Posts Tagged With: hiking

I’m so not happy right now!

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Says our youngest daughter on the way to school this morning.

“Why?” I ask her.

“Because I’m not in Europe! While we were there I didn’t really like it, but now I just want to be back in Monterroso – it was so cool there!”

This sudden wish to be in Europe was spurred by a visit from a friend last night who is about to take a trip to Cinque Terra. The girls were advising him on where to stay, how to find the local beach to avoid paying for the overpriced loungers, where to snorkel, the best food to eat – Nutella and breadsticks, naturally – and how he might not want to bother with the long, hot, sticky hike from. Monterroso to Vernazza. But if he does do it, he should look out for the strange cat on a table under a tree half way up the second mountain, just there, in the middle of nowhere.

I guess this visit inspired a bit of nostalgia in them.

And now, this morning, our oldest daughter headed off on a French Club trip to Montreal and Ottawa, all set to compare Paris’ Notre Dame with its namesake in Montreal, visit Parliament, The Biodome, and the Olympic Stadium where her cousin competed for England in 1976.

How things come full circle…

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It’s Character Building.

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We woke up this morning to bright sunshine and 8 degrees, so we abandoned the math, packed up a quick lunch, and headed out to the Peak District for a hike. We’ve been having a bit of outdoors withdrawal since coming back from the Lakes…well, most of us have. The littlest one hasn’t. She put on a skirt and tights this morning and declared that her and hiking don’t match. She thought she might rather go shopping with Nana, but being the rotten parents we are, we made her come with us. Because we knew how fabulous it was going to be.
The Peak District is amazing, beautiful little villages and stunning scenery, and Dev has been itching to take us to walk Mam Tor and the Great Ridge for a while now. It’s a five mile walk up and along a ridge offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, rounded hills and gritstone “edges”.
Turned out, it was hard for us wussier members of the family to appreciate those beautiful views because of the biting wind in our faces and the fact that we had to pick every step carefully due to the unanticipated snow and ice on the top of the hill, combined with the slimy mud. Yes, I know I sound like a whiner. I can be like that sometimes. And I was today, along with two out of three of our children (the other is delightfully agreeable all the time and speeds ahead with her father incessantly discussing Harry Potter and Tolkien). The other two trudged along behind, slipping periodically in the mud, soaking mittens and staining coats, complaining quietly under their breath.
Anyway, it was hard work, this walk. And if you hadn’t guessed, I wasn’t finding it particularly pleasant, and I was probably feeding the dissension of the other two, one of whom stated, “I don’t know why we even do these walks anyway. What is the purpose?”
To which Daddy answers, “It’s character building”.
Anyway, because it is such rough going, after an hour or so, we decide we won’t be able to complete the circular route, so we split up. Dev turns back to go get the car, and instructs us to “carry on down this hill, along that path, and when you come to a road, follow it to Castleton.”
So, we set out. But the path is more a stream than a path, really. And it has very steep banks covered in snow and mud. Kind of gorge-like. So we are trying to keep out of the water, but we run out out of room on the bank and decide to forget about staying dry and just walk down the rocky stream. As we clamber down the bank, we hear a little cry.
It is me. As I slide down the muddy banking on my ass.
The kids haul me up, and, covered in mud, we carry on, and thankfully, we soon reach the road. Phew. Onwards and upwards. We round the first bend feeling much better, quite proud of ourselves actually, and starting to have a few giggles over the state of us (especially me). Then we spot something on the side of the road, and the kids run over to it excitedly. It turns out to be the first badger we have ever seen! So exciting! Except that it’s dead. And its eyes have been pecked out by crows. It is clear that it has been hit by a car, but it is right next to a low section of crumbling dry stone wall, positioned as if it was almost able to get to it and into the field beyond, but not quite. And then the kids look over the wall and see the entrance to the den. What if there were baby badgers in there? The trauma.
After a makeshift wooden cross is lain beside the badger, I am able to convince them we should carry on. Let’s see what’s around the next bend. Hopefully something more cheerful.
Turns out to be a bubbling brook with two playful grey squirrels chasing each other along the banking. Then a small farmyard on the roadside with a ewe and newborn lamb in it. This is the first one we’ve seen and it evokes many oohs and ahhs from all of us. It is adorable!
We finally make it into the village and follow the signs to The Visitor Centre where we are meeting Dev. The kids practically knock him over in their eagerness to tell him everything we’ve seen on the last leg of our walk, and I obligingly turn around to display my muddy backside to illustrate their story of my fall. “I thought she broke her back!” says the little one.
We crack open the thermos for hot tea, which tastes so much better than it would have if we were sitting on the couch drinking it, and settle in for the drive home. The kids chatter and laugh about the walk, and even apologize to their father for whining. Because, of course, he was right. It is character building. And the more arduous the task, the more rewarding the successful completion. As I think back to many of the things we’ve done over the past few months, I am reminded of how much more pleasant a long car journey is if you’ve just worn everyone out with a five mile hike, or how much better a bed feels after a day of tramping around an unfamiliar city, how much sweeter the gelato after climbing a dusty mountain in 29 degree heat. It reminds me of why Aldous Huxley’s utopia fails in Brave New World; it is impossible to feel content unless you have experienced some discontent. And even if the discontent makes daddy want to give in, and never take all us whiners walking again, he should persevere. For the sake of our characters.

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Mountains are Quite High Really.

So today, with the assistance of the new walking shoes, we went on a real hike. Now I think I have a better understanding of what hiking in the Pyrenees is all about. These mountains are huge, and pretty spectacular. Even for someone who has spent a fair bit of time in mountains (not me, obviously), they are stunning. It’s hard to appreciate their grandeur from a distance, but today we went to Les Gorges Caranca and started at the bottom at a pretty little river, and as we wound our way up the side of the gorge, the scenery just got more and more impressive.
And for me, unfortunately, more and more frightening. It’s such a weird feeling. A dichotomy. I want to go up. But somehow I can’t.
I know it’s hard for people who have no fear of heights to understand, but those of you who do will be able to relate. How I ended up marrying the man I married becomes more of a mystery to me as we explore more of this rugged and beautiful area. Opposites attract? I don’t know. He literally vibrates with excitement and enthusiasm when he gets near a mountain, and the higher up we get, and the more “airy” it gets on the path, the more excited he gets.
I vibrate too, but it’s not from excitement. I’m scared up there, and at the risk of sounding completely pathetic, I just don’t get how edging your way along the side of a cliff 1000 meters up in the air is fun. I try to understand. I really do. Some people might think I’m being negative, but I’m not. I enjoyed the hike. The views were amazing, and it’s such a great family thing to do, but when it got to the point where you needed to hold a wire “hand-rail” so you didn’t fall into the gorge, I was done. I tried to go further. I wanted to rise to the challenge. My middle daughter wanted me to as well. She really takes after her father, and it goes without saying he was itching to go further. In fact, he’ll be off up there again on his own in no time, I’m sure. But I couldn’t do it. In some ways, I feel like a bit of a failure, but we still had a great couple of hours on the mountain which we all really enjoyed. It was beautiful, and I’m so glad to be able to experience somewhere so different from where we live. And I loved that as we walked, we met some people who greeted us with Bonjour, and others with Hola. There’s just something so exotic about being so close to three different borders, and sharing the mountains with so many different cultures.
And as an added bonus, on the way home, we saw a guy dragging a dead wild boar up the road, and that’s not something you see every day!

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Hiking The Pyrenees in Flipflops is Not Recommended

Before I begin this post, I want to point out that I am aware there may be children viewing it; therefore, there will be no swear words in it. I am going to leave it up to my readers’ own judgement to insert appropriate swear words where they deem it necessary.
So, let’s start at the beginning. Due to the Roman Robbers (directly before “Roman” would be a great place to insert expletive of your choice – just so you get the hang of it), the only footwear I currently have is flipflops. We have been in the mountains, 1600 meters up (where, interestingly, mosquitos cannot survive) for 72 hours and my mountaineering husband is chomping at the bit to get us out hiking. We have had a couple of little walks, but nothing you would need a map for, so they don’t count really.
Anyway, we have spent the first couple of days settling in, recovering from our long and traumatic journey here, and just getting the lay of the land. But today, we must hike.
So, we set off to the ski town of Font Romeu, where there are a smattering of outdoorsy shops, so I can buy some walking shoes (on the way to Lac de Bouillouse where we will hike).The fact that it took me 3 weeks to find a pair of sneakers before we began this trip should have been an indication that this would not be an easy task, but to be fair, we had briefly checked the stores out yesterday, and I knew there were lots I liked, so I thought it would be fine.
Until I realized it was 11:36, and all the stores in France close from 12-2.
Needless to say, I did not get any shoes. But today was a hiking day, so hike we must. We drove up to the Lake where “we” decided on a shorter route than was originally planned, and headed out. After the first ten minutes (which was more of a steep scramble than a walk), I knew this was not going to be a hike for my flipflop-clad feet, but onward we pressed. Our “guide” was sure this was the steepest part. And it was. But the rest was rough rocky terrain, very little of which I would actually refer to as a path. The girls thought it was great. The two younger ones pretended to be on horses the whole time, and Misty and Sky were often racing ahead of us searching out the little yellow route markers to blaze the trail. The oldest walked along checking the map with her dad, commenting often how beautiful the hike was.
I wouldn’t know. I was busy with my eyes on the ground, painstakingly picking out every step to insure I didn’t lose a toe on a particularly sharp rock or break an ankle as my feet slid around my flipflops. Both eyes on the ground also served the purpose of enabling me to avoid eye contact with other hikers as they passed by with their mountain boots and walking sticks. I can just imagine what they were saying in Spanish or French (I don’t even know for sure what country we were in) about the crazy lady in the flipflops.
After an hour or so, we decided we’d better turn back. It wasn’t quite as sunny as it had been when we started. It was, in fact, 11 degrees and starting to rain.
For those of you who have ever tried to walk in flipflops in the rain, even on a flat surface, I don’t really have to explain to you what it would be like trying to get back down the steep scramble as your feet attempt to find some way to grip the bottom of the sopping wet flipflop so they don’t slide out entirely. I probably would have been better off trying to do it barefoot. Lucky my gallant “guide” was there to support me on the really treacherous parts. Even Misty and Sky struggled with those!
Despite the trials, we made it back in one piece. Toes and ankles intact. I don’t think we’ll be doing anymore hiking until I get some new shoes though.

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