Author: Ben ShakmanDate of Trip: March 2006 This is a four part trip report that covers our drive from Illinois to Dover, some missteps with flights, our trip around Europe (Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland), and our return travel. Of note: I traveled both ways with our daughters (age 5 & 7) while my wife made her way to Germany from Iraq in order to join us for this adventure. There are more pictures from this trip on our website at smugmug.com. March 17th (Day 0) March 18th (Day 1) March 19th (Day 2) We arrived at the PAX terminal and a very nice member of the Air Force Reserve on his Annual Training from Arkansas gave us a ride back from the long-term parking (wouldn’t it be great if there was a better way when one flies out of Dover?) so that we could drop off our vehicle. With the truck in long-term parking, our baggage in the terminal, and a minor sign-up glitch fixed — we were all set to fly. I had a little bit of time … [Read more...] about Operation Iraqi Freedom vacation – in Europe!
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Author: April F.Date of Trip: September 2007 Travel is nothing new to my husband and me. We have crisscrossed the United States visiting states from Maine to California to Hawaii to Florida. I had only traveled outside the US once, however, when we spent a week in Paris. My husband, on the other hand, had lived in France for a year as a child and had visited much of Europe during that period. In all of our travels we had never used a travel agent. Being independent and self sufficient people we booked our own flights, reserved cars when needed, made hotel reservations on our own and planned our itineraries. It was therefore totally out of character when I informed my husband that I wanted to travel to Europe and try a guided tour. My reasons for wanting to use a guided tour were varied. In numerous trips to the US National Parks, I had most enjoyed the guided walks with the naturalists. The explanations they gave of the flora and fauna and natural occurrences in the parks made the … [Read more...] about Switzerland: First Impressions of a Guided Tour
Stop just dreaming about a thru-hike; make it real! Our online Thru-Hiking 101 class covers everything you need to plan and finish the long-distance hike of your dreams. Start it instantly, complete it at your own pace, access it forever. It’s raining at Rainy Pass, Washington. We’re just 66 miles shy of the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail—way up in the pines and the firs and the shifting fogs of North Cascades National Park—and it’s cold. Even now, in the middle of August, there are still patches of snow in the creases of the steep,sharp-ridged mountains above. It’s hypothermia weather. And earlier, as a trail angel named Monte drove us up a mountain road to the 4,800-foot pass, he waxed grandiose, telling us, “You guys are stepping onto the Trail of Death.” Now, I look out the car window, skeptically.The most venerated hiker in PCT history is outside, however, standing beside the large wooden sign that welcomes … [Read more...] about Billy Goat’s Never-Ending Thru-Hike
Rick Norsigian wasn’t looking for any pictures. He went to the garage sale that day 11 years ago thinking he might buy an antique barber chair he’d heard was available. Norsigian is drawn to stuff like that in a way that’s hard for him to explain. He loves finding old Americana at street fairs and auctions—barber chairs and old-timey service-station pumps and neon signs and huge, hand-cranked coffee grinders—and bringing the objects home and fixing them up and then just breathing the same air with them. “My sister and brother-in-law got me going in this crap, then they quit and I continued,” he says. “It’s a sickness.” He’s standing in the entryway to his house, next to a huge Gilmore Gasoline pump with a Lucky Strike neon sign on top. He shrugs in a way that suggests that he has no real choice in the matter and, in divulging the depths of his predicament, hopes for empathy rather than judgment. He started more than 30 … [Read more...] about Ansel Adams’s Lost Photos?
In April 2015,a magnitude 7.8 earthquake devastated Nepal.In May, a second quake of magnitude 7.3 hit. No one knows how many lives were lost in the most remote villages. The official tally, however, came to 9,000 deaths, 23,000 injuries, and $5 billion in damages. Maybe you made a donation to relief efforts. The outdoor community—trekkers, manufacturers, retailers—gave generously. But it wasn’t enough. Six months after the devastation, Nepalis in need had yet to see any of the $4.1 billion in total promised aid from foreign countries. And even areas undamaged by the quake were suffering. Close to a million Nepalis depend on the tourism economy, and tourism plummeted by more than 40 percent last year. Many concerned parties, from the Nepali government to this magazine, said the best thing you could do to help was go to Nepal. Go for that dream trek now, when the need is greatest. But still, many people, including me, were fearful. Reports of extensive damage … [Read more...] about It’s High Time to Go Trekking in Nepal
Tourists don't visit the children's court in Mendoza, Argentina. Why would they? The three-story, cement-block building sits in the heart of a centuries-old colonial town that offers sightseers plenty of historic, whitewashed landmarks. But well-tended rose gardens surround the courthouse, and if on your tour through Mendoza you glimpsed them, you might ignore the building and snap a photo. If you had official business inside, however, you might ignore the flowers and see only the building. It looks just like a courthouse should: intimidating.Rewind to December 14, 2007, when Jordan Romero entered the court, along with his dad, Paul, and Karen Lundgren, Paul's longtime partner. They are not tourists. They are climbers. And they hope to summit 22,841-foot Aconcagua. But unlike other mountaineers–who arrive in Mendoza, pay the $300 permit fee, and head to basecamp–Jordan has an extra challenge to overcome. Park regulations prohibit climbers younger than 14 years old. Jordan … [Read more...] about Higher Education: Should 13-Year-Old Jordan Romero Climb Everest?
We swoop around another turn in the mountains. the road gets a bit steeper, and in the January rain, a gray tendril of mist drifts over the green woods. The engine churns as our car labors uphill. beside me, the little boy in a car seat stares out the window. Christian Thomas is five years old and reed-thin with rosy, cherubic cheeks, and by now he has eaten about half of the chocolate donut holes contained in the 14-ounce Walmart box in his lap. What’s on his mind? Is he dreading the hike planned for today? Plenty of adults would be anxious about a 15-mile trek in a chilly downpour, hoofing it up and down on the Appalachian Trail as it rolls through Shenandoah National Park. Or is he just mesmerized by the fat raindrops lashing at the windows? Quiet, quiet, quiet. There are crinkled paper bags wadded on the floor of the car, a thrashed 1996 Jeep Cherokee, and dirty laundry is strewn everywhere. Yet somehow amid the chaos, this kid is tranquil, composed—put together. His … [Read more...] about Kindergarten Can Wait
"Does this pack make me look fat?" Sarah Sexton is playing it for laughs as she tightens the hipbelt on her backpack. Now that she mentions it, the cinched nylon webbing does create a visible belly roll. I keep that observation to myself. “Yeah, and how about my thighs?” chuckles Dan Shattuck as he hikes the hem of his shorts to expose a generous—though muscled—quad and hamstring. He does an abbreviated runway strut for emphasis. “Are they flabby?” Modesty is an early victim on most backpacking trips, but the group I’m hiking with in Texas’s Big Bend National Park has taken over-sharing to the extreme. We’re way beyond hat hair and funky feet and off into discussing taboos like thigh rub, secret food binges, and body image. If it’s connected to being, ahem, weight-challenged, it’s fair game. What else should one expect from an outfitted adventure billed as “Fatpacking”? Five of us have trudged to pine-shaded … [Read more...] about Lighten Up: Lose Weight Hiking
Liquor shotguns his first beer at 10:29 a.m.We've been hiking up a steep trail in southwestern China's Guizhou province, a place that looks a lot like Kentucky with bamboo. Fir, pine, and rhododendron also thrive here, at an elevation of 900 feet and roughly the latitude of Orlando, Florida. But there's nothing gentle about Guizhou's chaotic canyon topography–the result of India pushing into Asia, and dozens of rivers cutting through soft sandstone and limestone. Where the hillside isn't dead vertical, it's covered with dense, pack-grabbing vegetation. The temperature has climbed into the upper 80s, and the next ridge disappears into white-cotton humidity.Liquor is a 20-year-old Chinese university student with a protruding stomach and soft, round features. This is his first backpacking trip, and it took only a few minutes on the trail before he questioned the wisdom of packing six cans of beer, especially since he's also carrying several large bags of fried rice, a jar of pickled … [Read more...] about China: The People’s Hiking Revolution
We camped on a high pass, mountains as far as we could see.To the north, glacier-crusted, 24,790-foot Minya Konka cut into the horizon like a diamond. To the west, the endless mountains of the peak-spiked, 12,000-foot Tibetan plateau broke the skyline. To the east, a wet mattress of white clouds floated over the rice fields of central Sichuan, China. And to the south: uncountable unclimbed peaks.Our 14,100-foot pass, Tsemed Kha La, was cold, windy, and scabbed with snow. We erected our tent at dusk and within minutes a fog of ice closed in. By morning, two inches of rime coated the Tibetan prayer flag poles atop the pass. We drank hot milk from titanium cups and stared south at the closest series of peaks. Just a couple of miles away, they looked about 16,000 feet high. My partner, Joel Charles, could see the serrated ridgeline I was eyeing and wanted nothing to do with it. “That’s all yours,” he said, nodding at the arête. “I’ll take the S-shaped … [Read more...] about The Path to Shangri-La: Eastern Tibet’s Unclimbed Peaks