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November 2013
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January 2014

Retreat to Fern Canyon Trail in Mendocino County California

SilenceFern Canyon waterfall Russian Gulch State Park Mendocino Credit Barbara L. Steinberg

Closed eyes. The stillness beats in your ears. The hammering Mendocino ocean surf is replaced by giggling streams and fern grotto waterfalls. Blue skies and sunshine swallowed by towering redwoods, ferns and moss – kept lush by the dark, dank, and cold of this rainforest environment. Walking more than five miles in this tranquil woodland, you are alone on the planet. The silence broken mostly by small bird voices and a lone tree frog far and away.

Other hikers occasionally cross your path with a nod and a smile.

The magic and spirit of Fern Canyon Trail at Russian Gulch State Park is ancient. Life here began long before humans breathed on this Earth. Despite our intervention, its mystical soul survives. The longer north trail (2.6 miles) up and over -- gets heart and lungs pumping -- to the Fern Canyon waterfall trail (another .7 miles) is worth the ascent. Loop back along the flat bike trail. Slowly come to your senses as you leave this dreamscape behind.

Yosemite's Bracebridge: A Once in a Lifetime

Bracebrige? Quite possibly the greatest show on Earth! by Barbara L. Steinberg

Bracebridge Banner Credit Barbara L. SteinbergI was always fond of visiting new scenes, and observing strange characters and manners. Even when as a mere child I began my travels, and made many tours of discovery into foreign parts and unknown regions of my native city, to the frequent alarm of my parents, and the emolument of the town crier. -Washington Irving

The highly-coveted Bracebridge Dinner tickets were once available by lottery only, but no more! In fact, tickets and packages for the eight performances are easily purchased online!

As a witness to this historic holiday extravaganza, in your dreams you will see, feel, and hear the merrymaking; awestruck as Bracebridge whirls around you. This dazzling spectacle is set in one of the most blessed places on earth, Yosemite National Park. It is the experience of a lifetime!

A legendary celebration, adapted from Washington Irving's "Sketch Book,"Bracebridge marks its 87th year this December. Trumpets announce the arrival of Squire Bracebridge and presentations of an elaborate seven-course fete -- are made on cue by the sounding of chimes during the performance.  The main dining room of The Ahwahnee Hotel is transformed into an Elizabethan Yuletide pageant. Elaborate props, costumed characters, and period entertainment bring this 17th-century fête to life along with a seven-course dinner.

Consider taking Amtrak to Merced and then YARTS (Yosemite Regional Transportation System) to Yosemite Lodge. Once in the Valley, you can ride shuttles; plus there's a special Bracebridge shuttle to and from The Ahwahnee Hotel, the backdrop for Bracebridge. Many people are reluctant to travel in the snow and with efforts to cut gas consumption using alternative transit is a real bonus. Guests booking a Bracebridge Dinner package for either Yosemite Lodge at the Falls or the Wawona Hotel, should ask about the shuttle service to and from The Ahwahnee for the dinner.