Climbing Kilimanjaro – Lemosho Trek Day 1

The ground was relatively wet and could have been potentially slippery — particularly as there were sections that were pretty steep.  Fortunately, I was surprised by the pace that our mountain guides were setting for us.  During other hikes I’ve experienced, people just go at their own paces — it’s like a free for all.  Here, the guides set the pace that everyone will eventually appreciates whether they like it or not at the start.

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It was a long time coming but my trek up Mt. Kilimanjaro began on December 26th, 2015.  In advance of this, I had been training at home and on the Bruce Trail for over a year.  On a physical level, I was prepared but there were still surprises along the way.  It is required to join a guided trek and being the Canadian I am, opted to go with G Adventures.  This isn’t me endorsing them but I’ve had good experiences with them in the past as well.

The day started off with breakfast at our lodge and then proceeded with a long three or four hour drive out to the Londorosi Gate (after a stop or two at a grocery store for snacks) in order to register with the National Park rangers.  It is quite amazing the change in temperature between the town of Moshi all the way to Londorosi Gate.  We may have started off wearing a shirt and shorts but by the time we got to Londorosi, we all had jackets on.

While waiting for registration to take place, we ate lunch and watched as the rain started pouring.  Fortunately, there was a relatively large covered gazebo area for hikers.  Once we had all registered, we then drove to Lemosho Gate where everything was unloaded from the buses and we began our trek up into the rain forest.

Gearing up and putting on rain gear just before starting the trek. Gearing up and putting on rain gear just before starting the trek.

The ground was relatively wet and could have been potentially slippery — particularly as there were sections that were pretty steep.  Despite that, I decided to forego using trekking poles until the next day and I was also pleasantly surprised (and fortunate) with the pace that our mountain guides were setting for us.  During other hikes I’ve experienced, people just go at their own paces — it’s like a free for all.  Here, the guides set the pace that everyone will eventually appreciates whether they like it or not at the start.

I noticed a small group of Germans who passed us extremely quickly but we eventually caught up with them — I’m not sure if they got tired or if their guide requested that they slow down.  Either way, the best thing about slowing down is the opportunity to look up, down and around our surroundings.  Enjoying the lush green environment of the rain forest was the saving grace given the rain and the somewhat damp humid climate.

Passing by some beautiful wildflowers in the rain forest. Passing by some beautiful wildflowers in the rain forest. The rare open area in the rain forest.  So green! The rare open area in the rain forest.  So green!

We knew that today would be a relatively short hike (6km) but because we paced ourselves up into the rain forest slopes of Kilimanjaro, it took us probably 3 hours at least to reach Mti Mkubwa Camp which is where we would spend our first night on Kilimanjaro.

It was pretty muddy once we got to camp and mosquitoes were biting me like crazy.  Funny enough, I couldn’t see them.  I just felt some of them even bite through my rain jacket which was really bizarre.  Shouldn’t be possible right?  A porter laughed when he noticed my reactions to all the bites I was receiving, and I chuckled with him.  What else could I do!

Arriving at Mti Mkubwa Camp.  The rain ended shortly after our arrival.  Huzzah! Arriving at Mti Mkubwa Camp.  The rain ended shortly after our arrival.  Huzzah! I believe this is a black and white colobus monkey that was injured and was taken in by one of the rangers at this campsite.  He was very friendly until he slapped one of our guides for taunting him a sandwich. I believe this is a black and white colobus monkey that was injured and was taken in by one of the rangers at this campsite.  He was very friendly until he slapped one of our guides for taunting him a sandwich.

The first day felt long when in reality it was quite short.  Our arrival to our campsite coincided with the rain subsiding.  After registering with the ranger station, we proceeded to find our tents that were already set up by our amazing porters.  Unfortunately, I discovered that my tent had a giant hole in the insect netting but the good news was that by the time we had finished dinner (which was so good and hit the spot), it was pretty frigid that night.  Dinner was probably the most elaborate this evening with the most fresh food.  We had fried tilapia, chicken stew, potatoes, and avocado salad.  Delicious!

Before hitting the hay, most of us decided to make use of the local latrine only to find that amongst so many tents, there was only one latrine.  That wasn’t very fun.  It explains why many groups hired their own chemical toilets.  Nonetheless, tomorrow would be an exciting day as we made our way out of the forest canopy towards the Shira plateau on the mountain.

Check out Day 2 of the Trek on Kilimanjaro!

Bruce Trail Part 34 – Woodford to Irish Block Road

As a result of us bypassing the chunk of trail, we ended up hiking on the road for most of this journey.  Despite the rather disappointing experience, I was still enjoying the trek on the road.  There was almost always something interesting to observe or check out.  It hadn’t really occurred to me how much planning went into the irrigation system until I started paying a closer attention to where the water from all the melting snow was going.

After a long hiatus, we finally resumed our journey on Bruce Trail! It had been a while since I had left for Tanzania and the previous hike on the Bruce Trail.  It was another long drive up to the town of Woodford, Ontario but the rather nice day and warmer weather we had been experiencing made for a smooth trip up north of Toronto.

Having the opportunity to hike again after playing catch-up on all fronts at home and work, was nice and I was looking forward to it.  I packed up my snowshoes and a small daypack with some food and water for the trek — unfortunately this time without a water bladder / CamelBak because mine was pretty much torn apart during my month-long trip in Tanzania.  This meant I had to lug around water bottles which I wasn’t a big fan of but I hadn’t had time to run to the local MEC store to pick up a replacement water bladder.

After parking at the lot at the Woodford community centre, we walked down the street to continue the trail which led into the woods. After parking at the lot at the Woodford community centre, we walked down the street to continue the trail which led into the woods.

Initially, we were a little lost and disoriented having not been on the trail for so long and ended up walking in the wrong direction.  Eventually we found our way and followed the right markers into the woods.

The snow was surprisingly high despite the warm weather (it was +6 degrees Celsius on a early-mid February day) — and we are talking within the vicinity of Owen Sound. Just the previous week, the temperature was -23 degrees — not including wind chill!  Glad we weren’t hiking that day.

The snow was actually pretty deep despite the warm weather. The snow was actually pretty deep despite the warm weather.

The trail took us along the escarpment and provided some nice views through the woods -- particularly in the winter given that there were no leaves blocking our view. The trail took us along the escarpment and provided some nice views through the woods — particularly in the winter given that there were no leaves blocking our view.

The trail took us up on to the escarpment which was nice although hiking in snow again took a little getting used to after such a long time.  It wasn’t too deep — about ankle height — and though I could have used my snowshoes — the trail didn’t really allow for it.  With all the rocks bulging out and narrow sections along the path it didn’t work out with the relatively low levels of snow.

One element of the trek I enjoyed at different parts of this hike were the little valleys that the trail took us through.

The rather warm weather over the past couple of days meant the stream was pretty powerful with high water levels from all the melting snow. The rather warm weather over the past couple of days meant the stream was pretty powerful with high water levels from all the melting snow. Muddy conditions in addition to the wet snow Muddy conditions in addition to the wet snow

It was warm enough that everything was melting, wet, or muddy so I was happy that I decided to retire my old hiking boots.  They were leaking and every time it rained or each time I stepped into a deep puddle of water — I’d feel a level of dampness in my feet.  It was rather sad in a sentimental way because those boots had been to Chile, Bolivia, and Peru with me. They now just serve sufficiently as winter boots to the office while I took out the boots that I had taken with me to Japan and Tanzania.

As much as I realize it wasn’t necessarily realistic, I was really hoping to use the same pair of boots across the whole Bruce Trail.

Trekking through the woods until we encountered signage cautioning anyone entering the crevice area. Trekking through the woods until we encountered signage cautioning anyone entering the crevice area.

The dampness of everything along the hike was getting on my nerves despite me staying dry. I guess I just didn’t like trudging along muddy and snowy conditions together. Not a good mix together and I did slip and slide a couple of times.

Just as I was going give a big sigh, the path led us into a crevice area with a full cautionary sign and warning notice.  My friends had gone off ahead while I was staying behind taking photos so I was initially uncertain whether they went through the crevice but I nonetheless stepped right in.

The entrance into a pretty amazing crevice. The entrance into a pretty amazing crevice.

Entering the crevice was like stepping into a different world temporarily.  Everything was still vibrant green despite some snow that had fallen into the crevice.  It is a tight fit so as the sign points out, if anyone were to carry a large pack — they would need to take a route around the crevice.  I figure you might be able to squeeze a medium-sized pack or a large pack that was not packed to its limit — or perhaps simply take it off your shoulders and carry it through with your hands.

It must have been warm in the crevice because plants were still green! It must have been warm in the crevice because plants were still green!

Hiking down into the last bit of a crevice section. Hiking down into the last bit of a crevice section. We'd often find ourselves hiking through a small valley-like section on this part of the trail. We’d often find ourselves hiking through a small valley-like section on this part of the trail. And thus begins a long journey on the road for this hike. And thus begins a long journey on the road for this hike.

Eventually, we found ourselves on the road.  We initially thought that this would be a short trek on the road — until we realized that a section of the trail had been closed — more on that later.

The road is always fun and this time was no different.  There were some interesting signage that provided some amusement amidst the rather dreary and cold setting we were trekking through. It unfortunately started raining and snowing on us (some sort of mix) so everything got a bit damp but had little effect on us since we had the rain and snow gear on.

Cannot help but spot amusing signage along the road. Cannot help but spot amusing signage along the road. Passing by beautiful acres of farms. Passing by beautiful acres of farms.

As I mentioned earlier, we had to take a detour because the owner of the land withdrew hiking privileges as a result of people not abiding by the owner’s wish to not have dogs on that part of the trail due to livestock in the vicinity.  Alas, some folks have obviously broken the rule numerous times and so we were left without a straight forward route.

In order for us to stay on the white blazed trail — we had to hike from the entrance of the River Kwai Side Trail [link goes to Bruce Trail documentation on the change that took place in June 2014] — which meant that we had to hike 2.1km further on the road from the trail closure in order to find a way to continue on the Bruce Trail.  Alas, we couldn’t do that either because the distance we would have to make up would end up having us hiking in the dark.  I had my headlamp with me but I don’t think my friends did, so we ended up bypassing a chunk of the trail.  So at this point — although we hiked to Irish Block Road, I’ve technically missed a chunk of the trail which I’ll have to go back and hike one day.  Bleh.

This is the entrance into a side trail.  We were originally intending on hiking it earlier but discovered that the section we wanted to enter from was closed. This is the entrance into a side trail.  We were originally intending on hiking it earlier but discovered that the section we wanted to enter from was closed. Passing along more agricultural landscape. Passing along more agricultural landscape.

As a result of us bypassing the chunk of trail, we ended up hiking on the road for most of this journey.  Despite the rather disappointing experience, I was still enjoying the trek on the road.  There was almost always something interesting to observe or check out.  It hadn’t really occurred to me how much planning went into the irrigation system until I started paying a closer attention to where the water from all the melting snow was going.

While passing by fields and farms, I’d notice certain parts of the land freezing up and it created a very beautiful effect across the field.

The road kept going and going ... The road kept going and going … Some ice-filled tire marks in the soil. Some ice-filled tire marks in the soil. A malfunctioned mailbox. I think it pours everything out. A malfunctioned mailbox. I think it pours everything out. A beautiful view from a country side road. A beautiful view from a country side road.

Sometimes, it amazes me to look out into all the rolling hills and fields into the distance.  I’m very much into hiking mountains so I have to admit that hiking in Ontario can be a bit bland at times but when I slow down to just enjoy the view — I also have to accept that Ontario isn’t really as flat as many of us think it is.  Just something to better appreciate over time in my home province.

Other times, random things would trigger peculiar memories.  We passed by some cabin or lodge and it’d suddenly got me thinking about the television show Longmire which is based out in Wyoming.  It’d be pretty funny if it were filmed here.

This cabin or house reminds me of the one from the TV show Longmire for some reason. This cabin or house reminds me of the one from the TV show Longmire for some reason. The view from across the road where the cabin sat. The view from across the road where the cabin sat. I love these stretches of hilly roads.  They just go on and on. This is pretty common in rural Ontario. I love these stretches of hilly roads.  They just go on and on. This is pretty common in rural Ontario. Looking for a good spot to cross the deep “river” ditch. Testing the depth of the water while looking for a place to leap across . Testing the depth of the water while looking for a place to leap across .

We didn’t think that this hike would be so eventful with so much trekking on the road but we soon found ourselves trying to wade across or leap across the ditch on the side of the road in order to continue on the Bruce Trail.  The warm weather had melted so much snow that practically everything in the ditch was slush or water.  Normally this wouldn’t be a problem but it was nearly knee-high!  Trust me, at certain points to test the water level, I even stuck my trekking poles into the water and the pole practically went into the ditch three-quarters of its length.  Pretty deep…

Eventually my friend found a point at which to leap across and so I made my attempt and nearly slipped in for a dunk but fortunately I held on and pulled myself to dry land.  Dry land being a pretty muddy trail.

Not sure what happened here but this was the messiest part of the trail. So many fallen trees and hidden rocks made for some challenging footwork. Not sure what happened here but this was the messiest part of the trail. So many fallen trees and hidden rocks made for some challenging footwork.

I wasn’t sure at certain points what was more dangerous. The fact that there was a combination of mud, ice, and snow on the ground making it slippery — or the fact that it was very difficult to see what we were stepping into or on to as the snow and ice at times would cover up what might be a hole or a log or rock.  For fun, Mother Nature decided to create mini obstacle courses.  At certain sections, fallen trees and broken branches were all over the place forcing us to either squeeze by or clamber over this stuff near the edge of the escarpment.  Fortunately, we eventually made it through.  The adventure wasn’t over though!

Passing by someone's property. Passing by someone’s property. Another great view of the escarpment and the agricultural landscape from the trail. Another great view of the escarpment and the agricultural landscape from the trail. Arriving at a point in the trail where we couldn't cross the stream. It was too wide and the water level was very high. Arriving at a point in the trail where we couldn’t cross the stream. It was too wide and the water level was very high.

Just when we thought things were getting better, I slipped on mud and snow but my snowshoes that I had brought along and not used actually saved me from getting covered in mud (huzzah!). Unfortunately as soon as I got back up, my friends pointed out that we had to trek across the powerful stream.

Now, I am pretty reasonable but this was just getting out of hand.  How many times do we have to cross large bodies of water in the middle of winter?

After some grumbling on my part, I followed my friends across the stream via a number of large stones that weren’t completely immersed in the stream and some fallen branches.  Slowly.  Very slowly.  Thank goodness I had trekking poles because I would not trust my sense of balance in this scenario after wiping out on mud and snow.

We end up making our way across using some of the larger stones that were further up stream. We end up making our way across using some of the larger stones that were further up stream. Successfully crossed the river and then an uphill climb. Successfully crossed the river and then an uphill climb. We spotted a number of motor homes along the hike. Wonder if anyone stays in them. We spotted a number of motor homes along the hike. Wonder if anyone stays in them. Finishing off the hike with a sunny and warm early afternoon. Finishing off the hike with a sunny and warm early afternoon.

Fortunately, none of us got soaked in this crazy winter climate. We surprisingly finished relatively early in the afternoon so the initial thought was to drive south back towards Toronto but stop off at the Mono Mills Inn.  Unfortunately by the time we got there — we realized they were closed until mid-March. Sadly, some of the best places to eat outside of the city are closed for the off season.

Despite the rather challenging and partially disappointing experience on this hike, I was happy to have the opportunity to get back on to the Bruce Trail.  I don’t know when I’ll have the opportunity again because the distance is getting further and my schedule is becoming busier. I’m also beginning to plan out how I’m going to train for a 75km bike ride.  More on that coming soon!

What to Bring on a Day Hike

Okay so you’re new to hiking and you want to make sure you’re equipped, let’s first do a reality check.  We’ll also start off by assuming that this is only a day hike.  I’ll cover multi-day hikes or backpacking in another post.  I’ve learned a lot the hard way so hopefully I can impart some easy advice to you.

Ehren’s note:  In response to quite a few requests, this is part of a new series of posts that I’m writing to help those who want to hike but are overwhelmed by the information out there on the Internet and are a little reluctant or hesitant due to a level of discomfort and fear.  Let me know how I may be of better help.

Okay so you’re new to hiking and you want to make sure you’re equipped, let’s first do a reality check.  We’ll also start off by assuming that this is only a day hike.  I’ll cover multi-day hikes or backpacking in another post.  I’ve learned a lot the hard way so hopefully I can impart some easy advice to you.

Before we even decide on what to bring, there are 3 things that must be taken into consideration:

  • Terrain
  • Weather
  • Duration/Time

The Terrain: Perception vs. Reality

Groomed trails or nature paths Groomed trails or nature paths A pretty typical hiking trail A pretty typical hiking trail

Take a look at the difference between what most people I speak with think of as hiking vs. what is really hiking.  Maybe this is just a Torontonian thing because we don’t really have mountains – any so-called mountain is really just a large hill.  I often have people telling me they are hiking but then I realize they are just taking a stroll through a place like High Park in the city.

Another problem is that hiking in general is a pretty broad term and I won’t argue that the common and popular thought is incorrect – but there is definitely room for improvement with regards to how we inform one another of what we’re actually doing.

Types of trails:

  1. Groomed nature trail or path — often very accessible to almost all ages and can be used by anyone with disabilities.  Lots of signs and often well marked.
  2. Typical wilderness hiking trail — with the exception of some trail maintenance (i.e. clearing overgrowth, fixing bridges, etc.), these type of trails are often not managed or groomed.  The terrain may be very rugged and diverse and often contain tree roots or jagged rocks that partially stick out from the ground.  There is also little to no signage but most of the time, these trails are well marked.  Sometimes but one has to be aware that markers can fade off of trees.

Think of this as the where are you going?  part of the plan.

>> What to bring:  You can probably get away with running shoes or sandals if you are on a groomed nature trail or path, but if you are on a typical hiking trail — you need to be wearing a pair of hiking boots with ankle protection and better traction for rugged and slippery surfaces.  This is especially true if you are new to hiking.

Weather:  Expect everything and anything

Wet wet wet weather Wet wet wet weather Some ominous-looking clouds on the trail Some ominous-looking clouds on the trail

I realize a day hike isn’t considered too much of a big deal but it can be depending on how the weather turns out — and it can change unexpectedly.  Check the weather forecast days ahead as well as when you are about to leave for the day hike.

>> What to bring:   Sunscreen, a hat, and rain gear.  At least a rain jacket.  I’ll get deeper into what to wear in another post but anyone going on a wilderness hiking trail should not wear cotton and jeans.  This type of clothing can’t handle getting wet and will not be able to keep you warm.  Yes, this is accounting for summer days too and it can get cool in the summer depending on where you are.

Duration and Time:  How long will you be out there?

Think about the distance you’ll be tackling and the speed at which you will and can hike at.  Whether it is easy or not, this is important because it will help inform you of how much time you will need to account for.

Maybe you’re hiking to a lookout point for a sunset?  Or perhaps on a 10km loop?

Daylight is important to keep track of when on the trail Daylight is important to keep track of when on the trail

>> What to bring:  If you are starting the hike later in the day or anticipate that it will be a longer than anticipated trek — bring a headlamp or at least a flashlight.

Wait, there’s more…

So we’ve covered the three key considerations when going on a day hike but now here is the full list of real essentials that those considerations will influence including what I mentioned earlier in italics:

The Full List

  • Footwear (hiking boots recommended)
  • Rain gear (a lightweight rain jacket at a minimum)
  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Headlamp
  • Compass
  • Map
  • Handheld GPS, not a cell phone (in addition to the map if you have one)
  • Water (a minimum of 3 litres)
  • Insect repellent
  • First aid kit
  • Firestarter
  • Matches (waterproof ones if possible)
  • Knife
  • Snacks and extra food just in case

Obviously not all of these will be necessary on a groomed nature path but you’d be surprised how often I encounter people who are hiking wilderness trails with practically none of these items.  Not even water.

Even when hiking wilderness trails that are a loop, it is crucial to ensure the safety and survival of yourself and those around you in situations that are unanticipated.

Did I miss anything?  Let me know.

Some additional helpful resources:

The Ten Essentials (via Wikipedia)

Top 10 Beginner Hiker Blunders (via Backpacker Magazine)

Tips and Hints – Beginner’s Guide to Hiking (via Mountain Designs)

Quick Hiking to Inspiration Point, Grand Teton

It was spring time (May) so the morning was quite cold but as the sun rose, you cold feel the warmth and one could take off a layer or two depending on how fast one was hiking.  The water was calm and serene and reflected the aqua blue sky.  You could hear some pretty powerful streams nearby at certain points too.

Author’s Note: I’m still catching up on life at the moment since my return but let me share a story from my road trip out to Wyoming back in Spring of 2013.

Honestly, I didn’t do much research when I decided to take a two week road trip out to Wyoming.  I knew I wanted to see Yellowstone in the spring but at the time there were so many things going on in my life I just wanted to get out and breathe.  So I threw a bunch of stuff in the rental car (also forgot a lot…) — then hit the road west.

By the time I made my way down to the Grand Tetons, I was in a dilemma over how I should spend my time and where I should stay.  Not only was I struggling with direction in my life — I was lost in the sense that I wasn’t sure what I should do with the days on my road trip.  Yes, that sort of lost.

Without going on a tangent, long story short — I ended up making my way south into the Grand Teton National Park where I was constantly in awe of the beauty around me.  Being only able to spend a short day or two in the area — it is one of the places I yearn to return for more hiking one day.

A beautiful way to spend the morning after a brief ferry ride across Jenny Lake A beautiful way to spend the morning after a brief ferry ride across Jenny Lake

After waking up early and driving into Grand Teton National Park, I arrived at Jenny Lake.  It was a bit too early because the ferry shuttle hadn’t started its daily service yet.  I noticed on the map that I could hike in around the park but it’d take me a significantly more time than I had in my schedule that day so I decided to wait for the ferry.

There is fee (it may currently be $15 per adult round trip) to using the ferry and you have to keep in mind that it has a schedule so if you miss it, you end up waiting at the shore for the next one.  By the time the ferry shuttle begun, there were quite a few hikers so as soon as we docked, we were like a large pack of hikers moving through the woods.  Eventually everyone goes at their own pace and the space between each hiker grows.

That is, until we bumped into a family of moose!

Traffic jam along the trail thanks to a family of moose up ahead Traffic jam along the trail thanks to a family of moose up ahead A closer look of one of the moose on the trail. These guys are huge but look so gentle. A closer look of one of the moose on the trail. These guys are huge but look so gentle.

Aside from seeing the silly tourists out of their cars trying to take photographs of a moose on the road, I had yet to ever encounter a moose in person so this was such an awesome highlight for me to begin the morning.

Everyone was quiet and kept their distance from the moose.  Some folks got annoyed and a few got impatient waiting for the moose to move off of the trail so they began to plan a way around.  This could have been dangerous because the moose would charge if they felt trapped or endangered — particularly as there was calf among the family too.  I just patiently waited because it was such a rare sight for me.

Eventually, the moose moved further down the trail (and we moved slowly along with them) and soon afterwards grazed their way off the trail.  Once it was clear that it was safe to hike past them, all the hikers including myself quickly made our way down the trail.

Further along the trail towards Inspiration Point. Further along the trail towards Inspiration Point. Much of the trail initially follows the lake shore allowing for some beautiful views. Much of the trail initially follows the lake shore allowing for some beautiful views.

It was spring time (May) so the morning was quite cold but as the sun rose, you cold feel the warmth and one could take off a layer or two depending on how fast one was hiking.  The water was calm and serene and reflected the aqua blue sky.  You could hear some pretty powerful streams nearby at certain points too.

I just powered my way through this section of the trail because I wanted to make up for time lost while we were waiting for the moose to move.  Eventually I came across a trail to a “Hidden Waterfall”.  I had no idea about it but I followed the signs and other hikers seemed to be following the direction that I took so I figured I was going the right way.

It is still springtime.  Water levels are high and currents are strong. It is still springtime.  Water levels are high and currents are strong. Following a rather odd looking path to the hidden falls. Following a rather odd looking path to the hidden falls. There is still snow here! There is still snow here! The Hidden Falls close to Inspiration point The Hidden Falls close to Inspiration point

Looking downstream from the waterfall. Looking downstream from the waterfall.

The thing about waterfalls is that they are not always worth the trek.  Just as there are disappointing lookout points, there are disappointing waterfalls.  I realize that may be a little discriminatory against certain trails and areas of interest but I will openly admit that I am biased and I think it’s important to be self-aware enough to understand what really motivates you.

In this case, I didn’t know whether or not the waterfall would be of any reward for the effort until I arrived — and I am happy to state that it was well worth the trek.  Not a waterfall that you can get too close to (unless you want to wade upstream or hike off the trail) — it was still a very pretty cascading waterfall and unless you hike this trail, it would have completely been hidden from view.  In fact, I don’t think I could hear the waterfall very well until I got deeper along the trail.

An interesting story on a signpost An interesting story on a signpost Passing by other streams running from the waterfall. Passing by other streams running from the waterfall.

A lot of people hung around the waterfall for either a break or to have photographs taken of themselves but I quickly resumed my trek towards Inspiration Point.  The trail continued along the shore line until it began to ascend along the side of the mountain.  This is where the trail gets really fun and interesting for me because we can start to get some good views of the area.

The rocky trail makes use of switchbacks up the side of the mountain on the way up towards Inspiration point The rocky trail makes use of switchbacks up the side of the mountain on the way up towards Inspiration point Looking over the edge of the switchback.  Beautiful view. Looking over the edge of the switchback.  Beautiful view.

As the trail continues up, it is really neat to take a peek over the edge into the canyon.  Not necessarily for those who are afraid of heights but it does provide a different perspective of the environment and surroundings.  That is one of the reasons why I love hiking mountains so much.  Everything in your view changes so dramatically in terms of scale and size — your mind and your perspective have literally been changed just through the act of hiking up a mountain.

Along the way up, there were a couple of stop off points that made for good break areas with some decent views.  I think a fair number of people would get lost or mistake those for Inspiration Point because I’d see people turning around or begin looking for where to go next.  I actually got a bit lost as well because I became disoriented after enjoying the view for a while — but I eventually figured out a deceptive-looking path that was actually the continuation of the climb up.

As always, just when you think you're reaching your destination, there are more hills and switchbacks to climb as the trail winds around. As always, just when you think you’re reaching your destination, there are more hills and switchbacks to climb as the trail winds around. Getting to a nice clearing with a great view of Jenny Lake Getting to a nice clearing with a great view of Jenny Lake

The path up to Inspiration Point soon gave way to really beautiful views of Jenny Lake.  It is one thing to see the mountains from the lake but looking at the lake from this vantage point was breathtaking.  Particularly after some steep and slightly rocky terrain that the trail leads you through.

The trail continues further up with a steeper climb. The trail continues further up with a steeper climb. And rockier climb. This one part only looks more hazardous than it really is. And rockier climb. This one part only looks more hazardous than it really is.

Of course, views almost always lead to more views — and more hills or switchbacks to climb.  I have to admit that even the switchbacks and the trails themselves were beautiful.  Maybe it was the colour of the stones and rocks themselves but the way the trail had been built — it was practically a journey that one can continue to grow to appreciate.

There was never a lack or shortage of amazing views to take in.

Looking back down the trail. Looking back down the trail. Peering down the edge at some fellow hikers who may be a bit lost. Peering down the edge at some fellow hikers who may be a bit lost. Nearing Inspiration Point. Nearing Inspiration Point. Finally arriving at Inspiration Point.  I wonder how many people have been inspired at this precise point. Finally arriving at Inspiration Point.  I wonder how many people have been inspired at this precise point.

I noticed there were increasingly more people behind me from a distance so I quickened my pace up to Inspiration Point.  More notably, the sign indicating the point.  No one was around yet, so I just stood there enjoying the moment for a short while.  I don’t know if anyone had really been inspired at this point — and if poets, artists, inventors, scientists, or anyone else for that matter have had some spark or lightbulb light up in their minds when sitting here.  I did wonder though.

There may not have been a surge of creativity within me at that point, but I definitely experienced a moment where all my worries just faded away and I just took in the vastness of my surroundings.

A slight turn of the head results in a gorgeous view of area. A slight turn of the head results in a gorgeous view of area. The trail can lead into Cascade Canyon but sadly, I was short on time. The trail can lead into Cascade Canyon but sadly, I was short on time.

Perhaps if I had done my research before my trip, I would have made time to hike into Cascade Canyon — which the trail from Inspiration Point would have led into.  That being said, it simply didn’t happen because I was neither prepared nor ready and time was already a constraint.  I nonetheless was happy at that point.  Got to Inspiration Point to enjoy the view on a beautiful day and had the opportunity to bump into a family of moose on the trail.

I just wish I had packed a lunch!  Lunch with good views are always so much more satisfying, don’t you agree?

I wanted to sit here all day. After taking in such an amazing view, I made my way back. I wanted to sit here all day. After taking in such an amazing view, I made my way back.

Confronting my Fears on Angels Landing, Zion National Park

A few years ago, my friends and I decided to take a road trip to the southwest.  My road trip to Colorado a number of years earlier had inspired me to push further west to the state of Utah.  Many outdoor enthusiasts often refer to southern Utah as a playground for hikers or any outdoor activity for that matter.  The temptation was too great and I managed to convince some friends to join me for a two-week road trip.  And yes, that included convincing them to come along to hike the incredibly popular Angels Landing trail.

Go ahead and look up Angels Landing with any search engine and you will find hundreds of thousands of stories and photographs.  This is simply one of the most iconic trails in Zion National Park.  Due to its increasing popularity (very likely thanks to the Internet and social media), it is also one of the most trafficked trails in the park.  This popularity grows in spite of the strenuous and at times, pretty risky trail.  I’ll try to describe the trail and my experience as best I can to illustrate the challenges that anyone will be confronted with, in addition to any sort of fear of heights.

A few years ago, my friends and I decided to take a road trip to the southwest.  My road trip to Colorado a number of years earlier had inspired me to push further west to the state of Utah.  Many outdoor enthusiasts often refer to southern Utah as a playground for hikers or any outdoor activity for that matter.  The temptation was too great and I managed to convince some friends to join me for a two-week road trip.  And yes, that included convincing them to come along to hike the incredibly popular Angels Landing trail.

To reach the trailhead, we had to hop on a shuttle bus, which was initially quite busy and crowded. We thought everyone was heading to Angels Landing but gradually people got off at the earlier stops until a handful of us remained.

Pretty much the first thing you see when starting off the Angels Landing trail.  Note it is your responsibility for your own safety. Pretty much the first thing you see when starting off the Angels Landing trail.  Note it is your responsibility for your own safety. Fortunately the switchbacks were shaded because it was going to be a pretty harsh in the sun later into the day. Fortunately the switchbacks were shaded because it was going to be a pretty harsh in the sun later into the day.

Our visit took place around mid-late May and there already were quite a few people.  I can only imagine and shudder at the thought of the amount of foot traffic we’d encounter if we had been visiting during the months of July and August.  If you are not comfortable with heights, I seriously recommend planning your trip earlier in the year or during off-season months.  You may also opt to start your hike earlier in the day because the later you begin, the more likely you’ll encountermini traffic jams on the way up and down Angels Landing.

It is pretty incredible that the trail was built back in 1926 and people have been using it since.  The initial twenty-one switchbacks up the cliff side alone are amazing to experience, despite the challenging hike up.  If you think this is tough, just realize that this is merely the tip of the iceberg.  You have just started…

A look at the view of the canyon and the way up we came from the switchbacks. A look at the view of the canyon and the way up we came from the switchbacks. Trekking through a gorge area -- a very pretty area that was also thankfully, shaded. Trekking through a gorge area — a very pretty area that was also thankfully, shaded.

Eventually after contending with the switchbacks, you may get some reprieve from the blazing sun and heat as the trail leads you through a gorge.  The nice thing about this part is that this area is still shaded in the morning and is relatively flat.  Don’t worry if you’re looking for a challenge because it does not last too long before you’ll encounter more switchbacks to ascend further up the gorge and cliff side.  Some people find ascents exhausting while others find descents challenging.  I’m of the latter.

It was a tough hike up for some of my friends. It was a tough hike up for some of my friends. Beginning to make our way further up and out of the gorge. Beginning to make our way further up and out of the gorge. Of course this ascent involved more switchbacks! Of course this ascent involved more switchbacks! Some of the beautiful flora along the steep switchback ascent. Some of the beautiful flora along the steep switchback ascent.

The ascent up the gorge takes a while but along the way there are many beautiful things to spot.  This is probably the one part of the overall trail where you will not be focused on the views and lookout points so take advantage of that time to enjoy and take in the beauty of the surroundings closer by.  The flowers were beautiful and the patterns along the walls of the gorge were spectacular to observe.  Just wondering how this came about thrilled me to no end.

A look down at a fallen tree from further up the trail. A look down at a fallen tree from further up the trail. Foot traffic on the switchbacks up and out of the gorge. Foot traffic on the switchbacks up and out of the gorge.

The switchbacks can get pretty boring.  All you see are people ahead of you, below you, and behind you as you trudge up to Scout Lookout, where the gorge ends and the real climbing begins.  I noticed some people had their earphones on and iPods blasting music but to me it seems like a waste if you can’t handle hiking with only the sound of your immediate surroundings and the beat of your heart.

I don’t know where most people will end up if they want to do their business (aka. go to the bathroom, go pee, etc.) if they are further up Angels Landing but Scout Lookout is the last point along the trail I am aware of that has an outhouse or two that people can make use of.  I don’t think there is room for any — and I doubt anyone would ever want to lug a portable toilet of that size up Angels Landing!

Finally out of the gorge and on to Scout Lookout -- we can begin to enjoy some of the views. Finally out of the gorge and on to Scout Lookout — we can begin to enjoy some of the views. Looking up at the mountainous canyon 'wall' behind us (opposite of the views). Looking up at the mountainous canyon ‘wall’ behind us (opposite of the views).

The views may have you thinking that you’ve accomplished quite a bit — and you have — until you turn around and see the canyon wall behind you.  Then you realize how little you’ve actually hiked up, but don’t give up!  This is where your willpower begins to get put to the test.

This is just the beginning of Angel's Landing.  From here, you can't really see what the hike will look like. This is just the beginning of Angel’s Landing.  From here, you can’t really see what the hike will look like. The rock scrambling begins!  Some people start turning back here... The rock scrambling begins!  Some people start turning back here…

Here is the point where many many people turn back.  All hiking involves legwork, and a small portion of that will require a bit of scrambling using all four limbs.  Not everyone is ready for that and psychologically prepared to see and tackle what is in front of them.  I have to admit that I was nervous about this but I was determined to push forward at my own pace, regardless of the speed others were moving at.

A couple who had been tailing a group of us all the way up the switchbacks had just gotten to the point where they began a bit of rock scrambling when the woman told her husband that she couldn’t do it and had to turn back.  This was completely understandable because as you’ll see in a number of the photographs, Angels Landing is a strenuous hike and more importantly not an easy psychological barrier to overcome.  This is also what makes this trail so incredible — it isn’t the highest and most physically-challenging ascent but due to the nature of the trail itself and its environment, there is a significant psychological challenge or barrier that one must confront.

Here's the warning sign for everyone. Here’s the warning sign for everyone. This part of the trail slows down as people are going both ways and no one really wants to get too close to the ledge. This part of the trail slows down as people are going both ways and no one really wants to get too close to the ledge.

Once we do a bit of scrambling up the trail leads us to the side and everyone leans away from the ledge despite there being quite a bit of space.  There is no barrier and although the trail itself is flat, you can’t help but question your own confidence in your footwork as you take step by step.

I will add that it isn’t always flat and chains begin to make an appearance for safety and stability reasons.  Is the trail safe?  Yes, but the notion of safety is really dependent on yourself and your ability to operate in these circumstances.

Do you get to enjoy the view while you’re holding on to the chains tightly as you make your way forward — one step at a time?  That depends on you.  I remember that I was pretty focused on simply ensuring I was same.  Photographs were always secondary.  Of course, it didn’t help that I brought two cameras and a 3 litre camelbak that would weigh me down significantly.  So here’s my other recommendation:  Understand what you really need and balance it with what you can handle to ensure you don’t waste energy dragging up useless weight. 

If you drag up 4 litres of water — you are carrying most likely more than you require and you may end up expending more energy than you would have if you had only brought along 3 litres of water.

For safety and psychological reassurance, there are chains for hikers to hold on to.  And yes, that is a cliff drop-off to the left of my friend. For safety and psychological reassurance, there are chains for hikers to hold on to.  And yes, that is a cliff drop-off to the left of my friend. Once we made it past that slight bottleneck is when we realize the full challenge ahead of us. Once we made it past that slight bottleneck is when we realize the full challenge ahead of us. Looking to the side of the trail.  A pretty grand view as we ascend! Looking to the side of the trail.  A pretty grand view as we ascend!

The little bit of scrambling that we were confronted with was just a taste of what’s really to come.  With jaw-dropping views on all sides as well as what was up ahead, my friends and I took a short break before endeavouring onward.  The beginning of the real trail is here.  All that we had experienced so far was just prep work.  Here’s another recommendation:  If you want to really enjoy this hike, do some training to boost your stamina and endurance.

Far too many people were hiking this trail with very little preparation.  I noticed a number of people with iffy balance and some were exhausted.  Despite the fact that my friends and I had hiked a few times in a number of parks within Ontario prior to this trip — I wish we had done more prep work for this trail.  That said, we don’t have even close to the amount of rugged terrain that you see here in southern Utah.  Perhaps we should have run up and down the stairs?

Okay, deep breath! Here we go!  We begin to tackle the real part of Angel's Landing. Okay, deep breath! Here we go!  We begin to tackle the real part of Angel’s Landing. The steps leading to the most narrow and often considered scariest points of the trail. The steps leading to the most narrow and often considered scariest points of the trail.

The photograph above, is what I was willing to take before I made my way to tackle what could be considered the narrowest point of the trail.  This is also the bottleneck where traffic jams often occur.  I highly recommend reading about the Hike Guy’s experience and I’ve also shared his video below.

I would agree with him that this is a rather terrifying part of the trail for anyone with even the most remote level of fear with heights.  Both sides of the trail are sheer vertical drop offs making it seem quite overwhelming to the senses.  I think if one were to stand there for a while, it’d be possible to get accustomed to it but the most important thing to do is to just hold on to the chain and focus on taking one step at a time.  My friends said that surprisingly, the Hike Guy’s video below looked scarier than it really was for them because of the wide angle lens effect.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/12463658?wmode=opaque&api=1

Making our way further up after successfully getting past the narrowest section of the trail. Making our way further up after successfully getting past the narrowest section of the trail. Stopping to enjoy the flowers. Stopping to enjoy the flowers.

As much as I realize most people would just want this to end as quickly as possible — I just want to also point out that there are a lot of trails that don’t offer even nearly as great of a number of views.  When we hike mountains, there may only be one or two points where one would be rewarded with a view after such a challenging climb (and that includes the summit).  In comparison, this trail continually bombards your senses with awe-inspiring sensory-overloading views.  So what? you might ask.

Trust me when I say that it is quite rare to not just be trekking through the woods for hours and hours.  Sure Angels Landing may be a bit overwhelming but feel free to slow down and try to enjoy the moment.

Finally reaching a peak but only to realize -- as usual -- that there is still more to go so I look back and take a breather. Finally reaching a peak but only to realize — as usual — that there is still more to go so I look back and take a breather. Looking out from a part of the trail that felt relatively safe... Looking out from a part of the trail that felt relatively safe… Until I looked up ... this was then the tougher part of the rock scrambling up! Until I looked up … this was then the tougher part of the rock scrambling up!

On some parts of this trail, you just can’t help but wonder if it was ever meant to have so many people trekking it.  On parts where I’d have to scramble up or use all four limbs to stabilize myself — along the way down, there sometimes wouldn’t be room for everyone to stand and wait for opposing traffic to come through.

The view nonetheless keeps evolving into a more dramatic and larger picture.  Details that we saw earlier were now minuscule at this elevation.

Similar to a lot of hikes, there are a lot of ups and downs -- only this time, Angel's Landing can feel a bit scary at times. Thank goodness for chains. Similar to a lot of hikes, there are a lot of ups and downs — only this time, Angel’s Landing can feel a bit scary at times. Thank goodness for chains. We begin to really get an awesome view of the canyon along the trail.  This is Zion. We begin to really get an awesome view of the canyon along the trail.  This is Zion.

As we made our way to the last leg up Angels Landing, the sun was really bearing on us. Unfortunately this trail is very exposed so we sought out the only shade we could find to have a quick snack.  We’d later have a late lunch here on the way back down from the summit.

The small shaded area also made for a great place to sit and enjoy the view of Zion as a canyon.  I think this is the difference between my experience viewing the Grand Canyon and sitting here on Angels Landing.  You feel immersed and Zion just seems massive.

There isn't much shade as we make our way up so we are pretty exposed.  Fortunately, we duck under this one tree. There isn’t much shade as we make our way up so we are pretty exposed.  Fortunately, we duck under this one tree. Enjoying the incredible view as we continue on the trail. Enjoying the incredible view as we continue on the trail. Looking back down the trail of which we came.  It almost feels like the trek up is taking forever at some points. Looking back down the trail of which we came.  It almost feels like the trek up is taking forever at some points.

Finally, as we made our way over the last chunk of rock we had to scramble and climb over — we began to see some really interesting changes in the rock and the environment.  At this point, most of us were not tired yet but just a bit shaky when looking outwards into the canyon.  The scale of it all can sometimes mess with your mind a little.

The landscape and scenery is beginning to change dramatically. The landscape and scenery is beginning to change dramatically. Steps away from the ledge of Angel's Landing and the end of the trail. Steps away from the ledge of Angel’s Landing and the end of the trail.

The top of Angels Landing leading up to the summit point and end point of the trail is actually a lot of fun. Granted, you feel at times like you could slip down a slope and off the cliff but your boots don’t let you do such a thing.  It’s also incredibly hot at this elevation with full exposure to the sun.

We take solace in the shade where we can as we gradually make our way to the summit.  Some hikers on the trail are quite brave and take on different stands, poses, and positions for unique photo opportunities.  My friends wanted their photo taken constantly but I, on the other hand, was not in the mood for such a matter and simply went on my way.  I just wanted to get out of the sun and sit down somewhere!

Okay... maybe more than just a few steps!  Still need to hike across this top part. Okay… maybe more than just a few steps!  Still need to hike across this top part. My friend hiding under the only bit of shade.  This is pretty much the top of Angel's Landing and it is completely exposed.  Beautiful view though. My friend hiding under the only bit of shade.  This is pretty much the top of Angel’s Landing and it is completely exposed.  Beautiful view though.

The summit of Angels Landing actually takes a while to reach, even when you have reached the top of the rock so to speak.  Along the way, there is the occasional woman or man standing on large protruding rocks with hands free in the air for a photo op — I grimace a little as my heart skips a beat for their safety.  I wish I could be as free as they were but I am already confronting the fears at hand as I trek along this sloped rock face towards the end.

Looking back at the way we came across the top of Angel's Landing. Looking back at the way we came across the top of Angel’s Landing. The end of the trail on Angel's Landing, where everyone is gathering. The end of the trail on Angel’s Landing, where everyone is gathering.

As we reach the end of the trail, I frown a little because I see so many people on the summit.  I’ve always preferred a more quiet atmosphere when at the top of a mountain but here it seemed more like a party.  At least it wasn’t as crazy it would be during the summer months.

Looking back at where we came from, I just stood staring at the canyon wall.  It was amazing to see the arches within the mountain. It felt like they were pretty close by but I knew it’d be an illusion because to trek over there would probably take us at least half the day if not more.

Another look back at the trail -- it gets a little sketchy at times hiking over and around this peculiar terrain.  The arches in the backdrop embedded within the mountain are pretty incredible to see. Another look back at the trail — it gets a little sketchy at times hiking over and around this peculiar terrain.  The arches in the backdrop embedded within the mountain are pretty incredible to see. The view just keeps getting better...! The view just keeps getting better…!

Once we arrive at the summit, our view of Zion is complete on both sides.  Simply fantastic.  We chat with some other folks on the summit before heading back down the trail.  We’re noticing the increasing number of people at this point.  We take a few photos together and start making our way back.

I often encourage people to sit back and relax at the top of the summit but in this case with so many people and no cover from the sun, I’d recommend finding shade if you can.  If not, you might want to make sure you have a full-brimmed hat or a lightweight umbrella that you can tie to your backpack and shield yourself and perhaps a fellow hiker from the sun for a bit.  I recommend this because you don’t want your umbrella to get blown away if it is windy up there.

And better on the other side.  It is simply astounding how this puts a person in perspective.  I can only imagine how the first people who discovered this area felt. And better on the other side.  It is simply astounding how this puts a person in perspective.  I can only imagine how the first people who discovered this area felt. Heading back down, the gorge was fully exposed to the sun. Heading back down, the gorge was fully exposed to the sun.

I didn’t take many photographs on the way down because to be honest, it was simply ridiculous.  There were times when I felt the trail was overcrowded — and this was in the month of May!  Some people were unfortunately sitting around on the very narrow trail so it made it even more challenging to make your way down.  I don’t want to step on anyone but I can’t help it if there’s no room.  I’d also prefer not to trip over someone and fall.  This is why I’d recommend starting the hike as early as possible.

The way down wasn’t as interesting now that the sun was fully out but the gorge turned out to be significantly more so.  Now that the gorge itself was fully lit, there so many more details to observe and take in.  Thankfully, there were some parts of the gorge that served up some shade.

Cliff sides are potentially good for shade at times. Cliff sides are potentially good for shade at times. Another grand view of the canyon as we descend towards the switchbacks. Another grand view of the canyon as we descend towards the switchbacks.

While I loved the view from the summit, I have to say I enjoy the canyon just as much from the switchbacks now that it was fully lit up.  This place almost looks like a massive corridor.  Descending on the switchbacks wasn’t much of an ordeal itself thanks to the fact that this part is a paved trail.  We simply let inertia and momentum take us gradually down to the floor of the canyon.  It’s a relief because at this point our legs are a bit wobbly and shaky.  Hiking poles would probably make it easier for anyone with knee issues but I will point out that the poles won’t help at all on the way up once past the Scout Lookout point.

Looking down at the switchbacks, it amazes me to some extent what an engineering and trail design feat it was to build this trail. No it may not have directly generated billions of dollars for the economy like a large highway would have but the stories and the experiences that are a result of this trail in addition to the tourism dollars from all the visitors really does showcase the brilliance of Angels Landing.

Looking down at the switchbacks.  I'm glad we took this route in the morning because it is brutally hot with the searing sun on our backs. Looking down at the switchbacks.  I’m glad we took this route in the morning because it is brutally hot with the searing sun on our backs. Eventually reaching the base of the canyon. Eventually reaching the base of the canyon. Noticing a beautiful wildflower blossoming from a cacti. Noticing a beautiful wildflower blossoming from a cacti.

Once we reach the floor of the canyon — I am surprised to spot some beautiful flowers growing from the cacti next to the trail.  I could be wrong but April and May might be a good time to spot these around the canyon and along the trail.  It is impressive that the flowers can handle such searing heat from the sun in the month of May — let alone the summer months of July and August!

We make our way past the very dry riverbed towards the shuttle bus stop.  Thank goodness for shuttle buses — it would be insane to have all the cars driving around this park.  If you’ve been to Wyoming’s Yellowstone National Park, you know what I’m talking about. Two words: traffic jam.  None of that here in Zion!

The river is rather dry at this time of year with water levels pretty low. The river is rather dry at this time of year with water levels pretty low. At last, back at the starting point -- and hopping the shuttle bus to the visitor center for some cold refreshments. At last, back at the starting point — and hopping the shuttle bus to the visitor center for some cold refreshments. Laying on the grass at the visitor center -- resting after our successful hike up Angel's Landing Laying on the grass at the visitor center — resting after our successful hike up Angel’s Landing

Soon after the shuttle buses picked us up — we got off at the Zion Lodge to grab a bite to eat and also check out the gift shop. After confronting my fears on Angels Landing, I wanted to reward myself with this t-shirt.  I highly recommend just laying down under a tree and relaxing for a few hours after a hike like that.  Throw in a couple of cold drinks and it is a perfect end to a challenging and rewarding hike up this incredibly popular trail.

Would I do it again? Probably at some point when I don’t have any other trail to hike, but next time I think I’d go even earlier in May. I didn’t like the fact that there were so many people and it made me nervous. I loved the experience but I got to know myself better and next time I’ll be better prepared.

Stomping around the Ponds of the Adirondacks

After setting up our campsite, we made our way off to get in a quick hike before dinner time!  It seemed like the Copperas, Winch, and Owen Ponds Trail was an ideal place to start the Victoria Day long weekend (for us Canadians).  Tucked on the side of a single-lane winding highway through the mountains was a small parking lot right across the trailhead.  We actually visited this trail over the course of two days because we weren’t able to check out all the ponds in time.

It was a beautiful day as we arrived in the High Peaks area of the Adirondacks.  After setting up our campsite, we made our way off to get in a quick hike before dinner time!  It seemed like the Copperas, Winch, and Owen Ponds Trail was an ideal place to start the Victoria Day long weekend (for us Canadians).  Tucked on the side of a single-lane winding highway through the mountains was a small parking lot right across the trailhead.  We actually visited this trail over the course of two days because we weren’t able to check out all the ponds in time.

We figured this would be a straight forward trail.  Wrong.  Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll encounter along the way through our eyes.

Parking close to the trail head which is across the street. Parking close to the trail head which is across the street. It is surprising to find a trail that is so rugged just for ponds. It is surprising to find a trail that is so rugged just for ponds.

On the contrary to what we anticipated, the trail was actually quite rugged with some surprisingly challenging ascents.  We had thought that this would be a nice warm up hike to our weekend in the Adirondacks.  It was definitely a good preparation hike but my friends were probably not so happy with it because they were still wearing jeans!  Jeans are often a big no-no in hiking — they tend to restrict your movement and are horrible at heat retention (not to mention drying off) if they happen to get wet.

Speaking of getting wet, not that any of us did — the snow melting from higher elevations was creating a nice runoff stream along the rugged trail.  Made for some nice photos but potentially slippery conditions.

The trail unfortunately was also a small stream at times.  I guess this is typical of spring time. The trail unfortunately was also a small stream at times.  I guess this is typical of spring time. Checking out where we should go first. Checking out where we should go first.

If there is one thing I love about hiking in the spring time in the Adirondacks it is the lack of flying pests.  The second thing would be the light tinge of green on everything — with a more easygoing sort of feel — not that I am implying the spring time season equates to “easygoingness”.

Crossing paths with a pretty little stream. Crossing paths with a pretty little stream. Passing by a nice looking bog -- particularly against the sunlit woods. Passing by a nice looking bog — particularly against the sunlit woods.

When we passed by some very calm looking bog areas, I was grateful that the mosquitoes weren’t out yet.  I can see them being quite hungry once they were out in force.  On the other hand, when I encountered the pond — I really wished we had a small dingy boat to hop into and paddle to the center.  The place was just so tranquil and peaceful.

Unfortunately, I don’t have trail map data available to me at this time and my GPS data doesn’t seem to help me identify the ponds I have photographed but I will provide an update with names once I figure them out.

A clear view of one of the three ponds. A clear view of one of the three ponds. Part of this trail seemed magical with the light shining into the rather dark forest. Part of this trail seemed magical with the light shining into the rather dark forest. Just chatting and enjoying the view of the second large pond. Just chatting and enjoying the view of the second large pond. Another view of the second large pond. Another view of the second large pond.

We found the trail to be quite nice and with the exception of the ruggedness of the ascent, it is a relatively accessible hiking trail.  Not too much dark forest to hike through and lots of nice-looking scenic points to stop and enjoy along the way.  Can’t complain that there were three large ponds to view either!  They were all really pretty during this time in the spring.

Another look at the second large pond, which really looks like a lake at this point.  Doesn't it? Another look at the second large pond, which really looks like a lake at this point.  Doesn’t it? Some really gnarly-looking tree roots on the trail. Some really gnarly-looking tree roots on the trail. Contemplating where to go next! Contemplating where to go next!

The trails in the Adirondacks are usually pretty well marked and have signs that communicate well — particularly the ones in the High Peaks where there is a lot of traffic from visitors in the Lake Placid area.  The challenge is often deciding where to go or what everyone wants to do or see next!

Checking out what's further downstream. Checking out what’s further downstream. On another day, we decided to explore the other part of the trail.  Starting off passing by a river On another day, we decided to explore the other part of the trail.  Starting off passing by a river The trail is pretty straight forward on this part.  Just a little rugged. The trail is pretty straight forward on this part.  Just a little rugged.

Following our hike up Cascade Mountain and Porter Mountain, we found that the weather forecast wasn’t in our favour for the remainder of our stay in the region so we decided to quickly check out the rest of this trail before packing up and heading home early.  Then we could make use of the time to hike the Bruce Trail instead!

This time we entered the Copperas, Winch, and Owen Ponds Trail from a different trailhead to get to the area that we hadn’t explored yet.  We were pleasantly surprised to come across a strong river as we hiked our way to the remaining pond that we had yet to see and enjoy.

Quite the strong current on this river. Quite the strong current on this river. One of our favourite spots on the trail -- this tree has literally grown over a boulder.  Simply brilliant. One of our favourite spots on the trail — this tree has literally grown over a boulder.  Simply brilliant.

Next to the river we stumbled upon a huge boulder and astoundingly a rather large tree that had grown over it.  One has to wonder how long that boulder had been sitting there or if the soil level had been higher and sediment had gradually been washed away over a long period of time.  I am purely speculating here but I enjoy thinking about the natural history of this boulder.

Further along this trail towards another pond. Further along this trail towards another pond. I wish we could have stayed for lunch here but we had time constraints. I wish we could have stayed for lunch here but we had time constraints. Finally finding a good place to sit down and take in the pond. Finally finding a good place to sit down and take in the pond.

This part of the trail wasn’t as challenging as the other parts that we had hiked earlier and while the weather didn’t cooperate with us, it was nice to get to tackle the remainder of the trail before we began the long drive home back to Toronto.

A pretty tranquil scene at the third pond. A pretty tranquil scene at the third pond. Time to go!  We got to see most of this trail. Time to go!  We got to see most of this trail.

Enjoying a Springtime hike up Cascade Mountain

The first time we visited this region, we didn’t really explore much of the High Peaks region and stuck mainly to the waterfall hunting and Cranberry Mountain.  I have to admit that I was poorly prepared for that hike despite my experience on my trek in New Hampshire, but that was 2007.  This time around, I had figured out my own way of hiking and tackling the challenge in front of me.  I was ready for a spring hike up Cascade Mountain.

This was the second time my friends and I made our way to the Adirondack mountains for some spring time hiking.  This would typically coincide with Canada’s Victoria Day long weekend.  With some endurance road trip driving and decent traffic, the mountains are only about 4 or 5 hours away.

Beginning the trek, just steps away from the trailhead. Beginning the trek, just steps away from the trailhead.

The first time we visited this region, we didn’t really explore much of the High Peaks region and stuck mainly to the waterfall hunting and Cranberry Mountain.  I have to admit that I was poorly prepared for that hike despite my experience on my trek in New Hampshire, but that was 2007.  This time around, I had figured out my own way of hiking and tackling the challenge in front of me.  I was ready for a spring hike up Cascade Mountain.

A very pretty stream runs past us as we begin the hike up Cascade mountain. A very pretty stream runs past us as we begin the hike up Cascade mountain. Seeing some mud, and hoping that it would be drier as we ascended. Seeing some mud, and hoping that it would be drier as we ascended.

We knew there was potential for the trail to be pretty wet.  In fact, when we hiked Cranberry Mountain — we were practically hiking up a waterfall.  Trust me, not much fun but it’s even worse if you’re carrying too much (which I have gradually unlearned!).

The trail began relatively easy and slowly introduced more rocks and large stones on the way up.  For me, it was nice that the temperature was still pretty cold at this time of year so we didn’t have to struggle with factors like humidity or a blazing sun.  The lack of flying pests was a bonus!

Flowers beginning to show themselves. Flowers beginning to show themselves. The trail started off pretty muddy as soon as we made our way up. The trail started off pretty muddy as soon as we made our way up. The lit-up springtime leaves almost look somewhat magical here. The lit-up springtime leaves almost look somewhat magical here.

There are occasions where you just have to stop and just marvel at what mother nature is creating as an artist.  With the leaves just beginning to sprout, trees would often look like they were covered in bright speckles.

As we continued further up the trail, things began to get muddier and the terrain got more difficult.  This is often when I try to advise those who aren’t accustomed to hiking to be very careful because it is very easy to trip or sprain an ankle.  Every so often I still see people hiking up with just a pair of sneakers which just blows my mind.

Mud and lots of large stones often makes for a challenging ascent but the spring-lit trees made for a very nice photo. Mud and lots of large stones often makes for a challenging ascent but the spring-lit trees made for a very nice photo. Lots of tree trunks, roots, and boulders to contend with on the ascent. Lots of tree trunks, roots, and boulders to contend with on the ascent. I can see there being a waterfall down this part of the trail at certain times of year. I can see there being a waterfall down this part of the trail at certain times of year.

The ascent on the trail truly begins when you start noticing yourself climbing over tree roots and boulders.  Throw in some steepness and water streaming down and it’s a pretty solid workout.  I wish I lived close by to something like this — forget the gym and climb this each day!

Despite the number of times when I want to shake my fist in the air and shout why! — I really admire those who helped build and design the trail.  Particularly as Cascade Mountain tends to receive a lot of traffic.  There are some areas where everyone really gets into a traffic jam because of the people ascending and descending.

The one thing that is vital to recognize is that everyone has their own way of climbing up or down a “tricky” section and it becomes very challenging when people begin crowding due to lack of space.  This ends up reducing the number of options that someone is able to find when ascending or descending.  In other words, if you want more options — find low traffic times like early in the morning or really off season (i.e. winter).

This almost looks like a custom built staircase. This almost looks like a custom built staircase. A very steep rock scramble up this part of the trail. A very steep rock scramble up this part of the trail.

Often it’s not the hike up that is the major challenge for me, but the way down.  That said, ever since I’ve trained with hiking poles — the experience is a lot easier — but there are sections of the trail that hiking poles don’t necessarily play well with so one might find themselves using all for limbs on the ground or looking for alternative routes.

We were treated with a great lookout point with an opening in the trees just when we needed to take a break.  Very few people were around so this was perfect to sit back and take in the sun while the day was still early.

Taking a breather at this lookout point. Taking a breather at this lookout point. Parts of the trail almost seems like it was built to collect water and mud.  Fortunately, it was a gorgeous sunny day. Parts of the trail almost seems like it was built to collect water and mud.  Fortunately, it was a gorgeous sunny day.

Once we continued on our way, we found that the trail almost looked like it was a trench.  This made for a really wet and muddy hike up but fortunately it wasn’t too big of a deal — last time I had to hike up the so called “waterfall” on Cranberry mountain with boots that weren’t waterproof.

The neat aspect to tackling Cascade Mountain is that there’s also the option of going after Porter Mountain within the same day.  The only thing to keep in mind is where you want to actually enjoy your lunch and I’ll get to that later.

Discussing visiting both Cascade and Porter mountain. Discussing visiting both Cascade and Porter mountain. The summit is in sight, or so we think. The summit is in sight, or so we think.

The funny thing about spotting the summit is that it never really is the summit that you see.  It is often just the beginning.  Nonetheless, arriving past the alpine tree line is my favourite moment when hiking up mountains.  The moment when I’m finally able to see past and above all the trees and can start walking around on the bald-faced top of a mountain — that is really the instant when I feel how big the world really is.  As you’ll see in the next few photos, this hike up just keeps going.

It's steep rocky climb up, but doable on a nice day. It’s steep rocky climb up, but doable on a nice day. This is what replaces the painted trail marker once we get past the tree line. This is what replaces the painted trail marker once we get past the tree line. The trail continues to take us up the bald area of the mountain. The trail continues to take us up the bald area of the mountain. We just keep going up...this is just looking back the way we came. We just keep going up…this is just looking back the way we came.

As we were reaching closer to the actual summit of Cascade Mountain, we saw a couple of people reach the base of the bald-faced summit and simply turn around.  I realize the trek must have been tiring for them but it is simply such a shame to come all the way up (probably 98% or closer to completion) and not push to the end.  The view is definitely worth it.

A signing asking people not to walk on the delicate flora. A signing asking people not to walk on the delicate flora. Taking a look back down the trail. Taking a look back down the trail. On the beautiful summit of Cascade Mountain. On the beautiful summit of Cascade Mountain.

Once we finally arrive at the summit, my friends and I sit down to enjoy a snack or two.  I actually wanted to eat lunch here (com’on, what a view!) but they wanted to move on to Porter Mountain after spending less than 15 minutes on the summit.  This is where you begin to realize how everyone’s priorities differ.  Nevertheless, I wanted to tackle Porter Mountain as well so I begrudgingly obliged and we trekked back down the summit and began following the trail signage that would lead us to Porter.

Unfortunately, it was even muddier than the way up Cascade and we were merely crossing from one mountain to another without a major descent.  As the day got warmer, it also got even muddier on the way down back to the parking lot as we eventually found out later.

We decide to take the path towards Porter Mountain. Might as well try and summit another mountain! We decide to take the path towards Porter Mountain. Might as well try and summit another mountain! The up and down muddy path on route to Porter Mountain. The up and down muddy path on route to Porter Mountain.

After a relatively uneventful and not-too-exciting-but-quite-muddy trek to Porter Mountain, we discovered that the summit wasn’t really open like it was on Cascade.  The small bald spot on Porter Mountain was actually quite busy with fellow hikers but we sat down and enjoyed our lunch with a slightly obstructed view.

In hindsight, as much as I liked the fact that we tackled Porter Mountain as well, I would have preferred simply enjoying more time on Cascade Mountain.  Yes, it got busier as the day went on but sometimes it’s just about quality time on a quality summit.

Lunch with a grand view. Lunch with a grand view.

After lunch, we made our way back down the trail but encountered a significant amount of traffic.  I pretty much stowed my camera back into my pack the remainder of the way back down the mountain.  It made for a much more enjoyable and easier descent.  Cascade Mountain is one of my favourites in the Adirondacks and I’d love to return in the autumn one day.