Courier October Courier - Page 21

COMPILED BY PAT HENDERSON AND GABE WEBB EVENTS, EXPERIENCES, EXHIBITS, ETC. NATIONAL PARK SERVICE Dry Tortugas National Park A mecca for marine life Dry Tortugas National Park, about 70 miles west of Key West, appeals to both history lovers and nature enthusiasts. Its 100 square miles are mostly open water, interrupted only by seven small islands. Despite its relatively remote location, it is the site of the well-preserved Fort Jefferson, coral reefs, clear blue waters and marine life. There is no automobile access to the park, so visitors must arrive by regular ferry service, chartered boat or seaplane. At snorkeling sites throughout the park, divers can observe shipwrecks and wildlife. The most popular dive is at the site of the sunken Avanti, a three-masted, iron-hulled sailing ship. The hull of the wreckage has become an artificial reef that attracts small tropical fish and 200-pound grouper. Laminated maps available at visitor centers provide the necessary information for a self-guided tour of the site. Fort Jefferson is located on Garden Key, the largest island in Dry Tortugas and the place where boats and seaplanes land. Ranger-led tours cover the fort’s history, ecology and preservation, and living-history demonstrations and night-sky presentations also are regular parts of the park’s programming. Campgrounds are available for travelers staying overnight, and snorkeling excursions along the exterior walls of Fort Jefferson are popular. Call +1.305.242.7700 or visit nps.gov/drto to find out more. —G.W. If you like Via Ferrata One of the most unique ways to explore the beauty of Banff, Alberta, is on a Via Ferrata tour at Mount Norquay. Located just north of downtown Banff, the mountainous area in Banff National Park is highlighted by forests and limestone cliffs. Via Ferrata is a European route-making method that includes the installation of steel steps, handles, ladder rungs and cables into the mountains at places where the trail gets steeper. Hikers taking part in assisted climbs are outfitted with harnesses that attach to the sequence of cables, making for a safe experience. At Mount Norquay, guides take groups along one of the routes, where they can hike the rocky paths, climb ladders, walk across suspension bridges and view Banff and the Bow Valley. Guests can choose from the 2.5-hour Explorer route, the 4-hour Ridgewalker experience, the 5-hour Skyline excursion or the 6-hour Summiter tour that reaches the mountain’s 8,050-foot east peak. Necessary equipment such as harnesses, helmets and hiking boots are provided. Less adventurous types can enjoy a chairlift ride that whisks them above natural grizzly and black bear habitats to a 7,000- foot landing. Overlooks and short hiking trails are available, or visitors can enjoy food and drink at the Cliffhouse Bistro. The café, which has the same June-to-early-October operating PAT HENDERSON season as the Via Ferrata tours, is a good place to relax, grab a bite to eat and take in the sights. Each winter, Mount Norquay, which is the oldest ski resort in the Canadian Rockies, becomes a popular spot for skiing, snowboarding, tubing, snowshoeing and more. To learn more, call +1.403.762.4421 or go to banffnorquay.com. —P.H. NTAonline.com 19