Escapes: The mountains are calling, and you must go


It’s beginning to look a lot like a great snow season.

If you like the snow, like to play in the snow, like to sail on the snow, heed John Muir’s advice in the headline and hit the road. We have a roundup of probable places, all benefiting from an early white frosting. Mammoth was coming off a monster year, but it’s already hit the 99-inch snowfall mark. And Snow Valley, the Running Springs resort, got so much it couldn’t open (it has since) because roads were closed.

My name is Catharine Hamm, and I’m the travel editor for the Los Angeles Times. We’re very chill this week, with articles on a weekend getaway to Monterey — where it always feels to me like early spring — and on booking your Alaska cruise early. You’ll find a slight warming trend (could be your blood pressure) on an Airbnb experience that didn’t go quite as planned and an update on juice-jacking, where thieves target your charging phone and jeopardize its safety.

Heartwarming? We have heartwarming, especially if you’re a FoM (friend of Milo). And this week’s End paper talks about embracing the joy of someone else’s joy. We promise you’ll feel warm all over by the time you’re done.

What’s up on the slopes

Irwin Curtin has been writing about snow resorts for us for so long that we still called them “ski slopes” when he began writing for us. But their appeal has broadened to snowboarders and to those who just want to play and then walk away. Check out his 2019 roundup of California — including SoCal — and the West. If you’re more in search of the kind of place where it’s just you and the snow, Brian E. Clark writes about Eldora, Colo., less than 50 miles from Denver.


Getting a new perspective

You may know a town well, but somehow, when you have new visitors, the experience opens your eyes to some of what made you like it in the first place. That’s what happened to Mike Morris and his wife, who hosted family in Monterey on a weekend escape. The result: a refreshing visit, a refreshed perspective.

They’ll keep the lights on for you

Bruce Munro’s “Field of Light at Sensorio,” the 58,000 bulbs that create a scene that would make Monet smile, was set to close in early January, but it will keep lighting up the Paso Robles landscape until at least June 30, Mary Forgione reports.

 The “Field of Light at Sensorio” is brightest after all light has left the sky. It will stay open six more months.
The “Field of Light at Sensorio” is brightest after all light has left the sky. It will stay open six more months.
(Rachel Schnalzer/Los Angeles Times)

Juice-jacking, the sequel

Several readers were alarmed (sorry, readers, but so was I) after my On the Spot column about juice-jacking, the practice by which your phone can pick up malware or get its data stolen at free USB charging stations. Readers asked whether a battery charger could get infected (no) and whether the charging jacks on airplanes were suspect (nothing to indicate they should be, but better safe than sorry).

One reader wrote in to say that you can use a USB data blocker (you plug your phone into the blocker, then plug the blocker into the free charging station) to keep your phone safe. I now have two. Google “USB data blocker” to find one.

When expectations and actuality clash

An Airbnb sounded ideal for an Anaheim man looking for lodging in Buenos Aires. The listing showed a fresh, modern interior set off by gleaming wood floors. When he and his guests arrived, the reality was different. Warm conversation with the “superhost” grew frosty. On the Spot follows the twisty tale to its resolution. But was everyone satisfied?


Illustration for the Airbnb in the Travel section.
(Loris Lora/For The Times)

North to Alaska for less

The forecast for Skagway, Alaska, for the rest of the week is snow, snow and more snow, which is exactly why this is the right time to plan your cruise there, Rosemary McClure writes. By the time you get there (usually beginning in May), it will be glorious and cool. Plus, you may snag a bargain in the process.

Take note of this

Long-time Gear writer Judi Dash has practical ideas for making travel easier, and if you have a traveler in your life with whom you are exchanging gifts, take a look at wares that will keep them looking fresh or make you smile. Or both. They may ease our way down the road or at least make it more fun.

What we’re reading

I’m still bad at packing, so I spent a few minutes looking at these “how-to-be-a-better-packer” videos courtesy of Travelers United. The first one starts with packing but then strays to other travel hacks, including using dollar-store sunglasses as a stand for your phone on the airplane tray table. The host of the second promises you can get 16 garments in a 22-inch bag, and by George, he does it. (I may have to try this.) The third is sure to reignite a fight with those who roll their clothes versus those who fold; the ever-tidy Marie Kondo suggests folding clothes in little rectangles and standing them up. I learned a few things, and given that I’m at best a C student at packing, I appreciate the tutoring.

How could you not read this article in Smithsonian with a headline like “How Paris’ Open-air Urinals Changed a City — and Helped Dismantle the Nazi Regime?” Who knew there was such a thing? (OK, the French.) Who knew they played in a role in the war effort? (Katherine J. Wu, writing for Smithsonian.) And who knew the French word for an open-air urinal would could sound so classy? (Also probably the French, whose lips you can almost see curl as they intone pissotières.)

And now for the good news: Milo has been found. Milo, you may recall, is the gray-and-white tabby that got lost after a Lufthansa flight from Munich to Dulles, Jayme Deerwester reports in USA Today. His kennel was damaged apparently when it was moved from the tarmac to arrivals, and when it was opened, he was gone. No details on where he was hanging out these last couple of months, but owner Molly McFadden reports the vet pronounced the wanderer in good shape, despite everything.

End paper

I had a wakeup call on a weekend trip to New Orleans — several, actually. But the one that has me shaking my head most, aside from the $120 I spent on parking at LAX, had to do with why people travel.

What I thought when the trip started wasn’t what I thought when the trip ended. Travel can do that.

On a Friday evening nonstop flight, I expected nothing more than a quiet ride during which I might read a little more of a mystery and maybe get a little sleep before landing in the Big Easy. Engrossed in a writing assignment, I paid no attention to anyone in the waiting area.

If I had, I would have noticed that many of them were wearing scarlet and gold and others black and gold, and that could mean one of only two things: bad fashion sense, or football.

I was on a plane with people who dressed this way on purpose, because they wanted to cheer on the San Francisco 49ers when they played the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.

I groaned inwardly, then winced when I heard, “Bang bang, Niner gang,” followed by “Who dat?” — the Saints rallying cry memorialized by a song performed by Aaron Neville and five Saints players.

The nap became just a dream, but I had to admit that the fans were in such good humor that they were far more entertaining than “The Girl in the Spider’s Web.”

I thought my flight home was early enough to avoid them, but there they were again. And it finally dawned on me that this, too, is part of why we travel. Of course we do it to see new places and try new things. But underlying all that, we do it because it’s supposed to be fun.

There was no denying that look on those fans’ faces was pure enjoyment — perhaps a little more on the faces of the victorious 49ers’ than the vanquished Saints’, and perhaps fueled by a wee bit of the grape.

And that’s the way travel should be more often, evoking that same kind of freedom we felt when we were kids who went out to play on a summer’s evening just for the fun of it. Because everyone needs to give their workaday, weary souls a break.

Remember, wherever you are, travel safely, well and maybe even joyfully, and we’ll be here to welcome you home.