Category Archives: Hot Attractions

Arizona Is Currently A Bit Sad, but Not On Mount Lemmon

Ruth & I visited Phoenix and Tucson during the past week despite the border crisis and COVID shutdowns that are impacting the area. Both cities have been especially affected by these awful social disruptions. Most indoor attractions in and near both cities are shut down and are likely to remain so until at least next September. We could not even see and get help in the relatively new Visitors’ Center in the historic Pima County Courthouse in Tucson because it is currently closed. The people of both cities are putting on brave faces covered by masks through all of this, but this is a difficult time to visit. Luckily, both cities are outdoor activity seeking places and most outdoor venues around and near both cities were open and busy.

For example, the drive up Mount Lemmon has reopened, and we spent most of an entire day enjoying the experience of sharing its road to the summit with bikers, hikers, and other motorists. Despite fires, Mount Lemmon is still a marvel. A true sky island in the desert, Mount Lemmon soars to 9,157 feet in the shadow of Tucson and shelters many animals that can’t survive in the Sonoran Desert that surrounds it. One wonders, for example, how bears made it to live in the pine forests atop this mountain. Drivers do not get much beyond 8,000 feet during the drive up the 2-lane highway to Summerhaven, its mountaintop community with a new hotel near a ski valley. When we began at Mount Lemmon’s base, the temperature was in the 90s but the air was quickly cooler as we ascended this 26 mile long highway. We know because we made frequent stops to admire the flowering saguaros, ocotillo cacti, and palo verde trees. Mount Lemmon, which has several canyons including Sabino, sits in the Coronado National Forest. Tucson barely gets 11 inches of rain each year while the residents of Summerhaven get almost 3 times as much moisture. We saw snow patches near their town.

Mount Lemmon experienced major fires in 2003 and 2020. Ruth and I saw evidence of the more recent fire in several places. There are frequent pull-over spots all along this highway, and Ruth and I enjoyed almost all of them. One offered dramatic views of Thimble Peak. Another, the Windy Point Vista, meant seeing a host of hoodoos. Tucson is framed by 5 mountain ranges. One of them is the Santa Catalina Mountains that Mount Lemmon is part of. Lemmon is, in fact, the Santa Catalina’s highest peak.

Despite the Bighorn Fire of 2020, the Mount Lemmon Hotel opened in Summerhaven in early April, 2021. Its most distinctive feature is 17 casitas, approximately 400 feet of hotel living space in stand alone buildings. Ironically this new guest facility replaces the Alpine Lodge that burned in the major Alpine Fire in 2003. That forest fire destroyed 84,000+ acres and more than 300 homes and businesses.

Hank


The World’s Best Beach

FlightNetwork asked 600 travel writers to name the best beach in the world. Grace Bay in the Caribbean’s Turks and Caicos won the draw, but I suspect that there could have been 600 opinions about the best beach. Picking the best beach is often determined by your latest trip, and I thought it would be easy to name the last 5 beaches I was on. It was not. I would have been wrong if I had trusted my memory.

Beaches, like mountains, are natural landmarks. Whether or not you like a beach often depends on when you were last on it since many humans do beach time while traveling. Ruth and I have been on some spectacular beach real estate. I was surprised and pleased to learn that one we were on fairly recently, Rhossili, is considered among the top 40 beaches in the world. So is Whitehaven in Australia’s Whitsunday Islands, but Ruth and I are far more familiar with Manly, Coogee, and Bondi near Sydney. In fact, we have walked from Coogee to Bondi, a very popular and fun activity. We have probably spent more beach time in Australia than any other place in the world. I thought that the endangered Australian sea lion beach on Kangaroo Island would be among our 5 most recent beach experiences. Not even close! The negative side about the beaches Down Under is the fear factor. Many of them are dangerous and off-limits for many months each year. Who wants to die from a jelly fish sting?

Many countries like Brazil, Cuba, Costa Rica, Mexico, and even Croatia are associated with great beaches, and we have been to beaches in all of them. However, Zlatni Rat Beach in Croatia and Thailand’s Railay Beach are usually listed as among the world’s best. I don’t even know where Zlatni Rat is in this gorgeous country. The State of Washington’s rocky and sandy Ruby Beach on the Olympic Peninsula is often on lists of the world’s best too, but again I have not been on it much. The same goes for Oregon, which has wonderful beaches like Cannon where we won a sand castle building competition. Oregon beaches unfortunately suffer from very cold water and waves that sweep beachgoers off rocks regularly. Among our states Hawaii probably has the best basking beaches on all its islands, but Miami’s South Beach has seen us frolicking in the water far more often than Waikiki, where Ruth & I watched ambulance after ambulance treating stung swimmers.

So what are our 5 most recent beach experiences? In reverse order they include Canada’s Gulf islands, Dune Peninsula, Aruba, Pacific Palisades, and Rhossili. The beaches on Salt Spring Island were small and pebbly. Dune Peninsula is a new park near Tacoma. Aruba’s beaches were hot and many scary creatures inhabited its waters. The famous Malibu Beach at Pacific Palisades was kind of dirty and deserted but gently curving and pretty to look at. Rhossili was in an unlikely place, Wales on the tip of the Gower Peninsula. It deserves its reputation for beauty, was locally popular and only one hour west of Swansea, but no one was in the water.

I hope I’m never asked to rate my favorite beaches.

Hank


What’s in All That Cosmic Dust Found on Earth?

Ruth & I watched a visually stunning and important documentary on Apple TV+ last night that I highly recommend. It’s called Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds, and it was so good that I have watched it 3 times. It makes me feel insignificant as a human being but is full of technical detail about the cosmic dust and meteors that are constantly falling on our Earth. These particles from space contain messages that are creating new sciences. One female scientist in the film says, “We are not going to torture you with details” so that viewers with limited interest in science will watch and understand this film. Her promise is mostly kept.

Fireball begins with dancers on the Yucatan Peninsula tossing fire to each other to represent the fireballs that fall from space and create impact craters all over the Earth. The meteorite that forever changed the Earth and probably killed off the dinosaurs fell near the Yucatan. It’s estimated that its crash created tsunamis and earthquakes that would now measure 11 or more on the Richter scale. The dancers turn out to be Day of the Dead male performers. Humans have, up until now, undervalued the meteorites and cosmic dust that collects on roofs. Meteorites have come to our planet by these discovered-so-far impact craters and by other means. There are about 190 impact craters dotting our Planet, and they vary in importance.

The first one mentioned in the film is the Wolfe Crater in Western Australia. It’s about 95 miles south of the town of Halls Creek in a National Park. We have been to this part of Australia called The Kimberley twice, and I would have seen this crater if I had known about it when we were there. We have also tried on a couple of occasions to see Meteor Crater in California’s Mojave Desert but still have not. I recently wrote about the meteor that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia in 2013 causing havoc. It’s in a blog called “Many, Many Berlins” dated October 26, 2020.

Fireball is the work of German filmmaker Werner Herzog. Herzog has created some great movies during his long career. He is now a robust 78 and still making excellent films. The New York Times favorably reviewed Fireball in its November 13, 2020 issue, which brought this documentary to our attention. Clive Oppenheimer is as important as Werner Herzog when it comes to Fireball. He is the Cambridge University teacher who co-directed it and narrates most of the film. Looking a bit like Gene Wilder, the actor who created Willie Wonka and other great characters, Oppenheimer gets increasingly excited as he tells viewers about impact craters and interviews men and woman who are just beginning to understand that a meteor found in Antarctica might be made of cosmic dust from a planet that no longer exists from another solar system.

See this film to wander and wonder.

Hank


Hot Places I Like

I have admitted a preference for cold destinations but have liked some hot places too. Below are 3 of them.

Broome is a town in northern Western Australia in its tropical zone. It’s now a beach resort kind of place similar to much of lower Florida. Easily accessed by public transportation from a city that has long appealed to survivalist personalities, Cable is a 13 1/2 mile long beach with many posh resorts and more modestly priced accommodations on the Indian Ocean. There are many pearl farms in the area, and pearl diving was an important part of Broome’s history. A city with a population now of about 15,000, Broome is the unofficial capital of the vast Kimberley region that stretches eastward from it almost to Darwin.

There are 4 major attractions here and nearby. To the north of Broome is the Dampier Peninsula, which is home to several Aboriginal communities. The Horizontal Falls, a phenomenon caused by a tidal reversal, is far enough away to require chartering a boat or seaplane to see it. The Staircase to the Moon is a closer-to-Broome sight. In town and worth experiencing is Sun Pictures. In operation since 1913, this outdoor movie theater on Carnarvon Street is the oldest theater of this type in the world. Despite Covid, it’s opened and a good place to see an Australian film. Like other tropical towns with many mango trees, Broome is especially busy from mid-June to mid-August. Typical of tropical destinations, visitors don’t decide to go there in cold or hot weather. They go there in the dry but not the wet season.

Eze sits atop a mountain between Monaco and Nice, France. Visitors climb to the top of this medieval village on the French Riviera via a circular path that takes them 1,400 feet above sea level so they get both hot and cooled. Spectacular views of what is below are common. Below Eze near where visitors park is the tourable and interesting Parfumerie Fragonard. Expect temptation in Fragonard to spend some euros because this is not just a perfume seller but an actual fragrance factory.

Another town in The Kimberley that has a tropical climate is Kununurra. It’s at the other end of this vast, empty region with few towns near Western Australia’s border with the Northern Territory. A town of about 5,000, Kununurra is about the hottest destination I have really liked. Its average temperature is 83.9 degrees Fahrenheit.

From Kununurra, most visitors go to or at least fly over The Kimberley’s greatest attraction, a strange mountain range knows as The Bungle Bungles. They also in the past have gone to the Argyle Diamond Mine, but it’s expected to close at the end of this year even though many valuable pink diamonds are still buried there. This mine has traditionally provided 90% of the world’s supply of this gemstone, so their prices are expected to rise. I don’t know the fate of the retail sellers of pink and other diamonds in Kununurra, but over time this area has developed into a thriving food producing region. It has also become one of the world’s major suppliers of sandalwood. Those who journey to Kununurra from Darwin, the closest city to it, are almost guaranteed to see Australian crocodiles. They live in the river that starts at Lake Argyle and flows by Kununurra.

Hank