Sunday, November 18, 2018

Chicago's famous bean

As street art and public sculptures gain popularity, there are some that simply capture our imaginations because they defy normal artistic description. Such is the huge metal sculpture in the middle of Chicago’s Millenium Park.
Although its official name is “Cloud Gate,” most people know it as “The Bean.” Shaped like a huge, shining kidney bean, this metal structure that was inspired by liquid mercury stretches across 66 feet of the AT&T Plaza. It throws off weird reflections like a crazy mirror in a carnival.

Created over a two-year span by a British artist who welded 168 stainless steel plates together, the sculpture was unveiled in 2006. Since that time it has become a major tourist attraction in Chicago. Located on the east side of Michigan Avenue, visitors won’t have any trouble finding it.
Because of its spherical shape, buildings and people take on a concave reflection in the polished sculpture. Of course, that means kids (and adults) line up to take photos of themselves looking distorted and goofy in the mirror’s image.

Visitors are able to walk around and under Cloud Gate's 12-foot high arch. It’s a fun experience that hundreds, even thousands, do on a daily basis. On the underside is the "omphalos" (Greek for "navel"), a concave indentation whose mirrored surface provides multiple reflections of any subject situated beneath it. To keep it all shiny bright—and remove smudges from curious visitors’ fingerprints--workers wipe the bottom section daily and polish the whole thing two times a year.
I found it’s best to stand back a bit to take in the full mesmerizing effects of The Bean. In a city known for outstanding architecture, this remarkable piece of public art stands out; it’s just quirky enough for everyone to love while admiring its artistic dimensions. In every sense it truly reflects the heart of the city.

Photos by Larry Burmeier



Monday, November 12, 2018

Three more adventures anyone can do

Hang gliding in Chattanooga, Tennessee
Soar through the clouds, feeling free as a bird while gliding through the sky over Lookout Mountain Flight Park in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  After being strapped into a protective harness, first timers ride tandem with an experienced instructor. 

The ride starts when an ultra light plane tows the glider and its two passengers up to 2,000 feet and then releases it for a gradual descent (about 12-20 minutes). Bask in the quietness of air-propelled flight without having to jump off a cliff  while hanging onto the  kite-like structure.
While the instructor maneuvers the craft by catching thermals and wind drifts, you just stretch out and relax for the duration of this magical ride. Floating through clouds gives an incredible sensation of freedom—at the mercy of the winds, yet controllable with body movements.  Too soon, the glider drifts down, and you’re on terra firma again—looking up where you just floated through the sky.

Hiking in the red rocks of Sedona, Arizona

Sedona is known for stunning vistas of red rock formations, natural arches, deep gorges, and lofty peaks. Dramatic landscapes surrounding this Arizona town just beg for exploration—and excellent hiking opportunities for all skill levels are within easy reach.
Popular hikes include Bell Rock Trail, a leisurely stair-step climb up and around the prominent bell-shaped landmark. Fay Canyon Trail goes through a gorgeous box canyon to a red rock arch. If you dare, take an exciting walk across Devil’s Bridge, a massive 54-foot-high sandstone arch just inside the Red Rock-Secret Mountain Wilderness. Best not to look down, though

Raft down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon
A visit to the Grand Canyon’s South Rim many years ago left me fascinated with its natural beauty and magnificence.  I vowed to return and traverse the Colorado River from the depths of the canyon, to see the massive walls from the bottom up instead of top down.

For 10 days my companions and I camped on the banks of the dam-fed river, hiked on narrow ledges and scrambled over jagged rocks, splashed through 160 rapids, bathed in 45 degree water (or  held-out for frolicking in waterfalls), and brushed away blowing sand.
I learned skills I’d never needed before--pitch a tent, go potty in the river, brush my teeth in the dark--put up with daily hat-hair and wet feet, and listened to unfamiliar sounds while trying to snooze.

But I discovered, as you will too, that stretching one’s boundaries in order to view spectacularly beautiful and ever-changing vistas of the Grand Canyon's walls--while learning history and geology of the region--were worth any inconveniences.
Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier


Monday, November 5, 2018

Give your kids a love of adventure and travel

If you have a love of travel and want to pass along a sense of wonder and curiosity to your children or grandchildren, I have a book to recommend. Atlas Obscura:Explorer’s Guide for the World’s Most Adventurous Kid would be the perfect holiday gift for any child or grandchild ages 9-12.
With plenty of pictures and easy-to-understand descriptions of 100 extraordinary places to visit throughout the world, Atlas Obscura (Workman Publishing) becomes a passport to some of the world’s weirdest, exciting, most mysterious, and often obscure wonders. Destinations in 47 countries represent every continent in this incredible journey. GPS coordinates and useful travel advice are also sprinkled throughout the pages, so parents and grandparents may also find themselves dreaming about these fascinating places. 

What will young readers learn about? Caves filled with giant crystals seven times taller than a person in Mexico. The hottest town on Earth in Ethiopia and the world’s coldest town in Russia. The massive migration of blue whales through the North Atlantic in Iceland. A hot spring filled bacteria that create rainbow colors in Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming. The planet’s largest ice cave in Austria. A theme park in Malta built on a movie set created for a live-action Popeye film 40 years ago.
Other fun facts that whet one’s appetite for more: Sticky rice was added to the mortar in the Great Wall of China to help glue it together. Don’t pat somebody on the head in Cambodia as the human head is considered sacred.  Until about 8,000 years ago sea levels were lower, and you could walk (rather than swim!) from England to France.

Many kids—and parents, too— will take away a sense of wanderlust, a desire to know more about this wacky and wonderful world in which we live. Information about cultures and history is presented in a fun way and illustrated by beautiful full-color illustrations. Wouldn’t it be great for your favorite young person to start a bucket list of places they’d hope to visit in future years?
Authors Dylan Thuras and Rosemary Mossco, with illustrator Joy Ang, have created a lovely coffee-table book that the whole family can enjoy. The book is available from the website or at other book sellers including Amazon or Barnes and Noble



Monday, October 29, 2018

Don't let winter weather spoil your trip

Living in central Texas we don’t think much about winter weather affecting our travel plans. But if you’re flying to a northerly destination, ice or snow could wreak havoc on your plans.
It’s not just weather in the city that you’re flying into that can be a problem. If the plane you’re taking is scheduled to arrive from an airport that’s experiencing a winter storm, it may not be able to arrive on time—so you won’t leave on time, either. If the unthinkable happens in a southern city such as Austin and the plane needs de-icing, the flight could be significantly delayed as the airport may not be set up to handle that situation efficiently.

In fact, you could be delayed a day or more, not just hours. Or the flight could be cancelled. Spending a night or two in an airport isn’t fun for anyone, and airlines often run out of available hotel rooms for which they might offer a voucher (if you’re lucky!). So think about a back-up plan before booking your flight.
Of course, no one can predict what the weather will be when you plan a trip months in advance. But if the situation looks dicey a day prior to travel, consider booking another flight to an alternate (still close) airport or on a different airline. Yes, that means you have two reservations for the same trip.

Many airlines let you cancel a reservation within 24 hours of making it with no charge. Others might charge a fee but reimburse you later. Just be sure you know the cancellation policy in case your original flight is able to go as scheduled.
Another option is to contact the airline ahead of time and ask to be rerouted or rescheduled because of weather conditions without additional cost to you.  The airline might be willing to accommodate your request if it looks like hundreds or thousands of delays and/or cancellations are imminent. On a recent trip abroad we were scheduled to fly through Atlanta just as Hurricane Florence was approaching the East Coast. At my request the airline rerouted us through Detroit, so we missed the madness and confusion taking place in the Atlanta airport at that time.

Consider purchasing travel insurance for any parts of the trip that are pre-paid and non-refundable.  That might include flight, hotel, rental car, or excursions--but don’t include anything that is refundable. Just be sure to buy the insurance prior to travel and print out a summary of your policy with contact numbers to take with you. If you get stranded it’s a good idea to check on what the insurance will cover while deciding what course of action to take.
You can get insurance through a travel agent, the airline, or purchase it yourself online from many reputable companies. Check with consolidators and comparison sites to get the best policy for your needs at the lowest price. (I like QuoteWright). Policies are generally based on cost of the trip and age of the insured person.

If you paid for your flight, cruise, or tour with a credit card, check to see if travel interruption, delay, and lost baggage coverage are included on that card. Quite possibly, you already have insurance and just aren’t aware of it.
Images from free sites.


Monday, October 22, 2018

Three adventures anyone can do

Willing to try something different?  These fun activities will provide thrilling adventures for anyone who loves a new challenge.

Kayaking on a glacial lake in Alaska

If you visit Skagway, Alaska, either on a cruise or on your own, a popular tour combines a ride on the White Pass and Yukon Scenic Railroad with kayaking on a glacier lake.
A most beautiful setting for kayaking in Alaska
You’ll learn history of gold rush days while on the train, and then arrive at pristine Lake Bernard at the edge of the historic town of Fraser in British Columbia, Canada.           

Guides give expert instruction before participants slide into stable, two-person kayaks, zip up the protective covering designed to keep them warm and dry, and paddle onto the glacier-carved lake.  It’s smooth gliding across the same cold, clear water that Klondikers paddled more than a century before. 
We got good at paddling in tandem.

Marvel at vistas of snow-capped mountain peaks surrounding the lake. Paddle over gentle waves to coves, and admire alpine plant life while breathing in crisp mountain air.

Riding in a hot air balloon over Steamboat Springs, Colorado

The Hot Air Balloon Rodeo is a summertime staple of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. Visitors can go to the launch grounds early in the morning to watch as balloons inflate—perhaps even joining ground crews in preparing brightly colored balloons for flight. Then watch as gleaming balloons dot the Yampa Valley sky at sunrise.
The Yampa River is a gorgeous place to view hot air balloons
during the Steamboat Springs Hot Air Balloon Rodeo.
After the spectacular professional competition has ended, plan a ride of your own. Several participating hot air balloon companies offer exciting rides over the Yampa Valley with views of the Yampa River and green mountains stretching for miles around. Your pilot might even thrill riders by dipping the basket into Bald Eagle Lake. It’s a special way to experience Steamboat Springs and add to your appreciation of the skilled balloon competitors.
Don't miss the spectacular Balloon Glow at night.
For a different look, attend the Balloon Glow in the evening. Spectators can walk among beautiful displays of tethered balloons that illuminate the evening sky with brilliant colors.

White water rafting in Taos, New Mexico

Prime time for exciting whitewater fun is from late April through early July.  The Taos Box Canyon is one of the premier Class III and IV whitewater runs of North American, if you’re up for the challenge. 

Entirely contained in the black lava walls of the Rio Grande Gorge (which range up to 1000 feet high), the Box begins with two miles of fairly gentle Class I drops—a warm-up before nine miles of more difficult rapids that require precise boat handling. 
Rafting through the Rio Grande Gorge near Taos, New Mexico
You and your mates will learn to paddle as a team, execute 15-foot drops, and flow with the current as you wrap-up the ride with six miles of Class IV drops—with names like Powerline, The Gut, and Pinball. Afterwards, celebrate success and trade splash stories during a provided gourmet lunch.

White water provides a thrilling ride in the Taos Box!
If that sounds like more excitement than you really want, calmer rafting and flat-water trips are also available that show off the natural beauty of the area to the less adventurous or families with young children. 

Photos by Beverly Burmeier and provided by free sites.


Monday, October 15, 2018

Nashville is more than music

It’s true that Nashville is like Mecca for country music fans. But if you think that’s all there is to this Tennessee city, you’re only hearing the chorus of a multi-versed song.  Yes, music is a draw, but if a steady diet doesn’t enthrall you for more than a day, can Nashville entice you to stay longer?  Sure can, if you include these stops on your itinerary. 

Hatch Show Print
A wall of posters printed at Hatch Show Print
In this age of cheap ink jet printers, some people have lost appreciation for the intricate work that old-fashioned letterpress printing entails.  But not Hatch ShowPrint in downtown Nashville.  Using techniques from the 1500s that meld designing and printing into a creative art form, this shop produces posters for stars, businesses, and individuals. 
Type is set and printing is done by hand

Inside you’ll see an entire wall covered—clear up to the ceiling—with posters for stars like Johnny Cash, Tammy Wynette, Hank Williams, and Patsy Cline, as well as contemporary clients including Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Shania Twain, Wynona Judd, and Coldplay.

Thousands of people come every year to Hatch Show Print to
watch this historical printing process in action.
Hatch Show Print became an historical property of the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in 1992. Today it is the best place to observe traditional letterpress printing techniques using 10,000 old-style wooden typeface blocks and 14 historic printing presses.

Manuel, Exclusive Clothier

Elaborate embroidery on a
colorful jacket. 
Walk into the workshop housed in an old Victorian building and you might start a new craving, as I did.  I’m not a star, but I can dress like one—for a price. I’m coveting a pair of jeans created by Manuel Cuevas—jeans that fit perfectly, embellished with crystals and intricate embroidery and expressing my personality in a way no other clothing item can.

That’s exactly what this famous tailor has done for stars including Kenny Chesney, Dolly Parton, Keith Urban, and Miranda Lambert. Ever wonder how Johnny Cash became the Man in Black? Or why Elvis began wearing gold jumpsuits? Or who came up with Dwight Yoakum’s skinny leg look? 

Larry tries on a special Manuel jacket.
The answers lie in Manuel’s expertise at creating image.  His custom-made outfits are the result not only of superb craftsmanship at the sewing machine but also of getting to know his clients sufficiently to express their personalities in a visible way.

Manuel’s embroidery and design skills earned him the nickname of Rhinestone Rembrandt—and his artistic pieces are worthy of display in museums like Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Smithsonian, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. 

The Parthenon

Athena at Nashville's Parthenon
At 65 feet high, it’s the only full-scale replica of the Greek Parthenon in existence and the centerpiece of Nashville’sCentennial Park.  The building, which faces east like its Greek predecessor, serves as a monument to classical architecture—and it houses the city’s art museum.  Not to be missed is the 42-foot gold statue of Athena, an amazingly detailed creation sculpted just like the original including representations of 11 snakes on her breastplate. 

The Parthenon is also Nashville’s art museum with a permanent collection of paintings by 19th and 20th century American artists.

Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum of Art

Cheekwood Botanical Garden is gorgeous in spring.
Stroll through 55 acres of beautiful gardens and fine art.  Tranquil streams and ponds meander through gardens filled with colorful blooms, wildflowers, herbs, and perennials. The unparalleled Boxwood Gardens that surround the museum lend a touch of formality in an otherwise relaxed motif.  Set on the Cheek family estate (originators of Maxwell House Coffee), the Botanical Garden and Cheekwood Mansion are perfect for weddings and special events—or a picnic while touring the grounds.
Special events are held at Cheekwood Mansion
Although traditional paintings have a home at Cheekwood, the museum is especially known for its contemporary art center and the Sculpture Trail with works that blend into natural surroundings. Modern American artists whose works are featured include Andy Warhol and David Hockney.

Nearby historical sites

Venture to Belle Meade Plantation and Belmont Mansion to see how the upper class lived in the 19th century, or tour Jack Daniel’s Distillery for a whiff of its charcoal mellowed whiskey.  History buffs will enjoy the Hermitage, home of Andrew Jackson, and Travelers Rest Plantation and Museum.

Music too

Don't miss outstanding collections at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
Still, you can’t miss Nashville’s music standouts. Grand Ole Opry is a mainstay of the Nashville scene. Whether you’re a foot-stomping fan or not, Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum serves up familiar names and memorabilia that even tone deaf visitors recognize.  The Schermerhorn Symphony Center, a major North American concert hall, satisfies classical musical tastes.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier



Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Texas Longhorn Cavern--a river ran through it

Unlike other Texas caves, Longhorn Caverns was created by rivers surging through cracks and holes in the earth millions of years ago. Water dissolved and cut on the limestone bedrock of the area, leaving behind unusual rock formations, domed ceilings, large sinkholes, sparkling crystals, alabaster dolomite (mistaken for marble or diamonds by early explorers), and rock carvings resembling animals and human faces.

Our guide on a recent tour was a historian, so he shared some facts about Texas history and Hill Country geology, especially as it relates to Longhorn Caverns. Prehistoric peoples used the large room next to the main entrance for shelter and a place of refuge. Because a thick layer of mud and debris was left in the cave a million years ago, early visitors could only use a small part of the cavern. In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), dug out much of this debris and opened up several rooms beyond the large room next to the main entrance. Following the CCC’s work and further development, Longhorn Cavern was opened to the public in 1937.

Fossils dating to the Ice Age have been discovered in this prehistoric place, and evidence suggests Comanche Indians inhabited the cave at least 400 years ago. After Anglo settlers discovered the cavern in the mid-1800s, the Confederate army used bat guano found in the cave to secretly manufacture gunpowder during the Civil War.  Popular legends claim outlaws used the cave for a hideout perhaps hiding stolen money there (which people later tried unsuccessfully to find). In the 1930s ladies and gents dressed up to enjoy an evening of dancing and drinking in the cavern.

Our group of five took the walking tour which covers 1.25 miles round trip and lasts about 90 minutes. Tours are offered year-round multiple times a day, and you must sign up when you arrive as they do not take reservations.

If you’re looking for more of a challenge, sign up for the Saturday Wild Cave Tour. With a guide, you’ll crawl through tight spaces for two hours using only a headlamp for light. If you like a good mystery, learn about unexplained happenings on the evening Paranormal Tour, or book up to three hours of photography time in the cavern.

Located in LonghornCavern State Park on Park Road 4 near Burnet, the cave is less than 90 miles from Austin. Temperature inside holds at a pleasant 68 degrees. Hiking trails through scenic oak and juniper landscapes, shaded picnic tables, a snack bar and gift shop are additional attractions for visitors to enjoy.
For hours, tour times, and information, go to

Photos by Beverly Burmeier

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Tips for less stress when traveling by air

You’ve heard people say flying isn’t fun anymore. It’s not the exciting event of several decades ago. Nowadays, when you arrive at the airport you’re likely to feel like the airline is testing your patience, trying to wear you down so you won’t argue with additional charges that seem to be cropping up anew every time you plan a flight. The fact is, flying isn’t going to get any easier, so it’s up to you to manage the experience as best you can. Here are some tips to help the process goes as smoothly as possible.
Plan ahead: Make sure you have all necessary documents before leaving home. That might include passports, flight information and phone numbers for the airline and anyone you might need to call upon arrival or during your trip.

Arrive early: Recommendations are that you arrive at the airport 90 minutes prior to a domestic flight and two hours before an international flight. Allow extra time enroute for traffic or construction delays. Also consider the time to park your car and take a shuttle to the airport. If you’re returning a rental car, allow time to find a gas station and fill the car before returning it. Whatever time you think you’ll need, add at least half an hour.

Pack light: Schlepping a heavy suitcase is tiring, even if it has wheels. Add in a carryon bag, backpack, or large tote bag, and you’ve got a lot of weight to maneuver through the airport. Most people don’t use everything they bring on a trip anyway, so leave at least a fourth of what you first plan to take at home. Remember, if you take it, you should be able to handle it yourself, and that includes lifting bags into the storage bins in the plane.

Check in online: Most domestic flights allow you to check in and print your boarding pass online. You’ll still have to use the kiosk at the airport if you’re checking luggage, but the whole process will be much smoother if you have already checked in. You should receive an email reminding you to do this around 24 hours prior to your flight.
Be prepared for security: Finish that soda or bottle of water before getting in line. Pack your quart baggie with liquids in containers of three-ounce or less. Slip-on shoes, belts with plastic buckles, and computers you can access easily help the process go faster. Clear your pockets of change, even that tissue for blowing your nose, before reaching the scanning machines.

Or skip the long security line: These days you can apply for TSA pre-check or Trusted Traveler Program (which also works for immigration when returning from an international flights). There’s a cost and interview process to get preferred clearance, but if you travel often, it’s definitely worth it.
Pack your own care package: Make sure you have items at your seat that make flying more comfortable for you. That could include reading material, glasses, disinfectant wipes or hand sanitizer, paper, pencil, snacks, and medications (both prescription and over-the-counter) that you’ll need in-flight. For longer flights, you might include a pillow or blanket, eye mask, slippers, toothbrush, or bottled water. Keep these items in your under-seat bag, so you won’t have to rummage through luggage in the overhead compartment, possibly disturbing passengers nearby.

Sit back and enjoy the flight: Here’s hoping the passenger in front of you doesn’t recline his seat the entire trip, you aren’t sitting near the crying baby, and no one around is coughing and sneezing in your direction.
Photos from free sources.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Best places to enjoy the Swiss Alps

Sure, Americans know about the majestic Swiss Alps and the many glittering lakes that weave around snowy mountain peaks and settle into fertile valleys. But they don’t go there very much. Only a small percentage of visitors to the Jungfrau Region of Switzerland, which encompasses the Eiger, Monch, and Jungfrau mountains, are from the United States.
Swiss scenery is a collage of ountains and lakes.
And yet, my husband Larry and I discovered that the Jungfrau Region provides some of the best opportunities to appreciate these stunning landscapes.  Interlaken is one of the most visited towns because it can be a hub from which to explore nearby attractions. Take a train--Switzerland’s train system is efficient and extensive throughout the country.
Staubbachfalls, the signature
waterfall of Lauterbrunnen.

If you prefer serenity to sociability, travel beyond Interlaken to Lauterbrunnen or the nearby car-free villages of Muren or Wengen. It doesn’t take long to understand why the Swiss themselves choose to vacation in this gorgeous, less crowded area.

Whether you travel via rail, cable car, gondola, bicycle, on foot—or a combination of methods-- spring and summer are ideal times to wander through this splendid natural playground. Fresh mountain air keeps you cool when hiking, wildflowers bloom in bright hues, and waterfalls flow freely from high ridges into clear rivers and lakes.

One of the highlights of our late spring trip to Switzerland was a train ride to Europe’s highest railway station, the Jungfraujoch. Running every day of the year, the railway leaves Grindelwald or Lauterbrunnen for Kleine Scheidegg, the railway station at the foot of the famous Eiger Mountain’s north face. 
Ice carvings at Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe
On the two-and-a-half-hour journey, we traveled through the Eiger and Monch mountains to the station, which is called Top of Europe because it’s located at an altitude of more than 13,000 feet. Ice sculptures, mountain climbing exhibits, snow sledding, and a grand view of the pristine white landscape made this a spectacular experience.

Approaching Schlithorn by
cable car
Another day we rode a cable car to Schlithorn, a mountain peak almost 10,000 feet tall, for breakfast at Piz Gloria, the first revolving restaurant in the mountains. This setting gained fame in a ski chase scene during filming of the 1960s James Bond movie On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. The restaurant was built, blown up for the movie, and rebuilt as a tourist attraction.

Today visitors enjoy a delicious buffet as the restaurant rotates 360 degrees. On a clear day you’ll have a panoramic view from the outdoor terrace of more than 200 alpine peaks.

The Lauterbrunnen Valley, called Valley of 72 Waterfalls for good reason, offers an impressive landscape of steep rock walls carved by flowing glacial water. Just down the road from our hotel in Lauterbrunnen was Staubbachfalls, the town’s signature waterfall. Wander the trails, and you'll see many more waterfalls, especially flowing well in early spring.

Hundreds of miles of designated footpaths offer outdoor enthusiasts a variety of options, from paths suitable for strollers and wheelchairs to challenging overnight hikes and the incredible experience of Via Ferrata (walking along a narrow mountain cliff).  We sampled one well-maintained path on a trek from Murren to Gundswait before catching the train back to Lauterbrunnen.
Take the train or bike to car-free Muren, a beautiful,
intimate towns in the Swiss Alps.
If the valley waterfalls aren’t enough, drive or walk a few miles outside Lauterbrunnen to Trummelbach Mountain, the only place to see snowmelt crashing down into 10 interior waterfalls.  Corkscrew Falls is one of the most unusual, as it winds through a convoluted rock formation deep in the cavern. The waterfalls carry away up to 20,000 liters of glacial melt per second from the three regional mountains.
Corkscrew Falls in Trummelbach Mtn.

Another good way to see the countryside is on a boat ride on Breinz Lake. The passenger boat functions like a ferry, criss-crossing the lake and stopping at tiny villages along the way.

We got off at Giesbach and stopped briefly to admire the sumptuous hilltop Grand Hotel before walking up to Giesbach Falls.  Water plows down the mountainside eventually splashing in a wide cascade into Brienz Lake.

Hanging clouds over a mountain as seen on Breinz River cruise
The promise of fresh air and beautiful scenery prompted us to hike on a wooded path, then along the road into the town of Breinz where we ate a hamburger and fries (the Swiss love their fritas papas!) before reboarding the boat back to Interlaken.

Hiking trails can take you to small towns like car-free Wengen.
Mountain bike trails extend over the Jungfrau Region with tours suitable for all ability levels, including families.  Experienced guides can lead you to remote, yet beautiful, spots in the region. For an easy ride around town, rent an electric bike, and take off on your own.

If you’re truly adventurous, try paragliding—sailing off the side of a mountain, then floating along as your parachute catches wind drifts (It’s on my bucket list!).

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier





Friday, September 7, 2018

The way to Montana's autumn wonders

Montana Office of Tourism shares how to take a scenic route to exquisite landscapes this fall.

From cooler temperatures to changing colors, autumn is the perfect time to slow down and see Montana from a different perspective by taking a scenic road, bike or canoe trip.

Road Trips
Landscapes along King's Hill Scenic Byway

Imagine winding down a road with little traffic, through brilliant colors of gold, red and orange, and taking in mountain landscapes and prairies. That’s what you get when you take a road trip in Montana. Looking for golden foliage reflected on crystal-clear waters? Take a scenic drive along Montana Highway 35 and U.S. Highway 93 around Flathead Lake. As you follow this route around the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi, you’ll feel transported by the beauty of its mystifying depths.

Take part in the Flathead Lake Wakeboard Academy

Head east for an unspoiled oasis of rivers and sweeping landscapes sprinkled with orange and red. Here you can take the road less traveled, and venture along Kings Hill Scenic Byway to experience the rugged beauty of the Lewis and Clark National Forest.
Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail is part of USDA Forest Service

If you’re looking for a road trip through towering mountain peaks to spectacular vistas, you don’t want to miss the Beartooth Highway. 
Drive Beartooth Highway for outstanding scenes.
Here, drivers climb to striking views from heights of over 10,000 feet above sea level. From Red Lodge, follow the highway west to Yellowstone National Park for abundant opportunities to view bison, elk and other wildlife.

Bike Trips
There's much to see on the Bitterroot Trail, either by bike or car.
Fewer crowds, perfect temperatures and breathtaking landscapes are just a few reasons Montana is the perfect place to explore in autumn. One of the best ways to take in the sights of the season is biking. Soak up Montana’s fresh mountain air and fall colors by setting out on theBitterroot Trail. The paved biking trail is located in the Bitterroot Valley, framed by the Bitterroot Mountains to the west and the Sapphire Mountains to the east. As you follow its mesmerizing path, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of snowcapped peaks, brilliant fall foliage and charming small towns.

Bike in Paradise Valley along the Yellowstone River.
Prefer biking with riverside views? Set out to explore Paradise Valley and peddle up to 24 miles  along the winding path of the mighty Yellowstone River in between the towering Gallatin and Absaroka Mountain Ranges. From sun-kissed stands of golden aspen and cottonwood trees to the majestic peaks in the distance, this valley is true to its name in the fall.

For the perfect variety of autumn scenery, embark on a biking journey along the Backbone of the Rockies from Choteau to Augusta. Between the wild mountains and forests to the west and the ranch and farm country to the east, this route gives you the best of both worlds and will leave you with unforgettable memories.

Canoe Trips
Paddle your way past mountains on the Clearwater Canoe Trail.
Imagine gliding through calm waters as one of the few people around and enjoying only the sounds of nature as you paddle. Add autumn colors splashed against the landscapes to that image, and you have a perfect Montana getaway. Follow the Clearwater River Canoe Trail in the Seeley-Swan Valley for a quiet two-hour paddle on a stretch of river closed to motorized boats. As you float, you’ll enjoy spectacular views of the valley, and pass through a dense willow marsh that turns a brilliant shade of yellow in the fall.
There's nothing quite as spectacular as watching a moose
cross a river in Glacier National Park.
Adventure north to Glacier National Park and float the pristine waters of Lake McDonald.
This glacial lake is stunning any time of year, but exploring its miles of shoreline in the fall is truly breathtaking. With the striking contrast of vibrant yellow larch trees dotting the cedar and pine forests, paddling the lake in this season offers no shortage of magnificent views and opportunities to sight wildlife.

Information and photos courtesy of Montana Office of Tourism andBusiness Development.