Monday, January 21, 2019

Packing for Whitefish

Mimi and her Isabel Marant coat
Mimi loves road trips.  Not that she goes along anymore, but she gets to help me pack.  Her advice is to take as many clothes as my little heart desires.  After all, I have a van with space for ten suitcases!

"You'll need comfortable clothes for the drive.  A few dresses for those romantic dinners at the resort.  A long skirt and cashmere sweater.  A couple of ski jackets, ski pants and apres-ski outfits.  At least three knit caps.  Lots of base layers and turtlenecks. Some scarves and gloves, snow boots, Uggs and high-heeled booties.  Am I leaving anything out?"

"Um . . . no?"

"Oh, and if you don't pack that gorgeous Isabel Marant coat you got for Christmas, I am disowning you."

And that's just Mimi's list.  Here's my travel buddy's list:  Snowshoes and poles.  Nordic skis, boots and poles.  Downhill skis and poles.  Hiking boots and yaks. Sleeping bags and emergency kit with jet boil and tea bags.  And then, like Mimi, umpteen layers of clothing to cover every temperature and snow condition.  We will be in Montana for only ten days, but our van will be stuffed to the gills.

I love road trips, too!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

The Historic Cloud Cap Inn

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

I love days like this.  When serendipity hijacks a plan.  We pivot.  Then jump.  And voila, those magical moments transpire out of thin air.

One day last October we had every intention of hiking on the Cloud Cap Trail to the Eliot moraine on Mt. Hood.  But as we rounded the old Cloud Cap Inn, we came across four men repairing the outside deck with wooden boards.  They looked up and waved.  Then one of them spoke. "We were just going to stop for a coffee break.  Would you like to join us?"

We didn't hesitate.  These men were Crag Rats and in the Pacific Northwest, Crag Rats are legendary.
  This beautiful old cabin on the Northern slope of Mt. Hood was originally built in 1889 and served as a base camp for mountain climbers.  It fell into disrepair after the Great Depression and was going to be demolished in the 1950's, but this volunteer organization of mountaineers and skiers, hatched a plan to repair and maintain it.  It is now used as their base for rescue missions on the mountain (and beyond.)

It is closed to the public and that is why we jumped at the chance to see its interior.  It is the ultimate Man's Cave and believe me, the minute my travel buddy stepped inside, he felt at home.  Ropes, boots, skis, bags of tortilla chips and empty coffee mugs cluttered the rooms.  That permeating aroma of camp fire smoke emanated from every nook and cranny.  He sighed.  Oh to be a member of this exclusive club.   Oh, to be one of the "rats for climbing crags every weekend," as one wife put it way back in 1926.

We were given a tour of the living areas, kitchen and dorm rooms.  The place is a veritable museum of climbing memorabilia.  Our short little coffee break turned out to be a two-hour gabfest.  We covered many topics from acorn gathering to the best restaurants in Hood River.  From ski boots to parent-teacher conferences.  These are men who risk life and limb to save people in trouble on the mountain.  They know about avalanches, hypothermia and crevasses.  They log about 1,000 hours annually in rescue missions and many many more for training, maintenance and administrative duties.  Yet here we were--sitting in rocking chairs in their cozy little living room, drinking coffee, laughing, talking about kids.

Eventually we went outside again but one of them brought out a drone.  I knew then there would be no hiking this day!  However, we got to watch the drone fly over the trees to the glacier beyond and view the pictures it was transmitting back.  The Crag Rats use current technology in their rescues.  Yes, they are physically fit, but also very tech savvy.   GPS, drones and cell phones are all used during their missions.
Reluctantly, it was time to go.  I sensed a couple of them wanting to get back to their projects and I literally had to take my travel buddy by the arm and pull him away.  Instead of hiking, we took our time driving down the mountain.  The landscape on the northern slope is sadly a forest of dead trees. Charred bark against an aluminum sky. 
My travel buddy was uncharacteristically pensive on the way down the windy gravel road to Cooper Spur.  We stopped at Inspiration Point, a place of such beauty that it's impossible to stay melancholic. 

Is taking up mountain climbing at the age of 65 a fool-hardy endeavor?  

No.  Not when you are as fit and competent as he is.  I have no doubt in my mind that if I got in trouble during one of our hikes, he would get me down the mountain.  He is an Honorary Crag Rat, through and through.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Along the Sleeping Beauty Trail

Exploring the Pacific Northwest

Because so many of our favorite trails were closed because of the devastating Eagle Creek wildfire, we have been forced to find new ones.  Happily, we have.  Most of them can be found on the Washington side of the Columbia River Gorge and the Sleeping Beauty trail is one of the best.

The trailhead is located in the Mt. Adams Recreational Area about ten miles beyond the small town of Trout Lake.  The climb begins in a beautiful forest of Douglas firs and western hemlocks, but be forewarned.  It is up, up, up.  Yet only three miles to the summit.   Easy breezy, right?   I can do it, yes, I can.  I can do it, yes I can.  Ice cold beer.

Half way up, the trail begins to get rockier.  Last October, ice was already forming and it was slippery in spots.  I relied on my walking poles for support.  Don't attempt this hike in the winter.

Also, make sure you pick a clear blue sky day because this hike is all about the views.  The most heavenly spectacular views in the area.  Already gasping, I gasped even more when I first glimpsed the vast wilderness below me.

Thankfully, the trail turns into a series of switchbacks as you approach the summit, giving your lungs a break.  It becomes more of a scramble over the rocks then an actual hike.  Very fun.  But a bit challenging.

Before you know it, you're at the top, a rocky outcrop supposedly resembling a maiden in repose.  Thus the name, Sleeping Beauty.

But, gasp, gasp, gasp.  Oh those views.  Mt. Adams and all her sister Cascades, as far as the eye can see.  Worth every breath.  I could have stayed up here forever.

Can't wait until Spring and Summer.  I will be returning to hike the Sleeping Beauty Trail many many times.  Dare I say it?  It is my Numero Uno Fave!


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Nine Little Streets

Shopping in Amsterdam

When I asked the young receptionist at our hotel where a good shopping area was in Amsterdam she started talking about expensive designer shops and malls.  "No, no," I interrupted.  "I want small boutiques.  Something different.  No labels."

She smiled.  "Ah.  You want the Nine Little Streets.  That's where I shop."


So off we went.  We took the train from Citizen M to Central Station and walked from there.  These narrow little streets are tucked between Prinsengracht Canal from the west and Singel Canal from the east.  They are lined with fashion boutiques, quirky gift shops, restaurants, coffee shops and bars.

I like to end my trips with a shopping spree.  That way I'm not carrying extra clothes the entire time.  Traveling light is my modus operandi.  Except on that very last day.  Then it's no holds barred, baby.  I now carry an extra light-weight duffel bag for this purpose.

Now that I'm back home, Mimi and I are enjoying our purchases:  Soft soft corduroy pants and two jackets.  These are mix-and-match pieces that provide us with endless outfit possibilities.   Believe me, she was with me the entire time.  Her little voice approving, disapproving, urging me forward and sometimes backward (for a second look).


I love looking at my photographs and reading my blog to remind me of my wonderful trips.  But it's all those clothes in my walk-in closet that I have purchased during my travels that have the ability to send me back in time.  When I slip on one of these jackets, I can smell Amsterdam.  I can taste its food.  Hear its traffic.  Relive all those happy moments.

I've said it before and I'll say it again.  Clothes make the best souvenirs!

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Hop On Hop Off in Amsterdam

I know you've seen them--those garishly colored two-decker buses that hog city streets.  They are filled with obnoxious camera-toting tourists.  And you, a refined world traveler, wouldn't be caught dead on one.  Yours truly used to think that way, but she has changed her tune.  These buses are cool, man.  Really cool.

Only . . . in the city of Amsterdam, they aren't buses; they are boats.  (Okay, okay, there are buses, too.)

It's a great way to orient yourself to a new city.  In Amsterdam, there are 23 stops along the canals where you can hop on one and pay your 25 euros for a daily pass.  You can either ride the entire circuit with headphones, giving you a running commentary of the sights and history of the city or you can hop off and hop on as many times as you like.  And yes, the boats are bright red, and no, I did not take a picture of one.  Unbelievable!  I guess I was too busy taking pictures of the world around me instead.

And what a world!

If you have the time, I highly recommend sitting back with the headphones and taking the entire circuit first.  Relax.  Enjoy yourself.  Soak it all up.  Then, on the second go-round, hop off at the major tourist sites like Central Station, Anne Frank's House, the Rijksmuseum or the Hermitage.

And you know what?  Being a tourist isn't a dirty word.  We are not obnoxious.  We are a curious, fun-loving group of people who are overjoyed at seeing the most beautiful places on earth.

And that is very cool, man.  Very cool.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

At the Amsterdam Hermitage

He looks at art.  I look at him.  His bemused smile at a ruffled collar.  Eyes squinting to read the fine print.  "We've got to go see the Tivoli Falls.  Are they still flowing?'  He googles it.  A ready answer at his fingertips:  No.

He is all over the map, this husband of mine.  The gears in his brain turning, turning, turning. From Flemish art to Finnish wooden birds.  From mountain summits to subways.  Everything interests him. Nothing is left behind.

Including me.

But I struggle to keep up.