Should I Stay or Should I Go?

During this stay-at-home period of the pandemic I’ve had a lot of songs running through my head, but the ’80’s classic, Should I Stay or Should I Go has dominated, of late. I’m not really even a big fan of The Clash, or am I? Hard to know, at this point.

As the world sits at home collectively trying to avoid the COVID-19 virus, millions undoubtedly need to evaluate upcoming travel plans. Looking forward thirty, sixty, ninety days what is the best plan of action and when should you cancel reservations? I’m wondering the same. I have plans to travel out West to photograph Glacier National Park in late June with multiple reservations still on the books. I thought as I evaluate whether to cancel or maintain my plans it might be a useful subject to write about for others.

Of course, if we, in the U.S., aren’t collectively successful at lowering the curve of the outbreaks this discussion will be for naught, and nobody will be going anywhere. I certainly maintain hope that that won’t be the case. I have no desire to put myself or any destination’s local population at greater risk. Everything hinges on achieving a declining trend by April 30. It’s hard to predict or know, since we’ve never experienced anything like this, whether there will be a definitive ruling on resuming full activity, or whether there will be some sort of roll out based on a particular areas status and rate of infection of the traveler’s home. It’s impossible to know how a roll out will look. Yesterday, I watched news coverage of a protest in Lansing, Michigan against the continuation of stay-at-home orders, while in stark contrast the Outer Banks of North Carolina will not allow non-permanent resident homeowners access to their homes as of March 20. A few of those Outer Banks’ residents are suing Dare County where these homes are located. No doubt different regions of the country are experiencing this pandemic from different points of view.

At the same time, I’m trying to support local businesses and business in general.  The outdoor industry, as an example, provides 5 million jobs in the U.S. and generates around $778 billion in economic output, according to information from The Land Water Conservation Fund. Not to mention, during a time of political conflict and clashes, National Parks and public lands are overwhelmingly popular and unifying environments for Americans and foreign visitors, alike.

Dr. Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases has explained virus predictions, as they relate to the various models designed to anticipate the spread and toll of the virus’ U.S. outbreak, are only as good as the assumptions used to build them. The same can be said for trying to predict the status of the pandemic in any given country or area in the next few months—all based on assumptions that may or may not come true. And, without being too pessimistic, it’s easy to imagine that there’s a clean start and stop to this threat, but Dr. Fauci put that idea to rest, as well. He said it’s not likely we will get a national all clear. It’s more likely that a return to normal will happen in stages.

My trip to Glacier National is scheduled for the last two weeks of June. I have reservations up and down the eastern side of the park and as far north as Waterton Lakes Park in Alberta, Canada. I was looking forward to that segment in particular. We are suppose to stay at The Prince of Wales Hotel overlooking the lake. At the time of this writing, the normal cancelation policy applies which is a full refund up till three days prior to my arrival. The bigger question is whether we would be able to cross the border by then.

I haven’t purchased airline tickets, thankfully, so I’m holding off on that purchase until I have a better sense of the general travel advisories. I do wonder whether it makes some sense to go ahead and purchase a ticket at the lower rates I see for routes, while demand is down, with the assumption that if travel is still restricted I’ll be able to adjust my flight to a later date or get a refund. If they’re doing that now, I would hope the same would apply down the road, but that’s a gamble.

As of Friday April 3 following many complaints from consumers about airlines not offering returns for canceled or significantly changed flights, the U.S. Department of Transportation announced it will require foreign and domestic airlines to provide speedy refunds to passengers holding tickets for canceled or significantly altered schedules.  Those holding tickets who choose not to fly are not eligible for these refunds.  Baggage fees and other extra fees should also be refunded under the same conditions.

Most hotels are allowing cancelations with varying limitations. For instance as of April 3, 2020 Hyatt is waiving change and cancelation fees for reservations existing or made April 1, 2020 or before for arrivals through June 30, 2020. Hyatt does have some restrictions for reservations made April 2, 2020 through June 30, 2020 for any future date related to “select Destination properties” and special event rates. As of this writing, Marriott International says there’s no fee for cancelations or changes to existing reservations or new reservations for travel at any future date, including prepaid rates, as long as the cancelation is made before June 30, 2020. Airbnb is allowing cancelations for check-ins between March 14 and April 30, and owners are being partially compensated by the hosting site for these COVID-19 related losses. My Airbnb reservation doesn’t fall within these dates, but I still have time to cancel based on the normal cancelation policy of the property owner. Each property has unique cancelation policies outside of the current COVID-19 cancelation allowances timeframe. Be sure to read the cancellation policy for any property you have booked.

I cannot fathom why anyone would want to go on a cruise of any kind for the foreseeable future given the nightmares we’ve watch unfold on ships all over the world.  Nevertheless, Disney Cruise Lines is offering passengers refunds for trips booked for March thru April, or the option to rebook within a 15 month window for it’s various routes.

In an informal poll of the folks who I know are traveling in June, most are holding off on a final decision until the end of April. One or two are largely resolved to cancel their trips in an abundance of caution, but most want to wait and see a little while longer before abandoning a much anticipated trip.

So, for now, I am holding on to my hotel reservations because there’s no harm in doing so, right now. I plan to reassess at the end of April and again mid or late May, keeping an eye on the specific area and service providers I will rely on during this trip. What are the guidelines for visitors, as well as the mood of the area where I might want to visit? I’ve been in touch with the hotels where I plan to stay and I’m paying close attention to what and how they answer my questions. Are the borders I’m crossing passable?. As a last resort, I have considered driving, rather than flying, and camping along the way, but I have to see if that’s feasible, too. Many camp grounds are closed to overnight visitors, as well. No way of knowing how those locales may adapt as the course of this pandemic plays out in the U.S.

Any leisure travel that’s scheduled for April or early May is likely refundable, and I would proceed with getting that process started now.  If you have travel in May I think the statement from Dr. Fauci about a national all clear is particularly useful.  Many stay-at-home and shelter-in-place orders are through the end of April or slightly beyond.  In Virginia, where I live, ours goes through June 10 (unless rescinded sooner), while in Montana the restrictions are open ended, so it’s important to know the rules of the state where you’re headed, not just your home state.

Stay well and plan carefully as you proceed with your travel plans. The link below from Travel Weekly contains links to many hotels, cruise and airlines for your reference.


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Sources:

https://www.travelweekly.com/Travel-News/Travel-Agent-Issues/The-latest-travel-cancellation-and-change-policies

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericrosen/2020/04/03/us-department-of-transportation-requires-airlines-to-refund-passengers-for-canceled-flights/#6c6217773a10

https://www.forbes.com/sites/ericrosen/2020/04/03/us-department-of-transportation-requires-airlines-to-refund-passengers-for-canceled-flights/#6c6217773a10

https://marriott-re-2019ncovc.com

https://www.lwcfcoalition.com/tools

Playing the Slots–Southwest Slot Canyon Touring

Many slot canyons in America’s southwest have been hidden, spiritual gems kept close and private in the Native American cultures where they are frequently found.  A sense of spirituality and church are common and understandable as one walks through gazing upward at the architectural design of wind, water and time—just as a tourist in a large cathedral anywhere in the world might experience.  Navajo guides recount stories of tribal hunting, celebrations, rituals and using the canyons as retreats during travel, as well as storms of nature and man.  The church parallels continue as visitors contemplate the way sunlight filters in against the sandstone walls, coloring and decorating the spaces every bit as much as any stained-glass window.  Visitors linger to watch the mood and light change as the places of dark and light move.

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I had the pleasure of visiting two slot canyons near Page, Arizona this year.  The first was the high profile and well-worn Lower Antelope Canyon and the second, Canyon X, only open to the public since 2016–an amazing fact to me–millions of years in the making and to be among the first, relatively speaking, to see it.  Both of these slot canyons are the by-products of the same 18 mile stream known as Antelope Creek near Lake Powell.

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Lower Antelope Canyon offered more sultry, sensual shapes at almost every head turn.  Some of my shots from Canyon X reminded me of medical micro photography with the abrupt changes in texture and wear.

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It’s worth reminding everyone that the forces that continue to forge these grand caverns of red rock can and will gobble up a patron or guide who fails to respect the powers that be. Just as the Mid-Atlantic region is experiencing changing weather patterns, recently this area has experienced a lot of rain and snow.  Over the years, many have made the mistake of underestimating the potential power within these canyons, which is simultaneously creative and destructive.

Please support and help preserve our public lands and natural treasures. #FindYourPark   amydoherty.zenfolio.com

© Amy Linn Doherty and Pawpro Media 2009-2019.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Linn Doherty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Happy 100th Grand Canyon: And Many More?

What started as a crazy Grand Canyon notion among an assorted group of empty nesters, mid-lifers, one twenty-something, and an eleven-year-old from Northern Virginia became a collective reality, and a substantial Southwestern adventure accomplishment for me and my son back in 2014.PAW4953GrandCanyonboyhiker

All I wanted to do was take my youngest child–on the precipice of becoming a teenager–on a memorable, somewhat significant trip.  In all honesty, I had never heard of hiking the Grand Canyon from rim-to-rim, and I certainly never imagined doing it in one day.  The more conventional experience is to hike down to the famed Phantom Ranch, spend a night or two camping at the bottom of the canyon, and then hike out to the North Rim.  Instead, we were going to hike from one rim to the other in one day

Ranging in age from 11 to 62, our group of 15 men and women, and one child hiked the rim-to-rim in 2014.  This undertaking includes 23.4 miles, 11.5 hours, 7 miles down the South Rim, 9 miles across, and 7 vertical, winding miles up and out to the North Rim.  Weather conditions can make any crossing experience vastly different and more-or-less extreme from one day to the next.

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Entering Cedar Ridge

This isn’t a hike recommended by park rangers, I assume because hikers so frequently misjudge hydration and fitness needs even for the shorter hikes, and become stranded.  Indeed, not long after we attempted this hike the National Park Service made similar hiking groups acquire a Special Use Permit in order to attempt a rim-to-rim in a group of this size.  You’ll see online that some websites specifically discourage rim-to-rim hiking, while others promote ultra-style, rim-to-rim-to-rim runs of the canyon, and the like.  All I can tell you is, as we began our ascent up to the North Rim, we passed a tiny helipad, and minutes later a small aircraft took off with a woman who had reportedly broken her ankle.  The risks and logistics are real, and the rescues difficult, not guaranteed, and expensive.

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That said, we too had a new hip in the group, knees that needed replacement, tendinitis, tight IT Bands, lower back issues, poison ivy, and blisters.  In fact, my son had been rushed to an urgent care after landing in Phoenix two days earlier because of a sudden ear infection. So, while we were a tough, conditioned group–most of whom met via a 6a.m., all-year-round, outdoor, boot camp–we had plenty of potential health issues that could have become an issue at any point.

An Early Start

The day of the hike started at 4:40 AM when we all met outside our South Rim cabins to catch the shuttle to the South Kaibab Trailhead, the shorter, but more steep way down.  It was an ideal 38˚F.  We were told no water is guaranteed on these trails until you hit the bottom, so everyone carries their own.  We paused at the start of the trail in the company of other hiking groups heading out for adventures of their own.

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Along the South Kaibab Trail of the Grand Canyon.

By the time we reached the bottom the temperature could reach 90˚F or higher, but we were lucky and these extreme conditions didn’t materialize on this late May day. However, there was a little lightning as we hiked, another regular threat, but it stayed well in the distance. (Distance being a relative term on foot and within the Grand Canyon.) We each also carried a change of clothes and toiletries for when we reached the North Rim Lodge, which seemed more like a dream as the day progressed and the miles underfoot accumulated.

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Hiking within the canyon, lightning in the distance.

We marveled at the awesome natural spectacle of the early morning canyon, the tips of the layered, red rock walls painted with a warm glow of sunlight as our feet and toes hammered down the well-traversed, sometimes stepped trail, spattered by mule dung and giant, puddles of vaporizing mule urine that by the time we reached the North Rim functioned as smelling salts for at least one in the group–me.  I can only imagine how more intense this smell would have been on a hot day.

As we descended, the excitement grew as we caught the first glimpses of the distant, calm, emerald green portion of the Colorado River we would soon cross on the heavy gauge wire and plank suspension bridge.PAW_5102GrandCanyonbridge

We stopped and ate the boxed lunches at Phantom Ranch, which we’d pre-arranged via the National Park Service system. Some of us soaked our feet in the super cold water of the nearby stream, which was a mistake I would later regret.

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Soaking my feet mistake.

Rain, thunder and lightning could not dampen the group spirit as we headed towards our last break at the encampment called Cottonwood early in the long 5400 foot climb up the North Kaibab Trail.  The average grade is 21%.   We took only two extended breaks during the day to eat and use the rustic, hole in the ground bathroom facilities, and limited our time at these spots.  We wanted to finish in daylight, but were prepared with headlamps if we didn’t make it in time.  We nibbled on trail mix and various incarnations of jerky.  We continued to be amazed by the grandeur of the canyon at every turn, but more and more our gazes remained on our feet, and the strikes of the hiking poles getting deeper as we began the long climb out.

As the Day Wore On

While we stopped and posed for photos frequently on the way down, this activity became an unnecessary use of valuable time and energy on the climb out.  I had developed a few blisters, and the pounding of my toes within shoes not quite sized right had started taking a toll. At least that was the slightly dehydrated thinking that was going through my brain. The camera mounted on my forehead was beginning to chafe the skin as it bounced up and down, but that pain was nothing compared to the one manifesting in my feet and thought process.  I had long since packed away my Nikon D7000.  I took only two photos on the climb out, while being chided by the climber sporting a new hip for not taking in all the scenic points behind me.  I was in too much pain.  Plus, I failed to dry my feet completely after soaking them in the stream earlier, which spurred the hot spots developing.  During some relentlessly steep stretches and endless switchbacks my breathing sounded as if I had just completed a series of wind sprints.  “I was in better than average shape.” I was saying to myself, “And this climb is kicking my ass!”  Thinking back, I was probably carrying too much water and too much camera gear, AND had spent too much time making sure my son was eating and drinking enough.

In the end, it was the 11-year-old and twenty-something who finished first, youth and two days of antibiotics working their magic, I tell myself.  The rest of us finished in small clusters, grateful for the chance, the place, the cool temperatures, and the camaraderie.  We had all done it!  We had successfully hiked the Grand Canyon from rim-to-rim in one day.

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We spent a glorious night at the North Rim Lodge.  I couldn’t tell you what I ate that night.  The dining room overlooks the canyon.  We could see the lights of the South Rim as nighttime came.  My son fell asleep at dinner, the table served as his pillow.  We woke the next morning to the full scale glory of a sunrise at the Grand Canyon’s North Rim.

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These places face a growing threat–economically and environmentally.  The Grand Canyon was officially protected and preserved 100 years ago so that future generations can enjoy it.  We must remember we aren’t the first, and we shouldn’t be the last to see it and experience it.

© Amy Linn Doherty and Pawpro Media 2009-2019.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Linn Doherty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Snow a Welcome Change to DC Scenery.

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Constitution Gardens benches in a blanket of snow.

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Beside the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool

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Despite the government shutdown and the snow, National Park Service workers clear the walkways, predawn, to keep them passable and safe.

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Lincoln Memorial during snow storm 2019

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The fenced up Washington Monument

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Geese resting and huddled for warmth in the Capital Gardens pond

 

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Geese landing in the Constitution Gardens pond w/ Washington Monument in the background

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Constitution Gardens geese in snow storm

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Blue Heron on the bank of Constitution Gardens Pond

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Einstein Memorial decorated with snow in front of National Academy of Sciences where one quote reads, “The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.” Albert Einstein

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First visitors to Constitution Gardens as snow continues to fall.

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Washington wakes and starts enjoying the snow.

Exploring the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge–a Photo Essay

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I’m going to keep the words to a minimum in this post.  Over the last five months I’ve spent a good deal of time exploring Cambridge, MD and the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge region of the Eastern Shore.

What a spectacular place.

Postscript: Places like Blackwater NWR are currently at risk of losing funding because Congress has allowed authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to lapse back in September 2018.  This fund has historically been bipartisan, and supports small places such as community baseball fields, to massive areas such as Grand Teton National Park.  There is a map within an article written by a representative from The Wilderness Society on REI’s Co-Op Journal (link below) detailing all the places #LWCF supports.  Funding for these places shouldn’t be at risk or threatened by political tides because their preservation benefits all–economically, environmentally, individually. #SaveLWCF    Article about Land and Water Conservation Fund Authorization Lapse

As the Sun rises . . .

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On the grounds of the Hyatt Regency in Cambridge along the Choptank River

We caught sight of the first two eagles of the day perched together over the marsh as the sun was about to break the horizon.

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Two bald eagles perched together.
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And the Day Flies by

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Red Winged Black Birds
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As the Day Turns to Night

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The Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge Visitors Center

© Amy Linn Doherty and Pawpro Media 2009-2019.

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.  Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Amy Linn Doherty with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.