To Agent or Internet for RTW Airfares?

Back in 1994, I wanted to pull a Gauguin, heading to Tahiti to leave behind the “rat race” of that weary time between college and grad school, when you’ve sent off your applications and live in miserable fear of rejection until you and a school determine whether you can do the education thing together. (Yes, when you’re 22, that time does seem like the rat race. Little did I know.) 

Because the Worldwide Interweb had yet to emerge on the scene, my only option was to walk into my local college travel agency and tell them my plan: Tahiti or bust, with a stop in Paris for a few months to smoke excessively and wear berets while taking trains and ferries around Europe.

When the trusty, knowledgeable agent told me that I could go around the entire world for less than a trip to Paris and Tahiti, I worked with her on an itinerary. She issued me paper tickets. The tickets were very flexible in terms of date changes, but not departure point or directional changes. The itinerary cost approximately $2000 and went like this: 

Chicago>>Paris>>Singapore>>Jakarta>>Denpasar (Bali)>>
Darwin (Oz>> Cairns>>Sydney>>Auckland>>
Rarotonga (Cook Islands)>>Tahiti>>L.A.>>Vegas>>Chicago

I flew Air France until Bali, then Garuda Indonesia to Australia. In Australia, I flew Qantas. From Sydney, with stops across the Pacific to L.A., I flew Air New Zealand. My American leg, L.A. to Chicago via Vegas, was on America West.

That first trip around the world lasted from August 1994 to March 1995. It was an experience so wonderful that I vowed to repeat it every decade I’m alive for the rest of my life.

On my 37th birthday in 2009, I realized that, after having spent almost 10 years helping transform a start-up into a bonafide company, I was dangerously close to not keeping my round-the-world promise to myself. So, I decided to quit my job and circle the globe once more. 

I called a specialist in around-the-world travel. This time, I had more specific destinations in mind for my trip, and discussed these with the travel specialist. I wanted to: 

1. Leave from somewhere on the East Coast of  the U.S. to see friends in NYC & Washington D.C.;
2. Be in Ireland to celebrate the 15th anniversary of meeting my husband there;
3. Visit South Africa;
4. Celebrate the Lunar New Year in Hong Kong and Japan;
5. Chill for a while in Bali;
6. Spend time experiencing Aboriginal culture and natural wonders in Australia’s Northern Territory & Far North Queensland, see friends in Sydney, and visit one of Australia’s wine regions;
7. Visit New Zealand to make up for the first time I was there, when I was too sick from Dengue Fever (contracted in Far North Queensland) to see anything at all;
8. Close the trip in a new Polynesian paradise; and
9. Finish the round-the-world circle in San Francisco, with a stay in L.A. to see family and friends.

The travel specialist told me he would work on it, and within a week, sent me back an initial estimate, which totaled approximately $7000 per person.

Gulp. I was aware that things would be more expensive than in 1994, but the quoted price seemed really high. Particularly since half the airlines the travel outfit wanted me to take were financially insolvent. (I could very clearly hear the CNN headline, “Bankrupt Greek national airline flight from South Africa crashes over Indian Ocean; no survivors; 2 Americans presumed dead.”) 

By working with the specialist, I eventually got the itinerary down to about $5900 by tweaking some dates and departure points. The specialist suggested that I omit Japan to lower the cost even more, but I was determined to show my husband around Japan and see the snow monkeys in Nagano. Because I still felt that there were better deals on better airlines, I hit the Internet on my own.

I started poking around on sites like Orbitz and the airlines’ own sites, focusing on one-way fares on my preferred airlines (where I have frequent flyer points and/or which are known for service and safety). It took me two days on the Internet in July 2009 to book the following itinerary for approximately $3900:

Denver>>Chicago>>NYC (JFK)>>Dublin//London>>South Africa>>London>>Hong Kong>>Tokyo//Osaka>>
Kuala Lumpur>>Denpasar (Bali)>>Darwin>> Cairns>>Sydney>> Auckland>>Fiji>>L.A.>>San Francisco

I flew American Airlines from Denver to NYC with a stop in Chicago, and Aer Lingus from NYC to Dublin. I took Virgin Atlantic from London to Cape Town on an affordable round-trip flight. I flew Lufthansa to Hong Kong from London via Frankfurt, JAL to Tokyo, and Malaysia Airlines to Denpasar (via Kuala Lumpur).  For Bali to Australia and flying within Australia, I got some amazingly low fares on JetStar. For the travel from Sydney to L.A., with stops in Auckland and Fiji, I booked on Air New Zealand. For the last leg, I flew Virgin America from LAX to SFO.

That second trip around the world lasted from September 2009 to May 2010. It was, again, an experience so amazing, I’ll definitely be circling the globe again in my 40s.

The Verdict: If you’re fairly agnostic to most of the destinations and dates along your route, as I was for my first RTW trip, buying from an agent specializing in round-the-world travel is probably the best option for you. RTW specialists have many standard routes for very low prices.

However, if you have very specific locations and dates in mind, doing it yourself may suit your needs better and be much cheaper. If you’re a maniac for miles on your preferred carrier, doing it yourself will also probably work better for you.

Many agents try to accomodate your airline requests, but some of the best fares available to an agent may not be on your preferred airline or even on a financially solvent airline. If you do go with an agent, be sure to give him/her all your frequent flyer info so s/he can try to select airlines based on your preferences.

Should you decide on booking your round-the-world trip yourself, here are some tips that will help make your planning easier:

1. Book in advance. For both my trips, my earliest flight was 2 months away from my booking date. Some of the fares I booked were nearly 7 months out, and those were some of my cheapest, like the $50 fare I snagged on Jetstar from Bali to Australia.
2. In leaving from the U.S. to Europe, flexibility in departure points is the key to saving money. For example, it was a lot cheaper flying from Dulles outside of D.C.
3. For Europe, be open to arriving in places like Dublin or Brussels, which can be a lot cheaper than cities like London or Paris.
4. Flying to Japan is pricey, so unless it’s a dream of yours, check out other Asian destinations. (The one-way from Hong Kong to Japan was one of the most expensive tickets of my trip, though well worth it since I really wanted to go there.)
5.  One-ways aren’t always cheaper, particularly if you’re traveling during high season. If you don’t mind taking a round-trip, be sure to consider those fares as well.
6. Use your miles if possible. You may be able to upgrade on a flight, which is always nice. Miles + money options on carriers can yield lower cost flights, though these are generally round-trip only. (We did this for our trip to South Africa on Virgin Atlantic.) Some airlines now offer one-way tickets using mileage.
7. Check out multi-city fares, which often allow long stopovers. For example, I wanted to end up in NYC, but I also wanted to stop in Chicago. Buying two separate one-ways would have been much more expensive than the $150 multi-city ticket I purchased on American from Denver to NYC with a 2-week stop in Chicago.
8. Have a world map at your side as you start booking. Often, an airline will propose a stop-over in a place unfamiliar to you, and you’ll need to assess whether the destination is a good place to visit or one that takes you well out of your way.  

   

Design Hotel in Paris’ 15th

Sublim Eiffel

If you’re looking to stay in a place with good rates and some design flair, without a lot of the usual scenesters and tourist sprawl that accompanies those things, check out the Hotel Sublim Eiffel in Paris’ very residential 15th arrondissement. Should you stay out well past your bedtime as often happens in Paris, the rooms are wonderfully dark and quiet for some good do-do action. (NB: “Do-do” is French for “sleep” and is not related to the American “doo-doo,” which does, admittedly, happen in hotel rooms, but let’s not discuss that here.) 

On my recommendation, some friends of mine recently stayed at the Sublim. They also loved it, attesting to the hotel’s excellence and value. Of course, immediately after that, the hotel appeared in a major newspaper’s write-up of “hidden gems” among Paris hotels. Hopefully, this won’t ruin the vibe or the value.

The Metro stop SEVRES-LECOURBE is right in front of the hotel making it easy to get around Paris. However, the hotel is also an easy walk from the Eiffel Tower, the wonderful market at Motte-Picquet, rue Cler,  Invalides, and the Musee Rodin.

Address: 94 Blvd. Garibaldi (15eme)
URL: http://www.sublimeiffel.com/

A Few Places for Getting “Lost”

Fitzroy Island Beach, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
Pretty darn close to paradise

My husband and I had watched “Lost” for all 5 seasons, and then, for the last, the one that answered all the questions, we took off on a trip around the world. (Fortunately, the quest for real doing still trumps the pleasure of good viewing.)

As we traveled in a few spots across the Pacific, more than a few locations reminded us of the gorgeous, paradise-with-secrets landscapes common to “Lost.” If you’re already missing it after the finale, and seek to enhance a real escape with memories of your more virtual pleasures, here are a few places where you may be able to convince yourself that the Smoke Monster lurks just around the next palm tree.

1) The Island: Fitzroy, Great Barrier Reef, Australia
The Great Barrier Reef is one of nature’s most amazing productions. With countless atolls and islands stretching along the reef, it’s easy to play castaway for one day or several. Fitzroy Island has just the right “Lost” ambiance: abundant natural beauty with a sprinkling of spooky abandoned buildings, some reminiscent of the Others’ compound.

After a gorgeous 45-minute trip from Cairns in Far North Queensland via Fitzroy Ferries, you land at the boat dock, at the foot of a nearly finished yet vacant luxury hotel. (The hotel project was begun a few years ago, and is always rumored to open soon, but the economy seems to create constant setbacks for that launch schedule. Whenever it opens, it will be an amazing place to stay.) 

Once on the island, you’re free to spend the day as you like–lazing on the beach, hiking trails that criss-cross the wooded island (a national park), and/or spending time underwater snorkeling in the island’s clear waters. We decided to embark on the guided sea kayaking and snorkeling adventure for the morning, which took us on a nicely-paced kayak trip to a clear, shallow lagoon off Little Fitzroy Island for a snorkeling break where we saw some exceptional soft corals. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and good-humored, even when temporary possession by the Smoke Monster caused me to crush his thumb with my kayak paddle.

After our kayak trip, for the afternoon, we left the group to hike alone to the lush jungle of the “Secret Garden” and down to the postcard-perfect Nudey Beach, where we ate our picnic lunch and snorkeled some more. (NB: There are no supplies or stores on the island, so bring your own water. If you don’t pre-order a picnic lunch from the Fitzroy Ferry folks, bring your own food. There are no Dharma stockpiles on the island.) We saw no one for hours, until a group of seemingly friendly people disembarked from a small motorboat on to Nudey Beach. Friend or foe? Could they be the Others?

Scuttling back up the heavy stone steps on the trail, the Fitzroy Ferry that would take us back to Cairns was a welcome sight. We had time for a bit more snorkeling, and hopped in the beach just off the dock. Some lovely sand-colored stingrays floated along the white sandy ocean bottom, delicate and sinuous like apparitions in a dream.

You can get more info about the Fitzroy excursions and/or other Cairns activities offered by the outfitters who run Fitzroy ferries at:
http://www.ragingthunder.com.au/

2. The Looking Glass: Quicksilver Platform, Outer Great Barrier Reef, Australia
When Charlie died in the watery lair of the undersea platform, it was one of the most memorable scenes in the entire series of “Lost.” If you’re making a once-in-a-lifetime visit to the Great Barrier Reef, you don’t want the most memorable part of your trip to be seasickness.

When we were in Australia in March, a storm’s approach made for rough seas, so we took the advice of numerous travel experts in the area and tried the Quicksilver company’s trip to the Outer Great Barrier Reef. With a big boat and a secure platform from which to snorkel, Quicksilver’s the best way to experience the reef when the water’s a bit rough and your travel companions want to avoid the ghastly experience of throwing up for hours with others who are throwing up for hours on a boat.   

Though waves were quite high the day we went, the snorkel area had convenient ropes and floating rest stops, making it easy to stay in the water and enjoy the wildlife. Some colorful giant clams were a highlight. We also sighted more large-sized fish than at other reef locations (due to some strategic feedings and the proximity of the open ocean). 

After a buffet lunch, before getting back into the water, we ventured down to a viewing area, designed for those who might not be able to enjoy the reef first-hand. Gazing at the aquatic life through the thick plexiglass, fish looking at me as if I were the object of interest, a human face suddenly pressed into the glass. Desmond? Charlie? No. Just a happy snorkeler.  

More info on Quicksilver’s version of the Looking Glass (with the hope that it ends better for you than it did for Charlie) is found at http://www.quicksilver-cruises.com   

3. The Ancient Civilizations: Maori Carvings, Lake Taupo, New Zealand
Elements of ancient cultures frequently popped into the familiar, modern world on “Lost,” jarring your understanding of where or when the story was taking place. 

When visiting Lake Taupo, on New Zealand’s North Island, you will find all the signs of our post-industrial civilization– a lakeside roadway, modern power boats, fabulous homes, even a driving range right on the lake.  However, unlike lakes in many other parts of the world, there’s no over-crowding. It’s very easy to feel solitary on this massive, blue, stream-fed lake. 

Cruising around Lake Taupo, after we fished for some trout, we came upon magestic, 10-meter-high Maori carvings. Though the carvings look as if they had always been there, master carver Matahi Whakataka-Brightwell created this monumental work in the 1970s. The carvings are a tribute to Ngatoroirangi, the legendary navigator who guided the first tribes to New Zealand over a millennia ago.

These beautiful carvings remind that you are a guest of the cultural descendents of the great Polynesians, one of the world’s most fascinating and epic civilizations. Resourceful survivors, the earliest Polynesians settled the vast Pacific on the smallest of boats with the most meager of rations, an extraordinary accomplishment in an age when the rest of the world’s seafarers were merely playing it safe and sailing along the various continents’ coasts.   

Ancient survival lessons you could still learn from today. Particularly if you are ever stuck on the Island.  

You can practice your fishing and get awestruck by the Maori carvings when you explore Lake Taupo on the White Striker. Our guide, Dan, showed us the carvings, taught us a lot about the whole Taupo area, and hooked us up with some fine trout when others were leaving empty-handed. The Maori carvings and Lake Taupo’s majesty mean you will never leave truly empty-handed, however.

To learn more about experiencing Lake Taupo with Dan, check out: http://www.troutcatching.com  (Note for non-fishermen: many other boat operators do tours of Lake Taupo leaving from Taupo’s marina so you can see the carvings without casting a line.)

4. Abandoned Dharma Initiative Station: Sweeney Ridge, San Bruno/Pacifica, California
There’s something exciting and slightly hair-raising about discovering abandoned buildings in the middle of nowhere. If the buildings have some whiff of military about them, all the better.  Indeed, one of the most intriguing things about “Lost” was the initial discovery of the Dharma Project’s endless hatches and complexes.

About 25 minutes south of San Francisco lies Sweeney Ridge, where you can take a moderately strenuous hike to the top of a crest where the great explorer, Portola, discovered San Francisco Bay. (There’s even a plaque here to commemorate the occasion.) With sweeping wildflower-strewn views of the Bay and the Pacific, it’s a very lovely and rare vantage point of the Bay Area.

Walking along the crest, after enjoying the natural beauty of the spot, we were surprised to find a block-shaped, whitish building, whose excessively bland, non-descript style could only have been made by the military in the 1960s or 1970s.

Adding to the spook  factor: it appears the occupants left in a hurry. Wires hang down from the ceiling where light fixtures were ripped off. Hinges strain from the stress of having doors yanked off.

As we peeked around, it occured to us that, perhaps, we should not be walking around this place. It could be dangerous. Since the entire Bay Area coast was fringed with Nike missiles not too long ago, we assumed this institutional ruin was somehow related to that.

Then, we remembered Dharma, the bomb, and all the “Lost” craziness. And then, truly spooked, we hightailed it back to our conveyance away from the beautiful yet potentially atomic spot where we had just hiked for hours.  
 
To discover the abandoned building and more sites in hikes around Sweeney Ridge: http://www.parksconservancy.org/visit/park-sites/sweeney-ridge.html

5. The Banyan Tree: Kawela Bay, Oahu’s North Shore
Soon, the state of Hawaii’s motto will be “Where ‘Lost’ was filmed.” Indeed, the series was rather notoriously filmed there, so seeing elements of “Lost” in Hawaii is akin to saying the Empire State Building reminds you of King Kong.

However, if you’re a “Lost” fan, seeing the actual “Lost” Banyan Tree on Kawela Bay is pretty exceptional. Lots of things happened in the show involving the spooky, gigantic tree. The capacious chamber formed by the tree’s boughs is impressive from a natural point of view well beyond the banyan tree’s brushes with TV fame.

Because all Hawaiian beaches are public, you can get to the banyan tree at Kawela Bay on your own. Or, you can take the excellent eco-tour offered by Shaka Kayaks, as we did in April.

Shaka Kayaks equipped us with a kayak that has a little window, so the bay’s aquatic life is visible from below and above on the easy, fun paddle around Kawela Bay. Most notably, the area is full of green sea turtles, a particularly adorable one of which is named, “Charlie.” We were also lucky enough to see an endangered monk seal lolling on the beach.

Along with the kayaking on the eco-tour, we took a pleasant walk to a World War II bunker and, of course, to the “Lost” Banyan Tree. With the amount we learned from the informative, friendly guides about the amazing ecosystem that is Kawela Bay, it was rather easy to forget the TV show that was an international obsession for 6 years. 

To take a paddle on Shaka Kayaks’ eco-tour and pay a visit to the Banyan Tree, see: http://www.shakakayaks.com/

The Native Sons – A Few Dublin Pubs

Pints in a Dublin Pub
Guinness is good for you.

Back in October of 2009, President Obama had just been surprised to find that he won the Nobel Peace Prize right before I left the States to visit the beautiful country of Ireland. In predictable fashion, rather than celebrate this recognition, the right wing commentators commenced their fantasist ravings about the vast global conspiracy behind the President’s honor and, somewhat surprisingly, the left wing gasbags began tutting over whether the timing was right for the President to receive the honor. (No, I did not leave the States to avoid listening to all this kvetching, but that would have been a good reason for a wee break, to be sure.) 

Landing in Dublin, in a cab to the hotel, the Irish taxi driver (a man from Meath), instantly and genuinely congratulated my husband and me for our President’s honor. Our taxi driver also quickly pointed out that President Obama was “a native son,” being part Irish on his mother’s side a few generations back. Indeed, fast-forwarding to 2011, President Obama tipped a pint of Guinness in the village of his ancestors, aptly observing that they keep the best Guinness in Ireland. In every village he visited and in Dublin’s fair city, the throngs who came to cheer on the President definitely showcased Ireland’s love for President Obama.

To think that President Obama is so proudly embraced by normal Irish folks– when a vocal weirdo contingent in the President’s own country absurdly believe he’s not even born there, and when the President’s own American supporters couldn’t even congratulate the man for receiving an amazing honor– well, that’s why I love Ireland. You don’t have to win the Nobel Prize or be the Leader of the Free World to experience Ireland’s embrace, however. You just need to spend as much time as possible in pubs. Listen to music. Talk to folks. Swap stories. And, of course, drink pints. Lots and lots of pints.

In Dublin, perhaps the best pub city in the world, it’s tough not to overdo the Irish hospitality. There are just too many great places to enjoy a pint while chatting with locals and/or listening to music. To avoid your getting overwhelmed, definitely visit a few favorites (listed below). They meet my criteria for a proper Dublin pub: 

  1. There should be some history or story attached to the pub, one that the barmen and regulars like telling.
  2. There should be regulars who frequent the pub, not just tourists.  There should be at least one regular who had his/her first drink at the pub, or who has been drinking there for over a decade.
  3. There should be woodwork. Real wood bars, floors, wall panels, etc. All contribute to an atmosphere of requisite coziness.
  4. The pub should not be brightly lit, and should definitely not have those halogen lights that blind you when you look at them and burn your head and/or ears if you’re too tall.
  5. If the pub does food, it should not be the pub’s focal point. Rather, the menu should list a few tasty items (soup and brown bread, stew, etc.) to help absorb the pints you’ll have. 
  6. There should be a minimum of those annoying game machines that light up and cling-clang constantly. Not a one is vastly preferable, however.
  7. Last, but certainly not least, the Guinness should be poured well. The other tap libations should taste like the lines are clean.

The true professional could try visiting these pubs in the order I list them on foot. It’s a great walk if you’re up to it, starting over near Christ Church Cathedral and working your way to St. Stephen’s Green. (Don’t worry. Having to walk will help keep you out of trouble. And, if worse comes to worse, you can always have a full Irish breakfast the next day to sort yourself out.)

  • The Brazen Head, 20 Lower Bridge St.  
    You’d be remiss not visiting the pub that claims to be Ireland’s oldest (purported to have been established in 1198). Lots of music, great soup, and a really fine Guinness in a city of fine Guinnesses. See their Web site for what’s on: http://www.brazenhead.com/
  • The Long Hall Bar, 31 S. Great George’s St.
    A Victorian treasure, this pub will take you back to a time when gents drank their pints while wearing top hats. With a beautiful long bar and lots of gleaming brass, this may be the classiest historic place to down a few.
  • O’Donaghue’s, 15 Merrion Row
    With live music 7 nights a week, O’Donaghue’s is true to its place in Irish music history. Catch some traditional Irish music, or “trad,” as it’s known, while enjoying a pint or several. The pub’s Web site has great info to help you brush up on your Irish music education: http://www.odonoghues.ie/
  • Toner’s, 2 Upper Baggot St.
    This is a fantastic traditional pub, which Yeats reportedly frequented. The poetry continues; I was taught to hurl the very poetic “toe-rag” as an epithet by a very funny man named Sean late one evening.

Should you ever find yourself leading the free world and winning a Nobel Prize without getting any appreciation from your countrymen for it, take solace. Someone in Ireland claims you as Irish and toasts your success, embracing you as a native son. If your life’s pursuits are less lofty, the welcome you’ll receive in a Dublin pub (after a few shared pints, of course) will be no less.

A Great Reef, but No Snorkeling

Rainbow Vista from the Best of the Westerns
Rainbow Vista from the Best of the Westerns

Though there is no snorkeling in Utah’s Capitol Reef, it is one of the best places for an introduction to the geology lesson that the Great American West provides from the Western edge of Colorado to the chasm of the Grand Canyon. Along with impressive insights into the natural forces that made the 100-mile long monocline known as the Waterpocket Fold, Capitol Reef National Park also provides a glimpse into the people who have left more temporary traces on the area’s landscape, including the First Nations, pioneer settlers, the likes of Butch Cassidy, and the modern ranchers whose cattle are the most dominant life-form in the area.

One of the best and most “western” hotels in the Best Western chain, The Capitol Reef Resort, can be found right at the gate of Capitol Reef National Park. A great base camp for park exploration, the hotel even has a hot tub where you can contemplate how the changing light alters canyon hues while soaking hike-weary bones.

To wash down the trail dust and fuel up for back country exploration, a bar/restaurant across the street from the hotel, The Rim Rock Patio/Spaghetti Western Cafe offers some of Utah’s finest beers and a very satisfying pizza. The outdoor dining area has some of the nicest dart set-ups I’ve seen in any bar, and, if you’re able to extend your arms after a full day’s hike, it’s a fun way to spend the evening. The night we visited, the very kind-hearted woman proprietor showed us where we were on her groovy, vintage topographical wall map on which decades of rubbing fingers from all over the world had lovingly erased our location.  

Before and/or after getting beered, hot-tubbed, and generally satiated, you will, of course, want to visit the main attraction, Capitol Reef National Park. You could spend one or several days hiking, biking, and off-roading in this geologic marvel.

One of the best ways to get oriented to the park is the self-guided drive. A map of the self-guided drive stops (along with fabulous fun facts) are available at the park’s visitor center for a nominal fee. At the end of the self-guided drive’s car-based route, a 4-mile round-trip hike takes you through Capitol Reef Gorge, where you can see some of the park’s odd sandstone formations up close, along with the signposts of people who came before.  

The most visible of the earliest human traces in the park are amazing

Fremont Petroglyph on Capitol Reef Gorge Trail
Fremont Petroglyph on Capitol Reef Gorge Trail

petroglyphs, left by the Fremont people, some of the area’s earliest inhabitants. On the Capitol Reef Gorge hike, you can get right up close to a few of these rock carvings, and ponder whether they were made for religious and/or informational purposes. It’s hard not to ge excited when standing inches away from something carved by human hands thousands of years before. Elsewhere in the park, on a large canyon wall, giant Fremont petroglyphs are visible from hundreds of feet away. Gigantic shaman, bighorn sheep, and other animals carved into the red rocks leap off the rocks.

After the First Nations, pioneers traversed the area to head Westward, and on the Capitol Reef Gorge hike, you can also see their names lining the walls, some dating back from the 1840s and 1850s. Butch Cassidy didn’t sign any rock walls, but he allegedly hid out in the area. (Butch Cassidy connections are touted a lot in this particular neck of the woods.)

Later in the 1800s, Mormon settlers recognized that the valley’s ample water supply would be good for farming, particularly fruit trees. Orchards of apples and other fruit trees planted by these intrepid settlers still line Capitol Reef’s valley.

Apple Tree in Capitol Reef
Apple Tree in Capitol Reef

The National Park Service still maintains these fruit trees, and, when the trees are bearing fruit, you can eat an apple, pear, or other fruit for free when you’re in the orchard. If you’d like to take any fruit with you, bags and picking equipment are available, along with a box to leave payment.

If DIY fruit picking’s not up your alley, or if you visit out of fruit-bearing season, you can always enjoy the valley’s fruits at the Gifford Homestead. Located in the old Mormon settlement in the valley, the historic home sells pies made from fruit grown in the area, along with other baked items and preserved goods– great for a pre or post-hike picnic.  (The pie made from apples grown in one of the orchards was particularly tasty after hiking the Capitol Reef Gorge trail.)

Though the apple trees and the settlement and the pioneer grafitti and the Fremont petroglyphs all seem to point to the permanence of man’s hand in the landscape, Capitol Reef leaves you with the feeling that we humans are newcomers and short-timers on the planet. The greater permanence of nature, as evidenced by Capitol Reef’s 100-mile long sandstone monocline, endless canyons of every color, harshly dry landscapes that suddenly swell with water– all formed over eons– dwarves our feeble human efforts to leave a mark. In short, we should enjoy the apples, and the apple pie, while we can.  

Do:
http://www.nps.gov/care/index.htm

Eat:
Rim Rock Patio/Spaghetti Western Cafe, Right across from Best Western

Stay:
Best Western Capitol Reef Resort, 2600 East Highway 24
http://www.bestwesternutah.com/torrey-hotels/