Thursday, May 26, 2016

Last Two Best Hikes in Loreto, MX This Season

Ligui Canyon--May 5th
Our smaller group of 6 Loreto Bay Hikers ---Donald, Julie, Rich, John, Yash and me----returned to Ligui Canyon to explore the upper reaches of Mesquite Canyon. To get there from the Vila del Palmara exit on Mex 1 Highway, we took two 4 wheel drives 3 1/2 miles up the rough river bed to just a few hundred yards from the canyon entrance. We first had to scale the sketchy wall entrances to Mesquite Canyon just past the entrance waterfall before we would find ourselves wading through the beautiful carved canyon in the aqua green waters still flowing as we approach summer.
Here we are clinging to the sketchy walls of the canyon just beyond the waterfall near the entrance.

We continued wading up the water filled canyon until we came to an opening where the canyon met up with the Rim Trail---frequently called Poo-poo trail for all of the cow pies found along the trail.


Here is where the canyon meets up with the Rim Trail and this picture is from our earlier hike there.
We continued up the canyon for another mile to where the canyon began to be filled with large boulders and undergrowth before returning to the Rim Trail which led us back to our cars.

Our 6 Loreto Bay Hikers---Donald, Julie, Rich, John, Yash, and me. This was John's last hike before returning to Calgary. He and I have enjoyed leading Loreto Bay Hikers to these amazing hiking places identified for us by DeeDee and Dave Kelly in their "Loreto Hikes" guide book.


Pinturas Canyon--May 12th
This is the last hike that I will be leading for the season.  It is one of my favorites because it leads us by four pools as we boulder hop up the river bed. This is my third year of leading other Loreto Bay Hikers on these weekly hikes. Everytime I go out on these hikes, there are always new hikers that join us.

It is called Pinturas Canyon because of the cave paintings that we use to be able to see before several hurricanes buried them below the piled up gravel. Another hurricane may uncover them again.


For my last hike of the season, I wore my tux tee shirt. The others that joined me are L to R: Kevin, Jim, Kathryn, Yash, and Rich. We all enjoyed the hike up to the four pools and some of us enjoyed swimming in the largest and last pool before heading back down for food and refreshments at Del Borracho's Bar and Restaurant.

Cecilia Fischer, is from Loreto and worked for Loreto Bay as their sustainability and environmental manager. She now works for Ocean Foundation who's mission is to maintain and protect our marine environment, and for her, especially the marine preserve that surrounds Loreto in the Sea of Cortez.

During our hike, Cecelia was able to help us identify many of the plants, trees, and cactus. She also provided us with some of the history of the area and current concerns with potential mining operations in the area and how it may affect the drinking water and pollute the sea.

Cecelia leads the way through a canyon along the way.

Our first pool of 4.

A bit of Boulder hopping along the river.

Our hiking reward---a refreshing swim.

Now back in Seattle, I am fine tuning my hiking gear and preparing my five days of meals for my upcoming Appalachian Trail hike that begins at Springer Mountain, GA on June 7th. I will be joined at the Atlanta airport by one of my hiking buddies, Gary Holliday, I met in Loreto where he and his wife, Heidi, joined me on many of these Loreto hikes. They also joined me this past summer in doing the Choquequirao Trek, Peru, touring Lima, Cusco and Chinchero, Peru with Crooked Trails Tour Group. Our plan is to do about half of the AT this year by stopping at Harper's Ferry, WV--about 1,000 miles of the 2,100 mile trail.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Cheap Independent Travel---My Way!

How many glossy travel brochures have you looked at and wished that you could go on these adventures, but when you checked the price for the air and vacation package the cost was huge and well beyond your budget?

For example the University of Washington Alumni Travel—as an alumni, I get their ads—- offers mostly 2 week guided tours to many of the places I have visited:
India for two weeks, including airfare, costs $5,174——average daily cost is $370.
Machu Picchu-Galapagos for 17 days, including airfare, costs $8,193—average daily cost $482.
Myanmar for two weeks, including airfare, costs $$4,998—average daily cost $357.
Patagonia for 17 days, including airfare, costs $7,969—-average daily cost $469.
Vietnam for 2 weeks, including airfare, costs $4,257—average daily cost $304.

If you are a single traveler like I am, the tour operators add on a single supplement charge ranging from $1,600 to $2,700 which increases the average daily cost to between $418 and $627.
With costs this high, your travels will either remain dreams or you will manage to save up enough to take just a few in your lifetime.
If you truly want to travel more, try independent travel. I mostly travel independently for about 40 to 70 days at a time to various places in South America and Asia. I save on the cost of travel on these trips by only using frequent flyer miles for my travels from my home in Seattle, WA to Asia and South America, and by staying from 40 to 70 days on each trip. I have taken 29 international flights using just frequent flyer miles. With these international flights, I sometimes am able to do stopovers along the way. My stopovers are either at the beginning of my trips or the end in such places as Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and Hong Kong. I generally limit my stopover stays to about a week.

I can recall my early fears when I traveled on my own to Delhi after clearing immigration and customs, I encountered many security staff carrying AK 47s as I made my way to the taxi drivers as crowds of hawkers vied for my attention. I just looked and nodded to the guy directly in front of me that I would hire him as others tried to pry my backpack from me. The road to my reserved hotel was dark, crowded with people cars,bikes, tuk-tuks and cows. It was a bumpy twisty ride—-nothing like the airport highways typically found in the US. I made it safely to my hotel and felt pretty good about how I made it through the Delhi airport mosh pit to my hotel. Getting about on future travels was a breeze compared to this early introduction to independent travel.

By using frequent flyer miles for my travels from home to Asia or South America, I save from $1,050 to $10,500 in air fare per trip. My only travel costs using frequent flyer miles are the airport fees and taxes which range from $70 to $121 for each round trip flight.

To get enough frequent flyer miles, I combine what is called “churning credit cards” with using credit cards for almost all purchases—even small ones—and recurring bills. Just remember for this to work well, you MUST pay off the balance on ALL of your credit cards. Churning credit cards is when you open up credit cards that offer frequent flyer miles or points. The best offers now are 40,000 and 50,000 miles from United Air, Chase and Capital One. Some cards offer 2 miles or points for every dollar spent. Here are two websites I use to check out the best credit card frequent flyer or travel points offers: creditcardinsider and frugaltravelguy.

Once you get to your destination the other biggest way to save money while traveling is to stay at cheap hotels and hostels. I do not make advance reservations unless I arrive after dark. I find the Lonely Planet country guides are essential for me to navigate around the cities and to locate where to find cheap hotels. I also find that www.hostelworld.com is a very good resource because of the information, photos, location maps, and traveler reviews. You get a real sense of what kind of place you might be staying at and the kind of travelers that are staying there by reading these reviews. As soon as I can get a frequent flyer flight to Cuba, I plan to try out Airbnb and stay with residents instead of the somewhat tired out hotels many tour groups use.

When I stay at hostels, I find that they are generally cleaner than some of the cheap hotels and they have several amenities that many travelers enjoy such as a gathering place with other like minded travelers from around the world, wifi, swimming pool, book exchanges, bicycles for free or rental, breakfast included sometimes, kitchens—-for those that like to cook or save money—and tour options. Some hostels also have private rooms available.

When I stay at hotels, they have TV with a few English speaking channels, A/C, hot showers, in room wifi, tour options, and breakfast included sometimes. I stay in hotels when there is not much cost difference between hostels and hotels and also when I want to be by myself.

Although I could have saved more money my limiting my meals to just street food or cooking in the hostels, I enjoy spending money at good restaurants trying out the local dishes.

In comparison to the high costs of the typical guided tours trips described above, here is a summary table of my more recent trip costs. You can go to my blog where I began to describe my travels starting with my 2012 trip to Brazil. It is: http://rtjhunt.blogspot.mx/2012/04/planning-for-my-travels.html

Places                                                     Total Days     Cost/    Hotel /    Food/   Travel/
                                                                                       day        day          day        day
2016 Hong Kong, Thailand, Cambodia $3,230   62        $52       $20          $23            $9
2015 Colombia, Ecuador, Peru               $6,000    60       $100      $10          $22           $68
2015 Philippines, Thailand                    $4,218      61       $68      $20         $41             $7
2014 Trans-Siberian Train-Russia            $5,298   67        $79      $18          $33           $28              Mongolia, China, Vietnam, Thailand,
Taiwan
2013 Thailand, Laos, Vietnam                 $2,949   47       $63 $21           $23            $19
2012 Brazil, Argentina                            $3,894   45       $87   $17            $29            $41
2011 Japan, Thailand                              $4,701   61       $77      $24            $30            $23
2011 Chile   $3,784 47       $81 $21             $30            $29
Average Cost per day for these trips   $34,074 450 $76 

In those trips where the Travel/day costs are higher than the others, I took guided tours that ranged in cost from $20—island/snorkel trips—- to $3,300 —two week guided tour to Lima, Cusco and trek to Choquequirao, Sacred Valley, Peru.

The average daily cost of my trips was $76 compared to the average of the UW Alumni Tours that ranged in daily cost from $304/day to $627/day—-400% to 825% higher daily cost than my trips.
When you travel with an organized group, these travelers tend to socialize together in a tour guide protective bubble and exposed to the local people and cultures in an orchestrated manner. I am sure the guides provide an extensive narrative about the people, history, environment, fauna and flora that is much more exhaustive that what I get traveling about solo--but I have google.

When I travel solo, I interact with the local people to get all of my needs taken care of including shelter and food as well as interesting attractions and events. I always take the local transportation and avoid taking taxis unless I need to get to or from the airport after public transportation is shut down either late evenings or early mornings. I take some of the local tour offerings advertised in the hotels or hostels I am staying at.

In my blog entries, I describe some of the more interesting experiences I have had while traveling this way. Most of my travels in the countries is by mototaxi, jeepney, metro, skytrain, bus, ferry boat, and walking. I rarely use airlines once I arrive, but AirAsia and other local airlines are cheaper than traveling by boat or bus to some locations like from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Bangkok, Thailand—just $45.

Once you try my approach to traveling, you will really enjoy meeting the challenges of finding your way in new, different, and exotic places.

Whether you try my approach to travel or go with organized groups, here are four final suggestions to make your travel better—-Money, Potable Water, Luggage, and Travel Insurance.

Money
No more travelers check and no more big money belt with a large stash of USD now that ATMs are so popular in all of the countries I visited. The Lonely Planet guide books show you where to find ATMs in the cities they feature. Be sure to use the ATMs at the airport before you leave. They offer a good exchange rate compared to money exchange companies at airports. Occasionally you will find that your ATM card does not work at a certain bank ATM machine or at another ATM machine whose ATM bank machine previously worked. In that case just keep trying other ATM machines.
I begin my trips with about $300 USD in $20s and about 10 one dollar ($1) bills just in case I cannot locate an ATM machine. Since the fee is about the same whether you take a small amount of money or large, I usually get a larger amount like around $250 to $300 USD in the local currency. Many places have a limit of about $100 to $175 that you can withdraw at any one time though.

WARNING: DO NOT LOSE YOUR ATM CARD OR LEAVE IT IN THE MACHINE.

At many of the hotels, restaurants, and tour offices, credit cards are accepted, but may charge you a fee of 2-3%. When using a credit card internationally, be sure that the card you use does not have a foreign exchange fee—-you do not want to end up paying 6% for using your credit card.
Since I travel for extended periods, I have auto pay for my pension, and my renter deposits the rent money into my checking account. My mortgages, HOA fees, are on auto pay from my checking account. My electric bill, DirecTV. cell phone bills are on auto pay from one of my credit card accounts. To pay my credit card bills and other bills or on line purchases, I use my mini iPad WiFi feature to log in and set up payments for my credit cards from my checking account. I use my credit cards to make on line purchases of goods, services, and charity donations. If you do this, be sure to remember your challenge questions since your computer is at an unknown location.

Potable Water
Many travelers and locals buy and use plastic water bottles. I don’t like to see such a waste of resources with the bottles just going into landfill or recycled. I continue to use a SteriPen Freedom—its ultra violet rays purify the water—-along with a wide mouth plastic bottle. The recharger cable for the SteriPen had a USB connection and also worked recharging my Logitech keyboard, and my Nikon camera so I could use the iPad charger for this without bringing the SteriPen and Logitech charger which saved me about 4 oz. The purification process is quick—-about 1 1/2 minutes of UV light and no chemicals. I have had no intestinal problems during my trips, but some of the Bangkok tap water smelled like sewage.

My Luggage
My total pack weight is about 7 lbs. for a warm climate, and 9 lbs. for a colder climate. My shirts, pair of pants and underwear worked well with the frequent washings. My rain jacket was useful for the occasional heavy rains.
You can go to my April 11, 2012 blog entry—http://rtjhunt.blogspot.mx/2012/04/what-i-am-packing-what-it-weighs.html---for a detailed list of what I carry and what I wear for colder climates.

Travel Insurance
You must have travel insurance any time you travel! Avoid signing up for the travel insurance offered by the airline companies as a part of your ticket purchase because you will end up paying more and getting less coverage, especially if you take multiple trips each year that are more than 100 miles from your home.
I buy annual travel insurance from Travelguard which costs $267 per year. The coverages and benefits include:
accident and sickness medical expenses $10,000
baggage and personal effects $1,000
baggage delay $150
emergency evacuation $100,000
travel medical assistance included
trip cancellation $1,500
trip interruption $1,500
24/7 travel assistance included.

Check out my April 3, 2012 entry to see some of my successful claims. The critical documents you need for successful claims are original receipts on the items that were lost or stolen, and police reports which are sometimes hard to get from the police, but be friendly, patient, and persistent.
When you use your credit card for travel purchases, there are a number of benefits you may qualify for including collision coverage for car rentals, trip delays and/or cancellation, up to accidental death benefits, etc.

This is just a brief description of how I go about my solo travels to exotic and most interesting parts of the world, and I invite you to check out my various blogs entries for my travel adventures and travel suggestions that may make your travels more frequent and enjoyable.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Planning for my Appalachian Trail Hike

This summer I plan to hike about half of the Appalachian Trail (AT) that goes from Georgia to Maine. I will be leaving Seattle on a red eye flight with Delta Airline on June 5th using 15,500 Delta frequent flyer miles.

 
 

On June 6th I will meet up with Gary Holliday, a Loreto Bay friend. He and his wife, Heidi, have hiked around the Loreto, BCS, MX area and last summer they joined me in Peru for a trek to Choquequirao in the Sacred Valley area just west of Machu Picchu. I will get into Atlanta at 7am and Gary does not arrive until 2:30 PM so I will be able to relax in the United Board room thanks to a coupon I received when I signed up for another United Visa credit card.

Gary and Heidi jumping over Cusco, Peru

 

The Hiker Hostel folks will pick us up at the North Springs MARTA station and take us to their hostel for the night and the following morning shuttle us up to Springer Mountain, the start of the 2,180 mile Appalachian Trail that ends at Mt. Katahdin, Maine. Gary and I plan to hike this year to Harpers Ferry, a distance of 1,026 miles—-about a 2 month journey.

 

In 2008, I had completed the Pacific Crest Trail and have been considering doing the Appalachian and the Continental Divide Trails ever since. Gary and I had been talking about hiking the AT during our hikes together in Loreto and this year our talks have become a reality.

Start of Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada about 2560 miles long.

End of Pacific Crest Trail.

There are lots of websites that provide a range of information for the AT hiker including an AT Planner where I was able to create various hiking scenarios and read hiker journals—www.postholer.com/planner/hikePlanner.php

There was also lots of information about AT shelters, off trail hostels and hotels, and water sources.

My Backpack

  • Oz. My base backpack weight is now 13.35 lbs and consists of the following:
  • 32.0 REI Kilo 20 degree sleeping bag
  • 27.0 Gossamer Gear Mariposa backpack
  • 27.0 Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 tent
  • 24.5 Black bag: gloves, towel,mosquito head net, suncream, soap, H202
  • 17.5 Capiline long johns, Capilene LS shirt, pr. socks
  • 14.0 Western Mountaineering down Flight Jacket
  • 14.0 Red bag: bandaids, medicine, flashlight, Steripen, whistle, mirror
  • 12.0 Therm-a-Rest Neo Air XLite Sleeping Pad, Regular
  • 8.7 Snowpeak 600 ml cup, matches, spoon, bowl, alcohol stove
  • 8.3 Frog Togs rain pants
  • 7.9 Nikon Camera
  • 6.0 Outdoor Research rain jacket
  • 4.0 Long Sleeve Golite Wisp Windshirt
  • 3.4 Water bottles with duct tape, empty
  • 3.0 Maps and guides
  • 2.5 Sunglasses and case
  • 1.7 Hat, fleece

When I add 5 days of expendables, the pack weighs another 7 lbs. with food at about 20 oz per day, cooking alcohol, and TP. A quart of water adds another 2 lbs.

Total pack weight including food and water is about 22 lbs.

What I am wearing:

Oz.

  • 5.0 Bandana, hat, watch, compass, knife
  • 13.0 Black Diamond Trek poles
  • 19.2. Long Pants Ex-Officio, underwear and Tee shirt
  • 20.0. Merrill shoes, dirtygirl gaiters, socks
  • 23.2. Mini iPad, cell phone and charger

Total wear weight is 5.0 lbs

2016 Destination is Harper's Ferry, West Virginia 1,013 miles from Springer Mountain, Georgia.

 

Monday, May 2, 2016

Amazing Winter 2016 Loreto, MX hikes

Although I left Loreto mid November 2015, the Loreto Hikers group continued to explore the hikes around Loreto, Mexico described in “Hiking Loreto” guide book written by DeeDee and Dave Kelly and Ed Nugent.

View of Loreto Bay, Sea of Cortez and Mex 1 Highway.

When I returned mid March I joined up again with the Loreto Hikers group of 21 on the Hart's Trail hike that overlooked the Escondido harbor and the Las Sierra Giganta mountain range. It was a short uphill climb from the Rattlesnake Beach where gringo RVs and trailers were nestled among the mesquite trees stretched out along the shoreline.

 

Afterward we had lunch and refreshments at the Clam Shack which is a regular stop when we hike south of Loreto Bay.

On March 24th I led 21 Loreto Hikers to one of our favorite hikes to Las Pinturas where we hiked along the river that had four pools along the rock hopping route.

At the top, several of us swam in the upper deep pool which was a refreshing 68 degrees.

 

We then headed down and many of us stopped at Del Borrachos’ bar and restaurant for refreshments and lunch—think juicy cheeseburger with bacon and fried onions with a Modelo Negro or Limonada.

 

On March 31st we returned to Ligui Canyon with just 20 Loreto Bay hikers where most of us headed up the rim trail—also known as poo poo trail from the cow pies scattered along the way—about 3 miles it joined the upper Mesquite canyon. In our fall hike to Ligui Canyon, we had a record setting number of 52 hikers.

Poo-poo Trail
 
 

We then headed down into the water filled narrow canyon.

With help from the more agile hikers, all hikers made it past the lower sketchy part of the trail by the waterfall near the entrance to the canyon.

We then celebrated completing this challenging hike with a stop at the Clam Shack—-no clams though while the health and number of clams in the Sea of Cortez are being assessed by the government.

On April 7th, 7 Loreto Bay hikers traveled to the Jack and the Beanstalk trail, but we first had to drive about 2.8 miles up the San Thelmo arroyo and then right up a smaller arroyo where we could go no further in our 4 wheel cars.

 

We then headed up a now dry river bed with steep walls ribboned with basalt and lots of green plants that must have been drawing water from slightly beneath the gravely river bed.

 

When we came around the corner where some remaining pools were still present amid the huge boulders, I realized why this trail was called Jack and the Beanstalk.

We entered a huge amphitheater where there was a huge fig tree with a root and trunk that was over 100 feet in length that looked much like a giant beanstalk. We felt dwarfed in this amphitheater—-truly an amazing sight. Del Borrachos was our lunch stop—-and we found no magic beans.

 

On April 14th, 17 Loreto Bay hikers revisited the Juncalito Sur hike, where we found most of the flow had slowed considerable and there were some stagnant pools. Most of the hikers made it up to the upper pool past the loose gravely area where a couple of us went swimming. Afterwards it was another stop at the Clam Shack for lunch.

 

 

 

On April 21st, 15 Loreto Bay hikers and one dog visited the Del Borracho arroyo after crossing the San Thelmo arroyo at 3.4 miles up San Javier Road in our 4 wheel cars. This hike was mostly a trail walk rather than the more frequent boulder hopping found on most other arroyo hikes in the Loreto area.

This was another interesting canyon with lots of twists and turns along with a short climb up a now dry waterfall.

We also headed up the canyon to the left which ended up being a dead end so we returned and continued up to near the top of the canyon. On the way back many of us stopped off at Del Borrachos for lunch.

On April 28th, 8 Loreto Bay hikers travel 2.2 miles south of the Escondido exit where we began our 5 mile round trip hike up the Rainbow Rock Canyon.

On our way up the canyon, we would see bands of red rock and green rock as well as in the far distance we could see some vertical bands of green and red rock which gave this trail its name.

Near the end of our hike in, we stopped at the twin waterfalls and there was just a trickle coming from one. I was able to refill my water bottle from the small pond found at the bottom of the waterfalls.

We continued up the boulder filled arroyo for another ten minutes for a closer view of the rainbow rock walls in the distance. After returning to our cars, we stopped at the Clam Shack for lunch.

View of the Clam Shack from water edge.

On May 5th, I will be leading experienced hikers back to Ligui Canyon where we plan to hike up the canyon as long as we enjoy it and then return on the rim canyon Poo-poo trail.

On May 12th, my final Loreto Bay hike, we will return to one of our favorite hikes: Pinturas Canyon.