Isle of Skye: Glorious Weather for Hiking Amongst the Quirang!

9 01 2023

Today the sun rose unveiling a day our local guides would call a true gem! Just a few days ago we started in a maelstrom with no break in the forecast. But lucky for us the weather forecast turned out to be 100% wrong. We had a series of sunny and very calm days. Perfect for a lifetime memory – a hike out on the Trotternish Peninsula amongst the Quirang.

We parked close to the sea and headed inland, up past sheep and small lakes up to the famous rock formations. Opening the images in this gallery will reveal an unlimited sea view – all calm!

This trail was a moderate challenge with some sections where careful footing was required. And a couple of over-the-fence scrambles. Our guides Tania and Susie kept saying typically there is brooding mist coming and going amongst the crags, and the view never ever this clear. Cathy Ann said last time she was here it was typically Scottish Coast moist and windy.

If this area seems recognizable, it might be you’ve seen it in films! This scene was used for Stardust, Snow White and the Huntsman, 47 Ronin, MacBeth, The BFG, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Transformers: Last Night, The Land that Time Forgot, Year of the Comet, and more!

It certainly was, on a day like ours, a memorable spot for a lunch break!

Once done with the hike, we were taken to a spot on the beach, where we all took a little dip into the North Atlantic. Some more than others! Most simply went in up to their ankles. This area is also known for a few dinosaur fossils. One very big footprint comes into view as you walk a stony surface near the shore. I was definitely taken aback by its size and shape! It really sticks out once you realize what it is! Those creatures were HUGE!





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!





Birthday Campout on the Metolius River

26 10 2021
Dine-In at Hola! in Camp Sherman

For my June birthday, I reserved two campsites at the Allan Springs Campground on the Metolius River. I’ve always loved the Metolius region. It is a sparkling jewel, and the river is a designated National Wild and Scenic River. It’s one of the largest spring fed rivers in the USA. The river winds around the campground. All along its banks one can fly fish and hike. But there is more in the area. One can hike to the 360-degree view summit of Black Butte. Or, swim and fish at Suttle Lake. Or hike to Three Fingered Jack along the Canyon Creek Trail.

For the first night we went out to dinner at Hola! in Camp Sherman. Saturday, some, like myself and Janis, went to Suttle Lake and went kayak fishing. Others, like Brent and Joel, hiked Canyon Creek Meadows trail all the way to Three-Fingered Jadk. On the second, birthday night, we made dinner in camp and then enjoyed a stir-fry meal! Then, enjoyed a roaring campfire. It was a terrific way to spend a birthday weekend!





Deurali to Chomrong, The Stairway to Heaven and Views A Plenty

23 12 2018

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Wow! A panoramic with Chomrong clinging to the slope, Annapurna South (23,680′), Hinchiuli (21,132′), Machapuchare, and our tents!

A Total Day’s Descent Means Lots of Climbing

Today’s hike would take us from 10,670′ down to 6,759′ but descent is not the whole story. For in between there would be some of the hardest climbs done in a day on this trek. We’d end the day back at Chomrong – where’d we’d been a few days prior. But this time, we’d be climbing two of the longest sets of stairs instead of descending them!

The day started cool and comfortable. It was partly cloudy, and I assumed the clouds would burn off, which they eventually did. Being a bit cooler was a real benefit. I used the drying technique again last night of sleeping with wet clothes in my sleeping bag – they were dry in the morning!

More In The Present Time

After one of the break stops, I found myself starting behind the group because I was talking with another hiker when the group just took off. Yet I wasn’t the last guest, as somehow it turned out Madeleine was behind. Before I even knew she was behind I just happily walked my own way and tuned in to the sounds of the Modi Khola River, the breeze and the birds. It was only when I heard Mingma calling from behind that I knew they were there!

2,000 Steps to End the Day

The most challenging steps of the day were our last. In mid afternoon, we rounded a bend to see across a valley to Chomrong. We’d climb steeply to cross the river via a suspension bridge, then ascend some 2,000 steps through the village to our lodge-side campsite. Once at the bottom of those steps, I dressed down to my T-shirt for the upcoming steps!

After much industry I make it up to camp maybe 30 seconds or so behind the main group. And after making home in my tent, Don and I headed to the restaurant for an early beer. And headed back after tea time….and we were joined by Uli, Kevin, and Annette for a couple of well deserved beers!

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Waiting to dig into breakfast.

The best views were in the morning. And those are featured on this blog post.





Nepal Annapurna Sanctuary Sacred Trek: Trekking in a Tutu for Breast Cancer Prevention

25 11 2018

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2018 has been a tough year. In February, I lost my brother John to cancer, after a two-and-a-half-year battle. But on the positive side, my friend Shari has come through a courageous struggle with breast cancer. I have watched and rooted, I’ve been lifted when they were on the mend and pained when the battle seemed for naught. I swear, cancer treatment often seems like witch doctor medicine. I was inspired by their courage to trek in a tutu Nepal’s Annapurna Region to raise funds for breast cancer prevention!

Ever since I completed my first Himalayan trek, the Chomolhari Trek in Bhutan, I’ve been yearning to return to the greatest mountain range in the world, with its spectacular views, ultimate challenge hikes, and its myriad cultures and faiths. So it was that in 2018 I signed up for the Annapurna Sanctuary Trek led by Cathy Ann Taylor.

I love travel, discovering new cultures and perspectives, and I am hopelessly hooked on the outdoors. So this trek was in my wheelhouse. But what was in my wheelhouse, just for other causes was fundraising. I’ve been part of a number of non-profits, even been on the board of directors. So it was a surprise when maybe six weeks prior to the beginning of this trek, it became a “sacred” trek, to raise funds for Breast Cancer Prevention Partners. Cathy Ann named Joani Carpenter, a trekking peer from my Cordillara Huayhuash Trek as its honoree. Joani survived pancreatic cancer! My first reaction was OMG what have I signed up for? I’m already busy with fundraising! How can I add another? Then I found out fundraising was not a requirement. Still, over the subsequent days, I kept thinking about it. Then I was at KEEN Footwear in downtown Portland (one of my sponsors), and a heard a phone ring…I picked up the phone and the voice said, “Just do what you know how to do.” I heard a call to action!

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The next morning, I went to my gym, and as it was breast cancer awareness month. They had mannequins festooned with pink shirts, feather boas and tutus. As I did my abdominal routine a thought came to mind, “Trekking in a tutu!” And with that crazy idea in mind, I hatched a plan to raise funds by trekking in a tutu in honor of Joani, and of my friend Shari, who is a survivor, and in memory of my brother John.

At first I went out and bought pink stuff. That was all I knew. I got pink bandanas, a pink boa, pink shirts. Shari made a pink tutu. I made a pink social media post. I figured trekking poles, muddy boots, prayer flags and hash tags might do the trick.

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Shari and I even did a small barbecue and a photo shoot!

Then I learned the correct color is purple! Purple is the color for prevention. With only a week to go I got synthetic purple shirts and a purple bandana. If I got enough support, I’d get images of myself in that tutu in Nepal! I posted photos on social media, and sent personal ask letters. With just so little time I was surprised I was able to generate over a thousand dollars worth of contributions. And with that done, on trek, I needed to generate some content for the contributors! So, whilst in Nepal, I managed to get some images in that outfit, or wearing some of it!

OK, yes, there will be following posts of this trek! We managed to ascend/descend tens of thousands of vertical feet, take in views of the world’s giant peaks, meet people from dozens of countries, and laugh a lot. We struggled up or down tens of thousands of steps. We ? Me? Sweated a lot. We ate like royalty. We witnessed giant peaks and glaciers. We said “Namaste” a thousand times! We witnessed priceless sunrises. We bumped and grinded in 4x4s.

 





Sedona: Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock

18 06 2018

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Ruth Ann, Tully and I managed to get through the traffic south of town, to reach Red Rock State Park. At this time, about mid-day, it was cloudy. Still, the mesas were very beautiful. And if one looked close, the struggle of life in the desert was there for all to see. Our shoes padded through dry, soft dirt. The flora around was very dry, and lots of it had protection like needles or prickers. Evolution created plants specialized to take advantage of whatever rain comes.

Many plants are succulents, evolved to hold onto and store water. And it’s true, the rocks there are red. Or, orange-red.

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And where the rocks are eroded in such a way to capture water for any length of time, even way up on a mesa, oases of life have been created. Life finds a way. On these little places where water stayed on a bit longer, plants that normally grow elsewhere created a miniature ecosystem for themselves!

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Great picture with Ruth Ann. Up above you can see life has taken advantage of every place water has collected.

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I’m holding a nice tumbleweed!

After having our fill at Red Rock, we journeyed further to find Sedona’s famous Cathedral Rock. Using our GPS was of limited use. We kind of futzed around down where we knew it was to be, and eventually found a park and trailhead. During our walk, I kept watch on the sky, and I noticed an upcoming clearing was pending. We waited for it to happen, and it paid off!

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I suck at selfies but this one worked! The sun breaks through!

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On our way out it continued to clear and the red rocks glowed brightly!

 

And what would a day be without a great picture of Ruth Ann!

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So, our day down at Red Rock State Park and Cathedral Rock was a good one! For Tully and I, it was going to be back to Albuquerque. On the way we’d visit the Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and Meteorite Crater.