Sitting on the vibrant red rocking chair on the porch of my hotel room at Kennicott Glacier Lodge, I listened. The early morning calls of birds waking the world and the creaks and groans of the shrinking Root Glacier just a stone’s throw from me dominated the otherwise quiet scene. It seemed to me as if this morning show of song and silence was for me and me alone. Any other sound that was occurring in the surrounding expanse of the park’s 13.2 million acres was muffled by the ripening raspberry bushes, trembling aspen groves and deep blue glacial ice.
You’ve probably heard of Banff, Canada. But do you know about the other park that flanks its northwestern border? Jasper National Park is known as much for its beauty as it is for how you get there: by way of the Icefields Parkway, a world-class journey that you’ll never forget. And the hikes along the way are simply unparalleled. You’ll experience some of them if you come along for the ride with Backroads, or you can tap into the park’s majesty on your own with a few of our favorite Jasper hikes—we’re sharing our top five!
Hearing the gasps escape the mouth of a Backroads guest as they lay eyes on the iconic summit of Half Dome or the impossibly beautiful Yosemite Falls for the first time never gets old. Although I’ve been visiting and leading trips in Yosemite for many years now, I recently had a “first time” experience that allowed me to see this majestic place with fresh eyes. Just by chance, I had the opportunity to bike the Tioga Pass road to the high country with no traffic. Surrounded by conifers and glowing granite mountains and without a single worry, I realized how fortunate I am to be a part of the Yosemite experience with so many Backroads guests.
Game hunters in Africa originally coined the phrase “Big Five” to describe the five animals deemed hardest and most dangerous to hunt on foot: the elephant, lion, rhinoceros, leopard and buffalo. Because of their size, aggression, intelligence and speed, these animals were trophies that came with significant risk, and were therefore prized above all others. Safari operators now use that same phrase to describe the animals they know their clients hope to “shoot” with their cameras.
Iceland is a land of stunningly diverse scenery, where you can pass from lush glacial meadows into barren volcanic deserts in the blink of an eye, and where cliffs tower hundreds of meters high only a few steps away from the sea. Backroads’ wide variety of trips here matches the diversity of the island’s landscapes. Every itinerary is different, and each offers a unique perspective on the majestic beauty of this lonely volcanic island. Which one is right for you?
Italy never ceases to amaze. Just when you think there’s little more to discover, this place offers ancora di più (more and better). As the regional manager for Backroads’ trips in Italy, I’m no stranger to the country’s diverse regions. Nevertheless, as we sought to craft new itineraries in the heart of “the Boot,” I was amazed when Italy revealed an endless array of quaint villages and stunning landscapes waiting to be explored. As you’ll hopefully soon see for yourself, the addition of Monti Sibillini National Park and the neighboring village of Norcia to our Walking & Hiking Trip in Tuscany and Umbria is a true bonus.
Looking through the window of the bus that was driving me from the airport through town, I understood this trip was going to be very different. I could see many people walking the dusty streets of the capital in oppressive heat, some of them carrying jugs of water on their head. For the first time of my life, I was in Africa.
The one thing that has always attracted me to New Zealand–and what I continue to search for while I’m leading Backroads Trips here–is the feeling of living in the moment. In New Zealand there are so many ways to escape and be present with the people that you’re traveling with. I recently had the opportunity to tour the country with my family, and while everything was truly incredible, there were three unique experiences that stood out above the rest.
Chi: Our fearless guide. Four-foot-ten on a good day, eighty pounds, twenty-seven years old, mother of two. She’s a Sapa trekking guide and woman extraordinaire. She’s honest, fiery, fierce and tells it to you straight. Her hair is long and without a kink, falling to her hips even when pulled back. She carries a purple umbrella, protecting her skin from the strong sun.
Iceland is home to the world’s oldest parliament, Europe’s largest glacier (by volume), Björk and now you for at least 24 hours! Whether you’re spending the day in Reykjavík before or after your Backroads Iceland trip, this guide offers an easy plan for a great day in the city, maximizing your time and showcasing all this capital has to offer.
Everyone’s heard of the Galápagos Islands, with their blue-footed boobies and natural phenomena. But many are surprised to find that they’re a part of Ecuador, a country the size of Colorado replete with its own incredible natural and cultural diversity. Ecuador is a place where you can begin your day with breakfast by the ocean, drive a few hours for lunch in the Andes and finish with dinner in the rain forest.
There’s something about San Francisco. Something that sets it apart from other major world cities. Is it the natural setting surrounded by indigo Pacific waters? Or the way the hills display the shining city like diamond on their hand? The parade of Victorian pastel houses paired with a riot of street art? The homegrown food scene with its year-round access to fresh local produce and pioneering chefs.
When I first rode my bike across the border from Croatia into Montenegro, I had little idea of what to expect. The small country on the Adriatic Coast is just 18 miles south of the Backroads’ Trip Leader house in Močići, but as I descended towards the border city of Herceg Novi, something in the air changed.
“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” You may have heard this question before; it’s borrowed from the poem A Summer Day by the American poet Mary Oliver. It’s a simple enough question, but it does speak to the core of those of us who are soul searchers and explorers in our own way. But, thirty-one years on this planet and I still don’t know the answer. I do know, however, that two weeks in remote Wanaka, New Zealand brought me closer to finding out.