Posts Tagged With: nature

A Wild Ride at Corey Billie’s

Corey Billie's sign

TEDDY’s RATING:

I’ve lived in Florida for over 30 years and I can’t believe I’ve waited this long to go on an airboat ride. I have always wanted to, but just never got around to it. What an absolute blast it was!

While visiting southwest Florida, just 15 minutes from Naples, we found Corey Billie’s Airboat Rides.

Airboat ride          Airboat ride

The 45 minute ride took us through Corey Billie’s 200-acre private piece of the Everglades which is surrounded by Collier Seminole State Park, National Wildlife Refuge and Panther Preserve.

Captain Dan          Teddy on airboat

Our guide, Captain Dan, piloted the airboat through a type of racecourse around the swampland, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, sometimes up to 60 miles per hour. And at the end, spun the boat around over 360 degrees!

Airboat ride          Birds

Throughout the ride, Dan pointed out different plants, birds and animals, including several huge alligators. He was very knowledgeable about the surroundings and had an excellent sense of humor.

Alligator    Baby alligator

And if you’re brave enough, you can even hold a baby alligator at the end of your tour.

I’d definitely do this again. There are airboat places all over Florida, many of them down south in the Everglades, but there are a few closer to my home in Central Florida as well.

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

http://www.cbairboatrides.com/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 6

Breaching calf

The last part of our Alaska adventure took us to three ports:  Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Skagway          Skagawy

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://skagway.com/

The first port was Skagway, home of the great Klondike Gold Rush of 1898 when thousands of prospectors came to find their fortunes. Many of the buildings here look like they might have back in those Gold Rush days.

          Teddy at Red Onion          Teddy in Skagway

It was an overcast and windy day. We just strolled around town, went to the Klondike Museum and had lunch at the Red Onion Saloon. The Red Onion is a bar, restaurant and brothel museum.

Juneau          Sea lions

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.traveljuneau.com

The second port was Juneau, Alaska’s state capitol. We started our day early because we were on a whale watching tour. On the bus going down to Auk Bay where we would catch the boat, we drove by Mendenhall Glacier, one of the few glaciers you can get to by car. But we were there to see whales. And did we ever see whales!

Whale watching

It was a beautiful, clear day and we were so fortunate to see so many whales, including a calf who seemed so happy he breached like 5 or 6 times. We were told that is very rare. What was also rare was seeing a pod of five humpback whales feeding. They usually feed alone. Next to seeing the majesty of Mt. McKinley, seeing the whales was my favorite part of the Alaska vacation.

Ketchikan

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.visit-ketchikan.com/

The third port was Ketchikan, Salmon Capital of the World and home of the world’s largest collection of standing totem poles.

Ketchikan          Creek Street

It was a normal rainy, drizzling day in Ketchikan. We walked around town and went to the Visitor’s Center, did some shopping at the Creek Street shops. Then, before heading back to the ship, we had what was supposed to be the best clam chowder in the world. Though it was good, I found it quite peppery.

Vancouver          Rioting crowds

The cruise ended in Vancouver, Canada, where we stayed an extra day. And what a day it was! That was when the Vancouver Canucks lost the NHL Stanley Cup to the Boston Bruins. Riots broke out in the streets! And we were there to witness it. What a way to end our Alaska vacation!

 

Dates of Visit:  June  2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 5

Teddy and Glacier

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Cruising through Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve was like being on another planet. It’s 3.3 million acres of mountains, glaciers, fjords and even temperate rainforest and is the highlight of Alaska’s Inside Passage. And while there are no roads through this National Park, more than 430,000 people visit it each year, many on cruise ships like us.

Margerie Glacier          Vista

It was a beautiful, silent, clear, bright day. The cruise ship was able to get very close to the glaciers, one of which was the Margerie Glacier. Margerie Glacier is one of Alaska’s most photographed features and one of the most active glaciers in the park. The silence was broken by the sounds of “calving,” when large chunks of ice break off the glacier into the water.

Vista with Ship          Vista with ship

Ship and Gull          Vista

More than 240 species of birds make their homes in Glacier Bay National Park. Other wildlife includes humpback whales, sea lions, harbor seals and sometimes black bears and grizzly bears. Although we didn’t see any bears, there were quite a few sea lions bobbing around and a lot of humpback whale spouts were visible.

Teddy and Glacier          Margerie Glacier

Vista          Vista

Because this is a preserved area, the National Park Service allows only two cruise ships per day inside Glacier Bay. This was a great way to see the area. We ordered room service and watched the calving glaciers from our balcony.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

http://www.nps.gov/glba/index.htm
http://www.glacierbay.org/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 4

Denali Express

This day we boarded the Denali Express train taking us from Denali National Park down to the cruise ship port in Whittier.

You would think that a 10 hour train ride would be boring and uncomfortable. But this one wasn’t. The seats were very plush. Everyone had a great view of everything with the glass-domed observation railcars. And there was a Princess Cruise Line “guide” of sorts who told us a lot about the area. His name was Paul. And as it turned out, he was celebrating his 48th wedding anniversary that day. His wife, Doris, was a cruise line employee as well.

Train Interior          Teddy on train

I saw probably the most moose I’ve ever seen in my life while riding on the train. Besides the moose, there was quite a lot of beautiful scenery traveling the almost 300 miles from Denali to Whittier.

Train around bend          Train-scenery

The train had a nice dining car where I tried another unusual meal: macaroni and cheese with reindeer kielbasa. It was quite yummy.

There are two different itineraries for cruise-tours on Princess (and I’m sure other cruise lines do the same thing) where you can either cruise before or after your land portion. We choose after so that we could relax on the latter half of our vacation. The land portion did tend to be hectic, changing hotels every night. So we were glad to be able to have the last seven days be onboard the Island Princess.

Island Princess

TEDDY’s RATING: 

 http://www.princess.com/

At this point, I have to say that I wasn’t all that happy or impressed with Princess Cruise Lines. I had been on a Princess ship way back in the early 1990s on a cruise of the Mediterranean. But since I’ve sailed on Royal Caribbean, I much prefer that line. But Princess had more offerings in Alaska, so we went with them. There were just a lot of little things about Princess that annoyed me, things that I wouldn’t have encountered on a Royal Caribbean ship.

Ship-Atrium          Ship-Pool

The first was that embarkation was unbelievably slow. We got on the ship much later than expected, which meant we got to dinner much later and in turn missed the first stage show that night. Then when they had the mandatory muster (drill in case of emergency, wearing your life jackets, etc.), the audio didn’t work where we were so we had to wait until it got fixed and then listen to the entire presentation again, all while standing cluttered with about 100 other passengers in a hallway.

Teddy-desk          Teddy-balcony

But anyway, we were onboard the ship looking forward to seven days of cruising to Glacier Bay and the three ports: Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North To Alaska Part 3

Lodge property

Continuing where I left off a few weeks ago, here’s Part 3 of my adventures in Alaska.

The next stop on the journey was Denali National Park and on this day I was celebrating my birthday. More on that later.

Lodge property          Teddy at Denali

Lodge room          Lodge

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.princesslodges.com/denali-lodge.cfm

The drive from Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge to the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge was about 2 hours.  Our room was wonderful, with a view of the river below.  This is supposed to be the largest hotel in Alaska. Like the Mt. McKinley Princess Lodge, the Denali Princess Wilderness Lodge, though affiliated with Princess Cruise Lines, is not exclusive to the cruise line.  You can stay there even if you’re not booked on one of their cruises.  It’s a vast piece of property with the hotel, restaurants and shops.  This is where I took the Gravatar photo of me in the fur coat!

Denali Park Sign

TEDDY’s RATING: 

http://www.nps.gov/dena/index.htm
http://www.denali.national-park.com/

The Denali Natural History Tour started at 2:30pm, so we had a great lunch at the King Salmon Restaurant. We boarded an old school bus for the tour of the park. At the park’s front entrance, we saw a moose with her babies and there were plenty more moose to see along the way. Of all the animals that are abundant in Alaska, I saw more moose than anything. Not any bears, a few sheep, but lots and lots of moose. Thirty-nine species of mammals make their home in Denali along with about 170 species of birds, 10 types of fish and one amphibian, the wood frog.

Denali National Park and Preserve is, of course, named after the centerpiece of the park, Mount McKinley. Mount McKinley is also called “Denali,” which means “The High One” in the native Koyukon Athabaskan tongue. The park will be celebrating its 100th birthday in 2017. There are six million acres of land, but there’s only one road through it.

Denali National Park          Alaska Salmon Bake

For dinner that night, my birthday dinner, I had totally yummy elk sliders at the world famous Alaska Salmon Bake restaurant. You can eat exotic in Alaska without eating salmon. As you know, I’m not a fan of seafood.  On my birthday this year, 2013, it will be 100 years since the first man reached the summit of Mt. McKinley’s South Peak.  He was a native Alaskan named Walter Harper.

The following day we would board the train for the 10 hour journey down to the port of Whittier where we would embark on the next leg of the tour aboard the Island Princess cruise ship.

Dates of Visit:  June 2011

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Paradise at Naples Botanical Garden

Naples Botanical Garden

TEDDY’s RATING: 

There’s nothing more relaxing on a beautiful day than strolling through a lovely, peaceful garden. And one of the most lovely that I’ve been to so far is the Naples Botanical Garden in Naples, Florida.

This 170-acre site is located between the 26th latitude north and the 26 latitude south allowing it to showcase some of most diverse plants from around the globe, including those from Asia, Brazil, the Caribbean and, of course, Florida. And throughout the gardens, there are some amazing sculptures done by a native from Zimbabwe.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The garden is comprised of 7 areas.

In the Children’s Garden, kids can interact with the environment, water plants, play, and explore the incredible Butterfly Garden.

Teddy at Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The Brazilian Garden, with its bold colorful flora, pays tribute to Roberto Burle Marx, known internationally as the “father of modern landscape architecture.”

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The Caribbean Garden features tropical forests, exotic plants and even cactus.

The Karen and Robert Scott Florida Garden displays sabal palms, bougainvillea and silver palmettos, as well as Florida’s grasses, wildflowers and citrus trees.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

The Lea Asian Garden is divided into several different “rooms” depicting the cultural diversity of that area of the world. It’s not just rice paddies and coconut groves. You’ll find ferns, palms, hibiscus and bamboos throughout this area.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

Cross the boardwalk over the Water Garden and see water lilies, lotuses and papyrus.

And The Preserve is a 90-acre nature sanctuary that is home to pines, oaks, marshes, mangroves and hundreds of animal species from eagles to otters, bobcats to tortoises.

Naples Botanical Garden          Naples Botanical Garden

There are also 2.5 miles of walking trails on the property where you can lose yourself in the peace and quiet beauty. It’s also a perfect place for weddings or other events.

The Naples Botanical Garden is open 9-5 daily, 8-5 on Tuesdays.

Dates of Visit:  January 2013

http://www.naplesgarden.org/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Who the heck is Zebulon B. Vance?

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I asked that question every time I visited Asheville, North Carolina. On the way to Well Bred Bakery in Weaverville, I always saw the signs to “Vance Birthplace.” But I never took the time to actually go there until my last trip. And I have to say, Zebulon B. Vance’s birthplace is an interesting historic site.

If you’re a native to North Carolina, you probably know who Zeb is. The third of eight children, Zebulon Vance practiced law in Asheville and at age 24 was elected to his first public office. His mountain upbringing helped him achieve success. He was a man of the people, promoting basic human rights, and was “a champion of local self-government and individual liberty.”

He was a well-known political leader during the Civil War and after. He was elected governor of North Carolina three times and was also a three-term senator for the state. He was known as the “War Governor of the South,” helping out soldiers and their families during the difficult years of the Civil War.

The birthplace site, in the Reems Creek Valley near Weaverville and off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is a collection of buildings furnished with household items representative of the period of 1795 through 1840 when the Vance family lived there.

        

The Vance family home has five rooms, an unusually large size for the time period. Also on site are a corn crib, springhouse, smokehouse, loom house, slave house and tool shed. The visitor’s center has exhibits about the famous Vance family and a short film about the life of Zebulon. Throughout the year, there are special events at the site where costumed interpreters demonstrate life of the early settlers in the Blue Ridge Mountains during the Zebulon Vance’s time.

        

        

What I found most interesting about the site was how you really felt transported back in time to the late 1700s when the Vances lived in the log home.  We had a guide take us through the house and explain what life was like at that time. The guide was very, very knowledgeable about the time period and the site itself. You could almost picture the family by the hearth, women sewing, men chatting, children playing.

The Vance Birthplace historic pioneer farmstead is open Tuesdays through Saturdays, 9am-5pm. Admission is free, but donations are appreciated.

Dates of Visit:  May 2012

http://www.nchistoricsites.org/vance/vance.htm

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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North Carolina’s Fabulous Falls

TEDDY’s RATING: 

The word “Transylvania” usually conjures up images of vampires and Count Dracula. In North Carolina, Transylvania is a county in the western tip of the state. It’s home to over 250 waterfalls. Most of these waterfalls are accessible to the public because they are found in three of the state’s forests and parks: Pisgah National Forest, DuPont State Forest and Gorges State Park.

I have only had a chance to visit a very small number of waterfalls in North Carolina: Looking Glass Falls and Sliding Rock in Transylvania County and Hickory Nut Falls near Chimney Rock.

             

          

Looking Glass falls is “the most photographed waterfall in the US.” Yeah, I took a lot of pictures of it myself.

        

          

Sliding Rock is a popular attraction in the summertime. You actually can slide down this slick rock to the pool at the bottom. In early May, it was too cold to go in.

          

Hickory Nut Falls is one of the highest waterfalls east of the Mississippi. It’s not part of the Transylvania County group of waterfalls, but rather part of Chimney Rock State Park.

I look forward to exploring more of these fabulous falls in the future: Moore Cove, Cove Creek, Courthouse, Toxaway, Connestee, Whitewater, Bridal Veil, Hooker and Triple Falls just to name a few.

So, when you think about Transylvania, think about North Carolina’s waterfalls rather than Dracula!

Dates of Visit:  May 2012

www.visitwaterfalls.com

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Rockin’ the Cradle of Forestry

TEDDY’s RATING: 

I live in a beach state — Florida. And even though I love living in Florida, I really do like the mountains more than the beach. That’s why I like to go to the mountains at least once a year. And my favorite mountains are in the Asheville, North Carolina area.

High in the Mount Pisgah National Forest, about 40 miles from Asheville, is the Cradle of Forestry, the birthplace of forest conservation. It was established over 100 years ago during the construction of the nearby Biltmore Estate. This is where the first school of forestry, the Biltmore Forest School, was established by Dr. Carl Schenck, chief forester for George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore Estate.

It is here that students learned how trees can be harvested while still preserving the forest as a whole. Carl Schenck was so passionate about the forest he said, “Woods are sanctuaries. Send the kids to the woods. They are better for them than any classroom built of brick.”

There are two paved trails that wind through the property, transporting you back in time to the early years of the forestry school. Take the Biltmore Campus Trail to see the seven restored historic buildings on the site: a schoolhouse, a blacksmith’s shop, commissary and several student quarters and lodges. The Forest Festival Trail includes a seedling nursery, saw mill and a 1915 logging locomotive. Weavers, toy makers, quilters, basket makers and wood carvers often appear on site Thursdays through Sundays.

       

       

In the Forest Discovery Center you can explore hands-on exhibits or ride the fire fighter helicopter simulator. The only disappointment on my visit to the Cradle of Forestry, and what unfortunately lowers Teddy’s rating, was the movie in the main theater of the Discovery Center. Don’t waste your time seeing There’s Magic in the Cradle. It’ll be 30 minutes of your life you’ll never get back.

My advice – immediately ask to see the OLD movie. They’ll play the old movie by request. I sure wish I had known about that option earlier in my day. I was expecting to see a film about the history of the area, no such luck.

I work in the video production business, so I have at least some knowledge of what works and what doesn’t. This doesn’t work. The concept for the story was just bizarre and wasn’t at all what I expected. I can’t even begin to describe it because it just didn’t make much sense. And honestly, it doesn’t deserve as much space as I’m giving it here in this post!

I really wanted to know why this film was produced and playing at the Cradle of Forestry, so when I got a chance I did some research. Come to find out, the film was produced for another purpose and renamed There’s Magic in the Cradle. Don’t be fooled by the good review on Internet Movie Database. I’m sure it was written by those involved in the making of this piece of…um, garbage. I just hope that they’ve stopped running it and have gone back to only showing the original 18-minute movie about the history of forestry in America.

Dates of Visit: May 2012

http://www.cradleofforestry.com/site/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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Get Back to Nature at the North Carolina Arboretum

TEDDY’s RATING: 

Describing the North Carolina Arboretum in words is not an easy task. So, I’ll just let my pictures tell you all about it. I will include a few words, though.

The North Carolina Arboretum, just south of downtown Asheville, is a 434-acre public garden near the Blue Ridge Parkway.

      

      

There are 65 acres of lush cultivated gardens, 10 miles of hiking and biking trails, ever changing indoor and outdoor exhibits, a fabulous Bonsai collection, and the incredible quilt garden (which was being replanted on our last visit, but was beautiful in 2009).

      

The Arboretum is open daily, weather permitting, except for December 25th. There is no per person admission fee, but they have a parking fee of $8.00 per vehicle. Visit the first Tuesday of the month and parking is free.

      

      

You can grab a light bite at The Savory Thyme Café Tuesdays through Sundays. And if you’re looking for a location for your “green” wedding, the North Carolina Arboretum is the perfect place.

      

It’s a beautiful way to spend a quiet day getting back to nature. I recommend it.

Dates of Visit:  May 2009, May 2012

http://www.ncarboretum.org/

If you enjoyed this post, you might like my other blog:  http://ilovebritishtv.com

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