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Secret Travel Destinations

Think all travel destinations are packed full of tourists? Think again. Some of them are not even on the map. I've been interested in these "secret" places since I first discovered two little lakes high in the hills and cliffs north of Ishpeming, Michigan. There were no trails to them, and there was a trout on the line ten seconds after the worm hit the water.

There are other travel destinations which are not so isolated, but are still generally overlooked by most tourists. Yelapa, Mexico was like that when I went there in 1981. It had uncrowded beaches, and you could buy fresh fish for dinner from the fishermen in the afternoon. A palapa (thatched-roof house) rented for about $100 per month. Waterfalls in the surrounding jungle fell into perfect swimming holes. No were no roads at that time, but there was a daily boat from nearby Puerto Vallarta.

Unfortunately, Yelapa has since been discovered and overrun with tourists. Being one myself at times, I have nothing against tourists, but when the crowd gets too thick I prefer the more secret places. With that in mind, here a couple examples of travel destinations that are still undiscovered.

Storm Lake, Montana

The town of Anaconda, Montana is a fun destination by itself. Rent a room above the Harp and Thistle Pub for $140 for the week (as of August 2007) and you'll be within walking distance of at least ten casinos with nickel slot machines. You'll be three blocks from the new brew pub and restaurant, Rocky Mountain Brewing. The Washoe Theater, two blocks away, is considered one of the most beautiful in the country by the Smithsonian Institute. It costs just $4 for a movie, and 90 cents for a small popcorn. The Old Works Golf Course, designed by Jack Nicholas, is just at the edge of this small town.

To really escape, though, drive 14 miles west on Highway 1. At the sign that says "Storm Lake," turn right. Stay left when the road splits. It's nine miles to the lake, but you may need high clearance for the last mile (although we used to make it there in our Ford Escort). There may be a few locals at the lake, but you'll always find a place to park.

The lake is nestled in the mountains at 8,000 feet, and is known locally for its cutthroat trout fishing. The hiking trail along the right side will take you past the lake to the Anaconda-Pintler Wilderness Area. An hour further and you'll reach Storm Lake Pass, at the tree line. You can continue into the tundra environment of Goat Meadows, or into a seemingly endless wilderness of mountains and lakes, and you'll rarely have any company other than the bears and birds and mountain goats.

Alamogordo, New Mexico

This isn't at the top of most tourists lists, which is good for those of us that like our travel destinations to be uncrowded. Alomogordo is a great little town, however, and a great base from which to explore the surrounding area. Since it rarely snows or gets too cold here, it is also a nice place to escape the winter.

Check out the little zoo right in town for a relaxing afternoon. The Imax Theater on the north side of town (watch for the signs) rarely has long lines to wait in. Saturdays from June to October you can visit the Farmers market at the county fairgrounds.

To get up above and out of the desert, drive the thirty minutes or so up to Cloudcroft in the nearby mountains, or go a little further the observatory at Sunspot, or to the Casino in Ruidoso. Time it right, and you can bask in the sun one day in Alamogordo and be skiing the next day at the Cloudcroft Ski Area.

Want an unusual vacation destination? Visit the Trinity Test Site, about an hour north of Alomogordo, where the first nuclear bomb was exploded. It's down possible confusing dirt roads, and it is only open a day or two each year, so you'll have to do your homework for this one. West of town is the White Sands National Monument, with its truly amazing white sand dunes.

Finding Other Secret Travel Destinations

In our hometown of Canon City, Colorado, there is an area (Red Canyon Park) just ten miles out of town that has fantastic red rock formations like those in the more famous Garden of the Gods park in Colorado Springs. What's the difference? No crowds, and you can climb on the rocks all you want. You can also explore slot canyons and pick wild plums. How do you discover hidden travel destinations like this one? Try talking to the locals when you are traveling.

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