Sunday, April 1, 2018

Costa Rica - Christmas 2017/2018

Three weeks in Costa Rica - from December 17th 2017 to January 7th 2018. Casey, Hunter and Dorothy would be with us until December 30th, and then it would be just Sherry and I.

Lots of photos are here. Only a small collection are in this blog post.

The planned destinations were:
  • San Jose - fly in and get the car
  • Montezuma
  • Monteverde
  • Arenal
  • Savegre/Manuel Antonio
  • La Tigra/La Fortuna
  • San Jose to fly home
The original plan was for all of us to fly into Ft Lauderdale and then fly together on the same flight to Costa Rica, arriving past midnight. However, our flight out of BWI was cancelled, so Casey and Dorothy arrived a day before us and stayed in San Jose waiting for us. Once we finally arrived and spent the night in San Jose we rented the car and then drove out to Montezuma down on the tip of the Nicoya peninsula.

We went out for a bioluminescent tour in one of the bays. After snorkling around and having some dinner, it got dark enough to dive in and be surrounded by little glowing creatures. Every motion of your hand would cause a riot of sparks. It was a lot of fun seeing other people swimming around, surrounded by glowing spots. This is us when it was still light out.

One day, the five of us rented two 200cc motorcycles and two 500cc ATV's and headed out under the direction of a guide. We rode on the beach for about 10k and rode through towns and into some pretty remote places. Some of the uphills were so steep that the rear wheels of the motorcycles were drifting and spinning out, and the downhills were super steep and full of loose dirt and gravel. There had been a hurricane a few months before and a lot of the dirt roads had been freshly re-bulldozed. Hunter rolled his ATV on top of himself at one point, but the ATV took most of the damage. 

Sherry "rode bitch" behind Casey, Dorothy and Mike at various points during the day. 

 Our Airbnb in Montezuma was so bad that we ended up getting a full refund for the $900+ we spent for the four nights. No water at all in the showers, no hot water anywhere, and a generally dilapidated state courtesy of neglect and a hurricane.

Mike, feeding the monkeys in Montezuma

The next stop was Monteverde where we stayed in this house

The owner of the house was also a guide in some of the Monteverde parks and was a 3rd generation resident of the area. His family farm was about 10 minutes away, so we went with him on a tour of the property. It used to be a dairy farm, but they are letting most of the farm go back to native species and more of a jungle. There were monkeys and birds everywhere.

The old hydroelectric plant for the farm. It was the only electricity for a number of years, and would get washed out every so often and need to be rebuilt. 

Sitting by their creek, watching some people build a new swimming hole. The hurricane washed out the old one.

Hunter's hands - there were biting flies and Hunter and Mike had strong reactions to their bites. 

The other resident of our rental house. He loved leftovers, and would do unspeakable things to an egg. 

 The owner of the house set us up with a guy who climbs trees to do research in the canopy. As a side business, he guides tourists up to the canopy using standard climbing gear. We found a big fig tree and started setting up the ropes.

The "Adventure Sherry" up in the tree. 

We also set up a top-rope on one side of the tree so we could free climb that side. Casey shows his moves on the north face. 

Mike getting ready to launch the weight attached to a thin line, aiming for a branch. This device is just a really big slingshot. 

Dorothy getting up into the canopy. 

Mike, Sherry and the guide. 

Selvatura park - close to Monteverde. It has canopy walks, hummingbirds, a reptile house, a spider house and various other Costa Rican wildlife exhibits. 

Sherry with a hummingbird on her hand

Mike scores a triple header. They would rather sit on your fingers than hover over the feeding holes. 

Mike and Hunter on the canopy tour

Sherry of the Jungle on one of the walkways that goes above the canopy. 

Next stop: El Castillo - a small town in the shadow of the Arenal volcano. We stayed three nights in a funny place that was essentially a 4-room hotel but we had it all ourselves.

This was a good jumping off point to go to some butterfly preserves, to the hot springs in La Fortuna (Baldí was awesome) and to the Arenal park. I think that we mostly just relaxed for a few days, ate at the local "soda" and enjoyed the views.

This is a sleeping frog

The same frog, awake

One of the poisonous species. 

Sherry with a Blue Morpho

We don't have many pictures of Savegre or La Tigra. 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Trying to hike the Long Trail - September 2017

The plan was to hike from the far-north terminus of the Long Trail down to Killington, Vermont. Almost three weeks of hiking, with rest/refueling stops at "The Stowehof" hotel in Stowe and at the "Millbrook Inn" near Irasville. We would finish at the "Happy Bear Motel" in Killington.

Start hiking: 26 September
Finish hiking: 11 October

What actually happened is that I bailed out at The Stowehof because my right knee was really swollen and I was going really slow on the downhills. However, I had not been backpacking in years, so it was a valuable and, at times, enjoyable excursion. It reminded me how I like being in the outdoors for extended periods without contact with civilization.

The part that I actually hiked was 67 miles:

26-Sep   Tuesday               Drive to Journey's End, Hike to Laura Woodward Shelter (10 miles, 2500' ascent)
27-Sep   Wednesday         Hike to Hazen's Notch Camp (9.5 miles, 2600' ascent)
28-Sep   Thursday              Hike to Spruce Ledge Camp (14.5 miles, 3600' ascent)
29-Sep   Friday                   Hike to Round Top Shelter (15 miles, 4000' ascent)
30-Sep   Saturday              Hike to Whiteface Shelter (10.5 miles, 3200' ascent)
1-Oct     Sunday                 Hike to Rt 108 Smugglers Notch (7.5 miles, 1000' ascent) with Night in Stowe

Getting There
We drove up on the 25th of September and stayed in Killington at the Happy Bear hotel. I drove up with Dave Green, while Tom Kloster drove by himself.

Nice town in Vermont on the way to Killington

The final miles to the trailhead

Parking at the trailhead
 The hike itself

The first two days were incredibly hot - high 80's and humid. Really unusual for Vermont in September. Then it turned cold and dipped a little below freezing for the last night I was on the trail. I never needed to use my tarp to sleep under because the trail shelters were not occupied by others when we arrived, so we were able to sleep in the shelters every night.

Taking a break at one of the overlooks. It was pretty cold, so we were sitting in the trees instead of out on the overlook. 

Group Shot: Dave, Mike and Tom at one of the overlooks

One of the smaller shelters along the way. The shelters ranged from a simple lean-to like the one in the photo to more elaborate structures with 4 walls and doors. They were all clean and well maintained. 

Having lunch and taking in the view

Phil joins us in Stowe. This is as far as I got. 

 Trail Conditions

Most trails use switchbacks and other methods for reducing the steepness of the inclines. This helps the hikers and makes the trail less vulnerable to erosion. Not the Long Trail - it just follows a straight line up and over whatever is there. It is never really possible to express steepness in a photo, but imagine the following three photos as being vertigo-inducing, straight-up or straight-down and a little slippery. I held onto trees and branches most of the way down the hills, using one hiking pole and having one free hand. I think that the steepness and the size of the steps that I needed to take is what really drove my knees into a tizzy.

It can be pretty muddy, too

What to bring
Mostly for my own reference if I ever do this again. It was going to be warm for the first few days,
so I just have shorts and tights. I was going to bring my pants for the second and third legs. I should have
documented the food, because I spent more time packing food than I did packing gear. Not shown:
One pair of socks and my hiking shoes.

Sleeping bag, tarp, bivy bag and sleeping pad

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Iceland - September 13-20 2017

We went to Iceland again! We were there in 2000 and decided to go back this year. Sherry was on a bike trip in France and booked on Iceland Air to come home. Since Iceland Air lets you layover in Iceland for as long as you want, Mike hopped on a plane to join up.

Lots and lots of photos in this album and this album. If you want to skip the text and just browse the photos, these are the best places to look.

Day 1 - Mike arrived at 6am and Sherry was not due until midnight. Lots of driving back and forth to the airport and the Airbnb. We stayed a little north east of Reykjavik where the red marker is shown. A little suburban enclave of tranquility and infinite hot water.

Day 2 took us on the "Golden Circle". The traditional stars of the circle are: Þingvellir, Gullfoss and Geysir which we saw. However, our favorite spot was probably Fludir because of the mushroom farm and the "Secret Lagoon" hot spring.

Day 3 - we drove down towards Vic and the black sand beaches that are there. We took our sweet time, and arrived not too much before dark.

We stayed in some modern-ish shotgun prefab suites near the beach.

Day 4 we did not drive very far, and just stayed in the black sand beach area. We woke up early to get down to the beach before the tourist buses arrived.

Day 5 - we woke up early today, too, to get to the closed off beach before anyone else arrived. We hopped the fence and went down by the ocean to experience the surf right near the cliffs. Here is our early morning route.

After our beach hopping, we drove out to Hofn.

Day 6 was a driving day. From Hofn all the way back to Keflavik

Day 7 we were housebound by heavy winds and lots of rain. The flight was scheduled to leave around 2pm and the airport was a short drive away. We had a really nice Airbnb so we just lounged around, read books and drank waaay too much coffee.