Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2

I’m very excited to share with you all the details of my Africa (Kenya/Tanzania) trip, and hopefully it helps you plan your own trip, encourages you to visit these places, or at the very least teaches you about another culture in another part of the world. I loved my Africa experience. To catch you up on my trip, check out all my Africa posts:

Africa I: Planning Logistics + Budgets + Immunizations + Clothing/Gear + Getting There
Africa II: Kenya Stop1, Baby Elephants
Africa III: Kenya Giraffes, Karen Blixen and Artcaffe
Africa IV: Arriving in Moshi + The Good Hope School
Africa V: Kilimanjaro Details
Africa VI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 1
Africa VII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 2
Africa VIII: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 3
Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4
Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5
Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7


I left off in my last post at the end of day 1 of our Kilimanjaro climb, with Erica and I camping out with Zara Tours at the Machame Hut. Now it’s time to face day 2, and head to the Shira Camp. This stretch is about 3,000ft of gained elevation, and estimated to take 4-6 hours. This was one of my favorite and most memorable days on the trail.


Above and below are images from the morning at the Machame Hut. The fog lifted, and we could actually finally see Kilimanjaro. Up until now we couldn’t even see the mountain. It was such a relief to wake up to clear skies and see the mountain.


We still have a LOT to go! Eek.


The above photo is our tent at the Machame campsite in the morning. Notice it’s damp from the dew, and a bit muddy.


To the right of our sleeping tent is our food tent and then off in the distance is our toilet tent. Yup there’s a toilet in there just for me and Erica. Spring for the toilet tent- it’s worth every penny.


Okay, enough of our morning at the Machame hut as it’s time for us to hike onward to the next campsite. I love that this chunk of trail is above the jungle layer, so it’s much drier and sunnier. Plus between 8a-12p it was relatively fog-free, so it was extra warm. This is why I suggest dressing layers. When if was foggy and over night it was very cold, so I assumed the day would be cold as well, and I was wrong. I immediately took off some layers when we started the day.


Erica and I were hiking at different paces, so we decided to split up. Erica was taking lots of photos and thereby, pauses on the trail. I needed to keep on moving as I was anxious to reach the tougher portions of the trail while I still had energy. Plus, everytime I took a break it was tough to get moving again. At this point Erica hiked with our lead guide Bruce, and our assistant guide Thomas and I hiked together. Thomas is in the red above.


With the fog out of the way, the views were incredible. This really was my favorite hiking day and I think it’s obvious from the photos.


Above, Thomas took this photo of me mid-route. You can see Bruce and Erica in the background. This was a steep day, but equally rewarding.


Up we go!!


There’s a fun spot where you can hike off trail to the top of these rocks to snap some fun photos. You can see the jungle layer below and the fog. I could tell the fog was creeping up as the day went on, so I was doing my best to out-hike it.


From this same spot above, you could see the prize: the top of Kilimanjaro. It’s crazy to think that in a few days I would be standing WAAAY up there. Every time I looked at the peak all I could think was, “how are we going to do this?!”.


Up we go, and as I struggled with my light backpack, it’s all put into perspective when the porters carrying so much weight on their necks out hike you. The seem to hike at a jogging pace. It’s so impressive.


Above is a cute photo of Thomas on the trail. I like to follow his steps, so I always have him lead. You’ll see his back in most of my photos for this reason.


Up, up up! You can see above, the fog is catching up to us.When the fog hits, it get ssignificantly colder, and it also makes it so you can’t see more than 10 feet in front of you. Bye, bye good views.


It officially sets in as we stop for a lunch break at the top of a big uphill portion of the climb. Thomas gave me a yummy boxed lunch and we ate and put on more layers. My guess is it was around 11:30/12pm?


We continue onward toward the Shira campsite. Before the fog rolled in, I heard fellow hikers say they could see the campsite far in the distance. Now, I wasn’t able to see much in front of my feet. There was a bit of scrambling as the path went through a rocky area, but Thomas helped me through it all.


My reward for being speedy through all the uphill today was arriving at camp around 1p (I think). That meant I had from 1pm until bedtime to relax and enjoy my time.



Not long after I arrived the fog started to lift! That meant for the whole afternoon I could lay out in the sun enjoying it’s warmth while I listened to my ipod. It was such a meditative time, and I listened to the new Coldplay album which I’ll forever associate with this climb. Every time a song from that album comes on the radio, I’m taken back to feeling like I was in heaven on top of the world in the warmth of the sun.


Above the fog slowly slips away.


Above is our meal tent, sleeping tent (in yellow) and our toilet tent to the left.


At sunset it started to get chilly, but it was so beautiful.


Even the porters were taking pictures. You’d think they’d be used to the beautiful view, but  even they had to snap some photos.


At sunset the clouds shifted away and illuminated Kilimanjaro. We are going waaaaay up there! Unfortunately, my night shots from this campsite didn’t come out well, but you’ll have to check out Erica’s night photography when she posts about it. We could see every star at night and her camera was able to capture it all beautifully.

Yes, this was definately my favorite day of hiking and relaxing on the mountain.


(Me and my buddies on a safari)

Guess who’s back! I survived hiking Kilimanjaro, a finger infection on the Serengeti, and stomach sickness on Zanzibar (more really for like 85% of the trip). Turns out my stomach can’t digest food in Africa. I’ll admit, that put a damper on things, but I still had an incredible, invaluable time in Kenya and Tanzania.

I arrived in NYC last night and made it into Connecticut after that to see family. I downloaded most of my photos (hundreds) so it’ll take time to edit and go through all of that, but you can expect a tons of posts on Africa. First I’ll give you a “24-hours in Kenya” guide, as that was basically all the time I had in Nairobi, but it was packed with fun. Next I’ll tell you all about Kilimanjaro, the route, the meals, and our experience with Zara Tours. Then I’ll share all about the Nomad Tours safari and Zanzibar visit. I really hope these posts serve as a guide to your future Kenya/Tanzania trip. Be sure to also check out As Her World Turns, as my sister posts her experiences with Africa.

(I Bless The Rains Down In) Africa

(Me and my buddies on a safari)

The time has come! Tomorrow morning, bright and early, I begin my adventure to Africa! I’ll be away for a while, but I’ve pre-posted daily events for each day I’m gone, so be sure and check the blog for updates of fun things to do around Los Angeles.

Will all of this fit in my bags?! Today I’m finalizing the details and figuring out what I can leave behind. Eek!

Once I’m back, expect a FULL recap of my journey. I’ll be exploring Nairobi (feeding elephants and giraffes), venturing into Tanzania to climb Kilimanjaro, and then embarking on a safari into the Serengeti, before ending my journey on the white sand beaches of Zanzibar. I will be meeting up with my sister (As Her World Turns) as she is mid-trek into her very long African journey. We will be climbing with Zara Tours and then safariing with Nomad Tours.

Follow along with up-to-the-second updates on my instagram (LifeAbsorbed). Erica and I will be using the #sistersonsafari as a way to track all our posts on social media, enjoy!

Below is the theme song for my trip 🙂

Secret Stair Walk #12: Echo Park Lake Victorians

—  In 2012 I had the goal to do all 42 walks from my book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I was 10 walks shy of meeting my goal, but thats means I get to enjoy the Secret Stair walks in 2013! These posts are to (hopefully) convince you to buy the book and get out there to explore the secret stairs around LA. Enjoy!  —

Finally it’s time to share a Secret Stair walk that I’ve been waiting a long time to do: walk #13 Echo Park Lake Victorians. Echo Park Lake has been through a lengthy renovation and in June it finally reopened all clean, shiny and new. It was the perfect time to complete that walk from my book.


Ooh a fancy head. I can’t remember who this was… but now you should come check it out for yourself.


When they cleaned out the lake they kept this flowers which are symbolic to the history of the lake. On we walk…


Stair time! I’ll admit, there aren’t a whole lot of stairs in this walk, but it was hilly and that should count for something.


We did pass some homeless people packing up and starting their day, and I would recommend only doing this walk during daylight hours. The trash residue tells you what happens here at night.


But the view from the walk way if awesome.


We looped back down by the lake.


It’s so clean and pretty now!


See, we climbed some stairs.


These stairs lead us into the Victorian neighborhood which is nestled in Echo Park in the shadow of downtown.


There was a cute dog running around proudly in front of one of the Victorians.


This section of LA is often seen in movies and tv. For example, these tourists are taking their picture in front of the old Charmed house on Carroll Ave. Also on this street is the house recently seen on Mad Men (Don Drapers childhood home). It’s a beautiful block and I highly recommend exploring this area.

Happy Secret Stair Walking!

Secret Stair Walk #17: Fellowship Park

—  In 2012 I had the goal to do all 42 walks from my book, “Secret Stairs, A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of LA” by Charles Flemming. I was 10 walks shy of meeting my goal, but thats means I get to enjoy the Secret Stair walks in 2013! These posts are to (hopefully) convince you to buy the book and get out there to explore the secret stairs around LA. Enjoy!  —

A couple weeks ago I ventured out on Secret Stair walk #17: Fellowship Park, up in Echo Park’s hills. I really enjoyed this walk, as it really felt like I stumbled on a hidden gem in Los Angeles.





Echo Park feels so quiet up in the hills, it’s easy to forget how close to downtown it is. But occasionally you’ll reach a hilltop and catch a glimpse (like above) of city life.


This was a fun diagonal set of stairs connecting two residential streets.



Hills and hills and hills…




Such a beautiful day for a secret stair climb. The flowers are blooming and spring is coming!


The above photo shows you my favorite part of this walk. That staircase to the right of the garage seems like it’s private and leading to someones residence, but really it’s a little hidden pathway. Like the wardrobe that leads to Narnia, these steps lead to Fellowship Park.


This seemingly private staircase changes from rough steps to a well manicured pathway, with it’s own babling brooks following alongside.


This land was formally a religious compound but now is shared land with several little homes along it’s path. There are also several gates you have to pass through, making it feel like you’re trespassing but it’s technically public land. Isn’t the cute house perched on this land adorable? The hammock is right along the path and allows for excellent views of downtown.


The path topography keeps changing! See the mailboxes? There are signs of life along this secret path.


It’s a two seater at the perfect sunset spot.

I liked this area so much that mid-walk I had to give it a thumbs up! Notice the path change again. On to dirt!


Eventually, the path ends at a gate leading to a main road. The signs say “no trespassing” but that must have been put up by neighbors hoping to hide their LA gem. And I was back on the road hunting for more secret stairs.



You know how I love doors, and here are some gates! I just love the texture and colors (which were more vibrant in person).

And that concludes another Echo Park Secret Stair weekend expedition.

Mount Whitney Hike Part 1

Finally, my Mount Whitney post is here! It was so hard narrowing it down to these images, and even harder to take them down to low-res so they can fit on this site. So painful, but alas, I want to share them with you and that is the only way.

First let me start with the itinerary breakdown and altitudes:

Sunday: Arrive in Lone Pine (3,000 ft) by late afternoon, check in at the visitors center (get permits/wag-bag), then drive up to Horseshoe Meadows Campground (10,000ft) to set up camp and spend the night. (This was highly recommended to us, to help us adjust to the altitude and prevent altitude sickness. I really think it helped.)

Monday: Up at 5am, pack-up and drive down the mountain, then back up a different mountain to the Whitney Portal (8,000 ft). Have a breakfast at the cafe there, then start the 6 mile trek with our group (and all our gear on our backs). Arrive at Trail Camp (12,000 ft) at 4:45p, set-up camp, dinner, bed.

Tuesday: Up at 2am, hit the trail by 3:15am with our day packs. Hike up the 99 switchbacks, then climb across the mountains to reach the Summit of Mount Whitney at 7:30am (14,500 ft). Climb back down to base camp (5mi), pack up gear and then continue 6 miles down the mountain. Arrive at the Whitney Portal at 6:10pm. Drive back to LA! Get into Los Angeles at 11:30p. Done!

Now that you know all that we did (22 miles!) in 2 days… insanity, right? Why do it? What’s there to see? Well, these photos can answer all of these questions. We got to see untouched nature that only other hikers going through our experience get to see. There’s no road to Whitney, no shuttle, nothing. It’s hike in- hike out. Also, pushing your body to it’s physical limits is exhilarating. When your body is saying “stop, I want to sit!” and your mind is saying “Keep going, you can do this! You’re strong!” it’s an amazing feeling. Did you know Mt. Whitney is the highest hike-able mountain in the continental US?

Mount Whitney Part 1 is from Sunday night in Lone Pine to Trail Camp on Monday evening. For more information and expert info on Whitney, check out Modern Hiker.

(Left) This is a board of temperatures and altitudes you can see in the beautifully designed Visitors Center. Stop in here as soon as you get into Lone Pine. Be sure to read up on how to use a wag-bag (yes, you have to carry out EVERYTHING). At the visitors center at 5pm, my car registered the temperature at 93 degrees. Then we made the drive up to Horse Meadow Campground (Right), stepped out of the car at 5:45p and it was 50 degrees. Step one: put on pants.

Our first camp was in a valley at a 10,000ft elevation. There were maybe 20 other people spread out over a giant meadow. While setting up our tent, there’s no doubt in my mind that we heard bears roaring far away in the valley. We were in prime bear territory and had to be careful to lock-up all our food (and any scented items) in the bear lockers. Bears will break a car door if they smell food in there. I was extra careful. We had a rough night of sleep, given all the animal sounds we could hear echoing in the valley. Not ideal, knowing we had a huge hiking adventure in store the following day.

Our alarm went off at 5am, and it took us over an hour to pack up our tents in the dark (and freezing cold). We then drove down the mountain and then back up a different mountain to the Whitney Portal, and arrived at 7:15a.

(Left) Here is my gear (minus the bear canister). It first weighed in around 27lbs, but then after swapping items around my guess is the final weight of my pack was closer to 35lbs. This was a lot, but lower compared to a lot of people in my group. (Right) We shared a standard pancake from the cafe (yup, 3 plates to carry it!) and then it was time to hit the trail!

The terrain for the first 2 miles are woodsy switchbacks with the occasional water way to pass over. The higher you get, the less woodsy it becomes.

After the woodsy switchbacks, you’ll reach a sign advertising Lone Pine Lake .1 miles off the path. It’s worth the .1 of extra hiking. Lone Pine Lake is picture-perfect and a great place to refill water. The water is crystal clear and creates a mirror effect and it was my favorite lake of them all.

After a short rest, we continued on because we’ve got many miles to go! The above images illustrate how a terrain of steep rocks can lead you to a flat green valley which is a temporary relief from the incline. The landscape was constantly changing and you never knew what would be around the corner.

The image on the left is Mirror Lake (not as mirrored as Lone Pine Lake, am I right?) where we stopped to rest and refill water. The image on the right shows you Mirror Lake after we hiked for 20 minutes. Parts of the trail were so steep that even in 20 minutes, the last place you rested would then become a dot to you.

I had to share the heart knot in the tree. How sweet. (Right) We got to pass mules early in the trek, who were bringing supplies to workers doing maintenance high-up on the trail, and here they are returning down the mountain. They move SO fast with SO much weight on their backs… I have sympathy for them.

But on we must go! Higher! Steeper! Where is the campsite?? Is it around this corner? No. Is it around this corner? No. This one? YES! Finally we made it to our campsite.

This is Trail Camp, over 12,000ft. We set-up camp, filtered water at the local lake and then added some layers because if we learned anything from the night before, as soon as the sun starts setting the temperature drops. This is where I am ending part 1, given that this was the relief portion of our hike. It was only temporary though, as we realized the ants on the mountain in front of us were actually people climbing the near-invisible trail we were going to climb in another 6 hours. We were all anxious.

Hiking Mt. Baldy

I didn’t get to post anything yesterday because I spent the day high-up in the clouds, climbing Mount Baldy. It’s about a 45 minute drive outside of Los Angeles and an all day adventure. Modern Hiker has all the logistical details and maps HERE. For me and my friends this is more of a training hike for Mt. Whitney, so we brought along our big backpacks and weighed it down with water. It was quite a challenge.

The hike begins as a fire road and then becomes a steep uphill trek. On big hikes like this one it’s easiest to focus on the next “marker” and not the top (since it’s so far away). Our first marker is the midway point to the top, which is the Sierra Clubs green cabin. When we started it was a tiny dot… and we inched closer and closer.

.. until finally we reached this cabin. For a small donation you can use their chairs to rest and fill up on water. There is often a guide staying at this cabin so you can learn something about the mountain and ask questions. They even have an outhouse. This cabin is a great place to rest.

I was told that specific Sierra Club guides have a key to this cabin, and you can event pay a little money to stay here over night if you wish. The above photo shows the sleeping quarters and the view from the cabin. On the first floor of the cabin is a sink for getting fresh water, cooking, and doing laundry. In the main room clothes were drying on lines.

This was just a quick resting point for us, as we had to keep moving. Shortly after the above photo was taken, we ran into a rattle snake. Thankfully I was in the rear and didn’t have to see the snake, as my heart would have leapt out of my chest and jumped off the cliff we were hiking.

It was quite steep, and reminded me of the last scene of the Sound Of Music as they climb through the Alps (except we obviously weren’t being chased by Nazis).

We took a short detour so we could take some fun photos by the ledge that we had been climbing toward. Getting to the top of this ledge was the next “marker” in my mind.

From that ledge, the next big push was to get to the top, which for a while was so far away it was completely out of sight. It’s quite disheartening to not even be able to see the top. But higher and higher we went, just as breathing became much harder. Every breath was quickly followed by another. And I had to take short pauses every few steps. I might be slow, but I kept moving with my mind on the prize.

Finally, we made it to the top! We could see clouds (behind me in the photo) where lightening was striking. We had a quick lunch (as you never know if the clouds could suddenly shift towards you), caught our breath, took some photos and then headed on our way.

As hard as climbing up a mountain is, climbing down to me is SO much scarier. Gravity is pushing you down the hill, and I find my footing gets quite shaky. I have a very real fear of heights which I’ve been working so hard to eliminate. Unfortunately, I let my fear get the best of me as we hiked along the path that dropped down on either side. I had to pull myself back together and just get through it. I know that in order to learn/grow you have to do some scary/hard things, and doing this hike really helped me, despite the trouble I had in the moment.

We finally reached our next marker, the ski lift and restaurant. Here we took a restroom break, ordered some food and put our feet up. While two members of the group continued on and took the fire road to the bottom, me (and my badly blistered feet) opted for the $10 lift ride down to the car. I know we won’t have that option on Whitney, but I’m so glad I took the ride down on this hike.

Mt. Whitney is in two weeks for me, so I have to really kick it into gear. Thankfully I’m funemployed (for a little while) so I have the time to get some good hikes in.