Tag Archives: camping

Utah…Revisited!

Travels through Utah

Travels through Utah

We’ve had a great last couple of weeks. Utah is such a cool state with so many interesting parks and odd geology and geography. We did a little circuit of a lot of the National Parks including Zion, Capitol Reef,  The Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Monument Valley, Valley of the Gods and the Grand Canyon (North Rim this time).

The Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park

Looking down onto the formations in Bryce cayon Looking down onto the formations in Bryce Canyon

The Checkerboard Mesa in Zion National Park
Exploring some red rock canyons

Exploring some red rock canyons

Dave on top of a natural arch

Dave on top of a natural arch

We had a little hire car and mostly camped in our tent but did take a hotel break every few days. Sleeping in a tent is not nearly as nice as Ginger with her nice comfy bed…. We do miss the old girl!

Camping - Not nearly as nice without Ginger-Lee.

Camping – Not nearly as nice without Ginger-Lee.

The weather was also pretty good except for some really cold nights and wind.

Amazing and huge natural formations

Amazing and huge natural formations

Christine scrambling up red rocks

Christine scrambling up red rocks

Great views from on top

Great views from on top

Finding beauty in a harsh environment (it's easier when you bring her with you!)

Finding beauty in a harsh environment (it’s easier when you bring her with you!)

Natural arches and bridges aplenty

Natural arches and bridges aplenty

Great skylines

Great skylines

Even double arches!

Even double arches!

and some snow capped peaks as well!

and some snow capped peaks as well!

Wow - another arch!

Wow – another arch!

We did do a hike most days on some very beautiful trails like this one

We did do a hike most days on some very beautiful trails like this one

A great vista over the canyons

A great vista over the canyons

A panorama of one canyon (click for full size view)

A panorama of one canyon (click for full size view)

Monument Valley (click for full size panorama)

Monument Valley (click for full size panorama)

Exploring in Monument Valley

Exploring in Monument Valley

From the canyon floor

From the canyon floor

Herds of Bison in the Park (Grand Canyon)

Herds of bison in the Park (Grand Canyon)

On the edge of 'The Big One!'

On the edge of ‘The Big One!’

On the edge of 'The Big One!'

On the edge of ‘The Big One!’

We headed back to Las Vegas a few days before flying out to relax and get some errands done; ie Christine’s wedding dress fitting! We stayed just off the strip and only went for a wander on it to see the sights the last night. It was smokin hot with highs of over 40ºC everyday! We hung out by the pool or in our A/C apartment most of the time.

We flew back to Halifax on June 6th. We had a great welcoming committee, eventually, as our flight did arrive a tad early and no one was there!

In Halifax with the welcoming committee

In Halifax with the welcoming committee

But when they did get there there were flowers, Bride-To-Be badge plus a lot of our favourite people. Our welcome dinner was an awesome lobster dinner – yum!

About to rip into some fresh lobster

About to rip into some fresh lobster

Since getting back here we’ve gotten ourselves organized and are now getting excited for the arrival of Dave’s parents at the end of this week! Can’t wait.

This weeks banner - Christine(s) in The Valley of the Gods

This weeks banner – Christine(s) in The Valley of the Gods

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El Cocuy National Park

This week we completed a six day hike around the mountains of El Cocuy National Park in Eastern Colombia. This turned out to be a very educational experience for us, with some of the major lessons being:

  1. Driving through Central America eating Pringles and Fajitas does not prepare you for hiking at 4000+ metres.
  2. Just because we drive our van Ginger to high altitudes does not prepare us for hiking at high altitudes.
  3. If everyone on the truck says this is your stop, make sure to check with the driver before getting off.
  4. Cold temperatures are even colder after months of sweating through Central America.
  5. A sleeping bag rated for -10C is not actually bearable at this temperature.
  6. Night buses suck! Day buses aren’t much better. Gravol certainly helps to prevent barfing and is a great sleeping aid!
  7. Nights in a tent are VERY long when they start at 6pm.
  8. You should not feed the crazy Peruvian man, as “he needs to be forced back into the real world” (according to our new British friend Phil)

We started our adventure to El Cocuy National Park with a long overnight bus trip which dropped us into the town of Cocuy at 6am. We managed a few hours sleep in a hotel then finished off our preparations with a few last minute items, buying our park pass, etc… The next morning we hopped onto the Lechero (milk truck/local transport) after confirming with the driver that we wanted to go to the Northern end of the trail where we would check into a nice Cabana for the night while acclimatising to the altitude. However, we got off at the wrong end of the trail because we listened to our fellow truck mates who assured us it was correct. Oh well!

Our first morning of unexpected hiking...

Our first morning of unexpected hiking…

We quickly changed gears and plans and knew that the real fun had begun with a half day of hiking and the start of 5 nights in our tent.

Our first nights camping next to a small lake

Our first nights camping next to a small lake

We got to the lake campsite around 2pm and set up for the evening, and a long evening it was. Each day it got dark around 5:30pm and then the real cold set in. Every night we ran into the tent to get some warmth at around 6pm and stayed there, cocooned, for 12+ hours. Let’s say they were looonng nights, and sadly not a heck of a lot of sleeping due to the effects of the altitude and cold.

Our mornings usually started around 7am when, if we were lucky, we’d get a bit of sun on our tent. A quick breakfast of oatmeal and then we were on our way. Each day we had at least 2 mountain passes to get up and through, usually between a 300 to 500 metre climb for each one. And at this altitude most activities are much more difficult, your legs feel really heavy and catching your breath is even difficult. Plus we had heavy backpacks and at least 2 litres of water each to carry. Sometimes a bit of a nagging headache too, which is one of the first signs of altitude sickness. Nothing that a bit of ibuprofen couldn’t get rid of luckily!

Christine climbing towards the first pass on the hike

Christine climbing towards the first pass on the hike

For the first few days of our hike we had great weather, with the sun making appearances throughout the day. This was super but the first day because we weren’t prepared for a long hike we got blasted by the sun and the intense UV up there. We learned to try and keep covered (hence Christine’s gloves, hood, etc…) and to reapply our sunscreen regularly. The great weather sadly didn’t keep up and on our fourth night we woke to the sound of rain on the tent. Cold rain! Unfortunately the rain and cloud set in for the next 48+ hours, which saw us hiking, cooking and sleeping in a constant light, did I mention cold, rain. The ever present clouds also blocked out the views and often made finding the trail difficult.

In short the trail was very tough, especially because of the altitude. Right up until the half way mark we had repeated conversations about turning back, normally while trudging up towards the next pass and stopping every 10metres to catch our breath. After the half way point we knew we were committed to finishing.

Now that we are finished, and have had a couple of recovery days we are both very glad that we chose, and finished, this amazing and remote trail, in an area that sees very little tourism. Until 2005 the park was occupied by FARC and ELN guerrillas and saw no tourism until recently. It is also predicted that within 10-15 years all of the glaciers in the park will have disappeared (based on recent glacial recession rates), so we are happy to have seen it when we did. It’s difficult to show the grandeur and magnitude of the mountains and landscape but I hope our pictures at least give you a taste of what we experienced!

Dave in his camouflage coloured clothes

Dave in his camouflage coloured clothes

Happy to arrive at camp.

Happy to arrive at camp.

Beanies and down jackets definitely required up here!

Beanies and down jackets definitely required up here!

The crazy Peruvian sleeping in the open under his poncho. He claims to have taken 2 years to walk up from Peru, and is an 'artist'....

The crazy Peruvian sleeping in the open under his poncho. He claims to have taken 2 years to walk up from Peru, and is an ‘artist’….

Hiking around the side of one of many lakes

Hiking around the side of one of many lakes

The track was never easy and often required rock scrambling skills

The track was never easy and often required rock scrambling skills

Looking along the trail, with th small gap on the horizon being that afternoons pass

Looking along the trail, with the small gap on the horizon being that afternoons pass

Looking back along the trail (day 3)

Looking back along the trail (day 3)

Great mountain views

Great mountain views

Phil and Borna, our loosely affiliated trecking partners

Phil and Borna, our ‘loosely affiliated’ trekking partners

It was a very barren landscape at this altitude.

It was a very barren landscape at this altitude.

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Dave still managing to smile somehow...

Dave still managing to smile somehow…

Once again looking from one pass to the next

Once again looking from one pass to the next

Christine lily-pad hopping along the valley bottom

Christine ‘lily-pad’ hopping along the valley bottom

Lily-pad valley and surrounding mountains

Lily-pad valley and surrounding mountains

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Cold camping conditions

Cold camping conditions

The view to our friends Phil and Borna's campsite

The view to our friends Phil and Borna’s campsite

Christine at another pass, with glacier close behind (day 5)

Christine at another pass, with glacier close behind (day 5)

Dave happy to be nearing the end (day 5)

Dave happy to be nearing the end (day 5)

Lakes and glaciers

Lakes and glaciers

The clouds setting were relentless

The clouds were relentless

Dave giving a GQ pose

Dave giving a GQ pose

A glacier with very obvious recent recession

A glacier with very obvious recent recession

Celebratory drinks back in Villa De Leyva

Celebratory drinks back in Villa De Leyva

 

This weeks banner - mountain view in Cocuy National Park

This weeks banner – mountain view in Cocuy National Park

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Crossing Ontario

On Saturday we got to Quebec City and got in at the handy KOA campground, so still haven’t had to try out the Walmart car park. The KOA was quite a huge place, crammed with a full house of all different types of campers. A lot different to the more ‘au natural’ national and provincial campgrounds we’re used to. But it did the job and we went into the city by shuttle bus on Sunday. A very hot 31C but felt like 39C with the humidity. We wandered around and saw all the big sights like the Citadel, Chateau Frontenac and the old city. Lots going on and the city was a buzz with people. A very nice day, albeit sweaty! Quebec City certainly felt like being in a foreign city, especially with everyone speaking French.

Our first view of Quebec city

Looking for those darn Frenchies!!

Chateau Frontenac

Off duty by the looks of it…

Christine in the old city

On Monday we had our biggest driving day yet. We drove close to 700km and made it all the way to Algonquin National Park in Ontario. So yet another province under our belt – four in one week! It was a long day but not too painful, with minimal hills and our audiobook (Hunger Games) to help keep us alert.

Just cruising in Ginger Lee

We got a great site in Pog Lake Campground and settled in for a couple of days. The next day we were up reasonably early (too early for Dave!) to get on our bikes and do the Old Railway bike trail.

Our camp at Pog lake

Dave – not an early start fan…

It was a bit overcast with a few sputterings of rain but nothing that stopped us. The trail itself is a converted rail line so not very difficult but we did manage to do about 30+km so our legs are a bit sore. The park contains hundreds of lakes, with interconnecting streams and marshes everywhere! It was quite strange to see canoes passing over the bike trail on peoples heads as they portage from one lake or stream to another! We also had a good day with natures beasts, spotting otter, deer, woodpecker, chipmunks.

Along the old rail trail

One of the Algonquin locals

Christine on the rail trail

We also saw two birds (quail??) on the road yesterday, but unfortunately they are no longer with us…. oops…

We even managed to get in a couple loads of laundry and get some housekeeping done in the van, as well as our usual evening of Spanish lessons and a movie in bed.

Yesterday was a long day. We got packed up and went down the road to do a hike to Booth Rock. It took a couple of hours and had a great view at the top from a cliff.

The view from Booth rock over the lakes in Algonquin Park

The view from Booth rock

We didn’t get on the road until the afternoon and then drove all the way to Sault Ste Marie where we were intending to get a few hours sleep in the local Walmart parking lot. However on our way we checked on the internet and found that it was not on the ‘camper friendly’ list. So plan B was to find a truck stop where you were able to park overnight. We found one right before Sault Ste Marie and made ourselves comfortable in the back parking lot. It was a bit noisy but we managed to get a few hours of sleep.

Our late driving night into an amazing sunset

Ginger with her overnight trucking buddies

On the road early again after a quick coffee and breakfast, and a quick coffee in McDonalds to update the blog!

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