18 Jul

Struck From My Not-A-Bucket List: Hiking In Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

I’ve never really had a bucket list. You know, one of those lists of things that you absolutely must do before you die? I guess I don’t want to be hemmed in to only those experiences and would rather experience whatever tickles my fancy at the time.

There are a couple of things, though, that I would really like to do. Am I contradicting myself here? Can I not have a bucket list and then also have a list of things I want to do? I mean these are BIG wants – like big enough for me to really work at making them happen. Is this, in fact, a bucket list despite my not wanting to have one? Bummer.

  1. Live somewhere else. We’re working on this and today I feel like we’re closer than ever before.
  2. Be able to speak another language. I think this will be linked to #1 – we’ll see where we end up.
  3. Do a multi-day, back country, high alpine hike. I just think it’s cool and I admire those I know that have done it.

Two weeks ago I managed to cross #3 off my not-a-bucket-list as we headed to Wyoming and went hiking in Grand Teton National Park.

We took four days to hike the Teton Crest Trail. It was everything I wanted it to be.

It was just hard enough. I had thought it would be much harder and that I would, in fact, be in tears more than once due to exhaustion and frustration. It was hard, don’t get me wrong, but it was totally doable. In fact I was amazed that I could strap on a 40ish pound pack and hike 13 km (8 miles) a day at an average of 2900 meters (9500 feet) day after day after day. It’s amazing what your body will get used to.

It was more beautiful than I had imagined. I don’t like to look at pictures of places before I go as I like to see them fresh for myself and, really, I’m not sure that any pictures could have done justice to the beauty of the mountains in person. “It’s just sooo beautiful” I would exclaim time after time as though it were impossible that such beauty existed hidden from most of the world.

There were no bears. This is grizzly country and I was very fearful of seeing one, or worse, running into one on the trail. This is one of the reasons why I have never done this before. Hiking in grizzly country meant that I had to swallow the fear and trust that it was going to be okay. Trust only goes so far though, let me tell you! We were super conscientious of being ‘bear aware’:

  • We always hiked together and we each carried bear spray.
  • We kept all food in bear canisters and hung whatever wouldn’t fit in a tree.
  • Our ‘kitchen’ was far from our tents so there would be no food smells near our sleeping area.
  • There was to be NO nice smelling items in the tenting area. We didn’t even brush our teeth before bed!

For those of you thinking of doing this here is roughly the route we followed – drop me a line if you’re interested in more detail.

Day 1. Most people start the Teton Crest Trail at the top of the gondola out of Teton village but, due to snow conditions on the trail, we opted to enter in through Death Canyon…ominous, no? We hiked all the way up the canyon and camped about halfway along the valley under the Death Canyon Shelf. It took us about 5 hours to hike the 11 km (7 miles) and was mostly up as we gained elevation into the mountains.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Our motley crew prepares to leave the parking lot.

Death Canyon Trailhead, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

At the Death Canyon trailhead.

Death Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

It’s not long before we can see the mountains through the trees.

Death Canyon Shelf, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

First glimpse of Death Canyon Shelf.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Heading up to the ‘kitchen’ which is no where near the tent area.

Day 2. Apparently we’re not an early rising bunch as we didn’t leave camp until 10:30 on this morning. We headed to the end of Death Canyon and climbed up to the Death Canyon Shelf meeting up with Fox Creek pass. This was my ‘must see’ moment – I was excited to be on the shelf and to see the views – it did not disappoint. Traversing the shelf we then climbed up over Mt Meaks pass and hiked down the Sheep Steps into Alaska Basin. This was steep and snowy at times which made for some great ‘ski walking’ and  ‘bum sledding’ on the way down. We made camp around 5:30 pm on the rocky outcrops next to a small lake about 13 km (8 miles) from where we started in the morning.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

The plan is to hike up to the end of Death Canyon and then climb up onto the shelf.

Death Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Start of the climb up to Death Canyon Shelf.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming
The snow along the way made it more difficult.
Death Canyon Shelf, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Oh so happy at the top. THIS is the view I’ve been waiting for!

Death Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

A view down into Death Canyon where we came from.

Mt Meaks Pass, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Seriously? More climbing? Up over Mt Meaks Pass.

Mt Meaks Pass, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park

More snow. I think this is where we brought the tequila out for a little pick-me-up!
Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Down is way more fun!

Alaska Basin, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Camp on night #2.

Day 3. We climbed almost right out of the gate on this morning. After reaching the end of the Alaska Basin we headed up through Hurricane Pass. This was not a trivial undertaking; at just over 3000 meters (10,000 feet) the oxygen level is a little lower than my beating heart would have liked. Mother Nature tried to make up for it by hurtling wind at us at an amazing rate (I guess that’s why it’s called Hurricane Pass – I would not like to see it in inclement conditions!) but all that managed to do was to make it harder to stay upright. The views at the top, though, of the Grand Tetons themselves were the best of the trip and worth every oxygen deprived step. We dropped into the upper portion of South Cascade Canyon and then dropped, quite steeply (and snowily) again before setting up camp for the night in the trees of the South Cascade Canyon camping area. It was another 13 km (8 miles) on this day and took us about 7 hours with quite a lengthy lunch break.

Hurricane Pass, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Killer climb the next morning.

Alaska Basin, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Worth it though. Looking back down into Alaska Basin.

Hurricane Pass, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Hurricane Pass is a toughy…can you see the others almost at the top already?

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

Peek-a-boo mountain.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

And then BAM! There they are!

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming

On the tippy top – steep valley on either side.

Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park

Some steeper, snowy, down.

Day 4. This day was all about hiking out. With the dramatic views and tough hiking behind us we just put our heads down to hike out. A downhill hike the whole way through Cascade Canyon, the hardest part was meeting up with the day trippers coming from the Jenny Lake boat. It’s weird to come across people after having been just the five of us for four days. They all smelled so fresh and clean (believe me, we did NOT smell good!). The ladies were wearing makeup and the kids were all whining it was too hard. We quickly deked off the main trail to a secondary trail to avoid it all as much as possible. We ended up alongside Jenny Lake and made our way to Spray Lake where the car was parked. Fastest day yet – 11 km (7 miles) in three hours!! Time for beer!

South Cascade Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park

Down into the trees again.

South Cascade Canyon, Teton Crest Trail, Grand Teton National Park

One last look at the mountains before we head out.

Snake River Brewing Company, Jackson Hole, Wyoming

What a great crew!!

Thank you so much to Eric, for outfitting us with all the hiking gear we needed and for guiding us safely through the mountains, and to Kim and Brian, for allowing us to be part of their dream.

*****

Have you entered the giveaway?!

It’s time to share the wealth!! I have TWO copies of Chris Guillebeau’s new book The$100 Startup to give away.  I have already read it (and loved it!) and will be reading it again and taking notes as I determine how best to put my World Domination Summit $100 investment to great use.

Just leave a comment on this post letting me know you’re interested – I’ll draw TWO names on July 25th and announce the winners the following day.


15 Jul

Monday Moment: Luang Prabang, Laos

Riding Home From School, Near Luang Prabang

We had so much fun on this day. I don’t even know where we were, other than somewhere outside of Luang Prabang in Laos. Sometimes we just rent a scooter to get out of town and see what we can find.

A school was just letting out as we passed by and suddenly we were surrounded by dozens of kids on their bikes as they made their way home. We had a great time with them, laughing and waving, slowing down and speeding up. I love the smile on this guys face as we raced him down the hill.

11 Jul

Would $100 Change Your Life?

World Domination Summit 2012It’s a small sum, right?

Seriously, we spent that on dinner and drinks last night.

And yet it is what will propel me through the next Giant Step.

It’s not the sum, but the investment. The investment in me; that I can be more, do more, reach more.

Not the amount, but the responsibility. My responsibility to live up to the expectation of what is possible.

Not the number, but the trust. Trust that I will use it wisely, thoughtfully, and respectfully.

Not the dollars and cents, but the example. Of being remarkable. Kind. Generous. Trusting. Reaching. Successful.

I may have left for the weekend filled with angst, self pity and doubt; worrying we aren’t getting anywhere quickly and that opportunities existed outside of my reach.

But I return realizing that I’m just not reaching far enough. That I need to make an investment in myself, take hold of the responsibilitytrust that I have what it takes, and be an example to myself of what I am capable of.

Hold on people, we’re on the runway…

How do you live a remarkable life in a conventional world?

*****

It’s time to share the wealth!! I have TWO copies of Chris Guillebeau’s new book The $100 Startup to give away.  I have already read it (and loved it!) and will be reading it again and taking notes as I determine how best to put my $100 investment to great use.

Just leave a comment below letting me know you’re interested – I’ll draw TWO names on July 25th and announce the winners the following day.

04 Jul

One Foot Here, One Foot…

Know what this is?

Unhung Pictures

Or this?

UnOpened Boxes

It’s undone stuff. Unhung pictures. Still packed boxes.

We’ve been here in Calgary over a year now and just haven’t bothered to completely unpack or settle in.

I realized this last week when friends moved into a new house and then declared just a few short days later that everything was unpacked; the dishes were all put away, the pictures hung on the wall, and the boxes all recycled.

Wow‘, I said, ‘we still have pictures that are not hung and boxes that are still packed.

It’s because you’re not all here’, Peter said to me. ‘You have one foot here and one foot somewhere else.’

And I suddenly realized just how right he is.

I’m ready to go, but it’s not time yet. We have a summer full of plans (including our trip to Japan!) – so full that it’s impossible, at this point, to find time to plan for anything beyond summer.

I’ve been struggling lately. I find it difficult to concentrate on my job, mostly because I just don’t care. I see opportunities float by just out of reach because there is no way I can even plant a seed with no time to water it, and nurture it, and see what it can become. I imagine what it will be like when I’m out there, doing something different…and then I wonder if I’m just crazy. I don’t even know where out there is never mind what something different is going to look like.

And yet I feel compelled. Compelled to keep reaching. Compelled to try something different. Compelled to keep taking Giant Steps. Even if I feel uncomfortable. Even if I don’t know why. Even if I don’t know where it’s going to end up.

I am, as you read this, in the Grand Teton Mountains of Wyoming. I am sure that the fine mountain air, the conversation with old friends, and the exhausting hiking will bring me some clarity.

Tomorrow I fly to Portland for this years World Domination Summit which, I hope, will propel me forward with passion, hope, and confidence.

Our plan is to return and start finding some seeds to plant.

01 Jul

Monday Moment: Potato Ladies, Near Colca Canyon, Peru

Potato Ladies, Colca Canyon

Sitting in the square of the small town Cabanaconde, we waited for the start of our Colca Canyon trek. It was a quiet, hot day and we longed to get started so we could reach the much cooler bottom of the canyon.

Across the way a potato market was underway. Traditionally dressed women sold their potatoes and then loaded them into all manner of vehicles.

The woman on the right is carrying a baby in the red patterned bundle on her back. I have no idea how they tie the fabric so that the baby doesn’t fall!

27 Jun

Practicing Ramen Slurping

I open the door spilling warm, steamy air out into the street. It’s an unseasonably cold, wet and miserable day in springtime Calgary; I step inside and let the warmth embrace me.

“Irashaimase”, comes the gentle call from chefs and waitstaff alike. Welcome.

Taking a seat at the bar where I can see the chefs in action, I order an Asahi beer and settle in with the menu.

It’s gotta be ramen. That’s why I’ve come – to practice my slurping. Unlike here in Canada, in Japan it’s considered polite to slurp while eating noodles. It’s going to take some practice to break the ‘good manners’ my parents taught me as a girl.

I order a tonkotsu ramen; I like the richness of the pork broth compared to the saltier, soy-based shoyu ramen.

Sssslllluuuurrrrpppppp!! I can hear tables behind me getting started on their noodles. Good, it’s not just a cultural myth that it’s polite; I’m not going to make an ass out of myself as I feared I might.

Before long a steaming hot bowl of soup is placed in front of me, the noodles hidden by the pork chashu and baby corn (who knew?) on top.

Japanese Ramen SoupHaving spent so long in Asia I am unfazed by the chopsticks but…the slurping…could I do it? Intentionally make noise while I eat?

I reach in, pull up a small mound of noodles and…slurp. Just a little. Did anyone notice? Am I being rude? Nope – all I see as I look around are other noodle-lovers slurping their way through their own lunch.

I pull up a larger noodle mound….ssslllluuuuurrrppppp!!! This is kind of fun and I’m being polite!

Slurping Japanese RamenSllluuurrrpp, sssllluuurrrpppp, ssllluurrrpppp…all through lunch right to the bottom of the bowl.

I think I did pretty good but I’ll be back at least once or twice before our trip so I don’t get out of practice.

Do you slurp while eating noodles? Could you?

24 Jun

Monday Moment: Chicken Man, Poon Hill Trek, Nepal

Poon Hill Trek

You know, I never really thought about it, but there isn’t much in the way of refrigeration in the Himalayas. Chickens can’t breed at this altitude so they are brought in from below. We caught up to this guy about three days into the Poon Hill trek in Nepal.  He didn’t smell so great but then, I imagine that after three days of hiking, neither did I.

20 Jun

Saving For Travel

Saving For TravelYou know that I don’t think it’s ‘luck’ that allows a person to travel. I think you have to have your eye on the prize, be willing to make sacrifices, and save, save, save!

Travel doesn’t have to be expensive; and saving for travel doesn’t have to be painful.

The cost of a trip varies greatly depending on where you want to go. Europe is notoriously expensive but I’ve heard that bargains can be found in northern Italy and Spain. We found Vietnam and Laos to be as cheap as legend says they are but we’re expecting Japan to cost us a pretty penny.

Overall, long term travel is cheaper than short term vacations. Distances between even major destinations are much shorter than traveling from ‘home’ and back every time. Local air carriers can be used and even ground transportation is possible. Mindset is different for long term travel also; without the need to do it all while you’re on vacation, you can relax and take things at a slower, less expensive, pace.

Figuring out a budget can be the hardest part but there is plenty of information out there now to help you figure out a typical budget:

Warren and Betsy of Married With Luggage run the RTW Expenses site solely to provide information on what it has cost them to travel long term.

Lauren of Never Ending Footsteps also posts a monthly summary of her finances on the road. Mostly Asia so far but I know she has recently been in Europe and is currently in Africa!

Jeremy of Living The Dream has a detailed account of every dime he spent while traveling. With lots of Asia and Europe in his travel resume he gives some great balance to the budget.

The Aussie Nomad focuses on Europe in this series of daily budget posts.

There is often plenty of information on Europe and Asia whereas South America and Africa budget posts are harder to come by. Simon and Erin have a great round up from their time in South America.

I also have budget series from our RTW trip as well as a detailed spreadsheet of what we spent in the 14 countries we visited. I’m planning the same kind of detail for Japan; I’ll be sure to post it once we’re back!

It’s important, when visiting these sites, to not just read the budget posts. You need to get a sense of who is spending this money; are they uber-budget-backpackers who would happily sleep in a 13 person dorm room, or luxury travellers for whom 3 star hotels are an abomination? I always get to know the writer and make sure that they travel in a way that is comfortable for me.

Which brings up probably the most important point; be honest about how you are willing to travel. Don’t plan on a backpacker budget if that’s not really how you travel – you’ll be miserable on $25/day and will begrudge every dollar over that you spend. It doesn’t have to cost a lot to travel but it’s worth saving what you’ll need to travel happily.

Here are some of my own travel saving tips:

  • Open a dedicated savings account. Name it. Our current one is called OneGiantStep Goes To Japan.
  • Think about what you’re spending. Those two beers tonight? That’ll easily pay for a bungalow for a night on a Thai beach.
  • Put all ‘extra’ money into the account. Pocket change, birthday money, pennies from the couch, anything extra. It all adds up.
  • Get a side job . Paper route? Barista? Slinging beers? Freelance writing? Whatever talent you have – pimp it!
  • Connect to the saving. Keep that trip forefront in your mind – post pictures, use screensavers, read articles/blogs- it’s easier to save if you are always thinking of the end goal.
  • Know how much it’s going to cost. You have to know the goal!
  • Sell stuff. What is in that spare room anyway? Do you really need that second set of golf clubs? What about that pile of books? That snowboard you didn’t use at all last year?
  • Keep track of what you make AND what you spend NOW, before you go. It’s much easier to keep track of what you’re spending while travelling if you’re in the habit of doing it before you leave. We’ve traditionally used spreadsheets for this but recently have started using Mint.com – it’s integrated with your banking and credit cards to help track and categorize spending. You can set budgets with it and know if you’re overspending in a certain area – it’s a great tool to get a handle on where all those dollars are actually going as opposed to where you think they’re going.And don’t forget about the free tax software that’s available too – remember, every penny counts!!

If you plan properly and honestly, put some effort into saving, and sacrifice just once in a while, you too can be ‘lucky’ in travel!

Share your saving-for-travel tips below…how are you getting lucky?

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk

17 Jun

Monday Moment: German Beer Radish

German Beer Radish

The best way to get to Andech’s Monastery is to park at the bottom of the hill it tops and walk the 6 kms through fields and meadows and up into the forest. As we did this I noticed most people carrying with them what appeared to be bags of salad. Our hosts, Hanno and Annette, had assured us that there was a fabulous beer garden at the top that also served meals…why would people be bringing their own salad? And what was in that bag than Hanno was swinging? Salad?

All was revealed at the top.

Once we had settle in with our pints of Doppelbock, and we were munching on pretzels (OMG…what I wouldn’t do for an authentic German pretzel!),Hanno pulled a German beer radish out of the bag that he had so carefully toted up the mountain. He proceeded to cut it in a very particular way – first in one direction and then precisely in another direction so that a ‘radish accordion’ was created. Carefully, he poured salt in the cuts and left it to rest.

I looked around and, everywhere I looked, tables were chatting and laughing and slicing up their radishes. Apparently it is a well known secret that salted radish, beer, and pretzels are heavenly together! (Heavenly…get it? We were at a monastery!)

In time, our radish began to ‘weep’ and was declared ready to eat. We pulled it apart and enjoyed every salty bite. My new favorite; beer, radish and pretzel.