Singapore!

Come along with us on our visit to Singapore, where we remark about the heat (a lot), eat tasty foods, explore this wonderful city and even offer a few travel tips!

Solo Wyoming Road Trip

Hey Folks!  Just added another video of an 8 day Wyoming Road Trip Fluffy and I took in July.  It’s a long one, but there was a lot of ground to cover!  We visited one of my favorite places in Wyoming, called Adobetown and tackled the iconic Morrison Jeep Trail.  Enjoy!

It’s hot.  It’s dusty.  It’s amazing!  We have piles of laundry waiting, dust on everything and need to catch up on days of sleep, but part of decompression is sharing our experiences.  On that note, I’ve been procrastinating the unpacking and instead created this video for all of you!

 

Happy Trails!

Katie and MB

Road Trippin’

In our latest video, Fluffy Dog and Katie go adventuring in Creede, Colorado.  We visit Wheeler Geologic Area, see a big waterfall and check out some old mining camps.  Happy Trails!

Canyoneering in Utah

In the last few years, Marybeth and I have been learning canyoneering so we can explore more of the hidden places in Utah.  Enjoy this video from our most recent trip:

 

Happy Trails!

Katie

Tucked away a short hike off of a four-wheel drive road in the Guanella Pass area lies the Geneva Creek Iron Fens. A rare geologic phenomenon unique to Colorado, iron fens are formed when mineral rich groundwater bubbles up from mountain springs and forms colorful ledges and terraces composed of limonite (the earth pigment used to create ochre dyes). Iron fens also produce acidic peat-forming wetlands that supports rare plant communities, including the only known occurrence of Sphagnum girgensohnii (a sphagnum moss) in Colorado. The hike to Geneva Creek Iron Fens is short, but allow plenty of time to explore the fens and the surrounding areas.

Features: Unique geologic process, rare plant community, designated Colorado Natural Area (Colorado Parks and Wildlife), historic mining buildings
Location: Guanella Pass Area, Geneva Creek Basin
Maps: National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map 104: Idaho Springs, Loveland Pass; USGS 7.5′ Montezuma, CO
Managing Agency: Clear Creek County Open Space Commission
Emergency Contact: Clear Creek Sheriff 303-679-2376.  Cell reception is non-existent in this area. Carrying an emergency GPS beacon is recommended.

Distance: 2.4 miles round-trip
Time: 2-4 hours
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate.  The distance is short, but it is at high elevation.
Rating: Class I. Easy hiking on a good trail. The footing is generally good when exploring the fens, but can be slick in spots and if you venture into the swampier areas, be cautious of stepping in deep, wet mud.
Starting Elevation: 10800 feet
Ending Elevation: 11400
Elevation gain: 600 feet

Permit: Not required
Vehicle Access: Four-wheel drive is required to reach the trail head. High clearance is recommended.
Gear: Waterproof boots are recommended.
Water: Bring at least 1 liter. There is abundant water, but it may be contaminated with heavy metals.
Dogs: Dogs are permitted. Keep under control to protect wildlife, livestock and fragile environment.
Season: Late Summer, Early Fall. The access road (FR119) is closed by snow in early to mid-October until late July.  The trail is accessible in winter  by skis or snowshoes but much of the winter the closest starting point will be the Duck Creek Picnic ground at the head of FR119 which will add 7 miles each way.
Camping: Geneva Park Campground (National Forest Service Fee Site) offering tent and RV camping is near the start of FR119. Many free dispersed sites are available along FR119. Duck Lake Picnic area is also near the start of FR119 for day use only.
Restrooms: None
Food: Al’s Pits in Grant, Colorado provides great BBQ. For a hearty lunch or breakfast, check out The Shaggy Sheep.
Nearby: Geneva Basin mining area (requires high clearance 4wd), Shelf Lake Trail, Jackwhacker Gulch, three 13,000+ foot peaks (Landslide Peak , Geneva Peak, Sullivan Mountain), and Josephine lake (the most Northern Lake in the county).

Directions to the Trailhead: From Denver:
1. Travel south on Highway 285 to the town of Grant located about 40 miles South of the C-470/Hwy 285 intersection (45 minutes)
2. Turn right on Park County Road 62 (Geneva Road/Guanella Pass) and continue for approximately 7 miles (15 minutes)
3. Turn left at Forest Road 119 (four-wheel drive only) and arrive at trailhead after 5 miles (30 minutes)
Driving Notes: FR119 is a four-wheel drive road that starts off as a graded road, but becomes rougher and narrower the farther you go. Be prepared for large puddles, stream crossings and lots of rocks. At 4.3 miles, you will pass through private property. At 5 miles cross Jackwacker creek. The trailhead is on the left just 0.1 miles beyond the creek crossing (5.1 miles total) and only has room for one or two vehicles.  If you are unsure if your vehicle can do the creek crossing, there is a wide spot suitable for parking two or three vehicles just before you reach the creek. Beyond the trailhead, the road becomes a narrow shelf road with a steep grade and is only suitable for high clearance 4wd vehicles and experienced off road drivers.

Trail Description: The trail is an old 4wd road making it wide and easy to navigate.  Distances are approximate.

0.0 Mile – Walk in past the locked vehicle gate
0.5 Miles – Cross a shallow pond by rock hopping or walking through the shallow water.  The trail starts to climb after this crossing.
1 Mile – Unsigned fork in the road.  Take the right fork.  The left fork leads to another fen that is also worth exploring if you have time.
1.25 Miles – Arrive at the Iron Fens.  Explore the Fens as long as you like before returning the same way you came.

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Trailhead Parking.  If you continue up the road to the right, it quickly becomes a steep, rocky, narrow shelf road, suitable only for high clearance 4wd vehicles with experienced off-road drivers.

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Vehicle barricade at the start of the trail

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The pond crossing at 0.5 miles requires some rock-hopping.

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The road forks at about mile 1.0.  Take the right (lower) fork to reach the fens.

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Arrive at the fens at about mile 1.4 and spend some time exploring.

Check out these videos we made at the fens. The first one was starting at a different, less accessible trailhead. It’s about a mile up the high-clearance 4wd road and requires some off-trail navigation.

and this one too!

We would love your feedback!  Did you find the guide useful?  Would you like more information in a trail guide?  Did you get hopelessly lost following our directions?  Let us know in the comments!

Happy trails!

Katie and Marybeth

Do You Believe in Magic?

The Man effigy at Burning Man

The Man

 

Every year, during the blazing heat of summer, a group of artists and misfits gather in the scorching Nevada desert for a week-long celebration of community, humanity and art. They call it Burning Man and it’s part social experiment, part art extravaganza and part joyous display of the human spirit.  Thousands of dreamers and doers pour their heart and soul into building a magical, ephemeral place called Black Rock City.  During Burning Man, a fully functioning city rises out of the barren playa and after one amazing week, it disappears back into the dust.
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Loved these twin Hexayurts way out in the open camping area.

 

I’d heard of Burning Man here and there over the years, but had never known anyone who had actually been there.  My uninformed impression was that it was some sort of Bacchanalia for drugged out hippies and EDM kids.   In truth, hippies and EDM fans do make up a part of the population, and plenty of people indulge in mind altering substances, but the bulk of the population is composed everyday misfits like myself who are just there to (hopefully) contribute to the city and be amazed by the contributions of others.

 

Our decision to go to Burning Man was made on a bit of a whim.  We’d seen the pictures of the art and the outfits, but had no concept of what it really is.   Being outdoor girls who don’t want to die, we live by the motto of “be prepared.”  So months before the Burn itself, the research began.    Like the prep for any adventure, we researched the location, the logistics (getting a ticket, food, water, shelter) and the culture.  Yes, culture.  Burning Man has it’s own rules, communities, lingo and social mores.  We read blogs and watched videos, and joined Burning Man social media groups.    We even built a playa-tested shade structure based on some vague (but ultimately successful) plans we found on the internet.  We were ready.
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Our Tensigrity Shade Structure worked quite well on the playa and it can hold 3 hammocks!

 

The more I researched, the more I came to understand that Burning Man is not just a bunch of people partying in the desert surrounded by cool art, but I didn’t truly understand what it is.  Once I actually arrived  I realized I couldn’t know exactly what it is beforehand, because you have to actually go there to really get what it’s all about.  That’s why burners have a hard time explaining it to non-burners.  Burning Man is whatever you want it to be, it’s what you make it and it’s what you need it to be.  I can show you pictures of what we saw and tell you what we did but I can’t tell you how it feels, except that it feels amazing.
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Yours Truly, feeling amazing!

 

It also feels hot.  Burning Man takes place in a desert.  In August.  And it’s hot.  Really hot.  Large portions of our days were spent trying to cool off and keep hydrated.  Misters and spray bottles of water were lifesavers.  We spent a couple of days thinking we were being kind of wimpy about the heat until we learned that it was the hottest year on record for Burning Man.  Misting camps and shade structures were very popular hangouts this year.  All that heat did have an upside.  There was only one major dust storm all week and the nights were pleasantly cool.
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We looked forward to the sunsets every night because it cooled off enough to go exploring.

You hear lots of warnings about the dust.  We took them seriously.  The playa is an ancient lake bed and the “soil” is composed of a very fine alkaline clay.  It’s similar to bentonite clays we often encounter in Western deserts, but it’s much finer.  It is composed largely of decomposed volcanic rock and has the consistency of baby powder when dry.  The slightest breeze makes it airborne and it subsequently gets everywhere and sticks to everything.  When wet, it turns into a slippery, tire swallowing hazard.  We taped up our trailer windows with reflectix, we kept the truck doors closed and only ran the A/C on recirculating, we had a mandatory footwash before entering the trailer.  Our efforts paid off with minimal clean up needed when we returned the trailer to the rental place.

 

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Waiting for sunrise out by the trash fence.

 

During any adventure, there’s always a point where you find yourself hot, tired and maybe a bit grouchy.  Burning Man is no different, but just when you think you’ve reached a low, something wonderful happens.  It might be something small, like the gift of a hot dog when you just noticed you were hungry or something big like an art car comes passing by and offers you a ride.  For me the highlights include being gifted an airplane ride over the city, waking up before sunrise and biking out to the trash fence to watch the day begin, an impromptu picnic of deconstructed Spam sushi we stumbled upon in the deep playa, listening to a live opera singer performing on a giant, house-sized gramophone, and pushing my own personal boundaries at the Human Carcass Wash.
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Marybeth hanging out with the Space Cats in the Deep Playa.

 

Hosted by PolyParadise, the Human Carcass Wash is one of the more unique experiences on the Playa.  If you’re feeling kinda dusty and gross, head over to the Carcass Wash.  Leave your clothes at your bike and queue up with 50 or so other naked people to wait your turn to wash and be washed.  Yep, it’s a little weird at first hanging out in the buff, chatting with other naked people, but it quickly starts to feel normal.  The wash is set up a bit like a car wash with stations for soaping up, washing, rinsing and a final squeegee.  The washing is done by the participants and monitored by camp members that give instructions, keep the line moving, and diplomatically and gently deal with people who are having a hard time with exploring their own boundaries or those that need help understanding the boundaries of others.  There’s not a “girls only” or “boys only” line.  It’s one “humans only” line.  Male, female, gay, straight, fat, thin, able bodied, disabled, pretty and not.  Everyone is welcome.  Everyone is accepted.  Everyone ends up a little cleaner than they started.
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Hanging out beyond the trash fence at the Black Rock City Airport.

 

With so many sights and activities to capture your attention, it’s impossible to do it all, but one of my goals at Burning Man was to see it all from the air.  There are three ways to get a plane ride at Burning man: hope the skydiver camp has extra spots on their plane, wake up really early to get your name on a list for a tourist flight (which may or may not happen), or know a pilot.  The first two require a bit of luck and a long wait.  Luckily, one of Marybeths old friends (“Captain Kirk”) is a pilot, though even with an “in” our flight almost didn’t happen due to a series of unfortunate events.  The first delay happened when the runway was shut down after a pilot failed to deploy his landing gear.  Oops.  That got cleared up just in time for a dust storm.  Low visibility grounded all the flights for a few hours.  Just when it was looking like we were good to go, another pilot forgot to secure his storage compartment on take off and littered the runway with luggage.  We ended up being the last flight out of the day and it was worth the wait!  We also discovered the best kept secret of the playa. The porta-potties at the airport, beyond the trash fence are immaculate!  It’s the little things that count the most.

 

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The Man Burning

Burning Man is a temporary, place.  Many of the large scale artworks, including “The Man” are built to be ultimately burned to the ground.  On Burn Night, the Art Cars line up encircling the structure and people on foot (nearly the whole 70,000 who attend) fill in the space up to the burn perimeter.   The Burning of the Man is an amazing spectacle, one I didn’t think would leave me in awe, but it did.  The lights, the sounds, the people, the hundreds of fire dancers, the fireworks, and the intensity of the burn all contribute to the experience.  It’s fun and absurd.  It’s peaceful and exciting.  It’s sacred and profane.  I can’t really explain it.  You just need to go.

 

With all the grand spectacles at Burning Man, what’s really amazing are the little things you find in your own neighborhood.  The local coffee shop, the Pirate Bar around the corner, chatting with your new neighbors and passersby about the wonders they’ve seen, and getting a hug, a smile and acceptance from just about everyone you meet.

 

I can’t wait to go back!

 

Happy Trails,

 

Katie
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Katie headed across the Playa.

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This is a big part of what it’s all about.

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The Angler Fish Art Car.

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Marybeth and Momma Bear.

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No words.  This is simply beautiful.

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Marybeth and the Temple.

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Black Rock City from the Air.

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The A-Roar-Har gals.

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Every Burgin must roll in the dust and ring the bell!

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Don’t think she has to worry about the dust getting washed off.

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Well, Hello There!

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Sunrise with a pal.

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Carl the Chameleon

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Love to all!

We’ve had a lot of adventures this summer, but the highlight has to be the one we just returned from…Burning Man!  A blog post is in the works, but enjoy this video we made in the meantime!

Happy Trails!

Katie

It’s cold and there is fresh snow on the ground, but it’s Colorado, so the sun is shining and it’s a perfect day for a hike.  There’s too much snow for the mountain bikers and not enough for the snowshoers so I get the trail all to myself.  That’s exactly how I like it.

With my faithful companion, Fluffy Dog, I set out on the trail to finally finish Section 3 of the Colorado Trail.  The trail starts at the Little Scraggy Trailhead and rolls through ponderosa pine forests.  It winds around the sides of hills and up and down drainages until its terminus at Rolling Creek.

Rocky peaks, composed of well worn rubble dominate the landscape.  The lower reaches are strewn with boulders wearing blankets of snow.  Remnants of ancient peaks, they are reminders that the mountains are no more eternal than we are, just longer lived.  Now and then, there is a a glimpse of the snow capped mountains through the trees.

The cloudless sky is a shade of brilliant blue that I’ve only ever seen in winter.  The sun throws long shadows, even at midday and it’s low angled rays glide over the snow making it sparkle like precious gems.  The stark white of the snow contrasts sharply with the conifers making the green needles and the red bark of the ponderosas appear deeply saturated.  Here and there the trees let loose a silvery cascade of snow dust.  I stop and watch the show until a nearby tree decided to loose it’s cold, shimmery gifts upon my head.

The going is slower than usual because of the snow, but I don’t mind.  There is something extra special about hiking after a fresh snowfall.  With the crystalline carpet muffling the rustling of the trees and brush, the silence overwhelms the senses.  Even the streams are quiet.  No babbling brooks chattering on their course, there is only a muted glug, glug as the water makes it’s way under the ice.  Punctuating the silence are the sounds of mountain song birds, clearer and brighter than what you hear in summer, and a lone woodpecker is tap, tap, tapping in search of grubs.

And, oh the happy puppy dog!  He’s unfettered to frolic freely in the snow.  He’s bounding through the forest after who knows what.  Oh look, he found a deer leg.  Hope the critter that left it isn’t still around.

It takes some route finding to find my way through the forest with the trail obscured by snow, but the path is well worn and the depressions left by thousands of footsteps are not too hard to follow.  I make my way through this cold, white Eden contemplating all and nothing.  The landscape is beautiful and silent and the peace it brings my soul is unmeasured.  I leave this place and return to the bustle of “real life” but it lingers in my mind and I am restless and anxious to return to the woods to find that peace again.

Happy Trails,

Katie

 

 

Welcome to the Isla!

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Enjoying the surf, sand and sun at North Beach on Isla Mujeres.

The last time I traveled to Mexico, I was 18 years old (yes, that was a loooong time ago).  I traversed the border with my college boyfriend at San Diego to have some drinks and take in the sights of Tijuana.  My short visit did not really leave the best impression.  The things that stick in my brain from that adventure are the extreme poverty, destitute children selling chiclets, places advertising donkey sex shows and street after street of hawkers selling crappy tourist merchandise for “almost free.”  Almost free was way beyond my college budget, so I didn’t bring anything home and even tequila bars were a stretch.  This time, a little more luxury and a quiet beach town was on the agenda.
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Our first sunset on the beach at Playa Lancheros.

Our parents, those adventurous folks who inspire us to be the itinerants that we are, wanted a family vacation to bring together our far flung siblings and nieces.  As our parents are aging, and we are realizing  that the time we have left with them is shorter than the time we’ve already had, it has become a priority in our lives to spend more time with them.  On Marybeths suggestion, we choose Isla Mujeres, a cute caribbean island just off the coast of Cancun on the Yucatan peninsula.  She had been there a couple of times previously with friends and knew it would be just thing for a family get together.
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The island is awash in tropical colors.

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This bike is so rusty, it’s a wonder that it’s still rideable.

My prep work for this trip consisted of trying to fit back in my swimming suit after half a winters worth of putting on winter weight and finding my passport and towel.  In general, we relied on Marybeth to get most of the plans together (which she did), but also, this part of Mexico is so practiced at catering to tourists, particularly American tourists, little preparation is needed.  Which is the problem.  Isla is a a cute little place, with lovely beaches, good food and plenty of sun, but it hardly feels like you’ve left the country.  It’s a little difficult to wax poetic about a place that’s not very different from the Florida coast where we grew up.  I actually like a little struggle with the my travel and I enjoy getting pushed out of my comfort zones.  That’s possible here, but you have to try really hard and with poolside drinks just waiting for you it’s difficult to get the motivation.
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Two iguanas basking on the rocks at Punta Sur.

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One of the many large steel artworks in the sculpture garden at Punta Sur.

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The ruins of Ixchels temple on Punta Sur.

This part of Mexico is, however, a great place for family and for newby international travelers.  It’s easy to get around the island.  Most of our transportation was provided via rented golf carts, though we used the ubiquitous (and cheap) taxis on a number of occasions.  Zipping around the Isla on golf carts is great fun.  Just keep an eye out for one-way roads and the many speed bumps peppered over the island roads.  Take some time to just explore the island, it would be pretty hard to get truly lost.  Do go visit the Ixchel temple at Punta Sur.  It’s a lovely spot.  Take the short trail down and around the cliffs, but watch your step wherever you see wet pathways (I almost ended up a mermaid after slipping on on some of it).
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While all the food we had on the Isla was phenomenal, the gold star goes to a tiny, humble restaurant called El Charco for the best Flautas I’ve ever had!

English is widely spoken by those working in the tourist trades and most restaurants have menus in English and Spanish.  On the topic of food, you would have to work pretty hard to find a bad restaurant here.  Everywhere we ate was good, a few fantastic.  Fresh seafood and fresh pressed juices are not to be missed.  Many of the restaurants along the coastlines are co-ops run by fishermen who bring their fresh catches in daily.  Living in landlocked Colorado, truly good, fresh seafood is a luxury commodity in which I rarely indulge.  On the Isla however, seafoods are cheap and plentiful so I ate to my hearts content!
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Mayan Temple at Chichen Itza, miraculously devoid of crowds.

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If you were a fitting sacrafice in ancient Mayan culture…this is where you would die.

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These columns were roofed with wood in ancient time to provide shade for Mayan pilgrims.

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Swimming in Cenote Saamal.

We booked a driver with Carm Tours and Transfers and spent a day traveling to Chichen Itza.  We got to Chichen Itza early in the day, well ahead of the crowds and heat of the day, so we were able to enjoy the park in relative peace.  The ruins are truly impressive and well worth the long drive.   After we had our fill of the park, our driver took us to Selva Maya Hacienda for a great lunch followed by swimming in the adjacent Cenote Saamal.  Devoid of surface rivers, the Yucatan Peninsula has vast underground waterways.  In some areas, the ground above the water gives way and forms cenotes.  Bringing life sustaining water to the inhabitants of the peninsula, cenotes are magical places and swimming in a cenote is an experience not to be missed.
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Marybeth and I logging dive time.

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I was thrilled to have my first chance to go diving in over 20 years.  I was PADI certified when I was 16 years old and for a couple years before going away to college, I spent quite a few weekends on dive trips in caverns and springs around Florida.  It’s been a long, diveless time between then and now, so after a short “refresher” course, I was ready to go.  Diving is a lot like riding a bike, what you need to know comes back to you pretty quick.  Marybeth and I did two reef dives with the Squalo Adventures dive company.  The water was clear and calm and we were treated to the wonders of the reefs including lots of fishes, lobsters, sea urchins, and even a stingray.
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Yours truly, relaxing at North Beach.

Beaches and beach clubs are the highlight of any coastal Mexico vacation.  Take your pick of venues and rent a chair or cabana to spend a relaxing day in the sand and sun.   There are the usual vendors hawking goods on the beach, but they are rarely pushy and will move on with simple “No gracias.”  Most of the beach clubs have waiters ready to bring you whatever food or drink you might like right to your cabana, or you can sip a Mojito in the shade in one of the many beachside bars.
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A bittersweet sunset.  It’s time to go home.

After nearly 10 days of surf and sun, coastal vibes and sumptuous seafood, it was time to go home.  We are already dreaming and planning a return to Mexico.  It’s a large, diverse and welcoming country and we want to sample it all!
Happy Trails!
Katie