Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Snow!

Fall always gives me a sense of urgency, especially since moving back to Alaska. Winter is nice and I still enjoy snow but life, particularly working outside, is much easier without it. I expected we'd return from our summer in Europe to another month of summer in AK, but I felt the urgency of fall set in the day we got off the plane. Winter clearly wasn't imminent since last Friday was our first snow, but it was a busy 10 weeks that went by quickly. 

First Snow on the porch Friday. I'm glad we got the yard cleaned up the week before.

Corrie bought a fat tire bike to commute with this winter. She was in Soldotna, so I snow tested it for her. It was a lot of fun and rides great even over roots through 4" of new snow. Now I want to get one...  

Saturday morning heading out to hike in the snow I found the road blocked and went for a three mile run along Campbell Creek while I wait for them to clear the road. 

Snow sparkling in the sun.

For a moment I thought that stump was a bear which stopped me mid stride. It could have made a cooler photo if it had been, but I probably wouldn't have stuck around to take it... 

Heading up Wolverine Trail. We see these mountains from the porch view above when it's clear. 

There are quite a few small creeks crossing the trail that haven't frozen yet. The are pretty easy to cross and look awesome as the ice builds up on all the rocks and plants.  

I couldn't make the top with the late start but I did make it above tree line. I'm planning to do more winter hiking this year and this was great first day.

Looking back up at the peak from about 1/2 way down.

This morning's sunrise over the mountains. The sun doesn't clear the mountains until about 10 AM now. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Visiting friends

We've spent the past 10 days visiting friends we met through International Students Inc. in Albuquerque. Jean-Marc picked us up in Montpellier and we spent a few days seeing the area with him before driving to Chamonix. 

The aquarium in Montpellier is designed particularly well and was quite engaging. I didn't take too many photos though, I think this is one of Corries. 
Jean-Marc's favorite sea side restaurant with all you can eat mussels. 
Hiking north of Montpellier in St.-Guilhem-le-Desert.
The church in St.-Guilhem is part of one of the extended Camino routes with a trail connecting it to St.-Jean along the Pyrenees. It's probably a very nice walk, but we elected to go hike the Alps with Jean-Marc instead...
We didn't realize it at the time, but we had a nice view of Mont Blanc almost as soon as we arrived in Chamonix. I was just photographing the view of the glacier from the apartment. 
From the kitchen window. There are more icy peaks hiding in the clouds.
We spent two days hiking around Chamonix. I'm convinced mountains are my natural habitat. I particularly like hiking up.
Jean-Marc looking up the mountain as we climbed above the trees. 
Hiking in the Alaska and the Rockies has always meant wilderness. Hiking I n the Brooks Range my brother and I didn't see anyone else for a week... The Alps feel a bit like a well maintained mountain garden in comparison. It is definitely a different kind of hiking but the peaks remain majestic and the coffee was excellent.

It's a little hard to see, but there is a tram running to the top of the peak. Maybe someday I'll have a chance to climb up there and ride it back down... 
Our lunch stop by Lac Blu. 
Mer-de-GlacĂ© from out second high point of the day. 
There's some impressive engineering in building a railroad up the side of a mountain. They wanted almost as much for a ticket down as a round trip though, so we walked back to Chamonix. 
We hiked up the other side of the valley the second day and saw a lot of mountain goats. Although they are wild they seem pretty comfortable with people and even followed us down the trail later in the hike. 
Their were a number of very helpful ladders installed along the trail which makes the trail much easier to navigate.
 This is a pretty good view of the traverse we did between the two glaciers the first day.
Looking up the mountain from the top of the hike at Lac Blanc.
Looking the other way out over the valley. I don't know it its Lac Blanc because the upper side is still frozen and white at the end of July or if it's for the view of Mont Blanc. 
A pot of melted cheese is an excellent way to end a good day of hiking even if it is traditionally a winter meal.

I could easily have spent another week in the Alps but we had tickets to Germany to see a couple more friends we made through ISI and Jean-Marc had a hiking trip in the Southern Alps scheduled. So, after an exciting construction reroute we caught the train in Grenoble with at least two minutes to spare. We stayed in Ulm for three days with our friend Basti and his family. Simon, and his wife Caecilia were able to join us for a day as well making for an excellent reunion of old friends despite major changes in all our lives. 
Ulm claims the tallest church spire in the world. Forty floors isn't so bad after hiking in the Alps though.
The spire is pretty impressive from the ground too. 
Basti with his daughter Rosalie.
There is another blue lake near Ulm. It's fed from a major underground river and has no relation to the one above...
Downtown Ulm. I'd really like to know the story behind this house. 
Basti also gave me a tour of the solar and biomass heating system he installed this summer. Probably not something normal people ask to tour on vacation, but it's a facinating do it yourself project...
Saying goodbye to Simon and Caecilia. We were running a bit late and didn't get a photo with Basti, Susann, and Rosalie.













Sunday, July 24, 2016

Contemplating the Camino at 180

Once walking the Camino meant turning around and walking back home after seeing Santiago. We met more people walking west for the second or third time than we saw walking east. On the train to Montpelier today we've already crossed more of Spain than we did in almost five weeks of walking. Fields that would take us an hour to walk across last week flash past in a minute at 188 mph... The power poles beside the track are almost invisible from the side, just a quick blur against the landscape. 

I spent much of our walk observing infrastructure and contemplating the problems that drove its development. Eventually Corrie began suggesting I write a report when we finished the inventory. I'm not actually interested in writing a report on Spain's agricultural or infrastructure. I'm just more interested in how people solve problems than most and especially curious when the problems been solved in a way I wouldn't have considered. Ultimately it's probably those observations and ideas I'll remember and seems fitting to recross Spain by train propelled in part by electricity generated by the countless wind turbines we've seen. 

We met at least three people whose experience walking to Santiago convinced them to move to Spain and open an alburgue. I've had no such life altering revelations and that's alright. It was a really nice walk and I enjoyed both the long conversations with Corrie as well as letting my mind wander the countryside while my feet just took another step. Perhaps if I'd had a more complicated reason for walking I'd have come to a more exciting conclusion but I feel pretty satisfied knowing I can hike 500 miles and enjoy most of it. 

On the whole I've enjoyed the trip enough that I may hike or bike the Camino again if a good opportunity comes along someday. Until then there I have a long list of other walks to take!