I’ve given United Airlines a lot of heat over the years. They have an abysmal track record flying into and out of our tiny regional airport here on the rural north coast of California. I’ve had *so* many delays and cancellations over the years, and very little sympathy from them. Their poor treatment of passengers with how they handled refunds at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic was so bad that I swore off spending money again with them.
True to my word, I haven’t bought a single revenue United ticket this year. Yet the irony that about 80% of my post-COVID flying has been with United Airlines is not lost on me. I’ve booked several awards on United Airlines, typically with partner miles.
What’s funny is that United has been the best it has ever been for me over the past months. Here are five things I’ve liked about United this year:
Not A Single Delay. Not. One.
Historically, nearly half of my travel with United Airlines between ACV and SFO was not without delay or cancellation. There was one work trip where I had a 3-hour delay on the outbound (different route) and a 3-hour delay on the inbound (yes, this route). This was the final straw that moved me over to flying Delta whenever I could, even if it meant driving for hours. I’d rather be in command of my time.
I have yet to experience a delay with United in 2020. I’ve now flown 18 segments with them, and not a single flight has arrived more than 5 minutes after scheduled arrival. It’s pretty incredible. This is entirely unlike my United experience prior to the pandemic.
My guess is that it really has to do with operations at SFO. When traffic is heavy and weather is bad, SFO is a disaster. The “trickle down” delays have bitten me many times. Lighter traffic takes all the pressure off.
Robust Communication by Text and App
Okay, I’ll go out and say it: United has always impressed me with their mobile app. It’s better than American Airlines’ app, although that one has been markedly improved. I feel like United’s was great when I first started using airline apps, and it hasn’t gotten worse. Delta has a pretty robust app as well, so I’m not sure I can call it the best. But it does make all the details and functionality you need extremely accessible.
Maybe it’s just a case of using it more than the other airline apps. About the only thing I hate doing on the United app is searching for award flights. But then I don’t like doing that from any mobile device or app.
If you opt-in to SMS notifications with United, you’ll get both texts and app pings at key times, such as when boarding has started. Arrival texts also help. United is excellent about texting as soon as the aircraft has its wheels on the ground, telling you your arrival gate and the gate of your connecting flight. If I was a novice traveler, these would be even more appreciated.
During COVID-19, there have also been texts ahead of time offering to rebook you due to how full an aircraft is.
Award Refund, No Questions Asked? No Way.
One of my worst experiences with United was when they refused to refund an award itinerary affected by cancellations and changes. Just a couple weeks later, with federal bailout money secured, they had no issues. I still don’t think how they treated customers was right, however.
Now I’ve managed to refund a couple award tickets, one with Delta and the other with United, no questions asked. Based on the travel dates, they didn’t appear to fall under the policy. The United one had a very minor change, and the agent was willing to refund it without any trouble less than 30 days before departure. I can’t imagine a similar request going anywhere with the previous United. Or maybe I just got lucky.
I will say that Delta has always been excellent in this regard. I once got full value for cash tickets canceled on the day of departure after I explained our situation. That agent understood customer service.
So Much Award Space!
Award availability with United has generally been good over the years, with a handful of notable routes and cabins as exceptions. They’ve always been stingy with business cabin space on their transcontinental premium service flights and to Hawaii. While you don’t see awards available every day, I’m seeing more space on some of these flights than I every have.
You can nearly always find space on the United premium service routes on most Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays, even months ahead of time. I never remember this being the case. When I found award space to fly United 757-200 transcontinental business class, I had to book less than two weeks out.
I’ve also seen months where there are saver economy awards originating at my home airport of ACV available every single day in the month view to multiple destinations. With less people flying and less ability to carefully manage loads on their routes, it makes sense that United has a lot more award seats for sale.
More Pleasant Staff?
Even with the COVID-19 measures, I actually feel that airline staff have been better on the whole over the past few months. Maybe they are less stressed out with fewer flights. Maybe they are excited to work after not working for a while. Maybe they are hopeful to keep their jobs with layoffs potentially looming. Whatever it is, I’ve found staff to be better.
Passengers? Mixed. At least deplaning is no longer a mad rush. That I can appreciate.
Airlines have been hit hard during the pandemic, and most are still trying to find their footing financially. The hope for a quick rebound is pretty much gone. It’s certainly a buyer’s market at this time, as airlines are hurting for customers and cash. It makes sense that U.S. airlines have offered award refunds, no questions asked.
It will be interesting to see if the pandemic affects the culture of airlines in the long-term. With major carriers dropping change fees, we might see some real benefit for passengers before this is all over. I hope the lessened fees, award flexibility, and better on-time performance stick. Now I see how much of the latter likely has to do with their SFO hub, though.
Have you flown United this year? What was your experience like?
The post 5 Things I Like About United Airlines In 2020 appeared first on TravelUpdate.
By: Family Flys Free
Title: 5 Things I Like About United Airlines In 2020
Sourced From: travelupdate.com/5-things-like-about-united-airlines/
Published Date: Wed, 16 Sep 2020 16:09:46 +0000
Did you miss our previous article…
Leaf Peeping Is Not Canceled: 6 Drives and Hikes to Try This Fall
The first frosty nights (farewell, mosquitoes); T-shirt days under Windex-hued skies; a nearly unbroken tapestry of the foliage that inspired Herman Melville to write that “sunrises and sunsets grow side by side in these woods”; and warm bags of the cider-infused doughnuts that are every hiker’s reward: Fall is far and away my favorite time in the Berkshires.
This autumn, the region offers opportunities to alternate new trails with old favorites. But first, a few planning tips. I recommend the BNRC Berkshire Trails app from the Berkshire Natural Resources Council. You could spend a wonderful week wandering Berkshire County’s back roads, using this app to guide you from one secluded wonder to the next. Note, too, that many leading cultural venues — including the Clark Art Institute, Hancock Shaker Village and The Mount, Edith Wharton’s former home — are not only open, but are surrounded by paths and gentle trails on which it’s easy to socially distance, and to sidestep, too, that tough Berkshires call: culture or nature?
Most important, check Massachusetts’s strict quarantine rules before you leave home. Oh, and dress brightly — it’s hunting season. And watch out for bears.
Start your day at Dottie’s Coffee Lounge in Pittsfield, my hometown, where Jess Lamb (who previously practiced her craft at Joe Coffee on East 13th Street in Manhattan) and her colleagues create the county’s richest-tasting lattes with beans from Barrington Coffee and milk from High Lawn Farm, both in nearby Lee. Then drive west to Pittsfield State Forest (free).
Around 30 miles of trails lace this roughly 11,000-acre realm, which once formed part of Mohican and Mohawk hunting grounds. Later, the Shakers settled here. Their graves, former settlements and dancing sites still can still be found among the stands of sugar maple, oak, birch and white pine.
First-time visitors should head to Berry Pond. At around 2,150 feet, it’s the state’s highest natural body of water. My mother and I often came here to pick blueberries, so imagine my surprise when I learned that it was named for William Berry, a Revolutionary War hero.
A network of steepish trails or a scenic one-way loop road, built by the New Deal-era Civilian Conservation Corps, can take you up (the road is curvy and narrow; pedestrians, cyclists and motorists should keep a close eye out for one another). Enjoy the spectacular westerly overlook (hello, to paraphrase the McGarrigle sisters, to the state of old New York!). Then head downhill to the pond for a view of the season’s colors, pleasingly doubled by the water’s mirror.
The world’s most mouthwatering cider doughnuts still come from Bartlett’s Orchard in Richmond. So busy was their farm shop this summer that they’ve instituted weekend online ordering and curbside pickup for the fall; you can still pick apples in the orchards behind the shop. From here, drive or cycle to Parsons Marsh, a B.N.R.C. property in Lenox that opened in 2018. A trail and boardwalk (free; one-third of a mile each way; wheelchair accessible) wind through a woodland worthy of Tolkien’s Galadriel, and wetlands even now bursting with life. Along the marsh’s edge you’ll find haunting examples of the still-standing dead trees known as snags — fine lookouts for raptors — and your own tranquil views (see the beaver lodge?) from the deck at the boardwalk’s end.
Then head to Bousquet Mountain, site of my first childhood ski lessons on Drifter, a gentle slope that’s now also the start of the three-season Mahanna Cobble Trail (free; 1.4 miles each way; elevation gain, around 750 feet). Mahanna Cobble opened in June. It’s the newest stretch of the B.N.R.C.’s High Road initiative, a long-term plan, inspired in part by the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route through Spain, to use both old and recently cut trails to reconnect Berkshire landscapes and communities.
Along the trail’s first few hundred yards I was surprised to find myself ascending, for the first time, a ski slope I once knew well. But under the shimmering dragonflies and a still-warm September sun, the slope I long ago slid down seemed only a steep meadow, overgrown with late-season blooms of chicory and white wood aster. Soon the trail leaves the ski run — and memories of cooler kids racing past me like Oz’s winged monkeys — behind and climbs into a forest of oak, hickory, birch and beech. When you’re out of breath, take heart, and perhaps a photograph: Temperature generally falls with elevation, so the more vertical your hike, the more likely you are to find yourself surrounded by foliage at its peak of color.
A view is the more obvious gift of altitude. You’ll soon reach a south-facing overlook above a steep clearing. It’s a good spot to count how few doughnuts remain, and to console yourself with as fine a perspective as any on Monument Mountain, not far at all as the hawks above you might fly.
This overlook marks the end of the Mahanna Cobble Trail, but it’s only the beginning of other paths that lead away along the ridge and the High Road you’ve already started down. Go far enough and you’ll reach my mom’s memorial bench — “who loved these hills,” reads the inscription my brother and I chose — where she’d be as happy as I always am to find a traveler at rest.
Cuyahoga Valley National Park
The meandering routes between my suburban hometown of Hudson, Ohio, and the nearby village of Peninsula, a time capsule of a town midway between Akron and Cleveland, have had different effects on me over the years. As a restless teenager, I wandered the area in my peppy stick-shift sedan, hoping to accelerate through the highs and lows of high-school life — and burning out a clutch along the way. (Sorry, Dad; I blame the steep hills on West Hines Hill Road.) Later, when I discovered the beauty of the waters and trails in Cuyahoga Valley National Park, the roads became a means to explore new interests in hiking, canoeing and photography. And more recently, during the coronavirus pandemic, when so much of our daily reality plays out on screens, cruising the roads — and hopping out to explore both new and familiar trails — has been a real-world balm.
Any road that gets you close to the Cuyahoga River is worth traveling, particularly in mid- to late-October, when the leaves erupt in a breathtakingly beautiful display. Snaking its way along a roughly 80-mile U-shape path before emptying into Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga plays an outsize role in the story of Northeast Ohio; it was vital to Cleveland’s industrial growth before the many fires along its waters made it infamous, helping to prompt the passage of the Clean Water Act and the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. These days, after half a century of cleanup efforts, it is held up as an ecological success story. (Having once submerged myself and inadvertently drunk a fair amount of it while sinking and retrieving a canoe, I can attest to its cleanliness.)
But the river itself is often overshadowed — particularly in the fall — by its tangential allures: the 87-mile-long Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail, whose light, crushed-stone surface is brightly mottled with autumnal leaves; the waterfalls (around 100 in total) and rock gorges that pop with the warm colors; the Old World farms and markets, such as Heritage Farms and Szalay’s, where people flock for pumpkins, apple butter, roasted sweet corn and, yes, the annual fall corn maze.
The valley’s unexpected grandeur is nowhere more evident than in and around Peninsula, a postcard-esque (and postage-stamp-size) village that is, in many ways, the heart of the 33,000-acre national park. From the small train depot, board the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad (there’s even a Fall Flyer train) for a memorable view of the foliage.
Roving the area by car (or on bicycle) will lead you past dozens of worthwhile trails. A personal favorite — the completion of which has become a familial Christmas Day tradition — is a hike that links the Haskell Run and Ledges loops and includes some of the valley’s most distinctive features. Beginning near the Happy Days Lodge, built in the late 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, the trail wanders beside a 19th-century cemetery, over gentle streams (via footbridge crossings), near bat caves, and past the dramatic Sharon Conglomerate rock faces of the Ritchie Ledges, formed from the sand and quartz deposited by ancient streams — all while immersing you in the richest of fall colors.
The national park and its trails feel like an oasis from the suburban sprawl that surrounds them. To the east, along Route 8, commercialism — in the form of car lots, industrial sites and a relatively new Costco — plays the role of a sorry landscape architect. But mere miles away, and within a few steps of any given trailhead, the blunting effects of strip-mall development evaporate under the fiery palettes of oak, hickory and beech trees, and amid the calls of the many migratory songbirds whose seasonal routes carry them through the park in the spring and fall.
Moreover, a simple stroll along the locks of the Ohio and Erie Canal — the 19th-century animating spirit not just of the region’s economy but also of Peninsula’s development as a historical center, once home to five hotels and 14 saloons — is enough to stoke curiosities about Northeast Ohio’s historical ties to Connecticut, via that colony’s (and, later, state’s) Western Reserve.
In many ways, Cuyahoga Valley can’t compete with the scale or sublimity of the national parks in the West. But that’s largely irrelevant. Standing among the cliffs at Ledges, or resting at the banks of Sylvan Pond on the brilliantly pigmented Oak Hill Trail, or cruising into the valley on a scenic leaf-covered road to Peninsula, I feel something that — for me and many others, especially in this long moment of isolation — is only available in this particular pocket of the world: the decades-long pull of a regenerative haven, here in my own suburban backyard.
Spruce Knob and Seneca Rocks
While many traditional foliage tours are done from packed trains and buses that follow well-worn railways and roads, fall tourism this year demands a novel approach. And with travelers forced to chart their own course, some of the best places to take in the autumn colors are those that cannot be reached at all on the standard guided excursions.
One of the most rewarding options for those living in and around Appalachia is to forgo the winding roads at lower elevations and peer down at the landscape from atop Spruce Knob, the tallest peak in both West Virginia and the larger Chesapeake Bay watershed.
Nestled within a 100,000-acre section of the surrounding 919,000-acre Monongahela National Forest, the top of Spruce Knob is perched high above an all-but-unspoiled tract of forest extending out in all directions.
At 4,863 feet, the summit provides not only breathtaking views, but also an unusual landscape of its own. Gnarled red spruce trees, after which the mountain is named, grow deformed on one side, shorn by punishing westerly winds that tear over the ridge. And stands of evergreens at the top gradually mix in with other species, like mountain ash, which produces dense clusters of brilliant flame-colored berries that last through the winter, and turn from green to a spectrum of yellow and orange shades in the fall.
The drive to the peak requires resolve and care. From a base point near Judy Gap, W.Va., a serpentine drive up Route 33 narrows to a nine-mile stretch of old forestry road, with several blind curves and switchbacks, barely wide enough to pass traffic coming down, and with no guardrails protecting against steep drops down the mountain slope. The path is not treated to remove ice or snow.
At the top, however, visitors are rewarded with a wealth of options for taking in the scenery. About 1,000 feet from the parking lot is a two-story observation tower that provides an even higher vantage from which to survey the surrounding area. And the easy, half-mile Whispering Spruce Trail leads visitors along a gravel path that circles the tower for panoramic views across both sides of the ridge.
The more intrepid can seek out other overlooks to enjoy all to themselves. At the other end of the parking lot, the Huckleberry Trail carves a roughly five-mile path along the ridge, running northeast away from Spruce Knob. The trail passes by nearly a dozen backcountry campsites that lead slightly off the trail and, sometimes, down to an opening in the trees — a private window from which to view the vistas below, away from the main area.
Beyond that, the trail continues to a longer loop, which passes through a number of high altitude meadows, allowing hikers an opportunity to pause and observe the woods all around the clearing. However, the full hike is over 15 miles, and frigid fall temperatures necessitate serious cold weather gear for anyone planning to camp out overnight and complete the loop over multiple days.
According to the United States Forest Service, Spruce Knob lies within a day’s drive of about half of the populace, accessible from points all along the East Coast and the Midwest, and roughly four hours from Washington. And while it may be the most impressive vantage point in the area, it is not the only one.
Kelly Bridges, the public affairs officer for Monongahela National Forest, said that fall weather at the peak can be unpredictable, and heavy fog and clouds can, at times, obscure the very best views at the top of Spruce Knob. But on those days, an easy backup lies 10 miles northeast up Route 33 at Seneca Rocks, a soaring crag popular among rock climbers, with razor thin fins that stick up vertically and rise nearly 900 feet. There, a steep trail leads to another observation deck that looks down into the valley, where a variety of hardwood trees that thrive at lower elevations take on deep red and yellow hues along a river.
For another option, partway up the route to Spruce Knob, the road divides, allowing drivers to pull off by an overlook far enough down to avoid clouds and haze, but high enough to provide a striking view.
The drive through miles of national forest and up to the mountaintop is a passageway to a genuinely remote part of the East, and the Spruce Knob area offers visitors a menu of possibilities for savoring the auburn colors of fall. And in a celebration of continuity in an otherwise unfamiliar year, Monongahela, officially designated on April 28, 1920, is commemorating its centennial.
A fall excursion to Grafton Notch from Portland, Maine, includes not just colorful swaths of foliage, but a Shaker community, a ghost and a stretch of the Appalachian Trail. The area’s glacial gorges, waterfalls and caves add further intrigue to the predominantly beech, birch and maple forest. Not to mention, a fall drive and hike support both sanity and social distancing.
Before heading out, check the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s website for its Covid-19 recommendations, which include carrying a mask and practicing social distancing when passing people on the trail. Maine visitors should check Keep Maine Healthy for the latest Covid-19 testing and quarantine guidelines.
The hour-and-50-minute trip from Portland begins with 10 miles of surprisingly vibrant leaf peeping on Maine’s primary artery, I-95 North. At Gray, Route 26 North heads inland to New Gloucester where it passes the last active Shaker community in the country, founded on Sabbathday Lake in the late 1700s. Though closed to the public for 2020, the historic buildings and farmlands of Sabbathday Lake Shaker Village can still be easily viewed from the car.
Next comes the township of Poland, namesake of the Poland Spring bottled water company and home to the Poland Spring Resort. It is also the territory of a ghost called the Route 26 Hitchhiker, which is said to manifest as a young lady wearing a fancy dress. It’s rumored she died in a roadside accident on her wedding or prom night, and while she may ask for a ride, she’ll likely disappear from the car before reaching the destination.
Past the Oxford Casino and views of distant mountains, Route 26 parallels the Little Androscoggin River through Paris to Snow Falls, a popular pull-off for the waterfalls and picnic area. In Woodstock, the Mollyockett Motel is named for a Native American Algonquin princess who is the source of many legends. The mountain views and foliage increase around Greenwood, birthplace of L.L. Bean’s founder, Leon Leonwood Bean, and home to the Mt. Abram Ski Area & Bike Park, popular in fall for the lift-accessed mountain bike trails.
Food and lodging can be had in Bethel, founded in the fertile Androscoggin River Valley in 1796, and at the Sunday River ski resort in nearby Newry. Continuing through Bethel on Route 26 North, The Good Food Store and Smokin’ Good BBQ (try the smoked beef brisket or pulled pork/chicken on a bun) is a popular stop. From there, expect excellent foliage on the last stretch to Bear River Road and the 12 miles of the Grafton Notch Scenic Byway leading to the Appalachian Trail parking lot. On the way, Mother Walker and Screw Auger falls are worth a visit, and Grafton Notch Campground on the Bear River is a great option for overnight camping.
The Appalachian Trail parking lot in Grafton Notch State Park connects a number of hikes, including one of the toughest sections of the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail: the Old Speck summit, elevation, about 4,180 feet, the fifth highest point in Maine, which can be reached on a 3.8-mile hike.
Heading northeast on the trail to Mount Katahdin, Baldpate Mountain’s West Peak is a 2.9-mile hike and East Peak is about 3.8 miles.
Shorter but steeper hikes include the Eyebrow on Old Speck, a 2.1-mile loop, and Table Rock, a 2.4-mile loop with fantastic views of Old Speck. A popular favorite for its wide-open rock plateau and valley views, Table Rock Trail is also quite steep, with metal rungs on the rocks. (A sampling of the trail and views from Table Rock, and the surrounding lakes, can be found in the GLP Films video Maine Lakes and Mountains.)
The best choice for a good day hike is Baldpate’s West Peak. Across the road from the Appalachian Trail’s parking lot, the path is well maintained and includes a variety of terrain, from rocky to rooty, much under deciduous tree cover. The 5.8-mile round-trip trek takes five to six hours at a decent pace with time for a picnic lunch at the summit. Just when you think you might never reach the end, the trail hits a steep section that comes out to an exposed rock area looking across a saddle to the East Peak of Baldpate, with a panoramic spread of the Mahoosuc Mountain Range. Keep going another mile to the East Peak summit or just enjoy the view and head back down.
Percy Warner Park and Radnor Lake
Fall in Nashville is the most vibrant season, and there is no better way for an immersion in the season’s rich reds, corals and ochers than a drive along the canopied blacktop through Percy Warner Park, just nine miles south of downtown. Tag on a hike around another Nashville gem, Radnor Lake, and you have the makings of a dazzling day trip, all within the confines of the city limits, and a perfect outing during the pandemic. Both parks abide by the Centers for Disease Control’s guidance on social distancing, and numerous trails in both parks make it easy to avoid crowds.
Percy Warner Park and Edwin Warner Park — on the National Register of Historic Places — span 3,131 acres of wooded hills, open meadows and streams. The adjoining parks, which opened in 1927, offer hiking trails, mountain bike paths and bridle paths. However, a slow-rolling, scenic drive through the mature deciduous forest during peak fall is nothing short of stunning: The sun strobes through the trees above drivers who share the roadway with hikers, cyclists and dog walkers. Once inside the park, the tulip poplars, dogwoods, black cherry, sassafras and pawpaw trees are breathtaking. Given the park’s designation as a nature sanctuary, it’s not unusual to see wild turkeys, white-tailed deer, cottontail rabbits, Eastern chipmunks and coyotes.
The roadway — a roughly four-mile loop — can be found at the Old Hickory Boulevard entrance. You’ll pass the tall wooden lookout that oversees the grounds (and beyond) of the annual Iroquois Steeplechase, which was canceled this year because of the pandemic, and along the route are scenic overlooks.
You can also enter Percy Warner via Belle Meade Boulevard. This is the main entrance with a ceremonial-style arch and dramatic limestone steps reminiscent of a European allée that was designed by the landscape architect Bryant Fleming, who also designed the early 20th-century Cheek Mansion at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens.
From the Belle Meade Boulevard entrance, you can find trails like the Warner Woods trail, a two-and-a-half-mile unpaved walking path that traverses the interior of Percy Warner, as well as a 5.8-mile stretch of paved pedestrian trail.
Next, set your GPS to Radnor Lake State Park off Otter Creek Road, another of the city’s natural jewels, about seven miles east. Because Radnor Lake does not allow food, it may be wise to first swing by a Nashville standard, Mere Bulles, just off Old Hickory Boulevard, for their famous crab bisque, available to go (call first). You won’t regret it (or forget it).
Signage throughout the park reminds those visiting Radnor Lake to abide by appropriate social distancing rules. (For more information on Covid-19 rules, go to the Tennessee State Parks’ website.)
The sublime glassy Radnor Lake pulls in photographers from around mid-Tennessee who often arrive early enough to shoot the morning brume that rises from the lake. Here, too, you can glimpse plenty of wildlife: deer, turtles, turkey, eagles, owls, waterfowl and coyotes; ranger-led programs throughout the year include canoe floats, night hikes and wildflower walks.
All the trails are blazingly colorful during autumn, often heightened on cloudless days by an azure sky. One trail — Otter Creek Road Trail — is an accessible mile-long stroll that hugs the curves of the lake and is paved for those in wheelchairs. Black gum, American beech and other deciduous trees line the trail, offering some respite from the sun. Still, hikers are close enough to the water to catch glimpses of lake inhabitants like beavers, minks and otters. For more experienced hikers, Radnor Lake’s strenuous Ganier Ridge Trail delivers a gorgeous view of downtown Nashville.
Guanella Pass, Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway and more
After a summer of record heat and forest-fire smoke, a revitalizing road trip or hike in the cool hinterlands of Denver may be irresistible. Outdoor enthusiasts will have their choice of satisfying adventures and explosions of color right now: The foothills and mountains surrounding the mile-high city have begun to blaze in swoon-worthy, spectacular foliage, and Indian summers can stretch all the way into November before the winter snow begins to stick.
Denver was founded in 1858 as a gold mining settlement, and to this day, leaf peepers will find that surrounding town and country vistas remain inextricably etched with that aspect of Colorado history. Cloaked in Victorian mining antiquity, buildings are bedecked with towers, turrets, dormers and wraparound porches, while the adjoining slopes are dotted with shaft holes, multihued rock tailing piles and tottering old mine shacks.
Enveloping that human history are the ancient Rocky Mountains. The green summer tundra on the high peaks has already gone buttery yellow and blood-red on top, as the tiny plants yield to frosts before browning with winter. Halfway down, the mountains are clad in evergreens, while the lower slopes will soon be lit by the luminescent gold of aspen trees.
One day trip to a stunning, high-alpine cirque allows you to bear witness to this whole spectacle, from aspens to tundra. It begins with a drive west on Route 285 and a turn north at Grant onto Route 62. About 5.5 miles up the 11-mile road to Guanella Pass is the Abyss Lake Trail. This challenging 7.5-mile, 3,000-foot hike passes through numerous stands of aspen, and, for the first few miles, the trail is wide enough for social distancing. Then it climbs more steeply up along a creek leading to the treeless and Lilliputian plant landscape of the 12,650-foot-high Abyss Lake. Look for moose and pronghorn antelope along the way.
If you’d rather stay in the comfort of your car, continue driving on the Guanella Pass Road through the aspen forest, with its golden leaves rippling in fall winds. The gravel road climbs to 11,700 feet, with views of Mounts Bierstadt and Evans above a sea of flamboyantly tinted fall willows. At the bottom of the pass road, alongside I-70, is the old mining locale of Georgetown, with an old-time railroad offering daily rides through the aspen forest. Plan for the round-trip drive from Denver to take about four hours.
For a shorter tour, drive roughly 30 miles south out of Denver on Route 85 until it becomes Colorado Highway 121, which takes you directly to the Waterton Canyon parking area. This moderate six-mile hike on a dirt road, alongside the South Platte River, swirling with fishing holes, is also ideal for bicycling and horseback riding. The popular trail — known for up-close big horn sheep viewing — has plenty of toilets and is rimmed with huge cottonwood trees that blush as ripe as lemons in the fall.
But the state’s oldest road trip, with brilliant foliage and Continental Divide viewing, is the four-hour, 149-mile Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway from Estes Park through the Gold Rush mining country to Black Hawk. One stop could be Nederland’s antediluvian Goldminer Hotel, listed in the Registrar of Historic Places. Or, near the town of Ward, a 5.5-mile hike loops around the well-traveled Brainard Lake — but don’t forget you’ll be hiking above 10,000 feet.
For an alternative with thicker air, begin with a 45-minute drive out of Denver to Boulder. Turning up Flagstaff Road, a six-mile drive up and over Flagstaff Mountain (a quick stop on the overlook reveals a panorama of Boulder and the surrounding plains) will continue to the Myers Gulch trailhead. From there, follow the old wagon trail (with plenty of social-distancing room) that winds 2.7 miles up to the top of an unnamed peak that offers incredible views.
Along the way, an old hay barn and sawmill speak to the bygone homesteader and miner days in the region. The crinkling yellow leaves cast penumbral light around pale aspen trunks, while the air is redolent with that sweet, sharp smell of change found only in the autumn aspen groves of Colorado. Surrounded by this all-too brief and soul-stirring beauty, one is reminded, as Robert Frost once wrote, “Nothing gold can stay.”
Title: Leaf Peeping Is Not Canceled: 6 Drives and Hikes to Try This Fall
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/10/02/travel/leaf-peeping-drives-hikes.html
Published Date: Fri, 02 Oct 2020 09:01:01 +0000
What to do if your travels are disrupted by wildfires
The Western United States is coping with an ongoing series of wildfires as well as forest fires that started from human interference across California, Oregon, and Washington. According to NASA, the fire season is from late spring until seasonal winter rains or snow arrive. It’s possible to safely enjoy a vacation out west during the fire season. Travelers planning trips to fire-prone areas should prepare for the worst-case scenario and pack a few critical items.
A smart traveler is always prepared. “Adopt the attitude that ‘it can happen to me.” The best time to plan for a crisis is before the crisis occurs,” says Randy Haight, Senior Director of global risk consultancy FocusPoint International. “Conduct a review of ingress and egress routes into and out of an area before you go.” Have a plan for multiple routes as some roads may be closed or inaccessible during a fire.
There are a significant number of fires ongoing in California. If you’re headed to The Golden State check out CalFire and the state tourism board’s travel alert for the most up-to-date information and resources. Haight recommends using tools that offer predictive analysis about the wildfire season such as National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook. Also check the Active Fire Mapping Program and air-quality conditions on AirNow.gov. Consult local weather and air-quality forecasts and search for news reports about fire alerts, road closures, and power shutoffs.
Ask your accommodation about their contingency plan should you need to make an emergency evacuation and follow their instructions closely. Book flexible accommodation with the option to cancel should you need to change your plans due to fire or smoke. If you’re unable to cancel your hotel see if you can offer the room for local evacuees.
©Poul Riishede/Getty Images
Should you need to evacuate, do so at your earliest opportunity to avoid taking critical resources away from locals. If you’re relying on public transportation have a backup plan for how you can safely remove yourself from danger. If you’re driving, have a full tank of gas. Bring an emergency kit with a First Aid kit, water, blankets, cell phone charger, spare medication, a wind-up radio capable of receiving emergency weather broadcasts, and N-95 masks which can help filter smoke particles.
Ensure your loved ones know exactly where you are so they can track you down if there’s an emergency. Ask them to alert you if they learn about fire dangers in the area where you are. If you’re going hiking in a dry area during the fire season, share your geo-coordinates with them.
While spending time in nature, practice extreme caution during dry conditions. Be sure to read up on local laws regarding open fires before your trip, especially if you’re camping. If you encounter a fire, leave immediately. Don’t try to put out the hot spot. Once you’ve reached safety, contact emergency services to ensure firefighters have dispatched.
What do I do if I get caught in a wildfire?
Fires can move at the speed of one football field every second. “If caught in a wildfire, don’t try to outrun it,” Haight says. “Find a body of water and get in it. Or find a clearing or depression and get low to the ground. Try to breathe the air closest to the ground when fire is near.” If you can’t find a body of water wet your towels, blankets, and clothes and use them as protection against the flames.
Support those affected
To support those affected by the wildfires contribute to reputable NGO organizations supporting aid efforts. Traveler Kay Kingsman was living in an evacuation zone for the Oregon fires and suggests sending donations of water, clothing, and air purifiers if you live near an impacted area. Many winemakers have been damaged from fire and ash—order a crate of wine to support their business. Everest Effect is a mutual aid crisis recovery platform providing immediate help and relief to those affected by the disaster.
Lola Méndez is a sustainable travel advocate who writes the responsible lifestyle blog Miss Filatelista.
Title: What to do if your travels are disrupted by wildfires
Sourced From: www.budgettravel.com/article/what-to-do-if-your-travels-are-disrupted-by-wildfires
Published Date: Thu, 01 Oct 2020 16:13:00 +0000
Now at the Boarding Gate: Coronavirus Tests
American Airlines said on Tuesday that it will offer coronavirus tests to passengers, joining United Airlines, Hawaiian Airlines and JetBlue Airways in offering tests to passengers. Tampa International Airport also said it will offer tests. The tests, which range from rapid tests at the airport that return results in minutes to tests that take a few days, allow travelers whose results are negative to skip or minimize quarantine restrictions in various destinations.
The new tests come as the number of people flying both domestically and internationally continues to be at record lows (the Transportation Security Administration screened 568,688 people on Tuesday compared to 1,998,980 on the same date a year ago). Testing at airports, it is hoped, will assuage people who are worried about the safety of flying amid the ongoing pandemic.
“Our plan for this initial phase of preflight testing reflects the ingenuity and care our team is putting into rebuilding confidence in air travel and we view this as an important step in our work to accelerate an eventual recovery of demand,” Robert Isom, American’s president, said in a statement on Tuesday.
American initially will test people traveling to international destinations, starting with people traveling from Miami International Airport to Jamaica. Testing for travel to Jamaica will be for residents flying to their home country; if a passenger tests negative for the virus, the 14-day quarantine currently in place for returning residents would be waived. The airline is also working to start testing for visitors and residents going to the Bahamas and other countries in the Caribbean. Beginning in mid-October, the airline will offer at-home testing that can be done via video call with a medical professional; in-person testing at a CareNow urgent care location; and rapid on-site testing, administered by CareNow at Dallas Fort Worth International Airport for flights to Hawaii.
Tampa International Airport is the first airport in the United States to offer the tests and they will be available to passengers flying on any airline. Tests will be administered by BayCare nurses and medical professionals, and travelers have the option of taking a PCR test that returns results in 48 hours or a rapid antigen test that returns results in 15 minutes. Before the pandemic, Tampa’s airport was one of the busiest in the country, with more than 22 million travelers in 2019. Ticketed passengers who are flying or have flown within three days and can show proof of travel can take a nasal swab test for $125 or an antigen test for $57.
The tests are not mandatory, and range in price from about $50 to $250.
Airlines and airports are desperate to have passengers flying again. The aviation sector faces about 40,000 job losses this week, when the financial relief that was part of the CARES stimulus package ends Oct. 1.
“More rapid, efficient testing allows for a broader reopening of the travel economy, and will enable organizations to more quickly restore lost jobs and rehire workers,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, the U.S. Travel Association’s executive vice president of public affairs and policy, earlier this month. “Importantly, a robust testing program would allow America to welcome back international visitors, a segment of travel that has effectively disappeared since the start of the pandemic.”
Announced last week, United’s pilot program for testing passengers and people traveling from San Francisco International Airport to Hawaii on the airline will begin mid-October, when Hawaii allows out-of-state visitors to skip quarantine if they have a negative test result within 72 hours of traveling.
“Our new Covid testing program is another way we are helping customers meet their destinations’ entry requirements, safely and conveniently,” said Toby Enqvist, the chief customer officer at United, in a statement, adding that the airline is looking to expand testing to other destinations and airports in the United States.
JetBlue is offering an at-home saliva test that is administered through an online video chat with a Vault Health test supervisor who ensures customers are providing their samples correctly. The airline’s test is for people traveling to countries that allow people to enter if they have a negative test result. Travelers receive results within 72 hours.
Airports and airlines have been touting increased cleaning procedures and many have mandated social distancing and mask-wearing rules, all in an attempt to keep travelers safe and make them feel confident about flying.
“Offering tests is consistent with other things major airlines have been doing to make people feel more comfortable around travel experiences,” said Stephen Beck, the founder and managing partner of cg42, a management consultancy that has advised airlines.
The tests come a few months after airlines and travel trade groups asked the government to create a federal testing program and guidance mandating that people wear masks, but that has not happened and airlines have created their own policies and systems. Airlines also asked European Union and American officials to create a testing program to encourage travel.
Carlos Ozores, the aviation and Americas consulting lead at ICF, another airline consultant, said that the move to offer testing won’t lead to a full recovery in air travel, but will likely gain traction in the coming months, especially for international travel.
“This is really meant for international markets where you have country restrictions that require a quarantine or a negative test result,” Mr. Ozores said. “I imagine this will be rolled out more broadly when catering to international travel.”
Mr. Ozores added that in order for testing by airlines and airports to work, governments would have to agree to accept the validity of each others’ tests, and consistent standards would have to be applied, regardless of where the tests were being done.
Among other developments in airline virus testing, Hawaiian Airlines will have drive-through testing sites for its passengers in San Francisco and Los Angeles in partnership with Worksite Labs; the tests will cost $90 for results within 36 hours, or $150 for day-of-travel express service beginning in mid-October.
In Europe, the Italian airline Alitalia is offering tests on flights between Rome and Milan through October. The airline is also hoping to test on flights and at airports for passengers traveling between New York and Italy.
By: Tariro Mzezewa
Title: Now at the Boarding Gate: Coronavirus Tests
Sourced From: www.nytimes.com/2020/09/30/travel/coronavirus-airlines-test.html
Published Date: Wed, 30 Sep 2020 23:10:34 +0000
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