Don’t Miss Out on the World Around You, Start Traveling Today

Almost everyone wants to travel more, but many continue to put off life-changing trips. You never know what tomorrow holds, which is why it is so important to start experiencing the world today. The world is full of wonders that are just waiting for you to explore them. There are many things that make traveling…

Almost everyone wants to travel more, but many continue to put off life-changing trips. You never know what tomorrow holds, which is why it is so important to start experiencing the world today. The world is full of wonders that are just waiting for you to explore them.

There are many things that make traveling so difficult, but the largest of all is the price. Many have plans for future travels but do not have the funds to support their dreams. Unfortunately, there is no way to lower the costs completely. However, when you work with an agent, you will ensure that you are receiving the most competitive prices on the market.

Most agents are eager to work with you and find you the best deal. Agents usually have insider knowledge that you as a civil will not. This means that they can find you deals that are not always readily available to the general public. Also, agents can take into account your budget and plan your trip accordingly.

Maybe funds are not the problem, but you just do not know where to start. Traveling the world can be a daunting task. When you have never been to an area, you may not know exactly what to expect. You can always read over reviews online, but you still will not have the first-hand knowledge that an expert will have.

Working with an agent can help you find the best quality resorts and excursions that fit your budget. Since they have worked with so many clients before you, they will have real life experiences to take into consideration when planning your trip. You can tailor how much you work with your agent, from a basic hotel booking to letting them plan your full itinerary.

Another common fear many have about international trips is that they will get scammed. Reserving a hotel or tour in another country can be very intimidating. Agents have worked with many resorts in the past and know which ones are secure. This will ensure that your funds are always safe and used correctly.

Another great perk to working with a company when planning your next trip is that you will have payment protection. The worst thing that can happen to someone who is a planning a trip is to have a last-minute cancellation. Most agencies will offer you payment protection up until the time of the trip. Life is very unexpected and payment protection is critical when it comes to your future endeavors.

If you are not certain on where you would like to go or just want more information on traveling, it never hurts to talk one on one to an agent. When you partner with an agent, they can inform you on what to expect from various areas, while also offering you valuable knowledge on the base price of many trips. Most websites will allow you to request a quote from an agent or have contact information available.

Do not let life pass you by without fully enjoying the world around you. Vacationing around the world will not only be fun but can also be extremely enriching to your life. When you partner with a knowledgeable agent, you will receive the best care while ensuring that your trip is exactly how you want it.

Partnering with an experienced agent will give you complete peace of mind. You will know that you are getting the best trip possible for your money. You will also be certain that the resort you book will be of the best quality. You do not know what tomorrow brings, start planning your dream vacation today.

Life at Cape Flattery Lighthouse

In March of 1778 Captain James Cook sailed the waters of the North Washington Coast where there was an opening along the coastline. He named the place Cape Flattery because he thought he had been flattered into thinking it was a passage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In his logbook he wrote “In…

In March of 1778 Captain James Cook sailed the waters of the North Washington Coast where there was an opening along the coastline. He named the place Cape Flattery because he thought he had been flattered into thinking it was a passage into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In his logbook he wrote “In this very latitude geographers have placed the pretended Strait of Juan de Fuca. But nothing of that kind presented itself to our view, nor is it probable that any such thing ever existed.”

Ten years later Captain John Meares managed to confirm the existence of the Strait of Juan de Fuca when he visited a small island that sits about a half mile off Cape Flattery. There he met Tatooche, chief of the Makah Indians. He named the island after Chief Tatooche. The chief used the island as his base during summers when he hunted whales and caught salmon.

In 1850 William McArthur had just finished surveying the west coast and recommended a lighthouse to be established on Tatooche Island. In this way the vessels could enter the strait at night and not have to wait until daylight. In 1854 Congress was convinced to allocate $ 39,000 to build lighthouses on Tatoosh Island and on New Dungeness Spit. The government had paid $ 30,000 for all of the Makah's traditional lands except for a small reservation at Neah Bay.

The Makah Indians were quite angry with the white people who purchased their land and brave the construction crew a hostile reception. This was because several hundred of the Indians had been killed by an outbreak of smallpox in 1853 brought on by the disease bearing “Bostons”. During the summer the Indians continued to use the island for fishing and whale hunting. In order to protect themselves the construction crew built a blockhouse of rough-hewn timbers before they started construction on the lighthouse. There was always one member of the crew on guard duty but there were no more issues with the Indians other than a few missing tools and supplies.

On December 28, 1857 the first-order Louis Sauter Fresnel lens light was first illuminated in the sixty-six foot tower of Cape Flattery lighthouse. This tower was taller than most of the Cape-Cod-Style lighthouses. Its white light had a focal plane 162 feet above the sea. Cape Flattery lighthouse was the fourteenth established on the west coast.

The pay for a lighthouse keeper was poor and the weather conditions were miserable.aususing many keepers to resign. In 1861 there was a visitor to the island who saw the rundown condition of the lighthouse. He saw the leaky roof and the moss growing on inside walls. Wind even blew across the chimney causing smoke to invade the living quarters. The keepers were provided with extra fuel and the district engineer was commanded to find a permanent solution.

In 1873, after several years of deplorable conditions and inept keepers, the lighthouse dwelling was declared “not fit to be occupied” as the walls were moldy all year long. Congress appropriated $ 18,000 to build a new duplex with six rooms on each side. The rooms in the lighthouse which were formerly kept quarters were now being used for storage.

Some very interesting things happened on this island. Francis James was the first principal keeper. One day he became angry with an assistant and thread coffee in his face. The two men decided to settle the argument with a gunfight. They took three shots at each other, called it a draw and look hands. Later, another assistant confused to remove the bullets.

Due to the “scrolling” nature of the bachelor keepers it was determined that keepers with families were more dependable and in 1894, with families coming on the island, it was determined that more living space was needed. and the lighthouse was once again made livable.

October 27,1900 assistant keeper Nels Nelson and Frank Reif lost their lives in a small boat during a storm. Their bodies were found over a week later on Vancouver Island.

In 1900 John W Cowan and his wife and seven children arrived at the lighthouse and stayed on for 32 years experiencing many exciting times. The children attended school in Portland while staying with relatives. They spend the summers at home on the island with their parents. There were there enough children on the island to warrant a school.

On February 18, 1911 Cowan saw a vessel struggling in angry seas between Tatoosh Island and Neah Bay. He was able to rescue two navy radio men, but was unable to save three others including his own son Forrest.

There is a story, not verified, that a seventy-mile-per-hour gale hit the island in 1921. It blew Mr. Cowan across the island for about 300 ft while he clung to vegetation before crawling to safety. The family's bull was listed as “lost at sea”. Everyone was very surprised and plied him with extra rations when he swam ashore.

The Cowan family was evidently much beloved. When they left the island after retiring in September of 1932 their fellow islanders were in tears.

Second Assistant Keeper Ole Rasmussen was another casualty while returning to the island in a small boat. Heavy swells capsized his craft and he was stuck in the head.

The weather station was closed in 1966. 1977rought automation of the light station. A modern beacon was installed to replace the tower's Fresnel lens in 1996

The Makah Indian Tribe now controls the decomissioned Cape Flattery Lighthouse and the island.

It is well worth the trip to drive to Neah Bay, get out of the car and hike the o.75 miles to the tip of the cape where you can view Tatoosh Island and the lighthouse. This happens to be the western most point in the continental US.

In Port Angeles you can visit the Museum at 207 South Lincoln Street where you can see the fourth-order Fresnel lens that was used at Cape Flattery. The museum hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 1 to 4 pm

The Best Alaska Fishing Charters – Kenai Peninsula

With working in the tourism industry myself, I have found that most tourists planning their Alaska dream vacation can become overwhelmed with the thousands of options Alaska has to offer- especially when it comes to the fishing world! So I've gathered some simple tools to help this process move along. Finding the BEST Alaska Fishing…

With working in the tourism industry myself, I have found that most tourists planning their Alaska dream vacation can become overwhelmed with the thousands of options Alaska has to offer- especially when it comes to the fishing world! So I've gathered some simple tools to help this process move along.

Finding the BEST Alaska Fishing Charters requires time, effort, and most importantly thorough research! The Kenai Peninsula- which is the most common place to start your fishing adventure, offers several locations such as Seward, Ninilchik, Kenai River, Kasilof River, and Homer! Within these locations, you're looking at over 100 charter companies to dig into and filter out the best from the worst. How can we speed this up? As simple as it sounds– reviews!

Reviews, such as on TripAdvisor and Google, can make or break a company in several ways. While you can not have the good without the bad, the important thing to look for here is how many bad reviews there are compared to excellent AND what are they saying? Do the guests seem valid in their complaints? Did the company take the time to respond? This is vital to filtering out some of the crap (excuse the frank verbiage) to the legitimate concerns.

Once you've come to about three to five companies of interest from picking through reviews, you'll want to move on to figuring out who has the best options available for what you're looking for! Are you looking for a specific location, boat size, trip length, exclusive or party style fishing, or a specific species? While most of the Alaska fishing charters on the Kenai Peninsula offer roughly the same types of trips, asking these questions amongst your travel companions will help you to narrow down the questions asked when it's time to make the calls!

Which brings us to the next step- calling around! Most companies do offer online booking, but if you are new to fishing in Alaska, I recommend calling first to narrow down some details. You'll want to ask important questions like which locations do you offer? Are your trips full days or half days? What times are your trips offered at? What do I need to purchase and what is included? Questions like these are crucial to making sure you are ordering EXACTLY what you are looking for!

Once these are answered, you'll be in a position to make a decision! Go ahead and proceed with the booking process of the charter of your choice and get ready to start the preparation for fishing in Alaska!

Alaska Fishing Prep 101:

– Dress in layers
– Bring rain gear
– Treat sea sickness with a remedy PRIOR to the trip
– Bring lunches and beverages on board to snack
– Purchase Alaska fishing license in advance
– Plan out how you want to get the fish home- with you on the plane or shipping
– Bring a camera

And most importantly, great ready to have a trip of a life time!

A Saturday Morning in Nigeria

I see two girls with buckets of water on their heads; one is green, the other is black. I see a woman by the well, she's fetching water from the well, and scolding her child for whatever crime he committed. Mothers are gods. Some men are gathered in front of a house, holding a meeting…

I see two girls with buckets of water on their heads; one is green, the other is black. I see a woman by the well, she's fetching water from the well, and scolding her child for whatever crime he committed. Mothers are gods.

Some men are gathered in front of a house, holding a meeting of some sort, or probably just gossiping.

“E ra epo e s'ebe” (Buy palm oil and cook your soup). Her voice is the traditional advertising tool, she's taller than most women around.

A woman holding a yellow keg just passes me by.

Down the street, I see a man struggling with his bike, the thing just does not want to work this morning. I see a shirtless child, probably a girl or boy, its rounded tummy is not enough proof of either gender.

The street is littered with dirt.

There's a constant noise

A woman is grinding pepper.

I'm wondering if there are no really aged people here unlike where I come from, I've barely seen any.

I check the front of each house, but there are none.

The weather is a bit different, rain drizzled a bit yesterday, I like that. It makes a good Saturday morning.

I see one very fine girl, I've seen her around a few times. We make eye contact once I look off my phone. She's probably wondering why I'm all sucked up in my phone, or probably hoping I'll approach her. Anyway …

A man is coming behind me, he's making ridiculous sounds with his slippers, he's dragging his feet, I hate that.

I'm thinking of going to the next street, maybe I'll see some really aged people. But come to think of it, I've never seen a car on this street .. Wow! I'm thinking about my project, too. And also, I'm thinking of how Lagos streets will be contrastingly busy. I'm thinking of how things would be if I had a car, I certainly would not be walking around aimlessly. I'm thinking of the writing brand I'm working on.

You see, a lot of thoughts.

I am a boy. It's a Saturday morning here in Nigeria.

Trip Report – Lake Naivasha, A Day Tour

How wonderful is it when a family member or friend moves abroad for a job opportunity? Suddenly, questions of where to go for the next holiday are solved and that exotic destination becomes much more affordable (as you “live like a local”). Well I've been living in Kenya for nearly seven years and my parents…

How wonderful is it when a family member or friend moves abroad for a job opportunity? Suddenly, questions of where to go for the next holiday are solved and that exotic destination becomes much more affordable (as you “live like a local”). Well I've been living in Kenya for nearly seven years and my parents finally took advantage of the situation just last year. Freda, on the other hand, is currently doing a four-week residency at a hospital north of Nairobi and her mother, sister and brother-in-law made the trek from the USA last week to visit her and experience Kenya.

But it was not Freda who organized the day trip; her sister, Novem, connected with us. We planned a wonderful day of walking safaris and a boat ride – perfect activities for perfect Kenyan weather. However it was November, when Kenya has less than perfect weather, and it became prudent to plan a rainy day alternative. It would also be an interesting and entertaining day, but with activities that would have been bearable in a drizzle (but not a storm!). Kenya is definitely a fair weather destination!

We agreed to decide which itinerary to go with when we met on the day and would inspect the clouds together. The forecast said there was a 100% chance of rain in Naivasha, but our local guide on the lake shore assured us the sky was clear. So we took the chance and headed to the lake.

Hells Gate National Park

The first stop was Hells Gate National Park. The group opted to walk instead of embarking on the more popular cycling adventure. On foot or on a bike, Hells Gate has some spectacular scenery and rock formations to marvel at. And animals of course – they saw waterbuck, elands, zebras, buffalos, a secretary bird, impala, Thomson's gazelle and so many warthogs.

After the early start and the hike, they were definitely ready for lunch which we enjoyed at a traditional restaurant in one of the lakeside villages. The chef had prepared a selection of dishes so that they could try a bit of everything. We had beef stew, chicken, fish from the lake (Tilapia), rice, chapattis, ugali , zikuma wiki , and kachambari.

After the fever it was time to walk again. This time we drive around the lake to Wileli Conservancy where there are a lot more animals than in Hells Gate. There are not many predators in the Naivasha area, and so the herbivores can graze in relative peace and humans can mingle with them … to an extent. As well as zebras, elands and impalas (which were getting boring now) the family saw giraffes. It is so impressive getting close to giraffes when you are on foot. You can see exactly how tall they are, but so gentle and graceful.

As we drive to and from Wileli Conservancy, we pass through a wildlife corridor, which must be my favorite kilometer of road in the whole of East Africa. And this day was especially amazing! We saw a lot of animals as we passed by: giraffes, impalas, elands, zebras and warthogs. And the awesome thing was that they were all grazing together in a Garden of Eden-style setting. Usually you see groups of like animals together; it is less common to see many species all together.

The grand finale of the day was a boat trip on Lake Oloiden. This little lake is adjacent to Lake Naivasha with a 5 meter inlet / outlet separating the two. The fun fact about these lakes is that Naivasha is fresh while Oloiden is salty. This is the boat ride you take if you want to see hippos, which they certainly did.

Novem, Chris, Freda and Lek, it was wonderful to spend the day with you. And a few days later in Nairobi National Park. We hope to see you again … for a long safari next time!

National Parks – Tips to Enjoy Nairobi National Park

“The World's Only Wildlife Capital” is Nairobi with a 117 square kilometer National Park only seven kilometers from the city center. On this unique urban adventure you can snap some pictures of the wide savannah with the city skyline in the background. Black rhinos are the highlight of this amazing wildlife park. It was Kenya's…

“The World's Only Wildlife Capital” is Nairobi with a 117 square kilometer National Park only seven kilometers from the city center. On this unique urban adventure you can snap some pictures of the wide savannah with the city skyline in the background. Black rhinos are the highlight of this amazing wildlife park. It was Kenya's first national park and is a local treasure for the Nairobiians.

The best way to enjoy the park is to start early in the morning so you can see the animals at their most active. You can enjoy a picnic lunch in the park and follow some of the walking trails before finishing with another game drive. If you do not have your own vehicle, you can reserve a private game drive in an open-sided KWS (Kenya Wildlife Service) safari vehicle.

We had several visits to Nairobi National Park through 2015, first in January with Richard then in February with Hasse and his family. The beautiful Saddle-billed Stork made an appearance in amidst the wildebeest and zebras, who decided the road was a good place for a dust bath. Lasse came with his family in April and Jeppe's family in July when they came across a lion who had just killed. Elands are very common to spot in this park – they are very shy and often disappear in the other parks around Kenya. Giraffes are plenty and the birdlife is incredible. With Celia and her friends in June we saw a Leopard Tortoise, two lionesses and some buffalos getting intimate in the “Jacuzzi” (that is, waterhole). In May, Sunrise of Africa School in Kitengela had a visiting teacher from England and invited her to the park at the end of her work. Accompanying Linda was Sammy, the director of the school, and Sammy's daughter. They enjoyed breakfast in the park in amongst their animal spotting, which included lion, eland, zebra and impala. The herbivores were all together in a clearing, looking almost like a Garden of Eden. The lion had a freshly-hunted impala which he took into the bushses to eat in peace. In 2014 Pauline and Auriol were very lucky to see about nine black rhinos in one area as well as a group of rock hyraxes. On my first ever visit I saw a bushbuck, Fish Eagle and so many hartebeest.

Co-located with the National Park are the Nairobi Safari Walk and the Nairobi Animal Orphanage, dubbed “Refuges of the Wild”. The Animal Orphanage provides refuge for injured wild animals and for young orphaned animals. The animals are treated, but sadly many will never be rehabilitated back into the wild. However, the orphanage is associated with several international breeding programs, so the work there is very important. We visited the Animal Orphanage with Lindsay and got the best Serval Cat sighting one is likely to get. Lions, leopard and buffalo are all there, and of course plenty of monkeys run amok around the grounds. It is a bit sad to see these animals stuck behind bars when their brothers are just outside roaming free.

The Safari Walk is a raised boardwalk that gives excellent views over the national park, with observation points at waterholes where wildlife is most often found. With Xavier we walked the boardwalk and saw a cheetah lounging on the lush green grass. Xavier also had an incredible game drive in the park, spotting a lioness with a young playful cub, an ostrich sitting on his eggs, Grant's gazelle, Secretary bird, rhino and even a leopard!

For non-Kenyan residents, it cost US $ 46 to enter the national park and it's open from sunrise to sunset. Depending on the type of car that you choose, a half-day excursion can cost from US $ 150 per person including the park fee (price varies according to the number of people in your group and the length of time you want to spend in the park) . The Animal Orphanage and Safari Walk each cost US $ 22 to enter and are open from 8am to 6pm.

Take the Family and Enjoy the Elephant Seals at Ano Nuevo State Park

If you fancy yourself a nature lover, there's a habitat for elephant seals along the California coast that you will not want to miss. Visit between December and March During the December to March mating season, there are docent led nature walks at Año Nuevo State Park where you can learn about the habits and…

If you fancy yourself a nature lover, there's a habitat for elephant seals along the California coast that you will not want to miss.

Visit between December and March

During the December to March mating season, there are docent led nature walks at Año Nuevo State Park where you can learn about the habits and habitats of one of nature's most awesome creatures, the elephant seal.

The main attraction is always the great northern elephant seals that can weigh 2 t tons each, but other visible species include sea lions, otters, and harbor seals.

It's fun to watch the big bulls fight for dominance on the beach and strut their stuff to attract the bevy of ladies in-waiting. At the end of the party, many of the females – pregnant from the year before – give birth in the sand. Then it's off to the ocean until next year's call to revelry.

Interesting history

Hunted to near extinction in the nineteenth century, the elephant seal population dwindled to about 100 animals. Protected by the American and Mexican governments in the early twenty century, the population has rebounded to some 150,000.

The first elephant seal sightings at Año Nuevo began in the 1950s. The first cups were born on the mainland in the 70s, and by the mid-90s, the number of local births was in the thousands.

This is successful conservation in action!

Other seasons

In March, and after the main group has departed for parts unknown, the pups and several hundred elephant seals remain to rest and recuperate along the beach and molt – not as vivid as mating, but still worth seeing.

Be forewarned, on warm sunny days, there is nothing quite like the aroma of a molting elephant seal.

The island

Just off the mainland sets Año Nuevo Island. The barren and wind-swept island is home to the remains of a 19th century lighthouse. The historic keeper's house shown above was constructed in 1872, and now provides shelter to an assortment of Cormorants and Sea Lions.

Prepare for a mini-workout

You will walk approximately 3-miles during a tour at Año Nuevo. Wear comfortable clothes, especially shoes, because your guided walk will take you over varied terrain including sand dunes, and you know what it's like to trudge in sand.

Also, wear appropriate headgear because the tours go, rain or shine – and umbrellas are not permitted.

NOTE: There is an accessible boardwalk via van for those needing mobility assistance. Ask for details when purchasing tickets for the tour.

For more information about visiting with the fascinating elephant seals, check out the park's website.

There's also a worthwhile Marine Education Center located within the park boundaries with interesting animal, plant, and geological exhibits, along with information about the colorful history of the area.

If you go

Año Nuevo State Park is on California Route 1, approximately 20 miles north of Santa Cruz, 35 miles south of Half Moon Bay, and about 60 miles south of San Francisco.

Treat yourself and your family to a visit with the magnificent elephant seals. We recommend it. The scenic ride along iconic Highway 1 is icing on the cake.

Happy travels!

5 Best One Day Team Outing Places in Bangalore: Elevate the Energy Level of Your Teams

“Hey man … Thank you so much for planning the fun time on Saturday. We can not stop talking about it.” Everyone I pass in the office today has something to talk about our team outing … ” Prakash overheard the conversation while waiting at the reception of his friend Pathak's office. Prakash came to…

“Hey man … Thank you so much for planning the fun time on Saturday. We can not stop talking about it.” Everyone I pass in the office today has something to talk about our team outing … “

Prakash overheard the conversation while waiting at the reception of his friend Pathak's office. Prakash came to meet Pathak to seek advice on team management. The hard-working and experienced team of Prakash, of late, the performance became a hit and miss. He started feeling that the zeal is missing, and, decided to get his team back on track.

It is time to let your team get the fresh air. Here's the first 5 best places in Bangalore for corporate team outing, the beautiful suggestion from our treasure box.

Guhantara Resort, Kanakapura Road: The resort provides a unique experience catering to diversified needs of business groups. The resort has conference rooms and auditorium with wifi connectivity for business needs. It hosts parties with rain dance, large swimming pool, full fledged restaurant and bar and a spa. Cave exploration is the best place for planning a treasure hunt. The activity helps in building skills like risk taking, collaboration and better communication.

Mango Mist, Bannerghatta Road: When you want to get out of hustle-bustle of the city and enjoy the tranquility nature, you should head to Mango Mist. Offering perfect relaxation amidst lush green mango trees, the resort features a pool and playground, a restaurant, barbeque and mocktails. The resort has ample space to conduct indoor or outdoor games. For example, you can conduct a key punch activity to enhance the strategic planning and time management skills. It also helps for continuous improvement.

Shilaandra Resort, Ramanagara: A natural rocky resort at the foothills of Ramanagara rocks, the resort is the perfect place for team outing. Amenities here include a wide swimming pool, various games, restaurant and lounge bar. Indulge with rustic surroundings and unwind with nature. The resort has vast landscapes where team activities like Tetris can be planned. It sure helps all team members to engage together, have fun and build strong processes. The perfect place that can work wonders for team synchronization!

Signature Club Resort, Devanahalli: A relaxed winery tour or an adventurous trip to Nandi Hills or Skandagiri Betta, nothing far from Signature Club. A multi cuisine restaurant, café and bar, heated pools or playgrounds, the place has everything. How about planning a fun team activity of Pyramid Building here and cultivate time and resource management skills?

Golden Amoon, Hoskote: An Egyptian themed resort takes you through the historical times while providing world class modern amenities. A spa to relax, a restaurant offering farm fresh foods, a stadium and a disco. This place has got everything covered for your team. Playing the Interlocker in these serene surroundings seems like a good idea. The activity helps to cultivate leadership skills while being creative and all inclusive.

It is time to have fun and exciting activities in a beautiful and serene environment. Give your team the perfect experience of “I Can not, but We Can!”

Lofty Alpine County, California

The highest county in California provides visitors with panoramic views of rocky mountains, lush valleys, and tranquil lakes, as well as the host of trails that lure the adventurous to follow them. Counties that encompass the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California may have the highest peaks, but no county in the state has a…

The highest county in California provides visitors with panoramic views of rocky mountains, lush valleys, and tranquil lakes, as well as the host of trails that lure the adventurous to follow them.

Counties that encompass the southern Sierra Nevada mountains in California may have the highest peaks, but no county in the state has a higher average elevation than aptly named Alpine County. Although four of its mountain passes are crossed by highways (two of which are closed in the winter), Alpine still consists primarily of forest, meadows, and rocky peaks. In fact, it's much like it was when Kit Carson crossed the mountain pass that now bears his name on his way into California.

By taking California highways 88 and 4, you can travel a loop through Alpine County that begins and ends in Stockton. Near the county line, you'll pass the popular Kirkwood Ski Area and reach 8,500-foot Carson Pass. This pass is filled with history. Kit Carson accompanied Captain John C. Fremont and his expedition over this pass bound for Sacramento as the party completed the first winter crossing of the Sierras, in February 1844. Today, a monument to Fremont and Carson stands at the pass, as does a replica of a tree section into which Kit Carson carved his name and the date.

Another monument here honors Norwegian-born John “Snowshoe” Thompson, who should be the patron saint of postal workers. Thompson was a hardy mail carrier who skied (skis were called snowshoes in those days) over the Sierras, including Carson Pass, to get the mail through. He never failed – even during blizzards, and even though his load is sometimes adjusted to 100 pounds. He delivered mail from 1856 to 1876, twenty years of his life, for which his promised salary was never paid.

Carson Pass is used heavily by hikers and by cross-country skiers in the winter and with good reason. Two heavy-duty scenic trails – the Pacific Crest Trail and the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail – pass through here. As they head south, both of these trails zigzag through granite outcrops and mountain hemlock for a 1/2 mile before reaching Frog Lake. Watch for the broad, cheery flower heads of mule ears (a member of the sunflower family) around this lake early in the season. The trail continues on through a mix of meadows and conifer clusters, where gray, black, and white Clark's nutcrackers swoop from tree to tree. From a trail junction near Elephant's Back, the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail heads straight toward Winnemucca Lake and on into the 150,000-acres Mokelumne Wilderness. The wilderness trail plunges steeply into Summit City Canyon, passing a little jewel called Fourth of July Lake on its way to the bottom. You'll need a Forest Service permit to hike this trail.

The Pacific Crest heads left, skirting the base of the brownish volcanic deposits of the Elephant's Back and dropping down the eastern slope of the crest. Much of the Sierran crest in Alpine County is granite overlain by more recent volcanic deposits. Glaciers covered most of the landscape in the geologic past, so the lakes are usually set in granite basins. Many of the peaks are volcanic.

From the pass, Highway 88 drops steeply down the east slope overlooking Red Lake. The second turnoff on the right, Blue Lakes Road, leads out to the Hope Valley Campground and on to the Blue Lakes. The pavement soon becomes washboardy dirt, and the road becomes narrow and twisty in places. Somehow good-sized motor coaches manage to get back in here at the area's campgrounds and in scattered undeveloped sites, despite the condition of the road. The lakes are set in a patchwork of pines, aspens, and granite amid looming peaks of the prevalent volcanic deposits.

As you follow the narrow West Carson River Canyon, turn right toward Markleville at the historic town of Woodfords. On your way there on highways 89 and 4, turn left on the Airport Road, and drive one mile to the Curtz Lake Environmental Study Area. Three short, self-guiding trails, to moderately dense, coniferous forest; open grasslands; and lakeshore provide an education on the geology and ecology of this area, as well as an enjoyable introduction to the natural history of Alpine County. Among other things, the trails introduce hikers to the vanilla-odored bark of the Jeffrey pine, and to the single-leaf pinyon pine, which is still thought by the local Washoe Indians for its large, tasty pine nuts.

From Markleeville, travelers can drive three miles to Grover Hot Springs State Park. This park not only offers pine-shadowed campgrounds and hiking trails but also a pool area where hikers and weary travelers can luxurate in 102- to 106-degree Fahrenheit (about 40-degree Celsius), mineral-rich water, alternating with the bracing plunge into an unheated pool. Although its hours vary with the season, the pool area is open year-round. The hot pool is especially inviting after a wintry day of cross-country skiing.

Less than a block before you rejoin the highway on your way back to Markleeville, you can turn left onto Museum Street and climb a hill to a historical complex that overlooks the town. Operated by the Historical Society of Alpine County, the complex consists of the town's Old Webster School, which was in use from 1883 to 1929; the old jail containing 100-year old iron jail cells from Silver Mountain City; and a museum full of artifacts. Among the museum's displays are a pair of skis and a certificate of citizenship belonging to Snowshoe Thompson himself, plus an enlargement of an old newspaper article about him.

At the Forest Service visitor center in town, travelers can learn about rafting opportunities on the East Fork of the Carson River. A takeout point is situated a short distance south of town. If you do not have a raft of your own, then you can float with a number of private rafting companies. Sorensen's Resort in Hope Valley can make reservations for rafting trips for you. Several companies offer raft trips on the Carson River; the easiest way to hook up with one is to search for East Fork Carson River rafting in your web browser.

After Highway 89 heads off toward Monitor Pass, you'll pass the gates that keep the higher elevations of Highway 4 closed through the winter. The road continues past the gates along the East Fork Carson River until it reaches the historic site of Centerville. Near here, you can turn left onto Wolf Creek Road. After driving 3-1 / 2 miles, you'll reach a fork. Take the left road of the fork and drive to the north end of Wolf Creek Meadows. Then, after 2/3-mile, you'll reach a spur road that climbs to the trailhead for the High Trail and the East Carson River Trail, which is also called the Low Trail.

Soon after you reach this point, this reliably uncrowded road takes on its high-country character. In the words of a friend of mine, “it used to be a deer trail until they narrowed it.” As such, drivers of large coaches will probably want to turn around at this point. However, the road can accommodate mini-motorhomes and Class A vehicles up to 25 feet in length, assuming that their drivers are up to the challenge.

The High Trail and the East Carson River Trail lead into one of California's designated wilderness areas – the 160,000-acre Carson-Iceberg Wilderness – and into the East Carson River Canyon, which is one of the longest and deepest canyons east of the Sierran crest. The canyon has been carved by glaciers up to 19 miles long.

As you continue along Highway 4 next to Silver Creek, the road becomes very narrow. Small coaches that make the climb up to the Silver Creek Valley will cross the bridge over Raymond Creek, and passengers will gasp at the sight of Raymond Creek Falls upstream. Just past a sharp bend up ahead, two Toiyabe National Forest campgrounds spread out on both sides of the road.

As the highway snakes its way up from the campgrounds aspen groves, it passes some primitive campsites. These are little more than dirt driveways leading out to rock fire rings. In fact, much of this high country provides primitive sites for the taking. A few favorite campsites are located in this Silver Creek area. Next to a small creek with aspens and willows all around, the traveler can enjoy a broad view of the valley from the top of a bare hill. The sound of rushing water lulls you to sleep at night. The chilly creek has carved smooth contours into the granite.

After you pass the Kinney Reservoir and probably a number of anglers, you'll once again reach trailheads for the Pacific Crest Trail, just before the 8,730-foot Ebbetts Pass. If you take the first trailhead, you'll head south, climbing a ridge and curving along a slope toward Nobel Lake, which you'll reach after about 4 miles. Nobel Creek is well-stocked with California's state fish, the golden trout. If you choose the second trailhead, you can climb to an overlook that takes in the highway and Kinney Reservoir, and then continue north past Ebbetts Peak and some small ponds and lakes toward Upper Kinney Lake. This stretch is less than two miles long.

Continuing westward, you'll cross the Pacific Grade Summit at 8,050 feet and negotiate more hairpin turns on your way to the major recreational attraction along the Stanislaus National Forest portion of Highway 4. At 7,320 feet, pine-shrouded Lake Alpine is 50 miles from the town of Angels Camp. Motorboating is popular here and the Department of Fish and Game has stocked the lake with rainbow trout. Around the lake itself, trails lead to two volcanic ridges – Osborne Point on the western side and Inspiration Point from the southeast. Four developed campgrounds offer sites for campers. These facilities and picnic areas are usually open from June 15 to October 15 only, because Highway 4 is not plowed during the winter months from this point east.

The Tahoe-Yosemite Trail runs next to the eastern end of the lake. To head south on this 186-mile hiker's trail, you would start at the east end of Silver Valley Campground. After you've walked about a mile up and down over the low ridge, you'll reach a meadow at Duck Lake on the border of the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness. Rock Lake, a waterfall, marshy body of water brings a warm swim, is farther on if you're up to the 4-1 / 2-mile hike from Lake Alpine. The Mokelumne Wilderness is about four miles north of Lake Alpine on the trail.

Even though the Ebbetts Pass area is closed in the winter, another of California's more popular ski resorts, the Mount Reba Ski Area, swings into high gear. Alpine County is truly an unspoiled, year-round recreation land. Even a mostly dry-reading plan for the county transport waxed poetic about this place saying, “life here is a dedicated engagement with nature.” For those who are interested, it's also a dedicated involvement with history.

Alpine County's official website: http://www.alpinecounty.com

Toiyabe National Forest website: https://www.fs.usda.gov/htnf/ then go to the Carson Ranger District, which covers the area east and south of Lake Tahoe.

Craters of the Moon: Lava and Cinders

The Earth had been jittery for several days. She shuddered with anticipation. Then, clouds of sulfurous stench hissed out of a widening gape. Fountains of lava shot skyward from the fissure and heaped cinders and blobs around themselves. The prevailing south-westerly wind transported the volcanic dust and skewed the growing cinder cones toward the northeast.…

The Earth had been jittery for several days. She shuddered with anticipation. Then, clouds of sulfurous stench hissed out of a widening gape. Fountains of lava shot skyward from the fissure and heaped cinders and blobs around themselves. The prevailing south-westerly wind transported the volcanic dust and skewed the growing cinder cones toward the northeast. Suddenly, as though they had been shut off, the fountains dropped back into the crack. The earth ceased her trembling: only hot hissing remained.

But the earth was not finished. A coal-black cinder cone bulged outward on its flank and broke open a new wound. Lava blood spilled out haltingly. The earth mustered herself and sent lava gushing to the surface. Fragments of the cone broke off, and the torrent rafted them away. As the lava's crusted cooled from incandescent to dark, arteries of lava flow underneath, pushing the flow along. Like honey, lava spread across the landscape.

Only about two thousand years ago – a mere tick of the geologic clock – an event similar to that just described occurred at Craters of the Moon National Monument in south-central Idaho. But that was not the only incident of volcanism here. A large weakness in the earth's crust, known as the Great Rift, has allowed molten rock to well up from deep within the earth on several occasions.

The park's visitor center is an ideal place to start your exploration of this seemingly bleak lava land. The center contains books and exhibits relating to the geology, history, and biology of the park. A video displays recent eruptions in Hawaii that were similar to those that occurred at Craters of the Moon centuries ago. Across the road, visitors can camp among the volcanic rock and cinders at the only campground (no hookups) and enjoy an evening campfire program during the summer at the nearby amphitheater.

After you've obtained a map, a campsite, and extra water (the visitor center and the campground are the only sources), you can begin your drive along the seven-mile loop road to explore the area. Just past the campground, the road turns abruptly to the right as it reaches part of the young North Crater Flow. Beyond the curve, a paved interpretive trail awaits those wishing to see the lava up close. Along this trail, you'll see the Triple Twist Tree – an ancient, gnarled limber pine. By counting the number of growth rings in this tree, scientists estimate that this flow may have occurred two thousand years ago, making it one of the youngest flows in the park.

You'll learn the two types of basaltic lava flows are found at Craters of the Moon. One type is called pahuehoe (pronounced pa-hoy-hoy; a Hawaiian word meaning ropy). A cool yet pliable crust formed on top of this flow, which pushed the crust into pleats. The other kind is aa (pronounced ah-ah; Hawaiian for “hard on the feet”). Aa lava, which is less gassy and more sluggish than pahoehoe, forms spiny chunks on its surface as it flows.

A short distance beyond the parking area is the North Crater Trail. This trail will lead you up the crater where the lava flow originated.

Continuing on, you'll turn left off of the loop to reach the Devil's Orchard. Geologists believe that this is the site of an ancient cinder cone that has been reduced to bits and pieces by erosion. You may take a self-guiding trail – which features numbered markers keyed to a booklet – through the chunky remains. You'll learn about the geology, the bird life, and lichens and other plants. Lichens are an association of fungi and algae that can live on bare rock. Look for the purplish dwarf monkey flowers that carpet the ground here in the early summer season.

If you continue along the loop road, you'll reach Inferno Cone. A short, steep trail leads to the summit of this mass of cinders. The peak provides a good vantage point for viewing the many cones along the Great Rift to the southeast and northwest. Standing at the summit, you can feel the full brunt of the park's incessant southwesterly winds. Big Cinder Butte, one of the largest purely basaltic cinder cones in the world, is the tallest cone to the southeast.

From late spring to late summer, many of the more than 200 species of plants native to Craters of the Moon dot the slopes of the cones. Dwarf buckwheat, with its pom-pon-like flower clusters, and bitterroot, which bright white petals contrasts sharply with the dark centers, are particularly common.

Spatter cones are the next interesting formations along the loop. Nowhere else in the continental United States can you find a better example of spatter cones than at Craters of the Moon. These were formed when the earth thread out blobs of lava that stuck to one another. One of the cones here contains ice year-round. This is because lava rocks nearly always contain gas bubbles, which act as insulators.

A spur road off of the loop leads past frozen cascades of lava to the Tree Molds Parking Area. From here, you'll take a trail out to the tree molds, which formed when lava flowed over trees and then cooled, often leaving the rock with the impressions of the burning trunks' bark. You may take the Wilderness Trail from the parking area into the seldom-visited Craters of the Moon Wilderness Area. You'll need a free permission to enter the wilderness area if you're backpacking.

The Wilderness Trail branches off of the Tree Molds Trail drops steeply down to a pahoehoe flow and crosses the flow. Rock cairns mark the path across the undulatory, pleated surface. At the far end, you'll find an old dirt road that extends for about four miles into the wilderness. If you follow this road, you'll enjoy mild hiking through wide-open scenery with just a little bit of dust and cinders to be concerned about.

After you cross the wilderness boundary, you'll pass between Big Cinder Butte and Half Cone, and then continue on through Trench Mortar Flat. The flat name was derived from lava tubes that formed like the tree molds, except that the lava shaped itself around standing tree trunks. After you round Coyote Butte, you'll come to Echo Crater – one of the better campsites in the area for backpackers.

We camped at Echo Crater on our first and most recent visits to this wilderness. During our first visit, we set up camp on the rim of the crater and day-hiked from there in search of waterholes, fissures, and other features that we not marked on the topographical map. On our last night there, we heard and saw prairie falcons flying around the crater. After we watched them awhile, we discovered that they were a male and female taking turns hunting and guarding their nest on the Echo Crater rim.

On a visit during the 1980's, we reached Echo Crater around dark. The wind was its normally persistent self, so we camped inside the crater for protection. As it happens, the crater is shaped like a crescent – a high western rim sloping to a lower eastward opening. As we began to cook our dinner, the moon rose a full, flaming, orange-red ball, casting its light across our campsite and into the crater.

In the late 1990's, we were exploring mapped features that form in lava flows, like lava tube caves and lava bridges. Lava can flow like a river and with the lava on top exposed to the cooler air, a crust can form which solidifies and stops moving. But a lava crust is a good insulator, so the still hot lava underneath can continue to flow. Occasionally, the still-liquid lava can drain away leaving a tube behind. If a part of the roof actually collapses then there is a lava tube cave. If another part of the roof collapses near another collapse, the solid crust overarching the space between them is a lava bridge.

On the Craters of the Moon map, two lava bridges are listed, the Bridge of Tears and the Bridge of the Moon. We went to the Bridge of Tears and camped next to it and also explored Moss Cave and Amphitheater Cave, which formed along the same lava tube as the bridge. We had heard rumors that the Bridge of the Moon might have collapsed and we wanted to go to the area where it should have been and see if we could find it. Not being able to find it could have taken as a sign that it had collapsed.

After camping at Bridge of Tears, we set out on a hiking path that would take us straight toward the Bridge of the Moon's mapped location. After starting out, we had to skirt around an elliptically shaped depression. We noticed that at the opposite end of the depression, there appeared to be an opening. So we decided to take some time to explore it. It turned out to be a cave with two sides-by-side openings. The map did not show this feature, so we took notes about it, including its GPS coordinates. We continued on to the Bridge of the Moon's mapped location, but could not find it. We started back out of the wilderness but spent one more night.

Upon hopping out the next day, we turned in our write-up about the unmapped cave to the rangers at the visitor center and asked if this feature had ever been described before. It turned out that it had not, see we got to name it. Because we are twin brothers and the cave had two openings, we called it Twin Cave. It will never appear on any maps, however, because the Park Service is trying to protect caves from vandalism and does not want to give away their locations.

In August 2016, we went back to the Craters of the Moon wilderness to visit “our” cave after almost 20 years and discovered that one of the openings had gotten larger due to parts of the roof collapsing, but the other seemed to be about the same as before. We took what we call a “twin selfie” by the entrance to post on our social media pages.

The dirt road into the wilderness peters out by the time it reaches two cinder cones located past Echo Crater – The Sentinel and The Watchman. South of here, in 1879, JW Powell and Arthur Ferris of Arco, Idaho, left a marker at Vermilion Chasm during a scouting trip to determine whether the Craters of the Moon area had sufficient water to support livestock grazing. It did not. Then, in 1921, Robert Limbert, WL Cole, and a dog ventured north from Minidoka to explore this illegally unknown region. During their journey across the aa flows, they could hardly sleep at night because of the sharpness of the lava. The dog cut his feet, so the men had to carry him. After running low on water, they managed to find waterholes by observing the flight of doves. In spite of these hardships, the two men were enthralled with this land, and they possessed many of its features the descriptive names that they are known by today. Thanks to Limbert's reports, photographs, and lobbying, and an article he wrote for National Geographic, Craters of the Moon was declared a national monument in 1924.

Back on the road, after rejoining the loop, you'll continue on toward the Caves Area. Pahuehoe flows advance via channels or tubes benefit a cooling crust. As the eruption subsides the lava may drain out of the tube, leaving the crisis to support itself. Indian Tunnel is an example of a lava tube in which much of the overlying crust has collapsed. Because of this condition, you need not carry a flashlight to explore the subway-sized Indian Tunnel. Just outside the tunnel, a ring of rocks is all that remains of a windbreak where the Shoshone Indians once camped while hunting deer and other wildlife of the park. You will need a flashlight to explore the other cave, however. Boy Scout Cave is especially interesting. Throughout the year, this cavern contains a thick layer of ice, which may be covered by a layer of water in the summertime.

Craters of the Moon is also famous for being a part of NASA's effort to send men to the actual moon. Several of the astronauts came here to study the area as an example of what they might encounter when they landed on the moon.

To find Craters of the Moon, drive 24 miles east from Carey or 18 miles west from Arco along the combined routes of US 20, 26, and 93 in Idaho. The monument is open year-round, although the loop road is usually open only from late April to mid-November. Cross-country skiing is available in the winter. For further information, write to Craters of the Moon National Monument, Box 29, Arco, ID 83213 or call the headquarters at (208) 527-1300, visitor information at (208) 527-1335.

The Craters of the Moon National Monument website is at: http://www.nps.gov/crmo

To learn more about lava, check out the wikipedia entry about lava at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lava