One of our brand new guides this year is a guy by the name of Corey Meyer or Cowboy Corey as he’s come to be called. Corey may be new to Austin-Lehman, but he’s not new to the guiding business! If you’re lucky enough to sit down and have a chat with Corey on our Yellowstone or South Dakota Adventures, you’ll hear stories of life on a ranch, his experience guiding zip line tours, or just about his explorations in and around the state of Montana. From ski instructor to bike racer, Corey is no stranger to adventure! With a big smile and a twinkle in his eye, Corey is a likeable guy right from the start. Go ahead and check out his guide profile and meet all of our other guides too! All friendly, adventure-loving professionals, you will have friends for life after taking a trip with ALA!
See you on the trails!
Now that I’ve had a few weeks to reflect on my recent trip to Peru on ALA’s Salkantay: Lodge to Lodge Adventure, I wanted to sit down and share a few of my favorite memories of this amazing place. Beginning and ending in the town of Cusco, I should probably start here…
Cusco is a town perched at about 11,000 feet in elevation, known as the starting point of many Machu Picchu treks as it’s easy to get to (a one hour flight from the major city of Lima) and the perfect city to adjust to the elevation of the Andes. The people here are welcoming, the kids are adorable (I definitely spent a few too many soles on Peruvian finger puppets), and the markets are bustling (make sure to check out the San Pedro Market for food and crafts). The Plaza de Armas, the main square, is beautiful and there’s always something going on here; in two days we saw a graduation, a parade, and a worker’s strike. Our guide even took us across town to visit a graveyard, which blew me away!! (Note: This graveyard was much different than a U.S. graveyard – instead of graves, there were endless rows of glass cases, personalized by families in memory of the deceased).
As for food, I couldn’t believe the variety and tastiness of the cuisine offered in Peru! As a recommendation of a few restaurants, make sure to check out Limo, Inka Grill, Incanto, and Cicciolina’s (among many others). These restaurants cater to foreigners and I felt completely safe eating the food. I ate everything from trout to cuy (guinea pig) and all tasted delicious. Of course with every meal, you have to try the different flavors of Pisco Sours, although the original kind is pretty yummy. (Did you know that every hotel in Peru is required to offer you a complimentary welcome drink such as a Pisco Sour? What service!) For just stopping in for a drink, I recommend checking out Fallen Angel, a wacky, fun Peruvian restaurant.
When in Cusco, you absolutely can’t miss the Saqsaywaman Ruins overlooking the city and the valleys beyond. Here you see some of the best examples in the world of the mortarless Inca stonework, and you just start skimming the surface of the mysteries behind the Inca civilation. You also touch on Spanish colonization of the area, as the Spanish influence is everywhere to be seen throughout the city, and the Ruins did not escape the wrath of the Spaniards’ takeover. Overall, this was my favorite tour in/around the city because the stonework and Ruins themselves are amazing, but you also can’t help but be awestruck by the view in the distance as well.
I could go on and on about just the city of Cusco, but I wouldn’t want to give away any surprises for when you experience this magnificent place yourself. My only advice is: even if your main goal is to see the Lost City of Machu Picchu, give yourself a few extra days before you head over, not just to acclimate, but to also take in the beauty and history of the Cusco area – you won’t regret it!
Viva El Peru!
Do you ever have one of those days when you look out the window, taking a break from your computer, only to let your mind wander off to some faraway place? Well, that just happened to me (shh, don’t tell the boss!), and I traveled back to the Mosel River Valley of Germany, one of the most beautiful destinations on the planet!
The main memory that floated into my mind when drifting back to my Mosel Valley trip were the long stretches of flat bike paths connecting quaint German towns interspersed along the calmly flowing Mosel River. (Did I mention that the wind was at my back the whole way too?!) I picture myself lazily pedaling along miles of paths amongst endless, terraced grape vine plots, stopping in each town along the way to snack on Pommes Frites (French fries) with mayo (a very popular appetizer in Germany) and taking a few photographs of the locals and unique architecture.
But oh, there is so much more for the biker buff out there, who wants just a little more than the flat valley floor. Remember when I mentioned “terraced” hills? Your guides provide you with any number of extensions each day that include heart-pumping hill action, breathtaking vistas extending as far as the eye can see, and winding down hills taking you back to the main Mosel River paths. If you want variety in the slope of your bike path, Germany is the ultimate European Vacation!
To sum it all up, Germany to me is the absolute perfect biking destination for not only adults but families too! There is complete variety in the grade of the bike paths and road extensions so you can choose the difficulty of your vacation. Germany bike tours are an Austin-Lehman specialty and when you take me up on my suggestion of cycling around this beautiful European country, don’t forget to take in the beauty of the river valley, sip the variety of German wines, and eat a few Pommes Frites for me!
See you on your next adventure!
Imagine yourself in a field strewn with colorful wildflowers, waterfalls cascading around every bend & towering snow-capped peaks standing in stark contrast to the blue bird sky. You could be standing amongst many places in the world but this particular beaut is Hohe Tauern National Park on our Austria biking vacation.
Now if you’re anything like me, you’ve attempted the ultimate national park vacation, only to confront endless traffic jams, crowds of pushy people at Park attractions, and problems making it anywhere on time. If anything, your”vacation” seems more like work, and when the last day arrives, you can’t imagine anywhere you’d rather be than home!
Whoa! If you’ve been here before it might be time to try something different, something less stressful, a vacation where you can actually relax and enjoy the ride. Now think back to Hohe Tauern National Park, where you’re riding your bicycle down a twisting and turning path, taking your time to “stop and smell the roses.” You don’t have to deal with traffic, the people are few and far between, and thinking about the logistics of your vacation is anywhere but on your mind. After all is said and done, your vacation should be all about you having an amazing time! At ALA, we want you saying, “Wow, the toughest part is going home!”
See you on the trails,
Carol Austin and I are on our way to our Peru: Salkantay Lodge to Lodge Adventure. Since we started our journey in Cusco at 11,000 feet, I wanted to share some tips with you on adjusting to altitude on your next hiking vacations.
1. Try to get into your high altitude destination a few days early. This will give your body a few days to rest without the intense activity to come. Just take it easy - rest in your room or take a short, slow walk around town. Don't overdo it in your first few days, this is afterall the start of your vacation!
2. Drink A LOT of water. Sip on water constantly throughout the day. Dehydration is not fun at high altitude and constant water drinking is the perfect solution to hydration. A slight headache, chapped lips, and irritability are all signs of dehydration - drink up!
3. Eat light meals for your first day or two. Overeating can cause you to not sleep well at night. Since your body is adjusting to the altitude, it's having to work overtime to digest your meals. Give your body a break by eating a light lunch and a light dinner upon your first day of arrival. Chances are you won't be that hungry anyway.
4. Keep the alcohol consumption very light if not at all. You've probably heard that drinking alcohol affects you differently at higher elevations - well, you're right. You will feel the effects much quicker high up, and when your body is already working overtime to adjust, adding alcohol to the mix can make for a bad combination. Yes, a welcome drink at your hotel is okay, but leave it at that for your first few days!
5. Bring your sunscreen. You're closer to the sun up here! Even if it doesn't feel warm outside, slather up! If that sun is shining, chances are your skin is going to attract the rays. (Even if it's cloudy, still put that sunscreen on just in case). If you've ever experienced a sunburn on your first day of vacation, you won't thin twice about this point!
This is just a quick summary of tips of adjusting to high altitude - all of the above helped Carol and I adjust to the high elevation in the magnificent town of Cusco. Now get out there and explore!
See you on your next adventure,
In less than two weeks, I will be embarking on the journey of a lifetime – hiking into Machu Picchu “the back way” via the Salkantay Trail with family and friends. This is a trip that has been in the workings for an entire year! I’ve been counting down the days until May 16th just like a little kid counting down to her birthday. The date of departure for my Peru: Salkantay Lodge to Lodge trip is just on the horizon, and this much longed for adventure is getting gloriously within reach…
I tried to figure out exactly which part of the trip I’m most excited about, but I just couldn’t do it. When it comes down to it and I read over my daily itinerary (again and again), I find each part of this trip equally as thrilling. Hiking to a high-altitude glacial lake, crossing a 15,000 foot pass, and visiting an organic coffee farm are just a few of the highlights that I’ll experience in a few week’s time. I guess if I had to pick one experience to look forward to the most, it would be seeing a distant southwesterly view of Machu Picchu from Llactapata Pass, a view that most people never see. I have no doubt that the whole trek will be absolutely magnificent!
Secondly, I’m excited to spend time with some special family and friends. Any of Austin-Lehman’s trips can be created as a custom or exclusive adventure for you and the people who mean the most. Seeing the world with close companions make hiking vacations all the better and something for you and yours to cherish long after the adventure has come and gone. As for me, I’ve rounded up a motley crew of my mother, college roommate and her parents, and a fellow guide who works at ALA – talk about an interesting group! We may all be quite different in our daily lives, but we all share one thing in common – a passion for travel and adventure!
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I’m just a little bit excited for my upcoming trip to Peru. The point of this whole blog is to get you excited about adventure and to put the idea in the back of your head that rounding up a few of your buddies may seem like a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the long run.
See you on your next adventure,
If you’ve never experienced the breathtaking beauty of the Havasu Canyon, you need to put this awe-inspiring place on your “to-go” list asap! The colors will astound you: the reds, oranges, and yellows of the surrounding canyon (Havasu is an offshoot of the famous Grand Canyon), the unreal blue-green waters of Havasu Creek, and the popping green of the cottonwoods in the base camp combine to form a spectacular vacation destination for you and your family! I wanted to share a few of my favorite memories of this trip to inspire you to take an adventure vacation with ALA!
One of my favorite memories of my Havasupai Vacation that I took with my mom on a college Spring break was stepping, sliding, and climbing down the travertine cliffs near Mooney Falls using chain railings and stanchions sunk in the jagged rock. Talk about excitement: seeing this 196 foot waterfall from above, midway, and below, all while carefully making our way down steps carved into the rock through caves and around rock faces, is an awesome experience I will never forget!
Another memory I will always remember is when our guide, Stephan swam with me and a few other brave souls behind Havasu Falls. Swimming under that pounding 100 foot waterfall had my adrenaline running on high, but we soon made it under the roaring falls (it doesn’t sound that loud until you’re actually in the falls!) From there, we looked up to find a ladder that climbs to a low lying niche behind the falls. From this niche, we were able to jump through the falls, emerging mid-air for a brief second before disappearing into the deep blue-green waters below. What a rush!
Of course, there are many ways to enjoy this beautiful canyon, and if you’re looking for hiking vacations (with some camping and swimming involved), this is the place for you! I don’t want to give anymore away (I could truly continue to relive the memories) because you need to experience this wonder for yourself. Hope to make more memories soon on a Havasupai Adventure!
See you on the trails!
One of my favorite memories of Grand Teton National Park has to do with a certain bear called Grizzly 399. Last summer, this momma bear gave birth to three quite adorable, playful cubs. Guiding our Yellowstone-Tetons Adventure all last season gave me the delightful opportunity to watch these “teddy bears” grow up over the course of a summer. But what really got me thinking was, what would have happened if Grand Teton National Park never came to be?
The creation of Grand Teton National Park contains a history of corruption, secrecy, and a few smart moves on behalf of John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and President Franklin Roosevelt. When Rockefeller, Jr. visited the the area that was to become the Park in 1926, what he saw angered and upset him: roadside tourist camps, bill boards, hot dog stands, and signs proclaiming Jackson Hole as “The Home of the Hollywood Cowboy.” Rockefeller, Jr. quickly started to buy up all of the surrounding land (he was after all the son of the founder of the Standard Oil Company) and just as quickly donated it the Park Service.
To cover his tracks, Rockefeller, Jr. formed the Snake River Land Company; if ranchers had known that Rockefeller, Jr. was buying their land, they might not have sold or would have jacked up the price (this was during the start of the Depression, when people were looking to sell). In 1929, the Teton Mountain Range itself was set aside as Grand Teton National Park (it did afterall stand little chance of development at the time). Soon after, Rockefeller, Jr. went public with his plans, enraging the ranching community. Due to local oppostion, Congress refused to accept Rockefeller Jr.’s gift of land for over a decade.
By 1943, President Roosevelt had had enough. He gladly accepted Rockefeller Jr.’s gift of land, combined it with 130,000 acres of Forest Service land and declared the area “Jackson Hole National Monument.” After much oppostion from the public, compromises were reached, and the current Grand Teton National Park made its debut in 1950.
Thinking about all of the opposition against the idea of the Park and the risks that Rockefeller, Jr. and Roosevelt (amongst a few others) took, I think about how lucky we are to experience cycling tours or rafting adventures beneath the shadow of the Tetons or the fortune we’ve come across in seeing such a breath-taking area saved from the development of a city (as it could have very well turned out that way!) Most of all, I think about the wildlife, like Grizzly 399 and her 3 cubs, and how without this land and the rules set in place to protect it, life would not exist. Every time I visit Grand Teton National Park, my favorite place on the planet, I spend a minute remembering how special this place is and what it could have become, and I take pride in knowing that future generations will see what I’ve been fortunate enough to see in this protected, powerful place.
See you on your next adventure,
Kasey here, Field Operations Liaison/Guide for Austin-Lehman Adventures. As a guide of our new South Dakota Adventure last year, I am so stoked about this trip that I’m coming at you today with my top 5 reasons to pack your bags and head on over to the Black Hills with ALA! And we’re off…
1. The Mickelson Trail – Ahhh, Isolation…
If you’ve ever wanted to ride alone on a beautiful bicycle trail, then check our South Dakota cycling tours! We spend a few hours here and there throughout this six day adventure biking the 109 mile Mickelson Trail. This crushed limestone and gravel trail travels up and down through towering ponderosa pine forests and traverses private farmland full of haystacks and cows. And the best part – there’s a good chance that you won’t see another biker on this deserted trail!
2. The Towns – A Look Back in Time
South Dakota is full of those towns that you’ve heard of but have never been to. You’ll witness the vivacity of Deadwood, a lively little town in the midst of the Black Hills National Forest, famous for its historic characters like Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane. Sturgis, a normally sleepy town for most of the year, transforms into a rough and tumble motorcycle rally each August where people travel from around the world to partake in some motorcycle madness!These are just a few of the towns you’ll explore, by foot and by bike, that are vibrant with stories of the past.
3. Custer State Park – Wild Burros!!
Custer State Park, South Dakota’s largest and first state park, is home to a wide array of wildlife from its famous herd of 1500 free-roaming bison to pronghorn antelope and bighorn sheep. You’ll even get to meet the friendly wild burros who roam freely in the southern section of the Park, walking straight up to your van or bike to grunt a hello.(Hint: you may want to be carrying a granola bar or two on you!)
4. Wind Cave – Damp, Dark, & Dank…NOT!
The United States’ first cave to be designated as a national park was Wind Cave, established in 1903 by President Theodore Roosevelt. On our tour with our National Park Service guide, you’ll learn the fascinating (and somewhat funny) story of how this cave came to be our nation’s seventh national park. If you’re looking for a creepy damp cave, stalactites hanging from the ceiling, and bats flapping around, this is not the cave for you. Wind Cave is quite the opposite, and you’re guaranteed to see the intricate boxwork formation that this cave is known for, up close!
5. Mount Rushmore/Crazy Horse Memorial – A Must See
Last, but certainly not least, you need to make the trek up to South Dakota to witness the majesty of what the locals call “The Heads” (more commonly known as Mount Rushmore). Sculpted by Gutzon Borglum and his son, Lincoln, this memorial is a must-see for every person, not only as a tribute to our American presidents but as a magnificent work of art on a large scale. Equally as awe-inspiring (but not as well known) is the nearby Crazy Horse Memorial, a commemoration to the famous Native American leader and a response to Mount Rushmore. Discover both on our South Dakota Adventure Vacation Packages!
See you on the trails,
Jack chuckles as he recalls his last vacation with Linda. As a newly dating couple, their first weeklong getaway included a map with too few details, lost hotel reservations, and forgotten picnic lunches on several occasions. Linda even had a run in with a beehive and guess who forgot to bring the first aid kit?! Jack appreciates the memories now but remembers the stresses of the critical moments on what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation. Does this sound in any way familiar? Are you ready to plan the perfect getaway for you and your honey? Well, read onto discover some helpful hints on planning, preparing and playing on your next couples adventure!
1. Where Should We Go? What’s on your bucket list? What’s on your partner’s bucket list? Is there anywhere that you’veboth always wanted to visit? Write down your top 10 places you want to vacation and compareit with your significant other’s. Do your lists overlap? Can you meet somewhere in the middle?Choosing your destination is the beginning of an exciting process for creating the perfectvacation. What better way to bring you together as a couple than planning for an adventure inyour future? Whether you’re brand new to this or you’re a seasoned veteran to the planningprocess, choosing the perfect vacation can be a memorable experience.
2. Biking, Lounging or Both? Now you need to figure out what kinds of activities you both like to do. Do you enjoy cycling onyour weekends or would you both rather lounge on the beach with a good book? Maybe you liketo go the extra mile while she would rather pamper herself in the spa. Whatever activities youlike to do, there is a tour operator out there for you, waiting to fulfill your requests. Many touroperators create flexible schedules so that you and your significant other can choose the rightamount of activity for you in a stress-free environment. And we all know that the perfect couplesvacation includes the least amount of stress!
3. Been There Done That. Maybe you’ve already hiked through the Grand Canyon together or rafted the Pacuare River in Costa Rica. But have you ever biked in France along the banks of the calm Loire River? Can yousay that you’ve snowshoed through drifting white snowbanks while watching Old Faithful eruptagainst a frosty sky? Would you ever hike the Inca Trail to be rewarded with the stunning viewof Machu Picchu from the Sun Gate? Trying a new activity as a couple in a new destination canbe a rewarding experience for the both of you as you travel outside your comfort zone. The thrillof ziplining through a rainforest canopy will not soon be forgotten if you take a go at it together..
4. How Many is Too Many? Do you want to vacation with just you and your honey? Or would you rather join a group oflikeminded individuals with the same goals in travel as you? This is a question to ponder withyour significant other. Independent travel as a couple can be a romantic way to enjoy your one-on-one time together. Group travel is also a fun way to meet other couples and discover newexperiences. Whichever way you decide to go, you still get to spend quality time together andthat’s what really matters!
5. Time and Dinero- This is the fun part! What does your future time frame look like? Does she only get two weeksof vacation time a year? Does he not want to travel in the summer months when families crowdthe ideal destinations? How are you going to know when the “right” time is to travel? A tip forcouples: traveling in the offseason (spring and fall) can be a great (and cheaper) way to see someamazing destinations without the crowds. If you can’t make the offseason work for your timeschedule, no worries – there are many romantic pockets of busy destinations just waiting to bediscovered. As for dinero, make sure you and your significant other create a budget for travelthat you both feel comfortable with. Vacationing without overspending is a satisfying feeling that
will leave you and your other half wanting to travel again and again!
6. All the Factors- There are so many different variables that can become part of the vacation planning process butyou will want to center in on just a few so as not to get overwhelmed! Accommodations are a bigone. Do you want to sleep luxuriously in a four star hotel or camp under the stars on a cot? Therange of accommodations is endless and up to what you and your spouse feel comfortable with.Another variable to look at is climate. Would you rather race down the ski slopes on a winterwonderland vacation or bask under an African sun while searching for the elusive cheetah?Also, what types of terrain are you as a couple ready for? Hilly or flat? Rocky or smooth? Longor short? Looking at every single factor in the vacation planning process can be overwhelming.Tour operated trips can take the stress out of this variable planning process by giving youunlimited options in doing a vacation your way.
7. Google is Your Friend! Go ahead and research to your heart’s content. The great thing about Google is that typingin “Yellowstone” or “Couple’s Retreat” will pull up thousands of search results that you cannarrow down over a few days or a few months. Really, it’s up to you. How much time do youwant to put into creating the perfect vacation for you and your spouse? Do you want to createa vacation from scratch as a couple or would you rather find an all inclusive vacation package?As you begin your research on your ideal destination, you may find yourself quickly narrowingdown the possbilities. Afterall, you and your significant other have already talked about whereyou want to go and what you want to do – now go find it!
8. Ask around- Is there just too much on the Internet for you to sift through on your own? Talk to other couplesthat you know who’ve traveled before – they probably have some great suggestions. Also, a localtravel agent can help you narrow down your search. Tour operators can connect you with pastguests who can recommend a specific trip. The possibilities are endless – just get out there andask!
9. Working Out is… Fun did you both just sign up for that big bike trip in South Dakota that you’re not quite sure you’reready for? Why not work out together to prepare yourself for an active vacation? With ouralready busy schedules, it’s difficult to find time to go to the gym or even take a walk aroundthe neighborhood. Pledge to your significant other that you will do some sort of activity togethersay, three times a week for at least 45 minutes. Get those old bikes in the garage tuned up for aride along the local bike path. Take a yoga class together. Take the dog on a walk. Your workoutplan doesn’t have to be strenuous – just get out there together! You’ll feel better about yourself,your relationship, and your preparedness for your upcoming adventure!
10. Live It Up together! Take advantage of your time spent together on your vacation. Do things you never thought youwould do. Sneak a bottle of champagne out onto the balcony to enjoy a drink under the stars.Ride the last leg of the bike ride to get the best view of the sunset. Book that massage that youjust never seemed to have time for back home. Make your vacation as memorable as possible
because these will be the stories that you as a couple hold with you always. And don’t forget, it’snever too early to start planning your next vacation!
If you’re looking to plan the perfect getaway for two, start with these tips and see what you come up with. Begin thinking today about where you want to go tomorrow – the possibilities are endless! With a little planning and preparation, you can be sure to cash in on the perfect couples adventure. So go ahead, get started lovebirds!
Your friendly travel expert,