of the best cruises to put on your bucket list.
Unbelievably gorgeous icebergs in Antarctica.
Cross the Antarctic Circle: More cruise lines are sailing beyond South America to Antarctica. Many of these ships also visit other islands such as South Georgia and the Falklands as an introduction to the polar region and then just touch on the northern reaches of the Antarctic Peninsula.
Mountains form background for Antarctic icebergs.
That is an excellent trip, of course, and one you’ll remember for a life time. But even more exciting is going on a cruise that actually crosses the Antarctic Circle itself, a place few tourists ever get the chance to visit. With climate change affecting global temperatures, this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity should happen sooner rather than later.
Multiple sizes and shapes of icebergs in Antarctica
We scheduled our Antarctic voyage in early February when the ice has melted enough to allow safe passage that far into the polar waters. In fact, it was the only cruise for Quark Expeditions that year to succeed in the Circle crossing. Not only will you bask in endless white landscapes, but you’ll most likely encounter whales, leopard seals, penguins, and various Arctic birds.
Explore the Amazon River: Surrounding the mighty Amazon River is a dense canopy of tropical growth, diversity of wildlife, and remote cultures. Go deep into the jungle and discover hidden narrow tributaries of this immense body of water.
Local fisherman in the Amazon River in Peru
Larry on a jungle hike in the Amazon
The best cruises journey into the wetlands of the Pacaya-Simiria Reserve. Navigate hundreds of miles while discovering the mystic rainforest that is so important to life on Earth. If you travel during the “dry” season you’ll be able to visit remote villages where it’s likely that no one besides the native river people has been for two years (Flooding during the rainy season may prohibit land visits).
More than 1300 species of birds, 40,000 plant species, howler monkeys, and grey and pink dolphins (I swam in the river with them) can be found in the lush jungle. Our excursion with International Expeditions included daily Zodiac excursions for further discovery, jungle hiking, fishing for piranha, stargazing at night, and many amazing adventures.

Witness nature in the Galapagos
Each of the 13 islands that make up Ecuador’s Galapagos Archipelago features landscapes and wildlife that is distinct to that island. This destination is a microcosm of natural history and the scene of Charles Darwin’s most renowned proclamations about evolution.
The antics of blue-footed boobies are fun to watch.
From rugged volcanoes to sandy beaches, you’ll see an array of scenic vistas and an abundance of endemic wildlife species. Scouting particular islands for tortoises, blue and red-footed boobies, cormorants, frigate birds, dolphins, sea lions, frogs, owls, even penguins, will keep you busy adding more species each day.
We snorkeled daily in clear water filled with beautiful fishes.
If you travel on a small ship designed for exploration you’ll likely snorkel in the ocean with sea lions and turtles, marvel at schools of colorful fish, and take nature walks daily on different islands, and perhaps kayak on your own. The Archipelago is heavily regulated by the Ecuadorian government, so the particular islands visited may depend on how many other ships are in the region.

Follow the Midnight Sun
Scenery on the Norwegian coast is spectacular
Explore the other polar region—the Arctic Circle. Numerous cruises follow the coast of Norway, stopping at ports like Stavanger, known for its centuries-old churches and rugged mountain trails. Heading north the journey continues onto Flam, which boasts one of the most beautiful train rides in the world. Along the way you’ll have opportunities to explore expansive inlets and fjords characterized by gorgeous waterfalls flowing down mountain sides.

Daylight never really ends in the summer.
The city of Tromso and then more scenic villages lead to Honningsvag or the North Cape of Norway, which is across the Arctic Circle. Cruising in summer lets you experience the phenomenon of sunlight deep into the night. We actually observed the full Midnight Sun on our cruise, a night when the sun never set.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier



Sunday, March 31, 2019

Red sand dunes of Namibia

We have come to Namibia to see the magnificent red sand dunes, and this is the day.
The sand takes on a red hue as the morning sun rises.
We leave Kulala Lodge, which is located on the edge of Namib-Naukturt National Park, early in the morning. Despite its remoteness, the more developed part of the Namib Desert, which includes the awesome dunescapes around Sossusvlei, are surprisingly accessible by aircraft or by road. From our camp’s location, we take a shortcut to access a private entrance into the park and arrive there before most of the crowds.

Sossusvlei comes from the native words sosses meaning “land of no return” and vlei meaning “dry place.” It’s an apt description of the place where the Namib desert’s dunes come together and prevent the Tsauchab River from flowing to the Atlantic Ocean. The result is a large salt-filled pan surrounded by enormous mountains of golden sand in the heart of the Namib.
For perspective on how high the dunes are,
notice the people climbing this dune.
As the sun begins to rise, the magic show begins, turning ordinary sand into a fiery spectacle. Dramatic shadows appear, with the scene constantly changing as the sun moves higher in the sky. Yellow and grey hues of the drab salt pan landscape contrast sharply with the fiery dunes, the highest of the desert. It’s a glorious scene featured on countless travel brochures and calendars, so expectations are high.

It does not disappoint.
Dawn and dusk provide the best opportunities for spectacular photography, and we didn’t let the morning light go to waste. We snapped photos of classically curved dunes from numerous angles. Every few minutes as we drove along there was another majestic dune to photograph.

We walk in footsteps before they are blown away by the wind.
After driving by the park’s first dune and seeing a full parking lot because many people had stopped there, we decide to go further and soon are rocking and rolling through the deep sand. Only four-wheel drive vehicles are allowed as it’s easy to get stuck in this terrain.
Arriving at the dune called Big Daddy, we choose an “arm” or extension to hike. About halfway up, the wind begins to blow hard, spraying sand on our cameras and stinging our faces. In single file we chug through the steep climb, balancing in our steps in the soft, moving sand.

Below the dune in the dry salt pan.
The key is to step in footprints left by another hiker. Getting off the path could mean getting stuck in the cavernous, quick-sand-like surface.  The problem is that these footprints disappear quickly in the strong wind. In fact, a sandy fog is created by wind at the top and subsequently hampers our view of stunning landscapes.
At the top of the dune, we remove our shoes and socks and step gingerly off the ridge onto the shadowy slip face, sinking to mid-calf in the warm, fluffy sand. Despite walking slowly (our guide is quite practiced and scampers down in a matter of minutes), at one point I falter and catch myself with the hand carrying my hiking boots, thus filling them with more sand.

Vegetation cannot survive in the harsh conditions of the salt pan.
At the bottom we find ourselves wandering around a portion of the huge salt pan. Any trees that had grown there are now merely ghostly branches. But we have a chance to look back up where we had been—a truly mesmerizing sight and a highlight of the day’s adventure. My bucket list just got shorter.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier