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Snapshots: Kauai

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Snapshots: Kauai

Kauai was the island I spent the least amount of time on during my month in Hawaii, having only been there for a scant 48 hours. I was still very happy I made it to this distant and quiet island, as any time on Kauai is better than no time there at all. Arriving in tiny Lihue Airport, we seemed to be a world away from the sparkle and noise of Honolulu. With a population of just 72,000 people, about the same as tiny Lake Charles, Louisiana, Kauai sure does pack a punch. With lovely beaches, a rugged north coast and incredible Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, tucked into its interior, anywhere you look you’re bound to see something beautiful. The towns are all small and quaint, the beaches almost deserted, and there was hardly a car on the road. We even made it to a luau on the beach. I hope you enjoy these photos from the lovely “Garden Island” as much as I enjoyed taking them.

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Snapshots: Maui

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Snapshots: Maui

I got to visit Maui twice during my month in Hawaii, and what a beautiful island it is. It seems like each time you turn the corner the view is somehow more stunning than the last. The beaches are beautiful and inviting, the locals are friendly and quick to offer advice, and the landscape is amazingly diverse for such a tiny island. This post will start with the amazing journey down the Road to Hana, one of America’s greatest road trips. Although short in miles, it’s long on beautiful views and sites to see. Then I’ll take you to the summit of Haleakala in the National Park of the same name, to gaze out over this amazing volcano, high above the clouds. Finally, we’ll go on a sunset stroll around the beautiful town of Lahaina, where whalers, missionaries and Hawaiian royalty once mingled. Even though these photos only scratch the surface of what Maui has to offer, I’m sure you’ll understand what all the fuss is about.

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Snapshots: The Big Island of Hawaii

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Snapshots: The Big Island of Hawaii

During my month in Hawaii I had the pleasure of spending more time on the Big Island than anywhere else. It became my home base in the state and I really enjoyed exploring all the little off-the-beaten-path places as I made my way around. From the awesome Green Sand Beach near South Point to the breathtaking Waipi’o Valley in the far north, the Big Island has such a diverse landscape and personality. And best of all, there weren’t the big crowds I ran into on Maui and Oahu. It’s a relatively quiet little corner of paradise. I hope you enjoy these photos from my two and a half weeks exploring Hawaii’s Big Island. I can’t wait to go back!

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Hello From Salt Lake City

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Hello From Salt Lake City

It’s been a crazy busy few weeks out here on the road. It’s the peak of the summer season, and I’ve been working hard trying to show people some amazing and beautiful parts of the United States. Time and internet have been scarce, but I promise I haven’t forgotten you all and I’ve been taking plenty of beautiful photos out here.

I returned from an amazing month in Hawaii about two weeks ago and then headed north to Seattle where I picked up a two week tour into the Rocky Mountains. We got to spend a good amount of time in the amazing national parks of Glacier, Yellowstone and Grand Teton, three of my favorite places on earth. We did some great hikes and spotted a ton of wildlife including at least a dozen bears and a pack of wolves hunting a fully grown bison. It was a pretty awesome trip.

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In Focus: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

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In Focus: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a wonderful park full of contrasts on the Big Island of Hawaii. The volcanic landscape seems so harsh and inhospitable and yet beautiful plants and delicate flowers are everywhere within the park. I was very happy to make four visits to this wonderful park during my month in Hawaii and each brought new insights into this amazing park. The Kilauea Iki hike brought us all the way down into this crater to explore the area where just last year a lake of lava could be seen. The Chain of Craters Road took us through incredible volcanic landscapes full of Ohia Lehua trees and lava formations. The Holei Sea Arch at the end of the road was incredible to sit and watch as powerful waves crashed into it and sprayed us on the rocks above. Ancient petroglyphs at Pu’u Loa provided some small insight into what life was like for Native Hawaiians who lived in the area. They buried their children’s umbilical cords here to connect them to the land. While there is currently no flowing lava to see in the park (a huge disappointment for this photographer), it is still a magnificent park with a lot to offer. While I enjoyed many things about Hawaii, this amazing National Park was definitely a highlight. I hope you enjoy these photos from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

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Snapshots: Waimea Canyon - The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

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Snapshots: Waimea Canyon - The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

At 10 miles long and 3,600 feet deep, Waimea Canyon is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Formed by the erosion caused by the Waimea River, a river which flows from the “rainiest place on Earth”, the canyon gets its name from the red hue of the exposed iron-oxide of its walls. Situated in the heart of the tiny and remote island of Kauai, there didn’t seem to be nearly as many visitors there when we visited as I would have expected from something of this size and grandeur. All the better to enjoy it, though. While it was a bit hazy for photography that day, I hope you enjoy these photos from beautiful Waimea Canyon.


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Snapshots: Little River Canyon

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Snapshots: Little River Canyon

Little River Canon National Preserve is a beautiful park in Northeast Alabama. It is a fascinating place because the river runs along the ridge of flat-topped Lookout Mountain which is a clear indicator of how much the landscape must have changed over time. It is one of the deepest canyons in the east, reaching depths of up to 600 feet. The river itself is powerful and incredibly clean and clear due to its high location and the accompanying lack of pollutants. Waterfalls can be found throughout the park, as can stunning views up and down the canyon itself. There are several short but steep hiking trails which lead from the canyon rim down to the river and can definitely give you a good workout. After a long day of hiking and taking photos, I took my last walk down the Eberhart Trail at the end of the scenic drive. When I got to the river I took a quick dip in the cold refreshing water which instantly washed away the fatigue of the day and left me with a smile on my face. It was a wonderful day and I hope you enjoy the photos I took in beautiful Little River Canyon.

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Snapshots: Along the Wild Azalea Trail

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Snapshots: Along the Wild Azalea Trail

The Wild Azalea Trail runs for 31 miles through Kisatchie National Forest near Alexandria, Louisiana. It is accessible from several different trailheads in the area, and I hiked about a 3 mile section of it leaving from the Twin Bridges Trailhead on Route 488. It was a pleasant walk through the woods with some up and down to make it interesting, but not enough to make it difficult. The trail was quiet when I was there, but well marked and obviously well traveled. While the wildflowers were only just starting to bloom when I visited, they were still putting on quite a show. I really enjoyed this hike and only wish I had budgeted more time to have been able to do more of it. Either way it was a wonderful couple of hours in the woods and I would definitely recommend this trail if you are ever in the area. I hope you enjoy some of these photos from the Wild Azalea Trail in Central Louisiana.

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The Springs of Florida

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The Springs of Florida

Florida is home to over 700 natural springs which combine to produce more than 8 billion gallons of freshwater every day. That means Florida produces a gallon of water for every person on Earth every single day. That’s impressive. There are more natural springs in Florida than almost anywhere else on the planet. 33 of these springs are considered First Magnitude Springs, meaning they produce at least 64 million gallons of water a day. That is simply awesome.

Visiting some of the bigger springs in Florida has been one of the absolute highlights of my visit to the state. The water is often clear and beautiful and the springs are usually surrounded by lush vegetation and an abundance of wildlife. In particular, several of these springs provide a winter home for the amazing West Indian Manatee who would otherwise freeze to death in the cold ocean waters. The constant temperatures of the springs allow the manatee to stay warm enough to make it through the winter and then head back out to sea for the summertime.

During my six weeks in Florida, I only scratched the surface of all the wonderful springs the state has to offer, but I thought I would share some of my favorites with you here…

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This Week on the Road - February 7th-14th

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This Week on the Road - February 7th-14th

It’s been another great week out here on the road. This week I’ve made my way to a handful of Florida’s 700 natural freshwater springs, enjoying some swimming, kayaking, snorkeling and boat tours as I went. I also dipped into some real “Old Florida” towns, most notably at Cedar Key and Micanopy. This week I also visited the State Capitol in Tallahassee and enjoyed the Florida History Museum there as well. I ended off the week by dropping down to the “Forgotten Coast” and cruising along the Gulf of Mexico through hurricane ravaged towns. I’ve seen some really stunning places this week and learned a lot as I went. As I write this, I’m coming to the end of my time in Florida, and I must admit I will be sad to see it pass into my rear view mirror

My week started with a visit to Three Sister’s Spring National Wildlife Refuge in Crystal River for one more look at the manatees. Once again, as has been my experience throughout Florida, this proved to be a little too expensive to provide value for money. You have to park at City Hall and pay the $15 entrance fee and then hop on a shuttle for the five minute ride to the refuge. Once there, there is a nice boardwalk around the spring itself, which is beautiful, and some great spots to view the largest population of manatee in Florida. When I was there, it was a fairly warm morning, so there were only about 20 manatee around. They were amazing to see and photograph, and there were tons of volunteers around to help answer questions, but if it had only been $7-8 it would have been better. I hope the money went to preserving the habitat and keeping the manatee healthy…

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Swimming With Manatees

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Swimming With Manatees

If you’ve been following me through Florida, you know how much love and appreciation I have developed for manatees since I have been here. It has been amazing to see them so often in so many different places, especially knowing that not long ago they were on the endangered species list. These beautiful, big mammals are so peaceful that I find them relaxing just to watch. During the winter, the open ocean and Gulf of Mexico become too cold for the manatee, so they make their way upriver to natural fresh water springs, which have constant temperatures year-round. The manatee will spend their winters there, venturing out when the water is warmer to find food.

The only place you can legally get in the water to swim with manatees in Florida is in Crystal River, and I have been looking forward to doing this during my entire stay in the Sunshine State. I chose to do my trip with the company Fun 2 Dive, because they are established, family owned and got excellent reviews . Also, being Miles2Go myself, it seemed appropriate. I chose the 7 a.m. departure because the colder it is, the more likely you are to encounter the manatee near the springs (and thus in clearer water)…

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Snapshots: Myakka River State Park

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Snapshots: Myakka River State Park

Myakka River State Park surrounds Florida’s first designated Wild and Scenic River. The river winds through a vast expanse of wetlands, prairies, hammocks and pine forest, and is a welcome break from the Tampa-St. Petersburg corridor just a little over an hour north. The park showcases an amazing diversity of flora and fauna and it felt so unspoiled when I visited. I went with my friend Amber, who is a serious naturalist, and she showed me all kinds of wonderful things while we were there. We started our visit at the suspension bridge and observation tower which took us through and then above the canopy for a bird’s eye view of the park. It was amazing to look out across the park and not see a building in any direction. From there we went and hiked out to Mossy Hammock Campground along the Fox’s High Road and were surrounded by live oak draped in Spanish moss and beautiful birdsong. We emerged into the prairies for a while, where her dog could run at full speed. When we finished our hike, we spent some time by the lake, enjoying the magical reflections we saw there. In all, it was an amazing day out in the wild with good company and beautiful weather. It was a little wet on the trails, but we managed. This was a great park to visit, and I hope you enjoy my photos from Myakka River State Park.

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