Saturday, February 24, 2024

Gran Canaria, February 2024: Free Day Plus One

Photo taken Feb 23, 2024 at 12:15 PM

I believe they get about 320 sunny days a year. This is one of the 45 cloudy days. With a 15-20 MPH wind it’s almost brisk outside. The trees attest to the strength of the wind and down by the sea you will feel spray. The Occidental Roca Negra Hotel is well above any spray.

--February 23, 2024 at 12:15 PM.

Maps are centered on the photo: Google map, Apple map, OpenTopoMap map

Today is oging to be one of the 45 or so cloudy days they have here. At least that seems to be what various information sources suggest. The free day has come at a good time as it will give Mom a chance to beat back the cold she is hosting. Hopefully by Saturday she will feel up to tackling the 4th walk. We just spent our time at the hotel with a couple quick jaunts down to the sea to see the salt water pools get blasted by the 4 to 5 meter waves, according to a coastal weather event warning though surely the spray was that high but I’m not sure about the waves. We also had to get some more lunch and snack food. No doubt others in the group did a variety of things on their day off. Also perhaps there is more we could have done but it’s just not easy getting about or so it feels.

Photo taken Feb 23, 2024 at 10:51 AM

This is just a small spray. I wasn’t ever able to catch the larger ones that actually sent a bit of water to land on my skin.

--February 23, 2024 at 10:51 AM.

Maps are centered on the photo: Google map, Apple map, OpenTopoMap map

* * * * *

We are taking a second day off. Perhaps I could have done the walk but I didn’t want to feel like a burden on the group. I know physically I can do the walk but I might well move more slowly than the others and they’d feel put-upon (whether I think that is reasonable or not). Mom is still under the weather and that means she wasn’t going to go regardless. I am unhappy with this turn of events but suppose it is for the best even if it feels less than fair. That’s an indictment of my own state of mind. We will do something in town. More than yesterday. I hope so. Boy am I lousy at figuring out what that should be on short notice.

Time passes...

Dad and I took a round-about stroll into Agaete. Round-about because I always seem to have trouble getting started on either Apple or Google Maps walking directions. Once I find the route I do well enough. Mom is definitely better at getting oriented than Dad or I am. It’s an overcast blustery morning as we work our way down the bustling roads down into the heart of the town. Our goal is to find the Huerto de las Flores (Botanical Garden). It took us a bit longer than it probably should have but we found it. It is well worth the €1 per person entry fee (cash not accepted). WIthin the small confines is a dense forest of all types of plants. Neither Dad or I have any idea what we were seeing but it is well laid out and maintained. It’s also surprisingly quiet within the garden. While I am doubtfult that you could take a family and spend hours inside as some websites suggest you certainly can get a nice respite. There are some truly spectacular trees like the Spotted Fig shown in the photo.

After leaving the garden and getting a couple coffee-drinks and a muffin (about €3.60 - that might get you a tiny cappuccino back home) we slowly worked our way back to the hotel. That was done with a little confusion along the way but we found ourselves retracing some of the walk we had done two days ago as we headed down towards the ocean. Once there it became clear that it was indeed sprinkling a bit and with winds blowing easily over 20MPH and gusting considerably more forcefully that sprinkle seemed much more intense. We were not soaked but we did get damp as we climbed the winding pavers path up to the hotel.

As I type this patches of blue sky are drifting by and the sun has appeared for for a few minutes at a time now and then. A person is swimming in the oddly shaped pool; another is in the jacuzzi - should I go? - probably not. The temperature is in the mid-60s (upper teens centigrade) but as the lady tending the ppol-side bar said as she served me some (mediocre) french fries, “muy frio.” That is more proof that how we feel about the weather is subjective.

With luck we will be able to do the walk tomorrow. It’s supposedly 5 miles with 200 feet ascent and something like 2,900 feet of descent. Must be mostly downhill though we have no real idea what the trail/paths might be like. I don’t even really have enough information to figure out where the walk will be let alone where it is going (maybe others are smarter about that). I wish they’d provide at least basic map information. We’ve heard it stated by one guide that they don’t want to spoil the surprises of the walks but I think that’s a lame argument. Time will, as always, tell.

Photo taken Feb 24, 2024 at 11:01 AM

Dad is standing in front of this remarkable Spotted Fig tree. The bark is particularly striking. The tree sits inside this lovely little botanical gardens located in the center of Agaete.

--February 24, 2024 at 11:01 AM.

Maps are centered on the photo: Google map, Apple map, OpenTopoMap map

Friday, February 23, 2024

Gran Canaria, February 2024: Day 5 - Maipes Parque Arqueoloogi

Sometimes it is the small things that you appreciate in the place you are staying. The hotel here is very modern. For example, some of the light fixtures are indirect behind sculpted metal but direct where it is appropriate. Very nice. Having two-ply toilet paper (the Hilton used single-ply) is a nice touch. The shower head sits embedded in the ceiling and pours water down like a torrent from the sky in a shower stall that will definitely not produce a flood. If only the choices for food matched the quality of the rooms the Occidental Hotel Roca Negra would be a true treat.

Once again we elected to do the easy walk. The walk would take us through new and old Agaeate and then through the archeological park of Maipes which is the site of some 700 tombs built out of the 3,000 year-old lava by the original inhabitants of the island. From there we’d pass through a wide ravine to our final destination: a coffee and wine plantation. The people doing the harder walk would end up at the same place but get there via a totally different route involving considerably more ascent and descent than our 700 feet ascent and 100 feeet descent (according to the notes). Our walking distance is supposed to be 5 miles.

We sallied forth along the slab-paved curving path that curls down the cliffs from the hotel to the coast. This morning the pavers had a touch of dampness upon them. Just enough to let your feet know that it could be a bit slippery underfoot. As we proceeded down to the sea I began to think the waves were crashing against the shore with more vigor. This feeling grew as we ambled along the slightly damp promenade that leads into the town proper. There seemed to be a bit of a mist or haze hanging over the town. It obscured the arriving ferry from Tenerife but was clearly dissipating. It was going to be a bright sunny and overly warm day.

We paused at the site where you could see what remains of God’s Finger. Tropical Storm Delta (November 2005) shattered the stone finger. It’s now more of a knuckle and not really visible at least from our vantage point. We continued on through the town eventually leaving the bustling streets by the sea to slowely ascend through an older part of Agaete. Nice enough I suppose. But the main attraction of the walk was still to come.

  • Maipes Archeological Park
  • is a necropolis containing about 700 tombs of various sizes up to 8 meters in diameter and 3 meters high. Within the tombs bodies are stored in “jars.” As I understand it no extra objects or relics were put in with the bodies. When the site, made of lava that flowed out 3,000 years ago, was deemed full around the 9th century C.E., the people living here simply moved on to a new locale. Today you can walk amongst the tombs on a metal boardwalk that prevents you from dealing with sharp lava and wrecking the ground you are walking on. But the curators of the park have provided a stretch of bare lava, about 2 meters long,you can walk to get a sense of how it feels. Overall the place is clearly well taken care of. It’s a site both severe and beautiful.

    From there we walked across some lava fields, nothing hard, to enter a wide ravine that we would follow for easily 1.5 miles. The footing here is generally easy even though the soil footbed is littered with rocks. There is one short section where more care must be taken and ropes are provided to give you an extra bit of support should you need it. It sounds worse than it actually is. I was surprised at how lush the area seemed. Cactus are present but so are a lot of other plants. A few hundred meters to either side houses set atop the cliff walls that make the ravine but it was rather quiet as we walked along with little road noise or other non-nature sounds intruding upon our experience. The thing that most prominently intruded upon our enjoyment was the increasing temperature: surely well over 80 °F under the pounding sunlight. It was always a pleassure to step into shaded areas. Too bad those were few and far between. It isn’t a particularly scenic ravine.

    We left the ravine, passing under a small refreshing water leak, to walk the final kilometer along a town road that quickly rose a couple hundred feet to the road that leads into the coffee plantation in San Pedro. We got a tour that was notably for the exuberance of the woman informing us about various facts about the coffee plantation. To say she had a wildly distinctive, annoying, shrill laugh and presentation style is understating the case. Perhaps the laugh can’t be changed (and it would drive me nuts) but toning down the drama would be welcome. After the tour (which though I don’t recall details now of what we experienced in Costa Rica wasn’t anywhere near as good) we sat down for a tasting of some of the wines this plantation also makes along with thimble-sized amounts of coffee. I suppose a nice touch but it really didn’t thrill the foodie in me.

    Stats

    The walk actually came pretty close to the booklet stats we had available. It was 5 miles long and had 800 feet of ascent and 100 feet of descent. The vast majority of the descent was from the hotel to the sea. We ascended on roads and some short lava beds with the last couple hundred feet of ascent at the end of the Agaete Ravine and then on sidewalks along a road into the coffee plantation. The highlight of the walk is the cemetery.

    Photos

    Photo taken Feb 22, 2024 at 9:15 AM

    It seems like the waves crashing against the lava flow are doing so with more vigor this morning. We expect it to be warm and clear though there seems to be a bit of haze over part of Agaete (not seen here).

    --February 22, 2024 at 9:15 AM.

    Maps are centered on the photo: Google map, Apple map, OpenTopoMap map

    Photo taken Feb 22, 2024 at 10:47 AM

    The top photo is a map representing where tombs of the original inhabitants of this area are located. The botom photo shows a part of the cemetery and you can see the lava rock mounds that are the above-ground portions of the tombs.

    --February 22, 2024 at 10:47 AM.

    Maps are centered on the photo: Google map, Apple map, OpenTopoMap map

    Photo taken Feb 22, 2024 at 11:05 AM

    The mound you see in the foreground and some of the others further away mark some of the 700 tombs of the people who lived on this island before the Spanish came. I believe people were buried here from the first through the eight century. They stopped when the necropolis got too full.

    --February 22, 2024 at 11:05 AM.

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    Photo taken Feb 22, 2024 at 12:12 PM

    If you know how to extract the fruit from and Indian Prickly Pear you will find something that has an interesting flavor and certainly is edible. Belinda showed us how to get at the fruit (if you do it wrong you’ll have lots of spines in the fruit and then in your tongue). One extra side-effect is the rather colorful drippings the fruit leaves behind. Photo by Jonathan A

    --February 22, 2024 at 12:12 PM.

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    Thursday, February 22, 2024

    Gran Canaria, February 2024: Day 4 Roque Nublo and Caldera de Tejeda

    Wind. I stepped out of my modern spacious room into the hotel hallway that was acting like a superb breezeway. Dad would exclaim that it was “freezing outside” though I personally think he exaggerates for effect here. The temperature is probably no lower than 60 °F (15 °C). Breakfast starts promptly at 07:30. The hotel has a rope blocking entry until a staff person comes at 07:30 on the dot to remove it and let people in. You’ll find a buffet with an assortment of food that will certainly meet the caloric needs of the body even if it doesn’t excite the taste buds. You aren’t staying here for a quality foodie experience.

    Today we would take our nearly full bus into the center of the island. Roque Nublo is about 26 miles from here and that requires about 80 minutes to drive the twisting two-lane mountain roads. Vehicles, certainly larger ones like our bus, have to take care making some turns. It is not a fast drive. With a stop along the way to use bathrooms (and I should have taken a photo of the pony/donkey that ambled into the sidewalk that led to the bathrooms and blocked our path and didn’t seem to care) we reached the drop off point at about 10:35. The sky was clear and the temperature had warmed up nicely even though we were at about 5,200 feet above sea level. We elected to do the easier walk. The harder walk added an extra two miles that, if I understand things right, we would skip by driving to a second starting point.

    The path to Roque Nublo sits on basalt and ash. It is a stone path that is quite wide: easily 6 feet oftentimes. The stone underfoot is stable and rough providing good purchase for shoes with grippy soles. If it were wet it would likely be awful. Over the about the next 0.9 miles we would ascend 500 feet. Sometimes that climb would be steep. No section was particularly long but you would have to step from rock to rock. For people with good balance this isn’t likely too big a concern but for me it is slower going especially on the way back down.

    It’s a very popular trail. Easily scores of people from the very young to elderly were out on it. That would force pauses in our travel as one group of people would have to yield to another (the ascending one if rules of the road are being observered). Up and up we went. We passed through a stand of trees as views of the caldera spread out before us. In time we could look ahead and up and see Roque Nublo rising above the summit in its monolithic glory.

    We lost a few people along the ascent up. They turned back and waited for us at the bus. For some the climb was steeper than they wanted to deal with; for one the issue was the yawning expanse of the caldera dropping off on one side. Mom and Dad decided to not forge ahead up the last couple of short ascents to the mesa where Roque Nublo and The Frog sit. I pushed on with the group the last 0.1 or so miles up some steeper, have to step-up (down) rocks, that took me the better part of 10 minutes to deal with. But Roque Nublo beckoned. The monolith rises 80 meters from the base though it doesn’t look like it is that tall. Of course, you are easily 250 meters from its base when you enter the mesa. We spread out and marveled at the rock formations and then drifted to the western edge of the mesa to gaze across a caldera and far out into the hazy distance where Mount Teide rose up claiming the honor of Spain’s highest point rising above the island of Tenerife. From the eastern edge Caldera de Tejeda (I think) falls away. From that vantage point The Frog looked more frog-like (toad-like). Though if you don’t see the bulbous protrusions you could think The Frog is a sitting dog in maybe the bulldog family with the squished face.

    Going back down seemed to take longer than climbing up. It probably didn’t but it is, for me, more work. Sure we had to pause now and then to let an ascending group go by and the number of people on the path seemed to have increased but I don’t think that lengthened the time of our descent too much. We found Mom and Dad at the base of the last descent where Roque Nublo was easily visible. They’d grown tired of waiting for us. We had after all lingered at a couple places to get a short talk from our guide each time.

    Within 40 minutes we had clamored down the steep-step-down-rocky bits plus the more common steady descent dropping back down 500 feet over the 0.9 miles back to the bus. Time enough to buy a Fanta at the mobile food stand and pile in for the short drive to the drop-off point for the second part of the walking today.

    We had something like 4 miles to go with 600 feet of ascent and 1,100 feet of descent. Of course, those are the stats in the booklet and the booklet doesn’t seem to hold precisely to the reality on the ground (assuming my GPS tracks are accurate and I’ve no reason to believe they are not). We struck out on a wide dirt path, almost a road, that wound through a forest of various trees that were growing nowhere near as densely as the laurel forest we explored the previous day. I am sure some of the tree were pine trees or at least evergreen as we did trod upon some nice needle-covered ground. It was a fine afternoon as we passed by a “camp” for groups to rent. I think it might be similar to a place a group like the Scouts might use for overnight type activities that engage people in outside events including sports. There were basketball courts, an empty swimming pool, and many buildings. But that was just a place we would pass on our way to the rim (they say balcony) trail that winds around Caldera de Tejeda. We would spend the bulk of the walk working our way counter-clockwise along this gentle dirt path that is well maintained. It’s easy walking. The views across the caldera are spectacular. Now and then you can look out to the west and see Tenerife. I think the rock formation we sat across from at lunch may have been the one Belinda, our guide, called The Monk which we saw climbing to Roque Nublo.

    Around we went, generally descending, passing through stands of trees now and then. We eventually came to a road but we were going to take a path that would contour around, up and down, several hills that the road passed by. Once again the footing was generally excellent with just an occasional bit of less good trail. The ascents were a bit steeper but not really steep especially compared to the Roque Nublo path. Descents were similar in quality though they were a bit longer. The last descent into Cruz de Tejeda was probably about 0.5 miles long but not really a challenge. We arrived in the village where the group doing the harder walk was waiting at about 15:30. That gave us enough time to visit bathrooms and have a drink. We had walked 3.75 miles over the last 2 hours and 45 minutes (including breaks). This time the booklet overstated the numbers. We enjoyed our walk around the caldera and if it wasn’t for the well over an hour drive each way I would give both walks a big thumbs up. If you do them just know you will have a lot of time on a bus.

    Stats Rock Nublo: 1.8 miles out-and-back (if you go to the base it’s probably 2 miles). 500 feet of ascent and 500 feet of descent. Har d rock surface with sections of rough rock and uneven large step-up/down that will slow you down (well slowed me down). If the rock is wet it would be awful.

    Caldera de Tejeda: 3.75 miles with 400 feet of ascent and 820 feet of descent. The bulk of the descent happens after you leave the rim trail. Ascents are mostly on the hills after the rim trail though there is some at the start. Dirt trails with excellent footing. Spectacular views.

    Photos

    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 10:49 AM

    Near the start of the about 0.9 miles hike up a trail built atop the basalt mountainside that leads to Roque Nublo.

    --February 21, 2024 at 10:49 AM.

    Maps are centered on the photo: Google map, Apple map, OpenTopoMap map

    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 11:07 AM

    The trail remains quite wide and has occassional steeper bits but for the most part is a steady climb up rock that is, at least when dry, providing pretty good footing. There have been spots where you have to step up more than I like. This little stretch of forest seems a bit odd in that it is here at all.

    --February 21, 2024 at 11:07 AM.

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    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 11:39 AM

    In the hazy distance you can see the highest peak in Spain rising up. Mount Teide is on the island of Tenerife which is about 35 miles west of me.

    --February 21, 2024 at 11:39 AM.

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    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 11:46 AM

    Roque Nublo is on the right perhaps 500 feet away from where I am standing. It rises 80 meters though it doesn’t look like it. I don’t know if the rock on the left has an official name but Belinda says the locals refer to it as The Frog and I suppose I can see that. The last couple ascents while not long are a bit more challenging since the rocks are uneven and there are many larger steps to deal with. Normal people will still not have too much trouble. I think it took me about 7 minutes to make the last climb (and descent) of perhaps 300 trail feet that rose 40 feet.

    --February 21, 2024 at 11:46 AM.

    Maps are centered on the photo: Google map, Apple map, OpenTopoMap map

    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 1:22 PM

    It is hard to get a sense from the photo of how deep and wide this caldera is. We are walking counter-clockwise around a portion of the rim of Caldera de Tejeda.

    --February 21, 2024 at 1:22 PM.

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    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 1:51 PM

    We had a nice lunch break at this spot. If we were really pushed for time I bet we could have left in 20 minutes instead of the half-hour we got to spend here.

    --February 21, 2024 at 1:51 PM.

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    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 2:20 PM

    We have been descending down towards the road. I think this may be the primary road that leads to our endpoint at Cruz de Tejeda.

    --February 21, 2024 at 2:20 PM.

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    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 2:58 PM

    Looking back towards Mom and Dad as they come into view along this path that is contouring around several hills above a busy road. We have a couple short ascents on good paths and then a gentle half-mile-long descent into Cruz de Tejeda.

    --February 21, 2024 at 2:58 PM.

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    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 6:48 PM

    In just a few miniutes the sun will set and the colors will have faded from the cliffs that plunge down into the Atlatic Ocean.

    --February 21, 2024 at 6:48 PM.

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    Photo taken Feb 21, 2024 at 6:51 PM

    Down Sol goes. Less than 5 minutes but the colors have faded from the rocks leaving just the sky around the Sun colorful shades of orange and dusky blue.

    --February 21, 2024 at 6:51 PM.

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    Wednesday, February 21, 2024

    Gran Canaria, February 2024: The First Days

    While we have been here since Sunday I am going to gloss over our brief time in Las Palmas and the extra-long time it took to reach the Gran Caneria. Suffice to say that our trip did not get off to a smooth start as our flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria was cancelled. We were stuck spending a day twiddling our thumbs in Boston either in the hotel that Lufthansa put us up at (the Airport Hilton which was rather impressive though the food was only mediocre) or in Logan Airport. We lost a day of our trip to this delay and ended up also eating the cost of our rooms at the hotel in Las Palmas. Sometimes life hands you lemons and there is no way to turn them into something even close to lemonade.

    When we arrived in Las Palmas we were tired in spirit if less so in body. Did the drive under seemingly smoggy skies through a less=pretty part of Las Palmas influence that? Maybe. We got settled into our tiny rooms with no views and then did some minimal exploration of the historical center of the capitol. We saw enough to know there is more to see and we got a glimpse of the cathedral every guide says you should enter and climb to the roof and spire. We did not do this. We found a small cafe and had a pretty tasty meal of vegetable samosas, a goat-meat stew with potatoes and chickpeas (largest I’ve ever seen), and a similar stew with chicken. It was surprisingly good. A short stroll down part of the Tirana pedestrian way showed us that you can’t go even a full block without passing by a coffe shop that features wonderful looking and no doubt sumptuous baked goods. We need these places back home. We found some ice cream (those shops are almost as common) before calling it a night as the sun dipped below the horizon and twilight was quickly coming to its end.

    After a good night’s sleep in our very modern-inspired designed rooms and a nice breakfast we had a few hours before we would take a taxi to Agaete and the Occidental Roca Negra Hotel. The morning was if not quite clear than sunny and warm. The sky appears laden with smog but it is actually dust that is blowing across the ocean from the Sahara Desert. We had a nice breakfast and then did a little more exploring of the main shopping area which is close to the hotel. Besides the many shops and such we saw I think we will remember Las Palmas for the number of small and very small dogs we saw. Generally very well behaved, non-yippy, dogs. Dogs of various breeds in miniature form including one that was being held in the palms of one man’s hands. What is smaller than a lapdog? That one sure was.

    * * * ** * * ** * * *

    We arrived at the Occidental Roca Negra Hotel in Agaete around 12:30. We had a few hours to relax before the rest of the HF group would arrive. We spent that time settling in, having a bite to eat (the couscous salad was good; the hot ham and cheese sandwich lacked substance, the french fries hot and good enough), and relaxing at the pool. A little exploration down the paved path that curls down to the sea from the top of the bluff the hotel sits upon to a black sand lava-rock strewn beach below capped our last few hours by ourselves. It was a good way to get into a nice mindset for the upcoming days. That might have been a bit harder to do when the other 26 (I think) people showed up in two waves between 16:00 and 17:00 (4:00 and 5:00PM). We took a walk down into the village of Agaete to a nearby grocery store. It will certainly have more than enough options for our lunch and snack needs. After climbing back out of the sea-side village we had just enough time to sort things out before the first real meet and greet of the trip (sure we all walked down to the store together but that doesn’t count). That ended with our first meal together: buffet dinner. I hope the food gets better.

    Breakfast was better. We will just quietly ignore the fact that you probably have to work hard to mess up scrambled and fried eggs, yogurt, hot and cold cereal, a selection of breads and croissant’s, fruit, and other stuff including some remarkably tasty donuts. We got ready to join the group and completely fill our bus. At 08:40 we met one of our local guides: Paco. An interesting effect of Brexit has been that HF no longer can use their own volunteers to lead walks in EU countries. You can make a good arguement that employing local people to lead the walk will give superior results as they are local but some of the charm has now been leached away. More proof, it seems to me, that Brexit was a bad idea. The other downside of local guides, conquering their accents, will eventually be dealt with. Certainly Belinda’s accent is easier to contend with but we got to hear her in better environments (the easier walk) while Paco was talking to us on a noisy bus and in the hotel lobby.

    After a 40 minute bus ride along minor roads that twisted through the mountains of northern Gran Canaria we reached our dropoff point near the village of Teror and the nature reserve/working farms of Finco Osorio. The group divided up almost evenly in half and Mom, Dad, and I joined the easier walk. The reported stats were a 5.5 mile hike with 300 feet of ascent and 400 feet of descent along trails, country lanes (more akin to two-tracks or small mountain roads), and sidewalks along busy roads leading into the village of Teror. The people doing the longer walk would some of what we would do and add a summit climb over the local mountain Osorio Pico de Rayo (another 0.75 miles and extra 700 feet of ascent and descent I think). The morning was much clearer and the temperature pleasant.

    It really was an easy walk. The bulk of the ascent (the number appear to be somewhat off) happened within the first mile along well-maintained and used mountain paths that wound through a lovely dense and dark forest. This is a laurel forest. Prior to the arrival and conquest of the people already here by the Spanish in the late 15th century these forest were far larger. What remains may be about 1% the size of what once was. It is a lovely forest. The ravine that Belinda took us into was definitely the highpoint of the morning. Give yourself even a minute of silence to inhale fragrances, listen to the call of various birds, gaze up and up and up along the nearly 80 meter high walls of the ravine. It’s a wonderful spot that I can well understand why Paco makes sure he visits whether leading the easier or harder walk.

    We left the trails to wokr our way through working farm fields that I think are part of the nature reserve that is Finco Osorio. This is a 220 hectares (about 500 acres) plot that is being allowed to re-wild I think. However, farmer who lived here before it was acquired by the government can still farm. We passed by several potato fields. Our walk along small forest roads was interrupted by the frequent cries of roosters, the jingling of cowbells in the distance, and a few dogs that were probably a bit too eager to see us (and certainly let us know they were boss of the land). By the time we we stopped for lunch it was clear to me that we either were going to do a shorter walk than we were told or that we had better speed up considerably. We didn’t really speed up and the walk was shorter. I don’t know if Belinda shortened it or not though I am not sure, after we left the trails, that she could have. The gentle road walk was nice enough and even the walk on pavement sidewalks along a busy road into Teror proper was not bad.

    Stats Distance: 4.4 miles. Acent: 470 feet. Descent 650 feet. Clear and sunny. A perfect day for a walk. Footing was excellent throughout. The majority of the ascent would be in the first 2 miles and most of that within the first 0.5 miles (roughly). The bulk of the descent was in the last 2.4 miles and pretty consistently gradual throughout.

    Photos

    Photo taken Feb 19, 2024 at 10:05 AM

    Walking down Triana which is a lengthy pedestrian street full of cafes, coffee shops, and stores. It is at the heart of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.

    --February 19, 2024 at 10:05 AM.

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    Photo taken Feb 19, 2024 at 2:20 PM

    Standing on top of the cliffs just north of our hotel in Agaete, Gran Canaria. The sunsets should be wonderful here.

    --February 19, 2024 at 2:20 PM.

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    Photo taken Feb 20, 2024 at 10:35 AM

    The photo doesn’t do the ravine justice. The upcoming video does show the depth of the ravine a bit more clearly. It’s a love spot that if you give yourself even a half-minute of silence will reward you with feast for the senses.

    --February 20, 2024 at 10:35 AM.

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    Photo taken Feb 20, 2024 at 2:38 PM

    An Indian Laurel tree is the true centerpiece of the plaza here in the village of Teror. I suppose the church is nice (we did not go in) but this tree is remarkable.

    --February 20, 2024 at 2:38 PM.

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    Photo taken Feb 20, 2024 at 2:12 PM

    I don’t know how they got the tree to grow into each other but it a pretty sight. This is in the village of Teror which is the endpoint of our first day’s hike.

    --February 20, 2024 at 2:12 PM.

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    Photo taken Feb 20, 2024 at 2:13 PM

    We had a snack at a cafe - nothing compared to the love coffee shops we saw in Las Palmas - and then had some time to kill. Watching the antics of this red junglefowl helped pass the time before we re-joined the group to walk the couple hundred meters to the bus for the 40 minute ride back to the hotel.

    --February 20, 2024 at 2:13 PM.

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    Photo taken Feb 20, 2024 at 6:57 PM

    I just missed sunset. Looking to the north in the top photo;looking northwest at where the sun was moments ago.

    --February 20, 2024 at 6:57 PM.

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    Tuesday, January 9, 2024

    Our Nearly Annual Trip to Tucson, Arizona, December 2023

    We have been visiting Tucson around this time of year for about a week over the past 25 years. We have a variety of hikes we consistently like to do. Some hikes we have not done in many years. Some hikes we used to do consistently have now fallen by the wayside for  various reasons. Times change. What follows is a photo essay for our most recent trip to Tucson.

    Note: Some maps are different in appearance. It was easier to present them that way and not make them all consistent. The blue dots on some of the maps are 1/2 mile apart from each other.

    Day 1

    Map overview of the hike: A loop from Broadway to near Garwood Dam

    Our first hike would follow a lollipop-like path from the Broadway Trailhead. It ended up not quite being what we initially planned. We start and end at the Broadway Boulevard trailhead (TH) and head east. We turned north and then curled back south along Monument Wash. From there we follow a loop clockwise that will get us close to Garwood Dam. After closing the loops we retrace our outbound trail back to the car.

    Photo taken Dec 28, 2023 at 10:25 AM

    The trails in the Pink Hills area (Saguaro National Park eastern district) are numerous and it is easy to do something other than what you initially planned. But our errors in navigation let us encounter some groups of horse riders that I don’t think we would have otherwise met.

    --December 28, 2023 at 10:25 AM.

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    Day 2

    Map overview of our Catalina Canyon Loop hike.

    We like this loop hike in Catalina State Park. However, our side trip to the Montrose Pools was a bust: no water was flowing. In fact, no water was visible anywhere which is a first for us. Follow us from the trailhead to the out-and-back, 0.5 miles one way, spur to Montrose Pool. Continue counterclockwise to complete the hike.

    Photo taken Dec 29, 2023 at 11:24 AM

    I should have checked to be sure I took this photo from the same vantage as a superb shot I managed of this Saguaro cactus a few years back. But it is still an impressive cacti along the Catalina Canyon Loop trail. This year there was no water flowing anywhere along the trail which is a first for us. In fact, it has seemed drier in general this year.

    --December 29, 2023 at 11:24 AM.

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    Day 3

    Map overview of our hike in Madera Canyon.

    This turned out to be rather more challenging a hike than we thought it would be. I think it was tougher than it was when we last did it in 2008 (which we really weren’t sure of). Mom found the general ascent enjoyable. The slog between Bog Spring and Kent Spring was the worst for me; the descent from near Kent Spring to the end was worst for Dad. I’ve provided a bit more detail here. The blue dots are 0.5 miles apart. The start and end of the hike is at the upper left purple line terminus. You can see where Bog Spring and Kent Spring are by the orange pins. Sylvester Spring is about 0.5 miles west of Kent Spring.

    We start and end at the picnic area. Heading east and then southerly to the start of the loop. At this point we travel clockwise past Bog Spring, continue up - and a little down - to Kent Spring, descend steeply past Sylvester Spring, and finish the loop. We finish by retracing the last mile down to the picnic area.

    Photo taken Dec 30, 2023 at 10:09 AM

    After the mighty Saguaro cactus I think the Sonoran desert seems to be best noted for the wide variety of cholla cactus species. Perhaps this is because cholla exist at a wide variety of elevations. Here is a Cane Cholla not that far from the Madera Canyon Picnic Area Trailhead. This is the start of what would prove to be a long, rock-strewn, steady climb towards Bog Spring. Photo by Judy Knight

    --December 30, 2023 at 10:09 AM.

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    Photo taken Dec 30, 2023 at 10:51 AM

    We are moving slowly. At this point the footing is actually pretty good and there are no drop offs to worry about. But this is a steady climb and we aren’t as young as we were 15 years earlier which is when we last did this hike (we figured that out when Mom returned home and was able to check notes in an older version of the trails book we like by Betty Leavengood - Tucson:Hiking Guide).

    --December 30, 2023 at 10:51 AM.

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    Photo taken Dec 30, 2023 at 11:34 AM

    Getting closer to Bog Spring. The trail is narrowing and the drop off is steep and long. But the views as we creep through the forest are sometimes quite good.

    --December 30, 2023 at 11:34 AM.

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    Photo taken Dec 30, 2023 at 1:00 PM

    We stopped at Bog Spring for lunch. Now we are plodding along a narrow, maybe two-feet wide, shale strewn, trail with a perilous drop-off on one side. We have hiked perhaps 2.0 miles gaining about 1,300 feet in elevation. We are still a few hundred feet below our high point and maybe three quarters of a mile from Kent Spring. Mom is finding the climb a real challenge. I loathe the footing. Dad is doing alright. But we are creeping up at less than one mile-per-hour at this point. The views are expansive and special but hard to really enjoy.

    --December 30, 2023 at 1:00 PM.

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    Photo taken Dec 30, 2023 at 2:25 PM

    Kent Spribg is a small wet area just beyond this sign. From now on, with a few short breaks, the trail will descend at times steeply. Photos by Judy and Ken.

    --December 30, 2023 at 2:25 PM.

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    Photo taken Dec 30, 2023 at 2:31 PM

    This is one of the steeper bits of trail between Kent Spring and Sylvester Spring. Mom is moving with ease; Ken is doing better though the descent is still tough; Dad does not like it at all. As Mom shot a bit of video it took Dad and Ken about 40 seconds to reach her. Photo by Judy

    --December 30, 2023 at 2:31 PM.

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    Photo taken Dec 30, 2023 at 4:14 PM

    We have about one mile to go and the sun is starting to create a lovely glow on the mountains.

    --December 30, 2023 at 4:14 PM.

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    Photo taken Dec 30, 2023 at 5:25 PM

    That last mile took a while. We probably should have walked past Kent Spring Csbin to the road and taken it back to the trailhead. We would’ve still had to descend a few hundred feet but a road walk would have been easier even if a bit lengthier. We finished just a little after 5:00PM and this is a view from the car as we leave Madeira Canyon. We were on the trail for just over 7 hours and took 95 minutes in breaks. Especially between Bog Springand Kent Spring we were moving well below 1.0 mile-per-hour.

    --December 30, 2023 at 5:25 PM.

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    Day 4

    Photo taken Dec 31, 2023 at 12:14 PM

    Besides the butterflies in the butterfly house in the Tucson Botanical Garden, the garden does a nice job presenting the flora of the region.

    --December 31, 2023 at 12:14 PM.

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    Day 5

    Map overview of our hike to n the desert floor near the old Tucson Studios.

    This loop in the western district of Saguaro National Park is nice enough but the desert sounds are frequently interrupted by gunfire from a nearby shooting range. We did start and end at the trailhead (TH) but I neglected to start recording our walk counterclockwise along the Ironwood Loop Trail for about 0.5 miles. Where the yellow line starts is the place I realized my error.

    Photo taken Jan 1, 2024 at 9:36 AM

    We are at the start of the David Yetman trail. It has some shade as it winds up into the Tucson Mountains past the stone remains of Ruby and Sherry Bowen house. We have done this trail before (for example this hike) and hoped our legs wouldn’t complain.

    --January 1, 2024 at 9:36 AM.

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    Photo taken Jan 1, 2024 at 10:04 AM

    Dad’s legs were quite unhappy with even modest descents so after hiking in a half mile we turned around to find trails on the far flatter desert floor. On the way back this slowly moving cloud streak caught our attention as it drifted to the right above the line of Saguaro cacti.

    --January 1, 2024 at 10:04 AM.

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    Photo taken Jan 1, 2024 at 10:59 AM

    Here in this part of the western district of Saguaro National Park the desert seems much flatter than what you find in the Pink Hills area. We are all still feeling the effects from the Madera Canyon hike so a hike with little elevation change might be a bit dull but physically easy. The morning had been sunny earlier but clouds have made a rare appearance on a slightly blustery day.

    Top: facing west in the direction we are following the Ironwood Loop Trail. Bottom: facing southeast towards the mountains (Golden Gate Pass) from whence we came.

    --January 1, 2024 at 10:59 AM.

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    Photo taken Jan 1, 2024 at 10:59 AM

    Here in this part of the western district of Saguaro National Park the desert seems much flatter than what you find in the Pink Hills area. We are all still feeling the effects from the Madeira Canyon hike so a hike with little elevation change might be a bit dull but physically easy.

    --January 1, 2024 at 10:59 AM.

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    Photo taken Jan 1, 2024 at 1:25 PM

    We are about 3.7 miles into this 4.2 or so miles hike. We have seen a couple other hikers and several bikers today.

    --January 1, 2024 at 1:25 PM.

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    Day 6

    On a day that we did not hike, we visited for the first time the Saint Xavier Mission.

    Photo taken Jan 2, 2024 at 10:05 AM

    The photo is misleading. It’s not nearly this bright inside the San Xavier Mission. It dark and what are likely pretty ornate art featuring all sorts of catholic iconography are really hard to see.

    --January 2, 2024 at 10:05 AM.

    Photo taken Jan 2, 2024 at 10:47 AM

    The San Xaviermission was established in 1692 by Father Eusebio Kino. The present building was built between 1783 and 1797 and is the oldest European structure in Arizona. I think the building is more remarkable than what it contains but no doubt my lack of knowledge about Catholic art and what it means combined with low vision (and a dark interior) account for some of this opinion. The two towers are different colors. It’s not a trick of the camera.

    --January 2, 2024 at 10:47 AM.

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    Day 7

    map overview of our hike loop from Speedway to Garwood Dam 

    Back to the Pink Hills but this time starting at the Speedway trailhead. We intended to have lunch at Garwood Dam.

    We start and end at the Speedway Boulevard trailhead (TH) and head first south on the desert floor before starting our clockwise ascent towards Three Tanks. We descend towards Garwood Dam eventually closing the loop near the desert floor. At that point we retrace our outbound hike back to the trailhead. We were on trails for 3 hours and 40 minutes. We took almost an hour in breaks. The bulk of the 420 feet of ascent and descent is in the loop which is about 2 miles.

    Photo taken Jan 3, 2024 at 10:12 AM

    This will be our last day and hike in Tucson and we have returned to the Pink Hills below the Rincon Mountains. We are determined to have lunch at Garwood Dam. At this point we are climbing up off the desert floor along Wildhorse Tank Trail. It’s a lovely morning. One thing we prefer about this region over the desert floor by the Old Tucson Film Stufio where we were on New Years Day) is the quiet. There, really most of the time, you hear gunfire from a shooting range. Here once out of earshot of Broadway and Speedway you just have (mostly) the sounds of the desert.

    --January 3, 2024 at 10:12 AM.

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    Photo taken Jan 3, 2024 at 10:32 AM

    Look closely and you’ll see what I believe is a Common Raven sitting atop a Saguaro cactus. We heard its croaking call as we neared (though surely a ways off) and moved away for several minutes.

    --January 3, 2024 at 10:32 AM.

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    Photo taken Jan 3, 2024 at 11:14 AM

    --January 3, 2024 at 11:14 AM.

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    Photo taken Jan 3, 2024 at 11:49 AM

    Out in direct sunlight it feels much warmer than the forecast temperature. An occasional breeze cools you down but it is certainly a fine day for shirt sleeves and shorts. We have just finished lunch by Garwood Dam. There are a few routes back to our car at the Speedway Boulevard trailhead and we will take a shorter one there. The curved wall behind Mom is the top of the dam.

    --January 3, 2024 at 11:49 AM.

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    Photo taken Jan 3, 2024 at 12:50 PM

    Almost back to the trailhead. Here comes Mom knowing the car is minutes away. This 4.25 or so mile hike was a nice way to wrap up our week in Tucson.

    --January 3, 2024 at 12:50 PM.

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