Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Viewing volcanoes from the air on Hawaii's Big Island

Since we’re staying on the drier western coast of Hawaii’s Big Island, we must drive across the island to Hilo for our tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with Paradise Helicopters. When we leave, the topography along Hwy 19 is barren—a black lava landscape with occasional sprouts of brown fountain grass waving in the breeze. 
Red-hot lava deep in the crater
As the elevation increases from sea level to 2,000 feet, irrigated lawns and blossoming hibiscus are more common, although they look out of place still.  Eventually green hills line the background beyond the lava fields; and the landscape changes to palm trees, verdant valleys, even forested areas as we near the wetter eastern coast.

Steam rises from the churning lava pits
We arrive at the Hilo International Airport and check in for our 11:30 tour. Maybe we’re crazy, but we choose the open door tour—50 minutes of flying above active volcanoes strapped into a whirling helicopter. We’re given waist-pack life jackets and earphones for communication.
Another couple will fly with us, and passengers are loaded according to size. Being the smallest I’m directed to the center seat in front. The views are good, but I’m squished between the pilot and Larry, who is simply strapped in with a five-point harness—and hanging on tightly to his camera.
No obstructions for Larry's photos

As we ascend to 2500 feet, we see fiery red lava spewing out of several holes in the ground. Flying over the countryside we see towns below and tall trees planted for wind protection. Our pilot tells us that Hilo gets 196 inches of rain a year, while Mountain View—only five miles away—gets 298 inches of rain annually. That’s an incredible 100 inches difference in a very short space, but it explains the lush vegetation of the region.
Waterfalls flow into the river creating beautiful but
dangerous conditions for swimmers.
Around the volcanoes the landscape is steel gray and pock-marked from previous explosions. In other places lava on the ground is layered like slabs of slate. After the eruption of 1969 blasted away the remaining road, everyone had to be evacuated from the steamy “shield” volcanoes.

The helicopter that took us over the lava fields
A helicopter ride is an excellent way to see volcanic action in real time as well as results from older lava flows. However, the rocky, desolate moon-like landscape changes as the Wailoa River and Wailuku River wind through state parks near Hilo.  From the helicopter, the contrast is vast, but it’s easy to understand the attraction of opposites--fire and water--for visitors and locals.

Photos by Larry Burmeier

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Plan your Africa trip to include the Great Migration

The annual migration of nearly 2 million wildebeest, zebras and gazelles through Tanzania and Kenya is a spectacle unlike any other. Called one of the "Seven New Wonders of the World," this event highlights movement of immense proportions for wildlife in Africa.
The plains are literally covered with migrating wildlife.
Several summers ago Larry and I witnessed the Great Migration in early August as the animals journeyed from Tanzania into Kenya. The migration is reversed during the winter. Wildlife follows a predictable route, but the exact timing varies each year, depending on the start and severity of the dry season throughout eastern Africa.

Wildebeests and zebras typically spend December to April in Tanzania, nursing new calves born in the spring. The slow-moving calves draw the attention of lions, cheetahs and hyenas, and this mix of predator and prey offers prime wildlife-viewing opportunities in nature preserves like Serengeti National Park and the Ngorongoro Conservation Area home of the greatest concentration of mammalian predators in the world.
Wildebeests make up the majority of migrating wildlife.
Seasonal rains usually end in May. Grass and leaves begin wither, and to maintain their constant foraging, grazing species are forced to move west and then north in search of food. This is the start of the Great Migration, a steady stream of animals in columns that can stretch for many miles, heading toward the western and northern Serengeti.

Predators -- more territorial than migratory -- await the zebra and wildebeest as these animals pass through their hunting grounds. The migrating herds must cross the Grumeti River, where crocodiles will feast on the weak and the slow. Scavenging birds watch from treetops and circle overhead. June and July are typically the best months for witnessing the Great Migration in the western and northern Serengeti of Tanzania.
Zebras follow the wildebeests, further chomping down
grass that has been left as the wildebeests moved on.

As the summer progresses, the herds travel farther north. Between July and August, they cross the Mara River, where some are lost in surging floodwaters and others are seized by waiting crocs. They move into Kenya, typically reaching the abundant greenery of the Masai Mara in August or September, a dazzling number of animals within a single nature preserve.

Some naturalists claim that the Masai Mara contains the largest concentration of predators along the migratory route which makes it especially dangerous for the oldest and youngest of the species. We witnessed several examples of “the nature of things” during our visit. The animals stay there until October or November.
Not all of the wildebeests make it across the Mara
River; crocodiles are waiting for any that may falter.
Most safaris visit the area before fall brings another rainy season to the plains, and the herds turn south toward Tanzania. The animals that complete the journey will have traveled more than 1,800 miles, covering Africa's vast grasslands in a clockwise direction. Watching huge clouds of wildlife on the move, attempting to stay alive by finding new feeding grounds and evading predators is truly a unique experience worth planning your Africa visit around.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Touring the Big Island of Hawaii and Hilton Waikoloa Village

It's all about water at Hilton Waikoloa Village
A tropical paradise awaited my first visit to the Big Island of Hawaii. We had booked a five-night stay at the Hilton Waikoloa Village, and after canceled and delayed flights on the front end, managed to get there for four of those nights. Although we arrived after dark, I immediately knew this resort was special, and we would have a magnificent Hawaiian holiday after all.
Hotel accommodations are spread throughout the 63-acre resort.
Located on the dry side of the island, volcanic activity is evident as soon as you leave the airport.  A two-lane highway is bordered by black lava and jagged boulders. People have created a form of graffiti using small white rocks placed on the black lava to spell out names and dates.

Once we entered the 63-acre resort, the landscape metamorphosed into brilliant gardens, swaying palm trees, and lovely ocean views—the quintessential Hawaiian vista. Resort amenities include five swimming pools, dozens of water features including fountains and bridges, dolphin pool, and gorgeous landscaping everywhere.
Sunset from Budda Point at Hilton Waikolao Village
You’ll get plenty of exercise walking on paved paths, but a shuttle train will also transport visitors around the property. Magnificent statues and artwork filled all areas of the resort. I especially enjoyed art pieces, many with an Asian influence, that decoraed long hallways. A variety of colorful (and sometimes squawking) birds added to the tropical ambience.

Take a helicopter ride to see lava fields.
Guests can dine at a variety of restaurants, from casual to upscale. A favorite was the Malolo Grill where we enjoyed dinner on a back patio by the light of table-side torches. A walk in the moonlight capped the romantic evening.  Sunset viewed with an appetizer of wine and cheese at Budda Point near the Ocean View Tower was another perfect moment. Most mornings we ate breakfast on our balcony; since our room was in the Ocean View Tower soothing rhythms of the ocean provided a relaxing start the day.
Active volcanoes on the Big Island still put out glowing, steamy lava
Our excursions included an exciting full-day tour to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Another day we drove to Hilo, on the lush, wet side of the island, for an open-door helicopter tour of the lava fields, a visit to Akaka Falls State Park, ziplining excursion with Skyline Eco Adventures, and a stop at Laupahoehoe Point Park for awesome views of waves crashing against the rugged shore.

Zip line near Hilo on the lush, humid side.
Golf at the Beach Course was fun but challenging because of a strong—but normal—wind. Beautiful views of the ocean made up for gusts blowing hair across my face.
One of the most spectacular sights on the Big Island is Waipio Lookout at Kukuihaele Park, about an hour north of the resort. The first evening we stopped there a huge cloud bank obscured the wavy coastline. Returning on a clear day we were rewarded with outstanding views of the coast and Waipio Valley.
Waipio means wavy coast

Then we headed south to the busy tourist town of Kona, a great place for a seafood lunch, walking along the shore, and shopping. I was struck by the huge contrast of drab, brown landscape on the drive there and the deep blue saturation of the ocean. We ventured out to Kahauu Beach near Keauhou Bay, south of Kona and waded in the rock-studded water.

Beach golf course overlooks the ocean.
Too soon it was time to leave the Big Island. But our next stop was Kauai, another perfect example of Hawaiian paradise.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier




Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lava flows continue in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

After driving from the Big Island’s dry southeast shore through volcanic dunes, created when fine sand blown by trade winds piles up, we begin to appreciate the unique topography of this youngest and largest of the Hawaiian islands. Unlike Kauai, which has had millions of years to stabilize (no volcanic eruptions) and bloom into a tropical paradise, the Big Island of Hawaii continues to evolve.
Rising gases are a result of volcanic activity.
Five volcanoes make up the land mass of the Big Island. Kohala on the northern tip is the oldest; Mauna Kea at more than 13,000 feet is the tallest, and Mauna Loa is the largest by sheer volume. An active volcano, it erupts about every 25 to 50 years (last eruption was in 1984). Kilauea, home of legendary volcano goddess Pele, has been erupting continuously for more than 30 years with new lava flows that started in summer 2014 threatening to devour more roads and homes.

This landscape was recognized for its historic and geologic significance and became Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the United States’ 13th national park, in 1916, even before Hawaii was a state. 

Our tour arrives at Jaggar Museum, and we observe glowing displays of red-hot lava in the crater there.  We walk steamy Sulfur Banks Trails filled with craters bubbling up strong- smelling sulfur dioxide gas. Then we drive the winding Chain of Craters Road where magma swells and forms a rift along which eruptions occur.  A 36-mile round-trip drive, Chain of Craters Road descends 3,700 feet to the coast and ends at a 2003 lava flow.

The volcanic rift is easily seen in this photo.
The caldera is easily accessible by car, which provides an excellent opportunity to see flowing lava. Since the lava’s path changes constantly, check with the Kilauea Visitor Center to get the latest report on where to see this.
Nate, our guide leads us to a remote area where we walk carefully on what resembles a moon scape, dusty and drab and jagged, to see the aftermath of the eruption of Mauna Ulu. Hills and small craters cover the area, and it’s very windy and chilly in late afternoon. But it’s such an unusual scene that we are glad to experience it. Spotty patches of vegetation creep in ridges as plant life adapts to this most improbable place. Even where it’s dry, the so-called fog drift provides much needed moisture.

Walking on a lava field
At sunset, Nate drives to his secret place where we dine in semi-darkness. He has planned a treat and invites us to follow him down a path, clutching flashlights and jackets against the night chill. Many tourists go to Jaggar Museum to witness what we see close-up in the dark sky--a brilliant red plume rising from the ground. We’re standing beside an active lava display, all the more spectacular for the darkness that surrounds us--—the crowning glory of our tour .
Vegetation is just beginning to appear after this lava
flow. No reconstruction has taken place here.
The gate to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours every day. There is only one entrance to the park as the eruption from Kilauea from that began in 1983 blocked the other entrance. Since the eruption continues today, the road hasn’t been repaired leaving a 10-mile gap where vehicles cannot drive. 

Check on updates from the summer 2014 eruption. if you plan to visit

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier



Sunday, November 16, 2014

Exploring volcanoes that shaped the geology of Hawaii's Big Island

Remnants of volcanic eruptions cover the landscape on the
Big Island's dry side.
We hear about volcanic eruptions in Hawaii and marvel at the fiery red molten lava that threatens to destroy homes and property. But the fact is that eruptions have been continuous for more than 35 years in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. The thought is hard to comprehend until we start a tour from the dry, rocky side of the island to the more tropical and humid coast.
We meet few cars on Saddle Road (Hwy 200), a deserted span that cuts across the middle of island instead of following the coastline. Brown tufts of fountain grass pop up along the road with a few mesquite trees scattered around. The ground is covered with remnants of past volcanic activity.This is mostly ranch land with tradewinds blowing across the island that shake our van.

Vegetation begins to dot the barren land as we move closer
to the wetter, tropical side of the island.
The entire Hawaiian Island chain was created by volcanoes, which still fill the ocean for 18,000 feet below the surface. When there’s a hole in the earth’s crust, heat comes up from the mantle causing lava to dribble out rather than blasting the top off. The entire Big Island is a hot spot with a constant flow of lava in what is now the protected park.
As the youngest island in the chain, Hawaii is made up of five volcanoes that are constantly changing. Mauna Loa, an active volcano that last erupted in 1984, is the largest mountain in the world by volume. Even though only the tip is visible above water, it makes up 60 percent of the island.

Leaving Thurston Lava Tube, a massive lava cave.
As we enter the national park our guide explains that we’re going back to the birthplace of the islands. Our first stop is a lava tube, a cave-like structure that we can walk inside. In its natural state with rocks, dripping water, and slippery algae, we’re give flashlights to maneuver  through the dark.
Hiking on sharp lava. Some vegetation is creeping through
the solid rock.
Our guide explains that there are two types of lava—a smoother, spongy variety and craggy volcanic rock that is as sharp as a Brillo pad. At Huaka Crater we hike a bit off the beaten path and experience this type of lava—it sounds like walking on glass and can cut if you happen to fall on it. This deep crater contains rocks as large as automobiles at the bottom that were offered as gifts to Pele, volcano goddess to whom Hawaiians believe they owe the very existence of their island. We see a curiosity, a lava tree: Lava from the 1979 flow surrounded the trunk causing the tree to die but leaving a perfect, empty mold.

Deep craters like Huaka can be seen at several places in
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
I’ll describe more scenes from the park in a future article.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Don't let mountain air spoil your vacation

If your vacation plans include hiking, biking, or fishing in mountains or a part of the world that is higher elevation than your normal home situation, be prepared for altitude sickness. With less oxygen in the air, symptoms of headache or dizziness may start to appear at about 8,000 feet elevation, although altitude or mountain sickness can occur even lower in susceptible people.
From Arequipa, Peru at 8,000 feet, we traveled into the Highlands.
Our guide kept telling us to move slowly and conserve energy.
Acute mountain sickness (AMS) is the most common type and causes symptoms similar to those caused by an alcohol hangover, usually within a day or so of arriving at a higher altitude. Symptoms may include headache, tiredness, lightheadedness, loss of appetite, trouble sleeping, and nausea.

For the 25 to 40 percent of people who get mild symptoms of acute mountain sickness, Dr. Eric Johnson, globally recognized expert on high-altitude medicine, says to rest and stay where you are until you feel better. “Do not  travel or climb to a higher altitude until all symptoms resolve.  Moving to a lower altitude can also help if symptoms do not go away in a day or two,” Johnson adds. 
Altitude sickness can occur in
summer or winter.
The good news, especially for people with limited vacation time, is that a common over-the-counter medication—ibuprofen—could help reduce the symptoms.  A recent study by the American College of Emergency Physicians reports that people who took ibuprofen before, during, and after an ascent were far less likely to develop symptoms of AMS.
“You don’t want to feel horrible for 15-20 percent of your vacation,” says Grant Lipman, MD, whose research at Stanford University corroborates the effect of ibuprofen.

More serious than acute mountain sickness are high altitude cerebral edema (HACE) and high altitude pulmonary edema (HAPE), both of which are less common but require descending to a lower altitude immediately. HACE involves swelling of the brain and results in trouble walking normally, extreme weakness, confusion, and/or irritability. HAPE involves fluid build-up in the lungs and may not show up for two to four days. Symptoms include coughing, feeling breathless, and trouble walking uphill. If symptoms are severe, get medical attention immediately.

Even at 18,000 feet elevation, vendors are selling their wares.
For any type of altitude sickness a health professional might offer you oxygen to breathe. We’ve found even hotel staff in high altitudes commonly supply oxygen in tanks for guests. Having experienced AMS myself, I know that this is often sufficient to relieve symptoms. Prescription medications used under a doctor’s supervision can help prevent and treat mountain sickness.
Signs identified volcanoes that could be
seen from this high point. The air is definitely
thinner at 18,000 feet. 
Prevention is best, of course, so give your body time to adjust. Avoid moving quickly to high altitudes; plan to stretch out ascending over several days.  If you are hiking, biking, or climbing, avoid difficult physical activities for the first few days. When hiking to a higher altitude during the day, go back to a slightly lower altitude for sleep each night.  Skip alcohol and sleeping pills.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Admiring Tom Mangelsen's Images of Nature

More than 15 years ago our family went skiing in Park City, Utah. As a neophyte on the slopes, I was happy to give my muscles a rest each evening while exploring the shops lining Main Street of this historic silver-mining town.
Main Street in Park City, Utah has many shopping and dining venues.
On one evening walk I discovered the incredible work of nature photographer Tom Mangelsen.

Mangelsen’s Images of Nature Gallery has been located on Park City's Historic Main Street for over 25 years, making it one of the oldest galleries there. Mangelsen’s work is also displayed in seven other galleries scattered across Midwest and Western states.
More than just a photographer, Mangelsen is a biologist by education and training with a commitment to conservation. He has traveled throughout the world for nearly 40 years observing and photographing places and animals. His scenic landscapes and wildlife images have earned many awards, including display at the Smithsonian Institution.

As a young boy observing geese and ducks on the Platte River of Nebraska, Mangelsen learned that patience was essential for photographing in the field. His understanding of animal behavior and willingness to wait for the unexpected moment have allowed him to create artistic images with his camera.

Without knowing anything about his background at the time, I fell in love with stunning images of his that captured the illusive moments of wild animal antics that photographers yearn for.
So, on a recent visit to Park City, I sought out his gallery to admire photos that captured my imagination many years before. Of course, Mangelsen has added many more from his travels, including several books that showcase some of his most prized and collectible prints.

The question for me was: Would I find an image so endearing that I would actually purchase an authentic, signed, limited edition print? Not surprisingly, the answer was yes. But there was an additional reason one particular photo spoke to me.
Mangelsen had photographed polar bears in Churchill,Canada several times over the years. Some of his photos of mama bears and cubs shot during spring excursions were on display and caught my eye--most likely because we had a trip to Churchill planned for the next month. What could be more enticing than a photo of the very bears we were journeying to see?

Now I’m the proud owner of a print called “Back Seat Driver,” which features a mother bear and her two cubs in the snow, one cub climbing onto her back for a ride. It’s adorable. But more than that it’s an image only a photographer with many years experience would likely capture. Even so, I’m hoping to add more of my own polar bear photos to the collection.
Photos from Beverly Burmeier, Mangelsen's web site, and ebay.



Friday, October 24, 2014

Major renovations for La Cantera Hill Country Resort in San Antonio

La Cantera Hill Country Resort before renovations
I’ve visited La Cantera Hill Country Resort in SanAntonio and was duly impressed with the western elegance, colorful landscaping, and luxurious rooms. That was several years ago. Now the management company, DestinationHotels, has committed to a multi-million dollar transformation that will affect the entire footprint of the 250-acre facility that appeals to both business and leisure travelers, including families.

Public areas will also get a redesign
Changes include the construction of a new, freestanding destination spa, an extensive reconfiguration of the front entrance, lobby and lobby bar, and a complete redesign of the San Saba Courtyard including a new event lawn.  A junior ballroom, expanded meeting and convention space, redefined restaurants, bars and lounge concepts, and contemporary pools and family areas are also on tap in the most extensive reshaping of the resort since its opening in 1999.

"This substantial upgrade will allow the Resort to enhance its spectacular setting and the exceptional amenities guests have come to expect,” said Destination Hotels President and Chief Operating Officer Jamie Sabatier. "It will also continue to position La Cantera Hill Country Resort as a world-class destination.” 

Palmer Golf Course overlooks Six Flags over Texas theme park.
 “Because the magnitude and impact of the project will prevent our associates from providing our guests with our customary offerings and services, the resort will suspend overnight accommodations and restaurant operations during the major phase of construction from November 3, 2014 through early April 2015,” said resort Vice President and Managing Director John Spomer.  

“Both of our award-winning golf courses – the Resort Course and the Palmer Course – will remain open and operate as usual during the renovations, as will their respective clubhouses and adjacent event venues,” Spomer added.

Golf courses will remain open during the hotel transformation.
Perched atop one of the highest points around San Antonio, La Cantera Hill Country Resort offers sweeping views of the Texas Hill Country and a huge expanse of majestic Live Oak groves interrupted only by native Texas limestone outcroppings, golf course fairways, and sparkling pools.

Sunset is a beautiful time at one of the pools.
Over the past 15 years, San Antonio has enjoyed record growth, bringing a diverse group of visitors to the area. It is a popular escape not only for Texans, but also for visitors from around the world, and La Cantera aims to keep pace with the demand by updating the facility in this major undertaking. I’m anxious to see the changes next spring.

Information courtesy of Jill Byrd, KGBTexas
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Culinary Colorado at Christmas

Shopping in winter in Boulder, CO
This holiday season delight in the relaxing welcome and festive feeling of a snow-covered, Colorado town. Enjoy endless opportunities for festive holiday events; gift the creativity of Colorado crafts and the divine taste of Colorado-made food, spirits and sweets. Embrace the essence of the season, connect with loved ones, and celebrate with a Uniquely Colorado Christmas.

Visit: From the foodie capitol, Boulder, to the undiscovered culinary corners of the state, Colorado is home to artisan chocolateers, bakers, crafters, brewers and people who live to create tasteful treats.

 Give: A gourmet gift basket from the up-and-coming culinary hotspot Fort Collins:
    •    Vern’s Toffee-- handcrafted, mouth-watering milk chocolate butter toffee,
    •    Craft beer--over 220 Colorado craft breweries offer diverse beer styles to choose from: Pilsners, IPA’s, stouts, ambers, porters, cask, Belgian, saisons and sour ales,
    •    Feisty Spirits--handcrafted whiskey made from locally grown grain,
    •    Honey--at the heart of agriculture is the honeybee and every region of Colorado boasts their own liquid gold flavored by the area’s wild flowers, blossoms and crops,
    •    Nuance Chocolate—from ethical cacao beans; roasted, ground and made into spirited artisanal chocolates,
    •    Old Towne Spice Shop—hand blended and ground spices from around the corner and world; gift boxes made by a local artist out of Pine Beetle Kill Wood,
    •    Cheese and Crackers-- artisan Mou Co cheeses or craft cheeses made from sheep, goat or cow’s milk make a decadent appetizer when paired with local chutney, jams and all natural Nita Crisp crackers.

Nutritious Nita Crisp crackers are made with wheat or smelt.
Do:  Learn about the local Ft. Collins food scene: The Gardens on the Creek for the Garden of Lights Tour, Laughing Buck Farm for Family Fun Days, Copoco’s for a beekeeping class, or nearby Haystack Mountain Goat Farm for a creamery tour and cheese making class.  Visit a local craft brewery for a tasting and tour; from New Belgium to High Hops, the Fort Collins area has over 13 craft brewers!
Fort Collins is well-known for its craft breweries.

Get in a holiday mood
with cinnamon eggnog.
Make: Prepare a homemade feast using handcrafted local ingredients: Honey-Spiced Glaze for your Christmas turkey, a Colorado cheese plate with fresh local cheeses, warm up with Fireside Eggnog made with Longmont Dairy Cinnamon Eggnog and a splash of craft Colorado spirits from Feisty Spirits or CopperMuse. Find produce, meats and more at Fort Collins Winter Farmers’ Market

Information courtesy of Anne Klein, Colorado tourism
Photos from Beverly Burmeier, highlighted businesses, and Boulder CVB


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Christmas in Colorado

Whether you live in or near Colorado or just love to visit there (Texans do!), Christmas is a great time to embrace the of the season in this beautiful state. 
Historic settlements, forts and mining towns illuminate their history with twinkling lights against a backdrop of freshly fallen snow. Picture horse-drawn sleigh rides on rustic dude ranches, festive Christmas parades, bustling food halls, steaming hot springs, and handcrafted gifts for a special Colorado Christmas.

Here’s a collection of holiday ideas from different areas of Colorado, with suggestions for a special place to visit, a gift to give, an experience to enjoy, and something you make that creates lasting memories.

Snow fun in Silverton

Visit:  A snowy Colorado mountain town.

Embrace the season and have fun on a Mountain Boys Sled
Give: Pair a sleek, handmade Mountain Boys Sled with cozy, locally made hats, gloves, socks, and mittens made from cuddly woolen fleece.

Do: Head to the tiny town of old mining town of Silverton and experience Colorado’s legendary fresh powder on a sled or sleigh ride. Check the calendar for full moon hikes and events as the mountains glisten in the glow.

Make:  Fill your thermos with a warm Colorado Toddy:  1½ oz. Colorado Honey Bourbon, spoonful of Honeyville honey and a lemon garnish. Kiddos in tow? Try pre-made hot chocolate from Animas Chocolate Company.

Cowboy Christmas

Visit: Celebrate Christmas at a Colorado dude and guest ranch.

Give: Colorado-made Crescent Moon snowshoes for traipsing across the snowy fields. For those cozy evenings by the fire, snuggle up with a good book or a knitting project.

Do: Dude ranches are magical when blanketed in snow under blue skies. Settle into Latigo Trails for sleigh rides, snowshoe hikes, bonfires and more.

Make: Let the wranglers at Latigo Trails help you handle authentic branding irons to create your unique family brand; then burn it onto the ranch wall and onto a wooden block to take home.

Twinkling Traditions

Visit: Colorado’s past to discover heritage holiday traditions

Give: When Slovenians settled in Pueblo, Colorado, they introduced cultural and culinary traditions that are still alive today. One such culinary delight is the sweet dessert, Potica, especially popular during the holiday season. Stop by Mauro Farms or find your favorite baker and pick-up a loaf of this festive bread for your holiday feast.

Do: Experience the most festive and elaborate lighting on November 29 for Pueblo's Parade of Lights. Don your jingle bells to keep with this year’s theme: Silver Bells!

Natural hot springs are great for soothing bodies year-round.
Ouray in fall.
Photo from Colorado Come to Life
Make: Wake up with the sun and coffee from Solar Roast Coffee  – the world’s only commercial solar-powered coffee roaster. Participate in a traditional cupping or simply hang out in the roasting room and roast your own solar coffee from green bean to cup. Take home a bag of your personal roast coffee to serve in a pottery coffee mug you made at Cup and Bowl.

Princely Pampering

Visit: Colorado has over 22 natural hot springs and mineral waters with breathtaking mountain backdrops and star-studded skies.

Give: Pampering products for a basket of self-spa. In historic downtown Salida, Vital Living offers natural bath and body care products and teas. Heal All Salve is a must-have for a mountain visitor or Calendula Crème from Green Earth Farm in Saguache. Deliver your treats in a handmade Feed Sack Bag available at a "must see" Salida market: The Ploughboy.

Do: Soak under the stars at Mount Princeton Hot Springs and relax with an Arkansas River Hot Stone Massage.

Learn to make a variety of cheeses at Mountain Goat Lodge.
Photo from Mountain Goat Lodge
Make:  Stay the night at Mountain Goat Lodge and participate in a cheese making class. Take home soft, fresh cheeses for your holiday appetizer plate and stock up on goat milk-based stocking stuffers.

Information courtesy of Anne Klein, Colorado tourism,

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Two attractions to see in Salt Lake City

Red Butte Garden
Red Butte Garden, Utah's Botanical Garden and State Arboretum
One morning during our recent tour of Salt Lake City, Utah, we visited Red Butte Garden, which happened to to be one of the lovliest botanical gardens I’ve seen. Located just 11 minutes from downtown, this beautifully landscaped space is set against a stunning backdrop of the Wasatch Mountains.

Eleven themed gardens are set along well-maintained paths in Red Butte, which has the distinction of being Utah’s Botanical Garden and State Arboretum. Take time to meander gently through the medicinal garden, all-season garden, children’s garden, herb garden, fragrant garden, and more—each a complete garden space with benches and water features to entice visitors to linger.
Outstanding plantings along the Floral Walk in Red Butte Garden
A large pond draws visitors to the far end of the Dumke Floral Walk, a marvelous expanse filled with berms (mini-hillsides) exploding with various hues of the rainbow. Blue, white, pink, red, purple, orange—we saw many shades of flowering and foliage plants in. Tall spiky specimens shadowed low-growing varieties that spilled over the walkway.

Plan to spend at least an hour at Red Butte Garden. If you have more time, bring a book to read or a snack to enjoy as you sit awhile and absorb the calming effects of nature’s beauty.
Ponds and waterfalls create serene spaces to enjoy in
Utah's Red Butte Garden
For those who crave more action, several trails on the outskirts of the garden lead to natural areas and beyond and provide expansive views of the landscape. Quarry Trail, Prospect Point, and Oak Tunnel are possible routes to take for more activity.
300 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City
 Natural History Museum

Copper tiles and large expanses of glass decorate
The Natural History Museum of Utah.

Just minutes from Red Butte Garden, you’ll find an extraordinary building, The Natural History Museum of Utah at The Rio Tinto Center of The University of Utah. Perched high on the foothills overlooking Salt Lake City, the museum’s exterior is covered with stunning copper tiles that gleam a bright golden-green in the sunlight. Excavated in 2009 from Kennecott’sBingham Canyon Mine, just 22 miles to the west, copper makes the architectural icon both beautiful and sustainable.
The spacious interior of The Natural History Museum
has clean, contemporary features.
Exhibits in the modernistic building  include historic artifacts, science specimens, and hands-on experiences that relate Utah’s unique natural history. One easy way to tour the museum is to sign on to the museum’s Wi-Fi and use the Trailhead to Utah smartphone guide to help you explore numbered markers or to dig deeper into the stories behind the exhibits.

On five floors you’ll see exhibits that cover Native Voices, First Peoples, Sky, Life, Land, Great Salt Lake, and more. Take a few minutes to wander out on the Sky Terrace on level 5 for exquisite views of Salt Lake City and the mountains beyond. A special exhibit called The Horse, which also focuses on the Utes, is currently on display in the museum’s gallery through January 4, 2015.
View of Salt Lake City and the Wasatch Mountains through
windows at The Natural History Museum of Utah.
As part of the University system, the museum is designed with labs that provide space for scientific research and education, a distinction that makes the museum even more valuable to the area.
301 Wakara Way, Salt Lake City
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier