Hiking the Hoh Rainforest

Hiking the Hoh Rainforest

Hiking the Hoh Rainforest 2

By Kristin Hanes

From the moment I started down the Hoh River trail carrying my backpack, I started to sweat. The place with thick with moist, hot air, like a tropical rainforest transplanted to Washington State. Drapes of moss hung from the huge branches of old-growth Douglas fir, Western Hemlock and cedar trees. Bright green ferns carpeted the soft, soggy ground. I breathed in, stuck somewhere between a steam room and a sauna, and tried to enjoy the stifling beauty of the Hoh Rainforest. My boyfriend and I were making our way 10 miles to our campsite on our three-day summer backpacking trip.

 

Hiking the Hoh Rainforest 3

 

The Hoh Rainforest is gorgeous, located in the northwestern most corner of Washington State in Olympic National park. It gets a yearly total of 12 to 14 feet of rain, which is heaven for moss and ferns. The first part of the trail runs along the Hoh River, tinged a milky slate blue from glacial sediment.

 

Hiking the Hoh Rainforest 1

 

When we first started our trek, we weren’t sure whether we’d do the entire 40 mile round trip hike up to Blue Glacier, which would mean 5,000 feet of elevation gain and loss in one day.

Usually, people spend their second night of camping at a campground near the glacier, but there were none available for us. So we’d have to set up in one spot and od the glacier as a day hike.

Our first day of hiking was an easy and mostly flat through the prehistoric-looking rainforest, and we found a secluded spot to pitch our tent on the gravel bar near the Hoh River. It looked like something out of Alaska, with mist that clung in the evergreen trees and an icy, fast-moving river. We hunkered down for the night with dinner and a fire, and decided that yes, we wanted to see the glacier. Neither of us had ever seen a glacier up-close-and-personal, and with the current state of climate change, we wanted to hike to a glacier before it was too late.

 

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We got up early to prepare for the 17-mile hike and stuffed our daypacks full of food. The trail wound up, and up, and up, through the greenest forest I’ve ever seen. Gigantic nurse logs lined the trail, sprouting with ferns and baby trees. We refilled our water bottles with icy stream water fed from a glacier. We gained elevation like nobody’s business under a cloudy, murky sky.

Finally, by early afternoon, the clouds began to burn off. I started to catch small glimpses of the Olympic mountains through the trees; snow-capped, jagged grey peaks. The Hoh River rushed by in a deep canyon far below us, and I was reminded of just how high we’d climbed.

The trail started to get narrow and sketchy. I stepped slowly and carefully, very much aware of the gritty sand beneath my feet and the staggering drop-off to my right. At one point, we had to shimmy down a ladder into a canyon, then climb switchbacks up the other side. Meanwhile, the clouds had burned off completely, leaving an achingly beautiful blue sky in their place.

 

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My legs were tired, and we still had 1,000 more feet of elevation gain to go. My feet burned inside my my rigid hiking boots. But I was determined to see that glacier. We paused to fill water and have a snack in a flower-filled meadow, and drank in the alpine beauty as we sipped in cool, refreshing water.

The last 500 feet were up a rocky cliff, some of it we we had to trudge through snow. When we reached the top, I was blown away by the beauty and immensity of blue glacier.

It stretched before us, pouring down the mountain in a gigantic river frozen in time, the ice fall tinged an icy blue. Above, the jagged summit of Mount Olympus rose, as if daring us to climb. We saw some mountaineers don helmets and start their trek across the glacier, most likely to camp for the night before a summit attempt.

 

 

It’s one of the most beautiful sights I’ve ever seen. Thousands of years of glacier were at eye-level, and I stared at the expanse for a long time. Below us, a white mountain goat rooted around in the brush. I was so glad we’d hiked to see the glacier, but was dreading the hike back down.

 

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It was 2pm and it was 8.5 miles and 5,000 feet down, down, down, back to our campsite by the river. We didn’t stay at the glacier long so we could get back before dark.

The hike was brutal. My muscles screamed with the effort, my feet felt like they were walking on pebbles. The balls of my feet and heels ached with the exertion and I practically ran the last 200 yards back to our site, just to take off my shoes, to find some sort of relief.

I collapsed on the sand after I pulled off my boots, letting the coolness soothe the fire in my feet.

But there was more work to be done. We had to gather wood and water, start a fire, cook dinner, empty our packs. We decided to fill one of our bear cans with water so we could take a hot shower. It was a painstaking process, heating two cups of water at a time to a boil on our Jetboil stove  and then adding to the cold river.

When the water was warm enough, Tom poured it over my head and I scrubbed the sweat and dirt from my body and hair. Cold air hit my wet skin and I ran to dry by the crackling fire. I’ve never felt more alive than in that moment, feeling the cleanness of my hair, hearing the rushing of the river nearby, smelling sand and pine and wood smoke. I feel that backpacking takes us back to our senses, the feelings in our bodies. We connect to the earth and ourselves with a primalness that can’t be found in the comfort of an apartment, on a soft couch, in front of a TV.

Both of us felt wild and in tune in those moments after we taxed our bodies to the limit, then bathed by the warmth of a campfire. Nothing has ever felt better.

Sleep and rest also felt good. Once our bellies were warm and full, we crawled into bed. My blow-up camping pad and sleeping bag felt like a 5-star luxury hotel, a much-welcomed rest from the grueling day. I fell asleep thinking of alpine peaks, glaciers, the vastness of the sky.

The next day, we hiked back out another eleven miles. My feet were still sore from the day before, and by the end of the hike, I could barely move. Each step felt brutal, and I was thankful to once again be at the Hoh Visitor’s Center, at the car, pulling off my boots for flip-flops. It was 2pm.

 

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We’d hiked to Blue Glacier and back in about 60 hours. Insane.

Sometimes I ask myself why we push so hard. One summer it was the John Muir Trail, the next this hike to Blue Glacier. And then this summer, we may hit the John Muir Trail again.

I think that in our mostly sedentary lives, it feels good to get out and test our bodies, to see just how far they can go. It feels good to be in the true depths of nature. It feels good to be rewarded with a stunning view, with a soothing, hot campsite shower. And I’m still rewarded today with vivid memories, with the knowledge that, “Yes, I can.”

 

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About the Author:

Kristin Hanes is a journalist and writer who lives on a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay. Besides sailing, she loves anything adventurous and outdoorsy, including hiking, backpacking and traveling. Besides staying active, Kristin also loves cooking, salsa dancing and drinking a good beer. You can follow her adventures on her blog, www.thewaywardhome.com

 

Dear Natalie You’re in Danger

Ask Natalie Banner

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear Natalie,

Don’t you know it’s risky out there?

Signed,

Yourself, and society

____________________________________________________________________________________________

Dear everyone,

At first, I would have answered this question in one, easy, short, simple word: No.

Dear Natalie You're in Danger

I started hiking in Ohio. For my friends from outside the U.S., or those geographically challenged Americans, Ohio is flat and fairly developed. There are virtually no bears in Ohio, and any other large predator animals have been well hedged into forestlands by development and roadways.  Ohio has more than its fair share of wide open farmland, and quaint, eye-blink sized towns populated by old folks and Amish families, but I can’t say I ever lost mobile phone signal anywhere in the state. In fact, I can sheepishly admit now, I was nearly 30 years old before I realized it was even possible to travel by land to a place that didn’t have phone service.

Dear Natalie You're in Danger
Dangerous, aggressive animal from the wilds of Ohio

So, then, when I decided to start exploring, it never occurred to me that it could be any riskier than a walk through my neighborhood.

It wasn’t until my impending move, for work-related reasons, to Oregon, that I began to fully understand that exploring the outdoors could have some element of danger. Oregon is a state where over half of the land is owned by the government; that’s an American way of saying it is undeveloped and wild. If we could straighten out the state’s undeveloped forest roads and fashion them into one long ribbon, it would wrap around Earth’s circumference with plenty of roadway to spare. I was moving into a place where it wasn’t just possible, but probable, that I would find myself somewhere far removed from foot-traffic, passers-by, and easily navigated, paved routes to civilization. It was prudent, then, to start studying the 10 Essentials, back country safety, and planning for emergencies.  I learned that it could be risky to venture out without a water purifier, emergency shelter, and a box of waterproof matches. I learned it could be dangerous to find myself confronted by a startled black bear if I were not armed with bear spray.

I also learned it was hazardous to hike alone while female.

This immediately did not sit well with me. I started debates about it with – well, with pretty much anyone who would humor me without filing a police report for verbal assault. “What makes me, a woman, more at risk than a man, especially if I’m better prepared?” I asked, and repeatedly, I heard the following responses:

  • “No one sexually assaults men!” (This is a blatant falsehood.)
  • “There are a lot of creepy people in the world.”  (Well, sure, but why are they hiking fifteen miles into the national forest to creep out women?)
  • “I’m just saying, I’d prefer to be out there with someone who’s carrying a gun.” (Okay, that’s your preference, but does that gun-toting someone have to be a man?)
  • “What happens if you get hurt and you’re alone?” (What would happen if a man got hurt when he was alone? Popular movies inform me that I should be prepared to amputate one of my own appendages – not an appetizing thought but hell, I’d do it if it was required for survival.)  

Many people would groan and say, “Ugh, this isn’t some woman thing – no one, NO ONE, should hike alone.” This always puzzled me. I figured, sure, it is always safer to travel in groups, regardless of your gender. Isn’t that how human society started in the first place? The collective is stronger than the individual? That said, certainly people do adventure alone, and not just for a few dozen miles of walking on dirt. Some people climb mountains alone, or row their boat across big bodies of water alone. Some people traipse across continents with only themselves and a backpack. These people survive. The distinct message I was getting was that survival was less likely if these people were women.

Dear Natalie You're in Danger
Photographic proof of how stoked I was to be solo day hiking a section of the PCT

I found myself feeling defensive after a while. By this time, I was well-versed on basic safety, and while I was not wilderness medicine certified, nor an outdoors expert by any means, I definitely was no longer green when it came to hiking the Oregon wilderness. Why did my sheer femaleness make me more vulnerable than someone else of equivalent experience? Finally, when a man repeatedly voiced his (admittedly mild) protests about my solo adventures, I pressed the issue: “Why does this bother you so much?” I asked. “Do you think I can’t handle it?”

“You can handle it,” he said. “I just don’t like the thought of you alone out there.”

That’s when I realized: It’s about love. We women are loved, and the world has sent a very clear message: When you love a woman, you protect her from threats real or perceived. The outdoors and all that we are still exploring is full of The Unknown, and The Unknown offers up boundless potential for threat. Thing is, it also offers up boundless potential for love – love of self, love of the world, love of experience, love of life.

I’ve set out to minimize risk through experience and knowledge. I believe we can never be too wise or prepared, particularly when we are exploring the world. But I’ve also committed myself to conveying – through my own activities – that outdoor exploration is an act of love. I do not get outside to feel like I am starring in my own version of a “woman versus the wild” program. I get outside to fill my heart, to be connected, and to refill my inner emotional wells.

Being alone in the forest is not how I put myself at risk. It is how I offer myself protection. And I want to paint that picture for the people in my life, and for you, the friends who feel this, too.

Dear Natalie You're in Danger

 

With Love,  

Natalie

P.S. – What legitimate, or not so legitimate, safety warnings have you heard? How are the people in your life responding to your quests for adventure? What fears do you feel as an exploring woman? Let us know via message, video, or audio recording (you can use the voice recorder on your phone!), and feel free to share pictures as well! We’d like to include your contributions in future posts. Share via email at AskNatalieColumn @ gmail.com   

Contributors are identified by their first name, but you can request anonymity if you’d prefer.  

 

Antelope Canyon Arizona is No Longer Hidden, but It’s Still a Gem

Antelope Canyon 1

By Mary Lyons

In the 1970s, the slot canyons on the Navajo Reservation in northeastern Arizona were still relatively unknown to everyone except the Navajo. While visiting Antelope Canyon recently, I met a man from Tucson who said he visited Antelope Canyon in the 1970s. Twice. Fresh out of college, he went on a road trip by himself in his Volkswagen beetle. He stopped for gas and asked what there was to see in the area. He was told to go see “the skinny caves” by a Navajo man who worked in the gas station.

 

Antelope Canyon 2

 

So off he went, almost getting stuck in the sand before reaching what is now known as Upper Antelope Canyon. He walked through the slot canyon, mystified by what he saw and wanting to know more about how it was formed. But there was no one to ask. He didn’t see a single person in Upper or Lower Antelope Canyon on that day.

 

Antelope Canyon 3

 

Fast forward eight years. This same man takes his new bride to see “the skinny caves” on the Navajo Reservation. He assured her the “Indians” would not hurt them. This time, they saw one other person during their visit. They saw each other. Now there were two people wandering through the canyons, taking pictures, and wondering how this miracle of nature occurred. He said they knew it was erosion, but how? There was no water here.

 

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Or was there? These two canyons, now known as Antelope Canyon, aren’t the only two slot canyons in northern Arizona and southern Utah. The soft sandstone here is easily eroded during flash floods that occur a few times a year. These slot canyons change every time it rains. Even a little bit of rain can cause a flash flood through the slots as the water bottlenecks and rushes through the narrow opening, washing away several feet of sand in the bottom of the cave.

 

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After each flood, the Navajo shovel three feet of sand back into the narrow slot canyon. Without it, no one would be able to walk through it because the opening at the bottom is far too narrow. When my guide, Dezzi, told me this, I couldn’t believe it.

Fast forward to 2017. I arrive for my guided photography tour through Upper Antelope Canyon. There were seven people in my group, but at least 100 people gathered outside the office of Antelope Canyon Tours, in Page, Arizona, waiting for their tour to depart from the office parking lot. My tour lasted two hours because I paid more to be on a photography tour. Regular tours last only 60 minutes.

 

Antelope Canyon 6

 

I have no idea how many people I saw in Upper Antelope Canyon. Probably hundreds, but because I was on a two-hour photography tour, the Navajo guide would hold people back or make groups wait so that there would be no people in our photos. Photography tours are limited to a certain number of people, and each person must have a DSLR camera and tripod. I booked through Antelope Canyon Tours at www.antelopecanyon.com. For a two-hour photography tour (all 120 minutes spent in the canyon!), the cost is 100 USD plus a fee of 8 USD to the Navajo Reservation.

The next day, I had a two-hour tour of Lower Antelope Canyon, which is probably the more famous of the two. I know there were hundreds of people there, but once again, because I was on a photography tour, there are no people in my photos. For this tour, I booked through Ken’s Tours at www.lowerantelope.com for 47 USD plus the 8 USD fee to the Navajo Reservation. My guide was a young Navajo man named Dezzi, and just like the day before, he kept the masses at bay while we took pictures. There were only two people in my group on this day.

 

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I’d like to say a bit about gratuities for the guides. Like tour guides everywhere, they are not getting rich doing this job, and they work so hard. They work on days when most people don’t have to. They miss holidays with their family because people who don’t have to work on holidays come to visit these canyons. They deserve a generous tip when the tour is complete. In my group of seven at Upper Antelope, I was the only one who tipped the guide. I realize some tourists come from cultures where tipping is not customary, but in the US, it is expected and it is often the major source of income for tour guides, rather than their salaries.

 

WHAT IS A SLOT CANYON?

A slot canyon is formed by water eroding away rock, usually a soft rock like sandstone. During rainstorms, the water collects at the opening of the slot canyon, which looks like a cave, and it rushes through, rising at it goes, creating a narrow opening throughout what would otherwise be a cave. Because the water is restricted by the rock walls, it rises rapidly, maybe up to more than 50 or 60 feet deep, and washes the canyon clean, bringing and removing debris.

 

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The canyon remains narrow, but wide enough to walk through, and the rock formations change each time it floods. This results in awe-inspiring formations which, in the case of Antelope Canyon, have been named by the Navajo. These formations and the light that floods through them are why they are photographed so often and why they have become so popular to visit.

 

WHERE IS ANTELOPE CANYON AND HOW DO I GET THERE?

Antelope Canyon 9Antelope Canyon is located on the Navajo Reservation in the northeastern corner of Arizona. It is close to small town called Page, which is not part of the reservation. This entire area is red multi-colored sandstone and Page sits at the edge of Glen Canyon dam and Lake Powell, only 12 miles from the Utah border.

To get here from southern Arizona, take I-17 north to Flagstaff, and then take Hwy 89 north to Page. If you’re coming from southern Utah or Las Vegas, you can take either Hwy 89 south or 89A east. 89A will take you along the Vermillion Cliffs for some spectacular scenery.

If you’re flying in, the closest major airports are Las Vegas, Phoenix, or Salt Lake City. From any of these, you can rent a car and drive and see some of the most incredible scenery the United States has to offer.

 

WHAT ABOUT ACCOMMODATION DURING MY VISIT?

Antelope Canyon 10Page, Arizona is, in my opinion, your best option for accommodation. There are hotels for all budgets, some with incredible views of Glen Canyon dam and Lake Powell. But I was on a budget, and I wanted to camp. I hadn’t used my backpacking tent in 15 years. After testing it out in my back yard, I researched campgrounds near Antelope Canyon. There are many options.

I booked at a full-service campground in Page called Page Lake Powell Campground for 28 USD a night for a tent site. A little pricey for a tent site, but each site has electric, water, a grill, and a picnic table, and plenty of space for at least two backpacking tents or one large tent. Oh, and each site has a tree. Page gets pretty hot during the summer. There’s also RV camping here, clean restrooms and hot showers, a camp store, cabins, and friendly staff.

There are many other camping options available in the area. There is camping even closer to Lake Powell near Waheap, which is actually in Utah, or a little further away you can camp at Lees Ferry Campground for 20 USD a night, but there are limited services here.

 

IS IT REALLY WORTH DRIVING THERE TO SEE TWO SLOT CANYONS?

First, there is so much more landscape to see in this region than just Antelope Canyon. Second, I will let the photos speak for themselves. There’s a reason Antelope Canyon is open year-round and a reason there are hundreds of visitors a day. Believe it or not, the crowds are smaller in winter. November weather is perfect, but December through February are cold and sometimes it snows. There are sure to be smaller crowds when Europe and Asia are in school. The week of Thanksgiving and Christmas are madness. I don’t recommend going during those weeks. I went the week before Thanksgiving when everyone was still at work and in school and it wasn’t really crowded.

 

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Not far from Page and Antelope Canyon is another famous and widely photographed natural wonder called Horseshoe Bend. Many people think it’s in the Grand Canyon, but it is actually on the Navajo Reservation. This incredible natural wonder is best photographed with a wide-angle lens and filter at sunset. I had neither of those things, but I did go at sunset and gave it my best shot.

 

Horseshoe Bend

 

A visit to Antelope Canyon is a must and should be on everyone’s bucket list. It is so worth the extra money for the photography tour, but remember, you must have a DSLR camera and tripod. No matter what tour you take, your photos will be beautiful and you will say, “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

 

The Best 5 Apre-Ski Resort Areas in Italy

Apre-ski 1

By Alessia Morello

 

From late November to early December, all Italian skiing areas begin to count down for the beginning of the ski season. If the snow arrives in advance, like this year, the ski resorts first open to the happiness of snowboarders and skiers who for 7 months are in a trepid wait.

Skiing is a tradition in Italy, if you live in the Alps and the Dolomites when you’re a kid it’s the norm to get up on Sunday at 6:00am, prepare skis and boots and leave for one of the many ski destinations with the family.

When I was just a teenager, snowboarding started in my beloved northeast and me and my father, brave sportsmen, were the first to throw ourselves into this new discipline. I still remember the first falls. Now I am at least 17 years that I snowboard and in addition to go out-track there is one other thing that I love when I go to the mountains. The famous aprè-ski!

After a day of skiing it is usual to go for a drink to warm up and relax in the bars that are at the bottom of the track or in one of the many alpine huts. Over the years these bars have also started making music and creating a broader offering, to make the drink at the aper-ski the coolest event of the day.

 

THE BEST ITALIAN DESTINATIONS – WHERE TO SKI AND HAVE FUN:

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LIVIGNO (Lombardia)

With its 115 kilometres of downhill slopes, 30 km of cross-country skiing trails and many freeride tracks, thanks to a perfect climate and favorable position, Livigno is one of the TOP locations for skiing and snowboarding.

Livigno is also famous for festivals and events throughout the season, but especially for the Snowland music festival, a 6-day long music festival featuring sun, snow and famous DJs.

 

CORTINA D’AMPEZZO (Veneto)

Cortina is one of the most glamorous ski resort areas in Italy since the 1960s. Every respected VIP goes to Cortina at least once a year. But besides the glamor curtain, the “Dolomite pearl” also boasts 86 tracks for 106 km of slopes, as well as one of the best nightlife scenes. If you want to be IN go to the Cortina d’Ampezzo.

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SELVA DI VAL GARDENA (Trentino Alto Adige)

Selva di Val Gardena is one of the largest ski resorts in Italy. Why? Simply because there are 4 connected ski areas that together are known as “Sellaronda” for a length of 1200 miles of ski slopes. Unbelievable. You can do the rounds of the districts in both directions without ever taking off your skis or snowboard. In this myriad of possibilities I do not think it is difficult to find events, music, alpine huts in the middle of nowhere where you can do the best apre-ski of your life. Have not you left yet?

 

PRAMOLLO (FRIULI VENEZIA GIULIA)

The Pramollo is a beautiful ski resort located on the Italian-Austrian border and in this mix of cultures you can find snowboard lovers who do the typical Italian aperitif with “Spritz aperol”, eat Italian pizza by drinking an Austrian Villacher beer and closing dinner with a Snapps or Grappa (is the same thing). In addition to sharing recipes and tracks, in Nassfeld there are some of the most fun bars and parties of the season, the metal festival in the snow “Full Metal Mountain”, the carnival event or the most unusual wine festival ever. Unmissable.

 

LA THUILE (VALLE D’AOSTA)

Do you want to ski and party in the presence of the majestic “Monte Bianco”? The most important mountain in Italy? Then you must go to La Thule in the ski area with the French border. La Thuile at 1441 m has trails that start from 2600 meters with bar and rooms with views of the most envied in the world. A lot of world skiing competitions are held on these mountains and events and amusements follow throughout the season.

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Have you ever thought about a winter holiday in the Italian Alps?

So what do you expect?

Buy a ticket!

_____________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

Alessia Morello lives in the north-east of Italy. After working for several years around the world she decide to stop and come back in her homeland and do the things she loves like trekking into the Dolomites with her dog Giorgino and creating posts and videos for her blog. She grew up doing outdoor adventures with the family and now the nature is part of her life. Other interests? Rock climbing, mountain bike trails, cooking vegetarian recipes and having fun!

Follow her travels at www.theitaliansmoothie.com and on Instagram and Facebook.

 

 

A sailboat and a new way to see nature

Sailboat 1

By Kristin Hanes

We turned the corner of a long, dredged channel in the San Francisco Bay, which is just deep enough to accommodate the six foot keel of our double-masted sailboat. My boyfriend Tom cut the motor, and we hoisted a couple of sails, all ropes and winches, muscle and effort. The 41’ sailboat started to lean, catching the wind, pushing against the lines like a race horse ready for the track. In that moment, with our boat cutting through the water, I felt like I was somewhere far away from the hum of the San Francisco Bay area, the cars, the pollution, the endless torrents of people rushing from here to there. On the bay, our boat whispered through the water, and finally, no one else was around.

 

I had a feeling I’d love sailing from the get-go. I’m a girl who loves nature, who was raised on two acres in Oregon, one a stretch of green lawn fringed with fruit trees, the other dense forest, brush and wetlands to explore. I love backpacking and hiking, being in the quiet solitude of trees or near the roar of waves at the ocean. I thought I’d love sailing, too, and I was right.

 

Sailboat 2

 

When I lost my job as a news reporter in San Francisco in 2016, it just made sense for me to move onboard Tom’s sailboat. I needed to save money on ridiculous rent around here, which averages $3,300 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. Slip fees for the boat are just a few hundred dollars per month, utilities are $5. We get all our movies and shows from the library and shower at the gym.

 

Living on the sailboat hasn’t always been amazing. For two years, the boat has been undergoing a massive restoration so we can sail it around the world, and at first, it had nothing. No stove, no toilet, no running water. I cooked our meals by balancing a frying pan on a one-burner camping stove, and went to the marina bathroom. Slowly but surely, Tom fixed the boat up, and now it has almost everything we need. Things I will never take for granted again, like basic appliances and amenities. Living on the boat has taught me to be truly grateful.

 

sailboat 3

 

What we lacked in amenities though, we gained in adventure. We could take the boat out of the marina whenever we wanted and anchor for the night somewhere beautiful. One hour to the north is a placed called China Camp, a California State Park, where we anchor out in the edge of the vast expanse of the Bay. At sunset, the colors ripple across the water and shade the white masts with orange. The boat rolls gently with the changing tides and the wakes of passing cargo ships, and I think it’s the most relaxing thing in the world. Now that we have a stove, I love cooking enchiladas in the oven, and we enjoy the smell while drinking a glass of wine on the stern.

 

sailboat 4

 

Our plan is to sail around the world, and my outdoor adventures will morph from backpacking to scuba diving. I love nature in any form, whether I’m hiking the John Muir Trail in the Sierra Nevada or swimming amongst tropical fish in the Sea of Cortez. I like witnessing nature at its rawest. The desert of Baja California is just as alive and gorgeous to me as an alpine lake. And if I’m lucky, Baja is where we’ll be this winter. Then the Pacific Northwest and Vancouver Island next summer. We’ll catch fish and dig for clams and learn to identify seaweed. I am itching for this adventure to begin so I can get out of the crush of people for good. After living on a sailboat for the last year-and-a-half, I’ve learned that city life isn’t for me. I like solitude and sunsets, rolling waves and dolphins cutting the water in front of the sailboat’s bow. I like living in a small space with Tom, where we move around each other like a well-oiled machine.

 

sailboat 5

 

At this point in my life, I’m not sure when I’ll be ready to live in a house again. Even when I pet sit and stay in beautiful homes, I start to feel trapped, like a caged animal. I can’t imagine the responsibility, the mortgage, the debt, the endless cleaning. Our sailboat tiny home moves wherever we want, plus is small and easy to maintain. When there isn’t room for stuff in life, clutter stays at a minimum.

 

sailboat 6

 

Sailboat life isn’t for everyone. I would never own one on my own. There’s work and know-how involved, like how to repair diesel engines or fix the rudder. I’m glad Tom is along to be the fix-it guy, and I’m along to keep the crew alive and well through meals and care.

 

Who knows where the sailboat will take us. Adventure and freedom wait. All I know is that wherever I go, I’m home.

 

sailboat 7

 

About the Author:

Kristin Hanes is a journalist and writer who lives on a sailboat in the San Francisco Bay. Besides sailing, she loves anything adventurous and outdoorsy, including hiking, backpacking and traveling. Besides staying active, Kristin also loves cooking, salsa dancing and drinking a good beer. You can follow her adventures on her blog, www.thewaywardhome.com

 

Dear Natalie, What is this? And why?

Ask Natalie Banner

By Natalie McCarthy

Dear you,

It’s a move to a written format.

This new format is not limited by letters, questions, fears, worries, or problems; rather, it is expanded by them.

Let me explain.

You might remember how, for a while, I had the honor of answering questions through an advice column called “Ask Natalie.” I fielded letters about back-country ethics and front-country relationships, and every so often, I’d be delighted to receive a follow-up comment or two. When Nicole [Camping for Women] asked me if I’d like to make the column into a video series, I was nervous, but delighted, but so totally nervous. I have always been more motivated by fear of regret than plain ol’ fear, so I agreed, and off we went into the jungle of YouTube.

For a few wild and wonderful months, I was filmed answering the letters I received, and I got to read entertaining and kind comments from those who viewed each episode. As an advice columnist, I was having a ball responding to what was being said.

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However, as someone who chose psychotherapy as a profession, I’ve always been keen on listening to what isn’t said. Often, we don’t talk about our most important questions, our strongest fears, or our most fervent dreams. We carry them in us, but for a thousand different reasons, they never make their way into words. I was reminded of this when the inevitable happened: Natalie the advice columnist ceased to receive regular requests for advice. At face value, I thought this was a lovely thing. I figured it meant that readers of the column were calm and content. Upon further thought, though, I wondered: What isn’t getting asked?

And so here we are. Each month, I will ask the questions, and I will answer them. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Actually, it’s exactly what we all do day-in and day-out: We have experiences, and internally, we run a dialog with ourselves. This happens even more often when we are adventuring and having new experiences. “What’s that?” we ask ourselves when we see something we’ve never seen before.  “Wonder what’s going on there,” we’ll internally murmur when we glimpse a tense interaction between strangers speaking a language we do not understand. “Why is this happening?” we’ll silently wail when we face hardship on a hiking trail. We don’t often speak these questions aloud, of course, but we pose them to ourselves.

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In this new version of “Ask Natalie,” I will speak those questions aloud – almost like a journal entry – where you can read them and, I hope, respond to them.

Your participation is what turns a silent musing into a true dialog. My hope is that I will open the door to some of the experiences we have as adventuring women, and you will walk through it with your own perspective and knowledge. I want to feature your written comments, video responses, and audio recorded thoughts. All of these forms of feedback are welcomed in the new “Ask Natalie,” and in that sense, you are as much an author of this new column as I am. (And for what it’s worth, if you ever do have a problem you’d like some advice on – we can still do that here!)

If I can be super candid with you all, I have to say, I’m very excited about this new direction. I’m excited for you to be even more involved with “Ask Natalie,” and I’m excited that as a journal of sorts, we can feature all sorts of media. I’m excited that I won’t feel as compelled to have makeup on when I send Nicole my contribution to the column! Mostly, I’m excited that we can create a little place where we shine light on those corners of our experience that aren’t covered in the outdoors and travel magazines.

We can talk about what it is like to be women facing new adventures and growing because of them.

Thank you for coming along with me on this new journey!

Natalie

 

 

 

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Man, Woman, Mountain.

Man Woman Mountain 1

By Emily Pennington

“The surest way to mend a broken heart is through a forest wilderness.”
-John Muir

 

On really confusing evenings of self, I like to drink beer and make up quotations that John Muir definitely did not write. I summon him like my own, personal break-up Yoda the moment a man threatens to rip the sticky, sensitive tissue of my heart to shreds. I need this. A stubborn, fantasy-ridden reminder that things can still be beautiful, even when they do not turn out as I’d hoped. Though very much dead, Muir offers surprisingly warm company, a wild-eyed mountain guru who will hold my hand through the thick fog of being a suddenly single outdoorswoman.

 

On a chilly Friday in November, following a particularly gut-shattering break-up, I got my dates screwed up and realized that my friends were climbing Mount Baldy the following week. I thought it was tomorrow. I stared at the vacuous, blue light emanating from my iPhone as I wondered whether or not I should still set my alarm and attempt the 11-mile summit. On one hand, I had nothing else to do with my Saturday now that my partner was gone. On the other, my heavy heart had plummeted into the very pit of my stomach where anxiety gestates, and the thought of hiking to 10,000 feet alone and in high winds made me shiver. “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings,” whispered my ghostly sidekick. I fist-bumped the air above my bed, set my alarm, and rolled over to get some rest.

 

Man Woman Mountain 2

 

The following morning on the trail, I found my mind sluggish and distracted, wind kissing my cheeks with sharp sprays of cold air that turned my face a bright pink. My thoughts wandered. I didn’t often hike at high altitude alone. I set one foot in front of the other, just like I had done a thousand times before, and put my head down. It became a moving meditation as my brain began to massage the precise details of the breakup into something resembling a lesson.

 

“Had I asked for too much?” “Was my sensitivity too erratic?” “Could I have better shape-shifted into a form that fit the relationship?” I traversed the alpine landscape as my mind roamed through the rocky debris of my heartache. The sound of gravel beneath my rubber soles bit into the air with a familiar crunch. My lungs burned, and the tips of my fingers went numb from the cold. As the massive hump of Mt. Baldy’s east face came into view, I began to feel solid. Alone, but strong.

 

Man Woman Mountain 3

 

This was the moment my mind snapped fully into philosophical reverie. I wondered why I fancied malleability such a desirable trait in myself. It left me exhausted and resentful when partners could not follow suit. After all, what was there to change into anyways? I was already a dancer, a yogi, a mountain climber, a college graduate, a political activist, and a road trip sing along master. I read the news as well as the entire Game of Thrones series. I was everything I strived to be. Why was I depleting myself in frantic attempts to keep partners who failed to proffer the same effort?

 

Man Woman Mountain 4

 

“When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” I thought of John Muir’s apparition high fiving me as I rounded the top of the summit mound. It felt blissful to have soloed the massive peak alone and at my own pace. There was no one to impress but myself. I let out a deep sigh as the wind painted my arms with goose bumps. I was tugging at the thread of this break-up and finding it hitched to the universe of how I approached life itself. Perhaps my 20s had all been a vain attempt at searching for the best thing, the biggest job, or the most compatible partner. I began to feel like I had it all wrong.

 

Maybe the real journey is to give up the hope of better things on the horizon so that we can follow our gut and truly embrace all the good and badassery that we have in the present. I felt it on that summit, the need to hold fast to my strength and my self-respect so that I would not allow another love to topple my ego. “I am a goddamn mountaineer,” I thought. “It’s time to start calling my own shots.” And, with that, I took off down the mountain, feeling more free than I had in a long while, the halo of Johnny Muir’s phantom trailing behind me like a superhero’s cape.

Man Woman Mountain 5

 

8 Ways to Mentally Prepare for a Solo Adventure

By Marinel de Jesus

Mentally prepare 1Being a solo traveler, and even more so, a solo hiker or backpacker can be an intimidating endeavor to undertake.  I cannot emphasize enough the need to be comfortable when partaking in anything serious such as hiking or backpacking in the wilderness by yourself.  The same goes for traveling as it’s just not worth it to feel overwhelmingly anxious to the extent that it outweighs the joy of traveling or trekking solo.

I, too, have gone through anxiety over being alone on my travels or in the mountains in my prior travels/treks in the past 15 years.  Despite being fully prepared, sometimes, the unexpected happens and the best you can do is to stay calm.  That way you can assess your situation more clearly and decide on the most appropriate action. But before you even dive into going solo on an extended travel or trek, it’s important to take baby steps to get you to a point where solo hiking/traveling falls within your comfort zone.   Here are some of my tips based on my own personal experience with hiking/trekking/traveling solo that will help prepare you mentally for the solo experience:

Start small

If you are completely new to traveling or trekking solo, then start out with a day hike or day trip.  Then, as you feel more comfortable with solitude and organizing the logistics of your hike or travel, you can build that up by adding more days, thereby transforming it into a weekend trip.  There’s no reason to go extremely extravagant on your first time hiking or traveling solo.

Why would you want to spend so much money on a 4-week solo trip only to find out that you dread the experience of going alone?  Avoid regrets and do a test run first.  Start with a day or two, and then build up.

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Study your itinerary

Sure, at some point you will want to be spontaneous. Book the flight and go.  But to calm down that anxiety from going solo, it’s recommended that you do plenty of research on your destination or the trail you wish to hike.   You can never have enough information, especially if the place you’re traveling to or hiking in is a first time destination.  Even with a place you have been to before, I would still recommend doing plenty of research because oftentimes when we go with people, we tend not to pay attention to the logistics the way we normally would when it’s only us that we have to rely upon for guidance.

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Get advice and tips from others who have been to the trail or place you are eyeing

Mentally prepare 7This is part of your research and it’s crucial to take advantage of any resources that are out there for you to learn about the trail or place.  For example, when I went to China, the resources for the trails in that country were hard to find because it was either the trails were still unknown to the western world or the blogs or information were written in Mandarin.  However, still, I managed to find a few websites which turned out to be heaven sent as they helped significantly in planning my trip.  An equally better resource is, of course, an actual consultation with someone who had been to the trail or place of your choice.  The advice given is usually invaluable as you won’t find such information online or anywhere else.  Note that most people are more than happy to share their travel wisdom and experiences so there’s no reason to be shy.

 

Learn to love yourself

Somewhere along the way on your trek, travel or both, you will get frustrated with yourself.  You will make mistakes here and there.  Before you venture out on your own, it is important to have a good grasp of self-love.  By that, I mean, learn to be easy on yourself.  Be forgiving of your mistakes and learn to go with the flow of life.  Understand that mistakes are inevitable including yours, and that’s okay.  In addition, loving yourself also means taking care of you.  While on the trail or the road, eating healthy and maintaining a workout routine are critical.

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Learn to smile and be friendly

This should really be a given even if you’re traveling with others.  But in the world of solo trekking or traveling, a friendly demeanor can truly save you at times.  A smile can easily attract the right stranger to help you with directions or a fellow hiker who can become your trail friend for days.  At the same time, be mindful of the level of friendliness that you are exhibiting, especially if you are a female who finds herself interacting with a male.  An appropriate level of friendliness is the key.  Practice smiling and chatting with strangers in your daily life and you’ll soon make this a habit that will carry over to your solo adventure with ease.

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Practice fine tuning your intuition

Mentally prepare 5Expect chats and interactions with strangers when you venture on your own.  It’s part of the adventure, and in most instances, it’s really the highlight.  Oftentimes, the people you strike a conversation with in far-away places or in the middle of nowhere are exactly the ones that become your long-time friends.   At the same time, learn to pay attention to your intuition.  You have it for a reason.  Your intuition is your imaginary friend – it knows better than you at times even though the actual circumstances in front of you may not clearly support the sense of danger that your intuition is warning you about.  So, listen to that intuition the same way you listen to your body when you feel pain.  It is nagging you for a reason.

 

Disregard all the above preparation and go for it (assuming you keep an open mind)

Having said all the above tips, you can still opt to disregard them all and just take the leap into the abyss of solo traveling/trekking.  By doing so, you will learn at a faster rate all the above.  It’s a crash course that can potentially maximize the lessons learned in a little bit harder way.  As long as you are aware of the risks, then, sure, why not just go for it all at once?

So, there you have it.  This list is just a start.  Preparing your mind for that solo adventure is as important, if not more, as the things you put in your backpack.  So, take the time to prep!

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A review on High-Altitude Trekking in Ladakh, India

Political Location Map of Ladakh (Leh)
Political Location Map of Ladakh (Leh)

Getting there:

The easiest way to get to Ladakh is by flying from Delhi to Leh (the biggest town in Ladakh).  It’s a two day drive from either Srinagar or Manali and you will pass over some of the world’s highest motorable passes.  Be prepared for road closures, altitude sickness, motion sickness, and at least a few adrenaline filled moments.

 

Reviewed by:

Carley Fairbrother, British Columbia Canada.

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Carley is a self-declared nature nerd from British Columbia, Canada.  She spent seven years  as a backcountry park ranger in northern BC before becoming an elementary school teacher.  She enjoys hiking, canoeing, cycling, climbing, wild foraging, snowshoeing, skiing and most things outdoors.  She also runs a YouTube channel dedicated to teaching people about nature and inspiring them to get outside.  She travelled Ladakh in the summer of 2017 with her husband, Clay.

 

Best time to visit:

Peak season in Ladakh is mid-June to August. The weather is warm and all of the roads are open. However, September and early October are less crowded, and monsoon season is over, making the roads safer and rivers on trekking routes easier to cross.

 

Climate/weather/temperature & appropriate dress

Ladakh, nestled in the rain shadow of the Himalayas, is classified as a cold desert. Winter temperatures average well below freezing. In Leh, summer temperatures can get into the high 30s (celsius) during the day, but nights are still chilly, and most treks will take you into higher elevations where temperatures are cooler.  There isn’t much shade n Ladakh, so when the sun is shining, it is relentless.  Expect a windchill of -20° celsius if you are going over 6000m.

Bring warm clothes, especially if you are trekking or climbing.  Don’t forget a rain coat. June-September is monsoon season throughout India, even in the desert.

Leave your shorts and tank tops at home.  While Ladakh can get hot, it’s important to note that local women, even the ones who wear western clothes, will rarely show their arms or legs. While nothing horrible is likely come from you wearing shorts, covering your shoulders and legs shows respect for the local culture. Plus you may save yourself a nasty sunburn. Bring light breathable pants and t-shirts.

 

Main attractions/Must dos

The mountains.

Just being surrounded by them may be enough, but here are a number of “trekking peaks” over 6000m.  These peaks are advertised as non-technical, but usually require ice axe, crampons’, and rope, so unless you are an experienced mountaineer, they are best attempted with a  guide.  At 6,153 m, Stok Kangri is by far the most popular, but it is far from easy.  It requires at least three days (usually 4-5) of trekking, a midnight start on summit day, a glacier crossing, some nerves of steel, and plenty of acclimatization.

 

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Looking up at the mountains on the drive to Pangong Lake

 

Trekking.

If clinging to the edge of a mountain with an ice axe doesn’t appeal to you, there are many milder treks.  The Markha Valley trek is a popular 4-10 day trek. It is one of the few treks in Ladakh that offer homestays the whole way, so there is no need to carry a tent or hire ponies.  There is also lots of information available on the route and is  easy to do without a guide.

 

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The fertile Markha Valley

 

The culture.

Many people travel to Ladakh solely for the culture and history.  Ladakh is sometimes referred to as “Little Tibet,” and is culturally and geographically similar to Tibet.  There are plenty of ancient monasteries and palaces to explore.

 

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Looking up at Thiksey Monestary

 

Key Highlights for me

Sunrises at 6000 m

We climbed two mountains over 6000 m while in Ladakh, Stok Kangri and Mentok Kangri  Both required midnight starts, so dawn hit as we were nearing the top.   They were both extremely challenging, exhausting, and a little terrifying, especially when trying to navigate at night.  Once the sun came up, we got our second wind and up we went. 

 

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Our trek through Changtang

Chantang is part of the Tibetan Plateau and home to the nomadic Changpa people. We spent seven days crossing it do get to the base of Mentok Kangri, our first climb.  Among the highlights were the settlements of Changpa nomads, spotting the numerous kiang (wild asses), camping while surrounded by grazing yaks, ponies, donkeys, and goats.

 

Ladakh 6
Yaks visit our tent at Korzok Pho, a summer camp of the Changpa Nomads on the Chantang Plateau

 

 

Exploring ruins

I loved exploring the many old, crumbling buildings.  My favourite was the ruins at the top of the hill above Shey Palace.

 

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The ruins above Shey Palace

 

Things that make this experience different or unique

The landscape

This is easily at the top of the list.  No matter where you are in Ladakh, you are surrounded by breathtaking views.  Be it giant mountains, windswept plateaus, or lush green valleys, Ladakh is the perfect blend of vibrancy and sparseness.

 

Ladakh 8
The green pastures of Tso Kar Basin

 

The people

I found their honesty and kindness refreshing after the hustle and bustle of Delhi.  I especially enjoyed the Changpa Nomads, with their genuine smiles and tendency to sing while working.

 

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A local Changpa man provided the ponies for the trek

 

The animals

From the domesticated yaks and donkeys to the wild asses and blue sheep, I loved all the animals I saw in Ladakh.  We didn’t see one, but there was always the chance of seeing a snow leopard.

 

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A blue sheep visiting camp on the way up Stok Kangri

 

The roads

Ladakh is home to most of the highest motorable passes in the world. They navigate steep mountainsides on narrow, bumpy tracks.  They are often closed from landslides, and motorists often have to cross creeks, gullies, and washouts.  By then end of the trip, I was sick of them, but they sure did get the heart pumping.

 

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Things visitors should be aware of

Altitude

Leh is at 3,500 metres, which is high enough to get altitude sickness.  To travel most places, you will have to travel even higher.  Be aware of the symptoms and give yourself lots of time to acclimatize.  Consider bringing diamox to help you acclimatize.

 

Traveler’s Diarrhea

High altitude can alter your stomach flora, which, combined with India’s reputation for water and food borne pathogens, can be a nasty combination. Be wary of any raw foods that might have come in contact with water, including fresh juices and ice.   Bottled water is safe, but I’d recommend bringing a pump and treating your own water, as Ladakh has trouble dealing with all the empty bottles.  Consult a travel doctor about antibiotics for traveler’s diarrhea before you go.

 

Internet

Don’t count on internet access.  In fact, count on not having internet.  It can be down for months at a time.

 

Money

Always have lots of cash stashed away somewhere.  There are plenty of ATMs in Ladakh, but most of them don’t work.  Look for ATMs with lineups.

 

Booking tours

If you aren’t on a time crunch, don’t book a tour until you get there.  You can probably get a better price if you plan from Leh, and you’ll have some flexibility if a good opportunity comes up.

 

While here you should:

Go trekking

Trekking should be at the top of your list.  It’s the best way to meet locals, spot wildlife, and get a feel for Ladakh.

 

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Visiting with a pair of curious Changpa boys

 

Climb a mountain

If you can, don’t miss out on your chance to climb a Himalayan Peak.

 

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Clay’s final push to the top of Stok Kangri

 

Climb to the roof of Namgyal Tsemo Fort to watch the sunset over Leh.

 

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Visit Thiksey Monastery, a short drive from Leh. If you go early in the morning, you can listen to the monks chanting and avoid the crowds.   The 15 m statue of Maitrya Buddha is the biggest indoor one in Ladakh.  Its intricate details are pretty.

 

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 Ride the bactrian (two-humped) camels in Nubra Valley. This ended up being more of a tourist trap than I’d hoped, but it was still completely worth it.

 

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Budget considerations

Ladakh is a good deal more expensive than the rest of India. Expect to pay 30-50% more for food and accommodation than in the rest of India. You can probably get good deals on the shoulder seasons (spring and fall).

Transportation is probably the biggest expense.  Public transport isn’t as easy as the rest of India, so most tourists opt for taxis, which are unionized and have fixed rates.  This means less stress haggling, but higher fares.  Try to make friends at your hotel and share rides or keep your eye out on bulletin boards outside the many, many tour agencies for bulletins of people wanting to share taxis.  Expect to pay around $100 -180 USD a day for a taxi and driver.  Flights to and from Delhi cost around $100-300 USD.

A fully supported trip with a certified mountaineering guide, ponies, and a cook will cost around $50-100 per person per day, depending on how many people are in your group, your haggling skills, permit fees, and transportation costs. Be wary of price that are too good.  You will pay less if you have more people on your trip.  Just a mountaineering guide is around $25 a day.  Trekking guides cost considerably less.  Equipment rentals will cost around $12 a day per item.  Trekking peaks over 6000 m require permits, which can range from $50 to $300 or more.  Many places in Ladakh require inner line permits, but don’t panic – they are easy to get and cost a few dollars a day.

 

Facilities/nearby activities

Medical – There is a hospital in Leh.  Most larger towns have a small medical centre, and there are roadside medical tents at some villages and army checkpoints.

Transportation– The airport in Leh has scheduled flights to Delhi, Jammu, Chandigarh, Srinigar, and Mumbai.  Taxis and public buses are easy to find and both have central stands near town.  There are many motorcycle and bicycle rental shops.

Banks/ATMs – There are several banks on the Main Bazaar.  The State Bank of India has the most reliable ATMs.

Internet – WiFi is available at most hotels and tourist restaurants.  An internet cafe on Main Bazaar has extremely slow computers.  Unfortunately, Ladakh experiences frequent region-wide outages.

Phone – Phoning home can be tricky.  We needed to call home, and ended up using local’s cell phone because the internet phones were down.  Satellite phones are available in some villages for emergencies.  Cell service is surprisingly good along the roads, but SIM cards are hard for foreigners to get because of the proximity to the borders.

Tour Operators – There are hundreds of tour operators in Ladakh offering car tours, cycling, motorbike tours/rentals, cultural tours, bird/wildlife watching, meditation and yoga, white-water rafting, climbing, and paint balling (yes, paint balling).

Restaurants – Most tourist restaurants have similar menus with a variety of Ladakhi, Indian, Chinese, Israeli, and Western food. Take a short walk away from the tourist areas for cheap Indian food.

Shopping – Leh is absolutely packed with shops selling pashmina shawls, made from the wool of the adorable pashmina goat of the Changtang Plateau.  There are also plenty of handicraft and souvenir stores selling hippie clothes, wool hats, and knickknacks imported from Nepal.

 

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If coming here, don’t forget to bring:

A good first aid kit. There is a hospital in Leh anda few first aid posts in Ladakh, but if you hurt yourself trekking, you are on your own.  Make sure you bring antibiotics for stomach problems and consider bringing diamox for altitude, though it’s definitely better to acclimatize naturally.

Good travel insurance.  Check the fine print. Most travel insurance companies will exclude mountaineering injuries, and you can bet they’ll count any ascents of Ladhaki peaks as mountaineering.  Also check if they will cover mountain evacuation and any other dangerous activities you plan on doing.

If it’s in your budget, a SPOT or DeLorme inReach will give some peace of mind to your family.  These devices allow you to send messages and your location via satellite.

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A Diva Cup, or a similar menstrual cup.  Tampons and sanitary napkins can’t go into the toilets, and really shouldn’t go into the composting toilets on trekking routes. If you can’t stomach the idea of a reusable cup, bring your own tampons (they are hard to find in Ladakh) and put them in a trash bin or burn them.

A hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.  Hats drive me nuts, but I learned the hard way and nearly fried my nose off on our first trek.  After that, I got a hat.

 

Reviewer’s rating out of 10

I give it a 9.  I loved the mountains, and the unique culture, but after six weeks, I really missed the forests and lush vegetation I’m used to in Canada.

 

Find Out More

I will be releasing videos about my Ladakh trip throughout the fall and winter on my YouTube channel.   https://www.youtube.com/c/TheLastGrownupintheWoods1

Check out these videos of Carley’s trip in and around Ladakh:

 

 

 

 

The Lean-to Virgin, A Comical Journey

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By Janiel Green

My first backpacking trip turned out to be an utter disaster. The trip consisted of a backpacking, snow-shoeing trip up the mountaineering route at Mount Whitney in California. I labeled myself as a failure, and the weak link in the party of 3 whom attempted the trip. Granted it was my first time backpacking and had not been prepared for the struggles that were endured.

My trip started to unravel when I realized I had inadvertently grabbed the wrong sleeping bag for the November camping trip. I remember laying down to sleep and my shivering turned into jaw shattering convulsions of my body attempting not to freeze. It was the only time in my life I was afraid to fall asleep, because I did not think I would not wake up — I wanted to appear tough, so I stayed silent.

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I said many prayers the next morning when after an emergency blanket, hand warmers on arteries, and my down jacket literally saving my life I decided to always be properly prepared for my subsequent camping trips.

My next camping trip was also to Yosemite National Park, but it was a trip in September and we were packing in our tubes to float on a lake. My roommates at the time & I paired off to help ensure we didn’t forget anything.

 

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My sense of accomplishment came from my list of things I would need. My camping skills were significantly more adept for summer and fall camping then they were for winter camping to be sure. I was paired with my roommate who I lovingly call Jelly Bean, she had far less equipment than I, so I volunteered to gather the needed supplies and food.

lean-to 4With our packs set and the car loaded, we headed southwest from Las Vegas Nevada to our destination. We arrived around 11 am and immediately set out on the trail. I am a slow hiker & had to be kind to myself during the hike that it was only my second time doing a backpacking trip, so it is ok that I was the slow one in the group. I find that if I use my hiking poles it becomes significantly easier for me, due to the fact that I have a constant fire like pain in my feet from  Plantar Fasciitis. If I had one piece of advice to readers here, it is to be kind to yourself during these times — you are doing more than 3/4 of those sitting at home on the couch watching Netflix all weekend. If it takes you longer to climb, hike or walk….who cares…..you are moving and not letting self-doubt and fear stop you from exploring your own boundaries.

My companions were kind and offered frequent stops for me, and encouraged nourishment along the way to help Jelly Bean and myself keep going.

lean-to 5When we finally arrived at our camping location, I was so excited to pull out my two-man tent and use it in the REAL WILDERNESS. I pulled out the tent sack, and after unrolling it realized with a sinking feeling that the only thing contained within was the fly & the little bit of sand from the prior trip.

I panicked……what was I going to tell Jelly Bean……..I just stood there trying to conjure the actual tent with my mind. Jelly Bean came over and asked, “What is wrong Janiel?” …….I replied softly, “Uhhhhh, we have a problem”.

 

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I’m so glad Jelly Bean is a good sport because she just laughed at me and said, “Of course you forget the tent! Guess we are sleeping with the bugs tonight”.  I promised her that we would have adequate shelter from the cold, and there are plenty of people who camp with much less than what we had. A lean-to was decided upon, and the comedy continued. We had the fly, a tarp, and there was a large fallen tree and plenty of rocks.

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lean-to 8I tied the strings on the fly around a few rocks, threw them over the fallen tree and Jelly Bean did the same for the other side, but just tacked the strings down to a pile of rocks at the other end to anchor it.

There were tree limbs everywhere so we stacked rocks and bark on the side of the lean two where the breeze was coming in & some branches on the other side with pine needles as our door. Sleeping bags were inserted and we still had enough daylight to fix our dinner.

Our other roommates who were John Muir Trail Veterans & highly versed in camping supplies watched us build this with entertainment value to rival that of HBO. After all was said and done, Jelly Bean and I were quite proud of our Lean-to and when put to the test it worked exceptionally well.

So, if you ever find yourself lacking supplies in the wilderness, just be creative, mother nature always provides a way. Despite my forgetfulness, Jelly Bean and I now have a memorable story and a certain pride for surviving in Yosemite with our Lean-to (#wildernessbeasts).

 

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Happy Travels, Happy Tales and see you on the flip side! Big thanks to Camping for Women for allowing me to be a part of this amazing group and hope to share more adventures with you in the future.

                                                                                                                                                                                   

Author: Janiel Green from https://culturetrekking.com/

Janiel is a Physician Assistant with a Passion for helping people and traveling.

Culture Trekking LLC and its community are committed to connecting culture, exploring without boundaries, finding unique adventures and serving those throughout the world.

Janiel has been able to visit 5 of 7 continents and 16 of 196 countries and she hopes to visit all 196 within her lifetime.