K2inCanada's Blog

September 9, 2018

Some biking, some hiking, some camping, some paddling

Filed under: Animals, Bike, Canada, Hike, Kayak — K2 in Canada @ 6:54 PM

Labour Day Long weekend last weekend, Sep 1-3, and we managed to squeeze in all our favourite things to do except campfire nights. Fire ban is still on. Apparently we should have brought a propane fireplace with us as every other person camping at Coldstream in Manning Park on Saturday night had one. We had packed up “most” of our camping gear on Saturday morning for an overnight car camping trip to Manning Park. Only forgot the drinking water canister and our camping chairs :-). Obviously we survived without both. We also brought our mountain bikes along. For Saturday we had a trip up Blackwall Peak planned. It’s 16km up, 8 of them paved with an elevation gain of 650m. We ski this up in the winter every so often – there is an actual race that for some odd reason I like – and it is hard work. I am not sure why I expected to be less hard work on my bike. Well, it wasn’t! Jeff of course was flying up the mountain. We met up half way up at the Cascade lookout. Actually he turned around to keep me company for the last 2-3km. Views had improved from 3 weeks before (Windy Joe) as most of the smoke had cleared out even though you could still smell it. So this time, the views were actually worth all the hard work :-). And I was ready to keep going after a short break taking pictures of yellow pine chipmunks and Cascade Golden-mantled ground squirrels. The rest of the road, yep there were cars passing us once in a while but it wasn’t too busy,was gravel which was okay for the way up. Once at the top, it took less time than skiing up for me at least, we did a short hike around the peak – Heather trail – hoping to see some wildlife and wildflowers. Both were scarce – the flowers because it was late in the season, the wildlife, probably because there were tons of people up there. We did get to watch some yellow-bellied marmots and pika though on our way down in the rock scramble just below the upper parking lot. That was cool! The way down was almost as tough as the way up. Not so for the legs but for the bum and wrist and shoulders. Flying down the washboard gravel road was torture for those parts of the body. I guess that only evened out things.

We rode our bike right into the pub at Manning Lodge for food and beer which was desperately need since I finished my drinking water bottle on the way up. The friendly server even filled our water bottles up for free :-). The only problem, we had to ride the bikes back to Coldstream on a full tummy. It’s not much of a hill but it felt like one. Anyhow, it’s only 2 km and I managed. We sat around a bit and played dice by the light of our headlamps. Gets dark so early now ūüė¶ and it was actually COLD! I think we managed to make it till 9pm before crawling into our warm sleeping bags.

Woke up to another nice, sunny and cold morning. We loaded everything back into the truck¬† and drove to Hope where we were to meet John and his buddy Miles for breakfast at Rolly’s. Today’s adventure was to ride up the old train trestles from Portia – exit #202 along Hwy 5 – towards the summit at Coquihalla Lakes, which is part of the Trans Canada Trail. John had done it before and always talk very highly of it – but he also is an avid cyclist and does a lot of touring on a bike as well as some mountain biking. So whatever easy meant to John could be torture for me. But it was a great sunny day and despite my bum being a bit sore, I was ready for another bike ride. At least, there shouldn’t be any cars! This section of the TCT – Trans Canada Trail – was a designated hike, bike and equestrian trail only. But apparently ATV’s don’t adhere to those rules and find a way through the bush around the gate. Oh well. Despite a few ATVs the trail was awesome. Easy grade, mostly on gravel surface, a bit of single track through the forest at the beginning, a bit of BC history (old snow sheds and train bridges) and most of all awesome views of the valley and surrounding mountains! It was a bit longer than I expected, 25km one way but it was well worth it. Jeff and John were always ahead pushing the pace while Miles and I traded places on the uphills. Miles is a crazy downhill mountain biker but does not like hills, even less so than I do :-). Not much in regards of wildlife but the scenery more than made up for it.

We finished off the trip with a beer and early supper at a Pub in Hope, the south side of the Hwy. Jeff and I had never been there since a bit off the beaten track but the food was good and the beer very affordable. Plus we could sit outside and enjoy the sun for a bit more. For more pictures go here.

On Monday, we did our last training paddle for the “Indian Arm Challenge” on Sep 8. Finally Jeff’s wrist was feeling better again and we put in an exhausting 3hrs in bumpy conditions (2 x 25′ on 5′, 6 x 18′ on 2′). It did not feel like a great performance but that’s how it should feel like in the last big session before the race … a week of “rest” ahead. Except I still raced my single at the TNR and went running with a colleague of mine on Wednesday night.

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July 18, 2018

Sore for 3 days

Filed under: Canada, Hike — K2 in Canada @ 12:42 PM

Last Sunday we went for our first hike of the season. I had been doing a lot of easy hiking/walking on our fishing trips in May/June but the last 4 weeks have been all about paddling. So I picked an easy one – Mount Strachnan out of Cypress Bowl. Short (2-2.5hrs) and not much elevation gain but the bit you do goes straight up. I usually do this hike in the fall quite a bit (see here). The weather was still hot with blue skies and good visibility. It was quite a sweat fest to get up the gully at the backside of Mount Strachnan and I was surprised how much snow there still was. The trail was partially covered still which made the going even slower. The view from the top was nice though – 360 – but my knee did not like the way down. My legs were sore for 3 days – I can’t believe it ūüôā

April 23, 2018

Share the trails – Earth Day Hike

Filed under: Bears, Canada, Hike — K2 in Canada @ 9:27 PM

Sunday afternoon “hike” in Minnekhada Regional Park in Port Coquitlam. A great way to spent a sunny, 16C day when the body is too tired to go for a paddle. It’s by no means a challenging hike, more a stroll through the woods but this park is known for its bear sightings. Last time we were here, we scared a mom and her cub off the trail. So this time I was hoping but not really expecting to see a bear. It’s a busy little park and there are quite a few people around. But we did see a bear – two actually. Mama bear and her year old cub. They were coming down the trail we were walking up. So we stepped aside to let them pass, talking to them so they knew we were there. They did not seem to care much about us. While mama bear gave us a bit of space when passing us and got about 5m off the trail, the cub, a skinny tall guy, was coming right at us. He was so close, I could have petted his head. Mama bear was not too impressed about juniors behaviour and huffed at him and us since were so close together. The cub knew the huff and bolted up a tree as if he was getting shot at. We were standing less than a few meters away from mom who could have reached us in a single leap, talking to her calmly. Mama bear just looked as us like saying “Kids these days”. We didn’t want to stick around for the family drama to unfold and walked slowly away from the bears. No more huffing from mom. Junior came down the tree and, to our utter surprise, started following us rather than going into the direction they were on before our encounter. Mama bear was shaking her head but followed him. Our guess, someone must have fed the little guy before and he was hoping for something. He showed no aggression at all. We just continued on our way at normal pace, ignoring the cub. As we rounded a corner and lost sight of them behind us, Junior must have lost interest as well. We did not see him again. Weird behaviour for a bear but overall a peaceful encounter. We hiked for another couple hours, up some knoll with a great view over the valley. Really a fun little park. We never got to see the cougar, as the signage had promised though :-).

We rewarded ourselves with BBQ Baby Back Ribs and Copper Ale at the Gillnetter Pub, watching the Fraser flow by. It felt like the perfect weekend!

November 2, 2016

Day 9-12: The easiest and toughest hike – Ol Doinyo Lengai

Filed under: Africa, Animals, Hike, Travel — K2 in Canada @ 11:10 PM

Came across this National Geographic article this past weekend, and it reminded me that I never finished our Africa trip report. We never saw¬†these “Ancient Human Foot Prints” mentioned in the article but we must have been close ūüôā

This post takes you back to our Africa trip in 2014 for almost the last time. For previous post click here. We ended this great adventure with a donkey-guided 3 day hike and a night climb up an active volcano, Ol Doinyo Lengai, to see the sunrise. The Maasai call it the “Mountain of God” and it is part of the African Rift Valley near Lake Natron. It last erupted in 2013! “Whereas most lavas¬†are rich in silicate minerals, the lava of Ol Doinyo Lengai is a carbonatite.¬†Due to its unusual composition, the lava erupts at relatively low temperatures of approximately 510¬†¬įC (950¬†¬įF). This temperature is so low that the molten lava appears black in sunlight, rather than having the red glow common to most lavas. It is also much more fluid than silicate lavas, often less viscous than water. The sodium and potassium carbonate minerals of the lavas erupted at Ol Doinyo Lengai are unstable at the Earth’s surface and susceptible to rapid weathering, quickly turning from black to grey in colour. The resulting volcanic landscape is different from any other in the world” (Wikipedia).

Before we climbed the volcano though we hiked through parts of Nogorongoro Conservation Area and down into the rift valley – a spectacular trip. If you rather just look at pictures, lots of them, use this link.

HikeEarth (Medium) (2)

Day 9 (Sep 6, 2014): The day we started hiking. I didn’t really know what to expect from a donkey-guided hike. Didn’t really know where we would start from, only that we would end it with climbing an active volcano on the 3rd night. We were told to bring no more than 1 bag each for the donkeys plus a small day pack we would carry. And we managed to fit both of our stuff into one medium size dry bag. Pretty much just needed an extra coat for the evening and some spare shirts. But before we left civilization we had yet another huge breakfast of french toast, sausages, veggies, scrambled eggs, pancakes and water melon. And we almost ate it all :-). By 9AM we hit the road driving back up to the Ngorongoro Park Entrance Gate. Weather was sunny and reasonably warm, which was good as we had to wait for an hour + for Mike to get another park permit. We did not want to get it too early as we would be spending the first night in the park. That meant we had to be out again exactly 24hrs from when the permit was issued! We were entertained by a busload full of 18-21 year young African girls – trainees for the hotel industry. They were fascinated by Jeff’s beard and every one of them had to get her picture taken with him. It was pretty fun. I had some time to take pictures of flowers and birds. Finally we were ready to go again. We took a right turn after the gate driving through a high valley of open grassland. It was quite¬†beautiful and so different from where we had been. We stopped near the Maasai village of Bulati along the way to pick up our guide – Makamero. He was an awesome guide, spoke perfect English and taught us a lot about modern Maasai. We¬†drove on for a little bit then stopped in the middle of nowhere. We would meet Mike and the car again before the volcano climb while Hamisi would be coming with us onto the hike as our cook. But for now, Mike only dropped us and Makamero off to start the hike while Hamisi went ahead to set up the first camp. I had no idea where we were really but it felt great to finally be able to stretch our legs¬†after 7 days of Safari where you are not allowed to leave the car EVER. We walked through long grass up a gentle slope following what looked like animal trails rather than hiking trails. Turned out that slope was part of the Empakai Crater rim. The views over the high valley were spectacular, a bit surreal, not like the Africa one knows from the nature shows. It was so quiet. Almost nothing moved except the grass in the wind. We were stared at by the odd¬†donkey or goat or cow, who for sure thinking¬†“what on earth are YOU doing on my turf”. As we reached the crater rim we hit a dirt road and the walking got even easier.¬†Spectacular views of the crater down below and the first glimpse of our final destination – Ol Doinyo Lengai. It looked steep! Lots of flowery bushes along the way. Lots of colourful birds. Hyena tracks. We passed a couple of Maasai women and their donkeys bringing back long grass to fix the roof of their hut. Maasai have strict rules about who does what – the men tend to the animals while the women cook, fix the house, gather food, take care of the children etc. Didn’t quite sound like workload sharing really :-). But the young women we passed were in good spirit and joked with our guide. Even when they just talk their voices sound like they are singing. Such¬†a melodious language, Maa, which I am sure is impossible to learn by Germans. Roughly 3.5hr after we left Mike and the car we got to our first camp right on the Empakai Crater rim. We weren’t the only ones camping on the rim. 10min or so before we reached our camp there was another one set up with another couple. I think they were speaking German :-). But the two camps were far enough apart that we did not see or hear them. Our camp was right opposite the trail down into Empakai Crater which offered fantastic views over the lake below. Another alkaline lake but apparently there also was a fresh water spring on the opposite site. We could hear monkeys in the wooded slopes but didn’t see any. Hamisi had tea and popcorn and cookies ready for us and the tent was already set up as always. Shortly after, our 3 donkeys and their handler, a really tall Maasai, Luca, arrived in camp. I recognized the group – we had passed them in the car on our way to the start of our hike. They had come a long ways. The animals, knowing the drill, started grazing right away completely ignoring me trying to pet them. These are not pets but work horses and the least valuable animal on the Maasai scale. I thought they are the cutest! Not being able to make friends with our donkeys, I took off for a bit to take pictures of the flowers and birds along the road. Those birds don’t sit still much either. When I got back Makamero was trying to get a fire started. The wood was pretty wet from rain the night before (lucky us) and it was more smoke than warmth. It actually got quite cold as the sun set. But as always, Hamisi had an awesome dinner ready for us. Potato soup followed by spaghetti with a veggie & beef stew and fries. MUCH more elaborate than our kayaking camping food. We hit the tents by 8:00-8:30PM, all of us but Luca. I am sure he slept outside by the fire. The donkeys were put into a thorny bush corral.

Day 10 (Sep 7, 2014): We got up before 6AM to see the sunrise. Unfortunately it was mostly hidden behind trees. But we did get our first and only glimpse of Mount Kilimanjaro that morning from the “washroom window”. The washroom was a cement slab in the bushes with a hole in the middle – worked :-). After breakfast we watched them load the donkeys. Poor creatures. I wish we would have brought our own light weight hiking tent and not these heavy duty canvas tents. They must weigh a ton. At least between Jeff and I we didn’t bring much and kept it light. Hamisi, Luca and the donkeys took off towards camp two while Makamero, Jeff and I hiked down the 300m into Empakai Crater. It was mostly overcast but the clouds were high in the sky so that we could see the whole crater. The way down was through semi tropical forest with some large strangler fig trees, hundreds of years old, along the trail. We didn’t get to see any of the Blue Monkeys or buffalo or leopards that apparently live in the crater. There were flamingos in the shallows near us, lesser and greater ones. Not too many but enough to chase them into flight upon Makamero’s urging. Pretty cool! Back up on the rim the clouds dropped down on us and views were few and far between. Not until we started to drop down off the rim towards the Maasai Village of Niobi. The clouds started breaking up and opened up the views into the high plain and Ol Doinyo Lengai. But first we had to make a stop in Niobi as we were leaving the park. Along the way we were joined by Freddie, a maybe 10-12 year old Maasai boy who was selling the typical Maasai handmade bead wristbands. And he finally beat us down to buy one from him for a fortune of $1 and a power¬†bar. We actually asked Makamero’s permission first about giving Freddie a power bar. Maasai diets are VERY strict – consisting of raw meat, raw milk, and raw blood from cattle. But Makamero gave us the okay and Freddie was visibly¬†happy. We thought he liked the power bar but in truth, the $1 we paid for the wristband was about 3-5 times as much as he would usually get for it. Oh well :-), he deserved it. Once in town Makamero had to deal with the paperwork. He offered us to wait inside or outside. We thought sitting outside, now that the sun was out, would be nicer. A HUGE mistake. As soon as we sat down on a rock a whole bunch of women surrounded us trying to sell more Maasai handmade jewelry. ¬†I really don’t care for that type of stuff and we didn’t have any small change left – Freddie got the last of it. Those women were really persistent though. Started singing and got right into our faces. Not enjoyable at all. Okay, I get it, we are rich compared to them. But we also already had spent a huge amount of money on this trip. The fees for the National Parks are very high and some of that should get back to the people. We would pay our guides, Mike, Hamisi, Makamero and Luca handsomely since they made us feel so welcome in their country. These women made us feel like we should not be here. It was actually really horrible and I was so glad when Makamero finally came back out and rescued us. The beautiful landscape soon made me forget the incident. The views were really quite stunning. We walked by a few herds of cows – the Maasai money. It looked like this village was comparatively well off for a Maasai village. Families live together in fenced in Bomas. Maasai men can have several wives. Each wife has her own hut. Most Maasai still live traditional lives despite the government’s¬†encouragement to abandon their traditional semi-nomadic lifestyle. Makamero was a very respected village elder. He had one wife and 4 children that all went to school, even the girls. A most progressive Maasai. We slowly dropped down into a high valley and the scenery changed quite a bit. The open grassland gave way to an Acacia forest. ¬†Another hour of walking through the forest and we reached camp 2. Tents were nicely set up in the shade of the trees overlooking the surrounding hills. Such a lovely place to camp. Unfortunately a couple of the Niobi women and their jewelry had followed us to camp. They didn’t dare getting really close but they set up their stuff about 50m away from camp. It was only 2:30PM and after a bit of a rest in the tent, Jeff and I headed out on our own to explore the surrounding hills. As we followed the trail we saw smoke in the distance. The Maasai were burning off the dry grass along the slopes in anticipation of the wet season – ancient way of fertilizing the dirt. We stayed upwind of the burns and hiked up a little slope to get a nice view of Ol Doinyo Lengai now in full sunshine and Lake Natron in the distance. Breathtaking scenery. We saw the biggest grasshopper I have ever seen as well as a lizard on the way back – biggest animal yet on our hike and it wasn’t that big. We also ran into the two Maasai “arsonists”. They were very friendly, shook our hands and had their picture taken with Jeff. And all that WITHOUT asking for money once. The Maasai men are very proud people. It is women’s work to beg for money. Back in camp the jewelry girls were still there, plus¬†a couple kids had joined. It was hard to ignore them. They even started chanting to get our attention. Eventually I went to Makamero and asked him if he could give them a couple dollars and sent them off. I really did not want to buy anything and I really wanted my peace and quiet back. And he did. Hard to say if he approved of it or not but he managed to have them go back to the village. Now that there was only our small group of Makamero, Hamisi, Luca, Jeff and I left I was happy again. Makamero took us for another walk up a different hill. It was late evening by now and the colours were even more amazing. He pointed out some serval cat, leopard and baboon tracks along the way. They are out here, even though we never saw any. When we got back to camp, Luca had the fire going, a real fire this time not just smoke, and Hamisi was busy getting dinner ready. Pasta with veggie stew and fruit for desert. After¬†we were happily fed, that is Makamero, Jeff and I, were happily fed, we watched the sun set to the west and the full moon rise to the east. It wasn’t nearly as cold as on the crater rim the previous night. Luca was preparing his Ugali, the typical Maasai on the trail food, for his journey back tomorrow. It is some kind of corn flower but white in colour and not yellow, consistency of oatmeal. Luca and I chatted for a while when the others went to bed. His English wasn’t nearly as good a Makamero but it was definitely good enough for a conversation. He was fascinated by my blond hair :-).

Day 11 (Sep 8, 2014): Up early, 5AM and on the trail by 7. We wanted to make use of the early hours as it was supposed to get really hot once we drop down into the rift valley. It was a sunny clear day and the views along the open ridge down into the rift and Lake Natron were stunning. Pictures just don’t do it justice. We left the trees behind right away. Ol Doinyo Lengai was towering to our right the whole time. 2000+m above the plain below. But we were not to climb it until midnight. Jeff stopped to look for leopards, I stopped lots to take pictures. Makamero seemed in a rush to get us down. Once we were off the ridge we walked along what looked like dry river beds. But they were white and any water we found was salty. The last big eruption of¬†Ol Doinyo Lengai in 2007 destroyed a village on its lower flanks and covered the whole area up to Lake Natron in salty ash and poisoned the earth for miles. Most of the area¬†has somewhat recovered but there are still big white scars¬†in the earth in which we walked along. Saw¬†quite of few lizards and iguanas in them. Mike and the car were waiting for us in this open plain at the end of a rough dirt road. I thought we should have rather walked it than drive it. But first we said thanks and good bye to Luca and the donkeys. They would be walking back up to Niobi the same day while we hopped into the truck and drove into the town of Lake Natron.

Our 3rd camp was right in town, an organized campsite with SHOWERS! It was hot and I was in desperate need of a shower. I think we were the only campers. The other occupants were a cow and goats and … velvet monkeys. Lots of them. We spent some time relaxing, trip logging, reading, watching monkeys, a king fisher. I walked into town with Hamisi to get some meat for dinner. There was not much choice. In a wooden shack they had half a goat displayed on a wooden table. Goat is an acquired taste but I was willing to try it. I am sure this was the most expensive piece of goat Hamisi ever bought, having one of the rich tourists with him :-). ¬†Back in camp while watching more monkeys, I discovered that the tree tops were full of bats. Mostly fruit bats and some yellow bats. Very cool! And by taking pictures of bats up in the trees I killed the time till 3PM when Mike and Makamero took us to a real river, Saitoti¬†River, carrying fresh water out of the hills. We scrambled¬†along or through it for about 30-45min. Unusual heavy rains in the hills had caused the water level to rise and the regular trail was flooded. We made it to the main attraction of this river nonetheless. A cave with a waterfall one could walk through – pretty neat. A nice refreshing shower, 2nd time of the day. We were not the only people there. Actually it was busy! ¬†We met an Australian woman from Brisbane at those falls that was also going to do the hike up the volcano the same night. Back at the truck we drove down to Natron Lake. Its water level was way low. As the name suggestion, it was another salt lake. So again flamingos were the main attraction. We also saw a large herd of giraffes walk out into the open and some zebras and wildebeest. The first big game since our safari even though this area isn’t an actual game park. Back in camp we had an early dinner and I confirmed that BBQ goat is not my most favourite dish. The spinach and pasta were tasty though. We were in bed at 7:30PM to catch a couple hours of sleep before the big climb that night which was supposed to start at midnight. I didn’t sleep much. My throat was getting sore and I was worried if I’ll be fit enough to climb almost 2000m in one night.

Day 12 (Sep 9, 2014): Alarm went of at 11PM. We packed all the¬†warm clothes we had brought for the top – apparently it would be cold – a couple water bottles and cereal bars. It was still hot at Natron Lake even at that hour. Like the previous night, we had a full moon and no clouds – perfect conditions for a night hike. After a quick cup of tea and some cookies we were off. Took about 30min to drive to the start of the hike. Makamero, who got special permission from the elders in Lake Natron, would be our guide and he had organized a couple Maasai hiking sticks for us which really helped! Usually one has to be accompanied by a local guide. Like the Australian woman we had met early and again tonight where we got dropped off. Don’t remember her name unfortunately, only that she was wearing tights with a leopard pattern. It was quite windy which was nice at the lower elevations so we didn’t sweat much going up. We all took off together, Makamero, Jeff, I, Leopard woman, her guide and her driver. The initial part was easy walking and not much elevation but it did get steeper quickly and the ground was pretty slippery. We hardly needed our headlamps it was so bright. As the “trail” got steeper we passed leopard woman and her guides. After about an hour of climbing Makamero called a rest. Jeff and I don’t rest usually until we are at the top. It was also getting a bit cold sitting there in the wind. Leopard woman and her team caught up with us again and joined to rest as well. I didn’t want to sit down but she did – unfortunately the rock she sat on was previously¬†a baboon toilet. Yuck. ¬†Apparently we had covered half the distance by now but not nearly half the elevation. From here on it got really steep. We used our hands 90% of the time. The footing was treacherous and even the handholds more often than not crumbled away beneath our hands. Good thing it was dark and I could not see much more than the immediate trail in front of me and Makamero’s yellow¬†coat. It went on and on. My legs were shaking from the effort but we did not stop for more than a minute if that. It was cold enough that I did not break a sweat despite working hard. Every time I thought we must be near the top, another slope appeared. But eventually we made it to the large long slope – 45degrees and gusty winds. I was on my hands and knees to get up it. 3hrs45 after we left the car we were on top. Makamero said this was the fastest time he has ever done the climb. We walked along the narrow rim of the crater. The wind seriously tried to push us into the black gaping hole about 100m down. No glow of any lava though was visible. Or maybe the moon was too bright. Now all we had to do was wait for sunrise. But since we had been pushing so hard to get up we still had 2.5hrs to go. And it was so stupid¬†cold! Not sure why I was surprised being at an elevation of 2800m. There was no shelter from the wind anywhere and even though we put on all the clothes we brought we could not stop¬†shivering. Makamero just curled up underneath his Maasai blanket and fell asleep in seconds. Lucky him. Jeff and I curled up together to share our body heat but it was of no use. After an hour of shivering Jeff had enough and wanted to get out of the wind. We moved a short way down the final to find some shelter from the wind. That definitely helped and the shivers stopped. It was still cold mind you. Shortly after we saw Leopard woman come by. She went up to the rim and came straight back down saying it was too cold. They hunkered down right below us for a little bit ¬†But they did not last and headed back down. 45 more minutes to go. We can make it damn it! At 6:10AM we crawled back up onto the rim. It finally looked like the sky is getting brighter even though official sunrise was still 20min away. We saw the full moon still to the west and a glow to the east. We danced along the rim to stay warm. The wind was still relentless. Finally, 6:30AM, and the sun rose as a blood red orb to the east. Incredible view – unfortunately the pictures don’t show it. Since there were no clouds the sky just brightened slowly without any amazing colours. I could finally see down into the crater and we noticed the dark black vent that is still active. Steam was coming out of the crater. Amazing to stand on an active volcano. It would have been good to stay for a few more minutes but the guys wanted to get back down. It’s a long and difficult climb down and with the sun would come the heat. Well, heat did not come right away but looking down the steep slope ahead of us made me think how on earth are we going to get down. And it was hard to put it mildly. ¬†Slip, slide, crash! The footing seemed to get worse the further down we went. I must have crashed a hundred times. Even Makamero lost his footing once or twice. More than once he suggested to rest for a bit when I slid by him in a dust of dirt but I just wanted to get off this mountain. Bruised bones and bruised ego for falling on my ass over and over and over again. So did Jeff by the way. We passed Leopard woman and her guide and driver. They also were falling all over the place. The driver used to be a porter on Mount Kilimanjaro and even he cursed this decent. Said this was ten times harder than all the climbs up and down Mount Kili he had done in his 2 years as a porter. That at least¬†made me feel a little bit less stupid. When we started the decent we were in the shadow of the mountain but about half way down it turned sunny and yes it did get hot! By the way, the views on the way down were phenomenal, no question. We could see all the way to the Serengeti from up high. But I was most happy when I could see Mike and the truck in the distance. I gave him a big hug for being there and waiting for us. I was sore, tired and grumpy! It took about 3hrs to get down – 9:50AM. That was for sure the hardest day hike I have ever done. If you plan on doing it, get a helicopter to pick you up at the top :-).

We drove back to the campsite at Lake Natron for a quick shower and a huge brunch. Pancakes, toast, spaghetti, rice w BBQ goat…. all the leftovers from the trip. I wish I could have had a nap as well but it was time to pack everything up and start the long trek back all the way to Arusha to sleep one more night in a real bed. We followed the rift valley south on a bumpy track back to Mto wa Mbu where we would drop off Makamero to catch a bus back home to his village. Initially we had some nice views of the volcano but eventually it all turned to dry rocky dust. No water anywhere. Dust devils all over. Few skinny cows tended by Maasai. Not sure how people can make a living in this arid area. We passed through some village where we had to pay a road maintenance fee. I am sure that wasn’t an official fee, but a source of income for the villagers. That and we gave away some of our water bottles. Apparently in 2009 this area went through a particular bad drought and the people lost almost everything. It wasn’t a pretty sight that day but it must have been so much worse 5 years ago. In Mto wa Mbu we had to get a flat¬†tire changed as well. We could have walked through town but I just wanted to close my eyes a bit and not face all those people trying to sell us something. We said our good byes to Makamero – who almost felt like a friend to us now. On we drove for hours with one more stop at a snake farm not far from Arusha. It was a nice little break after sitting in the truck for so long. Next we dropped off Hamisi at his village – the most amazing cook ever. Not sure how he made all those fantastic meals on a single propane burner. And finally around 6:30PM we were back at where we started, L’Oasis Lodge in Arusha. Hugs and tears as we said good bye to Mike, our so trusted guide for the last 12 days. He wasn’t a big talker but that is exactly how we like it. We gave him our binoculars which he had gotten so fond of during the trip. Achmed, the British owner of the company was waiting for us in the lounge for the trip wrap up over food and beers. Shared a lot of ours and his stories. He must have heard it all before. We also met another safari guest who just came back, Steffen from Seattle, and planned to see Arusha town with him tomorrow before out plane back home in the evening. We crawled into bed¬†by 9:30-10PM. It had been a long day and I slept like the dead.

Day 2 - The journey begins - Hamisis, Jeff, I and Mike

Thanks to Mike (right) and Hamisi (left), our most wonderful guides!

 

October 8, 2016

Fall has started

Filed under: Canada, Hike, Kayak — K2 in Canada @ 10:42 PM

It actually started with some nice sunny days but I spent all of those at work. The first fall day off, Sat Oct 1, started out with rain threatening skies and breezy. We got to Deep Cove and the waves were crashing onto the beach due to a strong outflow coming across Indian Arm. We had brought the double surfski. Jeff had seen a dolphin at the end of the Arm near Croker Island a couple days earlier, and since Croker is a longer paddle we figured it would be the right right boat even though we weren’t going for a fast time that day. And we definitely weren’t going anywhere fast. The wind was pretty strong and the crossing to Jug Island seem to take forever in big cross waves and a strong headwind. I was even wondering if we would ever make it to the end in conditions like that. White caps as far as we could see, waves washing up on me almost to my chest. I was soaked pretty quick. We battled the strong wind and waves all the way to Buntzen Bay, paddling along the shoreline to stay out of the worst of it. And then it miraculously calmed down quite a bit for the second half. Rain mostly held off as well – not that it mattered, we were wet anyways. We made it to the end but it took almost 2hrs. I was tired and off course there was no dolphin either. So we headed back and I was secretly hoping that there would still be a tail wind on the way back. The tide had changed to flood and that sometimes brings on the inflow winds. Not today though. As we passed Best Point the wind picked up again and it was a tail wind. No longer white caps and the waves were moving slower than us but we got a good push and made it back in 1hr20min.

Sunday Oct 2 was a much nicer day and we did the Jeff rollerski, me hike thing this time at Seymour Mountain. First off I saw the “Bear in Area” sign at the end of the parking lot – never saw the bear though, sigh. I hiked up the main trail a bit and then turned to take the trail via Mystic Lake back down. The fall colours were wonderful up there and I very much enjoyed the easy hike. I got back down earlier than I expected and did another loop down to Goldie Lake and back. That too longer than expected and I was way late returning to the car. But it was such a beautiful day and Jeff didn’t mind. He was sitting in the sun reading his book. We went to the Gold Course for lunch sitting outside on the Patio enjoying the sunshine some more before driving¬†back home.

September Hiking = Bear Watching

Filed under: Animals, Bears, Canada, Hike — K2 in Canada @ 10:40 PM

As the days are getting shorter so do my hikes and I stay in the local mountains. I hike the top while Jeff roller skis up the road. But that does not mean I am on my own. There are quite a few more people around obviously but I was also lucky to see bears on 2 out of my 3 hikes on Cypress last month. They come out of the bush to fatten up on the nice grass growing on the ski slopes.

First encounter was on Sep 12. A beautiful sunny day and I hiked up Mount Strachan, a much less busy trail compared to the Howe Sound Crest Trail, coming down the ski run to Eagle Chair lift. Two girls coming up warned me about the 2 bears they saw hiking up. One just around the corner. So I slowly continued on hoping it was still there. And I was lucky. A young bear judging by the size.¬†Not sure why he had picked that spot. There seemed to be more rock than grass on that slope but he was happily munching away. I watched him till he reach the other side of the slope when he finally saw me. Didn’t seem to scared as he slowly wandered off into the bush. Unfortunately I did not see bear number 2 when I continued hiking down even though I payed extra attention. By the way, the views from Mt Strachan are really nice and it’s only an hour up, if that.

Second encounter happened on Sep 18 which was even more special to me. I hardly got the hike started, walking up the ski run this time when I spotted the bear right at the bottom of the bunny hill. Close to¬†where all the people walk by – not many spotting the bear. This bear was bigger and I think a female. She looked very healthy. Ready for a winter of sleeping and giving birth to another generation of Cypress bears. I was wondering if she could have been the mom of the two cubs I saw on Cypress last year. Anyhow, she did not seem concern about the people and I was happy to see that everyone who spotted her stayed on the trail rather than trying to get closer. She was just beautiful. I almost did not do my hike but eventually I decided to leave her alone and get a bit of exercise. Only had time for a”quick” up and down the ski run as Jeff would be up meeting me at the car in an hour. Well I did take a detour going up towards Hollyburn for a bit. On the way down I ran into paddling buddy Sean and his wife and we walked down together. I didn’t expect the bear to still be there but she was. Sean and his wife were a bit more anxious about it and stayed behind me while watching ¬†for a bit. Sean knows I ran slower than him :-). Now the sun was out in full force as well and I could not take my eyes off her. Needless to say Jeff had been waiting for a while. But when I told him there was a bear right at the bottom, we both went back and watch her for some more time. A very special day!!!

The last hike in September, Sep 24, we didn’t see a bear. Maybe because Jeff was actually hiking with me. We took the Baden Powell trail east until it joined the Hollyburn Mtn trail and followed it to the top. It was a overcast cloudy day and no views from the top. We crossed the top and were lucky to find the trail that connected with Mount Strachan and the ski runs. It was pretty steep down but in pretty good conditions. Bushy in sections which meant we were soak from wet bushes rubbing against our pants. Could be a nice round trip on a sunny day. Coming down the ski run being wet and no bear sightings made it a bit less fun :-).

And if you still don’t have enough of looking at bear pictures, here is a video of the two encounters above as well as one I took in the spring of Blondie (one of many posts I still have to do on our spring fishing adventures this year):

 

October 1, 2016

Bears, movies and flowers – 2nd half of Aug

Filed under: Animals, Canada, Hike, Kayak — K2 in Canada @ 8:12 PM

Catching up on things to blog about from before the kayak touring trip earlier this month.

Aug 21, the day after the river kayak trip we tried for Coliseum Mtn again. First riding the bikes up to Mt Seymour Demonstration Forest and then hike to the top. It started out as a nice sunny hike and the first part was awesome and steep. We saw a bear that was just above us on the trail. Two hikers coming down told us about him. He was so cute. Looking for berries and somewhat annoyed about all the human traffic in his kitchen. So he wandered off all too soon. It was a small bear, maybe his first year on it’s own.

We skipped the lookout this time and continued on first down then up again to Coliseum. By now the weather had changed and clouds started moving in. We could see hardly anything. It was a nice trail but we did not get the reward of the views from the top this time. There are a couple small lakes near the top which would make this a great hike for a hot day. We were surprised to see quite a few people near the top that had hiked in from Lynn Valley Рa MUCH longer hike.

The next weekend, we were getting ready for our kayak trip so a bit less time for outdoor activities. Saturday, Aug 27, we went for a paddle on our surfskis in Indian Arm. It was a nice mostly sunny day but that also meant a lot of motor boat traffic. There also was some wind and I felt horrible in my boat. Tense the whole time. I was glad we made it back without me falling in. I tried Jeff’s boat for a while and it felt so much better. Maybe I should finally suck up my pride and get a more stable boat???

That same evening we went to see a movie. But not your regular movie theater movie but a backyard movie at the Nosella’s. Good friends from back in the days when we were more active at the Burnaby Canoe and Kayak Club. They had a big inflatable screen set up. It was awesome to watch Indiana Jones on it! There were lots of snacks and popcorn too! And we were lucky that¬†it did not rain on us. Thanks Vickie and Dave for hosting this.

Sunday, Aug 28, was a cloudy, misty, wet-ish day. And while Jeff rollerskied up Cypress I went for a short hike up the Howe Sound Crest trail returning via the Bowen Lookout. There were still a few blueberries to be had and I was surprised about all the flowers along the trail back. Stayed mostly dry though during the hike. It poured all afternoon while I put our dinner menu together for the kayak trip.

August 30, 2016

Top score for destination

Filed under: Canada, Hike — K2 in Canada @ 7:01 AM

Still catching up…Sunday Aug 14. A colleague of mine had told me about a hike he did up to Watersprite Lake. That’s not a hike in any of our hiking books but I found it easy enough on the Club Tread¬†website. Since it was supposed to be a sunny, warm day I figured having a lake at the end of our hike would make sense. But first we had to find the starting point. We missed the turn-off onto Mamquam Main the first time but once we got onto it following the description on the Club Tread website was easy. The drive is about 30-40min up into the Mountains gaining quite a bit of elevation. The road was in pretty good shape although I would not have taken those cars up there we saw. I expected there to be a few cars but when we got to the decent size parking area it was packed. At least 20 trucks/cars. Guess this is not a secret hike, just I had never heard of it before. The view from the starting point was promising. The first part of the hike follows an old logging road and apparently the place the trail leaves it is hard to find. We did find it no problem but it took over an hour of no views, mostly exposed to sun, boring logging road walking with a couple hundred meters elevation gain. Once the trail leaves the road and leads down into the meadows it does get really pretty. A couple scrambles up some rocky and muddy sections and another wasp nest later (which we avoided since people told us about it) you get to the lake. A very pretty lake – turquoise coloured water, sprinkled with tiny islands and surrounded by rock slides and interesting peaks. Stunning. The only negative, besides the long walk up a road was the amount of squealing people. Many had camped over night – which would be nice to do if not for the crowds. Jeff and I walked around the lake a bit to find a place away from the noisy people. It wasn’t warm either despite a mostly sunny day. The wind was darn cold.So no swim for us. Just a snack and a search for pikas in the rocks. Didn’t see any. We hiked around the lake across the large boulder fields. Not difficult but slow as you had to pick your route and go up and down to find the best next rock. Definitely top score on the “Scenic Scale”! ¬†But apparently I am easy to please. Jeff didn’t like the hike at all. Usually he makes up with my slow pace back down. Not that day :-). We have done quite a few hikes this summer and it is hard to top it up every weekend. But we both agreed that the beer and food at the Shady Tree watching more Olympics afterwards was worth it :-).

August 21, 2016

Stopped by Clouds

Filed under: Canada, Hike — K2 in Canada @ 8:01 PM

Aug 9. We should have hiked Saturday but that’s my day to sleep in. The Sunday was pretty cloudy although it was mostly dry and relatively warm still. We drove up towards Whistler hoping the clouds would magically disappear as we drive away from the coast. It actually did clear up a little bit but our destination – Brandywine Mountain was hidden in clouds. But we did not really know that when we started the hike. This time we took the truck to get to the original trail head to avoid the 3-4km long walk up a boring logging road (see older post here). There were lots of cars/trucks parked at the lot. And this was only one of two access points. The other trail head is even more driving on a really rough road covering most of the elevation gain to the meadows. From where we started we still had to work our way up through the forest into the open meadows. There was one other nasty surprise on that early part of the trail. I stepped on a root that had a wasp nest underneath and those guys went into attack mode right away. Poor Jeff, who was behind me got stuck twice, once into each knee. I almost made it away free but one of the wasps still found me and hit me just above my ankle. I totally forgot how much those stings hurt. Well not enough to stop hiking. When we got to the meadows we could see that our destination was yet again un-achievable, the clouds were even lower than last time. We couldn’t even see the glacier. Lots more flowers around though than last time. We worked our way up the slope as much as we could but eventually visibility got too bad. The trail isn’t marked well enough to find it in dense fog. And so we turned around again. It never cleared up. But we managed to avoid the wasps on the way down.

Stopped in Squamish at our favourite pub, The Shady Tree, to watch the highlights of the Olympics, such as¬†the men’s 100m race and women’s gymnastics individual finals, on a big screen TV.

August 18, 2016

I love our Mountains

Filed under: Canada, Hike — K2 in Canada @ 10:49 PM

Aug 6. We only did an easy paddle in Deep Cove that Saturday so Jeff was still restless in the late afternoon and decided to roller ski up Seymour. I tagged along as the shuttle car taking the opportunity for a quick 90min early evening hike up to Brockton Point. Not as many people around as during the day and more importantly less black flies. Still enough to make for a fast walking pace. It was somewhat overcast so no sunset pictures but the lighting was just about¬†right. Unfortunately the pictures don’t really do it justice but I am still sharing them.

 

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