Oh, Canada

We had a last minute vacation when a caretaking stint fell through and we had already booked the time off. We headed north to Quebec and experienced urban living and wilderness within two hours of each other.

First stop, Old Quebec City. We walked for hours, ate dinner out every night and joined the other tourists admiring the St. Lawrence River. One night, there was a live piano player (so much better than a dead one) who accompanied silent films on a large outdoor screen. Charlie Chaplin was more funny than I imagined.

I admired the old buildings and use of stone. And surprisingly, the lights.

When we had our fill of city life, we headed further northeast to the Saguenay Fjord. We hiked and went on a whale watching tour in Tadoussac at the mouth of the Fjord.

It delivered! Although we did not see any of the renowned Beluga Whales, we saw lots of Minke and Humpbacks, diving, doing the whale tale thing. I didn’t even try to get any photos. I did get photos of other boats watching the whales.

When the tour company told us, due to the south wind, we were bound to get wet and the temperature was in the low 60’s, we opted for the Big Boat. I took this photo while I was down below enjoying a cuppa.

The fjord and the St. Lawrence seaway are magnificent. The fjord is 300 meters deep in many places and is a perfect meeting and eating place for several species of whales and seals (as our guide yelled phoque). Cliffs rise on either side and sunrises and sunsets were stunning.

Tim spotted this jewel of a spot on our way to Tadoussac and we returned for a short hike the next day. This statue was out a viewing platform overlooking Rose du Nord, the pearl of Saguenay. Perhaps she is Rose. It’s a beautiful fishing and farming village tucked into its own cove on the fjord.

After a few days on the north side of the fjord, we headed south to the national Parc Saguenay at Riviere Eternite. We had the cutest little Echo Chalet. We were glamping! All we brought were our sleeping bags and towels.

We stretched our legs and took a few hikes.

I almost opted out of getting the view from the top. We met a woman on our way up. As we approached the summit, she had abruptly turned around and was headed back down because she had seen a bear.

So what did we do? We banded together and kept walking. To Tim’s annoyance (because he wanted nothing more than to see a bear) I made as much noise as I could. Subsequent research confirmed black bear attacks are very rare – only about 20 in the past 20 years – but the most recent occurred September 5 in …Canada. Oh my!

We made it home to find geese flying west? And a stunning view right from my porch.

It’s always good to come home to the Adirondacks, which no longer feels like wilderness. French lessons begin today.

I love surprises

The flight from Honolulu to Sydney was outstanding. The plane was relatively empty and Tim slept in his own row. I had a bulkhead to myself. Best of all they gave us a cute little goodie bag with an eye mask, ear plugs, toothbrush and chap stick.

This time we were somewhere over a rainbow.

I knit for at least six hours while I power watched the Great British Baking Show and finished a pair of lined mittens just in time for 98 degrees f in Hobart.

But I can not complain about traveling into summer.

Acclimating

Some things are easier to get used to than others.

The shift from sub-zero temperatures, with snow and ice, to balmy and sunny was easy peasy, even if I still need to wear a wool sweater after swimming.

The time zone is a little tougher. It is five hours earlier here, but I think I have adjusted…for now. I go to bed my usual time and wake up before dawn. Today we fly to Sydney and the easy way to think about it is we lose another 3 hours. But in reality we cross the international date line and gain a day. So we actually gain 21 hours for a net change of 16 hours ahead of NY. Got it? Thank goodness for Apple’s world clock.

And then there’s the wind. It seems to howl all day and night. Nothing close to what we will experience on Deal Island, but it’s a good reminder. Lots of hair ties and hold on to your hat. Tim thought jets were landing nearby while he slept.

We’ve only explored a small bit of Oahu, by bus, and it is stunning. From the deck the other day I saw two very different rainbows. One low, one high. You know what they say.

This Yellow Billed Cardinal was introduced to Hawaii from South America. It is a real chatter box and hard for me to catch a good photo.

The beaches are stunning. We are on the southeast side of Oahu and despite the wind, the coves were protected and we could easily swim.

We found a collection of heart shaped coral at Sandy Beach. Very sweet.

And now we are off to another ten hour flight, same seats.


Never too far from Costco

Tim found a lovely cottage on a bay in Oahu. It really is fabulous and has a lovely view of … Costco.

Visually it is fine but forklifts beep most of the day and evening; famous last words, “no such thing as paradise”. But it is.

We snorkeled and swam yesterday and just chillaxed. Dawn arrives late when you wake up at 4 am but it sure is pretty.

Tim tested his keyboard to make sure it withstood the first leg of the journey. It did.

Today we’ll stretch our legs again and enjoy the warm weather. Despite my love and adaptation to the northern cold climate, I needed a sweater after I snorkeled. It’s windy.

Pack light

Since there were many heavy, non-negotiable items to carry, I saved weight by bringing few clothes and never smelled too bad.

I brought 2 t-shirts, 4 pairs of underwear, and washed one out every day; lots of wool: leggings, 2 long sleeve shirts, sweater, 1 pair of hiking pants, hand knit hat, 4 pair of hand knit socks, a lace shawl, gloves, down sweater,  waterproof shell, hiking boots, and a pair of crocs for camp. I wore every item more than once since it was November and temperature dropped to the low 40’s at night. I used a camelback for the first time and was very happy with it. 

Here is a tableau of my hand knit socks. The blue patterned socks were knit specifically for hiking and are made out of heavier yarn than I usually use. I used one pair as a pad under my shoulder straps.

My feet remained pretty happy. They really hurt on days we had heavy loads – water, all our food – and walked longer distances. A little lambs wool tucked into my socks usually did the trick.

We had long and short days. Here is our itinerary and National Park Service information. We needed backcountry permits for all our campsites.

  • South Kaibab to Indian Garden: 8+ miles, fully laden with 6 days of food, ouch, descent 3500 feet
  • Indian Garden to Salt Creek: 7+ miles still with lots of food and 6 liters of water.
  • Salt Creek to Monument Creek: 3+ miles, starting to feel good and little elevation change
  • Monument Creek to Hermit Creek: 3+ miles, rocking it except for dreading the hike out, which is getting closer and closer
  • Hermit Creek to Hermit Rapids and back: 5 miles, with NO PACK!
  • Hermit Creek to South Rim: Light pack, especially since I gave everything to Tim, 7+ miles and 3500 feet elevation gain.

I wore a hand knit lace shawl I had just finished around the camp, always stylish. It’s the forest path stole and was fun to knit. Made of silk, linen and cashmere, it’s as light as a feather and warm as toast.

I started knitting a lace shawl from the same yarn on the plane to Phoenix, which kept me occupied until I went to bed at 7:30 most night. 26 repeats, about 2 yards long. I’ll pick it up again after my Christmas knitting and weaving is finished.

Wedding shawl “Cecilia” border
A last look at Hermit Creek campsites, note the blue tent

Here’s a 360 degree view of our campsite at Salt Creek.The image works best on an iPhone because you can move the phone around and see it all.

We missed the Canyon on our flight out, but saw a beautiful sunset. It already seems like a dream.
 

Rocks and river

First of all, I’m a total weenie. I just read that a 37 year old Swedish woman broke the woman’s record for running South Rim to North Rim and back up to the South Rim again, or R2R2R, in 7+ hours!!! Hours!!! That’s 42 miles and over 11,000 feet of climbing up and 11,000 feet of climbing down! What?!

I did mention to a runner we passed, while I now realize I was crawling out of the canyon, “you must be crazy running in the Canyon” and he said, “you must be crazy carrying that pack”. To each his own.

But we did make it down to the Colorado River one day and it was fabulous. The hike into the inner Canyon, where the Vishnu schist rock layers are over 1.4 billion years old, was quite beautiful. We were walking into the deeper layers of the earth. There were lots of stream crossings over Hermit Creek to get to the rapids. The dam upriver had just released water and the river was really running.

Our first glimpse of the Colorado River along the Tonto Trail walking to Monument Creek
Descending into another era of rock layers

Hard to believe it was the river that carved the canyon.

But back to those dang rocks and rock slides. I had been dreading the new rock slides on the Hermit Trail from day one of our hike. I’m such a chicken.

They appeared scarier than they actually were.

Rock slide Hermit Trail

Most had been somewhat cleared. I was certainly happier walking up rather than down. They didn’t slow the runners that passed us on the way down.

This one was pretty new; it broke and tree and a rock.

I’m just glad it never rained or created new slides. I always wonder about the choice of words on road signs. Do I feel safer with fallen rocks or falling rocks? Actually neither.

So in the end, it took me 8 hours to hike out, which is mildly demoralizing after reading about the super runner. But I did it and there were no tears.

Flora and fauna we did and didn’t see

First, happily what we did not see: scorpions or Grand Canyon rattlesnakes. These sort of creatures are one of the reasons I can’t sleep “hard”, under the stars in only my sleeping bag.  I need the false security of my flimsy nylon tent zipped up around me. We also missed a 12 point mule deer buck, which apparently wandered through our campsite one night while we were still awake. Ah well.

We did see one when we hiked out.

Mule deer, Hermit Trail

This mule deer wasn’t so lucky but check out the beautiful sutures in its skull.

On our way down the South Kaibab trail, Tim spotted this tarantula; harmless but not so cute.

Tarantula South Kaibab

One day as I was seeing double, this rock looked like a stern man to me. Stern as in not happy, not a lobsterman’s crew.

We saw interesting lichen on our hike out. Anything to pause and take a photo.

We picked up a few cactus spines along the way and were thankful for our long pants. A few were in bloom and sometimes along the trail we would see the most delicate and colorful flowers.

I realize now, we saw yucca plants in many forms. Their roots are cassava and have lots of carbs and anti-inflammatory properties. That would have been good to know.

We saw these tadpoles in our drinking water. What were they doing there? The backstroke!  Hehe. Never fear, our industrial strength water filter got rid of whatever they may have deposited and the water tasted much better than the Phoenix city water.

Cottonwoods at the Indian Garden oasis

And this is what we saw when we returned home. Our Christmas Cactus in full bloom and our adorable feline, Elli… and ten inches of snow on the ground. But that’s another story.

Finding the perfect campsite

There’s an art to this and it’s not always easy. This would obviously not be a good spot.

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Most would agree. Often the choice is more subtle. At Monument Creek we thought it would be nice to nestle under the trees near the stream. Maybe in the summer but not November. I took a walk and found our site was at least 10 degrees colder than one located higher. We became quite adept at picking up our tent, full of sleeping pads and bags, and moving it to the choice spot.

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At some sites, we couldn’t drink the water but it was fine to bathe and rinse our clothes.

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At Hermit’s creek we had to take the last site and it was not ideal. But we spent two nights there. When our neighbors left to hike out early one morning, we scuttled over to their still warm spot with our tent, which now also held our clothes and other assorted items. What a si(gh)t(e).

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With trepidation but no tears

616232CE-7B4C-4A8D-87D5-ADC43D4376B4Unlike my last trip into the Grand Canyon ten years ago, I shed no tears and Tim never had to carry my pack. My fears have diminished a bit, since we moved to the mountains but I still hate a slippery slope.  I like my boots to remain firmly planted where I tell them to, thank you very much. We hiked the same path as before, only in reverse. My body has aged a bit but perhaps my mind is stronger. On multiple occasions during my first trip I employed a Pavlovian technique. Whenever I was scared to death about a narrow path, sheer precipice, 1000 foot cliff, or generally just falling off and dying, I hummed a tune from from a Disney movie, “Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work we go…”. And it worked. I was ready to start whistling this trip but never had to. I was able to identify where it happened before but I was somehow less afraid.

We met a young couple hiking out of our last campsite, and started to talk about the 8 mile Hermit Creek trail into the Canyon and I confessed that last time, I had to stop about a mile from the campsite. I could no longer stand up straight. My body was bent over from fear and weakness and I was unable to carry my pack one step farther. My hero went to the campsite, dropped off his stuff, came back and carried my pack in so I didn’t have to park my self on the trail. I was delighted to hear that the same thing had happened to this twenty something young woman. In fact, they never made it to the campsite and pitched their tent alongside the trail. I reassured her, perhaps trying to bolster myself too, that the return trip up an improved trail would be way easier after we had hiked for a week and had lighter packs after we ate all our food.

Later at the campsite another camper stopped by our tent to tell us he and his wife thought we were the cutest couple. They saw us playing cards, knitting and reading and aspired to be like us one day (in other words when they were as OLD as us). Compliment accepted, it made us smile the rest of the trip.

My stomach began churning on the bus ride to the South Kaibab trailhead on our first day of the trip. We met a group of men who were taking their umpteenth trip into the Canyon. We traded itinereries and told them we were hiking out the Hermit Trail. They complacently asked us if we had heard there had been a major rockslide there three weeks ago during a heavy rain. Oh noooooo! We had not and I was already worried about the old rockslides, given my first time down the trail. Great, I had something to worry about during the next 5 days in the Canyon.

I fell twice during our descent and was pretty pathetic getting up. Even Tim took a day to recover. We limped around our first campsite at Indian Garden among the Cottonwood trees. The wind came up after sundown and rustled the trees and tossed our drying clothes about the campsite. 30FFBEE8-278B-4219-8F15-A588B1775090

Our first meal was one I found on the internet from Outside magazine and may have been the best. I mixed dehydrated refried beans and minute rice at home, we cooked this then added taco seasoning, cheddar cheese and Fritos. It was delicious and packed the calories and salt we needed.

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The weather was ideal. Never a cloud in the sky and cold enough to wear all the clothes I carried.

Camera made it

And so did I. Actually, I ditched the camera and only brought my iPhone into the Grand Canyon and it held up. So did my knees and hips.

We camped in remote, beautiful spots. The stars and Milky Way were incredible. We slept for 10-11 hours every night. I was usually zipped into my sleeping bag by 7:30 pm; it got cold after sunset. I think temperatures were in the low 40’s.

Here’s one of our campsites at Salt Creek. We bathed in the creek, but the National Park Service dissuades people from drinking it, even with purifiers, due to the high mineral and uranium content. We had to carry enough water for 2 days, 7 miles. Water is heavy! Tim carried more than his fair share so I could remain a happy camper.

We hiked down (and up) from the top. 3500 foot elevation change and 8 miles via the South Kaibab trail going down and up, over rock slides and huge steps, via the Hermit trail. In between we walked on a sort of level trail, the Tonto Trail. This was our second night in the Canyon.

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