A home-stay holiday in America will ensure you experience natural beauty at your doorstep.
The best way to experience America is not to check into its hotels, but to look for homes — vacation home stays or a weekend getaway home owned by friends or relatives to move into. When you integrate into the American lifestyle, you get to experience first-hand its grandeur and its immense natural beauty.
The best thing about living in a home, is you don't know what animal will visit you in your backyard. Suburban backyards are known to be the grazing grounds of deer early at dawn and deep into the dusk.
Last year, we travelled to Northern California and lived in a beautiful house in El Dorado Hills county. El Dorado is Spanish for golden and what is a lush green carpet of grass on mountain slopes early on in the year, gets burned a golden yellow in summer. The home had a sheer view of the Sierras on one side and the glinting blue sun-drenched Folsom lake on the other.
There was a most beautiful natural trail leading down from the subdivision in which we lived, all the way down to the water. The historic Folsom lake trail is a mile and half long when you take the shortest route to the water. If you take the long, winding path that encircles the perimeter of the lake, you could end up walking several miles and then choose which part of the lake you wanted to set down your picnic basket at.
The trail has had many four footed visitors, most commonly dogs, but also horses, deer and mountain lion. The story of the mountain lion that attacked an early morning jogger was rife in my mind when I made my way down the trail. The trail has gurgling streams and makeshift wooden planks that serve as a bridge over the water. Tall trees mark either side of the trail, making it at once silent, shady and a touch mysterious. There is also dense undergrowth that embraces the entire path, giving the trail a sense of stillness, and a feeling that maybe somewhere a pair of tawny watchful eyes are on you. The sunlight winks at you from the holes in the canopy of trees above your head, and makes a pattern of light and shadow in the path where you walk. The actual track is covered with dried yellow twigs of grass which have not had the benefit of direct sunlight for many a month.
For all my trepidation and imagined perceptions of danger, no mountain lion made its stealthy way down the path. The path wound down and when the first signs of lake peeped thru the trees, it was breath taking.
There were boats there already so early in the morning. There is also a tarred road for motorists, so cars had driven down with boats in tow all the way to the water's edge. Dogs were taking a swim in the water. And people were on their jetskis enjoying speeding around in the lake. Sailboats were about, making the most of the wind.
Having spent a good bit of my morning here, I hiked back up the trail and then onto the road that curves around the lake and a good bit above it. As I walked into the entrance of the house, I saw an entire family of deer, right in the front yard, the small foal eating the tender leaves of the garden plants.
In California, you can spot deer all year long. As you travel further north, the terrain changes and so do the animal sighting patterns. Michigan, which is home to a thousand lakes, boasts both great reserves of forests and water.
Fall is deer hunting season in Michigan, and the patio gazebos of homes then become the haunt of these long legged visitors at sundown.
Licence to kill
While hunting for deer is legal, you must apply for a hunting licence. Also, you are only permitted to kill the male deer since the females are usually pregnant in fall. And obviously, this can't be a backyard practice, there are designated hunting grounds where you can camp and hunt deer.
Another visitor that is a rare treat when spotted in Michigan is the red fox. We spotted these visitors when we were playing tennis in the nearby county school. The wetlands fringing the court beyond the school showed a bunch of bushy red tails. Sure enough, a family of red tailed foxes were gathered there, sniffing the ground and hunting for food.
In the United States, you get to see natural beauty, ranging from water to mountains at its best. Not necessarily when you travel, but right where you live. And you get to share these generously with your four footed friends.