Summer Hike #9 – A stroll through the upper Amazon

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The Napo River winds through rolling hills of the Upper Amazon.

This is a place where your sweat never dries. After a day or two, your clothes develop a smell that make you wonder what’s happening to your body. It will take a couple of washings back home to nullify – but you have only one set of clean clothes left. Better to save them for the flight home.

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Summer Hike #8 – Quilotoa Crater

The wide, dusty trail is packed with people and mule trains and slides 1000 feet down from the rim of a crater to an emerald blue lake. We were warned the trail would be challenging. But I was seduced by those glassy waters that ripple with new colors as the sky shifts and turns from blue to grey.

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The moody looking waters of Quilotoa shift from blue to green to grey, depending on what’s happening in the sky.

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Summer Hike #7 – The Mindo Syllabus

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One of the ‘cascadas’, or waterfalls, along a hike through the cloudforest in Mindo.

For a cloud forest, it was unusually sunny. This is what happens when you visit in the dry season. There’s still plenty of water, you just won’t find your feet sliding so much on muddy trails. This is my first time in Mindo. I can imagine the wet season well enough, having traveled to other cloud forests, such as Podocarpus in Southern Ecuador and Monteverde in Costa Rica. Either way, these types of places, usually nestled in the shadows of rolling green mountains, make you feel as though you’ve stepped out of time. That’s one of the reasons Mindo was on our syllabus.

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Leaf-peeping, Colorado style, and the hike to Emerald Lake

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When I wake up to see tendrils of fog hanging from the streetlight, or rain-wet roads, I know we have arrived unequivocally in autumn. Apparently, September used to hold potential for the first snowfall as well, but that hasn’t happened in the past decade. These wetter mornings tend to punctuate strings of sunny blue autumn days – the kind of days that inspire you to plant bulbs and buy pumpkin-spice flavored things.

I had a longing to see the aspens this year. Leaf peeping is all the rage in September in the Rockies. In fact, it’s so much of a rage, that I have avoided going up into the mountains – especially into Rocky Mountain National Park – for years.

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Summer Hike #6 – Chillin’ in the San Luis Valley, Colorado

In the town of Crestone, CO you might see more new age crystal shops, long gray beards, and man-buns per capita than any place in Colorado (okay, you’re right…there’s Boulder – but let’s face it, Boulder is not what it used to be). With that going for it, the drum circles, and the ‘hey dude chill out’ attitude, I could almost be back in Santa Cruz.

Instead of sitting on the edge of an ocean, this town sits on the edge of the San Luis Valley – a wide-open, sandy plain dotted with sage and grasses. The town is nestled right up against the dramatic flank of the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It’s well known for being a new age spiritual center – thus, all the hippies. The permanent population numbers at about 150, but summer can bring in thousands of people a day, visiting Buddhist shrines, attending yoga or meditation workshops, or just browsing the local art.

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Looking across the ‘ocean’ of the San Luis Valley.

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Summer Hike #5 – Lake Agnes Tea House

I’ve been called a tea snob. Yes, I’m one of those people who buys organic fair-trade loose-leaf tea in fancy, boutique tea shops. It’s my weakness (along with chocolate). You can imagine how excited I was when I heard about the Lake Agnes Tea House above Lake Louise. Combine hiking, fabulous views, with a break for tea and biscuits, and it sounds like a recipe for a perfect day.

We saved the Lake Louise area until a bit later in our week in Canada, and I was glad for that. This is probably the most popular place in Banff, and it’s one of the few spots in the wide-open Canadian Rockies where you might encounter a sea of people.

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Tourists milling about on the edge of Lake Louise – everyone trying to catch the splendor.

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Summer Hike #3 – Canmore Trails and Nordic Center, Canada

Visiting Canada is, in many ways, like coming home. It’s full of familiarity – just as familiar as pulling up to your front curb and walking down the path to your own front door. Everything is just where it should be. Until you reach up to turn the knob on the front door and find that someone has replaced your round knob with a lever (this happened to me once). From then on, everything makes you feel slightly out of balance. In Canada, it’s the plastic feel of the money and the very interesting accent of your waiter that keep you grounded in the fact that you’re not in Kansas anymore (or, in my case, Colorado).

But, really, what is there not to love about Canada? From spectacular landscapes to wide-open, uncongested freeways, free health care, maple candies and ice wine. Canadians might complain about the low value of their dollar compared to the US dollar, or about long winters…but, hey, wanna trade – our president for your prime minister?

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Bike trail across the Bow River in Canmore.

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