The Geology of Hawaii

Hawaii

The Royal Hawaiian Waikiki Beach
Waimea Bay

When you visit Hawaii it doesn’t take very long to realize you have come to a place like no other on earth. Isolated from continental land by at least 2,400 miles of ocean. It is blessed with year round average temperatures in the eighties and abundant rainfall. Its history is both ancient as well as recent. First populated by the Polynesians over fifteen-hundred years ago it was not discovered by the European explorers until January, 1778, when the English explorer Captain Cook set foot ashore. The native Hawaiians speak a language unique to them and proof of this is everywhere from highway signs to greetings from the locals. Because of Hawaii’s isolation the flora and fauna are a blend of unique as well as introduced species from all around the world. Modern Hawaii has also the most ethnically diverse population found anywhere with seven races each representing over five percent of the population. This includes the Polynesians, Asians with Japanese being the largest segment, whites, Filipino, Blacks, Hispanics with twenty-one percent of the population being of mixed race decent. Even the geology and origins of this island chain are unique. Welcome to paradise…

The shore at Lanai Lookout, Oahu

Hawaii – a Geological Wonderland

Most of the earth’s islands are found at tectonic plate boundaries either from spreading centers (like Iceland) or from what are called subduction zones where one tectonic plate slides under another (like the Aleutian Islands). Hawaii is geologically unique because it is caused by a ‘hot spot.’

Illustration from the Jaggar Museum, Hawaii

 

There are a few ‘hot spots’ on earth and the one under Hawaii is right in the middle of the Pacific Plate, one of the earth’s largest crustal plates. A geologic ‘hot spot’ is an area under a crustal plate where volcanism occurs. It is easy to geologically explain volcanism at plate spreading centers and subduction zones but not as easy to explain a ‘hot spot’ where molten magma breaks through the crustal plate. (Some theories describe this as a particularly hot part of the molten magma).

Another hot spot under the American plate is Yellowstone National Park with its geysers and other thermal features. The Hawaii hot spot is under the seafloor producing undersea volcanoes. Some of these volcanoes build up to the surface of the ocean and become islands. Over millions of years the plate moves across the ‘hot spot’ and the original volcanoes become extinct and new volcanoes begin to form in the area of the ‘hot spot.’

Understanding all of this explains why in the Hawaiian islands, the more southeast you go, the more active the volcanoes are. This shows that the plate is moving northwestThe island farthest south is the big island of Hawaii with no fewer than five volcanoes with some active most of the time. The farther north you go, the islands are older and the more time erosion has washed away the land. Niʻihau is the largest and last lightly inhabited island before the ten islands and atolls in the uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

He iconic profile of Diamond Head east of Waikīkī Beach on the island of Oahu is the crater of a long extinct volcano.

Hawaii – The Big Island

Volcanoes of the island of Hawaii, Illustration from USGS exhibit

Kīlauea

The three largest volcanoes on the big island are Kilauea, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. Volcano National Park encompasses Kilauea with a number of different volcanic features.

Picture caption: Halema’uma’u, a pit crater, inside Kilauea Caldera started erupting in 2008 creating an almost constant plume of steam and volcanic gases (sulphur dioxide).

Halema’uma’u crater

On a recent visit to the big island we went up to Kīlauea. The caldera was shrouded in rain and fog so we didn’t have an opportunity to see much but we did get to Halema’uma’u. We spent time at the USGS museum and also hiked thru the Thurston Lava Tube.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube is part of a trail in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visitors enter through a ‘skylight’ (collapsed roof of a lava tube), walk a ways through the tube and exit via another ‘skylight.

Lava & sea at the edge of creation

Lava tubes develop as the lava flows and hardens on the outside. The inside continues to flow and may drain out of the ‘lava tube’ entirely. Some of these lava tubes are small but some are very large (as much as 20 feet in diameter). Many of the lava tubes have a flat bottom as the lava hardens when it slows down and look like subway tunnels. When the top of a lava tube breaks through it is called a ‘skylight.’

Midnight off the southeast coast of Hawaii

Due east of Kilauea, lava from Pu’u O’o volcano travels downhill for miles in lava tubes to reach the ocean where it spills out along the shoreline creating large clouds of steam and volcanic gas. Our cruise ship crossed around the southern coast at night and around midnight moved to within one mile of the lava flows as they poured into the ocean. Viewing the display at night from the sea is an awesome event. There are also trails that allow hikers to get down near the area where the lava spills into the sea but we’ve been told that the hike down and back can take most of the day.

In addition to the volcanoes on the island of Hawaii there is a new eruption just south of the island called Loihi. This volcano has been erupting from the sea floor and currently its peak is at a depth of 3,000 feet. At its present rate of growth it will probably break the surface of the Pacific after another 10,000 years.

Maui

Looking down from 10,000 feet up on Haleakala

 Haleakalā Volcano

The summit of Haleakala
Haleakala

Haleakala is home to the highest peak on Maui, at 10,023 feet. It also holds the world record for climbing to the highest elevation in the shortest distance- a mere 38 miles from sea level to the top! Because Maui is north of Hawaii the volcanic activity is dying down. It is believed that the last major eruption was in the seventeenth century with only a few smaller events in the twentieth century. The USGS lists the eruption risk now as normal. A Normal status is used to designate typical volcanic activity in a non-eruptive phase.

We visited the top of Haleakalā a couple of years ago and it is almost like traveling to another planet: bare peaks and slopes covered in a spectrum of colored rock, dirt and sand. Clouds hung near the slopes with vistas across the crater* that stretch on forever and views back across the island are breathtaking. The drive to the top of the volcano is an adventure in itself as the road snakes back and forth up the slope with temperatures dropping as you ascend and winds blowing as you reach the summit.

O‘ahu

The profile of Diamond Head on O‘ahu is the western rim of an extinct volcano and is perhaps one of the most recognized volcanic mountains on earth. In addition to Diamond Head there are a few additional extinct vulcanoes on the island including Hanauma Bay, Koko Head, Punchbowl Crater, Mount Tantalus and Aliapa’ak.

Diamond Head

Throughout the Hawaiian islands the high and jagged peaks catch the tropical trade-winds causing huge amounts of rainfall. This micro-climate results in a lush landscape crossed with rushing streams and dotted with beautiful waterfalls. The islands are noted for their vertical cliffs, isolated valleys, incredible beaches and acres of farm land. This tropical climate and rich soil yields plentiful cash crops that include pineapples, macadamia nuts, coffee and cacao nibs used for making chocolate. Welcome to paradise…

 

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Shave Ice In Hawaii

Snow cones go way back. We have memories of walking the boardwalk in Ocean City, MD with a snow cone in hand. Even before that we used to mix up concoctions with freshly fallen snow. More recently our children, and now our grandchildren, also love this icy creation. In Hawaii it has become an institution called shave ice and the original was brought to Hawaii by Japanese migrants. Shave ice is literally that, ice shaved from a block of ice.

The undisputed king of Hawaiian shave ice has been around since 1951: Matsumoto Shave Ice located on the Oahu North Shore at 66-111 Kamehameha Highway, Haleiwa (808) 637-4827. They are so popular that on a good day the line goes out the door and around the courtyard. Matsumoto offers a couple dozen flavors and tradition dictates that you select three for your shave ice. As extras they offer mochi (Japanese rice cake), condensed milk, azuki beans (Japanese red beans cooked with sugar and water) and, of course, ice cream.

While shave ice is probably not worth the trip all the way from Honolulu (45 minutes each way), a visit to Haleiwa and the North Shore is worth it. The town has great shopping with art galleries, jewelry stores and numerous eating options including a wide variety of food trucks. The main road runs along beautiful beaches including Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and the Banzai Pipeline so it’s easy to spend an entire day in the area. In addition, Waimea Falls Park offers a nature trail through lush botanical gardens leading to the great waterfall.

When we spent the day in Lahaina over on Maui we also treated ourselves to shave ice at Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice. Their main location is in a courtyard on the north end of Front Street in an area full of shops and galleries. In addition, they have five other shops and stands on the island featuring their Maui inspired flavors which, in our opinion, are even better then Matsumoto.

When we spent the day in Lahaina over on Maui we also treated ourselves to shave ice at Ululani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice. They’re located in a courtyard on the north end of Front Street. We liked theirs even better than Matsumoto and they are also located in a great area for gallery shopping.

Cruising Alaska

Icy3As we write this, we are just finishing our fourth Alaska cruise. Having done this a number of times before, we recognize that there are a lot of similarities but also some significant differences in these cruises. Because it is so vast, Alaska is a destination that is more easily seen by cruise ship. Cruising gives you an opportunity to view some of the towns, cities, glaciers and wildlife up close and personal. After a first trip, it is then possible to decide if you want to spend time further exploring by train, ferry, car or a combination. It is also possible to add a land portion before or after a cruise which could include places like Denali, Anchorage and Fairbanks.

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A lot of ships begin the cruise in Seattle or Vancouver, two wonderful cities to spend a few extra days before or after a cruise. They are easily accessible and offer an abundance of hotels, restaurants and things to do in a wide range of prices (hotels in Seattle are rapidly getting more expensive though). A lot of the cruises are seven nights and depart and return from the same port.

A common itinerary for Alaska cruises is up the inside passage. Normal port stops are Skagway, Ketchikan, Juneau and Icy Strait Point and visits to the Misty Fjords and Hubbard Glacier. Some cruises also visit Victoria, Canada on Vancouver Island. A typical

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Ketchikan before dawn

seven night cruise will include four or five of these places with lots of opportunities for tours arranged through the cruise ship or setting out on your own for independent exploration. If you spend a little time on the internet investigating your ports of call, chances are you can locate an independent tour operator who will take you to a glacier, panning for gold, etc. at a significant savings over the cruise ship tour prices.

One sure highlight of an Alaska cruise is a visit to a glacier. There are three which are easily accessible and each has a different character:

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Mendenhall Glacier

Mendenhall Glacier is a National Park and the easiest to get to since it is only a few minute bus ride outside of Juneau. Ships offer a number of tours to Mendenhall but we would recommend the public bus service that departs from near the cruise ship docks with a round trip fare of $30 per person.

Hubbard glacier is spectacular and is a destination that a limited number of ships can visit. Hubbard would be high on our list of itinerary stops when selecting a cruise. The ships maneuver up near the face of this massive glacier as it calves giant chunks into the sea which makes for spectacular photo opportunities.

Dawes glacier is way up inside the Misty Fjords and also calves chunks of turquoise ice

Dawes
Dawes Glacier

that float down the fjord. In booking, be warned that a visit to the fjord does not guarantee your cruise getting up to the Dawes glacier as it depends on conditions.

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Hubbard Glacier

In addition to viewing from land or sea, there are also helicopter tours that can be booked that will take you to glaciers up on the Juneau ice field. These helicopter tours are usually booked in conjunction with stops in either Juneau or Skagway.

Because Alaska is on most U.S. cell service plans you can consider booking one of the helicopter tours directly. We did this in Skagway and saved almost half on the cost of the tour over booking through the ship. Because of scheduling concerns there are times that we would not recommended booking a tour other than with the cruise. In this case we were in Skagway all day, we booked for a morning tour and were back with hours to spare before the ship sailed. It also was the same tour provided by thehelos cruise excursion desk.

One of our favorite towns is Skagway and while its’ primary purpose today is as a seasonal tourist destination it is still a fun and interesting stop. The town is the home to the railroad excursion train known as the Yukon and White Pass Route that climbs up to the pass that was a primary gateway into the Klondike during the gold rush days. The Yukon gold rush was the event that gave birth to this boomtown and was the entrance point to the Chilkoot Trail, described as the “meanest 33 miles in history”. In 1897 the dreams of thousands were attached to the call “North to Alaska” and the promise of gold. Today

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Skagway’s main street

the main street of Skagway is lined with gift and jewelry stores along with art galleries and a few bars. Because the cruise ships represent the heart of the town’s economy, once the “season” is over the population of the town drops to only about five hundred intrepid souls.

The largest cruise city and the state capital is Juneau and while the waterfront is dominated by jewelry stores and gift shops, tourism is not its’ principal business. Fishing boats come and go from its’ docks and it is home to a university and, of course, the government dominates the job scene. The famous Red Dog Saloon, founded during Juneau’s mining era, has been in operation

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Salmon Hatchery Juneau

for decades and still serves visitors and locals alike. For a time, “Ragtime Hattie” played the piano in white gloves and a silver dollar halter top. Later, in territorial days, the owners would often meet the tour boats at the docks with a mule that wore a sign saying, “follow my ass to the Red Dog Saloon.” Wyatt Earp is said to have lost his pistol in a poker game there. The saloon also hosted an episode of The Ed Sullivan Show just after Alaska became a state.

Near the cruise docks there is a cable car up to a mountaintop that offers a panoramic view of the area. Juneau is also home to the Mendenhaul glacier and during one cruise we visited the local fish hatchery. It is a remarkable operation that scoops up and processes tons of fresh “wild” salmon and is a good alternative to the controversial salmon farming which has become popular in recent years.

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Ketchican

Ketchikan is another popular port where you can, depending on the season, book a fishing trip to bring back your own salmon or, if really lucky, a haddock. There are operations where your charter captain can have your catch smoked or flash frozen and express shipped home (expensive but worth the bragging rights). Again there are jewelry stores and gift shops everywhere and also one of the better opportunities to buy canned or smoked salmon to take home to family and friends. It does seem that each time we come back to Alaska, the price of salmon jumps in price, probably driven by of the growing popularity of Alaska cruising, so shop carefully.

Icy Straight Point is another popular stop with the big draw being whale watching tours. There are also some nice Alaska rain forest hiking trails and a new zipline. On one recent trip when we were anchored out we returned to the ship early and a large humpback whale spent almost an hour near the ship. We have been told that that was not that unusual an event here.

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Whale at Icy Straight Point

After taking several Alaska cruises, we decided to try something different this time. We selected a Celebrity ship, Solstice, which was doing its’ last seasonal cruise in September, beginning in Seattle and terminating in Vancouver. The ship was then heading to Hawaii and then on to Australia. We decided that we wanted to stay on the ship and disembark in Hawaii which meant we invoked the Jones Act. (See our post on the Jones Act here.)

Victoria
Victoria, Canada

To avoid a Jones Act violation, we needed to disembark and spend the night in Victoria, Canada, the last cruise port, and then board the ship again in Vancouver the next day. This requires special permission from the Canadian Government to disembark early, before termination of the cruise. The process is called down lining and can be arranged after your cruise is booked. The transfer to Vancouver can be made by helicopter, seaplane or ferry and we selected the latter for both convenience and price.

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Vancouver Island ferry terminal

The disadvantage to transferring by ferry is that the ferry port in Victoria is some distance out of town and in Vancouver is not in close proximity to the cruise ship terminal (Canada Place). The BC Connector solves this problem by offering a ticket which provides bus service to the ferry port in Victoria all the way through to Canada Place. The bus literally drives onto the ferry where passengers spend the crossing in clean and comfortable lounge areas. Upon arrival in Vancouver, the bus drives on to Canada Place. Cruisers head inside for check-in and suitcases are given to porters for loading onto the ship. This service should be reserved and paid for in advance on the internet as there are a limited number of seats available.

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Our ship passes a pod of Humpback Whales.

Walt Disney World – MagicBands…

Using FastPass and MagicBands

Make FastPass+ Reservations

Years ago one of the sure things to expect when the family visited Walt Disney World was spending a lot of time waiting in line. Probably the biggest limiting factor in the number of rides you could take in was the length of the wait lines. Disney was one of the first innovators in reducing this time. Initially the FastPass system used your admission ticket once you were in a park to allow you to schedule a ride or two. Even this system greatly increased the number of rides you could fit in but there have been a number of upgrades since.

While the newest FastPass is again an incremental improvement it is becoming really important that anyone planning a vacation or just a visit to Disney World understand how the system works. If you don’t take the time before your trip you could end up riding a lot less rides. Because FastPass allows people to schedule rides weeks in advance it also makes getting onto a ride the day of a visit a bigger challenge

How To Use FastPass+

There are different ways to make Fastpass+ reservations that depend on where you are staying and what type of ticket you have. In order to make FastPass+ reservations you must have park tickets or a purchase confirmation number. Before you begin you need to decide in advance as to what parks you will visit and on what dates. You will also need names and ticket numbers for everyone traveling with you.

If you are staying at a Disney resort: You can make your first FastPass+ ride reservations 60 days in advance of the hotel reservation date. Once you have made your first reservation you can add ten days to the sixty to make FastPass+ selections in other parks. Also before you start making FastPass+ reservations you should investigate Extra Magic Hours for parks during your stay. That information will help you plan which parks to visit on what dates.

Pirates of the Caribbean

Staying at a non-Disney resort you will be able to make your FastPass+ reservations 30 days in advance.

Before you begin you should have an internet connectable device and we would recommend that you use a smart phone for easy use inside the parks. Download the Disney World App. Next set-up a My Disney Experience  account so you can make and record FastPass+ reservations. The only way to make Fastpass+ reservations before your trip is to use your account at the My Disney Experience website. You will also need to provide an email address and be sure to use one that you can access on thru you Disney World App thru your portable device.

Disney MagicBands

 If you are staying at a Disney Resort at Walt Disney World you will be issued a MagicBand for each guest in your party. The band looks like a bracelet or watch and uses a battery to communicated with a number of devices around “the World”. Before you arrive you will probably be asked for your choice in color but without making a choice it will be gray. The bands have your name printed inside and not to miss an opportunity Disney stores and gift shops also sell decorations that can be added to personalize the MagicBands. With a MagicBand you can link it to My Disney Experience and add reservations (both current and future) along with park tickets and FastPass+ reservations. Wearing the MagicBand you can open your room door, charge meals at Disney restaurants and food concessions and go shopping at Disney stores that are charged back to your hotel account. You can use them to enter the parks (provided you have synced tickets to your account), identify your account to Disney photographers, and use FastPass+. You can manage your MagicBands on you’re my Disney Experience on line both now and for the future. The MagicBand is set-up where you provide a pin number for all money transactions and just like a card based passkey you can restrict charging privileges to certain members of your group.

It’s A Small World

Because all purchase transactions on a MagicBand require a pin the process is pretty secure. Even if you lose a band someone would still need you pin to use it for shopping or meals. There is however a possible concern around this remarkable system. Disney has capitalized on a phenomenon that the credit card industry has understood forever. People generally spend more money when using a credit card rather than spending cash. The MagicBand takes advantage of this characteristic in a big way and other than knowing that there has been a spending cap agreed to on your hotel account, it is very difficult to confirm the charged balance on your account. The only way we are aware of is to check at the hotel Concierge desk.

Walt Disney has also made a big promotion for meal plans associated with your room reservation. There are a number of different levels, naturally at different prices. These meals are also recorded on you account and accessed again using your MagicBand.

Epcot

When you eat at a full service restaurant you will get a receipt that shows how much service was used and how much remains. Unfortunately for a full accounting you will again need to check at the hotel Concierge desk.

Our primary criticism with this completely integrated system that includes The WDW App, the My Disney Experience website, MagicBands, park tickets and FastPass is the inability to check the money and meal plan balances. It would seem a reasonable approach to give you access thru the WDW App?

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Georgia Wine Drive

Late last summer we spent a couple of weeks driving around the north Georgia mountains, hiking and visiting wineries. Georgia wines were a pleasant surprise. In general, their quality was good and the wineries were fun to visit. We had planned this trip for the spring but than had to postpone and didn’t update our information before heading out. We discovered too late that many of the wineries had reduced their hours for summer or were closed when we tried to visit, so we had to modify much of our plan. Be sure and update days and hours before you head out and also pricing, as each winery has a different charge for sampling.

We started out driving north through Atlanta stopping for lunch at the famous

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Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville

Varsity Hot Dogs next to the campus of Georgia Tech. We had heard a lot about this institution and it turned out to be much bigger than we expected and the food was remarkably good. After lunch we left Atlanta heading for the small town of Oakwood and our first night on the road.

Early the next morning we headed for the Atlanta Botanical Garden in Gainesville. The gardens are reasonably new and diverse featuring over 1,200 different plants including 80 varieties of magnolias, oaks and maples. There are some nice lily ponds and a mountain stream flowing through the plantings. The gardens are also home to an impressive concert series in the summer.

Sunset Amicalola Falls Lodge

From the gardens we drove to Amicalola Falls Lodge inside the state park. The lodge was great, with modern, well furnished rooms. It sits atop the tallest cascading waterfall in the Southeast (729 feet). The falls are paralleled by a staircase with 604 steps and the park is also crossed by The Appalachian Trail. That evening it was a treat sitting out on the deck of the lodge watching a mountain sunset. The Lodge also has a decent restaurant with reasonable prices.

Wolf Mountain Vineyards
Dahlonega, Georgia

While in the area we visited The Cottage Winery in Cleveland, and Cavendar Creek Vineyards, Montaluce Winery and Wolf Mountain Vineyards & Winery near Dahlonega, Georgia. Dahlonega is a quant mountain town that also offers tasting rooms for many of the region’s wineries – sort of one stop shopping and tasting.

Helen, Georgia

From Dahlonega we traveled over to the Alpine town of Helen. The town has been a tourist destination for a number of years. Our first stop in Helen was the Habersham Winery with a nice tasting presentation and gift shop. Years ago the town rebuilt itself as an Alpine village featuring Bavarian food and gifts and offers a number of interesting restaurants and accommodations. The town is also popular for the tubing stream that flows through it. We had lunch at The Old Bavaria Inn, an old-world tavern specializing in imported beers and classic German fare.

Helen, Georgia

After Helen we drove up Brasstown Bald, the highest peak in Georgia at 4,784 feet above sea level. While at the National Park Service facility at the top we got caught in a thunderstorm which brought a bit of excitement to the afternoon, with lightening, thunder and clouds rolling by. After the storm we drove to Hiawassee on Lake Chatuge , checked in to The Lake Chatuge Lodge and then visited the Crane Creek Vineyards in Young Harris for Friday happy hour. It appeared that we should have made reservations as it is a very popular evening event in the area. The staff, however, was very accommodating and we bought cheese, crackers and a bottle of their dry rosé making a great ending to the day.

The Chatuge Lodge is within walking distance of the Fred Hamilton Gardens and the Georgia Mountain Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds opened in 1978, and are home

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Crane Creek Vineyards

to several popular events throughout the year including the Georgia Mountain Fair, Georgia Mountain Moonshine Cruizin, Georgia Mountain Fall Festival, Superstar concerts, and Georgia’s Official State Fiddlers’ Convention. Any of those events have impact on room availability and rates so, if you’re planning on going, check dates and make plans well in advance. In the same area we also visited Odom Springs and Paradise Hills Wineries.

Red Barn Café

We left the lake early Sunday morning and headed for brunch at Tiger Mountain Vineyards & Winery which turned out to be the high point of the trip. The wine and food were delicious. Their Red Barn Café was selected as a top-ten winery restaurant by USA Today and our wine choice, Petit Manseng won a gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. We would highly recommend this Sunday Brunch.

Tallulah Gorge

After leaving brunch we made a brief stop at “Goats on the Roof” in Tiger, a throwback tourist stop featuring gifts, food, ice cream and yes – goats on the roof. We then headed for Tallulah Gorge and another long hike. This is a beautiful and rugged area and was the setting of the Burt Reynolds movie Deliverance as well as Disney’s The Great Train Chase.

Tallulah has an interesting visitors’ center and a number of trails with steps that go to Tempeste and Hurricane Falls and then further down into the gorge. To go beyond the main trail into the creek to slide on the rocks, you need a permit. Only a small number are issued each morning so you need to be there when the park opens.

After a day in the gorge we headed for Mark of the Potter in Clarkesville, an interesting store featuring local pottery and crafts. Then it was on to Savannah and the next part of our adventure. More on Savannah, Georgia soon…

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CAVENDER CREEK VINEYARDS AND WINERY

3610 Cavender Creek Road, Dahlonega, GA 30533          Phone: 770-823-9255

Tallulah Gorge

 

 

CENITA VINEYARDS, WINERY AND TASTING ROOM

591 Dock Dorsey Road, Cleveland, GA 30528     Phone: 706-865-7478

CHATEAU MEICHTRY VINEYARDS

1862 Orchard Lane, Talking Rock, GA 30175                                     Phone: 706-502-1608

Lake Chatuge

CRANE CREEK VINEYARDS

916 Crane Creek Road, Young Harris, GA 30582

Phone:                706-379-1236

ENGELHEIM VINEYARDS

127 Lakeview Road, Ellijay, GA 30540                               Phone: 706-635-9463

FAINTING GOAT VINEYARDS

201 Vineyard Way, Jasper, GA 30143

HABERSHAM WINERY

7025 S. Main St., Helen, GA 30545                                Phone: 706-878-9463

HIGHTOWER CREEK VINEYARDS, LLC

7150 Canaan Drive, Hiawassee, GA 30546                         Phone: 706-896-8963

MONTALUCE WINERY & ESTATES

501 Hightower Church Road, Dahlonega, GA 30533          Phone: 706-867-4060

ODOM SPRINGS VINEYARD

637 Odom Rd, Blairsville, GA 30512                                   Phone: 706-745-3094

PARADISE HILLS WINERY RESORT AND SPA

366 Paradise Road, Blairsville, GA 30512                           Phone: 877-745-7483

SERENBERRY VINEYARDS

Morganton, GA 30560                                                         Phone: 706-623-8463

SERENITY CELLARS

265 Laurel Ridge Rd, Cleveland, GA 30528                           Phone: (706) 348-1277

SHARP MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS

110 Rathgeb Trail, Jasper, GA 30143                                   Phone: 770-735-1210

STONEWALL CREEK VINEYARDS

323 Standing Deer Lane, Tiger, GA 30576

TIGER MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS & WINERY

2592 Old Hwy 44, Dahlonega, FA 30533                             Phone: 706-782-4777

WOLF MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS

180 Wolf Mountain Trail, Dahlonega, GA 30533                Phone: 706-867-9862

Find More on Georgia Wineries Here

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Yellowstone, An American Treasure

We spent a couple of years trying to plan a trip to Yellowstone. One of our primary goals was to spend some time at The Old Faithful Lodge. It turned out that getting reservations there is a very difficult thing to do. It is almost impossible to book directly with the lodge, because as soon as the booking season becomes available, it is virtually sold out. The Park Service suggested we book through a broker where you pay a non-refundable fee. We then found out that some travel friends of ours had booked a trip through Yellowstone with Caravan Tours the year before and really enjoyed it. After speaking with them, we decided to give this a try, our first land tour.

Crazy Horse Memorial

The tour we booked started in Rapid City, South Dakota, and visited Mt. Rushmore National Monument, Crazy Horse Memorial, Devils Tower National Monument, Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument, Yellowstone National Park, the

Mount Rushmore

Grand Tetons and Jackson Hole and ended in Salt Lake City, Utah. After leaving the tour in Salt Lake we rented a car and spent a week on our own visiting Moab, the National Parks of Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Bryce Canyon and Zion. That gave us a good perspective to compare the two experiences.

Devil’s Tower

First, an overview of the tour. Caravan provided accommodations each night, a modern and comfortable motor coach that accommodated 48, a driver and tour guide, admission to all parks and attractions, breakfast each morning and occasionally other meals. Suitcases were tagged and placed inside our hotel room each evening and picked up outside our room in the morning.

The tour started with a meet and greet with our guide Greg on Wednesday at the hotel in Rapid City. The next day we boarded the bus and headed for Crazy Horse Memorial and after that stopped at Mt. Rushmore. Neither of these sites were on our bucket list but,

Little Big Horn Memorial

afterwards, we are glad we visited. Back in Rapid City that evening the town was hosting the first street concert of the season (Thursday evenings) which was a nice surprise.

The next morning we headed west with stops at the Devils Tower and the Little Big Horn Battlefield. The Devils Tower is a natural wonder and truly an impressive formation (think Close Encounters of the Third Kind). The Little Big Horn site offered a historical perspective on the 1876 battle. The Custer National Cemetery was on the same property. Next stop was lunch at the historic Sheridan Inn and a talk on Buffalo Bill. We spent the night in Billings, Montana.

Yellowstone Canyon & Falls

Between stops, one of the interesting aspects of the tour was our guide playing historical or informative DVDs relating to the places we were visiting. Greg also shared his knowledge and thoughts in a running commentary throughout the trip.

Day four of our journey was dedicated to the main

Mammoth Warm Springs

event, Yellowstone National Park. If you have not visited Yellowstone, no matter what you have heard cannot do it justice. Our first stop was Mammoth Hot Springs where we encountered some elk and walked trails around the hot springs where mineral deposits form terraces down a hillside. After a few brief stops, including iconic Yellowstone Gorge, called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone with Yellowstone Falls we arrived at the Old Faithful Lodge for a two night stay. Shortly after checking in we got to watch our first Old Faithful eruption.

If you intend to visit Yellowstone, the first thing you need to recognize is that the park is larger than the state of Delaware with just nine hotels and a few campgrounds inside the park and reservations difficult to come by. Most Park visitors stay at motels in Jackson Hole or West Yellowstone so a lot of time is used up getting in and around the park. As summer advances so do the lines of cars so getting up early becomes a necessity. Also, if you get into the park late, the parking lots for a number of featured areas can be gridlocked.

Old Faithful Lodge

The Old Faithful Lodge is a historic site sitting in the middle of the largest concentration of geothermal features in the world. We were told that half of the world’s active geothermal features are located within one mile of the Lodge. The Lodge is an impressive building with a grand lobby standing five stories high. The guest rooms, however, are primitive by modern standards: no air-conditioning, television or wifi, with spotty cell service and a real 1950s look. Ours had one double bed with a small bathroom featuring a pedestal sink (not much room for toiletries). The real draw is simply the location.

The afternoon we arrived, just outside our window, was a bull bison and, looking down the hill past the general store, there was a steaming field of vents with various geysers going off frequently. Every evening in the main lobby there was live music and, weather permitting, a fire in the massive fireplace. Food is available in the main dining room (menu & buffet), the lobby bar which served light fare like bison burgers and chili, and a deli. Near the main lodge there is a country store with counter service until 5 o’clock and a large cafeteria a short walk away. Between the lodge’s front door and the cafeteria is the Old Faithful geyser, currently putting on a show about every ninety minutes.

 

Jackson Hole

After checking out of The Old Faithful lodge we stopped at Lake Yellowstone on our way to the Tetons National Park followed by a night in Jackson Hole Wyoming. The next day we headed off to Salt Lake City with a stop at the Oregon Trail Center.

The Tetons

We both felt as if we had gotten our moneys worth with this tour. We saw sights we may have never visited by ourselves, met some great people, traveled in comfort and spent time at all of our wished for destinations. We would highly recommend Caravan Tours and their Yellowstone trip.

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The National Parks of Utah

After spending a week on an organized land tour in early June (Yellowstone, Grand Tetons, etc.), we picked up a rental car in Salt Lake City. With accommodations booked in Moab, Panguitch, Springdale and Los Vegas, Nevada we headed out taking US15 south from Salt Lake City and then picked up Route 6 toward Moab.

Nine Mile Canyon
Petroglyphs, 9 Mile Canyon

On our way we took a side trip to Nine Mile Canyon (additional information). We had been told about the canyon and had also read an article about the locations of petroglyph sites in the area. The canyon is actually forty-eight miles long with the first petroglyph site about twenty-seven miles in. Unfortunately we seemed to have misplaced the article, which listed the location of each site and, once into this isolated area, we realized what a mistake that was. The two-lane road had virtually no traffic (except some free roaming cattle) and there was very little in the way of signage. We passed the first marker twice without seeing it – a green sign on a post about six inches tall and ten inches long that simply said “First Site” and an arrow. If you have the time, a visit to a few of these thousand year old sites is really interesting.

Getting into Moab late in the afternoon we checked into the motel and got something to eat with a plan to start in Arches National Park early the next morning.


NOTE: National Parks Senior Pass

In August the Interior Dept. raised the cost of a senior pass from $10 to $80. While no longer a bargain (actually it was a steal) it is still worth considering. The lifetime pass for U.S. citizens or permanent residents age 62 or over is now $80.00 and may be obtained in person at a federal recreation site or for an extra $10 processing fee it can be ordered on-line or by mail.


Arches National Park

 

Arches National Park

We visited Arches National Park early in the morning and realized that no photograph or description can begin to express the massive size of its’ formations or the scale of the arches and balancing rock structures. This place just has to be experienced in person. The sandstone formations are massive and the colors are fantastic. If you are a hiker, there is a large number of very walkable trails in the park, temperature permitting, along with a number of scenic drives. On the subject of weather it is very important that you carry water in your car and with you if hiking. The high temperatures and dry conditions can be punishing.

Canyonlands National Park
Canyonlands

Only about twenty-five miles from Arches is the northern entrance to Canyonlands National Park and it is a wholly different experience as you enter on high bluffs and look down into the canyons. The landscape is similar to the Grand Canyon in character and color as you stand on the rim. In the western area of the park are the best hiking trails where an extinct volcano caldera formed an interesting bowl-like valley. Between Canyonlands and Arches is a state park named Dead Horse Canyon which is worth a visit as well. There is also an entrance to Canyonlands about sixty miles south of Moab that features the Needles District with a strikingly different look, featuring backbone formations of rows of sandstone spires.

Scenic Route 128

Just south of Arches National Park is scenic Route 128 North that runs up another canyon beside the Colorado River. As you drive the road along the river, you are surrounded by 500 to 1,000 foot sandstone cliffs with many completely vertical. On the river you see numerous rafting groups and as you drive deeper into the canyon the land opens up to dozens of spires and buttes.

In the canyon is a small town named Castle Valley and near the river is the Red Cliffs Lodge and the Castle Creek Winery. The winery offers tastings and features some good wines that are popular in the region’s restaurants. On the map you may notice a ghost town named Cisco and might be tempted to go take a look. Do not bother – the town is a junkyard of abandoned trailer homes and RV’s laced with obscene graffiti. Our suggestion is when you reach Dewey Bridge, turn around and drive back unless you are going on to US 70. While we didn’t visit, we were told that there is an interesting movie museum near the Castle Creek Winery and there are numerous raft operators on this stretch of the Colorado River.

Capital Reef National Park

Leaving Moab the next morning we headed north on 191 to US70 west. We exited 70 onto Route 24 south and headed to Capital Reef National Park. Capital Reef is home to another collection of petroglyphs and these are well marked with easy access from the road. This is also the location of Fruita which was established by Mormons as an agricultural area in 1880. A few structures from the original settlement still remain as do the orchards.

Petroglyphs, Capital Reef

Route 24 travels right thru Capital Reef with one scenic side road inside the park featuring a number of good hiking trails. After exiting Capital Reef on 24 west we picked up Route 12 heading south towards Bryce Canyon National Park.

Utah Route 12 is a scenic and interesting trip from Capital Reef to Bryce Canyon. It crosses some spectacular country with ridges, canyons and mountains at every turn. One stretch navigated a ridge with only two narrow lanes and steep drops on both sides. Along the way we stopped at the Anasazi State Park where we viewed a interesting museum and Indian village excavations.

Bryce Canyon National Park

 

Natural Bridge, Bryce Canyon

Bryce Canyon is a must visit. The park sits atop high country, looking down into the canyons which are packed with geological features called hoodoos. (Interconnected spires of colorful sandstone creating mazes and rising from the canyon floor.) While hoodoos are scattered throughout the parks in Utah, nowhere in the world are they as abundant as in the northern section of Bryce Canyon. Many of the hiking trails go down the canyon face and are steep and descend an average of 700 feet but there are a few walkways for those seeking less of a challenge.

There is a hotel with a restaurant inside the park but there are also a number of accommodations just a short drive away starting at Bryce Canyon City. The Park Service, in an effort to reduce traffic, operates free busses with pick-up stops in the “City”. The drive through the park is about nineteen miles to the end at Rainbow Point with an altitude of over nine-thousand feet. At the point, the morning we were there, the temperature dropped over twenty degrees from the Visitors Center and winds were howling.

Bryce Canyon

Red Canyon is between Bryce Canyon and Panguitch where our motel was located. The canyon road goes thru two short tunnels cut thru the sandstone and there are a couple of parking areas for the hiking trails. Our motel had a colony of prairie dogs right outside our door and they liked to come out and socialize around dusk. The second night we were visited by a pronghorn antelope. One cautionary note here is that Panguitch is mostly closed on Sundays and it became a challenge finding a place to eat.

Zion National Park

After two nights near Bryce Canyon in Panguitch we headed off early for Zion. We had read that Zion has a traffic problem and that by late morning parking is almost impossible to find. Like Bryce Canyon, Zion also has a free shuttle bus that picks up at stops in Springdale, the town just outside the southern entrance to the park. In season Zion Canyon Scenic Drive is only open to the parks buses, which can be picked up at the Visitors Center near the south entrance. Of the parks we visited, Zion had the largest number of hiking trails ranging from wheel chair accessible to strenuous. One of the park’s more popular hikes goes thru “the narrows” which is a narrow width passage with a stream running through it . Unfortunately this trail and a few others require a permit and there is usually a several days wait to get one.

Driving down from Panguitch we entered Zion around 9:00 am at the east entrance. There were maybe three or four cars ahead of us and we traveled down canyon walls thru numerous switchbacks and two tunnels. One tunnel was two lanes and almost a mile long with no lights, so be sure and test your headlights before entering. We got to the visitors center around 10:00 and had to search for parking. We took a couple of hikes on trails near the Visitors’ Center and by noon the line for the tour busses wound thru the complex and out into the parking lot. A few hours later when we exited to Springdale the line of cars to get in was backed up over a mile through town.

We spent the night at The Red Rock Inn and it was the highlight of the trip. Located in town and a couple of miles from the park it was comfortable, beautifully decorated and clean. The owners were helpful and friendly and the room came with a voucher for breakfast at Oscars a block away. Oscars was also great, offering a full breakfast and plenty of coffee. The whole town is nestled in a canyon with towering red sandstone cliffs above it and unbelievable traffic “in season.”

The next morning we headed for Los Vegas with a couple of nights on the strip and our flight home. During the trip we saw snow (Panguitch averages six inches in June), windy conditions and virtually no rain. In summary, it was the trip of a lifetime offering spectacular scenery and temperatures ranging from freezing to over one hundred.

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