Travel with Waypoint — 3 members share their ideas – Military Times

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Military Waypoint members are helping build the new online travel community that’s exclusively for service members. From coast to coast and country to country, members are posting their travel tales as well as suggestions and tips for fellow Waypointers. Check out MilitaryWaypoint.com to see what members are posting and to share your own travel ideas.

1. Wild About Tucson

Tucson, AZ

Southern Arizona has several important military installations, too many great Mexican food restaurants to list here, and intense natural beauty amid the rugged mountains and the vast desert, including the magnificent Saguaro National Park. The saguaro is the largest cactus in the United States and can grow up to 60 feet tall. Some of the wildest weather in North America can be seen from the valley where Tucson sits. Incredible thunderstorms, especially during summer monsoons, deliver incomparable light shows and occasional flash floods. Yes, the environment can be harsh, but the diversity of fauna and flora is immense. One of the best places to see that diversity in a safe environment is just west of Tucson at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The 98-acre museum is ranked on TripAdvisor.com as one of the Top 10 Museums in the country. It’s Tucson’s top tourist draw. What’s neat is that most of the experience is outdoors, with 2 miles of walking trails that lead you on an educational adventure through various botanical gardens with 1,200 types of plants and wildlife exhibits with 230 animal species. You learn about desert pollinators, various types of cactus, reptiles, insects, birds and more. They even have bighorn sheep and several species of wild cats. During cooler months, usually mid-October through March, free-flying raptor shows are a crowd favorite. Shows are at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Owls, hawks, falcons and ravens native to the Sonoran Desert region are flown in the demonstrations.

During summer visits, early morning hours are best for viewing the animals.

For an indoor natural history museum experience, cross through scenic Gates Pass and Tucson Mountain Park after leaving the desert museum and head to the International Wildlife Museum, co-located with the world headquarters of Safari Club International at 4800 West Gates Pass Road. This museum has an impressive collection of 400 animal species from around the world. Informative, interactive exhibits include the difference between horned and antlered critters, how naturalists use taxidermy to create dioramas depicting wild animals in their natural settings, and creatures of the night. Temporary exhibits are incorporated year-round. Some of the collections are more than 100 years old, including a rhino taken by Theodore Roosevelt. A leopard taken by the late Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf is also among the displays.

Both venues offer military discounts of about 20 percent.

— Ken Perrotte, Military Times contributor

2. Exploring the UP — Unplug, Unwind, and Breathe

Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, MI

Come explore the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the beautiful Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore on Lake Superior. Hiking the trails provides many spectacular views and great colors in the fall. Kayaking the lakeshores allows adventurers to discover the true natural beauty and color of the “Pictured Rocks.” Complete your evenings with campfires on the beach overlooking the lake with picture-perfect sunsets. Hiking trails for all levels, and a great way to get off the grid, relax, unwind and enjoy pure Michigan.

— Ann Armstrong, Waypoint member

3. Beautiful Mountains/Clear Air

Estes Park, CO

If you truly like the wilderness in its most natural state, this is the absolute place to spend a week in the spring, summer or early fall. Surrounded by beautiful sites and mountain ranges. The freshest and cleanest air you’ll ever breathe. Hand built cabins … with over seven generations of family love. All types of adventures from mountain biking, hiking, canoeing or just relaxing and enjoying some quiet time and beautiful scenery.

— Kenneth Lewis, Waypoint member 

Travel with Waypoint — 3 members share their ideas – Military Times

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