Category Archives: Places To Stay List

The Perseids are Coming!

Photo: by Johnny Westlake for NASA

There are very few things in life that are worth waking sleeping children for. A really cheap plane ticket is one. The perseids meteor showers are another. We’re just days away from peak perseid viewing, which experts say happens after midnight and before dawn this Thursday, August 12. If the skies are clear where you are, astronomers are predicting a great show this year since Thursday will be a moonless night. Expect 60 to 100 shooting stars per hour!

So where can you see perseids? You might try a dark sky preserve–a place that’s intentionally protected from light pollution in order to help astronomers (amateurs and pros alike) better view the night sky. A couple of notable dark sky preserves include the Lake Hudson area in Michigan, the Elk Island National Park in Alberta, and the Kickapoo Valley Reserve and Wildcat Mountain State Park in Wisconsin.

But don’t fear. If you don’t live near one of these places, just drive a good ways out of your town/city (if you can) and look toward the northeast. During the peak, you should be able to see a shooting star every couple of minutes. And if you live in the city and can’t get away, just get to the darkest spot you can!

Elqui Domos, an "astro lodge" in Chile

On my trip-of-a-lifetime wanderlist, I’d love to go to this ‘astro lodge‘  in Chile. Its web site says that its only one of seven “astronomical hotels” in the world. Each of the seven “rooms” are actually furnished geodesic domes and the hotel offers nighttime hoseback riding and astronomical tours all focused on taking in the area’s “sky wealth.” I’m not sure if that’s just Spanish translation issue or just a poetic turn of phrase, but it sounds beautiful!

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Cabin Fever! (Southeast Edition)

Cabins at the LeConte Lodge, Great Smoky Mountains National Park

As the school year comes to end, wandering families’ thoughts turn to summer vacation! We’ve started looking for close-by but unique places and came up with this wanderlist of rentable cabins in the southeast (I’ll cover other regions later). These are all on public land (state parks, national parks, national forests, I have a soft spot for anything having to do with the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps), so I’ve tried to include as many CCC cabins as I could find.

Charming and rustic are the keys concept here: many of these accommodations don’t have electricity or plumbing (and one doesn’t even have door locks!). They are sometimes, but not always less expensive than staying in a budget hotel. Several can be reached only by foot or horseback. In other words, it’s about the experience, not the free continental breakfast.

For the Truly Adventurous

We’re not going to attempt the LeConte Lodge cabins (pictured above) in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park until the kids are older. They’re reached only by trail, ranging 5.5 to 8 miles long, 4 to 5.5 hours as a liberal estimate. My source (thru-hiker husband Andrew) says that the cabins book up about a year in advance and the food is fantastic.

Reached only log bridge (!), the Donley Cabin in the Cherokee National Forest pre-dates the Civil War, has no electricity, plumbing, or door locks and is served by an outhouse.

Mild, Not Too Wild

More our speed at the moment are the Swan and Stewart cabins, both historic cabins that you can rent in the Nantahala National Forest here in Western North Carolina.

Stewart cabin, Nantahala National Forest

I also love the look of the CCC cabins at Mount Nebo State Park in western Arkansas, and they have quite a few amenities.

CCC cabin at Mount Nebo State Park, Arkansas

These CCC cabins at Monte Sano State Park in Huntsville, Alabama also look charming.

Monte Sano State Park, Huntsville, Alabama

We’ve been to Myakka State Park in Florida, but we didn’t stay in these cute palm-log cabins, which were also built by the CCC. 

We recently found out about some affordable rentals at the Cape Lookout National Seashore. They’ve got some basics (including hot water) along with generator hook-ups. They’re not nearly as charming as the ones I’ve pictured here, but they’re right on the beach, which kind of makes up for it!

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