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Given the near white-out conditions outside, now seems like a good time to let you know that this weekend is "Food Shelf Weekend" at Afton Alps, the ski and tubing area in Afton, Minn. On March 23 and 24, donate 4 non-perishable food items and get a tube or lift ticket for a mere $8. The usual prices begin at at $32 for children 6-12 years old. More details at www.aftonalps.com. The press release announcing the deal said, "snow conditions are great," and that was written before today's dump.
COALBANK PASS, COLO. -- The crunching tromp of my snowshoes features a sort of reggae backbeat. The loose back of the snowshoe scrunches an echo through the utterly quiet pines and snow. I parked my rental Jeep on the top of Coalbank Pass, just over 10,000 feet between Durango and Silverton.
Snowshoes are like tennis raquets. No longer big wooden contraptions. I strap the light aluminum snowshoes around my boots, throw on a packback with some food and water and tromp off. I soon confront a huge dropoff and, despite the snowshoe tracks that seems to scale this cliff, I double back and take a less steep route, tromping and crunching through snow-dusted pines, grabbing views of peaks and valleys balnketed with thick, fresh snow.
After about an hour, I throw down my jacket and just sit in a snowbank and take the photo on the right. The clouds dance and a few chickadees flit past. I tromp back to the rent-a-Jeep and drive north to Molas Pass, pull over again and head toward little Molas Lake. I run into my first human contact -- an old guy who hiked up Bear Mountain with his golden retreiver and his downhill skis. As I pet the dog, Boddie, I ask how far to the lake. He tells me I went the wrong way. I thank him and trudge on, a steady uphill climb that has me sweating and breathing hard. Heck, it's 11,000 feet. But jaw-dropping gorgeous.
In just over two hours, I see five people, including Karen and David Jensen of Grand Junction. They drove down through the San Juan Mountain Range, through Ouray and beneath lucious robin egg's blue skies, to visit their son at Fort Lewis College.It's his birthday and they'll take him downhill skiing tomorrow. But first, they will cross-country ski through this valley. Enjoy the day, Karen and David.
Southwest Airlines announed that it is adding a new stop,direct from MSP: Phoenix, Arizona. The non-stop flights, offered twice daily, begin August 15. Southwest began flying out of Minneapolis in March 2009 with direct flights to Chicago. It has since added flights to Denver and St. Louis, making Phoenix its fourth destiniation served by non-stops. The news is good for anyone with a hankering for some fun in the sun. Where Southwest goes, fares tend to drop with the added competition.
Q I need a warm weather break, where can I find an all-inclusive resort that’s friendly to an LGBT family with children?
A Mary Hedger of the Travel Leaders agency in Loveland, Colo. has been trained by The Travel Institute to address the specific needs of the LGBT market. She says that Mexico, specifically Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, is your best option. She also recommends the Riviera Maya, in particular resorts that also cater to Europeans. In Puerto Vallarta, she suggests the Allegro and Marival, but also says that RIU resorts are popular with gay couples. And she’s sent couples to the Huatulco area long the Pacific coast with no problems, but does not recommend the Caribbean Islands.
Answers to travelers’ questions appear in Travel weekly and every Monday at startribune.com/escapeartists; send your question by e-mail to email@example.com.
Q. I just returned from the Caribbean and have bumps on both legs that really itch. I don’t remember seeing any mosquitoes or other insects, so am worried that I was attacked by bed bugs, is it time to call the exterminator?
A. It’s possible that you shared your room with bed bugs, but don’t rule out other possibilities. In the tropics many of the flying and jumping insects that feed on human blood are much smaller than they typical Minnesota mosquito, so it’s likely that while you were hanging out on the beach you feeding the local wildlife. Possibilities include sand fleas (aka sand flies, beach fleas and no-see-ums), which are only about 1/8-inch long, but can jump than a foot high – a likely explanation for why the bites are on your feet. An over-the-counter antihistimine will help relieve the itching.
- Jim Buchta
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