M = Mountains

M

I grew up in Ontario, Canada.  In fact, before I moved out to Colorado, I had never lived anywhere else. Mountains were never really a part of my life.  I knew they existed but had never been given the opportunity to experience them first hand.

I learned to ski at Horseshoe Valley Resort, north of Toronto. Horseshoe Valley has a difference in elevation of 308 feet. Another place in Ontario where I have skied is Calabogie Peaks, which apparently offers the highest vertical drop in Ontario of 761 feet.

My new home resort, Keystone Resort near Dillon, Colorado has a difference in elevation of 3,128 feet.  Just to give you an idea of what I’m used to and what I’m experiencing here in Colorado.

So, back to mountains. To be honest, I don’t know how I managed to live the majority of my life without being surrounded by mountains! My first time experiencing mountains was in Bosnia and then Switzerland. It was astounding to see them jut out of the earth as if they were the most powerful things nature had to offer.  It was terrifying driving switchbacks in Bosnia with no guard rails. It was exhilarating noticing the thinner but cleaner air.

When I cycled through the Canadian Rockies, I was really nervous.  I thought, how can I possibly get my little bike up those HUGE mountains?  But the mountains can be forgiving.  There are ways to get through them without going straight up. Valleys and passes assist us in being able to experience their majesty without as much effort as we might think.

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Although they can be forgiving, they are also not to be messed with. When I climbed Kilimanjaro, I truly learned to appreciate that the mountains are boss.  We passed many people who simply couldn’t handle the altitude, returning down the slopes with looks of defeat on their faces.

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Since I’ve lived in Colorado Springs, the form of Pikes Peak follows me wherever I go. I can drive into the mountains each weekend if I want to. I truly feel as if “The Mountains are Calling”, and I truly feel as if it’s where I belong.

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Skipping a 14er for Stanley Canyon Trail

Part of the reason my blog is called “Stumbling into Adventure” is because I don’t often plan things through.  I get an idea in my head and I make it happen.  It always seems to work out for me – somehow.  My husband likes to carefully plan and be prepared for every excursion – the complete opposite!

So I had it in my head that we were going to climb Pikes Peak (14,115 feet) today. We were going to take the Barr Trail, camp overnight, summit tomorrow morning and hike back down.  With the dog.  My husband thought we should summit the same day and camp on the way down. So we had it all planned out before realizing that Barr Trail gains 7,615 feet in elevation in 13 miles (not to mention the 13 miles back down!).  We then decided to go with an easier mountain, a class 1 but the highest in Colorado, Mount Elbert. Until we saw that a storm was supposed to roll in this morning around 11am in the region.  So we sat down.  And had a chat.  About starting with the biggest.

We settled on Stanley Canyon Trail.   This was close to home and would be a good practice trail with some good elevation, but that we could do in about 4 hours, round trip. 

Loki is ready to start hiking!

Loki is ready to start hiking!

It gains about 2000 feet in elevation in about 2 miles.  The beginning is the worst and requires scrambling over rocks at times. But the views, they were breathtaking!  There were a couple of spots where you could look back and see over the entire city of Colorado Springs and the Air Force Academy.  Once inside the canyon, the steep walls make for a surreal experience, and at the top of the first section of the climb there is a beautiful, sunny, waterfall area filled with butterflies!  

Flowers in a clearing

Flowers in a clearing

The geography of the entire trail changes about 4 or 5 times along the way up.  Fields, forest, rocky climbs, waterfalls, canyon walls, and finally at the end, a hidden reservoir.

Scrambling up the rock/scree

Scrambling up the rock/scree

Scrambling down the rock/scree

Scrambling down the rock/scree

The reservoir at the top was a nice secluded location for a lunch or in Loki’s case, a nap!

The Stanley Canyon Reservoir

The Stanley Canyon Reservoir

It was a great day and a great hike. And yes, I admitted to my husband that maybe going after the biggest 14ers right away wouldn’t have been such a great idea!  We have decided from this point to work our climbing endurance for a while before going big!  We’re going to try to do two trails a week, alternative between easy, level but longer trails and steeper, moderate trails!

Looking out over Colorado Springs

Looking out over Colorado Springs

Hiking Buddies!  Loki was a champ!

Hiking Buddies! Loki was a champ!

Amazing Africa – Part 1: The decision to go

I was in much need of a break from my overseas work, and we’re entitled to two 2-week vacations during our 10-months away from home.  Since I was already halfway around the world, it didn’t make sense for me to go back to Canada when I could see so much more on the other side of the Atlantic!  Where to go?  I looked at Seychelles, I thought about Thailand, I even considered Turkey.  Dean, a longtime friend of mine mentioned it has always been his dream to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, so I started googling.  I learned that Kili was a mountain that anyone in ‘reasonable physical condition’ could handle, and I thought: I’m in reasonable physical condition!  So on the spur of the moment, I searched around, emailed some travel companies and finally came up with a plan of what I wanted to do and see in Tanzania!
I finally settled on a combination of Kili climb, Serengeti Game Drive and R&R in Zanzibar.  As soon as my trip was booked, I ordered everything I would need for hot and cold weather and mountain climbing from Mountain Equipment Co-op and prayed that my order would make it from Canada to the southwest asia on time!
I departed Dubai on the 28th of August.  My gate didn’t open until about 1045pm, so I had about 40 minutes to wait before I could check in my bag.  I was amazed at how smooth and quick the check-in process at the Dubai Airport is compared to Canada.  Security was a breeze.  The clerk at the check-in asked me where I got my PacSafe locking wire mesh I had on my backpack and told me it was good that I have it for this flight.  This made me a little nervous.  I had never been to Africa and was travelling on my own.  I managed to pack everything I would need for a mountain climb and another week and a half of adventure into one hiking rucksack.  What an adventure this is going to be!
The flight to Nairobi was very nice, and the Precision Air flight to Kilimanjaro was nice and short. We flew right between Kili and Meru (I think). I have put myself in a bit of a pickle. I was only able to get Dirhams and then hoped to get $$ in Nairobi, but time was a bit tight and I didn’t get any. I didn’t have enough U.S. Dollars for my visa when I arrived and I had to change Dirhams at such an outrageous exchange rate. 100DH = $14US. I’ve been hosed. Now I have no idea where to get any money.
There were three others on the ride from the airport to Springlands Hotel. Danilo and Chris are brothers from Brazil who were celebrating Chris’s 40th birthday by climbing together, and Beth a young British girl, who, like me decided 3 weeks ago to climb a mountain. We hired a local, whom we nicknamed Shingo and he took us into Moshi. We went to the bus station, police station, all the markets and walked back on the railroad tracks and through a tiny village between Moshi and the hotel.
One of the things that really impressed me about Tanzania so far was in an area of the world where religion truly divides, the mosques and churches sat across the same town and for the most part, Moshi and I would soon learn the rest of Tanzania is relatively peaceful.  The people in the town I spoke to were rather proud of this fact.
While the others were shopping, I asked Shingo about school He told me that school is very expensive and to go for two months it costs $50. He wants to go back to school to learn more English. I told him ‘practice makes perfect’ and he knew that phrase! It suddenly dawned on me, watching every Kenyan on that flight from Dubai try to open the plane bathroom door but unable to read the instructions. They may make enough $$ to fly, but they are illiterate in both English and Swahili.
As we were wandering around Moshi, guys all over the place were trying to sell us stuff. One guy made a comment about buying from the shops vice the ‘community stores’ and supporting drug lords etc. It makes one stop and wonder: where is any of the $ spent here REALLY going? Who is benefitting from my visit here? Uneducated, illiterate men? Or something bigger?
Taking a walk along the tracks through Moshi Town
 
The hub of Moshi Town (approx 145,000 pop)