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TRAVEL

Big Group Cabins | Pigeon Forge | Smoky Mountains | Lake Tahoe


130 Grand Years on the Straits of Mackinac
By Tom Adkinson


straits of mackinac
MACKINAC ISLAND, MI – In a world that has gone digital, chrome and glass, and high-tech, Grand Hotel in the isolation of northern Michigan has remained analog, white pine and decidedly low-key – and that’s just fine. It is celebrating its 130th year of hospitality in 2017. Grand Hotel, which the hotel’s historian (yes, there’s an actual historian on staff) describes as “a little spot in the middle of the Great Lakes,” is a throwback not just to another decade, but to another era. It was built in a mad rush in 1897 to cater to the ultra-wealthy of the Gilded Age, and vestiges of that time remain. Image by Tom Adkinson.

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California’s Mammoth Lakes takes ‘Four Seasons of Sports’ quite literally
By Tom Adkinson


mammoth lake skiers
Skiers, some in swimwear, will be on Mammoth Mountain into August. The mountain got 51.5 feet of snow last winter. Image by Mammoth Resorts.
 

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – Most skiers across North America put their skis and boots away months ago, but not the folks in the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California. Skiing well into spring is normal here, but this year is bordering on ridiculous.
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‘I Hear the Train A’Coming’ at Tweetsie Railroad
By Tom Adkinson


tweetsie railroad
Locomotive No. 12 is the only surviving engine from the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad, which operated from 1882-1950. Image by Tom Adkinson. Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

BLOWING ROCK, NC – Take your pick of major anniversaries to celebrate at Tweetsie Railroad, the folksy Western-themed tourist attraction that is a family vacation mainstay in the Blue Ridge Mountains.

This is the 60th anniversary year of the theme park itself, and perhaps more notably, it is the 100th birthday of its biggest attraction — locomotive No. 12, the only surviving locomotive from the real-life East Tennessee & Western North Carolina Railroad that stopped chugging through the mountains in 1950.
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  Unlocking Southwest Virginia’s Treasures at Heartwood
By Tom Adkinson


mammoth lake skiers
Heartwood, with its barnlike lines, sits beside I-81 at Abingdon and is your key to learning about Southwest Virginia’s crafts, food, music and outdoor recreation. Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

ABINGDON, VA – Think of Southwest Virginia – that oddly-shaped mountainous wedge of the Old Dominion tucked between Tennessee, North Carolina and Kentucky – as a gigantic treasure chest of attractions and activities.

The key to opening that treasure chest and making sense of the twists and turns of Southwest Virginia’s mountain roads is hidden in plain sight in a prominent building along I-81 at Abingdon. It is Heartwood, a spacious and airy multi-purpose facility that in parts looks like a barn and simply feels part of the mountains.
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Going Underground for a Late-Summer Cool-Down

blanchard springs cavern
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Ark. – How does 58 degrees sound on a hot August day? That’s what you’ll find every day at Blanchard Springs Caverns underneath the rolling Ozark Mountains in northern Arkansas. It is the only tourist cave administered by the U.S. Forest Service and the only one owned by the federal government that’s not in a national park. You can cool off three ways. The half-mile Dripstone Trail is fully accessible for wheelchairs and strollers, the Discovery Trail is a hardy 1.2-mile up-and-down walk and the wild cave tour is a multi-hour adventure that’s definitely off the beaten path. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Trip-planning resources: BlanchardSprings.org and Arkansas.com
 
 
The Mountain Is Out’ in Seattle


mount ranier
SEATTLE, Wash. – When Seattleites tell you that “the mountain is out,” that means to look south to admire a view of Mount Rainier, the highest peak in the Cascade Mountains and the highest mountain in Washington (14,410 feet). It may look almost close enough to touch on especially clear days, but it’s more than 50 miles south of the city. The namesake of Mount Rainier National Park is an active volcano, and its last magmatic eruption was about 1,000 years ago, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. Six major rivers have their headwaters on the massive mountain. The national park is open year-round, and activities include hiking, fishing, boating, bicycling and wildflower photography. Image by Tom Adkinson

 



Lobster Pot Buoys Add Color to an Oceanside Stroll in Maine


lobster buoys
BOOTHBAY HARBOR, Maine – A collection of color-coded lobster pot buoys hangs on the wall of a shed near the Linekin Bay Resort. The sailing-oriented resort is at the tip of a peninsula, and the path to Boothbay Harbor’s restaurants and pubs leads past freshwater ponds decorated with hyacinths, boats that are unlikely to see water again and more than one collection of lobster pot buoys. It’s intriguing to see the buoys in use and wonder whether a tasty crustacean has entered the lobster pot at the other end of the line. Image by Tom Adkinson.
  California’s Mammoth Lakes takes ‘Four Seasons of Sports’ quite literally
By Tom Adkinson


mammoth lake skiers
Skiers, some in swimwear, will be on Mammoth Mountain into August. The mountain got 51.5 feet of snow last winter. Image by Mammoth Resorts.
 

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – Most skiers across North America put their skis and boots away months ago, but not the folks in the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California. Skiing well into spring is normal here, but this year is bordering on ridiculous. It’s July, the end of ski season isn’t in sight and people are skiing in shorts and bikinis because the temperatures are so pleasant. The slopes are on Mammoth Mountain, where the peak is at 11,053 feet and where last winter’s snowfall never seemed to stop. That’s why skiers are enjoying themselves atop the mountain, while fans of other sports are fishing, mountain biking, hiking, golfing and boating at lower elevations.
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Along the Silk Road

camels dunhuang
DUNHUANG, China (Gansu Province) – Imagining camel caravans plodding across the Gobi Desert between ancient China and the West is no challenge when you yourself are riding a camel amid towering dunes outside Dunhuang, once the westernmost military garrison in China. Marco Polo passed this way on his journeys between 1271 and 1295, but he was far from the first trader through the area. Merchants traveled the Silk Road for many centuries before the itinerant Venetian wrote about it. A modern-day visitor attraction at Echoing-Sand Mountain offers camel rides and sand surfing (sliding down steep dunes of powdery sand on wooden sleds) and a walk past Crescent Lake, a desert oasis that has meant salvation for travelers for millennia. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Trip-planning resource: Spring-Tour.com.

 

    Not the Normal Postcard Image of Hawaii

volcanoes national park hawaii
BIG ISLAND – Not every image of Hawaii looks like a scene from “Hawaii Five-0” or Waikiki Beach on Oahu. These three hikers are crossing the Kilauea Iki Crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, which formally is labeled Hawaii on the map. The four-mile trail takes you first through a lush rainforest and then to a 400-foot descent to the crater floor. The crater floor is solid, but there are steam vents, cinder cones and splatter cones to inspect. The National Park Service advises hikers to take water, sun protection and rain gear and notes, “Be prepared for hot, dry, wet (and) windy weather conditions.” Image by Tom Adkinson

Trip-planning resource: nps.gov/havo




Shrimp Boats and Sunsets in Biloxi

biloxi shrimp boats
BILOXI, Miss. – Shrimp boats at dock and golden sunsets across the Mississippi Sound are Biloxi hallmarks. Getting out on the water is easy in Biloxi, where there is a variety of fishing charters, as well as excursions to Ship Island, location of Fort Massachusetts, a National Park Service site. There even is a way to see how the shrimp boats work on the Biloxi Shrimping Trip, a 70-minute outing where the nets are likely to pull up shrimp, blue crabs, flounder, rays and other species. The dock is near the Beau Rivage and Hard Rock casinos, and the fee is far less then you could spend in 70 minutes at a blackjack table. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Trip-planning resource: GulfCoast.org

    Trading Providence for Venice

providence gondola
PROVIDENCE, R.I. – You don’t have to leave the U.S. to get a ride in a genuine Venetian gondola (serenade included). Two of the three gondolas you see gliding along the Providence and Woonasquatucket rivers in downtown Providence were built in Venice, and owners believe the third is the first truly authentic Venetian gondola built in the U.S. Its design is from the 19th century. The gondolas travel in a redeveloped portion of this very walkable city that includes landscaped parks and arched bridges. Bring your own bottle of prosecco, because the gondola company provides wine glasses, an opener and an ice bucket, along with handmade Italian wine biscuits. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Trip-planning resources: Gondolari.com and GoProvidence.com

Kentucky, the Original ‘Land of Lincoln’
By Tom Adkinson

lincoln memorial
The first Lincoln Memorial is in Hodgenville, Ky., not Washington, D.C. It has a connection to President Theodore Roosevelt. Image by Tom Adkinson.

HODGENVILLE, KY – Illinois calls itself the “Land of Lincoln,” but Kentucky is where Abraham Lincoln was born. There’s no escaping that historical fact when you visit Hodgenville and the rolling countryside that surrounds this little town about 50 miles south of Louisville.A Lincoln statue is in the center of Lincoln Square in Hodgenville. Lincoln National Bank is nearby.
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Where Mucking Is a Competitive Sport
By Tom Adkinson


tonopah
The sign makes you ponder when you enter Tonopah, Nev. What’s a mucker? Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

TONOPAH, Nev. – A chance conversation led to my meeting a mucking champion, and that’s no typo. It happened in the desert town of Tonopah, which is in the middle of nowhere between Las Vegas and Reno.

Me: “I saw a sign up the street that says ‘Tonopah, Home of the Muckers.’ Is that the nickname of the high school sports teams?”

She: “Absolutely. Want to know what a mucker is? I can tell you because I held the state record for female mucking for 22 years.”
Full Story >>





A New Look at the American Revolution in Yorktown

american revolution museum
YORKTOWN, Va. – A gleaming statue of Gen. George Washington commands a central space in the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, a $50 million facility that had its grand opening this spring. There is a theme of storytelling throughout the multi-faceted complex, including the character of a 19th-century storyteller who narrates “Liberty Fever,” a film about his journey around the new nation to gather stories about the Revolutionary War. He calls that period a time when ordinary people accomplished extraordinary things. Complementing the museum’s indoor exhibits are a colonial farm and a Continental Army encampment. Visiting here is more exciting than reading about the period in a history book, especially when the cannon are fired. Image by the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown. Image courtesy of the museum.

Trip-planning resources: HistoryIsFun.org and Virginia.org


    Take Me Out Ball Game – Downtown


volcanoes national park hawaii
IN TULSA, OK – Batters and spectators alike get a great view of downtown Tulsa at ONEOK Park, home of the Tulsa Drillers, a AA affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. ONEOK Park, named for a natural gas utility, is an example of newer minor league stadiums built in downtown areas and creating lots of action before and after games. Others include Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark in Oklahoma City (check out the giant statue of Mickey Mantle), AutoZone Park in Memphis (oh so close to Beale Street’s action), First Tennessee Park in Nashville (get some Nashville hot chicken at the concession stands) and Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham (where there really is a bull sign, just as in the “Bull Durham” movie). Image by Tom Adkinson

Trip-planning resources: VisitTulsa.com

Not One Darn Fish, but the California Scenery Was Huge
By Tom Adkinson

mountain lakes california
MOUNTAIN LAKES, CA – Labeling a totally unproductive fishing trip a good experience conjures up memories of Michigan State football coach Duffy Daugherty, who said, “A tie is like kissing your sister.”

It’s totally counterintuitive, but that’s still my assessment of three days on Hot Creek and the upper stretches of the Owens River just outside the resort village of Mammoth Lakes, Calif., the community that’s the capital of a massive, multi-sport outdoor recreational area.
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    Definitely One of ‘The World’s Last Great
Places’

By Tom Adkinson


lake jacossee
South Carolina’s Lake Jocassee is a jewel at the base of the Blue Wall of the southern Appalachians. Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

SALEM, S.C. – When Stephanie Couch was a teenager, she left the rugged Rocky Mountains of Montana for the very different mountains in the South Carolina Upcountry – and she never looked back.

That’s because she got 7,500-acre Lake Jocassee in the deal. This pristine lake that splashes up against the “Blue Wall” of the southern Appalachian Mountains became the basis of her livelihood.
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Your Home Away from Home in Charleston
By Tom Adkinson



charleston cottages
The Cottages on Charleston Harbor have a rural, Lowcountry look but are only minutes for downtown Charleston. Image by Tom Adkinson. Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

CHARLESTON, S.C. – “See you Monday. I’m spending the weekend at my place in Charleston.” That’s a statement many aspire to make but few can. However, there’s a way to visit the Holy City (a nickname Charleston earned in colonial times for its religious tolerance) that makes it possible for just about everyone to drop that comment into casual conversation – if you’re willing to stretch the truth just a bit.
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  California’s Mammoth Lakes takes ‘Four Seasons of Sports’ quite literally
By Tom Adkinson


mammoth lake skiers
Skiers, some in swimwear, will be on Mammoth Mountain into August. The mountain got 51.5 feet of snow last winter. Image by Mammoth Resorts.
 

MAMMOTH LAKES, Calif. – Most skiers across North America put their skis and boots away months ago, but not the folks in the Eastern Sierra Mountains of California. Skiing well into spring is normal here, but this year is bordering on ridiculous. It’s July, the end of ski season isn’t in sight and people are skiing in shorts and bikinis because the temperatures are so pleasant. The slopes are on Mammoth Mountain, where the peak is at 11,053 feet and where last winter’s snowfall never seemed to stop. That’s why skiers are enjoying themselves atop the mountain, while fans of other sports are fishing, mountain biking, hiking, golfing and boating at lower elevations.
Full Story >>


The Sound of Music on the Kansas Prairie

flint hills kansas
IN THE FLINT HILLS – When rides in covered wagons are part of the entertainment before a symphony concert, you just know that a big event will follow – especially after you’ve driven miles into the countryside to reach the outdoor performance location. The occasion is the Symphony in the Flint Hills, an annual concert by the Kansas City Symphony that draws more than 7,000 people to wide-open spaces for stirring music, a panoramic sunset and a sing-along of “Home on the Range.” It is June 10 this year on the Deer Horn Ranch between Abilene and Manhattan, with a special performance from Michael Martin Murphey. The concert’s purpose is to heighten appreciation of the tallgrass prairie ecosystem. The story of that ecosystem (only 4 percent of the original 170 million acres of North American prairie exist today, mostly in the Flint Hills) is explained at the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve, a unit of the National Park Service. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Trip-planning resources: SymphonyInTheFlintHills.com and nps.gov/tapr

    Spring Break Sundown

florida panhandle
WALTON COUNTY, Fla. – Spring break means different things to different people. For many East Tennessee families, it means the year’s first run to the beach in Alabama or Northwest Florida. Gulf Shores, Orange Beach, Destin and the communities along 30-A all have their own fan bases. Spring is a time for playing in the surf and sand during the day, enjoying fresh seafood, probably getting a bit sunburned and perhaps enjoying a colorful sunset over the Gulf of Mexico while singing a quiet serenade to someone you love. Trip-planning resources: VisitSouthWalton.com and GulfShores.com. Image by Tom Adkinson.

Hiking the Venus Flytrap Trail
By Tom Adkinson


venus flytrap
Charles Darwin called Venus flytraps “one of the most wonderful plants in the world.” Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

CAROLINA BEACH, NC – Forget “Little Shop of Horrors” and its fanciful tale of a plant that could consume a human being. That’s because the real deal exists here in a very appealing state park – although on a much smaller scale and with insects and the occasional frog as the meals.
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  On the Wings of Eagles
By Tom Adkinson


mammoth lake skiers
A Lanner/Saker hybrid falcon strikes a regal pose before a flight. Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

CHARLESTON, SC – Add Harris’s hawks and harriers to history and haute cuisine as reasons to visit Charleston. Beautiful and beguiling raptors from around the world are sheltered, mended and displayed at the South Carolina Center for Birds of Prey, an unexpected facility in the same county as St. Michael’s Church, the Battery and the fancy restaurants of Meeting Street.
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Exploring Wilmington with Ben, the Rescue Horse
By Tom Adkinson


ben the rescue horse
Ben works one week on and three weeks off in Wilmington’s historic district. Image by Tom Adkinson.
 

WILMINGTON, N.C. – Ben, the Rescue Horse, apparently didn’t play well with others back on an Amish farm in Ohio, but he proved to be a fine escort on a clip-clopping stroll through Wilmington’s historic district.
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train ride smoky mountainsExperience a train ride into river gorges, through historic tunnels, and along some of the most beautiful landscapes in America
Journey through the Carolina Mountains and some of the most beautiful landscapes in America. Ride into river gorges, across valleys, and through tunnels carved out of majestic mountains. If you have been waiting to ride a train behind a century-old steam locomotive, here is your chance. Ride along one of the original railroad lines in Chattanooga, crossing four bridges and passing through pre-Civil War Missionary Ridge Tunnel, which was completed in 1858 and on the National Register of Historic Places.
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pickwick belleTennessee Riverboat Cruises: Romantic Cruises or Family Adventures
Tennessee offers a variety of leisure riverboat cruises on its waterways. Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis all have riverboats or steamboats to take you on Tennessee rivers to view beautiful scenery and wildlife, enjoy live entertainment and a great meal, or learn about the history of the Civil War in our great state. Archaeological evidence along the cruise routes tells the stories of the various Native American cultures who inhabited this river valley for over 10,000 years. Cruise in the wake of the early pioneers who had to overcome rapids, shoals, whirlpools and the formidable Chickamaugas. See the famous Body Farm. Pause and reflect in remembrance of the many that perished on the Trail ofTears.
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