Category: Uncategorized

Lago di Braies

The ideal start to visiting this vast area of the Italian Dolomites was a walk straight from the Hotel Gasthaus Adler through the very pretty, flower-filled Braies Valley. We walked through small villages and farmland until we reached the magnificent Lago di Braies, one of the 297 glacial lakes in the area. It is certainly one of the most beautiful thanks for being surrounded by jagged peaks that are reflected in the extraordinary mirror-like surface of the lake. We follow the route of ‘SS hostages’, the leaders of 19 countries who were freed after the First World War by the inhabitants of Villabassa.

Sources:

– Lonely Planet Guidebook

– Exodus Travel trip notes

Andy

The ideal start to visiting this vast area of the Italian Dolomites was a walk straight from the Hotel Gasthaus Adler through the very pretty, flower-filled Braies Valley. We walked through small villages and farmland until we reached the magnificent Lago di Braies, one of the 297 glacial lakes in the area. It is certainly one of the most beautiful thanks for being surrounded by jagged peaks that are reflected in the extraordinary mirror-like surface of the lake. We follow the route of ‘SS hostages’, the leaders of 19 countries who were freed after the First World War by the inhabitants of Villabassa.

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Sources:

– Lonely Planet Guidebook

– Exodus Travel trip notes

Andy

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Mezcal and winding mountain roads

On my last day in Oaxaca, I went on a full day tour that included many interesting stops.
Leaving the city and heading into the countryside…

The first stop was a gigantic 2000 year old tree in the town of Tule. The people were setting up to celebrate Mass around the tree. As the Mass began with the opening blessing, fireworks were launched. Now I know why I had been hearing explosions all the time.

Then we made a stop at Teotitlan del Valle to see how rugs are made. The family spoke an indigenous language to each other, but the lady who gave us the demonstration could do her presentation in Spanish, English, and French. I bought a beautiful handbag here.

Then we drove a very winding and bumpy road up through the Sierra Madre mountains to the municipality of San Lorenzo Albarradas to see Hierve el Agua. Hierve el Agua (Spanish for “the water boils”) is a set of natural rock formations that resemble cascades of water. The site consists of two rock shelves or cliffs which rise between ..

On my last day in Oaxaca, I went on a full day tour that included many interesting stops.
Leaving the city and heading into the countryside…


The first stop was a gigantic 2000 year old tree in the town of Tule. The people were setting up to celebrate Mass around the tree. As the Mass began with the opening blessing, fireworks were launched. Now I know why I had been hearing explosions all the time.



Then we made a stop at Teotitlan del Valle to see how rugs are made. The family spoke an indigenous language to each other, but the lady who gave us the demonstration could do her presentation in Spanish, English, and French. I bought a beautiful handbag here.


Then we drove a very winding and bumpy road up through the Sierra Madre mountains to the municipality of San Lorenzo Albarradas to see Hierve el Agua. Hierve el Agua (Spanish for “the water boils”) is a set of natural rock formations that resemble cascades of water. The site consists of two rock shelves or cliffs which rise between fifty and ninety meters from the valley below, from which extend nearly white rock formations which look like waterfalls. These formations are created by fresh water springs, whose water is over-saturated with calcium carbonate and other minerals. As the water scurries over the cliffs, the excess minerals are deposited, much in the same manner that stalactites are formed in caves. One of the cliffs, called the “cascada chica” (small waterfall) or the Amphitheatre, contains two large artificial pools for swimming as well as a number of small natural pools. One of the artificial pools is very near the edge of the cliff. I would have liked to spend more time here, as there were a few hiking trails around.



The next stop was the town of Mitla, where we visited a complex of Zapotec ruins that boast beautiful stone carvings. We could actually walk down into the tombs. It’s amazing to me that this area of Mexico has an average of 300 earthquakes per year, and these structures that are thousands of years old still stay intact.




Then we stopped for a buffet lunch near the town of Mitla. Today was the day I finally tried a fried grasshopper. Just one 🙂

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The next stop was the Mezcal factory. I tried 3 different kinds.


Pit stop on the way back to Oaxaca City



Andy

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Shark Valley- Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park in Florida protects the southern 20 percent of the original Everglades. In the United States, it is the largest tropical wilderness, the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River, and is visited on average by 1 million people each year. It is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states after Death Valley and Yellowstone. It has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists.

Shark Valley is a geological depression at the head of the Shark River Slough in far western Miami-Dade County, Florida. It is currently part of Everglades National Park. Shark Valley empties into Shark River in the Ten Thousand Islands of Monroe County. Shark Valley characteristically includes sawgrass prairie that floods during the rainy season, hence the name “river of grass”—Pa-Hay-Okee, from the Mikasuki language—for s..

Everglades National Park in Florida protects the southern 20 percent of the original Everglades. In the United States, it is the largest tropical wilderness, the largest wilderness of any kind east of the Mississippi River, and is visited on average by 1 million people each year. It is the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states after Death Valley and Yellowstone. It has been declared an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance, one of only three locations in the world to appear on all three lists.

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Shark Valley is a geological depression at the head of the Shark River Slough in far western Miami-Dade County, Florida. It is currently part of Everglades National Park. Shark Valley empties into Shark River in the Ten Thousand Islands of Monroe County. Shark Valley characteristically includes sawgrass prairie that floods during the rainy season, hence the name “river of grass”—Pa-Hay-Okee, from the Mikasuki language—for such marshes in the Everglades. Shark Valley features a Visitor Center with educational displays, a park video, an underwater camera and informational brochures. The entrance to Shark Valley is located along Tamiami Trail (US 41) near the Miami-Dade–Collier County line.

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In February 2017 I visited Shark valley in Everglades National Park and biked the 15 mile loop trail. This flat, paved road is used for tram rides, bicycling, and walking. Along the road you may see alligators, herons, egrets, deer, turtles, and snail kites.



An observation tower at the halfway point provides panoramic views.

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View from the top of the observation tower

Below the Observation Tower is a short trail through a tropical hardwood hammock. Bicycles can be rented from the Shark Valley Tram Tour Company. This trail begins directly behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center.

When biking or walking this trail, be sure to bring sunscreen, insect repellant, and lots of water.

  • Andy
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My favorite North Georgia waterfall hikes

It’s amazing that the simple fall of water from rock stirs up so much beauty and emotion. Georgia waterfalls are plentiful, spilling from the rolling North Georgia mountains on meandering streams, creeks and rivers. There are plenty of waterfall hike options in Georgia. Here are 3 of my favorites…

1) Amicalola Falls loop- 2.1 miles

Amicalola Falls is the highest waterfall (729 feet) in Georgia and is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia. The name “Amicalola” is derived from a Cherokee language word meaning “tumbling waters”. It is located within Amicalola Falls State Park which also contains a lodge, restaurant, and campground. To hike the 2.1 mile loop, start at the Visitor Center, then hike the Creek Trail, to the Base of Falls trail, up a staircase of 175 stairs to stand right in front of the falls.

Amicalola Falls- most impressive after heavy rain

Continue up 375 more stairs to the top of the falls.

View from top of the falls

Return down to the visitor..

It’s amazing that the simple fall of water from rock stirs up so much beauty and emotion. Georgia waterfalls are plentiful, spilling from the rolling North Georgia mountains on meandering streams, creeks and rivers. There are plenty of waterfall hike options in Georgia. Here are 3 of my favorites…

1) Amicalola Falls loop- 2.1 miles

Amicalola Falls is the highest waterfall (729 feet) in Georgia and is considered to be one of the Seven Natural Wonders of Georgia. The name “Amicalola” is derived from a Cherokee language word meaning “tumbling waters”. It is located within Amicalola Falls State Park which also contains a lodge, restaurant, and campground. To hike the 2.1 mile loop, start at the Visitor Center, then hike the Creek Trail, to the Base of Falls trail, up a staircase of 175 stairs to stand right in front of the falls.

amicalola base of falls

Amicalola Falls- most impressive after heavy rain

Continue up 375 more stairs to the top of the falls.

amicalola top of falls

View from top of the falls

Return down to the visitor center via the East Ridge trail. When you are almost at the end you will see this oddly shaped tree. It may have been bent by the Cherokee marking the route for the trail of tears.

trail of tears tree
Even though Springer Mountain is the true start of the Appalachian Trail’s southern end, most hikers start at Amicalola Falls State Park. There is an 8 mile approach trail to the southern terminus of the AT at Springer Mountain. Each spring in late March, the park hosts an Appalachian Trail Kickoff weekend with speakers and various events. Many aspiring thru hikers start their 2000 miles to Maine that weekend.


For an after hike lunch, visit the Park’s lodge restaurant for an all you can eat buffet, or visit the nearby town of Dahlonega that has many restaurant options- http://business.dahlonega.org/list/category/restaurants-192. I recommend a burger at Shenanigan’s Irish Pub. Another fun after hike activity in this area is a visit to one of it’s 5 wineries for a tasting. Wolf Mountain Vineyards is the closest one to downtown Dahlonega, with beautiful mountain views and some really good red varietals! http://dahlonega.org/see-do/wineries-a-vineyards

2) Dukes Creek Falls- 2 miles

The Dukes Creek Trail hikes a moderate 2 miles out and back through a beautiful, mountain stream-filled forest in Georgia just north of Helen. The trail descends alongside a shallow, mossy stream, hiking to several large, cascading waterfalls that tumble at the convergence of Davis Creek and Dukes Creek. At the falls, several large wooden viewing platforms offer stunning views of the main attraction overhead: the exceptionally dramatic, multi-tiered, 150-foot-tall drop of Dukes Creek Falls.


And one of the best things about a day hike is the Apres hike meal right? The Bavarian village town of Helen has many casual and unique restaurants to choose from. My favorite is the Troll Tavern, where you can sit outside and eat right next to the river.




3) Raven Cliff Falls Hike- 5 miles

Hike through a beautiful, lush stream valley also just north of Helen GA, passing small, spilling cascades throughout the hike. The trail’s main attraction is at the end, where a cascading creek splits an enormous cliff in two. I love this hike because even in the summer, it stays pretty cool because you are right beside the stream the whole time and it is mostly in the shade. There are also plenty of campsites along the trail.

This heart shaped hole in a tree is near the beginning of the trail.

heart shaped hold
This mini waterfall is about halfway through and is a good spot to take a break.

pretty spot
End of the trail- Raven Cliff Falls. There are lots of places to sit and enjoy a picnic lunch.

raven cliff falls
Do keep in mind that slippery rocks and fast moving water can be extremely dangerous. Do not climb, stand above, swim near, or jump from any waterfall.

If you’re looking for more North Georgia waterfall hikes, check out this book by Jim Parham- https://www.amazon.com/Waterfall-Hikes-North-Georgia-Parham/dp/1889596221/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1483925129&sr=8-1&keywords=north+georgia+waterfalls

  • Andy
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A hike for history lovers- Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park

I have been coming to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park ever since I was a kid, and it occurred to me that maybe I take it’s beauty and its rich history for granted. It is a 2,965 acre National Battlefield that preserves a Civil War battleground of the Atlanta Campaign. Opposing forces maneuvered and fought here from June 19, 1864 until July 2, 1864.

The park’s now-beautiful landscape was the site of a bloody, muddy, tree-barren Civil War battle. Entrenched Confederate soldiers at Kennesaw Mountain fought approaching Union troops in the war’s Atlanta campaign. 3000 men lost their lives on these mountains, hills and fields during a grueling 14 day battle. To learn more about the battle at Kennesaw Mountain, visit http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/kennesaw-mountain.html?tab=facts.
The battlefield…

Today cannons, earthen fortifications, trenches and monuments are the few visual reminders of the battle 150 years ago.

Since it’s only 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the tra..

I have been coming to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park ever since I was a kid, and it occurred to me that maybe I take it’s beauty and its rich history for granted. It is a 2,965 acre National Battlefield that preserves a Civil War battleground of the Atlanta Campaign. Opposing forces maneuvered and fought here from June 19, 1864 until July 2, 1864.

The park’s now-beautiful landscape was the site of a bloody, muddy, tree-barren Civil War battle. Entrenched Confederate soldiers at Kennesaw Mountain fought approaching Union troops in the war’s Atlanta campaign. 3000 men lost their lives on these mountains, hills and fields during a grueling 14 day battle. To learn more about the battle at Kennesaw Mountain, visit http://www.civilwar.org/battlefields/kennesaw-mountain.html?tab=facts.
The battlefield…

BATTLEFIELD

Today cannons, earthen fortifications, trenches and monuments are the few visual reminders of the battle 150 years ago.

CANNON

Since it’s only 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta, the trails are very busy, especially on weekends. The park has 18 miles of trails and I come here often to do training hikes. Scenes from the movie “A Walk in the Woods” based on the book by Bill Bryson were filmed here.

BUSY TRAIL

My favorite loop hike here is 6 miles and goes up both Kennesaw Mountain and Little Kennesaw Mountain. The view of Little Kennesaw from halfway down Kennesaw Mountain…

VIEW OF LITTLE KENNESAW

There is no shortage of wildlife in this park! It has been named one of the best places for bird watching and there are guided bird walks throughout the year. Deer, box turtles, possums, and even fox can be seen on the trails.

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For a great after hike lunch, visit the nearby Marietta Square where there are many restaurant options- http://www.mariettasquare.com/eat/. I recommend the chicken pot pie at Douceur de France!

For more on planning your visit to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, visit https://www.nps.gov/kemo/index.htm.

  • Andy
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Kathmandu, Nepal

On my first day in Kathmandu I had a flashback to when I was 19 years old and was out of the country for the first time. It was one of those days that I wanted to capture, to hold on to, and to stare into it like a snow globe. I was completely bewildered, confused, and with my senses overwhelmed, but loving every second. This country was already so completely different from anything I have ever experienced, and it was just day one.

Nepal is a small landlocked country in south Asia between China (Tibet) in the north and India in the east, south, and west. It is known for its beautiful scenery, culture, and people. It is the birthplace of Buddha and the home of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Adventures lovers and non-trekkers both are equally fond of the Himalayas and its culture, architecture, temples, shrines, glorious history, people, lakes, rivers, jungles, and much more. There is something about a trek in the Himalaya that is addictive and brings people back agai..

On my first day in Kathmandu I had a flashback to when I was 19 years old and was out of the country for the first time. It was one of those days that I wanted to capture, to hold on to, and to stare into it like a snow globe. I was completely bewildered, confused, and with my senses overwhelmed, but loving every second. This country was already so completely different from anything I have ever experienced, and it was just day one.

Nepal is a small landlocked country in south Asia between China (Tibet) in the north and India in the east, south, and west. It is known for its beautiful scenery, culture, and people. It is the birthplace of Buddha and the home of Mount Everest, the tallest mountain in the world. Adventures lovers and non-trekkers both are equally fond of the Himalayas and its culture, architecture, temples, shrines, glorious history, people, lakes, rivers, jungles, and much more. There is something about a trek in the Himalaya that is addictive and brings people back again and again. Nepal has a population of about 30 million and is a mix of Hindu, Buddhist, animist religion, with some Muslims and Christians also. It is a fascinating mosaic of cultures, ethnic groups, and languages. It is amazing that in a country of this size that there are over 125 different ethnic groups and more than 123 spoken languages!

On May 28, 2008, the constituent assembly voted in overwhelming favor of abolishing the monarchy in Nepal and declared it as the democratic republic of Nepal. This historic development followed a cease fire agreement between the government and the Maoists signed in November 2006, putting an end to 10 years of instability and violence in the country. The announcement of the abolishment of the monarchy also brought and end to 240 years of Royal rule in the country. Today the general feeling among Nepalese is a positive one and many believe that Nepal is now finally moving forward with a new identity as a democratic country.

The country is also recovering from a 7.8 earthquake in 2015 that killed 9000 people and injured 22000.

Nepalese people are very welcoming of tourists and travelers and now is a great time to visit!

My first day in Nepal was a full one of seeing the sights in Kathmandu valley including Durbar Square, Monkey temple, Pashupatinath temple, and Boudhanath stupa.

Kathmandu Durbar Square in front of the old royal palace of the former Kathmandu kingdom is one of three Durbar (royal palace) squares in the Kathmandu valley in Nepal, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Several buildings in the square collapsed due to the major earthquake on April 25, 2015. Many of the famous structures here that I had seen in the guidebooks prior to my visit were under reconstruction. I found it interesting that they do not “retrofit” these structures. They reconstruct all with the original design and materials.



I was lucky enough to see the Kumari, or Living Goddess, make an appearance! Nepal has the tradition of worshipping young pre-pubescent girls as manifestations of the divine female energy or devi in Hindu religious traditions. She lives in the Kumari Ghar, a palace in the center of the city. We were not allowed to take pictures of her, so the below photo of her is from welcomenepal.com.


Swayambhunath is an ancient religious architecture atop a hill in the Kathmandu Valley, west of Kathmandu city. The Tibetan name for the site means “sublime trees” for the many varieties of trees found on the hill. Swayambhunath is also known as the Monkey Temple as there are holy monkeys living in the north west parts of the temple. They are holy because Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and learning was raising the hill which the stupa stands on. He was supposed to leave his hair short but he made it grow long and head lice grew. It is said that the head lice transformed into these monkeys! Today these monkeys are hilarious to watch- they jump in the water for fun and steal visitors’ ice cream and popsicles!




The Pashupatinath Temple is a famous and sacred Hindu temple complex that is located on the banks of the Bagmati River. The temple serves as the seat of Nepal’s national deity, Lord Pashupatinath. Public cremations are performed river side.




A stupa is a dome shaped structure erected as a Buddhist shrine or place of meditation. Boudhanath stupa dominates the skyline; it is one of the largest stupas in the world.

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I stayed at the Hotel Moonlight in Thamel- http://www.hotelmoonlight.com.


Thamel is a commercial neighborhood in Kathmandu. It has been the center of the tourist industry in Kathmandu for over four decades, starting from the hippie days when many artists came to Nepal and spent weeks in Thamel. Even though Thamel has been referred to as a “ghetto” by some, many low-budget travellers consider it a hot-spot for tourism. There are lots of places to buy handicrafts, have a meal, or have a drink. There are plenty of coffee shops and spas also.


The next day would be a 6 hour bus ride from Kathmandu to Pokhara to start a 5 day trek in the Annapurna region. Another blog post will be coming soon about my trek with Outfitter Nepal.

Sources:

  • Outfitter Nepal trip notes
  • Lonely Planet guidebook
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Utah- Zion National Park

Travelers who come to Zion often feel an instant sense of awe and reverence. Formed over the ages by water and time, this park is indeed one of Utah’s most spectacular wonders. Zion’s greenery is spectacularly contrasted to its steep, gold and red-hued cliffs. Colorful canyons and panoramic views, shimmering rivers and iconic rock formations—my weekend adventure with REI Adventures showcased it all.

Day 1- The Watchman Trail

This out-and-back trail offers a moderate hike with fantastic views of some of the most famous features in the park including West Temple and Towers of the Virgin. The trailhead is near the park’s visitor center, which is one of the best I have ever seen and includes a bookstore.

View from the Watchman trail

Day 2- Zion Narrows

The Narrows is a deep gash in the earth carved by the Virgin River. I traveled upstream along the steep, colorful sandstone walls on a route often described as one of the best hikes in the U.S.

Hiking the narrows- A one mile paved trai..

Travelers who come to Zion often feel an instant sense of awe and reverence. Formed over the ages by water and time, this park is indeed one of Utah’s most spectacular wonders. Zion’s greenery is spectacularly contrasted to its steep, gold and red-hued cliffs. Colorful canyons and panoramic views, shimmering rivers and iconic rock formations—my weekend adventure with REI Adventures showcased it all.

Day 1- The Watchman Trail

This out-and-back trail offers a moderate hike with fantastic views of some of the most famous features in the park including West Temple and Towers of the Virgin. The trailhead is near the park’s visitor center, which is one of the best I have ever seen and includes a bookstore.

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View from the Watchman trail

Day 2- Zion Narrows

The Narrows is a deep gash in the earth carved by the Virgin River. I traveled upstream along the steep, colorful sandstone walls on a route often described as one of the best hikes in the U.S.

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Hiking the narrows- A one mile paved trail leads to the water and then you can walk as far upstream as you like.

Day 3- Angels Landing

Today I embarked on one of the most thrilling and famous hikes in the Southwest, Angels Landing. This hike has appeared on many ‘scariest hikes’ and ‘dangerous hikes’ lists for outdoor enthusiasts. Strong hikers have the opportunity to ascend this long, steady climb (nearly 1,500′) that culminates in an exhilarating half-mile of hiking along an exposed sandstone ridge. Those with a fear of heights or exposure can hang back at Scout Lookout and still relish incredible views of this magnificent national park.

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Climbed it!

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View from the top of Angels Landing

With limited lodging options inside the park and in nearby Springdale and crowded campgrounds, I highly recommend REI’s Signature Camping experience. It’s a private campground with flush toilets, hot showers, and a camp host. Fresh drinking water is left at your tent when you return from the day’s hiking and fresh appetizers are prepared. The meals prepared are healthy and filling and they can accommodate special diets- vegetarian, vegan, gluten free, etc. In the morning, freshly brewed hot coffee will be brought to your tent!

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My spacious REI Kingdom 6 person tent with porch

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Tents have cots, air mattresses, warm blankets, and mirrors. You only need to bring your sleeping bag

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Beautiful view from my tent. The REI campground has a dining tent, kitchen tent, and fire pit.

For more information about Zion national park, go to https://www.nps.gov/zion/index.htm

For more information about REI signature camping or to sign up for a trip, go to https://www.rei.com/adventures/trips/signature-camping

Sources:

  • REI Trip notes
  • nps.gov

Andy

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Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

Rocky Mountain National Park is a United States national park located approximately 76 miles northwest of Denver International Airport in north-central Colorado, within the front range of the rocky mountains. The park is situated between the town of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the continental divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the colorado river located in the parks northwestern region. The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes, and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.

Here are 5 days worth of day hikes that I easily did while staying in Estes Park where there is plenty of lodging options, restaurants, and entertainment available.

Day 1- Land above the trees

I took the famous Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the US to the Ute Trail trailhead. A stop at the alpine visitor cen..

Rocky Mountain National Park is a United States national park located approximately 76 miles northwest of Denver International Airport in north-central Colorado, within the front range of the rocky mountains. The park is situated between the town of Estes Park to the east and Grand Lake to the west. The eastern and western slopes of the continental divide run directly through the center of the park with the headwaters of the colorado river located in the parks northwestern region. The main features of the park include mountains, alpine lakes, and a wide variety of wildlife within various climates and environments, from wooded forests to mountain tundra.

Here are 5 days worth of day hikes that I easily did while staying in Estes Park where there is plenty of lodging options, restaurants, and entertainment available.

Day 1- Land above the trees

I took the famous Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous paved road in the US to the Ute Trail trailhead. A stop at the alpine visitor center was a great idea for a restroom break and to buy souvenirs. The Ute trail is an important travel and trade route over the continental divide for native peoples. I saw evidence of volcanoes and glaciers, and kept my eyes peeled for elk, bighorn sheep, and maybe even the elusive wolverine, which is slowly returning to remote areas within Colorado. The trail is all above treeline, so I was glad I brought warm layers. The trail began at the headwaters of the Colorado River, and offered beautiful views of Mt. Ida, the Medicine Bow, Stormy Peaks, and Never Summer mountain ranges that surrounded me. I saw marmots playing around on the side of the trail in the rocks.





Day 2- Alpine rivers, waterfalls, and lakes

Today I found the pleasures and power of mountain water: from rushing rivers and waterfalls, to high mountain lakes. My hike took me through the reaches of Wild Basin, a wildlife and flower strewn region of the park. I saw a momma and baby moose!

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I hiked along the South Saint Vrain River, past Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls to Ouzel lake and the mountain cirque that envelopes it.





Day 3- Mountain Cirques and High Peaks:

This hike headed into the land of glaciers, past and present. The route took me past Alberta Falls into the sub-alpine forest, and to an emerald string of mountain lakes, from Mills to Jewel, and at last to Black Lake, which sits in a silent and imposing mountain cirque, a testament to the power of glacial ice. The granite crags above me had names like Spearhead and Keyboard of the Winds. *Please note if you plan to do this hike, the trailhead fills up very early but there is a free park and ride hiker shuttle that the park offers for free.*





Day 4- Chasm lake and longs peak

I actually had to cut this hike short due to 40 mph winds that were literally knocking me over. Hitting your shins, and maybe your head, on rocks is no fun. Here’s a nice shot of Long’s Peak I was able to get before I turned around.

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Plan B Hike – Lumpy ridge and Gem lake

The Gem lake trailhead is only 10 minutes from Estes Park and 4 miles long. it’s a good one to do at the beginning or end of a trip or as a plan B if other hikes are not doable due to weather. As I walked, I took in panoramic views of Longs Peak, the Continental Divide, Trail Ridge road, much of the country I walked through over the past few days. The trail provided excellent opportunities for photography. Gem lake itself is a great place to have a picnic lunch or just chill for a while (watch out for the chipmunks who have become experts at self serving food from your backpack or picnic! ).



Day 5- Nymph lake, Dream lake, Emerald Lake, and Lake Haiyaha

All of these lakes are from the Bear lake trailhead, another stop by the free park and ride shuttle.





Recommended lodging in Estes Park:

The Stanley Hotel (https://www.stanleyhotel.com)- 142 room Colonial revival hotel approximately 5 miles from the entrance to the national park. It offers panoramic views of Lake Estes, the Rockies, and especially Long’s Peak. It was built by Freelan Oscar Stanley of Stanley Steamer and opened in 1909. The hotel and its surrounding structures are listed on the national register of historic places. The Stanley hotel hosted the horror novelist Stephen King, serving as inspiration for the Overlook Hotel in his bestseller THE SHINING and its 1980 film adaptation of the same name, as well as the location for the 1997 miniseries. Today it includes a restaurant, whiskey bar, and spa and provides guided tours which feature the history and alleged paranormal activity of the site.

Scenes from Jim Carey’s movie DUMB AND DUMBER were also filmed here. Oh and you never know what celebrity or wild visitor will show up! While I was there, a bear wandered into the lobby in the middle of the night. Link to video: https://people.com/pets/black-bear-breaks-into-the-shining-hotel/

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Recommended restaurants:

For dinner, Bird and Jim- Make an advanced reservation unless you would like to sit at the bar. https://www.birdandjim.com

For breakfast, THE EGG AND I – The avocado toast and fresh squeezed juices are delicious. https://theeggandirestaurants.com/location/estes-park-co/

KIND COFFEE is also a great place for coffee and breakfast- You can watch the elk graze right from the window or from the tables outside on the river.

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If you would like a package tour with everything arranged, Wildland Trekking offers a great inn based tour: https://www.wildlandtrekking.com/colorado-hiking/inn-based-hiking/best-of-rocky-mountain.html

– Andy

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Ghorepani Poon Hill Trek- Nepal

Want to trek in Nepal? Did you know that there are short trek options? I have always dreamed of trekking in Nepal. It’s on every hiker’s bucket list. But when you have a full time job, it’s just not feasible to get away for 20 days to trek to Everest or Annapurna base camp. I was so happy to find Outfitter Nepal and the large quantity of trekking options they offer.

The Ghorepani Poon Hill trek takes you to one of the most popular view points (Poon Hill) in Nepal within the world famous Annapurna region. It’s a thrilling introduction to the wonders of the Nepal teahouse trekking experience, and it’s a more relaxed journey compared to other options in the Annapurna area. It’s specifically designed for people with less holiday time who want something special and a taste of trekking in Nepal’s Himalaya. It includes the astonishing scenery of traditional villages, lush forests, fertile fields, and up close views of some of the highest peaks on the planet. It’s ideal for a honeymoon, a tre..

Want to trek in Nepal? Did you know that there are short trek options? I have always dreamed of trekking in Nepal. It’s on every hiker’s bucket list. But when you have a full time job, it’s just not feasible to get away for 20 days to trek to Everest or Annapurna base camp. I was so happy to find Outfitter Nepal and the large quantity of trekking options they offer.

The Ghorepani Poon Hill trek takes you to one of the most popular view points (Poon Hill) in Nepal within the world famous Annapurna region. It’s a thrilling introduction to the wonders of the Nepal teahouse trekking experience, and it’s a more relaxed journey compared to other options in the Annapurna area. It’s specifically designed for people with less holiday time who want something special and a taste of trekking in Nepal’s Himalaya. It includes the astonishing scenery of traditional villages, lush forests, fertile fields, and up close views of some of the highest peaks on the planet. It’s ideal for a honeymoon, a trek with children, and for students.

The Annapurna region has long been a favorite place for visitors to Nepal, with good reason. Trekking there is full of excitement and surprises and an array of natural beauty and variety, with dense forests of rhododendron, Nepal’s national flower. The highlight of the Ghorepani Poon Hill trek is the sunrise from Poon Hill where you can enjoy a panoramic view of the Himalayan mountains including Dhaulagiri, Tukuche Peak, Nilgiri, BarahaShikhar, the Annapurna range and numerous other giants. The magic of the morning light on the peaks seems to reveal heaven itself.

Day 1- Nayapul to Tikhedunga

After having breakfast at our hotel in Pokhara, we took a short drive to Nayapul ,then started our trekking to Tikhedhunga via Birethanti. It was easy trekking passing through several villages and settlements. Afterwards we ascended gently to the final destination of the day, Tikhedunga guest house. It was about 5 hours of walking, max altitude 1577 meters.






Day 2- Tikhedunga to Ghorepani

After having breakfast at the lodge, we started the trek and ascended steeply (3000 stairs!) for the first 2 hours then ascended gently passing through Ulleri and Banthanti. We shared the trail with villagers going about their daily lives- working, going to school, and farming. It is possible to see good views of Machhapuchhare (AKA Fish Tail mountain), Hiunchuli, and Annapurna south on the way, but it was very cloudy and overcast for us on this day, with some rain in the afternoon. After all the stairs the trail became much easier, and passed through rhododendron and shadowy trees. We ascended gently up to the final destination, our teahouse lodge for the night in Ghorepani. Today was about 6 hours of walking with a maximum altitude of 2800 meters.








Day 3- Sunrise hike to Poon Hill, and then trek to Tadapani

We woke up very early to enjoy the sunrise view over Mt. Dhaulagiri, Tukuche Peak, Nilgiri, Varaha Shikhar, Mt. Annapurna I, Annapurna South, Annapurna III, Machhapuchhare, Annapurna IV, Annapurna II, Lamjung Himal, and other numerous snowcapped mountains of the Himalaya.




We returned to the teahouse lodge for breakfast before starting the walk to Tadapani. Most of the trail to Tadapani was through rhododendron forest. The beautiful flowers made the jungle so colorful. I was so happy to be there right when they were in full bloom. Today’s walk was about 6 hours, with a max altitude of 3210 meters.




Day 4- Tadapani to Sauly Bazaar

Today was easy trekking by descending gently all the way through rhododendron, oak and other kinds of dense forests to Sauly Bazaar, via Ghandruk. We heard different kinds of birds chirping on the way. This area is a very popular destination for bird lovers. Ghandruk is a big Gurung village and we had lunch there. There was a handicraft centre and Gurung museum. That evening we had a dance party to celebrate the end of our trek!







Day 5- Sauly Bazaar to Nayapul

It was an easy day of walking back to Nayapul through rice fields and small villages. We drove back to Pokhara by lunch time and spent the night there before heading back to Kathmandu the next day.







I highly recommend Outfitter Nepal for booking this short trek. They were very professional from initial booking to dropping me off at the airport for my international flight home. All guides are local so they are very knowledgable and eager to share and teach you about their country. They make sure you are well fed and the teahouses we stayed in while on trek were very clean and comfortable. There were plenty of opportunities to shower and use western toilets, more than I had expected. The squat toilets I did have to use were always clean. The hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara also exceeded my expectations. The rooms were comfortable, had nice breakfasts, and had very friendly and helpful staff.

If you are interested in booking a trip with Outfitter Nepal, their website is https://www.outfitternepal.com. If you are not a hiker they have plenty of non hiking tour options also. They also run tours in Tibet and Bhutan. I hope to book another trip with them in the Everest region in the near future!

Sources:

  • Outfitter Nepal trip notes
  • Lonely Planet guidebook

Andy

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Sedona, Arizona, USA

Sedona is an Arizona desert town near Flagstaff that’s surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests. It’s noted for its mild climate and vibrant arts community. Uptown Sedona is dense with New Age shops, spas and art galleries. On the town’s outskirts, numerous trailheads access Red Rock State Park, which offers bird-watching, hiking and picnicking spots.

I’m currently here doing some day hikes. Here are some pictures from my hikes today on the Airport Loop trail (moderate, 3.2 miles), and the Cathedral Rock trail (Only 1.2 miles but HARD with lots of climbing/ rock scrambling).

Sedona is an Arizona desert town near Flagstaff that’s surrounded by red-rock buttes, steep canyon walls and pine forests. It’s noted for its mild climate and vibrant arts community. Uptown Sedona is dense with New Age shops, spas and art galleries. On the town’s outskirts, numerous trailheads access Red Rock State Park, which offers bird-watching, hiking and picnicking spots.

I’m currently here doing some day hikes. Here are some pictures from my hikes today on the Airport Loop trail (moderate, 3.2 miles), and the Cathedral Rock trail (Only 1.2 miles but HARD with lots of climbing/ rock scrambling).

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