Endless P Summer

11/8/19…..Hayduke Day 43…..20 miles

We woke up to a delicious home cooked breakfast of potatoes, black beans, corn, cheese, eggs, toast, yogurt, fruit and coffee. Then, after we packed up, Lynn drove us 40 miles out of Kanab to where we got off trail yesterday at the corner of AZ 389 and Yellowstone Rd. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again Lynn and her husband Richard are the ultimate trail angels and have done so much for not just me and QB but so many hikers on the Arizona Trail and the Hayduke.

We walked dirt roads through the tiny town of Cane Beds, AZ and then a paved highway for awhile. It was boring. The walking all day today and yesterday was a road walk across the ‘Arizona Strip’ and the best way I can describe it is just boring. I have to just go elsewhere in my mind for monotonous boring road walks like this. For awhile we were on a paved road with a fair amount of traffic, and I found a cell phone in good condition on the side of the road. We charged it up and turned it on but the thing’s locked and we don’t know how to find the owner. Did anybody lose an android near the Arizona/Utah border? I didn’t think so. When we did cross back into Utah after lunch we turned onto a very sandy 4wd road. It was like walking on the beach for 10 miles with no waves. Tomorrow we’ll be in Zion and all this road walking/connector trail will be worth it.

11/9/19…..Hayduke Day 44…..15 miles

We woke to frost on the tent, which wouldn’t be a big deal if we didn’t have to walk through an ice cold river this morning. It warmed up a little as we walked 5 more miles of very sandy jeep road. The road dead ended and we followed a steep trail down to the bottom Parunuweap Canyon aka ‘The Barracks.’ This canyon contained the East Fork of the Virgin River which we would walk along and through for the next 6 miles.

The water was ice cold! Bone chilling. At least for the first hour. We had to keep crossing over and over and only had these small sections of dry land for our feet to warm up a bit. Luckily it didn’t get more than knee deep and it must have been in the low 30’s or colder. I don’t think my feet have ever been more uncomfortable. For some reason the cold water didn’t seem to bother QB or at least she didn’t complain, I had trouble doing anything else.

There was a bald eagle down in the canyon keeping us company for awhile. Or maybe it was 4 bald eagles. Most likely it was 1 eagle that I saw 4 times. Finally after one of the coldest hours my feet have ever endured the water definitely warmed up and became bearable and the canyon was really very cool. It just seemed like the Hayduke’s final boss that we had to defeat. After 15 miles of super sandy jeep road and a half dozen miles of a viciously cold river and 1 quick class 3 scramble you can finish the route. The scramble was through a lemon squeeze beneath a giant boulder and down a natural tunnel all to avoid an impassable waterfall. Shortly after this we climbed out of the river by way of a route called ‘Fat Man’s Misery’ and walked 4-5 more miles crossing into Zion NP and reaching Mt. Carmel Highway.peeing

The official end of the Hayduke is the Weeping Wall within the park but because of a rockslide the Weeping Wall as well as the East Rim Trail are closed. We’ve done both of these before so I’m not losing much sleep about it. Going into Zion our plan has been to hitch around into the park and walk the Zion Traverse starting on the West Rim Trail and finishing at Kolob Canyon. Since Mt. Carmel Highway goes through a huge tunnel that is illegal to walk, we had to hitch and quickly got a ride from Hugo and Manuel. These guys dropped us off at the ranger station where we got our permit for tomorrow.

We’re camping in the park tonight and got into Springdale for a meal. If you come to Zion, Oscar’s just outside the park is where it’s at for food. Very good and they’ve got thru hiker portions.

11/10/19…..Hayduke Day 45…..23 miles

From our campsite at the Watchman CG we took the Zion free park shuttle to the Grotto stop and started up towards the West Rim Trail. The beginning of this trail is the same one that goes to Angel’s Landing. It’s paved, moderately steep, and crowded. After a mile or so we fell in step with an older couple and the woman started asking increasingly personal questions. It was getting weird, and I couldn’t out hike her. Good thing they were stopping at Angel’s Landing because I could only lie to her for so long.

Quickly we got away from the crowds and walked through a very cool part of the park. I feel like so many people in Zion stick to the main attractions within Zion Canyon but there’s a lot to see if you get just a little beyond them, for example the West Rim Trail.

In 2017, roughly the same time of year, QB and I hiked the Zion Traverse or Trans Zion Trail in the opposite direction. The next section the trail splits for 4 or 5 miles, you can continue to take the West Rim Trail or get on the Telephone Canyon Trail. I would recommend staying on the West Rim Trail, we did that last time and it was definitely more scenic. No big deal though. We carried on up near Lava Point, took a left through Wildcat Canyon and by the end of the day got to the Hop Valley Trail and the beginning of Hop Valley. For about a mile the Hop Valley Trail dips out of the Park into Zion Wilderness and that’s where we camped for the night. As we closed in on our campsite we were treated to possibly the most magnificent sunset of the entire Hayduke.

11/11/19…..Hayduke Day 46…..13 miles

Hayduke Lives!!! Finished the trail today.

We got going from our campsite and proceeded to walk through Hop Valley. This is a very underrated part of Zion. If you’re in the area I definitely recommend exploring the east side of the park and especially getting yourself to Hop Valley. If we had been here just a few days early the cottonwoods would still have been flying their bright yellow leaves. We crossed a bunch of partially frozen streams in Hop Valley then descended to La Verckin Creek. After following the creek for half a dozen miles we came to Lee Pass and for us the Western Terminus of the Hayduke. We high fived a few times, took a couple pictures and got busy hitching.

Deanna picked us up and ended up driving us almost 3 hours to Vegas. She even brought us to a thrift store in St. George, UT so we could buy clean new clothes for the next couple days. We’re staying 2 nights in Vegas, flying to NY for a few days then driving home to Massachusetts. Tonight we’re gorging ourselves at a buffet on the strip. We’re both trying to eat our weight in crab legs.

Thanks for reading! The Hayduke was a truly incredible endeavor, it was very difficult but the payoff was well worth it. I hope you enjoyed following along, I enjoyed having you. Feel free to follow us on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes.

10/25/19…..Hayduke Day 29…..9 miles

QB and I got back on the Hayduke today after a nearly 2 week hiatus. Let me catch you up real quick. On October 12th we started hitching to Las Vegas from Jacob Lake, AZ. In Vegas we rented a car, drove to Southern California to explore Death Valley NP, Joshua Tree NP, and climb Mt San Jacinto. We returned the car to Las Vegas, walked up and down the strip then flew to New York to attend QB’s friend Aneesa and her now husband Kevin’s wedding. After a very brief visit to the east coast we returned to Vegas and were picked up at the airport by QB’s folks Nancy and Dave. The 4 of us did a little road trip around the southwest going to the Hoover Dam, Grand Canyon, Horseshoe Bend, Glen Canyon Dam, Zion NP, and Bryce Canyon NP. This morning we parted ways in Bryce and started hitching south while Nancy and Dave continued on their tour of the southwest towards Moab.This morning we watched the sunrise then beat the bag out of another continental breakfast before saying our good byes with QB’s parents and putting our thumbs out. Oscar and Milo were our first ride and they brought us out of their way about a half hour to Junction, UT where we were picked up by Breck who got us another 40 miles into Kanab. In town we stopped at the PO and resupplied at the grocery store. We’re getting very familiar with this town. From Kanab we got a ride from Opie, a helicopter pilot, to Fredonia, AZ then waited awhile before getting picked up by Drew and Nate, two hunters in a tiny Suzuki Samurai. These guys got us up to the store at Jacob Lake where we had a quick sandwich then started walking back the two miles towards the trail. Braxton and Brenna who were taking their time driving from Alaska to Virginia gave us a short lift the rest of the way in their van.

Back on the Hayduke we were still on the section that coincides with the Arizona Trail across the Kaibab Plateau. The hiking up here isn’t too exciting but it’s peaceful and easy. It’s deer hunting season and we’ve been walking by lots of hunting camps. I really hope I don’t get shot. I hope QB doesn’t either. Probably should get her a matching orange hat next time we’re in town. We walked for a few hours and set up at sunset which came super early, around 5:30 Arizona time.

10/26/19…..Hayduke Day 30…..28 miles

Our first 10 miles or so today we walked through a burn(a section of forest that had previously burned in a wildfire). This apocalyptic looking area is exposed to the elements, luckily it wasn’t too windy or sunny, it’s just a little ugly. There were lots of hawks hunting, so that was cool, nothing like a bird of prey to spike my tone.

Eventually we reached a ponderosa forest and walked through that for much of the afternoon before reaching a view of the East Rim of the Grand Canyon. In April of ‘18 while we were hiking the Arizona Trail, a lot of the trail was still covered by multiple feet of snow. We decided then to walk the road that’s parallel to the trail which had minimal traffic because the north rim of the GC was closed. With no snow on the trail today a lot of the hiking was uncharted terrain of the AZT for us.

Late this afternoon we met up with just the 3rd other Hayduke thru hiker we’ve seen. We’d been in touch with Clax online and knew he was close. He did a massive day to catch us and then the 3 of us walked a couple hours together until sunset. We reached a road where the Hayduke splits from the AZT and found a couple flat spots to camp beside it.

10/27/19…..Hayduke Day 31…..7 miles

We parted ways with Clax this morning as he went right to go pick up his Grand Canyon permits at the North Rim ranger station and we followed the Hayduke to the left along forest roads for 7 miles. It was super windy this morning up on the plateau, like ridiculously uncomfortably windy, like hurricane force wind. It sucked. When we got to the edge of the canyon and the trailhead for the dastardly Nankoweap Trail we met Talitha walking uphill. We hoped that below the rim would be a lot less windy but Talitha, who was just down for a day hike, told us it was pretty miserable. The Nankoweap Trail is supposedly the most difficult trail in the Grand Canyon. It drops steeply and follows narrow ledges with huge drops off to the side. I haven’t been looking forward to it. I especially don’t want to be walking down it while also competing with massive wind gusts. Neither does QB. It was only 10 am and we weren’t going to wait around on the edge of the canyon so we asked Talitha for a ride out of there and she was super willing to help us out. She works tracking California Condors in the area(one of my favorite subjects) and drove us all the way back to Jacob Lake.

Back at the Jacob Lake restaurant/gas station/gift shop/hotel again we ran into Chris and Sanjay the 4th and 5th other Hayduke hikers we’ve met. These guys have been just behind us for awhile and we’ve been in touch with them the whole trip sharing info and finally met them in person. We talked with them for awhile about how our hikes have been going(we’ve all taken much different routes so far) and of course we had a few mutual friends. Because of the cold weather predicted for tonight the 4 of us all got cabins for Jacob Lake and elected to stay indoors. I really would have liked to be below the rim tonight but descending the Nankoweap in the wind was out of the question.

10/28/19…..Hayduke Day 32…..23 miles

It snowed overnight. Just a couple inches, but still. We met Chris and Sanjay for breakfast and then went our separate ways. Those guys are getting back on trail right by Jacob Lake whereas QB and I are trying to hitch back to where we got off yesterday.

The temperature was in the single digits when we got out to the road and put our thumbs out. The maple syrup leftover from breakfast in my beard and mustache was freezing solid.

After a mile of walking down the road, Vince and Jim picked us up. They’re from Kanab and Vince, a trail runner, knows our friend Lynn. These guys took us 25 miles down HWY 67 to where they’re gathering firewood and QB and I took a left down the dirt road toward Saddle Mountain trailhead. We thought for sure we’d get a ride back to where we hitched from yesterday but no cars ever came. Instead we walked 14 bonus miles on snow covered roads. Neither of us had expected this would happen and I wasn’t thrilled about it. I guess maybe we would have done things differently yesterday had we thought it would be so difficult to get back. At least it wasn’t windy out. By the time we got to the trailhead on the edge of the canyon we were more than ready to be done road walking.

I have been thinking about the Nankoweap Trail for about a month now and it’s been keeping me up at night. It looked really scary and parts of it were really scary. There’s trail the whole way and for the most part it was decent but at times it gets quite narrow and a false step would drop me thousands of feet to the canyon floor. It was pretty but it was scary. I’ve hiked on gnarlier terrain before but I guess I built this up in my head and it lived up to the hype. Eventually we got through the high exposure stuff and we really started to descend, something like 5500 feet in a slow going 8 miles from the rim. We got to Nankoweap Creek in the dark and set up camp. I feel very relieved to be down here in the Canyon in the relative warmth of the lower altitude and with the wild and wooly Nankoweap Trail in my rear view mirror.

10/29/19…..Hayduke Day 33…..11 miles

This trail has been dealing us a little string of bad luck lately. Let me explain. Two days ago the wind forced us to retreat back to town and not drop into the canyon. Yesterday we think the snow prevented anybody from driving out to the trailhead therefore shutting down any opportunity of hitchhiking and adding 14 miles to our day. Today we got shutout trying to hitch across the river.

This morning we walked along Nankoweap Creek for 3 miles until it reached the mighty Colorado. From the mouth of the Nankoweap for 8 miles along the river there was no trail, just a nasty bushwhack. It was scenic, sure, but it was very difficult. Occasionally there would be animal paths here and there but there was lots of bushwhacking through thorny bushes and cacti, scrambling on loose talus, and some tricky route finding. For awhile we were in 1 mph terrain. Then we still had to get across the river. Our trail continued on the far side of the Colorado at the mouth of the Little Colorado River and the only way to get across was to get a ride, but no rafts came. Maybe tomorrow.

Today wasn’t all bad though we’re in the Grand Canyon for Christ’s sake so it’s beautiful plus QB and I got in for a swim so that was fun. Oh and if you were wondering swimming across the Colorado is not an option.

10/30/19…..Hayduke Day 34…..12 miles

Finally a change of fortune today. We packed up early and waited on the beach by our campsite making sure not to miss any opportunity to get a ride across. Around 12 a party of about a dozen rafters on 4 boats floated by and were happy to be able to help us out. They brought us across the river and to the mouth of the Little Colorado River.

QB and I thanked our new friends then walked up the LCR about a quarter mile looking for a place to ford it. This river is a striking turquoise color and was moving pretty quickly. The bottom was invisible but luckily it was only chest deep. We packed all our stuff inside trash bags within our packs, held hands so we wouldn’t get swept away and crossed. It wasn’t that bad or cold. On the far side of the LCR we gained the Beamer Trail and walked that for the next 10 miles.

I won’t say that the Beamer Trail was absolutely terrifying but it had its moments. The trail follows along a bench that has a 500 foot cliff on the right hand side going straight down to the river. There was a fair amount of times where a false step would have been my last. Other than that it contoured in and out of hanging side canyons and provided absolutely magnificent views of the Canyon. In the distance we could see the Desert View Lookout Tower on the South Rim. Last week we were up there with Nancy and Dave looking way down at this trail and I guess I had mistakenly thought the trail was a lot lower. After about 6 miles the Beamer Trail drops down to river level and is much more relaxed. At some point we crossed the intersection with the Tanner Trail and picked up the Escalante Route(not technically a GC trail but felt pretty good to me). We walked a couple miles of this before finding a place to camp for the night under a tiny sliver of a moon and a gazzillion stars.

10/31/19…..Hayduke Day 35…..25 miles

The Escalante Route brought us up high over the river and had a handful of big climbs and descents. At one point it brought us along the rim of a side canyon then we turned a corner, dropped into the canyon and were in a section of narrows for a mile back to the Colorado. There wasn’t as many dicey spots as the Beamer Trail but the Escalante Route did provide a couple of b-hole puckering moments, specifically while climbing up and over Papago Slide. It was also a slow trail or at least we moved slowly. On a day we had to really boogie we couldn’t seem to make miles for the first half of our day.

After we crossed Hance Creek we were now on the Tonto Trail. This brought us up high up onto the Tonto Plateau and far away from the Colorado River. For the rest of the day we would walk the Tonto Trail on the rims of huge side canyons.

We came across Tank, the first and only eastbound Hayduke hiker we’ve seen and now the 6th other thru hiker we’ve met.

If you’re wondering what we did for Halloween, QB and I wore the only costumes we had on hand; each other’s clothes. Then we listened to Dirtbag Diaries ‘Tales of Terror’ and night hiked for an hour. I was hoping I would see some tents to trick or treat at because I’m extremely low on food but no such luck.

11/1/19…..Hayduke Day 36…..18 miles

We realized yesterday that the P.O. at the South Rim of the GC closes at 3:30 on Friday(today) and is closed for the weekend. Because the store there is super expensive we mailed a box of food and originally figured we’d be there either Tuesday or Wednesday. That’s why we walked an hour into the dark last night and then got going this morning before sunrise. We had 14 more miles of the Tonto Trail and then a 4 mile climb up to the South Rim.

Finally some consistently cruiser trail. The Tonto Trail was a breeze and even though the South Kaibab Trail climbs 3000 feet in 4 miles and stinks like mule piss we motored right up it. We even saw a condor! I spotted it perched up high on a rocky point and then as we rounded a corner we saw this majestic bird soaring in circles way up in the sky.

The main corridor of the GC consists of the South Kaibab Trail, and the Bright Angel trail on the South Rim side and the North Kaibab Trail on the North Rim. These trails are steep, well manicured, and very very busy. Grand Canyon is an absolutely massive place but the overwhelming majority of people are concentrated in the main corridor. As we got onto the South Kaibab Trail we started to see lots of people all the way up to the rim. Once on the rim we caught a shuttle to the P.O., got to the backcountry office to rearrange our permits, then supplemented our food at the grocery store and ate a big meal. Tonight we’re staying at the hiker/biker site at Mather CG(I think all National Parks have these extra cheap sites for people like us) there’s laundry and showers across the street and I’m just about all the way rejuvenated. Tomorrow we’ll begin our next week of zigzagging first North and then West through the Canyon.

Thanks for reading! Feel free to follow me on insta for more pictures @endlesspsummer and QB @sarahikes

For the next month or so Sara(QB) and I are planning to hike a few short trails or sections of trails. Starting with the San Juan mountains, a section of the Continental Divide Trail in Colorado. In 2017 we hiked the CDT from Mexico to Canada but due to excessive snow we rerouted through the town of Creede instead of hiking out and around the San Juan’s. From Cumbres Pass outside of Chama, NM we’re planning to hike a few hundred miles. Once we get our fill of Colorado we’re headed to either the Unitas in Northeast Utah and then the Wind River Range in Wyoming.

8/10/19…..CDT Mile 793.3…..1 Mile

So we started traveling yesterday but really didn’t get out west until just about midnight mountain time. We drove from Lynn to Long Island, visited with Sara’s family then flew from JFK to Albuquerque. It was an all day event. Waking up in a Rodeway Inn this morning we still had a long way to go to get on trail.

From downtown Albuquerque we took a train for an hour and a half to Santa Fe($9 each) and landed right next to an REI and a farmer’s market. Perfect! We got a fuel canister, perused the market and got lunch at Tia Sofia’s(both thumbs all the way up). So good! New Mexico is famous for green chilies and sopapillas and this place did not disappoint. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; If I’m ever to be executed and given a last meal request I’ll take a never ending parade of sopapilla baskets with honey please. After lunch we went to the supermarket and got our food supply for the first section of trail then started walking towards Rt 84. It’s over a hundred miles but a straight shot from here to Chama so we put our thumbs out.

Within 5 minutes, Leona and Jonathan picked us up and drove us about 40 minutes up past Santa Clara Pueblo and the town of Espanola. Leona is from Yakama Nation and Jonathan Navajo Nation. They gave us a great ride and filled us in on the native lands and Pueblos we passed by.

Outside of Espanola we walked for just a few minutes before getting picked up by Neil, Elizabeth, Lucy and Vador(smallest Pekingese dog in the world). They were coming from buying a house in Taos and headed to Ghost Ranch to go horseback riding. It was a fun ride and they were excited to learn about our hiking trips.

From the Ghost Ranch turnoff we quickly got picked up by Audrina who drove us about a half hour to TA or Tierra Amarilla. She told us about Northern New Mexico, her travels, and warned us about the crazies while listening to Mexican music fading in and out on the radio.

In TA we stopped for a coke and a bathroom break, then waited on the side of the road about 5 minutes before Prentiss turned around and picked us up. Always a good sign when a driver turns around to come back for you. Prentiss is a Seattle transplant who works as an ER nurse in Espanola on his way to Colorado for the weekend. He brought us the rest of the way to Chama and dropped us off outside the Boxcar Cafe, home of the best breakfast burrito I ever had. This time I had a regular burrito smothered with cheese and green chilies and that was good too.

We walked a little bit out of town and got picked up by Luke and Amanda, who also turned around to get us, and they drove us the 10 miles or so up to Cumbres Pass in Colorado. They’re currently on a road trip back to KC, MO where they’re working and saving to finish building their cabin in Wrangell-St Elias National Park in Alaska. Currently they’ve got an 8 by 8 foot cabin and looking to expand. Now that sounds awesome.

We got on trail at Cumbres Pass, walked about a mile and set the tent up in a bed of soft pine needles for the night. Ahh, Home Sweet Home!

On a little side note, 24 hours ago we were at sea level and tonight we’re camping over 10,000 feet. I’ll let you know how it affects me.

8/11/19…..CDT Mile 808.7…..15.4 miles

Welp I took an Imodium today. Last night was a bit rough, I tossed and turned, my head was aching a bit, I started getting a sore throat and in the morning my stomach was in knots. Possibly due to altitude but probably due to the multiple smothered New Mexican meals I ate. All day I felt like my energy was a bit sapped and after digging multiple cat holes it was time for some medicine.

The weather didn’t help today either. We woke up to rain on the tent and thunder in the distance so we waited it out for awhile and didn’t get moving until about an hour later than we’d have liked. A few other times the rain came on strong enough to force us under a tree to wait it out. Combining these with a couple emergency bathroom stops added up to a very slow day.

Around 3pm the thunder and lightning came on pretty strong as well as a solid downpour. We were forced to set up the tent in some trees instead of carrying on over a ridge. A few times it felt like the rain would let up long enough to get a few more hours in but eventually we resigned to the fact that this would be an early night. Not very often have I done this. Hoping for nicer weather tomorrow and a stronger gut. Unfortunately though we’re camping even higher tonight at 11,700 feet.

Today wasn’t all bad though. We saw a bunch of deer, a couple elk in the distance and even the elusive porcupine as well as some fresh bear prints. It was also fun to walk this trail and compare it to June of ‘17 when it was covered with snow and we were hampered with snowshoes.

8/12/19…..CDT Mile 833.9…..25.2 miles

Today was a vast improvement over yesterday. I still have a bit of a sore throat and my head is a little foggy but I think my digestive system is on the other side of whatever I had been dealing with.

We woke up to clear skies and started walking around 6:15, just as the sun was rising. Within 5 minutes of walking we spotted a massive elk with a full rack staring back at us. This was the first of dozens of elk we saw today. Correct me if I’m wrong but I think it’s rutting season because all the males were hanging out together and all the females were hanging out together. Pretty sure mating season is the end of August and I sure hope it’s not hunting season(wearing my hi vis orange hat just in case). We also had a rare pine marten sighting, he or she was hanging out inside a rock cairn and kept popping out of different holes to check us out.

Unlike yesterday we saw other people out here. About halfway through the day we saw a couple of hikers contouring around the same valley coming our way. I said to QB, “I wonder if we know them” and we did. Spontaneous and Sky are hiking south on the Continental Divide and QB met Spontaneous on the PCT in ‘15. They’re currently on a 3rd year of their honeymoon, sounds rad!

In ‘17 we bailed off this section due to snow and followed a river valley into the tiny town of Platoro, CO before walking into South Fork, CO. About 20 miles into today we passed the spot where we bailed and from then on everything was new. I don’t regret that decision in ‘17. We were going significantly slower than anticipated and we were running out of food. Plus I really enjoyed our adventure into Platoro. The trail beyond that spot was easy today but had it been covered in snow it would have been dicey at best and definitely slow going.

Five miles later we found a flat spot to camp above the Canejos River. Carrying on a little further would have been nice but we’d be camping higher up. The altitude is definitely affecting both of us more than we expected. Tonight we’re at 11,300 feet.

8/13/19…..CDT Mile 861.8…..27.9 miles

We were on a bit of a mission today. Originally this section would have consisted of a nice and relaxed pace for 3 days into town but because of the storm on Sunday it threw everything out of whack. We got up and moving by 6 am and had all day to do the miles.

Camping beside a river has its drawbacks, like the fly of the tent was soaked with condensation this morning, but enjoying the sunrise in this valley was incredible as we began walking. It was a tough climb up and out of the valley and at the top I quickly went the wrong way and got my feet wet. The elk had an easier time, they were running along ridges and bugling and all hanging out together(forget what I said about rutting season). We saw a herd of about 50 of them. From the ridge above the valley we contoured around a few beefy peaks and had a couple of snow crossings, one of which was pretty scary and another one where we had to do a controlled glissade.

As we got closer to Elwood Pass, we saw a little more life than usual. There were a couple other day hikers out there and two guys from the forest service looking for and counting big horn sheep(tough job, counting sheep will put you to sleep. I so wish I thought of that joke when I saw them). They saw as many as we did; zero.

From Elwood Pass it felt like we were getting away from the big mountains for a bit and the trail became a little faster. We walked through Wolf Creek Ski Area in the evening and then down to Wolf Creek Pass where we put our thumbs out.

Holly was driving the second car to pass us and she pulled over and pushed all her kayak stuff around to make room. She spent the last 5 days kayaking in Buena Vista, CO and told us about her plan to retire young, live mobile, and paddle and ski all over the place. Sounds fun! Holly brought us down to Pagosa Springs where we got a motel room for the night. We’ve got friends, Garbelly and Critter, joining us here tomorrow and we’ll most likely get back on trail with them the following morning.

Since I’m back in Massachusetts and in between longer, more complex trips I’m trying to take on some adventures closer to home this summer. Including trying to section hike the Long Trail in Vermont.

The Long Trail goes the length of the state starting and ending either on the Massachusetts or Canadian Border. In 2015 I hiked the first 105 miles from North Adams, MA to where it splits with the Appalachian Trail near Killington. Again in 2016 while hiking the entirety of the AT I walked these same 105 miles. So instead of walking the whole trail again I figure I just pick off different sections when I get a chance. Plus, as a little side project, I’m trying to climb all 67 of New England’s 4000 foot peaks and the LT goes over all of Vermont’s.

This week QB and I had a few days off so we drove up from Lynn to Lincoln Gap Tuesday evening and slept in the car right at the trailhead. Over the winter I picked up an Outback and converted the back of it into something of an RV. I really just took 2 full size memory foam mattress toppers, doubled them up, and cut them to fit in the back of the car with the seats down. Now I have a rolling bedroom with excellent gas mileage and all wheel drive. It’s perfect for sleeping at trailhead parking lots and it’s super cozy.

6/13/15

Montclair Glen Lodge

21 miles

This morning, right after crawling out of the hatchback of my bedroom, I saw two old time Long Trail hikers taking a break about a hundred feet away at Lincoln Gap. The first thing they did was ask QB if an empty plastic water bottle on the ground belonged to her. Yeah buddy, we drove all the way up here, walked over to the trail, threw some trash on the ground, then went to sleep in our car. The other guy then asked us if we heard the weather report, supposed to be rain later. Then he told us about the black flies, complained to his buddy about almost getting struck by lightning one time, whined about some blowdowns and complained about something else but I stopped listening. I thanked him for the bad news and QB and I got out of there as soon as we could, walking north from Lincoln Gap towards Canada.

A few miles into the day and we were on top of Mt Abraham and then a little later on top of Mt Ellen, both 4000+ feet. We also walked by the summits of a few ski resorts; Sugarbush and Mad River Glen(ski it if you can). A day hiker directed us off trail towards the ruins of a plane crash from the 70’s. It was just a pile of scrap metal but I guess when it happened the pilot rescued himself by walking down the trail to the road to get help. The trail itself today was slow going, rocky with steep climbs and drops. In the afternoon it rained some making those rocks slippery and slowing us down. It was exactly how I remembered hiking in Vermont. “I guess that’s why they call it VerMUD” I said to QB over and over. We got to one section where a sign warned us, “the next 5 miles could take 4-5 hours” it didn’t take us quite that long but it sure was some slow walking.

In the evening we got to the Montclair Glen Lodge(this was a good sized shelter enclosed on all 4 sides and was equipped with a ‘bearricade’). At the shelter we met Nate and Mountain Goat. Both of these guys are on their first thru hike and cruising north on the Long Trail.

6/14/18

Taylor Lodge

24 miles

What a day! And not really in a good way. I mean it wasn’t all bad it just kinda rained all day.

When we left the lodge this morning we were only a few miles shy of Camel’s Hump. This is Vermont’s second highest peak and has a large rocky exposed summit. Once we got above tree line the rocks were slippery in the rain and the winds were whipping. QB and I toyed with the idea of taking the safer ‘bad weather’ route that skirts the summit. Re-routing was just a fleeting thought and we would miss the excitement of being on top of the ‘Hump’ in some gnarly weather. Plus we’re trying to complete the 4000 footers, skipping the summit defeats the purpose.

We got up and over Camel’s Hump and dropped way down to a valley containing the mighty Winooski River. After crossing the river we spent the rest of the day climbing higher and higher while walking through the long green tunnel. Even though I’d only been out here a couple days I felt as if I was months into a thru hike. I stunk, I was soaking wet, I was tired, I was physically uncomfortable and we had miles to go before laying down for the night. It was great!

It drizzled all afternoon and everything was wet, now I know why they call it ‘VerMud’(QB’s heard that stupid joke enough over the last few days). We got to a lean to shelter around 6:30 right when the heavy stuff was starting to come down and decided to press on. What’s another 3 miles in the pouring rain?

Once we got to Taylor lodge(a huge shelter) we changed out of our wet clothes and ate warm bowls of macaroni and cheese with bacon bits. Comfort food doing just what it’s supposed to do.

6/15/18

Smuggler’s Notch rt 108

9 miles

While eating breakfast we caught up with Nate who also stayed at Taylor Lodge last night. This kid is crushing the LT and when he finishes in a couple days he’ll probably have done it under 2 weeks. From Taylor lodge there was only a few miles to the top of Mt Mansfield, Vermont’s highest peak. Getting there, however, was tricky and when we left the shelter it still felt like we were walking through a cloud. The top of Mansfield is this huge, rocky ridge line and once we were up top the sky cleared up and we had some sweet views. It really was a great day up there.

We took our time getting down and in the early afternoon made it to rt 108 or Smuggler’s Notch. After a couple minutes of walking with our thumbs out, this woman Elyse pulled over and drove us into the town of Stowe where we ate some lunch and the girl at the cafe gave me a free cookie for dancing. From Stowe we quickly got a ride another 10 miles to the Cabot Cheese store in Waterbury where I tried about 20 different samples of cheese. We put our thumbs out there and got picked up by the first car that saw us. The driver, Rob, had a Cohos Trail sticker on the back and come to find out he holds the FKT record for the 165 mile trail in northern NH. Rob, an Ultrarunner, told us about a bunch of cool stuff he’s been up to like running the 90 mile Cross Vermont Bike Trail and preparing for the Vermont 100. He also works for the GMC(Green Mountain Club) that maintains the Long Trail and decided to drive us about an hour all the way back to our car. Thanks Rob!

It was a great little trip and hopefully I’ll get a chance to finish the Long Trail soon.

May 5th and 6th…..Pokhara, Nepal

The Mardi Himal Base Camp Trek is a relatively new trekking route that’s only been open for about 5 or 6 years. It starts in Phedi at 3,700 feet and goes up to the Base Camp at 14,500 feet. The peak itself for Mardi Himal is around 18,200 feet. Since we only have 3 days we’ll try to get as close to Base Camp as possible in a day and a half and then head back to the city. It’s doable to get there if we’re hustling and also if the weather and our health are working in our favor.World Peace Pagoda, Pokhara

We left Besi Sahar en route to Pokhara on May 5th and for awhile our chances of getting to our destination didn’t look good. There was a nationwide transportation strike and the buses weren’t running that day so we paid 4,000 rupees each and rented a Jeep. Before getting out of town we were stopped by the Nepal police and got a special escort along with some other jeeps, something to do with Maoist politics, I didn’t understand it. A half hour later our driver couldn’t shift gears anymore and we broke down so the escort moved along without us. The transmission line shit the bed so we waited on the side of the road for a half hour until 2 guys on a scooter pulled up with the part and an hour later we were good to go again. This is when our driver told us there was a roadblock 15 km ahead and we probably wouldn’t be able to get through and would have to try again tomorrow, again something to do with Maoist politics that I didn’t understand. Luckily there was no roadblock and all it did was get my nerves up. A few hours later we got into Pokhara. There were lots of people bombing around on scooters and motorcycles and there were cows running around in the street. Just as I was thinking, ‘one of these cows is about to get waffled by one of these scooters’ one of the cows got waffled by one of the scooters. It was gruesome. A few minutes later we got dropped off into the Lakeside area of Pokhara(Lakeside is the tourist section of town). Pokhara is the 2nd biggest city in Nepal and is described by Wikipedia as more ‘mystical’ than Kathmandu and only had roads going to it for the last 50 years. I thought the town seemed more modern than Kathmandu and also had the highest concentration of dreadlocked white people that I’ve ever seen. We spent a couple days relaxing and regrouping in Pokhara. It was so nice to shower and do laundry and then just chill out for a little while with no place to be. I liked Pokhara. We explored the Lakeside neighborhood, walked along Lake Fewa, took a yoga class, went on a trip up to the World Peace Pagoda overlooking the lake, and of course ate lots of food. Now to the Mardi Himal trek.

May 7th…..Humal(Low Camp)….elev 9797 feet

This morning we took a cab about a half hour from the Crystal Palace hotel in Pokhara to the village of Phedi where we started our trek. From Phedi to Dahmpus the trail was a stone staircase the whole way. It took us up almost 2000 feet in elevation over the course of an hour. Stairs are fun, I’d climb stairs all day if I could(QB said she’ll count the stairs on the way back, we’ll see). Oh it was hot out too and wicked humid, I was quickly drenched with sweat. Once up in Dahmpus the temperature cooled a little bit but we were basically walking inside a cloud the whole day. An hour or so later we got to the village of Pothana where they had a checkpost to check our permits. We thought our Annapurna permits were still good but the fine print said they were ‘single entry only’ and since we had left the Annapurna region and then came back they were no longer valid. Because of this little guffaw on our part, we had to pay double the entry fee for new permits at the checkpost: 4500 rupees each, womp womp womp…Not the end of the world but had we noticed this yesterday we could have easily taken care of it in Pokhara for the regular permit price of 2250. From Pothana we walked steadily uphill through a rainforest or jungle the rest of the day. There wasn’t much for views of the mountains because of the cloud we were inside of but the fog gave a really cool look to the jungle. It was very green and there were lots of big moss covered trees. By the end of the day we got to Humal, aka Low Camp, ate a meal and crashed out for the night. Low Camp doesn’t really seem like a village but just a lodge catering to us and the few other trekkers here.

May 8th….Pothana…..elev. 6525 feet

We got a good start this morning and around 6:30, right after we wolfed down our oatmeal, we were walking uphill. The first half hour we climbed steadily through a rhododendron maze from Low Camp to Middle Camp. Once up at Middle Camp we were on a ridge above tree line and had fantastic views. We could see Annapurna South, Imchuli Peak, and the never before climbed Machhapuchhre AKA Fishtail Peak. It was amazing. I also was lucky enough to see a pair of Nepal’s National Birds; the very colorful Himalayan Monal(I didn’t get a picture but google them, they were wicked cool). I can only describe them to her as mountain peacocks. We walked for another hour and a half until we got to High Camp at 11,800 feet, where we stopped for tea. From High Camp to Base Camp was supposed to be a 2+ hour walk but the clouds had really started to roll in. We walked for about 40 minutes and when the mountains were all socked in we decided to turn around. It was pointless to me to keep walking towards Base Camp without anymore views, but what we saw was awesome. I think the best way to do this hike would be to get to High Camp in the evening and camp there, then in the morning wake up early while it’s hopefully clear and go back and forth to Base Camp. Or you could just do what we did, that was fun too.

From our turn around point we cruised down to Middle Camp then to Low Camp where we had lunch and another hour to Forest Camp. We walked downhill all afternoon through the jungle and then heard a crack of thunder and moments later were being pelted with hail. Good thing for the tree cover, we didn’t get it too bad. We did wait out the rest of the storm when we got to Deurali and then walked another half hour to Pothana and found a teahouse to spend the night.

May 9th…..Back in Pokhara

Holy Mackerel! Crazy thunderstorms overnight last night. I woke up in the middle of the night and didn’t know what the hell was going on, I thought the sheet metal roof of the teahouse was about to fly into outer space. It didn’t though, and I quickly fell back asleep and woke up in Pothana to a nice clear morning with views of Fishtail Peak. After eating our porridge we spent a little over an hour walking down to and through the rather sprawling village of Dahmpus and from there started the massive staircase to Phedi. QB counted the steps on the way down the staircase, 2803, I didn’t even try. Immediately while in Phedi a bus came by and we jumped on. 50 rupees to Pokhara(that’s not a lot of rupees). I’d been wanting to ride one of these buses just to see what it was like, it really didn’t look that enjoyable and it wasn’t, but I was intrigued. It was jam packed and even though I was descending all morning I was still soaked through with sweat and I’m sure I stunk so I definitely wasn’t helping the situation. The bus really wasn’t too bad but a 1 hour ride from Phedi to Pokhara was enough for me. I’d rather not travel all day on one of these. Once back in Pokhara we enjoyed a nice little day here; eating momos and Indian food, taking yoga and walking up and down Lakeside running into a handful of people we met up in the mountains.

Tomorrow we’re taking a short flight from here to Kathmandu then spending a couple days in the big city until we fly back to the US. It’s been quite a trip and Nepal lived up to the hype and then some. This is a magical place and I will be looking forward to the day I come back. Until then if you have any questions about traveling to Nepal or any of these treks feel free to contact me and maybe I can help you out. And of course follow me on insta @endlesspsummer if you’d like.

Day 10

Danakyu

Elev. 7181 feet

Today we mixed things up a little. Sara and I have been thinking about what we were going to do after the Manaslu Circuit. A couple days ago we decided to just link it to the Annapurna Circuit and try to do them back to back. The start of the Annapurna circuit overlaps the end of the Manaslu circuit anyway. We don’t need a guide and we already have the permits, and since Mac can lend us a map of the Annapurna region and loan us some extra rupees there’s no reason to leave the mountains yet. We took Mac up on his offer since we wouldn’t see an ATM for awhile and cash is king in the mountains. Our original plan was to walk another 2 days to the end of the Manaslu circuit, Besi Sahar, and then catch a ride down to Pokhara, the nearest city, but we figure this plan is better. 

Today we walked from Bimthang to Dharapani. It was almost all downhill and it was pretty cool, we had awesome views of the big mountains early on then we got into a pine forest with plenty of pink and red rhododendrons in full bloom. We arrived in Dharapani around 3 PM which is where the 2 circuits join. Our friends would walk the rest of the way to Besi Sahar so we said goodbye to them in Dharapani; Mac was headed back to Kathmandu for a while then on to thruhike the Japanese Alps, Moist was trying to decide between going to the Everest region or going to Kyrgyzstan, and Gopal AKA Mountain Tiger was headed home to Kathmandu until his next guiding mission.

QB and I walked along a road, the first road we’ve seen since day 1, for another hour until we got to the town of Danakyu. We found a place to stay for the night, pretty much just picking at random. This should be interesting going without a guide and figuring it out on our own. We’ve done absolutely zero research on the Annapurna Circuit but how hard could it be? We have a map.

Day 11

Upper Pisang

Elev. 10,820 feet

I think everybody gets sick eventually in Nepal. Today it was QB’s turn. Yesterday she started feeling lousy walking down from Bimthang and it progressed throughout the day and overnight. She’s tough though and once she got on the Imodium train this morning she started feeling better. Maybe not 100% yet but she’s getting there.

The weather wasn’t great today plus with QB’s bellyache it didn’t look like we’d have much of a day. Still crushed though. There was a decent climb from Danakyu to Timthang then walked a couple more hours to Chame. A German guy Alan walked with us for a while and that was a breath of fresh air, someone new. He stopped in Chame where he was meeting a friend and we carried on. For lunch we got to this lodge in Brathang that looked totally out of place. It looked more like a farmhouse you’d see in the Montana mountains than a tea house in Nepal, and it was actually called ‘The Farmhouse.’ All of a sudden there were lots of other trekkers around. I think a lot of them were actually starting here at The Farmhouse. The Annapurna Circuit is much different than Manaslu for a bunch of reasons but for starters there’s a Jeep road on Annapurna that goes almost all the way around. This gives people the option to start in all different towns.

We walked a couple more hours after lunch, sometimes on the Jeep road and sometimes on trail, until we got to Upper Pisang where we’ll spend the night. There’s a big group of Russians here and another group from Israel. Including us and the locals there’s four different languages being spoken in the dining room but I can only understand one.

Day 12

Gunsang

Elev. 12,952 feet

Well, today was awesome. Yesterday we had a choice; take either the low route or the high route. The high route was longer and had more elevation gain but left the road and had incredible views. The low route stuck down on the road and would have been easier walking, albeit less scenic. Naturally we went high.

Shortly after we left Upper Pisang this morning we were admiring the beefy Annapurna II from across the valley. I was alternating between looking straight ahead where I was going and turning to get another look at this gigantic mountain when suddenly I saw a massive amount of snow break off from near the top of the peak and pick up steam and more snow as it tumbled down towards the valley. AVALANCHE! The natural phenomenon that until this point I had only heard about. It was incredible. Thankfully it didn’t reach the valley containing Lower Pisang and I don’t think people climb that side of the mountain. I hope not anyway. Check out below for a video or see it on my instagram @endlesspsummer.

 

The rest of the day was cool but nothing happened as exciting as a Himalayan avalanche. From Upper Pisang we had a steep climb up to Ghyaru, an ancient village looking over the valley. We contoured along the side of a mountain for awhile and got to Ngawal. The villages for the most part seem much bigger in the Annapurna region than over by Manaslu, probably because most can be accessed by a road or at least close to a road.

Eventually we rejoined a road and had to stop at a police checkpoint, and for whatever reason QB’s permit has her listed as Algerian but the Nepal police didn’t question it. I wasn’t about to say anything, that would just slow us down. We got lunch at a really good spot in a tiny village called Manchi then made our way to the big city in the area; Manang.

Manang is literally the end of the road, it will be all trail from here until we get over the pass. Because of this we figured we better stock up on coconut cookies and other goodies before the prices jump when we get higher in the mountains. Lots of trekkers usually stop in Manang for a night or 2 but we strategically wanted to get a little higher for acclimating purposes. We walked another hour uphill to this place Gunsang that is pretty much just one active hotel.

After taking a few minutes to get set up we came out to eat and the kid here was like, “My parents just left and will be back in an hour or two.” It’s 5:30 and we’re both wicked hungry and it’s not like they just ran to the store or something, the nearest anything is an hours walk in each direction. Whatever, at least the kid here made us some tea and I guess we just eat late. It’s weird though, I would have thought they would have told us they won’t be around to cook for awhile. Anyway our room tonight is incredible, I mean there’s nothing to it but we have a view of some of the most gigantic mountains I’ve ever seen and it will probably only cost something like 3-5 dollars.

Well I just learned that the reason the parents ran out is because they went to check on one of their yaks that was bitten by either a snow leopard or a wolf(I didn’t know there were wolves here but who knows). I guess I can wait for my food, sure hope their yak is ok.Sweet $3 view!

Day 13

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Today was a short day for miles hiked or for hours hiked but we did put ourselves another couple thousand feet higher and should be good to go to get up and over Thorung Pass tomorrow. Ideally we would just walk all day and be on the other side of the pass tonight but that’s not the way things go out here. Clouds usually roll in every afternoon and the chances for lousy weather go way up later in the day. Thorung La(or pass) sits at something like 17,500 feet and I’ve never been up that high, I’ve also never slept as high as I am tonight. I think getting acclimated the last couple weeks has got me and QB in good condition and we’ll spend most of the day resting, eating, and drinking mint tea. Hopefully tomorrow morning will be nice and clear and we’ll be able to get it done. Even though we only walked about 4 hours today the hiking was pretty rad. We walked higher and higher through a valley all morning and had views of some incredible mountains ahead of us and behind us. At one point along the side of the trail there was a dead goat or a blue sheep carcass and we watched as about a dozen Himalayan Vultures(not sure what the real name is for these birds but they’re massive) fought and picked over the dead meat. It was quite a sight. 3rd coolest thing I’ve seen in 2 days: avalanche, a dog sliding off a roof that a girl caught that we saw in Manang, and these vulture fights.

 

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We got to Thorung Phedi around 11 and our only other option for today was to go another hour and another thousand feet to sleep at High Camp. I’m comfortable here. Excited about tomorrow and a little nervous.

Day 14

Thorung Phedi

Elev. 14,837 feet

Well today didn’t go as planned. We woke up at 4:30 am and were ready to crush it up the pass. Overnight the weather turned to shit and it was already snowing down here below 15,000 feet. We decided to wait until 6 and if it didn’t improve we’d wait it out a day for safety’s sake and try the pass tomorrow. It didn’t improve. Not the end of the world though, it was nice just laying around, resting, reading, and beating Sara in Chess.

Then around noontime my stomach started doing somersaults. Over the next few hours my condition deteriorated. I’ll spare you the details but if you look back to my entry for day 3 of this adventure you’ll get a good idea of what I went through again. Things aren’t looking good for getting over Thorung Pass. If by some miracle I’m 100% by morning and the skies are clear we might go for it. Otherwise I think our best option will be turning around and hiking down to Besi Sahar(our original ending point for the Manaslu Circuit). It will probably be about 4 days of walking either way, hopefully between the 2 of us we’re carrying enough Imodium. Thorung Pass and the Annapurna Circuit were never part of the original plan so I won’t be too upset if I don’t get up and over it. Sure would be cool though.

Day 15

Besi Sahar

Elev. 2500 feet

The skies were clear and the weather looked just about perfect to go up and over the pass this morning. The problem was I was completely drained. I wasn’t so much feeling sick and nauseous anymore but I didn’t have any energy at all, I was dehydrated and I’d barely eaten anything in the last 24 hours. Neither of us slept well the last 2 nights. Going over the pass would be a poor decision. QB and I decided to head back down the way we came and in a few days end up in Besi Sahar, which was the town we were originally aiming for before detouring over to the Annapurna Circuit. In just a few hours of walking quickly downhill we were back in Manang, the town where the trail meets the road and vice versa. We walked another couple hours and were just getting through the town of Humde when a Jeep pulled over with a deal for us: 8,000 rupees for the 8 hour ride to Besi Sahar. Deal! I’m only in Nepal for so long and I don’t need to see the same things twice.

There were already seven other Nepalis jammed into this thing so Sara and I jumped into the back and it was an enjoyable first couple hours. At one point a couple got out and they told us to come sit in front. I just do what I’m told. The road got wicked bumpy after that and the ride was slow going and treacherous. It’s beyond me why people go 4 wheeling for fun. After a long day of traveling we got Besi Sahar and will stay here for the night. Tomorrow we’ll either get another Jeep or a bus to take us into Polkara where we’ll regroup, do laundry, take showers, have internet and come up with a plan for the rest of our trip.

It’s been a great couple weeks in the Himalayas. A very different style of hiking than I’m used to and also for the most part very enjoyable. I’ve switched from coffee to tea and gave up eating meat for my time in the mountains. I also had 2 separate and very extreme cases of getting sick. I got sick more times in the last 2 weeks of hiking in Nepal than in almost 10,000 miles of long distance hiking in the States. Maybe I’m just unlucky. I broke my no shower record(not sure if my hygiene contributed to me getting sick but I diligently used hand sanitizer before I ate and I treated all the water I drank). I climbed to the highest point in my life multiple times on this trip and also slept higher than I’ve ever slept before. Most importantly I got to see a part of the world that is simply incredible; people living with a backdrop of arguably the most spectacular landscape on the planet.

Our plan is to hike the Manaslu Circuit in Nepal with a side trip out and back to Tsum Valley. It will be QB and myself plus Mac and Moist, two friends we met last year while hiking CDT.

Mac, Me, Moist

I did my usual next to nothing for preparations but luckily Mac, a full time hiker and traveler, is on it and took care of just about everything. All we had to do is show up. Mac took care of getting the permits, vetting and selecting a guide, and organizing a Jeep ride for all of us for the 8 hour trip from Kathmandu to Arughat Bazar.this should get us there no problem

Manaslu Circuit is a trail that goes around Manaslu Peak (the 8th largest mountain in the world at over 8,000 meters). We’ll be topping out at 16,900 feet on Larke Pass. It usually takes people between 2-3 weeks for the hike (or the trek, they call hiking trekking out here). The circuit requires a couple different permits; one for the Manaslu region and one for the Annapurna region which we’ll be crossing into. We also are required to have a guide which will be a new experience for me. With everything it was a little over $300 USD to get started.

Instead of camping which I’m used to, we’ll be stopping in villages every night and staying in tea houses or lodges which are really just very basic accommodation. Instead of carrying food we’ll be stopping to eat all our meals at tea houses.

While you are reading this blog don’t get too hung up on spelling, the Nepali certainly don’t. Same goes for elevations; I’ve seen plenty of different numbers for the same place, I think the numbers are just a general estimate and I have to convert from meters to feet which just complicates matters further.

Getting here:

From Vegas on the 13th, QB and I took an overnight flight to New York. We spent a couple days with her family there and my folks came down from Massachusetts for the weekend. Monday morning the 16th we were scheduled to fly from JFK in New York to Kathmandu, Nepal. Due to a storm on the east coast we were delayed about 4 hours but it ended up being no big deal.

The first leg of our journey was a 12 hour flight on Qatar air to Doha, Qatar. This was the biggest, most luxurious airplane I’ve ever been on, and they fed us real well. Plus there was a person missing in our row so we had even more space in our already oversized seats. Exactly what I could have hoped for on a flight around the world. Hamad airport in Doha was gigantic and state of the art. Because of the weather delay, Qatar air provided all of the passengers a lunch voucher which was a nice touch but more importantly there was another flight going to Kathmandu in a couple hours so even though we missed our transfer we were still good to go.

After a 5 hour flight we arrived in Kathmandu around 7:30 pm local time. We cruised through customs quickly and were greeted by our welcoming committee, Mac and Moist. From the airport we took a taxi to our hotel in Thamel which is the main tourist district of the city. For supper we went around the corner and got some falafel wraps for like 200 rupees which translates to about 2 USD. Amazingly after losing 9 hours and 45 mins due to traveling, QB and I both crashed out around 11 pm and woke around 630am. Right on schedule. We got on a good sleep rhythm right away.

The following day we explored around Kathmandu and took care of any errands that needed taking care of. We also checked out some of the local attractions, like Monkey Temple and Durbar Square.

4/19

Arughat Bazaar

Elev. 1665 feet

Gopal our guide met us at the Norbulinka hotel at 7:30 this morning and Visal the driver showed up shortly afterwards in a Scorpio SUV.

We hit the road right away and for about 4 hours we were on paved roads going through crowded urban areas and getting jammed up with traffic all over the place. Visal was a very popular guy because everybody that saw him beeped at him and he beeped at everybody too, I mean everybody. Driving through the city was crazy, I can’t believe we didn’t get into a million accidents. Around noon we stopped at a little road side pull-off that catered to tourists and filled up a plate of food and sat by a river.

Back on the road there was only another half hour of the good paved stuff until we crossed a river and were on bumpy, muddy, dirt roads the rest of the way to Arughat. It didn’t take long for our 2wd Scorpio to hit some deep mud and get real stuck. We created a bit of a traffic jam, and then bus behind us with about 50 passengers also got stuck. Now there was a huge crowdand a whole lot of watching as everybody gave their opinion, pushed in different directions, did all kinds of stuff and eventually the trucks all became unstuck and we were able to move on. This went on for a couple hours though, it was quite a scene. I guess it happens all the time on this road and was no big deal.

Once we got going again we still had about 3 more hours of driving this wicked bumpy road through farming villages and down into and out of a jungle. We made it through sections of road that had rivers running right through them and other situations that were just as muddy as when we got stuck and then at one point the driver even got pulled over and got a 500 rupee ticket ($5) for some silly rule but eventually we made it to our destination, Arughat Bazaar. Even though the traffic was miserable, and the road was probably the worst I’ve ever been on, it was still an enjoyable ride and was leaps and bounds better than our alternative; being crammed into the bus. The Scorpio was comfortable, the company was fun and Visal was a good driver. When we got to Arughat we got set up at a guest house and got some food. The room even has a toilet and a fan.

Day 1

Dobhan

Elev. 3850 ft

We got up this morning around 6 and ate breakfast at the hotel in Arughat. Fresh eggs from their chickens, toast, honey they harvest from the bees on the roof, and a miniature banana from a tree nearby. And black tea, I’m trying to switch from coffee to tea while on this hike, so far it’s going ok.

The first half of the day we were on a road and had cars, trucks, and buses still coming by. We got to Arkhet Bazaar which was a pretty busy bustling community and bought a soda and a snack. As we get into the mountains the prices of goods increase but things like lodging get cheaper. For instance: a bottle of coke that was 60 rupees in Kathmandu was 100 rupees when we got stuck in the mud yesterday and then 180 rupees at Arkhet Bazaar and going up. The lodging on the other hand goes down, I think. The room at Arughat was 800r and tonight it’s 300r but also we don’t have electricity or a bathroom in our room. No need.

After Arkhet we walked the road for a couple more hours, it was fun and there was an awful lot going on, we even saw a wedding procession. We got to a little restaurant that overlooked a waterfall, a suspension bridge, and the river. The Buddhi Gandaki River. The same river we followed all day. For lunch we got noodles and vegetables kind of like chow mein. We learned that if we all order the same thing the meal comes out way quicker.

The road ended at the restaurant so we dropped down onto the trail that went right alongside the river. The valley we are walking through got steeper and the trail became narrower. Nepal suffered an earthquake 3 years ago and since then this section of trail had some serious landslides. Part of the trail was pretty dicey but I’ve got faith in Gopal and he was pretty confident we’d get right through. I guess most of the other trekkers took a long cut way out of the way but we did fine.

The trails here are used everyday by the people living here going village to village and just doing their thing. It’s amazing to me how some people live their lives. Later on this afternoon, after we got through the landslide section, we got to Tatopani (tato: hot, pani: water) and cleaned up a little, these weren’t ideal for soaking but good for rinsing quick in the water coming out of the spring.

An hour later and we got to Dobhan, our home for the night. Dobhan is a tiny little village and we’re the only trekkers at this guest house. For supper I had dalbhat for the first time, a traditional Nepalese dish, and loved it. Dalbhat is lentil stew and rice, paired with curried vegetables and some other pickled stuff. It’s a staple in people’s diets up here. Gopal eats it twice a day everyday and I can see why. I think we’ll just eat this every night and I’m cool with that.

Day 2

Lokpa

Elev. 7200 feet

Today was awesome. We ate breakfast and walked out of Dobhan around 7 this morning.

The trail climbed for an hour or so before passing through a village right next to the river where they were drying out some pork in a smokehouse and a little girl was throwing rocks at a dog , pretty standard. Right after that there was a bridge fixed to the side of the rock wall above the river for about a tenth of a mile. That was a first, most of the bridges we go over are these big wobbly suspension bridges spanning the river.

Shortly after the fixed bridge we got to Jagat and this is where we officially enter the Manaslu region. Jagat is where we need to give our permits to the police. Actually we didn’t do any of that, Gopal was in charge of talking to the police. Another couple hours after Jagat we got to the village of Phimel for lunch, this was pretty high up above the river and had some incredible views.

For the first time we could start seeing some big beefy mountains. There was a view of a 7000 meter peak that was the biggest mountain I’ve ever seen in my life to this point. Nepal uses the metric system and they also use hour as a unit of measurement for distance. Instead of miles or kilometers everything is either an hour here or two hours there. So a couple hours after Phimel we got to the confluence of the Buddhi Gandaki river and the Siyar Kohla river where we took a right to go out to Tsum Valley. This is an out and back route off of the Manaslu Circuit that we chose to add on to our trip to spend a couple days seeing Tsum Valley.

After we turned the trail ziggy ziggy’d (Gopal’s term for switchbacks) up for awhile and we got to the little village of Lokpa where we are spending the night. I got dal bhat again and I learned a couple things about it: first of all it’s not the same from place to place, I mean it’s pretty much the same basic ingredients but they are always a little different, second of all it’s customary that dalbhat is free refills as much as you want. This is a game changer. I’m probably eating dal bhat for dinner the rest of my time here.

While we were talking about trail names Gopal told us he also has a trail name: Mountain Tiger. I’ll probably be referring to him in this blog as Mountain Tiger from now on. I didn’t know why he didn’t tell us right away but I guess he’s more well known in the Everest region and they all call him Mountain Tiger over there.our fearless leader, Mountain Tiger

Day 3

Chhokar Paro

Elev. 9975 feet

WARNING: This post gets a little gross

Well maybe I won’t be eating Dal Bhat every night for the rest of this hike, but I’ll get back to that.

Last night I saw the biggest spider of my entire life and it was in my room. QB was coming in and just about to latch the door when this monster appeared right next to the latch. Now neither of us would consider ourselves spider scared (if you read this blog you know that I’m really afraid of snakes) but after we got visited by this guy we both were definitely scared. Mountain Tiger said it was not venomous but that still didn’t make me want to share a room with it, the thing was as big as my palm.

Shortly after the spider incident I fell asleep then woke up a couple hours later with some horrible nausea. I was up the rest of the night rolling around with a belly ache. Still had to hike though and the trail was tough, lots and lots of climbing.

I felt a little better at first but around noontime when we got to Chumling I didn’t think I could go on. I told Mountain Tiger I was struggling and he encouraged me to go to the toilet and make myself throw up. Now the toilets here are squat toilets. Basically just a little outhouse with a hole in the ground outlined with a piece of porcelain. Throwing up in one of these was quite an experience and not a pleasant one. I did feel a lot better however and was able to eat some garlic soup on Gopal’s suggestion.

Good thing I was improving because after lunch we had about 4 hours of difficult hiking. The trail climbed steeply up to the village of Chhokar Paro where we’d spend the night. Along the way we saw a bunch of monkeys and a couple of blue sheep. Chhokar Paro was a nice place, because of reconstruction after the earthquake it seemed newer than the villages down low and had great views of Tsum Valley.

Stupa

At dinner I started to feel a little rumble in my stomach. This is when the diarrhea started. I rested a little bit then made it down to dinner and tried to eat a some soup. First I took some Imodium, then QB had an antibiotic for this situation so I started on that, Mac gave me some pill to help with my fever that was developing and Mountain Tiger had me eat a huge garlic clove and whipped up a magic potion for me to drink. I left dinner early to crash out.

A couple hours later I woke up and had an episode of the most spectacular diarrhea of all time. My system was completely flushed, it was another very unpleasant situation. QB took care of me and put me back to bed and I was able to sleep soundly the rest of the night.

Day 4

Lar

Elev. 10,500 feet

Miraculously I felt really good this morning, not great, but really good. My system was completely empty so I had some porridge and black tea for breakfast and I was back on my feet again. Good thing too because today was a beautiful day.

We walked north into Tsum Valley which had big green fields and even bigger white mountains all over. There was lots of Buddhist shrines or Stupas along the trail and we stopped at Rachen Gompa (Gompa: monastery) to check it out. This place was cool but it seemed relatively modern, newer than I expected anyway for a Himalayan Monastery.

From there we walked a little further to the village of Lar and had some lunch at the Yak Hotel (it would have been more fitting if I threw up at this place). Since we’d be staying here tonight we dropped off most of our stuff and went with light packs the rest of the day. From Lar we walked further into Tsum Valley towards Mu Gompa. I knew we were getting into the good stuff because for the first time of the trip I saw Gopal take out his phone and take a few pictures.

Along the way we saw a ton of monkeys raiding a potato field and a lot more Stoopas and Mani Walls(These are Buddhist prayer walls in the middle of the trails, stay to the left if you come to one).

Mu Gompa is the real deal, it’s a 700 year old very authentic feeling monastery that sits around 12,200 feet. The monks there showed us around and served us some tea. It was otherworldly. They don’t talk much but one of them really liked QB’s tattoos.

We walked back down a few hours to the Yak Hotel and it was a very enjoyable day. After the night I just had I felt very lucky to be able to hike comfortably today.

Day 25…..20 miles…..AZT mile 612.8

Our stay at the Travelodge last night gave me all the rest and strength I need for this last stretch of trail(I hope). This morning a couple of our friends, Hoho and Chicory, who had recently moved to Flagstaff had us over and cooked us an incredible breakfast. These two hiked the Arizona Trail last spring as well as both of their dads who were in town, Van Gogh and Pops. Hoho and Chicory have hiked a bunch of the same trails as us and usually the same years so we know lots of the same people and it was fun to talk trail for a few hours with all four of them. They gave us a ride back to the trail around noon and armed with new pairs of sneakers that we sent to their house, QB and I put a good beating on the trail all afternoon and evening. We hiked through a beautiful ponderosa pine forest then saw the first aspen trees of the trail as we got up to 9000 feet. This I think is the high point of the trail but that’s not based on much. While we were up around 9000 we walked by the Arizona Snowbowl that people are still skiing into April and there was still a bunch of patches of snow on the trail. This must have inspired QB to start and then quickly lose a snowball fight. We walked into the evening and as the sunset produced an alpenglow in the sky we found a place to camp in the shadow of the San Francisco Peaks.

Day 26…..30.8 miles…..AZT mile 643.6

Queen B saw a bobcat this morning. Or a lynx but let’s just say bobcat. She was about 50 yards away and had a stair down for a full minute with the beast. Look at the picture below to see the blurry image she captured. I’m so jealous, I was ahead of her for about an hour and had just stopped to dig my morning cat hole when she got out ahead and had this awesome wildlife sighting. I mean I’m happy for her and everything but I really wish I saw it too. I’ve yet to see a big cat in the wild, and I know a bobcat is more like a medium sized cat but still. I guess I’ll just keep walking until I do.

The rest of the day was fairly mellow. Early this morning we got out of the pine forest and dropped into a high desert with juniper trees and scrub bushes. Eventually we were out in a wide open range with big views of the San Francisco peaks whenever we turned around. All day was spent on flat fast forest roads which made the miles easy and by the time we got to the last water source of the day, a cow tank, we easily had 30+ miles. Blurry bobcat

Day 27…..31.3…..AZT mile 674.9

No bobcats today, we did see a coyote though, probably my favorite animal. Once again the trail was pretty mellow. We crossed into Kaibab National forest first thing this morning then followed a combination of single track and forest road for the rest of the day. It was a relatively uneventful day, we saw a couple horses that might have been wild or just lost. They didn’t have any saddles on them and there were no people nearby but sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not I’m on the outskirts of somebody’s ranch or way out in the wild.

We’re getting seriously close to the Grand Canyon. This afternoon we came across Grandview Lookout which is a 7 story fire tower that we climbed and had our first views of the canyon. I was disappointed to find the top of the tower locked and closed but still had a pretty good view from up there. From the tower we took a left and the rest of the afternoon pretty much walked parallel to the GC but in a forest and far enough away that we didn’t have any views. Right as we were looking for a campsite, we saw a little coyote running through the woods then out of sight. I wish I had a frisbee with me, or at least a tennis ball.

Day 28…..20 miles(est)…..AZT mile 690.6

This morning we walked for a few hours until we got to the little town of Tusayan Village. This place is just south of the Grand Canyon and seems to exist solely to cater to the National Park visitor. It was good for us because there was a breakfast buffet at the Mexican restaurant in town. The food wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either, this was definitely a quantity over quality situation and we did our part in putting a dent into their food supply. After breakfast we walked another couple hours into Grand Canyon Village. We picked up a box of food at the PO that we sent a month ago then secured ourselves a site in the hiker/biker section at Mather CG. From here we took a bit of an alternate from the AZT. Since we’re planning on doing a rim to rim hike of the canyon starting at the South Kaibab Trail tomorrow, we figured we would set up our stuff and take light packs south of the trailhead and walk along the rim for awhile today. This probably added 5 or 6 miles but was well worth it. Walking along the rim of the canyon is awesome, the views are indescribable to anyone who’s never seen it. As much as the natural beauty of the canyon is so incredible, sometimes the people watching in the park is the real national treasure. I’ve never felt more like an adult than today when I had to tell these three knuckleheads to cut the shit because they were throwing rocks over the side of the canyon. It’s not my favorite role and I’m sure I’ve been on the opposite side of similar conversations more than once but seriously how stupid could these kids be? Anyway a more entertaining thing we saw today was this full grown man intensely practicing tai chi right next to the trail, just behind him was(I can only assume) his wife and 4 kids hitting a dead log on the ground with sticks. It was quite a scene. After we tried not to stare at this martial artist we walked past the South Kaibab trailhead out to Yaki Point for the main event of any day at the canyon, sunset, and it was of course spectacular. From Yaki Point we had to walk back a ways to catch a bus and then another bus that brought us to the supermarket where we ate a bunch of food and charged up our phones and batteries for the next section. Like any of the big National Parks, Grand Canyon is an amazing natural wonder but the village here is very commercialized and draws lots of people. I’m a person too so of course I can’t complain about too many people being here(since I’d be part of the problem), but it’s always weird to go from being almost all by ourselves in the middle of the woods to a major outdoor tourist mecca. Still though, I encourage everybody to see the Grand Canyon at least once.