Friday, September 28, 2018
Palmaria Island – across from Portovenere
This hike was not really planned. The idea was to take the ferry across the bay to Palamaria Island and rent kayaks and explore the coast line. We had heard there was a place on the island to do just that. Instead we found a weird mix of dilapidated buildings, an odd beachfront “cafe” that looked like it might be haunted, wild goats, and questionably marked trails. On top of this, Court was wearing shoes much more suited to kayaking than hiking, so needless to say she was not ready to hike what ended up being just over four miles. She stuck it out though and the island gave us an interesting afternoon hike.
We started off on an old jeep trail that gradually climbed up and around the island, giving us some nice views looking back toward La Spezia and the mainland.
We climbed up into the woods for a bit and then back down to the shore, where we were greeted by the remains of an old military base of sorts. Most of the buildings had fallen down and it had a very eerie vibe.
After this is where the “cafe” was, though it looked deserted as well. The pics of it on Google maps show it full of people and the food looks good, so maybe we were just here at a weird time of year or something.
We soaked our feet in the ocean for a bit and then headed back up hill where we were greeted by the islands wild goats that roam around and eat whatever they can.
We reached a few more military ruins at the top, enjoyed the views, and then cut back across the center of the island.
There was actually a large fort in the center that was completely overgrown and I believe dates back to WWI or WWII.
By this time our feet were hurting and we were a bit disappointed by the lack of kayaks we had anticipated, so we did our best to get back to the dock and catch the ferry back to Portovenere as soon as possible. I think if our expectations had been different, this would have been a much more enjoyable hike, but it was an experience nonetheless.
Thursday, September 27, 2018
Cinque Terre – Monterosso to Vernazza
About 3.5 miles
Cinque Terre is an interesting place. It is beautiful, but I will say it is a bit over hyped. Don’t get me wrong, it is unique, but it feels like the towns are still trying to figure out how best to deal with the hordes of tourists that have started to come in the past few years. That said, still a good day.
We took the first ferry in the morning out of Portovenere where we were staying to Riomaggiore, the southernmost town of the Cinque Terre. There is supposed to be a system of trails that connects all five towns, but the first two (Riomaggiore to Manarola and Manarola to Corniglia) were closed, which is apparently a semi-permanent status. After realizing this, we took the ferry up to Monterosso on the north end and made the trek over to Vernazza.
This was a pretty difficult hike in terms of elevation, as you basically go from the beach straight up through the vineyards to the top of the hills and then back down. There were a lot of people to contend with, but the views were pretty spectacular.
There is a wine train track that is elevated along some of the trail, which as far as I can tell is like a tiny rollercoaster that takes you among the vineyards, but it wasn’t running today apparently.
Vernazza seems to be the most popular of the towns and it has the most unique layout with an enclosed harbor and a watchtower that was used to look out for invading pirates back in the day.
There is also cave under the massive natural rock wall that leads to the beach. This was really really cool, though it seems like easy access for the aforementioned pirates.
After a quick lunch and some views from the watchtower we took the ferry over to Manarola, which ended up being my favorite town. Here you could cliff jump into the harbor and it just had the most chill vibe of all the towns.
Cinque Terre was definitely an experience, but just be prepared for huge crowds in both the towns and the trails in between.
September 23, 2018
Muottas Muragl to Alp Languard to Paradis Hutte – Switzerland
About 7.5 miles
This was an amazing hike. We had driven through Austria and then to Switzerland to Pontresina, just outside of St. Moritz, the day before. We stayed at a five star hotel that was a bit too hoity toity for my taste.
We walked about a mile to the bottom of the tram that would take us up to the top of Muottas Muragl (don’t ask me to pronounce that) where we would begin our hike around 8000 feet.
The views were stunning. We were overlooking St. Moritz and the lake, as well as some distant glaciers.
These mountains are also home to the largest ibex colony in the Alps, but alas, we didn’t see any today.
We did see and hear plenty of marmots.
As we wound around the mountain on the Panoramic trail the views were most impressive and the trail well maintained. The grasses and shrubs were starting to turn fall colors. The trees are mostly evergreens, so the contrast was quite striking.
Here’s some video too.
After about two hours we reached the first hut at Alp Languard where we would later take the chair lift back down to Pontresina.
However, after a quick break, we decided to continue hiking up to Paradis-Hutte to try and see some ibex. This was a pretty steep hike that added another mile and a half or so, but gave us our best views yet of the glaciers.
The second hike was a challenge, but beautiful. When we got to the Paradis-Hutte we were tired, but the views were amazing.
After reveling in our place at the top of the world for a while, we headed back down the trail to the chair lift and took it back down to the valley below.
Once we got back to the hotel we had a two hour private spa session that was the perfect way to end a day of hard hiking.
September 21-22, 2018
Dolemites – Ortisei, Italy
It’s been a while since I’ve had a new post and it feels good to be writing again. We had an amazing trip to Italy over the past couple of weeks and got some great hiking in. I’ll probably write at least three entries from this trip, as it was a fantastic experience.
We started off in the Dolemites in northern Italy in the little town of Ortisei in the province of Bolzano. We only got to spend a single night here, which we found out is not nearly enough, so we will definitely be back.
The day we arrived we took a gondola up to the top of Mont Seuc. Honestly, the names in these places were multiple and very difficult, but I’ll do my best. The hiking trails in Europe are notated according to time instead of distance, which is interesting. I think we usually went a bit faster than the time allotted. The trail systems are also much more vast and intersecting than they usually are in America and they all pretty much have the same blazes (red and white). More of a system of paths throughout the land than specific trails that go from point A to point B.
The day was beautiful and the mountains were spectacular. We were at the top of a ridge that then flattened out and had miles of beautiful pastures that we hiked through with views of jagged peaks in the distance. One of Court’s favorite parts was hearing the cowbells from the local livestock, which we more or less were hiking among.
At one point on the ridge we had a great view of the town of Ortisei 2500 feet below. The pictures don’t do it justice, but it was spectacular.
After a relatively short hike we headed back down the gondola for an amazing dinner in town.
We took separate paths in the morning. Court went on a run through the town and I followed a hiking path up behind our hotel through the woods and among several farms in the valley. My hike was about 3.5 miles. We sadly had to leave in the late morning to head to Switzerland (which was amazing in its own right), but we definitely need to come back and spend more time in Oritsei one day.
Wednesday, June 27, 2018
Mt. Rainier NP – Paradise – Skyline Trail to Panorama Point
Clear, cool, perfect
Ian and Court
Court had a conference in Seattle and I got to tag along, so the first day we rented a car and drove to Mt. Rainier National Park. Mt. Rainier is the fifth national park in the system, established in 1899. It is also the highest peak in the Cascades, topping out at 14,411 feet. We didn’t get quite that high today.
Originally I had wanted to go to the Carbon River section of the park, but the road to that trail head wasn’t open for the season yet. Paradise is considered one of the more beautiful parts of the park and I figured since we were going on a Wednesday morning, hopefully the crowds wouldn’t be too bad. Between that and the snow still covering most of the trail, the Skyline Trail ended up being great, albeit a lot of work.
We arrived at the Visitor Center around 10am to clear skies and an amazing view of the mountain. We took a few photos and then set off up the snow covered trail, marked in many places with flags in the snow placed by rangers. We didn’t have microspikes for traction, but we ended up ok. It was definitely slow going. We averaged about 1.2 mph, compared to the normal 2 to 2.5 mph on regular trail.
The views got better and better as we climbed. There were a couple of melted out parts of the trail where we stopped and re-fueled. We met a family from England who were road tripping in the US and also a couple from Pennsylvania when we reached Panorama Point. It’s always nice to talk to people who are there to experience the same beauty you are. There were also several marmots and multiple chipmunks about, scrounging for human food.
We continued up the trail and it started to get steeper as we got further along. We also crossed paths with some hikers coming down from the summit.
I somehow forgot to add this video when I first wrote this entry, but better late than never I suppose.
As we ascended, the views of the mountains became grander and grander. We had views of Mt. Adams, Mt. Hood, and Mt. St. Helens.
We reached the plaque at the top of what I think might actually be slightly below Panorama Point, but with the snow covered trail, this was good enough for us. It would be Panorama Point today. There was another marmot up top that was sprawled out and sunning on the snow.
Mt. Rainier was now totally enveloped in cloud and we were glad we had such great views on the way up. We decided to turn back and go down the way we came instead of finishing the Skyline loop, as the weather looked like it might turn. We’ll come back one day and finish the whole thing. Great hike and only a couple of slips on the snow.
Once we got back to the car, we decided to drive down to Reflection Lakes and do a quick loop on the Wonderland Trail and High Lakes Trail, but were blocked about a half mile in by a creek crossing that was doable, but just too dangerous for today.
We turned back and decided to call it a day. At least I got to step onto yet another of the long trails that I love so much and add it to my list. We made a quick stop at Narada Falls (amazing) on the way out and then hit the Copper Creek Inn just outside of the park for lunch, which included their incredible blackberry milk shake. YUM.
Sunday, May 27th, 2018
Driving through Arkansas with stops at Hollis CCC Camp and Hot Springs National Park
Not much hiking today, but some interesting sights for sure.
We headed out of Fayetteville, through the Ozarks and Ouchita National Forest on Scenic Byway 7. We made a quick stop at Turner Bend, which is a whitewater rafting destination that we will keep in mind for the future. There’s a little store there with all kinds of gear that reminded me of Neel’s Gap on the AT.
There were several overlooks along the road with pretty views.
My favorite stop of the day was at the remains of the Hollis CCC Camp. Again, one of the New Deal program’s vestiges.
I love the idea of the CCC. There’s a great section in Ken Burns’ National Parks documentary series that really gets into what the CCC was about and how it changed the lives of so many during The Depression. I think we are actually in a great place to bring back something similar today. With our infrastructure in dire need of repairs and updating and the coming job market shake up due to automation and the loss of retail, it makes perfect sense. But I don’t run things up in this joint. I digress.
We walked around the ruins (only 90 years old or so, but still) and read the many informative signs describing what once was.
After a couple more stops at picnic areas we got to Hot Springs National Park. It is really more of a town than a park, with most of the hot springs having been transformed into bathhouses in the early 20th century. There is a small mountain that the hot springs flow out of that you can drive or hike up to the top of with a great view of the town. We chose to drive up today.
I got the stamp for my National Park Passport at the Visitor Center and we felt a couple of the hot springs flowing directly out of the ground. They are really really hot. Not just a clever name. There also is apparently a strong baseball history in Hot Springs, which I will have to research more later. The dogs were a bit of a handful, with the town being full of people for Memorial Weekend, so I didn’t get many pics.
If you would have asked me when I thought I would get to Hot Springs National Park on my list of parks to visit, it would have been way down the list, but I’m glad we got to visit and it was pretty interesting. No grand mountains or epic wildlife, but pretty nonetheless.