Family-friendly vacation destinations…planning that perfect get-away!

Pt. Arena Lighthouse on N. California coast can act as key attraction for a family get-together in this scenic area!

Family-friendly vacation destinations… use the holidays to plot and plan a family vacation for 2018!

Granddaughter Jessica reveling in the N. California surf near Bodega Bay.

With the approaching holidays, families have the opportunity to discuss and plan a family vacation for the coming year. Over a recent birthday celebration our family discussed the idea of a family retreat sometime in spring or summer, 2018.

Around a crowded table, we discussed what kind of multi-day vacation we would like to share. Our family includes two 40-something daughters, their husbands, three grandkids ages 7, 12 and 17 as well as us, the grandparents.

Grandkids and adults offered their suggested criteria. I made mental notes on comments including “Appeal for all ages, kids to adults. Scenic, perhaps on the water. Fun activities for kids, adults. Good restaurants and lodging nearby. Affordable. Within a short drive of San Joaquin County”.

Ocean Cove, with lovely private campground on bluff above, is just north of Jenner, CA.

We did not finish the discussion but set the table for more detail to come over our Thanksgiving gathering. We’ll revisit the topic and let kids to adults fine-tune their checklist of attributes. Then, we will do our research, with the kids heavily involved. Resources include local visitors’ bureaus, VRBO or Airbnb for vacation rentals and Kayak or Travel Advisor for hotel/motel options and Internet deals. If camping, reserveamerica.com and/or recreation.gov offer insight and booking of state or federal campgrounds.

Based on our initial discussions, I plan to offer for consideration several suggested destinations:

Northern California coast; The coast, from Bodega Bay north to Mendocino, is both easy to reach (about three hours) and offers some of the most stunning waterfront in the United States! We have been there several times, on both day trips, camping trips and motel overnights.

Granddaughter and spouse Susan in front of Potter School, town of Bodega, used in filming the Hitchcock classic 'The Birds'.

This piece of California offers impressive vistas, spectacular food and resorts and marvelous camping options. Bodega (the town is different than Bodega Bay) is just off Hwy 116, and offers the old school where the 1963 Hitchcock movie classic ‘The Birds’ was filmed. Nearby Bodega Bay, on the water, is home to a variety of fine restaurants, motels and several nearby campgrounds. Stop at the Tides Restaurant for delicious breakfasts or lunches and wander a number of cute shops right along the bay.

A favorite park, Wright’s Beach State Park, between Bodega Bay and Jenner, is right on the ocean! Heading north on Hwy 1, one soon crosses the languid Russian River and reaches the cute town of Jenner, where the Russian spills into the Pacific. Stop at River’s End Restaurant for great food and stunning views; looking down from their deck above the river, a cadre of harbor seals usually is visible sunning themselves on a sandy spit (the restaurant offers a telescope for a closer view.

One soon reaches Ft. Ross State Historical Park, the old Russian outpost from the early 1800′s, then you will pass through a host of cute coastal towns like Sea Ranch (stop at the Sea Ranch Lodge for breakfast or lunch), Gualala and Gualala County Regional Park just south of town, very pretty with secluded campsites), Point Arena (check out the Point Arena lighthouse, for stunning coastal views). Ft. Bragg north to Mendocino also offer many additional options.

Lake Mary, eastern Sierra, just a few miles above the lovely town of Mammoth Lakes, CA.

Mammoth Lakes and the Eastern Sierra: Cross over the Sierra range and head south on Hwy. 395 to the town of Mammoth Lakes. Home to Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, one of the largest in the west, in summer it’s a huge mecca for hikers and mountain bikers. Just above town is gorgeous Lake Mary; at almost 9,000 feet, with thin air and gorgeous scenery, it’s one of six lakes in the Lake Mary Loop, all with scenic campgrounds and interconnected by paved biking and hiking trails.

Mammoth Lakes is a town that caters to tourists year-round, with lodging, restaurants, retail and sports shops, all aimed at youthful, outdoorsy visitors. The Mammoth Brewing Company, combined with the adjoining Eatery, is a must stop; fine craft beers and some of the best brew pub food we have had in a long while!

Nearby is Devils Postpiles National Monument. A short 1/2 mile hike takes one past a pristine stretch of the Upper Middle Fork San Joaquin River, then to the Postpiles. Here, about 80,000 years ago, basalt lava flowed. As it cooled and contracted it split into the symmetrical vertical, hexagonal columns that constitute the Postpiles. Further down the river is Rainbow Falls, which drops 101 feet over a volcanic cliff.

Devil's Postpiles National Monument is a short drive from Mammoth Lakes.

Fishing, touring, hiking and biking options are abundant, up and down the Eastern Sierra; each turn yields wondrous new vistas! Along the route you’ll pass the beautiful and strange Mono Lake, just north is the historic gold rush ghost town of Bodie, preserved in a state of “arrested decay” by the state park.

Other options that I expect will make our short list include Lake Tahoe or Pinecrest and the central Sierra, and perhaps the Redding area with nearby Mount Lassen National Park and Mt. Shasta.

Readers challenge: Send your favorite family destination, with the reasons why (100 words or less) and a photo or two (if you have them). We’ll publish your top selections right around Christmas time!

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

Posted in Central California, Northern California, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southern California, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Yosemite National Park offers quiet solitude after summer crowds depart!

Half Dome towers in distance as small crowd at Glacier Point gazes in awe.

With summer crowds long gone, Yosemite National Park offers quiet solitude in November…

El Capitan towers over our '64 Stotty Sportsman trailer.

We are spending three days and nights in Yosemite Valley in our reconstructed ‘64 Scotty camping trailer. With forecasted sunny weather predicted for our three days, and no rain or snow descending on the afternoon until the day of our departure, the trip is the maiden voyage of our rebuilt 1964 Scotty Sportsman classic travel trailer and we’re curious how it will perform.

Our plan is to luxuriate in this scenic park and check out its wonders after the summer crowds have departed. Then, we’ll head down to Pinnacles National Park and the coastal mountains on Friday to avoid snow and real cold. In the meantime, we’ll test out our rebuilt little trailer and savor the wonders of this, our second national park.

At the park entrance, we talk with Ranger Rick, who notes Tioga Pass remains open, campgrounds are beginning to close down (though one will remain open throughout the winter) and weather is predicted to roll in Friday – when a  number of campsites should open up.

We pass El Capitan, framed by the changing colors of aspens in the Yosemite Valley, then on to Yosemite Falls, bone dry but for the water shadow caused by the falls’ cascading down over eons of time. All through the valley, yellows and oranges paint the lower-level landscape, with granite monoliths like Cathedral Spires, El Cap, Glacier Point and Half Dome rising at each turn.

Yosemite Falls, bone dry, awaits winter rain and snow, beyond our Scotty trailer.

Earlier, we take Highway 120 heading up towards Tioga Pass, to the idyllic Tenaya Lake, still capturing snowmelt from the remaining snows high in the surrounding Sierra. Stop at Olmsted Point for striking views of both Half Dome to the south and the lake ahead.

Further up 120, Tuolumne Meadows is wildly touted as the area that convinced John Muir to petition for the establishment of the nation’s second national park in 1890. It’s stunning views, verdant greenery and dramatic granite horizons make it a memorable experience.

Mt. Hoffman towers over May Lake, a spirited hike off Hwy. 120 in the park.

Walk along the meandering Lyell Fork of the Tuolumne River, running adjacent to the campground. Other options include easy flat hikes through the Tuolumne Valley and a four-mile hike over or around Lembert Dome, a dramatic granite obelisk rising vertically from the meadow.

Heading back down Highway 120, you’ll find Tuolumne Grove, featuring 25 giant sequoias on a one mile downhill hike on the old Big Oak Flat Road. This is one of some 65 Sequoia groves in the central Sierra, several located in Yosemite.

Tenaya Lake is just off Hwy. 120; it eventually flows into Yosemite Valley.

Another favorite day hike is the trail up to May Lake. Take the scenic 2 mile drive off of Tioga Road to the trailhead where several sets of trails head off towards the river canyon and another trail heads southeast up to May Lake.

A 1.5 mile hike takes you over spectacular granite outcroppings to the scenic lake at 9300 feet. With Mt. Hoffman towering as a backdrop, rising to 10,850 feet, you’ll long remember the view!

Tioga Road features more hiking options than any other part of the park. They include myriad trailheads to Cathedral Lakes, hikes to Clouds Rest, to Dog Lake, to Elizabeth Lake and Gaylor Lake.

Hetch Hetchy Valley is sister to Yosemite Valley; John Muir fought 100 years ago to prevent its damming for water for San Francisco.

Hetch Hetchy Valley also begs a side trip. It’s the sister valley to Yosemite, which in the early 1900s John Muir and the Sierra Club fought to keep pristine. San Francisco had planned to dam the valley to capture water for the growing city. To Muir, this was anathema to his values of protecting wilderness. Despite a long fight, San Francisco won the battle and O’Shaughnessy Dam was constructed, creating the lake flooding much of the valley. It’s still a marvelous side trip, and a hike along the north shore of the lake yields views almost equal to Yosemite Valley.

Our little Scotty trailer yields cozy and comfortable accommodations and we awake each morning to clean air and world-class scenery!

How to get there: From Stockton, 115 miles, 2.5 hours. Take Hwy. 4 east to Copperopolis, go right on O’Byrnes Ferry Road and follow Hwy. 120 past Chinese camp and Groveland (two great Gold Rush towns) into Yosemite. To reach Hetch Hetchy Valley Valley from Hwy. 120, turn north on Evergreen Road to O’Shaunessy Dam.

Our Scotty at the old Chinese Camp ghost-town, just off Hwy. 120, returning from Yosemite NP.

For more info: For Yosemite National Park, www.nps.gov/yose.  The park headquarters is at PO Box 577, Yosemite National Park, CA 95389-0577; phone: 209.372.0200.  Camping can be booked through www.recreation.gov, or 877.444.6777.

Need a speaker on western travels? Contact Tim. Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in the West!

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So, you want to own a classic travel trailer?

Our rebuilt, newly painted Scotty after several years languishing in our garage.

So, you want to get a classic travel trailer? Challenges on the way to a successful rebuild…

Our Scotty, towing it home from Riverside five years ago.

Owners of classic travel trailers, when asked “why?”, give these answers. “We wanted a small trailer easy to store, tow and that offers good gas mileage”. “We aged out of tent camping and wanted more comfort”. “We’ve seen these classic trailers on the road, love the retro look and thought they would be a good investment”. Or, “I wanted a project where I could build out a classic trailer to my own tastes”.

For us, it was a combination of most of those, and we already had owned two classic teardrop trailers. But we wanted a somewhat larger trailer, with standup room, interior sink and stove, a larger bed, small dinette and room for a PortaPottie – none of which were offered in tiny teardrop trailers.

Hence, a few years ago I found a 64 Serro Scotty trailer advertised in Southern California, just $1500. Scotties are classic, small trailers with almost a cult following, meeting those criteria above – and this was a good price for a decent old trailer. My trip to Riverside revealed an all-original Scotty, with some dry-rot in the back end. I negotiated to pay only $900, thinking I had found a steal requiring only a bit of repair and new paint to make a cool little camper.

After removing the aluminum skins, extent to dry-rot is fully revealed. Yikes!

To my consternation, deeper inspection upon returning to Stockton revealed a trailer with considerable more dry-rot hidden behind its aluminum skin. Probing its bones, I discovered a trailer that needed a total rebuild (Scotties were notorious for roof leaks over the years, leading to dry-rot). So, over the last several years, that’s what I, my spouse and several friends have done.

When the decision is made to do a frame-up rebuild, and after getting past the feeling “what have I gotten myself into”, my first resource was the National Serro Scotty trailer website, nationalserroscotty.org. It’s full of photographic rebuilds, how-tos and tons of resources for new and used parts. The organization also offers a network of fellow owners across the US and Canada happy to share insights and tips.

Deconstruction of an old trailer goes pretty quickly. We saved the aluminum skins, as well as the plywood sides and ceiling panels for templates and began to acquire replacement interior items. That included new Atwood stove, new small sink, interior and exterior LED lights, new custom foam for the back gaucho/bed, new dinette seat cushions, linoleum for the floor, Formica for the countertops and table top and lots of plywood, lumber, electrical components and miscellaneous hardware.

Author, sanding the trailer frame, prior to undercoating it. Dirty work.

Along the way, my spouse and I had constant bouts of despair. She had a hard time believing the dry-rotted hulk of a trailer could be made new, functional and cute. I had constant concerns that I was in over my head as to skills and energy required. Happily, with the help of Tom and Gary, two friends with marvelous woodworking and electrical skills, Susan’s decorating skills and about 800 total hours, we’ve accomplished all that.

If you’re interested, cost of the trailer and rebuild will total about $4,500. If we ever want to resell it, it’s probably worth about $7,500. To do it again, I’d look harder for a fully reconditioned trailer, rather than tackle the work myself.

End result is a cute, classic and comfortable trailer that I can tow to Yosemite and Pinnacles National Parks next week (and get about 22 miles per gallon behind my wife’s Ford Escape tow vehicle). We’re saving a bottle of champagne for our first night in our new/old little trailer, after a celebratory dinner in the Grand Yosemite Hotel!

New center cabinetry sports small sink, two-burner stove and microwave in ceiling cabinet.

You can find small classic trailers on sites like e-Bay and Craigslist; popular out west are Shasta, Scamp, Boler, Little Caesar, Corvette, Scotty and Airstream trailers. They range in size from about 13 to 25 feet in length, and a good reconditioned trailer can set you back anywhere from $7,000 to about $20,000 depending upon make and model. Bought wisely and well cared for, one can recoup the investment years later, perhaps seeing some appreciation in value. With any of these classic trailers, you’ll be snug in campgrounds, get good gas mileage getting there and be the toast of the campground!

View of front of trailer shows dinette, sitting four adults (snugly) and converts to a single bed at night.

For more information: On specific trailers, search classic trailer group’s web sites or Facebook groups; for classic trailers, go to Tin Can Tourists, tincantourists.com, for Serro Scotty Trailers, nationalserroscotty.org. For camping options on Federal or State properties, reserveamerica.com or recreation.gov.

Contact Tim at tviall@msn.com, follow him at recordnet.com/travelblog. See you on the road!

View to the rear; in rebuilding, we stole six inches off the center cabinets and expanded the rear gaucho couch/bed to a full sized double bed. Luxury, compared to our prior teardrop trailers!

Posted in Central California, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Southern California, Southwest USA (Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas), Stockton/San Joaquin County, Teardrop and tiny travel trailers | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall camping in northern California; also a good time for camper buying!

Big Sur coast, looking north, featuring a number of scenic campgrounds!

Fall camping in northern California; it’s also a great time for camper buying!

Sutter's Mill, in Marshall Gold Discovery State Historical Park, features a Coloma Campground, a pretty, privately owned campground, right across the American River.

Whether you’re a fan of tent camping, small trailer, larger trailer or motorhome camping, some of the nicest weeks of the camping season lie ahead. We’re blessed, living in Central/Northern California, to have wonderful options within a few hours in any of the four compass directions. Our weather can remain pleasant until well into November or December, so let’s get planning a few camping trips.

For fall exploring and camping, look north, to the Sierra foothills from Coloma (with a pretty campground right across the American River from Marshall Gold Discovery State Park, where John Marshall discovered gold in 1848, triggering the gold rush). Foothill campground gems run all the way south well past Sonora (follow the gold rush route, Highway 49). Don’t overlook favorites like Corps of Engineers campgrounds on New Melones Lake, or camping amongst the giant sequoias at Calaveras Big Trees State Park.

Our '58 Serro Scotty teardrop camp trailer in camp.

Drive an hour south for warmer days and find several scenic campgrounds just off Interstate 5 and Highway 152 around San Luis Reservoir. Or, continue west to Hollister, then south to Pinnacles National Park, almost always an oasis of milder weather and sunny skies.

Just a bit further west is the Big Sur coast, now more accessible with the recent reopening of Pfeiffer Canyon Bridge. State parks along the coast offer campgrounds at Julia Pfeiffer Burns, Pfeiffer Big Sur and Andrew Molera State Parks, providing an ideal respite offering stunning scenery blessed by a pleasant Mediterranean climate.

Or, venture north of the Golden Gate Bridge up the coast to a variety of campgrounds north of Bodega Bay, with many choices all the way to Fort Bragg and Mendocino. Favorites along this stretch include Sonoma Coast, Salt Point, Manchester and Van Damme Beach State Parks. Often beautiful fall weather follows the gorgeous summer experienced along this portion of California’s wild coastline.

Our '64 Serro Scotty Sportsman 13' Gaucho model, before its rebuild began.

And as you head into fall, consider your future camping options. If you’re mature tent campers, perhaps you’ve been thinking about upgrading to a smaller or larger camping trailer. If so, fall and winter are the best times to purchase, as many owners have decided to sell lightly-used campers, or dealers close out new and used inventory.

If you are into light, minimal camping but have aged out of a tent, consider a teardrop trailer, which can be found for sale on Craigslist or eBay, slightly used or older, as well as new models like T@G and Little Guy. Pan Pacific RV in French Camp and Sacramento dealers sell new models. Used teardrop trailers sell for around $3,000 to $6,000; new models from about $6,500 to more, depending on options and size.

We purchased our first teardrop about 10 years ago, and have camped all over the US and Canada with tiny trailers measuring 8 feet long, 4 feet tall and 4 feet wide. They allow you to pack all your camping gear, sleep warm and cozy without setting up a tent, not worry about bears and can be stored in your garage. Best of all, towing with a four-cylinder car, you can still get 26 miles per gallon on the highway.

T@G teardrop trailers are popular newer teardrop models.

A few years ago we decided to move up in trailer size, and bought a ’64 Scotty classic, all of 13 feet in length. We are just finishing a drawn-out rebuild, but, when finished, the trailer offers stand-up room for my spouse, a full double bed in back, a dinette up front, a small sink, two burner stove and Portapotty. Next week, I’ll share more about purchase and/or rebuilding of classic travel trailers like our little Scotty, some small enough to store in a standard garage.

You can find small camp trailers on those aforementioned resale sites, or shop for new trailers such as T@B, Casita, R-pod, A-Liner and others. All of the smaller trailers offer full amenities including bathroom/shower, sleeping up to four people and remain light enough to tow behind four and six-cylinder vehicles. They range in size from about 15 to 20 feet in length, and sell used for around $10,000, or new from the mid-teens to over $20,000, again depending upon options. With any of these small trailers, you’ll be snug in campgrounds, get good gas mileage getting there and can smile smugly when fellow campers arrive with giant fifth wheels, getting 6 miles per gallon from their huge pickup trucks.

New Casita trailers can be towed with four and six cylinder vehicles.

We’re doing the maiden voyage of our rebuilt ’64 Scotty in two weeks, starting with two nights in Yosemite Valley followed by three nights in Pinnacles National Park and several more nights along the Big Sur coast. We will take our Little Buddy propane heater, warm clothes and wet weather gear – and closely watch the long-range weather forecast (actually, I’m kind of hoping for rainy days)!

For more information: On specific trailers, search manufacturers’ web sites; for classic trailers, go to Tin Can Tourists, tincantourists.com, for Serro Scotty Trailers, nationalserroscotty.org. For camping options on Federal or State properties, reserveamerica.com or recreation.gov.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy camping in your world!

A new T@B trailer, owned by our Sacramento friends, is a lovely small to mid-size trailer with a popular retro look.

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Sacramento/Capitol region, San Francisco Bay Area, Sierra Nevada, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Local travel; Walking or running gets you close to the action and scenery!

In Shape Club runners on Calaveras Trail just west of UOP.

Walking or running gets you close to the action and scenery; travel locally and burn calories!

Elijah Dennison and his grandfather out for exercise in Quail Lakes area of Stockton.

With fall’s sunny days, mild evenings, cool mornings and only seven weeks to Thanksgiving, what better time to get out and see your community, burn a few calories and drop a couple pounds before the holidays? With changing fall foliage and so many scenic and accessible places to walk or run, what’s keeping you?

I contacted several well-known athletes in the community to ask how novices can get started, or low-key walkers or runners can improve, and, their recommendations.

Tony Vice, triathlete and owner of Fleet Feet Sports in Lincoln Center, suggested both Fleet Feet and the Sundance Running Club are great places to begin. I asked Tony for advice in getting started, or, increasing distance for low-key athletes, “Running and walking is easy…just lace up your shoes and step out your front door. Find a friend, family or neighbor, because going together makes you accountable to someone else”.

Need more motivation? Vice notes, “Fleet Feet Stockton has a weekly Tuesday Night run and walk at 5:30 pm leaving the store – rain or shine! We are also adding a YES UCAN walking and weight loss program starting in November to get participants through the tough holiday season”. As to training aides, he adds, “there are lots of free online programs for first timers. They are all great and you can work around your schedule. I always encourage first timers to join a group program though. It makes it less difficult to give up”.

Sundance Run Club walkers and runners at Saturday Fun Run event at Grupe Park.

Ralph Womack, founder of the popular Run and Walk Against Hunger on Thanksgiving morning, reflected back on his running career, which started about 20 years ago. He notes, “I measured a one mile loop from my home. My focus was getting going and improving in tiny steps.  The first time I ran until I was panting pretty heavy early on. It was not fast and it was not for long but when I had enough running I walked and caught my breath then ran again.

So my next goal was to just run longer before I needed to stop and walk.  I kept this up over time until I could continue to run for the full one mile loop.  Once I accomplished that I gradually increased my distance until I could run the full two loops without stopping. Once I could run the loop 3 times I signed up for a run and felt pretty proud that, even though not fast, I could complete a whole race without walking”.

Ralph notes that Lodi Lake is one of his favorite places to run, individually or in a group (he has a lively, almost every-morning running group at Quail Lakes In Shape Club). “Though it is farther, a few times a year we go there and run the lake early in the morning. If you start in the front, run toward the east through the outer trail of the wilderness trail, then come out of the nature area and turn right you run up to the bathroom and picnic area where you turn around and run back.  That gives you 2+ miles running or walking once you return to the start”.

Ralph Womack (back row on left) and group of friends at Lodi Lake Park.

Here are favorite walking/running routes in the county. In north county, check out the trails and the wonderful views at Cosumnes River Preserve two miles north of Thornton. Lodi Lake, already mentioned, and discover quiet vineyard backroads centered around Lodi, perfect for scenic and flat walking or running routes.

Shima Tract offers a choice of four or eight miles on gravel levees, scenic and in the heart of our Delta. From the very west end of Stockton’s Hammer Lane, turn left on Lighthouse, go right at the fork and immediately right on the court that ends against the levee.  Park there and walk up the levee and go left for an 8 mile loop.  If you prefer four miles, just cut across and return on the road that intersects at about two miles.

In Stockton, the Bear Creek Trail offers adventure – park near Bear Creek High School, go south on Thornton and then west on the trail, to Trinity Parkway, continue on the levee, paved for another mile – and unpaved beyond, westward into the beautiful Delta.

The Calaveras Bike and Walking Trail is long a favorite. Park at University of Pacific’s campus, where the DeRosa University Center offers a great place to meet and take a break, then cross the footbridge and walk or run west on the trail towards Brookside.

Author's grandkids Jack, Jessica and Hunter out for a hike on Shima Tract in norht Stockton.

The Sundance Running Club hosts a weekly Fun Run on Saturdays at 8 AM at Stockton’s Grupe Park (west side of the park).  On any given Saturday the club is likely to have walkers, runners, and bikers in attendance.

In south county, check out Manteca’s walking and running trails, complete with bridge across the Stanislaus River. Weston Ranch, Tracy and Lathrop also have a variety of options, some right along Delta waterways. Or, explore the eastern side of the county for options in rolling foothills and along Lake Comanche.

Two participants dress in Thanksgiving finery for the annual Run and Walk Against Hunger on Thanksgiving morning!

For more information: Fleet Feet Sports, Lincoln Center, fleetfeetstockton.com; Run and Walk Against Hunger (Thanksgiving morning), runagainsthunger.org; Sundance Running Club, sundancerunners.webs.com; for a map of Stockton bike and hike trails,  http://www.stocktongov.com/files/BikeRouteMap.pdf

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com.

Posted in Central California, Northern California, Stockton/San Joaquin County | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Free 4-Star lodging in the west’s most scenic places! Only a modest hitch…

Seattle, with Space Needle and Elliot Bay, viewed from Kerry Park on Queen Anne Hill near our Seattle house-sitting assignment. Queen Anne Hill is home to wonderful restaurants and shops.

Free 4-Star lodging in the west’s most scenic places! And, your assignment has only a modest hitch…

Would you travel more frequently if you received free 4-Star lodging in beautiful places? How about two weeks in a lovely condo on Seattle’s Queen Anne Hill? Or a month in Edmonds, just north of Seattle with views of Puget Sound? How about two weeks in a beautiful four bedroom house in Tucson, AZ? Other options coming up for us early next year are two weeks each in Taos, New Mexico and St. George, Utah (near Zion and Bryce Canyon national parks). Free, mind you!

Puget Sound Ferry arrives Edmonds, with Olympic Mountains in distance, from hear our second house-sitting experience.

We’ve had other offers we’ve declined (did not fit our schedule or too far to travel): Hayden, ID, Napa Valley, CA, Colorado and the East Coast.

Of course, a few caveats: these are housesitting gigs, sometimes with plants to water or pets to watch over. In return, you get comfortable lodging and cooking privileges (saving money on dining out). During the day or evening we are free to explore the highlights of the town/region we are house-sitting within! We usually arrive with our small camping trailer, and extend our vacation by traveling both prior to, and after, our arrival.

It’s one of two major benefits to our several-year membership in the Affordable Travel Club. The primary membership benefit is to travel the US, Canada or the world, contacting one of 2,700 club members in advance and arranging a night or several nights lodging during your travels.

Sun sets on the mountains east of Tucson, from the backyard of the lovely home we watched over in April.

Club members will put you up for the night, offer you (usually) a snack and a drink, and provide breakfast in the morning – you leave them a $20 gratuity ($15 for singles) as you depart. Along with the stay, you soak up local insight and make long-term friends with some of your hosts. It has several huge pluses – gaining local knowledge from your hosts, and saving $100 or more compared to a night at a Comfort Inn or similar.

We have over-nighted with 10 different ATC members in the last two years, including three Canadians. Without fail, they are lovely people with nice homes and insight they are eager to impart about their city. Conversely, we have now hosted seven ATC members passing through Stockton, including a lovely couple from England who stayed with us three nights and have invited us to lodge in their home southwest of London when we get to that country.

Judy and Ward Lowrance flank a docent while visiting and English manor, circa 1598, during their housesitting gig in England.

We learned of the club experience when we met Judy and Ward Lowrance, of Floyd, VA, three years ago on a European cruise. They raved about their membership experience and shared their many travels utilizing the ATC. About eight months after that, they invited us to split a month’s housesitting gig in Seattle with them, which we happily accepted.

The Lowrances have traveled the world utilizing their membership; currently they just finished a week’s house sitting stint in Taunton, England. Let Judy explain the trip: “We are in Taunton in Somerset — enjoying pet-sitting with a very sweet springer spaniel whose owners are members of ATC.  (The owners) have headed down to Cornwall while we’re staying in their beautiful home.  We lined up everything by emails and are happy to have this convenient place to stay while we explore places within an hour or two from Taunton”.

“The owners have given us several hints about good places to see in the area as well as tasty restaurants and pubs to try.  We take Bracken to a field where he can run and chase a ball for a while in the morning then we take off in our rental car.  The dog is happy to stay at home alone for six-hour stretches, so we come back in time to give him his supper; and we’re able to prepare our own dinners here at the owners’ house (thus saving money since we don’t need to eat out for all of our meals)”, adds Judy. The Lawrences are traveling on to Ireland and Scotland, using Airbnb for economical lodging.

The lovely home we presided over in Tuscon this spring.

The ATC offers a club bulletin board for potential house and/or pet sitters; we posted a notice as “creative/flexible house-sitters” and we get contacted about every other month for potential house-sitting assignments. When we joined, we saw the “overnight lodging when traveling” club option as the highlight – now we see house-sitting as a second major enticement. Our two Washington home-sitting gigs came with plants to water, while our stay in Tucson kept us busy watching over two energetic black labs!

Off we go, soon, to explore Taos with a two-week stay in a lovely home in the hills north of town, and an old black cat to watch over!

Ask your friends, you’ll likely find someone who has enjoyed ATC membership.  On the east-coast, the Evergreen Travel Club is very similar, with a larger membership of east-coast members.

Cocoa and Hershey, two lovable black labs, made our Tucson experience a lively one!

For more information: Affordable Travel Club, affordabletravelclub.net; Evergreen Club, evergeenclub.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com.

Posted in Canada, Western, Central California, Mountain West (Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado), Northern California, Pacific Northwest USA (Oregon, Washington, Idaho), Sacramento/Capitol region, United States beyond! | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fall foothills splendor, or Northern California coast majesty?

Sutter Creek turns out over 20 townsfolk dressed in period garb for their annual Heritage Festival.

With fine fall weather, head for Sierra foothills splendor, or Northern California coast majesty!

With October, even November, offering beautiful weather, here are two favorite destinations for fall touring.

Wells Fargo stagecoach charges down Main Street in historic Sutter Creek.

Sutter Creek and the Shenandoah Valley, just 50-60 miles from STOCKTON, offers the best of gold rush history in a quaint, compact 10 block downtown chock a block with cute shops, restaurants and winetasting outlets. For wine aficionado’s, undiscovered vineyards and wineries in the Shenandoah Valley are just a short drive away.

Along Sutter Creek’s Main Street are several bed-and-breakfasts, the Hotel Sutter, more than a dozen wine-tasting rooms interspersed with cute shops and restaurants. The Hotel Sutter (the oldest continuously operating hotel in California) is a great place for lunch or dinner, while Cavala’s Bar and Grill across the street offers good pub food and a classy oak bar; just around the corner is Gold Dust Pizza for fun family dining.

A recent visit came complete with the arrival of the Wells Fargo stage, and several dozen times people dressed in Gold rush garb, celebrating their heritage. Docents explained the history of the old Sutter Creek Theatre, open most weekends with live entertainment.

Sierra storm clouds brew just east of the lovely Shenandoah Valley, home to over 30 wineries.

Head a bit further east to the Shenandoah Valley in Amador County, rising to almost 3000 feet above sea level for  changing colors that come with the fall. The valley, composed of decomposed granite and volcanic soils, is a growing wine grape region.

The valley features over 30 wineries, with some of our favorites: Karmere Wineries, with elegant French-château tasting room, shares the history of local growers who introduced Italian, Rhone and Spanish varietals to the foothills, leading to renowned Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Barbera, Syrah and Viognier wines.  Helwig Winery offers industrial-chic winery buildings on a scenic hilltop with marvelous views and frequently offers live music in their pavilion on weekends.

Wine tasting at Karmere Vineyards in their French Chateau-inspired tasting room.

Story Winery offers sparkling views and vineyards dating to the 1890s, featuring Zinfandel, Mission, Barbera, Sangiovese and Primitivo grapes. Turley Vineyards features single vineyard Zinfandels and Petit Syrahs in a lovely setting accentuated by period-correct antiques. Dobra Zemlja Winery produces robust Viognier, Barbera, Syrah, Grenache and Zinfandel wines – and features the valley’s first wine cave, a cooling 56 degrees, entered through a 19th century barn.

The Northern California coast from Bodega Bay north to Mendocino is dotted with cute towns, stunning views, wildlife sightings and even Russian history. It’s just three hours from Stockton and offers both camping options and wonderful places to stop for overnight stays. We usually start in Bodega Bay, with lunch at the Tides Restaurant. Nearby is Wrights Beach State Park, with campsites right on the ocean if you can snag one.

Picture-perfect California coast, just north of Jenner.

Heading north on Hwy. 1 through Sonoma County you’ll soon cross the meandering Russian River and reach the town of Jenner where the river spills into the Pacific. A favorite stopping place is River’s End Restaurant, with jaw-dropping views and great food. From the deck high above the river, you frequently see harbor seals basking in the sun on a sandy spit near the river’s mouth.

Just a bit further north is Fort Ross State Historic Park, capturing the flavor of the old Russian outpost anchoring the Russian colonization period, 1812-1842, as well as the history of the ancient Kashia Pomo people that inhabited the area for centuries. Just north, stop at Stewart’s Point General Store for a snack and a tour of the museum-like all-purpose retailer.

Granddaughter Jessica revels in her first trip to the ocean near Bodega Bay.

You’ll soon reach quiet coastal towns like Sea Ranch (stop at Sea Ranch Lodge for lodging or meals), Albion, a town inland, offers shops, stores and restaurants. Nearby Gualala County Regional Park is heavily wooded, featuring lovely secluded campsites; Point Arena offers both jaw-dropping coastal views and a tour of the Point Arena Lighthouse.

Continuing up Hwy. 1, you’ll pass through Manchester, Elk, Albion and Little River (check out the classic Little River Inn for lodging or meals) before reaching Mendocino. Mendocino is, perhaps, the quintessential California coastal town, complete with fine restaurants and trendy shops. Just west is Mendocino Headwaters State Park, with rocky bluffs and trails that yield stunning ocean views; frequent sightings of both harbor seals and sea otters make for a wonderful day!

Point Arena Lighthouse warns sailors of the dangers of wind-swept, rocky N. California coast (and offers tours, too).

For more information: Amador wineries, Amadorwine.com; for information about local activities, dining and lodging, Amador County Tourism, TourAmador.com; Ft. Ross State Historic Park, parks.ca.gov/?page_id=449; Visit Sonoma County, Sonoma.com;  Sutter Creek, suttercreek.org; Sutter Creek Theatre, suttercreektheatre.com

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com.

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Hawaii, the Big (and rocky) Island

Ka Lae (south point) fishermen cast lines for big eye tuna, braving rouch ocean and 50 foot cliffs!

A five day visit to Hawaii, the Big (and rocky) Island…

Ka Lae is the southern mosst point in Hawaii and all 50 states.

We have only five days on this huge island; on our first day we head south from Kona, targeting old Ka Lae (meaning “the point”), at 19° north of the equator, the southernmost point of both Hawaii and all 50 states. It’s the place where historians believe the islands were settled, dating back as early as 750 CE. Most tourists zip past the lonely 12 mile road to South Point, off the Mamalohoa Hwy., on their way to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

South Point Road winds initially through light forest, before descending through a tawny, golden plain to the ocean.  Past assorted farm houses, several huge cartoonish satellite dishes, we find evidence of earlier civilization around the point – several abandoned commercial buildings, and a number of old foundations and heiaus (early native gathering places).

Nearby is popular Green Sand Beach, one of only four in the world. It gets its greenish hue from olivine crystals that collect at the base of Pu’u Mahana, a cindercone thousands of years old. As it erodes, it sheds gemstones the size of sand.

Along the rocky South Point the ocean stands out as king, with lava flows pounded by relentless surf. In most places the rocky lava bluffs drop 20 to 50 feet down to surging ocean, while local fishermen cast lines or a few nets seeking bigeye tuna and other delicacies. At South Point, a local fisherman tells us to stop by Hana Hou Restaurant and Bakery, the southernmost restaurant in the US, in the town of Na alehu. We’ll check it out on our way back from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park; we later find it jammed that night, with musicians serenading diners as patrons make for the bakery’s famous lileleko’i bars.

Kilauea Caldera during a hazy day, seen from Jaggar Museum.

We retrace our path back to Mamalahoa Hwy., headed to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We climb steadily to over 4,000 feet, crossing ancient and more recent lava flows and evolving forest, lusher and greener as we climb higher on the volcanic peak.

After entering the national park (free with our federal senior pass), we stop first at the visitor center to get a feel for the layout of the expanding land. We learn that, in recent years, lava flowing out of the Kilauea crater has added hundreds of acres to the size of this island.

Two miles away is the the Jaggar Museum, near the edge of the steaming Kilauea Caldera, with molten lava bubbling and churning just below sight-line. We learn the crater has filled almost to the rim recently, though the molten lava lake descended about 100 feet, just out of easy view.

Kilauea Caldera at night, where the lava lake casts an angry, orange hue into the dark sky.

We follow the 19 mile long Chain of Craters Road, with hikable lava tubes and pull-outs overlooking relatively recent lava craters. The lower portion of the road continues through older and more recent broad lava flows, looking like the top of miles-square baked brownies, before descending to the oceanfront.

Thurston Lava Tube extends thousands of feet into the lava beds.

The road ends where molten lava recently flowed over it; we’re left with a 5 mile hike (one way) along the old road and across those lava flows to see where the active volcano pumps daily lava into the ocean, steadily adding land to the island’s shoreline.

Just steps from the parking area is the Holei Sea Arch, the result of the ocean steadily pounding away at the 50 foot-tall lava coast line. The current eruption began in 1983, with the vent eight miles up the volcanic slope constantly spewing lava bound for the sea.

Visitors watch molten lava thunder into the Pacific (though a 5 mile hike is required to reach close-up views).

Our visit to the park seems solemn by the realization that, behind us, rise 13,617 foot Mauna Loa Volcano, and across the island, 13,796 foot Mona Kea Volcano, which produced this vast, rocky island anchoring the Hawaiian Island chain.

The next day we sleep in and then head north to the Hilton Waikoloa, for a late lunch and tour of this huge resort. We took the monorail and the gondola through the grounds – an impressive place. And, we are rewarded with our first dramatic sunset.

Holei Sea Arch shows evidence of the ocean's power against endless Hawaii lava cliffs.

The next day the island’s east coast and Hilo are our destination. Highway 200 yields a long, pretty drive up and over the saddle between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, striated with black lava flows, high desert tundra inhabited by wild goats and thick rain forest as we head down towards Hilo.

Hilo was the undisputed sugar capital, now a bit down on its luck with end of the sugar industry. We walk the six block stretch of the historic downtown across from Hilo Bay, admiring vintage buildings like the Kress 5 & 10 and the S. Hata Building, circa 1912. Inside is the Café Pesto, open since 1992, serving fresh fish and local produce right in heart of old Hilo. It’s a town hammered numerous times by huge tsunamis in the last 100-plus years, killing over 200 people; we keep an eye on the waterfront. Just south, a big farmers market and crafts fair operates daily!

Kona offers a Bike Share program, making it easy to cruise the town's main drag along the ocean.

A pleasant day involved touring our host town of Kona, developed for the resort crowd with a main drag along the ocean studded with outdoor restaurants and bars, interspersed with bed and breakfasts, condos, hotels and all variety of shops.  Each Wednesday, a big Carnival cruise ship anchors just a half mile off shore and disgorges hundreds of tourists on Kona; by evening, those visitors and the ship are gone to their next port-of-call.

A popular tour near Kona is the Kona Coffee Plantation, with a 200 year heritage on the island. The town has a bike-share program, with a number of locations where visitors can check out a bike for a nominal sum. Our final morning, a seaside breakfast at the Fish Hopper – Bloody Mary’s and a split of eggs Benedict over local Ono – is a fitting send-off for our short whirlwind tour.

For more information: Hawaii visitor info, gohawaii.com/islands/Hawaii; for Hawaii Revealed phone-app, hawaiirevealed.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com.

A marvelous pizza with goat cheese, spinach and tomato, at Cafe Pesto in Hilo.

 

 

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Kauai, the Garden Isle; memories of a first time visit

Kilauea Lighthouse on Kauai's rugged northwest shore.

Kauai, the Garden Isle; what first time visitors can cram into a week!

We’ve been coming to Maui every year since 2001; but for an R&R visit from Vietnam in 1971 to Oahu, we had never been to the other Hawaiian islands.

Photo of the start of Nepali Coastt, from the trail from Ke'e Beach on the north Shore.

So, after hearing inspiration from other fellow travelers about both Kauai and the big Island of Hawaii, we decided it was time to branch out. After a visit to Maui a week ago, we just finished our first week on Kauai, the “Garden Isle”. It’s the oldest of the inhabited Hawaiian islands, allowing time for waves, wind and weather to sculpt the island, yielding lush soils for marvelous vegetation.

Flying into Kauai, it’s readily apparent how it got its name – rugged volcanic peaks jut into the sky covered with dense green vegetation in all directions. A tour guide later in the week will explain the island has been home to scores of movies, like Elvis Presley’s Blue Hawaii, Indiana Jones, Jurassic Park and many more.

A monk seal lounges on the beach near our condo in Kapa' a.

We checked out our rental car and made to our rented condominium (a great deal, right on the ocean’s eastern shore, through Vacation Rental by Owner, VRBO.com) with several monk seals snoozing on the beach near our condo, oblivious to crashing blue waves.

Later we checked out old Kapa’a, with a dozen blocks of quaint shops and interesting restaurants, like Mariachi’s Mexican offering great shredded beef taco salads and tasty margaritas. We also discovered fine dining restaurants nearby, like Oasis on the Beach and Lava Lava Oceanfront Grill (voted best new restaurant).

Wailea Canyon, "the Grand Canyon of the Pacific".

The next morning we were up early for a tour up to Wailea Canyon, which Mark Twain defined as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. Quickly, Hwy. 550 takes one almost to 4,500 feet, and, looking into that gorgeous canyon, Twain was correct. It is much the same feel as The Grand Canyon, but with much more green vegetation. And, one can look off the other side o the ridge-back highway and see more than 4,500 feet straight down to the mighty Pacific, extending cobalt blue into the horizon. From the end of the road it’s just another several mile hike to Mt. Wai’ale’ale, which locals claim as the rainiest place on earth, averaging 480 inches of rain each year (hence, the island’s lush vegetation)!

Later in the week we drove due north to the end of Hwy. 56, where the storied Nepali Coast begins. We then hiked the rugged opening miles of the 12 mile long Kalalau Trail (starts at Ke’e Beach), extending along the roadless, striking coast. It’s about a 4 mile hike to the base of Hanakapi’ai Falls, one of the highlights of the Jurassic Park movies.

Paddling up a rain-forest river, headed for the falls!

Along the way to the Napali Coast you pass through the town of Honolea Bay on the north shore, with local shops and several interesting restaurants – try the funky Calypso Restaurant for tasty fish and chips. On your return south, also stop at Kilauea Light House and National Wildlife Preserve and your choice of numerous scenic beaches.

Another highlight of our trip: A kayak trip up the Wailua River several miles, combined with a hike up to Opaeka’a (Secret) Falls, tumbling 125 feet into a beautiful catch-basin. We booked through Kauai/Ali’i Kayaks; local guide TC, with both his ukulele and little dog Yoda, made for a fine five hour tour, just $39.95 each.

O Paeka'a Falls tumbles 125' to delight of visitors.

If you are a coffee junkie, tour the Kauai Coffee plantation, with 4,000,000 coffee trees planted since 1987, featuring five primary types of coffee. Along the tour we learned that light roast has more caffeine than dark roast coffee and that sugarcane production ended in the islands in the last 20 years due to world-wide competition from sugar beets, corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, resulting in reduced profits and the end to Hawaii’s historic economic engine, sugar production.

Spouting Horn is a fascinating ocean attraction.

Other island attractions include bicycling on miles of trails along the ocean, touring to Spouting Horn on the southwest side of the isle (where pounding waves enter lava tubes and send surf spouting 30 feet into the air), and sampling delicious Puka Dogs, either Polish sausage or vegetarian, a delicious Frankfurter in a bun with special Island condiments, making for a memorable meal.

The south, west and east sides of the island offer miles and miles of choice beaches for snorkeling, swimming and surfing. For a lovely park which offers a large sheltered swimming and snorkeling pond, with adjoining sandy beach, stop at Lydgate State Park. Here children and novice swimmers can swim or snorkel without fear of ocean waves or undertow.

Susan, about to dig into a famed Puka Dog!

Next week, we move from Hawaii’s oldest island to the newest and most dramatic, the Big Island.

For more information: Kauai visitor info, gohawaii.com/islands/kauai; for Kauai Revealed phone-app, hawaiirevealed.com.

Read more from Tim Viall’s travel blog, follow him on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter; or, email him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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7 must dos upon visiting Maui…

Surfer tackles big wave south of La Perouse Bay on Maui's southwest shore.

These are the seven must dos upon visiting Maui…

Mark Twain called Hawaii “the loveliest fleet of islands that lies anchored in any ocean”. Maui, second most visited of the islands (trailing only Oahu), is one of the most beautiful and the one we know best from 16 visits there in the last 17 years. Our recent visit and chats with locals allowed us to reevaluate our list of the top seven things to do in Maui. Here they are:

The Elvis "Burn'N Love" show is a hit in Lahaina.

Take in a sunrise at the top of Mt. Haleakala. need to depart your hotel around 2:30 AM to make the 5 o’clock-ish majestic sunrise at the top of the 10,023’ volcano. Take either a jacket or a blanket, since it’s about 25° chillier at the lofty summit than at sea level. And on the way down, reward yourself with a stop at the old Kula Lodge at 3200 feet on the volcano’s flank for marvelous breakfasts such as cinnamon swirl French toast (with coconut syrup); stunning views come with the breakfast! The National Park now requires pre-registration and a nominal fee of $1.50 to make the early morning drive to the top – so go to reserveamerica.com and book your day trip well in advance.

The huge banyan tree is the center of old Lahaina.

Explore Lahaina Town. It’s the historic former whaling capital and territorial capital (before it moved to Oahu). The city is loaded with history and features one of the world’s largest banyan trees anchoring a city block in front of the old courthouse (the old Baldwin House Museum is nearby). Home to some of the island’s best shops and finest restaurants, like Fleetwood’s, Hamburger in Paradise and Bubba Gump’s Shrimp all along the ocean on old Front Street – it’s a gourmet’s delight.

Go beaching! Maui is known for many of the worlds top beaches. Favorites, based on broad, sandy and swimmable, are on the west side of the island, like Wailea Beach (between the Grand Wailea and Fairmont luxury tourist hotels), Makena State Beach and Secret Cove (just south of 6900 Makena Rd.), where a 6 foot opening in the lava-rock wall takes you to a pocket beach with gorgeous scenery, including a picture-perfect vantage-point looking out towards Molokini Atoll).

Sun sets over the beach on Maui's stunning west-side beaches.

At Sugar Beach in North Kehei, the Kehei Canoe Club offers Tuesday and Thursday canoe trips in Hawaiian war canoes for a donation of $40. It’s an exciting and energetic option, paddling parallel to several miles of beautiful beach. The beaches in and north of Kaanapali are scenic, but narrower and rockier.

Take the road to Hana. This scenic, windy (115 tight turns) road delivers you to this ultimate, secluded town on Maui’s south eastern flank. Plan a full day to journey through thick rain forest, along gorgeous sections of the ocean and past numerous waterfalls. Early in the drive, just past popular Mama’s Fish House, stop at the Ka’a Point Beach, one of the best kitesurfing beaches in the world; world-class kite surfers zoom right up to the beach, presenting marvelous photo opportunities. Just past the secluded resort town of Hana find the grave of Charles Lindbergh at the Palapala Ho’Omau Congregational Church. Lindbergh retired to Hana and died there in 1974.

Wild goats on the King's Highway Trail through lava flows at La Perouse Bay are an extra bonus.

Hike a few of Maui’s beautiful trails: Some are historic, like sections of the old Kings Hwy. that circled the island hundreds of years ago, allowing ancient Hawaiian kings to traverse the island and collect taxes. A favorite, the Hoapili Trail, treks through the La Perouse Bay lava fields, presenting rocky ocean views around every turn and sightings of dozens of wild black goats which inhabit the area. Another is the Lahaina Pali Trail, which parallels the Pali Highway from Ma’alea Harbor headed north to Lahaina and offers stunning views of Molokini, Kaho’o'lawe and Lanai from high on the bluffs above the Pacific. The Haleakala volcano’s trail system also offers a host of options into the crater (though altitudes of 9-10,000 feet will cause some a challenge).

Take in a show. While we’ve done three different luaus, the high price precludes them as good values – though you probably owe yourself one (Drums of the Pacific Luau in Lahaina is rated tops by TripAdvisor). Lahaina does offer several spectacular shows, including the Elvis impersonator Burn’n Love show, Warren and Annabelle’s Magic (we’ve seen each twice) and the epic Ulalena, a stunning musical review full of acrobats, focused on the creation of the Hawaiian islands.

The South Maui Fish Company is one of many food trucks offering local delicacies.

Eat local: Marvelous dining options abound; our suggestions are to focus on local food, food trucks and happy hours. Skip the chains and find local restaurants that cook locally-caught fish and Maui-grown produce (Pacific-O a fine example). Food trucks also offer wonderful options, such as the South Maui Fish Company in Kehei or Jawz Fish Tacos on Makena Road opposite Makena State Beach (with scores of beautiful beaches, you have stunning waterfront dining backdrops). And, dine during happy hour for appetizers at half price and discounted drinks at a variety of places, such as Five Palms (Kehei), Fleetwoods (Lahaina) and the Hula Grill (Kaanapali).

For more information: Maui Visitor’s Bureau, visitmaui.com, (808) 244-3530; for Maui Revealed phone-app, hawaiirevealed.com.

Follow Tim’s blog at recordnet.com/travelblog or contact him at tviall@msn.com. Happy travels in your world!

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    Tim Viall

    Viall is a local travel writer who retired in late 2012 after 10 years as executive director of Stockton, CA's, Emergency Food Bank and six years with the Downtown Stockton Alliance. Previously, a 21-year career in daily newspapers helped shape his ... Read Full
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