Saturday, May 28, 2022

An iconic hike in the Italian Dolomites

Driving from Corvara to Tre Cime hike

Tre Cime di Lavarado was our final hike in the Sexten Dolomites of northeastern Italy, one of the best-known mountain groups in the Alps. Although there are many trails throughout the mountains, Tre Cime is one of the must-do hikes for capable explorers.

After warming up with shorter hikes around Lake Braies and Cinque Torri (both very scenic), we finished our time in this beautiful mountain range on a trail that circumnavigates the Three Peaks that symbolize L’Alta Pusteria Valley. Known as Cima Grande, Cima Occidentale, and Cime Piccola, these colossal mountains provide ample panoramic views on the iconic 6.2-mile loop.

Breathtaking beauty!

Our driver met us very early in the morning at Hotel La Perla, where we spent five nights. Located in Corvara in the Alta Badia region this cute town lies in the shadow of the Dolomites.

Colorful flowers contrasted with the stark winding roads as we drove through the foothills of the mountains, paths punctuated with tiny villages along the way. White clouds and blue sky provided amazing background for the jagged limestone mountains.

Jagged peaks in the mountain range

After an hour and a half drive we arrived at Refuge Auronzo, the starting point for our hike. A wide, relatively flat trail connects Rifugio Auronzo with Rifugio Lavaredo. Within an hour of walking, the valley in front of Tre Cime opened up, and the north side of the Three Peaks came into view. What a sight to see all three majestic mountains side by side, an imposing UNESCO World Heritage Site. With their sharp-cornered ridges and dramatic peaks, the Dolomites are unlike any other mountain range we have seen.

A perfect place for lunch

We stopped to eat our packed lunch at a hut that was dwarfed beneath the imposing peaks. A short walk from there took us to a spot that proved perfect for capturing the scenery. 

First look at Tre Cime
At this point, Larry decided to hike back to the starting point with Gerhard, our driver and guide. Beverly and our friend Deb continued on the hike around Tre Cime with our other guide.

The three of us walked down into the valley and followed a narrow trail that provided excellent views of the three peaks and more. 

Some hiking challenges

Our trekking poles came in handy as we navigated rocks and other challenges on the trail. As is often the case, it’s hard to really describe the immensity and ruggedness of the terrain.

A surprising sight at Tre Cime
Pink, purple, and blue flowers dotted the late summer landscape and softened the bare peaks that stretched towards the clouds. We even saw cows grazing on green grass that magnified the beauty of the land. We felt truly blessed for the opportunity be outside soaking in the God-made beauty of this route.
Limestone skirts the peaks

As if that wasn’t enough awesomeness, our guide led us off the path to a stunning lake, a hidden gem that he knew about from years of hiking this popular path. The day was absolutely perfect for photos with the sun in an excellent position to provide clear reflections in the water. We stopped for a brief snack and short rest while admiring the view.

A perfect day for our hike!

But there was more, our guide led us to a second lake, and again the sunshine gave us beautiful reflections. We walked further in the meadow to a third lake before heading back to the trail and and uphill trek to finish the hike in the parking area near where we started.

The second lake also had great reflections.

It was an unforgettable adventure that we’ll always remember when we think of the Italian Dolomites.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier

Friday, May 20, 2022

Reasons to love Lake Travis

Summer is approaching rapidly. Central Texas is likely to hit a scorching 100 degrees in mid-May. So what is the best antidote to the heat? The cooling waters of Lake Travis!

Located on the western edge of Austin, Lake Travis is a reservoir formed in 1942 when the Lower Colorado River Authority constructed Mansfield Dam to contain floodwaters in a flash-flood prone region. Although the average depth is 62 feet, the deepest part of the lake extends to 210 feet. Today, the lake is popular for various recreational opportunities. And there’s a special magic in watching the sun set over glistening water.

Boating is the first activity that comes to mind, primarily because it doesn’t require any special athletic skills. Of course, knowledge of safe boating practices and lake terrain are imperative. That said, everyone can enjoy a ride on the winding 64-mile long lake. If you add in the myriad coves, the coastline stretches to 271 miles of peaceful spaces to explore or just drop anchor and enjoy a relaxing swim.

If you have a boat, there are about two dozen ramps where you can put in. If you don’t have a boat, check at any of more than 20 marinas and businesses for rentals. While you’re at it, rent a large tube and take the youngsters for a ride behind the boat. It’s a little bouncy, but they love the challenge of hanging on when the boat driver spins a few figure eights in the water.

Water sports. Once you have a boat to access Lake Travis, there are numerous water sports to try. Start with water skiing, which is probably the basis for newer sports like wakeboarding, knee boarding, or wake surfing. Water skiing is fairly easy to learn, especially with two skis. It’s such a thrill when you learn to cross the wake of the boat, then jump the wake, or just hang on for a multi-mile ride. If you become proficient you can advance to slalom skiing (one ski). 

Lake Travis is well suited for great wakeboarding since the water is generally smooth and traffic light, especially early in the morning or towards evening. There are plenty of open stretches for learning and practicing tricks, if you’re so inclined. If balance is an issue, consider knee boarding, since there’s a lower center of gravity and a tow rope to hang on to--great sport for kids who are still testing their water bravery.

Once these sports are mastered, it’s time to catch a wave. With the right boat and board, you can actually surf a wave on this inland lake, no rope needed. Yes, it takes good balance, but it’s a premier sport for those with access to the right equipment and no fear.

Fly boarding is gaining popularity with young people. Wearing a pair of boots attached to a board, the fly boarder is propelled into the air via power from thousands of gallons of water exploding through a tube. It’s like being on stilts above the water. Expert fly boarders get propelled high in the air to do amazing flips and tricks. It does take practice, but after a few lessons you may decide fly boarding is an incredible experience.

Scuba diving. Because Lake Travis is very deep, there are many hidden treasures below the surface. Grottoes, shipwrecks, old cars, even underwater trees attract scuba divers to the lake’s depths. Submerged areas such as Oasis Wall, Fiesta Haus Wall, Wreck Alley, and Starnes Island intrigue scuba divers, but you can also dive from shore at Mansfield Dam Park and Windy Point Park.

Although the lake is buttressed by tall limestone walls, if the water level is low, you might find a few spots of sandy beach at Pace Bend Park. The important thing to remember when in the water is that land can drop off suddenly, so you should wear a life jacket if you’re not a strong swimmer (required at all times for children under age 14). 

Always practice caution and common sense and you'll have hours of fun on beautiful Lake Travis.

Photos by Larry and Beverly Burmeier



Thursday, May 12, 2022

How taking a vacation can make you healthier

Dreaming of taking a vacation? Counting the days until you have time off from work? Or is FOMO (fear of missing out) keeping you available 24/7?

American workers are known for not taking advantage of earned time off. According to the 2018 State of the American Vacation report from the U.S. Travel Association, more than half of workers in the country have unused paid vacation days. In fact, they are taking about one less week of vacation annually than they did in the mid-1970s.

Are Americans afraid that their co-workers will get more props for staying on the job? More raises or promotions? Better projects? Do they feel irreplaceable? Alert: No one is! So, let’s look at important reasons to take back earned time off.

Vacations are like medicine for your body, mind, and soul. For example, if you’re at risk for heart disease, skipping vacation time makes you 30 percent more likely to have a heart attack than folks who took time off during the year. Foregoing time off can also increase risk for anxiety, depression, obesity, and insomnia. Women are especially vulnerable for stress-related illnesses like these. So, vacations can improve wellness and keep you healthy long-term.

You need to give your brain a break. Instead of constantly focusing on work projects, taking time to focus on new activities, scenery, people, or cultures can provide increased motivation when you return to your job. This leads to greater job satisfaction because you’ll feel less stressed and happier—attitudes which will help you do your job even better.

Vacations can be a time to have fun and to bond with family or friends. Leaving daily distractions behind allows you to focus on enjoying the people in your life instead of harboring negative emotions from the daily frenzy that many families live in. Allow yourself to uncover a fresh sense of adventure, curiosity, and appreciation for your surroundings.

Travel can help unlock these physical and mental health benefits by engaging our bodies and minds in new activities or mindfulness. Improvement happens when you step away from routine and allow yourself to experience a different level of satisfaction. Leisure time to set a different pace, free from tension, and full of inspiration can be a healthy reset that reaps great benefits for both personal and work lives.

So, take that vacation. Whether you travel near or far is not as important as that you simply get away!

Photos from free sources


Thursday, May 5, 2022

Controversial policy impacts travel decisions

Even as travelers plan to spend more time and money on trips to make up for lost travel opportunities during the past two years, there is controversy over the pandemic-related requirement for negative COVID tests before returning to the U.S. from abroad.

Should testing be eliminated?

The world's most experienced travelers want this requirement eliminated, according to the Global Rescue Spring 2022 Traveler Safety and Sentiment Survey.  

A third of travelers (32%) say the U.S. government should immediately eliminate for everyone the requirement for a negative COVID test for fully vaccinated inbound international travelers to the U.S. while nearly an equal amount (34%) say the requirement should be removed for U.S. citizens but not non-citizens. 

“Unfortunately, many of today’s governmental rules are not medically indicated.  We’re hopeful that changes soon,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue, the world’s leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services and a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Commerce. 

Testing in airports is expensive and
time consuming and often too late.

The overwhelming majority of travelers (84%) are less or much less concerned about travel today compared to the beginning of the pandemic. But 15% of survey-takers report producing a negative COVID-19 test to meet U.S. re-entry requirements is their main travel concern behind being stranded away from home after testing positive for COVID-19.  Not only is there uncertainty about test results to consider, but just finding a place to accomplish the testing in ever-changing and shorter time limits a worry that many travelers have when planning a trip.

Some people choose to wear masks,
even after the requirement was lifted.

According to the survey, many travelers believe pandemic protocols, including masking and physical distancing, are no longer needed. Almost half of the respondents (42%) say there are no pandemic-related behaviors they plan to continue unless required. A third (33%) of respondents disagree and say they plan to continue masking despite easing of mask requirements. Many travelers also prefer to stay out of crowds and to keep their distance from unknown persons when possible.

Avoiding activities with large crowds
is still recommended.

“Travelers want to travel now more than ever. One–out–of four travelers (27%) will spend more time or more money – or both – on trips to make up for curtailed travel due to the pandemic. They’re going to get their travel revenge once governments allow them to move with fewer or no restrictions,” Richards said.  

And the travel industry couldn’t be happier about those sentiments. It’s the path for recovery in travel-related businesses. 

Information courtesy of Bill McIntyre at

Photos from free sources.