17 November 2009Comments are off for this post.

Nepal Part 4 – The First Real Day of Walking

Every single thing you'll ever read about the shoes or boots that you take hiking will tell you that they should be well broken in prior to leaving. One thing they sometimes don't mention, is that you should do this breaking-in with the same type of socks that you plan to use on the trip. I know better than to switch up gear right before a trip, but I bought three pairs of new socks that night before the trip, knowing full well that REI brand socks haven't worked well for me in the past. Within the first hour of walking today I had ripped the skin off a quarter size blister on my right heel, and had a hot spot on my left heel. You can probably imagine how much I was looking forward to walking another 150 miles at this point.

This was the first real day of walking and we walked from Nadi Bazaar to Jagat (pronounced Zagat). I don't have the actual stats, but I would guess that it was somewhere around six miles of walking and a couple thousand feet of elevation gain and loss over the course of the day. Most of the walking was on roads, with some sections of new trail bypassing the road. Physically, it really wasn't bad except for the heat and humidity.

Along the way we were introduced to Pasang's bizarre definition of flat trail, which is anything but; I developed some stellar blisters; we saw some pretty cool stuff; I was introduced to momos (similar to potstickers), which I had for lunch pretty much every day for the rest of the trip; and had Dhal Bhat for dinner, again.

This day ended with probably my lowest point for the trip. I freely admit that I've got a bit of a germ thing. It's not an over the top, constantly wash my hands thing, but I'm definitely not a fan of germs. Bathrooms in Nepal generally aren't as clean or nice as they are in the US. Actually, most of them make gas station bathrooms look sparkly, but this one was beyond compare. Shower water had pooled in the bathroom above it and was dripping through the ceiling. There were no hooks or nails from which to hang a towel. Diarrhea was splattered on the walls and floor around the toilet. The water was cold. And water was pooling across the floor because of another non-functioning drain. Dara told me I wasn't allowed back in our room without taking a shower (as I hadn't had an opportunity to take one since leaving Colorado) so with all of my germ sensors screaming, I cringed and almost cried my way through a cold shower in that cold little corner of my personal hell.

To be clear, I didn't expect sanitation to be up to Western standards, and I even hesitate to post this. But nothing I read prior to the trip had led me to expect anything like this, and I feel that some sort of warning should be out there. Consider yourself warned, and disgusted.

[svgallery name="Nepal3"]

27 October 2009Comments are off for this post.

Shambhala Mountain Center

A few weeks ago, Dara and I drove up to the Shambhala Mountain Center (SMC) outside of Fort Collins. We'd been meaning to go for a while, but it's a pretty long drive and we always remembered it at the wrong times.

At SMC you park just inside the entrance, and from there walk a half mile or so to the main buildings, and then another half mile or so up to the Great Stupa. It was a great fall afternoon, just warm enough, with the sun shining and the Aspens changing colors. Perfect for a walk in the mountains. Actually we both probably would have been happy with a longer walk up to the Stupa.

The floor of the interior of the great stoop is beautifully tiled with various patterns and designs. On the left side, there's a pomegranate tiled into the floor, with seeds spilling out of it. In Nepal, the gompas all had wooden floors, so the tile was a noticeable departure from what I'm used to seeing in these buildings. And I noticed the pomegranate, but didn't look as closely at it as I guess I should have. You see, they carved out chunks of the pomegranate in the floor, filled the cavities with bright red marbles, and didn't do anything to keep them in place.

So I'm walking along as quietly as possible, looking at the objects in the recessed shelves along the wall. Bam. My first foot goes into the marbles and they're rolling across the floor, bouncing off the baseboards and furniture. I pause, take take a step back and my second foot goes into the other marbles and even more of them are rolling across the floor. Dara, who was a few steps in front of me, struggles to contain her laughter and runs behind the Buddha statue, leaving me standing there like an idiot with marbles still rolling across the floor. I manage to step get myself out of the marbles without making more of a mess, and start putting them back into place. As each marble is dropped back into place, it makes a ticking sound. Tick, tick, tick, people are still meditating with very serious expressions, tick, tick, tick, Dara is still hiding, tick, tick, tick.

It really highlighted one of the big differences we both noticed, compared to the gompahs that we saw in Nepal. Over there, it seemed that Buddhism, and life in general were approached with a certain amount of humor. And I can only imagine that if I'd done the same thing there, the monks or nuns in charge of the gompah would have been laughing along with me. While we were there, we attended a ceremony celebrating Buddha's birthday; the monks were all laughing and chatting, and one of the younger ones was wearing a monkey hat.

The stupa is very nice, but we both decided that unless you're going to be spending more than an hour or so at SMC, it  isn't worth the drive from anywhere farther away than Denver or Boulder. If you're coming from further away, or even from those places, it would be better to find some other things to do in the area in order to make the drive more worth while.

[svgallery name="Shambhala"]

15 October 2009Comments are off for this post.

Annapurna Circuit Packing List

Before leaving for the trip I had some trouble finding good information about what was actually necessary for this trek. The packing lists really varied, with one including some items that definitely aren't necessary (ice axe and crampons), and others seeming incomplete.

A lot of this is going to vary from person to person, but the following should be a good start. Temperatures can vary from the high 80s to the low 10s, and rain or snow are both possible. The bags I carry tend to be heavier than average. My things were normally fairly light, but I carried some things for the group like the first aid kit, clothes, food and extra water.

For a full list of Nepal posts, hit the tag cloud on the side, or this link.

If you are thinking about traveling to Nepal, check out this article by Andrew Hyde. It gives a different than usual, and in my opinion accurate description of what travel there is like.


  • Socks x3 - Wool, not cotton.
  • Shoes x1 - Broken in! The trail is pretty good for the most part, so I recommend approach shoes. Boots are unnecessary.
  • Flipflops x1 - Great for wearing in the evening, and good to have for the shower as well.
  • Pants x2 - Nylon hiking pants will do you fine.
  • Short sleeve shirt x1 - Capilene.
  • Long sleeve shirt x1 - Capilene.
  • Underwear x1 - Patagonia, I only wore them in the evening after taking off the compression shorts.
  • Compression shorts x2 - Minimize chafing. Not everyone needs them, but my chubby thighs do.
  • Fleece/down jacket x1 - Nice for the lodges and the day going over the pass.
  • Shell jacket x1
  • Shell pants x1 - Optional.
  • Sun hat x1 - I wore a baseball cap, but the floppy hats are nice too.
  • Warm hat x1 - Mine is wool lined with fleece - awesome.
  • Gloves x1 - Nothing too warm, a set of fleece ones should be fine.
  • Handkerchief - can be used as a dust filter.


  • Big pack - Will be carried by your porter. We brought my 110L pack and were able to fit all of my things, Dara's things, and the porters pack into it.
  • Day pack - Depends what you want to carry during the day. I filled a 50L bag, but others got by with much smaller ones. *
  • Sleeping bag - For the most part it doesn't get all that cold at night. A 20 degree bag should be fine for most people. If you can't stay warm with that, most of the lodges have heavy blankets to use.
  • Thermarest pillow - A luxury
  • Headlamp - The power will go out, if there is any to start with.
  • AA Batteries - Fit my headlamp and camera flash.
  • Water purification** - The group should have two types.
  • First Aid Kit***
  • Knife
  • Carabiners - Good for hanging extra items off packs, or strapping packs together
  • Camelbak
  • 1L bottle - For water purification.
  • Trekking poles - If you like using them. If you do use them, take a complete pair, and not just a single pole.

Toiletry Items:

  • Sunblock
  • Chapstick
  • Hand cream
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bar of soap in travel case - Can be used for washing clothes also.
  • Shampoo
  • Toilet paper - We started with 3 rolls, but bought more along the way


  • Watch
  • Cards
  • Book
  • Trek map
  • Writing materials
  • Camera
  • Camera batteries - at least two, three is better
  • Camera charger
  • Camera memory cards - lots
  • Snacks - nonperishable items that won't melt are best
  • Cord - Always useful.
  • Clothes pins - Not all of the lodges have good places to dry things, can be used with cord for makeshift line.
  • Ear plugs - Teahouse walls are thin and people snore.

* In my daypack I carried:
- 100 oz camelbak
- 1 or 2 1L Nalgene bottles
- Water purification drops
- Shell
- Long sleeve shirt
- Hat and gloves (on the pass day)
- First aid kit
- Sunblock
- Map
- Book
- Rocks
- Camera batteries, memory cards, flash and charger

** There are lots of options for water purification.

  • MSR Sweetwater: My favorite. A bottle costs about ten dollars, treats 300L of water, kills just about everything possible, leaves only a faint aftertaste, works in ten minutes, and can be used to treat large quantities of water quickly. May upset some people's stomachs, so best to test before leaving home.
  • Steripen: Uses ultraviolet light to purify water. So it tastes about as good as possible. However, it can only treat one liter of water at a time (that cannot be cloudy), is dependent on electricity, is expensive, and I'm not convinced of its durability. Melissa and Franz had one that was held together with tape, and the guy at REI said they'd had some problems with them.
  • MSR Miox: I don't have any experience with this. Uses a salt solution to kill everything. Can treat large quantities of water, and has minimal taste. It takes a long time (four hours) to fully treat water, is dependent on electricity, and can be hard to find in stock.
  • Iodine: Will kill most, but not all things, leaves an aftertaste if you don't have the neutralizer, and takes four hours to reach full effectiveness.
  • Filter: Not recommended. They can't get all the little baddies.

*** First Aid Kit Contained:

  • Tape
  • Bandages
  • Bandaids
  • Bacitracin
  • Petroleum jelly
  • Liquid bandaids
  • Moleskin
  • Safety pins
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Scissors
  • Ibuprofen
  • Diamox - prescription
  • Cipro - prescription
  • Imodium
  • Suture kit
  • Firstaid book - added functionality as additional reading material

13 October 2009Comments are off for this post.

November Afternoon in Seattle

I once had this idea that business trips were like little vacations. You'd fly off to some place exotic, attend a meeting or two (about exciting things), do some sight seeing, have a nice meal, sleep in a nice hotel, maybe have another meeting or two (about exciting things, of course) and then fly back home. The reality of business trips is slightly different. You fly off to some city - it doesn't really matter which one - you're not going to see any of it, attend meetings (that are not about exciting things) for eight straight hours, have dinner at a chain restaurant, do some more work back in the hotel room - which isn't at all a fabulous room - attend more meetings in the morning, and then rush to get the rental car returned in time to make your flight.

Fortunately, this wasn't one of those trips. Dan and I finished up our meetings with WashDOT in Olympia early in the day and had a few hours to go out and do something. So we ran back to the hotel, changed, and jumped in the car to go up to Seattle. Somehow things worked out well for us, and instead of the usual cloudy, rainy, wintertime weather Seattle is famous for, the sun was out and the city was sparkling. We started out at the water front, walked through Pike Place Market, watched the sun set from an alley near the water, did a tea tasting at Vital Leaf Tea, picked up some food at Trader Joe's, stopped in a park overlooking the harbor to check out the skyline, and had some pizza and beer at Stellar Pizza. It was pretty much what I had always though business travel would be like.

[svgallery name="Seattle"]