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Laureen

    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

    I started reading Kristin Hannah ALONG time ago, when she was doing romance novels.  She, like her writing, has matured into an excellent storyteller.  I prefer her recent works much more than her early books.

    However, I struggled with the first few chapter of The Great Alone.  But I am glad I stuck with it, because it is a beautifully written and compassionate tale of love and turmoil within ourselves, within our families and within the unpredictable wilderness of Alaska.

    One of the reasons Hannah is able to so accurately describe life in Alaska is revealed in the acknowledgments chapter at the end of the book.  Here Hannah talks about her own upbringing with pioneering and adventuresome parents, who eventually settled in Alaska to open an adventure lodge.

    So perhaps there is a little of Hannah in The Great Alone’s main character, 13 year-old Leni.  Leni, an only child, struggles to understand her parents passionate but often violent relationship, and her fathers PTSD from his time as a POW during the Vietnam War.

    When Leni’s father Ernt decides to move the family to a remote and off-the-grid cabin in Alaska, the  family unravels and the story begins.  Wholly unprepared for Alaska and its long, dark, fierce winters, Leni, Ernt and Cora Albright begin a life of subsistence, barely surviving if it weren’t for the help of neighbors and the folks of the small town of Kaneq.

    The long dark winters take a toll on the already fragile psyche of Ernt Albright, and one extreme violent night will change the direction of Leni and Cora’s life forever.

    Does love conquer all?  Sometimes yes, and sometimes absolutely not.  In the end The Great Alone is one thing – a story of survival.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five Stars for The Great Alone.

    Read last week’s review of The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    This blog contains affiliate links and we may be compensated if you purchase this book.  Any money earned goes directly to offset the costs of the maintenance of this blog.  Thank you.

    Fab Europe Travel

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Four Days on the West and North Danish Coast

    Location: Northern Denmark

    Not yet a week into the next phase of the Grand Adventure – still feeling the jet leg, but happy to once again

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Our path in Denmark

    be in beautiful, friendly Denmark. We had less than a week here.  But tiny Denmark is a great destination if you have limited time. So we decided to make our second visit to this special place and enjoy exploring Northern Denmark.

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Klitmoller

    We have family living in Copenhagen who we have visited before.  This time however, our family was at their summer home in Klitmoller, about four and half hours northwest of Copenhagen.  Lucky for us, they invited us to come to Klitmoller, also known as Cold Hawaii, for a few relaxing and peaceful days.

    We arrived very tired from being awake for nearly 24 hours flying Seattle to Reykjavik and then on to Copenhagen.  Iceland Air lost our luggage (long story short – finally got our luggage after three days), so our arrival was a bit stressful. After several hours trying to locate the luggage, we finally realized we needed to just get our rental car and begin the drive.  Despite how tired we were we really wanted to see our family and make it to Klitmoller that night.

    The path from Copenhagen (on the island of Zealand) to Jutland (the part of Denmark connected to the continent) is a beautiful drive.  It winds

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Fisher houses for nets and gear in Klitmoller

    through bucolic farmland, where wheat fields flow right down to the ocean, through rugged but quaint sea towns, small forests and over several large bridges. We arrived in Klitmoller, a tiny historic fishing town now known mostly for its surfing, just as the sun was setting on a beautiful summer day in early August.  We enjoyed homemade lasagna, lots of catching up and family news and a few beers before heading off to sweet dreams in our family’s comfortable and beautiful country-style Danish home.  I was asleep before my head hit the pillow.

    Morning dawned bright and sparkling, and our cousins told us we were going for a morning swim.  Wait – what?  Isn’t it cold?  This is Scandinavia after all – we are as far north as Juneau!

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Brisk morning swim in the North Sea

    Well, a morning dip is part of Danish summer life so off we trekked the 200 meters or so to the beach.  And guess what?  It wasn’t even that cold! Brisk yes, but  frankly warmer than the Puget Sound back in Washington State.  It was a great way to get your motor running for the day.

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Danish breakfast

    Next we enjoyed a sunny Danish breakfast of bread, cheese, yogurt, fruit and coffee before spending the day seeing the handful of sites around Klitmoller.  We learned great WWII history at Hanstholm, where a national park includes dozens of bunkers built during the German occupation.  Germany occupied Denmark from 1940-1945 and forced local men to build these fortifications in an attempt to protect the west-facing coast and the entrance to the Baltic Sea between Denmark and Norway. Hanstholm is also home to a large fishing port and auction house.  We then visited the impossible-to-pronounce village of Norre Vorupor.  The locals call it Nor Vegas. A bit more touristy than Klitmoller, the tiny seaside village promotes surfing, fishing and has a

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Norre Vorupor

    lovely protected salt water swimming area.  We ate a traditional Danish lunch outside in the sunshine: smoked mackerel and fish cakes with potato salad. Heading back up the coast to Klitmoller, we stopped at the beach to enjoy watching our cousin’s children surfing and enjoying this wonderful lifestyle they are so lucky to have here in Western Denmark.

    We stopped at the fish market for the freshest piece of salmon for dinner then headed home for a relaxing evening together.  Late in the day we heard that a giant storm was about to hit

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Delicious salmon from the North

    Denmark bringing 60 mph winds.  So we brought in all the outdoor things and battened down, ready for an exciting night.  But the storm didn’t arrive til morning, and was not as intense as originally forecast.

    After breakfast we walked down to the beach to see how big the waves were due to the storm.  No morning swim on this morning as the waves were breaking at about 3 meters (10 feet).  A few brave surfers and some very talented and experienced kite boarders were enjoying it though. The boardwalk around the beach was crowded with locals and visitors bundled up against

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Windy morning at Klitmoller beach

    the wind and rain and enjoying the show.

    Finally around noon our luggage arrived and we packed up the car to head north while our cousins packed up to return to Copenhagen and prepare for the start of school on Monday. We would see them again in a few days.

    Driving north for two and half hours we enjoyed the terrain of seagrass covered dunes as we made our way to the tip of Denmark and the historic town of Skagen.  We checked into our lovely little hotel.  It was a sunny afternoon but the forecast was

    Port of Skagen

    ominous so we decided we should see as much as we could this day.

    We wandered the little village and the small shopping area and headed to the port where humongous

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Yellow houses

    fishing vessels equipped for the high northern seas sit next to pleasure craft and sailboats.  This area is all about fishing and you see it in the port, in the restaurants and even in the color of the houses and buildings.  Historically the residents painted the village buildings a mustard yellow color with red roofs and white trim so the fisherman could see them from far away as they were returning from sea.

    Fish of course was for dinner and we enjoyed a delicious meal at Skagen Fiskerestaurant located in one of several historic port side buildings.

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Grenen point

    After dinner, since the weather was so beautiful, we drove to the very tip of Denmark, known as Grenen.  The Northern most point of Denmark is only 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Norway.  Here the Strait of Skagerak from the west collides with the Kattegat Sea with a force that is magnificent to behold.  The two seas form a long sand spit (Grenen) and it is one of the top tourist destinations in Denmark.  We were so glad we went out there while it was a sunny and warm late afternoon.

    Waking up the next day the weather, as predicted, was cloudy and grey and wet.  So we mapped out a plan to see the sights this day from the car.

    First we headed to Den Tilsandede Kirke (The Buried Church), a 14th century church out in the dunes.

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    The buried church

    During the last half of the 18th century the church was partially buried by sand from nearby dunes; the congregation had to dig out the entrance each time a service was held. The struggle to keep the church free of sand lasted until 1795, when it was abandoned. The church was demolished, leaving the tower  still standing.

    We drove to Gammel Skagen (Old Skagen) also known Hojen, the original settlement on this remote peninsula.  Most residents eventually moved to Skagen on the other side of the peninsula which is more protected from the harsh winds and seas.  Today Gammel Skagen is home to upscale hotels and residences.

    Skagen Museum/Art Museum of Skagen – we loved this incredible museum and it was the perfect thing to experience on a rainy day. At the end of the 19th century, Skagen became the center of one of the most

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Michael Ancher’s amazing talent depicted in this portrait of a young Skagen girl

    famous artists’ colonies in Europe, known as the Skagen painters. The museum has a collection of more than 9,000 artworks by members of the Scandinavian artists colony – the Skagen painters – who lived and worked in the fishing village of Skagen in the late 19th and early 20th centuries including extensive works by Michael and Ana Ancher, Holger Drachmann, Marie Kroyer, Viggo Johansen and many others.  It is a superbly done museum.

    The rain lessened in the afternoon for a couple of hours so we headed out for some walking exercise and visited the historic Vippefyret, a 400 year old light house that used a coal fire lifted in a metal cage by a lever. The

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Vippefyret

    fire served as the light for mariners until 1747.

    We ended our day with another outstanding Danish dinner at the popular port side restaurant of Pakhuset.  The Moules Mariniere was sublime.

    Sunday morning the weather was better.  Since we are still waking up at an ungodly hour (4am) we took a brisk morning walk down to the sea.  Lots of Dane’s having an early morning swim in the nude, cycling and walking. I love their fitness obsession.  Back at our hotel for the fantastic morning buffet of Danish delights; Danish Ryebread (my fav), cheeses, pate, meats, fruit, muesli, soft boiled eggs, coffee and juice.

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Swedish church in Skagen

    Now we will take a leisurely drive back to Copenhagen and to our cousin’s city home in Virum where we will enjoy a farewell evening before our Monday departure. Our brief visit comes to an end.  We enjoyed exploring Northern Denmark.  Such a beautiful, historic, friendly and delicious country is Denmark.  We are happy to be Danish, if only a little bit.

    Tomorrow the grand adventure continues to Belgium!

    Fabelagtig! (Fabulous).

    Exploring Northern Denmark

    Historic windmill in Skagen

     

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    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

    This fascinating saga that earned Buck a Pulitzer Prize in 1932 is another novel I found amongst the hundreds of books in the library of the house we have lived this past month.  What a treat to stumble upon this classic and carefully created tale of life in China in the late 1800’s.

    Buck herself spent most of her life in China, as a child of missionaries her writing talent bloomed amongst the fascinating culture and history that surrounded her.  Buck’s many books on China were not her only accomplishments as she was an activist and human rights leader.  She was the first female  awarded the Nobel Prize for literature.

    The Good Earth is a sweeping story of the life of Wang Lung.  The story is told in the third person but always from the point of view of Wang Lung as he navigates the life of a farmer in rural 19th century China.

    Throughout the story it is the connection to the land that is the overriding theme; always the land brings wealth, food, riches, happiness even to a humble farmer as Wang Lung.

    Throughout his life he battles prejudice, injustice, draught, famine, war, floods, infidelity, and death.  In the end only trying to keep his land for his sons.  In fact, at the end of The Good Earth I kept thinking about the book Legends of the Fall by Jim Harrison ( movie “Legends of the Fall” 1994 starring Anthony Hopkins, Brad Pitt, Aiden Quinn and Henry Thomas) where a similar theme of family ties to a father and land, as well as greed, war and love creates a spectacular family saga.

    Even though Buck’s novel The Good Earth is 86 years old, it is a classic that  everyone should read, perhaps more than once.

    Five Stars for The Good Earth.

    Learn more about Pearl S. Buck’s amazing life here.

    Read last week’s review of Black Beauty here.

    This blog contains affiliate links and we may be compensated if you purchase this book.  Any money earned goes directly to offset the costs of the maintenance of this blog.  Thank you.

     

    Everything Else Fabulous

    Farewell USA, Our Grand Adventure Continues

    Off We Go Again

    Location: Planet Earth

    Our visit to the USA comes to an end.  We have enjoyed our ten weeks in our native country, but we are also ready now to go.

    As hard as it might be for some people to understand, we don’t consider the USA our home right now, we enjoy being on the move and we are ready to say Farewell USA, our Grand Adventure continues.

    I had a lot of things I wanted to do while in the USA.  I didn’t get them all done, but we enjoyed family and friends, hiking and cycling, and quick trips to Nashville and Utah.

    And it was enough.

    So now we go.  We are relaxed and unstressed about departing, unlike the first time we headed out.  We know the ropes now.  We are confident and secure in our ability to navigate the world.  And we can’t wait to get back out there and enjoy this amazing planet.

    The next chapter begins. Unlike our last segment, this time we will spend more time in Europe. We will spend August and

    A route looks roughy like this. LOL.

    September in Europe; Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Romania and Greece.  Then we have ten days in Egypt and Jordan.  Following that we hike another Camino de Santiago, this time from Porto Portugal to Finisterra Spain (250 miles).  We then end our time in Europe with visits to Sevilla, Malaga and Cádiz Spain as well as Gibraltar.

    In November we will fly to Miami and visit Key West and the Everglades before boarding a cruise ship that will take us to Columbia, Panama, Ecuador and Chili.  Followed by a month in Brazil (Christmas and New Years) followed by Costa Rica, El Salvador, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Dominican Republican and possibly Cuba before returning again to Washington State next June for another summer visit.

    Time with our sons

    We have worked hard on this itinerary and we are excited about the adventures ahead.  We hope you will continue to follow us, comment and share.  Thank you for being a part of the growing My Fab Fifties Life Family. Stay tuned for news from Denmark! We look forward to our second visit to Denmark and exploring more than just Copenhagen this time.  A beautiful and friendly country where we have family!

    It’s time to fly! Farewell USA, our Grand Adventure continues. T minus ONE!

    Fabulous!

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    Fab North America Travel

    Seven Things to do in Seabeck Washington

    My Summer in Washington State

    Location: Seabeck, Washington, USA

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington.

    Visitors to the west sound area of the Kitsap Peninsula rarely make their way out to Seabeck on the Hood Canal.  The little gem of a community has no hotels, malls or big

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Sunset on the Hood Canal

    grocery stores.  It sits quietly as it has for generations, in one of the most picturesque spots in the world.  Less than 15 minutes drive from the overrun and out of control growth town of Silverdale where you can find services and stores to your hearts content, Seabeck is an anomaly – a fragile reminder of days past.

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Historic Chapel Seabeck Conference Grounds

    A visit to Seabeck can easily be done in one day, but we were lucky enough to have 23 days to relax and enjoy this area at our spectacular waterfront Airbnb right on Hood Canal in the shadow of the Olympic Mountains. We found many things to occupy us, including our favorite seven things to do in Seabeck Washington.

    During our time here we did several hikes

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Dungeness Crab

    around the parks and nature preserves, rode our bikes on the quiet and nearly deserted roads, enjoyed fresh Dungeness crab right from our front yard, went kayaking on the calm and beautiful waters of the canal and enjoyed pizza from the towns only food service facility.

    Additionally we made a point to learn some history about our surroundings, and were

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Fascinating historic cemetery

    surprised to find that Seabeck was at one time a booming lumber mill town.  Little remains of that era now, nor of the generations of Native Americans who once spent their summers here enjoying the bounty of the sea and forest the area offered.

    Here are our favorites – the seven things to do in Seabeck Washington, nestled on the North Hood Canal in Western Washington. Visit soon.

     

    1. Scenic Beach State Park – a beautiful

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Emel House Scenic Beach State Park

    waterfront state park covered in beautiful forests this park offers swimming, beach combing, camping, picnic area as well as the historic Emel home.  Events and weddings often occur here.

    2. Gillimot Cove –

    The Stump House at Guillemott Cove

    The 158-acre Kitsap county nature reserve Guillemot Cove located only six miles from the city center is a great place to enjoy the many trails that provide a pathway through this nature reserve. Visitors can also enjoy attractions such as a hollowed-out stump of a red cedar referred to as the Stump House, or simply enjoy the scenery provided by this preservation of nature.

    3. Seabeck Conference Grounds – built in

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Meeting House Seabeck Conference Grounds

    1914 by Lawrence Colman and Arn Allen originally a YMCA operated camp, the camp is now a faith based non-profit camp and  is alive and well more than 100 years later.  You can stroll around the grounds and admire the many historic structures and the glorious view.

    4. Anderson Landing Preserve – once upon a

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Puget Sound from Anderson Landing

    time this was the site of a boat landing for supplies and lumber.  Today you can walk around the forested preserve and cautiously peer over the cliff to the Puget Sound below.  Trails take you down to the location of the old landing site.

    5. Seabeck Pizza, General Store and Historic Landing- at this location once a booming

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Seabeck General Store

    lumber town operated.  Today the four small buildings house a nice general store, massage studio, espresso stand and the popular Seabeck Pizza take-away pizza joint. Take time to stroll out on to the marina pier for a nice view back at the historic old town.

    6. Seabeck Cemetery- just a half a mile south from

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Seabeck Cemetery

    the old landing watch for a tiny sign pointing to the historic Seabeck Cemetery. Graves dating back more than a hundred years are now overgrown with salal but an effort is currently underway to refurbish and preserve the site.  Many of Seabeck’a founders lie here. Including some of my own ancestors.

    7. Get on the water – you can arrive by boat

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Kayaking on Hood Canal, Seabeck

    and make use of the marina at the landing.  Or bring your SUP or kayak. Both are very popular pastimes in the summer when the canal is calm and warm.  Fishing and crabbing are also popular.  Seals, otter, porpoises and the occasional orca whale can be spotted as well as bald eagles, osprey and much more wildlife from the water.

    Seven things to do in Seabeck Washington

    Wildlife

    Seabeck – a hidden gem seemingly stuck in a bygone century. Worth a visit. Fabulous!

    Fabulous Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

    Reading Wednesday

    Location: Reading Wednesday

    Book Review Black Beauty Anna Sewell

    Big swing for me this week.  Going from reading last week The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F**k to one of my FAVORITE books I read as a child, the beautiful children’s book Black Beauty by Anna Sewell.

    The house we are staying in comes with a tremendous library of books – a wide range of genre’s, including historic children’s novels like Black Beauty written in 1877.  I read this book when I was ten years old and it had a powerful impact on me.  So when I saw the book here in this house I picked it up and began to read.  I enjoyed it just as much 48 years later.

    As a child I had never read a book like Black Beauty, a story of compassion and cruelty and horses, told uniquely from the point of view of the horse.  Based in England in the late 19th century when horses served in so many working capacities, Black Beauty tells the reader about the life of a horse, birth to death and all that it encompasses.

    While researching to write this review I stumbled upon an NPR story that vividly mirrors my feelings about how Black Beauty changed the way I look at horses, and frankly other animals as well.

    I am so glad I chose to read this book again.  As an adult I could take away some new lessons from Black Beauty that I may have missed as a child. But the story still held me, the characters both human and animal captivated me and Black Beauty clearly remains a classic for all time.

    Read it again or for the first time.  Fabulous.

    ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Five Stars for Black Beauty by Anna Sewell

    This blog contains affiliate links and we may be compensated if you purchase this book.  Any money earned goes directly to offset the costs of the maintenance of this blog.  Thank you.

    Fab North America Travel

    Favorite Hiking & Cycling Trails in Puget Sound

    My Summer in Washington State USA

    Location: Puget Sound, Washington State, USA

    I’ve spent ten weeks in the beautiful state of Washington in the north-western United States.  This is where I grew up and where my family is.  It was fun being back, if only for a little while.  There were so many things I wanted to do and see, and I didn’t get it all done.  But I did manage to spend time enjoying my favorite hiking and cycling trails in Puget Sound.

    Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

    On top of Buckhorn pass

    I absolutely love cycling, and even though I started this sport rather late in life (48), I have embraced it.  I ride a road bike (‘Specialized’ brand) but prefer to ride on paved trails rather than out in traffic.  And there are two of my favorite trails less than an hour from where I have been staying;

    1. The Chehalis Western Trail is a fantastic trail on an old railroad bed, well maintained and very beautiful.  It is located south of Tacoma Washington beginning in Lacey.  You can start or stop at several locations along this 50-plus mile trail.  You can make the ride even longer by continuing
      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      Lunch break on the Chehalis Western Trail

      on the Yelm-Tenino Trail.  If you do the entire length of both these trails it’s more than 80 miles of paved bike path (with the small exception of about 100 yards of gravel). The trail includes views of Mount Rainier, bucolic farmland, the city of Olympia, and the Deschutes River. I was able to ride the Chehalis Western Trail three times while I was in Washington.

    2. The Olympic Discovery Trail is a spectacular trail on the Olympic Peninsula.  You can ride more than fifty miles round trip on this trial, including a newly added section to Discovery Bay.  There are a few sections of the trail that take you out to
      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      The Olympic Discovery Trail

      ride short distances on the highway, but for the most part the trail runs along the old highway and well maintained paved trails and bridges.  Highlights of this trail include crossing Dungeness River at the historic Railroad Bridge Park, riding through beautiful lavender fields in Sequim, enjoying views of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and more bucolic farmland.  Simply spectacular and my favorite by far.  Unfortunately I only made it up to ride this trail once, but it was a beautiful day and I loved it.

    Both of these trails are for non-motorized vehicles only, and walkers are also encouraged.

    Speaking of walking, that is another of my favorite pastimes.  Last year when we walked the 486 mile Camino de Santiago from France to Spain we trained for more than a year.  Three months from now we plan to walk the 250 mile Camino de Santiago from Portugal to Spain and we have barely started our training!  So during these ten weeks here in

    Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

    Hiking on the Big Quilcene Trail

    Washington we have tried to get out and do urban hikes as well as two beautiful hikes on two of my favorite trails in the Olympic Mountains;

    1. Upper Big Quilcene / Marmot Pass Trail has a lot of elevation gain, but if you take it slow most anyone can do it.  And what does elevation gain mean?  Well of course it means spectacular views when you get to the top.  It’s about five miles to Marmot Pass and another steep scramble if you want to reach Buckhorn Ridge.  On a clear day you can see Seattle, all the Cascade mountains and for miles of the Olympic range as well.  The trail is well maintained, although you will need to walk through a rocky section where a slide has taken place.  This hike round trip if you go all the way to Buckhorn Ridge is 14 miles.  Or to Marmot Pass about 11 miles.  Be sure to have a Northwest Forest Pass (purchase ahead of time at many area locations).
    2. Lower Skokomish River Trail is one of my favorites.  We usually do a ten-mile round trip on this trail, but you can go further.  This well maintained trail takes you through
      Favorite Hiking and Cycling trails in Puget Sound

      Our lunch spot on the Skokomish River

      beautiful old growth forests and then along the Skokomish River for miles upstream.  There are a couple of places where you can get down to the river bed for a picnic or to camp.  The start of this trail is pretty steep, but once you get through the first mile it flattens out into a beautiful meandering trail where you hike through forests and cross creeks.  There is another climb but its easy and then again a flat and Favorite hiking and cycling trails in Puget Soundenjoyable walk from there.  This trail is rarely busy and I feel safe enough to walk this trail alone.

    So there you go, some of my favorite active pastimes in the Pacific Northwest where I have been since May.  We are now just days away from parting the USA again.  We will return to Washington for another visit next June.  Hopefully I’ll have more free time then, to cycle and hike around this spectacular state.

    Departing in T minus 11 days.