Pikes Peak-Colorado

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Ever since Zebulon Pike failed to summit Pikes Peak in 1806, mountaineers have come to this grand spot in the Rocky Mountains to have their own go of it. At 14,110 ft this is one of 53 mountains that are greater than 14,000 feet in Colorado and a challenge to climb.

There are several ways to reach the summit of Pikes. The first is just plain old hoofing it up the mountain via Barr Trail which is considered a Class 1 trail. It is a 13 mile climb to the top with an 8,ooo ft elevation difference from start to finish.

Another way to reach the summit is The Manitou and Pikes Peak Railway which operates out of Manitou Springs weather permitting. It is a cog railway and is the highest railway in North America. This is an expensive way to summit at $38 per adult but the views are stunning and it is an unforgettable experience.

Since 2011 Pikes Peak Highway has been opened to the top. It is a 19 mile drive from Ute Pass and is maintained as a toll road so there is a fee to use it. At the top you will find a Visitors Center and gift shop but it is the things you will see along the way that you will long remember…the alpine woods, three magnificent lakes and the historic Glen Cove Inn. These are the things that come to mind when I think of Pikes Peak.

As always when you are at these altitudes be sure to bring along plenty of water so you keep hydrated. Altitude sickness with its attending headache is often experienced by visitors who do not take the time to acclimate. And remember it is COLD at the top so dress accordingly.  At Pikes the scenery is vast and the climb is one of those once-in-a- lifetime things you must do. So go and enjoy Pikes no matter how you get there!

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Dave climbing near Pikes Peak in Colorado

 

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Dragon’s Breath Zip Line-Labadee, Haiti

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Okay, I am cheating here because I am not following the idea of blogging about all the wonderful places I have been. Instead this post is about a place I have never been to but desperately want to experience.  It is the Dragons Breath Zip Line in Labadee, Haiti. I guess this is what happens when you challenge your fears as I did last week in the skydiving incident. It makes you want to test those fears again in the different way.

As you know I am desperately afraid of heights but when I saw this I immediately thought, “Now that it something I want to do!” So I researched it. And I found out I have to take a cruise to partake. A Royal Caribbean cruise in particular. This definitely is a problem. I get severely sea sick.

Once we took a three day cruise from LA – Catalina Island, Ca – Ensenada, Mexico. I literally couldn’t walk straight for two days and could not climb at ladder for a week. This on some of the smoothest seas known to man. SIGH. I swore then that I would never go on another cruise. And I haven’t.

But if you are planning on cruising around the Caribbean anytime soon you might want to put this adventure on your list. After all, if zipping over the seas surrounded by beautiful scenery doesn’t make your heart go BOOM then probably nothing ever will.

 

 

Sundance-Utah

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One of the loveliest places I have been is actor/activist Robert Redford’s Sundance. Redford bought the place and has since turned it into a premier resort which doesn’t have a resort feeling at all. The only word I can use to describe it is…serene.

The last time we were there we took in lunch at the Foundry Grill. It is a place that is designed to look like a high-end rustic cabin complete with chinking. The atmosphere is slick but elegant and the menu was superb.

We then took the Scenic Lift to the top of Ray’s Summit where we spent several hours hiking through this pristine mountain trail. The vistas are incredible and the fresh air refreshes as you hike through the pines. Mountain biking,fly fishing, skiing, zip lining and spa services are also available. But what I really loved was the Art Studio where I watched the in-residence glass blowers. To be able to take that original blob and bend and shape it into something spectacular just amazes me. Guests can also take workshops in painting, pottery and making jewelry.

While I have never stayed in the rooms or cabins that are available for rent; it is my understanding that they are immaculate and decorated in a style to fit this mountain resort. Be forewarned they are pricey.

Everything about Sundance is what you would expect of something Robert Redford would develop from beautiful architecture, to babbling brooks and impressive artwork. And every time I come back I am amazed at the changes. The first time I visited was around 1980 when it was just a  fairly quiet patch of beautiful ground. Now it is a destination that seeks to preserve the quiet essence of this beautiful area with a dignity not often found in a place that is rated one of the top resorts in the USA.

 

 

 

Best Place For A Joust-Linlithgow Palace, Scotland

When we were in Scotland one of the things our kids loved the best was the jousting tournament that was held at Linlithgow Palace in West Lothian. While the Palace is a place to remember in of itself, it is the jousting event that captured our imagination.

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The first thing that takes your breath away is the castle itself and the cobblestone walkway leading up to it.  Huge stone gates greet you and inside them you will find people dressed and acting as if they were locals of the area living in the 1400 and 1500’s. Once in the courtyard you will meet beggars and huntsmen, ladies in waiting and squires. Set against the backdrop of this magnificent 15th century palace in which Mary Queen of Scots was born; all the action that surrounds you makes you feel as though you have stepped back in time.

Exiting to the tournament grounds one of the first things you will notice is the enormous and sparkling Linlithgow Loch. Deeper into the venue you will see tents of the horsemen and find the living history camps. It was here on the grounds that we met this archer who shared with us his handmade arrows. Did you know that the feathers on an arrow must be from the same bird in order to fly properly? Neither did we.

Then it was time for the action to begin as magnificent and regal steeds flew across the valley their hoofs shaking the ground as they thundered across. The children were invited into the Children’s Army before the action began.Then men wearing armour and using weapons of the era battled it out on horseback and on foot using the chants of the crowd to spur them on.

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All in all a great fun-filled and educational day.

 

This year’s tournament will be held July 2 and 3, 2016. Admission is£6.30 for kids up to£10 for adults.

Conquering The Fear

 

Okay, I am not a big spender. I prefer things that are FREE and I plan my vacations to take in as many of these as humanly possible. But today I splurged. After an eight hour doctor visit I decided my son had earned a big reward so we went to iFLY- the place that gives you a taste of skydiving courtesy of HUGE indoor wind tunnel.

I had not planned on going. It was against everything thrifty in my nature but after arriving I decided “Damn, I am going!”

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There was a reason for my reluctance. I am deathly afraid of heights.  Relinquishing control in any way, shape or form to someone else is also a big NO-NO in my book. But I decided that this would be a way to kill two birds with one stone….or just me anyway. So I shelled out $139 for two people (which includes your two videos) and watched the group before us take to the sky. Frankly, watching them scared the living **** out of me and several times I almost went back up to the cashier to get my money back. But my mind was changed for me when K said, “I am so glad we are doing this together. It will be a great memory.” GULP. There was no way I was going to back out now!

One half-hour before our 6 p.m. fly time we were called back to watch the instructional video where hand signals were discussed as well as the way to enter and exit the tunnel. It appeared to be easy peasy! I just prayed I didn’t knock the guy unconscious with my big feet and float to the top slamming my body against the walls all the way up. After all, there must be a reason they make you sign a release stating you have never dislocated your shoulder!

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Next we suited up and were provided with goggles and helmets. A few quick selfies and it was into the chamber we went looking like lambs being lead to slaughter.  I was the last to go and by then I had watched who flew well and who didn’t so I had the position engraved into my mind. WHOOSH! I was in. Chin up. Check. Arms bent and out in front of face. Check. Legs split. Check. And off I flew…kind of. At first I would say I vibrated and rocked like a baby on a rocking horse. After a few seconds though I got the hang of it…all except that drooling thing. I think spit must have been flying everywhere!

All in all it was a lot of  short time indoor fun for a lot of hard earned money but I am not complaining. Nor am I looking to go skydiving from a plane anytime soon. I am just happy to have had the experience and to have let go of a few of those fears. In that vein, iFLY is cheaper than a session with a shrink!

iFLY has multiple locations throughout the United States and the world. HINT: Coupons are available to make your first fly cheaper. Costco has discounts available.

 

 

 

 

A Sport Fit For Kings…School of Falconry

After a short walk past perfectly manicured grounds of Ashford Castle we arrive at the Ireland’s School of Falconry where an elderly gentleman, looking like a character out of Harry Potter, is working with an owl who thinks he is a human. All hawks think this way too, “but they believe they are the superior one in the “relationship,” explains theowner of the school Deborah Knight. While Knight would not part with one of her birds the hawks would unceremoniously dump her for a half a plump chicken leg. For chicken legs are to the hawk like diamonds are to the gold digger and both can never get enough of them. And so this is the most important thing we discover about hawks; they have no sense of loyalty. They do not wish to please nor do they perform out of any sense of affection for the falconer. They only fly and return because they associate the falconer with food. It truly is an one-sided “affair”.

Deborah has been a falconer for over 25 years and is an expert on hawks. Her passion and enthusiasm about “her birds” and the sport of falconry is contagious. Throughout our stay Knight peppers us with tidbits of information. From Knight we learn:

Hawks see in iridescent colors meaning that the world is much more colorful for them than for us

Hawks are the fastest creatures on earth reaching speeds of 234 miles per hour

Hawks pupils are independent of one another which means that they can scope in on one an object while still scanning in the distance with the other eye

 Hawks don’t fly unless they are looking for something to eat

After being introduced all the birds it is time to go on our Hawk Walk. I put on the thick leather glove while Deborah fetches, Uisce, a magnificent Harris hawk. He is a young,handsome and commanding with stout talons and dark feathers which dance in the sunlight. His eyes are dark and twitch constantly as he scans the landscape in a hyper-vigilant sort-of-way .

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As we walk to the hawking grounds I remove Uisce’s jesses which are the leather straps attached to his talons. The bells attached to his leg jingle in anticipation of the hunt. I predict that when Uisce leaves the glove it will feel like a gun recoil. Instead, he pushes away gently, disappearing from sight almost immediately. I place a scrawny chicken leg between my fingers in the glove and wait. The bells give away Uisce’s position as he suddenly appears out of nowhere soaring straight towards me. But its not the way-high-up-in-the-sky kind of soaring but a very low to the ground glide which makes this hawk fly with little effort. Keeping my arm outstretched and steady, Uisce swings upward and alights heavily on my arm. In a split second he grabs his treat and wraps his wings around it (called mantling) to protect it from any creature who thinks they may want it…me included.

We repeat this flight pattern numerous times as we fly through the vast castle grounds learning more with each takeoff and return about how a hawk hunts and maneuvers.  How he does it is fascinating and it makes us somewhat jealous wishing that we too could skim the clouds.

We also barnstorm through the dense forest with Uisce appearing like a ghost out of nowhere, hidden by the trees, until swooping down upon us. Suddenly the bird refuses to return. He has spotted some bicycles nearby and they make him wary of leaving his perch. Finally with the cyclists gone Uisce returns to us feathers ruffled. It is time for him to rest and time for us to take our leave.

If you ever get a chance to participate in some aspect of falconry it is worth your time. You’ll learn so much about the sport and you will never look at these magnificent creatures without a sense of awe.

The School Of Falconry, Ashford Castle, Cong, County Mayo, Ireland

info@falconry.ie