Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Skiing Blue Mountain

When my husband suggested we book a weekend at Blue Mountain to ski, I was excited and a little bit scared. I had not skied in about 14 years. I wondered if I would remember how. People said it was like riding a bike ... as in you never forget. I hoped that was true.

After a couple weeks of mild temperatures and rain, I worried there might not be enough snow at Blue Mountain. Luckily, it turned cold and snowed a couple days before our trip. We drove through whiteouts for a portion of our drive, but managed to get there safely. We parked outside and walked to the "Village" for lunch.
I had never visited Blue Mountain Village. It is picturesque with plenty of restaurants, cafes and trendy shops. I was impressed. I was also freezing. We had picked a day with frigid cold temperatures and wicked winds making it feel even colder.
After lunch, we headed to the Mosaic to check-in. We were scheduled to get our room by 4 p.m. We were hoping to get it earlier, so we could change in comfort. They would call when our room was ready. We moved our very dirty car to underground parking to get out of the cold. Before changing into ski gear, we got the call. Our room was ready. We decided to unpack before skiing. 
To be honest, I was in no rush. Now that I was at the slopes, I was truly terrified. Lunch was delicious. Shopping was fun. I was looking forward to dinner, but skiing? Those hills looked so big and chairlifts so fast. What was I thinking going skiing after so many years?

I struggled into my gear. Almost everything felt tight and uncomfortable. My snow pants bought over 15 years ago were a size too small. I undid the buttons to breath a little easier. Just getting my ski boots on was a workout. At least my helmet and new ski goggles were comfortable. The goggles kept my face warm and vision clear - so happy I got them. 

It was 2 p.m. by the time we were dressed and ready to ski. We made our way to the nearest chairlift - the Silver Bullet. I planned to ski Happy Valley, an easy run to start. I was visibly shaking with nervous energy. 

After the first run, I relaxed. We skied Happy Valley a couple more times to build my confidence, then skied most of the blue and green runs. I had fun even though it was bitterly cold with icy patches on the hills. 
We skied for two hours (12 runs) before my legs were done. Surprisingly my husband stayed with me the whole time. When he suggested we stop for a rest and a snack, I readily agreed. It felt really, really good to release those boot buckles.
We got a hot drink and returned to our room to relax. After a warm bath and a nap, my husband was ready to ski again. I chose to stay in and read. When he got back, I almost regretted my decision. The wind had died down (not so cold), the hills had been groomed (not so icy) and many of the skiers had gone (not so crowded). 

My husband enjoyed skiing faster. He fit in as many runs in an hour as we had done in two. He tells me skiing faster is less tiring. I was happy I skied slowly and carefully this time. Maybe next year, I'll work on more speed. 
I am not particularly brave or daring, but I like doing stuff that scares me once in a while. It keeps life interesting and fun. Skiing Blue Mountain was definitely outside my comfort zone. I was scared, but did it anyway. Now I can hardly wait to go again next year. 

Thanks to my husband for suggesting such a great getaway.

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Thursday, 16 March 2017

Guide to Hike Around the Reservoir

We have been back from Cuba for a month already. I finally feel ready to document our "Guide to Hike Around the Reservoir". Last year, I wrote about our hike to the reservoir and the rustic stick bridge. You can read about that here if you missed it. 

This year we extended our hike to the stick bridge figuring out how to hike all the way around the reservoir. It takes about 3.5 hours of steady hiking from start to finish. The trails are rough with lots of climbing to keep it challenging. We wore shoes with good traction and packed plenty of water for this hike.

My husband sketched a map to provide an overview of our route. We also took photos so you can follow along while I point out key landmarks.
To get to the reservoir head off down the lane behind the hotel. This lane provides a shady shortcut to the bridge on the main road where you cross over to continue down the lane on the other side of the bridge. At the end of the lane, turn right across an open field past fenced gardens and houses until you reach another road (shown below).
Carry on down this road until the road splits. It is slightly shorter to stay to the right, but doesn't really matter as the road joins up again.
Keep walking. Eventually you will see a huge earthen dam up ahead. The reservoir sits behind the dam.
As you approach the dam, the road forks. The left fork will take you up a steep road to the top of the dam. You want to take the right fork which takes you past some houses and an apiary where you can hear the hum of bees busy at work. Keep going towards the mountain.
The trail winds up the mountain heading to the right away from the dam.
The trail continues upwards eventually winding back towards the dam.
Take time to admire the views.
When the trail levels off for a bit, you can catch your breath.
One of the hi-lights of this route is the twig bridge at the far East side of the reservoir. There is an alternate route across the dry gully below. We prefer to take our chances on the bridge. It seems stable enough.
If you're lucky, you might see a snake with black and white markings sunning on the trail. 
Further along the trail (~15 mins), there is a small side trail leading to what we call "The Lookout" on the back side of the reservoir.
The views from The Lookout are truly spectacular - worth stopping.
After a few photos, make your way back to the main trail and carry on.
After climbing for a long stretch, you must now make your way down to the flood plains behind the reservoir.  
Stick to the main trail. It eventually leads to a dry river bed. Use stepping stones strategically placed to keep your feet dry.
Cross over and pick up the trail on the other side of the river.
Follow a trail through the weeds on the flood plain. Keep going until you reach another dry river bed.
Follow the trail beside this dry river bed. Start on the right side, cross over then make your way along the left side.
In the photo below I am pointing to where you leave the river bed. 
I am pointing to this cluster of royal palm trees. Royal palms are large trees with straight trunks that look like they are made from cement.
Follow the trail through the royal palms to the start of another trail up the mountainside.
Turn left on the trail heading up the mountain.
Stick to the main trail. Do not take smaller trails as they pass through thorns and usually dead end.
When you reach this gate, pass through to the other side. Remember to close the gate.
Follow the main trail on the other side of the gate. It meanders up and down around another mountain peak.
On this trail, we realized we were heading in the right direction when we caught sight of the ocean. Keep following the trail along the fence line.
As we approached civilization again, we passed this water trough and some cows in a corral.
This cow was not the least bit bothered by a bird on her head.
Soon after seeing the cows, you will pass some houses.
You will also pass through another gate on your way back.
When you end up at the 'waterfall', you're almost done. 
This year the waterfall was completely dry. There was absolutely no water in the river above the waterfall.
Back at the start. You can see the earthen dam in the background in the photo below.
Our first attempt at hiking around the reservoir took 4 hours and 40 minutes with many wrong turns necessitating back tracking. Our second and third trips around the reservoir took 3 hours and 30 minutes at a steady pace with no mistakes.
We did take time to stop and admire flowers along the way. I especially liked these ones.
Hiking in the mountains in Cuba is fun. It is a proper workout. Be sure to let me know if you decide to follow this "Guide to Hike Around the Reservoir". I would love to hear how it goes.

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