My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel
At My Itchy Travel Feet, baby boomers will find inspiration and advice to help plan their next adventure. Baby boomers Donna L. Hull and Alan Hull travel the world recording their experiences with words, photos and videos so that you’ll know exactly what to expect.
Yes, we did take that hike last weekend—a two-mile-start-getting-back-in-hiking-shape walk into Blodgett Canyon followed by breakfast on the deck at Memories Café. What a gorgeous Montana day.
If you’re in the area this weekend (and the rain holds off), the camas lilies in Packer Meadow at Lolo Pass are in full bloom. I wonder if Lewis and Clark saw them when they camped in the area on their way west? Here’s a photo from last year to show you just how beautiful they are:
Alan and I had a blast photographing the camas lilies. And we hear that they are even more beautiful this year.
If you’re planning on visiting Glacier National Park, make sure to plan aHike to Grinnell Lake, one of the most beautiful trails in the park. Donna shows us how she and Alan explored this beautiful scenic area a few years ago and how you can do it, too.
We welcome a new affiliate partner this week. Alan and Donna have used VRBO to book vacation rentals for the last 15 years. It’s the perfect way to slow down to truly experience a destination. If you’re thinking about renting a house at the beach or a log cabin in the woods. Click through to find the perfect match for your next boomer travel adventure.
Austin, Texas has really seen a major boom in tourism over the last few years. Known for its famous South by Southwest festival, the city seems to get more and more vibrant every year, and offers loads of active travel options. If the Texas capital’s popularity has piqued your interest, guest contributor Cheryl Rodewig is here with a list of top things to do in Austin.
What to do in Austin
Austin isn’t so much a destination as an attitude. It’s community-focused, eco-friendly, creative. It’s comfortable in its own skin, a place where you fit in when you stand out, a little flamboyant, a little hipster—and yes, definitely weird.
That makes it perfect for active boomers looking for something outside the ordinary. Even as a tourist, it’s hard to ignore the offbeat atmosphere that makes the Texas capital unexpected and exciting.
The Austin skyline may be small, but there is plenty to see and do in between those buildings!
“Austin is forever reinventing itself,” Harrison Eppright explained to me. A native East Austinite and Visit Austin evangelist for the past 25 years, he says he loves the city for its diverse cultures and its spirit of cooperation, art and innovation. It’s the people that make the place.
That might be why you can’t “do” Austin the way you would some cities, checking off landmarks on a bucket list. Instead, set out and explore, street by street, meet the locals, linger over drinks. After getting to know the city on a brief visit, I came home with this list of what to do in Austin.
Active Travel in Austin
Travel at a slower pace. True to its green mission, Austin has plenty of places you can rent an easy-to-use bike for a few hours or days. Its bike-share initiative, Austin B-cycle, is handy if you want a set of wheels available nearly anywhere in the greater downtown area (they have a whopping 50 stations). They’re good for all skill levels and affordable: only $12 for an Explorer pass that gives you 24-hour access. Download their app to easily find available bikes and docks.
Austin is a very bicycle-friendly town. Make sure to take advantage of the bike sharing system!
The bike gave me freedom to get places quickly while making frequent stops for a closer peek at a mural or scenic view. Austin is a bike-friendly town with dedicated lanes, racks and general courtesy for cyclists quite the norm. There’s a wealth of greenspace to choose from, like Mayfield Park with its free roaming peacocks or the 10-mile Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail and Boardwalk. Explore Zilker Park, a 351-acre urban playground near the river, and stop into theZilker Botanical Garden to see roses, succulents, even a waterfall. Go in summer to enjoy the blooming water lilies. Or sign up for the digital scavenger hunt. See, I told you Austin offers quirky fun.
And…make sure to make time to stop and smell the flowers along the way!
Where to Eat in Austin
With all that outdoor activity, you’ll work up an appetite. The city’s food scene is vast. Vegan and vegetarian options proliferate alongside generous helpings of barbecue, tacos and pizza.
While biking around the city, I wanted something fresh, food that would fill me up without weighing me down.Snap Kitchen fit the bill. The Austin-based company has a simple goal — handmade, balanced meals for almost any diet: gluten-free, paleo, pescatarean, you name it. They have the classics, Tex-Mex bowls and turkey Bolognese that’s deeply satisfying, and funky twists on favorites, turning broccoli into fried rice and cauliflower into grits. It’s both delicious and healthy, which we all know isn’t possible, so just another sign of Austin breaking the rules and being weird.
The city’s culinary profile has a bit of everything for any taste.
Most entrees are under $10, so you can add in a few sides (splurge on the coconut shrimp!) and a refreshing drink or two, like the date-sweetened chai cashew shake. Pop it in your bicycle’s basket, and you’re set for a lakeside picnic. And, yes, they have an app, too—order lunch from your iPhone, peddle by to pick it up and off you go.
Of course, when in Austin, you have to visit a food truck. Snap Kitchen has its own mobile trailer on West 3rd Street, just two blocks from the Colorado River. You can also try The Picnic, a food truck park with ample selection.
Inspired to explore more of Austin? Start your search for hotels in Austin with us.
I also recommend Kebabalicious. An Austin mainstay since 2006, Kebabalicious was so beloved as food truck that they opened a brick-and-mortar site with a beautiful backyard patio. That’s where you want to go to order the “kuzu,” their own creation of halal lamb, feta and veggies dressed with a zesty red sauce and tzatziki. Or opt for the traditional shawarma beef and lamb kebab, their most popular wrap. Both are richly flavorful, indulgent but not greasy, letting the quality ingredients and spicing shine through. They also have the best falafel I’ve ever tasted. Grab a table in the sunshine and dig in.
Yum, that looks good, doesn’t it?
Meet the Locals
Where do the locals hang out? Eppwright suggests a few places around Austin: the underground Elephant Room for jazz, the historic, swanky Driskall Bar Lounge, swimming at Barton Springs. You can’t go wrong with a walk alongSixth Street. Listen for a song you like and go on in. With more than 250 live music venues, the city is probably playing something you’ll love.
Walk a little further to a very different venue, the downtown Blue Cat Cafe. In true Texas style, the first cat cafe in the Lone Star State is spacious and friendly. Order a coffee or dinner and schmooze with the coolest cats in town. The workers there will gladly tell you about their residents, some with checkered pasts, a few on their ninth life, all incredibly Instagrammable as they climb, tunnel and lounge. It’s an unusual way to spend an evening, but with its sense of community and earthiness, the Blue Cat Cafe is distinctly Austin.
Cat lovers will love this place!
Katherine Wise, another Austinite who grew up in the city and now settled there as an adult, sums up why she loves it: “From one-of-a-kind boutiques and restaurants to proudly independent art galleries, bookstores, record labels and business enterprises, Austin brims with an eclectic culture all our own.”
So go and say hello to Austin. You’ll be glad you did.
More Fun Things to Do in Austin
It’s hard to fit all the fun into one trip to Austin. Here are a few more active travel ideas for your next visit:
Updated 06.13.2018. In June 2014, I wrote about one of the most beautiful hikes in Glacier National Park. In my latest update, I’ve included answers to frequently asked questions about the trail to Grinnell Lake, more photos and updated hiking information.
The Grinnell Lake hike is one of the most beautiful trails in Glacier National Park.
Most hikers visiting the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park in Montana come to experience the Grinnell Glacier Trail or trek to Iceberg Lake. After all, Many Glacier has some of the best hikes in Glacier National Park (in my opinion). But the Grinnell Lake hike offers a beautiful experience, too, especially if you’re looking for a less strenuous Glacier National Park hike. You’ll still catch a glimpse of a glacier, although it’s Salamander rather than Grinnell. And there are two options for getting there—the easy way via the Glacier Park Boat Company—or the hard way hiking the entire journey (6.8 miles) on your own two feet.
Hiking the long way around to Grinnell Lake
Of course Alan and I chose the hard way to reach Grinnell Lake as part of a Glacier National Park Hiking Program with Road Scholar. Accompanied by guides, Lori and Stephanie, we left Many Glacier Hotel on a morning hike that accessed the trail to Grinnell Lake on the south shore of Swiftcurrent Lake.
For the first mile or so of the hike, we shared the trail with horses, which meant watching closely where we stepped. Next time, I’d choose an alternative to this portion of the trail (and there are several).
Salamander Glacier reflects into Swiftcurrent Lake
Once the horse trail veered away from our path, the hike to Grinnell Lake became an enjoyable, mostly level, walk in the woods. The trail follows the shores of two subalpine lakes—Swiftcurrent and Josephine—with several opportunities to step off-trail for taking photos of glacier-fed waters.
On one portion of the trail, as we walked single-file along a slightly muddy path enclosed by trees, a “shh-shh” passed down the line of hikers. What did those ahead of us see? Two moose eating a breakfast of shrubs and tree leaves. By the time it was my turn to observe, the moose had moved deeper into the forest and were only slightly visible, but I could hear them chomping away. Moose are loud eaters!
This trail is known for its wildlife sightings, including grizzly bears, moose and bighorn sheep. Park guidelines recommend keeping at least 100 yards away from large wildlife for your safety and theirs. Carry bear spray. Our tour guides both had cannisters, just in case.
Not a bad lunch view, eh?
The trail becomes busy near the boat dock closest to Grinnell Lake. If you arrive at the same time as the boat, you’ll be joined by those who chose the easy way to Grinnell Lake. However walking across the cable bridge that crosses Cataract Creek is a bouncy journey that everyone must take to reach the lake.
Take a lunch break at Grinnell Lake
When our group arrived at the lake, frigid winds whipped off Grinnell and Salamander glaciers making for a slight chop in the water. On this September day, it was too cold to go wading, but Alex Neill from Montana Vacation blog braved the waters during a summer visit and declared them, Cold!
The wind forced us to take shelter on a couple of logs behind a screen of vegetation. It was still a beautiful spot to enjoy the sack lunch that had been provided by Many Glacier Hotel and Road Scholar.
For those looking for more solitude, be patient. The boat hikers usually stay a few minutes and then leave, and the quiteness quickly returns.
Looking back at Lake Josephine
Choose a different trail for the hike back
On the return hike, our group crossed a bridge at the end of Josephine Lake to hike on the north side of both lakes. This more open terrain offered sunlight and good views of the lakes although we were walking with the sun shining into our faces—the wrong direction for good photography.
For better photography, and to avoid hiking with the sun in your eyes, start this hike in the morning on the north side of the lake and return on the south side.
As we moved down the trail, one of the Road Scholar lectures from earlier in the trip came to life for us. Researchers have placed patches of barbed wire on trees so that when grizzlies scratch against the wire, fur is collected to use for DNA testing. This helps determine the family relationships and movement patterns of grizzlies in the area. Stephanie stopped at a tree to point out one of the barbed wire collection sites. Yes, there were small strands of grizzly fur on the ends of the wire. Later, we passed a research assistant collecting the hair to take back for testing.
Many Glacier Hotel as seen from the trail.
Taking the trail between Josephine and Swiftcurrent Lakes, brought us back to the south shore. In the process, the grand view of Many Glacier Hotel provided lovely photo opportunities. Curious about staying in this historic lodge? Read our review.
For those looking for an easy hike in Glacier National Park, ride part-way to Grinnell Lake by boat. Purchase a blue ticket from Glacier Boat Company that will take you across both lakes plus offer a return trip to Many Glacier Hotel. Total hiking distance: 0.9 miles each way
Hiking the Grinnell Lake trail proved to be a pleasant morning in the woods. I recommend it as a Many Glacier get-acquainted-hike. It’s also an easy hike to do on a rest day between two harder days of hiking to Grinnell Glacier and Iceberg Lake.
Questions about hiking to Grinnell Lake
How do I get to Grinnell Lake Trail?
Grinnell Lake is located in the Many Glacier area on the east side of Glacier National Park. It’s one of the prettiest spots in all of Montana—and the park. I recommend spending the night at Many Glacier (keep reading for more lodging suggestions), although hikers can drive in from St. Mary’s in East Glacier or West Glacier. However you’re looking at a very long day. And Many Glacier deserves so much more of your time considering the many hiking opportunities. Have you read about the hike to Bullhead Lake? My favorite!
You’ll find the trail to Grinnell Lake at the south end of Many Glacier Hotel near the Swiftcurrent Lake shoreline.
What should I bring on the hike?
The trail travels near subalpine lakes and through dense forest that attracts plenty of wildlife. It’s also buggy. Bringing bug repellant and bear spray is a must. Pack a snack or lunch to enjoy as you sit on a log by the lake. And, by all means, bring your camera for photographing one of the most scenic trails in Glacier National Park.
Will you need hiking poles? Not really. I always bring them but the trail is level enough that you really don’t need them.
Wear layers when hiking in Glacier National Park. In this photo, I wore a fleece jacket over a long-sleeve hiking shirt over a base layer.
What do I wear when hiking to Grinnell Lake?
Layers, layers, layers. Seriously, the weather in this part of Montana is changeable. Yes, it can snow even in July and August, although rain is more likely. And much depends on the time of day that you’re setting out. Even in warmer weather, hiking pants and long sleeve shirts are a good deterrent against insects.
When is the best time to hike to Glacier Lake?
As boomer hikers, Alan and I prefer morning hikes when our energy level is highest. Plus there are fewer people on this moderately-used trail at the start of the day—and more wildlife. In the summer, an afternoon hike to the lake would be fun, too. But watch out for the bugs!
And the best time of year? June through September are the best months for this hike. But if you’re planning on using the boat shuttle for part of the journey, it may not be running in May or mid to late September, so check to see if the boats are operating.
The Many Glacier Road generally opens from late May to late September but it’s always best to check operating hours with the National Park Service.
Do I need a guide for the Grinnell Lake trail?
This trail is perfectly doable on your own. Considering the amount of wildlife, especially bears and moose, frequenting this area of Many Glacier, hiking when other people are around is a good safety measure. Or book a ranger-led hike. He or she will be carrying bear spray plus know what to do if a bear or moose crosses your path. You’ll also learn much about the flora, fauna, geology and history on a guided hike.
Taking photos is part of the fun.
What are the trail highlights?
Scenery and wildlife make the Grinnell Lake trail a very special one. You’ll be walking through a dense, evergreen forest with glimpses of lakes until reaching Grinnell Lake. There’s also a spur to Hidden Falls near Cataract Creek. On the return trip, if you cross over Josephine lake to the north side, you’ll be hiking in more open terrain. On a sunny day, wear a hat!
Grinnell Lake is a great choice for active boomer travelers. By adding a boat ride, the hike becomes doable for those who are only capable of a short hike.
I’ve read reports of icebergs floating in the lake but that was not the case on our September visit. Known as one of the most scenic spots in Glacier National Park, you’ll definitely want to bring a charged-up camera with plenty of room on the memory card during a Grinnell Lake hike.
Relaxing on the deck of the Many Glacier Hotel is the bonus at the end of a Grinnell Lake hike.
Where should I stay in Many Glacier?
To experience historic national park lodging, Many Glacier Hotel offers a lakeside setting that’s steeped in history. Swiftcurrent Motor Inn and Cabins provides a more budget-friendly alternative. You’ll find restaurants at both choices. Make reservations well ahead of your trip as rooms book up fast, sometimes a year in advance.
The Cherry Marketing Institute is sponsoring this look at how to fight inflammation pain on a boomer travel adventure.
Have summer’s sunny skies and warm temperatures inspired a boomer adventure? My travel feet are itching to go hiking in Montana’s mountains. But a kayaking trip may be calling your name or cycling through the French countryside. Whichever adventure you choose; don’t let inflammation pain ruin your summer travel plans.
Of course the best way to avoid adventure aches and pains is preparing ahead of time. I intend to stay fit but then life gets in the way. Does that happen to you? If, like me, your fitness level leaves something to be desired, start preparing for that summer trip—pronto.
Here are five healthy practices to help you avoid aches and pains from inflammation. Use them before and during your summer adventure.
Walking (and hiking) before a trip conditions your body.
Ideally, we’d all be buffed and chiseled (to steal a phrase from Alan), before our next adventure. But if time is of the essence, start walking. Now! Moving your joints lubricates them, which helps avoid stiffness on that hiking, cycling, or kayaking trip. And while you’re at it, add a few reps with hand weights to build up muscles that you’ll be using. No, this doesn’t replace a regular exercise program, but it’s a start.
As boomers, we grew up with the idea that stretching before exercise is vital. But it’s actually more important to stretch after exercise so that increased blood flow moves inflammation out of the muscles. Stretching is also a stress reliever because it reduces cortisol levels another important element to the inflammatory response.
Start from the inside
The best way to fight inflammation is from the inside out with an anti-inflammatory diet. I’ve been practicing this way of eating for a year and can’t believe the difference it makes, not only by relieving inflammation pain, but also in the way I feel.
Montmorency tart cherries offer a mighty nutritional punch for such a small package.
So swap out sugar, flour and refined products for fresh vegetables, fish, olive oil, nuts, seeds and fruit. If you’re a cherry fan, try adding Montmorency tart cherries to your diet. Research indicates that Montmorency tart cherries can help naturally reduce inflammation related to arthritis, gout, and other painful conditions. They exist in juice, concentrate, dried, frozen and canned forms.
Montmorency tart cherries are easy to pack for hikes, road trips or that flight across the country. Include them in salads, flour-free muffins, smoothies, and trail mixes.
First-time adventures like kayaking are invigorating. But be prepared for muscle soreness.
Relieve the pain naturally
At the end of a long day of active boomer travel, you’ve followed my advice but inflammation pain is still a problem. It happens. If you’re like me, swallowing an anti-inflammatory drug isn’t the answer due to digestive problems, or you may have other intolerances.
Drink a glass of Montmorency tart cherry juice instead. Research recommends drinking 2 tbsp. of Montmorency tart cherry juice concentrate (drink it as a shot or mixed with 8 oz. of water) or an 8 oz. glass of tart cherry juice twice a day, once in the morning and once in the evening. I recommend the concentrate because it’s small enough to transport easily.
Get some sleep
Did you know that sleep fights inflammation? Studies indicate that poor sleep increases cytokine levels, adding to the inflammatory response. Habits that promote good sleep like turning off electronic devices an hour before bedtime, establishing a relaxing evening routine, and a creating a comfortable sleeping environment are important before and during your trip.
Remember the Montmorency tart cherries that you’ve been consuming? They are also a natural source of melatonin, and have been found to naturally help improve sleep quality and duration.
As aging baby boomers, there’s no getting around an occasional ache or pain from our adventures. But taking a proactive approach will put you in control of how your body deals with inflammation.
Disclosure: The Cherry Marketing Institute has sponsored this article. All opinions are my own.
And we’re back! Montana greeted us with mild temperatures and sunny skies—perfect weather for a weekend hike. Hopefully, we’ll see wildflowers.
And an Alaska cruise travel tip: If you’re disembarking in Vancouver and flying home the same day, don’t rely on a taxi to take you to the airport. Seabourn Sojourn was one of 4 ships disembarking when we ended our cruise in Vancouver. That’s a lot of people looking for taxis at the same time. And it could have been worse if one of the mega ships had been in port. Alan and I purchased seats on the bus to the airport provided by Seabourn. Booking private transportation is another option.
It’s hard to stand out among Montana’s stunning natural beauty, but if you make it to this incredible state, make sure to check out Glacier National Park. With breathtaking scenery and oodles of options for active travel, take a look at a few of our favorite things to see in gorgeous Glacier:
When Alan and I begin searching for flights for the next boomer travel adventure, we conduct a search on Skyscanner to find the most convenient flights with the best prices. It’s a great tool for researching flights. After finding the flight that’s right for us, we go to the airline website to see if their price matches the one we found on Skyscanner. When it comes to airlines and hotels, always book direct, if you can. Be sure to download their app for researching while you’re on the road: Skyscanner iOS App Download or Skyscanner Android App Download
Updated 06.06.2018: Since July 2014, we’ve been sharing our recommendations for top Montana travel apps. This is the most recent update that includes eliminating apps that are no longer published plus we introduce you to our latest finds. If you’re an app user who’s travel feet are itching for a trip to Montana, bookmark this page so that you don’t miss any updates. Or subscribe to the My Itchy Travel Feet Weekly Broadcast so you’ll be the first to know!
Top Montana Travel Apps
As Alan and I can tell you, active travel in Montana is a boomer’s dream come true. From romantic lodges in the middle of beautiful scenery to mountainous and lake-laden hiking options, Big Sky Country offers a seemingly never-ending array of active travel possibilities. Of course, taking full advantage of all that Montana has to offer means efficient planning is a must.
No matter your travel style, staying organized and up-to-date is vital to a successful boomer travel adventure. Are you planning a Montana hiking trip? Nothing compliments the magnificent natural splendor of the Treasure State like an offline hiking app for route finding. And stargazing will take on a whole new meaning with the help of an app that identifies what you are seeing in Montana’s dark skies. So download these must-have travel apps to make your trip to Montana the best it can be.
Montana Travel Guide by Triposo covers Missoula, Bozeman, Billings, Helena and other destinations in the state. The app also includes information on where to eat and what to see plus booking capability. Free in the App Store and on Google Play, in-app purchases offer further enhancements.
Looking for a campsite? Recreation.gov Camping app locates available campsites not only at National Parks but also in the National Forest and other Federal Recreation Facilities. And there are a ton of them in Montana! Information is instantly available for campsites, RV slips, cabins day-use and other sites. Free. Available at the Apple App Store.
Road Trippers Apphas the best road trip ideas, not only for Montana, but the rest of the U.S. as well. Discover and navigate to over 60,000 awesomely unique and independent places all around the U.S.A. With an extensive list of under-the-radar spots like drive-ins, quirky landmarks and hotels, film and tv sites and hidden scenic points of interest, Road Trippers has got all the information needed to make your next road trip chock full of interesting information. Available for iPhone. Free. An in-app purchase offers enhanced experiences.
Montana Department of Travelapp includes detailed information for those looking to road trip through the state. The state sponsored app includes Montana travel conditions for roadways, travel alerts, construction details and more. Available on iTunes and Android for free.
Montana’s weather changes by the hour. Weather Live provides meteorological data on precipitation, pressure, humidity, wind direction and visibility. The animated weather radar map lets you quickly see if weather is coming your way. The Free version has annoying popup ads. Go with the paid premium version on iOS for $2.99. Android version is $1.99.
Travel Apps for Making the Most of Your Trip
Going to the Sun Road GyPSy – GPS Tour Guideplays automatically as you enjoy this most scenic drive in Glacier National Park. Listen to stories, insider tips, plus learn about what to see and do. Available at the App Store. $4.99.
Star Walk 2 Night Sky Map is your guide to viewing the Montana night sky. Explore 20,000 celestial bodies as the app follows your body movements in real time. Our state is known for its very dark skies. Of course you’ll need a wifi or cell phone signal. Available on iTunes. $1.99
Wildflowers of Montana helps you identify all of the gorgeous wildflowers you’ll see in Montana’s woods and forests. Includes descriptions and photos for over 3,300 species of plants. Free at the App Store and Google Play.
Gaia GPS Hiking Maps, Hike App is the perfect resource for outdoor nature lovers because it offers up-to-date topographic maps, satellite imagery, and road maps of many of our national parks. Gaia GPS offers reliable GPS information that will guide you off-the-beaten-path into lesser-explored backcountry. Available on iTunes and Android for $19.99.
Map My Hike – GPS Hiking Tracker & Trail Finder offers an in-depth and interactive hiking guide. With millions of hiking trails in its database, this app is a great tool for any hiker anywhere. Map My Hike uses built-in GPS technology to enable users to track and record hikes. Additionally, the live tracking feature lets hiking companions communicate their locations on the map in real time. Available for iTunes and Android. Free.
AllTrails: Hike, Bike & Run app is one of those gifts that just keeps on giving, especially for avid recreationalists. For those trail blazers out there or even for those first-timers, All Trails (formerly Every Trail) lets you prepare by providing trail lengths, ratings, view photos provided by other hikers, bikers and runners. It even lets you track and map your own route. Available on iTunes and Android for free but includes in-app purchase.
The Hiker Alert app is an indispensable tool for any hiker of any level. The app lets users record and share vital information with friends and family as you explore the trails. If you don’t check in on time, HikerAlert will send alert messages to your emergency contacts. Works on any mobile device. No download necessary, just register from any browser. Free.
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From luxury cruises to road trips, our Travel App Reviews have you covered. Click on through to see.
We love an early summer road trip, don’t you? Long days and mild weather makes for a lot of options to choose from, especially in sunny California. Guest contributor, Susan Guillory from The Unexplorer, recently took a trip through California and is here to tell us all the things to do and see while on a Central Coast road trip.
Ah, road trips. There’s nothing quite like them, is there? Rather than suffering the stress of delayed flights, exorbitant fees for checked bags, and then lost luggage, you get to enjoy exploring an area, singing at the top of your lungs, and having heart-to-heart conversations with the people you love.
The rolling countryside on the Central Coast is breathtaking.
Recently I drove from San Diego up to Central Coast (Cambria, Morro Bay, San Simeon, and Paso Robles) with my two closest friends, Lori and Sandra. I wanted to share a few of the experiences we think you should have the next time you’re in San Luis Obispo County.
Central Coast Road Trip #1: Visit Hearst Castle
I know I’m not being unique in saying that Hearst Castle is a must-see spot, but the fact is: I don’t go to many tourist attractions, and this is one I’m glad I visited. Visit SLO CAL set me and my friends up with the Grand Rooms Tour, which showed us only a fraction of the mansion with 56 bedrooms and 61 bathrooms.
The indoor pool at Hearst Castle.
William Randolph Hearst (who founded Hearst Media, which now owns several magazines you probably read regularly) was committed to building a “little bungalow” on the thousands of acres he inherited from his family. What he ended up with was a 28-year commitment that he dedicated his life to.
Hearst was passionate about collecting art and furniture from around the world, and his awe-inspiring home is crammed with his eclectic finds.
Book more than one tour. The tour we went on took an hour and a half, and we were left wanting more. Also: the gardens are free to tour, and are great photo opps!
Central Coast Road Trip #2: Allegretto Vineyard Resort
Inland from San Simeon, which is where Hearst Castle is, about a 50 minute drive, is Paso Robles, Central Coast’s answer to Napa Valley. The town is known for its 200 wineries, and is conveniently situated along a major interstate.
The saltwater pool is inviting after a day of wine tasting!
We were provided a comped room at Allegretto Vineyard Resort, which, unfortunately, has set my standards a bit higher for hotel stays going forward (it’s unfortunate because I can’t afford to often stay in such luxury!).
Has this article inspired to go on a California adventure? Start your search for hotels in California with us.
The resort is an Italian-style villa nestled among its own grapevines. So in addition to staying in lavish accommodations, you can also sample and buy their wine! We had a tasting and enjoyed everything from a bright Viognier to several diverse Cabernet Sauvignons.
The suite we were given was spacious, filled with modern decor, and had a bathroom not easily rivaled. Throughout the resort, magnificent art from around the world (a bit like Hearst Castle in that) accented nooks and corners of the hotel.
Stay more than one night! We could have easily stayed a week and never left the property. But if you do, Paso Robles is just minutes away. Also enjoy the saltwater pool and a cabana with friends. Two thumbs up!
Central Coast Road Trip #3: Explore Morro Bay
On our way home, we stopped for a few hours in Morro Bay, a delightful seaside village known for its large rock formation called, no surprise, Morro Rock. It emerged from the fog as we enjoyed brunch at Blue Sky Bistro on the Bay.
Pirate Steve delights visitors to Morro Bay.
After an amazing Eggs Benedict and mimosas, we strolled along the Embarcadero, popping into some great shops and even quenching our thirst (it had been an hour since those mimosas!) at Libertine Brewing.
Look for Pirate Steve across from Libertine Brewing. He’s a delightful local character who has been swashbuckling and taking photos with visitors for over 20 years.
One thing was clear after our road trip: we need to go back to the Central Coast! There was far too much to do for a long weekend, so we’re ready for Round 2 already!
Have anything to add to our recommendations on what to see while on a Central Coast road trip? Come join the conversation at the My Itchy Travel Feet page on Facebook. Or send us an emailwith your thoughts.
Hello from rocky seas on the way to Victoria, B.C. What a week Alan and I had in Alaska—gorgeous weather and a couple of wonderful shore excursions that I can’t wait to tell you about. Leaving Alaska, the seas turned rough, I put on the sea-bands, took half of a seasick pill and slept through a bouncy ride. Alan, lucky guy, enjoyed watching the action from Deck 10 as he has no problem with seasickness. Although we’ve enjoyed our 42 days on Seabourn Sojourn, wildflower season in Montana is calling our name. We can’t wait to arrive home!
This month, we’re talking all about beautiful Montana. Most people have heard about this state’s immense natural beauty, but since Alan and Donna live here, we’ll spill the secrets about how to best see it in all of its glory! If you’re planning a trip, make sure to check out our Montana Travel Planning Guideto get started. Then, you might want to check out our other resources such as our tips for Montana Lodging as well as Hiking in Montana.
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Hiking is by far one of our most favorite activities to do while traveling, especially when exploring beautiful exotic lands. As part of our Hiking around the World series, guest contributor Shaly Pereira from traveltoes85, is here to share with us her experience hiking in the Himalayas.
Trekking in Uttarakhand, India
Ever imagined a place where you can view snow clad mountains the minute you open your eyes at sunrise? Well, I found the perfect place, high up in the Kumaon hills in Uttarakhand, India.
This place – Jilling Terraces – owned me. Apart from its sheer beauty and spectacular views, it also offered that peace and tranquility that is the trademark of lesser known places around the world – those not yet stamped upon by hordes of tourists. Add to this the excitement of this being my first solo trekking trip in India and I was well and truly hooked.
The Train Experience
I flew from Oman (my base) into New Delhi, stayed overnight with a friend and took the early morning Shatabdi Express train to Nainital in Uttarakhand. Let me confess. This was also the first time I was traveling solo by train within India, so I had my fair share of fears. Stepping into the first class compartment though, I felt pretty foolish. The interiors were spotlessly clean and had plush, pushback seats (much better than the low-cost flight carriers). My fellow travelers were businessmen, yuppie backpackers, honeymoon couples and tourists visiting India. That long six hours journey flew by seemingly in a couple of hours, as I was served snacks and lunch (all included in the ticket price.)
The Drive to Matial Village Base Camp
The train chugged into Khatgodam Railway Station at noon and a cab driver from Jilling Terraces met me as I walked out. From here it was a one-hour 15-minute drive to Matial Village Base Camp. About 45 minutes into the drive, we stopped at the Bhimtal Lake, the largest lake in Nainital.
Beautiful views surround Bhimtal Lake.
The rest of the drive was all uphill on winding roads with hard mountain terrain on one side and a sheer valley drop on the other. My driver was obviously an expert but that didn’t stop me from having some heart-stopping moments when we approached blind spots or braked to let a couple of teetering trucks drive past. The challenge, however, began only when we came to a stop at the base camp, where my first hike began.
Hiking is not only good for your health – views like this are good for the soul.
Hiking in the Himalayas: Boomer friendly?
The porter/guide who met me gave me a quizzical once over as if to say – “Hey boomer lady, are you sure you’re up to this?” He, I discovered was as nimble as a goat – even with the weight of my backpack on his shoulders, he was off climbing the path that led steadily upwards. I followed and about ten minutes into the hike, I was treated to beautiful views of terraced fields, storybook houses, high mountains and emerald valleys. At first, my stops were simply to shoot pictures, but soon they became more of a respite to catch my breath.
Some of the trails are not for the faint of heart!
Thirty minutes later, I faced those typical challenges that all hikers learn to expect. Under my feet was a rock-cut narrow path that screamed for attention. One wrong move and I would go slipping backward. I hugged my Nikon protectively against me and labored upwards, my breathing tortuous and loud in my ears. At a corner I came across my guide sitting on a ledge, waiting for me. He offered me fresh lime juice which I gulped down in a flash. Then I fished out an apple and energy bar from my backpack and after a few minutes rest we were off again; or rather he was off and I trudged behind, munching my apple and thinking alarming thoughts. John Muir came to mind – “In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” I sure hoped, at the top, along with nature’s bounties, I would also get a comfortable bed that I could just collapse on.
About forty minutes into the trek, I realized the forest had thickened around us. No more expansive views now, just rows and rows of thick foliage and vegetation. My guide pointed out varieties of trees and flowers – the blood-red Buransh, yellow wildflowers, Kafal trees, white plum blossoms – in a months time this forest would have a profusion of colors, he explained. The beauty and the silence were therapeutic and as I began to breathe in the pure oxygen I felt a sense of rejuvenation and hope. I didn’t know what I was hoping for, but it sure felt good to be alive.
Towards the last leg of my climb, I was joined by two adorable canines from a nearby village who begged to share my energy bar and trekked alongside for a short distance. Finally, after walking for what seemed like an endless eternity, my guide announced we would be reaching in about five minutes.
My first view of Jilling Terraces was partially eclipsed by a magnificent view of the mountains. Directly opposite the property and rising to a height of over 7,000 feet, is the Nanda Devi (bliss giving goddess) Himalayan mountain range. In the glow of the evening sun, the snow-capped peaks seemed to be undulating in a mesmerizing wave – or was I just feeling giddy with relief that I had finally reached the top? Gratefully, I drank the cool water that was offered to me by my gracious hosts and turned my attention to Jilling Terraces.
The views are truly magnificent!
The Chestnut House, according to the hotel website, is 80 years old and was built by a Sanskrit scholar for his Polish doctor wife who was pining for the cool climate of her home country. The present decor of the Colonial style bungalow is an intriguing blend of contemporary and rustic design – pretty easy to get lost in the ambiance of bonfires and bookshelves as I discovered in the next couple of days.
This was a welcomed sight for sore eyes after a day of hiking!
The rooms are all designed with local fruit and flower themes. I was staying in the Buransh suite, so everything in my room was fashioned after the red Buransh flower, from the deep red lounger to the red motifs on the headboard and the wall art. The vase of fresh Buransh flowers on the coffee table lent that final personal touch.
After a long day of hiking, a comfortable bed is essential!
Just look at that deep red color!
A Culinary Experience like no other
The cuisine of the Kumaon (Mountain) people distinctly reflects their Indo-Aryan, Indo-Iranian ancestry and during my stay at Jilling Terraces, I got to experience some authentic cuisine by native Kumaoni cooks. Everything that comes to the table is sourced from local farmers – simple yet delicious. In typical Asian fashion, there is a deep bond between the heart and the stomach.
Crispy Okras tossed in pepper and onions, Red and yellow Lentils immersed in seasonings, Mint flavored aromatic chutneys, Cottage Cheese, and Eggplant delicacies, Chestnut Parathas, Spiced potatoes – all aimed to delight vegetarian taste buds. The meat lover in me found inspiration in Chilli Chicken and succulent pieces of mutton stewed in a copper pot with fragrant spices. The Italian Pizzas and Pasta should have clashed with the Chinese Momos and Manchurian, but surprisingly they didn’t. I washed it all down with the juice of the Buransh flower, which incidentally is a cure for heart ailments.
Certain Kumaoni sweet dishes are native to Uttarakhand – Singori (sweetmeat in a leaf), Bal Mithai (Caramalised fudge made from cottage cheese) or the evergreen flaky melt-in-the-mouth Son Papdi.
Though I didn’t get to taste it at Jilling Terraces, this mountain region is also famous for its Bhaang (Cannabis) Chutney made out of ground hemp seeds – yes, you read it right.
Hiking in the Himalayas
At the end of every hike (and there were quite a few) I wanted to plant my own little flag of accomplishment – except I couldn’t muster up the energy to do so.
I had heard of Leopard sightings too but was told they were not common. According to my guide, Bedh Prakash, the last leopard was spotted in November 2017, near the villages. He also made light of the threat a leopard would pose, adding that a human was much more dangerous. True mountain logic that. Still, I didn’t want to put it to the test, not when Bedh was only armed with a thin walking stick and a flask of ginger tea.
The hiking trails took me through natural paths, dense forest areas, makeshift temples, some steep climbs and sinuous river streams.
Kanarkha Hiking Trail: Distance – 8 km, Difficulty – Medium, Hiking time – 6 hrs
This trail is at an incline of 70 degrees all the way to the mountain ridge where you are treated to panoramic valley views, terraced fields, and vegetable gardens. The city of Nainital is also visible in the distance. This is also the place to head to if you want to view a spectacular sunset. The Nanda Devi Himalayan Range is always visible – icily stoic and unmoving – as if mocking the transience of lesser beings.
To get to the Kanarkha Village, take the downhill path from the ridge and walk for another hour until you reach the simple yet idyllic village. You can meet the people of this village and experience their content lifestyle.
A beautiful mountain top villa in Bhimtal, Uttarakand.
Panyali Trail: Distance – 6.5 km, Difficulty – Medium, Hiking time – 5 hrs
A comfortable hike with less inclination than the Kanarkha trail, this trail leads you through the thick forest to the picturesque Panayali Village. This is village hospitality at its best. Surrounded by pine and deodar trees you can continue walking uphill and have a picnic at the top ridge of the mountain. A 360-degree view of the valleys around is an added treat.
The most perfect spot to rest and enjoy the scenery!
Gaula River Trail: Distance – 6.5 km, Difficulty – Hard, Hiking time – 8 hrs
This is a strenuous hike and only experienced hikers are encouraged to walk this path. Once you get to the Panayali Village, continue downhill until you get to the gently flowing Gaula River. Chirping birds, Perennial streams, cascading waterfalls and clear natural pools are in plenty, however, the rocks that lead to these water bodies are slippery and caution is advised. Once you get to the pools, you can take a dip (not during monsoons). This is where you feel thankful for the packed lunch and refreshments carried by the guides.
It was a nice treat to see the trees in full bloom!
The Return of the Lone Traveler
When I finally bid goodbye to my mountain retreat, it was with a sense of deep self-actualization. I had found the colors of my spirit in those deep forests, walking alone through crooked paths, where everything seemed straight, through misty weather, where it was all crystal clear, in the dead of silence, where I heard everything and on paths strewn with dead leaves, where I felt completely alive.
My return trek down to the Matial Village was done in an easy 45 minutes. Again a drive and the 6-hour train journey back to Delhi.
I was briefly disoriented as I stepped into the bedlam of Delhi traffic at 9.30 pm – honking cars, screeching tires, dodging auto-rickshaws and the jostling impatience of people all headed somewhere.
My peaceful time up in the mountains seemed like a dream.
Looking to find a travel destination that combines adventure, romance and luxury? Why not consider going on an African safari!
Alan and Donna spent the last week exploring beautiful Japan. Now, they are headed back to this side of the world via Alaska. We know how much the traveling duo love the Last Frontier State, but in case you need reminding take a look at their previous Alaskan adventures:
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This Week’s Articles
Planning a road trip through California? Well make sure to hit up the wineries in San Luis Obispo County! Our guest post this week takes us on a tour of this lovely area, sipping in some of its best wineries!
Lounging around the pool on a cruise is a great way to relax, but sometimes you have to stretch your legs. Check out Alan and Donna’s tour of beautiful Prunelli Gorge on an Ajaccio Shore Excursion while visiting Corsica.