Friday, July 29, 2016

Postcards from the Southwestern US

I love planning trips. I am constantly scheming and daydreaming about where my next trip will be. I live in future world- I love to play the Where Should We Go game! Mr. Ur - not so much. He's busy dealing with the present day world of working, and bills on a daily basis that where we're traveling to just isn't on his radar. So when he does throw out an idea of somewhere he'd like to go then I try my best to make it happen. He came up with the goal of trying to see all 50 states by his 50th year. Which he did. And last year he mentioned that he would like to see The Mighty Five of Utah. OK then, I can make that happen!

We flew into Las Vegas and drove to St. George, Utah where we did day trips to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon National Park. (Not all of The Mighty 5 but a good bit of it) What an incredibly scenic area of the country! So different from where we live in the Southeastern US. The desert and it's vegetation, endless vistas, mesas - so unique. We did alot of driving - and I took alot of photos. So here are some photos of what we saw while driving around northern Arizona and southern Utah. I hope you enjoy them!

Do you live in the Southwestern US? or have you visited there? What was your favorite part?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

A Girl's Weekend in Helen, Georgia

Helen, Georgia was a sawmill town that fell on hard times. They shipped timber to Europe and the US but when all the timber was gone, the sawmill workers relocated and Helen was left a shell of a town. So in the 1960's city officials met to decide how to improve their town and came up with the idea to make it resemble a small Bavarian town. Gingerbread trim was added to the buildings and now it hosts a two month Oktoberfest every fall and draws tourists in for it's Alpine flavor. Like the towns of Solvang, California and Leavenworth, Washington, Helen has tapped into a European feel - and look- to bring tourists in to experience it.

Sometimes the planets align just right and trips go smoothly. There are no delayed flights, no one gets sick and all your plans, well.... they go as planned. And then there are times that storms delay your flight or your car gets broken into or your little one gets the flu. The latter is what happened when I got together with my girlfriends for a girls weekend getaway in the northeastern Georgia mountains. We had booked a cabin and planned to do all the fun things one can do in the small Bavarian-style town of Helen. But there was a major problem with the cabin - I won't go into details because they did make it right and refund our money - but we had to find a new place to stay. And one of my girlfriends family members was hospitalized. So we took that as a sign that this trip just wasn't meant to be and cut our trip short. But I did have a blast for the short time we were together. Here are a few things we did - and a few we didn't - that you can do in visiting Helen.

Shoot the Hooch
One of the most popular summertime things to do in Helen is to Shoot the Hooch - or in layman's terms - float the Chattahoochee River. There are several companies that will transport you to or from the river and give you a tube to float on. Costs are minimal - $8 for a few hours or $12 for the day. And you can float your cares away. 

Follow the Unicoi Wine Trail
There are six wineries on the Unicoi Wine Trail located in Northeastern Georgia. We visited Habersham Winery - one of the oldest on the trail - and did a tasting. Housed in an old barn, Habersham had Muscadine wine - a southern wine known for it's earthy sweetness. So far I am the only person I know that likes Muscadine wine.( Have you had it and do you like it?) The tasting room is located 1/2 mile outside of Helen.

Visit Anna Ruby Falls
Located in Chattahoochee National Forest, Anna Ruby Falls is a double water fall. You drive through Unicoi State Park and then pay a $3 fee to visit the falls. You will reach the falls after a short 1/2 mile hike on a paved trail. There is also a visitor center with restrooms and a gift shop to visit.

Visit Historic Nacoochee Village
Located 1/2 mile outside of Helen, Nacoochee Village is a grouping of historic buildings which now house restaurants and shops. Also located here is the Nora Mill Granary - a grist mill from 1876 which is still operational. You can purchase stone ground grits, corn meal, porridge and other grain products ground right here at their site. (We ate at Nacoochee Village Tavern and Pizzeria.)

Every year the Helen Festhalle houses an Oktoberfest from mid September through the end of October. Billed as the longest running Oktoberfest in the US, you can enjoy "beer, brats, bands and lederhosen" If you can't make it to the original Oktoberfest in Germany, think about giving the one in Helen, Georgia a try!

And of course, there are the usual shops and restaurants you can enjoy here also. Well, maybe not so usual - there aren't too many places in Georgia where you will feel you're in Germany - without leaving the states!

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Bryce Canyon National Park

Bryce Canyon National Park, located in southwestern Utah, is quite otherwordly. Known for it's hoodoo's, or spire-shaped rock formations, this national park looks like no other I've ever been to.

The hoodoo's are rock pillars shaped by erosion. And there are hoodoo's all over the planet but this is the largest collection of hoodoo's in the world. 

The basics:  There are 18 viewpoints in total in Bryce Canyon. A shuttle bus will take you to all the viewpoints in a loop - but it is not required (though it may be in future, like Zion) Your first stop should, as always, be at the Visitor Center where you can learn all you need to know about the park. Sunrise and sunset are prime viewing times as the golden light off the hoodoos is supposed to be amazing. And the park is open 24 hours so you can stay past sunset or arrive before sunrise.

Since Bryce Canyon is one of The Mighty Five in Utah, we expected large crowds. So we went with a unique approach to the viewpoints - we started at 18 and worked our way the opposite of most visitors, back to one. So the largest viewpoint of hoodoo's was our last viewpoint. We were there on a very cold May day - in fact, we had snowflakes on our visit. 

Trying to catch a snowflake

One of the most popular viewpoints is Natural Bridge - which is actually an arch. The arch is in danger of collapse, as the hoodoos are, because of the constant forces of erosion.

Another popular spot is Thor's Hammer

Unfortunately, there was a snowstorm happening in Colorado and my son and his girlfriend had to drive through it to get back home. So we visited the viewpoints and then sent them on their way. No hiking for us this time. But there are several hikes to do in the park - including the famous trail on Wall Street which takes you down into the hoodoo's - definitely doing that next time!

Can you see the people hiking on the path below?

Bryce Canyon is definitely one of those national parks with plenty of Wow! factor. Expect large crowds - maybe plan your visit off-season if you can.( I think it would look awesome in snow!) And plan to do some hiking amongst the hoodoo's. I plan to next time.

Have you been to Bryce Canyon? Did you hike there?

This post is part of a link-up with: Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox, Weekend Travel Inspiration at Reflections Enroute, The Weekly Postcard at Travel Notes and Beyond and Weekend Wanderlust at A Brit and A Southerner!