While we spent the vast bulk of our trip in Croatia and Slovenia, it seemed wasteful not to bag a few other countries in our passports with many borders only miles away from our core route. This is nowhere more the case than in Dubrovnik, which despite being Croatia’s most famous international tourist destination, is actually separated from the rest of its country by other nations and the Adriatic. To head north to the rest of Croatia by land, you must pass through a narrow strip of Bosnia and Herzegovina, an artifact of a land sale by an independent Dubrovnik to shield itself from the Venetian republic. Head south from Dubrovnik, and you’ll soon be leaving Croatia in this direction as well. After passing through a curiously long no-mans land between the borders, you’ll enter Montenegro, one of the youngest countries on earth. In fact, your authors were already teenagers before this country existed.
When you think about mountain towns in the summer, your brain fills with images of outdoorsy people – gearing up for hiking, biking, rafting, etc. When you think of Europeans, a few other stereotypes that might overlap come to mind: they are slower paced and enjoy some of the simpler things in life just a little bit more than us Americans do. When these two thoughts cross, you are met with the Alpine paradise that is the lakefront town of Bled.
After a breakfast on our beautiful balcony on the outskirts of Dubrovnik, it was time to make the trek by bus to Old Town and traverse the city’s famous walls. Making a loop around the walls (some of which date bake to the 12th century) is a top item on most visitors’ lists. Unfortunately for us, it was already a roasting day by the time we scaled the first steps of many that are required to make the complete loop. Less than a quarter of the way around, we stopped for an iced coffee to cool down and wondered if we would make the rest of the journey.
While not quite as famous as the Sequoia’s Morro Rock or General Sherman Tree, Tokopah falls is one of the highlights of the park. From the Lodgepole campground, it’s a short hike along the Kaweah river under the pines and towering granite monoliths to reach this impressive waterfall.
In Sequoia National Park, Moro rock serves two purposes. It’s an obvious centerpiece to the park, towering over the Three Rivers valley and visible for miles around in all directions. But despite the imposing size of this massive slab of granite, it’s also an easily reached viewpoint that can be accessed with just a few minutes of hiking from your car, with views that project all the way to the other side of the Sierras. Unless you have a massive fear of heights or its closed for the winter season, Moro rock should be on your hit list for any visit to Sequoia.
Have you heard about the sharing economy? It’s the latest and greatest phenomenon spawned by the internet, and is all the rage now that social media is old hat. Sharing economy businesses all have a common thread in that they allow users to make use of some excess in their life. Want to rent out a seat at your dining table every time you cook an extravagant meal? You can do that. Got an empty closet that someone can use for storage? It’s now rentable with a few mouse clicks. Have a guest house and live in San Diego? Say hello to your new vacation rental. While none of these activities were technically impossible before, but thanks to the web and the presence of companies that aggregate the things to be shared and ensure accountability for the sharer and the borrower, it’s now realistic for everyone to participate. We jumped into our first foray into the sharing economy with great success.
My life is pretty data driven. If there’s a numerical way to evaluate something, I like to explore that. Sometimes this earns some well deserved eye rolls, when I do things like calculate how much it costs per hour to own a kayak. Of course, we all know that people can be all over the spectrum when it comes to this sort of analysis. I don’t think any of you readers are like this (I mean come on, this is Optimizing Adventure after all), but we all know someone on the opposite end that will go buy toilet paper in a 4-pack at the grocery store each time they need it without a second thought. Funnily enough though, I’ve found one specific area where everyone is data driven.
It’s no secret: if you want to see a showcase of the most beautiful terrain that our country has to offer, you can’t do much better than pointing yourself toward a National Park. Often overlooked for the more well known Yosemite National Park, Seqouia and Kings Canyon National Park is the other reserve set up to showcase the beautiful Sierra Nevadas of California. You enter the park north of Bakersfield, as you drive through the town of Three Rivers which is strung along the North Fork of the Kaweah river.
Do you believe in ghosts? Can’t say I do, but I can tell you that a ghost tour is an awesome way to learn about history. When you go on a ghost tour, you aren’t presented with dry facts that you could stare at on Wikipedia. You get tales full of colorful details, presented with theatrics and a certain ambiance that a typical history tour, book or website just can’t deliver . There’s nothing like a chilling story to help your eyes peal back the onion of modern development and imagine the history that 150 year old buildings have seen.
Southern California isn’t a place you’d associate with skiing, especially this winter. The dry and warm winter we’ve been experiencing leaves hitting the slopes far from the mind – so most people are surprised when I tell them that Kendall and I have been taking several day trips to ski just two hours drive from San Diego. Southern California isn’t typically known for much else than beaches, so few know that SoCal actually plays host to serious mountains.