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Field Trip: Badwater

We ride into Death Valley in late afternoon, careening down the winding road through the Panamint Range. Down again past the graceful sand dunes of Mesquite Flat, and then down even more towards Badwater, elevation: 282.2 feet below sea level, the bottom of North America. The last golden light bathes the undulating desert hills before slowly giving way to the …

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Libations of the Methow Valley

The Methow Valley might be world famous for its vast trail network, but there’s another activity quickly gaining in popularity: Enjoying après ski libations in various valley venues. It’s amazing how many opportunities there are to imbibe in a town with only 34 downtown buildings. These aren’t your grand-dad’s dark smoky bars, but rather quaint tap houses, brewpubs, and wine …

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The Topography of Paradise: Autumn at Lake O’Hara

  I first set eyes on Lake O’Hara way back in 1991. It was the last day of July. It snowed. I was there on a whim, having heard about this beautiful place in the Canadian Rockies, travelling with some friends on an extended backpacking trip. We were looking for magic. We found it at Lake O’Hara. Since that first …

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Field Trip: Mendenhall Ice Caves

  As a boy, I was introduced to the joy of paddling canoes on a small lake in Ontario, a generally placid body of water with little cause for concern about wind and currents. I was taught that the cardinal rule of paddling is to avoid overloading the canoe. And so it was that I found myself, forty-some odd years …

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The Tao of Iceland

  It was the adventure of a lifetime that got its start from a typo, a fateful slip of the finger. I had been researching a trip to my ancestral homeland of the Emerald Isle, but instead of typing I-R-E-L-A-N-D, I tapped out I-C-E-L-A-N-D, and that one misplaced consonant  opened up the door for a memorable journey to a land …

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The Foxes of San Juan Island

Visitors to San Juan Island expect idyllic beaches, pastoral landscapes dotted with picturesque farms and lodges, forests of kaleidoscopic green. What visitors might not expect is the foxes. The red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) of San Juan Island are a classic example of how tenuous and complex the relationships between humans and wildlife can be. Wildlife managers are trying to balance …

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Welcome to Planet Orcas

With the great out-of-doors, as with cuisine, there’s no disputing matters of taste. One person’s caviar is another’s soggy dumpling. For myself, I’ve always preferred a good healthy slog through an ancient forest to the more easeful charms of a beach. So it was that, shortly after I arrived on Orcas Island, I began hiking along the Cold Spring Trail. …

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Exploring hiking heaven in Macau

Macau is fast becoming a city on the radar of people in all four corners of the world. It is full of history, culture and magical scenery, which can be explored properly on one of the city’s many hiking trails that are available to adventurous types. Although Macau is one of the most densely populated cities on the planet, with …

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Glacier Bay: The Big Picture

Rumbles and booms like a thunderstorm echo all night long in Tarr Inlet. It’s not a storm but our neighbor, the Margerie glacier, calving icebergs a mile away at the head of the inlet. Waves from the falling ice rock the boat, usually gently, but sometimes more vigorously, which I find a bit unnerving. The next morning, the glassy bay …

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Dreaming in Glacier Bay

I had been thinking about Glacier Bay for a long time. I’d done my fair share of poking around on— and in— glaciers in the North Cascades, Canadian Rockies and Alaska. The sensuous forms and sculptural grace of icescapes had always captured my imagination. For me, glacial landscapes offered up a visceral sense of nature’s drama laid bare, the shifting …

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