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Much of my blog (not really a blog) will relate to my love of travel with articles and pics. It will be an ongoing project.


The long, winding road that leads to Killarney reminds me of the road to Tofino on the west side of Vancouver Island.  Killarney is a postcard pretty port where sailors from mostly Michigan, Ohio and Ontario dock their boats, some for one night and others for many more.  One American I talked to stays in his slip for three months every summer.  Watercrafts range from aluminum fishing boats to sleek, million dollar Carvers gleaming in the sunlight.  There are a few restaurants, all with outdoor patios where the menus feature fresh fish.  There is one grocery store where boaters can restock their supplies as well as refill their gas tanks.  An old, white hotel with a large verandah is the focal point of this little hamlet and we wandered inside to check out the lobby.

After enquiring about hiking trails on George Island the harbourmaster pointed to a nearby dock.  “Just ask for Tinkerbell” he said and it wasn’t until I walked away that I got it.  The young lad that drove the pontoon ferry looked at our city white sneakers and said, “they won’t be white for long” and proceeded to enlighten us about the rugged trail across the island, a 7.5 kilometer hike. 

A few minutes into the well-marked trail and I saw what he meant.  The trail followed along the edge of a marsh and only a few days previous this part of Ontario had been deluged with rain.  Two giant beaver lodges could be seen in the center of a large pond but all was quiet.  Sometimes while hiking we’ll hear the harsh slap of a beaver’s tail on the surface of the water warning the others of danger.  The trail now became rocky and the markers were now painted on the rocks.  After about forty-five minutes of brisk walking we were rewarded with a beautiful vista high above Georgian Bay.  The breezes felt wonderfully refreshing on our overheated faces.  To the west we could see a hazy Manitoulin Island on the horizon.  The downward sloping path leading west was a little easier to navigate and shadier as well.  On the floor of the forest we spotted different types of fungus that weren’t familiar to us.  One type was very small and crimson and another one large and yellow.  We emerged at the southwest of the island on a rock-strewn beach.  Many of the rocks were perfectly round and smooth, resembling ostrich eggs, the result of eons of pounding surf.  As we clambered over high rocks the La Cloche Mountains could be seen to the north.  I had spotted them peeking through the evergreen trees on the road to Killarney but they weren’t nearly as close as I had expected them to be.
The La Cloche Mountains are composed of ancient white quartzite and once stood taller than the Rocky Mountains.  They are still among the tallest peaks in Ontario.
Many lagoons looked so inviting for splashing barefoot in the water.  The water was so clear that it was difficult to perceive depth.  A frigid, though refreshing dunk in Georgian Bay was what we did spontaneously, and we felt energized once more.
Some abandoned tar vats nearby was the only sign that people had ever been on these rocks.  We had been informed that fishermen used to tar their nets here to protect them from rot and there were still trails of old tar that had dribbled onto the rocks so many years ago.  The scenery was so amazing that I had to remind myself that this was Ontario and not the west coast.

My favourite cactus

Our back yard in Black Canyon City, AZ
We lived full time in our RV for five years and had the pleasure of living in Arizona for five months during the winter of 2006/07.


The Red Rocks of Sedona provide a backdrop from this vantage point along Hwy 89A

Don and Michelle came to visit us for a few days.  They had flown to Las Vegas for the KOA convention and had done some sightseeing at the Grand Canyon before heading down to Black Canyon City.  A local character we had met by the pool had advised us to travel to Jerome, an old mining town in the mountains and to take the Canadian Highway.  At my look of puzzlement he explained.  “Take highway 89A,” he said laughingly.  So there we were on 89A that winds its way up Mingus Mountain in a series of dizzying switchbacks that was both thrilling and a bit unerving.  Near the summit one stretch of this twolane road had no guardrail to keep our vehicle from plummeting into the deep canyon if it strayed onto the narrow shoulder just a bit.  I sympathized with Don for as we oooohed and ahhhhed he had to concentrate on staying in his lane as he negotiated these sharp switchbacks.  I saw so many photographic opportunities but there was no room for vehicles to pull over.  A lookout on the backside of the mountain afforded us a fantastic view across the canyon at the red rock that Sedona is noted for.  We found ourselves climbing again and after rounding a bend, suddenly the historic mining town of Jerome materialized.  Jerome hugs the side of the mountain and is a tourist mecca of coffee shops, saloons and art galleries.  There are 3 levels of streets that switchback down this side of the mountain before continuing into the town of Clarkdale.
In our quest for finding a restroom we spotted a crudely painted sign that read “Ghost Town This Way”.  Our vehicle jostled along a gravel road for about a mile past more such signs.  We saw that we were in the location of another old mining town, although this one did not look prosperous.  For a small admission charge we wandered among old relics of the automotive industry.  We saw cars and trucks from every decade beginning in 1914, all covered in layers of dust.  A steam operated saw was being utilized by two old cronies to mill logs.  Up on a hill stood a house that was formerly a bordello when this mining town was thriving.  We wandered into an old mine shaft and one of the nine people who live here told us that this mine missed the mother lode by a few hundred yards while the one in Jerome a mile down the mountain hit the lucky vein.  Chickens roamed freely and a burro named Pedro Gonzales entertained us for a while by kissing his owner on the cheek; he also grabbed a rope with his teeth, shaking his head up and down to make the attached bell ring.  He did this when he wanted food and he did it often.

We anticipate a repeat trip but this time it will be on our motorcycle.


On Saturday we headed north on Hwy 17 and in the Verde Valley turned east towards the Mongollon Rim area, the land that author Zane Grey loved so much that it became the background for some of the fictional westerns that he was famous for.  He lived in many locales but built a hunting lodge at the base of the rim near Payson.  As I love evergreen trees and rocky landscapes I understood his love for this area where nature abounds and civilization is sparse.
The temperature when we left Black Canyon City was 23 degrees C and as we drove east, steadily climbing to the top of the Rim, we watched the thermometer drop degree by degree to a cool 10 degrees C.   Cactuses that grow at 2,000 feet elevation were replaced with pine trees as far as the eye could see, dark green against a sapphire sky.  As we turned a corner we spotted many people tobogganing down a melting hill of snow.  Quite a contrast within a 60 minute drive!
The winding road led to the bottom of a valley and the temperature rose once again.  We passed through small hamlets called Strawberry and Pine and stopped at the Tonto Natural Bridge, the world’s largest travertine bridge that arches over Pine Creek’s clear waters.  Travertine is calcium carbonate deposited by underground springs and the bridge was a sight to behold.  It is 150 feet wide, 183 feet high and 400 feet long.  We viewed it from many vantage points, and hiked a rugged trail that led to the bottom of the gorge.  Above our heads we could see interesting rock formations and stalacites formed over millions of years.  The Park Ranger warned people not to walk under the bridge in the event that a stalacite breaks off causing harm to anyone beneath.  Water seeping through the vegetation on this natural bridge cascaded to the rocks below creating a colourful rainbow in the sunlight.  We hiked from one end of the gorge to the other, clambering over rocks and giant boulders that rested in the bottom of the creek.  A catwalk built into the side of the gorge led to a waterfall that spilled gently onto lush, green ferns below. 

On Sunday we took a 7 kilometer hike in the Cave Creek Preserve, only 40 ks southeast of the campground.  (I say only because in Arizona, due to the mountain ranges and wilderness, much driving is usually required in order to visit various points of interest).  The first leg of this trail went straight up a mountain and we wondered if the entire trail would be so strenuous.  Fred has asthma and doesn’t handle climbing well but as it turns out the rest of the trail was mostly hilly but rugged as it curved around the base of the mountains in a loop back to the parking lot.  The trail is for hikers, mountain bikers (though I can’t imagine riding a bike on this terrain) and horses.  Every so often a few bales of hay could be seen alongside the trail.  Since nearby ranches offer horseback rides along the trail we assumed it was the ranchers that had dropped off the bales.  The hike took 2 ½ hours and we were grateful that the sky was mostly cloudy as temps were about 23 C without the searing sun. 


Walking through the narrow streets of south Charleston reminds one of Europe.  Rows of houses, some leaning slightly resemble some of the houses in Amsterdam.   First floor windows are shuttered to keep the annual horde of tourists from peeking into drawing room windows.  What would appear to be the front of the house from the street is often actually the side.  The houses are frequently fenced in and gated with the front of the house facing a courtyard with opulent gardens under massive shade trees.  Pansies line the walks and lush ferns hang from verandahs.  Many houses have verandahs on the second as well as the third floor that extend the entire length of the house.

This part of South Carolina is called low country and when approaching Charleston by car you realize why.  Like concrete ribbons suspended in the sky several highways snake their way across acres of marshland that surrounds the old city of Charleston.  In the center of town is Marion Square where farmers sell their produce twice a week.  Nearby is the information center where travelers can pick up brochures regarding accommodations, maps, locating points of interest.  If walking is your pleasure you can purchase a booklet that points out various routes to view the marvelous homes of old Charleston or you can strike out on your own.  Stroll along King St. where stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue are located as well as various restaurants.  Market St. features an interesting array of shops selling clothing, giftware and souvenirs.  Follow Church St. south to see the oldest church in Charleston and continue on to Battery Park where old cannons line the perimeter of the park.  Here the Ashley River converges with the Copper River and one quickly realizes that this location was a great vantage point for a settlement during pre-Civil War days.  Look across the water to Fort Sumter, a man-made island where the first shot was fired that began the Civil War.

Part of the charm of Charleston is the horse-drawn carriages that can be seen rolling through the streets with guides extolling the architecture and history of the city to interested tourists.  If following horses isn’t your pleasure mini-tour buses with guides can be reserved as well.  Whether you appreciate history or architecture Charleston is a wonderful city to enjoy. 

A Short Walk To Mexico

In El Paso we managed to find a big parking spot for the truck and trailer for only $10 right beside the bridge that leads to Juarez, Mexico across the Rio Grande.  As we trekked on foot across the international bridge imagine our surprise to see a narrow cement aqueduct with muddy water flowing through it.  This is the Rio Grande, the grand river that separates Mexico and the US?  I was totally crestfallen as we had crossed it a few days previous in New Mexico while riding our bicycles and at this location it was wide and picturesque.  The bridge was congested with cars and pedestrians that we found quite unusual for an ordinary weekday
We walked to a plaza where in typical Mexican style a church was the focal point.  Hundreds of adults and children roamed the streets and we were quite bewildered by all this activity.  We learned from a local that Mexican that Catholics celebrate Good Thursday as well as Good Friday that explained the bustling crowds.  An attractive Mexican man approached us to inquire “hey whiteys, aren’t you afraid of us”?  We replied that we had been in Mexico before and that we felt quite comfortable walking around.  We had an interesting conversation with him about his lifestyle, his family, how he had moved to the United States but eventually moved back to his motherland.  He explained to us how to find the “turista” flea market.  We found the market but were not too impressed with the wares.

As much as I like Mexico, I didn’t like this border town with its potholed streets and sidewalks, deteriorating buildings and litter strewn everywhere.  I tried to imagine someone coming into Mexico for the first time thinking this is how the rest of this beautiful country looks.  Border towns are not a good introduction to a country.

We had difficulty getting back into the US but not for the obvious reason i.e. not having proper identification.  Fred and I between us did not have 60 cents US in coins for the turnstile!  We saw an ice cream shop nearby and anyone who knows Fred knows he loves his ice cream so we bought two ice creams for $2.00 but the vendor did not have any change in coin!  I asked a few Mexican ladies but they did not “comprende” so Fred asked a man at the tollbooth who begrudgingly made change for a US dollar and we were able to return to Texas.  Our customs officer was a very friendly fellow who had lived in Canada and related to us his love of Moosehead beer.

We walked back across the bridge with throngs of mostly Mexican youth whose intent was to shop in El Paso in what I silently called Little Mexico.  The same loud music was blaring from speakers in front of the stores, the signs were all in Spanish and we had to keep reminding ourselves we were no longer in Mexico.  After a short walk to the downtown core our feet reminded us that three hours of walking was quite enough so we headed back to the truck.

We were astonished to hear that Juarez is one of the most dangerous cities in Mexico.  Hundreds of people are murdered each year due to the drug wars.  Yikes!  That explains why the young Mexican asked why we weren't afraid.

Canoeing in Juniper Springs, Florida

Juniper Springs is one of the oldest, best known national forest recreation areas in eastern United States.  Last week we drove there so we could take the 7 mile canoe run down Juniper Creek which flows through Juniper Wilderness in the Ocala National Forest.  The signs warn that anyone wishing to take this trip should be an experienced canoeist.  “Not for beginners”, the sign states.  As we have canoed for many summers at Star Lake we had no hesitations about taking this trip.  Signs also warn against getting out of your canoe and wading in the waters.  This restriction is necessary to protect the environment, (the grasses in the creek bed) as well as safety precautions in alligator territory.

We pushed the rented canoe on a dolly along the paved path out to the launch area.  We have a Sea Eagle, an inflatable kayak but since alligators live here decided we would definitely feel more secure in an aluminum vessel.  We noticed the canoes looked rather dented and were to find out why later in the run.  The combined daily water flow from Juniper Springs and Fern Hammock Springs is about 13 million gallons of water daily and believe me you can feel the strength of the current immediately upon entering the creek.   The creek started out very narrow and shallow and the water was crystal clear.  We gently paddled amid semi-tropical vegetation that often draped across the creek.  Every few minutes we would encounter a fallen tree branch or sometimes an entire tree would rest in our path.  We had to duck numerous times to avoid being dragged from the canoe as we negotiated the current under a fallen tree.  I would hang on to the tree to slow us down but then the back end would turn, leaving us wedged.  At one point the canoe suddenly hit a submerged tree almost capsizing us.  This meandering waterway with its twists and turns and obstacles is quite challenging and I couldn’t help but wonder about the skills of some of the people we had seen at the launch.  We had passed two young women and a young child whose canoe had become jammed against a log and they didn’t appear capable of steering back into the current.

After paddling for an hour or more we settled comfortably in the canoe, and shaded by a gigantic tree we ate our picnic lunch just enjoying the stillness.  The sound of yelling shattered the silence and as we paddled upstream we saw that two people had indeed capsized their canoe after losing control under a fallen tree.  Here the water was quite a bit deeper.  They had dragged the water-laden canoe to shore and were in the process of tipping it to dispose of the water, a difficult task as the shore was lined with palmettos and thick brush.  Their friend jumped out of his canoe into the 72 degree water and swam over to assist them.

The further up the creek we paddled, the more obstacles we encountered.  A canoe ahead of us was caught up on a palm tree that must have fallen recently as the park rangers  routinely saw trees that don’t allow passage.  The young ladies in the canoe got out and pushed the canoe off the tree.  We decided that with our combined weight that wouldn’t be an option for us, so despite the warning signs we went ashore and maneuvered the canoe under the opposite end of the tree that was only about 18 inches above the water.  The creek became wider and we paddled through a marshy area where we ran aground several time on sandbars.  At one point the creek took a sharp turn and not six feet from the canoe was the biggest gator I have ever seen at such close range.  He had to be at least 15 feet in length.  Because I did not have my camera ready and the current flowed so swiftly I was unable to take his photo.  I did focus the camera on him after we had passed but the sun was directly on the lens.  We knew we might see alligators but it was the element of surprise, the proximity and the size of the gator that both shocked and thrilled me.

Fours hours after we launched we reached the pickup spot and since it was spring break there were many young people and a sprinkling of over-fifty folks.  After talking to one of the older chaps I discovered that he and his wife, along with their friends in another canoe had all capsized……twice.  The worst part of it was that both their digital cameras swam with them.

I have thought that maybe some people aren’t as experienced as they think or maybe they just lie about it but this canoe trip is a truly a challenge.

Cycling The Van Fleet Trail in Florida

On the internet I discovered that there was a rail trail about 30 miles south of Wildwood where we could ride our bicycles away from any traffic.  We drove down quiet, county roads that wound through lush, green cattle rangelands.  The Van Fleet trail is in a very isolated area of central Florida, about as remote in one section as the Everglades.  No power or telephone lines to be seen here.

The trail is 29 miles long, is paved, straight as a needle and runs through sub-tropical forest.  Pretty little flowers nodded in the spring breeze and ferns were in abundance in the sun-dappled forest.  As we rode along, the only sound to be heard was the whining of our tires amid the sweet trilling of songbirds.  At one point we spotted large black vultures perched in a tree.  When I aimed the camera they all took off startling me as their flight was seemingly laboured and quite noisy.  I could smell something wild, maybe the reason there were so many vultures hanging around one tree.  In a marshy area we saw two sand hill cranes, their red tufts bright against the background.  Every so often we would see giant snapping turtles sitting in a sunny spot in the sand beside the path.

As we sat down on a bench to eat our picnic lunch I realized just how remote an area this was.  It was so very quiet and peaceful. Within five minutes that all changed.  Four noisy couples, birds of another kind chose that very spot to rest.  We had hoped to spot some deer but fat chance that would happen with those chattering magpies so close to us.  They must have entered the trail at the north end at a less secluded spot.  We didn’t encourage conversation and we were relieved when they headed back.

The Withlacoochee River runs through this forest and though we saw no alligators in the river we did spook one as we approached a small pond.  The gator quickly slid into the water and remained perfectly motionless for the entire time we watched him.  He more resembled a log than a gator with moss and twigs clinging to his back and if you did not  know he was there you would think it was a log.  On our return trip this same gator was lying closer to the path and Fred’s bicycle tire almost ran over the tip of his tail startling both the gator and Fred and I.  Quick as lightning the gator slid partway down the embankment but did not enter the water this time.  Because he was only five feet long and because his head was turned away from us and because I had my bike to put between us I ventured to take his photo.  We had been told years ago that they may look slow but if an alligator wants to get you he can.  Luckily gators are also very shy of people.

On our return trip I happened to look up and against an azure sky saw eight silver gliders in an encircling pattern high above us.  I could only imagine the thrill of climbing in the updrafts and then soaring like an eagle.  It was so still I could hear the wind whooshing against the wings of the gliders.  

We cycled 33 miles and the sight of the Ram sitting in the field was a welcome sight indeed.

"If I didn't know how old I was, how old would I be?"

My Motivation

I have always liked to write and had the dream to be published some day.  After submitting a few articles and having at least one rejected at this point in time, I decided to share some of my travel stories, fictional stories, articles etc.  I hope you enjoy them!