Tag Archives: mountains

Chasing Ghosts in Colorado

Animas Forks: A Colorado Ghost Town

During our 2 week stay in Telluride, Colorado, we started looking around for nearby towns to visit. We happened to find a town with no residents. At least not anymore, it is officially a ghost town.

Animas Forks

Animas Forks was once a bustling mining town. Starting in 1873, the town eventually grew to 30 cabins, a hotel, general store, saloon, and post office.

Animas Forks

They even had their own newspaper “The Animas Forks Pioneer” that lasted about 13 years.

Animas Forks

Stepping inside of the old cabins was a bit eerie, you could imagine families huddled in the small rooms after a long day of mining. Winters would get cold here. One year Animas Forks received 25 feet of snow and residents dug tunnels to get from building to building.

Animas Forks Cabin

Animas Forks officially became a ghost town in 1920 when mining profits began to decline. Luckily, the town is well preserved and gets about 100,000 visitors each year.

Animas Forks

Getting There

Getting to Animas Forks is a bit of a challenge, unless you have a 4 wheel drive vehicle (preferably a Jeep). Animas Forks is located about 12 miles from Silverton, Colorado (about 2 hours from Telluride).

However, driving those 12 miles from Silverton can take about an hour because the road is narrow and rocky. Along the drive, you will see abandoned mines.

Animas Forks

You will also catch glimpses of beautiful waterfalls and incredible views.

Animas Forks Waterfalls

We drove an Audi 4 wheel drive up to the ghost town, but it was a slow bumpy ride. If we had it to do over again, we would have rented an ATV or Jeep in Silverton, that would have made the drive more fun and less rocky.

I’ll leave you with one final picture of our view on the way back down from the ghost town.

Animas Forks View

About this Blog

This blog chronicles the travels of Steve and Lynn Miller, a couple that retired early after selling their software company. If you would like to sign up to receive these blog posts via email, scroll to the top  right sidebar of this page and enter your email address.

If you like this blog, you may also like Steve’s We Retired Early blog where he blogs about lifestyle freedom, financial independence and technology.

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Slideshow of our Trip to Portugal

It seems like our trip to Portugal last summer was just yesterday. I finally pulled together a slide show of pictures from our stop in Lisbon, Portugal, I hope you enjoy it.

Lisbon, Portugal

LisbonPortugal

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Cool Cabin in the North Carolina Mountains

As I mentioned in my earlier post about goals, we wanted to vacation more this year in the states so we took our first adventure to North Carolina. We rented this cool, yet tiny, cabin in Bryson City, North Carolina. Situated in the Appalachian Mountains, the cabin had incredible views of the tree laden Smoky Mountains.

See a slide show here

Woodland Loft Cabin

Woodland Loft Cabin

The cabin was small, my guess is that it was about 300-400 square feet. But it made great use of the space. It had flat screen TVs, a fireplace, views from almost every inch of the cottage, a pretty large bathroom and a small kitchen. It also had a nice deck area with hot tub.

Great views from the bedroom

Great views from the bedroom

Deck with Hot Tub

Deck with Hot Tub

Hiking in Deep Creek

Just minutes from Bryson City is the Deep Creek entry to the Smoky Mountain National Park. From here you can hike the Three Waterfalls Loop. This is a pretty easy 3 mile hike that provides up close views of 3 waterfalls.  As we started our hike, a deer was just a few feet away drinking from the creek.

Deer drinking from Deep Creek

Deer drinking from Deep Creek

Juney Whank Falls

Juney Whank Falls

Tom Branch Falls

Tom Branch Falls

Indian Creek Falls

Indian Creek Falls

Biltmore House in Asheville

Located about a hour from Bryson City in Asheville, NC, the Biltmore House is an impressive mansion built in 1895 by George Vanderbilt. Situated on an 8,000 acre estate, the Biltmore includes a house, vineyard, winery, farm, and tons of hiking trails. We’ve visited several mansions in the USA and a number of castles in Europe but this home is decorated in the most tasteful way we’ve seen.

The Biltmore House includes 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, a gym, and a swimming pool. As we walked through the rooms and visited the huge kitchen and servant quarters, it reminded us of the popular series “Downton Abbey”. They don’t allow taking photos from inside of the house, so you should plan a trip to Asheville to see it for yourself.

The Biltmore Huose

The Biltmore Huose

Local Craft Breweries

We always tend to seek out local craft brew houses when traveling. In Bryson City, we visited Nantahala Brewing Company. When we walked in, one of the locals entertained us with stories of the Appalachian trail, other local breweries, and his love of Alabama football.

Nantahala Brewing Company

Nantahala Brewing Company

Our new friend told us about breweries in a town about 10 minutes away called Sylva and told us that Asheville has more breweries per capita than any other place in America. I always thought Fort Collins, CO was the brew capital, who knew! We had to visit more breweries.

Heinzelmannchen Brewery in Sylva

Heinzelmannchen Brewery in Sylva

Innovations Brewery in Sylva

Innovations Brewery in Sylva

One of the breweries in Asheville that the local told us about was Pour. At Pour, they have 43 taps where you can sample any of the beers they offer. They give you a bracelet that you scan to allow you to pour as little or as much as you like and you pay for what you pour. Very cool idea.

Bracelet used for Pour

Bracelet used for Pour

Pour - 43 taps

Pour – 43 taps

Cherokee

Our final stop around the Bryson City area was in a town about 15 minutes away called Cherokee. Here they have museum that details the life of the Cherokee Indians and their plight with the Europeans that drove them out of their homeland. The exhibits were well done and informative. After visiting the museum I’ve decided to read the book The Memoirs of Lt. Henry Timberlake: The Story of a Soldier, Adventurer, and Emissary to the Cherokees, 1756-1765.

Catching up with Old Friends

We took this travel opportunity to catch up with some old friends. My best friend from high school, Bill Stuart (the author of Gemstone Chronicles), lives just north of Atlanta. He and his wife Lana met Lynn and me in Dillard, Georgia one night for dinner. It was the first time I had seen Bill since high school and it was great to see him and meet Lana.

About 3 hours east of Bryson City is Charlotte, North Carolina. Another high school friend, Bill Baxley, lives there. As we began heading towards the coast, we stopped in Charlotte to see Bill and his wife Michelle. This was our first time meeting Michelle and it was really great connecting with them during our journey.

Where are We Heading Next?

As we leave Bryson City, we will make our way to the east coast. We plan to visit the beaches of Nags Head, NC to see where the Wright Brothers launched the world’s first flight. We also plan to see Cape Hatteras to photograph the iconic light house.

Leaving Nags Head, we plan to stop into Myrtle Beach (although I did not bring my golf clubs). Then on to Charleston SC, Hilton Head SC and then to Savannah GA.

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2014 In the Rear View Mirror

I can’t believe that I retired over 2 years ago. When this August 1st came along, I didn’t even realize that it was my retirement anniversary until I remembered it a week or so later. As I did last year, I wanted to share a review of 2014.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy whatever-holiday-tradition-you-follow!

Early 2014

We brought in the New Year in Fort Collins with our boys (Cameron and Ryan). We got to learn more about Fort Collins and spent some quality time with the boys. Cameron and I skied Breckenridge and had a great time.

Horsetooth Reservoir

Horsetooth Reservoir

Cameron skiing

Cameron skiing

In February, we returned to Florida with much warmer weather than we had experienced in Colorado. We took some day trips a couple hours away to visit Port St. Joe, Apalachicola, and Cape San Blas. I spent my time fishing and golfing on warm days.

Cape San Blas

Cape San Blas

Sunset on Scenic 30A

Sunset on Scenic 30A

Spring 2014

For Spring Break, we returned to Fort Collins.  Now that it was warming up a bit, we were able to hike and cycle the numerous scenic trails.

Cycling the Poudre Trail

Cycling the Poudre Trail

Hiking Fort Collins

Hiking Fort Collins

We also got out and explored the Fort Collins breweries. While visiting the local brew houses, we met some new friends (Doug and Julie) — they are also into craft breweries.

Pateros Creek Brewery

Pateros Creek Brewery

Tour of Funkwerks

Tour of Funkwerks

Summer 2014

Our youngest son, Ryan, decided that he wanted to take the summer off and transfer from Colorado State University to the University of Florida. Since he was taking the summer off, we decided to travel to Europe for the summer. Our oldest son, Cameron, was working during the summer, so he stayed in Ft. Collins. This was the first time we had traveled with Ryan since we retired, it was a great way to spend the summer.

Paris, France

We spent 2 weeks in Paris, renting a small apartment just down the street from the Arch de Triomphe. We explored all that the city had to offer, visiting all of the major attractions and taking excursions to the French country side, visiting wineries and chateaus.

Chateau De Chenonceau

Chateau De Chenonceau

Back entry to the Chateau

Chateau

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower

Spain

After leaving Paris, we flew to Barcelona, Spain.  We stayed in Spain for about a month and was able to visit Montserrat and Costa Brava.

Costa Brava

Costa Brava

Montserrat

Montserrat

Park Guell in Barcelona Spain

Park Guell in Barcelona Spain

Barcelona Beach

Barcelona Beach

Our Spain trip was scheduled around the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, where we had front row seats from a balcony overlooking the festival. It was incredibly fun.

Ryan all dressed up

Ryan all dressed up

Running of the Bulls

Running of the Bulls

We capped off our visit to Spain by visiting Valencia, Madrid, Laguardia, and Bilbao.

Valencia Spain

Valencia Spain

Flamenco Dancing

Flamenco Dancing in Madrid

Laguardia Spain

Laguardia Spain

Incredible castle view

Incredible castle view – Laguardia Spain

Italy

After leaving Spain, we headed to Italy. We started our travels in northern Italy, visiting Milan and Lake Como.

Duomo in Milan

Duomo in Milan

Lake Como

Lake Como

Lake Como

Lake Como

From here, we headed to the Italian Riviera which was probably our favorite area of Italy.

Vernazza

Vernazza

Monterosso

Monterosso

Italian Riviera - Monterosso

Italian Riviera – Monterosso

After leaving the Italian Riviera, we headed south to Rome, Tuscany, Pompeii and Capri. The blue grotto in Capri was stunning.

Rome

Rome

Tuscany

Tuscany

Pompeii

Pompeii

Capri

Capri

Blue Grotto

Blue Grotto

Portugal

Our final stop in Europe was in Portugal. We did not stay here very long but in hindsight, we should have stayed a few more days to take it all in.

Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon Portugal

Lisbon Portugal

Fall 2014

After Europe, we spent about a month in Fort Collins then headed back to Florida. Ryan came back with us so that he could take a Physics class as he awaited his acceptance to the University of Florida.

Ryan and I decided to challenge ourselves to cycle 50 miles on the bicycle (I did the challenge in 2013 but he wanted to try it as well). He and I trained hard and completed a 45 mile and 50 mile ride a week apart. We finished the 50 miles in just 3 hours, 45 minutes quicker than when I did it by myself in 2013.

With the great weather we’ve had in Florida since our return, we’ve been boating, swimming, fishing, and spending lots of time outside. It has been fun having Ryan with us for a few months. He starts at the University of Florida in January so we will miss him.

Huge Jelly Fish

Huge Jelly Fish

Paragliders on the beach

Gliders on the beach

End of 2014

We are spending December in Florida. Cameron and Ryan will be here for Christmas so we will get to spend some great family time together.

In the Fall, we purchased a piece of land pretty close to the beach in Inlet Beach (about a mile from where we live today). We are planning to build a home on the lot, hopefully beginning in the Spring or early Summer.

We haven’t planned our next travel adventure yet, but we will definitely take a trip somewhere in 2015. Maybe Greece, Malta, Ireland, Norway, Sweden, or Finland? Not sure, but they all sound great!

Slideshow of our Trip to France

Spending 8 days of our Summer vacation in Paris allowed us to see most of the city and even venture out to Champagne and Burgundy for wine and champagne tours. I pulled together some pictures and put them into a slide show for you to see.  Here you go!

Burgundy, France

Burgundy is filled with incredible castles and wineries. We visited some of the most famous castles (Chateaus in French) including Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Chenonceau, and Chateau de Nitray  (also a winery).

Burgundy

Champagne, France

Until this visit, I was not a big fan of champagne but after tasting some of the selections on this tour, I became a big fan. We visited Moet and Mumm champagne houses on this excursion. If you have heard of the extremely spendy champagne called Dom Perignon, then you know Moet — they make it.

Champagne

Paris, France

This was our second visit to Paris but this time we stayed for 8 days. We visited all of the attractions and spent a really long day at the Louvre museum.  We could have spent several days there with the amount of artifacts they have. We stayed in a small Paris apartment that was just a short walk to the Arc de Triomphe. It got dark really late (around 10 to 11 pm) so we ate late dinners, just like the Parisians. We love Paris!

Paris

Slideshow of our Trip to Italy

Fall is in the air and I am starting to reminisce about our summer European vacation, specifically about Italy. What’s not to love? Tuscany, the Italian Riviera, Lake Como. Alright, here are some slide shows so that you can join me in my day dreaming and general procrastination.

Milan and Lake Como

We started our Italian adventure in Milan, the fashion capital of Italy. Since Lake Como is less than an hour train ride North, we made our way there to look for George Clooney — they say he has a house there but it was elusive. Enjoy the slide show.

LakeComo

Italian Riviera

Probably one of our favorite stops in Italy was the Italian Riviera.  Situated on the west side of Italy, it includes the towns of Manarola, Monterosso, Riomaggiore, and Vernazza. We spent most of our time in Monterosso but we felt we could have easily spent another week here, it was really beautiful.

ItalianRiviera

Tuscany

We spent a few days in Florence and the Tuscan town of Chianti. We had a Chianti wine tour that was our favorite winery we visited during our European trip. We discovered a new love for Tuscano, a great Italian wine.

Tuscany

Rome

This was our second visit to Rome but this time we spent more time than before. It is really cool to see the ancient Roman architecture through the ruins although we thought the ruins in Pompeii were more spectacular.

Rome

Pompeii

You know the story and probably saw the movie — Pompeii is an ancient Roman city that was devastated by the volcanic eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD. Because the ash covered the city, many people and animals that were killed in the eruption were preserved in a cast-like plaster and you can still see the position they were in when they died. A little creepy, I have to say, but interesting still. We not only visited Pompeii but we also hiked up Mt. Vesuvius afterwards to see the crater left by the volcanic eruption.

Pompeii

Capri

Capri is an Italian island just off the coast of Naples. The architecture bears some resemblance to Greek architecture because they were early settlers here. One of the big attractions of the island is the Blue Grotto. It is a beautiful cave that you take a canoe into and it glows blue from the light emitting into the cave. Very luminescent and cool.

Capri

Slideshow of our Spain Trip

Summer is coming to an end so I wanted to pass along some of the pictures we took while in Spain this Summer.  Simply click the slideshows below and ready your dancing shoes — you will experience an electric slide of pictures.

Barcelona

We hung out in Barcelona for a little over a week, visiting Montserrat and Coasta Brava during our trip. Barcelona has lots to offer, from Gaudi-inspired architecture to incredible coastal views just north in Coasta Brava. Enjoy the slideshow.

Barcelona

Valencia

We boarded a train and in just over 2 hours we arrived in Valencia, directly south of Barcelona. As soon as we arrived, it felt like we were on a beach vacation. The vibe was more laid back, the prices were lower and seafood restaurants dominated the seaside boardwalk. We only stayed here a couple of days but I could see spending lots more time in Valencia.

Valencia

Madrid

We visited Madrid for just 2 days but it happened to land on our youngest son’s (Ryan) birthday. To celebrate his birthday, we scheduled a Flamenco dance show and it turned out to be one of our favorite events of our trip.

Madrid

Lagrono and La Rioja

We had heard that La Rioja was the Tuscany of Spain and it was true. It had rolling hills and was dotted with award winning wineries. The wineries here are small and mostly family owned. It was the first time we have ever tasted wine right out of the wine vat — and it was a treat.

LaRioja

Bilbao and the Guggenheim Museum

On our way to Pamplona to see the Running of the Bulls, we had an extra 2 days to kill so we dropped by Bilbao to see the Guggenheim Museum. It was the most contemporary museum we visited on our European trip with an incredible exhibit that was an audio experience like no other. It was filmed in an old mansion and had 8 wall-sized screens showing a different musician playing their part of a song that came together as a harmonic experience that involved all the senses.

Bilbao

Running with the Bulls in Pomplona

Our entire trip to Spain centered around the week in Pomplona where the Running of the Bulls takes place. Most of us are familiar with this Spanish tradition so it was a real treat to witness it first-hand. It reminded us of New Orleans during Mardi Gras — a festive atmosphere with people partying all hours of the day and night.

Pamplona

Latest Escapades and my latest blog: 2 Hour Appreneur

For those of you that follow this travel blog, I wanted to let you know that I just started a new blog called the “2 Hour Appreneur“.  The new blog is the result of a new experiment I am trying out. For the last year, I have been infatuated with mobile apps and people who build them.

Since I love business and life hacking, I thought I would perform an experiment to determine if a person can start a business building iPhone/iPad/Android apps and work only about 2 hours a day doing it. During this journey, I will document everything along the way.

If you are interested in this topic and would like to get an email each time I post to it, go to http://2hourappreneur.wordpress.com, scroll to the bottom right of the page and look for something that says “Follow Blog via Email“. Enter your email there and you will receive the blog automatically when I post a new one.

I started this blog about 2 weeks ago and I already have 533+ followers!  Wow!

What Have You Missed So Far?

I started the blog about 2 weeks ago and have posted 2 blogs so far:

What’s Going On With Us?

Lynn and I are still in Fort Collins, Colorado hanging out with our boys, visiting breweries, hiking, cycling, and working out. Here are a few recent pictures from our escapades:

Hiking in Fort Collins

We found a cool hiking trail called “The Devils Backbone”.  It is a moderately easy trail, taking about 1.5 hours to complete.  It ascends up the side of a mountain with an incredible view of the valley below seen through a natural hole in the rock formations, called the “Keyhole”.

Keyhole

Keyhole

Katie enjoyed the hike but was sore the next day

Katie enjoyed the hike but was sore the next day

Singletrack trails

Singletrack trails

I also found a hike at Shields Ponds that slinks next to the Poudre River, circling back by a working farm. I took this picture of a old truck that was still being used on the farm today. Very cool.

Old truck on working farm

Old truck on working farm

Cycling

We found a really long cycling trail in Windsor, just a few miles from Fort Collins. It is snakes along the Poudre River and runs through cattle farms, neighborhoods, and nature preserves. I am not sure exactly how long the trail is but my guess is that it is around 25 to 30 miles one way. Lynn and I purchased road bikes recently and have been trying them out on these trails.

Cycling the Poudre Trail

Cycling the Poudre Trail

Scenes along the bike trail

Scenes along the bike trail

Exploring New Breweries

We have also been exploring new breweries. In my last blog post, I talked about the huge population of breweries in Fort Collins. It is true, here are a few more.

C.B. & Potts

C.B. & Potts

Pateros Creek Brewery

Pateros Creek Brewery

Pateros Creek Brewery

Pateros Creek Brewery

Funkwerks Brewery

Funkwerks Brewery

Tour of Funkwerks

Tour of Funkwerks

Beer Menu on the Big Screen - Mayor of Old Town

Beer Menu on the Big Screen – Mayor of Old Town

The Mayor of Old Town Brewery

The Mayor of Old Town Brewery

Freedoms Edge Brewery

Freedoms Edge Brewery

Update on the App Development of aMemoryJog

As many of your know, I blogged about developing a web based product and an accompanying mobile app that allows you to track all your passwords, loyalty cards and just about anything else that is easily forgettable — putting all of that info at your fingertips.

The web version of this is done and I am getting several hundred people downloading it each month. I subcontracted out the app development and it should be selling for the iPhone in the Apple App Store in July or August. Here is what it looks like. If you haven’t done it yet, download a free trial here. The iPhone edition will have both a free and paid edition, so you could use it for free once it hits the App Store in a couple of months.

aMemoryJog - Web and iPhone versions

aMemoryJog – Web and iPhone versions

What’s Next for Us?

Lynn and I will be heading back to the Florida for May to enjoy the sun and surf before summer begins. We are planning a summer trip to Utah to visit some of their incredible state parks, a trip to Greece in the fall and a trip to Ireland for Thanksgiving. Lots of exciting days ahead!

2013 in the Rear View Mirror

2013 – A year of travels and self discovery

The end of the year always brings reflection, a habit I developed when running our business. For us, 2013 was the first full year of retirement, traveling and self discovery. With our year-end travels, we were not able to send out Christmas cards this year, so hopefully this will suffice in lieu of cards for friends that follow our blog. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, or Happy whatever-holiday-tradition-you-follow!

Early 2013

After spending last Christmas 2012 with our boys (Cameron and Ryan), we started out 2013 by moving Cameron from Maine to Colorado. After a semester at the University of Maine, Cameron missed Colorado and wanted to spend his college years at CSU in Fort Collins, Colorado. That suited us, as Ryan was already enrolled there.

Ryan, Cameron and I flew to Maine, cleared out his dorm and made the 3 day trek from Maine to Colorado. We were packed into his Ford Mustang like sardines, sharing the backseat with half of his belongings.  Not the most comfortable ride across country, but we spent a lot of quality time talking, joking and just having fun. We rotated driving duties, so we only had to drive about 2 hours at a time — a cool way to travel. Lynn met us in Colorado and we moved Cameron into his new apartment and he enrolled in college.

After returning to Florida, I spent my time fishing and golfing on warm dry days. Fishing in the bay was great, a friend (Tom Helderlie) and I caught lots of red fish. We had plenty of cold days that brought on the first bout of boredom since I retired so I decided to start working on a new software project, discussed in my March 2013 blog.

Spring 2013

In February, Lynn and I talked about traveling again. We had an epiphany — what if we rented our condo to fund more travel. Getting the condo ready for the rental season was a bit of a chore, but by early March, it was fully rented for Spring break. So we hit the road again by visiting our boys in Colorado, then on to California. In California, we spent several days in Napa Valley, learning more about wines than ever before.

Red wines fermenting

Red wines fermenting

Then we were off to Sequoia National Park, the home of some the biggest redwoods in the  world. I was literally in awe of the size of these trees.

Huge redwoods

Huge redwoods

Sequoia National Park

Sequoia National Park

Lynn and I had seen lots of Ansel Adams photography but had never visited one his most photographed subjects — Yosemite National Park. We took the chance to take some of our photos that could never rival his.

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park

Before we left for California, a friend (Craig Bromley) mentioned that we had to visit Big Sur and the Sonoma coast. We tasted wine in Sonoma, visited Big Sur, the Hearst Castle, and spent a few days in San Francisco — what a cool town.

Point Reyes National Park

Point Reyes National Park

Iconic Golden Gate Bridge

Iconic Golden Gate Bridge

We ended our trip by taking in a Criss Angel show in Las Vegas.  That was my first trip Las Vegas, so we also took that time to visit the Hoover Dam.

Hoover Dam

Hoover Dam

Las Vegas

Las Vegas

After traveling for a little over a month, we returned to Florida. April and May in Florida is very nice. Warm days, cool waters, and almost no crowds. On nice days, I fished and golfed as much as I could.

Canoe

Right outside our door in Florida

On cool or rainy days, I continued to work on my new software project (aMemoryJog). I wanted to have a solid business plan and software prototype before summer and I was able to accomplish that.

Summer 2013

By the start of Summer, our condo was fully rented for the season so we jetted off on our next adventure. We decided to spend some time with our boys in Colorado, then visit the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park. We saw more mountains, wildlife, lakes, streams, geysers, hot springs and mudpots than you can imagine (I almost said “than you can shake a stick at” but I visualized Lynn rolling her eyes as she read it).

Hot Springs

Hot Springs

Old Barn on Morman Row

Old Barn on Morman Row

Jenny Lake

Jenny Lake

We then made our way to Oregon — starting in central Oregon and stopping to see Crater Lake — simply spectacular. Then we headed to the coast (Cannon Beach) — we had spent a weekend here when our boys were really young, but this time we spent a week really exploring this area.

Crater Lake, Oregon

Crater Lake, Oregon

Haystack Rock -- Taken in 2013

Haystack Rock  – Cannon Beach

Oregon Coast - My favorite picture

Oregon Coast

Our journey then took us to Washington.  We started in Seabrook, Washington, a town fashioned after the movie “The Truman Show”. It is an idyllic town, reminding me of Seaside, Florida.

Seabrook, Washington

Seabrook, Washington

Seabrook, Washington

Seabrook, Washington

Lynn and I briefly lived in Seattle Washington when our kids were young but never spent a full summer there. Most of you know that Seattle is miserable during the winter, autumn and spring — it rains constantly. The summer, however, is another story. So we visited the Olympic National Park then headed for Seattle for a couple of weeks. It was spectacular. We discovered a new found appreciation for Seattle’s beauty.

Ruby Beach

Ruby Beach

Kestner Homestead Trail

Kestner Homestead Trail

Kestner Homestead Trail

Kestner Homestead Trail

Space Needle

Space Needle

Seatle

Seattle

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

We then journeyed to Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.  There we explored the city and saw Butchart Gardens — probably the most beautiful gardens we had seen. Victoria is a cool town with lots of history. We learned more about Canada than we ever did in school.

Butchart Gardens

Butchart Gardens

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada

Leaving Victoria, we headed for a 3 week trip to Vancouver, British Columbia and Whistler. Vancouver is a really cool town, probably one of the coolest towns I’ve ever visited. It is trendy, has lots of great restaurants, is a waterfront community, and has tons of biking and hiking trails. The city looks similar to Hong Kong, with high rise apartments and condos on each block. Stanley Park is an incredible park — reminds me of Central Park in New York.

Vancouver Canada

Vancouver BC Canada

Whistler Canada

Whistler BC Canada

It was also here that I started experimenting with meditation. It really helps calm the mind, I highly recommend it if you have not tried it. I also accomplished a challenging hike called “The Grind“.  It is a 2,800 foot mountain climb that is nicknamed “Nature’s StairMaster“.  I summited in just over 1.5 hours and found a new confidence by completing it.  After finishing this hike, I pledged to train for a 50-mile bike ride upon our return to Florida.

Warning: Not for Wimps!

Warning: Not for Wimps!

The final leg of our Summer trip took us to Alaska. We spent 2 weeks cruising Alaska and visiting Mount McKinley. We visited Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and then onto a land tour in Denali National Park. During this time, we visited breweries, took a helicopter ride up to mountain glacier, rode a dog sled across a glacier, and visited the iconic Glacier Bay — watching glaciers as they crashed into the sea.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Landscapes

Alaska Landscapes

Fall 2013

Returning from over 3 months of Summer travel, we made our way back to Florida.  This was mid-August and the weather was hot and humid.  There were still crowds during some weeks and some weeks were quiet.  It was a great time to catch up with our Florida friends, share dinners and play golf.

Rosemary Beach, Florida

Rosemary Beach, Florida

At the same time, I decided to begin working on my next challenge — training for a half century bike ride (50 miles).   After 6 weeks of training, I accomplished my goal and lost 1o pounds during the process. I also became passionate about bike riding and am still riding each week.

IMG_0724

Training for a Half Century

October and November were more mild with some really beautiful days. We spent weekends watching Bama kick butt in the SEC (until Auburn humbled us) and with the usual ups and downs of watching Dallas Cowboys football. Our boys came to Florida for Fall break and we spent Thanksgiving with the Miller family. My brother and his wife graciously had the entire family over for an incredible meal. Thanks Chris and Danielle!

Also during this time, I committed myself to finishing the first phase of my new software project and before we left for our next set of travels, I had accomplished that goal and blogged about it in early December.

End of 2013

We are spending December and January in Colorado with our boys. In fact, we rented a place in Fort Collins so that we can spend more time there in 2014. It is surprising how much we missed Colorado since we moved almost 2 years ago. Upon returning, we’ve been eating in our favorite restaurants, biking the Fort Collins trails and learning our way around the city. We plan to get some ski days in during January.

Our journey to Colorado started rough. We decided to leave a day early because there was a huge snow storm coming to Arkansas and Oklahoma.  On our first day, our car broke down in Birmingham, so we spent 2 days waiting for parts and getting it fixed. On the third day we made our way to Arkansas where it started sleeting. The next day was spent trudging through the snow storm, slowly making our way through Arkansas, Oklahoma and Kansas. White knuckle driving for a day, but we made it through the storm the next day and it was smooth sailing after that.

As I sit writing this blog, it is December 22.  The snow is falling outside, it is cold, and the boys, Lynn and I will be having dinner together tonight followed by playing board games.  What a wonderful life.

Glaciers and Dog Sleds in Alaska

Visiting Alaska – The Final American Frontier

Alaska has been on the bucket list for a while now so we took an incredibly calm Norwegian Sun cruise from Vancouver to Alaska via the inner passage.

Norwegian Sun

Norwegian Sun

Our 11 day route took us to Ketchikan, Juneau, Skagway, Glacier Bay, and then onto a land tour in Denali National Park.  We are not really cruisers but we may change our minds after this trip.  The cruise had great food, great shows and incredible views.

Our Alaskan route

Our Alaskan route

If you would like to see a slideshow of this trip, click here: http://www.webetripping.com/Gallery_USA_Alaska.asp

Ketchikan

After 2 days of sailing, we arrived at Ketchikan, a small town with a population of 8,000 and aptly named the “Salmon Capital of the World”. While we were there, we saw more salmon coming into the bay than I have ever seen — they lined the top of the water.

Ketchikan

Ketchikan

Ketchikan

Ketchikan

Ketchikan was home to a thriving Native American population in the early days and boasts more totem poles than anywhere in North America.  There is still a small population of Native Americans  (just under 17%) living here and they are very proud people with a strong heritage. When we visited, we witnessed a tribal dance and they allowed me to participate.

Steve attempting a tribal dance

Steve attempting a tribal dance

I was struck by the beautiful totem poles and art pieces. We attended a presentation by one of the artisans that continue to create totem poles for other towns.

Our final excursion here was to attend a lumberjack show.  OK, it sounds corny (and parts of it were), but these guys are great athletes with skill and agility.

Lumberjacks

Lumberjacks

Juneau

In Juneau, we had an incredible excursion where we took a helicopter up to the top of a glacier where dog sleds were awaiting our arrival. The ride up was breathtaking, with incredible 360 degree views.

Once we landed, we met the friendly Alaskan huskies before embarking on a several mile ride upon the glacier in the dog sled. Many of these dogs have participated in the Iditarod, a yearly 1,024 mile dog sled adventure across Alaska. You may notice that many of the dogs look more like muts than Siberian Huskies. That is true, they are mixed but are chosen for speed and endurance.

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Our final excursion in Juneau was to visit the Alaska Brewery, home of the best Amber Ale I’ve ever had.

Alaska Brewing

Alaska Brewing

Skagway

In Skagway, we met a team that participates in the Iditarod and petted new Alaskan Husky puppies.

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At this site, they had a room that was refrigerated to 40 degrees below zero to show how it might feel if in the Alaskan wilderness. We threw on big coats and hung out for about 5 minutes in the brutally cold room.  Invigorating!

Lynn in 40 degrees below cold

Lynn in 40 degrees below cold

We also took a chance at panning for gold. Altogether Lynn and I found about $20 worth of gold.

Panning for gold

Panning for gold

Panning for gold

Panning for gold

Our final excursion was a photographer’s tour where we ventured into Canada to take some cool landscape pictures.

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Landscapes

Glaciers in Glacier Bay

The most thrilling part of the cruise was visiting the incredible glaciers. Our captain was incredible, he was able to maneuver the ship so that everyone could get great pictures of each glacier. We saw all the glaciers in Glacier Bay and woke the next day to Humboldt Glacier. We hung out at each  glacier for about an hour, saw the glaciers crumbling into the sea with grandiose sounds that reminded me of thunder.

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Glacier Bay

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Humboldt Glacier

Denali Land Tour

After leaving the cruise ship, we went straight into a 4 day land tour where we visited Anchorage, Denali National Park, and Talkeetna. Anchorage is the largest city in Alaska with a population of about 300,000. It felt like a small town that was heavily dependent on tourism.

Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska

Anchorage Alaska

At Denali National Park, we participated in a 7 hour tour of the park where we saw caribou, moose, grizzly bears, and many birds of prey. The highlight for us was seeing Mount McKinley, the largest mountain in North America at 20,320 feet. The guide said that only 30% of the people that visit Denali get a good view of McKinley because of the clouds. We were lucky to be in that 30%, as we enjoyed great views.

Mount McKinley

Mount McKinley

Moose antlers are heavy!

Moose antlers are heavy!

Denali National Park

Denali National Park

On our way back to Anchorage, we rode the train to a town called Talkeetna. The TV show “Northern  Exposure” was modeled after this town but was actually filmed in Roslyn Washington. Their claim to fame is that they elected a cat mayor of the town 15 years ago and we were able to visit where he hangs out in the gift shop. They like him because he never raises taxes and lets government stay out of people’s lives. Hmm, he must be a republican!

Train to Talkeetna

Train to Talkeetna

The Mayor

The Mayor

Talkeetna

Talkeetna

Talkeetna

Talkeetna

Well that concludes our 3 month summer vacation. We are now returning to Florida to enjoy the rest of the summer, the fall, and then hunker down for the winter. I hope you enjoyed these posts.