First time casters and veteran anglers enjoy the natural places that enable a fly fishing vacation. Test your tippet deep in the wilderness or perfect your back casts on the resort lawn. 

Gather your gear. Then enjoy the beauty and art of fly fishing: 

Gore Creek Fly Fisherman. Vail, CO.

 Give your kids (and perhaps yourself) a taste of this lifelong sport during daily casting clinics offered each day in the scenic Vail Village along the Gore Creek Promenade. When you are ready for more, book a half or full day walk and wade trip or sign on for a float trip through Rocky Mountain beauty.

Contact: 970-476-3296; www.GoreCreekFlyFisherman.com

LL Bean Outdoor Discovery School. Freeport, ME or Columbia, MD.

  The knowledgeable instructors at LL Bean can jump start your family into the wonderful world of fly fishing with their one or two-day introductory courses.  You’ll learn about fly-tackle, delve into knot tying, fly tying, and fish-food identification, then move outside to practice casting skills in a nearby pond.  Continue the analysis and improvement at home once you’ve viewed their video of your newly acquired skill. Contact:  LL Bean experts are available for fishing advice on their hotline between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m EST every day; 1-800-347-4552. 

For class registration:  (888)-552-3261); www.llbean.com/outdoorsOnline/odp/courses/flyfishing/fly-fishing-essentials1-maine.html

Chetola Resort. Blowing Rock, NC.

The only Orvis-endorsed fly-fishing lodge in North Carolina has plenty to offer the entire family. Pack a rod for a half day trip to “The Refuge” on Boone Fork Creek, a destination deemed ideal for beginners and families.  When not casting a line, check out the children’s camp, a heated indoor pool, fitness center and nearby rafting and golf.

Contact: (800) 243-8652;  www.Chetola.com

Match the Hatch. Livingston, MT.

Spend a day on the Yellowstone River with Eric Adams and your family members will go home with more than basic casting skills. His educational background in ecology means you’ll learn to “match the hatch”, fish pocket water from a raft and how to maximize a day on the famed Yellowstone River or nearby spring creeks. You are sure to enjoy time on the Yellowstone, the longest stretch of blue-ribbon trout habitat in the nation. 

Contact: 406.223.2488; www.MontanaFlyFishingGuides.com 

Fishing on the Farm. Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN.

With two ponds and a stream on site, plus more than 700 miles of fishable trout streams in the neighboring Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this gem of a property offers the novice or experienced fly fishing family the opportunity to enjoy great water as well as a sea of additional activities. Horseback riding, mountain biking, cooking schools, the Farmhouse Spa and charming accommodations on 4,200 pastoral acres, combine to create a picturesque haven for a gathering clan. Contact: (800) 648-4252; www.BlackberryFarm.com. 

Published in Adventure

 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:

Published in Adventure

Fly rod in hand, I eased into the warm waters of the storied Madison River. My son, Ben, was just steps behind me, eager to wet his line. Despite my felt-bottomed shoes, I faltered slightly, slipping off the rounded, moss-covered rocks below my feet.

"Here, take my hand," Ben said softly behind me. "I'll help you."

Steadied by his strength, together we pushed forward, bolstered against the rippling current.

At 6'3", my oldest son towers over me now. This should come as no surprise. Mothers with children older than mine had long presaged it would happen like this; a fast-forward blur of growth spurts, sporting events, back-to-school nights and prom dates.

But, really, wasn't it just yesterday that I took his small hand in mine and walked him into pre-school? And just last week that I steadied him on skis as he slipped down a snowy pathway during a family ski holiday?

And now, some 20 years later, he is holding me upright as we wade into these braided waters under the wide Montana sky.

A Special Time

This was more than a casual weekend. He had called to suggest we meet for a few days of mother-son fly-fishing, an interest we have shared since his boyhood. Our destination would be the mountains and rivers of Big Sky country, a landscape we both love. After, we would both head to Northern Idaho for the big event. In just seven days, he would wait at the end of yet another pathway, to catch that first glimpse of his beautiful bride.

Throughout the weekend, we fished favorite streams and crossed canyons via zip line, joking about the next "big leap" he would soon take. We walked through the woods with his two Golden Retrievers, Bridger and Jackson, and reminisced about our family life. We both ordered curried chicken for lunch and lamented our mutual metabolism that required us to leave the banana bread at the counter. Particularly now, the weekend before the wedding.

I wondered if there wasn't something important, meaningful I should say. Some kind of pre-nuptial, motherly advice I could offer. But it wasn't required.

Someone asked if I felt that sense of loss some women suffer; a heart-splitting notion that marriage somehow meant losing your son to another woman. For us, there is none of that. I know that I will always be his mom and she will always be his girl.

Each evening we retreated to our room at the Big Sky Lodge, curled up with the dogs, reviewed the days' events and planned for the next. We shared our individual enthusiasm for the upcoming wedding festivities. I smiled with deep pleasure when he spoke with confidence of his decision to marry Lyndsay and how special and strong he believed their relationship to be. There was no hesitation. Only eager anticipation.

Visions of Youth

From time to time, I would catch glimpses of a much younger Ben. A familiar, silly grin. A childlike glance in a moment of indecision. But mostly, I saw a sure-footed man, eager to embark on this next chapter of his life.

On our last afternoon, we made one more stop along the Gallatin, hoping to improve our luck. While we both knew this weekend wasn't just about the fish, a little more action would have been welcome. Once again, Ben provided a steady hand as we waded into the water. As the sun dropped behind the cliff and soft evening light prevailed, we took turns casting, attempting to lure the wily trout from its safe hideout.

At one point, my line became hopelessly entangled. Without hesitation or frustration Ben quietly took my rod and said, "Not to worry. I can help." It's what I might have whispered two decades ago when he fell off the jungle gym or scraped his knee in a roller blade spill. But now, somehow it seemed just right that he would be the problem solver, the one to take the lead.

What I Believe

As the weekend came to a close, he said, "Mom, your baby boy is getting married. Can you believe it? "

What I believe is that time mysteriously evaporates and in the blink of an eye, that once mischievous toddler strides back into the room as a confident, young man. A man insightful and caring enough to create this eddy in time, in the scant hours before dozens of friends, family and a long list of last-minute details, would vie for his attention.

Knowing he has become this measure of a man provides soul-satisfying comfort. I am certain he will be a fine husband and father, locking arms with his wife through rough waters and calm seas. He'll be present when their child takes that first shaky step, hesitates on the first day of school or ties the first fly.

And with this knowing, I will shed tears of pride and joy as he reaches for the hand of his lovely bride, closes his own around hers, and before family and friends, promises to love her and hold her steady.

For always.

Published in Adventure

Glacier National Park.

It’s a must see: stunning vistas, more than 200 lakes, 175 named mountains and 40 glaciers, tucked within one million acres of natural beauty. That’s Glacier National Park.

Among my favorite visits was a multi-generational outing - my Dad, my son and my niece and it was a great destination for all of us.  

Established in 1910, by an act of Congress, this extraordinary recreational playground is also home to more than 350 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

With so much to see, if you go, it is important to plan in advance. (And rooms book well in advance.)

Here are a few suggestions to jump start your visit: 

Ride the Red Bus.

The historic red buses are a symbol of another age, providing a commanding overview of the park’s magnificent history and scenery. The vintage vehicle carries 17 passengers. Tours range from three hours to a full day. Children under 12 are half price.

Contact: Glacier Park, Inc. ; www.GlacierParkInc.com; 406.892.2525. 

Family Vacation Family Travel Glacier National Park

Explore on foot.

With more than 800 miles of maintained hiking trails, there are plenty of opportunities for families to learn about the flora and fauna. A favorite among families, we enjoyed the beauty of the Avalanche Lake trail. Within four miles round trip, and a gain of just 500 feet in elevation, trekkers will enjoy a rich forest environment, tumbling waterfalls and a majestic lake with more waterfalls at the turnaround point. Take a picnic and enjoy. Easily accessible, the trailhead is five miles beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge. 

Scenic Boat Tours.

Step aboard historic boats and glide across the pristine alpine lakes nestled amid majestic peaks. Enjoy the colorful commentary provided by the skilled crew. Available from four locations. Fares under $20. Children under four are free. Children 4-12 are half price.

Contact: www.GlacierParkBoats.com; (406) 257-2426.

Float the River.

Venture down the wild and scenic middle and north forks of the Flathead River with professional guides who will share their knowledge of the river. Half and full day scenic floats or whitewater adventures. Paddle a raft or up the adventure quotient in an inflatable kayak.

Contact: www.GlacierRaftCo.com

Don't Miss Many Glacier

Many Glacier - a national treasure

 

Considered by many as the heart of the park, the Many Glacier region is stunningly beautiful. Expect sparkling lakes, abundant wildlife, great hiking and a bounty of nature-based options. For great views (like the one above) stay at the historic Many Glacier Lodge. 

Base Camp.

Glacier Outdoor Center’s log cabins provide a comfortable and well-located retreat just outside the gates at West Glacier. One and two bedroom cabins sleep from six to fourteen people. Enjoy full kitchens, covered decks, a gas grill and full guide services on site.

Contact: www.GlacierRaftCo.com; 1(800) 235-6781.

For reservations inside the park contact: www.GlacierParkInc.com; (406) 892-2525 and Xanterra www.Xanterra.com.   

For additional information about Glacier National Park contact: www.nps.gov/Glac; 1 (406) 888-7800. 

For a day, a weekend or a week, leave civilization behind and challenge yourselves on the whitewater. Take the rustic approach and camp along the river’s edge. Or float by day and snuggle in at the lodge overnight.

Here are five places where the rivers are wild and scenic:

Rogue River Lodge-based Wilderness Rafting:   One of the most famous rivers in the American West, the Rogue flows through a large Wilderness area as it winds from Oregon’s Cascade Mountains to the Pacific Ocean. It’s the only wilderness rafting trip where you can raft by day and sleep in remote lodges at night! Fun, intermediate rapids, warm water and a green-forested canyon make the Rogue River the perfect natural playground. Combine the trip with a visit to Crater Lake National Park and/or the Oregon Shakespeare festival. Three- and four-day trips depart weekly May to September. Contact: 800-451-6034; www.rowadventures.com/rogue-river-rafting-oregon.html

Adventure on the Stillwater, Red Lodge, MT. Join guide Marek Rosin on a trip down the family-friendly Stillwater River as it winds its way through a one-sided canyon that once served as home for the Crow Indians. Relax in a raft or pop into an inflatable kayak. Run the scenic river near the charming town of Red Lodge, Montana, then take time to explore the river’s source in the majestic Beartooth-Absoraka Wilderness. Contact: 800-897-3061; www.AdventureWhitewater.com

Middle Fork Mastery, Sun Valley, ID -This is no ordinary river adventure. Families will bond on the river while enjoying fly fishing, rafting, kayaking and hiking along the famed Middle Fork of the Salmon River. On your personalized vacation enjoy unexpected luxuries including massage in your chalet tents enhanced by carpets and elevated beds. Dine on organic seasonal fare prepared by a top Sun Valley chef. The outfitter’s American Safari concept promises five star services in a superb natural setting. Contact:   1-832-755-7661; www.far-away.com.  

Salt River Treat. Near Fountain Hills, AZ. Enjoy the surprising contrast of stunning Sonoran desert beauty as you float south via your raft, kayak or tube on the Salt River. Saguaro cactus stand guard along the shoreline, hawks soar overhead. Richly hued canyon walls rise from near the water’s edge. During the winter months bunk in at the charming Saguaro Lake Guest Ranch, a family run operation that recalls the western charm often depicted in cowboy film. Saddle up at the ranch and explore the nearby landscape. Contact: 1 (480) 984-2194; www.SaguaroLakeranch.com

British Columbia Waterways. If you and your family are looking for a remote river experience, consider the pristine waterways of British Columbia. Choose from hundreds of rivers including the Tatshenshini, the powerful Stikine, the Gataga or the historic Campbell River on Vancouver Island. Teeming with fish and wild-life rich, expect natural bounty. The British Columbia Outfitters Association provides information about trips available in the region. Contact: www.BCROA.com.

Published in Explore

Put a road trip back on list. Here are five beautiful drives that will make the whole family smile: 

Going to the Sun Road.

Hop aboard the historic red touring cars or go on your own. This engineering marvel spans 50 miles through Glacier National Park’s wild interior, winding around mountainsides and treating visitors to some of the best sights in northwest Montana. www.nps.gov/glac; 406-888-7800 

San Juan Skyway.

Sometimes called the million dollar highway, this extraordinarily spectacular drive through southwestern Colorado will stun the visual senses. Appreciate jagged peaks, pastoral valleys, waterfalls and colorful canyons as you wind your way along this stunning loop.

Contact: 1- 800-463-8726; www.Durango.org. 

Pacific Coast Highway.

For majestic coastal scenery and seaside breezes, pile in the car for a trip up ( or down )our western shore. Begin in ultra hip Santa Monica, California and wind your way past the Hearst Castle. Push north to Carmel and then on to San Francisco. If you have time continue on to the dramatic Redwood forests.

Contact: 1- 877- 225-4367 www.VisitCalifornia.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 and the native American history that is part of the iconic landscape.

Contact: 435-727-5870 http://www.azcentral.com/travel/arizona/northern/travel_monuvalleyindex.html;. 

Skyline Drive.

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.

Contact: 540-999-3500; www.nps.gov/shen.

 There is nothing so American as our national parks. The fundamental idea behind the parks is that the country belongs to the people.  – Franklin D. Roosevelt

As a resident of both Montana and Arizona, in recent years I was pleased to note that President Obama and his family chose my "backyard" parks" - Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon- to spend precious family time.

In the end don't we all vote with our feet?  

They will also followed in historic footsteps. 

Park historians from Xanterra Parks & Resorts and the National Park Service shared the following anecdotes about the visits of previous U.S. Presidents: 

Instead of staying in one of Yellowstone’s lodges, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose to stay at the private home of Harry Child, the owner of the Yellowstone Park Company, which operated the park lodges and other concessions. His reason: he did not want the general public to see him in his wheelchair. Designed by Robert C. Reamer, the same architect who designed the Old Faithful Inn, the large home is a single-floor prairie-style structure, so it can easily accommodate a wheelchair.  

Bill Clinton visited both the Grand Canyon (in 2000) and Yellowstone (in 1995). President Clinton stayed in the Mary Colter Suite of the Grand Canyon’s El Tovar and had lunch at Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn. President Clinton and the First Lady also took a stroll around Old Faithful Geyser.

President Gerald Ford was already familiar with Yellowstone National Park when he visited in 1976; he had been a 23-year-old National Park Service ranger in 1936. Ford once said his time in Yellowstone was “one of the greatest summers of my life.” One of his duties was to meet and greet VIPs at the Canyon Lodge. He also protected other park rangers who fed bears at the bear-feeding truck, a popular visitor attraction at the time. The park long ago stopped feeding bears and other wildlife.

In 1883, President Chester Arthur rode a horse from the southern to the northern entrance of the park and met supporters at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel before departing the area aboard the newly completed Northern Pacific Railroad. Although it wasn’t quite completed and still lacked a complete roof, President Arthur dined at the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room before his departure.

President Theodore Roosevelt made his final visit to Yellowstone National Park in 1903. Although he was on a two-week vacation, he managed to squeeze in some business too. Roosevelt, Harry Child and Robert C. Reamer reviewed plans for the Old Faithful Inn, which was completed the following year. During that trip he also laid the cornerstone for the Roosevelt Arch at the northern entrance to the park. The arch bears the inscription: “For the benefit and enjoyment of the people.”  President Roosevelt also visited the Grand Canyon – in 1903, before it was a national park and again in 1911.

Calvin Coolidge visited Yellowstone in 1927. Although Yellowstone Superintendent Horace Albright tried to engage President Coolidge in park-related politics, Coolidge was more interested in fishing than talking.Howard Taft visited the Grand Canyon in 1911.I

n 1872, President Ulysses S. Grant signed the bill that designated Yellowstone the world’s first national park. It was a move that has been called America’s best idea. Sadly, President Grant never visited Yellowstone.

During his visit, President Jimmy Carter traveled to one of the islands on Yellowstone Lake to fish with National Park Service officials. After his presidency, Carter returned to the park and had pizza in the employee pub at Lake Hotel. He even signed the wall of the pub, and his signature is still visible today.President Warren Harding visited the park in 1923, shortly before he died. Staff in the park named a geyser after him and observed a moment of silence in his honor. President George Herbert Walker Bush visited both the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. His visit to Yellowstone in 1989 was the summer after the historic Yellowstone fires. He was briefed by park officials about Yellowstone fire science.

Published in National Parks

The sound disturbed me on some primal level. Deep, mournful, incessant. Mother cows calling out for their young calves. Separated by fencing, the pairs would not be reunited until the day’s branding ritual was completed.

I remember that Saturday like it was yesterday, the day I attended my first neighborhood branding. New to Montana, everything about the process was unfamiliar.

Published in Travel Essays

It’s a must see: stunning vistas, more than 200 lakes, 175 named mountains and 40 glaciers, tucked within one million acres of natural beauty. That’s Glacier National Park.

Established in 1910, by an act of Congress, this extraordinary recreational playground is also home to more than 350 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. 

With so much to see, if you go, it is important to plan in advance. Here are a few suggestions to help plan your visit:

Explore on foot.

With more than 800 miles of maintained hiking trails, there are plenty of opportunities for families to learn about the flora and fauna. A favorite among families, we enjoyed the beauty of the Avalanche Lake trail. Within four miles round trip, and a gain of just 500 feet in elevation, trekkers will enjoy a rich forest environment, tumbling waterfalls and a majestic lake with more waterfalls at the turnaround point. Take a picnic and enjoy. Easily accessible, the trailhead is five miles beyond the Lake McDonald Lodge.

Ride the Red Bus.

The historic red buses are a symbol of another age, providing a commanding overview of the park’s magnificent history and scenery. The vintage vehicle carries 17 passengers. Tours range from three hours to a full day. Children under 12 are half price. Contact: Glacier Park, Inc. ; www.GlacierParkInc.com; 406.892.2525.

Scenic Boat Tours.

Step aboard historic boats and glide across the pristine alpine lakes nestled amid majestic peaks. Enjoy the colorful commentary provided by the skilled crew. Available from four locations. Fares under $20. Children under four are free. Children 4-12 are half price. Contact: www.GlacierParkBoats.com; (406) 257-2426.

Float the River.

Venture down the wild and scenic middle and north forks of the Flathead River with professional guides who will share their knowledge of the river. Half and full day scenic floats or whitewater adventures. Paddle a raft or an inflatable kayak. Contact: www.GlacierRaftCo.com; 1 (800) 235-6781. 

Base Camp.

Glacier Outdoor Center’s log cabins provide a comfortable and well-located retreat just outside the gates at West Glacier. A great option for family reunions, one and two bedroom cabins sleep from six to fourteen people. Enjoy full kitchens, covered decks, a gas grill and full guide services on site. Contact: www.GlacierRaftCo.com; 1(800) 235-6781. For reservations inside the park contact: www.GlacierParkInc.com; (406) 892-2525.

For additional information about Glacier National Park contact: www.nps.gov/Glac; 1 (406) 888-7800.

Published in Hike

Accompanied by a tall, handsome young man (OK, he was carrying my luggage) I wandered down the cedar plank, eager to see the digs I had heard so much about. As he unzipped the white canvas door, a slice of heaven was revealed.

I’ve spent my share of nights inside a tent, but none like this. Forget the unrolled sleeping bags on uneven ground. Think exotic bed, laden with thick, silky linens, elegant antiques and carpets warming the wood floor. The entire room was aglow with more than a dozen candles flickering in the early evening breeze.


And then there was the view. From my private deck overlooking the mouth of the pristine Bedwell River, I could see smoke billowing from the lodge fireplace across the water. A bevy of resident canines frolicked on the deep green lawn. Beyond, tree-covered mountains rose, with still higher peaks looming in the distance.

I had arrived at the remote Clayoquot Wilderness Resort near Tofino on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, via seaplane. Away from the watchful eyes of the male members of my family sons, I was looking forward to a little rest and relaxation, and to the camaraderie and nonjudgment of my fellow students—four other “reel women”—for a stress-free, four-day tutorial to hone our fly-fishing skills.

Glamping-Glamorous Camping 

 This wilderness lodge and others dotting the planet have combined luxurious, yet eco-friendly amenities with a wilderness setting to create a fresh air-filled getaway some have labeled “glamping” (short for glamorous camping). Somehow, the distinction does not do justice to this elegant outdoor trend. For me, the term thuds to the ground, but the experience is other-worldly.
At Clayoquot, the day begins with coffee or tea service delivered outside your tent door at the time of your choosing. Later, you’ll linger over a delectable breakfast. Consider wild blueberry and cornmeal griddle cakes or homemade muesli along with fresh-squeezed juices, served in the cozy, timbered ranch style lodge, while gathering your strength for an event-filled day.
Guests can choose from guided hiking or horseback riding through old growth forests, deep sea fishing, kayaking, rock wall climbing or relaxing in the wood-fired cedar hot tub overlooking the estuary.
Some opt for a Walk on the Wild Side, a guided outing that combines hiking, strolling deserted beaches, and whale and bear watching.
 Heading out for the day? The gourmet dining staff will create a delectable picnic lunch—perhaps free-range roasted chicken, grilled vegetables and aioli on homemade bread—fit for an eco-queen.
And at day’s end, sore muscles are soothed at Healing Grounds where seaside spa tents envelop the weary for a deep tissue massage set to the muffled sounds of water lapping and birds chirping outside canvas walls.

Reel Women Excel 

Meanwhile back in the Hemingway-esque fishing tent, the reel women are learning the difference between roll casting and back casting, rainbow and cutthroat trout, and how differently men and women adapt to the sport.
“Women seem to have an easier time learning to cast,” observed Dino, one of two charming and patient instructors. “So many men try to strong arm it and that just isn’t how it is done.”

Our feminine group did express some concern about the well being of the fish. But once we cleared that hurdle it was on to tying our own flies, practicing our casts and preparing for the big catch.
Part of the experience involved testing our skills in the local waters. We rode horseback past massive, moss-covered cedars, climbing through the lush rainforest to cast into deep, clear pools. The following morning we climbed aboard a seaplane and landed on a high mountain lake where Alice, our most determined student, would joyfully land her first big fish.   

So Much to Do, So Little Time 

My only regret: Four days leaves too little time to enjoy this expansive and exquisite wilderness setting. My fly fishing skills had improved, but I hadn’t lounged near the imposing stone fireplace in the outside living room, lingered on my scenic deck, had a second massage, gone Coho salmon fishing or kayaked across the sound.

Remedy: a swift return.  

If You Go 

The Clayoquot Wilderness Resort is located within the Clayoquot Sound Biosphere Reserve near Tofino, B.C., and is accessible via floatplane from Vancouver, B.C., and via water taxi from Tofino.

While intimate and romantic, families are also welcome. Reunions and weddings are common. Rates include all activities, three gourmet meals and seaplane transport from Vancouver; mid-May to mid-July and end of August to the beginning of October.  

Other Luxury Tent Camps

The Resort at Paws Up. Greenough, Montana. Stay at one of several glamping sites, including River Camp on the Blackfoot River and enjoy horseback riding, fly fishing, hiking spa services and a healthy dose of Big Sky. Tel. 800-473-0601, www.PawsUp.com

 

Published in Luxury
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