Bad Weather Hiking – Switzerland

Posted on January 24, 2016. Filed under: Switzerland, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

Our first hiking day.  The trip had been planned for months.  The mountain vDSC08750iews had been dreamed about.  That feeling of being so small next to those behemoths.  And that air.  Oh, the big breaths of mountain air in the sunshine.  I couldn’t wait.

Ha!  It had been a wonderful summer AND fall, they told us.  Weeks and weeks of perfect weather, they said.  And now.  This.  Pea soup fog and rain.  No views.  So sorry.

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In the guidebook, that scene above has a backdrop of jaw-dropping mountains.  Not for us today, though.  We have to settle for the charming old stone barn on the grassy slope.

Getting to the col or pass was disappointing too…

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We could barely see right in front of us.  It does bring focus to the sharp terrain at the top of this col, though, forget about looking out on any vast expanse.

 

 

So, we decided to makeDSC08773 the best of it.  It could be snowing and a lot colder we told ourselves.  This is the mountains.  It’s unpredictable and it can change really quickly.  Or not.   Maybe we need to change.  Plans.

We did 2 days of this before cutting our losses and zooming off to Zermatt by train and bus.  After arriving there the sun came out and we did day hikes in fabulous weather for the rest of the trip.  Sometimes you just have to be flexible!

 

 

 

 

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Is the Cablecar Cheating?

Posted on January 11, 2016. Filed under: Switzerland, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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Uh, the answer to that would be, “NO!”  Let’s not forget we are on vacation!  Perhaps a 6-8 hour hike in the mountains (read:  either all up or all down) is enough exercise?

We found the cablecars (téléphérique in French and seilbahn in German) in Switzerland to be fast, efficient, and a lot of fun.  We used them from our base of Zermatt to get up into the mountains to begin our day hikes.  We also planned to use them on the Haute Route whenever we could, but nearly missed the one into Zinal. 

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This is because the trail passes a cable car that closes at 4:15 and we had just missed it.  (Maybe there was some crying and stomping of feet.)  But then we found out 45 minutes later that first cable car station was for an entirely different town!  We just made the 5:00 last car down the mountain after a very difficult, wet, cold hiking day.  Our eyes bulged out watching the trail below the cable car.  It took about 20 minutes to descend on the cable!  We estimated an additional 2-3 hours if we had had to walk that path.

We couldn’t believe it when we were suddenly done with the day and off to find our hotel.  Ah…that sweet feeling of completing the hiking day.  Body buzzing…thanks to God for the help!

 

 

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La Sage to Cabane de Moiry

Posted on November 29, 2015. Filed under: Switzerland, Travel | Tags: , , , , , |

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This was a crazy day!  We hiked from La Sage, Switzerland to the Cabane de Moiry.  It was a total of 8.12 miles in very difficult altitude and elevation gains and losses.  One of the hardest days of the Haute Route, we jumped right in and made this our first day.  Not so smart in retrospect.  We were not adequately adapted to the altitude yet which made it more difficult physically and added to the estimated hiking time.  A 6.5 hour trip took us 8 hours.  To make things worse there were no views almost all day.  We were in some of the most beautiful mountains in the world and we couldn’t see a thing.

By the time we got to the Cabane we were wet, cold, and exhausted.  It was wonderful to come into the dining room, though, which was warm and welcoming and flooded with light from the huge windows.  Mind you, no views of the extraordinary glacier right outside were available with all the fog, but we were going to be more comfortable soon, at least.

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We got checked in and got our own room even though the room could hold 4 people.  We bought our shower tokens (about $5 for a 5 minute shower.)  Got settled and then headed back to the dining room for dinner.  It was so good!  Lentil stew, lasagna, salad, dessert.  Really, really satisfying.  But just as we were starting to enjoy that physical buzz you get after a tough day, it began to snow.  Very soon 6 inches were evidently piled up.

Bill and I both lost sleep that night worrying about our descent in the morning.  The rocks at the end right before the cabane were tricky without snow, I was wondering how we would manage with 6 inches covering everything.  We decided, though, we would just figure it out and in the worst case we could turn around and stay another night.

By morning, though, the snow was melting and very slushy.  We worked with our poles and managed the rocks fairly easily.  Those rocks, fresh in the morning, after some rest, were a lot easier than tackling them in ascent at the end of the long day before.

We even got some stunning views of the mountain, glacier and barrage in the morning with some sun poking out.  It didn’t last long, but at least we got to see it!

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Stay Home if You Are an Ugly American

Posted on December 9, 2013. Filed under: Philosophy, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Bill at Cinque Terre

Hiking in the Cinque Terre

As we travel around we find many fellow travelers who are friendly and enjoying their trips as much as we do.  We also occasionally come upon what we term the Ugly American who makes us ashamed to come from the same place.

I think you are an Ugly American traveler if:

1.   You expect to be able to have everything just as you like it at home.  (“We insist on American-style coffee, not this espresso-stuff they drink here.”)  If you even try unusual local food/drink you expect it to be unpalatable, or something that will make you sick.

2.  You get angry that there are other people trying to travel too.  You are surprised and irritated when you have to wait in line, share a table, or tolerate a crowd at an important attraction.

3.  You look at people’s customs, dress, and language with disdain.   You see nothing but inferiority everywhere you look.

4.  You expect everything to go perfectly smoothly.  When the inevitable disruption to your plans happens, you wallow in self-pity instead of finding a way to make lemonade out of lemons.

5.  You are frightful of local people, expecting them to rob you when they have the first chance.

6.  You are actually happy when you see McDonald’s, Starbucks, and the like in foreign countries.

When we run across Ugly Americans we try to slink away.  They want co-conspirators, though, so there have been times we’ve tried to show them the bright side.  Aren’t the differences in culture they are experiencing interesting?  Haven’t locals been friendly and helpful considering how many tourists traipse through their area every season?  Isn’t it amazing to see such wonderful, world-famous art/mountains/historical sites?

Trust me, there is no arguing Ugly Americans out of their mindset.  Next time I might just say, “You should stay home.”  That is the truth.  If you can’t enjoy the differences between your destination and your home, then you should stay there, at home.  If the food, drink, accommodation, weather, sights, people and transportation are irritating to you, why have you come at all?!  You are not enjoying it and your fellow travelers are ashamed of you.

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Atop the Duomo in Florence

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Chestnut seller in Florence

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Mountain Hiking – Big Small Contrasts

Posted on November 26, 2013. Filed under: Photography, Switzerland, Tour du Mont Blanc, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Swiss GrasshopperThis large green grasshopper greeted me along my way hiking in Switzerland.  I’m sure he was congratulating me on completing a very hard ascent and descent of the Fenêtre d’Arpette of the Tour du Mont Blanc.  I had to stop and admire his gorgeous green with black accenting.  He actually had big expressive eyes for a bug!

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One of the things I love about hiking in the alps is the wonderful contrasts of enormity and the diminutive.  I am a slow hiker partly because I am overwhelmed by the environment and I cannot rush through it.  A hike here is not just a good workout in nice surroundings to me, but rather a chance to really step outside of normal life and lose myself in a place.

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Cairns in the Dolomites

Posted on November 9, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

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Cairns in the Dolomite Mountains of Italy are different than other places I’ve been.  The stones are blockier, it seems to me.  Here is a big field of them built over time, I’m sure, by many, many hikers.

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It was hard not to stop and spend some time looking at these many small sculptures.  I really, really wanted to make one too.  But, alas, we could not take the time to play here on this day.  Sigh.

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Hey! That’s My Foot!

Posted on October 25, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Poetry, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

Travel - White DevilHey!  That’s my foot!

I know, it makes a nice place

to sit right down

and look at me with your wistful eyes.

You ARE pretty sweet,

coming and going

into and out of the shop.

And stopping to greet me in this funny way.

What’s your name?

White Devil!

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Isetta – The World’s Cutest Car

Posted on October 23, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Italy - Isetta 2What a sweet little car, complete with tailer!  This Italian-designed mini-car from the 1950s was quite a sight to behold while we waited for a bus.

The couple that got out of it were like rock stars.  People swarmed around snapping photos and asking them questions.  They were very gracious.  I’m sure they are used to the attention.

Italy - Isetta 1 It’s the funniest thing how the whole front of the car opens and that’s the only door!  The steering wheel actually has to pivot with the door.  That’s the little motor there above and to the right of the back wheel.  It sounded like a lawn mower when they pulled up!

You do see the most interesting things while traveling!

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The Mountain is on its Side

Posted on October 22, 2013. Filed under: Italy, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Stratification 2This mountain in the Italian Dolomites had huge vertical lines of rock.  The mountain was very forcibly pushed onto its side at some point in its past.  The glaciers look to be still, but they are powerful movers, and any rock in their path better watch out!

I think the colors and patterns of the pushed rock is interesting to look at.

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Isaiah 64:1      Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, That the mountains might quake at Your presence…

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Tre Cime di Lavaredo Hike

Posted on October 19, 2013. Filed under: Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Travel - Tre Cime 1Spectacular in every way, the Tre Cime di Lavaredo lives up to its reputation as the most famous mountain peaks in the Dolomite region.  How do I know this?  The trail was very crowded with every imaginable person out on this beautiful Saturday!  It’s best to go very early in the morning and to avoid weekends if you want it quiet, so get your tail out of bed early or give up the sulk about getting a late start.  We weren’t bothered at all.  Everyone was very polite on the trail, some lovely Italians even helping me up when I tripped and fell.  Also, who cared about the people, for goodness sake?  All you have to do is look around you and you forget all about the tiny insects we are compared to these limestone giants!

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