From my hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, I drove about 70 miles, mostly up Scenic Byway 7, a two-lane, curvy, hilly road flanked by trees that occasionally sweeps through a blink-and-you-miss-it town. My destination was Petit Jean State Park, the oldest state park in Arkansas and one filled with both natural beauty and some pleasant surprises, courtesy of the old Civilian Conservation Corps. Read more >
From Robertson House, my lovely bed and breakfast in the town of Rotorua, on New Zealand’s North Island, I drove for only about 20 minutes to the surreally beautiful Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Almost as soon as I began my 2½-mile hike here, I fully understood why Peter Jackson chose to film The Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand. Clearly, this was what J.R.R. Tolkien had in mind when he was creating his world of Middle Earth back in the 1940s. Read more >
There are very few places I’ve visited where I could step out of a shop or restaurant in the middle of a town and almost immediately enter a forest. The Irish city of Killarney is one of them, with Killarney National Park at its doorstep. Banff is another. This astoundingly attractive town within the boundaries of Banff National Park in Alberta boasts a spectacular setting in the Canadian Rockies that you can easily explore without ever getting into your car. Read more >
Hailing a taxi to a national park seemed like an odd thing to do. Especially a water taxi. But in New Zealand, sometimes odd is normal. And, in this case, odd was better, too. An approach by water to Abel Tasman National Park set the tone for a terrific hike through some unspoiled nature in one of the world’s best countries for undisturbed environments. Read more >
Slovenia is one of the greenest countries in Europe, thanks to its also being one of the wettest — a challenge to my plans to take in one of the most idyllic places on the continent after a week in brilliantly sunny Croatia next door. Ultimately, Mother Nature did not cooperate, but even a cloudy day at Lake Bled proved to be magical. Read more >
When you’re hiking in the woods, you never really know what to expect when you hear something rustling in the trees beside you, especially in Glacier National Park, which teems with wildlife. Is it a cougar, a gray wolf, a grizzly bear? Perhaps it’s just a chipmunk or a pygmy shrew. Maybe it’s only the wind. But when it turns out to be a female moose, and you’re only 20 feet away from it, your little stroll in the forest transcends a mere hike. And when her mate shows up, sporting a full rack of antlers, you become positively giddy — until two crotchety senior citizens show up and ruin the mood. Read more >
In Rovaniemi, the 16th most populous city in Finland, straddling the Arctic Circle in Finnish Lapland, you can visit the real Santa Claus, play with baby reindeer, watch the sun never set during the summer, sail down the Kemi River to an old island lumberjack camp for an outdoor meal, observe a craftsman as he creates knife handles out of reindeer antlers, or spend some time in Arktikum, the city’s leading museum — all of which I did.
But when the opportunity to go trekking through the woods with some husky puppies presented itself, I knew I had just hit upon something extraordinarily memorable. Read more >