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Stories by Ruth Newell

Dharma Travel: Vedic City, Iowa

Enlightenment found amidst the cornfields.

"Transcendental meditation (TM) is a simple technique practiced for about 15–20 minutes sitting comfortably in a chair with the eyes closed,” reads the literature. I’m sorry – I’m with Elizabeth Gilbert. Sounds way easier said ...

Dharma Travel: California seeking

Third in a spiritual tourism series.

It doesn't take traveling to remote or exotic places to escape the distractions of the outside world, I've found. In California, regardless of denomination, dharma travel is big business. Whether 50-room or single-room hermitages, expansive ...

Chill out in Vermont

Waterholes and more summertime fun in the Green Mountain State.

Not much changes in Vermont aside from the height of the trees. The second-least populated place in the country, the Green Mountain State is well known as a snowy winter wonderland and for its scenic ...

Dharma Travel: retreats of the Northeast

From lighthouse-dotted islands to rustic mountain lodges.

New England was founded by spiritualists escaping feudalistic persecution in Europe. Puritans, Lutherans, Jews, Quakers – even Shakers. It's hardly surprising then that personal retreats of every denomination abound, from cliffs overlooking the Atlantic to ...

Dharma Travel: Florida's Gold Coast pilgrimages

Part 1 in a spiritual tourism series.

Faith tourism is a booming billion-dollar industry, yet humans have sought refuge from the mundane drudgery of their daily lives and taken "holidays" in remote sanctuaries from the beginning of time in order to revive ...

Forts of the Deep South

Conquistadors to the Civil War, Florida to Mississippi.

Empires rise and they fall, leaving behind the ruins of their fortresses. Until armored warships rendered masonry forts and their black powder cannons obsolete, warring European empires set on colonizing the rest of the world ...

Louisiana's Great River Road

Antebellum homes adorn the banks of the Mississippi above New Orleans.

Louisiana’s Great River Road is actually two historic corridors reaching seventy miles from New Orleans to beyond Baton Rouge on either side of the Mississippi. First Spanish, then French, and finally Creole landowners built their ...

Mexico Beach

Escape to a slower pace on Florida's Gulf Goast.

Here’s the thing about Mexico Beach: It’s not in Mexico. It’s on the panhandle 20 minutes south of Panama City and just off the tip of Port St. Joe – a little bit of yesterday ...

Death Valley – Why?

Transcendence found in the California desert.

Deep in the belly of Death Valley National Park, I pitched my tent up against sage bushes looking out at snowcapped mountains. Campers sat in their vehicles, some huddled in their tents, all dodging the ...

Florida Road-tripping

In touch with the Sunshine State's natural side.

California isn't the only state that holds claim to a scenic coastal drive. With more miles of coastline than any other state in the contiguous lower forty-eight, Florida has several. State Road Atlantic 1 Alternate ...

Far-flung Corners of Texas

Charmed by the state's remote beauty.

Seventh time was the charm. Took me that many drive-throughs before I fell in love with a corner of Texas. Because aside from Padres Island National Seashore, I just couldn’t see much to like. To ...

Leonard Knight and His Mountain

Revisiting this labor of love in the Southern California desert.

Mahatma Gandhi believed that we should not let the idea of seeing individual actions as insignificant deter us from contributing to and participating in the changes we wish to see. Apparently, he isn’t alone in ...

Paolo's Phoenix: Cosanti, Arizona

A lesson in sustainability.

In Paradise Valley, overlooking the 70,900-acre Agua Fria National Monument, is the Cosanti gallery, studio and home to 93-year-old anti-materialist architect and urban planner Paolo Soleri. It isn’t surprising that this author of six books, ...

Cabot's Miracle: Desert Hot Springs and Pueblo

Two and a half hours north of San Diego.

I’m in love with a dead man. Honestly, if there ever was a Man of Men to pine for, it would be Cabot Yerxa, who died three years after I was born. Not only was ...

Sea Ranch Chapel

Just north of Salt Point State Park, half way between Point Reyes National Seashore and Fort Bragg along the Pacific Coastal Highway, is a place called Sea Ranch. About 300 of the 1,800 uniformly shingle-clad, ...

Biosphere 2: Man-Made Wonder

The world's largest living science center is a half-hour north of Tucson.

Between 1987 and 1994, the $200-million Biosphere 2 structure with its two “lungs” and Energy Center was constructed on 40 rolling meadow acres west of the Santa Catalina Mountains and a half-hour north of Tuscon, ...

SoCal Five-Gear Weekend Excursions

Escaping the crowds and congested highways of coastal southern California, road warriors take to the hills. SoCal boasts some of the most beautiful scenic highways in the country, some right outside the largest metro areas. ...

Gila, Geronimo and More in New Mexico

Visit for the Gila River Festival, 9/13-16.

Along the Gila River built into five interconnected caves high in a canyon wall, in the 2.7-million-acre Gila National Forest and Wilderness Area, is a 700-year-old Mogollon pueblo designated as the Gila Cliff Dwellings National ...

Spectacular Mono Lake

See the Eastern Sierra's great salt lake, just east of Yosemite.

Highway 89 south out of Lake Tahoe to Route 395 has got to be one of THE most pleasurable rides in a stick shift. It’s definitely a road reserved for the unfettered. The steep switchbacks ...

Utah's Moab Music Festival

"Concerts in the park" takes on a whole new meaning.

From August 29th through September 10th, music will echo through some of Utah’s most scenic canyons. The Moab Music Festival aims to merge music with the natural landscape found along the Colorado River in the ...

Close Encounters in CA's High Desert

Experience far-out energy healing at the Integratron.

I may have had some lunatic notions in my day, but I can assure you that none of them have been implanted or otherwise suggested by extraterrestrials. Not a one. George Van Tassel, however, can’t ...

Toth’s Trail of Whispering Giants Born in La Jolla

Forty years ago, in 1972, a man spent six months chiseling the face of an Indian into a cliff between Marine Street and Windansea Beach in La Jolla. Peter Wolf Toth had just dropped out ...

Joshua Tree: More than Just Camping

There isn’t anything spectacular about the town visually. Like many desert towns, the buildings along the main drag are old, unkempt and often vacant. There are few sidewalks, and no trees or landscaping that would ...

California's Active Volcanoes

A tour from the Mojave to Mono Lake

There are more than 550 active volcanoes in the world, five of which are in California. It's to be expected from a state sitting on the eastern edge of the Ring of Fire. Between Barstow ...

Olive Fruit Fly Takes Toll Statewide

Jim Engelke, owner of Fallbrook Olive Oil, bought an avocado grove in east Fallbrook eight years ago. With the North American Free Trade Agreement allowing the importation of avocados from south of the border and ...

Is a Fallbrook Business Improvement District Necessary?

With the intent of creating consistency for local businesses during a floundering economy, Vince Ross, president of the Fallbrook Revitalization Council, has commissioned a study to determine the viability of developing a business improvement district ...

Fallbrook’s Shrinking Avocado

Since the first avocado trees were planted in 1912, Fallbrook’s avocado industry’s been thriving. The Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce estimates annual sales near $26 million. However, due to water-access issues, the size of the average ...

Catalina's Lonely Peaks

One of seven islands in the Channel Island archipelago, Catalina lies 22 miles due west off Los Angeles. It doesn’t surprise me that the Victorian botanist-poet Blanche Trask took up residence there; it hadn’t been ...

Salt Point State Park: Hidden California Coast

From Moro Rock to the memorable Bixby Creek Bridge, beauty abounds along the Pacific Coastal Highway in the form of uninterrupted expansive views extending to the beryl-blue horizon. The road from Pismo Beach to Half ...

Slab City, CA

Trying to change the negative reputation that the Slabs had acquired over the years as a melting pot for drug addicts, hippies and psych ward releases, Builder Bill created the Range, just southeast of the ...

Finding It in Shoshone, California

For the record: I’m not a fancy, gotta-have-posh type of woman; I’m OK with “rough around the edges.” I’m instinctively drawn to character, whether quaint and endearing or quirky and eclectic. I like spice, color ...

Nothing Like the PCH

Undeniably one of the most picturesque roads you’ll ever traverse, California’s Route 1 north of Santa Barbara is a largely contiguous strip of undeveloped coastline with endless, arresting views. (“Undeveloped,” as in not much there ...

La Jolla Sea Caves

Weathered from a 75-million-year-old sandstone cliff in La Jolla are seven sister caves. Like many other seaside caverns, these, too, have been used by pirates. Only the cargo they smuggled was human. California’s eight-year-gold rush ...

Washington Grove, Maryland – Town within a Forest

Northeast of Washington, D.C., lays a “town within a forest.” Washington Grove is a shady hamlet tucked beneath an age-old stand of forest. It’s a town built purposefully around trees, one of the early intentionally ...

Trona Pinnacles, Mojave Desert, California

The Trona Pinnacles (not to be confused with Pinnacles National Monument near Steinbeck’s Soledad) is one of those natural geological wonders that awes. Set back five miles off SR 178, twenty miles east of Ridgecrest, ...

Roaming Solitary in the Sands

Fourteen miles south of San Diego and five miles north of the land where Tequila pours like honey lays the surfing Mecca known as Imperial Beach –or “IB” as it is referred to locally. I ...

Napa: Prager Winery and Portworks

As I drive south out of Napa Valley after a weeklong housesit, I stop at Prager Winery and Portworks in quaint St. Helena on the recommendation of a friend. The tasting room is in a ...

Badwater Salt Flats in Death Valley, California

Death Valley is just that – a low-lying valley cradled between three monstrous mountain ranges. And frankly, there isn’t another way to describe it other than to assure you that it is bloody majestic! The ...

Taos, New Mexico: Natural Hot Springs on the Rio Grande

Although a longtime fan of hot tubs, my first experience in a natural hot spring was outside of Taos, New Mexico. As the sun was setting over the mesa, I climbed for an hour on ...

Calistoga, California

I woke to overcast skies and decided it would be a good day to hike. With a hot cup of Roastaroma in hand, a quick Google search led me to several trails within an hour’s ...

Joshua Tree and Twentynine Palms, California

After hiking in Joshua Tree National Park, I camped in Indian Cove beneath batholiths. I had come to see the Wonderland of Rocks, which thanks to Minerva Hoyt is publicly preserved and accessible. Surrounded by ...

Grayton Beach State Park, Florida

Eight days into our around-the-country trip, my friend and I walked the long stretch of white sand beach in Grayton Beach State Park from the setting sun towards the rising full moon. We had pulled ...

On the Chesapeake: Easton, Maryland

As I drove east across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge at dusk, a Peregrine falcon rose from the water over the railing and above the car into the trusses above, a fish gripped firmly in its ...

Roswell, New Mexico

Located in the Pecos Valley, Roswell grew up around large cattle ranches on land previously occupied by Mescalero Apaches. From the development of Fort Stanton in 1855 to the closure of the Walker Air Force ...

Vikingsholm Castle, Lake Tahoe

Vikingsholm Castle sits at the bottom of a steep, mile-long switchback driveway that drops 500 feet to the shore of Lake Tahoe. Once at the bottom, I purchased a ticket to participate in a guided ...

Historic Coronado, California

I float in a sun-warmed, peanut-shaped tile pool, watching the breeze flip the palm fronds against a turquoise San Diego sky, sipping a midday mimosa. Cally, the woman for whom I was house sitting, had ...

The Conundrum of Desert Farming

Swaying in a hammock strung beneath palm trees on a cliff side high above Rainbow Valley, a tiny village just east of the unincorporated town of Fallbrook, I look out fifteen some odd miles over ...

Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico

Carlsbad Cavern National Park lies within the limestone Guadalupe Mountain range – the world’s best-preserved Permian-age fossil reef – in what was once a shallow inland sea some 240-plus million years ago. I talked my ...

Hellhole Canyon, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park

Pummeled by roaring, tent-folding winds most of the night, I awoke to the softest of morning gusts coming out of the canyon. Swaying in my hammock, I sipped freshly brewed licorice root tea surrounded by ...

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

The Amistad National Recreational Area on the Mexican border is beautiful waterway, surrounded with blooming prickly pear cactus and wildflowers. And, apparently, monster snakes. I was careful as I made my way down the rocky ...