Travelrific® Travel Journal

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Archive for September, 2015

Place of a Thousand Drips

By Linda Tancs

Named for a roaring mountain stream, Roaring Fork is one of the larger and faster flowing mountain streams in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, its namesake motor nature trail is a scenic loop over five miles long, offering rushing mountain streams, a scenic overlook with glimpses of old-growth forest, a number of well-preserved log cabins, grist mills and other historic buildings and, at this time of year, spectacular fall foliage. Two of the most popular waterfalls in the Smokies are located here: Rainbow Falls and Grotto Falls. Their smaller cousin is no less popular, though. Known as Place of a Thousand Drips, it is, as the name implies, a low-flow fall driven by wet weather. Located at the end of the trail, you can observe its streams (weather permitting) cascading through dozens of crevices and tiny pathways.

The Art of Bean in Chicago

By Linda Tancs

To bean or not to bean—that is the question for visitors to Chicago, Illinois. That is to say, will you visit The Bean? Officially known as Cloud Gate (because 80 percent of its surface reflects the sky), it’s an interactive sculpture (shaped like a bean, of course) gracing the promenade at Millennium Park. Its stainless steel skin captures the environment around it, a mirror to the soul of The Windy City. And a fun house mirror for those gawking at it. The monument is 33 feet high, 42 feet wide and 66 feet long. Its reflection is kept pristine by washing it twice a year with 40 gallons of liquid detergent.

Tribute to the Tire Man

By Linda Tancs

Art Nouveau. Proto-Art Deco. Secessionist Functionalism. Geometrical Classicism. However you’d describe it, London’s Michelin House is a symbol of quality and style in Chelsea. A beloved London landmark, the building was commissioned in 1909 as the British headquarters for the tire company, Michelin. When Michelin vacated the premises in 1985, it was converted into the Bibendum Restaurant, Oyster Bar and Café. Bibendum is commonly referred to as the Michelin Man, the iconic symbol of the tire company. It should come as no surprise that the converted space is a tribute to the famous tire man, its floors, walls and windows adorned with his image.

Where the Buffalo Roam

By Linda Tancs

South Dakota’s Custer State Park is where the buffalo roam. Nearly 1,300 buffalo—one of the largest publicly owned bison herds in the country—roam the park’s prairies and hills. Commonly sighted along the 18-mile Wildlife Loop Road that winds around the southern edge of the park, you can enjoy a different view of them en masse at tomorrow’s annual Buffalo Roundup. Celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, feel the clap and thunder of the herd as it’s driven by cowboys and cowgirls in a roundup event that’s actually a critical management tool. Want in on the action? Private citizens have a long tradition participating in the event. An orientation ride takes place today.

Captiva Captivates

By Linda Tancs

Sister Sanibel may be larger, but Captiva Island in southwest Florida is just as captivating. This is the land of the Calusa Indians, a place that pirates reportedly roamed. It’s where you’ll find the ever popular Bubble Room restaurant, where it’s always Christmas. Even nature’s oddities await you here—you could discover a giant toad, a tiny starfish or an endangered Eastern Indigo snake. Captiva is just over a small bridge that crosses at Turner Beach, where a drive down Captiva Drive will net you giant cacti, colorful bougainvilleas and other tropical flora.

Bear With It in Japan

By Linda Tancs

Located in eastern Hokkaido in Japan, Shiretoko’s unspoiled nature is epitomized by the five lakes, Shiretoko Goko. Formed long ago by the eruption of nearby Mount Io and fed by underground springs, the lakes are accessible via an elevated wooden path (leading to the first lake) or a ground pathway (offering views of all five lakes). Visitors are free to walk along the elevated wooden path to the first lake throughout the season (which opens in late April and closes in November). The ground pathway, however, is subject to guided tours during bear season, which is generally May 10 to July 31. But bears live in the lakes region all year, so bear encounters are always possible and may result in path closures. Further regulations apply during this time of year (ecosystem aware season), when tourist traffic threatens the tender vegetation in the area. For the privilege of viewing the pristine lakes and surrounding mountains, you’ll need to attend a lecture and wait your turn to hike because there’s an hourly limit to the number of visitors allowed on the trails. So just grin and (ahem) bear it.

World’s Largest Corn Maze

By Linda Tancs

Thousands have braved the maze at Cool Patch Pumpkins, site of the world’s largest corn maze according to Guinness World Records. Sixty acres’ strong, each year’s design gets ever more challenging. The maze (and pumpkin patch) are open now through early November. Located in Dixon, California, look for the famous Milk Farm landmark sign visible from Interstate Highway 80 between First Street and Pedrick Road.

Where the Forest Meets the Sea

By Linda Tancs

Cape Perpetua Scenic Area is where the forest meets the sea. Managed by the United States Forest Service as part of Siuslaw National Forest, it’s a large forested headland on the coast of central Oregon, projecting into the Pacific Ocean. It’s also where a sinkhole of sorts meets the sea. Known as Thor’s Well, a deep chasm fills with salt water and produces a fountainous spectacle before Mother Nature vacuum sucks its bounty back to its rightful owner. The site is particularly spectacular at high tide or during storms—when it’s also most dangerous.

An Underwater Nature Path

By Linda Tancs

Port Cros is a small, charming island in the French Riviera. In fact, the entire island is a national park (the smallest in France), affording nature lovers ample opportunity to discover its flora and fauna. There are 602 land species of flora, 500 algae species, 144 bird species, 180 fish species and some endemic tenants like the Tyrrhenian painted frog. Its unspoiled, pristine nature gives rise to one of its most unique attractions: an underwater marked nature path. Beginning at Plage de la Palud, the trail takes about 30 minutes to complete. Thanks to a prohibition on mooring at the beach to protect the underwater species, you’ll be assured remarkable views.

A Cathedral of Limestone

By Linda Tancs

Tsingy is the Malagasy word for “walking on tiptoes,” quite appropriate for the limestone cathedral dominating Tsingy de Bemaraha Strict Nature Reserve. Its otherworldly, needle-like rock formations hundreds of feet tall draw tourists not only for the views but also for a chance to see amazing endemic flora and fauna. Decken’s sifaka, the red-fronted brown lemur, fat-tailed dwarf lemur, grey mouse lemur, Cleese’s woolly lemur and the Sambirano lesser bamboo lemur are only found here. You might view some over the several hanging bridges kissing the karsts. The park is only open during the dry season (April through November).

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