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Road Trip: Northern California
The one-lane state-park road I was driving in northern California threads cautiously for a half-dozen miles through a towering forest of coast redwoods, the tallest trees - the tallest living things-on earth. Here and there, it edges so closely between the ancient giants, some of them more than 1,000 years old, that I feared scraping both sides of the car. These stately redwoods surely qualify as a natural wonder; they certainly awed me thoroughly. But would I and my car make it unscathed to the end of the road, nosing erratically as it does through the shadowy canyon formed by their massive trunks? I had my doubts. By any measure, this short woodland path through the redwoods is extraordinary. And yet it was only one of many bedazzling sights and experiences I enjoyed on an economical, 1,200-mile drive recently that took me north from San Francisco along California's rocky coastline to the Oregon border and back south again by way of winding roads through the soaring Cascade Range and Sierra Nevada. My surf-to-summit route, one of America's most spectacular drives, is a scenic treat from beginning to end. But don't figure a great trip like this is going to bust your budget. You can see it all for yourself for much less than you might expect. For example As a onetime Californian, I plotted the drive to show my wife Sandy five of my favorite places. For me, "favorite" usually means somewhere in the remote countryside. So we headed for a sprawling, semi-wilderness region of state-and-federal park and forest lands, where lodging and dining prices tend to be very affordable. Along the way, I found many low-priced rooms that boast lovely water or mountain views. Indeed, a couple can stay in a historic, pine-shaded lodge at Lake Tahoe, one of California's most popular High Sierra retreats, for as little as $44 a night midweek during peak summer season. You might catch a glimpse of the sparkling blue lake from your balcony. Just down the road a few minutes on the Nevada side of the lake, a gambling casino advertises nightly "All-U-Can-Eat" buffets for $6.99, featuring ribs on Monday and steak on Tuesday. We're both hikers, so we broke up the drive by taking exciting day hikes. At Point Reyes National Seashore, we walked through groves of fragrant eucalyptus to a wave-splashed cove where portly sea lions frolicked among the rocks. At Mount Shasta, a 14,162-foot-high, Fuji-like volcanic cone tipped with snow, we wandered through fields of multicolored wildflowers. A maze of cliff-side paths tempted us in the coastal village of Mendocino, a logging town turned artists' colony. None of these hikes added a penny to our budget. Several times, we stopped at roadside beaches to wade in the chilly Pacific surf or investigate the squirmy marine life of tidal pools; no charge for this either. Once we watched a small whale swim past just offshore, its blowhole spouting as it glided slowly north. A terrific show, and all for free. Often we picnicked beside a tumbling stream - lunch al fresco with a million-dollar view for the price of a hunk of cheese and crackers from a local market. Now and again, a no-fee swimming hole beckoned. Getting started The San Francisco Bay Area's three major airports - San Francisco International, Oakland, and San Jose - are all convenient to this drive and are all serviced by low-cost airlines; Oakland and San Jose offer both Southwest Airlines and America West flights, while San Francisco is serviced by Southwest as well as ATA, National Airlines, and Sun Country. An Internet check indicates that auto rentals in August, peak vacation time, are least costly at San Francisco. Dollar (800/800-4000) quoted a weekly rate of $116 in mid-August for an economy car with unlimited mileage. At San Jose, the airport's lowest rate was from Payless (800/729-5377), at $116 a week. At Oakland, the best I could find was $150, quoted by Dollar. Balancing airfares against car rental rates, San Jose may be the airport for budget travelers in summer. On the road, I suggest budget-priced lodgings at each of five overnight stops. In summer, advance reservations are advised, but if you go without, you will spot inexpensive motels and lodges dotting most of this route. Somewhat isolated, they should be open to price-dickering. Room rates below are for two people per night (except where noted) during the summer high season. I chose this route for its magnificent scenery. Few drives anywhere treat you to so much for so little. Point Reyes National Seashore You may want to keep a swimsuit handy as you drive up the coast, although Northern California's beaches invite exploring rather than swimming because of frigid water and treacherous currents. (Summertime can also be foggy; September and October tend to be the sunniest months.) A case in point is Point Reyes National Seashore at Olema, a sprawling, semi-wilderness park that encompasses forests of wind-sculpted pines, lofty precipices, hidden valleys of ferns and huckleberries, rolling grasslands, and yes, miles of empty, wave-swept beaches. I've sunned myself on these sands, only braving the surf up to my knees. There's no charge to enter the park. On my latest visit, we opted to hike the mostly easy Bear Valley Trail, an eight-mile (round-trip) path that meanders through eucalyptus woods and broad meadows to an arched rock beside the sea. Sea lions played, and cormorants dove for dinner. As a short alternative, the ominously named half-mile Earthquake Trail leads to where the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 began. Markers show where the land suddenly shifted 16 feet. The Point Reyes Lighthouse, clinging to a rocky cliff, is reputedly one of the windiest and foggiest places on the West Coast. Find out for yourself by descending the 300 steps to its exposed perch. On the left is Drakes Bay, named for Sir Francis Drake, the English adventurer who sailed into the bay aboard the Golden Hind in the summer of 1579. Presumably he carried a heavy jacket, which you should also keep handy on this drive. Details: From San Francisco, take State Route 1 across Golden Gate Bridge to Point Reyes, about 50 miles. En route, take in the giant redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument, made famous in a scene in Hitchcock's Vertigo. A few miles later, go for a dip at three-mile-long Stinson Beach, a local favorite. For bare-bones lodging, stay in the park at the 44-bed Point Reyes Hostel, overlooking a secluded valley (415/663-8811), for $16 per bed. Just outside the park in Inverness, the 35-room Golden Hinde Inn and Marina sits waterside on Tomales Bay (415/669-1389), running $90 per room weekdays/$139 weekends with breakfast. Just up the highway, the eight-room U.S. Hotel in Tomales (707/878-2742) lists a weekday rate of $99 per room but invites on-site bargaining. Better yet, try the 16-room Bodega Harbor Inn (707/875-3594) for $60 per room. It's 20 miles north in Bodega Bay, made famous in another Hitchcock flick, The Birds. Dine just outside the park in Point Reyes Station at the Station House Café (415/663-1515); a large lunch bowl of black-bean-and-turkey chili with grilled corn bread is $6.50. Information: Point Reyes (415/464-5100, nps.gov/pore). Mendocino Bound for Mendocino, Route 1 snakes alongside sheer cliffs, plunging back down to a series of public beaches - among them 16-mile-long Sonoma Coast State Beach. Twisting in tight curves that drop the speed limit to 15 mph in places, the two-lane road passes countless small, rock-filled coves, hurdles deep gulches, and tunnels through thick woodlands. Waves fling themselves in fury against the rocks, shooting geysers of spray into the air. It's a nonstop spectacular the entire 135 miles from Point Reyes. The reward at Mendocino is a picture book New England-looking village with the prettiest front yard in America. Seafarers from the East Coast settled here in the nineteenth century, building solid Cape Cod and gabled Victorian homes, now beautifully preserved. The "front yard" is Mendocino Headlands State Park, a grass-covered bluff wrapped around three sides of the town as a protective greenbelt. From Main Street, the park stretches across open meadows to rocky bluffs where we stood high above the crashing surf. Afterwards, we browsed the art galleries, where coastal-themed paintings were reasonably priced. Three out of four residents (pop. 1,000) are said to be working artists, drawn by the gorgeous setting and radiant light. Details: On the way to Mendocino, stop at Fort Ross State Historic Park, a rebuilt fort that is the site of a Russian hunting and trading outpost in 1812. Though Mendocino is far from ritzy, in-town lodgings are expensive. For budget prices, stay ten miles north in the logging and commercial fishing port of Fort Bragg, which delights with a rugged appeal of its own. Good choices are the 50-room Fort Bragg Motel (707/964-4787), $49 per room weekdays/$59 weekends; the 57-room Driftwood Motel (707/964-4061), $54 weekdays/$64 weekends; and the 28-room, pet-friendly Coast Motel (707/964-2852), $48 weekdays/$58 weekends/$10 for pets. Have breakfast or lunch in Fort Bragg at popular Egghead's (707/964-5005), decorated with Wizard of Oz memorabilia with huge omlettes with potatoes and toast starting at only $5.75. From Fort Bragg, take a ride on the vintage Skunk Train (800/777-5865, skunktrain.com), with a scenic half-day trip to the inland mountain redwoods costing $29. Information: Fort Bragg (800/726-2780, mendocinocoast.com). Redwood National Park Height, whether possessed by humans or trees, is imposing. Driving (and strolling) among the giant coast redwoods of Redwood National Park and three adjacent state parks, I was thoroughly awed. Many visitors liken a redwood grove-mighty trunks and overhanging branches forming a forest room-to the interior of a cathedral with its lofty arches and similarly muted light. Albeit a cathedral with a very leaky roof. In summer, morning fog often wraps a protective cloak around these giants, which thrive on the moisture. Trees can grow to 300 feet, as tall as a football field is long. The 215-mile drive from Mendocino to the park tunnels inland for awhile through several redwood groves before returning to the coast. Be sure to take the "Avenue of the Giants," a 30-mile alternate route north through Humboldt Redwoods State Park that is just a taste of the majestic redwoods ahead. At the park, headquartered at Orick, hike the easy milelong loop trail through the Lady Bird Johnson Grove, dedicated to the former first lady. The needle-strewn, spongy-soft path winds through a garden of mosses and ferns flourishing under the redwoods. Afterwards, test your driving skills, as I did, among the redwoods on narrow Howland Hill Road in Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Park. Happily, I made it with no damage to me, the car, or the trees. Swimmers love the warm water of the Smith River flowing through the park. Details: From Mendocino or Fort Bragg, continue north on State Route 1 and U.S. 101. Outside Orick, Rolf's Park Café & Motel (707/ 488-3841) offers six rooms in a peaceful woodland setting at $47 each. In Crescent City, at the park's northern tip, the Gardenia Motel (707/464-2181) has 48 rooms for $45 each; or try the 65-room Bayview Inn (800/446-0583) for $59. For good eats, order the seafood platter ($8.95) for lunch at the Harbor View Grotto (707/464-3815). Information: Crescent City (707/464-3174, northerncalifornia.net). Mount Shasta Just shy of the Oregon border, our drive leaves the surf behind and heads for the summits, at the same time nosing south back toward San Francisco. In seemingly nonstop curves, the road - good, but lightly traveled - traces the path of the Trinity River, crossing the remote and rugged Klamath Mountains to Mount Shasta. Cool off in the river along the way as you anticipate your first view of one of the world's most majestic peaks. Only a few other mountains - Japan's Mount Fuji, Africa's Kilimanjaro - dominate their setting as mystical Mount Shasta does. A dormant volcano in the southern Cascade Range, it stands alone, unchallenged by any neighboring peak. Many locals swear the legendary mountain is regularly visited by UFOs. Park your car high on its shoulder at the tree line and hike the rocky path toward the summit a mile or two for a grand panorama. Drop back down to the base for a swim in little Lake Siskiyou ($1 per person). For $10 each, we savored a wood-burning sauna and a cold plunge into a mountain stream at nearby Stewart Mineral Springs (530/938-2222), a rustic, clothing-optional spa. In California, I do as the locals do. There are two-person tepees for $24 or campsites for $15 a day. Details: From Redwood, retrace your way south on U.S. 101 to Arcata. Take State Route 299 east to Weaverville, picking up Route 3 north. Approaching Callahan, turn east to Gazelle and take I-5 south to the cozy, New Age town of Mount Shasta. The distance is 255 miles. Stay at the 21-room Swiss Holiday Lodge (530/926-3446), $50 per room with continental breakfast, hot tub, and views; the 31-room A-1 Choice Inn (530/926-4811), $49 per room weekdays/$69 weekends; or the 20-room Shasta Lodge Motel (530/ 926-2815), $42. The Black Bear Diner (530/926-4669) boasts comfort foods of pot roast, meat loaf, and fried chicken all for $9.99 a plate. Information: Mount Shasta (800/397-1519, mtshastachamber.com). Lake Tahoe On this drive, every day brings stunning new sights to refresh the spirit, an incalculable benefit shared by budget and luxury travelers alike. I doubt anyone can gaze on Lake Tahoe - one of the largest, highest, deepest, loveliest (and coldest) mountain lakes in the country - without beaming in pure pleasure. The lake provides very diverse ways to spend your time here - as a 72-mile drive around it proves. No wonder it's remained popular with Californians for skiing on adjoining mountains in winter, and waterskiing and fishing in the summer. On Tahoe's more rustic North Shore, the road edges the lake beneath dense groves of massive Douglas fir trees. Public beaches tempt swimming (brrrrr!), or you can tube on the warmer Truckee River flowing out of the lake. Sandy and I stopped for an easy five-mile lakeside hike around Emerald Bay. On the South Shore, thick woods give way to glittery gambling palaces at Stateline in Nevada. Of my five favorites, which is best? I can't decide. But if you take this drive, you surely will agree with me that Lake Tahoe does just fine as the grand finale. Details: From Mount Shasta, follow State Route 89 to Lake Tahoe, about 275 miles. The road bisects Lassen Volcanic National Park ($10 per car); plan to take the gentle three-mile (round-trip) hike to Bumpass Hell to see bubbling mud spots and steaming fumaroles. From Tahoe, return to San Francisco via U.S. 50 and I-80, about 205 miles. Stay and dine on Tahoe's more scenic North Shore. First choice is historic 21-room Tamarack Lodge Motel (888/824-6323), where Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, and other movie stars came to hunt, fish, and play cards; $44 per room weekdays, $54 weekends/multiday discounts. Other choices: 26-room Gold Crest Resort Motel (530/546-3301), $52 per room weekdays/$75 weekends; and 26-room Firelight Lodge (800/934-7222), $58 weekdays/$84 weekends. Dine on the buffet at nearby Crystal Bay Casino ($6.99) in Nevada or on huge Mexican platters ($8.95) at Blue Agave (530/583-8113), an 1868 log-cabin lodge reflecting Tahoe's past. Information: North Lake Tahoe (888/358-7461, tahoefun.org).
10 Most Sacred Spots on Earth
When we modern folks visit a beautiful natural site, the experience may evoke a sense of peace, a feeling of awe...or just the need to snap a million photos. For our ancient forbearers, though, these places were so much more. Throughout history, civilizations all over the globe have attached spiritual or religious importance to natural spots (ie. not man-made places) that played key roles in their respective cultures. From the mythological homes of powerhouse gods like Zeus and Shiva to the serene spot where the mortal Buddha achieved enlightenment, these are the places of legends. Some are still used for age-old rituals, others have been lost to time, but all crackle with a special energy and, if you're lucky, just a little bit of leftover magic. SEE THE SACRED PLACES! 1.ULURU-KATA TJUTA NATIONAL PARK, AUSTRALIA Located in Australia's Red Centre, in the heart of the continent, these two natural rock formations are the main attractions in the World Heritage Site Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. One of the country's more recognizable landmarks, Uluru is a flat-topped sandstone rock standing about 1,100 feet high and almost six miles around, with a soulful, deep-red hue that changes throughout the day. (The site is also known as Ayers Rock, so named by the colonial surveyor who "rediscovered" the place in 1873.) About 30 miles away, Kata Tjuta (a.k.a. The Olgas) is made of more than 30 domes of varying rock types, including granite, sandstone, and basalt; the tallest point is almost 1,800 feet high. Both sites are sacred to the Anangu people of the Pitjantjatjara Aboriginal tribe, who believe the rocks were built during the ancient creation period and are still inhabited by ancestor spirits. (Archeologist work suggests there were humans in this area over 20,000 years ago.) Owned by the Anangu and leased by the government, the park is open to the public, though tribespeople continue to perform rituals and ceremonies in various locations, such as the sacred "Dreamtime" track that runs near the modern hiking trail. The park also houses a Cultural Center and Aboriginal rock art sites, and ranger guided tours are available. Getting There: Visitors can drive or join a bus tour to the park from Alice Springs (280 miles away), or fly to Ayers Rock Airport/Connellan (AYQ); Qantas and Virgin Australia offer direct flights from several major domestic cities. There are only a few accommodation choices in the area, in different price ranges, and all are owned by Voyages Indigenous Tourism. (Camping is not allowed in the park.) Note that while hiking Uluru is not technically forbidden, the Anangu ask that visitors not climb the rock out of respect for its significance, and also ask that photos not be taken of certain sacred sites. Guests should also not pocket any rocks as souvenirs—those who have say it brings bad luck, and often mail the rocks back to the park. Admission is $25 for a three-day pass. 2. CENOTE SAGRADO, MEXICO The ancient Maya revered water for its life-sustaining power, and worshiped Chac, the god of rain, because of this awe of H20. Many areas of Mexico are dotted with cenotes—natural underground sinkholes—and the Maya believed that some of these sites were visited by Chac himself. As a result, some cenotes were designated as "sacred" and kept for rituals, offerings and sacrifices, while others were set aside for bathing, drinking and crop water. One of the most notable of the sacred springs is Cenote Sagrado, located near the major Mayan archeological site Chichen Itza in the Yucatan Peninsula. Created from a natural limestone cave, with steep sides stretching about 60 feet above the water line, this cenote was specifically used for ceremonies and occasional sacrifices; for the latter, men, women, and children were thrown in during drought times to appease the water gods. When archeologists dredged the spring in the 20th century, they found gold bells, masks, cups, rings, jade pieces, and more (many from the post-Spanish period) along with human bones. Getting There: One of the most visited archeological sites in Mexico, Chichen Itza can be reached by car or organized bus tours (typically about $35 per person) from nearby tourist hubs like Cancún or Cozumel, or via infrequent public bus service; the ride is about two-and-a-half hours from Cancún. The entry fee is about $8 and includes the evening light and sound show; headphone tours are $2. Cenote Sagrado is part of the Great North Platform section of the site. 3. MAHABODHI TREE, BODH GAYA, INDIA According to Buddhist traditions, around 500 B.C., when the ascetic Prince Siddhartha was wandering through what's now the state of Bihar in India, he took rest under a native bodhi tree. After meditating there for three nights, the prince awoke with enlightenment, insight and the answers he had been seeking, which developed into the teachings he went on to spread to his disciples. Naturally, the place where the Buddha reached enlightenment is one of the most sacred sites for Buddhists, and has been a major pilgrimage destination for centuries. Today, a temple complex surrounds what is believed to be a direct descendant of the original majestic tree itself, which sits in the middle of a courtyard surrounded by protective carved panels. A beautiful Buddha statue under the tree marks the significant spot. Getting There: A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Mahabodhi Temple Complex is in the Bodh Gaya area of Bihar, India. The site is about three miles from the Gaya Airport and about seven miles from Gaya City. Car service, public buses, and bus tours are also available from the holy city of Varanasi; public buses run about $8. 4. MOUNT KAILAS, TIBET This black rock mountain in western Tibet is something of a holy hat trick, since it is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, and Jains and is thought to be the mythical Axis Mundi, the center of the universe. Hindus believe it is the residence of Lord Shiva and the land of eternal bliss, and have celebrated the mythical Kailas in temple carvings throughout India. Tantric Buddhists say the mountain is the home of Buddha Demchog, who represents supreme bliss, and that three key Bodhisattvas live in the surrounding hills, while Jains believe it is the site (which they call Mount Ashtapada) where the first Jain attained nirvana. The peak is part of the Gangdise Mountain range and is set near the source of some of the longest rivers in Asia, including the Sutlej, the Indus, and the Ghaghara (a tributary of the holy Ganges River). Nearby Lake Manasarovar, considered the source of purity, is another major pilgrimage site for both Hindus and Buddhists. Getting There: Despite being such a mythical sacred site, Mount Kailas is also one of the least visited, due to its remote location in the Tibetan Himalayas. From Lhasa, it's about a four-night journey over the plateau to the small pilgrim outpost, where there are a few basic guesthouses. From this base, most pilgrims set out on foot, pony, or yak to circumnavigate the base of the mountain, a journey of about 32 miles. There is no record of anyone having attempted to climb Mount Kailas. 5. MOUNT SINAI, EGYPT Some of the basic tenets of Judeo-Christian-Islamic beliefs can be traced back to this mountain on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, for it was at the top of this peak that Moses is said to have received the Ten Commandments from God. Though there is not much archeological evidence confirming this as the exact place, and biblical scholars have theorized for years about the mythical mountain's location, early Christian monks believed this was the sacred site and established several monasteries in the area. Getting There: In the past, visitors could start at St. Catherine's Monastery at the base of the mountain, then climb to the summit, where there is the small Holy Trinity chapel and stunning views, especially at sunrise, however in September 2013, The Guardian reported that St. Catherine's Monastery was forced to close as a result of a shaky economy following the country's uprisings. The mountain can only be reached by road; Dahab and Nuweiba are both about two hours away by car, while it's about three hours from resort hub Sharm al-Sheikh. Most hotels on the peninsula can set you up on a bus tour, and many of these arrive at the base around 1 a.m., so visitors can be at the summit for sunrise. There are two ways to climb: by foot (which takes between 45 minutes and three hours, depending on your pace, or by camel, which is about three hours; note that if you choose the latter, you will still have to walk the final 750 steps up to the top. Guests are required to hire a local guide at the entrance for about $15 (the rate is negotiable.) Because of its peaceful silence, the mountain is also popular with visitors who practice yoga and meditation. 6. GLASTONBURY TOR, ENGLAND Rising out of the middle of the Summerland Meadows in Somerset, England, is a hill that has long had magical connection. For centuries, Glastonbury Tor (Celtic for "hill") has been a source of myths: Some ancient Celtic civilizations considered it the entrance to the home of the Gwyn ap Nudd, alternately regarded as Lord of the Underworld and King of Fairies (a theory that resurfaced in the 19th century), while pagans may have used it for ceremonies celebrating the Goddess. Later, the site was considered a possibility for King Arthur's Avalon, since Arthur and Queen Guinevere's coffins were supposedly discovered at the top of the hill in the 12th century. And even more recently, theorists have linked the hill to the quest for the Holy Grail. To further add to all the speculation, archeologists have found remains of seven deep, symmetrical terraces on the hill's slopes, which could be anything from Middle Age crop land to a Neolithic labyrinth. Whatever the history, the hill is still thought to have spiritual energy, as visitors often report feeling more hopeful and positive after a walk on its slopes. Topped by the remains of the 15th century church of St. Michael, the hill is managed by the National Trust of the United Kingdom. Getting There: The Tor is a short walk or bike ride from the center of Glastonbury, which is linked to London by frequent train service. The nearest station to the hill is Castle Cary. Admission is free. 7. CRATER LAKE, OREGON Formed nearly 8,000 years ago after an alleged massive eruption caused Mount Mazama to collapse, this deep blue, freshwater caldera lake in south-central Oregon plunges nearly 2,000 feet below ground, making it the deepest in the United States and the seventh deepest in the world. The Native American Klamath tribe has long considered the lake a sacred site: Their legends say a battle here between the Chief of the Above World and the Chief of the Below World led to the destruction of Mount Mazama. (Historians believe the Klamath people may have witnessed the actual implosion of the mountain.) The tribesmen used Crater Lake in their vision quests (tasks may have included scaling the crater walls), and it is still considered a spiritual spot. The lake is now part of Crater Lake National Park. Getting There: Crater Lake National Park is about 60 miles from the airport in Klamath Falls and 80 miles from the airport in Medford; cars can be rented in both locations. (There is no public transport service available.) The park is open year-round, but some areas may be inaccessible in winter. A seven-day pass is $10 for cars and $5 per person for pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcycles. Check the official park website for a list of official free days each year. 8. MOUNT PARNASSUS, GREECE Towering above Delphi in central Greece, this limestone mountain looms large in Greek mythology. In addition to being sacred to the god Apollo, who often visited the nearby Oracle at Delphi, the mountain was thought to be the residence of the Muses and, as a result, the home of poetry and song. The three Corycian Nymphs, each of whom was romanced by a major god, were born of springs located on Parnassus, and the mountain was also the setting for many minor myths. Today, the only sacred activity takes place on the slopes: The mountain is topped by two popular ski centers and is dotted with scenic hiking trails. Getting There: Mount Parnassus is a winding, two-hour mountain drive from Athens. Day trips and overnight bus tours are also available (Key Tours offers Delphi tours from $120 per person). After exploring the slopes, don't miss a visit to the ancient ruins in Delphi, set in the shadow of the mountain. 9. LAKE ATITLÁN, GUATEMALA Set up in the Guatemalan Central Highlands, and bordered by three volcanoes, Lake Atitlán is the deepest lake in Central America at 1,114 feet. Along with its natural beauty, the lake is famous for the Maya villages that ring its shores, many of which have been there for centuries. Ninth-century Panajachel, one of the largest, has been drawing tourists since the 1960s, while in Santiago Atitlán, residents are known for their worship of Maximo, a local idol that fuses Mayan gods, Catholic saints, and Spanish legends. Mayan ceremonies still take place at various sites around the lake, from caves to the top of an adjacent hill. The lake's shores are also strewn with archeological sites and ruins of pre-Spanish towns, including Chiutinamit, a mythological "underwater city." Getting There: Lake Atitlán is located in western Guatemala, about a two-and-a-half-hour drive from Guatemala City or Antigua. Companies like Transport Guatemala can arrange for bus or van service (from $25 per person from Guatemala City, from $15 per person from Antigua). There are a wide array of accommodations, from luxury to budget, in towns like Panajachel, along with tourist activities and dining options. 10. VORTEXES, ARIZONA Sedona, Arizona, has long drawn people interested in healing, spirituality, mysticism, and metaphysics, who come for more than just the dramatic, red-rock beauty. The area is famous for its vortexes, powerful centers of kinetic energy that can have a deep effect on those who visit them; there are four main ones spread around town, including one near the airport. The ancient Native American Yavapai people knew about these centers, and celebrated this "Great Mother" energy with petroglyph paintings and sacred dwellings. Today, visitors can easily walk or hike to the four spots (the one in Boynton Canyon is among the most popular), and once there, can meditate or just soak up the good vibes. Many feel recharged and uplifted after visiting a vortex, and some guests even report having visions or deeper experiences while in town. Getting There: Sedona is a scenic two-hour drive from Phoenix, home to an international airport, and 45 minutes from the smaller commercial airport in Flagstaff. Maps highlighting the four vortexes are available at most hotels and online.
8 Budget-Friendly Ranch Vacations
Darley Newman is the five-time Daytime Emmy Award nominated host, writer and producer of the lifestyle travel TV series Equitrekking, which broadcasts on PBS and international networks in over 82 countries. Looking for an affordable ranch vacation? If you've done your research, you know that prices vary widely from under $1,000 per person per week to over $4,000. While many ranches offer all-inclusive weeks, others charge for additional activities and may be in remote locales, which means figuring out the total cost of getting there and what you'll do when you arrive can involve crunching the numbers. With multi-generational travel trending and many families interested in giving their children an experience in nature, it's even more important to find ranches that offer a good value for families and groups. If you're ready for a ranch vacation, check out these inexpensive ranches located throughout North America, where you can ride the great outdoors and take in nature without compromising your bank account. Sundance Trail Ranch, Colorado. This family-friendly and pet-friendly dude ranch, located only 2 hours from Denver, offers horseback riding, hiking, rock climbing, whitewater rafting, and more in the Colorado Rocky Mountains. Lodge and cabin suites accommodate up to 24 guests with some offering wheelchair accessibility. Hearty western meals are served family style, with homemade breads and desserts. (Sundance Trail Ranch operates as a summer guest ranch and fall, winter and spring bed & breakfast. All-inclusive summer rates for 7-day/ 6-night stay, including lodging, meals, and activities, start at $1,610 per adult. This ranch offers 4-day/3-night stays starting at $970 for adults with lower rates for kids. Airport shuttle service and tips are additional.) Marble Mountain Ranch, California. This California dude ranch is surrounded by a half a million acres of Northern California's Klamath National Forest, making for plenty of room for adventure. Offering a multi-sport "saddle-paddle" vacation, guests can mix horseback riding with whitewater rafting, fishing, and shooting sports. This guest ranch offers a strong kids program for "Young Buckaroos." Marble Mountain Guest Ranch's location in Somes Bar is close to the scenic Trinity Alps and Russian Wilderness Areas. (5-night/ 6-day all-inclusive package rates are $1,590 per adult. Gift shop purchases, jet boat tours, and gratuities are not included. The ranch does not charge a single supplement, making it a good choice for single travelers. The ranch also offers shorter 3-night stays during certain times of the year. Before the Memorial Day holiday and after Labor Day, you rent cabins a-la-carte without the all-inclusive full service packages starting at $125 per night double occupancy plus $20 for additional occupants.) New Haven Working Cattle & Guest Ranch, Wyoming. This family owned and operated working cattle ranch is situated on the edge of the Black Hills of Wyoming near Devils Tower National Monument. With a maximum of 8 guests at a time, travelers at New Haven Ranch can take part in various ranch activities, like moving cattle from pasture to pasture, doctoring cattle, round-ups, checking on fences and reservoirs, and more. Guests stay in comfortable rustic bedrooms, each with its own bathroom. ($1,365 per person per week, all-inclusive for 7-days, based on double occupancy. Lower rates available in the off-season in October. There is an additional 10% gratuity charge and $23.10 per week lodging and sales tax.) Southern Cross Guest Ranch, Georgia. This year-round family-owned guest ranch and horse farm located about an hour East of Atlanta in Central Georgia has over 200 horses. An unusual feature of this dude ranch, besides its location in Georgia, is that experienced horseback riders can take out a horse from Southern Cross and ride unguided. This Georgia dude ranch gets good reviews from travelers, especially horseback riders, for the riding activities, horses and food. (This ranch offers a variety of rates, ranging from B&B to all-inclusive. The all-inclusive plan includes twice daily horseback riding, three meals, snacks and desserts, lodging, unlimited non-alcoholic beverages, use of mountain bikes, and more starting at $100 per person per night, based on seven nights double-occupancy.) Bar W Guest Ranch, Montana. This year-round guest ranch nestled at the base of a mountain on Spencer Lake in Whitefish, Montana offers a wide range of warm and cold weather activities including cattle drives, archery, fishing, square dances, dog sledding, snowmobiling and more. With up to 50 guests, Bar W offers Western style accommodations in either lodge or cabin suites, as well as "glamping"—luxury camping. (6-night/ 5-day all-inclusive rates, which include accommodations, meals, and all ranch activities, range from $1,695 to $2,265 during June, July and August. Rates are lower in the fall, winter and spring and 3-night/ 2-day stays are also available. There is a 10% service charge added to the bill upon checkout.) Elkhorn Ranch, Arizona. This winter season Arizona guest ranch in the Baboquivari Mountains southwest of Tucson, Arizona has been continuously owned and operated by the Miller family since 1945. With only 20 cabins and an average capacity of 32 guests, this intimate desert escape offers birding in Sonoran Desert, a heated swimming pool, tennis court, horseback riding, hiking and special workshops, like digital photography. Elkhorn Ranch's 10,000 acres provide plenty of remote canyon and mountain country to explore, making for a true wilderness experience for the whole family. (Weekly rate is $1,524 per person per week single or double cabin, plus 15% gratuity and tax, with lower rates available for longer stays and additional guests in the same cabin.) HorseWorks Wyoming, Wyoming. This ranch is a good fit for travelers who want to play cowboy or cowgirl on an authentic working horse and cattle ranch. Along with owner Nate Brown, a well-known Wyoming cowboy now in his 90's, guests can participate in ranch chores and focus on horse related activities, including trail rides through sagebrush flats and grassy slopes, cattle drives, barrel racing and roping lessons. Meals are hearty and accommodations are simple in rustic cabins with bunk beds. HorseWorks Wyoming is located in north central Wyoming in the town of Grass Creek, a little over two hours drive from Yellowstone National Park's East Gate and less than an hour's drive from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody and hot springs in Thermopolis. ($1,100 per person for Sunday to Friday night stays. Price includes round-trip transportation by local shuttle service between Cody and the ranch, unlimited riding, cabin accommodations (up to 4 people each), meals and snacks, and an overnight camping option.) Rancho Los Banos, Mexico. This working cattle ranch and eco-adventure destination on 30,000 acres in northeast Mexico welcomes adventure travelers to experience horse riding, cattle work, biking, hiking, bird watching, kayaking and more. With only 12 to 14 guests at a time, you can bank on personalized attention. Positioned at the foot of the Sierra Madre, the Mexican Rockies, Rancho Los Baños mixes traditional guest ranch activities with sustainable tourism, nature and adventure. The ranch ranges in elevation from 7,400 feet above sea level in the northern border to 3,200 feet in the southern canyon country, which includes the stunning El Cajon Canyon. This guest ranch offers immersion in pristine wilderness and a true off-the-grid experience (no internet or cell phone reception). (Prices are all-inclusive, including transfers from Tucson, Arizona, and start as low as $139 per person per night, double occupancy for a 5-night minimum stay, not including taxes.) Learn more about great ranch vacations in the Equitrekking Vacation Guide, an online, searchable travel guide to great dude ranches, guest ranches and global horseback riding vacations, and at Top20Ranches. Check out exclusive ranch and riding vacation travel deals on Equitrekking Travel Deals.
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Oregon ( (listen)) is a state in the Pacific Northwest region of the Western United States. The Columbia River delineates much of Oregon's northern boundary with Washington, while the Snake River delineates much of its eastern boundary with Idaho. The 42° north parallel delineates the southern boundary with California and Nevada. Oregon has been home to many indigenous nations for thousands of years. The first European traders, explorers, and settlers began exploring what is now Oregon's Pacific coast in the early-mid 16th century. As early as 1565, the Spanish began sending vessels northeast from the Philippines, riding the Kuroshio Current in a sweeping circular route across the northern part of the Pacific. In 1592, Juan de Fuca undertook detailed mapping and studies of ocean currents in the Pacific Northwest, including the Oregon coast as well as the strait now bearing his name. Spanish ships – 250 in as many years – would typically not land before reaching Cape Mendocino in California, but some landed or wrecked in what is now Oregon. Nehalem tales recount strangers and the discovery of items like chunks of beeswax and a lidded silver vase, likely connected to the 1707 wreck of the San Francisco Xavier.In 1843, an autonomous government was formed in the Oregon Country, and the Oregon Territory was created in 1848. Oregon became the 33rd state of the U.S. on February 14, 1859. Today, with 4 million people over 98,000 square miles (250,000 km2), Oregon is the ninth largest and 27th most populous U.S. state. The capital, Salem, is the second-most populous city in Oregon, with 169,798 residents. Portland, with 647,805, ranks as the 26th among U.S. cities. The Portland metropolitan area, which also includes the city of Vancouver, Washington, to the north, ranks the 25th largest metro area in the nation, with a population of 2,453,168. Oregon is one of the most geographically diverse states in the U.S., marked by volcanoes, abundant bodies of water, dense evergreen and mixed forests, as well as high deserts and semi-arid shrublands. At 11,249 feet (3,429 m), Mount Hood, a stratovolcano, is the state's highest point. Oregon's only national park, Crater Lake National Park, comprises the caldera surrounding Crater Lake, the deepest lake in the United States. The state is also home to the single largest organism in the world, Armillaria ostoyae, a fungus that runs beneath 2,200 acres (8.9 km2) of the Malheur National Forest.Because of its diverse landscapes and waterways, Oregon's economy is largely powered by various forms of agriculture, fishing, and hydroelectric power. Oregon is also the top lumber producer of the contiguous United States, with the lumber industry dominating the state's economy during the 20th century. Technology is another one of Oregon's major economic forces, beginning in the 1970s with the establishment of the Silicon Forest and the expansion of Tektronix and Intel. Sportswear company Nike, Inc., headquartered in Beaverton, is the state's largest public corporation with an annual revenue of $30.6 billion.
Medford is a city in and the county seat of Jackson County, Oregon, in the United States. As of the 2020 United States Census on April 1, 2020, the city had a total population of 85,824 and a metropolitan area population of 223,259, making the Medford MSA the fourth largest metro area in Oregon. The city was named in 1883 by David Loring, civil engineer and right-of-way agent for the Oregon and California Railroad, after Medford, Massachusetts, which was near Loring's hometown of Concord, Massachusetts. Medford is near the middle ford of Bear Creek.
Jacksonville is a city in Jackson County, Oregon, United States, approximately 5 miles (8 km) west of Medford. It was named for Jackson Creek, which flows through the community and was the site of one of the first placer gold claims in the area. It includes Jacksonville Historic District, which was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1966. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 2,785, up from 2,235 at the 2000 census.