Recent Posts

Travel insurance: how to keep your vacation stress free

Travel insurance: how to keep your vacation stress free

Why I’ll never travel without travel insurance again, and why I purchase my policies through Travel Insurance Master

102 Best Travel Quotes to Inspire your Wanderlust in 2022

102 Best Travel Quotes to Inspire your Wanderlust in 2022

A compilation of favorite travel quotes to inspire your wanderlust and get you day dreaming about your next adventure.

13 John Muir Quotes for the Adventurer at Heart

13 John Muir Quotes for the Adventurer at Heart

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you, which helps me maintain this site. Thank you for supporting The Clever West Wind.

I first became aware of who John Muir was when I found myself enraptured by one of his quotes. Many great John Muir quotes are iconic. They are so simply stated, and yet, so deeply profound. And his writings tend to take on a spiritual quality towards nature, and truly speak the heart of an adventurer. But before we get into John Muir quotes, who was the guy?

Who Was John Muir?

“John of the Mountains” Muir, farmer, naturalist, sheepherder, conservationist, inventor, environmental philosopher, explorer, botanist, zoologist, writer, glaciologist, “patron saint of the American wilderness.” That’s quite an impressive resume.

Born April 21st, 1838 in Dunbar, Scotland, John Muir migrated to the United States with his family in 1849. Later, at the age of 29, he sustained an eye injury while working in a carriage parts shop, leaving him blind for a month. Upon regaining his vision, he turned his sight, his energy, and his life towards nature and the outdoors.

During his lifetime, he traveled to Alaska, Australia, South and Central America, Africa, Europe, China, and Japan. He also married and had two daughters, Wanda and Helen. And he held company with men like Ralph Waldo Emerson and President Theodore Roosevelt.

Then, he passed at the age of 76, in Los Angeles, California, on December 24th, 1914. He left behind him a legacy that touches us all, having written 300 articles and 12 books, founded the Sierra Club, and played a central role in creating our National Parks System. John Muir Day is now celebrated on April 21st in both Scotland and California.

Father of our National Parks

John Muir was involved in founding Yosemite, Sequoia, Mount Rainier, Petrified Forest, and Grand Canyon National Parks, and is therefore considered the father of our National Parks. So I find it rather fitting that Earth Day is just one day after his birthday. Our national parks are truly a great treasure, and one day I hope to see them all.

“Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.”

John Muir

If the sentiment of this John Muir quote was true during his time, it is even more so now.

TIP: If you’re also dreaming of visiting all 63 of America’s National Parks, hop on over to my friend’s blog Flannels or Flip Flops for a planning guide!

John Muir Quotes

To celebrate his birthday, I’d like to highlight some of my favorite John Muir quotes. Many of them, I’m sure you’ve heard, maybe without even knowing who to attribute them to. This first quote carries so much more weight, now knowing he spent a month of his life blind.

1.“The world is big, and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark.”

2. “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

John Muir Quote

3. “Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.”

4. “Between every two pines is a doorway to a new world.”

5. “Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.”

6. “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings.”

7. “In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.”

8. ”The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”

9. “Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”

10. ”Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not, therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free, and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.”

11. “Going to the mountains is going home.”

12. “Most people who travel look only at what they are directed to look at. Great is the power of the guidebook maker, however ignorant.”

13. “Only by going alone in silence, without baggage, can one truly get into the heart of the wilderness. All other travel is mere dust and hotels and baggage and chatter.”

Adventurers at Heart

Do you have a favorite John Muir quote not included above? Which John Muir quote speaks to your heart most dearly, and why? Do you have a favorite national park in the United States, or a favorite memory visiting a national park? How will you celebrate Earth Day this year? Share your thoughts and stories below!

For more travel and adventure inspiration, check out my post Top 10 Favorite Travel Quotes.

Pin It For Later

13 Epic Things to do in Madrid, Spain

13 Epic Things to do in Madrid, Spain

Epic things to do in Madrid, Spain | Puerta del Sol | Plaza Mayor | Spanish Inquisition Tour | Flamenco | Bull Fight | Prado Museum | Royal Botanical Garden

Barefoot in the Portland Lan Su Chinese Garden

Barefoot in the Portland Lan Su Chinese Garden

Walk the stone mosaics of the Portland Lan Su Chinese Garden, stop in the tea house for tea and cookies, enjoy serenity in the middle of Portland.

Segovia, Spain: A Real Life Fairy Tale Get-Away

Segovia, Spain: A Real Life Fairy Tale Get-Away

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you, which helps me maintain this site. Thank you for supporting The Clever West Wind.

This post goes out to all the hopeless romantics and star-eyed lovers out there. For those of you brainstorming romantic get-aways, Segovia, Spain, is a perfect, real life fairy tale destination. Complete with castles and moats and knights in shining armor, you need look no further.

Let’s be real here though. As much as I may be a sappy romantic myself, fairy tale endings are a funny concept to me. Many of the original endings were anything but happily-ever-afters. And the stories that did end in some form of justice typically resulted in some pretty ruthless medieval punishments for the villains.

Take, for instance, the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. In the original Grimm Brothers telling of Snow White, the evil step mother is forced to wear red-hot iron shoes and has to dance in them until she dies. Although this is a far more creative punishment than simply falling off a cliff as in more contemporary versions, it’s quite brutal! The original fairy tales are just plain dark.

However, for better or worse, most of our modern day cartoons have swapped the often gruesome and twisted medieval endings for something a bit less warped. But what do fairy tales have to do with Segovia? Keep reading to find out.

Roman Aqueduct in Segovia

An Overview of Segovia

With a population of roughly 51,000, Segovia, Spain, lies about an hour northwest of the capital, Madrid. It is easily reached by bus or train and makes for an excellent day trip from Madrid. You can conveniently book a day trip through different bus tour agencies right from Madrid’s Plaza del Sol.

Originally a Celtic settlement, Segovia passed through Roman, Moorish, and lastly Catholic rule. Today, Segovia’s old town is a UNESCO world heritage site. Multiple landmarks are included in this designation, such as the 1st century A.D. Roman aqueduct, the last gothic style cathedral built in Spain, and the Alcázar de Segovia. Exploring the Jewish quarter, the many historical buildings, and the quaint cobbled streets of Segovia won’t disappoint.

Alcázar de Segovia

Alcázar de Segovia

Appropriately shaped like the bow of a ship, the Alcázar de Segovia stands on a peninsula between the Eresma and Clamores rivers. The palace includes a keep, two towers, and two courtyards, all complete with a moat and drawbridge. In our explorations, we also discovered a beautifully manicured maze-like garden.

Initially a Roman fort, the Alcázar has been reconstructed by each successive ruling culture. Rebuilt by the the Moors, and then later by the Christians, little but perhaps the foundation remains from the Roman era. Through out the centuries, it has served as a fortress, a palace, a prison, and the Royal Artillery College.

If you choose to tour the castle today, you’ll be able to explore the Armory Museum located inside. We discovered countless old cannons, weaponry, and knights in shining armor!

You can also climb to the top of the keep. To get there, we climbed a narrow, winding stair case that only allowed for one direction of traffic. But the work out and the traffic jams were well worth the view from the top!

Alcázar de Segovia

Snow White’s Castle

Ok, so here’s the part you’ve been waiting for—your fairy tale connection. The Alcázar de Segovia served as inspiration for the castle in Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. In fact, Snow White’s wishing well stands on one of the castle’s patios.

We are standing by a wishing well

Make a wish into the well

That’s all you have to do

And if you hear it echoing

Your wish will soon come true

Snow White from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves

PRO TIP: Have a taxi driver take you to the “prettiest view in the city” for a postcard-worthy sight of the Alcázar de Segovia from below.

Segovia’s Gothic Cathedral

Segovia’s cathedral stands on Plaza Mayor, on the location where Isabella I was declared queen of Castile. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, its construction lasted from 1525 to 1577. It was the last gothic style cathedral built in Spain, and at the time it was built, it was the tallest building in Spain.

We had the fortune of seeing both the first and last gothic cathedrals built in Spain on the same day. You can read about our visit to the first gothic cathedral built in Ávila, Spain right here.

Roman Aqueduct of Segovia

Segovia’s Roman aqueduct stands austerely on Plaza del Azoguejo. It was built during the 1st century A.D. Today it can be found on Segovia’s coat of arms, a proud symbol of the city’s identity.

The Aqueduct of Segovia is one of the most well preserved Roman aqueducts in the world. Surprisingly, the nearly 25,000 granite blocks used to build the aqueduct are not held together by mortar, and yet it still stands today. Talk about built to last! Are you brave enough to stand underneath it?

Originally supplied by the Frio River located 11 miles outside of Segovia, the aqueduct runs partially underground. You can trace part of its underground path through the city following the brass markers imbedded in the cobblestone streets. The aqueduct reaches 93.5 feet at its tallest and contains a total of 167 arches.

Happily Ever After

We only spent a half day in Segovia, but quickly fell in love with the charming medieval town and would love to stay over night there next time. I know I’ve only scratched the surface of what Segovia has to offer here. Have you been to Segovia before? Tell me what your favorite part of this beautiful Spanish city was so I can make plans for next time!

For Further Reading

For more ideas on day trips from Madrid, check out my post about Ávila, or watch for an upcoming post about El Escorial. You can also follow me on Pinterest for more Spain travel ideas!

Pin It For Later

Ronda, Spain: The Most Romantic City in the World

Ronda, Spain: The Most Romantic City in the World

Ronda, Spain, is the most romantic city in the world. A White Hill Town in Andalusia, it seemingly sits on the edge of the universe.

Washed Ashore: Up-Cycling Ocean Waste at the Oregon Zoo

Washed Ashore: Up-Cycling Ocean Waste at the Oregon Zoo

The Washed Ashore Exhibit at the Oregon Zoo communicates a harrowing message in a plastic bottle. Only available through the end of January.

What Happened When We Got Lost in Ávila, Spain, and Why I Fell in Love with the City

What Happened When We Got Lost in Ávila, Spain, and Why I Fell in Love with the City

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you, which helps me maintain this site. Thank you for supporting The Clever West Wind.

Atop The Wall

I grab his hand, and with unquestioning trust in his sense of direction, I run along the top of the medieval wall surrounding Ávila, Spain, dragging him behind me. We had wandered perhaps a little too far from where we entered the top of the wall, lingered a little too long. We now have less than fifteen minutes to catch the tour bus, or the tour group leaves Ávila and returns to Madrid, without us.

“I think I saw there’s an exit this way,” he says.

As the minutes trickle away, we run further and further along the giant stone wall. And still, there is no exit in sight. My husband does not seem to be displaying the amount of concern or hurry I feel appropriate given the circumstances.

And then he just stops, pulling me up short.

I’m breathing heavily as he looks at me and asks me calmly, “Why hurry? Either we’ll make it, or we won’t.”

Stranded in Ávila, Spain

I know he’s right. On multiple counts. We wander on, at a slower pace this time. And we do end up finding another exit in the direction he had suggested. But the exit drops us off on the other side of Ávila. The tour bus leaves for Madrid without us. And yet, it becomes one of the best and most unforgettable adventures we had together in Spain.

When we initially discussed a day trip to Ávila, we had not decided whether to join a tour group or to venture out on our own. So luckily, it just so happened I had already looked up train departures from Ávila to Madrid the day before. Now standing lost in Ávila, we decide we might as well have a look around. So we choose a departure time, and then we set out to see the town. First stop, the gothic cathedral.

The Cathedral

There’s a lot to love about the cathedral in Ávila, Spain. For starters, it was the first gothic cathedral built in Spain. Also of interest, the back side of the cathedral happens to be part of the medieval wall surrounding Ávila. And to top it all off, the entrance fee to this cathedral is very reasonably priced, and the tour of the bell tower is unrivaled.

Why I’m obsessed with the Cathedral in Ávila, Spain

Ok, now lemme tell you why I love Ávila’s bell tower tour so much. First of all, I love old buildings, and the way you can feel they have a story, a life, a soul of their own. But every admission I pay, every tour I take, every cathedral or castle I explore, there are always locked doors, hallways cordoned off. You can feel the building holding itself back. And I am undoubtedly aware that I am a stranger, a tourist.

I yearn to know the building intimately, to see what lies beyond the tourist’s view, to know a building’s secret places. I long to feel what it was like to live and walk and breathe, to be a part of the building when it was still used for it’s initial purpose.

Expecting no more than a brief and casual peek inside the cathedral, my husband surprises me with admission tickets for the bell tower. As we begin the tour, I quickly discover that Ávila’s tower tour is every thing I have always wanted a cathedral tour to be. Yes, we climb the bell tower and see the bells. But we see so much more than that, too.

And we aren’t just given admission and told to climb 200 stairs or take an elevator to the top. We are guided in-person. The tour guide leads us to explore a walkway overlooking the cathedral, the bell ringer’s apartments, and even the top of the vaulted ceilings. I’m not sure if you’d even call it the attic. If there’s a place between the attic and the roof, that’s where the tour guide took us. You don’t get more intimate than that with a building.

My Husband’s Favorite Part of the Story

Ok, this is probably my husband’s favorite part of the story. Our guide narrates the tour in Spanish. However, audio guides are available in other languages as well, including English. I probably should have used the audio guide.

Feeling a bit brave, I decide to try the tour in Spanish. I had been practicing my Spanish listening skills on and off the entire vacation. But our tour guide speaks a bit too fast for me. And eventually I start to tune out, asking my husband to recap what’s happening for me every so often.

Next thing we know, I’m leading the tour group down a passageway and opening doors the tour guide explicitly told us <in Spanish> not to open. As I open the forbidden door, a giant gust of wind rushes past us in the narrow passage, a dizzying fifty feet off the ground. The tour guide yells frantically at me to shut the door.

So. Everyone who knows us, knows that I’m the rule follower, the square. And everyone who knows us, knows that my husband is the smooth-talking, rule-bending limit-pusher. While I hurriedly shut the door, my husband swears I am going to get us both kicked out of the cathedral. And no one back home will believe it was my fault, not his!

But luckily, they don’t kick us out. The door is safely shut again, and no one was blown off the walkway by the wind storm I released. I learn that some doors are kept closed for a reason. And we continue the tour.

Moral of the Story

So here’s the take away. If you’re practicing your shaky foreign language listening skills, maybe let someone else lead the way.

Convent of St. Teresa

The Convent of St. Teresa

Another beautiful site in Ávila is the Convent of St. Teresa. We decide not to enter the convent, simply due to time. But we do learn a few things about St. Teresa before we move on.

Teresa of Ávila was a Spanish noblewoman, born in 1515. She is one of the patron saints of Spain and the sick. In fact, in 1970, she became the first female Doctor of the Church. (A Doctor of the Church is some one who has made consequential contributions to Catholic doctrine.)

The Convent of St. Teresa is believed to have been built on the site of her birth. When you visit the convent, you can view a relic of this important Catholic Saint. You can also view another relic of St. Teresa at the convent in Ronda, Spain.

Ávila Spain

Getting to Ávila, Spain

Ávila, Spain, is a small town just an hour and a half from Madrid. Visiting Ávila makes for an excellent day trip from Madrid. You can easily book a tour through one of the kiosks on Plaza del Sol in Madrid. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, plan your own transportation. Trains leave from and for Madrid regularly and are fairly inexpensive.

If I were to do it all over again, I would book our own transportation from the beginning. The tour we booked from Plaza del Sol only gave us an hour and a half in Ávila. The first 45 minutes were guided, followed by 45 minutes of free time to explore on our own. Although the tour was interesting, 45 minutes free time is not enough to explore Ávila’s cobblestone streets and see all that it has to offer. Plan to spend at least a half day there.

Ávila Spain

Tips to Know Before You Go to Ávila, Spain

—>Check out the epic viewpoint you see above of Ávila, Spain. If you take the bus tour, ours stopped at the viewpoint of the city for pictures. Or, if you decide to plan your own visit, take a taxi to this viewpoint for a fun photo shoot.

—>If you’re short on time when visiting Ávila, be aware of the siesta hour. Staffing at some businesses during this afternoon hour is a bit lighter. So be aware, it may take longer to get through lines during this time.

Looking for more day trip ideas from Madrid? Watch for my upcoming posts about our adventures in Segovia and El Escorial.

If you’re looking for more adventures in Spain, check out my posts 15 Things to do in Barcelona, Spain or 7 Free Things to do in Barcelona. Or, check out these other epic day trips from Madrid.

10 Reasons You Have to Visit Seaside, Oregon

10 Reasons You Have to Visit Seaside, Oregon

Seaside has a classic boardwalk vibe, where you can explore the town on a surrey, visit the aquarium, and buy salt water taffy.