Hiking with Casper the (Un)Friendly Ghost: Four Haunted United States National Parks

By:   Jocelyn Brown

Photo by Andrea Boldizsar

Photo by Andrea Boldizsar

The United States National Parks have a dark and brooding history. Many visitors mysteriously vanish on hikes through these parks, and over the past 100 years, there have been 1,100 missing persons cases that have never been closed. Unable to cross over, these restless souls continue to haunt the parks and if you’re hiking at night, you’d better watch out for these spirits. They’re not all as friendly as Casper.
Big Bend National Park
Everything is bigger in Texas, and the ghosts are no exception. Big Bend National Park, located in Brewster County, Texas, is the site of 200 murders. Native Americans, Spanish soldiers, and cowboys haunt the park’s trails and are just dying to join your hike. The Chisos Mountains, named after hechizos, Spanish for “bewitchments”, is said to be haunted by Chief Alsate, the last chief of the Chisos Apaches who was executed by firing squad in 1882. Hikers have also reported seeing a young girl who drowned herself to avoid capture by bandits, and an Indian warrior carrying a torch to light the way for the rest of spirits roaming the mountains. Emory Peak, one of the best hiking trails in Texas and the highest mountain peak in the range is a must-see if you’re in the park. Once you catch one glimpse of the view from the top, you might not want to come back again. However, the view is not the only thing that might keep you at the top. The trail to reach the peak is said to be haunted by a demonic entity. Some hikers have heard him cursing at them through EVP and once you escape his clutches, it’s hard to leave safely.
Grand Canyon National Park
Hiking across the Grand Canyon is a dream come true for most hikers, but watch out as you may not be hiking alone. The canyon is full of ghostly figures from phantom children playing on merry-go-rounds to lost hikers trying to find their way back home. The hiking trail is particularly haunted by a woman, appropriately named “the Wailing Woman”. According to legend, she committed suicide along the northern rim of the canyon – along what is now known as the Transept Trail – after discovering her husband and son died in a tragic hiking accident. Hikers have seen her dressed in a white dress with blue flowers crying along the trail. Since she lost her family to a hiking accident, it is a cautionary tale to those that hike these trails.
 Great Smoky Mountains National Park
The Great Smoky Mountains’ claim to fame is that it is home to some of the most terrifying spirits. One of the more prevalent ghosts stems from a Cherokee legend called “Spearfinger”. She was an old witch with one long, sharp finger made of obsidian. Spearfinger was also a shapeshifter who is said to have lured children away from their home to an area along the Norton Creek Trail. Once captured, she used her finger to take out their liver and eat it. The story ends with her defeat by some Cherokee Indians, but nevertheless the tale still haunts the trail today and if you listen carefully, you can still hear her. Spearfinger is joined by another restless soul – a murdered settler. This traveler has been seen holding a lantern used to lead hikers to safety. Whether you want to follow him to safety, is up to you.
Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park in California has the highest number of hikers to have gone missing out of any other US national park. This is probably because the park is full of traps for hikers – traps of the paranormal flavor. Old Native American tales tell of an evil wind that plagues the park called Po-ho-no. This wind lures hikers to the top of waterfalls and plunges them to their untimely demise. In 2011, three hikers fell off Vernal Falls in Yosemite Park, proving the power of the wind. There have also been reports around Grouse Lake of a young boy crying to hikers to help him out of the lake. However, don’t be fooled. It’s already too late for you to help him, and it will only result in your plunge into the lake.

Snow Calling – Check out popular Ski Weekend Resorts that British Love

By Tim Baker


Weekend getaways are invaluable for how they refresh your attitude to life and invigorate your soul. No wonder hundreds of British snow seekers escape every weekend over the winter. It won’t matter whatever the weather. Just being in the brisk mountain air is a wakeup call. Some resorts are obviously more popular than others and the British have their preferences for good reason.
Any weekend adventure is going to be full on action from the time you can leave work until you slink back a few days later. You need easy and slick connections to get on to the slopes a.s.a.p. This means the most popular countries for weekend getaways from the U.K. are France, Austria and Italy in that order. All of the resorts below can be accessed easily from hub airports within one or two hours by car, bus, or train or minutes by helicopter. You might like to check here for more information on resorts high in the Alps that guarantee good snow cover, charming villages with fun après ski and excellent places to stay, while the ones with lower altitudes are more mid season dependant.

is a well deserved favourite resort to choose with its pride of place under towering Mont Blanc. It has plentiful ski runs, authentic village life, and great après ski entertainment. You can get to Chamonix from Geneva easily.  As for the skiing everything is in Chamonix from beginner slopes to black run drop offs. Some are worth it just for the view.
Morzine is also a short drive from Geneva with plenty of transport options. Morzine is a traditional Savoyard mountain village that has embraced the winter ski life. Set smack bang in the centre of the Port du Soleil ski area there are plenty of runs to explore. You could even ski to Switzerland.

St Anton. Fly into Innsbruck and within an hour or so you are in St Anton am Alberg surrounded by Tyrolean delights. There are more than enough runs to suit every level of skier and enough après ski activities to pack a whole lot of fun into a couple of action packed days. Jagermeister in hot chocolate always helps.
Mayerhofen is also easily accessible from Innsbruck. As well as groomed runs for all, there is some excellent off piste skiing to be explored. Vans Penken Park is one of the best in the Alps for boarders and freestylers. And of course there is more than enough après ski activities to be enjoyed in the lively evening atmosphere.
Schladming is further to East, accessed by Salzburg. Again with its charming village style Schladming is the perfect place to clear your head and “Bend zee knees”. Schladming’s ski area crosses three mountains so there is more than enough choice especially for intermediate skiers. The village itself is vehicle free so you can wander to your heart’s content checking out the après ski life.

Sauze d’Oulx  is easily accessed by Turin Caselle Airport. In Sauze d’Oulx you will find action from the get go, on piste and off. There are plenty of runs to check out as the resort is part of the aptly named Milky Way ski area between Italy and France. If the après ski scene is as good as usual, plentiful blue runs might be the best option for the morning after.
Courmayeur is a ritzy traffic free town not far from Chamonix and so is accessed via Geneva. The skiing can be on the tricky side so many slopes suit competent skiers looking for an edge. However if the moguls are too testing Cormayeur is a place to see and be seen. You can take some après ski time wandering along the Via Roma checking out the shops and bars.

Glenshee is worth a schuss when the season is good especially if you live in northern UK. The closest airport is Aberdeen but most people self drive to the ski field. The ski area spreads across four peaks and three valleys and in a good season there are more than enough runs to explore over a weekend. As for après ski, you can taste a dram or two in Braemar.

Check out a Ski-end now…
These are just a few of the most popular resorts and ski areas for weekend getaways for British snow seekers. Remember, a “weekend getaway” doesn’t have to be over Saturday-Sunday anymore so consider a short midweek adventure as well. The earlier you book the better however check out late minute bookings for great package deals. Last minute snow is calling you. If you have in mind something completely different for you next winter adventure check out skiing further afield. There are longer term adventures to be had.


Oceanfront Luxury: Omni Amelia Island Plantation

Ultimate Ocean Luxury-  Omni Amelia Island Plantation

Ultimate Ocean Luxury- Omni Amelia Island Plantation

Escape to a Barrier Island Respite
By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Miles of Atlantic Ocean views, fantastic sandy beaches, luxurious relaxing oceanfront accommodations, refreshing resort pools, challenging championship golf and a plethora of activities greet us at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation. Located on a barrier island just north of Jacksonville, FL, we find a 1,350 acre resort in lush Florida landscape nestled between the sandy beaches of the Atlantic Ocean, the green marshland, and the Intracoastal Waterway. Driving into the resort, huge live oaks draped in Spanish moss line the entrance creating a welcoming Southern charm to the Plantation. An amazing upscale resort that promises a refreshing respite from the hustle and bustle.

The scenic view from our luxury hotel room on the 5th floor

The scenic view from our luxury hotel room on the 5th floor

A wide variety of accommodations are available from resort guest rooms with ocean views to secluded villas hidden among the intriguing landscape. Breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean are seen from our fifth floor Premier Oceanfront Room. Relaxation and comfort are primary in this 439-square-foot room with two queen beds, a working desk, and a luxurious modern bathroom. Our room faces south providing a wonderful panoramic ocean vista and a reprieve from the November northeasterly winds. After a long drive we are ready for a “stretch of the legs.” Ah, the smell of the sea air and beach beckon for an afternoon stroll along the 3.5 miles of pristine seashore. While the winds deter going for a dip, we relish the refreshing walk. With the tide out, the deep seashore offers a perfect walking terrain. Along the walk we spot the various resort accommodations, a few ocean golf holes and other walkers enjoying an afternoon beach stroll.

Fernandina Beach and Palace Saloon at night

Fernandina Beach and Palace Saloon at night

Opting to do a bit of exploring while on the Island, we enjoy a delicious dinner at Joe’s Second Street Bistro in the quaint downtown of Fernandina Beach. After dinner, it’s a leisurely walk along the streets of this charming southern town. On a Monday night things are a bit quiet, but we thoroughly enjoy window shopping in the numerous unique boutique stores. The historic Palace Saloon is a must stop to belly up to the bar and hear the tall tales of Florida’s Oldest Bar.

A beautiful morning sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean begins our day. More views await at the Sunrise Café for an indulgent breakfast. Choices are many from the “Art of Breakfast” buffet but we opt to dine ala carte. The Plantation Breakfast definitely suits me with two eggs, plantation potatoes, whole wheat toast, and Earl Grey tea. The maple-blueberry organic sausage is a hit for both of us, very flavorful. Richard is thrilled with the French toast and raves about it: “The best he ever had!”

Ocean Links  - Coastal dune holes have plenty of challenge and scenery!

Ocean Links – Coastal dune holes have plenty of challenge and scenery!

Boasting a first-class golf experience, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation is home to three incredible championship courses. Today we play the Ocean Links Golf Course. Quickly checking, we warm up at the practice range preparing to tackle the course. On past visits we have golfed the Oak Marsh course which is along lagoons and marsh wetlands so we are looking forward to the Ocean Links Golf Course as it winds through six miles of natural sand dunes and seaside terrain. Teeing off on the first hole we find a course that is both welcoming and challenging. Starting with par-4’s we feel confident with pars and a bogey. Arriving at Hole No. 4 along a coastal dune ridge on the Atlantic Ocean, we find very demanding holes. What appears to be a simple short par-4 quickly brings new dimensions of winds from the Ocean, terrain and testy green. The next two ocean holes are scenic, challenging par-3’s. Hurrah! It’s pars for both of us!

Ocean Links Hole No. 15 - a demanding par-3 directly into an ocean breeze!

Ocean Links Hole No. 15 – a demanding par-3 directly into an ocean breeze!

The course then winds back through the lagoons and marshland before returning to the ocean dunes on Hole No. 15 a demanding par-3. Drives are directly into a stiff ocean breeze to an elevated green. Watching the group in front struggle on this hole, we smartly select more club that is required to reach the green. Barely, surviving this hole with bogies, we arrive at the final ocean hole, No. 16 a par-4 along the seashore that has a hidden green and narrow fairway. Errant shots and even good shots are easily lost in the rough along the narrow fairway. The undulating green is tricky. No. 17 is a long par-5 that leads us to the amazing finishing hole, a par-3 whose green is strategically place in the waters of Red Maple Lake. Precision is required to not overshoot and end up in the lake. Delightful, challenging and fun – our golf day on the Ocean Links Course is as much a nature tour as a round of golf. Now for a tasty lunch and relaxation. The Marsh View Bar and Grill is so convenient and offers a varied menu to hit the spot for hungry golfers with its Southern-inspired casual fare overlooking the golf course. Here, we enjoy tasty sandwiches as we relive our exciting morning of golf.

Adult-only infinity edge pool - Relaxing!

Adult-only infinity edge pool – Relaxing!

Ah, now to chill out! Back at our room, we quickly change into swimsuits and head off for a relaxing respite by the water. Fantastic! The Plantation has the largest multi-tiered pool deck in northeast Florida. Choices, choices, choices- there is a 10,000-square-foot family-friendly pool with a few children splashing around today, a Splash Park water playground for kids, and an adults-only infinity edge pool and hot tubs. Being November it is a bit cool, so we opt to rest our weary bodies in the hot tub in the adults-only area. Ah! The jets massage our muscles and quickly relieve any tension. Locating comfy chaise lounges in the tiered decks, away from the ocean breeze, we stretch out on the guest beach towels for an afternoon nap. The adults-only pool provides stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean. Definitely, a wonderful respite for relaxing and unwinding. Afterwards, it’s a short walk along the beach before returning to our room.

Refreshed, we take a leisurely walk through the resorts walkways to Marche Burette, a gourmet market featuring wine, spirits, gourmet cookware and wine accessories. Shopping for unique items for family and friends, we then stroll around the lake and find numerous other shops offering specialty retail merchandise. Along the way, we see guests biking the many trails in this massive resort. Umm- maybe next time, we will pedal along these paths.  For dinner, we decide to check out a local eatery, and then return to Plantation to enjoy sitting around the fire pit by the pool enjoying a beautiful moonlight with a gentle ocean breeze.

Sunrise  over the Atlantic Ocean

Sunrise over the Atlantic Ocean

Awakening to a beautiful sunrise with a gentle breeze, it’s perfect for a morning walk along the beach. Scenic and peaceful, we finish our walk by stopping in at the Sunrise Café for breakfast. Richard is still enamored with the French toast and has it again today. Today, I opt for the Pecanwood Smoked Salmon with cream cheese, tomato, caper, fried egg on a bagel. Excellent!

Spending three days and two nights at the Resort is a delightful respite for us. Be prepared, the Omni Amelia Island Plantation is huge with its 1,350 acres offering so many options for accommodations from condominiums to villas to traditional hotel rooms. The staff is excellent and ready to assist with any request. Boredom is not a problem unless you choose to do nothing. There are many activities to meet anyone of any age’s desire. We found great walking paths through the hammocks, numerous shops, a rejuvenating spa, challenging golf, amazing pools, expansive beaches, trails to bike, state-of-the-art fitness centers, and MORE.

If you go:
Omni Amelia Island Plantation, 39 Beach Lagoon Rd, Fernandina Beach, FL 32034



Memphis: A City of Music Legends that Rocks

Feel the Beat of Rock’n’ Roll, Soul and Blues

By: Charlene & Richard Mixa

“I’m Going to Memphis!” is our chant as we begin our musical journey to Memphis. Sitting on the bluffs along the Mississippi River, Memphis is famous for its influential strains of blues, soul, and rock ‘n’ roll that originated here. The home of music pioneers who produced new beats to American music and their impact is still heard today.

Sharecroppers migrate to Memphis seeking jobs and bringing their music

Sharecroppers migrate to Memphis seeking jobs and bringing their music

“All Shook Up!” The music of Memphis actually “shook up the entire world.” The Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum tells the story of the birthplace of rock and soul music. A video begins our introduction on the music originating in the rural fields and with the sharecroppers of the 1930’s. Donning headsets, we wind through the six Galleries on a digital audio tour. The Rural Culture Gallery explains the impact of blues, country and gospel music that unexpectedly combined for a musical revolution. Each stop on the audio tour explains the intriguing story of the music and its impact on the musicians, the city, the culture, as well as, social and racial barriers. Continue reading

A Taste of Traverse City

Sipping, Sampling, Dining, and More!

By: Charlene & Richard Mixa

Scenic View through trees at Bowers Harbor Inn (Mission Table)

Scenic View through trees at Bowers Harbor Inn (Mission Table)

On the shores of Grand Traverse Bay sits the captivating unique town of Traverse City. Glacier-sculpted landscape created miles of sugar-sand shoreline, rolling hills, and a majestic peninsula. Located on the 45th parallel halfway between the North Pole and the Equator the climate flourishes with lush vineyards, as well as, cherry and apple orchards. Continue reading

A Memorable Michigan Golf Vacation

Bellaire, Michigan is a Golfer’s Dream
By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Hawk's Eye Golf Resort

Hawk’s Eye Golf Resort

A true golf mecca is hidden in the rolling hills of Northern Michigan. Sure Gaylord, gets a lot more attention, but Bellaire, Michigan can definitely hold its own as a golfer’s dream. With spectacular terrain, humbling course designs, and subtleties that challenge golfers of all levels, the Bellaire golf courses are some of the toughest in Northern Michigan. Yet, they are exhilarating to play! Continue reading

Northern Michigan’s Gem: The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

The iconic Tower at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

The iconic Tower at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

A Luxury Resort Surrounded by Sweeping Vistas & Magnificent Lake Michigan
By: Charlene & Richard Mixa

Seeking a respite from the Florida heat, we felt “the call” for a visit to Northern Michigan Here we look forward to cooler temperatures along with lush forests, rolling greens, grape vineyards, cherry orchards and the sparkling, sugar-sand shores of Grand Traverse Bay. A favorite premier destination resort is the Grand Traverse Resort and Spa with its iconic glass Tower, creating sky-high experience and expansive views of the scenic landscape. Continue reading

Asheville: The Call of Mountain Adventures

From Treetop Thrills to Luxurious Spa Caves
By Charlene & Richard Mixa (aka Mimi & Papa)

The Mixa's  take on the Adventure Center of Asheville

The Mixa’s take on the Adventure Center of Asheville

Zip through treetops, hike to a mountain top, slide down a waterfall, ride a wacky bus, play a round of golf, relax in an underground spa and tour a mansion, the Western North Carolina Mountains beckon adventurers from thrill seekers to pursuers of relaxation. On trips to dynamic Asheville we have hiked mountains, waded in ice cold creeks and been on tours to sample foods, taste beers and sip wines. Yet, each visit to these magnificent Blue Ridge Mountains brings a distinct twist on any adventure. Grandchildren, Louis (6 yrs.) and Lucy (4yrs) and their parents, Matt and Dawn join a few adventures adding to the excitement. Continue reading

Asheville Wines, Dines & Entertains

Variety Abounds Across the Asheville Area
By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Asheville a mountain town on the rise

Asheville a mountain town on the rise

A mountain town on the rise! Asheville, North Carolina enthralls visitors and locals with an array of activities. Recently recognized by Frommer’s as one of the “Top Must See Destination in the World,” it continues to enchant tourists. Asheville is more than the town where George Vanderbilt erected his massive mountain retreat, the Biltmore. Today it teems with interest to fit anyone’s desires. Continue reading

A Rainy Night in Savannah

A Town That Never Disappoints!

Ellis Square Splash Pad/Fountain

Ellis Square Splash Pad/Fountain

By Charlene & Richard Mixa

Savannah’s newest “Southern Belle,” welcomes us for an overnight visit to this always captivating town. Under cloudy skies, we are warmly welcomed to the boutique Hotel Indigo Savannah Historic District. Having seen the hotel under construction in December, we are anxious to visit the new “Belle of Savannah.” Impressive and huge! It is the second largest hotel in Savannah with over 250 rooms. Once a 19th-century dry goods storage house and shop, today with its modern style, Hotel Indigo still maintains its historic charm with a pleasing mix of old and new. Continue reading