Our hiking day typically started with an early breakfast (usually around 7:00 AM) followed by a trip to the lunch spread where we picked our snack and lunch food for the day. Danny and Julien did a nice job selecting local fresh food and we never had problems sticking to our pescatarian diet.
Day 4: Vallée des Glaciers to Courmayeur
Day 4 started with a van ride to the tiny Ville des Glaciers up the Vallée des Glaciers which eliminated a ~2 mile road walk.
Julien led us from the van to a small farm that makes Beaufort cheese. Beaufort is “produced in the Savoie region of France. The cheese is prepared using 11 liters (2.9 U.S. gal) of milk for every 1 kg (2.2 lb) of cheese desired. The milk used in one variety comes from the Tarine or Abondance cows that graze in the Alps.” And it tastes really good. The ~80 lb cheese wheels are wiped with brine and turned every few days, for at least 6 months.
Today was supposed to be a “relatively easy hike over the Col de la Seigne (8,245′)” but, of course, we were with “A” team so did a much harder (though very pretty) route that turned this into another 4,000′ plus day.
From Ville des Glaciers we hiked to the Refuge de Rocher where we started a steep climb out of the Vallée des Glaciers.
After about 4 miles and 2400′ we reached the Col de la Seigne at 8200′ and the border with Italy. At this point we could have headed down the valley into Italy but….. being the “A” team we elected to go up the ridge on our right, eventually getting to just over 9,000′.
The weather turned briefly stormy and we got our rain gear on for one of the few times.
This was definitely our longest day and by the time we started the steep, 3,000 foot down climb we were all pretty tired.
The day ended with a mile road walk to where Fabrizio could pick us up and then to our hotel in Courmayeur. We will stay here for two nights – we reverse the direction of the next day’s hike to finish again in Courmayeur.
Day 5: La Vachey to Courmayeur
After two really tough days this was a relatively easy day (still close to 3,000′ of climbing but only 9 miles long). We did this section in the reverse direction to be able to finish in Courmayeur.
Fabrizio dropped us off up the Aosta Valley, Italy for the nine mile walk back to Courmayeur
And, as usual, we ended the day with a 2500 foot descent, walking back to town and the hotel.
Day 6: La Vachey to La Fouly
Another relatively easy day …… only 3,000 feet of ascent! Which I really needed after eating too much pizza and drinking too much wine at dinner last night. And today we hike into Switzerland!
But, this being the Alps, we start the day with a steep 3 mile, 2500′ climb up to the Col de Ferret, the high point of the day at 8,300′ and the border between Italy and Switzerland. Mount Dolent (on the border between France, Switzerland and Italy) is visible to the Northwest.
We dropped down the far side of the col to get out of the wind for lunch before heading down the Val Ferret toward La Fouly.
Then down, down, down the Val Ferret toward La Fouly, where dependable Fabrizio and his van were waiting to take us the short ride to our hotel in Chapex. But we had time to stop at Gîte Alpage de La Peule for a quick beer on the way down.
At the hotel, this being Wednesday I attempted to explain what a Martini was to the nice lady bartender. We basically ended up with glasses of vodka and ice with a few olives. Good enough!
We joined part of our Tour du Mount Blanc (TMB) trekking group Wednesday, Aug 11 at the Geneva airport for the ~30 minute van ride to Chamonix. Everyone else is jet-lagged but, since we have been in France for the past week, we are feeling pretty good. Met the rest of our group and our two guides for dinner. Tomorrow is a short training hike above Chamonix.
Day 0: Chamonix
We took the cog railway up to the Mer de Glace glacier. Bert and I have done this before (when we did The Haute Route back in 2017) but it is a new experience for everyone else. We spent the day hiking up above Chamonix with amazing views.
Some folks did the 1,000 foot hike down to the glacier to see the ice cave but we elected to sit at the terrace cafe and enjoy a drink since we had already done this. Unfortunately we had our first casualty of the hike when John, a doctor from Denver, fell on some stairs and cut his shin badly enough to require stitches.
We ended up on the Grand Balcon trail descending to the rustic Chalet Caillet where we had a lovely dinner with more views. Unfortunately what was supposed to be a leisurely hike back to town turned exciting when a thunderstorm moved in suddenly. We ended up walking down, in the dark (using our cell phone lights), in the pouring rain. A great bonding experience!
Day 1: Chamonix to Les Houches
Our first day of hiking the TMB was relatively easy – we split into two groups – the “fast” hikers and the “slow” hikers. Somehow Bert and I got in with the faster hikers which meant a longer hike. We did not do the traditional TMB route for this stage but did a higher alternate that had great views of the Chamonix valley and Les Houches.
We ate lunch at the Aquillete de Les Houches.
For those of us on the “A” team, today was a ~10 mile, 3500 foot ascent day. We arrived at our hotel in Les Houches around 4:00 so had time to rinse out clothes and take a quick nap before dinner.
And this was the day that Danny (our guide) convinced me to put me hand in and ant hill, collect some ants and then lick an ant’s butt. To taste the formic acid. Tasted just like vinegar.
Day 2: Les Houches to Les Contamines
Another tough day in the alps – very warm. I had some problems on the last climb of the day, a steep 700 foot ascent. I just could not catch my breath near the top of the climb and had to stop for a bit. Think it might’ve been the altitude. But…. after a rest and a drink felt better for the hike into town (Les Contamines).
Had beautiful views all day and lunch on a glacier stream we could rest our feet in was pretty sweet. Another 3,000 foot day!
Day 3: Les Contamines to Les Chapieux
A very tough day, over 4,000 feet of ascent today. Hike started along an old Roman road that rises to the Plan des Dames. From there we climbed up to the Col du Bonhomme (7,641′) and Croix du Bonhomme (8,100′).
We had lunch at the high point today – the Croix du Bonhomme.
After a long hike down to the valley to Les Chapieux, Fabrizio (our van driver) took us to a much needed shower and bed in Bourg Saint Maurice.
After almost two years we finally made it back to France last week. Very strange flying again….. and this time with masks the entire way! We almost missed our connection at Dulles but United held our flight so we arrived bright and early at Charles de Gaulle last Wednesday to begin a four hour train journey to St-Jean-de-Losne. 26 hours after leaving the house we stepped off the train in St Jean to an empty station and no taxis.
After walking about half a mile in a mild drizzle (not complaining – temperature is a wonderful 65 degrees!) a nice lady on vacation from Morocco offered us a ride to our B&B, Les Charmilles. Beatrice, the owner, said we were the first Americans she has had since the pandemic started.
We hooked up with the shipyard manager on Friday and he took us to the drydock where they were working on Decize. She still needs a lot of fiberglass repair before the painting starts. Phillippe says it should all be done well before next year’s cruising season starts in the spring. Fingers crossed!
After meeting with Phillippe we met with the marina manager, Vasily, to discuss where our slip would be. H2O has two marinas on the Saone, here at St-Jean and about 30 kms north in Auxonne. We prefer St-Jean since it has more facilities and Vasily said that would not be a problem.
And then we spent the next few days exploring St-Jean and checking out the restaurants on the quai. St-Jean is a lovely French town of maybe 5,000 people located on the Saône river.
After a short, 10 day visit with Emilie and Francis in Colorado Springs mostly playing board games and day-drinking… we began the last leg of the trip ….
… to Palo Duro Canyon! We had planned to camp in the Canyon but decided to grab a hotel in Canyon which is only 15 minutes from the park.
We decided to do the Lighthouse Trail Loop as it includes the most iconic peak in the park. So…. up early and headed for the Canyon.
The trail starts on the Givens, Spicer, Lowry Trail and joins the Lighthouse Trail after about 3 miles. The trail skirts the bottom edge of the canyon and is reasonably flat most of the way.
We were very fortunate because the normal temperature in the canyon in late June is in the low 90’s but we had overcast skies, a light drizzle and mid-70’s. Not so good for pictures but much better for hiking.
It started to drizzle when we hit the top and the scramble to the top is very steep so we did not spend a lot of time on the top but the views were great.
And…. that pretty much finished off our grand tour of the northwest…. 5600 miles, lots of great hikes and some stunning scenery. All that remained was a 9 hour drive to Houston and…. Martini Night!
Up early (June 15) to beat the heat and headed to the Spiral Jetty and the Great Salt Lake.
Then we walked the mile or so out to the current shoreline (the water has been high enough in the past to completely cover the jetty).
We left the Great Salt Lake just as it was starting to get uncomfortably warm (about 8:30) and drove to our campsite just east of Salt Lake City (near the Alta Ski Resort in the Wasatch Mountains).
We were a bit worried because the temperatures kept rising through the afternoon, reaching the upper 90’s in town. But our campsite is 2,000 feet above SLC and the temperature was consistently 20-25 degrees cooler.
After setting up camp, doing a short hike and getting cleaned up we put on our best campwear and headed back down the mountains. A high school friend of mine (Linda Burr) who I had not seen since high school contacted me via facebook and invited us to dinner – their place is only 30 minutes from our camp.
We had a lovely time and drank too much of course. Next morning we were up bright and early for a little 8 mile, 3,000 foot hike up into the Wasatch Mountains.
And, as luck would have it, Clifford Pugh and his husband John were staying the next canyon over in Park City (though not in a tent) and invited us over for dinner.
So, after two nights of lovely camping and wonderful dinners with friends we left Utah heading toward Colorado.
After three mostly lovely days in Neskowin we headed back south and east on June 12. Neskowin, after nearly 3,000 miles, was the end of our outbound journey. Next stop is the Malheur National Forest in eastern Oregon.
Had another lovely campsite next to a mountain stream. Nice cool night in the 40’s, perfect for sleeping but Bert’s back is giving her problems so we elect to get a room for the following night. Found a little 4-room lodge along the Payette River in the Boise National Forest. Management of the hotel is a bit iffy but we have our own private hot-springs fed tub out the back!
Except for the folks in one of the other rooms celebrating a 50th birthday accidently walking into our room in the middle of the night we had a nice stay. Walked to the river where the hot springs run down the side of the hill to merge with the cold river water. But it is very hot so we cut the hike short.
Up early the next morning to get a short hike in before the heat kicks up. Rode our bikes a couple miles to the Kirkham Ridge trailhead and started up! The Trail climbs the mountains on the north side of the Payette River valley.
After the hike we packed up and headed towards Utah. We realized last night (after pizza and beer) that we actually have an extra day before our campsite reservations near Salt Lake so we have two easy days of travel and, at Bert’s urging, we added the Spiral Jetty to the itinerary.
We also decided to ignore Google and headed west on the river road (Ponderosa Pine Scenic Route) hoping it would be more scenic and we were not disappointed.
After a short stop in Ketchum (Sun Valley) for lunch and to pay our respects to Ernest….
… we headed on to the Western Inn in Tremonton, Utah.
We had two days of lovely weather and one rainy day but all of them were cool (compared to Houston!).
And we did one non-beach hike that was wet and muddy with almost no views. We had wanted to repeat the Cascade Head hike we did in 2019 but the trail was closed (Covid?) so we switched to another trail (the Rainforest Trail).
We did not finish the hike as the trail became more and more overgrown as we progressed.
After three days of beach walks and wine on our balcony overlooking the Pacific we headed back east…. Houston is calling!
We arrived in Whitefish, Montana on June 3. With the wedding planned for the afternoon of the 5th we have a day to hike in Glacier National Park (GNP), which is only 30 minutes from downtown Whitefish. The wedding (Karyn Mathison and Samir Jerij) will be outside on the shores of Whitefish Lake. Karyn is my old buddy Dave’s only daughter. The wedding had been planned for 2020 but the pandemic caused a one year shift.
Snyder Lake Hike
Up early and heading to the park which turned out to be a good thing. You have to have a “Entry Ticket” which is valid for 7 days. I think they are trying to control the number of people coming to the park since it is one of the most popular national parks in the country. Fortunately Dave told us about this so we got our ticket months ago.
At Dave’s suggestion we decided to do the Snyder Lake hike (9 miles and about 2400 feet of ascent). It’s an out-and-back hike.
After our hike as we drove through the park we saw a bear. Most of the bears I’ve seen in national parks have been from a road. I think they like stuff that grows near roads.
After a morning bike ride around Whitefish we put on the fancy duds we brought just for the wedding and caught a shuttle to the lodge on the lake.
We caught the shuttle back to town (and accidently ended up at the after party with the youngsters but pretty quickly realized we were out of our league and headed back to the hotel).
Last Hike in GNP
On our last day in Whitefish we hooked up with Emerson and Linda for a last (hangover) hike in GNP. We did one of the prettiest (and most popular) hikes in the park, the Avalanche Lake Trail
After three days of fun in Montana we head west on June 7.
Our first camping/hiking spot on our way to Montana was in the Big Horn National Forest in Wyoming. We had a lovely campsite on a mountain stream.
After we got camp set up I did a short hike up the hill above our camp.
The next morning we did a bike/hike adventure that turned into a bigger adventure (of course) than planned. We didn’t make it to the end of the trail which was okay since it looked to be still snow covered.
We had planned to stay two nights in the Big Horn but after checking our travel time to Montana (more than 10 hours!) we decided to head north a couple hundred miles to make the following day more reasonable. So, we said goodbye to our lovely camp and headed to Billings.
Zero day in Tucson. Spent the morning setting up my next two town stops (Oracle and Kearny). I am feeling pretty good so I plan to continue on toward Superior. I talked to Bert and told her.
Walked to Safeway (food) and then Big 5 (fuel) this morning. On the way back got a call from El Rancho Robles and confirmed a room for Saturday in Oracle, March 20. I should get there in the morning of the third day out of Tucson so I only need to carry 2-1/2 days food. Which is good because leaving Tucson you have to climb into the Santa Catalina mountains.
On the way back from shopping I stopped at a thrift store and got the closest thing I could fine to a martini glass for martini night!
Day 7, Thur, Mar 18, AZT 164 to 179.1, 15.1, 4750’
Got dropped off by the Lyft driver right around 7:15 and was hiking by 7:30. Was at Hutch’s pool, the last water for a while, at 10:45. This was my first stop and was about 7 miles into the day.
Left the pool at 11:00 with about 3 1/2 L of water. Stopped at noon for lunch at about mile nine. I am 3 miles from my planned campsite and 6 miles from Lemon Creek. Two hikers just passed me as I was finishing up my lunch. Her name was KC, not sure about the guy. They left from Molina campground this morning so they are moving quite a bit faster than me.
Damn, what a day! No place to camp at the planned spot so decided to push on to Lemon Creek. 4,750’ day and I am totally wiped! Legs are cramping from the effort so I am using an electrolyte tablet and also took two ibuprofen.
Sumerhaven is at 5 miles tomorrow (but some more climbing- 1200 feet). Restaurant opens at 10:30. Have cell coverage so texted Bert.
Definitely my hardest, longest day so far- got to camp about 4:30 after hiking/Rock scrambling nearly 9 hours.
Denise, Neal and Sampson are my camp buddies. They started from Hutch’s Pool this morning. Denise and Neal are section hiking so have lots of food (Denise gave me a bit of chocolate!). They sort of adopted Sampson when he joined their camp going over Mica Peak. The way he told it he got to Manning Camp (you need a reservation there) and started crying because he didn’t think he could go on and they heard him and invited him to their camp. So now they are hiking together. Sampson and I talked for a bit – he is a PCT veteran and about my age.
The range of experience on the AZT is huge. I have met triple-crowners as well as people doing their first thru-hike. I would not recommend the AZT as a first thru-hike. It’s a tough trail.
Day 8, Fri, Mar 19, AZT 179.1 to 194.7, 15.6, 4,500’
Left camp about 6:45 AM. It was 32° this morning when I woke. First couple miles are pretty tough with a lot of steep sections and I’m still tired from yesterday‘s killer climb. My plan is to be at the restaurant at 10:30 when it open so I can get some breakfast. We’ll see how that goes. Used my micro spikes for the first time on a particularly slippery snowy section and they definitely help.
Got to Summerhaven around 9:15 so I had to wait an hour for the restaurant open. I was the only customer while I ate. Unfortunately they didn’t have any breakfast stuff so I got a burger. Drank a lot of water.
Was back on the trail about 11:15. Another tough day, I’m still feeling the effects of yesterday‘s big climb. Got to the water tank where I’m camping about 4:30 PM. So that is two 15+ mile days in a row, and over 9,000’ of ascent!
Coverage is good here so I called Bert and we talked a little bit. Tomorrow is a short walk into Oracle. I hit the road at about 2 1/2 miles. Last nights low was 32° but tonight should not get much below 50 according to the weather report.
Day 9, Sat, Mar 20, AZT 194.7
Around 7:30 PM last night as I was just fixing to stop reading and go to sleep I heard some noises outside my tent. I said hello a few times and got no response so I got up. It was completely dark and I found a hiker looking for water. She was pretty funny. I asked her if she always hiked at night and she said yes because she always got a late start. I showed her where the water was and as I was talking to her two more hikers, obviously with her, showed up. Her name was Isabell.
Broke camp and was walking by 6:20 AM. I’m getting pretty good at breaking camp, and the fact that the temperature this morning was in the mid 40s instead of the low 30s certainly helps. Feeling much better this morning, I think I’m getting over the climb out of Tucson. Took the Cody trail to Oracle and was sitting in a little café ordering breakfast by 7:45 AM. Called El Rancho Robles and asked if I could get early check-in. Talked to Laura who also said the best place for groceries was the dollar general.
They have a free guest laundry so after I took my shower I headed for the laundry. Walked to the Dollar General and Circle K about a mile and a half away. They didn’t have everything I wanted but I did OK for my 3 1/2 day next section. On the way back I got a text from Carol. She is taking another hike to the American flag trail head at 7:30 AM and asked if she could take me at the same time. I said sure. I also asked her about driving me to pick up a pizza and she said she would pick up a pizza for five bucks which I said was fine.
Also looking at water in the next section and, of course, it looks tough. Definitely going to have to hit at least one water cache. Having a nice relaxing afternoon since I did everything this morning. FaceTimed with Bert and then afterwards with Francis.
Met Carol when she went to pick up my pizza. She seems very nice. She even left me a bit of fudge. But, of course, I couldn’t eat it because it might’ve had nuts in it. Watched two silly movies on Netflix and then went to bed.
Day 10, Sun, Mar 21, AZT 206.8 to 223.5 , 16,7, 2,000’
The high today in Oracle is supposed to be 69° which is 12° cooler than yesterday, so it seems like I picked a good day to take a Nero. Carol dropped me off at the Tiger Mine trail head at 8 o’clock.
Would’ve got there a bit sooner but she had to drop off David at another location before me. I almost immediately twisted my right ankle, fortunately not serious. It is now almost 4 PM and as I write this my ankle feels pretty good. This has been a very dry section. I bypassed Mountain View tank about 3 1/2 miles back assuming I would hit either a public water cat cash or get water from Cowhead tank.
Turns out I was right but I pretty much scored the last of the public water I left about a half a gallon. Tomorrow is even worse. There’s supposed to be water at beehive tank in about 3 miles.
And I will have to carry water from there all day tomorrow and even into the next day. There may be water at the Freeman Road trail head in 11 1/2 miles but I can’t count on that. It sounds like that water cash is not well-maintained. There’s a seasonal stock tank in 17.7 miles but The pump runs on our gas generator and the last report from two days ago was that it was not on.
Might be water in the trough however. I will check tomorrow during the day if I get cell coverage. I do not have cell coverage now.
At this point it looks like I need to leave beehive well with at least 3 1/2 to 4 L of water. It looks like the only water I might be able to count on is a seasonal wildlife tank nearly 23 miles ahead. So I would not hit it until five or 6 miles into the day after tomorrow.
Did not see a any other thru-hikers today. Did see one group of day hikers. Did not talk to them, just waved. Very strange. Unlike previous days where I saw three or four thru-hikers.
A couple in four-wheel-drive just drove down the wash (it’s about 5 PM). I walked over to talk to them (and ask if they had anything cold to drink). Turns out they own a hotel in Oracle, the one that’s closed. They also are the people that are servicing the water cash where I just got my water. Two nice things about this. They handed me to partially frozen half liter bottles of water. Very nice. They also gave me a heads up on the Freeman TH. They said there was a guy there doing trail magic and I could definitely count on water there. This means I don’t have to hump a ton of water from beehive tank. In fact I may be able to bypass beehive tank! This is really good news for tomorrow. Had a nice talk with them told him I was from Houston. Seem like very nice people.
Popped the blister on my left big toe. Looked at my ankles. My right ankle is a bit swollen, but it doesn’t hurt particularly so I’m not too worried. I took an ibuprofen to help with the swelling.
Day 11, Mon, Mar 22, AZT 223.5 to 234.7
Had a minor catastrophe last night. My sleep pad developed a leak. I spent a good hour trying to find the leak and sealing it. Should not be a surprise since every plant out here has needles. Looks like I succeeded since It did not lose air all night. My right ankle is still a little swollen this morning. But it feels about the same.
I have about 2 L of water this morning. Which should get me to the Freeman Road trail head without having to stop at Beehive well.
CRRRRRAAAAAAPPPPP!!! About 5-6 miles from the Freeman Road TH I slipped on some gravel and my right foot ended up behind me (I basically did the splits). At first I thought it would be okay, it hurt but not too bad but over the course of a mile it became very painful and my ankle really started to swell. Lookslike my hike is over. By the time I was 2 miles from the TH the pain we really bad. Excruciating. I managed to get in touch with Mary and arrange for her to come get me but I stil had to do the 2 miles. I took 3 extra-strength Excederin and hobbled the last two miles.
There was trial magic at the TH (Sequouia) and I was able to sit down. I arrived about 1:00 (took me 3 hours to do the five miles!). Once I sat down the pain subsided substationally. Called Bert and told her what was going on. Really bummed. Mary arrived a little before 3:00 and we drove back to her place in Sunrise. CRAP!!!