Posted by: Talie Morrison | May 26, 2016

Winding my way back to Crested Butte

After my 4 months in New Zealand, I have taken 2 months to travel from LA to CB!

I arrived in the USA on April 4 and just last night (May 25th) finally got to Crested Butte.

I visited my kids in California (Santa Barbara and San Diego) and visited friends in: Tucson, Scottsdale, Prescott, Escalante, and Ouray.   In between, I camped, hiked and backpacked in the beautiful deserts of Arizona, Utah and Colorado.   I had an awesome time! I love the freedom of living in my truck and I feel very blessed to be able to explore these beautiful places during Springtime! And, of course, photos are the best way to share these travels:

 

I’ll be “in and out” of Crested Butte for the summer – my life is always “a work in progress”! But the big event that is on the horizon, June 5th, is my 70th birthday!   I’ll be celebrating on the night of the 4th with a potluck in the park – so if you are near Crested Butte, come by and join the festivities!

 

 

Posted by: Talie Morrison | April 9, 2016

The rest of the trip …

In early March,  Dianne flew down to the South Island from Auckland.   Grady, Heather, Dianne and I “tramped” around the Greenstone/Caples track.   This track starts at Glenorchy (near Queenstown),  then goes up the Greenstone River, over the McKellar Saddle and then down the Caples River.  The mountains and valleys are really beautiful in this part of the world!   Which I guess is why Queenstown is such a popular tourist destination!

Then Heather and Grady headed up toward the Queen Charlotte track to hike/bike/kayak, while Dianne and I went up the Hope River for a couple of more nights in huts before she flew back to Auckland.

I took the ferry to the North Island (in my little red PahutaCARwa) and planned on doing one more backpack trip – around Mt. Taranaki.   It is a beautiful volcanic mountain on the western side of the North Island,  and a track goes all the way around it on a 4 day trip.   Because it was Easter Weekend, it was really crowded – the Holly Hut had about 70 people at a hut for 36!   People were camped outside in tents, sleeping on the floor in the dining area and on the porch!   I get so used to being in remote huts where I am the only person there – this was a “trip” for me!   Luckily I “scored” a bunk and mattress so I didn’t have to sleep on the floor.   But unfortunately my back “went out” on the way in – and instead of going around the mountain (the next day was an 8.5 hour hike),  I ended up staying in the Holly Hut for 3 nights until my back felt better.  (Bummer – this is not ok with me!)

Then Dianne joined me on the west coast of the North Island and we drove to Lake Taupo and spent a couple of nights at Kinloch (at Pete and Glennis’ bach [holiday home]).   Then it was back up to Auckland, and I spent a couple of days unpacking PahutaCARwa and getting her ready to sell.   Dianne and I spent a day at the Auckland Car Fair  (along with about 2000 other people who wanted to sell cars).   We had a couple of people interested, but no serious buyers.   I felt bad having to leave Dianne with the car;  but, by the time I got to California, she had someone come look at it and sold it! Yea!

Heather and Grady showed up at Dianne’s a couple days after I left, and now “Vinnie” the van (named for “Vincent Van Gough”) is cleaned out and waiting for me till next December!

So back in the USA:  I am doing fine driving on the right again – but I am still turning on my windshield wipers when I want to turn on my blinkers…  (in NZ cars the blinkers and wipers are on the opposite sides of the steering wheel.)   But that is minor to being sure I am on the correct side of the road!  After a couple of days in Santa Barbara, I am now in San Diego (going to the chiropractor to get my back into working order again!)  It’s great to be back in the States, and I miss New Zealand already!

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Talie Morrison | March 1, 2016

Stewart Island Southern Circuit

Heather and Grady went off to do some kayaking and mountain biking, so I decided to put together a quick trip to Stewart Island and finally complete the Southern Circuit.   Remember I bailed on that one during my Christmas Trip in 2014.   I was bummed that I hadn’t completed it – so this was as good a time as any — well on second thought, maybe I should have waited for a month of dry weather — oops, I don’t think that ever happens on Stewart Island!

This is the map from the Stewart Island Brochure

This is the map from the Stewart Island Brochure

I took the Ferry across Foveaux Strait – it was pretty rough and people were grabbing the little white barf bags right and left.   I stood up in the back and watched the horizon and felt pretty good.

I spent a night camping at “Allen’s Wilderness Camp” which was pretty fun.   It was very basic, but there were hooks in the kitchen area (under roof but open air) where I could hang my hammock!

The next day, I took the water taxi to Freshwater Landing and walked to Mason’s Bay.  I noticed more mud on this stretch than I had ever seen before – maybe that was a warning to me of what I was getting myself into!     I had my hammock with me – good thing since Mason’s Bay hut was full.   I hung in the same trees that I was in last year!

The next day started with 2 hours of beach walking till I got into the bush.   Then it was basically 3 days of unbelievable mud!   Whew!   There is thick mud, thin mud, slippery mud, bottomless mud, sauce mud, wide mud, green mud (that’s mud with green plants growing on top – but it still might be a meter deep!), tarn mud, swamp mud,  … the list goes on!   The track went up from Mason’s Bay, across the tops (which were swampy – and yes, muddy!) and down the other side.   The water taxi driver had warned me about this section – he said it was terribly steep and muddy – he was right!

But I finally I gotten to Doughboy Hut – the area that I had really wanted to see.   It was beautiful!  It’s a perfect little bay, with steep mountains coming down on all sides.     I would have loved to see it with blue skies to get the real feel of the hight of the hills, but that was not to be.  There were 4 hunters at the hut, and when 4 other trampers plus me showed up – it was another full hut (there were only 8 bunks).   So even though my pack had been really heavy, I was glad once again that I had my hammock!

To get out of Doughboy Bay, the next morning I had 411 meters (1,348 feet) to climb in 1.5 kilometers (.93 miles) – yes it was straight up!   But it was steep enough that there wasn’t any mud!   Whew!  It gave you the feeling that it was easy since it was not muddy!   Once I completed the climb though, it was swamp across the tops again, and mud down the other side.   No rest for the weary,  once the track was down, it followed the Rakeahua River with more mud!   By the time I got to the Rakeahua Hut, it was raining and windy – are we adding insult to injury here???   I was glad there was an extra bunk inside as my hammock system can be really noisy in the wind!   It rained and blew all night!

My little “hut family” (3 nights all in the same hut) decided it might be best if we stuck together for the first 3.5 kilometers, since it was “prone to flooding”!   Luckily,  we didn’t lose anyone in the mud holes, and we were treated to seeing a Kiwi wandering through the bush.  Finally we reached the South West Arm of Patterson Inlet.   It still was a long wet, muddy, way – but at last Fred’s Hut came into view, and I was relieved that I had gotten there!

All three days of hiking, I was coming in 2 hours over the track times!   It was exhausting because you had to be totally focused on every step!   After the falling over backwards into the mud, I also went in up to my mid-thigh twice.  One time, I really was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get out – there wasn’t anything to “push off” from, and one of my legs was stuck!   Since I am here writing this, obviously I was able to extract myself!

Each night at the huts, I had quite the time washing off all the mud on my legs, gaiters and clothes.   (When I got back to Bluff, I had to wash my pack!)

I had built in an extra day for this trip, in case I ran into swollen streams or really bad rain.   So I thought I would have an extra day at Fred’s Hut recuperating.    But the water taxi was able to get in touch with those of us there, and they asked to come get us a day earlier because there was another big storm on the way!   So instead of going out on Saturday and taking the ferry on Sunday, I came out on Friday and hopped on the Friday afternoon ferry back to Bluff (another “little white bag” crossing!).

Of all the tracks I have done in New Zealand, I usually am up for doing them again.   But I think that the Southern Circuit on Stewart Island will be a ONE time experience!

Posted by: Talie Morrison | February 17, 2016

Photos from New Zealand

I haven’t been very good this year about updating my blog — so here are photos from the last 3 months.   Even though today it is bucketing down rain here in TeAnau, I am still just LOVING New Zealand.   What an awesome country and awesome people.   Every year I love it more!

I’ll be here in New Zealand till April – so more photos and adventures to come!

Posted by: Talie Morrison | December 12, 2015

I’m Back in New Zealand

Once again, here I am in New Zealand!  I am really happy to be back in the “Land of the Kiwi”!

First:  The Trip West

I left Crested Butte, way back on October 1st.   And I now think I have the “world’s record” for traveling from Crested Butte to San Diego:  5 weeks!   Yes – that is the world’s “longest” record!  😀

After spending a week visiting friends in Denver, Boulder and Colorado Springs in early October, I decided the fastest way to get from Colorado Springs to Green River, Utah, was over Cottonwood Pass and then over Kebler Pass.   That would take me through Crested Butte and I could stop and get my ballot to vote!   Great Plan!   At the top of Cottonwood Pass, I stopped and got out of GrayJay to stretch my legs.   It was a beautiful morning and the views from Cottonwood are spectacular.   When I got back in GrayJay, I turned the key and …. NOTHING!   Yikes!   How could that be?   I opened the hood and looked at the engine (not that I know much about engines).   Surely it must be the starter – but I don’t have a clue as to what a starter looks like.   So I “blew” on the battery and told it, “Come on now.   You should start.”   Believe it or not, when I got back in the truck and turned the key, it started!   Too funny!   But also it would not be “funny” if I was in the middle of the desert and GrayJay decided not to start.   So I drove straight to my mechanic in Crested Butte and asked if they could replace the starter.   This was about noon on a Friday, so it looked like by the time they got a starter and replaced it, it would be Monday afternoon.   I called my friend, Joni, and asked if I could come stay for the weekend while my truck was in the shop.

So that Monday, I once again left Crested Butte (I did get a chance to vote!) and headed to Green River, Utah.   Part of the reason for planning this extended trip out to California is to give myself time to work on my book!   Yes, I am writing a book.   And I am finding out how much work it is to write a book!   While I was out camping (without any distractions),  I figured I could write on my computer for about 4 hours each morning before the computer battery was drained.  Then I could go to a  coffee shop or something to plug in till the battery was once again fully charged, and head back out into the desert.   It was a great plan and I got tons of work done!

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I camped out for a week at Crystal Geiser in Green River, Utah

Finally, I made it to California.   I visited Steve and family for 4 days, visited my friend, Mary, in Los Angeles for 4 days, and visited Craig and family for 4 days.   I don’t know if anyone can “put up with me” for longer than 4 days! 😜  That took me up to November 15, and that evening I was on my way flying back to New Zealand!

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Gates – My favorite Black Belt Kid!

With Craig and Dakota (and Buddha)

With Craig and Dakota (and Buddha)

 

November in New Zealand

If you will remember, last April when I left New Zealand, I had arranged to purchase another van from a lovely man who was heading back to England.   All the negotiations went smoothly, and while I was back in the USA, I became the owner of two New Zealand vehicles:   my little red “PahutaCARwa” and now a Mitsubishi Van.  While I was negotiating for the new van last year, I told my niece, Heather, that if she and Grady ever wanted to come to New Zealand for an extended time, this would be the year!   If all went well, I would have 2 vehicles.   She and Grady were on – so I asked Dianne if she could arrange storage for both the car and the van.   What would I do without her!!

So now back up to November,  arriving in Auckland, I was able to “meet” my new van.   As I sat in it I realized I needed to make a living space for 2 people, so the first thing I said was, “The seats have to go!”   The only reason to keep the seats in it, would be for resale value if I was selling it to someone other than a traveling tourist.   Probably, I won’t be selling it anyway, and if I did – it could be to another tourist.    So the seats had to go and I wanted to build a bed in the back.

"Vinnie" - the new "Van Gough"

“Vinnie” – the new “Van Gogh”

After asking the neighbor across the road for a ratchet set, the next thing I knew Dianne and I were unbolting the seats.   It was remarkably easier than I had expected!   But the problem was how to get rid of the seats.   We called around, but no one wanted free van seats – so we located a “dump” that would accept them, and off we went to the dump!   The way they charge you for unloading something like this is to weigh your vehicle with the seats in it, and after unloading them, they weigh your vehicle again and charge you for the difference.   No problem.

The seats have to come out!

The seats have to come out!

After being weighed, we were directed the spot where we should unload the seats.   Seats are heavy, but we managed to “wiggle and jiggle” and get them out of the van.   Then, as I looked under the trash we were next to, I spotted a full size piece of ¾ inch plywood with 2×4 supports all around the edge.   PERFECT!  “Can we have that?”   The dump workers were already amused by these two old ladies unloading this van – then they were even more amused that we wanted to take stuff with us.   After uncovering it, we had to set it aside while we went and got the van weighed and paid for dumping the seats.   Then we came back around and loaded the plywood into the van!   A perfect fit!   Wonderful!!

So off we went to Dianne’s son’s house.   He is doing a remodel and has all the tools there!   So out came the piece of wood, we pulled off some of the supports and used an electric grinder to cut off any nails poking through.   Then we took those supports and put them on end to make legs and nailed those on.   Once we put it back in the van, we realized that it really was just a little too long, so back out it came.   Next thing I knew I was using the skill saw to cut off about 16 inches which we turned up and nailed back on for a head board.   Thus separating the bed room from the kitchen!!  😏😳

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Yes – it is PINK!

Back at Dianne’s, after smoothing some of the rough edges, I thought it would be good to give it a coat of paint to protect the wood.   Mixing together left over paint from some of her projects – I ended up with enough paint to cover the whole bed with a good coat of acrylic paint.   But the leftover paint mix turned out to be ….. PINK!   OMG – a pink bed – and is it ever PINK!

Off to the store again, and now to buy a mattress for the bed.   We had the shop trim about 4” off the end of the foam and it fit perfectly.  By this time,  I was pretty psyched to have converted the van and the only expense was the mattress!   By adding sheets and a duvet (cast offs from Dianne and some that came with the van), at least the biggest part of the “Pink” is covered up.  Then I cut up another duvet cover that also came with the van, and, voila:  New Curtains!

Of course the van needs a name:   Which went like this:  Van…. Van Gogh…  Vincent Van Gogh … Vinnie!   😀🚐

Getting to know Vinnie

Of course I thought it only appropriate that I spend a week getting to know “Vinnie”.   So I took off to explore the Coromandel Peninsula.   Dianne wanted to do a bit of a day hike with me – so she took her car and we drove in tandem up into the Hunua Ranges.   We were trying to find the Kohukohunui Track (which we never did find…).  We drove till we had came to a locked gate – and then we just parked and walked up the road looking for the Track.   It is a beautiful forest and we had a lovely couple of hours walking even if we didn’t find the trail we were looking for.   Dianne headed back to Auckland and I decided to camp there at the car park by the locked gate.  This was my first night in my “new van” – and it is perfect!

The next morning there was lots of activity going through the locked gate, so I wandered over to ask the guy unlocking the gate about the track we had been trying to find.   Next thing I knew he asked me if I wanted to spend the day volunteering to cut a trappers line though the bush (and go to a barbecue afterwards).   “Of course”  was my answer!    Thus, there I was traipsing around in the bush again, working alongside other volunteers, cutting back the small trees and bushes.   The reason that this section didn’t have a trappers line on it already was because it was too “steep”.   So that gives you an idea of what the terrain might look like!   I had a great time helping and was rewarded afterwards with a delicious barbecue afterwards!

Cutting track through the bush!

Cutting track through the bush!

From there I spent 5 days wandering around the Coromandel Peninsula, doing lots of beach walks, a few bush walks, and enjoying getting to know Vinnie.   Then I headed back to Auckland.     I cleaned out Vinnie for Heather and Grady (who were arriving on December 6th) and I moved all my gear into PahutaCARwa once again.   It’s a lot smaller than the van, but I am sure I can “make it work” for another summer down here  (if you look closely you can see the “Crested Butte” bumper sticker on the back).

PahutaCARwa

PahutaCARwa

Leaving Auckland, Dianne and I stopped and spent the first night at Kinloch – on the shores of Lake Taupo.   We stayed with Dianne’s cousins, Pete and Glennis,  at their “bach” (holiday house), in Kinloch.   We had a lovely evening catching up and laughing a lot!

The Rhododendron are blooming in Kinloch!

The Rhododendron are blooming in Kinloch!

Then Monday, Dianne and I drove to the Ruahines and the Sunrise Hut trail head.   The trail went up, up, up, but it wasn’t that long, and in 3 hours we were tucked into the cozy hut (in the clouds unfortunately).   Not much of a “sunrise” either day!   But it was fun getting there and being back in a New Zealand hut.   The next day we day hiked over to the next hut (which was not quite so “flash”) called the Maropea Hut.   It was lots of ups and downs along the ridges of the Ruahines.   That evening, we were joined in the Sunrise Hut by Claire and Cane (a Kiwi and an Aussie) and we taught them how to play Farkle.  Way fun!

Start of the hike to the Sunrise Hut

Start of the hike to the Sunrise Hut

The Sunrise Hut

The Sunrise Hut

Cain, Dianne, and Claire at the Sunrise Hut

Cain, Dianne, and Claire at the Sunrise Hut

Coming down from the Sunrise Hut, we drove to the home of Dianne’s friends, Gaye and Bruce.   It was great to get a shower and do laundry after a couple of days of hut living.   The next day Dianne flew from Napier back to Auckland, and I headed South for a ferry crossing on Friday the 4th.

So now I am back on the South Island – YEA!

Heather and Grady are now in New Zealand and traveling around in Vinnie

Heather and Grady's new home!

Heather and Grady’s new home!

Vinnie - with new curtains and ready for action!

Vinnie – with new curtains, pink bed,  and ready for travel!

The South Island …

I’ve been camping along the beach, been to the Mt. Fyffe Hut for a couple of nights (finally got an outstanding sunrise on the second day) – then I took the Spaniard Track down (it was straight down) and my quads are so sore I can hardly walk!   Now I’m visiting with Myles and Margaret in Christchurch – and on Tuesday, Heather and Grady and I will meet up and make our plans for the summer down here!

Overlooking Kaikoura from the Mt. Fyffe Hut

Overlooking Kaikoura from the Mt. Fyffe Hut

On top of Mt Fyffe

On top of Mt Fyffe

Sunrise!

Sunrise!

The Spaniard track goes straight down there!

The Spaniard track goes straight down there – all the way to the river!

Posted by: Talie Morrison | August 31, 2015

THE COLORADO TRAIL

The Colorado Trail

As most of you know, in the summer of 2012, I hiked across the Pyrenees – 508 mountain miles.   I had so much fun that I wanted to see if I could do something like it again (not getting any younger here!).   So I thought, “Instead of going somewhere across the planet, why not do a long hike in my own backyard!”   Thus, I came up with the plan to hike the Colorado Trail.   I had originally said I would hike it to celebrate my 70th year.   But thinking about age: when you turn 1 year old, you have already lived 1 year – so if I have already had my 69th birthday, I must be in my 70th year!   Why wait?   Here is the description of the trail:

The Colorado Trail is Colorado’s premier long distance trail. Stretching almost 500 miles from Denver to Durango, it travels through the spectacular Colorado Rocky Mountains amongst peaks with lakes, creeks and diverse ecosystems. Trail users experience six wilderness areas and eight mountain ranges topping out at 13,271 feet, just below Coney Summit at 13,334 feet. The average elevation is over 10,000 feet and it rises and falls dramatically. Users traveling from Denver to Durango will climb 89,354 feet.

It sounds just like something I “needed” to do!  🙂

I didn’t get home to Colorado from my India/Nepal trip till mid-June, so I only had about 3 weeks to prepare for this long hike!   There was a lot to be done: getting all my gear together, finding 6 friends who would re-supply me, putting together 6 weeks of backpacking food in 6 weekly packages, ordering new boots, getting books and maps to follow, etc … the list just kept getting longer and longer.   My original plan was to give myself 2 months to complete the trail – but life got in the way beginning and end of the hike and shortened that to 6 weeks. I figured if I started on July 13 that would put me off the trail on August 24th.  Let’s see: 42 days for a 485 mile hike that comes out to averaging 11.5 miles a day.   I guess I can do that (especially on days that are mostly downhill!!) I am definitely not a fast walker (especially with a full pack on and especially on the up-hill), but I will have all day every day to do those miles.

Everything pretty much “came together” in my preparations.   The one big item, which was a worry, was my new hiking boots.   My old ones definitely were not up for a long mountain hike!   I had ordered the boots in plenty of time, but it seems that there was a “snafu” on the shippers end and throwing in 4th of July didn’t help.   It would have been nice to have a couple of days to “break in” those new boots – but that didn’t happen! The new boots showed up at noon on the day I was to leave Crested Butte at 4 pm.   Whew!   At least I got them!!!  And thanks to the miracle “Glide” (blister resister), I never got any blisters!

GrayJay (my trusty truck) needed a new timing belt, so I left her with the mechanic in Crested Butte.   My final re-suppliers, Tom and Karen Jensen, had agreed to drive GrayJay to Durango 6 weeks later so I would have “wheels” when I got off the trail!   How sweet is that!!

The rest of my transportation arrangements were to take the free bus from Crested Butte to Gunnison, spend the night at Tom & Jan Rickert’s home and then take the 6 am bus to Denver (actually to DIA).   Tom was one of my re-suppliers, so I also had a week’s worth of food to drop off with them.   Everything worked just according to plan – and I met my son, Craig, at DIA that afternoon.   Craig was attending a Landmark Education weekend seminar, and he had asked me to be Course Leader Support (one of my favorite things to do) – and that was one of the things that took a week off the original time.

After the weekend with Landmark, I gave Craig my “city clothes” to take back with him (I wasn’t about to carry them 485 miles on my back!).   My niece, Heather, and her husband, Grady were also in Denver and had agreed to pick me up and get me to the trailhead at Waterton Canyon.   Thus with all the preparations and logistics completed, I was on the trail at 6:30 am on July 13!   Whew – now all I have to do is walk 485 miles to Durango!🙂

Heather and Grady joined me for the first 8 miles as we walked up Waterton Canyon to “Lenny’s Rest”.   Then they said “goodbye” – and I was on my own.   That first day I ended up doing 16 miles (now that’s a good start), but I was pretty pooped by the end of the day!

I’m not going to make you wade through descriptions of 41 (I ended early) days of hiking all day – but thought you might like some of the highlights and descriptions of a typical day.

I would wake when it started getting light outside (about 5:00 am in the beginning of the hike – more like 6 am later in the hike).   I spent about half an hour doing some back adjustments and stretches before I even got out of my sleeping bag.   Then I started some water to heat (on my tiny alcohol stove) while I packed up my pack.   Of course everything that came out the night before had to go back in!   Then I could have a nice hot cup of tea before I started hiking usually about 7 or 7:30 (I didn’t do an actual breakfast).

After 2 hours of hiking, I would stop for “first lunch” (even if it was 9:30 am!).   That consisted of jerky, dried fruit, and nuts – and it was a nice chance to take my pack off for a few minutes and sit down.    Then after another 2 hours of hiking, it was time for “second lunch” – pretty much a repeat of first lunch!   I tried to stop every two hours for food or snacks during the day – it was something to look forward to and a nice break for my feet.

End of the day stopping places varied.   Sometimes I planned where I would stop – either according to mileage or water source (usually water source!).   Sometimes they were established campsites (where someone had camped before) but oftentimes I was just wandering off into the woods looking for a level spot.   I would have liked to use my hammock for this adventure, but there was a worry about being “above tree line” which would make the hammock difficult.

Once I stopped for the day, the first thing was to set up my tent.   Sometimes I was racing an afternoon thunderstorm, or even setting up in the rain – but often there was plenty of time to set up and start dinner (again on my tiny alcohol stove).   A warm dinner (consisting of a dehydrated dinner) and a cup of herbal tea, and I was ready for bed! “Good grief, Talie – it is only 7:30 pm – you can’t go to be yet!”    Thus it was a struggle to keep my eyes open till about 9 pm when it started to get dark.

I carried the Colorado Trail Data Book which gave me a wonderful description of what was coming up on the trail.   Thus I knew when I would be passing a water source (I purified all my water with a Steripen), trail junction, dirt road, etc.   It also showed me what kind of elevation gain I could expect!   There were several places along the trail that were pretty dry and I might have to go 22 miles between water.   Luckily for me it was a relatively wet spring in Colorado, and even though I did have some dry sections, I was able to get water along the way.  I think I went 12 miles a couple of times with no water.

The wet spring weather also made for an outstanding summer display of Colorado Wildflowers.   It was beautiful!   (Of course, the mosquitos loved the moisture too and were still going strong when I got off the trail on August 22nd!)

Some of the highlights were, of course, the beautiful mountains and flowers; the awesome other hikers I met along the way; trail angels who came and picked me up and took me to their homes to get a shower, laundry, a real meal, and a night in a bed; stopping at Mt. Princeton Hot Springs; and all my wonderful re-suppliers who brought my week’s food along with “freshies”. I had many beautiful sunrises and sunsets, rainbows, and mountain vistas.   I saw deer, moose, squirrels, pikas, a pine marten, lots of wood peckers and blue birds, gray jays and Rocky Mountain blue jays (luckily no bears).  And I was extremely pleased that my 69 year old body was strong the whole way!

I did the whole trail solo (I love solo backpacking), and I met many new friends along the way!   Several times, I was camped near other hikers, but usually I found my own little campsite in the woods or by mountain lakes.   The trail has an amazing mix of forest and alpine areas – and all of it is beautiful!   At the end of the trail, I had lost 17 pounds (some of which I think I have already put back on).   My trail name was Tadpole (thank you, Raven Wells, for giving me that name back in 1992).   And when I met younger hikers along the way, I gave them the Tadpole Blessing: “May you have blue skies; may you have level campsites, and may you be still doing this when you are 69!” 

I finished the trail on August 22.   I had a couple of days to “regroup” – it was pretty nice reconnecting with GrayJay and my hammock system!   Then on the 27th, I was on a plane from Albuquerque to San Diego.   I had an important “date” to see my grandson, Gates, get his Black Belt in Karate on August 29th.   I was a very proud Talie/Mom!   What a great way to complete a great adventure!

 

 

 

Steve, Gates and Chanda - At the Black Belt Ceremony

Steve, Gates and Chanda – At the Black Belt Ceremony – YEA!

 

 

 

Posted by: Talie Morrison | June 11, 2015

Trekking and more Earthquake relief

My original trekking trip with Pemba (the whole reason for this adventure) was to start on May 13 – but Pemba and I planned a little “pre-trip” from May 4 to May 11th.   We took off with his daughter, Neema, and her cousin, Pasang.   We had planned to go to a lake called Gosakundi – but we found out that the trail to Gosakundi was closed due to some landslides (earthquake damage).   So we headed into the Annapurna Conservation Area and did a hike up to Ghorepani.   From there we did a sunrise hike (4:30 am!) up to Poon Hill to see the sun come up over Annapurna and Dhaulagiri.   We had a perfect morning and the views were spectacular!   I love the early sunrise hikes!

At the end of the 5 days of beautiful trekking, we ended up in the town of Pokhara.   Since the next day we would be taking the bus back to Kathmandu (7 hour ride this time), Pemba went out with a taxi driver and located tarps for us to buy for the Earthquake victims.  As I mentioned in the blog before this – there were NO tarps, tents, or water purification to be had anywhere in Kathmandu!    I went through Pokhara and found water purification tablets.  Back in Kathmandu, I gave some of the tarps to Ishor to deliver to Sakhu along with the water purification.   The rest of the tarps we planned on taking to the small mountain town of Ghat.

On the 13th, Pemba’s trekking group arrived.   It was a bit smaller than planned as eight of the people cancelled because of the earthquake. But even though we were small – we made up for it in enthusiasm.

To start our trek, we needed to fly to Lukla.   Lukla airport is described as being the most extreme and dangerous airport in Nepal (or the world for that matter!)   Here I go scaring myself again….🙂  Check out this You Tube video of the landings in Lukla: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqgZvb37NX0

So our first day – Getting all packed and to the airport at 6 am, we waited for about 4 hours till they decided that all the planes to Lukla were cancelled due to weather!   So day 2, we packed up again and back to the airport at 6 am – and off we went … But the plane made a interim stop in Phaplu so we could wait for the weather to get better.   And then they off-loaded all our baggage because the plane needed to fly back to Kathmandu and pick up more passengers that were coming to Phaplu!   Finally the plane comes back, loads us and our baggage and off we go to Lukla! Yea!  The short flight and the landing were just as “exciting” as they were quoted to be!

From Lukla we trekked just a couple of hours to Ghat.   The next day we helped get all the furniture, windows, etc. out of a building near Ghat which will have to be taken down because of the damage. The rest of our tarps finally arrived that day, so the next day we hiked to another small village near Ghat. These families have been cut off because a landslide took out the trail. We delivered tarps to 9 different families whose homes were unlivable.   These people are all so amazing as they fixed us tea and lunch in their makeshift outside kitchens – such generosity!   Before we left they all wanted to do a “thank you” ceremony where they gave us khatas (Tibetan Buddhist ceremonial scarfs) and blessed us. It was very special!

The next 5 days we spent trekking amongst some of the most amazing and beautiful mountains in the world.   We worked our way up to Namche Bazaar, then past Tengboche, and stayed a couple of nights at Deboche.   We saw quite a few damaged tea houses, hotels and homes – but we also so lots of places that were simply closed because of the lack of business. It has been really hard on these people – first the earthquakes and now no business because of the fear (tourists are a fickle lot!).   How do you earn the money to repair your homes when there are no tourist dollars coming in?   Even for us, people were trying to tell us not to go – that it was dangerous.  We met a Buddhist Nun on the trail when we left Namche, and she went on and on about the dangers – falling rocks, people getting killed.   She really wanted us to turn around – it was a bit unnerving!  We always knew that if it got too bad, we could turn around – but, in fact, it was fine.  Not even dangerous!   And oh, how beautiful!   We spent 3 days mesmerized by the mighty Everest and surrounding mountains.

Coming back down from Tengboche, we took a side trip to Gumela to see the school that Crested Butte has been helping.   It was very sad, because the school is a disaster.   Part of this school had been built by Edmond Hilary – part by the locals – and part by a group of French volunteers.   None of the buildings are safe to be used – and the ground under the school isn’t stable – there was even a crack that went through the playground.   It is so sad to see how much work these lovely people put into something, just to have it destroyed. (But maybe that will be our next volunteer project!)

So back down to Ghat.  That night we went to bed early knowing that we had some hard work the next day.   But about 10 pm there was quite the commotion and we were told we had to get out immediately!   There had been a call to the village that said one of the high mountain lakes had let loose and a flood was coming!   Yikes!   So we all trooped out with the locals and headed to high ground.  Because it was dark, it made it even more scary!   But luckily it was a false alarm – the lake that collapsed was a smaller lake – and there was no flood.   So after a couple of hours – we were back in bed (a little nervous but ok).

Pemba had organized the locals to come with picks and shovels and join us the next day to cut a trail through the landslide.   The landslide had totally cut off the families on the side of the hill – they had been having to hike down and into the riverbed and then back up to their houses.   Once the rainy season arrives, they would have been cut off totally since the river would be too high.   About 25 strong young men showed up – along with 8 of us – to work on this trail. It was pretty scary to start – since there were some pretty big boulders above us.   Between rolling big boulders to the river, digging and shoveling dirt, tossing smaller rocks down, and actually splitting rocks (to make steps), we made a pretty good trail all the way across the landslide.  These guys know how to work!!!  (We need them for some of our CBMBA trail days!)   I was impressed!  Thanks to the generosity of my pledges, we were able to pay the locals for their hard work!   So it was a “win-win” situation.

From Ghat, we hiked back to Lukla and spent one night there.   Interestingly there was a Buddhist Celebration that afternoon which we went to – complete with drums, music, and costumes, etc.   We were definitely in Lukla at the right time!  And luckily, the next morning was crystal clear for our flight.   The take-off was just as exciting as the landing.   Down the runway and, as the plane lifts off, the runway disappears off a 2000 foot cliff!   Yikes!

So once we were back in Kathmandu, Pemba and I put together the final piece of my earthquake relief:   To get cement, tin and mattresses to the families on the other side of the landslide.   A bag of cement in Kathmandu costs 600 Rupees ($6) – but by the time we could get it to the families who need it, the cost per bag will be about 7,500 Rupees ($75).   So Pemba had 60 bags of cement delivered to the airport and flown to Lukla.   Then while I was on my way back to the USA, Pemba flew back to Lukla and arranged to get the cement to the villagers.   We talked about the transport from Lukla – our choices were “donkey train” or “porters”. Having the porters carry the cement was probably a little more expensive, but it was a way to give the locals a job and earning money. (With a donkey train, only 2 people get paid:  the owner of the donkeys and the donkey driver – but with porters, we provide an income for many strong men!)   Once the rainy season starts, there won’t be any work for these porters.  And even though it is an extremely hard job, it is what they are used to…. Pemba has promised me photos once he gets back to the USA himself – but I am going to go ahead and publish this blog….

Posted by: Talie Morrison | June 10, 2015

Tintale Village & Earthquake Relief

 

The second part of my India/Nepal trip was to go visit a small village in Eastern Nepal – Tintale Village, Udaypur, Nepal.   Years ago my son, Craig’s, partner in the music group Third Force started a sponsorship program called “aiSP”.   Through this program, we have purchased land to build a school in Tintale and provided small clean cook stoves for many families. (In this part of the world, everyone uses wood to cook their food.) It is an excellent program for a small village, which is “off the beaten track”!

So I flew back to Kathmandu and had one night staying in the Durbar Square area of Patan.   The next morning, Ishor and I walked across Durbar Square at 5 am (just 7 hours before the Earthquake which destroyed much of the area).   Our bus ride to Tintale was for 12 hours!   While we were stopped for lunch (at a small roadside restaurant), I thought Ishor was shaking the table (and he thought I was).   It took about 5 seconds to realize that it was an earthquake.   We were out the door instantly!   When we got outside, the bus was bouncing on its wheels, the trees were swaying and the power lines were going back and forth.   The ground was rolling so much, I had to bend my knees to stay standing!   So we knew that it was a “big” one.   After it was over, we went back inside for our Dal/Batt meal (rice and lentils) – and continued the bus ride to Katari (where we needed to spend the night before going on to Tintale).   When we got to Katari, we saw the news and then found out how bad the quake had been.   There wasn’t much damage in Katari and Tintale, but the people were very frightened.   Everyone was sleeping outside because they were afraid to sleep inside their homes.

It was another hour from Katari to get to Tintale (by 4 wheel drive!).   Our beautiful school building has some hairline cracks from the earthquake, so it will need some repair work.   All the schools all over Nepal were closed due to the danger, and those closures ended up extending for the whole time I was there.   But the school kids in Tintale, all came to school one day to do a welcoming ceremony (complete with music and dancing) just for me.

I had a lovely time in the village, and met not only my sponsored young man, Prakash, but also many of the families who live there.   It is a very rural area and agrarian – so all the fields were newly planted or getting ready to plant. It was great having Ishor with me to translate for the people who didn’t speak English. The area around Tintale Village is mostly Hindu.   So I got to go to a Hindu wedding (two villages over) and a Hindu (Hari Krishna) Festival – with lots of chanting and dancing.   It was 5 days of being immersed in their culture – I loved it!

It wasn’t till we got back to Katari that we saw more news and the devastation in Kathmandu.   I was a little nervous going back into the city – as I wasn’t sure how dangerous it would be or whether there would be water, food, etc. available.   But Ishor had talked to his family who were still in Kathmandu and assured me that we would be fine.   So we got back on the bus for our 12 hours into Kathmandu.   Our bus was pretty empty, but the buses going the other way (out of Kathmandu) were packed with people – sitting on the roofs too. As we neared Kathmandu, we started seeing the destruction that had been caused by the quake – it was pretty amazing.

Before we went back to Kathmandu, I put a request out to my Facebook friends – if they would pledge money, I would see that it got to the Nepali people who needed it most.   It was AWESOME the response I got.   By the end of my “project” I had collected pledges of almost $10,000!   THANK YOU EVERYONE WHO PLEDGED!

I had a couple of trekking trips planned with my Sherpa friend, Pemba; but I had a couple of days before I was to leave.   So Ishor and I went out to Sakhu, a village outside of Kathmandu, where there were people who had slipped through the cracks and were not getting any relief.   We talked with one of the locals who gave us a tour of the devastation (Yikes!) and helped us identify the people who were in the most need.   While we were touring the area, another Caucasian lady came up to me (not many of us out there).   She was from the BBC – and asked if she could interview me.   That was pretty interesting – and it was fun when friends of mine (in England and in Crested Butte) told me they turned on the radio to hear “This is Talie Morrison, from Crested Butte, Colorado.” The interview was about the fact that some of these small villages were not getting any help from the government or the big NGOs – so individuals, like me, were raising money to help them.

One of the interesting things that the locals told us with Sakhu, was that we needed to bring the food in “under cover of darkness” so that the people who didn’t need the food wouldn’t see it come into the village.   Ishor and I tried to find a truck to help us carry the food but none of the drivers were willing to drive there at night.   So our local contact said they could come to get the food – and sure enough they came into Kathmandu in a vehicle that they were able to procure: a bus!   Now, Kathmandu has many very small alleyways, which are filled with people walking, motorbikes, and some cars.   You should have seen our bus navigating the small streets!   It was amazing!

So we filled the bus with rice, dal (lentils), salt and oil, and sent it back to Sakhu (I kept referring to it as the “rice bus”!). The only items we were not able to get in Kathmandu were: Tarps or tents and water purification tablets – those were totally sold out in all of Kathmandu!

Then the next day, Ishor and I got a truck and driver to transport water, soap, and medicines to Sakhu.   We spent the rest of the day distributing everything to the people who needed it (our local contact turned people away that he knew already had food- and made sure it went to those in the most need!)   The people were so appreciative.  It was an amazing experience to be able to be “on the ground” and providing such needed aid.

Before I took off with Pemba to go trekking, I left money with Ishor to help the village of Dharmasthali with more food and water.   It is a blessing to have a local who knows the needs, the language, and the best way to provide aid to those who need it most.   I am so thankful to my friends who pledged money and enabled me to help these lovely people.  And I am so thankful for my Nepali friends who helped see that these monies were most effective.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted by: Talie Morrison | June 10, 2015

Kathmandu, Nepal & Leh, Ladakh, India

 

April 9th (just 3 days after I left New Zealand), I flew to Kathmandu (through Guangzhou, China).   I only had a couple of hours at the airport – so I didn’t consider it one of my “countries”… (But my way home, I had a 16-hour layover, got a free hotel room, and took a bus into town – so I guess I can consider that I have been to China now!).

In Kathmandu, my friends, Ishor and Raj met me.   Raj is a special friend of my Kiwi friend, Dianne, and I had a delivery to Raj from Dianne (with a “tablet” and clothes).   That worked great, and Raj was back on a bus and headed back to Chitwan, where he lives and goes to school, shortly thereafter.

 

Ishor plunked me on the back of his motorbike and off we went to explore Kathmandu.   Kathmandu is “crazy” whether you are in a car or walking – but on a motorbike it is even wilder!!!!   It took me a couple of trips with Ishor till I stopped having a “death grip” around his waist!   Luckily he didn’t pass out from not being able to breath J. We visited some of the temples and sites of Kathmandu – and in hindsight, I was really glad I was able to visit them when I did (since after the earthquake – those that didn’t collapse were closed from danger of collapsing).

After just 2 days in Kathmandu, I was back at the airport and on my way to Leh, Ladakh, India.   When I put this trip together, I decided that I was “close enough” to go to India to visit a monk, Sonam Rinchen, who I have been corresponding with for about 10 years.   That came about when some Buddhist Monks visited Crested Butte and did a sand mandala in the Center for the Arts.   I was so impressed with the time and precision and effort that went into the mandala that I signed up as a sponsor.   Sonam and I have been corresponding since then.

Sonam is adorable! He met me at the airport (at 7 am) and dropped me off at the hotel where I had booked a room for my 10-day stay.   We had discussed prior to my arriving, that I would need to “take it easy” for the first couple of days because of the altitude – Leh is at 11,500 feet!   So I took a nap first thing – but woke up at 11 am with Acute Mountain Sickness – woofta!!!   By that evening, the hotel owner took me to the hospital where I got all the treatments: Oxygen, Dexamethazone, Diamox, etc.!   It took me a couple of days to get close to “normal” again – but I was glad I didn’t have to cancel and head home!

Leh, Ladakh, India – is an amazing place!   It is definitely a mountain desert region!   And being there in April, it was before the growing season began.  I enjoyed watching for 10 days the start of spring with trees budding out with fresh green leaves and blossom.   There are apricot trees everywhere!   Sonam took me to see all the monasteries within about 50 square miles! It was great! He had borrowed his brother’s car – so I felt really special having a driver, tour guide, and monk all in one! Like I say, he is SUCH a sweetheart! His English was good enough for us to communicate with basic understanding.   He took me to have dinner with his mother and sisters one evening – awesome!

I had my friend, Joni, send me Red Lady Prayer Flags for this trip – so it was fun to hang them up in India and Nepal.   Sonam helped me hang them up at Shey Monastery outside of Leh.   Very fun!

I booked another driver (we needed a bit of a stronger vehicle) to take us over the mountain pass to the Nubra Valley.   This is how Lonely Planet describes Nubra:

Ladakh – the ‘Land of the High Passes’ – is among the most stunning parts of the Indian Himalayas. Wedged between Pakistan, Tibet and Xinjiang Province (China) and India’s Himachal Pradesh, it forms the eastern part of the contested state of Jammu & Kashmir. North of Leh, Ladakh’s ‘capital’, lies a far-flung and austerely beautiful enclave cradled by rugged mountains ‒ this is the Nubra Valley (often simply abbreviated to Nubra), a tuft of land on the very scalp of India.

The region actually comprises two valleys: Nubra and Shyok. Both their rivers rise amidst the remote and heavily glaciated peaks and troughs of the Karakoram Range. The Nubra joins the Shyok in ‒ as far as tourism is concerned ‒ the region’s heart near Diskit before flowing westwards into Pakistan to eventually join the mighty Indus. Local communities once prospered on an extraordinary trans-Himalayan trade which originated with the Silk Road. Comprising huge mountains, yawning valleys and vast uninhabited hinterlands, most of Ladakh’s boundaries may look almost impenetrable on a map. Yet for centuries great caravans of wool and cloth, opium, spices and skins, coral and turquoise, gold and indigo negotiated several routes and their hazardous passes mainly between Leh and Yarkand (in China). The already withering trade finally died in the late 1950s when China largely sealed its borders.

Far more relevant to today’s visitor is the journey to Nubra on what is claimed to be the world’s highest motorable road. Climbing steadily out of Leh and the Indus Valley, the road officially crosses the Khardung La pass at 5602m (18,379ft), although this height is now disputed and the accolade is probably incorrect. But don’t let the maths or contested measurements spoil what is still a great drive.

Someone once told me that to feel “truly alive”, I should do something that scared me every day.   Well – after driving over Khardung La pass, I think I have 3 years “in the bank”!   The road was snowy and icy – no one has 4-wheel drive, but everyone puts chains on their vehicles – and there were LOTS of trucks and cars – all trying to pass each other on the basically one-lane road! Yikes!!!

I booked the same driver to take Sonam and me over another pass a couple of days later – to go see Panglong Lake – am I crazy or what??

Pangong Lake is an endorheic lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 4,350 m (14,270 ft). It is 134 km (83 mi) long and extends from India to Tibet. Approximately 60% of the length of the lake lies in Tibet. The lake is 5 km (3.1 mi) wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 km2. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It is not part of Indus river basin area and geographically a separate land locked river basin.

 This pass was equally scary and we got totally stuck in a traffic jam at the top.   Driving on these mountain passes was pretty amazing – I am glad I wasn’t behind the wheel (we would still be there!).

Wandering around the town of Leh was also very fun.   I was there before the tourist season really got started – so the merchants were pretty “hungry”!   They would come out of their shops and talk to me and try to entice me into the shop.   By the end of my stay in Leh, when I walked down the street – I would keep hearing “Hey “Colorado” – how are you today?   Come in and have some tea!”

So even though I was in “India” (which gives me visions of hoards of people, pick pockets, and dirt), I felt very safe among the “mountain people”.

 

Posted by: Talie Morrison | April 9, 2015

A lovely last month in Kiwi Land

My last month in New Zealand was pretty mellow.   I did a couple of short “tramps” (that’s Kiwi for “backpacking trips”).   My friend, Muppet (who I met in Antarctica) and I had wanted to hike through the Silver Peaks outside of Dunedin.   So we finally found 4 days when he was off work when we could get out.   It was just a 2 night trip but in some beautiful bush.   Unfortunately we had a day of rain in between our 2 nights out – and that made us miss a lot of the beautiful views (aha – a reason to go back and do it again!  :-)

I had another little trip into a hut at Lake Chalice in the Richmond Range.   But the rest of the time I enjoyed “car touring” and visiting with friends – along with some beautiful “day hikes”.    It was a relaxing and fun way to end this Kiwi adventure.

And now I am planning my next adventure … I am on a plane tomorrow night (just 3 days after leaving New Zealand) going to Nepal, then India, then back to Nepal.   It will be a different sort of adventure – and I am totally looking forward to seeing those big mountains in that part of the world!   (I’m not taking my computer – so the next blog might have to wait till I get home in June!).

 

 

 

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