Pai Canyon in Pai!

Let’s start from the beginning.  When I hired a private driver to show me all the major sites of Pai… I didn’t know I was going to see this!
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Here’s the beginning.  My driver opens the door for me and points up this ramp.  He says walk up 200 meter and you see the canyon.  I just turned and started walking with no real idea of what to expect.  When I got to the top and realized what it was, I said out loud, “Oh my fucking God!”

DSCN4944This is where I really started cursing.  On both sides of the narrow path are sheer drops!  No railing, no safety harness!  Nothing!  I was in my sandals .. and I just sort of scuffled in a circle and went back…

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This is a view of where that path leads.  This canyon makes a circle.  I decided to try going in the other direction.  My vertigo was kicking in full force.

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As I walked along the right side of the ring around the canyon, which is a much wider path, I saw a girl walking along the other scary side!

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This is a picture of the right side, the narrow part right there isn’t so scary because the drop off to the right was shallow.  But I still shuffled carefully in my flippy flops.

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Along the right side of the ring you are provided with great views of the valley of Pai.  I tried to focus on this temple in the distance.  It was just beautiful!
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Another shot of the other scary side…

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At the end of the trail, it started dropping down to a bridge that connects you to the other side… and this is where I happily turned around.

No thank  you!  I was done.

I have a few friends who would have totally walked the full ring and you all know who you are, but that’s just not me!

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And back at the main entrance to the canyon is a sort of look-out tower, so here’s a pic of me enjoying the view!

Hiking in Doi Suthep

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Me and an Elephant Tree. If you looked further up it sort of looked like an elephant trunk coming down with it’s legs being the rest of the trunk.

I decided to do some hiking while in Chiang Mai so I found a mountain bike company that had an activity where you hike up Doi Suthep and then ride down.  I wasn’t too keen on the ride down, but very excited about walking up.  One thing I failed to check was the distance.  I knew the mountain was tall and they listed the hike as 1400 meters ascent.

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Beautiful foliage in the jungle

What I learned at the end of my hike is that with the uphill and the downhill we had travelled 40 km.  Less than half was the uphill but not sure by how much.  Our guide didn’t understand when we asked.

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Kilometer marker sign for the waterfalls.  We went right, but only saw one waterfall.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Found this waterfall.  This is before me and my small group hit the difficult part of the hike.

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Yay!  I’m all happy at the waterfall before I had to climb up, up, up!  I was totally the slowest one in the pack, but that’s OK.  I had a forgiving group that waited on me.  I could not breath in the humidity.

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Cute little bridge over a creek.  I hopped the rocks, but I appreciated the covered bridge just the same.

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Here’s our group with the tour guide guy in the middle.  Behind the camera is Marie from Ireland.  This is a hill tribe village at the top of the mountain that fed us and gave me strawberry fanta for like a nickel.

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On the way down we stopped by some beautiful views of rice paddies.

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View of the mountain from the bottom.  I was just glad to get out alive!

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Me relaxing at our lakeside hut for lunch.  I got there early cause I decided to skip biking and ride down in the truck with the nice Thai guy that spoke no english but tried to hold a conversation with me the whole time anyways.

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Here’s the whole gang with a basket of beer and soda, waiting on our well-deserved curry.

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We all met up later that night to grab drinks and dinner.  Marie and I stuck it out late at my friend’s bar The Playhouse and proceeded to get slightly hammered… not quite drunk.

All in all, a good day!  But exhausting!

Camping in Assateague with the Wild Ponies

I recently had the pleasure of going camping at Assateague Island National Seashore.  I went with a hiking group off meetup.com and we had over 100 people.  We took over one group site and had a bunch of individual sites on the same ocean front loop.  

The ocean front camp sites are the perfect location, tucked behind the dunes which protects you only slightly from the constant breeze blowing off the ocean.  You can hear the waves crashing in the background as you enjoy the wildlife around you at these sites.  There are plenty of interesting birds that love to chirp and visit your site, and they aren’t sea gulls!  

We went camping in late April to beat the mosquitoes.  There can be a mosquito problem if you go later in the summer, so just come prepared!  

Paddling through the mist on the bay side.
It was misty and foggy the first day I arrived.  It was not raining, but it was like the clouds had dropped from the sky and were floating across the island.  

I made friends with some of my camp neighbors and we decided to explore the island and see what there was to see.  We walked over to the bay side and found beautiful views from a boardwalk trail.  We could see people in the distance on stand up paddle boards.  

In the distance behind the paddle boarders we could see wild ponies on the narrow peninsulas.

We saw a pair of mother and child ponies.

Itchy ponies

A cloudy misty beach.  

Dogs were having a blast on the large open beach.  After exploring the island, I setup my camp chair on the beach and enjoyed the beach as well.  


Later that night, we all go together for a bit of a potluck and everyone grilled their meats on one big grill.  We enjoyed a beautiful night on the beach under the stars.

Camping under the stars!

I couldn’t help but wake up and watch the sunrise, with my tripod in tow.  

Our tents for the “group” camp site were nestled among the dunes.

Sunrise over the dunes from my camp site.

Beautiful boardwalk trail leading to the bay.

Kite Surfer enjoying a perfect day on the bay.


At the end of a perfect day, hiking and socializing with the group I headed south for a journey to the Low Country, but that’s another story!

Shenandoah National Park

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Shenandoah National Park is a beautiful park if you’re in the mid-atlantic region.  A road called Skyline Drive runs from the North end of the park to the South along the top of the Blue Ridge Mountains.  The Appalachian Trail also runs directly through the park.  In addition to the drive with over 75 overlooks, there are 500 miles of hiking trails and 4 campgrounds.  One of the most popular times of year to visit is when the leaves change in the Fall.


This past fall, I reserved a campsite way in advance for the peak weekend.  During this weekend, every year, Skyline Drive is inundated the entire length with families, photographers, and tourists.  Armed with cameras, packed into vans and SUVs to save on the per car entrance fee, they take over!


But if you show up friday night and camp out, you beat the crowds to the punch!  We camped at Matthew’s Arm, which is the furthest north campground in the park.  On top of avoiding the traffic, you are also guaranteed a parking spot at your camping site.


The campground has a trail that connects to the popular Tuscarora Overall Run Trail, that provides views of several waterfalls.  One of the falls is 93 feet tall and stunning as it cuts through the fall colors.


I would like to embarass myself a bit now and share my experience of trying to sleep outside in October in the mountains.  It’s cold!  I wasn’t quite prepared.  I had my tent and sleeping bag and lots of layers, but I forgot my air matress, which would have lifted me off the cold ground.  So instead of bothering my other friends in their tents and trying to spoon… I ran to my car in the middle of the night and slept on my passenger seat laid out flat, snuggled in my bag.  I wasn’t sure I’d be able to sleep in my car… I thought it would be uncomfortable, but I passed out.  I think after shivering for two hours, I was exhausted.


OK, spare me the lecture… I learned my lesson.


Enjoy the pictures from our hikes and drive along Skyline.

Smart People have campers…
Going down the trail.  Down the mountain!
Creek crossing
The fall foliage and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the distance.
One of the waterfalls
Overlook from the trail
Hikers enjoying the vista
Last look before heading back to campsite.
To warm our feet after a long day of hiking.
From a Skyline Drive overlook
Skyline Drive view
Hiking in the Fall – wear layers and enjoy the colors!





For more information, visit: http://www.nps.gov/shen

Catoctin Mountain Park

I recently went hiking with some friends at Catoctin Mountain Park in Thurmont, Maryland.  I had never been before, but had always thought about going as I would drive by the entrance on my way to Cunningham Falls.  It was MLK Day weekend, so entrance to National Parks was free, but it looked like the park doesn’t charge for entrance anyways.  Also, just as an FYI, they close the park road during the winter so you can only park at the Visitor Center and hike up the trails from there.

So we started at the Visitor Center and hiked up, up, up to the Thurmont Vista.  The vista is like 600 feet up the mountain with a beautiful view of Thurmont, MD.  During the summer you can drive up the mountain and park closer to the vista, which would allow you to avoid the 600 foot, one mile climb.

Here are my pictures from the hike:

Mossy Green Hillside
Enhanced Hillside
Trail to Thurmont Vista
Snack Break at the Vista
View from the Thurmont Vista
Sign
Me and the Vista
Hiking Girls
Summit! LOL
Trail options
Sun and Shadows on the Mountain
Greenery in the Winter

Ace Adventure Resort – Hiking Trail

I recently visited the New River Gorge area in West Virginia.  Some friends and I visited the ACE Adventure Resort, which is near Thurmond, WV.  This resort has everything!  You can go white water rafting on the Gauley or the New River, kayaking, horseback riding, hiking, biking, mountain climbing, mud obstacle course, and climbing tower.  We’ve been here a couple times and we always have a blast.

When I visited this time, I was determined to go hiking.  When I had been in the past for white water rafting, all I did was party at the cabin when we weren’t rafting or playing the lake.  So I got a trail map from the staff at Ace and it looked like an easy trail to the New River that would connect to the national park trail that ran along side the river.

The beginning of the trail started out nicely.  One of the first things you do is cross this cute little brook flowing over the path.  The trail continues down hill along the side of the mountain.  As we continued to walk down hill we got closer and closer to a creek running parallel at the bottom of the hillside we were on.  There were lots of spider webs across the path, making me think this wasn’t a high traffic trail.  The trail was not blazed very well either, but it was obvious to keep going straight.

Getting close to the creek was a highlight.  The creek had one waterfall after another, making beautiful sounds and presenting great photo opportunities.  However, we had been walking for what felt like an hour and it didn’t seem clear that we were getting close to the New River.  I was also not excited about walking uphill the entire way back from where we just came.  So my friend and I decided to turn back before even reaching the New River.  I know!  Big disappointment, but my companion was not an enthusiast for hiking, so I figured I would torture her no longer.

Back up the mountain we were able to go back to playing in the activity lake, which can keep me occupied for hours! I probably went down that slide 10 times.  Notice in the picture there’s a girl hanging from the zip line in the center towards the right.  Warning for the zip line: when you hit the water it will drag your bottom off if you’re wearing a two piece!

Here’s their website for more information: http://www.aceraft.com/

By the way, the visitor center for the New River Gorge National Park is a beautiful facility and worth stopping at.  The rangers are also very helpful and easy to talk to.  You can tell they love their jobs!

For more information about the New River: http://www.nps.gov/neri

White Rock at Sugarloaf

I recently hiked the 5 mile blue trail at Sugarloaf Mountain in Maryland.  I took this awesome video of some eagles soaring at the White Rock overlook.  This overlook is about 3 miles from the west parking lot and totally worth the hike.  Below are some pictures I took along the way…

View along the beginning of the blue trail
McCormick Overlook
Rocks
Man-made rock formation at one of the lesser summits along the blue trail
Colorful Turtle hanging out in the middle of the trail.  Watch Your Step!
White Rock
White Rock
Me and my view at White Rock
White Rock, looking towards Frederick, MD
Eagles
Historic military fort near west end parking lot
View of Virginia from historic military

Black Rock – Not Just a Song

Seneca Creek

Hello OAR fans!  Yes, today I went hiking at the actual place that OAR sings about.  They went to high school in my area and Black Rock is a beautiful area for hikers.  The trail that runs past Black Rock Mill is called the Seneca Creek Greenway Trail.

My Hiking Buddy



    Seneca Creek Greenway Trail is over 16 miles long, running across Montgomery County, Maryland, ending at Riley’s Lock on the Potomac River.  It has many parking areas along the way, so you can pick up the trail anywhere you want.  I’ve been working on covering all the sections and with the help of my favorite hiking buddy, we’ll get her done this fall.



    Black Rock is a mill next to Seneca Creek.  The ruins are pretty well preserved… minus the roof, floors, and windows.  It’s a pretty spot by the creek with a rope setup from a tree, just waiting for the kids to come swing and splash around on a hot Maryland day.  I highly recommend this spot to locals who haven’t been there before.  Bring a picnic and make a day of it!

Rain at Swallow Falls

    On a rainy weekend in June, my friends and I went camping at Maryland’s Swallow Falls State Park.  It’s very close to Deep Creek, which I’ve been to multiple times, but I’d never been to Swallow Falls.  Now that I’ve been, I’m disappointed that I hadn’t been there sooner.  It’s very beautiful, with 4 waterfalls on an easy hiking trail.  Now if any one mentions they’re going to Deep Creek for the weekend, I tell them to take an hour and stop by Swallow Falls.
Swallow Falls
    Most people would be extremely dissapointed if they were camping in the rain, but we had a different experience.  We had plenty of tarps and ropes, so we set up our little tent city with a tarp roof system over our picnic tables.  During the day it was only a drizzle, but at night, it was a heavy downpour, each night.  Thank you Coleman, for a sturdy tent by the way.
     While hiking around the falls during the day, it felt like we were walking through a rain forest.  I haven’t been to the rain forests in the north west US, but I imagine this is what they’re like.  It was very beautiful, admiring the waterfalls in the mist.  While walking along the trails, under the thick tree cover, you couldn’t tell if it was raining or not.
    We went swimming at the falls pictured above and the first picture below.  The water is quite shallow but a little chilly.  We were able to walk up to the falls on the right side and popped underneath the falls into a little alcove beneath.  The alcove or cave is not very big and it made me a bit claustrophobic with the pounding water right behind me, but it made feel brave for a moment.  From the right side, we slowly worked our way to the left, where you can sit down on large rocks, with only 3 inches of water flowing accross the top.  The only trouble is fighting the current on the slippery rocks.  One slip and you’re floating away in the quick current.  But we made it and sat down in the white water on the flat rocks and enjoyed the scenery as tourists hiked by taking pictures.
Swallow Falls, panoramic from the top of the falls

Just past Swallow Falls, the trail follows a creek, to Tolliver Falls, pictured below, which was actually my favorite part.  This was the most beautiful set of mini cascades.  The forest encompasses you so well at this fall, that you feel like you’re in a private room, with a water fall.  There’s less traffic at this fall, so it’s a great place to relax.  Our campsite wasn’t far from the falls, just 200 feet up hill, so we could hear the roar of the falls in the distance and revisit the falls easily whenever we wanted.

Tolliver Falls in Swallow Falls State Park

Sunday morning I woke up early and walked down to Tolliver by myself.  It was so beautiful and peaceful.  The perfect place to enjoy my cup of coffee, before breaking down camp.  Standing there by Tolliver Falls, I made a promise to myself, that this would not be my last visit.