Frugal Travel Tips For San Francisco

San Francisco is my favorite city hugging the west coast. It is also one of the most expensive especially for hotels. Lucky for the frugal traveler, many of the sights are free.

Note: When I first went to San Francisco (driving up from L.A.), I was very surprised by the decrease in temperature. Check the weather before arriving.

Fisherman’s Wharf

Fisherman’s Wharf, Pier 39 and Ghirardelli Square cover about 6 blocks along the waterfront. This tourist destination offers great views of the famous Alcatraz, souvenir shopping, seafood vendor and street performers. Some of the local “residents” include pelicans and sea lions. The souvenir to take back for chocolate loving Moms? Ghirardelli chocolate. This is where it all started.

Cable Cars

While at Ghirardelli Square, grab a few photos at the Cable Car Turnaround (the end of one of the lines). The cable cars, calling San Francisco’s living monument, are a good break for the weary.

Note: There are no transfers with cable cars. Each ride requires a new ticket.


The Chinatown in San Francisco is second in size in the U.S. only to New York City. It is great place to get cheap supplies and an inexpensive meal.

Lombard Street

Known as the crookedest street, Lombard is another one of those photo opps tourists love. Walking down is free.

The Golden Gate Bridge

Another famous and picturesque walk is across The Golden Gate Bridge. On a clear day, the views are fantastic (and will work off all that great Chinese food you’ll be eating). This suspension bridge is a little less than 9,000 feet long so plan your round trip accordingly.

Cable Car Museum

Love the cable cars? Then visit the Cable Car Museum on Mason Street. Admission is free and the museum deck overlooks the huge engines and winding wheels that pull the cables. Great photos can be taken in the vintage cable cars.

A city of different cultures, bordered by the sea, San Francisco has a perfect mixture of historic attractions and modern sights. Many of them free.

Themed Cambodia Tour: Travel Options in Cambodia

Despite poverty and reconstruction from the terror of Khmer Rouge, Cambodia is still a great place to visit. Other than the Angkor, the country is rich with natural and manmade attractions that will truly make your Cambodia tour worth the time and money.

There are different ways to enjoy your trip. You can make it as personalized as possible by thinking of themes that suit the kind of trips you like best. Here are some suggestions that will help you enjoy the best attractions that Cambodia has to offer.

Laid Back Getaway

If you want to simply relax and be comfortable when you are not touring the great temples of Cambodia, you choose from a wide range of five star hotels and guesthouses in Siem Reap. One of the most popular and fastest improving cities in Cambodia, Siem Reap is a charming tourist hub where you can enjoy the local restaurants and food in the area.

Backpacker’s Getaway

If you are not into large scale tourism but enjoy backpacking to get a better view of the country, then there are plenty of places to visit in your Cambodia tour. For instance, the small town of Kratie is one of the best places for backpackers who wish to see the beauty of the central marketplace. It is also bordered by French colonial buildings that have been in the area for many years.

The best part about backpacking in this side of Cambodia is you get to see the Mekong River, which is home to the very rare Irrawaddy dolphins. These dolphins are slowly becoming endangered. In fact, there are about 66 and 86 remaining dolphins in the upper area of the Mekong River.

Other than the Kratie, you may also add the Tonlé Sap to your Cambodia tours. The lake is known as the largest freshwater lake in the entire South East Asia and it dramatically shrinks and expands depending on the season of the year. The lake drains to Phnom Penh and Mekong River during November to May. During the month of June, heavy rains pour water on the area resulting to the formation of an enormous lake.

Temples and Historical Getaway

There are plenty of temples and historical places that you should include in your Cambodia tour. One of these is the Khmer temple of Preah Vihear found in the Dângrêk Mountains. This temple found in the border of Thailand and Cambodia is considered to be the most spectacular among the many Khmer temples. Constructed in the 11th and 12th century, the temple is dedicated to the god Shiva.

Another must-see in Cambodia is the Silver Pagoda which contains many national treasures and Buddha statues. You must also see the Bokor Hill Station in Kampot, Koh Ker, Banteay Srei, Angkor Wat, and many other historical temples and buildings.

A Hiking Passion For the Southern Utah Desert

By southern Utah, I refer to the area south of I-70 and east of I-15. Being a desert rat, I admit to a prejudice. Also, I love rattlesnakes. However, the area is remarkable, by any measuring stick, for geologic wonders and archeological experiences. When I thought of my favorite hikes, they all happened to fall into that area I love. That wasn’t surprising, even though I have lived north, south, east, west in this beautiful country of ours. I will concentrate on three of my favorite hikes in the following categories; ancient Pueblo (or incorrectly Anasazi) ruins and art, an overland trail, a geologic slot canyon. I have expanded the hikes to two days each, not because one day is not good, but rather not enough.

Though these areas I will cover are not as famous as Bryce or Zion, they are just as great.

Additionally, come to think of it, my favorite mountain climb (it’s a hike, not technical) might be in the same area, and not in Colorado! Mt.Peale is only about 13,000 feet (elevation above sea level), if you even call that a mountain. It’s in the beautiful La Sal range near famous Moab, UT. I won’t give much guidance here, because if you can’t find your way up an obvious mountain trail, you don’t belong there.

Boulder Mail Trail is my favorite overland trail. It is the real (mule) mail trail that was used between the towns of Boulder and Escalante in the early 1900s. It now lies in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. I like to hike half of the trail (to Death Hollow or so) out-and-back from the Boulder airstrip and then the other half out-and-back from Upper Escalante Canyon Trailhead. Or of course, there is the stuff-on-the-back option for camping. The complete trail is 16 miles one way. That could be done in a rushed day trip, for sure. But you would have no time for the side trip to the natural bridge at Mamie Creek. (The bridge is a one mile each way side trip.) The trail is nicely cairned (even follows an old telephone line much of the way) and scenic throughout. As you take on the topography, imagine what the mail carriers went through. Sand Creek, Death Hollow, and Mamie Creek are possible water sources en route. Do adequate research. Foolishness is a death wish here. 1 GALLON OF WATER PER PERSON PER DAY IS REQUIRED. Start early! This trail is a full two day load. This is not a loop but a point to point trail.

Utahcanyons is a good web reference. If a book is preferred, Steve Allen does a pretty good job with “Canyoneering 3”.

Access to the BMT is from Rt. 12 on both ends. The west terminus is the Upper Escalante Canyon Trailhead near Escalante town. The east terminus is near the Boulder airstrip.

I rate this hike difficult for length, exposure.

Buckskin Gulch, a tributary of the normally dry Paria River, is the best slot canyon hike in the world (fee area). A slot canyon forms from relentless erosion by water, usually rushing floodwaters. This one is 13 miles long, 2 feet wide in places, and up to 500 feet deep. I made it about ten miles in-and-back one time (20 mi. total), entering at Wire Pass Trail Head, which offers the quickest access to the narrows. The walls of the gulch are so vertical and high that the eye-popping spectacle of Antelope Canyon (near Page, Az.) is not available here. But as light trickles into Buckskin Gulch there is a soothing cathedral-like feeling in the narrows. Buckskin does have ancient rock art also, at the junction of Wire Pass Trail and Buckskin Trail, where you turn right to the narrows. This is an extremely dangerous place if a flash flood passes through. My group was caught in a flash flood once, thank goodness in the Paria River canyon and not Buckskin canyon. It was still frightening. Some Australian hikers who got caught in Buckskin had water up to their noses. As you travel the narrows look for the logs jammed above your head. Duh, that’s the water level, way up there. You will get wet on this hike most often (potholes), but check weather conditions with the Paria Ranger Station. You want to get wet just from the neck down. There is a day use fee required at the trail. Just pay it, you are in the middle of nowhere if your vehicle gets towed.

Americansouthwest has some more good info. You should get the BLM’s “Hiker’s Guide to Paria Canyon”. My recommendation is to go as far as comfortable and return to the vehicle, for a long day trip. Or make it an “easy” ha ha two day trip to the Paria River confluence (13 1/2 miles each way) and back, with gear. For you multi-day backpackers, there are at least 60 miles of hiking available in the Paria River and Buckskin. Even though Buckskin is the greatest, I prefer the idea of Day 1 there and Day 2 in Coyote Buttes (fee area). This gives you nice and cool in the narrows to nice and hot and exposed near the “buttes”. Plenty of water will be needed for drinking at Coyote Buttes, which is divided into north and south units. The more renown north section is accessible from Wire Pass trail head. “The Wave” is the attraction (recently discovered dinosaur footprints too!) and can be previewed at americansouthwest.

Access is from House Rock Valley Rd. for Buckskin and Coyote. Nearest paved road is Rt. 89 about 40 miles east of Kanab. The H.R.V. Rd. goes through to Rt. 89A and the Vermilion Cliffs, near Marble Canyon in Arizona. Good hiking there also, and petroglyphs at the rim (Eastern Crack, good luck finding it).

I rate Buckskin Gulch difficult for length, possible deep water wading, rock fall. Coyote Buttes is rated easy, barring dehydration issues. If Buckskin doesn’t turn out to be skinny enough, try Spooky Gulch, which is accessed east of Escalante town.

My favorite archaeological hikes are in Grand Gulch Primitive Area (fee area). My only complaint is that it’s getting popular. The Great Basin Desert in southeast Utah (specifically the Colorado and San Juan River drainages) has an amazing amount of ancient Pueblo cultural remnants. I spent 15 years looking around. I know where the very singular San Juan River rim petroglyphs are. I know Moon House, The Citadel, The Procession Panel. Unfortunate, but some places can’t be made into tourist areas. Some places can’t take the stress. At least Grand Gulch has a modicum of overseers, and visitors thus far have tried to behave. The nearest towns are Blanding (the biggest at 2000 or so population), Bluff, and Mexican Hat. Don’t miss this outdoor museum.

The “main lane” into Grand Gulch is the Kane Gulch Trail, which is just across paved Rt. 261 from the Visitors’ Center. The first famous sight is “Junction Ruin”, at the junction of Kane and Grand Gulches. It is four miles from the trail head. That’s a long time to wait, but the hike in is a nice nature walk, and easy. Besides a nice ruin, there are ancient painted hand prints galore. Another half mile or so to the left brings one to “Turkey Pen Ruin”, with more pictographs and petroglyphs. Stimper Arch, a good one, is five miles from the trail head. So a turnaround there makes a ten mile day-hike on fairly flat terrain. It’s a nice, easy starter.

Day 2, in Bullet Canyon, is a different story, and a tougher hike. There is a lot more vertical elevation change involved here, and some rough going with boulder hopping. I saw a Midget Faded rattlesnake on this trail once. It is a very small (this one was about one foot long) but potent snake. Let them have the right-of-way. There are “lookout tower” ruins at the beginning of the canyon, as you enter. Bullet also has a number of granaries to see before the trail reaches “Perfect Kiva Ruin” at 4 1/2 miles. “Jailhouse Ruin” has a definite eerie aura about it (1/2 mile past “Perfect Kiva”), with a ghost-like pictograph hovering above it. So again a ten mile day-hike is involved.

Have you got a Day 3 to spare? If so, Todie Canyon will yield “Split Level Ruin” five miles in from the Todie trail head. There is a small ruin and pictographs at 2 1/2 miles in, just 1/5 mile after the canyon start. (The canyon starts 2.3 miles from the trail head.) There are some granaries, also, on the way to “Split Level Ruin”.

For multi-day backpackers, there are about 75 miles of hiking available in the Grand Gulch Primitive Area.

There is a problem if you are a day-hiker. You have got to see Sheiks Canyon, which entails a verrry long day. It is full of great artwork and dwellings, especially the “Green Mask Spring” area. Sheiks is 14 miles from the Kane Gulch trail head, 8.6 miles from the Bullet Canyon trail head, and 9.3 miles from the Todie Canyon trail head. There is supposed to be a Sheiks Canyon Trailhead to Bullet Canyon Trailhead loop. This is to be a 17 mile loop but I never found the Sheiks trailhead. There is a fantastic petroglyph at “Wall Ruin”, in the main Grand Gulch near the junction with Sheiks Canyon. It appears to be two smaller figures balancing on a larger figure, like circus performers.

Bullet Canyon Trailhead: Just south of mile marker 22 (Rt. 261) turn west 1 mile.

Todie Canyon Trailhead: Just north of mile marker 25 (Rt. 261) turn west 1 mile on CR 2361.

I like to use Trails Illustrated map #706 for Grand Gulch (waterproof/tearproof).

I rate these hikes moderate (Kane) to difficult (Bullet) for length, exposure.