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Backyard Discovery Monticello

The two hottest trends in travel right now are adventure travel and eco-travel. These two subsets have seen a dramatic upsurge in traffic in recent years. Some combination of the two is the Holy Grail that many tour companies are actively pursuing and fine-tuning. The problem is that these tours are expensive. Going it alone is an even more difficult prospect. The majority of us sit in our cubicles and dream of doing something outrageous. We watch television programs about partaking in the Amundsen Omega 3 South Pole Race (skiing to the South Pole). We see travel programs about people bicycling across Africa, riding mopeds across Mongolia, or rowing across the Pacific. In response, we sit on our duffs and tell ourselves that we do not have the money, we do not have the time, and the destination is too far away. This, however, is not always true. There are a bunch of adventures you can undertake require just five days or so, and are located right in your own backyard!

If you live on the East Coast, you might want to think about driving up to Quebec and the Maritime provinces. This is not particularly adventurous, but it is especially beautiful. However, the driving can become significantly more interesting if you decide to hop on the ferry from Nova Scotia and head to Newfoundland. Depending on the time of year, this can become a true adventure very quickly. It is easy to get yourself lost in Central Newfoundland, in a whiteout blizzard, being in the middle of absolutely nowhere. The only creature that will hear your pleas for help will be the moose blocking your path, whose silhouette you can barely make out in the total whiteout.

If your thirst for adventure has not yet been quenched, you have a few more days, and you are willing to venture further out, you can get a ferry ride to the Trans-Labrador highway. This is where the fun really begins. The route is not even entirely connected yet! Supposedly, it will be completed this month, but I would advise against holding your breath. When completed, the route will make for an epic journey to ends of Northeastern civilization in North America. Think of it: NYC to Maine to Nova Scotia to Newfoundland to the Labrador Coast (Happy Valley-Goose Bay) to Labrador City to Quebec to NYC.

There’s a really interesting┬átravel guide on extreme adventures┬áthat fleshes these routes out in full. Another great one, if you live on the West Coast, is to drive the Ice Road to Tuktoyaktuk, high in the Canadian Arctic, just like in Ice Road Truckers. Better yet, be like Jesse James and do it on a motorcycle. Again, something you can do in your own backyard, and which surprisingly does not cost that much money.

I have to say, though, one of the absolute best kept secrets, if you live on the West Coast and want a wilderness driving adventure, has to be the Oregon Back Country Discovery Route. This is not actively discussed, at least not in public forums such as the internet. The state of Oregon actually spent money to REMOVE all the signage only a year after the trail opened in 1999. You can read more about the OBCDR: Oregon Back Country Discovery Route here, but the basic gist is that you can drive from California to Washington, entirely through the woods. Almost entirely off-road, through stunning scenery, you should bring a chainsaw and towing chains, as you will most likely have to chop/drag debris out of your way at some stage in the journey. The route stretches nearly 1000 miles through Oregon’s barely distinguishable Forest Service trails. Explorers who have done it want to keep the secret to themselves, and environmentalists are not too happy about the state’s tacit promotion of Off Highway Vehicle use. It is true, the noise pollution, toxic emissions, and general havoc off-road machines wreak on the landscape might not be the best thing when one is trying to admire nature’s beauty. But it makes it so much easier, which causes a constant battle, a moral dilemma. Personally, my eco-awareness falls into a special category I like to call “moral flexibility,” so I would definitely do it, but feel a little guilty afterwards. Perhaps I would feel better by running biodiesel instead of petro-diesel in the lifted rock-crawling monster I would bring to the trail. Different strokes for different folks, I guess. While usage of the trail is still allowed, however, this backyard adventure is definitely near the top of my list.

The point of all of this is that some adventures ARE within your grasp. We are all very good at creating roadblocks for ourselves or assuming things to be much too difficult. We hamstring ourselves before we even start. But with a suitable vehicle, a little planning, and a GPS unit, you too can embark on an epic journey… and be back to work a week later!

George likes to travel. Generally, the more exotic, the better, but George is equally comfortable sampling fine wines in the Piedmont of Italy and hiking 25 miles a day in the Western Saharan sun.

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