Blue Ridge Parkeway – Highlights of Spring & Summer
Diversity is a hallmark of the Parkway and the keen observer will take notice and marvel at the variations in the southern mountains. One reason for the variation is, quite simply, the change in altitude. The Parkway ranges from a mere 650 feet above sea level at Virginia’s James River, to over 6,000 feet south of Asheville in the rugged Pisgah range. For each thousand feet gained in elevation the temperature decreases several degrees.
This means that a trip along the Parkway, in search of spring wildflowers, is ever changing. If you miss the early blooms at lower elevations, rest assured that you will get more opportunities in the higher elevations where the blooming is a bit later. A variety of wildflowers decorate the Blue Ridge most of the year, beginning in late February or early March as May apple, spring beauty, and a variety of violets come into view. Buttercups and bloodroot are common along the roadsides in April. Without a doubt, May is the best overall month for all elevations along the Parkway as trillium, fire pink, and Bowman’s root cover the ground under the purple and white blossoms of redbud and dogwood. Rhododendron, mountain laurel, and a variety of azaleas put on their big show from May through late June. Catawba rhododendron is the purple variety that blooms from early June around the Peaks of Otter in Virginia to the third week of June at Craggy Gardens in North Carolina. Any time between those dates, there are spots of this variety blooming.
Rosebay rhododendron is the larger white variety that begins in mid to late June and blooms into July, primarily through the area of Rocky Knob in Virginia. Flame azalea, pink azalea or pinxter flower bloom early to late May in many Parkway areas. Mountain laurel blooms mid to late May and into June in higher elevations. Don’t think for a minute that wildflower season is over when the calendar turns to summer because you won’t want to miss the fields of black-eyed Susan, ox eye daisy, tall coneflower, andcoreopsis that blanket fields from late summer into autumn.
Grand Canyon – The North Rim – The other rim
While the South Rim of the Grand Canyon is what is identified with the Grand Canyon, the other rim – that on the north side – has much to be desired: fewer tourists, an elevation higher by 1,300 feet and an abundance of wildlife. Amazingly, it is only 10 or so miles across the canyon, yet to drive between each rim requires more than 200 miles. The names of the viewpoints speak to the great beauty of the place: Point Sublime, Cape Royal, Angels Window and even Bright Angel. This is the low-key Grand Canyon and lends itself to quiet contemplation as well as vigorous hikes. The Colorado River continues to do its magic – patiently digging the canyon deeper, one foot per thousand years. While only “discovered” in 1540, the Grand Canyon becomes more inspiring the deeper one travels. “The one great sight that every American should see,” as Theodore Roosevelt so aptly put it.
JUST NORTH OF ST VINCENT AND THE GRENADINES AND SOUTH OF MARTINIQUE LIES A JEWEL IN THE EASTERN CARIBBEAN SEA. BOASTING NEAR PERFECT WEATHER AND LUSH NATURAL BEAUTY, ST LUCIA IS A LUXURY TRAVELER’S DREAM DESTINATION. FROM YEAR-ROUND SNORKELING TO HIKING AND BIRD WATCHING, THE ISLAND OFFERS A VAST ARRAY OF ACTIVITIES SURE TO EXCITE ANY EXPLORER.
The tropical beaches of the west coast owe their serenity to the calm Caribbean Sea, making St. Lucia’s beaches breathtaking and peaceful. In addition to its relaxing sands, the volcanic island hosts a mountainous terrain sprinkled with rain forests. Majestic in coastal peaks-The Pitons-rise through the rainrest like sentry towers. Within the flourishing rainrests, tropical birds flit through the air, giant ferns rout in every direction and orchids sway in the tropical breeze. The distinct mixes of terrain at St. Lucia set it part from many other islands and promise a little something for everyone. Perhaps the best facet of St. Lucia is that the small island has kept its local integrity. ore cruise ships may frequent the destination, but for he most part, the island has remained true to its roots, evident in the numerous restaurants and luxurious resorts, the island flavor is alive and well. Stay in the some of the world’s best luxury resorts or for a completely unique experience, try renting a villa. This option is great for families, honeymooners or the traveler looking to mix it up. A four-bedroom and four-bathroom luxury villa located five minutes from Anse Chastanet beach, the Tamarind House allows for some much needed rest and relaxation. Complete with a housekeeper, a gardener and a tennis court, this palatial property allows you to be downright spoiled. With temperate weather, expansive rain forests, world-class beaches and luxury accommodations, St. Lucia has it all. A gem in the east Caribbean Sea, the island brings tourists from far and wide with its understated beauty and uncompromised sea views. The natural vegetation and rolling waves are sure to infect any traveler with island fever, so leave the Blackberry at home and pack a sense of adventure-St. Lucia will not disappoint.
ELEVEN DEGREES NORTH OF THE EQUATOR, IN THE NORTHERN HEMISPHERE, LIES A VERDANT OASIS. FULL OF WILDLIFE AND SURROUNDED BY THE CARIBBEAN SEA AND THE PACIFIC OCEAN, NICARAGUA IS TRANSFORMING ITSELF INTO A MAJOR DESTINATION FOR ECO-TOURISTS EVERYWHERE. WITH SOARING MOUNTAINS, ACTIVE VOLCANOES, LUSH RAINFORESTS AND QUITE THE SELECTION OF SOUTH AMERICAN ANIMAL SPECIES, NICARAGUA-WHICH, TRANSLATED, MEANS “SURROUNDED BY WATER”- IS PRACTICALLY HEAVEN-SENT IN THE EYES OF AN AVID NATURE LOVER.
With new plant species being discovered regularly, visitors have a chance to be a part of the action in this leafy paradise. The country is not for the weak of heart, however. Be ready to hike through forests, stand atop a volcano, and get a true Nicaraguan experience. Make time to stop at some of Nicaragua’s 78 national parks, including Los Guatuzos Wildlife Refuge, Mombacho Cloud Forest Reserve and Indio-Maiz Biological Reserve. Though the accommodations can get primitive in some cases, the adventure is well worth it. Staying in an ecolodge is a fantastic option, offering a submersion into nature and a memorable experience. And when you take a break from all the exploring, immerse yourself in Nicaragua’s plethora of cultural options. Take in unique performances at the Ruben Dario National Theater, the Victor Romeo Theater and the lusto Rufino Garay Theatre. Revel in pieces of Nicaragua’s history at the Cathedral of Leon, the Church of laleva and Parque Central in Granada. The landscape, outdoors adventures and cultural attractions, in conjunction with the serene views of the Pacific ocean, make Nicaragua a private, romantic-and definitely green-vacation. The destination is engaged in eco-tourism due to its wide range of animals and plants in a comparatively small area as well as its lack of development.