Category Archives: Misc

MEDICINE BOW PEAK – A Soul Baring Experience

The most exciting (and exacting) of our “training hikes” began as we climbed Medicine Bow Peak at an altitude of 12,800 feet (3900 m) in the Snowy Range.

Driving to the trail head at Lewis Lake Campground. We hiked to the very top of the peak in this photo.

There are two ways to climb this peak: one way is from Lewis Lake, straight up. This is the steepest and most difficult and the one Michael chose for us to do, his memory serving him a bit hazily regarding the amount of scrambling this climb would require us to do. Michael had often mentioned this hike to me and really wanted to do it once more, with me. It was a compliment to me that he thought I would be able to do it. And so, full of excitement and with just a hint of trepidation on my part, we set off.

At the Lewis Lake Campground with Lewis Lake in the background. The pointy peak on the left is called Sugarloaf. We walked around it before starting the climb to Medicine Bow Peak directly behind Michael.

The trail during the first part of the hike was good.

It wasn’t long though until the trail started to climb, gradually getting steeper and steeper until we started encountering switchbacks, boulders to scramble over, and steep side hills.  All good at this point. We passed an 81 year old woman who wanted to climb this peak one last time. She was supported by her whole family…kids, grandkids and spouses! I was to remember her later on in the climb  for she became my role model….my mantra became, “If she can do it, so can I!”

Getting closer to the top. This would be the last photos we took until after we reached the summit and started down the other side (the ‘saner’ side, we discovered.) Behind Mike is the summit and the ridge we walked all the way into the distance.

Still smiling at this point. In the background is where we came from. Still not all the way to the top but getting there!

Every time we turned the corner of another switchback, I thought we’d reached the top. No such luck. I didn’t really know what to expect. Finally though, we made the last turn to find….not a trail but…..a boulder field. Some of these boulders were as big as small houses…some the size of the rooms in a house….with crevices….big black holes….between them. No problem. Don’t call me a whimp! I started off. Pretty soon the poles were folded up and given to Michael to carry as I needed both hands to make my way from boulder to outcrop back to boulder again. A few times I just sat on a boulder contemplating how on earth I would find my way through. (Later on Michael labeled that behavior as “freezing up” and as a “panic attack”  to which I took great offense!) In this moment though, the last 100 yards, he was a warrior, my warrior, and gallantly offered his hand and guided me safely through the boulder field to the top, promising that once we got to the summit, there would be a good trail down. Just a side note here: I wasn’t the only one experiencing difficulties. There was a young father waiting patiently on a boulder with his golden retriever beside him. Apparently the dog had found it difficult to keep track of where all four of his legs were and had already fallen several times into crevices and …  there were other “grey hairs” content to sit at the foot of the boulder field. I should have paid more attention. What was I thinking???

While I rested at the top, averting my eyes from the drop-offs all around me, Michael went searching for “the easier trail” down the other side. We were making a grand loop, intending to end up where we started at Lewis lake. He found the trail just beyond another boulder field. The boulders here though weren’t as large or as extensive as the previous ones. We found the trail and started making our way down….again Michael had to help me around the more precipitous ones.

The trail on the other side, descending. This side was much easier.

Beautiful views….

…still lots of boulder fields to scramble over…but these boulders were much smaller…

…..trail markers set into cairns all the way down.

It was a long way down…not as steep as the way up….just a constant downhill spread over a longer distance. We met lots of hikers coming the opposite way, asking always how much farther. One woman told us that she was afraid to go up the way we had – that she’d heard how difficult it was. That made me feel pretty good about what I’d accomplished.

By this time, I was getting tired. I had exerted a great deal of energy on the climb up and hadn’t really rested other than a few short stops. There was as yet no end in sight. We came to a section where the trail all but disappeared, turning into large, loose rocks on a steep, steep slope. The so-called trail did a major hairpin, turning back on itself. At that turning point, Michael was standing right on the edge….nothing behind him but blue space….waiting for me. I had no sure footing, a poor sense of balance, nothing to hold onto, and….did I mention how tired I was? My poles were no help in all that waste of rock!!! What to do?? I became spider-woman without the super-powers. I sat on my butt and scrabbled my way across the hairpin. No way was I going out on that point and falling to almost certain death! What else did I do? I got supremely, silently angry. That anger built up as I made my way down the remainder of that descent from hell. My mantra of “If she can do it so can I,” changed into, “How could Michael not know, not remember this part of the climb? How could he have forgotten that huge boulder field? Why would he bring me here knowing how frightened I am of downhill scrambling (ever since breaking my leg in three places trekking in Nepal?”

Thi is the last part of the descent from hell. It was much worse than it looks!!

At that point, as I finished my “spider walk”, Michael made the inopportune comments that I referred to earlier in this blog. Words like “freezing up” and “panic attack” were uttered with a total lack of awareness, on his part, of the volcano I’d become. At that point, nothing was said. We each remained silent until we were once again on firmer ground.

We sat here and rested after the descent from hell, before the ‘firmer ground’ was reached. The closest lake is Marie lake and just a bit farther is Mirror Lake.

THE SALVOS BEGAN…..we started firing shots until finally, Michael turned, looked at me and said, “Look into my eyes. Do you really believe I would ever knowingly put you into danger?” If you have met Michael, you know his eyes are the most beautiful blue eyes. At this moment, they were tunnels reaching directly into his soul….I got the message of his love loud and clear….I could see and feel it with so much intensity. The anger dissolved into tears which accompanied me the rest of the way down.

The last mile or so down to Marie and Mirror Lakes.

By the time we reached the bottom and filled up our camelbacks at the pump at Mirror Lake, we’d hiked 11-12 km. I was totally bagged – couldn’t walk another step. Michael left me sitting at the water’s edge, contemplating our hike, while he hoofed it back the 4-5 km left to Lewis Lake where we’d started and where the truck was parked.

At the bottom right you can see the edge of a small ‘fishing dock’ which is where I waited for Michael.

CAMINO PREP. CONTINUED – ON LOCATION IN LARAMIE WY

Excited about the arrival of our second grand-daughter, we didn’t get started with our on-going hiking/training program until 5 or more days into our visit. This was actually a good thing because here in Laramie, we are at 7,220 feet (2200 m), a good 2,000 feet (610 m) higher than in Lander, giving us time to acclimate.

Most of our hikes have been in the Medicine Bow National Forest (Vedauwoo, Happy Jack, Pole Mountain) 16 miles (26 km) east of Laramie, at an altitude around 8,000 feet (2440 m). This area is a favorite with bouldering/rock climbing locals and visitors alike. This was Michael’s playground in his youth. It is a spectacularly beautiful area – my pics don’t to justice to it.

Beavers are very busy here! Lots of homes and dams.

Adjusting hot spots before they become blisters.

Michael is always happiest in the wilderness areas of Wyoming….

…..and when he’s at the top of the world….

Meadows….

….rock formations….

….holes in rocks…. Michael called it “Angry Rabbit Rock”…

….”the Buzzard”….

Most of the time we have no service but when we do….this is what happens!

Great places to hike! Having experienced seriously challenging places to hike previously (next blog), we will continue exploring this area until it’s time to leave for Spain and the Camino Frances!

 

THE SAGA CONTINUES AND…..CONCLUDES….COINCIDENCE?

The phone was lost on Friday; we bought a new one on Sunday afternoon; and by Wednesday we had put the whole experience behind us and were happily exploring Boysen Reservoir. This reservoir stretches in a north-south direction between Shoshoni on the south end and Thermopolis on the north end with the spectacular Wind River Canyon joining them. Mike wanted to see as much of the reservoir as was possible, the roads around it, and any potential camping spots we might be able to pull our fifth wheel trailer into.

We started on the west side of the reservoir, heading in the direction of Lake Cameahwait which is very close to Boysen reservoir…you can see the reservoir when you drive into the lake. This time though, instead of turning right onto the road to Cameahwait we went straight…the road was paved for a lot of the way but eventually turned into a well graded gravel road. We stopped often and turned into every side road we saw to explore….beautiful and remote-feeling.

Eventually the gravel road (turned out it was a loop road) became pavement again. Continuing along, we drove directly past the spot where we had gone fishing and kayaking exactly 7 days prior! No sooner had we passed “THE SPOT” and noted the absence of the fishermen and their fifth wheel trailers, than my phone, the new one that is, started to ring. It was a woman asking to speak to “Michael.” I put it on speaker and it turned out to be “Heather” calling from the Verizon store in Thermopolis to tell us that she had our phone!!!! We were gob-smacked….astounded….amazed…..couldn’t believe it…..asking each other “Now What?” COINCIDENCE? I always have believed there are no coincidences but this???? Hearing it had been found when we were in almost exactly the same spot we’d lost it???

At that point, we were near the south end of the reservoir, heading around to the east side where there are a lot more campgrounds to check out. We were already half way to Thermopolis so we headed directly there, deciding to investigate all the campgrounds on the return trip.

Arriving in Thermopolis, we located the Verizon store and met Heather who turned the phone over to us. Oh how we wished that phone could talk!!! She told us that the phone had been turned in by their ‘mail lady’ whose husband had found it floating not in Lake Cameahwait but at “Tough Creek” (Boysen Reservoir). Floating….probably it had been; close….but not where we’d been fishing and kayaking. It had been turned in a few days prior and Heather said she’d kept waiting for someone to call for it. We’d checked Shoshoni, Riverton, and Lander but hadn’t considered Thermopolis! She’d finally looked up the ID# on the back of the phone and had seen it belonged to us and called us. All the way back, we conjectured about what had happened because the facts didn’t match but finally, knowing we’d never get an answer, we stopped “scenario-izing” and simply were grateful for getting the phone back. That gratitude was amplified tenfold when we were informed by Heather that we would be able to return the new iPhone we’d purchased.

A huge thank-you goes out to the Verizon staff in Riverton, Lander and Thermololis who were so helpful; to Verizon, the company; to the fisherman who found the phone and to his wife who returned it to the Verizon store!

GRANSTAFF CAMPGROUND…A SPECTACULAR SITE!

This past week we have been staying at Granstaff Campground, about 5 miles up the canyon along HWY 128, from Moab. I had to include some of the pics we’ve taken. The first few days were cloudy…no sunrises or sunsets until the past few days.

We’ve taken pics from above….

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….from the water…..

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….from our windows…..

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….in the evening…..

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….at night when they lit up the cliffs for the ‘river-going-canyon-watchers’….

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…and inside eating dinner!

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Schwabenweg – Jacobsweg Day 0.5

Finally, the day arrives….World Here I come
The first travel of the Camino… Switzerland… so long in the planning and preparation…. from making lists of things to take;  crossing off items with a dubious weight – to – utility ratio… (we have to carry EVERYTHING  we need on our backs) … we weighed every possible item right down to tooth brushes… packed only one deodorant & one tube (mini – sized) of toothpaste. I scrounged light – weight cases for my glasses… It was all about being able to enjoy the  walk without feeling like a pack animal…

We tried a number of ‘trial’ packs, each time eliminating items.  Once, I took the pack to the treadmill and walked 5 km at a 6% grade,… just to see how it felt. But, my real concern was for Tilly … her hip and then back was giving her problems (aches and pains) off and on … could she ( and me too) withstand the rigors of a 100km walk over a 6 day span? For the last 6 months we had seen two different doctors… a couple of physiotherapists … finally, three days before we were to leave, we went to a chiropractor who in one session eliminated the pain – at least temporarily… more we hope.

This next 6 days will tell … whether Till’s back/hips/feet and my feet also can handle the hiking. I’m hopeful. But it is not the physicality that worries me it is the mentality… do we have the will to struggle a bit, suffer a little and still find the joys of the journey. After all, we had not “trained” as hard as we might have and maybe  should have. Outwardly optimistic, I harbor a few minor doubts…

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After two flights, a train ride and a short 2 km walk (in total –  19 hours of continuous travel) we arrive at our first lodging – the Hotel Trompeterschlössle… 2 meters from the German border…WWII era concrete posts for a border fence still existing – there is still fencing but not chainlink or razor wire… just waist high residential fencing. Other than an empty border control building in the middle of the road you would never know you were crossing an international border. Sadly, I remember a time when the US  and Canadian border was almost as easy to cross…

We are tempted to fall onto our bed and crash for the night, but decide to explore in hopes of finding the Kathedral of Konstanz our guide book said was the starting point for the Jakobsweg.…. Google, Google Maps, iPhone maps were of little use.. the Kathedral of Konstanz would not be found….. Using  the map our host had given us, we managed to find The Basilika Unsere Liebe Frau Konstanz.. Only after Tilly asked the woman behind information counter if the Basilika was also known as the Kathedral of Konstanz did we confirm our starting point.

Better though,  is our discovery that the opening parade for Oktoberfest is forming up right outside in front of the Kathedral.

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After a brief look around we hurry out to sit, have a beer/wine and watch various traditionally dressed bands march, drum and play their way out of the Kathedral square after consuming copious amounts of the freely flowing beer.

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I had always  thought Oktoberfest was celebrated throughout the month of October. I/we did not know that it began the evening of the 18th of September and continued for two weeks until October 4. I like it… the Germans complete a month of  beer consumption in two weeks … fast track honest debauchery.

I consider that there might be a  conflict between the purpose of our journey… the walking of a sacred pilgrim path… and celebrating Oktoberfest But,  it all fits. We are here to experience the pilgrims path and the culture of the region.

Visit to Himba Village

Day 12 Dec. 24 Wednesday
We both slept well last night but woke up feeling tired and just a bit abnormal; nervous, anxious, no appetite …. but didn’t give it much thought. I had been highly anticipating this day – a visit to one of the villages of the Himba, a “semi-nomadic tribe living in scattered settlements……whose women are noted for their unusual beauty and intricate hairstyles and traditional dress…..they rub their skins with dark red ochre….” (notes taken from Kiboko’s notes). Our crew told us that they typically will shop for food for the village being visited as a sign of respect and gratitude for allowing us a glimpse into their lives. In addition, we collected more money from each of group members to add to the pot and ended up with lots of groceries ….. big bags of their staple, maize, and oil and …… I am unable to remember what else we bought. We also picked up a Himba guide who spoke some English and who was to be our translator in the village.

When we were finally ready to go, groceries packed into the ttruck, guide already in narrative mode, I started to feel sick and had to stop the bus, thinking I was going to start with what Mike had. There was absolutely no way I was going to sit on the bus and go through what he had the day before so when the offer was made to drive me back to camp, I accepted. I missed the visit but dear Claire took my iPhone and took some pictures for me …. and here they are.

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Mikal’s point of view:

Woke up feeling much improved … Compared to yesterday I would say resurrected would not be too exaggerated. 

Today was to be a visit to a Himba village… But on the drive Tilly started feeling symptoms similar to how I began yesterday… at least she had a choice to return to camp … Which we did… 

Tilly wanted me to go with the rest of the group but NO WAY was I leaving her  after the care she took for me. 

At least she didn’t suffer the indignities of puking and shitting roadside…

 

I never did get sick the way Mike did …. just some extreme nausea but after resting in the tent until everyone came back, we were both more or less back to normal and with the others, trooped over to the lodge for an afternoon of poolside R & R.

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It was Christmas Eve  and we had planned an evening of “Secret Santa”and so, after a relaxing afternoon, we headed back to camp to decorate  our tree, wrap the presents and stash them in the tree. We poured wine and ate sparingly of the nuts and chips on offer while we entertained each other with Secret Santa antics. Dumi, Richard and Mandhla had never played it before so it was just that much more fun. They had prepared a Christmas dinner of gammon (pork), corn on the cob and a cheese bake. We didn’t eat much but what we did eat was very fine!!

Richard told us a Christmas story about growing up with very little money …. so little that they had only bread and peanut butter for their Christmas dinner! How fortunate were we this Christmas?