The Mysterious Parallel Forest

Does your idea of fun include a close encounter of the paranormal kind?

That’s exactly the type of experience many who’ve visited the Parallel Forest in the Wichita Mountains say you’ll find under the canopy of the symmetrically lined red cedars.

Where Is the Parallel Forest?

A five-minute drive south of Meers, OK, on State Route 115 will bring you to the general location of the Parallel Forest. There are no signs indicating you’ve reached your destination, you simply have to look for a cement pad and a stand of cedar trees tucked into the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge.

The fact that you must rely on your map skills and powers of observation to uncover such a hidden treasure adds to the site’s urban-legend mythology.

What Is the History of the Parallel Forest?

The Parallel Forest’s physical history is completely manmade. That is to say that in 1912, the U.S. Forestry Service requisitioned 16 acres for the planting of cedar trees, which when mature, were to be harvested and used for such practical purposes as fence posts and railings.

The trees were planted in a strictly symmetrical pattern – each tree in every direction was placed exactly six feet apart to keep it from spreading too far out as it grew. Through the years, the trees were saved from the ax because they were eventually included within the boundaries of a reorganized public use area, known as the current wildlife refuge. They’ve maintained their parallel appearance, this grove of 20,000 trees.

What Is the Parallel Forest Legend?

The cedars’ branches, captivated by the wind, creak and sway in quiet unison. Shadowy light forms dimly-recognized shapes that create the backdrop for the imagination to flourish. Growls and moans, cries and howls, disembodied voices and headless visitors are just a few of the experiences visitors have reported over the years.

Do You Dare Visit the Parallel Forest?

There are those who’ve experienced nothing short of the exquisite beauty of nature while venturing into the Parallel Forest. Where do you stand when asked to brush up against the supernatural? Is it an adventure you would dare to encounter?

Start Hiking Today

Talk about fresh air and great scenery while getting some exercise.

Whether you are looking to clear your head, reduce stress, lose weight, or just have some fun, hiking, trekking or bushwalking may be the sport for you.

Hiking is a recreational activity that is great for your general well-being. It is economical and convenient since it doesn’t require any special equipment.  There are no rules, and as long as you are healthy and can walk, you can hike.

There is no age limit when it comes to hiking. This is an activity that can be enjoyed by toddlers and the elderly. You can hike almost anywhere provided; it’s not a prohibited area.

Brief Hiking Stats

Hiking is probably the oldest outdoor activity, it started about half a million years ago during the Stone Age when man learned how to stand upright and walk. Back then, people hiked out of necessity to hunt and gather food. The oldest hiking milestone was in 1874 when Gardiner, Grove, Knubel, Sottajev, and Walker conquered the summit of Elbrus the highest mountain in Europe. One of the most recent was when Karel Sabbe smashed the Appalachian Trail record by four days. Some of the finest hiking trails in the world include;

·      Appalachian Trail in the United States

·      Pennine Way in the United Kingdom

·      Balkans, Montenegro and Albania

·      Tahoe Rim trail in the United States

·      Camino de Santiago trail in Spain

Hiking as a Social Activity

Though some people prefer to hike by themselves, hiking can be more fun in a group. This can be your family, friends, workmates, or even a hike with your partner for some special bonding. This is a recreational activity that can improve your social skills and bonds as well as help you make new friends.

Hiking for Health

Hiking is an excellent sport for people who want to exercise and can’t afford gym membership. It is also great for those who are living a sedentary lifestyle, and want to begin working out.  The elderly can also hike comfortably, especially if they can’t engage in vigorous exercise. Hiking not only gives you a good workout, but also allows you to interact with nature, therefore, refreshing your body, mind, and soul.

Hiking Events

If you wish to hike competitively, you can enroll for the Hiking World Championships. You can also join an organization that encourages hiking for a cause. For instance, The Wilderness Society that routes for the preservation of rights of way in parkland, foot, and bridle paths. It also protects recognized natural spaces from encroachment.

To start hiking, you only need the best hiking shoes. All you need is to invest some time.

What You Need to Know to Visit The Big Almaty Lake

It is a beautiful fall morning in the mountains.

The day is warming up nicely as your taxi deposits you at the mouth of the trail. Energized by the lingering effects of the traditional sweet coffee you had at breakfast, you start your hike. Rounding the bend, the vision in front of you takes your breath away: the intense turquoise blue of Big Almaty Lake.

How to Get There

Your story begins when you visit this picturesque alpine lake located just outside of the Kazakhstan city of Almaty in the Ili-Alatau National Park. Both nature enthusiasts and Instagrammers alike flock to the site to photograph the intense hues of the reservoir that serves as its namesake city’s water supply. To get there, have the hotel arrange a taxi or use the Yandex app to schedule your own.

Things to Know

Planning ahead will make your trip much more comfortable and drama free. Some things you will want to consider:

  • Wear comfortable clothing and shoes appropriate for hiking up and down mountain terrain
  • Bring your passport in case you are stopped at a security checkpoint
  • Pack snacks and water as there are no concessions in the park
  • No swimming is allowed
  • You may need an International Driving Permit if you choose to drive yourself

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, trails leading to the Kyrgyzstan border have been closed, but many others are open to adventurers. A short hike from the lake reveals a fantastic waterfall. Pack a picnic if you’d like to spend more time on the mountain.

Safety and Security

Travel in Kazakhstan is generally safe. However, like any city in the world, travelers can be targeted by thieves. Use common sense security measures such as keeping your valuables out of sight and refraining from walking alone after dark. 

Learn about Space at the Baikonur Cosmodrome

If you’re interested in space, visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome deserves a spot on your travel bucket list.

Since NASA’s space shuttle program ended in 2011, American astronauts head to space from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. 

History of the Baikonur Cosmodrome

While the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan is now known among space enthusiasts as one of the most-used launch sites for sending astronauts, cosmonauts, and supplies to the International Space Station, it has a far more complicated past. During the Cold War era, Soviets used the location for testing a variety of missiles. At the height of the Space Race, Russian cosmonauts used the site in their attempts to land a man on the moon before the American astronauts. 

Since the end of the American space shuttle program in 2011, American astronauts have begun to use Baikonur as their primary launch point, as it is located closer to the equator than any other reasonable option. Although they are no longer able to launch shuttles out of nearby Cape Canaveral, Florida, NASA still communicates with American astronauts aboard Russian Soyuz rockets and the International Space Station from mission control in Houston, Texas.   

Visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome

While all travelers with valid documents to enter Kazakhstan may visit the city of Baikonur, tourists can only visit the Cosmodrome as part of a guided tour. Many tours need to be booked several months in advance, and they can last for several days. Visitors will be able to see several museums filled with space artifacts, learn about the history of the Russian space program and its recent collaboration with NASA, tour other parts of Baikonur, and possibly even watch a live Soyuz launch.

Careers in Space

Although the American space shuttle program does not exist at this time, Americans may still pursue careers as astronauts with NASA. However, those chosen to travel to space will need to launch from Baikonur, Kazakhstan, for the foreseeable future.  

Students interested in working as astronauts, at mission control, or in other positions at NASA should take rigorous courses, attend space camps, and prioritize grades as early as possible. Very few prospective astronauts are accepted, virtually all of them go far above and beyond minimum requirements, and many have pilot or military experience. 

Visiting the Baikonur Cosmodrome introduces tourists to the latest in space travel, what lies beyond Earth, and what the future of space travel may hold. 

Stroll Among the Treetops at the Capilano Suspension Bridge

Most hikes through the woods happen on the ground, but walking across the Capilano Suspension Bridge gives visitors a bird’s-eye view of the Capilano River and one of West Vancouver’s most expansive forests. 

History of the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The Capilano Suspension Bridge, one of Vancouver’s best-kept secrets, was built by George Grant Mackay in 1889. Mackay never intended for his bridge to become a tourist attraction, as it was originally built to be enjoyed by his friends.

However, after the property surrounding the bridge was sold and its structure was updated several times, the version of the bridge that exists today became a popular place for visitors to Vancouver to enjoy the scenery in 1956.

Visiting the Capilano Suspension Bridge

The current Capilano Suspension Bridge is surrounded by other, newer tourist attractions, such as the Treetop Adventures Canopy Walk and the Cliffwalk. These structures work together to give visitors to Capilano Suspension Bridge Park multiple views of the natural beauty that is found in the surrounding forest. 

While the park can be an excellent attraction for families, parents should know that strollers are not permitted on any of the bridges, and they should never allow children on the bridges alone. While reasonable safety guards are provided, parents should always supervise children to prevent reckless play that could lead to falls or other injuries.

Visitors to the Vancouver area can take a free shuttle or public transit to the park from various locations around downtown Vancouver. Tourists to Vancouver can visit the Capilano Suspension Bridge at any time of year, but it is especially popular when it is decorated with hundreds of lights between November and January. 

Exploring the Capilano Suspension Bridge is an exciting way for visitors to West Vancouver to connect with natural beauty. Make plans to visit this awe-inspiring park the next time you’re in Vancouver today!     

Gippsland Lakes Bioluminescence

Located in Victoria, Australia, the Gippsland Lakes are a network of connected inland waterways that stretch over 250 square miles.

The three main lakes in the network are Lake King, Lake Victoria, and Lake Wellington. Everything you could ever want to do on a lake can be done here from fishing and boating, to swimming and kayaking.

However, in 2008 something really spectacular occurred here: a bright blue bioluminescent bloom.

What is Bioluminescence?

Bioluminescence is a quite simply light created naturally in a living organism. Fireflies are an example bioluminescence found on land, however most bioluminescent organisms live in the sea or in brackish water. Bioluminescence can be found primarily in jellies, bacteria, and fish.

Curious travelers can find bioluminescent kayaking and boating tours in areas where bioluminescent algae blooms occur regularly. Kayaking is a great option for seeing bioluminescence because the rowing of the oars activates the algae, surrounding you with a brilliant blue glow. Clear kayaks are especially popular for these experiences for obvious reasons. 

Bioluminescence at Gippsland Lakes

According to the reports of travel blogger and photographer Phil Hart, in the summer of 2008 something peculiar and wonderful occurred at the Gippsland Lakes. Due to a series of events including raging brush fires and extensive flooding, a mix of soil nutrients and an excess of salt water entered the lakes. These additions created just the right conditions for the bloom, or population surge, of Noctiluca scintillans. These organisms emit a blue light that are every photographer’s dream. 

Unfortunately, bioluminescence sightings are unpredictable and the blooms at the Gippsland Lakes are no exception. An updated post by Hart revealed that the blooms had returned in 2013 but to a lesser degree than the previous blooms.

Though the lakes themselves are worth the visit, it would be best to check with local experts before planning your whole trip around a chance at seeing this rare phenomenon.

Where to See Life From Under the Sea

There’s a way to see life from the world’s oceans without ever putting on a wetsuit.

In fact, you don’t even have to be near the beach. Various aquariums located throughout the US, and the world, offer you upfront and personal views of sea mammals, fish, birds, plants, and more.

In the past half-century more and more aquariums have been developed not only next to the ocean, but inland, as well. And many zoological parks have been enlarging their own aquatic habitats and experiences. In part, this is due to the important roles zoological associations play in research and conservation. Add in the roles of education and pure enjoyment, and you have more than a win, win, but an abundance of winning situations.

Aquariums can be found throughout the US

From Hawaii to Alaska, California to Florida, aquarium parks are found in many coastal cities, but they are found inland, as well. While you are likely not to find an aquarium in a small town, you can probably find one within a short trip away. For example, there’s the Newport Aquarium in Cincinnati and the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta. In fact, aquariums make up a good portion of accredited members of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

What to do at the Aquarium

While children may get excited about going to the aquarium, adults may just start to relax. Aquariums are pretty tranquil in nature and take us away from our bustling normal day-to-day activities. Many aquariums offer touch tanks with an opportunity to see what a sea cucumber or sea star feels like. Some also have touch tanks with young sharks, crabs and manta rays. In fact, the Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium has its own touch tank where team fans can also visit with manta rays.

Who doesn’t love a visit with the penguins? At the aforementioned Georgia Aquarium, a special group of African penguins takes their Waddle Walk, accompanied by their keepers, through the Aquarium’s atrium twice a day, offering visitors an even closer view of these much-admired critters.

At the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, you, your family, and friends can attend a sleepover at the Aquarium. Choose from four different locations for the ultimate ocean nighttime party sleeping surrounded by leopard sharks or jellyfish. And, for kids who want to sport that wetsuit, sign them up for the Underwater Explorers adventure in the Aquarium’s Great Tide Pool.

Each aquarium fills a niche in the care of threatened and endangered species while sharing the lives of various sea creatures through unique, and sometimes, interactive experiences. If you have an aquarium nearby, check it out. If you’ve been there, go again. And, when planning your next vacation consider taking in an aquarium as part of your travels.

Fun Scavenger Hunts With City HUNT

Voted Best Team-Building Company in the country, colleagues, co-workers, and corporate associates join in on all the fun of a scavenger hunt using the CityHUNT platform.

With over 200 cities, from Baltimore to Virginia Beach, chances are corporations will find an adventure awaiting nearby. But how will getting employees out of the office doing this type of group activity help them and the bottom line?

Behind the CityHUNT Concept

Back in the fall of 2000, NYU student Ben Hoffman found himself on a scavenger hunt team at a nearby pub crawl birthday party. After experiencing the pure joy, excitement and spontaneity of the event, Hoffman convinced his college buddy Jaymes Dec to start a company in order to change the lives of others using similar venues and occurrences. 

After five short years working in Dec’s grandmother’s apartment part-time while finishing their school curriculum, the duo has an office on Madison Avenue. They’ve also managed to accumulate a long list of Fortune 500 clients including Google, Pepsi and PayPal just to name a few. Don’t be fooled by these big names since the CityHUNT scavenger platforms are fully customizable to accommodate any number of participants, large or small.

Rewards of Working Together Outside the Office

Some of the challenges co-founders Ben and Dec faced were high-stress work environments, boring team-building exercises leading to poor employee relationships and ineffective communication practices. Taking workers out of the office and away from the monotony of their day-to-day tasks offered a better place for them to bond, laugh and blow off some steam.

Free from everyday pressures and stresses at the workplace, team members are able to focus while still having fun. These activities allow employees to create positive memories together and enjoy each other’s presence. Ultimately, this offers benefits, rewards and results including:

  • More meaningful employee relationships with their peers and supervisors
  • Improved communications and functionality overall
  • Boosting morale and energy levels

Planning and Scheduling

With over a dozen mostly pre-planned packages available from charity-based searches to trivia and game show venues, any of these options are able to be tweaked to accommodate a number of different circumstances and individual needs. With most of the planning already in place, hosts are able to obtain a free quote and request a proposal for their companies both big and small. 

Aside from business-related activities outside the workplace, CityHUNT also offers birthday, bachelor, wedding, and fundraising platforms. Step outside the ordinary, everyday occurrences and check out one of these rewarding and adventurous venues to benefit everyone involved.

Enjoy a History Lesson Through Architecture

Through the years, cities have offered historical tours, while architectural landmarks have offered tours of their own facility.

It is a way to introduce tourists a view of the city or landmark, while offering a history lesson.

Home tours offer a different view, directed more toward local residents as well as visitors, with a limited opportunity to see older and/or modern residential architecture often with an emphasis on interior and landscape design, as well.

Architectural Tourism

When visiting a city for the first time, you may first opt for that city tour as a way of introduction. From that, you may learn of niches you may further want to explore. This can lead to a desire to see various forms of the local architectural history and development.

For instance, let’s say you are on a visit to London. First, you may want to take a half-day tour on one of their iconic red double-decker buses. This will orient you and give you an outside glimpse of some of the city. You catch a view of some of the concrete buildings, similar to those you may have seen in Washington, DC, Chicago, or San Diego. Curious, you learn of a tour that will give you more insight into this architecture, built sometime in the mid-20th century and known as Brutalist in design, the name taken from French, Béton brut meaning raw concrete.

Such tours, whether taken of the 19th-century architecture of Chandigarh, India or of art deco design in Miami, are offered in almost any location around the world including, perhaps, your own hometown.

Architecture through the Eyes of Architects

These days, there is at least one company offering a look at architecture with architects. Not those who have necessarily designed the homes or buildings, but those who appreciate the design and theme of their city. The good thing is you don’t have to be an architect, yourself, to appreciate these tours.

Guiding Architects offers tours in 41 cities of 22 countries throughout the world to various groups including developers, university staff and students, and public authorities. However, many of the tours have room for a lone wolf to join in, be it for half-a-day or multiple days of viewing architecture. From Rio de Janeiro to Germany’s Gerling Quarter, or Doha in Qatar to the riverways and walkways of Amsterdam, you can get an education from an architectural perspective.

If there is an architectural tour where you live and you haven’t taken it, you should. You may also wish to look up similar tours in neighboring communities. Take a weekend trip to learn more about a city you have been curious about, but haven’t yet found the time to visit. And, when you are on vacation to a new spot for the first time, a city tour or architectural tour will have a lot to offer!

Bending Reality at the Belgrade Museums of Optical Illusions

Brain-twisting, perception-puzzling, just plain weird-and-whacky optical illusions have been bending our reality for eons.

They’ve become fascinating and visually appealing to many viewers because of their trickery.

Similar to magicians and illusionists who use similar tactics to fool their audiences, the first known example of an optical illusion related to both sight and touch dating back to the time of Aristotle. 

In his ancient experiment, it was suggested a person cross their fingers and touch a pen simultaneously and it would appear and feel as though two pens (technically it would have been quills at the time) would be present. Today, many forms of optical illusions are found on the internet as 2D images appearing three-dimensional or changing their appearance in some way.

The Belgrade Museum of Optical Illusions

A more practical, hands-on approach to enjoying these mysterious images and elements are found at The Belgrade Museum of Optical Illusions with locations in over a dozen cities around the world. Currently, there are only two in the USA, Kansas City and New York, but more are slated to open in America soon including new museums in Dallas, Las Vegas and Miami. 

Speaking of locations, it would seem the signature site in Belgrade, Serbia would be the oldest but technically, a museum in Athens would be considered more ancient simply from a historical aspect. Other global venues include Paris, Vienna, Shanghai and Dubai just to name a few. 

Eye-Popping Exhibits

Some of the museum’s most mind-boggling exhibits include three-dimensional displays and auditory avenues that challenge multiple senses. Although venues vary with rotating illusions and different displays found in various locations, visitors generally see and experience:

  • Unusual and interactive illusions
  • Creepy clone concepts
  • Rooms that warp space and gravity
  • Mirrored displays that expand to infinity
  • Colorful, customized kaleidoscope creations for the imagination to unwind on multiple levels

Throughout history, museums around the world have been acclaimed and memorable for many reasons. For an experience that will really remain inside the sights and senses, be sure to check out one (or more) of the Belgrade Museums of Optical Illusions. These beautiful and beguiling images will remain engrained in a visitor’s brain long after they’ve left these halls.