The Best of the Three Valleys’ Festivities

As one of the largest ski areas in the world, the Three Valleys attracts a huge number of visitors over the festive period. If you’re looking for a novel way to ring in Christmas and the New Year, consider one of the last minute ski holidays to the Three Valleys, where you can enjoy a wide range of festive activities.

Courchevel

Courchevel is a perfect place to celebrate Christmas. Throughout the day and evening of the 24th, you’ll be able to watch festive parades and little ones can meet Father Christmas. There’s also a carol concert outside the tourist office, and a Christmas mass you can attend. Plenty of the local restaurants have a special festive menu on Christmas Eve, so if you book a table you’ll be able to treat yourself to a magnificent Christmas meal. Be aware that they may not frequently be heavily publicised in advance, so if in doubt, inquire over the phone as to whether they’ll be offering a special Christmas menu.

While you’re in Courchevel, don’t miss the opportunity to attend one of the ‘Chamallow’ parties that run throughout the season, including a Boxing Day event. These festive parties have a great ambience and centre (as the name might suggest) on roasting marshmallows over a fire pit. They sometimes include local and visiting DJs spinning tunes.

Another great thing about Courchevel is that, unlike many resorts, the lifts and pistes do not close on Christmas Day. Last minute ski holidays are often restricted (due to ticket price and availability) to specific dates, but even if your holiday spans Christmas Day, you won’t lose out on any of skiing at Courchevel.

Meribel

The foodies may wish to consider a Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve dinner in Meribel. The high-end hotel and restaurant, Le Grand Coeur & Spa, offers a magnificent eight-course Christmas Eve meal, including truffles, traditional Savoyard cheeses, and top quality meats and seafood. On New Year’s Eve, the restaurant offers another, similarly opulent, eight-course meal, including scallops, foie gras de canard, veal and macarons. Just because, by their nature, last minute ski holidays may be organised in a rush, it doesn’t mean you don’t deserve world-class cuisine! Call ahead and reserve a place so you won’t be disappointed, however.

Val Thorens

If you’re a devotee of apres-ski nightlife, look no further than Val Thorens. Every year, on New Year’s Eve, Val Thorens holds the party to end all parties. This year’s line-up is yet to be announced, but you can expect renowned DJs until 1am, along with fireworks at midnight. It’s a brilliant way for visitors to the Three Valleys to greet the New Year.

In short, even if you’re booking at the very last minute, ski holidays in the Three Valleys around the festive season offer plenty of fun and lively celebrations. You may find other events that pique your interest as well, to help you form the perfect festive ski holiday itinerary.



Source by Belinda Smythson

Celebrate the Holidays With Ripley's 5 Story Tall Musical Christmas Tree

Every year, as you set out on your quest for the perfect tree, the little ones chime in with one voice to declare, "Let's get a BIG one!" They feel the same way at Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. In fact, Ripley's does big like nobody's business!

When you want a traditional, snow-capped Christmas filled with family values ​​and wholesome fun, the Smoky Mountains is the place to be. When you want a celebration that looks bigger than life, Ripley's Aquarium tops the list.

The sight of a 45-foot (5-story) tall tree would be breathtaking enough, but Christopher the Musical Tree also "sings" and twinkles. Adorned with over 16,000 lights, Christopher provides a dazzling display that instills the holiday spirit in all who attend.

Show Times & Dates

The Musical Tree is on display until January 1, 2010, with performances nightly. Two shows are held every evening Sunday through Thursday at 6 pm and 8 pm Friday and Saturday nights offer 3 shows at 6 pm, 8 pm and 10 pm

Each show consist of 3 songs performed in sync to a brilliant light show. Look around: you'll find yourself surrounded by the awestruck faces of adults and kids who are mesmerized. It's Christmas like you've never experienced it before.

Sweet Treats for Good Boys & Girls

Did you know Santa has a workshop set up in the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies Plaza? He does! And it's open during the nightly events for boys and girls (and their parents) to visit. Drop by to say hello and enjoy a few sweet treats, including scrumptious cookies (with milk, of course), traditional eggnog, rich fudge, warm apple cider and steaming hot chocolate.

Pictures with Santa Sharky

The evening would not be the same without a token to remember it by. Santa Sharky is making appearances nightly from 4 pm to 6 pm Have pictures made with the kids or the entire family for a great memento of your time at Ripley's.

Santa's Workshop visits and Santa Sharky photos are available until Christmas.

Viewing the Musical Christmas Tree is free of charge, so bundle up and plan to spend the evening at the Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies Plaza during your stay. (There is a nominal charge for photos and refreshments.) While Jack Frost is nipping at your nose, you can enjoy the lights, music, family time and yummy trees. It's the perfect combination of everything that makes a traditional Christmas special.



Source by Bennie McCann

Christmas Traditions – Nutmeg Jim

'Hurry … Go Faster !!!'

This was a common phrase from my mouth each Thanksgiving morning as a young girl, pushing on my older sister's back to race up the stairs. I just could not wait to see what was in my shoes by the front door. Giddy with excitation I would usually find something I knew only Nutmeg Jim knew I wanted … fingernail polish in my favorite color, my first lip gloss, or a small art kit. Through the holiday season I remember getting notes on my bed … 'You did such a great job helping your mom with the dishes today. I noticed your smile while you helped. Love, Nutmeg Jim '… or' Be careful, the fight you picked with your sister was not necessary. Remember I am watching until Christmas. Love, Nutmeg Jim '.

Each note of praise or warning I took so seriously. I knew I had to be good because Nutmeg Jim was watching. Then Christmas morning at four o'clock in the morning I would sneak to my stocking to see what treasures my elf friend had left me. All day on Christmas there was a sense of excitement, but sadness knowing Nutmeg Jim was going to leave me for another year.

Christmas traditions create memories that last forever with our children. This is demonstrated because of the memories I had with Nutmeg Jim as a child. However, one of the smartest things my mom did was provide a Christmas tradition that also helped HER during the holiday season. Nothing motivated me to be 'nice' more than getting a reprimand from Nutmeg Jim. This was a life saver for my mom and dad, especially during a stressful time of year.

Let me explain exactly how he works and how you can also benefit from having 'Nutmeg Jim' in your home during the holiday season.

1. Nutmeg Jim is an 'elf' sent from 'Santa' to our home to make sure we are really ready for Christmas. He is 'assigned' to us through the year, but he actually comes and 'stays' with us from Thanksgiving to Christmas.

2. Each Thanksgiving Eve right before going to bed we would all put our Sunday shoes by the front door. Then Thanksgiving morning we would all receive a small gift and a note from 'Nutmeg Jim' indicating that he had entered our home.

3. From Thanksgiving to Christmas all the kids would receive weekly notes on our beds (sometimes more often) telling us what we are doing well and what we need to improve to be ready for Christmas. Sometimes we would get gifts as a family (like a $ 5 movie or game) from Nutmeg Jim on the table when we came out in the morning. Most of the time this reward came when we had been really 'nice'. One time 'Nutmeg Jim' left a piece of coal on the table for being 'naughty' because all the kids had been terrible to our mom the day before.

4. Each Christmas morning everything found in our stockings was from our elf. He left us a note telling us how much he enjoyed our company and could not wait to come next year.

5. There was an 'elf' that sat on a shelf in the living room that symbolized 'Nutmeg Jim'. Of course, he could not be seen, but the elf was there on Thanksgiving and gone each Christmas when he left with Santa.

Several people we know have adopted this tradition and it has been a life saver for them! There are various names you can choose and be creative with it! Here are a couple ideas:

Cinnamon Joe
Vanilla Jen
Spicy Jenny
Allspice Jack

You get the picture. Be creative and have fun with this! Remember, creating Christmas traditions will leave a legacy for your kids to remember you by. A tradition like 'Nutmeg Jim' will help your holiday season go smoother and happier. I promise!



Source by Andrea Kvarfordt Palmer

Switzerland Tour – Explore the Paradise on Earth

Welcome to land of beautiful landscape and everlasting tranquility – Switzerland. Truly named as the ‘Paradise on Earth’ Switzerland is one place where you can forget all your stress and sink in the freshness of the surrounding landscape. Book your Switzerland Tour – know the land famous for fascinating pocketknives, delicious range of chocolates and brilliant looking watches. Let the surrounding Alps add more beauty to your holiday in this splendid destination. Switzerland in Europe is one of the most famous tourist destinations. No matter what your interest is, you are sure to find your dream holiday here in Switzerland. Being beautifully located on a plateau and enveloped by high soaring Alps, Switzerland is one place which no nature lover should miss out.

Book your tour to Switzerland and let the breath taking natural beauty, the interesting cities and landscape, the refreshing greenery, the majestic Rocky Mountains, the thrilling adventurous snowy hills, the tranquilizing lakes, groovy and happening nightlife and the pleasant climate give you a wonderful holiday experience. Let the wide range of attractions in your Tour to Switzerland pamper you to the limit.

Travelers who want to spend some relaxed time away from the monotonous life Switzerland is the best option to be. Book a getaway to this part of the planet and collect some refreshing moments. The amazing landscape and the attractions of the town are enough to make you forget all your stress and rejuvenate your senses. Other trips that you may book are a honeymoon tour and an adventure spree. Switzerland Tour has something for every tourist. Few major attractions of Switzerland which one should not miss out are GoldenPass Panoramic Train, Glacier Express from St. Moritz – Zermatt, Chateau de Chillon, The Gruyère Region, Rhine Falls, Matterhorn, Jungfraujoch, Mount Rigi, Mount Pilatus, Swiss Transport Museum, Bern Historical Museum, Lake Geneva Switzerland, Lake Lucerne, Lake Lugano, Lake Thun and many more.

The best part is that each and every attraction in Switzerland has something unique to offer. Mother Nature has been too generous on this part of the world. Places like Zurich, Berne, Geneva, Lucerne and Interlaken are few cities which you should definitely visit.

Looking for some fun time or do you want to spend a romantic evening with your newly wed? Switzerland is the place for you to be. The amazing alpine peaks give you amazing option to click some amazing pictures as well as spend some romantic time with your beloved. Adventure aficionados should take a trip to Mt. Titlis where you can indulge in amazing as well as thrilling adventure activities that will let your adrenals rush. Few attractions that you may try out are Hiking, Ice climbing, Ski touring, Snow boarding, Deep-snow skiing, Heliskiing, Glacier walking, Cycling, Sailing, Water-skiing, Canoeing and Rowing. Also enjoy a ride on the cable car and watch the beauty of the nature from a bird’s eye view. With Switzerland Tour each and every traveler lives the best days of their lives!

Explore the beauty of nature at its best! Book a Tour to Switzerland and collect few amazing memories of your tour. Get bewildered by the picturesque beauty, indulge in break-neck adventure, walk hand in hand with your beloved in a romantic evening and take a break from the hotchpotch of the regular life. Let a Switzerland Tour give you the pleasure that you seek in a perfect holiday. A Holiday you will always cherish!



Source by Ankush Katiyar

Tasting Flavorful Dishes From Superb Restaurants

Food is always a vital part of every holiday. That is why Dartmouth holiday cottages are very attractive accommodations since they have self-catering facilities complete with kitchen facilities which enable you to cook and prepare your own meals. The furnishings and amenities in Dartmouth cottages are contemporary and of best quality. However, if you do not feel like cooking during your holidays, you can always go to the different restaurant and cafés near your Dartmouth holiday cottages. If you are in Dartmouth, there are many restaurants and food shops where you can celebrate and enjoy a delicious meal. From French, Italian, to authentic English cuisines, you can find them all in Dartmouth. They are open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. You must bring the whole family and share a special time trying out the different delicious cuisines in these restaurants. The Orestone Manor, The Le Gendarmerie, and the Old Bakery Restaurant are some of the popular places that you must go to.

The Orestone Manor

Spend some time to get the best classic meals at the Orestone Manor. The establishment boasts of their traditional and authentic English cuisines. The place is furnished in the conventional English style and is considered as one of the remarkable landmarks in South Devon. It enjoys a great location that is very near the well-appointed Dartmouth cottages making it a busy restaurant with many locals and tourists patronizing the place. To make sure that you get some guaranteed seats, making a prior reservation would be of great help. The restaurant specialties that everyone should try the Orestone fish cake served with a poached egg in chive sauce or the roast South Devon beef with roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables. Make your meals complete with the yummy desserts such as the sweet tasting apple and rhubarb crumble. The place lives up to the standards of great dining and service because of their staff's impossible manners and excellent service.

The Le Gendarmerie

It's time to try some authentic French gastronomic delights right in central Dartmouth. French food that is served at the Le Gendarmerie Restaurant is one of the best French cuisines you can ever have. The delectable dishes are wonderfully prepared and cooked to perfection by highly skilled cooks. Beside serving flavorful food, the outstanding service of the friendly personnel entices the guests to try out this restaurant more than once. You can dine here and bring some food back to your Dartmouth holiday cottages .

The Old Bakery Restaurant

Get up from your comfortable Dartmouth holiday cottages and experience authentic Italian and French cuisines at the Old Bakery Restaurant. Some of the best dishes that you must try are the grilled aubergine, lamb rump, and parsnip skodalia. The restaurant is open from 9 am to 11 pm It is very accessible from the luxurious Dartmouth cottages.



Source by Mary Godago

Christmas Safety – Make Sure Your Holidays Are Hazard-Free

When someone says Christmas, the vast majority of people envision joy, family time, presents, snow or other pleasant things. But during this period we're also surrounded by a lot of decoration, lights and electronic devices that might cause unnecessary danger if we do not take a few simple precautions. To ensure a safe Christmas, read the following tips which will help to make your holidays pleasant and risk-free.

The Christmas tree

  • If you're buying a living tree, make sure it's fresh. You can test this by tapping the tree on the ground and see if green needles fall down.
  • Buy only artificial tree which are marked fire-resistant.
  • Keep the tree at least 3 meters away from all equipment and appliances producing heat.
  • If the tree is wobbly, take it from the stand and redo the screws and bolts. You should also secure it with wires to prevent it from tipping over.
  • Clean the tree stand before the holidays for improved water intake. Check water levels several times a day and refill if needed. Trees absorb a lot of water in heated rooms, and if there's not enough in the stand, they will dry out – and potentionally catch fire.
  • After the holidays are over, make sure you dispose the tree properly. Never, never try to burn the tree in the fireplace.

Ornaments

  • If you have kids, it's in your best interest to get larger ornaments where tiny parts can not fall off and swallow. Put smaller ornaments out of reach. Try to keep an eye on the kids when they're playing around the tree.

Christmas lights

  • Reccheck your light strings every year and discard the ones that do not work anymore.
  • It's a good idea to turn off the christmas lights while you're asleep and especially if you leave your home. You may use an automatic timer or even a motion detector that turns the electricity for the lights on and off.
  • In the outdoor areas, use only lights that were designed for exterior use.
  • Make sure the bulbs are fastened securely and that the socket is pointing down to avoid moisture build up. Unplug any lights before changing the bulbs.
  • Never use light strings on metal fake trees.
  • Wrap plastic bags around light strand connections and tie their ends with Teflon tape.

Electrical connectors

  • Keep outdoor electrical connectors above ground, especially out of puddles and snow.
  • Never use extension cords intended for interiors outside.
  • At Christmas, there are lots of extra electronic devices used. Avoid overloading wall outlets.

General safety

  • Recheck and put new batteries in your smoke detectors or install new ones.
  • Make sure that there's a working fire extenguisher in an easily accessible place.



Source by Julie Kinnear

Spain's Big Adventure Parks – An Idea for Your Holiday

Taking a holiday to Spain offers you a whole host of things to get up to. You could explore the countryside, traveling to the beaches, mountains and other beautiful areas of the country, or you could explore its fascinating history, visiting some of the great cities and buildings that have emerged during Spain's exciting history. If these do not take your fancy then there are always the country's adventure parks, which have roller coasters, water rides and more.

The theme parks are mostly concentrated in the resort areas of Spain, which are the most popular with holidaymakers. They appeal large to families on holiday and are a big attraction through the summer months. Kids absolutely love the theme parks, and can get totally and utterly up in the exclusion of them. You're guaranteed to take home children who have exhausted themselves, which means you can enjoy a quiet night. That's especially true if you have been on the rides yourself, as you'll probably be worn out and looking forward to getting to bed.

If you want to go to one of the big adventure parks, then finding information on them is easy. Things like directions, admission prices, rides and facilities should be easy to come across, and the language barriers are minimal when you are at the park itself. Of course, the more information you do have the less can go wrong, and it's always worth setting up a meeting point in advance in case anyone gets lost and needs to be retrieved. There is a lot of fun to be had at these parks, and the best way to make the most of your time in them is to ensure that you do not waste any unnecessarily searching for missing people or wondering where the ride you want to go on next is.

With parks covering plenty of different themes and types of ride, it should not be too difficult for you to find one that your whole family will enjoy, regardless of how varied their tastes are. You should also remember that, if you're going to go to the same park for multiple days, it may well be worth buying a multiple day pass. It's a bit more expensive up front but you will save money over time, and you might find that there are additional benefits to the longer passes, such as quick access to rides or even some freebies.



Source by Thom Sanders

The Miami Condo Market

The Miami condo market is very diverse and offers a large number of different solutions for those interested in purchasing or renting a condo. People from all over the world are attracted to the vibrant Miami area and its supreme climate for relocation. Miami condos are also popular among vacationers as well as investors. The recent decrease of the dollar value on the international market has made Miami condos an even more interesting option for many Europeans looking for a home away from home, a place in which to retire or just a good investment.

Location, location, location – is the mantra of the real estate business. This is naturally true for Miami real estate as well. The beach front condos are the most popular ones and inevitably the most expensive ones to obtain. Just by choosing a condo a few blocks away from the beach you can save huge amounts of money. A Miami ocean view is astonishing, but certainly not for free when we're talking real estate. South Beach is one of the most popular areas of the Miami condo market, not only due to its abundance to the ocean but to its famous nightlife and gastronomic scene as well.

Another highly esteemed part of Miami is the Brickell neighborhood. The Brickell region is commonly referred to as "the Wall Street of the South" and the condominium towers share the space with over 60 commercial banks. This area is typically marked as a more strict and upscale alternative to South Beach; a neighborhood ideal for those who prefer a downtown environment instead of a sandy beach. The Brickell community is inhabited by people who want to avoid long hours of commuting.

In Brickell it is possible to be close to work as well as to downtown entertainment, but still live in a relaxed area suitable for recreation. The fact that popular South Beach restaurants are beginning to setup finials in Brickell is only one of the signs that predicts how Brickell will turn into an even more thought for area in the future. Three years ago it was possible to buy one of the smaller condos in Brickell for $ 115,000. Today you must be prepared to pay at least $ 200,000 for the same condo. The condos in Brickell are however still very reasonably priced compared to the condos located at Miami Beach. A Miami Beach condo of the same type as the $ 200,000 Brickell condo would cost you at least $ 500,000.

In such a popular area as Miami there will naturally be a shortage of suitable lots for new condo developments, and the Miami condo market is now stretching into the older neighborhoods and has even reached the suburbs. Downtown Miami has seen a lot of new development recently. Further expansion down Miami Beach is naturally another extremely lucrative business for Miami real estate developers since the Miami real estate market shows no signs of cooling down, particularly not when we're talking ocean front properties.

If you visit Wynwood, a neighborhood located not to far from the very popular South Beach district, the recent expansion of the Miami condo market will be very evident. What used to be large warehouses and grocery stores are currently being turned into condos, lofts and smaller apartments. Wynwood is also witnessing a huge change of the cultural scene as more and more galleries and private museums find their way into this new and exciting neighborhood. Wynwood is only one example of how condo development is taking place in almost all the not to remotely located neighborhoods in the Miami area.

The Miami condo developers are now turning their eyes towards the Miami working class neighborhoods. Former blue collar neighborhoods such as Little Haiti, Liberty City and Overtown are already overflowing with condos. These neighborhoods have become very popular for those who wish to own a Miami condo but can not afford to pay for ocean front properties at Miami Beach or get luxury condos such as the Four Season Residences.

Those who are still willing to pay for an ocean front condo should take a look at the South Pointe region. This used to be quite a shady area with a high crime rate and the median family income in 1995 was below $ 8,000. Today, this has changed and condos in South Pointe are already worth several hundred thousand dollars. Two new larger development projects have been launched that will add 67 and 199 units respectively to the South Point housing market. The largest project of the two is the Continuum North Tower, a 199 unit property located at the end of South Pointe Drive. Continuum North Tower includes properties ranging in size from 1500 to 4000 square feet.

The penthouse apartments are even larger: 7000 square feet. Continuum North Tower will not be finished until late 2006 or early 2007, but prospective buyers are already lining up for the chance to own a Miami ocean front property. The other project, Apogee, is a smaller complex and will include 67 condos in the 3100 to 6900 feet range. Apogee will be 22 stories high when finished and asking price will most likely be in the $ 2.5 million range. For this price your will not only get an ocean view, but high ceilings, modern design, indoor and outdoor grills etcetera. The Penthouses in Apogee will probably go for at least $ 15 million each.

According to some analysts, a shortage of available Miami condos can be expected in the near future, but it is always hard to know for sure. The increased surge for Miami condos has launched a multitude of development projects. There are currently a large amount of projects on the verge of completion, aiming to provide the Miami condo market with everything from comparatively inexpensive studio-style condos to super exclusive condos with ocean views and all imaginable amenities. When the price began to rise even for the smallest condos, the Miami condo market is inevitably opened up for the development of a large number of more exclusive luxury condos.

When buyers are forced to pay ever increasing amounts of money for a tiny ocean front condo, they want to feel that they are getting supreme quality for their money in terms of style and amenities. Installing exclusive features, such as a Jacuzzi, will still only have a marginal affect on the price of the condo. On Miami Beach the largest part of the price is defined by the muchought after location of the property. Some of the most expensive condos on the Miami condo market can today be found in The Miami Four Season Residences. In the year 2005, this condominium complex offered condos priced from shortly below $ 700,000 and up to above $ 6 million. A lot of these condos are fashionable in a chic Euro style manner and have access to wine and cigar lounges, a health Spa, exclusive gyms and other selected services.

Florida is a popular state to live in, but no other city in Florida experienced the same remarkable surge for condos during the last few years as Miami. Some prospective buyers hope that the prices will drop when all the projects have finally settled. Estations show that more than 50,000 condos will be added to the Miami condo market within the next 10 years. In downtown Miami a 35 story condominium tower named the Avenue is planned to be completed in 2007, and will add 570 condos to the Miami condo market.

The Avenue is accommodated by more than 70 other condo developments in the area. One of the larger projects in Brickell, the Mary Brickell Village, is believed to be completed by the end of 2006 and will then provide the Brickell neighborhood with a large number of new luxury condos. This could cause the prices to stabilize in Brickell, but do not count on it. The completion of two other major condo projects in the Brickell region, the Plaza and Neo Lofts, did not cause the prices to plummet – quite the contrary.



Source by Rob Dougan

Where to Hike – Choosing the Right Place

General Considerations for Finding a Place to Hike

The first thing to ask yourself is, what exactly are you looking for? Then, consider what places are within your reach, practically speaking. Be sure to find out if the activity you have in mind is permitted in the place you’re going to. Last and perhaps most importantly, consider what you can handle.

With all these things in mind, you can start looking. There’s a list of suggestions and resources at the end of this article.

What are you looking for?

Do you want to add just a little contact with nature to your everyday life? Consider your local city parks or reservation lands. Even private lands, if the owner is amenable, such as the fringes of farms, woodlots, or other such undeveloped areas can offer a peaceful and interesting place to visit with wild things. Check your town’s Web site and your local library for information about parks and outdoor recreation areas, or just ask around among your neighbors. And don’t forget your own back yard. There may be more fascinating birds, insects, and plants there than you imagine. You never know until you get out there and just open your eyes and ears for a while.

Do you want to find a real wilderness area that you can visit once in a while and get to know well? Check your state’s Web site for state and national parks, national forests, and other large outdoor recreation areas within your travel range. Read books and articles about the area before your first visit so you know what to expect. Study the roads and the location of parking areas so you have a good idea of how long it will take to get there.

Are you planning a business trip or vacation in an unfamiliar place and hoping to explore its natural history first-hand? Now you’ve got some research to do! Check the Web for tourism sites in the area you’re planning to visit. Remember to look for printable field guides to the plants and wildlife in the area. Consider several alternatives, in case you discover after you arrive that your first choice isn’t going to work out. (I never got outside of Palermo when I visited Sicily, when my planned trip to Mount Aetna was canceled due to eruption!)

Are you planning a trip where hiking is the main objective? Good for you! You’ll want to consider carefully, and find out as much as you can about the place before you depart. Get some information from books and Web sites. Then get some more. Be sure to filter the information properly: If someone has something to sell you, they might make it sound more attractive and more accessible than it really is. Find out if you need reservations for campsites, canoe rentals and such.

Places you can get to

Read those maps carefully! Sixty miles by road might look like an hour’s drive, but not if it’s an unpaved logging road through rough country. You don’t want to get caught out in wilderness unprepared, and unable to get out before people start worrying about you.

If you are planning to visit the area repeatedly, allow yourself plenty of time to get to know the place. Try a few alternate routes to find the best one. Try a few different access points — parking lots, trail heads, etc. — before you pick which one will be “your place.” You’ll be back many times, so don’t get discouraged if you find that your first choice is not as good as you hoped.

If you are going on a once-in-a-lifetime visit, you might want to hire a guide. Yes, it’s an expense and a bit of an intrusion, but it’s better than getting in trouble. When you contact the guide to plan your hike, make sure they understand your objectives — whether you want to race to that mountain peak, or just take it slow and watch the birds — and give them an honest assessment of your capabilities. If they are taking you as part of a group, make sure the rigid tour schedule will not make your vacation a chore for you.

Is it Allowed?

Take stock of what you intend to do, and whether it might be prohibited or restricted. Many parks do not allow camping. Fishing is forbidden or restricted in many lakes and rivers. (I know a beautiful pond in a state park where only children are allowed to fish.)

Are you planning to bring your dog along for the hike? Not all parks permit dogs, and most require that the dog be on a leash.

There are also restrictions on power boats, snowmobiles, and even off-road bicycles. Make sure the place you plan to go permits what you plan to do.

Can you take it?

Make an honest assessment of your abilities, both physical and mental, and plan for caution. Think you can walk twelve miles in a day? Don’t plan on more than seven miles in unfamiliar country.

Carefully read the trail descriptions and degree of difficulty before you decide what you can handle. If it says “rugged,” that means you should not plan on setting any land speed records there.

Bear in mind that most trail guide literature is written by people with extensive hiking experience and above-average physical condition. If you’re a couch potato hoping to become a great outdoorsman, don’t plan on taking the same hike that the great outdoorsman calls “challenging.”

Pay attention to the contour lines you see on most trail maps. They tell you how steep the trail is, generally. A one-mile trail that climbs 500 feet is a walk in the park. A one-mile trail that climbs 2,000 feet might be impassable to the average sedentary person.

Again, make sure your self-assessment is honest. You might tell a great adventure story at home, but you can’t fool the elements. When you’re out on the trail, no amount of bravado can make up for a lack of physical fitness.

Suggestions

Don’t overlook a place because it’s popular. True, crowds take away from the sense of peace and solitude, and wildlife avoids contact with people. But if you go at the right time of day, you might find something close to wilderness, even in a place that is usually crowded. Most people are most active late in the day, and most animals are most active at dusk and dawn. That spells it out for you: Wherever you go, try to go there at dawn.

If you are fortunate enough to have a state or national park nearby, that’s probably your best choice. Otherwise, for frequent quick visits, don’t overlook your city parks and private property.

Before hiking on private property, introduce yourself to the owner. As long as they know who you are and what you’re up to, most people are happy to allow hikers to use their woods and fields. Of course, some landowners have had bad experiences, and you certainly must respect their rights to protect their property from damage and their livestock from injury and harassment. Remember that many landowners have agreements with hunting clubs, so they might not be able to let you hike on their land during hunting season.

When planning a trip to an unknown area, make sure you do your research ahead of time. Again, state and national parks are probably your best choices. Not only are they the most likely to offer a good hiking experience, they are also the best documented. You certainly won’t be able to find a source on the Web that tells you what to expect on Farmer Jones’ back forty, but there’s a wealth of information about public parklands. On another note, you’ll find plenty of information about commercial recreation areas, but they all have a financial interest in getting you to visit the place. Public parks are more likely to have plain and truthful information available.

Resources

  • Your local library. Look for books about your chosen destination. If you are planning a trip to an area you are not familiar with, look for local outdoor-oriented magazines.
  • Google. Enter the name of the city or state and the word “hiking,” and you’ll find an inexhaustible chain of links to information you can use.
  • American Hiking Society (http://www.americanhiking.org/). Search their “Alliance of Hiking Organizations” for affiliated organizations in your area.
  • National Park Service (http://www.nps.gov/). The mother lode, for the United States.
  • USDA Forest Service (http://www.fs.fed.us/). Another extremely rich source, broken down by regions of the United States.



Source by Chuck Bonner