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D-Mad Travel Adventures!

The world through our lens and our fun(ny) experience!

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USA

Alaska: Beyond Your Dreams, Within Your Reach!

This is by far the most amazing place we have been to. I just cannot put it in words the beauty of this land, hence, I will not even try. I will just tell you the things you can do when visiting Alaska in Summer.

Anchorage:

Denali National Park – Reflection Pond at Wonder Lake. This is totally worth it if the sky is clear and you can see the mountain. Try to reserve the early morning shuttle if you are planning to go all the way to wonder lake. Camp at wonder lake and take the first shuttle back the next day. This way you can expect to see maximum wildlife on the way!

Seward: 

Harding Icefield Trail, Exit Glacier: If you love day hikes, Harding Ice Field is not to be missed. We almost didn’t do this hike as we were so exhausted after hiking and traveling for 11 days in Alaska but on the last day we decided to push ourselves to do this. That was the best decision and 8-miles of pure paradise. The expansive ice-fields on top is breathtaking! We kind of started very late on this trail (~3pm) but thanks to the long days of summer, there were fewer people and more bears on our way back (~9pm)!

Kenai Fjords National Park: Take the day trip ferry to see some of the brilliant glaciers, listen to/see the glacial calving and spot some dolphins, puffins, otters, humpbacks and orcas on the way!

Russian River Falls: A short hike to see the Alaskan wild salmon migration. We spent hours here watching salmon leap up to cross the waterfall and a few little bears who were there to hunt. If Katmai is not on your list, this is your cheaper and easier second option.

Bear Glacier: Stand up paddling in Bear Glacier cove was the highlight of our trip. Paddle through the calm water around some magnificent icebergs and  take in the view and feel insignificant! This tour is only offered by Liquid Adventures so make sure you reserve a spot.

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Juneau:

Glacier Bay National Park: The best way to see the glaciers up close is by taking the local ferry from Juneau to Gustavus and staying at the Glacier Bay lodge. This way you can take the national park ferry for a day trip to see some of the best and pristine glaciers in the northern hemisphere. An additional advantage to this is you can rent kayaks and paddle out in the bay and get up close and cozy to some of the largest mammals in the world!

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Mendenhall Glacier:  Want to see how it is to be in an ice cave? A day trip to Mendenhall glacier will let you experience just that! We took a guided tour to the glacier and once we hit the glacier, we put on our crampons and walked on the glacier a couple of miles to explore the caves and the river system which flows underneath the glacier. It is quite fascinating! The rain forest hiking detour you take on the way back is well worth it!

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Alaska is expensive, start saving up so you can take back a life’s worth of memories!

Ideal time to visit  – June – July

Number of Days – 10 full days at the least!

Photography Tip – Be ready with your telephoto as you never know when a bear or whale can prop up in front of your eyes! For more photos visit our FB page.

D of DMad!

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Las Vegas – Inside and Out!

This is a special feature where a friend and I talk about Las Vegas!

Kendra’s take  –
I love Las Vegas. I’ve been traveling there for years. Today, I enjoy taking my family here too. Whether I’m traveling on business or bringing the kids for family vacation, I never find myself lacking something to do or see.

1. Las Vegas from the Air
Kids of all ages will never forget the sight of the strip from a helicopter. Tours with Maverick Helicopters are always on the agenda when my family visits Las Vegas. The pilots give every guest VIP treatment. Each person gets to interact with the pilot during the guided tour through use of high-tech headsets. The photo taken at the end of the tour might end up being your favorite souvenir.

2. Showtime on the Strip
You simply can’t visit Las Vegas and not catch a show. Cirque du Soleil has been putting on stunning performances here for years. Their current show, O, is an absolute must-see. It features a 1.5-million-gallon pool and talented synchronized swimmers. You might find yourself wondering where to look next. You’ll definitely be happy you took in this visual feast.

3. Bumming on the Beach
Where else could you find a beach and plenty of waves in the middle of the desert? One of my favorite places to relax while in Las Vegas is Mandalay Bay. They have several swimming pools as well as a sandy beach. I grab a cocktail and relax in an inner tube while the kids ride the waves in the wave pool. The lazy river is another highlight of any visit here. This place is all the reason I need to visit the strip.

4. Dolphin Training
If you love dolphins, you need to visit Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat. You can become a dolphin trainer for a day through the program here. Guests are allowed to work alongside professional trainers while interacting with magnificent Atlantic bottlenose dolphins. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a marine biologist, this is a great way to try it on for size.

Family fun can be found in many vacation destinations. Las Vegas happens to be one of my personal favorites. My family always has a good time, and we never have the same experience twice. Las Vegas is truly unique and hosts a number of beautiful hotels that cater to any traveler or family. Sites like Gogobot make it easy to sort the huge number of hotels to the one that fits you the best. There’s so much to do, most tourists are eager to return again.

D-Mad’s double take
I have always shared a love-hate relationship with Vegas. I do like the glitz, glamour, lights and colors of this place, but this place can only be enjoyed mostly after the sun goes down and even better after a couple of shots. If you love getting dressed up, catching some shows, laying by the pool, during the day, in one of the many pompous hotels and partying up by the night, Vegas is the place to be.
I am also in awe of how they have replicated and recreated many of the amazing things from all over the world. It is superficial yet stunning!

While Kendra talked about what you can do while in Las Vegas. I am going to tell you about why else Vegas is awesome. This is very centrally located to few of my favorite spots in the US and the airfare is very cheap to Vegas from most big cities.
During the day when you cannot do much in the city, here are some amazing options –

  1. Drive to West Rim of the Grand Canyon NP and experience the sky-walk over the canyons or take a helicopter tour.
  2. Drive to Death Valley NP and Red Rock Canyons to see some spectacular landscapes.
  3. Drive to Zion and Bryce Canyon NP (Read about Utah) for some amazing hikes.
  4. Drive to Hoover Dam and take a tour of the massive structure.
  5. Drive to Lake Mead National Recreation Area for a dip in the beautiful lake. The Venetian

Las Vegas is definitely an experience inside and out!

[ A collaborative post by Kendra Thornton and D-Mad]

Kendra is a travel enthusiast and a fellow blogger. You can follow her @KendraThornton.

HOW TO: enjoy winters in the Twin Cities?

Step 1:

First and foremost, WEAR WARM CLOTHES – Do yourself a favor and invest in good winter gear, even though they are expensive and dress in layers. You will not regret it. But if you are the kind who will not do that but sit indoors and crib about the weather, you are not yet ready to advance to Step 2.

Step 2:

In Step 3 I will tell you about the activities you can do outdoors. But before that let us chat a little bit about your driving skills. You do not need any great skills to drive in the winter, so make sure you drive sensibly and slowly. Traffic is going to be slow when it is snowing, that is because no one enjoys skidding off the freeway and waiting in a ditch (being cold). Don’t be freaked about driving in the winter, it is not as bad as people make it seem!

Step 3:

Get outdoors and fill your lungs with cold air. It is an incredible feeling! Here is a list of things you can do in the Twin Cities.

  1. Skiing/Snowboarding – Pick up a new skill. Skiing is a lot of fun once you get past the falling phase. Do not give up. Snowboarding is more fun. Give them a try! Afton Alps is my favorite area to ski.
  2. Ice Skating – There are many lakes on which they clear the snow to skate which makes skating an inexpensive winter activity. Centennial lakes has a beautiful skating area!
  3. Snow Kiting – Take some lessons here and see if you like it.
  4. Watch out for winter festivals which happen in the twin Cities. My favorite is the luminary loppet at the TrLoppet Ski Festival. There is a Winter Carnival in St Paul where you can see beautiful snow sculptures and drink beer and cider at the ice bar (how cool!).
  5. BIKE – Get winter tires and bike on the Midtown greenway. Yes they are plowed and are safe.
  6. Ice Climbing – Rent crampons from UoM Rec Center and try walking behind the frozen Minnehaha falls. It is magical! Image
  7. There are many many miles of snow shoeing and cross country trails in the city. Arboretum, Theodre Wirth park and Elm creek park have some really great ones.
  8. Enjoy a sunset walk on a lake – There is a lake in every nook and corner in this city. Just get out and you will see beautiful colors of reflection at sunset on the frozen lakes!
  9. There are tons of fun events like Polar PlungeCupid’s Undie Run and other winter marathons! Most of them are for a good cause so you will not mind getting a little cold for it. And you will be celebrated on FB too for these 😉
  10. Photography – Everything looks so beautiful on a snowy day. And colors pop out due to the brilliant contrasting landscapes. Wear mittens which has a flap/zipper to expose your fingers to click when necessary 🙂

Every snowfall is different as is every snow flake which falls from the sky. Jump around and listen to the music your feet makes on the snow. Make snow angels, go sledding, throw snowballs and take videos of hot water evaporating in sub-zero temperatures. They are all fun activities with loved ones which make you smile and create memories 🙂

If none of these made sense to you, you should reflect back on your thoughts to see what exactly you are cribbing about. Nothing stops life being led a normal way in the twin cities, not even the worst of winters. Start living your own today!

– D of DMad

Fall is in the air! – My top picks for fall color destinations in US.

Midwest –

1. Upper Peninsula, MI

The drive from Porcupine Mountain State Park to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore through the beautiful fall clad cities of Marquette and Munising.  Check for fall color reports here – http://www.michigan.org/fall/

2. Northshore drive, MN

The stretch from Duluth up north to Lustsen mountain is gorgeous. The view from atop the Lutsen mountain is spectacular! MN fall color report – http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/fall_colors/index.html

 

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Pic: Fall 2012 in Minneapolis, MN

3. Bayfield, Iron mountain, WI

You have so many options other than the above two favorites. Devils lake state park and Door county are equally beautiful if not more. Wisconsin by far has the best travel site which reports fall colors – http://www.travelwisconsin.com/fall-color-report

East Coast –

1. New England

Anywhere and everywhere in New England during fall it’s charming! My favorites – Kancamagus Highway, White Mountains, Acadia National Park and Franconia State Park. To track peak colors use their forecast map – http://www.yankeefoliage.com/peak-foliage-forecast-map/

Southwest –

1. Colorado

Golden Aspens cover the entire state of Colorado and I am going this year to take in the beauty. My plan is to drive around Aspen and Gunnison area and to aid me in this hunt will be this site – http://denver.about.com/od/familyactivities/tp/Colorado-Fall-Foliage.htm

Photography Tip – To bring out the colors, try to shoot during those hours when the sun is not directly above your head.

Email us @ d.mad.photography@gmail.com if you need more info.

-D of D-Mad

Rocky Mountains of Colorado!

Colorado is one state in US which is extremely beautiful year round! We had the privilege of visiting this state in summer when the mountains were lush green with streams full and flowing as well as being buried knee deep in snow when we tumbled down the back bowls of Vail in our attempt to ski the ungroomed black diamonds. And both times it was beyond beautiful.

  1. If it is your first time going to Colorado, THIS is the route I would take.Drive west on interstate 70 on the winding roads and through the tunnels as you take in the beautiful scenery all the way till Glenwood springs. Why Glenwood springs? To hike to see the spectacular hanging lake! And take a dip in the largest hot water spring pool in the country!Image
  2. Stop at the Vail village and experience the charm of this quaint German town.
  3. Make your way to the gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park. Enter through Kawuneeche Visitor Center in case the Trail Ridge Road is open. (It is closed in winter).
  4. Drive through the trail ridge road taking in the scenery. There are a lot of vista points and hiking trails here. In winter, you will have to enter and exit through Estes Park area.
  5. Reach the Estes park area of the National park to watch the herd of Elks grazing during sunset. 3 lakes not to miss – Sprague lake, Bear lake and Emerald lake.
  6. Drive to Denver through Boulder. Denver downtown is pretty pretty with some good places to eat especially in the LoDo area.

Ideal time to visit  – Beautiful and unique year round.

Number of Days – 3 full days

Misc Tip – Buy a national Park Annual pass if you are planning on visiting more than 3 parks. It is valid for a year and can be used in all National parks in US and costs $80.

Email us @ d.mad.photography@gmail.com if you need more info :)  For pictures – D Mad Photography (Album : Landscape)

– D of D-Mad

Top 10 : Biking Trails within Twin Cities, MN

We took part in MS-150 last year loved it more because we could explore a new biking route for us to train. Here is the list of our Top 10 routes –

  1. Dakota Rail trail – This is one of my most favorite trails as it has less distractions in terms of stop signs and crowd  and most distractions in trms of beauty!
  2. Grand Rounds Scenic Byway – As the name suggests, it is very grand and scenic though very crowded around the lakes.
  3. East River Parkway – This winding route is along the mighty Mississippi River on the east bank where University of Minnesota is.
  4. West River Parkway – This is also along Mississippi River in Minneapolis with beautiful bluffs and has many historic and scenic pit-stops. Image
  5. Lake Minnetonka LRT Reginal Trail – Very beautiful unpaved trail where you can see turtles on the trail and deer running along.
  6. Cedar Lake LRT Regional Trail – This runs between Downtown and Hopkins and is very good training trail.
  7. Luce Line Trail – A very long and scenic unpaved trail!
  8. N Cedar Lake Trail – This runs parallel to the Cedar Lake regional trail and joins Kenilworth trail to meet Downtown Minneapolis.
  9. Midtown Greenway – Double thumbs up to this trail as the trail is maintained year round and you see bikers in both snow and shine! Also it connects most of the trails I have mentioned here.
  10. The Gateway State Trail – This trail originates in St Paul and takes you to the beautiful city of Stillwater!

Write to us @d.mad.photography@gmail.com if you need more details or if you want to join us to explore more routes.

_D of D-Mad

Top 10 : Places to stop on Pacific Coast Highway! (San Francisco to San Diego)

This is my Top 10 list (where 5 and 9 are yet to be checked off) –

  1. Santa Cruz
  2. Monterey Bay & Carmel
  3. Big Sur
  4. Pfeiffer Beach & Julia Pfieffer Burns State Park (McWay Falls)
  5. Pismo Beach
  6. Santa Barbara
  7. Malibou Beach
  8. Long Beach/Huntington/Newport Beach
  9. Dana Point/San Clemente
  10. La Jolla

Email us @ d.mad.photography@gmail.com if you need more info on these places.

_D of D-Mad

Chasing Aurora Borealis – A night of Dancing lights and colorful skies!

We heard about the solar flares which would result in Aurora Borealis in the sky close to where we currently live. We were very interested to watch this phenomenon but had no idea what to expect and was in store for us.

Along with a bunch of friends, we set off on a wild goose chase determined to see the northern lights at the same time keeping our hopes as low as possible. We left Minneapolis, Minnesota at 6 pm and started driving up north. The probability of viewing the aurora was higher the more north we went. We stopped for a quick dinner break after 3 hours at Duluth for some delicious Sushi at Hanabi restaurant which definitely requires a mention as it raised our spirits high.

We were 5 of us and we had our roles well defined – Driver, Informer, Facilitator, Story teller, Photographer.

The Informer was an avid follower of astronomical wonders and he was constantly checking for tweets about the Aurora and read blogs from people from the area to make sure we were heading the right way. The facilitator made sure the driver did not fall asleep and constantly checked on the informer if we were heading the right way. The story teller made sure that the entertainment factor was prevalent and the long drive was enjoyable. The photographer’s and driver’s role is pretty obvious: P

It was a windy night and the cold was harsh. The temperature dipped to -15 degrees C; the feels like temperature was around -20 degrees C and the winds made it worse! It was 2 days after the full moon day and the sky was bright making the chances of viewing it clearly bleak.

Against all these odds we still drove ahead since we were already there. After a couple of hours we stopped and observed to see if our eyes could actually see it. And it could not.

At 12 am we decided to just capture a long exposure shot and check for a green sky because as optimists we just kept thinking the sky looked slightly green than usual. And to our surprise the photograph did show greenish tinges at the horizon. We drove a little ahead where there was a clearing and hopped out of the cars and waited. After a few minutes the show began!

Continue reading “Chasing Aurora Borealis – A night of Dancing lights and colorful skies!”

Florida – Beaches, Gators, Dinsey & Dives

Florida never ceases to entertain us, we haven’t been blessed with the best weather there all the time but despite that it is definitely one of our favorite vacation destinations. I have made 4 trips to Florida and each time I have been as enthralled about the place as the first time.

The good thing about going to Florida is that you have an option to fly to one of the many fairly big airports (Miami, Orlando, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Panama City beach) there, so you can choose the one with the cheapest airfare.  And every other popular city is just a ~3 hour drive away. More often than not, you may find Fort Lauderdale to be the one with the cheapest airfare.

Here are probably the best places to visit in Florida. Continue reading “Florida – Beaches, Gators, Dinsey & Dives”

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