Saturday, December 20, 2014

travelblog

 

Bisbee Gems

Hunt for treasure in southern Arizona’s quirky mining hamlet.

“You’ll love Bisbee – it’s really funky.” That’s what my friend and I kept hearing as we planned our weekend sojourn to the former mining boom town nestled in the mile-high Mule Mountains, a little more than 200 miles south of Phoenix. That, and: “Watch out for bikers.” A funky little biker haven? We threw on our jackets and set out to discover this jewel for the first time.

While Bisbee’s eccentric reputation is well-earned – where else can you find a hearse-run ghost tour, a playground that used to be a cemetery and a spa that was once a jailhouse? – its edges are not as rough as most think. Instead, its multicolored buildings of time-traveling architectural styles line winding, sloping streets that lend a cozy, European sophistication to the eccentric mishmash of hippie, family, retiree, biker and hipster types populating them. Cross a twee Swiss village with an artist commune, add a sprinkle of Mayberry, and you get Bisbee.

 

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Lake Havasu City

Adventures await – by air, land and lake – at “Arizona’s playground.”

Lake Havasu City’s new slogan, “Play like you mean it,” should include the disclaimer “results may vary.” That’s because the definition of “play” varies so wildly in this still-young river town, where well-heeled winter visitors and relocated retirees split the seasons with craft-beer-swilling spring breakers and boating enthusiasts. The dual-purpose vibe has proven a boon for Havasu, established in 1963 by a chainsaw maker named Robert McCulloch, who bought the London Bridge from the City of London for $2.5 million in 1968, reportedly outbidding actor Red Skelton. The reassembled bridge (now spanning the waters of Lake Havasu) has been a major tourist attraction since opening in 1971, along with the Parker Dam-created Lake Havasu reservoir and its glut of gorgeous coves.

 

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Valet Parking

Led by cactus-hugging volunteers, Arizona’s revitalized state park system beckons heat-weary Phoenicians.

They trim the plants, guide the tours and tend the gates. They are the volunteer citizen activists and accidental heroes of Arizona State Parks, the state agency that oversees our 28 parcels of protected wilderness. When the destructive winds of The Great Recession began to shutter park operations, these tenacious volunteer groups rallied to nip the squall. They go by benign names like Friends of Tonto Natural Bridge, Riordan Action Network and Hold the Fort, but make no mistake, they’re fighters – battling to buoy and enrich the park system.

 

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Utah’s National Parks

A road trip to three of Utah’s five national parks reveals breathtaking backcountry, hoodoo-filled hikes, and luscious local pies.

After three hours of canyoneering in Zion National Park (nps.gov/zion), our feet look like they’re bleeding through our socks. Thankfully, it’s just pulverized red sandstone flowing between our toes – a sign of a sated adventurer. “If you don’t leave Utah with red sand in your shoes, you didn’t have fun,” says Gerard, one of two guides from Zion Adventure Company (435-772-1001, zionadventures.com) leading our team of six on a hiking, climbing, and rappelling foray into the heavily forested vermilion cliffs of Utah’s most visited national park.

 

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Western Montana

From fly fishing to horsback riding to clay shooting, the wilds of Montana offer myriad adventures..

We are stalking the elusive wild cutthroat. I crouch and whisper, mimicking my guides, Nick and Ryan, as we squelch through the muck, our waders stirring up freshwater shrimp and the bugs our fly lures are attempting to impersonate. The gunmetal gray clouds above us swell and spit, threatening to burst. But first, I must catch a fish.

 

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Staying the Hell in Dodge

Looking for the perfect getaway, without the “away”? These staycations provide all the requisite indulgences at summer-special prices.

DOWNTOWN PHOENIX
Hotel Palomar
Hotel Palomar’s staycation palette includes partnerships with nearby CityScape hotspots. Its “Round of Beer” promotion ($102) invites guests to slurp down four complimentary beers at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails. Or guests can “Laugh Like a Local” with tickets to Stand Up Live ($112). Palomar also keeps its focus on the family with admission to the Arizona Science Center or Children’s Museum of Phoenix ($154). 2 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix, 602-253-6633, hotelpalomar-phoenix.com

 

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Atomic Tourism

Or: How I Learned to Start Road Tripping and Love the Bomb.

The end of the world as we know it could have been unleashed from this hermetically sealed, hospital-green silo 20 miles south of Tucson – and 35 feet below it. With the turn of two keys, a 103-foot-tall Titan II missile would have blasted off toward the mysterious “Target 2” somewhere in the Soviet Union. The inevitable nuclear volley would have spelled atomic omnicide. A radioactive miasma metastasizing around the world. Curtains for everything but cockroaches and creosote bushes. That was the idea, at any rate – a nuclear sword of Damocles suspended over the planet.

 

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