Moonwalking in Colorado
To call Colorado’s Wheeler Geologic Area a moonscape “gives the moon too much credit,” said Robert Earle Howells in National Geographic Adventure. When La Garita Caldera, in southern Colorado, erupted more than 25 million years ago, it left behind volcanic ash that over time transformed into spires, capstones, and needles “more fantastic than any geology found in Earth’s orbit.” This otherworldly landscape is undoubtedly “more accessible” than that of the moon: Rio Grande National Forest Service Trail 790 offers a fairly direct route, though rangers warn it’s no “casual trip.” Start on Pool Table Road, departing from Hanson’s Mill picnic and camping area. From there, a seven-mile trek moves north through wildflower meadows and fir, aspen, and spruce forests, “suggesting nothing of the badlands ahead.” Once you’re a half-mile outside Wheeler, “set up shop at one of the primitive campsites” and begin the 3.2-mile loop around the “geological weirdness.” Contact: www.Fs.fed.us/r2/riogrande
Florida’s Indian summer
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Cedar Key, Fla., is the kind of place where you can spend the day “people- and pelican-watching,” said Amy Reinink in The Washington Post. This tiny island community on the Gulf of Mexico preserves the Florida that author Zora Neale Hurston lived in and wrote about, a “state of scrub oak, palmetto fronds, and brown pelicans perched on weathered bulkheads.” Tabby houses constructed with walls made of seashells line the streets, along with distinctively Floridian “cracker-style houses with cozy front porches.” Spanish moss drips from the trees “like some kind of Southern garland.” Though the months of October and November may be chilly farther north, they “form one long, sunny Indian summer” here. You can bike around the island or paddle out to the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge—a chain of 13 tiny, underdeveloped islands that abound with wading birds such as egrets and white ibises, as well as crabs, manatees, and cottonmouth snakes. Contact: Cedarkey.org
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