Ski Santa Fe, New Mexico

31 03 2023
Ski Santa Fe Lodge – Quite the light show!

I flew down to Albuquerque to visit my friend Tully, who lives there, and also met up with Chris from Portland, ME. We’re all college buddies from Denison University! We spent the week skiing at Taos Ski Valley and Ski Santa Fe. The day at Taos turned out very nice, even though there were winter storm warnings with 50+ mph winds. But I didn’t capture enough images! We were having too much fun. There were runs where we were the only people on the slope.

Next was Ski Santa Fe. I was very excited to try one of New Mexico’s less famous ski areas and I was very impressed for a whole host of reasons. First, there is a free shuttle from downtown Santa Fe and they give passengers a $5 token to spend at the resort!

Next, it’s got over 1,700ft vertical and a lot of challenge! The summit is over 12,000ft! So the snow is dry! And on top of that, I had a private lesson for $200. I know that’s a lot, but it’s actually a bargain compared to Mt. Bachelor $399 or Taos $599! I had it scheduled for myself. But “Spooky,” our 76-year old coach, let my friend Chris join in! We were interested in getting the most out of the new carving skis. Also we spoke to a group of instructors at the cafeteria early in the morning, and later in the day, they saw us on the ski slopes and checked in on us! We felt very welcome.

Spooky 1st skied at Suicide Six in Vermont. Then moved to Aspen when he was 8. He also was director of the ski school at Wolf Creek Ski Area in Colorado! We learned a lot. The wind was non existent and the snow was soft. The skies were broody with occasional sun highlighting the snowy trees!


Snow Basin, Utah

31 03 2023
Snow Basin covers the entire range shown here!

After visiting my friend Ed in Park City, where I skied Deer Valley and Alta, I began to make my way back to Oregon, so Snow Basin was next. Snow Basin is about 30 minutes outside Ogden. It is a super easy drive from downtown. I’d been there maybe 8 years before and had fond memories of it. It is even more luxuriously appointed than Deer Valley. The lodges are over the top beautiful with chandeliers, comfortable couches and roaring fireplaces. All for the plebeians just like me. No membership required!

They’ve even raised the bar in the bathroom. They have country club style hand towel dispensers!

The terrain and snow quality is top notch, too. Snow Basin was designed by Alf Engen, who designed the trail system at Alta. His trail design takes advantage of the natural contours of the mountain, instead of just chopping straight trails. So the experience is more flowing and natural. They have two gondolas and a number of chairlifts. Lots of room to spread out.

Snow Basin also has a convenient parking system like Big Sky. No matter where you park, there is always a shuttle coming to whisk you right in front of the lodge. And no reservations nor any payment needed!

Isle of Sky Basecamp: The Uig Hotel!

10 12 2022

The hotel has a magical view of the Outer Hebrides – and the ferry swings in from there.

We took a half day’s drive from Glencoe, over the Isle of Skye Bridge, and then up to Uig. It’s a spectacularly picturesque village clustered on a postcard perfect harbor. Our fabulous weather just kept on coming! To die for views. And the hotel? It is superbly over the top cute, cozy, everything one could hope for on a stay on Isle of Skye! There is even a Fairy Glen not far away. And then we arrived at the Uig Hotel.

My room is on the upper right! Perfect!

If anything can match, or even enhance the scene, it would have to be the Uig Hotel! Inside and out, the view, the location, the proximity to real movie scene hikes, its delectable restaurant, and its cozy single-malt whiskey stocked bar, it all just oozes authentic Scottish experience! The original building was a coaching inn built in 1831. There are newer rooms in a building out back. I totally lucked out that I got a seaside view room with a cathedral window!

Settled in, I chose to grab a pint of stout from the bar and wander the grounds. The lighting, the view of the harbor and bay beyond, are pretty much over the top intoxicating beyond the brew I had in my grasp.

On this evening, it was the wedding anniversary of two of my fellow trekkers, Cassie and Taylor Graham! FYI Cassie is the niece of Don Martin, of my Annapurna Sanctuary Trek in Nepal trip! Halfway through happy hour, we met up outside their room for a toast! I brought along my Scotland flag from home, which I proudly fly from my home. I have a LOT of Scottish heritage!

And then? It’s time for supper! Over there, a “dinner” would be mid-day. Supper is the evening meal. Once again, we were at liberty to order anything on the menu. No restrictions! I LOVE seafood, and on Scotland’s Isle of Skye, that is plentiful. So, I ordered baked salmon for the main course. But WHOA wait a minute. The starters! One cannot allow oneself to neglect an opportunity indulge! I noticed one of my absolute rarely indulged favorites, steamed mussels in white wine sauce with lemon! And I was not disappointed. What came to my place set was huge! So delish it was, that I ordered it again the next night.

Cathy Ann and our local guides Tonia and Susie announced our hiking plans for tomorrow. We’d head south, to the Black Cuillens, to a place named Culnamean, which is at sea level. We’d hike straight up to a spectacular lunch spot Coire Lagan, under Sgurr Dearg, the highest point on Isle of Skye. If we were lucky, we’d have completely unlimited views from there!

With that, in my typical fashion, I bid everyone good night! Each night I needed ‘me time’ to write up the experiences of the day!

Glencoe: A Chill Out Day for Me, Pap of Glencoe for Others!

25 11 2022
View from the Glencoe Visitor’s Center. Improving weather!

We were staying two nights at the Kingshouse Hotel in Glencoe. Since I was still mending from my summer-long bout with shingles and Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, I decided I’d take a rest day. The group decided to hike the Pap of Glencoe, a relatively short but steep climb to a breathtaking view of the lochs and mountains nearby. A quick read on information about the area revealed that there is a Glencoe Visitor Center down the Glen. I could learn some of the area’s history, take an hour’s hike, and then catch a taxi back to the hotel. There, I could catch up on my journal, read my novel, and maybe hang out on the picnic tables outside and meet fellow travelers. As it turned out, it went by so fast I was really surprised, and enjoyed it immeasurably.

After another hearty breakfast, we piled into our vans with our local guides Tania and Susie, and headed down the Glen Coe. As the road winds, iconic green mountain vistas open up, many with waterfalls cascading down their slopes.

This was where I learned how popular Scotland is with hikers and international tourists! At pull-outs with views, many vehicles. Later in the day, with my taxi return, it was just packed! And why not. It’s very beautiful. And, of course, it has been captured in many films and is rich with history.

The Three Sisters of Glencoe

We stopped at a pull-out in front of the Three Sisters of Glencoe. Somewhere in this valley, a dreadful event occurred. The Massacre of Glencoe. In 1692, the newly crowned Protestant King William III of England was anxious to secure the loyalty of all Scots once and for all. He issued a decree in which he required all Scottish clans sign loyalty to him, or face punishment. Allies of William, Clan Campbell quickly signed. But local Clan MacDonald had not. Clan Campbell was sent up the Glen to speak with the MacDonalds about the issue. Although they were not friendly to one another, the MacDonalds played host to their visitors. The Scottish government had offered to pay 12,000 pounds to the Scottish clans to sign the oath. But many clans, as in typical fashion, disagreed on how to divide the sum amongst themselves, delaying signing. This delay led to William’s impatience, and an example was made to demonstrate the consequences of a lack of signing. The story goes that the MacDonald chief was on his way, but delayed. William III delivered an edict to liquidate the MacDonalds. The Campbells got that instruction and massacred 30 MacDonalds in the Glen.

I was dropped off at the Visitor Center and bid my comrades a good hike and that I’d look forward to their stories later in the day. I checked out the information to be learned, including a film on the region. There is a nice forested garden out back with a view up the valley. It has a house built exactly as they were hundreds of years ago, which visitors can check out. I paused for a bit to enjoy the sun’s warmth and take in the view.

Next, I hiked the longest of several available trails within the Visitor Center property. It was pleasant, if a bit muddy from recent stormy weather. It only took about an hour to complete. Then I waited for a taxi which I’d arranged prior to my arrival. He arrived right on time, and just like that I was on my way back to the Kingshouse Hotel.

After lunch, I went outside and picked out a spot at the picnic tables, one which had a shady roof. It was getting nice and sunny! I went into the nearby pub and got myself a coffee. I didn’t get much of my journal written, as not before long, two Swiss hikers showed up and we spent the next two hours visiting. The Kingshouse is a multi-functional institution. While it has 4-star rooms and some top notch table service cuisine and a bar with over one hundred Scottish single malt whiskies plus local gins to try, it is also a genuine hiker backpacker shelter/lodge with complete facilities for them as well. Camping is allowed on the grounds. There is a large heated room to dry out tents, boots, and camping gear. It has a budget bunk house. Well, my new Swiss friends were in a pickle, because something was delayed with their bunk house accommodation. However, their luck turned golden whilst we chatted. Something was wrong with the bunk house. And so the Kingshouse Hotel gave them one of the 4-star rooms instead! They had just hit the jackpot.

Meanwhile, my trekking comrades had hiked up the Pap of Glencoe. They surely got the view promised! The evening cocktail hour and dinner was full of tales of their adventure that day.

West Highland Way: Bridge of Orchy to Kingshouse / Glencoe – The Weather Breaks

8 11 2022
Above Loch Tulla with Cathy Ann!

Today we start with a nutritious breakfast. Choices are fruit, yogurt, eggs, smoked salmon, oatmeal, toast, muffins, and much more. The weather looks squally, and once again, I’ve prepared for whatever comes. The towel dryer worked well on my stuff. So again, I’m wearing full rain shell and pants, and pack rain cover. It’s 11 miles of varying climbs and descents to Kingshouse. Along the way we will hike through woodlands, grasslands, and if the clouds part, experience views of distant lochs and mountains.

We cross the Bridge of Orchy and climb the forested hills beyond. This is the steepest part of the hike. We pass by some clearcuts. With the rain, this part of the trail is a flowing stream. We have wind-driven rain, and that, combined with my perspiration, causes my new Columbia Sportswear rain shell to utterly fail. Soaked through, the only thing I had going for me was my body heat was warm due to the exertion. After an hour the rain ebbs. We emerge out of the woods into a grassy hilltop, where views open up and we can see for miles.

This section of the West Highland way is not only a military road, but a cattle drover road. These roads, built of countless round river rocks pounded into the ground, were used for driving cattle from one place to another. For me, all the round rocks were solid, but made for a sort of “rounded” movement my foot made each step.

Loch Tulla comes into view! Now, we are rewarded with the Scottish Highland views we’re longing for. It’s very picturesque and, as I learned, full of salmon.

It’s getting toward lunchtime. This section of trail is very exposed, so it’s breezy, but the views are terrific. We’re still wary of those pesky midges, so Tania picks out a lunch spot where the breeze will keep them away.

Although today’s trail lunch was better than yesterday’s, I still found the sandwich utterly below par. As the trek progressed, and we got lunches from different places, I began to realize it’s England/Scotland, not the cooks at the places we got the lunches. All of the sandwiches were plain by North American standards. None of them had lettuce, tomatoes or onions or some condiments. Just two pieces of bread with something in the middle. Nevertheless, to their credit, they did include juice boxes, fruit, and some treats like cookies or something similar to a Kit Kat Bar. The weather continued to break up during the rest of the day. Here’s a video of the wonder of Scotland opening up! From this point on, the rest of our trek had fabulous weather!

We came across Inveroran, with its adorable to-die-for, magical Inveroran Hotel, originally a 19th Century inn for cattle drovers. I could see it from above on the trail.

It’s down on the left near the trees!

Descending, and coming across a road, we crossed a picturesque stone bridge, and there it was! We stopped in for a break. Super cute cozy bar and restaurant. I kind of wish we could have spent a tucked in night there!

To-die-for location!

After Inveroran, we continued a kind of monotonous uphill climb for quite some time. It was monotonous because for several miles it was next to a forest and there was no view. However, our stubborn tenacity was rewarded as we came out, as before, into an open high grassland with miles and miles of mountains and endless views all around. Plus, the weather truly broke up and lit up the hills for the rest of the day!

Now we were rewarded with unlimited views, more warmth, and luxuriating in the sights of the Scottish Highlands we’d come for. Along the way we spotted one of Wilderness Scotland’s most iconic fauna – a red deer! We stopped for a rest by a stream flowing with peat-colored waters

And then it was on for the final stretch! Next up is Glencoe, and the Kingshouse Hotel. This was another hotel very visible from up high on the trail.

Built by the British Army in the 18th Century, this hotel is one of the oldest inns. It originally functioned as a stopping point for those crossing Rannoch Moor. Expanded and refurbished in 2019, today it’s got 57 rooms, two restaurants, a bunk house, a substantial gear-drying room, and on top of it all, expansive views of the mountains of Glencoe. It’s a focal point for all things outdoors in the region. Hikers pass through, campers can stay on the grounds. Nearby there is wildlife viewing, climbing mountains, historical sites, skiing, lochs and moors. Our meal was first-rate! Choices were generous plates of lobster-like langoustines, a plate-sized grilled t-bone steak, and venison medallions, amongst others.

The day’s sunset over the Glencoe area said to us, “Your weather fortunes have turned! Go forth!”

Our stay here was two nights. So, I opted for a ‘day off’ the next day. Whilst the rest would go conquer the Pap of Glencoe, I’d sleep in, check out a visitor’s center, work on my journal, and take in some sunshine!

Scotland: The West Highland Way to Bridge of Orchy

5 11 2022
On the way to Beinn Dorian. This was the 8th attempt at this image due to winds!

It’s the first day of our inn-to-inn Scottish Highlands Trek! My primary guide on this trek was American Cathy Ann Taylor, of Cattara. I’d been on three other treks with CAT, the Chomolhari Trek in Bhutan, Annapurna Sanctuary Trek in Nepal, and the Cordillera Huayhuash Trek in Peru. Those were high altitude treks, and we camped every night. Mind you, these were fancy glamping style treks – breakfast and dinner served at tables in dining tents, and your tents carried by horse, llama or porters. Here, however, it was staying in fine inns every night! Beds, showers, and some very fancy meals too! On this trip, we’d do 8 days hiking and a total of 46.12 miles. Tame compared to the other treks, but with my limited time to train and my body still fighting shingles, it was plenty challenging!

I’d been checking the weather forecast each day of the week prior. It was positively horrendous! Upon arrival, the BBC meteorologists forecasted this ‘stalled low pressure system’ west of Scotland, which would deliver days of rain and squalls. With that in mind, we all donned our full rain gear for the first day’s hike! Like they say in the movies, Scots really do say, “I’ll take it as it comes.” Our group of 10 were greeted by our local Scottish guides, Tania and Susie, from Wilderness Scotland. They would be with us the whole trip. After grabbing trail lunches, we set off in mini vans out of Glasgow, past Loch Lomond, to our trailhead near Auchtertyre. This was about the half-way point of the West Highland Way. The entirety of the West Highland Way is 95 miles, about 12 days, over moors, mountains and forest. The 21-miles we’d cover over two days were part of a military road constructed sometime in the 1700s.

Along the ride over, I glimpsed rain showers cloaking many of the hillsides. Upon reaching our starting point, I noticed other hikers. They were wearing full rain gear – pants and rain shells. Most had trekking poles and day packs with rain covers. We outfitted ourselves the same. Well, the rain held off for our start, but the wind did not. There was a good breeze with temperatures in the low 60’s. Considering our pace and athletic output, the breeze was most welcome. I was perspiring, and this evaporated the moisture and kept me relatively cool and comfortable. Every so often, gusts would muscle through with winds above 45 mph! At one point, I asked that a fellow trekker take my photo. Right then one of those gusts cranked up, and it took about 8 attempts to get that image.

Although the skies were gray, we had good views, and passed through some history. We paused at a historically significant battlefield – he Battlefield of the Battle of Dalrigh. Here, in 1306, Robert the Bruce’s army was intercepted and destroyed by Clan MacDougall, who were English allies. Legend has it that they threw their remaining weapons into one of the Lochans (ponds) here. But a modern-era ground penetrating radar search revealed nothing. Still, it was truly cool to stand in such a place.

We stopped at a spot safe from the midges to eat our lunch. My sandwiches were so awful, especially after athletic hiking, that I couldn’t eat them. Plain slice of cheese between two pieces of white bread! Susie was greatly concerned that I wasn’t going to get the calories necessary for the rest of the hike and thoughtfully bought some power bars for me at a package store when we crossed the road.

This day’s hike was often within eyesight of a highway, which really wasn’t so annoying. We also crossed a bridge over the West Highland Line railroad, and a small, four-car passenger train passed under and tooted its horn at us. It makes a stop at the Bridge of Orchy, our destination for today!

The trail took us right past the iconic cone shaped mountain Beinn Dorian. It’s 3,530ft high and dominates the landscape. It’s one of 282 Scottish Munros. A Munro is a mountain in Scotland at least 3,000 ft high. This area is highlighted by views of fields with sheep grazing. As we hiked, the weather was a series of breezes, rain squals, brightening, back and forth.

And then, we arrived!

At last, we were within striking distance of the Bridge of Orchy Hotel.

It’s a classically old-style inn. Out front and inside the original building very cozy. They’d built some out-buildings with additional rooms, where I stayed. Unfortunately, these, while very comfortable, were not constructed in a style matching the original hotel. Nevertheless, my room was welcome after a squall-filled hike. It had a heated towel rack, which was most helpful in drying out soggy clothing and boots!

Dinner was lovely table service! Wine, mackerel/cucumber appetizer, burger with salsa topping, and then I tried the iconic sticky toffee pudding with ice cream for dessert. Then off to my room for some me-time (writing my journal, of course). Tomorrow’s another “take it as it comes” kind of day! It was a stormy night, rain pelting my window.