“These darn trees are in the way of my view of nature,” joked one of my guides on a trip to British Columbia a few years back. We had stopped during a hike on a forested esker and were trying to look through the woods to a lake far below. We couldn’t see it through the dense foliage. Of course, his comment made us all laugh. Little did we know then that such an absurd idea would years later — this fall, in fact — become a reality in Yosemite National Park.
Starting later this year, thousands of trees will be cut down in Yosemite to provide better views of the famous granite faces, such as El Capitán and Half Dome, and the breathtaking waterfalls, such as Bridalveil or Yosemite Falls, that ring the valley. But the sounds of lumberjacks and the sights of downed trees — felled only for the purpose of providing better photo ops — are somehow discomfiting in a national park, prompting some to ask, “Why must so many succumb to the saw?”
I knew I had a problem with my Facebook addiction when I kept thinking of last weekend’s camping trip as a series of status reports:
Wendy Worrall Redal
… swore she would not camp in a tent in the rain again, and here she is.
… can’t believe she spent the last two hours trying to get flames out of a smoking fire made with wet wood.
… thinks the finest aroma in the world is the scent of alpine firs.
… is amazed at the lush profusion of wildflowers in the meadow next to Long Lake.
Actually, by the time I went hiking to Long Lake, I had been away from digital technology altogether for 24 hours, and I wasn’t thinking in terms of my Facebook status by that point. But all those moments offered a telling realization: My daily life — my very psyche — is tethered to mobile digital technology.
“The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.”
Slow has become a four-letter word in our accelerated culture. And yet … when it comes to travel, how can we possibly expect to truly experience a place at a breakneck pace? How can we savor a blur?
My husband and I are currently planning a mini-break. With three kids, three dogs, three cats (see a pattern developing here?), we’re lucky to escape at all, but we’re working toward a three-day getaway.
But as we plan, we’re recalling our most memorable trips, hoping to recapture whatever made them great.
And we discovered the common denominator: In every instance that we remember as truly outstanding, we were doing something other than what we had planned … and we were taking our time.
Road Trip Queen: That’s me. Give me a car, a map, a debit card and some new discoveries to satiate my quest for novelty and you’ve got the makings of a happy traveler here. I’ve logged over 150,000 miles on road trips across North America, so I think one could safely say I’ve learned a thing or two about how to do it right.
If these remaining weeks of summer are tempting you to hit the highway in pursuit of some relatively cheap freedom, here are my top “road rules” to make your trip the best it can be.
Anyone who has ever watched a brown bear fish, or an elephant wallow in a water hole, or a curious sea lion come face to face with a snorkeler, knows that one of the highlights of eco-travel is close encounters with wildlife in natural settings.
In the ten years since I’ve been embarking on nature travels, I’ve seen a lot of outdoor gear evolve. Hiking boots, thermal undergarments and GPS units are just some of the items that have undergone striking advances.
But the one essential piece of outdoor equipment that has gone through a gamut of changes, caused the most controversy and been the most intriguing is the water bottle.
Ever since they were reintroduced to Wisconsin in 1995, I’ve wanted to see an elk in my home state. Last month, my dream was realized when I spotted three of them during a trip to the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. One evening, while driving slowly up and down the forest roads at dusk, my husband and I saw three elk crossing the pavement ahead of us.
Avalon Bay, Catalina Island. Credit: Catalina Chamber of Commerce
Though eco-travelers may be enthused about renting greener cars or making their road trips more environmentally friendly, sometimes it feels best to leave the car behind altogether. To that end, I’ve put together this introductory list of “car-free islands” in the U.S. There’s no better time than fall to discover them, when summer crowds have flocked back to the mainland, and these idyllic isles welcome slower-paced travelers yearning for a serene getaway.
There are many Native American stories regarding the stunning red, orange and white hoodoos in Utah’s Bryce Canyon National Park. The Paiute Indians call the park Unka-timpe-wa-wince-pockich — which means “red rocks standing like men in a bowl-shaped canyon.” According to one of their myths, a long time ago a group of people moved into the area and made Coyote angry with their bad behavior. Coyote put a curse on the people, turning them to stone. The canyon’s hoodoos are these Legend People.
Eco-travel is a rapidly growing sector of the travel industry. From cruise lines to rental cars to adventure tour providers, many businesses are trying to capitalize on a perceived consumer desire for a greener on-the-go experience. Hotel guests are encouraged to re-hang their used towels. Cruise ships recycle millions of plastic bottles each week. Tour operators offset carbon output for the individual guests on their trips.