Glaciers, massive conglomerations of ice, snow and rock, are among the world’s greatest wonders. But they’re also slowly disappearing. These natural phenomena, which have come and gone throughout Earth’s long geological history, appear to be in the process of documenting another chapter in our planet’s story. But while most glaciers are receding at an alarming rate, certain destinations still provide an abundance waiting to be appreciated. What many don’t realize is that many of Earth’s most beautiful places, while devoid of glaciers today, were actually sculpted and created by these fascinating features and are home to unforgettable scenery.
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.
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.
Over the course of history humans have embarked on adventures and expeditions to discover new territories, gain wisdom and question the known. In the 1200s Marco Polo was the first explorer to set out on a ground-breaking journey to Asia and China. The Portuguese Vasco da Gama was the first European to reach India. Sir Francis Drake was the first to circumnavigate the world in 1580. But it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that adventurers began to push the limits of mountain climbing and river rafting, ascending famous peaks and mountain passes, inspiring people to attempt their own expeditions and experience the unknown.
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.
“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.
Why do you take Backroads trips? This is a question that Trip Leaders often ask guests on the first night of the trip, along with why you chose that particular trip. Although highly valuable questions, as a Backroads leader, I’m more interested in asking a third question at the end of the trip: How has your week with us influenced your life? I, as well as my colleagues, wonder what our guests will take with them and incorporate into their lives back home.
Expanding Backroads internationally is a tale of necessity, entrepreneurialism, and of course, adventure! My bet is that many of you will relate, as you might be growing your own companies, trying to connect with someone from a very different culture, or fondly remembering your own international adventures.
When you go on an epic trip, such as my recent Backroads adventure, there’s often a special experience that defines the trip. It’s usually not the obvious one you gravitated to in the catalog or on the website. It may even seem inconsequential at the time, but then expands in meaning until it becomes the primary signifier of the trip. If you’re very lucky, you return with something you can hold in your hand to remember the magic of the moment.
Backroads Trips aren’t cheap. We get it. As a Backroads leader, it’s not uncommon for me to hear (always from someone who hasn’t traveled with us yet) “I could go there and do it myself for half the price.” When I hear someone say something like that, I usually just smile and say, “Well, there are certainly a lot of ways to travel, but you’d be surprised at just how much you get from a Backroads trip.” And the reason for my smile is that, having seen firsthand what our guests experience in the course of their trip, the question of “Where is the value?” is hardly a question at all. I’ve lost count of how many guests have expressed to me how worthwhile their experience has been. So what is it? What makes a Backroads trip so well worth the price?
Our guests often ask Backroads Trip Leaders, “What’s your favorite trip?” While I jokingly say we don’t offer tours in ugly places, I do have an answer: hands-down my favorite trip to lead is our New Zealand Walking & Hiking Tour.