Hiking Dude Blog
2023 - Jan
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Wednesday, Jan 4 (that's tomorrow!) at 3pm CST, I'll be chatting live on Instagram with Rob of Granite Gear (@granitegear). I met Rob on the Superior Hiking Trail this fall at the Hazel campsite. I don't know what we'll talk about, but I expect it will have something to do with hiking.
Granite Gear is a cool outdoor equipment mfg with facilities in Two Harbors, MN. They make some great UL backpacks and are very supportive of inclusive outdoors efforts. I stopped there to say Howdy after hiking the Border Route Trail and SHT this fall, and got to chat with Natalie a bit.
They sponsor an annual program called Grounds Keepers. They provide a small army of outdoors folks that sign up to participate with gear from various co-sponsors. In exchange, the Grounds Keepers put in extra effort to clean up the trails, waterways, and paths they travel on throughout the year, and report back on their results.
I was a Grounds Keeper a couple years ago and had a blast tracking all the trash I collected - disposable vape devices were surprising common to find. :-( Since I teach Leave No Trace as a Master Educator anyway, being in the program didn't change my practices much, but it was fun to check in with the other participants and be part of the gang.
Anyway, I'd love it if you dropped by and left a comment in the Granite Gear live Instagram feed while you're there. I do know you can still view some of their previous episodes with some much more interesting folks than me!
PS: Rob tends to give away some Granite Gear gear to someone in the live chat - nudge, nudge, wink, wink
14 days of hiking from the Caribbean to the Pacific across Costa Rica from Limon to Quepos. It's the dry season there now, but weather craziness has forecast about 6 inches of rain while we're there - about 1/2 inch per day. But, it's a warm rain with temps into the 80s.
So, I'll post when I can, but with so much rain maybe not many pictures - we'll see. It will definitely be an adventure of about 180 miles through a new country! Unfortunately, I googled about snakes, spiders, and dangers of Costa Rica yesterday - bad idea.
You can follow our progress at Hikers Social - a site my hiking buddy son is putting together.
You can read more about the Camino de Costa Rica.
A 4 hour drive from San Jose to our start point was followed by a 45 minute boat ride down canal and river to a nature refuge on the Caribbean Sea. On the ride, we saw a green basilisk, monkeys, a crocodile, heron, and many other birds.
Our guides Samwell and Stephen are in charge and we met Mike to guide us these first 6km through the refuge. He works at the refuge and it seems his main job is to make sure we don't get killed by snakes.
We walked north through jungle paralleling the coast and could hear waves breaking the entire way. A very wide nice flat trail was gentle for walking, and we saw a yellow viper, white viper, and dead snake. Also, a sloth, monkeys, ants, a few butterflies, and a big frog. Plenty of wildlife on our first day!
At the end of our walk, we went to the beach and the sea was looking very angry today. We stepped into the ocean to start our hike west. The water was very warm.
A very short walk to a dock on the river followed by a loud whistle resulted in a quick boat ride across to our lodge for the night. It just started drizzling while crossing.
This lodge is a small place with 3 or 4 cabins so the women are in one and the men in the other - and, since we're the only couple, the two of us get the third. Rustic with only screen windows, but clean and nice.
It was nice getting a little time to chat with the other 7 people in our group today. It's a wide range of ages, nationalities, experience, and personalities so I'm looking forward to more trail conversations.
Our hike was about 2.5 hours at a leisurely pace. We arrived around 4:45pm and dinner was at 6:30. Dinner was like Asian stir fry with rice. Nice open gathering area like picnic shelter. Sat around chatting for a couple hours. But, since it gets dark by 6 we were in bed to sleep by 9:30.
(Please check the Instagram pics on the home page for photos of the days)
Today's route took us through the coastal flatlands dominated by banana fields. In the afternoon, we entered the first low hill country with fields of pineapple.
The entire ~23km hike was on roadway, mostly gravel and dirt with very little traffic. So, it was another gentle day with no rain, but the heat and humidity were noticable.
One of our group had their luggage misplaced by the airline and she is handling it quite well. Other than that, it appears we are all doing well.
We had a big breakfast and big lunch, supplemented with a rest breaks every couple hours where a support van with cold drinks from a cooler met us along the route. I'm getting terribly spoiled for future long hikes.
The hike ended with a van ride to a hotel at about 4:30. After a hot shower and nice dinner - yet more food - we slept in a cool, air conditioned room
A van dropped us off at the trail after a great breakfast at the hotel, and the trail/road climbed uphill for most of the day. Plenty of blue sky and hot sun for most of the day and my umbrella was up to the task of keeping me from burning.
When we ran out of gravel, we had slick red mud, and finally a trail when the 'road' ended. Before setting off on the overgrown trail, everyone put their lower pant legs on because this section has a sharp, cutting grass with barbs that grip and rip.
Continuing uphill, the day became warmer and more humid. We worked hard and sweated a lot!
We mostly passed through steep cattle grazing land and rain forest but saw little wildlife. A highlight was seeing a sloth hanging out in a tree right over the trail. But, my favorite was seeing more ant highways where thousands of ants carry leaf bits into the jungle. We also saw 4 beautiful bright green parrots, and about a dozen parakeets. The parrots were extremely loud squawking in the trees. The parakeets were flying as a small flock but they were all flying in obvious pairs. It was very interesting and they were evidently mating couples.
We finally encountered rain at the very end of our day's hike just as we reached our destination at around 2:30. We are 'camping' inside a one room school. It is very simple but clean and comfortable. Two young ladies made us a late lunch of squash soup. We are in the clouds while the drizzle continues and the temperature has dropped a bit.
We apparently hiked 15 or 17km on about 6 hours.
Tomorrow, we have a much longer hike and are planning to get up and going at 5am. So, tonight is early to bed after yet more food!
You can see our route at Hikers Social
(See Instagram for pics of the day)
This day was a very difficult, very exotic experience. We hiked around 12 miles, but there are a few differing estimates in our group. The entire day was on indigenous trails through a lush, wild jungle with steep climbs and descents under a canopy of massive trees with vines hanging to the ground. Our guide explained about vines used as ropes to construct huts, nuts as perfume, seeds as spices, and sap as a fire starter. He also shared Spanish words for many things such as mariposa, mapache, and loro. One highlight was watching a sloth in a tree above is.
We had three water crossings, the last being a cable car, as we traversed a handful of mountains with around 4000 feet of elevation.
The trail was treacherously muddy with the majority being a steep drop to a river or climb to a ridge top.
Another highlight was stopping for a snack at an indigenous NaiRi AwaRi farm and befriending a pair of piglets. When we hiked on, these two joined us on the trail for almost a mile.
After riding a cable car across the Pacuare River, our hike ended with a 650 foot climb up to a road where our shuttle can waited. A beer and fresh pork sandwich while the rest of our party arrived was a most excellent way to finish this great day.
We have been shuttled to El Ceibo for our evening rest. This is a quaint 'glamping' spot with very nice screened tents, nice hot showers, and a wonderful staff. We had a great dinner and a bottle of tequila while we chatted about our day.
I love self-supported long distance hiking, but I've discovered that going with a group can be a ton of fun.
Fabian, who owns the tour company ViaLig Journeys that we are using, shared an interesting thought with us this evening before dinner. He said that we should be proud of completing this most difficult day hike of our trek, but to realize that the indigenous people here do large portions of it nearly daily just to go to school or to get groceries.
(Pics on Instagram)
Our day started by being woken at 5:20 by a very persistent bird calling for a mate - after about 5 minutes of whooping a return call started and he flew off towards it. Definitely better than an alarm clock.
While having breakfast, we were treated to many more birds flying around and courting. My favorite was a few big oropendolas being all black with a bright yellow tail. When they did their call, they would flip upside down under their branch and then back up. Very entertaining.
We were dropped off to start hiking where we stopped yesterday and we're on the trail at 9:15. By this time, the sun was high in the clear sky and it was warm. Humidity was lower than yesterday but the steep climb to start the day got the sweat flowing just fine.
After our first climb over a mountain through a cattle pasture and following an old path, the rest of today's hike was on rural dirt roads with one tense mile on a busy paved road with very minimal shoulder.
We stopped at a roadside open air restaurant for lunch after only 2 hours due to the heat. The rest was appreciated and the food was good even though I was still working off breakfast.
From lunch, we climbed and dropped up and down mountains through villages until reaching our destination of Pacayitas at about 3:30. We enjoyed a fruit drink and rest for an hour in a cool, shaded patio area. One of our guides whose family runs a small chocolate company shared a cacao fruit with us and then some chocolate samples, and explained the process of creating chocolate. He did a great job, but I found the cacao fruit to be slimy and gross. The chocolate, on the other hand, was wonderful!
This town is where our tour company is located. Since it is a family business, we have all been farmed out to various relatives and friends to spend the night in their homes.
The two of us are at a friend's home and it has been the best night of the trip so far. Venturo and Elisa are wonderful, gracious hosts and 'google translate' has been heavily used to communicate since they speak no English and we are both lacking in Spanish. We took hot showers then visited and had dinner with our hosts, their son, and our two hiking guides (Steven and Samuel).
We had 'Frog juice' for dinner - lemon and brown sugar - and a tasty chicken meal.
We have now covered about a quarter of the Camino distance and are gradually gaining elevation. I'm sure tomorrow will have more mountains to cross and surprises along the way.
We were woken this morning by a man walking a loaded donkey past our open window at about 5:15. At the same time, all the birds in the neighborhood began chirping, squawking, and singing.
We took a short walk around the village to see the birds. When we returned, we went with Venturo to feed his cows and see some of his farmland. After that, we had a massive breakfast of eggs, sausage, rice, beans, fried cheese, watermelon, pineapple, papaya, peach juice and I'm sure more that I don't recall. We were told that this is a typical breakfast but I'm still not convinced.
We said our goodbyes to our family and hiked to meet the rest of our group at Finca Via Lig. There, we had a very interesting tour of their butterfly and cricket farm facilities. Then, our day hike started at around 9:20.
Today was only about 13km on gravel road up a large mountain and then down to our destination. The long climb was nice with cool shade along the way and the view over the bowl holding the village got more grand with every step upward.
Once we were over the pass at the top, a long grind down the south side gave up more views of sugar cane, coffee, and cattle farms all the way down to La Suiza. This town has the first stop light I've seen in a week!
All 11 of us (9 + 2 guides) are being housed in a rented private house tonight, so we'll have time to socialize and relax.
(Please check the Instagram pics on the home page for photos of the days)
Our 18km hike took only 6 hours, including a relaxing lunch break at a restaurant along the route. We started around 9:20am and could have gone farther since we ended at 3:30 but the group decided to stick with the itinerary.
I enjoyed learning about the extensive canal system created to fill a massive hydro electric reservoir as we climbed above the artificial river and through more extensive sugar and coffee fields.
We walked through a few small villages and one very affluent large town. A church with a most colorful outdoor basketball court caught my eye. It's interesting how many different paint colors exist - and you can see all of them here, I believe.
Our trek guides, Steven and Samuel, did another wonderful day of work, leading us around the countryside. My highlight of the day was to skip rocks and swim across a kayaking river with them at the end of the day. Our lodging at Rio del Villa is just on the hillside overlooking this river. After the child river, I skipped a cold shower but our simple dinner of chick pea soup was nice and hot.
Tomorrow is a long, challenging day.
The forecast keeps saying a high chance of rain but we've had none the first eight days. When we reached our lodge this afternoon, a drizzle started and we enjoyed watching it from our covered patio.
We've stayed at some great places on this 'trek' and tonight's lodging is the newest with very nice rooms with hot showers. Every rest stop has had wonderful, friendly, gracious staff or hosts making us feel welcome. Last night, we just asked "do you have ice?" for our soda we had with us. The hostess said "yes". 15 minutes later, a car pulled up and a guy ran up with a bag of ice. I have no idea how far he came or what it cost. So, we are now careful what we ask about!
Anyway, we had breakfast at 6 to get in a shuttle van at 6:30 and start hiking at 7:15. We have 10 people plus the driver in our van rides from the trailhead to our lodging. Some of the drivers are like bats out of hell and some of the vans are held together with piano wire and prayers. But, it all adds to the adventure.
Today's hike was somewhere over 20km but estimates range from 24 to 26 kilometers. We finished in under 8 hours including a short lunch break right on the trail rather than a restaurant. It was a serious long uphill over a mountain range followed by a long downhill into the next valley. The beginning and end of our day was on paved road with the rest degrading to a rocky path in the middle section.
Being a Sunday, there were many people frolicking in the rivers we crossed. We also encountered a lot of bike riders, motorcyclists, cars, and even a pair of horse riders.
I found a big chunk of sugar cane along the trail so it was hacked up and shared at a break.
We passed the half way point today which makes it hard to figure out how we reach the Pacific in fewer days, but we'll see how it goes. We still have not reached the highest point of the trail so there is more elevation to gain.
We have been pleasantly surprised to find that many of the places we stay will have our clothes washed for a small fee. It's quite a luxury to have clean clothes nearly every day!
The food today was finally a reasonable amount instead of way too much. An egg and fruit breakfast, sandwich lunch on the trail, and chicken vegetable soup for dinner were all tasty and plenty of calories, especially with a couple snack breaks thrown in. I might have actually burned it all off today.
We crossed a bridge with a sign bolted to it stating it was by the U.S. Steel Export Company and built in 1941 (WW2 era). Another traffic warning sign said it was in a poor state and only 1 vehicle should cross at a time.
No injuries, no drama, everyone seems to be doing well so hopefully the rain stops overnight and we continue on tomorrow.
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Feb 13, 2020 - Jason Berklund
Feb 13, 2020 - Hiking Dude
Getting to the northern terminus is expensive (in my mind). If you can schedule correctly, Arrowhead Transit is cheapest to Grand Marais, but then Harriet Quarles is the only shuttle I know of. You might find a good ol' boy in Grand Marais willing to drive you the 35 miles to the end for a few $$$.
It's a 3 hour drive from Duluth - that's 6 hours and 300 miles round-trip. Maybe your friend would like to drive up the north shore for a day.
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