This article is from my monthly Hyperlocal Travel column in The Community Edition (August 2019).
Overtourism sucks. So what to do when you need to travel to a city like Amsterdam?
For the good of the Joshua Trees and the land, close the park, since clearly, some humans can't act responsibly.
New year, new column! I present, "Waterloo Region Through a Traveller's Eye."
Sometimes it pays to follow niche Instagram accounts, like the Stratford Writers Festival. I spotted a post in mid-August that mentioned a “Museum of the Moon” installation in Stratford, Ontario. Stratford is a 40-minute drive from my home in Kitchener and the photos alone were enough to convince me that I needed to visit the moon.
Even travels close to home can be exciting!
I discovered the installation was up for 10 days, until Sunday August 26. I had very few evenings available when I could go see it. Happily, both my husband and I found ourselves available on a Monday evening and it became an impromptu date night!
We grabbed a pizza from Pazzo Taverna + Pizzeria for a picnic by the Avon River, then crossed the footbridge to Tom Patterson Island to wait for darkness to settle.
As it grew dark, the 23′ diameter moon began to glow. The surface of the earth-bound moon is an exact reproduction of the celestial moon based on photos from NASA cameras. Artist Luke Jerram assembled the images into this stunning work that draws an admiring crowd, just like a spectacular full moon does. The Museum of the Moon was part of the brilliant programming for the Stratford Summer Music 2018 festival.
Everyone could take a 360-degree walk around the suspended moon to catch a glimpse of the sides we normally can’t see from earth.
My date, who always travels with a sketchbook, pen, ink and watercolours, had time for some night sketches.
I spent my time people watching, photographing the moon and writing “Moon Messages,” which visitors were invited to share with everyone. Reading all of the messages was entertaining and insightful! The Stratford Writers Festival encouraged sharing the messages on social media for a chance to win tickets and prize packages to their October Writers Festival events. Did I? Of course, I did.
A Silent Disco took over the Tom Patterson Island to close out the night; a pretty perfect way to host a dance party, without all the noise issues!
The Museum of the Moon reminded me of an upcoming exhibit at Kitchener’s Homer Watson House & Gallery by Royal Astronomical Society of Canada: Science and Art: 150 Years of Astronomical Imagery.
I’m looking forward to the opening reception on Sunday September 16, 2018 from 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm…. more moon, more stars, more night sky.
As children, my two sisters and I lived for the annual summer “family beach day” on Lake Huon, one of three Great Lakes we can flee to in south western Ontario. Aunts, uncles and a rowdy contingent of cousins made it an extended family affair.
Being rural farm families, our parents pre-planned the much anticipated excursion date, typically, the first Sunday in August. With one chance for a beach day each summer, we packed the car with coolers of hamburgers and hotdogs on ice, BBQ grills, bathing suits, every inflatable toy imaginable leaving barely enough room for passengers.
“But, don’t you remember shivering in the wind, wrapped in towels?” my middle sister asked recently. I do remember, all too well. Beach day was never, ever cancelled due to less than ideal weather.
We went to the beach, regardless of the weather.
Now, in my adult life and fully in charge of my own schedule, I relish the freedom of a last minute weekend at the beach when the forecast boasts sun, hot temperatures, the promise of a world-famous sunset and not a hint of rain.
The beaches of Lake Huron are the best place to relive summer memories, without the regrettable weather.
I wrote a guide to Lake Huron Beaches for The Globe and Mail, which appeared in the Pursuits section of the paper on Saturday August 4, 2018.
More like shades of grey….
I attended a black & white photography workshop at the Kitchener – Waterloo Art Gallery today, facilitated by Lawrence O. Fajardo (LOF Photography). I’ve really enjoy the black & white photos he posts on Instagram so I when I saw the workshop, I signed up right away. Why not learn from people who already do this well!
We covered the basics of composition for creating a striking black & white photo; rule of thirds, frames within frames, use of negative space, getting super close to a subject, interesting perspectives and creating a depth of field.
I really enjoyed our explorations of contrast and shadows, lines and patterns and textures and details. We spent time outside taking a few photos and finished the workshop with a critique of two – three photos from each person.
Also, go visit the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery. Their exhibitions are impressive. If you ever have the chance to attend one of their vault tours, do it!
I did it! Back in 2016 I set a goal that I would hike 100 miles in Joshua Tree National Park. I completed that mission today with a quick trot to the top of Ryan Mountain, a 3-mile hike.
At the top, my travel companion presented me with a congratulatory summit sketch to recognize my accomplishment.
As you can see, it was a fine day atop Ryan Mountain with clear views of San Jacinto Peak to the southwest, San Gorgonio Mountain to the north west, Juniper Flats and the California Riding and Hiking Trail.
There’s always a cool refreshing breeze at the summit of Ryan Mountain to dry the sweat from the climb. I always take breaks on the way to the top to notice the rock piles, wild flowers and small wildlife. There are a few Joshua Trees beside the trail and one of my favourite things is to listen to the whistle of the wind through the needles. Careful you don’t get poked in the ear, the needles are sharp!
Back at the JTNP Visitor Centre, I received my official 100-mile sticker. Thank goodness they still had some two years after the Centennial Hiking Challenge wrapped up. Disappointment would have been an understatement if I didn’t get my stickers. I was weirdly attached to getting the final one for my set.
So, now that I’ve completed my 100 miles… what next?? I have in mind that I want to climb all the named peaks in my guidebook. I’ve done quite a few already – the easy ones I feel confident doing on my own. It’s all the big ones – Pinto Mountain, Quail Mountain, Eagle Peak – that are left. I think I’ll need some help with these.
What hiking goals have you accomplished lately?
In the past five years, I’ve traveled to Joshua Tree, California five times.
Yes, that’s right, five times in five years. With another trip planned for early 2018. This fact surprises even me since I’ve always said I wouldn’t return to the same destination more than once. because there are so many places to see in the world: ‘Why waste time going back when there are so many more places to see in the world?!?!’
“Back to Joshua Tree again?” friends and family ask every year.
So, I can completely identify with David Gillett’s article in The Globe and Mail this weekend, “There and back again.” Gillett writes about his multiple trips to England’s Lake District.
He acknowledges that some people travel to check sites and locations off their bucket list and proclaim they’ve, “done England!” or “seen everything in Newfoundland!” leaving no reason to return.
But for some travellers, Gillett acknowledges being “pulled back by some unseen gravitational force time and again to a particular place.”
That’s how I feel about Joshua Tree and I’ve got some new insight from a fellow traveller and travel writer about why this happens to some of us.
Although, I have to say, it is hurting my country count… just a little bit!
Stop over planning your travels. I dare you to take a weekend away, without an itinerary!