Nature Near Nevada

A dear friend who has visited me in Vegas multiple times is visiting this week, and I attempted the impossible: show her part of my beloved city that she has not yet experienced. She has already done many of my Las Vegas like a Local recommendations, including the Mob Museum, laughing our way through A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love and Murder at the Smith Center, and multiple activities on the Strip. We did take in Rock of Ages this weekend—which has recently moved to the Rio—and we nostalgically belted out ‘80s anthems at the top of our lungs…another must-see if you’re so inclined.

Alas, there is not much else that my friend Brandi hasn’t experienced in Las Vegas, even though I am constantly proclaiming each visit her “best trip ever.” With that in mind, I decided that it was time for a road trip: on to explore nature-y sites in neighboring Utah and Arizona. If you’re looking for a fast-paced (read: crazy) excursion to accompany any time in Vegas, then this is your itinerary.

Day One: Zion National Park and Horseshoe Bend

We started out around 9am from Vegas and drove approximately 2.5 hours on I15 to Zion National Park—and what an interesting drive it was! The road instantly started to climb when we crossed first into Arizona; then later in Utah, the topography became even more stunning. When we arrived in Springdale, Utah, we cruised through the quaint town, ignoring the many shuttle stops. After paying to enter the park and driving around mistakenly trying to find a spot, we turned around and parked in town and hopped a shuttle. The two shuttle lines were a very convenient to get around the park; we chose stop 5 to hit the Emerald Pools trail, and the online trail descriptions were most helpful in determining the right trail for two inexperienced hikers. We spent about 2 hours total in the park from start to finish, and while it is possible to spend—and enjoy!—so much more time in stunning Zion, we had to hit a very curvy mountain road to head to our next stop.

And that mountain road required some very active driving through canyons and a dark tunnel; approximately another 2.5 hours, and we made it into Page, Arizona, where we booked into the Best Western Plus. It was clean and adequate, plus had a nice hot breakfast. (Note: try to stay on top floor to avoid thunderous upstairs neighbors.) Not two girls to rest, we headed immediately to our next adventure: hiking about 20 minutes to see Horseshoe Bend. This is a magical place where the Colorado River has carved its way around a canyon—a spectacular view! Brandi and I caught the splendor and took photos before making the trek back to our car—mainly because we were worried that idiot tourists who were too close to the ledge would fall to an untimely death. Plus we were starved for dinner. Not much to feast on in Page though—the “Texas” BBQ place is most likely your best bet.

Day Two: Antelope Canyon and Valley of Fire

Our second day started off bright and early with the aforementioned hotel breakfast before checking out and making the 10 minute drive to the Lower Antelope Canyon. Our tour was operated by Dixie Ellis, and I highly recommend the photo tour. Picture this (pun intended): a quick walk in a small group, private canyon views, plenty of time to set up tripod and DSLR camera, and two hours of exquisite shooting in a place sacred to the Navajo. Pictures from another friend’s tour were the literal inspiration of this trip, and Antelope Canyon did not disappoint. Book the photo tour, bring your tripod, and plan to hit the canyons first thing in the morning. The Upper Canyon is famous for light beams, but we were more than happy with the imagery we collected. (One can tell the difference between the below tripod photos on the tour versus the others taken via iPhone.)

Page is a small community, but it was big enough to have a Sonic, which we hit before driving on the Glen Canyon Dam across Lake Powell (stunning and Hoover Dam-like!). Then, we hightailed it back to Nevada, crisscrossing across Arizona and Utah stateliness several times. It took us roughly 1 hour and 45 minutes to get to Hurricane, Utah for a quick break, then another similar time period before we pulled into the Battleborn State’s first state park: the Valley of Fire. One can understand why several movies (Star Trek, Total Recall) filmed their alien scenes here against the stunning red rock scenery. Nevada residents save $2 on entry at the information center, and a 6 mile one-way drive takes one through quite a bit of the park’s landmarks. It was too hot to hike at 113° F, yet it was a lovely drive and well-worth some incredible photos.

Another 45 minutes’ drive, and we were back to the City of Sin! Keep in mind that cell phone reception is often spotty at best in this part of the country. For this trip, I recommend exactly two tanks of gas, plenty of water and sunscreen, very comfortable clothes (and close-toed shoes…can’t convince myself to buy hiking shoes), a great camera with tripod, an excellent playlist, and an incredible friend with whom to enjoy the journey!

 

Travel Photo of the Month: November 2015

Although I’ve been to Mexico several times, I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to visit Chichén Itzá. Named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, this sacred site has long been on my places to visit. On a recent trip to the Riviera Maya, I joined a tour group and journeyed to the Mayan ruins. As I did when I visited Tikal, I was amazed by the geometry and planning of the ancient people; what a civilization the worshipers of the sun god must have been! This photo was taken from the south side of the main building, Kukulkan, El Castillo.

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Travel Photo of the Month: June 2015

I’ve already blogged about What Not To Do in Costa Rica, but I didn’t touch on the best part of the trip: a visit to the quaint shores of Playa Conchal. My friend Brandi and I visited in 2007, and the afternoon we spent snapping pictures seaside brings us June’s POTM. I love the juxtaposition of the flippers with the overturned cart on the white shell beach.

Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

Playa Conchal, Costa Rica

Welcome to New York!

Taylor Swift wrote us a song–Welcome to New York–and it was the soundtrack of our visit there recently. In that vein, I thought I’d write a melody of my own to sum up our weekend there. Maestro, if you please…

New York is Cold
A Melody by S. Bates

Brrr! Brr! Wear your scarf.
Freeze freeze…with hat and gloves!
The 9/11 Memorial is profoundly gorgeous
And filled with thoughts of love.

Subway to Soho; get your Metro card.
Stop in Prada en route to warm up…
Meet friends from college over brunch
at Hundred Acres over bub(bles).

Head uptown down the avenue;
Ignore the freezing wind (freezing wind!)
Stroll hand-and-hand in Central Park
Before spotting the Plaza and going in!

A glass of Malbec at the bar
Will warm you like nothing can.
Head down Fifth Avenue to experience
The deliciousness that is Bergdorf Goodman.

Here the cafe is a dream–
The best to celebrate…
Friends, family, art deco, impeccable service,
And your fiance’s birthday.

Bundle up…bundle up!
The rest of the trip is a whirl.
Dining at Vice Versa and A Voce
Makes you ready to get on a diet, girl!

Check out of the fabulous W Downtown;
Hop an Uber and head to JFK.
You avoided the winter storm.
Go home, warm up, hurray!

I knew I was an global business traveler and an amateur photographer, but until I wrote the above (possibly Grammy-winning) ballad, I had no idea that songwriting was in my future. (Insert sarcasm here.) Even with my lack of musical talent, I hope you’ll agree with me that a trip to cold NYC is the perfect thing to do in January, provided one has a fabulous winter coat. Welcome to New York!

Travel Photo of the Month: December 2014

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Three years ago right before the Christmas holidays, I found myself in Ireland for a week of business meetings. We stayed at the charming Dunboyne Castle Hotel near Dublin in the village of Meath, which was enchantingly covered in snow. My colleagues and I became very familiar with the local pub–enough to jump the bar and pour our own drinks. I will never forget the time I got to “bar tend” in Ireland!

December’s Travel Photo of the Month™ is from the Guinness Storehouse, which we toured for an evening networking event. I’d been once before, and I fondly remembered the tour and the 360 degree views from the rooftop bar. If you are interested in beer at all, this is a must-see in Dublin. We even got properly trained on how to pull a pint.

Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse

Happy holidays from this travel blogger…I wish you happiness and the opportunity to see more of our beautiful world!

 

Travel Photo of the Month: November 2014

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This morning, I am inspired by the chilly morning sunshine in Las Vegas. As I set off to post November’s travel photo of the month (POTM), my thoughts went back to another lovely morning–albeit not so cold–in India. I was traveling between Delhi and Agra to see the famous Taj Mahal, and I couldn’t keep my eyes off of the scenery we were passing. Women were carrying water containers on their head, and men were gathered at local stands, presumably buying cigarettes or daily necessities. As my driver sped through village after village, the quiet scene captured in the POTM really made an impression upon me–the calm in the midst of a hectic morning.

I hope the serenity this 2012 photo offers you the same peace it does for me today. I wish all of my readers a wonderful week and a peaceful remainder of the year.

Morning Fog in India

Morning Fog in India