Saturday, August 20, 2016

Edinburgh Day 2

Breakfast in Edinburgh Due to a combination of jet lag and the difficulty of getting two young adults up and moving in the morning we got a late start.  My husband and I walked to a local cheese store to pick up our morning breakfast and also stumbled onto a local open air market next door where we bought French cheese, British cheese, and a rather poor cup of coffee.  We had a pleasant chat with the Frenchman who owned the cheese truck.  These impromptu food shopping moments are one of my favorite parts of traveling in Europe.  Unfortunately traveling with three guys, I never feel like I have enough time to do the shops justice unless there is food involved.

Walking the Leith
We finally set out for a ramble and went back to the Leith walk to walk to Leith, of all places.  The day began rainy and we immediately took a detour to the Royal Botanic Garden. It is a lovely garden although we didn't spend enough time to do it full justice. We had to get back to our walk and the rain had started in earnest by the time we left. Sadly the lens I carry to travel does not work all that well with plant close ups. Sea Holly The Leith walk was quite green and peaceful with a surprising number of people on it despite the rain which occasionally reached downpour levels. As we neared the coast, the Leith broadened and we could see a number of water birds, mostly ducks, seagulls and a family of swans. The Walk to Leith
Leith itself is a quaint harbor town within the big city. Hunger and wet feet drove us to seek shelter and we wound up stopping at a large shopping mall for a quick meal and in my case, a purchase of dry socks. Fatigue took over and we gave up on the sightseeing and caught an early movie before dinner. The movie was the latest Star Trek. It definitely caught my sense of irony to be watching a movie with a character named Scotty in the capital of Scotland. I wonder what the locals thought of the accent and the stereotype of a Scotsman. Unfortunately, I didn't get to ask anyone. I did ask Google and the Straight Dope has an amusing series of comments on the Scotty character's accent. James Doohan the original Scotty was Canadian. Simon Pegg, the Scotty in the new movies, is English which to an American ear is more or less the same thing but likely not at all so to a Scotsman. Anyway, enough Star Trek trivia.

4PM in Leith Dinner was at a local restaurant. I was struck by the whisky menu (see photo) but I was certainly not up for any drinking. We ended the day late and made it home feeling well done. Whisky menu at The Shore

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Trip to Scotland

I'm going back in time here to my first day in Scotland two weeks ago.  Internet access is generally too cumbersome and I'd rather see than write so I'm working retrospectively.  As always with one of these trips, some details have already faded.
We were fortunate to be able to gather the whole family for a trip.  Since my oldest has moved out of state and my youngest started college last year, that has become difficult but so glad we managed it.  We met #1 son at the airport in Chicago and all flew together to Edinburgh.  This we barely managed as we left home late and encountered the predictable Chicago traffic arriving at bag check with quite literally two minutes to spare.  I managed to maintain composure throughout which is uncharacteristic but had planned that if we were not allowed to check our bags, three of us would fly on and one would try to take the next flight out, bags in tow.  I'm not sure how that would have worked out and very glad it didn't come to that.  Google Maps got quite a work out from the cab as we tried to estimate our arrival time at the airport.
The flight itself was uneventful with time to catch up.  It has been a while since the whole family was in one place.  We booked a flat in Edinburgh's New Town via Airbnb and check in was seamless.  We had a great apartment--three bedrooms in a fantastic location.  It was quite the luxury.

After resting a bit, food was in order.  Obtaining food seems to be a central theme of our joint travels. At times it interferes with seeing the sites but we all love to eat and traveling with two young adult guys has its requirements.  After a pub dinner that was actually quite good, fish and chips and soup among other things, one of my sons and I took a stroll while the other two went back "home" to rest.  The very long summer days are a delight while traveling.  We were out until after 10 and it was still light.  We walked along the Water of Leith, a creek that runs through town until we could walk no more.  Here are a few shots:

I was excited to see a grey heron and a fox during our ramble.  It was a pleasant ending to a long day.

Citizen M Hotel in Glasgow

I now am trying blogging from my cell phone.  It is of course even smaller than my tablet.  This will limit my literary endeavors.   My photos may possibly be artful but will in the end be taken from  a  cell phone which is limiting.  
I love the common rooms of this hotel.  They are literally stacked with books:  books with the covers removed, French pocket books arranged spines in, art books, old leather bound books.  There is also a miscellany of old electronics: typewriters, telephones, clocks, etc. 
I ran into trouble posting from my phone so I think I'll have to go back to the old fashioned way and use a computer.  

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Blogging in Glasgow

I am doing the experiment of using my new little tablet to blog by.  I can tell this will not be a favorite due to very slow typing!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


Clouds and half a moon

I got bogged down in the usual things--work, television, too many Solitaire games on-line and haven't finished up my backpacking tale.  What is new is that I am taking an on-line creative writing class which is giving me a fair bit of homework.  I haven't had to do homework in quite a few years although I do have to do continuing education, take occasional exams for licensure and bring work home.  Somehow homework feels different.  I may get around to sharing some of the assignments here, or maybe not.

Crescent Moon

This week's highlight had to have been the eclipse of the moon on Sunday night so I am digressing from backpacking to post a few pictures.  I didn't expect it to me much of an event and thought I'd be one of the eccentric few going to the lake to view it, and was surprised by the feel of community out there.  The numbers were nearly comparable to the local crowd out viewing the (fairly distant) Fourth of July fireworks.

Bloody Moon

We were fortunate to catch a break in the clouds for the first half of the show and the clouds closed on us around the time the moon should have been peeking out again which made a good excuse to go home and not stay out too late.  It was a wonderful experience, sadly not soon to be experienced.   As far as celestial events go, next August 9-13 should be the peak of the Perseid meteor shower.  I should make a plan to find a dark mountain somewhere to watch that one.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Rainier Hike, Day 3

Backpacking is hard work but life on the trail is, in some other ways, so simple.  You get up at dawn, go to sleep at dark.  You walk all day, then do a few chores, set up camp, filter water, cook dinner (which basically involves boiling water and stirring) and go to sleep.  Some nights sleep feels optional.  No matter how good the mat, the ground is always hard and the tent is always small.  Every time you turn, your mat crinkles, like sleeping on the waterproof mattress and pillow in a hospital. Each night spent in bear territory seems to involve some listening to the nightly noises outside.  Yes, the food might be hanging on a pole a few yards from the tent but who knows what a curious or hungry bear might decide to investigate?  The chapstick I forgot to hang?  Bits of dinner I spilled on my jacket?  My first night I found a cough drop in a pocket after I had crawled into my sleeping bag. Lazy me, I unzipped my tent and threw it as far as I could away from the me hoping a cute squirrel would dine on it.  Are there backpackers who don't develop a bit of a bear phobia?
Yellowstone Cliffs
Day three dawned chilly but sunny with a beautiful view of the Yellowstone Cliffs.  The night before I hadn't noticed the cave on the cliff side.  Maybe that was where the bears sleep when they aren't raiding camp sites.  Breakfast includes coffee thanks to Starbucks which makes a pretty good instant coffee and also an instant mocha that means I don't have to carry powdered milk.  After some oatmeal, we packed up and hit the trail, going in opposite directions. My son takes the high road, hiking further up the trail to see a few sights;  I head back down the hill again toward our next campground.  I don't move nearly as fast as he does and I was worried about my knees.
Some 30 years ago I backpacked on Isle Royale, my last major hike until a few years ago, and developed some significant knee pain.  I wound up using a stick to lean on for the duration of that hike.  Unfortunately the same phenomenon reappeared a few years ago while day hiking.  The trigger seems to be downhill stretches and with some internet research I concluded that I have iliotibial band syndrome which is merely an inflamed tendon.  I had worried that I was looking at knee surgery but fortunately this seems less serious.  Less happily, it hurts a lot.  After two episodes of the problem in the past 5 years I decided that I will try to train a bit harder and see if that does the trick.  So I've been working on it with Pilates, stretching, walking up and down stairs with my backpack on, using hiking poles and wearing a funny looking knee stabilizer, and this past trip it seems to have worked.  Over 2000 feet of downhill walking with backpack and my knee was fine!
Trees and more trees
For quite a while it was trees and more trees.  The forest passed by with no view of a beginning or end.  To mark time there were those 21 or so switchbacks and not much else.  At least I knew the hill had a bottom as I had been there the day before.  They were only slightly less tedious on the way down than on the way up.  It was hard not to feel a slight sens of mourning losing all the elevation I had gained with so much effort just the day before.
A Zee in the Trail
Well, this post is getting long and I need to get moving.  Stay tuned for day 3-1/2.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Hiking Mount Rainier Day 2

Where to
 Our next day's hiking was determined primarily by available camp sites. Instead of a reasonable, read easy, route we took a detour up part of the trail named the Northern Loop. The total mileage wasn't all that bad but there was a small matter of a hill to go up. After departing camp, we crossed the Carbon River on a suspension bridge. How they ever got this built in the wilderness I don't know--I guessed dropping metal parts from a helicopter--but maybe it was better than having to build a new bridge after every spring flood. In fact, farther downstream, the trail had to take a detour after it was washed out in a flood a few years ago. The bridge doesn't look too intimidating until you get on it. Looking down at rock and glacier-fed river from a swaying platform that was missing a few wooden slats is scarier than it looked. There is a warning for only one person to be on the bridge at a time. I wasn't off yet when the next person started across and I can tell you the bridge started jumping and swaying a bit.
Sorta, Kinda, Scary Bridge
That safely past, we took a short detour toward Carbon River Glacier. Wikipedia tells me the glacier ends at 3500 feet of elevation and is the lowest glacier in the 48 states. It is also the largest outside of Alaska by most methods of counting. Like most glaciers the world over, it too is receding faster than a middle-aged man's hairline. I didn't hike to the glacier itself--there was a sign warning us not to since no one needs to be beaned by falling rocks or fall in a river. More honestly, I was saving my energy for the rest of the day's hiking. My son and I parted for a couple of hours so he could hike up the trail a bit and I could plod along toward camp. By the way, the gray stuff below the mountain is the glacier. No pearly whites at the tail end of a living glacier. Rainier and Carbon Glacier
One advantage to hiking alone is that I could stop a bit more often, as often as my energy would allow, for photos. My enthusiasm for photography certainly waned as I encountered the one and only hill of the day. After going nearly entirely downhill for a few miles, we hit the turn off to our campsite. To get from the Carbon River to Yellowstone Cliffs was a mere couple of miles. All those miles were uphill. I didn't count on the way up, but on the way back down the next day (an exercise in frustration--who wants to hike up a mountain merely to hike down it again the next day?) I counted 21 switchbacks. Ugh. Trails like these made me grateful for the three meals we had already eaten since starting out.
Most of the trail was heavily wooded. No views, a few pretty wildflowers and some interesting mushrooms and a small snake were the highlights of the trek until I finally could shed my pack. Cool Shrooms
We were the second party in a two site campground when a large party of older men moved in. No, they didn't have a reservation but they were tapped out and could go no farther. They were nice guys and some of them were significantly older than me (and I felt ancient at times on the trail). We weren't the campground police so we were happy to share our patch of trees and swap tales for a moment. I was amused when several of them set up camp right underneath the bear pole (used to suspend all our communal food to keep the bears out).  It was some small consolation that if bears visited our camp, they'd know it first and alert us. The other campers where a father-daughter pair (she was in her 30's) which mirrored our mother-son pair nicely.   Sunset at Yellowstone Cliffs
 Stats for the day: 23,380 steps, 9.60 miles, 184 floor-equivalents. Hike beginning and end points are approximations.