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- Kerry M. submitted the following in July 2015:
- The Chronology of Water by Lidia Yuknavitch
- Euphoria by Lily King
- Aquarium by David Vann
- Father of the Rain by Lily King
- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
- Mary T. submitted the following in February 2015:
- All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
- Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
- Crow Lake by Mary Lawson
- The Girl On the Train by Paula Hawkins
- Here Is New York by E.B. White
- Lynne Greenfield assigned the following for AFW's annual Adirondacks Hiking and Literature Weekends (2005-2014).
Great reads whether reading the first time or re-reading. Thanks, Lynne!
2014 - "New York City bound"
- Someone: A Novel by Alice McDermott
- The Golem and Jinni by Helene Wecker
- The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
- Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn West
- The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes
- The Round House by Louise Erdrich
- The Long Song by Andrea Levy
- The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht
- Room by Emma Donaghue
- Waiting by Ha Jin
- The Hungry Tide by Amritav Gosh
- Palace Walk by Nagoub Mafouz
- Mona in the Promised Land by Gish Jen
- A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
- Brooklyn by Colm Toibin
- A Short History of Women by Kate Walbert
- The Absolutely True Diary of A Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
- Mr. Pip by Lloyd Jones
- The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
- The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
- Atonement by Ian McEwan
- THe History of Love by Nicole Krauss
- The Secret History by Donna Tartt
- The Known World by Edward P. Jones
- A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka
- The Other Boleyn Girl by Philippa Gregory
- Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See
- The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai
- The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
- The Once and Future King by T.H. White
- Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Letham
- Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
- My Antonia by Willa Cather
- Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackery
- Reading Lolita in Teheran by Azir Nafisi
- Mary T. submitted the following in April 2014:
- Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
- The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce
- State of Wonder by Ann Patchett
- Caleb's Crossing by Geraldine Brooks
- The Last of the Donkey Pilgrims by Kevin O'Hara
- Christa O. submitted the following in February 2014:
- auf Wiedersehen: World War II Through The Eyes Of A German Girl by Christa Ocker
- Bobbi B. submitted the following in February 2014:
- Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingslover
- Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast by Cheryl Strayed
- Little Chapel on the River: A Pub, a Town, and the Search for What Matters Most by Gwendolyn Bounds
- Karen A. submitted the following in November 2013:
- The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman
- Kay K. submitted the following in November 2013:
- The Boys in the Boat by Daniel Brown
- The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer
- The Girl You left Behind by Jojo Moyes
- Ordinary Grace by William Kent Krueger
- Eventide by Kent Haruf
- Benediction by Kent Haruf
- Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg
- The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
- The Fever Tree by Jennifer McVeigh
- And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
- Where’d You Go by Bernadette Maria Semple
- A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
- The Aviator’s Wife by Melanie Benjami
- Jackie R. submitted the following in October 2013:
- The Submission by Amy Waldman
- Me Before You by Jojo Moyes
- Room by Emma Donoghue
- Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
- The Five People You’ll Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom
- Roberta G. submitted the following in September 2013:
- The Orphan Master's Son by Adam Johnson
- Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
- The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh
- Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese
- In My Own Country by Abraham Verghese
- All the Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu
- Gulp by Mary Roach
- Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo
- The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
- Georgette F. submitted the following in September 2013:
- The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom
- The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendke
- Karen L. -- 3 Canyons and Iceland
- Teresa R. -- Bike Touring
- Trish Z. -- First Solo Backpack Trip on the AT
- Jackie R. -- Hut to Hut in the White Mountains
- Diane M. -- Northwestern Highlands, Scotland
- Jackie R. -- Backpacking/Camping Brownies
- Gail L. -- Christmas 2010 in Belize
- Alba L. -- Beautiful Nepal
- Linda S. -- Riding the Rapids
- Jackie R. -- Grand Canyon
I have taken 3 hiking trips within the past year and have been asked (OK. cajoled) into writing about my experiences. I had a great time on these trips
Trip #1- end of June 2014- Hiking the Grand Canyon with REI
Awesome trip. This was 5 days of hiking the Grand Canyon- Starting at the top of the Canyon- Elevation 11,000 feet and hiking 14.5 miles down to bottom of the canyon- elevation 2,500 feet. This is all down hill. The trail is steep, narrow and dusty and the most challenging, physically and mentally, I have done. Stayed Phantom Ranch for 2 nights, doing day hikes to the Colorado River and back via a different trail (11.5 miles). They have showers at phantom ranch- you stay in a bunk with other women. The food is served family style in the dining hall. It is basic food but I was so hungry I just gobbled everything down; lunch was provided. It was hard dealing with dust and 100 degree heat. The guides are great and very encouraging and informative. We had 2 guides for 12 people, one acted as sweep. The last day we had a big celebration dinner at the hotel El Tovar at the top pf the Grand Canyon- It was a great accomplishment and a lot of camaraderie. I highly recommend REI trips.
The guides on the REI trips are fantastic. They are all certified in Wilderness first aid and trained as EMT first responders. So you know you are in good hands when hiking with them. They are also extremely knowledgeable about the geography, flora and fauna of the hiking area and give you more information than you can possibly remember. They have a good sense of humor and even laughed at some of my not so funny jokes.
Trip #2-May2014- Zion and Bryce with REI
This was also a great trip. Not as challenging as the Grand Canyon but still great hiking. The most difficult hike was on the next to the last day- we did a hike called Angel’s landing in Zion National park. We were pulling ourselves up on chains built into the rocks to get up to the summit where we had a 360 degree view of the Zion. Incredible. Once again the guides (2) were great and encouraging. They cooked all our meals for us with the exception of lunch which we made before we set out in the morning. We stayed in a converted horse stable at the edge of the park (away for all the tourists) which REI rents out. It is very cool. We traveled by van every day to the park and of course I got the front seat (have motion sickness). We spent 1 day in Bryce hiking and looking at Hoodoos- rock formations which actually look like people. There were 10 people on this trip and all very nice and experienced hikers.
Trip #3: Iceland August 2014 with a group based out of the UK, HF Holidays is their name.
There were 19 people on this trip and I was the only 1 from the US. The others were from the UK, Canada, Germany, Italy, and Australia. It was great travelling with such an international group.
We had 1 guide who has lived in Iceland for over 20 years. She is an experienced hiker and former nurse. We hiked up to many volcanoes- different hiking than in the US as you are hiking on Lava rock and a lot of volcanic ash. I got to see glaciers, volcanoes, hot springs, amazing water falls and rainbows and would you believe the northern lights!!! The trip was amazing. The weather was great for hiking- low 60’s every day. We stayed in 4 different hotels over 10 days. The food was great- smoked salmon and lamb are their specialties. Not to mention their wonderful deserts made with Skor- a special cream similar to sour cream. I think I actually gained weight on this trip.
I experienced two totally different bike tours this summer – one a self-supported trip on a Pennsylvania local rail trail and the other on a full supported bike tour in Yellowstone country covering 400 miles with 650 other bikers.
First is Self-support
Joan (another AFW member), Barbara ( a friend from PA), and I biked 120 miles on the Pine Creek, PA trail in three days, carrying all camp equipment, clothes, a stove, steripen for the well water and food in two trailers and large panniers to the campsite where we base camped. Campsites have a fire pit, well water and pit toilets. Flat biking is on a converted rail trail on crushed limestone along a pretty creek which cuts through a gorge that the locals call the Grand Canyon of PA. Two of us pulled 30 lb. trailers; third biker with packed panniers. There are numerous campsites along the trail so you just plan the mileage to camp midway and towns nearby where food and supplies can be picked up. The 1st day we stopped and sat on a deck at a B&B for lunch overlooking the creek. We planned to pick up food at the last town passed before setting up camp and packed dehydrated food for our breakfasts. We also had to hang our food at night and I almost knocked myself out trying to get the bag down in the morning.
Once we set up camp, we left everything there to bike to the end of the trail and bike back on the second day. Along the way, we left time open so we could stop to do a hike up a waterfall trail to a viewpoint on the top of the Pennsylvania ridge of the PA Grand Canyon. What a view!
-Bear sighting on trail. Looking for him and seeing his head pop up for a LOOK AT US instead. He was so fast I could not focus my camera in time for a clear shot.
-Whippoorwill whippoorwill whippoorwill.... do you know how many times I counted at sunset and sunrise that bird call?
-Rinsing hair in well water and how brrr cold that can be. But after two days on the trail, you do what needs to be done and it felt great afterward.
-Carrying firewood in my bike trailer from trail back to camp each night.
-Spotting an eagle's nest along the trail and watching the fledglings through the group's scope.
-Keeping on the middle of the trail as I almost ran over a rattlesnake sunning himself on the rocks!
We learned that speed is not the goal but keeping a good pace to allow time to stop and look at nature. We had great weather and only one slow leak on last day in my rear tire that held out till the end of the ride. It was a relaxing trip, easy to plan. The reservation needed is an email to PA parks for free camping permit. And to know ahead of time where the ice cream shop was and the time they closed!
Full support tour with Cycle Greater Yellowstone
Then later this summer I flew with my bike in a suitcase to a full support week long bike tour in WY and Idaho in Yellowstone country covering 400 miles along with 650 bikers. Having them carry my stuff from one campsite to the next and even setting up a tent for me. Let them do the planning. Easy!
My friend Barbara, who went to Pine Creek with me, also signed up for this tour, bike-bike-bike to see all you can see in 65+ miles each day. I did have some planning to do, with packing up my folding bike in the suitcase for the plane and putting it together at the campsite the night before we were to leave for the tour. All meals and transport of luggage they handled. We even paid for them to put up a tent for us. Nice hot showers in the shower truck, what could be better? Great food, with entertainment at night. All I had to do was bike the miles. Well..... as in all outdoor type vacations you know weather is a deciding matter. This trip was in a greater Yellowstone loop outside the park and weather over the mountain passes went from 80 in beginning of the week down to 36 with biking over one pass in sleet and rain on the last day. Just bring layers and more layers, rain gear and a good determined spirit to be adventurous. I do have to admit I took advantage of the SAG wagon one time to get me over the final mountain so I could bike down to the lunch stop (and be much warmer coming down from the high 10,000 elevation).
You would think a full support tour would be a piece of cake but the weather can be a challenge, biking the longer miles and days (as I am a turtle slow biker) and to stay warm in all day rain – rain gear does not keep you totally dry when you are in the rain for 9 hours! I remember one day after 75 miles there was a coffee shop within the last mile. I put on the brakes, hitched the bike to the corral and went inside (along with about 40 other cramped and cold bikers) for a super-hot chocolate and a HEATED coffee cake... I was in heaven! Got all warmed up to appear fresh as I biked into camp. After putting on dry clothes and a nap in my warm sleeping bag I enjoyed a great salmon dinner in the community hall which was under a heated roof.
-Seeing life birds! Mountain bluebird/magpie and animals I normally would not see in the east.
-Beautiful canyons, rivers, and valleys. I mean its Yellowstone!
-rafting in class III and IV rapids in an Indian reservation.
-Views on top of mountain passes from a bike going slow. So easy to stop to look. I never get tired of the fantastic views and scenery.
-Great food, music and dancing at night. It's been so long that I danced with balloons on my head. Or maybe I never danced with balloons on my head :)
-650 other bikers and people to meet, so many experiences to hear.
-Spending time in the local towns were we camped. Walking, yes actually walking from camp into town and around town.
The trip was a life experience. Good and bad weather, two flat rear tires, headwind one day riding along of course “WIND RIVER”, appropriately named. Almost missed our flights home (another story…). As with all trips the harder, more challenging moments make the best stories. Just a great adventure!
So from local PA country to Yellowstone. So different, so alike too. Nature is such a treat for me and equally enjoyed both trips and appreciate that I can bike and be active. Don't ever take good health for granted or what we can experience not only in our backyard but on the other side of the country. Sometimes, especially after hard trips, we wonder if we need to scale back. HAHA, within a week of coming home we both signed up for next year’s tour with the same group - the NY Adirondacks! It’s called Cycle Adirondacks... another week long, 600 bikers, 400 miles, up and down mountains. Can’t wait!
If you are interesting in learning more about this supported tour take a look at their website –
Event Dates: August 23-29, 2015
Start/Finish Location: Saranac Lake, NY
Registration Cost: $1,495 for riders, $995 for Travel Companions
Number of Riders: Limited to 600
They will tell you all about the route each day, how to plan ahead, all FAQS answered under the questions tab. Read about the amenities such as –
• Three catered meals a day and fully stocked rest stops
• Beer and wine garden with live entertainment
• Baggage service, gear drop, SAG vans and lodging shuttles
• Wildlife education programs
It’s truly a bucket list type of bike tour!
From Trish Z. -- My First Solo Backpack Trip – on the AT – Millbrook/Blairstown Road to Route 23 @ Highpoint-- Posted 10/2/2013 --
Well, I finally got up the nerve to do it … a 3-day, 2-night backpack on the AT … by myself! I love to car camp and backpack, but it’s not always easy finding someone to go with me. My kids are older now and while I can still get my younger one to car camp with me a couple of times a year (if there are showers & flush toilets), no one in my family wants to backpack. My husband would go, but only if he could somehow manage to bring a cooler full of Pepsi with him. I’m not carrying it, so he ain’t goin’!
It was a beautiful weekend for the trip. Sunny skies, 70 degree days & 40 degree nights. Perfect! One thing I did forget – the rocks. Even with all the rocks I still managed to do about 12 miles the first day. I started at 8:30 and was in camp by 3:30. The trail in this section of NJ is beautiful. The first sight I had was the swamp right after Millsbrook/Blairstown Road. I don’t know the history of this area, but the swamp looks manmade to me. The next sight I had was walking up the trail to the ridge on Rattlesnake Mountain. What did I see? A Rattlesnake! This sucker was huge. He was as round as a can of corn. I couldn’t tell his length because he was coiled up and about to strike my hiking pole! Thank goodness I looked down at the right moment. I let out a little yelp and stepped back about 3 feet. Then I thought … photo op! I got a little closer to him and snapped a few pictures. When I was done with this little close-up, I tossed a few pebbles and sticks at him and he wouldn’t move. I had to go off trail to go around him. Once on top of the ridge, the view was beautiful and I had some lunch. I finished hiking for the day at the Brink Road shelter. This was truly the test … I was completely alone, not a single person and I was going to sleep out here by myself. I was nervous. I set up my tent and explored the area; after all, it was only 3:30! After exploring, I fixed dinner and sat at the edge of the shelter enjoying the solitude. When it was time to go in my tent – at 7:30 – I grabbed my knife & pepper spray, laid down to read and the next thing I knew it was morning. What a wonderful feeling when I woke up … it was empowering! I did it … slept by myself without a soul in sight.
Day 2 was another beautiful day. I managed another day over 12 miles. This is a dry section of the AT and I knew I would have to “camel up” at the Gren Anderson shelter. The shelter area is lovely. If I were hiking a shorter day, I would have liked to have stayed in this area. There were beautiful vistas during almost the entire day. I was really looking forward to getting to the fire tower. Although I am afraid of heights, I was going to challenge myself to climb it if it wasn’t locked to get more views. Fortunately … or rather unfortunately, there was some kind of surveying going on and I couldn’t get near the tower. It was super windy anyway, so knowing my luck I would have been blown off the top. I ended the day at the Mashipicong shelter. It is another nice shelter; unfortunately it is about 2/10 of a mile from a road. Again I got to the shelter area about 3:30. I was debating whether I should continue on to Rutherford or stay the night here when a very nice young couple happened along. They were going to be staying in the shelter. After hiking over all the rocks again I really didn’t want to push on for another 4 miles, so I decided to stay. It was good and bad. The noise from the road kept me up most of the night, but I felt “safer” with other people there. In retrospect, I could have hiked another mile and camped in the woods. Next time, that’s what I’ll do.
Day 3 was chilly! I had two cups of instant coffee – yuck -- and had a light breakfast and was on my way. Jackie from AFW was going to hike out to meet me! After stopping for a quick snack near the Rutherford shelter, I pushed on and met Jackie within 10 minutes. While I enjoyed the solitude of the last two days, it was the perfect ending to a great trip having Jackie hike out with me. The last 3 miles of the trip went by quickly and before I knew it, we were back out at Rt. 23.
Total trip miles: 28.8 miles
Gear: Golite Trekker backpack, Lightheart gear Solo tent, home sewn quilt, Exped Downmat 7 sleeping pad, Katadyn pro water filter
Highlights: waking up empowered, rattlesnake, meeting a friend at the end
Well, in the past 5 years they have made the mountains higher, the valleys deeper and larger boulders have been imported and added to the trail and no, it has nothing to do with being 5 years older!!! It was definitely harder than I remembered.
Eleven women started our adventure, 8 made it to Lakes of the Clouds (the 2nd to last hut) and Mt. Washington and 6 completed all 6 huts, Greenlead, Galehead, Zealand Falls, Mizpah, Lakes of the Clouds and Madison. Unfortunately one of us fell on the second day and her injuries meant spending an extra day at Galehead before hiking out with assistance and spent the rest of week recuperating. Two from our group stayed with her and, after a day of rest, hiked back in, meeting us on the way to Lakes of the Clouds. Another left after Zealand, the downhills taking its toll on her legs/knees and another left after Mizpah for the same reason. The 2 who left at Mt. Washington decided that they would rather end on a happy note than push it by hiking to Madison.
We had sunshine, beautiful, breathtaking views of endless wilderness, clouds, fog, sometimes so thick you could barely see the next cairn, a little rain and at Mt. Washington hiked up through the fog to blue skies, looking down on billowy white clouds as though we were looking down from an airplane. There were waterfalls, carpets of beautiful emerald green moss and caves created from exposed roots clinging to boulders and old fallen trees, endless up hills which are met with endless down hills, some seemingly vertical. We met AT thru hikers (both NOBO and SOBO) and a hiker in a kilt! I cannot say enough about the assistance we received from the Croo at the huts. Also, other than a batch of burned chocolate chip cookies, the food was wonderful.
A new “older and wiser” perspective of the trail is, if you can do Breakneck Ridge-Beacon Mtn, one day, Burroughs Range the next, Schunemunk Mtn the day after and then Tammany Mtn, you can do the hut to hut. That being said, and now that everyone has recuperated, most of us would do it again, however this time bypassing Greenleaf to Galehead and spending a rest day in the middle of the week at either one of the huts or at the Highland Center.
In honor of (actually in spite of) my 60th year I booked a hiking trip to the Northwest Highlands in Scotland. Because I had delayed actually registering until it was almost too late, my final decision was rushed and determined primarily by the dates of the trip. I had some other commitments for the summer, so I was limited to the last three weeks of August. This fact caused me to skim over the trip itinerary, jumping to the last few statements which rated the hikes as “Moderate, for people who are reasonably fit and who enjoy walking and the outdoors. No previous experience is necessary.” My AFW participation (as inconsistent as it is) gave me an advantage…I HAD walking experience….or so I thought.
My deposit sent, I put the itinerary away until the second week of August, when I started packing. It was then that I noticed some scary details dealing with the topography of the place to which I was headed. The first full day’s “walking” ( the Scots use this term interchangeably with “hiking”, “climbing”, “trekking” and “vigorously ambulating”) was to Coire Mhic Fhearchair (9 miles, 2000 feet). The next day’s outing was to the top of Ben Damph (7 miles, 3000 feet). Two days later, the hike was to Cul Mor (7 miles, 2,785 feet). On the plane ride over, I began hyperventilating as I really read the itinerary for the first time. Just for a point of reference, I generally sign up for “moderate” hikes with AFW. Avoiding hikes described as “strenuous”, I’ve huffed and puffed on the “moderate” ones. Sounds like I’m headed for disaster, right? Well, in retrospect, my shoddy preparation was a good thing. Had I actually done my homework and read the details more carefully, I most likely would have passed this trip by, missing one of the best experiences of my life.
The drive to our hiking destination was five hours northwest of Edinburgh, through several wilderness areas that are avoided by tour buses and cruise ships. Not many locals were there, either, for that matter. We were in a part of the Northwest Highlands that is generally uninhabited for miles and miles, among the most beautiful mountains and glens full of purple heather. Lovely deep blue lochs dotted the area ….a landscape that is best appreciated from the top of a mountain. The mountains themselves are deceptive. My photos don’t do justice to the expanse of space and incredible height. Compared to High Point, New Jersey (1800 feet), these were considerably higher. While at the top of Cul Mor, a small aircraft actually zipped through the glen and was below us. Our guide explained that an air force base in the area periodically ran maneuvers in which the planes needed to navigate small spaces as a drill. So we were higher than the plane! We also spent a day along the coast near the bays of the North Minch. Rambling through sheep meadows and having tea in a remote tea house, we enjoyed a relaxing contrast to the previous days’ climbing while breathing in the sea air.
Our group stayed in two charming B & Bs in the Torridon wilderness (Kinlochewe) and a small fishing village (Ullapool). The food was excellent and the whisky, wonderful. The people were very warm and friendly everywhere we stopped.
Our guide was Geordie Henderson, retired from the British Army, who has lead military expeditions in Thailand, Burma, the Swiss Alps and the Pyrenees. He holds certifications in mountaineering and rock climbing, among other things, and has a gift for meeting the needs of a diverse group of hikers and for keeping the group safe and moving. I was definitely the weakest hiker, but Geordie’s encouragement got me to the top of three of the four mountains on the list.
This trip was organized by Walkabout Scotland, which offers hiking trips in other areas of Scotland. Geordie has developed his own repertoire of great highland hikes on Skye, the Cairngorms, Torridon and Ullapool. His website is Geordieshighlandwalks.com and it contains lots of information about hiking, equipment and fitness as well as links to other informational sites.
The natural beauty of the Northwest Highlands aside, this trip was memorable for me because of the people. Our group was a smattering of people from England, Scotland, Holland and Germany. I was the lone American, but I had fun comparing notes about all kinds of things with my European friends. Geordie, our guide, created an atmosphere of support and everyone genuinely enjoyed each others’ company.
I would recommend this trip or any of Geordie’s Highland Walks and I thank AFW again for opening up the world of hiking to me.
1. In a sandwich bag, put 1 sleeve graham crackers (reduced to crumbs), ¼ cup toasted diced pecans and 2 TBS. powdered sugar.
2. In a quart freezer bag, put 3 ounces (about ¾ cup) chocolate chips (I use the mini chips) and 3 TBS. dry milk.
3. Add ¼ water to the chocolate bag.
4. Bring a small pot of water to a gentle simmer (warm). Turn off the heat.
5. Dip the tightly sealed chocolate bag to melt the chocolate.
6. When melted, add the graham cracker crumb bag to the chocolate bag and knead to mix thoroughly.
7. Eat warm with spoon or let it cool and break into chunks. YUMMY!!!
My family and I chose to "skip Christmas 2010". While we still attended holiday parties, we decided to not exchange gifts and decorate our homes and instead treat ourselves to a vacation in Belize in Central America.
Belize, formerly known as British Honduras, is located in the most northern region of C.A. It has a diverse society and is the only C.A. country where English is the official language. Before the Europeans, the Mayan Civilization flourished there from 1500 BC to about 800 AD. English and Scottish Buccaneers settled along the coast in 1653.
Our adventure began on Christmas Day when we (my husband, two daughters, son, daughter-in-law, grandson and I) all arrived at the Belize City Airport and went on the second leg of the journey in " an old fashioned plane" ( as described by my grandson) -- a 12-seater with a single prop! We flew low over the coastline to our next destination Dangringa, a coastal town and the center for the Garingu (Carib, Arawak and West African) culture. The name means "standing water". Our next stop was the village of Hopkins where the Hamanasi Adventure Resort is located and where we spent the next week snorkeling, hiking, caving, kayaking and just plain relaxing, surrounded by the Maya Mountains and Caribbean Sea.
Snorkeling was first up on our adventure menu. After getting fitted with the gear, we hopped aboard one of the boats for the 40-minute ride to the Belize Barrier Reef. This system is the greatest stretch of coral in the Western Hemisphere and home to many species of fish. We swam with Eagle Rays, Barracuda, Sea Cucumber and Angel fish, just to name a few. On the trip back we passed "Bird Island", a small spit of land inhabited by thousands of birds, mostly Frigates and Pelicans. Amazing!
Hiking. The first inland adventure took us to the Mayflower jungle and thru the rainforest leading to Antelope Falls. This hike was a steep trek (with the help of ropes!) to a 100-foot waterfall with an incredible view all the way to the Sea. The waterfall flows down the dense mountain face into a cool pool just right for taking a dip. The next day we hiked through the Cockscomb Jaguar Preserve, a wildlife sanctuary covering 120,000 acres and home to Jaguars, Ocelots, Pumas, Howler Monkeys and many other animals and insects. Unfortunately (or fortunately?) we did not see any Jaguars since they are nocturnal, but judging by the size of the paw prints and scat, they are well fed! After a picnic lunch we continued to another waterfall, all while serenaded by Howler Monkeys. Our guide pointed out a huge Termite colony and asked for a volunteer to taste one. My grandson eagerly agreed and said it tasted like carrots. Go figure!
One of the highlights of the trip was the caving experience at Blue Hole National Park. The one-mile hike thru St. Herman's Cave was amazing -- rock scrambles, stalactites, stalagmites, pieces of Mayan ceremonial pottery. The only light was provided by our headlamps! After the caving we went to the "Blue Hole" this is a 30-foot-wide sinkhole fed by crystal clear water from an underground stream. Perfect for taking a swim!
Kayaking was next on the agenda. Our 3-mile paddle began in Boom Creek, a heavily vegetated tributary of the Sittee River. As we paddled thru the Mangrove Forest we saw Toucans, Herons, Egrets, Iguanas (hundreds) and a Codamunde. We were glad not to have seen any crocs! This was the first kayak experience for my grandson and it was a nice opportunity for me to share this with him.
As you can see, we filled the week with all sorts of adventures, but still had plenty of time to enjoy all the amenities the resort had to offer such as lounging by the pool, walks on the beach and just swinging in a hammock. The evenings were spent playing cards, games and on a few occasions the native dance troupe came in to entertain. As my grandson said, it was “the vacation of a lifetime" and we all totally agreed. We might have started a new family tradition!
You got to Belize it!
My dear companions in the trails, I send you all a most loving and joyous greeting for the New Year. May 2011 come laden with all the desires and wishes you have in your hearts; may your families be healthy and happy as the year unfolds.
My recent trip to Nepal far surpassed my expectations. The awesome beauty and splendor of those remote and majestic mountains took my breath away every day that I was on the trails. The kindness and generosity of the Nepali people -- who struggle to make a living and to smile as they do it -- is a lesson that I do not cease to be inspired by. Their love and reverence for the splendor of God's created world is the one source of inexhaustible wealth that seems to be their main source of strength and solace. This is one aspect of nature that all of us hikers understand well and which is one of the many reasons why we find each other roaming in the woods appreciating the fabulous sights and sounds of our beautiful world. You were with me as I traveled through those amazing trails and every time that I stopped to bask in the beauty which surrounded me.
I look forward to future hikes with you who know first hand what it is like to be moved by the powerful images presented to us when we venture into the magical world of the woods! My best thoughts and wishes for your happiness and well being and many loving hugs to each one of you. HAPPY NEW YEAR!
If you want excitement, try your luck on the waters of West Virginia. Three years ago, my family went for a visit and we were hooked. Every year now, my husband and I go to West Virginia for Gauley Season. During the fall 'draw down' (when water is released through the Summersville Dam to bring the man-made Summersville Lake to winter levels), people come to experience more than 100 major rapids and a 650' vertical drop. It's a ride of a lifetime!
If calmer waters are what you seek, there are many other trips and rivers to ride. We prefer the company called Class VI
(http://www.class-vi.com/). They're professional and, most important, safety comes first. The area is beautiful with river canyons - there is rock climbing, hiking and so much more. I highly recommend it.
I spent a week in the Grand Canyon with Timberline Adventure Tours, hiking from the North Rim (34°/8241ft), to Phantom Ranch (100°/2400ft) – that’s over 1 mile! The next day up to the South Rim (6860 ft). Then to Havasu Canyon, the Havasupai Village and Havasu and Mooney Falls. Now I understand why it is one of the Wonders of the World. It’s the first time – ever – that I don’t have the words to write a trip report.