Make family travel memories in the year ahead.
Here are five great family vacation destinations to consider:
Millions visit the Grand Canyon National Park to marvel at the mile-deep gorge, exploring by foot, on a mule, or capturing the vast beauty with a camera or the mind’s eye. Stay on the South Rim where year round access is possible and you’ll have access to ranger programs, dining options and stunning views. Explore other regions in northern Arizona for hiking, biking and a history lesson along Route 66. Take in the stunning beauty of Monument Valley, the Petrified National Forest and the picturesque red rocks of Sedona. Pose for a photo while standing on a corner in Winslow, ride horseback at a guest ranch or rent a houseboat on Lake Powell.
Contact: www.VisitArizona.com; www.NPS.gov/GCNP ; www.GrandCanyonLodges.com.
Niagara Falls, NY.
Hear it roar. And feel the mist. But, don’t worry. Ponchos are provided when you board the iconic tour boat, the Maid of the Mist, to feel the power of the historic falls. Formed some 12,000 years ago, Niagara Falls, straddling the US border with Canada, has long been a magnet for explorers and adventurers, as well as honeymooners travelers. By day, explore the area from multiple angles, via lush nature trails, a water-skimming jet boat or high-flying helicopter.
Inside the Niagara Falls State Park, visit the Observation Tower for a panoramic view of the three main falls - American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe Falls. Each night, the park offers an illumination of the Falls, along with seasonal fireworks.
You’ll find lavish resorts in a bustling enclave or quiet getaways on tiny spits of sand, all just 50 miles off the coast of Florida. Choose your preferred sun-drenched environment from among 700 islands, embraced by crystal clear water and the world’s third largest barrier reef. Visions of snorkeling, diving, salt water fly fishing, ecotours, horseback riding, kayaking or just relaxing on soft sandy beaches will provide plenty to compel your family to plan a visit to this breathtaking archipelago.
The Volunteer state is within a day's drive of 65 percent of our nation's population. There, in Tennessee, you’ll find natural beauty, great music and vibrant communities ladled with a dose of Southern hospitality. Enjoy the 800-square mile wonderland that is the Great Smokey Mountain National Park for hiking, horseback riding, and fishing. Add a musical note to your trip with a stop by Graceland to see how the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley lived and worked.
Spend time in Music City USA, otherwise known as Nashville, to discover the rich origins of country music. Visit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum to learn how folk, gospel music and front-porch jamming evolved into the sounds we know today.
Nature-loving families may want to consider a hike on the John Muir Trail in the Cherokee National Forest. It’s a relatively crowd-free portion of the state that's said to look much the same as it did in Muir's day.
Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
A four-season playground for nature lovers, Michigan’s UP nudges up against three Great Lakes - Superior, Huron and Michigan. That said, water and beach activities are plentiful with kayaking, sailing and fishing as warm weather staples. Inland, visitors venture along rivers that feed the Great Lakes, explore old-growth forests and fly fish small streams.
From the Porcupine Mountains, just a few miles from the shores of Lake Superior and considered one of Michigan’s most wild landscapes, adventurers can hike from a summit to the shore in one day. During the winter months, snowmobiling, skiing, snowshoeing and ice fishing are popular pursuits.
Buckle up and cruise our scenic byways for exceptional beauty, wildlife and history.
Here are six to consider:
The Beartooth Highway.
Visitors who travel this extraordinary byway, experience the visual trifecta of Montana, Wyoming and Yellowstone Park, home to the Absaroka and Beartooth Mountains. The windy, cliff-hugging 68-mile stretch introduces road explorers to one of the most diverse ecosystems accessible by auto. It’s also the highest elevation highway in the Northern Rockies. Stunningly beautiful, the All-American Road showcases wide, high alpine plateaus, painted with patches of ice blue glacial lakes, forested valleys, waterfalls and wildlife. Plan for many stops so the driver can take in the long views!
Seward Highway, Alaska.
The road that connects Anchorage to Seward is a 127-mile treasure trove of natural beauty, wildlife and stories of adventure, endurance and rugged ingenuity. Take a day or several to explore the region that has earned three-fold recognition as a Forest Service Scenic Byway, an Alaskan Scenic Byway and an All-American Road. The drive begins at the base of the Chugach Mountains, hugs the scenic shores of Turnagain Arm and winds through mining towns, national forests, and fishing villages as you imagine how explorers, fur traders and gold prospectors might have fared back in the day. Expect waterfalls, glaciers, eagles, moose and some good bear stories.
Trail Ridge Road. Estes Park, CO.
During a 48-mile, two to three hour drive through majestic Rocky National Mountain Park, marvel at the Park’s wildlife, crystalline lakes, and jagged peaks. The nearby Continental Divide, provides the opportunity to explain to the kids how the “roof of the continent” spills moisture to the east and the west from its apex. Consider a stop at The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, which inspired Stephen King’s novel “The Shining.” Also, visit the charming town of Grand Lake, home of the largest natural lake in the state of Colorado.
Contact: Colorado.com; www.nps.gov/romo/
Lighthouse Tour. ME.
Travel the 375 miles between Kittery and Calais, ME, visiting lighthouses along the way, and learn about the dangers that seafaring vessels and their crew endured along the craggy Northeastern coast. Hear tales of shipwrecks and ghosts and of the difficult and lonely life led by those who kept the lights burning brightly. Visit the Maine Lighthouse Museum, where artifacts and hands-on exhibits for children provide an enticing break.
Contact: www.MaineLighthouseMuseum.com; www.VisitMaine.com.
Monument Valley, AZ
You’ve seen the skyline in the movies and on television commercials. Your entire family will marvel at the 250 million year old red rock formations, the magical light, the starry night and the Native American history that infuses the iconic landscape.
Take in the 17-mile scenic loop road on your own or hire a guide to delve deeper into the storied region and to access off-limit sites. Overnight at The View hotel for the best chance to capture the incomparable sunrise and sunset hues. Don’t forget your cameras!
Contact: http://navajonationparks.org; www.MonumentValleyView.com
Skyline Drive. VA.
Meandering along the crest of the mountains through the woods and past spectacular vistas, Virginia’s Skyline Drive begins in Front Royal and twists and turns southwest through Shenandoah National Park. Hike in the shade of oak trees along the Appalachian Trail, discover the stories from Shenandoah’s past, or explore the wilderness at your leisure.
Planning a trip to the Valley of the Sun?
Consider these fun facts about Phoenix so you'll be in the know before you go!
According to legend, Phoenix gets its name from Cambridge-educated pioneer Darrell Duppa, who saw the ruins and prehistoric canals of the Hohokam and believed another civilization would rise from the ashes.
Phoenix is the United States’ fifth-largest city with a population of over 1.6 million.
Greater Phoenix (which includes, among others, the cities of Chandler, Glendale, Scottsdale and Tempe) has a population of nearly 4.5 million and covers 2,000 square miles.
Maricopa County—where Greater Phoenix is located—covers 9,266 square miles, making it about the size of New Hampshire.
Phoenix's elevation is 1,117 feet.
Greater Phoenix is located in the Sonoran Desert, which is one of the wettest and greenest deserts in North America, thanks to 3-15 inches of annual rainfall.
According to data compiled by the National Climatic Data Center, Phoenix basks in sunshine more often than any other major metropolitan area in the U.S. The sun shines on Phoenix during 85 percent of its daylight hours.
Phoenix has an average annual rainfall of 8.04 inches, an average temperature of 75.05 degrees and an annual high temperature of 86.7 degrees. The average high temperature in winter is 67 degrees.
Greater Phoenix has more than 62,000 guest rooms at more than 450 hotels and more than 40 resort properties.
Greater Phoenix is home to nearly 200 golf courses.
Greater Phoenix consistently ranks among the nation’s top cities in the number of Five Diamond and Four Diamond and Five Star and Four Star resorts.
More than 22 million people visit metropolitan Phoenix each year.
More than 44 million people visit Arizona each year.
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, dubbed America's Friendliest Airport, is the main airport for the Greater Phoenix area. It serves more than 40 million passengers a year, and goes to more than 100 domestic and international destinations, making it one of the 10 busiest airports in the nation. With about 1,200 daily flights - about 500 nonstop - Sky Harbor is one of the most convenient airports.
Sky Harbor is a hub for two major low-fare carriers (American Airlines and Southwest Airlines).
Phoenix is one of the few U.S. cities with franchises in all four major professional sports leagues: Phoenix Suns (NBA), Arizona Diamondbacks (MLB), Arizona Cardinals (NFL) and Arizona Coyotes (NHL).
Greater Phoenix hosted Super Bowl XXX on Jan. 28, 1996, Super Bowl XLII on Feb. 3, 2008 and Super Bowl XLIX on Feb. 1, 2015.
The Phoenix Suns have brought the NBA playoffs to Talking Stick Resort Arena (formerly US Airways Center) 29 times.
15 Major League Baseball teams conduct spring training in the Cactus League, which in 2015 drew a record 1.89 million fans.
Greater Phoenix is currently home to 15 Cactus League franchises: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, Cleveland Indians, Cincinnati Reds, Kansas City Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Milwaukee Brewers, Oakland Athletics, San Diego Padres, San Francisco Giants, Seattle Mariners and Texas Rangers, Arizona Diamondbacks and Colorado Rockies.
University of Phoenix Stadium, home of Super Bowl XLII and Super Bowl XLIX, features both a retractable fabric roof and a roll-out grass field.
The University of Phoenix Stadium will be the host of the 2017 NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four and recently hosted the 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship Game (formerly BCS).
The Waste Management Open, played each February at the TPC Scottsdale, is the best-attended event on the PGA Tour, averaging more than 500,000 spectators.
The Phoenix Open set records attendance in 2015 with 564,368 fans attending the event.
Greater Phoenix is home to college football’s Fiesta Bowl and Cactus Bowl. The 2007 and 2011 BCS National Championship games were played at University of Phoenix Stadium. University of Phoenix stadium also hosted the 2016 College Football Playoff (formerly BCS). In addition, Greater Phoenix hosted Pro Bowl in 2015.
ISM Raceway plays host to two NASCAR events each racing season.
Greater Phoenix’s major industries are (1) high-tech manufacturing, (2) tourism and (3) construction.
Greater Phoenix is the corporate headquarters of four Fortune 500 companies: Freeport-McMoRan, Avnet, Republic Services, and Insight Enterprises.
Phoenix is home to the largest municipal park in North America. South Mountain Park and Preserve covers more than 16,500 acres and has more than 50 miles of hiking, biking and equestrian trails.
There are six lakes within a 75-minute drive of Phoenix.
Phoenix has museums to suit nearly every taste. The Heard Museum (Native American); Desert Botanical Garden (the world's largest collection of desert plants); Taliesin West (home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation); the Phoenix Art Museum (the Southwest's largest art museum); the Fleischer Museum (American Impressionism); the Arizona Science Center; the Hall of Flame (featuring the world's largest collection of fire-fighting equipment); Pueblo Grande Museum and Cultural Park (Native American) and the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) are among the cultural hot spots.
The Heard Museum has an extensive collection of American Indian artifacts, including the largest kachina doll collection (donated in part by the late Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater) of any museum in the country.
Arizona is home to 22 American Indian tribes.
A larger-than-life experience, Grand Canyon draws tens of thousands of families each year who unplug their smartphones, tune out television, and create lasting memories together.
Bruce Brossman, marketing director for the Grand Canyon National Park Lodges and Grand Canyon Railway & Hotel, shares 10 ways the park helps kids replace virtual reality with a real-life experience that will stay with them for a lifetime.
1. Take Part in a Junior Ranger Program
With its historic sights, walking trails, museums, exhibits, and the canyon itself, Grand Canyon National Park may be America’s largest classroom. For kids, one of the most popular activities is participating in a Junior Ranger program.
“Lessons are related to nature, history, the environment, and geology and every program is free,” Brossman explains. “Kids can pick up a Junior Ranger book, complete the activities inside, and then bring it to a ranger at the Visitor Center. After they review the answers, they administer the Junior Ranger pledge and then present them with their Junior Ranger badge. They can even take their new badge to one of the park’s bookstores for a custom sew-on patch related to their award.”
Golf is a great activity for the whole family and there is no better place to test your skills on the links than Scottsdale, AZ.
A number of Scottsdale’s most popular courses offer programs and junior golf academies designed specifically for young athletes.
Most offer full instruction for beginners to advanced players, including swing analysis, rules and etiquette, sportsmanship, on-the-course training, and games and prizes.
Here are just a few area courses that cater to young golfers.
EAGLE MOUNTAIN GOLF CLUB: SUMMER JUNIOR GOLF CAMPS
Eagle Mountain’s three-day Junior Golf Camps include four hours of instruction per day and are geared toward kids 8 and older. The Jr. Mountain Club Card (additional fee), enables camp participants to play an hour after twilight all summer long for only $10 ($25 for an accompanying adult).
GRAYHAWK GOLF CLUB – JUNIOR GOLF CAMP
From full swing to putting and chipping to bunkers, Grayhawk’s golf instruction is communicated using fun games and competition. Students learn all the basic mechanics of the golf swing as well as the proper etiquette of the game. The program is open to kids from 8 to 16 years old.
CAMELBACK GOLF CLUB – SUMMER JUNIOR CAMP
All juniors work with PGA-certified Instructors to improve their game through balance, stability, coordination, power and speed. Full-day camps for ages 9 to 16 and half-day camps for ages 7 to 15 are available. Camps feature a 6:1 student-to-teacher ratio and include 9 holes of golf daily.
MCCORMICK RANCH GOLF CLUB – SUMMER JUNIOR GOLF ACADEMY
Golfers age 6 to 17 receive individualized instruction in swing techniques and course strategy, as well as the rules and etiquette of the game. Junior golfers involved in the Golf Academy also receive reduced green fees and range rates to perfect their skills.
MCDOWELL MOUNTAIN GOLF CLUB – JUNIOR GOLF PROGRAM
McDowell Mountain Golf Club’s beginner (ages 8 and under) and intermediate (ages 9 to 13) clinics include fun games, drills and instruction that focus on the full swing, short game and putting. High school prep and college prep programs also are available.
TROON NORTH GOLF CLUB – TROON FAMILY GOLF PROGRAM
This exciting program is available every day of the year! Golfers 15 years of age and younger receive complimentary instruction when taking a lesson with a paying adult, golf for free after 3 p.m. when playing with a paying adult, and enjoy complimentary Callaway rental clubs all day.
GAINEY RANCH GOLF CLUB – JUNIOR TEES PROGRAM
For families that love to golf, Gainey Ranch Golf Club offers “Junior Tees,” special tee locations that are designed to provide children 12 and younger the opportunity to play a yardage-friendly round on a par-72 course. Plus, when playing with a paid adult, children 15 and younger can play the course for free! And for guests at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa, all rounds after your first (at full price) can be enjoyed for 50 percent off!
It was legendary golf course designer, Jay Moorish’s first visit to this stunning Sonoran Desert environment. Visualizing the project that would someday emerge amidst the Santa Catalina and Tortolita Mountains in northwest Tucson, he was in awe of the extraordinary beauty and rich texture of the expansive landscape. Despite an already impressive collection of championship courses lining his portfolio, he was quick to consider himself a mere “custodian” of a near perfect, natural setting.
As it turned out, Moorish’s reverence for the landscape would result in a Sonoran Desert treasure, esteemed by residents, players and most recently, some of the most well respected names in the game of golf.
Masters of the Game
The result of this “Master of the Desert’s” meticulous and thoughtful effort is a 7300-yard gem that has since collected numerous top-drawer awards and accolades. Admirers note the conservation-minded use of a mere 78 acres of turf, which ultimately rewards accurate and thoughtful shot making. Undulating greens, various grass heights and slopes paired with vast bunkers, add to the sporting nature of each round.
Yet, perhaps most importantly, the challenging yet playable course, has garnered the deep appreciation of a stalwart membership that relishes the giant saguaros, native trees, flowering plants, and historic petroglyphs that remain interspersed and serve as the backdrop for the impressive track.
“The ownership team of Phil Mickelson and Steve Loy has embraced the timeless beauty of Stone Canyon, and has delivered on their commitments to the membership,” explained Director of Club Operations, Mike Russell. “Their professional approach, deep knowledge of the game and dedication to providing an outstanding private club experience is unparalled.”
The Gathering Place
To wit, members celebrated the opening of a stunning, 25,000 square foot clubhouse that now serves as the central gathering place for Stone Canyon members, their family and guests.
Crafted through the design leadership of Phx Architecture’s Erik Peterson AIA and Ron Skoog AIA, in partnership with Wespac Construction Inc. and Pati Vester of Vester Studio Design, the clubhouse is a desert gem in its own right.
Indoor and outdoor dining spaces take advantage of the enviable climate and vistas. Lounge areas and fire pit seating offer 270-degree views of craggy rock formations and the sun-drenched cactus and boulder-studded landscape.
The use of reclaimed wood from an old cotton mill, hand-painted Italian tiles, original art and hand-forged chandeliers combine to provide a luxurious yet casual environment in which members enjoy sipping a beverage or relaxed dining after a day on the course.
The two-level clubhouse also includes the golf pro-shop and locker rooms, as well as club service and storage,
Health and fitness is also an important aspect of the Club’s offerings, including a full range of classes and programs designed to enhance the lifestyle of members. From tennis, swimming, yoga and Pilates to professional assistance in developing and attaining personal fitness goals, the standards are set high.
“Our members often comment on the sense of community and welcoming atmosphere that exists within the club,” explained Kelly Mainevielle, Director of Membership. “The new clubhouse allows us to offer themed dinners, wine tastings, cigars under the stars, and other special events in an extraordinary environment. You’ll also find groups of members enjoying lively book club discussions or engrossed in card games. You can tell strong friendships have been forged here.”
While Jay Moorish was an early “custodian” of the nearly perfect setting, those who have contributed since, share his reverential view.
“The area’s natural beauty, an impeccable golf course, and a stunning new clubhouse, combine for an extraordinary private club experience, “ offered Mike Russell. “But none of us take a single day here for granted. We are fully aware that this may well be as good as it gets."
The Stone Canyon Club Membership
Stone Canyon members are not required to live inside the gates of The Stone Canyon Club. Membership is non-equity.
Golf members appreciate full access to all club facilities, including the Top 100 Ranked Golf Course and the luxurious health and fitness facility. Golf members also may utilize the clubhouse, dining facilities, locker rooms, and participate in all club functions and activities. Golf Members have reciprocal privileges at The Rim Golf Club and Chaparral Pines in Payson, AZ.
As a sports member, you will enjoy all of the same benefits of Club membership with the exception of full golf access. Sports members may play the golf course when accompanied by a golf member and will receive a discounted guest fee.
For more information: 520.219.1500 or www.StoneCanyon.com
Escape the bright lights of the city and introduce your family to the night sky. Here are five places to experience a star-filled landscape:
1. Arizona skies.
Expect stellar stargazing as well as the chance to tour the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, which was the first city to be designated a Dark Sky City by the International Dark-Sky Association. See the telescope via which Pluto was discovered in the 1930s and peer through the century-old Clark Telescope. Head south to Tucson, often noted as the astronomy capital of the world. Check in to the Westin La Paloma, where families can learn about the celestial world in the foothills of Arizona’s Santa Catalina Mountains. A “cosmic concierge” will provide an educational preamble while you enjoy fireside s’mores. Bolstered by your new information and the fresh night air, go forth to identify the sea of constellations above.
Contact: lowell.edu; flagstaffarizona.org; westinlapalomaresort.com
2. Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah.
Home to some of the darkest skies in the country, this scenic landscape was the first to receive the International Dark Sky Park certification. Massive natural bridges form star-filled windows through which you can observe the skies as the Pueblo people did some 800 years ago. Among the most spectacular sights is the river of Milky Way brilliance observed rising over Owachomo Bridge.
3. Death Valley National Park, Calif.
The park’s 3.4 million-acre expanse and the region’s clean, dry air combine to provide an ideal vantage point for observing shooting stars, meteor showers and constellations galore. The conditions have earned the park Gold-Tier Dark Sky status. The area shares a strong commitment to avoid light pollution and keep the night sky visible. Stay at the Ranch at Furnace Creek and join the Las Vegas Astronomical Society for Star Parties on selected evenings.
Contact: furnacecreekresort.com; nps.gov/deva
4. Waikoloa, Hawaii.
Relax on the beach by day and learn about the Pacific sky after the sun sets. This Hawaiian island is home to one of the world’s most important observatories and inspires the hotel’s interactive kids’ camps. During Cosmic Night, your youngsters will gather with astronomers for educational stories of the night sky. Each week, they’ll also have the option to join “A Camping We Will Go” and can learn to pitch a tent, stargaze, play flashlight tag and sample s’mores.
Contact: hiltonwaikoloavillage.com; ifa.hawaii.edu
5. Costa Rica.
Discovered by Magellan in the 1520s, his namesake dwarf galaxies are best observed mid-December through April. And Costa Rica, the home of pura vida, is one of the few places in the Northern Hemisphere where it’s possible to view the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. Visit the Arenal volcano region for stunning vistas or relax in a jungle resort, where guided walks through lush flora and fauna are paired with observations of the night sky.
Lately, I have been thinking about and discussing with friends, family, and colleagues, the delicate balance we seek when managing the many aspects of travel. By that, I mean stirring the sometimes bubbling pot of risk, reward, fear, preparation, knowledge and exploration.
Perhaps our formula is different when the situation involves our children.
Several years ago, I was in Hawaii with my sons, Alex and Ted, when word came of Japan's devastating tsunami. We watched the tragedy unfold on television as we prepared to evacuate our hotel rooms. We would sleep in the public spaces along with other uneasy guests as we awaited the incoming swells.
We've hiked, rafted, skied, and kayaked in places where wild animals roam and sheer cliffs threaten.
I've traveled extensively through countries considered a world away from the perceived safety net provided by chain hotels and English-speaking island resorts.
All too often a deadly virus, a terrorist attack or a mosquite-borne threat gives rise to a new conversation about travel and well-being.
What's more, I am often asked if I worry about my safety as a woman traveling solo in a city or after an adventure in the backcountry.
What really makes us feel safe?
How is it that one person's fear-inducing experience is another's source of exhiliration?
I don't have answers but believe that, in the end, it's about the personal attitudes we develop very early, layered with opportunity, choice and experience. It is among the reasons I feel so strongly about encouraging children and families to explore the world early and often.
And, the question always reminds me of a thought-provoking experience I shared with my sons Alex and Ted during and soon after, a trip to the Peruvian Amazon.
(Forewarned: this tale involves snakes!)
~ ~ ~
Eyes empty, sadness smudged her forehead. Then our guide told us the story and I understood.
We had come to her home on the secluded banks of the Peruvian Amazon to search for the elusive poison dart frog in the adjacent jungle. The woman before me, her husband and four children cooked, dined and slept beneath a thatched roof, covering a raised platform. There were no walls.
No doubt they received a small fee from our guide’s lodge to allow us to slide our canoes on to their riverside beach and to welcome us for a short visit in their home.
But it was not our presence that veiled her eyes. It was this: a few weeks prior, the couple’s oldest son was sent 100 yards down to the river to collect water for their cooking.
He did not return.
Soon they went searching for him and discovered he had been struck by the deadly fer-de-lance snake. This creature, deeply feared by the river people, is sometimes called the “three-step snake” – so deadly you can walk only three steps after its bite.
The family had no way to get their son to modern medical treatment. The local shaman was called, but the boy did not survive.
~ ~ ~
With this story thickening the already hot and humid air, we wandered into the jungle and located many small colorful frogs.
We were told their poison is still applied to the tips of darts used for hunting within the region. We returned on the path, crossing near the family’s home, climbed into our canoes and paddled back to our lodge.
During our stay at the jungle lodge, my sons and their friends were asked to join the local villagers in their soccer matches. The games took place at sunset. I, somewhat sheepishly, felt compelled to warn my sons not to venture into the jungle for the ball. We were told this was prime time for the deadly snakes to hunt.
With the grieving mother’s pained expression still haunting me, I studied the natural floor during our jungle hikes, determined to spot the mottled skin of the exotic, mysterious snake. It didn't happen. Within a few days, after fishing for piranha, visiting a native village and zip-lining through the canopy, we returned home to the States.
~ ~ ~
Within weeks after our return to our Scottsdale, AZ home, we were enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon.
Teddy was watching a movie in the study. I was finishing some work at my desk. As my husband walked toward the hall powder room, he stopped to chat with me for just a moment. Fortunately, as he spoke, he put his hand on the door, moving it in slowly. In doing so, a loud noise erupted. Was it a water pipe? Some sort of electrical malfunction?
It was the rapid tail movement of an angry Diamondback rattlesnake. Stunned, we realized that the rattler had done his part. He had warned us with a surprisingly vigorous alarm, one designed to be heard in the desert. It now echoed strangely off thick, slate floors.
My husband and son wisely stuffed towels under the bathroom door so the snake would not disappear into the house. I called the fire department.
The firefighters arrived quickly, amazed that the snake had slithered into our home. Using their cleverly designed extraction tool, they removed the Diamondback to the natural desert beyond our patio.
Later, we discussed how easy it would have been to have an unpleasant encounter with the poisonous rattler as he meandered within a few feet of each of us. We spoke of our rigorous planning and preparation and the safety measures exercised in the wild places we explored.
And how ironic it was that our closest call came within the “safety” of our own home.
The simple pleasures of family life can be found at lakeside retreats.
Here are five places to enjoy gentle breezes and a book on the porch:
This winter, get cozy with the kids in a great American lodge. Sit by the fire, share stories and enjoy a winter family vacation. Here are five to consider:
Devil’s Thumb Ranch. Tabernash, CO.
Stay in a cabin or the lodge and get cozy near one of 45 flickering fireplaces. Enjoy local specialties in the lodge dining room where a three-story, three-hearth fireplace, comprised of hand-stacked stones, warms winter visitors. Grab the binoculars to catch a glimpse of wildlife roaming on this 6,000 acre expanse of Colorado beauty or set out on the Nordic trails for an up-close view of winter scenes. From now through May, stay two nights and get the third night free. Pet friendly.
Contact: 970-726-5632; www.devilsthumbranch.com.
Skytop Lodge. Skytop, PA.
For junior boarders and skiers, this lodge in the Poconos offers crowd-free, gentle slopes on which to learn. Kids as young as three can enroll in ski school. Dog mushing, tobogganing, sledding, ice-skating and cross-country skiing add to the active pursuits available on this sprawling 5,000-acre estate. Later, stretch out in the indoor pool or bubbling hot tub and get ready for game night.
Contact: 800 -345 -7759; www.Skytop.com.
Timberline Lodge, Mount Hood, OR.
Located in Oregon’s Mount Hood National Forest, this magnificent lodge was built at the height of the Great Depression by unemployed craftspeople hired by the Federal Works Progress Administration. Located 60 miles east of Portland, the well-crafted lodge has long served as the centerpiece of this mountain playground. Take a guided, moonlit snowshoe tour, experience Snowcat skiing or simply relax in the historic lodge and enjoy the extraordinary views. Ask about weekday, ski-free deals.
Contact: (800).547-1406; www.timberlinelodge.com/
El Tovar – Grand Canyon National Park, AZ.
Open since 1905 and registered as a national Historic Landmark, this charming, 78-room lodge is just steps from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. Take in a nature talk, go for a mule ride or hike the famed trails that criss-cross down and through the park. Marvel at the extraordinary beauty of snow falling onto the multi-colored rock walls and into the canyon below.
Contact: 928-638-2631; www.GrandCanyonLodges.com.
The Whiteface Lodge. Lake Placid, NY.
Located in the heart of the Adirondacks, this woodland lodge is spacious, with modern amenities. At the same time, it serves up rustic, with stone chimneys, antler chandeliers and handcrafted Adirondack furnishings. Nightly family bonfires, a skating rink, cross-country and downhill skiing, snowshoeing and indoor swimming programs, provide plenty to keep an active family engaged. A complimentary kids club makes it easy for the adults to take advantage of the full service spa on site.
Contact: 800-903-4045; www.thewhitefacelodge.com