poetry, travel

Blissful Mornings

Every morning should start like this.

No alarms blaring, just pure bliss.

Birds sing out from the trees in glee,

while I brew up his coffee and my tea.

Some toast with jam in my hand,

And a comfy place to land.

Nature is where I fit in,

This is how every day should begin.

travel, writing

Take a Hike! – Part One

“Why don’t you just go take a hike?!” He shouted at her.

He didn’t know her. Not at all. These words are usually meant to get rid of people. Not inspire them.

Her pursed lips softened and formed into a smile. She didn’t want to work here any more anyway. “Okay, I will!”

She walked back to her desk, shouldered her bag, grabbed her keys and glasses. “I’m outta here!” she proclaimed to her fellow cube mates with no intention of ever returning.

When she arrived home, she pulled out her pack and prepared for a few days with nature. That would revive her tired, overworked soul.

She pulled out some oats and other mix-ins to make some trail mix. She liked hers over the store bought brands. She also found joy in making it herself.

While the granola baked, she pulled up the weather and AllTrails apps to figure out where to go. The mountains were ultimately calling, but she opted to head south, closer to home, to the Everglades, for the weekend. They had an eco-tent available for a few days, so she could forego the tent and sleeping mat. A lighter pack, yay!

She put together her gear and her pack, charged up her camera and phone, and pulled together some portable meals and water for the trip.

Tomorrow will be the start of a new adventure.

travel, writing

El Avion

Costa Rica – 2015

We happened upon a restaurant as we left our day at Manuel Antonio. It was called El Avion. It was a unique restaurant built around a plane with a bit of a scandalous history.

The host escorted us to a table overlooking the coast and the Pacific Ocean. We ordered drinks and relaxed after our trek through the park. I looked over photos of the sloth and the monkeys eating and dropping termites from the trees, along with the beautiful scenery I captured. My attention shifted.

I looked over the mountainside and watched macaws fly by and settle in the treetops. I turned my attention towards the restaurant. It appeared to be made out of local hardwoods. We sat in an open air section; the cross breeze was refreshing as was my iced drink on this hot and humid afternoon.

I sat there, looking at the fuselage of the plane the restaurant was built around. I watched a man playing with his two kids, going in and out of the plane and walking around the restaurant. It brought a smile to my face, although I am not sure why. Kids just make me smile sometimes.

I sighed a bit, then turned my attention back to my adventuring cohort. Our meal was served and hit the spot. I continued looking out over the lush vegetation below us, amazed by its beauty.

A rainstorm rolled by, refreshing the air. The water poured off the side of the building, splashing down. I could get entranced watching rain fall. I wished to linger longer in this place; it felt familiar to me.

However, it was getting late and we needed to go. We finished up paying and headed to our little car to find our way back to Playa Bejuco to join the rest of our party.

A nice memory from a great trip.

travel, writing

Swimming with Sharks!

I stood on the back of the dive boat, ready to take that great big stride. Below, ominous shapes of sharks swam back and forth. Our guide insisted they would not harm us, but their black shadows were unnerving.

Settle to the bottom, line up, and enjoy the show, I repeated in my head. The viz was amazing in the clear blue waters off of the John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park. My first certified dive, and we do it with sharks!

My heart pounded as I took the leap. The water however provided a different solitude than being above the ocean. No sounds of waves smacking the boat. No birds squawking overhead. Just the sound of my own breath and the bubbles coming from the regulator as I exhaled.

My diving partner was already ahead of me so I sunk down beside her and settled in. The rest of our group lined up as well. Our instructor descended with a bucket of chum, feeding our friendly sharks.

I was amused. The sharks looked like hungry kittens, each trying to get some treats from the bucket. It was obvious these sharks knew the routine!

As the sharks swam around, we were encouraged to stroke their sandpaper like skin. Some of our class had to be instructed to keep their hands balled up — no one wanted to lose any fingers. The sharks were harmless nurse sharks, but they still could bite!

Nearby, a barracuda hung out, enjoying any treats that floated his way. Looking back, he was scarier than the sharks.

Eventually, our new friends moved along and our dive soon ended. We ascended back to the boat and headed off to our second dive site for the day. This was an adventure never to be forgot.

travel, writing

Tahoe – Three Great Hikes

Inspired from a trip in 2013

In 2013, I found myself in Lake Tahoe for the second time in my life. It was late April, the low season. Snow could be seen on the ground, but had mostly melted away. The temperatures were comfortable to cool most days.

We stayed in an old resort located right on Lake Tahoe with a beautiful view of the pristine blue lake. During our stay, we found our way on three separate hikes.

Fallen Leaf Lake

We parked in a grassy parking area near one of several paths to Fallen Leaf Lake on Fallen Leaf Lake Rd., off Emerald Bay Rd.

The trail was very visible. On this trip, the trail we took was dry and fairly easy. We found our way through a wooded area and a few small switchbacks at the small rise which surrounds the lake. The path wound around the east side of the lake. Once you arrive over the rise, there is a 4.1 mile loop around the lake. We only walked part of this area during our hike.

The photo below I took when we arrived at the lake shore. Funny thing….when I went to frame it at home, the frame had an almost identical photo. Guess this is a popular picture spot!

A view of Mt. Tallac from Fallen Leaf Lake

Two fallen trees right along the lake shore provided us the perfect picnic spot to enjoy our lunch before heading back to the car. We encountered several large fallen trees during our hike. Most had sections sawed out to ease the hike. Based on another trip, the trail can be very wet depending on snow melt and the time of year, so I recommend waterproof boots.

Cascade Falls

Our second hike of the trip was up to Cascade Falls, above Emerald Bay. We parked along Emerald Bay Road, just outside the gates of the camping area, which was not yet open for the season. The trail starts just inside the Bayview Camping area with options to go to the falls or to Desolation Wilderness.

This trail was higher in the range and quite craggy. The distance was a short 1.4 miles out and back and is rated as moderate. I enjoyed the hike, but was thankful to actually have on hiking boots instead of sneakers. Spots on the trail were only wide enough for one person and there were some steep drop-offs. But the view was spectacular. We were able to walk to a flat spot above the falls where we could see the water fall away.

Cascade Falls

From the top, you could see out over Cascade Lake. The light shimmered on the water and one could easily get lost in thought among the tranquility of the location. On the way back, we saw a couple families also making their way along the path. One lady even had a stroller, but did appear to have a difficult time navigating the rocky area.

Big Meadow

Our third hike was further away from Lake Tahoe, Big Meadow via Tahoe Rim Trail. As we started to hike, I wondered how far it would be to the meadow as this was to be a 3-mile trail, out and back. The start of our hike was steep and rocky. Eventually, it gave way however to a beautiful stream and field, so the climb was worth it.

The ground was wet on the meadow so we did get a little muddy on our hike. There were no flowers yet, we were too early in the season. I had to use my imagination a bit on what it would look like in bloom. Perhaps I’ll get out there again one day to see it dotted with flowers.

travel, writing

A Journey Begins?

Melissa booked a flight to Colorado, one of her favorite locations, and charted a plan to make her way west and north as the Spring settled in. She arranged for her mail to be held and pre-paid the bills for the next few weeks before heading out.

She landed in Colorado. The arid environment was a change for her, bringing back the memories from her youth. She found herself reaching for lotion every few hours as she settled in at her first stay in southern Colorado. She planned to first go to the Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve.

She’d rented an all wheel drive Subaru for her stay; her accommodations were simple, a single bed in a roadside hotel near the park.

She took out to the night as it was clear to get some shots. The stars pierced the night sky, and she spied a shooting star streak across the sky. She made a silly wish before it faded away.

The next morning, she found her way to the dunes. She could see them in the distance as she approached, but their size grew as she neared. She parked in a parking lot and walked out to the edge of the Medano Creek. It had flowing cold water from the snow melt. The water moved swiftly, but it was shallow and easy to walk through to get to the dunes.

Melissa went back to retrieve some waterproof boots in exchange for her sneakers. She didn’t really mind getting wet, but more her feet getting cold due to the chill in the water. She also thought the boots may be better to explore the dunes.

She began to slowly walk along the shallow spots, crossing the river. As she crossed, she spied a fallen tree which cast a beautiful reflection in the river. She navigated her way around it, capturing several shots with her camera.

She continued her hike. The dunes rose like a mountain ahead of her and she began to wonder if she would ever get to the base. She continued walking, first arriving on dry sand and then slowly closer to the towering dunes ahead. She watched younger visitors playing in the sand, taking boards up and sliding down the mountain. Oh, she wished she had experienced this when she was younger. But she was here, now, and not going to let this moment pass her by.

She continued to climb up the dune. She spied people at the top so she knew it could be done. Now and then she would stop for a drink of water and reflect how far she has climbed. As the sun moved across the sky, she reached the maximum she could climb and looked around. More sand and mountains peaks off in the distance. It was getting late, so she decided to head back down. And that is when it happened.

Melissa lost her footing and started to slide down the steep slope. She feared she’d tumble all the way to the base, but a man broke her fall. “Oh my! I am so sorry! Are you alright?”

His blue eyes smiled, and a laugh escaped his mouth as he brushed off his pants and helped her to her feet. “Yes, I’m alright. No harm done.”

Melissa brushed her hands off on her pants, then pulled her glasses off to blow off the sand. Her face was hot from the embarrassment of not only falling but knocking over this man in front of her.

“Melissa?”

Oh no, how does he know my name? She looked around to see if she had dropped something with her name on it.

He placed his hand on her chin and lifted it up. “Melissa, is that really you?”

She looked up with confusion in her eyes. “Why do I know this voice? Did I get knocked out or something?” Finally, her eyes focused, and she saw through the silhouette of the man in front of her. She could see his face now. She held up her hand to shield the sun and get a better look. Her eyes grew wide as she realized who it was.

“Lee? Is that really you?!”

“Yes, it is. Wow! Imagine running into you out here like this! I’m headed back down, why don’t we help each other down to the basin and catch up.”

She smiled; it had been quite some time since they had seen each other. He looked a little older, he kept his hair short and it had darkened from the blond she remembered along with some streaks of grey. But his eyes were the same color she had remembered. “I could use the assist, can’t go wiping out all these folks slipping down the dunes!”

“I’d say one is enough” he chuckled.

As they got to the flat spot, a woman called out, “Dad! Hey, we’re over here!”

“Well, I should let you get back to your family.” She smiled as he turned back from waving to his daughter.

“Why don’t you come meet my girls?”

travel, writing

Fairy Pool Frivolity

Near the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, the mountains rise up and the thick rainforest covers the mountainside. We hiked the dense forest on a winding trail which included suspension rope bridges and narrow steps up and down the slopes.

From one of the suspension bridges, we spied our ultimate destination. A row of fairy pools fed by a stream originating further up in the mountains glistened beneath us.

We wound our way back down the trail. The final descent was steep and the sweat from our hike clung to our brow. The fairy pools enticed us to keep climbing down.

Finally we arrived at the pools. A continual rush of water made its way down the mountainside, filling the main pool and spilling over its edge, downstream to smaller pools.

We set down our packs and slid out of our hiking boots and clothes. Everyone had donned suits underneath, knowing these pools were our destination. We stuck our toes in the water. It was cold and refreshing compared to the heat in the Costa Rican sun.

Rich and Don jumped right in, splashing about and rough housing like the childhood playmates they were. April and I found our way to a shallow spot where we could relax and avoid the chaos from the guys.

Someone had suspended a rope up the rock where the water cascaded. The guys climbed up the rope and slid back down the rock, splashing in the pool.

I decided why should just the guys have all the fun? I waved to April and dove into the pool. The power of the water coming down was more forceful than I expected. I found the end of the rope and pulled myself to the base of the rock, staying out of the splash zone as much as possible.

While I didn’t have the arm strength like the guys, I floated in and out of the falling water. It felt good on my shoulders, massaging away any stiffness from carrying my pack.

Finally, I let the rope go and allowed the water to push me back into the center of the pool. We all climbed out of the pool and dried off after floating around a little more.

We found a dry spot, unpacking and drinking our waters then hiked back out of the jungle. The hike out was flatter and easier than the hike in. When we arrived back at the post where we started, we were greeted with a delicious Costa Rican meal to refuel us for the rest of our day.

travel, writing

North Sea Sleep

A snippet of imagery

The cruise had been rough all day. Sea legs were hard to come by as the ship keel raised and lowered through the high swells. Melissa crawled her way from the stateroom’s bathroom to the bed. If only the rocking would stop for a few moments, she might be able to finally fall asleep and get through the night and hopefully the storm.

She finally made it to the bed and laid on her back, staring at the ceiling. When she tried to close her eyes, waves of nausea would return. Her eyelids were heavy, having been ill for several hours. The doors in the cabin knocked back and forth, squealing on their hinges and banging open and closed. Each sound would make Melissa come out of any rest she might get. Finally, exhaustion overcame the nausea and she succumbed to slumber. As she slept, the bed felt as if it was falling away from her and then catching her as the ship came back to center.

A loud thud shook the entire room as if they had hit a wall. The sound of breaking glass startled her and her cabin mates awake. The ship shuddered and groaned from the impact. Yelps for help throughout the ship could be heard as the passengers awoke startled from the event.

A steward knocked on the door. “Everyone alright in there?”

Rich, one of Melissa’s cabin mates, answered the door. “Yes, but we have broken glass everywhere.”

The steward looked as green as Melissa. He came in the room and assisted with cleaning up the broken glass and removed all other glasses from the room.

Melissa looked around the room. It looked like it had been tossed by burglars. The shelf where the glasses had been stowed was missing its metal bar. Melissa saw the bar and put it back in place.

The waves continued to rock the boat. Melissa became woozy again as the adrenalin wore off. Rich helped her back to bed and he finished straightening up anything that needed immediate attention.

The next morning, all of the rough weather had subsided as they had pulled into port. All of the passengers and crew had a rough night. The steward who helped them the night before came by to check in.

Rich inquired, “What caused that horrible thud last night? We know it was rough, but did we hit something?”

The steward looked at him. “We hit a rogue wave last night. The crew will be checking for damage to the hull now that we are in port. The bridge indicates it was at least a thirty-foot wave.” Melissa’s eyes grew wide, no wonder it felt like she was falling last night….she was.

travel, writing

A Day in London

Based on a trip from 2019

Weary eyed from an overnight flight from the states, we found our way from Gatwick to London. At least we were staying at the Grosvenor near the terminus of the line. We stumbled with stacks of luggage for 5 up the small back stair from the station, and found our way to the concierge. Thankfully we could check our luggage for the day until our rooms were ready.

We enjoyed a buffet breakfast in the hotel full of classic London fair, coffee, and tea…glorious hot tea. Over breakfast, our group decided to do a Red Bus tour; we only had a day and everyone was tired from the flight. A bus tour seemed like a good way to see the sights with low energy.

The day started out rainy, but gave way to crisp temperatures and blue skies for most of our tour. When seats were available, I found my way to the top of the bus to get some of the best pictures I could as the sights flew by.

Bundled in my scarf and jacket, exhaustion took over at times. I found myself drifting off and leaning on my travel companion to keep warm. I couldn’t wait until we could settle into our room.

We hopped off the tour when it reached Buckingham Palace. By then, we found our second wind. We walked out front, admiring the statue of Nike and the gates in front of the Palace.

Our hotel was only a short walk away and check-in time had arrived. Naps were in order once we checked in. The linens swallowed me as I drifted off to sleep. I could have slept the rest of the afternoon and overnight until we needed to head to the port for our cruise. But we had agreed to do dinner together, so sleep was secondary on the agenda yet again.

We were greeted with more rain when we met up with the rest of our party for dinner in the beautiful lobby of the Grosvenor. We ended up having dinner in the same restaurant as breakfast to avoid the weather. Dinner was just as good…or maybe we were just hungry! So goes our London experience. In the morning, we were headed to Brighton, England, to catch our ship.

If I am ever on the British Isles again, it will be a land tour with more time in London. The vibrant city holds more than anyone can see in just a single day.