Fall Foliage – the Golden Aspens

Hello friends! Long time no speak. I’m sad to say that my travels have recently been…bleak. Arizona is just too hot to do anything outdoors, I’m afraid. I have, however, been to my fair share of (highly air conditioned) driving excursions—which is what I’d love to share with you today. ( I am skipping the part about the shopping malls I have been to.)

People think that New England is the only place to find fall colors, that Massachusetts fall foliage and Vermont fall foliage are the only places where the trees turn majestic colors to welcome in the new season. Well, those people could not be more wrong! Beautiful fall colors can sneak up on you just about anywhere where there are trees, and sometimes as early as August. Just the other day I saw a lovely maple changing. Arizona and New Mexico fall foliage is absolutely stunning. I plan on driving out the forests around Santa Fe at the end of September when maples really are at their peak. And I’m not going to get a chance this fall, but a few years ago I drove up to southern Colorado and fall foliage in Colorado, against the blue mountains and blue streams, are the image of perfection.

So I’m not knocking Catskills fall foliage or  New England fall foliage or the colors of other northeast towns that become completely covered with oranges, golds, and deep reds—I’m just saying that you shouldn’t forget about the changing colors of the southwest! If you happen to be in Arizona this fall, give me a call and I’ll show you what we’ve got to offer!
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Top 10 Most Adventurous Ski Slopes

I’m not 100% confident with my skiing abilities that I’m up for the MOST adventurous slopes, but…maybe…

In terms of my travel plans, I’ll be flying out to Utah next week – ski place is yet to be determined. I’m still taking recommendations! I’ll be there for a week, and then will be driving back with a bunch of friends, one of whom needs to get his car back to the east coast. So….hello roadtrip!

In the meantime, here’s a list of the top 10 most adventurous ski slopes, courtesy of Cheap O Air, which, if you know anything about me and my spending habits, you’ll know is right up my alley.

  1. Squaw Valley Ski Resort – Olympic Valley, California
  2. Jackson Hole Ski Resort Area – Teton Village, Wyoming
  3. Chamonix – France
  4. Mad River Glen Ski Resort – Waterbury, Vermont
  5. Whistler – British Columbia
  6. Val D’isere – France
  7. Alta Ski Resort Area – Albion, Utah
  8. Verbier – Switzerland
  9. Snowbird Ski Resort Area – Salt Lake City, Utah
  10. Crested Butte – Colorado

Good luck out there at these death trap capitals! (I’m not saying I don’t see the attraction…but it’s good to know what you’re getting yourself into.)
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Snowboarding Paradises – Terrain Parks in the US

In continuation of my ski research, I’ve decided to include some info for snowboarders. I’m the occasional snowboarder and have been thinking about trying to work on some of my “moves” this winter. And like I said before, if I’m going to trek all the way out west for a ski trip, I want to make sure that I’ve chosen the right places to go to. Here’s a list of some of the best terrain parks in the country, according to some of my friends (who are mostly skiers, but definitely are in the know about snowboarding too) and just general research from the web. If anyone has any more to add, please let me know.

Note: These aren’t all specifically for snowboarders; many of these are open to skiers as well. So if you’re looking for a snowboard-exclusive park, make sure you inquire within.

These should keep you busy for a while.
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Meditative ski slopes

If you’re like me (which is probably in general not something to aspire to…), you like skiing, but hate the skiing experience. Sometimes I go out to Hunter Mountain, which is pretty close by, and then regret it almost immediately. Basically: I HATE CROWDS. I HATE COMMERCIAL SKI SLOPES. I HATE SKI SCHOOLS THAT CROWD MY MOUNTAIN. Yeah, that’s right, I get a little possessive. I usually drive for hours or even days to get to the slope of my choice, spend a crapload of money, and then can barely move as I get pushed down the icy, well-too-worn slopes. This winter, I’ve got one roadtrip planned and my goal is to find some empty slopes where not only can I ski in peace, but I can meditate and relax. Is it possible? We shall see.

Here’s a list I’ve found so far, posted a year ago on ForbesTraveler.com – but doesn’t the fact that it’s already been advertised as “crowd-free” for one year mean that all the crowd-avoiders will be there, thus making it a bit crowded? Well, maybe you’ve got insight—please let me know if you know of more crowdless slopes. (Though I understand if you don’t want to share—publicizing them would sort of defeat the purpose, right?)

Enjoy! Hopefully I won’t see you out there – you know what I mean.
(Thank you, forbestraveler.com for the list.)

Good Info on Skiing in General

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Maui slideshow

If I could hop in my car and drive to Hawaii right now, I would. I just saw a slideshow of pictures from this stunning island and I want to be there! It looks like such a peaceful, mystical place, filled with a rich tribal history that is still so very much alive. Even the picture at the spa makes me want to go, and I’m not really such a spa person. So there are 11 slides and I just wanted to look up a bit about each of the places that are highlighted. You need to go to this slideshow and check out these pictures! I’ve cut and pasted the tag lines—the slideshow goes pretty fast and you may not get a chance to read them.

  1. Far-flung Maui has long been revered as a pure and pristine getaway.
  2. The pool at the Hotel Hana
  3. Pineapple growing on the side of the scenic Hana Highway
  4. Wind chimes at a fruit stand along the road to Hana
  5. A view of the Pacific Ocean from Kihei
  6. Local leis and headdresses in Lahaina
  7. The Misty ‘Iao Valley
  8. Carving a totem at the Old Lahaina Luau
  9. Snorkeling in La Perouse Bay in South Maui
  10. The Spa at the Grand Wailea
  11. An Old Lahaina Luau member sounding the conch

I think what appeals to me most about Hawaii (and I haven’t given this much thought before coming across these pictures, so just hear me out) is the combo of the old and the new, of tradition and modernity. Obviously there’s a lot of cheesiness going on in Hawaii with the tourist industry and all, but at the same time, native life has been brewing in Hawaii untouched by corporate America and such for longer than in most other places in the country. There’s still so much in Hawaii that is wild and rustic—the volcanoes, for example. I mean there’s only so much taming and commercializing you can do to a still active volcano, right? Anyways, my point is that I want to go. I want to walk around in a bikini and sip milk from a coconut on the beach. Is that too much to ask?
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Fun Maize Mazes

I’m not quite sure why corn mazes are associated with Halloween. Maybe because corn is a fall crop. And I guess it is a bit eerie to walk through a field of corn where you can see nothing but talk stalks all around you. In any case, it’s a fun, green activity that boosts agritourism! So this Halloween, get the spooks and the eebie jeebies in a corn maze near you!

I’ll be going to the F & W Schmitt Family Farms out on Long Island. They’ve got what they call a “Serious After-Dark Scare”. For $11 you can get lost in a scary maze “filled with surprises”…I’ll let you know how it goes! You can also visit the haunted mansion while you’re there.

Here are some others that may be in your area:

  • Sever’s Corn Maze – Minnesota – Another family owned agricultural wonder, based on castle gardens from England…and a safari. You can also visit their Scream Town.
  • The Corn Maze at the Butterfly House – Whitehouse, Ohio – More day and nighttime mazes, including the “Sarah America” maze which is the carved out likeness of VP nominee Sarah Palin (okaaaay…that’s not weird). While you’re here, you can also visit the Butterfly House and Christmas Tree Farm.
  • Amazing Maize Maze at Long Acre Farms – Macedon, New York – A maze competition: two teams compete to find their way through the maze using clues (aka Kernels of Knowledge). Good place for birthday parties.
  • Great Vermont Corn Maze – Danville, Vermont – Complete with gardens, mini golf, a mini kid’s maze, and a nature center.
  • Great Adirondack Corn Maze – New York – A family owned farm (Tucker Farm) with a “million dollar view” of the Adirondack Mountains.
  • Mazeland – Alexandria Bay, New York – A maze of huge cedar trees, fun for kids and adults.
  • Cornbelly’s Corn Maze and Pumpkin Fest – Lehi, Utah – An October celebration at the Cornuphobia haunted corn maze.
  • Dole Plantation – Wahiawa, Hawaii – This is Hawaii, not middle America, and it’s pineapple, not corn, but same idea, right? They call this the world’s largest maze. I don’t know why it’s hard to imagine a pineapple field being larger than a corn field. Ok, I have just confirmed: The Dole Plantation Pineapple Garden Maze was officially recognized as the World’s Largest Maze in the Guinness Book of World Records 2001. So to clarify, it was the largest maze a bunch of years ago.
  • Ashland Berry Farms – Ashland, Virginia – Again, not a corn maze, but a fun maze for kids using bales of hay.
  • Magnolia Plantation and Gardens – Charleston, South Carolina – A garden maze based on old English gardens. Also a romantic vacation spot!

To make your OWN corn maze (hey, I don’t know who’s reading this!), visit Corn Mazes America who can help you turn your corn crop into corn fun!

Happy Halloween!
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Ghost Towns, USA

I’m baaaaack! And I appreciate all of your emails of concern. I did not get eaten by mountain lions, as one of my very humorous readers asked. In fact, I am, sadly, back in New Paltz, the land of the living dead as I like to think. Back to the cubicle, back to grind. Gotta build up the cash stacks before my next adventure…I’m thinking somewhere colder this time. The northwest, Alaska, or I may even *gasp* cross the border into Canada.

There is so much I haven’t told you about the remainder of my Southwest/Midwest journey. It will take time, my friends, for me to put it all in words. And so, in celebration of Halloween Month (that’s what we called it as kids), I thought I’d share a bit about my Ghost Town travels. These totally came out of nowhere. I was hanging out with some completely random people in Colorado and they brought me around on their ghost town tour. We also went to the Ghost Town Museum near Denver. A rollicking good time was had by all.

First, what IS a ghost town, you ask? Well, wikipedia will tell you that it is “a town or city that has been abandoned, usually because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as flood or war.” But I would add, that a ghost town is an isolated, desolate, haunted area. Many of the places on this list I’m about to make used to be near railroads, but were abandoned when people moved out to the highways. Some were old mining camps. But all of them are spooky. mooo hooo hahaha! (That was my spooky cackle.)

Here are some ideas for Halloween fun if you happen to find yourselves out in the middle of nowhere in Colarado. The key to a good ghost town experience is to go with the right people. You have to be in the mood to pretend to be scared (because shhhh…they’re not really scary.)

And if you happen to be in California, take the “walk you’ll never forget”—the Calico Ghost Walk, a 90 minutes after-dark tour of the Calico Ghost Town in Yermo (Barstow).

Happy Halloween!
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