Category Archives: Nature

Part 1: Bucket List

I’m getting the travel bug again.  It’s a lovely thing when it bites, but not so lovely when the funds aren’t exactly there to indulge it.  I have a few countries for which I feel this overwhelming urge to pay a visit to. Apparently, I need to make a Part 2 for this post, since I can keep on adding to this list.

Well, after looking for all the “right” pictures to include in this post, I kind of feel like I’ve visited these countries already.  Not.  Looking at pictures isn’t a good substitute.

England

Ireland

New Zealand

Greece

Israel

Kenya

*Note: if you click on the photos it will take you back to the original link (National Geographic, TrekEarth, ect.)

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The Whitepod

I suppose as a northerner I am somewhat drawn to snow.  Add in the unusually warm and whiteless winter we’ve been experiencing this year, and that kinda makes snow a little more enchanting.  Christmas was green and rainy.  We’ve only had one really good snow fall so far this year.  Of course, last year when I had to drive an hour to school twice a week, we had numerous snowfalls with an unbelievable amount of accumulation.  Go figure.

So after stumbling upon this place in the Swiss Alps…yeah, I am craving it, Whitepod.  Camping in the winter.  It’s located in Switzerland and sits above the city of Monthey. As an eco-friendly environment (they minimize daily water and electricity consumption, reduce waste production, and favor the use of renewable resources) it gives you the chance to experience the great outdoors in a totally unique way, in a pod.  At first, when I was taking a look at the pods, I was a little alarmed about not seeing any bathrooms.  I thought, “Oh well, it would just add to the whole camping experience to have to make a trek to the lodge to use a toilet.”  Okay, for the record: I was WRONG.  The dome shaped tents do indeed have bathrooms.  No worries.

Oh, the pods are also heated by a woodstove.  The bathrooms are heated by an electric heater.  Can’t have those pipes freeze up; otherwise, you’ll really be running to the lodge to use the john.  But, I thought the woodstove was a nice touch.  Makes the stay at the pod a little more hands on, and I’m all for that.

Whitepod has quite a few activities to offer: snow-trekking in the mountains, dog sledging/sledding, paragliding, skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding.  I have to include that one of the paragliding packages entails climbing a mountain and then paragliding down it.  Right now, I’ll just have to dream of doing that, because there isn’t a way I can actually do it right now.  Bummer.

I encourage you to visit Whitepod‘s website, or better yet…visit Whitepod.

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Tungurahua

A couple months ago, I visited South America for the first time…Ecuador, to be exact.

While there, I was able to visit the city of Baños with my cousins.  It’s a small city nestled in the Andean highlands and is home to some awesome views of Tungurahua, one of South America’s most active volcanos.  Okay, this going to sound extremely naive and stupid, but I was hoping for a bit of smoke and lava to spew forth from the crater while I was there.  Actually, I was assuming I was going to be able to see some action.  Oh, the naivety of a northern city girl, where all I have to worry about is an occasional tornado in a nearby county.  I burn with shame.  …I digress…

Tungurahua

The day we left Baños, the sky was clear and the view of the volcano was perfect

Anyhow, a couple weeks after I returned home, Tungurahua started showing some activity.  And, yes, when I heard the news, I was quite disappointed that I missed it.  It truly would have been the visits of firsts.  First time in South America.  First time bungee jumping.  First time experiencing an earthquake (from the eighth floor of an apartment building).

There are about a million different tourist companies in Baños (intended exaggeration here…if you go there or you’ve been there before, you’ll know what I’m talking about).  So, my cousins and I saw a advertisement, which in essence was showcasing a place where we could see the volcano better.  We went up this mountain side.  On the top, there was a makeshift treehouse with a swing, and an older looking house with a few fenced in chickens.  The cloud cover was thick, but the swing was great entertainment.  Seriously, you swing over the side of the mountain.  Nice thrill, at least for the first few swoops over the hundreds of feet below.  I admit it, I screamed my first swoosh out.

The treehouse and the swing...and, yeah, those impenetrable clouds

The treehouse and the swing...and, yeah, those impenetrable clouds

Thank God, during our time up there, the clouds broke over the top of the volcano, so we could snap a couple of shots.  And then it was gone…

The top of Tungurahua

Tungurahua was visible only for a few moments

Oh, and I must say, our taxi driver was amazing.  He stuck around the entire time, in fact, I think he kind of enjoyed watching us and hanging around.  He was very pleasant and friendly.  Kudos to him for making our time up there even better!

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Peak Time in Norway

Norway.  It’s one of those places I want to visit before I die.  No, the cold and the arctic chill aren’t exactly my cup of tea, but there’s a time to experience all that stuff, more specifically, the Northern Lights (also called the Aurora Borealis).  I love nature and all it has to offer.  It’s in a league of it’s own.

The aurora borealis seen above the village of Ersfjordbotn near Tromso in northern Norway (Photo: msnbc.com)

The smartest or most intelligent man or woman has yet to come up with the vast expanse of midnight sky, riddled with stars, the power of the crashing ocean waves, the stillness of freshly fallen snow, the ever-dependable change of seasons, the glory of the sun returning to its rest, or the magnificence of the northern lights.  We’re only able to copy these things in our own finite way, yet nature already possesses all of these wonderful things.

In Norway, the northern lights are typically visible from October to March, with the peak season being December to February.  Most auroras are a greenish color, but depending about the altitude, the atoms involved and the force of the particles entering the atmosphere, there are a variety of different colors it displays.

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.”  Psalm19:1

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David Eustace

I stumbled across this guy while working on a school assignment.  Scottish born photographer, David Eustace gives an amazing glimpse of Scotland from behind his camera lens.

I find his photography is breathtaking…refreshing…inspiring.  Check out his collection of “Scotland” photos here: Highland Heart.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.

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Up North

Michigan is already north for lots of people…but those who live in the mitten…down in the suburbs of Detroit, Grand Rapids, well, they’re not ‘up north’ so to speak.  Going up north is anywhere past the Flint or Saginaw line (and you’re free to have your own opinion of where that invisible line starts…this is mine).  Lots of southern Michiganders own cottages on lakes in northern Michigan.  Others rent a cottage for a week, or whatever suits their fancy.  It’s their little get-away within the state.  A home away from home.  A place of escape…rest and relaxation.

Mullet vs. Mullett

You can rent cottages along one of the Great Lakes or along an inland body of water, Silver Lake, Green Lake, or Mullett Lake (it was named after John Mullett.  Have to admit, I always thought of, yeah, a mullet and wondered what would possess a person to name a lake after the hideous hair style), and so on.  It’s your choice.  I’ve done both, and I have to say I like the inland lakes better.  Why do I prefer the inland as opposed to the Great Lakes?  The top most reason would be that they are warmer.  They are not this huge body of water that never really warms up for the summer.

Marina on Lake Michigan in Petoskey, MI

Mullett Lake

My first memory of swimming in one of Michigan’s smaller lakes was when I was about 2-3 years old.  My mom, sister, and I were all on a raft…precious.  Great bonding time, that is until the raft tipped, and we took a plunge.  I recall looking through the brownish water up towards the sun.  I thought I was going to drown.  Once I surfaced, to my absolute indignation, my mom and sister were cracking up.  Apparently, my “near-death” experience was all blown out of proportion in my head.

Fortunately it was not a life scarring experience, and I have since enjoyed many trips up north since than.

There are quite a few things to do up north.  Fishing, hiking, swimming, visiting Sleeping Bear Dunes, sailing, tubing down the Sturgeon River (the river is spring fed, so it’s freezing.  Still fun though)…they’re all up for grabs.  You can also visit the trademark tourist attraction or traps…Castle Rock, The Mystery Spot, Mackinaw Island or Mackinaw City.  Traverse City is gorgeous in the late springtime with all of cherry trees in bloom.  They claim to be the Cherry Capital of the World.  Their annual crop of cherries is around 300 millions pounds.  So, I suppose they have a right to that claim they make.

Sleeping Bear Dunes (thanks to Andrew McFarlane)

...more of the sand dunes (thanks to Kerry Kelly)

It’s a simple pleasure in life, but one of my favorite things to do up north are the cookouts around the campfire…competition for the Perfect Marshmallow…shooing the dog away from the food…watching the sky grow darker…and finally laying out on the dock gazing up into the star-studded sky looking for shooting stars, hearing the soft splash of the water against the shore and the lonely call of the loon off in the distance.  Yep, it’s a wonderful life.

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Experience English Country

So, when I think of England, I usually think of Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, the London Bridge, ect.  Sometimes the quaint countryside come to mind, and I find that to be very intriguing.  But how in the world could someone (a foreigner) enjoy its beauty?  Personally, I think it’s lame just to settle for the English countryside via the latest Jane Austen movie that BBC produces (and in no way am I trying to belittle BBC.  I think they do a fantastic job).

I did a little searching and found a some places where one can enjoy the great outdoors of England by way of camping.  Here’s one of them:

Sawday’s Canopy & Stars

http://www.canopyandstars.co.uk/find-a-place/ekopod

It’s not your commonplace camping.  They call it luxury camping or ‘glamping’.  They’ve developed a collection of places which are beautiful and quirky at the same time.  One in particular stood out to me…and its calling my name.  It’s called “The Geo” and is located in Cornwall.

The Geo, Ekopod

The Geo, Ekopod, Cornwall (thanks to Sawdays Canopy and Stars)

It mixes modern and nature together.  It’s sustainable and at the same time caters to your necessities.  Yes, it has its own private kitchen and bathroom.  Upscale camping?  Yep.

Think you would get bored with a mod-tent and some trees?  Think again.  There’s plenty to see and do around the area.  Hiking, bike rides, surfing are all suggested activities…and Tintagel castle is also in the area.

However, if  “glamping” isn’t your thing…you’ve got to check this place out.

The Temple of Folly

www.templefolly.co.uk/index.html 

Temple Folly

The Temple located in the Northshire Dales National Park(thanks to templefolly.co.uk)

Located in Swinithwaite, North Yorkshire, the Temple of Folly was built in the 18th century.  It’s octagon shape makes it a rather unusual building.  It was originally built to be a summerhouse or belvedere for a gentleman named T J Anderson.   It’s architectural designs inside and out make it a very intriguing and interesting place.  Not only that, the Temple provides a wonderful view of the surrounding landscape with its second-floor, open air balcony.  At night you can enjoy the view across Wenslyeydale to the floodlit Bolton Castle.

Depending on the season, the price varies from around $650-$800 per week.

Bedroom in the Temple

Second-floor bedroom in the Temple (thanks to templefolly.co.uk)

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