Posts Tagged ‘US travel’

Playing in the Slot Canyons of the American Southwest: Private Luxury Tour of Arizona’s Antelope Canyon

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Looking up in Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is the most famous (and most photographed) slot canyon in the American Southwest. And there is good reason why. It’s virtually impossible to take a bad picture in this amazingly beautiful area. February is a great time to visit the amazing slot canyons located along the Utah-Arizona border. The mild winter meant the weather was pleasant. As an added bonus, while Antelope Canyon is always popular, it’s significantly less busy during winter months.

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Dillon, our guide, gave us a visual demonstration of how the canyons were formed

Antelope Canyon is actually two different canyons. Upper Antelope Canyon is the most popular and colorful with curvy walls that reach 120 feet high. Lower Antelope Canyon is narrower and less user-friendly (and I did not visit it on this tour).

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Climbing out of Rattlesnake Canyon on a ladder

The three slot canyons I toured were Upper Antelope, Side Canyon, and Rattlesnake Canyon. Different outfitters have access to different slot canyons, so who you book with will determine which slot canyons you get to visit.

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The heart of Upper Antelope Canyon

The canyon’s uniquely smooth and colorful sandstone was formed over millions of years exposed flash floods, water erosion, and wind. The resulting walls are smooth and curvy, with variations in texture and color.

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Dust and shaft of light in Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon is located within the Navajo Nation land about 10 miles southeast of Page, Arizona. Upper Antelope, Side Canyon, and Rattlesnake Canyon are also located along the same Antelope Canyon wash and they are hidden gems of the area.

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color and curves in a slot canyon

Of the three slot canyons I visited, Rattlesnake Canyon might have been my favorite, simply because it involved ladders and very few other people. It was not as accessible for travelers who aren’t as mobile.

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Sandstone walls of the slot canyons

Our private three slot canyon tour was arranged by the staff of the Amangiri, where we were staying for this trip. Our guide was Dillon, and he was excellent. He also knew the best photo spots.

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Blue coat and red canyon walls

Many photographers like to visit Antelope Canyon during June, July, and August when the light beams are at their strongest. This is also the season for peak heat in the area, with average daily high temperatures of over 90 degrees. If it’s cloudy, you won’t see the light beams.

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Upper Antelope Canyon is amazing

All visitors to the area (especially photographers)  should be aware that the area is very dusty. And tour leaders will often stir up dust to make the light beams more photogenic.

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The parking lot outside Antelope Canyon

Different tour providers use different types of vehicles to bring visitors into Antelope Canyon. Most used converted pick up trucks. I was glad that our tour was in a comfortable dust-free Suburban.

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Lines of rock and and blue puffer coat

Our private luxury Three Canyon tour for two people was  arranged by the Amangiri. It took about 3 1/2 hours door to door and cost $725 + 10% service charge. Not cheap, but it was totally worth it if you want to see the slot canyons in comfort and minimize crowds.

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Not a bad angle in this slot canyon

If you’re looking for things to do in the American Southwest, I highly recommend taking a tour of the slot canyons. As much as I liked exploring Upper Antelope Canyon, it was hard to beat having Side Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon almost all to ourselves.

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Selfie with ladder in Rattlesnake Canyon

Pro tip: wear hiking boots when exploring the slot canyons of the southwest. You might be able to get away with everyday shoes in Upper Antelope Canyon, the terrain can be challenging and you’ll be better off in appropriate footwear.

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Our ride to Antelope Canyon

While the Amangiri is located just over the border in Utah, they arranged our Three Slot Canyon tour. It was highly memorable experience and well worth the price.

Amangiri

1 Kayenta Rd, Canyon Point, UT 84741, USA

The closest airport is Page, Arizona.

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Exploring Northern California: Redwood National and State Parks

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Light rays streaming through the Avenue of the Giants

Northern California has so much of the Golden State’s beauty. There are stunning beaches as well as some of the most magnificent, mature and tallest coastal redwood trees in the world. If you’re into natural beauty, and enjoy a good forest hike Redwood National Park is great place to spend a few days.

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Sunset view in along the coast in the Del Norte section of Redwood National Park

And visiting in the winter means mild weather and virtually no crowds.

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Even the stumps are impressive at Redwood National Park

The trees are so tall they are challenging to photograph!

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A fallen log the the Boy Scout Tree Trail 

Redwood National Park consists of three California state parks–  Del Norte Coast, Jedediah Smith, and Prairie Creek Redwoods State Parks. If you’re visiting the area, it’s also worth visiting The Avenue of the Giants, a scenic 31 mile drive through the old growth forest of  Humboldt Redwoods State Park off the 101 Freeway.

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Looking up at some redwoods

There are a lot of great hikes in the area.  The easy 1. 4 mile Lady Bird Johnson Grove Nature Loop hike  is relatively flat but a nice place to start and gives you a sense of the park. My favorite hike was the moderately difficult 2.8mile Boy Scout Tree Trail Hike, where we only passed one other pair of hikers in early December.

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Dwarfed by trees

We flew into the Arcata Eureka airport (ACV) in Humboldt County, rented an SUV and drove up the coast to the Jedediah Smith Information Center to plan our days. SUVs are recommended as not all the roads in the parks are paved.

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Trees of Mystery

Forest hikes aren’t all Redwood National Park has to offer. The Del Norte section of the park includes some spectacular west coast scenery, sandy and almost empty beaches and fabulous moody sunsets. I visited Redwood National Park with my friend Zan in December and enjoyed the area’s extremely chill vibe.

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Looking up the trunks of giant redwoods

In addition to the Redwood Coast’s National Park, there are some fun other tourist attractions including the Trees of Mystery in Klamath.

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A humorous sign on the Redwood Coast

If you’re planning a visit, Crescent City can make a great base to explore the northern parts of the park. It’s also a good place to grab a bite to eat.

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Hiking the Boy Scout Tree Trail (photo credit: Zan Aufderheide)

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Giant Redwoods have shallow roots

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Left: Zan is little compared to the giant sequoia tree stumps Right: Pine needles make the trails springy 

45% of all remaining Coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) are in the area that stretches through Humboldt and Del Norte counties.

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A quiet moment on the Boy Scout Tree Trail

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Zan enjoying the pleasant climate in the Jedediah Smith section of the park

Roosevelt elk and sea lions can also be found in the park.

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Heart shaped stump in Prarie Creek Redwoods state Park

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Moss on the trunk of a giant redwood

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Enjoying the beach in Redwood National Park

If you want to #findyourpark in Northern California, check out Redwood National Park.

 

Redwood National Park

Del Norte Coast Redwoods State Park

Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park

Prairie Creek Redwoods State Park

and don’t miss the scenic Avenue of the Giants drive through  Humboldt Redwoods State Park

 

Crescent City Visitors Center

1111 Second Street, Crescent City, Calif. (Corner of 2nd and K Streets)

Hours of Operation.

Summer: Open daily, 9 am to 5 pm.

Winter: Open 9am to 4pm. Closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Closed: New Years day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.

Phone707-465-7306.

Jedediah Smith Visitor’s Center

US Highway 199 at Hiouchi, Calif.

Hours of Operation

Summer: Open daily, 9 am to 5 pm

Winter: Subject to staffing.

Phone 707-458-3496.

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Exploring Northern California: Trinidad State Beach

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Sunset among the rock pools at Trinidad State Beach

There are many beloved beaches in California so it’s hard to say there any single one is best. The best known beaches stretch from Big Sur south to San Diego. But Northern California has some lesser known gems. Discovering the stunning beauty of Trinidad State Beach in Humboldt County last month was quite a surprise.

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Sunset stroll on Trinidad Beach

Located almost 400 miles north of San Francisco, Trinidad State Beach is closer to Oregon than the Bay Area. It’s the mix of the Pacific Northwest geography  and soft golden sand that makes it quite magical.

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Sea stacks on Trinidad State Beach

Located on a cove in the small city of Trinidad (population approximate 400), Trinidad State Beach is the gateway city to the California Coastal National Monument. I stumbled across it during a trip to Redwood National Park. It is also one of California’s smallest incorporated cities.

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Low tide + Sunset

Trinidad State Beach has soft sand, coastal bluffs, sea stacks, and waves strong enough to entice surfers.

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Pretty from every angle

The best time to visit is sunset, when the tide is low enough to walk your dog and enjoy stroll along on the sand.

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Enjoying the sunset view 

The secluded location of Trinidad State Beach means it’s never that busy. Visiting in December, the weather was pleasant enough to hike along both Trinidad Head as well as along the coast.

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Scenery like this is usually reserved for beaches in Oregon and Washington

The tiny town of Trinidad is rather charming. The Trinidad Bay Eatery and Gallery is a great local spot to stop for a breakfast burrito and cup of coffee before exploring the area or venturing to Redwood National Park.

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Rocks + horizon

The historic Trinidad Head Lighthouse was located here until it was moved on January 10th, 2018.

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low tide views 

Visiting during low tide allows you to explore behind the rocks and get views of Trinidad Head.

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Sun about to dip below the horizon

If you want to stay in the area, I can recommend the charming View Crest Lodge, where I stayed for two nights. The cabins are cute with modern amenities and located just a few miles from the beach on Patrick’s Point Road. Patches of the road are rough, and it’s not lit after dark so an SUV is recommended.

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Random amazing view #12 on Trinidad State Beach

If you’re looking for the best beaches in California or things to do in Humboldt County, Trinidad State Beach is definitely worth checking out. It’s as gorgeous as better known beaches in Big Sur and significantly less crowded. My friend, Patrick McGowen, who grew up near the area, told me it’s his favorite beach and turned me on to the area.

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This view reminded me of Cannon Beach’s Haystack Rock

The scenery reminded me of what you find at Ruby Beach (located in Olympic National Park) or Oregon’s famed Cannon Beach.
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Sunset and sea stacks on Trinidad State Beach

Trinidad State Beach

Getting there: Trinidad State Beach is located 19 miles north of Eureka, CA just off Highway 101. From north- or southbound 101, take the Trinidad exit (Exit 728). Turn west on Main St and proceed to Stagecoach Rd. Turn right; the park entrance is about 200 feet north on the left. There is another entrance about 1/2 mile north on Stagecoach Rd, also on the left.

Trinidad Bay Eatery & Gallery

607 Parker St
Trinidad, California 95570

View Crest Lodge

3415 Patricks Point Drive. Trinidad, CA
(707) 677-3393
Rates from  $95

 

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Exploring Las Vegas, Nevada: Visiting the Neon Museum and Boneyard

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Queen of Hearts Hotel sign in Neon Museum’s Boneyard

It’s hard to imagine Las Vegas without the neon. The flashy signs and iconic lights seem to be part of the desert town’s DNA.  But like a limited engagement run by Mariah, even the flashiest of signs has an expiration date. Fortunately there is the Neon Museum and Boneyard where visitors can wander among some of the retired billboards for a big of neon nostalgia.

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The Neon Museum building was the former La Cocha Hotel Lobby

Located well off the strip on North Las Vegas Boulevard,  The Neon Museum‘s Visitor Center is set in the shell shaped former La Cocha Hotel Lobby, designed by famed Los Angeles architect Paul Williams. Williams is best known for his mid-century buildings and has been credited with designed the distinctive Theme Building at Los Angeles International airport.

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Blending into the background at the Neon Museum

The Neon Museum features has an outdoor campus of over two acres of retired signage from local casinos and businesses. In addition to scheduled tours and photographer’s tours, the museum hosts some other interesting happenings.

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Vintage Fitzgerald’s Casino sign

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Shooting pool at the Neon Museum

I visited the Neon Museum for one of their scheduled photo walks. It wasn’t a guided tour but rather a supervised time around golden hour when we could wander the grounds and photograph the vintage lightbulb goodness.

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Stardust memories at the Neon Museum

Some of the old signs are still illuminated and some are in better condition than others. The sign from the now shuttered Liberace Museum was a crowd favorite.

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Defunct arrow sign

There is even a sidewalk stargazing event in collaboration with the  Las Vegas Astronomical Society.

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No Vacancy at the La Concha Hotel

There is some old Vegas represented here including signs from now-shuttered Fitzgerald’s Casino.

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Left: Wedding chapel signage Right: Jack of Spades

It was a lot of fun to enjoy the desert air and shifting light while exploring the boneyard during the photo walk.

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Old Sahara signage

The Neon Museum’s grounds are available for photo shoots and special events (including private parties and weddings).

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Liberace sign at the Neon Museum

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Left: Jerry’s Right: a dry cleaning sign breaks things up

Some of the signs are still partially illuminated. In addition to advertisements from former casinos, there are retired signs from motels, dry cleaners, bars and wedding chapels.

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Getting close to Sassy’s

Getting close to the signs you can see how the lightbulbs and neon tubes work together. The is some sort of decaying sense of beauty to the shattered glass and fading paint lovingly laid to rest in the boneyard.

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Retired Neon

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Sideways in the neon Boneyard

Walking through the boneyard you start to think about just how non-compostable the leftover lightbulbs are.

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Left: B Right: Partially illuminated R

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Retired Showboat Sign

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Left: Missing lightbulbs Right: Dangling glass

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Photographing some details at the Neon Boneyard

If you’re looking for interesting things to do in Vegas and want to get off the strip, I highly recommend a visit to the Neon Museum. It’s an interesting and well preserved slice of Vegas history and a unique opportunity to see it up close.

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Peeping through the Boneyard Fence

If you can’t visit in person, it’s worth checking out the Neon Museum’s instagram.

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a wide angle of the neon boneyard

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Illuminated Yucca sign

The illuminated Yucca sign was a personal favorite of mine.

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Dusk at Fitzgerald’s

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Liberace sign

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Neon Museum Visitor’s Center

The Neon Museum is also a great place to visit if you don’t consider yourself a traditional Vegas visitor and dislike gambling and over chlorinated pools.

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Stiletto sunset outside the Neon Museum in Las Vegas

The Neon Museums offers tours daily.

Neon Museum 

770 Las Vegas Boulevard North
Las Vegas, NV 89101

(702) 387-6366

Museum hours vary based on the season

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Exploring California: The New Tesla Supercharger in Kettleman City

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The exterior of the new Tesla Supercharger in Kettleman City

With the holidays upon us, more people will be hitting the road. For Tesla owners, this can mean long wait times at Supercharger stations. For those traveling on the I-5 between Los Angeles and San Francisco, there is good news. A 40 stall Supercharger station just opened in Kettleman City.

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Panorama of the Kettleman City Tesla Supercharger

I visited the spanking new supercharger on Saturday and was wildly impressed. It looks like something straight out of the Jetsons. In addition to the well designed and shaded layout and of the solar charging stalls, the Kettleman City Supercharger offers amenities for Tesla owners. There are bathrooms and a guest lounge where you can order a craft beverage from a Tesla barista while enjoying free wifi. There is even Tesla merchandise for sale.

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Kettleman City Supercharger Entrance 

The Kettleman City supercharger should help relieve the burden at the Bakersfield and Harris Ranch Superchargers during heavy traffic times, as well as when the Tesla Model 3s start to add additional traffic.  Access to the facilities is gained by an access code sent directly to guest’s Tesla touchscreen.

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Solar covered charging stalls at the Kettleman City Supercharger

There are quite a few dining options near the Kettleman City supercharger, including California favorites In-N-Out Burger, Bravo Farms and Baja Fresh.

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Pretty Tesla Chargers all in a row

The astroturf lawn is perfect for walking your pets.

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Kettleman City Supercharger

Another 40 stall Tesla Supercharger is set to open this week in Baker, for those driving between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

My Tesla did not list the Kettleman City supercharger as an option last Thursday (a day after it opened) so be sure to ask your Tesla navigation system for specific directions.

Kettleman City Supercharger

27675 Bernard Drive

Kettleman City, CA 93239

Roadside Assistance (877) 798-3752

Charging
40 Superchargers, available 24/7, up to 120kW

 

 

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