Go See Do Photography

A Lot of Travel, A Little Bit of History, and a Whole Bunch of Photos

Category: Travel (Page 2 of 39)

Hiking El Yunque National Forest

El Yunque Vista

El Yunque National Forest in Puerto Rico is the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. National Forest system. El Yunque is located near Rio Grande and is a 35-minute drive from the San Juan area. El Yunque is one of the most popular attractions on the island. Just like many of the national parks we visited last summer, a $2 reservation is required to drive into the National Forest. Reservations can be made up to a month in advance at Recreation.gov.

Posing at La Coca Falls

Once you get into the national forest, there are several places to get out and explore. The first is La Coca Falls (left), which is a large waterfall right at the side of the road. With an 85 foot drop, La Coca Falls is a great introduction to the rainforest and a wonderful photo opportunity.

The next stop is Yokahu tower (right). Built in the 1960s, Yokahu tower offers a 360-degree view of the rainforest and the coastline. On a clear day, you can see all the way to the Virgin Islands. The forest service offers a concession stand in the tower and if you have a National Park passport, they have a stamp here.

Yokahu TowerWhen planning this trip, the La Mina Falls trail looked like one of the best, easier hikes in El Yunque, but unfortunately, it has not reopened after hurricane Maria. So, we decided to hike the Mt. Britton trail. When we visited, the road through the forest was closed at the picnic area, so that added an extra mile to this hike. According to the forest service’s Facebook page, the road should be closed farther down than it actually was when we visited. The roads through the forest are steep and winding and hiking on the road felt more difficult than the trail itself. If you are planning to hike the El Yunque or Mt. Britton trails, just be aware that the road closure adds additional mileage.

Mt. Britton TowerOnce on the trail, it was a beautiful trek through lush, tropical greenery. The trail is a 1.3 mile hike (0.8 miles each way) with 650 foot elevation gain. The forest service says this hike takes 45 minutes each way, but we went down much quicker than that! This is a steep hike so it can be tough on the knees. Make sure you have shoes with good traction as rain is frequent in the rainforest. The Mt. Britton tower (left) at the end of the trail, was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the late 1930s and offers beautiful views of Puerto Rico, The Caribbean, and the Atlantic. The view from the top (top) makes the climb worth it!

Mt. Britton Tower from Below

We climbed all the way to that tower!

If you are staying in Puerto Rico for any length of time, you definitely have to check out El Yunque! With the current road construction, the forest service is limiting reservations even more. If you are unable to get a reservation, there are many tour companies that take visitors to El Yunque.

Thanks for stopping by! To read more about this trip check out my Island a Day Trip Report. To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Pilot Boat

Pilot Boat in St. Croix

An Island a Day Trip Report

Explorer of the Seas in St. Croix

Explorer of the Seas in St. Croix

We just got back from a busy cruise onboard Royal Caribbean’s Explorer of the Seas! The cruise was a southern Caribbean itinerary sailing out of San Juan, Puerto Rico with a port each day. This was a new cruise line for us and our first time cruising with COVID protocols in place. It was also the first time we had a balcony stateroom! Here is an outline of what is to come:

Day 1: Luquillo, Puerto Rico (Hiking El Yunque National Forest)

Day 2: San Juan, Puerto Rico (Board Explorer of the Seas)

Day 3: St. Thomas (Catamaran cruise to St. John and Virgin Islands National Park)

Day 4: St. Croix (Explore Fredriksted)

Day 5: St. Maarten (Jeep Rental and Exploring the Island)

Day 6: St. Lucia (Island Tour to the Pitons and Mourne Coubaril Estate)

Day 7: Barbados (Explored the port area)

Day 8: St. Kitts (Island Tour to Romney Manor, Brimstone Hill Fortress, and Timothy Hill)

Day 9: San Juan (San Juan National Historic Park)

The ports on this cruise were incredible and there are a few of them that I am looking forward to planning a return trip to! I am excited to share what I loved about each of these islands with you!

We took our friends with us on this trip who were first-time cruisers. It was fun introducing them to the cruising experience, but this cruise was intense for newbies. If you are looking to take your first cruise, I recommend that you start out with at least two sea days so you can get to know the ship.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Cold Weather Camping in the Runaway Rangerunner

Runaway camper with attached ARB Room

Some of the links below are affiliate links and as such, I earn a small commission from purchases that allow me to continue telling you my stories without costing you anything extra.

After our Disney trip, we decided to take Runaway out for one last trip before the snow came. Of course, when asked where in Michigan I want to camp, I chose Ludington State Park. Ludington is one of a few campgrounds in the state that stay open through the winter with limited amenities. The bathhouses are closed and there is no running water so winter camping is not for the faint of heart.

When we were planning this trip, Chris told me he has no problem with winter camping, but he has no interest in pulling the camper in the snow. So, of course, we drove through white-out conditions on our way through Muskegon. Luckily we were able to drive slow and conditions improved as we started heading north. I think we will watch the weather forecast more closely before we book our next winter camping trip.

Being that it was supposed to get below freezing, we chose a campground that had electricity. Keeping warm at night would drain our battery in no time and no one wants to sleep with a generator running if it can be avoided. Something else we did is we added the ARB tent room to our Maxi Trac awning. This gave us extra enclosed living space which we heated with an indoor safe Mr. Buddy portable propane heater. That room really stayed very comfortable. The hardest part was getting out to walk to the freezing cold outhouse!

If I were to do this again, I wouldn’t bring the Mr. Buddy if we have electricity at the site. It went through more propane than we expected. Next time, we would probably just bring a bigger space heater that we could plug in and save the propane.

One thing we struggled with this setup is how to cook. We didn’t want to bring the stove into the ARB room because it says right on it not to use it in a tent because of the carbon monoxide risk. But it was rain/snowing at one point and we didn’t want to cook outside. We are seriously considering getting another inexpensive awning for the other side of the camper so we would have a covered cooking area if we are using the ARB room.

Big Sable Lighthouse

Since drove through a blizzard to get to Ludington, of course, we had to hike to the lighthouse. We decided to take the Lighthouse Trail from the campground out to the lighthouse. This is the trail we tried to do in 2020 but realized we didn’t have enough time before we had to check out of the campground. Let me tell you, it is much easier to hike through sand dunes when the ground is frozen. Between the sand and the humidity, this was a rough hike in the summer, but it was a great one to do in the late fall!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Stormtroopers

Stormtroopers in Rise of the Resistance

Coronado Springs Resort Review

Coronado Blue (33706136420)

For my past several trips to Walt Disney World, I have chosen to stay at Value Resorts to save money. Since this was only a long weekend trip, I decided we could level up and stay at a Moderate Resort. My first choice was Port Orleans Riverside which one of my favorite Disney Resorts. But, due to COVID-19, it was not open yet, but was scheduled to reopen a few weeks after our trip, so we had to switch our original booking to Coronado Springs.

Coronado Springs is an enormous resort with over 2,300 guest rooms set up around a 22-acre lake in the Animal Kingdom area. The resort has three pools and multiple restaurants. The resort is themed to Mexico and the American southwest and is very beautifully landscaped. This is a convention hotel so it also has a convention center and a spa. If there is a convention, Coronado Springs can get very busy. It was pretty empty when we were there for the 50th, though.

Coronado Springs pool view - panoramio There are some amenities that differentiate a moderate resort from the more budget-minded value resorts. Value resorts typically only have a food-court-type restaurant. This is an area where Coronado shines (thanks, in part to the convention center) with four restaurants and three bars. Moderate resorts each have a big theme pool. Coronado Springs’ is called The Dig Site and is themed like a Mayan pyramid with a waterfall running into the pool. The resort also has a playground themed to an archaeological dig. Transportation is a step up in the moderate resorts as well with several bus stops located around the resort as opposed to one main bus stop in the front of the resort at the values. Coronado Springs also has upgraded bathrooms in the rooms complete with a rain shower.

Coronado Springs Resort For the whirlwind trip that we did, we were not able to use most of these amenities (although the rain shower was appreciated). We were in the parks from open until close. I didn’t take a single picture of the resort. We did not make use of the pools or the lounges, although we picked up breakfast from the Mercado (the counter service restaurant) one morning. I enjoyed the breakfasts we had in the parks more, though. The additional bus stops were nice at the end of the day, but in the morning, many of the buses were full by the time they got to our bus stop. Overall, I wish we would have either shelled out more money for a deluxe resort close to the Magic Kingdom or saved and gone back to Pop Century.

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Millennium Falcon

Millenium Falcon

One Day in Disney’s Hollywood Studios

Walking down Hollywood Boulevard

On our third and final day of our whirlwind weekend celebrating Walt Disney World’s 50th anniversary, we headed to Disney Hollywood Studios. I mentioned in my post last week that Epcot has always been my favorite park. Well, the Studios (or MGM as I still think of it) has always been my least favorite park. But, in the 7 years since my last visit, a lot has been added to the park and my appreciation for it has grown.

This day started much earlier than I had anticipated. Since we were checking out, I called bell services at our resort to have them store our bags while we enjoyed our last day at the parks. I expected this would take at least half an hour. I was shocked when someone was knocking on our door less than 10 minutes later! We loaded all of our things onto a golf cart and he drove us to the front of the resort to catch a bus to the Studios a full hour before the park opened! We were one of the first buses to be allowed into the park that day. We went through security and sat down on the ground in the line for Rise of the Resistance to wait for the park to open.

Storm Troopers

Stormtroopers in Rise of the Resistance

I am very glad we chose Rise for our first attraction of the day. I have seen the original Star Wars trilogy but I am in no way a Star Wars fan. Even still, I think this ride is one of the best on Disney property! The ride itself is fun. It tells the story very well and the cast members were just phenomenal! I do know that it would have really freaked me out as a kid, so if you are traveling with an anxious child who doesn’t like to be yelled at, you may want to consider doing rider swap for this one. Sorry if that is a little vague, but I don’t want to give away the premise of the ride if you haven’t done it yet. Just trust me when I say it was great!

We got off the ride as the park was officially opening for the day and we headed to Ronto Roasters for breakfast. I had pre-ordered on the app so we just had to walk to the counter and pick it up. The downside of the over-the-top theming in Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge is that the signage is nearly non-existent. As a first-time visitor to this part of the park, even with the app open, we passed Ronto several times before we found it! This was a big problem when Animal Kingdom first opened and they ended up having to disrupt the theming for clear signage and I think this may end up being necessary at Galaxy’s Edge.

Slinky Dog Dash

From there we headed to Toy Stoy Land, the other new area of the park since my last visit. Toy Story is one of my favorite Disney movies so I loved the theming in this part of the park. Slinky Dog Dash is a fun addition to the park!

I was very excited to ride Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway, but it didn’t live up to the other new attractions, in my opinion. Runaway Railway uses the same Trackless ride system that Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure in Epcot uses. While it is exciting to finally have a Mickey and Minnie attraction in the parks, the animation is not the Mickey and Minnie from my childhood. They are based on the 2013 animation style. The train cars that you ride in seat four and so I was seated next to people I don’t know. When the ride gets to the Daisy dancing scene, our bare legs touched and that was kind of weird. Overall, it was a fun attraction and if you have kids that are used to this more modern animation, they will love it. I just wasn’t rushing back out to do it again.

Inside Sci-Fi Dine-in Theater RestaurantFor lunch, we ate at the Sci-Fi Drive-in Theater Restaurant (left). Sci-Fi is located on Commissary Lane, not far from Galaxy’s Edge. The theming of the restaurant is an old Drive-In. Diners sit in booths that look like cars from the 50’s and enjoy their dinner while watching trailers for ridiculous sci-fi movies and commercials for the concession stand. We ate here once when I was a kid and I really enjoyed it so I wanted to bring Chris. While the food is good, expect burgers and fries, you choose Sci-Fi for the theming.

Sunset BoulevardThis day we waited in the longest lines of the weekend, but with the Studios being such a small park, we still ended up riding everything we wanted multiple times. We did Rise of the Resistance twice, Slinky Dog twice, Midway Mania twice, and Smuggler’s run twice. I even finally got to ride Rock n Rollercoaster (I could never justify the wait last trip), but it didn’t live up to Galaxy’s Edge and Toy Storyland.

Overall, this day greatly improved my opinion of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. Hopefully, I will be able to get back down there and check out Animal Kingdom again (I still haven’t seen Pandora-The World of Avatar) and maybe come up with a new ranking of the parks. Be sure to check back next week as I review our stay at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort!

Thanks for stopping by! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

Wordless Wednesday: Epcot at Night

Spaceship Earth at Night

A Day in Epcot

Figment Fab 50 Statue

Epcot has always been my favorite park in Walt Disney World and on typical trips, it is the first park that I visit. I’ve always loved the Edutainment aspect of the park and it makes me sad that they are slowly fading it away in favor of more Disney characters. Figment has always been one of my favorite characters and I loved discovering his Fab 50 statue (above)!

Unlike the Magic Kingdom, a lot has changed at Epcot since our last visit to the parks. In 2014, we knew Maelstrom was closing and were able to get a final ride through before the transition to Frozen happened. Soarin’ Around the World was also new to us as the original closed in 2016. And the big attraction of the day was Remy’s Ratatouille Adventure officially debuting the day before.

Rattatouille Sign

After a long day at Magic Kingdom celebrating the 50th Anniversary, we got up early and got in the virtual queue for Remy’s (above). Even though I signed in right at 7:00, we were in boarding group 64 (if I remember correctly) with an estimated boarding time at 3:00. Being its second day officially open, it broke down a few times during the day. I think it was closer to 5:00 before we were able to enter the actual queue. This was my first time ever using Disney’s virtual queue system and I was surprised by how long the actual line was once our group was called. We probably waited almost an hour before getting to board our mouse vehicles. Overall, I really enjoyed the attraction. I liked it a lot better than Minnie’s Runaway Railway at Hollywood Studios which uses the same trackless ride system. I probably wouldn’t wait that long to ride it again, though. I tend to draw the line at a 45-minute wait.

This was by far our longest wait of the day. Just like on the 50th, wait times were much lower than I expected. We probably ended up riding Soarin’ five times, Gran Fiest Tour four times, Living with the Land three times, Test Track three times, and Spaceship Earth three times. The only other attraction with a long wait was Frozen Ever After which I don’t know that I will ever need to ride again.

Gusteau's Sign in Remy's Rattatouille Adventure

This was also my first time at Food and Wine Festival in Epcot and it was the first weekend day where all of the booths were open. I was told it is best to avoid weekends at Food and Wine if possible because the park fills up with locals, but we were only there for the weekend, so we had to make the best of it. It was definitely crowded but we started with lunch at the booths before it got too busy. Everything we tried was good, but none of it lived up to dinner the night before at Skipper Canteen.

As much as I was ready to crash before the fireworks, we made a point to stay to see Harmonious. Harmonious combines a typical fireworks show with fountains and lights combined with music from popular Disney music. Unlike Illuminations, which was the epitome of Epcot nighttime spectaculars in my mind, Harmonious is hard to appreciate if you don’t have a good view of the lagoon. Where Illuminations told a moving story that fit into the theme of World Showcase, Harmonious just kind of stings a bunch of fun Disney songs together. From what I was able to see, it was a fun show and I will probably watch it the next time I’m in Epcot, but I wouldn’t park hop from another park to see it as I had done with Illuminations.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check back next week to read about our time at Disney’s Hollywood Studios! To read about some of our previous trips, visit my Trips Page. If you like my photos be sure to “like” my Facebook Page and follow me on Instagram! You can purchase prints on Fine Art America. To see inside my camera bag, check out my updated Gear Page.

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