Our NEW MAP OF LAKE PEPIN is Here!

Our beautiful “New Map of Lake Pepin” drawn and illustrated by Wisconsin Map Artist, Lisa Middleton, is shown here framed. The gift prints are now available at better gift shops along both shores of the Upper Mississippi River for about $24.95. Or call us at 888-255-7726 to order!

framed lake pepin

The map, based on current USACE river charts is both historical and geographical in nature, with no commercial emphasis. The original painting and one full size giclee are available at Abode Gallery in Stockholm, Wisconsin. The original is close to 40″ long and 12″ wide. The gift prints which are a quality offset print product sized 11″x34″

Middleton also painted the 1887 Historic Reproduction of Glazier’s ribbon map, “The Father of Waters.” Gift prints of this map are also available at many fine gift shops along the river. Or call 888-255-7726 to order.

 

 

Spring Fun!

I very much enjoyed a spring hike at Goose Island where we found KC Kaudry and his niece playing his hand-crafted Didgeridoo! It was fun to return home and find his FACEBOOK site… https://www.facebook.com/midwestdidgeridoos?ref=stream

You’ll enjoy looking at his broad variety of creations made from local forest woods. Who knew you could make a didgeridoo from a white oak? Or a red cedar?

Thanks for a great impromptu concert, KC!!

KC with Didgeriedoo at Goose Island

So Much Has Changed!!

Ice fishermenWhat a difference two weeks can make! River is frozen. Swans long gone. Ice Fishermen abound. Eagles will be searching out open areas in the ice field. And while you may see local fishermen out on the ice… BEWARE. River ice cannot be trusted, even from day to day. River currents EAT ice.

A fisherman friend relayed that he used a special truck for ice fishing… the top had been removed so that if he fell through the ice, he could immediately push off and head for the hole.

Well, it happened that he DID fall through, and he immediately swam to the surface break. Current is obviously a great enemy, but hypothermia strikes in minutes.

He found himself sitting on the edge of the fragile ice edge, kicking his feet in the water. He had to logically think, “this is not normal. I SHOULD be freezing to death.”

So he pulled his body up and ran for the highway where he had his “road truck” parked. He made it to the truck, started out onto Hwy 35. He did reach the highway… and stopped right in the path of traffic.

Another driver stopped behind him, realized something must be wrong, and found Harold hypothermic behind the wheel of his truck.

Cruising with Quasar Expeditions on the Galapagos EVOLUTION

WATERWAY CRUISE REPORT
Colored letters indicate a link to more information



Let me say right up front that not since the old Delta Queen Steamboat Company (with whom I did at least 40 cruises as guest lecturer) have I felt such loyalty to a cruise operator.  Quasar Expeditions, like the Delta Queen Steamboat Company, operates on passion… not for their business, but for Ecuador and the Galapagos, and for their GUESTS.


For most of us, the biggest puzzle pieces in putting together a Galapagos cruise are… “Who shall I travel with, and, when should I go?”

Once we discovered the 32-passenger Galapagos EVOLUTION and Quasar Expeditions, it was clear sailing… especially in hind-sight…everything about this cruise and our eventual visit to the Andes highlands turned out to be immensely satisfying!

December to May is considered to be prime time, weather-wise, for visiting the Galapagos islands.  Our May visit featured rich, green plant-life and fair skies. Every bird species, from finch to Albatross, lizard to seal lion seemed to be nesting, mating, and feeding with abandon. But, honestly, most species in the Galapagos are opportunistic when it comes to reproduction… one month is as good as another for attracting a mate and raising a brood.

WHO to travel with is another matter.

A rule of thumb, is that smaller vessels rate better access to islands in the Galapagos. But we didn’t really want to risk chartering a small sailing boat with minimal amenities and an unknown operator. So we had an eye out for a slightly larger vessel, with a luxury tradition. With 32-passengers, a sleek classic yacht design, a modern, informative web-site, and luxury ratings for meals and accommodations, the EVOLUTION seemed to be our vessel.

Quasar Expeditions is one of the oldest cruise operators in the Galapagos. The family has offered cruises of the Galapagos since the 1980s and offered us trouble-free travel planning… both cruise passengers had the advantage of knowledgeable and passionate naturalists, excellent food, and superb access to the islands. Quasar also organized our week-long land tour in the Andes highlands around Quito… Our driver and English-speaking guide took a personal interest in our satisfaction from the moment they picked us up at the airport to the moment they waved us off the Tarmac.

While Quasar Expeditions is an Ecuadoran company, every contact we had was with an English speaking individual.  From website to office staff, the company is positioned specifically to deal with English-speaking populations.

“The understanding that we are an English-speaking company makes it easier for us to
garner the finest crew, naturalists, and to meet the expectations of an English-speaking clientel,” I was told. “Plus, we don’t just want you to come and enjoy the islands, we want you to leave the EVOLUTION with a new cadre of FRIENDS. That just happens more easily if everyone speaks the same language.”

Aboard the EVOLUTION

Alex was our preferred naturalist… mainly because of his love of the islands, and because of his 20 years of experience! But for those whose personal perspective is that this was a “vacation” and no “mandatory learning” was allowed, we had a second naturalist whose main focus was “learn a little” and have a great time! Every Galapagos naturalist today is professionally trained to interpret and protect this unique natural heritage.

On my first open ocean snorkeling excursion, I panicked and clung to the ladder.

“Alex,” I urged, “don’t wait for me. I’ll just hang here for a while.”

“I don’t go anywhere unless you decide to come with me, or get back in the boat,” he explained. “I don’t leave you in the water alone.” I felt absolutely safe with Alex from that point forward.

Snorkeling, panga rides, and kayaking were all available options for daily water-based activities. Snorkeling was by far the most popular… Turtles, white-tipped sharks, swimming with sea lions, and even “circling-up” when visited by several hammerhead sharks provided highlites on our EVOLUTION cruise. Oh yes, and we were joined by a pod of leaping dolphins during one of many memorable panga excursions!

“I really could not believe it was ME out there snorkeling with Hammerhead sharks!” one Minnesota passenger exalted.   And sea turtles were ABUNDANT in the clear waters!
 

Twice each day, the naturalists led us ashore for an island hike. An afternoon nap was mandatory, so that everyone had the energy to do the really important stuff… like hiking among the booby’s and iguanas, and magnificent Frigate Birds.

The AMAZING thing is  that these creatures truly have no fear of humans!! It was as if we had entered into the Garden of Eden.

 

While it is not necessary to  be   a student athlete to visit the Galapagos Islands, for the first time on any cruise, we found ourselves to be among the older visitors, rather than the younger!

It IS necessary to be able to hike for a mile or two… some of it over rocky lava surfaces, or up and down short steep slopes.

“Wet landings” are common, so be prepared to swing your legs over the side of a rubber panga!

I did bring two pieces of “gear” that I found incredibly useful…trekking poles that could be unscrewed to fit in a small carry-on suitcase, and lightweight Salomon’s “Amphibian” style hiking shoes with webbing. The trekking poles worked great when we were on lava rocks.

 

 

The specialized water/hiking shoes were great for wet landings. The webbing meant shoes dried quickly. The hiking soles stuck like glue to wet rock and afforded comfortable cushioning for the rest of the hike.

Casual dress is definitely the order of the day for this cruise.

The Dining Room of the EVOLUTION offered hot coffee at all hours, cookies, tea, and water or Sodas. Our hotel manager prided himself on serving excellent meals, with fully dressed tables at every meal. Seafood, meats, and vegetables often with an Ecuadoran flavor greeted us at every meal.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for me,” he commented. “I really put everything I have into our meals and presentation.”

For my part, I often chose some of the more casual tables on deck, overlooking the bays and coves of the islands! Birding was excellent, even from the boat. Frigate birds often lined up on the various overhead lines of the vessel.

 Life on board the EVOLUTION was easy. Our cabins were immaculately clean. In seven days, I never once crossed paths with our housekeepers!

 

 

 

 

 

 

… the large hot tub , and the lounge were popular gathering spots.

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you for following our series on cruising the Galapagos Islands!….  But there is more to Ecuador than the Galapagos. 


 

You may decide to add on a visit to the Andes highlands, or the Amazon Jungle. Please check back for a review of our land tour in the highlands.

Meantime, my best advice is to consider planning now for your Galapagos tour…

 Return to WATERWAY CRUISE REPORTS

Return to www.greatriver.com  THE MISSISSIPPI RIVER HOME PAGE

Return to RAMBLIN’ ON

 

Making the Galapagos Cruise HAPPEN!

Special Waterway Cruises Report

For many people, a visit to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador hovers near the top of their travel “bucket list”… my advice is

 [adsenseyu2]



DO IT NOW…
One criteria we have for our travel “bucket list”  is to visit the most fragile destinations FIRST, and the Galapagos is certainly one of these “endangered destinations.” 

The Galapagos National Park has become a laboratory for how to manage tourism in ways which protects a unique endemic and indigenous wildlife population. As a result, however, many regulations proposed for 2012 cruises will impose significant limits on how many islands visitors can access in one week.

According to press releases, the positive spin is that “New Itineraries Developed to Comply with New Galapagos National Park Regulations Will Enhance Experience While Minimizing Visitor Impact.”

In fact, the impact on the traveler is that an one-week cruise will soon require a  two-week cruise to see all twelve key islands and wildlife species that are on your list. With cruise tickets running at least $3500 per week, shopping for discounts will become increasingly critical.

We’ve received some sample itineraries from cruise operators which would come into effect under the new regulations.  There are some 58 islands in the Galapagos archipelago, which means the park is making a concerted effort to more efficiently disperse the 140,000 visitors currently allowed into the park each year.

Passengers who chose Itinerary A might visit the Southern & Central islands stopping at La Galapaguera, Cerro Brujo, Punta Pitt on San Cristobal, Punta Suarez and Gardner Bay on Espanola, Punta Cormorant, Post Office Bay and Devil’s Crown on Floreana, Humedales, Wall of Tears, Sierra Negra on Isabela, Bartolome, Black Turtle Cove and South Plaza Island as well as the highlands of Santa Cruz.

Passengers who book Itinerary B might visit the Northern & Western islands stopping at Playa Ochoa, Leon Dormido in San Cristobal, Prince Philips Steps and Darwin Bay in Genovesa, North Seymour, Bachas Beach, Darwin Station on Santa Cruz, Punta Espinoza in Fernandina, Tagus Cove, Elizabeth Bay and Urbina Bay in Isabela, Puerto Egas on Santiago, Santa Fe and Rabida Island.

 

By visiting in the remaining months of 2011, it is still possible to visit all twelve key islands throughout the archipelago, and see all the most desirable wildlife and waterfowl within the confines of a one-week tour. 

We recently returned from a cruise on the 32-passenger classic cruising yacht, Galapagos EVOLUTION (owned and operated by Quasar Expeditions). Quasar  was one of the very first cruise/tour operators in the Galapagos. The naturalist on our cruise was born in the Galapagos and had over 20 years of guiding experience. We thought they were a prime example of the “ethical operator” in the Galapagos. Quasar made planning our Ecuadoran visit simple. We found our visit to be very comfortable, safe, and memorable.

Each day of our EVOLUTION cruise involved two guided land hikes and two water-based excursions. Each island is unique in its geologic formation, and several have one or more endemic populations (found no where else on earth). The sea life among the islands is incredibly rich and each day involved snorkeling, dingy rides and kayaking.

Among these daily excursions, we had ample opportunities  to see iconic species of wildlife that make Galapagos famous: giant tortoises, penguins, frigate birds, boobies, flamingos, Darwin Finches, albatross, flightless cormorant, marine and land iguanas, lizards, many varieties of sea birds, whale, dolphins, sea turtles, sharks and sea lions…. and, yes, we did see hammerhead sharks!

Upcoming blog entries will share our Galapagos experiences with you!! So please return and join our conversation!

 


We also have some 30+ waterwaycruise destinations featured in our #1 rated WATERWAY CRUISE REPORTS at www.greatriver.com/waterwaycruises (click to visit!)

 Click here to return to our RAMBLIN’ ON Blog

Click here to return to the MISSISSIPPI RIVER HOME PAGE at www.greatriver.com

Heads up! Cruising the Galapagos Islands

If you have been considering a small boat cruise of the Galapagos Islands, there have been several recent developments that make the remainder of 2011 prime time for this destination. We returned from an excursion on the MV EVOLUTION (Galapagos Cruises from Quasar Expeditions) in May. So I can heartily recommend a cruise on the Galapagos EVOLUTION.



DO IT AT DISCOUNT
 AdventureSmith Explorations recently announced a special “Two for One Galapagos Cruise” for late summer /early fall on the 32-Passenger Galapagos EVOLUTION. 

Dates for these special cruises are Aug. 25-Sept. 4, Sept. 8-18, Sept. 15-25 and Sept. 22-Oct.1. The packages begin and end in colonial Quito, Ecuador, include an 8 day / 7 night Galapagos cruise, pre and post cruise Quito hotel accommodations, airport/hotel transfers, round trip flights from mainland Ecuador to the Galapagos Islands and a half day tour of the Quito’s old town, a UNESCO designated World Heritage Site.

Departures (guaranteed when 16 guests have signed up for the program) start at $5,895 for the first traveler with the companion paying only $1,100 for extras (in-country air tickets, transit control card and park entrance fees) exclusive of the cruise rate. Phone: 800-728-2875 toll-free or 530-583-1775. Email: travel@AdventureSmithExplorations.com

Need more info?

Quasar Expeditions offers a truly superb web site that will answer any questions you might have about planning, packing, and cruising the Galapagos… as well as customized land tours to extend your visit in Ecuador.

These folks KNOW cruising in the Galapagos Islands. Contact them online to learn of current special offers direct from Quasar Expeditions.

 Please revisit our RAMBLIN’ ON blog, as we will begin some detailed posts about our excursion on the Galapagos EVOLUTION, and our visit to Quito and the “Avenue of the Volcanoes”

UP NEXT on Ramblin’ On:
2011 is likely the last year the Galapagos National Park will allow cruises to encompass both the East and West Islands of the Galapagos in a one-week cruise. Another good reason to move the Galapagos to the top of your bucket list!! Click below….

Upcoming blog entries will share our Galapagos experiences with you!! So please return and join our conversation!


We also have some 30+ waterwaycruise destinations featured in our #1 rated WATERWAY CRUISE REPORTS at www.greatriver.com/waterwaycruises (click to visit!)

Click here to return to the MISSISSIPPI RIVER HOME PAGE at www.greatriver.com

So, this bird walks into a store……

This is a fun 2007 video of a real seagull, probably from Scotland, which developed the habit of stealing chips from a neighborhood shop.

The seagull waits until the shopkeeper isn’t looking, and then walks into the store and grabs a snack-size bag of cheese Doritos.

Once outside, the bag gets ripped open and shared by other birds.

The seagull’s shoplifting started early this month when he first swooped into the store in Aberdeen, Scotland, and helped himself to a bag of chips. Since then, he’s become a regular. He always takes the same type of chips.

Customers have begun paying for the seagull’s stolen bags of chips because they think it’s so funny.

Word is Out! Overnight Cruise boats returning to the Mississippi

The Spirit of Glacier Bay will be renamed the Spirit of America and sale the Mississippi River, the St. Lawrence Seaway and the Great Lakes... starting in 2011.Starting to hear that two well-known cruise lines are preparing to offer river boat cruises on the Mississippi River next year!

Cruise West is renaming 100-passenger Spirit of Glacier Bay to Spirit of America and starting Mississippi cruises in 2011.

Most Mississippi cruises will go from New Orleans to Memphis or from Memphis to Nashville, with the first cruise being New Orleans to Memphis March 19, 2011. Other introductory cruises are in April and May.

Published fares: $3,499, $3,799, $4,299, and $5,099 per person double occupancy. Discounts may be as high as $600/person.

Cruise West suggests that the Spirit of America may also be found on the East Coast, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and the Great Lakes. We’ll keep you posted as we learn more.

Imperial Moth in Vernon County, Wisconsin

IMPERIAL MOTH SIGHTING

A first sighting of an Imperial Moth has been recorded in Vernon County, Wisconsin, along the Mississippi River.  According to our source, the moths appear to be making a slow progression northward up the river.  It had previously been found in southern Crawford County, the county below Vernon.

 
Have you found a moth or butterfly you’d like to report to someone? The USGS has a link where you can do just that…    Please see http://www.butterfliesandmoths.org/faq/report for reporting instructions.
USGS National Biological Information Infrastructure
Big Sky Institute, Montana State University

Fall Color is PEAK along the Hermann, Missouri, Wine Trail!

Norton grapes are the signature grape at Missouri Wineries

Norton grapes are the signature Missouri wine grape

We are just back from several delightful days in the vicinity of Hermann, Missouri. Hickory and Oak trees which cover the Missouri River bluffs were in full bloom… as was OCTOBERFEST on both the Hermann and Augusta Wine Trails! 
In addition to wine tasting, live music, and friendly locals, we geo-cached in park and forest, toured historic homes and learned about the German settlements which prospered in the 1880s.
There are 70 B&Bs in Hermann alone, but reserve ahead if you visit on the weekend!! 

Watch our TRAVEL REPORTS page at www.greatriver.com/waterwaycruises/  for a detailed feature next month. Right now, visit: www.VisitHermann.com or  http://www.hermannmissouri.com/ for more details!