Thursday, March 16, 2017

A Dangerous Combination

What do you get when you take a retiree, a computer, thousands of slides and a film scanner?  In my case, you end up with a collection of blog posts that chronicle trips from decades ago. 

I don’t do this expecting acclaim for the trips since they really weren’t anything special.  One thing I learned from the travels is that there are lots of people doing what I did and MORE.  I do this mostly for myself.  I haven’t compiled my recollections anywhere else and I expect that as I age further, I’ll need a way to stimulate the pleasant memories of past trips.  Hey, I spent a lot of money and time on these trips and all I have left of them are the photos and memories, I might as well get some enjoyment from both.

I am not so disciplined as to start with my first “trip” (a hike to Annette Lake in 1968, as it turns out) but will post trips in a scattered fashion.  The dates of the trips will jump around but I’ll try to keep them in order by jiggling with the blog entry post date as best I can. 

Trips before 2007 are hosted on this blog site while trips 2008 and later are hosted on our MV Alpenglow blog site.  Since this site journals old trips and events while the Alpenglow site collects more recent activities, I thought that distinction made sense.

I’ll probably keep this blog entry the first one displayed so there is some context set for the individual trip posts that will follow.  As I enter the detailed post associated with a trip, I’ll convert its title to a hyperlink and add a date (e.g., 2/15/2015) that I uploaded the post.  That way, if you come back to the blog later, you can at least see what was most recently posted.

The Denali Series

Between Marcia & myself we have six different trips to Denali.  Fortunately, we each have a successful summit ascent.  Mine was on the first trip I did and Marcia’s was on her last.

Foreign Travel

A collection of overseas trips that includes climbing, trekking, kayaking and general touristing

Trips Closer to Home

A collection of trips in the United States (and occasionally Canada) that includes climbing, hiking, kayaking, skiing and bicycling.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

2005 Canadian Maritime Cruise

2005-08-117Marcia and I are fans of Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companion (PHC) broadcast.  On those times he did a show in the Seattle area, we’d do our best to attend the live show.  It was in January or February of 2005 while listening to the broadcast, we heard Garrison Keillor in very short announcement saying that he was organizing a cruise with Holland-America of the Canadian Maritime provinces that summer with details on his web site.  After looking at the details we thought it’d fun, so we signed up a few days later.  It was good thing we didn’t wait any longer as the cruise was fully booked by the end of the week.

The one-week cruise started and finished in Boston.  The ship stopped Bar Harbor, Sydney (Cape Bretton Island, Nova Scotia), Charlottetown (Prince Edward Island) and Halifax (Nova Scotia).  For Garrison Keillor this was a “coming home” trip of sorts as some of his ancestors immigrated to Halifax in 1774.

As Marcia and I were still working at this point, we were economical with our time.  We arrived in Boston a few days early for some touristing.  As I recall, we visited the USS Constitution, the aquarium and Boston Museum of Science.

Even though we were first-time cruise ship passengers, it was easy for us to fit in and become comfortable.  Everybody on board was a Garrison fan so you always had something to talk about.  PHC brought a lot of the same performers who were regularly appeared on the show and they put on a show every evening (actually two shows because the performance auditorium on board only was able to seat half of the passengers at a time).  After the main show, many of the music performers performed at the bars and clubs elsewhere on the ship.  Besides the performers, PHC brought along naturalists and historians that presented or lead activities during the day.

There were no great adventures but we had a lot of fun and ended up doing two more PHC cruises in the following years.

Thursday, September 30, 2004

2004 Africa Safaris

Neither Marcia nor I had been to Africa before this trip, but we both shared the desire to see at least a few of the highlights.  Not wanting to rough it or struggle to learn the ropes of African travel, we went with a tour company, Overseas Adventure Travel (OAT). Their niche in the adventure travel market were Americans aged 50 and over (we qualified).

Our trip in September 2004 began with a brutal series of flights from Seattle to London, from London to Johannesburg and, finally, from Johannesburg to Victoria Falls.  That is about 23 hours of flying time plus whatever layover time in the airports that were necessary.  Fortunately there were no travel delays nor lost luggage on the journey.

2004-Africa-0058The trip started and ended in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe.  The falls are truly spectacular.  The canyon into which the water falls is narrower and deeper than Iguazu Falls in South America (we visited those falls in 1987 at the tail end of our Aconcagua trip).  The mist rising from the falling water creates a perpetual rainbow visible somewhere in your view depending on the location of the sun.

After leaving Victoria Falls, the OAT trip visited four different wildlife areas spread over three countries (Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe).  Fortunately the distance between them wasn’t huge and much of that distance was travelled in a small chartered aircraft.  We were on a three day cycle in which we traveled one day, followed by two full days at a lodge and the day after moving again to a new lodge.  My guess is that OAT (or the tour company contracted by OAT) had a consecutive series of trips because usually the flight that picked us up dropped off another set of guests.

Country Camp - Area
Namibia Lianshulu Lodge in the Mudumu National Park
Botswana Okavango Delta
Botswana Chobe National Park
Zimbabwe Linkwasha Camp in Hwange National Park

A "sundowner" excursionThe days we didn’t move camps usually started with a predawn start and a couple of hour drive looking for animals before the sun rose high in the sky.  We’d return for a nice lunch and some relaxing before heading out for another 2-3 hour drive looking for animals.  Most afternoon drives closed with a “sundowner”, a bar and appetizers being set up on a folding table while we watched the sun set.  We’d return in the dusk to camp, freshen ourselves then go to the main lodge for dinner.

Our accommodations at the lodge in the Okavango DeltaThe camps were all very nice.  These were 4-star camps, certainly not luxury 5-star but definitely not budget camps.  We had individual cabins with bathroom facilities, ample hot water for showers and fresh linen as necessary. The food was good, nicely prepared and presented, accompanied by alcoholic beverage of your choice (including excellent South African wines).

We were there the last of September and first part of October.  The weather was dry and hot but not oppressively so.  There is no air conditioning but everything is open so natural air flow keeps you comfortable.  Insects weren’t an issue.  If you visited during the wet season it might be different

Marcia "borrowed" the rifle from one of our guides from the Linkwasha CampWe couldn’t have been happier with the staff.  Everyone was friendly, helpful and very knowledgeable.  In talking with them, we were impressed by the training that some of them had to do in order to become a tourist guide.  Their devotion to ensuring you have a good time demonstrated their understanding that tourism is an important part of their country’s economy.  We hope the model works for these countries because these parks and habitat are a global treasure.

Sunday, June 1, 2003

2003 West Buttress

Up until 2003, I had been on three Denali trips.  I summited on my first attempt but failed on the next two.  Marcia, on the other hand had been on four trips with her successful summit on her last one.  Obviously, I had to get catch my tally up with her.

Another thing goading me to go bac was a description of Brad Washburn’s last ascent of Denali when he was 47 (my recollection, anyway).  He described his looking out from the summit and realizing that it was probably the last time he would experience that view.  I felt I needed to make the ascent one more time and get that kind of closure as well.

0672--At SeaTac Airport (KWH)The team was 6 members, Craig Miller (who led the Annapurna Circuit trip Marcia and I did), Jeff Bowman, Leonard Russell, Nancy Lashbrook, Craig Rowley and myself.  Craig Rowley and been with me on two previous failed Denali trips.

The weather was the usual mix of good and poor weather but we made good progress up to 14,000 feet.  It was there that I began to realize that my motivation wasn’t quite up to the task.  We weren’t getting real stable nice weather so it was clear that we’d have to first wait for a weather window to get to the high camp at 17,000 and then probably wait there for another weather window for a summit bid. 

There is a dramatic difference in the conditions (weather and altitude) between the 14,000 camp and the 17,000 camp.  At the 14,000 camp there can be lots of socializing with other climbers and it can feel festive.  At 17,000 living is more desperate and most people hunker in their tents only going out as necessary.  The thought of an extended stay at 17,000 was not appealing.

In the end, Craig R, Nancy and I bailed at 14,000 after a climb up to 16,000 on the West Buttress to support Craig M, Jeff and Leonard.  We headed down from there to while they headed up to the 17,000 foot camp to wait for weather. Happily for them, they summited a couple of days after we separated from them.

After getting back to Talkeetna, Craig, Nancy & I had an extra day to kill before flying back to Seattle so we did a scenic flight.  When flying to/from glacier landing zone, the pilot usually takes the most direct safe route so sightseeing is an after thought.  The scenic flight gave us an opportunity to see the mountains from the air in a more leisurely fashion and was well worth it. 

In the end, I got whatever “closure” I needed and did catch up with Marcia.  We now each have four Denali expeditions with one successful summit attempt.

Tuesday, July 9, 2002

2002 – Grand Canyon Float Trip

Rafting the Grand Canyon had been on our trip list for a long time.  What brought it to the top of the queue in 2002 was seeing a trip with slots available that was accompanied by a string quartet that played concerts at camps in the evening and slot canyons along the way.  The trip was done once or twice a season by Canyon Explorations, one of the authorized river tour companies in Grand Canyon.

The trip certainly ranks up there as one of the best trips we’ve done.  The Grand Canyon is magnificent, words don’t do justice to it and photographs are only a pale representation of its grandeur.  The guides are supremely capable, personable and professional.  You can see that your enjoyment is their goal.  The NPS and guide companies do an excellent job of protecting the park yet still giving a large number of people the opportunity to enjoy the Grand Canyon with a measure of solitude.  You are camping but it is pretty benign and easily managed (a couple in the late 70’s was on our trip and had no difficulty).  The food was excellent and ample.

The trip started and ended in Flagstaff where, on day 1, we were transported by van to the put in point at Lees Ferry.  From there is was floating down the river in oar boats (large inflatable boats rowed by a guide) or paddle boat (smaller inflatable with 6-8 clients paddling while a guide steered the boat).  Along the way we’d stop periodically for hikes or an occasional concert.  At night we’d camp on shore and relax while some members of the quartet would play during dinner preparation.

The days in which a rapid was run was always one of excitement.  We didn’t have any boats overturn but did have some people ejected from their boats and pulled back in the quieter sections of the river.  On the more mellow rapids, some clients would paddle (or try to paddle) the inflatable kayaks (“duckies”) through them.

The rapids are not a frequent experience instead the days on the river are spent floating along, chatting with the guides and other clients.  We were there from the last week of June through the first week July so the temperature in the canyon bottom was warm.  As the guides would tell us, “if your hot, your stupid” because you have a wonderful cool bath right outside your boat that you jump into and float along with.

On day 15, 225 river miles later, we reached the take out point at Diamond Creek where the vans transported us back to Flagstaff and the start of the trip home.

Sunday, January 30, 2000

2000 – Baja Weekend

This was an “odd duck” sort of trip.  For some reason we had an Alaska Airlines credit which was going to expire if we didn’t use it.  Of course we managed to “save” that credit by spending more and buying a 3 or 4 day package tour to La Paz, Mexico on the Baja Peninsula.  We may have even turned in some additional miles and upgraded the air flight portion to first class (the memory is fuzzy, though).

No great adventure here but we did get to enjoy the warm sunny weather of Baja in January (a real treat coming from the grey Seattle weather) and drink our share of margaritas.  We did do a one day kayak tour which probably resulted in our signing up for a longer Baja kayak trip the following year.

Wednesday, December 1, 1999

1999 Annapurna Circuit

Marcia & I had organized long trips in the past, both foreign and domestic, but were beginning to appreciate having someone else do the hard work and worrying about details.  The Mountaineers to which we belonged had a program of foreign outings organized by its members.  One member, Craig Miller, had developed an expertise at organizing Nepal treks.  For the Fall of 1999, he was leading a 4+ week trek of the Annapurna Circuit with a side trip to the Annapurna South base camp.  In total it would be about 220 miles of walking.

1999-Annapurna-T-34xWith 10 members, this was the largest group we had travelled with since our 1985 Mexican Volcano trip.  With that many, there is always the opportunity to find someone with whom you don’t quite “click”.  Fortunately that was not the case and we had a great time on the trip.

We spent several days sightseeing in Kathmandu.  I was struck by how much it had changed from my previous visit in 1983.

We chartered a bus for the journey to the trek’s starting point at the village of Besisahar.  From there we started walking.  We had porters who carried most of our gear while we carried our water, snacks, cameras, valuables and items we need during the day.  Lunch would be at a tea house midway on the day’s route.  At day’s end we’d stop at a lodge and sleep indoors.

1999-Annapurna-R-16While our meals were in tea houses, we had our staff supervise the lodge’s kitchen to insure water was boiled and the food properly handled.  I don’t recall anyone having G.I. problems severe enough to jeopardize their trip.

The weather was generally quite nice although we had some cool mornings at the higher elevations along the route.  Fall is post monsoon and usually dry. 

The scenery is quite stunning and the route spans lush low lands at less than 3,000 feet elevation and a high mountain pass, Thorong La, at nearly 17,800 feet.  The schedule was leisurely and it allowed adequate time for everyone to reasonably acclimatize to the altitude.

After completing the trek, we stayed for several days in Pokhara, a lovely city on a beautiful lake with stunning views to the Himalayas beyond.  Unfortunately, I did not get to enjoy Pokhara as I was sick for a couple of days and stayed in our hotel room close to the toilet.

Return to Kathmandu was via a commuter aircraft.  From Kathmandu, the trip broke up with some people heading home, some going on a rafting trip and Marcia, myself and one other trek member heading down to the Bardiya National Park near the border with India.  We got our requisite elephant ride and went looking for tiger.  In retrospect, given the absence of any firearms carried by our guides, it was probably good that neither we nor a tiger found each other.

Our return to Seattle was uneventful except for our shock to hear about the rioting occurring on the downtown streets during the WTO conference the day we arrived.