100 mile views from the deck of our rental home near Asheville, NC. September 2011
The view from the deck of the house we rented about 30 miles north of Durango, Colorado in September 2010. Elevation about 8500'
Do You Remember When Getting There Was Really
Half the Fun? Russ Leonard 5-31-15
My wife and I averaged over 3 trips per year for the first 35 years of our marriage. We first started flying on vacation during the early 1980's. Prior to that we had traveled by car which limited us to about a thousand mile radius for a typical one week trip. I had flown only a few times on business when I was young. My wife had never flown at all until our first trip out West. The excitement of flying to a distant location certainly added to the anticipation leading up to the trip. In recent years we both dread the getting there part.
So what changed? Everything. Obviously after being on a couple of hundred flights the novelty of air travel certainly fades. But it is much more than that. Long layovers, fewer flights with fewer choices, more delays, no real food, rude travelers, the list goes on and on. A couple of years ago someone hit me in the head trying to stuff a carry on the size of Texas in the overhead compartment. I would have given the person the $20.00 baggage fee if I knew they were going to hit me in the head.
We check our bags. This is just one example how we are really not cheap or frugal by the strictest definition. We would rather pay the fee than try to find a place to put the carried on bags or be stuck with them taking up all our foot space on a 4 hour flight. I will carry on a small bag of food and my camera.
Speaking of food, there must be a world wide shortage of peanuts because I have not seen any of them on a flight in several years. Many airlines have these snack boxes that you can buy for about $6.00. The trouble is, I do not eat most of the items in them. If I am spending $4000.00 on a trip, why would I care about another $15.00 for something edible. We once took a charter flight from Bradley International to Cancun. It was about 20 years ago and was on Taesa Airlines. Taesa used to advertise that they were the chosen airlines of the Pope on all his Central and South American trips. We had a Prime Rib dinner with an open bar and entertainment on the flight down to Cancun. Some passengers had to be carried through customs. They may have had a little too much fun getting there.
So getting there really isn't much fun anymore if you are flying. Driving in the Northeastern, US can be a little difficult between the Boston and the Washington, DC area.( I 95 Corridor ) Outside of that driving is not too bad. It is actually very nice in upstate New York and all of northern New England.
We have scaled back on our expensive travel for now. We are living on a small fraction of our pre-retirement income and most trips cost at least $3000.00. We are doing more local New England and middle Atlantic trips. We have put aside a lot of money for medical expenses. If we do not use it in one calendar year we have decided that we will spend some of it on other things like travel in the following year. I would like to do an extended western trip next year. We will see what happens. I know one thing for sure, once we get there we always have a great time. I do not even have to go back to work after the return trip anymore. So maybe going home can now be half the fun?
Mount Shuksan, North Cascades NP
Giant Sequoia Grove in Yosemite NP, California
High in the San Juan Rockies in southwest Colorado
Black Canyon of the Gunnison NP
Cliff Dwellings, Mesa Verde NP
Electra Lake, near Durango,CO
Owls, high in the Rockies in Colorado
About the photos. I was a film holdout until 2008. Most of our trips were documented by taking hundreds of rolls of film. I have never scanned the prints. We really enjoy looking through the old albums. I had hair in most of them. In 2012 I finally got serious with my equipment. The picture below was my first reward. A Great Horned Owl with her two young owls from about 200 feet away.
Bear Lake, RMNP
Grand Canyon NP, North Rim
Bull Elk, Rocky Mountain, NP
My nephew and I, on top of Observation Point, Zion NP, back in 2008
Yosemite Falls from the Mist Trail
Lower Falls, Yellowstone, NP
My Favorite Places
My wife and I have been fortunate to travel throughout our great country. The memories of our trips together are my most prized possessions. We have also traveled to Europe, South and Central America and many islands. For me, nothing compares to the Great American West. The picture above is of a house that we rented in southern Montana about 30 miles north of Yellowstone National Park. That was our home base for an incredible trip that we took in late October 2011. We have been to most of the major National Parks in the United States, many of them several times. The following is a list of my top 10. The top 3 are basically a tie for me. I have not included any Canadian Parks since this is my American West list, but Banff and Jasper are second to none.
1. Yellowstone N.P. Montana, Idaho and Wyoming: Wildlife everywhere. North America's version of the Serengeti. Amazing scenery, from waterfalls to thermal areas and mountains.
2. Yosemite N.P. California: The waterfalls during the spring runoff are beyond description. Great and challenging hiking, a photographers paradise.
3. Zion N.P. Utah: A colored version of Yosemite Valley ( without the waterfalls). For me, the best hiking there is. Angels Landing and Observation Point are a must unless you are afraid of heights.
4. Olympic N.P. Washington State: A three in one park. Rugged coastline, mountains rising from the sea and even a rain forest. Awesome views from Hurricane Ridge.
5. Rocky Mountain N.P. Colorado: Abundant wildlife, high altitude hiking and beautiful mountain views. Travel on Trail Ridge Road soon after it opens in late May is an unforgettable experience.
6. Glacier N.P. Montana: Grizzly Bears are everywhere in late September. Great hiking. See the glaciers while you can, they are disappearing very fast.
7. Kings Canyon and Sequoia N.P. California: Side by side parks. You must see the big trees before you die. Great back country hiking.
8. Bryce Canyon N.P. Utah: Really an eroded plateau. Easy but enjoyable hiking. A great photo op at every turn. One of the few parks you can fully appreciate without getting off the beaten path.
9. Grand Canyon N.P. Arizona: Everyone needs to see the big hole in the ground at least once. North Rim is my favorite side. Getting back up takes a lot longer than going down.
10. Mesa Verde N.P. Colorado: Interesting Historical Park with great scenery and great desert views.
Unfortunately a top 10 list limits you to 10.( I know that I put in 11) There are many more great parks including Arches and Canyonlands in Utah, Death Valley and Redwoods in California, Black Canyon of the Gunnison and Great Sand Dunes in Colorado, Mount Rainier and North Cascades in Washington State, etc, etc, etc,. Get out there and explore. Most of our trips have been in Spring and Fall to avoid the crowds. Weather can be unpredictable and extreme in some of these parks. Do your homework, prepare, stay within your physical limits, stay safe and enjoy. I never met a park I did not like. Sharing the experience with someone you love makes it even better. Russ Leonard 4-16-15
Looking East from our rental home in Emigrant, Montana. October 2011
Fox leaping after a mouse
Wild Bison, Yellowstone NP, Wyoming
My travel companion and partner for life. Her last high altitude hike. We now keep it under 7000' of elevation. Too many residuals from 4 bouts with cancer, 11 surgeries, chemotherapy and massive radiation. She is living proof why you do not wait until you are retired to do the things that you want to do. Hurting but happy at 12500' in the Colorado Rockies, June 2012. Update 9-1-15. It now looks like her mountain hiking days are over. She still is in generally good health but can no longer tolerate sustained exertion, such as a hike over 2 miles. Any altitude just makes it worse. All our wonderful memories just went up in value.