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The Glorious Bucket List: The Beaches of Block Island

Bluffs Beach

 

Where: Block Island, a 7,000 acre, pork chop-shaped island off the coast of Rhode Island

Why: Often called “the Bermuda of the North”, much of the 17-miles of beach front on this island offers clean, powdery sand and clear, turquoise-blue water similar in feel to the beaches of the Caribbean.

How: Most visitors arrive to the island via ferry from New London, CT or Point Judith, RI, and New England Airlines offers daily shuttle flights, too. Rent a bike or a moped from Aldo’s on Weldons Way—the best way to navigate the island’s winding, country roads.

The main beach on the island is Crescent Beach, which stretches along the island’s east coast from the ferry landing at Old Harbor to Clay Head. It includes Town Beach, a best bet for families as this busy stretch includes a pavilion with food, restrooms, and changing rooms, as well as life guards during peak hours.

Fitness fans will appreciate the journey to Bluffs Beach at Mohegan Bluffs marked by the Block Island Southeast Lighthouse, accessible via a long, steep staircase. Our favorite time to visit is first thing in the morning when the beach is nearly empty, and visitors can wander along and take in the dozens of stacked rocks placed there by previous visitors, and maybe create one themselves.

Vacationers looking for a bit of privacy should bike down the dirt road to the Clay Head Preserve, where a short hike leads to Clayhead beach. On the way back to the trail head, visitors should take time to explore “the Maze”, a series of interconnected pathways offering spectacular viewpoints of the island.

Best of all, admission and parking at all beaches is free.

More: For maps, photos, and travel info on the island, check out the Block Island Tourism Council’s super-helpful website.

Town Beach

 

Bluffs Beach

 

A couple enjoys the quiet of the beach accessible via the Clay Head Preserve’s nature trail

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The Glorious Bucket List: Hiking Angel’s Landing

Zion Canyon from the top of Angel's Landing

 

Where: Zion National Park in Southern Utah

Why: While Angel’s Landing is among the more harrowing hikes in the National Park system, the incredible view from the top makes the 5-mile trip along the steep, winding path well worth it for any nature lover.

How: Hikers begin with a free shuttle ride to the park’s Grotto stop, where you can fill up on water before crossing the bridge over the Virgin River at the trail’s base. From there it’s a two-hour trip to Scout Lookout at the top of the 1,488-foot rock formation. There’s plenty to take in along the way, particularly for birding enthusiasts who can expect to spot winged creatures like the black-chinned hummingbird, turkey vulture, and California condor.

The first few miles of the trail are well-groomed, with shady spots like Refrigerator Canyon offering breaks from the heat before hikers reach the last half mile, one of the toughest parts of the trek thanks to 21 pinball-like switchbacks known collectively as Walter’s Wiggles. Reaching the very top with the help of anchored support chains, visitors are rewarded with spectacular views of Zion Canyon that American geologist Clarence Dutton aptly described as, “…a scene never to be forgotten. In coming time it will, I believe, take rank with a very small number of spectacles each of which will, in its own way, be regarded as the most exquisite of its kind which the world discloses.”

More: Get an even better sense of what’s in store with Zion National Park’s Angel’s Landing eHike, featuring photos, videos, and more facts about the trail.

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The Glorious Bucket List: The ING New York City Marathon

Runners cross the Verrazano Bridge. photo by Martineric via Flickr

 

I’m breaking from the usual “Glorious Bucket List” post format for this week’s entry, one that’s near and dear to me: The ING New York City Marathon, the world’s largest 26.2-mile race which brings runners through all five boroughs of the city. I watched my first NYC Marathon in the November of 2001, a little over a month after I’d moved to New York. At the time I knew all of one person in the city, so I was alone when I headed uptown on a crisp fall day and into Central Park to watch the race.

Company, as it ended up, was easy to come by. The hills surrounding the park’s roads were packed with people cheering on runners as they made their way along the last few miles of the course. Participants hailed from all around the world, and words of encouragement were being shouted in a dozen languages.

The September 11th attacks had happened not even two months before and if one thing stood out the most on race day, it was the palpable love for the city. Everyone could feel it, from the racers to the spectators. Many of the runners from other countries even donned American flags—painted on their cheeks and ironed on to shirts—or “I Love NY” tees. Gestures of solidarity. I’ve never been to the Olympics, but I imagine the international spirit of the event, the sense that, for a few moments we are all united for one common purpose, is similar to what I felt in Central Park that day.

It had never been a goal of mine to run a marathon before then, but I was so taken by the idea of participating in this particular race I promised myself then and there that someday I would run the New York City Marathon and experience the excitement and accomplishment written on the faces of the runners I saw that first November.

Five years later, I did.

Clearly I had a good time, although truth be told it wasn’t easy. But if you were to ask me whether the months of training and effort was worth it I’d answer “yes” without hesitation. It was one of the best experiences of my life, and in a way I feel like I gave something back to the city I’ve come to love so much by running it.

Info for registering for this year’s race on November 4th can be found here. Some runners may qualify for guaranteed entry, though most of the over 100,000 applicants will be entered into the lottery (the deadline to submit your name is April 23rd). One way to be sure you’ll have a spot on race day is to run for an ING participating charity. I ran with Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Fred’s Team and can vouch for their outstanding training program and excellent race day organization. You’ll raise money for a good cause and in return you’ll get a little taste of glory, running a race you’ll never forget.

 

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The Glorious Bucket List: Rafting Through the Grand Canyon

What: An unforgettable journey through the belly of the Grand Canyon, one of the seven natural wonders of the world

Why: The rush of rafting through whitewater, majestic limestone cliffs, cactus gardens, visits to Native American ruins, canyon hikes.

How: Since 1969, rafting outfit O.A.R.S. has been operating guided, non-motorized trips down the Colorado River. Guests can choose from two types of vessels: an inflatable raft which offers a bit more give over rapids and travels more quickly through the water, or hard-hulled dories, which make for a more up-and-down experience through whitewater and go at a more leisurely pace through the canyon. Trips range in length from 4 days to 18-19 days, but on each visitors can expect to spend 3-5 hours aboard the boat, and the rest of the time hiking around the canyon, eating, or hanging out at camp. For first timers, we like the 5 day Whitmore Wash to Lake Mead trip, which also includes an afternoon of horseback riding, ATVing, of hiking at Bar 10 Ranch and a scenic helicopter ride into the Canyon.

all photos via O.A.R.S.

 

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