Thursday, July 24, 2014

Conquistadors, Confederates, and Cattle: Florida's Cracker Culture

There is a Longhorn standing in front of me, only I’m not in Texas. Just beyond the urban borders of Florida’s metro regions, lies the wild stuff, the un-manicured and non irrigated Florida, where the cattle roam.

Yep, you heard me. Cattle. Descendants of those abandoned by the gold seeking Conquistadors, bred with imported heat resistant varieties from Texas and India.

Coral, Coquina, and Oolite—The Castles Disney Didn’t Build

The winter playground for America’s Industrial blue blood, Florida boasts many grand estates that are open to the public. Perhaps best known for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle in Orlando, Universal Studio’s Hogwart's Castle, and Ripley’s Moorish style Warden Castle in St. Augustine, the state lays claim to several less publicized castles. Built in the Gilded Age by the country’s nouveau riche who were inspired to build replicas of castles that had been erected by the very monarchies our founders sought refuge and independence from, many of these structures are recognized National Landmarks.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Florida's Hill Country along the Ridge Scenic Highway

Loads of tourists come to the Sunshine State each year to absorb some vitamin D along the 1,350 miles of coastline. Being a peninsula, it’s surrounded by water and, being significantly marshland, is comprised of more than 4,500 islands.  Then there are its 7,500 lakes.  Florida sports 27 first magnitude springs, more than any other state.  In fact, Florida barely qualifies as solid land sitting just above sea level.

County after county, Florida is an expanse of water infused flatland riddled by sink holes and cedar hammocks, the tell-tale sign of a potential sink hole. However, there are few hills. A few mountains even.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Be a Marine!

"Be a Marine" read the 1940 style poster archived at the entrance to the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia not far from Quantico. The female Marine depicted was holding a clip board, I noted, but if this was any indication that female Marines would be clearly and fairly depicted in the following exhibits, I'd be impressed.

Turning the corner, I see a dozen photos of female Marines, three erected beside the quote, "The Marine Corps...took a boy and made a man." A cynical voice inside me whispered, 'Figures'.

The Happy Shak—A Throwback Hippy’s Haven on the Beach

“For Sale!?”  Good God, NO!  It couldn’t be. Not an icon of the most blissful season of my life—what was I to do if this were true?  What did it all mean? 

I almost hadn’t come, dreading to resurrect the memories I had long since quite effectively  buried.  But, as Fate would have it, a series of mishaps had sent me back retracing bits of the path he and I had trekked a few years earlier, and there I was, and there it wasn’t.  

Then I saw it.  The sign.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Solo Trekking Sisters: Women Who Walk Alone

Coast to Crest Trail, west of the Pacific Crest Trail
The man sitting across from me looked at his wife then turned abruptly back towards me asking, “Why are you alone?”

Stunned, I sat silently, trying to better understand the question by studying his mannerisms. I had just emerged from a week solo hiking in Death Valley and was re-hydrating in Shoshone, a small town that serves as the “Eastern Gateway” into the Valley.

“I mean,” the man continued, glancing at his wife. ”I don’t understand why a woman like you…” She kicked him under the table.

OH. That’s where he was going with this line of inquiry. Women who travel solo hear it often. I hear it in almost every destination where I stop to mingle with other travelers. From men and from women, but, mostly from the guys. Understandably, because though women travel and always have, those who do it solo, especially those who do it primarily on foot solo, are a rare breed far and few between. And, also because solo adventuring historically has been viewed a man’s thing. You know, when his cave just isn’t big enough, or when it’s just too darn close to civilization.

Friday, February 21, 2014

The Non Spelunker's Guide to Caving

Photo courtesy Creative Commons.
Most caves keep a constant median temperature. That in large part is why humans have use them as shelter since the beginning of time. They don’t get too cold; they don’t get too warm. Not so with Crystal Caves in Nancia, Mexico.

Discovered in 2000 by miners working for the Industrias Peñoles, this cave sits above a magma pool. The stable 122 degree Fahrenheit make it inaccessible to visitors not donning refrigerated suits and cold breathing systems.

Putting the CHILL in Chillaxin': Florida's Ice Festival and Bar

There truly is something gloriously wonderful about light through ice. Andersen’s Snow Queen certainly thought so. And so, too, does Jennifer Lee’s Elsa in Disney’s Frozen.  Yet, those ladies’s didn’t hold an icicle to Empress Anna.

Travel | Wanderlust

Texas Canyon, Arizona

Located about 20 miles east of Benson, Arizona, along I-10 east lies the Dragoon Mountains, a geological landmark studded with massive batholiths.  I-10 has several of these formations from San Diego eastward frequented by big rock enthusiasts, each with its own tale to tell. This particular site at Texas Canyon Rest Area encompasses the peaks once used by Apache resistance leaders. 

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Cobras and Crocs South of the Border

Emerald Tree Boa, Pedro's Reptile Lagoon
Folks in Southern California, being in close proximity to Mexico, can quite easily make the border crossing when wanting to spice things up culturally.  Those living on the east coast can’t.  

Hold up! Yes, they can—if Pedro’s South of the Border (SOB) in South Carolina counts. 

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Who Knew? A Discerning Tourist’s Guidebook to Lesser Known Attractions

For 25 years beginning in 1738, Spanish ruled Florida gave sanctuary to Africans fleeing slavery in the English colonies. Fort Mose Historic State Park in Saint Augustine commemorates the site of the first chartered settlement of free Africans in America known then as Garcia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Freestyling: Life of the Long Term Traveler

Car tent camping 
A few years ago I decided to take a gap year off from work and social responsibility to travel at my own pace doing what I wanted with whom I wanted wherever the wind blew me. I had been a single parent for twenty years living on a nominal income and felt I deserved it. Felt if I didn’t do it then, I’d never do it. So, I got rid of my stuff and tapped the first of many destinations into my Garmin. 

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Sidebar: San Diego's Mud Caves

Perched on the butte above the Seco del Diablo overlooking the Carrizo Badlands in the southeastern corner of the Anza Borrego Desert State Park east of San Diego are the Arroyo Tapiado Mud Caves. Formed more than five million years ago, there are 22 caves and nine slot canyons in what is recognized as one of the world’s largest mud cave systems.

Who Knew? A Discerning Tourist’s Guidebook to Lesser Known Attractions


Unfortunately, human smuggling is still as big a business as it ever was; in fact, it’s the trafficking of involuntary victims that’s got 42,000 Customs Border Patrol officers armed against the $30 billion/year wretched racket. And every day, thousands of people walk right on past, or rather above, a site in San Diego that was once used by pirates smuggling human cargo.  The Transcontinental Railroad race had lured tens of thousands Chinese to California who then competed against the surly, hard-drinking, fast-fisted Irish swinging hammers for the Central Pacific Railroad.  Rising prejudice led to the adoption of the oh-so-embarrassing exclusionary acts. These bans spawned the first commercial smuggling of contraband human cargo in the U.S. and the seven "sister" caves in La Jolla provided shelter for turn of the century profiteering pirates. Today, only one cave is accessible by land. Sunny Jim’s Cave, named after a 1920 British cereal box character and military mascot, can be accessed through a tunneled stairway in the historic La Jolla Cave and Curio Shop