Category Archives: Machu Picchu

Trail Canyon –Final Prep Hike


IMG_6073It is two years and two pants sizes since I went to Everest. I am none to happy about how I am leaving the USA but it is what it is. Today, Maggie and I headed off to our final preparatory hike before our departure. It was a great morning. Cool yet comfortable. I have been battling some ankle swelling and have been a bit concerned about that. But today was all about that last effort on home soil.

I had not gotten much sleep. I tossed and turned as my pups, for some reason, were at each other all night. usually they simply sleep with the occasional alerting because something outside catches their attention. But this particular night was different. Lots of banter and territorial growling with he occasional rough necking. All.Night.Long! Morning came and I drug myself from

Dog Jail.

Dog Jail.

bed and noticed Jack the older of my dogs was not his usual cheerful self. He kept looking out in the loft as if he were watching a ghost. I walk out there and there it is. The oat bar he had drug up after having gotten in my trekking duffel bag and taken out my trail bars! So that was the answer to all the trouble!!! I went downstairs to find them strewn about, unopened. Mystery solved, but that didn’t change the fact I was BEAT before we even began.

Xpectacular scenary.

Spectacular scenery.

Maggie got to the house and we loaded up ol’ Ace the Honda Pilot and set out for the trail-head. We yacked about the trip, how much packing we had to do, what tips we would have on hand for the porters and crew of Mountain Madness, are spa day at the end of the trip and other sundry topics as they randomly came to mind. Then we arrived at the trail-head and laced up our boots. We donned our packs and grabbed our poles and off we went.

Today’s hike was Trail Canyon. It is a two mile hike up hill, rated very strenuous. You gain about 1500 feet over the course of the trail. Though Maggie and I both felt Rain Tree was more difficult. But ut was quiet….for the most part…..and nice and really a good way to finish our preparations for Machu Picchu.

IMG_6064I told Maggie to hike her hike and pretty soon she was far enough ahead of me that I didn’t see her any nore. I made my way up trail in my own slow style, stopping to enjoy the surroundings and breathe in the fresh air of summer. The Aspen and Pine forest was filled with the sounds of birds and bugs and that was refreshing. Unfortunately there were a few groups of loud people that came through. One in particular was a gaggle of high school aged girls.

Back of the pack of hyena girls.

Back of the pack of hyena girls.

Maybe a dozen of them. None but a few even had water with them. But all the way up and down the trail they screamed as if they were being murdered just to hear the echo. Nobody leading them told them what bad trail etiquette it was to do that. The pushed passed and never said excuse me or thank you. Just hollering and yelping foolishly.

But they were not going to ruin a beautiful day of hiking for Maggie and Me.  We took in the day, thought about what was ahead of us and were both pretty happy with the day’s work. After the hike, we drove up to the Charleston Lodge where Maggie treated me to lunch and conversation. IMG_6068I have found a real friend in Maggie. She is a great adventure partner and we can both enjoy our hikes without expecting the other to “hike my way”.

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A fine meal with a fine friend!

So that is it. Over a year of training in various ways and times to get ready for this big trek. My second, Maggie’s first. The journey has been great. Ups downs ins outs. All part of the big thing called life and we are finding in our 50’s there is much of it to be lived.

 

And now, a few more pictures of that final hike:

 

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North Loop Raintree at Mt. Charleston


IMG_0351Maggie and I set out again for another run at the North Loop. This is her third, my second time heading up. It has altitude and steepness. Two things we need in preparation for the looming trek. First, thanks to Jim, her husband, for being so kind as to lend her to me today, the start of his fabulous birthday weekend!

So up we went and this time no hot spots on my heels. It is a steep 3 miles to the Raintree, a 3000 year old Bristle-cone Pine yes…I will wait while you read it again but it is true! The first section was much easier than last weekend. We hit the boyscout camp and had a snack and a rest and a great visit.  Then we hit the 7 sets of switchbacks! I am not gonna lie. This was a grueling section designed to brake me. And at several spots it nearly did. Today, Maggie decided to hang back with me and with my slow pace, that gave her a chance to drink in the beauty of the trail.IMG_0360 For me, as always, it was hard work. But that is what I signed up for.

A lot of the Bristle-cones are dead either from past fire or just life going out of them. The strike an ominous pose. They are so cool and eerie to look at!IMG_0358 Reminds me of Tim Burton movie art! Who knows, maybe he hiked these hills!

Once we got to the ridge which sits about 10,000 feet we rested again. I told Maggie I did not think I had any in the tank to drop down to the tree and come back up for our ultimate decent. But she kept encouraging me that that leg was nothing like the murderous switchbacks we had just finished. So I bit and dow to the rain tree we went. And I am so glad for her prodding me on because it truly is the tree of a lifetime!IMG_0380IMG_0373

We spent some time there just enjoying the day and headed back. We stopped back at the boy scout camp. IF you look closely, you will see the stratosphere tower! IMG_0400

We left there and all our media was threatening to die, so we hoofed it back without stops for additional pictures. It was a long day. A good day. One that gave lots of information to us for the final preparations for our IncaTrek!

Here are some more sights of the day…ENJOY!

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Only 8 more miles to the top of Charleston!

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Maggie in between the two trunks of the 3000 year old Rain Tree

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PEEKING!

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Close up of teh Bristle COne Pine in its prime….only several hundreed years old.

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View of Mummy through the Pines

Packing Strategery and Language


mt-charleston_from_kyle01Maggie and I took a lunch run over to the outlet mall yesterday to the Columbia store and picked up a couple items at stellar prices.  We talked about the upcoming weekend hikes we will be doing up at Mt. Charleston between now and departure to get a little altitude in.

I have been going over the list provided by Mountain Madness to see what I already have and what I yet need to get. They state in their materials you must have everything on the list. When I went to Mt. Everest in 2012, I packed way too much. But I noticed today that aside from what we carry on our own backs for the day, the duffel our porter carries can only be 11 pounds! That is by Peruvian regulation! (He carries 44 pounds, so carries two people’s stuff and his own. We each are allowed 5 kilo’s of that space, so 11 pounds). That includes sleeping bag and sleeping pad. My Mountain Hardwear Lamina 35 weighs 2 pounds one once on its own! Add to that my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite pad is 12.7 oz.! With that gobbling up almost three pounds, all my cloths and electronics cannot weigh more than 7 more pounds.

Thought I might at least learn a couple Quechua words/phrases to show some respect to the locals. ¡Khali kaq kachun! ¡Prosit! mean Cheers! and Good Health!PERULADY

Some Quechua words I already knew but did not know their origin are: Condor, and Guano. Also Jerkey is Quechua for dried flesh. Then there are Puma, Quinoa and Cocaine…all Quechua as well.

I am told the people will speak Spanish and many will speak English. But half the fun is interacting with them on their terms as well.

So the last month push continues and it is an intense time of training, packing, evaluating and building excitement toward that day we board our American Airline plane and head off into the unknown. ¡Huq ratukama! (See you later)!

The Three Amigos…er Amigas……


Several years ago, when I first started my Facebook account, I reacquainted with many old friends from Seattle. I had already decided I was going to do the Everest Base Camp Trek before that. So when I got on Facebook, I moved some of my hike stories over and started doing Facebook “NOTES” on each of my preparatory hikes. Then I migrated them to the blogs.

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The bottom of the dam where you launch the Black Canyon paddle.

One friend I reconnected with was Sonya Vasilief. We met in 7th grade home room. She was a “V” and I was a “W” so we were destined to be in homeroom together for the rest of school. Well, as long as we had home rooms at any rate. I don’t recall having them in High School.

After getting back to talking on Facebook and the Phone, Sonya came down to Vegas to visit me in 2011. We had great fun and one of the days she was here we did the Calico Tanks hike out at the Red Rock National Conservation Area. It is a pretty little hike. Not too long, not too hard but the payoff views are great.

Around that same time I was also getting re-acquainted with an old school chum, Lee Markesun. He was a year older than I and we shared the same birthday.  We would talk about music and he would tell me about his life and how much I

would like his wife if I ever met her. She was doing a lot of biking and really enjoying it. So she and I became friends on Facebook.  Almost a year had passed since Sonya’s visit and she we talked about her coming down again. for 2012. We also talked about including Lee’s wife Kelli. So that fall the two of them came down. We did the tourist thing and also did that Calico Tanks hike again. We all became fast friends and it was almost as if Kelli had been part of our life growing up too.

576475_4759561477627_1500744139_nThe next year, 2013, Kelli and Sonya came back. But this time we didn’t do any tourist stuff. Instead, we took off to Death Valley for a day of hiking and watching. After that 14 hour day, we were back snug in our Beds at The Doll House so that we could get up VERY early and go Kayak 12 miles down Black Canyon below the Hoover (Boulder) Dam. It was two days of soooo much fun! We were barely done before we were planning the next year.

The Three Amigos at Zion 2013 doing the Narrow.

The Three Amigos at Zion 2013 doing the Narrow.

In 2013 we decided that we would do some things around town and then head up early one morning to Zion and hike the famous Narrows, coming back that night. It was an ambitious undertaking. This time we added my work friend Maggie. Maggie will be going with me to Machu Picchu in 2014. It was a short hiking window by the time we drove up, got our gear and got into the park. And from there you had to take a park bust to the trail head. Up we went and it was UH-MAZE-ING! We didn’t make it all the way up before our turnaround time, but all in all we got in six or so miles in the river rock and water!

It was fun adding Maggie to the Three Amigas and we look forward to this fall. Of course, first Maggie and I have that little walk to bust out down in Peru. 🙂 IMG_3611

The Three Amigas, to me, Is not me, Sonya and Kelli as much as it is Sonya Kelli and Maggie being cherished friends to me. You can count your friends on one hand. These gals are part of a very small group of people that I really do hold in the biggest part of my friend compartment of my heart. TREK ON MY FRIENDS! ARRRRRIBA!

Getting the Mindset for Peru


Hike No 11(November 14, 2010)Paul Fussell wrote that the speed of modern travel resulted in the mind being left behind. Without even knowing about what he wrote I somehow already realized that fact. But it is not practical to revert back to forms of primitive travel in order to get the mind right for an upcoming adventure. I have heard people really love cruise vacations where they are on ship and then arrive at ports of call and tour them. Perhaps the subliminal reason for the additional enjoyment is this very thing.

I have compensated for this by reading about my destinations for a long time leading up to departure. Everest was easy. I had read almost everything known to mankind regarding Everest over decades preceding my trip. Watched every movie and documentary too. Even poorly made ones like EVEREST, staring William Shatner and that Beverly Hills 90210 guy Jason Priestly. I think the only reason Shatner was in it was because it was about Canadian climbers and was so low budget that nobody would watch it without a name like his attached. Likewise for Priestley’s participation.

20140621-093426-34466103.jpgFor my upcoming trip, I had only a cursory knowledge of Peru and its ancient Inca civilization. I had a class in undergrad that made me a little more aware of the Aztecs and Incas in the Americas. I had seen a documentary or two but I was a passive participant. When I had announced to the family that I would do the Inca Trail I had no idea what I did not know. My brother gave me the gift of the book “Turn Right at Machu Picchu”. It was a difficult read because the author simply sucked. In between the information about Hiram Bingham, his own story about him and his son retracing Bingham’s steps to discovery was flat, boring, corny and dull. Yes. All of those. Then one of my online friends at Trailspace who had been to Machu Picchu suggested I read “The White Rock” by Hugh Thomson. So I did. And I also read “A Sacred Landscape”, also by Thomson. I was thrown into the world that I soon would be visiting with full force. Both books were packed with history, geography, angst and adventure. I have started to be able to see the environs and the people in my minds eye. I hear their music. No, I do. Because I have several cds on my iPod with traditional pan flute music. FACTOID: Simon and Garfunkle’s song “If I Could” is actually an old Peruvian traditional song called El Condor Pasa“. Oh. You knew that already? I didn’t. That is how little I know of anything Peruvian.

Another pop culture fact a out Machu Picchu has to do with the persona of Hiram Bingham. hiram BThe lead character in Raiders of the Lost Ark played by Harrison Ford is fashioned after him. Right down to the hat. I have one of those hats to bring with me for the trip! I am silly like that.

So with a little more than two months before Maggie and I get on the plane and make our way south, through Miami, to Lima and then on to Cusco, I am reading books, watching documentaries and listening to music.  There will be no danger of me leaving my mind behind!

Big Girls Just Want to Have Fun….Too!


Much of my adult life and some of my childhood has been spent with the battle of the bulge raging. Like any war, there are times when battles are heated and times when there is not a lot going on. Times when I am winning, and times when I am losing. It is a tug of war that I consider the thorn in my flesh that the Apostle Paul refers to. There are many reasons that even outside the obvious health concerns, being big sucks. One thing I have learned over the years is I am GOOD at being fat. I am not so good at being thin. This is evidenced by the fact that when I have achieved victory, it is short-lived whereas the plumper times of life endure. The world is not built for larger people. And in a society where people are getting even larger, we push and push the look of anorexia over health. Marilyn Monroe would probably be made fun of in the tabloids for her weight if she had been born 15 years later.  mcdPeople are getting bigger while airplane seats get smaller, theater seats get smaller, cloths are skimpier. On the other hand, in the midst of the battle to overcome obesity in America, go out to eat at any restaurant and the plates are overflowing with carb rich dishes that are big enough to feed a family of four in the 50’s. I remember going to McDonald’s with my parents when I was 4. It was such a treat because going out to eat was not something that happened on a regular basis. We each got a hamburger or cheeseburger, what is now a small fry and a small drink. Dad got a large drink, which was the 16 ouncer. Considered HUGE at the time. He got a McDouble. Now, just to put that in perspective, each of the patties on a McDonald’s Hamburger is 1.6 oz. prior to cooking. There are 10 patties to a pound of burger. So Dad was getting about three oz. of meat. We couldn’t finish ours and maybe dad finished them for us, I cannot remember. But he didn’t get two or three for himself. And the bread he got was the same as us as opposed to a giant bun filled with two 1/4 pound patties.  People who battle weight live in a world that tells them how bad they are, yet throws cheap, unhealthy, tasty food at them all day, 24/7/365.

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On the trail above Namche Bazaar on a rest day hike during 2012 Base Camp Trek.

I have blogged before and talked about my sedentary years and massive weight gain and debilitating back pain. Rather than go through all of that again, suffice it to say that after enjoying high school and college years being extremely active in sports and marching band, I sat down and didn’t get up for about 16 years. I would always dream about the things I would do if I could only lose the weight. “When I lose my weight I am going to: Hike, bike again, play ball, kayak, travel, shop more, wear cool cloths and be happy.” That is all I had to do. Some day. Meanwhile I tried every fad diet there was with little to no long term success.

Then it hit me: I did not have to wait until I was “thin” ( whatever that really is) to do those things. After all, I am not dead yet! So I started moving again. Did some 5k walks and bought a Kayak. From 43 to 53 I have done all my hiking, climbing, trekking, kayaking adventures as a big girl. Some times bigger than others, but never at what would be considered anywhere NEAR a healthy weight. I can only imagine the last 10 years without having had that epiphany. Certainly it would have beenpicstitch (3) imminently more difficult to start at 53. But even then, I think I would have. We don’t have to look a certain way or be able to do things at a high level in order to enjoy them, enjoy the health benefits and live our lives. I am slower than the lighter and/or younger folks, but I still finish. I have had people look at me when I say what adventure I am off to next and actually ask if I am doing anything to lose weight before I go. As if those skin flints know at all what it is like to be big and if big people even feel any different from them whilst active. Some just plain look at me in disbelief. You can see the “THIS PERSON IS A B.S.er” sign flash on their foreheads. By the way, did you know Shakespeare invented the word forehead?

Truth is I do try to be healthier these days. Micky D’s and I broke up and I am now an aficionado of the paleo style of eating. Good fats, meat and lots of veggies, nuts and seeds. My beloved bread is gone now and even though I still do struggle with weight, I am healthy. I know this because my doctor monitors my health and she is a great doctor.

Me and Maggie leave for Machu Picchu August 30, 2014. I have not got near as much weight off as I would like, but I am working hard every day eating right and walking at work break, hiking at night. I am not waiting to wake up one day and find that I am suddenly thin. I may never be thin. But each day that passes is one I could have lived more. If I do not make the choice to have fun now, it will pass like a blink of an eye and I will be left with regrets. Don’t sell yourself short. Live now, rest later. 🙂

TECH TREK


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OF COURSE THEY ARE GREEN! DUH!

As the trek to Machu Picchu approaches, I am evaluating my tech gadgetry that will accompany me on the trip. It is important to take the things you think you need. Last time, I did not take my head phones on the trail. I lent them to someone who listened to her iPod the whole trek long. I have no judgment of that because each person’s trek is a personal journey. Some people think it sacrilegious to listen to your iPod (in the olden days Walkman) when you are in the wilderness. I think, like all things, it depends. In this case it is all about doing what YOU want to do. So this time, I may use them. I KNOW I will use them on the plane so the first thing I will take is my Bose  Earbuds.  These don’t give me that bruised feeling every other in ear bud has in the past.  I intend to use them on the plane and maybe in the evenings. I likely will not listen on trail because I do enjoy just being out there and hearing the sounds that go with the sights.

The next piece of gear will be my kindle. Don’t get me wrong, I mostly am a book purist who loves the smell of Barnes and Noble as well as the sound of pages turning in a real book. I love dog ears and broken backs and spilled coffee with margin notes. My favorite thing is looking back at law books and seeing margins filled to the brim with color coded notes. But I also like the kindle.

New Fangled Reading Machine

New Fangled Reading Machine

It is great for travel and reading outside in the sun. I have a very regulated limit of weight to bring so this will be down with my kindle paper white that holds a charge a good month or more even with heavy reading. It also takes up very little space in my carry on and in the tent when I will use it. Maybe. That is if I can even stay awake after long days on the trail. Then again, on the plane it will be a welcome way to pass the 14 or so hours!

Of course, one of the most important pieces of gear on the last trek was my Spot Connect! Important in that it was a fun interactive way to let my friends back home spot me on the Google Maps and see where I was at the end of each day…that is until I dropped the needed iPhone into the squat toilet and ended my ability to connect the spot and therefor transfer

FIND SPOT

FIND SPOT

the coordinates to the satellite. But the spot connect is a fun way to map any trip. It is also a nice tool for hikers who are lost to be located on their hikes. But nothing to depend on because anything could happen to technology and POOF it is gone. Rain, Squat Toilets, Drop it in a ravine…..

After the Spot Connect I guess I must mention my iPhone. That is a great tool for connecting to the Spot as mentioned above as well as taking quick pictures and videos. It can also be used to blog and text home if I need my sis to intervene in the blogging like last time. She was a pretty good guest blogger.  My iPhone is a 4S. I had lost the 4 in Nepal and got a new 4S upon arrival back in the good ol’ USA. But that 4S died less than a year later and Apple replaced it with this 4S which is now on its last legs. Funny that this extremely expensive technology seems to last about a year. And if it lasts longer, they find a way to obsolete it by not supporting it with updates. iphone

Because I have NO charging for the Inca trail days, I will get a device that is a backup battery to charge my devices. Yes. It has come to that.  This is a device I did not have in Nepal and have relied on all my pals at Trailspace.com to decide to get one. Those gues know life on the trail so I trust them.  I took solar last time but it was not easy to use and weather impeded use of it on those blizzard days. This should be a much better choice for the short trip I will be on. I am opting for the ANKAR Astro Pro2. It should be able to charge my phone at least 10 times, which is far more than I will need.

POWAH BANK!

POWAH BANK!

After the iPhone the next bit of tech will be my MacBook pro! Yes, it rode the back of a yak to nearly 18000 feet and I know it can make it on the back of a porter or llama too! This will get less use as I will not have charging capabilities on the trail. But I will blog none the less and just knowing that ismacpook with me gives me the chance to write up a storm without the dang thumbs on an iPhone performing more errors than can be counted on hands and toes!

Now it is on to the big guns of photography. I will be bringing my Canon 60 D. I love this camera! It has 18 megapixel processor. Now, you might say that many phone cams are getting just as big. While the numbers are catching up, the processors are not. So don’t just listen to the number of megapixels. The processor is a CMOS Sensor whereas the processor in my iPhone is a version of their iSight external camera used for face time and chat in older formats. Nothing really special there. So the Canon 60D will get me some mad pix of the ruins, the environment and the people. It also shoots full canon1080p HD video and the image stabilization is far superior to the iPhone videos.  I get a lot of pleasure out of knowing this camera was by my side all the way to Everest Base Camp and will now shoot up Peru!

 Of course, my favorite brand new addition to the 60D is a telephoto lens I picked up gently used and at a great price. This will be awesome for picking out the ruins around Machu Picchu that are lined uplens for whatever purpose the Inca spent all their time lining stuff up.  So this bad boy may reveal things heretofore unknown to man. Well, that really isn’t likely. But I wanted to use the word heretofore.

One last item to bring: I will bring the ever popular GoPro camera. Two actually. I love these little cameras. I have mounts for my head and my chest, a grip and boom. They can capture wide angle and get some pretty nice video all along the way and at the ruins as well. They are light too. The batteries are sketchy, but I will get what I can out of them.gopro

So, there you have it. That is what I am dragging up Dead Woman’s Pass with me on my 2014 Machu Picchu Deluxe trek! I thought I may bring a change of cloths or two as well.  Stay tuned as I continue to gear up for this once in a lifetime trek!

It is Getting Real UP IN HEAH!


Mountain Madness in Seattle Washington

Mountain Madness in Seattle Washington

I got an email from Mountain Madness yesterday. I had to send them my flight itinerary and ask any questions I may have that they could assist with. As I fished out the itinerary from my old emails and looked at the flights and times and layovers the adventure adrenaline began to flow. It is on us folks and I am reminded that there is much to do besides get physically ready.

The first order of business is to make a list of things to accomplish. Things like: 1) prepare enough dog

Tashi Sherpa and her Bailley Chair

Tashi Sherpa and her Bailey Chair

food for the dogs for about 12 days. I have a special needs dog who has to eat certain food in a special chair. Which brings me to 2) train the house sitters on the care and feeding of Tashi Sherpa, my special needs Schipperke who has a disease called Megaesophagus. I have someone staying right at the house spoiling Tashi and Jack the entire time I am gone. Makes it much easier on the pups to be at home when I am gone that long. 3) Also train the sitter in how to determine if Tashi needs to go to the vet and how the insurance works for her.

The next task is 4) sort and organize gear so that I have everything I need and not more than I need. When I went to Everest, I took WAY too much and had to pare it all down after the first day on the trail. It is even more critical this trip because there are weight limits as to what you can carry and what a porter can carry.  There is also the consideration of the plane and cost for luggage. I do not want a repeat of what happened in Hong Kong where my whole trip was nearly bagged by a sudden change in policy from one airline to the handoff to the next.

Item number 5) make a doctor appointment and get Diamox and antibiotics to take along.  Diamox helps in case of altitude issues and antibiotics are used if Montazuma’s revenge (In this case, Huayna Capac’s).  And I will need to do all the work on my calendar, get extensions or make arrangement with coworkers to cover for me. Just another reason to remain on good terms with them!

machu-picchu-peruNext I will 6) need to pay ahead on my bills so I don’t come home to a foreclosure notice on my house or see my car is missing from the driveway. Though this is not a particularly long trip, I get nervous about that stuff and do not want to give it a second thought while I am gone. 7) Get cash for the trip and for the tips to the porters and guides. 8) Call credit card company and let them know I will be using my card out of the country. that Target fiasco has even made it more difficult to go outside your normal patterns of use than it was before.

9) make sure my Spot Connect is working and that I have an international wireless plan for the time I am on the trip. Update email list for those who wish to receive the emails in real time on my trek through the Spot Connect.

Well, that is what I can think of, which means there is much more to be done around work and fitness and hiking. But it is on like Donkey Kong and I am instantly excited that this train is speeding toward August 30, when ALL THE FUN WILL REALLY BEGIN!

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Lone Mountain


There is a little bump of rock that sits in the Las Vegas Valley east of the Red Rock Conservation Area and literally an arm’s length from the 215 AKA Beltway freeway. It can bee seen from all over the valley, sort of by itself. Thus the name, I would conclude. I never had a reason to want to hike around there. But a friend mine who lives on that e4nd of the valley has always wanted to do it just to ay he did.

Lone Mountain

Lone Mountain

So Saturday we set out. It was early and windless and quite a nice morning to be out. The thermometer was predicted to be in the triple digits but I was not worried. My research had told me that this was a half mile hike that would end up with a 600 foot elevation gain. I figured a short burst of work, a peek around the valley and back down.

We headed up and it was a bit steep as I thought it would be.

First Leg

As often happens, at least for me, the ultimate top of a hike is not visible from the bottom of it. From this perspective I thought there would be this first stretch and another short one. Because it was 1/2 mile……right? WRONG!!!! As it turned out we had not taken the short route as described (a bit incorrectly) by the source I looked up. Instead we were on track for steep and long.  About three miles.

saddle

We took a nice view of the valley northeast of the rock while we were at the saddle. From here there were additional steep sections to attack. My friend is not a real avid hiker. He was happy I gave him my trekking pole since he wore court shoes. The steepness was work going up, but coming down proved to be more work. Lots more. My quads went from hot fire burning globs to jelly like puddles that were useless for anything from being fired the entire return trip. But I get ahead of myself.

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We hit the benchmark and at the top got a hazy morning view of the entire Vegas Valley. We had run into another hiker who uses this as a training hill. That seemed to be the norm there…lots of people powering up and down to get fit. We spoke with the one guy who said in the summer there are lots of gnats at the top of the hill. But it was not gnats, it was FLYING ANTS! They were everywhere and as a result the stay at the top was not really very fun.

SKULL TOP

Appears that one guy didn’t get out of there before the gnats got the best of him!  You can see the hazy day over Vegas in the distance. It did clear some as time went on. But it also got hotter fast!

This little suburban hike was a great test of hiking in less than aesthetic surroundings and sticking with it in the heat, gnat attacks and even during what was a bit of heat over exposure to complete the task. I realized that two years ago my Everest experience had built my endurance mentally. This was certainly more for getting to the top than enjoying the trip. Though it was fun to make sure my boots were performing, which they did in stellar fashion! This was not near as steep as day two in Machu Picchu will be, but it was a nice test run for fitness gains. My kettle bell challenge is actually showing good fast results in the strength department, that was clear!

View west

After we returned to the care in triple digit temps, my friend had felt a sense of accomplishment for doing what he had wanted to do for many years. But he doesn’t hike…….at least he didn’t used to!

The 404 Trail


(Maggie and I have set a hike of Black Mountain as our monthly evaluation hike in working up to Machu Picchu. The goal is to be able to see our fitness increases gained over the course of the month and to assess what we need to do to ensure our readiness for our September trek on the Inca Trail.)

BMSTART

Post that marks the activities allowed.

 

 March 24, 2014. 5:30 AM. As I sit in my car, lacing my boots in the dark, it is not lost on me that just 24 months ago I was boarding a plane to Nepal to start what was the best few weeks of adventure I had ever had. It was also not lost on me that only 12 months ago, I was beginning what was to be the worst few weeks of my  adult life in watching my father’s slow death and in taking him home to be buried. And here I stood, at the parking lot of Black Mountain, getting ready to challenge myself in preparation for the next adventure.

I put on my headlamp

BMLIGHTS

Starting out and testing my red lights on my headlamp.

and headed out. It had been two years since I had done this hike, and I knew there had been quite a bit of trail development in the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. My lamp lit the trail well and for the first time ever, I also hiked with my iPod playing in my ear. As I walked past houses where people still remained warm in their bunks, I thought about how nice it was to still be able to just drive up to the end of the burbs and start hoofing it. Soon I was at the little water retention dam and knew that once I had put it behind me, it would not be long until I would be on trail and officially out of the suburban beginnings of the hike.

 

I trudged on thinking about how my feet were feeling, assessing if I had laced my boots well, if they were feeling good, if the iPod would last the whole hike and wondering if the coyotes were watching me in the dark. Every now and then the monotone voice of my MapMyFitness app would tell me how far I had gone. I had not yet left what was a service road and started to doubt if I had gotten on the right trail. The sun was starting to make an appearance and as I looked back down the mountain I could see I had gotten myself on the next hill over by crossing the front of the dam instead of the back. So around I turned and headed back to the dam.

BMSUNUP

Vegas on a Sunday Morning

 

I texted Maggie, who intended to begin after me and she confirmed my mistake just about the time I arrived back down the to the dam. Now I could read the signs and there it was. I needed the 404 trail and that is on the back of the dam!  I had eaten up so much of my lead time that I was mad with myself. I am less fit than Maggie and did not want to slow her down on her test hike. But it was what it was so I went around the dam and found the trailhead. I put my lamp away and started in, now with over 2.5 miles extra logged.

BMTRAIL

You will find this just at the far end of the back of the retention basin.

 

I hiked up and up and felt pretty good. Slow but good. There was nobody around on what is usually a freeway. A benefit of coming quite early on a Sunday morning.  I could feel the walk in my legs and I took note of a few issues with my boots and feet. This being the first real hike of the year, my feet are not yet conditioned and I knew they may be sore. I was trying a lighter weight boot too, and that may have been a mistake as the bottoms of my feet were getting more feedback from the trail than I like.

Around six miles in I had to start assessing whether to go to the top or not. I had burned a couple miles that I sure could have used energy-wise on my mistaken start.

BMSUM

Too far to go since I wasted my morning on the wrong path!

 

I sat down and ate a few nuts and seeds and drank a considerable amount of water. All of a sudden Maggie was there and we talked about how things had gone to this point. Given the fact she had not added a two plus mile spur, she was going to continue up. I decided I needed to head back because my feet were pretty sore and the left boot was throwing into pronation pretty aggressively. I had a small blister on my middle toe and could feel a hot spot on my big toe from the posture of my foot in pronation. So she went up, and I headed down.

BMMAGKAR

Maggie and Karen Meet on the Trail

 

MBSHADOW

It is always good to know when to turn back.

 

It was a long hike and I was a bit worried that it was going to really set me back. I hadn’t really planned on more than 6 miles and this was 9.5 by the time I was done.

MAP

MapMyFitness tracked the mileage.

ELE

NICE ELEVATIONS!

 

In the end, I was tired and sore but had gotten great information about what gear and fitness things I need to work on over April. Cannot WAIT until we tackle this at the end of April and see how I do then!

 

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