The Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad, Colorado – Photo by Gig Gwin
A Life of Travel and Adventures
“Drawing on four decades of adventure and over three million miles of travel, I hope you will enjoy this anthology of my world explorations.”- Gig Gwin
Alaska - With son, Todd, hiked the forests near Ketchikan; with wife, Terrie, shopped 'til we dropped in capital, Juneau, and took a helicopter ride onto Mendenhall Glacier; departed from the Skagway train station, chugging over the gold-rush mountain pass on the White Pass and Yukon Railroad; watched the dramatic ice wall carving at mighty Hubbard Glacier. In Anchorage, convinced a local pilot into a flight through the mountain passes, dipping down to buzz moose in the shallow valleys. Departed from Anchorage via the Alaska Railroad, enjoyed a clear view of Mount McKinley, then walked the tundra of Denali National Park; ate alfresco at a Fairbanks salmon bake and walked beside the Alaskan Pipeline, an engineering marvel. Flew over the Brooks Range to Point Barrow, the northernmost point of the United States, and saw 10-foot whale jaws and polar bear skins displayed by the Inupiat hunters.
Arizona - Played countless rounds of golf in Phoenix and Scottsdale and rode horses into the desert for a campfire breakfast; enjoyed sunrise ballooning from a thousand feet over the desert; took a glider flight that made barrel rolls over Scottsdale; admired the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright's College at Taliesin West; trail walked along the North Rim of the Grand Canyon; and drove to the remote Navajo Tribal Park at Monument Valley. In Lake Havasu, led a group for the ribbon-cutting ceremony of the London Bridge over the Colorado River. Dined in the grand manner at the Wrigley Mansion, gave a travel talk for the St. Louis Cardinals' management at their winter meetings. Gazed downward at Meteor Crater, took a tea break at the Wigwam Motel on old route 66, and slept the night flanked next to Canyon DeChelly. While maneuvering the national park road, cherished every visual moment in the Petrified Forest and the Painted Desert.
Arkansas - Drove through Bentonville, home of Walmart and down to Fayetteville, home of the University of Arkansas Razorbacks and stayed with an old friend Grady Jim Robinson. Drove through the charming town of Eureka Springs, past by Bull Shoals Lake and spent time at Mammoth Springs State Park.
California - Along with my wife, was invited by the St. Louis Football Rams on their team charter trip to San Francisco, complete with police escort to Candlestick Park and a press pass on the sidelines during the game. Drove the famous Highway 1, sleeping in Big Sur and Carmel and visiting the hilltop Hearst Castle; with son Aaron, camped in Yosemite Valley, talked with brave climbers about their ascent of El Capitan granite cliff, felt very small next to Yosemite Falls and the great Sequoia Groves, then river rafted north of the park for a great father and son outing; during a business trip to Half Moon Bay arrived a day early and drove to Yosemite Park just for the honor of spending the night at the historic Ahwahnee Lodge, savored a rib eye steak in the main dining room and the following morning scurried to take photos of Yosemite Falls still displaying winter snow and ice; stopped at several of the California Spanish missions; dined in cushy Santa Barbara , toured the glitzy Hollywood studios, escorted a General Electric group over to the Century Plaza, then performed the Heimlich maneuver and saved a life, took the family to meet Mickey Mouse at Disneyland, and in my early years, shook hands with Walt Disney in Fantasyland. As a reward for a profitable year, took my President and friend to Monterey Peninsula for a golf pilgrimage, including the courses of Spanish Bay, Spy Glass and memorable Pebble Beach - finished with Big Sur and a hike to McWay Falls, with a gourmet meal overlooking the Pacific at the historic Phoenix Restaurant. Drove famed Highway 101 stopping in Napa for wine and cheese, boarded the Skunk train in Willits for a steam train trip into the Redwood Forest, past the Avenue of the Giants in the Redwood State Park and rested in Eureka, admiring the Victorian gingerbread architecture of the Carson mansion.
Canada - Strolled the ramparts overlooking the St. Lawrence River in Quebec City, then dined in elegance at the Chateau Frontenac; shot the rapids near Montreal in a jet boat, caught the fall foliage at Mount Tremblant, cruised the Ottawa River in the capital city and watched the changing of the guards on Parliament Hill; viewed Toronto from the CNN Tower and enjoyed live theater; ate Arctic Char and Caribou Stew before boarding tundra buggies to view the polar bears in Churchill, Manitoba, then took a bitter cold dog sled ride offering great views of the Northern Lights. In Alberta, road the Rocky Mountaineer Train through the fur trees from Jasper to Vancouver, viewing the Canadian wildlife; took a group on a gondola ride to the top of Sulphur Mountain in Banff to hand feed long-horned sheep and mountain goats, later had high tea at the Banff Springs Hotel; took a stroll through around Chateau Lake Louise, almost froze my buttocks at the Columbia Ice Fields, talked travel with an old friend on a stroll to Athabasca Falls, swam outside in a heated pool at Whistler Resort while skiers slid to a halt just a few feet from the spa; glided by the Empress Hotel in a small float plane, landing in the harbor of Victoria on Vancouver Island, snapped countless pictures of multi-colored flowers at Butchart Gardens; took a cable car up Grouse Mountain, overlooking picturesque Vancouver Harbor, then sailed off north with a large group on an Alaskan cruise; drove the Alcan highway out of Whitehorse on the way to Dawson, saw the Klondike gold fields and played golf at the northernmost course in Canada, then pub crawled all night through the dirt streets at the frontier town of Dawson. Wandered the streets of Waterton snapping photos of deer and big horn sheep, then slept at the picturesque Prince of Wales Hotel. Boarded the 'Maid of the Mist' with family members for an up-close and personal drenching of Niagara Falls, then spent two nights in Niagara on the Lake during the George Bernard Shaw Festival. Invited senior executives and their spouses for a long weekend in the mountain resort town of Whistler. Then hooked up to a cable, glided over mountain ravines on a Zip Trek ride, bounced over rocky trails with individual ATV's, played golf at scenic mountain courses and returned home in a private executive jet. A passenger on my transatlantic flight died of a heart attack and we were diverted to Goose Bay Labrador for emergency procedures. After years of dancing around the Canadian Maritimes finally spent two wonderful weeks driving through Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, utilizing all bread & breakfast accommodations; highlights included the 12:00 noon firing of the cannon at the Halifax Citadel, a day meandering through the little fishing village of Peggy's Cove, a fascinating visit to Hope Well Rocks, New Brunswick to watch the world's highest tide on the Bay of Fundy that falls and rises 35 ft., then drove across the Confederation Bridge into Bucolic Prince Edward Island, visited Anne of Green Gables on the 100th anniversary, meandered on the north coast on the impressive energy wind farm and visited the unique potato museum complete with sample French fries and potato fudge and brownies. Finally, could not contain myself with the wonderful local lobster, scallops, haddock, fish chowder and steamed blue mussels.
Colorado - As a first time skier, missed the first level of the chairlift and fearfully rode to the top of Loveland Ski Resort, then embarrassingly rode down the other side; played eighteen at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs, then dined with the captains of the travel industry, accompanied by a Colorado canyon rainbow. In Denver, sold a 250 person travel program, then drove over Independence Pass in a blinding, hair-raising snow storm; at a local station, flagged down the Durango Silverton narrow-gauge train for a breathtaking ride over the mountains into the old mining town of Silverton, then drove to awesome Mesa Verde National Park. Just north of Durango, squeezed into a glider plane for a ride over the San Juan National Park, then caught up with the Durango and Silverton Train as it puffed into Silverton, drove to the canyon floor by the Gunnison River in the Black Canyon, then pushed my car to the top for a spectacular view on the Rim Drive. Found fall foliage and drop dead beauty in Telluride - sleep was limited at 8500 feet. Rode the gondola to San Sofia and hiked down to elegant Mountain Village, took advantage of the fall leaves of yellow aspen and captured panoramic vistas with my camera. Viewed Royal Gorge and biked down Pikes Peak, then crossed Independence Pass to view Aspen and Maroon Bell's National Park. Then drove to Vail and through Rocky Mountain National Park and slept the night in historic Stanley Hotel.
Connecticut - For my parent's fiftieth anniversary, with my two sisters, organized a reunion at a white-steepled Congregational Church in Berlin where they were married. Landed in a commuter aircraft which burst into flames, and pulled open the emergency door so all crew and passengers escaped without injury.
Florida - Boarded a catamaran for a full-day excursion from Key West to Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park. Climbed over the pre-civil war fortress that seems to float on water. Was a guest of St. Augustine, the oldest city in America and wrote an article on the Spanish Fortress and the World Golf Hall of Fame. In Clearwater, opened a branch office and won a ten- million-dollar account, including the Coast Guard that patrolled the upper Caribbean, drove the turquoise Florida Keys, barrel rolled a stunt plane in Key West, and sailed off into the sunset with a group of hardware salesmen.
Georgia - In Atlanta, saw a playoff game between the Braves and the Cardinals. In Augusta, watched Tiger Woods play in the Masters Golf Championship. In Savannah, I basked in the luxury of the mansion on Forsyth Park and visited a converted southern mansion now used as the Ships of the Sea Museum. Ventured down to River Street and took and evening cruise, but above all enjoyed strolling the many historic squares known as the jewels of the city.
Idaho - On my way from Spokane, Washington to Glacier National Park, Montana spent the night in Coeur d'Alene. The following morning was invited to hit golf balls on a floating green at the resort and then wondered through a Sunday craft show and bought two totem poles for my Alaskan display back in St. Louis. I continued to Kellogg & Wallace where I rode on the world's longest gondola and toured a working silver mine.
Illinois - In 1970, received a promotion to run my first travel program for Maritz Travel Company at a small Rockton Resort. While checking out their private zoo got too close to a black bear cage and was gashed in the knee, requiring stitches. In Chicago, attended over twenty-five years of incentive travel industry conventions, to broker deals and established lifelong relationships with friends and suppliers from around the world.
Louisiana - In New Orleans, as a young travel director, escorted a 100 person group to the Super Bowl and hawked extra tickets outside the stadium. In a twenty-four hour food frenzy, had breakfast at Brennan's, lunch at Commander's Palace, and dinner at Arnaud's. Invited my entire staff of 40 for a long weekend in New Orleans, sang, ate and drank our way through the French Quarter. Joined three hundred volunteers with the Travelers Conservation Foundation, helping to restore an historic cemetery near the French Quarter and as one of only two brick masons, sealed 12 above-ground tombs.
Maine - In the 707 era, experienced an emergency landing in Bangor with a full charter, cleared customs and treated the passengers to lobster sandwiches; sailed out of Boothbay Harbor in a hand-crafted wooden sailboat through the foggy inlets.
Maryland - In the early years of my life, while my father was a professor at the University of Maryland, at the age of five, walked by General Pershing's open casket near the capital; many years later buried my father, a retired World War II Lieutenant Colonel, at Arlington National Cemetery, with full military honors complete with 50 honor guards, horse drawn caisson and gun salute. Walked across the Burnside Bridge at Antietam Battlefield, then on to the makeshift hospital of Clara Barton "The Angel of the Battlefield".
Massachusetts - Near Boston, watched my nephew graduate in a traditional Harvard University ceremony, then on the peninsula of Cape Cod with my sister, jumped on the belly of a dead whale that had been beached earlier in the day. With loving care, my wife made hand-sewn outfits and the family participated in a renaissance wedding on Martha's Vineyard.
Mississippi - Walked the battlefield and cemetery of Vicksburg, then drove the Natchez Trace Road to Natchez on the Mississippi River. Toured the grand mansions of the Antebellum days, ate grits & cheese and drank mint juleps in the southern style.
Missouri - Cruised the Mississippi River in a paddlewheel boat, grain barge, two-person sailboat, elegant yacht and a Tom Sawyer-type raft. In St. Louis, being my home, went from boy to adult, married Terrie and raised three great boys; as a travel agent, won the first government contract for convict travel and ticketed notable characters into Marion Prison, including Teflon Don Gotti, with a one-way ticket! As a young man, cheered for the baseball Cardinals and the football Rams, then later became their travel agent and worked with Mark McGuire to bring his son to St. Louis to watch "Big Mac" hit his 62nd home run. Played in a fantasy camp with outfielders Curt Flood and Lou Brock, and hit a weak grounder pitched off of Bob Gibson. Had lunch with "Stan the Man" Musial and played golf with Football Hall of Famer, Dan Dierdorf. Worked nine years for the world's largest motivation company, Maritz Travel, having served as travel director, product manager and product director for Europe and Asia. Started my own travel agency in 1979 with one employee...now have forty; joined the local Rotary, then "made up" lunches all over the world; was honored to become a member of the Explorer's Club and the Travelers Century Club; have taught travel and tourism at local colleges, written articles for the St. Louis Post Dispatch and been a guest on over a hundred television shows. Have taken my wife and three boys around the world on many travel voyages. In Kansas City, after having crossed the walkway of the Kansas City Hyatt watching a pulsating tea dance, the following week the walkway collapsed, killing over one hundred people. In supporting the Explorers Club - organized a day-journey on the Missouri River to locate a 150 year old river boat.
Montana - Drove into Montana stopping at the National Bison Range to look at wildlife including the skittish Pronghorns; then cruised four hours on Flathead Lake and slept the night in Kalispell, while uncontrolled forest fires raged around the city. In the morning, visited Hungry Horse Dam before entering Glacier National Park. Slept two nights at the famous Lake McDonald Lodge, drove over the pass on Going-to-the-Sun-Road. Admired the red busses originally made in the 30's for touring and ate huckleberry ice cream & daiquiris. The next morning geared up for an 8-hour hike including Bear Bells; and as a group climbed down into Avalanche Lake. After a sales call in Great Falls, drove to East Glacier National Park, took 3 lake cruises and a Red Bus Tour in East Glacier, St. Mary and Many Glacier park locations.
Nevada - Took countless business groups to Las Vegas, then at a cocktail function high atop the thousand-foot Hemisphere Tower, persuaded men and women to take an impromptu roller coaster ride overlooking the city; took a dip in cold Lake Mead near Hoover Dam. Was responsible for a group in Lake Havasu for the ribbon cutting ceremony of the London Bridge over the Colorado River. Nailed a keynote speech for the 50th anniversary of the Travelers Century Club at the Tropicana Casino.
New Mexico - Sat under a shade tree with an elder of the Taos Pueblo admiring the adobe architecture, then changed to coat and tie for Mozart's Marriage of Figaro at the open air Santa Fe Opera. As dawn broke over Albuquerque, slowly floated upward at the world's largest balloon fiesta - accompanied by 600 balloons; drove up and climbed down Acoma Pueblo experiencing Indian culture in a desert mesa setting, then drove for hours to reach the isolated Chaos Cultural Park - a little-known gem of American landmarks; hiked an hour and a half to a descending trail at Carlsbad Caverns to view the awesome Big Room; Later published an article on Great American Caves. Hiked for two hours over the White Sands National Park and consider it one of the highlights of my travel career.
New York - Escorted shortstop Ozzie Smith and ninety fans to Cooperstown for Baseball Hall of Fame ceremonies, met with Carrier Air Conditioner executives in Syracuse and convinced them to take 800 dealers to Leningrad and Moscow in the height of the communist era, became a TWA reservation agent and lived a year in the Big Apple.
Oregon - Boarded the Hellsgate Jetboat Excursion on the olive green Rogue River as osprey and eagles floated overhead, spent a restless night at Crater Lake Lodge and caught a sunrise over little Wizard Island inside the crater, after circling Crater Lake (a 33 mile round-trip) drove down 7100 ft through deep green forests to sea level and Oregon Dunes State Park. Followed the coast past historic lighthouses and bridges, stopping briefly at Tillamook Cheese Factory for a grilled cheese sandwich and crab soup.
Pennsylvania - After viewing the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia, joined 300 members of "Tourism Cares" eager to clean the brush on the Spangler Farm that was used as a hospital after the Gettysburg battle, a rewarding task to help the travel industry.
South Carolina - On a journalist visit to Charleston - boarded the Yorktown aircraft carrier and strapped in for a flight simulation carrier landing, and then boated to historic Fort Sumter. Took a traditional carriage ride near the City Market and sipped on She Crab Soup. Drove through the inlets on beautiful Kiawah Island and experienced low country food, including shrimp and grits and Southern Iced Tea in Harbour Town, Hilton Head Island - walked the beach near the well-known lighthouse.
South Dakota - On a one-day blitz, had breakfast in St. Louis, flew to Rapid City, drove through the Badlands and Black Hills to see Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Monuments, and returned to St. Louis in time to catch the late-night news. Organized an extended family trip with my two sisters as the 17 family members stayed 5 days in Custer State Park Lodge - tours included: impressive Mt. Rushmore, Crazy Horse carving, driving through the Black Hills including the Pigtail Bridges, a healthy 1 ¼ mile hike around Devil's Tower (actually on the border in Wyoming), strolled the sidewalks of gold rush town of Deadwood, then drove through Sturgis as the thousands of Harley-Davidson Bikers were arriving for their annual gathering, photographed abundant wildlife including buffalo, pronghorns, prairie dogs, deer, elk and wild donkey's; ended the trip by climbing deep into Wind Cave National Park and wandering through the excavation sight at Hot Springs where 50 or so mammoth skeletons have been discovered; took a brief excursion to Badlands National Park and ended this wonderful family outing with a chocolate ice cream cone at famous Wall Drug.
St. Pierre and Miquelon - Was trapped in an Atlantic storm on this French island but found refuge in a horse barn.
Texas - During my army time, was stationed at Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, as a sentry dog handler and during field training on the open range, was attacked by a Black Angus bull. Many years later flew into Austin in a private Challenger Jet to play golf at an upscale resort; with a ten-gallon hat, rode through hill country to the Y.O. Ranch to see exotic game animals. Escorted a large group to San Antonio, we all enjoyed the River Walk and the Alamo.
Utah - Floated in the Great Salt Lake; hiked Zion National Park and Bryce Canyon; romantically kidnapped my wife for surprise anniversary flight to Salt Lake City and later Snowbird Ski Resort. Drove through the scenic aspen fall foliage, to the summit of Cedar Breaks National Park and was greeted by an early winter blizzard.
Virginia - Under the banner of "Tourism Cares for Tomorrow", 300 travel agents cleaned the forest around Mt. Vernon for a one-day volunteer event; and in the winter, dressed in black tie and danced with Friends of Mt. Vernon on George Washington's birthday. Toured Luray Caverns with its underground lake and impressive columns, stalactites and stalagmites, then entered Winchester just in time for the Apple Blossom Festival.
Washington - As a teenager, with my sister drove to the Seattle World's Fair viewing Mount Rainier from the Space Needle. With an old travel director buddy, drove through the Columbia River Gorge, then spent 8 1/2 hours climbing Mount St. Helen's. Entered Olympic National Park touring Quinalt Lake and Hoh Rain Forest, then spent the night on Indian lands at La Push. Saw fields of lavender in Sequim and enjoyed a performance by the Seattle Symphony.
West Virginia - Harper's Ferry lies at the confluence of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers and is noted for the brazen act of abolitionist John Brown. I walked the hilly streets and crossed the historic railroad bridge once used by Robert E. Lee.
Wyoming - As a guest journalist, boarded in Denver the Big Boy steam locomotive for a memorable train ride to Cheyenne for Frontier Days Grand Rodeo. Flew to Jackson Hole and sat on saddles at the Cowboy Bar; the following day rode the aerial tram to the top of Teton Mountain and with a pilot strapped behind me, took a tandem paragliding 20 minute flight for a breathtaking view of the Teton Range. Enjoyed a hardy breakfast at Rockefellers' Jenny Lake Lodge in the Teton National Park and dinner at Jackson Lake Lodge with its compelling view of lake mountains and wildlife. In Yellowstone National Park, took a camera safari viewing bison, eagles and northern pelicans and slept in historic Old Faithful while waiting for the world-renowned geyser to blow its top.