Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Maine – Kennebec & Moose River Valleys

For centuries, the Kennebec River has been a major thoroughfare for goods, people and ideas moving between Canada and the coast. History buffs will savor the struggles, wars, deceptions and invasions that highlight this route, mirroring the relationships between the French, English and Native Americans who traversed it. Adventure seekers will thrill to the whitewater rafting, calm-water canoeing, snowmobiling and hiking possibilities, while nature lovers will appreciate the lakes, streams and forests.
This region has broad appeal for outdoor enthusiasts. The Kennebec and Dead Rivers are two of the finest whitewaters rivers in the East, providing rafting, kayaking and canoeing thrills from May into October. The Appalachian Trail passes through this region before it enters the 100-mile Wilderness for the final push to its terminus at Katahdin. The Belgrade Lakes attract summer rusticators to clusters of lakefront cottages and camps to relax, play golf, boat and fish. When snow blankets the countryside, snowmobiles and snowshoes replace canoes and hiking boots. The border town of Jackman sits at a fork in the Northeast Snowmobile Trail that connects with an international trail system 1.100 miles long, linking Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Quebec.
For a better perspective on the state’s history, visit the Maine State Museum, in Augusta. In the same complex are the State House, designed by renowned architect Charles Bulfinch and built in 1829, and the Blaine House, historic home of Maine’s governors. Just across the bridge is Fort Western, built in 1754 and used as a staging point for Benedict Arnold’s ill-fated journey to capture Quebec in 1775. Also on the east of the Kennebec is the Pine Tree State Arboretum, where you can wander among more than 600 trees and shrubs. On the west side of the river is Hallowell; the downtown is a National Historic District filled with antiques shops, boutiques and historic homes, perfect for an afternoon of browsing.
The campus of Colby College, in Waterville, includes the Colby Museum of Art, which specializes in American art. In Skowhegan, take in a summer production at the Lakewood Theater, bone up on 20th century politics at the Margaret Chase Smith Library Center and admire the Skowhegan Indian. Don’t miss the Skowhegan State Fair, the oldest continuously operated state fair in the country. Nearby Hinckley boasts the L.C. Bates Museum, with an eclectic collection of treasures ranging from rare bird specimens to Native American artifacts. Another offbeat treat is the South Solon Meetinghouse. The exterior promises nothing more than a traditional, 19th century meetinghouse, but artists from the Skowhegan Scholl of Painting and Sculpture have covered every available interior space with colorful frescoes.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Maine – Aroostook County

Expansive, remote and sparsely populated, Aroostook County is an undiscovered gem, rich in heritage and a treasure for outdoor sports-minded folks. The County, as it’s called, is larger in area than the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined and is bounded by Maine’s North Woods and two Canadian provinces. It’s a region that encourages you to slow down and enjoy the good life.
In winter, deep snow blankets the hills and fields, providing unparalleled snowmobiling, snowshoeing and Nordic skiing. Snowmobilers come from far and wide for the International Snowmobile Festival, held annually in Madawaska. Dogsledders come in March for the Can-Am Sled Dog Races in Fort Kent, a qualifier for the grueling Iditarod.
When the snow melts, the 100 mile long Allagash Wilderness Waterway and the free-flowing St John River beckon paddlers. The Meduxnekeag River is a must for whitewater aficionados during spring runoff. Hiking is abundant at state parks and preserves such a Deboullie Mountain. Hikers share the St John Valley Heritage Trail and the Bangor-Aroostook Valley Trails with mountain bikers. The Fish River Chain of Lakes is favored by salmon and trout fishermen. And for an afternoon of walking and learning, visit the Arthur E. Howell Wildlife Conservation Center and Spruce Acres Refuge, a haven for injured or orphaned wildlife.
Summer is the time to celebrate the region’s heritage and rural life. At New Sweden’s Sommarfest, the descendants of Swedish settlers welcome the Solstice as their ancestors did. Madawaska’s Acadian Festival, in June, focuses on the reunion of a local Acadian family, often attracting thousands of far-flung descendants. Fort Fairfield hosts the Potato Blossom Festival, named for the lovely white flowers that blanket the fields with promise of the fall harvest. The Northern Maine Fair in Presque Isle, held in August, has been celebrating agriculture and lumbering in The County since 1854.
In Houlton, walk through the Market Square Historic Business District, with 28 architecturally significant buildings dating from 1885 to 1910. In Island Falls, visit the Webb Museum of Vintage Fashion, a Victorian house chockfull of antique clothing and accessories. The region’s logging heritage is chronicled at the Lumberman’s Museum, in Patten. The Fort Kent Blockhouse, built in 1839, is a remnant of the bloodless Aroostook War, a border dispute between the US and Canada that lasted for years. While in Presque Isle, stop by the University of Maine and Canadian Artists. For a taste of farm life with an emphasis on old-time ways, tour the Knott-II-Bragg Farm, in Wade.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Golf on Hawai’i

When you pack your clubs for vacation, isn’t it nice to know that the golf courses you’ll play will provide a setting and an experience worthy of the effort? In the Islands of Aloha, there’s no question about it.
For a million years clouds poured rain upon jagged volcanic peaks. The rains in turn fed uncounted waterfalls, pounding rock into fertile soil, forming emerald plains that gave birth to some of the finest golf courses on earth. Each is unique and their settings are as memorable as the play. It’s simply a golfer’s paradise.
Among Hawaiian 80 plus courses are some of the most gorgeous holes to swing for. Picture yourself on the first tee box. The low morning sun gives shape to the heavenly green fairway before you. Take a deep breath and pinch yourself. Not even an errant tee shot can break this spell. With the Pacific Ocean over your shoulder, try not to be distracted by a breaching humpback whale. You’ll need all your concentration to make that fast breaking putt.
Golfing is always in season with Hawaiian beautiful year-round weather. Hawaiian courses extend throughout the six major islands, and their terrain is just as varied. From cool tropical valleys to awesome ocean-side lava cliffs, the views are spectacular.
Where better to begin the PGA tour than in Hawai’i. Here the golf gods smile on some of the most beautiful courses in the world. The pros’ season begins with two tournaments in January, the Mercedes Championship on Maui, followed by the Sony Open on Oahu. Win any of golf’s four majors and you’ll be invited to play the last tournament of the year, the PGA Grand Slam on Kauai. The Turtle Bay Championship is played in the beginning of October on Oahu’s gorgeous North Shore. Not to be denied paradise, the PGA Senior Tour kicks off its year with the MasterCard Championship on Hawaiian Big Island, followed by the Senior Skins Game on Maui. Hawaiian Big Island is also home to the LPGA Takefuji Classic.
Prepare to be spoiled. In Hawai’i, a camera should be a required piece of golfing equipment.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Golf in Nevada

Nevada and golf are synonymous. In fact, with more than 100 courses throughout the state, Nevada is truly a golfer’s paradise. From championship courses such as the 36-hole Las Vegas Paiute Resort to casual, recreational links like the nine-hole Brookside Golf Course in Reno, Nevada has endless recreational options for golfers.
In Southern Nevada, there are more than 50 courses within two hours of Las Vegas including three dozen in the immediate area. The courses range from publicly owned and operated links to private clubs that are limited to members and guests.
Among the newer courses in Southern Nevada: the Rhodes Ranch Country Club and the Royal Links Golf Club.
The venerable Desert Inn Golf Club, established in 1952, is one of the hosts of the annual PGA Las Vegas Invitational in October, along with two private courses, the Tournament Players Club at Summerlin and the Las Vegas Country Club.
Several other Southern Nevada communities have also established themselves as golf Mecca’s including: Boulder City, located 23 miles southeast of Las Vegas; Henderson /Green Valley, 13 miles southeast of Las Vegas; Laughlin, 95 miles southeast of Las Vegas; Mesquite, 79 miles northeast of Las Vegas; Primm, 43 miles southwest of Las Vegas; and Pahrump, which is 62 miles west of Las Vegas.
The Reno-Lake Tahoe region offers more than 50 golf courses within an hour of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport including the Wolf Run Golf Club, the Golf Club at Genoa Lakes, the Resort at Squaw Creek, and the Golf Club at Whitehawk Ranch. In the Reno area, courses include not only the state’s oldest links – the Washoe County Golf Course, which was established in 1934 – but several of the most recent courses such as Arrow Creek, Red Hawk, and Monteux, all of which opened in the past few years. The latter is a private course that is also home of the Reno/Tahoe Open, a new stop on the PGA tour.
The Carson City area, south of Reno, offers what it calls the “Divine Nine”. These nine courses encompass about 70.000 yards of green and roughs and include the Dayton Valley Country Club, Empire Ranch, and the new Sierra Nevada Golf Ranch.
At Lake Tahoe, golfers try not to be distracted by the lake’s natural beauty while attempting to sink a long putt. Lake Tahoe offers a dozen championship courses including Edgewood Tahoe on the south shore of the lake. Edgewood is the site of the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship in July and is rated one of Golf Digest’s top 25 public US golf courses.
In the more rural parts of Nevada, golfers will find plenty of wide-open spaces into which they can slice or hook. Courses range from Hawthorne’s Walker Lake Country Club, one of the state’s most picturesque nine-hole courses with its mature, towering elms, to the Mason Valley Country Club in Yerington, which recently expanded to 18 holes.
A couple of the state’s most unusual golf courses are Burning Sands at Empire, a nine-hole public course in the center of town, where green fees are a $10 donation, and the Sandy Bottoms Golf Course in Gabbs, the state’s only all-clay, free course. Playing Sandy Bottoms is kind of like playing at entire round in sand traps.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Colorado wines

Discover the romance of wine tasting in Colorado. The winemaking industry here has grown to 34 wineries in spectacular locations across the state. Along with their distinctive style and friendly tasting rooms, each one is framed by the natural beauty of the Rocky Mountains.
Over a century has passed since wineries in Colorado were uprooted in Prohibition and today, winemakers are rebuilding a Colorado tradition. Vineyards across the state feature the classic European wine grape varieties. Now, with surprising success, the art of winemaking is thriving.
The abundant sunshine, warm days, cool nights and low humidity provide the perfect conditions for growing wine grapes with the complex character and chemistry required to craft award-winning wines.
Colorado hosts nearly three dozen wineries located throughout the state, from the areas of the Front Range near Denver, to spectacular central mountain destinations. The federal government has designated two regions in western Colorado as American Viticultural Areas (AVAs): the Grand Valley, between Grand Junction and Palisade; and the West Elks, surrounding Paonia and Hotchkiss. The vast majority of Colorado’s wine grapes come from these two areas.
Most of the wineries are small, family-owned estates that have earned a well-deserved reputation for creating a wide variety of premium wines. From deep Merlots and expensive Chardonnays, to elegant Rieslings and Cabernets, Colorado wines consistently win top national and international awards. And the fruit wines are unprecedented in the category. Charming tasting rooms and genuine Rocky Mountain atmosphere make touring Colorado wineries a wonderful way to see the state. The wines of Colorado add a delicious dimension of culture to one of America’s most colorful and adventurous leisure destinations.