15 Extraordinary Experiences to add to your Bucket List

There are some destinations and experiences in life that are etched into your memory and looking back at the photographs tends to rekindle the wanderlust that’s burning in your soul! It may have been the exotic aromas wafting through the air, the peaceful and serene feelings evoked, the indescribable beauty of the landscape, or the delightful people; most likely a fusion of these events served to secure their designation as extraordinary for you. These are a few of my amazing experiences.

Okavango Delta, Botswana, Africa

Ears tuned to the varied wildlife within the Okavango Delta, leaning against a pillow in a traditional dugout mokoro canoe, transported through the shallow waters with the lulling sound of poles dipping in and out of the water, I was living in the moment.

Bucket List 1

Petra, Jordan

Emerging from the mile long narrow “Siq” trail with rocks towering over 250 feet on each side, the stunning “Treasury”, carved into the sandstone cliff face dating back to the 5th century, leaves you breathless!

Bucket List 2

Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia, Africa

Ready for some adventure? Try walking the spine of Dune 45 in the Namid Desert at sunrise. It’s only 557 feet tall and you’ll be tromping through sand that is 5 million years old. The views are otherworldly!

Bucket List 3

Deadvlei Salt Pan, Namibia, Africa

Believed to be about 900 years old, the dead skeleton trees are set off by the contrasting colors of burnt orange sand, biscuit cracked earth, and cobalt blue sky!

Bucket List 4

Gudvangen Fjord, Norway Continue reading

Hiking Olympic National Park, Washington

Hiking in Olympic National Park, Washington is a feast for the senses!  I was blown away by the natural beauty!  I was there in July of 2011 and the weather was glorious.

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Washington/British Columbia Trip – Day 6

We drove 1 1/2 hours from Seattle to the Anacortes ferry, where we parked our car and walked onto the ferry for the hour-long ride over to the San Juan Island.  I had reserved a room at the Earthbox Hotel for 1 night after our whale watching adventure.  The ferry arrived in Friday Harbor

where we disembarked and walked 2 blocks to the hotel.  We explored the town after having lunch at the Downrigger restaurant on the water.

I chose the Western Prince for the whale watching and decided to book the 14 person expedition on a Zodiac boat.  It was amazing.  At one point, the whale named “Mike” came within 20 feet of our boat.

The feeling it invokes is one of wondrous excitement.  Our guide said we had good whale “karma”.

My photos didn’t come out as good as I had hoped, because I decided not to take my good camera, for fear it may get splashed.

 

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Washington/British Columbia Trip – Day 5

Today was our lay low…chill at the house…do laundry…drink Pina Coladas and watch boat traffic day.   While walking on the beach at low tide, I was able to get within 50 feet from this eagle.

The house is the one above the beach house on stilts.

This was the sitting area below the house.

Another wonderful day!

Washington/British Columbia Trip – Day 4

Although we hadn’t planned on going to Olympic National Park, it turned out to be the highlight of the entire trip for me.  It was another 13 hour day.  We drove 40 minutes from Seattle to catch the Edmonds/Kingston ferry, where we drove our car on.  The ferry ride over took about 20 minutes.  After driving a couple of hours, our first stop was the beautiful Crescent Lake, where we had lunch at the Lodge. The blues are so brilliant!

From there we made our way to the Hurricane Ridge Road entrance to Olympic National Park.  It was a windy road with scary cliff drop offs, but so worth it!  We hiked the 3 mile round trip, Hurricane Hill trail.  I have hiked at some amazing places, but this is my favorite hike.

I felt like I was in the Alps.  The fresh pine scent intermingled with the fragrant wild flowers, along with the truly spectacular views was amazing!

Washington/British Columbia Trip – Day 3

Today was a 13 hr. day.  I decided to drive the full loop (rather than just drive to Paradise…by way of the Nisqually entrance) around Mt. Rainier.  Some of the drive was on windy roads with steep drop-offs.  Our first stop was Sunrise, on the Northern side of the mountain.  It was in your face rugged beauty.

Next we drove to Silver Falls, a short hike to a beautiful water fall.

We ate our packed lunch and stopped at Reflection Lake next.

From there it was a short drive to Paradise, where we wanted to hike.  The trails were shut down due to late snowfall, so we drove to Longmire and hiked the 5 mile Rampart Ridge trail, which took about 2 1/2 hrs.

Notice the bee on the flower…

We didn’t see any bears…but some cute deer!

Just outside of the National Park we found the Copper Creek Inn for dinner.  The food was good and the yuppy rustic ambiance was cool!

Washington/British Columbia Trip – Day 1

Have you ever gone on a vacation and everything was perfect…the weather, the train pulls up just as you walk to the platform, the locations you chose to stay in, the traffic is light, the whale comes within 20 feet of your whale watching boat!  This was one of those trips.  I fell in love with the VRBO (Vacation Rental By Owner) in Seattle.  As you can see from the photos, the views were spectacular.

You could walk down to the beach…

The location is only a 10 minute drive from downtown Seattle and situated on the Puget Sound, in a neighborhood called Magnolia.  The first day was a little cloudy, so I was very surprised and in awe the morning of Day 2, when I looked to the South from the picture windows and rising, like an apparition, was Mt. Rainier, in all of its glory.  I had no idea it would be so dramatic and spiritual in nature.

We had dinner at Palisades Restaurant, which also has a lovely view.  If you have reservations for 5pm seating, it’s only $29 for a 3 course meal.  The food was good…not great.

Importance of Travel Itinerary

If you arrange your own travel plans, a Travel Itinerary is a key component of staying organized and being able to maximize your vacation time.  Below is my itinerary for an upcoming trip to the Pacific Northwest.  I like to research most details ahead of time, so I don’t use valuable vacation time.

You can determine how many sights and/or activities you can squeeze in comfortably.

I use Bing or Google Maps and plan out my driving route.  My driving time is minimized because I plan my order of activities based on the driving route.  Sometimes I use it to plan my walking route if I need to see a lot in one day.

For ideas, I usually look at Frommer’s suggested itineraries and Trip Advisor, and talk to the owner of the VRBO or friends that have been there.   I also Google “itinerary” for the area and look at other people’s blogs for inspiration.  Sometimes it’s difficult to decide which places to visit because they’re all wonderful!

Spontaneity is nice, that’s why I always leave 1 or 2 days open.  Some people might prefer to plan a lot less and take it day by day, but I feel when you’re spending a lot of money, you should get to see and do as much as you can.

You’ll notice on my itinerary that we take the light rail from the airport to a car rental place downtown.  You can save hundreds of dollars by not renting the car from the airport…just another tip!

Tues

6:30 am – Leave house

9:20am  – Delta Flight leaves Cincinnati

11:10am – Arrive Seattle

(Take light rail 10 stops (36 mins) to University St. Station

BAY A then walk to 6th street to the Hilton & p/u rental car)

Stop at grocery – arrive to VRBO unit approx. 2:00pm

5:00pm – Dinner at Palisade – 1st seating $29pp

Wed

7:00am – Drive to AMGEN Co.

Walk 40 min. to Pike Place Market

Walk to Olympic Sculpture Park

Walk to Space Needle – take monorail to Seattle Center – take Monorail back to Space Needle

Walk to Edgewater Hotel for Happy Hr.        

Thur 

Walk to Discovery Park

Fri

7:00am – Drive loop around Mt. Rainier

Hike Rampart Ridge trail (4.6 miles)

Sat

  FREE DAY

Sun

6:00am –    Drive 1 ½  hrs. to Anacortes

9:00am –   Board ferry

10:00am – Arrive San Juan Islands

Drop luggage at hotel – explore Friday Harbor /  eat lunch / bicycle

Have lunch at Market Chef   or  Duck Soup Inn

3:00pm – Whale watching tour with Western Prince (3 hrs.)

OVERNIGHT: SAN JUAN ISLAND

(They have indoor pool/sauna/hot tub/free bikes)

Mon

9:00am –   Take ferry  from San Juan

10:00am – Arrive Anacortes

Drive 2  hrs. to Vancouver – arrive 1pm (with customs wait) – Eat lunch

Keep driving to Squamish towards Whistler…then drive back

OVERNIGHT: VANCOUVER

Tues

8:00am – HAVE breakfast with Mahara & Ken (friends)

Explore Granville Island – go to the sandbar restaurant under

the Granville bridge (go to The Lobster Man booth also)

1:00pm – Take 15 mile (4 1/2 hr.) bicycle tour with CycleVancouver

OVERNIGHT:  VANCOUVER

Wed

Cont’l Brft Included

10:00am – Drive 2.75 hrs. to Seattle (go thru Customs)

2:00pm  –  Arrive back at condo

Thur 

9:00am – Leave rental

12:45pm – Flight leaves

8:05pm –  Arrives Cincinnati

Grocery list:   juice; bananas (6); fruit; muffins, eggs; butter & jam; coffee; cream; chips; beer; wine;

water; trail mix; lunchmeat/bread/cheese/mayo

$1225      –  $1150 for 9 nights – $75 cleaning fee (tax included)

$320       –  Vancouver lodging (includes parking 2 nights) =

$216       –   San Juan Island lodging

$200      –  Whale Watching tour

$23        –   Ferry Fee to San Juan Islands for 2 pp round trip

$15         –   Nat’l Park Entrance Fee

$423       –  Rental Car

$100       –  Gas (approx.)

$ 12        –  Light Rail round trip for 2

$170       –  Guided Bicycle tour Vancouver for 2

$  20       – Parking Lot fee at Anacortes for 2 days

$300      –  Restaurants (approx.)

$100      –  Grocery (approx.)

$3133    –  TOTAL