Day 2: The Glacial Lake

View out our window, morning of Day 2

Our stay at the first lodge was 2 nights, to allow the group a little more time to acclimate to the altitude before we hiked over the 15,000+ foot pass on Day 3.  So on the second day of the trek, anyone feeling up for it had the option of doing a shorter hike (4-5 hours) to a glacial lake not too far from the lodge.  I brought my bikini.

After the first day a few people in the group were a little bit nervous about exactly how strenuous the remainder of the trip would be. So as we set out, everyone was ready for a repeat of the near-hypoxic situation that had occurred the day before.

We had to cross a few rivers, but the majority of the hike up was a very gradual uphill on a kind of grassy/rocky terrain.

About an hour and a half in we took a break…

…and hiked a little more…

…and then…

…we arrived.

The water was crystal crystal clear and so blue, it looked like something out of a beer commercial.  So inviting.  …but it was also coming off a glacier and about 40 degrees Fahrenheit.  And we were pretty high up.

But two of us decided to go in anyway.

And, after hyperventilating, we dominated.

We hiked around the lake a little bit, took few pics…

…then started heading back down…

…to the lodge…

…were the staff was playing a pickup game of soccer.

Day 2 was much easier than the first day for everyone, people were more apt to go their own pace, and I think it instilled a little more confidence in the group as a whole that we might actually make it over the pass the following day.

That night we had a delicious dinner, went to bed early, snuggled up with our hot water bottles, and got ready for an early morning.

Next up: Day 3–Over the Pass

Day 1: The Hiking Begins

The next morning we were picked up by Johann, our assistant leader, in the hotel lobby at 7am.

We had 13 people in our group:

  • A German couple from Dusseldorf.  Very German.
  • An international businessman / man of mystery and his British lady friend
  • 7 guys from Michigan on a Mancation
  • Me and Susie
The whole group, minus our leader, Leo
Because our group was so big we had two mini-buses to take us to the trailhead.  Susie and I rode with Johann, who picked us up along with the Europeans.  We drove about an hour and a half along some paved roads and through some mountains….
…and stopped in a small town for a bathroom break.

After about 15 minutes hanging out in town (the locals were thrilled to see us, if you can’t tell from the lady’s face in the above picture) we hopped back in the buses and headed up a narrow, windy, dirt, mountain road for another two hours to a town called Mollepata for lunch.  It was here in Mollepata that we saw our first guinea pigs being fattened up for slaughter.

After lunch we hopped back in the van for another half our or so, we pulled over where the trailhead hit the road.  We got out, covered ourselves in sunscreen…

…and finally, started hiking.

The first part of the hike was rolling green hills with cows and horses wandering around, surrounded by mountain ranges.  Much of the group (before they started keeling over from lack of oxygen) re-enacted numbers from the Sound of Music.

I would like to pause here and take a moment to note that at this point we were somewhere around 10,000 feet: lower than Cuzco, and significantly lower than the pass we were going to be crossing, and still you could feel the altitude (the lodge we were hiking to was at 12,690 feet).  Like, really feel the altitude.  Uphill was not easy.  Many a Michiganite was struggling.

Back to the hike.  After about an hour and a half of uphill hiking we stopped to take a break and got our first good view of Salkantay (the snow covered mountain in the background.)

As we continued we walked along some aqueducts originally built by the Incas…

…and parts of the trail were a little precarious (picture 6 inches of sometimes wet, loose, rocky trail and long vertical drops to the bottom of a ravine.  With more rocks.)

It cooled down, shadows started getting long…

…we had some amazing views…

…and finally, after about 4.5 hours, we arrived the lodge, cold and tired.

Everyone was excited to be there.

We were greeted at the front door with hot tea and warm towels, instructed to take our shoes off, and go relax by the fire.  We obliged.

The lodge also had a jacuzzi…

…and hot water bottles in the bed (which freaked me out the first night when I jumped into bed).


Next up: Day 2–The Glacial Lake

The Haps

For those of you who are unaware (most likely all of you…I don’t think this blog has many local followers), it has been a big few days at Governor Brashear’s office here in Kentucky.  A sit-in at the Governor’s office with local activists, authors, teachers, and scholars began on Thursday.  It coincided with the I Love Mountains march yesterday bringing together thousands of people from across the state in a push to end Mountain Top Removal (MTR).

Before coming to Kentucky I had heard of MTR but knew very little about it.  Give yourself 24 hours here and the “Friends of Coal” license plates and “I heart Coal” bumper stickers littering the roads of Kentucky make clear the fact that coal companies have quite a wide reach in these here parts.  While it may seem that these happenings in Appalachia have little to do with you, remember that over half of the electricity produced in the country comes from coal.  The world is small, the US even smaller.  You may be more connected than you think.

Tick tock

According to the vet, it is not tick season.  So it was weird that last night, as we were getting ready to go to bed, we found 5 on Spike.

I’ve never had to pull ticks off a dog (one of the perks of growing up in Southern California.)  The only tick I’d ever really seen was in my sister’s ear.  I thought it was a spider and the experience disturbed me deeply. 

Some facts about ticks:

  • Ticks are arachnids (so it wasn’t totally ridiculous that I thought the tick in my sister’s ear was a spider).
  • The most common ticks that your dog will pick up in North America is called the dermacentor variabilis, and does not carry Lyme disease.  It can, however, carry Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.
  • The deer tick is the one you have to watch out for, that’s the one that carries Lyme disease and is found mostly in the Northeast.
  • Once ticks get in there they hold on pretty tight (their legs have teeth…so gross), so the best way to get them out is to kill them without squishing them, because then they will let go and fall off.   Certain chemicals will also make the tick loosen their grip.
  • I was talking to a guy this morning that grew up on a farm and apparently it’s ok, so long as you get most of the tick off, if there is a leg left in the dog.  

 Some suggestions from friends and the internet on the best way to kill ticks included:

  • Put a match to the tick and pop it
  • Suffocate the tick with rubbing alcohol
  • Suffocate the tick with clear nail polish

We figured a match to the dog’s head was probably not the best idea, we had no rubbing alcohol, and I couldn’t find my nail polish anywhere (probably still packed).  We tried every cleaning product in the house (most of which were eco-friendly…probably didn’t help our cause), toilet bowl cleaner, and Paul’s cologne.  Suckers WOULD NOT die.  So we did our best with a pair of tweezers, but every single one left their disgusting front clampers in poor Spike.  So gross. 

Time to invest in tick medicine and rubbing alcohol.

Update: my coworker, who grew up in Eastern Kentucky, just told me a story about how she had a tick attach itself to her EYE, above and below.  So when she opened her eye it would block her vision, she said her eyelashes would brush it.  They used mineral oil to get the tick to let go.

Kentucky Hike #2: Rockcastle–Cumberland Confluence

Location: Laurel County, Daniel Boone National Park

Distance: 4.5 miles

Entry Fee: $0

The trailhead for this hike is located about 90 minutes south of Lexington next to London, KY, home of the World Chicken Festival, which attracts 250,000 people annually.  This hike is actually supposed to be a 9 mile loop, but once we saw the conditions of the trail we figured a shorter out and back might be a safer alternative, so that’s what we did.

We left our apartment around 8am on a beautiful Saturday to get there with plenty of time to get back for Ben Sollee, who was playing at a bar downtown that evening.  On the drive there we saw a person run across the freeway–a guy in an orange hat and camo carrying a shotgun.  Things to know when you go into the Kentucky woods any time between September and March: bring your gun and your dying deer whistle…it’s hunting season.

Once we hit London and started in on the back roads.  First thing I noticed: there were quite a few pickups sporting that deer antler decal and guys wearing orange hats and camo with racks of guns….drinking.  At 9am.  At this point I started to get nervous and tried to get Paul to seriously consider whether it was safe to hike back in the woods with a bunch of gun-toting drunkards trying to shoot large animals (I wasn’t convinced.)

We pulled over to a convenience store on the side of the two-lane road to ask.  The lady inside the store, which was lined with animal heads, had this response:  “You’re going HIKING?  You’d best be wearing orange.”

Two florescent orange beanies later we were ready to go.  We also asked her if it would be safe to let our small dog off the leash.  Long pause.  “Should be OK.  It’s deer season.  Squirrel season doesn’t really begin until December.”

I was less than thrilled about the situation.  The only thing we had going for us is it is gun season, not crossbow.  I’d rather be hit with a bullet than an arrow.

The book said that at the trail head we’d find an “unpaved parking area.”  I envisioned a gravelly or dirt clearing.

We drove by it twice before we saw it.  We got out of the car to find that on the post at the trail head were these two signs:

At this point, I was so not feeling this hike.  While Paul was trying to convince me that bears don’t have babies until the spring, so the odds of one attacking us were slim, and I was going over the sign reviewing what we were supposed to do should we come across an aggressive bear (face the bear, but do not look him directly in the eyes, never turn your back) and how to avoid falling tree-tops, we heard a gunshot.  It took some serious coaxing and a promise that we would keep Spike on the leash for Paul to get me back out of the car and on the trail.

The book said this hike is best in spring and as soon as we entered the woods we saw at least one reason why.  With all the leaves that had recently fallen, the trail was completely gone.  So we forged our way through some nasty sharp nettles and vines and made our way down to Ned Branch Creek which, according to the map, we could follow for a few miles to a campsite.

The rock formations at Rockcastle are pretty amazing, and there were some awesome pools on the way.

We kept Spike on a leash for the first 45 min or so, but after getting tangled around one too many tree trunks, we figured he wouldn’t go that far, so we took him off and let him run free.

We made it to the campsite, ate, and after a few wrong turns made our way back to the car.  On the way home, we contemplated stopping at the local eatery:

…but we didn’t.  Overall, seeing as how we call came out alive and un-maimed, I considered the hike a raging success.  Someone crashed on the ride home.

Lessons learned: there is such a thing as bullfrog hunting season (May 21-Oct 31).  And you can hunt wild hog year round.

Flora and Fauna:  Hillbillies with guns.

Kentucky Hike #1: Raven Run

Location: Fayette County

Distance: 7ish miles

Entry fee: $0

The “run” part of my grand plan hit a small road bump this past week…shin splints.   Damn.  So instead I have been swimming, spinning…and hiking!  The weather here has been beautiful, and this past Saturday (when I would normally do my long run) it was 85 and clear and gorgeous, and I was bummed that I couldn’t run.  So I decided to take a drive through the horse farms and hit up Raven Run, a local hike.  I chose Raven Run namely because Paul assured me that the trails are wide and clear and well marked and there are families everywhere, so I wouldn’t get attacked or lost if I went alone.

On the way out there my gas light came on, so I GPSed the nearest gas station on my phone and ended up here:

I was a little nervous, because I had never pumped gas from one of these things before, but didn’t have much of a choice…the next closest station was 15 miles away.  While I was inside paying, the electricity went out and they told me that the pumps wouldn’t work with no electricity.  Fortunately, as I was about to leave, it came back on.  Crisis averted.   I finished pumping my gas and got back in my car when there was a knock on the drivers side window.  It was the guy who worked there, he had come out to ask me if I “wanted to hang out sometime”.  I smiled, told him oh, I’m married, and showed him my ring, and he said, “Oh, I don’t pay attention to that.”  Sleazy smile.   Time to go.

Got to Raven Run, decided to do the simple 4 mile loop.  No problem.  Sure enough, the paths were very clear, well marked, and I passed a number of families along the way.  Took a few detours to some outlooks and down to the Kentucky River, took some pictures, enjoyed the view, and about an hour and a half in I should have been close to the end.

At that point I somehow veered off the red trail and onto the orange trail (red, orange…pick colors that don’t look the same when the paint fades) into some grasslands where I saw…absolutely nobody.  For like an hour.  I also started hearing what sounded like a large animal in the surrounding grass stalking me.

I know that I’m not in California or the mountains, where the mountain lions roam, but the UK mascot is the wildcats.   And if there is one thing that I am really good at it’s freaking myself out.  Fortunately, I found a plethora of these on the ground:

I have no idea what they are, but they are big and easy to throw…which is exactly what I did–started throwing them into the grass when I heard something (even though they were kind of soft).   I also started singing out loud (if you’ve forgotten the rules of avoiding attacks) and picked up my pace.  Finally made it back to the point where I originally veered off course (always nice to walk for a long time feeling lost and end up back in a place you’ve already been) and, after another 3o minutes of hiking, made it back to the car safely.

Total hiking time: 3+ hours.  Kentucky hike #1: more or less a success.  It is beautiful here.

I missed hiking, it’s good to be back.

Hike #20: The Apartment Hike–Second Installment

con’t from previous post…sorry for the delay

This next stretch would take us through the Tenderloin, under a freeway overpass, and up Potrero Hill.  Fueled by celebrity gossip and Bud Light, we attacked this leg with a vengeance.  But no sooner had we walked down the hill from Molly’s place and into the Tenderloin did we see….our second red double decker bus.  What it was doing in the Loin, I do not know.  But we hustled our way into the nearest bar, which just happened to be…

Bar Stop #2: Harrington’s Pub, the Tenderloin

“Smells like cigarettes and omlettes.  My superior deduction skills tell me it stinks like cigarettes most likely because they let people smoke inside. As for smelling like omelettes… shit, I dunno.

~Yelp review, Harrington’s Pub

Indoor smoking, toothless patrons, and “Michael Collins–the Lost Leader” posters lining the walls…Harrington’s is exactly what you would expect an Irish pub on the corner of Turk and Larkin to be.   But we were on a schedule, no time to dawdle…5 minutes and 18 Bud Lights later, we were back out on the street and moving.  We had gone less than two blocks when we ran into…red double decker tourist bus #3.  NOOOOOOO

Apparently the Tenderloin is a tourist hotspot.  Unfortunately (fortunately?) we were heading towards Market and 8th, an area that doesn’t have a whole lot of bars, so we couldn’t get to one immediately.  But within a few blocks we stumbled across…

Bar stop #3: Holiday Inn Hotel Bar, SOMA

I am not entirely sure this bar was meant to serve non-guests (we had to prop the bathroom door open with paper towels because none of us had a room key to open it), but the bar was deserted and the bartender, Mandy, loooooooved Molly, so whatever. After a little bit of confusion regarding orders, Mandy hooked us up with some beers (Molly and Eden got strawberries).  With a chug and quick mugging with Mandy, we were on our way.

Upon walking out the door, there was a collective gasp as…yes.   A FOURTH double decker tour bus drove by–our third bus in about 8 blocks.  Lucky for us, it was blue, not red.  Close call.

OK!   Through the scary parts of town and free of tour buses, we headed towards the I-80/ 101 underpass–Freeway Crossing #1.  Erickson did the favor of providing us with a plethora of Bubblicious flavors for the bubblegum rule.  I think we all underestimated exactly how wide the freeway is, because the only person who came close to making that goal was Erickson.  Carl also made a concerted effort, but everyone else gave up after a few tries.

With the failed gum freeway crossing attempt behind us, we were finally on our way to our next scheduled stop.

Sixth Stop: Ferg’s, Potrero Hill

For the final push of this stretch we had to make it up Potrero Hill, which is hard to do when you’re not 9 miles and 8+ cocktails deep.  But with some major effort the whole team made it to Ferg’s apartment where we were greeted by large bags of Doritos and some more Bud Light.  Just what the body needs after a strenuous climb.

We enjoyed the view, stretched, prepared ourselves for the next leg, which would also be relatively long, and headed out West and towards our…

Seventh Stop: Summer & Ryan’s, the Mission

Over Potrero Hill to the second freeway crossing (where Molly and I were the only two to even unsuccessfully attempt the three legged race….rules were slowly falling by the wayside) and through the Mission (aka Baconwrappedhotdogcartland) we went.  Chadeyne came across a liquor store that sold cutty bangs. In need of a refreshing beverage, most of us imbibed.  And almost barfed.

Another mile (and without bacon wrapped hot dog cart incident) later we arrived at Summer and Erickson’s, where Summer had been so kind as to order up some Papalote burritos, which were DELICIOUS and exactly what we needed to motor us around Twin Peaks, through our longest leg, and to our final destination…

Eighth and Final Stop: The Hesslers, Inner Sunset

At 3 miles, this was the longest leg of our trip and it definitely felt like it.  The sun started to set, the group started to spread out…but about an hour or so after leaving our
seventh stop WE ALL ARRIVED!

Though Chrissy had to work the whole day and was not able to join (a major bummer), she and Carl (who had joined us at Harrington’s) were kind enough to open up their home as the final stop.  Pizza, beer, and a beautifully decorated funfetti cake wrapped up our tour, where 7 of the original 8 hikers (plus an additional 10 or so hikers that were picked up along the way) celebrated victory…then went home and fell asleep by 9:30.

Finish time: 8:30pm, only 90 minutes behind schedule

Lessons learned: 14 miles goes by quick when you’re dodging red double decker tour buses

Flora and Fauna: the cutty bang