Escapes: Vegas? Parks? Cruises? We’ve got you covered

Crowds of visitors on the wooden walkways at the Midway Geyser Basin walk
The colorful Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone National Park, which has reopened.
(Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

As the doors to the world swing open, you have your pick: town, country or cruise. All are showing signs of life: Vegas and some national parks are reopening, and at least one cruise line is relaunching.

What does this next normal look like?

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. In this upside-down world, there is much to anticipate and, we hope, to celebrate. So settle in, and let your mind wander. There’s no harm in dreaming, and when the world is too much with us, there’s some help to do so. Take a look, and don’t miss the End paper, which finally lives up to its name.

Talk of the town

Hard to believe Vegas went dark for more than 75 days, but by the time you read this, that Vegas is back (unless you’re a super-early riser). Protests earlier this week came with violence late Monday and early Tuesday, but things were quieter Tuesday evening. Check out Jay Jones’ preview of Vegas as Nevada’s shutdown of casinos ends.

Also under the town category is the “What’s open and what’s closed” compilation of places around the L.A. area that Mary Forgione and Christopher Reynolds compile each week. Even some beach parking lots are reopening, they report.

 "Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada" sign is paired with a sign about social distancing in the time of coronavirus.
The “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas Nevada” sign is paired with a sign about social distancing in the time of coronavirus.
(John Locher / Associated Press)

A little bit of country

National parks are opening a little at a time, and Reynolds and Forgione are keeping a close eye on what’s happening with them. Read where we are with Sequoia and Kings Canyon and other California national parks, plus Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon. And we also have an update on permits for climbing Mt. Whitney and on mountain biking parks open in Southern California.

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For your amusement

Imagine wanting to go to a theme park to be scared witless. You’d think the last few weeks would have been scary enough, but those who seek thrills in a controlled environment will be happy to know that Six Flags is looking out for your safety. It has released protocols so you’ll know what your visit will look like, Hugo Martín writes.

Small is in

Nothing quite beats the slap of water against a vessel for sounds that soothe. Is cruising out? Not completely, Rosemary McClure writes. American Cruise Lines will launch its small vessels starting this month on the Snake and Columbia rivers in the Pacific Northwest and on the Mississippi River. She also gives a preview of the timeline for the return of the big cruise lines.

How broad are your shoulders?

Because your burden as a traveler may be greater once the world starts opening up. Travel has been on an evolutionary path, I write in an On the Spot column, and it’s about to take an even more important turn: the shared responsibility that you’ll now have to shoulder in a post-coronavirus world. Take a deep breath.


What we’re reading

I’ve often thought of cooking as a way to sustain myself and as a labor, though not of love. But I’d never really thought of it as a portal into history. Writing for Atlas Obscura, Vonnie Williams explains how Lavada Nahon — a historian, interpreter and scholar as well as a cook — traces the past of the wealthy families who had enslaved cooks who risked their lives to turn out meals that had to be perfect. Life-threatening? Here’s one of Nahon’s quotes: “As a cook, you had two masters. One was the fire, a living breathing thing, and one was your other master.” Fascinating insight.

Remembering watching fireflies when you were a kid? If you said no, you may be a native Californian. But for those who grew up in hot and humid places, they were a show unto themselves. Great Smoky Mountain National Park was supposed to have a firefly viewing event but, like anything that involves crowds, it was canceled this year. But you can still watch one virtually, Nora McGreevy writes for the Smithsonian. Oh, to be 6 years old again ...

I sat down to read Smithsonian magazine’s piece on Kangaroo Island at lunch yesterday and found “The Search for Life on Kangaroo Island,” by Cerdiwen Dovey, so much more than just a piece on the suffering of wildlife on the Australian island hit hard by bush fires. The conflagration killed an enormous number of koalas, kangaroos and other wildlife. You’ll smile, you’ll flinch and you’ll applaud those who are working to find the way back.

Adelaide wildlife rescuer Simon Adamczyk holds a koala he rescued at a burning forest on Kangaroo Island, Australia.
Adelaide wildlife rescuer Simon Adamczyk holds a koala he rescued at a burning forest near Cape Borda on Kangaroo Island, Australia.
(David Mariuz / EPA-EFE/REX)

What we also hope you’re reading

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End paper

This End paper is aptly named. It is my last End paper — not because anyone told me to quit writing them but because I told myself to go live my life.

Tomorrow is my last day at the Los Angeles Times, a place where life has unfolded for me in ways I never imagined. It was my dream to work here every day of my life, until I did. And then it became a reality I can still hardly believe.

Some of you may remember Jerry Hulse, who founded the Travel section in the early 1960s. Jerry was a pioneer in the field. He built a Travel section from nothing to everything you might want to know. I was in awe of him, especially as a young travel editor for the Kansas City Star.

I nearly spat my coffee out when he called me one day to say he wanted to interview me for a travel position at the Los Angeles Times. On the phone with him, I was silently wondering who in my newsroom knew CPR.

The opening, he said, was for a deputy travel editor. He had three candidates in mind.

The interview was set. I was shaking.

As another of my journalism heroes said to me as he was interviewing me some years later: “You don’t interview well, do you?”

He must have been right, because a few weeks after that dinner, I had a note from Jerry telling me I had come in third of three. Truth to tell, I think I came in 10th in a group of three.

My heart bent a little but didn’t break. Then I drifted away from Travel and spent lots of time on the news side of various organizations, editing and making reporters miserable. One day, as I was sitting in the editor’s office — my office — at a small newspaper, I knew I was making more than reporters miserable.

Then I saw it in a magazine on my desk: an opening for deputy travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. I sent my resume that night and was hired within about two weeks by Leslie Ward, a terrific and exacting editor who had replaced Jerry.

If you know anything about journalists, it’s that it’s a small, unique world, and we talk about it a lot. Or, said less kindly, we gossip a lot.

I shouldn’t have been surprised when the phone rang one day about three months after I started. “Hi!” a man’s voice said, “This is Jerry Hulse.”

I stuttered out some kind of greeting. He said, “Well, I wanted to give you a call and tell you I’m hearing all kinds of nice things about you,” he said, pouring on his considerable Jerry charm. I thanked him and he hesitated for a minute.

“I also wanted to tell you I’m sorry. I should have hired you.”

This time I wasn’t thunderstruck, because I knew he was wrong.

“Jerry,” I said, “you did me a huge favor. You gave me a chance to develop better news skills, to learn how to be a better manager and to learn how much I didn’t know. I wasn’t ready then. I hope I’m ready now.”

“You’ll do great,” he said. We chatted a few more minutes and hung up.

Three weeks later, he died unexpectedly after minor elective surgery.

As I come to the end of this road, I want to thank him for helping me remember that the teacher appears when the student is ready. I followed my own path that led me to where I wanted to be and also led me to a million memories of the places I’ve been, the people I’ve met, the work and the colleagues I love. (Don’t tell my work mates I said that. They’ll wonder where the real Catharine is.)

Most of all, I want to thank him for paving the way to getting to know you, the readers, who make it so hard to say goodbye. You support us, you nurture us, you sustain us through good times (there’ve been some) and bad (there’ve been some of those too). You are, after all, travelers, who are known to have the quickest smiles and the kindest hearts.

Writing to you each week has been an unexpected reward gratefully accepted. The good news is that Christopher Reynolds, my longtime colleague here in the Travel section, will take over this task for a while. You could not ask for a better journalist, storyteller and friend.

And remember, no matter where you go, travel safely and well, and know that all of us at Los Angeles Times Travel, past and present, will always be here to welcome you home.