Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

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.


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.’’

They were Hungary for wine

January 15, 2009

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Dec. 7, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

 This was one of those “we laughed, we cried” trips. Fun at times, and very solemn intense at others.
Linda (left) and Harvey Weiner at Zakopane, Poland, beginning a hike up the High Tatras.

Linda (left) and Harvey Weiner at Zakopane, Poland, beginning a hike up the High Tatras.

WHO: Linda, 64, and Harvey Weiner, 66, of Newton, Mass.

WHERE: Eastern Europe.

WHEN: Two weeks in July.

WHY: “I’d always wanted to make a pilgrimage to Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps, near Krakow,” Harvey said. “I feel it’s an obligation of everyone to go there. We love to hike, and Linda found an organized hiking trip with Backroads from Budapest to Krakow.” Linda was a little hesitant about visiting the concentration camps. “I kept telling myself that I had the easy part by observing.”

TOOLS OF TERROR: The couple spent a few days in Budapest before the tour. “We visited the opera house and the Parliament, but the House of Terror was the most interesting,” Harvey said. “It was the party headquarters of the Hungarian Nazis and later the communist KGB. You see torture chambers, gallows, racks. There’s also the Holocaust Memorial Center, which is noteworthy in sharing blame with passive civilian onlookers.”

Linda (center) and Harvey (right) at wine tasting at the Rokoczi wine cellar, Takoj, Hungary

Linda (center) and Harvey at wine tasting at the Rokoczi wine cellar, Takoj, Hungary

SWEET AND HIGH UP: Backroads took them and eight other hikers into Hungarian wine country and the High Tatras mountains of Slovakia and Poland. “The initial couple of hikes were short warm- ups around vineyards and the countryside and then it got more strenuous in the mountains,” Harvey said. In the Tokaj wine region of Hungary they tasted dessert wines at the Rakoczi Cellar at Sarospatak. “Some people liked them, but they were too sweet for us,” he said.

Harvey and Linda hiking in Tacal, Hungarian wine country.

Harvey and Linda during a hike in Tacal, Hungarian wine country.

SEASONED TRAVELERS: “There were a lot of local families and even nuns in full habit with backpacks and walking sticks.” Linda noticed that many women had “paprika colored hair. They must have dyed it themselves. It was funny because Hungary is known for paprika.” One night, in Javorina, Slovakia, they stayed at Hotel Kolowrat. “It used to be for the communist elite,” Linda said. “It had funky ’50s architecture, a great view of the mountains, and a bowling alley.”

NOT A DAY TRIP: In Krakow, where the tour ended, Harvey wanted to go to Auschwitz by train instead of on a bus tour. “I didn’t want to treat it as a tourist attraction,” he said. Once they were in Oswiecim, they managed to reach the site, though there are no signs pointing the way. “There are two camps, Auschwitz and Birkenau. Auschwitz is set up as a museum, with two barracks. They still have evidence of people: toothbrushes, glasses, human hair, which they sold to make into fabric.” “The room that really got me was where the so-called beds were,” Linda said. “A whole wall was filled with children’s shoes.” At Birkenau they saw ruins of gas showers and crematoriums. They also spent a few days touring Krakow. “It’s a gorgeous city that survived World World II, unlike its Jewish population,” Harvey said.