Mineral hot springs offer the chance to soak in healing waters and to learn about their ancient origins. Here are six places where you and your family can warm up in the water:
1.Steamboat Springs, CO.
In the late 1880s fur trappers passing through this Colorado enclave, heard an odd noise resembling a steamboat. They were pleasantly surprised to find more than 150 geothermal steamy, bubbling springs that today soothe tired muscles après ski or after a long days’ hike. The centrally-located Old Town Hot Springs offers swimming pools, a full-service fitness center and a waterslide for the kids. Just seven miles from town, the Strawberry Park Hot Springs offers a unique experience, with hand-built stone pools of varying temperatures, tepee changing rooms and a natural and serene environment. Note: Children are welcome during the day. Once the sun goes down, you must be 18 or older and clothing is optional.
Contact: (970) 879-0342; www.StrawberryHotSprings.com. (970) 879-1828; www.SteamboatHotSprings.com.
2. Thermopolis, Wy
Visit the world’s largest mineral hot spring in this western town where the whole family can swim, slide, soak and steam inside or outdoors. See the mineral-formed rainbow terraces and other natural creations as well as the local buffalo herd at the Hot Springs State Park. Learn how paleontologists work, participate in a real dig or wander through the museum at the Wyoming Dinosaur Center. Don’t miss the 108 foot Supersaurus stretching overhead.
Contact: 1 (877) 864-3192; www.Thermopolis.com.
3. Glenwood Springs, CO.
Royals, presidents and Ute Indians have all found these steamy pools to provide great respite from the rest of the world. Two blocks long, the Glenwood Hot Springs Pool complex includes a kiddy pool with water slide, a diving pool and a therapy pool. Relax in the warm waters and enjoy the Rocky Mountain scenery. Later, step next door to the Yampah Spa & Vapor Caves for a natural sauna in rock caves. Spend the night in nearby geothermal-heated hotel rooms.
Contact: (970) 945-6571; www.hotspringspool.com.
4. Calistoga, CA
The Palisade Mountains provide a picturesque backdrop to a day spent relaxing in this comfortable, family-run spa in Napa Valley. Warm up in an 80-foot-long lap pool, a 90-degree kiddie pool with a waterfall or the 100-degree pool. The steamy therapy pool is for adults only. Mud baths, massages and a fitness facility are also available. A multi-generational favorite, rooms with kitchenettes make a family overnight easy to handle.
Contact: 866-822-5772; www.calistogaspa.com.
5. Rio Grande Village, TX.
Soak in the scenery as well as the warm water within Big Bend National Park. Look for painted pictographs on the cliff walls as you enjoy the one mile loop hike past historic buildings and the area where various Indian groups lived and traveled. The large hot spring on the bank of the Rio Grande River gushes with steamy water that fills the foundation of an old bathhouse creating a popular natural hot tub. Contact: (432)477-2251; www.nps.gov/bibe/planyourvisit/soakinthesprings.htm
6. Salmon River, Idaho.
Ask your river guides to make time for a stop at several hot springs that dot the banks or side channels of both the Middle Fork and the Main Salmon River. The steamy waters provide a warming alternative to a day of spray as you paddl your way through these scenic waters. Contact: www.Far-Away.com
Visits to Temples and Shrines in Tokyo Metro a Good Way to Enjoy Nature
Three days in Japan and I have to admit I’m full of Shinto – and the better man for it.
For me, Tokyo has always been a bit of a pass-through. I would stop for a day or two on the way to somewhere else in Asia, so when I finally got the opportunity to spend a week in and about the city, I jumped at the chance.
My hotel was in the Shinjuku part of the city, an intense locale of high-rise office buildings, west of the Ginza. The Shinjuku rail station I’m told is the busiest in Japan, with 3.5 million people per day passing through its portals. Now, I’ve lived in Manhattan, so I know a little something about crowds, but to see a train pull into Shinjuku Station and the masses emerge is really quite fascinating – you just don’t want to get in the way as thousands of well-clad commuters rush for the exits.
Shinjuku, the high-rise buildings, elaborate roadways, great shopping, crowded mass transits are what I expect when I visit Tokyo – and I actually look forward to seeing it all. However, with a week at leisure, I got to explore not only Tokyo, but the suburbs and regions just beyond the population corridors. This was my true surprise.
When you are in middle of this great cosmopolitan city you forget that Japan is not all flat plains ready for the next high-rise, but a rugged land of mountains and forests and in just a short train ride, you will suddenly find yourself beyond the throngs and in the midst of forests, mountains, crags and wild rivers.
The ancient Japanese realized the beauty of the land and in these rugged places built temples and shrines. Most of those in and near Tokyo are dedicated to Buddhism, Shintoism or both, because in Japan the two are closely aligned.
Buddhism, like Catholicism or Islam, is based on the teachings of the religion’s founder, in this case the person known as Buddha, who was born around 624 B.C. Shinto is harder to define, because there is no great founder. It’s less of religion that a way of life tied to the principals of the ancient Japanese. Or, as one Shinto priest, told me, it’s like a nature worship, which is understandable considering that many of the great Shinto shrines I visited were in the heart of pleasant parklands,
Mount Takao is probably the most spectacular, located about an hour’s train ride outside of Tokyo Central. The real surprise is, after leaving bustling Shinjuku, a forest of high-rises, that by the time I got off the train, I was in a true, deep mountain forest, as Mt. Takao is the heart of the very large Meiji no Mori Takao Quasi National Park.
Temples and shrines galore can be found at the top of the mountain and a lot of locals will walk the hiking trails to the summit, just under 2,000 feet, but tourists and families generally take the funicular, which is the steepest, historic cable car in Japan.
Once at the top, it’s a mostly moderate -- but occasionally strenuous -- walk along a ridge line. Some things to note along the journey are the monkey park for kids and the famed Octopus Cedar Tree. At one point the trail divides into the women’s path and men’s path, about the only difference is the latter loops gracefully up-slope while the men’s side consists 108 steps.
There’s a lot to see on the way to the main temple, Stukas and statues, occasional stores selling unusual edibles of one sort or another. And yes, the shrine and temple was great, but the high-point for me was standing on the observation deck and seeing Mt. Fuji in the hazy distance.
The thing to remember about Mt. Takao is, on holidays and weekends with beautiful weather the solitude of the mountaintop will be severely limited by the throngs of city folk also wanting to do the same thing. The day before I arrived, early in November, was some kind school holiday and a record 28,000 people had stormed the summit
Even with all that folk stamping about, the busiest temple/shrine complex is still the Meiji Shrine, which for all practical purposes sits in the heart of Tokyo. High-heeled steps away from the main gate sits a small plaza and walking bridge, both of which roll into the Harajuku neighborhood, a trendy area where young Japanese women shop for the latest or most garish fashions, which they parade on that plaza and bridge across from the Meiji Shrine area as if at an Easter Ball for the weird and kinky.
Sorry, I digress, being tempted to the world of sin, when I should have been paying attention to my religious studies.
Although we are in the center of Tokyo, the Meiji Shrine sits in the heart of large, forested parklands. I arrived at dusk, shortly before the park was to close, and fortunately for me more people were leaving the grounds than arriving. The gravel paths are wide, and, indeed, like Mt. Tahoe the approach is naturalistic as the way is lined with heavy forestation. You are in Tokyo but no longer in the city.
The Meiji Shrine is very large and built in a traditional manner, with an outer gate and large, enclosed plaza and finally, the shrine, a long building steeped with traditional Japanese green tiles, sloping roofs with the uplift at the ends, like a bird ready to take flight.
It was at this shrine that I learned how to eat, pray, love. Sorry, wrong religious studies. I learned how to approach, pay, pray. Here’s the way to do it: You throw some coins into a box, bow twice, clap twice (to wake up the gods), make your prayer and then bow one more time.
The Meiji Shrine is a beautiful escape from the tremendous bustle of the crowds surrounding it. Literally, everything beyond the grounds of the park is moving at top speed, with 22 million people trying to work, go home, shop or play. But, the shrine is all serenity.
Young families that follow the tenets of Shinto bring their children (ages three and seven for girls and five for boys) to make a special ceremony at the Shinto shrine. It’s very lovely, because no matter how modern the family is, the young girls are dressed beautifully in their tiny kimonos. They are the real eye-stopping beauties and not the teenagers they will eventually become who cavort in pornographic. anime costumes on the pedestrian bridge to Harajuku.
Another good naturalist visit is the Hoto-san Shrine in Chichibu (take the Seibu Line Express Train #9), home to the Chichibu-Tama-Kai National Park. This is a good day trip and after walking about the mountain shrine, stroll into the small village outside the park for lunch. I ate in a restaurant with the unlikely transliteration name of Yurin-Club. Ignore the obvious joke and enjoy a traditional Japanese meal served in hand-made bamboo containers made by local craftsmen.
Finally, one of the great spiritual mountains, and home to Japan’s largest Great Buddha statue, is Mount Nakogiri-Yama in southeastern Chiba, off the Tokyo Bay coastal Road. This is an only-in-Japan type location that is both a great hike through mountain forest and a place to experience the spiritual side of the country, because not only is there the Great Buddha, but in an old quarry another visage of Buddha has been carved and along one route you will pass 1,500 Rakans (small statues), many of which were beheaded when the Japanese state split Buddhism from Shintoism.
The walk is fairly easy and much of it has paved paths or steps, but you will need to take a breath once you get to the summit, from which you can see both Tokyo Bay and the Pacific.
If You Go:
Traveling to Japan is relatively easy as there are direct flights from both the east and west coasts of United States. I took a United Airlines flight from Los Angeles to Narita, returning from Narita through San Francisco. An express train runs from Narita to Tokyo Station, which I took on previous visits. This time I used shuttle buses. www.united.com
Where to Stay (Tokyo):
Due to the nature of my visit, I moved around a lot during my eight days in Japan. In Tokyo, I stayed at the Keio Plaza Hotel in the intense office building area of the city called Shinjuku (www.keioplaza.com); at the Sukeroku No Yado Sadachiyo, a traditional Japanese inn (www.sadchiyo.co.jp); and the Park Hyatt Tokyo, the upscale, high-rise hotel made famous by the Bill Murray/Scarlet Johansson movie, Lost In Translation (www.parkhyatttokyo.com).
Where to Stay (Prefectures): In Saitama, I stayed at the Kawagoe Prince Hotel (www.princehotels.com/en/kawagoe/). In Chiba, I spent a comfortable night at the Hotel New Otani Makuhari, a new mid-rise, business hotel.
52 Books For Travelers of All Ages
Great reads and grand gift ideas for the intrepid explorer or the armchair traveler.
Irene Lane, founder of Greenloons, offers her picks for ten compelling eco destinations:
1. Jordan’s eco-lodges combine local heritage and educational experiences while exploring a mix of modernity, ancient wonders and nature. Think horse or camel safaris, Bedouins, the endangered Arabia oryx, Petra, the Dead Sea and trekking through Dana Nature Reserve.
2. Borneo’s jungles, beaches, caves, exotic wildlife and more than 5,000 diverse and endemic plant species are revealed by, among others, trekking the relatively untouched Mt. Kinabalu and exploring the Kinabatangang River, home to wild boar, orangutans, elephants, king fishers, macaque and proboscis monkeys. Award-winning eco-lodges harvest rainwater, use solar power and manage wildlife rehabilitation.
3. The Philippines is among National Geographic’s 20 Best Destinations and Palawan Island its top eco-destination. Among 7,000 islands guests swim with whale sharks, discover endangered sea turtles, spy on the rare Philippine eagle and discover the mountain-to-sea ecosystem of the Puerto-Princesa Subterranean River National Park. Eco-lodges serve locally sourced food and wildlife education.
4. Belize offers more than 87 distinct types of ecosystems, making ecotourism the lifeblood of its economy. Along with 150 identified species of mammals are rainforests, Mayan temples, the world’s second longest barrier reef and an abundance of eco-lodges educating travelers about the fragility of its ecosystem.
5. Botswana favors low volume, high quality, environmentally conscious safari travel into the Okavango Delta and Kalahari Desert, the savannahs of the Moremi Reserve and the forests of Chobe and Linyanta Game Reserves. Guests enjoy game drives, walking, elephant/horseback/bicycle safaris and boating, plus youth explorer programs emphasizing conservation and bush survival skills. Tented bush camps are environmentally friendly.
6. Poland has mountains, rivers and wetlands and is a haven for hundreds of thousands of migratory birds as well as avid hiking enthusiasts. With 23 National Parks and forests covering nearly 30 percent of the country, Poland has its own Big Game: the European bison, lynx, stoats, martens and red deer. Guests can enjoy eco-ranch lodges.
7. Croatia’s eco/agritourism focuses on culinary tours with locally sourced organic produce and family farm stays. Activities can include hiking, biking, rafting and canoeing.
8. Guyana’s mountain ranges, savannahs and jungle canopy walks combine with river and rainforest eco-lodges for close-up views of exotic birds, jaguars, red howler monkeys, giant river otters and other wildlife. The famed Karanambu Ranch rehabilitates orphaned giant river otters so they can be released back into the wild.
9. Argentina is home to Glacier National Park and the active Perito Moreno, one of the world’s only advancing glaciers, as well as the tropical rain forests of Iguazu Falls near Brazil, the Antarctic environment of Tierra del Fuego, the Andean mountains, the wind-swept Patagonian steppe and the coastal marine habitat of the Valdes Peninsula. Eco-lodges are crafted from local materials to integrate with the environment.
10. Ethiopia may be a trek across the Roof of Africa through the virtually untouched Simien Mountains, home of the Gelada baboon, Walia ibex and endangered Ethiopian wolf. Or it may be Rift Valley Lakes and Blue Nile Falls or Lalibela, considered to be one of the greatest spiritual-historical sites of the world. Eco-lodgings are built in the traditional “tikka” style and solar-powered.
Photo: Petra, Jordan
School's Out For Summer
At first it seemed the beast was deliberately antagonizing me, with its mocking howls echoing for miles. Suddenly, I spotted his full head, which appeared with a surprised expression. I was thrilled to meet my ancient cousin. And, just when I thought I had reached the height of wildlife-spotting fortune, the clownish grin of a three-toed sloth came into view; the "lazy animal" (his nickname amongst the indigenous people) only leaves the top of his canopy perch for a weekly defecation ceremony.
High Energy Adventure
While it may not have been a thoroughly relaxing trip, it was just the perfect tempo for an energetic family like ours.
In fact, I was in Central America to teach photography along with my father for Tauck Bridges- a fun-filled, family-focused program run by a high-end, luxury tour company (You can watch my photo/video presentation about the trip here- http://bit.ly/ontJsd). With my mom an accomplished writer, and my dad an award-winning travel journalist, I have been part of a creative and artistic family since birth. Becoming a photographer was a natural path and seemed an obvious progression that was bound to happen. I got into the art young, having always been transfixed by my father's work.
The Adventure Continues
The end of our one-week Tauck adventure wasn't really the end of our Central American exploration, it was more like an introduction. Continuing our journey through Costa Rica, we made a luxurious two-day "pit stop" at the Tabacon Resort and Spa. Situated near Arenal Volcano, this dreamlike lodge hosts an array of luxuriant lava-fed hot spring pools and waterfalls deep within the rain forest.
On To Nicaragua
After several soaks, I had the realization that we were only five hours away from another intriguing nation--- a melting pot of indigenous Latin culture--- Nicaragua. I looked north towards the horizon, longing to experience a new nation.
But the next morning, like out of a Biblical passage, it became so. My parents arranged a vehicle that whooshed us north beyond the borders of customs and immigration, and toward fabled Lake Nicaragua. We passed the jade-colored waters of the only freshwater lake in the world that sharks inhabit, before arriving at the colorful lakeside town of Granada.
"The rocking chair capital of the world," my dad proclaimed, as he observed the presence of that swaying furniture on every residential stoop. I watched as elderly ladies consumed their dinners while rocking away in the doorways of their simple homes. A palpable energy pervaded the nearby market, chock-a-block with live fowl, spicy fragrance, narrow alleyways and frantic hubbub. Straddling the equator, tropical daylight here seems far too short, and this day was becoming shorter and darker as a violent storm ripped across the sky. We had to make the voyage toward the center of Lake Nicaragua in a small boat. As we made our journey across a windswept bay, a waterfall of rain doused our heads and poured on top of the vessel. We finally chugged our way to a Shangri-La--- the only lit island on the horizon of this monstrous lake.
Jicaro Ecolodge is a magical and hidden paradise in the middle of a spectacular volcano-dotted lake. Jicaro was the perfect, relaxing escape from the crowds of the city and the now cascading deluge. That night, the sounds of chirping insects and gulping frogs enveloped us as we indulged in a mouth-watering feast of local cuisine in Jicaro’s open-air dining room. The next morning I acknowledged the sad truth: we had only one day left. But in the Guttman family, no hour goes to waste. So we tried to cram yet more adventures into the trip.
The Powerful Masaya Volcano
On our last day, we kayaked to a secluded area of the lake, where through a small opening in the marsh grass, we were permitted access to a secret hot spring. In that small cove, we swam and relaxed before hiking the winding trails in search of wildlife. To finish off the afternoon, we got up close and personal with the active, belching, powerful Masaya Volcano. As night approached, we descended beneath the edges of Masaya’s crater and trekked through a forbidding bat cave. Our footsteps moved closer to the edge of the pitch-dark cavern and like a scene cut from a horror movie, thousands of bats screamed out of the cave and flew right at me. Crashing into my hardhat, the vampire bats flooded the air and caused the others around me to scream. To make matters scarier, another torrential downpour suddenly began. We managed to dodge a porcupine and get away from the cave, but we still had to somehow get down from atop the crater in the dark.
Beyond The Lava
As we reached our car, the visibility dwindled down to zero. The rain had mixed with steaming lava to create a thick sulphuric whiteout fog. It was so bad that our guide had to direct the car down the road on foot in the middle of the raging lightning storm. Save the bolts lighting the slopes, I could see nothing. All I heard was our guide and driver screaming frantically in Spanish as we slowly crept our way down the mountain. Suddenly, we hit a big bump and I heard a loud thump. Everyone had a shocked expression across their faces. My heart rocketed out of my body as I thought we had fallen off the cliff edge into a chasm of lava. My dad opened the door to double check. It seemed we were still firmly on the road and okay. After playing hide and seek with Mother Nature we finally made it to the bottom. Safe.
Back at home, I had a chance to reflect. School may be just around the corner again, but as Mark Twain once said, “I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.”
Chase Guttman is a passionate and talented photographer, political junkie, intrepid explorer, and world traveler. Chase visited more than 35 countries, 45 U.S. states, and 8 Canadian provinces by the time he was 12. All photographs that accompany this story are his. Find out more at www.ChaseGuttman.com.
Turn back the clock and enjoy camp-style activities with your family.
Here are places to consider for a naturally good time:
Surf Camp. Wrightsville Beach, NC
Travel to the warm waters and sandy beaches of the Cape Fear coast for a five-day adventure. Your family members (eight and older) will learn how to assess an incoming wave, improve balance, and surf barrier islands while enjoying this sea-faring sport together. During the personalized program, you will also learn about the coastal eco-systems and have the chance to bond with sea turtles during a visit to a turtle hospital. Family surf camps are also held in Costa Rica, Hawaii and the Virgin Islands. Contact: 1-866-844-7873; www.wbsurfcamp.com/camps/camp_family.asp.
Donohoe Outfitting’s River Camp. Nye, MT.
Join the Donohoe family on their 4000 acre, working cattle ranch for a customized, family camp experience. In the heart of the Beartooth Mountains, you’ll craft your own itinerary from a long list of options including top notch fly fishing on four miles of private water. Ride horses into the adjacent canyons, help out with ranch chores, or raft the nearby white-water. Sleep in comfortable, safari-style tents just steps from the Stillwater River. Homesteaded in 1915, the ranch and River Camp will provide your family with an authentic western adventure. Contact: 406-328-6291; www.donohoeoutfitting.com.
Marine Science Consortium. Wallops Island, VA.
While enjoying the beauty of Virginia’s eastern shore, your family can learn about the mysteries of marine science and the Mid-Atlantic eco-system. Kids will love the opportunity to take a mud bath in the marsh almost as much as kayaking through tidal creeks, and scoping for wild ponies and coastal birds. Climb aboard an ocean research vessel and marvel at the sea life treasure the trawler’s net will bring up from the depths. Visit a nearby NASA facility, enjoy nature hikes and dine on tasty seafood. Choose from three sessions each summer. Contact: 757-824-5636; www.msconsortium.org ; www.Virginia.org.
Alford Lake Camp. Hope, Maine.
For most of the summer, this pristine camp on the Maine coast, is reserved for girls eager to explore the outdoors and make new friends. For five days, near the end of the summer season, families are invited to enjoy the 400-acre campus and partake in the range of camp activities that include horseback riding, sailboarding, swimming, pottery, theatre and dance. Alford Lake campers have been sleeping in tents and enjoying family-style meals since 1907. . Contact: 207-785-2400; www.alfordlakecamp.com.
El Capitan Canyon. Santa Barbara, CA.
This beach-side camp encourages families to leave the stress of city life behind and enjoy their natural environment. Take a guided llama or botanical hike, enjoy a family yoga class, then stop by the campfire for story-telling. Challenge yourselves with a seaside bike ride or ropes course, then relax with a beach walk, sand castle building and evening stargazing. You’ll stay in creek-side cedar cabins, safari-style tents or a family-friendly yurt all tucked within ancient oak and sycamore trees. Ask about the family picnic package. Contact: 1-866-352-2729; www.elcapitancanyon.com.
Each year, the month of February is deemed “plant seeds of greatness month” in an effort to encourage Americans to examine their goals and aspirations and make changes where desired.
Use this idea ( you don’t have to wait until February), to spark a conversation within your family. Then forge ahead. Learn a new skill, explore new territory or give back to your community.
Consider these ideas:
For many families, summer is a time of transition. Family schedules and structures take on new shapes and sizes. When September rolls around, will there be more school supplies to buy? Or will the nest soon be emptying? This year, the warm summer breeze reminds me of an adventure we experienced years ago.
Not far down the sandy bank, I could see my 18-year-old son Alex rhythmically casting his fly into the Salmon River, intent on luring a trout. He was tanned and relaxed. His smile came easily as his angling efforts paid off.
I was looking for some uncomplicated time with my middle son before he went off to college. Perhaps selfishly, I wanted his full attention. Not those moments diluted by phone calls or text messages, the lure of the evening’s social activities or side glances to catch the latest on ESPN. So off to the wilderness we went.
Our backcountry choice was the Salmon River, referred to as the River of No Return by the Lewis and Clark Expedition. What we found in Central Idaho was a river corridor of exceptional beauty meandering through two million acres of wilderness, exciting whitewater, calm river pools, white sand beaches, and traces of American history not likely found in any other river valley in North America.
I was more than willing to share our time on the water with my youngest son Ted, who was about to miss his older brother as much as I would. From Boise, we climbed aboard a plane so small it felt like a bathtub toy. And we seemingly floated into Salmon, Idaho after enjoying up close and exhilarating views of the rugged mountain wilderness near Stanley and Sun Valley.
We were met by our charming host Wayne Johnson, owner of Salmon River Rafting, who would eventually impress us as a jack of all river trades. He informed, organized and otherwise herded us from our Salmon hotel to the water’s edge.
We were in the good company of a father, his son and two grandsons from Michigan, a couple from Minneapolis and our guides Wayne, Steve and Megan. Once afloat, our group of ten was dispersed among two kayaks, a rubber raft and the swift boat that carried our supplies down river.
Some of us were eager for the extra challenge (and exercise) provided by the kayaks. Others were just as content to relax in the boat, enjoying the near perfect weather and the surrounding Frank Church Wilderness. That is until we heard the rumble of rushing water ahead.
From the beginning, our guides carefully coached us to take the white water seriously and keep our feet first and down river should we end up in the drink. And it was a good thing!
Over the course of five days, rapid after rapid, we screamed, splashed, strategized and steered our way in and around giant boulders, swirling holes, and foamy waves that crashed over our heads.
My kayak partner Mark and I high-fived in pride for having stayed right side up more often than my two muscular teens traveling in tandem.
Evenings were spent enjoying hearty food prepared by Wayne and his capable crew, then stories and poems around the campfire, and the company of our fellow adventurers. The biggest decision of the day was whether to assemble the tent or enjoy a peaceful night under the stars.
Wayne Johnson is a veteran of the river, having spent most of his adult life guiding through this wilderness corridor. His love for the flowing water, the natural surroundings and the significant history provides tremendous added value to the trip. As travelers on the Main Salmon River we found ourselves immersed in an historical gold mine with Wayne as our guide, telling tales of hermits and homesteaders, while leading us past grave markers and abandoned log cabins. We saw Indian pictographs and happily immersed ourselves in hot springs considered medicinal by the early Indian settlers.
On our final afternoon, Alex and I headed up a small creek from our campsite and spent the afternoon gleefully catching the most colorful trout either of us had ever seen. It was one of those magical afternoons, suspended in time, only the wilderness can provide.
Family adventures abound north of the US border. Visit Canada for outdoor adventure and yet another view of the natural world. Here are five places to explore with our northern neighbors:
Heli-hiking in British Columbia.
Chopper, chopper, chopper. The thrill begins when your crew boards the spacious helicopter bound for your high mountain lodge. Within just a few days every member of the family will push their high altitude limits while rock climbing with world-class mountain guides or simply enjoying colorful wildflowers aside stunning glacier lakes. Designed to engage children of all ages, families can choose to divide by ability and interest during the day and gather for the evening or choose to explore together for the week. CMH also offers heli-skiing adventures during the winter months. Contact: 1(800)661-0252; www.CanadianMountainHolidays.com.
Whistler/Blackcomb, British Columbia.
Olympic alpine ski coverage may have stoked your interest in this pair of charming ski resorts. Throughout the year, families will find plenty of activities to engage each member of the clan. In summer, enjoy kayaking, rafting, and horseback riding. Try out the bungee trampoline, the Core climbing center or just stroll through the village. When the snow falls there is plenty of downhill and cross-country skiing as well as snowboarding, snowshoeing and dog-sledding to keep an active family engaged. Check out deals, packages and last minute offers on the website.
Kids love the chance to ride the rails. A good option for reunions or multigenerational travel, this family owned company offers more than 70 Canadian train vacation packages through British Columbia, Alberta and the Canadian Rockies. Unplug and relax while taking in spectacular scenery from the comfort of your seat. Onboard attendants provide colorful commentary and make sure every member of the clan enjoys the ride. Best known for their two-day, all daylight train excursion and rail tour through the Canadian Rockies, this year the company celebrates their 20th year in business.
Contact: (800) 665-7245; www.Rocky Mountaineer.com
Find your way to the remote community of Churchill for a chance to see the magnificent polar bear, which migrates to this icy seaport on the Hudson Bay in search of the ringed seal. As night falls on the “Polar Bear Capital of the World”, glimpse the amazing aurora borealis or northern lights for an added thrill. During the summer months, Beluga whale-watching is possible in small boats or zodiacs.
Contact: 1(800)665-0040; www.travelmanitoba.com.;
Klondike Gold Rush Route, The Yukon.
Relive one of the most exciting and colorful eras in Canadian history when you step back in time along the route of the Klondike Gold Rush. Be sure to make time for Dawson City, where dusty streets lined with old-time boardwalks and historic buildings evoke a sense of what life was like in the Wild West. You’ll also learn about First Nations cultures, and have plentiful opportunities to view wildlife, fish and hike. Take advantage of visitor centers along the way to maximize your journey. Come winter, snowshoe, cross- country ski or join in a dog sled race.
Contact:1 (800) 661-0494; www.511yukon.ca/; www.TravelYukon.com.
A Yellowstone Grizz ambles near Lake Yellowstone. ( Photo (C) Lynn O'Rourke Hayes )
Unspoiled natural places, authentic cultural experiences and distinctive communities draw travelers from around the world to America’s “last best place”; Montana.
Jump start your plan to visit Big Sky country here:
Visit your National Parks.
With Yellowstone to the south and Glacier National Park on the northern border, this Big Sky state offers the perfect launching point to explore two of our national treasures. Visit stops along the Lewis and Clark trail while you’re at it.
Take a stroll back in time as you observe remarkable living history demonstrations, dine in century-old structures, enjoy ice cream in an old-fashioned parlor, and ponder tales of ghosts said to drift along the boarded sidewalks in Virginia City and Nevada City. City tours via fire engine trolley, carriage rides and a follies stage show make for a vintage flavored getaway.
Helena, the state’s capital city with a rich mining history, is designated one of the country’s best small arts towns. The Montana Historical Society, founded in 1865, houses one of the country's most important collections of Charles M. Russell art as well as the work of noted frontier photographer F. Jay Haynes. Don’t miss the Archie Bray Foundation, established in 1951 on the site of a brick factory. Tour the studios and grounds of this unique endeavor in the ceramic arts that attracts artists from around the world. Ask about summer programs for adults and children.
Big Sky bonanza.
Nestled in meadows and surrounded by forestland, Big Sky is an outdoor lover’s paradise. A year round playground, this mountain town is home to Big Sky and Moonlight Basin ski resorts as well as fishing, mountain biking, golf, and rafting just to get the list started. Hiking is popular in the nearby Lee Metcalf Spanish Peaks Wilderness.
Attend a rodeo, stay at a guest ranch, participate in a round up. Ride horses into the hills, visit a stock yards. Throughout Montana, you’ll enjoy the chance to see real cowboys at work and learn about the rich culture that provides a time tested and colorful strand in our national tapestry.
Find out more: www.VisitMT.com.