Author: Michael Kardos

Archaeologists Dig Cañada de la Virgen

A short distance southwest from San Miguel de Allende puts you at Cañada de la Virgen, one of Mexico’s most recently excavated pyramids, near the northern edge of Mesoamerican pyramids, and surrounded by private land in an out-of-the-way location that reduces visitor traffic and greatly enhances the guest experience.

Pyramids are some of the oldest buildings on earth and throughout Mexico, Central and South America they were built and revered by Olmecs, Mayans, Incas, Aztecs, Toltecs, and others. The form and size of pyramids are generally simple to construct and they provide a vantage to survey the surrounding lands and study the heavens. read more

The Many Doors of San Miguel de Allende

By some estimates, upwards of 2,000 doors are along the streets of El Centro in San Miguel de Allende. No matter the number, each door is different, many are distinctive and some qualify as unique. But mostly, each door is an opaque veil hiding behind it a story all its own.

In a real sense, a door stands as a sentry at a portal, a delineation between one state and another; outside versus inside, old to new, greeting or farewell, something lost to something newly gained. Every human emotion and activity has taken place in that thin space between then and now where a single step can change everything. read more

San Miguel de Allende: Paradise Under Pressure?

Any number of flattering adjectives describe one of Mexico’s most popular travel destinations: vibrant, serene, idyllic, or simply drop-dead gorgeous. San Miguel de Allende provides stunning eye appeal, pleasant year round temperatures, brilliant blue skies and dazzling clouds.

In 2008, UNESCO was so taken with San Miguel de Allende that the 64-square block of El Centro was named a World Heritage site (along with the Sanctuary of Jesús Nazareno de Atotonilco, a few miles outside of town). Among the reasons UNESCO cited were preservation of the Baroque and Neo Gothic architecture and the city’s efforts to retain its historical feel. You won’t find parking meters, traffic lights, fast food chains, or stop signs in the central city. read more

Mt. Wilson, Southern California’s Best Star Gazing

Los Angeles may be home to Hollywood stars but for an out-of-this-world experience drive up to the Mt. Wilson Observatory where you can find even more beautiful stars to gaze at, any time of the day or night.

The Mt. Wilson Observatory, located north of Pasadena, is renowned as one of the most famous astronomical observatories in the world and groundbreaking work continues there to this day.

George Ellery Hale, the driving force behind the observatory’s creation, persuaded steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to fund critical elements of the observatory. As at Mt. Wilson, Carnegie, in his later life, became one of America’s great philanthropists, building a university, a research institute and thousands of libraries across the country. read more

A Look Behind the Scenery at Palm Springs Aerial Tramway

Palm Springs is a popular California getaway, but Coachella Valley temperatures can easily push past 100 degrees Fahrenheit. A great way to beat the heat is to take the aerial tramway to the top of Mt. San Jacinto. The ride is memorable, topside views are breathtaking, and for those wondering just how safe it might be, a peek behind the scenes will allay the fears of even the most worrisome.

Not surprising, the dream for an aerial tram came about on a hot day in 1935 when Francis F. Crocker looked up at the snow-capped peak of Mt. San Jacinto and longed to be up in the alpine air that is about 30 degrees Fahrenheit cooler on average than Palm Springs. read more

Joshua Trees, Desert Grandeur, and a Boulder Garden in Pioneertown

Even though Pioneertown counts fewer than 500 residents, this quaint Western-themed community hangs on with the tenacity of a cactus thorn buried deep, but instead of a sharp pain, visitors are left with fond memories of desert beauty where quirky is an everyday thing.

First established in the late 1940s as a convenient locale for Hollywood to film Westerns, Pioneertown is about 125 miles east of Los Angeles, a few miles west of Joshua Tree National Park and about 40 miles north of Palm Springs. Cowboy movie and television legend Roy Rogers helped found the town and it was named after a band he was in, “Sons of the Pioneers.” read more

San Diego Is Sun, Fun, and Great Ocean Views

While San Diego may be California’s second largest city, it feels smaller – and friendlier – than some of the other, better-known neighbors further north along the California coast. With some of the best weather to be found anywhere in the U.S., a world-renowned zoo, a slew of amusement parks and attractions, first-rate cuisine and a rich history to go along with some fantastic beaches, San Diego may well be, “America’s Finest City,” as it likes to call itself.

San Diego holds the distinction as the first settlement on the West Coast by Europeans in what would become the United States when Portuguese explorer Juan Cabrillo claimed the land for Spain in 1542. Over the centuries the city’s economy has become firmly anchored by a major military presence, a solid and growing tourism industry and burgeoning high technology and life sciences industries. read more

Only These Two Could Build This Castle

Hearst Castle, as it’s commonly known, is often thought to be the genius of one man. But look past the praise heaped upon William Randolph Hearst and your gaze rests upon Julia Morgan, a woman of brilliance and firsts of her own and the perfect partner to spend decades molding Hearst’s dream into a stunning reality known around the world.

Despite their differences – Hearst’s tendency toward grandiosity, hyperbole and not letting the facts get in the way of a good story, and Morgan’s penchant for precision, balance and beauty, and the absolute truth of mathematics and engineering – they did have things in common. Both were born in San Francisco (she, nine years later), they each spent formative years living in Europe, and both were passionate that architecture be designed and built to reflect the terroir of the surrounding countryside. read more

Sequoia and Kings Canyon: Biggest Trees in the World

The giant sequoia is the single largest tree on earth and in a world of monarchs the castle’s keep would be the twin wonders of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, the greatest gathering of the largest trees on the planet.

The grandest among them have been honored with the names of beloved American presidents, famous military generals and revered American Indian chieftains, including the Sequoia National Park namesake.

To be clear, a close relative of the giant sequoia, the giant (or coast) redwood does grow taller, upwards of 378 feet, compared with a sequoia that topped out at 311 feet. read more

Manzanar: Acknowledging a Past Tragedy

Manzanar National Historic Site is both crime scene and memorial. Incarcerating more than 10,000 loyal Japanese Americans there as a result of hysteria and paranoia at the outbreak of World War II is a case study in how the ugly stain of racism continues to be a blot on the ideals of the American experiment.

But more recently, thanks to time, determination, and a willingness to acknowledge the sins of the past, Manzanar National Historic Site is evolving into a place to help us appreciate that, despite our differences, different cultures have more in common with each other than one might think, and that a nation can strive for a higher ideal. read more

The Best Side Trip I Ever Took?

Some of my greatest joys occur when I choose the road less traveled. Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, an hour’s drive outside Death Valley National Park, aptly fits that description, but this jewel of desert beauty is also home to the toughest fish – shorter than an inch – ever to take a case to the United States Supreme Court. And the fish won – for now.

Ash Meadows is nestled in the Amargosa Desert in southern Nevada and men of ambition were determined to bring civilization to the desert. There was plenty of water underground just waiting to be taken. And who cared about a fish so small it was called “pupfish” or that you could easily fit 100 of them in a teacup? (The teacup notion fails once you realize less than 100 Devils Hole pupfish are currently alive, making them the rarest of the 30 or so species of pupfish). read more

Death Valley, Some of America’s Best Desert Beauty

For thousands of years, Death Valley has enticed adventurers hoping to suss out secrets, or perhaps plunder riches. But more recently, it is the traveler who comes and slips into an outdoor tapestry that guarantees this out of the way destination is a trip you’ll remember for the rest of your life.

Aside from its sheer size as the largest national park in the continental U.S. and temperatures hot enough to cook eggs in the summer Death Valley is also the lowest spot in the contiguous U.S. at 282 feet below sea level. read more