Hike #35: Westwoods Reserve Trails- Lost Lake in Guildford, CT

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A big thing I did when I lived in Los Angeles were the Secret Stair walks. That guide book got me out in the sun, visiting a neighborhood that was new to me, plenty of exercise, and all of the cheap price of a one-time book purchase. Now that it’s spring, I dug out my AMC Best Day Hikes In Connecticut hiking book and decided that I should tackle the hikes in this book during 2017. I won’t be able to do all 50 in 2017, but I certainly hope to do most of these hikes. My posts will not reveal all aspects of the hike, as I am not a replacement for owning this book, but hopefully my images can help encourage you to buy the book and follow along. Or at least inspire you to get a hike book for wherever you live and to get outside!

Now to share my first hike from this book! I started with hike #35 Westwoods Reserve Trails- Lost Lake in Guildford, CT.

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I went right to the small lot that the book described (which only holds about 5 cars by the way). I imagine street parking is allowed as overflow from the lot.. but I’m not exactly sure, so check road signs! The first thing I did was photograph the map. I ALWAYS photograph the map of the trail I’m about to climb with my cell phone, to use as reference incase I get lost. This is surprisingly helpful.

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The book clarifies this hike as “easy with moderate sections” and I would totally agree. For the most part is was small hills and wide stone paths (like photographed above) but there were short sections that involved steep climbing over rocks, up hill and down hill. I was very glad to have my hiking boots on and was glad there wasn’t more snow on the ground – too slippery!

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This path starts be taking you by the railroad tracks which meant you could hear train noises frequently along the trail.

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There are several splits in the trail, so keep vigilant looking for trail markers and confirm on the map.

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At a few points you climb down the rocks along big boulders. The book talks a lot about the types of rock, trees, and plants.. although in the snow none of this was really applicable.

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There are some steep uphill sections that lead to great water views of the lake.

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Okay this made me laugh out loud when I saw it. I have no clue what/who this group is and I refuse to google “Team Alpha Butt Stuff” for obvious reasons.

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Great views from the trail! I saw birds circling, so I imagine this is a great birding spot.

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The hike takes you from down by the water to up on large rocks high above the lake.

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This was a section where I had to use my hands to get up the boulders and then be careful not to slide down the rock faces. This is where the hiking boots really came in handy. It was also around here where I totally got lost. Since it was snowy, I figured if I followed the fresh footprints, Id eventually link back up with the trail. This theory turned out to be a good one, as it did lead me to where I needed to meet back up with the trail.. but I did end up climbing through muddy/swampy areas. So if you find yourself no longer seeing trail markers, work backward until you meet back up with the trail.

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At the furthest point in the loop, there are some watery areas with little wood “bridge” planks. It was pretty fun. Don’t fall in!

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The blue path that I was on became the orange “X” trail, which would lead me back to the parking lot.

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Snowy, but pretty! I like that this trail had a pretty wide path, and the snow actually kept it from getting crowded. I only passed two people on the trail, but I imagine on a nice day this would be a busy trek.

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Once again, you pass by the train tracks to get to the parking lot.

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One thing that is fun about doing a hike in a new-to-me area is checking out the local coffee shops after the hike as a reward. I’m not new to Guilford but it was fun to make time to visit a local coffee shop and soak up the pretty Guilford Square scenery.

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I stopped into Cilantro Specialty Foods Coffee Shop along the Guilford Green to warm up (it was a very cold day), refuel, and read up on the next hike I was headed to this afternoon.

Next up: Hike 47, McKinney National Wildlife Refuge (Salt Meadow Unit) !

Cape Cod Hike: Monomoy River Conservation Lands

After finishing our windy walk at the Coy’s Brook Wetlands, we made our way over to the Monomoy River (on the Harwich / Chatham border). It was still windy and cold, so this woodsy walk with glimpses of water views made for some good outdoor exercise given the weather. According to the Harwich Conservation Trust website this hike is 1.25 miles and the parking lot is off of Bay Rd. There were a handful of parking spots (not a ton). We were only one of two cars in the lot, so on a wintery day it’s easy to park.

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You can actually kayak along this part of the Monomoy River, but be sure to check the tide and time your visit right. My dad kayaked here and got cut up trying to exit his kayak along the newly renovated bridge area (by Route 28 on the map).

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Yay, the trail head!

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It’s woodsy walking out to the cliffside overlooking the river.

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This is the viewpoint out along the river. See the benches? On a warm day, pack a picnic!

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We did some birding as we followed the path along the cliffside.

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Eventually the water falls from view and it’s back to being a woodsy trek.

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You’ll hit an open area with power lines and you can see about the trail clearly continues along this opening..

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Following the power lines…

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And eventually you’ll follow the path to the right back into he woods where the hike loops back to the  parking lot. This was a great hike to link with the short Coy walk for a fuller workout. We also stopped in nearby Chatham at the fish pier to look for seals (and sharks.. I’m always looking for sharks).

If you’re looking for more exercise, or coffee/lunch, head into Main Street in Chatham and stroll around this super adorable street full of shops and food options.

Hike: Bells Neck Conservation Lands

This past weekend (March 4th to be exact) my parents and I ventured out into the freezing cold winds to get some exercise out in Cape Cod. After a week of 60 degree temps, we were SO COLD doing this walk (as you can see from our Michelin Man layers). I feel like the photos show how cold it was, but don’t convey just how windy it was. We are lucky none of us were blown into the West Reservoir of Bells Neck. I’m sure Ill do this walk again in the summer and share the differences!

We started by parking at the lot on the right of the map and then we worked our way around the water clockwise. I want to note that this was a pretty easy walk, 50 minute walk. From the parking “lot” (only room for a handful of spots) to the Fish Ladder, it was a pretty wide path, not much close brush and had pretty views throughout. The loop from the Fish Ladder back to the car, that north side is more woodsy, and a much tighter trail. In the summer I can see this being over grown and scratchy/itchy on bare legs (in shorts), which clearly wasn’t a problem today in our arctic layers.

Difficulty: EASY level #2 (1 being a paved path – 5 being an intense up hill hike)

Length: 2.75 miles according to the website, but I imagine it depends which route you go. It took us about 50 minutes, and we stopped for pictures and to look for birds.

Best Time to go: This will be busy (limited parking) + over grown in the height of summer (ticks!). Slightly off season is probably best. Spring/Fall. It’s also a great place to kayak!

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Map Provided by the Harwich Conservation Trust

For the original map + official details about the hike click HERE. Above is my version with the pink path showing you the route we took.

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Look at the level of layers required! I think we just had an especially rough day, wind wise.

The map up above has “B”s marking the benches along the loop. It’s probably more fun to sit when you aren’t being blown over into the water.

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The plants and branches were frozen to the water along the edges.

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This is the view of the Herring River on one side of the fish ladder.

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Above is the view of the West Reservoir. So peaceful. Given the cold temps, I think we only passed one person on this trail (and another person along the bike path). So still.

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Above and below are shots of the fish ladder, currently unoccupied by herring fish but soon will have fish jumping along the ladder.

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After the fish ladder we continued on to make this a loop along the water. This route takes you by privately owned cranberry bogs. Such a fun punch of color in a wintery landscape. Keep an eye out for “trail” tags marked on the trees showing you were to jump back into the woods along the path.

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These two images above show you that the wide path snakes along the edge of the property untimely meeting up with the bike path.

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Here’s the entrance to the bike path, which also has a map of the area posted for reference. When you reach the bike path take a right and continue on the path until you see a clearly marked path back toward the water, also on the right.

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This is the view along the path- pretty!

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Above is my Dad in giant layers trying to hide behind a tiny map. Can you spot Waldo? This is the path heading off from the bike path. You can see, it’s easy to spot.

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This part of the path gets a little narrower, and you can see that poison ivy+ticks might make this part tricky in the summer.

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We did an added little loop on a peninsula that juts out into he water, and then made out way back to the car.

I was with my birding parents, so they were constantly on the lookout for birds and we did end up seeing a massive blue heron. It was good at hiding among the tall grass by the water, so I don’t have a photo of it worth sharing. Keep a lookout for them when you’re exploring the area.

As windy and as cold as it was, we were really happy to get out of the house and get some exercise along a woodsy path (that cuts down on the wind!) and with pretty views of the water. I’ll for sure be doing this walk again during a different season and show the contrasting images.

 

Is Vacation Really Over?

It’s time to face facts- it’s 2015. Since Ive been on vacation the past few days I haven’t been able to really start my resolutions. Tonight I head back home and tomorrow really brings the start to 2015. As part of my resolution list, Ive decided to add a challenge a friend of mine is also doing: 100 miles by Valentines Day. It’s really a doable goal, and my go at it starts tomorrow. I also get the keys to my apartment tomorrow (woo hoo!) and I become a New Haven resident. I’m so excited to be down there and explore more as a local. And this begins all my 2015 adventures!

Before I move on just yet, I’ll catch you up to speed with the remaining Cape Cod adventures.

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We had a very cold, but clear day this past week where the Meyer’s got in a car and drove over to Brewster’s Wing’s Island (the John Wing Trail). This is a popular birding spot and a quick 1.5 mi (?) loop. We followed the trail on boards across a marsh land, and then made our way through some woods out to the beach. The tide was extremely low creating some fun tide pools to explore. Off in the distance we could see different clammers and oyster catchers collecting their goods. I highly recommend this path, as it was short (although you could walk the beach and make it a longer walk), had beautiful views and was a fun landscape to explore (even in the winter!). The Cape Cod Museum of Natural History is also located by the parking lot of this hike. Make an afternoon of it, and check it out!

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Next we headed over to Eagle Point, also in Brewster for a very quick loop in their wooded lands. This loop is wooded, but along Upper Miller Pond so it has so beautiful views. It was also fun walking through the trees around 3:30p, as the sunlight cast a warm light on the trees.

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This hike is short and interesting because these are Punkhorn Trails. There aren’t any paved roads leading to cabins hidden in these woods, so the people living here look for complete privacy. I wouldn’t go hiking here at night, as this type of hard-to-reach place attracts people and activities that sound more scary than fun. But during the day, it’s an interesting web of trails to explore.

Another night we decided to walk to Neel’s Beach (Harwich Port), walk the beach, and then walk back. We did this right at sunset, so we got some great beach photos and made it home before it was dark.

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It’s time to pack up, and say “see you later” to the cape as we make our way back to Connecticut. Time to go back to real life, and I’m excited to get a start on all the 2015 fun!

Africa XI: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 6 and 7

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

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I left off in my last post at the end of day 5 of our Kilimanjaro climb, with Erica and I camping out with Zara Tours at the Barafu Camp (14,930 ft). Now it’s 11pm that same night and it’s time to begin our ascent to the summit of Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak at 19,340 ft). This is the start of the climb I’ve been dreading. Assuming we don’t get too sick from the cold and altitude, we should arrive at Stella Point around 6/6:30a to see the sun start to rise and then it’s just a slow low-incline for the next 45 minutes to the actual highest point (Uhurhu Peak). Oh yea, and then we have to get down. Easy-peasy, right?

I should start by saying, my night photos really don’t come out so from the start of our climb at 11pm until about 6am I kept my camera packed away in my backpack. So I don’t have photos to share with you of those 7 hours of hell, but I can assure you the terrain is extremely steep and it goes on and on forever. Hiking without a watch in the dark meant I had no sense of time but the hours seemed to go by so slowly as we inched our way to the top.

When you hike this steepness in the dark, when you look down you see the headlamps of the people on the train below you and above you see the headlamps of the people ahead of you… although those lights seem to stretch all the way into the stars. You can’t tell where the land ends and the sky begins. This really is a marathon hike. The view at 2am and the view at 4am were identical- pitch black with just the headlamps above and below. This plays mindgames with you. How could we have been hiking for so many hours, but it feels like we haven’t moved!?

I would say around 3am I start crying. I’m so deflated, low on energy, cold (my water froze about halfway up), and it feels like we are making no progress. I’m so thankful my sister was there and started asking me questions to distract me from what we were doing. “Tell me your favorite Grandma story” (it was her 96th birthday when we began our summit trek), “who was your favorite teacher?”, “what are you going to have to celebrate when we finish the climb?” (beer and chocolate). This really helped. I also made a rule for myself that I was no longer allowed to look up, or look down. From then on I would only look at Thomas’ feet, and no more breaks. I would stop when I reached Stella Point. The best way to make it through is try to focus on one thing that can distract you all the way to the top.

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After what felt like forever, Thomas said to me “turn around” and that’s when I took my camera out and took the photo above. We were so close to Stella Point and it must have been around 6/6:30am for us to see the sun rising. While hiking I was in such a trance to cope with it all that I didn’t even notice the sun was rising until Thomas pointed it out. We are so close. I’m so low on energy that I give my camera to Thomas and he takes nearly all the photos from Stella Point on to the summit of Uhuru Peak. I feel so lucky to have made it this far and the idea of even holding a camera is not an option, so Im grateful to Thomas for taking over.

When I got to Stella Point I immediately sat down and had a bite of one of my bars. I hadn’t sat down since halfway through the climb and I’m just so tired. One of the guides has a hot water thermos and we take sips of the water. Not long after sitting Erica comes up over the peak with our guide Bruce. We had separated mid-hike and I had no sense of how close or far behind me she was. She was crying at this point, which made me start crying again too. Once you make it to Stella Point, it means you’ll make it to the summit and it felt so good to do it together.

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Here is a photo Erica took of us at Stella Point. On our way up I didn’t take photos of Stella Point, but when we start our descent I took some (later in this post). It this point I’d been resting for a little while and my hands started to shake from the cold. That’s the trick, once you stop hiking your body temperature starts to go down so you really do need to keep moving. Erica had just arrived, so she stayed longer at Stella Point with Bruce and Thomas and I kept moving on to Uhuru Peak.

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Thomas took all of these photos for me. Look at those glaciers. I had no idea what they would look like from this angle. They look huge! Up until now when we looked up at them, they looked so flat against the mountain and it’s from this angle that you can see the depth.

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It was just incredible. Even talking about it now takes me back to that feeling of awe as we slowly walked to the summit.

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With the sun rising, it was all just so beautiful. Also given that it’s sunrise, it’s the clearest (less foggy) time of the day. This is a big perk of climbing it from 11p-7a. If you climb it later in the day you risk getting up to the summit only to be covered in clouds (view-less). Also if you could see the terrain on the way up, I have a feeling most people would give up. In the dark at least we couldn’t see just how far we had to go.

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The shadows in the photo above were crazy, so I had to photoshop it a bit so you could my face. I must have hiked faster than I thought, as there really weren’t many people around me until I reached the summit.

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Did I really just climb Kilimanjaro?

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Above is the view into the crater at the top of the mountain.

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WE DID IT!! Here’s Thomas and I at the summit Uruhu Peak! We are on top of the world.

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(Above) Oh, you know, just hanging out on Kili. Typical day.

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As more people arrived they took photos by the sign and Thomas and I walked around to see each direction off the mountain.

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We are trying to buy time, as I wanted to take photos at the summit with Erica, but she was still back by Stella Point. They say you really can’t be at the peak for more than 15 mintues due to the lack of oxygen due to the altitude. I read that for example, if each breath at sea level you take in 10 oxygen units, up here for each breath you only take in 3 units. Since your brain needs oxygen to function properly, up here you feel drunk if though you’re obviously not.

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Thank goodness! Erica arrived and we took some fun photos and then I had to take off to head back down with Thomas.

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Thomas and I looped back down to Stella Point where now I was feeling well enough to pose for photos. With the sun now out it started to get warmer too.

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Here’s Thomas and I at Stella Point (18,885 ft).

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It’s  around here where I need to put my camera away and focus on getting down this crazy mountain. Up until now I had been so focused on getting up the mountain that I didn’t really think about how me we were getting down. I don’t have photos of the terrain, as my camera was away and I was just so exhausted. I felt not well the whole way down.

The terrain heading back is scree. Scree is loose rock and dirt that you basically ski/slide down with your feet. It’s not a solid path. Thankfully by sliding it means we can go down much faster than I thought… but it’s also like you’re sliding down Kilimanjaro. Scary for me as I’m so afraid of heights. You just don’t have a lot of control trying to slide down scree.

I arrived back to our campsite at Barafu Camp around 11a(?), where I immediately went to sleep. When Erica got back to camp we had lunch and then rested some more. At 2:30p we had to pack up and start our trek to our next campsite, Mweka Camp (3,100 ft). Yup in 1 day we will have gone to 19,300 ft back down to 3,100 ft, all on our two feet.

It takes 4 hours to hike down to the Mweka Camp, and after the insane night/day that we’ve had, that 4 hours feels very long. The terrain goes from dry and rocky to slippery/muddy, as you hike down in a riverbed and end up within the jungle layer again. Once I arrived at Mweka Camp (around 6:30/7pm), we ate dinner and went directly to sleep. Erica and I were both SO tired.

The following morning we hiked the 3-4 hours through the very wet rainy jungle layer to the end of the Machame Route. **Bring some type of rain jacket layer. Thomas said in this portion of the hike it’s always raining.  After signing in at the station, a bus is packed up with all the porters, guides, chef, waiter etc. It’s at this point that you really get to see how many people it took for Erica and I to get up the mountain. Wow. That’s a lot of people.

We ride the bus back into Moshi to the Springlands Hotel. Here we get our room for the night, pick up our luggage that was being stored. Then we meet back with Thomas and Bruce out in the hotel courtyard where we figure out the tip for everyone and receive our certificate for having summited Kilimanjaro.

Now when it comes to tipping, it’s very confusing. Zara gave us a 2014 tipping guide when we booked the tour, which had conflicted information from with Bruce was telling us about the process of handing out tip. For example everything we read said give the money directly to the porters, but since it’s all kept away from us, it’s hard to tell who our porters are. Bruce said Zara doesn’t want people bringing money on the mountain (to prevent the threat of getting it stolen) so tip was to be figured out back at the hotel away from where the porters are. It was all a bit confusing, but Erica and I followed the tipping guide that Zara had sent to us. This worked out to being approximately $350 each? I have no clue if this was enough or too much, but it’s what Zara had recommended. Plus it was really all I could afford to do. I hope it was enough given how good our guides, chef, waiter and porters were.

Please contact me if you have any specific Kilimanjaro questions that I didn’t answer in my posts. I highly recommend Zara Tours and specifically Bruce and Thomas. They are really the only reason Erica and I made it to the summit.

This is the final post about Kilimanjaro, and next I’ll get into the safari portion of my trip with Nomad Tours!

 

Africa X: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 5

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

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I left off in my last post at the end of day 4 of our Kilimanjaro climb, with Erica and I camping out with Zara Tours at the Karanga Valley Camp (13,100 ft) after climbing the Barranco Wall. Now it’s time to face day 5, and make our way to base camp at Barafu Camp (14,930 ft). This day is all about starting around 8am, climbing the 4 hours to Barafu where we then eat and rest to wake up at 11pm this same day and climb to the summit of Kilimanjaro (Uhuru Peak at 19,340 ft). This is the day that we’ve been working towards.

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You can see above that the morning view is clear and incredible. Between the clouds we can make out the town of Moshi down below. Note the frost on the ground and tents… it was a cold night, and it’s only going to get colder for the next 48hours.

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This is looking behind our tent up at the summit. I’ll see you summit in 24 hours.

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There’s that jungle layer down below.

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Time to pack up and get the day going. The earlier we get to base camp, the more sleep we can get to prepare us for our 11pm start for the summit.

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This was midway between the Karanga Camp and Barafu Camp… still SO far from the top of the mountain. It’s daunting and has me worried since we still have so much further to go.

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These porters are so impressive and speedy. This day is a pretty steady up hill climb, but nothing too crazy and we just took it all at a slow pace.

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Looking back down the trail mid-hike. It’s steep!

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Base camp is at the horizon line here. With the fog out of the way in the morning we could actually see where we were headed. Rare for Kilimanjaro.

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As we wind our way up to Barafu Camp, the views to the east are incredible. Thomas tells me that people use to hike this mountain in the distance but it’s no longer safe to climb. The Marangu route takes you up this side of the mountain, where the trail we’ve been on started on the west side of the mountain.

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Made it to the base camp!! It’s a steep camping area, so you do sleep on a bit of an incline.

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This photo was taken right outside our sleeping tent looking west. The summit is up to the right of the photo off in the fog. How are we still so far away from it? This is when it becomes clear that when we hike later tonight, we have a loooong way to go.

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Getting situated in our home for the next few hours (above). We arrived here around 12pm, where we ate lunch and then headed right to bed. I’m SO lucky that I actually slept for about 4 hours. They wake you up for dinner around 6pm. You eat dinner and then immediately head back to bed.

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I snapped this photo above (and below) of the sunset after we finished dinner.

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After I took this photo above, I immediately went back to sleep for the next 3 hours. At 11pm later this night we woke up and began our hike to the summit. More on that next as I talk about day 6 (the summit!) and day 7 (time to go down!) of our Kilimanjaro climb. Check back on Monday for my final Kilimanjaro post.

Africa IX: Kilimanjaro Machame Route Day 4

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

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I left off in my last post at the end of day 3 of our Kilimanjaro climb, with Erica and I camping out with Zara Tours at the Barranco Camp (12,960 ft). Now it’s time to face day 4, and tackle the Barranco Wall to then end the day at the Karanga Valley Camp (13,100 ft). This is another acclimatization day, by going extreme up hill and then going back down to a campsite that’s only slightly higher than our campsite the previous night. This day will take about 4 hours.

**Anyone climbing the mountain in 6 days would pass through Karanaga Camp and head right to Barafu Camp (at 15,300ft) which is another 4 hours further. Is doing an 8 hour day doable? Of course, but following this 8 hour day is you waking up at 11pm the same day to climb all through the night to summit the mountain. It’s this portion of the hike that after an 8 hour day, greatly lowers your success rate.

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It’s another clear morning, which is good considering the clouds and fog of the night before. We woke up in the Barranco Camp, and can you feel the cold of the photo above? I took this looking out our sleeping tent. Do you see the frost? You can also see through the clouds to Moshi below.

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Above is the reverse shot, looking behind our sleeping tent. The building there is  a newer version of the outhouses we’ve seen along the trail. It’s pretty fancy considering all those building materials had to be carried up the mountain on the porters backs.

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Finally we can see a view at the Barranco Camp.

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I hinted yesterday at the crazy day that is to come. It’s at this point in the morning that I see the tiny ants on that sheer cliff wall. That’s the trail. Crap. Oh, crap. I had no idea we would have to climb anything so steep. I am terrified of heights. I’ve tried to combat it for years, and I’m much better with it than I was as a child… but this… this is scaling a cliffside without a harness! Gah! I immediately start crying in fear. It’s after I took the above photo that I put my camera away, and decided living through this portion of the climb was more important than snapping photos. Erica did have her camera out, so when she posts about Kilimanjaro, you’ll get to see her photos.

The only thing I fear more than heights are snakes. So to get through this I kept thinking “I’d rather be on this than on a path covered in snakes… this is better than snakes…” over and over again in my head.

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The above photo is taken at the top of the Barranco Wall. I should say that while I was trembling in fear and “kissing the rock” as they call it, the porters with all their gear were jumping around us to scramble the rocks. They seemed weightless and fearless.

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I was so relieved once the Barranco Wall was done. There’s a nice flat area at the top where you can rest. I’m relieved that I survived and glad to have the scariest part of the done by 9:30am. The rest of the day was easy in comparison.

Above is the group of Americans from Florida. They are all related uncles, fathers, sons and nephews of each other and it was a present for one of the boys who graduated college- instead of a party, lets have a guys trip where we climb Kili! I think it’s brilliant. This group was super fun to hike with. They had a speaker that they hooked their ipods up to, so they were dj’ing the hike. They did a big song/cheer each time they reached camp and they were just very motivating.

I should note that one of the men in the group offered me a Werther’s Original suck-on candy, as he read that they help on the climb with little surges of energy. He was right, and I wish I had brought suck-on candies. When he saw that I liked it he gave me a handful to use for the summit day. This was really sweet of him, and little did he knows it’s significance to me. Growing up my grandma and grandpa always had this candy around the house, so I can’t help but associate it with them. When he gave me the candies, it was the day before my grandmothers 96th birthday. We started for the summit (day 5) on her birthday and it’s these candies and thoughts of her that helped me make it to the top. I am very grateful to be hiking with this group. I also ran into the man who gave me these candies at the summit and gave him a big hug.

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Back to our celebration of finishing the Barranco Wall. I took some jumping photos of Erica above the clouds… and some standing ones (above).

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Above is another European man that I spent several days hiking along side. He and his girlfriend were very sweet. It’s hard to tell but where he’s standing is a cliff that drops down and the ridge beyond him is very far away… and where we are headed.

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Thomas and I kept on hiking (above) with the Florida group of guys. Since we are starting and ending our day at around the same altitude, for all the altitude we gained climbing the Barranco Wall, we now have to descend slowly over the next few hours.

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Ok, sometimes it’s not such a slow descend. It’s best to try to take it slow as this is not the time to sprain an ankle.

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Onward we go. You can see how the path snakes up to that ridge.

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This part of the hike was really enjoyable. There were clear skies and it wasn’t a super steep climb.

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The fog above started to block our view of the top of the mountain. In fact, it’s better not to think about the top of the mountain. It’s still SO far away, and yet we begin our summit trek in about 30 hours from when this photo was taken. How are we ever going to make it?

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It’s time to stay focused on getting to the Karanga Campsite. From where we are standing in the photo above, it’s a big climb down one side of the mountain to a valley where we immediately start climbing up the vertical path in the photo, and our campsite is at the top of this path.

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You can see above that the path is dirt and dusty, which makes it slippery. I actually preferred climbing up more than I did descending down into the valley.

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We are about 10 minutes to the top, in the photo above. The views of the valley were incredible. This path was steep but nothing like the Barranco Wall, so easy-peasy in comparison.

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Thomas took this photo of me above. As one of the climbers from Connecticut pointed out “You carried 3 whales up the Barranco Wall, impressive!!” Haha. You can see in the photo the path that we took to go down into the valley. This lower valley has a river running through it (nothing huge), and it’s the last water source along the way. This means that porters were making many trips up and down the hillside to get this water for this camp and for the camp ahead. We saw porters who had come from base camp to here to get water and then walk it all the way back to basecamp. Wow. It makes our trek seem so little compared with what they do every day.

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Yay, Karanga Camp! We signed in at the ranger hut (like we do at each campsite) and then it was time to take off our boots and rest. It’s the 6 day summiter’s that can’t rest here, they continue on for another 4 more hours to base camp. Thank god that’s not us.

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Since it took us 4 hours, I would guess we arrived here around 1:30p? Some people do mini hikes from here to help get acclimated. Bruce suggested we rest, as the start of the summit was the next day and we would get very little sleep in the next 48 hours. Erica read and I listened to music. I think we played cards and wrote in our journals. It was relaxing, but the summit day is looming in my mind through it all.

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The sky stayed pretty clear into the night and the sunset cast a beautiful light over the camp.

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Above is our home for the night.

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I like the photo above of the porter on the rock above the sea of clouds. I wonder what he’s thinking.

Now it’s time for bed. Tomorrow morning we hike for 4 hours to Barafu Camp (Base Camp) where we begin our summit climb at 11pm. I just need to make it through the next 48 hours… That’s up next! Check back for the Day 5 post tomorrow.