Hiking to Greyrock Mountain, Colorado

One of the great aspects of living in Fort Collins, besides Tour de Fat, hosting stage 6 of the Pro Challenge, the New West Fest and the upcoming FORToberfest, (basically, Fort Collins festivals are all about bicycles, bands, and beers) is living close to some amazing hiking.  On Saturday, we hiked to Greyrock Mountain.

Ok, not all of the hike around Greyrock is this brown...
Ok, not all of the hike around Greyrock is this brown…

We arrived just before 9 am and the trail parking lot was already full, although you can still park on the street.  The trail starts with a bridge over the Poudre River.  We hiked up the Meadow trail first.  Unfortunately, a lot of the forest in this area is burned, which gave me some appreciation into the scale of these fires.

Entrance to Greyrock hiking is via this bridge.
Entrance to Greyrock hiking is via this bridge.

Continue reading “Hiking to Greyrock Mountain, Colorado”

The 2013 Circumnavigators Club Foundation Scholars

One of my best memories from the Navy was travelling around the globe in a submarine.  On that one deployment I picked up several “unofficial” certificates, but it also qualified me to join the Circumnavigators Club.  It’s not a travel club; it’s a club of travelers and since travelers don’t sit put much, there’s not a whole lot of meetings.

We can only travel so much, so we also send people to travel for us.  We have a foundation that provides merit-based grants to undergraduates on an around the world research trip.  Ok, so the travel is really for their benefit but I like to think we send out scouts to go report back on the mysteries of the world.

One of the requirements is that the recipient keep a blog of their travels.  This year, there are four scholars all with amazing stories.  I particularly liked Julia’s who took especially nice pictures in Austria and Switzerland.

You can also look at last year’s scholars here.  You can also watch a testimonial from Meixi Ng, a 2010 scholar below. Continue reading “The 2013 Circumnavigators Club Foundation Scholars”

Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park: Mills Lake

After a winding 1.5 hour drive from Fort Collins through Estes Park, we arrived at Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.  By 8:30 AM the small parking lot at Glacier Gorge was already full, so we continued down the road and parked at the Bear lake parking, which had plenty of room.

The hike from Bear Lake to Mills Lake and back again. That’s Long’s Peak in the top left.

Continue reading “Hiking Rocky Mountain National Park: Mills Lake”

Nemo found Central Park

Friday night, the blizzard “Nemo” hit the northeast portion of the United States. Mainly affecting areas north of NYC, it blanketed NYC in a few inches of snow. The serendipitous timing provided hours of entertainment for children and adults in Central Park. It seemed like all of the city was out enjoying the snow.  Including dogs in snow boots, which I think is a NYC thing.

Saturday morning I had breakfast at Cafe Sabarsky, which is one of my favorite, albeit infrequent, breakfast restaurants.  Although if you do visit the cafe, the breakfast hours on weekends are 9 – 11 am and they are quite strict on the timeliness of the cutoff.  So, my breakfast was more of a brunch 😉

Anyway, walking down from 86th street I passed many of my favorite landmarks now covered in snow. Sadly, the Strand kiosk was closed but the Waffles & Dinges stand was still going strong (having just had a Sachertorte, I skipped the cart this time…). For those of you who like amateur photos shot from a phone, enjoy the following collection. Continue reading “Nemo found Central Park”

Travel hacking

This NY Times article has outstanding cradle-to-grave travel advice.  Some of these recommendations are a little too George Cloonely ala “Up in the Air” (there is a great Zach Galifianakis cameo in that movie) for me, but here are some of my favorites:

  • Tripit. Every email confirmation you receive, forward it directly to trip it and they build a consolidated itinerary.  Sharing with multiple travelers is an option as well.  The iPhone app is great and stores your trip offline as well.
  • Wikitravel.  Great site, but wi-fi and cellular are not quite ubiquitous, so WikiTravel is good for pre-trip research, but I still like taking the guide-book (on the Kindle).
  • Pack light.  This is probably the best recommendation in the article.  Packing light makes the trip more enjoyable because you are less encumbered (unless you have a bag of holding +1).  With dry fit clothing, two pairs of under garments will last a long time, assuming they are regularly washed.
  • Netbooks.  Not only is a netbook probably smaller than your other computer, but you should travel with minimal data, since the US has consistently ruled in the favor of warrantless searches at the border.  Thank you HOPE#9.
  • Arrive at the airport five hours early.  The security lines are unpredictable and when I try to cut it too close, it’s stressful.  So lately, I’ve been going early (not 5 hours early) and I read and otherwise thoroughly enjoy the wait.
  • X-ray screening.  First of all, the back-scatter machines don’t increase security, are expensive and the screening procedure is invasive.  Anyway, there is an art to going through the screen efficiently.  The key is to grab all the bins that you need at once.  Three if you have a laptop, two if you don’t.  Shoes/belt/wallet in one, laptop/electronics/deadly 3 oz containers in two, everything else in three.  If you grab one tray at a time it makes it awkward for the traveler behind you.

If you are an over-packer like I used to be, buy smaller luggage 🙂

NYC Travel Tip: Governor’s Island

Open to the public since 2003, Governor’s Island is a great summer retreat when one wants to escape island life on Manhattan.  A repurposed Army base, this summer-only hideaway has been on my “to see” list for a while and I was glad to make a trek to the island, despite the simultaneous HOPE conference.

On Gov’s Island facing toward Lower Manhattan.

There is a short ferry from Manhattan’s Battery that takes about ten minutes or so of actual travel time.  Besides some great views of Brooklyn, the statue of liberty, Ellis Island and lower Manhattan, most of the northern part of the land is open to the public.  I was surprised to see a sand-filled beach beer garden and an abundance of table vendors from ice-cream trucks to recycling campaigns to political activists.  All of this in front of a backdrop of closed military barracks and parade grounds makes for a surreal sight.

Tall ship passing between Governor’s Island and Manhattan. There was a decent wind that day, which would make for a great day for sailing!

Renting bikes is popular here and so are collisions or near collisions among urban-dwellers who don’t get out of the city much. But, if one can manage to avoid a handshake with a bicycle, sitting and watching the water traffic is entertaining enough.  By the way, the island, the ferries and the walking is free (as in beer)!

Google Earth view of Governor’s Island, Brooklyn (with Bridge) and lower Manhattan. If I was properly prepared, I would have brought my GPS with me to record the trip…

I recommend visitors bring water and snacks with them as the on-island carts are very much aware that you are stuck on an island.  Also, when the military left apparently so did the sanitation system as most of the toilets are port-a-potties.  But, besides these realities of island-life, it really is worth the trip on a nice day and besides central park, it’s probably the closest open-air escape from the city.

NYC Water Taxi with Staten Island ferry. In the background, lower Manhattan. The water taxi was featured in AFAR‘s picture mash-up a few months ago which featured taxis from around the world.

Enter all ye, who in the Order of Magellan be!

I’m not sure why my pirate voice sounds like Yoda, but somehow that’s how it works in my head.  A few years ago, I was looking to obtain a copy of my Order of Magellan Certificate, since I wasn’t quite sure when my signed copy was going to arrive.  In doing so, I stumbled upon a great organization.  I sent an innocent inquiry email, met with a member and the next month I was renting a tux to see Michael Palin receive an award in NYC.

This international organization is the Circumnavigator’s Club, headquartered in NYC.  At events it’s ok to ask others “Which way do you go?” and not get raised eyebrows since the response is East/West in the Northern/Southern Hemisphere.  It’s not a travel-club, it’s a club of travelers.  And while trying to get travelers together in one place is like herding-cats, the meetings we do have are unforgettable, like the upcoming award presentation to two astronauts.

Berlin 2010 at the East Side Gallery (Berlin Wall). Corollary to the Circumnavigator’s Moto: (my attempt at translation) Whoever wants the world to stay as it is doesn’t want the world to stay (at all).

When I was deployed to Afghanistan, this group was one of the many organizations that supported me from the home-front.  Their motto is “Through friendship, to leave the world a little better than we found it” and among the many ways they do that, there is one way in particular that stands out.  Among most children-of-80s, or among those who like Indiana Jones (and died a little when the fourth one came out), or maybe just me, I wanted to have a room with artifacts collected from around the world.  And much to the chagrin of my wife, our small apartment had fake-samuri swords, beer steins, a rug from India and a poorly aged bottle of cream-sherry from south-west Spain.  Well, the Circumnavigators Club doesn’t collect artifacts (sorry, that’s just me 😉 ), but we do send people around the world, sponsored by our Foundation.

Kids on a Goa, India beach, November 2006. Buying a rug in India was an experience in itself, one that I wouldn’t rush into. It took a month or two for it to clear customs and I’m pretty sure I overpaid. There were probably cheaper artifacts…

In one of the most creative foundation projects, we sponsor college students on an around the world study program, in which they are able to conduct field research through this amazing experience.  In fact, you can follow three of the foundation scholars as they are making their trip, right now:

  1. Thomas Larson, Georgetown University.
  2. Leah Luben, Arizona State University.
  3. Harry Boulding, University of Liverpool.
  4. Kevin Short, Northwestern University.

So what’s the deal then?  Well, first I’m trying to get the word out about the Circumnavigator’s Club.  We don’t really advertise per se.  And honestly, we need some younger members.  The requirement to travel the globe is not waiverable, but can be done by plane, which is a bit easier these days than when the club was founded 100 years ago.  And when I say younger, I mean that most members are retired.  But, what this club stands for and supports is timeless and should equally appeal to those in Gen-X and later.  That and I would like some company when I’m older. 😛

In Japan, December 2006. There was hope back then (mainly by wife) that I would eventually like skiing / snowboarding. A hope that I faintly subscribed to, which is why I must have kept the lift ticket on my jacket, that was probably a year old at the time. That hope is officially dead now; I’m a lodge dweller.

The yearly dues are affordable to college students and no-one is without at least one interesting travel story.  Applications are here and ideally, you can sync up with a Circumnavigator at a local chapter (listed on website) who can help with the application process, or you can send an email to HQ.