Waldo Lake, OR – Beautiful Paddling and Starry Nights

13 09 2018


Waldo Lake, located about 50 miles east of Eugene, is one of the most pure lakes in the world. It’s one of Oregon’s natural wonders. For sailors and paddlers Waldo Lake is a dream. No powerboats are allowed. So it’s like going back in time. It has no incoming streams – it gets its water from springs and snowmelt only. In fact, the water is so pure, fish cannot live there. Gliding over its surface, you can see 140 feet down. I’ve been going there for years, because the camping on the west side is paddle-in only. Recently, though, forest fires seem to crop up in mid-August every year sending smoke. So there are campfire prohibitions on that side. So this time we car camped on the east side. Because Waldo sits at 5,240 feet altitude, snow melts late and mosquitoes can be a problem in early summer. With the bugs early and fire smoke later on, we decided to visit in early August rather than around Labor Day, as we’d normally do. We lucked out. The bugs were not bad and we had clear air.

I set out with Jessie and her brother Joel. We stuck three kayaks on the roof of my Ford Escape and packed in all the gear. We set out to snag a camping spot. Bill Baxter and Julie Dale would join us the following day.

I’ve never made camping reservations and as usual it worked out this time. We camped at the North Waldo Campground. It’s got a lot of lakeside sites but they were all taken. Still, we got a site just across the road, within walking distance to get our boats to the shore.

After setting up camp, we “slothed” around, reading and relaxing. It was so beautiful by the lake. There were a number of different types of clouds, cirrus, and cumulus. It was fun to watch the little cumulonimbus clouds build. None reached thunderstorm strength. Then, after dinner, we went down to the shore. One by one, the planets came out. We saw Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and Mars all at once. Then the International Space Station flew over, and then according to my Star App on my phone, the Hubble Space Telescope too! The Milky Way was so magnificent. And with my powerful binoculars we could check out nebulae.

Next morning, after breakfast, Jessie and I set out to explore the shoreline to discover new campsites. We didn’t really find any on the east shore. We did find some beaches and lunch spots though!

Our paddle took us all the way across the lake, not far from Rhododendron Island. It was much farther than I remembered. By the time Jessie and I made it back to our starting point it was after 2:00. We were both exhausted. After wolfing down lunch I took a stroll exploring the campground. When I returned Bill and Julie had arrived! We all had a gregarious afternoon and evening. We checked out the stars again and did another paddle.


Next morning we gobbled up everything and set out for another day on the lake. There is no doubt that camping coffee is a nectar of the Gods that can’t be beat!

Peru: Cordillera Huayhuash Trek – To Cuartelhuain

20 07 2017

Last night’s dinner at the Club Andino Huaraz was simply exquisite! With the exception of dessert, which was apple pie, I feasted on Peruvian delights. The starter was a Causa, which is layers of magically whipped and seasoned potato separated by choice of chicken, shrimp, or perhaps trout, kicked with Aji Amarillo – a type of chile. If is absolutely to DIE for if you ever get to Peru. Did you know Peru has more than 4,000 types of Potatoes? Next a bit more emotionally difficult choice – Alpaca. It was thinly sliced and kind of like a combination of steak, lamb and maybe a bit of bacon. Good!



A Causa featuring shrimp.


OK, then dessert, and of course some Peruvian Malbec, made me ready for bedtime. Tomorrow, it would be a 5-hour drive to 13,776′ camp at Cuartelhuain! This would be camp #1 from which we’d be trekking. The drive, plus today’s hike to 12,650′, and spending the evening in camp, would aid our acclimatization. So, back in the hotel room, it was time to sort thru stuff I’d leave at the hotel, and the stuff I’d take on the trek.

I brought an extra light duffel and lock for the hotel storage part. I’d leave stuff like wall electronics chargers, my passport, tips for my guide, city clothes, some tourist booklets, and most importantly as it was going to turn out, an end-of-trip change of FRESH clothes!

After a 6:30 a.m. breakfast, it was time to board the bus, which would take us on the long and windy road to camp.

Cuartelhuain Drive3

The road left Huaraz, paved, but would eventually become rock and dirt, descending and climbing steep canyons. Sometimes the bus would scrawl underneath overhanging boulders!

All along the way we’d glimpse numerous what I’d call ranches at river bottoms, where cattle gathered to eat the grasses.

This was a one-way road. Coming round a bend, we’d sometimes encounter a vehicle going the other way. We’d stop. Back up, and find a “shoulder” so the other vehicle could pass. Everyone was OK.


Cuartelhuain Drive4

Like the Himalayas, the Andes lifted ocean crust, resulting in unimaginable twists in once horizontal rock layers.


The Andes rose some 70 million years ago due to plate tectonics. The Pacific Plate came into “combat” with the Nazca Plate. And from that point on, the sea floor rose, which was to become the 20,000+ ft Andes, the longest mountain chain on Planet Earth. We’d find ocean fossils on our trek.

This drive took us to our first views of the steepness of Andean Valleys.

Cuartelhuain Drive1

The heights of the peaks, the depth of the valleys, and the amazing clinging villages in between are images we’d glimpse for the next two weeks. Ha! And, oh yes. We’d be trekking/climbing those very same places with our own two legs, lungs, and hearts!

Cuartelhuain arrival

OK arrival at Cuartelhuain – our tents all set up and our duffel bags inside, ready for our first night’s camp. As you can see, all is SUNNY, I am still in shorts, regardless of the 13,776′ elevation. Snow? Not at this level. This is pretty as it would be the rest of the trek. Late afternoon, warm. But once the sun falls below the mtns in the valley, a BIG CHILL starts. Time to layer up. Tomorrow, it’s up to the Continental Divide at Cacanampunta Pass which is our 1st big one at 15,387′!!!!

When it comes to dinner, Cathy Ann Taylor’s mantra is “Eaters are Succeeders,” so no problemo asking for 2nds!



Columbia Gorge Hikes: Eagle Creek

12 06 2017



A typical trail side view.



No visit to the classic Columbia Gorge would be complete without a hike up the Eagle Creek Trail. Only 30 minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon, Eagle Creek offers complete refreshment for urbanites in need of a re-set, and amazement for tourists in search of views, waterfalls, ospreys, bald eagles, salmon and more.

Starting at its confluence with the Columbia River, Eagle Creek Trail gently ascends, reaching more than 800 ft in elevation, connecting with other Mt. Hood National Forest trails. The trail could be characterized as canyon-climbing and forested, with waterfall views dotting the way. It contains the classic Punchbowl Falls, often seen in kayak photos.



Punchbowl Falls


Eagle Creek Punchbowl Falls

On virtually any day in any season, a Columbia Gorge hike can be great. But it gets more complicated than just heading into the Gorge. Some hikes like Coyote Wall (in previous blog) are good for early spring. On warmer days these trails – with little shade – can become like solar collectors. Hikers roast. So when it heats up,  Eagle Creek Trail is a good choice.



On the steep canyon face, Laura enjoys the fresh water cascading from above! There is a cable to grasp for safety.


It offers a forested canyon with a north-south orientation. So, while it might be a bit cool on rainy spring days, it is sublime on hotter summery days.




Wildflowers take advantage of our wet spring.



One of the side creeks the trail crosses.



OK – I’ll let this blog be brief. Eagle Creek is a must for a visit to the Columbia River Gorge! Don’t miss it. You’ll be greatly rewarded.


Columbia River Gorge: Hiking the Coyote Wall / Labyrinth Area, WA

1 06 2017


Like the Lower Deschutes River area, the Washington side of the eastern Columbia River Gorge offers beautiful spring hikes with lots of SUN, whereas it might be cloudy in the Portland, OR area. This spring, I discovered the Coyote Wall / Labyrinth trail system.

To reach this beautiful area, take I-84 east from Portland, and cross the Hood River Bridge to the Washington side. Head east on Hwy 14 past Bingen. In about 3-4 miles you’ll encounter a lake on the left. That’s Locke Lake. To reach Labyrinth you’ll have to walk along the north lake shore road maybe a mile to get to its trailhead.

The Washington side of the Eastern Gorge is ideal in early spring because like a solar collector, it faces south, it is sparsely treed,  so it gets lots and lots of sun. This trail system climbs some 1,775 to max out at 1,895 ft elevation. It is shared by mountain bikers and hikers – and their canine friends.

If you like waterfalls, sparse trees, immense views, and wildflowers – and who doesn’t? This system is for you. But if you cannot handle some climbing be warned. It may be that the beauty will just carry you through.

I had recently been to the next-door Catherine Creek trail system. Catherine Creek is so open as to be boring in comparison. Catherine Creek has vast open fields which seem to go on forever. Alternatively Labyrinth has countless micro “worlds” filled with little canyons, trees, flowers, waterfalls and views popping out. Each one different.


It’s possible to lose one’s way up there, so I suggest consulting an online guide with detailed instructions before heading out.

Laura and I encountered countless wildflowers along the trail.


One after the other, these little canyons keep coming, and then, the trail leads to an eye popping view of the entire eastern Columbia River Gorge. The trail eventually leads to the Coyote Wall, which is an escarpment some 70 feet above a valley and goes along a mile or so.


Now, that’s a time to pause, relax, and take stock of life for a bit! On this day, we were really fortunate to be treated to calm winds. And, the hills were literally “flowing,” draining the burden of the spring rains!

In mid-summer, like many places in the eastern Gorge, this place bakes. So at that time of year, I’d probably pick another hike. But perfect in spring!


That’s 11,240 ft Mt Hood!

Overnight in Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

6 01 2017


No visit to Vietnam would be complete without a visit to the emerald waters of Ha Long Bay. For many, their only familiarity with it comes from the silver screen. Ha Long Bay has been depicted in “Pan,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” “Indochine,” “The Quiet American,” and the soon to be released “Kong: Skull Island.”


The many “junks” carrying visitors.

A World Heritage Site since 1994, Ha Long Bay is some 2,000 limestone islets, most rising vertically from the sea topped with rain forest. They are eroded through countless eons into fantastical shapes. This archipelago forms the most popular tourism attraction in northern Vietnam.  The islets have been taking shape for 500 million years.These islands are literally like giant rocks rising from the sea. Some of them have big caves and grottos.


While most are uninhabited, there are a few with beaches and residents. It is beautiful. And ethereal. I felt like I was on another planet altogether. There are activities, rock climbing, snorkel and scuba, cave viewing, hiking, kayaking and beach combing.


The best way to view the islets is by kayak!

Although there are day trips one can book, Ha Long Bay is best visited as a complete overnight. This allows for some activities but also to see the light bathing the islets at different angles. There are all sorts of overnight “junks” one can take. Most have very good dining.


As  you can see, everyone is BUSY chowing down! Fried whole fish, steamed shrimp, and stuffed crab were on the menu.

Some are only 10 guest rooms, others are 4-decked monsters with pop-out stern docks from which inflatable skiffs and kayaks can be launched.


My room was plenty big.

Thankfully, the beauty was never spoiled by the noise and smell of wave runners or jet skis. And in the evening none of the party boats had loud karaoke playing. And the stars came out.


We were really looking forward to some time on the water. Not long after our boat launched, we took advantage of the roof top lounging area!

It is true Ha Long Bay is popular with tourists. Don’t expect to have it all to your boat. Your boat will share with dozens of others. But it’s still worth a trip. For a more intimate experience with the limestone islets, book a two-day trip to Bai Tu Long Bay. You’ll spend more, but the extra Dong will buy you more solitude.

SE Asia: Before You Go

24 12 2016

I have been to Southeast Asia eight times – to Bali, Cambodia, Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. I’ve visited Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Denpasar, Hanoi, Pakse, Phnom Penh, Saigon, and even Hong Kong. And, well, from all those experiences, there are some common things everyone should know before they go.

People Are Warm


In every country, every city I’ve been to, I’ve found the people warm and hospitable. Whenever I need help, or ask for directions, someone is able to guide me to the right place. People will go out of their way to ensure I am taken care of – and this is something that keeps me returning time after time. Even people in uniform one might be anxious asking – army personnel, police or security are usually willing to help. Sometimes, I’ve found folks seem to take an active interest in ensuring I’m on the right path. Examples of compassion and hospitality from my experience – In Bhutan, we got robbed on the trail. The King learned of it, and went out of his way to have us cared for and compensated. In Cambodia, when I was part of a volunteer crew building WCs for a village out in the rice paddies, the elders met and had all of us to the communal kitchen for dinner as thanks. In Bangkok, I had dropped my passport on a taxi seat. The driver chased me down to return it! And recently, in Vietnam, my friend Laura was sick. She found her hosts had made her special soup so she felt better.

English Is Spoken

If traveling in SE Asia, don’t be too concerned that nobody will understand your English. I’ve found pretty much everywhere I can find someone with some understanding of my language. If you can pick up a few phrases of the local language, you get bonus points! But locals won’t get upset if you cannot speak their tongue, for they understand their tonal languages are very challenging for outsiders! I’ve been to English classes for grade school kids on the River Kwai in Thailand, and outside Siem Reap, Cambodia. I’ve been approached by children just dying to try out their English on me!

Try To Save Face

Status and appearances are important. So if you discover your meal is not what you ordered, your hotel room isn’t quite right, or the Website you’re working on with someone in SE Asia isn’t in correct English, try to approach the situation diplomatically. Don’t berate a subordinate in front of their boss. Try not to raise your voice when pointing out something is wrong. Instead, gently approach the topic from their side, and use a win-win strategy. Raising voices and pumping fists won’t get you anywhere.

Transportation Is Adventurous – You’ll Need Understanding and Flexibility

Whether walking, taking a bus, a ferry, taxi, tuk tuk or motorbike, Westerners will find getting around an adventure! Traffic congestion can reach biblical proportions, road manners seem chaotic to Westerners, safety standards appear non-existant, and keeping a tight schedule might seem confounding. You’ve got to take it all in stride. At times, getting around seems like a scene from “Mad Max!”


The motorbike is the most ubiquitous mode by far. Especially in Vietnam and Cambodia, they swarm like locusts seemingly navigating in unison like schools of fish. They will often filter through cars and trucks to the front at a stop light. In Saigon at rush hour, they spill over onto the sidewalks. Got an appointment at 11:00 sharp? Your late arrival won’t be an insult; rather, an expected part of everyday life.

Pedestrian Strategies – How to cross the street in this seeming madness? The idea is to make up your mind where you want to cross, and cross slowly and deliberately. Believe it or not, the fish will swarm right around you. Even on the sidewalk. Keep going in one direction. Hesitation or quick changes in direction invite disaster.

For us Westerners, visiting SE Asia is fascinating. There is a lot of eye candy – everything from street food vendors, 4 people on bikes, to monks passing by. It is easy to get caught up in all the activity, watching. But when on the sidewalk, mind what’s immediately in front of you, because it might be a hole. This condition pretty much applies everywhere. And I also advise shoes with toe protection just in case.


Just be careful!


If your destination lies on a river, hiring a long-tail boat is one fun way to get there. But don’t expect the standards of safety you’re accustomed to at home! You will likely inhale some diesel fumes, get splashed by river water, and feel lucky if the boat has life preservers. And some captains are more interested in haste than simply arriving in one piece. Here, we’re heading from Cambodia into Laos when the Mekong was flooding. Helmet schmelmet.

Renting a motorbike – this is a fun way to get around. Or foolish, depending. Keep in mind that if you get in an accident, you may be required to pay the full cost for damage immediately. Better to try your luck in a rural setting than getting into the melee in a big city!

Pollution and Garbage

Air quality standards seem non existent. In the big, smoky, humid cities, exhaust and smoke can get stifling. Some can be seen wearing dust masks as an everyday affair. It’s part of life over there.

Garbage is another matter altogether. Unfortunately, the thin, black plastic bag is seen blowing around, clinging to whatever it can catch. Then, there are those whose idea of emptying the garbage is just dump the can over the nearest wall. Somehow, this needs to be changed. In Bali, setting out “disposable” offerings several times daily leads to epic “offering piles” of refuse.

In Bhutan, not part of SE Asia, the King has stepped in to circumvent the garbage plague. There, plastic bags are banned entirely. Instead, reusable bags have been used for years.


The Authorities Might Be Out for Themselves

Cops, customs officers and immigration officials are paid paltry wages, and often make up for this at your expense. Literally. So don’t be surprised if you wind up being asked to pay for something you KNOW you shouldn’t have to. I was in a friend’s car in Bangkok when we encountered a traffic stop run by cops. When asked for his license, my friend couldn’t produce. The cop asked, “You can pay me now and I’ll let you go, or we’ll have to deal with this at the police station.” My friend paid on the spot. After when I asked about it, he said simply, “Oh that happens all the time.” In Cambodia I watched as a cop was trying to ticket an Australian on a rented motorbike with a Cambodian girl on the back. She got into this argument with the cop, and in the end, she convinced him to let them go for a price. And in Bali, where we were traveling on a 30-day visa, we were leaving on day 29. The customs officer says to my friend, eye brows raised, “Your visa is expired. It costs $20 to renew.” My friend began arguing, to no avail. She simply paid up. And on the Cambodia – Laos border, I was in this village where there was only one fisherman authorized to stamp my passport, and there was no fee required, according to the Laotian Website. I already had a government issued visa. But oh no. I had to pay him the extra $15 to get my “stamp.” So don’t be surprised if you need to shell out some extra to keep your trip going smoothly once in a while.

Things Might Not Be As They Appear

Fancy looking hotels, new developments, and sparkling restaurants are often not as they appear at first glance. Construction doesn’t seem to be on par with Western standards. A quick look at window casings even on late model buildings often reveals cracks or caulking to band-aid mistaken construction. A look out back behind the restaurant might reveal standards uncomfortable for the Western visitor. It all needs to be taken in stride. Highways may have less-than-smooth surfaces, necessitating slower travel speeds over bumpy pavement.

Have Fun! Miracles Happen, Magic Awaits, Things Work Out

For all the differences, a visit to SE Asia is worth the effort. Even when difficulties do arise, something magical always seems to happen to make up for it. And those unforseen challenges and successes make memories that last a lifetime.