Archive for the ‘Hiking’ Category

Carlton Ward frames Florida’s wild side

March 22, 2014
An Ogeechee tupelo tree on an island in the Suwannee River (photo Cartlon Ward)

An Ogeechee tupelo tree on an island in the Suwannee River (photo Cartlon Ward)

One of my favorite nature photographers, eighth-generation Floridian Carlton Ward Jr., recently opened his first public gallery. Hooray!

The Carlton Ward Gallery in Tampa, where Carlton is based, displays about 30 of his award-winning fine-art prints from assignments and adventures around the state. Carlton is known for his striking environmental photographs, which have been seen in Smithsonian, National Geographic, and other publications. Now you can see them up close and personal, in frames!

When I visited the gallery, photo locations included the Everglades, Gulf Coast, Tampa Bay, Florida cowboys, and his most recent project, the Florida Wildlife Corridor. Carlton brings out the best of Florida, and is quite the intrepid adventurer. You’d have to be to get the shots he does.

For the Wildlife Corridor project, in 2012, Ward and two scientists trekked 1,000 miles from the Everglades to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in Georgia to document the state of wildlife habitats, watersheds, and ranches. “The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition” book and DVD also are available at the gallery.

Here are the basics: Carlton Ward Gallery, 1525 West Swann Ave. (in Hyde Park), Tampa. 813-251-0257, http://www.carltonward.com

Paradise found at Florida park

February 2, 2014

I wrote this article, which ran on Feb. 2 in the Boston Globe, after a summer visit to St. Joseph Peninsula State Park in Florida’s Panhandle. It’s a super-special place and while it’s not really a secret, it kind of still is because it’s out-of-the-way location keeps the number of visitors down. Read on…

By Diane Daniel

The State Park includes 10 miles of untamed coast and 35-foot-high sand dunes

The state park includes 10 miles of untamed coast and 35-foot-high sand dunes

CAPE SAN BLAS, Fla. — Initially, Youngra Hardwick appeared eager to share her wisdom. She had succeeded where I’d failed by snagging a waterfront cabin at T. H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, and I wanted in on the secret.

“There are some tricks to it. Every day different spots come open. So you have to get up really early in the morning.” Just as she was advising me about opening several internet browsers, she stopped.

“Wait! I don’t even want to talk to you about it,” she said. She was laughing, but she meant it.

View of St. Joseph Bay from the Maritime Hammock Trail

View of St. Joseph Bay from the Maritime Hammock Trail

Hardwick, who traveled here from Columbus, Ohio, with her husband and two daughters, first stumbled upon the park, in Florida’s Panhandle and about 105 miles southwest of Tallahassee, while searching online for budget-friendly coastal stays.

“I look for places that are remote and isolated, and this sounded like paradise,” she said. “I was right.”

Many visitors, it seems, treat their time at St. Joseph as if it involved password-protected admission. During my three-day stay, several people asked how I had discovered the park. Check online travel forums and you can find users jokingly trying to dissuade others from visiting.

The real treats are the eight furnished cabins with a view of St. Joseph Bay

The real treats are the eight furnished cabins with a view of St. Joseph Bay

It’s not surprising that folks want to keep this spot along Florida’s “Forgotten Coast” to themselves. St. Joseph’s natural amenities include an unheard of (at least in Florida) 10 miles of untamed coast and 35-foot-high sand dunes, along with maritime forests and wildlife. The park’s 119 tent and RV camping sites are fairly standard, but the beach is just a short walk away over the dunes. The real treats are the eight furnished “cabins,” which look more like resort condominiums minus the television. And who needs TV when your back yard looks out onto the wide expanse of St. Joseph Bay?

Luckily for the non cabin-dwellers, water views are everywhere in this 2,716-acre playground. It sits at the tip of narrow Cape San Blas and is flanked by the Gulf of Mexico and the bay, giving visitors the opportunity to see sunrises and sunsets — only a few yards apart in some spots. Although the park has been anointed a “best of” by “Dr. Beach” and is frequently mentioned in national publications, its out-of-the-way location keeps traffic relatively low.

(more…)

St. Croix gets under your skin

January 18, 2013

Sitting here in North Carolina on this dreary, wet, chilly evening makes me yearn for St. Croix, where we were a few weeks ago. We chose the lesser-known US Virgin Island because it has so much variety, which means we were going nonstop to see everything, but that’s us. Below is the story I wrote for the Boston Globe, along with photographer Lina’s favorite photos. I couldn’t believe the paper didn’t use one of the iconic sugar mill. We spent more than an hour there shooting. And so it goes. I received several notes of appreciation from Crucians, who are so proud of their island.

By Diane  Daniel

Ruins of a sugar mill near Cane Bay

Ruins of a sugar mill near Cane Bay

CHRISTIANSTED, St. Croix — Even before I was able to see daylight’s gift a sea shimmering in a crayon box of blues from turquoise to midnight my hands told me I’d made it to the Caribbean the night before, their rough, wrinkled winter skin showing just a hint of the smoothness to come.

My partner, Lina, and I decided to visit the largest of the US Virgin Islands (84 square miles) because it offered a little bit of everything: plentiful beaches, green hills, lively town centers, and historic sites. St. Croix has the reputation of being the poor relation to glitzier St. Thomas and lusher St. John, but we found a rich culture here, born of the island’s Danish past, its once-mighty sugar trade, and its cordial Crucians, as the native islanders are called. Add to that pristine islands to visit, water sports, and even a rain forest to explore and you can see why we were hard-pressed to squeeze everything into a week’s stay last month.

A rooster wanders the grounds of Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted, built in 1738

A rooster wanders the grounds of Fort Christiansvaern in Christiansted

We based ourselves in a centrally located, budget-friendly waterfront apartment along “condo row” in Christiansted, the larger and more tourist-driven of the island’s two towns. With hens and roosters wandering all over, the countryside never felt out of reach. Our street, lined with palm trees and a rainbow of bougainvilleas, also led to working-class neighborhoods and public-housing developments, daily reminders of the poverty here. We never felt unwelcome or unsafe, but for those who prefer more upscale and tropical settings, mid-level to pricey beachfront resorts and villas cover the island.

Strike up a conversation with a local or a fellow tourist and you’ll immediately be asked, “Have you been to Buck Island yet?” Put St. Croix’s jewel on top of your list. Surrounding the uninhabited island, a 30-minute boat ride from Christiansted, lies the underwater Buck Island Reef National Monument, a protected reef system that includes a short marked trail. While some of the coral is in tough shape, the clear water nonetheless offers the area’s best snorkeling. Unless you have access to a private boat, you’ll need to use one of the National Park Service’s six concessionaires. Unfortunately, no outfitter allows enough opportunity to also experience the island’s hiking trails.

A sailboat departs Turtle Beach at Buck Island

A sailboat departs Buck Island

After an hour in the water, we climbed back aboard and compared notes. I sought out Oliver Martin, 15, from Marion, Pa., who, with his dad, were the only people near me when I witnessed a heart-stopping sight.

“I knew it was a shark right away,” Oliver said proudly. “It had that fin on top. I was a little nervous, but not too much.”

I agreed. With the help of a deckhand, we concluded it was a lemon shark, probably about 5 feet long. We also were treated to sightings of a large school of shiny blue tang, iridescent parrotfish, long-bodied trumpetfish, and camouflaged Nassau grouper. Apparently I was the only one to see a barracuda flash its teeth.

(more…)

DeCordova Sculpture Park a beauty outside and in

December 8, 2011

Ozymandias by Douglas Kornfeld

I hadn’t been to the DeCordova for almost a decade, and couldn’t wait to see its expansion both inside and out during a trip to Boston last month.  Formally the DeCordova Sculpture Park and Museum, it’s adjacent to a large pond in the lovely, historic town of Lincoln, northwest of Boston. Somehow, even though the DeCordova is listed in various guides, it remains a best-kept secret. Below were some of our favorite sculptures, but you must also go inside to see current contemporary exhibits, check out the cafe, and do not miss the gift shop, one of the best places to buy craft in the Boston area. If you’re feeling ambitious (we didn’t have time), take a walk along the Sandy Pond Trail, which circumvents the pond. It’s a great place for lady slipper viewing in the spring. Whatever you do when you get there, just get there!

Diane (right) and friend Vicki have a heart to heart in front of Two Big Black Hearts by Jim Dine

One piece from Armour Boys by Laura Ford

Eve Celebrant by Marianna Pineda

Testing a World View (Again) (left) by Tory Fair, Humming by Jaume Plensa

Starry, starry nights amid Indian culture in NM

November 1, 2011

Chaco Culture National Historical Park is in a remote region of New Mexico

We’ve been home from our eight days in northern New Mexico for a month now and I have two strongly lingering images – our meals and our night of camping at Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

I’ve already written my piece on chile peppers, with a recipe, for the Boston Globe food section (to be published soonish), but could not sell anyone on the idea of a story on Chaco. Which is crazy! But it was just as well because that meant I could enjoy myself instead of run around interviewing people and taking notes about everything I saw.

Instead, I inhaled it all in slowly – the history, the breathtaking terrain,  the up-close petroglyphs, the unbelievably intact Indian ruins and, oooohhhhh, those dark star-saturated skies.

See the blue dot straight ahead, near the canyon wall? That's where we camped!

Thanks to Southwest Airlines’  humane luggage policy, we each got two bags for free, so used our extras to stash camping gear for our one night at the park, at Lina’s urging. (Thank you, my ever-adventurous mate!)

We loved almost every minute of our 20-hour blitz. We arrived midafternoon, enjoying the minor thrill of the eight-mile-long dirt road that leads to the park. (Take the north entrance if you don’t want to get stuck.) First we picked out at campsite in the tent-only area, amid boulders and backing up against a cliff. Heaven!!

Pueblo Bonito is famous for many things, including its intact walls and doorways

Next we high-tailed it to 2 p.m. tour of Pueblo Bonito, a Native American “great house” that was lived in from the mid 800s to the 1200s. It once towered four stories high, with more than 500 rooms and 40 kivas and is one of the most excavated and studied sites in North America, as well as one of the most intact. Although our guide went way over the scheduled time, he was fantastic and brought the history alive, and the archeology history was as interesting as the Indian history.

We toured a few other sites and then reached the petroglyphs just as the late afternoon sun was spotlighting them. They were the most intact and closest I’ve ever seen!

Up close and personal with petroglyphs

We had just a little time to set up camp and share a beer before we zipped over to the visitor’s center for what we thought would be the dark-sky talk and a chance to look through the telescopes. Chaco is the only national park with its own observatory. Well damned if the astronomers weren’t at a conference – um, thanks for letting us know? A ranger gave an interesting presentation on the Civilian Conservation Corps’ involvement in the park in the 1930s and ‘40s, but we were feeling very pouty and whiny about the whole star thing. Until….

We returned to the campsite around 8 p.m. and the sky seemed to go from dusk to black within minutes. I looked up and – WAM, BAM, LOOK AT THOSE STARS, MA’M! I told Lina, who needs astronomers? Of course I would have liked a walk-through of the skies, but wowie, zowie, they were amazing — Milky Way, of course, and shooting stars and dancing constellations. We each laid down on a bench of the picnic table, wrapped up in our blankets, and watched in awe.

Lina's "just one more," Kin Klatso great house

That night we heard the eeriest sound. The only reason I knew it was coyotes is because a ranger had warned me. Wow.

After visiting a few more ruins in the morning (“Just one more” is Lina’s motto in life), we were back on the long dirt road, headed back to the big city.

Stormproof Matches: burn, baby, burn

August 27, 2011

Stormproof Matches lit easily in the wind during our test

I’ve had Industrial Revolution brand Stormproof Matches to test for quite a while and, well, what better time to do it than during a hurricane — i.e. today, when Irene visited us here in North Carolina. I was sent the paper-container version pictured here, not this fancy kit that you can buy for $6 and which I recommend if you’re a big outdoorsperson.

As promised, they were very easy to light — even when the matches and striker were wet. I lit several during wind gusts of maybe 30 mph. But here’s the thing — when it’s really windy, the regular 15-second burn time goes much quicker. So you have to act fast. But still, they lit, unlike traditional matches, and they stayed lit once they got going.

A fancier carrying case is optional

The marketing information claimed the matches “are so water resistant they even remain lit after being submerged in water.” I was most excited to see this, but it didn’t work for me. Three times I dropped blazing matches into a bowl of water and the flame died immediately. So that claim went up in smoke, at least for this tester. OK, UPDATE: Got this from PR person after posting. “If you still have matches left, dunk them in water, take them back out and they should relight! It’s quite fun!” Unfortunately I’m now far from the matches for two weeks, so will try that when home. That makes more sense, I have to say! OK, NEW UPDATE: After submerging in water, the match did re-light, but it wasn’t a steady or smooth flame. Still, cool!

Industrial Revolution isn’t the only brand on these heavy-duty matches on the market, and I don’t know how they compare to others. I will say this — I will always have these kinds of matches with my camping gear from now on. I just hope I don’t ever need a submerged flame. Then again, who would?

Rocky Mountain high (tea)

February 6, 2011

This was first published April 4, 2010, in my Boston Globe column “Where they Went.” I love the trip’s multigenerationalness (is that a word?).

From left, grandparents John and Cathy Looney, daughter Delaney, Christine Hennigan, and son Riley at Lake Louise

WHO: Chris Hennigan, 40, with her children, Delaney, 8, and Riley, 10, all of Woburn, and her parents, Cathy, 68, and John Looney, 69, of Winchester.

WHERE: Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada.

WHEN: Nine days in July and August.

WHY: To take the Appalachian Mountain Club trip “Family Hikes in the Canadian Rockies.’’

WOW FACTOR: Chris Hennigan wanted her children to enjoy hiking as much as she does. “I thought I’d wow them with the Canadian Rockies,’’ she said. “I’ve been hiking since I was 2; my dad used to put me in his backpack. I hiked until I was about 18 and stopped until I was in my mid-30s. The AMC was trying out these family trips, so I asked my parents to go along, too. Hiking isn’t really my mom’s thing, but she was excited because the kids were going.’’

Three Generations, Delaney, Christine, Riley and Cathy, at the bottom of the falls fed by the Daly Glacier

ALL AGES: The group of 25 hikers, ages 2 to 81, including four leaders, met in Calgary and traveled in three minivans. They stayed in private rooms at two hostels for four nights each, the Banff Alpine Centre and then Lake Louise Alpine Centre, both run by Hostelling International. Several children were on the trip. “It was a good mix,’’ Hennigan said. “The older ones could look out for the little ones and motivate them. They had a blast.’’

MINOR CHANGES: Each day three trips of varying levels were offered. “In the original itinerary, the easiest trips were far too difficult for a kid or older person. The first day’s hike was a good six hours and the kids were in tears.’’ The leaders adjusted the schedule, and “after that it was great. We got up later, had a leisurely breakfast, and didn’t feel pressured to keep moving.’’

Christine Hennigan and her daughter Delaney at Bow Lake

WHAT A VIEW: ’’It was unbelievable scenery,’’ she said. “When my kids keep saying, ‘Mom, look at that glacier, look at that cliff,’ you know it’s spectacular. What really got to them was the color of the water, this deep blue green.’’ One day they drove the Icefields Parkway, where visitors can walk on a glacier. “It’s like walking on ice with crunchy snow on top of it.’’

TEA TIME: They knew the final day of hiking, to the Lake Agnes Teahouse above Lake Louise, would be the hardest. “It was switchbacks the entire way up,’’ Hennigan said. “It was a tough climb on everybody. But once we got to the top it was one of the most unbelievable places I’ve ever been. You sit on a porch and have tea and homemade bread with this unbelievable vista. The kids thought it was neatest thing. Before we got back home from Canada, they told me they were already planning to go on the family trip to Colorado next summer.’’