Red Cabbage and Spätzle

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Osso Buco with Red Cabbage, Spätzle, and Asparagus

During our time in Germany, we were treated to red cabbage and spätzle at several different restaurants and in several different cities. We really enjoyed it as it was very different from what we had eaten here in the United States. So, when we came across Osso Buco with red cabbage and spätzle on a menu at a restaurant here in Scottsdale, Arizona, we decided to give it a try. It was certainly very good, but not quite as good as what we had while we were in Germany. They did their red cabbage with pears, which was fine, but we got used to having ours with apples and cinnamon that was just a little sweeter and not as tart. The spätzle was almost like gnocchi and didn’t look quite like what we used to, but again, it was still very tasty.

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Sauerbraten with Red Cabbage and Potatoes

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Our First Dish with Spätzle in Frankfurt

One of the realities of travel is that you get spoiled by the authentic food of the places that you visit. Then when you return to home, wherever that is, you can never quite get the same things. Even if the chef is authentically from the region or country, they likely can’t get the same exact quality or freshness of the ingredients and something is lost in the translation. That doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t or won’t continue to try and replicate the taste experience by cooking or ordering here in the US, but we’ll temper our expectations.

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Goulash with Spätzle

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Best Red Cabbage Ever

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Posted in food, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Road Trips are an American Tradition

Most people who grew up in the United States have memories of strapping themselves into the backseat of the car and taking a road trip to someplace for vacation. Unlike Europe, there aren’t convenient transportation options, so the only affordable way to get anywhere is to drive. We certainly took our kids on many different road trips, whether to Yellowstone, Mount Rushmore, Carlsbad Caverns, or Disneyland. We used to tease the kids that it was survival of the fittest, whoever survived the trip in the back of the car would get to enjoy the vacation, that we would leave with three and arrive with two. We used all sorts of tricks to keep them entertained on the long drives, like the license plate game, count the number of different animals that they could see, or handheld games (this was before the world of smart phones, DVD players, and true gaming systems). If we had the time, we would stop at some of the odd places that you find along the way, the aligator farms, bug museums, and other tourist traps that are just there to take your money, but provide a diversion on a long drive.

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Driving South on I-25

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New Mexico Rock Formation

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Arizona Mountains

With that in mind, we decided to drive to Scottsdale, Arizona, this weekend to spend a week discovering what the city has to offer. Oddly enough, we have not been to Arizona, other than to drive through a portion of it, so we were looking forward to seeing something different. Unfortunately, it was a twelve hour drive without stops and we decided to power through and make it with limited breaks for food and bio-breaks. So, hop in the car with us and join us for a road trip from Colorado to Arizona through the American Southwest.

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View from the Car

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Driving Through New Mexico

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Arizona Border

We drove south through southern Colorado, which was very scenic as most drives down along the front range are. There are parts of Colorado that are not particularly interesting to see, but driving down I-25 towards the New Mexico border is actually a fairly pretty drive, but there are few towns along the way. Once you reach Trinidad, you are almost out of Colorado and you are leaving the majority of the mountains behind you. At this point we have been on the road for about two hours and it is an hour to our first driver change.

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Heading to Southern Colorado

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Bear Crossing – Only in Colorado

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Last of the Colorado Mountains

Once you enter New Mexico, you head down to lower elevations and the scenery becomes more stark in general. The drive takes you all the way from the northern border of New Mexico to the southern border, so you will get to see a wide variety of the natural beauty that the state has to offer. Instead of the large mountains of Colorado, there are colorful plateaus along side desert scenery. Instead of passenger trains, you will see freight trains carrying cargo, coal, and livestock across the country. Once you reach the southern border, you enter Arizona and we are now only four hours to our destination having driven an exhausting eight hours since getting on the road.

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First View of New Mexico

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Just Desert and Highway

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Freight Train

The drive through Arizona is fairly boring as you leave New Mexico and there isn’t anything but prairie desert land until you get near Flagstaff. From there you have some mountains once again, although nothing like those that you find in Colorado and Utah. As we near the Phoenix area, the sky turns dark with a combination of smoke and clouds. There is a wildfire burning in the area and we spend part of the drive covered in smoke. Then the famous Saguaro cactus made their appearance, which are so big that it is hard to explain what they actually look like in-person versus just seeing photos of them. Finally, we reach Scottsdale after twelve and a half hours and we were definitely tired of sitting in the car. It certainly didn’t take us long to fall asleep once we reached our room.

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Arizona Desert

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Mountains, Clouds, and Smoke

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Saguaro Cactus

Road trips might be a badge of honor, something to brag about having survived, but they can also be times for families to bond. Given our time in Europe, we prefer the ease of travel there and wish that we had the same conveniences here, but it is what it is. Since we don’t, in order to truly see this wonderful country, road trips will continue to be a necessity, whether you view them as a blessing or a curse.

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New Mexico Plateaus

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Smoke Rising Above the Desert

Posted in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Miraflores in Lima, Peru

If you visit Lima, Peru, we would suggest staying in the Miraflores district. Miraflores is an upscale district that sits along the coast of Peru with beautiful beaches, excellent restaurant choices, nice hotels, and it isn’t far from downtown Lima. We stayed at the Hilton there during our trip to South America last year and it is a truly beautiful area. We took advantage of the time to go down and enjoy the beach as well as go into downtown Lima and see the historic sites.

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Beachside Restaurants and Shops

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It was a Beautiful Day

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Seaside Restaurant

Obviously, many people make this a destination of its own to enjoy the beaches and take advantage of the festive nightlife. We enjoyed walking down to the beach area and sitting at one of the outdoor restaurant patios. We had a couple of sandwiches, but there were many different options available.

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Steak and Avocado Sandwich

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Resorts along the Coast

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Gentle Waves

In addition to the restaurants, there are also several shopping malls and other stores for those who would like to do some shopping. This is a typical beach resort area where each of the various hotels have restaurants and cafes in addition to those that you can find along the beach itself. Whether looking for a place to sit in the sun, stroll along the beach, go for a swim, Miraflores is a perfect place to visit.

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Beaches

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Pisco Sour at the Hotel

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Connecting the World

In this modern world where almost any destination is an airplane ride away or even an internet search away, it is hard to imagine a time when travel was difficult or sometimes impossible. Since the beginning of civilization, people have always been finding ways to connect with other parts of the world, whether by building roads, learning to sail ships, or building bridges. Many people sacrificed their lives to build the infrastructure that connect the cities and towns that we now take for granted. As we travelled throughout Europe, we used to joke with one another that wherever we went, we would see a castle, a cathedral, and a bridge. There is a reason that bridges have become such a focal point from a historical perspective in almost every city around the world. The next time you visit a city and a bridge is one of the top sights to see, try and transport yourself back in time when that was the only way for the citizens to get in and out of their city and how incredibly important that was to the community. This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Bridge, so we are sharing photos of some of our favorite bridges.

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Ponte Vecchio in Florence

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Bridge at Ronda, Spain

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DuSable Bridge in Chicago

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Charles Bridge in Prague

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La Paz Bolivia

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Cologne, Germany

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Would You Live on a Houseboat?

When we were in Amsterdam, one of the common sights on the various canals were the different houseboats that were tied up all along the canal walls. We understand that the cost of buildings is extremely high in Amsterdam and living in a houseboat is an option to live there without having to purchase one of the townhomes that line either side of the canal. We see all of the new television shows about tiny living and having a tiny house on the water would probably suit a lot of people’s desires. We are definitely downsizing since all of our children are grown and live in various parts of the United States, but downsizing doesn’t mean having your bed in your kitchen, at least not to us. There are definitely some larger houseboats, but we’re not sure that we want to deal with all of the headaches that come along with boat ownership. Living on a houseboat might seem like a romantic way to live, but we’d rather live on firm ground. What are your thoughts?

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Houseboats on a Canal

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A Boxy Houseboat

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Boats Tied to a Houseboat

For this week’s Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, Motors for House or Garage, we selected a few photos of the houseboats of Amsterdam. They may or may not have working engines, but it isn’t likely that they ever go anyplace.

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Big Windows and a Deck

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Pretty Big Houseboat

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Houseboat Neighbors

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Houseboats are Part of the River Tours

Posted in Netherlands, Photo Challenge | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

Moussaka – Greek Lasagna

One of the dishes that we truly enjoyed while we were staying in Europe was Moussaka. Although we went to Athens, Greece, it was in Frankfurt that we ended up trying Moussaka for the first time. Most of the staff at our favorite restaurant were actually Greek and although it was a French Bistro, they sometimes put something Greek as their special of the day. We are not typically big fans of eggplant, but this is one recipe that makes us forget that it is even in there. We are attempting to recreate some of our favorite meals from our time in Europe and this is one of our first attempts. We modified a recipe that we found on the internet and the biggest difference is that it didn’t put sauce on top of the moussaka. It may not be quite as good as what the Greek chef at the restaurant made, but it was really delicious. Because it is just the two of us, this is a smaller recipe, but you can easily increase the amounts to make a larger batch.

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The Original Moussaka from Frankfurt

INGREDIENTS

  • 2/3 lb Ground Lamb
  • 1 Large Eggplant
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/3 Medium Red Onion – chopped
  • 2/3 Clove of Fresh Garlic – minced
  • 1 tsp Dried Oregano
  • 1/8 Lemon – sliced into thin rings
  • 1 Small Handful of Fresh Parsley – chopped
  • 1/8 tsp Ground Cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp Tomato Paste
  • 8 oz Crushed Tomatoes
  • 3 oz Feta Cheese Crumbles
  • 1/3 cup Fresh Parmesan – grated
  • 1/3 cup Bread Crumbs
  • Salt and Pepper
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Right out of the Oven

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Our Finished Product

INSTRUCTIONS

Cut the stem off of the eggplant and peel the skin with a vegetable peeler. Cut the eggplant lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices (You should have 6 slices). Salt and pepper both sides of the eggplant slices. Heat about 2 ounces of olive oil in a large skillet and heat to medium-high heat. Cook the eggplant slices in the skillet until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes per side. You will likely need to do this in a couple of batches as you don’t want to crowd the slices in the pan or they won’t fry properly. Remove the slices from the skillet and let them rest on a paper towel to drain. Add some more oil to the pan and add the onion, lemon, garlic, oregano and parsley. Cook for about 3 minutes on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Add the ground lamb, making sure to break the meat up, and season with salt and pepper. Add the cinnamon, tomato paste, and crushed tomatoes and continue to cook until the lamb is brown and the liquid has evaporated. Remove from the heat.

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Sliced Eggplant

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The Meat Mixture

Pre-heat an oven to 350 degrees. Select a casserole dish that is about the size of two of the eggplant slices laying side by side. Spray the bottom of the small casserole dish with non-stick cooking spray and layer two of the eggplant slices on the bottom, trying to cover as much of the bottom of the dish as possible, but ensuring that there are no gaps between the eggplant slices. Add half of the meat mixture, then half of the feta cheese, and finally half of the parmesan cheese. Layer two more eggplant slices and repeat layering the meat and cheese. Place the final two slices on top and sprinkle with the bread crumbs. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes and the bread crumbs have turned golden brown.

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Fried Eggplant

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Ready for the Oven

Posted in Greece, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Crossing Rivers in the Rainforest

Since there are not a lot of roads in the jungles of South America, local residents get creative on ways to cross the many rivers. Especially during the rainy season, these rivers can be quite treacherous, so the last thing that anyone would want to do is take a boat to try and cross them. Instead, cables are suspended across the rivers and then a metal cage is used to transport people and supplies from one side to the other. Since the cage can only be on one side or the other, when it isn’t on the same side as the travelers, someone must pull themselves across the cable to reach the other side and then pull the cage back over. It really was as thrilling as it looks. We decided to share these photos for this week’s Cee’s Which Way Photo Challenge.

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First Glimpse of the Cage

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Our Guide Crossing for the Cage

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Bringing the Cage Across

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Starting to Cross

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Looking Back

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Is There a Special Place in Your Heart?

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Eiffel Tower from the Seine

While we were in Europe, we made a point of spending a weekend in Paris and buying an oil painting from one of the artists along the Seine. We had it stretched and framed and we picked it up from the framer over the weekend and when we saw it, the painting brought back fond memories for us. We have been to many wonderful cities in various parts of world, but Paris holds a special place in our hearts. Perhaps it is partially due to the fact that it was the first city outside of the United States that the two of us visited together. It might also just be part of the relaxed charm that has made the city renowned for being a romantic location.

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Outside of the Louvre

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Notre-Dame de Paris

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The Arc de Triomphe

During our first trip to Paris, we stayed in Latin Quarter on the Left Bank in a quaint little hotel that was more of a bed and breakfast than a traditional hotel. It was wonderful because we were within walking distance of restaurants, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, and even the Eiffel Tower. We were fortunate to have wonderful weather considering the fact that we were there during November, which added to our memories of the beautiful city.

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Quaint Hotel Room

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Eiffel Tower in Autumn

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Looking Towards the Latin Quarter

During our second trip to Paris, we weren’t as fortunate with the weather, but that didn’t diminish our experience. There are so many wonderful little bistros and places to stop for a coffee and croissant that we could find places to stop during the times that it was actually raining and not just cloudy and overcast. Obviously we took a walk along the Seine once again, strolling hand-in-hand, and looking at the artwork of the few artists that were out on such a gloomy day. We lucked out and found exactly the painting that we were hoping to find to capture our memories of Paris.

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Eiffel Tower in Winter

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Walking along the Seine

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Cozy Bistro

Perhaps it is just a trick of the mind, but sometimes there are places and moments in time that become a special memory that seem to surpass reality. We will always treasure the time that we spent in Paris and it will likely be a city that revisit again and again. There are so many places to see in the world, but there are also some places that just seem to draw you back over and over again.

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Cloudy, but Happy

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Romantic Paris

Posted in France | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Tips for Hiking in the Colorado Mountains

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Hiking in Autumn

One of the things that we enjoy about living in Colorado is our access to a wide variety of trails to go hiking. Especially during the summer when the wildflowers are blooming and getting into the mountains can be a great escape from the heat of the Front Range. We will often see tourist from out of the state on the trails and often they are not prepared for hiking in the altitude on what can be sometimes some rough terrain. People in Colorado will often refer to those people who come from states that don’t have mountains and are closer to sea level as “flatlanders”. Here are some tips for anyone who plans to go hiking in the Rocky Mountains.

    • Stay hydrated – Colorado actually has a very dry climate and when you combine that with the altitude, it is very easy to get dehydrated. We normally recommend to people visiting the state that they do a combination of water and sports drinks so that they can stay hydrated and replace electrolytes. At a minimum, you should have a water bottle with you when you are hiking, but if you are going to hike for more than an hour, you should probably consider investing in a CamelBak that has a large water pouch so that you know you’ll have enough water.
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Wearing Our CamelBak

    • Know your limitations – Get information on the trail that you are going to hike before you go. You can get information from local stores that sell hiking equipment or use an app like All Trails to get information. Trail ratings are usually Easy, Moderate, or Hard, but be aware that if you are doing a trail with any kind of elevation gain, even a moderate trail can be quite difficult. There are some trails where you have scramble over boulders or walk next to steep cliffs, so inexperienced hikers can get injured or worse if they push themselves beyond their limits. And it is important to understand that sometimes going down is more difficult that going up, so keep that in mind while you are hiking.
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Scrambling Over Rocks

    • Wear and carry sunscreen as well as bug spray – Even at the base of the mountains, you are usually at 6,000 feet (1,800 meters) and then the elevation increases as you hike. That means that you are closer to the sun, which means that even on an overcast day, there is the risk of getting sunburn. Also, there are ticks in the forests and a lot of trails go near streams, waterfalls, or end at lakes and reservoirs, which means that there can be mosquitos. Colorado doesn’t have a lot of bugs, but you should be prepared.
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Tranquil Pond at the Top of the Mountain

    • Carry a first-aid kit, compass, and small flashlight – Mishaps can happen and you want to have at least some wipes and Band-Aids in case someone gets some scrapes and bruises. There have been plenty of times where the trails are not as well marked as one might expect and it is possible to lose your way off of the trail if you are not careful. Many people rely on their smart phones for a flashlight and compass, but if something happens to your phone it is better to have the real thing. Also, you are likely not to have cell service in the mountains, so a compass app won’t be able to find your location. If you are going on a shorter hike, the flashlight and compass are not necessarily needed, but you should always have the first-aid kit.
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An Easy to Follow Trail

    • Wear appropriate footwear – You don’t have to buy hiking boots or shoes, but you need to at least wear shoes with soles that grip. Almost any trail is going to have loose stones and gravel that can be slippery to walk on and you will likely be walking on larger rocks and tree stumps. Nothing will ruin your hike quicker than slipping and falling on the trail. It is also important to wear shoes that are comfortable and have been broken in so that you don’t end up with blisters. We don’t recommend open toed shoes of any kind for hiking, even if they have good gripping soles. Snakes, prickly bushes, and other obstacles could easily get to your feet.
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Hiking Up Pikes Peak

    • Pay attention to the weather – Storms can come quickly in the mountains and often you won’t see the clouds building due to the peaks that are surrounding you. Colorado gets more lightening strikes than most other states and your proximity to the clouds that produce them makes them even more dangerous. It doesn’t have to be raining for lightening to occur, so always be alert to any changing weather conditions. Even when the forecast doesn’t indicate storms, the weather in Colorado can be unpredictable and forecasts are often wrong.
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Clouds Building on Previously Sunny Day

    • Be alert for wildlife – Seeing animals when you are hiking can be a wonderful experience, but only if you see them before they see you. There are bears, elk, moose, deer, wild turkeys, and many other animals in the mountains of Colorado. When you are in bear country, it is wise to make noise while you are hiking or hike on trails that are hiked by a greater number of hikers. However, just because other people are on the trail ahead of you, don’t assume that means that you won’t see wildlife, their routes often take them across the trails and it could just be that they get there between groups of hikers.
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Mule Deer next to Trail

  • Take breaks and look around – First of all, you are likely to get winded easily, so it is important not to over exert yourself. Secondly, the views from most trails are wonderful, whether seeing valleys, other mountain peaks, or just the beauty of an Aspen grove, there is much to see. You can often find yourself staring down at your feet, trying not to trip on the rocks that are on the trail, and missing the wonderful sights that are all around you. You went on a hike to get into nature, be sure not to miss seeing it.

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    Incredible Views

Hiking is one of the most pleasurable experiences where you truly get to enjoy nature at its finest. With a little precaution, you can ensure that your hiking experience will be one that you will treasure forever. With so many trails in Colorado to choose from, pick the one that is right for you and take advantage of seeing some of the beauty that this wonderful state has to offer.

Posted in Colorado, Hiking, Travel Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

The Ravages of Time

One of the most interesting things about traveling to different places is getting to see how places have evolved over time. There is only one constant in life and that is that change is always occurring. Whether it is the growth of certain cities, the collapse of civilizations, or just nature changing the face of the earth. We may get glimpses of the past or perhaps preserve treasured landmarks, but the reality is that change is all around us. Looking back at photos from places that we’ve visited, it seems that there are as many cranes erecting skyscrapers in our photos of historical landmarks as the sights themselves. We might view those as ruining our view of something special, but the reality is that it means that those cities are growing. Hopefully, but not always, that means prosperity for the people of the city and a change for the good. Normally we would do everything possible to keep these cranes out of our pictures, but sometimes it just isn’t possible. This week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge is Delta with photographs that symbolize change and the transition of time. Here are some photos that we normally wouldn’t share where the future is in direct conflict with the past.

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Sunset in Amsterdam

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Rooftops of Lucca

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Hercules Statue in Kassel

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Florence in Transition

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Athens Sunset

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Crane in the Background

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Morocco Coastline

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