Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Backpacking in High Mountains

Steve Gillman

The high mountains of Colorado still had a lot of snow in mid June. In fact, the Arkansas river was close to flooding here in Canon City, despite there being no rain in weeks. The snow melt was enough to raise it to its highest level in years. But my friend Mike and I were still hoping to go backpacking up high.

We had been up to 9,000 feet a couple weeks earlier and saw just one snowbank in the woods. Driving home we could see that though there was a lot of snow in the high peaks of the northern Sangre De Christo mountains, it was in patches. There were large areas without snow, even above 13,000 feet. It was time to give it a try.

We decided on a two night trip to Bushnell Lakes and possibly to the top of Bushnell Peak (13,105 feet). About this time I received a phone call. I own a backpacking website, so I get emails with questions all the time, but this was only the second time someone had called me at home. The man on the other end was calling from Texas, wondering about the conditions in the Sangre De Christos - was there too much snow?

"I hope not," I told him. "Me and a friend are headed up there tomorrow." He said he had called the forest service rangers for an area south of where we would be, and they had told him everything was still snowed in up high. He was going for a week, starting a few days after us, and wondered if they might be exaggerating. We agreed that they probably were.

Challenges Of High Mountains

It was hot when we started, even with only 13 pounds on my back (I like to go light). Where the trail split we decided to go to the Stout Lakes instead, by the Twin Sisters Peaks. This was the next valley over from Bushnell Lakes, and a shorter hike. When we came to a trail register we noted that only a couple people had been up there this year. One had left an entry on the way down: "Lost the trail in the snow at 10,800 feet." It was dated just a few days earlier.

We headed up the trail, soon hearing the roaring stream it follows. We saw the first small patches of snow before we crossed it at about 9,600 feet. Then we were hiking on a trail that doubled as a stream itself, complete with small waterfalls. The snow patches were more frequent, and we walked over the stream/path on a snow bridge at one point before realizing that it was a three-foot fall if it had broken.

Several hours up the trail there was no trail. It was somewhere under several feet of snow. It is hard to get too lost following a stream up a valley, though, so we kicked steps into the hard snow and continued on. In places we found the trail again, and even had long dry stretches to hike. The melting process is very irregular. In one of our photos Mike is standing on dry grass next to a seven-foot high wall of snow. In another, I'm trying to climb a twenty-foot snow-cliff.

Then there is the photo from the first lake. It is of myself, standing on it. There was dry ground around half of it, but it was frozen. We headed back down to a small pond that was only partially covered in ice. It had been a hot day of backpacking in deep snow. We put our water bottles in a snowbank and set up the tarp on the grass. Marmots came near to investigate.

The next day we hiked up past the first and second lakes, both above tree line. We followed a stream up a steep hill and into a meadow full of wildflowers at about 12,000 feet. There were frozen lakes below, flowers around us, and a 13,012-foot mountain waiting above, past rocky climbs and slippery fields of snow. We made it to the top - the highest Mike had ever climbed - and signed the register. We could see mountains in all directions, some of them over 60 miles away.

By the time we made it back to the camp, I was sick. I hadn't anticipated the effect of the sun. I had a hat and sunglasses, but the sunlight reflects at you from all sides when you cross snow and ice. It wasn't just a sunburn, but sun-sickness. I spent the night alternating between feeling on fire and having chills run through my body. Mike got the chills the following day. With that in mind, here are some tips for backpacking in the high mountains.

1. Call the forest service. Find out what the conditions are where you plan to hike, so you can bring the proper equipment and clothing.

2. Have a good map and know how to use it. This is especially important in early summer, when you might lose the trail in the snow.

3. Sun block is just a start. Where a hat, sunglasses and long sleeves.

4. GPS your car location. If you have a GPS device, mark your car in case you lose the trail.

5. Check the trailhead register. Those backpacking before you may have stopped on the way out to note that a bridge is washed out, fallen trees have covered the trail, or something else you should know.

6. Climb high early. Afternoon thunderstorms are common in many high mountain ranges. If you want to go to the summits and high ridges, it's best to do it early and be lower before noon.

It's great to have meadows and valleys to yourself. That's one of the advantages of backpacking in the high mountains early in the season. Just be ready for a wide variety of hiking conditions.

Monday, November 10, 2008

5 Tips on Preparing For World Travel Cruises

Preparing for world travel cruises is easier then you might think and with a little planning ahead of time, assure that your cruise will be wonderful and memorable.

Educate Yourself on World Travel Cruises Take Your Time Deciding Get Tips and Advice from Seasoned Travelers Explore Seasonal Promotions and Specials Plan for Enjoyment and Relaxation

Educate Yourself on World Travel Cruises

There's so many websites today for world travel cruises you can get all the information you need to make an informed decision about your cruise. Information about what to bring, when the ship departs and from which port, is available to you and it is with just a mouse click away. You will have fun exploring the various cruise lines and your excitement will increase with each exploration. World travel cruises are a great way to see the many exotic ports and diverse countries around the globe and educating yourself before you decide which cruise to take will give you a measure of assurance you have made the right choice.

Take Your Time Deciding

Selecting, planning and preparing for world travel cruises can be an intimidating experience with all the different cruise lines, options and prices. The pre-cruise decisions can be pain free if you take a few moments to consider some very important factors. Ask yourself; why you want to go on a cruise in the first place. Follow up with; what do you expect to be doing while on the ship or during port of calls. You are an individual with preferences, expectations and desires; be assured if you take your time and think over your preferences you can match them to the right cruise even from among a host of world travel cruises.

Get Tips and Advice from Seasoned Travelers

If you have ever been around someone just returning from a cruise then you know how they love to talk about the exciting adventures they had on their trip. Well these folks don't just tell others in person, they do it online as well. You can access some of these message boards, web-logs and chat rooms to ask these seasoned travelers some questions you might have about cruising. Considering they have been there they can give you first hand knowledge about what to expect, etc. Some folks even write reviews on world travel cruises where you can read for yourself how well different cruise lines perform in meeting their passenger's comforts and expectations.

Explore Seasonal Promotions and Specials

Just like many tourist industries, cruise companies need to market their services to attract new passengers to fill up rooms on the ship. This means the cruise lines provide special promotions and discounts for passengers. Many world travel cruises have fantastic specials and promotions which can save you thousands of dollars without detracting from the amenities and benefits of your cruise experience. World travel cruises do not have to break the bank if you take the time to hunt around and explore the seasonal or special promotions. Consider changing your travel schedule if a substantial discount is available and if your itinerary is flexible enough in allowing you to take advantage of the special promotion.

Plan for Enjoyment and Relaxation

Two of the key components of world travel cruises are enjoyment and relaxation. But some folks have to make a concerted effort to remain stress-free during their cruise. You can save yourself a lot of stress by keeping in mind during the planning of your cruise, that although you are seeking adventurous and exciting excursions, you don't want to be so busy that you can't enjoy yourself. If you plan too much in a short period of time you can be running around as busy as you usually are at home. World travel cruises should be relaxing and enjoyable while creating an opportunity to experience some of most wonderful and memorable moments of your life. Take a deep breath, relax, and let the captain steer the ship!