Sandra Friend

An adventuresome spirit, Sandra Friend is best known for being Florida's hiking expert, tackling everything from swamps to sand dunes along more than 5,000 miles of Florida trails. She slips out of the Sunshine State to enjoy other outdoor adventures, like chasing rhinos on elephant-back in Nepal and tossing around in a small boat to face one of the world's largest glaciers. The Immediate Past Chair of the Freelance Council, Society of American Travel Writers, she lives near Orlando. Sandra has authored/co-authored 31 books. She publishes the popular Florida Hikes! with her husband and writing partner, John Keatley.

The vast basin that is the Blue Lagoon in Iceland

Soaking in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon

Steam swirls into fog in this otherworldly basin of chalky blue and black as I attempt to slowly lower myself into the water. It has not been a good week for me. My knee went out a few days before boarding a plane to Iceland, and I've been hobbling Read More

Blarney Castle

Kissing the Blarney Stone

As the long line of tourists - us included - crept through the ruins of Blarney Castle, I kept shaking my head. Kissing the Blarney Stone has never been on my radar, yet here I am, being herded through the maze of unkempt rooms and twisty narrow Read More

Viewing Atlantis (NASA/Kennedy Space Center)

On a Mission with Space Shuttle Atlantis

Every morning, I wake up looking at a Space Shuttle, a career space worker by my side. The model reminds John of his 33 years with the program. Where we dine with his parents, photographs of launches and astronauts grace the walls. When the sheriff's Read More

Monticello

Walking in Thomas Jefferson’s Footsteps at Monticello

The piercing ring of metal striking metal mingles with the sizzling fumes of a roaring forge. On Mulberry Row, a worker pounds smelted ore into nails – a mainstay of life at Monticello, circa 1790. Nearby, two men shape softened wood into strips for Read More

Sterling Hill Ore under ultraviolet lamps

Finding Fluorescence at the Sterling Hill Mining Museum, New Jersey

A constant drip of water accompanies us as we follow our tour guide into the depths of an old zinc mine in Ogdensburg, New Jersey. It is pouring outside, so the occasional drips on us as we walk down the mine tunnels aren't a big deal. It's a little Read More

Seneca Rocks WV

Squeezing Through Stones in Seneca Rocks, West Virginia

Sitting on the deck of the Front Porch Restaurant, chowing down on a slice of pizza, I had a grandstand view of the rock climbers scrambling up above me. Distinctly tilted and sparkling in the summer sun, the 900 foot tall wall of quartzite has Read More

Tour group on the Gettysburg Battlefield

Touring the Gettysburg Battlefield with a Gettysburg Guide

It was raining, of course. It had rained for a week and shown no signs of stopping, but this was our one chance to see Gettysburg while John and I were in this part of Pennsylvania. Our National Park Service tour bus pulled into the parking area for Read More

Big Thunder Mountain Railway (photo by John Keatley)

Riding Rollercoasters at Disney’s Magic Kingdom

Slipping into the skinny seat of the shuttlecraft at Space Mountain, I kept hearing the voice echoing throughout the noisy room. "Shuttle preparing for launch. Shuttle preparing for launch." In 1975, the year Space Mountain opened, my sisters and I - Read More

Azaleas in bloom at Maclay Gardens

Chasing Camellias at Alfred B. Maclay Gardens State Park, Tallahassee

Three camellias. The blossoms sat in a silver dish in the parlor near the door of the Maclay House. I'd seen them there on several different visits to the manor home, always freshly picked, always a trio. I asked the docent why. "It was Mrs. Read More

Camellia Garden, Dorothy B. Oven Park

Seeking Spring Blooms at Dorothy B. Oven Park in Tallahassee

Walking beneath ancient live oaks downhill from the manor home, I spotted the bright blossoms from quite a distance. "I bet those are flame azaleas!" One of the showiest of native azaleas in the Southeast, Florida flame azalea stands out in spring Read More

Castle of Ali Pasha, Ioannina

Finding Byzantium in the byways of Ioannina, Greece

As my sisters and I disembark the ferryboat onto into a calliope of sound, smell, and color, we walk up to what seems to be a pet shop. Chickens and doves squabble in hanging cages. Turtles elbow frogs for a better view. Eels shimmer amidst schools Read More

Goodwood

Touring Goodwood Museum and Gardens in Tallahassee, Florida

Amid the relaxed grandeur of a Southern plantation, it was the daffodils that caught our attention. In such a formal space, atop one of Tallahassee's highest hills, an estate dating back to the 1830s, you'd expect to greet daffodils in neat formal Read More

Wild horses on Cumberland Island

Backpacking Cumberland Island National Seashore, Georgia

A quiet snuffle, and a snort, awakens me from slumber. Silhouettes of live oak branches laden with Spanish moss pattern the roof of my tent in the pale moonlight. I roll over in the sleeping bag and peer out through the tent screen. Horses! The Read More

Jungle Cruise boat at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Exploring Disney’s Magic Kingdom with Mom

Dusk swept in as the jungle drums were beating and torches flickered along the edge of the boat launch. Mom paused for a photo with a tall tiki. "Send this to Autumn, she'll love it!" she said, as I snapped the image with my iPhone and emailed it Read More

Dolphins in the Ten Thousand Islands

Chasing Dolphins in the Ten Thousand Islands of Florida

It’s not even 10 AM, so I’m surprised to see the enthusiasm on this sultry summer morning in Southwest Florida. We launched from the Marco River Marina a little over an hour ago for a tour on the Sea Excursions Dolphin Explorer, a catamaran tour of Read More

Virgin Gorda north shore

Paradise Found in Virgin Gorda

Sitting against a massive granite boulder in the shade of a coconut palm, I watched sailboats drift by on sapphire blue waters. A foot-long rainbow striped lizard slipped past, dark scales against the bright white sand. Savoring the sea breeze, I Read More

The dream is to find one of these.

Sapphire Hunting in North Carolina at Mason’s Ruby and Sapphire Mine

I’m covered in mud. It’s oozing up my boots, smeared on my shirt, and covering the seat of my pants. I’ve been swinging a mattock and digging holes in the side of this mountain all morning—and yes, I call this a vacation. If you’re a mineral Read More