Strolling San Clemente's scenic beach trail, more than 5,000 miles from Southern California, I marveled at the aquamarine waters of the Bay of Biscay and the historic Phare des Baleines lighthouse.

I feel like a time traveler, stretched out in a sleeper car on a train slicing across the West Texas scrubland.

Lying on the ground in Coyote Gulch, the night sky framed by openings in a natural arch and a curved canyon wall, I peer at the cosmos as through a Mardi Gras mask.

The air is hot and sultry, weighted with smoke and sea salt and the heady balm of pig fat. It's not exactly soup weather. It's the rainy season, July, when I'm in Zihuatanejo, which doesn't translate to any actual rain but rather a steamy, lazy heaviness that's boxed in by an unrelenting sun, with the Pacific Ocean in front and the Sierra Madre del Sur behind.

Wending our way to the Old Chatham Sheepherding Company, we cross a creek, meander down a country road, then come to a farm with red barns, split-rail fences and flocks of sheep grazing in the green pastures.

1542

Attention, California fourth-graders. If you want to make a model of a handsome, historic California building that was built for a simple purpose and produced entirely positive results, consider a lighthouse.

Picture the Blue Ridge Parkway as a crooked spine running through the Appalachian Mountains. Government stewardship of public lands is splashed across the map in confusing variety - a national park at either end, national forests, historic sites, monuments and state parks along its 469 miles.

SUMMERSVILLE, W.Va. - Carnifex Ferry is not Gettysburg. It's not Antietam. It's not Shiloh.

Most of us spend nearly the whole day with some sort of technology - in front of a computer, an app on our cell phones, watching the TV to unwind - and that might be why our minds and bodies crave time outdoors so badly that we find ourselves edgy, depressed, agitated. Just in general out of sorts. When you feel nature calling, answer it.

Strolling San Clemente's scenic beach trail, more than 5,000 miles from Southern California, I marveled at the aquamarine waters of the Bay of Biscay and the historic Phare des Baleines lighthouse.

Anyone who goes looking into California mission stories that were written decades ago is likely to come upon some language that's jarring, if not downright offensive, words such as "savage," referring to Native Americans.

San Diego de Alcala, San Diego

A quickening breeze off the Adriatic brings a spray of rain sweeping across the city's grand plaza, empty on this late July morning. A two-hour train ride away, the smaller Saint Mark's Square in Venice is filled with U.S. tourists, but I hear no American accents here, mostly the harsh Triestino dialect, a blend of Italian, Slovenian and German.

BOGOTA-When Tatiana Pineros took the helm of this city's tourism agency in July, she became the face and an example of Colombia's transformation.

An airport is usually about the least telling place to learn about a city's character, but not so for Portland.

Seems like every time I take a trip to the shore, which is as often as I can during the summer, I can't resist buying a postcard, magnet or some other souvenir featuring the image of a lighthouse. Whenever I look at them, I'm reminded of the sea and the intriguing concept of a beacon of hope and safety shining out in the dark.

It's a long climb to the top of the dome at historic St. Paul's Cathedral.

The sexy, sunny siren of the Cote d'Azur, St. Tropez has been luring men to the French Riviera long before Brigitte Bardot made it a jet-set touchstone with the 1956 film "And God Created Woman." People have been drawn since prehistoric times to this once-simple fishing village on the Mediterranean. Today, just the name conjures images of cafe society sybarites and celebrities, which is part of the mystique that attracts 6 million visitors a year.

Although every daylight hour of the five-night rafting trip I took recently down the Colorado River through Grand Canyon National Park offered a steady flow of jaw-dropping vistas, my most poignant moment came around 2 one morning.

We sat among strangers, stuffed into wet suits and squeezed into a van headed toward a beach. No one was quite sure what to expect when we arrived.

When in the Brooks Camp part of Alaska's Katmai National Park, do spend hours on the Brooks Falls platform. But don't expect them to be all in a row. There's room for only 40 people on that platform. When it's busy, rangers limit visitors to an hour per session and keep a sign-up list. Park info: www.nps.gov/katm/index.htm. Brooks Camp concessionaire info: www.katmailand.com.

Circa 2,500 B.C.

I couldn't tear myself away from the Brooks River bears for the eight hours it would have taken to visit the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, which is still buried in volcanic ash from the great Novarupta eruption of 1912.

In 1825, travelers navigated 83 locks. I crossed one.

Kids love ghost stories. They love ghost tours - on which they discover the hotel room next door is supposedly haunted - even more.

We rented our bikes from a guy named Nick. He lives outside the tiny Scottish town of Taynuilt in the western Highlands off a road about as wide as one car.

Out in the water at Brooks Falls, the bears were doing their thing. Up on the viewing platform among the telephoto lenses, two off-duty executives from Chicago turned from their cameras to explain themselves.

In the Alaska of my mind, it is always summer. A bear stands hip-deep in glacial runoff, swatting salmon and swallowing them whole. Eagles wheel overhead. Moose meander in the bush. The theme from "Northern Exposure" echoes across the tundra.

Berlin, Dresden and Leipzig form a neat triangle in the middle of what was once the German Democratic Republic, now a thriving composite venue for some of the best classical music to be heard anywhere. While the classical music scene relaxes for summer in the United States, American music lovers are visible in Europe's concerts halls and opera houses. For this listener, a May-June journey through Scandinavia and Germany provided multiple events to choose from in every city on the itinerary.

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