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Road Trip to the Rockies: Two Days in Ouray!

January 19-20, 2018

Want to know what to do for two days in Ouray during winter? Here are a few ideas for the top things to do in Ouray.

WHERE TO STAY:

Stay at The China Clipper Inn. I scored a room for $100/night just a month before this busy weekend. This spectacular Bed & Breakfast is located in town just one block off Main Street. The China Clipper Inn is wonderfully decorated. It’s living room includes a fireplace which is very nice to enjoy during the winter months. It’s breakfast is great. It includes warm items like eggs, quiche, potatoes, ham and bacon, as well as mouth watering muffins and a lovely fruit salad. Of course it also includes coffee, tea ,juice, cereals and breads too. My room had its own fireplace! It is a really great, quaint place nearby everything.

 

TOP THINGS TO DO:

1. Visit the ice park. If you are an ice climber then go climb. During the Ouray Ice Festival it is best to take a clinic as the park is crowded and it is hard to find a rope if a clinic isn’t arranged. If you are not a climber, go watch the festival and visit the free climbing demo area. The festival boasts climbers from around the world and several exhibitors. An small ice climbing area is set up for visitors who want to try the sport.

2. Go for a hike/snowshoe: While it has been cold all over the USA this year, Colorado has been unseasonably warm. As such, snowshoes weren’t necessary for most of the hike I took to Portland Mine. The trailhead can be found at the Ampitheater Campground just above the ice park. The roundtrip hike, approximately six miles, not counting the quarter mile climb up the road leads the hiker through an evergreen forest, past a few aspen stands, to a nice view point, across a creek, and finally to historic ruins of the Portland Mine. It is a nice hike and can be turned into a variety of loops as well.

3. Visit Ironton Park: Just five miles outside of town is a ghost town called Ironton. Many nordic trails both groomed and ungroomed surround the townsite. We followed a simple two-mile loop with minimal elevation gain/loss and explored the town beneath the falling snow. Fortunately, it wasn’t windy, and we enjoyed an excellent morning at the park.

4. Check out a show at the Wright Opera House: The Opera House puts on movies, lectures, music shows and theater. While we were in town, we went to see a Bluegrass Band called Rapidgrass. We quickly coined the lead man, young Willie Nelson, as he sported a headband and braids. Sure enough, about five songs into the band’s set, they were playing Willie!

5. Stroll Main Street: The Main Street of Ouray is designated a National Historic District. The town of 800 people was established in the late 1800’s by miners chasing silver and gold in the surrounding mountains. It is a picturesque town.

6. Visit the Hot Springs: I’m not a big hot springs person, but for those that are, the hot springs are just on the edge of town.

WHERE TO EAT/DRINK:

Brickhouse 737: This is an upscale restaurant serving American food. Definitely make a reservation during busy weekends. The brussell sprouts are some of the best I’ve had. While my hangar steak wasn’t cooked to my desired temperature, everyone’s meals were quite flavorful. I think the mushroom ravioli that Scott ordered might have been the best!

Buen Tiempo: Being a Texan, I was somewhat opposed to go to a Mexican food restaurant in a Colorado mountain town. Much to my surprise the margaritas were excellent! The chips, fortunately fresh and crispy, could use a little salt, but the salsa was decent. I ordered fajitas which were good, and it seemed everyone else enjoyed their meal. It is a little pricey for lunch, but in a mountain town with a limited amount of restaurants, it didn’t break the bank.

Coachlight: This restaurant is off Main Street which gives those who didn’t plan ahead with a reservation during a busy weekend a chance to have a meal at reasonable time and price. My French Dip was great and the salads looked great!

Ourayle Brewery: AKA Mr. Grumpy Pants is an eclectic bar. I’m not a beer connoisseur, but I felt like the smoked brown was tasty. I loved the atmosphere as well. Sarcastic signs peppered the walls which were entertaining to read. Sit by the cozy fire and take in the atmosphere or try your hand at a homemade “catapult” game for lack of a better word. Apparently, it is hard to shoot the ball into the hole, but I managed on my first try, much to the amazement of some guys at the bar.

 

WANT TO VACATION SOONER?  IF SO, THIS VACATION CLUB IS FOR YOU!

Get the gist here: http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/can-i-do-it

Want more details, click here: http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/featured

To browse experiences or to sign up, click here: http://www.bethbankhead.dreamtrips.com

SHOP

For notecards and key chains visit My Shop on this website or Etsy.  A portion of the sales are donated to charity and a travel story is associated with each one.

Chosen to hang in photography exhibit at the Colorado Springs Airport

PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

Want to travel and learn photography.  Join my business partner Colin Hocking in Merritt Island on April 26-29, 2018

 

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Roadtrip to the Rockies: Ron Stewart Preserve

January 14, 2018

Trail(s): Indian Mesa Trail and Eagle Wind Trail
Location: Ron Stewart Preserve at Rabbit Mountain
Fees: Free
Website: https://www.bouldercounty.org/open-space/parks-and-trails/ron-stewart-preserve-rabbit-mountain/
Distance: 4 miles

The nice part about winter in Colorado is I can hike in the afternoon without the threat of a thunderstorm which is quite the opposite in the summer time.  As a result, I’ve been enjoying the fading light on my recent outings.

Today Maybel and I took a road trip to Ron Stewart Preserve at Rabbit Mountain which is part of Boulder, County Open Space.  The park located in the eastern most foothills of Boulder County boasts 6.2 miles of trails.

I started out following the gravel road on Indian Mesa Trail that rose to an intersection with Eagle Wind Trail.  The rocky terrain was easy to navigate as the elevation gain was minimal…around 350 feet.  The Eagle Wind Trail is a 2.5 lollipop loop that provides expansive views of the valley below and a panoramic view of the Rocky Mountains beyond.

Countless hikers were out enjoying the warm weather prior to the incoming storm.  We shared the trail and eventually descended toward the parking lot as the sunset.  What a nice, peaceful outing!  ETB

WANT TO VACATION SOONER?  IF SO, THIS VACATION CLUB IS FOR YOU!

Get the gist here: http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/can-i-do-it

Want more details, click here: http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/featured

To browse experiences or to sign up, click here: http://www.bethbankhead.dreamtrips.com

SHOP

For notecards and key chains visit My Shop on this website or Etsy.  A portion of the sales are donated to charity and a travel story is associated with each one.

PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP

Want to travel and learn photography.  Join my business partner Colin Hocking in Merritt Island on April 26-29, 2018

 

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Climbing Castle Rock at Rock Park

January 8, 2018

Trail(s): Paul Hill Trail and John Emerson Summit Trail
Location: Rock Park
Fees: Free
Website: http://www.crgov.com/Facilities/Facility/Details/Rock-Park-68
Distance: 1.4 miles

Today we decided to take a short road trip and explore Castle Rock.  I feel like I’ve driven by it at least 100 times.  It’s hard to miss as the butte towers above the flat plains and I-25.  It’s a bit of a drive from Denver for only a 1.4 mile trail, so the outing turned into watching the sunset and grabbing dinner afterward in Littleton Town Square.  We read that the short trail would take an hour which seemed sort of long, so we expected the climb up to the rock to be hard despite only gaining 300+ feet in half a mile.

We followed the gradual incline around the “back” of the rock as we passed scrub oak and small pinon on the hillside.  We quickly reached the base of “Castle” whose ledges were decorated by nesting pigeons.  We spiraled around the base to find the climbing area that would get us to the summit.

This 75 feet required rock scrambling.  Fortunately, the rock was course, almost like cement, so hand and foot holds were easy to find.  We squeezed through a narrow crevice and quickly the flat top of the butte.  I don’t think it took us more than 20 minutes in total, but I also wasn’t counting.  Regardless, the sun was quite setting yet, so we played around making shadows.

 

 

Eventually we enjoyed the setting sun, though the original forecast for some clouds didn’t really pan out, so there were only a few pink clouds in the sky. All in all, it was still pretty and we were gladly we finally climbed the rock we pass by regularly!

Oh well…we still savored some cajun food.  ETB

WANT TO VACATION SOONER?  IF SO, THIS VACATION CLUB IS FOR YOU!

Get the gist here: http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/can-i-do-it

Want more details, click here:http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/featured

To browse experiences or to sign up, click here:http://www.bethbankhead.dreamtrips.com

For notecards, key chains, or photographs, visit Etsy.  A portion of the sales are donated to charity and a travel story is associated with each one.

Roadtrip to the Rockies: Deer Mountain Trail

January 1, 2018

Trail(s): Deer Mountain Trail
Location: Rocky Mountain National Park
Fees: Review website as they are in flux
Website: https://www.nps.gov/romo/index.htm
Distance: 6 miles

It was a cold New Year’s day, but I really wanted to start the new year by getting outside.  I checked the forecast all week, and even on New Year’s Day, it was expected to be warmer in Estes Park than in Denver.  This is unusual, but was also encouraging as I loaded up my car with my backpack, micro-spikes, and multiple layers of clothing!

The drive to Rocky Mountain National Park was a bit slow with construction and a long line at the entrance as only one ranger was working the gate and the automated park pass lane closed.  Thankfully, he moved cars along rather quickly.  Soon I reached the trailhead located on the Northeast side of park to which I don’t visit often.

The intermittent snow-packed and dirt path climbs for the first two miles, so despite the windy conditions which didn’t make it into the forecast, I only donned five layers…short sleeves, long sleeves, ski sweater, fleece vest, and windbreaker.  I left my puffy jacket in my pack.

As I climbed the trail, I turned to the west to enjoy magnificent views of the surrounding granite peaks and mountain valleys.  It didn’t take long to make another stop to shed two outer layers of clothing and strap on my micro-spikes as the path turned mostly snowy.

Soon, I was following switchbacks through the spruce and fir forests as the trail steepened.  After about two and a quarter miles, the trail levels off in the shadow of the trees.  It was time to add on the two layers I shed plus my puffy!  This portion of the hike was very quiet and peaceful.

Finally, I reached a trail junction which indicated I had 0.2 miles to reach the summit.  I was rewarded with lovely views of the valleys below and surrounding mountains.  Strong winds encouraged me to head back down the mountain as I cooled off quickly.

Generally, I hike in the morning, but today I waited until the afternoon, and I found the landscape under the falling light to be beautiful.  As I drove out of the park, I was blessed to see the setting sun and a large herd of elk.  As it turned dark, the full moon rose from the horizon through the clouds.  I can’t even describe how spectacular the giant, light orange ball looked over the farmland.  Truly amazing!

This trail is perfect for a winter hike, and I’m glad I was able ring in 2018 out on a trail.  ETB

WANT TO VACATION SOONER?  IF SO, THIS VACATION CLUB IS FOR YOU!

Get the gist here: http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/can-i-do-it

Want more details, click here:http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/featured

To browse experiences or to sign up, click here:http://www.bethbankhead.dreamtrips.com

For notecards, key chains, or photographs, visit Notable Notecards or Niche Notecards on Etsy. A portion of the sales are donated to charity and a travel story is associated with each one.

Road Trip: Denver to Dallas (and Back)

December 19-27, 2017

I’ve made the trip to and fro Texas to Colorado many times.  Having said that, I haven’t made too many stops along the way.  Usually, I’m destination bound.  This year, I decided to make the road trip more interesting and found a variety of places to stop along the way.

These are some of the best luxury and nature places to visit between Denver and Dallas:

PLACES TO VISIT IN COLORADO

THE BROADMOOR

Fortunately, my friend Nancy is self-employed and has a flexible schedule like me.  As such, she was able to join me for dinner and a festive night at The Broadmoor.  The luxury resort is always adorned in Christmas lights during the holidays and it is fun to see the exquisite resort decked out in decorations.

Getting to the resort Tuesday afternoon was a bit rough given an accident on I-25 that held up traffic for 45 minutes, but I suppose our day was better than those involved in the crash.  We eventually arrived around five, got a room with a lovely view in the west tower, and strolled past the lake to Happy Hour where we enjoyed a drink and snacks at The Hotel Bar before enjoying a fancy dinner at The Summit.

Nancy order the “Angry Trout”, the Summit’s signature dish.  The fish is cooked with its tail pulled through its mouth, so it looks “Angry”.  I went with two appetizers: a mushroom, truffle bisque which was very rich and tasty as well as a magnificent bowl of mussels.  We ended the night enjoying the lights around the lake.

PALMER TRAIL (SECTION 16)

The palmer trail is located in Bear Creek Cañon Park which is owned by Colorado Springs.  The trailhead was only a 15 minute drive from the Broadmoor into the foothills very near the Red Rock Canyon Open Space.

The palmer Trail (section 16) was a bit of a misnomer at first.  We couldn’t find any trail signs that mentioned it.  We knew we were completing a loop however, so we followed the directions to Red Rock Loop which was also the most heavily traveled trail.

After about 1/2 mile we reached a trail junction with a detailed map and a post directing us up a steep slope which turned into several switchbacks.  We climbed for most of the next two miles or so before reaching a summit which afforded excellent views!

The trail, mostly a soft red dirt, led us through the forest down to High Drive, a dirt road blanketed in a thin layer of icy snow.  We took short careful steps along road before reaching the paved surface where we climbed u to the car.  I wasn’t terribly enthusiastic about having to walk on a paved road, but it wasn’t for very long, and otherwise the 5.2 mile hike was quite nice.

PLACES TO VISIT IN NEW MEXICO

CAPULIN VOLCANO NATIONAL MONUMENT

Capulin Volcano National Monument is home to an extinct volcano which erupted 60,000 years.  The national monument offers five trails which are all very short in length with the longest being two miles.  As such, the whole park may visited in an afternoon.

The most popular trails appeared to be the Crater Rim Trail and the Crater Vent Trail both located at the parking area by the cinder cone after driving the spiral road to the top.  For those who don’t like ledges like me, this was not the most exciting drive!

I hiked the Crater Rim Trail first which was the hardest in the sense of steepness.  The one-mile loop is paved, which was disappointing to me, but I can understand why as it circle the rim of the cone which rises over 1,300 feet above the plains and provides spectacular views of the surrounding area.

Next I followed the 0.2 mile Crater Vent Trail 105 feet down to the bottom of the crater and its plugged vent.  I don’t think I’ve ever been in the bottom of a volcano.

Finally, I drove back down toward the visitor’s center and stopped at the parking area for both Boca Trail and Lava Flow Trail.  Boca Trail is two miles while the Lava Flow Trail is only one mile.  I only felt like hiking one of the two paths, so I picked the longer one.  The path led me through dormant prairie grasses, scrub oak, junipers, pine trees, and chokecherry bushes for which the volcano is named.  Capulin is the Spanish word for chokecherry.

The information listed this two-mile hike as strenuous.  I didn’t find it to be difficult with the exception of stepping on small pieces of lava rock which seemed to roll on the hard surface making me slip a handful of times.

Overall, it was nice break to take from driving, though I don’t think this National Monument requires more than one visit.

PLACES TO VISIT IN TEXAS (NEAR AMARILLO)

PALO DURO CANYON STATE PARK

I have visited this state park once before, but it was a gloomy day and I only completed a short hike.  This time, upon arrival, I asked the ranger, “How far into the park is the Lighthouse Trail?”

She answered, but then asked, “Are you an avid hiker? Because I think the Lighthouse Trail is flat and somewhat boring, whereas the Givens, Spice, Lowry Trail undulates past a variety of scenery and connects to the Lighthouse Trail.”

Having heard that, I decided to follow the trail named after runners who helped build it rather than the most popular trail in the park which is also responsible for the most heat related injuries and deaths to people and pets.

Fortunately for me, I didn’t have to worry about warm temperatures.  It was hardly 40 degrees when I started and the sun was struggling to peak out from the thin layer of clouds.  While I hoped the fiery ball in the sky would brightly shine on the myriad of colors in the rock striations, at the same time, I didn’t want to get too hot on the eight mile hike.

I skipped along the trail fairly quickly as I only had three hours to complete which was barely enough time to truly enjoy the hike, but I still managed to stop and snap photos of cacti, hoodoos, and canyon walls peppered in shades of purples, browns, and oranges just to name of few.

Eventually, I reached “the end” of the lighthouse trail, but I recalled the ranger mentioned I could climb up to the rock formation.  In addition, I saw some people scrambling on the rocks.  The climb was steep, but not too difficult, and completely worth the effort!

I walked out on a plateau “book-ended” by two towering formations which provided fantastic views of the expansive canyon below.  I noticed the couple I had spotted earlier continued up a steep path to the top of one of the formations…so cool!  I’m so glad I followed them up.

I didn’t spot any wild life while hiking, but passed a deer on my drive in and flushed a bevy of dove hidden in the thick brush as I turned the corner.  That made me jump!  I suspect the desert topography would be quite pretty in the spring when the cacti are blooming.  I’ll definitely have to visit Palo Duro Canyon State Park again.

CAPROCK CANYONS STATE PARK

I was pleasantly surprised by this park.  With Palo Duro Canyon State Park being only an 1.5 hours away and being the second largest canyon in the United States, I believe Caprock Canyons State Park might get overlooked.  In addition, it is a little out of the way.

I arrived at this park on a very cold, overcast day, maybe 23 degrees.  While the weather muted the lovely colors of the canyon, I certainly kept cool while hiking and had the trail to myself!

The park offers a variety of trails.  I wanted to see the natural spring at Fern Cave, as such I connected three trails (Canyon Loop Trail, Upper Canyon Trail, and Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail) for an approximate 6.5 mile loop.  The trails are also named Trail D, C, and B, respectively that was helpful to know while following the trail markers.

This hike was fantastic!  At the beginning, I was lulled into a false sense of security while following a wide, smooth red trail past a variety of rock formations.  The information had suggested this was a strenuous hike, but at first this was not the case.  Soon, the wide trail turned into a single track which led me through a variety of vegetation.  All I could think was I’m glad I’m not here in the summer heat and bugs!

Soon I was following a wash and then I found myself climbing.  The climb was gradual up until I reached Fern Cave.  A small amount of water trickled over the rocks as I admired the ferns and ice-cycles at the same time!  From Fern Cave, the trail became a little confusing.  At a trail junction, a marker pointed with a large arrow to the left and a small arrow to the right but it didn’t indicate a trail letter.

As I climbed up, I remembered a split in the trail, and deduced the large arrow to the left that I was now seeing is just pointing to a return way back on the same trail C.  This turned out to be right, but I was certain until after referencing the map which suggested I needed to climb 0.2 miles to the highest point of the park before connecting to the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail.  Fortunately, I had my Fitbit on and watched the mileage as I bounded to the top and found several trail signs.

This trail offered fantastic views and if it weren’t so cold, I likely would have meandered rather slowly.  Having finished the climb and being exposed to the wind, I fought off a chill by running portions of this flat section while stopping occasionally to admire the multi-colored cliffs.

Soon I reached the descent which seemed much steeper than the climb.  I followed several rock stairs down to the trail from which I began.  This would be a very challenging hike in the Texas heat.  While I wasn’t enthusiastic about the cold weather, only having to carry a couple bottles of water was far better than what would be needed in the summer as indicated by the countless signs warning hikers to turn around if they didn’t have water.  I really enjoyed the landscape changes and variety on this path.

I would definitely come back to see other trails, the bison and the bats which are all part of this park.

THE MANSION BAR

The Mansion is a famous, luxury hotel in Dallas where many of the stars stay.  Its dark, traditionally decorated bar serves of course serves pricey cocktails, and I couldn’t imagine how my friend, Phil Pritchett’s rock band would fit in, but it did.  He put on show, dancing, playing the guitar, and belting out English cover songs along with his bass and drum players.  The British Are Coming plays there about twice a month where several regulars come to see them.  In fact, the people watching is worth the price of admission!

AT&T STADIUM AND THE COWBOYS

Well, most people say the stadium itself is worth visiting, and I believe a tour may be arranged, but we went to see the Cowboys.  Unfortunately, they did not have a very good Christmas Eve.  Regardless, it’s fun to go to a game!

WANT TO VACATION SOONER?  IF SO, THIS VACATION CLUB IS FOR YOU!

Get the gist here: http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/can-i-do-it

Want more details, click here:http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/featured

To browse experiences or to sign up, click here:http://www.bethbankhead.dreamtrips.com

For notecards, key chains, or photographs, visit Notable Notecards or Niche Notecards on Etsy. A portion of the sales are donated to charity and a travel story is associated with each one.

 

 

My First Hut Trip: Broome Hut!

December 15, 2017

Well, I have to start out by saying I had issues with my camera on this trip which is a bummer!  It might have something to do with a piece of metal stick out of the camera by the lens.  Anyway, focusing was a challenge, and I probably shouldn’t post my pics, but then not many of my fun friends would be included in this post about my first hut trip.

This was so fun, and I am so glad Erin included me in Brian’s 40th birthday celebration.  What a treat!  I’m ready to plan another trip…maybe this summer?

So Colorado has several “huts” in its backcountry for exploring its Rocky Mountain beauty.  The huts are essentially log cabins with a few bedrooms, a common area, a kitchen with necessary cooking utensils and usually running water, and an outhouse.  All hut users have to bring is a sleeping bag, clothes, and food.

Erin booked Broome Hut, part of the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association.  It is located near Winter Park and Berthoud Pass.  The snowshoe into the hut is only a mile, but it gains 800 feet in elevation.  While short, it definitely got our heart rate up.

We had the hut for one night.  I joined Brad and Angela for the hike up around 5pm on Friday, so we hiked in the snow in the dark!  I hadn’t ever done this and at first I wasn’t looking forward to a night time hike as the temperature was in the low twenties and I couldn’t take pictures.  Admittedly, however, I found it to be beautiful!

The snow on the evergreens glistened in our light of our headlamps.  An alpine glow shined in the distance.  The stars slowly appeared in the night sky.  And the trail was tracked out enough to follow without noticing the blue diamond trail markers.  Fortunately we had a map with us too, so at certain confusing junctions, we found our way.  I actually felt the snowshoe in the night was prettier than the hike out the next morning under the grey sky.

Anyway, we made it to the hut, found our shared rooms…three sets of bunk beds per two rooms along with a couple of private rooms.  The common room included a pellet burning stove which heated the place nicely.  The dinner crew whipped up a nice spaghetti dinner with salad, baguettes and a fantastic cheese cake dessert.  We hung around the table playing cards and chatting until tiredness visited.

The next morning the breakfast crew whipped up bacon, egg, and potato burritos with fruit salad.  It was a really fun evening.  I suspect the skiers would have liked more snow as the mountain was rather bare, but the non-skier in me liked the easy hike in and out on a packed base.  What an awesome birthday celebration!  ETB

WANT TO VACATION SOONER?  IF SO, THIS VACATION CLUB IS FOR YOU!

Get the gist here: http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/can-i-do-it

Want more details, click here:http://www.ratpacknation.net/pages/featured

To browse experiences or to sign up, click here:http://www.bethbankhead.dreamtrips.com

For notecards, key chains, or photographs, visit Notable Notecards or Niche Notecards on Etsy. A portion of the sales are donated to charity and a travel story is associated with each one.

Dreamtrip: Paradise Island, Bahamas

December 1-7, 2017

I felt like I needed some beach time in the winter, so I booked a trip through my vacation club, World Ventures, the largest private club in the world.  The club provides pre-packaged trips as well as a booking engine for flight, hotels, VRBO, cruises, and rental cars.  It also includes an online shopping mall with virtually every retailer as well as discounts at local restaurants and events.

I didn’t want to have to think about anything for this relaxing vacation, so I picked a four-night trip to the Bahamas.  I flew from Denver while my friend Max came from Dallas.  Miraculously, both of our flights were on time and our bags came off the carousels next to each other in baggage claim, so we were off to paradise quickly!

The Dreamtrip included airport transportation to the Warwick Paradise Island, but with only limited flight options on Sunday, we came in a day early and stayed at the British Colonial Hilton Nassau just next to all the shops and not far from the cruise ship port, which was filled by Norwegian, Disney, and all the other major chains.  The amenities at the Hilton included a nice pool and beach which we took advantage of as soon as possible.

It was already late afternoon with a very cool breeze, so we didn’t stay too long by the waterside, but enjoyed the sunset before returning to the room to change for dinner.  We strolled the streets of Nassau that were nicer than I expected though rather vacant as most of the ships left port before dark.  We picked from five or six restaurants that faced the waterway and enjoyed some seafood before turning in rather early since we were up at the crack of dawn.

The next day, we spent the morning at the Hilton before we transferred to the Warwick in the afternoon.  As I rarely allow myself lounge time at home, laziness was my top priority as I stretched out on the beach chair and indulged in the new Dan Brown book, Origin, that I patiently waited for a whole week to open.  In fact, I think beach vacations appeal to me, as they give me an excuse to veg out and enjoy a book!

Max, on the other hand, enjoys walking along the beach, so she paced up and down the short beach through the soft sand.  She joined me briefly as we watched a heavy set couple attempt to paddle board.  I tried very hard not to laugh as I give them credit for trying something new, but watching each them rolling onto the board from one side and promptly sliding off the other side with a plop into the ocean was giggle worthy.  The spectacle was enough to tear me away from my book briefly.  In their defense it was breezy, so perhaps harder to balance than the few times I boarded, though I don’t even think they got to their knees.

It didn’t take Max long to get up again, this time she tried the paddle board.  She managed to stay on it and at least paddle around on her knees before she switched to the kayak.  The buoyed area in the waterway was small, so once she circled a few times, she rejoined me in the lounge chairs though not before she made me feel like a slug!!  I just had no desire to get wet with salt water before changing hotels for the week.

We arrived early to the Warwick and the hotel accommodated us which was nice given they were sold out the previous night.  We were also given the top floor with a view of the water…no complaints there!!  Our package was an all-inclusive so it didn’t take us long to sidle up to the counter at the poolside restaurant for some food before making ourselves at home on the pool deck.  The free form pool with a waterfall, island, and a few small bridges provided both shady and sunny spots.  We sought out shade the first day until we realized a strong, cool breeze materialized daily which encouraged full sun locations!

View from our room!

Both of us felt like exploring a little, so we walked along the boardwalk and small beach which was also home cornhole tournaments and volley ball.  The grounds were small but nice.  Along with the poolside restaurant was a poolside bar.  The bartenders poured liberally…three quarters alcohol and one quarter mixer!

 

After watching the sunset, we dressed for dinner and headed to Ting’s.  The hotel had four additional restaurants of which two required reservations to be made between 8am and 1pm the same day.  We didn’t arrive early enough to make a reservation, so we had a choice between the Verandah and Ting’s.  Verandah served a buffet for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Figuring we’d have every breakfast at the Verandah, we ventured to Ting’s.  The Asian food was good, though it depended on each dish ordered.  The fried spring roll appetizer and the fried banana dessert were the best!  We finished dinner in time to participate in movie night…they were showing Wonder Woman.  With all the hype, I was expecting it to be amazing.  Too much hype…I would have liked it had I kept my expectations low!

The next day, we enjoyed an outing to the Blue Lagoon Island.  Shuttles took us to the ferry dock, just a minute away.  Had we known where it was, I suppose we could have walked there in five minutes.  We boarded a large boat, seemed to skip any safety announcements (at least we could see the life vests hanging overhead), and took in the sights as music blared!  Large houses including Oprah’s, Eddie Murphy’s and Michael Jordan’s; as well as, “the one and only” Ocean Club lined the northern side of the waterway while the southern side was home to a more industrial setting.

Upon exiting the waterway, the boat revved its engines as it sped off to the small island called the Blue Lagoon.  Our day pass was for beach activities only, though had we wanted to upgrade we could have gone to a dolphin show and such.  I’m not a large supporter of animals in captivity, so I along with most of the group stuck to the beachside.  We were provided a reserved area in the shade and were also given the liberty to lounge any place else we liked on the protected white sand beach.

It took me a while to get over my lounging and reading (the Dan Brown book was getting intense), but eventually I made it to the water obstacle course situated in five to seven feet of pure aqua water.  From afar, the floating white mountain peppered with handles didn’t appear that big, but from close up, it was a few stories high.  It also didn’t appear too hard to climb, but I quickly found out it wouldn’t be simple.  I pulled the upper half of my body out of the water to start and quickly recognized I was going to have to use all my might to get my feet into the handles.

I wasn’t ready for that much exertion yet, so I opted for a warm-up, the two-story floating slide.  I climbed the side to realize once I was three-quarters of the way up, there was no way to the top unless I climbed the back…UGH!  The life guard on duty who was paddling around in a kayak provided me a few tips to reach the top.  One tip was despite the ripped off handles just below the top ridge, there was one handle on the right that I couldn’t see but was barely in my reach.  He promised it was there and I stretched to grasp it with my finger-tips.

I slid down the rubbery surface to splash into the water when he told me it was more fun to go head first…oh well!  He told me I could climb the big white mountain.  He apparently had more faith in me than I had in myself.  I was a little scared as the only bail out was to let go and fall backward into the water which was not option to me.  With his encouragement, I tried a second time.  He said the hardest part was the beginning.  Once I got myself fully out of the water, it was much easier, though the handles pinched my toes against the side of the mountain.

Soon I reached the summit and realized it was a far drop to the shallow water.  I shouted down to the life guard, “Do I have to jump off?”

“Yes,” he responded.  “It’s just like the slide, only steeper.”

No kidding I thought to myself.  I expressed my concern, “But it’s shallow.”

“Just jump,” he said, “I promise you won’t hit the bottom even with your legs straight.  Your life jacket will pull you up.”

Ah, my life jacket.  I had forgotten about it and was currently thankful I had asked for a smaller size after trying on the first one.  With that, I jumped.  SO FUN!

Of course, now I wasn’t satisfied that I hadn’t slid down the slide face first, so I had to climb it one more time.  I was already tired, and wondered why I was silly enough to do it again, but face first was more fun! I have a new-found respect for the competitors in those TV shows that jump from obstacle to obstacle.  It’s not as easy as it looks!  I’m glad I got to try it!!

After playing around on the obstacle course, we walked to the north side of the island, just a hop, skip and jump away to check out the snorkeling.  Unfortunately, the wind proved to be too strong as a red flag warning was up and swimming was dangerous. After exploring the rest of the island which was probably only a few football fields in length, I satisfied my curiosity and went back to reading!!  I don’t know if it is my fascination with Spain or what, but Dan Brown’s new book, Origin, ranks right up there with his first book, Angels and Demons which I thought was better than the Da Vinci Code.

We spent the whole day at the island before returning at 4pm to enjoy happy hour at the poolside bar and then dining at Edgewater Grill, a steak and seafood restaurant by the water.  The open-air atmosphere was nice and not too cold.  After helping ourselves to the salad bar, we were served our seafood dinners.  Max went with fried conch while I chose grilled shrimp.  The dessert choices didn’t appeal to us, so we went back to Ting’s for fried bananas…delicious!

We increased our exercise just slightly on Tuesday as we took the morning nature walk which was offered by the hotel staff a few times a week.  While there were some ducks and turtles at our first stop, I’m not sure “nature” should have preceded “walk”.  It was more like a tour around the surrounding area which we wanted to see, and it was nice to have someone remind us to look the opposite way for traffic.

Our second stop was at the Four Seasons garden and cloisters.  Our young guide pronounced he was going to get married at the cloisters.  I can see why.  A manicured lawn led to a gazebo at the water’s edge.  The gardens included a variety of sculptures as well as a Koi pond.  A pleasant place!  From here we continued to Cabbage Beach to where we planned to ride bikes the following day.  The beautiful beach has to be one of the best in the Bahamas.  The white sand stretched for miles as small waves crashed on the shores.  We were thankful for our guide as the likelihood of us finding it on our own would have been slim as the entrance was tucked behind some construction near the Paradise Island Beach Club.

Now we could go whenever we wanted as we knew the four simple turns to make from our hotel.  Our leisurely stroll took about 45 minutes, and at the end a shuttle was waiting to pick us up!  God forbid we walk back the same way…nice service!!  I’m not sure I can claim I did anything else but eat, read, and lounge by the pool the rest of the day.  Fortunately Max and I finished our books about the same time, so we swapped.  Max took advantage of the pedicure that was also included in the Dreamtrip package.  Not a bad deal:  four nights at a beautiful hotel with a variety of activities and restaurants, a boat excursion to the Blue Lagoon Island, all inclusive food and drinks, and a mani or pedi all for $779pp.

Max had a knack for remembering to make our restaurant reservations.  This time we ate at Abiocco after our Dreamtrip reception.  The waiter at Abiocco was excellent…funny, polite, and cheerful.  I enjoyed a tasty chicken piccata.  Max ordered a savory Mahi Mahi dish.  The hotel hired a DJ and some folks participated in late night karaoke.  I, for some reason, could keep my eyes open past 9:30, so I was sound asleep during the entertainment.

The following morning, our nature walk guide led us on a bike tour.  It was very short as generally the bike ride includes the area we covered yesterday, so after cutting that section out, we just visited the Marina Village at Atlantis to see the shops and yachts.  We had read the Atlantis was only 0.4 miles away from us, but it seemed farther until we biked there…SUPER close.  We weren’t sure what we were allowed to see and not see at the hotel as certain areas were restricted to guests, but we could admire the lobby and its giant aquarium complete with a manta ray and shark as well as wander through the casino and the shops.  It reminded me of a Vegas Hotel.

After our short tour, we continued riding our bikes.  We thought it would be fun to ride past Cabbage Beach to the end of the island which took about five minutes.  We found with the Atlantis occupying the west end of the island and the Ocean Club occupying the east end of the island, there was only about one mile left to explore.  Needless to say, our bike ride was short.  We came back to the hotel, gathered our things and rode back to Cabbage Beach to spend our day there.

The Warwick Hotel staff at the beach was fantastic.  They had chairs and umbrellas set up for us, a luxury regular beach goers were not afforded.  They also brought a cooler of drinks and sandwiches to the beach, so we could enjoy our lunch on the idyllic stretch of sand.  The nice part about a white sand beach and clear turquoise water is its picturesque nature.  On the other hand, the water is so clear and free of reefs that there are not many fish to see while snorkeling!

Having said that, I walked to eastern end and swam to a rock outcropping.  The porous limestone was loaded with creatures in particular several trilobites which I haven’t seen too often.  In addition, I spotted a few crab, some tiny shrimp, Christmas tree worms, a mantis shrimp which was a rare find, and a baby octopus!  I’ve never seen an octopus that small.  He was tucked in a hole in the rock and looked so peaceful.  I was pleasantly surprised to find so many critters, though I can’t say the same for the fish.  A trip to the Atlantis Aquarium features more marine life than the beach!

The day at the beach was lovely, though I finally managed to burn myself with all the reflective sand and snorkeling in the clear water.  We went back to Edgewater Grill for the evening.  Again, we had another spectacular waiter.  This time we broke down and tried the meat dishes.  Max’s lamb looked superb and my short ribs were good.  It’s strange to think the meat dishes were better than the seafood dishes on an island.  Once more, we returned to Ting’s for our favorite dessert.  I suppose that is nice part about the all-inclusive.  We could just bounce around or stop in at the buffet whenever we wanted, and the breakfast buffet at Verandah was great with a large spread!

Five days came too soon.  I ended my stay with my free pedicure, though I recommend getting one prior to burning your feet in the sun!  It was a relaxing stay, and I was pleasantly surprised out how easy it was to get in and out of the Bahamas.  The airport was nice and quite large, the people were friendly, and the weather was perfect!  Though I’m not sure I ever adjusted to “island time service” like all places in the Caribbean, overall I’d go back to the Bahamas and visit another part of the island chain.  ETB

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