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Archive for U.S. travel

San Francisco’s Little Giant

By Linda Tancs

The Mission District of San Francisco, California, is nowadays a culturally diverse and trendy part of the city. But were it not for a working fire hydrant on April 18, 1906, it would have likely been lost to the ages. That’s when a disastrous earthquake brought the city to its knees, spawning the Great Fire left largely unquenched by a series of broken water mains—except for a certain fire hydrant on the southwest corner of Dolores Park in the western edge of the Mission District. Against all odds, the lone functioning hydrant (nicknamed “little giant”) is credited with saving the district. Each year on April 18 it receives a fresh coat of gold paint.

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Old London Town

By Linda Tancs

London Town—Maryland, that is—boasts a colonial history that was all but forgotten following a change in trade routes that basically shuttered the thriving port town by the end of the 18th century. Thanks to a revival in interest sparked by an archaeological dig, the colonial seaport just 15 miles from Annapolis is now brimming with activities and interactive exhibits staffed on weekends with costumed interpreters. The crown jewel of the historic area is the William Brown House, a National Historic Landmark. Built by merchant William Brown to be an upscale inn and tavern, the Georgian-style brick mansion later functioned as an almshouse in the 1820s and continued to shelter the destitute until 1965. The area also features more than 10 acres of beautiful woodland and ornamental gardens, a colonial-era carpenter’s shop and the recreated Lord Mayor’s Tenement on the former site of a home for low-income families.

One of America’s Oldest Regions

By Linda Tancs

Virginia’s Eastern Shore is one of America’s oldest regions. Settled in 1615, it predates the landing of the Mayflower by five years. A narrow, 70-mile peninsula with the Atlantic Ocean on one side and the Chesapeake Bay on the other, the area is the antidote to commercial, blanket-to-blanket beach communities found elsewhere. Of course, there are beaches (six public ones) as well as wildlife refuges and a National Seashore. Historically, many districts in the towns are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The region also hosts the homestead of one of America’s influential colonial families and the repository for the oldest continual court records. Accomac is particularly famous for its debtors’ prison (used until 1849), a rare survivor of penal architecture of the colonial period. Highway 13, commonly known as Route 13, is the major north-south highway on the Eastern Shore. Heavily traveled in summertime, you’ll find little congestion this time of year.

The Pacific Crest Trail

By Linda Tancs

One of the original national scenic trails established by Congress in the 1968 National Trails System Act, the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail generally runs along the high crests of the Sierra and Cascades mountain ranges. Beginning in southern California at the Mexican border, the trail marks a total distance of 2,650 miles through California (passing through five state parks), Oregon, and Washington until reaching the Canadian border. The trail is open to the public from April to September for foot and equestrian travel only. About 200 people attempt to hike the length of the trail each season, generally starting at the Mexican border and ending at the Canadian border. Only a few equestrians have ever ridden the entire trail.

Rainbows in the Valley

By Linda Tancs

Washington State’s Skagit Valley is prized for its mountain and river views, but at this special time of year it’s the rainbow-colored pastures brimming with tulips that draw crowds from every state and almost 100 countries. The perennial, bulbous plant is celebrated month-long in April at the Skagit Valley Tulip Festival. You will need a map of the tulip field area to help you navigate as the fields’ locations change every year due to crop rotation. Designed as a driving tour, the tulips are generally grown in a 15-mile triangle bordered by Highway 20, the Skagit River and the Swinomish Channel.

Apache Tears

By Linda Tancs

Thanks to its monument status granted in 2001, New Mexico’s Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument is a popular, otherworldly attraction featuring teepee-like rock formations arising from volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago. You’ll find a three-mile trail used for hiking, walking, nature trips and birding, where sandy washes are littered with black obsidian (volcanic glass) known locally as Apache Tears. Forty miles west of Santa Fe, the area is signposted starting from exits 259 (NM 22) or 264 (NM 16) of interstate 25 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

Desert Conservation in the Southwest

By Linda Tancs

The Desert Botanical Garden is a 140 acres-wide botanical garden in Phoenix, Arizona. A pioneer in desert conservation, it’s an indispensable resource in the Southwest for helping individuals learn about Sonoran Desert plants as well as desert plants elsewhere in the world. One of only 24 botanical gardens accredited by the American Alliance of Museums, it boasts over 50,000 plant displays showcased in beautiful outdoor exhibits. The garden includes five unique desert trails as well as temporary exhibits and seasonal events highlighting desert life and its preservation.

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