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Journey Through the Depths of Mordor

“It’s the last push,” shouts our guide, Connor, with annoyingly, over-the-top enthusiasm. I don’t believe him. And neither does anyone else in our group of six hikers. We’ve all learned by now that Connor’s using what I refer to as “guide speak” – the rah-rah efforts that guides employ to motivate their groups to keep moving when the going gets tough. Basically, if you think it’s the final push, you’ll muster up the energy to make it to the finish line, convinced that it’s just around the bend or over that hill. You want to trust the guide, you...

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Explore a Mystical Lunar Landscape at Craters of the Moon

I’m in an otherworldly place that looks like somewhere the lunar lander would have been roaming around on a research mission. Pitch-black lava fragments are scattered amid a sea of cinders, mini volcanoes rise up from the barren terrain and dark, forbidding craters combine to create an eerie and starkly beautiful environment. Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve is a unique landscape that was shaped during a series of major eruptive periods between 15,000 and 2000 years ago. One of four national parks in Idaho, it encompasses over 1,100 square miles, which is about the size of...

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Get Ready to Be Mesmerized by Monument Valley

John Wayne was right on the mark when he described Monument Valley as, “God’s Treasure.” The iconic actor was taken with the stark beauty of this majestic place when he first laid eyes on it while filming the movie, Stagecoach, back in the late 1930s. Directed by the venerable John Ford, the film made The Duke a star and the western, a respected film genre. Hollywood helped shine the light on this distinctive landscape and it became one of the most recognizable images in the country. Monument Valley Park (known also by its Navajo or Diné name, Tsé Bii’...

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History Meets Hip and Happening in Albuquerque

From my perch in the sky, the view is sublime. The iconic Sandia Mountains appear as sentinels of the high desert and the rugged lava escarpments provide a Mars-like topography. Below, the Rio Grande snakes through the expansive landscape, while matchbox size houses and buildings look like Lego constructions. I’m floating high above this stunning panorama in a Rainbow Ryders hot air balloon. Our pilot in command is Troy Bradley, an experienced balloonist with almost 8,000 balloon piloting hours. He also holds 64 World Records in the sport and has claimed the title of New Mexico State Hot Air...

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Amp Up the Adventure in Hells Canyon

“Let’s paddle,” says our guide Barry in a calm, relaxed tone. We obey, albeit a bit distractedly because we’re busy chatting with one another. Then we hear that telltale roar – the one that signals some mighty big rapids are ahead. Soon, we see them in all their frenzied glory. And now Barry urgently yells, “Paddle hard, everyone!” We immediately dig into the churning whitewater, whooping with unbridled enthusiasm. The noise is deafening, but somehow Barry makes himself heard, bellowing at the top of his voice, “Charge!” It’s all hands on deck now, as we head into a massive...

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