La Jolla Sea Kayaking: Caves, Sea Lions, and Sharks

La Jolla is a coastal community about 12 miles north of downtown San Diego. One of La Jolla’s big draws is, of course, the beach. This family friendly 1 mile stretch of sand is adjacent to sea cliffs that house a series of caves. These caves are easy to access by sea kayak.Sea Caves in La Jolla

A sea cave adventure in La Jolla sounded too good to pass up! We decided to use a guide service rather than going it alone. Several local companies offer this service. We selected La Jolla Sea Cave Kayaks. In retrospect, I’m really glad we went with a guide! We saw and learned so much more from our guide, Luke, than we could have experienced on our own!

La Jolla Sea Kayaking

Our sea cave kayak tour was in the morning. We started  with a lesson on the beach in maneuvering the kayak. Fortunately, the water was like glass at launch time, so we had no trouble getting past the breakers.

Sea Kayaking in La Jolla

When we arrived at the cave, safety was the primary focus.  Our guide carefully explained the process of entering and exiting the cave. We were led in the cave 2 kayaks at a time. Instruction included how far into the cave to paddle and when to paddle out.  I was glad to be with a guide who knew the pattern of the waves as well as the location of the obstacles. I would not have felt comfortable doing this solo!

Sea Cave Kayaking in La Jolla

Mission accomplished – we kayaked in a sea cave! But, the fun was far from over! A colony of sea lions was lounging  on rocks near the cave. These marine mammals were entertaining and quite vocal! We had plenty of time to just sit and watch the sea lion soap opera unfold. Watching bulls jockey for position among the females was a hoot!

Sea Lions in La Jolla

On the return paddle along the cliffs, we stopped to watch sharks swimming below the surface. No need to sing the Jaws’ theme song – these were leopard sharks which are harmless to humans. It was such a treat to see these amazing predators in their natural habitat!

Leopard Shark in La Jolla

Kayaking in the sea cave and along the rocky La Jolla coastline was really fun! It wasn’t difficult or scary. A sea kayaking experience was an amazing way to spend a morning in La Jolla.  It far exceeded my expectations and was a highlight of our trip!

Tip & Tee: San Diego Bay

San Diego is home to a natural deep water harbor with a rich military and commercial history. San Diego Bay is at the heart of this coastal city. It is lined with hotels, shops, and restaurants, and there is no shortage of opportunities to stroll alongside this body of water.

Sailboat in San Diego Bay

San Diego Bay Trip Tip

There is so much to do in this Top Gun town that no trip is long enough to do it all! However, there is no better way to see San Diego than to get out on the bay. Whether you take a bay cruise or rent a boat and explore on your own, admiring San Diego from this incredible perspective is an experience you won’t soon forget.

San Diego TeeWhen it comes to shopping on a trip, I am a total tourist! My favorite souvenirs are travel tee shirts! Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection. In Tip & Tee, I share some of my treasures and a Trip Tip for that destination!

The Corn Palace of South Dakota

Mitchell, South Dakota is home to a quirky and one of a kind attraction –  The Corn Palace. I’ll admit when I first heard about The Corn Palace, I was somewhat skeptical. However, a trusted source from South Dakota insisted it was worth a stop.  She was right. I’m glad we made time for a visit!

South Dakota Corn Palace-2 trip

The Corn Palace has a great backstory. In the late 1800’s, the citizens of Mitchell decided to build a corn palace to showcase its rich farmland to attract settlers. Oddly enough, this was not a novel idea at the time.  In fact, corn and grain palaces were cropping up throughout the plains.  Fortunately, Mitchell’s Corn Palace has stood the test of time thanks to the support of the community.

Corn Palace of South Dakota

Mitchell’s original corn palace was built in 1892 and was the centerpiece of the Corn Belt Expo. It has been rebuilt several times over the years.  Today’s Corn Palace was constructed in 1921 and serves as an entertainment venue as well as a home for community events.

Corn Palace of South Dakota

Surprisingly, there is no charge to visit the Corn Palace!  Several exhibits highlight the importance of corn on the economy as well as the painstaking work that goes into decorating the palace each year. Many of these exhibits are interactive and great for kids! A gift shop on the arena floor sells more corn related merchandise than you can imagine. There is a Corn Palace movie as well as a tour available. I suggest allowing at least an hour for your visit.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Worlds Only Corn Palace is a distinctive destination that you’ll not soon forget.  Corn designs and murals are both inside and outside of the facility.  Only natural corn colors are used, and the cobs are split in half to create these designs. These murals are quite intricate.  Each year, the corn decorations are removed and replaced at a cost of over $130,000.  This is truly a labor of love.

South Dakota Corn Palace-10 tripCorn Palace of South Dakota

The Corn Palace of Mitchell, South Dakota is a unique budget friendly destination.  It is awesome to see a community embrace their past and present. They have successfully used a commodity which may seem ordinary and created something quite extraordinary!

Fun Fact: Badlands National Park Fossil Finds

Badlands National Park boasts one of the largest mammal fossil deposits in the world! Park visitors can even join in the fossil hunting fun. Badlands has an open hike policy, so you are not required to stay on designated trails! This policy, rare in a national park, actually encourages visitors to go off trail to search for fossils. As a result, every year photos of park visitors and their fossil finds are added to the wall of fame in the Badlands National Park visitor center.

Badlands National Park Fossils Trip

The Badlands Notch Trail

The Notch Trail in Badlands National Park is one of the park’s most popular trails. If you do much research on the Badlands, you’ll likely come across photos of a long wooden ladder on a rock face. This is the Notch Trail. It is a 1.5 mile round trip hike which is rated moderate to strenuous by the park service.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail SignBadlands National Park Notch Trail-3 Trips

I’ll admit to feeling a little nervous about the Notch Trail. In my pre-trip research, I found some sites suggesting that people with a fear of heights (me) might want to sit this one out. However, I was afraid I’d regret it later if we didn’t give it a try.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

The first portion of the Notch Trail is really easy and mostly flat.  Be sure to keep your eyes peeled for the trail markers. In some spots, the trail appears to go in multiple directions.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

After enjoying this leisurely section, we came to the most challenging part of the trail – the long wooden ladder.  If you take your time, it really isn’t too bad.  The ladder is stable, so falling off was not a concern.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

After ascending the ladder, there are some rocks to scramble up, over, and around. However, as a whole, it was pretty tame. Once you reach the end of the trail, or the Notch, you are rewarded with a panoramic view.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

Badlands National Park Notch View

Excluding the ladder, I would rate this trail as easy. The most challenging part of this hike is the ladder descent. It is a bit nerve wracking but not terrifying. Again, just take your time.

Badlands National Park Notch Trail

The Notch Trail offers sweeping views of the White River Valley. It is well worth the time and effort! I was glad I stepped outside of my comfort zone to experience this fun and unique hike!

 

 

 

Tip & Tee: Driving to Mount Rushmore

Mount Rushmore National Memorial is arguably one of the most recognizable icons in the National Park System. The massive scale and realism of this sculpture completed in 1941 is mind boggling! It is no surprise that over 3 million people visit this symbol of America each year.

Mount Rushmore Doane Mountain Tunnel

Trip Tip:  Mount Rushmore

For an extra special treat, approach Mount Rushmore from Custer State Park by driving north on Iron Mountain Road (16A). This Scenic Byway is also an engineering feat with its remarkable bridges, tunnels, and switchbacks.  A highlight of this journey is the Doane Robinson Tunnel which perfectly frames Mount Rushmore!

Mount Rushmore Trip TeeWhen it comes to shopping on a trip, I am a total tourist! My favorite souvenirs are travel tee shirts! Over the years, I’ve amassed quite a collection. In Tip & Tee, I share some of my treasures and a Trip Tip for that destination!

Great Hike Near Greers Ferry Lake

Greers Ferry Lake is massive man made lake in Heber Springs, Arkansas. This outdoor playground in the Ozark foothills is only 60 miles north of Little Rock.  In summer, this area is a lake lovers paradise. Throughout the year, Greers Ferry offers abundant hiking and fishing opportunities.

The Summit Trail in Heber Springs is a short and fun hike that you won’t want to miss! It is one of a handful of trails on Sugarloaf Mountain. This trail system has been lovingly restored and enhanced by the Sugarloaf Heritage Council.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Take note: There is more than one Sugarloaf Mountain in this area. This Summit Trail is on the Sugarloaf Mountain located directly behind Arkansas State University Heber Springs, so no boat is needed to access the trailhead.  

The name Summit Trail is a bit deceiving as the trail itself does not go to the summit. Rather, it leads to the base of the summit rock.  Reaching the summit itself requires a short climb.Sugarloaf Mountain Summit TrailSugarloaf Summit Trail Greers Ferry Lake-8 trips

The Summit Trail is only 2/3 of a mile and gains 300 feet in elevation.  The trees provide plenty of shade, and there are strategically placed benches along the way. Once you reach top, you can either continue down the other side of the mountain or return the way you came.Sugarloaf Mountain Summit TrailSugarloaf Summit Trail Greers Ferry Lake-4 trips

The Summit Trail on Sugarloaf Mountain is easy to access and offers panaramic views of the Ozark foothills. The trail is in excellent condition thanks to the commitment of the Heber Springs community. You don’t need a lot of time for this family friendly hike, so it is a great way to get out and enjoy the Natural State!Sugarloaf Mountain Summit Trail