outdoors

Verdon Gorge

Um, can I go here ASAP?!

verdon gorge

That’s Verdon Gorge, in Provence, France. (Click on the photo to get a better view!) I stumbled upon this snapshot, the other day, and was instantly transfixed.

Verdon Gorge is often referred to as Europe’s Grand Canyon, though at 16 miles long and 2,300 feet deep, it’s not quite as large. (The Grand Canyon is 277 miles long and a mile deep!) Still, as far as I know, the Colorado River in our stateside canyon isn’t asВ magnificently blue as the Verdon River.В Its water gets its stunning color from microalgae and fluoride.

I was struck by Verdon Gorge’s sheer beauty—and how idyllic it looks to spend a day there, drifting downstream in a raft. It reminds me of a much more dramatic variation on the annual tubing outing we embark on every year!

Besides rafting, you can also go kayaking, paragliding, climbing and a number of other outdoor activities in and around the gorge.

I’ve already added it to my travel wishlist.

(Photo via bippity boppity boo)

Animals in Hiding

Maybe it’s because we grew up in the city, but Mal and I are TERRIBLE at spotting wildlife. (She’s bad and somehow, I’m even worse than she is.) Anytime we’re hiking, our guide, or whomever we’re with, will point out an animal—a sloth, monkey, bird, deer, cool insect, whatever—and it takes us 10 years to spot it. Half the time, I can’t find them at all, no matter how hard I look.

So I couldn’t help but laugh to myself when I came across the work of Art Wolfe, a man far more talented than I am—both at spotting animals and photography. For his “Vanishing Act” project, he somehow found wildlife camouflaged in their surroundings and captured them on film. I honestly have no idea how he did it. Because if I were embarking on a similar project, I’d have a grand total of zero pictures.

Here are a few of his incredible shots:

art wolfe

art wolfe

art wolfe

art wolfe

And, um, could someone please tell me where the animal is in the photo above? I haven’t been able to find it!

(Photos by Art Wolfe via Bored Panda)

The Pacific Crest Trail

One of the best books I read this year was Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail.

wild

In this memoir/travelogue, Cheryl Strayed recounts the hardest years of her life: When she’s just 22, her mother suddenly dies from cancer. Shattered by her death, Strayed loses touch with her siblings, cheats on her husband, destroys her marriage and dabbles in drugs. Four years into her grief, Strayed decides to embark on 1,100-mile a solo hike along the Pacific Crest Trail, from California to Washington—never mind that she’d never backpacked before. Her journey is full of mishaps and brushes with danger, as well as encounters with many kind strangers. Along the way, she finds the strength that eventually helps her put her life back together.

Perhaps it’s because I’m an east coaster, but I’d never heard of the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) before I read the book.В I’d known about the Appalachian Trail, which runs from Georgia to Maine, and even encountered it on my own hikes. But I didn’t know it had a west coast cousin that runs 2,650 miles from Mexico to Canada.

And now I—and surely millions of others who’ve read Wild—really want to hike the PCT, too.

But just part of it.

I’m not going to pretend that I’m bad-ass enough to quit my job and spend months hiking by myself. Strayed makes it clear that while the PCT was a rewarding adventure of a lifetime, it definitely wasn’t easy. She lost toenails, encountered wild animals and battled the fatigue, hunger and tedium that comes with walking 20+ miles a day.

But her descriptions of the trail are gorgeous. The PCT runes through six of North America’s seven ecozones. Strayed writes about sweating through the desert, sliding over icy patches in the mountains and walking among wildflowers in the woods. Almost all the hiking I’ve done has been on the east coast—amid gray mountains and pine trees—or up and down Central American volcanoes. The PCT sounded completely different and intriguing.

Photos, taken by hikers, on the Pacific Crest Trail Association’s websiteВ attest to how beautiful and varied the scenery is:

Southern Terminus: Pacific Crest trail head at US/Mexican Border Photo by Alan Beneventi

Southern Terminus: Pacific Crest trail head at US/Mexican Border. Photo by Alan Beneventi

Mojave Desert; Photo by Aaron Doss, www.pbase.com/aarondoss

Mojave Desert. Photo by Aaron Doss, pbase.com/aarondoss

Muir Pass; Photo by Aaron Doss, www.pbase.com/aarondoss

Muir Pass. Photo by Aaron Doss, pbase.com/aarondoss

Velma Lakes - Desolation Wilderness; Photo by Paul Zaretsky - www.paulzaretsky.com

Velma Lakes. Photo by Paul Zaretsky, paulzaretsky.com

View E, Mt. Shasta, Section Q, mile1609.5 - photo by Jim Payne.

Mt. Shasta. Photo by Jim Payne.

Diamond Lake Photo by Tyson Fisher - www.tysonfisher.com

Diamond Lake. Photo by Tyson Fisher, tysonfisher.com

along the PCT in central Oregon; photo by Ana Gipe

Central Oregon. Photo by Ana Gipe

Crater Lake, Photo by Eric Valentine

Crater Lake. Photo by Eric Valentine

Mt. Rainier from Goat Rocks Wilderness. Photo by David Geisinger

Mt. Rainier from Goat Rocks Wilderness. Photo by David Geisinger

Even more gorgeous photos here. Plus, see the winners of the 2012 Pacific Crest Trail Association’s photo contest.

Have you read Wild and become inspired to hike the PCT? Or have you already done it?

(All images via the PCTA)

Strange and Beautiful Beaches

It’s grey and rainy in NYC today. And after a great weekend of running and basking in fabulous weather (more about that later this week!), I’m dreaming of sunny days at the beach.

So it’s quite appropriate (and a bit of a tease!) that a slideshow I wrote for TravelandLeisure.com came out today. It’s a round-up of the world’s strangest and most beautiful beaches. I had a great time writing the piece and a hard time choosing which beaches to include–I’m always amazed at how many natural wonders exist. Check out some of the gorgeous photos below and read the full story here.

Pink Sands Beach, Harbour Island, Bahamas

Thunder Cove, Prince Edward Island

Zlatni Rat Beach, Brac Island, Croatia

Punalu’u Beach, Hawaii

What’s the strangest and most beautiful beach you’ve ever visited? I’d have to say mine is Punalu’u Beach (photo above) on Hawaii’s Big Island. The sand really is jet black and I saw several giant sea turtles!

(All photos via TravelandLeisure.com)