Associated Press | A prolonged heat wave in the central U.S. has fostered the growth of a dangerous form of algae in lakes and ponds, threatening swimmers and livestock and scaring away tourists during the busy summer season.
Blue-green algae are actually bacteria that produce toxins harmful to humans and livestock. It flourishes in warm, stagnant, sunlit water, and this year's heat wave combined with Oklahoma's worst drought since the Dust Bowl have created what one water official called a "perfect storm" for its growth.
Officials have issued a series of warnings, telling boaters and swimmers at lakes in northeast Oklahoma, southern Kansas and Nebraska to avoid contact with the toxic gunk. The issue attracted national attention earlier this month when Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe blamed a respiratory illness on a swim in Grand Lake in Ketchum Hollow.
It's one thing to watch a herd of wildebeest thundering across an obscenely large, 3D flat screen dangling precariously from your living room wall. It is quite another to witness the Great Migrations in the flesh, accompanied by the sweet smell of your morning coffee swirling with the kicked-up dust from the Serengeti plains as the high-pitched trumpets of young elephant calves (or grunts from those numberless gnu) waft into your bedroom.
The giant purple starfish had me trying to say “wow” in my snorkel mask. The big, spiky red sea urchin looked like dinner. The long, wavy sea kelp reminded me of TV “housewives” with flowing blonde hair extensions.
Looking for some inspiration for your next summer road trip? Take advantage of the warm weather and head out west to check out the six new national natural landmarks!
Named on June 15 by the National Park Service, the newly dubbed landmarks are part of Obama’s "America’s Great Outdoors" initiative, which aims to conserve the natural beauty of some of the most beautiful areas of the country for future generations. Highlights of the newest batch of national treasures include Golden Fossil Areas, which are internationally-renowned for having unique fossil footprints, and Hanging Lake, a stunningly gorgeous lake that plays home to both a rare wetland ecosystem and hanging gardens. (Both are in Colorado.) However, if these don’t trip your trigger, there are over 500 other national natural landmarks to choose from.
For a complete listing of the new national landmarks, check out the National Park Service’s website.
Kirsten Stamn is an ASME intern at Travel + Leisure.
NPS photo courtesy of J.B. Bell
The Big Apple just got a lot more user-friendly for those who like to throw their leg over a two-wheeler, hit the bike paths, and take in the sights. The NYC Parks Department and Bike and Roll—a bicycle rental group that started seven years ago and now operates in five U.S. cities—cut the ribbon last week on their new Hop On/Hop Off program, which allows renters to pick up a bike at one of the easily recognizable 11 mobile Bike and Roll centers in Manhattan and drop it off at a totally different location, eliminating the need for a round-trip and encouraging exploration. Rates range from $12-20 per hour to $39-69 per day; child seats and tagalong attachments for kids are also available.
I know most people in the U.S. are head over heels for spring right now, breaking out the shorts, the bikes, even thinking about the bathing suit. But I can’t quite let go of ski season. It was a record one this year and, of course, I wish I had gotten out on my board just a few more times. If, like me, you are holding on to the dream of just one more outing into the white stuff, there are a few places where you can make it come true.
As someone who has lived and worked in three national parks, I know there are some things most tourists will never visit—from hidden hikes and waterfalls to the best happy hours. I turned to ranger Scott Gediman to find insider secrets about California’s Yosemite National Park, an Ansel Adams photograph sprung-to-life.
Q: What’s a surprisingly little-known hike in the park?
A: Yosemite Valley gets a bad rap for being so crowded, but on the 13-mile Valley Floor Loop Trail, you’ll stroll past Yosemite Falls, the base of El Capitan, and Bridal Veil Falls—all with nobody in sight. It’s an old bridle path for horses, so very flat and easy to get to.
From drag-racing in the desert to witnessing the Grey Whale migration in Baja, these trips offer the adventure of a lifetime.
Mark Orwoll is the international editor at Travel + Leisure.
Wouldn’t you feel better if you carried your valuables in the same waterproof storage bags that Navy divers use instead of plastic bags engineered to transport a soft sandwich? aLOKSAK, may look like a Ziploc bag, but these heavy-duty, puncture-resistant containers have a heat tolerance of 170 degrees and are certified dry at 60 meters, even after two weeks underwater. Plus, it’ll keep sand and saltwater out of your cellphone or Kindle while you use them.
Ann Shields is Online Senior Editor at TravelandLeisure.com.
You can have your lunar eclipse. For my money, the celestial event worth staying up late for is the Aurora Borealis. Throw in an up-close and personal Iditarod experience and you’d have the hottest ticket in Alaska. AdventureSmith Explorations, a California-based outfitter, has created a mid-winter soft adventure trip that’ll rouse you from your long winter’s nap.