K2inCanada's Blog

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!

 

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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.

 

Blueberry Season is Here

Filed under: Canada, Hike — K2 in Canada @ 10:38 PM

BC Day Monday, Aug 1. I got to sleep in so we started our outdoors adventure fairly late. We wanted to make it up Coliseum Mountain coming in from the Mt Seymour Demonstration Forest side. The regular trail from Lynn Valley is VERY long. The Mt Seymour trail is much shorter but you have to get onto your bike to get to the start of it. If you park at the start of the Mt Seymour Demonstration Forest trail it’s an easy 10km bike ride on a wide surfaced road – no cars allowed. But of course since we were late getting started we parked at least another 3km away and it seems below it as well. We took our mountain bikes and for someone who only commutes 5km every day on the flat this was like climbing a mountain :-). Took about 45min to get to the trail head turnoff and we rode up an old logging road for a couple hundred meters before giving up on the bikes – too steep for me. The trail only stays on that old road for a little bit longer before it turns into a real hiking trail. We only saw 4 other bikes. The trail works its way steeply up the mountain side through forest with not much of a view for ~3-4km until you get to a big open area at Paton’s Lookout with excellent views over Lake Seymour below and Coliseum Mountain to the south. We only ran into 2 groups of 2 people coming down as we worked our way up. Pretty quiet trail for a sunny, hot and beautiful BC Day holiday in Metro Vancouver. We could have pushed on to Coliseum but both of us felt tired and we decided to make this lookout our destination for the day. Have to come back though some day and finish it.

August 16, 2016

First ever …

Filed under: Canada, Hike, Paddle — K2 in Canada @ 7:28 AM

BC Day Long Weekend Jul 30-Aug 1. Despite the traffic disaster last year (see here) we went¬†on a road trip again but only for two of the three days. We packed up the new tent Saturday morning and headed into the interior to do our first ever whitewater canoe trip on the Sunday. On the way we stopped at the Coquihalla summit along Hwy #5 for our first ever hike in that beautiful area. For many, many years we wanted to do Yak Peak but after reading up on the hikes¬†in the area¬†we decided on Needle Peak instead. We were not the only ones. I was surprised about the amount of cars parked at the trail head. The stats for this hike aren’t nearly as daunting as Outram and it seems more people like to show themselves hiking along here. We passed a few groups going up through the forest. It was reasonably steep. Once in the open on the ridge the crowd thinned out a bit and it’s an easy ridge walk with great views over Yak and the surrounding mountains until you reach the start of the scramble. Here people started to bunch up again. We saw people in sandals up there for crying out loud. It might only be a 880m elevation gain but by the time you reach the top your are at just above 2o00M elevation! We saw a plane flying BELOW us from the top. And there definitely is some scrambling involved in 2 sections getting to the top. It was fun though. We got lucky at the top with a big group just leaving when we got there. So it was relatively quiet. Only got bothered by a type of squirrel – a ground squirrel size chipmunk. The little critter already had its cheeks full of stuff but had to still take a bite out of my camera as well. And it was windy on the top – all the way up actually – and almost cold despite endless sunshine and blue skies. We huddled in behind a rock as much out of the wind as we could with our feet dangling over the drop-off to have our snack and to enjoy the great views. I was worried that the way down would be trickier than up but it was fine. Only the wind got even stronger and it really felt like it was trying to blow us of the mountain in sections. Hands were used a lot – I should have brought work cloves to protect them from the sharp rocks. We made it back to the ridge safe and sound. Since it had taken us only less than 2hrs to the top we decided to do a little detour to an alpine lake on the other side of the ridge. What a neat little lake – great for camping if you want to lug your gear up here. That detour added about 45min to the trip and we were back at the car 5hrs later.

Next up Рfinding a campsite on BC Day Long Weekend. Actually first we dropped into Merritt for an early dinner at the Pub. We, make that Jeff, had two options scouted out for the night. Either a small provincial park in Savona, the place where we were to meet the people that were going to take us whitewater canoeing. Or Leigthon Lake, one of our back in the days spring fly fishing destinations before they made it into a provincial park. We definitely were looking for provincial park to avoid any noisy crowds. We decided on Leighton, thinking it would be higher in elevation and therefore cooler at night. Well, we did not have to worry about being too hot that night. As we left Merritt heading north towards Logan Lake we could see big dark black clouds ahead of us. As we got to near Logan Lake their was lightning as well and the first rain drops started falling. It rained when we arrived at Leighton and it was cold. Lucky for us the rain stopped long enough to set up camp and for me to go for a short walk. But most of the evening we spent sitting in our camping chairs in our nice big vestibule reading Рtent fulfilled its purpose :-). We were in bed by 9PM I think. But our tent did well in its first ever BC drizzle.

Sunday – Canoe Day! We were going to canoe the Thompson River from Savona to Ashcroft. The Thompson is a big river. We had done organized whitewater rafting trips in big inflatable rafts in the lower Thompson before and those rapids are massive (Class 3+ and 4). It was a blast but I could not see myself going through those in anything less than a big inflatable raft. Definitely not in an open canoe! Apparently our stretch had only up to class 2+ rapids. Classified on Wikipedia as “Novice” = “Straightforward rapids with wide, clear channels which are evident without scouting. Occasional maneuvering may be required, but rocks and medium-sized waves are easily avoided by trained paddlers. Swimmers are seldom injured and group assistance, while helpful, is seldom needed. Rapids that are at the upper end of this difficulty range are designated Class II+”. But off course I did not look that up till after we got back. They were classified by Darryl, our experienced leader of the day as “Open canoes may take on water and we will likely have to rescue a boat”. I was a bit nervous not being the most comfortable around waves and was prepared, somewhat, to go swimming.

Lucky for us, it had stopped raining when we got up. But the sky was still grey and everything got packed up wet. As we dropped down into Savona the sun broke through the clouds and we had breakfast at the spot where we thought we would meet the other – Steelhead Provincial Park – overlooking Kamloops Lake. The lake looked calm and beautiful and I was thinking this is going to be easy. It almost felt warm in the sun. The time to meet the others came and went. We were wondering if they maybe canceled last minute and we didn’t hear about it since we had been on the road. But a quick call to the organizer’s wife confirm that the trip was still on. So where are they or where were we supposed to be if not where we were sitting? As those thoughts crossed our minds Darryl drove into the parking lot, spun around right away telling us to follow. Of course the launch spot was nowhere near the actual provincial park but on the other side of the highway. Here the lake turned into a river again and I was much less feeling like this is going to be easy. Darryl quickly helped us to set up our canoe – mostly filled with flotation bags and just enough room for us and the bailing buckets. Yep, I was now SURE we would go swimming. We meet the other 3 paddlers. Darryl’s paddling buddy Christina – who had brought a bike helmet, why did I not think of that. And Scott and his young son Jonas. The guys left us girls behind to watch the boats while they were doing the car shuttle to Ashcroft. As we waited and chatted dark clouds started to move in and a pretty steady wind was blowing out of the west up the river. It was not warm. About 45min into the wait is started raining. And not just a little drizzle but a nice heavy downpour with strong winds. Of course I had left my rain coat in the car. It’s supposed to be 25-30C and sunny in the interior this time of the year, not 10-15C and rainy! Within minutes Christina and I were soak to the bone and cold. We huddled in behind some bushes to at least get out of the wind. No trees around to stay out of the rain. Anyways, the rain only lasted 15min or so and as it stopped so did the wind. Much better. The guys drove in shortly after. Time to finally do some canoeing!!! But first I changed into a dry shirt and put my rain coat since I could see more black clouds where we were heading.

I was in the front, Jeff in the back. He at least knows how to steer a canoe. First off we practiced some eddy turns in calm water. The front person has to post their paddle and lean right into it … or the current could push the canoe over. Worked like a charm. Canoe also felt more stable than I thought and was gliding easily over the moving water to wherever we wanted it to go. We were ready! Off we go down the mighty Thompson River in an open canoe. It didn’t take long to the first rapid. We got out and walked up the steep bank to scout it out. There were a few lines through, some easier, some harder. To me they all looked hard – breaking waves and fast moving water. Do I really want to do this? Oh well, sure didn’t want to walk to Ashcroft so back into the canoe we went. Darryl and Christina were going for the bigger water while Scott and Jonas went for the saver water. Guess whom we followed…yep, right into the big stuff. And we actually made it through without tipping. It was actually fun and the canoe handled the rapid very nicely. We took on a little bit of water but not much. Oh yeah, we can do this. Let’s do some eddy turns in actually moving water. We were a bit off on the timing but made it. Next 1 or 2 rapids, no problem. We missed an eddy turn and almost got stuck in some really shallow water. But we stayed up.¬†Then there¬†was the big one: Train Bridge Rapid. We pulled out again to look at it. This one looked MUCH bigger, water stacking up high against the bridge pillars. Darryl and Christina went for the biggest water. This time I voted against following them and go for the somewhat less scary looking side. To get there though we had to ferry across the river. It looked like we would have plenty of room to make it across but the bridge came flying towards us. I paddled as hard as I could but we never made it all the way to the safe side. Last minute we pulled the canoe around to not crash sideways into one of the pillars and just went heads first for this big wave between two pillars just off the centre. A bit dicey for a second but we made it. I looked ahead for Darryl and Christina but could not see them right away – they had capsized! Scott and Jonas flew by us on our left to go for the rescue. We just hung back as we were told and watched it. In no time they had the canoe back up and were paddling again. I was watching so intently I forgot to take pictures of the rescue. I think this was for sure the biggest rapid. A couple more smaller rapids and we stopped for lunch at Juniper Beach. Till then we had some strong winds and some light rain showers on and off but during our lunch the sun came out and it calmed right down. Nice to warm up in the sun, especially for the two most adventurous canoeists that got wet.

Lunch was at about the half way point – couple of hrs of canoeing. The second half saw more rapids, none as scary big as Train Bridge but some pretty big standing waves to get through nonetheless. We also tried more eddy turns in bigger water – we sucked. Almost tipped the canoe twice. One time I could have sworn we would go in. I tried to post my paddle but I think I was to early and there was no back pressure on my paddle, so I sat back up when all sudden the current pushed the canoe around. Jeff said we almost took on water we were leaning so far over to the WRONG side. No idea how we stayed up. The tireder I got the worst our eddy turns. I think that’s were it would have been better ¬†to have a more experience person in the boat who can read water and call the moves. We seem to never start the turns at the right time. It got so bad that we got stuck in one eddy and the only saving grace was to go ahead into the following rapids. Until then we always followed Darryl or Scott to make sure we took the correct line. This time, they were still behind us, in the eddy to check the rapid out before going down it. Oh well, there was no checking it out on our part, we just went for it. Right in between two huge waves. We took on quite a bit of water but we stayed up. Yeah!! Then one of the last rapids… “don’t tip here since a rescue would be difficult in this spot”… I did not need to hear that. We took the easier line but again flunked the eddy turn after it and ended up spinning around a couple times and¬†going downriver backwards. Experienced canoers do that all the time, no sweat. But to me that was one of the scariest moments. I hate going backwards! Again, we managed somehow, not very gracefully but we made it. And shortly after we were at the pull out in Ashcroft. A small beach area and not to be missed since after this the canyon would start and the difficulty rating goes up quite a notch. We did not miss the turnout :-). Never mentioned it yet but stunning scenery all the way!¬†It took about 5hrs. I am amazed we did not capsize! Thanks to Darryl for getting us into a canoe¬†and taking newbies on a trip like this! Jeff is already scouting the canoe races we could do next year … ūüôā

We loaded the canoes and drove back to Savona to pick up our car. Now the long drive home. But traffic was light since it was only Sunday and Monday would still be off.

August 7, 2016

Awesome, fun, epic, spectacular, stunning … weekend

Filed under: Animals, Canada, Hike, Kayak — K2 in Canada @ 9:51 PM

Falling behind again with my blog – this post is from the last weekend in July, July 23-24. Summer in Vancouver is just awesome. Not too hot this year either. Saturday was supposed to be the better wind day and we went for our third downwind paddle in a row. The wind never picked up huge but it was decent and definitely better conditions than the CSC the weekend before. Too bad it was only us and John G out there. Good fun!

On Sunday we did an epic hike. With just over 2400m Mount Outram is one of the highest peaks in the area just outside of Manning Park – the hike actually starts right at the west entrance to the park. The weather was spectacular with blue skies and just over 20C ideal for hiking. The stats for this hike are a bit daunting with 1800m elevation gain over 9kms. That’s an average gain of almost 20% and the steepest part is near the end. Mind you it is a constant up the whole way. Switchbacks through the forest for the first ~2hrs until you reach the open meadows full of flowers and providing excellent views over the mountains. Despite one gaining near 1500m elevation by now the trail is easy, providing even and excellent footing. One could just stop in the meadows at a small pond but we pushed it all the way to the peak. It’s a bit of a scramble over loose rock to the top which you can’t actually see until you get almost to it. It was hard going for the last bit and if Jeff would not have charged ahead I might have quick. And we made it and it was so worth it. Stunning views from the peak! The way down is long though. Still near the top we saw a family of Ptarmigan. The lower part of the trail was full of huckleberry bushes as well as some wild raspberries – very¬†refreshing! Nevertheless,¬†I was exhausted when we reached the car again 7hrs later.

We saw very few people on this hike! A group of 4 and then 2 people on their bikes. No way I would take my bike up there – or down for that matter! Below a few pictures to enjoy the hike from your sofa :-).

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