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Disaster traveling is my specialty

—Rob Pudim, Writers on the Range
People who know me refuse to travel with me. I don't understand this. I think I am the perfect travel companion — curious, unflappable, knowledgeable, cheerful, seasoned, undemanding, prepared. But friends claim that I don’t go on vacations; I go on disasters.

People travel for a lot of reasons — to lounge around and do nothing, to learn about places, to challenge themselves, “for the sake of the kids,” to bask in the envy of friends and enemies, or just to eat and drink extravagantly every night. But if all I am going to do is lay around and rest up, I stay at home — it's cheaper. I'm not into the envy thing.  My children are grown and on their own. I've always preferred the learn-about-new-places-and test-myself kind of vacation.

Many people seem happier planning a trip than actually doing it. They have to maximize every minute, worry about whether they will have time to see the biggest ball of string in the world, if the hotel has their reservation, if there is a MickyD nearby. Their vacation ends up like a checklist and time-and-motion study, and if it doesn't turn out exactly as planned, they return disappointed. People like this ought to go on a canned cruise:  No surprises, everything just like home and on schedule, and if the passengers come down with some hideous stomach ailment, they get reimbursed.

This is not for me. I make no plans, no reservations, no checklists; I don’t look at weather forecasts.  Sometimes I start out for Point A but end up at Point J because I got distracted somewhere around Point F. I do some homework, but not a lot of planning. I find my passport if I plan to leave the country, but I prefer to do most of my traveling in the Four Corner states and Wyoming — the more remote, the better.

The best vacations, according to psychologists, aren’t ranked by how long you travel or how much time you spend getting ready to go. This is reassuring, since short vacations — sometimes only a few days long –- are my specialty. The intensity of the experience is what matters, even if it is painful or scary. I remember those exciting moments and how I felt after it was all over.

Did I really lose a front tooth in French Guiana one time? Yes, and if I had more time I could explain why it was sort of worth it. I’ve come back from vacations bug-bitten, sunburned, scabbed up and sometimes even hungry. But what’s the point of traveling if you only eat food you can find at home?  I would have missed Royal Rat in Belize, cowfoot soup, guinea pig on a stick, iguana eggs and once even the whole iguana, a key ingredient of Don’t Ask Stew.

What I remember most about really good vacations are often the low points — killer diarrhea, say,  or getting robbed or lost, or tumbling down a canyon face. But I never forget moments of awe — being surrounded by butterflies in a jungle clearing in Peru or watching a drop-dead sunset from the edge of a canyon in Utah.

Not all my vacations have been short and intense, but I cannot imagine staying in one place more than a day or two. The place starts getting predictable, whether it's a big city or a lake in the Wind River Range. My favorite vacations involve doing things one wouldn't ordinarily do, like poking around where you're not supposed to, looking for weird stuff. And understanding that not everything you do will turn out well.

I love searching for butterflies in the Spring Mountains, or coatis waving their long tails in troops or the aptly named elegant trogon, a bird in the Chiricahuas. I like to have a focus, something to help organize my way of looking at the world. It doesn't matter if it’s cemeteries, doors, cacti, Utah petroglyphs, sandstone formations, ruins, falling-down buildings. Good vacations involve an element of surprise.

There is a word used by Chesapeake Bay watermen — “progging” — that I’m told means poking around without a precise goal, hoping something might turn up.  My travel approach seems a lot like progging, and some remarkable things have turned up. I may never missed that elegant trogon, but I think I saw some thick-billed parrots.

Rob Pudim is a contributor to Writers on the Range, a service of High Country News (hcn.org). He’s rarely at home in Boulder, Colorado.


Tamaya Golf Course

Tamaya’s championship golf course to hold U.S. Open Championship qualifying rounds

Twin Warriors Golf Club at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa, one of the nation’s top-ranked championship golf courses, will host one of the qualifying rounds for the 111th U.S. Open Championship that will be played June 13-19 at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Maryland. As this is the ninth year that Twin Warriors has hosted a qualifying tournament, 28 Southwest region golfers will compete, including former University of New Mexico Lobo and Twin Warriors Golf Club course record holder Madalisto Muthiya.

This year’s U.S. Open contenders include:

Jeff Adkins—Albuquerque, NM
Elmer Amaya—Albuquerque, NM
Joseph Apache—Raton, NM
Christian Arrington—Albuquerque, NM
Jesse Barnsley—Albuquerque, NM
John Catlin—Carmichael, CA
Stewart Dodson—Amarillo, TX
Billy Dunson—Farmington, NM
James Erkenceck—San Diego, CA
Alexander Estrada—Belen, NM
James Gehrke—Albuquerque, NM
Julian Gowdy—Albuquerque, NM
Jake Graham—Ruidoso Downs, NM
Chad Keller—Albuquerque, NM

Justin Knauber—Albuquerque, NM
James N. Lee—Albuquerque, NM
Dalen Linnerson—Tempe, AZ
Jacob Loya—El Paso, TX
Madalitso Muthiya—Albuquerque, NM
Ryan Nomura—Carpinteria, CA
Phillip Ortiz—Fountain Hills, AZ
Jere Pelletier—El Paso, TX
Adam Roybal—Albuquerque, NM
Sam Saunders—Albuquerque, NM
Steve Saunders—Albuquerque, NM
Justin Snelling—Boise, ID
Luke Tanner—Farmington, NM
Chris Wall—Albuquerque, NM

“The Hyatt Regency Tamaya is honored to host the U.S. Open qualifier at Twin Warriors Golf Club, as this helps recognizes the club as one of the state’s most competitive and notable courses,” said Steve DeFelice, director of sales and marketing at the Hyatt Regency Tamaya Resort & Spa. “We are excited to share our course with championship-quality golfers, as the USGA considers Twin Warriors a leading championship golf course to qualify players for the nation’s best golf tournament.”

Designed by Gary Panks, the Twin Warriors Golf Club plays from 5,483 to 7,736 yards. Twin Warriors Golf Club also served as host of the PGA Professional National Championship in 2003 and 2009. In addition, the course was ranked a “Top Ten Western Golf Resort” by Condé Nast Traveler in April and among the “Best in State” by Golf Digest earlier this month. Twin Warriors Golf Club has also been a silver medalist for Golf Magazine’s “Best Golf Resorts” for the past six years.

For reservations or more information, please call reservations at (800) 55-HYATT (800-554-9288), or visit www.tamaya.hyatt.com.


Valles Caldera

Valles Caldera: June at the preserve

—Margaret M. Nava
Whether on foot or riding in a comfortable van, June is a great month to get better acquainted with the Valles Caldera National Preserve. For starters, there are daily self-guided hikes to the South Mountain, La Jara, and Stock Pond areas, as well as the “Magma to Magpies” minivan tours. Originating from the Valle Grande staging area, these seven days a week family-friendly hikes and van tours offer visitors an intriguing glimpse into the geology, ecology, wildlife, botany, archaeology, and history of the preserve.

On most Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, the Alamo Hiking Shuttle, which operates out of the Banco Bonito staging area and leaves at 9:30 in the morning, provides access to six trails (Redondo Canyon Overlook, Redondito, Redondo Border, Alamo Canyon, Cerro Seco, and San Antonio Mountain), while the North Rim Hiking Shuttle, which operates out of the Valle Grande staging area at 8:30 a.m., offers access to the South Mountain, Redondito, Abrigo, La Garita, and Los Indios trails. At 5:30 p.m., you can take a close-up and personal look at wildlife and habitat relationships on a three-hour wildlife habitat tour as a knowledgeable guide reveals where and why animals live in certain places. Spotting scopes are provided, but don’t forget the binoculars. Learning about the natural history of wildlife can foster a deeper understanding of animals by both observing and contemplating them with conservation in mind.

During the week, you can delve into archaeology as Valles Caldera Trust archaeologists explore the sites, artifacts, and landscapes of the past on the General Archaeology and Prehistoric Obsidian Quarries van tours. Or maybe you would like to search for beaver along the San Antonio Creek, hike around Cerros del Abrigo and learn about the healing power of nature, or experience a fen (wetland) that is filled with wildflowers and changes color depending upon the season and the presence of aquatic organisms.

On June 4, take part in a rare nighttime (8:30–11 p.m.) tour to listen for, call to, and maybe even spot some of the preserve’s elusive nocturnal creatures like bats, owls, frogs, salamanders, and others that may be lurking in the darkness. On June 9 and 18, join a preserve interpreter on an easy 1.5-mile hike in the Historical Ranch Headquarters region. Explore and photograph old corrals, barns, storage buildings, and cabins (the oldest was built in 1908) and learn about their historical roles in the original “Baca Ranch” headquarters, an area previously off-limits to outsiders.

June is a very special time at the Valles Caldera National Preserve… the days are warm, the nights are cool, the meadows are in bloom, the creeks and streams are filled with trout, the birds are singing, the frogs are croaking, and the elk are calving. And, with a full schedule of activities to choose from, there is bound to be something to please every hiker, nature lover, photographer, armchair archaeologist, or junior scientist out there.

For more information about the above events and all the other activities scheduled for June, contact the preserve at (866) 382-5537, or log on to http://www.vallescaldera.gov/comevisit.


Trim your vacation costs

—Jason Alderman
To paraphrase Yogi Berra, when it comes to gas prices, this is like déjà vu all over again. Instability in Africa and the Middle East, among other factors, has driven up pump prices to levels we haven’t seen since the summer of 2008.

Unfortunately for those planning their summer vacations, higher fuel prices are impacting many travel-related costs:

  • If you’re driving, the cost to fill the tank has increased exponentially since last summer.
  • Airfares, which are largely driven by fuel costs, are way up.
  • Food is generally more expensive to account for increased shipping costs.

Because the last few years have been stressful on everyone, you probably need to recharge your batteries now more than ever. Here are a few tips for planning a vacation that won’t break the bank:

  •  First, be realistic about what you can afford. Racking up debt can be almost as stressful as no vacation at all, so examine how vacation spending will affect your overall budget. Create a trip budget, and try to anticipate all potential expenses. It’s amazing how quickly unanticipated expenses can torpedo your budget. Consider things like:

    • Airfare. Include taxes, fees for extra or overweight baggage, transportation to and from the airport, in-flight meals and entertainment, etc.
    • Car rentals. Factor in taxes, gas, fill-up penalties, and insurance (although check your auto insurance and credit card policies to ensure you don’t pay for duplicate coverage).
    • Hotel/lodging. Don’t forget taxes and other local fees, charges for phone/Internet, room service, tips, etc.
    • Entertainment. Include meals, event admission and ticket-ordering charges, transit passes or taxis, sporting equipment rental, babysitters, and special clothing or accessory requirements (sunscreen, etc.).
    • Cell phone roaming charges, especially in foreign countries, remote locations, and at sea. Ask your carrier ahead of time to avoid nasty surprises.
  • Search for deals on flights, hotels, and rental cars at popular sites such as Orbitz, Travelocity, Kayak, Expedia, Priceline, and Travelzoo. But beware: Before clicking “confirm,” make sure the final price matches the initial quote and that your seat is still available.
  • Consider a “staycation,” where you become a tourist in your own area and save on travel and lodging costs. If you’re at a loss for what to do, here are a few suggestions:

Don’t pass up a vacation—you’ve earned it.

   

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