Active Getaway in Utah’s Red Mountains

Many of us are pursuing more nature, activity and adventure during our travels. This year, most of my travels have revolved around visiting America’s National Parks. And while doing so, I discovered Red Mountain Resort catering to those looking for an active getaway. Nestled in Southwestern Utah’s red rock bluffs, Red Mountain Resort is a one-of-a-kind active destination retreat, inspiring guests to pursue health, wellness, balance and joy. 

active getaway in St George Utah
Enjoy desert sunsets in St George. Photo by Red Mountain Resort Photography.

Getting There

In November, I planned a one-week road trip across Southern Utah’s parks. I flew into Salt Lake City, drove to Moab for 3 nights, where I visited Arches and Canyonlands. Another 5 hours of scenic drive took me to Red Mountain Resort in St. George. On my way back, I drove 2 hours to Las Vegas, where I boarded my flight back home.

You can also fly directly to St. George Municipal Airport or Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, and take a shuttle or taxi to the resort.

The Setting

Red Mountain Resort is in the suburbs of St George, a small town in southwest Utah. I only spent a few hours visiting St George’s town square, the Mormon temple, antique stores and cafes. You can sign up for a guided walking tour through the resort, or just drive around yourself.

The resort itself is surrounded by jaw dropping scenery. There are volcanic rocks right in your backyard, which backs up to Snow Canyon State Park. You can see red rocks, black lava remains, desert like vegetation, and snow covered mountains – all right outside your room!

Utah's stunning scenery
Watch the beautiful scenery at Red Mountain Resort

The Resort

Original site of a wellness research center, you will find some original dome structured buildings at Red Mountain Resort that are now used as a spa and offices. You can get a massage, body wrap, or simply gaze out the large windows lounging in the spa’s relaxation room.

spa at red mountain resort
Relax at Sagestone Spa & Salon

There are 3 swimming pools, jacuzzis and a fitness center. Here you can take dozens of classes such as yoga, stretching, dance, and more – all included in your stay. There are also expert health and fitness consultants at the fitness center, so make sure to book an appointment.

stay active swimming pool
Cool off in one of the pools

I stayed at one of the 82 Desert Oasis Rooms which was spacious and comfortable. The bathrooms were huge, with tiled floors and rain showers. There was a private patio overlooking the pool, and lots of natural sunlight coming in.

The resort gives each guest a welcome gift – a notebook, backpack and water bottle – to take on your outdoor adventures. So, you are not really encouraged to spend much time in your room.

Eat healthy at Red Mountain Utah
Scrumptious dinner of tofu tacos

Healthy Eating

The Canyon Breeze restaurant on sites serves 3 meals a day. They usually offer breakfast and lunch buffets, but due to COVID-19, there’s only seated and to-go meals.

Though the food is not limited to vegetarian or plant based exclusively, the idea is to eat fresh and control portion size. Every dish is less than 500 calories, incorporating health conscious cooking techniques, and packed with texture and flavor. For example, my breakfast of healthy pancakes had 3 bite size discs served with a homemade prickly pear syrup and lots of berries. For dinner, we were always served a vegetable soup and house salad, followed by an entree (shrimp and grits, vegetable tacos), and a small dessert. There is a strong emphasis on wholesome meals that satisfy your palate and keep you nourished.

If you like to drink a glass of wine with dinner, that is feasible too. The restaurant had a decent collection of wines by the bottle that you can order during your stay for an extra charge.

And if you’re vegan, kosher or have any specific dietary needs, the chef can accommodate you too.

active getaway while hiking
Hiking in the Red Rocks

Fitness and Adventure

Those who want to stay active, get into shape, and explore Utah’s national parks would find the biggest draw to Red Mountain Resort. There are lots of classes and guided hikes, which makes it very easy for solo travelers. You don’t have to worry about driving to the parks, finding a parking spot, looking up a trail, or getting lost!

There are different types of hikes that are offered every day, ascending from beginner (Explorer), intermediate (Challenge) and Morning Walks. These go into Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon National Park, Snow Canyon State Park, and other spots located within a short driving distance. I consulted with the concierge about the hikes, got detailed maps, and did a lot of the hikes on my own.

Each day, I started with a healthy take out breakfast from Canyon Breeze restaurant, followed by a solo interpretation walk around the labyrinth. Then I ventured into a class or two before a scrumptious outdoor lunch, and explored more of the surrounding trails through the afternoon. Here were some of my favorite hikes…

hiking at snow canyon utah
Take a sunset hike in Snow Canyon State Park

Snow Canyon State Park

You can walk from the resort to Snow Canyon State Park, bike or drive there. The park itself is only 20 miles from north to south, but has interesting landscapes. Jenny’s Canyon Trail takes you into slot canyon, while Johnson Canyon Trail offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels.

active adventure Red Mountain
Discovering ancient rock art makes the hike even more interesting

Anasazi Ridge Petroglyphs 

This 2-hour trail explores the Anasazi culture where you can see 1000-year old farmstead ruins and petroglyph drawings, along with inspiring panoramic views.

activities in Zion national park Utah
Zion National Park is spectacular anytime of the year

Zion National Park

Utah’s first national park has massive sandstone cliffs, narrow slot canyons, and flowing Virgin River. There are dozens of hiking trails inside Zion National Park that can keep you active for days, so make sure to plan your route ahead of time. Also note that it is mandatory to park your car and take a shuttle inside the park during peak hours.

Kayenta Art Village
Stroll through a live art garden in Southern Utah

Kayenta Art Village

The Red Mountain Resort also organizes trips to nearby Kayenta Art Village (located less than 10 mins away). This artist colony showcases a number of studios, cafes and shops, as well as a collaborative outdoor art installation. Walking through the desert gardens on a sunny afternoon is quite mediative.

All-Inclusive

Unlike other all-inclusive destinations, Red Mountain Resort caters to fitness oriented travelers, who don’t travel to just lay by the pool. Also, it is perfect for singles. You can go by yourself and make friends at the Community Table at dinner, or during one of the group activities.

Still, the resort offers all the amenities of an all-inclusive. All vacations include accommodations, daily guided hikes, bike rentals, three healthy meals daily, fitness classes,  healthy life classes and events, personal discovery activities, and WiFi.

Walking at Red Mountain Resort
Reflective trail and labyrinth at Red Mountain Resort

It’s About You!

Red Mountains Resort feels like the perfect place to get away from the stressful life we often lead, and escape to a quieter place. Here you can invest in yourself – clear your head, feed your body, and work on your health. Simply watch the reflection of the sunrise and sunset on the rocks, as they magically change from red to orange hues. You will feel the energy around you. Plus, the Southwest temperatures make southern Utah an ideal year round destination to pursue outdoor activities.

It Deserves More Than A Day Trip: Liechtenstein

Liechtenstein is the 6th smallest country in the world, located in the center of the Alps, between Switzerland and Austria. Whenever I mention Liechtenstein to someone, the common reactions I get are – Never heard of it, or I’ve been there on a day trip from Zurich. Honestly, I did not know much about this tiny country either, until I went there and discovered it for myself. I did not want to do a bus tour or a day trip, as that never gives you a broad insight into the country.

Downtown Vaduz in Liechtenstein
Downtown Vaduz

Getting There

I rented a car from Zurich and a little over an hour later arrived in the capital of Vaduz. The drive was mostly through small farms and highway, approaching scenic mountains.

After having spent a couple of weeks in Switzerland, Vaduz didn’t look all that different. It is a Princely state though, and a very rich one too. From the city center you can see the castle perched on a hill. Looking over the capital, this is where the royal family still resides. The Vaduz Castle looks like a 12th-century medieval castle from the outside, but the inside is very opulent, fit for 21st-century kings and queens. I was told the monarch occasionally opens their home to deserving citizens when they have lavish parties.

Romantic dinner at Restaurant Maree, located at Park Hotel Sonnenhof
Romantic dinner at Restaurant Maree, located at Park Hotel Sonnenhof

Where to Stay

You can still get a glimpse of royalty. By booking a suite at the Park Hotel Sonnenhof, you will have a direct view of the castle. A boutique family-run Relais & Chateau hotel, this is the best place to stay in Liechtenstein. Surrounded by vineyards and mountains, the hotel has 29 rooms, a Turkish-inspired spa, a Michelin star restaurant, and a relaxing garden. You will also see pictures of celebrity guests who have stayed here, including heads of states, Sting and Paulo Coelho!

 Symphony of chanterelles, cream of roasted eggplant, dried tomatoes and fresh basil.
Symphony of chanterelles, cream of roasted eggplant, dried tomatoes and fresh basil.

Where to Eat

Make sure to call ahead for dinner reservations (ask for a table on the terrace) at the hotel’s Restaurant Maree. Many people drive from Switzerland, Austria, and Germany (all 20 miles) to celebrate special occasions at what is considered the best restaurant in Liechtenstein. The restaurant has been awarded 1 Michelin star, 2 Toques, and 17 points from Gault Millau. In other words, it’s really good! Chef Hubert (the hotel’s owner’s son) prepared a 6-course wine paired dinner for me, using many local ingredients and the finest European wines. Highlights were chanterelle mushrooms in roasted eggplant dip, codfish with orange risotto, a light, and refreshing raspberry sorbet and elderflower jello dessert, washed down with French Moscato.

The cuisine in Liechtenstein is influenced by its very close neighbors. You will mostly find the same dishes as in the Swiss-German region. There are a few international restaurants in downtown Vaduz as well.

What to Drink

The Princely Winery Hofkellerei owned by the Prince of Liechtenstein is located in Vaduz. You can walk around the small vineyard (their larger one is in Austria) and spend a few hours tasting their wines in the Princely Domaine. There’s also a restaurant and a gift shop that sells wine, champagne, and Princely chocolates.

Things To Do

If you went to Liechtenstein on a tour bus, you would probably be dropped in downtown Vaduz for half a day. It is a really small place with an interesting mix of architecture that doesn’t make it a pretty city. However, you can actually spend a couple of days here exploring. There are many museums that house the royal family’s private collections, stamp collections, as well as rotating art exhibitions. The Adventure Pass gives you access to over 30 museums and attractions around the country for only 30 Swiss Francs.

Trekking guide Berggotta Rosaria Heeb in Sareis, Liechtenstein
Trekking guide Berggotta Rosaria Heeb in Sareis.

For me, the best part of Liechtenstein was its hilly countryside. I drove to the villages of Malbun and Triesenberg. Once there I took a chair lift to Sareis and walked with a local guide. There are many hiking, biking, and mountain climbing trails (download the trails app) where you can see interesting rock formations, wildflowers, and cows with bells walking around pastures. Take a break at one of the dairy farms to taste fresh yogurt, cheese, and ice creams.

You can also hike with a Golden Eagle and his guide. Watch the majestic’s bird’s flying and hunting skills as Norman, the falconer (one of the only ones in the country) talking passionately about his relationship with his bird.

Norman and his Golden Eagle.
Norman and his Golden Eagle.

All the locals I met in Liechtenstein were very friendly and truly loved living there. The 30,000 citizens (citizenship is very difficult to get) feel happy and well taken care of by the government. When I asked them what they loved most about their country, they said many things. Being able to wake up to this beautiful scenery, breathe the clean mountain air, be outdoors and not have to face any traffic!

My Mountain Hermit Training in Japan

Read part 1 On My Way For Yamabushi Training

I survived! I am officially one of the first few non Japanese speakers in the world to have received Yamabushi mountain hermit training. It was a wonderful experience and I feel stronger, accomplished and that I have spiritually grown to another level.

The 5-day program designed by Megurun Inc. is the first of its kind. Yamabushi training has been offered to the Japanese people for hundreds of years. In fact, many people take solitary retreats in the mountains and its popular among older Japanese men to embark on Yamabushi getaways every now and then. But these are generally 3-day programs where large groups of people undergo the training with minimal interaction with the master. They are expected to ‘just experience’ as they push their physical and emotional boundaries.

In my case, there were only 2 people in the program, which was led by Master Tak who is fluent in English and Japanese. He described the process in great detail and guided us through the journey. Tak-San was a business professional who moved to the area to seek solace. After years of practice, he is now a Master Yamabushi and trains others.

On the first day, we stayed at a modest hotel in the city of Shonai, which was crowded with local tourists who had come to worship at the three sacred mountains of Deva. Located in the Yamagata prefecture of northern Japan, the area is known as “hidden Japan” as it is relatively cut off from other cities and not many foreign visitors go there.

This day was intended to disconnect from daily life, prepare for shugo (the training) and embrace Japanese culture.

We spent most of the day at a Zen temple with a Buddhist monk. He showed us their way of life, which included proper posture for sitting on the floor in lotus position, focusing one’s attention to meditate, and sharing their humble lunch. We got to see where the resident monks eat, pray and sleep on tatami mats. We also witnessed a prayer ceremony where the monks played drums, chanted the sutras and blessed us for our journey.

Then we had a calligraphy master, Mayumi Honma, teach us how to write ‘Uketamō’ in Japanese. This phrase is very important as it is the only word we are allowed to speak during Yamabushidō. It means, “I humbly accept with an open heart” and is a readily used response to everything the master instructs us to do (as we would say OK in English).

Calligraphy is an ancient Japanese art of writing, but it is much more than that in the spiritual sense. To do it well, you have to have a lot of focus and a steady hand. You have to be silent and be in the moment. Using a brush and ink, there is no way to go back and erase mistakes. You have to start all over.

For dinner, we went to a farm-to-table family-run restaurant where we tasted local specialities, including dadachamame (indigenous edamame) grown only in this area.

The next morning we transferred our bags to Daishobo, a pilgrimage lodge at the base of Mount Gassan. At one time, there were almost 300 pilgrimage lodges in the area, but now the number is reduce to less than 30. The lodges were family-run not-for-profit businesses, but the new generations don’t want the upkeep.

Daishobo is also home to Master Hashino, a 13th generation Yamabushi, who designed my program. He is in his 70’s now and worked in civil services professionally, and has been a Yamabushi for over 40 years. He still climbs mountains on a regular basis!

The lodge was basic – 2 floors with open rooms that can accommodate up to 35 people. The women stayed upstairs and the men downstairs. Meals, chanting, meditation and orientation were also held downstairs. Basically, not much privacy which is how Japanese people traditionally travel. You just find a spot on the floor to put your bedding down and sleep there.

There were male and female toilets outside the main house. We weren’t allowed to take showers during the program.

During this time, we had an impeding typhoon headed towards Shonai. Typhoons can bring a lot of rain and strong winds (similar to tornadoes). Being an unseasoned hiker, I was already nervous about the steep hikes we were going to do and started feeling more anxious. Tak-San remained calm and said he was closely monitoring the weather. We would still hike in the rain, but will change our route if we were in the eye of the typhoon. At that time, I reconsidered what I had signed up for.

Click here to read what happened next…

On My Way For Yamabushi Training

Here I am, headed to Japan for a 5-day Yamabushi Training program! Until a few weeks ago, I did not even know what Yamabushi was about. But an email that landed in my inbox convinced me to go check it out.

Yamabushi are Japanese mountain ascetic hermits who, according to a traditional Japanese mysticism, are believed to be endowed with supernatural powers. They have also served as sendatsu, or spiritual mountain guides, since medieval times for pilgrims. In other words, they are like Native Americans. They often live in the forest, hike for days, eat what they can find, all to connect with nature. Their practice, known as Shugendō, evolved during the 7th century from an amalgamation of beliefs, philosophies, doctrines and ritual systems drawn from local folk-religious practices, pre-Buddhist mountain worship, Shinto, Taoism and esoteric Buddhism.

The practice is no longer limited to hermits. Many Japanese people are taking a break from their busy city lives to go to the countryside and connect with nature. Therefore, Yamabushi training programs for Japanese people has become quite popular. But very few, if any, training programs are offered to non-Japanese visitors. I will be one of the first foreign visitors to experience a 5-day program under the guidance of a 13th generation Yamabushi master. Yamabushido is based in the sacred mountains of Dewa Senzan in Yamagata prefecture, an hour flight north of Tokyo.

I Skyped with Tak (Takeharu Kato) and Kanae Soma (owner of Megurun Inc.) in Japan, to better understand what I was signing up for. “We realized that many people have tried meditation and other mindfulness practices in their lives, but also realized that Yamabushi practices offer something different, something more powerful, and something which – although it has been practiced for 1,300 years has never been more relevant. Yamabushi training is the simple philosophy of placing yourself in nature and feeling, not thinking, to rejuvenate back to your true self. Yamabushi training is quick, practical, and effective, and provides a powerful context in which to resolve any challenges, questions, or decisions that need to be made. It has been used for centuries to provide space for consideration of the challenges of the modern-day person, an important role in the current age where people are becoming busier and busier and are looking for the chance to revitalize.”

Sounds great doesn’t it? I am totally in for a spiritual retreat that involves connecting with my true self, but wait, there’s more…

Soon after, I received a list of guidelines and checklist to prepare for arrival. In it was a fair warning. “Yamabushi undertake training in harsh alpine conditions including hiking through bush, over streams and waterfalls, up rocks, ladders and stone steps, which can include walking more than 10km for the basic course, or 15km for the extended course per day. In addition, your Yamabushidō experience will likely include hiking during the nighttime, meditating under ice cold waterfalls, jumping over fire, and being enclosed in a smoky room.”

Ok now I am not so sure!  I am fine with meditation, but am I ready to hike all day and night, and jump into an icy waterfall? Well, physically I am not so sure if my body that hasn’t stepped into a gym in years, could possibly handle it.

Other guidelines include not washing your face, brushing your teeth, or shaving, not drinking excessive amounts of alcohol, and making sure to get as much sleep as possible before arriving. The last one may be tough as I make my 24-hour journey from Atlanta to Tsuruoka, and catch up with the 13 hour time difference.

The release form also came with bunch of warnings, most sentences ending in the word “death.” Yikes!

Well, I am on my way, packed with a suitcase full of white clothes (required), hiking boots and my backpack. It will be interesting to see how my mind and body are able to handle the demands of the program and what wisdom I gain from it.

For the next few days, I will be following the three basic rules of Yamabushidō:

Number one: no talking.

Number two: no questions.

Number three: uketamō! Meaning ‘I humbly accept with an open heart.’

On that note, I am keeping an open mind about what’s to come. To be continued…

A Luxurious Treehouse To Stay At This Summer

Looking for a fun way to spend a weekend or special holidays? Check out the newest trend in glamping – modern, high tech and sustainable treehouses. The Dove Men+Care Elements 360-square-foot treehouse includes a private bath, climate control, high-speed Wi-Fi and a stocked refrigerator. It truly is a “spa in the sky.”

What’s The Inspiration?

The Elements Treehouse is located at the base of Lookout Mountain near downtown Chattanooga, TN. With its inspiration by Dove’s Elements product range, it stands out for its state-of-the-art bathroom constructed of natural elements and sweeping forest views.

The treehouse is the second house for rent at a treehouse resort – Treetop Hideaways in Flintstone, GA, which local entrepreneurs Andrew Alms and Enoch Elwell founded. Treetop Hideaways was an idea to allow childhood memories to flourish. Moreover, families can experience sustainable living close to the city.

Elements Treehouse
A luxurious treehouse that’s perfect for any occasion.

What To Expect?

Pete Nelson, a world-renowned treehouse architect, host of Treehouse Masters and owner of Nelson Treehouse and Supply, designed the Dove Men+Care Elements Treehouse. In addition, it features modern architectural designs surrounded by nature and utilizes the most efficient and sustainable systems.

In the treehouse, a wooden staircase leads you to the living sage wall entryway and Japanese Shou Sugi Ban-style charcoal wood. Will Taylor, founder of Bright Bazaar, interior designed the treehouse. It is done in a nature-inspired style, with sage bedding, charcoal-etched wall art, and sandalwood accents. Also, green, white and grey Earth tones create a rustic yet contemporary ambiance for the treehouse. This is matched with some great wall lights that give the treehouse the light it needs without having too much shining down on you. It allows you to feel calm without giving the room a dim feel. In fact, if you’re coming to stay here and you fall in love with the ambience, how about wall lights from Pagazzi? This website, alongside many others, shows a selection of wall lights similar to those in the treehouse.

What To Do

First, sip on local MayFly coffee while lounging on the private deck. To relax, feel the cool morning mist, listen to the sounds of birds chirping and the flowing stream on property.

Treehouse View
Enjoy the canopy views from your private deck.

Then, connect to Alexa to play your favorite music as you nap in the Tuft and Needle queen mattress. If you want to sightsee while lounging, climb to the two-bed loft to see the tree canopy through the skylights. There is something romantic about staring at the scenery through a skylight that makes you feel so relaxed and at home. If you’re inspired by the sights and want to take a piece of the treehouse with you, make sure to look for a skylights dealer near you, so you can always have that vacation feeling – but in your own home! It really does make the treehouse something special, along with the other features within the vacation spot. In addition to the aroma of sage, enter a cozy sitting area with furniture made of reclaimed wood. If you want to know more about how reclaimed wood gives a rustic look and the whole process behind it, go through blog pages of firms like Manomin Resawn Timbers.

Treehouse Room
Comfortable bedding, AC and modern comforts in your treehouse.

To further relax, freshen up in the spa-inspired Elements bathroom, which is the focal point of the treehouse. Features include charcoal wood paneling, clay sink, heated floors, temperature-controlled 5-head shower, linen robes, Dove Men+Care Elements toiletries, and a glass-enclosed tree in the bathroom with skylight and see-through flooring. Here you can feel like you are showering in the forest, yet have your preferred water heat set on the digital keypad.

This treehouse has every luxurious amenity you can think of.

If you want to soak in the great outdoors, grab a cold beer from the refrigerator and get some steaks or hot dogs started on the outdoor grill. The fireplace is perfect for roasting marshmallows under the stars, enjoying nature and reminiscing about good old campfires.

Warm up by a cozy fireplace in the middle of the forest.

What To Know

Voted ‘Best Town in America’ by the readers of Outside magazine, Chattanooga is quickly becoming a top travel destination in the USA. With surrounding forests, Treetop Hideways is located within minutes of world-class climbing, mountain biking, trail running, caving, and more. Nearby attractions include Ruby Falls, Rock City Gardens, Tennessee Aquarium, Cloudland Canyon State Park and North Chickamauga Gorge.

If you’re looking for a getaway, the Dove Men+Care Elements Treehouse is the perfect family friendly retreat to spend summer holidays in nature and comfort.

9 Places to Visit in Lebanon

Lebanon is a beautiful country in the Middle East, bursting with history, great food, and great culture.  It being a classic traveler’s destination, how can you decide where to go and what to see?  Since planning a trip can be quite the task, Go Eat Give has named the nine must see cities in Lebanon for your touring pleasure:

1. Beirut

This capital city of Lebanon is nicknamed “The Paris of the Middle East,” and is bustling with things to do. Along with great shopping and beautiful scenery, Beirut has a rich cultural history to explore. There are many museums and sacred religious sites there, such as the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of Saint George, the National Museum of Beirut, and the Mohammad Al-Amin Mosque.

Beirut

2. Baalbek

Baalbek is located on the western end of Lebanon and is home to some of the most well preserved Roman ruins known to mankind.   The city dates back over 9,000 years and was previously known by the name of “Heliopolis,” or The City of the Sun, during the period of the Roman rule. Jupiter, Venus, and Bacchus are all believed to have been worshipped at the Baalbek temples.

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3. Jeita Grotto

Located in the center of the Nahr al-Kalb valley in Jeita, Lebanon, the Jeita Grotto is an amazing sight. The interconnected limestone caves, which can only be accessed by boat, span around nine kilometers in length. To make the grotto even more intriguing—it was a finalist to become one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

Lebanese journalists and photographers tour the Jeita Grotto by boat during a media day to campaign for the selection of the Jeitta Grotto as one of the seven natural wonders of the world

4. Sidon

This is a Lebanese town that is filled with old history and remarkable sight seeing.   Located on the western coast of the country, it was one of the most important Phonecian cities and is now known as an active fishing town. Sidon is home to the largest Lebanese flag and also the Old Souk, a famous marketplace.

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5. Tyre

Tyre is another city in Lebanon that contains very interesting ruins and historic sites. One main attraction here is the Roman Hippodrome—an ancient stadium for chariot and horse racing! The Tyre Coast Nature Reserve is also the largest sandy beach in the country.

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6. Beit ed-Dine

Beit ed-Dine is a town famous for its’ magnificent Beiteddine Palace (shown below). This one-of-a-kind palace was built in 1788 and hosts the annual Beiteddine Festival and Beiteddine Palace Museum. Interestingly enough, after Lebanon’s independence in 1943 the palace was officially renamed the “People’s Palace” since it had been created by the people’s hard work and will.

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7. Faraya

Lebanon is known for it’s interesting climate, and this town is the perfect example why. Above this village lies the Mzaar Resort, which is a ski resort. The resort is only about 20 miles away from Beirut, meaning you could experience warm weather and winter all in the same day!

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8. The Cedars of God

Cedar trees are sacred and known to have covered Mount Lebanon in the past, but The Cedars of God is one of the last forests left in the country. This was caused by persistent deforestation by Lebanon’s ancestors, such as for shipbuilding and construction. The snowy area has great hiking and beautiful views.

Screen Shot 2015-02-22 at 11.28.24 PM9. Deir el-Qamar

The name of this Lebanese village can be translated from Arabic into the “Monastery of the Moon.” It’s home to many important religious sites such as Saydet El Talle and the Mount of the Cross. This village is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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Into the Wild: The Yogi’ Who Ventured Into the Outdoors

There exist several well-documented examples demonstrating that one week of camping sans electronics, not only resets our biological body clock but also synchronizes Melatonin (a hormone) production with sunrise and sunset.

Armed with the knowledge of these studies, ventured into the outdoors, and into the very lap of nature. Though I am an avid Yoga enthusiast, the decision overall was prompted by a very dear friend of mine, Andrea, coupled with my own notions of the universe, and its role in life was compelling enough for me to take up this challenge of a camping trip. So, we found the best value camping gear, packed everything up, and started on ur new adventure.

A Tent from when the Yogis Ventured into the Outdoors
Setting Up Camp on the Venture Outdoors

Venturing Into the Outdoors

We decided to camp at The Desoto Falls located off Highway 129. The drive itself urged me to readily surrender to the bounty of nature and the wilderness which nourished my soul. I believe that camping is a silent form of adventure, which brings clarity to mind as well as allows the soul to soak in the positivity around. For me, it is a stress buster, wherein I can be myself while enjoying my surroundings without worrying about everyday mundane tasks.

Divya Sarin and friend on the Yoga Camping Trip
Divya Sarin and friend on the Yoga Camping Trip

Setting Up Camp

When it comes to planning a camping trip, a lot does go into it, especially with all the equipment you’re going to need. With that being said, if you have the basics like a sleeping bag, a tent, and cooking utensils, that’s a great start. Some people who are camping for a long time like to ensure they take a power station, perhaps supplied by jackery dealers or other generator dealers, to power their appliances. While camping is fun, it isn’t so fun being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no phone. While we briefly mentioned tents, if you’re not someone who likes to spend time putting each pole together and attempting to build a tent, it may be worth checking out something like this Top 10 Best Instant Tents (1 To 8 Person Pop-up & Quick Setup) guide. This may help you make your decision about finding a new tent a lot less stressful.

Luckily, we drove up with a trailer so we could take quite a lot of stuff with us. I don’t think we would have fit all of our stuff in the back of an ordinary car! A friend of ours recommended looking at campingfunzone.com so that we would know all of the trailer components. It was useful to know about the axles and storage, just in case we need to sleep in it. Deciding the campsite, setting up the tents, arranging food, and starting the campfire, requires immense strength. Yet, despite the strenuous tasks, our bodies oozed energy like never before and our quest for adventure grew by leaps and bounds. When at last, we did start to feel at home, we spent time making smores and talked our hearts, not mention that some of us were also strangers for one another.

Building and Rebuilding

By the time, the day lapsed into the night we had cemented that awkward relationship into a budding new friendship – our hearts were lighter, the summer became cooler and our energies were higher. We had the best sleep in years with just the sounds of crickets and the nearby creek as lullabies. To further quench our thirst for adventure we started our second day with yoga, in the company of trees by the creek and followed up with a staggering 4.8 miles hike from Neel Gap to Blood mountain along the Appalachian Trail.

It rained while we hiked, which was soothing, and the majestic view from the top raised our spirits to an unknown level of ecstasy and elation. The trip concluded three days later with quality time spent with friends and most importantly nature. Our zeal for adventure has reached a pinnacle, not to mention our inquisitiveness to know more about nature. I now know that mountains are my calling, for I have left a piece of my heart there.

Yogis doing yoga at camp in the wild
Yoga While in Nature

A Continuing Tradition

Every year, Andrea and I, take the interested yogis amidst nature to make them disconnect from the daily routine. Camping once in a year helps in relaxing the mind. It sets the natural alarm clock for the body, helps with mood swings, and also engaging with nature by turning off the mobile phones/laptops lowers the stress levels and is believed to be equivalent to meditation.

I urge each one, my reader, to venture into the outdoors, go camping, and hiking, at least once in life and I promise you will not be able to stop yourself from doing it again. Let loose and for a change, party with nature. Smell the moist earth and take home the fragrance you would love to wear.

~ By Divya Sarin, a yoga enthusiast who can’t sit idle, and wants to create some magic in each person’s life.

Budget-Friendly Romantic Vacation to Amicalola Falls, GA

Traveling to far off places to experience fun, happiness and peace is a passé.We don’t have to rush through life to book that ticket for Europe or to save money for a luxurious trip to the oceans. Lately, I have realized that all we need to do is to open our eyes wide, sit back and relax; we are not in a race to visit the world first. If we try to look around, we will find so many places in and around the city we dwell in, which are still unexplored and are exceptionally beautiful.

countryside Amicalola
Beautiful Green Countryside in Amicalola, GA

Amicalola Falls State Park

Amicalola Falls State Park is one such place. My husband and I have always thought of visiting different countries to experience the newness of traveling but driving through the countryside to a nearby water-fall is also an equally overwhelming experience. The journey to a destination sometimes is more beautiful than the destination itself. Located in the heart of Chattahoochee National Forest, Amicalola Falls are the perfect weekend gateway for those looking for an escape from the daily hustle-bustle.

romance in amicalola
A perfect weekend getaway for you and your loved one

We did a day trip and hiked the 720-foot tall falls. The trees became our shelter, and the ground was the dining table, every moment spent there made me realize that we don’t need to travel miles to feel the beauty and magic of nature, the gateway like these, the moments spent singing songs under the trees, walking the trails and drinking the mineral rich water straight from the rocks make the journey called life more beautiful.

Soak in the Nature Around You

A perfect weekend into the lap of mother nature. Eat under the trees, play guitar, sing songs, or camp. Anyone can hike the famous Appalachian Trail. This place is a refreshing change for those who like to get lost in the striking beauty of the mountains. For those who want more comfort, there are cabins and full-service hotel rooms available around the state park. While returning, back don’t forget to make a halt at the North Georgia Premium Outlet Mall for some shopping from the best of the brands.

Life is beautiful and once in a while romancing with the nature add tons to its beauty.

Amicalola
You’ll have to make a trip to truly be in wonder of the view

~ By Divya Sarin, a yoga enthusiast who can’t sit idle, and wants to create some magic in each person’s life.  Follow her on divyasa11.blogspot.com

Book your stay at the Amicalola Falls Lodge now with TripAdvisor!

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A Day Trip to Muir Woods

Located 45 minutes north of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge is a place where you can find trees older than the USA itself. It’s called Muir Woods and it happens to be the home of thousands of ancient Red Wood trees. Not only is Muir Woods a national park, it is also a great hike for any outdoor enthusiast.

San Francisco Bridge

Hiking Trails Suited for Everyone

The hiking trails are good for beginners to advanced hikers. They can take from 2 hours to a full day to complete. There are a few campsites on the property if your inner boy scout needs a nature fix. If you have the time and can handle the terrain, the hike up to the hidden beer garden is absolutely the best thing you could do with your day.

Muri Woods Trail

The full-day hike will take you through a variety of landscapes from the glorious redwoods to fields of wildflowers. There are small creeks sprinkled through the trails. As you ascend, you are rewarded with extraordinary views of the surrounding mountains.

Hiking at Muir Woods

Sights to See Along the Way

The beer garden or Nature Friends Tourist House is a nice break from the hike. Isolated on the side of a mountain is a hidden cabin. Anyone can drive there, but the hike is much more enjoyable. As you sit among the other travelers playing popular 90’s board games and consuming beer on picnic blankets you will feel a bit of nostalgic euphoria.

Overlooking the Canopy

If you have time in San Francisco, all travelers alike should visit Muir Woods. The welcome center has a variety of educational information and activities for all ages. If you enjoy adventure, the hiking is beautiful and the smell of evergreen with a shady canopy brings you into a state of instant serenity.

~ By Joy Hmielewski. Joy is an ex-office worker with a love for adventure. A few years ago she picked up a camera and learned everything she could. She never wanted to spend her days in a cubical so she started a photography business and traveled anywhere she could go for cheap. She now travels extensively with a backpack and a small budget. Follow Joy on Facebook, Twitter@JoyDoesStuff and Instagram: @JoyDoesStuff

South Lake Tahoe Vacation Guide

South Lake Tahoe is the largest city along Lake Tahoe. With skiing, boating, biking, blackjack, ice skating, swimming, shopping and bar hopping, South Lake Tahoe is a bustling town that offers something for all ages. Continue reading “South Lake Tahoe Vacation Guide”