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Category Archives: travel

Hiking the High Peaks

Ahhh. Summer vacation. Loaded up the car with all the necessities for a couple of weeks of biking and hiking.

 

2017 took me to the Adirondack Mountains. The 6 million acre state park between Albany and Montreal is home to the High Peaks, the tallest mountains in New York State.  I’m standing on Marcy Dam after a 3 mile hike from the parking lot. From this spot, you can start the strenuous hikes up to Mt. Marcy, Algonquin and Haystack Mountains.  (I did not).

 

The week preceding my arrival it had rained everyday. The woods were wet and the trails muddy. Over the succeeding days, the area dried out, but every night my boots needed a thorough cleaning and drying.

The days turned beautiful and comfortably warm. Marcy Brook may have been the most beautiful lunch spot ever, and a place to cool my feet.

 

In the deep woods, Ray Brook surged in the summer rains.

After a wet slog, I broke out of the woods on the top of Mt. Van Hoevenberg, 2940 feet. Half the height of Mt Marcy (5344) and one-tenth the height of Mt. Everest (29,016)

Sunset from our AirBnb in Lake Placid

Lake Placid does not have any alligators. I think.

The summer woods were full of White Admiral butterflies which swarmed to any sunlit spot.

 

 

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The 5 Best Places to Photograph the Fall Foliage in NJ and NY

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Hawk’s Nest, Upper Delaware River, NY. Photo credit: Krysti Sabins

Fall Photographs by my studio manager, Krysti Sabins

I love the outdoors, and the fall is my favorite time of year to get out and photograph the luminescent fall foliage before it disappears. The real question is, where to go?

The hot, dry summer will probably dampen the brilliance of our foliage this year, but you know there are going to be those brilliant days with cool, crisp bright blue skies, surrounding the yellows, reds and golds of the leaves. Keep track of the foliage as it changes with this guide and start planning your fall foliage photography visits before the season ends!

 

Here are my Top 5 Spots to photograph fall foliage in the New York, New Jersey metropolitan area:

1. Harriman State Park, NY

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Harriman State Park, NY.  Photo credit: Krysti Sabins

If you are looking for a place within our area to escape the everyday hustle and bustle, Harriman State Park is the spot for you. This park boasts 31 lakes and reservoirs and 200 miles of hiking trails. The very first section of the Appalachian Trail was laid out here in Harriman.  There are streams and boulders and vistas.

 

2. The Delaware Water Gap, NJ

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Upper Delaware River. Photo credit: Krysti Sabins

The Delaware Water Gap is a dramatic place to observe the leaves turning as you walk along its pristine paths and a multitude of water features. With the Appalachian Trail running right through it, the Gap has plenty of hiking opportunities and expansive views of the Delaware River Valley.

 

3. The Catskills, NY

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View from Slide Mountain, Catskills, NY. Photo credit: Krysti Sabins

The Catskills cover a wide area in mid-upstate New York. This region has a ton of activities for outdoor enthusiasts and cultural aficionados alike. I love the far southeastern edge, which is not very far from New Jersey.  A great place to start is the Escarpment Trail at North South Lake, near the town of Haines Falls.

 

4. Hacklebarney State Park, NJ

Hacklebarney State Park, Long Valley, NJ. Photo credit: Krysti Sabins

Hacklebarney State Park is a  “465-acre natural area offer breathtaking views of the Black River, which lies deep within a shaded hemlock ravine.” Riddled with well-maintained hiking trails, picnic spots, and flowing river waters, Hacklebarney is a prime location to soak in the sights and sounds of autumn. Plus, there are great apple cider donuts at the Hacklebarney Farms Cider Mill, just outside the Park entrance.

 

5. The Shawangunks, NY

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Bonticou Crag, Mohonk Preserve, NY. Photo credit: Krysti Sabins

The Shawangunks, or Gunks, are an area in New York filled with natural beauty and unparalleled sights. The Gunks’ “dramatic landscape is fashioned of miles of white cliffs and ledges, clear mountaintop lakes, deep oak forests, and sparse ridge top barrens of bonsai-shaped pitch pines.” In other words, this area should absolutely be on your to-visit list this fall.  Stop at the Mohonk Preserve visitor center, on Route 44, to get a map, permit and advice on where to hike.

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Fall foliage in the Catskills of NY.  Photo credit: Krysti Sabins

See more of Krysti’s photographs and hiking videos at Unboring Exploring

Jersey Tomatoes: A Love Affair

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Last week I spent a lovely few days down on Long Beach Island, NJ.

Something people around the country don’t know about New Jersey is our farm fresh goods…we’re loaded with ’em! My sister, in fact, grows her own tomatoes along with cucumbers and plenty of other good eats to enjoy during the summer months while on LBI. Tomatoes provide a surprising amount of entertainment, both in their eye-catching color and in their succulent flavors.

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We enjoyed slicing up a gaggle of the juicy beauts to enjoy with dinner on a warm, breezy evening, with the not-too-far-off sounds of the ocean whispering in our ears.

What are your favorite places to spend the summer in NJ and beyond? Post your comments below!

p.s. Wondering how to grow tomatoes for yourself? Follow this simple guide here.

Firenze, Art as art

In Florence, art is everywhere you look. There are world renowned museums such as the Uffizi Gallery, the Accademia, the Bargello, the Bardini, the Palazzo Vecchio…like 72 museums. Then there are the churches, grand cathedrals to small neighborhood churches, that contain incredible Renaissance art by Italian masters. In nearly every piazza there are statues commemorating historical events or wealthy donors.

If that wasn’t enough, there are also guys that make-believe they are statues.

Photographing in museums

I love to photograph visitors interacting with pieces of art. They are usually so engaged with the art, they don’t notice me with my camera. The intensity of studying a piece of art, the human body contrasting with marble, the funny juxtaposition of a small child and a giant sculpture make for great photographs.

On the left, a bored museum guard guards a ancient sarcophagus at the Uffizi Gallery.  On the right, the unexpected gesture contrasts against a wall of architectural statues at the Bargello Museum.

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The invasion of the cellphone camera intrigued me. I couldn’t figure out why anyone would spend their precious time in front of Botticelli’s iconic Venus taking a lousy photograph with their phone, instead of admiring the surprising details of the original painting. I guess it is to prove they were there. They may have only glanced at the 9 foot wide masterpiece, but they can always look at it later on their 3 inch screen.

 

Phil Cantor, Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy

Photograph by Philip Wolmuth in the Uffizi Gallery

 

 

 

 

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Firenze, first look

I’ve been to Italy 4 times. I’ve been to Tuscany before, but not to Florence. Travelers have been visiting this small city for a thousand years and it’s been on my wish list for nearly as long.

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Quintessentially Italian: a Vespa on a ancient, narrow street.

 

I arrived by train and I had rented an AirBnB apartment in the Oltrarno neighborhood. Oltrarno,  meaning  Beyond the Arno, is on the other side of the Arno River from the main historic center.  It is less crowded then the Centro Storico, without the crush of street vendors hawking tourist junk and the harried tourists looking for cappuccini.  On the block where I stayed was a cute trattoria, a friendly cafe and two little markets where I could get delicious tomatoes and artichokes.

It was very hot and I learned to do what Italians do: take a siesta from 1 to 4 pm in the hottest part of the day.  The Italians call it sonnellino pomeridiano. At 4, the shops reopen and commerce begins again.

Evenings are for strolling and everyone makes use of the piazzas and bridges to hang out and socialize. A couple catches a private moment on the Santa Trinita Bridge, with the famous and picturesque Ponte Vecchio in the background.

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These couples steal some time at the Piazzale Michelangelo, a popular hilltop park that has the classic view of the city and fills up with hundreds of visitors at sunset. The massive Duomo, the iconic symbol of Florence, towers over the daintier, low rise sprawl of Florence’s Renaissance architecture.

 

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Sightseeing the San Juan Islands and Vancouver, BC

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This summer’s vacation took me to Mt. Rainier in the Pacific Northwest (see this post), I also ventured into the waters of the San Juan Islandsas well as over the border to Vancouver, BC.

From Anacortes, WA, we took a ferry to Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. From this spot, we took a kayaking tour with San Juan Kayak Expeditions in the Haro Strait. We were lucky to get glimpses of seals and wildly jumping salmon. However, the only Orca I saw was below!

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Okay, while we didn’t see a real-live Orca, they are prevalent in the Puget Sound and I spotted a few from afar while driving to the start of the kayak expedition.

 

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA

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We ferried back to Anacortes and then drove north and across the Canadian border to Vancouver. This bustling west coast seaport in British Columbia is among Canada’s most beautiful and most ethnically diverse cities.

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With its gorgeous scenery and accessibility to the great outdoors, it’s no surprise Vancouver is “consistently named as one of the top five worldwide cities for livability and quality of life. In fact, it is the first city to rank among the top-ten of the world’s most livable cities” .

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Surrounded by mountains and water, Vancouver is the epitome of great city planning. Wonderful neighborhoods, great ethnic restaurants, a vibrant gay scene, and one of the most beautiful city parks (Stanley Park).  It is a great walking city and an even better biking city. The morning we arrived, we took a 5-hour bike tour led by Cycle City Tours.

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Over the course of the 5 hour tour, we encountered musicians, bustling streets, local flavor, and even my personal favorite…

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Note: I don’t think this is a real Canadian Mountie.