Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Humphrey's Peak: Arizona's highest point.

For my non-American readers, 12,633 feet is 3851 meters.

The air was a little thinner than what I'm used to (just over 1000 feet), but besides huffing and puffing more than usual, it wasn't bad.

Views were great, especially with the aspen putting on their spectacular fall show.

And yes, the hat and gloves were very much appreciated. If was right, it couldn't have been more than 33-34 F (1 C) with winds up to 25 mph (40 kph). Coming from Phoenix, where we've barely started cooling down to highs in the high 80s (low 30s C) it was quite an abrupt change. When the wind really came up as I was hiking down from the peak on those treeless, rocky slopes, my nose and lips on the windward side of my face actually felt numb for a few minutes. :)

Fantastic hike!

Fantastic day!

Total hike stats (including the jaunt at the end into the gorgeous fall aspen grove, down to the Arizona Trail, and back up to the trailhead):

Distance: 11 miles / 17.5 km
Elevation Gain: 3953 feet (1205 m)
Geocaches Found: 1
Friends Made at the Peak: 4
Squirrels Watched: several
Aspen Gawked at: many more
Maximum Layers Worn: 4
Pictures Taken: 205
Other Times in my Life I've Stood at such High Elevation: 0

More details later, should you care to try this yourself.

Thursday, October 10, 2019

A Year in Vsetin--Time-Lapse Video

This is one of the reasons an Arizona girl like me loves Czech (the Czech Republic):

I miss seasons. 

Monday, October 7, 2019

Pier 91 in Seattle--Budget Style

So, if you've read much of my blog or my books, you know I'm a budget traveler...who also likes cruising.  These two things are generally a bit at odds.

So, how does a budget cruiser get to the cruise port to board her ship?  Why, she takes public transportation or walks, of course.

Sometimes this is a snap, like in Vancouver.  Pier 66 in Seattle isn't too bad either, though it may require some stairs or steep streets.  But Seattle's Pier 91 (Smith Cove Terminal) is a bit more exciting.

We stayed the night before in Seattle, as I always advise, so we began our trip from downtown.  Since I was traveling with my mom, who is a super trooper--but cannot walk as far or as vigorously as I can--I'd booked a hostel (yes, a hostel, not a hotel) near a bus route that went straight to Magnolia, past the Smith Cove Terminal (currently buses #33 and #24).  The morning of embarkation, I dragged my mom and our suitcases to the bus stop, hauled everything on, paid our fare--in exact change--and set off.  This particular trip, the in-route entertainment was provided by a good mother singing and doing fingerplays with her cute little baby.  After a bit of a ride, we saw our ship and the Magnolia Bridge.  This is the point where you should ask the driver where to let you off.'s not exactly impressive or obvious.

The bus stopped and we were the only ones it dumped out on the side of the road on the Magnolia bridge.  I have a feeling only a small percentage of cruisers arrive by this particular method.

Here's the view:

See that staircase going beneath the bridge?  Well, here's a closer view:

Yup.  Walk toward that elegant loading dock with the topsy-turvy pile of cardboard boxes.  Then haul your suitcases down the rusty staircase into the dark underbelly of this concrete bridge:

Carry both suitcases on the stairs, but let your poor mom pull hers down the ramp:

Navigate through the closed gate, down more steps, and past the guardhouse where there may or may not be a guard who barks, "You can't come through here--you have to go back up" and then bursts out laughing at your faces.  Don't worry, he'll let you through.

Now all you have to do is walk to that ship in the distance.

My mom was amazing!

Price: $2.75 for adults, $1 for seniors
All the adventure and the humble-brag rights:  priceless

For tips on having your own budget adventures in Alaska and the Northwest, read my travel guides:

Friday, October 4, 2019

Plane on a Train? How Can That Be?

Here's something you don't see every day:

I was in downtown Seattle and looked up and thought, "What?"

A plane.  On a train.  Just chugging along the tracks. 

Okay, so it wasn't quite a plane yet.  The wings weren't attached, and it was all shrink-wrapped like beef jerky.  I guess you have to move planes around sometimes. I just hadn't thought of it much before.

Before I traveled between Germany and Denmark, I'd never imagined trains on boats, either, but our train pulled right onto the ferry.  Amazing stuff. 

It all goes to show...trains are COOL. 

The whole thing reminded me of Dr Seuss in Hop on Pop:

Friday, September 27, 2019

Klondike Gold Rush National Historic Park Visitor Center--Seattle Unit

Of all the museums you can visit in Seattle, this one probably has the longest name.   It's also awesome.

If you're interested in the Klondike Gold Rush or history in general, you'll love this.  And if you're in Seattle on your way to Alaska or the Klondike, just like the gold rushers, this will be of particular interest.  

The museum is extremely well put together.  I especially like how you can follow about six  historical characters' stories from Seattle to the Klondike and the aftermath of the Gold Rush.  I also love the "passport" they give you that you can stamp or do rubbings on at different stations.  The short film is excellent.  There are demonstrations, talks, and even walking tours.  The displays are good.  The signs are full of information about how life really was for these adventurers--not just dry facts and dates.  The museum is big enough to easily hold your attention for a couple of hours (or more), but small enough not to be overwhelming.  Just like its sister museum in Skagway, this is a fantastic place, made even more fantastic by the fact that it's FREE!  If you can, donate a couple of dollars to help support this awesome museum.  

Sobering statistics about who struck it rich in the Klondike (though many people who didn't find any gold at all talked fondly about how it was the biggest adventure of their lives):

Here's the wheel you spin to see if you would have been one of those lucky few:

I struck it rich!

Possible routes to the Klondike, all with pros and cons.  One station challenges you to decide which route you would take.

And here's a simple little packing list.  The Klondike Gold Rush was arguably the thing that turned Seattle into a thriving city.  Provisioning all those gold rushers was quite a boon for the economy.

Just imagine carrying all that up the Chilkoot Pass!  

For more on Skagway, Alaska and the Klondike Gold Rush, check out my article on Go Nomad: "Skagway, Alaska and the Yukon Route Railroad"

For tips on traveling to these places yourself, read my travel guides:

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

A Grand--but Empty--Train Station

The magnificent train station in Seattle, Washington:

It's beyond beautiful.  But take a look at that departures board.

Here's a close-up:

This seems to be departures AND arrivals.  The evening's train schedule includes 6 entries.  And three of them aren't even trains.  I can't help comparing this to Prague's train station, where there would be four much-larger displays full of dozens of departing trains...just for the next couple of hours.  Or even the train station in Vsetin (population around 27,000), on a somewhat out-of-the-way rail line, where there are often 2-3 departures within any given hour.

I miss Europe.

I found the lone employee at the empty ticket desk at the Seattle train station.  He was, in fact, the only person in the whole building besides me and my travel companion.  I asked him how many train departures there are per day.  "Seven," he said, after a bit of thought.

That's far better than Arizona's options.  If you live in Phoenix, for example (capital city, biggest city in the state), your train options are these:

-Find a sketchy bus connection or a friend to take you to Maricopa, the train station out in the middle of nowhere, late at night, so you can catch one of the trains that leave at the impressive frequency of 3 times per week each direction (east and west).  Want to go north or south?  Sorry.  Want to go on a certain day?  Sorry.

-Take a bus for over 3 hours to Flagstaff, walk a fair distance to the train station, and if you've timed it right, take the one daily train eastward or the one daily train westward. 

Sigh.  At least our bus options are a little better.   And boy have we got freeways.      

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

A review of my story, "Foreign Bodies."

I just got a mention in an article by Karen Burnham in Locus Magazine.  She reviewed recent science fiction and fantasy in Deep Magic, Constellary Tales, Samovar, and Strange Horizons.  That included my sci-fi story, "Foreign Bodies," published in Deep Magic.  It's one of my favorite tales from my Colony series. 

Read here to see what she said about my work:  Focus Magazine:  Karen Burnham Reviews Short Fiction