Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Kenmare, County Kerry, Ireland Day 1 - Blackwater Bridge to Sneem

mom and Dad Blackwater Bridge to Sneem

Our first hiking day in the county of Kerry is done. It has been a misty rainy day pretty much the whole day. The sun made a short appearance while we were having dinner around 20:00 but that was the only time blue skies and the sun appeared; the rest of the day was overcast and though sometimes the cloud cover lifted a bit it was never a day for views.


The HF group has 23 hikers and two leaders. The group that did the longer walk had 20 hikers .We did the longer walk which would take us from Blackwater Bridge to the village of Sneem: about 13km with about 200m of ascent and descent according to Heather who was our hike leader for the day. We shouldered our packs under drizzling clouds just after 10:20 and immediately struck off from the single-lane paved road on a country path that quickly rose to an open moor-like region some 80 meters above our starting point. Once up there we felt the drizzle and wind far more intently than we had as we climbed. It wasn’t exactly cold but you know you were in conditions that were far from ideal. No views to really speak of which is a shame as I suspect the surrounding hills would have given some fine vistas. We plodded along the path trying to avoid the worst of the manure and more boggy bits. I likely failed on the first count and certainly did on the second. For the next km or two we walked across a blanket bog. Eventually we joined a country road that wound through forests of ferns, firs, and who knows what else. Bog cotton (it blooms at the end of a grass stall) had appeared earlier and we found foxglove, fascia, and other flowers blooming in the woods.

foxglove


Our walk would follow more lanes and  paths with occasional open country where the rain and wind could make themselves more felt. We didn’t dawdle anywhere. At about the 7km mark at a church we found shelter against walls where we could and hurriedly ate lunch standing up. Even had I wanted to capture more of the walk in photos and video there just wasn’t going to be the opportunity given the weather. Our only other “breaks” happened when we crossed the seemingly countless stiles. It takes time for 21 people to climb up and then down each stile. 


Just before 15:00 the village of Sneem, the name may refer to a knot in a river, came into view. It’s a busy place and perhaps a local tourist hub. We were able to find a cafe for pastry and tea. Others found a bar. While the weather was somewhat against us the walk was still enjoyable and certainly gave us a taste of what we can expect.


Distance: 14km; ascent and descent 185m. 



photos

  1. Mom and Dad trekking along the improved two-track lane. We had several kilometers of walking on lanes like this or a bit worse. We also would walk along paths that wound through forests and open bog where we felt the full force of the  wind and the misting rain. At least it was warm.
  2. Forests of firs and ferns abound. We would also pass by bunches of lovely flowers like these foxglove (we think) and honeysuckle and much more. Even in the open boggy areas provisions of bog cotton would be found.
  3. We hiked fromBlackwater Bridge to the village of Sneem. A walk that generally trended westward and would end in the village which is smaller than it actually seems.


Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Audio Podcast: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Backpacking Trip May 2018

IMG_6237.jpgFog rolled in now and then creating views like this on the cliffs of Lake Superior.
I do not know how many times I have backpacked the Lakeshore Trail in Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore over the past couple of decades. I have gone in both directions many times. This year, with 13 other people many with little to no backpacking experience, I would travel the trail once again from Sand Point to Sable Falls. This is something of an annual trip over Memorial Day Weekend though I do not always get to attend.  The trip would turn out to be a very fine one even with some trials and tribulations thrown in. We lucked out with the weather and everyone had a good time. The audio you are listening too will give you a sense of what we experienced.  You can find more photos in these photo albums which have the same photos but display differently (Google, Apple).
IMG_6304.jpgSunset at Mosquito Beach on Lake Superior.
IMG_6213.jpgKen and Doug near the start of the Lakeshore Trail. Its ful of mud and downed trees for the first few miles.
There is also a video you can enjoy here on YouTube. The podcast feed can be found here on my Libsyn page or you can find it in your favorite podcast catching app by searching for Wandering Knight.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

How To Open and Close the kershaw Leek Knife

The directions that come with the Kershaw Leek knife are actually pretty good. But, I found that I was having trouble figuring out how to close the knife. I am going to blame a combination low-vision and hand-eye co-ordination for my failure. Fortunately I have friends like Paul “Siler” Haan who can lend timely assistance. Paul created the short video you are about to watch explaining how to properly open and close the knife. By the way, for what it is worth Paul has had this knife for ages and is an experienced long-distance backpacker too.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Video: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore Backpacking Trip - May 2018

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Grand Portal Lake Superior

I’m not sure how many times I have joined Andy Mytys, Elwira and various others to hikes the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore between Grand Marais and Munising (if you want to be precise Sable Falls and Sand Point). We have done the 4-day trip in both directions. Each has its advantages and weaknesses. This year we would travel eastward from Sand Point to Sable Falls. We would be making up a group of 14 people of which nearly half have either no backpacking or very little backpacking experience. It promised to be an interesting trip. This video should give you a sense of some of what we experienced throughout the trip. Eventually I will add more photos and a somewhat more extensive audio diary to go with the video.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

5 Days in Stockholm


damp overcast day walking through Kungsgarden

If you are hoping for a longer post describing our 4 and a half days in Stockholm I think you willl be disappointed. I am a bit unhappy that I can’t write more too as we were there for a long time. We had bigger plans and maybe we could have pushed harder to carry them out but the weather was against us the entire time we were there. It is hard to get motivated and so certain things when every day is, at least, completely overcast and moderately breezy. Toss in a couple of days of on and off again modest rain with blowing conditions that certainly pushed the windchill below 40F and  perhaps you can see how our enthusiasm waned. Still we did explore the city to a degree and we did see and experience some very good things. I’m going to focus on those.

Our hotel , Courtyard by Marriot, is on Kungsholm. Kungsholm is one of the 14 (I think) island that make up Stockholm. If you are starting to imagine a city where water is always in sight and clearly affected by water: stop. No doubt Stockholm’s access to the Baltic Sea and the interior lakes of Mallaran and Vartan (to name 2 I know of) has a great effect on the city but as a pedestrian you won’t notice the water all that often. This is not Venice. From our hotel you certainly do not see any water. 

We were perhaps a quarter mile from the nearest train stop. That train quickly took us to the heart of downtown or wherever we wanted to go.I don’t think I’ve ridden escalators as long since riding the Metro in Washington DC. Trains were clean and quick.  Our biggest  problem is dealing with words, the street names, that just don’t come easily. But we got by. We found pedestrian streets and all sorts of people wandering about the cold (OK, normal temperatures really but we were not expecting it) blustery days as we tried to find things to do.

A visit to the Museum of Modern Design (my name). Was on the agenda and it is worth it. At least if you are interested in modern design and art especially with a Swedish bent. The lunch we had at one of the cafes, Blum I think, was also quite nice and fairly inexpensive. A walking tour through Gamlastan is also worth it. But the numerous stores that sell all sorts of good including artisan works seem to have rather limited hours.  Even after 11:00 plenty of shops were still closed up tight. But Gamlastan is the old town of Stockholm with properly twisting cobblestone streets and that helps make it worth a visit. We might not have seen much in the stores but we spent a couple hours there nonetheless and even had some very nice coffee. Coffee in Stockholm came in good amounts. No tiny little cups of Americano let alone finding just a brewed decaf or a nice sized latte. Nope. In Stockholm coffee drinks were a proper size. Is their a relationship between temperature and coffee size? Colder air temperatures yield larger coffee drinks.
ships island

City Hall from Lake Mallaran

hospital

We also took a boat tour. X runs the tours and the two-hour tour is definitely worth the money. The boat is comfortable, protected from the weather, and the audio guide is excellent. It’s totally canned but well put together. You will get a sense of history, a bit of knowledge about Swedish culture and values, a sense of what makes Sweden Sweden. It is more than a mere recitation of facts that can quickly go in one ear and out the other. And when the weather is iffy as it was for us sitting inside the boat absorbing the sites of Stockholm and listening to the audio is a fine way to spend some time.
walking in Gamlastan

Another superb tour is the one provided at City Hall. You see the building from a distance on the boat tour. The building tour itself gets you up close and personal. It is a remarkable space. I don’t honk you will find City halls much like it elsewhere. From the great exterior courtyard , to the Blue Hall (not blue at all) where big events like the Nobel Prize awards dinner happen, to the Golden Hall filled with exquisite mosaics depicting  Sweidsh history and other things , and more the tour is de finely worth your time and the modest fee. 
City Hall of Stockholm



If you like sculpture visiting Carl Milles’ house and sculpture garden is also worth it.  I don’t think I even knew his name but the property with its sculptures is quite nice even on a cold and rainy afternoon like we had when we went to see it. I can understand how he drew inspiration from the natural surroundings as he looked out on Lake Vartan and created his art.


Mom in Carl Milles Hayden

Hand of God sculpture

Lookong to Lake Vartan

Finally visit the Culture House right across from the Centralum train station. From play areas for kids, to eateries, and many exhibit spaces for expeditions devoted to Swedish arts and design this is an intriguing place worth taking a look at. We also managed a decent lunch there which is always a plus.

A Note From Judy
The downtown areas were crowded with shoppers. We were in the high end districts as well as the more middle class or lower middle class areas. Lots of people and these are not the tourist spots (Gamlastan is a tourist area).

Photos
1. Walking through Kungsgatden towards the docks to take a two-hour boat tour. It’s not much above 40F and blustery to boot. I think Mom has 5 layers on. 

2. The red castle-like
Mbuilding was, I think, an old naval fort and munitions store. It’s part of the ship building island that you must pass if you intend harm to the city. 

3. A view from our boat tour of City Hall on the shore of Lake Mallaran. We would learn later just how remarkable a building this 100 year old building is. 

4. I think this is a hospital viewed from the boat. It is larger than it looks as a huge portion is underground. The hospital was built during the height of the Cold War and therefore has a bunker meant to deal with a nuclear strike.

5. It is a rainy chilly morning on the streets of Gamlastan: Stockholm’s old town. 

6. I can barely give you a sense of the grandeur of the City Hall with this exterior courtyard photo. 

7. The aptly named Golden Hall inside City Hall. If you want to get married there just reserve the space.

8 Birch trees and Pegasus were n Carl Milles’ sculpture garden. 

9. Mom provides a bit of scale in the sculpture garden of Carl and Olga Milles.

10. The Hand of God in the Sculpture garden looks out on a ruffled Lake Vartan.

11. A final view of the Milles’  garden. He drew inspiration from his surroundings and perhaps you can see why here as Dad descends the steps. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Spain Trip: Barcelona - 2 Days in the Big City

La Pedrera rooftop

I actually am not going to have too much to say about our time here in Barcelona. We didn’t visit many “destination” sites during our day and a half here. No doubt we could have checked out many places but that was not our choice. Instead we spent the time just walking the areas within a few miles of the hotel. It is better to say over the hours we walked a handful of miles using the hotel as our base. For example, yesterday - the whole day - we probably walked between 7 and 8 miles. 

The city is a mix of broad avenues and narrow streets. It lacks the twisting narrow streets with exceedingly narrow sidewalks of a place like Seville or Granada let alone the twisty streets and sidewalks of Punto Delgado in the Azores. Of course, Barcelona is a city of several million and has gone through many re-designs and expansions over its long history. Even the “old city” though feeling older doesn’t feel quite as ancient as other old centers. Along with the broad and narrow streets toss in large palazzos and, of course, La Rambla (sometimes referred to on signs as La Ramblas). The latter is the long pedestrian way lined with innumerable shops and cafes and restaurants and no doubt all sorts of other shops . La Rambla is also clearly where the greatest concentration of people, likely mostly tourists, are. Boy is it crowded. The crowds thin out considerably if you get a few blocks away from La Rambla but they can still be thick. 

This is a bustling city and a cosmopolitan one. You will hear many languages spoken in many accents. No doubt most of what you hear is being spoken by people like us: tourists. But tourists need infrastructure and the city provides that in abundance with touristy places and plenty of more “local friendly” places you can find if you look just a little bit harder.

One thing Barcelona is known for, famous for, is the buildings by Antoni Gaudi.  Sagrada Familia, still unfinished, is his biggest work but he designed many buildings. We’d been to several before several years ago and this time just planned to visit one: La Pedrera. We recalled others places fondly like the Serpentine benches of Parc Güell. La Pedrera though stood out in memory especially for its roof.

The roof of ochre stone slabs has several structures on it. Like all rooftops you have chimneys, ventilation housings, and other things sitting on top. Gaudi saw no reason not to make these things intriguing to the eye as well as functional. They certainly are both. It really makes the rooftop a special place to just be on. We were also struck by the public spaces in La Pedrera more than the apartments themselves. When first completed in 1912 a family, the people who commissioned the building, lived in the first couple floors and rented out the rest of the space. They had a huge living area: 1,300 square meters (better than 13,000 square feet). Today the private dwellings are much smaller. The attic, again today, is back to being one great curving , catenary arch filled, space. Originally it was where things like laundry and other community-related machinery (elevator motors, for example) was housed. The attic also provided dead-air space to help insulate the building. It’s a neat place with the arches. The grand central space around which everything is built is also cool. But, I don’t think I would want to live in La Pedrera with all the people tripping through every day to see the public accessible spaces.

Our wandering took us through some parks including past a triumphal arch near the Picasso Museum. We glimpsed the sea but did not actually go right to it. We visited a huge street food market that completely overwhelmed us in its size and throngs of people milling about buying meats, veggies, fruits, drinks, prepared food, and no doubt more. On La Rambla  we saw some interesting busking going on from the fellow making huge soap bubbles to several slow-moving performance artists and a surprisingly small smattering of people playing music. Sadly, we also saw a fair number of homeless people sometimes just sleeping right there in plain sight during the day.

We scratched the surface and I am sure you could do a lot here. We did a lot back in 2009 but this was enough for us this time.

Some final thoughts: We stayed at Hotel Curious which is a couple blocks off of La Rambla and so its street isn’t too busy with people.  If you want a spartan room that is also just big enough then take a look at this hotel.  My room reminds me , in terms of size and functionality, of my cabin  on the Hurtigruten ship Vesterallen. Except that cabin had a porthole which let in some natural light and though the room has a window it is an interesting window that looks out on a shaft that houses the elevator, but had a lighted photo of a cut scene. 

Food: No end of places to eat in Barcelona. The places that serve little thick crust pizza-like things were quite nice to see and we got food quickly. At the other end, the cafe we had lunch at yesterday took a good half hour to get us our salad and quesadillas. The place we had dinner the first night should have been good but it turned out to be a bit of a bust because of what we ordered not being quite what we wanted. But our finding of Bacoa, the burger place, was a wonderful find. Very good burgers though I’d skip the fries.

From Judy
Crowds and crowds of people on the streets most everywhere on La Rambla and all the main avenues we walked on. Smaller side streets in neighborhoods outside the old center were quieter and a good place to get a cup of coffee and a snack. The one destination stop for us was a visit to one of Gaudi ‘s most spectacular buildings in terms of ingenuity and engineering   - La Pedrera- or as it’s more familiarly known Casa Mila.  Build in the early 1900s for a bourgeois family it is a multistory building where the family lived on the first 2 floors and they rented out apartments on the upper 4 floors. The roof terrace and the area that is called the attic (it was once divided into 13 apartments) are the most spectacular. The chessman like structures on the roof all serve an aesthetic purpose disguising air vents and stairways and other mechanicals that usually just make the skyline look ugly. Over 200 red brick catenary arches of varying widths make the  attic space an engineering marvel but are also amazingly beautiful. Also in the attic space are several models showing the engineering techniques for this building and the famously still to be completed Sagrada Familia. The audio was terrific. 

We walked a large rectangle in and out of streets covering 8-9 miles, but with no ascents or descents. We saw just one protester in the government square, some police in evidence, but no big guns and maybe just the usual for the large crowds. 

Photo
1. The roof of La Pedrera is a great place. 

Monday, October 23, 2017

Spanish Pyrenees Walk 12: Cadaqués and Cap de


Dali house terrace

Our final day has arrived. The sun gleamed off the whitewashed buildings of Cadaqués as we ate breakfast and planned what to do for the day. Inntravel had a couple of suggested walks and we knew we were not going to tackle the 18km trek. The 15km, out-and-back, hike to the lighthouse atop Cap de Creus seemed much more doable especially if we took a taxi to the lighthouse and walked back. We decided to spend the morning in Cadaqués and the afternoon would be given over to the walk with a possible lunch at the resturaunt at the lighthouse.

Cadaqués began to grow on us. Our apprehension, if that is what it was, of the afternoon before eased. It is a resort town but it has character for all that and certainly places worth checking out. If you spend any time here it is well worth your time to visit Salvador Dali’s home. He and his wife Gala lived there for several decades. It is a remarkable place for its size, intricate passageways, unusual outside cascades and interesting design.  You will certainly find things to admire even if you aren’t particularly interested in Dali’s artwork itself. We spent well over an hour exploring the house and surprisingly substantial grounds. It sits at the base of a small cove and you can see how the cove could inspire someone of an artistic bent.  
bedroom of the Dali house

an egg and the sea

Christ in rubbish

mom and Ken on lips

By the time  we were done it was time for late-morning coffee. This is a hit or miss thing for us. While we have generally enjoyed the pastries, coffees have been so-so. Sometimes exceedingly tiny, barely more than a shot or two, of coffee even if you get an Americano.  It’s just not satisfying sometimes.  We worked our way through the twisting sometimes steep paved and cobblestones (well like cobblestones) streets to a grocery to get supplies for lunch. We had come to suspect that although the lighthouse resturaunt might be excellent that it would also eat up more time than we wanted to give it and not have small lunch-like meals anyway. 

We were able to get a taxi to drive us to the lighthouse. An open-topped Jeep pulled up and we tossed our packs and trekking poles in the back and got in. If you think of something like the Pink Jeep Tours of Sedona, AZ you should have a notion of what our vehicle was like. We zoomed off and up the twisting two-lane  paved road that takes you past multi-million dollar homes nestled in coves before rising steadily through rock and scrub filled slopes to Cap de Creus lighthouse which sits on the easternmost tip of Spain and has provided navigational aid to sailors since the mid-19th century. It was a ride well worth the 10 euros per person. I think the walk was nice enough but it is an out-and-back 15km walk that could seem dull if you go both ways so splurge and do it one way. Since getting a taxi from Cadaqués is almost certainly always going to be easier I suggest doing what we did and ride to the lighthouse and walk back.
parents on top of Cap de Creus - Spain’s easternmost bit of land.

ken and Dad

lighthouse on Cap de Creus

looking towards Cadaqués

If my GPS is to be believed the lighthouse is on a headland that’s about 240 feet (73m) above sea level. It looks higher than that. Your walk starts on the road but within 750 meters you join a trail that takes you into the rocks and scrub and gradually winds down and sometimes very close to the road. Now and then you climb up and over a knoll of rocks and through a denser section of prickly scrub. This is a harsh landscape. We actually would mess up a bit and lose the path and be forced onto the road sooner than we should have been. That speeds up the walking but probably doesn’t change the views much. You actually don’t get many views of the coves below as you descend. The main feeling is that you are walking through a tough to live on land.

The road certainly has traffic but it isn’t moving that fast so you don’t feel too nervous even if walking on the road. We enjoyed the descent and within 2 hours we were passing by the cove of the Dali home. Not long after that we made one last climb and steep descent before returning to the hotel. Even with a break for our sandwiches and later oranges we completed the walk in about 3 hours and I think enjoyed it quite a bit even though we had more road walk than we had wanted (some by design to avoid a tougher stretch on rocky path down into and then back out of a valley the road curled around).

Dinner at La Sirena was decent but pricy. Far more pricy than Casa Nun the night before and I would recommend Casa Nun far more highly than Sirena.  We suffered sticker shock when we saw the price for the sangria (23 euros).  But even with that we have enjoyed our time in Cadaqués.

Distance of walk: 7.8km
Moving time: 2 hours 22 minutes
Stopped Time: 24 minutes
I am not sure I trust the ascent and descent numbers. While we had some ups mixed in with descent the reported number just seem wrong (ascent:122m; descent 185m). 
Sunny skies with a  high just about 80F.

Photos
1. The whitewashed stone wall and an egg as seen from a terrace in the house Salvador Dali and his wife Gala lived in for decades.

2. The Dali bedroom. Photo by Judy.

3. A view from the top of a tower, I think called Pots Tower, of the Dali house.

4. From the uppermost point of the Dali house looking down on “Christ in Rubbish”- a construction from the fertile imagination of Dali.

5. Mom and Ken on lips by the lap pool of the Dali home.photo by Jonathan

6. Mom and Dad at Cap de Creus lighthouse.

7. Dad and Ken in the same spot as the previous photo. Photo by Judy.

8. The lightouse at Cap de Creus. This is the easternmost tip of Spain.

9. Looking towards the invisible Cadaqués. The town is in a farther away cove than you can see here.