Photo Of The Day: A Harvest Moonrise Over Mono Lake, California

™ Pacheco, Flickr

Just past the eastern terminus of the Tioga Pass, the entryway to Yosemite National Park, is the quietly beautiful Mono Lake. The area is unique due to its salinity and eerie tufa rock formations that jut out from the water, which give it a completely unreal appearance. Flickr user Pacheco took this amazing photo of the moonrise after a two-day mission to get the perfect Mono lake photo. He absolutely succeeded.

The surrounding area is fantastic as well because it has these little roads that stretch on into the mountains that are perfect to drive on and are often empty of anyone else. California is not often associated with its mountainous landscapes, but in large part thanks to it huge size, it has some of the best natural beauty in the United States.

If you have a great travel photo, be sure to submit it to us via our Gadling Flickr Pool and it may be featured as our Photo of the Day.

Private Firm Announces Commercial Flights To The Moon For 2020

Commercial space flights to the moon could begin by 2020A new start-up calling itself The Golden Spike Company has announced plans to commence commercial space flights to the moon beginning in 2020. But before you reach for your credit card and start booking your first flight, there are a few things you should know. The business is primarily aimed at nations – not private individuals – and it comes with the hefty price tag of $1.5 billion.

Golden Spike says that they have already had a number of inquiries from several interested countries and one wealthy individual. They believe there is a market for the program, even if motivations are more centered on prestige rather than scientific research. The $1.5 billion cost puts it out of the realm of possibility even for many nations, but considering that the price is for a round-trip flight for two, perhaps we’ll see interested parties actually splitting the costs.

Of course, with the current state of commercial space flight efforts, it would be easy to dismiss Golden Spike’s claims of providing commercial travel to the moon in just seven years time. But the company is made up of spaceflight experts and former NASA employees, which does give the effort some level of legitimacy. Still, I wouldn’t hold them too closely to that 2020 date. They have an awful lot of research and development to conduct before they ever get this venture off the ground.

[Photo Credit: NASA]


Mooning Amtrak annual event in California July 9

mooning amtrakIf you’re traveling through California by train next month, keep your eyes peeled for some special scenery in Orange County. On Saturday, July 9, exhibitionists, daredevils, and the just plain childish will gather in Laguna Niguel, drop their pants, and moon the passing Amtrak trains from early morning to late night. According to the excellent travel site Wish You Were Here, the event started 32 years ago as a bar dare (as these things do) at the Mugs Away Saloon and now draws thousands each year to participate in some good old-fashioned mooning.

You don’t have to participate to join in the fun, but we think going to watch a mooning event without participating is even weirder than joining a crowd of strangers to show your bare buttocks to a train of people. The event keeps going past 8pm, when the night mooning begins, which the official site claims is “more authentic” but does require additional lighting.

Check out all the details for the 32nd annual Mooning Amtrak here.

For more fun with trains, check out today’s Manhattan User’s Guide (not just for New Yorkers) for railroad history links and info.

Photo courtesy Flickr user Chuck “Caveman” Coker.

Gadling readers compile Belize must-sees

Gadling would first like to congratulate Dave C., the lucky winner of our Moon Belize giveaway! Dave C. wrote: “I don’t get the change to do as much diving as I like, but when I can, I won’t miss it. If in Belize, I would certainly not want to miss the opportunity dive at the Blue Hole. Diving gives me a sense of peace I can’t get doing anything else, and the Blue Hole just looks like a tremendously mysterious and beautiful place to dive.” A copy of Moon Belize is heading to your doorstep as I type this. I hope you enjoy the Blue Hole, and thanks to everyone who participated.

I was so blown away by the fantastic Belize must-sees that I compiled some of the best giveaway comments below.

From Dennis: “Snorkeling at Mexico Rocks. Off the beaten path, beautiful and never crowded. It’s like your own private garden of coral heads and sea life.”

From Molly
: “As newlyweds crushed under a mountain of student loan debts, we were thrilled to see the review of Moon Belize. We want our honeymoon to be there and are saving up. Definitely top of my list are the ruins and back country hiking.”

From Peach: “I’d love to go manatee watching! These are some of my favorite creatures & I’ve seen them in captivity but thats never really quite the same as seeing something in the wild.”

From Joe: “I’m starting a SCUBA program soon and I want to do my certification dive in Belize!”

I also created a handy Top Spots in Belize Google Map should you need a little inspiration on your journey through Belize. In case you don’t know how to use Google Maps, click on any pin to view a Gadling reader’s description. You can also retrieve directions to and from any destination.

Don’t forget to check out my review of Moon Belize as well as my interview with Avalon travel writer and Belize expert, Joshua Berman.

Enjoy Belize!

Talking Travel with Avalon travel writer, Joshua Berman

Avalon travel writer, Joshua Berman, whose Moon Belize guidebook (8th edition) hit book stands in October, took time from his busy book tour to answer a few questions about travel, writing, and living and breathing idyllic Central America.

Don’t forget to enter the Gadling Giveaway of the latest edition HERE (you only have until tomorrow to enter!), or read my glowing review of Moon Belize HERE.

Enjoy the interview!

GAD: Not that I’m criticizing your choice here, but how did you end up in Belize? In your mind, what makes it such a special travel destination?
JB: It was a natural northerly progression, beginning in Nicaragua in 1998, where I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer; followed by Honduras as both a trip leader and guidebook researcher. Then one day my publisher asked if I would take over Moon Belize from Chicki Mallan, the book’s original author, who was retiring. I said yes.

GAD: Based on your experiences living and traveling in Nicaragua and other parts of Central America, how does Belize contrast with its neighbors?
JB: Belize is less crowded, more diverse, more expensive, and just as tranquilo as Guatemala, Honduras, or Nicaragua. Belize is the only English-speaking country in Central America and its heritage as a British colony also makes it stand out from the rest of Central America (including Belizeans’ unique affinity for dark beer and stout).


GAD: What are your favorite things to do in Belize, and how do those activities reflect who you are as a traveler?

JB: I like to hike, paddle, and meet people. I also like to run into old friends, which happens every time I visit Belize. My favorite is when these activities all combine, like when I run into people I know atop Maya pyramids, on rivers, or in caves. It speaks to how small and special a place it is.

GAD: Can you tell us something about Belize that the less knowledgeable traveler may not know?
JB: Belize has one of the biggest cave systems in the world, the highest waterfall in Central America, and the planet’s first (and I think only) jaguar reserve. It also hosts one of the world’s longest and most grueling canoe races every March, La Ruta Maya Canoe Challenge.

GAD: With ever increasing eco-tourism and travel advancements in Belize, what kinds of changes do you see for the country as a travel destination within the next ten years?
JB: Belize is constantly walking the line of sustainability when it comes to tourism. There are always massive projects being proposed to increase cruise tourism, the airport, and the size of the developments on delicate islands and wetlands. But when it comes down to it, more than 70 percent of Belize’s 500 or so hotels have 10 rooms or less. That means small structures, family-run hotels, and lower impacts on the environment than big resorts and mega-hotels, which are standard fare just up the coast in Cancun. Also, I’d like to think that there are just too many forward-thinking people involved in Belize tourism to let it go astray. Belize recently hosted the third annual World Responsible Tourism Conference, which is a big deal. Ten years from now, I think Ambergris Caye and Placencia will continue to be built up, but the rest of the country will remain wild and small. We’ll see.

GAD: Based on your bio, I gather you split your time between Central America and the Rocky Mountains. How is this lifestyle and do you see it changing?
JB: I teach Spanish in Colorado during the school year and I travel to Central America on jobs during my breaks. Sometimes my family gets to tag along (here’s my two-year-old, Shanti, on her first backpacking trip to Nicaragua). It’s a tricky juggling act, but so far it’s working out, and it allows me to get my travel fix every few months while maintaining a home, job, and family.

GAD: What other parts of the world (not Central America) appeal to you – and why?
JB: My wife, Sutay, and I went to Pakistan on our honeymoon. This was in 2005 when it was a little edgy but not as dangerous as it seems to have become. We went north to the Hunza Valley in the Himalayas, which was one of the most spectacular lost worlds I’ve ever seen. It makes me drool to think about the milk tea and the glaciers and the apricot soup and yak-wool hats … incredible spot and very welcoming people.

GAD: What will be your next project as a traveler/travel writer?
JB: I’m putting the finishing touches on the manuscript of my first narrative book. It’s a travel memoir about my honeymoon and is tentatively entitled YOU WILL SOON BE CROSSING THE GREAT WATERS: A Love-Marriage Memoir from Pakistan, India, Ghana, and The Gambia. I’m hoping to publish it independently in the next year. I’m also updating two guidebooks this winter, Moon Nicaragua and Living Abroad in Nicaragua, with my coauthor, Randy Wood. You can always stay updated on my blog, The Tranquilo Traveler. See you out there.

Gadling is currently accepting entries to a giveaway of Josh’s Moon Belize guidebook. Entries are due tomorrow — Wednesday, November 18 @ 5 p.m. EST!!!

While you’re at it, check out my review of Moon Belize, too. You won’t be disappointed!