Archives: Hiking

Backpacking the 93-mile Mount Rainier Wonderland Trail – August 2012 30 September 2012

Where to begin?! Well, Patricia started it 🙂 – she decided last year she wanted to backpack the Wonderland Trail to celebrate her 60th birthday this year while traveling to Iran, and to do it with friends and family. And we can now proudly count ourselves among fewer than 250 people who do it every year…less than 2% of visitors to Mount Rainier National Park. It was the hardest work I have ever done on vacation, and was actually well over 100 miles, and involved 51,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. This is also one of the most beautiful hikes I have ever done.

The Wonderland Trail is officially 93 miles long, winding around 14,411 foot Mount Rainier. The trail is often described as being like a pie crust, with very little ‘flat’ ground…going up, down, up, down the many, many ridges left by volcanic and glacier activity around the mountain. On our 8th night on the trail, we acquired the lovely book Discovering the Wonders of the Wonderland Trail by Bette Filley from some fellow backpackers who didn’t want it any more – Bette claims that the elevation gain and loss of the trail actually makes the distance feel more like 126 miles. The trail never rises above the 7,000′ elevation, but we camped off-trail for two nights right around 7,000′, and also took a 1/2-mile side-hike to the top of Skyscraper Mountain at 7078′. But at latitude 46 degrees we were often above timberline for long stretches, with exquisitely beautiful views of so many angles of the mountain. Now, it is so much fun to see the mountain from an airplane, or to look at photos or Google Earth and be able to say “We were there, and there…and THERE!!” (more…)

Patricia’s Bear (as told by Patricia) – Mt. Rainier Wonderland Trail – Aug 2012 28 August 2012

On our way toward Eagles Roost as we started out on Section II, hikers coming the other way told us that the Park Service had closed the back-packing campground at Sunrise because an aggressive adolescent bear had become a problem. But that was still 5 days away for us, and except for Brian and Michele’s encounter, we saw no other bears. And there was no danger at our campsite at White River [public] Campground near Sunrise on the evening of Day 13…too much noise, too many people, too much smoke. (Linda and I did hear a sound on the trail that was likely a bear only about 30-45 minutes before we reached White River.) (more…)

Michelle & Brian’s Bear Encounter – Mt. Rainier Wonderland Trail, Aug 2012 22 August 2012

The approach to Curtis Ridge on Day 10 took us up a long, narrow, beautifully lush ravine about 30′ across at the start that was heavily forested on each side, with a creek running down the bottom next to the trail, and boulders and flowers carpeting the floor of the ravine. Hiking alone on this beautiful, warm, sunny day at the back of our group – maybe 5 minutes behind Patricia, I was keenly aware that this was BEAR country. So about every 20 feet, I was yelling out ‘Hey Bear, hello Bear!! I’m just passing through!’ (more…)


Serbs hike like they ski, in reverse – straight up the mountain through the trees! At least this delightful Serb does: Mika, Irena’s long-time dear friend and boss, who I met skiing here in 2004.

But first, another story…

Jim and Sydney (their cat) and I headed for Tara Planina National Park (about 4 hours south of Belgrade) in the brand new car – a dark eggplant Nissan small SUV (Qashqai) – and planned to meet Irena and Mika in Mika’s car up the road, coming directly from work.

Jim and I were cruising along with the traffic, and failed to notice a speed trap (common here) until it was too late – Jim was going 80kph in a 50kph zone, so he got pulled over. (more…)

Tibet Tour with Achi Tsepal – Summer 2009 Travel Tracks and Overview 31 July 2009

Hello dear family and friends – I hope you will find the following stories interesting and informative! The photo above I took on our overnight expedition above the nunnery at about 15,000′, looking south, on July 1.

Here is a map of our trip (starting in Beijing and ending in Delhi), and the 21 related posts below are in reverse order. On the map, blue lines were flights, red lines were by van/car. We had 2 days in Beijing, 1 in Chengdu, 14 days in Tibet (6 of those in the Drikung Valley where Achi was born, and 4 days on the road), 8 days in Nepal, and 4 days in India. Make sure you visit exotic islands and you can try this out to get the right kind of guides.

It was a wonderful and truly amazing experience, thanks to our in-country guides, drivers and hosts, our fellow travelers, Hidden Treasure Tours, and **most of all** to Achi and his beautiful family in Tibet!

If you want to display only this journey’s posts for easier reading, simply click on the Tibet category in the right hand column. The Photo link above has a “Tibet Tour” album with lots more pictures than are in the posts below – there are several sub-albums, including one just of people. And here is a link to my Google Map of the trip – you can zoom in for more detail. ENJOY!

Tibet (Days 12 & 13) – “Peace Ridge” Expedition! 3 July 2009

According to Achi, we were well prepared for this trek with our hikes of the previous two days… Maybe, but these last two days, especially Friday, I believe may nearly equal a trek to Everest, because we were literally on the roof of the world, at somewhere around 17,500′, and really felt like it (although Everest, over 350 miles away, was not yet visible).

horses in courtyardThursday

On Thursday morning after an early breakfast, the five of us and Achi, plus 14 more support folks – 20 in all – collected in a nearby valley at about 14,000 feet (near the hot springs we visited Tuesday). The 14 consisted of his family and 5? neighbors from the village. From there the six Americans climbed onto small ponies, each with a handler (some were the pony’s owners), and two more ponies and a rider carried most of the supplies: food for two days and camping gear, including bedding, four beautiful new expedition-quality tents, and one traditional nomad tent (canvas, not yak hide). So we had six riders (the NON-acclimatized Americans), and 14 walkers – six leading the ponies, and the rest carrying more supplies…keep that in mind. (more…)

Tibet (Day 11) – Hike to Tsabuk Hermitage 1 July 2009

Amala milking yakYak tent wake up call: yak snorting *very* close to the tent! We emerged in the pre-dawn mist to find Chotsomo tying up the calves so she could milk the mothers undisturbed (the bag contains salt which the yaks love). Soon Achi’s mother (left) came along and took over the milking, which she clearly does on a routine basis. After enjoying the ‘phe’ (baby yaks) and morning tea & coffee, we headed back along the river path, marveling as Chotsomo’s husband Tashi rode over the suspension bridge on his motorcycle.

hike startOur all-day hiking/picnic excursion to the cave where the founder of the Drikung Kagyu lineage became enlightened was with many of Achi’s family, and was a blast. We drove to the start of the ~8 mile hike, up the valley from the Guest House, all of us in the van, plus three motorcycles each with a rider also along. (more…)

Shrouded Mt Rainier with Patricia & Bobby 8 August 2008

Mt RainierThe day after Katie & Scott’s wedding, Pat and Bob and I drove the 50 or so miles to Mt. Rainier and camped at White River Campground. We got there around 3:30pm, after getting side-tracked at the ‘mother ship’ REI store!! Wow…what a place, complete with a climbing rock and mountain bike testing trail landscaped with hills, a creek and waterfall, and completely tree-hidden. Bob got his first rain shell, and Pat and I got some cool Mt. Rainier maps. Driving down, we got a few peeks of the mountain through the clouds, which I had not seen since I arrived. (more…)

Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) – Glacier Gorge Hike 14 August 2006

Last Friday, Patricia and I met in Denver two days early (she went to take care of the Stolper girls, while I was on my way to the ESRI Conference in San Diego) to go hiking in our beloved childhood playground, RMNP. We had planned to backpack and enjoy the stars at night, but could not get a campsite, and decided we were not quite ready for backcounty camping yet. So, we did a day-hike on Saturday, leaving Stolpers at about 5:30 am and heading towards Estes Park via the “Peak-to-Peak Highway” (72 and 7), and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and a fantastic drive on an empty 2-lane road through curvy, steep mountains. (We actually lived on the Peak-to-Peak when we were very small, in Rollinsville, where I went to kindergarten in a 4-room schoolhouse.) (more…)

Dolly Sods Wilderness Area (WV) Backpacking 11 June 2006

Finally, we are backpackers again!
Red Creek

Patricia and I have been talking about backpacking for over 2 years, and we finally put our feet where our talk has been. (We each did a little in high school and college.) This past Monday, we headed for West Virginia, for the Dolly Sods Wilderness Area, an amazing place.

Lester and I have driven through there at least twice for short hikes while visiting Canaan Valley, and loved it, poking around the beautiful rocky ridge cliffs on the edge of the wilderness along FS road 75. The scenery feels very alpine, like Colorado above timberline. (more…)

NZ Trip – FINAL NOTES 8 May 2006

The photo now above is my own of Mitre Peak in Milford Sound, and is one of my best. Thank you Andrea, for getting it loaded! I have *finally* finished expanding the Milford Track post with more detail, and loading and annotating all of my New Zealand photos, including from the Habitat build and the Tongariro volcano crossing – there are a LOT of photos, so I hope you can just enjoy them as you have time. I took about 1700, and I think about 40 are really good and/or representative – see the ‘Top Forty’ album if you want a quick glimpse. I have about 140 real favorites from the whole trip. And here is a map of my journey (click twice on it for a good full-screen view). Map of my travels

I flew into NZ via Auckland and then directly on to Christchurch for one night. The green leg is my bus trip to Mt. Cook, where I stayed for 2 nights. The blue line is my bus trip to Queenstown, where I stayed for 2 nights, then the orange is the Milford Track guided walk (5 nights), returning to Queenstown for 1 night. The pink line is our car/bus trip via Fox Glacier (just above Haast) all the way north to Nelson – that took 2 days, with the overnight in Fox Glacier and 1 night in Nelson. Then I flew back to Auckland for the Habitat build (12 nights). Then the bright blue line is the GV team’s van trip to Waitomo Caves near Otorohanga (1 night) then on to Taupo and Rotorua (2 nights). The red line is my bus trip to Tongariro National Park where I stayed for 3 nights, and the yellow line is my train trip back to Auckland to fly home.

I have also heavily edited the Milford Track entry from March 2 with many details of that absolutely amazing adventure – it was definitely the highlight of my trip, with Tongariro close behind (since my camera was broken, I found some great photos on the internet). The Milford album also has the most photos by far, and I think they tell the story of our 5-day adventure pretty well.

If any of you missed some of the early posts of my trip and want to read from the beginning, just click on New Zealand on the right and you will see them all – the earliest dates are at the bottom. And I recommend opening up a second browser window for the photos related to the post so you can see what I am talking about as you read. But most of all, THANKS FOR READING!

Goodbye to Godzone (NZ) 30 March 2006

Hard to believe, but I am HOME now. And my last two days in “Godzone” were as full as any other. For my last morning in Tongariro National Park, my delightful and very gracious hosts at the Tongariro Crossing Lodge, Sharee and Steve Fawlk, took me into Whakapapa Village where I headed off on a 2.5 hour walk to Taranaki Falls, about 6km. It is in between Mt. Ngaruhoe (Mt. Doom) and Mt. Ruapehu, so the views of the perfectly shaped cone of Mt. Ngaruhoe were wonderful… I kept a close eye on it to see if the summit would peek through the clouds, but except for one small corner, it was not to happen. But the rest of the scenery was still worth it. (more…)

Mt. Ruapehu 21 March 2006

This morning (barely :)), one of the lodge owners here took me up to the Whakapapa Ski Field on the Mt. Ruapehu volcano. Some of you may remember it… this is the one that erupted in 1995-1996, and there were photos on the internet of people skiing while the mountain is erupting behind and above them (I have been looking but haven’t yet found them)! So yes, it is another active volcano. All of the volcanoes in the park today were shrouded in clouds, but even though I dressed pretty well (thermal shirt, vest, raincoat, gloves, and headband), I had on thin capri pants and only ankle socks, so my lower legs were bare. (more…)

Mt. Doom!! 20 March 2006

Hi all – I DID the Tongariro Crossing today! And I was able to view and walk right past Mt. Doom (Mt. Ngauruhoe) – you can hike to the top, but it was just too much of a side trip… as it was, the 17 km (10.5 mile) hike took me nearly 9 hours. It was about 2600 (800 meters) feet up, and 3800 feet (1150 meters) down, and the landscape was absolutely stunning. I am so sorry I could not take photos – it felt like being on another planet. (more…)

The Milford Track – “Finest Walk in the World” 2 March 2006

NOW UPDATED! Karen, Phil, I, and 48 other unsuspecting hikers in our group survived the Milford Track – unbelievable!!! It was **very** challenging – it was not 33 miles in 5 days, as I thought, but 33.5 miles in THREE days – I just didn’t read the fine print very carefully! (more…)

Beautiful Queenstown! (Day 5) 24 February 2006

What a beautiful day – shirtsleeve weather, beautiful!!

I had planned to take the gondola to the top of one of the mountains just above the city, but when I got to the gondola terminal, I noticed a couple of hikers headed off on a trail, and realized that there is a trail to the top! I had been thinking I need to keep my legs in shape for the Milford Track tomorrow, so this was perfect. It turned out to be more than adequate for this purpose! It was **VERY** steep, and in my sneakers, was quite challenging, but beautiful. It was very like nearing the top of the trail above Bear Lake in Colorado, where the trail gets steeper and rockier. There were many spots where I had to pull myself up using branches and rocks. (more…)

Hooker Track & to the TOP of Mt. Cook (Day 3) 23 February 2006

I went to the top of Mt. Cook yesterday! Unbelievable. I splurged on a scenic helicopter ride – nearly an hour – and it [almost] left me speechless. We flew up the Tasman Valley (where I am staying, in Aoraki Mt. Cook National Park), over the Tasman Glacier, which is not the longest in the world outside the Arctic Circles but in the southern hemisphere. I still don’t remember how long it is, but I think not 70km – maybe 27km! We then flew between Mt. Tasman and some other peak, over the Main Divide (I presume their version of the Continental Divide) and landed on the Franz Josef Glacier, which is 11km long. I simply could not believe the spectacularly beautiful scenery – literally surrounded by jagged, pointy peaks and snow, and icefalls! As you can imagine, I was in heaven, or felt like it. (more…)